Monday, April 16, 2012

USS LBJ (DDG-1002)

Good googly moogly, the naming foolishness continues. Is SECNAV just phoning it in now?
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the next Zumwalt-class destroyer will be named the USS Lyndon B. Johnson.

The selection of Lyndon B. Johnson, designated DDG 1002, continues the Navy tradition of naming ships after presidents and honors the nation’s 36th president.

The USS Lyndon B. Johnson is the 34th ship named by the Navy after a U.S. president.

“I am pleased to honor President Johnson with the naming of this ship,” Mabus said. “His dedication to a life of public service included bravely stepping forward to fight for his country during our entry into World War II.”
OK SECNAV, let's fact check this decision, shall we?

First of all - the nice version.
On June 21, 1940, Lyndon Johnson was appointed Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve (USNR). Reporting for active duty on December 10, 1941, three days after Pearl Harbor, he was ordered to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, D. C., for instruction. He began working on production and manpower problems that were slowing the production of ships and planes, and he traveled in Texas, California, and Washington, assessing labor needs in war production plants. In May 1942, he proceeded to Headquarters, Twelfth Naval District, San Francisco, California, for inspection duty in the Pacific. Stationed in New Zealand and Australia, he participated as an observer on a number of bomber missions in the South Pacific. He was awarded the Army Silver Star Medal by General Douglas MacArthur and cited as follows:

"For gallantry in action in the vicinity of Port Moresby and Salamaua, New Guinea, on June 9, 1942. While on a mission of obtaining information in the Southwest Pacific area, Lieutenant Commander Johnson, in order to obtain personal knowledge of combat conditions, volunteered as an observer on a hazardous aerial combat mission over hostile positions in New Guinea. As our planes neared the target area they were intercepted by eight hostile fighters. When, at this time, the plane in which Lieutenant Commander Johnson was an observer, developed mechanical trouble and was forced to turn back alone, presenting a favorable target to the enemy fighters, he evidenced marked coolness in spite of the hazards involved. His gallant actions enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information."

In addition to the Army Silver Star Medal, Commander Johnson has the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

On July 16, 1942, Johnson was released from active duty under honorable conditions. (President Roosevelt had ruled that national legislators might not serve in the armed forces). On October 19, 1949, he was promoted to Commander, USNR, his date of rank, June 1, 1948. His resignation from the Naval Reserve was accepted by the Secretary of the Navy, effective January 18, 1964.
Five months of DC duty. Two months in Australia and New Zealand, got a ride of a NMC-M bomber with a follow-on politician's Silver Star? 8-months active duty total.

You can get the full story of his Silver Star from Barrett Tillman and Henry Sakaida authoritative piece on the story, LBJ’s Silver Star: The Mission That Never Was. That or the executive summary from The Guardian;
For most of his political life, Lyndon B Johnson wore a second world war military decoration for valour under fire despite never having seen combat, an investigation broadcast on CNN yesterday revealed.

LBJ was awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest US combat medal, for a 1942 fact-finding mission over the Pacific while he was a Texas congressman and an acting lieutenant commander in the navy.

The citation, issued in the name of General Douglas MacArthur, said the plane, a B-26 bomber, was "intercepted by eight hostile fighters" and that Johnson "evidenced coolness".

In fact, according to surviving members of the crew, the plane developed mechanical problems before reaching its target and never came under fire. No other crew member received a medal for the mission.

The biographer of LBJ, Robert Dallek, said the medal was the outcome of a deal with Gen MacArthur, under which Johnson was honoured in return for a pledge "that he would lobby the president, FDR, to provide greater resources for the southwest Pacific theatre".
Perfect. Could there be a greater poster child for what has happened to the once honored practice of naming ships?

We don't even need to go in to what impact LBJ had on this nation and its military during the Vietnam War.

Is that really where we are now? Like some inbred, lead poisoned, flabby, late-Roman Empire Senate - the only thing that matters is petty political pandering, and shallow narcissistic proclamations? Will DDG-1003 be the USS INCITATUS?

I guess I should find some snarky way of folding in the fact DDG-1002 has so much balsa wood in the superstructure (yes, really) - but, naw. I don't want to get in to a composite-sandwich geek fight.

Well, at least it wasn't a CVN.

UPDATE Laugh, cry, or scream. I choose to laugh. As such, I have started a rather lame attempt at sophomoric humor not worthy of a Navy officer (except for Skippy) on twitter using #USSLBJ.


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