VADM Crowder, Retired GOFOs, Double Standards, and Cognitive Dissonance

Trotsky

In the November 2015 issue of USNI Proceedings magazine, retired VADM Douglas Crowder asserted that retired Flag and General Officers should refrain from engaging in the political process , “stay on the sidelines, and away from public endorsements” of candidates in a general election.  In his “Hear This”, Crowder seems to believe the genesis of such activity was Admiral William Crowe’s endorsement of Bill Clinton.  In reality, however, such activities on the part of retired Generals and Admirals, including their entry into the political process as national candidates, goes back to the founding of our Republic.   There has never been a Constitutional prohibition on retired GOFOs participating in the political process, up to and including using the titles of rank that they have earned in the expression of their views and opinions.

For some reason, we are suddenly hearing that such Constitutionally-protected free speech is now “dangerous”, that it could lead to a “politicization” of the Armed Forces.   General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior Officer on the active list, intimated such when he called that free speech “unhelpful”,  and later scolded retired GOFOs for exercising their rights.  Apparently he missed the irony of an active agent of the US Government engaging in behavior that has a “chilling effect” on free speech, conduct expressly forbidden as a violation of the very Constitution which Dempsey swore an oath to support and defend.  Indeed, Dempsey’s immoderate and despicable conduct illustrates the two things very wrong with VADM Crowder’s admonitions.  The first is that there is virtually no complaint or outcry when a GOFO goes on record, either in print or the visual media, expressing support for the far-left agenda.   As an example, the gay and lesbian retired GOFOs who openly advocated repeal of DADT were described as being “courageous”, some were even lauded at Obama’s State of the Union addresses.  So how is it that, when contrary to the agenda of the far-left, such political expression becomes dangerous?   It can’t be.  Unless there is a double standard when it comes to Constitutional liberties.  Heaven forfend.   And, here is where the cognitive dissonance begins.   In this month’s Proceedings, Navy Commander Michael Wisecup cautions us on such dangers of retired GOFOs:

“…think of the implications to our profession if a political party could endorse and groom select active-duty (O)fficers into greater positions of authority in order to advocate for their platform.”

Which brings us to the far more disturbing issue that is wrong with VADM Crowder’s (and CDR Wisecup’s) assertions.  They have little to do with the true danger, the increasing trend of active-duty Officers carrying the political water for their masters.  Warning of the dangers of the lawful free expression assiduously ignores damage being done by the increasingly-politicized GOFO ranks at the top of our Armed Forces under Barack Obama.  Advocate for political platforms?  Are you kidding me?  Such instances are impossible to miss.

