It was never easy 3

It was never easy

On the day I retired from the Navy, my crew presented me with a shadow box. That box sits on my desk and I look at it from time to time when I am not typing stories or checking out the latest on the Internet. It’s a nice box with beveled edges, a glass cover that has kept the dirt at bay for many years and a deep blue velvet background. The display is a chronology of my service from the time I enlisted until the day I retired. All of the achievements of my career are visible and each remind me about the one thing that all military people know and understand. It was never easy.

The Oath

I took my first oath at the age of seventeen with my proud parents standing by. Like my father before me and his father too, I chose the Navy. I wanted adventure and travel and the recruiter had promised me that and much more. The Navy would give me the chance to grow and learn many things. I would get to travel to exotic parts around the world and experience so many things that I would never find in the Monongahela Valley where I grew up. He said that many sailors found time to achieve a college degree and if they worked hard, they could someday be a leader and maybe even an officer. But he was an honest man and added this stern warning: “It won’t be easy”.

Taking the oath of enlistment at such an early age was actually very easy. I guess in retrospect, the oath was just a step you had to take on the journey to where you wanted to be. Up until the moment I took it, I will confess that I did not think about what I was doing too much. But in the moments leading up to raising my hand and repeating it, the gravity of it came over me. For the next six years, I was going to be committed to doing whatever it was the Officers and Chiefs appointed over me would tell me to do. There were no half measures in making that commitment. If I failed, I would disappoint my parents, my friends, and myself. I remember a small moment of panic as I realize that I didn’t really know what was ahead. What seemed like such a simple step became a really big thing in that moment.

They lined us up in that room in the Federal Building in Pittsburgh. Stand at attention and raise your right hand.

“I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

And just like that, I took an oath that would change my life forever.

On either side of the shadow box are little brass plaques that say when and where I was stationed. Looking at them now, they seem pretty cold and sterile. There are twelve of them that represent the twenty plus years of active and reserve service. Interestingly enough, one of my commands is missing. When I look at them, I see something more than just brass. I see the sacrifices, the endless days at sea, the loneliness and the danger that many of them represented. A number of training commands, five submarines, one drydock and one submarine tender. They all have one thing in common: none of them ended up being very easy.

The ranks and awards make up the middle section of the box. Candidly, some took longer to achieve than I would have liked. For the longest time, I was convinced that the Navy would come to its senses and do things my way. Then, after a series of faltering steps, a wise Chief let me know in no uncertain terms that the Navy had done quite well for over two hundred years and if I really learned to accept that, I might make progress a little faster.

Starting over is never easy

I am lucky that I was able to completely reboot my career but as I have probably already indicated, it wasn’t easy. I learned that the oath really meant what it said. I also learned that in addition to the oath, there needed to be a strong willingness to sacrifice. I looked at those around me and saw many people who were giving their all to the service they chose. Don’t get me wrong. There were others who bitched, moaned and whined (BMW) every field day and duty day. The difference was, I decided not to be one of them. I took ever collateral duty I could, worked more hours than ever before in my life, learned new skills and polished up the old ones. No challenge was too great and I humbled myself as much as I could to achieve them.

During all of that time and ever since, I learned something about the men and women I served with. They all took the same oath. They learned what sacrifice was and learned to work together to achieve common goals. These are my brothers and sisters who share a devotion to their country and to the promises they made. Some fell along the way and some could not live up to their pledge. But on the whole, the people who I look back on now in my life with the most respect are the ones who discovered that even though it was not easy, you lived up to your oath. Even when the storms at sea knocked you about, you stayed the course. Even when it meant a ton of self-sacrifice, you honored your promise.

It is fitting that shadow box reflects the ranks in an ascending order to show the progression of growth. The ribbons are not as plentiful as some I have seen on current sailors and officers chests. But each one is a testament to the teamwork and shared sacrifices of my many shipmates. The dolphins represent membership in a unique brotherhood (that now includes a sisterhood).

The most dominant feature is the folded flag at the base.

This particular flag flew on a summer’s day over my last ship, the USS Hunley. If any of my previous commands had ever given me a hope that this one would be easy, that hope was dashed immediately. But with the help of my many shipmates (Chiefs, Officers and Sailors), we overcame some very large challenges together.

The flag at the base is a constant reminder that when you take that oath, there is something much bigger at stake than the temporary loss of some of your personal freedoms. It is the flag we all sailed under, protected with our service, and still honor today. I see the world around me now and worry that many people do not understand what it means to be counted upon. I see people too easily taking oaths or promises and just walking away with little to no remorse. I watch people who don’t get their way rioting in the street and refusing to commit any form of self-sacrifice.

But there is still time. We as a country can still turn the ship around. There are still many young men and women who have already raised their hands and taken that same oath. They need our prayers and our support. If you are not already a member of one of the many organizations that veterans have open to them, time to step up and do so.

I would just offer one word of advice:

It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

Mister Mac

How the US Navy almost missed “The Boat” 1

Holland and Amphitrite

Prior to World War 1, the General Board of the United States Navy was the primary instrument used for directing the strategic future of the U. S. Navy. This General Board had been instituted in 1900 as a way to provide expert advice to the Secretary of the Navy and was made up of nine admirals nearing the end of their time in service. The Navy leadership had already discounted, “by doctrine and experience” the need or importance of building submarines. Even the emphasis on the future use of submarines was questioned. In a report to Secretary Josephus Daniels in 1915, the General Board stated:

“The deeds of submarines have been so spectacular that in default of engagements between the main fleets undue weight has been attached to them… To hastily formed public opinion, it seemed that the submarines were accomplishing great military results because little else of importance occurred in the maritime war to attract public attention. Yet at the present time, when the allies have learned in great measure to protect their commerce, as they learned a few months earlier to protect their cruisers from the submarine menace, it is apparent that the submarine is not an instrument fitted to dominate naval warfare…

The submarine is a most useful auxiliary whose importance will no doubt increase, but at the present there is no evidence that it will become supreme.”

