25 Jan 2011
Scott Meador passes

Scott and Beverly Meador are members of the North Texas Parents Club, and parents of Midn 1/c Collin Meador. Scott passed away peacefully Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, at home, after a courageous battle with ALS. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1981 with a degree in animal science. He married Beverly Spencer in Corsicana on 1982. They had three sons (Spencer, Collin, and Griffin). A longtime resident of Fort Worth, he was employed by Golden Corral as operating partner/general manager for seven years. He will be remembered for his love of family, character and strong work ethic.

25 Jan 2011
Gospel Choir at Bishop Dunne High School

The event was Friday morning, 14 Jan 2011. The gym was packed and the students and staff loved the high energy music and worship. At the end, the Mids came down off the risers, spread out in front of the bleachers, and invited all who would to join them on the floor to learn a simple dance and praise step. The students responded with enthusiasm  –  responded with hopeful curosity?  –  responded with dutiful resignation?  –  yes, with bust-a-move enthusiasm  –  after the ice was broken.

Given how energetic and spontaneous and informal Gospel worship is, the Gospel Choir may be the best ambassadors of the three Naval Academy singing groups.

I asked the school staff for a few of their photographs, and the person who volunteered to help was careful to select pictures that only contained Mids. Trust me  –  the gym was packed  –  and rockin'. The choir presented a plague to the Dean of Students and the Principal.

25 Jan 2011
Smart phones redefine warfare

In the near future, smart phones will be used to share intelligence, translate language, control fighter jets, tanks, missiles and machine guns, perform facial recognition to spot enemies, and identify prisoners by capturing fingerprints.

"Many soldiers already bring their phones overseas and keep them anywhere they can find a spot – strapped to their arms, legs, helmets and even weapons."

Apps are being developed by the Army, and by contractors. Raytheon "has begun building the Raytheon Advanced Tactical System, complete with 12 apps and room to add more. One of the apps lets soldiers track the locations of their friends, while another lets them share cameras with other soldiers to relay intelligence information."

In addition to smart phones, the Army is "deploying traveling wireless networks that attach to road vehicles, aircraft and even air balloons and provide connectivity in desolate regions that would otherwise be without Internet access."

It is pursing battery-charging breakthroughs – "testing small generators that keep phones powered for a week rather than a few hours. Another option is plugging phones into solar backpacks. In July, the Army deployed the first batch of Rucksack Enhanced Portable Power Systems to Afghanistan. The 62-watt solar panel feeds off energy from the sun or even a light bulb, and then repackages it to give the phone a boost."

The article is available here

23 Jan 2011
Notice to All Members from the President

In accordance with our Bylaws, this is a notice to all members in order to make public a coming discussion of Amendment Propositions to our Bylaws at our next Board of Directors meeting on January 29. The Amendments concern:

All approved Amendments to the Bylaws will be made public in our Poop Deck.

      21 Jan 2011
USNA calendars and dates

Academic Calendar, Spring 2011

Events Calendar, Jan-May 2011

Anchor Dates through Spring 2012

21 Jan 2011
The last 6 seconds

On 13 Nov 2010, LtGen John Kelly, USMC gave a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis, MO. This was 4 days after his son, Lt Robert Kelly, USMC was killed by an IED while on his 3rd combat tour. During his speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of our young men and women who step forward each and every day to protect us. During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed the speech with the moving account of the last 6 seconds in the lives of 2 young Marines who died with weapons blazing to protect their brother Marines.

The Last 6 Seconds

I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are, about the quality of the steel in their backs, about the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans. Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 "The Walking Dead," and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.

Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men, and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island . They were from two completely different worlds.

Cpl Jonathan Yale
the Navy Cross
LCpl Jordan Haerter

Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple Americas exist simultaneously depending on one's race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.

The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: "Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass. You clear?" I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: "Yes Sergeant," with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, "No kidding sweetheart, we know what we're doing." They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq.

A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way - perhaps 60-70 yards in length - and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically.

Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck's engine came to rest two hundred yards away, knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn't have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.

When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event - just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened, and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I'd have to do it, as a combat award requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.

I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police, all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, "We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing." The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, "They'd run like any normal man would to save his life." What he didn't know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, "Sir, in the name of God, no sane man would have stood there and done what they did. No sane man. They saved us all."

