Archive for the 'history lessons' Tag
Reviews by Bill Doughty
The United States Navy is making and living history right now in Hawaii in the world’s largest maritime exercise: Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC 2014), fostering collaboration and cooperation and promoting international understanding. Among the participants in this year’s RIMPAC are navies from 22 nations, including UK, Japan, and China.
Two books give perspective on the past two centuries of naval history and provide context for the history being made by the U.S. Navy this summer.
A lot has happened in the two centuries since the Revolutionary War and War of 1812: from wooden ships to littoral combat ships; the birth of naval air forces, airpower and UAV; nuclear-powered fleet ballistic submarines; computers and cyber-security. The world is changing too, as captured in the Maritime Strategy, from world war confrontation to global cooperation. Think about the evolution of the fleet and the world in which it operates today.
Thomas J. Cutler thinks and writes about changes and challenges over the past 200-plus years in “A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy.” His Naval Institute Press book is a mainstay and now a top pick on the “Be Ready” list of the CNO’s Professional Reading Program suggested reads.
Cutler writes about the “magic” of the lore, language and legacy of the United States Navy, and invites Sailors to reflect on the “club” to which they belong. His book recounts — and makes relevant — history through the stories of Sailors in the past and present.
“The more you know about the Sailors who served before you, the more prepared you will be to do your job, and do it well. It is your turn to follow in the wakes of those who went before you, to lead the way for others who will follow you, and to make your contributions to the Navy’s ongoing legacy of honor, courage, and commitment.”
In a Chapter 6, “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” Cutler sets the stage with a brief description of Master Commandant (Commander) Oliver Hazard Perry, his famous pennant and the sailors who fought in the face of adversity at the Battle of Lake Erie. Cutler then gives more recent history, including the story of the five Sullivans brothers lost aboard USS Juneau in Guadalcanal Campaign, 70 years ago this year.
Cutler ties in the brothers’ namesake ships, including the current USS Sullivans (DDG 68), showing how the ship was targeted in a failed attack by al Qaeda in Aden, Yemen in January 2000. That same year, on the day before the Navy’s 224th birthday, terrorists launched another attack on an Navy ship, this time against USS Cole (DDG 67).
He recounts the heroism of the Sailors who all focused on three tasks, “caring for the injured, providing security against further attack, and saving the ship.” Don’t give up the ship…
The author packs a lot of history in this easy-to-read overview that contains stories and photos about JFK’s PT-109, Rear Adm. “Amazing” Grace Hopper, 1776‘s gondola Philadelphia, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, battleship USS Maine, Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear, and naval aviator and astronaut Alan Shepard Jr., among others.
In the appendix he offers synopses of key engagements through battle streamers, showing the operational history of the U.S. Navy.
The streamers demonstrate a commitment to always “Be Ready.”
Speaking of “back to the basics,” also recommended is a new book by Rear Adm. Robert O. Wray Jr., “Saltwater Leadership: A Primer on Leadership for the Junior Sea-Service Officer.”
The book, with a forward by Sen. John McCain, is endorsed by retired Adm. Gary Roughead, former chief of naval operations, and former President George H. W. Bush, who served as a naval aviator and “junior officer at sea.”
Wray offers self-described bite-sized “sea stories” and practical, pragmatic “salty advice” along with plenty of lists, including traits and tributes, rules and advice, and a list of 35 books on leadership!
Interestingly, the book opens with advice from ancient philosopher from China Lao Tzu:
A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worst when they despise him.
“Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you”;
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will all say, “We did this ourselves.”
– Lao Tzu’s “Tao Teh Ching,” verse 17, 6th century BC
Wray’s book is published by the Naval Institute Press and is in the same “Blue and Gold Professional Library” series as “The Bluejackets Manual,” “Command at Sea,” and “A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy” (above), among others.
(An earlier version of this post appeared on Navy Reads – http://navyreads.blogspot.com. Recent posts include reviews of “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar,” “Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations,” and “Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell ‘Bud’ Zumwalt, Jr.”)
