Another splendid evening commemorating the Battle of Midway

Battle of MidwayFor most Americans of a historic or patriotic bent, yesterday — June 6 — was a day to honor the incredible bravery of the American troops who stormed Normandy’s shores on June 6, 1944.  Too many people have forgotten that, before D-Day, the Allies had no boots on the ground in the fight against the Germans.  It was the incredible organizational abilities of the American military, combined with the staggering bravery of American men, that marked the beginning of the end of Nazi dominance in Western Europe.

Almost two years to the day before D-Day, however, the American Navy won a staggering victory at seas — perhaps the greatest naval victory in American history — that marked the beginning of the end of Japan’s control over the Pacific.  The Pacific war raged on for three more bloody, painful, and deadly years, but it was the Battle of Midway, which raged from June 4 to June 7, 1942, that dealt the Japanese a blow from which they never recovered.  The numbers, which I’ve taken from Wikipedia, tell something of the story of the enormous odds against the Americans as they went into battle, something that makes their victory that much more inspiring:

Battle of Midway statistics

As you can see, the Americans were grossly outnumbered, not to mention that USS Yorktown had been pieced together over the course of three frantic days in Pearl Harbor after the terrible damage she suffered at the Battle of the Coral Sea, yet Americans triumphed. A significant part of America’s victory was the extraordinary courage that members of the Navy and Marines — many of whom were quite new to the military — showed during the battle. The program I received at last night’s commemorative dinner, included a lovely contemporary quotation from Ensign William R. Evans, USN: a pilot of Torpedo Squadron 8, KIA at Midway, written on June 4, 1942. I’d like to quote it here:

Many of my friends are now dead. To a man, each died with a nonchalance that each would have denied as courage. They simply called it lack of fear. If anything great or good is born of this war, it should not be valued in the colonies we may win nor in the pages historians will attempt to write, but rather in the youth of our country, who never trained for war; rather almost never believed in war, but who have, from some hidden source, brought forth a gallantry which is homespun, it is so real.

When you hear others saying harsh things about American youth, do all in your power to help others keep faith with those few who gave so much. Tell them that out here, between a spaceless sea and sky, American youth has found itself and given itself so that, at home, the spark may catch. There is much I cannot say, which should be said before it is too late. It is my fear that national inertia will cancel the gains won at such a price. My luck can’t last much longer, but the flame goes on and on.

There was another kind of bravery on display at the Battle of Midway, and it was one that last night’s speaker, Admiral Scott “Notso” Swift, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, touched upon in his very thoughtful and thought-provoking speech to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Midway:  The bravery of the admirals called upon to make the decisions in advance of the Battle, something they did without massive oversight, not to mention second-guessing, from people at desks thousands of miles away. (I did not take notes last night so I can only summarize what I understand him to say. Anything that sounds wrong is my fault, not his.)

Admiral Swift reminded the audience that the Americans had not cracked the Japanese code, although they did believe that they had a general idea of what the Japanese were communicating to each other. It was certain that the Japanese were planning a major, and imminent attack to cement their control over the Pacific, but nobody knew precisely when or, more importantly, where they were going to attack. The probable targets were eventually narrowed to two: Either the West Coast (Washington or California) or the small, but centrally located Midway Island. Admiral Nimitz was convinced that the battle would take place at Midway, but the desk jockeys in Washington were convinced the mainland coast would be the target.

Nimitz’s team used a false message about a water problem at Midway, which the Japanese promptly relayed, to prove pretty conclusively that a specific numerical sequence in the Japanese code did indeed refer to Midway.  Having somewhat allayed the fears in D.C., Nimitz gave the order to prepare for battle. And so it was that the American Navy’s small and tattered fleet steamed out into the Pacific, looking everywhere in those vast, empty waters for the much larger Imperial Fleet.

I will embarrass myself by exposing my ignorance if I describe how American fliers, at enormous risk to themselves, found the Japanese fleet, or how bravely the men in planes and on board ships fought to bring about that almost miraculous victory. What I can relay, though, is something that Admiral Swift said, which really struck me.  Admiral Nimitz, although he tracked the battle minute by minute, did not interfere with command decisions at the scene of the battle. He trusted the team he had assembled — and who were on the water, dealing with matters in real-time — to make the right decisions. His trust was rewarded, because his admirals, not to mention the men in their command, acted with courage, flexibility, and innovation to destroy the Japanese fleet. It took a lot of time and human capital before this blow was fully effective, but Midway was the turning point.  From that point onward, the question wasn’t whether the Japanese would lose, it was when they would lose.

After having made this point about Nimitz’s willingness to trust his team, from the admirals on down, Admiral Swift said that our modern military today has a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to mistakes. This attitude, while virtuous in its way (nobody wants the risk of a sloppily run, careless military), leads to micromanagement. Indeed, as a friend commented to me later, today’s communication advances mean that the people at the desks, from high-ranking military commanders to way too many lawyers, can oversee a battle in real-time, and provide running critique and commentary. Kind of like this:

Bin Laden's Hunter

My take on this is that, not only do too many cooks spoil the broth, there’s a problem when these cooks are focused on concerns other than winning a specific battle.  Moreover, it can mean that important decisions get delayed while a message is being relayed down the line.  For example, the same friend told me that D-Day might have turned out quite differently if Hitler hadn’t put himself in command.  Although the commander of a Panzer division some 25 miles away from Normandy’s beaches could easily have moved in and destroyed the Americans, the Germans in Berlin who received the message about the D-Day landing were afraid to wake Hitler up.  For that reason, there was a 12 hour delay before the Panzer commander was told to head for the beaches.  By this time, though, the Americans were reinforced with men, vehicles, and weapons, and the German commander realized that he had lost his window of opportunity, and elected to regroup further inland.