What we didn't know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: "let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass." The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers, and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were - some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines' weapons firing non-stop; the truck's windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore into the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers - American and Iraqi - bedded down in the barracks, totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight - for you.

We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth - freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious - our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines - to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can ever steal it away. It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down and kill those who would do us harm.

God Bless America, and SEMPER FIDELIS!

Sometimes, doing our best is not enough.  Sometimes, we must do what is required. -- Winston Churchill

20 Jan 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 2

"you must make certain that your troops know [well in advance] where you are coming from and what you stand for and, more importantly, what you will not tolerate" ... "No better friend, no worse enemy" ... "First, do no harm. If, in order to kill an enemy, you had to hit somebody innocent, don't take the shot."

The reason I come to you with a rather sobering message tonight is I don't believe there is any reconciliation with the hard core of this enemy. None whatsoever. Your job is to serve as the guardians now, and if your job is not well done, as Plato put it many, many years ago, if you cannot hold as a windbreak against what is coming against this country, [then] we are going to be in grave trouble.

I am certain, after having dealt with these people and talked with them, that had they had a nuclear weapon, we would not have 3,000 dead in New York City on 9/11. We would have had 300,000. It is a merciless enemy, and it is up to you to stop them as far from our shores as you can.

It's going to be tough. It's easy to lead when things are going well. It's easy to lead on a nice night in a warm auditorium. It's easy to lead when things are going well, but what do you do when you are ordered into Fallujah before you are ready to go, because you're still turning over with the 82d Airborne Division? And once in the city, what do you do when you are ordered to halt with your Marines and sailors literally 30 feet from the enemy, and then ordered to fall back, and you try to keep the heart and mind and the spirits of your young troops high and keep them together? The first thing, my fine young men and women, you must make certain that your troops know where you are coming from and what you stand for and, more importantly, what you will not tolerate.

In Rome, on a tombstone for a dictator are the words "No better friend, no worse enemy." That is the bottom line.

If they were friends, if they were neutrals, if they were innocents, we would never cross the line. We would be the best friend they ever had. However, if you screw with us, we're going to kill you. It's that simple, and that clear dividing line kept us on the moral high ground. It kept us there, and I can give you a story to illustrate what I mean.

First, do no harm. If, in order to kill an enemy, you had to hit somebody innocent, don't take the shot. Wait another day. Don't create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act.

Now, let me tell you [a story]. This has always stayed with me, what happened with a French or Spanish journalist. She drove down to see me in Babylon, at my headquarters in August, a little over a year ago. She asked to see me, and to tell you the truth, I don't like talking to journalists, because I always get in trouble.

So I reluctantly went out to the front gate and listened to this lady, and she didn't ask me any questions. She said, "I just want to tell you something. I don't like America, and I especially don't like your Marines. We're up in Baghdad, and I had heard about this 'no better friend, no worse enemy.'" So she said, "I'll tell you right up front, I came down to write a story how you were just a bunch of Rambos." Her word, a bunch of Rambos. And she said, "We got down to a town called Mamadia, and we pulled in. We saw Marines jumping off vehicles and running down the street. We got out. We were watching, and very close to us was a young Marine, down on one knee, watching an alley. There was shouting and shooting down one street, and we stayed back from that. By the way, I eventually talked to this young man, and he was 19 years old and an infantryman."

All of a sudden, she looks over and plastered up against the wall is a lady in a burqa - a gown and veil - holding the hand of a little boy about knee high to a duck. All this shooting is going on, and they're both obviously very scared. The Marine waved at the little kid, who didn't wave back, and then there was more shooting. A guy came running down the alley, and she said that he turned to shoot back down the alley. As he got down to shoot, the Marine shot him, hit him once in the shoulder, once in the head, dropping him right there not 15 feet away.

She said the Marine kept watching. Some people came running up, and an NCO [Noncommissioned Officer] kicked the rifle away and said "Good shooting." The young lance corporal said, "There's two people on top of that house across the street. I think they're children, but I don't know." And the NCO said, "Got it," and took off with his men to go over there. Once they're up on top, she said that the Marine edged over to the little kid and handed him a piece of candy that he dug out of his pocket. And kids have got something in them all around the world: they all know what candy is. [The little boy] unwrapped it and stuck it in his mouth, and now he waved to the Marine, who went back on his knee watching over his buddies.

