Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hezbollah, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and What's Next - on Midrats



As the Syrian conflict enters what looks to be its end game, one old player on the scene is emerging stronger than it has ever been, a point of concern for all the nations in the area.

How has the Syrian civil war changed Hezbollah and her allies, and what does it signal about the post-war order?

To discuss this and related issues will be our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm, Sulome Anderson.

Sulome is journalist and author based between New York City and Beirut, Lebanon. An alumna of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She writes regularly for publications including Newsweek, The Atlantic, New York, Harpers, Foreign Policy, VICE, Village Voice and Vox.com. Her first book, The Hostage’s Daughter was published in 2016.

We will use her latest article, Hezbollah’s New Strength Leaves Israeli Border Tense, as a starting off point for our conversation.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Fullbore Friday

In the course of a military career, we have all found ourselves at some point or another at an extraordinary place in time, doing things or being responsible for things we had no idea we would find ourselves as the critical player.

At the moment, you don’t fully grasp what you did – or even why you did it. As time passes and you think about them, you try to figure out the why and the how. At the moment, you just do.

Sometimes it is training, others it is what makes you an individual, many times you can spend a lifetime in hindsight trying to figure it all out.

It can happen at any time. You could be fully prepared for it, spent months and years training for that eventuality, or it could just be a bolt out of the blue requiring an action or decision just as rapidly.

As leaders, at a moment of crisis, the decision will fall on to you. Eyes will fall on you. Ears will listen for your voice. You may look to the right and left looking for guidance or a clue to what needs to be done – but find nothing but others waiting on you.

There is no normal watch. There are not unimportant billets. One many can make a difference.

We recently lost one of the Patron Saints of Watchstanders, ROTC/OCS Graduate Hall of Fame, and a distinguished member of the Retired O-5 Mafia.
Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was 44 years old and working at a missile detection bunker south of Moscow on September 26, 1983. His computer told him that five nuclear missiles were on their way, and given their flight time, he had just 20 minutes to launch a counter attack. But Petrov told his superior officers that it was a false alarm. He had absolutely no real evidence that this was true, but it probably saved millions of lives.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC’s Russian Service back in 2013.


“I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it,” Petrov said.

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay,” he told the BBC.

“All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders—but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan,” Petrov said.

Perhaps importantly, Petrov noted that he was the only officer around that day who had received a civilian education. Everyone else were professional soldiers and he believed that they would have simply reported the attack at face value. The men around him were “taught to give and obey orders.” Luckily, Petrov disobeyed what simply didn’t feel right to him.

Petrov reasoned that if the Americans were going to launch a first strike they’d send more than five missiles, despite the fact that they could still do an enormous amount of damage. He also believed that since the alert system was relatively new it seemed likely that it could be sending a false alarm.


When I first heard his story years ago, I thought it was one part gilding the lily, another part mythology. Over time, many professionals looked in to the story – and it seems to have held the test of time.

Did one man save the world – or would someone else up the chain have dialed things back? We don’t know, but what we do know is when this man was faced with a call, he made the right one.

I would recommend you read the full article. Look at the pictures. Look how he lived. A humble man who served a fallen empire living in humble means.

How was he officially rewarded?
In the aftermath, the Soviet government investigated the incident and determined that Petrov had insufficiently documented his actions during the crisis. He explained it as "Because I had a phone in one hand and the intercom in the other, and I don’t have a third hand"; nevertheless, Petrov received a reprimand.

In 1984, Petrov left the military and got a job at the research institute that had developed the Soviet Union's early warning system. He later retired after his wife was diagnosed with cancer so he could care for her.

The O-5 Mafia understands ... but none of that matters.

But he lived a grand life, did good.

Straight 5.0s, #1 Early Promote. 

Fullbore.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Diversity Thursday

At this point in 2017, can well meaning people agree that Identity Politics is one of the last places our Navy needs to be moving towards and encouraging?

Can we agree that dividing people in to groups based on race, ethnicity and sex is divisive and prejudicial to good order and discipline?

Can we agree that showing favoritism to one group over another based on same is a cancer that leads nowhere but to division and strife?

Can we agree that you cannot contain Identity Politics to only one group; that if you encourage and reward one group for engaging in Identity Politics, that over time other groups will start to do the same - with or without your encouragement?

Can we agree that the primary reason people try to hide something that is naturally apparent to observers, derives from shame? Like makeup over a scar, paint over rust, or fragrance over smell - to hide, obscure, or artificially change a natural feature is simply a manifestation of shame?

What if the objects of shame are people? Is this an activity our Navy should be engaged in? Encourage? Proud of?

Regardless of who they are, do we want those serving our nation feel that we don't value their service simply due to their race, ethnicity or sex? Not imply or leave open to misunderstanding - but openly - red in tooth and claw - tell them that their presence is not wanted simply because of how they were born?

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Why do we lie to ourselves and others? Why do we have leaders who desire to enter every argument on the basis of something as meaningless as race and ethnicity?

For the folks new to DivThu and uninitiated, we should probably clearly define something first; "diversity" in the Navy is what is measured as such. Socio-economic background, State of residency, region, and academic background is not what what is tracked and accounted for; race, ethnicity, and increasingly sex and sexual proclivity is what is meant by the word "diversity." Mostly race and ethnicity.

Check out the Diversity Commissariat's calendar for approved and unapproved race and ethnicity.

We have a long history of building Potemkin Village photo-shoots that create a false impression of the actual makeup of our Navy. In many publications and videos, it is just plain laughable. USNA can be especially silly in this regard as we have covered through the years WRT the Color Guard fiasco and other occasions.

PAOs and other marketing types can't help themselves when it comes to counting jelly beans - but why do it for internal reasons? Are we so seeped in the worst aspects of academic Cultural-Marxism that we believe the people we bring in and the culture we mold them to allows people to be motivated, driven, and shaped by racial prejudice? As apposed to stamping it out, we encourage it?

Are we really OK with people who openly accept and promote a culture that encourages an individual's learned bigotry? If we have someone in the service who does or does not want to do a job based on the race of people who are presently doing that job - do we even want that person in the service?

The military has no use for those who are so driven by race and ethnicity that it impacts their job decision and performance. There are too many people who don't think that way that we can retain - they are the ones we want, not those guided by the most base brain-stem tribal instincts.

