242 Years in Pictures; Happy Birthday Navy

The United States Navy was originally established as the Continental navy on 13 October 1775, when the Continental Congress authorized the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.


At St Eustatius, in the Dutch West Indies, the brig Andrea Doria took the first salute offered by a foreign power to the US Flag. Later the man that Catherine the Great called “the greatest sailor who ever served Russia” would fight a single ship action, off Flamborough head, on the east coast of England. He won, although his ship, the Bonhomme Richard was sunk by HMS Serapis.

Her captain, John Paul Jones, when asked, after the flag was carried away if he had struck, replied, “I have not yet begun to fight”. He also passed along some wisdom which still guides the navy today,

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.

In 1794, Congress authorized six frigates. Amongst a few other things, this convinced Paul Revere to start the Revere Copper Works, to make the copper sheets for their bottoms. You might have heard of that organization, they still make some of the best cookware in the country, copper-bottomed, of course.

Those ships, Chesapeake, Constitution, President, Congress, and Constellation, were so good, and well constructed that one of them, USS Constitution is still afloat and in commission, the oldest warship in the world to be so. HMS Victory is older but is in permanent drydock.

These were the ships that fought the quasi-war against France, The Barbary war against Tripoli, where Decatur burned the Philadelphia in Tripoli harbor, to keep the Barbary Pirates from using it. This accomplishment led Britain’s Lord Nelson to call it the most bold and daring act of the age.

In the War of 1812, credible and valorous service obtained from the fledgeling navy – until it was driven from the sea by the overwhelming force of the Royal Navy. But when the British attempted to counterinvade from Canada, the navy found a new hero in Oliver Hazzard Perry after his victory in the battle of Lake Erie ended the threat of invasion. He flew a flag with the last command of Captain Lawrence of USS Chesapeake, “Don’t give up the ship, fight her till she sinks”. His dispatch to General Harrison has become a classic.

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,
O.H. Perry

 

At Vera Cruz, during the Mexican war in concert with General Scott, the navy conducted the largest amphibious assault seen until that time, one of the toughest battle problems even to this day.

Then came the Civil War and blockade duty, and what we today call riverine war. Occasionally exciting as when Admiral Farragut commanded, “Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead”, at Mobile Bay. And there was a precursor as off Hampton Roads two Ironclad vessels fought each other to a standstill. These were, of course, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac).

Then in 1898 the US Navy finished what Drake had started with the Armada in 1588, the end of the Spanish Empire, off Cuba at the battle of Santiago e Cuba the Atlantic fleet destroyed the Spanish fleet, while in Manila Bay Commodore Dewey leading in his flagship USS Olympia destroyed the local fleet, and ended up with the Philippines.

And it is here that the United States became one of the Great Powers, primarily a maritime power, like Great Britain, and for the same reason, we have always been traders, all over the world, soon we would be involved in hunting U-boats and fighting at Jutland. But we really came of age in that wars second act. After the devastating loss at Pearl Harbor.

The next few years would see the building, training and employment of the greatest fleets in the history of the world, the liberation of not only Europe but Asia as well, as the power of the New World was transported around the world to fight and to win.

On the deck of one of the most powerful battleships to ever sail, in Tokyo Harbor.

But American have always known that freedom needs safeguarding and so, the sons and grandchildren of those warriors are still on guard around the world, not that many, but hopefully enough of them. Because we still have enemies, even if they are not so clear as they once were. But still, the fleets of freedom sail, to do good to friends, and to destroy enemies, for always there are rumors of war on the horizon, and no longer will we have time to build the fleet when we need it.

And so, yesterday, on Navy Day, the President issued a statement.

13 October 2017

As Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces, it is an honor to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the United States Navy.

Today, we recognize generations of brave men and women who have served in the United States Navy. Through their courage, selfless service, and unmatched professionalism, America’s sailors have projected American power on the seas, on land, and in the air. Today, the Navy continues to deter our enemies and confront the threats posed by terrorists and rogue nations around the world.

