Category Archives: marines

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.

About these ads

12 Comments

Filed under army, guns, history, marines, navy, planes, veterans, war, weapons

Prowlers and Pods

Spill just brought to my attention that the Marines have, for several years now, integrated the Lightening targeting pod onto their EA-6B Prowler radar jamming aircraft.

That pic is from 2007 or so. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of need for radar jamming in Iraq or Afghanistan. But in addition to being a world class radar jammer, the EA-6B is pretty good at intercepting tactical communications. One wonders just what techniques and procedures the Prowlers might have been using.

As an aside, that jet is from VMAQ-2, the Death Jesters. Back in  the days before the Tailhook ‘91 scandal, they were known as The Playboys- complete with the bunny on their tail. Now take a glance at the “CY” tailcode on this jet.

3 Comments

Filed under marines

Jerry Hendrix Discusses Rep. Randy Forbes’ Assertion That the US Navy Has No Strategy

Jerry Hendrix, late of the Naval Historical Center and now a fellow at CNAS, addresses a letter from Randy Forbes (R-VA) to CNO Admiral Greenert.  Read it all on DefenseOne.com.

A response, but certainly not a rebuttal.  I think the good Captain (Retired) is spot on with his assertions of the victory of the “Technical Rickovers” over the “Humanities Mahans”.   And that the very lack of being able to verbalize the importance of seapower is a major factor in the dearth of strategic eloquence from our Navy leadership.

When senior admirals speak strategically, their message can be summarized as “we do what we do because we have always done what we have done. The oceans are peaceful, we created that environment, and there is no need to change the formula.”

Indeed.  We are saddled with senior Navy leadership that assiduously avoids meaningful discussion about why the US Navy is building a fleet so entirely contrary to the requirements of the Cooperative Strategy.  Inherent in that avoidance is the unwillingness to discuss true ship numbers, or anything approaching a proposition for a high-low mix.  We have ever-smaller numbers of very large and very expensive warships which bodes poorly for forward presence.  The result is an increasing tally of unmet requirements, and of capital ships being employed in very low-end missions, to the detriment of other missions more appropriate and important.

That shipbuilding is a colossal mess, with LCS being the poster-child, should be no surprise.  This is the Navy, after all, that has its senior leadership in critical c0mmand positions offering up such gems as the Navy’s mission not being war at sea, and the most dangerous threat to US interests in the Pacific is not China or North Korea, but global warming.  And, though less openly now, the rather curious assertion that forcible entry is no longer possible or required, that somehow the sea as strategic or operational maneuver space is an outmoded idea.

Have a read, folks, and let me know what YOU think of Hendrix’s assertion.

7 Comments

Filed under Around the web, budget, China, Coast Guard, Defense, history, Iran, iraq, logistics, marines, navy, Politics, Uncategorized, war

Panetta Jumps Ship

gty_leon_panetta_dm_120315_wmain

Former SECDEF and CIA Director Leon Panetta has released an excerpt from his memoirs, Worthy Fights, in which he lays out precisely what nearly everyone who paid any attention at all (to someone other than Chris Matthews, at least) in the last four years knew to be true.  Obama cut and ran from Iraq for domestic political reasons.  The WAPO, of all places, has the story.

(Michele) Flournoy argued our case, and those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.

Barack Obama threw away a victory paid for with the blood of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.  He did so with the cavalier disregard of someone discarding old socks.   Obama rendered the blood and sacrifice of our service men and women moot.   Watching ISIS roll over Anbar Province, taking control of places whose names evoke such strong emotion in those who were there, Ramadi and Fallujah, Mosul, Tikrit, engendered in me a seething anger that has not really dissipated.   Anger at Barack Hussein Obama for his dereliction of duty, and for the Useful Idiots who believed his far-fetched fabrications, and who yet refuse to place responsibility for ISIS and Iraq’s current troubles on the man whose blithe and egregious neglect of his responsibilities brought on precisely what he was warned about.  It must be akin to a Vietnam Veteran watching the fall of Saigon.

Maybe it was Leon Panetta’s time in uniform (He was a United States Army Intelligence Officer) that would not allow him to ignore the despicable falsehoods perpetrated by his boss, especially when he knew the price that had been paid for the gains Obama was throwing away.  Whichever, Panetta puts paid to the lies of this Administration regarding ISIS and his headlong skedaddle from Iraq.  Panetta goes further.

