Archive for the '“Sea Stories”' Category

A Date with Destiny – Part IX

April 24th, 2014 by xformed

Since 2009, I’ve had a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “You should try to get recognition for LT Ray Everts. It’s been very insistent and persistent this past week. This year, I’m asking for an effort of the greater group of shipmates, who may be able to find some puzzle pieces. Keep reading, I’ll get to it. First a little background:

I began this story in 2007, 19 years after the fact because I realized it was a story worth telling of the professionalism of my shipmates on USS CARR (FFG-52) and the sailors from USS KENNEDY (CV-67) who saved those men in peril on the sea on April 24th, 1988. I wasn’t there, I reported aboard USS CARR (FFG-52) in late September that year, but in time for the awards to flow in. During that time I heard the first person stories of my crew.

For many years, it was an integral part of the history of the ship, but that ended as a story among a crew March 13, 2013, when the USS CARR (FFG-52) decommissioned. The story is alive around the web. Part of it here. As I sought out first my shipmates via Navy: Together We Served. I later reached out to those who may have been there, by dates listed aboard the USS BONEFISH (SS-582), USS KENNEDY (CV-67) and USS MCCLOY (FF-1038). While got some dry holes, I found LCDR Pete Wilson, USN who provided a detailed, multi-page input. All those stories, from the several sailors and officers who took the time to provide their view of history, added more context to the day.

Again, I began to tell a story of professionalism, but found a story of heroism, one that had not been reported for the record: It came first from a comment left by Jim Chapman in 2007: He had been the aircrewman in the back of Dusty Dog 613 right on top (they had been practicing dipping on BONEFISH when the fire occurred). Jim lives right near by and we met and he told me what was happening in the helo. They knew sailors were in trouble and needed help, and they did more than the helo was supposed to do, nearly resulting in a crash while trying to hoist more men. That takes guts to keep working a few yards off the water in extreme conditions. Thankfully they and the sailors they pulled aboard all are here to tell the story. In the April 2008 annual post, I recorded Jim’s story to share. He added to my view (and if you read his post, you’ll see he was clear about making sure I had the story right). Jim: BTW, I called CAPT Johnson about 2 years ago and pointed out you and your crew knew exactly what you were doing.

On April 15th, 2008, FT2(SS) Bill Baker left a comment on the 2007 post that told a story of heroism beyond even what the helo crew: LT Everts died in his lap, having safely gotten the boat to the surface, ensuring he didn’t add a collision with a surface ship to the already chaotic, deadly situation. He didn’t put on an EAB, as it would have obstructed his use of the periscope during surfacing. I emailed Pete Wilson, the former XO, and he said that was never related at the debriefings. That began the little voice in the back of my head. The April 2009 anniversary post quoted Bill Baker’s comments and put what history of Ray Everts I could track down via the internet.

Here’s my request to my shipmates and family members who may wander by here, it’s also three parts:

  • I’d like to find out how to contact LT Evert’s family. Sounds like he wasn’t married by the many comments, so I’m assuming his parents would have been the NOKs.
  • I want to mount a campaign to complete a virtual 1650 for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, to acknowledge his selfless sacrifice for his shipmates, the 89 who survived.
  • Help to figure out who to submit this to in DoN, or possibly via the serving Congressional senator or representative.

Who’s in? Spread the word, reach out to commenters on other blogs (that’s another part of the story), let’s see if we can crowd source the answers and move forward to get this medal in the service record of Ray for the ages.

Leave your comments here, so it can be a group effort. eMail is nice, but this space can be the virtual bulletin board to share anything someone knows.

To those who have, here, and on other blogs, added to this entire story, thank you. The connection of the internet has allowed this moment in time to become a fuller story than any one person has, and also has connected a few sailors from that day.

And to those, not on the sub, or the helos, or the whale boat, who scrambled to comfort and care for the sailors of the BONEFISH, your efforts were greatly appreciated (go back and skim the comments that have appeared over the years). BZ.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

And Just Where Did the Builder’s Plaques Go?

April 7th, 2013 by xformed

The USS CARR (FFG-53) has been decommissioned 3/13/2013. This story can now be told.

In a time far gone (October 1988 to be more precise), two XOs, at turnover, bought into the idea of the outgoing one: There were but a few of the 50 contract required brass plaques from the builder of the ship left. Wouldn’t it a great idea if two were set aside, passed down the years, in a ritual only known to the Ship’s XOs, to be presented to the final CO and XO?

I thought Tom Brown’s idea was excellent. We picked two of the about 5 left from Todd Shipyard, and we typed up a turnover sheet. The outgoing XO signed and noted the next duty station, and the incoming XO signed to accept the responsibility for the safekeeping of these two mementos for the future.

Over the years, I often thought about emailing the seated XO and asking if they were still “standing the watch” so to speak, but I refrained.

I was unable to attend the final moment of the CARR’s service to the Nation, but I contacted the closet one to what should have been the end game, the decommissioning CO, CDR Patrick Kulakowski. In the first email, I didn’t disclose the exact details, just asked to get ahold of his XO, to check on something that had been put in place years ago.

Here was his response:

We found a Manila folder and note about pass down of two plaques from Todd; however, they are long gone…log ended in 2001…

While the entire plan didn’t survive, the evidence of it did. Not bad to make it hang on for 12-13 years, but…who were the two XOs in question in 2001, or possibly the next turn over?

It may have been an oversight if the ship had a major maintenance period about then, or it might have been someone wanted to have a piece of the Ship’s history for themselves…

Any input appreciated, just for the sake of a good, honest “Sea Story” that really didn’t begin like “Once upon a time…”

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WRAPing up the year – 2011: Breakfast with history

January 2nd, 2012 by xformed


Click for a larger version

The year (last one, that is) finished with the annual picture of the assorted old guys and “guests” after we had breakfast, a week before Christmas. One from last year was unable to join us, having passed away this year after fighting against MRSA.”

Protecting privacy, and making it more fun, this photo includes the restaurant’s owner, a solid supporter of vets, and always thankful we come around. The waitress for the day, and who normally is our regular one lately. There are three ex-“Shoes,” a Navy Cross wearing A-6 pilot, the high time pilot, with the most traps, also, in the venerable F7U Cutlass (began as a PBM tail gunner in WWII and subsequently became an enlisted pilot), an NFO who knew the thrill of flying over an already bombed target(s) to gather BDA photos in RA-5s, thre retired USMC colonels, who began flying in WWII, one F4Us and later became a USAF Fighter Squadron Commander while on an exchange tour), one in PBYs and one in PBJs. Rounding out the scoundrels that morning were two P-2/-3 pilots, one of which was the USNA roommate of my second CO, during my XO tour. The USA representative spent his Vietnam years making sure the Office in Sigonella was efficiently run. Not pictured of the regulars is a VN era heavy equipment operator, who also is a very suitable professional Santa, so he was absent, and the 4 hours short of the most combat hours guy in a year’s tour in Vietnam flying “Slicks.”

If you can’t find a great unique story any given any other Saturday around the table with this group, you need your hearing checked….

So, the invitation for those of you passing through the Tampa/St Pete area on weekends is this: You’re welcome to come and sit and hear a few stories, tell a few, and meet some who made history, but don’t make a big deal out of it…..just email me or a leave a comment and I’ll get your the “every other” Saturday schedule.

Category: "Sea Stories", Army, History, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on WRAPing up the year – 2011: Breakfast with history

The Marine I was Supposed to Shake Hands With

May 17th, 2010 by xformed

Map of Peleliu Island, Palau
Image via Wikipedia

Dropped by the Post Office a few days ago to send off a box. In the parking lot was a car with a Disabled Vet and the USMC logo. The Post Office is small, so it was easy to pick him out, over at the counter with the slips for insurance and the like.

I stepped up and commented “So, you’re the Marine I’m supposed to shake the hand of!” He smiled under his 1st MARDIV ballcap and gave me a nice firm hands shake.

I asked “When were you in?” and it was the beginning of a 1.5 hour mostly listening session.

His name was Joe and he joined up in 1943 to fight for his country. He was trained as a relief tank driver, but went ashore at Peleliu as an infantry man, since all the tanks had been knocked out on landing.

He lost a lung, and was out of the war. He came home to begin work at the post office, bad had a hard time working in the back rooms due to the dust generated. Will 1/2 your lung capacity, that’s a problem. He was put at the windows, and the Union guys objected…enough they moved him around the area until the heat on the supervisors became too much. He next worked at Squibb Corporation while working on his degree at night school.

While there, one of his supervisors asked if he wanted a wooden chest out of a storeroom that had to be cleaned out. His wife talked him out of bringing it home. He did look at it and in it. It had a brass plate engraved “Capt E.R. Squibb.” It was full of medicine canisters and surgical tools from a time long past. Turns out it was burned because no one wanted it. Capt Squibb had been a US Navy Medical Officer during the Mexican-American War.

