Sunday, April 7, 2013

Miles S Burke, Forgotten Hero- Reposted in honor of Black History Month-

StM1c Miles S. Burke-1945
This coming April 6th 2014 will mark the 69th anniversary of the sinking of the Fletcher Class Destroyer, USS BUSH DD-529 after being hit by three Kamikaze planes off Okinawa. The Bush, her hull almost cut in two, soon folded and sank, taking almost one third of her crew down with her.

The story doesn't end there. I became aware of the story of the USS Bush, when I volunteered to help restore the USS Iowa BB-61 to become a museum ship in San Pedro, CA. One of the volunteers Jim Pobag, related how his step-father had been a crewman on the Bush, Jim went on to tell the story of that final encounter with a swarm of Kamikazes, and the heroism of the crew as they fought for their lives. But first, the back story of the Bush and how she came to that fateful day.

The USS Bush joined the war in 1943, and recorded the following service history, prior to April 6, 1945.
Between 29 July and 27 November 1943 Bush acted as a patrol and escort vessel in Alaskan waters. Arriving at Pearl Harbor 4 December 1943, she commenced operations as a patrol, escort, and fire support ship throughout the Pacific, from the Ellice Islands to New Guinea, the Philippines, and Okinawa. She participated in the Bismarck Archipelago operations, including the Cape Gloucester, New Britain landings and the Admiralty Islands landings (26 December 1943 – 31 March 1944); Saidor, New Guinea, operations (18–21 January); Morotai landings (15 September); Leyte landings (20–24 October), Luzon operation, including the Mindoro and Lingayen Gulf landings (12–18 December 1944 and 4–18 January 1945); Iwo Jima operation (19 February–9 March); and the Okinawa operation (1–6 April).
On 1 November 1944, while operating in Leyte Gulf, Bush splashed two of ten Japanese planes during a severe air attack. She was showered by flying shrapnel and suffered two men wounded.
On April 1, 1945 the Bush took up station off Okinawa as this brief history describes. On April 6th the Bush was attacked and eventually breaks in two and sinks.
USS Bush, right center, behind smoke after being attacked April 6, 1945

I really became intrigued, when Jim related the bravery of one crewman who, although cited for saving lives, seems to have preformed his duty far beyond what was required of any sailor, and perhaps, like another sailor who preformed heroically at Pearl Harbor, might have been overlooked for a higher award, due to his race.

The man was Miles S. Burke, StM2c an African-American who due to the segregated policies at the time could only serve as a mess steward. When battle stations were called, Burke was assigned to the handling room team on the after most gun mount #5. Burke due to his size and massive strength, was remembered by his team leader in these words.
Robert Aguilar, SKD2c, was in-charge of that handling room crew and he remembers Burke well. Aguilar says of Burke, "He had all the physical attributes to make him the perfect individual for the job. In addition, he had the mental, emotional and moral strength to handle the situations we got into without breaking down when we needed him the most. It was obvious that he was more valuable to us than he was to the crews that had the mechanical hoists from the magazine to the handling room. He never complained the about the hard work; he worked all alone; and I don't remember Miles asking to be relieved even for a short period of time." Aguilar goes on to note, "What a sight to see that big muscle-bound body, shiny with perspiration, stay on the job like he did that day in Surigato Strait when we were under air attack for several hours and the temperature got like an oven in the handling room area."
Burke was so fast that he out preformed the other gun crews and according to Jim's stepfathers account, made it appear that the #5 turret has an automatic loading system. When the ship was badly hit, Aguilar had a hard time getting Burke to abandon his station.
 "When we were called to come topside, I had a hard time convincing him that the order meant him also, he did not want to leave his post."
Once topside, Burke moved forward to the aft engine space, where he entered and began to carry wounded crewman topside to safety.
Former Assistant Gunnery Officer Hilliard Lubin, Lt.(jg) had this to say about Burke, "I do remember .... his actions going down into the afire engine spaces at least 3 or 4 times to bring up one burned snipe each time. I can still see his bloody feet, but then shoeless. Being as big as he was, and deck hatches down to engine spaces as small as they were, how he got through I find hard to imagine now."
Miles Burke's heroism does not end there, after leaving the ship, he uses his strength to hold onto two men by keeping them afloat for five hours until rescued. Burke's actions were noted by his commanding officer CDR Westholm.
"BURKE's battle station was in the lower magazine of 5" gun #5. When his gun became inoperative he came topside and aided in the care and moving of the wounded. He did this in the face of the repeated air attacks on the ship. When forced to abandon ship he remained calm and was a source of constant encouragement to his shipmates. For a period of five hours in the water and on a raft, he supported two men unable to swim and who had lost their strength and one of which was without a lifejacket, thus saving their lives. When alongside the rescue vessel he assisted in getting those who did not possess their strength aboard."
Westholm, recommended Burke for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal which is awarded for:

The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is the second highest non-combatant medal awarded by the United States Department of the Navy to members of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. The decoration was established by an act of Congress on August 7, 1942. The Navy and Marine Corps Medal may be awarded to service members who, while serving in any capacity with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguish themselves by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.
Miles S.Burke's who was also promoted to Mess Steward 1st Class, citation reads:
"For heroic conduct while attached to the U.S.S. BUSH following the sinking of that vessel in the vicinity of Okinawa, April 6, 1945. In the water and on a raft for five hours, BURKE supported two exhausted men who were unable to swim and one of whom was without a life jacket. His courage and perseverance were in keeping with highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
Read the whole history of the USS BUSH from their web page.

As noted above, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal was to be awarded for non-combat bravery, which given the actions of Miles Burke, seems to fly in the face of history, since the action of Steward's Mate Burke certainly took place during combat, and most likely had he been a white sailor, would have at least rated the Silver Star, or even the Navy Cross. Much time has passed and it appears that Miles S Burke's image and the account of his shipmates is our only link to his bravery. I think that the Navy would be wise to revisit his actions and consider him for a higher award, or at least special recognition during their celebration of Black American History Month in February each year. Miles S. Burke is one "Fullbore" sailor who personifies duty and bravery in the face of the enemy in the highest traditions of the U.S. Navy and deserved to be recognized again. I will forever be indebted to Jim Pobag for making me aware of this man's bravery, and that of his fellow crew members on the USS Bush.



Sunday, March 10, 2013

Musings on the Navy

 aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), USS Enterprise (CVN 65), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) are in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. US Navy Photo

This week saw the sequestration kick in and all manner of cutbacks were announced. The sea services immediately announced cutbacks that would affect deployments and the deferral of maintenance which will affect readiness. How might this announcement be taken in foreign capitals who have found themselves on the other side of cordial relations? Seventy two years ago, one country observed the United States mired in economic doldrums and focused on an isolationist policy and went on to plan a strike that they thought would lead to a limited war, where the United States would assume the role of the punished dog, and whimper off to our corner of the world, leaving the Empire of Japan in possession of the Western Pacific region. History records the result of their miscalculation.

Today, we have as our President is fond of saying, "a teaching moment." If we ponder the current situation, alongside the open book of the past, we will find the rhymes of history written between the lines of tomorrows news.
Last week, Feb 28-March 1st, marked the 71st anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea which saw 10 American and Allied ships sunk, with the loss of over 2,173 sailors. The date was marked by two excellent posts. The first, a reflection of the battle by Cdr. Salamander tells of the ships and the sacrifice of the men, now mostly forgotten, except by historians and history buffs. I cannot improve on his words, so I will send you back 71 years to read more, Fullbore Friday.

To help understand the lessons of this battle, Robert Farley, Assistant Professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce wrote this article on how the lessons of the battle are relevant for today's Navy.
America is in the throes of yet another debate about grand strategy, with terms like “deep engagement” and “offshore balancing” coming to characterize complex sets of policies towards allies and antagonists alike. Although the precise nature of the terms varies along with the preference of the author, Deep Engagement advocates tend to prefer robust, forward deployed U.S. military capability of the sort that we currently enjoy. Advocates of offshore balancing argue that the United States can significantly draw down its military and political commitments and rely on normal balance of power politics to ensure that no state gains complete control over the Eurasian landmass...

