Category Archives: army

SECDEF Fired: Hagel Goes Under the Bus

Chuck Hagel

Big news this morning that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been fired by President Obama.  Big news, but not surprising.  Hagel has openly contradicted the President several times, especially regarding the Administration’s rather childish assertions regarding the necessity of ground forces in the fight against ISIS.   You will hear various stories about how this was Hagel’s idea, and of course, the media will dutifully report as fact the White House’s version of events.  But that version will be as accurate and honest as WH proclamations on Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, ISIS intelligence failures, etc.

Though Hagel was not known as a deep thinker, the idea that he somehow couldn’t grasp the deeper and more complex defense issues smells like the intellectual elitism of the self-proclaimed far-left “ruling” class.  It is far more likely that Hagel attempted to keep Obama and his National Security Council grounded in reality, only to be poo-pooed and brushed aside by the overwhelming cacophony from the Marxist ideologues that have the President’s ample ears.   I was never a big Chuck Hagel fan, as he was a Global Zero guy whose viewpoints at various times bordered on the curious, but as SECDEF I thought he was one of the few at the top of the Defense structure with the spine to stand up to the rampant amateurish stupidity that emanated from 1600 Pennsylvania.  We could have done far worse.  We certainly might going forward.

Whether talks were “initiated” by Hagel or not, the nature of those talks were probably discussions about whether Obama was going to keep tossing aside wise counsel or not in favor of the childlike and naive rantings of his fellow-travelers.  And, the answer today seems to be a resounding YES.  Obama will continue to march forward in secular progressive lockstep to the Internationale, wreaking the concomitant damage on US security, foreign relations, and national power.

Funny that the Secretary of Defense that HE chose, to replace another that had had enough (Panetta), is now thought not to be up to the job.  One has to wonder who is.  Michele Flournoy has been mentioned, along with Ash Carter.  One has to think Bob Work is in the mix.  All are far too talented to want to serve out the last two years of the military train wreck that is the Defense Department under Obama.   It is like being hired to coach the Washington Generals, and being told you are expected to win.

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Early Apaches

How many times have we discussed the post-Vietnam era weapon acquisition of the “Big Five?” The M1 tank, M2/M3 Bradley, the MIM-104 Patriot missile system, the UH-60 Blackhawk transport helicopter, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter were all key components of the modernization of the Army after a generation of procurement lost to Vietnam.

We like to think of the Apache as being cutting edge technology. And to some extent it really still is. But we do have to acknowledge that it first flew in 1975.

This video touting the survivability of the Apache shows improvements to the weapons, countermeasures, and survivability of the Apache over its predecessor, the AH-1.

Sharp observers will note that the YAH-64 shown differed in a couple significant ways from today’s production model. The horizontal stabilizer used to be mounted at the top of the tail, but is now at the bottom. The profile of the nose has changed somewhat, as the YAH-64 didn’t have the complete TADS/PNVS installed. The sponsons along the nose are longer on the production model.

Production models also have far better Radar Homing and Warning devices and flare/chaff dispensers.

Still, the Apache is not invulnerable. But it was a great improvement over the limitations of the preceding AH-1 Cobra family of helicopters.

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The Defense of the West-SeaCoast Fortifications

Unlike the eastern seaboard, the western coast of the continental United States has relatively few major ports. From south to north, the main seaports include San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Columbia River, and Puget Sound. There are others, but those are the “Big Five” handling the majority of seagoing vessels.

Interestingly, all five are quite suited to seacoast defense. Depending on the time in question, Los Angeles and Puget Sound might have posed a challenge for the defender, but by the Endicott period, the guns and mines available were quite suitable to close off each port.

Craig has an interesting post on the concerns the Union had for the security of San Francisco during the Civil War. At that time, San Francisco was by far the most significant western port, and as the shipping point for the vast majority of California gold rush gold that was financing the Union, could have made a very attractive target for a Confederate raider, or an adventurous foreign power, say England.

