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

Disaster at Savo Island, 1942


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.


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


CINCPOA PRESS RELEASE NO. 34, MARCH 15, 1945 Taking Possession Of Iwo Jima Reply

Iwo Jima CemetaryThe capture of Iwo Jima was supposed to take ten days. It would take 36. It was the bloodiest assault the Marines had ever been involved with.


Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, Mar. 14.‑(Delayed)‑With the rattle of mus­ketry to the north, where the remnants of the Japanese garrison force were being exterminated by Marines, faintly audible, the United States government today officially took possession of this desolate but strategic island on the road to Tokyo.

It did so in a proclamation issued by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas and military governor of the Volcano Islands. After the proclamation had been read, the American flag was officially raised over the island.


The ceremony, held in the shadow of Suribachi, extinct volcano at the southern tip of Iwo, and attended by high ranking officers of the Marine Corps, Navy and Army, was marked by simplicity.

Deep‑throated roars of nearby Marine field pieces drowned the voice of Marine Colonel D. A. Stafford, of Spokane, Wash., Fifth Amphibious Corps personnel officer, as he read the words suspending all powers of government of the Japanese Empire on the island.

The Stars and Stripes were run up on a staff atop a strongly reinforced Japanese bunker with an anti‑aircraft gun emplacement above it. The military notables formed in rank on one side of the staff. On the other, an honor guard composed of eight military policemen from each of the three divisions that participated in the seizure of the island, was drawn up.

Among the military and naval leaders who planned and executed the in­vasion were: Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, USN, Commander, Am­phibious Forces, Pacific; Rear Admiral Harry Hill, USN, of Oakland, Cal., deputy commander of the attack force; Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force of the Pacific; Major General Harry F. Schmidt, Fifth Amphibious Corps Commander; Major General Graves B. Erskine, of La Jolla, Cal., Third Marine Division commander, and his chief of staff, Colonel Robert E. Hogaboom, of Vicksburg, Miss.; Major General Clifton B. Cates, Fourth Marine Division Commander, and his chief of stag, Colonel M. J. Batchelder; and Major General Keller Rockey, Fifth Marine Division Commander, and his chief of staff, Colonel Ray A. Robinson. The Army was represented at the ceremony by Major General James E. Chaney.

While Marine Private First Class John E. Glynn (309599), 21, of 2319 Humanity Street, New Orleans, La., veteran of Guadalcanal, sounded “Colors”,

Old Glory was sent fluttering in the breeze to the top of the flagstaff by Marine Privates First Class Thomas J. Casale (411750), 20, of (no street address) Herkimer, N. Y., and Albert B. Bush (437298), 24, of 16712 Wood­bury Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. Marine Sergeant Anthony C. Yusi (285607), 25, of 68 Grove Street, Port Chester, N. Y., was in charge of the color detail.

The bugler and the color detail were chosen from the Fifth Amphibious Corps Military Police Company. Their commanding officer, First Lieutenant Nathan R. Smith, of Whitehaven, Pa., said the men had been selected for general efficiency and military bearing. Both Yusi and Bush took part in the seizure of Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas. Moreover, Yusi was serving aboard the USS Wasp when she was sunk by the Japs September 15, 1943.

The proclamation was the first issued by Fleet Admiral Nimitz as military governor of the Volcano Islands. It was addressed, in Japanese as well as English, to the people of the islands. It read:


“I, Chester William Nimitz, Fleet Admiral, United States Navy, Com­mander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, do hereby proclaim as follows:

“United States Forces under my command have occupied this and other of the Volcano Islands.

“All powers of government of the Japanese Empire in the islands so oc­cupied are hereby suspended.

“All powers of government are vested in me as Military Governor and will be exercised by subordinate commanders under my direction.

“All persons will obey promptly all orders given under my authority. Of­fenses against the Forces of Occupation will be severely punished.

“Given under my hand at Iwo Jima this fourteenth day of March, 1945.”


The ceremony took place as the battle for Iwo Jima entered its 24th day. The stubborn Japanese defenders had been driven northward to the end of the island.

The enemy was still defending his caves and bunkers to the death.

As the official flag was raised, the one that had flown over Suribachi since the fifth day of the battle was lowered. The Stars and Strips had been planted on the volcano by the Marines who wrested it from the Japs.