A little while later, the Marine motioned to the lady that she could move on, and she moved off. The correspondent told me, that as far as she could see that kid walking, he would turn around to wave at the Marine, who had just done the worst thing you could ever do in front of a child, and no matter what that little kid is ever told, he is going to remember the Marine who gave him that piece of candy and waved. Now, think what that says about a 19-year-old who could discriminate. He is not in any way reluctant to shoot somebody [who deserves it]. There is always some jerk in the world, my fine young folks, who needs to be shot. Just the way it is.


And that's your job ... that Marine didn't suddenly have any kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome. He understood some guy needed to be shot. He didn't suddenly start hating all Iraqis. The little kid was innocent. The lady was innocent. This [journalist] said, "You know, to see this happening in front of me, I thought right then, 'I am going to go find whoever is in charge of these Marines.'"

Now, I'll tell you, I get a lot of credit these days for things I never did, and that's an example.

20 Jan 2011
Knowing when to hold 'em, knowing when to fold 'em

"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

"The early worm is for the birds."

"We consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm." -- Franklin Roosevelt

"Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines."

"It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others."

"When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane."


20 Jan 2011
Situation Awareness – doing too much, doing too little

Submitted to SgtGrit.com's 20 Jan 2011 newsletter. A cautionary tale about: being star-struck, and believing too much in your own press clippings. I assume the Marines were not in uniform (they were carrying their Dress Blues) and the flight attendant wasn't paying sufficient attention. I am puzzled by the "you must be an officer" comment – if the fellow passenger is an officer, then this would be a perfect time to keep your mouth shut.

My eldest son recently returned from his 5th tour, the latest time from Afghanistan, and flew up from San Diego for a couple of days over Christmas. Prior to boarding, my son saw all the fussy little kids and decided to pay for an upgrade to first class so he could sleep.

Prior to boarding the plane, he saw a group of Marines in line all carrying their Blues, and struck up a conversation where he learned they'd all had at least 1 deployment and were going to the wedding of a friend. Also prior to boarding, he had noticed a bunch of Naval Academy guys in their uniforms waiting too.

Everyone was getting settled into their seats, with the Marines in their seats at the rear of the plane. Just before preparing for takeoff, the Flight Attendant went back and asked the 4 Naval Academy students to come up front and sit in first class, near my son. He replayed the conversation to me (through gritted teeth) about how the attendant was very nicey nice and asked the guys about their service etc., to which my son couldn't hold it in any longer and said "No, they are NOT naval officers they are STUDENTS". He said one of the guys turned around and said, "Oh, you must be an officer" and my son said "No, I'm a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant with almost 10 years of service!" The guy turned around sheepishly and nothing was said for the rest of the trip.

He swore he would never fly Delta Airlines again after that because of the way they treated the real heroes in the back of the plane.

      20 Jan 2011
From:  Commandant of the Marine Corps
Date:  22 Oct 2010
Subj:  No such thing as a former Marine
A Marine is a Marine – there's no such thing as a former Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and a different phase of life. You'll always be a Marine because you [were forged in the crucible of] Parris Island, or San Diego, or the hills of Quantico. There's no such thing as a former Marine.

'Till the last landing's made,
and we stand unafraid,
on a shore no mortal has seen,
'Till the last bugle call,
sounds taps for us all,
It's Semper Fidelis, MARINE!

20 Jan 2011
Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict – part 1

In March of 2006, the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics invited LtGen James Mattis to speak at the Naval Academy. You recognize that name from the December Poop Deck — he was the Brigadier General standing duty on Christmas day so that the young officer who was scheduled to have the duty could be with his family. General Mattis' entire talk is here   Major portions will be excerpted in several pieces. This first installment makes thought-provoking references to the experiment that is America.

While we are separated by many years and the rank and the hierarchy of the military, you and I have more in common than we have that separates us. I say this because, whether you have 30 years in the naval service or more (like your Admiral and I) or you have three months, what we are really looking for, if we are to keep this great big experiment called America alive - and that's all it is, an experiment - we need cocky, macho, unselfish, and morally very straight young men and women to lead our forces against the enemy.

