Category Archives: SIR!

General Carl E. Mundy, Jr, 30th Marine Commandant, Dead at 78

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Very sad news that General Carl Mundy, the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, passed away on Wednesday in Alexandria, VA.   General Mundy’s career was long and distinguished, beginning with his enlistment in the Marine Reserves in 1953, where he would rise to be a Sergeant Squad Leader.

Commissioned out of Auburn University, General Mundy served two tours in Vietnam, one as OpsO and XO of 3/26, and the other with III Marine Amphibious Force.  Following his service in Southeast Asia, General Mundy commanded the Second Marines, and then 2nd Marine Division, and eventually II MEF at Camp Lejeune, NC.

General Mundy served as the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps from July 1991 to June 1995.  General Mundy was also a plain-spoken man.  And as such, has always been a hero of mine.  He had the backbone to stand up to the Diversity Tyrants, and to try and do what was best for the Corps rather than his career.  The infamous “60 Minutes” hack job that was as dishonest as the Westmoreland piece and the George W. Bush service record fabrication portrayed Mundy’s remarks as being something other than what they were.  General Mundy had criticized the racial quota approach to recruitment of Marine Officers, rightly pointing out that simply taking in men and women based on skin color, without regard to intelligence and aptitude, did them and the Corps a disservice.  He correctly observed that those accessed with below-average intelligence and aptitude were at a severe disadvantage and did not do as well with marksmanship, land navigation, and other skills.  Mundy apologized for any offense that the edited remarks may have caused, but never backed off from his premise, which infuriated the Diversity advocates.

Later, General Mundy ordered the eventual elimination of recruiting quotas for married Marines, again rightly pointing out that first-term non-rate Marines with wives and children had a much higher proportion of problems because of low pay and long hours, and the effects were deleterious to readiness and morale.  Mundy was ordered to rescind that guidance, but again remained unwilling to revise his views.

I had the privilege to serve with General Mundy’s son Carl E. “Sam” Mundy III, at Parris Island.  He was a superb Officer who rightly admired and emulated his Dad.  Carl E. Mundy III is now a Brigadier General, I believe.    General Mundy’s legacy to the Marine Corps remains with us almost twenty years later.  He was a warrior who believed in the warrior ethos.  And was unwilling to compromise those beliefs for political expediency.

But for other senior Officers in all the services to take a lesson from General Mundy.

Farewell, General.  30th Commandant, departing.  Marines from every age who guard Heaven’s streets will present arms.

 

 

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Seduced By Success; An Army Leadership Untrained for True War?

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Our friend at Op-For, the urbane and erudite sophisticate LTCOL P (supplying some cogent comments of his own), points us to a superb article in AFJ by Daniel L. Davis outlining the very real possibility that our immense advantages over our foes in the last two-plus decades has left many of our middle and senior leadership untested and overconfident in our warfighting capabilities.

Imagine one of today’s division commanders finding himself at the line of departure against a capable enemy with combined-arms formation. He spent his time as a lieutenant in Bosnia conducting “presence patrols” and other peacekeeping activities. He may have commanded a company in a peacetime, garrison environment. Then he commanded a battalion in the early years of Afghanistan when little of tactical movement took place. He commanded a brigade in the later stages of Iraq, sending units on patrols, night raids, and cordon-and-search operations; and training Iraq policemen or soldiers.

Not once in his career did an enemy formation threaten his flank. He never, even in training, hunkered in a dugout while enemy artillery destroyed one-quarter of his combat vehicles, and emerged to execute a hasty defense against the enemy assault force pouring over the hill.

Spot-on.  Such sentiment applies to ALL SERVICES.  Even in the midst of some pretty interesting days in Ramadi and Fallujah, I never bought into the idea that was being bandied about so casually that “there is no more complex decision-making paradigm for a combat leader than counterinsurgency operations”.   It was utter nonsense.  The decisions to be made, as the author points out, above the troops-in-contact level, were seldom risking success or failure either in their urgency or content.  We had in Iraq and in AFG the ability to largely intervene with air or ground fires as we desired, to engage and disengage almost at will, against an enemy that could never have the capability of truly seizing tactical initiative.  Defeat, from a standpoint of force survival, was never a possibility.  To borrow Belloc’s observations of Omdurman, “Whatever happens, we have got, close air support, and they have not”.

