10 Best Photo Captions from the 1964 USS Enterprise Cruise Book

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic around-the-world cruise of the USS Enterprise and Nuclear Task Force One.  Celebrate this event by taking a look at the lighter side of the “Big E” cruise book from 1964.

1. Lifeblood of the NavyIMG_3399

2. U.S. Navy – Ahead of Hipsters Since 1964IMG_3396

3. TeamworkIMG_3400

4. Push it Real GoodIMG_3402

5. Do You Even Lift?IMG_3403

6. Custard MachineIMG_3404

7. A Different TimeIMG_3405

8. Not LikelyIMG_3406

9. Michelangelo of the NavyIMG_3407

10. No CommentIMG_3409

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The Opportunity to Make History: Vietnam War Hero’s Flight to Freedom Remembered

Model designer Michael McLeod, Larry Chambers, Ted Bronson, and Buang Ly at the model presentation, 5 April 2014.

Model designer Michael McLeod, Larry Chambers, Ted Bronson, and Buang-Ly at the model presentation, 5 April 2014.

“The bravest guy I know. He didn’t have enough gas to make it back to the beach when Midway gave him an opportunity to make history.”    – Rear Admiral Larry Chambers, USN (Ret.) on Buang-Ly’s historic landing on the deck of USS Midway.

30 April 1975.

South Vietnam was in the process of being overrun by the North Vietnamese in April 1975. The end of the decades-old Vietnam conflict approached, and many South Vietnamese desperately tried to escape the country before the takeover by North Vietnam.

Major Buang Ly landing his Cessna OE-1 "Bird Dog."
Major Buang Ly landing his Cessna OE-1 “Bird Dog.”

The U.S. Navy was busy cooperating with South Vietnamese forces in Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation in history. According to NHF volunteer and Vietnam War veteran Capt. Ted Bronson, USN (Ret.) Frequent Wind was the final phase in the evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese from Saigon, South Vietnam. When that final phase ended, more than 7,000 people had been evacuated to safety aboard many U.S. Navy ships operating in the South China Sea.

Although the U.S. ran the operations during Frequent Wind, several South Vietnamese aviators took it upon themselves to escape in countless helicopters and planes. The most memorable story of the evacuation occurred nearly fifty years ago this month.

Vietnamese Air Force Major Buang was desperate. Buang-Ly and his family flew a VNAF OE-1 “Bird Dog” from Con Son Island in South Vietnam to safety during the evacuation operation. Under heavy fire and dangerously low on fuel, Major Ly eventually found the American aircraft carrier USS Midway.

Ly began to circle around the Navy ship, desperate but unable to make contact. He resorted to writing a note stuck into his pistol, which he then dropped on the flight deck during a low pass:

Ly's handwritten message.

Ly’s handwritten message.

“Can you move the Helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough to mouve. Please rescue me.

Major Bung, wife and 5 child.”

Midway Commanding Officer Capt. Larry Chambers knew the lack of flight deck space aboard his ship would make Ly’s landing difficult. He ordered his crew to push several VNAF UH-1 Huey helicopters overboard to allow enough room for Major Ly to land. Rear Admiral Chambers recollects the events of the 30th:

“The sky was overcast. Light rain was falling. Not much of a sea state. When we turned into the wind we had 40 kts over the deck (15 knots natural plus 25 knots that the old girl was making). My only concern, besides the Admiral telling me not to do it, was whether or not Major Ly would carry enough power to get through the burble and down draft aft of the ship. The high wind over the deck increases the downdraft and the turbulence. Because we were operating helos, I had given the engineers permission to shut down half the plant for maintenance. When I told the chief engineer that I needed 25 knots, he informed me that we didn’t have enough steam. I ordered him to shift the hotel load to the emergency diesels. You get the idea. In addition, we stripped the arresting gear cross deck pendants. At Ly’s approach speed, my only worry was getting him across the ramp. His relative speed couldn’t have been more than 20 to 25 knots.”

Ly received the “green light” from the tower and had permission to land. Landing the Cessna on the deck of carrier without a tailhook was no easy task. One website described the “Bird Dog” as “the plane those gutsy pilots used from Korea to Vietnam.” According to Chambers, Ly nonetheless “made a perfect landing.” Everybody on deck applauded, and Ly made it into the history books. Many sailors aboard collected money to help Buang and his family emigrate to the United States.

