Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 8 – The Battle from the Japanese Perspective) Reply

Disaster at Savo Island, 1942

 by

Lieutenant Colonel David E. Quantock
United States Army

USAWC Class of 2002

U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA

These excerpts are from a Report called Disaster at Savo Island, 1942. This unique perspective of the battle is taken primarily from the Japanese point of view.

 

“Mikawa’s approach into the “Slot” of Savo Island was a feat of skillful seamanship augmented by luck. He had been sighted by submarines and different aerial reconnaissance missions on 8 August, all of which combined to give Admiral Turner an untimely and incomplete picture of Mikawa’s intentions. Mikawa was aided by the weather, as overcast skies with occasional rain squalls hid his task force, and he timed his attack to close on the Allied forces in the dark. Through the day of 8 August, he sent numerous organic reconnaissance aircraft (float planes) to compile a picture of the Guadalcanal and Tulagi area. By the time of the attack, he had nearly perfect intelligence on the disposition of the Allied force. Most importantly, he knew that the security forces were split into separate task forces divided by Savo Island. Though Mikawa was inferior in numbers, his plan created an opportunity to engage and destroy the unalerted Allied Force piecemeal.

 

Mikawa’s battle plan was drawn up and signaled to his strike force at 1642, 8 August. The plan called for his task force to sweep to the south side of Savo Island and torpedo the Allied ships off Guadalcanal. They were then to turn east and north to destroy the Tulagi landing force with torpedoes and gunfire. After the attack, the Japanese Force was to proceed around the north side of Savo Island and depart the area as soon as possible. Mikawa planned to order the attack at 0130 on 9 August 1942. The plan allowed enough time to conduct the attack and to get 120 miles away under the cover of darkness before daylight would permit counter-attack by aircraft from the U.S. carrier groups. Mikawa did not know the exact location of the carriers, but assumed they were about 100 miles to the south of Guadalcanal. His battle plan was executed nearly to perfection.

 

The weather was perfect for the attacking force. Cloud cover and intermittent thunderstorms created a screen between the Northern and Southern Forces and thus precluded mutual support.

At 1800 Mikawa received confirmation from his reconnaissance planes that all was well. At 1840 he signaled “Let us attack with certain victory in the traditional night attack of the Imperial Navy. May each one calmly do his utmost!”6

Vice Admiral Fletcher, already suffering the strain of Midway and Coral Sea, had a tough fight on 8 August. While the initial amphibious landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi went well, his carriers lost twenty-one aircraft defending the Expeditionary Force against three Japanese air raids–air raids which could have distracted him from the sketchy and uncorrelated intelligence reports of Mikawa’s approaching 8th Fleet. These air raids disrupted the off-loading of General Vandegrift’s supplies and support equipment, and left Fletcher focused on attack by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. At 1807, while Mikawa was approaching, Fletcher signaled Ghormley requesting permission to withdraw his carriers due to aircraft losses and low fuel state. While awaiting Ghormley’s reply, Fletcher repositioned the carriers, opening Savo Island.

Although Fletcher’s message was not meant for Admiral Turner, he received a copy of it and was immediately furious. The departure of the carrier group would deprive him of air cover and force the withdrawal of his amphibious force ships. Although land based aircraft were available from Admiral McCain’s task force, their distant bases and the obsolete, inadequate types of aircraft virtually mooted their role in defending against Japanese air raids. Turner’s forced departure placed the Marines in a precarious position; they lost both their transport ships and the warships that were providing them fire support. At 2042, Turner called a meeting with Admiral Crutchley and Major General Vandegrift. The meeting took place at 2315. The items of discussion at that meeting were of far less importance than the meeting’s very effect on the defending force. The meeting pulled Crutchley away from command of the defense force and, more importantly, took HMAS Australia from the Southern Force. This reduced the Southern Group’s combat power by a third. On departure from his force, Crutchley put Captain Bode in charge of the entire Southern Group but somehow neglected to inform the force. Bode assumed that Crutchley would return shortly and did not reposition USS Chicago to reoptimize the screening disposition, did not assert his new authority, and went to bed without issuing night orders. Crutchley, having finished the late meeting with Turner, decided to keep HMAS Australia close to shore with the transport ships because of the danger of rejoining the screening force at night, under poor weather conditions and without radio communications, which would risk a friendly fire situation or possible collision.

Meanwhile, Mikawa was heading towards Savo Island at 26 knots. At 2313, he launched two of his scout planes for a final look at the disposition of the Allied force. These scout planes were also responsible for dropping parachute flares at the proper time to illuminate the transports at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. These planes were spotted on radar and visually by a number of the Allied ships, but were assumed to be friendly because they were flying with running lights. Not a single ship took action against the planes beyond a single message from Ralph Talbot to Admiral Turner’s ship warning of the aircraft. The report, in any case, never got to Turner.

Mikawa headed toward his objective with his force in column formation. His flagship, Chokai, was in the lead. Because few of the other ships had ever worked together before, they were spread approximately 1300 yards apart. At 2230, the “Battle Warning” was sounded and the Allied Southern Force was sighted moving along the southern side of Savo Island.

 

The command “Prepare to Fire Torpedoes” was given at 0025 followed by “Battle Stations Alerted” at 0045.

Torpedoes

In the early stages of the war, no weapons system was more effective than the Japanese torpedo. It was dropped from airplanes, launched from just about every type of Japanese surface warship, and used by submarines. The Japanese torpedo caused more trepidation among naval commanders than any other type of munition. It would consume Admiral Crutchley’s defense of Guadalcanal. It would drive Fletcher’s focus to the security of his carrier group. The very threat of its presence would force Fletcher and Turner into an early exit from the landing areas.

There was good reason to respect the huge Japanese advantage in torpedoes. Their Long Lance torpedo dwarfed any U.S. torpedoes. The biggest advantage of the Japanese torpedo was that, unlike its American counterpart, it worked. The Long Lance exploded when it hit its target. The Long Lance weighed 1,090 pounds, could hit targets out to 22,000 yards (40,000 yards when traveling at 35 knots), and traveled at 49 knots. Powered by oxygen instead of air, unlike standard torpedoes the Japanese torpedo left a nearly wakeless trail. In comparison, the U.S. Torpedo Mark XV had a much smaller warhead and could only reach 6,000 yards at 45 knots or 15,000 yards at 26.5 knots. More discouragingly, U.S. torpedoes seldom detonated, even when scoring direct hits. A Long Lance torpedo sank one of Admiral Fletcher’s carriers during the Battle of the Coral Sea.

At the outbreak of the war, the Japanese Navy possessed some of the world’s finest torpedoes, including the fabled Long Lance. The quality of these weapons was no accident, but rather the result of Japan’s intensive efforts during the 1920’s and 30’s to make good the shortcomings of her battle fleet. Laboring as she did under the unfavorable 5:5:3 ratio of capital ships imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty, Japan would most likely be at a disadvantage in any Pacific conflict with the United States. She also knew well enough that the U.S. modeled its fighting doctrine on the famous ‘Plan Orange’, which called for an advance of the American battle fleet across the Pacific to relieve the Philippines. It was anticipated that at some location in the Western Pacific a decisive battle would be fought. In Japan’s view, some means must be found to offset its disadvantage in capital ships before this battle occurred, or its inferior battle line would be destroyed by the American force. Torpedo tactics and night combat were seized upon as one way to whittle down the American battle line as it made its way across the Pacific. Accordingly, Japan worked diligently to develop the tactics needed to implement this new doctrine, and also to create the weapons with which to carry it out. The result was that Japanese torpedoes showed a steady progression of improvements throughout the 1930’s, culminating in the development of the famous ‘Long Lance’ in 1935.

Designing and perfecting the Long Lance required solving some extremely difficult technical problems, most of which centered around the usage of pure oxygen as a fuel (rather than compressed air). Compressed air is nearly 77% nitrogen, which is useless for combustion, and also contributes to the visibility of the torpedo by leaving a bubble track on the surface. The usage of pure oxygen promised far greater power and propulsive efficiency, but it came with certain costs. The most glaring of these was how to use pure oxygen safely aboard a ship or submarine, given its inherently inflammable nature. Premature detonation of the torpedo upon firing was also a problem. However, the Japanese overcame these hurdles. Further, through meticulous live-testing of their weapons against ship targets, they perfected a warhead detonator that was rugged and reliable (The U.S. Navy’s BuOrd could certainly have taken a lesson or two here). The resulting weapon, the Type 93 torpedo, was fantastically advanced in comparison with its Western counterparts, possessing an unequaled combination of speed, range, and hitting power. This weapon, coupled with the flexible battle tactics practiced by Japan’s cruisers and destroyers, led to victory after victory in the early stages of the war. Only as American radar and gunfire control became increasingly sophisticated would the Japanese advantage in night battles begin to disappear, and even then a Long Lance-armed Japanese destroyer was still a thing to be feared.