Having a brigade of BMP-laden infantry rolling up behind the fires of a Divisional Artillery Group, supported by MI-24s and SU-25s, which stand a very real chance of defeating (and destroying) not just your unit but all the adjacent ones, is infinitely more challenging than even our rather intense fights (April and November 2004) for Fallujah.  The speed and tactical acumen of the decision makers will be the difference between holding or breaking, winning and losing, living or dying.   The author points out some significant shortcomings in our current training paradigm, and brings us back to some fundamentals of how we train (or used to, at any rate) decision-makers to operate in the fog and uncertainty of combat.  Training and exercises, designed to stress and challenge:

At some of the Combat Maneuver Training Centers, Army forces do some good training. Some of the products and suggestions from Army Training and Doctrine Command are good on paper. For example, we often tout the “world class” opposing force that fights against U.S. formations, and features a thinking and free-fighting enemy. But I have seen many of these engagements, both in the field and in simulation, where the many good words are belied by the exercise. For example, in 2008 I took part in a simulation exercise in which the opposing forces were claimed to be representative of real world forces, yet the battalion-level forces were commanded by an inexperienced captain, and the computer constraints limited the enemy’s ability to engage.

Many may remember the famed “Millennium Challenge 2002” held just before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Retired Marine general Paul Van Riper, appointed to serve as opposing force commander, quit because the exercise was rigged. ”We were directed…to move air defenses so that the army and marine units could successfully land,” he said. ”We were simply directed to turn [air defense systems] off or move them… So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.” For the U.S. Army to be successful in battle against competent opponents, changes are necessary.

Field training exercises can be designed to replicate capable conventional forces that have the ability to inflict defeats on U.S. elements. Such training should require leaders at all levels to face simulated life and death situations, where traditional solutions don’t work, in much more trying environments than is currently the case. They should periodically be stressed to levels well above what we have actually faced in the past several decades. Scenarios, for example, at company and battalion level where a superior enemy force inflicts a mortal blow on some elements, requiring leaders and soldiers to improvise with whatever is at hand, in the presence of hardship and emotional stress.Simulation training for commanders and staffs up to Corps level should combine computer and physical exercises that subject the leaders to situations where the enemy does the unexpected, where key leaders or capabilities are suddenly lost (owing to enemy fire or efforts), yet they still have to function; where they face the unexpected loss of key communications equipment, yet still be forced to continue the operation.

Such exercises should not all be done in nicely compartmentalized training segments with tidy start and end times, and “reset” to prepare for the next sequence. Instead, some exercises should be held where there is a beginning time “in the box” and no pre-set start or end times until the end of a rotation two weeks or more later. In short, the training rotation should replicate the physical and emotional stress of actual combat operations in which there is no “pause” to rest and think about what happened.

I couldn’t agree more.  However, in a budget-crunch environment where significant funding is going toward advancing political and social agendas even within DoD, I am not at all sanguine about such training occurring.  Worse, rather than having leaders champion the need for it and constantly fight for training dollars, I fear that such a requirement will be dismissed as less than necessary, since we already have “the most professional, the best educated, the most capable force this country has ever sent into battle.”  While our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are indeed superb, and honed at the small unit level, our senior leadership is much less so.  What’s worse is that leaders who have no experience in battlefield command against a near-peer force have begun to assert that technological innovation makes such training superfluous.  That the nature of war has changed, and we are now in an era of “real-time strategy” and “global awareness”.   To steal a line from The Departed, there is deception, and there is self-deception.

Anyway, the Armed Forces Journal article is a thought-provoking read.

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War Department Film: Landings On New Britain

UPDATE:  Okay fine.  Brad posted it already back in June.  Watch it again, anyway.

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As per SOP, I watched the really good movie that XBRAD posted earlier, and in looking at zenoswarbirdvideos.com, found this one.

My Father was an 18-year old Machinist Apprentice who made both landings shown in the film, Arawe on 15 December 1943, and Cape Gloucester on 26 December.    His LCT 172 was a 105 foot craft somewhat larger than an LCM-8.  (You see LCT 174 at some point in the video.)  Part of his responsibilities was to go in ahead of the assault and mark water depth on the landing beaches, then paddle back out to the LCT and make the landings themselves.

At Arawe, his LCT went to pick up the survivors of the Army cavalry company that attempted to go in by rubber boat (described at 28:30).  It was shot full of holes in the process.  And LCT 172 was close to destroyer Brownson (DD-518) at Gloucester when she was hit by Japanese aircraft and sunk.  (49:50 in the film.)

Anyway, on a cold and snowy Saturday afternoon, grab a cuppa and have a watch.  The film is pretty gritty, and hardly paints a romantic picture of the war in the South Pacific.

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The Very Last of Them: “Balaclava Ned” Hughes

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Private 1506 Hughes, Edwin, was born in Wrexham in December of 1830. Before enlisting in Her Majesty’s forces, he worked as a shoemaker.  In 1852, at age 21, Hughes enlisted in the 13th Hussars (then the 13th Light Dragoons [quibble]).   In the summer of 1854, as the Crimean War escalated, the 13th Light Dragoons, Hughes among them, embarked for Sevastopol in the Black Sea, as a part of the British contingent, assigned to the Light Brigade of the Cavalry Division, under Lord Raglan.

