Archive for August, 2009


Warning Shot

August 2009


arctiWhatever else comes of the mystery surrounding the putative serial hijackings, loss and finding of the timber carrier MV Arctic Sea (most of which is set out here and the links therein), professional maritime security people ought to be concerned about what this ship’s misadventures say about (1) the ability of a 4000 ton ship to take itself off the grid and (2) our inability to find it.

Let’s see, with the AIS switched off and, perhaps, crew cell phones dumped overboard (preventing their use as GPS trackers), you seem to have -Poof!, an instant ghost ship! Radio silence creates a status that leaves those hunting for the vessel in the dark with a great big ocean to search.

Now, this may all prove to be a great insurance scam, but …for several years we have been hearing, giving and responding to warnings about the danger of a rogue ship wandering the seas. And now we seemingly have a case in point.

During his comments to the BBC (here), Major General Tom Wilkerson of the USNI refers to a couple of concerns, including the placement of something of value other than the ship’s normal cargo on the vessel, or, more ominously, something dangerous to others on the ship.

For example, on one extreme, there have been warnings of “SCUD” missiles being placed on small merchants and launching missile attacks (see here). A more likely scenario involves the use of a small ship as a carrier of massive amounts of explosives and other weapons of mass destruction and sailing the vessel into a densely populated port area and triggering the device. Further, another scenario is even less complicated. As every sailor knows, the capture of a ship near busy shipping lanes poses other dangers to vessels sailing nearby – as well stated by CDR Salamander in a post comment from a couple of years ago about meeting up with a “suicide ship” in restricted waters:

CDR Salamander wrote: “… If you are toddling around a 7kts and she turns prior to her 5,000yd CPA to port? Oh, lets be nice and say he is only going 20kts (sneaky fellow is he). Being simple men, lets round things down to a 20kt average combined closure speed when he turns prior to CPA (he then goes to flank and you respond by a turn to starboard and hit the juice….but you are on a LHD, not a nuke and it takes awhile to speed up). Using our handy “6 minute rule”, you have about 7.5 minutes to react there shipmate. Mmmmm. Its the mid-watch. It takes 45 seconds for Seaman Farmer and the OOD LTJG PilotWashout to realize what is going on, and 15 seconds for brain-mouth-helm to do anything (oh, and don’t forget to tell the Skipper-oh there he is, in his undies yelling his head off). Lets say you are in the Babara Mandral, um I mean Bab-El-Mandab Straits ….”

Roughly translated- if a ship unexpectedly and intentionally turns toward you in restricted waters, you have very little time to react and that time is diminished by a variety of human factors, including the time it takes to recognize the danger, communicate the danger and take actions to avoid the danger. This “time shrinking” is also dependent on your own ship’s ability to maneuver, accelerate or decelerate. A collision that follows could result in sinking, death or severe damage.

Okay, Salamander was writing, based on a real incident, about a very large ship doing something bad in restricted waters. Suppose, however, a ship the size of Arctic Sea was turned into a “Vessel Borne IED” (VBIED) and maneuvers itself against a cruse ship or a tanker in a shipping lane? What are you going to do?

The whole point being we have to get a better handle on tracking ships – perhaps even to the point of mandating the locator equivalent of a “dead man” switch which lights up when attempts are made to disable AIS or other systems.

Something to think about. We’ve had our warning shot across the bow.

UPDATE (17 Aug 09) Ship found, without hijackers or pirates . . .
UPDATE (18 Aug 09) Eight suspected pirates arrested by the Russian Navy.
UPDATE (18 Aug 09) But wait – there’s more !- according to the Finns.

I guess we can close up shop now.


Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D.

Greetings from New England. Yes, I too am at the beach. But I’m still working, and the purpose of this brief is to tell you about a new project that the Lexington Institute has launched while you were away. It is a defense blog. Yes, yes, I know — there are already hundreds of defense blogs, and many of them are pretty awful. But that’s why we launched our own blog on the Lexington homepage, called Early Warning. It isn’t awful. In fact, I’m betting that if you read a few entries, at some point you’ll say — “Gee, I didn’t know that.”

We all recognize what the main problem is with blogs. The barriers to entry are so low that almost anyone with a laptop can start one, and it’s hard to sort out the good ones from tendentious nonsense. For every interesting, competent effort like DoD Buzz, there are dozens of ill-mannered rants masquerading as insight. To say that blogs have lowered the standards of public discourse on policy matters is an under-statement — there are no standards. Anybody can say anything, with extra points for verbosity.

