Archive for September, 2010

Phyllis and Paul Galanti posed Saturday in front of the Newsweek cover photo that captured their reunion in 1973 after his release from captivity in North Vietnam.

Last Friday marked National POW-MIA Day and Richmond, Virginia, commemorated the day by dedicating a new education center at the Virginia War Memorial to a former Vietnam POW and his wife, Cdr. Paul Galanti, USN (Ret.), and his wife Phyllis. The POW and larger veterans’ communities are well familiar with the Galantis, as Commander Galanti now serves as the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs. But the couple’s service and activism started back during his captivity: he was notorious for raising a certain finger in protest to his North Vietnamese captors in a photo shoot for Life magazine and she was tireless in her very public campaign to win his release. (As Henry Kissinger told Paul at the White House dinner thrown for the returning POWs, “Your vife, Paul, she caused me so much trouble.”)

But many people do not realize how forceful Paul and Phyllis have been as community advocates in their adopted home of Richmond, particularly in the revitalization of the Virginia War Memorial. This outdoor memorial pays tribute to all Virginians who lost their lives in war. Built after World War II, it suffered benign neglect for many years until a group of concerned citizens in the Richmond community, including the Galantis, led an effort to restore it. It soon became a popular venue for hosting military and veterans events and commemorations. Numerous educational programs for teachers, students and the general public soon followed. But the small, antiquated multi-purpose room and small office space that stood adjacent to the memorial was not sufficient to meet the growing need for space.

Through a public-private partnership (a combination of state money and private donations from individuals and corporations), the campaign to build the Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center got underway and the center broke ground in 2007. This weekend, the center opened to the public for the first time – with a black tie gala headlined by Gov. Robert McDonnell and Ross Perot, and a weekend of concerts, children’s activities and facility tours. The facility adds an additional 18,000 square feet of space to the Memorial and boasts new exhibit and special event space, plus a conference room, a theater, a research library, and an 800-seat outdoor amphitheater.

The entrance to the newly dedicated Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.The center atrium and lobby of the newly dedicated Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

Posted by The Bunny in History, Navy | 1 Comment

Know it or repeat it

September 2010


What does history have to tell us about today’s piracy challenge? Is there anything new about what we are facing? What tools and methods were used before that we can use again? What are the foundations of successfully defeating threats to the free flow of commercial goods at market prices on the high seas?

Well, you have a great opportunity to find out.

On the 20th of October in Annapolis, MD, USNI is hosting the 2010 History Conference with the focus; Piracy on the High Seas: Can History Help Defeat Present-Day Pirates?

An “A-list” of speakers runs from former Commander of ESG-2 RADM Terence E. McKnight, USN (Ret.) to Professor Virginia S. Lunsford that makes this well worth your time to make the trip to the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Get all the details here.

Any yes; I made this post because – well – you know.

Tensions Between China And Japan Rise Over Disputed Gas Field
China has moved what appears to be drilling equipment to a gas rig in waters claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo, further increasing tensions between the two countries. Images taken by Japan’s air force indicate the delivery of new equipment and workers preparing to begin drilling at the natural gas field in the East China Sea that Beijing knows as the Chunxiao field but Tokyo claims as the Shirakaba sector.

Pakistan’s largest city on edge after Imran Farooq’s Assassination
Karachi, Pakistan, was tense on Friday amid fears that the assassination of exiled political leader Imran Farooq could spark ethnic violence.

Nuke Outlaw as Pakistani President?
Pakistan’s nuclear weapons renegade, who sold nuclear secrets to America’s enemies (Iran, North Korea and Libya) and spent the best part of the last decade under house arrest, is still Pakistan’s most popular man. Last week, Abdul Qadeer Khan, now a free man, was a guest on ARY, one of Pakistan’s most popular TV channels with a strong anti-U.S. bias. A frequent guest on ARY is another notorious anti-American, Gen. Hamid Gul, long retired as a former Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief and self-appointed adviser to Pakistan’s anti-U.S. Islamist political parties. Not only did he get 90 minutes of air time, but Khan talked openly of when he might be president or prime minister, enough to give official Washington conniption fits.

