All posts in “history lessons”

Happy Independence Day America!


O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her.—Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.

– Thomas Paine, Common Sense 1776


Midway 74 Years Later and the Dauntless on My Desk


In every battle there is a moment when the combatants, and the world, seem to catch their breath. It is a fleeting moment, lost in the blink of an eye. But in that same blink, everything changes. Such moments are borne of desperation, of courage, of plain dumb luck. But they are pivotal —  for what was before is forever changed afterwards.  – SJS

SDB-3Of the 200-some odd models that populate my study and other places around the house, there is but one on my desk. It isn’t a plane that I have flown (though not for a lack of desire), nor is it even one I have had a working relationship with when I was on active duty. Indeed, it is one I have yet to even see in person except in a museum. That plane? It is an SBD-3 Dauntless but not just any Dauntless. It is in the colors and markings of the VB-5 “Black B1″ Dauntless flown by LT Dick Best at Midway. The reasons I have it there are manifold and it serves as a daily reminder thereto, some of which are gathered and summed below.

“As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
– Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, December 2004

The Navy in 1942 was very much that kind of Navy — the one you have (had). Ships and aircraft that were in transition from an earlier age of technology and warfighting that hadn’t quite got the kinks worked out, whose replacements that did were still on the drafting boards or just now beginning construction and were months, if not years away from combat. Tactics that had been developed by “disruptive” innovators that had, as yet, to be fully tested in battle. A command structure that suddenly found itself engaged in worldwide fleet and joint operations. In light of these conditions, several actions had to occur prior to 4 June 1942 to enable the American victory at Midway.

Command and Planning. A theater commander, not a remote staff in Washington, needed to run the war in his theater at the operational level and below. Nimitz understood his forces and his commanders. He knew the thin line by which they hung and yet he trusted his task force commanders and their subordinates to be both aggressive and calculating in carrying the fight to the enemy, as epitomized in his OPORD for the coming battle:

In carrying out the task assigned, you will be governed by the principle of calculated risk, which you shall interpret to mean the avoidance of exposure of our forces without good prospect on inflicting, as a result of such exposure, greater damage on the enemy.

In studied contrast to the run-up for the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese planning for Midway was poorly thought out, egregiously evaluated, gamed and haphazardly executed (cf: the entire submarine picket plan). Indeed, it was put together and executed in such a toxic atmosphere of arrogance and bluster that even when one of the final wargame sessions showed American forces gaining an upper-hand because of gaps in the air search pattern, referees for the wargame manipulated the environment and other factors to bring about a successful conclusion for Kido Butai. As for dealing with changing factors at sea, commanders were loath to step outside the boundaries of the plan and demonstrate initiative. In studied contrast were the actions of the Americans from Nimitz’s orders based on calculated risk to Dick Best’s last minute change in targets. Curiously, the Japanese in planning a double prong approach with the diversionary strike at the Aleutians also broke one of their founding principles – that of concentration of forces. By diverting forces on a mission of questionable value and success for territory that would prove to be exceptionally harsh on man and machine they gained little, if any strategic value outside of propaganda for an over-wrought plan of entrapment.

One other, not inconsiderable item was the quality of intelligence and analysis provided, especially that of the cryptological staff hand-picked and led by CDR Joe Rochefort and LCDR Ed Layton. Much is made of the means by which they tricked the Japanese into revealing Midway as the intended target, thereby allowing Nimitz and Spruance to position the numerically smaller US forces to gain maximum advantage in the coming fight. Yet, again, one doesn’t just snap the fingers and wish this into existence. Rochefort and Layton were in this position because of recognition by their leaders, early in their respective careers as JOs possessing a particular or unique set of skills that needed to be developed and nurtured; skills that didn’t conform to what passed for the “traditional” career path and so incurred some risk on the part of the two officers in embarking on the same, especially in the fiscally austere climate of the late 20’s and 30’s in a Service not given to iconoclasts (or at least advancig their careers). Key to this discussion was the fact both officers spent time in country learning their Japanese language skills, underscoring the concept of understanding a culture and its nuances in addition to learning a language. In time, this understanding paid dividends as Nimitz encouraged Rochefort to think like the Japanese commander. All too often in the “modern” Navy we find such persons are marginalized and squirreled away in a niche many times as terminal O-4/O-5s because their utility and talents are poorly understood, ineffectually applied and careers haphazardly managed. So much so that when an intelligence gap is revealed, the system goes overboard and fills numerical gaps while papering over the quality ones. I have to wonder, even today, how many “analysts” are given over to a full, deep study of Chinese language, history and culture, to arrive at a fuller appreciation of Chinese strategic thought and execution, not unlike  their Russian cohorts (who, once the Cold War was over, were widely purged as being “unnecessary in the new peace” – Reset anyone? – SJS). My answer of late seems to be — not much as it seems individuals, groups and whole organizations are caught up in the wonderment of bright shiny objects (niche weapons) without an understanding of their purpose, application and the human factors behind them.

Flexibility and Adaptation to Changing Conditions. American plans for coordinated/supporting attacks on the Japanese were quite literally shot to hell with missed rendezvous, difficulty in locating the CVs and key elements (e.g., the torpedo attack) failing, as it was cut to pieces by Kido Butai‘s protective cover offered by fighters and AA. Even for the few that got off an attack before meeting the eternal deep, the torpedoes failed to properly arm and detonate; a reflection in no small measure of pre-war testing precepts and assumptions. Carefully crafted, scripted and geographically limited tests that ensured success in peacetime testing utterly failed the Fleet when it came time to put the weapon to the test in war, and at tremendous cost in lives and equipment.

All stop.

In case you passed lightly over that last, let me pause to re-emphasize that point — Carefully crafted, scripted and geographically limited tests that ensured success in peacetime testing utterly failed the Fleet when it came time to put the weapon to the test in war, and at tremendous cost in lives and equipment. By the way, this does cut both ways as adversaries then and now were and are prone to the same shortcoming.

