Archive for September, 2009

Guest writer Chuck Hill joins us this week with Part II of his detailed write-up on the surface action off Guadalcanal in November 1942. Lots of lessons to be applied to today (see the roll-up at the end). BTW – whilst composing this submission he became a grandfather, so we lift a major league ‘mazal tov‘ his way…

PDF Action report of the Battleship Night Action between the U.S. and Japanese forces off Savo Island on November 14-15, 1942. The following text by Pieter Bakels is a summation of the battle.

PDF Action report of the Battleship Night Action between the U.S. and Japanese forces off Savo Island on November 14-15, 1942.

The Japanese had been relatively successful in increasing the number of men on Guadalcanal using warships as transports, but these men needed supplies and heavy equipment if they were to push the Americans off the island, and for that they needed to use larger, slower transports which would bring down even more men as well. Before these relatively vulnerable ships could venture near Guadalcanal the Japanese needed to cripple Allied air power out of Henderson Field.

An effort to do that had been stopped at great cost by Admiral Callaghan and his force of cruisers and destroyers in the predawn hours of November 13.

The eleven transports had already been en route when Admiral Tanaka, charged with escorting the transports, learned that Admiral Abe had been unable to bombard Henderson field. He and his eleven destroyers had wisely turned the transports north and returned them safely to base.

Unfortunately for the crews of the transports, that was not to be the end of their adventure. No sooner had the transports under Tanaka’s protection reached the safety of his base in Shortlands, than they were turned around to try again.

After Admiral Abe having failed, Admiral Kondo sent down a force of six cruisers and six destroyers under Vice Admiral Mikawa (who had been in charge at the Battle of Savo) and Rear Admiral Nishmura to try to knock out Henderson Field. While a heavy and two light cruisers along with 6 destroyers watched their back, three heavy cruisers fired 1,370 eight inch shells at Henderson field. But 277 lbs. eight inch shells

SBD Dauntless over Henderson Field

SBD Dauntless over Henderson Field

could not do what 1378 lbs 14 inchers had done in October. One dive-bomber and 17 fighters were destroyed and an additional 32 fighters damaged, but Henderson Field was still operational. Planes from Enterprise and Espiritu Santo, frequently fueling and rearming at Henderson Field would join those already based there in what would be one of the busiest days in the short but eventful history of the Marine Air Base.

After the bombardment Mikawa’s six cruisers and six destroyers, turned to the task of providing support for Tanaka’s convoy. They were attacked by air the following morning. Heavy Cruiser Kinugasa was sunk by dive bombers from the Enterprise, and three cruisers and a destroyer damaged. This was enough to make Mikawa abandon the transports and head for safety.

Transport Asumasan Maru on fire.

Transport Asumasan Maru on fire.

The planes then turned their attention to the transports. At the cost of only five aircraft, one heavy cruiser and seven transports were sunk, in addition to several other ships damaged. Tanaka and his destroyers did manage to save most of the men from the transports, but their supplies and heavy equipment were lost.

Read the rest of this entry »

Today, 15 September, 2009, Medal of Honor recipient Major Everett Pope, USMC, was buried at Arlington Cemetery. He died in July, on his 90th birthday. Major Pope won his Medal of Honor during the savage, bloody fighting on Peleliu. He was buried on the 65th anniversary of the landings on the island. On Peleliu, he commanded Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. His citation is below:

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commanding Officer of Company C, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu Island, Palau Group, on 19-20 September, 1944. Subjected to point-blank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Captain Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machine-gun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by wide-spread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machine-guns out of action and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with twelve men and one wounded officer, determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machine-guns, and rifles from three sides and twice subjected to suicidal charges during the night, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled and still maintaining his lines with his eight remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Captain Pope and the United States Naval Service


In his later years, Major Pope created a leadership award at his alma mater, Bowdoin College, called the Haldane Cup. It was named for his friend and comrade, Captain Andrew A. Haldane USMC, a company commander killed on Peleliu. Captain Haldane served as the Company Commander for K Co 3/5 during the battle. Among the Marines in Captain Haldane’s company was PFC Eugene B. Sledge, whose magnificent book, With the Old Breed on Peleliu and Okinawa, is one of the greatest works on the Pacific war. One cannot consider oneself a serious student of the Pacific war, the Marine Corps, or either battle of Peleliu or Okinawa, without having read that book.

Semper Fidelis, Major Pope. Yours are giant boondockers to fill.


Valour IT – The Countdown Begins

September 2009


Raise Money for Wounded Warriors and Beat Army:

What could be better than doing both at the same time?

Valour IT: Organized by the non-profit group Soldiers’ Angels, the program raises funds to provide movement-impaired wounded warriors with voice activated laptop computers.

The Countdown Begins: This year’s project runs October 26th through Veterans Day. Bloggers and site operators break into teams by military service preference. Teams then compete to see who can raise the most money. I’m inviting you to be part of Team Navy. Want to help us? Email us [email protected].

The funds raised provide:

Voice-controlled Laptops – Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.

Wii Video Game Systems – Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).

Personal GPS – Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.


Every penny raised by Valour-IT goes directly to purchasing technology for wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Guardians. There are no overhead costs for the project.


Posted by admin in Army, Navy | 1 Comment

Reports are coming out of Somalia that unknown ‘foreign soldiers and helicopters’ have attacked and killed al-Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Nabhan is on the FBI’s wanted list and is a suspect in the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in East Africa, the attempted shooting down of an airliner in 2002, and the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel.

Everyone’s first guess was that the French are responsible for the operation. The French military conducted a similar style of helicopter raid to rescue their citizens from pirates in 2008. However, France is denying any involvement.

The United States has a significant military presence off the coast of Somalia and in Djibouti. If France was not involved, then the United States military is most likely behind the attack. So, until someone tells me otherwise: a big thanks to our US servicemen on a job well done.

Update: ABC confirms my prediction, credits US commandos for the raid.

Over at the U.S. Navy Seabee Museum’s Facebook Fan Page, they just added a collection of great Seabee photos. Take a look for yourself!

I can’t wait for their new museum to open!!!

Posted by Jim Dolbow in History | 4 Comments


On September 1st, the Washington Post’s George Will put a voice behind an increasingly popular alternative strategy for Afghanistan: “America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters”. Naval blogger Galrahn points out that Will is advocating the strategy of offshore balancing. The problem is that offshore balancing in Afghanistan cannot produce victory, only prevent defeat.

In a 2008 Newsweek article, the father of offshore balancing, international relations scholar John Mearsheimer, laid out the concept:

“As an offshore balancer, the United States would keep its military forces—especially its ground and air forces—outside the Middle East, not smack in the center of it. Hence the term ‘offshore.’ As for ‘balancing,’ that would mean relying on regional powers like Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia to check each other. Washington would remain diplomatically engaged, and when necessary would assist the weaker side in a conflict. It would also use its air and naval power to signal a continued U.S. commitment to the region and would retain the capacity to respond quickly to unexpected threats, like Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.”

Offshore balancing is cheap, requiring at least one carrier group in the Arabian Sea and increased land-based air assets in Diego Garcia and perhaps Iraq. These forces could conduct airstrikes on Taliban targets to assist Afghan government units. Offshore balancing is also not new. In 1999, NATO forces flew 38,000 combat missions against Yugoslav troops, forcing them out of Kosovo. However, the trillion dollar question is this: what would an offshore balancing victory in Afghanistan look like?

In 1999, NATO airpower did not defeat Milošević, it only drove him to the bargaining table. This result is unlikely to be repeated in Afghanistan. Years of airstrikes — essentially offshore balancing — against the Taliban and their allies in Pakistan’s tribal region have yet to force Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar to negotiate. Even if they did offer to negotiate like Milošević, is this a victory the US public would accept? Not a chance.

The strategic use of airpower is about coercion, not victory. Despite all the advances in technology, victory still requires boots on the ground. Granted they do not have to be American boots, but victory is far more likely if they are. Offshore balancing can prevent the Taliban from defeating the Afghan government, by bombing the villages they are staying in and the roads they are driving on. But, preventing defeat is not victory. Airpower can force the Taliban to keep one eye on the sky, but not to give up the fight. Victory in Afghanistan requires reliable, sustainable, and capable ground forces to protect and win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and through their support, a stable state. Ironically, the losers in offshore balancing would be the Afghan people, trapped between the brutal Taliban, the undisciplined Afghan Army, and the American cruise missile.

080728-O-XXXXX-001The September 2009 issue of Proceedings is topic centric to Naval Aviation, and there are several naval aviation articles in the issue that are very good. However, I want to discuss the subscription only LCS article written by Milan Vego included in this months issue. It covers a number of LCS issues from history to current situation with module challenges ahead, but as the title hints (the topic of the article is No Need for High Speed), the LCS speed issue is addressed squarely.

High speed for a surface combatant generally incurs much higher construction costs, power requirements, fuel consumption, and maintenance; and decreased range, payload, and stealth. Yet the Navy’s specifications required the LCS to achieve a full speed of 47 to 50 knots. Normally, the high-speed requirement is based on the ship’s size, primary missions, and prospective operating environment…

Because of the speed requirement, the useful space for weapons and sensors is only about 400 tons. After deducting the needs for fuel, ammunition, crew, and stores, some 180 tons of payload remain for the mission packages.

This article is nearly 2400 words, so I am not attempting to capture the greater quality present in the article, rather examine options available for the LCS the designs.

Bob Work released a report for CSBA (PDF) during the Presidential transition period that emphasized the Littoral Combat Ship from a point of view of innovation, suggesting block purchases be used to develop the design from the current starting position. Frank Hoffman released a report for CNAS (PDF) during the same Presidential transition period that also highlighted the need for innovations in littoral warfare. This isn’t trivial, Bob Work is Undersecretary of the Navy now, and Frank Hoffman is now working out of Bob Works office. That would suggest the civilian side of the Navy is looking at the two initial LCS designs as a starting place, not a conclusion.

Milan Vego’s article stresses that the high costs of the initial LCS hulls are a result of the emphasis on speed in the design of both ships; and he also suggests that emphasis directly influences design decisions that impact power requirements, fuel consumption, maintenance, endurance, and payload. Everything from the materials used to the specific detail design is influenced by the speed requirement, so if the LCS requirement for speed is reduced, my first question would be how much redesign is even possible? What would the LCS trade speed for?

Assuming the hull forms do not change significantly, the size and available space of the ships are unlikely to change. That means speed would be traded for either endurance or weight, perhaps a little of both. Maximum speed, cruising speed, and endurance are all factors primarily determined by the diesel and turbine engines, which raises the question whether change would require a redesign of the power plants. Could hull design changes, absent large scale power plant adjustments, significantly influence cruising speed on diesels? Absent the speed requirement, would there be significant cost reductions in LCS construction? I am unsure; I tend to think the costs will simply be spread around and savings will be minimal, but smart shipbuilders have suggested to me in the past that significant costs could be saved per hull by simply dropping the speed requirement.

If Milan Vego is right regarding the costs of speed, how does the Navy justify the increased costs? The Navy has a responsibility to the taxpayer to be a good steward of money spent for the fleet. How much of the LCS construction cost is a result of speed? 1/3? 1/4? 1/5? What about operational costs? What do logistics models look like with a cruising range of 4000nm? What about 6000nm? The Coast Guards Bertholf class has a 12,000nm range. What compelling warfighting argument suggests very high speed is ‘worth’ the investment?

The DDG-1000 was truncated for reasons of costs, likely in part due to the stealth design requirement in particular which increased the cost of existing large surface combatants by around 25%, because stealth required a much larger hull. I do wonder if the LCS cost is 25% higher because of the speed requirement. Both ships were over budget by several hundred million dollars, how much of the cost increase is a result of design considerations that must factor the speed requirement?

25% seems like a high estimate, but very smart people have suggested it may in fact be very close to the truth. Why would that extra cost for speed be excused? In the LCS program, the speed requirement could potentially be increasing the program costs by more than $7.5 billion over 55 hulls, and the operational cost increases as a result of the speed requirement won’t be insignificant.

Posted by galrahn in Navy, Proceedings | 99 Comments

Played around with some numbers from the Congressional Research Service. In terms of number of deaths (including from hostile action and accidents) per military personnel, we’re experiencing levels similar to 1980. Can anyone shed some light on why the number of deaths per size of the military was about the same in 1980 as it was in 2006?


Remembering Sept 11, 2001

September 2009

By number of years ago I had the honor of making the acquaintance of a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A young seaman then stationed on the battleship Nevada, he related his story, his memories. And as he talked about the aching beauty of that peaceful Sunday morning – of standing at quarters for morning Colors, and of how he still remembered the sound of the bugler’s notes right before the first bomb fell, I wondered.

I wondered how I would feel and react to a similar situation if it happened to me.

And I think I now know…and will never forget.

Never forget my shipmates lost in the Navy Operations Center:

Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC) {note: N513 will be posted 10 Sept}. Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent – from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war – others from a long line that has served this country. None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District. From all walks of life they had come to serve – and ultimately to unexpectedly die together. E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, out of many, one. Rest in peace… (More here: Fallen Shipmates – Part I)

Never forget my folks from N513, also lost in the Navy Operations Center:

N513 is (was) the Strategy & Concepts branch, part of the N51 Strategy & Policy Division of N3N5. N513’s personnel were the folks who looked at “the big picture” focusing on warfighting concepts and maritime strategies in defense of the US and our Allied partners. This is the branch that in the past had worked on the Maritime Strategy and provided the basis of the Navy’s input to the National Security Strategy among other vital documents. On Sept 11th we lost a majority of the folks in N513 including the branch chief, CAPT Bob Dolan… (More here: Fallen Shipmates – Part II)

Never forget that day:

2Tuesday, 11 Sep 2001 0937:25. Reflexively I glanced at my watch at the moment of impact, burning the time into my memory as I passed to my boss who was in Memphis for a promotion board that we had just been struck.

“Sir, looks like we’ve been hit pretty bad – I have to go. Will try to reach you via cell as possible.”

And with that I completed a voice report that I never imagined I would be making from a shore station. Over the years, through ramped up tensions during the Cold war and in the Gulf I always had in the back of my mind the possibility of having to make just such a call. Never under these conditions…

(Part I) and (Part II)


Never forget the 2996 men, women and children lost that day:

The 2996 Project Post: CAPT Bob Dolan, USN (Pentagon) and Mr. Colin Arthur Bonnett (WTC)

or the sacred ground we claim.

young IMG_0023.JPG

… And never forget all those left behind. I pray that you will remember them all in your thoughts and prayers this week.


Posted by SteelJaw in Navy | 7 Comments

Six out of the U.S. Navy’s 12 official museums have Fan Pages on Facebook and I have listed them below in the event you want to become fans of them on Facebook:

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

National Naval Aviation Museum

Hampton Roads Naval Museum

Naval Undersea Museum

U.S. Navy Seabee Museum

Puget Sound Naval Museum

Show you support for our navy museums by becoming fans of them today.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in History | 1 Comment
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