New Intel Leads Senators To Oppose START Ratification
Two senior Senate Republicans expressed new concerns about a strategic arms pact with Russia that could imperil formal ratification as the pact was voted out of committee on Thursday. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted by 14 to four to approve what is being called New START, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Read the rest of this entry »

After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1962, then-ENS Galanti reported to fighter jet training, learning to fly the A-4C Skyhawk. In November 1965, he deployed on the carrier USS Hancock to South East Asia. On his 98th combat mission in Vietnam, he was shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese. He spent almost seven years, from 17 June 1966 to 12 February 1973, interned in the infamous Vietnamese prison camp dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton.” After retiring from the Navy in 1982, he has served as Executive Director of the Virginia Pharmaceutical Association , Medical Society of Virginia’s CEO, and Executive Director of the Science Museum of Virginia Foundation. He currently serves as Commissioner of Veterans Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

JJ: Mr. Galanti, I heard there’s an interesting story about you giving the finger to the Vietcong. What happened?
PG: In June 1967, several of us were moved to a camp that was obviously being prepared as a propaganda camp. We named the camp “The Plantation. It had been used as a film studio at some point. When they tried to get mw to submit to an interview with German journalists I said I’d tell about all the torture and bad treatment. The camp commander said I was to sit and look happy and not say anything in my cell. Here are some of the photos. The unadulterated photos were on display in every intelligence center in DOD. My classmates and squadronmates knew I wasn’t cooperating.

JJ: Did your training at the Academy help you overcome captivity in Vietnam?
PG: Yes. Many of the leaders in Hanoi were Naval Academy graduates. Admirals Jim Stockdale and Jeremiah Denton (’47), Bill Lawrence (’51) and others.
I often refer to my Hanoi experience as Plebe Years Bravo through Hotel. Admiral Stockdale said the same thing. He lamented the softening of plebe year and the over-emphasis on computer and other people unfriendly endeavors. Our old “Jack of all trades master of none” USNA B.S. degree was the best “major” in existence then. When USNA decided to do the “Major” thing and join the academic standards rules of the majority of colleges and universities, the experience went downhill in my opinion.

Why? Our degree was 160 semester hours almost equally divided between Hard Sciences and Humanities. We all had classes on Saturdays and the curriculum was identical. We were engineers who could write. The degree was good for grad school in nearly any discipline. We all took two years of a language which, more than anything else, improved our English. I am, frankly, appalled by the inability of many midshipmen and USNA graduate officers to express themselves beyond a vocabulary of only a few hundred words. In informal conversations with mids when I visit the yard, the many seem barely literate.

JJ: Why did you decide to remain in the service after Vietnam?
PG: Why??? Why not? All my friends were there. Had I not been medically retired (as a Battalion Officer at USNA in 1982) I’d still be there.

JJ: From 1979 to 1982, you served as the officer representative to the Midshipmen Honor Committee. From your experiences there, do you believe the Academy should go back to separating midshipmen for a single honor violation (the single-sanction policy)?
PG: Yes. Equivocating honor is dumb. Stupid. And sends hundreds of wrong messages.

JJ: Medal of Honor recipient VADM Stockdale said that Stoicism helped him overcome his internment. Did Stoicism help you get through the Hanoi Hilton?
PG: VADM Stockdale is the only one who said that. He was a true philosopher who honestly believed his mission in life was to lead in adversity. Many stories, nearly all favorable, about “CAG” Stockdale. A true “Man’s Man.”

JJ: If you could do it over again, would you still chose naval aviation after graduating from the Academy?
PG: Of course. Without hesitation.

JJ: How did your seven years in captivity change you as a person?
PG: It didn’t. The world changed for the worse, IMNSHO [In my not so humble opinion].

JJ: Where you ever offered repatriation before 1973?
PG: I think that’s what the photo shoot was all about. I didn’t make the cut due to a decidedly “bad attitude.” Immediately after the Germans went away I was moved to a filthy cell sleeping on the ground in about an inch of coal dust. Its bloc of cells was located next to the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant.

JJ: Other Vietnam POWs called the day they were shot down/captured the “day I died.” Did you feel this way?
PG: I don’t ever remember feeling that I died on 17 June 1966 although torture, beatings and solitary confinement made me wish I had gone down with airplane on several occasions.

JJ: In your capacity as commissioner of Veterans’ Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia, how can our government better handle veterans’ services?
PG: Uncle Sam can’t afford to do all it should actually do for the veterans – particularly those who are disabled.

JJ: Do you have any career advice for current midshipmen or junior officers?
PG: Press on. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Keep your chin up and always do the absolute best you can on any assigned task – and seek out every opportunity you can find to excel. Hey, it’ll work. I promise.

I’d like to thank CDR Galanti again for this interview and for his extraordinary service.

Posted by jjames in Aviation, Navy | 5 Comments

In late 1949, things were looking bleak for Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces. Two million Nationalists had just fled from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan, and now the Communists looked poised to invade the island. Despite the fact that Communist forces had experience with amphibious operations and that a Communist invasion of Taiwan would likely have been successful, the operation never happened. What was the reason for Taiwan’s salvation? According to one source [gated], it was a waterborne parasite: schistosoma japonicum.

