Vice Admiral and Mrs. Reynolds, President and Mrs. VeArd,
Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Mrs. Williams and I
are delighted and thrilled to once again be with you. Its been a long time.
How pleasant it is to
look out over all you lovely wives and companions of those who once served on
the USS Robert E. Lee-SSBN 601.
It also pleases me to
see all the handsome, vigorous, sexy Bobby Lee: Sailors of Yore, who are
running so hard to keep up with you ladies. I cant tell whether their
tongues are hanging out in anticipation as in Days of Yore or from
You gents are losing
ground, you know. Ground
trying, you will live longer, and you will need each other more and more as
years go by. Margaret and I know.
I have a
question for you. What is it that motivates us to get together like this?
To see old friends to be sure
show photos of grandchildren and vacation trips
reminisce about our escapades ... and party some more.
there is more to it than that! I think the underlying, unspoken reason is we
enjoy getting together in a family environment like this, wherein we feel
comfortable talking about our shared experiences.
instance, in this collective privacy we arent embarrassed to speak of the
thrill we experienced and the perceived aura of glory we associated with the
intimate involvement in something very important for the welfare of our
families, our country, and mankind in general something essential to the
cause of freedom. Something simple like inventing and giving birth to a high
technology nuclear deterrent system Polaris: Doing it under pressure just
in the nick of time.
refresh your memories the Soviets, in October 1957 successfully tested their
first inter-continental ballistic missile by putting the worlds first
satellite, Sputnik-1, in orbit. The free worlds scientists, military, and
politicians were shocked stunned!
were rather leisurely inventing and developing Polaris, with deployment
scheduled for 1964, were all of a sudden in grave danger. The soviets were in
a position to deploy a nuclear tipped inter-continental missile long before
1964. A position from which, by nuclear blackmail, they could force the rest
of the world to accept communism and function as satellites of the Soviet
relationship identical to that which they had forced on East Germany, Poland,
Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria, Rumania and Yugoslavia after
World War II.
response to the crisis, American industry, the scientific community, labor
unions, major universities and government labs dropped their differences.
They coalesced under the direction of the US Navys Special Projects office in
an effort to put Polaris to sea four years earlier than scheduled.
be a larger, more costly effort than the Manhattan Project, which invented,
developed, and deployed the atomic bomb in World War II.
the arrogant assertion by the Air Force and some senior admirals that such was
impossible, USS George Washington (SSBN-598) was deployed in September 1960,
four years ahead of schedule, and only 3 years after Sputnik flashed through
American skies. USS Patrick Henry, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, and
Theodore Roosevelt were close behind. Just in the nick of time - the
Soviets had lost the race.
an indispensable part of that accelerated effort which began in November 1957
and continues today at a steady, less intense, level that ensures our
us in this room were there to take the ball on the kickoff and advance it to
mid-field. You of following generations, each better educated than the
preceding one, and provided with ever more sophisticated technology, kept
advancing the ball leaving the Soviets ever further astern.
not be embarrassed to let our children and the public know what we did. Take
it out of this room and talk about it. It is more than a family matter.
for instance! I do not consider it pompous to reflect together on how heady
was the realization after a few patrols that our enemy really was afraid of
the realization came with Presidents Kennedys responses in 1963 to Premier
Khrushchevs installation of Ballistic missiles in Cuba. His most important
response was an immediate order for the two Polaris submarines in upkeep
alongside the tender in Holy Loch, Scotland to get underway and join the other
three on alert patrol.
Khrushchev awoke the next morning, he was told that we had emptied the Holy
Loch and five boomers were at sea with eighty missiles pointed his way.
promptly commenced withdrawing the missiles and the Soviet ships en-route to
Cuba with more missiles, turned for home.
blockade of Cuba by surface and air units was well done and effective, but in
my opinion his retreat was primarily caused by our boomers.
share this with the public and our children. Never think for a minute that
High School History Teachers or University Professors will ever mention it.