As we proudly celebrate the legacy of our Navy, we are all reminded of the duty we share to support our service members, military families, and veterans. Earlier this year, I commissioned the USS Gerald R. Ford into service—marking our Nation’s renewed commitment to providing our military with the tools and technology needed to preserve peace and win any war.

We are making progress on this commitment, but we remain forever indebted to all who serve and sacrifice, Non Sibi Sed Patriae—Not For Self, But For Country. I proudly salute these American heroes, especially those who gave their lives in defense of our Nation.

May God bless the men and women of our great Navy and all our Armed Forces. And may He continue to bless the United States of America.

Donald J. Trump

Happy Birthday, Navy

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Sea Lines of Communication

Maritime Traffic, courtesy of the Naval War College

Back when I was a young man I was a member of both the Air Force Association and the United States Naval Institute. Both helped my knowledge of world affairs (and the military’s role) immensely. They are interesting organizations.

Those of you have been in (or even around) the military know what lines of communications are. That’s where orders come down but, so do the beans, bullets, and gas. The thing is countries have them too. The United States has them all over the world, and even where they may not be so crucial to us they may be to our allies.

For instance our lines of communication to Europe have always been important, they were one of the causes of winning the Revolution and were also one of the major causes of the war of 1812.

Sea lines of communication are what the navy is all about (with some help from the air force). I’ve written before about Freedom of the Seas, what is important here is that this is a defensive posture, we need the sea lanes open. The other side of this is area denial, which means you can’t use it even if I can’t either. This is what the German U-boat campaigns in both world wars and the US sub campaign against Japan were all about. This is a much easier (although an offensive and not a defensive ) mission.

Sea Lines of Communication (or SLOC, as they are sometimes called) are one of the causes of the Spanish-American War, we needed Hawaii and Cuba/Puerto Rico as coaling bases for the fleet to support the isthmian canal which we needed to be able to reinforce either the Pacific Fleet or Atlantic Fleet as required.

This is what our Carrier Battle Groups do: they defend the sea lanes and they do it superlatively. World commerce works because the United States Navy protects it, before we had this duty, it was the reason for the Royal Navy. That’s why in both countries, while honored and admired, submariners have rarely been the commanders. Yes, I know, Nimitz.  Submarine are an area denial weapon, so are the air forces.

One of the most interesting anomalies in the Air Force is that the individualistic, hell for leather fighter pilots are a defensive weapon while the anonymous bombers crews are the offense.

The SLOCs have some choke points built-in to them, During the Cold War there was a lot of talk about the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom (GIUK) gap. The reason was that much of the US’s and Canada’s war material was in North America and would constitute the follow on force in a general war in western Europe. Other ones are Gibraltar, the Dardanelles, the English Channel, the Strait of Hormuz, and the one I’m mostly talking about today, the Malacca Strait. See map.

The Strait of Malacca

Here’s the description from Wikipedia:

The Strait of Malacca is a narrow, 805 km (500 mi) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia) and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is named after the Malacca Sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1414 and 1511.

And here, again from Wikipedia, is why it’s important:

From an economic and strategic perspective, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.

The strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, China, Japan and South Korea. Over 50,000 (94,000?)vessels pass through the strait per year, carrying about one-quarter of the world’s traded goods including oil, Chinese manufactures, and Indonesian coffee.

About a quarter of all oil carried by sea passes through the strait, mainly from Persian Gulf suppliers to Asian markets such as China, Japan, and South Korea. In 2006, an estimated 15 million barrels per day (2,400,000 m3/d) were transported through the strait.

That’s a lot of oil, and a lot of it goes to our friends in the region, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

You’ve noticed that there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver there, that’s a problem for us. The carriers while immensely powerful (equal to most country’s air forces) need room to maneuver, when you’re sailing into the wind at 30 knots you can cover a lot of water. but it’s doable. They are also quite vulnerable if an enemy can get close, that’s what the rest of the battle group is about. This, incidentally, has been true of capital ships forever, battleships had vulnerabilities too, chiefly to aircraft and submarines.