Lacking proper landing boats, Communist military leaders knew they would have to rely on junks to ferry soldiers across the Taiwan Strait. However, without access to proper port facilities in Taiwan the junks would not be able to get close enough to shore to disembark their troops directly onto dry land. The Communists’ solution was simple: the troops would swim from the junks to the invasion beaches. To prepare for their swim, soldiers of the invasion force were given months of swimming lessons in canals on the mainland.

However, unbeknownst to invasion planners, the canals were infested with schistosoma japonicum parasites. Soldiers started to get sick soon after the lessons began. Eventually, an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Communist soldiers came down with schistosomiasis and were in no condition to participate in the operation. This represented the core of the invasion force. The outbreak delayed the invasion six months and before the Communists could mount a new operation the Korean War began and American warships positioned themselves in the strait. The window of opportunity had closed.

Source: Kiernan Jr, F. A. 1959. “The blood fluke that saved Formosa.” Harpers Magazine: 45–47.

Special thanks to Jonathan Shainin for obtaining a copy of the above Harper’s article.

Today was not the typical groundhog-esq day in Kandahar. For today, I watched my Navy pin 18 of the newest Chief Petty Officers.

I was reminded of the ceremony being today by my Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (LCPO in Navy Parlance) after their stand up. They didn’t really know what to call it, “There’s this pinning thing today for CPOs. YN (They don’t call me YN2, they just call me ‘YN’. Or, more humorously, they sometimes call me H20) what’s this ‘pinning thing’ all about? What’s a CPO?” My eyes lit up, and I got rather animated when I explained to them everything that happens at these ceremonies. I explained to them what a Bos’n’s Pipe is, and everything that is awesome about it. What sideboys are. Most of all I explained to them just how ‘effin important it is when a Sailor makes Chief. There is no analogue in the Army to compare to a Chief. Though, the Army has First Sergeants (E-8) and Warrant Officers. I explain to Soldiers that our Chiefs are a combination of their First Sergeants and Warrants (they have WO1s, and you can become a Warrant at E-5) .

I walked to the ceremony from my office with a Sergeant First Class (E-7) and a Lieutenant Colonel that work in the same building as me. When we got to where the ceremony was being held, I was amazed to see how many people were there, not just from the Navy and Marine Corps, but from the Army and Air Force as well. As far as I could tell, every Chief from Kandahar was present. A Brigadier General gave a (long) speech that was very well informed and spoke eloquently regarding the history of Chief Petty Officers.

The Chiefs marched in front of us while singing all three verses of Anchors Aweigh. All Sailors stood at attention as we recited our Creed, it was loud and proud. Aircraft taking off for combat missions temporarily drowned out the National Anthem as it was being sung, though that seemed very poignant and in a way, proper. One of the Seabee CMCs on base gave a speech as well, he told the new Chiefs that they are a part of a distinguished fraternity that comes with responsibilities that could not be found in any manual, directive or instruction. He said that this tradition is now in their hands, what it means to be a Chief will be decided by their deeds and actions. Maggie’s favorite BMCS piped each aboard after they were pinned.

After every pinning ceremonies I always walk about two inches taller. My Chiefs make me proud to be a Sailor. You can’t help but hear history talking to you during these ceremonies. The way Chiefs talk to each other, how they at once chide each other and decide how to carry out the Plan of the Day. All the hash marks on their sleeves–the sea stories.

I dream big things for myself, imagining stuff like working at senior levels of policy making and such (dream job: SECNAV). But, when I seriously contemplate doing something like that, it makes me sad. Because, it means I will not be able to be a Chief, that I will have to devote my life to a different path. But, watching Chiefs being pinned, and just being around Chiefs, I want to be that. I think I may even want to do that more. I can easily point to things I don’t like that my Navy does, I can even explain how many things could be done better. But, when it comes to our Senior Enlisted, I have very little in terms of things that are wrong. Chiefs get so many things right on a daily basis it is mind boggling. As senior as Master Chiefs are, it is amazing how well they can listen to you. Everything I hold as being right and good with my Navy is represented in the Gold Fouled Anchor. HOOYAH CHIEFS!

Administration vows to get tough with China
The Obama administration is signaling it plans to take a tougher stance with China on trade issues, including demanding that Beijing move more quickly to reform its currency system. As part of that new approach, the administration filed two new trade cases against China before the World Trade Organization….