In 1915, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations was created and the General Board’s influence started a slow but steady decline in influence. It was eventually dissolved in 1951. Coincidently, the USS Nautilus was first authorized in August of 1951.

Mister Mac

Gunfighters on the Java Sea – May 28 1945 2

Japara MapI have been chronicling the actions of the US Forces in the Pacific fleet for a number of months and in doing so have found some really great stories with a lot of detail about how the war was progressing in mid 1945. One of those stories started with a small footnote about a wolf pack operation in the Java Sea conducted by the submarines USS Blueback (SS-326) (Balao-class submarine – commissioned 1944) and USS Lamprey (SS-372) (Balao-class submarine – commissioned 1944) as they battled the Japanese submarine chaser Ch.1 in a surface gunnery action off Japara, N.E.I., 06°28’S, 110°37’E.

 

 

Sub chaser

 

What I like most about these stories is the human face they put on the war’s prosecution. The Blueback’s war patrol records and deck logs have been preserved and I was able to trace the action in the words and sometimes very interesting thoughts of her skipper M.K. Clementson Cdr. USN. one small example came in his final report where he spoke about crewmembers who were departing before the mission began. While reading the original report, I was a bit confused for a few moments about the upcoming re-assignment of Lt. James Mercer who had completed 13 war patrols.

Lt. James Mercer departing

By this time in the war, many of the submarine skippers were modifying their deck guns to suit the missions they would be conducting. During his refit in Perth AU prior to commencing the third war patrol, Clementson and his crew rearranged the location and firing support devices for much of his topside weaponry. The hope was that with an increased capacity to conduct surface operations, they would be able to have more flexibility in attacking the dwindling enemy surface fleet and merchant fleet. During the third war patrol, Blueback would get credit for sinking one patrol boat using surface tactics.

Night Action – Java Sea

This story occurs on May 28th in the Java Sea. While the world and most of the military was still focused on the continuing battle of Okinawa, patrols by the US Submarine force continued all across the pacific. The boats that had been rushed into service during the previous few years had finally started overcoming the torpedo problems of the early years. Success after success had started piling up and even though submarine losses also took their toll, new fleet boats were adding to the overall efforts in ways never before imagined. At 0355 on the morning of the 28th, Blueback had just completed a secret mission and was beginning her patrol. She sighted what she thought was a Jap destroyer at 0510 and sent a report to the Wolf Pack she was operating with.

From that moment on, she would join with the Lamprey in a running torpedo and gun battle in the Java Sea.

The Balao  submarine classs was made up of 120 boats and those were typically armed with the following weapons:

10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(six forward, four aft)
24 torpedoes
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun (which replaced the 4-inch 102mm gun installed at the beginning of their service)
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

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During her overhaul prior to WP 3, the guns on the Blueback were modified as follows: the twin 20 MM was moved from the cigarette deck to the main deck forward and a second 40mm was installed on the cigarette deck. They also installed specially braced mountings for twin 50 caliber machine guns and twin 30 caliber machine guns on the bridge. In short, the Blueback was loaded for bear and was ready to take on any targets she would encounter on the surface.

Wolf Pack – American Style

German submarines are well known for Wolf Pack tactics that resulted in horrific losses. Not as well known are the Wolf Packs that the US Forces operated in during the Pacific campaign. Starting with the coordinated attacks of the USS Cero, many combined operations were mounted. At first, there was a reluctance among the individual skippers to advocate for this type of operation. But some, including Captain Swede Momsen saw the need for new tactics in this war . USS Cero cleared New London 17 August 1943 for Pacific waters, and on 26 September sailed from Pearl Harbor, bound for the East China and Yellow Seas on her first war patrol. This patrol was also the first American wolfpack, comprising Cero, Shad (SS-235), and Grayback (SS-208), commanded from Cero by Captain Swede” Momsen.

Torpedo Attack

At 0843, the Blueback submerged and began a day long track and search pattern looking for the contact the had sighted at 0520 and at 1910 sighted a submarine that was identified as the USS Lamprey. At 1954, she surfaced and  communicated with Lamprey using blinker lights. At that time Blueback was informed about the three targets in the Japara anchorage. Plans were then exchanged for the hunt. At 2010, there was a radar contact which the skipper verified was not a submarine. The contact was at approximately 12,000 yards and zig zagging.

From the action report:

“Can just barely get in a night tracking surface approach before the just rising full moon gets too high. Tracking 10 knots, base course 090 true. Am convinced this is our OOD. Will have enough moon before shooting to make certain it is not a submarine.”

One of the greatest fears of submarine commanders concerning the Wolf Pack approach was in not shooting a fellow American submariner in the heat of the battle. Our technology in weapons firing and ship identification was pretty basic during that war so this was a real concern.

At 2033, confident of his target, Blueback headed in at flank speed.

At 2102, Blueback slowed to 2/3 speed. He received a message from the HMS THOROUGH giving his position and stating that a patrol craft has been patrolling in the area all day. Target was not THOROUGH. Target definitely not submarine. (Note: HMS Thorough was a British T class submarine that served in the Far East for much of her wartime career, where she sank twenty seven Japanese sailing vessels, seven coasters, a small Japanese vessel, a Japanese barge, a small Japanese gunboat, a Japanese trawler, and the Malaysian sailing vessel Palange)

At 2107, with confidence that the vessel was not a submarine, Blueback fired five MK 18-2 torpedoes forward. Torpedo run was 3000 yards.  At 2109, the skipper turned the boat and fired 2 MK-14-3A torpedoes aft, torpedo run 2200 yards. All missed and as a good close broadside view of the target was obtained, it was discovered that this was not a destroyer but a patrol boat.  Blueback headed away at 19 knots. The patrol boat headed away from a torpedo that broached just ahead of him.