...The most likely future for the USN lies in some mix of predominance and retrenchment. The USN will continue to be the most powerful player, but will need to rely on its allies for an edge against the PLAN, its most likely peer competitor. The United States should perhaps look to something more akin to “offshore engagement,” which preserves opportunities for robust engagement while still giving allies sufficient reason to take care of themselves...
Read the whole article: History Lesson: The Battle of Java Sea

Taken alone, the lessons learned and forgotten in the warm waters of the Java Sea might never cross our national path again. But when one ponders the debate currently raging over who should get their share of the shrinking defense pie, this thoughtful post by Bryan McGrath on Information Dissemination should trigger some amount of pondering of how past planning intersects with the current pathway.
Professor Jim Lacey of the Marine Corps War College gets one thing right in his National Review Online post entitled "Why Armies Matter". Well, maybe two things. The first is his view that "....Around the Pentagon, the budget cutters have put away their knives and are reaching for axes. In times like these, every service naturally circles the wagons around its share of the budget pie." On this, he is correct. I have been sounding the alarm for several years now as the tea-leaves pointed to lower defense spending, that the role of American Seapower in defending our national interests should be privileged...

...Professor Lacey takes us on an interesting and fascinating tour of history, recounting the (unchallenged) record of land-battle as war-winner. Therefore, one should surmise, since Seapower does not win wars, it is and should necessarily be secondarily considered. Or as a former CIA Director once stated, "this one is a slam dunk." This view adequately considers 100% of 50% of the question, leaving the other 50% completely unanswered, unquestioned, and un-valued. That is, what function does military power perform when it is not actively engaged in combat? Or put another way, do we invest in our Armed Forces to do things other than fight and win wars?

The answer of course, is yes, we do. Chief among them is that we invest in our Armed Forces to look after our far-flung national interests, to deter emergent threats to those interests, and to assure our friends and allies in an effort to create an reinforcing architecture aimed at--yes, protecting and sustaining our national interests...
Bryan makes a sensible rebuttal to the suggestion that in order to win wars we need to maintain a massive land force capable of defeating all comers. As Bryan aptly notes, deterring emergent threats before having to engage in costly wars as the past 11 years have tolled is the one of the prime missions of the Navy-Marines. So how might the events of history played out in 1942 begin to rhyme with sequestration and arguments that having a strong navy is not as relevant as a massive army play out in the eyes of our potential adversaries? This post from the insightful founder of ID, Galrahn, might give one pause, when pondered in the light of past histories of strategic miscalculations based on a perception of weakness.
What happens today, March 11, 2013, local time off the Korean Peninsula could become a historic event, so I want to make sure it is noted what happened. This was the threat as reported by BNO.
My sense is North Korea is looking for a small skirmish, some kind of clash that raises tension on the security situation, but only a limited battle not a full war. After 2010 it is unclear if they can maintain escalation control though, which may explain why they are message traffic heavy to the locals. The key here is that North Korea wants to change the dynamics of the security situation for the purposes of negotiation, because apparently they have calculated the security situation is too comfortable for everyone else for security to be used in negotiation as a concession. If that is truly the case, then if a skirmish or something breaks out North Korea would need to get hit harder than they hit the South in order to keep the security situation from being a concession in negotiation, but that isn't easy to do unless we feel you have control over escalation and deescalation of the situation.

All of this is good timing for North Korea though. The Navy has 4 destroyers in the area, but no available aircraft carriers anywhere in the Pacific and the nearest is a few weeks away. USS George Washington (CVN 73) is in a 6 month availability window that began in February. The Navy is probably saying otherwise, but if something happens they are not in a very good position to react quickly - not even close. O&M budget shortages due to sequestration and the continuing resolution probably make it difficult for the DoD to react based solely on rhetoric, although the DoD has other, more legitimate means of evaluating the legitimacy of threats from North Korea.

