Friday, December 30, 2022

Fullbore Friday

The below was posted nine years ago when the Vietnamese government helped us bring a few Shipmates home.

I thought of this over Christmas when I was still stewing about Big Navy's final success in killing what little remained of the Navy's trained CSAR capability with the death of HSC-85

One of the big and enduring lessons of the Vietnam War was the absolute requirement to maintain a cadre of specially trained navy rotary wing aircrew and equipment for special operations and combat search and rescue. 

We learned that lesson because of what happened when we had non-trained personnel do the mission because we had no choice.

They are specialized requirements that really can't be shoehorned in to "multi-mission" - regardless of what the accountants tell you.

Especially in areas of sustained operations at sea and near shore, Navy Special Warfare will need RW assets they control and have worked closely with for extended periods.

With the likelihood of another conflict in the Pacific greater than it has been in decades, there are two constants that have not changed. First is geography. For the USA, operations in the Pacific will be dominated by maritime and near shore power projection.

The second is that aircraft will be shot down. Aircraft will break down or run out of fuel well away from "the Joint force." Pilots will need to be rescued. "This requirement will be sourced via the Joint Force" is a peace time answer by a bureaucrat, not someone preparing for war.

With the last rump of this capability gone, that does not mean the requirement will go away? 


Navy, Marine Corp., and yes, even USAF aircraft will go down at sea and near shore. The nearest and probably only asset available in real time will be the US Navy.

The mission will be done - regardless if we have a crew trained in that mission, or an aircraft designed for that mission.

Combat Search and Rescue will be done. When minutes matter, days or weeks to get on the schedule is not an answer.

The message will come in. Aircrew will get engines started. Attempts will be made. To not try is to break an unwritten bond we have to not leave anyone behind if possible.

There will be successes, but when you ask people and aircraft to do something they are not trained or designed to do, there will be more death, more failure, more losses. More remains that will take decades to come home.

In July 1967, a pilot was down over 20 miles inland - not a normal "get me out of the drink" search and rescue - and a straight-stick SH-3A (not the HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant") and her crew took off from the USS Hornet (CV-12) to go get him.

We keep promises to each other. 

We try.

We will have to keep these promises again. Are we training and equipping our people to be ready for the call when the call comes?

Say hello to Lieutenant Dennis Patterson, USN and his daughter before his last deployment. I have a picture almost exactly like this, but in Summer Whites, with one of my daughters when she was almost the exact age and I was a couple of years older than Dennis.

He was 29 years old when he led his crew west.

Sometimes Fullbore is just all in a days work ... and a few decades to make it back home.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced April 30 that a Navy pilot, missing from the Vietnam War, has been accounted for and will be buried with full military honors along with his crew.

Navy Lt. Dennis W. Peterson of Huntington Park, Calif., was the pilot of a SH-3A helicopter that crashed in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam. Peterson was accounted for on March 30, 2012. Also, aboard the aircraft was Ensign Donald P. Frye of Los Angeles, Calif.; Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technicians William B. Jackson of Stockdale, Texas; and Donald P. McGrane of Waverly, Iowa. The crew will be buried, as a group, on May 2 at Arlington National Cemetery.

On July 19, 1967, the four servicemen took off from the USS Hornet aboard an SH-3A Sea King helicopter, on a search and rescue mission looking for a downed pilot in Ha Nam Province, North Vietnam. During the mission, an enemy concealed 37mm gun position targeted the helicopter as it flew in. The helicopter was hit by the anti-aircraft gunfire, causing the aircraft to lose control, catch fire and crash, killing all four servicemen.

In October 1982, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) repatriated five boxes of remains to U.S. officials. In 2009, the remains within the boxes were identified as Frye, Jackson, and McGrane.

In 1993, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team, investigated a loss in Ha Nam Province. The team interviewed local villagers who identified possible burial sites linked to the loss. One local claimed to have buried two of the crewmen near the wreckage, but indicated that both graves had subsequently been exhumed.

Between 1994 and 2000, three joint U.S./S.R.V. teams excavated the previous site and recovered human remains and aircraft wreckage that correlated to the crew's SH-3A helicopter. In 2000, U.S. personnel excavated the crash site recovering additional remains. Analysis from the Joint POW/MIA Command Central Identification Laboratory subsequently designated these additional remains as the co-mingled remains of all four crewmen, including Peterson.
Giving your all to make sure that every effort is made to make sure we leave no one behind.

Welcome home Shipmates.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Diversity Thursday

Remember my oft used phrase "otherwise unemployable people?"

Remember how we've discussed here many Thursdays over the last two decades how the worst of academia was being invited in to our service academies and war colleges - and it would manifest itself throughout the fleet?

Remember how - still to this day - the Diversity Industry's nomenklatura grows and shapes all to serve itself and its interests?

We tried to warn folks back to when it started getting real bad in the Bush43 Presidency.

We were - and still are - called all sorts of nasty names by people who cannot defend their secular religion.

A solid confessional by Professor Russell Jacoby who, while the fetid waters rose around us all, told us not to worry.

Well, he admits he was wrong, and does a solid job describing how we got here. Read it all.

By the late 1990s the rapid expansion of the universities came to a halt, especially in the humanities. Faculty openings slowed or stopped in many fields. Graduate enrollment cratered. In my own department in 10 years we went from accepting over a hundred students for graduate study to under 20 for a simple reason. We could not place our students. The hordes who took courses in critical pedagogy, insurgent sociology, gender studies, radical anthropology, Marxist cinema theory, and postmodernism could no longer hope for university careers.

What became of them? No single answer is possible. They joined the work force. Some became baristas, tech supporters, Amazon staffers and real estate agents. Others with intellectual ambitions found positions with the remaining newspapers and online periodicals, but most often they landed jobs as writers or researchers with liberal government agencies, foundations, or NGOs. In all these capacities they brought along the sensibilities and jargon they learned on campus.

It is the exodus from the universities that explains what is happening in the larger culture. The leftists who would have vanished as assistant professors in conferences on narratology and gender fluidity or disappeared as law professors with unreadable essays on misogynist hegemony and intersectionality have been pushed out into the larger culture. They staff the ballooning diversity and inclusion commissariats that assault us with vapid statements and inane programs couched in the language they learned in school. We are witnessing the invasion of the public square by the campus, an intrusion of academic terms and sensibilities that has leaped the ivy-covered walls aided by social media. The buzz words of the campus—diversity, inclusion, microaggression, power differential, white privilege, group safety—have become the buzz words in public life. Already confusing on campus, they become noxious off campus. “The slovenliness of our language,” declared Orwell in his classic 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language,” makes it “easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

The invasion of the military is already well in to Phase-3. As we've reported here, Milley & Gilday proved this fact the last couple of years in case there are still holdouts not seeing the depth of the incursion. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Lanes, Lies, Power, and Politics - Biden's NatSec Problem

The United States' Secretary of State, Tony Blinken - again the Secretary of State - is so out of his lane right here it is hard to tell if he even knows what his lane is as our chief diplomat.

This opinion of his - which in this venue is now American policy because he said it - is so firmly in the Secretary of Defense's lane that it almost defines it.

Once again, where is Secretary of Defense Austin? His ongoing silence and supine posture as the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor continue to steal his lunch money and girlfriends out in the open is not just professionally embarrassing - it endangers the nation and our allies.

Give it a listen. In essence he states  the United States wouldn’t be able to support Ukraine if we were still in Afghanistan and that we cannot support two allies at once.

Either Blinken is speaking with authority on something he knows nothing about, he is simply lying in order to cover yet another policy disaster, or the American public has been fooled in to supporting a military industrial complex that exists for fun and profit - and ready for not much more than imperial policing. 

I'll let you decide.

Our footprint in AFG, before our negotiated surrender on par with the Confederate surrender of Vicksburg to the Union Army, was incredibly small. We did not need to expend Javelin nor Stinger nor Harpoon missiles nor tens of thousands of 105mm and 155mm artillery rounds a month in Afghanistan. 


We have the largest defense budget in the world. AFG was an economy of force operation at the extreme and almost none of what UKR needs - besides a few helicopters - was needed by the ANSF to keep the Taliban at bay.

We have global alliances where we have obliged our nation to go to war to defend dozens of nations.

So, we finally admit to imperial overreach? We are admitting that our defense budget is laden with waste, fraud, and bloated workforce not ready to do the absolute minimum?

Is that what he is admitting?

If we are unable to support two allies in small to medium wars, then how in the hell will we be prepared to fight against the People's Republic of China in the Western Pacific?

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

No Sense of Urgency to Act on What is Waiting West of Wake

The greatest threat to security in the Western Pacific is not the rise of China, certainly isn't the moribund Russians - or even a combination of the two. No, the greatest threat to security west of Wake is the American national security establishment.

The two pillars of its dysfunction are intellectual and institutional.

Intellectually we continue to allow The Smartest People in the Room™ to blissfully live in a world of happy talk to themselves, each other, and their nation. It is as if they live in a world of the military FITREP where you write your own review in the adult version of Lake Wobegone ... where all the children are above average.

Via Phelem Kine and Lara Seligman over at Politico this AM;

The U.S. has pledged to deploy so much firepower to the Indo-Pacific in 2023 that China won’t even consider invading Taiwan. Lawmakers and allies say it’s already too late.

The promise is a big one: “2023 is likely to stand as the most transformative year in U.S. force posture in the region in a generation,” Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in early December.

Nothing personal here. I am sure Ely is a nice guy. A PhD in, ahem, Political Science from, ahem, UC Berkely, and a life spent in politics, academia, and the usual holding-pen think tanks ... but clearly a smart guy and a good staff weenie ... but seriously; he doesn't believe that. No one with any knowledge of the People's Republic of China believes that. No one with even a thumbnail understanding of the US military's readiness for sustained peer conflict believes that.

More importantly, no one in the PRC believes that.

Happy talk and spin is fine in domestic politics, fund raisers, and giving hope to the rubes, but it takes years to get a military ready for sustained combat on the other side of the globe. We barely held our own until early 1943 against Imperial Japan and we started getting serious seven years earlier in 1936.

While we struggle to maintain a steady state fleet, the PRC's navy grows.

I guess it is time to put up Claude Berube's graphs again.

They have vastly outbuilt us in the past 10 years. Yes, that red line is China’s shipbuilding versus the blue of the us navy.

That is the truth. That is why when we try to force-mode domestic political happy talk to the international stage we are looked at as not just lying - but being quasi-delusional.

At least there are some people with access to levers of power who know what time it is.

“We have a rhetorical commitment to a force posture change in the Indo-Pacific, but that’s belied by the reality of what’s actually happening,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who will become chair of the new House Select Committee on China in the next Congress. He called Ratner’s assertions the military planning equivalent of “whistling past the graveyard.”

The gentleman from Wisconsin is too kind. 

We cannot afford more happy talk - more "transformational" bullsh1t from people who should know better. They need to be called out on every occasion they try to cropdust the intellectual space people are trying to cultivate towards meeting this decade's challenge. The Terrible 20s are going to be terrible, but we can mitigate the degree of that terribleness. Some progress is being made, but more pressure is needed.

Now let's loop back to the second part of today's post mentioned at the start; institutional dysfunction.

Notice the 1936 to 1943 timeline above? Seven years that didn't bring in just new systems, but generational development in everything from carrier air whose fighters went from the Brewster Buffalo to the Grumman Wildcat, to Hellcat; submarines advanced through six different classes from Salmon to Balao; land based heavy bombers went from the Martin B-10 through the Boeing B-17 to a year later the B-29 deploying. 

You get the idea.

Remember back in October?

The U.S Navy has tested out a new way of rearming its warships with a trial vertical launch system (VLS) reload in San Diego. 

In a test evolution, the crane-equipped OSV Ocean Valor conducted a VLS reload with guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance, an exercise intended to prove out a new way to reload guided missile destroyers in sheltered waters. Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer successfully lowered training ordnance into the ship’s forward VLS cells in a proof-of-concept evolution.


The exercise was aimed at proving that an OSV can reload the weapons system pierside, with the goal of expanding the capability of VLS reloading in expeditionary environments. The launch system reload has been tested previously in 2016 and 2019 using other MSC vessels but has never been tested using a relatively small OSV as the delivery platform. 

A VLS reload alongside the pier is substantially less challenging than a VLS reload in an open seas, underway replenishment scenario. Previous Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson signaled an interest in bringing back underway VLS replenishment in 2017, but the operation has rarely been performed in practice - even on Ticonderoga-class cruisers, which were designed with this evolution in mind. 

The TICOs were designed in the 1970s - pretty much half a century ago - roughly the same amount of time that the Spanish-American War was to 1943.

Let that soak in.

Now let's go back to July of 2017, just five and a half years years ago +/-. You know, roughly 1.5 WorldWars as we defined this program management period of time in 2015. For you pedants out there, it is 1.46 WordWars to be exact.

Here's what we discussed 1.46 WordWars ago;

The U.S. Navy is looking to restore its ability to reload its ships’ vertical launch systems at sea, which could be a dramatic logistical game changer in the planning and execution of high-intensity contingencies against peer competitors.


After discussing the means by which the Navy seeks to ensure its forward-deployed naval forces remain survivable and up-to-date with the latest tactical and technological innovation, Admiral Richardson said in reference to vertical launch system (VLS) underway replenishment, “we’re bringing that back.”

Since its operational debut in 1986 aboard the sixth Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Bunker Hill, the Mark 41 vertical launch system and its successor the Mark 57 have become the main battery of the preponderance of the Navy’s surface fleet, while the Mark 45 has become the principal means of deploying cruise missiles aboard submarines. Vertical launch systems are among the most adaptable weapon mounts that the Navy fields, allowing a ship to carry a variety of defensive and offensive missiles in the same shipboard infrastructure, and to fire them in rapid succession.

Well, we don't have this back.

But we are playing around 1.46 WorldWars later with this;

If it appears that the military acquisitions process and the bureaucracy that keeps it running is not quite what one needs to get ready for war, you're right.

It is nowhere near fit for purpose.

Reloading VLS is not a new concept - it is over a half century old. We got rid of it because the short-war uni-polar world would rather have those VLS cells with missiles to blow up parked clapped out Toyota Hilux with 23mm 1960s era manual guns mounted on the truck bed.

In our Lotus Eater stupor we allowed our land based facilities come under the range of our enemy's rocket artillery from Japan to Guam. That luxury is history. We cannot cruise back to the West Coast or Hawaii to reload. We need to do it at sea - now.

Here is where we need to start playing hardball. Our chattering classes are lost in a soup of onomastic happy talk that enables each other to avoid hard work, and our accretion hobbled acquisitions force is designed mostly to ensure funding lines and job protection in a peacetime uni-polar world.

That is long past. As useful as midnight basketball is to domestic politics - a reference someone with a PhD from UC Berkely should understand.

Monday, December 26, 2022

When you Raise a Monster, You Most Own the Consequences

In the 1970s we left the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) - a church my family had been members of through my matriarchal line since it appeared on the North American continent.

We left because each Sunday became a running battle between the parishioners and the ministers over the church's support of the communists in Nicaragua. This was a tough sell in a part of a the country highly influenced by their Cuban neighbors' staunch first-person experience with that blood-soaked ideology - but PCUSA was well past the institutional capture turn and the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) was yet widely known and Evangelical Presbyterian Church (United States) didn't even exist.  

Wait ... I'm going down a Boxing Day religious post and this is not a religion blog ... so if you want an idea of how the leftists managed to create a destructive rolling schism in what was a consolidating presbytery, here's a chart for you to review so I can get back on track. 

That is what we get for allowing draft deferrals for those in seminary during the Vietnam War, in a fashion.

So, back to the Salamander family.

It was hard enough getting all the kids to church on Sunday only to have them suffer through this intellectual debacle. We never returned on a regular basis.

In college in the 1980s I tried my ancestral church again as an adult - but alas I only made it through a few Wednesday bible studies when everyone wanted to talk about how great the communist rebels in El Salvador were.

Out I went ... and I was not alone.

Those not insignificant inflection points in my life came to mind today while reading this from Financial Times;

Dressed in a blue shirt rather than clerical garb and gaunt after nearly four months under house arrest, Bishop Rolando Álvarez sat alone in a Nicaraguan court, charged with conspiracy to undermine national integrity and spreading false news.

Last week’s appearance was his first in public since being arrested in August during a raid on his diocesan headquarters in Matagalpa, where he had been holed up with 11 colleagues in protest at Catholic media outlets being closed.

The detention of Nicaragua’s most outspoken prelate, whose trial will begin in January, has sent an unmistakable message to opponents of the regime of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, vice-president Rosario Murillo.

“He’s been very direct and one of the few priests not afraid to speak out,” said Yader Morazán, a lawyer who fled Nicaragua in 2018. “This is about punishing him and sowing terror in the population and other clergy, too.” 

The business community was cowed into silence after it voiced support for anti-government protesters in 2018. The leaders of Cosep, the main business organisation, were imprisoned. The regime has shut down more than 3,000 NGOs and forced 54 media outlets to close, according to Confidencial, a Nicaraguan newspaper operating from neighbouring Costa Rica.

Now, it is stepping up its repression of the Catholic Church, which has criticised Ortega’s persecution of protesters and his authoritarian excesses while supporting the families of political prisoners.

“It has the objective of closing the last remaining civic space in the country, which is the space for freedom of conscience, freedom of preaching, religious freedom, even of the church,” said Carlos Chamorro, director of Confidencial.

Regular readers of CDRSalamander don't need to be reminded that this Ortega is the same communist from the 80s ... you know, the guy the "enlightened left" comforted, excused, and supported by the usual useful idiots at the time, and now.

The secular left had plenty of support from the religious left. The communists in Nicaragua for decades enjoyed the support of left-wing portions of both Catholic & Protestant confessions.

It gave them legitimacy & cover.

There were non-communist opposition groups to the dictators, but the religious denominations picked their side.

They have never - at least from what I have seen - taken responsibility for it.

Back in 1997, the University of Toronto's Dana Sawchuk outlined it well in the article, The Catholic Church in the Nicaraguan Revolution: A Gramscian Analysis;

The Nicaraguan revolution is unique because it was the first revolution in history which involved the active and continuing participation of large numbers of Christians as Christians. While both Catholics and Protestants played a significant role in the revolutionary process, particularly intriguing are  the intricacies of the Catholic Church's participation both before and after the triumph of the Sandinistas in 1979. Though traditionally most of the institutional Church had given its uncritical support to the country's dictatorial elites, in the mid-1960s the sectors challenging the system of repressive rule began to grow. Through a complex process, by the time the Sandinistas marched victorious into Managua on 19 July 1979, virtually the entire Church - from the laity to the Archbishop - appeared briefly to be on their side.

I'm sorry, but "The Greatest Generation's™" leftist church leadership and their Boomer foot soldiers in the 1970s and on crawled in to bed with the blood soaked communists across the world. 

Thankfully most of the communists that took power are gone ... but there are holdouts like Ortega - and to be frank perhaps I should pray on my attitude - but I have not much sympathy for the Nicaraguan church.

Have they really come out and taken responsibility for their actions in giving Ortega and this ilk the cover to take and then retake power, or are they acting as if they are an innocent victim here of an outside force?

No, I'm sorry; you were part of a popular front - a communist tactic as old as their death cult. We all know how these things end.

When these religious organizations - Catholic and Protestant - publicly acknowledge their culpability in the rise of communist thugs like Ortega in Nicaragua, then we can start to progress towards their present protests against authoritarians.

Then again, secular communist useful idiots have yet to be held to account either, the likes of John Kerry - who continues to be a top shelf political operative in the Democrat Party as he has for decades in spite of bearing false witness against his Navy and his nation for his personal political gain ... so there is a lot of work for all sorts of organizations to do.

Central America is a predominately Catholic part of the world. All the above being said, there is a lot the Catholic Church can do. They did for while, but that faded.

For example, from The Pillar;

St. John Paul II’s pontificate was marked by full-throated, unambiguous denunciations of Marxist regimes in various parts of the world — in some cases, especially in Eastern Europe, his approach led to revolutions, and eventually to the fall of the Iron Curtain. But in Latin America, the pontiff’s strategy was not always as successful as in his native Poland.

The former pontiff had a momentous 11-hour visit to Nicaragua in 1983, in the middle of the civil war between Sandinistas and Contras.

The pope famously wagged his finger in a reprimand of the country’s Marxist minister of culture – who happened to be a priest – Fr. Ernesto Cardenal, just one of the dozens of priests working in the Sandinista government, and causing headaches in the episcopal palace in Managua, and at the Vatican.

What is the present Pope, Francis doing?

Across Central America, Catholics are asking why Pope Francis has been slow to criticize a Nicaraguan regime bent on persecuting the Church.

There are, broadly speaking, two opinions. One says the pontiff does not criticize the situation of the Church in Nicaragua because of his ideological or political affinities; the other that he might think that direct criticism can only make things worse.

On ideology, some influential critics of Pope Francis in Central America argue that the pope is influenced by some of the same social and economic ideas that, in theory, undergird the Ortega regime.

Some of his critics argue that while Pope Francis sharply criticizes the excess of capitalism, or rebukes governments placing limits on refugee resettlement, the pontiff stays silent about human rights violations in Nicaragua, and China, among other places.

And of course, the pope has said he enjoys a “human relationship” with Raúl Castro, Cuba’s retired dictator.


Right or wrong, a decision to try a different way is not prima facie evidence of ideological affinity with the Nicaraguan regime. And while a softer approach has not stopped the persecution against the Church in Nicaragua, the pope seems to think it’s his best option.

That perspective is likely compelling for the pope in recent months, given that Francis is without a diplomatic presence on the ground in Nicaragua.

Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag, apostolic nuncio to Nicaragua, was declared in March persona non grata by the Ortega and had to flee the country — a decision which the Holy See called “incomprehensible.”

Does anyone think that if this were a "right-wing" dictatorship that Francis would take such a supine approach? 

No. Not really. 

All will have to wait for new leaders with an ability to face the hard truth of decades of support of some of the worst ideas of the 20th Century that are slowly dying out ... but are still being supported by people who should be some of its most firm opponents.

Forgive past transgressions - but do not forget them. Do not let those pretend their innocence who have yet to acknowledge their past error. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Fullbore Friday


Your commander matters. The best commanders know when to take the advice of their staff and when to brush it off. 

The worst commanders are those who lack the knowledge or personality to know when to do one of the other.

As told by Douglas Sterling;
“Great Army of the Sea”

On May 16, the English royal council met and pushed back the deadline for gathering the ships until June 12, which would mean a sailing date around the 20th. When Edward met with his council again on June 4, it was clear that earlier delays had not been resolved. The only way to even attempt to keep up with the timetable previously set, which was being relied upon by the allies, was to send at least a small force across the Channel to give support. Little did the English council know that the French had amassed a fleet, principally from the Norman ports, and had sailed from Harfleur on May 26. It was a large force, consisting of 202 vessels—seven royal sailing ships, six galleys, 22 oared barges, and 167 merchantmen— requisitioned by Philip’s agents. By the time the smaller English force sailed, the French had passed Calais.

The French fleet, called the “Great Army of the Sea,” appeared off Sluys on June 8. According to Jonathan Sumption, author of a multivolume history of the Hundred Years’ War, the French soon “swiftly and brutally occupied the island of Cadzand and anchored in the mouth of the River Zwin opposite the harbor of Sluys. The news passed rapidly through the Low Countries, spreading panic in coastal towns and drawing a great crowd of gapers to the foreshore to watch the denouement.”

Reaching the English government two days later, the news of the French attacks at Sluys caused a near panic, many of the king’s advisers claiming the odds were too great to force a confrontation with such an armada. Edward’s Chancellor, Archbishop Stratford, in particular argued strenuously that the risk was too great. He had never supported the King’s enterprise and now considered it folly to risk the government’s finances, its fleet, the security of the English coast, and, indeed, the King’s person on an unworkable scheme. Edward would have none of it, and accused his advisers of trying to frighten him. For him, there could be no question of abandoning the coalition he had helped create, nor could there be any question of running from a fight. “I shall cross the sea and those who are afraid may stay at home,” he announced.

Archbishop Stratford resigned and was succeeded by his brother Robert, Bishop of Chichester. Edward was, however, persuaded to delay his departure for a few days to requisition more ships and to convert a transport armada into a battle fleet. Horses were removed to make room for infantry, and strong messages were sent to every reachable port to provide all ships over 40 tons. No excuses were accepted; Edward himself confronted the mariners of Great Yarmouth who were yet delinquent.

By June 20, nearby harbors were empty and the ships previously assembled were brought into the Pool of Orwell to join the large ships of the western Admiralty. The exact size of the armada is unclear, but is thought to have been around 140 to 150 ships when added to the Northern Fleet under Lord Robert Morley. Edward himself went aboard the cog Thomas, and the fleet set sail just after midnight on June 22, 1340.

Kind Edward Longed for Revenge

Catching a strong northwesterly breeze, the English fleet passed the point of Harwich at dawn and late on the following afternoon stood off the Flemish coast west of the Zwin estuary. Inside, the French fleet lay in wait, commanded by Admirals Hugh Quieret and Nicholas Behuchet. According to Jean Froissart, the famous chronicler of the early part of the war, “King Edward saw such a number of masts in front of him that it looked like a wood. When he asked his ship’s captain what it could be, he replied that it must be the Norman fleet that King Philip kept constantly at sea, which had done such great damage at Southampton, capturing the Christopher and killing her crew. King Edward declared that he had long wanted to fight them, and now, please God and Saint George, he would be able to, for they had done him such harm that he longed for revenge.”

The French saw the English fleet, too, and held a council of war. Barbavera, as the most experienced sailor among the commanders, counseled caution. He was concerned that the anchorage in which the French fleet lay was too confined for maneuvers if attacked and that the wind, blowing into the mouth of the river, would further hamper maneuverability. He suggested that Quieret and Behuchet take their fleets into the open ocean where they would have a better chance to maneuver and meet the English fleet on more favorable terms, but his colleagues balked. In their minds, the mass of their force was more than a match for the English. It certainly looked it, with the closeness of their ships and their great bulk, with bows, poops, and masts fortified with timber. Reinforcements from Flemish and Spanish allies brought their force to 213 vessels. Quieret and Behuchet were afraid that any move to the open ocean would provide an opening for the English force to sail in behind them and land in Flanders.

Instead of following Barbavera’s advice, the French admirals drew their ships into three lines across the mouth of the estuary, like an army on land setting up a strong defense. In the first line were 19 of their largest vessels, including the captured cog Christopher, which stood out larger than the others. Each line was chained together to form an impregnable barrier.
Who said SEALS are a recent invention?
The English sent a knight, Reginald Cobham, ashore with two others to gather intelligence on the French anchorage and their dispositions for the battle. Their report pointed out the major weakness of the French order of battle that Barbavera had warned of: the anchored, chained, and massed lines. According to N.A.M. Rodger, “This was a traditional galley or longship tactic, serving to make the naval battlefield as much like a battlefield ashore as possible, but of course it removed any possibility of manoeuvre and resigned the initiative to the enemy.” 
An English council of war decided to grasp the initiative and attack the next day when they would have the advantage of wind and tide behind them. 
Preparing for Battle
At the end of the 15th century, the Zwin estuary silted up, so that the site of the Battle of Sluys is now farm land and dunes. In 1340, according to Sumption, it was “a stretch of shallow water about 3 miles wide at the entrance and penetrating some 10 miles inland towards the city of Bruges. It was enclosed on the northeastern side by the low-lying island of Cadzand and on the west by a long dyke on which a huge crowd of armed Flemings stood watching. Along the west side lay the out-harbours of Bruges, Sluys, Termuiden and Damme.” 
In preparation for battle, the English also drew up their fleet in three battle lines. In the early afternoon of June 24, they began to press down from the north on the entrance to the Zwin. Although Froissart’s account of the battle is truncated in time— making it seem like the dispositions of the two fleets and the attack of the English followed quickly upon the two forces sighting one another—he nevertheless gives a stirring battle narrative. According to him, Edward deployed his fleet, maneuvering it “so that the wind was on their starboard quarter, in order to have the advantage of the sun, which had previously shown full in their faces. The Normans, unable to understand these maneuvers, thought that the English were trying to avoid giving battle; but they were delighted to see that King Edward’s standard was flown, for they were eager to fight him.” It was then that the English fleet “advanced to the sound of trumpets and other warlike instruments.” 
The English had the wind and the tide. Importantly, they sailed with the sun behind them, shining into the faces of the French. 
Within the French force, confusion was beginning to overshadow confidence. As Sumption relates, the French fleet “had been too long at their battle stations and the chained lines of vessels, which originally extended across the breadth of the bay, had drifted eastward piling the ships up against each other on the Cadzand shore and reducing their sea room still further. The chains were useless in these conditions.” The French admirals ordered the chains to be thrown off, and the fleet then attempted to recover the open flank to the west. 
Unfortunately, the Riche de Leure, a front line vessel of the French force, detached from their line and became entangled with a ship of the English van. While those ships grappled and struggled together, the English front line rammed into the French. 
The front lines of the two forces included their largest ships. Edward’s flagship, the cog Thomas, was among the large ships from the Cinque Ports and faced the Christopher, captured from the English in earlier action, and the St. Denis, a large vessel with 200 seamen aboard. 
Sea battle tactics in this period consisted of grappling with an enemy vessel to assault the enemy decks with showers of arrows in preparation for boarding, which was seen as a kind of infantry attack, like an assault on a fortress. The idea was to hold the enemy close to weaken them for a victorious assault. This is indeed how Froissart described the beginning of the battle, with “each side opening fire with crossbows and longbows, and hand-to-hand fighting began. The soldiers used grappling irons on chains in order to come to grips with the enemy boats.” Both sides had artillery of a sort, stone throwers and giant crossbows called “springalds,” but, according to Sumption, they were “more dramatic than useful.” 
Arrows Fell on French Crews “Like Hail in Winter” 
Because the French force was hemmed in by the weight of the English fleet and was soon snared with hooks and grappling irons, they were forced to fight with a serious disadvantage in firepower. For, as in the English land battles that were to come in the following years, the English crews were equipped with the longbow, which was greatly superior to the crossbow used by the French and their Italian allies. As Sumption says, the longbow “was more accurate. It had a longer range. Above all it could be fired at a very rapid rate.” He quotes a London observer as describing arrows falling on the French crews “like hail in winter,” while “crossbows had to be lowered and steadied at the stirrup while the wire was strenuously levered back between every firing.” 
By all accounts, the battle was ferocious and the slaughter terrible. According to Froissart, “The battle … was cruel and horrible. Sea-battles are always more terrible than those on land, for those engaged can neither retreat nor run away; they could only stand and fight to the bitter end, and show their courage and endurance.” Although the French had the advantage in numbers, the disposition of their forces and the weight at the point of attack favored the English. 
Still, the French and their allies fought hard. The English forces “were hard-pressed, for they were outnumbered four to one, and their enemies were all experienced sailors. But King Edward, who was in the flower of his youth, proved himself a gallant knight, and he was supported by … many … gallant knights [who] fought so valiantly, with the help of those from the neighborhood of Bruges, that they won the day.” 
The fighting proved to be fierce and lasted well into the afternoon when it became clear to the French in the rear lines that their comrades in the front were suffering grievously. Yet they were unable to join the fray because they were hemmed in between their own front line and the shore, and did not have room to maneuver round to the west. By evening, however, the English front line had broken through to the French ships in the rear and fell upon them. Now the English had a tremendous advantage in weight of ship as their cogs towered over the smaller French ships in their second line and they were able to rake the decks of the French from their greater height. 
With the English clearly winning, Flemings began to pour from Sluys and other harbors in the estuary to join the fight and share in the victory. They fell upon the French from the rear as the English continued to press from the front. As night fell, the third French line of Norman merchantmen and Philip’s barges attempted to escape the estuary. The English tried to block their path and the battle devolved into a series of skirmishes as more and more French ships made toward the open sea. By 10 pm the fighting was nearly over, except for two ships so entangled that they fought fiercely throughout the night. By the time the English were able to board the French ship at dawn the next day, they discovered 400 enemy dead aboard. 
Unlike war ashore, at sea here is not much room to retreat once fully engaged. Losses are rarely done in retail, deaths are wholesale. In modern times as it was for thousands of years.
Almost 18,000 Frenchmen Were Killed

In fact, only the dawn of the following day would reveal the extent of the French defeat and the tremendous loss of life and shipping. According to Sumption, the French “suffered a naval catastrophe on a scale unequalled until modern times.” The English had captured 190 of the 213 French ships that had been engaged, including their old cogs, Christopher and Edward . Although a certain number had escaped, including Barbavera’s six galleys, four of the six-oared galleys based at Dieppe, and 13 others, the death toll was almost indescribable. Again, as Sumption puts it, “The crews and troops on board the ships which did not escape were killed almost to a man. No quarter was given once a ship was boarded, and those who threw themselves into the sea, as many did, were picked up by the Flemings on the foreshore and clubbed to death.” Perhaps between 16,000 and 18,000 Frenchmen were killed. Edward himself would write to his son that each tide brought in more and more corpses.

As for the French admirals, Quieret was killed when his ship was boarded by the English. Behuchet, who was recognized by his captors, was held for ransom. Then, Edward III, in a pique of anger, waived the normal conventions of aristocratic warfare and had Behuchet hanged from the mast of his flagship.\
And now, befitting our era; the Battle of Sluys in Lego. Seriously; it's fairly good to excellent.

First posted December 2016.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Diversity Thursday

Unless you live in a highly isolated environment where you don't spend too much time reading and understanding the nation you serve & live amongst others in the military in these co-ed quasi-monastic cloisters known as government quarters (yes, I'm looking at you DC GOFO community), you are well aware that the last place to look for any advice on issues of "gender" related issues is academia.

Only a fool would ask academia for advice here, or someone who was a true believer and wanted a club to beat the pagans with until they convert.

Maybe a bit of both.

Of course, just like in corporate America where the weakest senior leadership fears their HR department more than the board of directors or shareholders, most of the senior uniformed and civilian leadership fear no one more than the embedded commissars from the diversity industry that infect our N1/personnel shops from Millington to The Pentagon.

Especially over the last 20-years, the nomenklatura has been focused on nothing more than increasing the numbers of their co-religionists in GS/SES billets - it helps their either convert, promote, or destroy uniformed leadership who do or do not align with their diktat. 

With the increasing numbers of these otherwise unemployable people - mostly from academia - absorbing billets and funding, their self-reinforcing power structures are making it almost impossible for all but the best bureaucratic irregular warfare experts to avoid, delay, or say "no" to their latest agenda item.

Like a well placed mine, they wait for the moment to be just right to make a recommendation to send money to their co-religionists to further support their evangelism.  

Just another reminder this week, as it seems a story is breaking above the background noise days that has been around for a few years. Let's give it a quick review because it is just another example to reference in the future.

First of all, some background. 

The USMC was looking for some advice after getting tired of the knife in their back and the lack of top-cover from DOD/DON in the Trump Administration, so what did they do?

As well covered by our friend Hope Hodge Seck;

The independent study was commissioned in 2020 as the Marine Corps faced a directive from Congress to make boot camp training fully coed at both Marine Corps recruit depots within eight years.

University of Pittsburgh’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory and Warrior Human Performance Research Center was tasked, under a $2 million contract, to “analyze combinations of gender-integrated training and make recommendations for models that integrate genders to the greatest extent possible while continuing to train Marines to established standards,” the service announced at the time. Marine Corps Times obtained the study, completed in June, through a public records request.

Remember, much of what you need to know in life you should have learned from "The Lost Boys;"

The USMC invited the vampires, what did they expect would happen?

Of course, what did the USMC get for their trouble?

Employing gender-neutral identifiers eliminates the possibility of misgendering drill instructors, which can unintentionally offend or cause discord. By teaching recruits to use gender-neutral identifiers for their drill instructors, Services underscore the importance of respecting authoritative figures regardless of gender.”

Hall said the Marine Corps was working to change the training materials highlighted by the University of Pittsburgh study, but expressed concern about making any moves that would put boot camp practices out of step with fleet ones.

“All of a sudden, we change something at recruit training, and recruits start coming in and using a different identifier. It’s not something we would change overnight,” he told Marine Corps Times following the advisory committee meeting. “Again, we’ve got a history of ‘sir, ma’am, sir, ma’am. If we change something at the root level, how do we make the corresponding change at the Fleet Marine Force? So it’s not ours to implement alone.”

Over two+ years and $2-million dollars sent to support, expand, and justify - I am sure - no small number of the least value added Pitt employees to give you a result I could have told you they would give you in 2-days of email exchanges for free. 

The left is so predictable ... but they are also quite good at what they do. 

As is their tradition, they know very well how people who will engage in battle with the enemy with their lives on the line with style and verve will melt in the face of a determined commissar.

In addition to 1980s vampire movies, most of what you need to know about life can be found in Dr. Zhivago - as Comrade Razin reminded us all;


[Liberius and Razin are debating whether or not to allow Zhivago's release]

I command this unit!

Razin, Liberius' Lieutenant:

We command jointly! The Party Bulletin expressly states...



[knocks bulletin out of Razin's hands]


I could have you taken out and shot!

Razin, Liberius' Lieutenant:

And could you have The Party taken out and shot? Understand this: as the military struggle draws to a close, the political struggle intensifies. In the hour of victory, the military will have served its purpose - and all men will be judged POLITICALLY - regardless of their military record! Meanwhile, there are still White units in this area - the Doctor stays.

You are either a fool or a co-religionist if you are outsourcing your personnel decisions to academia in this century. Remember, these are the people who are trying to decolonize light

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Mines for All My Friends

I really can't stop thinking about how smart this is.

A dirty little secret is that one of the largest deltas out there in the maritime sector between what we know what will be needed in wartime vs. what we have invested in at peace is mine warfare.

Since WWII more US Navy ships have been damaged by mines than any other weapon, and yet from money to promotion prospects, MIW is always put in the dusty corner.

Without even diving in to the capability mire of defensive MIW - even more neglected is offensive MIW.

How do you create a capability for this for the USA and her allies when it is almost non-existant? 

Yes, I have been a critic of mission modules the last few decades - at least the American ones - mostly because they were sold along with vapor-ware, pixie dust, and unicorn farts ... but where done right, they are a solution.

Via Dimitris Mitsopoulos at Naval News, here's a good mission module concept that looks like it can be put on a whole host of platforms with minimal modifications.

The Cube is a container-based modular payload concept that was first launched in 2020 by SH Defence. Today, the Cube portfolio consists in a range of over 300 payloads ranging from propulsion systems to decoy launchers and even search and rescue modules. The latest addition to The Cube ecosystem was unveiled during MAST Med 2020 conference and exhibition that took place in Athens, Greece in 2-4 November 2022: It is a Containerized Mine Laying System which can easily and quickly turn navy ships into mine laying platforms. Naval News met with Peter Liisberg during the event to learn more. 

The Cube consists of standard modules that fulfill common demands enabling the reconfiguration of naval vessels from one mission to another in less than 4 hours. It provides a unique multi-mission capability thanks to ready mission bays and equipment installed in standardized 20’ or 40’ Cubes-containers equipped with an adaptor frame, the Flex Frame. The innovative shell is designed to protect the equipment and ensure it is fully reliable and operating seamlessly in both arctic areas and regions with extreme heat. With the Cube system, any Navy can turn (almost) any platform into a multi-mission vessel.

Fine, maybe it is just me, but that is sexy as hell.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Japan Rising

As we started with Japan this week, let's stick with the topic - but this time on a more positive note.

Even more than the USA, Japan is a maritime and aerospace power. That is where her geography and technology give her the comparative advantage.

As the USA struggles to increase her forces to meet the challenge west of Wake, we rightfully look to our close ally in the region that has an impressive combo of GDP and population - Japan.

Even though she limited herself for decades to 1% of GDP on defense, with the size of her economy, she still has an impressive military. As those who have worked with her know, what she does have is quality in both personnel and material.

Keep all the above in mind as you read this;

Japan on Friday unveiled its biggest military build-up since World War Two with a $320 billion plan that will buy missiles capable of striking China and ready it for sustained conflict, as regional tensions and Russia's Ukraine invasion stoke war fears.

The sweeping, five-year plan, once unthinkable in pacifist Japan, will make the country the world's third-biggest military spender after the United States and China, based on current budgets.


"The Prime Minister is making a clear, unambiguous strategic statement about Japan’s role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific," U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "He has put a capital “D” next to Japan’s deterrence," he added.

Meeting Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi in Taipei on Friday, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she expected greater defence cooperation with Japan.


"The Ukraine war has shown us the necessity of being able to sustain a fight, and that is something Japan has not so far been prepared for," said Toshimichi Nagaiwa, a retired Air Self-Defense Force general. "Japan is making a late start, it is like we are 200 metres behind in a 400-metre sprint," he added.

China defence spending overtook Japan's at the turn of the century, and now has a military budget more than four times larger. Too few munitions and a lack of spare parts that ground planes and put other military equipment out of action are the most immediate problems for Japan to tackle, military sources have told Reuters.

Kishida's plan will double defence outlays to about 2% of gross domestic product over five years, blowing past a self-imposed 1% spending limit that has been in place since 1976.

"We look forward to Taiwan and Japan continuing to create new cooperation achievements in various fields such as national defence and security, the economy, trade, and industrial transformation,” the presidential office cited Tsai as saying.

It has been over a dozen years since we called for this, but 2% of GDP for Japan is great news for those who know what is needed in WESTPAC. 

Japan doubling defense spending? Huge.

The Japanese will be smart in this spending too. Most of it will go towards what they will need to secure the Northwest Pacific in any conflict - sea power and air power.

Excellent news.

Monday, December 19, 2022

"Support You and Your Family" - Really?

Are you familiar with the case of Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis, USN? 

Much to my shame, until this AM I was not. Let's get everyone up to speed. From Andrew Jeong at WaPo;

While stationed in Japan in May 2021, Alkonis was driving home with his family and their Australian labradoodle after a visit to Mount Fuji, near Tokyo. They had gone to an area about 8,000 feet high and accessible by car. After parking, the family hiked on a mostly flat trail for a few hours, Brittany Alkonis said. On their way home at 1 p.m., Ridge Alkonis was talking to his oldest daughter as he drove.

But mid-sentence, Alkonis suddenly fell unconscious, his family said. The vehicle, going about 25 mph, veered into a parking lot and crashed into several cars that were then pushed against two pedestrians: an 85-year-old woman and her 54-year-old son-in-law. They both died. A third person, a daughter of the elderly woman, was injured. Brittany Alkonis sustained an ankle injury.

When Ridge Alkonis awoke several minutes after the crash, witnesses said his face looked pale, his family said, citing police reports. His symptoms — paleness and a loss of consciousness — align with those of acute mountain sickness, which can affect people at altitudes above 8,000 feet, according to information published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In June 2021, a neurologist told Alkonis that he had suffered from the illness at the time of the crash, his family said.

A tragedy for everyone involved, especially those killed and injured - but also for Alkonis and his family. Unintentionally responsible for the death of others is something that will always be with a person - even if one is not at fault.

No one is at fault for an unexpected medical condition.

Accidents happen all the time due to medical emergencies with drivers. Many are familiar with drivers who are diabetic and run in to trouble while driving, not to mention heart attacks, strokes, and all manner of medical problems that come up with little notice. We are mortal beings. Both the background of the accident and the medical experts seem to agree that this is the case here - a tragic secondary effect of a medical emergency.

As those who have served overseas know, a service member's relationship with the host nation's legal system is bounded by the status of forces agreement with the host nation.

What did Japan decide in this case?

In October, Alkonis was sentenced to three years in jail for negligent driving. The judge overseeing the case said he had not traveled high enough to be afflicted with severe acute mountain sickness, according to local reports. Instead, she accepted prosecutors’ assertions that Alkonis had been drowsy that day. An appeal failed to overturn the verdict.

Alkonis’s family has accused Japanese investigators of misleading him into signing Japanese-language documents during his pretrial confinement that the family says inaccurately described Alkonis as having felt sleepy before driving that day. Alkonis was also denied access to an attorney during his initial four weeks of detention after the accident, according to his family.

That is what it is. How is he being treated relative to others?

Alkonis has repeatedly expressed sorrow over the deaths of the man and woman. His family, with help from friends, paid $1.65 million to the victims’ relatives as restitution, they said. “They are victims, 100 percent innocent. They are definitely victims,” Brittany Alkonis said in a phone interview this week.

But the family also says Ridge Alkonis received an unusually harsh punishment; 95 percent of Japanese citizens convicted of similar charges are granted suspended jail terms, according to Japanese Ministry of Justice data — meaning they aren’t sent to prison.

In 2019, of the 1,252 people charged with causing death through negligent driving, 4.6 percent — about 58 people — ended up serving prison time, according to a government white paper. The great majority — 95.4 percent — received a suspended sentence.

We cannot control the Japanese legal system, but there are things we can control. 

LT Alkonis is married with three children who are still in Japan where he was stationed.

What is his Navy and his Defense Department doing to support him and his family?

The Defense Department will deny a plea from Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis to extend his pay and allowances while he serves a three-year prison sentence in Japan, according to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah on Thursday.

During a speech from the Senate floor, Lee said he spoke Nov. 29 with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after three weeks of requests for a phone call. Lee said he asked Austin for an update on the request for an exception to policy Alkonis made in June to keep his benefits flowing when his leave runs out at the end of this month.

Without Alkonis’ pay, his wife, Brittany Alkonis, and their children, still living in Japan, would be “kicked to the curb” at Christmastime, Lee, a Republican, said during his 23-minute speech on the Navy lieutenant’s plight.

“Secretary Austin callously informed me that day that the request for the exception to policy would not be granted,” Lee said. “I asked him why. He believed it wasn’t appropriate for the department to do that.”

Why is there a level of cynicism towards Navy leadership specifically and the military leadership in general by those who are serving? Why do you have some veterans discouraging family members from following their example and join the military - or if they do - tell stories like this as a warning that things are not what they may think?

We make a big deal out of family support. I'm thinking hard why we as an institution shouldn't stand up and support the Alkonis family right now.

Just look at this story and imagine this is your family, your friend, your Shipmate.

h/t Kurt.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Cyber Lessons of the Russo-Ukrainian War with Shashank Josi - on Midrats


There is still a lot of fighting to be done in the Russo-Ukrainian War, but important lessons can already be drawn from the first 10-months of conflict.

One of the most hyped "new" domains of war the last three decades has been what is generally referred to as "cyber." Its growth in interest and buzz paralleled the decline and neglect of a more traditional form of modern war, Electronic Warfare.

This Sunday we're going to do a deep dive in what we are seeing, what we thought we should have seen but haven't, and how this should inform present support and future policy in the area of cyber.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 4-5pm Eastern will be Shashank Joshi, Defence editor at The Economist.

If you are looking for a read-ahead, "The Digital Front" in the December 3rd edition of The Economist would be a good start.

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, December 16, 2022

Fullbore Friday

 Now and then the algorithm on YouTube rolls things in to my view it knows I cannot ... NOT ... watch.

So, of course I watched an iconic scene and then remembered the man passed only 4.5 yrs ago and I have a FbF on him.

Worthy an encore, no?

Yes, he was THAT Brit officer holding the tanks in A Bridge Too Far.
Even if the 25-year-old Captain in the Grenadier Guards had wanted to say a prayer, his voice would have been drowned out by the throbbing of the five Chrysler engines that powered his 40-ton Sherman tank.

The young officer would have had good reason to call on the Almighty, because his troop of Shermans was about to cross the most dangerous bridge in Europe.

There was a strong likelihood he would either be killed by rifle or machine-gun fire, annihilated by an anti-tank gun, or be sent plummeting with his crew into the river below, after the bridge had been blown up by its Nazi defenders.

The young captain’s name was Peter Carington — and he survived his ordeal. But only after displaying leadership and courage of such distinction that it won him the Military Cross.

Peter Carington — perhaps better known today as Lord Carrington — went on to become one of our most impressive post-war politicians, holding office in the governments of six successive Conservative Prime Ministers, starting with Winston Churchill.

His death this week, at the age of 99, is a reminder of how Britain’s political class has changed. For in stark contrast to so many of today’s self-centred politicians, Peter Carington’s behaviour was ruled by duty, both to his fellow man and to his country.
One thing I dearly miss and have brought up now in then here since 2004 is that not enough of those of my class to whom much have given, give back as Peter Carington (Lord Carrington it seems, with two "t's" did. What service.
His extraordinary courage in war was matched by an integrity in public life that has all but disappeared today. His resignation as Foreign Secretary under Margaret Thatcher three days after Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982 is still regarded, nearly 40 years on, as the last honourable political resignation.

An official report absolved him of all responsibility, yet he refused to blame anyone else — not diplomats, intelligence agencies or underlings.

As he wrote in his memoirs: ‘The nation feels there has been a disgrace. The disgrace must be purged. The person to purge it should be the minister in charge.’
Every nation should be served by such men.
Despite his youth when crossing that bridge in his tank, Peter Carington had been a peer for six years since the death of his father, Rupert, the 5th Baron Carrington, who had also served in the Grenadier Guards.

His father’s service to King and country had been in World War I, during which he had fought with distinction and was wounded twice.
A little more context on what the man's combat record was like. There are a lot of people out there who will throw shade at Carington, I won't. 
The date was September 20, 1944, and Carington and his tanks were a key component of the bold Operation Market Garden, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s audacious plan to seize nine strategically vital bridges that led to the Rhine, culminating in the bridge at Arnhem.

If the plan succeeded, the war — in that now notoriously over-optimistic phrase — could be over by Christmas.

The bridge at Nijmegen was just ten miles from Arnhem, where British paratroopers had been holding out for days. If the British and the Americans could cross the Waal and link up with them, then Operation Market Garden might be a triumph.

If not, then it would be seen as a total failure. The stakes, Captain Carington well knew, could not have been higher. The pressure was visible to those who saw him that day. ‘I can still see Peter Carington’s face as he looked down from the turret of his tank before going over,’ recalled Lieutenant Tony Jones of the Royal Engineers. ‘He looked thoughtful, to say the least of it.’

At around four o’clock, the tanks moved forward. The lead tank was commanded by Sergeant Peter Robinson, and as soon as he started crossing the 700-yard bridge, he came under attack from an 88mm anti-tank gun positioned on the far, northern bank.

Even though he had been warned the bridge may also have been mined, Robinson pushed forward along with Carington and the rest of the troop.

‘It was pretty spectacular,’ recalled one onlooking colonel. ‘The tank and the 88 exchanged about six rounds apiece, with the tank spitting .30 tracers all the while. Quite a show in the gathering dusk.’

What the observing officer did not know was that Carington’s small column was being fired on by another 88, as well as by anti-tank rockets and small arms. The Grenadiers were literally charging into a hail of lead.

‘I followed him over,’ Carington would later laconically recall. ‘And I thought they were going to blow the bridge up at any moment.’

Thankfully, he was not to die that day. In fact, he was to enjoy another 74 years of life.
A life of service well lived.


First posted JUL2018.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Meeting the Demand Signal

One thing we touched on during last Sunday's Midrats was the growing unease that the Russo-Ukrainian War would not end before the stockpiles of preferred weapons and the ammunition they use runs out.

There has been discussions about both sides of the war burning through their stockpiles at unsustainable rates while the war seems to be expanding. The Russians are having issues even with their assumed relatively deep bunkers - but much of that is bottlenecked by an early 20th Century logistics train on a 21st Century battlefield. Their problems keeping their army equipped is not the more interesting story.

The Ukrainians would have run out of weapons and ammunition months ago if the former Warsaw Pact nations in NATO didn't empty what inventory they had left of Soviet Era weaponry and the rest of NATO led by the USA didn't wander the world trying to soak up as much available inventory money could buy. That and the rapid adoption of NATO compatible equipment by the Ukrainians is helping, but that has revealed other problems - who says the West has enough to give?

We've discussed the West's almost criminally neglected stockpiles - unready for anything but the most limited or short war - for the better part of two decades.

The Russo-Ukrainian War has once again brought it in to stark relief.

If you find the business and industrial part of the national security arena interesting, which you should, then you'll enjoy Marcus Weisgerber's latest over at DefenseOne. Read the whole thing, but this is the part part I found the most interesting as it points to this particular hobby horse of mine;

The U.S. has sent 13 years worth of Stinger production and five years worth of Javelin production to Ukraine, Hayes said during a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum here.

Seeing the demand for Stingers, Raytheon is “going to take a little bit of a gamble” because it seems NATO and other U.S. allies want to buy the easy-to-use weapons in the coming years as well. 

“We want to be prepared to meet the demand that's out there,” Hayes said in the interview. “I wish I could snap my fingers and then all of a sudden miraculously, throw a building up and train 500 people [to build them], but it just takes time.”

Kendall, who was the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer during the Obama administration, said that the Defense Department’s stockpiles are not a “significant risk” yet, but it could be down the road. 

“I think we need to give more attention to the potential for longer conflicts, and what the consequences [are] of that and how we prepare for that,” Kendall said. “So that's a combination of stockage and manufacturing capacity that needs to be factored into our planning, more than may have been in the past.”

One possible way the U.S. could accelerate the resupplying of NATO allies is by standing up factories in Europe, to produce weapons closer to the front lines. 

Oh, really? Europe? Really.

For you loyal Midrats listeners, that last bit would have you ... well ... 

German ammunition manufacturers recently warned about the waiting period for orders of cotton linters from China — a crucial component for propelling charges for small guns and artillery — has tripled to up to nine months. 

German ammunition makers flagged this information at a recent defense symposium near Munich. The German government hosted a roundtable discussion with ammunition manufacturers on November 28; however, no specific outcomes were made public.

Industry sources said that all European ammunition producers depend on China for cotton linters, even though it is a commodity produced and traded globally. 

Wolfgang Hellmich, the defense affairs speaker for the in-power Social Democratic Party (SPD) in parliament, told Asia Nikkei that the significant supply shortages of China-sourced materials for military equipment are particularly problematic for ammunition and specific steels.

This is a problem throughout the West. The Russo-Ukrainian War is sending a clear warning to everyone - you need to ramp up production, capacity, and have a more reliable - if not efficient - supply chain. 

This is hard, because unlike sexy things displacing water and making shadows on ramps, ammunition and expendables are hidden away in bunkers out of sight ... and if your peacetime military and diplomats do their job, will never be used. However, when you need them, the need is existential.

Study hard. Lobby harder. Spend wiser. Spend more.