Why am I a veteran?

I wish I could honestly say I enlisted for all the most noble reasons of patriotism and service to the country and my fellow man.

I didn’t. I had other reasons as well. I wanted the paycheck and the travel and the adventure.

But I did indeed have some sense of obligation to the nation and her people when I joined.

This TED talk has been around a while, and many of you no doubt have seen it. And while the Dutch have their own history, and their own worldview on military might, I think most soldiers can at support this point of view.


Veterans Day

A tip of the hat and a thank you to URR, Craig, Phat*, Padre Dave and all you wonderful readers who know the pleasure, pride, and all too often, heartbreak, that comes with this simple statement**:

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

I’m gonna head down to Applebee’s and have a steak.

*Phat promises he’s going to start contributing soon.

**Yes, I know the oath of officer for commissioned officers is slightly different.

Happy 238th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps


The Marine Corps first recruits joined at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia on November 10, 1775. The first recruit found himself before

the bar manager, Robert Mullan. He signed the enlistment, and was instructed to go into Tun Alley and await further orders.
A few minutes pass, when another young enlistee joins him. Sitting on the curb, the second fellow asks the first, “So, what kind of chickenshit outfit do you think this is gonna be?”

Says the first Marine, “Boot, let me tell you how it was in the Old Corps…”

Breitbart.com is pissing me off

There’s a lot of stuff to be outraged about, but when conservative news organizations can’t be trusted to read the WaPo or even the Navy’s own press release, their credibility in every arena is greatly diminished.


The Washington Post reports that two American admirals, one of whom is the director of naval intelligence, are facing serious bribery charges*


Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch, the service’s top intelligence officer, and Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, the Navy’s director of intelligence operations, were placed on leave Friday, and their access to classified material was suspended, the Navy said in a statement.


Neither Branch nor Loveless has been charged with a crime or service violation, and both men retain their rank while the investigation proceeds, the Navy said. The decision to suspend their access to classified information was made by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. (emphasis mine-XBrad)

Not “bribery charges.”  Access pulled, and under investigation.

This isn’t hard to get right. I expect the MSM to do a terrible job reporting on defense. But given the great numbers of milbloggers out there, it shouldn’t be hard for Breitbart.com to tap one to review a post to make sure it isn’t completely FUBAR’d.

Tighten up, guys.

*Also, take a look at the URL. It would clearly imply the Admirals were bribed with hookers and Lady Gaga tickets. To date, there is absolutely NO EVIDENCE in the public realm that this is so.

USAV John U. D. Page

It’s not often I come across a type of ship in US service I’d never heard of before.

In the mid-1960s, the Roll-On/Roll-Off (RO/RO) type of transport vessel was first designed, the early example being USNS Comet. Trucks and tanks and other vehicles would simply be driven aboard a ship and parked. It was originally seen as a way of reducing the number of times a given cargo would have to be handled. Rather than unloading truckloads of cargo onto a ship and then unloading said cargoes off the ship into a truck at the destination, the reasoning was that loaded trucks could simply be shipped.

As a method of moving cargo, it was fairly inefficient The container carrying cargo ship would address that need in a far more efficient manner in just a few years.

But it was hardly a failure, as it turned out RO/RO was an excellent way of transporting the vehicles themselves to a theater of war.

If the RO/RO could berth in an established port, no problem. Simply lower the ramp to the quayside, and drive the vehicles off.

But many theaters, such as Vietnam, had only the most primitive port facilities, and often not even that. Another method of delivering the vehicles from ship to shore would be needed. The Army’s small LCM and LCU beaching craft would simply unable to unload vehicles fast enough.

Accordingly, the Army (the lead DoD agency for Over The Shore Logistics) developed the Beach Discharge Lighter.  Named the US Army Vessel John U.D. Page, the BDL was 338 feet long and displaced about 2000 tons. A flat, open vehicle deck supported a thin center island for the ships bridge and stack. A flat open area aft was designed to mate with the stern ramp of USNS Comet. A bow ramp was designed to discharge vehicles over a beach. Cyclodial propellers* gave the BDL excellent maneuverability, and the ability to turn within her own length.

The Page entered service in 1958, and self deployed across both the Atlantic and the Pacific. She spent much of the Vietnam war in those waters, facilitating the delivery of cargo both from RO/RO ships and conventional cargo ships to unimproved ports. The Page was the only vessel of the class built, and she served until 1985.






In the picture above, you see the page alongside a US Navy LST, and they’re of comparable size. But understand that the BDL was not designed to carry vehicles and cargo on long oceanic voyages, nor was she intended to support an assault landing. She lacked the berthing and messing spaces that an LST provided for vehicle crews, and her open deck, while facilitating rapid loading and unloading, would leave vehicles vulnerable to sea and wind damage on the open ocean. Her open deck, and larger bow ramp, allow her to carry larger vehicles than the LST could, for instance, later main battle tanks such as the M60.


* Fairly common now on tugboats and ferries, the CD drive was first tested in the US on a modified LSM.

The Great White (Elephant) Fleet

Most of our readers are familiar with the Great White Fleet of US battleships that Teddy Roosevelt send on a world tour to announce the American status as a world power in the early years of the 20th century.

This is about a somewhat less successful fleet.

The American entry into World War I found the US woefully unprepared for war and not just in a military sense. The German U-Boats unrestricted attacks on shipping meant losses of merchant ships were far beyond the levels Britain could replace. Merely importing enough food to keep her people from starving was rapidly becoming impossible. Losses were approaching 25% per round trip in some cases. The entry of America to the war would mean little if the hundreds of thousands of soldiers couldn’t even be transported, and more importantly, supplied, across the Atlantic.

The US merchant marine was at an ebb. Accordingly, the United States Shipping Board, established shortly before the war, was empowered to subsidize a vast wartime mass production plan for cargo shipbuilding. Alongside the vast naval shipbuilding expansion program of 1916, the USSB soon found virtually all shipbuilding assets operating at capacity, and yet the need for more shipping continued to grow ever more urgent.

An attempt to build ever more shipping lead to the decision to build over 700 small steamships out of wood. Wood was already obsolete as material for ocean-going shipping, but the reasoning was that wooden construction would not compete for strategic materials needed elsewhere, and smaller yards not already building shipping could quickly build the wooden ships. Even if the wooden ships were small and fairly flimsy, one successful transit from America to Europe would justify the expense of the ship. The USSB’s in house marine architect. soon published plans for the Design 1001 ship, often commonly called the “Ferris” design.


No fewer than 87 yards contracted to build ships of or similar to the Ferris design. Lumber for the ships would be pre-cut and numbered offsite, simplifying the skills needed in the actual yards.  Even so, it took time to train both the lumber cutters and yard workers. Like most mass production schemes, there was a steep learning curve, and time to produce first ships took a good deal longer than later ships in the serial.

In the event, almost none of the ships were finished before the Armistice of November 1918. Hundreds of orders were cancelled, and many ships were scrapped on the slipways. Of the almost over 300 that were completed, mostly in 1919, only about 265 actually carried cargoes overseas, usually under government contract.

Then end of the war, especially combined with a global economic recession, meant there was suddenly a huge surplus of merchant shipping, and the Ferris ships, already obsolete, were suddenly worthless.

Hundreds were sold for scrapping. The wood was essentially worthless, but the steam plants and other fittings could be recovered for scrap steel and iron. One business, Western Marine and Salvage Company, bought hundreds of Ferris design ships with the intention of burning them to the waterline, salvaging the steel and fittings, then sinking the hulks in the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay to be covered with dredging spoil eventually. But eventually the stock market crash of 1929 made even scrap metal unprofitable. WM&SC went belly up, and many of the ships were left to simply rot away and sink at their moorings in a small backwater at Mallow Bay, MD, where they rest today.

Mallows Bay MD

In Case You Missed It…

While President Obama is busy pissing off long time allies like the French and Germans* both through policies that offend them, attempting to align more closely with autocratic Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, and spying on just about everybody, you might have missed another Obama “success” story.

Since World War II the US and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia have had a steady, if not always strong, alignment. And that alignment is in danger of rupture.

Saudi Arabia often strikes us more as  a “frenemy” than an ally. We all know that 15 of 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals, as was, of course, Osama bin Laden. And Saudi subjects finance radical madrasses worldwide, preaching a vision of Islam that sneers at the mores and values of our Western culture and heritage.

But the Saudi royal family, despite appearing to be an absolute monarchy, is in a difficult position. As much as they try to moderate and modernize their culture, any shift to a more liberal** stance risks seeing them overthrown by their own radical elements. The family has to walk a tightrope between maintaining relations with the West, and not inviting internal revolt.

Saudi Arabia’s single biggest external security issue is Iran. The incredibly deep schism between Sunni and Shia means Iran is an even greater threat to the kingdom than any possible internal unrest. And the specter of a nuclear armed Iran is the nightmare fuel for Saudi foreign ministry types.

