Submarines: “from a boy to a giant” 4

One of my favorite pastimes is discovering unique stories about the United States Submarine force and the development through the ages.

There is no better witness to the phenomenal growth than that of one of the most profound influences on submarine operation and development: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. The most fascinating thing about this man was that he came from such a humble beginning in Fredericksburg, Texas where he originally desired an appointment to the Military Academy. Fortunately for the world, he failed to gain entry and instead went to the Naval Academy where he graduated  with distinction in his class.

His service record is covered elsewhere but one thing was common throughout was his understanding of the potential for a submarine force even when the very idea was being kept in check by the Admirals.

The Navy published a series of submarine brochures but these quotes come from the 1969 edition. Admiral Nimitz had already gone on final patrol but his Forward was kept as a tribute to his memory.

In late 1965, Nimitz suffered a stroke, complicated by pneumonia. In January 1966, he left the U.S. Naval Hospital (Oak Knoll) in Oakland to return home to his naval quarters. He died at home at age 80 on the evening of February 20 at Quarters One on Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay. His funeral on February 24 was at the chapel of adjacent Naval Station Treasure Island and Nimitz was buried with full military honors at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. He lies alongside his wife and his long-term friends Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Admiral Richmond K. Turner, and Admiral Charles A. Lockwood and their wives, an arrangement made by all of them while living

But his words live on in eternity. So does his impact on Naval Sea Power

United States Navy Submarine Brochure

As a Midshipman at the Naval Academy, l had my first ride in the United States Navy’s first submarine – USS HOLLAND. Thus in the brief span of my life, l have seen the submarine grow “from a boy to a giant” of the Polaris submarine with strength untold for our land of freedom.

(The airplane and the submarine both began to join the Fleet early in this 20th century, as invention and engineering provided reliable internal combustion engines and other engineering wonders. Each of the strange new means of warfare promised to destroy the power of Fleets – at least in the minds of enthusiasts. Instead, they have brought incredible new power.

l early joined submarines as a young officer, engaged in experimental developments, commanded the submarine forces of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet, studied diesels in Germany and helped to introduce them into our Navy.

For years afterward l continued to serve in submarines afloat. Then, as naval duties took me away from the submarines, l followed their steady development with undiminished interest.

When l assumed Command of the Pacific Fleet, l hoisted my flag in USS GRAYLlNG (SS-209).

When detached, after V-J Day which owed so much to the valor, skill and dedicated service of submariners, l lowered my flag from the gallantly battle-tested USS MENHADEN (SS-377).

While Chief of Naval Operations, with imaginative leaders like my Deputy, Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Naval Inspector General, who brilliantly commanded our Pacific submarine operations during much of World War ll, and Vice Admiral Earle Mills, Chief of Bureau of Ships, l was happy to initiate the development of nuclear power afloat.

The decision was based in considerable part on a major study completed by Dr. Philip Abelson of Naval Research Laboratory in early 1946. All the foregoing officers were enthusiastic about the prospects. lt struck me that if it worked we would be far in front in the ceaseless race in armed strength to keep our country strong and free. The fantastic speed and unlimited radius of action offered by atomic power gave promise of at last making possible the true submarine with indefinite endurance submerged. Its feasibility had been explored in the Navy in the early ’40’s but the development had been set aside by the war and the single goal in atomic energy of the Manhattan Project. Now was the time to get underway. What remarkable results have followed.

Thus for much of my life, l have had faith in the submarine as l have had faith in the rest of the Navy and our great land of America. Each by being true to itself—seeking efficiency and power for noble ends—has been a blessing, just as for ignoble ends, it could be a curse. l am convinced that the mighty Polaris submarine, bearing imperishable names like Washington, Lincoln and Lee, will prove a blessing to America of the future and to all men as they reach upward to the light.

Chester W. Nimitz

Fleet Admiral, U. S. Navy

Two of the boats from 41 for Freedom.

1969 Submarine Brochure Introduction

Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s foreword, written for an earlier edition of the Submarine Brochure some 3 years before his death, points up the vast and growing influence of the sea to our destiny. ln this growth, the submarine fleet in particular has made such strides that we have found it necessary to issue a new edition of this compact account every few years.

The first submarine brochure came out under the skilled direction of Commander D. V. Hickey, USN, now retired, and Lieutenant Henry Vadnais, USNR, of the Curator section. This latest edition has been ably modified by Commander V. J. Robison, USNR, now directing the Curator section, Commander C. F. Johnson, USN, Commander H. Vadnais, USNR, and the diligent application of Mr. Robert L. Scheina. We also owe special appreciation for assistance to the following commanders and their staffs: Admiral lgnatius J. Galantin, Chief of Naval Material; Vice Admiral J. B. Colwell, Commander Fleet Operations and Readiness; Vice Admiral Arnold F. Schade, Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet; Rear Admiral Walter L Small, Commander Submarine Force, Pacific; and Captain Leon H. Rathbun, Commander Submarine School.

