This Day Will Be Long Remembered I

Written by Ryan Crierie on Monday, July 6, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Robert Strange McNamara

Robert Strange McNamara


So on the news today is the news that Robert Strange McNamara died in his sleep around 5:30 this morning.

Unfortunately, that’s five decades too late. The world will not miss the likes of him, a known fraudster and con artist.

You might think I am speaking too harshly of Mr. McNamara; but his most common tactic in fighting the bureaucratic wars of the 60s in the Department of Defense was to outright lie or make facts up.

In April 1963, the “First Navy” study was given to McNamara. It concluded that “nuclear propulsion does permit a significant increase in the beneficial military results for a given expenditure,” and that CVA-67 and all other future major warships should be nuclear powered.

Of course, Strange took that report and shoved it into his desk and ordered another study to be done.

The “Second Navy” study arrived on his desk in September 1963 and was quite detailed and focused on the lifecycle cost differential between oil and nuclear powered task forces. It concluded that there was only a 3% cost differential in favor of the oil burning task force; but the advantages of a nuclear task force were so great as to outweigh the slightly increased cost.

Advantages? Well…in the words of the Navy in 1964:

“a nuclear CVAN-67 is designed to carry ammunition, aircraft fuel, and propulsion fuel for conventional escorts sufficient to deliver at least 60% more airstrikes than a conventional CVA-67 before replenishing.”

So what does Strange do?

Why of course he rejects it totally, gins up some supporting data of his own from OSD, and asserts:

“I am absolutely certain of one thing, that the six conventional task forces are superior to five nuclear task forces.”

He then continued to reject any further analysis of the CVA(N)-67 issue by the Navy and ordered it to be constructed as a oil-burner in a memo to SecNav Korth on October 9, 1963.

One of the key scenarios OSD ginned up to discredit the nuclear powered carrier was that of a High Speed Run across the Atlantic.

The Director of Defense Research and Engineering in OSD, Harold Brown assumed that the conventionally powered carrier had 100% availability and absolutely perfect positioning of underway replenishment ships.

These assumptions kept the oil-burning CV only 4 hours astern of the CVN after five days of high speed running.

Unfortunately, Admiral Hayward, who did do high speed runs on both CVNs and CVs, reported that during his transit of the Atlantic on a conventional carrier, the sea was so rough that underway replenishment wasn’t possible, nor could he bring his escorts alongside for refuelling from the carrier.

This led to the carrier burning aviation fuel in its boilers to make its destination.

His influence was also not limited to just the US Navy’s Nuclear Ambitions, and the US Air Force’s Big Bomber Ambitions, but also impacted the US Army; in ways other than his gutting of U.S. Continental Air Defenses.

The Army had a Small Nuclear Power Plant (SNPP) Program designed to produce small nuclear reactors to power the DEW Line and McMurdo Station in Antartica, which would be more cost efficient than having to fly in huge quantities of diesel fuel, etc to power the outposts each year.

One of the reasons it died was Vietnam’s escalating costs forced a lot of “bonus” programs to be cut to fund the war; in much the same way a lot of good programs died to pay for Iraq.

But a major cause was outright fraud by McNamara’s OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense).

Around 1960 or thereabouts, OSD decided to no longer factor in the cost of shipping the fuel for a conventional power generation system to remote locations in deciding the cost/benefit ratio of SNPPs vs Fossil fuel plants.

As you might imagine, this of course made SNPPs look very uneconomical compared to their fossil fuelled counterparts….which was precisely the point.

I could go on listing more things McNamara screwed up, but I think I’ll stop here.

Categories: Carriers, Nuclear Power, Nuclear Warships, Robert McNamara

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