The place selected for the official flag is just off the beach in the south­western section of the island. Selection of the site was prompted by con­venience and the height of the ground.

Several hundred dirty, bearded and weary Marines working and biv­ouacked in the vicinity gathered to witness the brief ceremony, which required less than 10 minutes. They, as well as the participants, came smartly to at­tention and saluted while the bugler was sounding colors.

Another step on the pathway to Tokyo. But what a horrendous cost in men. This video (in color) captures much of the battle in horrific detail.

Mister Mac

May 1945 Iwo Jima

A Highland Festival of Note 4

Highland Games 2012 001


The sky was exactly what would be expected for a festival that claims to celebrate the highlands of Scotland. Sunny one moment and dark grey and foreboding the next.

The weather didn’t deter the faithful though as people from all over Western PA and anyplace within reasonable driving distance headed out to the Ligonier Highland Games at Olde Idlewild Park.

DSCF1500 DSCF1502

The parking lot was full to overflowing (as proved by the brand new dent on the rear bumper of my car).

But the people were exactly as one would expect at a typical highland games: excited to hear the bands, see the lovely dancers, and smell the amazing foods waiting to be eaten.

If you’ve never been to a games but you suspect that you are even vaguely Scottish (twice removed on your Mother’s side for instance) you should seek one out. What I like about this game setting is the timing. Fall in Western PA reminds me a bit of summer in Western Scotland (all two weeks of it).

Moderate temperatures which makes wearing a kilt much nicer and the coolness in the air seems to help the pipes sound even more fantastic than they normally do.

DSCF1511       DSCF1513

You meander through the booths like a wild stream through the woods of Idlewild. The bumper stickers say it all: “If it isn’t Scottish, it’s CRAP”. The funny thing is, I always end up walking away a little more laden with stuff that isn’t crap in my knapsack. Well, it keeps the economy rolling along I suppose. I am sitting at the keyboard wearing my latest amnesia/Alzheimer’s present to myself. It’s a beautiful black polo shirt with the Clan Crest and my last name sewn on it in bright letters. I call it that because someday when my memory fades my wife can just dress me up in one of the many fine shirts I have bought over the years and if I am ever in doubt, I can merely look at the name for a quick reminder.

DSCF1579 DSCF1514


There is something for everyone… Shetland Ponies, dogs of every breed, color and size, pipe bands and solo pipers and wee lads and lassies dressed in their highland finest.


As I mentioned before, there is also a fine selection of foods. The Scottish are world renowned for their skillful cuisine that I am sure most countries would die for. Actually, most of what is served helps you along the way to the final resting place. Scotch Eggs, Bridies, Meat Pies, Haggis, Banger’s and Mash and a full assortment of American fried and grilled foods for the non-Scottish members of the family.

If it wasn’t for the never ending skirl of the pipes caused by the solo pipers practicing by a tree, you could probably hear the arteries of many of the patrons hardening as they swallow their treats. I will freely confess that it isn’t a good games for me without at least a tasting. Special note to the gentleman behind me: Texas hot sauce is not normally found at the Meat Pie tent. I’m sure its delightful but its not normally served.

DSCF1575 DSCF1576

The real delight for me though is the massed bands marching onto the field. The sound of well over a hundred pipers echoing off the nearby hills is amazing and takes you far away to another place and time. The staccato drumming and muffled beat of the big drums adds a crisp line of rhythm that keeps even the most excitable child in line if only for a short time. The well placed feet follow a practiced pattern and they come down the field in a way that reminds you of the bold army they once led. No wonder the enemy called them “The Ladies from Hell”.

Everyone is a family member or part of a larger “Clan” on days like today. The military men who served in Vietnam are all getting on in years now but still wear their caps with their kilts. The Navy boys form the Holy loch keep a keen eye out for a brother with Dolphins or Surface Warfare Pins on their khaki shirts. The Marines sport their own shirts and hats but you can tell them by their walk. They are American’s first, but are proud of the lineage that sets them apart as Scottish blooded warriors.