5 April 2014.


Buang-Ly and Family with Admiral Chambers at the Sun ‘n Fun Expo.

Almost fifty years later, these events were commemorated in a small ceremony held at the 2014 Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland, Florida. The Orlando resident came with his extended family to the event held outside the Florida Air Museum at Sun ‘n Fun.Major Ly was presented a special aircraft model in honor of the historic event. The ‘weathered’ model set on flight deck markings, was built by the US Navy’s ‘Cold War Gallery’ award-winning model builder Michael McLeod, and set in a museum quality acrylic case. The model was commissioned and presented by Captain Bronson on behalf of the Naval Historical Foundation.

Major Buang-Ly

Major Buang-Ly

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Norman’s Corner: A Man for All Seasons

By Norman Polmar

(Editor’s note: This is the 27th a series of blogs by Norman Polmar—author, analyst, and consultant specializing in the naval, aviation, and intelligence fields. Follow the full series here. Mr. Polmar is now traveling abroad and the series will resume this summer.)

Dr. Dov S. Zakheim

Dr. Dov S. Zakheim

On an afternoon in late 1975 I received a telephone call from a young man identifying himself as an analyst at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). He said that his boss—Robin Pirie—had suggested that he contact me “to learn about naval issues.”

I had known Robin for several years. He had retired from the Navy after precisely 20 years of service. A submariner, he had commanded the nuclear-propelled attack submarine Skipjack (SSN 585). He later held positions in the Department of Defense and the Navy, serving as Under Secretary and Acting Secretary of the Navy.

The analyst—Dov Zakheim—and I met for lunch at the Marriott Twin Bridges Hotel in Arlington. (The hotel was demolished decades ago.) We talked about the Navy—its problems and its opportunities in the post-Vietnam era. We “hit it off” and in the coming years became close friends.

Dov had graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University in 1970, a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He also studied at the London School of Economics and earned a doctorate in economics and politics at St. Anthony’s College at the University of Oxford. And, he was ordained as a rabbi in 1973, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a practicing attorney.

He left CBO in 1977 and held a succession of posts in the Department of Defense. From 1985 to 1987 he was Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Planning and Resources under Dr. Fred Iklé, being active in the DOD strategic planning and programming, and the budget process.

In early 1981, Dov and former Under Secretary of the Navy James Woolsey met with Secretary of the Navy-designate John Lehman to propose me for a senior position in the Navy Department —without my knowledge. Subsequently Lehman offered me a position, but I could not accept (see blog “Working for John Lehman”). In 1982 both Dov and I were invited by Secretary Lehman to serve on his committee looking at the lessons of the Falklands conflict.

Also, in early 1984, for Secretary Iklé, I accompanied Dov on a trip to the island of Antigua where the United States had a naval facility or “navfac”—a center for the SOSUS seafloor acoustic detection system. The Navy was planning to close the facility while the State Department wanted to maintain a U.S. presence on the island. We came up with proposals to meet both goals. (Subsequently, my family and I have returned to the island several times—a beautiful and interesting Caribbean hideaway.)

During that period the U.S. government decided to withdrawn funding for the Israeli development of the Lavi fighter aircraft. Dov had a key role in this most controversial decision, and he was savagely attacked by some Israeli politicians and American supporters of Israel.

Dov recorded the debates and decision in his well-written book Flight of the Lavi, published in 1996. A review of the book by Patrick Clawson in the Middle East Review (September 1997) explained: “Zakheim led a successful Pentagon effort to kill an Israeli plan to build the Lavi, an advanced fighter aircraft. The Lavi made some sense in its original conception, as a low-technology inexpensive ground attack plane with a U.S. engine. But it then evolved into a high-technology plane requiring advanced U.S. technology. The cost became prohibitive, and it required extraordinary concessions, such as Washington’s permission for Israel to market the plane to third countries in direct competition with U.S.-built fighters. In the end, Israel could get more planes cheaper by buying U.S.-built fighters, and so killed the Lavi.”

