USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)

The Story Of A Cold War Warrior

Putting The "Silent" In Silent Service

Present submarine operations are highly classified.  However, having said that, numerous books and movies have entered the submariner's silent world and documented the sights and sounds that others have only wondered about.  The Discovery Channel's "Sharks Of Steel" series took the viewer onboard an actual Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine. 

The USS Casimir Pulaski was decommissioned in the early 1990's and like most of her sisters, has been gone from Naval service for many years now.  In addition to that, the present Ohio Class SSBN's bear no resemblence internally and little resemblence externally, to the original 41 SSBN's.  So even if you were a spy charged with discovering all you can about America's present SSBN fleet, you would be wasting your time on this site.

There is a nice display at the Smithsonian Institute about Cold War submarines which contains an actual Maneuvering Room, Control Room and other previously classified stuff from one of the Pulaski's sisters.  So after viewing what's on display at the museum, I came to the conclusion that there's nothing in the photos on this website that would constitute a security risk.

None of the photographs show equipment or machinery that is in present use today.  However, having said that, it is not my intention to endanger the lives of even one crewmember of one of the US Navy's present SSBN's or SSN's.  So if you see or read ANYTHING on this site that you feel might be a security violation, please notify me and I will review the item in question and either modify or remove it.  This also applies to our British and French allies and of course our Russian friends, as several British, French and Russian SSBN designs are based on the older US Navy SSBNs.  So feel free to drop me a line (in English!) if you have any concerns. 

In addition to that, this is not the first or indeed, the only submarine website on the internet.  I would assume that our friends in the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc, monitor the web to look for security violations.  So please - story telling is secondary to the safety of our Navy's submarine sailors.  If you see anything that you feel may be considered compromising classified material, feel free to let me know.

Thanks for your time, enjoy your visit!

"Run Silent, Run Deep"

With these words, the US Navy's submarine fleet put to sea to provide the most lethal deterrent to war ever known.  Only a few nations possess the capability to hunt, track and actually catch a first rate nuclear powered submarine.  And even then, the technology is crude and rudimentary.  The best weapon against submarines remains still...another submarine.  USS Casimir Pulaski and her sisters represented a quantum leap in naval firepower.  Their mere presence averted war and tempered relations between the superpowers.  The fact that they could be anywhere under the ocean at any time, must have indeed caused great worry whenever "bad men" met to discuss acts of evil. 

"Keeping up with the Joneses" can get quite expensive and the Pulaski and her sisters were no exception.  The Soviet Union literally spent itself into the ground trying to compete with the US Navy's fleet of boomers.  Each new missile update, from Polaris A-1 up to Trident I C-4, gave the boomers a larger area in which they could hide and a larger patrol area in which the enemy had to search.  Twin crews; one Blue, one Gold, meant a virtually uninterupted flow of submarines traveling to and from patrol areas throughout the ocean.  By the mid 1980's all of the initial 41 SSBN's were either equipped with the Poseidon or Trident missile.  Those Poseidon equipped boats were referred to as the Lafayettes, after the first such converted submarine, USS Lafayette.  The Franklins were the Trident boats, in honor of the first such converted submarine, USS Benjamin Franklin. 

As the Ohio Class boats came online, the twilight of the "41 For Freedom" started.  By the late 1980's few were still in service.  USS Samuel Rayburn was converted to a floating classroom and USS Kamehameha was converted to a special operations, SEAL transporting, fast attack submarine.  Other than that, few of the original boomers remained.  The Lafayettes and Franklins held the line when our nation needed it most and although the Ohio Class are all that remains, the story of the sacrifices made by the original boomers is a story long overdue.  The late 1980's closing of Holy Loch, Scotland as a forward deployment base was the end of an era.  There were just two submarine boomer bases now; Bangor, Washington and King's Bay, Georgia. 