 

At 0054, the lookouts on Mikawa’s ship spotted the picket ship USS Blue heading directly at them approximately 5 miles away. Just as Mikawa prepared to engage her, Blue made a 180 degree turn and headed away from the Japanese task force. With Ralph Talbot, the other screening ship, approximately 10 miles to his north, Mikawa had slipped between the pickets undetected. Neither of the picket ships detected Mikawa’s task force.

At 0133, as his force moved around the southern side of Savo Island, Mikawa gave the order “All Ships Attack!” Three minutes later his scouts picked up the destroyers Bagley and Patterson leading the Southern Force, followed shortly by the cruisers Canberra and Chicago. At 0136, Mikawa ordered “Independent Firing.” The Southern Force was then brought under torpedo attack. USS Patterson was the first to sight the attacking force and announced “WARNING–WARNING: STRANGE SHIPS ENTERING HARBOR!” Shortly after Patterson’s warning, Mikawa’s scout planes dropped their flares, illuminating not only the transports at Guadalcanal, but Chicago and Canberra as well. Canberra was the first ship hit and ultimately received two torpedo hits and a total of 24 gun hits. Captain Getting of the Canberra was killed. Canberra sank at 0800, 9 August. Both Bagley and Patterson escaped with minor damage while Mikawa’s force focused on Chicago. Chicago took a torpedo and a gun hit with little damage, and was saved further hits when she saw the trail ship of Mikawa’s force and went after it, sailing in the opposite direction of the attacking force. Chicago then lost sight of the enemy ship and was left without an enemy to pursue. Significantly, Captain Bode never warned the Northern Group that an attack was in progress. In 6 minutes, Mikawa had severely damaged the Allied Southern Group and was turning around Savo Island headed toward the unalerted Northern Group.

Mikawa’s luck only got better. At 0144, he made a rapid course change with his leading three cruisers, Aoba, Kako, and Kinugasa. The maneuver was missed by the last three, Yubari, Tenryu, and Furutaka, but this inadvertent split created two separate attacking divisions. Although this created a command and control problem for Mikawa, it put the Northern Force between two attacking forces.

For the Japanese, it was like shooting ducks in a pond.

The Northern Force was caught completely by surprise and pounded by Mikawa’s force. The devastating fire brought to bear on the task force sank Astoria, Vincennes, and Quincy.

Extremely successful at his first pass around Savo Island, Mikawa contemplated another. Fortunately for the Allied Forces, Mikawa had a number of concerns. His force was divided, it would take him almost three hours to bring it back together, and daylight was not far away. Daylight meant that he was very susceptible to air attack and he still had no idea where the carrier group was located. Finally, his ships were out of torpedoes, and a second attack using only guns would be much riskier. At 0220, Mikawa gave the order to retire up the Slot.

Mikawa left 1,023 sailors killed and over 700 wounded in his wake. In addition, he sank four Allied heavy cruisers and severely damaged a number of destroyers. This defeat expedited the departure of Turner’s Amphibious Task Force, leaving the under-supplied Marines to fend for themselves on Guadalcanal.”

End of part 8

 

Diamond Anniversary – The First Battle of Savo Island (Part 7 – The Marines on Shore and the Consequences) Reply

The operation at Guadalcanal was named “Watchtower” but to the Marines involved, it would forever be known as Operation Shoestring. As history records, the entire operation was put together in a hurry with limited resources and even less intelligence. One misstep after another compounded their misery and the disastrous events of the First Battle of Savo Island would mean the Marines on shore would have to fight twice as hard with meager supplies.

This Story comes from the book

Marines in World War II,  Historical Monograph, The Guadalcanal Campaign

by Major John L. Zimmerman, USMCR Historical Section, Division of Public Information Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps 1949

The Naval Withdrawal

The burning of the Elliott had two adverse consequences, entirely apart from the loss of the ships herself. Included in the supplies aboard her had been a good shore of the material of the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, and that was lost. The second, and more serious, consequence was the fact that the glare caused by her burning allowed enemy observers in the neighborhood of Tassafaronga to see the cruisers and destroyers which were shortly to be attacked on that night of 8-9 August, and to report their presence to the advancing enemy task force.

In the evening of 8 August, General Vandegrift was called to a conference aboard the USS McCawley, flagship of Task Force 62. While there he was told that Admiral Turner had decided to remove all transports and cargo vessels from the area at 0600 next morning, 9 August. The reason given for this decision was the fact that advice had come from Admiral Fletcher, Commander, Task Force 61, telling of a shortage of fuel and of the loss of 21 of his 99 planes, and of his consequent decision to withdraw.

This posed a new and most alarming problem for General Vandegrift and his staff. Plans made by the division had been formulated on the assumption that the ships would remain for four days in the target area so that all supplies could be put ashore. However, even with the removal of all supplies to the beach, the division would have been in a somewhat precarious position, for the shortage of shipping and the unforeseen demand for haste had made necessary a cut below the basic allowances ordinarily prescribed. The unloading process, as we have seen, had been complicated by a condition approaching chaos on the beach, and the movement from ship to shore had been stopped as a result. The withdrawal of the supply ships, therefore, was, from a troop standpoint, little short of a catastrophe, but Admiral Turner’s decision was not changed.

Shortly after midnight of 8-9 August, moreover, friendly surface forces operating in the Solomons area suffered a sudden and overwhelming defeat. The events leading up to the disastrous Battle of Savo Island are interesting.

There can be no doubt at this time that the American attack on Tulagi and on Guadalcanal came as a surprise to the enemy at Rabaul as well as to the smaller forces in the target area.

The American convoy had been sighted as it approached the area by an enemy lookout in the vicinity of Cape Esperance. There appears to have been a breakdown in communications between his post and Tulagi, for his warning did not alert the people on the latter island. The attack, moreover, cut the area off from communication with the enemy rear areas (the radio installations on Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo had been destroyed by the prelanding bombardment by the San Juan and the two destroyers which accompanied her). Captain Miyazaki, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who was on duty at Rabaul at the time, was questioned on November, 1945, as a prisoner of war. He said, in speaking of the events of 7 August 1942, “Early in the day we lost communication with Gavutu, so did not know what happened.”

Communication must have been reestablished quickly, however, or else the enemy must have been able to deduce, from the silence that had fallen over its forces in the Tulagi area, that an attack had been mounted. By afternoon of 7 August a naval task force was being assembled from units in Kavieng and Rabaul. It was formed from elements of the 8th Fleet, and consisted of five heavy cruisers–Chokai (flying the flag of Rear Admiral Gunichi Mikawa, CinC, 8th Fleet), Kako, Furutaka, Aoba (Rear Admiral Goto), Kinugasa, the light cruiser Tenryu (Rear Admiral Matsuyama), and Yubari–with one old destroyer Yunagi from the 4th Destroyer Division. Rendezvous was effected northwest of Bougainville, and the force came down the stretch of water which lies between the parallel chains of islands of the group and which was later to become known as the “Slot”.

This force was sighted at 1130 on the morning of 8 August by a U.S. observation plane which maintained contact with it for about an hour.39 The results of the observation were reported at once, but through some mix-up in the communication chain which has never been satisfactorily explained, the screening force of United States and Australian ships apparently was not apprised of the potential danger which the enemy task force presented.

The screening force, divided in two groups, was patrolling the approaches to the transport area on each side of Savo Island when, at about 0130 of the morning of 9 August, it was attacked and overwhelmingly defeated by an enemy force which immediately retired from the area. No attempt was made by the Japanese to pursue the advantage which had been gained, and the transport area was left unmolested. The attack had been preceded by the dropping of flares from Japanese cruiser-based planes, and information subsequently got from prisoners indicates that the attacking force was aided by observation from Cape Esperance made possible by the illumination from the flares and from the burning transport, Elliott.

The results of the attack were little short of catastrophic for the Allied forces. Of the five cruisers on station at the time, four were sunk and the other badly damaged. Chicago sustained damage, while Astoria, Vincennes, Canberra, and Quincy sank during the night and the early morning.

