Tag Archives: history

Angles and Dangles, and Then Some


Sequence of Events

15 to 30 Seconds After Loss of AC Power

The rate of change of increasing down angle accelerated rapidly from about 15 degrees down to approximately 40 to 45 degrees down; with full speed ahead still being answered.

The starboard controllerman on watch in the maneuvering room picked up the XJA circuit (inter compartmental sound powered phone system) but heard no conversations.

The Officer of the deck took the hand telephone from the helmsman and ordered “All stop” and immediately “All back full”. There was no response to this order, nor was it heard in the maneuvering room.

The after torpedo room watch picked up the hand phone (XJA circuit) and heard no conversation on the phone.

The diving officer ordered “Blow bow buoyancy” and the auxiliaryman responded to the order. In addition the diving officer ordered the stern planesman to shift to emergency and the stern planesman responded to the order.

The commanding officer entered the control room and was able to pull himself to a position between the ladder from control to conning tower and the control room table.

One of the chiefs fell to the forward end of the forward battery as he attempted to climb into the control room.

Holy moley.  Read the whole thing.   Especially “Lesson Learned and Action Taken” Number 5.   Drills and discipline.  Rote memory.  Training, training, training.  Not a word about SAPR or human trafficking, or Diversity…

H/T (not surprisingly) Grandpa Bluewater.



The Naval Battle for Guadalcanal; The Second Act, 13-15 November 1942


As the decimated US Navy force limped away from Ironbottom Sound after dawn on 13 November 1942, the prospects for protecting the Marines on Guadalcanal and preventing the counter-landing of powerful Japanese reinforcements seemed distinctly unpromising.   Four US destroyers, Laffey, Barton, Cushing, and Monssen, had been sunk, Barton with heavy loss of life.   Light cruisers Atlanta and Juneau were badly damaged, both in danger of sinking, heavy cruiser San Francisco was a shambles.  As was previously noted, the fight to save Atlanta was lost, and Juneau would fall victim to a Japanese submarine.

But the Americans did hit back.  During the daylight hours of 13 November, aircraft from Henderson Field, Espiritu Santo, and Enterprise finished off the crippled battleship Hiei, and sank the smoking hulks of destroyers Akitsuki and Yudachi.

On 13 November, Yamamoto ordered Admiral Kondo to reconstitute a bombardment force, marrying 8th Cruiser Squadron under Admiral Mikawa with the remaining ships from Abe’s force, including battleship Kirishima.  8th Cruiser Squadron consisted of four powerful heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and four destroyers.  The force slipped into the waters off Henderson Field unchallenged in the waning hours of 13 November and commenced a bombardment of the airfield.  The intent was to neutralize the airfield in order that the eleven transports, carrying supplies for Hyukatake’s starving ground forces and reinforcements from the 38th Division, could be unloaded.  The results of the bombardment were ineffectual.  The Japanese fired approximately 1,000 rounds in little more than half an hour, and damaged some aircraft, but the airfield and most of its planes remained fully operational.

Not long after dawn, the Cactus Air Force, as well as aircraft from Enterprise and Espiritu Santo, pounced on the Japanese ships.  They fell first upon the bombardment fleet, inflicting heavy damage to cruisers Chokai, Isuzu, Maya, and Kinugasa, the latter eventually sinking.

Next were Tanaka’s transports.  A series of attacks, including high-level B-17 sorties, sank seven of the eleven transports.  While most of the Japanese troops were saved, all the weapons and equipment, food, fuel, and ammunition were lost.  Instead of welcome reinforcements, those survivors became liabilities to an already badly broken supply system.

Earlier in the day on 13 November, Vice Admiral Willis A. “Ching” Lee, with new radar-equipped fast battleships Washington and South Dakota and four destroyers, was ordered east to defend Guadalcanal.  Named Task Force 64, Lee’s cobbled-together force entered Ironbottom Sound north and west of Cape Esperance, and picked up the Japanese ships on radar just before 2300 on 14 November.  Shortly after, the Japanese force under Kondo spotted the Americans.  However, Kondo believed he was facing cruisers rather than battleships, and he believed they would not be a match for Kirishima or his remaining heavy cruisers.

Kondo split his force, around either side of Savo Island.  Lee briefly engaged Sendai and several Japanese destroyers with radar-guided fire.  The Japanese cruiser bid a hasty withdrawal.  The cruiser Nagara and four destroyers actually sighted Lee’s force before they were reacquired by American radar.  Nagara and her accompanying destroyers, plus Ayanami, engaged the four American destroyers with guns and torpedoes.  Much like the results of the previous evening, the US destroyers lost heavily.  In a very short time, Benham, Preston, and Walke were mortally wounded, Gwin heavily damaged.