Three years ago this month, a vice admiral leaned across the table to me, and he said, "You know what's going to happen in Afghanistan. The enemy cannot hold Mazar-e Sharif, and they will fall back through Kabul, and they will reinforce Kandahar. One of these times, one of our bombs is going to go astray and hit a hospital or something, and then we're going to have to back off." He said, "Can you get Marines from the Pacific Fleet and the Mediterranean fleet together, land in southern Afghanistan, and raise hell?" I said, "Yes, I can do that," and then I walked out, scratching my head, trying to figure out how I was going to do it. As I walked out the door, I saw an old shipmate from Coronado, a SEAL, the commodore of the SEALs, and I walked up to him and said, "What are you doing in Bahrain?" He said, "Well, I'm trying to get into the war, and right now, I've got a few problems." So two shipmates shook hands on a hot night in Bahrain, and we went off to fight the war together.

But what was interesting was I never received another order from Admiral Moore other than to go into southern Afghanistan, and that's the way it will come to you. It's not like [you will have] three months to get ready. Now, it's for real. It's just going to come with an admiral you have never met before who says, "I'm going to give you six ships and 10,000 sailors and Marines. Go do it."

But he did not have to ask me or tell me or caution me to keep our country's honor clean. It was something that he and I understood from our years of service. It started when we were 18 years old, and he and I had never shaken hands before in our lives, and yet right there was an unspoken agreement between the two of us that he had just told me to go in and slaughter as many of the enemy as I could find. Together with our SEAL comrades in arms, we set out to do that. Every innocent person in Afghanistan learned they had nothing to fear from us, and what a difference that was.

Now, we did not realize that that enemy would collapse so easily, but you know, if you and I had some time to think about it, we probably would have figured it out, and I'll tell you why. Anybody [the Taliban] who spent the last five years slapping women around for not wearing veils doesn't have a lot of manhood left in him, you know what I mean? When you got sailors and Marines in close to these guys who had sacrificed their honor, who had sacrificed their manhood, when [we] got in close, the ferocity of our sailors and Marines was more than sufficient to kill the enemy.

I would like to come here tonight and talk in more erudite terms about conflict and conflict resolution. Your job, my fine young men and women, is to find the enemy that wants to end this experiment and kill every one of them until they're so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact. You all understand where I'm coming from?


20 Jan 2011
Naval officer versus Navy officer

Submitted to SgtGrit.com's 6 Jan 2011 newsletter. The part about tweaking your Navy brother's nose is natural and not unhealthy. The part about "Reserved for Navy Officers" is all too telling.

Marines are NOT part of the Navy. We are however one of the Naval Services and part of the Department of the Navy.

Reminds me of my occasion to visit the Officers Club at the Naval Support Activity, Danang. At least one of the tables had a sign on it stating "Reserved for Naval Officers." Of course myself and two of my friends sat at the table to enjoy our brews. The club manager came over and asked us to move from the table. We replied not only NO but HELL NO! We reminded him that although we were not Navy Officers, we were in fact "Naval Officers" and had all rights to sit at that table.

A few months later when we were able to visit the club again the sign was changed to read "Reserved for Navy Officers." Having had a few tours with Navy commands or on a Navy staff and embarked on board those things that are "large and grey and get underway" (AKA Navy ships) I have found numerous ways to tweak the Navy's nose by factually claiming that I was in fact a "Naval Officer" but not a Navy officer.

However, I do agree that since we are "Soldiers of the Sea" we should not forget our Naval roots and use proper terminology; e.g. Deck, Bulkhead, etc.

15 Jan 2011
Airmen killed in '69 are laid to rest

The Dallas Morning News has done a good job honoring Major Robert Tucci and Colonel James Dennany (USAF) who were killed when their F-4 Phantom was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Only recently was their plane found in the jungles of Laos. The photo and caption to the right appeared in Thursday's paper. There are two things wrong with the caption, and a third error with the choice of a stock photo.   answer

A reader submitted the following comment ...