Back to Admiral Swift’s speech, the Admiral said that, with excessive caution, micromanagement, and overly strong command-and-control (my words, not his), we run the risk of stifling the initiative, instinct, and moral courage that made possible victories such as Midway, victories that relied on experience, instinct, and a deep and abiding trust in ones team, starting with the admirals and captains, and running all the way down to the enlisted sailors.  (Again, those are my words, not Admiral Swift’s, but I think that’s what he said.)

If I understand correctly what Admiral Swift was saying, this was a very important statement coming from the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, because it appears that he’ll use his position to give the people in his command more autonomy.  Again, if I got this right, I highly approve of the idea.  (If I got this wrong, someone correct me, please!!!)

I’ve focused on Admiral Swift’s talk, because I thought it was so interesting, but that wasn’t the only interesting part of the evening, of course.  I’ve gone to enough Midway Commemorations to know a lot of people there and it’s a great pleasure every year to see them again, exchange hugs, and catch up a little.  And as always, I delighted in the gorgeous setting at the Marines Memorial Club, enjoyed the delicious roast beef, and took a great deal of pleasure in seeing everyone dressed up in evening clothes and formal uniforms (complete with rows of ribbons, golden stripes marking years of service, and the insignia of their rank).

The one sad part of the evening was that only one Midway veteran was able to attend the dinner last night.  I believe that the first time I went, perhaps six or seven years ago, there were fourteen.  The one man who did attend was Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Oral L. Moore, otherwise known as “Slim.”  At the Battle of Midway, Slim was an Aviation Radioman, 3/c, flying in a Bombing Squadron 8 SBD dive bomber off of the hornet.

Although Slim’s plane wasn’t involved in the attack on the Japanese carriers at Midway, during a Search on June 6th, the plane’s pilot, Ensign W.D. Carter, spotted the Japanese cruisers Mikuma and Mogami.  Because the Mogami had been damaged in a collision with the Mikuma, resulting in a shortened bow, Carter thought he was seeing a two different types of ships — one a standard heavy cruiser (the Mogami) and the other alarger battle cruiser (the Mikuma).  Carter’s instructions to Slim led to a moment of historic confusion that was only cleared up sometime later.  Here is what the book with veteran autobiographies has to say:

Believing he was seeing a standard heavy cruiser (MOGAMI) along with a larger battle cruiser (MIKUMA) with no bow damage), Carter told Moore over the dive bomber’s intercom to send “SIGHTED ONE CA, ONE CB” to the American task force. Moore had never heard of a “CB” (battle cruiser), and thought the pilot had said “ONE CA, ONE CV” (one cruiser, one carrier), which is what he sent via Morse code. It was correctly copied that way by radiomen aboard the USS Enterprise, where Admiral Spruance was astounded that another Japanese carrier was in the area. He ordered scouts in the air to find and verify the report. (Most written histories of the battle state that Moore’s message was garbled in transmission, resulting in the “CV” mistake, but that was not the case.)

A short while later VB-8 pilot Roy Gee [who also attended Midway commemorations] overflew Enterprise and dropped a handwritten message reporting “two cruisers” but at a position slightly different than the one reported by Carter and Moore. This led Spruance to believe he was dealing with two groups of enemy ships, and he ordered a full strike from the Hornet. The confusion wasn’t cleared up for another hour when Carter landed and corrected his original sighting report.

Slim was also in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, in October 1942, where he sustained injuries to his feed and leg. When he finally made it to sick bay on the Enterprise, he discovered himself next to one of his high school classmates!

Slim is quite frail now, and needed help getting around at the event. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the sailor who escorted him was bursting with pride to be able to take care of such a valiant man — valiant in 1942 and valiant in 2015.

Of course, there was no shortage of valiant men last night. Seated next to Slim at the dinner was a man from the Philippine Army who had survived the Bataan Death March. And presiding as President of the Mess was Rear Admiral Thomas F. Brown (Ret.), one of the Navy’s most distinguished pilots during Vietnam. Here are Admiral Brown’s statistics and awards from his time in the air over Vietnam. I can also tell you that he is an incredibly nice man — and must have been one hell of a math teacher, which is what he did after retiring from the Navy.

Overall, my evening at the 73rd Battle of Midway Commemoration dinner was as I expected it to be: interesting, fun, and very moving. I am always honored that the Navy opens its doors to people without a Navy background when it comes to this event.

The Navy’s newest commercial and the most peculiar lame duck presidency ever

Angry dog

The Navy’s most recent commercial is excellent (h/t Charles Martel):

Watching it, I could only hope that, in Obama’s America, our hyper-politicized, dysfunctionally PC Pentagon not only means it, but still has the will and ability to make it a reality. After all, we live in a time when one has to pause and seriously consider Roger Simon’s semi-facetious proposal that the White House is a sleeper cell, rather than just laughing merrily at the joke.

I believe that Obama’s decision not to show up in Paris is a harbinger of his “lame duck” years. He’s always had an affinity for Islam and a disdain for Western culture. Now that he’s a lame duck, he doesn’t care anymore who knows this about him. Indeed, we’re going to see that there are a lot of things Obama doesn’t care for. He’ll quickly make it obvious that he doesn’t care about the Constitution (something he’ll reveal in a blatant way he’s previously avoided); vox populi (his voice will be the only one that counts); and a sane, workable defense against jihadist Islam.

In other words, this is going to be the most peculiar lame duck period in American history. Past lame duck presidents have been quietly ineffectual. They’ve been the past, while the political machine and the people are already looking to the future. Obama, however, once untethered from the Constitution and from any concerns about the voice of the American people, isn’t really going to be a lame duck at all. He’s got a whole new future planned for us and there’s nary a lame duck in sight.

Fasten your seat belts, friends, because we’re in for President Rabid Dog over the next two long and dangerous years.