I do not believe North Korea is looking for a major war, but I do think the North is looking for an incident. From their point of view, they have honored every legal requirement regarding any direct attack against any target beginning March 11, 2013 is not some random act of violence. That is what really bothers me, basically North Korea has positioned their nation to be legally at war on purpose, but the specific purpose is yet to be revealed.
Read the whole post:North Korea Scraps Armistice Today (Again) 

The next few weeks will reveal whether the North Koreans continue to master their strategy of coercion to gain rewards, or prove to be bumblers who end up getting their nose not just bloodied but broken in an exchange fof tit for tat. The bigger issue to be resolved is how the United States projects its power, in lieu of having a strong naval presence as a deterrence. This on a local level is like inviting the burglar to break the glass, because the cops are back in the station house counting their bullets and practicing report writing.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Innovation-America's Path to the Future

The headlines this past week have been crowded with all manner of fearful predictions of the effect that cutting back federal spending by 1.5 trillion dollars over the next ten years. America seems to have reached a point where a growing majority of the population is reliant on the government to provide entitlements, which on its face reveals a tipping point where those who are successful, are asked to kick-in an even greater share of their success to fund those entitlements. It seems the only areas of real job growth in the United States is in the number of government workers; ranging from IRS agents, down to county social workers, who help struggling families that can no longer find sustainable work, or don't want too; get benefits, paid for by a shrinking pool of middle and upper class taxpayers.

Both Congress and the President trade broad-sides on who is to blame for what the White House warned was an end of America as we know it. Why? because as a country we are asked to again tighten our belts, and those making more must reach in their wallets for a few more bucks?

Last week everyone watched the Academy Awards, but how many realized that they were investors in films like Argo, Lincoln, Silver Lining Playbook and Dejango Unchained?

Those of you in California who paid state income tax should take a bow and get a sliver of the Oscar for providing $6.2 million in tax credits for the best picture winner Argo. Ditto for millions in tax credits given to Lincoln and Silver Lining Playbook, and a whopping $8.4 million in tax credits from Louisiana to the makers of Dejango Unchained. It seems beyond irony that most receiving such benefits, will stand before a public forum and lecture those who create sustainable wealth in small to large businesses, that they need to pay more taxes, as they themselves, reap the benefits of a cozy relationship with those in Washington.

After this rant, I would turn to what America can do to find her way to a sustainable path to the future. Regardless of the previous paragraph, the future is not to turn the country into a huge movie lot, benefiting a new class of oligarchy. It will only happen when the traits that made this continental island nation, the world leader of innovation and invention. America stands on the brink of the next industrial revolution as noted by Steve DeAngelis in this excellent post where he delves into 3D printing, and notes that even the President, regardless of Washington's fascination with Hollywood, sees the future lies with this technology.

In his most recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama stated, "Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can't happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America."
Steve's post has an excellent graphic that explains 3D printing, as well as explaining how it will affect America's future.

Read the whole post: The Future of 3D Printing

Getting America ready for the future is more that a few innovations like 3D printing, it is the trait of innovation that Americans have excelled in for the past three centuries of growth and discovery. Steve's blog Enterra Insights posted two excellent articles that examines the road to innovation and what America can do rediscover this essential trait.
"Innovation is a particularly sticky problem because it so often remains undefined," writes Greg Satell. "We treat it as a monolith, as if every innovation is the same, which is why so many expensive programs end up going nowhere." ["Before You Innovate, Ask the Right Questions," If you have read many of my posts about innovation, you will know that I'm a big believer in the notion that good solutions begin with good questions. Satell is also true believer in that dictum. He quotes Albert Einstein who stated (perhaps apocryphally), "If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would spend 19 days to define it." I'm also a big believer in conducting experiments and using prototypes. Thomas Edison failed to find the right filament for his light bulb a thousand times. Edison didn't see this as 999 failures, but 999 steps in a 1,000-step process to success. Asking the right questions and being willing to conduct numerous experiments are surer paths to innovation than sitting in a room with a group hoping somebody comes up with a bright idea. In this post, I'll focus on the first of those methods -- asking good questions.
Read part one: The Road to Innovation is Paved with Questions and Experiments, Part 1

In part two, the process to innovation is examined.
In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of asking good questions at the beginning of the innovation process. Once good questions have been asked and the problem framed, serious work needs to be done to answer those questions. Although this post focuses on why experimentation and prototyping are important for the innovation process, they are only some of the tools available to answer questions. I agree with Tim Kastelle, who asserts, "I am always suspicious of one-size-fits-all solutions. They are very easy to sell in a book or a blog post, but they rarely work in the real world. There's too much variation." ["There Must Be Forty Ways to Innovate," Innovation for Growth, 5 November 2012] Too prove his point, Kastelle offers a list containing forty ways to innovate:
Part of the list is below:

Idea Generation

  • get to the edgeHearing aid
  • scratch your own itch
  • be a genius
  • blue sky R&D
  • applied R&D
  • ask your customers
  • watch your customers
  • ask your people
  • brainstorm
  • gamestorm
  • think outside the box
  • think inside the box
  • co-create
  • scenario planning

Read the whole article: Part Two-Innovation

Can Americans pull out of this slow glide to to becoming a fragmented shell of what was a great nation, fragmented into regional countries in a reincarnation of Europe EU style? That question remains to be answered. What America needs now, is a reincarnation of someone with the voice and foresight of a Washington, Lincoln, and the Roosevelt cousins; to inspire Americans to rediscover their national treasure of innovation and place as a continental maritime nation. My Boomer generation's national leadership has squandered much of the previous generations advances in maintaining a national narrative. It is up to the next generation to find the future.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Plotting a Course Correction into Well Know Waters

Dr. Thomas PM Barnett 

Part of what makes a person a visionary strategist, or a master navigator, is being able to recognize changes in the wind, and recommend course changes to those tasked with commanding, be it a ship or a nation. This past week Thomas PM Barnett, who by his own admission, has for a long  time suggested that the United States abandon the old world alliances, and cast her lot with the new kids on the great power block, China and India. However, as Barnett explains in an article penned for World Politics Review, he now recommends staying the course with our European allies by renewing our bonds of shared values, and past experiences, as the United States sets her strategic course over the next twenty years. Barnett writes in part.
Readers familiar with my old column here will remember how I’ve taken to describing that 2030 future as the C-I-A world, as in, one run by China, India and America. But recently, thanks to a series of long-range simulations run by Wikistrat, where I serve as chief analyst, I’ve found myself thinking that renewing the trans-Atlantic bond with Europe may be the best way to assure the right kind of U.S. global leadership as we move toward that 2030 horizon.

Today’s globalization is suffering a populist blowback on a nearly global scale. Indeed, the only places not suffering such blowback are Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, frontiers where globalization’s widespread wealth creation is still resulting in very positive outcomes. Just about everywhere else, whether in the old West, the rising East or the Arab world, we’re seeing a build-up of social anger at globalization’s inequities and excesses that is stunning in its scope and persistence. In short, the world seems destined to either re-balkanize itself over these tensions or enter into a lengthy progressive era that corrects these imbalances and cleans up these corrupting trends...
Barnett goes on to make this conclusion, and offers this recommendation why the United States should to set her strategic sights along side the EU and NATO, to navigate what appears to be troubling waters over the next two decades.
When you look at America’s competition with India and China in this light, you start to realize that neither of those two Asian giants really has anything to teach this country. Instead, both are doomed to cover a lot of difficult ground that our system has already mastered. They need to “play up” to America’s developmental level, not the other way around.
So, if the U.S. is really looking for a strategic partner for further co-evolution amid a second Progressive Era, our natural choice is Europe. We have the same problems -- and the same strengths. We share common languages and heritages. We know how to screw up globalization (World War I), and how to rebuild it even better (the U.S.-engineered international liberal trade order following World War II). 
And just as importantly, we know how to handle bullies given over to feverish bouts of nationalism.
Read the whole article: Trans-Atlantic Ties Still Key to Renewing U.S. Global Leadership


Renewing the ties might have an even more pressing motivation as this post up this week at Center for International Maritime Security. Where a post by Felix Seidler, a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, Germany, writes about a possible move by the PLA-Navy into the Atlantic.

On his way back from a trip to South America in the summer of 2012 China’s Premier Wen Jiabao made the strangest possible stopover. He landed on an American-Portuguese air base on the Azores. The Lajes Field Air Force Base is one of many on the Pentagon’s list to be reduced or scrapped.

Seidler then went on to describe his own less view of this possible development.

