Archive for November, 2011

30th

Recruiting for Annapolis

November 2011

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Last week, I had the opportunity to leave the Naval Academy a few days early for Thanksgiving in order to visit high schools in my hometown, Richmond, Va. My orders were simple: to promote the Navy and the Naval Academy.

Wearing inspection-ready SDBs and carrying a briefcase full of USNA pamphlets, I surprised the schools’ front desk workers who were not used to seeing a service-member in their school. At most of the schools, I set up a table in the school cafeteria during the students’ lunch break. Interested, or just curious, students would trickle over to my table to find out what this guy in uniform was doing in their school cafeteria.

Many students did not understand the purpose of the U.S. Naval Academy. However, what surprised me the most was how little the faculty knew about the Naval Academy. Several high school teachers did not know where the Naval Academy was, or what the institution had to offer. I understand that less than 1% of the nation serves in the military, but I think high school teachers especially should know about the great opportunities offered at the Naval Academy.

Not that the Academy is lacking applicants. Reading through the Naval Academy Class of 2015’s profile reminded me of how selective the Naval Academy is. This year, the Academy will likely have over 17,000 applicants (another new record) and admit 1,400 of them. About 1,200 of those admitted will arrive on Induction Day. Many students left my table when I told them the admission rate. For those who stayed behind, I added how the acceptance rate was 0% for those who didn’t submit an application. I think the increased cost of higher education in the U.S. coupled with the poor economy incentivizes prospective candidates formerly on the border of applying to at least throw their hats in the ring. The free tuition and guaranteed job convinced many of the high school students I spoke with to research the Academy.

One school had me speak for an Air Force JROTC class. Many of the students in that class were in the process of applying to one of the service academies. For this group, I tried to emphasize the difference between the service academies and civilian schools. The service academies stress leadership; civilian schools stress academics. I did have a difficult time answering why a student should chose the Naval Academy over an ROTC program. After stalling for a minute by discussing how military training at the Academy is more intense, I came up with a better answer. I told the student that the lifelong bond between midshipmen at the Naval Academy would be stronger than the bond among students at most civilian schools.

Overall, I enjoyed talking about the Naval Academy with these kids. The experience certainly caused me to reflect on where I was four years ago, and why I came to the Academy.



Posted by jjames in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Like Karl Marlantes I was a rifle platoon commander in Vietnam, 1968-69, albeit with the 1st Marine Division. Like Karl Marlantes I was wounded twice, albeit I lost my left eye. Like Karl Marlantes I have been visited by ghosts of the past, and have wrestled demons, and prevailed. Like Karl Marlantes I now struggle to exorcise reoccurring apparitions from the past through writing. I remained in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer, albeit a one eyed infantry officer; and, have commanded, post-Vietnam, an infantry company through a Joint Task Force. I would like to meet Karl Marlantes.

Reading both What It Is Like To Go To War, and Marlantes’ 2010 novel, Matterhorn, can be challenging, at times engaging, yet both are ultimately unsatisfactory. Even allowing for novelistic license certain plot themes in Matterhorn lack authenticity. What is also ignored, certainly within the novelist’s prerogative, is that starting in 1968 under then MajGen Raymond G. Davis, USMC, the 3rd Marine Division shifted from being tied to static defense positions into a coherent helicopter-borne strategic assault force. Davis, no stranger to combat, was the recipient of the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Silver Star, and the Bronze Star. Amongst the fifty division commanders then in Vietnam, General Creighton Abrams, Commander, MACV, rated Davis as his best. What It Is Like Go To War does not tell us what it is like to go war; it does accurately, often with poignancy and with a knowledge borne only by those who have experienced prolonged and fierce ground combat, and often with deep feeling, portray the horrors and diabolically all-consuming attraction of combat. There is an instance of a curious intertexuality between the novel and the non-fiction account for which it is difficult to account. That the writing of the books served therapeutic and cathartic purposes is plausible, even discernible, particularly in What It Is Like To Go To War. Both books capture well the uniqueness, and sheer claustiphobic terror, of mountainous jungle fighting. But so have other books. Leon Uris’ Battle Cry, and Combat Infantry: A Soldier’s Story, by Donald E. Anderson, and D. E. Anderson, Jr., (to name two of many) come to mind.