I was in combat crew training with Jim Dennany in 1968. After graduation, we both ended up at Udorn Air Base Thailand We took every chance we had to fly combat missions, either dive bombing, radar offset bombing, or escort missions for the RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft into North Vietnam. The escort missions meant we got "hosed down" by a lot of anti-aircraft rounds every mission, but we survived the missions North. In the last month before Jim was to rotate home, he and Robert were scheduled to fly an escort mission for an AC-130 Gunship over a particularly dangerous area where we had lost a number of aircraft. To protect the Gunship, they attacked areas of heavy ground fire; unfortunately, their F-4 sustained serious damage and crashed. Other aircrews described it as "a big ball of fire" on impact, so there was little chance for a crew to survive. These two brave young men gave their all to protect a number of crew members on the AC-130 gunship, allowing them to complete their mission and survive. In my eyes, they are both heroes and deserve the highest recognition for their sacrifice.


15 Jan 2011
The book is what you use when you don't know what else to do

A wonderful "lessons learned" submission to Military Officer magazine. The original article is here

My first challenge as a U.S. Navy division officer was to recommend punishment for two sailors who had fallen asleep on watch. The two sailors had never been a problem before, they always had good attitudes, and seemed eager to pursue their duties.

Several days before captain's mast, my captain asked for my recommendation. My response was, "We should throw the book at them, sir."

The captain, a Navy Cross recipient from World War II, took a drag of his cigar and said, "Ken, the book is what you use when you don't know what else to do. I've seen those two up on the bridge, and I'll bet they are scared as hell. I don't want them to think they had one chance in the Navy and they blew it. But I will do whatever you recommend. It's your call."

He was giving me a great leadership lesson – if I was capable of grasping it.

At captain's mast, it was clear the two sailors were frightened. The captain read the charges: "Sleeping on watch is a damned serious offense in my Navy. But Lieutenant Junior Grade Breaux here thinks you two are worth saving. If it was my call, I'd throw the book at you, but I have to go with his recommendation."

My recommendation was for 10 days extra duty, confinement to the ship, and a suspended reduction in rank.

As we left the area, my two sailors thanked me profusely: "Sir, we will never let that happen again. Thanks for your confidence in us."

I smiled to myself. The captain made himself the bad guy and me the hero.

11 Jan 2011
It Is the Soldier

poster available at TomGalloArt
      It is the Soldier, not the minister,
          who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter,
          who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet,
          who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer,
          who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer,
          who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician,
          who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.
-- Charles Province, U.S. Army veteran, © 1970 © 2005

11 Jan 2011
"The Slot" at Guadalcanal

The following account is the second half of, "One Marine, One Ship" by Vin Suprynowicz that appeared on 22 Oct 2000   link   It is a remarkable tutorial on all the degrees of freedom/responsibility that must be juggled on the "open sea".

The Marines had won their battle on the island of Guadalcanal. But it would be meaningless unless the U.S. Navy could figure out a way to stop losing night battles in "The Slot" to the northwest of the island, through which the Japanese kept sending in barges filled with supplies and reinforcements for their own desperate forces on Guadalcanal. The U.S. Navy had lost so many ships in those dreaded night actions that the waters off Savo were given the grisly sailor's nickname by which they're still known today: Ironbottom Sound.

So desperate did things become that finally Admiral Bull Halsey himself broke a stern War College edict -- the one against committing capital ships in restricted waters. Gambling the future of the cut-off troops on Guadalcanal on one final roll of the dice, Halsey dispatched into the Slot his two remaining fast battleships, the USS South Dakota and the USS Washington, escorted by the only four destroyers with enough fuel in their bunkers to get them there and back.

In command of the 28-knot battlewagons was the right man at the right place, gunnery expert Rear Admiral Willis A. "Ching Chong China" Lee. Lee's flag flew aboard the Washington, in turn commanded by Captain Glenn Davis.

Lee was a nut for gunnery drills. "He tested every gunnery-book rule with exercises," Naval historian David Lippman writes, "and ordered gunnery drills under odd conditions -- turret firing with relief crews, anything that might simulate the freakishness of battle."

As it turned out, the American destroyers need not have worried about carrying enough fuel to get home. By 11 p.m. on Nov. 13, outnumbered better than three-to-one by a massive Japanese task force driving down from the northwest, every one of the four American destroyers had been shot up, sunk, or set aflame, while the South Dakota -- known throughout the fleet as a jinx ship -- managed to damage some lesser Japanese vessels but continued to be plagued with electrical and fire control problems.

"Washington was now the only intact ship left in the force," Lippman writes. "In fact, at that moment Washington was the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet. She was the only barrier between (Admiral) Kondo's ships and Guadalcanal. If this one ship did not stop 14 Japanese ships right then and there, America might lose the war."