After getting his degree, he found it was time to move along, and ended up at Bulova as the Marketing Manager. He worked for General Omar Bradley, who was the Chairman of the Board. Much of the time we spent talking was about that phase of his life. He was regularly in General Bradley’s office and worked closely with him. Joe said he never called him by name, always as “Young Man.” The stories of the offer to sell Joe the old limo (Joe had 5 children) (once more, his practical Irish wife said no), to the making of the watch presentation cases for the Pope’s visit were but a few of those he shared with me.

It was an enjoyable hour and a half, and hearing little bits of history from a first person reporting viewpoint.

I hope to get more time with Joe one day soon.

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Category: "Sea Stories", History, Marines, Military, Military History | 1 Comment »

Another On Line Novel is Spawned: “Orion”

April 20th, 2010 by xformed

AW1 Tim, a salty aviation warfare operator in the P-3 Orion platform, has turned his virtual pen to virtual paper: “Orion” is the title. The inaugural post is available here.

Review of “Intro:” Well written and makes me want to keep on top of any future chapters coming down the pike.

Category: "Sea Stories", Blogging, Blogvel, History, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on Another On Line Novel is Spawned: “Orion”

33 Years Ago: First Day at Work

April 4th, 2010 by xformed

…in my chosen profession. It was a Monday and I had checked in the prior Saturday night while the USS MILWAUKEE (AOR-2) was moored on the southside of Pier 2 at Norfolk Naval Station. LTJG George Parrish, the Ship’s Navigator was the CDO that Saturday night. He ended up being the first one I carpooled with from the Virginia Beach area to our normal location at NOB.

But on Monday morning, I began real work, after many years of study and almost a year of directly related schooling.

My assignment was to be the Combat Information Center/Electronic Material Officer (CIC/EMO). I met CDR Dave Martin, the XO, LCDR Frank Mueller, the Operations Officer, LT Randy Rice, the Communications Officer, CAPT Richard Wright, the Commanding Officer, and, shortly after lunch, ET2s Mike Krutsch and Craig Johnson, when they needed a set of initials on a CASREP Update. The officer I was relieving was on leave, so I didn’t meet him for a few more days.

But the highlight of the day, was OSC Michael P. McCaffrey. USN, inviting me to the Chief’s Mess for a cup of coffee.

It was a day full of good sea stories, another one was about the schooling of mine being put to work.

It was not my choice to end up on MILWAUKEE, which, was the oldest ship I served abaord at 8 years when I stepped aboard, I got there by failing to make it through the Salvage Diving Course, but it was a blessing in disguise at about the 14 year point in my career.

Sometimes it takes that long to see what’s the right path in a career path, beyond what you thought was good at 22 years old.

My other shipmates I can recall off the top of my head at the moment were LCDR “Doc” Seibart, CDR Karl Kline, and Engineering Duty Officer who was pushing for EDOs to serve aboard ships as Engineers, ENS Harry Watkins, LTJG Cliff Barnes (DCA), LT Pat Wahl (2nd Div), LCDR Leo Pivonka (1st LT), OS3 Tom Mazzula,and many, many more in a crew of about 450 on a 653′ ship that carried 6M gallons of F76/DFM, 2.5M Gallons of AV GAS and later F44/JP-5, 600 tons of cargo ordnance, and then chow and spare parts.

That part of the Navy is now all in the hands of the Military Sealift Command (MSC), but I was lucky to have begun a career as a Naval Professional on a ship where the main mission was seamanship based.

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Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) Reunion – 18-21 March, 2010

February 23rd, 2010 by xformed

Aircraft carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) attacked...
Image via Wikipedia

Received for distribution:

The crew of the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13) will hold their 2010 reunion from the 18th to the 21st of March, in Branson, MO.

Specific location:  Lodge of the Ozarks.

Special event:  Memorial service morning of 19 March.  This will be held on the 65th anniversary of the attack off the coast of Japan.

Registration closes 1 March, 2010.

Contact for Questions:
Sam Rhodes  772-334-0366 or
Beth Conard Rowland (daughter of crewman) 740-524-0024  (please leave message)

These men who went to war, preformed well, suffered a horrible blow, yet sailed their ship home may not be around much longer to share their stories.  If you’re close by, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a visitor or two who would thank them and listen to a story of two for history’s sake.  Take your camera and notepad and post the things you learn!

More information on the USS FRANKLIN (CV-13):

The story of the day the ship was struck by a kamikaze off Japan is “Inferno.”

As a warm up to getting your hands on “Inferno,” SteelJaw Scribe provided an excellent synopsis of that horrible day in his 2008 post:  “The Crucible.”

LCDR Joseph T. O’Callahan, USN, ChC was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action on 19 March, 1945.  LTJG Donald Gary, USN, of the Engineering Department served heroically below decks to save his ship and shipmates.  He also was awarded the MOH.

Seaman 1/c Omer Dee Simms, USN died that day, after saving 12 of his shipmates, by relentlessly working to free them from the internal compartment they had been trapped in by damage and fire.  After he led them to safety, he re-entered the skin of the ship to save more people.  He did not survive.  His son graciously shared with me family photos and letters to enable me to post some personal history of the battle not otherwise published.

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Category: "Sea Stories", History, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops | 11 Comments »

Iwo Jima Survivors

February 20th, 2010 by xformed

Navy
Image via Wikipedia

He walked slowly through the tables, as I stood to gather my backpack full of stuff and leave.  An older gentleman, wearing a blue ball cap bearing the title of this post’s title.  As I stepped into the room, rather than to the door, my two friends, neither of them vets, looked quizzically at me, but I kept moving, standing a respectful few feet, while he reached for the chair back, indicating he was at the table of his choosing, I stepped up and asked to shake his hand and thank him.  He smiled and allowed me to do so.

Making the basic assumption that he was one of the few and the Proud, but not set on it, I asked what he had done there.  He said “Amphibs.  I took the Marines ashore.”  About this time, another gentleman, also elderly arrived beside us and reached out to shake the first man’s hand and said with a smile on his face, not to large, but more of a knowing one.  He said “5th Marines.”

So there I was, thanking one man for his service at that difficult battle, and I managed to be able to thank two of them.

From the USS BOSTON (CA-69) Blog (click to get there)

We chatted for a few moments.  He had joined the Navy in 1940, was assigned to a destroyer (I missed the name), was a radioman and had been in the Battle of Midway, screening the USS ENTERPRISE (CV-6), and later commissioned USS BOSTON (CA-69).  What ever his assignment was in 1945, he took that Marines ashore as said “I was on Red Beach.”  I handed him my card as I told him a week from today, the old war horses would gather for breakfast and to talk and enjoy each other’s company, and I’d be happy to give him a lift (he doesn’t drive any longer).  He rattled off a list of the campaigns he had been in and they were the many big ones.  He did his time all in the Pacific, all on sea duty, all in the fight.  He mentioned, but only in one sentence, that he spent 20 some years in the Air Force.

I then asked if the lady sitting at the far end of the table was his wife, and he said yes, of 56 years, proudly told me.  He then added a story of how he bought her engagement ring in Pearl Harbor, and then carried it in his shirt pocket, in case the ship sank, until he could mail it home to his mother.  It took two months to get there, and his mom slipped it on his then fiancee’s finger, I believe he said at Christmas, and they were married in 1946.  I went over and thanked her for sharing him with me so patiently and let her, and his daughter know about this coming Saturday.  His daughter, whom he pointed out had been an Air Force Nurse, said, “Dad, I think you’d really enjoy that.”  I made sure she had my card, too.

And, in doing a little homework for links here, I found, via the USS BOSTON Blog mentioned above, that a son of one of the Plank Owners, William Kelly, a Signalman, wrote a book based on their Father’s story:  “A Bird’s Eye View.”

We’ll see….oh, and that night, I met a 21 year Army Vet, a Green Beret, who flared up when I mentioned Khe Shan, commenting how they didn’t believe the Special Forces Camp really had tanks in the wire…..

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Category: "Sea Stories", Air Force, History, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 2 Comments »

Monday Maritime Matters

October 19th, 2009 by xformed

Subtitle: Old Wisdom for New Warriors – Brown Water Navy Style

I continue to be blessed by meeting very interesting military people, with pieces of personal hispty they are willing to share. This one came as a friend shared his friends forwarded email, with speech attached. In the words of the man who gave the speech, I’ll let him set the stage:

Thought you would like to read a bit long but I think appropriate speech for this timeframe that I gave to the Riverine Warfare graduating class at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina last June. Linda and I were hosted the night before to dinner and drinks by the instructors and put up in a great hotel nearby (all the VIP quarters on base are now reserved for generals or admirals and no longer any 06 officers). The individual who directs the course is a Coast Guard Captain and the person who coordinated the visit was a Chief Lewandowski who just happened to be from my wife Linda’s birthplace of Grand Forks, North Dakota.( I completely lost Linda during dinner but that is why I refer to him in the speech).

