Welcome back to World Military Negotiations for a feature on the elusive world of submarine operations, a highly sophisticated engineering marvel that operates well below the water surface undetected by the enemy.
There are three major types of submarines in the United States Navy: ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines, and cruise missile submarines. All submarines in the U.S. Navy are nuclear-powered. Ballistic missile submarines have a single strategic mission of carrying nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Attack submarines have several tactical missions, including sinking ships and subs, launching cruise missiles, and gathering intelligence.
The submarine has a long history in the United States, beginning with the Turtle, the world’s first submersible with a documented record of use in combat.
Early history (1775–1914)
The first submarine used in combat was the USS Turtle. The Turtle was built in 1775 and was made to attach explosive charges to the hulls of the ships. Several attempts were made against British Ships in American harbors in 1776, but none were successful.
Other submersible projects date to the 19th century. Alligator was a US Navy submarine that was never commissioned. She was being towed to South Carolina to be used in taking Charleston, but was lost in bad weather on 2 April 1863 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. On February 17, 1864, the H. L. Hunley (submarine) became the first submarine to sink a warship.
Real progress began late in the century with the building of the USS Holland (SS-1), named after John Philip Holland. The boat was developed at Lewis Nixon’s Crescent Shipyard located in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This pioneering craft was in service for 10 years and was a developmental and trials vessel for many systems on other early submarines.
World War I and the inter-war years (1914–1941)
The submarine truly came of age in World War I. The US Navy did not have a large part in this war, with action mainly being confined to escorting convoys later in the war and sending a division of battleships to reinforce the British Grand Fleet. However, there were those in the submarine service who saw what the Germans had done with their U-boats and took careful note.
World War II (1941–1945)
Main article: Allied submarines in the Pacific War
Doctrine in the inter-war years emphasized the submarine as a scout for the battle fleet, and also extreme caution in command. Both these axioms were proven wrong after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The submarine skippers of the fleet boats of World War II waged a very effective campaign against Japanese merchant vessels, eventually repeating and surpassing Germany’s initial success during the Battle of the Atlantic against the United Kingdom.
Offensive against Japanese ships
During the war, submarines of the United States Navy were responsible for 55% of Japan’s merchant marine losses; other Allied navies added to the toll. The war against shipping was the single most decisive factor in the collapse of the Japanese economy.