Cover image for Under ice : Waldo Lyon and the development of the Arctic submarine
Under ice : Waldo Lyon and the development of the Arctic submarine
Leary, William M. (William Matthew), 1934-2006.
First edition.
Publication Information:
College Station : Texas A&M University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxviii, 303 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
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V857.5 .L43 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Since the end of the Cold War, a great deal of formerly classified information about US Navy operations in the Arctic Ocean has been released. Although much is still closely guarded, what has been learned recently is fascinating. The first-ever crossing of the Arctic Ocean under the ice--by the Nautilus in October 1957--and the first-ever surfacing of a ship at the North Pole--by the Skate in March 1959--received ample publicity. Otherwise, however, the public knew little about the navy's under-ice patrols or about the inventions and inventors that made them possible. Now Leary offers a detailed history of these operations, based on the extraordinary career of a civilian engineer, who from 1948 to 1993 fought the navy bureaucracy for support of major and sustained use of submarines for Arctic oceanography and warfare. Waldo Lyon, a specialist in cold water acoustics, developed many of the techniques, devices, and tactics that gave the US Arctic superiority over the Soviet Union. He went on numerous Arctic patrols, testing the equipment and training the submariners in its use. His life was exciting, his work important, and this book, based in part on ships' logs and Lyon's journals, is splendid. All levels. M. I. Glassner emeritus, Southern Connecticut State University