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 Top Gun’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.
Even so, what really set Lex apart was his eloquence, obvious love of the classics and an ability 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 dissection 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.
So – a very good discussion on Midrats yesterday that included a look at China’s maritime claims in the ECS/SCS and regional responses – which of late have seen a ratcheting up of forces in the area. In the wake of that discussion, I came across the illustration below:
of a cover for a magazine highlighting the J-31 light(er) weight stealth fighter prototype. Now, one expects prototypes to be posed in a variety of action settings that provide at tleast the illusion of capabiltiy. But there was something else (well two actually) that caught my eye. The first (circled) is the presence of the Liaoning, the PLA Navy’s first carrier. China was very careful to emphasize to other nations in the region that the mission of the CV was directed towards training and exploring flight operations at sea – in a purely “defensive” manner. Recently that mask has slipped a bit as senior officials allowed as how it might have a more prominent combat role.
But there was something else — the islands in the background seemed familiar and of course, voila:
Behold the Senkaku islands - the locus of heightened activity between the militaries and civilian maritime administration fleets of China and Japan (among others). Nothing like including a pretty clear image of territory under dipute and defended by your new carrier and stealth fighter/bomber (incidently, launching an ASCM — looks like a C704) to signal intent now is there? Reminds me of something similar a few years back… oh yeah:
Christmas comes at a time of year where we, perforce, count our blessings, tally our losses and generally reflect on the year past. We find this action common across national boundaries and racial divides and, all too commonly, it ends there. The accountant’s take of the past year and if the blessings outweigh the losses, then it was a good year and we can celebrate and be joyful.
For that is the spirit of the season, right? We raise a toast, pause (ever so briefly) to recall those less fortunate and get on with the business of unwrapping gifts, breaking our fasts (such as they may be) and settle in for whatever entertainment is provided to us. Some of that may include songs of the season – “carols” as known by some. We dutifully (and at times, atonally) mix Rudolph, Santa and desires for front teeth with angels and a baby while wishing for “peace on earth.” For most of us, the story behind some of those carols are shrouded in the mists of history, their quaint language, un-afflicted as yet by a modern re-write, twisting our tongues and puzzling our minds over what they mean – but it passes. Soon, we are into the New Year, deep into the distractions of the various sporting events and planning for the months to come. And so it is that another Christmas passes with maybe one or two things remembered until we repeat the cycle at the end of the next year.
My intention here is to hit the “stop” button and offer some points to ponder and reflect upon this Christmastide. There is a story I would like to relate about one of those carols, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Morn” and how something written almost 150 years ago can have relevance today.
The carol is an 1872 adoption of a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – which itself, was written during a time of deep despair and loss on the part of Longfellow…
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
December of 1863 found Longfellow a desperately heartsick man. Two years earlier, the love of his life – his wife of 18 years, Francis Appleton and mother of their children, died of severe burns when the dress she was wearing caught fire. Despite his own efforts to extinguish the flames (and suffering burns on his face – leading to the now trademark beard), Francis suffered burns over most of her body and died the following morning.
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’
Still grieving the loss of his wife two years later, another matter weighed heavily on his heart – the status of his oldest son, Charles. When the Civil War began (the same year Francis died), Charley initially resisted the impulse to join the Army. Henry, a strict abolitionist, had tried to dissuade his son from joining as well, but by early 1863, Charley could resist no more and sought to join the fight.
Offered a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, he accepted and was commissioned on March 27, 1863. Charley entered on his new duties with enthusiasm and was assigned to Company “G” of the 1st Massachusetts. From thence he saw action first at Chancellorsville and then Culpepper (having missed Gettysburg while recovering from typhoid fever and malaria). On November 27, as part of the Mine Run Campaign, while in a skirmish during the battle of New Hope Church, Virginia, Charley was shot through the left shoulder. The bullet traveled across his back, nicked his spine, and exited under his right shoulder. He missed being paralyzed by less than an inch. He was carried into the church and then by ambulance to the Rapidan River. On December 1, 1863, word was received at the Longfellow home in Cambridge of Charles serious injury. Henry and his younger son, Ernest, left at once for Washington, D.C. where they finally met up with Charley and brought him home. They reached Cambridge on December 8 and Charles Appleton Longfellow began the slow process of recovering. In fact, so serious were his injuries that this Christmas morn, his recovery was still in doubt. Indeed, throughout the land, the course of the war and fate of the nation was still believed to be in doubt, despite turning back Lee’s forces at Gettysburg.
And so it was, this New England Christmas morning, when in the depths of despair that he heard the bells ringing through the Bostonian streets – hearkening to that glorious proclamation in Luke:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
(Luke 2: 13-14, KJV)
But each peal of the bells only seemed to highlight the disparity between the biblical proclamation of joy and the ever grim news on earth – of no peace, no joy.
Taking up pen and paper, his last refuge in a world of despairingly ill news, he began to write. And when he wrote challengingly of the mockery of peace by hate – of the power of the canon over the carol, he answered with heaven-sent grace, of hope born on the knowledge of a future certainty:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’
Despite his despair, despite all the trappings of gloom and fear, Henry’s faith in the power of God and man to join and transcend the horrors of war gave birth to this song, inspired by his hearing the ringing out of the Christmas bells.
