Archive for the 'history lessons' Tag
History in many ways is a kind companion. In times of relative quiet, she gives you subtle reminders of what is important. She will give you a subtle nudge with the knee with a nodding look with eyes towards something she wants you to pay attention to.
If you are a bit distracted or you find yourself in a noisy time, if that doesn’t work she may lean over and gently whisper in your ear with a poke to the ribs.
Though a gentle companion, she is not a pushover. She has her standards, and on occasion will be needy. She does not like to be ignored, patronized, or worse – left alone in a corner of the party as you drift off to pay attention to someone new and exciting who recently showed up.
No. The gentle companion’s personality starts to change at that point. You don’t want to get to that point and see how she reacts – no one will be happy, and by any measure you come off looking worse to all.
History is not there yet, but she is close. She has not resorted to stomping on toes or speaking loudly to deaf ears … she is still at the nudging and whispering stage.
After nearly 30-years of commissioned service, the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) was decommissioned Friday.
The ship was named after Navy Coxswain Samuel Booker Roberts, who volunteered for a rescue mission to save Marines who had been surrounded by a superior Japanese force during World War II. He was killed during that rescue mission.
The USS Samuel B. Roberts struck an underwater Iranian mine in 1988, which blew a 15-foot hole in it.
One Ukrainian coast guard member was killed, five were injured and their commander remained unaccounted for Sunday after their cutter hit a mine planted in the bay of the strategic eastern port of Mariupol,
We should listen and respect her counsel. As we prepare to wander the party introducing ourselves to all the new and exciting arrivals, we should gather our companion’s hand in ours and invite her along.
She will be appreciative, and there is a good chance that all these new and exciting arrivals are not new to her. If she does not know them personally, she probably knows their family, line of work, and connections to others at the party.
She can save you time, trouble, and if nothing else, having such a steady partner by your side will make the evening a lot more pleasant, whatever may come.
Ignore her? No … don’t be that guy.
Every 22nd of May, unbeknownst to nearly all Americans, the United States celebrates National Maritime Day. It is a day to celebrate our nation’s rich maritime lineage, cherish our goods delivered by sea-going ships, and remember the importance of our officers and sailors who sail in the far-flung corners of the world. In Washington, D.C., the Department of Transportation held a ceremony at their headquarters. Salutes were smartly rendered and rousing speeches delivered. At the end of the ceremony, eight bells were rung to signify the end of the watch and honor the Merchant Marine.
The next day, Maritime Administration (MARAD) officials went back to regulating one of the most poorly funded (under $500 million annually) and misguided (only one top official is a past merchant mariner) administrations in our nation’s capitol. Since the founding days of our nation to the recent conflicts in the Middle East, the need for a strong militarily-useful and privately-owned U.S. flag merchant marine to protect, strengthen, and enhance our nation’s economic and military security has been clear. In times of peace and war, our U.S. flagged vessels effectively answered our nation’s call and provided unprecedented sealift capability to support our economy.
According to Rose George in Ninety-Nine Percent of Everything, trade carried by sea has grown fourfold since 1970 and is still growing. Three years ago, 360 commercial ports of the United States received in international goods worth $1.73 trillion. There are more than one hundred thousand ships at sea carrying all of the material we need to live.
Despite the amount of wealth reaching our shores, there are fewer than one hundred oceangoing U.S. flagged ships. Only 1 percent of trade at U.S. ports travels on an American-flagged vessels, and our fleet has declined by 80% since 1951. Less than 2% of all seagoing mariners are women. In a world of progressive ideology, it would seem that the other world – on the sea – is adrift and heading in the wrong direction.
It is seemingly unimaginable that most Americans are ignorant to the world of shipping. Play a game the next time you go out to a restaurant or visit your local coffee shop and see how many items you can count that came from a sea-going vessel.