Most of them are unaware of it.
another instance! Here in our Bull Sessions we feel comfortable
verbalizing the thrill we experienced when Premier Gorbachev, in early 1988,
announced the new Soviet Reform Policy called, Perestroika. By January 1989
communism had begun to crumble and the captive countries of Eastern Europe
were set free. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.
milieu we can say without fear of contradiction that he gave up primarily
the continuous nerve racking pressure applied by our invulnerable boomers and
Tridents during more than 3,500 patrols spanning more then 29 years. We
averaged more then 20 submarines on alert patrol constantly during those
Secondly: The humiliating harassment of his forces by our attack boats, which
operated with impunity in his home waters year around. They were there to
gather intelligence on his weapons, sensors, radiated noise and tactics. They
were there to intimidate them and incidentally to receive a quality of
training for war that could be obtained no other way. There was just enough
visual or acoustic detection of our boats to keep him aware of our around the
insult to injury, our boats often fell in close behind one of his when it
departed on patrol. Sometimes we would follow him throughout a 60 70 day
patrol. Occasionally if the trailing boat needed to come home, another boat
would be sent out to take over the tail a hand off in mid ocean. Pretty
sophisticated operations by professionals.
periodically let him get a sniff of our presence so that the Soviet Commanding
Officer would always have to assume an undetectable SSN was behind him. On
occasion an unintentional bumping reinforced that assumption. Just think
what it would have done to our morale if the roles had been reversed.
should let your children and the public know about your impact on the downfall
of Soviet Communism. You were the constantly dynamic force. Granted, you did
have static help from the Army, and a lot of dynamic, rhetorical help from
President Reagan always at the right moment. From the Air Force nothing!
You and I
were fortunate to be on the powerful U.S.S. Robert E. Lee the fourth of 41
Polaris Submarines which would, by 1968, comprise the greatest peace
preserving war fighting force the world has ever seen.
beginning Bobby Lee was the Best of the Best. You had many first, among
them Blue and Gold together wrote and proofed the Procedures for Handling
and Operating the Weapons Systems for all of squadron 14. They would be
adopted by all squadrons. Together, we devised the Four Safes, Safe within a
Safe security system which provided for concurrent validation of the Firing
message by the Commanding Officer, Exec., and weapons officer plus a secure
storage of the firing key.
went to New York to work and learn from the finest chefs during the off crew
training period. The Gold Crew declined to take civilian technical reps on
their first patrol thus severing that umbilical for all following ships. Both
crews sent large numbers to NESEP for four years of college and a commission.
Many were accepted in the LDO Community. Several attained the rank of
commander and Paul Rogers as a Captain, Commanded Sandia Laboratories in
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
number of you joined me in 1964 to build Bancroft. It would be a super sub
also, because it was custom made by Lee personnel.
Bancroft deployed in 1966, it and Lee were a duo that could not be beat
Truly the Crème d La Crème.
played a very important role in this countrys history.
realize how few people in their lifetimes can point to an act by them which
positively and significantly affected the freedom of all people and the course
wives can do that!
It was a
the sacrifices and support of you ladies we warriors with big egos and swelled
heads could never have done it, year
foregoing recitation of some amazing accomplishments not withstanding, I have
still not addressed your most important, most singular feat. One which the
Soviet Communist culture simply could not emulate. Im going to give you a
little background/history so that all of you understand the environment in
which it took place.
A LITTLE HISTORY
War II, the crushing defeat of the Japanese at sea was led by the commanding
officers of our submarines.
daring LCDRs, CDRs, and Junior Captains, lead their courageous crews into
battle in Japans home waters and along the sea lanes over which their
essential food stuffs, oil, and strategic materials moved.
