Submarines and the Cold War

That terrible War we feared never came. America's leaders placed special trust and confidence in the Submarine Force, who went to sea entrusted with weapons of incredible destructive power, propelled by power plants of unbelievable sophistication, armed for Armageddon, while charged with the solemn responsibility of preventing it.

U.S. strategy during the Cold War relied on our ability to dominate the seas. This strategy required naval forces capable of projecting power to deter and prevent conflict, and when required, to fight and win. Undersea superiority was a vital aspect of this strategy, and for this reason our submarines were key elements of U.S. forces.

Throughout the Cold War, a cornerstone of national security was deterrence. SSBNs were the preeminent and survivable leg of the strategic triad that was instrumental in deterring global nuclear war for half a century. Lurking in the ocean depth, anyplace around the globe, and capable of retaliation to an enemy attack on America, SSBNs carried over half of our nations strategic warheads at less than 20% of the total costs.

Deterrence of war has been the sole mission for the SSBN since its inception in 1960. It was on a November day in 1960 that the GEORGE WASHINGTON left Charleston on that first patrol - at the height of the Cold War. We were all on guard against a belligerent, nuclear-armed Soviet Union.

Attack submarines, SSs and SSNs, deployed to every region of the world during the Cold War, operating in the open ocean, in choke points and narrow waterways, and under the arctic ice. The U.S. dearly dominated the undersea environment and the Soviets knew it - such that the attack boats were also a deterrent force.

Cold War submarines made over 3,500 strategic deterrent patrols and uncounted surveillance and barrier patrols. In addition, during the major campaigns in this war such as Korea and Vietnam, submarines made many offensive, defensive, and special operations patrols.

Cold War Submarine Memorial Foundation
 

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