If we are a meritocracy, then we should only care about one thing; performance. What shade your skin is, if your last name as a vowel or not, or who you want to share an evening in Paris with should make no difference. If someone thinks it does, then that person needs more training, better leadership, or a different line of work.

If a leader is pushing a sectarian world view, then in the second decade of the 21st Century they have no reason to be in a leadership position where they can pollute minds of subordinates with their biases.

Not everyone promoting such actions are creating them out of whole cloth. Many junior personnel are just executing the orders of those above them; not illegal orders, just distasteful orders. So go on their own, but most only "go there" if they are directed to. As such,  I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the LT quoted in the below. 

This is an institutional problem.
-----Original Message-----
From: [redacted]
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2017 3:49 PM
To: [redacted], Christopher J CAPT STRIKEFIGHT, Commodore
Cc: Alex [redacted]; CSFWL_OCEN_SQUADRON_COS; CSFWL_OCEN_SQUADRON_XOS; [redacted], Kevin M CAPT STRIKEFIGHT, SFWL; [redacted], Joseph R CDR STRIKEFIGHT, OPS O; Samuel [redacted]
Subject: Re: USNA Social Date Change

CAPT [redacted],

Sir, can you please send us 6-8 diverse JO's with recent cruise experience. We are trying to overcome stereotypes about the composition of the VFA community, so we would like to represent broad of a JO population as possible (mix of pilots/ WSO's/ males/ females/ backgrounds/ ethnicities). It also helps to have a mix of squadrons. The most important factor to consider is that midshipmen resonate best with young JO's that have charismatic personalities and are excited about the leadership and career opportunities Naval Aviation holds.

We're looking forward to welcoming the VFA community back to the yard to kick off our Naval Aviation event series this year, thanks again helping us get the future generation into the cockpit.

V/R,

[redacted]


[redacted]
LT USN
Leadership Instructor
Aviation Operations Officer
United States Naval Academy
Luce Hall [redacted]
​O: ​
(410)293-[redacted]

C: (719)494-[redacted]​
"...overcome stereotypes..." - really? Why are we overcoming stereotypes?
Stereotype
nown
...
4. Sociology. a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group:
Is there is implication that all stereotypes are bad? Not all are bad, they are simply a reflection of the reality created by individual choices and talents. Is the present stereotype in the VFA community "bad" to the degree it needs to be hidden? Why is it "bad?" 

Is this bad and unmotivating simply based on the DNA of who is at the table?



Who cares if everyone on a panel is a white male, Asian female, or some unknown but glorious all-American mixture of this, that and the other thing? We should not care, and the best of our young men and women will not care. If they do, then we've recruited the wrong men and women - or more likely - filled their heads with a bunch of sectarian garbage that needs to be untrained.

NB: I quoted the initiating email of a long thread by the time it got to me. I stripped the rest away an none of the people mentioned in this email sent it to me. I received a copy way down the thread forwarded through many levels. The Fleet LT who sent it to me shared some additional details I wish I could post as well, but that would expose them. 

The problem is not the racial attitudes of our junior officers or Midshipmen. The problem is with the senior leadership that encourages, requires, and derive personal gain from promoting sectarianism, division, and the strife that come with it. 

This is just another example in a long shameful record. 

Our Navy is better than this.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sen. Kaine (D-VA) Puts CDR Salamander in the Senate Record

Today at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Recent United States Navy Incidents at Sea, Senator Kaine quoted a post from November 2008 based on the resignation letter from a regular reader and Junior Officer SWO who was kind enough to allow me to publish it.

To see what got the Senator and his staff's attention, I'll re-post the letter in full.

REASON FOR SUBMISSION OF REQUEST

There are a multitude of reasons I am requesting to resign from active duty; in brief, I have lost faith in the direction of the Navy and I wish to pursue graduate education on my own terms.

I do not see a bright future for the Surface Navy. Our newest and projected ships are all troubling for multiple reasons. The LPD-17 class is a mess; late, over budget, incomplete and possesses questionable mission capability. LCS and DDG-1000, which were supposed to make up significant portions of our future fleet, are both struggling to get more than two hulls in the water and are having many of the same difficulties as LPD-17. These difficulties will continue to lead to a further dilution of the already limited assets we have. Our future combatants, LCS and DDG-1000, are both ridiculously under armed. Any frigate-sized combat ship whose primary weapon is a single 57mm cannon is dangerously ill-equipped. The secondary weapons systems are manned, un-stabilized .50 caliber guns. High rate of fire 57mm cannon are great, if they are secondary or tertiary weapons systems. Manned weapon systems, as we force ourselves to operate them, are inordinately manpower intensive. This is a huge flaw on a ship that is very light on bodies. Un-stabilized weapons are also of dubious use in any form of sea state. I understand the concept of adding capability to LCS with mission modules, but it is hard to temporarily install a gun on a ship. Even with a MIW package installed, the ship may have to fight. Have we learned nothing from history? Ships built to outrun anything they can not outgun generally can neither run nor fight as they are employed, will FREEDOM become known as equivalent to HOOD? DDG-1000 is another flawed concept, but at least 57mm cannon are included as a secondary weapon. In the modern littoral world the risks are simply too high to steam one of two or three multibillion dollar capital ships to do the land attack job. Any 15,000 ton ship that draws nearly 30 feet has no business being anywhere near the coastline. The ship has now been publicly justified solely because it is needed to develop the technology for CG(X). DDG-1000 will soon be nothing more than a white elephant. As part of the bigger picture, we no longer have ships that we can even pretend excel at surface warfare. We have allowed the air and submarine services to take responsibility for all of our offensive capability. We continue to develop fundamentally defensive capabilities. The fact is that in a conflict with a Russian or Chinese surface ship, our ships have no ability to credibly shoot back. Our offensive capability is limited to a helicopter or possibly a Harpoon, which is entirely unacceptable. We have entirely lost any credible offensive surface capability.


