Comment & Discussion

Several Navy submarine veterans I have spoken to have readily agreed that the submarine force should be a mixture of nuclear and diesel-powered subs. Commander Fargo overlooks two important points in his commentary rejecting the case for diesels: 

1. A submarine can only be in one place at one time. It is generally acknowledged that the submarine force is under-strength for the multitude of missions assigned to it. The small number of nuclear-powered submarines renders the submarine force vulnerable. Since it is generally agreed that two or three diesel air independent propulsion (AIP)–equipped submarines can be built for the cost of one nuclear-powered one, the argument to acquire some is compelling. There undoubtedly are numerous scenarios where a diesel boat would suffice in place of a high-value nuclear one.

2. The United States does not have infinite financial resources. The current emphasis on nuclear power for submarines has resulted in the submarine force sacrificing quantity for quality. The current spending programs for defense cannot be sustained for long in view of unprecedented national debt, and sooner or later the Navy will be forced to make some hard choices. 

—George Walker, Life Member

UAVs: Before Fire Scout, There Was DASH

(See T. Pinney, Proceedings Today , August 2018)

I applaud Captain Pinney’s comprehensive review of the 1960s-era Drone Antisubmarine Helicopter DASH-QH-50-C program. I was a DASH controller-instructor with Utility Squadron 6 (VU-6) in 1963 at Naval Training Center–Damneck, followed by a full year on the USS Forrest Royal (DD-872) as DASH Division Officer.

These drone helos were indeed viewed as experimental toys by seasoned destroyer skippers and crews; however, when deployed properly, they had great potential to sink enemy subs far from their vulnerable destroyers.

Many were lost to intermittent electronic control issues. Remember that commercial televisions were still mostly black and white and often “snowed out” with no warning. DASH electronic systems were subject to the same kinds of problems in an infant industry.

The leading edges of the counter--rotating blades were long strips of quarter-round lead inserts that traveled through their arc just below supersonic speed. If these blades impacted anything, it generated a very hazardous catastrophic reaction of exploding shrapnel in every direction. Flight deck crews were always at great risk when trying to land and secure a returning drone on a rolling, pitching deck. Sure, the bird was “expendable” since there was no crew on board, but its basic cost was $125,000—more than $1 million today—not cheap. 

Captain Pinney correctly underscores that DASH was an important stopgap system until the Navy could upgrade their destroyer force to larger, more stable ships for the new, more capable light airborne multipurpose system (LAMPS) helicopter. U.S. Navy operations during the Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile crises had to affect strategic planning at the time.

He also concludes with two appropriate questions: Why did it take so long for the Fire Scout to come along? And, how can it best be employed from here?

—LT W. D. Reed, USNR (Ret.)

Fifty Tons of Fury:
Bring Back the Patrol Torpedo Boat

(See E. Hernandez, Proceedings Today , September 2018)

Captain Hernandez is correct to point out that not every mission requires a guided-missile destroyer. However, a host of operational, logistical and practical challenges make the reimagined patrol-torpedo (PT) boat a less than optimal alternative for the modern U.S. Navy.

First is range. The Navy prefers to “fight an away game”—to operate far from home waters. In peacetime, a short-legged combatant such as a PT boat would only further burden the Navy’s already overworked combat logistic structure. In wartime, it is questionable whether a modern PT boat base—by definition, close to the enemy—could even be protected.

Second is detectability. The greatest advantage a World War II–era PT boat possessed was the small size that made it difficult to detect and target. The modern battlespace is very different. The proliferation of highly capable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems coupled with precision-guided munitions has significantly stacked the odds of concealment and survival against small fast-attack craft.

Third is risk. The most famous movie about PT boats was titled They Were Expendable . Of the 531 PT boats that served during World War II, 99 (18%) were lost. Today’s modern military and the American public are much more aware of and averse to casualties, making it difficult to imagine a modern commander choosing to send multiple PT boats (each with eight sailors) into a high-end fight.

An unmanned surface vehicle (USV) variant of the PT boat could address many of these concerns. First, by removing the requirement to host a human crew, more size, weight, and power could be devoted to propulsion, fuel, and weapons. Second, USVs allow for the possibility of small, low-freeboard designs with reduced radar and visual signatures. 

Last, removing humans would provide operational commanders with a truly needed capability: an asymmetric asset that could be employed with little risk to sailors’ lives.

—Matt Cosner

Technology: The New Addiction

(See P. Ryan, pp. 52–57, September 2018)

Captain Ryan relates the rise of personal technology usage (PTU) to the simultaneous increase in diagnoses of anxiety, depression, suicide rates, aviation mishaps, and even child abuse. 

While there is undoubtedly a correlation and a sharp rise in recent decades, causation is not clear, as he notes in his conclusion, calling for study. Until more research is done, we will not know the full impact, but there likely are many causes beyond technology. I agree with him that “it is imperative that we assess the impact on sailors’ abilities to function the next day after PTU before bed.” 

