Archive for October, 2009

At 0619 on a bright October morning in Beirut, Lebanon, a Mercedes pickup truck packed with explosives raced past US Marine sentries with empty weapons, sped through largely dismantled vehicle barriers, through a fence, and into the lower floor of the US Marine Barracks that held HQ Company Battalion Landing Team 1/8. The explosion, one of the largest non-nuclear detonations since the end of World War II, collapsed the barracks, killing 241 Americans (mostly Marines) and burying and wounding dozens of others.


The facts from Beirut were grim and maddening. Sentries without loaded weapons, crew-served guns with no ammo belts, lack of barriers on high-speed avenues of approach. All tactical sins, all foisted upon BLT 1/8 by those in Congress and in government concerned with “posture” and “appearances”.

Imad Mughniyeh, the alleged mastermind of the Beirut attack (where a simultaneous bombing killed 58 French soldiers) died in a car bombing in Lebanon in 2008. In the intervening 25 years, he ran rampant throughout the world, killing and terrorizing as far away as Argentina. He was responsible for the hijacking of TWA 847 in 1985, and the murder of US Navy Diver Robert Stethem, 23, a passenger on that flight. In addition, Mughniyeh was linked to the bombing of the Khobar Towers.


Some hard lessons came out of that physical, military, and diplomatic rubble. One would think that they would be with us yet. Some apparently either forgot, or never learned.

  • Muslim extremist are willing to die in order to kill Americans, even when they are send to help other Muslims.
  • Proper “posture” is one in which US Servicemen are allowed to defend themselves and kill the enemy.
  • Restraint in pursuing and killing those responsible for such acts is seen as weakness by America’s Muslim Extremist enemies, and such encourages more and more terrorism and killing.


We learned, though. Didn’t we?

Well, the words coming from Afghanistan sound eerily familiar. Overly restrictive rules of engagement that allow the enemy to engage and disengage at will unless caught in the act of shooting at American servicemen. An admonition on the parts of General McChrystal and CJCS Admiral Mullen for US Servicemen to take “more risks” and not be so concerned about their own protection. An outpost sited on poor defensive ground and vulnerable to attack, positioned not by tactical necessity, but by political expedience. Again we hear the words “appearance” and “posture”. We see the handcuffs on our servicemen engaged in combat with an elusive and ruthless enemy.


Let’s hope we don’t hear again how US Soldiers or Marines died sleeping, or without a chance to fight back, because appearance, posture, risk, and political expedience put them in that position. On 23 October, 1983, 241 US lives were lost. If we do not remember them, and how and why they were lost, we allow those lost lives to be wasted.

Bryan McGrath, lead author of CS21 (as it is coming to be called in shorthand) stopped by in the comments section on my homepage leave the commentary now shown below. I opted (head nod to Peter S. per our earlier discussion) to elevate it to a post of its own for wider dissemination and comment. Bryan makes some good points, especially where the two other missing pieces are concerned and some interesting revelations as to what he expected to follow from the influence of CS21 in the form of actual metal. On the whole, I think we’re in pretty violent agreement about many items. One in particular is where we go from here. The next couple of years are going to be crucial ones for Navy. If one of the unwritten intents of CS21 was to build an advocacy for the Navy and naval forces for the long view, mindful of the prolonged land engagement(s) we have been and look to continue conducting, and that constituency is primarily outside Navy (e.g., the public and Congress), then there needs to be some serious effort applied by senior leadership to revitalizing that advocacy, especially on the Hill where the initial offering two years ago was received with, well, lukewarm (to put it charitably) enthusiasm. In light of an ongoing failure to produce the other legs of the stool, as Bryan points out, and with diminished expectations for budgetary relief, Navy needs to revitalize the advocacy, fleshing it out with supporting force structure andoperationalization documentation and re-engage the Hill. I’m hearing that CNO recently signed out the Naval Strategic Planning Guidance, and if so, that’s a first step. I’d give CS21, in its present form, about two more years of potential worth in this regard but if the other parts don’t come through, then the strategy’s relevancy and potential to influence, shape and form the operations and force structure of future naval forces will rapidly fade away. – SJS

Many thanks to Steeljaw Scribe for getting the discussion started here. Several weeks ago, he reached out to me to see if I wanted to collaborate on some kind of a two-year retrospective in view of the second birthday of CS21; I declined, fearing that I was simply too close to the subject to be objective (which may now be confirmed with this post). As some may know, my last tour on active duty was to lead the team that put together the document, a tour I found fascinating and rewarding, mostly for the incredible quality of people I came to be associated with both inside the strategy team and in the broader, Newport and DC based strategy communities.

Steeljaw poses three interesting questions, but they are questions I am largely unqualified to answer, as thorough answers (in my estimation) presuppose in-depth knowledge of the Navy’s plans for POM12. POM12 represents the first concerted effort on the Navy’s part to program in the guidance set in CS21, buttressed by the presence of a CNO no longer in the first months of his job trying to find his way. I suspect if CS21 is going to have any influence, it will be reflected in POM12.