If you served on the USS Casimir Pulaski or any other of the original 41 SSBN's I'd like to hear from you.  Please feel free to write me, send photos, etc.  This is the Pulaski's story, but it goes without saying that the entire "Team" kept the world a lot safer.  Sure there were wars.  But one wonders what might have been, had the SSBN's of both sides not been there to keep everyone's tempers in check.  You can contact me at:  JDM4791@Juno.com.

Thanks for stopping by!

Don Murphy, PO3(SS), USN Retired

 

A Look At The Cold War

The United States and the Soviet Union both entered World War 2 unprepared for combat.  Initial combat operations were filled with errors and heavy loss of life for both nations.  Josef Stalin started World War 2 as a friend of Hitlers and together, they ravaged Poland together.  But in the back of his paranoid mind, Stalin knew the day would come when German and Russian troops would spill each other's blood.  No preparations were made and Germany's lightning invasion of Russia in 1941 was as close to a success as one could get.  Bitter Russian weather stemmed the tide - for a little while - but the German fighting man and his tools of war, were far superior to any Russian defensive effort.  A bitter campaign in and around Stalingrad enabled the Russians to take a long hard look at their techniques and tools.  A rethink was ordered and the result was a huge success.  Rather than being bogged down with multiple weapon systems like their German adversaries, the Russian fighting man's armory was simplified.  This enabled the Russians to field shocking amounts of men and material.  By early 1944, Germany was on the retreat.  The Soviet military machine was now not only capable of repelling the German invader but of fulfilling Communism's dream of spreading Marxism throughout the world.  Indeed, territory "liberated" by Russian troops was done so with no intention of allowing the formerly free citizens to resume living in freedom.  Across the world, American innocence was lost as Japanese carrier aircraft descended upon Pearl Harbor.  Like their German allies, Japan's conquest of Asia was swift and largely bloodless.  Other than a minor setback at Wake Island, Japan's territory grab was unimpeded.  By the time Japan stopped, she had conquered more territory - and in less time - than Nazi Germany.  The American industrial giant was awakened and unleashed with all the fury of a tornado.  The rag tag force of battered carriers and slow planes fighting for it's life at Guadalcanal was gone.  In it's place were carrier battle groups of unimaginable size.

New Essex Class carriers and fast battleship escorts roamed the Pacific, refueling at sea and destroying anything that got in their way.  US Navy submarines swept the ocean of Japanese merchantmen, starving their enemy and depriving him of the spoils of his conquests.  America had learned from defeat and by early 1943, Japan would be in full retreat.  The carrier battle group system had been battle tested and perfected.  Concentric rings of mutually supporting weapon systems ensured that nothing interferred with the group's main purpose: killing the enemy.  Like Russia, the US found itself in possession of several nations that previously belonged to another power.  The blanket granting of independence got in the craw of the former colonial powers, notably France and the Netherlands.  Nevertheless, America and Russia found themselves face to face at the end of the war.  Both powers had transformed from timid amateurs to military giants.  Although the Russian Navy was modest compared to the US Navy's gargantuan force, and although lacking in airpower compared to her American ally, the main Russian asset was manpower.  And lots of it.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill foresaw a showdown.  And he didn't have to wait long to be vindicated.  No sooner had Germany surrendered when Russian intentions showed themselves to be less than friendly.  The partitioning of Germany and continued enslavement of Poland and Czechoslavakia showed a glimpse of things to come.  It was hoped by President Truman that the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan would cow the Soviets into "playing nice."  Such was not the case.  No sooner was Japanese soil cool to the touch, when it became apparent that the Soviets, thanks to spy Klaus Fuchs, had an atomic weapon of their own.  Within fleeting moments, the ideology of both sides met somewhere in the ocean and both sides departed as friends and returned as bitter enemies.  There is much speculation as to how and when the Cold War started.  The British naturally credit the Cold War's start as sometime after or during Churchill's epic speech about the Soviet Union when he referred to them as the "Iron Curtain." 