The manning for these new classes is also a concern. How these ships will have to operate and fight does not fit the current training or manning paradigm. I served as the Operations Officer on a PC. The PCs are the closest thing we have to the optimal manning construct of LCS. The administrative burden placed on the ships due to an antiquated manning system is obscene. In addition to this fact, crews are consistently put in situations where they have nothing but bad options; this limits readiness, hurts morale and is a disgrace to ORM practices. There is not the depth of talent available in optimum manning solutions, or sometimes simply the bodies, for the current manning process to work. These manning problems are directly related to future platforms and there is currently no credible solution, especially with the limited numbers of ships projected. New classes, with “optimal manning” will be consistently fighting an uphill battle. That battle will inevitably sap time, resources, and morale. That manning battle will in the long term affect the quality of people choosing to go to these ships. Will a hot running Junior Officer or Chief choose to go to a ship that may well be viewed as out of the mainstream and is known to be more work than a comparable DDG? Some may, many will not. The LCS manning models all suggest that it will be an entirely senior crew. Will they all be willing to stand watches, in port and underway that may actually be below their paygrade? What happens on the ship when the detailer who is completely unaffected sends a second class to fill a first class billet, as one up or one down is OK, a Sailor who does not have the requisite schools, ability, or maturity to fill a senior billet? What happens when there is an unanticipated loss on board? That billet needs to be filled and detailers can do nothing but activate their antiquated system and cut orders for someone coming from shore duty to arrive in six months. Even with staff and flag level involvement these issues persist. Each question I ask has been an actual issue and while I know they exist on all ships they disproportionately affect ships with smaller crews. Adding officers to the LCS manning construct to allow for a three section watch rotation, which was a listed justification at one point, leads me to believe that many of the actual manning issues to be seen have not been actively thought through. Many problems have surely been addressed, but what of those that are unanticipated? What happens when you go through a training cycle and have to demonstrate two watch sections and a fully qualified training team, especially during times when it may be physically impossible to do? One of three things will have to happen: change shipboard manning, change training and operation practices, or force the crews to deal with it. I anticipate the third option as being most likely. It is unreasonable to expect the newest and best surface assets to operate to their full potential with these manning problems. However, the system is not built to accommodate them. The crews inevitably will have to make up for institutional shortcomings with extra watch standing and extraordinary effort.

IAs are a sore subject. They remain an issue and have not been properly addressed. I know entirely too many people who have been sent on an IA to do jobs that have no professional application to their career. The numbers, as presented, are misleading. For example, from the current SWO CO/XO Mentoring Brief available from BUPERS (April 2008 as I write this, in September) there are approximately 75 Lieutenants on an IA or GSA, which equates to just shy of 4% of the force strength. I know not all of those are my year group but I do know some from my year group have already been on an IA, are on an IA or will be on an IA. The numbers when compared to the 281 of my year group set as a goal for SWOCP takers is staggeringly higher, nearly 25%. It will not surprise me to see numbers of around that 25% when we look at final percentages of year groups that have been on an IA or GSA. It may be that my perceptions are incorrect, as I am a skeptic by nature, but it certainly still feels like the sword of Damocles is hanging over our collective head. The communication has been terrible regarding IA/GSAs, and, by the way, changing a name does not change the problem. They should have been a temporary solution for an overextended Army and State Department. I would have gone on one of those in a heartbeat. In fact I applaud the Navy for helping; but now why do they still exist? Are they permanent billets associated with Army units; that we can deal with? On the other hand are we still filling gaps that now five years down the road we should not be? To address the negative impression the GSA has been turned into a “good deal” with tag lines like: beneficial to your career, Command Billets, IA instead of a second division officer, or second department head tour, etc. It seems to have turned into an unofficial requirement. If you want to look really good at a board you need all of your qualifications and an IA. They may not be mandatory, but if they are a plus and so many people have done them now, should I volunteer to go do something way out of my line of work just to look better and be more promotable? Another issue is that it seems ridiculous to go on an IA and still be required to do a joint tour and JPME. Were these things not instituted so more senior officers have a better idea of how other services work? It looks as if we have failed to apply common sense to an arbitrary checklist. I could go on for pages regarding the IA/GSA process, but the summary is that I feel like SWOs are being sold a bad deal and are even more embittered than they would be otherwise.

The whole IA/GSA process seems to be not much more than a thorn in the side of a surface force, which requires focus on unanswered topics. We are abrogating our duty to adapt to the conflict we are in. The capability we could field for the cost of one of our average surface ships in terms of maritime counterinsurgency (MCOIN) seems to be significant. I do not get the impression that we have focused enough on this capability. It remains a tiny sideshow relegated to reserve components and collateral duties. I am a non-compliant certified boarding officer. It is a capability we have added to surface ships in a haphazard manner; the current time and training allotted is inadequate for this duty and it is only a matter of time until we kill people. I will never argue that we do not need a bluewater strategic capability, it is one of our core competencies. We are failing to adjust to current issues and the corresponding decrease in conflict intensity. MCOIN cannot remain a subset of our special forces if we are to remain a valuable asset beyond the high seas and blue water realm. As warfare becomes more asymmetric missions once reserved for special forces will need to be handled by regular commands.

If I saw the Navy as actively pursuing MCOIN or a strategic vision that actually was relevant I would be less disillusioned. I would certainly consider staying in the Navy if the Navy was going down a more logical road to include the capabilities discussed in the previous paragraph. I am forced, if I wish to continue in the Surface Navy, to follow the career checklist: Department head school, a standard first tour department head tour, then maybe I could do something interesting, pending availability. I have been told that my time on a PC will not come back to bite me, but it seems as if it is because it is clearly listed as outside the mainstream (slide seven of the previously referenced brief). I am required to do three of four division officer and department head tours in the mainstream (slide nine of the previously referenced brief). I do not want to be fighting an uphill battle for the rest of my career, which given the standard career guidance, seems to be the only way I could ever do anything that excites me. My options, assuming I successfully complete a first tour department head job, are at best limited. Based on the most recent second tour department head billet list (July 2008) 50% of available second tours are on a staff, which holds exactly zero interest for me. Less than 10% of the jobs are what I would call appealing based on what I know now, and while I have gotten my first choice for every assignment so far I am not willing to stake my future happiness on a slim probability which may not even be available.

