Archive for April, 2012

As many are looking back at the last decade+ of war, many want to forget. Indeed, as reported by Michael Hirsh in National Journal, “The war on terror is over,” one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. “Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.”

Perhaps it is time to look back even further, before 911, to see how we got here.

Our guest this Sunday for the full hour will be Kirk Lippold, CDR USN (Ret), Commanding Officer of the USS COLE (DDG-67) at the time of her attack 12 OCT 2000 in the port of Aden, Yemen – and author of the new book, a first hand account of the attack from the Commander’s perspective, Front Burner: Al Qaeda’s Attack on the USS Cole.

Join us by going Episode 121: “Front Burner The Attack on the USS COLE” on Midrats at Blog Talk Radio or by listening or downloading the show from Midrats at Blog Talk Radio or from iTunes.


Giving Australia a leg up

April 2012


As greater fiscal austerity looms, talk of the importance of allies and being able to partner and leverage their capabilities has grown ever more intense. Yet are we thinking big enough and about the right problems? Are we getting the biggest bang for our buck and helping them take a bigger step onto the main stage?

Case in point: Australia.

Yesterday was ANZAC Day, commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps participation in the disaster that was Gallipoli. Today they fight alongside NATO in Afghanistan — and are one of the allies that actually gets into the fight. Australia is also set to host 2,500 Marines, provide port facilities for the Navy and perhaps even airfields.

It is hard to think of a stronger or more compatible ally for America in the Pacific than the Australians. And they’re a scrappy people for good measure. Yet here is an ally that has found itself in a particularly difficult place with the fiasco in developing and fielding the Collins class SSKs, and which does not have a clear roadmap for building to a fleet of twelve large, capable submarines — though it has made the commitment to spend some US$30 billion over ten years to get it.

Australia’s problem is as simple as it is substantial (it is the same as Israel’s) — it’s military requirements far outstrip its economic and demographic base. This is particularly the case for Australia as it finds the region becoming far more sophisticated and contested, particularly with China’s growing anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities that even the United States military is struggling to confront. And they mean that Australia, too, will need to be able to do much more from beneath the waves.

The idea of leasing new-build (and American-built) Virginia SSNs to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has been bouncing around Australia for a little while now. There is no shortage of problems: one of the RAN’s problems is manpower, so more than doubling the crew requirements from the Collin’s class is hardly a small thing; the training and infrastructure (and some legal issues probably) associated with nuclear engineering is enormous and comes at a cost above and beyond the cost of an individual submarine and money is tight everywhere. (A more robust analysis can be found on page 15 of this report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.)

Obviously, given the magnitude of the American Navy’s own problems, there is not much additional room to help from the Defense budget. But if we can share Trident with the Brits and we can give Israel more than enough money to buy a Virginia SSN each year, is there more we could do to help Australia help us buy throwing an enormous amount of money at Newport News and GD Electronic Boat while at the same time and putting more Virginia SSNs on station in the western Pacific? And are there other ways we can think bigger about our allies and their capabilities in ways that look expensive at first glance but have enormous benefits longer-term?


Midshipmen Tour Gettysburg

April 2012


Every Saturday morning at Annapolis, Plebes and select upperclassmen participate in six hours worth of midshipman-led professional training. These evolutions vary by company and season, including such activities as running through the obstacle course, discussions with combat veterans, and, most recently, a trip to Gettysburg National Battlefield.

Midshipman 2/c Hobart Kistler, a native of Central, PA, has led tours of that most Hallowed Ground for the past eight years, and, needless to say, knows the place inside-out. Under Kistler’s supervision, 40 midshipmen (I among them) from the Academy’s distinguished 13th Company made the trip two weekends ago, departing Annapolis at 0530- early even by a midshipman’s standard for a Saturday.

Having visited numerous Civil War battlefields growing up in Virginia, I assumed Kistler would give the standard tour with our bus driving us between points of interest. I was quite surprised to hear that we would march, run, and charge over the entire field, just as Confederate and Union soldiers did 149 years ago!

