Leadership in the News

Thanksgiving week is always a bit strange, and this year is no exception. I think today we’ll cover some stories that we missed in the last few days since they have some serious repercussions.


First, those amazing Hong Kongers managed to turn an election for essentially dogcatcher, in the American idiom, into a Chinese regime shaking moment that gave the lie to the entire Chicom propaganda effort. As Claudia Rossett writes for PJ Media

Their Finest Hour.

And she’s right, it’s a moment of English speaking history to stand with Agincourt, with Lexington and Concord, and with Churchill’s vaunted Few. All those, just like Hong Kong’s stand were very marginal efforts with long odds against tyranny. It’s what we do, or at least what we used to do. The rest of us need to be worthy of the Hong Kongers.


The Secretary of the Navy got fired last weekend, and it was decidedly for cause. The Colonel explains at Townhall.

Here’s what happened. The president used his constitutional prerogative to pardon or otherwise restore the rank of three accused military personnel, which some of us in the military community had mixed feelings about but which some flag officers vehemently opposed. The most clearly correct action was the restoration of the rank of SEAL Eddie Gallagher. His shameful prosecution had been replete with JAG misconduct, including the mind boggling decision of the prosecutors to electronically spy on defense attorneys. Beyond this outrage – and I note, incredulously, that apparently no one was prosecuted for doing it[…]

There’s more, he explains the situation very clearly. He also explains how command works.

In any case, the president was unequivocal about what he wanted, and this pipsqueak admiral publicly defied and disrespected him. Then Trump tweeted that it was not going to happen. What should have happened is the Chief of Naval Operations should have picked up the phone breathing fire, but he didn’t, and it got worse. Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, Chief of Information, issued a statement reading:

“The Navy follows the lawful orders of the President. We will do so in case of an order to stop the administrative review of SOC Gallagher’s professional qualification. We are aware of the President’s tweet and we are awaiting further guidance.”

At the same time, according to NPR, the Navy pressed on with its administrative review of Gallagher’s status.

This is intolerable.

Fire them all.

Indeed so, in fact to this old fashioned guy, the term “Conduct unbecoming to good order and discipline” comes to mind. Maybe court-martial them first and retire them as an E1.

I’m pretty easy going as a boss, but if you tried that on me, you’d be walking back to town, on your own freaking time. Simply not tolerable.


The Babylon Bee
@TheBabylonBee

And speaking of talking out of both sides of your mouth, have you been keeping up with Chik-fil-A? Robert Gagnon at The Federalist has.

“I picked up the phone and called Dan Cathy. Dan was very clear that they have not bowed down to anyone’s demands, including the LGBTQ community,” [Rev Franklin] Graham said. “They will continue to support whoever they want to support. They haven’t changed who they are or what they believe. Chick-fil-A remains committed to Christian values. Dan Cathy assured me that this isn’t going to change.”

Yeah, Bullshit.

‘There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,’ Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos said in an interview with Bisnow. ‘There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A [critical of our support of anti-gay-marriage charities], and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.’ … Future partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities, but the company said none of the organizations have anti-LGBT positions. … After years of ‘taking it on the chin,’ as a Chick-fil-A executive told Bisnow, the latest round of headlines was impossible to ignore. This time, it was impeding the company’s growth.

That is not what Dan Cathy has been saying all these years. Either they’ve changed or they’ve been lying to us for a decade, while we social conservatives made them the third-largest restaurant chain in America. Which is it?

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was quite right in his comment on this interview: “Chick-fil-A didn’t just switch their giving practices, they broadcasted it. They made a conscious choice to draw attention to this very public divorce from two Bible-believing charities. And then, in a calculated move, announced their support was going to an organization that, on its website, openly and proudly supports everything about the LGBT community.” […]

Compromise has been going on for a while. It is just now getting more blatant. Back in 2015, Chick-fil-A was listed as a sponsor for an LGBT film festival. By 2011, CFA had stopped giving to LGBT bullies’ big-target organizations, such as Family Research CouncilExodus International, and Eagle Forum, in an obvious effort to mollify critics.