From 1923 to 1940, the US Navy conducted 21 “Fleet Problems” as it sought to understand, exploit and incorporate new technologies and capabilities while developing the tactics, training and procedures to employ the same should war present itself – which by the 1930s was beginning to look more and more likely to the discerning observer. Conducted in all the major waters adjacent to the US, these problems covered the gamut of naval warfare from convoy duty, ASW, strike warfare and sea control. Most important, at least to this observer, was that this was the laboratory that tested the emerging idea of putting tactical aircraft at sea on board aircraft carriers. In doing so, the inherent flexibility of aviation across a broad span of warfare areas became apparent as more people in leadership looked at naval aviation as something more than just a scouting force for the main battery of the fleet extant — the battleline. It was in this laboratory that the Navy developed the techniques and identified the requirements for carrier-based dive bombers, so different form the big, lumbering land-based bombers that the Air Corps’ advocates were saying would make ships obsolete by high altitude, “precision” bombing. Proof would come at Midway when both forces were employed — the B-17′s dropping their bombs from on high hit nothing but water. But dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown struck at the heart of the Kido Butai. And as the thousand-pounder from Lt Dick Best’s SBD Dauntless smashed through the Akagi’s flight deck, a battle was turned and the course to winning a war was set. But it took visionaries to set the wheels in motion. Here then is the story – fittingly from the perspective of one of the few WWII dive bomber pilots still with us, LCDR George Walsh, who flew that great beast of an aircraft, the SB2C Helldiver in the Pacific theater. – SJS
As we enter the second half of the Centennial of Naval Aviation, I have found no reference to the “Fleet Problems” of the 1930s that were of great importance to the progress of naval aviation. These exercises were conducted at sea by hundreds of ships and aircraft of the peacetime Navy to prepare our nation for possible war. The Fleet Problems were vital, providing realistic training for the generation of professional naval officers, mostly Annapolis graduates, who were responsible for leading America to victory in WW II despite enduring the hardships and sacrifices of the 1930’s. The exercises were well planned and intense, demanding all the devotion and talents of the men who participated under conditions that simulated wartime and called for extended tours of sea duty.
As you look back on these Fleet Problems you will find it mystifying that we were so unprepared for the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and that the Battle of Midway was badly mismanaged.
“The “Fleet Problems” should not be confused with the “War Games” conducted at the Naval War College in Newport. The fleet and not the college developed the strategy and tactics for air warfare in the Pacific.1 It was in the conduct of these exercises that our Navy perfected the techniques of aircraft carrier operation and proved the usefulness of carrier task forces as an offensive weapon.
It is interesting to trace the progress of naval aviation from the earliest introduction of a carrier, the Langley (1922), into the 1926 Fleet Program VI as an auxiliary to Fleet Problem XXI in 1940 when the carrier Task Forces acted as a long distance striking force independent of the main battleship forces.
In his opening remarks at West2011, VADM Richard W. Hunt brought a topic that’s needs a lot more attention. His comments aren’t directly related to Stuxnet, but when you back away a bit, the connection is clear.
When he was outlining the challenges we are facing – one warning stuck out the most for me, let me paraphrase.
… How will we operate if we lose access to GPS and our satellite systems? If we lose use of our computer systems, we lose our ability to operate today. Space & comm systems include very vulnerable nodes including systems ashore. We should revisit how we are protecting all our C4I beyond cyber…
Let’s take that thought and expand it a bit.
A lot of the discussion about Stuxnet worm and its impact on the Iranian nuclear program has been about the cloak & dagger whodunit and how much, how far, and how long lasting of a delay it caused. Frankly, none of these things interest me as much as what this exceptionally impressive cyber attack is trying to tell us.
No one can see the future, but often times the future gives you little hints of the direction it is going if you are willing to listen. Like Mark Twain said;
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Some times people hear what history is saying, sometimes they don’t.
- CSS Hunley, more than earlier prototypes, showed the promise of the submarine to threaten a superior surface force.