Blueback’s skipper made a note in the log:

“Made mental note to always use binocular formula hereafter in an attempt to avoid such costly errors in the future. Even with grim visions of my income tax soaring to the stratosphere. Won’t be able to look a taxpayer in the eye.”

At this point he slows the ship and manned the 5″ and two 40mm gins and informed Lamprey who was 9-10,000 yards to the northwest.

Open Fire

At 2135, Blueback opened fire and immediately got some hits. These hits resulted in a small fire being started on the patrol ship’s forward action station. He commenced returning fire , too accurately according to reports with 25mm explosive shells.

at 2140, Blueback laid a smoke screen and opened range. The moon was brilliant by that time and very low. Blueback was heading into the moon and was weaving to each side trying to distribute the smoke in any direction but true west. The target’s gunfire was on them every time they emerges from either side of the narrow screen.

At 2143, Lamprey opened fire with her 5′ gun but in the words of the Blueback CO “The silly target didn’t know enough to shoot at him.” Then Blueback opened range to 6500 yards and headed to join the Lamprey. The target was making radical maneuvers and returning fire on both Lamprey and Blueback by this time with four guns. The Lamprey skipper reported that “his aim was not very good”. Lamprey expended 40 rounds of 5″ ammunition and recorded two sure hits.

At 2200, Blueback fired a few more rounds of 5″ at his gun flashes but when he ceased firing, there was no more point of aim. Blueback decided to call it a draw (except that Blueback was not hit thanks to the smoke screen.) Lamprey made the same decision at 2209 and the engagement was completed. Blueback’s skipper records in his log that better night sights and star shells would have helped considerable to eliminate “this boil on the heel”.

Lessons learned from the action that night:

1. Get and keep the TARGET up moon,

2. Concentrate forces on initial attack.

At 2207, Blueback set course for new area, 3 engines… At 2339, Lamprey departed for her new patrol area in the Karimata Strait.

The CH-1 would survive the rest of the war but had one more brush with the American submarine fleet.  On the 16th of July 1945: West of Surabaya, Java, she was escorting gunboat NANKAI (ex-Dutch minelayer REGULUS) when they were attacked by LCDR William H. Hazzard’s  USS BLENNY (SS-324). Hazzard fires a total of 12 torpedoes in a night surface radar attack and claims four hits that sink NANKAI at 05-26S, 110-33E. At about 0700, Hazzard finds and shells CH-1 with his 5-inch deck gun. BLENNY gets two hits that set CH-1 on fire at 05-16S, 110-17E.

http://www.combinedfleet.com/CH-1_t.htm

Despite two attacks, CH-1 survives the war and is finally scuttled by the Royal Navy in Singapore in 1946.

Both Blueback and Lamprey also survive the war. Guns would be removed from the decks of post war submarines for a host of reasons. Submarines evolved through technology to be more effective under the water during all modes of warfare and a deck gun was no longer needed or practical. One of the many enemies a submarine fought was the airplane and post war development of antisubmarine air forces increased the danger of being on the surface for any period of time. But having those guns on board WW2 boats was a critical factor during the early months and years where the unreliable torpedo corrupted the ultimate mission of a submarine. The other factor of not wasting a torpedo on smaller craft played a key role as well

Seventy years has passed since that night action on the Java Sea. The bravery of those men on both sides under some very difficult conditions is a testament to the strength found in men who are committed to a cause.

Mister Mac

By the way, come to Pittsburgh this September 7-13 and celebrate the heroes of the US Navy submarine forces.

USSVU National Convention web site:     http://www.ussviconventionsteelcity2015.org/

1 USSVI-Pittsburgh Convention-Large

 

 

 

 

America as a leader – Truman’s April 16 1945 Address to the Nation Reply

On April 16, 1945, Harry S. Truman, newly appointed President of the United States gave an address to a Joint session of Congress and to the American people via a radio address at 1PM.

The speech was designed to let the people of this country and the world know that the legacy of leadership that evolved during the years of the second World War were not to be interrupted with the recent passing of President Roosevelt.

I would predict with no hesitation that this speech would never be given by the existing leader of the American people. In its simplicity, the speech reminds America and the world that this country is not only an exceptional country but one that has a destiny to lead others around the world that seek freedom. Rather than shunning our responsibility, he embraces it. Rather than attacking his country for the mistakes it had made in the past, he emphasizes what good we can bring to leading the world in the future.

I have never read the speech before today. I am glad it came onto my radar screen as I was writing my daily story for    https://www.facebook.com/WarInThePacific19411946

It will give me a lot to think about as I ponder what direction this country must go in to restore some of that leadership role once 2017 arrives.

Here is a small part of the speech that I feel best captures what we were about in Harry’s eyes:

Today, America has become one of the most powerful forces for good on earth. We must keep it so. We have achieved a world leadership which does not depend solely upon our military and naval might.

We have learned to fight with other nations in common defense of our freedom. We must now learn to live with other nations for our mutual good. We must learn to trade more with other nations so that there may be-for our mutual advantage-increased product ion, increased employment and better standards of living throughout the world.

May we Americans all live up to our glorious heritage.

In that way, America may well lead the world to peace and prosperity.

At this moment, I have in my heart a prayer. As I have assumed my heavy duties, I humbly pray Almighty God, in the words of King Solomon:

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”

I ask only to be a good and faithful servant of my Lord and my people.

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/ww2/stofunio.htm

I hope and pray we will regain a leadership role and truly lead as we once did.