German nationalist pride is quick to mention the Berlin Airlift.  Still others use the building of the Berlin Wall as their starting point.  All are wrong.  The Cold War started the same way World War 2 started: at sea.  US submarines had no sooner removed the brooms from their periscopes when they set sail again but this time as spies.  The early submarine missions carried out by the US Pacific Fleet were intelligence gathering and snooping.  Indeed, USS Cochino and USS Tusk would suffer lost sailors in 1949 - many years before the Berlin Wall or Airlift.  The very nature of the submarine made it the ideal platform with which to carry out clandestine surveilance and carry the war to the enemy.  Strategic bombing proved an absolute failure as both Germany and Japan and indeed, Britain before them, refused to bow to the aerial god and surrender without a fight.  But although Japan's war machine continued to turn out aircraft and other weapons, they were useless without fuel.  The US Navy's strangulation of Japan via submarine did not go un-noticed in either the Russian or American war rooms.  While a grossly outnumbered American army fought to match the Warsaw Pact forces in Eastern Europe, the Warsaw Pact fought to gain parity on the ocean.  The German inovated snorkel gave the submarine greater underwater endurance and yet more stealth.  Both American and Russian analysts had captured examples.  The American answer was an update known as GUPPY, while Soviet shipyards merely copied the tried and tested German designs.  USS Barbero and USS Renquin proved another submarine viability: the delivery of severe firepower against an enemy shore.  Both boats set sail with ramps, jury-rigged hangers and captured German V-1 missiles nicknamed "Loon."  Loon proved the concept and two additional boats were converted.  Each boat carried two missiles, each armed with an atomic warhead.  The initial atomic yield of both warheads was weak but that didn't matter.  It was the thought that counted.  Either boat could loiter in an area of ocean and when called upon, deliver armageddon twice.

The US Navy ended the war with a surplus of submarines.  There were plenty for playing with; both to try new technology and as targets for new underwater weapons.  USS Spinax was fitted with radar to test the feasibility of a radar picket submarine.  Other boats were fitted for underwater replenishment: carrying supplies.  A five boat task force; one radar picket boat to find targets, one missile boat with Loon missiles, one supply boat with fuel and spares and two GUPPY boats for defense, posed the ultimate problem for Warsaw Pact planners.  The Soviet arsenal needed to catch up.  The brief Korean War gave both sides an opportunity to test the success or failure of their ideas.  A seaborne evacuation and following invasion (Inchon) further highlighted American naval superiority.  Moscow responded with a multi-tiered system consisting of anti-ship/submarine aircraft and loads of gun boat sized craft and submarines.  It was hoped that flooding the sky with dedicated anti-shipping and anti-submarine aircraft would counter the American numerical superiority.  America's response was seaborne jet fighters and Terrier/Talos guided missiles.  The carrying of atomic weapons by naval aircraft further daunted the Soviets as every enemy aircraft carrier and escort aircraft carrier was a weapon of mass destruction.  Surveillance became the primary US activity with "listening posts," spy plane flights and seaborne monitoring.  During this time period, many American Navy and newly formed Air Force pilots would lose their lives in shootdowns, many over international waters or airspace.  The 1950's saw an increase in seaborne atomic firepower with "Weapon Alpha" and other weapons.  But all of that changed in 1954 when the US Navy's newest submarine, USS Nautilus, sent the message "underway on nuclear power."  Here was a propulsion system that revolutionized submarine warfare.  Radar and sonar coupled with sharp eyes, were the main tools for airborne submarine detection.  The tell-tale smoke plume of a snorkeling submarine was a common target point.