Dov and Dr. Iklé also had me undertake a review of the Navy’s SSN 21 nuclear-propelled submarine program (later named Seawolf). My analysis, completed in 1985, was controversial as I highlighted the problems with the SSN 21 program. Subsequently the government cancelled the SSN 21 program with only three submarines of that design being constructed.

Leaving the government in 1987, Dov joined the Systems Planning Corporation, a technology and analysis firm. He became a corporate vice president and chief executive officer of its subsidiary SPC International Corporation. While with the firm he was involved with project for several foreign nations, especially in the Middle East.

He returned to the Department of Defense in early 2001 as Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and Chief Financial Officer—the No. 4 position in the department. In that position Dov managed the world’s largest departmental budget with a staff numbering some 50,000 men and women around the world. He additionally was the Department of Defense coordinator for civilian programs in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004. (This last experience led Dov to write the book A Vulcan’s Tale: How the Bush Administration Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, published in 2011.)
Dov served as Under Secretary of Defense until April 2004. While he was in that position on a regular basis I would ask him for a favor, always the same favor: At the southern side of the Pentagon are two large, concrete stair cases leading down to the south parking area. Between the stairs and the Pentagon itself are concrete walks a couple of hundred feet long. When it rained or snowed the stairs and walks—although regularly swept of snow—were messy and at times slippery. They were used by a couple of thousand people every day. I implored Dov to have an overhead covering made, even removable in summer, to give some protection from the elements. It was my only request of him while he was under secretary. He could not get the bureaucracy to make it happen!

Despite this situation, we stayed good friends, often going out socially, celebrating holidays together, and a few times my daughter sat for his three sons when they were young kids.
Today Dov and his wife travel, enjoy a second home in New England, and spend time with their children and grandchildren. Of course, Dov cannot slow down. He consults to the Center for Naval Analyses, sits on several corporate boards, writes two political blogs, regularly has articles published in major newspaper and journals, gives lectures… and periodically has lunch with me.

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Sea-Air-Space 2014: Come Together. Right Now. Across the Seas

The giant Sea-Air-Space 2014 exhibit display in the Gaylord atrium.

The giant Sea-Air-Space 2014 exhibit display in the Gaylord atrium.

Thousands traveled to National Harbor, MD last week to attend the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space (SAS) Expo and Conference. This annual event brings the U.S. defense industry, private sector, and military experts together for three days of educational, professional, and networking events.

The theme of this year’s expo was “The Sea Service: Forward. Mobile. Ready.” Attendees experienced illuminating seminars and demonstrations that highlighted the latest maritime-related technologies and solutions. U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert called this willingness to work together in today’s pressurized budget environment as “pursuing interdependence.” Greenert passionately expressed these issues and concerns during a conference dinner held on 8 April.  According to Greenert, “the relentless period of demand on naval forces” has forced the need for “services to adapt and to come together to get the most out of this period.”  It is up to our Navy’s leaders today to forge better avenues of conversation between industry and research and development centers. Historians take note.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (April 7, 2014) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert delivers remarks during the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition on a service chief update panel. Greenert spoke about the Navy's ability to operate forward, mobility and readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (April 7, 2014) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert delivers remarks during the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition on a service chief update panel. Greenert spoke about the Navy’s ability to operate forward, mobility and readiness. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

One of the major discussion points driving this year’s theme of forward mobility was the old adage, “doing more with less.” This sentiment resonated in the CNO’s speech at the 7 April service chief update panel and several other conference sessions. More than ever, the necessity to think smarter together is evident both ashore and afloat.  It isn’t about what the Navy is planning to spend money on anymore. It is now what they are NOT going to allocate funding for in the outgoing years.

Much of this can be accomplished. One of the roundtable sessions I attended discussed the future projection of the “Navy’s Next Generation IT.” Panelists explored how the Navy-Marine Corps team plans to accomplish the business process of moving data and information both globally and responsibly. Navy Program Executive Officer for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) Victor Gavin explained the Navy’s current efforts and struggle to modernize information technology.  According to Gavin, the Navy sends over 20 TB of information and 33 million emails a day.  He plans to implement a “cloud-like environment” to handle this data in the near future. This will allow higher capability through a slew of new and exciting applications many of the private industries present could deliver. Any professional knowledgeable of current trends in IT knows this project is both logistically and technologically ambitious. But it is not far out of reach.