Mister Mac

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How to fight a war… or conquer the enemy in your life Reply

WarInst

FADM_Ernest_J__King Fleet-Admirals-US-Navy-22a-1024x662

I read a lot. Maybe too much according to my wife. I have been chronicling the events of March 1945 on my Facebook page “World War 2 in the Pacific

https://www.facebook.com/WarInThePacific19411946

Some of the reference materials are amazing in their accuracy for challenges we face today. I truly wish that the powers that be could read and understand these simple truths. Frankly they come right out of Sun Tzu’ works on fighting war. They come from the previously classified instructions from 1944 called War Instructions for the United States Navy under the direction of Admiral King.

How to fight a war

  1. The following specific tactical doctrine governs:

(a) Plan and train carefully. Execute rapidly. Simple plans are the best plans.

(b) Act quickly, even at the expense of a “perfect” decision. This is preferable to hesitation and possible loss of boldness and initiative.

(c) Never remain inactive in the vicinity of the enemy.

(d) Make the most of the few chances that arise to damage the enemy or destroy his ships without waiting for a better target, unless required by orders to do so.

(e) Endeavor to bring a superior force to bear upon that portion of the enemy force which for the time being cannot be supported.

(f) Go into action with your entire force and keep tactically concentrated until the enemy has become disorganized.

(g) Deliver the attack from such direction as to gain the advantages of favorable wind, sea, and light conditions, if possible without delaying the engagement.

(h) Sink enemy ships. It is usually better to sink one than to damage two.

(i) Never surrender a vessel or aircraft to the enemy. Sink or destroy it if there is no other way to prevent its capture.

(j) Use all weapons in effective range, with the maximum intensity, and continue the action until the enemy is annihilated.

Personally, I will be reviewing the recommendations for the next two weeks as God works his way with my life. I am grateful as always for the men who followed these instructions well and won the Second World War. I hope the men who fight the third will be as wise and committed.

 

Mister Mac

Continuous Learning – It’s a Navy Thing 1

uss-washingtonb

When I am not writing about submarines, I am normally busy with my day job which is helping the companies I work with to better understand continuous improvement or “lean thinking”. While one is solely vocational in nature and the other is purely avocational both share the same basic roots: Continuous Learning.

As a young boy, I was always curious about the world and spent many hours pouring through the Encyclopedias my parents had bought for the children. I especially found myself drawn to technology and had a great fascination with the technology of war. I can’t think of a single popular book about World War 2 that I didn’t check out from the school library and my personal favorites were written by Samuel Elliot Morrison. Samuel was a close friend of President Roosevelt and convinced him that he would be a great asset in recording the war by being a part of it. The resulting works even with their flaws still remain a rich picture of the many campaigns that the US Navy fought during the war.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_United_States_Naval_Operations_in_World_War_II_(series)

Despite my love of reading however, I was not a very good student in High School. Somewhere around 14, I discovered that the opposite sex held certain attractions that became infinitely more interesting than spending time with algebra and social studies. This new found obsession replaced much of my previous attractions and unfortunately was also reflected in the grades I achieved. I believe that I was still using continuous learning of a sort but it was not of any use in gaining entry to a college.

In fact, I think I had  convinced myself that I was no longer able to spend time in school and decided that the quick solution to my concerns was to join the Navy. The Navy would provide this 17 year old boy with an income, a great adventure, and a way to marry the girl who occupied all of my day and night dreams.So I convinced Mom and Dad that it was the best path forward and in April 1972 they signed the permission slip for me to join the Navy in its delayed entry program. The immediate rewards are still somewhat personal but at the time, I was a very happy young man.

A few days after graduation, I began the next phase of my life which as it turns out was the foundation for the rest of my life in continuous learning. I entered Boot Camp and immediately discovered that not only had I not escaped the classroom, I had entered one which was 24/7. Every single part of that experience was about learning new things that would help me to become an American Bluejacket. From the importance of how you stow your gear to the criticality of understanding the regulations that governed us all, Boot Camp was an intense learning experience that was meant to prepare civilians for a new way of life.

I can still remember the lessons to this day nearly forty three years later. Navy traditions, leadership, teamwork, damage control, seamanship, physical conditioning, health care, first aid, a place for everything and everything in its place, and on and on. All of these are the roots of “lean” and continuous improvement since they demand the sailor be ready for his role in defending the nation and the sailors around him or her. By the end of Boot Camp,  we were ready to join our fellow “shipmates” in a number of areas including Vietnam, aircraft carriers, supply ships, even battleships. Except that a number of us were not quite ready yet. We would receive orders to Class “A” schools where our skills would be enhanced and new knowledge would be learned.

MM rate training manual

My designated school was Machinist Mate A school in Great Lakes Illinois. Right across the street from where I had just spent the last two months. Here we learned about steam and propulsion, valves and pumps, air conditioning basics and refrigeration. All of these skills were supposed to help us become more prepared for the technology that powered the ships that defend the country and its sea lanes. This school included both classroom and practical training including operating a landlocked steam plant. I was happy for the school to come to an end but my plans of becoming a nuclear trained petty officer were not to be met. About a third of us did not pass the final screening and were about to enter a completely different path.

Submarines

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I have a copy of the paperwork where I volunteered for submarines and it is my signature. I don’t remember signing it. But it was among a number of pieces of paper that the classifying Petty Officer put in front of me that cold day in December 1972 after we had been out shoveling snow. When I got the orders to submarine school a few weeks later, I was shown the copy that I had signed and was reminded that it was now my duty to follow orders. My first thought was “Great… more school.” I was a bit disappointed that my addition to the fleet was being delayed once more by schools but you do what you have to do.

Submarine school was awesome. For the first time since boot camp, I really felt like something great was happening. We did classroom stuff but also a lot of interesting things like the dive trainer ( a simulated  submarine dive and drive setup), the dive tower and pressure chamber testing. Now I was getting someplace. Four weeks later, I was ready to go to my first boat and the orders came in.