It was at this juncture that Kondo’s mistaken identity of the two US fast battleships spelled doom.  Washington and South Dakota steamed on, closing with Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, and two destroyers.  South Dakota, closest to the Japanese force, suffered a massive power failure which blinded her radars and knocked out her gun mounts.  She was set upon by the Japanese destroyers and cruisers as she passed, impotent, within 5,000 yards of the enemy.  As she had turned to avoid the burning American destroyers, she had been silhouetted against the flames, and became a target for every Japanese gun.  The battleship was hit repeatedly topside, damaging her gunfire control systems, knocking out communications, and causing almost 100 casualties.

However, unseen and unmolested by Japanese fire, Washington loomed in the darkness.  Her secondary (5-inch/38) batteries pounded the destroyer Ayanami to a burning wreck within a few minutes.  She had refrained from firing her main battery at her radar contact, because she had been unable to communicate with South Dakota to confirm her location.  When South Dakota was engaged by Japanese guns, Washington had no doubt of her target.  What followed was the first encounter between battleships in the Pacific War.  It was a one-sided affair.  At a range of just 8,900 yards, Washington commenced a radar-targeted engagement of Kirishima with her 16-inch main battery.  In just over six minutes, Washington fired 75 16-inch projectiles, striking Kirishima between ten and twenty times, and plastering her with 5-inch fire.  Kirishima was finished.  Her topside was a wreck of twisted metal, her steering destroyed, and she had been holed below the waterline.  Kirishima capsized and sank in the early hours of 15 November.  Ayanami was abandoned and scuttled.


The surviving Japanese transports reached Tassafaronga, but as soon as daylight broke, the four ships were taken under fire by aircraft from Henderson Field, the 5-inch guns of the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion, and an Army Coastal Artillery battery (155mm Long Toms).  As with their sunken sisters, most of the Japanese soldiers managed to get ashore, but almost all of the supplies, food, ammunition, and equipment were lost.

The naval actions in the skies and waters of Guadalcanal between 12 and 15 November 1942 were costly to both sides.  The action was fierce, confused, and deadly.  Losses of men and ships were nearly even.  However, these battles were the turning point in the Solomons.  Control of the waters around the island of Guadalcanal passed permanently to the United States Navy.  There would be more bloody fights in those waters, and even stunning setbacks (Tassafaronga), but US naval and air power in the Solomons would continue to grow, while that of Japan would continue to wane.  The Japanese would continue to attempt supply of its garrison ashore, to diminishing effects, but would never again send reinforcements down “the Slot” to wrest the island from the Marines.  The First and Second Naval Battles for Guadalcanal represent the last running of the Tokyo Express.

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The Battle of Agincourt and the AirLand Battle Doctrine

It’s the 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, so let us revisit this post form a few years ago.


Vastly outnumbered, trapped and in close terrain, facing hunger and disease, your flight to safe harbor cut off, what do you do? Attack. And win.

Henry V’s stunning defeat of the French on October 25, 1415 is famous to most folks as the setting of the oft quoted Saint Crispin’s Day speech by Shakespeare. But military historians also have long studied the battle as an example of how to fight outnumbered and win.

Henry V, already King of England, also claimed the title of King of France. As with so much else in the Hundred Years War, that claim was disputed. English kings had long claimed dominion over swaths of the French coastline. And truth be told, Henry V’s claim to the French crown was more an opening bargaining position, leverage to gain concessions from Charles VI. Charles VI, while willing to make concessions, wasn’t willing to grant the entirety of the lands Henry sought. France had been chipping away at English held lands in France for decades. Conceding any more than necessary seemed foolish.

Negotiations having failed, Henry V  launched a campaign to regain control of the port town of Harfleur. From August to early October, Henry’s forces besieged and later occupied the town. With the end of summer, the traditional campaigning season, Henry decided to retire his back to England. Disease had weakened his ranks, and the poor weather approaching would only worsen that situation. But rather than redeploying directly from Harfleur, Henry decided to “show the flag” throughout Normandy, reminding the locals that he had an army that could travel the region at will, and depart from Calais.

The French had moved to raise an army to challenge Henry. While this force was not ready in time to relieve the siege of Harfleur, the French saw an opportunity to run Henry to ground and destroy his force.

