All posts in “Guest Author”

Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective

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 observer, 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 more people in leadership looked at naval aviation as something more than just a scouting force for the main battery of the fleet extant — the battleline. It was in this laboratory that the Navy developed the techniques and identified the requirements for carrier-based dive bombers, so different form the big, lumbering land-based bombers that the Air Corps’ advocates were saying would make ships obsolete by high altitude, “precision” bombing. Proof would come at Midway when both forces were employed — the B-17’s dropping their bombs from on high hit nothing but water. But dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown struck at the heart 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. Here then is the story – fittingly from the perspective of one of the few WWII dive bomber pilots still with us, LCDR George Walsh, who flew that great beast of an aircraft, the SB2C Helldiver in the Pacific theater. – SJS

As we enter the second half of the Centennial of Naval Aviation, I have found no reference to the “Fleet Problems” of the 1930s that were of great importance to the progress of naval aviation. These exercises were conducted at sea by hundreds of ships and aircraft of the peacetime Navy to prepare our nation for possible war.  The Fleet Problems were vital, providing realistic training for the generation of professional naval officers, mostly Annapolis graduates, who were responsible for leading America to victory in WW II despite enduring the hardships and sacrifices of the 1930’s. The exercises were well planned and intense, demanding all the devotion and talents of the men who participated under conditions that simulated wartime and called for extended tours of sea duty.

As you look back on these Fleet Problems you will find it mystifying that we were so unprepared for the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and that the Battle of Midway was badly mismanaged.

“The “Fleet Problems” should not be confused with the “War Games” conducted at the Naval War College in Newport. The fleet and not the college developed the strategy and tactics for air warfare in the Pacific.1 It was in the conduct of these exercises that our Navy perfected the techniques of aircraft carrier operation and proved the usefulness of carrier task forces as an offensive weapon.

It is interesting to trace the progress of naval aviation from the earliest introduction of a carrier, the Langley (1922), into the 1926 Fleet Program VI as an auxiliary to Fleet Problem XXI in 1940 when the carrier Task Forces acted as a long distance striking force independent of the main battleship forces.

USS Langley sunk at the Battle of Java Sea 1942

USS Wasp sunk in Solomons 1942

As aircraft increased in speed, range and bomb loadings, the Fleet Problems reflected the value of the new capabilities. New carriers were built to take advantage of the new and more powerful aircraft, first the Saratoga and Lexington in 1927, then the Ranger (1934), Yorktown (1937), Enterprise (1938), and Wasp (1940).

Fleet Exercise IX
It was not until 1929 that a major aviation breakthrough occurred. Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, commander of the aircraft squadrons of a simulated enemy force, dispatched the carrier Saratoga and its escorts away from the main battleship fleet, and made a daring high speed run in for a mock attack on the Panama Canal; this exploit received extensive press coverage.

“Writing many years later, (Cmdr.) Eugene E. Wilson, who had been one of Reeves staff officers in 1929, would rightly state that Saratoga’s exploits during Fleet Problem IX marked the first step in the development of the Carrier Task Forces which were so effective in the Pacific. This operation convinced naval aviators – and some surface warriors, such as (Admiral) Pratt – that task forces built around carriers would be of importance in the future of naval warfare.” 2

“The most important conclusion drawn from the Saratoga’s raid was the impossibility of stopping a determined air attack once it was launched. Unfortunately, in the years to come, this lesson would be forgotten, by certain members of the so-called Gun Club—the battleship men who were unwavering in their faith in the supremacy of the big gun. Their preoccupation with refighting the Battle of Jutland instead of ensuring the security of the fleet contributed greatly to the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Evident to Reeves and to the carrier commanders who followed in his footsteps, was the reality that in any future engagement involving aircraft carriers at sea, the first carrier to locate and bomb the other would determine the outcome.” 3

Rear Admiral Joseph Reeves, center

Fleet Problem X
Next year the first long distance aircraft carrier vs. aircraft carrier battle was simulated in 1930:

“Then at 0810 the three Lexington scout bombers made a dive bombing attack on the Saratoga, “damaging” the forward edge of her flight deck. At 0829, just 14 minutes after the scout bomber strike, the first waves of Lexington dive bombers, 45 aircraft in all, began a series of attacks that rendered Saratoga’s flight deck useless, wrecked half her aircraft, and destroyed a number of anti-aircraft guns, Then, 4 minutes later, at 0833 15 Lexington fighter bombers made a pass at Saratoga, and then hit Langley. Within two minutes a dozen more Lexington fighter bombers hit Langley. The umpires ruled that both carriers had been destroyed as well as all their aircraft. In twenty minutes both Blue carriers had been put out of action, in an incident eerily resembling the fate of three Japanese carriers at Midway in1942.”
“Virtually all observers commented on the importance in carrier warfare of getting in the first blow”. 2

Fleet Problem XI
This comment is repeated in the analysis of the 1931 exercise:

“Of even greater consequence was that the lesson of Fleet Problem X as to the importance of “getting in the first blow” against enemy carriers was clearly reaffirmed in Fleet Problem XI.” 2

Boeing F2B-2, 1931 Fighter

Fleet Problem XIII
1932 was an interesting year following the invasion of China by Japan. The scenario proposed that Hawaii had been taken over by an enemy and the U.S. Navy was dispatched to take it back. In a joint exercise the Army played the part of the Black occupying power and our Navy the Blue attacking force.

Captain John Towers, Chief of Staff, planned to use the carriers Lexington and Saratoga to launch a sneak attack on the Army in Hawaii prior to covering landings by the marines. On Saturday, February 5th, the two carriers and destroyers formed a separate Task Force and left the main battle fleet, making high speed runs in to a launch position 100 miles north of Oahu during the night. At dawn Sunday morning a surprised Army woke to the roar of fleets of aircraft attacking their installations. Captain Towers had timed the attack perfectly.

“The fact that Japan nearly duplicated this attack on Pearl on Sunday morning, 7 December 1941, was no accident. Early in the 1950s Towers dined in Tokyo with a Japanese vice admiral who had participated in the planning. “He told me they had simply taken a page out of our own book!” 4

In 1942, shortly after the Battle of Midway, Towers was appointed ComAirPac and supervised the employment of our carriers for the balance of WW II. No longer did black shoe officers captain aircraft carriers.4

Admiral John Towers, Time Magazine June 23, 1941

Fleet Problem XIV

“The 1933 problem was designed to simulate a war in the Pacific, one initiated by carrier operations. Anticipating that Japan would attack before formally declaring war (as she had done against Russia in 1904), the scenario envisioned the sortie of the Japanese fleet eastward across the Pacific. This fleet, its sinister designation Black, had ominously prescient orders: “To inflict maximum damage on the PEARL HARBOR NAVAL BASE in order to destroy or reduce its effectiveness.”

“The Army, (defending Blue force) had put their forces on full alert January 27th, and 24 hour air patrols were initiated out to 150 miles. Avoiding Blue air patrols, the Black carriers and their escorts arrived at a position north of Molakai around midnight on January 30th. The strike force arrived over Pearl Harbor around dawn and was ruled to have inflicted serious damage.” 4

Fleet Problem XVI
Held in 1935 it was the largest mock battle ever staged, conducted over an area of the sea covering five million square miles of the North Central Pacific between Midway, Hawaii, and the Aleutian Islands and involving 321 vessels and 70,000 men. Although four aircraft carriers participated, the major contribution to aviation was the experimentation with underway refueling of carriers that enabled carrier task forces to operate independently.  Debate over the role of aircraft carriers continued, and reached its nadir in 1938 when Admiral Claude C. Bloch was appointed CINCUS. It came as a shock to the naval aviation contingent for Admiral Bloch regarded carriers as just another ship to serve as an auxiliary tied to the battle line.2

Fleet Problem XIX
However, in 1938 the Black Fleet again simulated an attack on Hawaii. Saratoga was commanded by Captain John Towers, who had earned his wings in 1911, and was the first of the Navy’s pioneer airmen to command a fleet carrier.  Admiral Ernest King “decided to affect a surprise air raid on Pearl Harbor. He directed Saratoga to the northwest of Hawaii. Using a convenient weather front, at 0450 on March 29th King launched an attack from 100 miles that hit the Army’s Hickam and Wheeler airfields and Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station with “devastating effect.” 2

Douglas TBD-1, 1937 Torpedo Plane

Fleet Problem XX
As war loomed in Europe in 1939 this Fleet Problem was witnessed at sea by President Roosevelt while he was embarked on the cruiser Houston and the battleship, Pennsylvania. From the time he had served as Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920, FDR took a lively interest in all matters pertaining to the Navy.