  • Martin Dempsey’s admonition against lawful free expression was not limited to simply criticism of retired GOFOs who are private citizens.  No, General Dempsey, while in the execution of his duties as an active duty  Military Officer, admonished a PRIVATE CITIZEN to desist from lawful free expression that the General found disagreeable.  Dempsey should have been relieved of his duties.  Had he had such objections to retired GOFOs speaking out in support of the far-left agenda of his political master, he would have been relieved had he not kept his mouth shut.
  • Admiral Mike Mullen’s shameful charade in front of Congress, when he offered, unprompted, his personal views on repeal of DADT, and proceeded to inform the US Military that any disagreement with them would be considered lack of integrity.  Such arrogance and poor judgment also should have been met with censure, but instead Mullen was declared a hero for advancing the political agenda of the far left.  That he lost any remaining respect from many of those he was charged with leading mattered little to him.  Mullen did, however, admonish Army MajGen Mixon for advising his soldiers to utilize their Constitutional rights in addressing their Congressional representatives.
  • After the Islamist terrorist act at Fort Hood in 2009,  in which Maj Nidal Hasan screamed “Allahu Akbar!” while shooting 45 Americans, mostly service members, 13 of them fatally, Army Chief of Staff Casey never addressed how a known Islamist extremist might have been accessed into his Army, or how he managed to be promoted to Major.  Instead, in an act of pathetic political sycophancy, Casey hoped the Islamist terrorism (still called “workplace violence”) would not affect US Army diversity efforts.
  • Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, also pushed incessantly for the codified racial and sexual discrimination known as “diversity”, instead of ensuring the United States Navy was organized, trained, and equipped to fight a war at sea.  The Navy, following his tenure as CNO, is woefully unprepared for such an eventuality.  However, it seemed far more important to Roughead that the Navy “looked like America”, selecting and promoting its leaders on criteria other than merit and suitability.  Race and gender (and sexual preference) have replaced competence and performance.  The mess Roughead made will take a decade to clean up, if it even can be.
  • In the midst of a sabre-rattling North Korea, with its rapidly increasing ballistic missile capability and nuclear weapons development, and a PLA Navy becoming ever more aggressive and capable, openly hostile to US interests and that of our allies in the Pacific Rim, COMUSPACOM Admiral Sam Locklear declared that the biggest security threat facing his forces was…….   global warming.
  • As part of the debacle of being relieved for cause as COMUSFOR-A, (ironically, because he and his Officers were highly critical of political leadership) Army General Stanley McChrystal let it be known he had voted for Barack Obama.  Revealing whom one voted for while speaking as an active duty Officer was once considered a serious taboo.  In fact, I don’t know if I can recall any senior Officer acknowledging such quite so publicly.  To the surprise of nobody, as soon as he retired, McCrystal went on to rail about his support for gun control and other leftist agenda items.  Nary a peep of protest from Dempsey.
  • Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USMC General “Hoss” Cartwright openly described Constitutional limitations to the authority of the Defense Department as “obstacles” to mission accomplishment rather than necessary bulwarks for the preservation of individual liberties.  In what context?  To push Barack Obama’s July 2009 agenda to expand the authority of Government over the internet, specifically privately-owned networks and information infrastructure.

Advocating for political platforms, indeed.  Yes, it is sometimes a tricky course to navigate, to follow the orders of the President as Commander in Chief, without being an active agent in his advancing a domestic political agenda.  But that is why much is expected (or had been, at least) of the professionalism and judgment of senior Officers.  Admiral William Leahy, despite his personal bent toward Republican conservatism, was able to serve his President, New-Dealer Franklin Roosevelt, loyally and superbly throughout the Second World War.  As did Dwight Eisenhower, who would become the Republican nominee in 1952.   There seem to be an ever-shrinking number of GOFOs in the higher ranks of our military with the character and willingness to do so.

The increasing politicization of the senior leadership of the Armed Forces of the United States means such egregious political pandering and subversion of our Constitution will increase, not decrease.  Yet, people like VADM Crowder and CDR Wisecup seem to think it is the RETIRED GOFOs that pose the danger to seeing our Armed Forces become yet another government weapon to be used against political opposition instead of fighting and winning our nation’s wars against America’s enemies.   I find that quite concerning.  Once again, just like we are told after yet another act of Islamist terrorism that law-abiding Americans are to blame for exercising their Constitutional liberties under the Second Amendment, it is actually the GOFO retirees who are the problem, not the invertebrate political lap-dogs on active duty doing the bidding of the left, and that those retirees should refrain from exercising their Constitutional liberties under the First Amendment.    Each of those assertions requires the embracing of a dangerous double standard.   And each requires a generous helping of cognitive dissonance.  A disturbing trend, to be sure.

 

20 November 1943 Tarawa; Keep Moving

Originally posted 20 November 2009:

The buildings in the “regimental area” of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina are modest, post-war brick buildings that, to the visitor’s eye, look more or less alike. Yet, each of the Marine Regiments of the Second Marine Division has its own storied history and battle honors.  As Captain J. W. Thomason wrote in his Great War masterpiece Fix Bayonets, these histories represent the “…traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as Regiments hand down forever.”

There are symbols of these honors for one to see, if you know where to look. On a thousand trips past those symbols, there is one that never failed to make me pause and reflect. On the headquarters building for the 2d Marine Regiment hangs their unit crest. Aside from the unit name, the crest contains only three words. They are in English and not Latin, and they are not a catch phrase nor a bold proclamation of a warrior philosophy. They are simple and stark. Across the top of the unit crest is the word “TARAWA”. And at the bottom, the grim admonition, “KEEP MOVING”.

