2/25/2011 “WRAP Pack” CNA and Birthday Celebration

March 11th, 2011 by xformed

As is the manner of it is to gather every other Saturday AM, last time we met, we celebrated the birthday of two of our members (2 USMC (Ret) Colonels), as well a recognition of the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CNA).

If you have an excellent eye for history, there is some of them in the video…..

The creator of the document that became known to me as the “EDORM” (Engineering Department Regulation and Organizational Manual) is present,

along with the high time and most traps pilot in the Vought F7U Cutlass. A RA-5C NFO, several P2V/P-3 pilots, three “‘Shoes,” two Army types from the Vietnam Era, a A-1 pilot with VA-196, and a Navy Cross recipient are all around the table, as well as the two senior Marines, who both flew in WWII.

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Reconnect Marine Brothers in Arms: Find HM2 James Pell, USN

March 18th, 2010 by xformed

United States Marine Corps seal
Image via Wikipedia

Update 3/23/2010:  It was CPL Powers who saved HM3 Pell, not the other way around, as I first wrote in the post below.  In any case, please help get these two reconnected!

Update 3/25/2010:  Chasing referenced links, I found out CPL Powers, having taken the Combat Lifesavers Course, saved HM3 James Pell from certain death on the battle fiend, after being shot 11 times and falling off a roof from an article in Leatherneck Magazine.


This post was originally done on my Blogspot blog as “How to Bury a Hero,” and while many of the older posts were moved over in 2006, I hadn’t gotten to moving them all to this blog.  Back then, it was a manual moving process, and now…well…”import” in WP is much more advanced.

I need help:  I got an email request to act on the comment (all contained below) to reconnect HM2 Pell with one of the men he saved, LCPL James Powers, USMC.  I did email with James Pell back in the 2005/2006 time frame, then his email apparently changed.  Could everyone get the word out and try to track down HM2 Pell?

The info is below.  Use this as a “connector piece” or send James straight to James Powers.

Let’s put the power of the MilBlog community to work in getting these men back together.

Original post replicated here:

How to Bury a Hero

I’ve not been posting too much the last few days, for I was “teaching history” to those who want to equate the “WHERE are the WMDs?!?!?!?” discussion to the moral equivalent of “hate” crimes against the transgendered. It really wore me out. I was a little discouraged, realizing the emotional toll that occurred trying to have an actual discussion with a bunch of animated Democratic talking points. In a few moments of surfing this afternoon, I found the following comments just a few minutes ago. I was chasing links to read about a young Marine, LCpl Antoine Smith. He was killed by hostile fire at Fallujah. I chased the links to Pull on Superman’s Cape and under this post, titled The Heros of India Company, I found the words of a junior enlisted Navy Corpsman who had been at the side of LCpl Smith when he was killed. He recalled that moment like this:

“Forgive my spelling. I was next to Lcpl Smith as he took his last breath. As a US Navy Corpsman I am there to help trasition heroes into the next life. I was flipping through the TV Sunday night and came across “Heroes of India Company”. I wasn’t aware that this documentary existed. I paused and watched as I relived the fight. I was with 3/5 untill I was shot Nov 15, 2004. I am the Sniper platoon Cormpsman. After Smith went down and the bombs were dropped we pushed on. We engaged in a fierce fight with five insurgents across the street. It was roof top to roof top. Then out of no were the house next to us opened up and pinned us down. My Sniper partner and myself stormed the third story roof killing two insurgents. Once ontop of the third story the Marines started moving across to the second deck. First over was Shane. No sooner had he crossed over the wall I heard him scream for help. I looked over the edge and saw him holding his head, still screaming. I did what any true Marine loving Corpsman would do, I went after him to pull him out of the line of fire and treat his wound. I never made it to Shane though. I hung my feet over the third deck to jump to the second were Shane was no lying motionless. As I started to slide off It felt like a sledge hammer smashed into my right thigh, and it went limp. No sooner the same feeling in my right calf. It hit me, I’m being shot! I looked for a way to get out of the insurgents path and chose to jump off the side of the building. Before I could make the move My left leg went limp as more AK-47 rounds went through the upper thigh, calf and foot. As I was falling the insurgents rounds found target again, two round to the lower right abdomin and two round to the upper groin. I fell two stories and dislocated my right shoulder. Because of the medical training I gave my Snipers every day, Lcpl James Powers saved my life. He prompty stopped the massive bleeding from my legs. From the beginning to the end I was with both Smith and Shane. Everything medicaly possiable was done to preserve life. I am now training others that are heading to combat, awaiting my Marine Corps family to return from Fallujah this month. EMCEE: James, I cannot express in words just how much brave Marines like you mean to me. Everything I can think of just fails to say to you what I feel. Let me just say: Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. On behalf of the American people I thank you. On behalf of the brave men and women that you serve I thank you. Your courage and valor inspire me. I thank God for patriots like you sir. God Bless You! Posted by: HM3 Pell, James at March 1, 2005 09:36 AM”

That was powerful to read the after action report of a comrade in arms. A few comments down, here was something that speaks with even great power about the bond that combat forges between warriors by the same young man. This was not said by a Marine General, or a Pentagon Press Briefer, but by one who has been “there:”