- The Second Anglo-Boer War showed the importance of new technology towards the lethality of long-range rifle fire.
- The sinking of the Turkish steamer Intibah during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 showed the coming of the self-propelled torpedo.
- The WWI Tondern Raid gave us the carrier strike template.
- Apartheid South Africa’s experience in roadside bombs and ours in Mogidishu told us all we needed to know about IED, but we didn’t listen.
What is Stuxnet telling us? Step back and ask yourself – what is the most fragile requirement that we need to conduct war at sea? What are we designing our weapon systems, tactics and operational plans around?
It is easy to figure it out, we advertise it – “net.” When we say “net” we are talking about satellite based voice and data communications. Not only is the hardware delicate in the extreme except for very specific, very few systems with little bandwidth – much of it non-mil with the software commercial and accessilble. It relies on a dispersed and unsecured ground infrastructure. It also rides on the electromagnetic spectrum – one that no one owns.
This important foundation stone that we are putting so much on – is it robust? Have we designed the structure properly for anything north of a permissive environment? Are we mitigating risk – or are we taking the savings now and just going on hope? Do we have sufficient back-ups in place? Have we properly managed risk, or have we become complacent towards our own mastery of technology and potential adversaries’ ability?
VADM Hunts comments should given us pause. Listen to him, listen to Stuxnet. Ask the Iranian nuclear scientists what they think, if you can.
Sixty-nine years ago those words ushered in a period of unbelievable agony, trial, effort and sacrifice. What was once before was forever changed afterward. Jack-booted thugs bent on their “Final Solution” strode cobblestone streets of the land distantly remembered as the forebear of a new nation, a New World. And across the broad expanse of the ocean called “peaceful” – because it’s discoverer found such contrast to the stormy passage he had recently survived, rampant nationalism was advancing at the tip of bayonet and crushing naval power.
The warnings were there – it’s just that being so far away; over the horizon in distance and mind, that what happened in the dim, exotic lands of East Asia just didn’t map to the concerns of Pennsylvania Avenue, Wall Street, or 5th and Main. The Old World was in flame yet again, though by now it was beginning to appear that once more, the oceans would serve as a guardian to keep the Ancient Evil – Over There and our boys home, over here. No more Beallau Woods, no more Marnes — no more Flanders. The plucky occupants of a small island off the coast of that continent – protected again by the seas, had apparently staved off the onslaught of the German air force, which washed across the Channel and appeared to break on the rocks of “the Few” who rose in their isle’s defense. Cause for muted celebration – but not really of our concern. And now that industrial war machine had turned its attentions to the riches of the Eurasian heartland and engaged in battle with yet another statist foe. Fascist against Communist, German against Russian; West vs Oest /Восток против Запада. Let them slug it out and bleed each other white – not our concern. Let the Old World and the Far East dissolve in flame and fury – we have our own problems and the great distances of the oceans to protect us…
Sixty-nine years ago a lesson was seared in a generation’s conscious and would underpin the awakening of a giant, heretofore unseen or much thought of.
A slogan was born and a promise made.
For the better part of the remaining century that followed, as plans were drawn, metal cut and bodies counted; that phrase lay, oft time unspoken, deep within the hearts and minds of men as they prepared for a war they hoped and prayed would never come.
It didn’t – and now, the problems at home seem so overwhelming. An economy that can’t seem to pick itself off the deck. A work force embraced by hopelessness of ever finding a job in a land of plenty. And across the broad oceans, beyond the visible horizon old forces are stirring once again in different lands. Scores to be settled – philosophies to be paid homage; resources to be gathered and sent homeward.
And a promise which rang with clarity across a land and through generations is but a fading whisper upon the ear.
Remember Pearl Harbor.
At the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month…the guns fell silent along what was known then as the Western Front as the Allies and Germany observed the agreement to end this “War to End All Wars.” While fighting continued sporadically elsewhere, in what were fast becoming the former empires of Russia and the Ottoman-Turks, the rest of the world surveyed the cost of four years of war.