After about two weeks of maneuvering, the French finally succeeded in blocking Henry’s route of escape to Calais. Near the village of Agincourt, the French held the northern end of a small gap in the woods. To get home, Henry would have to fight.


Henry had a force of roughly 1500 “men at arms”- that is, armored knights fighting as heavy dismounted infantry. In addition, he had approximately 7000 longbowmen.

The French were far more numerous. Historians were a bit less fastidious back then so estimates vary widely, but it is generally accepted the French had around 10,000 men at arms, and several thousand  archers and crossbowmen.

English doctrine at the time would normally have dictated that Henry stand of the defensive and allow the French to attack him. That had been the tactic at Crecy. And given that Henry’s force had been forced marched some 250 miles in two weeks, and was already weakened by disease, Henry probably would have preferred to defend.  But the French, having blocked Henry’s route, were in no great hurry to attack. If they could keep him contained just a day or so longer, additional overwhelming forces could arrive and strike his forces in the rear. In military terms, this is a “double envelopment.” The destruction of Henry’s forces would be almost guaranteed.

Henry, realizing French offers of negotiations were a delaying tactic, seized the initiative. He attacked. But no headlong charge, this.  Henry moved his line forward to a natural choke point between the woods, where the field was only about 750 yards across. He halted here with his flanks secured by the woods and arrayed his men-at-arms in line. Meanwhile, his longbowmen, arrayed on either flank, advanced to within range (about 300 yards) of the French. The French planned to scatter the English archers with a cavalry attack, but were caught off guard by the English advance. As soon as the English archers reached their positions, they dug in long pointed spears, or palings,  at a low angle to ward of any cavalry charge (similar to what you may have seen in Braveheart). In range, the archers began their volleys.

The French were thus baited into joining the battle. The French cavalry charge was disorganized and lacked weight. The cavalry was unable to turn the archers flanks because of the thick woods, and unable to penetrate the line due to the archers palings.

With the failure of the cavalry charge, the French main body advanced to join the battle.  They faced two main challenges. First, the open field had recently been ploughed, making any movement slow and arduous. Having volleys of arrows falling upon them didn’t help any. Second, the first echelon of French men-at-arms was so large on such a narrow front that men were crowded together so tightly there wasn’t room to swing a dead cat, let alone a broadsword.  When the French cavalry retreated from its rebuff against the archers, it fell back through the first of the French main body, causing further confusion.

When the first French echelon finally reached Henry’s forces, is was more a mob than a military formation. And it paid a price. While it had some success in pushing Henry’s line back, it failed to penetrate the line. The second echelon of French forces arrived and simply ended up stacked up behind the first. On such a narrow front, they simply couldn’t get through the crowd to reach the English. Soon they too lost their formation and were a milling mob.  Having marched hundreds of yards over muddy terrain wearing heavy armor, French forces were badly fatigued. Still, the sheer weight of the assault would have eventually worn down the English. But Henry’s forces had one counterstroke left.

The English archers, having exhausted their supply of arrows, surged forward from their positions. Abandoning their longbows for swords, they slammed into the French flanks and a melee ensued. Unencumbered by armor, and swifter of foot without armor, they were able to quickly kill, wound or simply topple over thousands of the French men-at-arms. Knocked into the mud wearing 60 pounds of armor meant just getting back on your feet was an almost impossible task. They had little choice but to surrender and beg quarter.

Henry’s forces had decisively defeated the first two waves of the French attack. Thousands of prisoners had been taken. But there was still a third echelon of French forces, and even it outnumbered the English. Normally, captured men-at-arms were held for ransom. A knight who captured two or three French knights could look forward to receiving enough ransom to offset his costs of serving his king, and still probably have enough for a tidy profit. But Henry still faced that third wave of Frenchmen, who appeared to be gathering for their own assault. Accordingly, he ordered all prisoners put to the sword. This was an unpopular decision, but within the accepted laws of war at the time. A relative handful of the most noble blooded prisoners were spared, mostly as droits of the crown.

Seeing the utter defeat of the first two waves, the remaining French forces quit the field and fled to safety. The battle was over.

It was a decisive victory. But Henry’s immediate objective remained unchanged, to return to England. In less than a month, Henry would be in London, hailed a conquering hero. The military victory solidified his political force at home. Further, it reinforced in Continental  minds the English superiority at arms. The defeat also caused great dissention amongst the various factions in France. This dissention would mean future expeditions to  France would face an enemy that lacked unity and were easier to defeat or discourage.