The Festival and Games are over for another year. Just ahead will be celebrations for Saint Andrews day in November. January brings Rabby Burns Birthday Celebrations and all the Haggis your heart can stand. Cold winter nights up north are just a reminder of the hardships our ancestors faced to help build this new land. But in the far reaches of the hollows and lanes, you can bet that somewhere, some young piper is practicing for the next season. Some athlete is dreaming of how he will get the next few feet from his throw. Some dancer meets in a practice hall and listens to hour after hour of the pipes learning how to control that critical step.


They will meet again in September of 2013 in the woods near Ligonier as their predecessors have for over 54 years. And all of us who love the history, mystery and revelry of Scotland will gladly join them there.

Will ye no come back again?

Mister Mac

By the way, if anyone saw the guy who hit my car, send me a note to my private email. A kind soul wrote their license plate number on a napkin and the police think they know who did it, but it would be nice to have a witness. (It happened between 10:30 and 2:00 PM) Thanks

The Die is Cast; Vandegrift does the impossible 1

America and her allies were woefully unprepared to fight the kind of war they found themselves with in the Pacific. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent attacks around the Pacific Rim decimated the plans and the resources of the forces that would become allied in their opposition to Japanese aggression. Traditional forces were not readily available and even the ones that were had not been trained or equipped to fight in the faraway jungles of the islands. These small islands were to become stationary aircraft carriers of a sort and the Japanese saw them as a way to strangle their enemies lines of communication and supplies.


The American’s had a weapon to fight this new threat but even the Generals and Admirals of their own forces were slow to see its real value in the lead up to the war. The United States Marine Corps was viewedas a “naval police force” by many of the leaders in the other services. Despite her rich history of non-traditional warfare dating back to Tripoli, inter-service rivalry and mission infringement kept the Corps at a minimal level for many decades. The Army saw little value in the amphibious war capability and felt that the priority of capturing and creating improvements to existing ports was a better way to deliver large combat forces.

The war that you plan for is seldom the war you actually get to fight.

The enemy are decidedly uncooperative in times of conflict and the war in the Pacific was no exception. Long range bombers were still a distant dream and the state of all allied forces were somewhat in question in June of 1942. As previously mentioned  https://theleansubmariner.com/2012/07/29/two-battles-that-determined-the-course-of-a-war/ the high command in Washington had barely reached a consensus on a solution.

The Navy thought that MacArthur would unnecessarily expose their carriers to risk, and that Tulagi should be seized first to lessen the danger from the Japanese and establish a base in the Solomons for future operations. They also thought that command should be through Nimitz to his subordinate, Vice Admiral Robert L Ghormley, Commander South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force (COMSOPAC). MacArthur objected as he thought he would be the logical choice since the amphibious objectives were in his area.

The Joint Chiefs decided that Ghormley would command the Tulagi part of the operation after which MacArthur would command the advance to Rabaul. The US Navy and Marine Corps would attack and seize Tulagi, Guadalcanal and the surrounding area while MacArthur made a parallel advance towards New Guinea. The boundary between Southwest Pacific and South Pacific was shifted to reflect the change and King notified Nimitz (and hence Ghormley) to start planning for an operation. Major General Alexander A Vandegrift was notified that his division (1st Marine Division) would spearhead the attack.

No one could have been a better choice for the role than Vandegrift. A southerner by birth, he was raised in the traditions that forged the men of the Confederacy in Virginia.


He tried without success to achieve a position in the US Military Academy and was rejected. Later, he was selected as a Marine Corps Officer. When he had approached his Senator for a confirmation, the Senator said that if he was selected, he would be forever doomed to fight small wars in the southern hemisphere. For much of his career, that ended up being true.


The strength of that experience was that when the nation found itself in need of a jungle warfare fighting force, the Marines brought the needed skills immediately to the battles. Not only that, but the Marine officers between the wars had experimented and innovated new techniques in landing against an entrenched force from the sea. They struggled against an even more entrenched way of thinking put forth by traditionalists that such a campaign would be futile.


The Marine Corps persevered in their struggles

With a force of only about 20,000 they pushed forward with their development of new strategies and when the call came, they were the obvious choice. Unlike the other services, they remained in constant action during the years between the wars. From the banana wars to service in the far east, Marines of every rank were being built and tested for a larger role.

On March 23 1942, Vandegrift received his second star and command of the new First Marine Division. The band of brothers were being assembled in New River, North Carolina. He had already been the assistant commander practicing practice landings on Solomon’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay (prophetically enough). His task was to build a force of fighting men from the old salts around the globe from a force of roughly 11,000 men to over 19,000.