I would argue that giving officers the ability to have more options, even if outside the mainstream, would be beneficial to retention and broaden the capabilities of future commanders. Diversity is a dangerous term because we do not value career diversity. We say we value diversity and yet force our officers to stay in the mainstream to stay competitive. There is a huge difference between what we say we value and what we actually value. True diversity is variety of background and assignment. Diversity is not an Aegis division officer tour fleeting up on board, then two department head tours fleeting up on an Aegis ship, and then two tours as Executive Officer then Commanding Officer on an Aegis ship. True diversity in assignment is the opposite of that defined by the current hot-runners career path. Diversity as we define it in the Navy is nothing more than racism masquerading as an insult to the officer corps. I treat all of my Sailors exactly the same, regardless of their background or skin color; any officer worth their collar devices does the same. To suggest that I do otherwise is a denigration of my character and leadership. I do not need to come from the same socioeconomic background to tell a Sailor to stop sleeping on watch, take responsibility for their space or, on the other end of the spectrum, be their advocate at an awards board or ranking board. Diversity as practiced in the Navy means that, by the basic numbers promoted as goals for the 2037 Flag Officer pool, we will have to disproportionately promote Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American officers at the expense of White officers; especially given the historical retention problems among non-white officers. That is divisive, unfair, and racist. We have done away with promoting fairly and based promotion or awards on checking the boxes of what we think our Navy ought to look like.

The problem of checking the boxes, vice actually being a capable Navy exists everywhere. Lessons learned and codifications of “best practices” have led the Navy to being a force focused on the checklist as the end state vice actual capability. As one example, Afloat Training Group (ATG) does not care that a ship has a method to ensure safe navigation. The concern revolves around a ship meeting the requirements set forth in the Training Manual and the overly burdensome Training Figure of Merit computer. By failing to empower our personnel to come up with their own adequate solutions, and holding them accountable if they do not, we encourage a culture of mediocrity. Examples are everywhere around the Navy where a Sailor’s natural problem solving ability is stifled and that Sailor is forced to follow a checklist. This is a dangerous mentality that will come back to haunt us should we ever be involved in a shooting war. People are no longer being taught to operate, think, and fight within a box defined by the confluence of legal and operational requirements; they are taught to follow the checklist and if they do not they may be held accountable for inappropriate actions. We are slowly, but surely, falling into the Russian model where ships and fleets will be paralyzed because of their conditioned hesitance to act without specific guidelines and orders. We used to pride ourselves on the independence and warfighting spirit of our officers; now I have no desire for command at sea because it is not what it once was.
Command used to be a place where you could finally break free of all the stupidity you had been subjected to and do things how you wanted. Not so now. It is unconscionable that a Commanding Officer is forced to adopt generic standing orders or just tweaks the prepackaged outline provided in the pipeline. Commanding Officers are micromanaged to the point where command by negation has been killed, long gone are the days of Nimitz, Spruance and Halsey.

Above and beyond the problems I have detailed in the Navy, I want to pursue a graduate degree of my choosing; one of actual value to me. The reliance on the checklist as the end state vice a tool to get there has made its appearance in education as well. Why should I use my personal time on shore duty to get a master’s degree to remain competitive with officers whose shore duty is solely for the pursuit of a master’s degree? We have already seen the suspension of this arbitrary policy on the enlisted side and that is good. I do not want a Chief focusing on getting an associates degree so he can make Senior Chief, I want him focused on our Sailors. I am glad that requirement has been suspended. An advanced degree, no matter what it is, is now becoming the arbitrary goal among officers instead of the actual ability to think critically. I chose to avoid getting a degree that will not benefit me in the long term, aside from filling an arbitrary requirement. Instead, I will use the benefits now afforded me under the Post 9/11 GI Bill to get a degree that is useful in the civilian world.

I have fulfilled my obligation to the Navy and more. I have served on multiple deployments covering most of the world. I have experienced unique situations and have been privileged to work for and with excellent people. I have also had the privilege to lead excellent people and I have rewarded their trust in me. I have no doubt that my experiences in the Navy have made me a better and stronger person and for that I am thankful. However it is unbearable for me to remain a square peg in a Navy full of round holes. It pains me to see so many good people and possibilities wasted by our self inflicted bureaucratic ineptitude and institutional inertia. Problems of our own making are the things standing between where we are and where we need to be, yet we continue over the cliff like lemmings. Please accept my reasons for resignation in the positive spirit they were written because I honestly do care for the greater good of the Navy. The current direction of the Navy and my disillusionment with policies has led to my decision to start another life.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tailhook 2017 SU-22 Shootdown Panel

It has been a tough month or so for the Navy and it might be time for a morale boost to let everyone know that there is some very good news out there, great leaders, and great professionals.

Take some time to watch this panel discussion with the individuals involved.

This is also a time to give a nod to our Navy’s culture that we have such panels and have them open to the general public.

BZ to all.



H/t EagleOne on Midrats.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mid-September Melee on Midrats!



From WESTPAC to the Caribbean to the Euphrates river valley to Arakan province, we’ll be covering the mostly maritime national security developments of the last few weeks for the full hour in a Midrats free-for-all format.

This is also your chance to bring up the topics you want addressed. Join in the chat room live to share your questions, or call in to the show if there is something you like us to talk about.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Like the subject matter of today's FbF, there won't be a lot of detail - and you don't want the detail.

You just need to know that there is a lot of general badassery being done in your name that if you did know the details, you would be both proud and humble at the same time.

The submarine service is well unknown for this little fact. The world's most deadly geeks.

Cmdr. Melvin Smith, commanding officer of the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter, watches as the submarine travels through the Hood Canal. (Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith/U.S. Navy)
We've covered a few times when British submarines have flown the Jolly Roger, and we highly approve. So many of the US Navy traditions come from the Mother Country, so I don't see why we can't keep stealing their best.

BZ to Skipper Smith and his crew. We'll read about it in a couple of decades, maybe.

Oh, and this; Salamander approved attitude as well. A CO is always on stage.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

PSYOPS vs ISIS

From a doctrine and staffing perspective, it only takes a few months as a NATO Staff Weenie to realize that the USA is, to be blunt, horrible at INFO OPS and PSYOPS compared to some nations who are much smaller us. We could do much better.

It is a shame, we are by many measures one of the most creative people in the world - but our military seems to smother that aspect of our host culture to the point of blandness.