Fast forward almost 600 years, and you’ll find that NATO faced some of the same challenges as Henry.

The NATO powers were greatly outnumbered by the forces of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact. Similarly, the for the NATO forces, retreat wasn’t really an option, though for different reasons. Normally, an outnumbered force would look to trade space for time, attriting the enemy in a series of small battles, but never being pinned to one battlefield, always retreating before they could be destroyed. But politically, NATO forces had to hold the line as far forward as possible. Besides, as big as Western Europe is, there is only so much room to retreat before Soviet forces would have reached the Atlantic.

In the post-Vietnam era, GEN William DePuy and other thinkers were striving to develop a doctrine that would allow the outnumbered Western powers to fight outnumbered and win. They started with a careful consideration of history. I don’t know for a fact that they studied Agincourt, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t come across it at some point. One of the things they did learn, however, was that outnumbered forces, even overwhelmingly outnumbered forces, seemed to win just about as often as they lost. What did the winners have in common? Quite often, they had what the authors of AirLand Battle Doctrine came to call “agility.”

Agility is far more than the physical quickness we might think of, such as an outstanding running back. That was an imp0rtant component, to be sure. But the other part was an ability to see and evaluate risks and opportunities faster than the opposing force. Henry was quickly able to grasp that the terrain at Agincourt offered him an opportunity to nullify the French advantage in numbers. The French, on the other hand, wasted any opportunity their delaying tactics provided to shape the coming battle. Henry’s force was far more agile, both in the mental sense, and in the physical sense of his longbowmen not being overly burdened.

AirLand Battle doctrine saw a scenario where a US division might have to defeat as many as nine Soviet divisions. By carefully choosing where to meet the Soviets, they could force them to become congested along narrow fronts, providing a rich array of targets for US tanks, while also striking deep with artillery to prevent follow on echelons from lending their own weight to the battle. Artillery, attack helicopters, and air strikes, much like the archers of old, would sow confusion among following Soviet forces. It’s not an accident that the AH-64D Apache is nicknamed “Longbow” as they were intended to slip along the flanks and attack the second echelon of Soviet forces before they joined the battle.

And while artillerymen and Apaches couldn’t fall upon the flanks and fight hand to hand, every US division and corps commander would constantly be looking for the opportunity to slip a brigade into position to slam into an unguarded Soviet flank, especially when he could bloody their noses by making them attack positions strong enough to cause congestion and confusion.

There’s a hoary old saying that amateurs study tactics while professionals study logistics. And at the strategic level, that’s true to some extent. But that doesn’t mean the professional ignores tactics. At the operational and tactical level, where the fighting is actually done, the professional soldier, to some extent, just has to take it on faith that his logistics train will keep up. Accordingly, he must be more tactically proficient than his foe, and equipped with a doctrine that emphasizes his strengths and exploits his enemy’s weaknesses. A careful study of history shows there is rarely something new under the sun.

As to Shakespeare’s most excellent speech in Henry V, and its powerful message on morale, moral strength and the Band of Brothers, perhaps we’ll cover that in our birthday message next year.


Filed under history

Gun Control and the 2nd Amendment

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Whenever a gun grabber discusses Heller vs. DC, they’re quick to point out that the argument made focused on the second half of the amendment – “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”.

They somehow read the prefatory clause, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” as intending for only the National Guard to keep and bear arms.

Let’s unpack that argument a bit. First, it ignores conveniently the fact that the National Guard was not in existence when the Bill of Rights was ratified. The militia was understood to be the entirety of the adult male population, a understanding that was soon legally established via legislation.

Indeed, the second Militia Act of 1792 required each adult male to equip himself with a military grade weapon, ammunition and sundries.

Let’s also take a bit of a look at history, and the security of a free State. Recall that the Constitution gives the Congress the power to raise armies, and maintain a Navy. The Founding Fathers were deeply distrustful of a standing army. Why, you ask? Because their experience with a standing army was with that of the British Army and its regiments. And note I use the word regiment deliberately, as its etymology is linked to regis, or king. Literally regiments were in the service of the King. The British army in the colonies was not just a military force, it was the arm of oppression used by the crown to enforce its edicts upon our people. The Founding Fathers knew that any large standing army would have the potential to similarly become such an oppressor.

Our  current sad excuse for a President, and the odious Hillary Clinton have in recent days suggested that “common sense” gun regulation would be implementing Australia’s gun confiscation strategy.