The swift growth of the under sea part of the trident Navy reflects the broad growth of sea power as a whole and of its effect upon the fate of nations in our time. Throughout history the sea has stood for freedom— free horizons, free transit without frontiers or barriers, free opportunity for him who ventures boldly and skillfully. Fortunate indeed then is it that this increase in power at sea has come when the United States has received responsibility for the leadership of civilization. May she meet this charge wisely, courageously, and well

M. Eller

“He goes a great voyage that goes to the bottom of the sea.”

George Herbert, 1651

Mister Mac

The World of Polaris Reply

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One of the best weekends of my life was our Perfect Scottish Weekend. We travelled the Highlands in August of 1991 and visited Newtonmore for a visit with Clan MacPherson. Then we went to Edinburgh for the world famous Tattoo. I hope you get a chance to visit it someday, it is breathtaking. Recommend that you make reservations well in advance for seats beneath the Governor’s box.

Mid way through the video clip attached you will see a Tattoo from an earlier time. The whole video takes about half an hour but for anyone interested in or having lived the Polaris story, this is a wonderful way to view the life we lived when not on the boats.

 

Enjoy, Aloha.

Mister Mac

41 for Freedom; Answering a Threat Reply

On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite.

This launch was a double blow to the fledgling American rocket program. It proved that the Soviets were able to accomplish something that the Americans had yet to do. It also proved that the Soviets had the ability to launch a ballistic missile capable of hitting anywhere in the United States. President Eisenhower and the congress reacted to the Sputnik crisis with vast amounts of money and programs designed to close the gap. One of those programs was the Polaris Program. But for this new solid stage rocket to be effective, it needed a platform.

The USS George Washington (SSBN 598) was the world’s first Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine. It was built by the Electric Boat (EB) Division of the General Dynamic Corporation’s Groton shipyard. The hull of an attack boat currently on the ways at EB was cut in two and a missile compartment capable of carrying 16 nuclear missiles was inserted.

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A new ship design and a new weapons system

The Polaris A-1 missile was developed to complement the limited number of medium-range systems deployed throughout Europe. As those systems lacked the range to attack major Soviet targets, Polaris was developed to increase the level of nuclear deterrence. At this time there was little threat of counterforce strikes, as few systems had the accuracy to destroy missile systems. The primary advantages of ballistic missile submarines was their ability to launch submerged, which offered improved survivability for the submarine while also (like their Regulus predecessors) keeping shorter ranged systems within range.

The USN had forward-basing arrangements for its Atlantic-based Polaris fleet with both the United Kingdom and Spain permitting the use of bases at the Holy Loch in Scotland (established in 1961) and at Naval Station Rota (Polaris base established 1964) in the Bay of Cadiz. The forward deployment bases were much closer to patrol areas than U.S. East Coast bases, avoiding the necessity for lengthy transit times. In the Pacific, a Polaris base was also established at Guam in 1964. This forward-basing arrangement was continued when Poseidon replaced Polaris, starting in 1972, in what by then were the 31 Atlantic Fleet SSBNs. The 10 older SSBNs that could not use Poseidon were assigned to the Pacific Fleet in the 1970s. Polaris was not accurate enough to destroy hardened targets but would have been effective against dispersed surface targets, such as airfields, radar and SAM sites, as well as military and industrial centers of strategic importance. The military authorities, however, regarded Polaris as but one part of a nuclear triad including ICBMs and bombers, each with its own function. The task allotted to Polaris of ‘taking out’ peripheral defenses was well-suited to its characteristics and limitations.

The forward deployment strategy required some infrastructure. To allow quick establishment of bases and to minimize the impact on the host country, each base was centered around a submarine tender and a floating drydock, with minimal facilities on shore, mostly family support for the tender’s crew. The first Polaris submarine tender was the USS Proteus (AS-19), a World War II tender that was refitted in 1959-60 with the insertion of a midships missile storage compartment and handling crane. Proteus established each of the three forward deployment bases. Four additional Polaris tenders (USS Hunley (AS-31), USS Holland (AS-32), USS Simon Lake (AS-33), and USS Canopus (AS-34)) were commissioned 1962-65. In Scotland, the USS Los Alamos AFDB7 was erected in a body of water called Holy Loch where she served faithfully until 1991 when the base was deactivated.

