Commander William Earl Fannin, Class of 1945, Capstone Essay Contest
At a NATO maritime tactics course in Halifax, Nova Scotia . . . the aviators submariners and surface warriors from all countries represented agreed that defeating submarines is the most ominous task we face." This easily summarizes most of Western military powers' opinions and captures as well the awe—even fear—that civilians feel with respect to submarine dominance in the open ocean. Also present in this quotation, however, are the barely examined questions of whether submarines truly are the bogeymen common knowledge would make them out to be, and whether the United States should continue to put as much of its faith and effort into its submarine fleet as it did during and immediately after the Cold War. Data to analyze this problem properly are somewhat difficult to obtain; many documents remain classified. Moreover, most of the papers that have been written—consciously or subconsciously—push agendas that often are skewed by warfare loyalties and interservice rivalries. A few historical facts can lead to some conclusions, however, and even within a skewed paper, facts can exist that may support a different conclusion when analyzed in an original way. We need to examine a few of the ideas assumed to be common knowledge—or self-evident fact—in an unbiased manner. Specifically, we should ask whether submarines are cost-effective strike warfare platforms at all; whether they are as important to special warfare and special operations as mission planners believe; whether their historically unparalleled antiship capabilities still are required; and whether they really are needed as antisubmarine platforms.