With nuclear power, a submarine no longer had to surface.  Overnight, airborne anti-submarine warfare became crippled.  The Soviets were now deprived of their one advantage; superior numbers of ASW aircraft.  Angled flight decks and more sea going jet aircraft modernized the US Navy in leaps and bounds.   A US Navy carrier battle group, centered around an Essex, Midway or Forrestal Class aircraft carrier, with it's bomb magazines loaded with atomic weapons, was now the most powerful military unit on earth.  A carrier battle group could flatten an entire nation's fleet, bomb an army, shoot down an air force and basically influence national policy.  Nuclear powered submarines developed unchecked with all kinds of ideas and designs appearing on the drawing board.  Now that submarines had true stealth, it was pointless to continue mounting atomic warheads on submarines bound by the constraints of snorkelling.  And since we're going to put nuclear weapons on a submarine, why not a larger missile than Regulus or Loon?  Enter the Polaris missile.  While the Polaris missile program was moving along at flank speed, a suitable vehicle, USS George Washington was being designed and built.  As the 1960's started, five SSBN's - or boomers - were now in service.  The Cuban Missile Crisis drove the point home even harder to the Russians that they were woefully ill-equipped to deal with America and NATO on the ocean.  The Russians soon simplified their naval life: three types of submarines and loads of them.  Attack/hunter submarines to sink other submarines and ships, cruise missile submarines to sink aircraft carriers and missile submarines to destroy nations.  The numerous Whiskey and Romeo Classes of diesel boats were used both as frontline units and as testbeds.  Whiskeys with radar tested the feasibility of a Soviet radar picket boat, and the "Long Bin" modification tested the feasibility of launching huge anti-ship missiles.  Once the three roles were defined for the Warsaw Pact, the job was now to produce more and more of them.  Soon it became obvious that the only "producing" nation would be the Soviet Union herself.

East Germany's navy and that of Poland's as well, would come from Russian shipyards.  Nuclear powered November Class submarines joined the attack fleet, though their twin propellors and noisy hulls were little improvement over the existing diesel boats.  Nevertheless, nuclear power gave them speed and endurance which now gave them a counter to America's numerical superiority.  The more November's that joined the fleet, the more narrow the gap closed.  A dedicated class of cruise missile submarines (Juliet) soon joined the fleet and in next to no time, a nuclear variant, the Echo Class, was making patrols.  American seriousness grew during the 1967 "Six Day War" between Israel and Arab nations when the Egyptians sunk the Israeli destroyer Eliat using a "Styx" anti-ship missile.  The clunky, noisy Russian SSG's and SSGN's now had to be given respect.  Each new Russian submarine class brought about an American counter.  The Skipjack Class boats and their teardrop shaped hulls broke all known underwater speed records.  The following Thresher Class (later renamed Permit following the loss of USS Thresher) added deep diving depth and larger weapons capacity to the US fleet's arsenal.  Nuclear tipped Astor torpedos and SUBROC weapons countered Soviet numerical superiority overnight.  Nuclear warheads eliminated precise targeting.  All you needed to know was the rough area of ocean where your target was.  NATO submarines could carry and fire Astor and although it was never known who had it and who didn't, the bottom line was that every NATO submarine, from Britain's Oberon Class to Italy's Enrico Toti Class, were now potential SSG/SSGN killers.  The Soviet SSB/SSBN program was progressing with Golf and Hotel Class boats; one nuclear, the other diesel powered.  The small capacity (three or so SLBM's) was certainly nothing to fear, but if, the Soviets reckoned, they could mass produce enough of them, the payoff would be great.  Vietnam came and although submarines were not needed in the conflict, the carrier battle group continued to prove it's worth and cement it's role as the front end of American policy making.