- Plates: Made in China, containership
- T-Shirt on young child: Made in India, containership
- Chair and table set: Looks expensive, but likely IKEA: containership
- Gap Jeans: Made in Bangladesh, containership
- Cell Phone: Made in China, containership
- Coffee: Beans from Latin America, containership
- European car parked outside window: German, roll-on roll-off ship
- Fuel presumed in said European car: Crude from Middle East, tanker
The list is extensive. Better game: what was not brought over by maritime shipping?
Proceedings focuses mostly on developments in the maritime security domain, but a deeper conversation should revolve around the status of our civilian mariners. After all, one of our primary missions as sailors of the U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard is to uphold the umbrella convention as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Even though the United States has not ratified the convention (we do not like its deep-sea mining stipulations), we uphold its core meaning. Over 300 articles aim to create “a legal order for the seas and oceans which will facilitate international communication, and will promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment.”
Simply put, our maritime security organizations exist to support the global merchant marine and to promote free trade domestically and abroad. But when we lose American flagged vessels and shipyard workers lose their contracts, their income and their wealth of knowledge is lost. For our government – and in particular the Department of Transportation and Department of Defense – this means that an insufficient number of American mariners will no longer be there to support the industry. The next time we need to support a global war, we will have to rely on foreign shipping companies to move U.S. war material abroad.
- Outside thinking. Fund and stand up an independent, outside think tank that can meet the maritime challenges of the 21st If we do not try and sort out the maritime industry, the stability necessary for U.S. flag companies to attract the investments they need and for maritime labor to recruit and retain the mariner our country needs will simply not be there. Create a long term
- Bi-Partisan Support. MARAD should continue to lobby and build coalitions to ensure proper funding efforts to build a robust, seagoing merchant marine. If the United States is serious about the declining state of our maritime industry, we must modify existing programs and create new ones that would increase the number of vessels operating under the U.S. flag, the amount of cargo carried by U.S. flag vessels, and the shipboard employment opportunities for licensed and unlicensed merchant mariners.
- Reward companies that flag their vessels under the United States. Under the auspices of the intricately elusive tool of “flag of convenience,” where ships can fly the flag of a state that has nothing to do with its owner, cargo, crew or route, many shipping companies have chose to dodge taxes and pay mariners less. Consequently, many civilian mariners can’t find work. We should create tax incentives for companies that fly under the American flag and hire more mariners, rather than allow ships that maintain a crew of twenty to reap in the benefits of maritime trade.
- Subsidize shipbuilding in the United States. In order to compete with South Korea and other major shipbuilding nations that construct vessels on the cheap, we need to craft private-public contracts to allow our shipbuilding to flourish. Explore new ways to meet the capability and capacity to meet the most demanding wartime scenarios that might lie on the horizon.
- Rethink maritime officer and crew placement. Even though ships are getting considerably larger, crew sizes are getting smaller. Nearly a thousand professional mariners graduate from the US Merchant Marine Academy and state maritime academies each year with no prospective deep-sea job opportunities. Most sea-going accidents occur due to fatigue and most mariners have reported working over 80 hours in a given week. We should expand Military Sealift Command employment so U.S. Naval Reserve / Merchant Marine Reserve can serve on ‘active duty’ in the merchant marine. If this model works, we can incentivize a program in the private sector where larger crews are rewarded with tax breaks for operating safely.
Trade has always traveled and the world will continue to trade in our globalized society. The United States relies on a few VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers) to bring in two-thirds of our oil supply every day. Without the assured commercial sea power capability provided by the U.S. flag merchant marine and civilian manpower, we will find ourselves at the mercy of foreign vessels that are owned and operated by foreign interests.
The symbolic ringing of eight bells was superfluous this past National Maritime Day. Through bad policies over the last several decades, we have left the U.S. maritime industry at the whim of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand,’ then wondered, what happened to the Merchant Marine? Answer: it was turned over decades ago to the rest of the world.
You have been properly relieved America. Maersk has the watch.
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.