Sub School 1773

Dear MMFN MacPherson… on your way to the USS George Washington SSBN 598 Blue Crew, would you mind very much stopping off in Charleston SC and attend another three months worth of school at the Fleet Ballistic Training Center at our Auxiliary Package course for Auxiliary men? Thanks so much, NavPers. (or something like that, I can’t seem to find the letter they sent).

Off to school again. Consider the irony of all this education for a young man that was tired of school. I finally did get to the boat and found out that in between patrols, it was more school and more training. By the time I finished my career in 1994, I had been to over 62 Naval technical and leadership courses. Along the way, I also picked up enough classes which would lead to a Bachelor of Science Degree from Southern Illinois University (Magna Cum Laude) which probably shocked the heck out of some of my high school teachers.

The learning has never stopped. Since graduating from the Navy, I have been blessed to be able to attend dozens of courses in project management, six sigma, lean manufacturing with eight different companies (including Toyota as a supplier), communications, leadership and others.

The Navy taught me how to learn and the importance of continuing to improve. The best lesson of all was that while you may not be able to remember everything you have been taught, if you remember where to find the answers and how to use them that is the best learning of all.

Thanks for stopping by. Learn something new this week.

Mister Mac

With all this new stuff, why is everybody so unhappy? 5

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the state of the Navy and the other seagoing forces. To be sure, there have been a lot of technological advances in the past twenty years since I hung up my sword (literally). Submarines have reached new levels of sophistication that make them more efficient than ever before. Without going into any detail, I would have to admit that what I know from my reading indicates that these boats can literally outperform any previous class in nearly every category. Frankly, I would give them six months of retirement pay for one month underway on one of the newest fast attacks. I promise I wouldn’t eat much and I could try and remember my many skills as a mess cook if I were allowed a few hours on the helm. I wonder if they are still even using helmsmen and planesmen?

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The surface ships look pretty exotic too. I went to the commissioning of the USS Minnesota last year and tied up next to her was a San Antonio class LPD like the USS Somerset that had some of the oddest hull and superstructure dimensions imaginable. I’m told by friends that know these things that the design has unique purposes that will help her survive a number of threats during combat. I can imagine they would based on her looks.

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The other surface fleet advances as well although I still have my doubts that the Littoral combat design will ever prove that it was worth the money spent to design, develop and deploy it. But again, I am really old school at this point. My number one hobby besides writing is being a self-certified nautical history tourist. That means that no battleship, submarine or surface ship that survived the breakers yards is safe from my camera. This year’s quest took us to Massachusetts to “capture” the battleship Massachusetts, USS Joseph Kennedy and of course the Lionfish (a restored Balao class submarine that is still in pretty good shape).

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What worries me though is the endless drive to shrink the military at precisely the same time that threats continue to spiral upward. This translates into longer deployments with fewer ships under more extreme conditions. The reemergence of a soviet style dictator like Putin ensures that we may be in for another round of the Cold War. I know very few people that believe that he will be satisfied with scraps of paper when he can manipulate entire countries with his newly energized forces and treachery. Aircraft incursions along both coasts are becoming more and more routine and he is probing allies and non-allies as well across the entire region. How long will it be before some contrived crisis causes events to completely spin out of control?

The Chinese are also reading the tea leaves of the future at sea. As American continues to swim in debt, the Chinese are choosing to see how their long range naval plans can expand. Submarines, surface technology, long range missiles and electronic intelligence activities all continue to grow at an alarming rate. While we are closely tied economically, how long will that last if we have a collapse caused by our out of control generosity with our children’s monetary future?

And what about our Navy? Recent reports indicate that US Navy morale is at a very low place. From everything I have observed, I can’t say as I blame them. Political correctness has replaced military readiness. Commanders and leaders are routinely shit-canned for offences that would not have gotten previous generations a stern talking to. I have said it before but I am infinitely glad that cell phones and their internal cameras did not exist in my day. A vengeful shipmate could have altered the course of many a sailors career with one well taken candid shot. Don’t get me wrong, I do not support the worst of the worst offenders. I just think that our “leaders” are so terrified of their own careers being torpedoed that they have fallen into the PC honey trap of all time.

Longer deployments coupled with limits in funding for training resulted in tragic accidents in the Navy’s past. Misguided political policies add to those woes. I read recently in the Naval League’s Seapower magazine that one of the Admirals in charge of policy deployment said that climate change was the number one threat to the Navy and the country. Really? Climate change? I would have thought missiles and submarines and nuclear weapons were on top of that list. Maybe even the resurgence of the USSR and Red China as a threat.

Seeing the leadership failures and poor decisions being made makes me very worried for our country. I can understand why the average sailor who can’t speak his or her mind probably feels the same. I can only hope that it is not too late to reverse this course. Sailors have always done the impossible with varying support in the past. But I would at least like to give them a fighting chance. Wouldn’t you?

Mister Mac

I wonder what they were dreaming of? 5

I should give you fair warning that this is not a story about submarines. It is a fairly graphic story about recent events that you may just want to pass by. I will be back next week with more tails of the submarine world, but this story is about the world around us today (July 19, 2014).

I have been traveling this week so have not had much time to take in the news of the day. Catching glimpses of the stories about the border of the US disintegrating, the ongoing destruction of Iraq and Syria, Israel once again having to defend itself against the rockets of Islam, and of course the 777 shot down by Russian trained and supported forces using a Russian Buk missile system  . After almost seven years of living in a leaderless country, it breaks my heart to see what is happening to the world as a result of our “grand experiment”. I call it an experiment since it is the single most disastrous catastrophe to hit modern mankind. The grand experiment is to have elected someone with absolutely no leadership experience to the highest office in the land that used to be America. Add to that disaster that he surrounded himself with neophytes that also had no clue as to the special place that this country once held.

