Archive for the 'Jim Dolbow' Tag
h/t to Angie Williams, wife of former Vietnam POW and Founder of National Donut Day, LTC Orson Swindle, USMC-Ret.
Today is also the Marine Corps’ Birthday….. and National Donut Day
As most of you know, my husband, Orson, was a Prisoner of War in Hanoi for 6 years and 4 months. Ironically his shoot down date is Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1966. So this is a big week for him.
As we all know, being a prisoner is a tough experience, but the POW’s also have some funny stories to share, and the following is one of them….
In September 1969, after Orson had been a prisoner three very hard years (the early years were by far the worst) Ho Chi Minh died. Orson was at Son Tay with about 55 other men. One day in October he was called in for an interrogation… which he said was more of an “English lesson” for the interrogator as opposed to one of the beatings they received when Ho Chi Minh was calling the shots. The interrogator began by bragging about his country and its 4,000 year history and belittling the USA… saying, “Your country is very young, it doesn’t even have very many heroes or holidays.” Knowing that the Marine Corps birthday was coming up on November the 10, Orson began to spin a story…….
He pretended to take umbrage, saying… “No, no, no…. you are quite wrong… we have many holidays in our country, as a matter of fact, one is coming up very soon. There will be festivals and children will dress up in costumes and it’s very important to us.” The interrogator became interested so Orson proceeded that it was called, “National Donut Day”….
Before you can really appreciate this you need a bit of background. Before Ho Chi Minh’s death, the prisoners were practically starved to death. They were eating nothing but rice and swamp grass soup (as they call it) and sometimes pumpkin soup. Orson says they estimated that he went down to a little as 120 pounds… At shoot down he was something like 175 and 6’2″. So this is unbelievably thin. The men were hungry all the time. Very hungry. About twice a year they would get what they considered an incredible treat… it was noting more than old French bread.. that had become hard and moldy, but the cooks would deep fry it and roll it in sugar and the prisoners called the result “sticky buns” and to them it was mana from heaven….
So when explaining National Donut Day, Orson told his interrogator that “Donuts are a lot like your sticky buns… they are sweet bread, and on National Donut Day everyone has one…. or more of them.” Not sure what the outcome might be, Orson was sent back to his cell, where he immediately started tapping through the wall to all the other POWs saying…”Hey guys, you gotta back me up. I just invented a new holiday and if they find out I was pulling their leg, there will be hell to pay — tell all the guards that National Donut Day is on November 10 — don’t let me down! Pass it on!” A few weeks went by, and to everyone’s great surprise, on November 10 the prisoners at Son Tay prison — known for being one of the worst —and also for the failed rescue attempt — were served sticky buns and — Orson was the hero of the day!
Orson had forgotten all about this story, and I had never heard it, but in March 03 a fellow POW, Bob Stirm, an Air Force Col was interviewed in a San Francisco paper and in it he described the origin of National Donut Day.
Thanks for sharing Angie!
It was 31 years ago today that AF 586 (a P-3 Orion flying a sensitive mission in the north Pacific) was forced to ditch into the empty, mountainous seas off the Aleutian Islands. What follows is an amazing rescue that could only be written by a P-3 pilot like Andrew Jampoler.
Could you provide a short synopsis of Adak: The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586?
AF 586, a nearly-new Navy P-3 “Orion” from Patrol Squadron 9′s detachment at Naval Station Adak, Alaska, took off the morning of October 26, 1978, for a nine hour special mission flight off Soviet Kamchatka. Some six hours later the aircraft was down in the North Pacific, midway between the Soviet Union and Attu (the last American outpost in the Aleutian Islands) with fourteen of its fifteen men afloat in two rafts and their plane commander lost at sea.
“Adak” is the story of that mission, the crew, and their ordeal, and the astonishing and successful effort that brought ten men home alive.
Who are some of the heroes of Adak?
LCDR Jerry Grigsby’s superb airmanship put the big aircraft into stormy waters intact on three engines. LT(JG) Matt Gibbon’s cool preparations for the ditching while AF 586 limped toward Shemya with recurrent fires in the No. 1 nacelle made the crew’s escape from the aircraft possible. The ditching triggered a determined SAR operation which, at one time, had planes from the Air Force, the Navy, and the Coast Guard in the air at the same time–together with some Soviet Air Force observers.
