Getting Feedback from Cold War Skippers

Henry Nardone: Started in 1959; Retired as Director of the Trident Program

henry2When the first missile submarines were at sea in the early ’60s, I went to a meeting once a month in Washington at the Special Projects Office.

Submarines captains would come in to tell us what was going on in the Cold War in the cold ocean. It was amazing what they went through and how close we came to doing some serious damage to each other.

They weren’t fooling around. You’ve got 12, 16 nuclear-powered missiles on board ship. We used to get some pretty terrific and horrifying firsthand stories.
So when they said, “These were some problems we had,” you listened. Problems with equipment and design, and things like noise and electronics.

The admiral who was in charge of this office expected that once a problem was identified, it would get worked on. He wanted to know almost from day to day where we stood on getting the thing solved.

The accountability was pretty severe. It wasn’t like, “We didn’t have the material” or “The material was late.” It was, “This is what I’m doing, this is what I’ve got to do and this is when I’m going to do it.”