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Port Canaveral, Florida - Remarks to Reporters by the President and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover Prior to Boarding the U.S.S. "Los Angeles"

May 27, 1977

ADMIRAL RICKOVER. Good morning. The President has asked me to give you somewhat of a briefing.

I think the best thing to do is to talk about the program in general. We now have 108 submarines in commission. We have 31 more that they are either building or are authorized. We also have six (eight)1 surface ships.

1Printed in the White House press release.

These ships do not have to be refueled until they have operated for about 400,000 miles. An ordinary surface ship going at full power must refuel somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 miles. The rationale for nuclear surface ships is that you can steam hundreds of thousands of miles without being refueled.

Now, in the case of an energy shortage-and you must remember that during World War II large numbers of tankers were sunk by German submarines. The largest of these tankers was about 16,000 tons at that time. Compared to the tankers of today, which run two, three, and four hundred thousand tons, they were very small targets.

Furthermore, the submarine menace will be far greater now than it was then for two reasons. One is the fact that an atomic submarine has far greater capabilities both for endurance, for speed.

When President Carter was on a conventional submarine, I believe the maximum speed it could make was about 10 or 12 knots per half hour. A nuclear submarine--and I am not permitted to divulge the exact speed, but I can tell you I am authorized to say it is over 20 knots.

That magic figure, sir, was set by Harry Truman. He decided that we could talk to that extent. That will show you the great power a President has, even after his death. You ought to bear that in mind.

THE PRESIDENT. How many years of ordinary operation will a ship like this go with an atomic power plant before it has to change the fuel?

ADMIRAL RICKOVER. A test of 13 years. That, of course, is the salient point. Furthermore, it is a much more potent weapon.

Another point that should be brought out was that in World War I, the Germans only used 15 submarines around the British Isles. There were ships that could only make eight knots and stay submerged for less than an hour. These 15 submarines almost won the war.

At one time in 1917, February 1917, there was only 4 days' worth of supplies left in CRAMS to take care of the British Islands. The war was won because the United States entered and those submarines were incapable compared to modern submarines.

In World War II, the Germans started with about 40 submarines. That is all they had at the time. Had they had more, they would have won.

Those submarines required--the German submarines that eventually built up required 20 percent of the entire Allied war effort to lick. The only reason they ever came near doing that is we found out subsequently that the United States and the Allies knew all the German codes. They knew exactly where every German submarine was at all times. Without such a great assist, the war would have been lost.

So, this is the submarine. Both ours toward the other side and the Russians' toward our side offer a great menace. But as all military organizations are, the people in them tend to fight the way they already have, and it is quite natural because a military man has to be conservative. He has to look at the lessons of the past.

Further, in any military organization, it tends to be dominated by the percentage of officers in it. The American Submarine Corps constitutes about 6 percent of the entire personnel in the Navy. Therefore, its importance rests or lies in proportion. Congress has recognized this. The Defense Department and the Navy have almost consistently been against submarines, nuclear submarines. Congress has recognized it and has dealt with it.

THE PRESIDENT. The way I understand our present submarine force, this submarine, the Los Angeles, then would be designed for attacking other ships, protecting our own ships---


THE PRESIDENT.---against war vessels.

ADMIRAL RICKOVER. It is designed for two major purposes--to be an attack submarine and also to act as an escort vessel. So, what I would like to do is start-we have a regular briefing set up. I think we are getting underway.

THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Thank you all.

REPORTER. Thank you.

Note: The exchange began at 9:05 a.m. on the dock at Port Canaveral.

As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House press release.

Jimmy Carter, Port Canaveral, Florida - Remarks to Reporters by the President and Admiral Hyman G. Rickover Prior to Boarding the U.S.S. "Los Angeles" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243312

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