“Although short, Fleet Program XX demonstrated a high degree of sophistication in the development of the American naval force. The navy’s use of air power had clearly matured. Both commanders, Kalbfus and Andrews, had managed their air forces rather well, each concentrating his efforts at destroying his enemy’s air power before going after his battle fleet. Each had made carriers the center piece of independent task forces.” 2

Grumman F2F-1, 1939 Fighter

Fleet Problem XXI
The opening of the war in Europe caused stringent controls of the press in 1940, and dispensed with the traditional diplomatic attempts to disguise the identity of the simulated enemy force, Japan. Among the objectives was to study various fleet and carrier task force defensive formations. Lexington and Saratoga with four heavy cruisers and 4 destroyers made up the Strike Force operating independent of the Attack Force of cruisers and destroyers, and the Main Body of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers.  For this exercise one division of Omaha class cruisers was commanded by Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher who was later chosen to lead our carrier task forces at the beginning of WW II despite the fact that he had no prior experience with aviation or aircraft carriers.5   At the conclusion of this exercise President Roosevelt ordered the fleet to remain in Hawaiian waters in the hope of sending a message to Japan.

Fleet Problem XXII
In December1940 this problem was cancelled as the Navy concentrated all effort on preparing for the eventuality of entering a shooting war.  As a nation we need to appreciate the dedication of our professional Annapolis trained corps of officers who endured the hardships of the thirties and worked intently on these Fleet Problems to keep our Navy in fighting shape. It can only be compared to athletes training for a future Olympics, constantly working out to stay in shape with exercises that were challenging both mentally and physically.  There were probably less than 37,000 regular naval officers at the start of the war with skills honed during the Fleet Problems.6

In addition to this key contingent, the exercises trained the warrant officers, chiefs and ratings who reenlisted year after year during the hard times of the ’30s. These experienced men were available when needed to provide a manpower framework to enable the huge wartime expansions of the 1940s as they were distributed among the new ships to mold the raw recruits.

Douglas SBD-3, 1941 Dive Bomber

The Fleet Problems had also trained pilots like Lt. Cmdrs. Wade McClusky, Max Leslie and John Waldron of Midway fame as they searched the Pacific for the Japanese carriers on June 4th, 1942. Having served as the cutting edge during the fleet exercises, they were well aware of the importance of disabling the flight decks of the Japanese carriers before they could launch a strike against our carriers. Our carriers and the lives of their shipmates depended on it. It was this awareness that prompted John Waldron to lead his squadron in a quixotic foray into the “Valley of Death”. It was this awareness that drove Wade McClusky to search beyond the “point of no return.”

During the Fleet Problems each year the pilots faced danger every time they climbed into the cockpit. They faced casualties from carrier operational accidents, mechanical failures and pilot error. They also had to fly missions that tested the limits of aircraft and pilot capabilities. Admirals experimented with night and bad weather flight operations as well as the limits of aircraft range, and the speed of carrier launchings and recoveries. Admiral King, later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet and CNO, was not popular with the pilots he put at risk in his drive for efficiency.

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King

Finally, the Fleet Problems perfected more than aircraft carrier operations. At the same time the Navy was working out problems in logistics, intelligence, staff structure, communications, cryptology, and radar.  It is to be hoped that the budget crisis shaping up now in Washington does not hamper our nation’s ability to support our Navy’s continuing preparedness for threats unknown.  We still need to support our professional Annapolis trained officer corps even when there is no apparent threat in view.

Lt. Cmdr. George J. Walsh USNR
July 17, 2011

Notes:

1. The Quiet Warrior, by Thomas B. Buell
2. To Train the Fleet for War, by Albert A. Nofi
3. All the Factors of Victory, by Thomas Wildenberg
4. The Struggle for Naval Air Supremacy, by Clark G. Reynolds
5. Black Shoe Carrier Admiral, by John Lundstrom
6. Battle Report by Walter Karig, From Author’s Foreword

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound

SJS,

Since the last post card not much else has changed out here. We are just approaching the International date line again. So soon we are going to repeat a day to catch up for the day we jumped over about eight months ago. So in preparation (or as a cruel joke) one of the movie stations has been running on constant loop the movie “Groundhog Day”. Other then that the other issue we have is trying to get some of the maintenance computer systems to properly track the date change. The biggest issue for our aviation maintenance admin types is getting the NALCOMIS computers to understand that even though the date changed back a day, cause of the way it is programmed; workers can only work on a certain maintenance action once in a day for a time block. The program gets all confused when dates repeat themselves. So there are extra hoops that we have to jump through to get it all working.

Quick aside just so your readers know. NALCOMIS is an acronym that stands for Naval Air Logistics Command Operating Maintenance Information System. It is a computerized system to track maintenance actions on aircraft. When an airplane flies, the aircrew come back with their issues from the airplane. They will come down to the maintenance control desk, take either a specific computer terminal set up for it or there will be a specific pad of paper to write the discrepancy on. At which time the gripe will be reviewed by the relevant work center and entered into the computer system. From there the gripe will appear on the work center’s work load. At which time the supervisor of the work center will be able to task people to the gripe and get it fixed. What is supposed to make this all better versus the old Visual Information Display System/Maintenance Action Forms (VIDS/MAFs ) boards was that the computer is real time. That is when it doesn’t crash for some reason, hung up cause of an error, or if people aren’t doing the data entry properly into it for the tracking purposes.

Back to the program, So besides having to trick our NALCOMIS computers to understand the date didn’t change. We also get to repeat a few things such as fly days and standing specific training evolutions. Since our day to be the air wing safety observer and lead in the hunt for FOD is that day. We get to repeat leading the charge in safety and FOD hunting. Overall it will be a weird day over all. I have some family that have made the Trans-Pac this way and repeated birthdays, Thanksgiving, even Christmas. Overall it is just one more day closer to home.

Coming closer to home we are getting big time in to trying to fix the jets enough so they can safely fly off and make it back to the beach. This might sound wrong, but if we can fix the plane and get it to the point where it can bring the crew home, safely taxi to its parking spot, let them get out and then collapse into a bunch of parts so be it. At least the crew got home. The hard part about this is we are at the wrong end of the supply chain, running low on parts. So there are times we are trying to make a decision on whether it is worthwhile to submit the part for rework onboard or get it fixed enough to fly home and then pull the bad component back at home. Along with that there are parts that are going bad which we are looking at trying to make the decision on whether their inability to function is going to affect safety of flight back home. A big juggling act in the shops, maintenance control, the DH’s, and finally on the skipper’s. We aren’t the only ones involved in this situation either, all through out the air wing similar decisions are being made.

On the personal side of cruise. This last couple of weeks is where back in the berthing or our racks. All you can hear is “when I get home..”. Guys jonesing for space away from everyone. Guys jonesing for their favorite meals. A chance to take the hottest and longest shower, sleep in a real bed without hearing any announcing system. Heck even to just sleep in on a weekend and know that there are such things as weekends. Me personally. I can’t wait to get home and do that hot long shower thing. Then when a Sunday rolls around, go out get the Sunday paper. Sit there in my chair reading the paper eating breakfast and enjoying that there is nothing pressing right away. The meal that I really want is a stuffed Turkey breast, that has stuffing, cranberries, and oranges in it all with a glazed honey sauce. I don’t know but for some reason that meal has been creeping into my head the past couple of days. The first time I got it was a couple of years ago, while shopping for a quick meal at the local supermarket before my girlfriend at the time (now Mrs.) showed up for a date at the house. Not having enough time getting out of work late to actually cook something. Walked through the deli section and found this thing. All it took was a quick 30 minutes in the oven and faster then you can say “BAM!” the meal was on the table and I was finishing up the veggies when she walked in. Totally impressed that I was able to prepare a meal with out destroying the kitchen and make it tasty as well. With a quick wink and smile, I let her know that I am fully capable of something more then just frozen waffles and soda pop (which I had to cook the first dinner cause I totally spaced on grocery shopping).

It is only a few days left and I will be done with this part of the adventure soon. I can’t wait.