However, terror-filled visions of Chinese aerial patrols over the Atlantic are out of place. How would the aircraft, including personnel and equipment, get there? And what types of aircraft could perform such feats? China’s military is not blessed with too many long-range bombers or maritime patrol aircraft. Even if they had such capabilities, why should China try to send men and material, strongly needed in the Indo-Pacific, to the other end of the world? From these current practical limitations it would be easy, but wrong, to stop the discussion about China’s role and potential operations in the Atlantic.
This new development in the territory of a NATO country must be seen in the context of China’s efforts in another NATO member, Iceland. China has heavily invested in the country’s ports and infrastructure because Beijing in the long-term expects an ice-free Arctic to open new shipping routes. Meanwhile in Greenland, whose foreign policy is administered by NATO member Denmark, vast quantities of important resources have also caught China’s eye and spurred development plans.

China is attempting to protect and project its strategic interests in the Atlantic and is doing so within NATO countries. This broader trend should not be dismissed without broader analysis. Such moves – note the plural – are something entirely new.

Seidler cautions that before everyone in the West declares a state of emergency that everyone calm down.

For the foreseeable future, what China does in the Atlantic will have zero operational military relevance. The strategic and political implications are what matters. In London, with its own not-inconsiderable South Atlantic interests, and in Paris, these geopolitical developments will be watched closely. Washington, London, and Paris are likely able to bring enough pressure to bear on Lisbon that China will not settle on an island in NATO’s heart. The unknown variable is debt. Will Beijing buy so many Portuguese bonds that Lisbon cannot say no? Or will Europe exploit Portugal’s dependence on Euro rescue funds for its geopolitical aims to eliminate any designs China has on the Azores? We will see.

Seidler's recommendation dovetails with Dr. Barnett's urging a re-newing of Trans-Atlantic alliance and the expanding role of NATO in forging cooporation verus confrontation with an emerging China.

There is a lot to doubt about China’s intentions. The growing nationalism, the behavior in cyberspace, and the more aggressive stance in the East and South China Seas speak for themselves. Nevertheless NATO Europe must focus on cooperation rather than confrontation. The reality is that the U.S. and NATO have already developed templates for successful cooperation with China’s navy off the Horn of Africa. Such measures should be continued and expanded, for example with counter-piracy, humanitarian assistance, and counter-terrorism efforts. However, the reality is that China is also developing its navy as an instrument of Indo-Pacific power projection, which will have the side-effect of enabling it to pursue its interests in the Atlantic stronger than before.

Read the whole article: Will China’s Navy Soon Be Operating in the Atlantic?

As one who participated in the same long term simulation that Dr. Barnett referred to in his article, I too have reached similar conclusions. Without going into detail about what is currently a confidential simulation, it was readily apparent to me that Europe with all her attendant problems, is also set for a course correction that sees the possibility of countries like Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Another development sees Germany after unsheathing her saber in Afghanistan realizing that they need to be more expeditionary and assume a responsible role in policing the global commons. Their plan to launch several long range F125 Frigates reflect the awareness of those responsibilities. Other European Nations are also building vessels that are designed to extend their reach across the global commons in a policing manner. This dovetails well with the current force structure of the U.S. Navy that retains the ability to play the leviathan force, capable of global reach.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Own Pivot to the Sea

Admiral Greenert, Gen. Amos and Admiral Papp 
Coast Guard NSC deployment to Arctic in Summer of 2012
The focus of this blog for the past five years has often been on the ongoing efforts by our land forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as they attempted to confront a landscape that provided fertile ground for ideologies who resisted the connectivity spreading across the planet in the past twenty some years since the end of the Cold War. The efforts of the United States and her allies will have to wait the test of time to see if any worthy legacy will honor the cost in lives, treasury and the loss of focus on other areas of our security, most evident in the maritime arena.

In that vein, I am going to be devoting even more attention to our sea services and the importance of owning the legacy of being a maritime nation. I have added a heading for blog links devoted to naval centric topics and encourage all to read them frequently.

This past week I was privileged to attend the West 2013 Conference in San Diego, where I was able to attend several panel discussions and a very informative luncheon where the guests were the Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan W. Greenert, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen James F. Amos, and Commandant of the Coast Guard ADM Robert J. Papp Jr. who participated in a round table discussion of the future of the sea services. I have linked the video below, and encourage all to take an hour to listen carefully the their words.