We are trying a different approach. First, we intend to keep our postings brief. It will be a rare day indeed that a posting on Early Warning runs as long as this brief, and the typical posting will run to two or three paragraphs. Second, we plan to be long on facts — especially little known, useful facts — and short on opinions. I mean really, why should you care what I think about the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle or V-22 tiltrotor unless I have inside information to impart? And third, we intend to write about national security in a somewhat more expansive manner than most military analysts. We will frequently look beyond the realm of strategy and tactics, to dissect economic trends, political developments and technology breakthroughs that have a material bearing on national security.

Obviously, we do not expect this vision of a world-class web-log to spring spontaneously from the collective consciousness of the Lexington braintrust onto the Internet. It will take some time to get the blog right, including all the material that surrounds it at The blog has actually been up and running for over two weeks, and we are still tweaking features such as how the postings display and are written. But we think we’re off to a good start, and are already getting indications that people in the defense community have noticed.

We want Early Warning to be an island of sanity in the chaos of the Worldwide Web. With so many traditional news outlets declining and no new hierarchy of credible sources yet emerged, we’d like to offer a site that is both sensible and engaging. We will never match the resources of the New York Times or the reach of the Associated Press. But we hope that when you read something on the Lexington blog and say, “Gee, I didn’t know that,” it will be because the information is new and not because it is wrong.

Uh, huh – classy.

About like the Soviets on 08 AUG 45; tell’n us how to address our failure to fight and win against Japan — or sump’n.

Today Steve Ambrose joins the project with the battle of the Eastern Solomons. A former S-3 NFO, Steve has a wonderful blog that runs the gamut from hand-crafted wooden canoes to an on-line novel about life at sea (‘On The Line‘).

Coral Sea was the scene of the first carrier vs carrier battle where tactically, the Japanese forces may have won, but strategically, their push south was stopped. Midway was the second – open ocean, vast distances and a signatory win for the beleaguered American forces in the Pacific. It would not, however, be the last major carrier vs carrier battle. For the third engagement, we have the Battle of the Eastern Solomons… – SJS


The South Pacific is literally choked with islands – depending on how you define an island there are over 900 in the Solomon archipelago alone. Americans tend to think of the Pacific as an unbroken expanse of open ocean probably due to the fact that there is nothing to run into between California and the Hawaiian islands. But if you continue to push west it becomes a confusing maze rather quickly. There is quite a bit of volcanic rock between Pearl Harbor and Sidney. More quick study reveals that Australia is much closer to Japan than any of her allied partners. Take away the watchful eyes of modern satellites, computers, and information technology and you can begin to fathom the problems faced by the Allies in 1942. Tracking the Japanese expansion was largely guesswork based on limited intelligence, radio intercepts, and the old eyeball.

In a very simplistic sense the entire Pacific Campaign can be reduced down to the Allied effort to maintain open sea lanes and lines of communication with Australia and Japan’s counter-effort to cut the same. Air superiority was the key whether land or sea based and even the carriers depended on permanent bases for supplies, ammo, and fuel. Control of local real estate was a critical key to success in the Pacific. Most of the key battles involved islands with air strips or islands that were deemed conducive to the construction of new runways. Since the size of the geographic area involved was so immense it was not uncommon for Battle Groups to cover thousands of miles undetected. It seems incomprehensible today that a Carrier Battle Group could transit such distances in secrecy but there were no satellites or GPS systems in 1942. Even radar technology was in its infancy. The US had a slight advantage over the Japanese in both the gear and experienced technicians but it was still a new technology. Radio gear was also rather crude and problematic by today’s standards adding to confusion in the air during combat.

Keep all this in mind as we review the third major battle between aircraft carriers in the Pacific Theater: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons.

pic2In order to prevent Allied support and/or staging in Australia, Japan needed to control the entire chain of the Eastern Solomons. The US Marine amphibious assault of Guadalcanal on 7-9 August 1942 and capture of the unfinished airstrip, re-named Henderson Field, opened up a gap in the barrier Japan was building north of Australia. This Allied foothold had to be addressed. On 16 August, Rear Admiral Tanaka, embarked in the light cruiser Jintsu departed Truk with a convoy of eight destroyers escorting three transports headed for Guadalcanal with a naval landing force intent on re-taking the island (1). The location of Japanese fleet assets, specifically carrier task forces, during August 1942 was sketchy at best with both US and Australian intelligence working frantically to decipher Japanese message traffic. Finally on 22 August message routing into Truk led PACFLT to assume a carrier task force was headed south. CINCPAC still wasn’t convinced (2). Neither side knew where the other’s carriers were located or headed: the Americans thought there might be a force pushing south toward Guadalcanal and the Japanese were fairly certain US carriers were somewhere to the southeast but search planes had been unable to locate them.

Japan had a sizable force, in addition to the transport convoy headed to reinforce Guadalcanal, headed south. It included the heavy carriers Shokaku pic3and Zuikaku along with the light carrier Ryujo. Admiral Yamamoto’s plan, dubbed Operation KA, was to finally destroy the American carriers while simultaneously supporting the amphibious force on its way to Guadalcanal (3). The Americans did indeed have three carriers operating southeast of Guadalcanal strategically beyond the range of Japanese aircraft based out of Rabaul. Saratoga, Enterprise, and Wasp were all waiting for the Japanese attempt to reinforce/retake the island. Meanwhile, the US Marines holding Henderson Field were constantly harassed by Japanese air and naval forces. Daily bombing raids out of Rabaul hampered work on the airfield while nightly runs by destroyers and cruisers down the channel called “The Slot” (4) kept the Marines on edge with naval gunfire. Keeping the Marines supplied was a hazardous mission for Allied ships, usually attempted under cover of darkness. In the pre-dawn hours of 22 August, US destroyers Blue and Henley were pushing ahead of a small supply convoy when Blue was hit in the stern by a torpedo that took out her rudder and propellers rendering her dead in the water. She was taken in tow by Henley but eventually scuttled when it became evident that she wouldn’t make safe harbor before encountering the enemy(5).

With both sides focused on Guadalcanal the problem of locating the opposing forces would soon resolve itself. The American presence on the island was slowly strengthening and the airfield was at least functional as illustrated by flight operations. This fact worried the Japanese to no end and they hastened to intervene before a significant build-up could be accomplished. Patrols pushed further in search of the American carriers. Admiral Tanaka, with his convoy escort force, became increasingly concerned about his lack of air support as he approached Guadalcanal. He was told by his superiors that if the Americans were not located by 24 August that the carrier task force would provide cover, otherwise he was on his own (6). Presumably to weaken the chances of air attacks launched from Guadalcanal, strikes were launched against the island on the 22nd and 23rd but both were turned back by weather.

On the 23rd Japanese submarines, scouting the area ahead of the carrier force, spotted US carrier aircraft. Another American aircraft spotted Japanese cruisers and destroyers (deployed well ahead of the carriers) but still no carriers. Additionally a PBY spotted Tanaka’s convoy at much closer range and, when no fighter cover appeared, maintained contact for a while. Things were heating up quickly. At 1510 on the 23rd, Saratoga launched a strike against the convoy but weather and a course change by Tanaka kept the strike group from acquiring their target. The planes landed after dark on Guadalcanal.

Based on an erroneous intelligence report that still placed the Japanese carriers in Truk, Admiral Fletcher pulled the Wasp and her escorts and sent them south to refuel. Wasp and her pilots would sit out the third clash of Naval Aviation in the South Pacific(7).

The early hours of 24 August found the Japanese fleet steaming southeast. Even Tanaka had turned back toward Guadalcanal the night before after successfully evading the strike group. To assist Tanaka, the light carrier Ryujo along with three escorts, had been directed south to cover the convoy. Both Japanese and American planes searched in vain until a PBY spotted the Ryujo at 0935(8). The whereabouts of the heavy carriers remained a mystery and Fletcher was hesitant to commit assets against the smaller carrier when he knew there were larger, more dangerous targets lurking out there. Shortly after noon the Japanese light carrier launched a strike against Guadalcanal which Saratoga detected with her radar. With this development, Fletcher could wait no longer and launched a strike off Saratoga against Ryujo.