In contrast, the Navy’s carrier-based dive bombers on the decks of Enterprise, Yorktown and Hornet represented a challenging, evolutionary process grounded in revolutionary views of naval warfare.

From 1923 to 1940, the US Navy conducted 21 Fleet Problems as it sought to understand, exploit and incorporate new technologies and capabilities while developing the tactics, training and procedures to employ the same should war present itself which, by the 1930s, was beginning to look more and more likely to the discerning observer. Conducted in all the major waters adjacent to the US, these problems covered the gamut of naval warfare from convoy duty, ASW, strike warfare and sea control. Most important, at least to this writer, was that this was the laboratory that tested the emerging idea of putting tactical aircraft at sea on board aircraft carriers. In doing so, the inherent flexibility of aviation across a broad span of warfare areas became apparent as the Navy’s leadership, rather, the Navy’s emerging leadership as epitomized by innovators from task force commanders, ship CO’s and down to squadron and section leaders, looked at naval aviation as something more than just a scouting force for the main battery of the fleet extant, namely the battleline.


12 May 1938 Three Army Air Corps B-17s intercept the Italian liner Rex (inbound to the US).


June 1942 IJN carrier Hiryu successfully evades high-altitude B-17 bombing attack.


“Midway – The Turning Point” by Stan Stokes (!blank/csac)

It was in this laboratory that the Navy developed the techniques and identified the requirements for long-range patrol aircraft and for carrier-based dive bombers, so different from the big, lumbering land-based bombers that the Air Corps’ advocates were saying would make ships obsolete by high altitude, “precision” bombing. Indeed, certain air power advocates in the military and in Congress were of a persuasion that no ship could stand to survive what these long-range, precision strike aircraft could deliver and moved to shift funds and support accordingly (Indeed, today we hear many of those same arguments ressurected against the carrier because of new classes and types of weapons whose unproven technical capabilites similarly trump what carriers could offer in defense. – SJS) Proof, however, would come at Midway when both forces were employed; the B-17s dropping their bombs from on high hit nothing but water because the fixed or cooperative targets they had practiced against in peacetime suddenly “discovered” maneuverabilty. But dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown ripped the heart out of the Kido Butai. And as the thousand-pounder from Lt Dick Best’s SBD Dauntless smashed through the Akagi‘s flight deck, a battle was turned and the course to winning a war was set. But it took visionaries to set the wheels in motion.

While the Japanese were the first to employ massed striking power using carriers and the strike at Pearl (and subsequent actions through SE Asia and the IO) validated the philosophy, they also failed to comprehend the inherent flexibility of carrier-based air and thus eschewed opportunities to utilize it in other scenarios, such as armed scouting, which in turn, led to less than robust search plans and reliance on out-dated search aircraft and methodologies.  They failed, in modern parlance, at C2ISR. The American practice of armed scouts for one, developed during the previously mentioned series of war games would prove time and again to be a critical discriminator allowing a quick first strike while alerting and enabling the larger force to disable and destroy as demonstrated in Lexington‘s strike on both Saratoga and Langley during Fleet Problem X (and replicated in Fleet Problem XI the following year), foreshadowing the American strikes on the Japanese CVs at Midway.

Training: The contrast between USN and USMC effectiveness in employing dive bombers at Midway was signatory. Using the same platform (SBD-3s) USN pilots scored major hits while minimizing losses to AA fire and fighters, whereas the Marines suffered significant losses for little, if any gain. The difference? Tactics, training and procedures or TTP. The Navy employed steep, usually greater than 70-degree, dives on the target whereas the Marines used much shallower, gliding approaches. The former minimizes your exposure time and profile to AA and challenges fighters which typically are not equipped for high angle dives, while increasing the likelihood of a hit.  Conversely, the shallower approaches employed by the Marines were more fitting to the requirements of close air support (as would be demonstrated time and again in the next few years in the Pacific island-hopping campaign). However, the anti-shipping approach requires considerable practice at obtaining the proper dive angle, avoiding target fixation and knowing how/when to pull out of the dive while avoiding over-stressing the airframe. Techniques and skills developed over time and encouraged and employed by informed and forward thinking leaders with lots of practice — underscoring the maxim about “training like you are going to fight” isn’t just a nice bulkhead slogan or Facebook meme.

Damage Control: Had the crew of the Yorktown not been so proficient in DC, particularly something as seemingly mundane as draining the avgas lines and filling them with inert gas prior to the battle of Coral Sea, the Yorktown may very well have been lost, leaving CINCPAC with only two carriers facing four, and forcing a different battle plan. Conversely, the almost lackadaisical approach the Japanese took in repairing Shokaku‘s damage or replenishing Zuikaku‘s air wing and repairing her light damage from Coral Sea’s action ensured their unavailability for Midway, keeping the balance of forces on a razor’s edge and enabling the Americans.  Damage control skills would be increasingly called upon as American forces pushed back across the Pacific in  the wake of Midway’s success.Slide1

Over the course of a twenty-six year career in the cockpit, on the bridge and ashore, each of these elements influenced and guided me; whether through self-study and actualization or in the form of guidance, direction and to use an overworked term, mentoring from others more experienced. As I progressed through studying and practicing my trade from the tactical to operational levels of war the lessons of Midway gained traction — more so in my latter years with the availability of new material and perspectives. In that time I have lived the difficulty of mustering and executing long-range war at sea strikes, even when aided by the (relatively) modern enablers of radar, UHF and SATCOM communications and networked datalinks. Of sorting friend from foe and assessing BDA and re-strike requirements. Of the difficulty in turning disparate bits of data into actionable intelligence and at the same time, understanding what we today call “left of launch” and “kill chains” – and how to defeat them through counter-ISR and -targeting efforts through operational and tactical maneuver and schemes.  Of providing reasoned discourse and advice to senior leaders who are bent on a particular agenda. Of building the “whole cloth” picture of a threat (or collection thereof) while eschewing the false certitude of a “slam dunk” in assessing the same and developing counters that may provide short term mitigation and while buying time for more effective measures in the pipeline or emerging on a thousand-plus whiteboards.

And along the way, even today in my present job, I wonder if and from whence the next Dick Best, Wade McClusky. Joe Rochefort, Ray Spruance, Chester Nimitz and Ernest J. King will come.

My earnest hope is that they are out there and when the time comes, when the battle hangs in the balance, when that moment of despair, courage or plain dumb luck offers the opportunity to turn events on their ear and gain the upper hand, that they will seize it with vigor and exploit it in the traditions of our Service.

As was done 74 years ago at Midway.



“The Last Full Measure of Devotion…”


“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”           – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg 19 Nov 1863

From the commons at Lexington and Concord to the gray, forbidding cold of the North Atlantic, the black sand beaches of a Pacific island to a shattered wood near the Marne, this nation has been blessed with generations who have answered the call, who, as Lincoln put it, gave their last full measure of devotion to the cause of Freedom as represented by the nation governed by, for and of  the people.  Some answered willingly, others less so.  For some it was danger so near that they literally dropped their plowshares to catch up their arms for to turn back the enemy.  For others a threat at once less and more defined — ideology that through militant authoritarianism sought or still seeks to spread its darkness across the continents through any means possible.  Many went; most returned while still others found eternal rest across the vast oceans.  For some that rest came in the first moments of an amphibious landing — Omaha, Tarawa and Okinawa come to mind.  To others it came in the freezing skies over Schweinfurt, Berlin, or the Yalu.  Still others in the wine dark deep of the Atlantic, the clear, tropical waters of the Pacific or a yellow brown river delta in Southeast Asia.  Others still it came closer to home — Bunker Hill, Cowpens, or a little known stretch of road in the Maryland countryside.  Sometimes the enemy had a face and a hundred bayonets  – other times it was hidden – a fuel leak, an incomplete weld and never forget the weather.  In hot and cold war, home and abroad, men and women laid down their lives for their fellow countrymen – their last full measure of devotion, and that is what this weekend is all about.  Why we call it “Memorial” Day, and why we should; why we must pause and remember.  Remember and honor not just the dead – but the cause for which they died.  For I fear that daily we let slip a little more that grasp that we must hold on what it means to be free – to enjoy the liberty we have been endowed by our Creator with the understanding that it indeed comes with a price.

Trial by Fire

We have written of that price – offered up corporate and personal remembrances over the years here — and today, collect together those we have a particular, abiding interest with, beginning with that of the trial by fire off the coast of Japan in 1945…the Franklin

Fifth ship of the Essex-class CVs.

Fifth ship named for Benjamin Franklin…

The date – 19 March 1945. Area of operations – fifty miles off the coast of Japan. Flight ops have been underway since before dawn, beginning with a strike against Honshu and another against shipping in Kobe harbor. On the flight deck, aircraft of CVG-5 are being turned around, serviced and armed for another launch and strike; in the ready rooms, the crews are briefing… 

It never takes much — it happens so fast, in the blink of an eye the world turns upside down…

Out of the low-hanging scud-layer a single Japanese aircraft suddenly appears and drops two armor-piercing bombs on the laden flightdeck….Blink. (More Here)

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Shadow Warriors

War can be hot…or cold.  The battle for information, for intelligence to better understand the adversary – their equipment, tactics, thought processes; that battle is never ending.  The price for failure is correspondingly high and recognition for those who labor in the shadows to obtain the needed knowledge is oft miniscule compared to their sacrifice:

The gap between what we know with certainty and what we conjecture (guess) is in constant flux and through time immemorial, efforts have been expended on almost infinite means to close that gap. Indeed, the driving impetus for bringing the airplane (which itself was more of a curiosity than accomplished fact in its early days) into the military were the possibilities implicit in gaining the ultimate “high ground” for scouting and reconnaissance supporting ground and naval forces. Indeed, Naval Aviation was born with the patrol/scout mission in mind.

Information collected was binned as actionable (useful in an immediate or near term sense — i.e., troop movements along the trenches, battleships seeking their opposite numbers for decisive engagements, etc.) or cataloged for longer-range/big picture use – “strategic” information if you will (and yes, we know this is a vast oversimplification). In the beginning, most of the information collected was visual — recorded observations by pilots passed at post-mission debriefs that evolved into still photography with either handheld or airframe mounted cameras.  In time it became the invisible messages and signals tracing the ether over and around the adversary’s territory.  And the adversary’s reaction to attempts to collect it frequently went “kinetic”:

  • 8 April 1950.  Soviet La-11 Fangs, shot down a VP-26 PB4Y-2 Privateer (BuNo 59645″Turbulent Turtle”). Based at Port Lyautey, French Morocco, the Privateer was on a patrol mission launched from Wiesbaden, West Germany. According the to the American account, this incident happened over the Baltic Sea off the coast of Lepija Latvia. The Soviets claimed the aircraft was intercepted over Latvia and fired on the Soviet fighters during the interception. After the fighters engaged the Privateer, the Soviets report that it descended sharply before crashing into the sea 5-10 kilometers off the coast. Wreckage was recovered, and although the Soviet pilots noted 10 parachutes, and the US mounted a search effort that eventually counted over 25 aircraft, the crew went missing and were presumed lost at sea.
  • On July 1, 1960, a Soviet MiG fighter north of Murmansk in the Barents Sea shot down a six-man RB-47 crew.  The planned route of the flight took the plane northward from England over international waters where the plane turned east and entered the Barents Sea northeast of Norway and continued a track in international waters approximately 50 miles from the Soviet Kola Peninsula. While the RB-47H was conducting its reconnaissance mission, a Soviet MiG-19 fighter assigned to the 206th Air Division based at Murmansk paralleled the USAF plane at a distance. The MiG fighter then turned towards the RB-47 on an intercept course, but passed about 3 miles behind it. The radar course plotted by Capt. McKone called for a turn to the northeast at about 50 miles off Holy Nose Cape at the bottom of the Kola Peninsula; however, the Soviet MiG had returned and was now flying in close formation (40 feet) off the right wing of the RB-47. As the RB-47 (flying at 30,000 feet and 425 knots) started its turn to the left, the MiG (piloted by Vasily Polyakov) broke right towards the Soviet shoreline (away from the RB-47), turned back towards the USAF plane and started shooting. Capt. Olmstead immediately returned fire, but the RB-47 was no match for the nimble MiG and after a brief fight, the RB-47 was shot down about 6 P.M. (local time) over international waters in the Barents Sea.  The MiG shot up the left wing, engines and fuselage in its initial firing pass causing the RB-47 to enter a spin which Major Palm and Captain Olmstead were able to pull out of; however, the MiG made a second firing pass at the plane and finished the job. Major Palm and Captain Olmstead attempted to save the plane once again, but the damage was to serious and the bail out order was given.  At least three of the six crewmen managed to eject from the stricken plane – Captains Olmstead & McKone and Major Palm. The three reconnaissance officers (Ravens) seated in the converted bomb bay of the plane were (probably) unable to get out of the spinning plane. Major Palm apparently died of exposure in the frigid water, but Captains Olmstead and McKone were able to climb into their survival rafts and lasted long enough to be picked up by a Soviet fishing vessel after more than six hours in their tiny rafts. The US Air Force, unaware that the plane had been shot down – the Soviets did not release this information for more than a week – conducted a search for the missing plane and crew from July 2nd to the 7th but no trace was found.  The plane was crewed by Major Willard Palm, Aircraft Commander; Captain Freeman Bruce Olmstead, Pilot; Captain John McKone, Navigator; and three reconnaissance officers (Ravens): Major Eugene Posa, Captain Dean Phillips & Captain Oscar Goforth (this was Goforth’s first and only operational mission).  The Soviet Union had a history of shadowing, escorting and occasionally shooting down American planes flying over international waters near its borders; in the 10 years between 1950 and 1960, about 75 US Navy and Air Force air crewmen in 10 separate incidents lost their lives flying routine reconnaissance missions.  (Arlington Cemetery)
  • With the advent of satellite reconnaissance, much of the impetus for overflight of denied territory was removed and with notable exceptions, the practice of shooting down recce aircraft operating off shore and in international waters pretty much abated during the 1960s. The notable exception is that of North Korea. Following its earlier piracy of the USS Pueblo, North Korean fighters shot down a VQ-1 EC-121 over the Sea of Japan on 15 Apr 1969 (see the full story here) with the loss of all 31 crew onboard. No explanation, much less apology or reparation has ever been offered by North Korea.
PB4Y2_shootdown_baltic wgpalm-flyover-02 vq145936

(More Here)

War from the Shadows

Sometimes the shadows of war approach either as a harbinger of what is to come:

12 October 2000 . . . When another chapter in the Long War against terror was written in the blood of the free:
The toll – Seventeen American Sailors dead: Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.; Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.; Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.; Information Systems Technician Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas; Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga; Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.; Engineman Second Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.; Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Fla; Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.; Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, of Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.; Electronics Warfare Technician First Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.; Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, Kingsville, Texas Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.; Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, Rockport, Texas; Ltjg Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss; Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md … Remembering the USS Cole

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Or sometimes it was when there appeared to be no war at all, like on one fall morning when the sky was so blue it burnt your eyes:

  • Here are our shipmates who were lost in the Navy Operations Center (NOC).  Look closely and ponder the slice of America they represent – from every corner of the country, some first generation immigrants who were refugees of war others from a long line that has served this country. None of them anticipated their fate when they left for work that morning from their homes in Virginia, Maryland or the District. From all walks of life they had come to serve and ultimately to unexpectedly die together. E Pluribus Unum. Indeed, out of many, one. Rest in peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates
  •   Today we focus on those who were from N513 (note, the Branch Chief, CAPT Bob Dolan, will be part of the post for tomorrow, 11 Sept)N513 is the Strategy & Concepts branch, part of the N51 Strategy & Policy Division of N3N5. N513’s personnel were the folks who looked at “the big picture” focusing on warfighting concepts and maritime strategies in defense of the US and our Allied partners. This is the branch that in the past had worked on the Maritime Strategy and provided the basis of the Navy’s input to the National Security Strategy among other vital documents. Husbands, fathers, sons — aviator and SWO; all were shipmates and all are missed. Rest in Peace… Remembering Fallen Shipmates – Part II (N513)
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Heros – Defined

We find ourselves in an age where heroes are declared of those who strive on the athletic field, or do some other ‘noteworthy’ thing that gets captured in the relentless 24/7 news cycle; and after a while, we find ourselves taking a jaundiced view of the word.  If every action is heroic – then none is, for by its very definition, heroic describes action that is having or showing of courage; yet another overused, oft misapplied word which itself points to a “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”  Too frequently we succumb as head-nodding masses to the false courage of someone or group taking an allegedly unpopular stance while in reality, enjoying the full, complicit support of a fawning media and uncritical or cowed public.