Are we getting better? I don't know - we still seem to have a bias towards the PAO side of the INFO OPS/PSYOPS/PAO three legged puzzle ... but this report from Tom Rogan is nice to see;
... And on Thursday, Townsend answered reporter questions about the status of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Townsend said he has seen "Indicators in intelligence channels that he's still alive." This is notable since we've heard little about al-Baghdadi since June when Russia claimed it killed the ISIS leader. As I noted at the time, there are a number of reasons why that Russian claim was always questionable.

And on Thursday, Townsend answered reporter questions about the status of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Townsend said he has seen "Indicators in intelligence channels that he's still alive." This is notable since we've heard little about al-Baghdadi since June when Russia claimed it killed the ISIS leader. As I noted at the time, there are a number of reasons why that Russian claim was always questionable.
...
Playing to that reality, Townsend flips ISIS propaganda back onto itself, reminding lower-rank fighters of their terrible mistake. They who once served God's will by playing Grand Theft Auto in the flesh now await a pathetic demise. As I've explained, this propaganda battle is crucial in dissuading susceptible individuals from joining the caliphate.
I don't know if that is enough. We need to play harder.

Fear is not enough, we need to use more shame and "face."

We need to be as brutal as the worst shitposters on 4chan. As a matter of fact, we should be recruiting them as contractors.

If they can get under the skin of ISIS as well as they do Shia (yes, that Shia) ... it would be money well spent.

Monday, September 11, 2017

On the Wall, Fox News Was Playing

I was in the C5F AOR on September 11th, 2001. 

Just another day. In the corner Fox News played most days, CNN others.

It was just background noise. Then I heard YN3 say, "Oh, shit!" at about the 11:15 moment in the video below.

See wasn't known for cussing.

At the 19:09 point we knew all had changed.



This is all I feel like blogging about today.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reporting on a Navy in Crisis, With David Larter - on Midrats



In an era of the 24-hr news cycle but in a subject area where accuracy and subject-knowledge is required - how does the navy-focused media report on the fast changing environment?

For the professional journalist, the last few months have shown that even peacetime naval operations can create stories as professionally demanding as reporting on wartime developments.

The stories coming from the deaths of 17 Sailors from the USS FITZGERALD and USS JOHN S. MCCAIN and the reaction from the SECNAV on down are just the latest example.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss the interplay between media, political concerns, industry pressure, and personal agendas in reporting on our Navy will be David Larter, Naval Warfare Reporter for Defense News. He's a graduate of the University of Richmond and a former Operations Specialist Second Class, still DNQ in his ESWS qual.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.


Friday, September 08, 2017

Fullbore Friday


As the D-Day invasion was ongoing, the German Navy sortied what they could to try to drive the allies back across the channel. The most feared were the French based U-boats.

Please read the whole thing, but here is a nice summary of one of the under-told stories of WWII, Coastal Command.

On night. One crew. Two U-boats.

Fullbore.

“G-George” droned on through the night. Men drank coffee from thermos flasks, kept the chatter to a minimum, scanned the endless sea and began to feel the numbing weariness set in that came with these long over-water patrols. But adrenalin shot through their bloodstreams like amphetamine just after 2 a.m. when Foster announced on the intercom that he had a solid return on his radar 12 miles dead ahead in the vicinity of Ushant Island (Ouessant). It was too early to tell whether it was a French fishing smack or the conning tower of a U-boat. Moore corrected his course slightly to port to put the target in the path of the moon reflecting on the water. Three miles out the conning tower of a submarine was made out in the moonlight.

Coastal Command anti-submarine crews were trained to attack the moment a U-boat was detected and without deliberation. An undamaged Type VIIC U-boat, with a well-trained crew could crash dive beneath the surface in 30 seconds. Time was of the essence, as was complete surprise.

Immediately, Moore instructed Foster to switch off the radar in case the submarine had detection equipment, and then began to drop lower and lower, adjusting his course to keep the enemy up-moon until he was at 50 feet above the calm surface. McDowall, the navigator, took his position at the bomb sight. Moore ordered the four big bomb doors opened and as they slid upwards and outboard on their rollers, he could hear the hydraulic pumps working and sense the difference in the airflow note down the sides of his warhorse. Approaching the U-boat, which they calculated was making 10–12 knots in a westerly direction, they selected 6 depth charges from their quiver, attacking due south and 90 degrees to the path of the U-boat on her starboard side. Moore chose to leave the powerful 22 million-candela Leigh Light off to further keep their whereabouts secret. As they screamed in for the attack, the spare navigator, Pilot Officer Alec Gibb, DFC sprayed the conning tower with heavy machine gun fire (some 150 rounds according to the after action report) from his position in the nose. Moore and Gibb later stated they could see as many as 8 submariners scrambling from the tower to get to the deck guns. There was some anti-aircraft return fire, but it was too little and too late. They had caught them completely by surprise.

As they roared over the submarine at 190 mph, six depth charges, set 55 feet apart, were falling from “G-George’s” bomb bay, having been released by McDowall whose accuracy this night would be perfect. Three fell on either side of the submarine in a textbook straddling attack just ahead of the conning tower. A flame-float, designed to ignite when it hit the water was also dropped to identify the position of the submarine at the moment of attack. The rear gunner Flight Sergeant I. Webb watched in fascination as the detonations exploded white in the moonlight and appeared to lift the 700-ton submarine out of the water.

By the time they had climbed, swung around and were homing on the beacon of the flame float at the position of the attack, there was nothing left of the U-boat save for some floating wreckage and the oily slick of diesel fuel. A Type VIIC U-boat had disappeared and ceased to exist in a matter of seconds, the depth charges having done their job breaching the pressure hull and sending one of Karl Dönitz’ hunters to the bottom with all hands. One can only imagine the last minutes of terror for the more than 50 men aboard.

Sadly, when this submarine sank, there was no one who could identify which U-boat it was. Postwar accounting pointed to U-629, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans–Helmut Bugs on its 11th war patrol. She had just slipped out of her pen at Brest the day before. Still, other researchers disclaim the U-629 identification, pointing instead to U-441, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Klaus Hartmann on its ninth and final war patrol. It is not my goal to be definitive as to the identity of the fifty or so men killed that night, that best being left to experts in the field. Knowing would bring the story to a satisfying close, but it will not lessen the tragedy or the courage of the U-boat men who died that night.