I was invited to be the guest speaker for the graduation because our East Coast Chapter of the Gamewardens (Brown Water sailors from the Vietnam era) has spent many hours passing along lesson learned to the new Riverine Warriors based here at Little Creek. Our group provides a speaker for each graduating class. There are currently four Riverine Squadrons under a Commodore assigned and they are protecting the lakes, dams and waterways of Iraq. Once a year we present a Gamewarden Beret and plaque to the top sailor from each squadron and make them an honorary Gamewarden. They are then permitted to wear the Beret to all special functions of the squadrons. Our national organization president normally attends to make the presentations. We do it at a large picnic at Seal Park at Little Creek (pic of Gamewardens at park attached) and the CO of the base, Commodore and families of many of the Riverine Warriors attend, especially those being honored. We also have bonded with the USS Williams, which is named for BM1 Williams who won the Medal of Honor in the PBR’s in Vietnam, and are invited to participate in all their ship functions including family day cruises.

As you will note, I extracted almost verbatim from the LeMay and Style points article and believe I gave it the proper credit. I spent a considerable amount of time in question and answer periods both before and after the speech. It was well received and I felt honored to be able to address them.

The speaker was CAPT Frederick Olds, USN (Ret). His has a 30 years distinguished career, covering service to the nation from pre-Vietnam to the Gulf war, to, in retirement, even as recent as this past summer, when he and his shipmates, who plyed the rivers and deltas of Vietnam, have actively been assisting the modern “Brown Water Navy” by passing along the lessons learned in armed conflict, with a determined enemy.

The “resume” of this Tin Can/Gator/Brown Water Sailor:

Frederick A. “Fred” Olds Wife: Linda Sue Lohrbauer
Virginia Beach, Va. Children: Bradley. Stacey, Shelley

Retired 1989 as Captain/USN from duties as ACOS for Logistics SACLANT with 35 years service.

Served aboard destroyers LLOYD THOMAS (DD-764), LUCE(DLG-7), FURSE(DD-882), FRANCIS MARION(LPA-249),

Afloat staffs PHIBGRU 2, PHIBGRU 3, COMCRUDESFLOT 6, CARGRU 4.

Commanded USS SUMTER (LST1181), USS AUSTIN (LPD-4)

COMMODORE PHIBRON 5

Spent one year in Mekong Delta Vietnam w/PBRs/VN RAGS and as Flight Technical Observer in FAC aircraft. Spent 3 wonderful years at USNA teaching navigation, coordinating the Piloting Curriculum and as XA to the Director of Naval Command and Management. Conducted SPECOPS off MURMANSK, Russia 1979, was present when bomb blew up USMC Barracks Beirut 1983, as COMMODORE PHIBRON 5 completed with my USMC counterpart the first USMC SPECOPS certification on the West Coast and deployed with the first LCAC to WESTPAC in 1987. Upon retirement obtained USCG unlimited tonnage MASTER’S LICENSE. Served as Chief Mate
USNS CHAUVENET during Desert Shield and Master USNS KANE during Desert Storm.

Linda continues her volunteer work and we love Virginia Beach. We enjoy visiting with our 6 grandchildren and their families whenever possible.

Here is his speech:

CAPT WEIDEN, BOATSWAINS MATE CHIEF LEWENDOWSKI, STAFF INSTRUCTORS, BUT PRIMARILY YOU NEW “RIVER RATS”–THIS IS YOUR DAY. AS THE NEWEST BREED OF RIVERINE WARRIORS, I BROUGHT ALONG A BILLY RAT TO WELCOME YOU TO THE FRATERNITY OF BROWN WATER SAILORS. DURING THE BIO INTRO IT INDICATED I HAD 19 YEARS SEA DUTY OF 30 YEARS COMMISSIONED. MY WIFE LINDA WAS A NAVY WIFE DURING ALL OF THOSE YEARS AND YOU HAVE HONORED US BOTH BY PERMITTING US TO PARTAKE IN THIS CEREMONY.

YOU ARE NOW MEMBERS OF A BROTHERHOOD THAT STRETCHES BACK CENTURIES, NOT JUST TO MY TIME IN VIETNAM. A FEW YEARS AGO I WAS THE GUEST SPEAKER AT DR. BRUCE DUNNAVENT’S CLASS AT LSU. HE WAS IN THE FINAL STAGE OF COMPLETING A BOOK ON RIVERINE WARFARE IN THE CIVIL WAR. IT HAS SINCE BEEN PUBLISHED. AS BILL FERGUSON, A FELLOW GAMEWARDEN AND THE AUTHOR OF A BOOK ABOUT THE PBR’S IN VIETNAM TITLED “LAUGHTER ON THE RIVERS OF DEATH” WROTE: “THE TIES BETWEEN US MAY NOT BE VISIBLE TO THE UNINITIATED BUT BE ASSURED, THEY COULD NOT BE STRONGER!”

IT IS A COMMON AXIOM THAT “THOSE WHO FORGET HISTORY ARE BOUND TO REPEAT ITS MISTAKES!” IN A SMALL SENSE SOME OF THE LESSONS WE LEARNED AND I PASS ON TODAY MAY PREVENT THE ONE MISTAKE THAT COULD COST YOUR BOAT CREW LIVES. YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR NAVY COMBAT SKILLS TRAINING HERE AT CAMP LE JUENE (PRONOUNCE IT AS LA GERRN) BUT FACE CHALLENGES THAT I COULD NOT IMAGINE IN MY EARLY NAVY DAYS.

I HAVE ALWAYS CALLED IT LIKE IT IS AND BEEN HONEST AND STRAIGHT FORWARD WITH MY MEN. TODAY I INTEND TO DO THE SAME. WHEN I ENTERED THE SERVICE, OUR CONGRESS WAS FILLED WITH VETERANS AND THE NAVY WAS A FAST PACED, HARD DRINKING, FULL SPEED AHEAD “DAMN THE TORPEDOES” ENVIRONMENT. IT WAS NOT A “COW PADDY” FILLED POLITICAL PASTURE WHERE EACH STEP COULD END YOUR CAREER.

AUTHOR WARREN KOZAK HAS WRITTEN AN ARTICLE TITLED “WHEN BASIC SURVIVAL OF A COUNTRY TRUMPS CIVIL LIBERTIES” AND ON THE SUBJECT OF WAR HAS RECENTLY PUBLISHED A BOOK TITLED “LEMAY: THE LIFE AND WARS OF GENERAL CURTIS LEMAY”. AS A YOUNG LT, GEN LEMAY WAS MY FATHERS MOST EXPERIENCED NAVIGATOR ON A NUMBER OF HISTORICAL FLIGHTS IN B-17S PRIOR WWII. LEMAY ACTUALLY CONSIDERED WAR A TRAGEDY! YET HE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE WAR DEATHS THAN ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL IN HISTORY, LATER HIS ACTIONS IN COMBINATION WITH THE ATOMIC BOMB SAVED MILLIONS MORE BY CONVINCING THE JAPANESE TO SURRENDER.

I FOUND THE FOLLOWING EMAIL “LEMAY AND STYLE POINTS” WORTH CONSIDERATION BY US ALL. I HAVE ADDED SOME COMMENTS BUT THEY ARE FEW AS IT IS TO THE POINT! (FOR THE READER OF THIS SPEECH, THOSE SECTIONS UNDERLINED I HAVE ADDED)

“IF WE CAN MOMENTARILY SHIFT OUR FOCUS FROM WHETHER THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION WAS “MEAN” TO THREE TERRORISTS FIVE YEARS AGO (ONE OF WHOM BEHEADED AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, DANIEL PEARL, AND BRAGGED ABOUT IT) LET US CONSIDER THE TOPIC OF WAR. ONE OF THE MOST COMPLEX OF HUMAN ENDEAVORS INVOLVING EVER SHIFTING TECHNOLOGY, GEOGRAPHY AND A BEWILDERING MIX OF RACE, RELIGION, REGION, ECONOMICS AND ETHNICITY.