“Now Hear This — Mail Call, Mail Call…”

In this age of (near) instantaneous contact via email or, where accessible, the various pieces of social media our deployed Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen can access, there is still nothing, and I do mean nothing, quite as satisfying as a letter or package that arrives in the mail.  The whiff of perfume still tenuously clinging to the envelope with the distinctive cursive writing, or the smooshed package that nonetheless opens to homemade chocolate chip cookies regularly trumps the electronic media.  Why?  Because it carries an intangible – that somewhere along the long, busy process of delivery from Somewhere, USA to USS Nimitz or a dusty forward base, the hands of someone we love and who loves us touched it.  And that is one of the reasons mail is so important for our deployed service members…and why one of the most important calls a COD can make upon checking in inbound on Button 1 is pounds of pony express.  Hence our latest postcard from deployment.

– SJS

SJS,

So it is now only five days until Christmas as I write this, we are getting a ton of mail delivered out to us via underway replenishment and via COD. To a couple of your readers, I just received the Peet’s coffee mailed out to me. I know it was ordered in October, but one of the joys of military mail is how long it takes things to arrive on station to us. It was still fresh and appreciated because right now they are offering some bitter freeze dried bricks of coffee from the mid-east. So to understand how it works I thought this little postcard could explain it away. There are some mistakes for those of you in the postal fields, but this is how it was explained to me by a postal clerk and I try to break it down even more Barney Dinosaur style to the readers.

Nearly all military mail for units uses an system called APO/FPO and unit numbers. The way the system is designed to work so that you don’t know where the military person is located if the mail gets intercepted by the enemy. All they know is that LT Steeljaw and AT1 are assigned to VAW-13 det 5 at unit 99999 FPO, AP. Remember that point in the last sentence about no one knowing where the person is, that is slightly important. Most of the mail now a days is shipped via commercial air to the closes us military base and from there it is then sorted into bags to delivered to units around them.

APO and FPO’s are holdovers from world war 2 and they are short for Army Post Office and Fleet Post Office. These used to be primarily located in three distinct places in the nation. San Francisco, New York, and Norfolk. They were the big processing centers. Depending on where the unit was home based mail would leave your hands and head to one of these locations for routing to the military member. San Fran for most of the Pacific based units and those home ported on the West Coast. Norfolk for the East coast based units and up to the Mississippi river. New York was the clearing house for most of the European based units. So as that letter leaves your hands to me, it travels to the San Francisco post office. They then say to send it up to me in Seattle.

That letter arrives in Seattle and is shipped over to my base. At which point the base post office handles it and goes VAQXYZ is unit number ABC. Consulting a list they have about who is home and who is deployed, realizing that I am deployed the mail is dropped into a bag waiting to be shipped out to me and my unit. Once that bag is full, they then consult another list and mark it for shipment via airmail to the closes military base to where we are operating at the time that list came out. This list seems to be typically about two to three weeks behind. So even though I have been gone from Singapore for about a month. All the mail is routed there initially because the supply system hasn’t caught on that I have moved to another operating area.

So they hold on to it until the new mailing list arrives and  then ship it to the new operating area. Once it arrives on station, such as the 5th fleet operating area, they store it in a giant warehouse waiting for further sorting and shipment. The COD’s have to adjust for fuel loads, passengers, and pony. Strange as it may seem, VIP’s trump mail; ditto for parts to fix things on the ships and planes. So the letter that left your hand at the beginning of November is still sitting in some bag at the bottom of a pile awaiting sorting to be thrown on a COD that can be sent out to us. When it finally gets on the COD, it comes out to us it is then sorted by the onboard clerks to delivered out to our commands. The commands then sort it even further to work shops for deliver. What is even funnier is sometimes the supply system will try for a massed burp of mail via an unrep, so they will try and hold one of our supply ships. Throw a whole bunch of large boxes called tri-walls and fill them to the top with mail. It all finally arrives to us sometimes about a month late or even months later.

Remember how I mentioned you needed to remember why no one knows where people are? Well for some units people are moving so fast to arrive on station, that no one knows where the mail is supposed to go. Or the unit numbers on the mailing lists are mangled so unit 99999 is actually in Naples, but the mailing list says they are in Al Asad. So it goes there sitting forever until someone wonders why it hasn’t been picked up. They then ship it back to the states, via the same sort of route it comes out to us. No kidding I had gotten Christmas gifts that were mailed out in first week of November, show up to me in June when I was back home. The Christmas cookies were stale and the gifts were written off as lost.

Military mail system is one of the reasons that a large number of internet companies won’t ship high priced electronics out to us and it isn’t recommend to ship anything perishable out to us. Don’t send even chocolate bars cause there is a chance they will melt before it gets there and  just turn into a mess. So it is usually recommended that you do hard candies and imperishable foods It gets even worst around the holiday times, that the US Postal Service will actually state that if you want  a package to arrive to your military member before Christmas it should be postmarked no later then sometime in November. The best part too is letter mail can be days and months late, so you get a weekly new magazine that is about three or more months old and you already know how the story has turned out. It is just one of those things to shrug your shoulders at.

Hope all of you all enjoy your times with the families this week and remember that there will only be 364 days until Christmas on the 26th of December.

Sincerely,
Charles

The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944

With this submission, CINCLAX’s in-depth review of this part of the Solomons campaign is complete. I think you will agree with me that considerable thought and work went into these articles and join me as a hearty “BZ” is passed his way.  On the horizon – inthe next few weeks we will wrap up the action at sea and then give each of the authors a chance to (briefly) state their analysis as to the relative importance of Midway vs. The Solomon Islands campaign. – SJS

Completing the Cartwheel – the Final Encirclement of Rabaul

Meanwhile at Cape Gloucester and Manus…

Almost contemporaneous with the 3rd Marines departure from Bougainville, the now well-rested 1st Marine Division of Guadalcanal fame was loaned to RADM Dan Barbey’s 7th ‘Phib for a December 26, 1943 landing at Cape Gloucester on the western tip of New Britain. This followed an insignificant diversionary Army landing 10 days earlier at Arawe on the southwestern coast. While the Cape Gloucester Marines succeeded in capturing an airstrip, this field never became a significant factor in the continuing reduction of Rabaul, and turned out to be a rather wasteful operation that cost some 248 lives. The Japanese force at Cape Gloucester had no artillery with which to close Dampier Strait, so it had been no threat to Allied operations. It was monsoon season, and daily rainfall could reach 16 inches; thus the 1st Marine veterans opined the terrain and weather conditions were as big an obstacle as the Japanese, and the mud even worse than Guadalcanal.

On February 29, 1944, MacArthur’s 1st Cavalry Division landed on Los Negros Island in the Admiralties (north of New Guinea), then a week later on Manus Island to seize the magnificent Seeadler Harbor. Later in the year, this would be an invaluable staging place for operations on Palau and Leyte.

Such was the work of the weaker of the two arms of the South Pacific campaign to “Break the Bismarcks Barrier.” Now it was up to the stronger arm, Halsey’s, to complete the reduction of Rabaul.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944

Dive_bomber_at_Torokina_on_D-Day_morning

We resume the quite comprehensive articles provided by CINCLAX as part of the ongoing Solomon Islands Campaign blog project.  With the exception of some noteworthy battles at sea and on land, the Solomons campaign slogged on in near anonymity, except for those doing the fighting.  We would learn much in the process – about joint operations, supporting forces ashore, the flexibility of carrier- and shore-based air, logistics and the like that would be applied in the coming campaigns through the Southwest and Central Pacific that would break the back of the Japanese military and lead the way to ending the war in the Pacific.  That, however, lays still in the future.  In the meantime, Bougainville continues…

- SJS

Expansion of the Torokina Beachhead

The first—or 3rd Marines—part of the Bougainville campaign had cost the Marines 423 killed and 1,418 wounded. Japanese dead were counted at 2,458; only 23 were taken prisoner. It had been a remarkably smooth operation.

On December 15, 1943 command of the Torokina beachhead Area had passed from IMAC (MG Roy Geiger) to XIV Corps (MG Oscar Griswold). Almost all of the 3rd Marines were withdrawn by the end of the month, and the Americal Division (MG John R. Hodge) and 37th Division (MG Robert Beightler) moved in to take their places. In fact elements of the 37th had already been in place, and initially Geiger had assigned them to the comparatively “peaceful” western part of the perimeter. Of the Marines, only the 3rd Defense Battalion would remain. Their 155mm guns would prove invaluable in defense of the perimeter.

Meanwhile the airfields were being readied to reduce Rabaul and its environs. Since December 10th, F4U Corsairs of VMF 216 had been based on the new Torokina strip, and they would initially be the key to the successful AirSols bombing offensive against Rabaul. Before the Piva strips became operational on January 9th, Allied bombers would lift off from more distant fields and be joined by the Torokina fighters, so as bomber escorts they made feasible large-scale raids from elsewhere.

