Archive for December, 2009


Best wishes for a safe New Year’s eve and a bright, prosperous year to come…

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
And gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,

For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.



Posted by SteelJaw in Navy | 4 Comments
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AHS Centaur Is Found

December 2009



On May 14th, 1943, AHS Centaur, an Australia hospital ship sailed off the coast of Queensland towards Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. The ship had 332 medical personnel and crew on board. She was marked with large red crosses and sailed without military escort as per the Geneva Convention requirements. The vessel would not survive to see dawn. The Japanese submarine I-177, commanded by Hajime Nakagawa, torpedoed AHS Centaur in an early morning attack, taking 268 lives. Now, the discovery of her wreck on December 20th has resurfaced the sensitive issue between Australia and Japan.

The sinking of AHS Centaur violated international war law and is considered one of Australia’s worst wartime tragedies. Her demise turned the vessel into a martyr for Australians, confirming the brutality of the Japanese in the public’s mind. General Douglas MacArthur claimed the attack showed the “limitless savagery” of the Japanese. The Australian government used the sinking to enrage public opinion and rally Australians in support for the war effort.

I-177’s captain was never tried for the sinking, but was convicted on other war crimes by the Allies. The attack has long been a sore subject for the Japanese, who only acknowledged in 1979 that I-177 did indeed sink the hospital ship, after denying involvement since 1943. Furthermore, Tokyo claims it never ordered the attack, a fact if false would likely lead to Australian pressure for additional war crime charges. In a statement on the search for AHS Centaur, Japan said it “made the greatest efforts for world peace and prosperity as a responsible member of the international community and has also developed a close relationship with Australia.” To their credit, the Centaur Association, the RSL, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have all made statements that Japan does not need to apology for the sinking of AHS Centaur. Apparently 66 years of good relations is enough time for some countries to let history be history.

Posted by Christopher Albon in Navy | 5 Comments

In an article entitled “New peril in war zones: Sex abuse by fellow GIs”, this gem from the New York Times:

BAGHDAD – Capt. Margaret H. White began a relationship with a warrant officer while both were training to be deployed to Iraq. By the time they arrived this year at Camp Taji, north of here, she felt what she called “creepy vibes” and tried to break it off.In the claustrophobic confines of a combat post, it was not easy to do. He left notes on the door to her quarters, alternately pleading and menacing. He forced her to have sex, she said. He asked her to marry him, though he was already married. He waited for her outside the women’s latrines or her quarters, once for three hours.

“It got to the point that I felt safer outside the wire,” Captain White said, referring to operations that take soldiers off their heavily fortified bases, “than I did taking a shower.”

So the female Captain is portrayed as a victim. However, did not the Captain “began a relationship with a warrant officer”? One who was “already married”? Are these not serious breaches of discipline? Indeed, violations of the UCMJ punishable in Courts Martial?

Make no mistake as to my point here. If the WO in question committed sexual assault, he should be locked up and the key thrown away. No excuse for it, ever. But the point has been made here once before that the way to deal with the problem is to ENFORCE DISCIPLINE, and not to waste valuable training time with nonsensical feel-good stand-down sessions and mandatory training requirements that make good copy but accomplish nothing. Hammer those guilty of wrongdoing. Yes, that includes both those who commit such acts as sexual assault, and those whose breaches of conduct and orders create an even more fertile (no pun intended) environment for such occurrences than exists already. Admiral Harvey has the right idea.

So, what jumps out at you from the good Captain’s story above? She began a relationship. With a married man. She is the senior soldier in said relationship. From the temper of the story, the relationship was professionally inappropriate. But wait, there’s more:

She had dated the warrant officer when they arrived in Fort Dix, N.J., for predeployment training with the 56th Stryker Combat Team. The newly revised article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says that “a current or previous dating relationship by itself” does not constitute consent.Once at Camp Taji, a sprawling base just north of Baghdad, she grew troubled by his behavior…

She admits she continued the relationship once in theater. So, let’s count up the score. She should have been charged each time under Article 92 for violating the infamous General Order #1. She violated Article 133, having a sexual relationship with a married man, and could be charged numerous times under 134. She should have been at a Special Court Martial.

But apparently she wasn’t.

After their deployment ended in September, the officer pleaded guilty and resigned from the Army in lieu of prosecution, Colonel Smith said. Captain White said that she was satisfied with the legal outcome of her case…

And in the course of this investigation, was Captain White not found to have committed any wrongdoing?