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It was 66 years ago on this date that the Second Marine Division began the assault on Betio Island, in the Tarawa Atoll. The island, roughly two thirds of the size of my college’s small campus, was the most heavily fortified beach in the world. Of the Second Marine Division, the 2nd Marine Regiment (known as “Second Marines”) landed two battalions abreast on beaches Red 1 and Red 2. The assault began what was described as “seventy-six stark and bitter hours” of the most brutal combat of the Pacific War. More than 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed, nearly 2,300 wounded, along with nearly 5,000 Japanese dead, in the maelstrom of heat, sand, fire, and smoke that was Betio.

Assault on Betio's Northern beaches

Assault on Betio’s Northern beaches

Marine Dead on Beach Red 1

Marine Dead on Beach Red 1

I will not detail the fighting for Betio here, as there are many other sources for that information. Nor will I debate whether the terrible price paid for Betio was too high. What cannot be debated is the extraordinary heroism of the Marines and Sailors who fought to secure the 1.1 square miles of baking sand and wrest it from the grasp of an entrenched, fortified, and determined enemy. The fighting was described as “utmost savagery”, and casualties among Marine officers and NCOs were extremely high. As one Marine stated, initiative and courage were absolute necessities. Corporals commanded platoons, and Staff Sergeants, companies.

Marines assault over coconut log wall on Beach Red 2

Marines assault over coconut log wall on Beach Red 2

The book by the late Robert Sherrod, “Tarawa, The Story of a Battle”, is a magnificent read. Another is Eric Hammel’s “76 Hours”. Also “Utmost Savagery”, by Joe Alexander, who additionally produced the WWII commemorative “Across the Reef”, an excellent compilation of primary source material. For video, The History Channel produced a 50th anniversary documentary on the battle, titled “Death Tide at Tarawa”, in November 1993. I also highly recommend finding and watching this superb production. It is narrated by Edward Hermann, and interviews many of the battle’s veterans, including Robert Sherrod, MajGen Mike Ryan, and others, who provide chilling and inspiring commentary of the fighting and of the terrible carnage of those three days.

 Master Sgt. James M. Fawcett, left and Capt. Kyle Corcoran salute Fawcett's father's ashes on Red Beach 1. MSgt Fawcett's father landed on Red 1 on 20 Nov 1943.

Master Sgt. James M. Fawcett, left and Capt. Kyle Corcoran salute Fawcett’s father’s ashes on Red Beach 1. MSgt Fawcett’s father landed on Red 1 on 20 Nov 1943.

Tarawa remains a proud and grim chapter in the battle histories of the units of the Second Marine Division. Each outfit, the 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 10th Marines, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Tracks, and miscellaneous support units, fought superbly against frightful odds and a fearsome enemy. It is on the Unit Crest of the 2nd Marines, whose battalions paid the highest price for Betio, that the most poignant of those histories is remembered. Three simple words: “TARAWA; KEEP MOVING”.

 

What a Statesman Sounds Like

The contrast with our President is stark indeed.  A clear and rational petition for the safety and existence of his nation and his people.

Small wonder that Obama and the far-left Democrats objected so much to Netanyahu’s appeal for the survival of Israel.  We get the Cairo speech, and “don’t insult Islam”.

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What’s some of the reaction to Netanyahu’s speech from the Arab world?

Tzvi Yechezkieli, the Arab affairs expert of Channel 10, said that many Arab commentators supported the content of Netanyahu’s speech. He cited a commentator on Al-Arabiya TV, who had said that he could have written a large part of the speech.

Yechezkieli said that the Arab countries are convinced that Obama will not safeguard their security interests in the current negotiations with Iran and will not protect them against Iranian aggression.

The above is not isolated opinion, either.  There was this on Bibi’s speech at AIPAC:

Yesterday, Faisal J. Abbas, the powerful Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, published an editorial under the headline: “President Obama, listen to Netanyahu on Iran.” Abbas’ editorial was a reaction to Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC yesterday.