Anyway, the Obama administration made a lot of noise a while back about a ‘Pivot to Asia” or something like that. That could make sense since they seem to be running away from our commitments in the Middle East. But that leaves the question, With what?

Let’s take a look at a couple of charts from the Naval History Center:

U.S.Navy Active Ship Force Levels, 1917-1923

Date 4/6/17 11/11/18 7/1/19 7/1/20 7/1/21 7/1/22 7/1/23
Battleship 37 39 36 26 22 19 18
Monitors, Coastal 7 7 5 1 2@
Carriers, Fleet
Carriers, Escort
Cruisers 33 31 28 27 10 12 13
Destroyers 66 110 161 189 68 (208rc ) 103 103
Frigates 17 17
Submarines 44 80 91 58 69 (11rc) 82 (7rc) 69 (5rc)
Mine Warfare 53 62 48 50 (8rc) 36 38
Patrol 42 350 65 45 59 (1rc) 43 41
Auxiliary 96 87 304 173 104 83 82
Surface Warships 160 204 230 243 102 134 134
Total Active 342 774 752 567 384 (228rc) 379 (7rc) 365 (5rc)
Events
•  U.S. enters WWI 6 April 1917

•  Bolshevik Revolution begins 28 October (Old Style) 1917

•  WWI ends 11 November 1918

•  Washington Treaty in force 17 August 1923.

and

U.S.Navy Active Ship Force Levels, 2007 to 2011

Date 9/30/07 9/30/08 9/30/09 9/30/10 9/30/11
Carriers 11 11 11 11 11
Cruisers 22 22 22 22 22
Destroyers 52 54 57 59 61
Frigates 30 30 30 29 26
LCS * 1 1 2 2
Submarines 53 53 53 53 53
SSBN 14 14 14 14 14
SSGN 4 4 4 4 4
Mine Warfare 14 14 14 14 14
Amphibious 33 34 33 33 31
Auxiliary 46 45 46 47 47
Surface Warships 115 118  121  123 122
Total Active 278** 282 285 288 285
Notes
•    Cost increases encourage construction of more affordable class of littoral combat ships, intended for inshore or ‘brown water’ operations in high risk environments.

*     Littoral Combat Ship

**     Low since 19th-century

Thus we can see that the navy is smaller than it was on the eve of World War 1 when its primary role was hemispheric defense, not the worldwide mission it has now, and only 7 ships larger than it has been at any time since the 19th century. Sure, the modern navy is far more powerful and because of the logistics train that the navy perfected in World War II much more far-ranging than the old coal powered fleet. But, you know what, our men (and women) still like to come home once in a while. They are seeing down the road still more cutbacks in their personnel. In some ways, normally the air force can pick up some of the slack but, the cuts they are facing are worse than the navy’s, and the air force maritime role is area denial, aircraft cannot control the sea (or land), they can only make it unusable for the enemy.

The Threat:

The threats in the area of the Straits of Malacca are both real and potential. This is another area in which piracy is fairly common, the solutions are known but spottily applied. A carrier battle group for this is rather like swatting flies with a battleship’s main battery anyway. What’s needed here are small, fast ,versatile ships with helos instead of jet fighters and marines (or seals) deployed. That’s fine in an otherwise innocuous area but, there are other threats, real and potential.

The other threat is China, of course. This could be their big breakthrough onto the world stage. Blocking the Strait of Malacca could starve Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and maybe Australia and New Zealand into submission. That’s a strategic victory for China. We’ve been hearing for a while now about their development of attack drones. Like our air force, these would be an area denial weapon, they can’t control the area with them but they can keep anyone from using it without their permission. These could even be a threat to our carrier battle groups. They’re not there yet but with their expertise in cyber-warfare and stolen western technology they could get there. What are we going to do about it? It’s going to depend on what we (and our allies) have and the cupboard while not empty is surely not stocked for this scale of operations.

The coupling of defense into the budget talks has done the national security mission great harm in the last few years. Will there be enough for the challenges ahead? I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like anybody else has much confidence either. That’s always a bad way to go into the future.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

Farragut at New Orleans

David Glasgow Farragut had a problem; he’d been shelling the forts below New Orleans for a solid week, expending 15,000 shells. He was starting to shake some of his ships apart, and it seemed as if he was making no progress either.

For that matter, the war wasn’t going all that well, either, in that spring of 1862. Just a few days ago, Grant had been surprised at Shiloh Church, and while he recovered on the second day, the butcher’s bill was shocking. And as always, the accusations flew fast and furious that Grant had been drunk, and that Sherman was mad. Well maybe Grant was, he was never at his best when his wife, Julia, was not with him, and Uncle Billy had his moments, but they would come into their own, right now they were stifled by superior officers, Shiloh would begin to cure that.

In the east, McClellan was in the process of getting bogged down, both militarily and in the mud, on the Peninsula. Smartly executed, it was a plan that might well have taken Richmond, whether it would have ended the war is quite doubtful. But in any case, Pinkerton, who was his intelligence chief, exaggerated the forces arrayed against him, and ‘Mac’ wasn’t over bold, in any case. Part of that was because of his love of his troops, which they returned, he tended to forget his mission to safeguard them, which of course, made it worse. It would also have the strange outcome of Mac running against Lincoln in 1864, on a platform that the war had failed, although not saying that it lasted longer and was more deadly because of him.

Soon, R.E. Lee would replace Johnston who would be wounded commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, give orders to suppress General Pope’s army, thus setting in train the moves that would lead to ‘artillery hell’ or Antietam, and thus a very narrow window, which gave the President his opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

So, while there was some cause for optimism in Washington, you weren’t going to get it from the press. Farragut knew all this, of course, and it wasn’t likely to be career enhancing to go back down the Mississippi with his tail between his legs. He also had something new. Most or maybe all of his combatant ships were steam powered, he could go straight into the wind, for nearly the first time in history, a naval commander wasn’t dependent on the wind. And so he decided.

Yesterday, his squadron ran the batteries downstream from New Orleans, they took some damage, but they made it, and then scattered a makeshift flotilla, above the city. It took a considerable portion of guts because it looked like a very good way to sink the entire squadron. But you know, conventional thinking is often wrong.

And so, today, at noon, Admiral Farragut would step onto the levee at New Orleans, and soon there would be 10,000 Union troops in town. And the Confederates would lose for all time, the great port of the old southwest, not to mention that while they could still cross ship on the river (until Grant took Vicksburg, in about a year) it was closed to international trade. And that was one of the first blows that doomed the Confederacy. Today in 1862.

via It Takes Guts | Practically Historical

Well Said, Sir

 

No comment necessary

But you know, the Admiral’s speech wasn’t bad either.

 

Freedom of the Seas

We are the world’s most prolific trading nation, we inherited this title someplace in the late 19th century from Britain, the traditional “Nation of Shopkeepers” Why is this, how did it occur and what does it mean?

Note that my title does not refer to the UN Law of the Sea or anything other than the traditional meaning.

We all know that the Britain we rebelled against was a mercantilist nation, whose ruling class believed that colonies existed for the benefit of the motherland, hence duties on sugar and tea and most of the articles of domestic life. It also led to a ban on manufacturing in the colonies. That all well and good, for the motherland, anyway. The American colonists weren’t particularly happy about it, however, seeing as they believed (as it said in their charters) that they were Englishmen with all the rights and duties pertaining to that status.