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On October 25th, 1854, Hughes and almost seven hundred other British horsemen of the Light Brigade of Cavalry galloped across the valley at Balaclava, “storm’d at with shot and shell”, toward the Russian guns in the famous charge immortalized by Tennyson.  Hughes had his horse shot from under him, injuring his leg.  He recovered to serve in the Crimea until the end of the war, and with the 13th Hussars, until 1873.   Hughes eventually achieved the rank of Troop Sergeant Major, the uniform which he wears in the above (top) photo.  After retirement from the 13th Hussars, Hughes enlisted as a Sergeant-Instructor in the Worcestershire Yeomanry, serving until discharged for “old age” in 1886.   Hughes was awarded the Crimea Turkish Medal, the Long Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal.  (The four clasps on the Crimea Turkish Medal read “Sevastopol”, “Inkerman”, “Balaclava”, and “Alma”.)

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Even before his retirement, Hughes had become a legend of sorts for his participation in the famous charge.  He became known as “Balaclava Ned”, and was often asked to return to his birthplace of Wrexham to talk of his exploits in the “Valley of Death”.   Hughes was also a recipient of a number of pensions created for the Light Brigade survivors.  Public focus on the plight of the often-penniless veterans of the British Army, the Light Brigade in particular, came from none other than Rudyard Kipling, whose “Last of the Light Brigade” (1890) painted a sorrowful tale of the fate of twenty old soldiers who go to an aging Tennyson for help:

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

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Ned Hughes outlived all of his 672 comrades, nearly 300 of which fell on that October day in the Crimea in 1854.  Troop Sergeant Major 1506 Hughes, Edwin died in Blackpool, 14 May 1927, at the age of 96.

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Jerry Coleman, Yankees Second Baseman and Marine Pilot in Two Wars, Dies at 89

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Jerry Coleman was one of the best fielding second basemen in major league history.  He was a part of the legendary Yankees dynasty of the late 40s and 1950s.  He was a major league manager, and a Hall of Fame broadcaster.   But he was also something more, much more.  The “Colonel” (he retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1964 as a Lieutenant Colonel) was a combat pilot in World War II and again in Korea.

Completing the V-5 Program, Coleman flew SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers with VMSB-341 from the Solomons in 1944 and then in the Philippines until July of 1945.  He flew 57 missions in all.   After the war he resumed his baseball career, and made the Yankees roster in 1948.  Called up again for Korea, Coleman transitioned to F4U-4 Corsairs, and flew 63 missions of ground support with the famous “Death Rattlers” of VMF-323.  He also served as a forward air controller before returning stateside in 1953.

53310826Coleman retired as a player with the Yankees in 1957.  He is the only major leaguer to see combat in two wars, flying a total of 120 missions between World War II and Korea.   He was always known as an intelligent, kind, and thoughtful gentleman, a figure truly beloved in New York and his native San Diego.  Not something you find very often in the profession of sport.

Jerry Coleman was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and thirteen Air Medals for his wartime service.  Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Coleman, USMCR (Ret.) was a true hero.   Semper Fidelis, Colonel.   Baseball, and our country, is poorer for your loss.

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From Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig:

Jerry Coleman was a hero and a role model to myself and countless others in the game of Baseball.  He had a memorable, multifaceted career in the National Pastime – as an All-Star during the great Yankees’ dynasty from 1949-1953, a manager and, for more than a half-century, a beloved broadcaster, including as an exemplary ambassador for the San Diego Padres.  But above all, Jerry’s decorated service to our country in both World War II and Korea made him an integral part of the Greatest Generation.  He was a true friend whose counsel I valued greatly.

Major League Baseball began its support of Welcome Back Veterans to honor the vibrant legacy of heroes like Jerry Coleman.  Our entire sport mourns the loss of this fine gentleman, and I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, fans of the Padres and the Yankees, and his many admirers in Baseball and beyond.

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RIP, Swamp Heathen 1

There are so many stories from the last 23 years that I hardly know where to begin. Don joined the Army when he was 17. He lost a brother in Vietnam and ended up serving two tours there himself. He was in Signal Corps, Airborne, Special Forces, recruiting, and Hawk missile maintenance. He earned two Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, and turned down a third Purple Heart because that would have sent him home. (Yes, he despised John Kerry.) He was a Master Parachute Rigger, was part of a jump demo team that went all over Europe (not the Golden Knights), and made a special parachute system for a Kermit the Frog doll. After he retired from the Army, he worked for a couple of contractors before being hired by NASA. A co-worker didn’t think he should be drawing Army retirement while working for NASA, and Don let him know right quick that he could go down to the recruiting office and get in on the action, with the comment that even as an E-7, his family qualified for food stamps and reduced price school lunches.
Continue reading

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A Must-See Film; The Duffel Blog Reviews “A Day Without A First Sergeant”

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Sounds like an Instant Classic. 

