Friday, July 23, 2021

Fullbore Friday

If not you, who?


Duty to your crew.

The nature of a man is often revealed in crisis when he has to run on instinct.

Meet then Staff Sergeant Henry R. Erwin, USAAC, just a good 'ole boy from Alabama.

On April 12, 1945, Erwin's B-29, called the "City of Los Angeles," was the lead bomber in a group attack on a chemical plant in Koriyama, about 125 miles north of Tokyo. Aside from operating the radio, Erwin was also in charge of launching phosphorescent smoke bombs to help assemble the bombers before they proceeded to their target. 

Erwin was positioned behind the forward gun turret toward the front of the plane. Once he got the order to light the bombs, he dropped them down a chute that launched them out of the aircraft before they exploded. 

But something went wrong with one of them. It didn't leave the chute, instead bouncing back into the aircraft, striking a kneeling Erwin in the face. The intensely burning bomb obliterated his nose and completely blinded him. To make matters worse, smoke quickly filled the front part of the plane, obscuring the pilot’s vision. 

Despite his wounds, Erwin knew the plane and crew would not survive if he didn't get the bomb outside. So, despite the fact that he was physically on fire and his skin was burning off, he picked up the incendiary at his feet and, feeling his way instinctively through the plane, crawled toward the cockpit. 

His path was blocked by the navigator's table, which he had to unlock and raise to get around. To do that, he had to clench the burning bomb against his body. Erwin then struggled through the narrow passage and stumbled forward into the pilot’s den. He groped around until he found a window and threw the bomb out.

Completely on fire, Erwin collapsed between the pilots. He had journeyed only 13 feet, but later he said it "seemed like miles when you are burning."

The plane had been on autopilot during the crisis, but to keep it from stalling out, the pilot had to drop altitude. When the smoke finally cleared, he realized they were only 300 feet from hitting water. The pilot managed to pull the plane out of its dive, abort the mission and head for Iwo Jima, the closest place for medical aid. 

During that time, the crew sprayed Erwin with a fire extinguisher to put the flames out, and they gave him morphine for the pain. Somehow, Erwin stayed conscious during the flight and even asked about the crew's safety. 

Once at Iwo Jima, doctors labored for hours to remove the white phosphorus that had embedded in his eyes. Since it combusts when it's exposed to oxygen, each fleck that was removed burst into flames – small bits of torture for the already struggling airman.

No one thought Irwin would survive, but his entire crew knew he deserved the Medal of Honor for his actions. So, while he was getting treatment the night of their botched mission, the officers in his unit were preparing a Medal of Honor citation. The next morning, they presented it to Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, commander of the 21st Bomber Command, so he could sign it. LeMay managed to get it approved in an unprecedented amount of time. They were all hoping to give it to Erwin before he died. 

Three days after the incident, a still-living Erwin was flown to a Navy hospital on Guam. For days afterward, doctors performed blood transfusions, did surgery and gave him antibiotics to fight infection. 

On April 19, 1945 — one week after the incident — officials pinned the Medal of Honor on a heavily bandaged Erwin as he lay in a hospital bed. The medal itself was from a display case at U.S. Army Headquarters in Honolulu. It was the only available one in the entire Pacific Theater. 

Read it all

Henry live a full life of 80 years. 


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Diversity Thursday

The long march through the institutions by the diversity commissariat may be shocking for those who just look at DOD, but if you really want a peek in to how bad it is, look around.

Today, I would offer to you the foreign service sector.

Think about all critical challenges facing our foreign service from Central Asia, to Europe, to the western Pacific, to Africa, to the Middle East ... and then look what they are spending their time on.

Check out the July/August edition of The Foreign Service Journal.  You can get the PDF here, but here are the critical issues our diplomats must focus on;

- Asian Americans Can No Longer Be Silent, and Neither Should You: Generations of citizenship and sacrifices for and contributions to America notwithstanding, Asian Americans face the need to prove their loyalty over and over.

- The Power of Vulnerability: A Black former consular fellow, whose report of her ordeal at the hands of U.S. officials at the border with Mexico shook up the State Department, shares her thoughts today.

- Three Myths That Sustain Structural Racism at State: Countering bias and recognizing overt racism are important, but it’s time to go beyond this work and take a hard look at institutional racism in the department.

- Rooting Out Microaggressions: What does exclusion look like? An FSO explores the concept of microaggressions—and suggests how shining a light on them can help foster a culture of inclusion.

When you have hard problems that have clear metrics with regards to progress you can track, weakly led organizations will focus on other things.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

It doesn't have to be painted grey, you know

Are we really using the right numbers when it comes to the PLAN"s amphibious capabilities?