Other panelists in the session shifted focus from grand ambition to smart practicality in military tactics. Marine Corps Brigadier General Kevin J. Nally, Deputy Chief Information Officer, offered up some new tactical innovations the Marine Corps will likely utilize globally.  He mentioned giving Marines smart tablets to go over and assess target areas while in transit aboard helicopters and Ospreys.  This, he assured, “will increase situational awareness.” Technology used to make our lives easier is entirely different when its influence can be utilized to save the lives of our warriors fighting overseas.

How can the military achieve this seamless stream of communication?  BGen Nally echoed the need to once again do more with less.  “You have to be smart,” he said, “and make the best of a difficult situation.” Thankfully, technology continues to drive the necessity to be more productive.


NHHC Exhibit Display: D-Day at 70
There was plenty of information about the future at Sea-Air-Space 2014.  Some chose, however, to look the future by examining the past.

Our friends in the Communications and Outreach Division (COD) of the Naval History and Heritage Command rolled out an impressive new display in honor of the event. The event was the perfect opportunity to debut the new exhibit, less than two months after the new command logo was unveiled to the general public.

The division’s new exhibit, titled “D-Day at 70: A History in Forward. Mobile. Ready,” showcased how the Navy uses the latest technology to conserve artifacts for future generations. The exhibit displayed exhibit artifact and information from the Collections Management and Archives divisions of the National Museum of the United States Navy, which included video footage of sunken craft off Normandy, sand from Omaha Beach, and the first Navy flag flown after D-Day. The command also included some artifacts and information from the First World War, including an aviator’s flight helmet and Medal of Honor placard. Members of the COD team and other NHHC historians, curators, and underwater archaeologists were on hand throughout the three-day event.

According to Paul Lachance of NHHC outreach, the visioning for the SAS exhibit project began in January. The effort and level of detail showed. The detail went so far as to incorporate the compass-like pattern of the Gaylord Hotel’s floor into the design of their displays.  Annalisa Underwood, one of the newest members of the COD outreach team, was one of the individuals behind the new design. “We wanted to incorporate the new logo and create a central theme around it,” Underwood said. She added, “It’s nice to give visitors a place they can go to see what we can’t physically bring to them.” Keeping a record of their exploits on their active social media presence.

The new NHHC COD exhibit displays.

The new NHHC COD exhibit displays.

Underwood was surprised at the different types of conference guests that came to the booth. Many attendees were genuinely “excited about naval history.”  Some had fathers who served. Others recently finished their service and now work in industry. She added how one particular individual stuck out in her mind:

“A gentleman came by this morning who had a son in the third grade.  The son had to do a report on a famous person. While most students in his class were picking people like Amelia Earhart, Jackie Robinson, etc., he decided to use John Paul Jones in his report. He was pulling resources from the command’s website. It’s really nice to see that kids at that age are interested in Naval History.”

It always warms my heart to know that naval history is alive and well.  Special thanks to the men and women at NHHC who work hard to ensure our rich and proud naval history is preserved for future generations.

As I left the exhibit hall on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about the Navy’s other connections with Forward. Mobile. Ready.

Enlist in the Navy_Reuterdahl

All Together! Enlist in the Navy by Henry Reuterdahl

Mark your calendar for next year’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo. It will be held from 13-15 April at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD.


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Submarine History Seminar Recap: A Century of U.S. Navy Torpedo Development

"I’m really delighted to be here with an audience that I don’t have to apologize to for being interested in torpedo history" - Dr. Katherine Epstein

“I’m really delighted to be here with an audience that I don’t have to apologize to for being interested in torpedo history” – Dr. Katherine Epstein at the 2014 Submarine History Seminar

“We’ve come a long way since FIDO.”