Now on this Christmas Eve I ask – do you hear the bells? The promise of peace, real peace the Savior’s birth portends? That in the midst of wars and rumors of wars, of earthquakes and pestilence and the evil man is able to heap upon man that there is one whose birth, life and yes, death and ultimate resurrection was as a sacrifice for you and I that we might come to know peace — real peace? Why not take a break in the hustle and flow of the secular part of the holiday and ponder for a while on the spirit? John 3:1-21 is as good a place as any to start.
Stop, pause, ponder, and marvel at the real gift of the season – it was offered, after all, free for you and I.
Submitted with All Our Wishes for a Blessed Christmas.
For some time now we’ve been hosting a link for the USS Ranger Foundation, a group dedicated to moving the ex-USS Ranger (CVA/CV-61) to a site in the northwest US for establishment as the centerpiece of a maritime museum. Contingent on that hope was approval by the US Navy to do so and raising significant funds to execute the move and berthing infrastructure. Alas, the thin strands of hope appear to have been cut given this letter recently received from the Ranger Foundation:
Foundation Looking at Options
Over the past several years, the USS Ranger Foundation has been working to save an important historical naval asset and bring it to our region as the keystone of the development of a community heritage project. We have been fully aware that making something this big happen would take a significant effort by all and would involve overcoming many challenges.
We are of course disappointed at receiving the recent decision by the Navy not to proceed with the donation of ex-USS Ranger to the Foundation. We understand as part of follow-up contact with the Navy that certain constraints would not allow us more time to develop our project.
In response to the Navy’s decision we are now reaching out to our community and all those involved with the project to determine where to go from here. We have no doubt there is substantial local and regional support for a community heritage project that includes an important historical naval asset as its centerpiece. The offer of land and riverfront as a site for the ship by Columbia-Edgewater, LLC was a significant show of support for the Ranger effort; that support still exists. Our many volunteers have demonstrated a level of energy and enthusiasm that has been an incalculable asset to the project. We take this opportunity to thank everyone for their contributions of time, treasure and commitment. We look forward to continued support from those who have responded so positively to the idea of welcoming Ranger to our community. Such support is a large part of making such a significant project viable. With regard to options that may still exist with the Navy, we are working closely with the staffs of Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representative Blumenauer. We will continue to keep you updated as we develop options and determine how the USS Ranger Foundation hopes to proceed.
Thank you all for your long-lasting support of a monumental effort. It has been a long and winding road, and we think there is still territory to be explored.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
Executive Vice President \ Acting President
USS Ranger Foundation
It would appear then that Ranger will eventually be disposed along with the sister ships of the Forrestal-class, the first of thesupercarriers. Only one example of all the supercarriers built from Forrestal forward is currently planned for preservation as a museum, the ex-USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). As we presently see with examples such as the ex-USS Olympia in Philadelphia and ex-USS Yorktown in Charleston, maintenance of any museum ship is an expensive proposition, even if they start off in the best of conditions (e.g., ex-USS Midway). From my own experiences with JFK and in light of her final days preceding commissioning, I have my doubts about her material condition going into museum ship status. Even given the fact that these are the smallest of the supercarriers, Forrestal-class ships like the Ranger are still significantly larger than the Midway, Hornet and Yorktown CVs currently on display and in the Navy’s inventory as museum ships (Navy still owns them and can demand return if they are not being properly maintained). Perhaps some elements may be retained if she is to be sent to the brokers — the island is perhaps the most iconic part of the carrier next to the flight deck and that might be recovered and re-purposed as part of a shore-side exhibit, not unlike what has been done with nuclear powered subs and mentioned lately for the Enterprise. Still, we’d hoped that as perhaps the best ship in material condition in the class, Ranger might have been preserved – but it is not to be.
I never flew from nor served on Ranger, but many of my friends and shipmates, living and passed did. We’ll continue to host the link and pass information and advocacy along until the bitter end in the hope that in the larger context of naval aviation history, some aspect of her life and service to this Nation will be preserved. In the meantime, ponder:
BREAKING NEWS…Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus has just announced that the next Ford Class Carrier, CVN-80 will be named USS Enterprise during his speech at the inactivation ceremony for CVN-65. Long live the name Enterprise!
The USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is slated for decommissioning tomorrow in a ceremony at NOB Norfolk, bringing to close a half-century of service to this country around the globe. She was (is) a one-of-a-kind ship and for all of us who have stood watch and flown from her deck, we count that time as something special – my last trap and flight in an E-2C Hawkeye as CO of VAW-122 was on Enterprise, and the first chapter of the next phase of my Navy career began on her bridge a scant four months later. I’ve thought long and hard about making the trip down to Norfolk for the ceremony, but having been a part of too many squadron and ship decoms already (and witnessing one of those ships being slowly cut to pieces by the ship breakers), it frankly would have been too painful.
I choose instead to remember Big E in her heyday – deck packed with Sailors and warbirds, a bone in her teeth and course set for the distant horizon. Ave atque vale Enterprise, ave atque vale…
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed this striking view of Pavlof Volcano on May 18, 2013. The oblique perspective from the ISS reveals the three dimensional structure of the ash plume, which is often obscured by the top-down view of most remote sensing satellites. Situated in the Aleutian Arc about 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) high. When photograph ISS036-E-2105 (top) was taken, the space station was about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano (49.1° North latitude, 157.4° West longitude). The volcanic plume extended southeastward over the North Pacific Ocean. › Additional information/larger images. Image Credit: NASA Read More
Identity Theft: How Jesus Was Robbed Of His Jewishness by Ron Cantor