I make this statement largely due the lack of–as Steeljaw reminds us–the accompanying parts of what VADM John Morgan used to refer to as “the strategy layer-cake”, which consisted of: the strategy itself, how it would be implemented (the NOC) and the resources required (a revision to the 30 year shipbuilding plan). Put another way, our three-legged stool is missing two of the three legs. This represents an institutional and bureaucratic decision on the Navy’s part, and understandably serves to open up the one extant document to legitimate criticism. It does not however, obviate either the thinking that went into the strategy or the shifts that it portends.

I ask critics of the strategy a simple question; when you criticize the THINKING and the concepts of the strategy, what are you comparing it to? Exactly what did it replace? Prior to October 2007, what was the Navy’s strategy? Come on now–one or two sentences. I think most folks who’ve read the current strategy can cite some version of the following–that there is a global system of trade, finance, information, etc that works to the benefit of the people of the US and other nations who participate in it, and that USSeapower–increasingly in a cooperative fashion–plays a unique and critical role in the protection and sustainment of that system. There you have it. Again–someone suggest in a sentence or two what it replaced.

Moreover, the strategy suggests a shift from the last named strategy of the 80’s–which was clearly postured for the strategic offense–to a posture of the strategic defense–defense of the global system. It is a strategy of consolidation and defense. It is the strategy of a statusquo power seeking to protect and extend its position within the global system. It answers the question “why do we need those ships strung out all over the world?” Previously, the answer was some version of “well, security and stability”, which always begged the question as to why nations in that region couldn’t do it themselves. The answer of course, is that they can’t, at least not without our help. And that inability threatens the health and welfare of the increasingly interconnected world. Put another way, the global system demands the presence of the US Navy–just as it demanded the presence of the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy.

While I have little insight into OPNAV’s plans in POM 12, I can quite readily suggest how I thought CS21 would change the Navy. Firstly, I believe that CS21 represents a growth strategy for the Navy, and that as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan exact their toll on the national will, it would provide the intellectual basis for an expansion of the Navy. We didn’t set out to make a strategy to grow the Navy–as a matter of fact, in one of my first days in the job, I asked the question bluntly of VADM Morgan…”what if our deliberations lead us to believe that the proper course is for a smaller Navy”. “Write that strategy” was his answer.

With respect to specifics–I suspected that the strategy would 1) lead to the design of a small, lightly armed, mass produced surface vessel with considerable endurance that would serve as the backbone of the “globally distributed mission tailored forces” mentioned in the document and 2) MIGHT lead to a decision to move away from the DDX–as budget realities and operational requirements would eventually pit it against the CGX, a ship more attuned to the expanded concept of deterrence mentioned in the strategy and 3) (most regrettably) would lead to a loss of carrier force structure. Cutting carrier force structure seems odd in a “growth strategy”, but reading the tea leaves, I believed some portion of that growth would have to come from within, and power projection and strike did not receive the same level of emphasis as in past strategic documents. In general, I thought we’d see additional investment on the low-low end (small combatants andriverine) and the high-high end (CGX and missile defense).

Second, I thought that the process that went into the production of CS 21 would be a repeatable part of the Navy’s strategic planning process; that is, I thought (and advocated) that CS21 ought to be reviewed–that’s right–as part of every POM process to make sure we got the entering presumptions right.

Third, I believed that CS21 would add some weight to the Navy’s push to raise the prominence of its Language Skills, Regional Expertise and Cultural Awareness programs. I believed these competencies would be critical to a Navy out operating independently (but cooperatively) in places it wasn’t used to operating.

Fourth, I believed that CS21 would resonate with friends, allies and partners alike, letting them know that not only were they important to us but that they were a critical part of our strategy. I believed that this emphasis would be recognized and acted upon by them.

Fifth, I believe the strategy presented the Chinese with an interesting dilemma; do they get with the program, recognize that the global system in place handsomely rewards their people, and pony up to the responsibilities of a first-rate nation in terms of contributing to that system’s protection andsustainment, or do they remain neo-mercantilist free-riders, fattening their coffers due in no small part to the largess of the US Navy (and subject to its continued forbearance). While we did not name the Chinese in the document, we knew they’d read themselves into it.

I leave it up to others to determine how much of what I believed would be the legacy of CS21 has come to fruition. I hope this has been helpful to those interested in this matter, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on what I’ve said.

Crossposted at Information Dissemination and

Maritime Strategy coverTwo years ago this week, the CNO, CMC and USCG Commandant released the naval services’ new maritime strategy – A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, at the International Seapower Symposium being hosted by the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The release of a new maritime strategy was significant given the length of time, post-Cold War, the naval services in general – and the Navy in particular, had planned, budgeted and operated without one. To be sure, there were iterations and evolutionary versions that followed the seminal 1980’s strategy that called for a 500 (later 600) ship navy to take the fight to the Soviet Union, but for the most part they were a ‘check-in-the-box’ and left on the shelf to collect dust.

In fact, during the earlier part of this decade, we were personally told on more than one occasion (forcefully and with exasperation at times) by senior Navy leadership that a new strategy was no longer required as we had moved beyond that and had Seapower 21 to guide our way. Selah.

Mid-decade though, that began to change with new leadership and a growing realization that new constructs and approaches would be required in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world. Beginning with open and closed sessions with strategists, planners and “thinkers” drawn from across public and private enterprise, in venues reaching from local to national and international, a small team of planners, thinkers and writers – operators all, began to build the new strategy.