The rest of the film then explores the catastrophic consequences of life without the entire 8999 MOS. Most of the film is seen from the perspective of Lance Corporal Karl Powers, an 0351 Assaultman who is left in charge after all the corporals and sergeants disappear to chase down a group of UA Marines who can’t be sent to the brig because no one knows how to do the paperwork.

The movie ends in a post-apocalyptic orgy of burning barracks, alcohol abuse, and Grand Theft Auto, commonly-known in the Marine Corps as a “96.”

I am sure you can find it on DVD and Blu-Ray, so the Lance Coconuts on restriction can watch it when they finish cleaning the shitters for the fifth time.

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Pritzker Military Museum and Library

 

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What formerly known as the Pritzker Military Library, (as part of it’s 10th anniversary comemoration) has changed it’s name to the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. As such, the website is now:

http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/

The name change is to reflect that the Library is in fact, more than a library.

The Museum’s mission statement from the website:

Our Mission

The Mission of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of materials and to develop appropriate programs focusing on the Citizen Soldier in the preservation of democracy.

Why a Military Library?

Colonel J.N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), founder of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, assembled a major collection of books and related materials on military history, with a particular focus on the concept of the Citizen Soldier in America. Today, building upon that foundation through the generosity of private donors, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library has become a non-partisan research organization that attempts to increase the public understanding of military history and the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served.

In a democratic society, it is important for people of all viewpoints to have an open, public forum to discuss the past, present, and future of the military. Through its collection and its programs, the Museum & Library is dedicated to serving as a forum for those discussions and preserving them for future generations. Since opening in 2003, the Museum & Library has hosted more than 400 events featuring the country’s most acclaimed authors, historians, journalists, and scholars.

At the website, you can take a look at the Museum itself, take a look at some of the digitized books and art, use a searchable Library catalog, and see an overview of some of the Museum’s exhibits. There’s also an online store where some items are available for purchase. You’ll be able to see what’s going on at the Library, including author and speaker lectures.  These speaker and author lectures are also available as podcasts and webcasts.

The Museum’s Veteran’s Information Center also has a wide range of resources (everything from education and employment to health care information) available for veterans and active duty military personnel.

If you happen to make it to Chicago, I encourage you to visit the Museum (I’m also a member). Admission is free for active duty personnel with an ID.

Also, make sure that you sign up for emails to get the latest on news and events at the Museum (which will also periodically appear here).

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An open letter to the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki

Dear Honorable Shinseki,

Good afternoon. My name is Master Sergeant Robert Thomas Bowman, I am a Veteran of 24+ years of service in the Army, and I retire in less than a month (1 October 2013). I have been involved in the VA claims process since 14 February 2013, and today (3 September 2013) I am writing you to describe to you how this process has gone for me and how I perceive the VA at this point. I will preface all my commentary by saying that despite the problems I have had, I am still one of the lucky ones. I am not physically disfigured from my service, am capable of working, and during my time in the Army I was fairly responsible with my finances and am not currently in any duress due to the VA disability compensation program and how slow things are moving. I could not imagine what it must be like for a young Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine who has served multiple combat tours in service of their country, cannot work because of their disabilities, has a family, and is waiting on this process to be completed to be able to pay their bills.

via An open letter to the Honorable Eric K. Shinseki.

Read the whole thing.

H/T Castle Argghhh! on FB.

I’ve seen SwampHeathen1 deal with the VA, waiting on the phone for nearly an hour only to be disconnected, driving two hours to Birmingham to find out that the appointment had been cancelled and “oh sorry we forgot to tell you”, and fighting red tape and bureaucratic sclerosis at every turn. The people who have served this country deserve far, far better.

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Travel Dollars Well-Spent: The Duffel Blog Chronicles SECDEF Trip

Hagel’s Upcoming Travel Plans Include Burning Man, Visiting Troops At Strip Clubs

“I’m gonna be an ass-clown. Straight up dude, I’m going to wear nothing but my birthday suit with a clown face on my ass. It’s going to be epic!”After he leaves Burning Man, Hagel plans on stopping by Ft. Hood to visit the troops. The secretary will eat lunch with soldiers stationed at the base, then also plans on taking them out to the strip club afterwards, drinking heavily, and trying to pull the “I’m the SECDEF bitch, let me the fuck in” card as he drives intoxicated back through the front gate.

Beats the hell out of spending travel dollars on some bullshit diversity crap.

