Sunday, April 5, 2015

How Dr. Craven and Navy Won 'Silent' Cold War

Review by Bill Doughty

Dr. John Piña Craven, 1924-2015.
The world lost an American hero last February when John Piña Craven passed away at the age of 90.  Memorial services are being held this week in Hawaii.

Dr. Craven, who served as an enlisted Sailor in World War II, was a scientist, professor and Cold War warrior as Chief Scientist, U.S. Navy's Special Projects Office.
He reveals provocative information in "The Silent War" – how USS Halibut (SSGN-587) and deep undersea technology discovered a lost rogue Soviet submarine and how "the United States Navy successfully challenged the Soviet Black Sea Fleet." The result, according to Craven: President Gorbachev became convinced that Soviet leadership was being corrupted and right-wing chauvinistic zealots were gaining control of the military.
He explains the development of the Polaris missile and submarine, SeaLab (which "signaled the occupation of the sea by humans as marine mammals"), and DSRV – Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle, featured in "The Hunt for Red October."

During the Cold War, Craven writes, "A major issue for both sides was freedom of navigation, the right of commerce and the military to have full access to the ocean."

"The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea" shows how science, technology, logic and reason can be employed for the preservation of peace.

Though written before 9/11, Craven's book shows prescience and insights about the threat of global warming, the need for innovation and the danger of privatization in fracturing command and control, especially with respect to nuclear weapons. He even comments on the danger of growing income inequality.

Imagine, this was written in 2001:
"The recent events in North Korea and the Balkans demonstrate that new forms of policing are required. We must guard the undersea and the littorals of the world in the new era of global instability. The coastal zone, the home of our burgeoning population, is also affected by a widening gap between the rich and poor."
Navy Captains Scott and Mark Kelly at NASA.
He compares undersea exploration and living to NASA missions in space. "Our dive to the floor of the Atlantic was at least as difficult technologically as Apollo touching down on the moon, if not more so."

Reading in 2015 his comparison with space exploration and a discussion of undersea psychological tests brings to mind the upcoming Mars-related mission involving twin naval aviators turned astronauts, Captains Scott and Mark Kelly.

Bringing it back to earth, Craven describes his complicated relationship with Adm. Hyman Rickover, comparing their upbringing in families of immigrants in Williamsburg, New York – Craven's family via Scotland and Rickover's from Russia.

Tunis Augustus MacDonough Craven, U.S. Navy
Craven traces his naval lineage through several generations on his father's side, including the commanding officer of USS Tecumseh, sunk by the Confederates at the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War. On his mother's side, the Hispanic "Piña" were once Moorish pirates, he candidly reports.

Dr. Craven's humility, sense of humor and love of science show through in this book, which is filled with surprises, intrigue and fascinating revelations. For his actions, Craven was most often awarded quietly behind the scenes.

One of Craven's two Distinguished Civilian Service Awards was presented by former Secretary of the Navy John Chafee for the scientist's work with USS Halibut to locate and identify the missing Soviet submarine. President Nixon secretly visited Hawaii to award the Presidential Unit Citation to Halibut's crew, according to Craven.

After his service with the Navy Dr. Craven was marine affairs coordinator for the state of Hawaii. He also served as dean of marine programs at the University of Hawaii and was appointed as director of the Law of the Sea Institute before serving as president of the Common Heritage Corporation.

USS Halibut (SSGN-587). Photo from New York Times.
In "Silent" Craven is careful about what he reveals, neither confirming nor denying certain specifics of projects or missions.

"The discipline of tight security is such that until you are specifically released from its constraints you must follow them to the grave," he writes. 

His family provided this obituary: "John moved his family to Honolulu in 1970 for 'one year' and ended up staying for over forty more. John was known for his professional accomplishments as a nationally recognized ocean scientist and marine educator. But with equal zest he embraced music, art and poetry, which he loved to share with everyone he met."

"The Silent War" concludes with a poetic paragraph in tribute to the military and civilian public servants who, with him, helped win the Cold War:
"They also taught us to walk softly and display strength; to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves; to prepare a world for future generations that cannot speak for themselves; to know that actions speak louder than words and, acting as children of the ocean, in the silence of the ocean deeps, to create a silence that is heard around the world."
From his obituary, published in the March 29 Honolulu Star-Advertiser: "A celebration of John's remarkable life will be held at Central Union Church on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 5:00 pm, with visitation at 4:30 pm and a reception following the service. In accordance with his wishes, John's ashes will be spread at sea. He was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.

"In lieu of flowers, the John P. Craven Marine Education Fund (#127-0620-4) at the University of Hawaii Foundation has been established to honor his life and passion. The fund will support student scholarships in the Marine Option Program. Checks should be written to UH Foundation and sent to UH Foundation, PO Box 11270, Honolulu, HI 96828-0270. Please include either the fund name or fund number when sending checks."

("The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea" by John Piña Craven, former Chief Scientist, U.S. Navy's Special Projects Office, 2001, Simon & Shuster)

1 comment:

Sarah Craven said...

Thank you for this wonderful article about my dad. I so loved reading it. Sarah Craven