Post-war interrogation of Japanese prisoners answered a question which arose immediately after the Japanese withdrawal–why had the attacking force refrained from annihilating the then defenseless transports? It appears that one 8-inch round fired from the second group to be attacked–the Northern Group–penetrated the operations room of Chokai, destroying all equipment and charts. This together with the fact that there was some delay in resuming proper formation, impelled Vice Admiral Mikawa to withdraw rather than run the risk of being overtaken by planes during a later withdrawal.

A belated vengeance overtook another ship of the force when Kako, about to enter the harbor of Kavieng the next morning, was sunk off Simberi Island by an American submarine, the old S-44.

End of Part 7

 

Memorandum Number 68: FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE – 1923 (How America almost lost World War II before it even started) 2

In the final days of the Great War, Naval planners had seen first hand the devastation and destruction caused by the modern machines of war.

The submarine was an example of one of the most destructive. As plans were being made for the peace, decisions about the methods for maintaining that peace would have to be made. One of the grand ideas at the time was to limit the offensive powers of the world’s navies. In this rarely discussed report from 1923, the future of the American submarine force hung in the balance. One can only imagine how the world would look today if the planners had their way. The plucky little submarine fleet that survived the devastation at Pearl Harbor on December 7th may not have been available to punish the Japanese while the nation rebuilt.

These records are held in the Naval History and Heritage Command. I am grateful for their work in preserving these valuable lessons from the past.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAVY DEPARTMENT OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE HISTORICAL SECTION

Publication Number 7

THE AMERICAN NAVAL PLANNING SECTION LONDON

Published under the direction of The Hon. EDWIN DENBY, Secretary of the Navy

WASHINGTON GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE| 1923

 

PREFACE.

____________

This monograph is virtually a reproduction of the formal records of the American Planning Section in London during the Great War, presented in numbered memoranda from 1 to 71, inclusive. Memoranda Nos. 21 and 67 have been omitted as being inappropriate for publication at this time.

Before December, 1917, all strategic planning for the American Navy was done by a section of the Office of Naval Operations in Washington. Admiral Suns urged the need of a Planning Section at his headquarters in London, where comprehensive and timely information was more available; not only of the activities of American Forces, but of the Allied Navies and of the enemy.

A visit to England during November, 1917, by Admiral Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, coincided with a reorganization of the British Admiralty, which included, as a result of war experience, magnification of the function of strategic planning by their War Staff. Decision was then reached to form an American Planning Section at the London headquarters of the Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, with the idea of cooperating more closely with the British and other Allied plan makers. Up to that time the naval strategy of the Allies often appeared to lack coordination and to be formulated primarily by men so burdened with pressing administrative details as to prevent them from giving due attention to broad plans. It was intended that the new arrangements should correct these defects.

The function of the Planning Section corresponded closely to that of similar units of organization in large businesses and in armies. Its work was removed from current administration, yet necessarily required constant information of the progress of events. It comprehended a broad survey of the course of the war as a whole, as well as a more detailed consideration of the important lesser aspects.

From an examination of these records of the American London Planning Section, together with its history contained in Memorandum No. 71, prepared soon after the conclusion of the war, it is evident that the influence of the Section upon the general naval campaign was constructive, comprehensive, and important.

  1. W. Knox, Captain (Retired), U. S. Navy, Officer in Charge, Office of Naval Records and Library; and Historical Section

 

 

Memorandum Number 68:

FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE.

(Undated.)

_____________

General situation: International naval situation as at present.

Required: Estimate of the situation as to future submarine warfare with relation to—

(a) National interests.

(b) World interests.

Solution.

As a result of the manner in which the Central Empires have conducted submarine operations, there exists throughout the world a public sentiment favorable to the abolition of submarine warfare and the destruction of all existing vessels of this type.

It is our purpose to examine the question of a future policy in regard to submarines, both from the point of view of world interest and national interest, and to determine the attitude which the United States should adopt toward the abolition of submarine warfare.

Theoretically the submarine is a valuable weapon of war with a large field of legitimate activity. There appears no cause for its condemnation on the ground that it has been the most powerful weapon of our adversaries, or that it has been used in violation of existing international law. The same reasons might be adduced for discarding the use of guns because they have been used to project poison-gas shells and other projectiles that cause unnecessary suffering.

It is necessary then to examine the actual methods employed by the Central Empires in submarine warfare to discover how far the successful use of submarines is dependent inherently on their employment in a manner inconsistent with the conduct of civilized warfare. If it appears that their efficiency is largely dependent on their illegitimate use in disregard of the laws of humanity, in violation of neutral rights, or in derogation of a sound policy for the world at large, it is safe to assume that in any war the temptation to employ submarines in their most efficient manner may prove too strong for a belligerent threatened with defeat, and that therefore the moral and material interests of humanity would be improved by the elimination altogether of the subsurface vessel.

CONDITIONS GOVERNING SUBMARINE ATTACK.

The weapons of the submarine are the torpedo and the gun. In order to maintain the water-tight integrity of its hull, it is essential that the submarine be protected as far as possible from gunfire. There is thus imposed upon the vessel the necessity of submerged attack against all craft possessing guns of equal or superior range. To make a successful submerged attack it is considered essential to get within ranges of 1,000 yards—preferably 300 yards. To approach within such ranges demands the utmost secrecy. Furthermore, the safety of the submarine precludes the possibility of demanding surrender at anything but a distance that would permit the most valuable prizes to escape by utilizing their superior speed. Owing to the impossibility of always determining the hostile or neutral character of a vessel by its flag or general appearance, there will frequently exist a doubt in the mind of the submarine commander, with a strong tendency to resolve the doubt in favor of aggression. Having torpedoed a vessel, there remains no means under the average conditions of providing for the surrender of the crew or its removal to a place of safety. The security of the submarine at such close quarters requires its continued submergence until the menace to its safety is removed by the sinking of the attacked vessel. Such has been the practical operation of submarine warfare.

LEGITIMATE USE OF SUBMARINES.

The legitimate use of submarines may be considered to be confined to the following:

(1) Independent attack on unsupported combatant vessels of the enemy.

Comment: The submarine has an undoubted right to attack without warning an enemy man-of-war or any vessel engaged in military operations and not entitled to immunity as a hospital ship, cartel ship, etc.

It is repugnant to the standards of civilized humanity to deliberately plan warfare with the intention of giving no quarter in battle. Hence if such an attack is made and the enemy vessel surrendered, provision should be made for the safety of the lives of the prisoners either on their own vessel or in the ship’s boats if in safe waters.

A torpedo attack usually results in the sinking of a vessel. If we imagine this vessel to be a transport loaded with troops, it would be obviously impossible for the submarine to take them on board or to insure any degree of safety to those who might be successfully embarked on the high seas in the ship’s boats.

It may be argued that a similar result might follow an action between surface ships, but it is desired to point out that the rescue of the surrendered or drowning should be the normal procedure and not the exception, as would be the case in unrestricted submarine warfare.

While submarines might be built of sufficient size and equipped in a manner that would permit their operations to conform to the rules adopted for surface craft, it is certain that such vessels would be seriously handicapped by such requirements, and it is not reasonable to suppose that they would be adopted.

(2) Independent attack on combatant enemy vessels capable of rendering mutual support.

Comment: In this case attack without warning would be justifiable. Destructions might be continued until the enemy surrendered, when humanity would require that a vessel be spared to care for the surviving crews. Unless we imagine a submarine large enough to carry prize crews to take possession of surrendered vessels, it is not reasonable to suppose that any combatant vessel would be spared.

(3) Attack, in support of surface vessels, on enemy combatant forces.

Comment: This is a purely legitimate use of the submarine which, however, has had no exemplification in the present war. Great Britain has fast submarines designed to operate with the fleet, but there is no reason to suppose that they might not be diverted to other uses not so legitimate.

(4) Capture or destruction of enemy merchant vessels.

Comment: It must be expected that the merchant vessels of belligerents will arm for defense. This is an ancient right, founded on that of self-preservation and as sound in principle as the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. Such vessels are nevertheless noncombatants and must be regarded as such, since they are denied the right of taking the offensive.

Since, however, it would be too late for a vessel to defend herself after being torpedoed by a submarine, it is necessary for her to forestall attack as soon as the intention of the submarine can be determined. Under such conditions (which must obtain in unrestricted submarine warfare) a submarine appearing in any quarter from which an attack was possible must expect resistance from the threatened vessel.

