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Forty-One for Freedom

During most of the early Cold War era, the “Space Race” held much of the attention of the American public. However, there was another and possibly more significant race being waged between the Super-Power Navies of the United States and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR). And that race was a secret, stealthy and potentially deadly one that would determine which country would win control of the seas. As well, it ushered in the era of the military doctrine, strategy, and national security policy known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would result in the obliteration of both the attacker and the defender. It’s based on the theory of deterrence, which embraces the theory that the threat of the use of over-powering weapons against an enemy forestalls his use of those same weapons. The strategy was a form of Nash equilibrium in which, once mutually armed, neither side has any incentive to initiate a conflict or to disarm. The strategy of MAD was fully adopted in the early 1960s and it assumed that there was the very real possibility that one nuclear power could attempt to eliminate another nation’s nuclear retaliatory forces with a surprise and devastating first strike and theoretically “win” a nuclear war while remaining moderately unscathed. The true second-strike capability was achievable only when a country had a guaranteed ability to fully retaliate after a first-strike attack. The United States had achieved a quasi-form of second-strike capability with the Strategic Air Command (SAC) flying B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bombers on a 24/7 basis. Although this gave the US a retaliatory capability even after a devastating first-strike attack, that approach was expensive and otherwise challenging because of the high cost of keeping enough planes aloft and the possibility they could be detected and shot down by Soviet anti-aircraft missiles prior reaching their targets. Also, a missile gap had developed between the US and the Soviet Union, so the US was giving increasing urgency to deploying ICBMs over bombers. Therefore, the trump card was the ability to deliver nuclear weapons from a platform that couldn’t be easily detected or attacked. And, the ideal platform for that was a submerged submarine. And so, the deployment of a fleet of ballistic missile submarines would establish a certain second-strike capability because of their stealth making it was highly improbable that all of them could be targeted and preemptively destroyed in contrast to a land based missile silo that could be targeted during a first strike. Given their long ra

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