ARTICLES

Where do we stand in defense?

No. 2 If war comes by sea or land

BLAIR FRASER November 22 1958
ARTICLES

Where do we stand in defense?

No. 2 If war comes by sea or land

BLAIR FRASER November 22 1958

Where do we stand in defense?

No. 2 If war comes by sea or land

BLAIR FRASER

Most of our fears—and our defenses—anticipate attack from the air. But the alarming evidence reported here

Canada and the United States have tied up more than half their whole defense budget, and a major fraction of their attention and concern, in preparing for one kind of war—aerial attack and counterattack, probably across the Arctic. What assurance have we got that the Russians will wage the kind of war for which we arc making ready?

None at all. Critics of North American strategy, many of them military professionals who have had access to secret information, point out that aerial combat over the North Pole is by no means inevitable. Some think it's not even likely, and that it becomes less and less likely the more we perfect our weapons and defenses against it.

There are two obvious alternatives (other

than peace) and the West is ill prepared for either one. The uglier of the two, from a North American viewpoint, is attack by submarine from the Atlantic or Pacific.

Soviet Russia has at least five hundred submarines in operation now. Hitler had sixty when World War II began, and never more than two hundred and fifty at any one time. Half the Russian subs are shortrange coastal vessels, but at least two hundred and fifty are ocean-going submarines capable of very long voyages. So far as we know these long-range submarines are not yet nuclear-powered, but this development will undoubtedly come soon. When it does, a Russian submarine will be able to remain at sea almost indefinitely. Even now

it can go to any point in any ocean, operate there for a while, and return to base.

It is almost certain that the larger Russian submarines are capable of launching an intermediate-range missile—up to fifteen hundred miles, that is—with a nuclear warhead. They may already be able to fire such a missile from under water. This is what the American Polaris will do, when it comes into operation a couple of years hence, and most American servicemen believe that the Russian missile program is at least two years ahead of their own. In any case, whether from the surface or submerged, Russian submarines are already capable of destroying any coastal city from mid-ocean. From a few miles off shore they could strike

suggests the Reds are arming for a different kind of war. Is their land and sea strength tipping the balance of terror?

as far inland as Chicago. From the St. Lawrence estuary where Hitler's U-boats lurked in 1943, they could devastate any part of industrial Ontario.

There is no satisfactory way of detecting these submarines at the present time. The devices we have, barely adequate against the old-fashioned air-breathing Uboat, are pitifully ineffective now. Their range is too short, and they are vulnerable to changing conditions of weather, water and ocean Hoor.

Today's undersea warship is a true submarine. It does not have to surface every night to recharge its batteries, as the German subs of World Wars 1 and 11 had to do. It does not even need to expose a snorkel pipe, although the snorkel itself was enough to elude the radars of 1944 and 1945. The true submarine doesn't need to surface at all, for weeks at a time, and therefore never exposes itself to radar observation.

The means of detecting a submerged submarine are only two:

• SONAR, a refinement of the old-fashioned ASDIC that was used at the start of World War II, and is also used by fishermen to locate schools of herring or cod. SONAR is an echo device, using highenergy sound waves which bounce off the target and return. Its range, though much greater than that of the World War II device, is still measured in thousands of yards, not in miles. Also, it cannot distinguish reliably between an enemy submarine and an innocent whale.

• MAD, for Magnetic Anomaly Detection, an electronic device to locate large bodies of metal in the neighborhood. Its range is even more limited than that of SONAR— hundreds of feet rather than thousands of yards. It doesn't chase whales, but it can’t tell a submarine from a submerged wreck or even an underwater ore body. Sailors agree that MAD is chiefly useful for pinpointing a submarine target already located by other means.

That is all. According to a U. S. Navysummary released for publication last July: “More exotic equipments which utilize other phenomena have been tried or are under evaluation, but those previously described are the ones that must do the job today.”

SONAR can be carried in a destroyer, towed by a patrol airship, dipped and hoisted and dipped again by a helicopter. For protection of a limited target such as a convoy of ships, it might work fairly well. To protect a target as big as the whole North American continent it is not much good. The task now is to keep a whole ocean—three oceans,

continued on page 80

The danger by land is „,c mass¡ve R«I

Army. Facing it, we have a thin line of much-criticized devices like the nuclear missiles pictured here. Our strategy calls formeeting the Reds’ numerical advantage by superior mobility and firepower — but up to now we haven't produced them.