If she was, why wasn’t she dismissed from the service? And if she was found not to have, why not? She clearly admitted as much. Have we gotten to the point of being so politically correct, or fearful of those who are, that we no longer enforce ANY rules or regulations that uphold good order and discipline? Do we expect this situation to do anything but get worse when all senior leadership is willing to do is ignore those factors that exacerbate an already serious problem?

Why does the flavor of this instance taste much like that of Major Hasan? Where’s the leadership? When it comes to enforcing discipline against those who might lodge an EO complaint, it seems we have a new motto: “Even when we know, we’ll pretend we don’t.

Stand by for the consequences.

Scharnhorst in 1939, as completed with straight stem

Scharnhorst in 1939, as completed with straight stem

Scharnhorst with "Atlantic", or "clipper" bow and funnel cap. She was considered one of the most beautiful ships ever built in this configuration.

Scharnhorst with “Atlantic”, or “clipper” bow and funnel cap. In this configuration, she was considered one of the most beautiful warships ever to sail.

Sixty-six years ago today, two British naval task forces intercepted the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst as she attempted to attack two Murmansk-bound convoys. In a running fight with HMS Duke of York, a heavy cruiser, three light cruisers, and nine destroyers, Scharnhorst was sunk with the loss of more than 1,900 crewmen. The Battle of North Cape was fought in limited visibility, with Scharnhorst firing blindly for much of the fight. A fortuitous hit during an exchange with British cruisers earlier that morning had destroyed Scharnhorst’s radar mast.

The Royal Navy, equipped with functional radar and “flashless” powder, inflicted increasingly more serious damage to Scharnhorst through the course of the battle. Hits by 14-inch projectiles from Duke of York disabled Turret Anton, and eventually penetrated Scharnhorst’s armored belt. The hit at the belt destroyed No.1 Boiler Room and reduced her speed to 20 knots. The end came soon after, as Scharnhorst’s British pursuers pounded her with gunfire from 4.7-inch, 6-inch, 8-inch, and 14-inch guns. Illuminated under star shells fired by British cruisers, Scharnhorst fired back with her remaining 11-inch main and her secondary batteries. But without radar and in fading visibility, few hits were scored and no more major damage inflicted. Destroyers, including the Norwegian Stord, struck Scharnhorst repeatedly with torpedoes.

The painting "Sinking of Scharnhorst" shows Duke of York and cruisers to starboard of the battlecruiser, Scharnhorst illuminated and being struck in the starboard bow by a torpedo from the destroyers running down her beam.

The painting “Sinking of Scharnhorst” shows Duke of York and cruisers to starboard of the battlecruiser, Scharnhorst illuminated and being struck in the starboard bow by a torpedo from the destroyers running down her beam.

At approximately 1945, her sides stoved in and her topside a shambles, Scharnhorst rolled to starboard, and sank “with her propellers turning”. Only 36 crewmen were rescued from the freezing waters.

Designed like the “panzerschiffe” before her to outrun what she could not outgun, Scharnhorst and her equally famous sister Gneisenau were fast, powerful ships. When these two ships managed to break out into the Atlantic, they were perhaps the most successful of the Kriegsmarine’s commerce raiders, and their speed and armor made them tough opponents for all but the most powerful battleships.

Scharnhorst was known as “Lucky Scharnhorst” for her numerous successful forays into British-controlled waters (including the Channel Dash), and her ability to return often from these forays with significant damage. Due to be upgraded with six 15-inch guns in twin turrets in the place of her nine gun three-triple 11-inch battery, Scharnhorst was sunk before she could mount the new weapons. These would have increased her lethality significantly. In the end, though, the “lone wolf” raiders like Graf Spee, Bismarck, Scharnhorst, Tirpitz, and Gneisenau (heavily damaged and scuttled at Gdynia) did a small fraction of the damage inflicted by Donitz’s U-boat Wolf Packs.

There is a fitting final tribute to Scharnhorst, however. It came from Admiral Fraser, RN, commanding the British force. He told his gathered officers after the battle that, he hoped, “if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today”.

I’m looking at the Final Environmental Impact Statement (Volume II) for the West Coast Basing of the MV-22. It tells me, among other things, that, according to the Navy Safety Center’s Aviation Hazard Data Base, the V-22 has not suffered a single Class A mishap since FY 2001 (page 6-239). (the entire set of MV-22 EIS documents can be found here.)

A Class A mishap–if I recall correctly–means that there is either $1,000,000 property damage and/or aircraft is destroyed (Or that the accident inflicts a fatality or permanent total disability).