Heavy dew still covered the grass as we stepped off the bus at just after 0700 on that chilly morning. Apart from the specter of a few silent cannons visible in the early morning haze, the terrain looked much like any other section of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Kistler began our tour at the site of the first day’s fighting- July 1st, 1863. Marching in columns of four, we entered Herbst’s Woods, where a rebel sniper shot Major General John Reynolds as he desperately deployed his men to stem the Confederate attacks. Next came a sharp rush into the Railroad Cut, where hundreds of North Carolinians squared off with the Union’s elite Iron Brigade. We wrapped things up with a mile-long run up to the Eternal Peace Memorial, dedicated by FDR on the battle’s 75th anniversary, in 1938. There, Kistler told us the story of John Burns, an elderly Gettysburg resident and War of 1812 veteran who donned his faded uniform and flintlock and was wounded five times that day while fighting to keep the Secessionists from overrunning the homestead he had risked his life to defend almost a half-century earlier.

A short time later, we reassembled on Cemetery Ridge, where the Pennsylvania Monument lists the names of all members of the Keystone State to have defended their Commonwealth at Gettysburg. The Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, and Slaughter Pen followed in quick succession as we followed the course of Lieutenant General James Longstreeet’s attack on the Union left on Day Two, struggling to keep an orderly formation through dense, stony woods. The highlight of the morning for many was our charge up Little Round Top, the hill famously defended by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine against repeated Confederate assaults. The 13th Company guide-on was borne during the charge by Midshipman 4/c Brian Wasdin, a descendant of a Confederate soldier from Georgia. The spectacular view from the summit helped many to understand the hill’s strategic importance; indeed, the entire battlefield spreads out to the north and west, as a board game seen from above. When we reached the top, we realized that a group of West Point cadets had been at the top the entire time watching us ascend (I can’t help noting the irony). Descending the rear of the hill, via the route taken by Chamberlain’s men as they made their gallant bayonet charge, we finished our review of Day Two at Devil’s Den, where we explored the numerous sniping positions used by the Confederates to shot at the Union troops atop Little Round Top.

Midshipmen atop Little Round Top

The fighting on July 3rdcentered on Pickett’s Charge, the most infamous assault in American military history. In an effort to recreate the reality of the High Tide of the Confederacy, Kistler instructed all midshipmen to

Midshipmen struggle to maintain alignment while scaling a fence during Pickett’s Charge

remove their boots- by 1863, most Confederate soldiers were barefoot. Forming up rank and file in the same woods where Pickett’s men slept, we proceeded into the mile-wide field separating the woods from the famous Copse of Trees for which the soldiers aimed. Marching at first, and then double-timing, we arrived at the Emmittsburg Road, where Union canister began decimating Pickett’s men. By then the warm noonday sun had us sweating, but we scaled the double fences and broke into a full sprint. All 40 midshipmen let out the Rebel Yell as we charged for the stone wall that marked the Union lines. Arriving breathless, Kistler reminded us that at this point, Confederate soldiers would have just begun the hand-to-hand fighting that in 20 minutes left 10,000 men (twice our killed in Iraq and Afghanistan) on the field.

I’m glad the Naval Academy provides us with opportunities to tour local battlefields. 13th Company’s visit to Gettysburg, while brief, was an excellent reminder to all participants of the hardships endured by our antecedents in service. As we midshipmen prepare to enter the Fleet as ensigns and 2nd lieutenants, we will undoubtedly face challenges of our own; yet recognizing the not-so-remote heritage of valor, suffering, and triumph made evident through our tour of Gettysburg will provide reinforcement in moments of trial.

Many thanks to Midn Hobart Kistler for helping with this article.

Posted by jjames in History, Navy | 7 Comments

Lots of traffic over at Salamander’s Place, and at POGO, regarding continued problems with the Littoral Combat Ship program. I have commented on this struggling and costly program several times, and will refrain from doing so here, with the exception of a paraphrase of a comment that Sid made at Sal’s:

The Littoral Combat Ship is not built to survive combat in the littorals.

LCS was constructed to house weapons “modules” that do not exist, and in fact, consist largely of the theoretical.