December 31, l941, 24 days after Pearl Harbor, USS Gudgeon (SS-211), LCDR
Elton W. Grenfell, Commanding, arrived off the southern entrance to Japans
Inland Sea. He sank his first ship 5 days later. Thereafter there was a
steadily increasing flow of our submarines into and out of the Japan,
Philippine and East China Seas.
they commenced attacking Japanese merchant shipping moving in convoys escorted
by Naval Units. They also attacked the escorts when necessary.
would be 33 long, lonesome months before U.S. surface and air units started
arriving in Southern Philippine waters to help out. By that time, 36 of our
submarines with about 2,500 men and officers had been lost. Those numbers
would grow to 52 submarines and 3,500 personnel lost by wars end. They were
not lost in vain. Our submariners had swept the Japanese Merchant Fleet, more
then six million tons, from the seas and sank one-fourth of their Navy.
officers and men of our submarine force, heros all, had established an
historic winning tradition.
the surviving officers who remained in the Navy were Rear Admirals and
Captains in Command of all submarine organizations afloat and ashore. They
were responsible for setting our course for the future.
submarines were few in number with only about 6,000 personnel. Their budgets
were meager, and they had no influence in Washington. It was not an
atmosphere that generated big thinking visions.
as a whole was in the doldrums. Many Senior Officers were resting on their
laurels and enjoying peacetime life. The Korean War was primarily an Army,
Air Force and Marine Force show, the amphibious landing at Inchon not
withstanding. The carrier fighter planes, for instance, could not compete
with the Soviets migs.
THIS WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE.
May 1955, a new Chief of Naval Operations burst upon the scene. Young, 54
year old Admiral Arleigh Burke took charge with orders from President
Eisenhower to rapidly modernize the Navy.
this destroyer man had become world-famous as he raced his little Beaver
Squadron of destroyers at 31-Knots throughout waters around Guadalcanal and up
the slot, sinking Japanese ships and destroying their shore facilities.
victories were non-existent at that time so the press trumpeted Burkes
successes worldwide. They dubbed him 31-Knot Burke, a sobriquet that became
a household word overnight.
become more famous a Chief of Staff for Admiral Marc Mitscher, the brilliant
commander of the fast attack carrier task for of The Big Blue Fleet.
Mitscher, Burke was the architect, planner, and tactical director of the
carrier operations that destroyed the remaining three-fourths of the Japanese
fleet and made possible the seven major amphibious assaults from New Guinea to
Admiral took over as CNO in an unusual situation. President Eisenhower had
promoted him from Rear Admiral with two stars to Admiral, four stars, over the
heads of 92 other two star
and four star admirals who were his
was he a stellar leader, ship driver, and tactical commander of very large
task forces, his technical competence was notable.
an advanced degree in Ordnance Engineering from the University of Michigan and
had served two tours of shore duty designing guns, ammunition and ammunition
storage facilities prior to his escapades in the Pacific. He possessed
after viewing the damage caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki and the damage to ships used in our tests at Bikini Island, Burke,
like many others, concluded that civilization could not survive a world wide
solution was to build and deploy a survivable sea-based force armed with long
range, nuclear tipped ballistic missiles.
survivable force randomly roaming the worlds oceans would guarantee any
aggressor that if he conducted a first strike against any nation in the free
world, his country would be destroyed at a time of our choosing.
be a deterrent to nuclear war, a force for peace.
Captain in post World War II Washington, he pursued his objective
relentlessly, but the Senior Admirals would not support the concept.
Immediately on becoming CNO he started the concept moving, working hard at
getting support from the Secretarys of the Navy and Defense and President
end of his first year, having gone to sea on Nautilus and talking to Admiral
Rickover about the future of nuclear powered propulsion plants, he decided the
missiles should be place on large nuclear submarines.
missiles existed nor did such large submarines. Other technical problems like
precise navigation had not ever been addressed.
simply said, The technical problems can be resolved by the rigorous
application of sufficient brain power, and determined to get on with it.
First, however, he wanted the unstinted backing of his CNO Advisory Board.