Sadly, Obama seems to take at face value the extraordinarily meager crumbs of reconciliation the new Iranian president Rouhani.  This is incredibly naive, even for this feckless administration. The Iranians are clearly trying to buy time to further their nuclear weapons program. Toning down the rhetoric is an easy way to do it. That our own government can’t see that is astonishing.  Further, even in the incredible case that President Rouhani actually did wish to change the relationship between the US and Iran, such a policy decision is out of his hands. The president of Iran can do pretty much anything he wants, policy-wise, so long as it is exactly what the Supreme Ruling Council wants.

Michael Totten has a terrific post that showcases the fruits of our amatuer foreign policy, a policy so bad that it is driving Saudi Arabia away from the US, and into the arms of… who knows? He goes off the rails a bit there, but the diagnosis is spot on.

Personally, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if China was quick to make friends.

*To be honest, I’m not a bit dismayed to hear we’re spying on them. We’re supposed to spy on everybody but our own citizens.

**Not in the American political sense

Foreign Aid to Egypt to Shut Down- Should the USN Seize the Corvettes?

News is coming across the wires that US foreign aid to Egypt will be suspended, not because of the Shutdown, but in reaction to the removal of the Islamist Morsi government. Mind you, I find it insane that we’d protest the overthrow of a government completely at odds with our interests, but that’s a story for another time.

But here’s the thing. Over the last 15 years or so, the US has been working with Egypt to design and build (on our dime, and here in the US) a class of four large Fast Attack Craft– or small Corvettes, however you wish to slice that distinction. Known as the Ambassador class, they’re nice looking, modern little ships,  Some open source stuff I’ve seen says the first has been delivered.

Galrahn on his twitter feed suggested the US should seize them and turn them over to the USN.

And there’s ample precedent for this. The four modified Spruance class destroyers built for the Shah of Iran were seized and entered service with the US Navy as the Kidd class, and provided yeoman service for 20 years.

While the Ambassadors weren’t designed for US Navy use, most of their systems share a fair amount of built-in interoperability. Further, they’d be pretty handy forward deployed in restricted waters, say, in the Persian Gulf, especially where they could routinely call on carrier or land based air support.


The worst part about returning from a road trip is the list of chores longer than the trip I just took!


MoH recipient Dakota Meyer interested in running for Congress.

I think the last MoH in Congress was Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey.


Our post clear back in July on the Future Vertical Lift program prompted an email from the PAO, with the following press announcement.

[scribd id=172861825 key=key-vmyxs8kit7hlm0cnlf9 mode=scroll]

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether that fully allays the fear of a technology demonstration program being leveraged into a prototyping and procurement program.


God knows I think the service academies should get out of the NCAA Div I football business, but this is just more #ShutDownKabuki.

Why is the government shuttering events and places NOT funded via appropriated funds?


I think there is a place for a small corvette or light frigate in our fleet structure. But Lazarus at Information Dissemination is spot on that our Navy can get by without them, but it would be disastrous to build our fleet around them.

He’s on a little weaker ground on the LCS front, where I think we get the worst of both worlds, but then, I don’t think he’s explicitly endorsing LCS. Just noting one of the drivers for increased size.


Hopefully I can catch up on chores soon, and post some more pics of Sox. What else do you want to talk about?

MG Scales on Intervention in Syria

I mostly know retired Major General Scales as the author of the official US Army history of Desert Storm. He’s also written several opinion pieces and essays. I tend to respect his opinion.

So when CDR Salamander links to his thoughts on a possible US intervention in Syria, I pay attention.

They are tired of wannabe soldiers who remain enamored of the lure of bloodless machine warfare. “Look,” one told me, “if you want to end this decisively, send in the troops and let them defeat the Syrian army. If the nation doesn’t think Syria is worth serious commitment, then leave them alone.”
They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.

Over the past few days, the opinions of officers confiding in me have changed to some degree. Resignation seems to be creeping into their sense of outrage. One officer told me: “To hell with them. If this guy wants this war, then let him have it. Looks like no one will get hurt anyway.”

If the services are ordered to strike, they’ll do the best they can.

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URR has railed again and again about the spinelessness of GEN Dempsey. For him to say in front of Congress that he has no idea of what any possible US strategic objective is in Syria is a deliberate statement that the White House is clueless. I can assure you, it was no slip of the tongue, or off the cuff statement. After being a toady for the current administration’s policies for so long, one can only assume it is a sign of extraordinary frustration with the puerile thinking of the national security “leadership” in the Obama White House.