Soon after midnight three men of the crew were dead from exposure. The others in the rafts were in extremis, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inter-agency cooperation that was involved in the rescue?
Fast and close overnight cooperation between the Departments of Defense and State, and Washington and Moscow, remarkable at the height of the Cold War, diverted a Soviet fishing trawler to the scene early on October 27th, and it was this ship–the only vessel near enough to help in time–that saved the living. The survivors were returned to US custody a week later.
What are some of the lessons learned that are applicable to today’s aviators?
AF 586 proved to maritime patrol aircrews flying over northern waters that survival was possible under almost unimaginably harsh conditions.
Who should read Adak: The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586?
Anyone who flies (or has flow) over open water would enjoy this adventure story, described by “The Wall Street Journal” as “an adventure story to rival the best you’ve ever read.”
Making a return visit back to Meet the Author on USNI Blog is Vincent P. O’ Hara. He has authored another masterpiece in my opinion. You are in for another treat.
Could you provide a short synopsis of Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940-1945?
Struggle for the Middle Sea describes the naval war fought in the Mediterranean and Red Sea from June 1940 to May 1945 in terms of the five great navies that participated: Great Britain’s Royal Navy, Italy’s Regia Marina, France’s Marine Nationale, The United States Navy and the German Kriegsmarine. It examines the national imperatives that made the Mediterranean such a vital theater for each of these powers and it analyses their actions and performances over the entire five-year campaign. The book has an unusual depth of detail, particularly in its coverage of naval surface combat and it is filled with fresh viewpoints that are supported by extensive research in Italian and French sources. The thirteen chapters range from the pre-war situation to France’s defeat, Italy’s parallel war, convoy actions, France’s naval campaign off Syria, the period of Axis domination, the Italian armistice and Germany’s war in the Aegean, Adriatic and Ligurian Seas. Struggle for the Middle Sea ends with an analysis of the campaign and draws some unconventional conclusions.
How does Struggle for the Middle Sea fill a void in Navy historiography?
Struggle for the Middle Sea fills several voids. First, despite the importance of the Mediterranean and the fact it saw more combat than the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, remarkably little has been written about the naval struggle fought there. Most of what has been written treats the theater in segments such as the 1940-43 Anglo-Italian convoy war or the 1943-44 Allied amphibious expeditions. Struggle for the Middle Sea covers the entire theater and campaign and it does it, I believe, from a neutral viewpoint, treating all the major participants equally. Readers are surprised, for example, to learn that the French had such profound interests in the region and were fighting from the very beginning to the very end, or that the Germans deployed more than fifty destroyer-sized warships in the Mediterranean and conducted a successful littoral campaign in the face of what should have been overwhelming Allied strength.
The Mediterranean war’s historiography is also deficient in that it has been strongly influenced by received interpretations that are rooted in wartime propaganda. These are so pervasive they have entered popular culture. How does an Italian admiral see his fleet? In a glass-bottomed boat. The July 1940 Action off Calabria (the English name) is a good example of what I mean. This battle involved five battleships and nineteen cruisers and was the largest fleet action fought in European waters during the war. When I sat down to read about Calabria—every author, including luminaries like Stephen Roskill, P. K. Kemp, Martin Stephen, Nathan Miller and Julian Thompson—stated that in this action the British asserted a moral ascendancy over the Italians. They all used these words. In reading and re-reading their accounts, I couldn’t see how the facts squared with such a unanimous conclusion. Well, it turned out they were quoting Admiral Cunningham’s report to the Admiralty, made five months after the fact. His contemporary comments are much less confident. Meanwhile, the Italian admiral who was second in command wrote just after the battle, “One result that occurred . . . was that all personnel felt . . . our ability to confront and beat the enemy.” Clearly, the whole notion of moral ascendancy is an after-the-fact invention. Authors, like James Sadkovich and Jack Greene have helped clarify the record regarding the performance of Italy’s navy in WWII, but the historiography remains heavily weighted on the side of the old interpretations.
Yes. My original concept, which dates back nearly twenty years, was to write a history of all naval battles fought by surface combatants during the Second World War. Thus, elements of all three volumes were in place when Naval Institute accepted the German Fleet at War for publication in 2003. However, while German Fleet, U.S. Navy Against the Axis and Struggle share a focus on naval surface combat, they also differ in many respects. I consider Struggle for the Middle Sea to be more integrated and readable because it has a stronger narrative than its predecessors.