As more aircraft carriers joined the American fleet, their escorts grew.  The US fleet soon had a large cruiser force including several large nuclear powered units.  The super carrier made it's debut with USS Forrestal and she would be joined by seven more and also by a nuclear powered carrier, the USS Enterprise.  The larger carriers meant more weapons and fuel.  Many carriers suffered horrific damage following shipboard accidents off the Vietnamese coast.  The resilience of the super carrier's design only infuriated Soviet weapon planners.  Soviet anti-ship missiles were bulky and unreliable.  But it was all they had for the time being.  Several times towards the end of the decade, American and Soviet weaponry squared off.  Normally with predictable American success.  The Soviet Yankee Class SSBN's accomplished the Soviet dream of putting more weapons at sea.  Parity soon loomed.  As the 1960's came to an end, a new American attack submarine design, the Sturgeon Class was at sea.  Combining good all-around war fighting with under ice capability, she threw a large wrench into Soviet planning.  She was not only faster and deeper diving, but more heavily armed than any Soviet submarine.  She was not only photographing Russian ports and planting wire taps on underwater phone cables but she did it with impunity.  The November and Victor I Classes of SSN were inadequate to the task of catching a Sturgeon.  Victor II could "catch" a Sturgeon, but couldn't outfight one.  This left every Russian SSG, SSGN, SSB and SSBN open to certain destruction.  As Vietnam ground to a halt, the decade ended the way it began; a superior Soviet Air Force and Army held at bay by a superior American Navy.  Without at least parity on the water, Soviet expansion plans could be thwarted.  Soviet shipping could be blockaded.  A smaller, more powerful anti-ship missile was commissioned and the fruit of the planner's labor soon found itself onboard the noticeably quieter Charlie Class SSGN.  An expensive backfit program to convert existing Juliet and Echo Class SSGN's to this standard started in earnest.  The CIA/Howard Hughes recovery of a sunken Russian SSB did not tell the US Navy anything it didn't already know about Russia's SLBM technology: they were woefully behind.

And to further drive the point home, Polaris A-3 with it's multiple warheads, expanded the American SSBN force - theoretically - by 200%.  Instead of 41 boats with 16 missile warheads each, it was now 41 boats with 48 missile warheads.  A follow on to the Yankee Class SSBN was needed.  The result was the Delta Class with it's larger missile.  The Golf and Hotel Class boats were relegated to local theatre operations in Northern Europe.  Large Kiev Class helicopter carriers could not compete with the American super ships but it was a start in the right direction.  An American model was followed and soon, each Kiev had a dedicated group of cruiser, destroyer and frigate escorts.  These large Kara, Kresta I and Kresta II Classes of ships had an all around capability; not only did they have anti-aircraft (AAW) and anti-submarine (ASW) weapons, but they also carried a clutch of anti-ship missiles.  This now put the Russian fleet back in the running for parity.  The American response was the most devastating yet unleashed on the Russians.  It was imperceptable at first; a new class of American destroyers, the Spruance Class started coming out of the shipyards alongside a new class of frigates, the Oliver Hazard Perry Class.  Both types of ships were rather quiet and unassuming.  Even the new Nimitz Class nuclear powered aircraft carriers made hardly a stir.  But the ship classes were built using mass production techniques which could also be used on...submarines.  But before that took place, the crumbling of the Soviet dream would start with something simple; an anti-ship missile.  Harpoon was fast, accurate, hard hitting and most importantly, small.  It was under the wings of the navy's Corsair II and Intruder attack planes and it was in canisters on virtually every cruiser and destroyer.  It could be fired from the frigate's MK-13 launchers and from the destroyer's ASROC box launcher.  And most importantly, it could be fired from the 21 inch submarine torpedo tubes.  Overnight, every American SSN became a ship killer.  While the Echo and Juliet Class boats struggled to carry four weapons, a single American Sturgeon or Permit SSN could carry 32 Harpoons in lieu of torpedos. 