Reuters reports that after the explosion of the aircraft in mid air (most likely by a Russian surface to air missile), the plane disintegrated and everything in it fell to the ground. Including the bodies (many intact) that had up until that moment been dreaming in their padded airline seats. Many still had the ear buds in that piped blissful music into their ears in an attempt to drown out the plane noises around them. I have flown thousands of times over untold hundreds of thousands of miles in my life. The escape of music during those torturously long flights is indeed a blessing for travelers. Sleep is a better solution though. I have never taken a sleep aid. One of my companies actually used to offer them to us for longer flights. My only excuse was that I wanted to be as fresh as possible when I hit the ground in Paris or London so that I could take a few moments to see what else the world had to offer.

Big Ben

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Stockholm Sweden

Limoges and Paris 2010 026

Eiffel Tower

I wonder what they were dreaming of?

There was a large group of people on board headed to an Aids conference in Australia. They were led by a man whose passion was to provide cheaper and more readily available medical supplies to poorer nations that had been passed over by the drug companies as not profitable. Children were on board too, perhaps going on a vacation to see another part of the world as part of their life growth experience. Innocents all. Each with their own dreams and their own plans. I wonder if they ever in their wildest imaginations thought that their lives would be snuffed out by a rogue missile fired by Russian trained and equipped terrorists fighting for a recreation of a monstrous Soviet Union?

Mississippi River

As I flew home yesterday over the Midwest, I could see the sprawling Mississippi snaking its way across the middle of the country. Looking around the plane I saw the weary businessmen coming home to their families. I saw a girl captured in a body that was crippled by some dystrophy that required her to be carried on the plane in a wheel chair. She was smiling and chatting with the people near her seat. There were young children and grandparents on their way to somewhere. Both seemed to be filled with a sense of adventure. The exhilaration of the plane taking off is still a thrill after forty two years of travelling. But this time was a bit different. I couldn’t help but think about how sudden it all must have been for that Malaysian airliner as it collided with a Russian missile.

I comfort myself in thinking most of them were asleep and had no time to think as they were ripped from the comfort of that atmospherically controlled space into 30,000 feet of sheer nothingness. I pray that their terror was short lived and that angels lifted their souls to safety before their bodies came crashing down into the fields and houses of the village below. I pray for their families too. They will never get a chance to say goodbye or even hold them in their arms again.

This country is spinning out of control almost as rapidly as the events around the world are spinning out of control. We have a leaderless government that spies on its own people, persecutes political opponents using the very instruments of government made to support us all, and is driving us faster and faster into a wilderness. We the people are to blame in many parts for drifting so far into a selfishness and hypocrisy that brought us this group of American haters. Too many people thought that things would be different never understanding that different can mean so many things besides better. The America that the current administration sees is a weak and feckless place with no more power than Botswana. The clueless people in the White House failed to understand that the thing that made American great was its exceptionalism that it seeks to destroy.

When you total all the failures of this administration, you end up with a list of moral surrenders that led to the shooting down of an innocent plane full of world citizens. When bad people fear no consequences for bad actions, good people die. It is that simple. We have emboldened the enemy and he is growing every day. The only thing a despot fears is that he will be vanquished in such a way that even his deeds will be swept into the ashbin of history. The man who occupies the White House can’t understand why there are so many people who now despise him. He fails to understand that it is the blood on his hands that makes him such an objectionable creature. His legacy is now cast in that same blood and he will forever be remembered as the man who would rather go to a fundraiser than to do his job.

Mister Mac

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Innocence

 

 

 

 

The “Georgia Swamp Fox” that Fathered the Two Ocean Navy – Carl Vinson Reply

This is a story published in the Port of Pittsburgh, Official Publication of the Navy League of the United States, Pittsburgh Council Jan-March 2014 Volume 18 No.1 edited by Katherine Kersten, written by Bob MacPherson (aka theleansubmariner)

Carl Vinson

“The most expensive thing in the world is a cheap Army and Navy,” Congressman Carl Vinson

On March 15 1980, Carl Vincent attended the Launching of the ship that bore his name. He was 96 years old at the time but his connection to Naval Aviation and warships is one that set the tone for our modern Navy. Most people have long since forgotten the role that the “Georgia Swamp Fox” played in the creation of a two ocean Navy by a piece of legislation he pushed through in the height of the Depression (March of 1934). His pivotal role was one of the most significant in modern naval preparedness and holds lessons for us even today.

Carl Vincent served as a member of the House of Representatives for a period that lasted from November 3, 1914, to January 3, 1965. At his retirement, that record was the longest since Congress first convened in 1789. For much of his time in Congress, that included a record breaking twenty-nine years as Chairman of the House Naval Affairs and later Armed Services Committee. What set him apart from others that have played the role however is his unique vision and passion for the welfare of the nation and its navy. He is remembered for many statements but one of the ones that exemplifies this is when he said: No country has a moral right to demand that her Sailors go into battle with strength and equipment inferior to an opponent’s.”

That attitude resulted in one of the most important laws to come out of the House in the 1930s. Americas fleet and potential growth were still hobbled by the treaties meant to limit the size of the major powers fleets after World War 1. The nations involved in the Washington Naval Treaty had seen the wastefulness of spending on huge and growing fleets around the world. This “arms race” threatened to force the countries involved into potentially hostile situations that would lead to yet another World War. So the parties involved set down the limits that were meant to stem the flow of money and material into their fleets. These included:

  • A ten-year pause or “holiday” in the construction of capital ships (battleships and battlecruisers), including the immediate suspension of all capital ship building.
  • The scrapping of existing, or planned, capital ships so as to give a 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 ratio of tonnage between the US, Britain, Japan, France and Italy.
  • Ongoing limits of both capital ship tonnage, and the tonnage of secondary vessels, with the 5:5:3 ratio.