During the initial period of the landings, air activity in support of the beachhead, consisted of daily flights over the Torokina area, in close air support (CAS), as well as regular strikes on southern Japanese bases like Kahili, Kieta, Kara and Ballale, and as visits to Buka and Bonis in the north.

Meanwhile the Marines were perfecting their CAS techniques, and on ten occasions in November-December ground troops requested it. Each of these required that the strike be run within 500 yards or less from American front lines; three at 500 yards, three at 200 yards, one at 120 yards, one at 100 yards, and two at only 75 yards. Marine spotter aircraft used colored smoke to mark front line positions and white smoke to mark the target areas, setting up a solid liaison between air and ground units. Techniques developed here would form the doctrinal basis for later Marine campaigns.

Very occasionally Japanese aircraft from Rabaul would score hits on command posts, supply dumps, ships, or small craft in Puruata Harbor (between Puruata Island and Cape Torokina), and on airfields which were under construction within the American perimeter. The net effect of these raids was minimal, and as enemy air strength diminished on Rabaul, raids dwindled to virtually nothing by the end of February 1944.

In time, most of AirSols assets would move to Bougainville, and it would become AirNorSols in June 1944.

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THE 155mm “Long Tom” guns of the Marine 3d Defense Battalion could range out to appx. 20,000 yards, and could thus cover all parts of the perimeter with their 100 lb. shells.

The Americal Division was somewhat unusual in that it had never been given a number designation. In fact it was so-named because it had been formed up in May, 1942 in New Caledonia (representing the “Cal” part of the name). The Americal was also the first Army Division to take offensive action against the Japanese, and had fought with some with some distinction in the latter phases of the Guadalcanal campaign.

Like many other early Army divisions, the Americal was formed from National Guard Regiments, in this case 132nd (Massachusetts), the 164th (North Dakota), and 182nd (Illinois).

The 37th, or “Buckeye Division,” also had National Guard roots—only from Ohio. It had originally been formed in Fiji, then moved to Guadalcanal for training in March 1943. Four battalions had assisted the initially hapless 43rd Division on New Georgia, and learned their trade the hard way in the attack on Munda. It was at Munda that XIV commander Griswold had “cut his teeth” as he straightened out the faltering Army effort.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)

The next four posts will cover the invasion of Bougainville and are provided via guest author CINCLAX.- SJS

The Last Spoke in the Cartwheel

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Strategic Progress

Before the Guadalcanal operation (Watchtower) even began in August 1942, it had been decided to neutralize the Japanese bastion of Rabaul by moving up the Solomons one step at a time until Rabaul could be pounded from the air on a daily basis. Operation Cartwheel—as it was to be called—had begun inauspiciously with strong Japanese responses by sea and air, and by the early fall of the year some people were even calling for a strategic retreat and the evacuation of Gen. Vandegrift’s First Marines. The Navy was having great trouble stopping IJN surface attacks on Henderson Field, and the “Tokyo Express” reinforcement runs from Rabaul could not be effectively stopped. Japanese night surface tactics and superior torpedoes were not yet understood by American commanders, and the soon-to-be-famous “Cactus Air Force” was often reduced to a handful of operational aircraft left to handle the daily Japanese air raids.

Rabaul continually haunted Allied leaders. No operation in the Solomons or New Guinea could be considered complete as long as Rabaul remained strong and served as a hub for aggressive Japanese troops to attempt the re-conquest of Guadalcanal or even eastern New Guinea.

Then the always aggressive VADM Halsey took over SOWESPAC and things slowly began to change for the better. By the summer of 1943 the Allies had moved into the Central Solomons, eventually capturing the Russell Islands, New Georgia, Rendova and finally Vella Lavella. Along with each conquest had come new air bases ever closer to Rabaul, relentlessly hacked out of the jungle by the seemingly tireless Seabees. Henderson Field had been some 560 miles from Rabaul; Munda (New Georgia) was some 200 miles closer, while Barakoma on Vella Lavella was only 320 miles from Rabaul. The ring was closing.

Moreover, Halsey’s campaigns had also worn down Japanese air and naval forces to the extent that they no longer had the upper hand in the Slot. Their surface warships had been sorely depleted, and many of their veteran IJN pilots had been lost in combat and operational accidents. The Cactus Air Force on Henderson Field had now grown into AirSols, one of the best small air forces in the world and a true “joint” command of Navy, Marine, USAAF and New Zealand planes operating out of multiple strips all over the Central Solomons. Masters of improvisation and scrounging since the dark days of Operation Watchtower, AirSols would take the unsuccessful P-39 and P-40 fighters (rejected for European service) and make them effective low-level fighter bombers. When they needed floatplanes, they snatched them off of damaged cruisers heading home for repair. Similarly, the vulnerable Lockheed Ventura patrol bomber was turned into a night fighter. Meanwhile new arrivals like the P-38, the F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat would rule the higher altitudes against the Zero. Now AirSols “Black Cat” PBYs patrolled the nights over water and their “Dumbos” rescued hundreds of downed flyers who lived to fly and fight again.

Meanwhile Gen. Mac Arthur’s forces in New Guinea had slogged their way from Port Moresby to Buna and beyond, establishing a large air base at Dobodura (near Buna). There, Gen. George Kenny’s Fifth Air Force had established itself as the terror of the Bismarck Sea. On the last day of February 1943, Gen. Imamura (8th Area Army CO in Rabaul), sent out some 6900 troops to reinforce his garrison at Lae; eight destroyers and eight transports carried the load. Kenny attacked the convoy with 335 aircraft, and in two days the Japanese lost all eight transports, four destroyers and about 3500 soldiers. With the disaster of the Bismarck Sea battle, Imamura and his Rabaul Navy cohort Adm. Kusaka (11th Air Fleet) would dare no further reinforcement attempts in New Guinea.

So Bougainville would be the next—and virtually last—target of the Allied Solomons campaign. In the summer of 1943, Halsey’s staff in Noumea joined with VADM Aubrey Fitch from the New Hebrides, LTG Alexander Vandegrift, and RADM Theodore “Ping” Wilkinson at Camp Crocodile on Guadalcanal to complete their planning. If Bougainville was to be the logical target, the question remained as to where? It was estimated there were about 40,000 Japanese Army troops, plus 20,000 Navy personnel on Bougainville and its adjacent islands. Most of these were in the south: Kahili, Buin, and the Shortlands; there were also 6000 in the north on or around the Buka Passage. All these locations featured airfields which the Japanese could be expected to defend tooth and nail—as they had at Munda.

What the Allies needed was a relatively lightly defended location where they could build their own airstrips, and one far enough away from existing Japanese strongholds so that speedy overland reinforcement would be difficult if not impossible. After deliberating, they decided on Empress Augusta Bay, in the middle of Bougainville’s west coast and equidistant (about 50 miles) from Japanese strongholds. About 16 miles wide from Cape Torokina to Mutupina Point in the south, the Bay was not a well-protected anchorage from westerly storms, but it would have to do.

In many respects, Bougainville would be a repeat of Guadalcanal: establish a perimeter against initially weak resistance, construct several airstrips and defend them against counter-attacks, then go about the business of continuing to reduce the stronghold of Rabaul—only 220 miles distant. Unlike New Georgia or Vella Lavella, there would be no need to occupy the entire island.

Continue Reading…

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

Thoughts on ‘A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower’ Two Year’s Later: Author’s Response

Bryan McGrath, lead author of CS21 (as it is coming to be called in shorthand) stopped by in the comments section in the previous post to leave the commentary now shown below.  I opted (head nod to Peter S. per our earlier discussion) to elevate it to a post of its own for wider dissemination and comment.  Bryan makes some good points, especially where the two other missing pieces are concerned and some interesting revelations as to what he expected to follow from the influence of CS21 in the form of actual metal.  On the whole, I think we’re in pretty violent agreement about many items.  One in particular is where we go from here.  The next couple of years are going to be crucial ones for Navy.  If one of the unwritten intents of  CS21 was to build an advocacy for the Navy and naval forces for the long view, mindful of the prolonged land engagement(s) we have been and look to continue conducting, and that constituency is primarily outside Navy (e.g., the public and Congress), then there needs to be some serious effort applied by senior leadership to revitalizing that advocacy, especially on the Hill where the initial offering two years ago was received with, well, lukewarm (to put it charitably) enthusiasm.  In light of an ongoing failure to produce the other legs of the stool, as Bryan points out, and with diminished expectations for budgetary relief, Navy needs to revitalize the advocacy, fleshing it out with supporting force structure and operationalization documentation and re-engage the Hill. I’m hearing that CNO recently signed out the Naval Strategic Planning Guidance, and if so, that’s a first step. I’d give CS21, in its present form,  about two more years of potential worth in this regard but if the other parts don’t come through, then the strategy’s relevancy and potential to influence, shape and form the operations and force structure of future naval forces will rapidly  fade away. – SJS

Many thanks to Steeljaw Scribe for getting the discussion started here.  Several weeks ago, he reached out to me to see if I wanted to collaborate on some kind of a two-year retrospective in view of the second birthday of CS21; I declined, fearing that I was simply too close to the subject to be objective (which may now be confirmed with this post).  As some may know, my last tour on active duty was to lead the team that put together the document, a tour I found fascinating and rewarding, mostly for the incredible quality of people I came to be associated with both inside the strategy team and in the broader, Newport and DC based strategy communities.