Mr. Flotsam, meet Ms. Jetsam. I think you’ll like each other.

A small Sunday morning round-up….

The Navy:  doing the right thing and doing it right.

If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.  Not.  (It’s worth remembering that, by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, being a doctor there was a women-only job, with about as much cachet as dog-catcher.)

Kerry brings anti-semitism and incompetence to a new high, even by State Department standards.

Wesley J. Smith nails it:  Obama is the Vasa of our time.  We got to see the Vasa on our last vacation and I blogged about it briefly here.

And please, Open Thread away here.

A few observations regarding the Navy shipyard shooting *UPDATED*

What happened in Washington D.C. today (12 dead, apparently at the hands of a disgruntled employee) is desperately sad.  I just want to ask two questions and comment on two things.

First question:  Was the shipyard a gun-free zone?  And even if it wasn’t would it have mattered considering reports that the shooter apparently hid himself up high to start the shooting.

Second question:  Would gun control have kept the shooter’s guns away from him?  (I don’t know what guns he used or how he got them.)

First comment:  It took seconds for some Hollywood has-been to demand gun control.  It seems to be that, until one answers my first two questions, any cries for gun control are premature.

Second comment:  How dumb, really, does one have to be to work at CNN.  I bet that all of you, when you first heard the shipyard story today, instantly thought of the Fort Hood massacre. For at least one MSM talking head, though, the little bit of workplace jihad never happened:

CAROL COSTELLO: I used to work in Washington, live in Washington. This seems so unusual to me that a gunman could create this kind of havoc at a U.S. military facility.


COSTELLO: Have you ever heard of it happening before, Brian?

TODD: I’m sorry, Carol. I missed that question. Could you repeat it please?

COSTELLO: I was just saying that this is so unusual, because this is such a heavily-secured military facility. I’ve worked in Washington for many years, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening.

TODD: Well, we haven’t either in this area, Carol. This is the first time we’ve seen something like this, at least in many, many years. Now you remember the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, where that was a member of the service who was convicted eventually of doing that shooting.

Do you think Todd really missed that question, or was he just so stunned that he couldn’t speak?

It’s almost embarrassing to show that much ignorance in public.

UPDATE:  Charles C.W. Cooke has a good discussion about gun control and the shooting.  He answers my question, which is whether the gun control laws the gun haters demand would have changed anything.  Are you surprised that the answer is “no”?

Navy responds to sequester by torturing American people (or, put another way, it cancels Blue Angels shows)

Blue Angels

(I wrote this for Mr. Conservative, but it’s pure Bookworm in word and thought, so I’m republishing it here.  Frankly, I’m spitting mad, because regular readers know exactly how much I love Fleet Week.)

Sequester or not, there always seems to be money for the Obamas to live the lush life. As for the rest of us, the Navy announced today that the Navy’s Blue Angels, which delight hundreds of thousands of people every year, and which bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the communities in which they perform, have been grounded.

The official announcement is effective immediately, cancelling all performances currently scheduled between now and December. The squadron will continue to train, but the shows are over for the time being:

The Navy has cancelled the remaining 2013 performances of its Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. The Squadron will continue to train to maintain flying proficiency until further notice at its home station in Pensacola. Recognizing budget realities, current Defense policy states that outreach events can only be supported with local assets at no cost to the government.

Perhaps it’s reasonable to ground the Blues; but more likely it’s not. After all, as Sen. Coburn revealed in a recent study about wasteful spending in the military, the military spends a lot of money on touchy-feely or green programs that have nothing to do with military preparedness or with connecting ordinary Americans to their military, and that have everything to do with PC pandering to Beltway Progressive sensibilities. These programs include duplicative research programs, ineffective bomb detectors made by families with nepotistic ties to agency brass, creating coffee break apps, teaching grill safety, etc. Indeed, the military is still contemplating abandoning $36 billion worth of military hardware in Afghanistan.

This type of administrative waste (with has nothing to do with the quality of the men and women who serve), puts the military right in line with a federal government that uses taxpayer dollars to fund studies about alcoholic lesbians, makes it impossible to fire bad workers, and generally wastes your money.

What’s most like is that the point of the Blues’ grounding is to ignore the waste in favor of making the taxpayers suffer. How else can the government force people to stop their relentless (and reasonable) demand that the government act responsibly with other people’s money? The Pentagon – which is under Obama administration control – is letting the people know that any cuts to the government won’t improve efficiency, but will simply make taxpayers miserable. Cancelling the Blue Angels show is a special kind of misery, because it not only disappoints the Blues’ legion of fans, it also causes real economic hurt to the cities that host the show. Shows routinely draw in cities hundreds of thousands of fans who spend real money – in hotels, in restaurants, and in stores.

And just to keep things in perspective, keep in mind that tonight the White House is hosting yet another exclusive party. According to the White House schedule, Michelle and Obama are hosting a concert “celebrating Memphis Soul.” The President will speak. The guests include performers who are not known for Memphis Soul, such as Justin Timberlake, Cyndi Lauper, and Queen Latifah, not to mention Al Green, Ben Harper, Sam Moore, and others. The White House refuses to release details that will help calculate what this little party will cost the taxpayers. One thing is for sure – the money spent will not confer any benefit on the communities that will be harmed when the Blue Angels stop flying.

Romney, even if he didn’t win the debate, walked out of the debate a winner *UPDATED*

What one can say with certainty about the last presidential debate is that it is not a game-changer — which is good for Romney, because the game is currently scoring in his favor.  In that way, it was a nothing of a debate.  Nevertheless, there were aspects of the debate that were fascinating.