In the beginning, the nations involved gave compliance to the treaty in the hopes that all would follow suit. As time wore on though, a number of factors intervened that would spell defeat for the treaty and the prospects for peace. Changes in leadership In Japan and Germany coupled with economic upheaval around the globe during the ensuing decades set the stage for a clash that the United States was ill prepared for. Naval shipbuilding during this time period had been strangled to a halt. By the time 1934 arrived, not a single ship had been laid down during the previous administration. The Japanese would formally repudiate the treaty in late 1934 and the Germans would shortly follow as they consolidated power under Adolph Hitler’s Nazi’s.

U.S. Navy Active Ship Force Levels, 1931-1937

Type 7/1/31 7/1/32 7/1/33 7/1/34 4/1/35* 7/1/36 9/1/37*
Battleships 12(3rc) 11(4rc) 11(4rc) 14(1rc) 15 15 15
Carriers, Fleet 3 3 3 4 4 4 3@
Cruisers 20 19 20 24 25 26 27
Destroyers 87^ 102 101 102^^ 104 106 111
Submarines 56 55 55 54 52 49 52
Mine Warfare 33 33 26 26 26 26 30
Patrol 27(1rc) 24 26 24 23 23 22
Auxiliary 69 65 68 71 71 73 75
Rigid Airships 1 1 1 1
Surface Warships 119# 132 132 140 144 147 153
Total Active 308 (4rc) 313 (4rc) 311 (4rc) 320 (1rc) 320 322 335

Events: Japan enters Manchuria 18 September 1931. Hitler to power 30 January 1933. Failure of the International Economic Conference to stabilize world currencies in July 1933 leads to growing instability. Vinson-Trammell Act, 27 March 1934, authorizes–though it does not fund–Navy construction to Treaty strength. Japan renounces Washington Treaty 29 December 1934, effective 31 December 1936. Germany renounces disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles 16 March 1935. Spanish Civil War begins 18 July 1936. Japan begins large-scale military operations in China 7 July 1937.

Notes: * Data for 1 July not available. @ = CV-1 to AV-1 (auxiliary). ^ = London Treaty exchange of new DD for older types allowed. ^^ = New DD begin to appear. # = Post-1921 low. rc = Reduced Commission: not included in “active” total.

 

Carl joined the House Naval Affairs Committee shortly after World War I ended and became the ranking Democratic member in the early 1920s. Records indicate that he was the only Democrat appointed to the Morrow Board, which reviewed the status of aviation in America in the mid-1920s. In 1931, Vinson became chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee. In 1934, he recognized the state of the nation’s fleet in relation to the threats involved and helped create the Vinson-Trammell Act, along with Senator Park Trammell of Florida. This bill authorized the replacement of obsolete vessels by new construction and a gradual increase of ships within the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty, 1922 and London Naval Treaty, 1930.

The funding for the Vinson-Trammell Navy Act was provided by the Emergency Appropriations Act of 1934. This was critical since during the previous administration, not a single major warship was laid down and the US Navy was both aging and being outpaced by the Japanese Navy. Vinson’s leadership was responsible for Naval Act of 1938 (“Second Vinson Act”) and the Third Vinson Act of 1940, as well as the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940. These ambitious program made sure that the U.S. Navy was far better prepared as the country entered World War II The new ships made sure that the country was on its way to meeting Japan head on when the time came. While he recognized the importance of capital ships, his largest contribution was in forcing the growth of the modern aircraft carrier.

Slight progress in the naval expansion programs had been implemented by the Naval Act of 1936 and the Naval Act of 1938. But in early June 1940, Congress passed legislation that provided for an 11% increase in naval tonnage as well as an expansion of naval air capacity. On June 17, a few days after German troops conquered France, Chief of Naval Operations Harold Stark requested an unheard of four billion dollars from Congress to increase the size of the American combat fleet by 70. On June 18, after less than an hour of debate, the House of Representatives by a 316–0 vote authorized $8.55 billion for a naval expansion program, giving emphasis to aircraft. Rep. Vinson, who headed the House Naval Affairs Committee, said its emphasis on carriers did not represent any less commitment to battleships, but “The modern development of aircraft has demonstrated conclusively that the backbone of the Navy today is the aircraft carrier. The carrier, with destroyers, cruisers and submarines grouped around it is the spearhead of all modern naval task forces.”

The Act authorized the procurement of:

  • 18 aircraft carriers
  • 2 Iowa-class battleships
  • 5 Montana-class battleships
  • 6 Alaska-class cruisers
  • 27 cruisers
  • 115 destroyers
  • 43 submarines
  • 15,000 aircraft
  • The conversion of 100,000 tons of auxiliary ships
  • $50 million for patrol, escort and other vessels
  • $150 million for essential equipment and facilities
  • $65 million for the manufacture of ordnance material or munitions
  • $35 million for the expansion of facilities

 

The expansion program was scheduled to take five to six years, but a New York Times study of shipbuilding capabilities called it “problematical” unless planned “radical changes in design” are dropped. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 7th, most of the fleet was still in the shipyards being built. Many were not completed by the time the war was over. But the new emphasis on aircraft carriers and submarines made all the difference in the war’s outcome.

Postwar

Congressmen Vincent’s knowledge of the Navy and the nation’s needs into the future played important roles in creating a fleet that would carry the nation into the years known as the Cold War. Modernization of existing ships and submarines were required to match the new threats that emerged from the end of the war. Rapid growth in nuclear proliferation added threats that would challenge the Navy and the nation as a whole. Vincent was a key supporter of the nuclear programs the Navy answer the threats.

One of the hallmarks of Carl’s career was his notable ability to make deals in congress. The nickname Georgia Swamp Fox was given to him by his colleagues for his skillful methods of achieving the goals he had set out to meet. Compromises and horse trading made sure that on the days where critical votes arrived, legislation that he deemed important to his causes typically gained approval. Imagine how difficult a vote in 1934 at the height of the depression must have been when people back home were still struggling with unemployment and losing their homes. But Vincent could see the trouble on the horizon and his vision prepared the country for the challenges that were to come.

