Friday Takeaway: Frances Crowe on trying to sink the U.S. submarine industry

  • Frances Crowe at her home in Northampton, Monday, Mar. 4, 2019.

  • Frances Crowe at her home in Northampton, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018.

Published: 8/23/2019 10:19:27 AM
Modified: 8/23/2019 10:19:13 AM

For many years, many of us waged a vigorous campaign to halt construction of Trident nuclear submarines, each bearing 40 weapons that include a number of Trident nuclear missiles capable of destroying areas the size of several countries or even a continent.

In the 1980s, with the help of my Northampton friends Sally Mazloski and Meg Gage, I managed to make my way through a big crowd gathered for the launch of a Trident at the General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Connecticut.

I had a baby bottle of my own blood to signify the destructive capability of the submarine and its missiles. I managed to pour my blood on the submarine before it launched.

The crowd surrounded me as people tore at my clothes, scratched my face and arms, and pulled my hair. I was never so relieved as when the police came to arrest me. Although the state dropped charges against me, on another occasion at Electric Boat, I ended up serving 30 days in York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut.

It was all worth it. We have to stop making nuclear weapons of all kinds. We have about 4,000 nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal today. We have to stop the madness.

The United States Navy sponsors Trident submarines. Most recently, at the launch of the USS Vermont at General Dynamics Electric Boat on October 20, 2018, Vermont’s U.S. Democratic Congressman, Representative Peter Welch, said the vessel is vitally important to the strategic defense of the U.S., according to US Navy Times.

“The United States is the biggest dealer in death in the world,” counters my friend Hattie Nestel, who once interrupted the launch speech of William Cohen, then secretary of defense, at a U.S. Aegis cruiser launch. I agree with Hattie and not with Representative Welch.

Our military budget grows and grows and grows. How many times over do we have to have the capability of destroying the world?

When a nuclear submarine or other United States Navy war vessel launches, the government throws a big party with invited public and military officials. A woman has cracked a bottle of champagne on the prow of the submarine in order to signify its naming. Until 1997, she was identified in terms of her husband’s name, as in Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower. At least now she is identified with her own name and title, as in Dr. Jill Biden, who broke the bottle over the USS Delaware the same day as Gloria Valdez, former deputy U.S. secretary of the navy, broke a bottle of Putney Mountain Winery sparkling wine over the USS Vermont.

The Lockheed Martin Corporation of Sunnyvale, California, designs the D5 nuclear ballistic missiles carried by nuclear submarines. Each Virginia Class submarine like the Vermont or Delaware sets taxpayers back 2.8 billion dollars.

Groton’s Electric Boat facility has nine more such submarines in the pipeline.

With the Atlantic Life Community founded by Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister, I participated in many demonstrations against Trident launches during the 1980s and 1990s. Despite arms limitation treaties and nuclear freezes, the U.S. Navy constantly updates our submarine arsenal with advanced nuclear submarines and missiles.

Defense contractors like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin prosper with the buildup while the government cages immigrant children at the U.S. border, imprisons more individuals per capita than any nation in the world, and withholds health care from the poorest among us. General Dynamics expects to employ 13,000 people by 2034 at Electric Boat to manufacture nuclear ballistic missile submarines, according to its website.

It devastated me when the U.S. dropped the first atomic bombs in 1945 on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I had no idea how diabolically our nation would nurture its investment in death and destruction as we have, indeed, become the biggest dealer in death in the world.

We surely could put our talents to better use.

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