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Passing of Vice Adm. Bernard M. Kauderer, USN (Ret.)

By: Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Adm. Bernard M. Kauderer

It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Vice Admiral Bernard Marvin “Bud” Kauderer, U.S. Navy (Retired) on January 19, 2021 at age 89.  Bud Kauderer entered the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1949 and served as a submarine officer until his retirement in 1986 as the Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet. His commands included USS Barb (SSN 596) for a Vietnam War special operations deployment, Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, Idaho Falls, Idaho, USS Dixon (AS 37) Submarine Group FIVE, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet and Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Midshipman Kauderer took the oath of officer at the U.S. Naval Academy on June 30, 1949, where he was known for “a sense of humor, a quick repartee…and an ability to make a typewriter talk” which led him to serve as Editor of the LOG (Midshipman humor magazine) his First Class year. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Naval Science. He graduated and was commissioned an ensign on June 5, 1953 intending to fly and then go into public relations when his surface commitment was up. He reported to the destroyer The Sullivans (DD 537) shortly after her return to Newport from Korean War theater of operations. Serving as Navigator, Ensign Kauderer made two deployments on The Sullivans to the Mediterranean.  Lieutenant (junior grade) Kauderer then served as Executive Officer on the Charleston, S.C.-based coastal minesweeper Hummingbird (MSC 192) to include survey operations in the vicinity of New York City and amphibious exercises off North Carolina. Selected for submarine duty, Lt.j.g. reported to the Naval Submarine School, New London, Conn. in December 1956. In June 1957, Lt.j.g. Kauderer reported to his first submarine, the radar picket submarine Raton (SSR 270) one of five SSR’s providing support to carrier task groups operating in the Western Pacific. He was promoted to lieutenant shortly after arriving aboard.

Competitively selected for the Navy Nuclear Power Program, Lt. Kauderer returned to Naval Submarine School, New London, Conn. in December 1958 before proceeding in June 1959 to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, Idaho Falls, Idaho. In January 1960, Lt. Kauderer reported as Gold Crew Assistant Engineer aboard fleet ballistic missile submarine Robert E. Lee (SSBN 601). Commissioned on September 15, 1960 Robert E. Lee was the third ballistic missile submarine completed. With Lt. Kauderer on board, she conducted shakedown, workups and missile tests, before deploying to Holy Loch, Scotland for her first Polaris missile strategic deterrent patrol.  In June 1962, Lt. Kauderer reported as Engineering Officer aboard nuclear fast attack submarine Skipjack (SSN 585) at New London, Conn. for deployment to the Mediterranean during which she set the record for the fastest submerged transit of the Atlantic (believed to still stand). He was promoted to lieutenant commander in December 1962.

In August 1963, Lt.Cmdr. Kauderer reported as Gold Crew Pre-commissioning Executive Officer for new-construction fleet ballistic missile submarine Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN 631) (I can’t resist noting the irony of serving on both the Robert E. Lee and the Ulysses S. Grant). Commissioned on July 17, 1964 Lt. Cmdr. Kauderer served as Executive Officer for shakedown, workups and inter-fleet transfer from Groton, Conn., to Guam where Ulysses S. Grant commenced Polaris missile strategic deterrent patrols in the western Pacific.

In January 1966, Lt. Cmdr. Kauderer assumed command of nuclear fast attack submarine Barb (SSN 596) operating from Pearl Harbor. In May 1967, Barb deployed for Vietnam War special operations and other special operations in the Western Pacific, and Lt. Cmdr. Kauderer was promoted to commander in July 1967. In April 1968, Barb was on patrol in international waters off Petropavlovsk, Soviet Union when she detected and reported the sudden departure of five Soviet submarines and numerous surface ships, all operating with active sonar. The Soviet ships were reacting to the loss of Soviet GOLF II-class ballistic missile submarine K-129 due to an accident in the northwest Pacific (the GOLF was conventionally powered, but the missiles were nuclear). Barb subsequently went into overhaul in late May 1968, and when she came out in 1970, she tested a new type of torpedo.  During the extended period Lt. Cmdr/Cmdr. Kauderer was in command, Barb was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation.

In June 1970, Cmdr. Kauderer assumed command of Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit, Idaho Falls, Idaho where for three years he was responsible for the training and qualification of submarine and surface nuclear officers. He was promoted to captain in July 1972. In July 1973, Capt. Kauderer assumed command of San Diego-based submarine tender Dixon (AS 37) responsible for the maintenance and logistical support of two submarine squadrons. Dixon was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation during this period. In May 1975, Capt. Kauderer reported to Commander Submarine Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMSUBLANT) in Norfolk, Va. as Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and Management. In June 1976, Capt. Kauderer moved up to Chief of Staff and Aide for COMSUBLANT.  In May 1977, Capt. Kauderer returned to San Diego to assume command of Submarine Group FIVE, responsible for the maintenance and training of three submarine squadrons and for all submarine operations in the eastern Pacific. He was promoted to rear admiral on August 1, 1978.

In June 1979, Rear Adm. Kauderer reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. as Deputy Director, Office of Research, Test and Evaluation. In June 1981, Rear Adm. Kauderer assumed command of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) headquartered at Pearl Harbor, responsible for all submarine operations in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. On June 27, 1983 he was designated a vice admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with the rank, and assumed command of Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, with additional duty as Commander Submarines, Allied Command Atlantic (a NATO billet) during the peak of Soviet submarine deployments during the Cold War. Vice Adm. Kauderer retired on August 1, 1986.

Vice Adm. Kauderer’s awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (three awards), Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Expeditionary Medal (Special Operations), Navy Occupation Service Medal (Europe), National Defense Service Medal (two awards) and the Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze star.

Following his retirement from active duty, his continued service to the nation as Vice Chairman of the Undersea Warfare Committee, National Security Industrial Association was recognized by a Meritorious Public Service Award. Vice Adm. Kauderer served as a consultant to industry, academia and government, including five years’ service as the National President of the Naval Submarine League. He was the founding general chair of the annual Submarine Technology Symposium conducted at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, a position he held for 15 years. In 1997, he was appointed to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, with a primary focus on radiation safety in space and reliability of systems on the International Space Station. He was also a founding member of the Inter-Agency Safety and Security Committee of the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego, serving as the Chairman from 2000-2002. He provided major impetus and was a significant benefactor in the creation of the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Vice Adm. Kauderer, was predeceased by his son, Captain Howard Todd Kauderer, USN (Ret.) in 2017 after many years of service in the U.S. Navy and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Vice Admiral Kauderer has been described by those who knew him as a “giant of intellect and humanity,” and as a “role model, mentor, exceptional leader, and gentleman – in the finest sense of the word.” He was also a man of great faith. His impact on the safety and security of the United States was indeed profound, much of it in the inherently dangerous Cold War undersea warfare environment, with long years of continuous sea duty entailing great sacrifice by his family (yet succeeding generations of his family have chosen to serve the Navy as well). He was among the early generation of nuclear trained submarine officers serving in the earliest nuclear submarines (Skipjack was the first designed from the keel up as a nuclear submarine) which meant learning many lessons the hard way, but implementing them to lead to greater safety and operational effectiveness.  As a young skipper of Barb, he epitomized the spirit of audacity inherited from the first Barb (SS 220) and to be carried on in SSN 804. As CO of the Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit at Idaho Falls, he was the first leadership role model encountered by junior nuclear officers. He continued to set the example in key leadership positions as the Cold War reached its culminating point, serving sequentially as COMSUBPAC and COMSUBLANT as the Soviet submarine force reached its peak of “Out-of-Area” operations with approximately 200 submarine deployments per year in each of the Atlantic and Pacific, including aggressive (but unsuccessful) operations to locate our ballistic missile submarine force, while our own submarines conducted even more audacious operations to counter the Soviets. Someday the full story of U.S. submarine operations in the Cold War will be told but probably not for a long while due to classification (but rest assured, the records are being preserved). Nevertheless, in the hair-trigger environment that existed, the submarines that served under Bud Kauderer’s command performed with the utmost professionalism, and truly made a difference in bringing about the end of the Cold War and ending the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation (which few realize today). Vice Adm. Kauderer’s leadership made that difference, and his legacy lives on in the U.S. Navy submarine force today.

Rest in Peace, and a Mourners’ Kaddish for Admiral Kauderer.