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The Warrior Monk Comes North! Mattis to Speak At Dickey Center This Fall

From Foreign Policy:

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Jim Mattis has signed on with Dartmouth and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Former Central Command commander Jim “Chaos” Mattis will not, so far as we can see, be cashing in right away. Instead, we can report this morning, he is headed to Dartmouth, where he will be a Distinguished Visitor at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, starting in late September or early October. Dan Benjamin, the former counter-terrorism official, got to know Mattis while he was at Central Command and then asked him to Dartmouth.

Definitely some lectures I do not want to miss.  Serving under General Mattis in Al Anbar in 2004 when he commanded the storied 1st Marine Division is one of the highlights of my career.  His ADC?  John Kelly.  His Chief of Staff was Joe Dunford.  A hell of a team, one the bad guys couldn’t beat.

H/T:  J

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Load HEAT – Kristin Chenoweth

Since XBrad doesn’t seem to have a Load HEAT post, I will step in with Kristin Chenoweth. West Wing, Pushing Daisies, Glee, and some Broadway work, and she looks nice on the red carpet.

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From the Duffel Blog: Lance Corporal’s Course Honor Graduate Receives ‘Honorary NJP’

USMC Professional Military Education has gotten a tremendous boost.   Why?   Tradition.

“I had junior Marines coming to me asking what an oil check was and why getting married would solve all their financial problems,” Mitchell toldThe Duffel Blog. “That’s when I realized that these Lance Corporal traditions were in danger of being lost. It’s up to us to teach a whole new generation what it means to be a Lance Criminal.”

The SgtMaj must be very proud of the results.

He then leaned out the window at his office and called over to a group of Marines in the course hanging out at the smoke pit.

“Hey Marines, don’t forget to cut the grass sometime today!”

“Fuck you, old man!” they shouted back.  “Come down here and make us!”

“I had to get busted down to PFC twice before I could speak that authoritatively,” Mitchell said with a big smile,

And there is a practical side to the course, it isn’t all about customs and traditions:

“Every Marine knows the joke about using your [Honor, Courage, Commitment] cards to break into someone’s car or barracks room,” said Dalten. “Here at Lance Corporals Course we teach our Marines to be more innovative. How about placing it on the table at a restaurant like you’re paying so you can sneak out without arousing suspicion? Or stealing your friend’s, then leaving it and his fingerprints behind at a crime scene?”

“A fellow Marine was at a bar getting kind of loud and rowdy, bothering these local girls,” said Lance Corporal Terry Westerberg from Tuscon, Ariz. “But using the training I receive at Lance Corporals Course, I took out my card and showed it to him. While he was distracted by reading it, I smashed a beer bottle across his face. With him unconscious, it was much easier for me to start bothering those girls.”

It brings a tear to my eye to know that these Marines are every bit the Lance Coconuts their fathers were.  Ooh-Rah, Sgt Maj.   Keep up the good work.  As the saying goes, if you are gonna get “bad time”, you damned sure should have a good time!

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Frederick Von Stuben’s NCO “Blue Book.”

You never know what you’re going to run into at the Pritzker Military Library. I’ve been a member now for just under a year and I’m usually there weekly doing research on something for the blog.

Last night was a new member tour and I happened to run into this:

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That’s Fredrick Von Stuben’s NCO “Blue Book.” Published in 1779 (I think) this is one of 3 copies in existence.

Go to Army.mil to find out the rest.

In 1779, Von Steuben’s publication, “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States,” was ready to be printed. Due to the war, however, there was a scarcity of paper. The first printer decided to bind the book with the blue paper he had on hand. This is how the book got the nickname: The Blue Book. In March of 1779, Congress endorsed it and ordered it to be used throughout the Army. Many of the state militias also adopted the Blue Book. In 1792, Washington pushed through the Uniformed Militia Act, which included the use of Von Steuben’s regulations.

Each respective owner has signed the book as it’s passed on to the next. This copy is available for viewing in the rare book room at the Pritzker Military Library in beautiful downtown Chicago, IL. There are other interesting things here in addition the huge military book collection.

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One Year.

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XBRAD invited me to be a guest blogger here quite some time before my first effort.   It took me a bit to get moving, but a year ago tomorrow I managed to hammer together my first post.   This particular one is number 241.  It has been a busy year, for sure.   Benghazi, an election, Newtown, Benghazi again (not coincidentally, after the election), sequestration, the end of the world (Mayan scandal), the IRS scandal, the AP phone subpoena scandal, the HHS scandal, the NSA scandal, and so many others….

It is really somewhat humbling to be swimming in the same pool as folks like Roamy and Brad, and Craig, and the Padre and Mav, whose mastery of subject matter make me feel like an amateur.