Are we paying attention to not-so-subtle capabilities?

I'm pondering the topic over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and join me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Q: "So Sal, How is the Navy Handling Vaccinations and Mask Compliance?"

Redacted to protect the ... well ... you know.

The answer appears to be, "In the finest traditions of the Naval service."

Side note: you can add this to your file that, yes, what the Admiral is interested in, the Fleet will be interested in. 

It matters. 

That is why, in the end, if you are happy or unhappy with our Navy ... that is where you start to look for answers to the question, "why?"

UPDATE: Is NAVADMIN 095/21 no longer in effect, specifically para 3?

3.  Commanders and supervisors should not ask about an employee's vaccination status.

Monday, July 19, 2021

France's Stand in the Pacific Contra China

Most people do not realize that one of the largest Pacific nation, if you measure by territorial seas, is France.

She has a lot to lose in a world where fleets of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats in fleet movements go from place to place, strip mining already stressed fishing resources.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday France and South Pacific nations would launch a South Pacific coastguard network to counter "predatory" behaviour, which an adviser said was aimed at illegal fishing, as China expands its maritime reach.

The United States and allies including France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are actively expanding their activity in the Pacific to counter China's influence.

Though tiny in land mass, Pacific islands control vast swaths of resource-rich ocean called Exclusive Economic Zones, forming a formidable boundary between the Americas and Asia.

"To better cope with the predatory logic we are all victims of, I want to boost our maritime cooperation in the South Pacific," Macron said after a video conference with the leaders of Australia, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and representatives of New Zealand and other Pacific nations.
When France is good, she is very good.

This is a "growth area" in the maritime security arena. You can hear it in Macron's statement, and you can see it in the growing fleets of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) that are a good compromise design for the mission at hand.

Those over 50 remember the last time a nation with a less than enlightened view of the rule of law and responsible stewardship of the world's oceans had the capability and will to do real damage, the Soviet Union.

For the better part of three decades, the world has become comfortable and secure - with isolated exceptions - of the fruits of Pax Americana on the high seas. Those days are over. With pressures and stress, more nations will need to turn their attentions to those things they thought they were naturally granted, responding to gaps in what I modestly call, "Salamander's Hierarchy of Maritime Power™" (apologies to Maslow).

All the higher requirements can only successfully be attained when the ones below it are properly secured, funded, and maintained. Where a power gets itself in to trouble is when it neglects "lower echelon" requirements - through ill-understanding or immature priorities - and instead get's top heavy.

Smart move by France in bolstering the base of its maritime power. With this secure, it will have better standing in higher echelon functions.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Ukraine & the Eastern Black Sea with CAPT Chris Rawley, USNR - on Midrats

If it is early summer in the Black Sea, it is time for the annual Ukrainian hosted international exercise Sea Breeze.

Why is this exercise important, who came along, and what does it tell us about the state of the Ukrainian Navy, maritime security in the contested eastern Black Sea, and some interesting responses from the Russians?

Recently returning from the exercise and joining us for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be returning guest, Captain Chris Rawley, USNR

CAPT Rawley is the Reserve Chief of Staff for US. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Over his 29 year career, he has deployed to the Persian Gulf, Western Pacific, Iraq, Afghanistan, and across Africa.

In his civilian career, Chris is the founder and CEO of Harvest Returns, a platform for investing in agriculture.

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, July 16, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Five years ago, an exceptional American Army NCO from WWII passed away, Technician 5th grade (E4) from the 103rd Infantry Division, awarded the Bronze Star by the USA and Légion d'honneur from France.

He lived 102 years, and with him passed the last war chief of the Crow Tribe.

A great American, Joe Medicine Crow;

According to Crow tradition, a man must fulfill certain requirements to become chief of the tribe: command a war party successfully, enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse, wrestle a weapon away from his enemy and touch the first enemy fallen, without killing him.

Joe Medicine Crow was the last person to meet that code, though far from the windswept plains where his ancestors conceived it. During World War II, when he was a scout for the 103rd Infantry in Europe, he strode into battle wearing war paint beneath his uniform and a yellow eagle feather inside his helmet. So armed, he led a mission through German lines to procure ammunition. He helped capture a German village and disarmed — but didn’t kill — an enemy soldier. And, in the minutes before a planned attack, he set off a stampede of 50 horses from a Nazi stable, singing a traditional Crow honor song as he rode away.

“I never got a scratch,” he recalled to the Billings Gazette decades later.