He wrote: “In just a few words, Mr. Netanyahu managed to accurately summarize a clear and present danger, not just to Israel (which obviously is his concern), but to other U.S. allies in the region.”

The Saudi Daily Al-Jazirah published an article written by Dr. Ahmad Al-Faraj, who supported Netanyahu’s decision to speak to the U.S. Congress against the upcoming deal with Iran. He called Obama “one of the worst American presidents” and said that Netanyahu’s campaign against the deal is justified because it also serves the interests of the Gulf States.

Barack Obama and his fellow travelers seem to be the only ones, aside from Iran, that were critical of the Prime Minister’s address.

So Let's Let 'Em Have Nukes!

…what a great idea.

After all, just because they conduct naval maneuvers to practice sinking US warships is no reason to think they are hostile toward the United States.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=698f0uYzswU

Just like threatening to wipe Israel off the map is no indicator of any latent dislike of our ally.  More diplomatic success for our anti-American President.

XBoX and the Obstacle Breach

One of the most difficult tasks an armored force can face is breaching an obstacle.

Obstacles on the mechanized battlefield typically consist of an anti-tank ditch, concertina wire, and one or more minefields. Obstacles themselves aren’t expected to stop a force. Instead, they are intended to delay a force.* That imposed delay tends to leave the attacker bunched up, and vulnerable to the defenders fires, both direct and indirect.

Not surprisingly, the US Army has published quite a bit of doctrine on just how to breach such an obstacle. Also not surprisingly, for many years every brigade that went through the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin performed at least one obstacle breach mission, and usually more than one.

The problem is, it is hard to learn the complexities of a mounted breach just by reading a book, and it’s expensive as heck to get the entire brigade (or BCT today) out in the field to practice.

The Army way of learning is often described as crawl/walk/run. Crawl might be standing in a field with the manual in your hands and simply walking through the steps of a task on a very reduced scale. Walk then becomes doing it on a full scale, mounted, but at a leisurely pace, and against no opposition. Run, of course, would be the full up, full scale, full speed exercise.

The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command has established a small cell to produce training video.  The graphics are produced on a variant of XBoX games, and are used to recreate various battles or training tasks. And one of them is the Obstacle Breach.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ-sCT_maAQ]

Obviously, a 2o minute video won’t replace actually reading the manuals and then going out and practicing. But it does give a decent visualization of what the discussion is about. As a supplement to to the various training aids available, it can help ensure that time and resources are not wasted in later stages of training.

H/T to :

 

 

*Actually, they are also often intended to turn a force (as in seek another avenue of movement), or channelize them on terrain of the defenders choice.

Suribachi

Four days after the bloody struggle to come ashore on Iwo Jima’s fire-swept black volcanic sand beaches, a patrol from 28th Marines was ordered to the top of the sullen volcanic lump that dominated the six square miles of sulphur and rock.  The seven-man patrol under the Executive Officer of Easy Company, 28th Marines raised a small flag.  The flag, difficult to see from the beach, was replaced by a larger one retrieved from one of the LSTs offshore supporting the landing.  Five Marines and one Navy Corpsman labored under fire to plant the larger colors into the rocky ground. The raising of the second, larger flag was captured by Joe Rosenthal, and became the most iconic and reproduced image in the history of photography.

Iwo

Many commonly believe that the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi signaled the end of the fight for Iwo Jima.  In reality, twenty-two more days of relentless and ferocious savagery lay ahead.  It was not until 26 March 1945 that Iwo Jima was declared secured.  Of the six men who raised the flag on Suribachi, three, Sgt Mike Strank, Cpl Harlan Block, and PFC Franklin Sousley, would die on the island, along with more than 6,800 others, mostly Marines.  A fourth flag raiser, Second Class Hospital Corpsman John Bradley, was among the more than 19,000 wounded.   The man who took the motion picture footage from the same vantage as Rosenthal, Marine Combat Cameraman Bill Genaust, was later killed in one of Suribachi’s hundreds of caves.

Bradley received a Navy Cross for his actions in combat on 21 February, and Strank a Bronze Star.  Bill Genaust also received a Bronze Star.

