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By ADM Henry G. Chiles, USN (Ret.),
CDR Michel Poirier, USN, and CDR James Taylor, USN

The year 2000 marks the end of both the American Century and the first American Submarine Century. Following acceptance trials of his submersible Holland VI, inventor John Holland sold it to the Navy for $160,000 on 11 April 1900 - ever since celebrated as the traditional anniversary date of the U.S. Submarine Force. This 64-ton submarine, commissioned as USS Holland (SS-1) in Oct 1900, became the first in a line of vessels that would devastate the Japanese Navy in World War II and play a prominent role in the outcome of the Cold War. In celebrating the Submarine Centennial, our Navy recognizes the enormous contributions of both American submariners and those involved with building and supporting our innovative submarines since the dawn of this century. Many talented men and women, supported by the finest, most understanding families in the world, played key roles in the technical and operational advances made by American submarines. A quick review of some of the accomplishments of our Submarine Force is instructive:

  • In the early years, American submarine pioneers developed new ships that improved markedly in size and capability. Diesel engines and many other improvements were incorporated and refined. In the 1930s, the U.S. Navy finally selected large, 1,500-ton "fleet boats" as the optimum submarine design, developing an operational doctrine based upon long range independent reconnaissance and attack that would pay dividends during the Pacific War.
  • During World War II, our Submarine Force, comprising only 1.5 percent of the U.S. Navy, wreaked havoc on Japanese maritime power. U.S. submarines sank over 30 percent of the Japanese Navy, including eight aircraft carriers, a battleship, and 11 cruisers. More importantly, the Submarine Force sank 1,200 Japanese merchant ships totaling 4.8 million tons - fully 60 percent of the Empire's total merchant ship losses. Such losses gutted Japanese industrial power and decisively impacted the ability of the Japanese to sustain fighting forces forward and replace combat losses of ships and aircraft.
  • From the 1950s on, the U.S. Submarine Force made impressive strides in capability, harnessing new technologies at a remarkable pace. Under the leadership of Admiral Hyman Rickover, submarine-borne nuclear power was conceived and engineered into USS Nautilus - creating the first true submarine. Aided by a "tear drop" hull design and advances in submarine quieting, the nuclear-powered SSN possessed the power, endurance and agility to become the premier ASW platform. Under the direction of Admiral William (Red) Raborn, the ballistic missile was married to the nuclear powered submarine to form the ultimate nuclear deterrent - the SSBN. In the 1970s, precision long-range conventional land attack from submarines became possible with the advent of the Tomahawk cruise missile. And in an important side role, submarines and the men that served on them also played a vital part in the expanding areas of Arctic exploration and undersea research.
  • U.S. submarines played a key role in winning the Cold War, checking the Soviets in two ways. First, U.S. SSBNs deterred nuclear war by maintaining a survivable retaliatory strike capability against any nuclear attack on the United States. Second, U.S. attack submarines monitored the rapidly-expanding Soviet navy while conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Moreover, worldwide operations by our SSNs underscored American determination to defend our nation and allies from attack.
  • Submarine innovation continues in the post-Cold War security environment. U.S. submarines transitioned to battlegroup operations in the littorals, with substantially greater roles in land attack and Special Operations Forces delivery. The innovative Virginia-class submarine, designed to dominate the littorals, is under construction. The Submarine Force is embracing promising new technologies, such as unmanned undersea vehicles, that provide potential to significantly increase our reconnaissance and mine warfare capabilities.

Unparalleled innovation and enormous accomplishment in both peace and war highlight our rich Submarine Force history. Every American bluejacket and citizen can be proud of this legacy. Throughout the country, the upcoming year will be marked by Sailors, veterans and submarine fans celebrating the Submarine Force Centennial. Come join us. 

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Submarine Centennial Theme

Since 1900, our submarines have evolved from small submersibles with limited capability, to proven warfighters in World War II, to today's nuclear-powered, multi-mission warships. Nearly 100 years of technological innovation and flexible adaptation to changing strategic and defense needs have made today's Submarine Force ready and able to respond decisively across the spectrum of conflict. The Submarine Force is poised to enter its second century of undersea dominance with the most highly-trained people and advanced platforms in history.

