By God’s Help and Teamwork – The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 1942 Reply

Thanksgiving Weekend 1942 – Washington DC

The headlines on the front page of the Washington Evening Star on November 28th, 1942 were focused on the recent events in the Battle of Tunis in Northern Africa. Thanksgiving was just completed and the Navy football Team was lauded for a surprise win over Army in the annual traditional game. Mrs. Tom Girdler of Cleveland was granted a divorce in Reno Nevada from her husband who was a Cleveland Steel Manufacturer (Republic Steel) and manufacturer of airplanes in San Diego for the war effort. (buried later in the paper on page A-11 was the announcement of his nuptials to his 36 year old secretary on the same day).

But the interesting story was buried on page A11. Eugene Burns (associated Press War Correspondent) was finally able to file his reports on a battle that had happened between the dates of November 12-15.

In recent conflicts, the American people have been treated to nearly instant reports from the press about the actions of our armed forces. Almost as soon as the missile leaves the tubes of a submerged submarine, reports are made available to the public. Live shots from the shock and awe campaign in Iraq were spread all over the globe with the accompanying sirens of the Iraqi air raid system as a backdrop.

But things were different in November of 1942 and throughout most of the Second World War. Restrictions on information were considered necessary so that the enemy could not gain any advantage from having too much information. The full report from Pearl Harbor’s disaster was not even released until the following year. While rumors of the extent of the damage had already been shared by returning servicemen and civilians who fled the island, official confirmation was rare and sketchy.

So it is no surprise that the Navy and the press would be reluctant to share the complete story of what was later known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The battle that raged from November 12th to the 15th was both heroic and horrific. The stunning losses would not be revealed for quite some time after the battle but the losses in men and ships on both sides had consequences that changed the course of the war. Combined with the sacrifices of Marines and Army troops on the straggled little island of Guadalcanal, the road to Tokyo took a decidedly sharp turn on the final day of the battle.

To read the story in the Washington Star, however, you would have a sense of the battle but little detail of any use.

From the beginning of the battle to the end, the United States would lose more ships and Navy men than in any battle of its kind to date. It would also be one of the most significant surface actions ever recorded in US Navy history. But at a tremendous cost. 

Washington Evening star. [volume], November 28, 1942, Page A-11, Image 13

Jap Task Force Demolished Off Guadalcanal By ‘God’s Help’ and Teamwork of All Hands
Here are three delayed dispatches from Eugene Burns, Associated Press correspondent, giving an eyewitness account of the naval battle at Guadalcanal November 12 to 15.

By EUGENE BURNS,
Associated Press War Correspondent. WITH THE UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET, Nov. 16 (Delayed).

We have been slaying the Japs for the last four days. We left some 20,000 of their best pioneer troops swimming in the ocean. We sent tens of thousands of tons of their irreplaceable forced steel into the Jap sinkhole off Guadalcanal. As we steam away from that wreckage the “well done” from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, is still ringing over our loudspeaker system.

This we know: The entire Jap transport fleet of 12 vessels was hopelessly destroyed.

A Jap battleship was badly damaged and perhaps sunk by cruiser gunfire, and then seven torpedoes and several heavy bomb hits. Five Jap cruisers were badly damaged and perhaps sunk by shellfire and heavy bomb hits and torpedoes. Many Jap destroyers were hit and sunk. A Jap air group was knocked from the sky. Some of our heavy ships have yet to send in their bag. Indications are that it will be considerable.

(A Navy communique November 16 describing this action listed the Japanese losses as one battleship sunk, three heavy cruisers sunk, two light cruisers sunk, five destroyers sunk, eight transports sunk, one battleship damaged, six destroyers damaged and four cargo transports destroyed.)

The smashing victory, the biggest since Midway, took a Navy pilot to fly beyond the safe distance of his gasoline supply to locate the Jap transport fleet and to send back a more accurate disposition of the enemy than yet achieved in the Pacific war.

San Francisco Waded in.

It took the cruiser San Francisco, already damaged by a flaming crash-diving plane, to wade in and polish off a Jap destroyer, explode a Jap cruiser, and then slug it out with a Jap battleship of the Kongo class—8-inch batteries against 14 or 16 inchers at a range of 2.000 yards.

It took the Army’s B-17s and fighter planes to keep the Jap fleet harassed, to knock down their fighters, to soften the opposition, to demoralize the Jap air force and to give our attacking force much-needed protection. It took an Army transport with 6-inch guns to get into the fight. It took men in compartments deep below the water line to man their battle stations while relief crews stood by hour after long hour, until night came, ready to replace instantly worn out crews.

It took the marines, who had been bombed and shelled and harried for four months and who had talked of home and had cherished pocketbook pictures of loved ones and who had been sick with dysentery and joked about pulling their belts up tighter to stand off the Jap and to hold Henderson Field so that air superiority never was lost.

Battle Took God’s Help.

It took God’s help. The seamen will be the quickest to acknowledge it. Our striking forces moved in on the Jap with everything but numbers in our favor. The weather  was right. The disposition of the Jap was right. The disposition of our forces, gathered from thousands of miles, was right.

To fill out the background of the picture: For four months the Jap had perfected his plans for this knockout blow to keep this Tokio Guadalcanal air express, via Jap mandated and occupied islands, intact. His schedule was upset the dawn of August 7, when the biggest United States naval force ever assembled in the Pacific landed marines who proved a five-to-one match with the jungle-fighting Japs.

He then used Rabaul as a terminal to his hop, skip and jump route from Tokio by making his airpower available to the tips of his conquest. Because his planes from Rabaul could not gain supremacy of the air over Guadalcanal, he projected a terminal to Buin, Faisl, Rekata Bay, Gizo and Buka. The Jap used everything in the book to wipe out American forces from their projected Guadalcanal base. Submarines shelled positions, transports attempted and made landings. Small patrol boats, landing barges, destroyers, cruisers were used to bring in overwhelming numbers of Japs. They hacked at the marines. United States Army forces. Coast Guardsmen, day in and day out, night in and night out.

Camouflaged Invasion Barges.

At one time they had 50 invasion barges camouflaged with trees and brush on their way to Guadalcanal. Two young Navy carrier pilots hit that group and strafed it and sent it back to its base, after which the marine pilots joined with the Navy pilots to wipe it out. The Jap then prepared for a giant frontal assault to overcome any opposition and to take the field at all costs and to drive American forces into the sea.

On October 25 the Japs had what seemed overwhelming power massed to shell the island with battleships, to knock it out with a carrier-based airplanes, and to occupy it with a strong transport force.

On October 26 an American task force sought out the enemy ships in his own submarine filled waters northeast of Santa Cruz and although outclassed 2-to-l engaged him. We lost a carrier and a destroyer. The Japs suffered damage
to one carrier, perhaps the loss of a second and damage to several heavy
warships. More important, perhaps, the Japs had four air groups consisting of 167 to 177 planes chewed up. A carrier attacked by 84 planes knocked down 34.

Reorganized Striking Force

Without air protection the Japs retired and quickly reorganized a surface striking force to move into the Solomons in sufficient numbers for a frontal assault supported by heavy night bombardment by battleships. heavy cruisers and destroyers.

It was an A, B, C maneuver. The battleships, cruisers and destroyers would lie out 250 miles out of reach of our aircraft and protected by carriers farther back. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they would begin steaming in at high speed for their night shelling.

On the afternoon of November 12, 25 Jap torpedo planes and eight fighters struck at our cruisers screening force and transports at Guadalcanal. One of 30 which were shot down crash-dived on the cruiser San Francisco as announced
by a Navy communique.

That night off Guadalcanal the Japs sent in their mighty sweeping force. They were engaged by what seemed a puny screening force of American cruisers and destroyers.

The hopelessly outmatched American force waded in. Typical of that night’s action was the work of the already damaged cruiser San Francisco. While blowing up a Jap cruiser, she engaged a destroyer on the side and sank it. Then she closed in on a Jap battleship of the Kongo class, called the Pagoda by our flyers because of its superstructure, and hit it 18 times at 3,000 yards. Other Jap units also were hit.

Dead in Water.

The Japanese battleship was observed next morning dead in the water. She got under way at seven knots when seven torpedoes were rammed through her hull and some heavy bombs penetrated her deck. The San Francisco received no vital damage.

This determined action of our staunch little cruiser force and destroyers prevented any shelling of Henderson Field that night, thus enabling aircraft to operate from it to maintain local air superiority.

The next morning, Friday, November 13, two hours’ before day break, Lt. (j. g.) Martin D. Carmody, 25, San Jose, Calif., took off on search and found the Japanese transports by flying beyond his assigned area despite the fact that this endangered his return by lowering his fuel supply. After making his report—described by Lt. Hubert B Harden, Iowa Falls, Iowa, air operations officer, as the most accurate of any aerial report of the war in the Pacific—he flew his Douglas Dauntless back to the Japanese convoy and his bomb was a near miss off the stern of one transport. His group attacked other units, causing heavy damage to two heavy cruisers, perhaps sinking one of them. It was a raging furnace when the flyers left.

Led Flyers for Kill

Lt. Carmody returned to his carrier long overdue and later led attacking bombers and strafers in for the kill. Planes raked the transports with a murderous fire from guns capable of driving projectiles through thick steel plate. Discharged from screaming dive bombers the machine gun bullets can sometimes penetrate several decks and even pass out through the hull of a transport.