Fascinating aspect No. 1:  Obama’s rhetoric had absolutely nothing to do with his presidency.  If I had never heard of Obama before last night and then tuned into the debate, I would have been impressed by what he said (except for the nasty tone, which I’ll get to later).  He spoke about a balance of diplomacy and might, he spoke of a strong military, he claimed to be a true friend to Israel, he understood that America is a world leader, he touted America’s responsibility to advance freedom, he recognized that one can’t be a leader with a disastrous home economy, he said he supported Iran’s abortive Green revolution, and he said that he would never allow Iran to get the bomb.  It was as if the last three and a half years never happened.

The Obama of the debate never had kill lists for Pakistan and crawl-on-the-belly lists for Russia.  He didn’t offend England, and Poland, and the Czech Republic, while making nice to Chavez and Morsi.  Nor did the debate Obama have anything to do with depleting the military to a point where it’s at its weakest since before WWI.

The talking head with saw last night is so tightly linked with Israel that, not only is there no daylight between the two, but he and Netanyahu will be the first in line when gay marriage is federally recognized.  This seems a little bit at odds with the insults, slights, demands, and cold-shoulders the administration aimed at Israel for more than three years.  Obama’s debate posture pretends that, when it came to Israel’s borders, Obama didn’t make a precondition for negotiations more extreme even than the Palestinians were demanding. This Obama, unlike the real world Obama, is BFFs with Israel.

The debate Obama was a champion of American exceptionalism, a man who never went around the world explaining to foreign countries that America isn’t so great and, if she leads at all, she should lead from behind.  This was not a man who boasted that he would fundamentally transform America.  Nor was this a man who made it plain that his fundamental transformation included attacking America’s core identity, many of her constitutional rights, and her economic system.

Finally, last night’s Obama was so tough, I’m surprised he hasn’t already bombed Iran back into the Stone Age.  Where was the man who stood aside while the Iranian people took to the streets demanding greater freedom?  Where was the man who has consistently worked to weaken the sanctions Congress has imposed on Iran?  And where was the president who has been so passive about Iran’s nuclear program that Ahmadinejad has endorsed him for president?

Frankly, I found this Obamabot irritating.  He’s like the guy who, behind closed doors, abuses his wife but, in public, calls her “Sweetie” and holds her hand,  He’s a brute, not because he doesn’t know any better (his public behavior shows that he does), but because he wants to be a brute.  That’s where his private inclinations lie.  Last night, Obama demonstrated that he knows perfectly well what is good for America and what Americans want, but his behavior over the past three years shows that he wants to be a weak, anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-military leader.  He’s the presidential equivalent of a wife beater.

Fascinating aspect No. 2:  Romney ignored Obama.  After trying to go head-to-head with Obama in the second debate, Romney went back to his first debate strategy of talking directly to the American people.  It wasn’t as effective as in debate no. 1, because Obama was more animated but, in a funny way, it was the most insulting thing Romney could have done.  (And we’ll get back to insults in a minute.)

In the first debate, Romney focused on introducing himself to the American people, not as the Frankenstein Capitalist the Obama media and Obama himself created, but as an intelligent, thoughtful, humane individual.  Romney achieved that goal and then some.  In this second debate, though, Romney wanted to show the American people that he is presidential.  He talked to them about broad policy concerns, and treated Obama like a buzzing fly.  Romney swatted at Obama occasionally, but otherwise focused on having a dialogue with the voters.

I would have liked to have seen Romney challenge Obama more directly on some of his lies (and there were a lot of lies), but Romney’s approach was, as I said, peculiarly insulting on its own terms.  He essentially said Obama is so irrelevant he can be ignored.

Fascinating aspect No. 3:  Obama was unbelievably nasty and condescending.  The true believers were elated by his “wit,” but I wonder if the undecideds didn’t find it unpresidential.  This was not a frat party or even an Alfred E. Smith dinner roast.  This was a serious presidential debate.  Unloading the equivalent of “Yoo hoo, old fart, the 80s are calling,” was not statesmanlike, and Romney was wise to look at the camera (i.e., the voters) and ignore it.

The nastiest statement, of course, was Obama’s response when Romney made a lengthy argument about the problems with our depleted military.  Romney talked about the fact that the military can no longer fight a war on two fronts and about the Navy’s concerns that the Navy has too few ships.  With regard to that last, Romney noted in passing that we have fewer ships than we’ve had since 1917.  Obama ignored the overarching argument entirely (Obama’s policies are weakening our military during dangerous times for America), and got terribly excited about the whole 1917 (or, as Obama said, 1916) bit:

You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

Ouch!  In 7th grade, that would have been a great riposte.  At a presidential debate, not so much.  None of us  one likes someone who is condescending and arrogant, and that’s true whether the insult is directed at us or at someone else.  More than that, by making such a definitive statement about today’s military, Obama left himself wide open to corrections.  And it’s easy to correct his gross errors.  Yes, in 1917, the military mostly had battleships and now has aircraft carriers, but it also requires a host of supporting ships, from amphibious assault vessels to destroyers to supply ships, etc.  And as everyone except the president knows as of this morning, we use horses in Afghanistan and the military still trains with bayonets for close combat.

There is a difference between being witty and being nasty.  When I was 13, I didn’t know the difference and I wasn’t much liked.  Now, I’ve figured it out, and people enjoy my company.  Obama wasn’t witty, he was nasty, and that’s the one thing he couldn’t afford in this election.  After all, Obama’s never had anything to run on but his likability.  In 2008, he needed to be liked because he had no record; in 2012, he needs to be liked because he has a big record.

UPDATE: A friend sent me a link to an article from last year discussing the way in which bayonets continue to be useful in battle situations. My dad used bayonets at El Alamein (or maybe somewhere in Crete — I’m not quite sure), and he considered them his friends in battle.

The girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island

Courtesy of the Navy League, today I boarded the USS Makin Island as an official ship’s greeter.  My visit was a bit more fraught than past experiences have been, so I thought I’d walk you through the girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island, starting with pre-visit preparations:

  1. Review boarding instructions at last-minute and realize that I’m supposed to wear “slacks.”  Who the heck has slacks?  I live in jeans, either blue or black.  Burrow through closet and discover antique pair of bland brown slacks.
  2. Breath sigh of relief that slacks still zip.  I vow not to do any inhaling for the rest of the day, lest the slacks become rebellious.
  3. New problem:  After a harried search for the sole, and ancient, pair of brown shoes I own, I find that they are scratched and dirty.  This is bad.  Worse is that I have no shoe polish.  A frantic hunt for something oily to help liven up the leather yields only Tea Tree oil.  Did you know that if you polish your shoes with Tea Tree oil you go around the rest of the day smelling like disinfectant?  I know that now.
  4. Leave house in order to arrive at Pier 80 (in the southern-most part of the City) by 2:30, since the last, best word is that I should be there at 3:00.  I figure a half-hour of wiggle room is a good thing.
  5. Halfway to Pier 80, I get a timely telephone call telling me that the USS Makin Island is actually going to be at Pier 30/32.  Under these circumstances, San Francisco’s maze of one way streets becomes the enemy.
  6. Arrive at Pier 30/32 at 2:30, blithely assuming that I’ll be on board by 3:00.  Hah!  But more on that later.
  7. Learn that, because of snafu, while I am approved for entry onto the pier, my car is not.  I begin the hunt for San Francisco street parking.  Rather to my surprise, I find a spot only a block away, a distance even my dodgy knee can tolerate.  I spend a few minutes struggling with the new-fangled ticket machine, which charges me a hefty $12 for four hours of street parking.  Four hours should be enough, right?
  8. Arrive at pier, and saunter self-consciously across a vast parking lot and staging area, which is empty but for a handful of people who clearly belong there, including five spit-and-polished Marines.   Here’s a picture of that vast space:

  9. With feigned coolness, because I’m neurotically certain that everyone there is staring at me, I casually seat myself on one of the comfortable-looking, bright orange security barriers.
  10. Learn the hard way, when my weight compresses the barrier on which I’ve seated myself, that said barriers are filled with water.
  11. Come to terms with the unpleasant realization that an objective observer, unacquainted with the facts, could reasonably conclude that I wet my pants.
  12. Check out spit-and-polished Marines to see whether they noticed that I’m suddenly looking remarkably foolish, not to mention incontinent.  Happily they appear oblivious — or perhaps they’re just too polite to point and laugh.
  13. Try to air-dry my butt as discretely as possible.  This involves my skulking along the parking lot with my back to the cars, trying to get the benefit of the stiff breeze blowing across the pier.  I am suddenly very grateful that the Navy is running late.
  14. Begin casting longing glances at the Porta Potties. Why the heck are they in such an exposed location?  Think dry thoughts (which is hard to do with wet pants).
  15. Due to extremely brisk breeze, my pants finally begin to dry.  I also give thanks for very expensive all-weather hair style.
  16. Begin to wonder if the thrill of welcoming an amphibious assault vessel is worth it. I fight urge to beat strategic retreat.  I remind myself that dry pants are a good omen and, feeling courageous now that my butt is dry, I slink off to the Porta Potties.
  17. The intelligent, knowledgeable half of the Navy League greeting committee arrives.  Thank God!!  Then I get the bad news:  I arrived an hour early for a ship that is going to be at least an hour late.  Oh, and I’m the point man for the Navy League presentation.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of public speaking?  I’m not shy.  I can show up to a party knowing no one and still have fun.  It’s having all those eyes looking at you (see items 9 and 10, above).  This blind panic is made worse by knowing that those staring are (a) mostly male and (b) mostly younger than I.  When I was 25, this would have been cool; now that I’m . . . ahem . . . my current age, it’s just nerve-wracking.
  18. Go to car to regroup.  I try to freshen up, only to realize that I’ve forgotten to bring lipstick.  This girl doesn’t feel fully dressed without lipstick, but I focus on the fact that I no longer look as if I’ve wet my pants.  I’m ahead of my own curve.  With lunch a distant memory, and no eateries nearby, I eat a stale power bar that my son left in the car donkey’s years ago.
  19. Return to pier, which is filling up.  The USS Makin Island appears.  It is magnificent:
  20. Attach myself like a limpet to my wonderful Navy League point man who patiently listens to me as I nervously babble.  I know I should muzzle myself, but I’ve got so much adrenalin pumping through me at the thought of public speaking that nothing is going to stop my mouth from moving.
  21. Finally!  Only an hour and a half after I first report for “greeting duty,” we board the ship.  Dozens of ridiculously handsome/beautiful, polite, incredibly young people, all of whom look spiffy in their uniforms, are everywhere.  Is it really possible that they’re all staring at me?  Remind myself I am no longer 13, and that it’s not all about me.
  22. One of said spiffy young people leads us to the wardroom, where we receive a very polite welcome and are offered food and drink.  I recoil at the thought of food, but demand water like a starving man in the desert.
  23. Briefing commences.  The Captain welcomes all of his visitors aboard.  I’m shocked.  How can someone be so fresh and young, and have so much responsibility?  I later check out the ship’s web page and learn that Captain Pringle isn’t that much younger than I am — he just looks a whole lot better.
  24. Fortunately, I’m not the first speaker.  Before I speak, representatives from the Fleet Week board, the San Francisco Police Department, and the NCIS speak.  They are all composed and quite interesting.  This worries me.
  25. Oh, my God!  It’s my turn.  There must be about — oh my! — 50 (or could it actually be 3,000?) people sitting there waiting to hear me speak.  I introduce myself and my fellow Navy Leaguer, and am more grateful than I can say that I remember our names.  I’ve been known to forget my own name in public speaking settings.
  26. I subscribe to the theory that, if you’re obviously at a disadvantage and the people you’re with aren’t your enemy, you should throw yourself at their mercy.  I therefore apologize in advance for a few things: (a) I’m shaking with nerves; (b) I’m a vast chasm of civilian ignorance; (c) I’ll be reading from a prepared script; and (d) I don’t have my reading glasses, so I can’t see the prepared script.  I am off to a rip-roaring start here.
  27. Things are going well.  I’m making it through the list of goodies that the Navy League is providing for our maritime guests, and I’m only stuttering a little bit.  I get cocky.  When I come to the part about tours up in Wine Country, I ad lib:  “This is up in the Sonoma/Napa area, north of San Francisco.  It’s really beautiful up there and wine tours are fun.  Just be sure not to drink or drive.”
  28. Did I just do that?  Did I tell a room full of Naval and Marine officers not to drink and drive?  Could I have been more disrespectful to them?  I don’t know if recovery is possible, but I try:  “I can say that, because I’m a mother.”  Okay, just kill me now.
  29. I finally wrap up my mercifully brief presentation with only minimal hyperventilation and no tears.  Showing that they truly are officers and gentlemen/gentlewomen, several of the briefing attendees come up to me afterwards and tell me that I did a fine job.  What nice people these are!
  30. Return to my car three hours and fifty-seven minutes after I first arrived.  Hurray!  I didn’t get a parking ticket.  I go home giddy with excitement.  Mission accomplished!