For this book, what were some of your more insightful sources?
The Mediterranean campaign featured strong and colorful personalities—the British Admirals Andrew Cunningham and James Somerville and the Italian Angelo Iachino come to mind. The Cunningham and Somerville papers edited by Michael Simpson and published by the Naval Records Society are outstanding for the attitudes and actions of the British admirals. Iachino’s history, Tramonto di una grande marina was helpful. Many sources play up the impact of intelligence, but F. H. Hinsley’s British Intelligence in the Second World War put this factor into perspective. The British staff histories and battle summaries—contemporary documents intended to pass along lessons learned–along with the volumes of La Marina Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale that I consulted allowed me to include considerable detail in my battle accounts. Where they were available, action reports of individual ships or commanders were invaluable. Finally, I must mention memoirs and correspondence. These don’t always get the facts right, but they deliver the spirit. For example, an Italian sailor recalled that his ship, the torpedo boat Perseo refused to sink after being wrecked by British destroyers. Her crew, floating nearby on rafts, joked that the ship’s armor, hundreds of accumulated coats of paint, was proving sound.
What advice do you have for potential naval history authors?
Every author follows their own path, but I think it all boils down to writing (not thinking about writing) and hard work. With respect to writing naval history it’s good to finish projects once started. Write for publication and know that presentation matters. New authors break into the field every year. The best pay attention to historical method and they weigh their sources.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
After seventy years people might think that the history of the Second World War has been told, but that isn’t the case. Much like the history of the American Civil War underwent a reevaluation and a new synthesis after the intense passions provoked by the war cooled down, the historiography of the Second World War is undergoing a similar process. Struggle for the Middle Sea highlights the importance of perspective in the consideration of past events. The book has provoked controversy, especially in Great Britain and Italy, and I confess to being happy about that. It indicates that some arrows struck flesh.
Click here to read my previous interview with the author regarding The U.S. Navy against the Axis.
Another good read this week is Floyd Brown’s Sailor from Oklahoma. The title of the book says it all and without further delay here’s is my e-interview with Mr. Beaver.
Please can you give us a short synopsis of Sailor from Oklahoma: One Man’s Two-Ocean War?
In 1939 at the age of 19, and upon finding himself unable to return for his sophomore year at the University of Tulsa—and after losing his job on the wire desk of the Tulsa Tribune to the Depression—Floyd Beaver enlisted in the Navy with the hope of entering Annapolis from the ranks. Age limits put finis to this aspiration, and he spent the twilight years of peace in four different heavy cruisers of the Hawaiian Detachment, most of these years as a member of the HAWDET and COMSCOFOR flags. (Vadms Andrews and Brown.)
With the onset of war—and after the early MARSHAL and GILBERT island actions—his Flags transferred into carriers: LEXINGTON, SARATOGA, HORNET AND ENTERPRISE in which he served through the RABAUL raid of Feb 1942, the LAE/SALAMAUA raid, the battles of CORAL SEA, SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS, and the NAVAL BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL. (Radms Fitch and Kinkaid.)
Upon the ENTERPRISE’S return to the States for repair of battledamage, he was ordered to HMNZS MOA in which he served as the only American on board from Nov 42 to May 43 in close-in support of the Guadalcanal campaign, surviving two night surface actions—in one of which he was slightly wounded—and the loss of the MOA to dive bombing attack in Tulagi Harbor. He was awarded a British MENTION IN DISPATCHES by New Zealand.
Upon return to his own Navy, he was ordered to APA FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE (APA70) In which he sailed in North Atlantic convoys from Sept1943 to Fall 1944, making the INVASION OF SOUTHERN FRANCE in her before being assigned to USS MEDEA, in which he returned to the Pacific for the Invasion of Okinawa. Hospitalization in April 1945 with a diagnosis of Tetany resulted in his return to the States and medical discharge at the end of September 1945 as “Unable to meet demands of the Service.
You served on 15 different ships in World War II. Which one was your favorite?
For comfort and all ’round satisfaction, the INDIANAPOLIS, but that may be because I was in her before she was rearranged for the war. She had the best signal bridge on which I ever served. For interest, it would have to be HMNZS MOA. Service in a foreign navy—and the opportunity for contact with native Solomon Islanders was interesting as hell.
What was it like being a signalman for flag officers?
