Tales of a Cold War Submariner
Military History - Cold War
6.125 x 9.25, 224 pp.
32 b&w photos., 1 line drawing.
Pub Date: 08/24/2004
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
  cloth
Price:        $60.00 s

978-1-58544-360-4
  paper
Price:        $24.95

978-1-58544-414-4
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Tales of a Cold War Submariner

By Dan Summitt

Following the Second World War, Dan Summitt cruised the China Sea in a destroyer. During the Cold War, he worked with Adm. Hyman Rickover and commanded two nuclear submarines. In Tales of a Cold War Submariner, Summitt tells the dramatic story of his military life on and under the sea, focusing on his experiences with nuclear submarines and Admiral Rickover, “the father of the nuclear navy.” His stories, anecdotes, and detailed descriptions bring this tense era to life for the reader.Summitt recounts his service as commander of the USS Seadragon on its secret mission to the North Pole, where he rendezvoused with the USS Skate to conduct experiments under the ice. Following a posting to Naval Reactors, Summit then took command of the USS Alexander Hamilton, one of forty-one Polaris submarines in the U.S. fleet. A submarine of this class was 425 feet long and carried sixteen Polaris missiles, each 35 feet high and weighing 35,000 pounds. Summitt takes the reader on a tour of the spacious vessel, describing everything from its living quarters to practice missile launches to the coveralls worn by the crew. He recounts Christmas at the Duke of Argyle’s castle, discusses the difficulties of steering with a single propeller, and describes how the Alexander Hamilton was almost lost because of a faulty needle piston in the snorkel head valve cylinder, a reminder that even the most sophisticated machine can be undone by a simple mechanical failure. In the best tradition of naval literature, Summitt’s memoir offers a first-person view of life in the navy during a crucial period in our history. Readers will enjoy weighing anchor with Captain Summitt, and scholars will find his memoir an important contribution to the literature on the U.S. Navy and the Cold War.

Dan Summitt was born in Nashville, Tennessee, far from the ocean and submarines. He attended Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech each for a year and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1947, served a year aboard a destroyer, and then entered Submarine School. He rose to the position of deputy chief of staff for the commander of the Submarine Force Atlantic Fleet and as chief of staff for the Submarine Flotilla 8 in the Mediterranean. He retired in 1974.  He passed away in 2011.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Enjoy the book—it’s a fine read.”--Capt. Robert H. Weeks, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

“Enjoy the book—it’s a fine read.” --Capt. Robert H. Weeks, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

“A Congressman provides a letter of support, and a young man’s life is changed forever. Tales of a Cold War Submariner is the adventure of that young man, now grown silver. It is a story of a life well-lived in the service to our country. Read it to be inspired.” --Mary Lynne Hill, St. Mary’s University

“These tales are about the personal involvement of a naval officer from the time he was in China while the Nationalists were being driven out, through his long service in nuclear submarines while directly involved in the silent war at sea. His dedication and long years of service in submarines, constantly probing, improving, and extending the outer limits of submarine capabilities, was significant in the major impact the existence of nuclear submarines and the ballistic missile deterrence they carried had in bringing an end to the Cold War. I marvel at the things that happened to Dan in his career. He has a great knack for telling his tales. My memories of those days and my knowledge of what went on in the normal course of operations tell me that none of them are far-fetched. As the Executive Officer of SARGO, he had a hundred pound bag of grits brought on board so he and the officers could enjoy breakfasts. A few months later, when I took command of SARGO, I had ninety-nine and a half pounds of grits removed from the inventory and given to the SEA DRAGON for their new skipper. I also chased the AGI as often as I could, but never with grits.” --Rear Adm. P. J. Early, U. S. Navy, (Ret.)

“A Congressman provides a letter of support, and a young man’s life is changed forever. Tales of a Cold War Submariner is the adventure of that young man, now grown silver. It is a story of a life well-lived in the service to our country. Read it to be inspired.” --Mary Lynne Hill, St. Mary’s University

“ . . . provides great insight into the thought and actions of the cold war submarine captain. It recounts the career of an outstanding naval officer from the time he enters the Naval Academy until his retirement. Written in a relaxed manner that can be understood by the layman, the book is a warm look of life in the Navy that will be of interest to everyone. In particular of note are the understated quick action that saved Sargo and the maneuvering skill that enabled Sea Dragon to make the treacherous submerged passage through the Chuckchi Sea into the polar ice cap region. The account of the under ice rendezvous of the Sea Dragon from the Pacific and Skate from the Atlantic with subsequent surfacing in a polynya at the North Pole was exciting and awe inspiring. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read that is recommended to all.” --Capt. L.D. Kelly, U.S. Navy, (Ret)

“The author’s experiences with submarine operations and the personnel involved from the deckplate all the way to the Pentagon and Old Main Navy will add to the literature and complement many works already on the shelf.” --Gary E. Weir, U. S. Naval Historical Center, and author, Rising Tide: The Unt

“Summitt’s outstanding memoir ranges from his midshipman days at Annapolis to his command of a nuclear submarines, including an attack submarine exploring the Arctic icepack and one of the first Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines. He brings the reader inside Admiral Rickover’s nuclear-power empire and onto the deckplates of the submarine strategic-deterrent program, filling a broad gap in post-1945 naval historiography. Summitt’s easy writing style and sense of humor is in the fine, pre-1941, naval literary tradition of William Sims, Bradley Fiske, Yates Stirling, and others.” --William M. McBride, United States Naval Academy, author of Technological Chan

“…easy-to-read, understandable autobiography of a period in our history few people understand. It is a most informative story for the non-submariner and a trip into nostalgia fro the submariner, especially for those of us who operated during the Cold War.” --Military

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