Archive for December, 2008


Coast Guard Christmas

December 2008


Twas the night before Christmas and all through each state,
Coast Guard families were starting to celebrate.
Just then from the white House came an urgent call,
A crisis had arisen that would affect one and all.

In fact the U.S. State Department was frantic,
For Santa Claus had just landed in the Atlantic!

It Was foggy as ever; Rudolph had made a blunder.
Santa, sleigh, and eight reindeer were going under.
Though the stockings were hung by the chimneys with care.
Poor Santa gurgled, “I’ll never get there.”

When what to his wondering eye should appear;
But some coast guard cutters with their rescue gear!
The officers and crew were so lively and quick;
Sure was a lucky break for good ole Saint Nick.

With a nod from the captain. they went right to work.
Rudolph was embarrassed, he felt like a jerk.
Poor Santa was soggy, but as anyone could see,
He was very grateful to the U.S.C.G!

And we heard him exclaim as they towed him from sight,
“If it weren’t for age and weight, I’d enlist Tonight!”

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Coast Guard | 2 Comments

Remember the Korean War? The Christmas Eve abandonment of Hungnam?:

The last pilot to fly over Hungnam was Princeton’s LT R.B. Mack, who described the night as “…cloudless, cold, and unfriendly. Haze was everywhere,” said Mack. “The artificial haze of war–one part hate, one part frustration, stirred to an even pall by high explosives.
“I was flying the last launch of the day as one of two F4U-5Ns, Detachment Fox of VC-3 from Princeton.

“After a dusk launch, I received orders to proceed to Hungnam as target combat air patrol for the withdrawal of our forces from that port. After a very lonely trip, I arrived about 1900 and reported to Mount McKinley. The fighter director stationed me over Hungnam at 15,000 feet altitude. I had a grandstand seat for the most dismal and distressing sight I had ever witnessed.

“Below, the last of the troops and supplies had been loaded on board the LSTs and other evacuation craft and were pulling away from the dock areas. There were fires everywhere throughout the area, and, as I watched, flames broke out around the docks, growing and spreading until the whole waterfront seemed ablaze. Whatever had been left behind was being made useless for the Reds.

“As the LSTs cleared the beaches, several of our destroyers moved in and did their bit to ruin the real estate for future Communist use. I circled Hungnam until 2045. The ships below formed up single file, nose-and-tail like circus elephants, and headed seaward and then south to Pusan.

“As I took departure for Princeton, I called for the Mount McKinley and we exchanged greetings. “Merry Christmas,” we said, for it was Christmas Eve 1950….”

From USNI Press–The Sea War In Korea by Commanders MW Cagle and FA Manson. Have a grand Holiday–

No shocker, but still makes you go, hmmmmm.

“Aircraft carriers are a symbol of a country’s overall national strength as well as the competitiveness of the country’s naval force,” Chinese Ministry of National Defence spokesman Senior Colonel Huang Xueping told reporters.

“China has a large sea territory. It is the sacred responsibility of our armed forces to protect our sea territory and to maintain our maritime sovereignty and rights and interests. China, taking into account all relevant factors, will earnestly research and consider (building aircraft carriers).”

Ria Novosti)

Bulava Launch (source: Ria Novosti)

“After its firing from the submarine Dmitry Donskoy, the Bulava missile self-liquidated and exploded into the air” – Russian MoD spokesman to Interfax 23 Dec 08

And thus was written the postscript on the latest test of the star-crossed Bulava SLBM. Five failures in eight attempts would seem to call into question the fast-track to IOC/deployment of the missile – but given that there is no alternative to speak of (yes, there is the SS-N-23, but it won’t fit the launchers on the new SSBNs), it looks like the Russians are stuck with continuing to try and make the Bulava work. And maybe not so fast on the IOC…

The Bulava scenario is pregnant with questions for our own procurement process – e.g., putting all your eggs in one basket and hoping it all works as advertised since you’ve pinned the future of a platform/capability on the success of that development (*cough*JSF*cough*). So what happens if we find ourselves in a similar coffin corner with a major program? Cancel it and hope that in the interim we can stretch out the legacy platform until the (next) new one comes on line? Been there, done that. Remember the A-12? Look what that scenario did to the VA and VF communities and our long-range strike capability in particular and TACAIR in general (still feeling the aftereffects today). There’s a lot of discussion out there right now about the F-35, some legit, some politically motivated, but enough that hope alone isn’t COA if it falls short in trials (and here I’m particularly concerned about the F-35B and it’s purported weight and cooling problems). Twasn’t always so – look at the development of the Tomcat out of the ashes of the TFX, but that was a different time. Or was it? What are your thoughts?

With the Military Sealift Command playing an increasingly important part in naval operations, is it right to ignore the potential for friction between MSC Mariners and Navy commanders? Is the state of MSC/Navy relations a “non-issue?” Before deciding, read this fascinating excerpt from Baltimore Sun reporter Robert Little’s October 28, 2007 story on the USNS Comfort in South America:

“When you see this great big white ship with a red cross sitting off your coast, it is a symbol. It sends a signal to these countries about what the United States is trying to do for them,” said Navy Capt. Robert Kapcio, who served as the Comfort’s mission commander and the top military officer on the ship. “They have to know this huge white ship was not cheap to send down there.”