Speed was going to be the capability which allowed LCS to avoid trouble. And now that single capability is negated by the fragility of the design that was required to reach those speeds.

Summed up thus:


Someone, ANYONE, with a wide stripe on a sleeve tell us that he is wrong. And WHY he is wrong.




Join CDR Salamander and me for Episode 120: “The Navy’s Pacific Problem” at Midrats on Blog Talk Radio, Sunday, 22Apr 2, 5pm (Eastern U.S.):

Throughout out nation’s history in the Pacific and more recently, the Indian Ocean, there have been a few cornerstone challenges that remain regardless of technology, strategy, or geopolitics; the tyranny of distance and the reality of square miles. The large open ocean, and the challenge of bases and resupply.

Both theaters are defined by their ocean, and no power can impact events these areas without a strong naval presence. In an environment of shrinking budgets, a fleet with a paucity of auxiliaries, and a future fleet that will have as a major portion of units a shallow water, limited mission, short range, LCS with a high reliance on base support – are we building a navy to meet strategic requirements, or are we trying to find a strategy to meet the fleet we are building?

Our guest for the full hour will be Robert Haddick, Managing Editor of Small Wars Journal. He writes the “This Week at War” column for Foreign Policy Magazine that covers current military developments, defense strategy, emerging threats, Pentagon planning, service doctrine, and related topics. We will use his article, “The Navy’s Pacific Problem”, as a reference point for the show’s discussion.

Haddick was a U.S. Marine Corps officer, served in the 3rd and 23rd Marine Regiments, and deployed to Asia and Africa. He has advised the State Department and the National Intelligence Council on strategy and irregular warfare issues.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left little doubt as to whether the People’s Republic of China was assisting North Korea with their ballistic missile program. From the Reuters article:

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that,” Panetta told members of the House Armed Services Committee when asked whether China had been supporting North Korea’s missile program through “trade and technology exchanges.”

While understandably unable to delve into details due to “sensitivity”, Secretary Panetta gave voice to the deep suspicions many have had since the beginning of China’s rise twenty years ago. It should be clear for all to see that China gains advantage by having a belligerent and nuclear-capable North Korea as a major thorn in the side of the United States in precisely the region that is the future focus of US Defense strategy, the Western Pacific.

The People’s Republic of China has consistently thwarted the efforts of the US and her allies to bring the DPRK under control China refused to condemn North Korea for the sinking of the ROK frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 ROK sailors. Nor did China offer any meaningful criticism for the shelling of Yeongpyong Island, which resulted in the deaths of two ROK Marines, other than an admonition not to “escalate”. When taken with the Chinese watering-down of UNSC sanctions against North Korea, continued military assistance, collaboration with DPRK in cyber attack efforts, ambivalence toward DPRK weapons and technology proliferation into the Middle East, and a blind eye to provocative border and SOF incursions into South Korea, these actions are indicators of China’s tacit approval of North Korea’s actions and posture.

There have been many who have sounded the warning klaxon. The issue has been addressed here, and the December 2011 Proceedings “Now Hear This” article by Defense analyst Joseph Bosco.

While China’s role in keeping the North Korean regime in power—and in the WMD business—is indisputable, analysts have offered unconvincing explanations of Chinese motives. U.S. experts have assured us that China shares our nuclear concerns but fears instability on the Korean peninsula. They accept China’s argument that even threatening to cut economic aid would collapse Kim Jong Il’s regime and trigger a refugee flow into China. But it has been clear for 60 years that the sole cause of instability between the Koreas has been Pyongyang’s own bizarre and dangerous behavior, despite substantial aid and concessions from accommodating South Korean governments. Yet China stands by its ally.

Indeed. Despite the consistent platitudes from Chinese diplomats and military officials of their willingness to be of assistance in “managing” North Korea, the reality is that China has very successfully played power politics in developing and maintaining North Korea’s military capabilities and belligerent posture. Chinese assistance to North Korea in developing a ballistic missile capability to carry a nuclear warhead well beyond the Korean peninsula is not a shocking aberration, but another in a long and consistent series of actions that cannot point reasonably to any other conclusion. North Korea will try again with the missile launch. And with Chinese assistance, they will eventually succeed.

The assertions to the contrary grow equally foolish-sounding, and detached from reality. One, in a rebuttal to the Bosco article, was that “The prospect of a better outcome lies not in blaming China but in working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea under new leadership”. Don’t you believe it. China has proven for decades they are more than willing to live with their recalcitrant southern neighbors, and the only “transformation” that Chinese leadership is interested in is making North Korea a more potent threat to the United States and its Western Pacific allies.

As has been said before, the time has long since come to recognize at the highest military and civilian levels of leadership in the United States that China is very far from being a benevolent ally, and even farther from sharing any kind of common interests or vision of either Asia and the Pacific Rim, or any other geographic region where they perceive their interests to lie. And this includes China’s subsidizing of the brutal, aggressive, repressive regime in North Korea.


As if on cue, DPRK ratchets up the rhetoric. And this telling summation from MSNBC:

In Beijing, North Korea’s biggest ally, China’s top foreign policy official met Sunday with a North Korean delegation and expressed confidence in the country’s new young leader, Kim Jong Un.


Seems the nuclear DPRK is no longer a hypothetical, if US estimates are correct. Which magnifies every last occurrence of Red China’s assistance to the Hermit Kingdom.

While below some comments express abhorrence of the spectre of a nuclear exchange, it is highly useful to remember that the People’s Republic of China and by proxy, her ally North Korea, do not necessarily share that view. I would caution the use of the term “well-reasoned” when framing the Korean peninsula in terms of American values and viewpoints. Which brings the argument back to that of being strong and capable enough with our conventional and nuclear arsenal to deter both countries from precisely the bellicosity that one has repeatedly threatened and the other has excused and minimized.


An amazing story. One of which I knew nothing. But I do now.

Reckless. Fifty-one trips. A more appropriate name you’ll never find for this wonderful little mare.

h/t Jay

As a Coastie I can say I take pride in my seagoing duties. No, I’m not a sailor but I work in the coastal zones for a seagoing service (it’s an association thing). However, we have Coast Guard personnel stationed all over the world; though 95% of those are near, if not on, the water there are those who work in the midst of- well- a place I thought was too flat and dry when I went there: Oklahoma City. There is little, well actually no, coastline there. But we have Coasties there and wherever we have Coasties they’re always ready.

19 April 1995 – A rental truck filled with explosives blew up half of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Institute and a Coast Guard reservist responded soon after the explosion and helped set up security zones, directed traffic, searched for survivors, and whatever else was needed. They also took over a church kitchen and opened what later became nicknamed “Cafe Coast Guard.” A rotating nine-person team worked around the clock to provide meals for the volunteer workers.

Always Ready.

Cross-posted from [re] ryan erickson

Here and elsewhere much has been written of the Doolittle raid, from the bookstand to Hollywood and the curriculum of War Colleges the world over. Coming fast on the heels of the stunning blows barely four months prior a malevolent arc of destruction and defeat stretching from Pearl Harbor back across the Pacific to the Philippines and the rest of Asia, the raid was, no, is emblematic of the American fighting spirit and ability to improvise on the fly and conduct improbable operations on the field of battle. From John Paul Jones’ raid on the English port of Whitehaven to putting a man on the moon barely a decade after the first tentative attempts to launch a satellite, our history has been replete with no small number of audacious operations. Of all these though, the Doolittle Raid is probably the best known and yet, there are aspects that still remain shadowed. To be successful required meticulous, but rapid planning. In short order an idea, germinated in Washington had to be planned, practiced, logistically provided for and executed in an air of ironclad secrecy. This in an age where “netcentric” and “JOPES” weren’t even a mirage on the horizon. As always, it was having the right people in place to do the heavy lifting behind the scenes that laid the groundwork for success. In the case of the Doolittle raid, there were four naval officers, one you have heard of, but two or three others you just as likely haven’t, who played key roles in the planning of the raid. 

 CAPT Francis S. Lowe: A member of the USNA class of 1915, a 1926 Naval War College graduate, a submariner, then-CAPT Low was assigned as Operations Officer on ADM King’s staff at CINCLANTFLT, and later followed him to Washington when King became CINC, US Fleet and CNO. Among his duties as Operations Officer was overseeing the ASW operations of the fleet, and it was in this capacity that he flew to Norfolk, VA in January 1942 to review the status of the USS Hornet CV-8. Chambers Field (the original, now part of the heliport today) had the outline of an aircraft carrier painted on it for FCLP (Field Carrier Landing Practice) which is used to maintain some of the skills necessary to conduct flight operations off an aircraft carrier – to include launching with a minimum of deck space available. It was during this trip that he observed some B-25s making passes at that outline in a mock attack and realized that twin-engine aircraft would fit on the deck of a carrier and wondered if the B-25s would be able to take off from a carrier. Upon his return to Washington, he mentioned his idea to the Admiral who thought it had merit as did General “Hap” Arnold (USAAF). 


CAPT Donald Duncan: A 1917 graduate of the USNA, and holder of a MS in Radio Engineering from Harvard as well as a Naval Postgraduate school grad, then CAPT Duncan, a naval aviator with extensive carrier experience, was King’s Air Operations Officer and the one to whom it fell to evaluate the possible use of the B-25 from a carrier. In 30 handwritten pages, he outlined all the necessary details and precepts for a successful strike in a feasibility study forwarded to King and Arnold recommending the use of B-25s and oversaw the proof of concept flight that showed the Mitchell bombers could indeed, launch from a carrier deck. Subsequently he also oversaw the necessary logistical and administrative details needed to get the bombers to and onboard the Hornet at Alameda Naval Station. 

 LT Henry L. Miller: A 1934 graduate from the Naval Academy and native of Fairbanks, Alaska, then-LT Miller was a designated Naval Aviator. A multi-engine pilot and graduate of the Bombardier course at Sandia base and the All Weather course at Corpus Christi, he was serving as a flight instructor and Personnel Officer at Ellyson Field, FLA when tasked to train Doolittle’s pilots on takeoff techniques from the limited deck of a carrier. Shifting operations to Pierce Field (one of the outlying fields at Eglin AB – literally out in the sticks) LT Miller not only trained the raiders on take off techniques, but was also principle in teaching the finer points of shipboard life in general and accompanied them as operations shifted to Sacramento, CA and all the way to launch from the Hornet, 700 nm from Tokyo. 

 LT Stephen Jurika: Born in Los Angeles while his parents were visiting there, then LT Jurika grew up in the Philippines where his dad owned a number of plantations. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1933 and served as a naval attache at the American Embassy in Tokyo before World War II. As the USS Hornet Association’s website notes, the plot thickens from there:

Being fluent in the Japanese language, he was able to collect significant information about the Japanese military and industrial capabilities, even photographing many of their sensitive sites. From August 1941 until October 1941, he reported to the Director of Naval Intelligence, providing a great deal of information about the Japanese threat, including specific information about the new “Zero” high performance fighter. In October 1941, he was involved with the commissioning of USS Hornet (CV-8), initially serving as the Flight Deck and Intelligence Officer. In mid-January 1942, he consulted to Captain Donald Duncan who was then conducting a feasibility study about launching a bombing raid against Tokyo. Lt Jurika provided a great deal of information about the types and locations of high priority industrial and military targets. Two months later, when the Hornet was carrying the Doolittle Raiders to their launch point, Lt Jurika spent many hours briefing them on the locations of the high value targets and optimum flight routes.

He also had a personal contribution to make to the raid:

One bomb was decorated with Japanese medals, donated by Navy Lieutenant Stephen Jurika, who had received them during pre-war naval attaché service and now wished to pointedly return them to a hostile government. (NHHC)

Each officer would go on to serve with distinction in the war and afterwards. CAPT Low took command of the cruiser Wichita and saw action from Africa to the Pacific. Returning to the US he was Chief of Staff for Tenth Fleet, running ASW operations in the Atlantic theater of operations and finished the war as Cruiser Division SIXTEEN supporting the invasion at Okinawa and strikes against the Japanese homeland. After the war he was in charge of the surrender and neutralization of all Japanese Naval installations in Korea and reported in November as Commander Destroyers Pacific Fleet, serving until March 1947, when, upon his advancement to Vice Admiral, he was given command of the Service Force, US Pacific Fleet. In November 1949 he returned to the Navy Department to conduct a special survey of the Navy’s anti-submarine program, and in February 1950 was designated Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics). He continued duty in that capacity until May 1953, when he became Commander, Western Sea Frontier, and Commander Pacific Reserve Fleet. He served as such until relieved of all active duty pending his retirement, effective 1 July 1956. He was advanced to Admiral on the basis of combat awards.

CAPT Duncan would become the first CO of the lead ship of the Essex class CV and see action in the Marcus Islands and Wake. From here he would serve as CARDIV commander, CINCPACFLT Chief of Staff, DCN(Air) and finally DCNO before retiring in 1957. Following the Doolittle raid, LT Miller commanded an Air Group on board USS Princeton (CVL-23), and during the remainder of the war he had command of Air Group SIX stationed on board USS Hancock (CV-19). Following the war he served in the Navy Department until July 1948, first assigned to writing Air Operations Instructions, later serving as Executive Officer, Air Branch, Office of Naval Research. For two years he served as Public Information Officer on the Staff of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and from June 1950 to August 1952 served successively as Executive Officer of Composite Squadron SEVEN, and of USS Leyte (CV-32). Graduating from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in 1953 and, he reported for duty in the Strategic Plans Division at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operation. Subsequent assignments saw him in command of USS Hancock, commander of CARDIV 15, and later, off Vietnam, CARDIV 3/Task Force 77/7th Fleet Carrier Strike Force. On July 22, 1959 Miller was commissioned a Rear Admiral, and was appointed Chief of Staff and Aide to the Commander Naval Air Force, Pacific. Rear Admiral Henry Louis Miller commanded Carrier Division FIFTEEN, which is the Anti-Submarine Hunter-Killer Task Group from May 1961 to June 1962. Admiral Miller also served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, Joint Staff, Commander in Chief, Pacific, during the time when the turmoil in South East Asia escalated. He then assumed command of Carrier Division THREE, a Heavy Attack Carrier Task Group, and at the same time he took command of Task Force, SEVENTY-SEVEN, and the Carrier Striking Force of the SEVENTH FLEET and in this capacity, took the first nuclear power Task Force into combat with the enemy in Vietnam.

LT Jurika followed the Doolittle raid with an assignment to COMAIRSOLS on Guadalcanal as Air Ops officer, a tour which included a special operation that earned him a Legion of Merit. Returning briefly Stateside as a torpedo instructor, he returned to sea as navigator on the USS Franklin (CV-13) and in this capacity, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on the bridge in the wake of the attack and devastating explosions and damage that almost sank Franklin. After the war and a variety of foreign service tours, retired and began a career as a professor at Stanford University and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Note: The oral histories of several of the principals involved with the Doolittle raid and battle of Midway – including that of Stephen Jurika, are available through the Naval Institute via the ‘print-on-demand’ program. I think the advent of the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid and the upcoming Battle of Midway observances would be a great time for the Naval Institue Press, in line with the Strategic Plan released at last week’s Annual Membership meeting, to announce it was making e-book versions available of these histories. w/r, SJS

Walk the Prank: Secret Story of Mysterious Portrait at Pentagon


Navy Man, Lost at Sea in 1908, Surfaces at Parties; ‘The Project’


This story about ‘Ensign Chuck Hord, Lost at Sea’ should remind us all of the wonderful spirit and traditions (and sense of humor) carried by the brave men and women of our beloved Sea Service.

I would like to take this opportunity to start a campaign to have this portrait displayed proudly on the walls of the prestigious and hallowed halls of the U.S. Naval Institute…

If you agree, please share this story – pass it along, and do not let one of the greatest pranks in the history of our Navy (and an even better portrait of Ensign Hord and his blow-dried hair) go forgotten and uncelebrated.

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