Near the end of What It Is Like To Go To War, Marlantes cites Robert Graves, the poet, and author of Goodbye to All That. He also diagnoses Graves suffering from PTSD, certainly not a revelation about ground-combat veterans of the First World War, or, for that matter, about the veterans of the siege of Petersburg during our own Civil War Nevertheless, even today PTSD remains little understood and in certain medical circles is controversial. The counter argument in this instance is that the effects of heavy and prolonged artillery shelling of infantrymen were almost unknown and certainly not understood. Combat veterans of that war, like Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, CBE, MC (Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man), also an excellent war poet, tried to assuage their afflictions through writing. Though Wilfred Owen was killed one week before the Armistice, read his poems and you see a man grappling to come to terms with the horrors he has borne.

The kaleidoscopic array of subject matter in What It Is Like To Go To War hinders the author in explaining and burdens the reader in understanding what is really going on here. There is throughout the book a series of changing phases and events obliquely supported by cites from classical literature, some rather arcane, and in today’s military environment, anachronistic. In a book whose tone fluctuates between serious thought and banal personal observation recondite purpose results. Marlantes’ striving to sound erudite while switching to vulgar commonalty has a self-cancelling effect. Marlantes has something very important to say; he just doesn’t argue or express it clearly. This is a shame, because he has seen the elephant, something a relatively few military personnel actually do. He just hasn’t adequately described what the trunk, the leg, and the tail all add up to. This reader, upon finishing the book, reflected that Marlantes has taken on a difficult task well worth undertaking, and definitely germane, but an effort that should put aside Oliver Stone-like imagery and metaphors suspiciously tailored for contemporary Walter Mittys who voyeuristically transport themselves into the phantasmagoric orbit of Mars.

What It Is Like To Go To War would have benefited from an index and bibliography. A good editor would have avoided misnomers like mortars having a ”tripod leg;” U. S. infantry mortars have bipod legs.

Read Charity E. Winters’ review of What It Is Like to Go to War (Proceedings September 2011)»



From WAPO.

The paragraph that jumps off the page in the wake of Pakistan’s bombast regarding the “unprovoked” Coalition airstrike is this one:

Both sides said they believed they were attacking insurgents along the border. A senior Pakistani defense official acknowledged that Pakistani troops fired first, sending a flare, followed by mortar and machine-gun fire, toward what he said was “suspicious activity” in the brush-covered area below their high-altitude outpost barely 500 yards from the border.

That the Pakistanis so loudly decried the events, and then very fundamentally change the narrative of events should leave us with little confidence in the assertion that the Pakistanis believed they were firing on “insurgents”. It seems that the Pakistanis did indeed fire first, as was the Afghan and Coalition assertion in the immediate wake of the incident. I believe it highly probable that the Pakistanis, with their track record of support of the Taliban, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Haqqani network, and the Army’s gigantic loss of face with the bin Laden raid, knew very well who their targets were. They were targeting the Coalition efforts along the border, either in support of the insurgents, or on their own. All the “coordination mechanisms” in the world will not stop a deliberate attack.

Pakistan has been caught in a lie. Even if events prove that they indeed misidentified their targets, which strains credibility, the reports of “unprovoked attacks” and “sleeping soldiers” being killed in their beds is a colossal fabrication, and Pakistan knew such was fabrication well before they told those fabrications to the world in order to affix blame. They will cover that fact with loud bluster and threats, flag-burning, and the usual anti-American sentiment. But they have been caught in a gigantic lie, and as the myriad sources of battlefield information are sanitized and released, the world will know it.

Now would be an excellent time for our State Department to say so. Loudly.

 



We are fast approaching the end of the yearlong celebration of the 100th Anniversary of US Naval Aviation – and what a year it has been. Between the Heritage paint schemes, celebratory conventions, special programming and dedicated ceremonies, much ground has been covered. The outside observer may be forgiven, however, if they are led to believe carrier aviation is the whole sum of Naval Aviation – based on a casual review of said observances. (Fret not friends, YHS is a Life Member of tailhook and well beholden to carrier aviation, so no heresy will be found here, so put down the pitchforks – SJS). They would be missing out on how Naval Aviation set cargo records during the Berlin Airlift. Flew and fought hardscrabble, close quarters battles with Huey’s staged from LST’s in the Mekong Delta. How, in concert with small DER’s, it formed a critical piece of our long-range, early warning barrier prior to the ballistic missile age with WVs and specially configured blimps. Patrolled vast, hostile reaches of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans searching for Soviet attack and ballistic missile subs.

