Monday, October 31, 2022

The Aspects of the Sevastopol Attack You Need to Focus on

The big navalist news over the weekend was unquestionably what appears to be a successful attack on the Russian Navy at Sevastopol by remotely piloted surface craft by the Ukrainians.

Some reports call them "drones" or other such descriptors, but really they appear to be an upscaled militarized remotely piloted surface vessel on a one way trip. There is a lot of expected hyperbole about the attack, and that is what I wanted to address today. I am concerned that the overhype by the ignorant, click hunting, or agenda driven people in the public space will cause us to miss the most important lesson here.

This attack was not historically significant in a larger sense, no more than the attack on the Moskva was. This is not a glimpse into the future of naval warfare. This was simply a continuation of sound naval tactics with a pedigree directly tracible thousands of years in to the past. Not to understand this is to dangerously not understand what happened.

First of all, let's take a moment to state the obvious: the Russians should have been ready. They had about as clear of a warning as possible in September.

A MYSTERIOUS vessel widely believed to be a Ukrainian suicide drone has washed up near to a Russian naval base.

The vessel was found in Omega Bay, by the port of Sevastopol, which is home to Vladimir Putin's Black Sea fleet.

We can safely assume - as the videos below seem to demonstrate - that the ones used in the attack are of the same design.

We will loop back to this point later, but just behold the simplicity of it via the article from The Sun linked above;

This is all COTS technology riding on either a canoe or ocean going kayak. If you have someone with an understanding of explosives and communications (the only part requiring military expertise +/-) and then any garden variety electrician, small engine pro, and fiberglass guy ... you can run a production line of these on a shoestring budget at scale.

They look fragile, but ... well ... I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's finish setting the table.

In a classic, "We live in magical times.." moment, take some time if you have not already to look at the released video we have of the attack as published by The Guardian;

Now that we're through with the fun stuff, let's get to the serious lessons.

First - and this is the most important - this is no transformational breakthrough in warfare at sea. From the start of the written record of naval warfare, attacking another nation's navy - especially a stronger navy - in port with remotely piloted or unmanned surface vehicles has been "a thing."

Before the advent of explosives, they were simple "fire ships" like these Song Dynasty examples;

Even a thumbnail review of the next thousand years through the Crusades and untold numbers of European wars to WWI and WWII - this tactical action is used.  

Even non-state actors like the ever-inventive Houthis of Yemen have a recent record of similar use just five years ago.

The details of the Ukrainian attack on Sevastopol will come out in time but the bold-faced lessons are clear - as are the warnings.

This is another demonstration that the military culture of Russia is broken. The human element in the Sevastopol was manifested in the complete lack of preparation for the attack in spite of the warnings so clearly provided in September.

As old as "fire ships" are to naval warfare are the defenses to them. They are as simple as the weapons needed to defend against them. Barriers at the water level and crew served weapons - preferable optically sighted - as a backup.

Part of the video above you can see both surface ship and helo gunfire taking out the threat from one boat, but other boats were able to approach surface ships underway and penetrate deep in to port. 


What is one of the things we have repeatedly discussed here for the last 18-years? When war comes you never have enough of what? That's right, anti-aircraft defenses and medium caliber guns including crew served weapons. 

We build our ships around the most high-technology threats and equally exquisite defenses against them, but completely overlook the low-tech weapons that are just as deadly. We ignore mine warfare, and we also ignore threats as simple as a converted kayak. It isn't sexy and the contracts awarded are small ... but the threats are real.

There isn't a sexy or expensive defense against them - though you can try to sell one - and the best defense you have are Sailors on watch - with good surveillance equipment to support them - and weapons they can use at scale and volume.

Yes, there is a cost to have increased manning levels, additional weapons in the armory and drills/training to maintain readiness ... but if that is the cost to be ready for war ... then do it.

Look at the early lessons from WWII to the Falkland Islands War etc; at peace we get lazy. When war arrives, we find ourselves lining the rails with anything that can throw lead.

The Russians do not appear to have taken the most obvious and immediate steps to address this cheap, low-tech threat. They did not have significant barriers in place at the entrance to their harbors or around their ships' berths. They did not have Sailors on watch with weapons at the ready.

They were complacent. They were arrogant. They assumed too much.

Now is the time to loop back to a few points made at he top. This is where everyone needs to focus their attention.

1. For thousands of years, weaker naval forces have significantly damaged superior naval forces by using their disadvantage to advantage. When large and heavily armed warships are designed, trained, and manned for war against their peers on the high seas, how do you best attack them? Inshore with simple; small, lightly armed civilian derived boats roughly designed, simply trained, and unmanned. 

Be it a raft filled with burning straw and tar, or a butched-up sea-kayak filled with RC boat tech, commercial satellite data, Sea-Doo propulsion, duct taped explosives and contact detonators. If the larger naval force in a mix of arrogance and bureaucratic sloth, or just professional malpractice, refuses to see the full-spectrum vulnerability - even when I&W tells you it is there - then the motivated, flexible, and capable smaller power will reach in to history's toolbag to pick out the best bang for the buck.

2. You do not have to be a state power to create the modern "fire ship." You do not have to access controlled technology. You don't need even a lot of money. You just need imagination and the bare minimum of technical capability.

3. Most readers here are familiar with San Diego, Norfolk, Mayport and our other major naval bases. Can you wargame the rest? Yes, we have some nice barriers you can even see from GoogleEarth, but what about getting from the pier to the open sea in 2022? Where could the enemy hide? How much warning do you have? How many crew served weapons do you have ready ... and what is your ROE in such crowded ports? I don't know about you, but I like Mayport even more now.

Good on the Ukrainians for using this time proven tactic. It was clear the Russians were not ready for it - a common characteristic of the Russian military - so the Ukrainians took advantage of the Russians' sloth.

As for the US military, I'm really not interested in the question of how we could use such tactics, but as we are the big Navy, I want to know more what we do to protect ourselves from this tactic.

We can start with what is the most obvious: more crew served weapons. 

More smaller boats to escort our ships to sea (USCG or USN, don't care).

If I were a state or non-state actor watching this scene - I'd already have plans in place and just wait for the moment to be ripe. 

I hope we are ready for same.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Fullbore Friday

I like well hidden history, especially those with good shoes.

There are many stories out there that we are only now hearing about ... and this is one. From 
In May 1919, with World War I recently over but with the Russian Revolution turning into a full-scale "Red Terror," the head of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming, known as "C," had a desperate problem.

A British agent - Paul Dukes - had infiltrated spies into the Bolshevik government and made copies of top secret documents, but he was cut off in Petrograd (present-day St Petersburg).

Dukes, a 30-year-old concert pianist from Bridgwater, Somerset, was a master of disguise, hence his admiring soubriquets such as "The New Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Man with A Hundred Faces."

The only MI6 agent ever to be knighted for his services in the field, Dukes was, as Ferguson writes: "The sort of spy we all wanted to be."

The Government in London desperately needed a personal briefing from him about the situation in Russia, as well as the documents in his possession. But how to get him out?

Cumming asked a 29-year-old naval lieutenant, Augustus "Gus" Agar, to undertake a seemingly suicidal mission to rescue him.
An expert in skippering high-speed Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs), Agar was asked to come up with a plan to cross into Russian territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland and spirit Dukes out of the country, before the Russian secret police, the Cheka, were able to capture him.

The task was awesome. The borders had been sealed and a succession of couriers who had tried to cross them had been captured; six were betrayed, tortured and shot in one fortnight alone. So a high-speed boat landing at a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coastline near Petrograd was planned instead.

CMBs were 40ft long, had a crew of three, carried two Lewis machine guns and a single torpedo. They had hydroplane hulls, hence their nickname "skimmers," but were made of plywood so were almost defenceless against enemy fire.

The fastest naval vessels afloat, they were ideal for slipping past the huge array of defences in the Gulf of Finland - except for the deafening noise they made when they reached their top speed of 45mph.

Protecting the sea approach to Petrograd was the forbidding island fortress of Kronstadt and its 15 forts - nine to the north, six to the south - with enough guns to halt any enemy fleet.

Furthermore, the forts were connected by a hidden breakwater that MI6 told Agar was only three feet under the surface and which, since CMBs drew 2ft 9in of water, meant that his two vessels would have only three inches to spare at normal speed.
Although the Gulf of Finland is 250 miles long, it is only 30 miles wide, and with gunboat patrols, floating and fixed mines, searchlights, submarines and seaplanes, it seemed impassable to any but the most intrepid sailor.

Cumming explained the mission to Agar in his office in Whitehall, and ordered him to choose only unmarried men with no immediate dependents for his seven-man team; Agar himself had been orphaned at the age of 12, and although he had a sweetheart they were not then engaged.

Cumming also warned Agar that in the event of capture he could expect no help, or even official recognition, from the British Government.

His unit would be in plain clothes, although Royal Navy uniforms and caps would be donned in the event of capture, to protect them from being shot as spies.
If the story sounds interesting, click the link above for an extended summary, or you can get the details in Operation Kronstadt: The True Story of Honor, Espionage, and the Rescue of Britain's Greatest Spy The Man with a Hundred Faces by Harry Ferguson.

Wouldn't it make a great movie ... if Hollywood still made movies of this type?

Wrong heroes, I guess.

Originally posted JUL10.

If you want to hear more, and I know you do, historian Justin Reay has almost an hour for you on a man who two world wars later would rise to the rank of Commodore.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Where is the Accountability?

We have not had the chance to dig up LCS and gibbet it at the entrance of the harbor recently, so let's take a nice overview by Sam about the healthy churn between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government to see how it looks in the light of 2022;

As part of the FY 2023 submission, the Pentagon proposed cutting warships from the Navy’s battleforce – including six cruisers, four Whidbey Island/Harper’s Ferry-class amphibious Dock Landing Ships, nine Littoral Combat Ships as well as Montford Point and John Glenn.

The youngest ship on the list, USS St. Louis (LCS-19), commissioned in 2020.

Years before LCS hull-1 was commissioned, we tried to warn the Navy what they were setting us up for. Long time members of The Front Porch know the story well, new folks can click the LCS-tab to catch up on a couple of decades of discussion.

I'm not sure even in our darkest moments we saw it coming to this much ruin...but perhaps we were optimists.

Imagine being one of the Sailors assigned to the St. Louis. "So, what did you do in the Navy?"

...and yet - where is our accountability for such a potlatchish waste of institutional capital and taxpayer money?

The above is clearly a generational failure by The Potomac Flotilla, and in an article by our friend Jerry Hendrix over at NRO, we have another example where The Potomac Flotilla has intentionally steered our Navy in to shoal water with barely a whistle, 

On Tuesday, the conservative Heritage Foundation released its annual “Index of U.S. Military Strength.” For the first time in the near-decade-long history of the index, it rated the U.S. military as “weak.” Implicitly criticizing multiple administrations, Heritage’s analysts charged that U.S. military forces are under-strength, under-trained, and under-funded, and thus are not ready to meet the current challenges of great-power competition. Heritage highlighted in particular the small size and poor material condition of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, which will be critical in facing a potential conflict in the Asia–Pacific region.

None of these failures are the fault of the Sailors and company and field grade officers in the Fleet - the ones our Navy has no problem holding to very public account for their failures - but of the senior uniformed and civilian leaders spanning multiple administrations ... and yet - who is being held to account?

Combine this with the fact that we tried to tie the loss of a multi-billion dollar large-deck amphib around the neck of an undesignated Seaman only to have him found not guilty after two years ... with still no one of note held to account but scapegoats ... where do the American people have to go in order to have their military leadership held to account?

Where? When? Who?

This should not be how any of this works.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The German Problem isn't Getting Better it Seems

I am self-aware that I have an attitude problem towards the present German government. In the top-5 reasons I am what I am today was a response to the useful idiots of the Soviets in the 1980s.

The whole "Better Red than Dead" people with their stupid papier-mâché puppets trying to make the argument that to be free you have to surrender to tyrants ... four decades later, these people still try my patience.

Sadly, Germany is - again - being led by one.

Yeah ... that guy.

 His judgement was poor then, it is poor now.

...but we have to deal with it. As he waited for the eventual Russian victory back in FEB, he slow rolled so he and his childhood buddy Schroeder could ... hell if I know. Just look at them.
I don't know about you ... but I remember those guys and those like them from the 1980s. Useful idiots for the Soviets then, and useful idiots to the Russians now.

Yes, the SPD government has helped Ukraine some, but not as much as many of the rest of the alliance. Then entire German political class of all parties put themselves in this pinch relative to the Russians - they can't help themselves.

There were hints they may have seen the light over the summer, but alas, without steady pressure, systems will regress to the mean.

The mean for Germany seems to be to sell whatever needs to be sold and buy whatever needs to be bought to and from the worst people.

They are not alone here, but in the last 10-months, they seem to have not learned all that much.

Thought Germany was serious about boosting defense spending to the 2% floor?  Think again;
The federal government is massively cutting the planned equipment offensive for the Bundeswehr . Many projects, especially for the naval and air forces, would have to be called off, the Handelsblatt learned from circles in industry and politics.

The background to this is the rapid rise in inflation, which is making planned purchases more expensive. In addition, the Federal Court of Auditors complained that the projects listed in the business plan for the special fund exceeded the budget of 100 billion euros.

"With many projects running for five to seven years, inflation in the dimension creates a serious financial problem," said a person familiar with the proceedings. Among other things, a third tranche of the K130 corvette, new Eurofighters for electronic warfare, new frigates and new self-propelled howitzers, which should be ordered to replace the systems delivered to Ukraine, are at stake. There are talks between politicians and industry about these projects.
What a lost opportunity for Germany to lead; to join her rightful place as a modern nation defending Western principals. Perhaps I expected too much - but Germany has a great history ... but one that has the wrong leaders at the wrong time leading the German people down the wrong fork in the road.

Not just facing Russia, but the latest on China;
Chinese state-owned firm, COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited (COSCO) has gained a foothold in Hamburg, Germany’s largest seaport.

On Sep 21 it was confirmed that COSCO subsidiary, COSCO Shipping Ports Limited (CSPL), will take a 35 percent stake in Container Terminal Tollerort GmbH (CTT). Antitrust authorities have yet to approve the deal.
Again, Germany is not alone here. Too many critical assets from ports to pork were sold to Chinese interests in the USA ... but it is 2022. No one can see the People's Republic of China as a benign presence on the world stage. They already have enough control of European ports.

The West really needs to have an intervention on itself. We all have some work to do ... but Germany should be first on the list.

Finally, as part of this family intervention, Germany and Germans need to hear more blunt, constructive, and plain talk from her European neighbors like Poland's Radek Sikorski
But while we did all that we passed a super law which guaranteed the Polish armed
forces 2% of a growing GDP year in, year out. We insisted that NATO write contingency plans for the defence of Poland and the Baltic States. We bought F-16s and modernized the Leopards that you gave us. We signed the agreement with the United States on building a missile defence site in Poland, so as to give them a bigger stake in Poland’s security.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it was to talk to most Germans about security throughout those years. I will never forget my joint press conference at the conclusion of a successful meeting of the Weimar Triangle with Frank Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius in Weimar in 2014. An unhelpful German journalist directed the last question to me asking whether Poland still demanded the permanent presence of U.S. troops on its territory. ‘Yes, I answered, two heavy brigades would be within the framework of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which has been our policy for years.’ You should have seen the shocked faces of most of the assembled press corps. I was exposed as a warmonger. And this was after Crimea, in the former DDR, in the country which used to have 15 times as many when you were a frontline state.

The trouble was, of course, that you didn’t consider Poland to be a frontline state because you didn’t consider Russia to be a threat. That’s why there was not even a squeak of concern either among your politicians or in the press when Russia deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad with the range to reach Berlin. I don’t want to rub it in but let’s recall the spirit of those times: according to Pew opinion polls in those years, up to ⅓ of Germans wanted to be in an alliance with Russia against the U.S.!

So, you didn’t listen to our warnings and you got it wrong. On Russia, we’ve been proved right. I don’t expect you to apologize for 30 years of your patronizing tones, I just expect you to listen to what we say now. And what we say is that this is hopefully Russia’s last colonial war. Think France in Vietnam and Algeria, Britain in Malaya and Cyprus or Portugal in Angola. Think of Donbas as Russia’s Ulster. Except that Donbass and Crimea voted for Ukrainian independence at the time of the breakup of the USSR. As a late colonial wars go, It’s going through all the predictable stages. First, denying the separateness of the colony. (But Algeria is as much a part of France as Provence!) Then astonishment: our peasants, our funny-speaking provincials wanting a state? But they’ll never manage it on their own. Then, anger. How dare they, we’ll teach them a lesson. Then finally, when enough people have died on both sides: all right, you’re not worth the trouble, go your own way. 

We all know at which stage Russia is in Ukraine. The war party still thinks that with one last push they can prevail and bring back control. But Russian dissidents have already understood that the empire has been a millstone around their country’s neck. Another year or two and Russia might realize that, being the largest state on earth, it has no shortage of land on which to develop.
History is moving faster than Western leadership. Wake up everyone...wake up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Close Air Support Comes at You Fast ... From Both Perspectives

Ever wonder how fast things can come at you in combat ... and how fast you have to react to survive? 

Simply stunning video from the shootdown of a Russian S-25 in Ukraine:

No other aircraft has been so valuable - and no aircraft has been shot down more - than the SU-25 in this conflict.

Many regulars here are very familiar with "time compression" in such situations. Time slows down a lot. If you have not experienced that, you may wonder how he is able to eject so fast to survive a direct hit at 200-meters (about 600'). Well, training is one, but time compression is another.

This slow-motion video makes it a little closer to what it felt like to the pilot. 
Tough job. Tough aircraft.

h/t Tyler.

Monday, October 24, 2022

OK CNO, now then Break in to Open Revolt to Get the Forces we Need

Some strong words towards China from the CNO at the end of last week that isn't quite getting the play it would in a normal years.

Almost Salamandereaque:

America's military must be ready to respond to a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan that could come before the end of this year, the head of the US Navy has said.

Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of US naval operations, was the latest senior US military official to indicate heightened alarm over Beijing's intentions towards the island.

"So when we talk about the 2027 window in my mind, that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window. I can't rule that out. I don't mean at all to be alarmist by saying that. It's just that we can't wish that away."

The admiral said the US Navy had adopted a "fight tonight" mentality in response and should become ready quicker, prioritising lethality and the size of the fleet.


Adm. Gilday said: "It's not just what President Xi says, it's how the Chinese behave and what they do. And what we've seen over the past 20 years is that they have delivered on every promise they've made earlier than they said they were going to deliver on it."

To be prepared, the US should "maximise domestic production rates of weapons that really matter in a fight" and "give industry a clear set of predictable, stable funding".

Those are good, clear, direct and actionable words, but are we going to see consistent focus and follow-through? Will we have more Flag Officers continue to reinforce these statements?

More importantly - will we skate along the appropriate lines inside the DC beltway to advocate for the maritime and aerospace requirements to answer the bell ... now?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Case for a 600 Ship Navy: Now More than Ever with LT Joseph Sims, USN

When was the last time the US Navy made the case for a significantly larger navy to defend its interests on the high seas?

Yep, back when Ole Sal was a Midshipman and EagleOne was as close to his service in Vietnam than Sal was to his service in Afghanistan - the 1980s.

What lessons can we take from that relatively successful intellectual, political, and personal struggle to grow our Navy?

Using his recent article in Naval History Magazine, Lessons from the 600-Ship Navy, as a starting point for our conversation, our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Lieutenant Joseph Sims, USN.

Lieutenant Sims is a Surface Warfare Officer and 2018 graduate of the US Naval Academy where he majored in history and competed four years on the varsity tennis team. He completed his first division officer tour on USS LASSEN (DDG-82), where he served as the gunnery officer and electronic warfare officer and completed deployment to 5th Fleet with the Truman Strike Group in 2019-2020 as well as deployment to 4th Fleet in 2020. Following completion of the Advanced Division Officer Course and Prospective Engineering Officer Course in Newport, RI, he reported to USS ANTIETAM (CG-54) in August of 2021 as the Main Propulsion Assistant. 

Join us live if you can, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Fullbore Friday

Since the start of this blog - and especially in the last few years - the topic comes up now and then about the complete lack of self defense our auxiliaries and merchant ships have that we plan to use in the next big war.

The usual suspects will make excuses - "war is different" "that won't happen" "we'll have escorts" "it is wired for XXX" - but what is really driving this waving-of-hands is something that has been in place since the dawn of the written record of war at sea; peace breeds complacency and cost savings.

Few who know their history have the levers of power to do what needs to be done now to give our auxiliary fleet what they need to at least provide their own point defense.

For the first time since I was a MIDN, the USN can no longer assume it will own the high seas. When the next big war comes, the constants of naval combat will return.

Your merchants/auxiliaries will need more weapons. Longer reach weapons. Escorts will be limited - if they are even there.

There is also a moral imperative to give people the ability to defend themselves when you know very well you can't.

I was thinking of that today when a FbF from 2018 came to mind. I think it's time to bring it back.

A war is winding down - but more work needs to be done.

The Henry Bacon was one of the thirty-eight merchant ships in convoy RA-64, which departed Kola Inlet, Murmansk, North Russia bound for Loch Ewe, Gourock, Scotland on Friday, 17 February 1945. The crew complement under Captain Alfred Carini was forty-one merchant seamen and twenty-six US Navy Armed Guard. The Henry Bacon was in ballast and carrying nineteen Norwegian civilian refugees, including women and children, as passengers.

Before the convoy set sail, news had been received of a German attack on Norwegian patriots living on the island of Sørøya, in the approaches to the former German naval anchorage at Altafjord. The British Royal Navy had sent four destroyers to the scene and had rescued 500 men, women and children. These refugees were distributed among the ships of the convoy for passage to England.

On the afternoon of the Saturday, 18 February, the weather deteriorated to force 8 on the Beaufort scale, and the escort carriers were unable to operate aircraft. That night the storm intensified with winds gusting up to sixty knots (110 km/h) with a heavy sea and swell. The convoy split up and began to disperse. The storm continued through Sunday, 19 February.

On 20 February, the storm abated and the escort vessels started to round up the scattered ships. At 4 am the convoy had been detected by aircraft, and by 9 am twenty-nine of the ships were back on station with four still straggling.

Then, on 22 February, the convoy ran into one of the worst storms ever recorded in the Barents Sea. Once again the convoy began to split up and was blown apart. The weather deteriorated to Beaufort scale force 12 with winds at 70 to 90 knots and temperatures 40 below zero. During this storm, one of the main springs on the Henry Bacon's steering gear was broken, and the retaining pin was sheared. This damage caused the Henry Bacon to drop out of the convoy to effect repairs.
Like the wounded Wildebeest - you can almost see this coming ...
Around 1500 GCT on 23 February 1945, the Henry Bacon was some 50 to 60 nautical miles astern of the main convoy when she was attacked by twenty-three Junkers Ju 88 and Ju 188's torpedo bombers of Luftwaffe Group KG26, out of Bardufoss, Norway, some 250 miles (400 km) away. The Germans were on their way to attack the main convoy, and thought they could finish the lone straggler easily.
One merch vs. 23 JU-88s .... so, who's taking bets?
The Henry Bacon was armed with eight 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, with a 5 inch (127 mm) gun aft and a 3 in (76 mm) gun forward. The ship’s Naval Armed Guard gunners fought the attacking planes for over an hour, shot down five planes, damaged at least four others and managed to defend against several torpedoes by causing their detonation before they reached the ship.
Over an hour under attack. An eternity ... and then;
At 1520 GCT, one torpedo struck the starboard side of the No.5 hold, and detonated the aft ammunition magazine. A large hole was torn in the hull. The rudder, propeller and steering engine were destroyed. The ship settled by the stern and sank within an hour. This action helped save the main convoy, as most of the German planes were forced to return to base owing to battle damage, low fuel, and low ammunition.
The Henry Bacon was abandoned at 1600 GCT at 67.38N 05.00W. Lifeboats #1 and #2 were launched safely. The #3 boat capsized while being lowered, and because the davits to the #4 boat had been damaged in the storm, this boat was also lost. Three of the four life rafts had been released prematurely and had drifted away. The two surviving lifeboats were filled to capacity with all of the Norwegian passengers and some members of the crew.

This left a number of crew members stranded aboard the Henry Bacon. When this situation became known to Chief Engineer Donald Haviland, he insisted that he would give his place in the lifeboat to a younger crew member and died with the ship. That crew member's name was Robert Tatosky. For his sacrifice, Chief Engineer Haviland was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award for the men of the Merchant Marine.

The Bosun, Holcomb Lammon, collected dunnage from the deck and lashed it into a makeshift life-raft. Six Armed Guard and five merchant crew owe their lives to this raft. Lammon also died with the ship, and he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

The survivors were rescued by crew members from three British destroyers, HMS Zambesi, HMS Oppotune and HMS Zelast. By this time the men in the water were so cold they were unable to help themselves, so the British sailors had to jump into the freezing sea with ropes tied around their waists to help them. When it was over, 
all of the Norwegian civilians had survived, nine Naval Armed Guard gunners, and two Navy signalmen were lost at sea. Captain Carini and fifteen fellow Merchant Marine crewmen were also lost.
The Liberty ship SS Henry Bacon was the last allied ship sunk by the Luftwaffe in World War II.
Lessons on how to arm a ship for war, how to fight, how to win, and how to live.

Hat tip E40.
First posted JAN2011.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Diversity Thursday

One of the things we like to do on DivThu is to give those who believe that people should be seen as individuals who deserve to be judged by the content of their character, not by immutable characteristics people are born with and can do nothing about some facts to push back against the emotion laden DEI commissariat diktat thrown at them on a regular basis.

One of the auto-generated comments we hear so often extruding from the diversity nomenklatura is that something – especially our officer corps – must “look like America” and that exceptional efforts must be made to force-mode such results.

Is this even possible without actions no one would be proud of? Probably not.

The big-lie here is in 2022 that somehow the US military in general, and the US Navy in particular, is racist at both an institutional level and at an individual level. This accusation is not shocking, really, as this is the exact world view of the public intellectual that CNO Gilday expended so much personal and institutional capital promoting and defending, Ibram X. Kendi.

The commissariat don’t like to acknowledge the fact that the US military’s intake is society’s outflow valve when it produces an ~18-year old young adult for enlistment or, after college, an officer program.

The various segments of our society do not have the same results in various objective criteria for success. Any brief review of the data shows this, but the commissariat insists on only looking at their specific claims and freeze them in aspic without any vulnerability to examination or question. 

Another supporting lie to the main effort is, naturally, a word game. When it comes to the word “diversity” they will throw up a smoke screen embedded with clouds of chaff that they value “diversity of viewpoints” and “diversity of perspectives” etc when we all fully know that those metrics are not tracked, are not measured, and unquestionably are not briefed. 

As we’ve discussed on previous Thursdays, that means one of two things: 1) They are gaslighting you; 2) They believe in racial determinism with regards to how the human brain works. One should insult you, the other should be recognized for what it is – a racist view of humans that belongs in an early 20th Century eugenics book. Neither is acceptable, and I’ll let you decide which sounds right to you.

Thanks to our friends in the FAO community we have an opportunity to show how simple it is to destroy the gaslighting and lies of the diversity industry.

Let’s dive in to see what spot of bother they are picking at today.

The emphasis there is theirs, not mine – but that fits the pattern.

The entering problem is that they assume on Day-1 of the military’s opportunity to intake new people, that objective criteria are all the same for each self-described sectarian groups. The reality is they are not, and I’m going to give you a brief example. The reasons are multi-causal and are well beyond the ability of the military to control. 18-yr olds show up as they are.

Specifically, we are going to look at officer numbers in, as best one can do during a coffee break, the specific metrics they choose to track. We are going to look at one simple variable of objective criteria which is required to be even considered for an officer program; you have to have earned a college degree.

NB: this is simply an opening argument exercise. There are a lot of nuances to this variable that can adjust the numbers a few percentages here and there. Not all institutions are the same or are looked at the same. Not everyone has the same GPA. Not every degree is as desirable to the Navy as another. Performance in one objective area does not necessarily get reflected in another … but they are objective criteria. Having a college degree is just one variable but is arguably one of the most significant and rigid ones. It, like the others, has significant differences in results based on sectarian divisions of race and ethnicity that the Navy’s branch of the diversity industry likes to track in order to justify its job.

As per the above and the fact that these data sets are not all from the same year (each year can be a percentage point or two from another), these are not the perfect numbers – but they are good numbers. I would put a +/- 5% margin of error if you held a gun to me.

I believe the spreadsheet is self-explanatory, but let me kickstart if for you.

Let’s assume you have a population of 18-yr olds we would like to be officers. In order to make the smaller numbers work as we run through results, let’s say that population is 400. I make no difference here in male and female, just on the racial and ethnic sectarian lines the Navy does, and this population of 400 exactly matches the racial and ethnic makeup of the USA.

Our single objective criteria we’re going to run is college graduation. I almost used 4-years, but that would make the differences even more stark. Instead, I would used 6-years as many NROTC, OCS, and USNA athletes take more than 4 years to graduate. It rounds the numbers a bit. 

Take a look.

So, tell me what you see here that screams that the Navy suffers from institutional racism? This is only one variable. There are others which make it clear there are other reasons - especially when done under a proper regression analysis - for differences.

The US military and its Navy is one of the least racist places not just in the USA, but in the world. This is something we - and our senior leadership - should be proud of and defend at an institutional level. We live it, we know it. And yet, we accept the worst smears from the worst people for reasons best understood by those whose spirit is broken or have soaked in DC’s swamps too long.

Never forget this is a zero-sum game when it comes to selection and promotion. There are only so may places, so to give to one person you must take from another. Fair minded people will accept this if they see the system as fair based on objective criteria. When the system is seen as worm-ridden with favoritism and corruption, it destroys the entire performance of the system. That is why we got rid of segregation and race-based assignments in the middle of the 20th Century.

We are better than this. Our new Sailors – officer and enlisted born in the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century deserve an inheritance better than this.

The commissariat defines an excess of a minority group in an area as “more diverse” – a positive. The other side of that coin is that if the majority group in an area is in excess, then that is “problematic” – a negative.

That is a rather blatant position of favoring one racial group over another simply for their self-identified status. One sectarian group is favored, another is regretted. We should talk clearly with each other on this topic and call this was it is – official, sanctioned bigotry. 

To add insult, it is all based on a view of Americans that is retrograde in the extreme. A much higher percentage of people listed with that not even 20th but 19th Century “one drop rule” view as one specific race who are that glorious American mixture of the best of this or that. Each year more and more people are biracial or multiracial … yet our system has incentives and disincentives for them to force to choose one group or another. Forced division and strife. Who can support that?

The almost farcical “Hispanic” category that means nothing anywhere else in the world is also sloppy. We know of people whose parents were from Germany who immigrated to Puerto Rico but were raised in CONUS calling themselves “Hispanic,” while I know people whose parents were from Spain with Spanish last names who classify themselves as “white.” We all know people who exercise a graduate level of racial self-identification fraud. 

All these bring these numbers being used to make life altering decisions in to question. If you really need to move this or that group up or down 10% … are you really?

What are you doing besides corrupting a system and the nation it serves, all the while sowing the seeds of division and strife?

Data sources: 





- and again

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

What Does Sending a Firm Signal to China Look Like?

A lesson as old as the human condition was again proved in February of this year; weakness invites aggression.

From demographers to strategists, a variety of disciplines see the second half of this decade through the first half of the next as a window of exceptional vulnerability for a war with China in the Western Pacific.

We have discussed this emerging threat there for almost two decades and the time is here. Are we ready?


If you agree with this window, then you also must agree with the following: no magic system or capability is going to fight and win this war for us and our allies. There is nothing that isn’t at least IOC today that will be available to the fleet in numbers the first few years of the war (Yes, I said years. This will not be a 3-day or 3-month war when it comes).

We will either lose quickly or claw our way to victory with those weapon systems under production right now. If the war starts later in the window and goes more than three years, then we may see some of those systems still prior to IOC, but not in numbers needed in the early fight.

What can we do?

If we prepare well and ensure the porcupine enough and long quills, the dragon may never bite. If we appear strong and full of resolve, the dragon may never leave its lair. However, if the porcupine’s quills are few and blunt and we are seen as lacking resolve behind a carboard shield – it will be worth the risk for the dragon to head east.

We need something that is actionable. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) gave a speech yesterday at Heritage that fives us that; three steps in the right direction, told with the correct tone and clarity of speech; an adult talking to adults about adult things.


We must put American hard power in Xi’s path before it’s too late. While long-term investments to rebuild American military superiority in general—and maritime superiority in particular—are critical, the reality is that we will not be able to build the Navy the nation needs within the next five years. What we can do within the Davidson Window, however, is build an anti-navy. By anti-navy I mean asymmetric forces and weapons designed to target the Chinese Navy, deny control of the seas surrounding Taiwan, and prevent PLA amphibious forces from gaining a lodgment on the island. 

Step 1:

The first step in building this anti-navy does not require us to defy any laws of physics, though technically it is rocket science. Now that we are no longer bound by the INF Treaty, we can surge long range conventional precision fires in three concentric rings across the Pacific: (1) the First Island Chain; (2) the Second Island Chain plus the Central Pacific islands, and (3) the outer edges of the theater including Alaska, Hawaii, and Australia. In the first ring we need shorter range anti-ship and air defense missiles such as the Naval Strike Missile, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, and SM-6. 

All three of these lines should be running on three shifts today.

Step 2:

The second step in building an anti-navy is to stockpile munitions before the shooting starts. At current production rates, for example, it will take at least two years to boost Javelin production from 2,100 to 4,000 missiles annually. In many cases Chinese companies are the sole source or a primary supplier for the energetic materials used in our missiles. To fix this the Pentagon should stop buying minimum sustaining rates of critical munitions and start maxing out the capacity of active production lines through multi-year procurement contracts. 

I will add this: no active production line for weapons systems shall be allowed to go cold until their replacement is under construction. For example: yes, we must keep the P-8A line open, even under reduced production. Of course, we could convert that to license build ShinMaywa US-2 ... but let's get back to the Gentleman from Wisconsin. 

Step 3:

The third step is to turn the talk about arming Taiwan to the teeth into reality. This starts with moving Taiwan to the front of the Foreign Military Sales line and clearing the backlog of $14 billion dollars worth of FMS items that have been approved but not delivered. 

The hardest questions sometimes have the most simple answers. Is this perfect? No, but is it good and actionable in an acceptable timeframe? 


I would like to leave everyone with this one reminder: when Ukraine found itself in a spot of bother with their larger neighbor to the east, they were able to look to the USA and her allies to help supply her with the weapons she needs to keep fighting. 

Should we find ourselves in a fight with our neighbors across the Pacific, we will not have that luxury. There is no other nation that can give us weapons at scale to keep us in the fight. We will be it.

No one is there to rescue us should we fail to properly prepare in time.

Ponder that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Baltic Nations are Subject Matter Experts Here, we Should Listen

I always recommend that if people even have a remote opportunity, they should visit the Baltic Republics.

When there, take time to visit their museums. I especially recommend Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom in Tallinn, Estonia.

These are small nations from Estonia's 1.3 million, Latvia's 1.8 million, to Lithuania's 2.8 million. These little ethnostates each have a unique language, culture, and have survived as a people since pre-history. They are survivors who have not had many years to be masters of their own fate.

The fall of the Soviet Union gave them their latest chance, and they've made a good run of it. They, more than most, know Russia - indeed, all three have significant Russian minorities in their nations who decided to throw their lot in with their Baltic neighbors after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Though they are small, when they speak about Russia, larger nations should listen. Their larger neighbor, Poland with 38 million souls, also has a long and brutal history with the Russians. All four nations will be the first to feel the results of making the wrong decisions towards their big neighbor to the east. A no kidding existential threat. They are also NATO allies, so their threat is in a very real way our threat.

They cannot afford vanity-filled feel-good theories.

Since February, the Baltics and Poland have repeatedly called for the provision of more and faster military assistance, including more powerful offensive weapons, only to be rebuffed by the United States and Western European allies who wanted to make clear that they were not in a direct conflict with Russia.

Slowly, that’s started to change, after Putin proved his wary neighbors right — repeatedly.

“Estonia knows the face of Russian occupation firsthand,” Kallas added. “We know that peace under occupation doesn’t mean the end of atrocities but more of them.”

Baltic leaders have long argued that Western sanctions adopted in 2014 after Putin illegally annexed Crimea showed the West’s lack of resolve in confronting the Russian president over his land grab. European leaders seemed to think the Baltics were so traumatized by Soviet occupation that they could not be objective.

“Jokingly, you know, we call this ‘West-splaining,’” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said. The West’s message, he said, was that “after 50 years of occupation, it’s understandable that you would have trust issues with a country that occupied you.”

“For us in the Baltics, it all boils down to this notion of appeasement: that basically we can appease Russia,” Landsbergis continued. “For us, it was always very clear, black and white. If a country is eager to cross another country’s border, they’re an aggressor and they will do that again, if they’re not stopped. And they have not been stopped.”

For free people to remain free - for liberal democratic systems to remain so - there must be military strength. Unfree and autocratic nations respect nothing more than power. You cannot maintain and built peace in their presence without it.

On a broader context specifically towards China, Rep. Mike Gallagher's (R-WI) speech this AM at Heritage drives this point home - hard power matters; overt hard power.

It may be cliché but it is true; the more you prepare for war, the less likely it will occur - but if it does - then you have the capability to win, vice being rolled over and your nation's future subject to the whims of another.

Monday, October 17, 2022

So, we Have a National Security Strategy

It may have taken over 1/3 of his first – and perhaps only – Administration for President Biden to publish his National Security Strategy, but it finally hit earlier this month – so let’s look at it.

What I’d like to do is not dig into the details, as to be blunt – it isn’t the details that matter. Though it sounds cynical perhaps, it really isn’t. The primary purpose to have a National Security Strategy is to say you have one. It isn’t meaningless, but this political document (and it is political, heck its title is officially “National Security Strategy” but on the Whitehouse website the file is stored under, “Biden-Harris-Administrations-National-Security-Strategy-10.2022”) … so yes, very blobby but political) will be used as “Ref. A:” for politicians, bureaucrats and all manner of tribes in the chattering class.

I used to like to read the details, but the last quarter century has made one thing clear – our national security nomenklatura has at best a spotty record on identifying the next great threat to our nation. It isn’t always wrong, but it is helpful to at least take a moment to consider any published National Security Strategy to be a counter indicator of what might actually require our attention.

For example, since even before the end of the Cold War up until the early years of the Trump Administration, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – I have comments on that usage later – was welcomed and even encouraged to rise. We gave them undeserved trade advantages. We willingly transferred aerospace technology including the technology to enable MIRV’d warheads. As we busied ourselves chasing illiterate and inbred tribal castaways through every meaningless village in Central and Southwest Asia. We looked the other way as China decided to be not just a player, but the player on the world stage. There is a reason we started “The Long Game” series 18 years ago when no one else was really interested in China. It was clear as day what was coming. The Long Game is now today.

The last decade of the 20th and most of the 21st Century to date, we divested our intellectual capital in keeping an eye on the largest nation ion Europe – Russia. As recently as 2012, the blob laughed at anyone who thought Russia was a threat. The first year of Midrats in 2010 we started having Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg from CNA on to talk about Russia. Our take was, “If the DC blob isn’t interested in that big old bear, then we better be.” Again, looking where the establishment nomenklatura didn’t want to look was the smart move.

So, if there is value in looking at a published National Security Strategy as a contrary indicator – what does this OCT 2022 Strategy tell us?

This is hobby and I have a paying gig, so let’s take a shortcut that I have found useful over the years – and often more useful than detailed analysis: let’s dive in to wordcounts.

People will tell you what they are concerned with and what they value by the words they use and the entities they reference. Respect that. 

This is simple wordcount stuff here. You can do it yourself with a CTRL-F if you wish, but it is telling. We’re looking at nations, organizations, concepts and geography.

Gold Medals: Word Count Greater Than 50
Economic/Economics/Economy: Word Count 126
- Well, of the four levers of power, we see what we are most focused on here. Actually, I’m good with that. At our core we are a maritime and aerospace mercantile republic. You’ll see the others, Diplomatic-Military-Informational listed below. Not expected here, but welcome.

Russia/Russian word count: 71
- I’m very much with Bridge here – regardless of what is happening with the Russo-Ukrainian War that delayed the publication of the Strategy – China must be the primary focus. Also I would not be remiss if I did not post this:

China/People’s Republic of China (PRC)/Chinese wordcount 59
- A little pet peeve here: there is a certain strain in the natsec left does not want to call the People’s Republic of China “China” due to, hell I don’t know, probably something about “racism” or somesuch. There is also a certain strain in the natsec right that wants to call China the People’s Republic of China because it is a way to remind everyone that they’re commies. Guilty as charged here, but we don’t call Russia its official name, The Russian Federation … so some consistency would be nice.

Terrorist/Terrorism wordcount 51: 
- As you will see below, even well over a quarter century of people coming at our throats, we still cannot attach a tactic/idea to nation states.

Military/militaries: 50
- Economic power followed by military? I’d prefer diplomacy to be higher up … but that is just <checks notes> me I guess.

Silver Medals: Word Count Between 20-49
- Europe: 35
- Pacific: 34
- Africa: 34
- Ukraine: 32
- Indo-Pacific: 32
- Diplomacy/diplomatic: 30
- Nuclear: 24
- Climate Change: 20

Bronze Medal: Word Count Between 5-19
- Arctic: 19
- NATO: 17
- Information: 17
- Freedom: 17
- Diplomacy: 14
- Diversity/Equity: 13
- Migrants/immigrants/refugee: 12
- Asia: 11
- Middle East: 11
- Disease: 9
- India: 8
- United Nations: 8
- Crime: 7
- Iran: 7
- Taiwan: 7
- Australia: 7
- United Kingdom: 7
- Violent Extremism: 7
- Atlantic: 6
- Japan: 5
- Integrated Deterrence: 5

Honorable Mention: Word Count Between 1-4
- Israel: 4
- Drugs: 4
- Syria: 3
- People’s Republic of Korea/North Korea: 3
- Caribbean: 3
- North America: 2
- Canada: 2
- Antarctic: 2
- Commerce: 2
- Central America: 1
- Germany: 1
- France: 1
- Balkans: 1
- Turkey: 1
- LGBTQI+: 1
- Mexico: 1
- Italy: 1
- Republic of Korea: 1 
- Mediterranean: 1

What the Hell Happened Here? The Zip-List:
- These are the things that received no mention. Zip. Zero. Nada: Saudi Arabia, Poland, South America, Black Sea, Vietnam, Baltic, Egypt, Brazil, Iraq, Islamic State (ISIS), Al Qaeda.

Look again at the zip-list. Remember the David Frum/Bush 43 “Axis of Evil?” They get a combined 10. We may be tired of ISIS, Al Qaeda and all that mess – but they are not tired of us. I’m not sure we should totally take our eyes off them, but there we go. 

One of the greatest destabilizing threats the USA and her European allies is the migrant crisis on both of our southern borders. In parallel to that is the flood of drugs responsible for decreasing lifespans by killing hundreds of thousands of citizens. Not much of a focus. 

We just got off the worst pandemic in a century – still in it globally – and yet, look at where it is.

Now compare the above where we have American forces overseas. 

Still impressed? I'm not.

Though I still am watching Russia and especially China, I am also looking at the "Honorable Mentions" and the "zip-list" as there is a fairly good chance that is where the next issue will arise.