In order to make certain that a prize shall not escape attack, the submarine, if inferior in speed and gun power, must make a submerged attack with torpedoes. He is thereby precluded from—

(a) Visit and search to determine identity as well us origin and ownership of cargo.

(b) Summoning the vessel to surrender.

(c) Taking possession of the vessel.

(d) Providing for the safety of passengers or crew.

The inhuman character of this form of warfare has led to forms of reprisals on submarines, such as the use of mystery ships, that react to make the crews of submarines still more brutal, so that no attempt is made to save life, but the submarine continues its submerged attack until the merchant vessel is sunk. Instances of submarines firing on boats filled with passengers are cited and of crews deliberately drowned after being placed on the deck of the submarine.

(5) Capture or destruction of neutral merchant vessels.

Comment: Capture of neutral merchant vessels under conditions

and restrictions imposed by international law is justifiable. Destruction after capture is contrary to international law and can not be justified in any circumstances.

The right of neutral vessels to arm for self-defense dates from the days of piracy, and it can not be denied that the same right still exists to take measures for self-preservation against a belligerent who chooses to operate in defiance of international law against friend and foe alike.

If we admit the right of neutral merchant ships to arm for self-defense, the same set of conditions arise that makes it impossible for the submarine to efficiently wage war on commerce within the bounds of international law. Nor is it apparent that any change in international law could be made that would satisfy the just claims of neutrals to the free use of the high seas for their persons or their goods that would not at the same time seriously hamper the success of the submarine. The difficulty lies in the necessity of secrecy and suddenness of attack to prevent the escape of fast merchant vessels. This is obviously inconsistent with any attempt at visit and search, which in all cases would be necessary if only to establish identity.

(6) All operations of war permitted to surface vessels.

Comment: The necessity of preserving hull integrity and the limited number of guns that can be carried by a submarine restrict sharply its employment in surface operations. Such operations, while legitimate, offer but a small field of activity; illegitimate use of submarines.

The illegitimate employment of submarines by the Central Empires in the present war consisted of—

(1) Attack without warning on enemy merchant vessels.

(2) Attack without warning on neutral merchant vessels.

(3) Attack without warning on enemy hospital ships.

(4) Sinking of enemy merchant ships without visit or search.

(5) Sinking of neutral merchant vessels without visit or search.

(6) The abandonment, without regard to safety, of passengers and crews of vessels sunk.

(7) The planting of unproclaimed mine fields outside of enemy territorial waters.

Submarine operations in the present war may be considered as typical of what may be expected in future wars, when success is dependent on the result of a war on commerce.

There is high authority for the statement that prominent naval officials of at least one of the Allies are of the opinion that the unrestricted submarine warfare conducted by Germany was justifiable, and that with the exception of its more barbarous features its adoption by this ally might be expected under similar circumstances.

It is of interest to note the several phases of submarine operations in the present war as illustrating the tendency to develop maximum efficiency regardless of legal restrictions.

The first phase consisted of submarine attacks on combatant vessels. With the abandonment of the Declaration of London and the inauguration of a general blockade, there entered a second phase, a measure of retaliation, which was distinguished by the destruction without warning of enemy merchant vessels. The protests of neutrals and the fear of drawing the United States into the war induced for a time the exception of enemy passenger vessels; but, on the other hand, destruction without warning was gradually extended to apply to enemy and neutral cargo vessels alike.

It became apparent at last that the only hope of ending the war was by a food blockade of Great Britain. In this situation the Central Empires declared for unrestricted warfare and established prescribed zones that pretended to exclude all vessels from the high seas within certain areas contiguous to the territory of the Allied Powers. Any vessel whatever entering these areas was liable to destruction without warning.

NATIONAL INTEREST AS AFFECTED BY SUBMARINES.

Considering submarine warfare from the standpoint of national interest, let us examine the advantages and disadvantages to be derived from its use by each of the Great Powers.

Great Britain is the greatest naval power as well as the greatest mercantile power in the world. Her existence depends on control of her sea communications. In a naval war conducted by surface craft alone she can by maintaining a large margin of strength above her probable adversaries hope to maintain her position indefinitely. In a naval war involving subsurface craft no amount of naval superiority in any class of vessel can prevent the destruction of her shipping, or, as in the present war, relieve her from the menace of starvation by blockade.

The submarines of Germany almost accomplished their purpose, although the German surface fleet was but a fraction of the united strength of the United States and the Allies, and this in the face of over 4,000 special craft, as well as mines, aircraft, and every device known to science, employed against them.

In spite of the fact that Great Britain has a large flotilla of submarines and has developed a special type for use in fleet action, her naval strength would be greatly increased by the abolition of submarine warfare, and it can be confidently expected that she would favor such a policy.

France is a continental nation ranking fourth in naval strength and merchant marine. She is directly dependent on neither for existence. Except in a world war she might expect to be supplied through her neighbors. In a war with Great Britain, submarine warfare would seem to be to her advantage. She would have little to lose and much to gain. The present war has shown, however, that submarines have little success against combatant vessels, so that, as considered heretofore, important results could be gained only by unrestricted operations against merchant shipping. Aside from any question of legality or morality involved, there is in the destruction of merchant shipping an economic loss to the world that affects all nations, whether belligerent or neutral. This phase of the subject will be discussed later. In a naval war against powers other than Great Britain, there is little that France could accomplish with submarines that could not be done with surface craft.

Italy, while not an insular nation, is dependent largely on sea-borne commerce. Her Navy and merchant marine occupy fifth place among the Great Powers. Her commerce would be largely at the mercy of any enemy in the Mediterranean. During the present war her commerce was driven from the Adriatic, and in spite of the assistance of the Allies she had great difficulty in maintaining herself. With naval operations confined to surface craft she would have been much better off. In addition to the objections to submarine warfare it should be remembered that it is a highly organized and specialized form of warfare requiring technical labor for construction, and for operation expert training, great skill, and considerable endurance to insure success. These requirements are to be found in but few countries. The Germans have set a standard of efficiency for the submarine weapon that we can expect to see but rarely attained. Italy’s strength would not be relatively improved by the continuation of submarine warfare.

Germany and Austria can not expect to be in a financial condition that will permit for at least a generation to come any attempt to revive their naval strength. Considering the fate of their existing submarines, it is safe to exclude the Central Empires from present consideration. They would probably gladly agree to abolish any form of warfare in the future. Should they eventually regain their military strength there is every reason why they should never again be trusted with the submarine weapon.

Japan is an insular nation that occupies in the Pacific a position similar to that of Great Britain in the Atlantic. She stands third in naval and mercantile strength. She has a growing fleet and a rapidly increasing merchant marine. Her only potential enemy is the United States, from whom she can expect no aggression. If, unfortunately, war should come, her position would be very favorable for submarine operations against our communications with the Philippines.

On the other hand, our submarines based on the Philippines and Guam would be within striking distance of her coasts and would be a grave threat to the commerce on which her existence depends. With submarine abolished, her surface craft could probably accomplish lawfully all and more than could submarines.

Japan has but few submarines, and these of but little efficiency, which would seem to indicate that she is in agreement with this view.

Like other nations with ambitions to be powerful commercially on the sea, she has much to lose and little to gain by submarine warfare.

Small nations, with relatively large merchant fleets, such as Holland, Norway, and Sweden, have neither the military strength to withstand the invasion of a great power, nor the means to conduct an aggressive war against a small power. In either case they could expect heavy uncompensated loss from submarines.

Small nations with little or no merchant shipping of their own might selfishly benefit by submarines in a war against a maritime power. If their submarine warfare was confined to legitimate operations against combatant vessels they would be of value in repelling invasion, but it cannot be expected that they would bring about victory against a powerful nation, and in addition to the danger of their submarines being used illegally there could be no equitable means provided of granting their use to one nation and not to another.

The United States is the second naval and mercantile power in the world. Our continental coasts lie across the ocean from any formidable enemy. No foreign invasion of our continental territory is possible, nor do we contemplate aggression against any power. Nevertheless the large merchant marine that we are building may be exposed to submarine attack in any part of the world. Such an aggression by any small or irresponsible power might cause us losses both in property and national prestige out of all proportion to the size of the offending power.