…According to Nanartowich, publicity was so important to the mission’s success that in the Colombian port of Bahia Maliga, Kapcio, the Navy commander, ordered the ship to anchor a mile off the coast, largely to meet the expectations of the media waiting on shore. [Capt. Ed] Nanartowich [the ship’s master] refused, citing the port’s narrow channel and dangerous cross-current, and Kapcio backed down, but not before taking the disagreement up with Navy officials in the United States.

“The political pressure has been just incredible,” Nanartowich said. “They don’t want to disappoint the television cameras.”

There’s a lot of under-charted “grey areas” in the MSC/Navy relationship that deserve greater scrutiny. In the press of a conflict or incident, there won’t be time to call Big Navy for guidance.

So…Are my concerns overblown? If not, then what would make the MSC/Navy partnership better?



A Navy Christmas Card

December 2008


Sea and sky provide the canvas on which man brushes light. For most of the year, what is produced is secondary to the task at hand – but as the Christmas season approaches the imperative turns more and more to the artistic. So, just as the average homeowner across the country adds festive lights to their homestead, the crews of ships in port, be it at home or overseas, also turn to and apply their creative talents, often with dazzling results. And yet, in other areas of the globe the chance to rest, relax and celebrate the season must perforce, be grasped in brief snatches and stolen moments because of the tasks at hand. For a globally deployed and operating force whose mission is at sea cannot swing at anchor in safe harbor all the time and remain an effective force. So as you enjoy the sights and sounds of the season, pause, reflect and give thanks for our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who are at sea this holiday, doing our nation’s bidding.

Christmas Lights – Navy Style


Question of the Week

December 2008


What period of military history is your favorite and why? Thanks!

Posted by Jim Dolbow in History | 9 Comments

After watching the Navy struggle to employ their enormous 70,000 ton Mercy Class hospital ships in unimproved harbors (details here and here), I’m struck by a passage from a September 1937 Proceedings, in “The Fleet Hospital Ship” by Captain Lucius W. Johnson:

The size of the hospital ship must be based on a judicious compromise between the needs of war and those of peace, since during her expected life of 30 years or more she will be employed under both conditions. During the World War the Aquitania and the Mauretania (30,000 tons), the France IV (29,000 tons) and the Britannia (47,000 tons) were used as hospital transports but proved unsatisfactory for this purpose. They were too large to enter Alexandria, Malta, and other harbors, so patients had to be ferried out on smaller ships, requiring an extra handling and greatly delaying evacuation. A full load of patients was not always available, resulting in uneconomical employment. They required so much fuel and fresh water, it was difficult to supply their needs. Too great size would prevent the hospital ship from entering many harbors where an advanced base might be desirable.

In a service that values the newest things on the firing line, it’s awfully easy to dismiss old stuff as “irrelevant” and “dated.” But if you can, go visit a few dank sub-sub-sub basement journal store-rooms. there’s a heck of a lot of wisdom hidden in some of the old journals. You just gotta find it.



RE: Christmas Books

December 2008


Jimbo … Shipmate … you’re coming late to the game unless people run out to the local Books-by-the-ton … but you are exactly right on the best present you can give – books!

Over at the home blog, earlier this month we did a series of book recommendations – some overlap with yours, but some other goodies as well.

We started out with long time commenter Sid’s Top-5:

Eight Bells (Original title: Eight Bells and All’s Well), by RADM Daniel V. Gallery.

South From Corregidor, by then LCDR John Morrill.

The Spirit of the Sammy B, a short oral history chronicling the not quite six month life of the Samuel B. Roberts by her skipper, RADM Robert Copeland.

One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander, by Admiral Sandy Woodward.

The Heroes’ Wife, by Dora Griffin Bell.

At the link, Sid provides some good background and prose to go with it.

We then followed up with another half dozen from other readers and fellow bloggers Eagle1, and Galrahn.

Six Frigates, by Ian W. Toll.

Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway – The Great Naval Battles As Seen Through Japanese Eyes, by CAPT Tameichi Hara.

The Line Upon a Wind: The Great War at Sea, 1793-1815, by Noel Mostert.

Sheriff of Ramadi, by Dick Couch.

Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War, by Samuel Eliot Morison.

The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq, by Bing West.

More recommendations are in the comments.

Books …. of course one should scan the USNI library first …. books … if ignorance is bliss; I don’t want to be happy.

I have been good this year so I have submitted to CINC-House my unfunded priority list which had the following titles on it:

Leathernecks: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Marine Corps by Merrill L. Bartlett and Jack Sweetman

The Sheriff of Ramadi: Navy Seals and the Winning of al-Anbar by Dick Couch

Why Vietnam Matters: An Eyewitness Account of Lessons Not Learned by Rufus Phillips

Japanese Destroyer Captain: Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Midway—The Great Naval Battles as Seen Through Japanese Eyes By Capt. Tameichi Hara with Fred Saito and Roger Pineau

What books do you hope to see under your tree next week?

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