Steeljaw poses three interesting questions, but they are questions I am largely unqualified to answer, as thorough answers (in my estimation) presuppose in-depth knowledge of the Navy’s plans for POM12.  POM12 represents the first concerted effort on the Navy’s part to program in the guidance set in CS21, buttressed by the presence of a CNO no longer in the first months of his job trying to find his way.  I suspect if CS21 is going to have any influence, it will be reflected in POM12.

I make this statement largely due the lack of–as Steeljaw reminds us–the accompanying parts of what VADM John Morgan used to refer to as “the strategy layer-cake”, which consisted of:  the strategy itself,  how it would be implemented (the NOC) and the resources required (a revision to the 30 year shipbuilding plan).  Put another way, our three-legged stool is missing two of the three legs.  This represents an institutional and bureaucratic decision on the Navy’s part, and understandably serves to open up the one extant document to legitimate criticism.  It does not however, obviate either the thinking that went into the strategy or the shifts that it portends.

I ask critics of the strategy a simple question; when you criticize the THINKING and the concepts of the strategy, what are you comparing it to?  Exactly what did it replace?  Prior to October 2007, what was the Navy’s strategy? Come on now–one or two sentences.  I think most folks who’ve read the current strategy can cite some version of the following–that there is a global system of trade, finance, information, etc that works to the benefit of the people of the US and other nations who participate in it, and that US Seapower–increasingly in a cooperative fashion–plays a unique and critical role in the protection and sustainment of that system.  There you have it.  Again–someone suggest in a sentence or two what it replaced.

Moreover, the strategy suggests a shift from the last named strategy of the 80’s–which was clearly postured for the strategic offense–to a posture of the strategic defense–defense of the global system.  It is a strategy of consolidation and defense.  It is the strategy of a status quo power seeking to protect and extend its position within the global system.  It answers the question “why do we need those ships strung out all over the world?”  Previously, the answer was some version of “well, security and stability”, which always begged the question as to why nations in that region couldn’t do it themselves.  The answer of course, is that they can’t, at least not without our help.  And that inability threatens the health and welfare of the increasingly interconnected world.  Put another way, the global system demands the presence of the US Navy–just as it demanded the presence of the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy.

While I have little insight into OPNAV’s plans in POM 12, I can quite readily suggest how I thought CS21 would change the Navy.  Firstly, I believe that CS21 represents a growth strategy for the Navy, and that as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan exact their toll on the national will, it would provide the intellectual basis for an expansion of the Navy.  We didn’t set out to make a strategy to grow the Navy–as a matter of fact, in one of my first days in the job, I asked the question bluntly of VADM Morgan…”what if our deliberations lead us to believe that the proper course is for a smaller Navy”.  “Write that strategy” was his answer.

With respect to specifics–I suspected that the strategy would 1) lead to the design of a small, lightly armed, mass produced surface vessel with considerable endurance that would serve as the backbone of the “globally distributed mission tailored forces” mentioned in the document and 2) MIGHT lead to a decision to move away from the DDX–as budget realities and operational requirements would eventually pit it against the CGX, a ship more attuned to the expanded concept of deterrence mentioned in the strategy and 3) (most regrettably) would lead to a loss of carrier force structure.  Cutting carrier force structure seems odd in a “growth strategy”, but reading the tea leaves, I believed some portion of that growth would have to come from within, and power projection and strike did not receive the same level of emphasis as in past strategic documents. In general, I thought we’d see additional investment on the low-low end (small combatants and riverine) and the high-high end (CGX and missile defense).

Second, I thought that the process that went into the production of CS 21 would be a repeatable part of the Navy’s strategic planning process; that is, I thought (and advocated) that CS21 ought to be reviewed–that’s right–as part of every POM process to make sure we got the entering presumptions right.

Third, I believed that CS21 would add some weight to the Navy’s push to raise the prominence of its Language Skills, Regional Expertise and Cultural Awareness programs.  I believed these competencies would be critical to a Navy out operating independently (but cooperatively) in places it wasn’t used to operating.

Fourth, I believed that CS21 would resonate with friends, allies and partners alike, letting them know that not only were they important to us but that they were a critical part of our strategy. I believed that this emphasis would be recognized and acted upon by them.

Fifth, I believe the strategy presented the Chinese with an interesting dilemma; do they get with the program, recognize that the global system in place handsomely rewards their people, and pony up to the responsibilities of a first-rate nation in terms of contributing to that system’s protection and sustainment, or do they remain neo-mercantilist free-riders, fattening their coffers due in no small part to the largess of the US Navy (and subject to its continued forbearance).  While we did not name the Chinese in the document, we knew they’d read themselves into it.

I leave it up to others to determine how much of what I believed would be the legacy of CS21 has come to fruition.  I hope this has been helpful to those interested in this matter, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on what I’ve said.

Crossposted at Information Dissemination and USNI blog.

Postcards from Deployment: Portcall, Singapore

Checking in from deployment, Charles passes a review of one of Skippy-san’s most favorite locations in the Far East – Singapore (we’ll let Skippy wax eloquent on the joys therein on the comments if he’s of such a mind and can tear himself away from an ongoing email war 8-) ) And “ship’s liaison group”  instead of shore patrol? *That* just doesn’t seem right…but, we’ll pass and let Charles get on with the story:

SJS,

I know it has been a while since I have written a postcard and I had hoped to be sending pictures with this one, however some issues have come up with my camera and downloading pictures from my last port visit. I was just in Skippy-San’s favorite city, Singapore. Singapore is a great city and a wonderful place to visit. Quick run down for those that don’t know. Singapore is a very modern country, it came into existence in the mid-60’s and before that it was part of Malaysia and before that it was basically the colonial capital of the British Southeast Asian colonies. It is a very modern city and a number of very modern conveniences. It is also one of the most racially diverse places in Asia that I have been to. There really isn’t any native Singaporean, rather it is a broad mix of Indians, Malayans, Indonesians, Han Chinese, and Anglo-Saxons. Singapore is also the cross roads between Asia and Europe. Since most of the sea borne trade routes between Asia and Europe go through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore sits right in the middle of it.

Continue Reading…

The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II

Guest writer Chuck Hill joins us this week with Part II of his detailed write-up on the surface action off Guadalcanal in November 1942.  Lots of lessons to be applied to today (see the roll-up at the end).  BTW – whilst composing this submission he became a grandfather, so we lift a major league ‘mazal tov‘ his way…

PDF Action report of the Battleship Night Action between the U.S. and Japanese forces off Savo Island on November 14-15, 1942.
PDF Action report of the Battleship Night Action between the U.S. and Japanese forces off Savo Island on November 14-15, 1942.

The Japanese had been relatively successful in increasing the number of men on Guadalcanal using warships as transports, but these men needed supplies and heavy equipment if they were to push the Americans off the island, and for that they needed to use larger, slower transports which would bring down even more men as well. Before these relatively vulnerable ships could venture near Guadalcanal the Japanese needed to cripple Allied air power out of Henderson Field.

SBD Dauntless over Henderson Field

SBD Dauntless over Henderson Field

An effort to do that had been stopped at great cost by Admiral Callaghan and his force of cruisers and destroyers in the predawn hours of November 13.

The eleven transports had already been en route when Admiral Tanaka, charged with escorting the transports, learned that Admiral Abe had been unable to bombard Henderson field. He and his eleven destroyers had wisely turned the transports north and returned them safely to base.

