National Geographic : 1965 Feb
Four-Ocean Navy in the Nuclear Age But the submarine has no bow wave; its streamlined hull actually permits it to go fast er under water than on top. Airplane-type controls direct the submarine. Push the wheel forward and the sub goes down; pull it back and it goes up. Two "planes men" steer, sitting side by side like an air craft's pilot and copilot. Standing in the control space with Comdr. William W. Behrens, Jr., I marveled at Skip jack's maneuverability. We banked and turned so sharply that at times I had to hang on to straps-as if in a subway train. Then it happened. The raucous alarm klax on went off-always a dread sound at sea, and all the more foreboding deep beneath it. "Fire in after storage locker!" announced a strident voice over the loudspeaker. Sailors raced by on the double. The urgent voice kept repeating, "Fire ... fire...." A happy thought came to me: This must be part of the training exercise. Of course. I turned to Commander Behrens. "It's a good idea to have a fire drill ... " I began. He looked at me quizzically. "It's not a drill," he replied. The captain of a ship does not leave the bridge during an emergency. We waited. Trained officers and men fought the blaze. It was soon out; they had confined it to some crates where it had started, origin unknown. That night as Skipjack prowled the depths, I went to bed with new respect for the men who wear the dolphins of the submariner. Polaris: Deadliest of Submarines Attack submarines like Skipjack boast a double deadliness-vast range because of their nuclear engines, terrible striking power because of their nuclear torpedoes. But no submersible is as formidable as the fleet bal listic missile submarine-Polaris. One cold, stormy predawn last winter sev eral civilian observers, including NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Assistant Director of Photogra phy Joseph B. Roberts and myself, boarded Andrew Jackson, then the newest Polaris sub marine, at Norfolk, Virginia. This was a shake down cruise; within minutes we would put out to sea to dive and fire two mock missiles. Entering a submarine is easy-if you're an acrobat. You squeeze through narrow hatch es and climb down steel ladders, deck by deck. It is like making your way arduously to the bottom of a well, and there finding a wonder ful bustling city all about you. As we got under way, an excellent break- fast was served in the wardroom. The food appeared magically from a galley no bigger than a medium-size refrigerator. Then came the briefing: a calm recital of the startling Polaris facts of life given by Comdr. James B. Wilson, the skipper, and his officers. All 41 Polaris submarines authorized by Congress, we were told, were already built, building, or under contract; as this is written, 29 are operational, and others are being com missioned at about one a month. Each carries 16 ballistic missiles; they can be zeroed in on a single target, or on 16 different targets, or any combination. Powered by solid-fuel, two-stage rockets, these missiles have increased in range from the Polaris A-1's 1,380 statute miles to the A-3's nearly 3,000 statute miles. There are now three classes of Polaris submarines, each larger than its predecessor. "You are aboard the most advanced class KODACHROMEBY THOMASW. MCKNEW l) N.G .S . "I saw ferns move, but too late-I was al ready 'dead,' " said the author after encoun tering this Marine, "an enemy guerrilla." Dug into a foxhole in the Okinawan jungle, the sniper "wiped out" the passing patrol before it detected him.