The Japanese strike against Guadalcanal was met by Marine and Army Air Force planes and it quickly degenerated into a fur-ball in which both sides boasted winning numbers although post analysis revealed each lost only three fighters(9). The American carriers were finally spotted by a Japanese sea plane around 1400. It was quickly shot down before the crew could complete a contact report but its course and speed coupled with time aloft allowed for a rough position on the US forces.

Shortly after the strike group launched from Saratoga against the light carrier and her escorts, US planes spotted the heavy carriers headed south but in the confusion that rendered the radio net all but useless these reports didn’t make it to Fletcher in time for him to divert the strike group. The combined bombing and torpedo runs against Ryujo eventually sank her but she didn’t go down until later that night so it was months before her loss was confirmed.

Based on data compiled from various scouting missions and partial contact reports, the Japanese knew roughly where the American carriers were and launched their first strike at 1455(10). A little over an hour later Enterprise observed an intermittent contact on her radar and knew she had a strike inbound. Both US carriers started launching aircraft in anticipation of the enemy arrival. The Japanese strike was supposed to split the attack between both carriers but they gained contact on Enterprise first and with Wildcats swarming around them they began diving on the Enterprise and battleship North Carolina. The strike scored three bomb hits on the carrier causing severe damage. One bomb penetrated the wooden flight deck and several decks below it before detonating. The blast penetrated the hull below the waterline and set fires below decks but her damage control team had her patched up and recovering aircraft an hour after the last bomb hit.

Enterprise was not out of danger, however. As a precaution during the bombing her steering compartment had been sealed including the ventilation system. Heat from the fires and the pic5steering gear caused the compartment to become an oven. The men became incapacitated and when the steering motor failed, jamming the rudder hard over, the ship circled helplessly as it watched another wave of Japanese planes on radar. Luckily for the crippled ship the strike group had been given a bad steer and never established contact with their intended target(11).

After heavy losses in the first strike and the inability of the second to relocate the American carriers, the third was scrubbed. The remaining Japanese carriers turned north to refuel while some of the cruisers and battleships continued to press south looking for targets of opportunity. As the 24th came to a close without contact they reversed and followed their carriers. Enterprise, once she regained steering control, and Saratoga had both turned into the wind to recover aircraft and since their heading happened to be to the southeast they continued that direction to put some sea room between them and their enemy. This clash between carriers had cost the Japanese dearly: one light carrier and seventy-five planes while US losses were limited to twenty-five planes and all her carriers were still afloat. The end of the 24th also marked the end of the carrier battle as action on the 25th only involved land-based aircraft.pic6

Based on bad intelligence that reported two US carriers burning, Tanaka pressed south with his convoy and was spotted by a PBY. Eight Wildcats and eight SBD’s launched from Henderson Field and took out one of the transports plus damaged Jintsu. Later in the morning a flight of B-17’s sank the destroyer Mutsuki while she was alongside the stricken transport. The Japanese launched one more bombing raid against the Marines at Henderson but only inflicted minor damage(12).

Poor coordination and communication were cited by both sides as areas for improvement. With today’s integrated battlespace management it’s hard to fathom the risk and challenges faced by sailors and airmen in 1942. They did what they needed to with what they had and their success speaks highly of their dedication and character.










1. Guadalcanal, Frank, Richard B., Penguin Press, 1990, p. 159.
2. Frank, p. 162.
4. Ibid
5. Frank, p.166.
6. Ibid., p. 164.
8. Frank, p. 177.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
12. Frank, p. 191.

(cross-posted @

Posted by SteelJaw in Navy | 4 Comments

For those retirees in the Jacksonville, FL areas or those non-USN active duty in the area who didn’t get the email, I though I would post this in case you have an interest in participating. Note that you need access to the base.

I don’t think CAPT Scorby would mind if I quoted in full.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, the return of Fallen Hero CAPT Michael “Scott” Speicher will occur this week. The latest plan is as follows: CAPT Speicher’s remains will arrive at NAS Jacksonville on Thursday at 1500. The remains will then be transferred to the NAS Jacksonville All Saints Chapel where they will lay in repose until 0900 Friday. All personnel with base access will be allowed to pay their respects at the Chapel from 1630 Thursday until 0700 Friday. This will not be open to the general public. National and local media will be present throughout.