Outnumbered 4 to 1

Reds have 62 combat-ready divisions in Europe to NATO’s 15. Our strategy relies von the threat of atomic retaliation.

If war comes by sea or land

continued from page 17

“The Russians consider that World War II was proof that the value of surprise is limited”

in fact, now that submarines can cruise in the Arctic without trouble—under constant surveillance to a depth of at least a thousand feet. There are twelve million square miles of surface in the North Atlantic alone. Obviously to patrol such an area with short-range detection equipment would keep thousands of ships at sea all the time, and even then they would not be sure of catching every undersea prowler.

Navy men are not too discouraged by this situation. Considerable progress has been made, and more is already in sight. For example, SONAR buoys that automatically relay their information to patrol ships by radio, multiply the area that any one ship can cover. SONAR itself has been vastly improved in range and efficiency since 1945. Incidentally, Canada has made a real contribution to this improvement—a Canadian device for variable-depth SONAR equipment, to be towed by patrol vessels, eliminates noise from the patrol ship's own hull and gives the listening gear a much wider range.

More important are the new methods, still in the earliest stages of experiment, that may change the whole picture of war at sea. One has detected submerged submarines at distances of hundreds of miles. The trouble is that this feat was achieved in ideal conditions, and it’s not yet certain that the gear can ever be made rugged enough and flexible enough for use in actual war.

Therefore it is idle to say. as some people do: "Let's spend money on antisubmarine defenses, instead of spending it all on DEW Lines and such against air attack.” You can't spend money making things until you know what it is you want to make.

However, many naval men do believe that if half the concentration of effort, and one percent of the money, had gone into anti-submarine research that did go into air defenses and air “deterrents,” we might by now have made the scientific breakthrough that eventually will stop the submarine. Meanwhile, we are terribly vulnerable to attack from the sea.

We are also vulnerable on land—not to assault here in North America, where the Red Army can't get at us, but to major defeats abroad. There is solid reason to believe that this is the line of attack, rather than by air or even by sea, that the Soviet Union is most likely to take against the Western alliance and its friends.

Dr. Raymond L. Garthoff. an American student of Soviet military thinking, recently published a book entitled Soviet Strategy in the Nuclear Age. It is based on a study of Russian military journals over the past twelve years, some of them publicly circulated but some restricted to very senior Russian officers. (Garthoff doesn’t explain how he managed to get hold of these latter.) According to him, the basic Russian strategy is still founded—as it has always been—on the movement of massive land forces to which air and sea weapons are mere supplements.

Time after time he finds Russian military theorists declaiming that “the objective of combat must be the destruction of the armed forces, and not strate-

Missile for Canada

We’re “trying out” U. S. guided weapon Lacrosse, here demolishing mock target.

gic bombing of targets in the rear.” Time after time he quotes rejections of the theory of “strategic victory by means of one or another new weapon.” They consider that World War II. when the Japanese made a surprise attack on the U. S. as Hitler did on Russia and both failed, was conclusive proof that the value of surprise is limited: "Surprise cannot yield a conclusive result, cannot bring victory in a war with a serious and strong enemy.”

The Soviet ideal is a “balanced” force with its feet' very much on the ground, in the most literal sense. Indeed, Garthoff says, “they cannot imagine that the United States fails to recognize the great importance which they themselves attribute to the maintenance of continued powerful ground forces.”

One reason for this bias is that the Russian armed services are completely dominated by the Red Army. Of fourteen living and active Marshals of the Soviet Union (the highest military rank in the USSR) thirteen are infantrymen and the other is a gunner. No rank exists in the Soviet air force that is equal to the top army rank; the highest an airman can reach is the second level, chief marshal. There is one holder of this rank in active service at the moment, but he is in charge of the civil air fleet. No combat airman is above the thirdhighest rank in Russian military service, and only four have got even to that

eminence. Anyone who has ever heard a general expound, in any language, the virtue and the primacy of "the old footslogger" can readily believe that Russian strategy today must indeed be landbased and land-dominated.