Mixed bag. Certain privileges: choice berths for the ship in harbors, no working parties, watch-standers’ liberty, etc. Disadvantages: A lot of brass underfoot on the bridge, missed leaves, strained relations with ship’s company people sometimes. On balance, desirable.
You survived two sinkings (USS Lexington and HMNZS Moa). Any advice for others that may find themselves in a similar situation?
Rule 1: Have ship sink in smooth, warm water, and in company withfriendly vessels. (This didn’t work for the JUNEAU in WWII, but it’s still a good idea.)
Rule 2: Don’t remove shoes or other clothing.
Rule 3: Go over the weather side. Ships dead in the water tend to drift beams-on to sea and wind. Depending on hull design and weather conditions, this can result in considerable leeway which can make it hard to get away from a drifting wreck.
Rule 4: Go down lines hand-over-hand. Sliding down can take the skin off your palms.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My nearly seven years in the Navy becomes each year a smaller proportion of my life experience, but those years far outweigh all the others. This may be due to the fact those years were war years, with all the drama and the rigor implicit in that fact, but the men I knew and the things I saw color still my view of the people I meet and the things I see happening about me. Of my Naval service, I regret only the way in which it ended, with a stigmatizing diagnosis and no chance to appeal. I thought I deserved better than that.
Meet the Author continues this week with a discussion on leadership with Stephen Taaffe, author of Commanding Lincoln’s Navy.
What inspired you to write Commanding Lincoln’s Navy: Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War?
Commanding Lincoln’s Navy is my fourth book. The first two were over campaigns, which meant that I had to research and write about lots of different aspects of warfare – strategy, tactics, logistics, intelligence, personnel, morale, etc. I liked some of these things, but found others tedious. There may be people out there who are really fascinated by logistics, but I’m not one of them. A few years later I had an epiphany that I should write about what interests me the most: command structures. Years of reading military history and working in academia led me to ask why some people were appointed to important and responsible positions even when they were sometimes manifestly unsuited for such posts. In my third book, Commanding the Army of the Potomac, I analyzed who was assigned to corps command and why. I found the material interesting and enlightening, so I figured I would continue the line of thought by looking at the Navy’s command structure during the Civil War. In this case, I wanted to explain who got to lead the various Union Navy squadrons and why.
I should also note a more sordid motivation. Researching the Union Navy’s command structures involved examining what people thought of each other, so I got to read lots of salacious gossip about naval officers. This way I could indulge my more sinful nature under the guise of legitimate scholarship.
What are some of the leadership lessons learned that are applicable today?
Since human nature never changes, many of the lessons from the Civil War era in gaining and exercising command remain applicable today. For one thing, connections matter. Almost every officer I examined who achieved squadron command had some powerful patron lobbying for, supporting, or encouraging him. John Dahlgren’s friendship with Abraham Lincoln, for example, played a role in his appointment to lead the South Atlantic Squadron. However, connections are never enough. Officers without talent might attain an important post, but the pressures of command usually expose their weaknesses, and then all the connections in the world won’t matter. This is especially true as a war progresses and winning becomes more important than anything else.
It might seem commonsensical, but I was also struck by the fact that successful commanders such as David Farragut and David Porter were not necessarily the most intelligent, connected, or likeable men. Instead, they tended to be practical officers who were more interested in results than in, say, who gets the credit, military theory, personal pride, etc. They also understood that success is often not a matter of figuring out what to do, but rather of getting the job done. This requires self-discipline, single-mindedness, and moral courage. For example, both Samuel Frances Du Pont and John Dahlgren knew that they needed to steam into Charleston harbor to shut it down, but neither man mustered the moral courage required to take action and risk failure. They instead made lots of excuses for their inaction. On the other hand, David Farragut understood that he could not seize New Orleans until he ran his ships past the forts defending the city, but he was willing to do so even though he knew full well that failure would end his naval career. To be sure, there were some big differences between Charleston and New Orleans, but Farragut recognized that obstacles must be overcome, not rationalized.
How does this book fill a void in Navy historiography?
There are plenty of books on various Civil War campaigns in which the Navy participated, but no one has examined the selection and sometimes removal of the Navy’s various squadron commanders. Some of these men, such as David Farragut and David Porter, are well-known to Civil War buffs and the subject of various biographies, but others are not. Nevertheless, naval officers such as Theodorus Bailey, Henry Bell, and Samuel Francis Du Pont are equally important toward understanding the Navy’s role in the conflict.