The new strategy was released with a fair degree of fanfare and was greeted with somewhat mixed reception, ranging from the enthusiastic to mildly curious and in some quarters, generally dismissive (some examples here, here, here and especially here). The blogsphere, especially the naval blogsphere that has evolved, was no less silent. Writing extensively and critically, the blogs pried deeper into the nuances of the strategy, seeking fuller meaning of the principles therein. Galrahn, CDR Salamander and Steeljaw Scribe, all devoted considerable column inch space to various aspects (and in some cases, opened our pages to direct response from the lead author of the strategy) of the strategy.

While there were compliments, there were also many concerns aired – chief of which went to the heart of strategy, the linking of ends and means. To wit, the new maritime strategy, while making bold declarations (and what could be more bold in the post-Cold War era than the opening statement “We believe preventing wars is as important as winning wars”?), the maritime strategy fell short in lacking an accompanying force structure plan and means to operationalize the strategy (e.g., a naval operating concept or NOC). Both, we were promised, would be forthcoming “soon” (although the former, perforce, had to be classified).

Two years on there has been neither and this in turn has prompted further concerns over naval vision and strategic direction. On the one hand, there has continued to be considerable drum-pounding, using the maritime strategy as justification or rational for any one of a number of actions, planned or as crisis response. Certainly the PA aspect of the maritime strategy has been and continues to be well resourced. Yet two years on we still do not have a long-range ship building plan (despite Congressional mandate) and the NOC is still MIA. The latter is increasingly important as planners inside and out of the naval services wrestle with new concepts and capabilities, the most recent example being the significant shift in BMD emphasis in the European theater from a land-based GBI system designed to protect CONUS from Iranian ICBMs to a primarily sea-based theater defense against MRBM’s using Aegis-BMD equipped ships and supplemented with a shore-based system (“Aegis BMD Ashore”). This redirection and the attendant gossamer-light expositions of how we will employ sea-based BMD in the maritime strategy has led to a fair degree of mis-information and erroneous assumptions as to general operational capabilities, requirements, and necessary force structure. More detailed explanation, as wouldbe found in a NOC would go a long ways to alleviate this condition.

That is but one aspect – there are many others including rationale for the next generation CG, numbers of carriers and big deck amphibs, operational concepts for emerging technologies in ISR and UAVs, ASW, integrated air and missile defense, presence operations…and the list goes on.

Two years ago we summarized our initial read of the new maritime strategy as follows:

“It is an imperfect and flawed document – but so was the 1986 strategy and almost any other similar document extant. Nevertheless, there are significant strengths to build upon and serve as a reliable starting point for further definition and refinement in the panoply of documents that will follow. Most importantly, it has CNO approval and, tacitly at least, that of SECDEF as well – and as such, serves as the maritime strategy of record. This bodes well for post-Iraq planning and budgeting if – IF it does not become fodder for collecting dust on a shelf someplace.” (

Today, in view of the concerns raised above and our contention that the maritime strategy serves as a starting vice ending point, we submit the following questions as to the efficacy and relevance of the maritime strategy and its role in shaping future naval forces two years after its release:

  1. What new requirements/capabilities follow from the maritime strategy?
  2. What direct influence has the maritime strategy had on naval shipbuilding plans and budgets?
  3. How has the maritime strategy been implemented and operationalized? In other words – what are we doing differently now or are in the in the process of changing (especially in view of #1 above) that we weren’t on 11 Oct 2007?

Crossposted at


middle seaMaking 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.

Did the research for your other two books (The German Fleet at War and The U.S. Navy Against the Axis) lay the foundation for this one?

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.

Written narratives and biographies are important and a primary research source. However, when one has the opportunity to listen to a narrative, especially of one who was there and played a key role in a major event – that is even better. Courtesy friend and contributor to this blog, LCDR George Walsh, USN-Ret, himself a dive bomber pilot from the Pacific theater (SB2C Helldiver) comes a clip of a radio interview with then RDML Wade McClusky, USN-Ret conducted on the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Midway and a few short years before he left this life for greener pastures. – SJS

(click here to listen) → C.Wade McClusky, Radio interview 1972


Rear Admiral Clarence Wade McClusky, Jr., USN (Retired), (1902-1976)

Clarence W. McClusky, Jr. was born in Buffalo, New York, on 1 June 1902. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1926 and became a Naval Aviator three years later. Over the next decade, he served in several air units, as well as on command staffs, as an instructor at the Naval Academy and at shore facilities. In 1940 he was assigned to Fighting Squadron Six (VF-6), based on USS Enterprise (CV-6), and assumed command of that squadron in April 1941.

Lieutenant Commander McClusky became Enterprise air group commander in April 1942. During the Battle of Midway, while leading

his air group’s scout bombers on 4 June 1942, he made the critical tactical decision that led to the destruction of the Japanese aircraft carriers Kaga and Akagi, thus making a vital contribution to the outcome of that pivotal battle. Later in World War II, he commanded the escort carrier USS Corregidor (CVE-58).