The Old Salts were joined by old Gunnery sergeants and grizzled old hands from China and the fleet

Men who had fought in the battles in France in WW1 were joined by jungle fighters and seasoned troops of every kind. They were joined by the new breed as well… Marines who had answered the call when the US was attacked by a foreign and devious enemy. This blend of men is the one that was called upon to do the impossible: sail halfway around the world to develop a new way to fight an enemy that had already been tested in blood letting battles.

After arriving with his men in Wellington, New Zealand, General Vandergrift and his staff were ordered to meet with Admiral Ghormley and his staff in Auckland. The Admiral handed Vandegrift the Top Secret orders and Vandegrift was shocked with his orders. The Joint Chiefs wanted him to prepare plans and execute an invasion of Tulagi – Guadalcanal by August 1st.

From Operation Watchtower: The Battle for Guadalcanal (August 1942-February 1943)

“For Vandegrift, the news was far from welcome as he had not expected to go into action until sometime early in the new year and his division was spread out between Wellington and the United States, with part of it on garrison duty in Samoa. In just under a month he would have to make operational and logistical plans, unload his ships and reload them for combat, sail to the Fiji Islands to conduct a rehearsal and then sail to the Solomon Islands. Reconfiguring the division’s supplies would have to be done in New Zealand’s Aotoa Quay, a confined area that could only take five ships at a time. To make matters worse, the dock workers went on strike so that the Marines had to do the work themselves and the rains came which were driven by a cold persistent wind. Some food and clothing was lost due to being left unprotected in cardboard boxes that tended to disintegrate in such conditions. Finally it was discovered after the loading was complete that there was not enough room for all the motor transport to go aboard and so about three-quarters of the heavy prime movers were left behind. Vandegrift also had the problem of a serious lack of intelligence about Guadalcanal. The division’s intelligence officer, Lt Col Frank B Goettge set up an extensive interview programme with former residents of the area to glean as much information as possible and a photo reconnaissance mission by Lt Col Merril B Twining and Major William B Kean yielded a large number of useful photographs of the north coast of the island. To protect the flanks of the main assault a number of smaller objectives on Florida Island, Gavutu, Tanambogo and others would be seized just prior to the main landing. “

The only moment of grace for Vandegrift as he tried to pull together his far flung forces in the face of such overwhelming odds was the granting of a delay of one week by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The new invasion date: August 7 1942. But Vandegrift and his staff were not about to let this chance at victory slip away. They put their hearts and souls into planning for the great struggle ahead. The fight to stop the Japanese advancement would begin on the beaches and in the jungles of these “stinking islands”.

The Marines that were to land first carried bolt action weapons that dated back to the first war. They only had supplies sufficient in the field for 60 days instead of the planned 90, a fact that would come back to haunt them in the days to come. They would be tested by the enemy, the weather, the terrain and the very nature of their characters. But the worst news was yet to come. Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher was about to make a challenging situation even more challenging.

Next up: Cancel the Dress Rehearsal

Mister Mac

But look at all the money we saved… 3

With the current drive to save money, the post Cold War Navy is being reimagined once again. This exercise in policy is as old as the nation itself, but has had some very dramatic consequences over the past 61 years. Studying a white paper recently, the role of the Navy has always been dependent on the political and economic winds of change. The types of ships and subs is determined by strategies that can change at any time and the results are almost always dramatic. 

As hard as it is to believe, after Word War 2, the United States went from being the predominant Blue Water force in the world to being a target for destruction by its own government.

The new “Secretary of Defense” which resulted from the National Security Act of 1947 was no fan of the Navy. Louis A. Johnson, in a conversation with one of the Navy’s admirals infamously said:

Admiral, the Navy is on its way out. There’s no reason for having a Navy and a Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do, so that does away with the Navy.

Both Johnson and Harry Truman were convinced that all future wars would be fought using superior technology. Just as some now see unmanned drones as a way to project power and limit loss of US forces, they saw a time where defense dollars could easily be cut and put to use in other places.

The outrage by the Naval leadership took a very public form and was known as the Admiral’s Revolt. From the Secretary of the Navy on down, the protest led to firings and demotions for anyone who would not publicly toe the line set by Truman and Johnson. The first super carrier USS America was cancelled and a program of systematically shutting down the Navy and Marines was begun.