They would also miss how it was part of the mission to probe deep into hostile territory with a battery of electronic gear that at times was a cross between Radio Shack and Star Wars, searching for the ever elusive signals that would indicate a new threat or change in defenses for targets on hidden lists for a war no one wanted to go hot. It is perhaps this group, shore and carrier-based, that has at once remained the most obscure subset of Naval Aviation while performing one of the most critical missions of the Cold War – intelligence collection.

The gap between what we know with certainty and what we conjecture (guess) is in constant flux and through time immemorial, efforts have been expended on almost infinite means to close that gap. Indeed, the driving impetus for bringing the airplane (which itself was more of a curiosity than accomplished fact in its early days) into the military were the possibilities implicit in gaining the ultimate “high ground” for scouting and reconnaissance supporting ground and naval forces. Indeed, Naval Aviation was born with the patrol/scout mission in mind.

Information collected was binned as actionable (useful in an immediate or near term sense — i.e., troop movements along the trenches, battleships seeking their opposite numbers for decisive engagements, etc.) or cataloged for longer-range/big picture use – “strategic” information if you will (and yes, we know this is a vast oversimplification). In the beginning, most of the information collected was visual — recorded observations by pilots passed at post-mission debriefs that evolved into still photography with either handheld or airframe mounted cameras.

Read the rest of this entry »



This is going to get even uglier.

According to the UK’s Guardian, Western officials have stated that the NATO air attack that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers was an act of self-defense. Some very interesting comments from that story:

…a more troubling explanation would be that insurgents in the area were operating under the nose of Pakistani security forces. Many Afghan officials believe Pakistan helps the Taliban with cross-border operations.

Edrees Momand of the Afghan Border Police said that a US-Afghan force in the area near the Pakistani outposts detained several militants on Saturday morning.

“I am not aware of the casualties on the other side of the border but those we have detained aren’t Afghan Taliban,” he said, implying they may have been Pakistani or other foreign national Taliban operating in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s consistent inconsistency has been a problem. The US has long suspected Pakistan of playing both ends against the middle as a US “ally” in the War on Terror. Its Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, and its military, are a virtual stadt im stadt, and have aided Taliban and Al Qaeda efforts in Afghanistan for an entire decade. They have been linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, and to the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul in September of this year. CJCS Admiral Mullen called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of ISI. It is highly probable that Usama bin Laden had been under the protection of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus since being whisked from Tora Bora in the last days of 2001, safely tucked away for most of that time in his Abottabad compound not two miles from Pakistan’s Military Academy.

It seems very unlikely that the air strikes that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers were authorized without a US terminal controller with eyes on the targets, and without those targets actively engaging US and Afghan forces along the border area. US commanders understand the sensitivity of the Pakistan problem along the poorly-defined Afghan border, and the restrictive (many say overly restrictive) ROE for CAS make the chance that the strikes were a colossal error by NATO forces a rather low probability. If such was the case, we will know soon enough. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that any Western officials would talk about such events as self-defense unless the picture of what happened was sufficiently clear to merit such a comment.

Pakistan’s version of events, that the Pakistani outposts were defending themselves from attack (“unprovoked and indiscriminate firing” by US aircraft), might hold more water without the deep US suspicions of ISI support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or the rather implausible denials of hiding and protecting Usama bin Laden, and the categorical disavowing of involvement in the Mumbai attacks and the day-long assault on the US Embassy and other targets in Kabul.

Pakistan’s strategic location, and its substantial nuclear arsenal, make its fate an important consideration to the US. Its demand of evacuation of the air base at Shamsi, and the temporary closing of the border crossings, will be inconvenient but not crippling to ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. How long Pakistan remains a vital “ally” is open to question, as is the limit of US patience with the Zardari government, and its seeming lack of control over its Military Intelligence organization.

As the facts from this incident emerge, we will likely see more evidence of Pakistan’s aid and support to Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan. And likely, more vehement denials on the part of the Pakistani government regarding provision of aid and support to US enemies in Afghanistan.

Whether they are any more believable than those of recent vintage remains to be seen.

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Interesting developments.

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It seems Pakistan no longer wishes “business as usual” with the United States. I do hope that includes eliminating the nearly $3 billion in US aid that can be put toward the US budget crisis instead of sending it as foreign aid to an “ally” who provides material support to America’s enemies and harbors terrorists. Perhaps the Pakistani Military may find itself in a different “transactional relationship” vis a vis the United States. The flow of military hardware may arrive business-end first.



From gCaptain (one of the best Maritime blogs and Facebook feeds out there).

