The Los Angeles class attack sub was borne of attempts to combat two implacable enemies - the Soviet Navy and America's own Hyman Rickover, the so-called father of the nuclear navy. Facing the combined soviet threats of submarine launched anti-ship missiles (previous Russian subs could only fire their missiles only after an elaborate process while on the surface where they were visible and vulnerable) and faster submarines equipped with more powerful reactors, American planners now find themselves desperate to reclaim an edge on speed. (Though setting the benchmark with the Skipjack class, progressive gains in the size and weight of latter subs using the same powerplant eroded this advantage). The switch to a newer reactor (actually one redesigned after use on the USS Long Beach, one of the world's first nuclear-powered surface ships) wasn't enough, and submarine vets had no choice but to make compromises, like reducing hull thickness and conseuqently reducing maximum safe operating depth. Conflict with the headstrong Admiral Rickover occurs when the winning design for the new sub is chosen by a firm other than General Dynamics, the established industry leader. Also complicating things is Takis Veliotis, a wily genius who is the only man who can stand up to greedy corporate reps eager to cut any corner and Rickover himself. Veliotis, unfortunately, has some of his own secrets to hide, resulting in his flight to Greece to avoid charges stemming from millions of dollars in kickbacks. What nearly dooms the program are the extensive compromises made to the construction schedules - resulting in ships being launched half-finished only to be quietly returned to the factory for completion. Millions of dollars in overruns are quietly overlooked, with the hope that a government bailout will convert these losses into profits. When that prospect begins to look unlikely, the corporate heads of GD begin turning on each other, while unskilled and unreliable labor, low morale and impossible construction schedules mix to spell the likely doom of the US submarine force.
This book tackled an unlikely subject - the LA Class is the backbone of America's submarine navy, not something you've heard described as essentially "Unsafe at any depth". However, the book is marred for two reasons - the author spends much more time concentrating on each specific transaction or exchange between characters (like Veliotis and either the head of GD or Rickover) without connecting these exchanges into a cohesive picture of a collapsing defense program. A more glaring flaw is the book being incomplete. "When it was over, there were just the submarines" but the submarines managed to operate at much higher safety standards than the Russian boats they confronted - the author never connecting these boats to the seeming time-bombs produced by GD. What had happened? Who can take credit for the success of the LA Class - or is even that perceived success an illusion? Even the supreme irony of speedy submarines is never addressed adequately, though the information was probably unavailable. Though developments in sub-launched missiles and their submarines themselves did substantiate the need for faster US subs, the threat of high-speed Russian subs was a cold war mirage. The Russians never gave much production priority to their high-powered reactors. Those installed in experimental versions of the November and Papa classes, and regularly in the Alfa class proved more trouble prone than realized. Though more compact than comparable western designs, these reactors were at least as loud, and, using molten metal as a coolant, had to be operated around the clock, even while in port, lest the coolant be allowed to "freeze" into solid metal and ruin the piping. Either of these two ommissions (the post-construction history of the LA class and the real threat posed by the Russians) is fatal to the subject. Nevertheless, I found it important reading. I'm hoping the author will revisit the subject again using the information he had no access to at first.
I liked Ghost Eye because it was challenging book. Ghost Eye had college words and a few similes. The cover looks spooky but the story is really cute and interesting. I like Popcorn because he's a champion in every contest. I hope you will read this fabulous, wonderful book, too. I give this book an 8.
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Although the emphasis of most Rickover biographies has been his impact on the Navy, his story serves two other main purposes. First, from a management and organizational behavior perspective Rickover seems to break all the rules and still maintain a highly committed program that integrated safety, reliability and high-performance He embedded principles and expectations that continue to exist today, and are the core of the Naval Nuclear program. This is the ultimate measure of a founder's success, for an organization to remain relatively static around what principles and values drive its core mission. The second of course, is Rickover's influence on the operation of civilian nuclear power plants, an accomplishment that Rickover thought he was unlikely to achieve when he was forced to withdraw from Shippingport. However, his influence and principles have filtered down through the personnel he trained through 'NR,' and have subsequently redefined nuclear power operations in the Post-TMI era of nuclear power, and forced a paradigm shift in nuclear power operations and realigned the thinking about the discipline required to operate high-risk technologies.
My only criticism of Duncan is perhaps his fondness of Rickover, which comes through in his writing. Considering all of the negative stories of Rickover, I would expect more negatives in his depiction of Rickover as well. However, biographies are written about the life and accomplishments of great men, and gossip and scandals best left for supermarket tabloids.
I used a similiar text (many editions before) when I took my first econ class in college over 10 yrs ago.
This is a great book, easy to understand and fluid reading.
Rockwell examines various anecdotes and discusses the effectiveness of Rickover's management acumen in dealing with both political and technical problems. This attempt to explain "The Rickover Effect" is rather clumsy and unnecessary. The reader can judge for him or herself the success of Rickover's abilities.
Readers unfamiliar with Rickover's personality must keep in mind that this account is written by someone who obviously admired and respected Rickover a great deal. Rockwell's close association with Rickover has caused him to see the Admiral through biased eyes. Rockwell sees Rickover as firm but fair, which isn't entirely accurate. Although truly a visionary, Rickover was extremely difficult for most military personnel to get along with and prone to frightening fits of rage. Although he was often the target of attacks on his character, Rickover often treated his political enemies and detractors cruelly, and at times led his own vicious attacks. Rockwell appears sincere in his treatment of Rickover, but it is obvious he doesn't see the Admiral as an outsider would.
With these limitations in mind, this is actually a very entertaining account of how the nuclear Navy started.
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The true highlight of this book, though, are the three "lectures." One gives Jackson's response to the old "where do you get your ideas?" question. Another one addresses the techniques of writing effective fiction. My favorite, though, is an essay describing the reaction of readers to the publication of "The Lottery" in New Yorker Magazine. Jackson includes comments from all sorts of readers, almost all of it negative, which she breaks down into three different categories. While "The Lottery" is certainly an original, successful story, I cannot imagine that so many people would have been so affected that they felt compelled to put their shock and disapproval into words. The responses that Jackson describes to us offer a vivid look at American culture at mid-century.
If you are a Jackson fan, you (should) already own this book. If you want an introduction to Jackson, the stories included here will certainly delight you and win you over to Jackson's unique way of telling stories. These stories clearly reveal Jackson's humanity and family devotion, and the reader comes away with great respect for the author as both a writer and as a human being.