But if the concept seems to us oldfashioned, the Russians have brought to it some dismayingly newfangled developments. They are not at all like cavalrymen clinging to the notion that (as Field Marshal Haig once said) "bullets have little stopping power against the horse.” Red Army theorists are quite prepared to face, as well as to wage, nuclear warfare on any scale, in any theatre of operation.

They await the event with bloodchilling calm. Lieutenant-General Krasilnikov, a member of the Soviet general staff, pointed out in 1956 that nuclear warfare requires "not a reduction in number of divisions but their further increase.” Why? Because atomic weapons can wipe out whole divisions at a blow, and ‘'for their replacement, large reserves will be needed.”

Russian strategists reckon with the possibility that non-nuclear war might still be waged, but they conclude that “troops well trained in anti-atomic and anti-chemical defense can successfully execute any combat mission.” Western soldiers agree. It's already evident, though, that any war above brush-fire size will in fact be a nuclear war—involving not necessarily H-bombs, but tactical atomic weapons at least. Conventional heavy artillery is already disappearing in the armies of the Western alliance. With the next four or five years, medium artillery will also be replaced with the new, small atomic field missiles. It will be almost impossible to conduct any engagement above battalion strength with conventional weapons.

Accordingly. NATO armies have agreed upon a new tactical concept which was explained to a press conference last month by Major-General Jean Allard, vice-chief of the general staff, and other senior officers. Dispersal and mobility arc the keynotes. A brigade group will hold the same number of square miles that were held in World War II by a whole corps. The front will be fifty miles deep, instead of five as in World War II. Only a hundred and twenty men will be deployed per square mile, instead of a thousand. The hoped-for effect will be that a five-kiloton bomb, which might have destroyed a whole division in the old-fashioned deployment, will now wipe out no more than a company. Ground - warfare weapons of much greater firepower have been tested, so the army is not proof against destruction on a larger scale, but the new tactics will give proportionate defense no matter what the size of the. weapon.

Whether or not this will offset the Russian advantage in manpower is another matter. At the October press conference Colonel Norman WilsonSmith, director of combat operations, said: "In any future war we can ex-

pect to be outnumbered three to one in men, and four to one in tanks.”

The prospect didn't seem to upset him unduly. Theoretically, superior mobility and superior firepower can outweigh superior numbers. The trouble is that so far, our superiority appears to exist only on the drawing-boards or in the testing stations.

To the assembly of the Western European Union (an organization that includes most but not all the European members of NATO) a committee on defense and armament reported last June:

"No great progress seems to have

been made in the nuclear equipment of ground troops. On the territory of member countries only United States troops have tactical weapons available, while other forces are still equipped only with conventional and mainly out-of-date weapons. Priority should now be given to the delivery of tactical nuclear weapons to the Shield (NATO) forces.

"What are the models to be introduced? The committee witnessed with great interest the deployment of an Honest John and a Corporal unit. The first, with a range of fifteen to twenty miles, is not guided and its accuracy does not seem to be highly satisfactory. The second, a guided missile with a range of seventy-five to a hundred miles, seemed to members of the committee to be a particularly heavy and complicated weapon, needing liquid fuel and up to ten large trucks, and therefore not well suited to European conditions.”

Privately, Canadian soldiers have a shorter description of the Corporal: "It's a dead duck.” So is the atomic cannon, which turned out to have satisfactory firepow'er and accuracy, but which is too heavy to move over ordinary bridges and too big to hide in ordinary terrain. The most promising field weapon, and the one the Canadian army has decided to buy at least for a tryout, is the Lacrosse, a light guided missile that can be fired from a standard army truck and guided from a reconnaissance aircraft. But the Lacrosse is just now beginning to come into production, and will be very scarce for some time yet.

The sword and the shield

The manpower imbalance, on the other hand, is with us here and now. Fortytwo Red Army divisions, three of them airborne, are "available immediately and without prior mobilization for operations on the central European front," according to the same committee report to the Western European Union. Of NATO forces in the same area, "only fifteen divisions can be considered combatready.” The Communists also have about twenty satellite divisions in Poland. Czechoslovakia and East Germany, although they are not uniformly reliable.