ATTEMPTING TO CLEARLY EXPLAIN WAR IS LIKE ATTEMPTING TO EXPLAIN ICE HOCKEY TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN SNOW. NOT IN THE LEAST BECAUSE OF THE RAPIDITY OF CHANGE IN WEAPONS, VALUES AND PERCEPTIONS AS YOU ARE NOW FACING. OLD SHIP AND BOAT DRIVERS ARE NOT PARTICULARLY HELPFUL TACTICALLY BUT DO REVEAL USEFUL AXIOMS. ON THE SOLDIER SIDE SUN TZU STILL MAKES A LOT OF SENSE.

HOWEVER IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY, AN EVER SMALLER PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE HAVE EXPERIENCE OR CONNECTION WITH WAR. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE WITH THE MEMBERS OF OUR CONGRESS. WAR HAS BECOME THE EQUIVALENT OF A TRIP TO THE ZOO, INTERESTING BUT NOT RELEVANT TO THEIR LIVES EXCEPT AS A DISCUSSION TOPIC.

LEMAY STYLE POINTS INCLUDE:

1. THERE ARE NO WAR “STYLE POINTS” TACTICALLY, ONLY STRATEGICALLY. YOU NEED TO WIN. IN HOCKEY IT IS GOALS THAT COUNT, NOT SKATING. STYLE CAN BE ADJUSTED AFTER VICTORY IS ACHIEVED. LEMAY, FOR EXAMPLE, WAS A GRADUATE OF THE EARLY HIGH ALTITUDE AND SUICIDAL B-17 RAIDS OVER EUROPE YET LATER CHANGED THE BOMBING STYLE OVER JAPAN TO LOW LEVEL FIRE BOMBING.

2. IN ICE HOCKEY (BEING FROM NORTH DAKOTA CHIEF LEW CAN CERTAINLY EXPLAIN THIS RELATIONSHIP TO YOU BETTER THAN I) THERE ARE RULES AND THEY ARE ENFORCED. IN WAR THERE ARE RULES BUT ONLY FOR THOSE THAT ACCEPT THEM. (THE HISTORY OF MAN IS A HISTORY OF EVER LARGER CONSTITUENCIES, THE UNITED NATIONS, NATO AND THE EUROPEAN UNION BEING THE ONES MOST NOTICEABLE IN OUR LIFETIMES. OTHERS, THE WARSAW PACT, FOR EXAMPLE, FAILED BECAUSE THEY WERE BASED ON A FALLACY. THE LARGE CONSTITUENCIES WE BELONG TO ACCEPT AND ADHERE TO RULES.) OTHERS DO NOT, WHICH MAKES WAR WITH THEM COMPLEX AND IRRITATING AS IT DID IN MY TIME IN VIETNAM. THERE IS NO CHANGE HERE FOR WHAT YOU WILL BE FACING.

3. THE AMERICAN WAY OF WAR, (HIGH TECH, LOW MANPOWER–(LOOK AT OUR MAJOR WARSHIPS TODAY) IS GREATLY INFLUENCED BY THE MEDIA, MOST OF WHOM ARE NATURALLY CRITICAL. THIS RESULTS IN ANIMOSITY BECAUSE IT GETS MILITARY PEOPLE KILLED. IT IS PARTICULARLY IRRITATING BECAUSE JOURNALISTS OFTEN ASSUME INTELLECTUAL SUPERIORITY WHILE DECLINING RISK. EVEN WORSE, AS CLINTON’S SECDEF LES ASPIN DEMONSTRATED WHEN HE WITHHELD ARMOR FOR MOGADISHU, RESULTING IN BLACKHAWK DOWN! WHY? BECAUSE HE FELT IT WOULD INDICATE ESCALATION, IS LEARNED INCOMPETENCE ON THE PART OF ACADEMICS IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY.

4. WAR IS TIME RELEVANT. JUDGMENTS MADE IN WAR CAN ONLY BE UNDERSTOOD IN TERMS OF THE TIME IN WHICH THEY WERE MADE. THE BOMBINGS OF DRESDEN AND JAPANESE CITIES WERE BARBARIC. THE TIMES WERE BARBARIC. AS GENGHIS KHAN ONCE REMARKED, “REGRET IS THE SON OF PITY”. OR AS THE RUSSIANS NOTED AS THEY DEALT WITH THE FROZEN AND STARVING RETREATING NAPOLEONIC ARMY AND THE NAZI POWS FROM STALINGRAD, “WE DID NOT INVITE THEM HERE”.

5. PEOPLE ADAPT. AMERICANS ESPECIALLY. OUR USUAL NATIONAL METHOD OF WAR IS TO BE OBLIVIOUS OF THE THREAT UNTIL WE GET OUR ASSES KICKED (PEARL HARBOR, 9/11) THEN RESPOND.
THERE IS ALSO A RECENT TENDENCY TO TRY TO CONVINCE OURSELVES THAT THE WAR ISN’T GOING WELL AND WE OUGHT TO QUIT. BOTH ARE TENDENCIES TO BE AVOIDED. UNFORTUNATELY A POSSIBLE LEGACY OF VIETNAM MIGHT BE THE ASPIRATIONS & TENACITY OF ISLAMIC TERRORISTS. ANOTHER LESSON IS THE TERRORISTS HAVE HAD SUCH SUCCESS WITH IEDS IN IRAQ THEY ARE NOW INCREASING THEIR USE IN AFGHANISTAN.

6. THERE IS A DISINCLINATION ON THE PART OF AMERICAN ELITES TO REALIZE THAT SOME ADVERSARIES (LIKE ANTS IN THE KITCHEN) CANNOT BE PERSUADED TO CHANGE AND MUST BE KILLED. WHILE THE SEARCH FOR ELABORATE LEGAL SCHEMES TO AVOID CONFLICT ARE LAUDABLE, AGAIN AS IN HOCKEY, COLLISIONS ARE INEVITABLE AND MUST BE EXPECTED AND PREPARED FOR.

7. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE WE HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN SUBSTITUTING MONEY FOR BLOOD. PAYING FOR ENHANCED MEDICAL CARE AT THE FRONT, ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY, AND IMPROVED ARMOR HAVE KEPT CASUALTY RATES IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN LOWER THAN ANY WARS TO DATE. THE CASUALTY DATA IN WWII, KOREA AND VIETNAM WAS GENERALLY CENSORED BUT NOT WITH TODAY’S MEDIA. WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE PUBLIC WAS AWARE THAT THOUSANDS DIED ON THE COAST OF ENGLAND REHERSING FOR THE NORMANDY LANDINGS? THEIR FAMILIES WERE INFORMED OF THEIR DEATHS BUT ALL ASSUMED THEY HAD BEEN KILLED IN COMBAT! I SERIOUSLY DOUBT WE WOULD HAVE LANDED IN NORMANDY. YET TODAY THE MEDIA IS PERMITTED TO TOUT THE WAR CASUALTIES ON A DAILY BASIS. CASUALTY RATES FROM THE WAR ARE FAR LESS THAN HIGHWAY DEATHS IN THE US IN A YEAR AND CONTINUE TO DECLINE. WHY DOESN’T THE PRESS LIST THE MURDERS IN OUR MAJOR CITIES SUCH AS NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, D.C. OR CHICAGO ON A DAILY, MONTHLY, AND YEARLY BASIS. IT MAY STIMULATE A DRIVE TO CONSERVE AMERICAN LIVES AT HOME.

8. LESS DESIRABLE IS THE TENDENCY OF AMERICAN ELITES TO PROJECT AN EIGHTEEN DIVISION FOREIGN POLICY SUPPORTED BY TEN DIVISIONS. A SIMILAR TENDENCY VERY LIKELY DOOMED THE BYZANTINES AT MANZIKERT IN 1071 (DON’T EVEN CONSIDER ASKING ME ABOUT THAT ONE). EVEN MORE RELEVANT IS THE STATUS OF OUR NAVAL FORCES TODAY. HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE PIERS IN NORFOLK AND LITTLE CREEK LATELY. WHERE HAVE ALL THE SHIPS GONE? ARE WE OVER DEPLOYING TO THE EXTENT WE WILL NEVER CATCH UP WITH REQUIRED MAINTENANCE? DO YOU REALIZE USNS SHIPS ARE COUNTED AS PART OF NAVAL FORCE LEVELS WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING INSTALLED FOR DEFENSE OR SYNERGISTIC ABILITY TO CONTRIBUTE TO EW? ARE YOU AWARE THAT THIS IS BECAUSE USNS CIVILIAN CREWS DO NOT WANT THEIR SHIPS CLASSIFIED AS COMBATANTS BECAUSE THEY WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ATTACK! ALL THE CIWS AND DEFENSIVE ARMAMENTS HAVE BEEN REMOVED. I BET THERE IS NOT ONE INDIVIDUAL SITTING IN THIS ROOM TODAY THAT IF HE WERE A TERRORIST OR ENEMY WOULD NOT TAKE THOSE ASSETS OUT FIRST! OUR CARRIERS CAN STEAM AROUND THE WORLD ON THEIR NUCLEAR POWER BUT ESCORT AND AIRCRAFT FUEL, AMMUNITION, AND FOOD ARE CRITICAL NEEDS WE CANNOT WIN THE WAR WITHOUT! I PERSONALLY COMPLETED A COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS ON MSC HAVING THE AOR’S AND AOE’S AS MSC ASSETS AND THERE WAS NO QUESTION THAT IT WOULD BE CHEAPER TO RUN THEM AS MSC SHIPS BUT AT WHAT COST TO THE FLEET IN WARTIME?

(FROM HERE TO THE END ARE MY WORDS EXCEPT WHERE QUOTED)

AS A CHIEF MATE ON USNS CHAUVENET CONDUCTING BOTTOM SURVEYS AROUND DOLMA ISLAND EAST OF QATAR DURING DESERT SHIELD, I FACED SIMILAR CHALLENGES. THE CIVILIAN CREW WAS TERRIFIED OF THE FACT WE COULD BE SUBJECT TO GAS ATTACK. DURING DECON DRILLS TO PREPARE THEM FOR THAT EVENTUALITY HOWEVER, ONE INDIVIDUAL PUSHED THE TOPSIDE GUARD FOR THE DECON STATION OUT OF THE WAY AND BURST INTO THE DECON STATION AND CONTAMINATED IT. HIS EXCUSE WAS THAT IT WAS TOO DAMN HOT IN THAT DECON SUIT! TOOK A GUARD WITH A 38 TO STOP THAT NONSENSE!

I LIKE YOU WAS A VOLUNTEER FOR RIVERINE DUTY. IN VIETNAM ALMOST ALL WHO SERVED IN AND WITH THE PATROL CRAFT WERE. IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A YEAR THAT I CHARACTERIZE AS CHALLENGING INTERSPERSED WITH MOMENTS OF SHEER TERROR!!! YOU ARE AT THAT CROSSROADS NOW! THE YEARS AFTERWARD FOR ME IN THE SERVICE WERE INFLUENCED BY THE CONFIDENCE I GAINED MEETING THOSE CHALLENGES. WHERE WILL YOU BE IN 30 OR 40 YEARS?

I REPORTED TO VIETNAM 43 YEARS AGO AT THE AGE OF 30, LITTLE REALIZING WHAT WAR WAS TRULY ABOUT. SURE I HAD READ MANY BOOKS AND ARTICLES ON WARS PAST AND THOUGHT I KNEW WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE. NONE HOWEVER INCLUDED OPERATING SMALL CRAFT AS WE DID ON THE WATERWAYS, CANALS AND FLOODED RICE PADDIES OF THE MEKONG DELTA. WHEN YOU ARE UNDER ATTACK OR EVEN SUBJECT TO ATTACK THE WORLD CHANGES AND YOU WILL CHANGE. WE ALL DID. THAT IS WHEN COMMITMENT TO YOUR CREWMATES IS MEASURED. STAND TALL!

I WAS PSYCHOLOGICALLY NOT PREPARED FOR THE FAR EAST. WHAT WERE CONSIDERED NORMAL LIVING CONDITIONS TO THE VIETNAMESE WERE DEPLORABLE TO AN AMERICAN. IT WAS WORSE THAN I COULD HAVE IMAGINED! THE HEALTH OF THE VIETNAMESE INCLUDED RAMPANT TB, BODY WORMS, MALARIA AND EVERY DISEASE THAT HAD BEEN ERADICATED IN THE US. WE HAD TO EAT THE SAME FOOD AS THE LOCAL POPULACE AS WE LIVED ON THE ECONOMY AND NOT IN A COMPOUND OR TENT CITY. IT WAS CULTURE SHOCK IN THE DEEPEST SENSE. KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU WILL FACE!

THE BEST HOSPITAL IN THE CENTER OF THE MEKONG DELTA AT CAN THO WAS IN ITSELF TERRIFYING. THE OVERALL ADMINISTRATION WAS UNDER DR. FRANK CAMP. HE WAS A MAJOR IN THE AIR FORCE, A DOUBLE BOARDED HEART SURGEON AND A SUPERB INDIVIDUAL. AS THE USAID APPOINTED DIRECTOR HE HAD A TEAM OF NURSES AND SOME OTHER USAID HIRED DOCTORS BUT THAT WAS IT. THE HOSPITAL HAD BEEN DESIGNED BY THE FRENCH AND IT WAS WORSE THAN CRUDE. THE EMERGENCY ADMISSIONS SECTION HAD THREE SLOPED PARALLEL SLABS OF ROUGH CONCRETE WITH A WELL AROUND EACH EDGE (LIKE A MEAT PLATTER) AND A TRASH CAN AT ONE CORNER TO CATCH BLOOD AND OTHER PARTS OF HUMAN BODIES. ONE AM TERRORISTS SET OFF A BOMB IN THE CROWDED MARKETPLACE OF TRAON. THE WOUNDED AND DYING WERE BROUGHT TO CAN THO BY THE PBR’S AND VN RAG CRAFT. I WAS SHUTTLING INDIVIDUALS TO THE HOSPITAL IN A JEEP WHEN I WAS GIVEN A YOUNG GIRL THE AGE OF MY OLDEST DAUGHTER. SHE WAS BANDAGED AROUND BOTH ARMS AND ACROSS HER CHEST. WHEN I INITIALLY HELD HER SHE WAS AFRAID OF THIS “ROUND EYE” BUT WHEN 10 MINUTES LATER I GENTLY LAID HER ON ONE OF THE CONCRETE SLABS SHE GAVE ME A WARM SMILE. THE DOCTORS CUT OFF HER BANDAGES AND HER RIGHT ARM WAS HELD ON BY ABOUT A HALF INCH OF FLESH WHICH THEY IMMEDIATELY CUT THRU AND THEN THREW THE ARM IN THE TRASH. (I WENT OUTSIDE AND THREW UP!) WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? IN WAR ZONES IN MOST THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES THERE ARE SO MANY CASUALTIES THAT ANY ELECTIVE SURGERY OR CARE IS NOT EVEN POSSIBLE. ONLY WHAT IS NECESSARY TO SAVE A LIFE IS ATTEMPTED. YOU PERSONALLY WILL BE BLESSED WITH RAPID MEDEVAC TO AMERICAN CARE BUT WHAT IF YOU ARE TASKED TO TRANSFER INDIVIDUAL CIVILIANS IN YOUR CRAFT TO OTHER THAN US RUN FACILITIES? WILL YOU KNOW WHERE TO GO? YOU SHOULD FIND OUT IN ADVANCE OF OPS!

WE ALL HAD BEEN INDOCTRINATED IN THE CLASSROOM ON “VIETNAM THE COUNTRY“, WARNED OF ALL THE THINGS THE VIET CONG COULD DO TO US YET IT STILL DID NOT INSTILL IN US THE FACT THAT MOST IN THE FAR EAST REGARD “LIFE AS CHEAP”. THAT UNFORTUNATELY IS ALSO TRUE IN IRAQ, IRAN, AFGHANISTAN, CHINA AND MANY OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD TODAY. SOME AREAS TO WHICH YOU WILL BE DEPLOYING. TERRORISTS TRAINING INDIVIDUALS TO BE HUMAN BOMBERS AND KILLING THEIR OWN COUNTRYMEN IS ONE EXAMPLE BUT IT GOES FAR BEYOND THAT. BEING ABLE TO INFLICT PAIN CAUSING PERMANENT INJURY AND EVEN DEATH TO PRISONERS AS THE NORTH VIETNAMESE AND EARLIER THE JAPANESE AND GERMANS IN WWII DID, WITH NO REMORSE, IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE. IT IS JUST NOT SOMETHING WE AS AMERICANS CAN COMPREHEND. THANK GOD WE AS A COUNTRY RESPECT LIFE AND TREAT ALL INDIVIDUALS AS HUMAN BEINGS. THERE MAY BE TIMES WHEN YOU GET IN A FIREFIGHT AND HAVE YOUR SHIPMATES WOUNDED AND EVEN KILLED AND THEN TAKE SOME PRISONERS. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT IT WILL TAKE THE STRONGEST MORAL COURAGE AND WILLPOWER YOU HAVE TO PROTECT THOSE INDIVIDUALS BUT YOU MUST DO SO! ARE YOU UP TO THE TASK? WILL YOU TURN THEM OVER TO HOST NATIONALS? YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE THE FACT WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE IF YOU DO SO! AS THE UNIT CAPTURING THEM YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ENSURING THEY ARE TREATED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE GENEVA CONVENTION!

I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOUR PRE-DEPLOYMENT TRAINING ENCOMPASSES. ALL OF THE VOLUNTEERS WHO WERE TO SERVE IN COUNTRY IN VIETNAM WERE REQUIRED TO UNDERGO SURVIVAL, EVASION, RESISTANCE AND ESCAPE (SERE) TRAINING. WE WERE CRAMMED IN BLACK BOXES FOR AN HOUR SO SMALL THAT WE LITERALLY HAD TO BE DRAGGED TO THE SWEAT BOX BECAUSE WE COULD NOT MOVE OUR LIMBS, WE WERE WATER BOARDED, INTENSELY INTERROGATED, NOT PERMITTED TO SLEEP, AND SUBJECTED TO MANY OTHER CONDITIONS WHICH WERE TO SIMULATE WHAT WE COULD EXPECT IF CAPTURED. BELIEVE ME NONE OF US WANTED TO BECOME A POW AFTER THOSE TWO WEEKS. I PERSONALLY DO NOT CONSIDER ANY OF THAT AS TORTURE AS THE PRESS HAS CHARACTERIZED IT TODAY. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT ANY OF YOU WILL BE ABLE TO DO TO EXTRACT INFORMATION FROM ANY OF THE PRISONERS OR SUSPECTS YOU CAPTURE BUT YOU CAN BE SURE THEY WILL NOT VOLUNTEER ANY INFORMATION. THAT DATA WITHIN HOURS OF CAPTURE MAY SAVE MANY LIVES AND YOU NEED TO KNOW THE PROCESS YOU WILL FOLLOW TO OBTAIN IT.

WITH ALL THE NEW SYSTEMS AT YOUR DISPOSAL, YOU ARE DEPLOYING WITH THE BEST EQUIPMENT AVAILABLE HOWEVER I WOULD STRESS THE IMMEDIATE AVAILABILITY OF NOT ONLY AIR COVER BY FIXED WING AND HELOS BUT MEDEVAC. NO UNMANNED UAV WILL BE ABLE TO DO WHAT THE SEAWOLF HELOS LATER DID FOR US IN THE DELTA.

THE SERVICES MAY CLAIM THEY ARE WORKING JOINTLY BUT WILL YOU HAVE THEIR DAILY COMM PLANS. WILL B-52S DROP AN ENTIRE WEAPONS LOAD ON AN ADJACENT LANDMASS TO THE CANAL ON WHICH YOU ARE OPERATING. WITHOUT YOUR WARNING OF SUCH? THAT IN ITSELF IS A TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE. ENSURE YOU ARE AWARE OF ALL IMPENDING OPERATIONS IN YOUR PLANNED AREA OF OPERATIONS TO AVOID BLUE ON BLUE MISTAKES.

TRUST YOUR SHIPMATES AND EQUIPMENT. YOU HAVE THE BEST THERE IS AND THAT CRAFT YOU ARE RIDING MAY DO SOME IMPOSSIBLE THINGS IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE IF YOU HAVE PRACTICED EVERY POSSIBLE CONTINGENCY WITH IT!

IN CLOSING I WOULD ASK:

1. EACH OF YOU TO ELIMINATE THE WORD PROBLEM FROM YOUR VOCABULARY AND TO SUBSTITUTE THE WORD CHALLENGE. IF ON A FRIDAY MORNING AT QUARTERS YOUR CHIEF INFORMS YOU “WE HAVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS” YOUR IMMEDIATE REACTION IS “OH BOY, THERE GOES MY WEEKEND!” IF HOWEVER HE/SHE WOULD HAVE STATED, “WE HAVE A FEW CHALLENGES” IT IS A DIFFERENT MATTER. AN INDIVIDUAL WILL TURN THEIR BACK ON A PROBLEM BUT IT IS HUMAN NATURE TO JUMP TO A CHALLENGE. I CHANGED THE MOTTO OF USS SUMTER (LST-1181) TO “NO PROBLEMS JUST CHALLENGES” AND THE EFFECT WAS DRAMATIC. EVERY INSPECTOR THAT BOARDED THE SHIP LATER COMMENTED THEY COULD NOT PUT THEIR FINGER ON IT BUT THEY HAD NEVER BEEN ABOARD A SHIP WHICH HAD SUCH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. WE NEVER FAILED AN INSPECTION NOR DID USS AUSTIN (LPD-4) LATER.

2, EVERYONE CAN MAKE A MISTAKE EVEN SERIOUS ONES. GIVE YOUR PERSONNEL A BREAK AND TRUST THEM NOT TO REPEAT IT. THEY WILL GIVE YOU 200% BACK. THIS MAY REQUIRE YOU TO BREAK MANDATED REGULATIONS BUT YOUR PEOPLE ARE WORTH THE RISK SO JUST DO IT!

3. HONOR THE DIGNITY OF INDIVIDUALS IN YOUR CREW AND UNIT REGARDLESS OF PERSONAL DIFFERENCES AND MAKE YOUR WORD YOUR BOND!

4. SPEAK UP FORCEFULLY IF YOU THINK THERE IS A BETTER WAY TO DO IT! YOUR INPUT IS IMPORTANT AND MAY SAVE LIVES! SENIORS ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT AND MAY HAVE MISSED THE OBVIOUS!

ONCE AGAIN I AM QUOTING THE AUTHOR BILL FERGUSON:
“ONE DAY WHEN YOU ARE ASKED WHAT YOU DID FOR YOUR COUNTRY DURING THIS WAR ON TERRORISM, YOUR CHEST WILL SWELL WITH PRIDE AS YOU REPLY, I SERVED IN THE RIVERINE NAVY!”

THANK-YOU!

Now, “the rest of the story:” If the last name of this speaker caught your eye, he is from a family of warriors, and his brother was BG Robin Olds, USAF.

Category: "Sea Stories", Coast Guard, History, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 4 Comments »

A Journey Into History – Part X

October 13th, 2009 by xformed

It is fitting that I have been granted permission to post this story on the 234th birthday of the US Navy. CAPT Wellborn gave it a fine title. I’m adding it to the series of my own experiences of that operation.

Part I, Part II, Part III,Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX

I met a USNA Graduate via business networking a few months back. A few weeks ago, one of his fellow graduates was going through and I was invited to attend a seminar with the two men. The visitor and I, over late lunch, just as we were about to part, discovered we had both been deployed at the same time, to the same ocean, and to the same operation: El Dorado Canyon.

He is CAPT Buddy Wellborn, USN (RET) and he was the Commanding Officer of USS DETROIT (AOE-4), while I was there, on DESRON 32 Staff. Buddy has shared wit me his recollections of that specific raid, adding to the body of knowledge of the evnts leading to and after the joint USAF and USN strike on LIbya. Here is, extracted from the Word document he sent me via email, and has granted me permission to share it:

What Liberty Means to Me

CAPT Buddy Wellborn, USN (Ret), USNA ’59

The Provocation of an Unjust Act. Very early on Saturday morning, 5 April 1986, our National Security Adviser, Vice Admiral John Poindexter, US Navy, woke President Ronald Reagan. He had to inform him that a bomb had exploded in the La Belle, a discothèque in West Berlin, killing a US serviceman and seriously injuring several other Americans.
Two days later, at a meeting with his principal advisers at the White House, President Reagan reviewed the accumulated evidence implicating Libyan involvement in the bombing. He also received an intelligence brief revealing that Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi was planning a wave of terrorist attacks on American citizens and interests overseas. He was convinced of Qaddafi’s complicity in the West Berlin attack.

On Wednesday, 9 April 1986, President Reagan, after considering many options, approved “in principal” a military operation against Libya, and authorized the National Security Council to finalize the necessary military planning for a reprisal. Essentially, he had chosen the Clausewitzian option for the continuation of politics by other means. Such means would deliver a “message” that emphatically would inform those supporting or sponsoring terrorism that they could not do so without paying a price—a very heavy price.

Earlier, after the Rome and Vienna airport massacres in January of 1986, the collected intelligence revealed conspiratorial Libyan involvement. Accordingly, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger issued warning orders to the US European Command, particularly for SIXTH Fleet and Tactical Fighter Wing FORTY-EIGHT. Therefore, contingency planning for military operations against Libya had been in the works since then. Their planned operation was assigned the code name: EL DORADO CANYON.

The Marque—the License to Strike. For a twelve-minute air raid over Libya, the US plan generated the necessary US Air Force and US Navy assets to assure that at least eighteen Air Force F/B-111F fighter-bombers, and twelve Navy A-6E attack aircraft actually would strike specifically assigned targets in Libya. In a limited sense, with a selected measure of response for a reprisal, the US plan had strike aircraft collectively distributing some 200,000 pounds of high-explosives specifically to selected military/terrorist targets in Libya.
To strike such targets in the environs of Tripoli, US TACWING FORTY-EIGHT would launch F/B-111F fighter-bomber aircraft from Lakenheath and three other support bases in England. To strike selected targets in the environs of Benghazi, US SIXTH Fleet would launch A-6E, A-7, and F/A-18 fighter-attack aircraft from naval aircraft carriers at sea in the central Mediterranean, one in each of two Battle Groups (BGs), namely, one with USS AMERICA and one with USS CORAL SEA.

During the early morning darkness of 14 April 1986, after a dispersed, dark-of-the-night replenishment at sea for “Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil,” the warships of these two BGs rendezvoused northwest of Sicily just off Punta Raisi in Golfo di Castellammare.

Shortly after first light, Vice Admiral Frank Kelso, US Navy, Commander SIXTH Fleet, convened a meeting onboard AMERICA with all his subordinate commanders and commanding officers from these BG’s that formed TASK FORCE SIXTY—TF60. He read President Reagan’s execute order for OPERATION EL DORADO CANYON; and, then prompted discussion, and invited questions. Afterwards, all commanding officers returned to their ships and informed their officers and men of the strike-order for selected military/terrorists targets in Libya.

The warships in these BGs went dark and quiet as they commenced their high-speed runs to the Gulf of Sidra. TOT, Time-On-Target, was set for 0200 Libya-time, 15 April 1986, which coincided with the dark of the crescent moon. This made it 1900 EST, 14 April 1986, which coincided with the prelude to national TV-primetime in Washington, DC.

About six hours before the strike, Rear Admiral Hank Mauz, US Navy, sent the following message to his BG:
“TF 60 AND USAF F-111’S ARE ABOUT TO CONDUCT STRIKES AT A SERIES OF MILITARY TARGETS IN LIBYA IN REPRISAL FOR CLEAR AND CERTAIN LIBYAN RESPONSIBILITY IN RECENT ATTACKS OF TERRORISM. THESE STRIKES WILL REPRESENT A HISTORICAL MILESTONE IN DEALING WITH STATE-SPONSORED TERRORISM. THOSE WHO SPONSOR SUCH ACTS WILL, PERHAPS FOR THE FIRST TIME, UNDERSTAND THAT RETRIBUTION WILL BE SWIFT AND SURE AS THEY CONTEMPLATE THEIR FUTURE ACTIVITY.”

At about 1730 London-time, on 14 April 1986, the assigned US Air Force tankers and strike aircraft launched from their respective bases in England, and proceeded southerly off the western European coast to Gibraltar, thence turned easterly to the central Mediterranean for the Tunisian coast, thence southerly to Libya—a precisely timed, grueling five-and-a-half-hour trek of some 2000+-nm.

Shortly after midnight Tripoli-time, on 15 April 1986, AMERICA and CORAL SEA began flight operations to launch their aircraft in the Gulf of Sidra. To their west, just before flying over the Tunisian coast, their Air Force brethren were making their fourth and final pre-attack, in-flight refueling from their tankers in a dark sky at 26,000 feet above the sea.

The Reprisal—the Application of Armed Force: SHOWTIME! The prelude for this one-act reprisal began as scheduled at about 0150. It featured pre-strike suppression attacks on Libyan air defenses by US Navy aircraft. They would be streaking inbound low and fast, skimming the wave tops to strike their assigned suppression targets.
Eight A-7’s from AMERICA literally would pop-up at Tripoli’s “front door,” and unleash a devastating barrage of HARM and SHRIKE missiles to suppress Libyan SAM sites there. Eight F/A-18’s from CORAL SEA would do the same at Benghazi.

Turning in from the desert to proceed northerly toward their assigned targets, right on their coordinated strike schedule, six F-111-F’s bore down on Tripoli Military Airfield, nine more bore down on Aziziyah, and the remaining three bore down on Murat Sidi Bilal. They were hugging the deck at less than five hundred feet, with some of them even attacking at just a couple of hundred feet above the ever threatening, protruding ground—unfriendly ground.

In the Libyan capital, at 0200, NBC correspondent Steve Delaney reported to Tom Brokaw, their anchorman in New York, that he was hearing the roar of jet engines outside the windows of his hotel room. Seconds later, at 1900 EST—7:00 PM US-time– millions of viewers of NBC Nightly News, my wife and sons among them, heard the explosions and the crackle of gunfire in the background as Delaney reported, “Tom, Tripoli is under attack!”

Meanwhile across the Gulf of Sidra, six of the eight A-6E attack aircraft off CORAL SEA were outbound bearing down on the Libyan fighter base at Benina, while six of the seven A-6E’s off AMERICA bore down on the military installations at Benghazi.

In regard to the element of surprise, and Libyan preparation for an imminent attack, US strike pilots reported as they approached their respective aim points that Tripoli’s streetlights were still on, as were the floodlights shining on the largest buildings and the minarets of the central mosque. At Benina, reportedly the “frigging” runway-lights were on— beacon-bright.

By 0213 in Tripoli, all strike-aircraft had reported “feet wet,” and were racing outbound over the sea—with Libya in their rearview mirror.
By 0810 in London, 15 April 1986, the last F/B-111F landed at Lakenheath, marking the longest fighter mission in US history—fourteen hours and thirty-five minutes.
First-to-last, the actual bombing had taken only twelve minutes for these intrepid US Air Force and US Navy airmen to deliver our “message.”

At sea in the Gulf of Sidra that morning, Vice Admiral Kelso called on the command-net to pass along the gist of a conversational communication he just had had with President Reagan. Synoptically, our Commander-in-Chief had sent a WELL DONE to all those he had put in harm’s way. In other words, he was commending those at the point of the sword that delivered the message for US All– the USA.

I read the message to my crew on the general announcing system, adding my own “positive” direction:
“Our Commander-in-Chief has commended us for a job ‘Well Done’ that we did during the dark this morning. You did good, and I am proud to stand in your company. But, it’s not over, ‘til it’s over. We now have to refuel/rearm our band of brothers out here. That’s our day-job. So, let’s not waste any more daylight. ROMEO is at the dip to starboard– turn-to!”


DD-963 SPRUANCE to port, DDG-51 BURKE to starboard and FFG-7 PERRY Class in waiting station, with USS DETROIT (AOE-4) providing fuel and stores

Liquid Energy– Distillate Fuel, Marine. Later that afternoon, I spoke with Rear Admiral Mauz while replenishing AMERICA alongside. We discussed DETROIT’s fuel status after topping off the BG’s warships. For the next three or more days, warships of both BG’s would maintain a defense-posture in the Gulf of Sidra, and stand ready to repulse any Libyan counter-attack. There were White House-directed contingencies in the event of that happening.

He too had seen the message passed to us by the US Department of State to inform us that the countries along the Mediterranean littoral perfunctorily, as expected, had revoked all their diplomatic clearances for port-visits by US warships because of the “ongoing hostilities.”

We discussed alternatives between here and there, whereas “there,” meant six days out and back to and from our naval facilities at Rota on the Atlantic littoral of southwestern Spain. And, in steaming from here to there, both of us knew that anything could happen, be it good or bad. Possibly, we could take-on fuel at the port of Cagliari on Sardinia’s southernmost tip, and thus cut the turnaround time in half. But, perhaps we could get into Sicily. The AGIP refinery at Augustà Bay on Sicily’s eastern coast was closer, like only a half-day’s steaming away. In any case, I was to do what I could [had to] do. DETROIT therefore steamed northward toward Sicily at 31+ knots—after all, DETROIT was a Fast Combat Support Ship, literally built on top of a battleship-propulsion plant.

As I reviewed the day’s intelligence reports, I noted that the Libyan government was reporting thirty-seven Libyans killed and ninety-three injured by the US air strikes in Tripoli and Benghazi. US intelligence sources also reported that Qaddafi survived the US air strike in his underground bunker, apparently rattled, but unharmed. His fifteen-month old adopted daughter, however, had been killed, and his wife and two youngest sons, ages three and four, had been seriously injured.

Apparently, Qaddafi’s family had been asleep in their beds on the ground floor of the residence when the compound was attacked. I solemnly rationalized that a distinct moral distinction can be made between “collateral damage” accidentally resulting in the deaths of Libyan civilians and the deliberate murdering of civilians by acts of terrorism.


Lampadusa Island Map

Then, as I read on, apparently Qaddafi had had his army launch two Soviet-built SS-1 SCUD-B ballistic missiles at the US Coast Guard’s Long-Range Navigation– LORAN– station on < ahref="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lampedusa_Island">ISOLA DI LAMPEDUSA. LAMPEDUSA is an island in the central Mediterranean about 170 nm [nautical miles] north-northwest of Tripoli, and about 140 nm south of the western tip of Sicily.

The Libyan SCUD’s though had fallen short detonating harmlessly in the rocks offshore. Nevertheless, the resulting explosions caused two large columns of water to plume brusquely into the air, and the percussion wave shook the homes of some six thousand Lampedusan residents living there. I presumed that such action was more than likely in desperation to do something—anything– to retaliate against the US.

When I finished reading the reports, I simply shook my head thinking that such a “counter-attack” was ridiculous at best—and, at worst was stupid. I scuffed it off—re-fuel was on my mind.

During the early morning darkness of 16 April 1986, I slowed DETROIT’s speed-of-advance just before reaching the turn onto the approaches for the breakwater at the industrial oil-port city of Augustà, Sicily. My intent was to enter port and top-off with jet-propulsion fuel and distillate-fuel marine, about two million gallons– each.

For normal deployed tasking, this would have been just another routine, twice-a-month top-off. This, however, was neither normal nor routine, because it was in the early morning darkness of the day following a US air strike against Libya.

In that such mortally intrusive action was a unilateral projection of national power by the US, the somewhat surprised host countries in the central Mediterranean region had no other choice than to rescind all diplomatic clearances for port visits by US warships until such hostilities could be settled, diplomatically. To say the least, this would be an out-of-the-ordinary port-visit.

My operational plan was simple though. I would maneuver DETROIT for port entry under the cover of darkness—and, be rigged at darkened ship and in electronic silence. Unassisted, I then would moor DETROIT bow-out alongside the pier that housed the fuel-manifolds for AGIP’s refinery. In other words, we were sneaking in.
My crew then would scurry ashore to take-on fuel, just as they had done so many times before. Fuel was always available down at AGIP’s manifolds—24/7. It was there by gravity-feed from storage tanks at an elevation of some 100 feet up the hill.

And, since we were going to pay for what we took, their padlocked valves would not pose a problem—to my street-smart sailors. After all—I moralized– were we not good customers, with ways and means? Most assuredly, we would replace the padlocks with new ones, and I would direct DETROIT’s Supply Officer to leave the necessary paperwork for payment due in the post-box on the pier for business as usual—padlock keys and all.

All in all, it should take us only about four hours to top-up. Then having done so, we simply would slip our moorings to the pier and depart unassisted, and unobtrusively– before any locals came to work. I admit, it was somewhat of an audacious plan—to some extent or greater. But, I rationalized, was it not mission-essential—and, cost-effective too? Because, by the next morning, in less than forty-eight hours, we could be back on our replenishment circuit in the Gulf Sidra for refueling/re-arming the fuel-thirsty ships of our battle group still patrolling there.

After all, is it not easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission?

Furthermore, could it not be rationalized—and, moralized– that politics are politics, whereas business is business—and, war is war? So, stop procrastinating.
Don’t Ask Why, Just Do It! Think action, and act with thought.

As expected, the port and the surrounding hills were dark. A passing thought of anxiety did wisp through the dark reaches in the back of my plotting mind in that strangely, there did not seem to be any lights on, except for surface navigational aids—on dim. But, I quickly re-focused to more lucid things right in front me, like the prudent ship-handling tasks ahead.

Weather-wise, I noticed that the morning land breeze was offsetting, and thus would be somewhat of a buffer for easing DETROIT alongside the pier, ever so gently. It was pleasantly cool, and even a little misty; but essentially the visibility was clear and unlimited even in the early morning darkness. Therefore, visual observations for navigational fixing would do prudently, thus electronic means for navigational fixing were not needed, and were off.

I had been in and out of Augustà Bay many times over the years, and thus was very familiar with the approaches to the breakwater-entrance as well as the restrictive waters for maneuvering deep-draft ships inside the breakwater. Furthermore, I also was an experienced ship-handler, having served in ships, at sea, for more than half of my naval career. So, an unassisted mooring would not be a problem, or result in any untoward happenings.

I smartly conned DETROIT to head-up the track indicated by the two lighted in-range navigational towers. Radios were tuned to receive, but transmissions were to be kept silent– in that, I did not intend to call in and get permission to enter port. In other words, I imagined us sneaking in slowly at the prudent speed of about 10 knots, and maneuvering in the harbor to make a landing– with a 900-foot, 50,000-ton, gray elephant-behemoth.

An Extraordinary Emotional Event—At Sicily’s Augustà Bay. All of a sudden, the pilothouse radio, tuned to Channel-16, crackled:
“USS DETROIT, this is COMANDANTÈ AUGUSTÀ, What are your intentions?”

What was just as surprising is that no bright searchlights came on, and no alarms were sounding. And, the query had been made in very clear, and correct, authoritative English instead of the usual pidgin English. I quickly assessed that a senior Italian officer must have transmitted it, perhaps even the Commander of Italian armed forces stationed there.

Trying to overcome the anxiety of the moment, that is, like when caught with your hand in the cookie-jar, my Executive Officer, instead of answering the radioed query, extended the radio microphone in his hand toward me with a look indicative of an unspoken question, “What are YOU going to say now?”

Well, when a smart-ass is caught red-handed, the reply is typically a flippant one. I took the radio in hand, and gathered my thoughts for some excusatory response. After all, we had been at sea for an extended period and deserved some R&R– Rest and Recreation—like, a sailor’s liberty.

I cleared my throat, to speak somewhat authoritatively, and responded without call-up in “Pidgin” Italian, vis-à-vis, Pidgin English, with a so typical asinine smile on my face:
“Mi parè– Libertà!”

The counter response absolutely was astonishing. No, it was astoundingly magnificent! Lights came on in the port, and on all the small boats just inside the breakwater. A hundred radios crackled at once: “Parè Libertà — Parè Libertà!”

The vibrancy of the words echoed off the steel bulkheads of the pilothouse, and seemingly off the hills of the surrounding countryside. The crescendo of freedom’s ring resounded all around us. Several searchlights then came on, but not directly on us. They were highlighting our battle flag—the Stars and Stripes—still flying so proudly at mast-top.

My mind raced to comprehend what was happening.

Then it hit me.

Apparently, Qaddafi had not heeded, nor perhaps even sought, the advice of geo-politicos to ascertain the sovereignty of ISOLA DI LAMPEDUSA.

My, my, Qaddafi had attacked Italy!

I quickly deduced that the Italian ministry in Rome must be in the throws of releasing an official response. Notwithstanding that bureaucratic action, the Sicilians already knew that the attack had been by a terminally ballistic, non-guided missile launched from Libya. Moreover, the Sicilians instinctively knew that the attack was not accidental, or some regrettable mistake in aim-point. To the people here in Sicily, this was an unprovoked, reprehensible attack by Libya onto Italy’s sovereign soil. Thus, Italian forces in Augusta Bay were in the defend mode—and, we were one of their fellow defenders!

Every now and then, you can catch old Murphy resting on his laurels. And, according to O’Toole’s corollary to Murphy’s Law, we were experiencing the Luck of the Irish—and, my Irish eyes were smiling.

The morning mist was cooling my flushed face, as I broke into a smile—a big smile. I had never heard nor seen a welcome like this before—or, since.

My flippancy dissipated. This was indeed an unforgettable–if not a historic– moment. I stood at attention on the starboard bridge wing as we entered Augustà Bay, and professionally saluted the glassed-in watchtower smartly as we passed abeam the breakwater. I even imagined COMANDANTÈ AUGUSTÀ mouthing the words: Mi venne in aiuto.

Without untoward incident, or further adieu, DETROIT was back on station in the Gulf of Sidra by dark-thirty that night. While in-transit that evening, I read the message reporting what President Reagan, pursuant to the terms of the War Powers Act, had forwarded by letter to Congress regarding OPERATION EL DORADO CANYON. His letter, in part, stated that,

“…[The air strikes on Libya] were conducted in the exercise of our right of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This necessary and appropriate action was a preemptive strike directed at the Libyan terrorist infrastructure and designed to deter acts of terrorism, such as the Libyan-ordered bombing of a discotheque in West Berlin on April 5.”

As an anti-climatically parenthetical to highlight that business is business, a Libyan-flagged crude-oil tanker was moored across the pier. Her captain invited me over to have coffee, and I did–graciously.

Retrospectively, keep in mind listening to the news reporting strife and struggle among people that whenever, and wherever, freedom-loving people are threatened, they will rally to side with those who champion their cause, and welcome all who will stand beside them to keep the light of Freedom’s Torch burning bright.
That’s my lesson learned for what LIBERTY means to me.
– – – CLAUSULA – – –

Category: "Sea Stories", Air Force, Coast Guard, History, Jointness, Maritime Matters, Military, Navy | 2 Comments »

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