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Centennial Update

Submarine Centennial - 100 years - From the Depths

Events: For a complete list of Centennial events see the centennial web site at, and click the large "Submarine Centennial" button on the top left portion of the page. The following are the six "Flagship" events:

1. Submarine Stamp: First Day of Issue. On 13 October, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced that a series of five submarine stamps would be issued to commemorate the Submarine Centennial. In a philatelic first, USPS also announced that "prestige" booklet
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detailing the history of U.S. submarines would accompany the stamps. The Navy is finalizing first day issuance plans, but expects to have a major event in Groton in April, with additional events planned at all other submarine bases and in Washington D.C. Additional information is available at the USPS


2. Washington Submarine Force Centennial Ball. The major Submarine Ball will occur on Saturday 1 April 2000. This will be a night to remember.

3. Smithsonian Exhibit Opening. A Submarines in the Cold War exhibit will open 12 April 2000 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The exhibit will contain portions of the control room, sonar room, and maneuvering room taken from two SSNs and an SSBN, as well as a great number of other artifacts. The display will also include a large amount of material devoted to Cold War history with emphasis on how various types of submarine missions aided U.S. military preparedness. The exhibit will explain the value of submarine intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance by showing video, still photography and acoustic recordings taken during Cold War missions.

4. SUBLANT International Submarine Visit. Planning is underway, and a number of nations will be invited to participate in festivities planned for Norfolk in mid-June.

5. SUBPAC International Submarine Visit. In conjunction with the traditional RIMPAC exercises, a number of submarines from allied nations are expected to participate in celebrations planned from May through July 2000.

6. San Diego Fleet Week. Planning has started, with highlights expected to include a new exhibit at the San Diego Maritime Museum, and visits by SSNs, USS Dolphin (AGSS-555) and several DSRVs.

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How You Can Help

Active Duty.
Many regional and local events will need volunteer assistance. Get involved! Contact the organizations listed as POCs on the Centennial website for more information. Please contact CDR Mike Poirier, N87C1 (Submarine Force Centennial Coordinator), or CDR James Taylor, N87P (Submarine Force Centennial Liaison Officer) at TYCOM POCs are CDR Beci Brenton (CSL PAO) at 757-836-1650 or e-mail: and LCDR Dave Werner (CSP PAO) at 808-471-0911 or e-Mail:

Reserve officers and enlisted personnel desiring to conduct AT in support of Centennial planning and execution (including maintenance of Navy equipment at the Smithsonian), contact CDR Jim Andersen at or your TYCOM PAOs.

Interested Civilians/Retirees.
The National Commemorative Committee is composed of members of the Navy Submarine League, the Submarine Veterans of World War II, and Submarine Veterans Incorporated. They are charged with fundraising and running a number of major Centennial projects and events, including the Smithsonian exhibit and the Submarine Memorial in Annapolis. For information on how you can assist financially or with your time contact CAPT Dave Cooper (Ret.) at

Namesake Cities and States.
Both active duty personnel and those living in namesake cities or states can help here. Many submarines have built a special relationship with their namesake cities and states. We recommend that submariners deepen or renew these ties during the Centennial year. Civilians interested in getting involved can contact NSL at to receive community namesake POCs.

Memorial Statue.
A bronze statue by Paul Wegner of an SSN breaching the surface during an emergency blow will be placed at the U.S. Naval Academy during the centennial year.

SSN Breaching the Surface

A Submarine Centennial tri-fold with handouts, bumper stickers and other memorabilia items is in production and will be provided to all submarine-related commands. Additionally, CRUITCOM plans to use the tri-fold for recruiting and is working with N87 on a joint effort to design additional memorabilia for submarine organizations.


Submarine Centennial Jack.

Centennial Jacks have been procured and are currently being distributed to all units. Each active U.S. submarine and submarine tender will receive six regular and three holiday Jacks for the entire year. Every effort should be made to preserve the Jacks, as quantities are extremely limited and production lead-time is quite long. SECNAVINST 105020.5 applies.

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