Captain Seog Hae-gyun was confronted not by the elements that nature can throw at men and ships, but an even more insidious danger: that of pirates threatening him, his crew and his ship. In response, he acted with quick thinking, courageously, decisively and with extreme bravery to protect all those whose lives depended on him and his decisions. His selfless reaction left him with severe injuries and nearly cost him his life,

This is one of the more amazing stories I’ve heard coming out of the international campaign against piracy in the Western Indian Ocean, and This happened nearly a year ago, and this is the first I’ve heard about it (but it is very comfortable, living under this rock).

Bravo Zulu to Captain Seog Hae-gyun. From the IMO Website

When the Samho Jewelry was boarded by pirates, in January 2011, the crew took cover in the designated citadel but the pirates broke in, detaining them on the bridge. Over two days, Captain Seog steered the ship on a zig-zag course, so that the pirates would not realize that the vessel was actually heading away from, instead of towards, Somali waters. He contaminated the fuel so the engines would not work normally, pretended the steering gear was malfunctioning and slowed the ship’s speed from 14 knots to six, to keep her out of Somali waters for as long as possible, thus maximizing the potential for units of the Republic of Korea Navy to attempt a rescue. However, the pirates became suspicious that some of Captain Seog’s actions were intended to outwit them and they brutally assaulted him, causing serious fractures to his legs and shoulders.

In keeping with the finest traditions of any Maritime Service…

 

 

 

 

 

 



Look closely, you might find a grain or two of salt. More so, you’ll find a bunch of sea water. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying I’m experienced. But, I’ve seen the block, at least. I know what comes with a deployment, and I relish the idea of many more to come. Just the same, though; I want to go back and whisper into that kid’s ear. That kid who looks just like me, yet has “NON-PO” on his CAC card.

Want to know what I would whisper into his ear? For me to tell you that I need to tell you this, first:

“Flight of the Intruder” by Stephen Coonts.

Besides flying, he also acted as the squadron’s personnel officer, supervising a chief and [five Yeoman and Personnelmen]. The only portion of his administrative duties that he did not visibly detsest was his work as awards officer. He drafted the citations and recommendations for medals and gave them to the X.O. Harvey Wilson, to approve and forward up the chain of command. Lundeen kept a thesaurus on his desk that he referred to constantly as he drafted the award citations. He would gleefully read his better efforts to Jake as proof positive that the military in general and the navy in particular were “all ['Effed] up.”

A long quote–I know. But, it is for good reason. I came right out of Boot/A-School to SAN ANTONIO. I knew nothing, I had no idea what it was to be aboard ship. I only knew I was going to do what Sailors are to do. I looked forward to it with relish. But, halfway through the tour, I began to wonder–I began to ask: What the hell was I or anyone aboard thinking. I would look around, and only be able to think that all any of us were able to accomplish was far, so very far, short of the standards held by those who came before us.

But, no. I was wrong. Part of my problem was the fact that I was privy to the writing of others, who would question what we as a Navy we doing. With all the challenges we face, all the ‘supposed’ shortcomings we have as a Fleet, I was reading ALL OF IT! God, what a mess my Ontology was–it was so hard. Imagine yourself, standing there at your DC locker, attempting to fit that experience into reading the writings of those 5-6-7 pay grades above you, let alone the amount of years they served. It was not an easy fit; truth be told, it didn’t fit. Ontology formed by experience does not juxtapose well with reading words. Especially when not much of it is favorable. Why? Here’s why…

I had a massive lack of context to place into anything I would read in regards to the challenges faced by the Navy in relation to acquiring new hulls, weapon systems, or anti-access strategies. To use a Thanksgiving analogy, I was child sitting at the adult’s table. The line between what was being discussed at the various blogs and what I was living on the deckplates is not a linear one–it’s non-linear, and filling in the aspects of a non-linear relationship is a painful one to live.

This is not to say that those writing such words as my mentors (CDR Salamander, Ray Pritchett, Steeljaw Scribe, CDR McGrath, as well as Byron, and any number of commentors on blogs) were misplaced, or wrong for finding such virgin ears such as my own. Rather, that such words do not give context anywhere near as well as experience does.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was a difficult tour aboard the USS SAN ANTONIO. Everyday was a new experience, as I am sure, that the cliche of any day deployed is ‘groundhog day’ falls flat aboard any Grey-hull. Christ, it was my first tour, after-all. But, those experiences have taken sometime to settle-in, as have the words of wisdom from the blogs I read since day-one of Sea Duty.

So, then, what have I come to? Heh, yeah, it’s in lines of what I read in the quote above.

The military is chaos. War, and it’s analogs (any deployment), is chaos. It’s going to be a mess, it’s going to be no where near the order and rote-reactions that we portray to the public at large, and this isn’t a bad thing, either. In a manor of speaking, what separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of those who serve is who can deal, or who wants to deal, with such circumstances. Such a notion isn’t that far removed from ‘civilian’ life either.

Why do we train and drill constantly? Because we need to deal with the known before we can sufficiently deal with the unknown. On deployment–doing what we’re paid to do–the unknown is concentrated even during the best and most irrelevant (read: administrative) of circumstances. So, when faced with such a reality, it doesn’t jive with any expectations one may have preconceived regarding the military.

I’ve never had a Chief who didn’t try to articulate this fact to me. It’s not that every Chief failed at explaining this to me. It was that I had ‘read ahead’ in a sense. So, their explanations to me had much more to contend with in terms of my ontology before it could become an accepted fact… Man, it wasn’t easy. But, after Afghanistan; after a FIFTH Fleet deployment, and nearly a year of duty with NATO; after something like 20 books and hundreds of blog posts–Chief’s words are starting to sink in, I’m starting to understand.

The chaos will never end. The situations you find yourself in are going to always be new, and it is your duty to find the way forward–to recommend to your superiors what you think is the best course of action. More so than anything else, the devil is in the details. When you’re sitting there, and are attempting to articulate the challenge you face–as well the way forward–it’s almost inherent, that you will leave out some detail that really matters, but seems ill-fit to mention during the brief discussion you have. What results is an impression during the first moments of taking action, that the whole of the Navy is ‘effed up.’ As that YNSN, just starting out, your only default position is that the whole enterprise of the Navy is ‘effed up from the foundation up. That EVERYTHING is wrong, that you alone know how to fix the foundation, and will be able to improve everything by fixing this foundation. Some people call this idealism, and stop there. They think that when they reach these first challenges that cannot really be fixed, that any further movement beyond them–without really fixing them–is selling out, and accepting less than should be.

Maybe they are right; I’m not going to tell them they are wrong, at least. But, just the same, when you move beyond and start to see the other aspects of reality in an organization that exists primarily in the unknown, you start to see reasons that might not jive with the more foundational aspects (E-4 and junior) of being apart of the organization. It is at this point that you start to understand the nature of a non-linear relationship.

What I am left at to this point, is that I know nothing. just as when Socrates (I think I am right, when I attribute this to Socrates) went to Delphi and was told by the Oracle that he was the wisest of all the Greeks, because he knew that he knew nothing; I feel that because of continuing to read of my profession and those who have gone before me that I have THAT much more to learn. For a Sailor junior to me–even for those newly minted ensigns–I feel it is my duty, to now help them become accustomed to the random, the unexpected and even the unacceptable.

…If I could only go back, and tell that YNSN that it’s ok, you’re dealing with the unknown just as everyone else has. Maybe then, it wouldn’t have seemed that impossible and difficult to him…



It would seem the beginning of the shrinking of the US Military is about to begin in earnest. An article from NBC San Diego lays out some of the bad news.

The famous “Puck” cartoon from about 1881 seems ripe for re-publishing. With a mere 286 ships in commission and approximately 350 Admirals, the surplus of Flag Officers in the United States Navy is astounding. Each Vice-Admiral can be (figuratively) chopped into approximately five Second Class Petty Officers, or four First Class POs.

We are looking at “hard choices” in this time of crushing cutbacks? We haven’t the warships, amphibs, or auxiliaries to come close to executing the 2007 Maritime Strategy even before the cutbacks that are coming. We have a burgeoning adversary looking increasingly seaward in the western Pacific. Let us make the first and easiest of the “hard choices”. Eliminate half of the Flag Officers in the United States Navy, with the proviso that the ones who are retained must directly contribute to warfighting, readiness for war, and the mission of the United States Navy, which is “to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.”

Functions in the supporting establishments can be handled by Captains, as they once were.

While we no longer have yardarms on which “Puck” might portray our exceedingly top-heavy Navy, the point remains.

Oh, and the Marine Corps? The number of General Officers is 108. Let’s roll that back to 80.



(Today is the 68th Anniversary of the Beginning of the Battle of Tarawa. This is a Re-Post from November 2009.)