After the first group finished knocking out the escort opposition a pilot going in inquired of a returning pilot, “Did you leave any opposition?” “A little but nothing to worry about.” “There isn’t any task force there anymore. Just some transports. I’d say about five good ones left,” it was reported by one of the pilots of the second group which participated. A third attack group was told “I’d suggest you attack the good ones and dump ’em all. Just pick out any one and go to it.”

Carrier Strength Expended

Apparently the carrier strength of the Japanese had been expended the day before when 33 planes attacked our cruiser screening force and as they were engaged in protecting transports. The carriers during this last action apparently had pulled out and were streaking for safety.

On the afternoon of the 14th Lt. Macgregor Kilpatrick. 26, of Southampton. N. Y. “found and downed” a second Kawanishi which sighted our attack force. His wingman. Ensign William K. Blair. 26, of Toledo, said that it took about 40 shots apiece to drop the four-motored job flaming into the water.

During the night of the 14th one Japanese transport and three cargo vessels succeeded in getting to Guadalcanal attempting to land about 10 miles from the American Henderson field positions. These four ships were met with gunfire. A heavily damaged American cruiser limped out of port and completed the utter devastation of the Japanese transports. That night to complete the carnage several of our heaviest units moved into Guadalcanal and gave the Japanese a taste of heavy caliber gunfire. Marines who watched the engagement off Guadalcanal said that today’s firing was the heaviest they had heard.

Planes’ Attack on Battleship Left Only Oil Slick


WITH THE UNITED STATES FLEET IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 17 (Delayed) (A5).

Lt. Albert P. Coffin submitted the first report of how one small squadron of torpedo plane pilots torpedoed a Kongo-class Japanese battleship, two cruisers and four transports.

Lt. Coffin, who was graduated from Annapolis in 1934, was leading his flight through some protective clouds when he saw the enemy battleship, accompanied by a cruiser and four destroyers, steaming slowly past Savo Island, off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. It was the morning of Friday, the 13th. (He was to learn later that the battleship had been hit earlier that morning by a torpedo from a Marine Corps plane.)
Lt. Coffin’s squadron climbed for a torpedoing position. The planes then dived and swooped down from opposite sides for their prize. Columns of water funneled into the air as the Americans’ torpedoes struck the ship’s vitals. The battleship stopped dead in the water.

This action occurred when the battleship was only about 20 minutes from a position to shell Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, where American Marines and Army troops were expecting a Japanese offensive to recapture the island.

May Have Saved Day.

By stopping this battleship short of its objective, Lt. Coffin and his fellow flyers may have saved the day for the Americans in their sea victory over the Japanese fleet during the November 12-15 fight. Navy officers said that if the battleship had succeeded in shelling Henderson Field, it might have been Impossible for our planes to use the field for takeoffs to help the surface ships during the fight.

Lt. Coffin’s torpedo squadron scored more hits on the battleship and, when last seen that evening, the ship’s stern was afire and men were abandoning the vessel. The next morning, the scene was marked only by an oil slick 2 miles in

diameter.
That was November 14. That day more Japs ships were intercepted by the squadron which torpedoed two cruisers, leaving one of the Mogami class, burning fiercely. The planes also set upon transports, making life most unpleasant for perhaps a division of 15,000 amphibious troops bound for an attack on Guadalcanal.

Turned to Landed Troops.

The flyers then turned their attention to troops and equipment that had been landed on Guadalcanal from four transports which had managed to escape the fire of American planes and surface ships.

Many bombs were dropped on these troops, Lt. Coffin said. During the entire action, every plane in Lt. Coffin’s squadron received at least one anti-aircraft hit, but not one man was injured. Lt. Coffin gave credit for his squadron’s performance to Marine Corps fighter pilots who “gave my planes splendid fighter protection which was beautifully coordinated.”

Log of Action.

“Those marines don’t know fear,” Lt. Coffin declared. “If one of them sees something he’ll go up and take a poke at it regardless.” The log of the attacks gives a picture of what Lt. Coffin’s pilot, with marine fighter protection, did during the battle:

November 13 – first attack. Fish (torpedo) on port side forward and on starboard side amidships. About 13 Zeros overhead. Moderate antiaircraft fire. Second attack. Hits on starboard side of the battleship and on her port bow. At this time the Kongo vessel was about 10 miles north of Savo Island and heading north at about two knots.

November 14—Third attack consisted of intercepting Japs’ ships 170 miles away. Found five cruisers and four destroyers. Lead cruiser of Mogami class. Hits on right flank starboard side. Hit and one near miss and direct bomb hits on second cruiser. Leading Mogami – class cruiser observed burning fiercely and second cruiser observed smoking. Fourth attack against Jap transports some 125 miles distant. Two undamaged transports hit with torpedo amidships. Six Zero fighters gave opposition. Thousands of Japs seen jumping overboard. Fifth attack diving on two transports dead in the water. Hit and near miss scored on each. The hit broke one transport in half.

November 15.—Raids made on four transports which had been aground west of Point Cruz. Direct bomb hits scored and ships burning fiercely. Remnants of Japs estimated at three divisions amphibious troops bombed and received Molotov baskets (bomb clusters) with our compliments

Opening Battleship Salvos Made Direct Hits on Japs

ABOARD A UNITED STATES BATTLESHIP IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 18 (Delayed).

Opening salvos of two United States battleships scored direct hits on the surprised Japanese fleet from a distance of about 8 miles in the historic naval battle off Savo Island the night of November 14-15.

The action was related today by the communications officer on “unidentified ship” which participates in the mighty blow which, sank one Jap battleship or heavy cruiser, three heavy cruisers and at least two Jap destroyers in addition to several ships damaged. Here is his story:

“On the morning of the 14th we received reports of heavy Jap bombardment of Guadalcanal. Our first job was to get there. We were too late. That day we milled out of sight of the Japs. We received news that two large groups of Jap transports with escorts were on the way to Guadalcanal. One group consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and about six destroyers.

‘‘Engage and Destroy.”

‘‘Orders were given to us “engage and destroy Jap transports which were crippled by air attacks during the day.’ “About 6 p.m. we made our first definite change of course to Savo Island. At sunset, about 7:46 p.m., we went into battle stations. An announcement of our task and known disposition if the enemy was made to the men in keeping with our normal policy of keeping our men intelligently informed.

When that news was delivered the men were asked ‘Men, what is your answer?’ Every man responded ‘Yea!’
A captain or Marines said over the speaker system, ‘the Marines are ready to give them hell any time.’
“Our best record of going into general quarters, was bettered by one and one-half minutes. The men were out to break records. This was the chance we wanted.

“Shortly after 9 o’clock we saw fires which appeared to be explosions to the northwest, about 30 to 40 miles west of the Russell Islands. It is my belief that the Japs were either firing upon their own units or that they were dispatching their own damaged ships to the ocean floor.

Tension on Ships Increased.

“As we approached Savo Island the tension of our ships increased. Our men began seeing things that were not there. Innumerable false reports were received. Rocks looked like ships and shadows like submarines. The men were straining to get a Jap target. “As we came around at 11:15 p.m. we passed over the spot where the cruisers Astoria, Vincennes and Quincy had been sunk August 9.

This word was passed to all hands. Our men were even more determined to get the “There was a quarter moon, the sky was overcast about 60 to 70 per cent. The water was nice and smooth, perfectly calm. “At 12:50 a.m. I sighted what first suspected to be the enemy. My eyesight is unusually good at night. “Right after that others saw three ships. “We received orders, ‘Commence firing when ready.”

Direct Hit on First Salvo

“Our first ship’s first salvo set her target on fire. It was a direct hit. “Within 15 to 20 seconds our target was lined up. We also got a hit on our first salvo. I could see fires start. “The Jap fire started after we got off three salvos. I counted at least six and possibly eight Jap ships returning the fire.

“After firing several minutes, our ships saw two large explosions near Savo Island and silhouetted against them were two large ships, either heavy cruisers or battleships, about 12.000 to 14,000 yards away.

“This engagement lasted about 10 minutes, I would Judge. It was furious. Then we had about a 5 minute lull. During the lull three Jap ships were reported on our starboard beam and suddenly the Japs illuminated us with searchlights. They were right on us. Their range was about 5.500 yards.

One of our ships started firing almost as soon as the Jap searchlights showed up.

Jap Searchlights Went Out.

“Our salvo was still in the air en route to the Jap ship when the Jap searchlight on the leading ship went out.

“The Japs did not begin firing until 20 seconds after their illumination. This is slow.

“The leading Jap ship was enveloped in smoke. It billowed up in great volumes. I am of the opinion that it was a battleship because it had four searchlights on it.

“Our battery concentrated on the second Jap vessel, and her search lights were knocked out. Smoke issued from her also. I believe she was a light cruiser.

“The enemy ceased firing. We fired several more salvos at her in the general direction of the smoke, but the engagement was finished. We ceased firing at 1:02 a.m., the engagement including a five-minute comparative lull lasting 44 minutes.

Jap Fire Opened Safe.

“During the illumination of the second engagement, they hit us. The hits sounded like big chunks of hail dropping on a tin roof. “We had a useless safe aboard which we could not open because the combination was lost. The Japs opened it for us with an 8-incher.

“The supposition that we caught the enemy by surprise I believe is correct.

