The disastrous War with Japan in 1904–05 accelerated Russian interest in the development of underwater craft which might redress the balance in the Far East, at least in the defensive sense. The evident advantages of this choice lay in the relatively low cost of submarines, as opposed to surface warships; their comparatively speedy availability without a lengthy building period; and the avoidance of interception by Japanese blockade, since submarine torpedo boats could be rail-transported to Vladivostok. The Naval Technical Committee and other organs of the Tsar’s Imperial Navy left few avenues unexplored in the search for better submarine designs and weapons, and this quest, of course, led to a number of foreign countries, including Germany, France, Austria, and America. In the United States, John P. Holland and Simon Lake were the chief inventors and competitors in the submersible business.
A Submarine for the Tsar
The proof of the borscht is in the sipping and, as historians survey today’s Soviet silent service—350 post-World War II submarines, of which 70 are nuclear-powered—they might agree that a turn-of-the-century transaction, involving 13 U. S.-built submarines, was one of the shrewdest business deals the Russians ever made.
By Captain Franklin G. Babbitt, U. S. Navy