A side note that we should make in these times is that those colonies were almost all corporations. Yes, they were, from Virginia and Massachusetts Bay on down to Georgia. Free associations of people banding together for a common purpose. And you thought America wasn’t grounded in business, what could be more American than that, the very founding of the 13 colonies was by business. The Empire in India came about similarly, most of the conquering was done by the British  East India Company, the government took over later.

Anyway, the mercantilist vision wasn’t working all that well. First, the Americans revolted and made it stick, then they screwed up the triangular trade with the ban on the import of slaves after 1800, and then they were taking a lot of the trade in British bottoms away, too.

It was time for a rethink. A goodly part of the British upper class (as with America) had read their Adam Smith and were beginning to think about capitalism instead of corporatism. Obviously, it wasn’t anywhere near this clear-cut. We can’t say that on 2 February 1809 Britain abandoned mercantilism, it was a gradual shifting of view and traces of mercantilism remain to this day, that’s part of what tariffs and VAT taxes are about.

But by the time the Napoleonic Wars had ended, Britain looked around and found that they made far better profits by trading with everyone from Andorra to Zimbabwe, and ruling only enough to keep their shipping (and Navy) supplied. They also found that with other maritime powers in the world (The United States, the Dutch, and maybe the French) while their profit was lower (per item) but there were many more items.

From this came a new doctrine: Freedom of the Seas. Essentially this doctrine was pretty much the American position leading up to the War of 1812. International waters are free for the passage of all upon their peaceful pursuits. It has always been modified in time of war. The blockades of the Confederacy in the Civil War, of Germany (and England via the U-Boats) in World Wars 1 & 2, and of Japan in World War 2. They are still being used as sanctions against such countries as Syria and Libya today.

By 1815 Great Britain had found that the free republics of South and Central America had become quite large trading partners as had the United States (which had no small maritime fleet either, up till the Civil War when the Confederate raiders made insurance too expensive, the US was usually rated second only to Great Britain itself).

You may recall that I have referred to the War on the Barbary Coast (where Marine Officers got their sword), this was all about freedom of the seas, the Barbary coast pirates (an early form of state sponsored terrorism) were in the habit of demanding tribute for passage through the Mediterranean and often got it. When the USS Philadelphia went aground off the Tripoli Harbor, was captured and the crew enslaved the United States got fed up. Here’s a short story from Wikipedia.

Burning of the USS Philadelphia

Burning of the USS Philadelphia, via Wikipedia

She cruised off Tripoli until October 31, 1803, when she ran aground on an uncharted reef off Tripoli Harbor. Under fire from shore batteries and Tripolitan gunboats all efforts to refloat her failed, and she surrendered; her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha.

The Philadelphia was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitans, so a decision was made to recapture or destroy her. Under the guise of a ship in distress in need of a place to tie up after having lost all anchors in a storm, on 16 February 1804 a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under LieutenantStephen Decatur, Jr. boarded her from the ketch Intrepidand burned her where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this “the most bold and daring act of the age.”

Eventually, the Pirates learned that American ships were formidable fighters and pretty much left them alone after a regime change or two.

Meantime after the defeat of Napoleon, Great Britain had become anti-slavery and acting (again in consort with the United States) had forbidden the slave trade to the new world. They also provided the muscle to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, because their trade with Latin America was too great to risk losing. They also opposed the annexation of Texas by the US for the same reason.

Bases for the fleet in anticipation of the Panama Canal was one of the unstated reasons for the Spanish-American War, where we flirted for the first (and thankfully) last time with an Empire. We gained Puerto Rico, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Philippines (temporarily) from that conflict.

During the last half of the 19th Century, while we weren’t paying much attention to it, we became the largest trading nation in history, first as an importer and then as our industrial revolution went on as an exporter. This was also the era when the American harvest became an important thing worldwide. We had begun to feed the world and do it better than it had ever been done before.

By World War 1 we had become indispensable, although nobody really knew it yet. But the U-boat campaign nearly starved Great Britain, and the Allies nearly bankrupted themselves buying from such companies as Colt and Winchester. (And you thought the 2d Amendment was about politics, it’s about freedom, all over the world.)