In the years since the first Submarine History Seminar was held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History during the Submarine Force Centennial in 2010, enthusiasts of undersea warfare have learned a great deal about the history and memory of the submarine service. Everything from the legacy of leaders like Admiral Hyman Rickover and Captain Edward Beach to the vessels that changed the course of history like Nautilus and Seawolf have been discussed and thoroughly analyzed by some of the most distinguished and qualified experts on submarine warfare and submarine history. The seminar is generally scheduled in April so that the Submarine Force 11 April birthday can be celebrated during the event.

This year’s seminar held last Thursday was no different. The theme of the evening’s event was “A Century of United States Navy Torpedo Development.” Seminar speakers represented the current leaders and recognized historians on the subject from the Navy, industry, and academia. Approximately seventy guests enjoyed a night of information, birthday celebration, and commemoration. The 3 April event marked the second seminar held in the Cold War Gallery of the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard. Previous seminars were held at the Navy Memorial in downtown DC and the National War College in Southwest Washington, DC.

Rear Admiral Jerry Holland, USN (Ret.) speaks at the NSL History Seminar.

Rear Admiral Jerry Holland, USN (Ret.) speaks at the NSL History Seminar.

This year’s seminar recognized the accomplishments of longtime chair and moderator, Rear Admiral William J. Holland, Jr., USN (Ret.). The seminar ran under his tutelage since the Naval Historical Foundation joined as a co-sponsor with the Naval Submarine League in 2002.  Over a decade of successful seminars later, Admiral Holland passed the reins to author, analyst, historian, and retired Reserve intelligence Captain, Dr. David A. Rosenberg, USN (Ret.). Rear Admiral Holland’s history of the Submarine History Seminar can be found in the latest issue of Pull Together.

Dr. David A. Rosenberg

Dr. David A. Rosenberg

The fact is, I could never fill his shoes. – Dr. David Rosenberg on former NSL Seminar Chair Rear Admiral Jerry Holland

Although the subject matter varied among the presenters, the central theme remained the same. Each brief highlighted the complex and often misunderstood nature of torpedoes and their critical influence in United States Navy history.  It could be argued that torpedoes helped develop the United States Navy, and not the other way around.  The variety of topics discussed during the evening made for a well-rounded seminar. Dr. Rosenberg’s first effort was well-received by attendees. BZ to you, Dr. Rosenberg.

The following is a brief summary of each of the four speakers at the 2014 Submarine History Seminar:

Dr. Katherine Epstein

Dr. Katherine Epstein

Dr. Katherine C. Epstein
“The Technical, Tactical and Operational Impact of Early U.S. Navy Torpedoes”

Rutgers University-Camden professor Dr. Katherine C. Epstein is the first person to admit that her love of torpedoes is not always popular amongst her colleagues. “It doesn’t always seem like an obvious choice of subject,” she laughed in the introduction of her talk. Dr. Epstein provided a fascinating discussion on the technical, tactical, and operational impact of U.S. Navy torpedoes.  Specifically, she focused on the developmental rivalry between the British and American navies prior to the First World War.

Her central thesis (included in her recent book, Torpedo: Inventing the Military-Industrial Complex in the United States and Great Britain, Harvard University Press, 2013) alters many common-held perceptions about the history and development of naval warfare during the time period. She argued that “we know far less than we think we do about pre-WWI U.S. naval history. The era was far more complex and far more interesting than we tend to think.” She went on to discuss how officers and officials at the time had a slew of difficult decisions about the complex machinery and mechanisms of the naval torpedo. This was likely due to the narrow scope of naval combat using the weapon and the sophisticated nature of the projectile itself.

Torpedoes were complex pieces of machinery, even by late 19th century-early 20th century standards. She noted how a guidance system for the Whitehead Torpedo gyroscope had over 500 separate parts, an astounding number of intricate pieces for the time period.  Even major policymakers like Admiral William Sims could not completely grasp the technology. According to Sims, torpedoes were “capable of great improvement [. . .] far in advance of the personnel.” More often than not, experts underestimated target ranges and the capabilities of the torpedo director, causing a rift in valuable data necessary to move forward in development.  As suggested in her conclusion:

“If a single weapon system could cause that much uncertainly about the future of naval warfare, there is probably a lot more uncertainty that the standard account of U.S. naval history in the pre-war period has overlooked.”