Despite my own neurosis, I had a wonderful time.  As I told the assembled officers, the USS Makin Island is a lovely ship, and I was truly honored to be on board.  If you’re in or near San Francisco this weekend, don’t let the crowds deter you.  As you can see from the Fleet Week website, there are so many things to do and see, and it’s your chance to thank personally the men and women who serve our country.

The Battle of Midway Commemoration; or, jury rigging is a good thing

Jury rigging: “Jury rigging refers to makeshift repairs or temporary contrivances, made with only the tools and materials that happen to be on hand. Originally a nautical term, on sailing ships a jury rig is a replacement mast and yards improvised in case of damage or loss of the original mast.”

Humans have always made do with what’s on hand.  There is a special significance, though, attached to the fact that the phrase English speakers use to describe this universal practice — “jury rigging” — has a nautical origin.  It reminds us that the Navy is often far from home, and even far from land, and that it must make do with what it has.  Its fixes and patches and imaginative restructurings of existing items may have to last for several months and thousands of nautical miles.  Because of this necessity, the Navy manages to be both the most tradition-bound of the services and, in crunch time, often the most innovative.

At last night’s Battle of Midway Commemoration in San Francisco, jury rigging was the name of the game, and I mean that as a high compliment.  Several things did not go as planned, but it didn’t matter.  A little jury rigging here, and a little jury rigging there, and the evening sailed through with flying colors and heads held high.

I’ve written here before about the evening’s delights, but I’ll offer a swift re-cap.  The event takes place in the lovely Marines’ Memorial Club in downtown San Francisco.  The Club is housed in a beautiful Beaux Arts building from 1926.  The upstairs banquet and reception rooms have high ceilings with decoratively stuccoed walls, and are festooned with dignified images of various ribbons.  Just being there feels celebratory.

For me, though, what makes the evening is the people.  Formal dress is the name of the game, so the men are either in Naval Whites (gold trimmed and ribbon be-decked), tuxedos, or very nice suits.  (And yes, put a man in a uniform and he looks even more handsome than he usually does.  Go figure.)  The women are in evening wear, ranging from always-appropriate black to brilliant jewel tones.  Since this was my third event, I was happy to see familiar faces and they, bless their hearts, seemed happy right back to see me.

The food was delicious.  Well, what was really delicious was the Roast Beef.  After it was ceremonial paraded before the President of the Mess, who gave it his seal of approval, we got to dine on succulent, perfectly cooked roast beef, accompanied by mashed potatoes, and fresh asparagus.  Although I adore red meat, I can’t cook it to save my life, so I’m always delighted when someone puts a beautifully prepared plate before me.  There was wine, which I didn’t drink, but many did, so the room’s conviviality, already good to begin with, increased as the evening progressed.

The guests were an eclectic group:  retired Navy, active duty, Coast Guard (a huge, ebullient contingent), family members of the aforesaid service people, hanger on-ers (that would be me) and, of course, the Midway survivors, as well as a sprinkling of men who served in other theaters during the war.  I’m very sad to say that the number of survivors is dwindling fast.  My memory is that, the first time I went, three years ago, there were more than ten survivors attending.  This year, there were six, as well as three widows who represented their husbands so that the memory of their service would continue to be honored.  Still, dayenu, it was enough to have these six men and three widows there, and to hear once again the courageous, moving, often incredible stories of their participation in one of history’s greatest sea battles — and one that, thankfully, ended in America’s favor.

“So,” you’re asking yourself (or, after my intro, you should be asking yourself), “what made this a jury rigged evening?”  Many things.

To begin with, per the invitations, the originally scheduled speaker was Admiral Jonathan Greenert, who is Chief of Naval Operations.  Before taking on this enormous administrative job, Admiral Greenert was a submariner.  Since I know that the rules of the Midway Commemoration (or any formal Navy mess, for that matter) require guests to introduce themselves to the speaker, I went to the internet and carefully studied Admiral Greenert’s bio and memorized his picture.  I was ready for my social moment.

Except that Admiral Greenert was unable to attend, something I didn’t realize until much, much later.  In his place, we were fortunate enough to have Vice Admiral David Architzel, who is commander of the Naval Air Systems Command.  As best as I can understand, that means that he’s in charge of every airplane the Navy has, as well as being in charge of every decision the Navy makes about airplanes it would like to have.  Unlike Admiral Greenert, who saw service below the water line, Admiral Architzel saw service well above the water.  In other words, he was an aviator.