The next American generation of SLBM, Poseidon, shattered the American lead in the most destructive fashion with each submarine's warhead capability jumping from 16 missiles with 48 warheads to 16 missiles with 224 warheads.   This meant that each American SSBN had the total destructive power of the entire Soviet SSBN force.  The final straw was the announcement of the Los Angeles Class of SSN.  Faster than anything above or below the water and with sensors unlike anything imagined, the LA's spelled doom for any navy that dared go toe to toe with the Americans.  A previous upgrade to the Soviet SSN's, the Victor III Class, had given a slight speed edge over the American Sturgeon and Permit Classes, but an improvement to those classes by the Americans had eroded the Sovet gain.  A spending frenzy ensued as the Soviets rushed to counter every American advance.  As the 1970's came to a close, the Soviet Union had the largest Army, Navy and Air Force; but only on paper.  Victor Belenko's defected Mig 25 Foxbat proved the inadequacy of Soviet airpower, as did another Arab-Israeli war.  An American announcement of a follow-on class of SSBN, the Ohio Class and an even newer missile for it, the Trident, was the last straw.  As 1980 approached, Soviet defense spending quintupled.  Two additional upgrades to the proven Delta Class SSBN's left the Soviets with Yankee, Delta I, Delta II and Delta III Class SSBN's but no easily realized parity.  SALT and START treaties ate into some of the American force, but America had more warheads and now, more SSN's.  The Los Angeles Class SSN's came out of their delivery rooms spanking the doctors and spilling milk everywhere.  Loud, brash, fast and with a hefty price tag of 400+ million $USD, it was said that no nation - not even America - could continue to spend money like that.  As the Soviet navy struggled to pay and feed it's men, the extravagent Americans opened a second shipyard, Newport News in Virginia, to Los Angeles Class construction.  Soon, there were twenty such boats with no end in sight.  The Russian Alfa Class with it's titanium hull, novel reactor design and deep diving depth were touted by the Communist spin doctors as the "ultimate in submarine design." 

"Ultimate" it may have been, but the price tag was like a cancer to the Soviet war machine.  The reactor design ate into crew lifespans and produced a loud, vibrating noise which countered the Alfa's fast speed and deep diving depth.  Meanwhile, virtually every Warsaw Pact naval vessel at one time or another in it's life, had been "buzzed" by a cocky LA Class boat.  Modified Victor III Class SSN's joined the diminutive Alfa force as well as a mass of Tango and Kilo Class diesel boats.  Soviet carrier and amphibious operations ground to a halt as planners and strategists fought - not to master existing techniques - but to counter American submarine superiority.  Tomahawk with it's nuclear warhead capability now put first strike nuclear capability into the hands of any platform that carried it.  This of course, included the American Los Angeles, Sturgeon and Permit Class SSN's.  Dizzy Soviet financiers tried to gain footing as they considered President Reagan's Star Wars defense system.  There simply was not enough Soviet money to produce the weapons needed.  Ticonderoga Class cruisers with their highly touted - and combat proven - AEGIS missile systems were capable of defending the carriers against tried and trusted Soviet missile saturation tactics.  The American Ohio Class SSBN's were building and the Trident I C-4 SLBM was already in the fleet.  The Russians needed some "wonder" weapons and they needed them fast.  The response was like a tonic to Russian morale: SU-27 Flanker, Mig-30 Foxhound and on the naval front, the large Sovremny and Udaloy Class destroyers.  Slava Class anti-ship cruisers and the first Russian nuclear powered warship, the massive Kirov Class battlecruisers.  Oscar Class SSGN's and the massive Typhoon Class SSBN finished the hand held by the Russians.  For safety's sake, the Delta SSBN's were modified yet again, producing the Delta IV Class SSBN.  Each Typhoon Class SSBN was secretly priced, though unofficial estimates put them at over 10 billion $USD each.  This is based on the buying power of the Russian Ruble and the effect the Ruble had.  In other words, a dollar in your pocket is not a lot, but when you're poor and starving, it's a fortune.

