Historical Writings

U-2511, or How A Submarine Changed the Course of the Cold War Without Firing a Shot

An oft-ignored (much to my bemusement) aspect of the Cold War was the silent undersea conflict. Submarines, both NATO and Soviet, played cat and mouse, conducted espionage and made preparations for war, and formed a critical part of each side’s strategy. Subs snooped for electronic emissions, tapped cables, and tailed each other in a continuous effort to gain advantage over their colleagues in someone else’s Silent Service. Submarines became a critical part of the so-called Nuclear Triad, of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, airborne bomber aircraft, and submarines mounting long-range missiles of their own, hiding quiet, deep, on patrol and always ready for a devastating, impossible to kill second strike capability. Submarines practiced infiltrating each other’s home waters, and doing rude things like sinking warships and transports, firing missiles at hapless targets, both on land and at sea, and slinking away without a trace. All of this, the espionage, the wargaming, the fundamental approach to submarine warfare, started with one submarine’s fateful patrol in the final days of World War II. Continue with this piece