In a war with Great Britain submarines would serve a purpose in preventing the blockade and bombardment of our coasts, but the same results could be accomplished by surface craft and mobile coast-defense guns.

The chief reason why the United States should not build submarines is that public opinion would never permit their use in the same manner as that of our adversaries. Their chief use would be in the destruction of enemy merchant shipping. This the national conscience would not permit, certainly not after the German manner, while our probable adversaries would likely not be controlled by any such restrictions.

With a surface fleet second to none, the United States is in a position to vindicate its policies in every part of the world. With submarines in existence no strength in surface craft can ever insure a like security.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON NAVAL STRENGTH.

If we reckon naval strength in terms of dreadnoughts and battle cruisers, and exclude Russia and the Central Powers, we observe that the naval strength of the Great Powers follows closely the strength of their merchant marine and is not dependent on submarines.

Naval strength. Capital ships. Merchant tonnage (approximate). Submarines.
1. Great Britain 43 15,000,000 168
2. United States 17 5,000,000 108
3. Japan 9 1,700,000 19
4. France 7 1,500,000 55
5. Italy 5 1,000,000 6

Small powers with negligible navies are—

Merchant tonnage.
Norway 1,300,000
Holland 800,000
Sweden 700,000

We conclude that the abolition of submarines would not practically alter the standing in relative remaining naval strength of any of the Great Powers.

DESTRUCTION OF MERCHANT SHIPPING AN ECONOMIC LOSS TO THE WORLD.

It is to the interest of the world at large that the evils of war be confined to the nations participating in it.

The economic interdependence of every part of the modem world makes it impossible for one country to suffer loss without in a measure affecting all. But the vital indispensable necessity to the welfare of the world is merchant shipping, the common carrier of the world that provides the sole means of interchange of products on which civilized existence has come to depend.

International law for the present has not progressed sufficiently far to forbid the destruction of belligerent merchant vessels under certain prescribed circumstances. It does forbid the sinking of neutrals.

We believe that the destruction of any merchant ships employed as common carriers is contrary to a sound world policy and should be forbidden.

As a result of the present war the world at large has been subjected to a loss of 13,000,000 tons of merchant shipping; 2,000,000 tons of this was the property of neutrals.

The loss of cargoes has impoverished the world and subjected many of the neutrals to hardships greater than those endured by some of the belligerents.

The tonnage sunk represents a direct economic loss falling upon the people of the world, whether belligerent or neutral.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON REDUCTION OF ARMAMENTS.

The abolition of submarine warfare would be a great step in the reduction of armaments. In addition such a reduction would carry with it the elimination of all special types of craft that are necessary only in antisubmarine warfare.

If all distinctly antisubmarine craft were dispensed with and torpedo vessels reduced to a proportion of six destroyers for each dreadnought or battle cruiser, the following reduction could be accomplished in vessels already built:

Great Britain:
Submarines 168
Destroyers 167
Torpedo boats 96
Patrol boats 63
Sloops 12
Patrol gunboats 26
Armed whalers 19
Motor launches 540
Submarine depot ships 13
United States:
Submarines 108
Destroyers 70
Torpedo boats 17
Submarine depot ships 3
Converted yachts (?) 53
Submarine chasers 300

 

Japan:
Submarines 19
Destroyers 13
Torpedo boats 24
Submarine depot ships 4
France:
Submarines 62
Destroyers 50
Torpedo boats 121
Special gunboats (?) 10
Sloops 9
Dispatch vessels 10
Submarine chasers 50
Italy:
Submarines 56
Destroyers 22
Torpedo boats 65
Submarine depot ships 1
Motor launches 147

 

In addition to the foregoing there could be a reduction in minesweeping vessels, aircraft, repairs, and supply vessels, as well as elimination of special nets, mines, and devices used against submarines.

CONCLUSIONS.

We recommend—

1. That an international agreement be concluded to abolish submarine warfare.

2. That to insure against violations of this agreement all sub-surface vessels of every class whatsoever now built or building be destroyed, and that none hereafter be constructed.

3. That no merchant vessel shall hereafter be destroyed by belligerent action.

4. That merchant vessels which under present rules would be subject to destruction may be sent into a neutral port and interned in the same manner as combatant vessels.

 

 

 

Taffy 3 – Courage Beyond Measure Reply

One of my old favorites from a few years back. Great men do great things.

theleansubmariner

In the annals of US Naval history, there are a number of instances that demonstrate the courage and determination of a committed group of dedicated officers and men.

The one that stands out most in many people’s opinions is the battle which occurred on October 25th 1994. On this day, a small group of scrappy warriors took on a force many times its size and contributed to one of the greatest naval victories of all time.

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By October of 1944, the Japanese were becoming more and more desperate to slow down or stop the advancing juggernaut that the US Navy had become in the Pacific. From the ashes of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, a resurgent United States used its massive industrial capability to produce a fleet second to none in the world. The men of Pennsylvania, Kansas, California, and the other forty eight states were indoctrinated into a life…

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Inflict Maximum Damage on Enemy Shipping Reply

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Victory At Sea ~ Full Fathom Five – HQ

The threat of death at full fathom five is always in the backs of the minds of the submariners according to the steady voice of the narrator. Yet they still went on many patrols and exacted a toll on the enemy that brought him to a place where extended warfare was no longer possible.

Episode 21 was not released until 1953 but it used historical footage to describe the character and strength of the men of the US submarine forces. Using their small boats, they helped to bring a giant empire to its knees. Without her merchant fleet, Japan would not be able to feed its massive war machine. Food, oil, raw materials were all required to keep their war effort alive. US submarines performed an enormous feat in choking that supply line down to almost nothing by the end of war.

50 Percent of the volunteers will fail: Episode 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWbiFB_OZIE

transiting the Canal:  Episode 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12xFfri4DAU

Find the, chase them sink them: Episode 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbrneCrfTF8

The cost was dear though. 52 American boats never made it home. But as the series title proclaimed, we were able to finally recognize Victory at Sea because of the efforts of many brave crews. God Bless them all!

Mister Mac

Full Fathom Five

Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong. Hark! now I hear them,–ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare

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Christmas 1943 – The Tide Has Turned in the West 1

In the disastrous aftermath of Pearl Harbor December 1941, the United States and the remaining countries that were considered free faced enormous odds in their struggle against the Axis Powers. The war plans that had been poured over with such intensity for so many decades now laid in ruins as the ships and planes that were envisioned as key were no longer available. The entire emphasis had been placed on the use of capital ships like the USS Pennsylvania and USS Arizona surrounded by a number of support ships such as the fledgling aircraft carriers, fleet submarines, destroyers and cruisers.

Sailors for generations had come to regard these floating battle wagons as the kings of the seas. They had been designed to fight any vessel anywhere and were designed to take a pounding from the large guns of the potential enemy battleships. 16-inch guns were considered to be the best state of the art weapon to defeat a ship of any kind in a battle that would rage across the open sea during the day or at night.

In December of 1941, every single battleship in the Pacific owned by the Allies were rendered useless or sunk by an enemy who did not believe that the answers of the past applied to the problems of the future. A combination of treachery and new technology ended the illusion of power in a matter of weeks. The only significant surface vessels that remained for a long time to come were the cruisers that had been built to support the main fleet.

Heavy Cruisers

(From the Bluejacket’s Manual 1940 – 10th Edition)

“Minneapolis, Astoria, New Orleans, Tuscaloosa, San Francisco, Quincy, Vincennes, Wichita – Length, 588 Feet; beam 61 feet10 inches. All have parsons turbines, 107,000 HP, 4 screws, 32 ½ knots. Displacement 10,000 tons. Armament, nine 8-inch, 55 caliber guns in 3 turrets; eight 5-inch, 25 caliber antiaircraft guns.”

“Cruisers are lightly armored, carry moderate armament, and are of high speed, about 34 knots. All cruisers have an extremely large fuel capacity in order to maintain high speed for a long period. Cruisers, like battleships are divided into numerous watertight compartments”

uss-ca-38-san-francisco-1944-cruiser

The New Orleans class cruisers were a class of seven heavy cruisers built for the United States Navy (USN) in the 1930s. The ship class was a result of naval treaties between the major naval powers at the time which sought to limit the growth of large capital ships (particularly battleships). Originally called the Astoria-class cruiser, the class was renamed after Astoria was sunk and the surviving ships of the class underwent substantial reconstruction.