The middle of the 1980's saw the last piece of the American response; a well played hand which seemed pretty low key at first, but had lethal consequences.  Phalynx gained fleetwide acceptance, giving every American ship the means to counter any Soviet missile.  The ageing A-7E Corsair II attack plane was slowly being replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet; a plane capable of dogfighting as well as attack.  This doubled each aircraft carrier's fighter capacity overnight.  Smaller American carriers like USS Midway and USS Coral Sea, which could not operate the large F-14 Tomcat, could carry the Hornet with ease.  ALQ-119 jamming pods rendered the latest Warsaw Pact radar ineffective.  At sea, the results were worse.  Each AEGIS cruiser, starting with number 7, as well as many Spruance Class destroyers, were receiving vertical launch missile systems.  The MK-41 VLS carried 64 cells.  Inside those cells were Tomahawk cruise missiles and the newest plane killer, the SM-2ER, which stood for Standard Missile 2, Extended Range.  Vertical launch was also worked into the Los Angeles Class SSN's which looked set to pass the 60 boat mark.  A sixth Typhoon Class SSBN was rushed through with bonuses and other incentives to place the boat in active service ahead of schedule.  But the Russians were fooling nobody.  Unable to afford any more weapons and unable to afford the ones they had, the Russian Navy just stayed home.  The Ohio Class SSBN's were joining the fleet at an alarming rate, each with 24 missiles.  The vacume created by empty pockets probably created a wind which knocked the Berlin Wall down.  If the Cold War can be attributed to one thing and one thing only, it can be best summed up by saying that the Cold War was a war of intelligence.  Knowing what the other side was doing.  Soviet spies told of new American and NATO weapons systems and then the Soviet government did everything in it's power to build a weapon to counter it.  The sheer size and reliability of the US Navy's SSBN fleet was a wonder to behold.  With their two crew rotations, American SSBN's were at sea longer.  Reliable weapons and many of them, proved a calming factor.

The knowledge that America had the capability to wipe the world clean with one SSBN kept the war from escalating to a shooting war.  Each side strived to gain the tactical edge.  The Soviet Union needed to be able to use the SSN's they had to find American SSBN's.  To that end, each American SSBN practiced a religion of sound silencing, so as to make each boat as quiet as possible.  SSN's specially equipped, snuck into Russian reports to photograph and tap phone lines, thereby giving planners an idea of what effect American technology was having on Russia.  Russian submarines numbered in the hundreds and posed a very real threat to a careless target.  The American SSN's chased and recorded as many Russian boats as they could, building a database of information.  Multiple weapon capability ensured that America didn't spend herself into oblivion.  The goal was nuclear safety - the knowledge that you are so dangerous that no nation would dare attack you.  To that end, America's SSBN fleet - the 41 For Freedom - held the line.  Everytime you went to sea on time or ahead of schedule, you were helping the nation.  Everytime you performed your patrol with no downtime or casualties, you were helping the nation.  Such was the submariner's lot in life.

While thoughts of heroism and bravery may have slipped the minds of your loved ones, the point is that the most potent weapon against the Soviet Union was money.  The red machine simply couldn't keep up with the expense of matching our submarine's every move.  Check out the defense budget some day.  You'd be surprised just how many of your defense dollars are earmarked for the submarine force.  As the only survivable element of America's defense, the US Navy's submarine force got the best of everything.  And a portion of this was deliberately dropped into the laps of communist spies and intelligence gathering staffs.  Our "decadent capitalist system" may have indeed been decadent, but the truth is that we could build submarine gear quicker and cheaper without ruining our economy.  The Russians couldn't.  The USSR only dreamed of the funds our strategic forces got.  To keep up with us they had to spend almost four times as much.  President Reagan's "600 ship navy" was a taunt, threat and savior all in one.  With no free market economy, communist infrastructure starved itself to push extra funds into matching our strength at sea.  Soviet research and development teams were soon spending out of control to field equivalent weapon systems.  The fact is that your loved ones, the submarine sailors - the bubbleheads - were bleeding the Soviet Union dry.  Anti-submarine weaponry is more expensive than average "toys" and with forty one USN and four RN "boomers" sitting anywhere in the ocean at any one time, the Soviet Union had no choice but to try and catch them.  Every RN and USN missile boat that successfully finished patrol was a nail in the Kremlin's coffin.  In that respect, the boomer pin was in reality, the equivalent of the highest award for valor.  No other war in history would be fought so bloodlessly as the Cold War, nor would the consequences of a war going from hot to cold be so great as during the time period of 1949 to 1991.