“How to bury a hero. Andrew Keeler was one of the best SS [Scout Sniper] I ever knew. He was dedicated to his country and his brother in arms. He died outside of of the capital in early April. Killed while participating in convoy operations. We, his military brothers, flew to the funeral to be the his honor guard. Once at the cemetary the uligy was read and flowers placed on the casket. The five of us wated until all the public had left the site and we, the people that knew more about Andrew than his own family, opened his casket and pinned on the medals he earned in combat. We closed the casket and together lowered it into the ground. Before we landed for the funeral we all agreed that no minumum wage cemtary worker was going to touch this heros coffin, or the dirt that was to cover it. So the five of us picked up our shovels and burried Andrew shovel by shovel. We tamped the dirt and relaid the sod, then stood over the sight silently for a few minutes to honor Andrews life. Then we got smashed on the plane ride home. This is how I wanna go when the time comes… Posted by: HM3 Pell James at April 12, 2005 01:59 PM’

As HM3 James Pell is now forever a part of the brotherhood of the USMC, despite his beginnings at a Navy Boot Camp, I’m sure his brethern will honor his wishes. I hope you find it in you to pass these words along to those who haven’t yet comprehended what the real meaning of friendship is. Please make sure the credit to Hospital Corpsman Third Class James Pell, USN of the Fleet Marine Force, is always included with this quote. To reconnect with my opening remarks, while the subject matter above is sad, knowing these young men have passed from our presense, I am overjoyed to see that there are those in the younger generation who truly “get it.” More amazing still that HM3 Pell shows wisdom beyond his years. I’m hopeful for the future of the US and the western world as a result. Email HM3 James Pell here Thanks to Mudville Gazette’s Open Posting!

posted by chaoticsynapticactivity | 6/14/2005 04:35:00 PM

9 Comments [ed:  some spam deleted]:

Anonymous Anonymous said…
I knew all of the guys mentioned here. You hit the nail right on the head when you talked about how we “get it”. I sure miss all of em.

3/27/2006 03:04:00 AM
Anonymous james powers said…
I am James Powers, the Lcp that was there with James Pell and Shane Keelion when they were both shot, I personally watched Shane get shot in the forehead, and James Pell’s legs shake violently as the bullets impacted. I went to boot camp with Shane, he was a great man. I havn’t spoken to James since I exited the USMC but if he is still a corpsman I believe he is one of the best if not the best the navy has to offer, an example for all of us. I’m mainly posting this in hopes to reconnect with him, but I feel I must contribute to this blog in order to be taken seriously by a reader. If anyone knows him personally or if you are reading this yourself James, try to contact me, facebook would be best since some of the same people, (snipers) that we worked with are my friends still. IE Moon, Ramsey. I don’t mind answering or replying if anyone has anything to say after this is posting.

That day is a day I coulnd’t forget even if I tried, I hope that this reaches you James.

3/16/2010 04:41:00 PM
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General Dynamics Conducts Blog PR Campaign

December 23rd, 2009 by xformed

Regarding LCS-2.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

I received an email from a member of their Advanced Information Systems Department, letting me know he works with the LCS program and also provided a link to a video of the LCS-2 on the GD website.

Here’s the text of the communique (sent Tuesday, December 22, 2009 2:51 PM):

With an interest in Navy affairs, I have read posts from your blog and thought you might find this video interesting. The LCS or Littoral Combat Ship is a program the Navy is developing for relatively small surface vessels intended for operations in the littoral zone (close to shore). It is “envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant capable of defeating anti-access and asymmetric threats in the littorals.”. Two ship classes are the first examples of the LCS in the U.S. Navy: the Freedom-class and the Independence-class.

The company I work for is part of the team designing and building the Independence-class which took the unique course of using a trimaran design. When facing pirates, terrorists or other asymmetric threats, this unique and forward design makes the ship fast, highly maneuverable and geared to supporting mine detection/elimination, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare, particularly against small surface craft. Wanted to share this video we produced in case you found it interesting.


I’m sure he has a vested interest n naval affairs. I call it a paycheck in these lean times.

Anyhow, General Dynamics is putting their workforce in play to even let us little guys know, how special a ship almost as big as an FF(G), with a 57mm gun, is going to work great in the close in, shallow waters, chasing pirates.

Yeah…that’s the main threat of the future. I sure hope the Chinese wake up and smell the coffee and begin to employ small groups of men in small boats, armed with RPGs to take us on. It sure would save a lot of money for them.

I did respond with a polite “I don’t think this ship fits the bill…too big for close in, too little for real sea battles, and and that the 57mm gun was a joke, at best” message.

But who am I, but one blogger of many?

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Today in History: Linebacker II Begins

December 18th, 2009 by xformed

When the enemy thinks they can stall peace talks, how do you respond?  With a diplomatic tools that “communicates” beyond the Paris meeting room.

On this day in 1972, Linebacker II, the largest air campaign since WWII began, with Air force and Navy planes filling the skies over North Vietnam.

For 11 days, the fury of America was unleashed over their capital and sea ports. On this day, 189 bombers (B-52D/Gs) and 39 support aircraft from the 7th Air force, and Navy and Marine Corps assets (EB-66/EA-6B/KC-135s/F-4/A-6/A-7/F-111/F-105), as well as SAR (Search and Rescue) aircraft took to the skies for a night attack. This mission targeted airfields and warehouses.

3 B-52s were shot down, and three more heavily damaged. One F-111 was also shot down, as the North Vietnamese put and estimated 220 SAMs in the air.

This afternoon, I attended an MOAA lunch and one of the men there reminded the MC to mention the history of today. It turns out that gentlemen had spent time in a B-17 over Schweinfurt, B-29s over Korea and B-52s over Vietnam. I suspect he was in the cockpit for this operation, but I did not have the opportunity to speak with him, as the room was full of living history.

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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:

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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