I cannot tell Brad how much I appreciate his confidence that I would meaningfully add to what was already a really good thing.  And how much I appreciate the readers and commenters who thought my words interesting enough to pay any attention to.    I do enjoy the give and take, and always learn more from you than you do from me.

Brad’s assertion is absolutely true.  If you wanna really know about something, don’t just read about it.  Write about it!

So thank you Mister Host.  (Bowing and scraping as I shuffle backwards from your presence.)

Oh, and I still haven’t eaten the crayons.

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Leadership and Responsibility on the Longest Day

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Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

The troops did not fail.  More than 140,000 Allied soldiers came ashore at Normandy, on this day 69 years ago.   The Second Front so long in the coming was established.  The cost was more than ten thousand casualties, of which approximately 4,000 were killed.  The same number that died in Iraq in eight years, died on the French coast in a single morning.   Tens of thousands more would die before Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally eleven months and one day later.

General Dwight Eisenhower’s famous note hearkens to a brand of leadership seemingly all but extinct today.   People in positions of great responsibility shouldering the burden for their decisions and everything that is done or fails to be done by those in their charge.    What difference does it make?   The difference between victory and defeat, liberty and subjugation, existence and extinction.

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A Clear Mission Statement

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There is nothing quite like a USMC Master Gunnery Sergeant.   An E-9, but not a Sgt Major, with no place to go but sideways, a Master Guns can be ever so useful by bringing a capability to say what he thinks, and know of what he speaks.   This is particularly true in some of our collective ruminations on plans for providing that ever-popular hybrid of security/humanitarian assistance to some third world hell hole where the people hate us and everything that came after the Eleventh Century, about which such discussions can be fraught with self-deception.

While listening to a brief from a COCOM staff regarding a West African nation, I had remarked that they were telling us things we already knew.  The Master Guns reminded me of one of the immutable facts of life.

“The mission of a J-shop is to state the obvious.”

Well, Goldwater-Nichols was sposta clarify roles and missions.  I guess it did.

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That Explains It! Weaker men more likely to support welfare state and wealth redistribution

Dwyane 'The Rock' Johnson-20120419-28

The Daily Mail tells us the story.

‘In all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursue the self-interested position on redistribution.’

Men with low upper-body strength, on the other hand, were less likely to support their own self-interest.

No wonder why the men who seem most bent on relying on the protection of the collective instead of being the protector always seem to be milquetoasts.

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It is a hell of a lot more plausible than Global Warming.    So get thyself in the gym, move steel, and try not to act like Mary-Ellen Sisterpants.   Bulk up or be crushed.

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All That for a Flag; Navy Officer who Provided Iwo Jima Flag Dies at 90

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Navy Lieutenant Alan Wood, Communications Officer aboard LST 779, the man who provided the second and larger Iwo Jima flag raised by the patrol of 28th Marines in the war’s most iconic image, has passed away at 90.

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Semper Fidelis, Lieutenant Wood.   You may report into the growing formation of heroes mustering on the fantail above.

 

 

 

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Winning Words From a Warlord

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In the very darkest days of the Second World War, when England stood alone, and suffered alone, Prime Minister Winston Churchill replaced his friend General Edmund Ironside, veteran of two wars, as Chief of the Imperial General Staff with General Sir John Dill.  Churchill told Dill:

“We cannot afford to confine Army appointments to persons who have excited no hostile comments in their careers…  This is a time to try men of force and vision, and not to be exclusively confined to those who are judged to be thoroughly safe by conventional standards.”

Ponder.

But for the leadership in our Armed Forces to embrace such sentiment.

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Farewell to the Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher dead at 87

Margaret Thatcher

Britain’s only female Prime Minister, a friend and confidant of President Ronald Reagan and a staunch US ally, has died following a stroke.  She was 87.

Mrs. Thatcher held the office of Prime Minister from 1979 through 1990, and was a Conservative of immense stature at a time when Socialism was on the rise all over Europe and the British Isles.   And she halted, temporarily alas, the decline of Great Britain following the Second World War.   She had the courage to order the retaking of the Falklands, and understood the world of power politics in the depths of the Cold War.  She was also a LADY, albeit an Iron one.

Her warnings against the EURO and the European Central Bank were cogent and prescient.  But for Britain having followed her advice.

When the far-left feminists cite great women to hold political office in the modern age, they will invariably rattle off the names of the lessers, the second-rate and third-rate leaders  (virtually all liberals), including our own, as their heroines.  Almost NEVER is the name Margaret Thatcher mentioned, and when it is, there is either an inevitable qualifier that she was a conservative and therefor NOT a true “woman”, or a downright derogatory reference because she despised socialism and had utter contempt for the Socialists.  Ponder.