Chick-fil-A had a record $3 billion in earnings for 2018. Apparently, that was not enough. What does one call prostituting one’s values for the sake of still more money and more social approval, dumping one’s loyal lover in the process?

I can tell you what Old Testament prophets would have said: Chick-fil-A is now officially a greedy and cowardly corporate whore, like nearly all other large corporations. Its betrayal now is worse than if it had started out with such an MO. It would have been better if it had never existed.

That’s the thing about God, isn’t it? He doesn’t brook much bullshit. It’s possible, I suppose, that Chik-fil-A has a communication problem similar to the one we talked about above in the Navy. Then Cathy needs to fire that chain of command and fix it.

Meantime, I prefer honest whores. So Chik-fil-A won’t be getting my money. In addition, it is a living demonstration that “When you pay the Dane, you never get rid of the Dane”.

St. Crispin/Crispians Day

Well, it’s St Crispin’s Day again, and that makes it a day to talk of the bravery of English and American armed forces, not that there is ever a bad day for that. St. Crispin’s Day is a pretty good encapsulation of our military histories though, always brave, sometimes badly led, and more often than not, victorious.

From Wikipedia: “Saint Crispin’s Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian Saints Crispin and Crispinian , twins who were martyred c. 286.” That’s where the day gets its name. What it’s famous for is the battles of the English-speaking peoples that have been fought on it. The fact that we have fought some of our most famous battles on a day name for twins, I find interesting.

The first we will look at took place during the “Hundred Years War”. Henry V of England with a small army was on his way to Calais, getting chased all over northern France by Constable Charles d’Albret of France. The French King (Charles VI) was mentally incapacitated. Henry was heavily outnumbered and decided to arouse his exhausted army before the battle by giving a speech.

The English won the battle with ridiculously low casualties while wreaking havoc on the French forces. The reason for this was the English (and Welsh) longbowmen, making this the first battle since Roman times when infantry was anything but a rabble for the knights to ride down.

For this reason, Agincourt is often cited as a victory for the freemen of England over the aristocracy.

Battle number two for the day wasn’t so kind to the British.

This one was a cavalry charge against Russian Artillery. It was commanded by Lord Raglan (Yes, the sleeves are named for him). The orders he issued were vague and Lord Cardigan (Yes, he designed the sweater) executed the worst possible interpretation of them. The charge was carried out by the British light cavalry brigade which consisted of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, whose bravery we have never forgotten. It was too well immortalized.

Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Here’s a visual version.

It should be added that Great Britain didn’t do a great job of taking care of their veterans (neither did the U.S.) in those days.  Rudyard Kipling had this to say:

The Last of the Light Brigade

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.

“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made – ”
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

OK, that’s two, only one more to go, 90 years later, to the day, halfway around the world

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

This time it’s the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Japanese realized that losing the Philippine Islands meant losing the war put everything they had left into this battle. Here a chart that shows the relative strengths.

Navy Large carriers Small Carriers Aircraft Embarked Battleships Cruisers Destroyers
United States 8 24  1712 12  24 141 
Japan 1 117 9  20 34

from: http://www.angelfire.com/fm/odyssey/LEYTE_GULF_Summary_of_the_Battle_.htm

From the chart, you can see how amazingly the USN had recovered from Pearl Harbor and the early battles of the war. You should also note that if the ship is not engaged in the battle it doesn’t count for much, so here we go.

The Japanese had a complicated plan depending on close timing between forces coming from various ports and operating under what we call EMCOM now. Essentially radio silence; meaning they couldn’t coordinate their attacks.

The Japanese carriers which had essentially no planes or pilots were used as a decoy force to try to pull Halsey’s 3d fleet away to the north. This worked, although it took them a long time to attract the American’s attention. When they were finally spotted Halsey went charging off after them until he was almost in gunshot and then turned around to help 7th fleet (which we are coming to). This also ended up being too late, so America’s premier naval force mostly sailed around burning oil and accomplishing not much of anything.

The Japanese Centre Force was first spotted in the Palawan Passage by the submarines Darter and Dace. Darter sank the Heavy Cruiser Atago which was Admiral Kurita’s flagship and Dace sank the Takao and severely damaged the Maya, which was forced to withdraw.