When I arrived at the reception, I made my way over to Admiral Winston Copeland (Ret.) (“Cope” to those lucky enough to know him), to say hello.  Cope looked great, as always, in his bright whites, complete with his unofficial opal studs (for which he gets fined every year because of the uniform infraction).  Mysteriously, his shoulder boards were missing, but as I find military uniforms somewhat mysterious as the best of times (i.e., I don’t understand all the information they telegraph), I quickly forgot about this peculiarity.

After a few minutes of chit-chat, Cope introduced me to his friend Admiral Architzel and Mrs. Architzel.  They were charming.  Mrs. Architzel explained that they’d both flown out from Maryland, which should have given me a clue that something special was going on.  I remained clueless, merely remarking on the fact that it was so nice that they took the time to make the long trip for this evening.  I then turned to the Admiral and asked (yes, I really asked), “Are you active duty?”  The Admiral didn’t even blink at this inane question — proving indeed that he is both an officer and a gentleman, not to mention a very nice human being.  Instead, he explained his job to me and took a few minutes to discuss how computers have changed his work.  After that conversation ended, and I drifted off to say hello to other friends, I heard another women asking the Admiral about his submarine experience, proving that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get the message about the change.

When the dinner portion of the evening began, after the Color Guard displayed the flag, a technical failure meant that there was a sudden silence rather than the Star Spangled Banner.  With considerable presence of mind, the President of the Mess proposed the name of one of the guests to sing the anthem.  So it was that, instead of having a tinny recording, we ended up hearing a glorious a capella mezzo soprano rendition of our National Anthem.  That’s jury rigging with style.

The evening went as I’ve learned to expect.  We remembered those who have not returned from the wars, and there was a lot of amusing badinage around uniform and behavioral infractions.  The resulting fines all go to fund the Committee, of course, so people paid up with good cheer. It was in this portion of the evening that we I learned what happened to Cope’s shoulder boards.  It seems that, in the flurry of packing, Admiral Architzel had forgotten to bring his along.  Knowing that both a fine and some good-natured joking were in the offing, Cope nevertheless gave Admiral Architzel’s his boards to use for the evening.  Jury rigging again, folks.

As has been the case before, one of the highlights of the evening was the singing, and I’m not just talking about that surprising National Anthem.  The Intel group stunned everyone by singing their Intel song.  Not to be outdone, we were treated to an enthusiastic, if somewhat unmelodious rendition of the Coast Guard song.  The highlight of the group singing, though, was the Seabees, because this year they came prepared:  they’d provide the Vice with instrumental music, and they had their lyrics down pat.  No surprise, then, that the audience clapped along, keeping time with these two stalwart Seabee singers.

Considering that the evening was distinguished by flexibility in the face of change, it was a rather pleasant surprise to listen to Admiral Architzel’s speech, one that focused on the Navy’s adaptability.*  He began by pointing to an interesting historical confluence:  This year marks both the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (which started on June 18, 1812) and the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.

As you may recall, the War of 1812, although it ended somewhat inconclusively, numbered amongst its battles some surprising America’s victories over the British Navy in the Great Lakes battles.  In both cases (1812 and 1942), the Americans were at a disadvantage.  In 1812, the British ruled the seas.  In 1942, the Japanese thought they ruled the Pacific, having disabled or destroyed large parts of the American fleet six months earlier at Pearl Harbor.  Nevertheless, in both cases, through a combination of good training, hard work, and significant intuitive leaps, the Americans prevailed.  It was the intuitive leaps that Admiral Architzel highlighted in his speech — those moments when men, rather than following a pre-defined plan, recognized Field Marshal von Moltke’s dictum that “No plan survives its first contact with the enemy.”

Nor is that intellectual flexibility limited only to the upper ranks.  While history books celebrate the admirals, that same enthusiasm, discipline, and adaptability must travel all the way down the ranks in order for any Navy to present to the enemy a simultaneously coherent, well-trained and well-organized fight team, and an adaptable, flexible entity that can jury rig as needed to deal with the exigencies of battle. Any organization that becomes too rigidly stratified lacks the ability to adapt to changing situations and therefore to survive those changes.

The Navy, which gave birth to the very word we associate with “making do” illustrated in 1812, in 1942 and, again, last night, the flexibility is the name of the game.  And when it comes to a formal dinner, that combination of rigidly observed tradition and free-wheeling jury rigging, makes for a very enjoyable evening.


*I didn’t make notes during the Admiral’s speech.  My summary is based upon my sometimes shaky memory, so my apologies to the Admiral if I’ve misrepresented anything he said.

The Navy League has issued a call to action

Even if you’re not a member of the Navy League, I thought you’d find interesting this email I received (emphasis mine):

Navy League logo

Dear Navy Leaguer:
The sea services need our help. As you may be aware, The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated $487 billion in security cuts over the next 10 years in order to resolve the 2011 debt ceiling crisis. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have all had to delay planned acquisitions and investments in technology in order to meet these cuts and still fulfill their commitments to our national security. However, there is an even larger threat looming: sequestration.

Sequestration is the name of the additional $1.2 trillion in automatic , across the board spending cuts, scheduled over ten years to take effect beginning in January 2013. About $492 billion of that will come from defense and security budgets. These cuts will be triggered if Congress fails to produce a deficit reduction bill with at least $1.2 trillion in savings by that time.

This means that defense would absorb at least 41% of the sequestration costs despite only being 19% of the budget. The cuts beginning in January 2013 will be administered by the Office of Management and Budget, not the Congress. This denies the people the legislative process by not allowing judicious review of where cuts should be made or where funds should be applied to worthy purposes. It eliminates the ability to set priorities. Defense and security cuts for 2013 alone would amount to $54 billion.