—MIDN Marcus Sanders, USN

From Our Archive

(See p. 96, September 2018)

I was very intrigued by September’s archive photo, identified as a World War I–era blimp with a depth charge under a seat. I believe this may be incorrect.

The blimp appears to be a C-class (or possibly D-class), with the photo showing the port-side motor, photographed from the bow of the gondola. The cylindrical object underneath the motor is, I believe, the fuel tank (the small oil tank being situated with the engine itself).

What a great photo to include in the magazine. I commend you.

—Larry Reese

Editor’s Note: Most of the information on the photos in the Naval Institute archive comes from the captions provided with the original Navy photos, or the cataloging information included with donations. That was the source of the description of the September photo. On close inspection, it does appear that the “chair” may in fact contain a V-8 engine that looks consistent with the Hispano Suiza 8s with which C- and D-class blimps were equipped.

Ready. Responsive. Relevant?

(See K. Pecora, pp. 32–37, August 2018, and J. Marks, More C&D, September 2018)

I wanted to join the Coast Guard from the time I was eight years old, even though the service was not talked about much in the 1950s and early 1960s. I recall seeing one recruiting ad with two or three “40 boats” coming at the camera at full speed with some upbeat military music (that turned out to be the Coast Guard march). I joined in July 1965 because there was a quiet value system rather than a lot of packaging. A young female volunteer at a USO dance in November 1965 in San Francisco said to me, “Oh, you are in the ‘Ghost’ Guard.” 

Two recent Coast Guard movies have been made and sold well at the box office. (The background music was another matter.) The Coast Guard, like the other services, is assumed to be present and accounted for at all times. When needed, Coast Guard members respond and go quietly about their business.

Maybe, using old as new has merit? Try marketing a recruiting video with the Coast Guard doing a number of its jobs with the Coast Guard march in the background, nice and loud. People will sit up and take notice.

It is about time to highlight the Coast Guard as a very special military and humanitarian service with more than 200 years of service to this country. Beat that! 

—PSC Mike Benjamin, USCG (Ret.) 

War and Peace Helps
Us Read History

(See B. Bray, p. 69, August 2018)

I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement with Captain Bray’s argument on the value of literature in addition to military history to invigorate the constantly developing military mind. He offers up Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace as a paragon because it is both a classic work of literature and the author rejects traditional interpretations of history. He mentions specifically Tolstoy’s objection to viewing history as the inevitable outcome of human agency—namely, the folly of the human tendency to ascribe a causal relationship between action and outcome. This philosophy permeates the book. 

By all accounts, the novel is one of the finest in world history. However, the 1,400 page masterpiece can be intimidating and includes a fair amount of Russian aristocratic intrigue, romance, and family drama not directly applicable to the developing martial mind. For those less inclined to discover whom Natasha Rostova will marry, I suggest busy readers first explore volume 3, part 1, chapter 1 (Vintage Classics translation, p. 603) of War and Peace , where the author concisely narrates his philosophy, a valuable tool for the interpretation of military history.

—LT Brendan Cordial, USN

In Appreciation: Captain H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest

(See p. 95, September 2018)

It was good to see the well-deserved tribute to Gerry Lenfest in Proceedings

As a new ensign on board the USS John Hood (DD-655), I was serving as main propulsion assistant when the Berlin Wall crisis took place. The John Hood was a reserve training ship, but its crew was recalled to active duty as a result of the crisis. Gerry served as the operations officer. We sailed together for a year in Destroyer Squadron 20. Gerry returned to civilian life, and I completed my service on the destroyer about a year after that.

For about 50 years we had no contact, but through articles in the Columbia University Alumni magazine and in Proceedings , I kept up with news of him and learned that he had made a great fortune and was giving it away to many deserving causes. In the meantime, I had had a 40-plus-year career as a consulting civil engineer. 

In retirement, I spent much of my time as a volunteer with Project C.U.R.E., a nonprofit that donates equipment and surplus U.S. hospital supplies to hospitals and clinics in developing countries.

When I caught up with Gerry, the project owned four distribution centers around the country. For several years it had wanted to open an east coast center in the Philadelphia area but lacked the necessary $350,000 in seed money. Knowing that Gerry lived in the Philadelphia area, I wrote him a letter recalling our days together on the John Hood , described the need, and asked whether he could make a donation to help. 

A few weeks later a letter arrived from the Lenfest Foundation. Gerry wrote that the project seemed “most worthwhile. . . . But, frankly, we have too many commitments on our plate to take on another, no matter how worthwhile. For you and the project, I do enclose a donation of $100,000.”

The enclosed check for $100,000 spurred a donation of $100,000 from another foundation. When I asked Gerry if he could help us with the remaining $150,000, he said that if we could get the other foundation to come up with an additional $75,000, he would come up with the rest. We did and he did. 

The center is now open and has sent millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and supplies to hospitals in developing countries. It would not have happened without Gerry’s donation. 

Such is the bond created by service in the Tin Can Navy, and such was Gerry’s generosity.

—CDR Raymond White, USNR (Ret.)

 

 
 

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