Chinese Think Tank Warns US It Will Emerge As Loser In Trade War
A State Council think-tank in China has warned Washington that the US will come off worst in a trade war if it imposes sanctions against Beijing over the two nations’ currency spat.

Israel-Palestinian talks end without settlement deal: What happens next?
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US envoy George Mitchell hopped on planes to seek the support of regional leaders, with only two weeks before the Israeli settlement freeze expires.

Former Iraqi Gov’t Spokesman: Iraq is Central to a Major U.S.-Iran Deal to Share Influence in Region
Leith Kubbah, a former Iraqi government spokesman who currently resides in Washington, told the Iraqi daily al-Zaman that the U.S. is preparing a major package deal with Iran for sharing influence in the region….

Read the rest of this entry »

China ire at sea chase signals wider reach
Beijing’s reaction to the incident in the East China Sea involving a Chinese commercial fishing boat and the Japanese Coast Guard may seem overblown, given all available evidence. Yet it signals that Beijing may be preparing to extend the focus of its expression of core maritime interests to beyond the South China Sea.

Shariah a danger to U.S., security pros say
A panel of national security experts who worked under Republican and Democratic presidents is urging the Obama administration to abandon its stance that Islam is not linked to terrorism, arguing that radical Muslims are using Islamic law to subvert the United States.

India-China Ties in Deep Freeze
The deep chill that India-China relations have entered following Beijing’s refusal of travel permission to a senior Indian army commander responsible for Jammu and Kashmir is more widespread than the frustrations expressed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As mentioned on China Power, talking to Indian editors, Singh pointed to China’s new assertiveness and alleged that Beijing wanted to keep India at a ‘low-level equilibrium’ and suggested it also wanted Pakistan kept antagonistic towards it. But Singh certainly isn’t alone in his concerns. His views were echoed by India’s defence minister, A.K. Anthony, at a combined commanders’ conference in Delhi, and were also apparently reflected in the notes shared by visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada with his Indian counterpart, S.M.Krishna, last month.
Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 15, 2010, at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, the United States Navy Memorial is having the 2010 Lone Sailor Awards Dinner.

A couple of days ago on Midrats, fellow USNIBlog’r EagleOne and I had on two of the honorees as guests; Eddie LaBaron and Lanier Phillips.

Though known as four-time Pro-Bowler, quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1950s, Tom Landry’s first quarterback in Dallas, and Don Meredith’s mentor; he was also a USMC Lieutenant in the Korean Conflict; decorated with the Purple Heart and awarded the Bronze Star.

We spent the first half hour of the show discussing the Korean War, Marines, and professional football – along the way weaving in some well grounded ideas on the nature of leadership.

Our guest for the second half of the hour, Lanier Phillips, was a trailblazer for all Sailors. In October of 1941, at the age of eighteen, Lanier joined the Navy. He was a survivor of the February of 1942 sinking of the USS TRUXTUN (DD-229). He was not just any Sailor though, he later took a step with confidence like he did during the shipwreck that put him in an raft – he asked to be treated as an equal and was the first black Navy sailor to become a sonar technician.

An impressive man and Sailor – we had a chance to talk about everything from life on a WWII era destroyer, the arch of how our Navy has dealt with race over the last 70 years – challenges that still exist, and some bright thoughts for the future.

It’s fine if you couldn’t join us live – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.

China, Japan fishing boat standoff deepens amid delayed talks
With no end to the fishing boat dispute in sight, relations between Asia’s two biggest economies are in danger of backsliding.

Does India Want Stable Pakistan?
In the aftermath of yet another abortive attempt to reach a rapprochement with Pakistan this July, a time-honored debate has again been resurrected in New Delhi’s foreign and security policy circles. The debate revolves around the question of whether or not it’s in India’s interests to have a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan. Yet the question in its present form misses the point. The real issue isn’t whether or not such an outcome is desirable. Instead, the more pertinent issue for India’s policymakers is to establish how such a Pakistani state would behave toward India.

China’s young officers and the 1930s syndrome
“China’s military spending is growing so fast that it has overtaken strategy,” said Professor Huang Jing from the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. “The young officers are taking control of strategy and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. They are thinking what they can do, not what they should do. This is very dangerous. They are on a collision course with a US-dominated system”.

South Korea to Russia: The Cheonan was sunk by a torpedo, end of story
The South Korea government on Monday released the full version of its investigation into the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which it hopes will offer conclusive proof to a skeptical Russia that the explosion that killed 46 sailors was due to a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine.
Read the rest of this entry »

« Older Entries Newer Entries »