Until we are reminded what real heros do, whereupon we are left humbled and amazed…

“Had a lesser pilot been at the controls of Bluetail 601 last Wednesday, there might have been four memorial services this week instead of one. But Lt. Miroslav “Steve” Zilberman was one of two pilots in the cockpit of the E-2C Hawkeye as it returned from a mission over Afghanistan, heading toward the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the North Arabian Sea. The Ukrainian-born junior officer had distinguished himself during three years with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 121. He knew the plane – and its training manual – inside and out. So after one engine lost oil pressure and then failed completely; after one propeller couldn’t be adjusted to balance the plane; after it was clear that there was no way to safely land, Zilberman ordered his crew to bail out. He manually kept the Hawkeye stable as it plummeted toward the water, which allowed the three other men to escape. Time ran out before he could follow. Zilberman, 31, was declared dead three days later.”Kate Wiltrout, The Virginia Pilot, 10 April 2010

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Close to Home

Anyone who spends any amount of time in Service to the nation makes hardened, long lasting friendships that carry more import because of their shared adversity, danger and bloodshed.  There is a bond forged in the hardest steel – until they are cruelly snatched from our lives.These are the bonds forged in the early years – flight school for example, where you learn to be competitive…and still keep the competition in perspective…

CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN

Flight school is an interesting opportunity to study the human psyche in its multitude of facets. Competition is keen, at least for the first 4 or five slots in the class standing as those folks are reasonably sure of getting the community they want (it is also where one is introduced to the phrase “needs of the Service…”). For all the competition – in the classroom, in the simulator, in flight, one also has the opportunity to forge some pretty strong friendships, which years down the pike, are periodically refreshed in a chance encounter at a conference or courtesy the daily COD delivery…


Your last flight in the mighty T-2 – time is fast approaching for the meat of the syllabus and the T-39, with its dual-personality imbued by the presence of an IP and Instructor NFO awaits. Childhood’s end – adolescence’s start. Still, one more chance is offered for play before the level of seriousness is ratcheted inexorably higher. 1v1 – time to go beak to beak, to turn and burn baby. Hang the fangs out a bit and see how you do in the dynamic environment that is ACM – such as it is in a straight-winged, subsonic jet. Your sparring partner is a good friend. Came from a fighter family, he did – pops having been instrumental in the early life of that worthy steed and snoVerticalrting beast, the F-4 Phantom. Scott was his name, but everyone just called him Scooter. Along with Rich and Briggs, the four of you had torn through AI and VT-10 (and, ahem, truth be told, the environs in and around P-cola, usually with our hair on fire and late into the night, but we digress) clustered together standing-wise with grades broken out to the second decimal. If everything held, and it looked oh-so-tantalizingly so, you each were headed to your community of choice – but that was stuff for the ground. Here, now, it was you vs. Scooter, each with a VF-derived IP manning the front seat and – Fight’s On!

Inbound now, there they are – watch, watch and…call the turn. Damn! Where’d they go? OK, got’ em, but it’s going to be close. Work it – the g’s build, work it – rats, looks like they won this one. Let’s set up for a second run. Outbound we get a quick debrief and suggestions from our IP that they didn’t talk about in class.

Inbound again, visual and coming to the merge – call the turn and … got em all the way this time. A quick knife fight and a guns solution met with a “Knock it off.” One for our “W” column. Quick check of gas in both planes – time for one more run? Absolutely – go for it. More bits of knowledge, experience passed back from the front seat. Seemed pretty standoffish in the brief and the gouge was he wasn’t a screamer – but still a tough grader and not much given to serendipitous talk…are we sure they didn’t switch IP’s on us?

Here we go again – once more into the breech. This time we’re going vertical, big time. And there we are, me looking across to a mirror image pinned against the dark blue as we go vaulting off into the heavens…

CSD_IRS01b 13321907_10208518702239142_4572336410619044683_n F-14D_VF-2_Bounty_Hunters_in_flight_2002

Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute – and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found – and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life…

And sometimes – when you think it is all done, that you won’t have to face the empty seat, or raise a solemn toast ‘ere again; when you think that all the markers have been paid in full and the baton passed, Fate, the eternal hunter, cruelly reminds you once again of our mortality – returning you to a first person perspective:



I lost a friend today.

We have lost a friend, a father, husband a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of TOPGUN’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon. No word on the cause as yet.  Prayers and thoughts go out to his family please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.  Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.  And he was an accomplished one at that having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say) He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator. And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.

Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation. Ave Atque Vale 



Some few years ago, during a quiet, reflective conversation with a wise friend and fellow former-NFO about Lex, he allowed as how we are “…actually, pretty few, and we count our fellows as friends of a different sort. And so when one of us leaves, it is noticed. It is one thing to fade, fade away. It is another to be taken by the mistress, to be here, and then gone. I thought she was done with leaving me to count. So I thought.”

And on reflection I find it somewhat applicable here too.  For let us be honest with one another — this fora, and most of the others like unto it where linkage and readership will find their way onto, are kindred in spirit — we who have served (and I include families here) and have known loss “get it” – we understand and by far and away, we are the ones who observe (not celebrate) the true import of the Day.  The rest of the population — a head nod and a “thanks” during a seventh inning stretch or while reloading the cooler.  It wasn’t always so, to a large degree because so much more of the population had close, personal encounters with war and the dreadful costs it imposes and lessons it teaches about “slam dunks” and operations being run with surgeon-like precision and minimal force.  

When a nation at war was a nation mobilized for war.  

And herein lies the conundrum – because a nation mobilized for war, whose industrial base is churning out the destructive stuff that will be used by the flesh and blood marching out of the training camps, is not what I believed our founders hoped for future generations.  The seeds of incipient authoritarianism are sown in such an atmosphere — where information is tightly controlled and it becomes acceptable, even encouraged to discriminate, isolate and even incarcerate citizens because of their national extraction.

In a nation of immigrants.

Conversely, a nation that fights war on the side, where a sliver of a single digit percentage of the population wears the uniform and goes off to fight; that nation runs the risk of the Praetorian Guard which is antithetical to the citizen-soldier(sailor, airman, etc.) and fosters a sheepdog/sheep, “I Served and You Didn’t” attitude which has within it, the seeds also for destruction of a constitutional republic.  It is at once a selfish, self-centered point of view that is corrosive to the precepts this nation was founded upon.