For this book, what were some of your more insightful resources?
The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion was of course enormously helpful. Much of the correspondence is routine and mundane, but every now and then I found some interesting tidbits about various personalities. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles’ published diary was also useful, as was the correspondence of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox. In order to attain information that officers might be reluctant to place in an official report, Fox encouraged officers to write to him unofficially. Finally, I benefited from the collections of some of the squadron commanders, especially Samuel Francis Du Pont, Henry Bell, John Dahlgren, and Theodorus Bailey.
Who should read Commanding Lincoln’s Navy?
I’ve got kids in private school, so anyone who can beg, borrow, or steal the requisite cash ought to own Commanding Lincoln’s Navy. Actually, I wrote the book for both Civil War scholars and buffs. I hope that I uncovered some new material and had a few original insights that scholars might appreciate, but I also believe that anyone with a passing interest in the Civil War will enjoy a book about the men who waged the Union Navy’s war.
We’ll build’em and sail ‘em
We’ll never fail’em
The Victory Fleet will be complete we know
On every ocean, we’ll be in motion
The Victory Fleet will soon defeat the foe.
We’ll have a bridge of ships beyond compare
We’ll soon be able to walk from here to over there
The world is cheering
The skies are clearing
With the Victory Fleet – Let’s go.
In the factories hear the hammers night and day
In the shipyards everone is on his way
On the ocean every seaman joins the fray
We heard the buglers blow
We answered our country’s call we’re ready one and all.
(Source: On the Swing Swift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah by Tony Cope, p. 193)
“Both Russia and the Islamic world have the most sober understanding of the main vulnerability of the West: its political correctness. The West has voluntarily brought itself into this trap, invented by leftists. Political correctness makes the West unable to resist pressure.” Ex-KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy on why Russia is not an American ally against radical Islamism.
Agree or disagree?
h/t Bear’s better half
In response to recent reporting of suicide bombers stuffing exposives where the sun doesn’t shine, Dr. Mike Waller of www.politicalwarfare.org has a gem entitled “How to Counter Al Qaeda’s butt-bombs.” Reprinted below in its entirety due to its non-politically correct nature:
Al Qaeda has flummoxed security experts with its new tactic of evading detection systems by hiding explosives and detonators inside the bodies of suicide bombers.
The method redefines what it is to be an “assassin.”
The new trick came to light last month in a Saudi palace when an Al Qaeda operative, claiming to want to surrender, exploded in a failed attempt to murder the Saudi prince in charge of counterterrorism operations. The terrorist stuffed a pound of explosives and a detonator up his behind (or perhaps one of his buddies did it for him) in order to foil bomb detectors.
What I’m about to propose is gross and disgusting and downright insensitive. But it’s culturally appropriate. And it’s a quick, inexpensive way to see if we can damage terrorist recruitment and neutralize this new and dangerous Al Qaeda murder tactic. So here goes.
Rather than get alarmed about lacking the technical means to detect such bomb smugglers, we should use Arab and Islamic (and generally universal, lowbrow, adolescent) cultural traits to make terrorists too ashamed and embarrassed to turn their bottoms into bombs. And to humiliate their supporters.
This tactic is begging for ridicule. Terrorists hate being ridiculed. Sexually repressed young men hate being ridiculed. Islamist extremists hate being ridiculed. Mockery stains their honor. Most terrorists are sexually repressed Islamist extremist young men.
Therefore, it’s time for the US and its allies, as well as the Saudis, to turn on the laughs by making fun of the butt-bombers. We can all think of ways to ridicule these weirdos in English – oh, the metaphors are just too plentiful and too crude to list here – and the Arabic language is likewise awash in backdoor humor. To say nothing of Pashto.
Let’s start making fun of Osama bin Laden and his butt-stuffing buddies in Al Qaeda, and see how long this terrorist fad lasts. (My money is on the US being too politically correct to give this a try, but I hope I’m wrong.)
Rather than fear these freaks, we should be mocking them. In every country, in every language. It’s perfect for the uber-homophobic, repressed, pseudopious culture in which the terrorists live. Let’s see how many macho young men really want to meet their fate with the world knowing this: That their last act of piety was packing their fanny full of phallic-shaped C-4 and having their buddy detonate them with a cell phone text message.