Captain McClusky served in a variety of staff and shore positions in the later 1940s. During the Korean War, he was Chief of Staff to the Commanders of the First and Seventh Fleets. He commanded Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois, in 1952-53, and the Boston Group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet in 1954-56. Clarence W. McClusky, Jr., retired from active duty in July 1956. At that time, in recognition of his vital contributions to the outcome of World War II, he was advanced to Flag rank. Rear Admiral McClusky died on 27 June 1976.

USS McClusky (FFG-41) was named in his honor.


Sorry this is a little bit out of order, as I promised SJS to have this to him three weeks ago. (Who knew a novel flu virus would make people busy in the public health biz?) Anyway, many superb posts have been published here regarding the desperate and deadly struggle for the waters and airspace around Guadalcanal and the Eastern Solomons. What I offer you below is a summation of the land campaign for the island of Guadalcanal. The summation highlights the details of a long fight against nature, hunger, and the enemy, and was replete with bravery and suffering on both sides that one can hardly imagine in the first decade of the 21st Century. I have included only the most important of details. There have been numerous volumes regarding the ground fight, and this needn’t be another, as I was hoping instead to provide some context and contrast to the other posts summarizing the titanic struggles which happened all around.

For nearly seven months, the fight for the island of Guadalcanal captivated an America hungry for good news in the Pacific War. Immediately following Pearl Harbor, Wake Island’s defenders had displayed inspirational heroism, but were overwhelmed by the Japanese two days before Christmas, 1941. Guam had fallen in days. The playing out of the tragic disaster in the Philippines ended in the surrender of 12,000 US Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in May, 1942. The lone bright spot in the Pacific Theater in the first months, the Doolittle Raid on Japan in April of 1942, was entirely symbolic. After the grim series of defeats in both theaters of war, Winston Churchill had questioned whether the “sons of democracy” were strong enough to stand up to the totalitarian war machines with which they were locked in a struggle for survival.


US prisoners on Bataan Death March B-25 take-off from USS Hornet CV 8

Guadalcanal became, in the words of Samuel Elliot Morrison, “not a name but an emotion” because of the desperate situation faced by the US Marines and Soldiers in their struggle against both the Japanese and the savage and unforgiving jungle, and the epic struggles for the surrounding sea and air. Searing heat, diseases (malaria, Dengue), shortages of food, ammunition, and critical supplies, torrential rains, mud, insects, and deadly animals of all kinds made the Guadalcanal landscape a miserable and deadly place.

This is a photograph of an American Soldier injured in the Battle of Guadalcanallitter_bearers_on_guadalcanal

Soldiers tend to wounded (left) Marine litter bearers evacuate comrade (right)

However, the fight on land for Guadalcanal played out far differently from the costly, grimly contested series of struggles in the waters of the Eastern Solomons. When the Marines and Soldiers clashed with the Japanese in the struggle for control of the island, the results were almost always decidedly one-sided.

Following the initial landings on Tulagi, Florida, and Guadalcanal on 7 August, 1942 (, Marine General A. A. Vandegrift deployed his First Marine Division in a thinly-held perimeter around the vital Henderson Field. Though the island was nearly devoid of Japanese defenders, it was quickly reinforced with elements of the Japanese 17th Army in the form of a brigade of 1,100 men under Colonel Kiyono Ichiki, whose forces had originally been designated for the assault on Midway two months earlier.


Colonel Ichiki

Hampered by the dense jungle, poor coordination, and a contemptuous disregard for the considerable firepower of the American Marines, the Ichiki Brigade clashed with Clifton Cates’ First Marines on the night of 21 August. The Marines had been alerted by a Japanese patrol (which was wiped out in a short fight with a patrol of A Co 1st Marines) and by Jacob Vouza’s legendary escape from Japanese capture and subsequent torture. The Marines had prepared positions along the mouth of the Tenaru River. In an intense firefight lasting into the morning of 22 August, the First Marines, supported by 37mm guns, five M3 Stuart light tanks, and the howitzers of 3rd Bn 11th Marines, all but wiped out Ichiki’s attacking force. Japanese casualties numbered nearly 900 dead, while the Marines suffered 34 killed and about 80 wounded.


Japanese dead at the Tenaru sandbar

However, Japanese reinforcements continued to pour onto the island, with the 5th Special Naval Landing Force and the remainder of Ichiki’s brigade arriving from Truk in the third week of August. Here, though, the unraveling of Japanese plans began. The transports of the famed “Tokyo Express” were delivering soldiers in significant numbers, but were unable to keep up with the logistical requirements of the growing force. Though equipped (and highly skilled) with mortars, the Japanese on the island were desperately short of artillery, possessing a few light field guns and little ammunition for them. Food and medical supplies were almost immediately in short supply, and Guadalcanal was beginning to earn its nickname among the empire’s soldiers as “Starvation Island”.

At the end of August, and in the first week of September, considerable reinforcements were landed (with significant loss to air strikes from Wasp) by the Japanese Navy on the Eastern side of Guadalcanal. These reinforcements brought the strength of the Japanese on the island to approximately 3,000, mostly deployed east and south of the Marine perimeter. In the west, along the Matanikau River, the scene of the ill-fated Goettge Patrol in early August, there was some skirmishing in late-August and again in September against smaller Japanese forces. But it was the south and east of the Marines’ perimeter that concerned General Vandegrift and his commanders, as patrols and observation increasingly revealed Japanese preparations for an attack toward Henderson Field.