All of this was known by authorities in Washington.  In 1856 a survey of the terrain brought back numerous recommendations to fortify the bay. Those included additional batteries to supplement Fort Point and located on Alcatraz, Yerba Beuna, and Angel Islands, Point San Jose, and, most important to the Golden Gate, Lime Point opposite Fort Point.  I’ve highlighted some of those on a snip from the 1859 coastal survey map (which, by the way, indicates that someone had “cast a lead” into those waters to figure out the depth):

Similarly, last weekend I enjoyed the view from Cabrillo National Monument.  CNM and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery are today on the grounds of Naval Base Point Loma, but used to be within the confines of Fort Rosecrans, a Coastal Artillery post with several batteries guarding the entrance to San Diego harbor.

 

One of the interesting things about San Diego is that it has only one channel in or out. To say that Fort Rosecrans dominates that channel is something of an understatement. The seaward facing batteries control the approaches, and the channel itself was narrow enough that even a very modest minefield could completely seal the channel.

The Endicott/Taft period batteries consisted of 8 12” mortars, 4 10” guns, 2 5” guns (later replaced by 2 3” guns) and two 3” guns.

A mine casemate for a controlled minefield was also included.

To give you an idea how restricted the channel is, here’s the USS Chancellorsville, CG-62, passing through the channel.

 

During World War II, several additional batteries were added.  The big punch added was a pair of casemated 16” guns at Battery Ashburn (aka Battery 126).

Arguably the most interesting two batteries were Battery Zeilin and Battery Gillepsie. Battery Zeilin was two 7” guns on pedestal mounts, while Battery Gillespie consisted of three 5” pedestal mounts.

Both batteries were originally training batteries for the US Marine Corps. And therein lies an interesting side story.

The US Army’s Coast Artillery Corps was responsible for the defense of the US ports and harbors and those of its overseas possessions. But what of advanced bases?

During the interwar years, having tasted the success of large scale operations in World War I, the Marines were soon relegated back to fighting in banana wars in South America, and providing detachments aboard US capital ships. In search of a raison d’etre, the Marines looked to the Pacific, and like others, saw a likely war with Japan.

They saw that any US fleet movement across the Pacific would entail seizing and defending forward operating bases. And contra our vision today of the Marines storming the beaches, the hope was they would be able to occupy undefended, or lightly defended island outposts, and then defend them against Japanese counterattack. Accordingly, there was a significant slice of Marine Corps doctrine that focused on seacoast defense of forward bases. And Batteries Zeilin and Gillespie were training batteries allocated for Marine Defense Battalions to practice their trades.

And apparently, the instructors at Battery Gillespie did right by their students, as Marines manning 5” guns at Wake Island suceeded in sinking the IJN destroyer Hayatuke during the initial Japanese landing attempt, the first of many Japanese surface ships sunk during World War II.

Batteries Zeilin and Gillespie were turned over to the Army early in the war. And while Fort Rosecrans was never called on to actively defend San Diego, it stood guard throughout the war. Further it was a major training center for the Coast Artillery, providing training in both seacoast defense and anti-aircraft artillery defense.

The age of aviation rendered the seacoast gun obselete by the end of World War II, and Fort Rosecrans was soon surplus to the Army’s needs. Closed in 1948, it was turned over to the Navy in 1959, and continues to this day to be home to significant naval activities, as well as the lovely Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, and the beautiful and popular Cabrillo National Monument.

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The BBC’s 1964 Masterpiece “The Great War”

Of all the events of the Twentieth Century, it is the First World War that has had the most dramatic and longest-lasting impact on the psyche of Western civilization, more so than all the events that followed.   For anyone with an abiding interest in that war, the 1964 BBC documentary The Great War is an invaluable reference to understanding.  Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, the 26-part documentary is a superbly-crafted work.  The tenor of the broadcasts reflects the erosion of the naïve hopes of the warring parties in 1914 into the grim fatalism that the years of slaughter evoked, and the upheaval that would ultimately topple the crowned heads of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.  BBC producers make excellent use of voice to read the actual words of the key participants such as Edward Grey, Bethmann-Hollweg, Conrad von Hotzendorf, Joffre, Haig, Falkenhayn, and others.  The series features remarkable and little-seen motion footage of the world of 1914-18, including the civilians, the politicians, the armies, and the great battles of that war.   The battle footage heavily emphasizes the two great killers of that war (in inverse order), the machine gun, and modern breech-loading recoil-dampened artillery.