The above movie is the approximately 20 minute production called “To the Shores of Iwo Jima”.  Well worth the time, as it is a grim and unvarnished look at the titanic struggle for Iwo.  Seldom have the words of a senior officer been so accurate, or heartfelt, as when Admiral Chester Nimitz described the fight for the island.

Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue

Vice Admiral Rowden's Message

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You can read the text of it over at Salamander’s place.  Micromanagement?  Possibly.  Necessary?  Some folks, among which is a guy named Greenert, seem to think so.  From where I sit, it seems there is some serious concern (finally) on the part of Navy leadership from the CNO on down, including SURFPAC, that our numbered Fleet Commanders don’t know how to fight their fleets, that Task Force Commanders do not know how to fight their task forces, nor Battle Group Commanders their Battle Groups, or individual COs and Officers, their warships.   There is, it is suspected, a lack of understanding of warfighting at all levels.  From the Operational Arts, to doctrine and tactics, down to techniques, and procedures, there is an alarming lack of understanding in areas for which we should strive for mastery.  In addition, it is likely that there is serious question about the true state of readiness of our fleet and the ships and aircraft (and Sailors) which comprise it.  Maintenance, training, proficiency, mindset, all these are suspect.

SandF2Oct14

I think SURFPAC’s message is a very good step in the right direction.  It may also shake out the most egregious impediments to training for war, both self-inflicted and externally imposed.  This includes peripheral tasks that take up inordinate time and attention, maintenance and manpower shortcomings that render weapons and engineering systems non-mission capable, and jumping through burdensome administrative hoops required to perform the most basic of combat training.

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I cannot say whether or not VADM Rowden dislikes Mission Command.  I hope that he does not, because the ability of junior commanders to take the initiative and act boldly across widely-flung battlefields in the absence of orders has been the critical element of success for many centuries.  But Mission Command requires junior leaders who are positively imbued in their craft, and senior leaders who understand what must be done and can clearly express their intent (and then have the courage to trust their subordinates).   The entirety of the US Navy, more so perhaps than the other services, must rely on such leadership for its survival in combat with an enemy.  Unfortunately, the Navy may be the service that has become the most over-supervised and zero-defect-laden bastion of micromanagement in all of DoD.

Gunnery training aboard U.S.S. Astoria (CA-34), spring 1942.

Vice Admiral Rowden’s message has an almost desperate tone to it.   As if, to quote Service, Navy leadership realizes that it is later than you think.  One cannot help but be reminded of the myriad comments from US cruiser sailors in 1942.  Following initial and deadly encounters with a skilled and fearsome Japanese Navy in the waters off the Solomons, many deckplate sailors swore they would never again bitch about the seemingly incessant gunnery and damage control drills that interrupted their shipboard lives.    Like 1942, a Naval clash against a near-peer who can muster temporary advantage will be a costly affair where even the winner is badly bloodied.  Unlike 1942, there is no flood of new warships on the slips which can make good such losses.

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Words from an earlier post of USS Hugh W. Hadley, on the picket line off Okinawa, reinforce the importance of what VADM Rowden wants:

LESSONS LEARNED, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:

                      1.  It must be impressed that constant daily drills in damage control using all personnel on the ship and especially those who are not in the regular damage control parties will prove of  value when emergencies occur.  The various emergency pumps which were on board were used effectively to put out fires.  Damage control schools proved their great value and every member of the crew is now praising this training.

                      2.  I was amazed at the performance of the 40 and 20 guns.  Contrary to my expectation, those smaller guns shot down the bulk of the enemy planes. Daily the crews had dinned into their minds the following order “LEAD THAT  PLANE”.  Signs were painted at the gun stations as follows “LEAD THAT PLANE”.  It worked, they led and the planes flew right through our projectiles.

Not the things of (fill in the blank) History Month or of SAPR or “diversity” training….