Its members, 17 Vice Admirals, all of whom were older than Burke and had been
senior to him until recently, listened to him describe his program. Every one
of them voted against it.
red-faced angry Burke pounded his fist on the table shouting, All right,
dammit, we will do it anyway.
none of the submarine Admirals or Senior Captains supported him. One of their
many reasons was a grave doubt that enough enlisted men with the requisite
brain power to handle such high technology could be recruited for the initial
five submarines let alone a rapid growth to 41 submarines and the attendant,
long term, world wide support systems.
turned away from the submarine community and chose an aviator, Rear Admiral
Red Raborn to develop and provide the missile system, supporting ships
systems, training of personnel, and worldwide facilities and logistic support.
letter, later called Raborns Hunting License he gave Raborn the right to
select for his staff of 40 personnel, any officer, enlisted man, or civilian
from any Naval organization except that of Admiral Rickover. He provided that
he report directly to the Secretary of the Navy to eliminate interference from
any admiral and in closing said, If there is anything that slows this project
up beyond the capacity of the Navy (to solve), we will immediately take it to
the highest level. That meant Secretary of Defense and President Eisenhower.
turned to Rear Admiral Rickover, who had but recently proven his nuclear
propulsions plants in Nautilus, Seawolf, and Skate, to provide the nuclear
plants for much larger submarines and the associated training of personnel.
Rickover and Raborn were Off and Running with Burke riding sidesaddle,
whipping the horse and maintaining Congressional and Presidential support.
THEN YOU COME ON STAGE AND INTO THE
1,400 of you were needed for the two crews each of the first 5 Polaris
submarines with an additional 15,000 over the next six years.
For the first
five Polaris Subs, they swept from the diesel boats, the most talented of
every rate, the smartest of the Junior Officers, and ten Commanding Officers
nine Naval Academy Graduates and this Ex-Chief with no brain power and no
In we all went
to hastily established schools, officers and enlisted often together. The
curriculum included mathematics, physics, electrical engineering,
radio-chemistry, thermodynamics, metallurgy, computer design and operations,
gyros and accelerometers for initial navigation and missile guidance,
practical application of it all at prototypes and in laboratories, and on
night and day Remember?
of that first contingent proved all those with grave doubts about brain-power,
to be dead wrong. Year after year, you who followed kept proving them dead
wrong despite the steadily increasing sophistication of equipments and
systems, increasing difficulty of curriculum, and raising of standards.
Such was the
CROWN JEWEL of all your achievements.
It was the
savior of our system. The inability of the communist system to produce such
men and women was its Achilles Heel.
It validated my
long held, not original with me, conviction that one should never
underestimate the U.S. Navy Blue Jacket and his family.
With all that
we all must acknowledge, that the small percentage of Senior and Junior
Officers and ratings who did embrace Burkes vision were absolutely essential
for the vision to become a reality. They carried the staff and shore facility
loads for ten years and more, until we nukes, navigators and missile types
could be spared from sea duty.
It came to pass
that the Soviet hierarchy could not use their land-based missiles and bombers
because we could destroy their country at a time of our choosing with missiles
launched from our invulnerable Lees and Bancrofts 41 of them.
could not count on their blue-water attack submarines to gain control of the
seas because our nuclear attack submarines with or without support of other
ASW forces would surely destroy them and the Soviet boomers.
The coup de
grace was putting Tomahawk missiles on our attack submarines, followed by
President Reagans announced intent to build an anti-missile defense force.
economy bankrupt and unable to counter our submarines, the Soviets threw in
You had carried
on the tradition of winning everyday for 40+ years. Today our trident
submarines are quieter with oceans and oceans of water in which they can
have a very long Range 6,000 miles with a CEP, miss distance, of less then
system is alive and well. You still own a part of the system because it has
evolved from Polaris to Trident, based in great part on the lessons you
learned and recommendations you made for improvements.
You are not
has beens. Your contributions are still in use, and you are entitled to bask
in the systems present reflected glory.
For those of
you who served on SSNs, your Tomahawks are generating a great winning
tradition as a strike force.
In Iraq, there
were 207 strikes with 202 hits. You should all be proud of your
accomplishments, proud of your submarine force, and proud of the flag under
which we serve.
and I thank you for inviting us.