Unfortunately for the crews of the transports, that was not to be the end of their adventure. No sooner had the transports under Tanaka’s protection reached the safety of his base in Shortlands, than they were turned around to try again.

After Admiral Abe having failed, Admiral Kondo sent down a force of six cruisers and six destroyers under Vice Admiral Mikawa (who had been in charge at the Battle of Savo) and Rear Admiral Nishmura to try to knock out Henderson Field. While a heavy and two light cruisers along with 6 destroyers watched their back, three heavy cruisers fired 1,370 eight inch shells at Henderson field. But 277 lbs. eight inch shells could not do what 1378 lbs 14 inchers had done in October. One dive-bomber and 17 fighters were destroyed and an additional 32 fighters damaged, but Henderson Field was still operational. Planes from Enterprise and Espiritu Santo, frequently fueling and rearming at Henderson

Transport Asumasan Maru on fire.

Transport Asumasan Maru on fire.

Field would join those already based there in what would be one of the busiest days in the short but eventful history of the Marine Air Base.

After the bombardment Mikawa’s six cruisers and six destroyers, turned to the task of providing support for Tanaka’s convoy. They were attacked by air the following morning. Heavy Cruiser Kinugasa was sunk by dive bombers from the Enterprise, and three cruisers and a destroyer damaged. This was enough to make Mikawa abandon the transports and head for safety.

The planes then turned their attention to the transports. At the cost of only five aircraft, one heavy cruiser and seven transports were sunk, in addition to several other ships damaged. Tanaka and his destroyers did manage to save most of the men from the transports, but their supplies and heavy equipment were lost.

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NIGHT BATTLE, 14/15 November

Mikawa’s bombardment the night of 13/14 November was unopposed except for two PT boats that launched six torpedoes without results. Halsey and his staff had intended to detach battleships Washington and South Dakota from Enterprise’s Task Force (TF16) to contest Japanese attempts to knock out Henderson Field, but poor planning had thwarted their intention. Washington, South Dakota, and four escorting destroyers were designated Task Force 64 under Rear Admiral Willis Augustus (Ching) Lee. Halsey and his staff had incorrectly assumed TF16 was further north and waited too long to cut them loose. By the time they got to the area, Mikawa was long gone. This may have been fortunate in that, while Mikawa’s bombardment failed to halt operation of Henderson Field, a night engagement with Mikawa might have left TF 64 too weak to counter the much greater threat that was on the way.

Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo, commander of the “Advanced Force” formed an “emergency organization” adding battleship Kirishima, light cruiser Nagara, and four destroyers from Abe’s “Raiding Group” and light cruiser Sendai and four destroyers from Vice Admiral Kuita’s Carrier support group to his own “Main Body (Attack Group).” Two destroyers from Tanaka escort also joined as late reinforcement. The totals looked like this:

Japanese US
Battleships (BB) 1 2
Heavy Cruisers (CA) 2
Light Cruisers (CL) 2
Destroyers (DD) 11 4
Total displacement 92,763 82,202
(Displacement is standard tons as found in Chesneau’s, Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922-1946)

TF64, like Kondo’s bombardment group, was an ad hoc organization. Washington and South Dakota had never worked together and the four destroyers were from four different divisions, chosen only because they had the most fuel. The destroyers did not even have a designated division commander. Lee, like Callaghan, chose a column formation, but all the destroyers were 015673aplaced 4,000 to 5,000 yards ahead of the battleships giving them more of a scouting and screening function and at least giving them the opportunity to strike separately from the battle line.

As usual the Japanese formation was much more complicated. As envisioned by Japanese doctrine, Kondo hoped to reduce the opposing force by torpedo attack before the heavy units engaged. Battleship Kirishima followed two heavy cruisers in line ahead. They were protected by an inner screen of six destroyers and light cruiser Nagara under Rear Admiral Kimura, while a distant screen designated the “Sweeping Force” under Rear Admiral Shintaro Hashimoto consisting of flagship Sendai and three destroyers scouted several miles ahead.

Lee’s TF 64 had loitered south west of Guadalcanal during the day. Moving to a position to block Kondo, TF 64 looped clockwise around Savo Island passing north of the island, then turning progressively south-southeast and west, keeping the island to starboard.

Kondo was on a southwesterly course entering “The Slot” from the northeast. The Sweeping Force was headed south when at 22:10 Sendai spotted TF 64, steering southeast, off the port bow at a range of about five miles. Hashimoto split his force sending two destroyers, Uranami and Ayanami, counter clockwise around Savo to set up an ambush while Sendai and one destroyer followed the Americans.

Sandai reported TF 64 as two cruisers and four destroyers. Kondo detached light cruiser Nagara and four destroyers sending them south, to pass west of Savo Island to join Uranami and Ayanami in their ambush.

22:52 The moon was down. Lee changed course to the west taking the eastern half of Hashimoto’s sweeping force out of the radar shadow. 23:00 Washington picked up Sendai at a range of 16,000 yards. For fifty minutes high quality Japanese optics, made by companies that would later become famous for cameras and copiers had proven superior to the new technology of radar.

The battleship Washington (BB-56) leading South Dakota (BB-57) while firing at Kirishima on the night of 14-15 November 1942.

The battleship Washington (BB-56) leading South Dakota (BB-57) while firing at Kirishima on the night of 14-15 November 1942.

23:17 Washington and South Dakota opened fire on Sendai at 11,000 yards. Sandai and her accompanying destroyer made smoke and withdrew. Disappearing from South Dakota’s radar, she thought at least her target was sunk, but instead they looped back and resumed trailing the Americans.

23:22 The other two destroyers of the “Sweeping Force”, Uranami and Ayanami, had just come around the west side of Savo, when Walke, Benham, and Preston opened fire on them at a range of 15,000 yards. The range quickly closed to point blank.

23:25 Gwin, which had been firing star shells to illuminate Sendai, detected light cruiser Nagara and her four destroyers, in the shadows of Savo, only 1600 yards behind the first two destroyers and opened up on them. The Japanese responded quickly with guns and torpedoes.

23:27 Preston was hit by gunfire, her superstructure burning fiercely. She sank in nine minutes. She was hit five times and her torpedo warheads caught fire. She rolled, slowly capsized, hung for ten minutes with her bow in the air, then went down by the stern with the loss of 116 officers and men including her captain.

23:30 Uranami and Ayanami launched their torpedoes. As they continue counterclockwise around Savo, the Ayanami was hit at 23:32. She sank about midnight, scuttled after Uranami removed her crew.

23:32 Walke was hit by shell fire and at 23:38 a torpedo tore away her forecastle and sent the number two five inch mount 100 feet into the air. She sank at 23:43 with the loss of 75 of her crew also including her captain. The stern section plunged and her depth charges exploded killing crewmen in the water. The bow section continued to float, a hazard to ships following in her wake.

23:33 South Dakota suffered electrical failures from after being hit. Against doctrine three of four sections of her electrical system had been tied together. Power was restored with minor exceptions at 0036, but the loss of power to radios, radar, and weapons at a critical period was devastating to the morale of the crew that suddenly found themselves blind and helpless.  The wreckage of sinking destroyers and men in the water destroyed the American formation. Washington dodged left to avoid them. South Dakota dodged right and was silhouetted by the burning destroyers.

23:35 Nagara and her four destroyers launch their torpedoes.

USS Benham

USS Benham

23:38 Benham was hit by a torpedo at about frame 6, destroying her bow back to frame 14. As she withdrew with Gwin she will also sink, finished off by Gwin’s guns after she begins to break up the afternoon of November 15. There were no deaths among Benham’s crew and only seven injured. LCdr Taylor, Benham’s CO was awarded the Navy Cross for his attempts to save his ship.

23:41 South Dakota fired at the eastern half of the sweeping force. This required aiming the aft turret directly over the stern. The blast set fire to the three scout planes on the stern and shock knocked out her SG surface search radar which remained inoperative for five minutes. The next salvo blew two of the planes overboard and extinguished most of the fires. With fires on her stern and backlit by the burning destroyers South Dakota made a tempting target. Kirishima, two heavy cruisers, and their two escorting destroyers moved in for the kill.

23:48 Lee detached his two surviving destroyers, allowing them to limp away.

23:48 South Dakota was on course 300. She picked up a target at 070 relative, 5,800 yds on reciprocal course. South Dakota was illuminated by the second ship in the Japanese Main Body.

23:55 Kimura’s flagship, Nagara, and the four accompanying destroyers launched 34 torpedoes at South Dakota. All missed.