From Wikipedia:

“By 1950, Johnson had established a policy of faithfully following President Truman’s defense economization policy, and had aggressively attempted to implement it even in the face of steadily increasing external threats posed by the Soviet Union and its allied Communist regimes. He consequently received much of the blame for the initial setbacks in Korea and the widespread reports of ill-equipped and inadequately trained U.S. forces. Johnson’s failure to adequately plan for U.S. conventional force commitments, to adequately train and equip current forces, or even to budget funds for storage of surplus Army and Navy war-fighting materiel for future use in the event of conflict would prove fateful after war broke out on the Korean Peninsula.

mothballed fleet  mothballed fleet 2

mothballed 4

In June 1950, the lightly armed South Korean Army and its U.S. advisors found themselves under attack from North Korean aircraft and waves of well-trained infantry equipped with Soviet tanks and artillery. In an initial response, Truman called for a naval blockade of North Korea, and was shocked to learn that such a blockade could only be imposed ‘on paper’, since the U.S. Navy no longer had the warships with which to carry out his request.

mothballed 3

Ordered to intervene in Korea by the President, U.S. armed forces were short of both men and equipment. Army officials recovered Sherman tanks from World War II Pacific battlefields, reconditioning them for shipment to Korea. Army Ordnance officials at Fort Knox pulled down M26 Pershing tanks from display pedestals around Fort Knox in order to equip the third company of the Army’s hastily formed 70th Tank Battalion.


Without adequate numbers of tactical fighter-bomber aircraft, the Air Force took F-51 (P-51) propeller-driven aircraft out of storage or from existing Air National Guard squadrons, and rushed them into front-line service. A shortage of spare parts and qualified maintenance personnel resulted in improvised repairs and overhauls. A Navy helicopter pilot aboard an active-duty warship recalled fixing damaged rotor blades with masking tape in the absence of spares.

Army infantry reservists and new inductees called to duty to fill out under strength infantry divisions found themselves short of nearly everything needed to repel the North Korean forces: artillery, ammunition, heavy tanks, ground-support aircraft, even effective anti-tank weapons such as the M20 3.5-inch (89 mm) Super Bazooka. Some Army combat units sent to Korea were supplied with worn-out, ‘red-lined’ M-1 rifles or carbines in immediate need of Ordnance overhaul or repair.

Unlike the U.S. Army, the Soviet Union had retained its large World War II surplus arms inventories and kept them in a state of combat readiness. With this abundance of military hardware, the Soviet Union had supplied the North Korean Army over a period of several years with heavy tanks, machine guns, mortars, combat aircraft, and artillery, together with instructors to train the North Korean Army.


As a consequence, initial combat encounters by the 24th Infantry division and other Army units at the Battle of Osan with North Korean armored spearheads proved disastrous. Ironically, only the U.S. Marine Corps, whose commanders had stored and maintained their World War II surplus inventories of equipment and weapons, proved ready for deployment, though they still were under strength and in need of suitable landing craft to practice amphibious operations (Johnson had transferred most of the remaining craft to the Navy and reserved them for use in training Army units).

As U.S. and South Korean forces lacked sufficient armor and artillery to repel the North Korean forces, Army and Marine Corps ground troops were instead committed to a series of costly rearguard actions as the enemy steadily progressed down the Korean peninsula, eventually encircling Pusan.”

The consequences were painfully dramatic. The 24th Division suffered over 3,600 casualties in the 17 days it fought alone against the 3rd and 4th North Korean divisions. The “police action” dragged on for close to four years and technically still exists today. North Korea has a nuclear capability and a history of erratic leaders. Johnson was eventually forced to resign and the rest is history. The United States Air Force built it’s strategic  inventory but political decisions limited its use. Even the carpet bombing employed during the Viet Nam war failed to prevent the eventual capitulation of our allies.


Ships are expensive to maintain and to build. Greater technology requires more complicated weapons platforms. Electronics can be overcome with more sophisticated systems and devices. God only knows what the Chinese and modern day Russians are scheming now to counter the aircraft carrier battle groups that we rely on so heavily now. But a balanced approach to the defense posture will continue to be need in a world increasingly hostile to our way of life.