Of note also are the poignant, and sometimes extremely moving, interviews with the participants of events of the great tragedy.  Some had been in the thick of the fighting, others young subalterns or staff officers at the sleeve of the decision-makers.   Most remarkably, the BBC managed to produce a documentary about momentous events that changed the world and yet also managed to allow the viewer insight into the inestimable human tragedy that these events summoned.   At the time of the release of The Great War, those events were closer in time to the audience than the beginning of the Vietnam War is to our contemporary world.   The twenty-six episodes are around forty minutes each.  Worth every second of the time spent.

Oh, and as the credits roll at the end of each episode, one can spot the name of a very young (19 years old) contributor named Max Hastings.

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Op-For: “Where is the Case for Co – Ed Ground Combat?”

Indiana Guard Fires Historic Artillery Mission Adds M777 Digital Artillery Piece to Arsenal

Alte kamerad LTCOL P, Marine artilleryman extraordinaire, has a great piece about a great piece.   He points out some pretty sobering stats from the continuing effort to make ground combat a co-ed sport.

In the 155 mm Artillery Lift and Carry, a test simulating ordnance stowing, volunteers had to pick up a 95 lb. artillery round and carry it 50 meters in under 2 minutes. Noted the report, “Less than 1% of men, compared to 28.2% of women, could not complete the 155 mm artillery round lift and carry in the allotted time.” If trainees had to “shoulder the round and/or carry multiple rounds, the 28.2% failure rate would increase.”

As LTCOL P points out, such a test is in no way, shape, or form anywhere near realistic.  The HE M107 projectile is 95 pounds, a tad heavier with lifting eyebolt.  I would posit that making the test the moving of ten or twenty of those projectiles over, say, 100 meters, BEGINS to get to what kind of heavy manual labor is involved in being a field artilleryman.  I would doubt severely that any female tested could get anywhere close to passing that particular test.  And that is simply a beginning test.  Try it after several days of 3 hours’ sleep in the snow or in yesterday’s rainwater, or in the 115 degree heat, after displacing twice in four hours and digging in spades each time.

You can be guaranteed the feminists and their spineless apologists in uniform will continue to find ways to obfuscate and slant results such as these and continue to scream for she-warriors who are the physical equivalent of men, when they are not being helpless victims, of course.   Our present and future enemies must be awfully impressed.

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Ex-NYPD Officer Frank Serpico: Police Still Out of Control and Unaccountable

An excellent article in Politico Magazine.  Serpico has lots to say about the unaccountable, self-protecting, unionized, arbitrarily violent, up-gunned, over-armored, arrogant, power-mad police problem in our country.   Worth the read.  Here are some highlights.

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

It wasn’t any surprise to me that, after Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, officers instinctively lined up behind Darren Wilson, the cop who allegedly killed Brown. Officer Wilson may well have had cause to fire if Brown was attacking him, as some reports suggest, but it is also possible we will never know the full truth—whether, for example, it was really necessary for Wilson to shoot Brown at least six times, killing rather than just wounding him. As they always do, the police unions closed ranks also behind the officer in question. And the district attorney (who is often totally in bed with the police and needs their votes) and city power structure can almost always be counted on to stand behind the unions.

And an increasingly common malady, the appearance of an occupying army rather than that of protecting and serving:

Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.

Serpico also lays out some measures for getting at the root of the problem:

1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits. Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals;

2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations. Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical;

3. Require community involvement from police officers so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding;

4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;

5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;

6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

All in all, some fascinating insights.  From a cop whose moral courage is legendary.  What say we?

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26 October 1942; The Battle of Santa Cruz

hornet santa cruz

In the far-flung Pacific Theater of the Second World War, there are some battles and events so momentous that it is immediately clear to the antagonists that their aftermath portends major shifts in the status quo; that conditions following will be forever different from what came before.  Midway is such an event.  With others, their true significance is often realized only in retrospect, as study of the results and decisions in the aftermath of those events is required to reveal how pivotal they truly were.  The Battle of Santa Cruz, which occurred seventy-two years ago today, is one of those largely hidden events.   A tactical and operational success for the Japanese, the battle was a pyrrhic victory for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Powerful Japanese naval forces under Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo had been tasked with supporting the efforts of the Japanese 17th Army in what was finally a major attempt to capture Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field and unhinge the position of the First Marine Division on that island.   The glacially slow and piecemeal reaction of General Hyukatake, commanding 17th Army, had allowed the Americans to build a force of more than 20,000, replete with a fully operational airfield and complete complement of supporting arms, by the time of the October counteroffensive. Even in October, Hyukatake badly underestimated US ground strength and fighting qualities, believing only some 7,500 garrisoned Guadalcanal.  The Japanese ground effort, including a combined tank-infantry attack, was once again poorly coordinated, and it came to grief against the lines of the First Marines and under the howitzers of the Eleventh Marines along the Matanikau River before either fleet engaged each other at Santa Cruz.  (Inexplicably, the Japanese Army units reported erroneously that they had captured Henderson Field when in reality they had nowhere threatened breakthrough of the Marine lines.)