North Korea Fires Russian SS-N-25 Switchblade ASCMs

ss-n-25-switchblade

Yesterday, the Korean People’s Navy (KPN) successfully fired three supposedly indigenously-developed anti-ship cruise missiles into the East Sea out to a range of approximately 200 km.  While the DPRK may claim the missiles are a home-made design, analysts say they are in actuality Russian export-variety Kh-35E Uran ASCMs (NATO codename SS-N-25 Switchblade).  The Kh-35 series is a close equivalent to the US AGM-84 Harpoon missile, being slightly smaller and with a lighter warhead (360 lbs) than the Harpoon (488  lbs).

It is possible that the newly-cultivated relationship between Putin’s Russia and the DPRK is bearing fruit for both entities.  This weapon system, if successfully integrated into the DPRK arsenal, represents a significant and problematic upgrade to North Korea’s offensive and defensive capabilities.  The SS-N-25 Switchblade has a seeker head very comparable to the deadly 3M-54 Klub (NATO codename SS-N-27 Sizzler), with both a radar homing and anti-radiation ability which can acquire out to 50km.

The fielding of significant numbers of SS-N-25s represents a multi-generational upgrade for the DPRK, the majority of whose ASCM inventories consist of obsolete SS-N-2 Styx and smaller (and shorter-ranged) C 801 and C 802 systems.  It is likely that the new capabilities will be employed in shore-based systems, greatly expanding both range and lethality of DPRK coastal defenses.  In addition, the plentiful but obsolescent smaller ships and craft of the Korean People’s Navy (corvettes, PTG/PG and Fast Attack Craft) configured to carry the SS-N-25 suddenly multiply exponentially their combat potential in a surface fight.  Ditto the obsolete IL-28s and other older aircraft of the Air Force, should they be configured to carry the Switchblade.

Should it come to pass that the SS-N-25 eventually comprises a major part of the DPRK ASCM inventory (courtesy of the Russians), a hard problem just got harder.   Just in time to shrink our Navy below 250 ships.

Lexington's Incomplete Modernization and Her Sinking At Coral Sea

CV-2_Lexington_and_CV-3_Saratoga

When the massive hulls of battlecruisers Lexington (CC-1) and Saratoga (CC-2) were designated to be completed as aircraft carriers  under provisions of the 1922 Washington Treaty, they represented a multi-generational leap forward for aircraft carrier design.  Eight hundred and eighty-eight feet long and displacing more than 44,000 tons loaded, these sleek monsters were capable of 33+ knots (some tales that Sara and Lex reached 40 knots during Fleet Problems in the late 1930s have never been verified) and could carry almost ninety aircraft.

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They were, in fact, far more modern in the 1920s than the fragile and short-range airplanes they carried.  Other than the mammoth IJN Shinano (built on the hull of the third Yamato), which never operated with aircraft, Lexington and Saratoga were the largest aircraft carriers built until the Midways entered service post-war.  They were 12 knots faster than the battle fleet, and potentially capable of powerful, far-ranging strikes not conceived of before they entered service.

USS Lexington Class Firing

The design of Lex and Sara was still largely experimental, and contained some oddities that time and experience would either correct or eliminate.  Famously, these two aircraft carriers were armed with a heavy cruiser’s guns.  Each carried eight 8-inch/55 caliber Mk IX naval rifles in specially contrived twin mounts.  The gun housings lacked armor, consisting of little more than splinter shields, in order to save topside weight.  (While the mounting of heavy caliber guns seems in retrospect an anachronism, doubts about the ability of aircraft to actually engage and sink surface ships who might cross paths with the carriers were well founded in the early 1920s.  Despite Billy Mitchell’s experiments, the age of dominance of air power had not yet arrived for the world’s navies.  Indeed, the loss of HMS Glorious in 1940 and the sinking of three more aircraft carriers by gunfire over the course of the war might give more justification to the heavy main battery than commonly believed.)  The aligning of the centerline of the flight deck with the hull centerline was discovered to necessitate significant ballast to port to offset the weight of the island.  All future designs, starting with Ranger (CV-4) would have the appropriate offset of flight deck centerline on the hull.