“Our losses were about 2 per cent of our crew killed and 3 per cent Injured.

“Our bag was one possible battleship or heavy cruiser; three heavy cruisers; at least two destroyers.

“The enemy knows we hit him well.”

 

The actual battle was much more remarkable in its dramatic fury and devastation on both sides

The Task Force that was employed by the American on the morning of Friday the 13th was badly mauled. Admiral and seaman both shared the crushing blows from the Japanese guns and torpedoes.

In the 34-minute Cruiser Night Action of 12-13 November, one of the most furious sea battles ever fought, our ship losses admittedly were large. The enemy, however, suffered more severely, and his bombardment of Guadalcanal was frustrated with results which became impressively apparent during the next two days. United States losses were as follows:

Sunk                                                 Damaged

CA      0                                                          2 (Portland, San Francisco)

CL      0                                                         1 (Helena)

CLAA 2 (Atlanta, Juneau)                                     0

DD 4 (Barton, Cushing, Laffey, Monssen) 3 (Aaron Ward, O’Bannon, Sterett)

Casualties on both sides were heavy, with the American force having the serious misfortune to lose both its commander, Admiral Callaghan, and its second in command, Admiral Scott.

In the opening salvos, Both Admiral Scott and Callaghan were killed along with MOH awardee Cassin Young and many others on the bridge of the USS San Francisco. The Atlanta was sunk in a blaze of gunfire and the Juneau infamously was sent to the deeps by a Japanese submarine’s torpedo taking along with her the five Sullivan Brothers.

Tenacity is such a mild word compared to what they showed.

It is probably just as well that the country did not have a better idea of how significant the victory in the waters off of Guadalcanal were or how costly. In the end, it was the sheer tenacity of the American Naval fighters that carried the day. It was the spirit of never giving up that the Marines and Army troops on the little island displayed that proved that the Japs could be stopped and their fortunes reversed. These men were giants.

“The fight for this small corner of the south Pacific had cost the Allied navies 24 destroyers and larger warships totaling 126,240 tons, which included two fleet carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Japanese lost two battleships among a total of 24, totaling 134,839 tons. While naval losses were relatively even in terms of tonnage, on the ground Japan lost a great deal more men compared to their American opponents. Japanese lost 25,000 men in action or to starvation and disease out of 60,000 deployed; meanwhile, the Americans had only lost 1,600. Far greater numbers were lost on the seas, but neither side ever counted how many sailors and naval officers were lost during the campaign. Before this campaign, Guadalcanal was an out-of-way tropical jungle island that hardly any had heard of. After, the battles on and near Guadalcanal would come to be known as among the bloodiest in the war across Pacific. “For us who were there,” said Morison, “… Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.”

General Alexander Vandegrift, the commander of the troops on Guadalcanal, paid tribute to the sailors who fought the battle:

We believe the enemy has undoubtedly suffered a crushing defeat. We thank Admiral Kinkaid for his intervention yesterday. We thank Lee for his sturdy effort last night. Our own aircraft has been grand in its relentless hammering of the foe. All those efforts are appreciated but our greatest homage goes to Callaghan, Scott and their men who with magnificent courage against seemingly hopeless odds drove back the first hostile attack and paved the way for the success to follow. To them the men of Cactus lift their battered helmets in deepest admiration.

Mister Mac

 

The unluckiest day Reply

Sailors by and large are a very superstitious lot.

The things that set a sailing man or woman on edge are as ancient as the sea itself. I am not sure if it is the dangers they know they will face once they are divorced from the shore or just a strong feeling that fate will reach out and touch them in return for all they did on their last liberty.

One of the oldest traditions that causes sailors to be concerned is setting sail on a Friday. In a few old books (including Lovette’s Naval Customs and Traditions) this is alluded to a number of times. It’s just bad luck to sail on a Friday. As someone who spent more than a few weeks at sea, I can assure you that being underway on any Friday had its down side but on a rare occasion, you would add weight to the day when it happened to fall on the 13th day of the month.

From Legends and superstitions of the sea and of sailors. Bassett, Fletcher (1885):

Ancient Irish chronicles record that a certain king was not allowed to sail on a marauding expedition on Tuesday, or to go in a ship the Monday after Bealtaine (May-day).

Wednesday was consecrated to Odin, who, as Hnickar, was the Northern mariner’s chief deity. Hence it was a lucky day to undertake a voyage. And so with Thursday, which was also dedicated to a favorite deity (Thor) with the Northern warlike mariner.

Saturday seems also to have generally borne a good character. But we are told in an old English work,* ” Certayne craftsmen will nocht begin their worke on Satterday; certain schipmen or mariniers will not begin to sail on the Satterday — quhilk is plane superstition.”

But Friday is of all days the one proverbially unlucky for sailors. Its bad character on shore is well known, and we should not wonder that it also obtained such at sea.

As Marryat says of one of his heroes: “His thoughts naturally reverted to the other point, in which seafaring men are equally bigoted, the disastrous consequences of sailing on a Friday; the origin of which superstition can easily be traced to early Catholicism, when, out of respect for the day of universal redemption, they were directed by their pastors to await the ‘morrow’s sun.’ ”

Southey says, “Many a ship has lost the tide which might have led to fortune, because the captain and crew thought it unlucky to sail on Friday.”

The earliest account of this superstition that I find is in the “Itinerary” of Fynes Moryson (1553), who, speaking of the king of Poland at Dantzig, says: “The next day the king had a good wind, but before this, the king and the queen, whilst sometimes they thought Monday, sometimes Friday, to be unlucky days, had lost many fair winds.”

Cooper says of a certain hero: “As for sailing on Friday, that was out of the question. No one did that in 1798, who could help it.” Brand tells that a London merchant said, in 1790, that no one would begin any business or voyage on Friday.

Thatcher writes, in 1821: “Seldom would a seaman then sail on Friday.” And Cheever, in 1827: “He (the sailor) will never go to sea on Friday, if he can help it.”

0lmstead also writes, in 1841: “There has been a singular superstition prevalent among seamen about sailing on Friday; and in former times, to sail on this day would have been regarded as a violation of the mysterious character of the day, which would be visited with disaster upon the offender. Even now, it is not entirely abandoned; so if a voyage, commenced on Friday, happens to be unfortunate, all the ill luck of the voyage is ascribed to having sailed on that day. An intelligent shipmaster told me that, although he had no faith in this superstition, yet so firmly were sailors formerly impressed with superstitious notions respecting the day, that, until within a few years, he should never have ventured to sail on a Friday, for the men would be appalled by dangers which they would think light of on common occasions.”

For the United States Navy, one of the worst Friday the 13th’s occurred on November 13th, 1942.

Pearl Harbor’s horrendous attack was less than a year before that fateful day. The battleships that were meant to repel any Japanese incursion into the Pacific were either laying on the floor of the harbor or in various stages of repair. The Battle for Guadalcanal had been raging since August and a superior Japanese surface fleet was wreaking havoc on the Marines trying to defend a tenuous position on this little island in the Solomons.

The US Navy could muster some cruisers and destroyers but the new battleships were still being held in reserve for a later attack. On November 12th, a battle group under Admiral “Fighting Dan” Callaghan on the USS San Francisco came to the defense of the battle weary Marines. They had accompanied supply ships and reports reached them of a superior Japanese fleet coming down the slot that would try and pound the airfield into the Stone Age.

Callaghan hastily prepared his forces to try and counter attack the incoming force of surface ships. What he was unaware of at the tie was the size and scope of the opposing forces. The Japanese Commander was bringing the Battleships Hiei and Kirishima along with her escort of a cruiser and destroyers to bombard the island in a night attack.

A bad way to begin

The day before the main battle did not start out well for the San Francisco. The Japanese air forces were still within range and they saw an opportunity to sink the American supply ships and weaken the garrison. The cruisers and destroyers put up a brave fight but one of the Japanese planes was able to hit the San Francisco causing damage and many deaths. Her new Captain, Cassin Young had only been on board for a few days and was already receiving his baptism of fire. Young had been awarded the Medal of Honor after the Pearl Harbor attack but had to feel the weight of a thousand anchors as he helped his ship battle the fires and get back into line for a night action that was still to come.

As nightfall on the 12th arrives, there are storms north of the island in which the approaching Japanese fleet is hidden. Callaghan initially has no idea of the size and makeup of the forces he will oppose. It probably didn’t matter. He was a fighting Admiral and he was going to use his forces in whatever way he could to help the Marines.

After midnight on the 13th, the two forces converge. Utter chaos ensues. As one officer would later record, it was like a ballroom brawl with the lights turned off.

Before the battle is over, the American force is bloodied but not completely beaten.

Admiral Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, among many others on the bridge of the San Francisco are killed by the blasts from Hiei’s fourteen inch guns.

The battle proper only lasted around twenty minutes with sporadic fighting occurring well into the daylight hours.

At 1101, Commander Yokota Minoru’s submarine I-26 fires three torpedoes at retiring San Francisco. They miss, but one continues on and narrowly misses Helena. Another continues on and hits JUNEAU port side amidships near where she was hit the previous night. A minute later, a magazine explosion blows Juneau in half. She sinks in about 20 seconds.

On board the Juneau are the Five Fighting Sullivan Brothers. None would survive the sinking.