Ms. Kate Morrand

Ms. Kate Morrand

Ms. Kate Morrand
“The Howell Torpedo No. 24: Its Discovery, Recovery, Conservation and Place in U.S. Naval History”

Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Senior Conservator & Laboratory Manager Kate Morrand sought to answer some questions about the nature of early torpedo development in her discussion of the discovery and recovery of one of the Navy’s earliest underwater weapons, the Howell Mark I Torpedo.

After a brief explanation of the management, research, and outreach initiatives currently conducted by the NHHC Underwater Archaeology branch, Ms. Morrand talked about the recent discovery of Howell No. 24 torpedo off the coast of San Diego.  Interestingly enough, the Howell’s main competitor was the Whitehead Torpedo mentioned in Dr. Epstein’s discussion.  The No. 24 torpedo was found by Navy-trained Marine Mammal Program dolphins in March 2013 during a series of training exercises.  After it was recovered and taken to their lab at the Washington Navy Yard, Morrand discussed how she and the Underwater Archaeology Branch began to piece together parts of the mystery behind the artifact.  Relying heavily on a 1896 torpedo manual, NHHC archaeologists were able to use archives in the DC area to pinpoint which ships used Howell torpedoes on the West Coast at the turn of the century.  They found an interesting snippet written in the logbook of battleship USS Iowa, stating how they lost the No. 24 torpedo in training. The revelation gave direct evidence to the torpedoe’s fate. Morrand mused that she wanted to “give a great big hug” to the Ensign responsible for writing the note in the Iowa’s logbook.

The recovered torpedo is one of three left in existence, all within the NHHC Enterprise (one is at the Naval Undersea Museum and the other is at the Naval War College Museum). Work on torpedo No. 24 is still being conducted by the NHHC team here in the Washington, D.C. conservation lab. Stay tuned for further developments!

Dr. Edward Liszka

Dr. Edward Liszka

Dr. Edward Liszka
“Scientific and Technological Progress for Torpedoes”

Penn State University Applied Research Laboratory Director Dr. Edward Liszka brought the discussion of torpedoes back to the underwater realm with his overview of progress made in the field of modern torpedo development.  Dr. Liszka discussed the beginning of development with the MK 24 FIDO torpedo used extensively during the Second World War. He then moved away from passive acoustic models and into the modern age with news on today’s most recent technologies in the field of applied research and military technology.  Dr. Rosenberg commented how such technology will “take legions of historians to work through” in the out years. Many of these disciplines used in such development, Liszka argued, are “pushing the state of the art.” Torpedoes are now smarter, lighter, and possess better strike capabilities through repeated test and evaluation. According to Liszka, the continually challenging undersea environment helps drive the free-flow of innovation and solutions for future adaptability.  Dr. Liszka can only point to future success in the development of underwater warfare technology. Either way, torpedoes have “come a long way since FIDO.”

Captain David Ogburn, USN

Captain David Ogburn, USN

Captain David Ogburn, USN
“The Current and Future Development of Torpedoes in the U.S. Navy”

Captain David Ogburn, USN, Program Manager for Undersea Weapons (PMS 404), focused much of his presentation on the U.S. Navy’s ongoing developments of torpedoes.  Captain Ogburn detailed how the Navy is both meeting the challenges of today and preparing in multiple dimensions for the challenges of tomorrow. His current position makes him the central manager for “all things torpedo” in the U.S. Navy.

Much of his discussion touched on the current state of torpedo development and the projected future of undersea warfare in the upcoming years. Ogburn has no illusion about the challenges he faces as Undersea Weapons Program Manager.  He admitted to the audience that torpedo systems are “the most challenging of any weapon system in the world.”  The range of issues that have to go smoothly to make a torpedo successful is truly mind-boggling.

Captain Ogburn does a great job managing the current inventory of Mod 6 and Mod 7 CBASS (Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System) torpedoes with the future projection of creating HAAWC (High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapons Capability) lightweight torpedoes. HAAWC torpedoes will have the capability to be launched by aircraft from altitudes as high as 25,000 feet. Despite these advancements, the U.S. Navy has not produced a heavy weight torpedo since 1997.  He is working hard to make the most cost-effective weapons for industry when MK 48 torpedo production is reopened in 2016.