00:00 Washington opened fire on Kirishima at 8,400 yards. Kirishima and the cruisers opened fire on South Dakota then at a range of about 5,500 yards. South Dakota returned fire on

The Japanese battleship Kirishima takes hit after hit from Washington (BB-56) as the battle reaches its climax.
The Japanese battleship Kirishima takes hit after hit from Washington (BB-56) as the battle reaches its climax.

the illuminating ship. When the search lights were extinguished and the third ship started illuminating South Dakota, she shifted secondaries to the third ship. Her 16 inchers fired first at the second ship and then shifted to the third. Enemy fire started hitting South Dakota almost immediately after the illumination and continued until 0005.Steering and engine control were never lost, but there was extensive damage to radar, radio, fire control and internal communications.

00:07 Washington had hit Kirishima with nine 16” and about forty 5”. She was hopelessly wrecked, her topsides ablaze.

00:08 Firing ceased when all targets were lost. South Dakota withdrew from the fight and made for the prearranged rendezvous point. South Dakota had 38 killed or missing and 60 wounded. She had been hit at least 26 times including one 5 inch, six 6 inch, eighteen 8 inch and one 14 inch. Damage was later deemed superficial, but her fighting ability had been seriously reduced and she would be sent back to the US for refit as soon as a replacement arrived. Most armor piercing projectiles passed though the ship’s structure without detonating, apparently because of excessively long delay fuses chosen in the hope that near shorts (hitting the water short of the target) would proceed under water, and penetrate the hull below the waterline before the shell exploded. Ironically the single 14 inch shell that hit South Dakota and jammed her after turret was not an armor piercing round. In fact during the course of the entire war, no American battleship was ever hit by an armor piercing round from a Japanese battleship. (Campbell)

Washington lost track of South Dakota and did not know her condition. In an attempt to lead the Japanese away from her and his crippled destroyers, Washington continued north. Along the way she dodged several torpedoes. Here the decision to sacrifice some speed for maneuverability, giving her twin rudders, seems to have paid off. Even so the US battleships were lucky not to have been hit by Japanese torpedoes. Even Tanaka’s escorts got into the battle when two destroyers fired torpedoes at Washington at 00:39. Certainly some of the credit for the rare failure of the Japanese torpedo attack must go to the destroyers that disrupted the attempted ambush.

00:25 Kondo had had enough and ordered all ships not actively engaged to withdraw leaving Kirishima off the northwest coast of Savo, like Hiei before her, unable to steer. Sendai and escorting destroyers removed the crew, before she was scuttled at 0320. In all, the Japanese suffered 249 men killed and 84 wounded. Heavy cruiser Atago and light cruiser Nagara sustained only superficial damage. Heavy cruiser Takao and light cruiser Sendai were undamaged.

Unlike the battle two nights earlier, this was clearly an American victory. The Japanese lost a battleship and a destroyer totaling 34,070 tons. The Americans lost three destroyers totaling 4,909 tons. Washington took not a single hit.

Even so this victory was less significant than the blood bath two nights earlier, because most (but not all) of the damage to the transports had already been done.

Tanaka faced a painful decision. Only four of the original eleven transports were still afloat. If he turned them around and headed for home, they would almost certainly be sunk without k01467aaccomplishing anything after so much sacrifice. If he anchored them off Guadalcanal, loss would be even more certain, but some of the troops and supplies might make it ashore. Ultimately after receiving conflicting direction from his confusing chain of command, he chose to run the transports aground, assuring that at least part of their supplies would be landed. They were run ashore at about 04:00. They were attacked by planes from Henderson field and Enterprise, Army artillery, coast defense batteries, and ultimately a new arrival, destroyer Meade. Meade was eager to try out her new 40 mm guns which proved as effective against transports as against aircraft. The eleven transports lost totaled 77,608 tons. (Morison)

After dispatching the transports and working over the beach where the supplies and reinforcements were landed, Meade was then joined by a PT boat, landing and patrol craft, and an aircraft spotter in rescuing 135 men from the Walke and 131 from Preston (Morison).

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WHAT WERE THE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED?

On the American side there was a clear need to understand the characteristics and limitations of your equipment, notably radar and the failed torpedoes. There was still a need for intelligence about the Japanese torpedoes. Task forces needed to operate and train together. There was the simple requirement of proper use of pro-words and radio discipline. Combat Information Centers were still to be developed. The danger of keeping aircraft, filled with gasoline, on deck was once again demonstrated.

Reasons sited by Admiral Tanaka for the failure of Japanese reinforcement efforts:

–Command Complications—multiple bosses, Combined Fleet, the Eleventh Air Fleet, and the Eighth Fleet. The result was confusing and at some times conflicting and incompatible.

–Force composition—forces were hastily thrown together without the opportunity to train together.

–Inconsistent operation plans—there was never a consistent operation plan.

–Communication failures

–Poor Army-Navy coordination—planning was done independently without coordination.

–Underestimation of the enemy.

–Inferiority in the air.

Basically I think the Japanese failed because they held back. The Americans put everything they had into the battle. Some of the units even entered the battle with wounds from previous engagements. Enterprise’s forward elevator was still not working after the Battle of Santa Cruz. South Dakota’s most forward 16” turret was not used because of a bomb hit from the same battle (Crenshaw). A torpedo bomber had intentionally crashed into San Francisco’s after control position hours before she committed to fighting battleships at point blank range. Some of the destroyers also fought with significant equipment like fire control radars out of commission.

Unlike the Americans, the Japanese seemed to have a predisposition to try to fight with the minimum force that seemed would succeed. How different the battles would have been, if the Japanese had also used the other two battleships they had available. And where was the Yamato, in port as always. Where were the other six battleships the Japanese had? All were better armed and armored than Kiei and Kirishima, and almost as fast.

The Japanese looked forward to an ultimate Mahanian sea battle that would decide the war. What they failed to see was that this was their opportunity. With 30,000 Marines on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, the US Navy had no choice but to fight to keep them supplied, or if that failed to evacuate them. With a substantial advantage in ships, it was the Japanese’s opportunity to score a crushing victory, but they held back and husbanded their resources for some future opportunity. Ultimately the great battle would come two years later in the waters of the Philippines, when the Japanese would be out numbered approximately three to one.

In the end, the Japanese managed to deliver only 2000 men, 1,500 bags of rice (a four day supply), and 260 round of mountain howitzer ammunition which was bombed and destroyed the same day, at a cost of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, three destroyers, and eleven transports (Dull). Tanaka reported that most of the men in the transports made it ashore, but without supplies and heavy equipment, soon each additional man would be one more that would need to be evacuated.

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In both these night battles, ships that were already damaged and on fire distracted their enemies from other threats, Hiei on 13 November and South Dakota on 14/15 November. As we will see, it will happen again.

015673b
Washington (BB-56) after the night action of 14-15 November 1942.

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References:

Breyer, Siegfried, Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905-1970, translated from the German by Alfred Kurti, Doubleday, 1973

Campbell, John, Naval Weapons of World War Two, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1985

Chesneau, Roger, ed., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1922-1946, Conway Maritime Press Ltd, 1980

Crenshaw, Russell Sydnor, Jr., South Pacific Destroyer, Naval Institute Press, 1998

Dull, Paul S., A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945), Naval Institute Press, 1978

Lacroix, Eric and Linton, Wells II, Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War, Naval Institute Press, 1997

Morison, Samuel Eliot, History of United States Naval Operations of World War II, Vol. V, The Struggle for Guadalcanal, August 1942—February 1943, Little, Brown and Co., 1948

SWD-1, Summary of War Damage to US Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts, 17 October 1941 to 7 December 1942, reprint by The Floating Drydock

Tanaka, Raizo, “The Struggle for Guadalcanal,” from The Japanese Navy in World War II, Dr. David C. Evans, editor, Naval Institute Press, 1969, 1986