The Prize: Henderson Field “Tokyo Express” delivers reinforcements

Beginning on 9 September, the Marine Raider Battalion (Col M. A. Edson) and Parachute Battalion (Maj C. Miller) occupied positions on a key grass-covered ridge that ran roughly north-south, just east of the Lunga River and due south of Henderson Field. A raid on Tasimboko two days earlier and reports of native scouts pointed to a Japanese buildup of considerable strength south of the ridge and to the east of the Marine perimeter, and patrols on 12 September confirmed an attack was imminent. Japanese air raids targeting the ridge during the afternoon of the 12th further alerted the Raiders as to the Japanese objective.

After dark on 12 September, the Japanese 35th Infantry Brigade commanded by MajGen Kiyotake Kawaguchi, and reinforced by elements of the 124th Regiment, crashed into Marine lines between the ridge positions and the Lunga River. The struggle for what became known as Edson’s Ridge was the turning point of the fight for the island of Guadalcanal. Hold the ridge, and the Marines hold Henderson, and the island. Lose the ridge, and WATCHTOWER likely becomes an evacuation. The savage, back-and-forth fight for the ridge lasted nearly three days, with the last skirmishes occurring east of the main action on the morning of 15 September. The Japanese attacks, however grimly determined, were once again poorly coordinated and executed by exhausted and starving troops following a nightmare approach march through nearly impassable jungle. Despite some anxious hours, the Marine lines held. Marine automatic weapons, mortars, and particularly the howitzers of the 11th Marines took a catastrophic toll on the attackers. The ridge, the perimeter, and Henderson Field were saved. The best chance for the Japanese ground forces to break the Marines’ hold on Guadalcanal had dissolved in the jungles and trails approaching Edson’s Ridge.


Edson’s Ridge: The last line 11th Marines 155mm howitzers

The fight for Edson’s Ridge resulted in the near-destruction of the Kawaguchi Brigade. Japanese sources estimated 1,500 dead in the fight for the ridge. For the survivors of the Brigade, the ordeal was hardly over. They faced a terrible march back to Japanese lines, with little food or water, and it was an ordeal very few would survive. The Marines suffered 40 killed or missing, and more than one hundred wounded in the struggle to hold he ridge.


Marine machine gun position on Edson’s Ridge

The Raiders’ Commanding Officer, Colonel Merritt A. Edson, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his stand on the ridge that carries his name. The CO of Charlie Company, Raiders, Major Kenneth Bailey, also was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the combat. Major Bailey would not live to see his Medal. He was killed some days later in the fight on the Matanikau.


Major Ken Bailey, USMC (left) and Col Merritt A. Edson (right)

There would be much more ground combat for the Marines and their Army reinforcements before the end of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Days later, on the western side of the Marines’ perimeter, an attack to clear positions along the Matanikau stumbled through difficult terrain and was nearly defeated before withdrawing under pressure from enemy units in the area. (It would not be until 9 October that positions west of the river could be permanently established and the airfield protected.) Throughout October, 1942, The Japanese would make several more attempts to penetrate the Marine perimeter, and at times caused serious concern. But each attack was defeated and heavy losses inflicted by the Marines and Soldiers defending. By this point, though the 1st Marine Division had been reinforced with the Army’s 164th Infantry and their own 7th Marines, malaria and exhaustion had begun to erode the effectiveness of the men ashore. Yet, in comparison to the conditions faced by their enemies, the Americans wanted not for food, ammunition, nor medical supplies.


Malaria cases in Guadalcanal field hospital, October, 1942

The Japanese were starving. The number of men fit for combat plummeted. Medical supplies were exhausted. Ammunition for the heavy howitzers finally dragged ashore and into the jungle was scarce. Though the Imperial Japanese Navy would have some notable successes in bringing supplies and some heavy artillery to the island, the situation for the Japanese soldiers was grim and worsening. Starvation and disease were killing dozens, and then hundreds of men a week. Many of those alive were too weak to fight. Despite the threats from Japanese surface forces, which regularly bombarded the airfield and Marine and Army positions, and the surge of Japanese activity in the air, the tide on the ground had swung permanently toward the Americans.


Emaciated Japanese prisoners captured late in the campaign

The turning point had been Edson’s Ridge. Following that fight, the American forces gained measurably in strength, while that of the Japanese declined precipitously. The increasing imbalance between the combatant forces was beyond the capability of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army to rectify. The Japanese Army had been wary of the emphasis placed on Guadalcanal by their Navy counterparts, and was rightly skeptical of the IJN’s ability to keep a substantial combat force supplied and sustained when control of the air and sea in the area of operations was so stiffly contested.


Japanese transports of the Tokyo Express burning (left) and sunk (right)

As 1943 began the Japanese Army pushed for, and received, permission to withdraw from Guadalcanal. Beginning in late-January, 1943, preparations were begun for pulling the surviving Japanese troops off the island. By 9 February, the mission was completed, and but for a handful of stragglers, Japanese resistance ceased on Guadalcanal.