Let’s see how many virgins that buys them in the next life. And how many other Islamist extremist boys want to emulate him.
Bonus points: Al Qaeda is officially promoting the butt-bomber tactic in a new video it recently posted on the Internet. So we can pin this on Bin Laden personally, and take down his persona a notch or two with some good, old-fashioned locker-room laughs.
What say you gentle reader?
It was a real honor for me to interview CDR. Jerry Hendrix about his new book, Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy: The U.S. Navy and the Birth of the American Century. CDR. Hendrix is a role model for all aspiring scholar-warriors being that he is one of a handful of USN line officers with PhDs. He is in great company: two other officers that hold PhDs are Adm. Jim Stavridis and the new U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Patrick Walsh.
Could you provide a short synopsis of the book?
Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy is my attempt to marry up twin historical themes of Rooseveltian history: TR as a Diplomat, and TR as a Navalist. In doing so I believe I arrive at a new understanding (at least new to me, and I have read about everything I can lay my hands on the topic) of Roosevelt’s key role in establishing the United States as the major power of the 20th Century. To illuminate his actions, I begin and end the book with an examination of the Great White Fleet, which many consider the ultimate example of his “Big Stick” diplomacy, but sandwich in between case studies of his handling of the Venezuelan Crisis of 1902-03, his role in Panama’s Independence Movement, the role of the naval services in the famous Perdicaris Affair of 1904, and why TR chose to hold the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War at a Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine. In the end, I believe I shed new light on the sophisticated nature of Roosevelt’s diplomacy, the extent of his dependence upon the naval services, and do serious harm to the war-mongering, bellicose image that most people carry around of the first President Roosevelt.
What are some of the lessons learned from Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy that are important today?
TR advocated for a semi-permanent, coherent foreign policy that can be passed from administration to administration, regardless of political party. I believe that this is something that our political leaders today are working to get back to. Also, TR demonstrated repeatedly a deft appreciation for the scalability of response that naval forces can provide to policy makers. If you want one ship’s worth of coercive diplomacy, that is all you have to show, if you need another, bring it from over the horizon, and if you need to land a ground force, you have Marines. This is a simple example, but TR knew where his fleet was at all times and could call upon it when he needed it. Lastly, TR came to understand that military power comes with limits. With naval power there is a growing tension the farther you attempt to project power landward. He came to understand this and applied his experience to limit his attempts at influencing events so that his military reach did not exceed his diplomatic grasp.
What were some of your more insightful resources?
The logbooks containing the ciphered and unciphered communications from the Secretary of the Navy to the fleet that are stored at the National Archives were fantastic. They really demonstrated how much day to day interest TR showed towards the Navy and Marine Corps. Also, his papers and Admiral of the Navy George Dewey’s papers at the Library of Congress were amazing in showing the minute by minute unfolding of events. L astly, there were some letters that the Dewey family donated to the Naval Archives at the Navy Yard that were instrumental in reaching a new understanding of some of the events.
Who should read Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy?
I am hesitant to say, but I think mid-grade naval officers would find it insightful and come to a new understanding of how the modern Navy came to be. Admiral Stavridis, who very generously reviewed the book, recommended that all national security professionals take a look at it, so I think I would just leave it at that.
What advice do you have for fellow line officers pursuing PHDs?
Learn to live on four hours of sleep a night! No, really, I enjoyed the challenge. I wrote most of my original doctoral dissertation at sea so that the effort would have a minimal impact on my family (beyond the research). I found this to be an ideal environment to just get into the material and crank out the words. The best advice, though, for people pursuing a PhD is to pick a dissertation topic that really fascinates you and you are confident that it will continue to fascinate you, because you are going to spend the next 3-7 years of your life focused on this topic. Most people who get to all-but-dissertation (ABD) status with their PhD and just cannot finish the product and get the degree, find themselves in this jam because they cannot maintain their interest and energy in the topic. I was fortunate in that I picked a topic that I still find interesting to this day.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Only that I think, given the increasing complexity of the world and the United States essential role in international stability, that it is increasingly important that naval professionals take to read, think, and write. Our profession and our nation depend upon it.
With missile defense being in the news last week , I thought my e-interview with Professor Stephen J. Cimbala, author of Shield of Dreams: Missile Defense and U.S.-Russian Nuclear Strategy, might be of interest. Please note this e-interview was conducted prior to the recent U.S. decision on missile defense for both Poland and the Czech Republic.