Which brings me back to the opening lines of this post — Lincoln’s address.  This is the perspective we should — we must have going forward.  That we honor those who have given their last full measure by giving to our last full measure in all aspects of our walk on this Earth and under the flag of this nation, that their sacrifice not be in vain and that the torch of freedom and liberty is passed to succeeding generations.

May your Memorial Day be a blessed and respectfully contemplative one.



Of Heritage and Advanced Hawkeyes

“Hawkeye, Ball…”

Since the E-2A went to sea in the early 1960’s, “Hawkeye” was the name used for the ball call to the LSOs. Later iterations of the E-2C continued that practice but distinguished the a/c type by markings on the nose (a white “II” for Group 2 E-2s, or a “+” for H2Ks today). The Advanced Hawkeye, however being heavier than the E-2C required something more than just “Hawkeye” but kept to a single word. In doing so, VAW heritage was called upon and just as “Steeljaw” has been used for special evolutions for the new Hawkeye, the E-2’s predecessor, the E-1B Tracer (or WF – ‘Willie Fudd’) was called upon. Now, with an E-2D on the ball, you’ll hear “Tracer, ball…”


PLA Navy, Recruiting and Strategic Communications

Recently – earlier this week in fact, the People’s Liberation Army (Navy), or PLAN, released a new recruiting video as part of a larger push begun in early August by the PLA for more recruits – and especially those with degrees.  Pushed to YouTube and other social media, it is at once slick and highlights the latest in the PLAN and PLANAF’s inventory (or at least the best CGI can bring):

Full length video here.

The video itself is broken into four defined segments – and here is where it gets interesting. The four segments: ‘Our Dream,’ ‘Call to Duty,’ ‘Honor of Gene'(sic), and ‘Seeking Blue Dream’ are also the only segments with English subtitles, save for the ending frames, and we will see why that is particularly intriguing and cautionary in a few.  I’ve taken the liberty to excise two of the segments – ‘Call to Duty’ and ‘Honor of Gene’ (let’s just agree to call it ‘Gene of Honor’… – SJS) for a little more detailed breakdown.

But first some background.

Our (remaining) stalwart readers will recall our calling attention some five years ago to the the importance of the South China Sea (and East China Sea too) and some particularly aggressive moves and statements made by the civilian Chinese researchers and explorers at the time.  Since then – especially in the past 4-6 months, the frenetic island building campaign by the Chinese in the Spratlys and elsewhere in the SCS has (finally) started to garner world attention.  While there are any number of articles, posts, etc. available on the web and elsewhere, the single best “go to” resource I have found and strongly recommend is the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.  As described at their website:

The maritime environment in East Asia contains both promise and peril. The Indo-Pacific region is host to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, facilitates huge volumes of regional trade, and boasts abundant natural resources. Competing territorial claims, incidents between neighboring countries, and increasing militarization, however, raise the possibility that an isolated event at sea could become a geopolitical catastrophe. This is all occurring against a backdrop of relative opaqueness. Geography makes it difficult to monitor events as they occur, and there is no public, reliable authority for information on maritime developments.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative seeks to change this. AMTI was conceived of and designed by CSIS. It is an interactive, regularly-updated source for information, analysis, and policy exchange on maritime security issues in Asia. AMTI aims to promote transparency in the Indo-Pacific to dissuade assertive behavior and conflict and generate opportunities for cooperation and confidence building. Because AMTI aims to provide an objective platform for exchange, AMTI and CSIS take no position on territorial or maritime claims. For consistency, all geographic locations are identified using the naming conventions of the United States Government as determined by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. – AMTI, 8 Aug 2015

Among the very useful resources at the site is the interactive timeline covering over 175 years of history in the Asian maritime domain.  For a relatively quick (ok, a good afternoon’s worth of time) survey of the history of the region is necessary to understand the complex relationships between overlapping claims, recognitions and the blood spilled over dashed lines on the chart.  Which brings me back to the topic at hand — the recruiting video.  See, while watching there were a couple of scenes that grabbed my attention for their placement within a recruiting video.  About 0:45 into the first clip below, following an extended sequence showing a fair bit of humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) footage there is a cut to a sequence of islands – prominently featuring the Senkaku () Islands (Japan) or Diaoyu (钓鱼附属岛屿) Islands as they are called on mainland China:

Senkaku Islands

Additional imagery from what may well be the Paracel islands (in conflict with Vietnam) and Spratlys (in conflict with pretty much the rest of the SCS littoral) is followed by an orgy of ordnance from the modern day PLAN to underscore the point about capability and capacity of the PLAN.  But lest there be any doubt about China’s intent; be it prospective recruits with shaky patriotism or lesser nations and their hegemonic/interloper supporters, then the first few seconds of the second video should remove that doubt – at least that appears to be the intent.  Here is the key image:



What are you viewing?  This is a reconstruction of the naval clash that took place on 14 Mar 1988 on Johnson Reef in the Spratlys between Vietnam and China.  Accounts will vary depending on if you follow the Chinese or Vietnamese version – but PLAN film footage that surfaced around 2009 seems to validate the Vietnamese version.  In summary:

The 1988 clash at Johnson Reef saw Chinese naval frigates sink two Vietnamese ships, leaving 64 sailors dead – some shot while standing on a reef – and remains a point of friction between the two nations. But its broader significance lies in the strategic nature of the operation.

The battle’s aftermath saw China take and secure its first six holdings in the Spratlys – fortifications that remain important today, with one at Fiery Cross reef housing an early warning radar. Fourteen years earlier the PLA navy had routed the South Vietnamese navy to complete its occupation of the Paracels to the north – islands being built up into a formidable military base.
– Source: SCMP, Mar 2013

Here is a screen capture of the mostly unarmed Vietnamese workers holding their position, waist deep in water on the reef, as Chinese marines approached to move them off.