As we have done for all our Fallen Heroes, respectfully request your assistance in lining the roads to honor CAPT Speicher and his family. This one is going to be different as a result of the route and will occur on both days. On Thursday, respectfully request that you line the roads from Yorktown and then down Mustin to the Chapel. Those personnel that previously lined Yorktown WEST of Mustin (VP-30/Hangar 511, etc) are now requested to line Mustin down to the Chapel instead. On Friday,
respectfully request that you line the roads from Mustin to Yorktown towards the main gate. Those personnel that previously lined Yorktown EAST of Mustin (FRCSE/FISC/Air Ops, Etc) are now requested to line Mustin down to the Chapel instead. Bottom line is please fill in on Mustin and Yorktown as required.

This is once again an opportunity to honor a Fallen Navy Hero and show a grieving family that they are not alone and that the men and women of NAS Jacksonville stand behind them.

Once again, appropriate honors is to salute the Hearst as it drives by. Non military would place their hand over their heart. Security will also be closing all roads/parking lots throughout the route on both days as the procession departs so you may want to alert your personnel to avoid departing around the time of the procession. If there are any changes to the times or routes, I will update you. Thank you all once again for your amazing support!

CAPT Jack Scorby
CO, NAS Jacksonville

Hat tip Byron.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 2 Comments

Assassin’s mace (English adaptation of the Chinese phrase ‘shashou jiang’) — one periodically hears of the term used, usually in combination with advocacy for avoiding the same through transformational (forces)(TTP)(platforms)(weapons)(networks) – pick any, none, or all. Most recently, the ASBM the Chinese are purported to be developing has served as the poster child for Assassin’s Mace, but ’twasn’t always so. In the opening stages of the Pacific War, especially the period 1942-44, US forces were on the receiving end of a true assassin’s mace – the Long Lance torpedo. How was that? Well, let guest author, Chuck Hill (who will be bringing us the writeup on the 13/14 Nov 42 Guadalcanal action in the near future) explain… – SJS
P.S. Of course we are well aware of the irony in using a Chinese phrase to describe a Japanese weapon.

Type93torpedoProblems with American torpedoes are well documented. As a result of false economies and the arrogance of personnel charged with designing them, America’s new standard torpedoes, the Mk 13 air launch (also used by PT boats), the submarine launched Mk 14, and surface launched Mk 15, were never realistically tested before the war. They had problems which included the magnetic exploder, the contact exploder, and the depth keeping mechanism. But even if they had worked perfectly, American torpedoes were significantly inferior to Japanese surface and submarine launched torpedoes, as were every other torpedo in the world.

The giant 24 inch Type 93 “Long Lance” torpedoes in particular, were a secret weapon, expected to level the field with the numerically superior American Navy. Japanese pre-war planning had included special formations, the Night Battle Force (Yasen long-lanceButai) or Advanced Force, designed to exploit these torpedoes using night attacks. It was primarily the ships of the Advanced Force that would fight the night battles of the Solomons Campaign.

Like most of the torpedoes of the period, the most common Japanese surface vessel and submarine torpedoes were steam driven. In the case of the Japanese torpedoes, they burned Kerosene. Unlike virtually every other torpedo, they used pure oxygen rather than natural air to support combustion. Pure oxygen eliminated 77% of the gases of natural air that took up a great part of the volume of the torpedo, contributed nothing to the combustion process, but added considerably to the wake of the torpedo. This gave the torpedoes longer range at higher speeds with very little wake. Here is a statistical comparison of the respective surface launched torpedoes (from Campbell):

US Japanese
Mk 15 Type 93, Model 1, Mod 1,2
Diameter 21” 24”
Length oa 24’0” 29’6.3”
Total Weight 3841 lbs 5952 lbs
Charge 825 lbs 1080 lbs
Range 6,000yds/45 kts 21,900 yds/48-50 kts
10,000 yds/33.5 kts 35,000 yds/40-42 kts
15,000/26.5 kts 43,700 yds/36/38 kts

Not only were the torpedoes unique in their range and lethality. The supporting systems that employed the torpedoes were also unique. Oxygen generating systems were provided for topping up the pressure inside the torpedoes. Generally there was a reload torpedo for each tube and a system that allowed it to be reloaded in about 20 minutes. A notable exception was the torpedo cruiser conversions, Kitakami and Oi, equipped with no less than 40 torpedo tubes. Cruisers typically carried 16 to 24 torpedoes and destroyers 16 to 18.

To take advantage of the increased range, in some installations, the Japanese used a firecontrol computer comparable to that used for controlling guns in an anti-surface mode, worked by five crewmembers, that was good to ranges of 40,000 meters. They also took extra care to insure that their torpedoes ran straight and true.

While the Zero fighter came as a nasty shock; it should not have been, because it had been employed before Pearl Harbor, and an American Naval Attache had sat in one at an air show outside Tokyo in 1940. At least its qualities were quickly recognized and tactics were changed in an attempt to neutralize its advantages relatively quickly. In the case of the Japanese torpedoes, American commanders made tactical errors throughout virtually the entire Solomons Campaign because the range of these torpedoes went unrecognized. It did not have to have been that way, “in a rare occurrence, a volunteer agent brought the American Naval Attache in Tokyo detailed information about the Type 93 Torpedo. … But in 1940, when the American Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) offered this information to its customers, insisting that it came from an ‘impeccable’ source, the Navy’s Bureau of Ordinance declared such a weapon to be impossible. Neither the British nor the Americans had yet mastered oxygen technology, so it was inconceivable that the Japanese had done so.” (Aldrich, p 64) Later, a type 93 torpedo was recovered, but no one seemed in any hurry to let the people who were actually fighting the war know about its exceptional performance. (Crenshaw)

(crossposted at

Aldrich, Richard James, Intelligence and the War Against Japan, Cambridge Press, 2000
Campbell, John, Naval Weapons of World War Two, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1985
Chesneau, Roger, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922-1946, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1980
Crenshaw, Russell Sydnor, Jr., South Pacific Destroyer, Naval Institute Press, 1998
Dull, Paul S., A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945), Naval Institute Press, 1978
Lacroix, Eric and Linton, Wells II, Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 1997

USS Minneapolis (CA-36) after bow loss due to torpedo strike

USS Minneapolis (CA-36) after bow loss due to torpedo strike

Today’s post examines the first major response at sea, to the invasion by Allied forces on Guadalcanal a couple of days earlier. Our guest author for this article is CDR Bill Bullard, USN. CDR Bullard has just completed his CO tour as the 70th Commanding Officer of Old Ironsides, where Age of Sail history dominated his studies for the last two years. This is effort marks his return to the Age of Steam and, in his words, this is his first real attempt at a major blog posting. – SJS

Arkansas’ “Old Sparky”

08 August, 1942, 1200 EST. Herbert Haupt, Edward Kerling, Hermann Neubauer, Werner Thiel, Heinrich Heinck, and Richard Quirin – six Nazi saboteurs of Operation Pastorius have just been electrocuted in Washington, DC. It is the largest mass electrocution in the history of the United States.

What nobody in Washington knew was that the Pacific Fleet had just undergone an “electrocution” of its own. Ten minutes earlier and nearly half a world away, about three nautical miles due east of Savo Island, Captain Frederick Reifkohl, USN entered the water and swam away from the superstructure deck of USS VINCENNES as she rolled over and went down by the head. VINCENNES sank in 500 fathoms of water at 0250 09 August 1942, just 15 minutes after her sister ship USS QUINCY went down. Within ten hours two more cruisers, HMAS CANBERRA and USS ASTORIA, would join them as the first warships to inhabit Ironbottom Sound. (continued…)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Liberty Ship S.S. JOHN W BROWN will be open for tours in Baltimore’s inner harbor August 13 – 16.


She is one of only two remaining WWII Liberty Ships, the other one being the SS JEREMIAH O’BRIEN which is based in San Francisco. (There is the HELLAS LIBERTY that was just towed to Greece. I am unsure of the current condition of that vessel.)

If you have never been onboard a Liberty ship and you are in the area, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.

Here are the details:

Project Liberty Ship, Baltimore, Maryland, announces that the S.S. JOHN W. BROWN, America’s oldest surviving Liberty ship, will visit Baltimore’s Inner Harbor August 13-16, 2009. The BROWN will dock at the Inner Harbor’s West Wall Thusday morning, August 13, and will remain there until the evening of Sunday, August 16. The ship will be open for public tours.

The public is cordially invited to tour the BROWN each day according to the schedule below. We ask a donation of $5 for visitors age 12 and older. Children younger than 12 may tour the ship without charge but must be accompanied by an adult.

Most of the ship will be open to visitors. The BROWN is a fully operational and seaworthy World War II-era cargo ship. You may tour museum spaces, crew quarters, bridge, radio room, chart room, messrooms, troop berthing areas, stern gun deck, engine room, etc. Please note that for reasons of safety, children under age 12 are not permitted to visit the engine room. A few additional areas of the ship are off-limits to all visitors, either for safety considerations or for the privacy of our crew.

The Ship’s Store will be open each day where you can purchase souvenirs of your visit.

For further information call the ship’s office at 410-558-0646 or e-mail [email protected]Project Liberty Ship


You can read more on Liberty Ships and their contribution to World War II at Wikipedia here and more at fellow USNI Guest Blogger EagleSpeak here.


Posted by FFry in History, Merchant Marine | 3 Comments

The Navy has employed public relations and public affairs as part of their communications arsenal for decades. But, they don’t take advantage of the technology available to directly market their message to U.S. consumers – consumers who can give them a temperature reading on the nation’s attitudes towards the Navy. In fact, 25 million of the nation’s consumers are veterans, approximately 5.2 million of those who served in the Navy. They can serve as force multipliers for the Navy.

As communications professionals know, direct marketing has evolved from costly direct mail to very cost-efficient email marketing. Maintaining databases of thousands (or millions) of email addresses is getting cheaper and cheaper. These databases can be segmented by age, veteran status, geography, or interests.

So, why doesn’t the Navy take advantage of this? Sure, all the services are starting to get onboard with social media. The services’ social media strategies vary widely and their use is growing in a haphazard manner, with some four-stars and commands hosting their own blogs or “tweeting” and some services blocking the use of Facebook. Those who are using the tools essentially broadcast to anyone who wants to listen – and that anyone is usually an internal audience. Instead of “broadcasting,” what they really should be doing is “microcasting” to discrete audiences that they deliberately solicit to educate and influence.

Why don’t they collect email addresses from people who attend air shows, ship tours, fleet weeks, ship commissionings and commemoration events to join a national Navy mailing list? With technology today, registrants could opt-in to specialized mailing lists depending on their interest: national Navy news, upcoming ship visits, local base news, or policy issue updates (benefits, gays in the Navy, GI Bill).

The Navy (as do all the services) spends significant resources on media relations – a communications medium that is filtered. They also spend significant resources on community outreach, but that return on investment is rarely quantifiably measured. For example, if neighbors complain about aircraft noise and pollution at a nearby air station, the Navy usually holds community hearings, hosts community leaders at annual air shows and makes speeches at the local chambers of commerce and Rotary clubs. These are worthwhile activities, but they can be expensive and resource-intensive. And how do they know if their efforts have quelled public concern? They rely on television and marketing research companies’ polls or media op-eds or local lawmakers’ actions. Is this enough?

Private sector companies employ some marketing strategies to get their unfiltered message out to their consumers that the Navy could consider, e.g., letters from the CEO in full-page ads in national newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post or Wall Street Journal) or notices sent via snail mail (notices from the CEO inserted in monthly statements or newsletters). But why not start with an email marketing campaign?


Google Voice Goes .MIL

August 2009


voice_logoI think it would be a very good idea if this was getting more acknowledgment and attention within the military services, because this is a really cool offering Google has made available to military service members. From the Google Public Policy Blog, Audio Care Packages to Service Members with Google Voice.

For servicemen and women who are constantly on the move, having a single number and an easy way to retrieve messages from loved ones can be invaluable. To help our service members communicate with their loved ones and show our support to those serving our country, Google is launching a new program. Starting today, any active U.S. service member with a .mil email address can sign up for a Google Voice account at and start using the free service within a day.

When you deploy, your life is put on hold. While you live and work in a different world, everyone else moves on with life back home. Your family and friends keep moving, and this sometimes means it’s just not possible for them to stay awake until 2 a.m. to receive a phone call. Calling Iraq or Afghanistan is seldom an option.

Google Voice provides a solution to some of these problems. Service members can set up an account before they deploy. Or if they’re already deployed, families can now set up an account for their service member. Loved ones can call to leave messages throughout the day, and then when that service member visits an Internet trailer, all the messages are right there. It’s like a care package in audio form.

How does it work? Well, a Google phone number is like a regular phone number except instead of being tied to a phone, it is tied to you (think virtually). When someone calls you, they call your Google number and you choose where it rings, whether your office, cell phone, home, Aunt Fannie’s basement, or even that otherwise useless phone unable to make outgoing long distance calls in the shack the LtCol has you hanging out this week. Actually, a Google number is even more flexible than that, because it can ring all your numbers at once if you like, or just specific phones depending upon who is calling!

For example, when my mother-in-law calls it only rings at home, but if my mother calls it will reach my cell phone. Whenever my most annoying, slow paying client calls, I can simply send that call straight to Googe Voicemail so I don’t have to talk to them, then access my voicemail from any phone or even online.

The real advantage for service members is that the Google number will stay the same, tied to you, even as you move around the world not only during a deployment, but throughout a career. Very flexible, and essentially a virtual phone number that allows you to change cell phones, and cell phone services, without worrying about losing your cell phone number as you constantly change service providers.

I think Google has the right idea here inviting military service members as early testers of the service, because military service members represent an ideal group to give them the most mileage for what amounts to free beta testing the Google Voice service. Could end up being a very useful service for the Blackberry officer, given that Google Voice apps for Blackberrys are already available, assuming IT will allow you to have the app on your Blackberry…

Posted by galrahn in Cyber | 2 Comments

This week we get down to brass tacks – the kickoff of what would become the Solomons Campaign. UltimaRatioRegis once again provides this week’s post with the opening stages of the invasion and occupation of Guadalcanal, on this, the 67th anniversary of this signatory battle. And while we’re about remembering, if you haven’t signed the Enterprise petition yet, please make haste to do so… – SJS

Assault Force: The First Marine Division

The formation of the First and Second Marine Divisions on 1 February, 1941 was the first time the USMC had ever fielded a division-sized combat element. Since being hatched out of the 1st Marine Brigade, the First Marine Division had undergone traumatic spasms of growth to fill out the ranks of the three infantry regiments, the artillery regiment, and the other specialized units that comprised the Division’s force list.

The 5th and 7th Marines had been divided and divided again to form the 1st Marines, the third of the Division’s infantry regiments, and 5th Marines had been pirated a second time to form the 1st Raider Battalion. Initially, however, the First MarDiv would be minus the 7th Marines, detached to guard Samoa before the Division sailed from San Diego for Wellington, NZ. In its place would be the newly-formed and largely untrained 2nd Marines, attached from the Second Marine Division.

Almost none of the Division’s junior Marines had been in the Corps prior to Pearl Harbor. These green and inexperienced men had among them a sprinkling of either “Old Breed” active duty Marines or Marine Reservists who had been activated the previous year. With few exceptions, older veterans of France in the previous war, Banana War Marines, or the handful that had had seen action against the Japanese earlier in 1942, the Division was almost devoid of combat experience. In the Officer ranks, many were experienced combat leaders, some already legends in the Corps. But none had ever handled a division-sized fight, operationally or logistically.


Gen Vandegrift as CMC 1943 (Left) Assistant Division Commander - BGen W H Rupertus (Right)

The Division Commander, MajGen A. A. Vandegrift, was a thirty year veteran with combat experience in Haiti, even serving as a member of the Haitian Constabulary before returning home in 1920. It would be his Division that would test the fledgling amphibious doctrine so painstakingly developed between the wars and practiced so extensively on Culebra the previous year.

Vandegrift fretted about the rather incomplete state of training in his Division as they arrived in Wellington in June 1942, but had been promised that no major combat would be required for six months. Little more than a week later, that same Division would be assigned as the ground combat component of WATCHTOWER, the seizure of Guadalcanal (known by the code name of CACTUS), Tulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo. Whatever the state of training in First MarDiv, just over 950 Officers and 18,000 Marines embarked for war in late-July, 1942 (The Old Breed, McMillan, George, Infantry Journal Press, 1949 p. 23).

Before departure for the objective, the Division conducted a thoroughly dismal rehearsal at Kodo Island in late July. (This event is well-documented in August’s Naval History Magazine.) Despite the missteps, an important lesson learned was the requirement for organized boat waves to be led toward the beach by larger ships that could provide cover and some fire support. This would help reduce confusion and cut the time required to build up combat power ashore, the critical component to successful amphibious assault. (continued)

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older Entries Newer Entries »