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These ships participated in the heaviest surface battles of the Pacific War. Astoria, Quincy, and Vincennes were all sunk in the Battle of Savo Island, and three others were heavily damaged in subsequent battles in the Guadalcanal campaign. Only Tuscaloosa, the single ship of the class to spend most of World War II in the Atlantic, got through the war without being damaged. Collectively, ships of the class earned 64 battle stars.

The four surviving ships were laid up immediately after the end of the war, and sold for scrap in 1959.

The only cruisers present at Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 were the New Orleans (CA-32) and the   San Francisco (CA-38). The USS San Francisco was commissioned in February 1934 and was one of the newest ships present at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day

Pearl Harbor attack

“On 7 December 1941, San Francisco was in Pearl Harbor and was awaiting docking and the cleaning of her heavily fouled bottom. Her engineering plant was largely broken down for overhaul. Ammunition for her 5 in (130 mm) and 8 in (200 mm) guns had been placed in storage. Her 3 in (76 mm) guns had been removed to permit installation of four 1.1 in (28 mm) quadruple mounts. The 1.1 in (28 mm) mounts had not been installed. Her .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns were being overhauled. Only small arms and two .30 in (7.6 mm) machine guns were available. Moreover, a number of San Francisco’s officers and men were absent.

At 0755, Japanese planes began bombing dives on Ford Island, and by 0800, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was well underway. The men in San Francisco secured the ship for watertightness and began looking for opportunities to fight back. Some crossed to New Orleans to help man antiaircraft batteries on that ship. Others began using available rifles and machine guns. Ammunition for .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns was transferred to Tracy for use.

San Francisco was not bombed or damaged during the Japanese air raid. After the attack was over, work resumed to make San Francisco seaworthy and combat-ready.

On 14 December, the cruiser left the yard; the scaling of her keel had been postponed in favor of more necessary repairs on other ships. On 16 December, she sortied with Task Force 14 (TF 14) to relieve Wake Island. The force moved west with a Marine fighter squadron onboard Saratoga and a Marine battalion embarked in Tangier. However, when Wake Island fell to the Japanese on 23 December, TF 14 was diverted to Midway Atoll which it reinforced. On 29 December, the force returned to Pearl Harbor.”

CA-038_SanFrancisco4

The Japanese would feel the effect of not completely destroying the San Francisco. She became the most decorated ship of the Pacific Theater earning 17 Battle Stars. Earning those stars would cost a terrible price though. On November 13 1942 during the horrific Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 77 sailors, including Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, were killed. 105 were wounded. Of seven missing, three were subsequently rescued. The ship had taken 45 hits. Structural damage was extensive, but not fatal. No hits had been received below the waterline. Twenty-two fires had been started and extinguished. The designers who conceived of the class and all of her engineering features, combined with the amazing skills of the surviving crew, prevented a much greater loss of life. More significantly, they returned the CA 35 to its place in the battle line in enough time to help win the war.

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Saturday, December 25: Christmas 1943

The San Francisco was repaired in Mare Island and spent the entire year of 1943 supporting the various operations across the Pacific that were designed to wrest control back from the Japanese. After a very hard year fighting in every major battle in the Pacific, she returned to Pearl Harbor to rest. The Pearl Harbor of 1943 was very different than that of 1941. The defeat felt on December 7th was replaced by sheer determination. Most of the wrecks from that day had been refloated and returned to active duty. New planes now filled the skies and aerodromes all around the island. Troops of every kind filled every available inch of space preparing for the island campaigns to come.

For the battle weary sailors on the CA 38, Hawaii must have been a dream come true. Their sturdy ship had taken a pounding in the last year including a deadly strafing in November that resulted in one shipmate being killed and twenty two injured. But she sailed on for another battle, another day.

Bing Crosby’s latest hit was released that year and probably expressed the sentiments of many of the soldiers and sailors. “I’ll be home for Christmas” still has the power to evoke strong emotions from both the deployed service people and the folks back home. Across the oceans, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was declared the new supreme commander of all allied forces in the European Theater in preparation for the thrust into that captive continent to defeat the Nazis.

I can only imagine what the sailors and officers on the Frisco were thinking. They had been through some of the hardest fought battles yet but the future promised only more of the same. Hawaii at Christmas time is always a beautiful experience but I wonder if I could have relaxed knowing that I would soon set sail again to try and continue the path to Tokyo. The busses between Honolulu and the base were probably jammed with sailors and marines looking for anything to take their minds off the harsh life they had been living. Letters and packages from home probably caught up to the boys on the CA 38. Those precious memories would have to hold them for a long time to come as the San Francisco prepared to rejoin the battle line for the coming thrusts.

But the folks back home were continuing to rally. New ships and planes were pouring out of the yards and factories all across the United States. The Japanese had been turned back at Midway and never came close enough to the mainland again to significantly impact production. Average families got used to the war time routine of sacrifice and bond drives. Returning men who were in the fight helped to remind people we ewer all in it together.

In researching this story, I came across a menu from the USS Essex which was serving in the Pacific with the San Francisco. I will let the voices of the past end this story with their words of encouragement and a reminder that the work was not yet done.

Message for Christmas 1943

I salute those men who had been through so much in the previous two years. The starry eyes of someone who had not been battle tested were replaced with the eyes of seasoned men who scoured the sky for enemy fighters and enemy subs. The hard work was yet to come but they came back to their ship and when the time came sailed with her on to victory.

Merry Christmas to all of them today wherever they are.

Mister Mac

 In September 2014, I plan on returning to the USS San Francisco Memorial located near the sea entrance to her namesake’s city

I hope to see many of my USS San Francisco Crewmembers at our 2914 Reunion

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Three Remarkable Days in Japan 2

Fast attack submarines play a key role in our nation’s defense and have done so for as long as I have been alive. For the record, that’s more than at least 59 years. I was a crew member on three different fast attacks although I only really deployed on one: The USS San Francisco SSN 711. It was also my longest served boat (just shy of four years) which is probably why I have some of my strongest memories of that service.

I want to tell a short story about our first West Pac. These six month deployments allow fast attack submarines to do many missions for extended periods of time without having to return back to home base. The San Fran was not unique in any way when it came to doing West Pacs (Western Pacific operations) but our first one had a few twists and turns along the way that separated her from routine.

Most of the operational stuff is still classified in one way or another but what we did in Japan stands out as a very different sort of port call. We had left Hawaii not long before arriving in Yokosuka JDF Naval base. Arriving in Japan, we would have had a typical port visit with visits to the local bars near the main gate and perhaps a little souvenir shipping. But I had a bigger vision than that. I actually thought it would be interesting to use some of our time to actually see Japan.

In my role as the Command Career Counselor, I had decided that maybe there was some missed opportunity in not seeing the country that would be our first port call on the West Pac. So I got the XO’s permission while we were still back in Pearl Harbor to set up some tours once we got there. I was a bit older than most second classes since I had rejoined active duty after a stint in the reserves. I had also seen guys drink their paychecks away in port after port and then years later not even remember anything about where they had been.

Japan has a rich history and many things to see. Even to this day, I hope that I have at least one more chance of travelling back to catch some of the things I have read about but never saw. The special services people and American consulate people were probably surprised when they got the first letters from some second class petty officer inquiring about tours. There was no email back then so no back and forth communications could occur in a timely fashion. Plus, I couldn’t actually tell them when we were arriving since it was part of OPSEC (Operational Security).

Surprisingly though, when we pulled in, I had envelopes full of pamphlets, maps, translation guides, and a letter from a tour operator with three suggested trips. Those included the famous Fifth Station on Mount Fuji (including the Lake Hakone Region and the Ice Caves), The Coastal region and the famous statue at Kamakura, and day trips to Tokyo including the Palace.

I spent the next two days making arrangements and selling tickets for the tours. Within a few days, the first tour was ready to go and I got my first cold hard dash of reality. There seemed to have been a lot of excitement about the various trips but suddenly guys were trying to back out. The travel to Japan had been hard and work in port on a fast boat is always exhausting. But a deal was a deal and we had obligated ourselves.

I can’t remember now which trip was first. The bus pulled up next to the pier and our guides explained where we would be headed. There were a few unhappy campers who felt like now they were going to miss out on something. I don’t know to this day if the trips really meant anything to the groups that went. I do know what they meant to me…

I can now say that I have been up to the Fifth Station of Mount Fujiyama and walked beneath the Ice Cave falls.

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I can also say that I saw the Shogunate of Kamakura and the giant Bhudda statue that you can walk up into.