The video clip below (source) tells the rest of the story:

Sixty-four lightly and unarmed Vietnamese cut down and two transports sunk.  Hardly the heroic warship – to – warship slugfest the PLAN video made Johnson Reef out to be.  Indeed, this clip provides significant insight into the Chinese character and approach to conflict (and deterrence), especially when viewed in other engagements with India and Russia.  For those that think we can pull the Cold War playbook down off the bookshelf and use the same deterrence models – I would urge caution and a deeper study of what Kissinger called the Chinese “Offensive Deterrence” in his work, On China.

So – a recruiting video that (a) makes a case for China as a maritime nation (sequences 1 and 4) and reinforces its claims to disputed territory in the ECS/SCS via reconstructed (and retold) historical imagery interposed with images of a modern day PLAN’s range of capabilities.  I would argue it is indeed, less a recruiting video for more bodies and more a piece of educational video (“Why we need a navy”) directed at the larger domestic audience and a quiescently crafted piece of stratcom directed at China’s neighbors and you-know-who lurking over the horizon. An interesting exercise in messaging and filmaking when viewed in a vacuum – but China never does things in a vacuum.  On the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Japan, with attention of the world starting to focus in on the island building campaign in the SCS and direct pushback from the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and possible regional cooperation to counter China’s push that is gaining US support and cooperation, one can, I believe, make a strong case that this is the opening fusilade of the social media and communications war to signal China’s intent and determination as the islands reach completion and IOC.

And about that end sequence…

“Sail on the broad sea and be brave and courageous”

Oh, BTW – anyone remember this from the 2007-2008 timeframe?  Has a familiar, er, tone about it…




Flightdeck Friday — #ww2flyover


Special day today in the DMV — 50 aircraft representing all theaters of operation and Services were gathered of a flyover in observation of the 70th Anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany (VE-Day) and the defeat that followed later that summer for Japan.  YHS chose to watch the big wings (figure that) muster and launch from Manassas Regional Airport  others like Pinch took to the Mall for the flyover.  Special day for the observers – even more so for those WW2 vets who were along for the ride in the WW2 warbirds for the flyover.


C-SPAN carried the full 45 minute event.

Our own view of the CAF’s B-29, Fifi, launching for the flight:

And a nice compilation by the local CBS affiliate:

World War II aircraft flew above the National Mall as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end to World War II.

Posted by WUSA 9 on Friday, May 8, 2015





Part 1


1958 was a year of ups and downs. The world’s first satellite launched in October 1957, Sputnik, came crashing to earth with the New Year. The Cold War gets ever hotter as nuclear tests continue (35 by theSoviets alone) and the means for delivery become faster and more complex. Across the Atlantic two signatory events take place – the laying of the keel for the world’s first nuclear aircraft carrier, the ENTERPRISE, is performed in the graving dock at Newport News, VA and half a continent west, the F4H-1 Phantom takes to the sky for the first time.


Back in Russia, gleaming silver, needle nosed prototype, obviously built for speed also begins preparations for its first flight. Samolet 105, the most complex design ever undertaken by Tupolev has been ready since December 1957 for its first flight – with the exception of its engines. The powerful (for their day) NK6 engines, unconventionally housed at the base of the vertical stabilizer[1] were still in their design phase, so lesser engines would power the prototype. Even as this prototype was being readied for flight, another improved one was in production. For Tupolev, it was perhaps fortunate that newer prototype was next in line. The changes it promised, or at least were hoped for, would be needed, as it was apparent from the first flight that speed was disappointingly below expectations.


In the late 1950s, a bomber that was a sluggard would be a dead duck. “Speed is Life,” meant much to Soviet bombers in the late 1950’s. Across the Arctic ice cap, the US was building an extensive radar network that would support the surface-to-air missiles of the Nike family and family of interceptors led by the likes of the F-101 Voodoo, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-104 Starfighter and in the coming year, the F-106 Delta Dart, fast interceptors carrying missiles that packed a nuclear punch. For their part, the Americans were busy working out the bugs with their own Mach 2 supersonic bomber, the B-58 Hustler which had first flown in 1956. But more important to the leadership at Tupolev was the fact that Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, was openly dismissive of the future of manned bombers, preferring instead ballistic missiles for their much shorter flight time and invulnerability to intercept. Continued failure would take the vaunted Tupolev name and industry and leave it relegated to fighting for transport and other aeronautical scraps with Myasishchev who had failed so spectacularly with the Mya-4 (despite what the Western analysts first thought). And so something had to be done.

Tu-22B Blinder

Tu-22B Blinder

Recent wind tunnel work was revealing the precepts behind “Area rule,” the design property that gave a supersonic aircraft a wasp-waisted or “coke bottle” mid-section that reduced drag at transonic speeds.   Discovered by NACA engineer Roger Whitcomb, it is a concept widely attributed to saving the F-102 from obscurity. Area rule was applied to the Samolet 105A. Taking flight a little over a year after the -105 prototype, the physical differences between the two were readily apparent, from the cockpit to the wing and landing gear. If it seems to the reader that there was a significant amount of “reinventing the wheel” going on here – you would be correct. A major issue affecting the progress of design at Tupolev (and others) was lack of access to data being collected in other design bureaus and by the military – there was no mechanism for sharing and indeed, the OKB[2] culture was steeped in secrecy with not so much the West in mind as other OKB. So it should come as no surprise that the 105A prototype crashed on only its seventh flight due to control flutter.[3] This was a harbinger of a variety of issues that plagued the Tu-22 program. The edge of known science and engineering practice was being expanded and like programs in other countries failures were happening in unexpected areas. Not long after the control flutter loss, another was lost this time due to an engine oil line that failed. Improvements were made in line with production – the most notable being a pitch-damping feature that sought to limit wing twisting. As the outer edges of the by now named Tu-22[4], it became clear limits would have to be imposed. By far one of the most serious was aileron reversal at high Mach, so a decision was made to limit the Tu-22 to Mach 1.4. For all that, there were no attempts to address one of the most egregious features, the downward ejecting seats for the crew of three. Clearly many crew were lost because of this design, but in the quest for the holy grail of speed, the cockpit was made impossibly narrow (also affecting pilot visibility straight out the nose) and the only way to exit the aircraft was through the underside. With many of the aircraft loses coming in the landing phase of flight, it should come as no surprise that the Tu-22 soon came to have a poor reputation with aircrew to match that held by maintenance crews. In all, the Tu-22 suffered about the same number of losses as the American B-58. The difference though, came with the loss per flight hour, which was substantially greater for the Tu-22 than the B-58 because the latter enter operational service earlier and enjoyed more flight time.