Of course it was never intended that the Western alliance should even try to match the Russian ground forces man for man. NATO armies are called "the Shield,” designed to parry an opening blow until "the Sword” of the American Strategic Air Command, "the Deterrent” of the “massive retaliation,” can be employed to devastate the enemy's bases and cities far behind the land front.

There is no serious reason to doubt that this counter-threat will indeed continue to "deter” direct aggression against members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe and North America. At any rate our whole defense structure by land, sea and air is based on that assumption. What it will not deter, and in fact has not deterred, is the "indirect aggression of brush-fire wars.”

There have been three such wars since VJ Day in 1945. In two, Korea and French Indo-China, Communist forces have been directly engaged with the Russians operating behind the scenes. (In the third,the Suez affair in 1956, they were able to enjoy the performance from an inexpensive box seat.) The globe is positively freckled with potential sites for "minor” outbreaks of the same kind, none decisive by itself but each containing the threat of “piecemeal defeat” over a period for either side, especially ours. (The Communists are better equipped than we are to make

political gain out of any military loss.)

So far, nuclear weapons have not been used in any minor war. They may not be used in the next one, either. But it is a virtual certainty that if American troops are seriously engaged, nuclear weapons will be used.

Does this mean that if ever again the United States has to send its own troops into dubious battle, an all-out nuclear war of mutual, suicidal mass destruction is inevitable?

Not necessarily. It does mean, though, that all the terrible decisions about using atomic weapons are likely to fall upon the United States, with some back-seat driving from the Western alliance, rather than upon the Russians.

The "balance of terror" may weli continue to prevent, as it has until now, a major outbreak between the two giants. In that case the next crisis, like the last half dozen, will be a collision between minor states or an internal explosion within one of them. Suppose, for example, the Communist Party of Iran stages a half-successful revolt against the Shah's government. The Shah invokes the Baghdad Pact, the Eisenhower Doctrine and Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to summon help from the West. The Soviet Union counters by offering to the new Communist "government" of Iran a few divisions of Red Army "volunteers.”

This example is not at all farfetched. Six months ago the pro-Western government of King Faisal II and Nuri Said in Iraq looked far more stable than the Shah’s government looks now in Iran. Unlike Iraq, the territory of Iran is accessible both to U. S. Marines and to Red Army "volunteers.” The Communist Party of Iran is strong. The oil wealth of Iran is tempting bait to the Russians, a valued asset for the West to defend. There would be a far stronger reason to land troops in Abadan than there was to land in Lebanon last July.

But the Marines, once ashore, would find themselves heavily outnumbered by Red Army "volunteers.” (The Iranian forces on both sides could probably be disregarded.) To defend themselves the U. S. Marines would have to use, and almost certainly would use, tactical atomic weapons.

The Russians could, if they liked, make this the excuse for an all-out attack on North America. However, they could also choose to make a limited riposte. They, too, could use tactical atomic weapons against the American expeditionary force. They could also attack American shipping in the Persian Gulf, from nuclear-powered and nucleararmed submarines, and by air from nearby bases in southeastern Russia. In such a local engagement near Soviet territory the odds would be heavily in favor of the Russians. Again, the decision about the next step would rest with the United States.

All this time, presumably, the bombers of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) would be buzzing around their seventy bases like angry hornets, ready and willing to blast Moscow and Leningrad and the whole Soviet Union into kingdom come. But the Russians, too, have a “deterrent.” Two or three hundred submarines would certainly be deployed in the Atlantic and Pacific, ready to take vengeance on the cities of North America for any air assault on the cities of the Soviet Union. For that matter, reprisal by air could also be expected, for the chance that either great power could wipe out all enemy air forces at a blow would be slim indeed.

In short, the "balance of terror” would continue to exist even after nuclear war-

fare had begun. Every decision to extend the scope of conflict would be as painful as the last, if not more so.

Meanwhile, from the moment that nuclear war begins on any scale anywhere, another danger threatens not only the immediate combatants but all of life on earth. What about the effect of radioactive fall-out, the lethal byproduct of atomic battle?