Halsey’s force made 259 sorties against the Centre Force eventually sinking the battleship Musashi with her 18.1-inch guns. They also did damage to some other ships. But Kurita made for the San Bernadino Strait at night with 4 battleships and 6 heavy and 3 light cruisers all fully operational.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Southern force including two elderly battleships under Admirals Nishimura and Shima were spotted on the morning of the 24th and Admiral Kincaid who realized they would attempt to attack the landing through the Surigao Strait was preparing to meet them. Kincaid’s 7th fleet had plenty of power for this.

The Battle of Surigao Strait

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had 6 old battleships (5 of which had been sunk at Pearl Harbor), 4 Heavy and 4 Light Cruisers, 26 destroyers and 39 PT Boats. He deployed his lighter ship along the side of the strait and formed his battle line. PT 131 made the first contact and for 3 and a half hours the squadron attacked the Japanese force without a hit but, providing contact reports to the force. As Nishimura’s forces entered the strait the American destroyers attacked; hitting both battleships, the Yamishira was able to continue but, Fuso blew up and sank. Admiral Shima with the 2d Striking Force was much discouraged when he came upon the burning halves and other wreckage of the destroyer attack and decided to withdraw. So as Admiral Nishimura emerged from the strait to engage Oldendorf’s battle line, he had 1 Battleship, 1 Cruiser, and 1 Destroyer. Oldendorf crossed his “T”. Parenthetically this is what Lord Nelson risked with his battle plan at Trafalgar that we talked about a few days ago. The American Battleline started firing as they got range information (some had radar rangefinders and some didn’t) at about 30,000 yards. The Battleship was sunk, the Cruiser wrecked and somehow the Destroyer escaped. This was the last surface gun action in history.

The battle off Samar

7th fleet had 18 escort carriers divided into thee task units. They were equipped for fighting submarines and providing air cover to the landing, not for a full-on naval battle. These are usually referred to by their radio call signs Taffy 1, Taffy 2, and the most northerly, Taffy 3 under Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. It was a routine morning until at 0647 Ensign Jensen from the Kadashan Bay sighted (and attacked) a force that he accurately reported as 4 Battleships and 8 Cruisers. The surprise was complete. A few minutes later heavy shells began falling around the carriers.

Admiral Sprague was in trouble. He was being chased by heavily armed warships which were considerably faster than his escort carriers and were already in range. He also had very few weapons that could hurt them. He started chasing shell splashes, making smoke, running away, and yelling for help, from 3d fleet, 7th fleet, a merciful God, or somewhere. At 0716 he also ordered his three destroyers, the Hoel, the Herrmann, and the Johnston, to counterattack the Japanese which they did with incredible bravery. At 0750 the Destroyer escorts also attacked. Remember these are anti-submarine ships with 5-inch and 3-inch guns going on the attack against Battleships and Heavy Cruisers. Not terribly different from charging the Russian guns 90 years before. They attacked with torpedoes and guns and managed to disrupt the Japanese formation enough to give Sprague a chance to get away. All the available aircraft also attacked even though they weren’t carrying the proper (if any) ordnance for this work, they strafed and buzzed and annoyed the Japanese though.

By 0945 the Johnston, the Hoel and destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts had been sunk. and the escort carrier Gambier Bay was hit repeatedly by 8-inch shells and sank at 0907.

But Kurita had lost control of his formation (and was probably worrying about when 3d fleet would turn up) and broke off the action at 0911.

While Taffy 3 was doing all this, Taffy 1 was subjected to the first organized use of that new weapon: the Kamikaze, Taffy three would be so attacked in the afternoon.

And so we have St Crispin’s Day, a day of mostly victorious battle for the English-speaking peoples. The English win one with a “Band of Brothers”; the British lose one heroically and gloriously, and the Americans win one part easily, live through a terrible nightmare, while the American varsity is off hunting empty carriers.