To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.

Barack Obama has not told the truth about a single act or decision he has made.  His is the most malignant, corrosive, dishonest, and damaging presidency in the history of our nation.   The blood of the mass murders committed daily in Iraq is largely on his hands.  Not that he cares.  He got re-elected.  Much to this great nation’s detriment.

“The man who refuses to judge, who neither agrees nor disagrees, who declares that there are no absolutes and believes that he escapes responsibility, is the man responsible for all the blood that is now spilled in the world.”     – Ayn Rand

8 Comments

Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, Defense, history, iraq, islam, Libya, marines, navy, obama, Politics, Syria, Uncategorized, veterans, war

Salvage

An interesting and informative look at the truly herculean effort sometimes overlooked in the epic that was World War II.

Salvaging and reclaiming tanks and vehicles destroyed in combat was sometimes a disturbingly gruesome task, as the late Belton Cooper wrote so eloquently about.   But the salvage effort was truly impressive, and saved the cost of manufacture, transport, and time to supply the gigantic American arsenal in Europe and the Pacific with the spare parts needed to keep fighting.

8 Comments

Filed under Air Force, armor, army, Around the web, Artillery, budget, Defense, guns, history, infantry, marines, navy, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons

TDB: Chinese Hacker Complains About ‘Perverted’ American Military

Oh good Lordy.  From our laugh-till-you-cry funny friends at The Duffel Blog.

BEIJING, China — According to Chinese news agencies, the head of a People’s Liberation Army unit of military hackers is planning to file a formal complaint today with the United States Department of Defense after a number of what were called “disturbing” conversations with “American military perverts.”

Senior Colonel Bo Wang of the People’s Glorious Facebook Battalion is one of thousands of Chinese military personnel who spend all-day attempting to infiltrate the social media profiles of US military and intelligence personnel with fake accounts.

Once a target is identified, the hacker will create a false profile, usually of an attractive member of the opposite sex, and ‘friend’ the target.  Over time, a successful hacker can friend almost an entire unit and learn valuable information about military or intelligence plans.

The problem, as Colonel Wang soon found out, is that the majority of his targets are young American servicemen, most of whom only agree to friend requests because they expect sexual favors at some point.

The rest is definitely not safe for work.  Or most anything else.  But jee-ZUS is it funny!

Comments Off

Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, China, Defense, girls, Humor, marines, navy, recruiting, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons

Marine Corps Gazette: Why Women Do Not Belong in the U.S. Infantry

Beach activity at Da Nang, Vietnam during landing of United States Marines of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade in March of 1965

Superb article from Captain Lauren Serrano in the Marine Corps Gazette.  She will undoubtedly become the target of feminists in and out of the Armed Forces as some sort of traitor to womanhood, much as Captain Kate Petronio has been.  But she is right as rain.  As was Captain Petronio.

Captain Serrano explores far more than the mere physical obstacles to women in the Infantry.   She tells an age-old immutable truth about young warriors:

Having women in an infantry unit will disrupt the infantry’s identity, motivational tactics, and camaraderie. The average infantryman is in his late teens or early twenties. At that age, men are raging with hormones and are easily distracted by women and sex. Infantry leaders feed on the testosterone and masculinity of young men to increase morale and motivation and encourage the warrior ethos. Few jobs are as physically and emotionally demanding as the infantry, so to keep Marines focused, the infantry operates in a cult-like brotherhood. The infantry is the one place where young men are able to focus solely on being a warrior without the distraction of women or political correctness. They can fart, burp, tell raunchy jokes, walk around naked, swap sex stories, wrestle, and simply be young men together.  …this is the exact kind of atmosphere that promotes unit cohesion and the brotherly bond that is invaluable. This bond is an essential element in both garrison and combat environments. Ask any 0311 what encourages him to keep training or fighting in combat when he thinks he can go no further, and he will respond, “My brothers to my right and left.” No matter how masculine a woman is, she is still female and simply does not mesh with the infantry brotherhood.

Well-stated, and spot-on.  A great article, well worth the read.

Semper Fidelis, Skipper.  You have the moral courage to speak an unpopular truth, for the greatest good of Corps and Country.  But for more Officers, men and women, especially senior ones, to have such a backbone.

 

H/T GPBW

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Around the web, Artillery, Defense, guns, history, infantry, marines, Politics, recruiting, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons