Gramps was enthralled by the story of the first Nuclear Missile armed U.S. submarines referred to as “The First Five”. This is a story that was kept quite secret at the time, as “The Silent Service”. This was the time when the U.S. and Russia were at saber points and Americans were building fallout shelters for their future protection. Khrushchev was stating publicly that “We will bury you”. The Russians had just launched Sputnik 1 “fellow traveler”, the world’s first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957. President Eisenhower responded with a need to get serious with “resourcefulness and vigor”. The United States needed to become a deterrent, a worldwide deterrent to Russia’s aggression. At that time the U.S.N. had nuclear powered submarines which worked within the 70% of the earth’s surface that is covered by water. These did not, however, have the ability to launch nuclear ballistic missiles that could create a real threat that would hold
Russia in check. Under a “Silent Service” operation the construction of the nuclear launch submarines was begun. These boats were meticulously assembled, including the use of existing hull parts that were modified for larger size and special construction techniques including upright positioning so that welds would all be made upright for maximum reliability and strength.
ADMs Raborne and Burke worked on the project. The team included Adm. Hyman Rickover who was the “Father” of the nuclear propelled Navy and he personally chose the men to crew the new nuclear missile subs who were driven and goal oriented.The “First Five” boats were the George Washington, Robert E Lee, Theodore Roosevelt, Patrick Henry and the Abraham Lincoln. The first missile launch was off the SSBN 598 George Washington and it fired a UGM-27 Polaris missile, a two stage solid fuel ballistic rocket that had a 1000 nautical mile range. The boats had to rely heavily on position awareness at the time of launch. Ultimately 4 1 missile subs were built but then the production ceased due to a treaty. They were each equipped with 16 Polaris Missiles and 12 torpedoes.
As t ime progressed the missiles were changed to more advanced versions, the Poseidon and the Trident. It was possible to also launch cruise missiles via the torpedo tubes and the Ohio class had storm trooper facilities. The hulls were pressurized to prevent water entry and they were able to carry 156 missiles. The eight year planned program was actually accomplished in 3 years and under budget! Each boat carried 8 officers, 8 chiefs and 50 crewmen. . The range as the missiles were improved increased to 6000 miles. This accomplishment was a major factor in keeping the United States safe through the cold war. We thank Jim Jones for his work and for his service to our country and especially for his presentation.