"On Washington's bridge, Lieutenant Ray Hunter still had the conn. He had just heard that South Dakota had gone off the air and had seen (destroyers) Walke and Preston "blow sky high." Dead ahead lay their burning wreckage, while hundreds of men were swimming in the water and Japanese ships were racing in.

"Hunter had to do something. The course he took now could decide the war. 'Come left,' he said, and Washington straightened out on a course parallel to the one on which she (had been) steaming. Washington's rudder change put the burning destroyers between her and the enemy, preventing her from being silhouetted by their fires.

"The move made the Japanese momentarily cease fire. Lacking radar, they could not spot Washington behind the fires."

"Meanwhile, Washington raced through burning seas. Everyone could see dozens of men in the water clinging to floating wreckage. Flag Lieutenant Raymond Thompson said, 'Seeing that burning, sinking ship as it passed so close aboard, and realizing that there was nothing I, or anyone, could do about it, was a devastating experience.'"

"Commander Ayrault, the Washington's executive officer, clambered down ladders, ran to Bart Stoodley's damage-control post, and ordered Stoodley to cut loose life rafts. That saved a lot of lives. But the men in the water had some fight left in them. One was heard to scream, 'Get after them, Washington!'"

Sacrificing their ships by maneuvering into the path of torpedoes intended for the Washington, the captains of the American destroyers had given China Lee one final chance. The Washington was fast, undamaged, and bristling with 16-inch guns. And, thanks to Lt. Hunter's course change, she was also now invisible to the enemy.

Blinded by the smoke and flames, the Japanese battleship Kirishima turned on her searchlights, illuminating the helpless South Dakota, and opened fire. Finally, as her own muzzle blasts illuminated her in the darkness, Lee and Davis could positively identify an enemy target.

The Washington's main batteries opened fire at 12 midnight precisely. Her new SG radar fire control system worked perfectly. Between midnight and 1207 a.m., Nov. 14, the "last ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet" stunned the battleship Kirishima with 75, 16-inch shells. For those aboard the Kirishima, it rained steel.

In seven minutes, the Japanese battleship was reduced to a funeral pyre. She went down at 0325 a.m., the first enemy sunk by an American battleship since the Spanish-American War. Stunned, the remaining Japanese ships withdrew. Within days, Yamamoto and his staff reviewed their mounting losses and recommended the unthinkable to the emperor -- withdrawal from Guadalcanal.

10 Jan 2011
Walls are for weanies

If it doesn't get you where you want to be ...
... You're just not using enough.


When faced with a Gordian Knot  –
go for the Alexandrian solution.


10 Jan 2011
24 hours on the "Big Stick"

P.J. O'Rourke writes about his visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The complete article is here

"... you travel out to the carrier on a powerful, compact, and chunky aircraft – a weight-lifter version of a regional airline turboprop. This is a C-2 Greyhound, named after the wrong dog. C-2 Flying Pit Bull is more like it. In fact what everyone calls the C-2 is the 'COD.' This is an acronym for 'Curling the hair Of Dumb reporters,' although they tell you it stands for 'Carrier Onboard Delivery.' There is only one window in the freight/passenger compartment, and you're nowhere near it. Your seat faces aft. Cabin lighting and noise insulation are absent. The heater is from the parts bin at the Plymouth factory in 1950. You sit reversed in cold, dark cacophony while the airplane maneuvers for what euphemistically is called a 'landing.' The nearest land is 150 miles away. And the plane doesn't land; its tailhook snags a cable on the carrier deck. The effect is of being strapped to an armchair and dropped backwards off a balcony onto a patio. There is a fleeting moment of unconsciousness. This is a good thing, as is being far from the window, because what happens next is that the COD reels the hooked cable out the entire length of the carrier deck until a big, fat nothing is between you and a plunge in the ocean, should the hook, cable, or pilot's judgment snap. Then, miraculously, you're still alive."