Moore settled his crew down after the last pass over the wreckage, and ordered a course correction to take them back on their patrol. At 0231, just twenty minutes after the first radar contact was made, “G-George” sent a message to command that they had sunk a U-boat. The men were charged with electricity, but they had a job to do and hours before they could return home to St Eval.

Just a few minutes later at 0240 hrs, as they settled down at 700 feet ASL, Foster reported another radar contact 10 degrees off the starboard nose, this time just 6 miles ahead. Moore, with information from Foster, began to home in on the target, and at 2.5 miles range and 75 degrees to starboard, they sighted the conning tower of another U-boat on a northwesterly course running at an estimated eight knots on the surface. This time Moore needed to circle to port and come in on a course that would allow them to attack up the moon path.

Bringing the big Liberator down to 50 feet once again, Moore approached the U-boat at 110 degrees to its starboard side with plenty of time to set up another perfect attack at 190 mph. The remaining six Torpex depth charges were released at 55-foot intervals as well as a flame float. Again, Gibb, the spare navigator in the nose, was firing his machine gun at the conning tower, which answered this time with flak and tracer fire. As they roared overhead, the rear gunner Webb saw four depth charges strike the water to the starboard side of the U-boat and two on the her port side—another textbook straddling attack. Massive flumes of exploding water were seen rising on either side of the submarine, ten feet aft of the conning tower and totally obscuring the target.

Returning to the position of the flame float, Moore, Gibb and Ketcheson saw the U-boat in the bright moonlight, with a heavy list to starboard. As they approached, the bow rose steeply out of the water to an angle of about 80 degrees. The boat slid back into the sea “amid a large amount of confused water” according to the 224 Squadron ORB.

Moore circled in fascination and, coming around again, he turned on the powerful Leigh Light slung beneath his starboard wing outboard of engine No. 4. The blinding blue-white beam illuminated three yellow dinghies crowded with men floating on an oily surface strewn with bits of wreckage. One can imagine how exposed the survivors must have felt caught in the white light of the Leigh with a heavily armed Liberator thundering down its beam toward them. They passed overhead without further molesting the surviving crew, switched off the Leigh Light and left the German sailors floating in the moonlight.

The submarine was U-373, another Type VIIC boat commanded by Kapitänleutnant Detlef von Lehsten on its 11th war patrol. It had just slipped out of Brest after a six-month repair following a similar attack by a Coastal Command Wellington and Liberator in January. We know for certain that this was U-373 because all but four members of the crew survived to be picked up the next day by French fishing vessels and returned to Brest. Von Lehsten was one of the survivors.


Hat tip Al.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Mines on Your Mind?

Well, they're on mine.

The mother country has some ideas I kind of like. 

Details over at USNIBlog. 

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

We Have a Problem in Newport

Foundational mindsets are critical. If you get the foundation wrong, everything else you build on top if it is useless.

As such, we are in dire need for a full-stop call at the Naval War College. The new direction being ordered by Rear Admiral Jeffrey Hartley, USN is unneeded and takes NWC away from what should be its primary focus; preparing our Navy to fight its nation's wars to victory.

What we do not need is another university in New England with a self-preening Peace Studies program.

We’re really a university,” Harley said during a wide-ranging interview with The Journal in his office overlooking Narragansett Bay. And it’s a university with several schools and centers, not all directly associated with fighting wars, he said.

As such, Harley said, he expects the War College to more closely resemble schools such as Brown University or the University of Rhode Island. One way is offering professors tenure — “indefinite appointment,” as the War College calls it. Another is protecting a faculty member’s right to truthfully speak her or his mind, Harley says.

“We have to ensure that our academics have academic freedom to express those dissenting viewpoints, regardless of how painful sometimes that might be,” Harley said. “You want the institution to look and feel like a civilian institution.”
NWC is not a university, it is a War College. The United States of America is well supplied with colleges, universities, and everything that comes with them. We only have a precious few places where the mission is to intellectually prepare ourselves for war.

Especially with a nation's navy, there are few truly "tactical" actions. Fleet actions are strategic events. There is no luxury to blur the focus of the institution you trust with building the intellectual capital needed to ensure supremacy at sea - and victory when challenged.

I'm sorry, but this reeks of more than just a wrong idea given heft, but another vanity project from someone who has been given the responsibility of stewardship of a world class institution in need to refinement. I do not think he has the charter to use that power to fundamentally change NWC in to something is it not designed to be.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Fullbore Friday

I wanted to repost this from the opening of this decade for those who do not know the full story. As is usual in politics, people can go personal against someone simply because of who they work for. The new Chief of Staff to the President is not different.

As such, as we start a weekend where so many spend time with family - a bit of a reminder of the man and what he brings to the table.


We are in many ways a family business. Not just here - we covered the 
Dutch loss a bit over two years ago.

Every loss is personal, but it is important to recall that more often than not, those in positions of power know the importance of their position and the work we do. They know it personally.

No need for me to say more - and no more needs to be said.

From: Kelly LtGen John F
Date: November 12, 2010 10:23:20 PM EST
Subject: FW: My Boy

Family and Friends,

As I think you all know by now our Robert was killed in action protecting our country, its people, and its values from a terrible and relentless enemy, on 9 Nov, in Sangin, Afghanistan. He was leading his Grunts on a dismounted patrol when he was taken. They are shaken, but will recover quickly and already back at it. He went quickly and thank God he did not suffer. In combat that is as good as it gets, and we are thankful. We are a broken hearted - but proud family. He was a wonderful and precious boy living a meaningful life. He was in exactly the place he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to do, surrounded by the best men on this earth - his Marines and Navy Doc.

The nation he served has honored us with promoting him posthumously to First Lieutenant of Marines. We will bury our son, now 1stLt Robert Michael Kelly USMC, in Arlington National Cemetery on 22 Nov. Services will commence at 1245 at Fort Myers. We will likely have a memorial receiving at a yet to be designated funeral home on 21 Nov. The coffin will be closed. Our son Captain John Kelly USMC, himself a multi-tour combat veteran and the best big brother on this earth, will escort the body from Dover Air Force Base to Arlington. From the moment he was killed he has never been alone and will remain under the protection of a Marine to his final resting place.

Many have offered prayers for us and we thank you, but his wonderful wife Heather and the rest of the clan ask that you direct the majority of your prayers to his platoon of Marines, still in contact and in "harm's way," and at greater risk without his steady leadership.

