Strategy and Tactics – Fail Safe: Nuclear Warfare in the Cold War

ST283M-2I remember the Cold War. Seeing the title of issue 283 of Strategy & Tactics when I took it out of the envelope in the elevator heading back up to the apartment last night brought back some memories.

I can remember life in the early 1970s in particular, the Cold War was well underway and at that time it was not clear who was winning. At that time many of us thought it was better not to win the Cold War as we didn’t want to upset the other guy – after all, they were always considered a bit unstable in the eyes of the Free World.

Ban the Bomb, protests against stationing US Nuclear Forces in Britain, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the gulags, so many memories flooding back in. Really, it had me feeling that Generation X and Generation Y never understood the stress of being a Baby Boomer.

Fail Safe ((now there is another term fresh from the Cold War that takes on a whole new meaning these days)) is a look at the manned bombers carrying nuclear weapons in the period 1945 to 1960 and the story of the doctrine that directed and restricted their use. For another view on that, I can thoroughly recommend watching Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. That really caught the mood of the time well and is a superb black comedy. The article in S&T however has some really neat photographs of some of the nuclear capable aircraft of the time – I can almost feel another wargaming period coming on!

In this issue also is a look at Saladin – not so much the chivalrous warrior this time but more the ruthless contender reaching for power.

The Pontiac Conspiracy

In 1763, after the British had won the French-Indian Wars, Fort Pitt was besieged by a confederation of Indians unhappy with British rule and the policies of General Jeffrey Amherst in particular. This was the decisive battle in what became known as Pontiac’s War. Pontiac was an Ottowa Indian and leader of the confederation.

At this battle, British officers at Fort Pitt attempted to infect the besieging Native Americans with smallpox – an early example of biochemical warfare. The plan was to send blankets exposed to the smallpox virus to the Indians and hope it caught. The article also looks at the Battle of Bushy Run where the British did manage some effective infantry tactics.

There is an examination of Tulagi, the August 1942 landing on Tulagi to support the Guadalcanal landings.

Other notes and articles this month deal with the birth of the Roman Navy; Japan’s rise to naval dominance; submarines in the Gallipoli Campaign; and a piece on Admiral George Stephen Morrison (father of singer Jim Morrison of the Doors fame) and one of the commanders of the US naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin at the opening of the Vietnam War when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked US Navy warships.

Another good read coming up over the next few nights. I do enjoy this magazine, even without the game it is good value for money and any of the games that are interesting can be purchased later anyway. In fact, after a quick read of the Cold War piece I am starting to consider that as a board game to add to the collection.

More on Submarines

A comment was left on the post Singapore Submarines by mhalblaub who appears to be from Germany. I had noted that the the Singapore Navy hqad acquired from Kockums two Archer Class (Ex-Västergötland Class) submarines under the Northern Lights programme. I had also made a comparison to the length of the Västergötland Class and Archer Class to that of the Australian Collins class vessels – noting that the longer Collins class would provide a better platform for crew in long voyages.

mhalblaub noted that:

The enlarged Västergötland-class is also known as Collins-class. Most problems Collins-class has are related to the divorce from the original submarine builder Kockums in 2000 because the Australian government thought they can do it on their own with some help from the US. Until today Australian Submarine Company (ASC) is proof of they can’t even properly maintain submarines.

HMAS Rankin - Collins class submarine at sea in 2007
HMAS Rankin – Collins class submarine at sea in 2007

Australian submarine crews is one area I have some experience with as my brother-in-law for many years whilst he was in the RAN was responsible for drafting crew – trouble was, crew didn’t want to serve on Submarines and it is a voluntary posting. That has been a problem plaguing the Australian submarine fleet for many years now, the difficulty of getting crews together and this is one reason that so few of the Collins-class are at sea at any time.

Whilst there is no doubt that the Colllins class building program was best with many problems – welds not to specification from Kockums, large problems with the weapons systems and the ASC being on a learning curve with submarine construction and maintenance, one of the chief issues was and is still crewing.

During the First World War, the Australian Navy operated two submarines, AE1 and AE2 and their feats are well recorded in Australian naval history.

During the Second World War there were, as far as I am aware, no submarines operated by the Royal Australian Navy. Based in Australia during that war however were may US submarines.

Wikipedia notes about crewing for the Collins class vessels:

During the late 1990s, a combination of low recruitment and retention rates across the RAN resulted in the number of trained submariners falling below 40% of that required. As an attempt to retain submariners, the RAN offered a one-off A$35,000 bonus in 1999. Other measures introduced around the same time included priority transfer of volunteers for submarine training and rotating submariners between sea and shore assignments to relieve them from continual sea service and prevent burnout. A year later, these measures had increased submariner numbers to 55% of requirements.

However, the problem with submarine crewing continued; by 2008 the RAN could only provide complete companies for three of the six submarines.

So, it may not be a case of the inability to maintain the vessels that is the issue, but rather the reluctance of Australians to serve in small metal chambers generally floating around under the sea.