Vinson did not seek re-election in 1964 and retired from Congress in January 1965. He returned to Baldwin County, Georgia, where he lived in retirement until his death. He is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia.

“I devoutly hope that the casting of every gun and the building of every ship will be done with a prayer for the peace of America. I have at heart no sectional nor political interest but only the Republic’s safety.” Those words best capture the life of a great man.

ss carl vinson_lg

Mister Mac

 

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Random Actions Produce Random Results (No Matter How Big the Halo) 3

Leadership must be intentional.

Okay, I will admit that this statement is rather obvious and won’t sell any books. The sad part though is how many organizations that promote from within expect that a perfectly good employee will magically grow leadership skills by the grace of that promotion. Then, when they fail, everyone wonders what went wrong. After all, that person was the “star” performer just recently and we had the highest hopes that they would just be able to take the reins and make the organization move forward.

Looking at the situation from an external viewpoint, the root causes are pretty easy to find. The star performer that fails in this new role doesn’t cease being the best person in their previous roles, we just didn’t prepare them very well for the new expectations. This happens often in smaller organizations that have limited resources. The inner promotion seems like an ideal way to reward hard work and save costs on hiring a new person that already has the right skills and competencies.

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In many small organizations, the Halo effect comes into play

Lets use the example of a retail paint shop. The paint that the customers want needs to be prepared. More importantly, the expertise to advise many customers needs to exist. Oil or Latex? Flat or Gloss? Pastels or Bolds? Primer or no primer? Even knowledge of the brushes and rollers becomes important. Finally, the ability to interact with the customer and influence them in the correct way is an important competence for the clerks.

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In our fictional organization, four of the sales clerks have varying skills.

One of them is extremely personable and very knowledgeable. The customers seek this person out and often leave comments with the store owner about how much they have helped them. Soon, the store owner feels like this is a person who will be able to do some leadership tasks and even lead the team. One fine day, the owner comes in and says “Everyone, I have an announcement to make. Susie will be taking over as paint manager starting Monday. I have great faith in her and I want you all to pull together and give her the same support you would give me.”

Dawn and Fred have been with the company for a number of years in sales positions. The announcement does not come as too much of a surprise since they have observed Susie’s interaction with both the customers and the boss. Neither had really expressed an interest in leading but are curious to see what new changes will come. Monday brings the answer.

While Susie has been a great paint person with lots of product knowledge, she has really never led anyone before. Sunday night is pretty tough for her but Monday morning as she starts to direct the others (and learn her new administrative functions) everything seems fine at first. But there is one moment in every leader’s life: the first time a difficult question or issues arises and everyone else (including your boss) look to that person for an answer.

The loneliest place on earth

I have at one point in my life ridden submarines, been shot off the front of a nuclear aircraft carrier and operated a machine that was known to have killed someone that wasn’t paying attention. But I can assure you that the moment you are in that leadership spotlight for the very first time, you will never know a greater fear. You are truly alone for the first time with no team members to share the blame or fault if anything goes wrong.

PICT0040 

If the person is leading in a hostile environment where some people are determined to see them fail, that pressure intensifies.

Why do so many businesses fail to understand that the solution is so simple?

The key is skill and competency development in a structured manner. People who are leaders become so because they have been appointed, anointed, selected or have a desire to be a leader. While some people may be inclined to lead, they will need to acquire skills one way or another. You can learn on the job but the learning experience can be rather brutal and personally painful for the individual and their team. Communications, task designation, planning and execution all require a new dimension that most of us don’t get exposed to until it comes time for us to actually be a leader.

The dimensional aspect of leadership is that you can no longer just make decisions based on yourself. Everything must be done with the team in mind and as importantly, with the team members as individuals. Like in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Using a systems thinking approach, nothing that a leader does is done in a vacuum. If the leader has a rough moment with one of thee team, that will be observed and reflected upon by other members of the team. Even if the team doesn’t see the activity first hand, people do share. When it comes to bad news or bad feelings, sharing is one of the easiest things most people do.

If a leader makes random decisions, they will quickly find that there are random results that they did not anticipate. The skill they need to master is the ability to be able to be proactive. Even with decisions that are time sensitive, a true leader learns to develop a playbook of responses designed to bring certain responses. Experience is a great teacher but only if the learner is actively participating as a learner. If the leader is not actively learning the intended lesson, they are still learning. The lesson is called pain and adds time and effort to developing the positive skills the leader wants to prevent pain in the future.

There is a great book called the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge et al.

The five disciplines discussed are designed for leadership and teams that are undergoing change. Unless you are locked in an underground cave with full support provided by an external source of perpetual energy and supplies that you neither pay for or develop, your team is going through changes every single day. The Fieldbook may be a great reference for you in dealing with those changes. I consider it a mandatory read for new leaders that I have worked with. It is a set of directions for individuals and teams to avoid random actions or reactions.

Random acts of “leadership” destroy the fabric of any team.

Whether it’s the random act of selecting someone for a leadership position with no training or preparation, or the random acts resulting from an untrained person that has been put in this position. The alternative plan will result in a stronger team, more confident leadership and a move forward in the competition for a successful outcome.

As someone who works around guns, I can assure you that ready, fire, aim will never replace a sustained ready, aim, fire in achieving your desired outcome.

What puzzles me most is how often this lesson has to be relearned

Mister Mac

 

Note:

In this very volatile political environment I am trying very hard to stay entertaining, informative and helpful.  I have been accused recently of having a political bias and have no wish to offend. But after reviewing this article, something occurred to me:

As bad as it would be to put an untrained person into a leadership role in a small retail store, can you possibly imagine putting someone in charge of a whole country with the world’s biggest “halo” and no actual leadership skills?

Imagine the chaos that would bring.