Under Ice

Waldo Lyon and the Development of the Arctic Submarine

978-0-89096-845-1 Cloth
6.12 x 9.25 x 0 in
336 pp. 36 b&w photos., 6 line drawings., 6 maps.
Pub Date: 01/01/1999


  • Cloth $32.95
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.

Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series

Published by Texas A&M University Press