A two-crew concept was established for SSBNs, combined with forward deployment maximize the time each submarine would spend on patrol. The crews were named Blue and Gold after the US Naval Academy colors. The crews were deployed for 105 days and at their home bases for 95 days, with a 3-day turnover period on each end of the deployed period. Crews were flown from their home bases to and from the forward deployment bases. After taking over the boat, the crew would perform a 30-day refit assisted by the tender, followed by a 70-day deterrent patrol. Sometimes a port visit would be arranged in the middle of the patrol. The home bases for Atlantic Fleet crews were Groton, Connecticut and Charleston, South Carolina. Pacific Fleet crews were based at Naval Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Two Polaris missile depots were established in the United States, Polaris Missile Facility Atlantic (POMFLANT) at Charleston, South Carolina in 1960 and later Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) at Bangor, Washington. To transport missiles and other supplies from the missile depots to the forward deployment bases, several cargo ships were converted to carry missiles and were designated as T-AKs, operated by the Military Sealift Command with a mostly-civilian crew.

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This is a list of the five Nuclear Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines classes that made up the “41 for Freedom:”

George Washington class

  • USS George Washington (SSBN-598)
  • USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600)
  • USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601)
  • USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602)

Ethan Allen class

  • USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608)
  • USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609)
  • USS Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610)
  • USS John Marshall (SSBN-611)
  • USS Thomas Jefferson (SSBN-618)

Lafayette class

  • USS Lafayette (SSBN-616)
  • USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617)
  • USS Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619)
  • USS John Adams (SSBN-620)
  • USS James Monroe (SSBN-622)
  • USS Nathan Hale (SSBN-623)
  • USS Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624)
  • USS Henry Clay (SSBN-625)
  • USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626)

James Madison class

  • USS James Madison (SSBN-627)
  • USS Tecumseh (SSBN-628)
  • USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629)
  • USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630)
  • USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631)
  • USS Von Steuben (SSBN-632)
  • USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)
  • USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634)
  • USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635)
  • USS Nathanael Greene (SSBN-636)

Benjamin Franklin class

  • USS Benjamin Franklin (SSBN-640) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642)
  • USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Lewis and Clark (SSBN-644)
  • USS James K. Polk (SSBN-645)
  • USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-654)
  • USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS George Washington Carver (SSBN-656)
  • USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Will Rogers (SSBN-659)

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George Washington’s keel was laid down at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, Groton, Connecticut on 1 November 1957. The first of her class, she was launched on 9 June 1959 sponsored by Mrs. Robert B. Anderson, and commissioned on 30 December 1959 as SSBN-598 with Commander James B. Osborn in command of the Blue crew and Commander John L. From, Jr. in command of the Gold crew.

George Washington was originally laid down as the attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589). During construction, she was lengthened by the insertion of a 130 ft (40 m)-long ballistic missile section and renamed George Washington. Another submarine under construction at the time received the original name and hull number. Inside George Washington’s forward escape hatch, a plaque remained bearing her original name. Because the ballistic missile compartment design of George Washington would be reused in later ship classes, the section inserted into George Washington was designed with a deeper test depth rating than the rest of the submarine.

Initial operations

George Washington left Groton on 28 June 1960 for Cape Canaveral, Florida, where she loaded two Polaris missiles. Standing out into the Atlantic Missile Test Range with Rear Admiral William Raborn, head of the Polaris submarine development program, on board as an observer, she successfully conducted the first Polaris missile launch from a submerged submarine on 20 July 1960. At 12:39, George Washington’s commanding officer sent President Dwight Eisenhower the message: POLARIS – FROM OUT OF THE DEEP TO TARGET. PERFECT. Less than two hours later a second missile from the submarine also struck the impact area 1,100 nmi (1,300 mi; 2,000 km) downrange.

George Washington then embarked her Gold crew, and on 30 July 1960 she launched two more missiles while submerged. Shakedown for the Gold crew ended at Groton on 30 August and the boat got underway from that port on 28 October for Naval Weapons Station Charleston, to load her full complement of 16 Polaris missiles. There she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, after which her Blue crew took over and embarked on her first deterrent patrol.

The submarine completed her first patrol after 66 days of submerged running on 21 January 1961, and put in at Naval Submarine Base New London at New London, Connecticut. The Gold crew took over and departed on her next patrol on 14 February 1961. After the patrol, she entered Holy Loch, Scotland, on 25 April 1961.

In 1964, four years after her initial departure from Groton, George Washington put in to refuel, having cruised some 100,000 nmi (120,000 mi; 190,000 km). Following refit, George Washington shifted to the United States Pacific Fleet and a new home port at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

598 1973 Pearl Harbor

Final patrol as ballistic missile submarine
In 1982, George Washington returned to Pearl Harbor from her last missile patrol. In 1983, her missiles were unloaded at Bangor, Washington to comply with the SALT I treaty.