At the end of the war, in the Washington Naval Conference, Great Britain ceded to the United States naval parity, knowing that it would turn into superiority. Here begins Britain descent into the second rank of powers, and the American duty of freedom of the seas.

It took a while for Americans to realize it of course, until 7 December 1941 to be exact. Since then we have never looked back, the paramount fleet in the world has been supplemented with both the paramount Army and Air Force. Is there really anybody in the free or quasi-free world that would have it any other way. Do we, or the Australians, or the South Koreans, or even the Indians, really want control of the seas to reside, even partially, with the Chinese?

Freedom of the Seas mostly kept the peace for most of the 19th Century with the Royal Navy in charge, and for the last 65 years with the United States in charge, those two periods have witnessed the largest growth in living standards all across the world ever seen. And it has averted many wars, including the unthinkable: a thermonuclear war between the United States and Soviet Russia in October of 1962, when the maritime exclusion zone was instituted (selectively, to be sure) around Cuba. Control of and freedom of the seas has been America’s first line of defense as long as there has been America.

Here’s John F. Kennedy’s take:

“Events of October 1962 indicated, as they had all through history, that control of the sea means security. Control of the seas can mean peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the seas if it is to protect your security….”

President John F. Kennedy, 6 June 1963, on board USS Kitty Hawk.

We seem to be seeing a resurgence of the isolationism that we had before the Second World War, their shortsightedness led to the Second World War. As much as we need to change the paradigm in Washington D.C., and we really, really do. I don’t think we want to risk World War Three, either.

First published on 13 December 2011.

Of Danegeld and Iranians

s749518301978605088_c4_i3_w640From Fortune Magazine

The controversial $400 million payment that the U.S. sent to Iran in January, just as four American hostages were released—a planeload of Euros, Swiss Francs and other currencies—was only the first of three American cash deliveries to the country, the Obama administration reportedly told lawmakers on Tuesday.

During the 19 days following the first shipment, the U.S. sent two more planeloads of cash, totaling $1.3 billion, to Tehran, reports The Wall Street Journal. The two planeloads, which passed through Europe on Jan. 22 and Feb. 5, followed the same route as the earlier payment, a congressional aide who was briefed told the Journal. In the first payment, an Iranian cargo plane picked up the money in Geneva.

via TREASON: Obama admits he really payed 1.7 BILLION to the Iranians – The Right Scoop

Ralph Peters called it a bribe, and the post that I took that quote from calls it Jizya. In neither case do I think they are exactly wrong, but I think it something else.

When we combine it with the continuing naval harassment in the gulf, it reminds me of something.

We all know that Obama is not fond of the Anglo-Saxon part of his heritage, or indeed of England/Great Britain/ the United Kingdom, many would add the United States to the list. That’s as may be, but it begs the question, has he learned the lessons that came down in that heritage? We learned many years ago about this.

More than a century ago Rudyard Kipling brought our attention to our ancient wisdom, when he wrote

Dane-Geld

A.D. 980-1016
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: —
“We invaded you last night–we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: —
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!”

And that is why Saxon silver was found all over the Viking world, they hadn’t learned that yet, and that is also why at the end of the Viking age, we find the King of Norway and the Duke of Normandy contesting the Danish heir to the English throne.

Anyone who was bullied as a child knows the answer, though. When confronted on the schoolyard, win or lose, one must stand up to the bully, or the bullying will continue. Too bad that our PC Administration never learned that lesson. Even Thomas Jefferson learned; that’s how the USMC got their sword, right in that neighborhood, in Lybia to be exact.

And as we are relearning to our sorrow, nobody respects the man who pays the Danegeld.

Reminded me of this, as well

They used to say that you don’t have to worry about that angering the United States because they might drop a couple of hundred bombs on you. You have to worry about angering the United States because they might drop two bombs on you.

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