The buildings in the “regimental area” of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina are modest, post-war brick buildings that, to the visitor’s eye, look more or less alike. Yet, each of the Marine Regiments of the Second Marine Division has its own storied history and battle honors. As Captain J. W. Thomason wrote in his Great War masterpiece Fix Bayonets, these histories represent

“…traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as Regiments hand down forever.”

There are symbols of these honors for one to see, if you know where to look. On a thousand trips past those symbols, there is one that never failed to make me pause and reflect. On the headquarters building for the 2d Marine Regiment hangs their unit crest. The crest contains only three words. They are in English and not Latin, and they are not a catch phrase nor a bold proclamation of a warrior philosophy. They are simple and stark. Across the top of the unit crest is the word “TARAWA”. And at the bottom, the grim admonition, “KEEP MOVING”.

491px-2nd_Marine_Regiment_Logo

It was 66 years ago on this date that the Second Marine Division began the assault on Betio Island, in the Tarawa Atoll. The island, roughly two thirds of the size of my college’s small campus, was the most heavily fortified beach in the world. Of the Second MarDiv, the 2nd Marine Regiment landed two battalions abreast on beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The assault began what was described as “seventy-six stark and bitter hours” of the most brutal combat of the Pacific War. More than 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed, nearly 2,300 wounded, along with nearly 5,000 Japanese dead, in the maelstrom of heat, sand, fire, and smoke that was Betio.

Assault on Betio's Northern beaches

Assault on Betio's Northern beaches

Marine Dead on Beach Red 1

Marine Dead on Beach Red 1

I will not detail the fighting for Betio here, as there are many other sources for that information. Nor will I debate whether the terrible price paid for Betio was too high. What cannot be debated is the extraordinary heroism of the Marines and Sailors who fought to secure the 1.1 square miles of baking sand and wrest it from the grasp of an entrenched, fortified, and determined enemy. The fighting was described as “utmost savagery”, and casualties among Marine officers and NCOs were extremely high. As one Marine stated, initiative and courage were absolute necessities. Corporals commanded platoons, and Staff Sergeants, companies.

Marines assault over coconut log wall on Beach Red 2

Marines assault over coconut log wall on Beach Red 2

The book by the late Robert Sherrod, “Tarawa, The Story of a Battle”, is a magnificent read. Another is Eric Hammel’s “76 Hours”. Also “Utmost Savagery”, by Joe Alexander, who additionally produced the WWII commemorative “Across the Reef”, an excellent compilation of primary source material. For video, The History Channel produced a 50th anniversary documentary on the battle, titled “Death Tide at Tarawa”, in November 1993. I also highly recommend finding and watching this superb production. It is narrated by Edward Hermann, and interviews many of the battle’s veterans, including Robert Sherrod, MajGen Mike Ryan, and others, who provide chilling and inspiring commentary of the fighting and of the terrible carnage of those three days.

 Master Sgt. James M. Fawcett, left and Capt. Kyle Corcoran salute Fawcett's father's ashes on Red Beach 1. MSgt Fawcett's father landed on Red 1 on 20 Nov 1943.

Master Sgt. James M. Fawcett, left and Capt. Kyle Corcoran salute Fawcett's father's ashes on Red Beach 1. MSgt Fawcett's father landed on Red 1 on 20 Nov 1943.

Tarawa remains a proud and grim chapter in the battle histories of the units of the Second Marine Division. Each outfit, the 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 10th Marines, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Tracks, and miscellaneous support units, fought superbly against frightful odds and a fearsome enemy. It is on the Unit Crest of the 2nd Marines, whose battalions paid the highest price for Betio, that the most poignant of those histories is remembered. Three simple words: “TARAWA; KEEP MOVING”.

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Originally posted 20 November 2009



Join us Sunday, 20 Nov 11 at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) for Episode 98 Tom Bowman with the Darkhorse in Afghanistan on Blog Talk Radio:

For those who listen to All Things Considered on NPR, earlier this month you caught an outstanding series on the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines – the Darkhorse Battalion — the Marine unit that suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the 10-year Afghan war.

Our guest for the full hour is the journalist who brought the American people that story – Tom Bowman, NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.

In his current role, Bowman has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan often for month-long visits and embedded with U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at The Baltimore Sun. Altogether he was at The Sun for nearly two decades, covering the Maryland Statehouse, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Security Agency (NSA).

The show link is here. You can also download the program there (shortly after we finish on air) for later listening. Or you can find Midrats on iTunes.



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