You begin Shield of Dreams by laying out the strategic framework of the Russian-US nuclear relationship. What are the overarching foreign policy goals of both the United States and Russia?
The Obama administration has said that it wants to “reboot” the U.S. relationship with Russia. This will be easier said than done. Russia has a list of discontents with U.S. policy that carry forward from disagreements between the two states under George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin. These points of contention include NATO enlargement, U.S. missile defenses in Europe, U.S. departure from the ABM Treaty, the war in Iraq, and, most recently in 2008, Russia’s war with Georgia. On the other hand, the Obama and Medvedev administrations have some potential areas of cooperation and convergent, if not identical, interest: defeating the Taliban and containing jihadism in Afghanistan and Pakistan; achieving a new strategic nuclear arms reduction agreeement to replace START I; and, managing the problem of nuclear nonproliferation in Iran and North Korea by use of diplomacy instead of force.
Who should read Shield of Dreams?
Shield of Dreams is an attempt to return to the “tradition” of national security policy studies that laid the foundation for arguments about deterrence and arms control during the early years of the Cold War. In those studies, policy analysis was combined with strategic theory and empirical measurement to create insights about the rationale for choice among competing national security objectives, weapons technologies, arms control proposals, and so forth. RAND was the first of a number of public policy related think tanks that developed out of this activity, and it also spread into government decision making during and after the 1960s. In turn, this work laid the foundation for Pentagon advances in state of the art thinking about strategy and the art of war: for example, in the creation of the Office of Net Assessment and the widespread respect for its long standing director, Dr. Andrew Marshall, and in the creation of the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for seeding futuristic research into technology. I call this self conscious trellis of national security studies in and out of the government the “Wohlstetter system” after famed RAND consultant and analyst Albert Wohlstetter. After the end of the Cold War, however, interest in deterrence and nuclear weapons declined except for the professional arms control community, and the U.S. prompt victory in the Gulf war of 1991 was thought to have ushered in an era of U.S. supremacy in smart, advanced technology, conventional weapons that would leave nuclear weapons in the dustbin of history. History now has its revenge: fears of nuclear proliferation and of the possible spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists are reminders of the fact that nuclear danger has not gone away, and in some ways, is worse. As President Obama said in Prague on April 5: although the threat of global nuclear war has receded, the threat of nuclear use has actually increased.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Within the missile defense technology community, future controversy will involve mission priorities and the question of versatility and “requisite variety” among candidate technologies. Some will argue, for example, that the U.S. should focus on protecting its allies from theater or shorter range missiles by using portable and rapidly deployable antimissile defenses – instead of the current emphasis on protecting the U.S. homeland from rogue attacks or accidental launches. For the former mission, protecting of allies against imminent land or sea based missile attacks, smarter defenses might use UAVs that loiter over certain areas of interest, detect imminent threats, and fire hit to kill kinetic weapons or more advanced weapons to disable attackers. For the latter mission, protection of the U.S. or allied homelands, cost effectiveness does not favor the current mainstay of the U.S. global missile defense system: the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. It is easily overwhelmed by attack strategies designed to confuse the defense or by larger numbers of attackers. In addition, it has a mixed record of success in tests thus far.
The U.S. Air Force and Space Command want to redefine the entire context for military planning by establishing U.S. aerospace dominance as a primary national security objective. This would deny to potential enemies the use of space for hostile purposes, including ASAT attacks on U.S. satellites that support communications, navigation, reconnaissance and surveillance and other C4ISTAR missions. U.S. space supremacy in the 21st century is, according to some airpower theorists, the “high ground” for future success in war and deterrence. If the U.S. were to adopt this perspective on the aerospace medium, it could reconceptualize the role of missile defenses within a larger framework of aerospace denial (to enemies) and maximum aerospace exploitation (for the U.S. and its allies). Air and space based missile defenses would have priority compared to ground and sea based systems, and the United States might move from the “military use” of space for supporting missions to actual deployment of weapons in space and the carrying out of combat missions in space. These missions could include antimissile defenses based on non-nuclear principles and located on satellites or other space based platforms, with capabilities for interspace or space-to-earth strikes. The U.S. arms control community and some members of Congress will almost certainly object to plans for such a robust military use of space, however.
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