Captain Ogburn joked that the extensive use of acronyms and abbreviations is as confusing as the torpedoes themselves. “We use acronyms so much,” he laughed, “that sometimes when you sit down and try to remember what the actual letters mean it’s difficult.”

NHF Chairmain Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and Captain David Ogburn, USN cut the cake.

NHF Chairmain Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.) and Captain David Ogburn, USN cut the ceremonial cake marking the Submarine Force’s 114th birthday.

A special thanks to Captain Tim Oliver, USN (Ret.) and the rest of the Naval Submarine League for helping put on this event.  Thanks to the event’s sponsor, Northrup Grumman.  We are looking forward to next year!

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BOOK REVIEW – The Unseen War: Allied Air Power and the Takedown of Saddam Hussein

lambeth-unseen-air-power-saddam-husseinThe Unseen War:  Allied Air Power and the Takedown of Saddam Hussein
By Benjamin S. Lambeth, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2013)

Reviewed by John T. Kuehn, Ph.D.

Ben Lambeth of the RAND Corporation is one of the premier historians of operational air power. His account of the air campaign that supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein during Operation Iraqi Freedom the spring of 2003, The Unseen War, does nothing to diminish his reputation.  He is a master of the complexity of modern air power as evidenced in his earlier study of Operation Allied Force, NATO’s Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment (RAND, 2001).  Like that book, this is a published version of his work for RAND.   His thesis is clear and up front: “…the three weeks of major combat that ended Hussein’s rule are a case-book example of successful joint and combined warfare at the operational and tactical levels…”(3). He adds the extremely important caveat, “…the [Bush] administration’s colossal strategic error of failing to understand that providing sufficient forces to ensure a stable and secure postwar Iraq was an essential ingredient of any effective coalition campaign plan, a failure that led to manifold and cascading unanticipated consequences.”

A second major argument of the book is reflected in its title, which comes from his claim that the air power aspect of the United States’ war in Iraq in 2003 has been all but forgotten, and therefore can be categorized as an “unseen war.”   He further claims this story has been untold for a variety of reasons by the histories produced so far, for example Cobra II by Bernard Trainor and Michael Gordon (2006), as well as by the American public.  These reasons include:  embedded reporters who served mostly with ground units, the difficulty of getting the “air power story” to the American public, and that the histories of the first conventional phase of the war tended to exclusively cover the ground war and slight the air war.   He is generally correct on all these complaints. Thus, this book fills a gap in the already voluminous literature on this conflict.

This book’s main strengths lay in its detailed discussions of the operational planning and execution by the air component during its missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  As such, it is organized into five very lengthy chapters and a short final chapter six that restates his conclusions.  The chapters, in turn, address “the road to war,” (1) the actual air operations to support Iraqi Freedom, (2) how the Allied air components contributed, (3) “key accomplishments,” and (4) a chapter that discusses problems with (5) air-ground operations. This detailed approach is also the book’s greatest weakness.  While it does “drill down” (to use a phrase that Lambeth uses often in his writing) to tactical activities on many occasions, it does not do nearly as good a job at linking the operational level of the air war to the larger strategic context and vice versa. His tone of triumphalism about the validation of “jointness” that this campaign highlights obscures the underlying truth of an overrated threat and a failure to think beyond a list of targets.

Among the most fascinating discussions in the book are those that surround two issues, one known and the other relatively obscure.  The first relates to high visibility characterization of the opening air campaign as “shock and awe.”   This phrase actually comes from a study produced in the 1990s under the aegis of the National Defense University.  However, as Lambeth rightly points out, the Central Command (CENTCOM) air planners for the war did not use this plan as their template for what was termed a “concurrent start” (74) with air and ground operations beginning essentially at the same time.  Instead, in talking to various planners, Lambeth finds that it came out of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and reflected a desire for the entire operation to use fewer forces and “more ‘light, lean, speed, and agility.’” (322n102) The press then picked this phrase up and used it to mischaracterize the opening phase of the war, when actually much more flying was going on outside Baghdad to “shape the battlefield” for General Tommy Franks’ ground forces.

