Peace Activists Block US Navy’s Nuclear Subs

May 30th, 2023 - by Leonaard Eigar / Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

Activists Blockade US Navy’s West Coast
Nuclear Ballistic Sub Base for Mother’s Day

Leonaard Eigar / Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

SILVERDALE, Washington (May 16, 2023) — Activists blockaded the entrance to the US Navy’s west-coast nuclear submarine base, which is home to the largest operational concentration of deployed nuclear weapons, in a nonviolent direct action the day before Mother’s Day.

Eight peace activists from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, holding banners reading “The Earth is Our Mother Treat Her With Respect” and “Nuclear Weapons are Immoral to Use, Immoral to Have, Immoral to Make,” briefly blocked all incoming traffic at the Main Gate at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Silverdale, Washington as part of a May 13th Mothers Day observance.

Traffic was diverted as the 15-member Seattle Peace Chorus Action Ensemble, facing the Navy’s security detail, sang “The Lucky Ones”, an original composition by their director, Doug Balcom of Seattle, to the assembled guards and Navy personnel. The song describes the different stages of personal, regional and global destruction that a nuclear war would inflict on humanity and the Earth’s biosphere, and posits whether survivors to later stages of the devastation would wish they’d perished earlier; it ends with a call to save us from this fate by eliminating all nuclear weapons.

The group then led the assembled activists in singing various traditional protest songs, while the State Patrol processed the demonstrators who were being cited for interrupting traffic.

Those blocking the roadway were removed from the highway by the Washington State Patrol, cited for violating RCW 46.61.250 (Pedestrians on Roadways), and released at the scene. The demonstrators, Tom Rogers (Keyport), Michael Siptroth (Belfair), Sue Ablao (Bremerton) Lee Alden (Bainbridge Island) Carolee Flaten (Hansville) Brenda McMillan (Port Townsend) Bernie Meyer (Olympia) and James Manista (Olympia, range in age from 29 to 89 years old.

Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action

Tom Rogers, a retired Navy captain and former nuclear submarine commanding officer, stated: “The destructive power of the nuclear weapons deployed here on board Trident submarines is beyond human imagination. The simple fact is, that a nuclear exchange between the great powers would end civilization on our planet. I understand this. If I fail to protest the existence of these evil weapons, then I am complicit.”

The civil disobedience was part of Ground Zero’s annual observance of Mothers Day, first suggested in the United States in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe as a day dedicated to peace. Howe saw the effects on both sides of the Civil War and realized destruction from warfare goes beyond the killing of soldiers in battle.

As a part of this year’s Mothers Day observation 45 people gathered to plant rows of sunflowers at the Ground Zero Center directly across the fence from the Trident Submarine Base, and were addressed by Pastor Judith M’maitsi Nandikove of Nairobi, Kenya who spoke of the nurturing work her organization does in reducing suffering and promoting sustainable livelihoods through the Africa Quaker Religious Collaborative and Friends Peace Teams.

Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor is homeport to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear warheads in the US The nuclear warheads are deployed on Trident D-5 missiles on SSBN submarines and are stored in an underground nuclear weapons storage facility on the base.

There are eight Trident SSBN submarines deployed at Bangor. Six Trident SSBN submarines are deployed on the East Coast at Kings Bay, Georgia.

One Trident submarine carries the destructive force of over 1,200 Hiroshima bombs (the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons).

Each Trident submarine was originally equipped for 24 Trident missiles. In 2015-2017 four missile tubes were deactivated on each submarine as a result of the New START Treaty. Currently, each Trident submarine deploys with 20 D-5 missiles and about 90 nuclear warheads (an average of 4-5 warheads per missile). The primary warheads are either the W76-1 90-kiloton or W88 455-kiloton warheads.

The Navy started deploying the new W76-2 low-yield warhead (approximately eight kilotons) on select ballistic submarine missiles at Bangor in early 2020 (following initial deployment in the Atlantic in December 2019). The warhead was deployed to deter Russian first use of tactical nuclear weapons, dangerously creating a lower threshold for the use of US strategic nuclear weapons.

The Navy is currently in the process of building a new generation of ballistic missile submarines — called the Columbia-class — to replace the current OHIO-class “Trident” fleet. The Columbia-class submarines are part of a massive “modernization” of all three legs of the nuclear triad that also include the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which will replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the new B-21 stealth bomber.

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977. The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington. We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.