I would remind them that the American Revolution literally started with an attempt at gun confiscation.


Filed under history

It’s Over: Yogi Berra Dies at 90


Sad news on the sports legends front this morning.  Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra has passed away at age 90.  One of the greatest catchers of all time, Berra was a 15-time all-star in 19 seasons, a three-time American League MVP who was the heart and soul of some of the great Yankees teams of the 50s.  Lawrence Peter Berra was born on May 12th, 1925, in St Louis, MO.  He was a childhood friend and teammate of fellow catcher Joe Garagiola, who thought that the homely Berra looked strikingly like the Maharishi Yogi pictured in a newsreel story that played between movies during one Saturday Matinee.  And the most recognizable nickname in sport was born.

Short and stocky, five-foot seven and almost 190 pounds, his frame belied a grace and athleticism rare in a catcher.  His physical strength was legendary, as was his ability to avoid striking out.  In 1950, a year in which he hit 28 home runs and batted .322, Berra struck out only twelve times in 636 plate appearances, an astoundingly low figure.  (In comparison, one 2015 Red Sox hitter, Mike Napoli, struck out twelve times in a three game series on two separate occasions.)  Berra got his teams to the World Series a mind-boggling fourteen times in his 19 seasons, winning ten World Series rings.  After his playing career, Berra was a manager and coach for many years, finally retiring in the early 1990s.

Of course, Berra was known to many outside baseball as the author of an seemingly endless list of funny sayings, such as “it gets late early out there”, and “It ain’t over til it’s over”.  Once asked by Joe DiMaggio what time it was, Berra supposedly replied “Do ya mean right now?”  That persona belied a man of shrewd baseball knowledge, and on teams with DiMaggio, Mantle, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, and Elston Howard, Berra was considered the most baseball savvy.  He was also a talented outfielder, playing left field when Howard began his catching career.

Like so many ballplayers of his generation, Yogi Berra served his country in World War II, a Gunner’s Mate in the US Navy who manned a rocket-firing landing craft off the Normandy beaches on D-Day.  Berra remained very proud of his Navy service, and spoke often of it in his later years.

Yogi was also, by all accounts, a genuine and kind gentleman.  He was known for treating everyone well, and for his humility and his humor.  His is a loss, he was one of the greats of our national pastime, and an American icon.



They Make a Pill for That Now!


One easy to swallow pill could have prevented the Benghazi lies, the e-mail lies, Chinese campaign finance….

H/T  Fran D

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Elizabeth II Eclipses Victoria’s Reign – Long Live the Queen!

Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II



As of just after noon today (EDT), Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in the history of Great Britain.  Sixty-three years, three months, and seven days.  Her coronation took place on 2 June 1952, in Westminster Abbey.  Her coronation was the first to be televised, and indeed has been the only coronation to have taken place there since the advent of the mass medium of television.  (The brilliant Richard Dimbleby narrated.)

When she ascended to the throne, Elizabeth was just 26 years old.  Britain’s Prime Minister was none other than Sir Winston Churchill, who had first served Elizabeth’s great-great grandmother, Victoria, who’d been born a year before the death of King George III.  America’s President was Harry Truman, eleven administrations ago.  Joseph Stalin still ruled the Soviet bloc with an iron fist.

Despite family issues that must have made her cringe, Elizabeth has been a model of dignity and decorum, with the formidable Prince Phillip by her side.  Her grandsons, William and Harry, have restored some hope that the lustre of the British Monarchy will remain intact when she is gone.

Princess Elizabeth’s pretty, smiling face was an inspiration to many during the worst of the Blitz, and in the long years of war, where she did real work serving in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service from 1942 until the end of the war.  She has been described as absolutely genuine, with a formidable intellect and a forceful personality when required.  She has seen the dissolution of the British Empire, and the reduction of a once-great nation into a bit player in world affairs. The snubs inflicted by the current occupant of the White House must be particularly sad to her, as she lived through some of the most trying times England has faced in centuries, in which the “special relationship” with her former colonies has proven most valuable.  Despite it, she has always kept her composure, her dignity, and her regal demeanor.

A recent poll showed that Elizabeth II is considered England’s greatest monarch, and her most popular.    I hope she has many more days in her reign.  Long live Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II!


Here is the photo I allude to in the comments below.  The BBC dates the picture from December of 1936.  Absolutely remarkable countenance on a girl of just ten years of age.