 

The Monday Roundup

A lot of (what I think is) good thinking showed up over the weekend. So let’s take a look at it. In American Thinker, Shoshana Bryen tells us that Trump’s foreign policy is “more money, less military’“.

One way to understand Trump administration foreign policy is to understand that it is more comfortable with the currency of currency than the currency of American soldiers abroad.  That isn’t always the best approach, since many of America’s adversaries are wedded to military interventions — including grossly illegal ones.  And how the United States reassures its allies that it is not abandoning the playing field to soldiers on the other side is of inestimable importance.

But since money appears central to administration thinking, consider China, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the Trump administration.

That’s an interesting thought, and while I agree that it is not always the best approach, it’s not a terrible default idea – the soldiers are still about, but money is cheaper (for us, anyway) than blood.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, appears to have a stiffer spine, as befits the government of the United States.  It has gone straight after what China cares about most: energy, espionage, and the surveillance of its people. […]

And Huawei, the Chinese tech company, is looking to be running low on American semiconductors and other parts for its 5G network, raising questions about its ability to maintain global dominance in telecommunications — and industrial and national security spying.  Huawei can substitute its own parts in the network for American parts, but The Washington Post reports that “analysts have said a Huawei operating system would have a tough time competing globally with Google and its popular Gmail and Chrome apps[.] … Huawei chief executive Ren said the U.S. blockade was causing a large drop in Huawei’s smartphone sales outside of China.”

See what I mean, this may or may not have completely desirable results, but it’s a lot better than getting our people in the way of the Chinese Communists. It also leads into our next article, also from American Thinker by Robert Arvay, who asks is Trump leading Xi and Kim into a death trap.

A dictatorship is nothing more than an organized crime mob on steroids.  The head of state must brutally suppress (read: murder) anyone and everyone who poses even a remote threat to his power.  Dictators do not get voted out of office.  They get carried out, feet first.

Kim Jong-un, the dictator of North Korea (the title of chairman is a euphemism), is exceedingly paranoid.  Paranoia in a dictator is not a disorder; it is a necessary survival mechanism.  Kim not only murders anyone and everyone whom he even suspects of disloyalty, but takes nonlethal measures as well.  He even takes his own toilet with him wherever he travels, in order to prevent his DNA from falling into the hands of analysts who might deduce his physical infirmities. […]

The dictator, then, must carefully balance his threats and promises.  His acolytes must fear him.  Indeed, they must be constantly terrorized by the dictator’s ruthless exercise of authority.  However, the dictator must be exceedingly careful in how much terror he can impose.  Terror keeps him alive.  Panic can kill him. […]

Finally, this is what brings us to the ingenious method by which President Trump is deftly maneuvering both Kim and Xi into their potential death traps.  Both men are surrounded by loyalists who are not only terrorized, but also richly rewarded for their continued loyalty.  Once those rewards stop, once the dictator shows weakness, once he is defeated by a stronger enemy, the loyalists might panic.

Now mind, I doubt the President has thought all this out as clearly as the author writes, but Trump has been around the block a few times with some not overly nice guys, corrupt bureaucrats, even more corrupt unions and I imagine he learned some ways to get things done since he got things done.

Finally, yesterday, in 1775, something new was seen on the sea, for it was the birthdate of the American Navy. From that first salute at Stasia, to gunsmoke off Flamborough Head on the east coast of England, to a commendation from Lord Nelson himself, to the famous single-ship actions, to the destruction of two Spanish fleets, to Midway, Leyte Gulf, the successful submarine campaign, to Inchon, to the disaster relief provided by the fleet and the hospital ships, and right down to this week, the Navy has done it all and done America proud.

None of what we talked about today, or will in the future would be possible without the evident power of the United States Navy.

He who controls the sea controls the trade of the world,

He who controls the trade of the world controls the wealth of the world.

Sir Walter Raleigh and Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Happy Birthday, Navy!

Time for Some Pilot Shit

One for us?

 

Well, we’ll see.

 

I’m with her on that, I want those big brass ones clanking so loud they’re heard from Peking to Tehran, and if they are not, the movie deserves to fail.

Then there is this, which, in truth is both annoying and offensive.

I have to admit I’m quite weary of this pandering. We used to make films for Americans, and the world loved (and still loves) them. Why this bullshit.

But OK, it does give us an excuse. Tony Daniel over at The Federalist reviews the FWS’s (Topgun) original OIC Dan Pedersen’s book.

In his engaging and succinct memoir Top Gun: American Story, Topgun’s original commanding officer Dan Pedersen argues that “what matters is the man, not the machine,” and because of this truism, pilot training will always be far more important than the technology of jet fighters for winning battles in the sky. At present, says Pedersen, “Something is rotten in Washington, and one day, sadly, we will lose a war because of it.”

Pedersen claims that the Navy lacks relatively cheap fighter jets for training such as the old F-14 Tomcats (the “Top Gun” jets in the movie) and others. He cites a price tag for the new F-35 as $330 million per plane. The service can’t buy and maintain a large number of trainers at those prices, he says. As a consequence, much of fighter pilot training must be done on simulators, which, in Pedersen’s view, are an inadequate substitute for real flight time.

More ominously, Pedersen says the Navy has once again been beguiled by the siren song of technological triumphalism and has lost the will to properly instruct pilots in dogfighting techniques. This was precisely the situation during the early years of Vietnam, and it led to devastating American losses, and ultimately to the creation of Topgun, the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (the Navy spells it “Topgun,” without the space between words).

Unfortunately, claims Pedersen, bureaucratic rot and self-destructive rivalry and jealousy have set in in the years since the 1969 founding of that “graduate school for fighter pilots.” Pedersen suggests this is partly due to blowback from the 1986 movie Top Gun, and the lasting cultural cache it bestowed on the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School as a result.

Topgun is no longer located at Naval Air Station Miramar (which is now owned by the Marines), but was moved inland in 1996 to Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. Although Topgun still operates as an independent command, the school has been largely subsumed within the Navy’s Strike Warfare Center at NAS Fallon.

Do read it all, he makes a good case, in an argument that has been going on since the early sixties. For the most part, he is correct, give me a properly trained man, with close to the same capabilities and he will triumph, but technology is also important. Say if Sidewinder had had the problems that Harpoon did, now what? Because the F4 did not have a gun.

We abandoned dogfight training because of the Navy’s faith in missile technology. Most of our aircrews didn’t know how to fight any other way. Yet our own rules of engagement kept us from using what we were taught. The rules of engagement specifically prohibited firing from beyond visual range. To shoot a missile at an aircraft, a fighter pilot first needed to visually confirm it was a MiG and not a friendly plane. . . . Yet three years along, the training squadron in California was still teaching long-range intercept tactics to the exclusion of everything else. Our training was not applicable to the air war in Vietnam.

And that was one of the major problems then…and now as well. We do not fight as we train. We train some of the best warriors in the world, and then our ROE force them to fight with at least one hand behind the back. The Marquess of Queensbury is long dead, and our opponents don’t fight by his rules. Time to take the gloves off.

I’d be far less opposed to using our forces if I had any idea that they would be used to win a victory, and then leave. No more of this nation-building crap, You got yourself into a war with the United States, you got the hell beat out of you, now it’s up to you to fix it, or not, not our problem. The world ain’t no china shop. It’s a place where actions have consequences and many of them are fatal.

That’s my take, anyway. Will I see the movie? Depends on what Vicki said above. But probably not in a theater, my local ones have crap sound, and if jet engines don’t shake the joint, what’s the point?

A Day of Infamy That Changed the World

Yesterday was, of course, Pearl Harbor Day, the day when we commemorate the sneak attack which brought us into World War II. It changed the world and our role in it irrevocably. I don’t have a lot new to say, here are my thoughts.

We often talk of World War II, it was a major series of events in American and world history, as long as those survivors were in charge, things were better than ever, as they leave the stage, we are seeming to come face-to-face with the fact that they went to easy on us, and the discipline to succeed in the real world appears to be lacking. We need to look back and take the lesson that America was taught starting today, 73 years ago.

73 years ago today, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. We were thus thrust onto center stage of the 20th Century’s biggest conflict and the most clear-cut war for liberty in the history of the world. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices made by that generation, who are now leaving us at a very rapid pace. They saved the world for freedom, this would be a very good day to thank them. In this video, I want you to listen to resolve of Franklin Roosevelt, in it you will learn much about leadership in a free country.

My friend Mac, The Lean Submariner brings us a sea story, but a true one, about a man that was there, and who won the Medal of Honor there.

The United States in 1941 was tense and filled with anticipation about the war in Europe. But nothing could prepare the nation for the events that were about to transpire. The nation and the Japanese had long been on a collision course because of the nature of their two cultures. But the population at large had no sense of the grotesque nature of that clash that would occur in the coming days. Or the cost for both nations over the next four years.

 

Washington Evening star. December 06, 1941,

“Silent Prayer Banned At Japanese Shrines

Silent prayers for the dead, which have been said at shrines and temples in Japan ever since the great earthquake of 1924, have been banned.

The Shrine Board in Tokio has ruled that praying silently is a “Christian custom alien to traditions” and requests that, instead, people give two deep bows and two handclaps.”

On the night before December 7, there was only one reference to Japan in the paper which served the nation’s capital.

That is a story not told nearly often enough. BZ Mac!

Over at Chicago Boyz, Sgt. Mom brings us a fictional story of the how the day affected lives, and still does. It may be fiction, but I think it true as well. And a reminder, should we need it, of those who wait, sometimes forever for their love to return.

(I was inspired last year about this time to do a fictional short for the Luna City universe, drawing on certain family memories of that time. The story itself is included in this collection,)

Adeliza Gonzalez-Gonzales – who was never called anything but ‘Adi’ back then – was just thirteen when her older brother Manuel – Manolo to the family, Manny to his Anglo friends – came to Papi and Mama and said to them, “Papi, I want to see more of the world than Karnes County, an’ at the Navy recruiting office, they say that I’ll get a paycheck nice and regular, and I can work on ship engines that are bigger than this house. Besides, everyone says if America gets into a war, then they’ll be drafting men my age, an’ I don’t wanna be a soldier, marching around in the mud and all that. The Navy lives good, and they say that the food is great. Can I have your permission, Papi?”

Mama got all pinch-faced and weepy, because Manolo was her favorite and oldest child. Papi sighed and looked solemn and grave, saying, “Manolo – mi hijo – if this is what you truly want, I will sign the papers.” To Mama, he added, “Do not cry, Estella, can you see your boy as a soldier, following orders?”

“But he still must follow orders – the Navy is as military as the army,” Adeliza piped up, and Manolo jeered and replied, “Nothing like the same at all, Adi!”

Manolo packed a few things in a cheap cardboard suitcase, and climbed aboard the bus to the city, and in time over the next three years the postman delivered hastily-scrawled letters and postcards; letters with odd postmarks and postcards of splendidly colored landscapes and exotic places. Manolo came home on leave once, in the summer, splendid in his white uniform and round white cap, carrying a heavy duffel-bag over his shoulder with apparent ease, seeming to have expanded from a boy into a man. Manolo was greatly excited. His ship was being transferred from the West Coast to the Hawaiian Islands. He brought presents for the family, a breath of fresh air and tales of travels in exotic far lands. Later, he sent his little sister a scarf of silk gauze, printed with a map of the Hawaiian Islands and pineapples and exotic flowers. Adi put it in the chip-carved box where she kept her handkerchiefs and her most precious small possessions. From that time on, a tinted picture-portrait of Manolo in his uniform sat in pride of place on the cabinet radio and Mama kept a candle burning before it always, a candle dedicated to Saint Peter, who had the particular care of sailors.

That is some powerful writing, and when I read it yesterday, I missed that it was fiction. But it doesn’t matter, I think, it may not be any one  in particular, but I suspect it is all of them. The results of the day still echo down time. That war affects almost everything in the world, and the fact that we won it, is the basic fact of the 20th century, the reason it is called the American Century. There were indications before, but that really started on 7 December 1941, as America went to war.

 

St. Crispin/Crispian’s Day

Well, it’s St Crispin’s Day again, and that makes it a day to talk of the bravery of English and American armed forces, not that there is ever a bad day for that. St. Crispins Day is a pretty good encapsulation of our military histories though, always brave, sometimes badly led and more often than not, victorious. I was going to write something else this year but don’t have anything especially earthshaking to add.

From Wikipedia: “Saint Crispin’s Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian Saints Crispin and Crispinian, twins who were martyred c. 286.” That’s where the day gets its name. What it’s famous for is the battles of the English-speaking peoples that have been fought on it.

The first we will look at took place during the “Hundred Years War”. Henry V of England with a small army was on his way to Calais, getting chased all over northern France by Constable Charles d’Albret of France. The French King (Charles VI) was mentally incapacitated. Henry was heavily outnumbered and decided to arouse his exhausted army before the battle by giving a speech.

The English won the battle with ridiculously low casualties while wreaking havoc on the French forces. The reason for this was the English (and Welsh) longbowmen, making this the first battle since Roman times when infantry was anything but a rabble for the knights to ride down.

For this reason, Agincourt is often cited as a victory for the freemen of England over the aristocracy.

Battle number two for the day wasn’t so kind to the British.

This one was a cavalry charge against Russian Artillery. It was commanded by Lord Raglan (Yes, the sleeves are named for him). The orders he issued were vague and Lord Cardigan (Yes, he designed the sweater) executed the worst possible interpretation of them. The charge was carried out by the British light cavalry brigade which consisted of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, whose bravery we have never forgotten. It was too well immortalized.

Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Here’s a visual version.

It should be added that Great Britain didn’t do a great job of taking care of their veterans (neither did the U.S.) in those days.  Rudyard Kipling had this to say:

The Last of the Light Brigade

There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and “Beggin’ your pardon,” he said,
“You wrote o’ the Light Brigade, sir. Here’s all that isn’t dead.
An’ it’s all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin’ the mouth of hell;
For we’re all of us nigh to the workhouse, an’ we thought we’d call an’ tell.

“No, thank you, we don’t want food, sir; but couldn’t you take an’ write
A sort of ‘to be continued’ and ‘see next page’ o’ the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an’ couldn’t you tell ’em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now.”

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with “the scorn of scorn.”
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

O thirty million English that babble of England’s might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made – ”
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

OK, that’s two, only one more to go, 90 years later, to the day, halfway around the world

The Battle of Leyte Gulf

This time it’s the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Japanese realized that losing the Philippine Islands meant losing the war put everything they had left into this battle. Here a chart that shows the relative strengths.

Navy Large carriers Small Carriers Aircraft Embarked Battleships Cruisers Destroyers
United States 8 24  1712 12  24 141 
Japan 1 117 9  20 34

from: http://www.angelfire.com/fm/odyssey/LEYTE_GULF_Summary_of_the_Battle_.htm

From the chart, you can see how amazingly the USN had recovered from Pearl Harbor and the early battles of the war. You should also note that if the ship is not engaged in the battle it doesn’t count for much, so here we go.

The Japanese had a complicated plan depending on close timing between forces coming from various ports and operating under what we call EMCOM now. Essentially radio silence; meaning they couldn’t coordinate their attacks.

The Japanese carriers which had essentially no planes or pilots were used as a decoy force to try to pull Halsey’s 3d fleet away to the north. This worked, although it took them a long time to attract the Americans attention. When they were finally spotted Halsey went charging off after them until he was almost in gunshot and then turned around to help 7th fleet (which we are coming to). This also ended up being too late, so America’s premier naval force mostly sailed around burning oil and accomplishing not much of anything.

The Japanese Centre Force was first spotted in the Palawan Passage by the submarines Darter and Dace. Darter sank the Heavy Cruiser Atago which was Admiral Kurita’s flagship and Dace sank the Takao and severely damaged the Maya, which was forced to withdraw.

Halsey’s force made 259 sorties against the Centre Force eventually sinking the battleship Musashi with her 18.1-inch guns. They also did damage to some other ships. But Kurita made for the San Bernadino Strait at night with 4 battleships and 6 heavy and 3 light cruisers all fully operational.

Meanwhile, the Japanese Southern force including two elderly battleships under Admirals Nishimura and Shima were spotted on the morning of the 24th and Admiral Kincaid who realized they would attempt to attack the landing through the Surigao Strait was preparing to meet them. Kincaid’s 7th fleet had plenty of power for this.

The Battle of Surigao Strait

Rear Admiral Jesse Oldendorf had 6 old battleships (5 of which had been sunk at Pearl Harbor), 4 Heavy and 4 Light Cruisers, 26 destroyers and 39 PT Boats. He deployed his lighter ship along the side of the strait and formed his battle line. PT 131 made first contact and for 3 and a half hours the squadron attacked the Japanese force without a hit but, providing contact reports to the force. As Nishimura’s forces entered the strait the American destroyers attacked; hitting both battleships, the Yamashita was able to continue but, Fuso blew up and sank. Admiral Shima with the 2d Striking Force was much discouraged when he came upon the burning halves and other wreckage of the destroyer attack and decided to withdraw. So as Admiral Nishimura emerged from the strait to engage Oldendorf’s battle line, he had 1 Battleship, 1 Cruiser, and 1 Destroyer. Oldendorf crossed his “T”. Parenthetically this is what Lord Nelson risked with his battle plan at Trafalgar that we talked about a few days ago. The American Battle line started firing as they got range information (some had radar rangefinders and some didn’t) at about 30,000 yards. The Battleship was sunk, the Cruiser wrecked and somehow the Destroyer escaped. This was the last surface gun action in history.

The battle off Samar

USS Hoel

USS Hoel, from Wikipedia

7th fleet had 18 escort carrier divided into thee task units. They were equipped for fighting submarines and providing air cover to the landing, not for full on naval battle. These are usually referred to by their radio call signs Taffy 1, Taffy 2, and the most northerly, Taffy 3 under Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague. It was a routine morning until at 0647 Ensign Jensen from the Kadashan Bay sighted (and attacked) a force that he accurately reported as 4 Battleships and 8 Cruisers. The surprise was complete. A few minutes later heavy shells began falling around the carriers.

Admiral Sprague was in trouble. He was being chased by heavily armed warships which were considerably faster than his escort carriers and were already in range. He also had very few weapons that could hurt them. He started chasing shell splashes, making smoke, running away, and yelling for help, from 3d fleet, 7th fleet, a merciful God, or somewhere. At 0716 he also ordered his three destroyers, the Hoel, the Herrmann, and the Johnston, to counterattack the Japanese which they did with incredible bravery. At 0750 the Destroyer escorts also attacked. Remember these are anti-submarine ships with 5 in and 3-inch guns going on the attack against Battleships and Heavy Cruisers. Not terribly different from charging the Russian guns 90 years before. They attacked with torpedoes and guns and managed to disrupt the Japanese formation enough to give Sprague a chance to get away. All the available aircraft also attacked even though they weren’t carrying the proper (if any) ordnance for this work, they strafed and buzzed and annoyed the Japanese though.

By 0945 the Johnston, the Hoel and destroyer escort the Samuel B. Roberts had been sunk. and the escort carrier Gambier Bay was hit repeatedly by 8-inch shells and sank at 0907.

But Kurita had lost control of his formation (and was probably worrying about when 3d fleet would turn up) and broke off the action at 0911.

While Taffy 3 was doing all this, Taffy 1 was subjected to the first organized use of that new weapon: the Kamikaze, Taffy three would be so attacked in the afternoon.

And so we have St Crispin’s Day, a day of mostly victorious battle for the English-speaking peoples. The English win one with a “Band of Brothers”; the British lose one heroically and gloriously, and the Americans win one part easily, live through a terrible nightmare, while the American varsity is off hunting empty carriers.

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
One other thing comes down from the field of Agincourt to us. A proper disrespect for those who would tear down our countries. You know, Kipling’s lesser breeds without the Law. Well, we have a hand sign, that the longbowmen gave us.
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