Under Ice
Waldo Lyon and the Development of the Arctic Submarine
Military History - World War II
6.125 x 9.25, 336 pp.
36 b&w photos., 6 line drawings., 6 maps.
Pub Date: 01/01/1999
Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series
  cloth
Price:        $32.95

978-0-89096-845-1

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Under Ice

Waldo Lyon and the Development of the Arctic Submarine

By William M. Leary
Foreword by John H. Nicholson

In Under Ice, William Leary examines the evolution of Arctic submarine operations in the U.S. Navy, a little-known but significant area of national security concern. Through the career of Waldo Lyon, he chronicles the problems of under-ice navigation and the development of Cold War naval strategy.

In World War II, the Arctic became an active theater of operations for German and Soviet subs, which occasionally ducked under the ice to escape detection. The U.S. Navy responded with its own advances in underwater navigation and location, under Lyon’s direction. After the war, Lyon’s interest in cold-water acoustics led him to work on sonar and navigation instruments that could be applied to Arctic submarines. His specialization led to the establishment of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and the development of under-ice capability for nearly all U.S. subs, which became even more important with the growth of the Cold War and the corresponding growth of naval concern about the possibilities of nuclear warfare in Arctic regions. Lyon led the way in U.S. under-ice submarine development.

In 1958, with the launching of the nuclear submarine Nautilus, the Arctic Ocean beneath the pack ice could finally be fully explored. Today, under-ice operations are standard for submarines of the United States and other nations.

Leary provides informative treatments of the early problems with under-ice navigation; the Boarfish experimental dives; the Skate’s torpedo firing into ice; making contact with Drifting Station Alpha; and the drama-packed patrol of Seadragon, the first submarine to pass under an iceberg. He ably delineates the roles of such other actors in the drama as Robert McWethy, commanding officer of the Burton Sound; the “fabulous patrol” of the Sargo; CDR Joseph Skoog, who played poker while his crew transited the dangerous Arctic waters at high speed; and war hero Lawson Ramage, who incorrectly forecast that the Soviets would never develop under-ice capability.

Under Ice tells a lively and carefully researched story that will be important for naval and Cold War historians and for students of science and technology, especially those interested in post-1945 DOD-funded science.

WILLIAM M. LEARY is E. Merton Coulter Professor of History at the University of Georgia. He is the author of fourteen books, including volumes of American history, military history, aviation history, and history of technology.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Throughout, Leary provides a clear and compelling account of Lyon’s work in Arctic exploration. Leary possesses a good understanding of the scientific, technical, and operational details associated with Lyon’s activities, and readers will particularly enjoy the discussions of his many Arctic expeditions. . . . Leary has produced a book that effectively demonstrates Lyon’s significance without bordering on the heroic. Under Ice is a well researched, eminently readable study of an important aspect of Arctic exploration.” --The American Neptune

“Professor Leary has written the definitive history of U.S. submarine operations in the Arctic and the significant role Dr. Waldo Lyon played in developing the capability of submarines to operate and fight in the Arctic.” --John H. Nicholson, Vice Admiral, USN (Ret.)

“Waldo Lyon is a genuine American hero. Seldom does a man devote his entire life to scientific work for this country. Waldo asks for nothing other than excellence in pursuit of scientific research to advance our knowledge of the arctic Ocean and to provide us the operating edge when challenged there. One of the most rewarding periods of my naval career was spent with Waldo on a trip to the arctic on USS Bluefish (SSN-675). This book is must reading for all with an interest in the Arctic. The nuclear submarine made Arctic operations possible, but without the knowledge and persistence of Waldo Lyon I doubt our Navy would have ventured under the sea ice to the Pole. If you like space travel, you will enjoy reading the story of the nuclear submarine in the Arctic. Jules Verne wrote the fantasy; Waldo Lyon’s life made Verne’s story come to life.” --Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, USN Ret. and former Chief of Naval Operations

Under Ice: Waldo Lyon and the Development of the Arctic Submarine is the fascinating and immensely inspiring story of a true American scientist-patriot who was driven by the vision of a submarine capable of operating under ice year-round. Lyon spent almost every waking hour over several decades, surmounting innumerable obstacles to the realization of that vision, the worst being bureaucratic. By 1958 he had provided the United States with the world’s first true “Arctic Submarine.” Envisioned since the 17th century, this 20th Century miracle resulted from the successful marriage of Lyon’s submarine structural design and acoustic research with the nuclear submarine developed by its `father,’ the late Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.” --Alfred S. McLaren, Ph.D., President, The Explorers Club

“. . . His life was exciting, his work important, and this book, based in part on ships’ logs and Lyon’s journals, is splendid.” --Choice

“. . . an inspiring account of how one man’s lifelong tenacity in the face of bureaucratic lethargy and skepticism can make a difference in translating a vision to reality. . . . Under Ice provides an authoritative and comprehensive account of the U.S. Navy’s under-ice operations and of Lyon’s pioneering role in making those operations possible . . .” --Sea Power

“It has been said that you can usually determine the caliber of a man by the amount of opposition it takes to discourage him. By this measure, William M. Leary’s biography of Dr. Waldo Lyon provides an inspiring account of how one man’s lifelong tenacity in the face of bureaucratic lethargy and skepticism can make a difference in translating a vision to reality. . . . Under Ice provides an authoritative and comprehensive account of the U.S. Navy’s under-ice operation and Lyon’s pioneering role in making it possible . . . . It is noteworthy that prior to the USS Hawkbill’s under-ice expedition to the Arctic in 1999, the submarine’s commanding officer required every officer on board to read chapter seven of Leary’s book—a description of USS Sargo’s hazardous 1960 Arctic cruise. --Amazon.com

“. . . This books is an homage to a man and his work, as well as to a time and a place long gone. . . .” --Sea Power

“To arctic enthusiasts in general, and submariners in particular, the combination of Marion D. Williams’ 1998 Submarines Under Ice: The United States Navy’s Polar Operations and the newly published Under Ice: Waldo Lyon and the Development of the Arctic Submarine by William M. Leary is especially satisfying. . . . Leary’s fine book adds depth and character to this arctic visionary.” --The Northern Mariner

Under Ice is an intriguing case study that offers readers a glimpse into the realities of military research and development in a government laboratory.” --Technology and Culture (John Hopkins University Press)

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