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And to this day, I can still feel the crunching of the gravel and stones around the Imperial Palace

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Japan 002 Japan 001

 

There was one last memory of Japan that I still cherish today.

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I still miss your music Jim.

 

I hope in your journey of life, you take a risk from time to time and do the unexpected. You may never know the impact you had, but I can assure you, you probably did.

Mister Mac

The Price of Wishful Thinking … Sinking the American Fleet 6

 

When I see an internet news story like the recent one detailing the shrinking of the American fleet, I get a kick out of reading the comments in the remarks sections.

Socialists

If you ever want to determine the lack of knowledge of the average internet news story reader, spend a few minutes looking at the remarks from people who are trained to turn on their computer but not their intelligence.

My favorite for today was from a reader who pontificated on the reasonableness of destroying the Navy and all of the armed forces. From their post:

“Also, the international security climate as a whole is becoming more peaceable, there is less need for ridiculous spending on certain parts of the military.”

Before you enlist

Hmmm. Makes you wonder what planet they are living on.

The unfortunate thing is that there are a whole lot of people who feel the same. They are so convinced that everyone else in the world can see their logic that all will be well with just a few more reset buttons pushed by the current regime. How’s that working for you?

Syria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, All of the Stans, Venezuela, the Euro collapse, endless financial problems at home, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, all of Sub Continent Africa, Pirates in Somalia, Jihadists everywhere, Afghanistan, Pakistan with their lose nuclear weapon program, Chinese threats in the far east against the shipping lanes, and on and on. Yep, peace in our time.

Being a Submariner and a historian, I am intimately aware of the history of our country not being prepared for the next war. We seem to be always ready to fight the last war but constantly overwhelmed with leadership that is confident that the world will match our passion for the glory days. I have spent a number of posts talking about attitudes towards sail versus steam, and newfangled toys (submarines and planes) versus battleships. But I am also aware of the cost of not being ready to fight with the weapons we did have because of short sightedness.

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I have no intention of repeating the torpedo stories from the beginning of World War 2 since they are well covered in other places like these:

http://www.ww2pacific.com/torpedo.html

http://www.fleetsubmarine.com/torpedoes.html

Captain Edward Beach, the submariner-historian said: “The torpedo situation during the first half of the war was a national disgrace and the negligent perpetrators responsible should have been severely punished”.

Torpedo Room     Grunion

The negligent perpetrators were following their national leaders. Before World War 2, the country was just emerging from the Depression. Awareness of costs for things like testing of new torpedoes was a major factor in not properly preparing them for a time when they would be needed.

Is it any wonder

Think about it for a minute

We had enough submarines at the start of the war. They were in the right places. But without torpedoes that worked, we were essentially crippled in our efforts to conduct the type of warfare that may have slowed down the Japanese in the first year of that conflict.

Instead, we sent many of those shipmates to a certain death.

We were unable to slow the Japanese which helped to ensure the slavery of millions and death for an unimaginable number of men, women and children both civilians and service personnel. What price would you have been willing to pay to prevent the torture and suffering of those many people? What treasure could have replaced the fallen Navy man in his Mother and Father’s eyes? How do you put a price on being prepared to prevent another slaughter?

Its unfortunate that our “leaders” have spent us into the poor house trillions of times over. I think I have a good start in solving that. Lets round them all up and take back the money they accepted for screwing up everything they did. I know that won’t actually happen, but imagine in your lifetime if you cost your company more money that it was capable of earning in the next ten years. Would you still be working?

National defense is not a luxury item that you only fund when its politically correct.

National defense is an investment to ensure we have a future. In all of man’s history, there has never been a country like the United States. In all of man’s history, there has never been a time where we have not had wars and conflicts. There should not be any question based on that history that there will be another global conflict. The only question is “when” that conflict will occur.

What about the cost?

There is always a cost. A manageable way of controlling those costs is to ensure that an efficient defense is maintained on a regular basis. Continuous improvement in cost, quality, delivery, price and manufacturing can result in a steady stream of needed innovation to give the United States a technical and practical edge. True competition and investments in national priorities can help to ensure we are looking at the next need. There is even a school of thought that says that if we do it right, we can prevent wars through preparedness.

If you shut off the value stream, there are consequences.

The companies that provided the ships, planes, weapons, electronics, and so on will gradually lose their ability to provide those items and services on demand. With the loss of business, you also lose the knowledge and skills used to provide those resources. The suppliers that were in their value stream fall away and take up other occupations. So even if the flow was turned back on, something as simple as a screw being missing could prevent the missile from being manufactured in the time frame needed.

In my last job, we went through the agony of seeing the workforce laid off.

The recession cut deep into manufacturing and we could not sustain having so many highly paid technicians standing idly by without orders to fill. Months went by and our suppliers also had to react to decreased orders. Many did not survive the downturn at all.

Then one day, our customers started calling again. Their customers were seeing some light and they needed our components. So we called back our workers and retrained many of them to the newer jobs (as well as some of their old ones). We ramped up production and hit a solid stone wall. Our suppliers (the ones that survived) had a limited amount of inventory on hand and some of it was obsolete. We raced to get new suppliers but even they had to go through the proving process to ensure quality assurance in our final product.

Do you think the customer gave a crap about our problems?

Not a bit. They just saw an opportunity to make money to survive passing them by. It was obvious that the alternative was for us to fill his orders or he would make the decision to go somewhere else.

When it comes to defense, there is no place else. Because of a great number of factors (most of them political) we have a limited amount of primary providers. The value stream of parts and services to support them is just as fragile. We have not protected our manufacturing base as we “globalized”. If we do not carefully manage this current trend in “right-sizing” we will find ourselves for want of a nail at the time we need it most. I wonder if the next enemy will be polite enough to wait for us to ramp back up again?

As you look at your leaders in the coming months, look carefully at the ones who recognize the consequences of these decisions. Call them out on it. If the answer does not include a plan to defend this nation, carefully consider if this person is worth the vote you will cast. No Party’s. Only a person who will eventually make decisions that effect all of our futures.

As the old saying goes, you can pay me now, or you can pay me later. But you will pay.

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Mister Mac

G’day Mate, mind the dingos 3

I can’t possibly imagine two places on earth that are more opposite then Diego Garcia and Perth Australia.

Finishing up a quick run somewhere in the Indian Ocean and pulling up next to a destroyer tender was welcome after all the excitement, but you quickly come to realize that if there was an end to the earth, this would probably be it. Then a short week later, you surface off the coast of Western Australia and its like being taken back in time to the beaches of California before the developers ruined them.

Florida in Diego Garcia  Map of the IO

You could actually feel the excitement as we sailed into Freemantle.

I had been to many ports before but Australia was a place where legends were made. After they popped the hatch, the warm sea swept air came pouring in aided by the low pressure blower and ventilation system. As we got closer, the officer of the deck was monitoring events on the pier with number two scope and gave us a description of the group waiting to meet us. The captain called down from the bridge and said “Mr. xxxxxxx, train your periscope to 170 degrees…” He did and had the biggest surprise of his life. His brand new wife was waiting on the pier. That nice woman had flown half way around the world to be with her husband. He seemed so happy…

Freemantle

Pulling in was easy and the Aussies were very efficient in getting the lines across and shore power cables ready for us to hook up. I don’t know if it was just the typical post underway correction my eyes normally did, but when I stood topside, it seemed like the biggest place I had ever arrived in. Hardly any buildings, flat, but sun drenched and beautiful. I had exchanged duty with one of the guys back in Guam so would spend most of my time working but that seemed to be okay. Mrs. Mac had joined me for a nice visit in Guam and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything.

Perth and Freemantle had a nice service called Dial a Sailor. They would hook up a phone line and if someone was interested in taking a sailor home for a nice home cooked meal, they would call and we would set up a board for the boys to read through. Then it was up to them to make arrangements. The minute the phone hooked up, it started ringing. It hardly stopped for the remaining time we were in port. I am not sure if they thought our little submarine was a battleship or an aircraft carrier but we could have stayed in port for month and never emptied the board.

My best experience there (remember, I was happily married) was driving the van for the officers. The duty chief told me that I had been selected because of my age and experience to drive the officers van to a celebration being held by the Aussie Legion. I went out to the pier to check out my ride and noticed right away there had been some kind of mistake. The vehicle was defective. They had put the steering wheel on the wrong side. Not only that, but the clutch and brake were improperly mounted too. I called down below to the duty chief and when he stopped laughing he told me I had half an hour to practice in the parking lot.