Probably the silliest military secret in the whole world, though one of the most closely held, is the exact number of hydrogen bombs and other nuclear weapons

in the stockpiles of the Western alliance. To the question, “How many hydrogen bombs have we got?" the only answer that means anything is as public as a weather report: we have enough. There is no longer, as there was a few years ago, any scarcity of material for atomic ammunition.

The actual peril from radioactive fallout is hard to estimate. Military scientists think it is exaggerated in some lay writings. They are irritated by predictions that nuclear war will “extinguish all life on this earth”—theoretically pos-

sible, they say, but highly unlikely. However, their own appraisal of casualties from fall-out is blood-curdling enough. Here is a bit of testimony given to a U. S. Senate committee in 1956 by General James Gavin, then chief of army research and development.

"Current planning estimates run on the order of several hundred million deaths that would be either way, depending on which way the wind blew. If the wind blew to the southeast, they would be mostly in the USSR, although they would extend into the Japanese and per-

haps down into the Philippine area. If the wind blew the other way they would extend well back up into central Europe.” That was his reply to a question about the effect of a nuclear “assault in force against Russia" by the U. S. Strategic Air Command. In Turkey last summer a young American flier remarked in private conversation: “It scares me sometimes the way generals concentrate on their own task, their own objective, as if nobody else was doing anything in the whole war. They calculate they’ll get such and such an effect from one nu-

clear bomb, but if they’re not sure it’ll do the trick, they add another bomb to make sure. If everybody else is doing the same, on both sides, what will be the total of radiation they all let loose?” According to plan, the big hydrogen bombs would be exploded high enough that their fireball would not touch ground, and the menace of radioactive dust would thus be minimized. Nuclear weapons designed to explode on the ground, like the atomic bazooka tested in October, would not kick up dust to stratosphere height.

The question is, would every atomic weapon work as it’s intended to work, in the heat of battle? Even when they’re launched in the calm of a testing station missiles go off course and explode in the wrong places—one Snark, for example, was aimed at the South Atlantic but vanished in the jungles of Brazil. To imagine actual conflict with nuclear weapons, not one of which would ever touch ground before exploding, calls for truly heroic optimism.

Also, how many nuclear weapons would be exploded in a battle? A certain amount of radioactivity is released by any explosion, aerial or not. The “clean” bomb is only relatively clean. If enough clean bombs are set off at once, the radiation will rise above the danger point anyway.

It is a sobering discovery, for the layman, to find that nobody has the slightest idea how much radiation would be set off by a nuclear battle. Rough calculations have been made to indicate what the safe maximum would be, for a given area of conflict, but no one knows how this permissible amount would be shared. Suppose the Russian general doesn't know that the American general has already used up his full fifty percent? Or even if he does know, what is he supposed to do? Surrender?

All through these ghastly speculations I’ve been talking about the “American” decisions on one side and the “Russian” on the other. Both giants have allies. Why should we assume, then, that the crucial decisions will be made by the two great powers alone?

Already it is possible, though not yet likely, that atomic war might be started by some other nation. Britain has developed her own nuclear weapons. France will test an atomic bomb this year, and West Germany is said to be working along the same line. There is no indication so far that the Soviet Union has shared atomic weapons with any other Communist power, but no doubt Red China will be making her own eventually.

For the time being, though, the only atomic arsenals of perilous size are in the United States and the Soviet Union. On the Western side at least, this American monopoly is enforced by American law. Even though all the NATO armies are reorganizing their tactics for the use of nuclear arms, they have not and they cannot have possession of the weapons they count on using.

The U. S. Atomic Energy Law, the so-called McMahon Act, explicitly forbids Americans to give to any foreigner the custody of American nuclear arms. Recent' amendments allow some release of atomic information, but only to countries that have atomic weapons programs of their own in being. In practice this means, so far, Great Britain only. It does not include Canada and the other allies. In general, allied forces are denied actual possession of the nuclear warheads on which their new weapons and new tactics depend.

Thus the United States has a kind of veto power on the military activities of its allies, while the allies have no corresponding power over the decisions of the United States. In this situation, what becomes of national sovereignty? Has any member of the Western alliance, and especially Canada, any real freedom of choice left? Or are we merely bound and blindfold passengers in an American chariot—and if so, what can we do about it?

These questions, which seem to many people the most important of all, will be the subject of the third and concluding article in this series, jç