Another, panel I attended discussed the Chinese Navy and her intentions, be they a challenge or a potential partner in maintaining safe passage for all maritime global commerce. That video is also below.
LCS's Independence and Freedom
One major naval centric blog, Information Dissemination, saw the return to frequent blogging by their astute commander, Galrahn who in this post, questions the value of the LCS class ships, and invited this guest post by Robert 'O Work the Under Secretary of the Navy. Excellent posts by both gentlemen as well a give and take in the comments sections.

Chinese shipyard

Mirroring some of the concerns voiced by the panel on Chinese Naval intentions, Galrahn posted this piece that if the Chinese take a page from FDR's Depression era shipbuilding program, will protend a fleet three times larger than today's by 2020. Galrahn concern is the following.

What does the PLA Navy look like if the Chinese decide to retain their shipbuilding sector through this downward economic period by keeping only 30 (~15%) of their major shipyards open via governemnt orders? I don't know what that would look like, but I will note that 30 major shipyards building navy ships is the same shipbuilding capacity the United States leveraged to build all warships in World War II. While no one would expect China to field ships at the same pace the US did in WWII, even if China adds orders of a single large PLAN vessel or multiple smaller vessels for 30 shipyards over 5 years while sustaining current construction pace for PLA Navy and government maritime agencies, the size of the PLAN and associated government maritime agencies could potentially triple by 2020.
Now tell me what it looks like if the Chinese government sustains 30%, or even 50% of their shipbuilding sector with government orders for PLA Navy and government maritime agency vessel orders. In theory, the Chinese government could decide to build their own 1000 ship Navy over the next 5 years by simply buying 2 ships at only 100 of their large shipyards for the sole political and economic purpose of saving the 50% of shipbuilders who are expected to go out of business over the next 2-3 years, with the very real alternative being that all those manufacturing workers become unemployed.

If this is a topic of interest, read the links. All of them. For the record, the title is a Chinese proverb that when translated literally means 'when the wind of change blows, some build walls, while others build windmills.' It is another way of saying it is better to adapt than to be stubborn. When I think about the variety of topics discussed, I thought the proverb fit, not just the Chinese but us as well.
Read the whole post: 风向转变时,有人筑墙,有人造风车

Sea Service Chiefs Round table West 2013
Panel: Chinese Navy: Operational Challenge or Potential Partner?



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

70 years ago this week, a chance meeting San Pedro

USS Zeilin AP-3 by Wayne Scarpaci

The transition of time for most of the world is now January 1st. As the celebrations of the year 2013 were ushered in from Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Dubai and across Europe as Paris, then London lit the night sky with the spectacle of fireworks worthy of any independence celebration or in the case of our own history, a nation born of martial combat.

It is also significant that we in the US mark the transit of anniversaries as they reach milestones. This year past we marked the bi-centennial of the War of 1812, the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and as we move through this decade, the 70th anniversary of the events of World War II. This brings me to write about an event that occurred 70 years ago this past week, that is seminal to my existence. It was during the week between Christmas and New Years in 1942, that my mother met my father at a USO dance. The chance meeting came about when dad's ship the USS Zeilin AP-9, was attacked on the eve of the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal and escaped being sunk through the efforts their escort the USS Atlanta CL-51, and her own crew's gunnery who claimed two planes, and their efforts after a bomb glanced of off the side and blew out several hull plates.

USS Atlanta defending the USS Zeilin Nov 11, 1942

Jay B Wade, 1942

After temporary repairs, my father's ship returned to San Pedro, California, arriving on December 23, 1942 where she entered dry dock until March 1943, when she sailed for Aleutian Campaign followed later with the invasion of Tarawa and Kwajalein in the spring of 1944. My dad, was sent home on leave and joined the new carrier USS Bon Homme Richard CV-31 and ended the war off Japan.