- 60 million Europeans put under arms
- 8 million dead, over 20 million wounded; a generation forever thinned and crippled across three continents;
- the world map forever altered
The industrial might and genius of a world gone mad and revealed in the mechanized mayhem of hitherto unknown locales – Marne (500,000 dead), Somme (where Britain lost over 57,000 killed in one day alone) — Ypres, site of the appearance of the cruelest form of warfare – poisonous gas; the cauldron at Verdun which claimed a quarter of a million French and German dead alone; Gallipoli (almost 43,000 Allied dead) and Chateau-Thierry/Belleau Wood which saw the single bloodiest day in Marine Corps history — until Tarawa in 1943.
Machine guns, heavy artillery, submarine warfare, aerial attack and poisonous gas against flesh and blood — 19th Century tactics couched in medieval concepts of battlefield glory against the grim reality of war in the Industrial Age.
It was a slaughterhouse whose effluent would poison the world for ages afterwards. My grandfather (that’s his picture at the top left), a first generation American of German extraction was sent “Over There” to fight cousins and kinsmen. I have a cherished set of sketches from his time in France – they are a study of French soldiers over time from 1914 through 1917, from exuberant youth to prematurely aged and bitterly tired maturity. He purchased them on his way back to his Illinois home from the war after November 11th. My wife’s maternal grandfather was not so lucky. He fell victim to a phosgene attack, leaving him permanently crippled and requiring daily assistance for the rest of his life. He lived to be 90 and was haunted every day by the horror of that attack.
These are those whom I remember every November 11th. The first wave in what became a series of world wars – the second wave one generation removed from the first, enfolding in its embrace my maternal grandfather who led Rangers in the assault on the cliffs at Normandy and my future father in the Pacific theater. And my wife’s father who answered the call in a frozen peninsula in northeast Asia. And don’t forget my godfather – who flew Skyhawks from Oriskany and Hancock during the toughest of times off another Asian country barely a decade later and who would serve as an inspiration for a young Midwestern lad. Yes, these and so many more who have and continue to serve – these I remember,
On November 12, 1919, President Wilson signed a declaration proclaiming that day as Armistice Day to recognize the veterans of this war – Congress amended it seven years later to change the day to the 11th of November and after WW II, and following advocacy that began with a shoe store owner in Emporia, Kansas, President Eisenhower signed the bill proclaiming hence forth that Veteran’s Day would honor veterans of all our nation’s conflicts on the 11th day of the 11th month henceforth.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. – Lt.-Col. John McCrae
So at 1100 today – and subsequent November 11ths, let us pause to remember that all gave some and some gave all – and others are still giving, and let us give thanks, in solemn prayer for those and in gratitude to those still with us…
(cross-posted at steeljawscribe.com)
In the pantheon of privately managed Navy memorials, one of the most envied is the Intrepid–the centerpiece of New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Perched in Manhattan, the Intrepid draws in enough revenue to survive complex–and pricey–maintenance, grow facilities and attract a high-profile board (Including Xe/Blackwater founder Erik Prince). To envious outsiders, the institution seems like it is on the right track.
But how healthy is the Intrepid, actually?
Breathes there a soul so dead that these words don’t send a chill through the spine?
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,…
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;
Read the entire docment here.
The parchment is aged and water stained, the ink faded and behind the thick, bullet proof glass it is difficult to discern. And yet — and yet the power of those words have shaken empires to their very roots and given hope to generations. The future they but dimly perceived, we live today. This is what it means to risk it all – in the hope, fear and prayer that the course you are charting will mean a better tomorrow; to know that there is no out, no “Plan B”…
Many of us do not know how we will react when suddenly called upon to perform the extraordinary in desperate and lethal conditions. We train and plan, but until the bullet flies or the fire burns close at hand, all we can do is speculate.
On the morning of December 7th, 1941 there was no question in VP-14′s Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Finn’s mind:
For extraordinary heroism distinguished service, and devotion above and beyond the call of duty. During the first attack by Japanese airplanes on the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, on 7 December 1941, Lt. Finn promptly secured and manned a .50-caliber machinegun mounted on an instruction stand in a completely exposed section of the parking ramp, which was under heavy enemy machinegun strafing fire. Although painfully wounded many times, he continued to man this gun and to return the enemy’s fire vigorously and with telling effect throughout the enemy strafing and bombing attacks and with complete disregard for his own personal safety. It was only by specific orders that he was persuaded to leave his post to seek medical attention. Following first aid treatment, although obviously suffering much pain and moving with great difficulty, he returned to the squadron area and actively supervised the rearming of returning planes. His extraordinary heroism and conduct in this action were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
(Note: In June 1942, Finn was temporarily commissioned as an Ensign, rising in rank to Lieutenant two years later. During his service as an officer, he served with Bombing Squadron 102, at several stateside training facilities and on board the aircraft carrier Hancock (CV-19). Following transfer to the Fleet Reserve in March 1947, he reverted to the enlisted rate of Chief Aviation Ordnanceman. In September 1956, he was placed on the Retired List in the rank of Lieutenant. John W. Finn died on 27 May 2010. Navy History & Heritage Command).
Recently passed, LT Finn never played up the hero aspect when asked — he just said “I do know this. I didn’t run away. I stayed there and we fought the Japs until the last one left.”
We as a service — as a nation; have lost our way in naming our ships — deferring to the politically expedient instead of the enduring values and traditions of the Naval services. Perhaps now it is time to turn this ship around and set her on a proper course. One way to that end, I think, would be to name the next Arleigh Burke-class DDG after LT Finn. These modern greyhounds of the sea are among the finest warships in their class and would be a fitting honor. Regardless, however of the eventual ship-type, if you agree that one should be so-named, go sign the petition, and write your Congressman and Senators to underscore the effort.
Sixty-eight years ago . . .
Conceived in the dark aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the raid had its genesis in the idea of CAPT Frank Lowe, USN who predicted that Army twin-engine bombers could be launched form a carrier under the right conditions. Planned by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, USA and executed by 16 modified B-25B’s of the 34th BS, 17th BG flying from the deck of the USS Hornet (CV-8 ) – 650 nm from Tokyo, history was made and an enemy left shocked. The raid took place after only two months of planning and special training with 16 all volunteer crews. More on the raid itself here, here and here.
North American B-25B Mitchell
The B-25 emerged from an Army Air Corps competition that was won by Martin with their B-26 design. The contest was a novel one in that the Army would order the winning design straight into production, by-passing the prototype phase. Despite having garnered almost double North American’s score, Martin was adamant that they were not going to be able to produce the B-26 in the numbers the Army Air Corps wanted – so they awarded North American with the remainder of the contract. The B-26 was fast, rugged and could carry a significant bomb load – outstripping he B-25 in each category. It’s airframe was designed and constructed such that the ability to take punishment was legendary and second only to the B-17. Yet because of its high wing loading, the B-26 was also notable for its fast landing speeds and long takeoff requirements. The B-25, on the other hand, reached production sooner, also demonstrated a capable bomb carriage capability and, for the purposes of this mission, had take-off requirements that suited it for the carrier.
Still, when all was said and done, these were (relatively speaking) big aircraft on a small flight deck. Carriers wouldn’t see the likes of this until after the war with the advent of the specially modified P2Vs for the nuclear mission – and then those were limited to the much larger decks of the Midway-class carrier.
Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns; 3,000 lbs. of bombs
Engine: Two Wright R-2600s of 1,700 hp each
Maximum speed: 328 mph
Cruising speed: 233 mph
Range: 2,500 miles (with auxiliary tanks)
Ceiling: 21,200 ft.
Span: 67 ft. 6 in.
Length: 53 ft.
Height: 16 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 29,300 lbs. maximum
Cost: $109,670 (1943)
*Telegraph from Patrol Wing Two Headquarters warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:
Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
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