At sea, Admiral Kondo’s force greatly outnumbered the Americans under Thomas Kinkaid. For the IJN, two large and two small carriers, six battleships, and ten heavy and light cruisers, with almost 250 aircraft significantly outweighed the two American fleet carriers (Enterprise and Hornet), the lone battleship (South Dakota), a half dozen cruisers, and around 170 aircraft.

Each fleet’s scout aircraft found the other almost simultaneously, and launched strikes simultaneously. In fact, the strike forces passed each other on their respective headings, with fighters from each side briefly and inconclusively engaging the enemy’s formations.   The Japanese air strikes exacted a heavy toll from the US ships.  Enterprise was struck with at least two bombs, jamming a flight deck elevator and causing extensive splinter and blast damage in the hangar decks, while near-misses stoved in her side plates.  Enterprise was seriously hurt, but somehow maintained flight operations.  Hornet was struck by three bombs and at least two torpedoes, wrecking her engine rooms and bringing the carrier to a halt.

hornettow.SantaCruz

Despite the heroic efforts to save Hornet, a well-placed torpedo from a Japanese submarine put paid to the effort.  The incident was eerily similar to the fate of Yorktown at Midway 4 1/2 months earlier.  Like her sister, Hornet stayed stubbornly afloat despite shells and torpedoes expended to scuttle her.   Eventually, the Japanese sank Hornet with two Long Lance torpedoes.  Battleship South Dakota was credited with shooting down 26 Japanese aircraft, but was struck on B Turret with a 550-pound bomb.  Additionally, two US destroyers were damaged.

In turn, the US Navy strikes crippled the light carrier Zuiho, wrecked the flight deck of Shokaku, and inflicted heavy damage with a bomb strike on heavy cruiser Chikuma.  The most consequential losses for the Japanese had been among the superbly trained veteran aircrews that had been the scourge of Allied pilots and surface vessels since Pearl Harbor.   Despite the fact that Kondo’s task force had inflicted considerably more damage to the American ships than Kinkaid’s flyers had managed, and despite the relatively even losses of aircraft (each side lost roughly the same percentage of aircraft to all causes), the loss of pilots and trained air crewmen was disproportionately heavy for the IJN.  US losses amounted to fewer than thirty aircrew, while the Japanese lost almost one hundred and fifty pilots and aircrew.   This represents a significantly greater loss than that suffered at Midway.   With a training pipeline that could not begin to replace such losses, the most fearsome weapon of the Kido Butai, its deadly naval air power, was blunted permanently.  Japanese carrier aviation was all but eliminated from the rest of the fight for the Solomons, and began a steady decline into oblivion that would culminate in the frightful massacre at the Philippine Sea twenty months later.

For Admiral Halsey at SOPAC, Santa Cruz could not have appeared to have been anything except another costly reverse.  In the preceding six months, the US Navy had lost Lexington at Coral Sea, Yorktown at Midway, Wasp off Guadalcanal in September, and now Hornet at Santa Cruz.  Not only that, but Saratoga had taken a torpedo in August and was stateside for repairs, and Enterprise was more heavily damaged in this battle than could be repaired at forward bases.   The IJN still outnumbered the US Navy in the Pacific in numbers of carriers and aircraft, and in surface combatants.  Additionally, after Santa Cruz, Kinkaid had retired with Nagumo on his heels.

Yet, despite the Japanese tactical victory, Santa Cruz represented the beginning of the end of the fearsome striking power which had wrecked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and had run amok for the six months that Yamamoto had predicted before December of 1941.  If the Americans did not realize it, at least Nagumo did.  He informed Naval Headquarters that without decisive victories, the industrial might of the United States would render the Japanese defeat in the Pacific inevitable.

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