"... Carrier launches are astonishing events. The plane is moved to within what seems like a bowling alley's length of the bow. A blast shield larger than any government building driveway Khomeini-flipper rises behind the fighter jet, and the jet's twin engines are cranked to maximum thrust. A slot-car slot runs down the middle of the bowling alley. The powered-up jet is held at the end of its slot by a steel shear pin smaller than a V-8 can. When the shear pin shears the jet is unleashed and so is a steam catapult that hurls the plane down the slot, from 0 to 130 miles per hour in two seconds. And – if all goes well – the airplane is airborne. This is not a pilot taking off. This is a pilot as cat's eye marble pinched between boundless thumb and infinite forefinger of Heaven's own Wham-O slingshot.

Carrier landings are more astonishing. We were in heavy seas. Spray was coming over the bow onto the flight deck, 60 feet above the waterline. As the ship was pitching, 18 tons of F-18 with a wingspan of 40-odd feet approached at the speed of celebrity sex rumor. Four acres of flight deck has never looked so small. Had it been lawn you'd swear you could do it in 15 minutes with a push mower."

"... The ship is immense, going seven decks down from the flight deck and ten levels up in the tower. But it's full, with some 5,500 people aboard. Living space is as cramped as steerage on the way to Ellis Island. Even the pilots live in three-bunk cabins as small and windowless as hall closets. A warship is a sort of giant Sherman tank upon the water. Once below deck you're sealed inside. There are no cheery portholes to wave from."

"... Scores of people are all over the flight deck during takeoffs and landings. They wear color-coded T-shirts – yellow for flight-directing, purple for fueling, blue for chocking and tying-down, red for weapon-loading, brown for I-know-not-what, and so on. These people can't hear each other. They use hand signals. And, come night ops, they can't do that. Really, they communicate by 'training telepathy.' They have absorbed their responsibilities to the point that each knows exactly where to be and when and doing what. These are supremely dangerous jobs. And most of the flight deck crew members are only 19 or 20. Indeed the whole ship is run by youngsters. The average age, officers and all, is about 24."

"... The crew is in more danger than the pilots. If an arresting cable breaks – and they do – half a dozen young men and women could be sliced in half. When a plane crashes, a weapon malfunctions, or a fire breaks out, there's no ejection seat for the flight deck crew. While we were on the Theodore Roosevelt a memorial service was held for a crew member who had been swept overboard. Would there have been an admiral and a captain of an aircraft carrier and hundreds of the bravest Americans at a memorial service for you when you were 20?"

"... Back on the COD you're buckled in and told to brace as if for a crash. Whereupon there is a crash. The catapult sends you squashed against your flight harness. And just when you think that everything inside your body is going to blow out your nose and navel, it's over. You're in steady, level flight."

10 Jan 2011
Annapolis Conference

Do you remember the Middle East peace conference held on 27 November 2007 at the Naval Academy?   U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice organized and hosted the conference. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, U.S. President George W. Bush, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and 30+ nations and groups attended.



A nice summary is here

10 Jan 2011
LREC – Afghanistan

Andrew Roberts wrote in National Review that: Afghanistan as "the graveyard of empires", should instead be understood as "the revolving door of empires". [link]

"For 2500 years [Afghanistan] was always a part of somebody's empire:" Persians, Mongols, Moghuls, Russians, British, or Soviets. "The idea of sturdy Afghan independence is a myth." Even the more recent British experience is largely misunderstood. The First Afghan War (1842) is remembered for the horrific Retreat from Kabul where 16,500 people died in the dead of winter. But Kabul was recaptured 7 months later; and "Afghanistan stayed quiet for 30 years."

The Second Afghan War (1880) was won by the British. "Afghan resistance was subdued and Afghanistan was reduced to the status virtually of a British protectorate until it was given its independence in 1919."

"Today, NATO is simply trying to help the majority – as we discover from recent polling, the large majority – of Afghans 'to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country,' in the words of President Obama. Nor is Islamic fundamentalism a historically deep-seated phenomenon in Afghanistan. NATO is often accused by the Left of trying to impose Western values on the Afghans, but it was King Amanullah who instituted Kemalist (Kemal Ataturk of Turkey) modernization – such as monogamy, Western clothing, and the abolition of the veil – back in 1928. The only people seeking to impose a foreign culture on Afghans are the Taliban.

10 Jan 2011
For the second mouse, getting the cheese is easy

Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought. — Albert Szent-Gyorgi

Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps. — David Lloyd George

Every noble work is at first impossible. — Thomas Carlyle


10 Jan 2011
March On

6 September 2010 ... Maryland – Navy