But Ronald O’Rourke’s September 16, 2009 Congressional Research Service report, “V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft: Background and Issues for Congress” tells me, on page 46, this:

The program continues to experience technical and operational challenges, and
mishaps. For example, an inadvertent takeoff in March 2006 caused wing and engine damage in excess of $1 million…An engine fire on December 7, 2006, caused more than $1 million to repair…”

What’s up? Am I missing some nuance in the EIS verbiage? Who can I believe here? Truth is truth, but..I mean, look….If a V-22 incident costs under a million dollars to repair, then fine, ok, the mishap should be classified as a Class B mishap or less.

The incentive for the Marine Corps to down-grade the severity of Osprey mishap data is obvious.

The program had (and still has) a lot to loose if the rate of MV-22 Class A mishaps increases. Why? Because the Marine Corps regularly uses the low rate of reported MV-22 Class A mishaps to sell the program to policymakers (If you read the EIS, the Marines compare Osprey Class A mishap rates to those of legacy platforms–and, obviously, the Osprey comes out lookin’ good). Such a strategy may be leading to data manipulation by the U.S. Marine Corps.

News stories coming from, say, the December 2006 Osprey incident (cited in the CRS quote above), suggest there might have been some pressure out there to minimize the severity of Osprey mishaps (the day after the previous story went to press, it became a tentative “Class B” ). But here’s media coverage of Marine Corps spokesman telling me that the March 2006 incident was a Class A mishap:

The base at New River is overseen by the 2nd Marine Air Wing at Cherry Point, NC. Maj. Shawn Haney, a spokeswoman at Cherry Point, said the incident has been labeled a class A mishap, which is the most serious and expensive kind. By definition, any mishap costing more than $1 million is in this category.

But, in the Navy Safety Center data, there’s no record of a Class A mishap occurring, apparently. What happened here? Is, somebody, quite frankly tinkering with the data? Who can I believe?

It gets worse.

Take a simple Osprey fire and emergency landing from November 2007, and read subsequent coverage of the investigation–very thorough work from the usually V-22 friendly website, here and here (the picture above was taken from an official report on the incident–parts of which posted here). This, according the the JAG report, should have been a Class A mishap–it was a hydraulic fluid incident, where:

The fluid drained onto the infrared sup­pres­sor sec­tion of the nacelle — where hot exhaust from the engine is cooled to cut down on the plane’s heat sig­na­ture — spark ing the mid-​​air fire which caused more than $16 mil­lion in dam­age to the air­craft, accord­ingto the Judge Advocate General Manual Investigation report obtained by Military​.com.

Sixteen million dollars of damage, eh? So..why was this crash not reported as a Class A mishap? What level of mishap is it classified as today? A Class B? What? How does one go from $16 million to less than a million?

This is safety we’re talking about.

I get the game, and I’m fine with folks trying to work the system a bit. Within reason. But if somebody in the Navy went through a strenuous effort (accounting-wise or whatever) to work the dollar-figures down to under a million bucks, then…you know…that’s being untruthful. I get the game–depreciation and all that, yeah–but…

…given that we taxpayers are paying about two million dollars per Rolls Royce engine (In December we bought 62 engines for the MV-22 for $128 million), I find it pretty hard to believe the Marine Corps can walk away from an engine fire for less than a million in damages. We can talk about whether or not we should–given the increasing complexity and price of our military equipment–and adjust the dollar value of a Class A mishap a little higher. But…still, making a $16 million dollar incident vanish from safety records is a bit more than a simple bureaucratic masterpiece. To me, it carries a whiff of fraud.

And, bottom line, it’s safety we’re talking about here. Good, honest safety records make for good, honest policy decisions–decisions that can save the lives of Americans.

The data is waay too fishy. And it does nothing to build confidence that the MV-22 program is where it should be. So, for next year, I hope Marine Corps Aviation works a whole lot harder to be accountable. Personally, after sorting through this mess of contradictory data, I’m loosing confidence in a programthat should be celebrating–and far beyond this kind of high-schoolish data-fudging.

I want to know. If this is a screw-up (deliberate or otherwise), just who is accountable for it?

And, for that matter, when will the executives responsible for this program be held accountable? The whole world wonders.

Cover - 1935 Christmas Dinner Menu Chief's Mess USS Holland (AS-3). From the collection of Jim Dolbow

Cover - 1935 Christmas Dinner Menu Chief's Mess USS Holland (AS-3). From the collection of Jim Dolbow

To see what the Chief’s had for Christmas Dinner 74 years ago today, click here

Posted by Jim Dolbow in History | No Comments


The Commanding Officer extends to all hands his best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The past year has been one of adjustment to new living conditions for all hands. May the New Year bring an end to this situation.

G.K. Stoddard, Commander, USN (Ret)

Commanding Officer


Dinner Menu Prayer

O God, who Makest us Glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of Thine only Son, Jesus Christ, we thank Thee for the blessings of the past year.

We ask that Thou, in Thy all-knowing wisdom, guide us in the perilous days of the coming year.


Posted by Jim Dolbow in History, Navy | No Comments

There is sad news this morning that we have lost another one. No, it was not some actor who kills himself with chemicals at a young age, or a famous personality whose face we recognize from television or politics. What we lost yesterday is one more of those heroes that Hollywood couldn’t make up, and wouldn’t be believed if they did. Colonel Robert L. Howard, United States Army, Retired, has passed away. He was just 70, and, as Brian Williams said in his touching piece, “cancer did what the enemy could not do”.

Howard MOH

Then-Captain Howard received the Medal of Honor from President Nixon for his actions in a 1968 rescue mission in Vietnam. Below is his citation.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 1st Lt. Howard (then Sfc .), distinguished himself while serving as platoon sergeant of an American-Vietnamese platoon which was on a mission to rescue a missing American soldier in enemy controlled territory in the Republic of Vietnam. The platoon had left its helicopter landing zone and was moving out on its mission when it was attacked by an estimated 2-company force. During the initial engagement, 1st Lt. Howard was wounded and his weapon destroyed by a grenade explosion. 1st Lt. Howard saw his platoon leader had been wounded seriously and was exposed to fire. Although unable to walk, and weaponless, 1st Lt. Howard unhesitatingly crawled through a hail of fire to retrieve his wounded leader. As 1st Lt. Howard was administering first aid and removing the officer’s equipment, an enemy bullet struck 1 of the ammunition pouches on the lieutenant’s belt, detonating several magazines of ammunition. 1st Lt. Howard momentarily sought cover and then realizing that he must rejoin the platoon, which had been disorganized by the enemy attack, he again began dragging the seriously wounded officer toward the platoon area. Through his outstanding example of indomitable courage and bravery, 1st Lt. Howard was able to rally the platoon into an organized defense force. With complete disregard for his safety, 1st Lt. Howard crawled from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded, giving encouragement to the defenders and directing their fire on the encircling enemy. For 3 1/2 hours 1st Lt. Howard’s small force and supporting aircraft successfully repulsed enemy attacks and finally were in sufficient control to permit the landing of rescue helicopters. 1st Lt. Howard personally supervised the loading of his men and did not leave the bullet-swept landing zone until all were aboard safely. 1st Lt. Howard’s gallantry in action, his complete devotion to the welfare of his men at the risk of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

In addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor, Colonel Howard was awarded eight (count ’em) Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross twice, a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars. As his tribute website points out, his deeds and his Medal of Honor award ceremony were virtually ignored by the Press. That is to their everlasting shame. This was Vietnam, and honoring heroism was tantamount to glorifying war.

Colonel Howard, USA, and Colonel McGinty, USMC, Medal of Honor Recipients, visit a wounded soldier.

Colonel Howard, USA, and Colonel McGinty, USMC, Medal of Honor Recipients, visit a wounded soldier.

Despite his diagnosis of cancer, Colonel Howard was a regular visitor to Iraq and Afghanistan, and was a voice for our men and women in uniform. In his piece, Brian Williams said “They don’t make ’em like that anymore”. I am not sure Colonel Howard would have agreed.

He likely saw himself in the young faces he met in Iraq and Afghanistan that are fighting our Nation’s wars. They, in turn, saw a hero and an inspiration.



Happy Holidays

December 2009


With Tiger Woods unable to record his Christmas message this year for the US Naval Institute due to family issues, we are going with the next best thing. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen!

The CJCS holiday video can be watched here. Below is the CJCS Holiday 2009 message.

As America celebrates this holiday season, our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen are serving around the world. Families and friends at home can enjoy the holidays in peace thanks to your sacrifice. In the midst of glad tidings, we honor your service and that of your families who serve along with you.

Our thoughts and prayers are especially with our wounded warriors, their families, and the families of the fallen. They bear solemn burdens often made heavier by absence. We all must do our part to honor them and ensure they do not shoulder their cares in solitude this holiday season. America’s finest families richly deserve the love and thanks of a grateful Nation, and we will never forget their sacrifice.

On behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our families, I thank you for all you do for our country. We wish you and your families a joyful holiday season, and all of the blessings of a very happy New Year.


Admiral, U.S. Navy

As always, you can find the Chairman on one of his many virtual communities.

From all of us at the US Naval Institute Blog – Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

cyber_warDanger Room is doing an outstanding job covering the story regarding insurgents capturing data from drones by eavesdropping the airwaves first revealed by the Wall Street Journal. Additional stories have covered other systems potentially vulnerable, potential ramifications of insurgent data interception, and my personal favorite – a discussion with Rex Buddenberg of the Naval Postgraduate School regarding the broader problem where the DoD focuses primarily on link security (communication protection) as opposed to data security (information protection).

But most of the conversation to date has taken a traditional military view of the problem. Ask an Army General what it means when the enemy is using specific tactics to infiltrate your lines of communication, and the General is unlikely to give you any good news. Ask a cyber soldier what it means when the enemy is using specific tactics to infiltrate your lines of communication, and you might notice a slight smile cross the soldiers face. When the enemy is in your lines it means bad news in traditional military terms, but in the asymmetrical world of cyber warfare this development should be seen as an opportunity.

Consider the details surrounding this massive security breach and consider whether things are as they appear. We know a lot of detail, a shocking amount actually.

  • We know what systems are most vulnerable.
  • We know what software is being used by the enemy.
  • We know what hardware is being used by the enemy.
  • We may even have a good idea of the skill level of the cyber insurgent.
  • We have a good degree of knowledge on the devices receiving and potentially disseminating the data.
  • We have complete control over the devices expected to send the information.

In cyber warfare terms, that is a gold mine of information.

There is a phrase in cyber warfare: The distance between information dominance and disinformation dominance is measured in millimeters. The use of “disinformation” in that phrase is often confused to mean playing charades with data (or changing data), but it should be seen in the context of social engineering for information (sometimes described as lie to learn). The DoD treats information as a weapon, always has. That isn’t always a good thing for our strategic communications, but in this case, treating information as a weapon is appropriate. Unless the Wall Street Journal article is one of the best conceived disinformation campaigns in cyber military history, it is very unlikely the WSJ’s source is a cyber security expert – rather a traditional military thinker who is forgetting to channel his inner Clausewitz.

In the old days of full disclosure for computer security vulnerabilities it was common for cyber experts wearing either a white or black hat to utilize a honeypot set to detect, deflect, sometimes counteract, but always to make record of attempts at unauthorized use of information systems. The purpose of most honeypots was to learn new techniques and identify common patterns used in the internet wild. Honeypots were intentionally left undefended in many cases, because the hope was to lure the hacker in.

From a cyber warfare perspective, the short term solution to the UAV video issue is not to encrypt the data (which is the long term solution), rather to use the unencrypted video stream to go after the cyber insurgents – with the specific intention of getting inside their network. It is not complicated to have a normal UAV camera send a video signal exactly as intended for the military function, but include packet data that exploits vulnerabilities in software like skygrabber, or to include code that exploits known vulnerabilities in popular video players. I’m sticking to very common examples that are easily understood by the masses, but at many layers of the UAVs video signal the potential to exploit the unencrypted broadcasted video feed as a weapon is significant.

In cyber warfare on today’s military battlefield, the UAV would became the signaling device intended to turn every unauthorized listening laptop into a potential breached system of the insurgent network, and there are many ways to add data to the UAV video system without compromising the military use of the video system. It is entirely probable the DoD is leveraging the known vulnerabilities of the video feed to turn the insurgent satellite snooper network into a new gateway into the insurgent information network.

While this UAV data breach does represent a horribly designed, taxpayer funded military information network, there is no reason the DoD isn’t already using this “problem” to our advantage, and leveraging the detailed knowledge of the insurgent eavesdropping techniques to get the cyber insurgents unwittingly working for our side. Most of the social engineering work has already been done; we know what the target network entry point, hardware, software, and user skill level… all that is left is to develop and deliver payloads.

Our Clausewitz trained military knows the best defense is a good offense. On today’s cyber military battlefield, going offensive with cyber “smart bombs” is a legitimate response to unauthorized network intruders in a war zone, indeed it should be standard operating procedure for all unencrypted military networks moving potentially sensitive data.

Posted by galrahn in Cyber | 9 Comments
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