5 25

Both vessels were given what was for the time a massive anti-aircraft battery.  Twelve of the new 5″/25 caliber Mk 10 AA guns were fitted, six on each side in single mounts, and controlled by the then-state of the art Mk 19 director.   A number of .50 (12.7mm) caliber machine guns installed in 1929 comprised the sole light AA capability.   As the size, speed, and lethality of carrier aircraft increased through the 1930s, however, it was soon clear that the .50 caliber machine guns were of dubious utility, and the development of the heavier 1.1″ (27.6mm) quad mount machine guns began.  Design delays in the 1.1″ AAMG were the impetus for the mounting of a number of 3″/50 caliber AA cannon until the design was ready for fielding, which occurred in early 1941.  The 1.1″ AAMG turned out to be a mixed bag.  When working properly, the 1.1″ proved effective in action, but maintenance and reliability issues, and the obvious requirement for a heavier projectile in the AA role against modern aircraft, led to the shipping of the famous twin and quad 40mm Bofors AA cannon beginning in mid-1942 on most US warships.

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However, that decision was still in the future when plans were drawn up in 1940 to modernize Lexington and Saratoga as Pacific war clouds gathered.   It was planned to remove the 8″/55 Mk IX mounts on both vessels, and replace them with four twin Mk 12 mounts carrying the highly effective 5″/38 caliber dual purpose gun mated to Mk 37 gun directors, two mounts per director.   The 5″/38 was more accurate than its predecessor, and had an effective ceiling of 37,200 feet, 10,000 feet higher than the 25 caliber gun.  In addition, the plans called for the replacement of the elderly Mk 19 directors, first developed in 1925, with the newer Mk 33.  The Mk 19 was incapable of computing for dive bombing, and was almost entirely ineffective at tracking 250-knot aircraft now fielded by the Japanese, further restricting the effectiveness of the 5″/25 to under 17,000 feet.

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The coming of war in December of 1941 meant that Lexington would be a desperately needed asset, and indeed she was active for the first four months in the Pacific war as a part of Task Force 11.  During a brief refit in late-March, 1942, Lexington’s 8″/55 mounts were landed, but the Mk 12 5″/38 mounts (and Mk 37 directors) to replace them were not installed, as Lexington was desperately needed in the fight against the Japanese Navy.  In addition, the Mk 33 directors destined for the older 5″/25 batteries were likewise not fitted.  In place of the planned 5″/38s, a temporary installation of more 1.1″ AAMGs and some 20mm Oerlikon cannon was instead completed.

Lex 42

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Photographs of Lexington as she steamed into the Battle of the Coral Sea are noteworthy for the absence of her familiar 8″/55 mounts, and omission of the 5″/38 mounts which Saratoga would receive while being repaired from torpedo damage a couple of months later.   What Lexington was left with for anti-aircraft defense was a heavy battery of older 5″/25 guns whose effectiveness was hampered by outdated fire control, and light AA in insufficient numbers to effectively defend her.   Whether this made any difference in the loss of Lexington is anyone’s guess, but the possibility certainly exists.  The mating of the 5″/38 with the Mk 37 director was the most lethal anti-aircraft combination to go to sea in World War II.   Perhaps such a combination could have caused the Japanese torpedo and dive bombers who fatally struck Lexington on 8 May 1942 to have missed, or might have destroyed them before they struck the ship.   What is indisputable, however, is that Lexington was sent into action against a modern and capable enemy with equipment and weapons that were known to be obsolete and lacking in combat effectiveness.  Operational tempo had restricted the US Navy’s ability to sufficiently modernize a capital ship to acceptable standards to meet the requirements of combat at sea.  Despite the very recent rapid expansion undertaken in America’s shipyards, the United States went to war in the first six months in the Pacific with the Navy it had, not the one it would require to fight and win.

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There is a lesson in there, somewhere.

 

U.S. Department of Defense Reading Lists

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One of my favorites on the CNO’s list.

The folks over at Small Wars Journal bring us a list of lists of DoD recommended reading. All services are well represent in addition to some of the recommend reading from Joint Commands, the CIA and Small Wars Journal itself. Most of these I’ve read and you may want to add some to your reading list for next year.

Throwing in the promo, you should be able to find not only the books at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library but also the recorded programs featuring some of the authors.

Or buy them at the Amazon link at the right.