One note of caution: If you are the duty driver and you come home late at night, mind the wallabies. They are dumber than a box of rocks and still don’t understand that cars kill indiscriminately.

Wallabies

It didn’t take long to master the mechanics of the thing but for the next few days I would struggle with my left hand turns. It seems like someone forgot to tell the Aussies about the benefits of driving on the right hand side of the road and they had placed all their traffic signs backwards as well. I got the officers safely to their party and waited outside. About an hour into the event, these two older gentlemen came out and walked over to the van. Both seemed like they would have been my Dad’s age and we started talking. I told them about Dad’s service and they told me about theirs. One was a survivor of a Japanese prison camp and the other had been on a ship that was sunk early in the war. Both shook my hand and told me they could never thank the Yanks enough for keeping Australia from being invaded.

Its hard for me to even imagine how different the war in the Pacific would have been if we had lost Australia.

A large part of the ANZAC forces had already been fighting in the middle east and Europe so the defenses of the countries of New Zealand and Australia were pretty slim.

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Singapore was the last remnant of British power in that part of the world and its rapid fall meant not only a loss of a barrier but entire armies of Brits and Australians for the duration of the war. The bombing of Darwin with relatively no way to counteract it, threw much of Australia into a sate of panic.

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In March of 1942, the Prime Minister stated that “Common sense dictates that we face the fact that Japan will do everything in an attempt to render Australia impotent as a base for an Allied offensive. The Government regards as outright attack on Australia as a constant and undiminished danger.”

By May of 1942, fear reached its peak as the Battle of the Coral Sea unfolded. As the battle ended with Japan retiring back to its base at Rabaul, the national media proclaimed that “Japanese Invasion Fleet Repulsed”. It is significant that in all of the battles and engagements that Australia was involved with only Coral Sea is still annually commemorated on a large scale, through Coral Sea Week.

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The Japanese decision to invade Midway and the subsequent defeat by the American’s settled the question of any further advances by the Japanese. The tide had turned and Australia remained available for the ensuing build up of American men, equipment, planes and ships (including submarines).

Bases in Australia were important for the operation of the US Submarine fleet.

During the early part of the war, they were used for guerilla warfare support, reconnaissance, and the beginnings of attacks on merchant shipping. By the end of the war, the significance of having a wide base of operations became evident.

The Submarine Service accounted for about 55% of all Japanese tonnage sunk in the war. This was done by a branch of the Navy that accounted for about 1.6% of the Navy’s wartime complement.

The Japanese lost 1,178 Merchant Ships sunk for a tonnage total of 5,053,491 tons. The Naval losses were 214 ships and submarines totaling 577,626 tons. A staggering five million, six hundred thirty one thousand, one hundred seventeen tons, (5,631,117 tons), 1,392 ships.

Japan ended the war with a bare 12% of her merchant fleet intact but not fuel at hand to run more than a few of them. A significant part of the battle was influenced by the ability of the Allies to use Australia as a key operating and resupply location (not to mention preventing the Japanese from extending their base of operations.)

I am not sure how much we have really learned from the lessons of World War 2 in Australia. She is on the forefront of any future conflicts with the Chinese and frankly with the drawdowns we are encountering, it will be interesting to see what will happen in the future. Added to that, our loss of manufacturing capability and our reliance on foreign flags for our merchant fleet will make rapid resupply difficult if not impossible.

Anyone who supposes that the resources and control of the sea in the Far East are in any way secure has not been paying much attention lately. I often wonder what it will take to wake up the American people to the danger this time.

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Mister Mac

Taffy 3 – Courage Beyond Measure 18

 

In the annals of US Naval history, there are a number of instances that demonstrate the courage and determination of a committed group of dedicated officers and men.

The one that stands out most in many people’s opinions is the battle which occurred on October 25th 1944. On this day, a small group of scrappy warriors took on a force many times its size and contributed to one of the greatest naval victories of all time.

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By October of 1944, the Japanese were becoming more and more desperate to slow down or stop the advancing juggernaut that the US Navy had become in the Pacific. From the ashes of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, a resurgent United States used its massive industrial capability to produce a fleet second to none in the world. The men of Pennsylvania, Kansas, California, and the other forty eight states were indoctrinated into a life as a bluejacket and sent to support the rising tide of ships, submarines and planes. Admiral Nimitz had a large pool of resources to draw from in order to support the steady drive to liberate the Philippines and the pathway to Tokyo.

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The Japanese had captured the Philippines in the early part of the war and had made many preparations to repel any invaders. The raw materials and supplies from the entire Pacific rim were vital to Japan’s future and every inch of territory had to be defended at any cost. This determination was the direct cause for the creation of an almost suicidal attack called the  Sho-go plan (Operation Victory). The attack would have three prongs, North, Center, and South. The North group was actually a decoy to lure the third fleet away from the center and allow a heavy force of Japanese surface ships to disrupt the landings at Leyte Gulf. Unfortunately, Admiral Halsey did not know that at the time.

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The actual attack started with American submarines discovering the center fleet approaching the gulf on the 23rd. The USS Darter and Dace intercepted the center force in the Palawan Passage.

Dace returning to Pearl

Admiral Kurita had failed to place destroyers in an anti-submarine posture ahead of his group of heavy ships. The Darter sent torpedoes into Admiral Kurita’s flagship the heavy cruiser Atago sinking it. Dace was successful in torpedoing two heavy cruisers sinking the Takoa and severely damaging the Maya which was forced to withdraw.

Despite the damage to some of his ships, Kurita moved forward. Meanwhile, the Darter and Dace faced a new problem. In the aftermath of the battle, the Darter went aground. Heroic efforts on the parts of both crews failed to release her from her prison and a decision was made to scuttle her.

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After picking up the crew, the Dace waited nearby for the expected explosions from the charges meant to destroy Darter. The charges failed and a decision was made to return and use the deck guns to finish the job. While on the surface, radar spotted an incoming plane. All hands were ordered below and Dace barely escaped the explosions that followed. The plane, seeing an escaping submarine, chose to attack the remaining boat. The attack finished what Dace had started.

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The central force was attacked by American airpower and sustained a number of hits. Their response was to turn back on their original approach. Halsey’s scouts had found the Northern force and he made a decision that will stand as a textbook case of strategic thinking for generations to come. Feeling that the center force was beaten and knowing that the southern force was being chewed up by his own old battleships and auxiliary attack units, he decided to keep his fast battleships and carriers together as a group and destroy the northern fleet. The decision earned his maneuver the nickname of “The Battle of Bull’s Run”

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The decision left only a small force of escort carriers and destroyers to cover the beachhead from any further naval attacks. Admiral Kurita still had four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers. Facing that attack, Rear Admiral Sprague had 16 escort carriers and their destroyers. Taffy 3 which only included six small carriers, three destroyers and four destroyer escorts immediately turned east to confront the overwhelming force. The Battle of Samar had begun.

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Knowing that the men on shore would be slaughtered if nothing was done, Sprague charged at the superior force with his small group and proceeded to sail his way into history. The tiny force was battered by the battleships and cruisers and many American lives were lost this day.

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In the end, their fearless determination convinced the Japanese that there must be a larger force on its way and they retreated homewards. On this day, the Japanese Fleet ceased to exist as an offensive unit. Halsey had destroyed most of the northern fleet, the southern fleet was in ruins and the center force was harassed all the way home.

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The lessons learned from the action were many. A determined force with a highly skilled and motivated crew can overcome incredible odds with the right leadership. The sacrifices of those men in the face of overwhelming odds will remain a hallmark of the American Spirit.

Leadership means making tough decisions. Sometimes those decisions will be less than optimal. The way to decrease the chances of being wrong means using the training, skills and experience combined with as accurate information as is available.

Never forget the main objectives. While Halsey felt his role was not a defensive one, the sacrifices of Sprague’s men could have cost the invasion of the Philippines and extended the war for an indeterminate period of time. Not to mention the senseless loss of men and equipment.

I can only imagine what it would have been like to be one of the men on any of Taffy 3’s ships. Knowing that they were being thrown into a meat grinder that could ultimately destroy them all must have been unnerving to say the least. But in every after action report, only one common theme emerged. The men of Taffy 3 stayed at their stations to the last. As a result, the tide was turned. God Bless their memory.

Mister Mac