Young, Peter, ed., The World Almanac Book of World War II, Bison Books Ltd, 1981

Cross-posted at USNI blog

Article Series - Solomon Islands Campaign Blog Project

  1. The Solomons Campaign: Geographical and Political Background
  2. The Solomons Campaign: Status of the United States Fleet and Plans After Midway
  3. The Imperial Japanese Navy after Midway
  4. The Solomon Islands Campaign: Prelude to the Series
  5. The Solomons Campaign: WATCHTOWER — Why Guadalcanal?
  6. The Solomons Campaign: Guadalcanal 7-9 August, 1942; Assault and Lodgment
  7. The Solomons Campaign: Unleashing the Assassin’s Mace
  8. The Solomons Campaign: Execution at Savo Island
  9. The Solomons Campaign: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24-25 August 1942
  10. The Solomons Campaign: Strategic Pause and Review – Japan’s Last Chance for Victory?
  11. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part I
  12. The Solomons Campaign: THE BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL, Part II
  13. The Solomons Campaign: Cactus Air Force and the Bismarck Sea
  14. The Solomons Campaign: Operation Vengeance – The Shootdown Of Yamamoto
  15. The Solomons Campaign: Ground Action – The New Georgia Campaign, June 20-November 3, 1943
  16. The Solomons Campaign: The Bougainville Invasion, November – December 1943(Part I)
  17. The Bougainville Invasion: November – December 1943 (Part 2)
  18. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 3): December 1943 – March 1944
  19. The Bougainville Invasion (Part 4): March 1944 – May 1944
  20. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (Part I)
  21. The Solomons Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (II)
  22. Solomon Islands Campaign: Battle of Santa Cruz (III)
  23. Flightdeck Friday – MIA Edition: WWII Navy Aircrew Returns Home

Postcards from Deployment: Deployment Stress

090828-N-5019M-081One of the reasons we went with the ‘Postcards from deployment…’ feature a couple of years ago was to bring an unvarnished look at deployments from a sailor’s POV that doesn’t always make it to the light of day, except in rare fora like the “Carrier” series late last year. Charles touches on something everyone of us who have walked up the brow or launched to the ship on Day 1 of a major deployment have faced.  I well recall on my first deployment receiving a telegram  (yes, yes, this was pre-internet days), barely 6 weeks into what would turn out to be a 9+ month deployment, that started with “Your Mom’s OK and will be out of the hospital in a week or so.  Now, about your car…” The feeling of utter helplessness, that decisions you would normally be making are now in the hands of someone else can be, well, stressful. Beyond that too are the signature life-milestones — births, first steps, first day at school, holidays and anniversaries and deaths that pass sans our presence.

And such stress is not a good companion in the air, on the flightdeck or in the engineering spaces or bridge.  We all developed our coping mechanisms and learned to compartmentalize – and thus ensured long-term employment for any one of a number of “counselors,” shrinks and in some folks’ case, divorce lawyers upon our return to the beach. – SJS

SJS,

Yet another awesome day out here in the Western Pacific. We are getting some exercises in with the folks from CNFJ and prepping for our ultimate mission which will be putting 090901-N-8421M-001aircraft overhead in either OEF or OIF support. I happen to get a chance to swing by the site and get caught up on the comments so far. Tell Skippy-San, that I knew I had a spelling error regarding the man-made island in Tokyo that I visited after I sent you the note. I was just trying to remember and phonetically spell what I had heard and asked for while traveling via JR trains and Tokyo Subways. As to him wanting to swap places, I would be all for it. Take orders to Pensacola in a heart beat if it meant that I had my feet on dry land for longer then a few months. That kind of leads me to my topic of the day, deployment stress.

We [us in the military] aren’t aliens or oddities that don’t deal with some of the same things the rest of the civilian populace deals with. Rather our stress is even more complex and convoluted the normal. Most people are able to come home and work through the stress every day. Being in the military sometimes means being deployed and trying to have to deal with this stress from the end of email/postal link or the ever so infrequent phone call link (remember cashing a check for rolls of quarters to use the pay phone at Sigonella and then doing the math for the time zone changes?). Both sides deal with stress and the military is working hard to have pre-deployment classes so everyone realizes the stress and can work through it. They tell us not to leave with fights brewing 090902-N-8960W-045over our heads. Try to get things resolved as soon as possible before a deployment happens or see if an issue can be tabled until everyone is home and able to talk about it. It is accepted that everyone will be angry and say some things that aren’t nice on the ramp up to the deployment. Working through that before deployment is always stressed as well. All sorts of coping strategies are introduced by the staff of the pre-deployment classes.

All of us who have deployed know the stress that I will be talking about. It is where something happens at home and you as the deployed member can’t deal with it. Having to only send word home via email, letter, or twenty minute phone call via a Sailor Phone. The stress where you hear from the Spousal unit things like: “The car is broke and the mechanic is asking XYZ for repairs….”; “Johnny is becoming a terror at the house and starting to do poorly at school…”; “Yeller took sick a couple of days ago, I took him to the vet…”. You get letters like this and it tears you up inside. You know how to deal with it if your home, but out here away from it all, some of us are at a loss to deal with the feelings or emotions. Part of it comes from the fact that you want to turn 090904-N-8960W-010to someone for a shoulder, but your loved one isn’t there immediately. Even worst is the feeling that you know others onboard are probably going through the same sort of stress, but still feel like your alone in the water. Combine this with the regular work stress of trying to maintain a work center, a workload, and keep out of the negative spotlight in maintenance control; we have a storm brewing inside everyone.

There are a number of ways we seem to deal with it. Some folks write out long flowing emails/letters describing how they are feeling, telling their spouses how to deal with it down to the tiniest detail, and in general trying to offload some of this stress. Others will spend every off-shift hour making phone calls via the sailor phones trying to get help going where they can or work through the problem. Others still will try and turn to supervisors and leadership for direction. We in turn help point them to such people as the chaplains or even the ship’s psychologists as people to talk to. Some of us will compartmentalize the information and off load it while in port some place or they will go to the gym and work out the stress that way. Some will just take a day and everything that goes wrong will explode against people about little things, after a day of just venting they will feel better. The final 090904-N-8960W-003way is the worst way and I personally have only seen it done once on a deployment years ago. That is through hurting themselves. As someone in leadership, having to attend training trying to recognize this stress and intercede before the final option is exercised has emphasized constantly during workups in most of my cruises. The ones that usually go the final route are those in the first term/first deployment cycle.

Most of our first cruise folks are dealing with being away from home and again those feelings of being alone, even though they are around five thousand other people. It gets even harder when they are TAD to some place on the ship and only feel more and more alienated. This isn’t what they were expecting from the TV shows, the recruiter, the instructors at the various schools were telling them what the fleet was like. When you add to that a letter that begins “It isn’t you it is me…” from a girlfriend/wife, that usually seems to be the straw that breaks the back for a large number of our first cruise folks. It is hard work to bounce back from something like that, as supervisors we work very hard to pay attention to mood changes. Sometimes all it takes is some engagement, opening up a chance for someone to vent. Sometimes you need to be the initial contact and then refer them to other people who are better trained and prepared to help work through the issue. Engagement is always the word of the day for some of this stress.

I am going through my own deployment stress. Being a newlywed is hard, even more so when you were only home for two months before starting the in/out of the deployment cycle. I was smart and loaded up with nearly all the cards for the birthday and anniversary that I could get while in San Diego and Japan when I could. Every place I hit for a port visit I try and remember to hunt for some little curio to send home and share my trip with her. Even more then that though is just the thought that I really want to just spend time at home getting use to living the married life. We were dating while I was in work ups for my 2007-2008 deployment. Trying to get personal time in-between duty weekends, training detachments, etc. Got 090831-N-3038W-037married in Nov 2008 and changed commands that winter, only to start the whole cycle again. I have a slew of things to figure out beyond finishing up this deployment. The biggest tickler in the back of my head is finding a house where the two of us can live together, but the other thing fighting that is I am expected to rotated in January of 2011 (basically a year and four months from now) to another duty assignment. So even if I found a good house at a decent price could if I did have to move could I make a profit on it? Family is also a big stressor right now. My last deployment, some very close family members passed away, they weren’t in my immediate nuclear family, so I couldn’t take leave. The most that I could do was shoulder the news, compartmentalize it and move on. There wasn’t the time nor the money to make a transit from the Gulf all the way back to the US to make the funerals. When the deployment ended is when the emotional release happened, still very hard for me to deal with even now some of these thoughts. I am really in the mood for a break from this sea duty and want some nice shore duty place where I don’t have to see a ship for a while.

Oh, and the home front goes through deployment stress as well. It is even harder for them since most of the time they are in the middle of the storm that started the letter or email. It is really helpful if friends or neighbors are able to help out from time to time. Even something simple as helping to cook a meal because of a hectic week is appreciated from time to time.

Well that is it for deep thoughts from out here. I hope this little glimpse in to some of the other things that make up our lives beyond fun port calls and living out the dream of being Top Gun has been enlightening for your readers .

Sincerely,

Charles

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