The Japanese retired that night and the Marines got a precious reprieve. For them, Friday the 13th ended up being one of the luckiest days they would ever know. The Naval Battle continued on for a few more days and the Japanese would end up losing their two battleships. That battle marked the turning point in the overall campaign and even though the Japs fought on tenaciously, they were never again able to mount a serious attack that could topple the forward progress of the allies through the Pacific.

What happened to the Sullivan’s?

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivan’s were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

After this unlucky day, the Navy adapted a policy where brothers were no longer able to sail together. It remained in effect for many years.

USS San Francisco SSN 711

When I reported on board the USS San Francisco (a nuclear fast attack submarine) she was in the Newport News Shipyard being constructed. My brother Tom was a Machinist Mate on board a destroyer that was stationed in nearby Norfolk Virginia. The 711 boat was my third submarine and I had learned to love the submarine life. After a number of conversations, Tom finally volunteered for sub duty and upon completion he was assigned to the boat with me.

My Mom, who was old enough to remember the Sullivan Brothers incident, was a bit concerned. But we convinced her that being together on the same boat we would be able to keep an eye on each other. I have had many men who were qualified that I still call Brother, but this one was both a submariner and a Brother. We had a lot of great adventures together and at one point the 711 boat had four sets of brothers on board.

We are all either retired or closing out our working lives but I can assure you that the bond will never be broken.

It was an honor to serve on board a submarine named after the famous USS San Francisco that was the centerpiece of that fateful action. While it was the unluckiest day for them, it helped to shape the fortunes of the country on its way to Tokyo Harbor in 1945. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten. I think of them every time I hear the Navy Hymn.

Eternal Father, strong to save…

Special Note: I am putting the finishing touches on my book this week that tries to capture the Amazing Life of Captain Cassin Young. I will be telling you more about that in the coming weeks.

Mister Mac

What’s it like to live on a submarine? 8

Arguably one of the most asked questions most Submariners hear once they reveal their sordid past: What’s it like living on a submarine?

Every generation probably has their own version of life on board.

A Diesel Boat sailor would certainly have a very detailed description of what is was like to never be able to shower and the cramped spaces of a boat that was crammed with machinery and very little space for people and comfort.

Later submarines would be larger to accommodate the large weapons and increased nuclear power plants that drove them to greater depths and faster sustained speeds than their older ancestors could dream of.

But in the end, you are living on a craft that was designed by engineers and in most cases built by the lowest bidder. You separate yourself from the surface world for long periods of time and sacrifice more than you are aware of at the time. Ask anyone who has served when they were younger and now deal with all manner of health issues.

So here is a brief capture that tells what it was like for some of us that road the boats:

What’s it like living on a Submarine? This pretty much sums it up!

For everyone that has ever asked me “what was it like living on a submarine”, here is the answer in terms everyone can understand. How to appreciate what it’s like to be deployed on a nuclear submarine.

1. Buy all the groceries and supplies you think you’ll need for 2 months, with the following exceptions: no milk, cereal, fruits, vegetables or alcohol. Take what you buy home and bring it one item at a time into the house. You may not keep any food in your cabinets or closets as these will be set aside to store spare parts. You may not use the refrigerator as this will be turned into a freezer. Any pre-made candies, cookies, or snacks must be kept in bed with you.

2. Lock the door, close the windows, draw the shades and tear out the phone.(Modern Update: No cell phones either)

3. Turn on the oven with the door open; turn the air conditioner all the way up. Setup enough fans so that the whole house is windy.

4. Replace all your lights with 100 watt bulbs and turn them all on.

5. You may sleep on any shelf you choose.

6. Whenever you are not asleep, your “bed” must be occupied by any garbage man you do not like.

7. You must wear the same clothes a week at a time. You may do laundry once a month. You must sleep with your dirty laundry in a bag in bed with you.

8. Every week on Saturday morning, you must go to the basement, crawl between the pipes and clean the same 10 foot by 10 foot area for four hours.

9. You may be in the shower for 10 minutes at longest, but you may not run the water for more than 60 seconds.

10. You have one week to study the instruction manuals for every appliance, utility and piece of equipment in your house. At the end of this week you must be able to quote any passage out of these from memory and pass a written exam. Until you can do this, you may not have access to TV or radio and you may not sleep for more than 3 hours at a time, with 9 hours awake between sleeping.

11. After this week, you must walk around the house for 6 hours and record every temperature, pressure, tank level, setting, and complete status of every piece of equipment in your house. You may not go to the bathroom or eat during this 6 hours. These 6 hour periods must start every 15 hours.

12. Once a week when you would otherwise be asleep, take your television completely apart and put it back together.

13. You may not go to the bathroom for one hour after you eat because during that time you have to clean it.

14. Each Monday through Friday morning whether you would normally be awake or not, you must pretend to start a fire in your house, put on a gas mask, and pretend to put the fire out. Wear the gas mask for at least one additional hour each time.

15. Each Monday through Friday afternoon whether you would normally be awake or not, you must study the same instruction manuals for 2 hours that you studied the first week.

16. Continue the above for 3 months even though you have only 2 months’ worth of food.

Behold the throne… the only place on board a submarine where you may expect a small modicum of privacy… unless of course a drill is called away

 

Reporters noted: “There is a typical submarine smell” Stories from the U 111 Archives Reply

This week was the annual Veterans Day remembrance in the United States and around the world. Of course, this year was the Centennial of the original celebration of Armistice Day when the land armies in Europe stopped fighting on 11-11 -1918 at 11:00 AM.

The Navy’s involved did not have the same cease fire. In a few days, I will write more about the surrender of the High Fleet which was nearly nine days later.

What is it like to live on a submarine?

Many of my submarine family celebrated this year with memories of their own times. It was great seeing the stories and pictures of their own and their families individual experiences. One of the cool things that popped up was an old list of things that might help you to understand what it was like to live on a nuclear submarine. I will include that as part of another post.

As I was reading the article below about the U 111, it occurred to me how much things have not changed much in 100 years. Well, to be honest, maybe they have a bit since the newer boats are rumored to have real showers and much better accommodations. And the crew get to entertain themselves with much fancier gear than even my generation could have imagined. But at the end of the day, one thing remains the same: you spend more than your share of time in an enclosed series of metal compartments under the ocean.

So with no further delay, here is one reporter’s impression of a “state of the art” German Undersea Boat in 1919.

The Bridgeport times and evening farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.) 1918-1924, May 05, 1919, Image 9

LIVING IN A SUBMARINE OF HUN MAKE NOT ALL FUN

“If you would like to have a new experience suppose you do this:

Take a series of hat boxes and knock the bottom out and take the covers off. . Then Join them together until you have, say, a dozen in line. Smear the Interior with grease as thick as possible. Cover the walls with gages, pumps, little wheels and fill the centre spaces with machinery. In any odd corners place a few bunks.

Then crawl in, eat in one of the little compartments, and sleep in another and all the while have someone violently rock the Joined boxes.

If you do this you will have a fair Idea of the life led by the American crews which recently brought to America for the benefit of the Victory Liberty Loan Campaign five ex-German submarines, during the days of their passage across the ocean.

One of them will be exhibited in Bridgeport on May 10.

The lives of the officers and men aboard the vessels of the regular navy are so many days spent in paradise compared with the days of the crews aboard the five ex-Hun pirates. The men of the regular navy can have baths whenever they want then. Aboard the submarine there is no such thing as a bath, Huns not usually caring much for bathing, as is the custom among savage tribes.

So when the U 148 and the U 88 got to Sandy Hook the other day ahead of the U 97 and the UC 117 officers made haste to land and go to Fort Hancock where with one accord they demanded the bathtubs of the fort’s garrison.

“And I can tell you that that bath was the best of my life,” said Lieutenant-Commander Edward O’Keefe of U 148 in describing the voyage.

The U Boats numbered five when they set out with the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, the U 111 being the fifth. Each had a crew of approximately 27 men and three officers, all Lieutenant Commanders.

The largest of the U Boats Is the 117. She is 216 feet long with a beam of 22 feet and draws twelve feet and eight inches. She has a deep Interest for America, as she is believed to be the U Boat which made a raid off the American coast, attacking with true Hun chivalry a barge with woman and children aboard off the New England coast. She is a combined mine layer and cruiser having apparatus for laying mines and for discharging torpedoes.

The others are 190 feet long with a beam of 18 feet 10 inches and draw 11 feet and 4 inches of water when they are navigating on the surface.

The little fleet was manned for the trip across by men detailed from other ships and not of necessity familiar with submarines. Hence it was decided to make the voyage on the surface. The fleet set out, five U Boats and the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, on April 8. They kept together and reached the Azores on April 10. They remained together until within three days of New York when the U 97 cracked a piston and had no power as only one engine was running.’ .The sea was high and rough but the UC 97 signaled to the Bushnell that she would make repairs. She did so and no sooner were they completed and the boat able to proceed under her own power than a storm developed. The crews had to fight the seas night and day and it took the most careful navigation and handling of the boats to carry them through. Their low lying decks were constantly under water and only the conning tower high above the decks was dry. There were only two days of the latter part of the voyage that the crews could be on deck.

The U 111 and the U 117 reached port ahead of the others, having been separated during the storm. The U 148 and 88 followed, lying at Sandy Hook while the U C 97 with the Bushnell passed into the port of New York and eventually found their way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The U 111 left for New England ahead of the arrival of the others and so four U boats were there together when the U 88 and 148 reached the Navy Yard.