French President Francois Mitterand once commented that Mrs. Thatcher had the “eyes of Caligula, and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe”.   Be that as it may, she was a leader and a statesman, someone who stood unabashedly for what she believed in, and defended those beliefs with power and eloquence and unimpeachable reason.   Our current crop of GOP leaders could take a lesson from Maggie.

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Thatcher.  You will be missed.  I sorely wish America had someone like you at the helm.

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A commenter over on the porch provided a most fitting epitaph for the incomparable Mrs. Thatcher, which was spoken of Winston Churchill by Harold MacMillian upon Churchill’s final visit to the House of Commons:

“The man you have just seen leave these chambers is unique in all of British history. The oldest among us cannot remember another of his like, and the youngest among you, however long you may live, will never see his like again.”

So it is true of Margaret Thatcher.

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Blogs. Why We Write ‘Em, Why We Read ‘Em.

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Those of us in this somewhat focused community of MilBlog writers and readers are often asked by people who haven’t any exposure to MilBlogs, “Why do you do it?  You put in a lot of time and work.  What’s the point?”

It’s a fair question.   Thinking of ideas, and putting together a cogent discussion starter, or historical summary, takes more time than people think.  Knowing that, and being somewhat of an analysis geek (which may turn out to be a very good thing soon), I have my list of half a dozen daily reads, at least.  This’n here.  Salamander’s Front Porch.  Ray’s Information Dissemination.  OP-FOR, The Castle, and a number of other places make the list, blended with traditional news sources domestic and foreign, plus policy and analysis outfits.

Why?  Well, my gracious host here gives me an outlet for expression.  Like anyone with a fair-sized ego, I believe just a little bit that everyone is entitled to my opinion.  But there is also the great opportunity for feedback.  To hear from a mostly very educated crowd, their opinions and takes on events and occurrences domestically and in foreign affairs.  But it extends into culture, literary works, certainly history, and other aspects that spark discussion.

But one of the most valuable reasons to read and write in the Military Blogosphere is to hear from people who are truly experts in their fields, who possess great wisdom, are extensively experienced, and are considered and well-spoken people.  I do miss terribly reading the thoughts and musings of Lex, which was a morning staple and often provided several day-long trains of thought.  And this is true of not just Bloggers, but commenters.  Byron, the ugly old shipfitter, could wax authoritative about steel, and aluminum, and hull flex, and do it in a way that, perhaps over beer, I am sure I could listen intently to for hours.     Grandpa Bluewater’s urbane sophistication and eloquent dissertation always is worth the consideration, whether one agrees or not.    And there are others who add insight and humor, and are enjoyable to read.

Another such commenter is Steeljaw Scribe, shepherd of a superb blog of his own.   I did something the last two days that I rarely do, which is to go back and re-read a comment he made in Salamander’s post of the IG investigation of Admiral Gaouette.  His explanation of the dynamics of the bridge of a CVN, and the personalities and cultures that must blend and not clash if the mission is to be accomplished.

The bridge of a CVN is a unique environment that brings together two communities that normally opt to keep their distances from one another – SWOs and Aviators. That the three senior officers that regularly spend time up there (CO, XO and Navigator) are also aviators can at times, exacerbate that standoffish environment. This clash of cultures evolves from one group that is brought up in a dynamic environment and is used to rapidly changing events, making intuitive decisions and being cognizant that their butt and that of the x-number of NFOs or aircrew with them will suffer the consequences of those decisions. SWOs that typically (and note I said *typically* – there are always exceptions) come to the carrier do not come from the CRUDES environment, but from amphibs and auxiliaries and tend to be methodical if somewhat conservative and deliberative in their decision-making and watchstanding. At least that was my experience as a CVN nav. My challenge was working across that divide – to show the aviators (from watchstanders up to the XO who would go on to his first deep draft after this tour) on the one hand, how a series of events can unfold where little things not readily apparent to the eyeball can bite you (case history of the Eisenhower hitting the Spanish freighter at anchor in Hampton Roads being one of my teaching points). The flip side of that was getting the SWOs to be more anticipatory (e.g., looking to the next 2x cycles for managing sea space for downwind repositioning) as well as coming to grips with the immediacy of fixed wing operations at sea.

I know of no other vehicle by which an audience can learn, and share the insights of men and women with such experience.   It is the gaining of understanding, at the end of the day, that makes all this effort worthwhile.   Brad’s rules here do not include “write only what I agree with” or “water it down so it couldn’t possibly offend”.   He trusts us to understand and abide by propriety, and we seem to, as do the commenters,  on the whole.  And that is appreciated.

So in the end, despite the trolls, and my own alarming tendency to follow links and wind up pissing away two hours looking at cool stuff, reading and writing is worth the effort.   Even if the pay isn’t great.

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At Long Last, a Supreme Commander

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Ninety-five years ago, on 26 March 1918, at a conference in Doullens, the Allies, the French, British, and now the Americans, finally agree to appoint an Allied Supreme Commander for the Western Front.   For three and a half years, neither the British nor the French were willing to countenance placing their forces under command of a General from the other respective nation for any but the most local and temporary situations.   Differences in philosophy, national pride, individual ego, and centuries-old mutual distrust (exacerbated by the very lack of coordination such a situation made inevitable) created an environment where the alliance became, at times, highly contentious and all but hostile.   The result was most often a stunning lack of coordination of effort and vision that played into the hands of the Imperial German commanders, allowing them to defeat in detail discordant Allied offensive efforts that might have otherwise seriously pressed the Germans.

The Great War on the Western Front is a grim and maddening exposition of military incompetence with the most tragic of consequences.   There are myriad reasons for this seemingly endless phantasm which wasted an entire generation.  Elderly, ossified commanders who had neither the energy or mental flexibility to wage modern war.   Weapons technology that rendered a generation of tactics (and tacticians) dangerously obsolete.

To these shortcomings and failures must be added the lack of a single overall commander to coordinate strategy, impart mediation, and provide the vision for fighting the armies of the Western Front.   Unity of Command, one of the nine principles of war,  did not come until very late in the day, and that under extreme and compelling conditions as the German Spring Offensive threatened to break the British 5th Army and capture Paris.

So it would be Ferdinand Foch, erstwhile Chief of Staff for Marshall Petain, who would finally, at long last, command in the West.

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General Barry McCaffrey: Lauds “Marines’ Aversion to BS” On Women in Infantry

Soldiers with the US Army's 6-4 Cavalry walk down a mountain path during a patrol near Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan

Time Magazine (of all places) carries General McCaffrey’s missive.  Well worth the read (which contains a link to Marine General Newbold’s superb “Seven Myths about ‘Women in Combat’”).

The argument for women at rifle battalion team level is unsound. Makes as much sense as mandating women on all-male professional contact sports teams.

Life in a rifle company is still incredibly brutal, filthy, requires enormous physical energy and upper body strength, and calls for a spirit of personal violence. There is zero personal privacy. Bodily functions take place in close proximity.

Troops are constantly injured from carrying heavy loads and crashing down hills in the dark. They dig like moles to stay alive.

Infantry units live like wild animals during periods of extended combat. Mostly it is a business of self-selected young men.  Most of these combat soldiers end up in these units because they actually want to fight.

One might think there would be some additional recognition of such opinions expressed by long-time practitioners of the craft of ground combat.   But alas.   Objective analysis gives way to activism and some other “isms” all too often.

As General Newbold rightly asserts:

Pity the truthful leader who attempts to hold to standards based on realistic combat factors, and tells truth to power. Most won’t, and the others won’t survive.

(H/T to Battleland)

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Danny and Peachy

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Of course, I am referring to Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, the two former Sergeants of Her Majesty’s Fore and Fit, who set out to rule Kafiristan, and in the process become the richest men in the Empire.

Among the treasure trove of goodies from Moe Delaun that I referred to in a previous post was the magnificent epic film The Man Who Would be King, the John Huston-directed adaptation of the Kipling tale.   The spectacular cinematography and beautiful (and authentic!) Edith Head costumes add to a brilliant performance by Michael Caine (Peachy) and Sean Connery (Danny), and an equally brilliant portrayal of Kipling himself by Christopher Plummer.   Saeed Jaffrey plays a long-lost Gurkha trooper, the lone survivor of a survey expedition killed in an avalanche some years before.

The Man Who Would be King was the first offering last evening in the new DVD player.   I last saw this movie some 35 years ago on network television, when, as a callow youth I knew Kipling only for Just So Stories, and The Jungle Book, and Rikki Tikki Tavi. But the film stayed with me, and very much was a factor in my adult appreciation of the brilliant work of that man.  And last evening, I enjoyed the movie immensely, once again.

While very much faithful to the original Kipling short story, The Man Who Would Be King has a few minor changes from the written tale.   All in all, though, I imagine Brother Kipling would be most pleased at the results of Huston’s direction and the performances of the cast. 

If you have never seen it, or it has been a number of years, The Man Who Would Be King is must viewing.   A poignant epic, with touches of charm and humor, and a revealing vision of the Empire of Victorian Britain.

The Son of God goes forth to war,
a kingly crown to gain;
his blood red banner streams afar:
who follows in his train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
triumphant over pain,
who patient bears his cross below,
he follows in his train.

Thanks again, Moe!!

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And a wonderful insight from Billy Fish!

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