In the end, the Japanese Army suffered dreadful casualties among the forces committed to Guadalcanal, but those forces were a minor figure in the total strength of the Japanese Army. The Imperial Japanese Navy, conversely, was bled white in the monumental struggle for Guadalcanal and the Eastern Solomons. Ironically, it was the reluctance of Japanese Naval commanders to risk forces sufficient to decisively engage the US surface and air forces in the Solomons which caused the piecemeal attrition of the IJN that permanently shifted the sea power balance in the Pacific.


IJN battleship Haruna (left) and cruiser Aoba (right) on the bottom, 1945

For the Americans, Guadalcanal was a watershed, as much then as now. The Japanese myth of invincibility was broken. The enemy proved to be extremely tough, skilled, deadly opponents. But the US Marines, and the Soldiers who fought beside them, proved equal, man for man, with their foes. Their firepower, tactics, battlefield leadership, logistics, all had proven superior to the Japanese in a square fight. Their commanders, on land and sea, and their pilots in the air, had bested the Japanese. With America’s military might growing almost daily, Japan would be forever on the defensive. Japan would extract a bitter price from the United States, but could not prevent the inexorable smashing of her island fortresses that would bring that same US Navy into Tokyo Bay.


US Fleet Carriers at Ulithi (left) TF58 in Tokyo Bay (right)

Jones and MidshipmenCongressman Walter B. Jones (R, NC-3) took some time from his schedule to discuss his work on the House Armed Services Committee, and today–in a first for the Navy and Marine Corps blogosphere–we’re pleased to offer USNI Blog readers an opportunity to put a more human face on the leaders who spend their days crafting defense legislation.

In this interview, Congressman Jones–pictured on the right, visiting Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy–talks about his work with the Marine Corps MV-22 program, while, over on the Springboard, he chats about the QDR, superbases, the War, and, of course, his Marine Corps constituents from Camp Lejeune.

Congressman, you were elected to Congress in 1994, and you’ve been deeply engaged with the Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey program. Might you be so kind as to give our readers a review of your long history with the Osprey program?

Shortly after the unfortunate crash of the MV-22 on April 8, 2000, I attended a memorial service in honor of the pilots at MCAS New River. Representative Mike McIntyre, General Charles Krulak and Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle were also in attendance. I was seated directly behind Connie Gruber and her daughter Brooke, the family of Major Brooks Gruber. Across the aisle sat the family of Lieutenant Colonel John A. Brow. During the memorial, I could feel the hurt and pain this tragedy had on the families of these fallen heroes.

When the Marine Corps issued its press release on July 27, 2000 regarding the crash, I received a call from Connie Gruber expressing concern that her husband was being blamed for the accident. I was extremely empathetic to her concerns after attending the memorial and became very interested in the program. It was then that I began asking questions.

You’ve taken a very personal interest in the unfortunate April 8, 2000 MV-22 crash that killed 19 Marines, including one young pilot from North Carolina, Major Brooks S. Gruber. A few months later, when then Marine Commandant—and now National Security Advisor General James Jones—unveiled a memorial to those Marines, you were the only Congressional Representative who bothered to attend. You’re now working to exonerate the pilots on that unfortunate flight, Major Gruber and Lt. Col. John A. Brow. Why have you put so much energy into understanding this incident, in particular?

My passion for this issue is directly related to my experience at the memorial service. It is difficult to meet a child of one of our fallen Marines and know that they are going to live the rest of her life with the sentiment that her father was to blame for the deaths of several other Marines.

Have you made any progress in exonerating the two pilots?

Absolutely. This has been an almost nine year effort with help from a large number of people who are familiar with the V-22 history and process. I have had the pleasure of working with engineers, experts, pilots, and numerous others who have assisted me in this endeavor. The United States Marine Corps has included the 17 facts from my Memorandum for the Record in the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) of the late Lieutenant Colonel Brow and Major Brooks. I have also introduced legislation, H. Res 698, that includes the language from the Memorandum. I will continue to encourage the Navy to accept the Memorandum and to amend the JAGMAN investigation and the AMB report.

Some bloggers, like’s Jamie McIntyre, characterize your efforts to exonerate the pilots as a merely symbolic “quixotic quest”. Will your work on exonerating the two dead pilots have any lasting, longer-term impact upon the MV-22 program or the wider Marine Corps culture?

It will not have any impact on the program. The program is safe and moving forward. This is important to the history of the Osprey, but more importantly, to the families who lost loved ones and the two pilots, now deceased, who are not here to defend themselves.

Do you ever worry that the publicity that surrounds your work to expunge the records of these two Marines will overshadow the less heralded—but quite worthy—work you’ve done for soldiers, sailors and veterans?

I do not. Issues dealing with specific individuals are very different than other legislative efforts. I am very passionate about our service members and their families and never regret bringing their courageous stories to the nation’s attention. In fact, these stories often provide the basis for legislative actions that I pursue.

In my opinion, Congress can often become too focused on programs and policies that it forgets about the people who are affected by those same programs and policies.

For a Representative who isn’t even a ranking member of a single Armed Services Subcommittee this year, you’ve sponsored an enormous amount of pro-national security community legislation in the 111th Congress. A partial list includes the Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act (H.R. 613), the Fallen Hero Commemoration Act (H.R. 269), the Disabled Veterans Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R. 612), the Service Members First-Time Homebuyer Relief Act of 2009 (H.R. 2398), the PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act (H.R. 1701). Why—and how—are you so productive this year?

After 15 years in Congress, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know that I am dedicated and focused. If I come forward with legislation, it is because I believe it is the right thing to do. I have a very strong sense of right and wrong and seek to do what’s right for our military.

Back to the Osprey program. In a May 1, 2003 Osprey-related comment to the News and Observer, you said “If the Marines say it can be done, it can be done….I trust the Marines to make certain it is safe and does the job.” Is the Osprey safe?

I believe it is safe now. The MV-22 Osprey has come a long way since its beginning.

Does it do the job?

The best people to answer that question are the users. To date, I have not heard that it is incapable of performing the missions that have been assigned to it.

The next offering comes via CINCLAX – and is a truly detailed review of the ground action in New Georgia as we begin to move – slowly, hesitantly and with great inefficiency (at first) from the precarious foothold established at Guadalcanal. The Japanese will come to learn, as did the Germans on the other side of the world, that once the Americans establish a beachhead, there was no going back – they would relentlessly press their advantage.

And so – the New Georgia Campaign…


The Right Place to Go but the Wrong Way to Get There


Solomon Islands


In 1950 Samuel Eliot Morison concluded his final evaluation of the New Georgia Campaign:

The strategy and tactics of the New Georgia campaign were among the least successful of any Allied campaign in the Pacific.

As most of the American planners and commanders were still alive at this time, perhaps Morison was being intentionally soft on them, as his writing excoriates the planners at several other points.

Before 1942 hardly anybody had ever heard of New Georgia, and after 1943 few people would ever hear of it again. Nothing important had ever happened there before, and nothing important afterwards. But for an intense five-month period from June through November 1943, the New Georgia Group of islands would see fierce fighting on land, sea and in the air—and some of the worst American strategic and tactical planning of the war.

The needless complexity of the operation was bewilderingly wasteful, and was often poorly led by Army officers at all levels who had little or no foreknowledge of the terrain and whose troops were woefully inexperienced and physically unprepared. These Americans also had the misfortune of facing one of the most wily and resolute Japanese generals of the Pacific War, Minorou Sasaki.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is, in a fashion, a guest post. After an exchange of a few emails with a regular reader, a story emerged that brought a personal, first person account of what many of us have run into now and then – the source of group think and the resulting inability of Senior Leadership to get hard questions and direct opinions from the Fleet when they ask for it.

Sure, this is about Life/Work – but most of us have seen the same pattern when it comes to other subjects where “discussion” really means “listen to my opinion and agree with it,” and “consensus” results from the aggressive silencing of opposing opinions. We all know that all it takes is the wrong person to own paper on you for one or two FITREP cycles — and there you go. Hang one; subdue 1,000.

I invited the author, an officer I know personally but is anon by request here, to tell her story and let me post it. This story is an example of what happens when a person stands up for the truth and states their honest opinion.

If Senior Leadership wants to know why there is such silence at “Admiral’s Call” – or that they get stale questions and comments from the peanut gallery – or that many Navy bloggers feel the need to hide their actual identity, this may help explain why.

It was during my first tour on active duty, while I was still a very junior junior officer, and hadn’t quite realized that when an O-8 asks for your honest opinion, what they really mean is “I might want your opinion, I might not, but if you are honest with me, as pleased as I may appear with your candidness, you’ve just pissed on the shoes of someone junior to me, but senior to you, who will indeed make you pay for your honesty.” I learned this lesson the hard way.

A number of female officers were rounded up for a series of focus groups with our Admiral. The focus of the focus group was to address, what else, diversity issues in the community as they relate to gender. How can we make our community more “female friendly.”

Of course the first topic on the agenda was telecommuting. Because what we need to retain qualified and competent women is not a ground level addressing of the lingering bastions of institutionalized sexism, not an acknowledgment that some of our officers are indeed still Neanderthals when it comes to their views of women, as the fleet reflects society, and society is still pretty darn sexist, no this daily hostility to the fact that you exist couldn’t possibly be one of the factors why many of our talented females seek higher pay elsewhere after growing tired of abusive work environments. No. Really, the only reason we lose women is because they’d rather stay home with their children than go to the office. You see how the suggested solution really proves the true root of the problem. This may come as a surprise, but not all women want to be stay home mothers. Kudos to those who do, and who feel that is the best choice for their family. But it’s not the choice for everyone. Certainly not the choice for me.

So as it came my turn as the token “young single JO” at the table (it was quite clear what demographic I was chosen to represent) I raised the following points: (1) This is the military. And we are officers. We don’t give our enlisted women, with lower pay, and frequently less stable extended families, the luxury of working from home, so we should lead by example. (2) Someone has to man the fort, so while some telecommute, who will be working the harder, longer hours to pick up the slack? Oh, right…me. The one who has already been doing all the travel, all the inconvenient TAD, all the holiday duty, and generally all the unpleasant heavy lifting because I’m the one “without a family”. And this is with fellow officers who work a full day in the office. Allowing them to just stay home? I can see where this will go. No. I don’t like telecommunitng.

At this point I should have noticed I was going against the “life work balance” agenda and shut up. But on we moved to the next topic: The career sabbatical.

This is a brilliant idea in which officers will be able to just “take a break” from the Navy for up to three years and then have their lineal number retroactively adjusted so they won’t have to compete against people with three years more work performance. Of course, you will have to apply for this option, and spots are extremely limited (so you can already see the potential for those with special snowflake syndrome managing to garner even more preferential treatment while everyone else has to suck it up and make do…no, that won’t be a morale issue down the road at all), and there is no set reason for the sabbatical. However, we all know the unspoken reason…again, it’s so that women can have babies without penalty. I somehow doubt if I submitted a sabbatical package to backpack through Europe I would be approved. So again, I raised my concerns. First, the potential for this to become overly political, and second, the flat out unfairness of a system that allows some people to just “take a break” and then compete on equal footing with those who have continued to roll the stone uphill without interruption. Not to mention the fact that this program will likely just do more to entrench the negative and undeniably present views that the women in the fleet get coddled. I for one, would not take this option, even if it were offered to me on a silver platter, because I wouldn’t want to spoon feed people who want to dismiss me based on gender alone a superb argument that I am in fact a weaker officer. It will serve only to advance the careers of a select few, while systemically furthering the perception that women are not as strong as men to the detriment of many. So no, I don’t like the sabbatical either.

Finally, the topic came up about IA/GSA assignments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And several raised concerns that the precept language was unfair. That not everyone could leave behind their children to deploy, and it wasn’t fair that they be penalized at promotion time. My question was “why not?” We ask our enlisted sailors to deploy, to go to sea, to live as geo bachelors all the time. Male and female, married, and single parent, we expect our junior sailors to tough it up and make do. We need to lead by example. And those who shoulder the burden of more arduous assignments, especially while our country is fighting two wars, should indeed be rewarded. My only question about the deployment issue was “when do I get to go?”

So that was the meeting. Not a focus on how to address the root cause of the problem, that America is not nearly as advanced in gender relations as it claims to be (for proof of this, look at the disgraceful way the media portrayed Sara Palin and Hillary Clinton during the presidential elections, and the way Ms. Clinton, whether I approve of her politics or not, has been marginalized in what should be one of our most important offices) but instead, we focus on artificially creating different tracks for underperforming women in order to justify promoting them based on number rather than competence. And this is an insult to the many, many competent and strong women we have in the Navy, many of whom I’ve had the honor of considering mentors. Ask any female E-9 if she’d like to telecommute, or “take some time off of her career” and let me know how she responds. The problem I saw in these programs is that the women we want to retain, would never, ever take advantage of them. They will bend over backwards to reach their own work life balance without complaint or intervention from big Navy because they want to be seen as capable. Those that need the time off, or the extra time to organize….I have to ask “why can she do it, but you can’t? Is it gender, or is it you?” And yes, it is hard, and yes, you have to make a choice. Be a career woman, or a homemaker, or somewhere in between, but whichever you chose comes at a price. You cannot have it all…but guess what? Neither can the men. How much time does a 4 star truly spend with his family? How many men have been passed over because they homesteaded to let their kids finish high school rather than taking the career-maker billet? It’s a choice we all have to make. And all I ask is that *I* make that choice for myself. Not because society has told me it’s the choice I ought to make. And all these programs, these life-work initiatives, are predicated on the idea that the woman should be choosing family and so we need to make it easier for the woman to choose family over career without penalty. It’s reinforcing the root problem. And that’s why I hate it. But I digress.

Now, I wasn’t the only person at these meeting voicing dissent. Actually several women spoke out. But I was the most junior. And somehow my opinions made it to my department head, who is very much a proponent of life-work initiatives. Who has never gone to sea. Who will never deploy. But who insists from her ivory tower of liberal feminism that she needs to be treated as an equal for less than equal career performance. She was not pleased with me, and I received a verbal counseling on my “attitude” and my “teamwork”. I was confused. I thought I remained respectful and polite in voicing my opinion, afterall, wasn’t that the point of the focus group? Didn’t the Admiral *want* to know what women thought? And teamwork? What team did I betray? And that’s when I realized my error. In the diversity industry, I am the wrong kind of woman. I want to deploy, I want to support the war, I want to serve in [REDACTED], and I want to pull my weight. I am the biggest threat to the agenda, because I am proof that even with the undeniable sexist attitudes that linger in this country, and the fleet, I can succeed without their help. I am the wrong kind of woman for their agenda.

So I took my counseling, [REDACTED] and, upon the advice of a truly great Naval Officer, I got over the sting and realized that the only person who could ever define my worth as an officer was me. So it was a learning experience, but not the end of the world.

Now I know better than to offer my opinion, as a woman, if it doesn’t align with the preconceived notions of what women need from the Navy. And if a woman can’t speak her mind about when programs to promote women have possibly gone too far without being blacklisted, I shudder to think how a man with my opinion would be treated.

Again, it’s not sexism to simply want our female officers to perform equally, as they have demonstrated time and time again they can. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

That may not be a Conversation with the Country – but it is the word from Phib’s front porch.

‘Nuff said.


Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 13 Comments

sailor from oklahomaAnother 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.

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