In England, at the present time is the U 140 which has been assigned to the United States. She has no engines aboard and will not come to this country for some time. The other five were sent here at the request of Secretary Glass for the purpose of the Victory Loan Campaign. They will, however, be exhibited in American ports long after the Victory Loan Campaign closes.

New York will be especially interested in the U 148 as she is to be exhibited on this part of the seaboard and along the Hudson River. The U 88 goes to the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and finally to the Pacific Coast for exhibition purposes while the U 117 will visit southern ports, stopping at Philadelphia on the way. The U C 97 will appear on the Great Lakes and visit all of the principal ports, spending considerable time in Chicago.

Reporters who visited the former Hun pirates at the Brooklyn Navy Yard the other day did not envy the crews their voyage. There is a typical submarine smell. It is a mingling of odors. Entrance to the craft is through hatches of iron which are securely fastened in place when the boat submerges. So the smell is retained. It is made up of oil smells, the smells from the batteries the machinery, the electrical apparatus, and the food which the crew get in a more or less canned shape. Practically the only cooking aboard a submarine is the heating of coffee. The typical submarine smell is a cross somewhere between the smell of a new Manhattan subway and that of a jail. Perhaps It partakes a little of the character of each. In any event it is not pleasant.

Students in efficiency and concentration would do well to visit a submarine. All of the operation is assembled in one of the little compartments in the centre of the craft In a room immediately under the conning tower with an opening in the floor of the conning tower connecting. All of the ship is in a series of compartments with steel doors which may be securely fastened in case of accident or leakage in any one compartment. So the ship is divided naturally Into stove pipe sections.

In the room from which the operations are directed are assembled a multitude of valves. Through, a use of these water Is admitted Into the tanks on the sides of the vessel, so that by using the sinking rudder the craft can be run beneath the surface of the sea. Most of the submarines have a reserve buoyancy that is if their engines were stopped they would come to the surface of their own volition, being in reality driven beneath the surface. Some of them, however, have extra tanks which when filled with water destroy that reserve buoyancy and the submarine -sinks like a stone. When the desired depth is reached air is forced into tanks in the (proportion desired to maintain her at any designated depth. Within the operating compartment are many guages. On their dials can be read the revolutions of the engines, the depth of the craft and the direction in which she is travelling. The steering is done here and the periscopes are also located here.

When they are on the surface the submarines are driven by oil engines of the Diesel type but when’ they are submerged they are driven by electric motors which are fed from storage batteries.

Usually in wartime a submarine runs at an average depth of 30 feet with her listening apparatus active.

When she heard the sound of some approaching craft she rises only far enough to project her periscope when she takes a look and then either rises to discharge her torpedo or discharges it without rising to the surface.

The visits of the captured Hun pirates, harmless and toy like now, will do much to call to the attention of the people the daring of our men who fought these underseas dastards and the right they have to ask that we finally settle the bills of the war and help the country to a peace basis.”

Make sure you visit the original stories about the U 111 here:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2014/01/26/grand-theft-submarine-stealing-the-u-111/

Mister Mac

 

I never planned on becoming an old veteran 12

As Veteran’s Day approaches once more, my thoughts turn to how many veterans I have known in my life. My Dad, of course, comes to mind immediately. He served during the last year of World War 2 in the Navy and returned to an America that was fundamentally changed from the country he had grown up in. His father served in World War 1 and his grandfather served in the Civil War. All of them were volunteers and each came home and participated in veterans groups until they passed on to the next reunion.

Growing up in my hometown, veterans always seemed to be really old.

Their original uniforms were ill-fitting and sometimes they had to wear the uniforms of the organizations they belonged to like the Legion and the VFW. Any attempt to get into one of their original uniforms for many was a struggle that got harder as the years passed. They walked a little slower than I am sure they must have when they served. Some struggled with mended limbs while others just fought the battle of arthritis. But none of them ever seemed to complain. They jockeyed up to see who would have the honor of carrying the flag or one of the Springfield Rifles as part of the honor guard. All of them understood that they were carrying that flag and the rifles for someone who was not able to be there to do so.

As the years passed, there seemed to be less and less of them marching.

Some had to slow down because they were no longer able to take that walk in the cold November weather. Others had long since joined their fallen comrades after having that same flag draped over their coffin. I visit my Mom every Tuesday at the retirement home she lives in now and this week I got a chance to see the men still living as they viewed the pictures from their younger days. Some now need assistance but all came to attention as best they could when the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem were recited and sung. I can’t imagine any of those men kneeling except maybe on the beaches of Normandy to try and avoid getting shot by a German machine gun. Or maybe on a beach in the Pacific to try and comfort a buddy that had just been maimed by a Japanese shell.

Going off to fight for my country

Like my Dad and his Dad, I joined when I was seventeen. I was in a hurry to leave town and serve my tour in uniform. Frankly, at seventeen, all I thought about was the glory and the nice uniform that would set me apart from my peers. Okay, I also thought about how it would help me with girls, but at seventeen, what young man doesn’t have at least a passing desire for the opposite sex. At least in the world I grew up in anyway.

And then reality set in

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered very early on that the payment for wearing that uniform was a lot of sacrifices. On the first day, you find out that in order to serve, you lose your freedoms. Really basic stuff like the freedom to wake up when you want, the freedom to speak when you desire and the freedom to get up and go anywhere and anytime you want. Gone. Just like that you find out that the rights you have taken for granted all of those years are no longer available to you.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still do all of those things. But you will pay an extraordinarily high price if you do not follow the rules.  What you don’t realize is that from that day until the day you are finished, all of those sacrifices are meant to shape you. You learn quickly that all of those around you are going through the same things. You are being built into a team and being prepared to do things that are unnatural and unpalatable to many people. Your actions as an individual and a team could result in the destruction of whole cities and the people within them. Or just a small village and a single enemy. No matter which, they would only be accomplished if the country was in danger. But you needed to be ready to answer if called.

I think that is when I started to understand why those veterans all looked so old.

It wasn’t just the passage of time. It was the understanding of the things they had seen and the things they had done. That hunched over old man wearing an Airborne Badge jumped out of a plane into enemy fire. That Marine who can barely walk had to climb over a sea wall at Inchon and spent the next two years of his life in hospitals trying to learn how to use his legs again. That sailor with the withered hands who survived burns over much of his upper body when a kamikaze plane crashed through the defenses of his ship.

They had the privilege of becoming old while many of their comrades did not.

The ones we remember on Memorial Day hold a special place in their hearts always. Some of them became old because they had something called survivors guilt. Why did that bullet take my brother and not me.

But when you look at your eyes, the age fades away. Those eyes that have seen so much are still intense with the feelings of achievement and sometimes a little pride. I see it every time I volunteer at the VA. I saw it last week at out Veterans Breakfast put on by my state Representative Justin Walsh. Those eyes saw unimaginable horrors but also saw the fruits of their sacrifices fulfilled. They achieved their mission and them came home to a country that was better for their service.

I am older now than the men were who I used to think were ancient. I survived my two decades of service while some of my generation did not. Many who served with me now are suffering from the ravages of age and diseases that surely came from their service. When I have been lucky enough to see them at reunions though, I notice something within a few minutes of talking with them. While outwardly we all appear older, we are all still very young at heart. To a person, they all say the same thing. If they were younger, they would do it all again.

Where do these men and women come from? More importantly, if the country needs them in the future, where will they come from?

Thank you to all who served. It was my greatest honor and privilege to serve as your comrade.

I never planned on becoming an old veteran. But with the Grace of God, I am thankful to still be able to write these words. I know many who did not have that written as part of their stories.

A couple of old Chief Warrant Officers

Mister Mac

 

It takes a thief 2

In the late nineteen sixties, there was a TV series starring Robert Wagner called “It takes a Thief”. Wagner starred as a reformed thief who used his powers for good instead of evil. The series was loosely based on an old English proverb that said “Set a thief to catch a thief”. (Or as is more widely used, “It takes a thief to catch a thief”.) If I remember though, the underlying premise was that stealing was still wrong.

Times have changed. Or have they?

As a kid, I was brought up in a world where stealing was one of the absolutes. We learned the lessons at home and in school. It was strongly reinforced in church and in the scouting programs that most of us belonged to. I seem to remember that oath including a reference to “morally straight” which included not taking other people’s possessions. Since we went on camping and hiking trips a lot, being able to trust those around you was a pretty big deal.

Boot Camp

When I got to boot camp in the summer of 72, one of the first things the Company Commander pounded into our heads was that he would not tolerate a thief. The boys who came together to form Company 215 were from all parts of the country and all walks of life. I am sure that many did not have the same upbringing that I did. That became evident by the way they spoke, their accents, and the things they did that reflected their upbringing. But it was understood that the CC would turn a blind eye to any punishment delivered by the unit for a thief. Of all the offences, that one was nearly unforgivable. For the uninitiated, that would be a late night blanket party which would leave an unmistakable lesson on anyone so accused.

Theft

“To steal an article from a shipmate is a criminal act. In any large group of men there may be a few who are dishonest or who might be tempted to steal if the opportunity were too inviting; hence it is wisest to keep things locked up. Theft is a serious offence in the Navy. The least punishment given is a bad conduct discharge; the greatest may be several years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.”

This quote comes from the Blue Jackets Manual, Fourteenth Edition, Naval Institute Press (the edition that I carried in my back pocket during boot camp.)

The thirteenth edition which was used post World War 2 actually specifies 2-4 years in prison and an honorable discharge).

Interesting note: By the twenty fourth edition of the BJM, no references to stealing from a shipmate are included. The whole section about morals and individual responsibility has been replaced by lessons on sexual harassment and diversity. I guess they must have run out of room for what was previously cautioned about. The version I have has some interesting information about Green, Yellow and Red with a 1-800 number to report anyone who goes into the red zone. I am frankly surprised that there isn’t a Twitter or Snapchat feature to speed the process up.

 

Barracks life

When I graduated Boot Camp I moved across the street into the Snipes Castle which was the barracks reserved for men who were entering the Machinist Mate, Boiler Technician, Engineman and other mechanical engineering rates. The comradery of boot camp quickly dissipated as we were all thrown into a barracks with a little more personal space but still no lockable doors. The Navy was going through one of its growing stages where artificial space was created by the placement of lockers around the bunks we occupied to form cubicles. There were still no walls per se and the overhead lights were either all on or all off. The second day I was there, I learned my first lesson about why the Navy is so hard on thieves. I had come back from class and needed to shower. Since the common shower was only a few feet away and I was only going to be a minute or two, it didn’t seem dangerous to leave my stuff unlocked. It was a combination lock and I have always struggled to memorize numbers.

When I returned a short time later, it only took a moment to realize that I should have taken the time to remember that not everyone has the same values as I do. My wallet with all of my cash in it was gone. So was my liberty card, my ID card, my chow pass and my picture of my then girlfriend. I tore everything up looking for it. But of course, it was gone.

I have to tell you, I felt violated and betrayed (and a bit ashamed for being that stupid). I went to the duty Chief and humbly told him my woes. He of course asked me if I had not read the very large signs at both ends of the barracks passageway about locking up your stuff. Yep, it just kept getting humbler and humbler. He did take pity on me and gave me a temporary chow pass so I could at least eat. But without the liberty card and ID card, I wasn’t going very far. Not that it would make any difference. I was now also dead broke. Not that we made much anyway, but it was always in cash since none of us had banks. I can only imagine the damage a thief could do now with all the plastic I routinely carry.

A few days later, after class, the Chief called me to the Quarterdeck. The mailman had just been by and dropped off my wallet. The cash was gone but the ID cards were still in it, along with that picture of my girlfriend. I took my lecture well but had already started locking up everything else I could and shortly after moved off base with a couple of guys I went to Boot Camp with. I’ll save that story for another time but let’s just say I had a little less faith in humanity from that day on. In my whole career, I would be very sensitive to the potential that someone else might not have my same moral compass.

Submarines

The absolute aversion to thieves becomes even more important when you sail on a ship or on a submarine. I will freely confess that my shipboard experiences were all as a Chief and Officer so I will assume that the berthing areas for lower ranks potentially have some issues.

But from the minute I went to my first submarine, the old rule about how thieves are dealt with returned with a vengeance. The close quarters and need to rely on your shipmates is such an overwhelming force for Submariners. You literally have inches of personal space on some of the boats so respecting that becomes almost sacred. On the five boats I served on, I do not ever remember any long periods where a thief was able to operate. Yes, there were the exceptions, but in most cases, we knew each other’s business and habits so well, it would have been nearly impossible for a thief to operate unchallenged for any length of time.

Trust

In all of the leadership course I have taught and still do, the core bedrock of a functional team is the existence of trust. In order for a team to operate with efficiency, that trust must be cultivated and grown until it is the most common expectation of any member.

I would like to say that it is common in life but sadly, trust is one of the first things sacrificed when people have their own agenda. It just evaporates and once it’s gone, it’s nearly impossible to get back. The absence of trust is a powerful enemy to progress. It is hard to look forward when you always need to be looking over your shoulder. When someone breaks that trust for any reason, it makes you a little wary of dealing with not only them but others like them.

How is the lack of trust overcome?

  • First, you have to set a personal example. Every single day, you need to strive to respect others rights and possessions and make sure you are not guilty of appropriating incorrectly that which belongs to them.
  • Second, help others to get back on track. That occasion where people find shortcuts and are tempted by the relative freedom of taking things belonging to others should be an opportunity for you to help them see the cost of their actions.
  • Third, recognize that we live in a world that still requires locks and hasps from time to time. No matter how much you want to give people the benefit of a doubt, you have to recognize that some people are just morally bent or broken. Keeping your stuff locked up properly actually helps them since it deters them from doing the one thing that makes them a thief: taking advantages of the unprepared.

As a writer and someone who creates content, I am aware that there are many who will not respect where the idea came from. In the past year, I actually felt it necessary to copyright some of my more widely viewed work. I had discovered that some of it was appropriated, modified to look like original content and rebranded for sale. That is a shame. It’s also now a crime. I have freely shared many things on social media but have decided to cut back a bit on that. Articles on theleansubmariner that are mostly made up of properly quoted content from other sources will still be available and shared. I will also work very hard to make sure to properly credit every item I include.

But I am going to be very careful about what I post from now on.

Mister Mac

 

 

Global Undersea Warfare Champions Reply

As Veterans Day 2018 approaches, I wanted to say thanks to the winning team that has given so much to the nation.

On December 7th, 1941, unforeseen circumstances changed the role of submarines forever. Gone was the role of coastal protection and scouting for the fleet and our submarine force has never looked back.

Sheer courage, unbridled innovation, and a collective surge of determination have all been the hallmarks of the United States Submarine Force.

Day or night, somewhere in the darkest part of the ocean, our Submariners are protecting this country from enemies who would take our freedom if we let them.

We never will.

Mister Mac

October 27, 1922 was the very first Navy Day in the United States 1

October 27, 1922 was the very first Navy Day in the United States.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt had been born on that day and it was selected by the Navy League and the Navy Department as the most appropriate day to celebrate the United States Navy.

This celebration was not just held in the United States. Newspapers at the time reported that celebrations were held in London, Paris and Rome (among others). Washington DC practically came to a standstill that day as ceremonies were held at Arlington and the statue of John Paul Jones. The War Department was shut down so members could attend one of the dozens of events around the city.

New York was also a large center for celebration as the Atlantic Fleet was at anchor in the East River. Carnegie Hall hosted a special musical celebration of patriotism and flags could be seen all across the city. All across the country, the nation stopped for a few moments and took stock of its Navy.

Evening star. [volume], October 27, 1922, Page 4, Image 4

SPIRIT OF ROOSEVELT ABROAD AS NAVY HONORS HIS NATAL DAY

The spirit of Theodore Roosevelt walked abroad in Washington today.

Formal celebration on his birthday was claimed by the Navy for Its own and there is none who would challenge the Navy’s right to revel in memories of Roosevelt, to pay gladly the debt of gratitude it owes to him. But, aside, from all this, from the prepared addresses on Navy day that dealt largely with his sayings and his works for the Navy, there ran a curious undercurrent of talk among men everywhere that bore witness to the place the dead President had made for himself In American hearts.

Name in Conversation.

It was natural that around the Navy Department Roosevelt’s name should And Its way into every casual conversation as older officers paused to chat a moment In the long corridors. Many of these had personal stories to recall of his fearless career as assistant secretary of the Navy, the post his son and namesake now holds. Traditions old in the Navy were shattered In those days and new traditions, dear to the hearts of sailor folk of today, were built up In their place around the dominant, energetic, eager personality that even an assistant secretary ship could not subdue.

But It was striking that the talk of Roosevelt was not confined to the Navy or the Army or to government circles, but ran everywhere about the Nation’s Capital. From lip to lip little, intimate, human pictures of the man were sketched as men who knew him met In clubs or on corners In the hurry of a busy day. A tale that brought about quick laughter here; there a terse, cutting epigram repeated; or again the story of a lighting moment vividly recalled by men who shared that moment with him, a veritable unwritten legend of a great American was In the making hour by hour.

Hard to Realize He Is Gone

Perhaps this was more true In Washington than elsewhere In the nation.< for It was hard for these men who knew him In life to realize that the sturdy figure with slouch hat jerked down over his eyes might not come trudging down Pennsylvania avenue even as they talked. But It seemed that this curious Informal celebration of Roosevelt’s birthday must also be nationwide as was the tribute paid his memory in the set events of Navy day.

That he has left a lasting Impress of his fearless Americanism on the hearts of his countrymen for all time, none who heard the undertone of Roosevelt memories that lay beneath Washington life today could doubt.

Why 1922?

Under the headlines was the unspoken fact that the country had just completed several years of arms control negotiations that directly impacted the current and future naval forces of the world. The death and destruction of the first World War were a recent memory and many in the country and the world honestly sought a way to reduce the tensions and danger of unbridled shipbuilding.

The World War did not settle many of the major concerns of the world including expansionism, colonialism, and empires. In fact, if anything, it made things worse. Out of the ashes, unnatural divisions of countries with artificial boarders and the reassignments of far flung imperial assets from one ruling nation to another merely postponed the conflict that would revisit the world in the late 1930’s.

“The Contracting Powers agree to limit their respective naval armament as provided in the present Treaty.”

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 was well intentioned but in many ways probably made the march to the next war inevitable. While the size and weaponry of the last conflict were limited, the treaty opened a Pandora’s Box of new weapons and tactics that would make the Second World War even deadlier than the first.

The Navy Leaders and the members of the Navy League (which had been formed under the encouragement of Teddy Roosevelt) both had a vision of Naval Supremacy. Without so much as saying so, they also had a fear that the treaty disease would shrink the Navy to such a small size that it would be unable to meet the threats of a two ocean war. Seeing so many first class battleships destroyed and new ones cancelled had to be a frightening prospect for this group.

So Navy Day was born

All of the celebrations and the pomp and circumstance were carefully designed to appeal to the American public’s nationalistic tendencies. Every note was played and every song was sung with the idea of reminding the American public that without a great Navy, the nation itself would struggle to be great. The politicians were free to pursue peace at any cost, but the Navy would do what it did best: fight for its survival. Even as the well intentioned peace mongers were busy planning on the destruction of the Navy, the Navy was putting on a global show of power that would ensure its future.

Not everyone was on board

Besides the politicians involved with the disastrous Washington Naval Limitation Treaty effort, there were many organizations agitating from the sidelines. Below te story about the former President was a cautionary article from the National Council for Reduction of Armament.

Bigger Navy Opposed.

Navy days is indorsed in part and opposed In part in resolutions adopted by the executive board of the National Council for Reduction of Armament. The Navy Is praised for the part which it played in the achievements of the Washington peace conference. Alleged efforts to increase the size of the Navy are condemned. The resolutions state:

“Navy day” as announced by the Navy League and indorsed by the Navy Department of the United States government, has, as we understand, two purposes: first, to Improve the morale of the United States Navy, which is said to have been lowered as a result of the Washington conference and the world peace movement which bids fair in the course of a few years to reduce the world’s navies to police forces: second, to appeal to the well-known patriotism of our people for further sacrifices in order to add to the size of the Navy and Its personnel, with a substantial increase In the appropriation. “The executive board of the National Council for Reduction of Armament Is in hearty sympathy with the first of these purposes and recommends to our affiliated organizations co-operation with others in this movement to keep the Navy efficient.

We advocate this the more enthusiastically because the American Navy has earned the gratitude of civilization by the conspicuous part it played at the Washington conference which launched the epoch making movement to emancipate the world from the curse of competitive armaments. At the same time, we cannot support any attempt under present world conditions in direct contradiction of the spirit of the Washington conference and in the face of our estimated deficit for 1923 of $672,000,000, to add to our already disproportionate military expenditures”

The Navy of the 1920’s did continue to shrink and it took the ingenuity of many officers and sailors to continue the improvements that would lead to a stronger force when the time came. Submarines, aircraft and new ship types were all part of the efforts which lead helped the Navy to quickly adapt to the changes wrought by the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor.

Navy Day lasted from 1922 to 1947 when another group of civilians with good intention but very little vision for the future finally killed it. But they could not kill the American spirit or the spirit of a strong and powerful Navy in the hearts and minds of many Americans.

Happy Birthday President Roosevelt and Happy Navy Day to all of those who care about freedom.

Mister Mac

October 27, 1949: The Day Comdr. John S. McCain, Jr., Let The Cat Out Of The Bag… Or Did He? 2

A Navy at war on two fronts: The Cold War and the War against unification

The fall of 1949 was a tumultuous time for the United States Navy. Harry Truman and his Defense Secretary were focused on the unification of all of the Armed Services in a move to contain costs and gain efficiencies. On October 27, the Chief Of Naval Operations firing was on the front pages of most contemporary papers. The Navy Admirals were in revolt over the killing of a super carrier and the shrinking of the Navy by their civilian masters.

Buried on page A-22 of the Washington Evening Star was a posting submitted by the Associated Press about an event in the Pacific. The Cold War was heating up quickly and the article must have shocked even the most casual observer. A missile capable of delivering an atomic bomb was about to be tested in the Pacific.

Evening star. [volume], October 27, 1949, Page A-22, Image 22

Subs to Launch Guided Missiles in Tests off Hawaii

By the Associated Press

PEARL HARBOR, Oct. 27.—

The Navy will show November 7 how atomic bombs can be delivered by submarines. It will be-done by launching 15,000-pound guided missiles—“Loons,” which could carry atomic warheads — from the standard fleet type submarines Cusk and Carbonero.

Pacific Fleet headquarters said the “Loons,” 30-foot-long improvement on the wartime German buzz bomb, will be fired by the two undersea craft off Hawaii. The missiles, electronically guided by the subs, have a range of 100 to 200 miles.

Significant Step.

The demonstration will be “a very significant step in the exploitation of sea power,” said Comdr. John S. McCain, Jr., who has charge of submarine guided missile development. He added:

“The submarine, with guided missiles, has become a siege bombardment weapon and can be used to deliver atom bombs. The whole idea of using submarines to launch guided missiles is a long step toward push-button warfare.”

The Navy said submarines proved in the Hawaiian war games concluded yesterday that they can carry huge high-speed, long-range guided missiles across oceans in normal undersea operations.

For more than three years experiments and training have been carried on off Point Mugu near San Diego, Calif.

“Loons” fired by the Cusk and Carbonero will streak past a 35 mile column of 70 ships at a speed of 400 to 500 miles an hour at an altitude of 4,000 feet.

Will Fire at Missiles.

The warships, which took part in the Hawaii maneuvers, will try to down the missiles with antiaircraft fire. If the ships don’t get them, fighter planes from the carriers Boxer and Valley Forge will get a chance.

The Loon is an adaptation of the jet-powered V-l which the Germans showered on Britain in 1944. The flight of those buzz bombs, however, was not controlled by radio as is the Loon’s. The Loon is powered with a pulse jet engine.

The Cusk was scheduled to fire a Loon at Kaula Rock Monday as the war games task fleet neared Hawaii. The launching was canceled because the transport General Mitchell, eastbound from the Orient, entered the range area.

I can only imagine the dismay at the White House when they read the story

In the blink of an eye, a previously unheard of capability was suddenly revealed in a way that was probably not expected. I am sure from all of my research the Harry Truman was especially sensitive to the deployment of atomic weapons of any kind. After all, he had been the man at the helm when the only two war time uses of atomic weapons were authorized.

On the very next day, a rather strong denial and retraction were found on page A-3 of the Washington Evening Star:

Evening star. [volume], October 28, 1949, Page A-3, Image 3

Navy Officer Misquoted On Sub Atomic bomb

By the Associated Press

PEARL HARBOR, Oct. 28.—

Comdr. John S. McCain, Jr. was misquoted by the Associated Press this week in a dispatch reporting submarine-launched missiles could carry on atomic bomb.

The dispatch dealt with a Navy announcement of plans to launch missiles from two submarines off Hawaii November 7.

The Associated Press reporter, confronted with Comdr. McCain’s denial, today conceded he misquoted him. The reporter said:

“When Comdr. McCain finished answering questions concerning the plan to launch missiles from two submarines, he was asked if they would contain an atom bomb war head. I thought McCain answered affirmatively. I must concede I misquoted him.”

“The fact is.” Comdr. McCain said yesterday in his denial of the AP report, “I don’t know anything about the atom bomb. In my naval experience, I’ve never had anything to do with atomic experiments.”

Comdr. McCain is in charge of submarine guided missile development. What he said was: “The submarine, with guided missiles, has become a siege bombardment weapon.”

History will be the judge of what really happened during that 24 hour period. McCain went on to a very successful career (following in his father’s footsteps) and his son later followed.

But what about the Loon and the submarines that tested it? The rest of the story concerning this unique weapon is found in the book “Forged in war: the naval-industrial complex and American submarine” … Weir, Gary E.

On 18 February 1947 the Navy launched its first Loon from a modified fleet submarine of the Balao class, Cusk (SSG 348). Unfortunately, an autopilot, or flight-control, system failure caused the missile to crash 6,000 yards from the submarine. The Loon gave a much more successful performance on 7 March. According to the commanding officer of Cusk, Commander Paul E. Summers, “At the instant of release the Cusk had a one degree port angle. The Loon successfully gained its flying altitude and answered both right and left turn signals given by the ship as directed by NAMTC shore plot. Cusk lost the target at nine miles, due to poor radar reception.”” When the P-80 pursuit airplane proved unable to shoot the missile down, an internal, preset signal programmed before launch placed the Loon into a 30-degree dive, sending it into the Pacific from an altitude of 2,700 feet. If this short, flawed flight only demonstrated the excellent behavior of the missile at launch and in short-range responsiveness, the nearly perfect test of Loon number six on 17 March proved far more satisfying. Cusk successfully controlled the missile for 75 miles, when NAMTC took over guidance for the final 20 miles of the flight.

Mare Island Naval Shipyard converted both Cusk and Carbonero (SS 337) into SSGs to serve the missile program initiated by the Loon experiments. With the Guppy and Tang programs occupying most of the available talent and yard space at EB and Portsmouth, Mare Island took the lead in their conversion and construction. Initially only Cusk had a launch ramp installed on the after portion of the deck and received the missile guidance and control equipment. Carbonero received its launch ramp later, after spending time as a control and guidance ship. The limited range of the Loon, and later the Regulus, I made additional guidance ships necessary. The launch vessel would pass control of the missile to another submarine closer to the target, extending the range and increasing the missile’s precision. Mare Island fitted each vessel with a watertight hangar aft of the sail that was large enough to accommodate two missiles. Initially the volume of the hangar presented a stability problem. If it accidentally flooded, the submarine would have a difficult time returning to the surface. Thus BUSHIPS and Mare Island took great care both to reduce atmospheric moisture in the hangar and ensure its watertight integrity.

Although the weapon was never intended for operational use, experiments with the Loon demonstrated the feasibility of the submarine launching system. Before the Navy turned its attention from the experimental Loon to the operational Regulus I, the crew of Cusk could surface, rig, and launch the Loon in a mere six minutes. At the behest of the CNO, Loon launchings continued through 1949 to refine guidance techniques and investigate the tactical applications of submarine- launched guided missiles.

In 1949 the bureaus applied all of this experience to the design and production of Regulus.

The Navy survived the attempts by Truman and Johnson to dismantle it and consolidate it with the Air Force. While testing was going on behind the scenes, another infamous program was struggling to find a path in 1949.

Hyman G. Rickover of BUSHIPS Code 390, the nuclear power branch, approached Portsmouth Naval Shipyard late in 1949 about joining the effort to design and build the first of the Navy’s nuclear submarines. The burden of diverse commitments was simply too great at the time for Portsmouth, but Rickover would spend the next few years developing the programs that would make the Loon and its follow up system Regulus look like children’s toys.

A special thanks to the submariners who pioneered missile technology.

http://www.usscusk.com/

Mister Mac

 

The Last Navy Day – How Truman almost killed the US Navy Reply

Navy Day is October 27

(sort of)

Not to be confused with the Navy’s Birthday, which is celebrated on October 13, Navy Day was established on October 27, 1922 by the Navy League of the United States. Although it was not a national holiday, Navy Day received special attention from President Warren Harding.

Harding wrote to the Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby:

“Thank you for your note which brings assurance of the notable success which seems certain to attend the celebration of Navy Day on Friday, October 27, in commemoration of past and present services of the Navy. From our earliest national beginnings the Navy has always been, and deserved to be, an object of special pride to the American people. Its record is indeed one to inspire such sentiments, and I am very sure that such a commemoration as is planned will be a timely reminder.””It is well for us to have in mind that under a program of lessening naval armaments there is a greater reason for maintaining the highest efficiency, fitness and morale in this branch of the national defensive service. I know how earnestly the Navy personnel are devoted to this idea and want you to be assured of my hearty concurrence.”

October 27 was suggested by the Navy League to recognize Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday. Roosevelt had been an Assistant Secretary of the Navy and supported a strong Navy as well as the idea of Navy Day. In addition, October 27 was the anniversary of a 1775 report issued by a special committee of the Continental Congress favoring the purchase of merchant ships as the foundation of an American Navy.

The weakness of the Navy in being prepared for a two ocean war in 1941 was a true test for the United States.

When the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor, America quickly discovered that the “efficiencies” of savagely curtailing a peacetime Navy and the fool hearted attempt at maintaining peace through trusting a contemptuous enemy by limiting our fleet, we were in extreme danger all across the globe. It was only the will of the American people and the ability of an industrial base that a modern Navy could be put in place and defeat enemies from both sides of the waters.

But the lesson of the war and its causes were soon lost for too many leaders. Blinded by the prospects for a peace through the start of a United Nations effort, disarmament once again became the song of the true believers. Harry Truman was one of the biggest proponents of the movement.  His decisions were very consequential for the nation.

Proclamation 2815—Navy Day, 1948

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Whereas it is the purpose of the United States navy to maintain sufficient strength on the sea and in the air to enable it, in conjunction with our other armed forces, to uphold our national policies and interests, to protect our commerce, to support our international obligations, and to guard our country and its overseas possessions and dependencies; and

Whereas, the Navy league and other patriotic organizations in 1922 selected October 27 for annual observance of Navy Day in commemoration of the founding of the United States Navy in October 1775, and of the birth on October 27, 1858, of Theodore Roosevelt, who as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and as President of the United States contributed markedly to the development of the United states Navy; and

Whereas it has become customary for our citizens to join hands across the Nation on October 27 of each year in rendering grateful tribute to our Navy and in according honor and recognition to the achievements of the men and women who compose its ranks:

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon the people of the United States to observe October 27, 1948, as Navy Day by displaying the flag of the United States at their homes or other suitable places, and I direct that the flag be displayed that day on all Government buildings. As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, I direct that all ships of the United States Navy dress ship and that all ships and stations of the United States navy, where practicable, be open to visits of the public on Navy Day.

In Witness Whereof, I HAVE HEREUNTO SET MY HAND AND CAUSED THE Seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this 5th day of October in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and seventy-third.

HARRY S. TRUMAN

By the President:

ROBERT A. LOVETT,

Acting Secretary of State.

Harry S. Truman, Proclamation 2815—Navy Day, 1948 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/287275

Harry’s words would soon ring very hollow. In 1949, a directive issued from Truman’s own Secretary of Defense Johnson changed everything.

In 1949, Louis A. Johnson, (1891–1966, served 1949–1950), second Secretary of the newly merged and created Department of Defense, directed that the U.S. Navy’s participation occur on newly established Armed Forces Day for the unified/coordinated uniformed services in May, although as a private civilian organization, the Navy League was not affected by this directive, and continued to organize separate Navy Day celebrations as before.

In the 1970s, historical research found that the “birthday” of the earlier Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), was determined to be October 13, 1775, and so Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt worked with the Navy League to define October 13th as the new date of Navy Day. However, Navy Day in the United States is still largely recognized as October 27th.

The Government recognized Navy Day was last observed on Oct. 27, 1949.

But who was Louis A. Johnson? And more importantly, why did he want to end not just the annual observation of Navy Day but the Navy as well?

“the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do, so that does away with the Navy”

“Following the re-election of President Truman in November 1948, President Truman “reminded Forrestal about fiscal spending goals” not being met within his Defense Department. In late February 1949 President Truman asked Forrestal to resign. The President did not believe Forrestal had adequate control over the various services, and he appeared unwilling to command the cuts in the Navy that the president wanted. The drawdown for the Navy was well behind schedule and causing budgetary embarrassment for the administration with Congress.

The now-common procedure of in flight refueling was demonstrated in a circumnavigation of the globe by an Air Force B-50 completed on 2 March 1949 which set a new world non-stop flying record of 23,452 miles. The public relations impact of this milestone event resonated positively with the public and at nearly every level of government. The main Air Force argument in support of the B-36, compared to the proposed carrier United States, was cost, both in lives and money. Through some convincing calculations published in Reader’s Digest, Air Force advocates contended that the cost of one super carrier and its task force was equal to 500 B-36s and exposed 242 times as many men to danger. Public opinion supported a “more bang for the buck” move to a “peacetime” military.

Fiscal 1951 proposed budgets, made public, cut the Navy’s total allocation by an additional two-thirds from the already lean 1949 budget. This proposed budget was threatening to literally mothball what was left of the Navy (including all or nearly all of the carriers) reducing the Navy to little more than escort and cargo ships, transfer the Marines to the Army and all aviation assets to the Air Force.

In late March 1949, Truman fired Forrestal and replaced him with Louis A. Johnson. A former Assistant Secretary of War, he had been the primary fundraiser for Truman’s campaign for the White House in 1948. Johnson had no qualms over supporting Truman’s military budget reductions and fiscally preferred the Air Force’s argument. The Air Force disliked the Navy’s aircraft carriers, as they were an expensive asset the Air Force planners considered obsolete in the age of long range aircraft carrying nuclear weapons. Johnson, who was a staunch proponent of the nuclear capable bomber force, consequently sought to limit as much as possible the Navy’s procurement of the new large carriers to conserve funds in the markedly reduced post-war military budget.

Less than a month after taking office, and without consulting Congress, Johnson ordered cancellation of United States on 23 April 1949. This vessel was the symbol and hope for the Navy’s future, and its cancellation greatly demoralized the service. Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan and a number of high-ranking admirals resigned in protest effective 24 May 1949. Johnson did not seem disturbed by the resignations. His decision to cancel United States provided him with economy in the military budget needed to meet his budgetary goals, while demonstrating that he was in firm control of the military and able to make difficult decisions.

To replace Sullivan, Johnson recommended Francis P. Matthews for the position of Secretary of the Navy. A lawyer from Omaha, Nebraska, during the Second World War he had served as a director of the USO, a service organization that entertained the troops. He came to the attention of Johnson by assisting him with political fund raising for the 1948 Truman campaign. Upon being considered for the position, Matthews admitted the nearest he had come to naval experience was rowing a boat on a lake. On 24 May 1949 Truman made the appointment.

Said Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson:

There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do, so that does away with the Navy.”

A few short years later, the Korean War would prove to the world how short sighted both Johnson and Truman were. The need for a Navy and the fallacy of the supremacy of the Air Force were forever dashed on the shores of Inchon. Johnson would receive his well deserved public admonition and so would Truman as he was relegated to the scrap heap of history. The lives of so many American boys were the ultimate price of their short sighted decisions.

In the wake of this disaster, the Nuclear Navy was created that along with many other innovations serves this country to this day. If Harry and Louis had there way, we would have never had the ships that today sail the oceans and protect America’s interests.

I celebrate each day as Navy Day. But in my heart of hearts, I wish that there was still a national day where every patriot could recognize that a powerful Navy is the best guarantee of peace in a dangerous world.

Mister Mac