My Dad returned from the war and in the first half decade of my life, left me to wonder why. I wrote the several posts in the early days of this blog about my memories of him, and how I came to discover that I had two long lost brothers from different mothers who have become as close as if we were raised together in the same home. My brother Vince, shares a love of history and the Navy, inspired by our father's service. Over time I was able to construct my father's service history and when the USS Iowa BB-61 became a museum ship in San Pedro, I began to spend all my spare time as did Vince. It was during this time that Vince quietly commissioned a remembrance that I will cherish forever. He had a mutual friend and gifted naval artist Wayne Scarpaci, make a painting of the USS Zeilin passing Angels Gate as she sailed into San Pedro, setting the stage for me to sit here typing this heartfelt thank you to my brother Vince, and Wayne, for a superb tribute to my dad's memory.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Liberator: One Soldier's 500-Day Odyssy across Nazi Europe


A few months ago I learned that best selling author, Alex Kershaw, was about to publish a new book about World War II. Alex, had already gained a reputation for his accurate portrayal of war in three earlier best selling books. When his latest, The Liberator  arrived, it immediately went to the top of my growing must read pile. where within a fortnight; I settled down to read about one man's 511 day and 2000 mile journey across the blood stained surface of Nazi held Europe. The story is more than one mans journey, but describes in moving detail, the men of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Regt. of the 45th Infantry Division, who fought from the beaches of Sicily, on to Salerno, and Anzio, then into the belly of Vichy France and into the deadly forests of Vosges; and finally ending inside the hell of Dachau, where to a man, they reached their breaking point.

Felix and Mary Sparks

Kershaw, spent over five years researching the story of Felix Sparks, a son of depression era Arizona, who joined the Army in 1936, got out to return to school, and was called back when war threatened, becoming an officer in the federalized 45th National Guard Division. Spark's 511 day odyssey has to rank until this book, among the most under-recognized heroic epics to come out of World War II.

The reader is introduced Sparks in 1931, as he heads out into the Arizona desert to get breakfast for his depression bound family, and follows him as he proves his resourcefulness at surviving, in boxcars bound for Texas, and again, as a soldier in Hawaii who starts a photo business that pays for his return to school, and the love of his life, Mary. Global events suddenly thrust him back into uniform, where the story moves to the beaches of Sicily and the beginning of 500 plus days of combat, training, and waiting for combat again.

I will not detail too much of what happens, as Kershaw masterfully lets the story unfold like war itself, with unexpected events stopping you in your tracks, like the crack of a snipers bullet can end a conversation. Felix Sparks led, what some might call a charmed life, he was almost killed by friendly fire outside Salerno, lost his entire company defending the beaches at Anzio, and then most of his battalion, at the Battle of Reipertswiller, where Sparks heroically went forward trying to break through to his surrounded companies, and at great personal risk, carried several wounded men to safety, as the SS soldiers checked their fire, in a display of admiration for his courage.

Sparks then leads a reconstituted 3rd battalion across the Rhine where they were the lead battalion in the Battle of Aschaffenburg where after ten days of bitter fighting he accepted the commanders surrender.
LtC Felix Sparks stopping the killing at Dachau

Tasked with seizing Hitler's mountain residence, Sparks leads his battalion south toward Munich, when they are diverted to the concentration camp a Dachau. What unfolds, in a few words defies imagination and sends Sparks men over the edge as they enter the camp and discover horrors beyond comprehension. Swift retribution takes hold, and Sparks with sheer will power, regains control of men, already pushed to the point insanity from the horrific scenes they had discovered.

As the war draws to a close, Sparks and the 45th fade back into civilian life. Sparks to law school and eventually a general in the National Guard, before another tragedy overtakes him, and sends him on a final crusade.

There have been a number of great books about World War II this past couple of years. They have looked a the war from the big picture, like, Inferno, by Max Hastings, and The Second World War, by Anthony Beevor, and Rick Atkinson's, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, but none capture the war through the eyes of someone like Felix Sparks and his fellow soldiers who contributed to making this a must read book.

Alex Kershaw has created a masterpiece that will provide a measure of immortality to the men who Felix Sparks led, and to the man himself, who shortly before he died at the age of 90, was finally nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross for his courage, at the Battle of Reipertswiller. As you will read, Sparks was denied the medal for challenging the decision of his commanding general to leave the battalion cut-off and surrounded until it was too late to withdraw.

Felix and Mary
The Liberator should be at the top of the list for anyone wanting to read about this brave and intrepid soldier Felix Sparks, and the men he led, of whom nine out of ten who left America, became casualties, and a division, that no less an antagonist than Field Marshal Albert Kesselring called. "The 45th was one of the two best Divisions I have ever encountered."

This book gets my highest recommendation.
The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau