Less noticed, mining by the allies had some notable successes in World War II. In the Atlantic war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) flew 20,000 mine-laying sorties over a period of 5 years, sinking 638 ships with the loss of 450 aircraft. This compares with 366 ships sunk directly by RAF torpedoes and bombs over the same period with the loss of 857 aircraft. Only 196 Axis ships were sunk by British submarines and surface ships.2 Similarly, in the Pacific theater mines dropped by U.S. B-29s in the spring of 1945, together with American submarine warfare, effectively isolated Japan from all overseas sources of food and resources for the rest of the war.3

In the more recent past, the United States has not been averse to using sea mines.4 During the Vietnam War, in May 1972, thousands of magnetic-acoustic mines were dropped in Haiphong harbor and in other harbors along the North Vietnamese coast, virtually stopping the delivery of war materials by sea.5 Within 3 days, 27 foreign merchant vessels were trapped in port. When peace talks broke down the area was reseeded in November 1972. For 2 more years, without loss of U.S. life, this mining campaign continued to stop shipping into and out of Haiphong and other North Vietnamese harbors, thus interdicting 95 percent of the seaborne logistics resupply to North Vietnam.

A limited attempt to employ mines during the Persian Gulf War proved less successful. On January 18, 1991, four A-6 aircraft dropped 42 mines, but the Iraqis shot down one A-6. Based on the continued Iraqi naval activity following the U.S. mining, it appears that the minefield, which was not reseeded, had no discernible effect on Iraqi operations. This experience highlights the importance of developing survivable means of delivery (and reseeding) in hostile areas such as by standoff aircraft or submarines.

Despite the successes of naval mining both by and against the United States, the U.S. Navy has generally held its use in relatively low regard. Although there was some continuing attention to the Soviet mine warfare threat during the Cold War, the U.S. Navy planned to rely primarily on NATO allies for countermine warfare in the event of maritime hostilities. To help counter the Soviet submarine threat, the Navy did field sophisticated CAPTOR homing mines in the 1970s.


Uhlig, Jr., Frank. 1996. “Lessons Learned and Operational Experience in Mine Warfare At Sea,” Proceedings of the Technology and the Mine Problem Symposium, Volume II, Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, Calif., Mine Warfare Association, pp. 11–3 to 11–9.


Spector, Ronald H. 1985. Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan, Vintage Books, New York, November.


McCaffree, Jr., B.C., and John D.Pearson. 1997. Interviews with: ADM Thomas H.Moorer, U.S. Navy (Retired) and ADM Archie Clemins, CINCPACFLT, IDA Document D-2054, Institute for Defense Analyses, Alexandria, Va., April; Edlow, Sabrina R. 1997. U.S. Employment of Naval Mines: A Chronology, CNA Information Memorandum 506, Center for Naval Analyses, Alexandria, Va., April.


Marolda, Edward J. 1993. Operation End Sweep: A History of Minesweeping Operations in North Vietnam, Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

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