Thank you all for the many kindnesses we could not get through this without you all. Thank you all for being there for us. The pain in unimaginable, and we could not do this without you.

Semper Fidelis

John Kelly
More to ponder here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ship's Maintenance and Shooting up the Horse

Are we proud of unnecessary short-term "make-it-happenism" that is contributing to an underlying failure of our primary jobs?

I'm pondering that question in light of the FITZGERALD and MCCAIN incidents over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What Poland Sees

John Schindler has a good read over at Observer.com focusing on Poland's efforts to increase here ability to defend herself - and as a byproduct, NATO and the West.
This spring, NATO finally came through, following years of pleading from Warsaw, and deployed 1,100 troops in northeast Poland. Some 900 of those troops are American, and this NATO battalion group, which is based 35 miles south of Kaliningrad, is merely a tripwire. They would be quickly flattened by Russian tanks if war breaks out, but they guarantee Poland will not be fighting alone.

That fear is widespread in Poland and is no surprise given the country’s painful history of abandonment by unreliable Western allies. No NATO country has taken the threat of a resurgent Russia more seriously.
...
Warsaw is one of the few NATO countries to spend the “required” minimum of two percent of GDP on defense (the others, aside from America, are Britain, Estonia and Greece).
This paragraph stands out - and should put Germans to shame;
Increased funding has been put to good use, and the Polish military is in the middle of an extensive defense modernization program that will run through 2022. For the army, the largest of Poland’s armed services, this means hundreds of new armored vehicles, including modernized Leopard II tanks and cutting-edge artillery systems. The army possesses three divisions and 13 maneuver brigades, making it one of the biggest land forces in NATO. To compare, the German army boasts two divisions with eight maneuver brigades (one of them half-French), even though Germany has more than twice Poland’s population and its GDP is four times as large.
The small Baltic republics, led by the always game and plucky Estonia, are coming online as well.

The key on the continent is Germany. She simply must stop picking her bellybutton and take her place as a bulwark against Russia. If she just spent her 2%, with or without the USA, Russia would be even more deterred than she is. When Germany moves, so will the other European nations.

Until then, BZ Poland.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Between Ukraine & the USA is Whom?

The conflict in Ukraine continues to drag on to the point that is has become part of the natsec background noise.

It is clear the Ukrainian people want to move towards the West. They no longer want to be in the Russian orbit. They have a lot to do in the civil society and rule of law department, but they are making slow progress in the right direction most of the time, and are at least trying the rest.

Still, it is not a nation at peace - and it is an European nation. Western European, former Warsaw Pact, and Soviet republics now in NATO have a greater combined population and GDP than the USA, and yes when it comes to Ukraine, we seem stuck here;
...Ukrainian soldiers have, throughout the past three years of relentless combat, frequently turned to symbols of America to both intimidate and annoy their enemies—sometimes, in eclectic and creative ways.

Ukrainian soldiers have raised U.S. flags over their front-line trenches and forts—typically to the retort of sniper or mortar fire from across no man’s land. Sometimes, to really get under the enemy’s skin, an English-speaking Ukrainian soldier will radio commands in English over unencrypted channels, pretending to be a member of SEAL Team Six.

At the front-line village of Krymske in 2015, just outside the separatist stronghold of Luhansk, Ukrainian troops renamed a street from that of a Soviet luminary to “John McCain Street.”

When Canadian journalist and filmmaker Christian Borys asked the soldiers when they were going to name a street after then-President Barack Obama, the soldiers replied, “When he sends us weapons.”

Since the war in the Donbas region began in April 2014, Russian propaganda has spun yarns about U.S. military forces actively participating in the war. Consequently, Ukrainian soldiers know that flaunting American military support for Ukraine is a potent psychological weapon against their enemies.

Any instance of U.S. military support for Ukraine is also a powerful morale booster for Ukrainian troops as they continue to grind out a 3-year-old war against a combined force of Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

“U.S. support lets the Ukrainians know the stronger guy is on their side,” Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the pro-Ukrainian Georgian National Legion, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Now, after three years of war, Ukrainian troops may soon have at their disposal the one tangible affirmation of U.S. military support they’ve wanted the most—weapons.
Why not Europe? Well, I think the Ukrainians know their neighbors better than we do, and simply have little faith in them.

My heart continues to be on the side of the Ukrainians, and my head is mostly for supporting them with defensive arms as needed - but two things concern me.

1. Where are the Europeans? Yes, I know they are there a bit - but shouldn't they and not the USA be top of mind for the long term success of Ukraine's drift to the West?
2. Are we being careful enough? Is Ukraine worth risking war over? We need to be careful not only with what we do, but what the Ukrainians may do if they think they can fight for their nation using American blood at the front end.

It's a tough neighborhood; be careful out there.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Fullbore Friday


Zeebrugge. If you have been there or to its inner city Brugges you know what a beautiful and peaceful place it is - as most all of Belgium is in 2008. 

In 1918 though, Belgium was a nightmarish slaughterhouse where the bodies of millions were blended into the beaten earth - where like Okinawa and Iwo Jima over a quarter century later - the living earth would move with a blanked mass of maggots.

In one of history's subtle hints she will give you early if you wish to listen, Britain found herself on the edge of starvation due to a threat few understood or even knew of at the beginning of the war - the submarine. Something new, unexpected and decisive needed to be done.
By 1918, the Great War had entered a decisive phase. While Russia had been knocked out of the war, its place had been taken by the United States, which now provided a fresh pool of manpower and industrial capacity to the Allied cause. The transfer of these resources however was threatened by the continuing war at sea and the U-Boat menace that also threatened Britain's link with the continent. The early advance by the German Army in 1914 had meant that the Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge had been overrun and with the expansion of the port facilities, the Germans were in a position to threaten the very lifeline that supplied the Allied armies in France. The two ports were connected by a canal network with the city of Brugges that also gave access to the open sea. Brugges in turn, was connected to Germany by the railway network and partially completed U-Boats were shipped from Germany, to be finished at Brugges and then make their way to the open sea by means of the canal system. The canals formed a triangle and inside this, the Germans had built a series of airfields from which they conducted air raids on Britain and fortified the entire length of the coast with light and heavy artillery batteries. The Royal Navy did not attempt to bombard these ports until 12 May 1917 when it bombarded Zeebrugge in order to put the lock system out of action and used a smoke screen to hinder German observation. While the bombard failed in its task, the Germans stepped up defensive measures and as the war progressed, the front line drew ever closer to Ostend, bringing it within range of the Royal Marine heavy howitzer battery in France, forcing the Germans to transfer many of its facilities to Zeebrugge.

One of the objectives for the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) was the expulsion of the Germans from Flanders and to capture the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend. The battle however failed to achieve the intended breakthrough and so any attempt to expel the Germans from these ports or to deny them the use of these facilities meant that any future attempt would have to made from the sea. The mounting losses in the war at sea caused the Royal Navy to look at the problem. A suggestion by Admiral Keyes that the ports might be blocked by sinking a ship in the entrance was initially rejected but as the war dragged on, the Royal Navy returned to the idea and it was decided that it might be done with the use of several ships, although the exact position would have to be chosen with care so that it would not be possible to get around the ships or to dredge around them to create additional channels and their bottoms would have to be blown to sink them as quickly as possible and prevent drifting.
So, as it is often done in this line of work, the word went out. Volunteer for a mission you have no idea about - odds are you won't come back. You will be trained quickly, sloppily with a pick-up team. You execute.
As the ships were approaching the entrance to the port, some protection would be afforded (in the case of Zeebrugge) by the Mole, which extended in an arc across the entrance to the channel. It was over a mile in length and some 100 yards wide, having extensive storage facilities and hangers for seaplanes. A railway connected the Mole to the shore and was used to transfer men, equipment and stores. As the planning for the operation got underway, a special Royal Marine battalion (mainly volunteer) was formed in February 1918 to eliminate the battery that was situated at the end of the Mole and would threaten the block ships as they approached the canal. Lt Col F E Chichester was appointed to command the battalion but was succeeded by Major B N Elliott. The battalion consisted of a headquarters, a machinegun section, a mortar section, three rifle companies and medical support staff. The troops were to be conveyed to Zeebrugge in HMS Vindictive, assisted by the Iris and the Daffodil, two Mersey ferry boats that had been provided for this operation. Once they had reached Zeebrugge, Daffodil was to push Vindictive against the Mole until she could be secured and disembark the troops. The ships were modified for this task. Special ramps were fitted to Vindictive so that the storming parties could reach the Mole, while Iris and Daffodil had been fitted with ladders to that their parties could climb up onto the Mole. Vindictive was strengthened and armoured against the storm of fire she would receive and additional armament fitted so she could support the troops as the moved onto the Mole.

By April 1918, the preparations for the raid had been completed, the men trained for their tasks and the shipping collected for the operation. Three block ships were to be sunk in the Zeebrugge canal entrance, HMS Thetis, HMS Intrepid and HMS Iphegenia. The first time the force sailed, 11 April 1918, the weather conditions changed as they neared Zeebrugge, which forced a postponement, but on the eve of St George's Day, 22 April 1918 the force sailed and during the passage, Admiral Keyes signalled "St George for England". Commander Carpenter on the Vindictive replied, "May we give the dragon's tail a damned good twist." By 23.20 on 22 April, the monitors had opened fire on Zeebrugge. Twenty minutes later, the motor launches that had accompanied the force began to make the smoke screen. One minute after midnight, St George's Day, Vindictive arrived alongside the Mole after which Daffodil arrived alongside her to push her against the Mole. By this point the smoke screen had begun to lift and the defensive fire was intense. In the approach to the Mole, many of the ramps fitted to Vindictive were damaged and only two could be used to allow the storming parties to disembark on the Mole. The ladders fitted to Iris were damaged as well and so the troops had to transfer to Vindictive to land. Once on top of the Mole, they had to endure intense German machinegun fire in order to get to the battery and while they failed to knock it out, they prevented it from firing on the blocking ships and so succeeded in their mission, something for which they suffered heavy casualties for.


The distraction caused by the motor launches and Royal Marines enabled the block ships to approach the canal entrance without too much difficulty. Thetis ran into problems when one of its propellers got caught in a net, forcing her to collide with the bank. She had to be sunk some distance from the entrance but performed admirable work in helping to direct the remaining two ships into the canal entrance itself. Both Intrepid and Iphigenia were able to be sunk in the correct positions, thus blocking the canal. Two submarines, C1 and C3 were packed with explosives and rammed into the viaduct, demolishing it, thus isolating the Mole from the shore. The crews from the submarines and the block ships were picked up by the motor launches despite heavy fire from the German batteries. By 00.50 on 23 April the recall had sounded and by 01.00 the survivors were all aboard. A quarter of an hour later, Vindictive had cleared the protection of the Mole and was undergoing intensive fire from the Germans but managed to come through it. The raid on Ostend at the same time proved to be a failure but another attempt was tried the next month and Vindictive was used as a block ship in that operation. The Royal Marines had been on the Mole for just an hour and the force had displayed such courage and devotion to duty that it gave great encouragement to the Allied forces at such a dark hour in the war. The 4th Royal Marine Battalion was awarded two Victoria Crosses with another six being awarded for the action at Zeebrugge and three being awarded for the actions at Ostend. At Deal, on 26 April 1918, a ballot was held as to who should receive the awards, with Captain Bamford and Sergeant Finch winning. In order that the gallantry of the battalion would be remembered, it was decided that no other marine battalion should be named the 4th.
In a day where entire nations ponder abandoning the battle against an existential threat to their very existence due to a number of casualties suffered at Zeebrugge in a matter of minutes, it can make you wonder if we can even try to understand what these men did and why. We can try. That is what the study of history is. That is why what we have done to the study of history from elementary school through college and as adults is a crime in itself and a shame on our culture.

And in the end;
Much was made of the raid. Keyes was knighted, and 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded. The Germans, however, made a new channel round the two ships, and within two days their submarines were able to transit Zeebrugge. Destroyers were able to do so by mid-May.
Did it make a difference? Of course it did. Did the pundits of the day nit-pic it to death? No, they understood that war from the Strategic to the Tactical is a dark room you step in to. No, it has only been nit-pic'd once the pundits were safely behind the wall of freedom that those who bled built.



First posted NOV08.