Sequestration was never intended to happen. The impacts were intended to be so devastating that Congress would be forced to reach an agreement to prevent the trigger. Unfortunately, that has not yet happened—which is why the Navy League needs to act now to prevent severe weakening of our sea services.

The Navy League is issuing a call to action. We need each of our members to remind Congress of the need to support our sea services, and to realize that this issue matters to voters!

Here you’ll find links to all the materials needed to get you started. Talking points will give you necessary background to talk confidently about the issue. The phone script and draft letter will help you with your contacts with your Congressman and Senators. Slides on the subject are being added to Grassroots and CSOP presentations.

Please call your Congressman and Senators at their Washington, DC office, where their military and defense staff are located. If you have an established relationship with the local office, please contact them too. To contact your Congressman and Senators, visit their website ( or ). Each Member of Congress has a “Contact Me” page where you can get a mailing address, fax number or an email address. Many members have a web form, where you can copy and paste your message in a Comments box to submit. If you need assistance, contact your Legislative Affairs Regional Vice President or Sara Fuentes or Chris Bennett at Navy League headquarters ( , ;             703-528-1775      ).

Your action is needed now! We don’t have much time—these cuts go into effect in January. We need Congress to act before summer recess in July.

If you have comments or questions on this Call to Action or any Navy League matter, as always, please let me know at .

Philip L. Dunmire
National President
Navy League of the United States

Obama’s use of special forces: not just bad strategy, but a terrible way to thin out an already thin (and very elite) herd

BUDS trainees during Hell Week

Special troops are, by definition, small in number.  If everyone could do what they do, they would be special.  They are made up of men with unusual mental and physical strength.  Again, by definition this is a subset of all men.  (No disrespect meant to the majority of men who aren’t unusual in both their mental and physical strength.)  Once these men are selected, they are subject to rigorous training, training that would be impossible to give to large groups.  Special forces go beyond “the few, the proud.”  They also fall into the class of “rare and few in number.”

Given their numeric limitations, it makes sense to use special forces sparingly.  Once lost (God forbid), each member of a special forces team is very, very hard to replace.  Someone needs to tell that to the President, who, flush with SEAL Team Six’s exquisite raid on Osama (a raid that subsequently resulted in the vengeance-driven loss of many members of that same team), is tasking those guys with responsibility for Afghanistan — all of Afghanistan.  As Max Boot says:

The kinds of direct-action strikes that these units carry out are an integral part of any comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy–but they cannot substitute for the absence of such a strategy. That was the mistake we made in Iraq from 2003 to 2007 and in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009. Now it seems Obama is making that mistake again, to judge from news reports the White House is planning to lean heavily on the Special Operations Forces as they withdraw regular troops from Afghanistan. This is not a way to defeat the Taliban, the Haqqanis, and other dangerous terrorists on the cheap–it is a way to lose the war while pretending you are doing something to win it.

To which I would add that it’s also a war to squander a special breed by placing them at unreasonable risk, so that they might no longer be there when we really need them.

Military Intelligence — and so much more

Astute readers have probably figured out over the years that I’m a huge fan of our American military.  I think it’s the last institution in America that trains young people to be competent adults; that gives people, young and old, meaning and purpose in a world that’s often defined by mindless materialism; that truly serves as a defender of American liberties; that manages to transcend the divisiveness of multiculturalism (although the Obama administration is working hard to undermine the unity that binds our troops); and that functions as something of an Emily Post school, since I’ve noticed in my interactions with Coast Guard, Navy and Marine personnel (thanks to the Navy League) that our men and women in the service have lovely manners.

Yes, the last item sounds fairly silly when included in a list that celebrates the way in which the military defends freedom and makes men out of boys, but it is somehow a holistic part of the whole.  The military’s respect for its country, its mission, and its comrades also manifests itself as respect for ordinary Americans, as demonstrated through good manners.  Comparing the manners young service people show to the manners (or lack thereof) that ordinary young people show is a salutary example of the maturity and polish the military gives recruits.

In keeping with my admiration for our military, I have two posts I want to share with you.  First, a post by a former Marine describing the way he politely took to task a teacher who thought she was being clever by raising the old liberal trope that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron.  (Hat tip:  American Thinker)

I was in class some time ago when a professor made a joke about the meaning of what an oxymoron is. It means a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms. She gave some like “Act Naturally” and “Aunt Jemima Light”, but then she mentioned another that struck a chord with me. The last she said was “Military Intelligence.” The class, full of college freshmen like myself laughed at that one too. The professor knew that I was a Marine and that I had served two tours, one of which ended less than six months before, so she knew this was a mistake I would not take lightly. I saw the look on her face as she saw the look on mine.

“Ma’am, are you aware of what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” (Marine recruits do in week six of their basic training.)

Read the rest here.

Second, I would like to join with Michelle Malkin in reminding you that there is Marine you need to keep in your thoughts and prayers: SSgt Frank D. Wuterich.  Almost seven years after the fact, Wuterich still hasn’t had the opportunity to clear his name following the media uproar over the alleged Haditha massacre.  You remember the Haditha massacre, don’t you?  That was the one where the media, aided by John Murtha, accused Marines of brutally murdering civilians during a fight in Iraq, back in 2005.  Despite being publicly pilloried, all of the Haditha Marines but for SSgt Wuterich have been exonerated.  I know he will be too.

By the way, speaking of Murtha, and going back to my parenthetical in the first paragraph about the Obama administration’s efforts to destroy our military from the inside out, I’m sure you will be as happy as our armed forces probably are to know that the Navy named a ship after Murtha.  Do you think that if I also accuse our troops of “killing innocent civilians in cold blood,” they’d name a ship after me?