 Operational Service

Tu-22 Blinder C

Tu-22 Blinder C

Service entry by the Tu-22 was marked by its appearance at the 1961 Aviation Day flyover of Moscow. The Soviet Air Force intended for dual production of two versions – the Tu-22B that was armed with freefall bombs, and the Tu-22R reconnaissance aircraft with an initial batch of 42 aircraft to be procured for 1961. In truth, production was far short of that. The Tu-22B continued to be plagued by a variety of problems and were used initially for training, finally reaching an operational regiment by Sep 1963. The Tu-22R (Blinder C in NATO’s naming methodology) followed with cameras located in the bomb bay and nose of the aircraft. These were the first Tu-22s to be accepted into naval service and naval variants numbered 80 of the 311 Tu-22R produced. The value of a fast recce aircraft for naval service is highlighted in an article published in the Naval War College Review (Winter 2014) by LCDR Maksim Tokarev. Provocatively titled Kamikazes: The Soviet Legacy LCDR Tokarev wrote that a special reconnaissance-attack group (razvedyvatel’no-udarnaya gruppa, or RUG) would be detached from the MRA[5] division formation and consists of a pair of reconnaissance bombers with a squadron of missile-equipped bombers. The recce aircraft flew low and fat to avoid ship’s radar while the others launched their ASCMs at range (even without proper targeting) to draw off the AEW and fighter protection. Presumably undetected, the two recce aircraft flew to the center of the formation and marked on top the carrier with their only task being to send the exact position via radio before being vaporized. Small numbers when losses of up to 50% of a full strike – the equivalent of an entire MRA air regiment were expected to be lost. The reality of such a CONOPS required the design and integration of a supporting missile with the Tu-22, something that wasn’t envisioned with the original aircraft. The advent of the X-32 (Kh-22 is Westernized) missile complex would change this and provide a hint of the future.

Next week: Blinders in the Kitchen, Backfires on the Horizon.



[1] Much was still being revealed about flight in the transonic and supersonic regimes at the time of the initial design of the Tu-22 prototype. Early work indicated the aircraft would pitch up around Mach 1 – a characteristic attributed to the swept wings and tai of the aircraft, hence podded engines at the base of the vertical fin was thought to reduce this tendency. Little thought was given to the maintenance implications as crews later hated to work on the aircraft for the very fact of the engine location.

[2] “Опытное конструкторское бюро” – Opytnoye Konstruktorskoye Buro, meaning Experimental Design Bureau. During the Soviet era, OKBs were closed institutions working on design and prototyping of advanced technology, usually for military applications


[3] Structures exposed to aerodynamic forces — including wings and aerofoils, but also chimneys and bridges — are designed carefully within known parameters to avoid flutter. In complex structures where both the aerodynamics and the mechanical properties of the structure are not fully understood, flutter can be discounted only through detailed testing. Even changing the mass distribution of an aircraft or the stiffness of one component can induce flutter in an apparently unrelated aerodynamic component. At its mildest this can appear as a “buzz” in the aircraft structure, but at its most violent it can develop uncontrollably with great speed and cause serious damage to or lead to the destruction of the aircraft


[4] It’s unofficial nickname among the crews was “Shilo” (шило) – the Russian word for “awl” due to its resemblance with the tool when viewed from above

[5] MRA: Morskaya Raketonosnaya Aviatsiya – Naval Guided-Missile Aviation

Flightdeck Friday (I): Ave Atque Vale – Three Years On

Today’s Flightdeck Friday is a repost from the day when our extended family here learned of Lex’s passing out at NAS Fallon.  It was a grim day – a hard day and as noted below, one myself and many of us who have hung up our spurs thought we were done with.  In honor and memory therefore – today’s repost.  We’ll return to our regularly scheduled series this weekend. — SJS sends.


I lost a friend today.

We have lost a friend, a father, husband — a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (“TOPGUN”) adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon.   No word on the cause as yet.   Prayers and thoughts go out to his family — please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.

Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot.   And he was an accomplished one at that – having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say…).   He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships – befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator.   And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people.   Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.

Even so, what really set Lex apart was his eloquence, obvious love of the classics and an abilty to turn a phrase that would do his Irish ancestors proud.   Anyone who has spent time in the air or at sea comes to appreciate the change in perspective those alluring mistresses offer and how they come to change you.   It is the rare person, however, who is able to more than adequately express and convey that imagery, that perspective.   Lex was one of those rare individuals and you could readily see it in his work – almost all of which he shared gratis online.   Whether it was a semi-fictional account of a young aviator wrestling with carrier flight ops or surgical disection of a controversial subject, his wit, grace and command of the language marked him as a finely honed rapier in a field cluttered with dull broadswords and broken battle axes.   And it will be missed.

The time will come when we will take position and give our formal farewells with appropriate ceremony.   For now, I’ll leave with this thought from a fellow naval aviator and friend – part of a discourse from last night…

” We are, actually, pretty few, and we count our fellows as friends of a different sort.. And so when one of us leaves, it is noticed. It is one thing to fade, fade away. It is another to be taken by the mistress, to be here, and then gone. I thought she was done with leaving me to count. So I thought.”

I too thought my counting days finished – alas not so…

Fair winds Lex and God bless and uphold your family.   We’ll meet you at the rendezvous point…on the other side  at the Green.