George Washington made 55 deterrent patrols in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in her 25-year career.

Service as an attack submarine
George Washington continued service as an attack submarine (SSN), returning briefly to Pearl Harbor. In 1983, she departed Pearl Harbor for the last time and transited the Panama Canal back to the Atlantic and to New London.

Decommissioning
George Washington was decommissioned on 24 January 1985, stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry on 30 April 1986, and scheduled for disposal through the Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Recycling of the ship was completed on 30 September 1998.

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Commemoration
George Washington’s sail was removed prior to disposal and now resides at the Submarine Force Library and Museum at New London, Connecticut.

Career (US):
Name: USS George Washington
Namesake: President George Washington (1732-1799)
Owner: United States Navy
Ordered: 31 December 1957
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat
Laid down: 1 November 1958
Launched: 9 June 1959
Sponsored by: Mrs. Robert B. Anderson
Commissioned: 30 December 1959
Decommissioned: 24 January 1985
Struck: 30 April 1986
Homeport: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Nickname: “The Georgefish”
Fate: Recycling via the Ship-Submarine Recycling Program completed 30 September 1998

Badge:

598georgewashingtonbadge


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General characteristics:
Class and type: George Washington-class submarine
Type: SSBN (hull design SCB-180A)
Displacement: 5400 tons light

5959-6019 tons surfaced

6709-6888 Approx. tons submerged

Length: 381 ft 7.2 in (116.312 m)
Beam: 33 ft (10 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: 1 x S5W Pressure, Water Reactor (PWR)

2 x geared turbines rated at 15,000 shp (11,000 kW)

1 x 7-bladed screw

Speed: 20 kn (37 km/h) surfaced; +25 kn (46 km/h) submerged
Range: unlimited except by food supplies
Test depth: 700 ft (210 m); (maximum over 900 ft (270 m))
Capacity: 120
Complement: Two crews (Blue/Gold) each consisting of 12 officers and 100 enlisted men.
Armament: 16 Polaris A1/A3 missiles; 6
X 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes (Mark 16, Mark 37, or Mark 48 torpedoes)

Follow the leader 2

All of us remember that children’s game called follow the leader. Someone played the role as leader and of course everyone else had to follow their lead. During the Cold War the Soviets played this game and played it fairly well. The submarines they developed always seemed to be strikingly familiar with the boats we were putting to sea. Based on the number of high visibility incidents they had, its debatable whether or not their quality was quite to our standards but that has always been a hallmark of American shipbuilding.

Hotel

I remember the end of the Cold War and had a strange feeling about the desire of some of the nation’s leaders to disarm us. Frankly I think the “surplus” that keeps getting credited to Bill Clinton was significantly enhanced by the drawdown and slowdown on ship building and development (not to mention the other savings in defense spending).

In the past few years however, China is starting to emerge as the new dragon on the horizon.  While they may be far away from gaining parity in the traditional sense, they are well aware of our reliance on technology in both weapons systems as well as general sea command. The capability of our ships and submarines are the results of years of learning and continuous improvement. But the ability to respond and respond quickly will be limited as the numbers of subs and ships continues to shrink.

Victor III

When America has faced threats in the past, the enemy was always separated by oceans and technological limitations of that particular age. Those of us who were Cold Warriors saw firsthand though that a dedicated foe could threaten the homeland even with technologies that were not as capable as ours.

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The oceans that used to protect us now offer a greater threat than ever before. A ballistic missile submarine within range of our major population centers brings with it a threat that there is little defense for. Is it any wonder that that capability is high on the list of the Chinese military?

Nimitz Flyover

Even our mighty carrier fleet would be subject to the new type of weaponry that the Chinese are creating. If they were able to flood the immediate combat area with ship killing missiles, how capable are our defenses? How long would a traditional battle group be able to survive in an atmosphere where EMP and other forces which we may not even know about become the dominating force?

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No, the modern nuclear submarine will be the most sustainable weapon of defense in the foreseeable future. The ocean still makes up 75 % of the earth’s surface and our ability to protect shipping in all sea lanes still represents our status as a world power. Four generations of my family have served to preserve that status and hopefully many generations to come.

The economic situation we find ourselves in is a problem but being subservient to any world power will be much more problematic. Continued investment in submarines and the technology they represent is vital to our future. In the end, they may be the last line of defense that allows us to freely fly the American flag anywhere, anytime and any way we choose. Other wise, we will be doing nothing more someday than Following the Leader.

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