How much does freedom cost?

What price would you put on one of those Marines or Navy Corpsmen who were at Pusan and never made it home? We will be tested again. We will need men and women who are willing to stand in the breach for our defense. Every ship, every submarine, every amphibious craft will prove once again to be the best way to project American power.


There are two types of people in the country today.

There are those with good intentions who feel that a weaker posture will encourage diplomacy and good will. Talking with our adversaries will result in an understanding that will prevent violent actions. Then there are people who see the history of mankind. Counting on the eventual goodwill of someone who is currently inclined to kill you and your people is a fool’s game. The choice between the two camps is that simple.

Mister Mac

Caught in the Crossfire 2

Its 3:00 AM and everyone in the control room party has managed to find a comfortable enough position to hide the fact that they are half snoozing. The room is rigged for red and the boat is plugging along at 4 knots at 150 feet. Even the Auxiliaryman of the Watch has laid his clipboard down as he reposes on the comfy naugahide cushion covered trashcan.

planesmen3_full ballast_flood_full

Then at 3:06 everyone gets a quick reminder how fast things can change as the forward torpedo room bilge alarm starts flashing and chirping on the BCP. The Chief of the Watch turns to the AOW and gives him a kind of a nasty look since its obvious that someone wasn’t watching the level in the potable water tanks…

Life is kind of like that sometimes.

You are just cruising along when out of seemingly nowhere an alarm sounds. It could be nothing. Or it could be an indicator of something much bigger. Maybe that little flashing light is a warning that events not yet clearly understood could spiral out of control.

There was a pretty interesting alarm today in the New York Times.


The far east has been an evolving maze of activity for the past decade. The US presence has been decreasing with the loss of bases, ships, attention and focus. A large part of that has been the number of assets dedicated to fighting the War on Terror. Iraq and Afghanistan have rightly or wrongly consumed much of our attention and the Far East has slowly evolved into an unsettled existence.


I was kind of surprised that the CiC would announce to the world the permanent posting of 2500 Marines in Australia.

I am not sure what their purpose is or why they are needed there. Their proximity to the vital sea lanes is the official line from the DoD but if shipping was the major deal, why not build more ships and planes? I have been to the area a number of times and I can assure you its pretty wide open. Don’t get me wrong, I love Australia and would gladly put my uniform back on to help defend her. The match up just seems a little off balance.

Caught in the crossfire?

More surprising to me though (and it probably should not have been) is the reaction to the Chinese. The article speaks about “concern” and even contains a not so veiled threat to Australia about not getting caught in the crossfire. Are we at war? Did I miss something here? wasn’t this supposed to be the “Age of Aquarius” or some such silly nonsense?

Its pretty routine for people to dismiss alarmists like me. I am not formally schooled in international diplomacy and I am not privileged to any insider information. However, I am pretty skilled at reading maps and I can count. As much as I admire the United States Marine Corps, I am pretty sure that 2500 of their finest will still have trouble overpowering 2.8 million active duty Commies even on a good day.


Over 60,000 vessels transit the Strait of Malacca per year. If the strait were blocked, nearly half of the world’s fleet would be required to reroute around the Indonesian archipelago through Lombok Strait, located between the islands of Bali and Lombok, or the Sunda Strait, located between Java and Sumatra. I find it kind of interesting how many Mine Warfare ships the Chinese Navy has. Does 391 seem a bit high for a country at peace?


When you have a Commander in Chief who has broadcast what the ChiCom’s perceive as weakness since the day he took office, you should expect that at some point they will start actively and aggressively testing the limits of our actual commitment.

Frankly, I love the Australian people but I am not so sure I would put too much faith in anything offered by a government that routinely lies to its own people (Fast and Furious, Solyndra, GM’s actual bail out cost, support for Israel, and anything Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid say).

The most frightening statistic for me on the Global Firepower charts is this: despite the fact they consume over 8 billion barrels of oil per day, they are only able to produce 4 billion.

At some point, their reserves are going to be out leveraged by their needs. I wonder where they plan on getting the rest of their oil needs from. Talk about getting caught in the crossfire.

Didn’t we do this war back in the 1940’s?

Mister Mac

Post Sript:


Now who in the world would want to mess with our satellites???