The second fascinating story, found in chapters 1 and 2, involves the conduct of Operation Southern Focus, whereby the Air Force used the ongoing no-fly zone Operation Southern Watch as a cover to strike Iraqi air defense targets and command and controls nodes.  This was done to accomplish what is called suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) more than eight months prior to the official initiation of hostilities in March 2003 (61). This campaign was among the more successful precursor operations in air power history, and enabled the air component commander General T.M. Moseley to agree to the plan to start the overt ground and air wars on the same day.  Unfortunately, the account does not say much about how this campaign was perceived and reacted to on the Iraqi side of the fence—which is a general weakness throughout the book.

Another shortcoming in the book is its often uncritical approach to the lessons learned from the campaign.  Given that the thesis revolves around how much of a success story the joint application of air power was during this relatively short campaign (if Southern Focus is excluded), this should not surprise the reader.  In chapter 5 “Problems Encountered,” there is no single problem identified that criticizes air power systemically or systematically.  Three of the problem areas—fratricide (244), the Army Apache helicopter deep attack (251), and “Inefficiencies in controlling the Joint Battlespace by V Corps” (255)—are really criticisms of the Army.  Another section lauding Marine conduct of joint air operations is just another critique of the Army.  The remaining criticisms are really overall systemic criticisms of joint command and control, bomb-damage assessment (by intelligence folks) and the air-refueling tanker shortage.  The tanker shortage critique is not really directed at the air component commander, or the Air Force, but rather an apology in the classical sense, an explanation for why tanking didn’t always work out and why the other services need to factor the shortage of Air Force tanking assets into their planning.  A final problem area identified had to do with sharing information with coalition partners and, again, is not really directed at the air component staff and leaders but at higher echelons and decision-makers regarding the dissemination of classified information to non-US forces.

Lambeth constantly emphasizes the care with which the air campaign tried to avoid collateral damage to infrastructure and civilian non-combatants.  “Every effort was made…to avoid the destruction of infrastructure that would be essential to postwar reconstruction” (114).   Comments like this cause one to wonder why there was no similar care employed in actually planning for a postwar reconstruction and occupation?  Nonetheless, readers looking for a comprehensive description of our nation’s last conventional air campaign will be rewarded by this study.  If they are looking for more about air operations in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, they will need to search elsewhere.  Lambeth’s work here, however, will remain the authoritative source for this unique air campaign for some time and is highly recommended for military professionals of all stripes to read critically

Dr. Kuehn, a retired Navy Commander is the General William A. Stofft Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  He is the author of Agents of Innovation (2008), co-author of Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008), and the winner of a 2011 Moncado Prize from the Society of Military History. 


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BOOK REVIEW – You Cannot Surge Trust: Combined Naval Operations of the Royal Australian Navy, Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, and United States Navy, 1991-2003

NHHC-You Cannot Surge TrustYou Cannot Surge Trust: Combined Naval Operations of the Royal Australian Navy, Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, and United States Navy, 1991-2003

Edited by Gary Weir and Sandra Doyle, Naval History & Heritage Command, Washington, DC. (2013)

Reviewed by Corbin Williamson

This impetus for this remarkable work began in 2003 when historians at the (then) Naval Historical Center (now the Naval History & Heritage Command) began considering the role of coalitions in warfare in light of the recent invasion of Iraq. These discussions eventually expanded into a cooperative effort between historians of four navies on three continents examining their combined naval operations since the end of the Cold War. The result of this effort, You Cannot Surge Trust, includes seven case studies of coalition naval warfare, an introductory essay, and two concluding essays. Throughout the volume, the authors emphasize the role of relationships and trust in determining the success or failure of coalitions. While technical arrangements and standardized equipment enable naval forces to “talk” to one another, this work repeatedly demonstrates that personal relationships and familiarity are the indispensable glue of coalitions.

Randy Papadopoulos’ opening essay outlines the means through which navies develop interoperability: doctrine, rules of engagement, joint exercises, and technical standardization. In recent years, the U.S. Navy’s rapid advances in communication technology have presented a challenge to its partners because they must repeatedly purchase expensive, upgraded equipment to stay abreast of Americans. The introduction also sets forth the rationale for studying these specific navies: they display a unique level of interoperability amongst navies and militaries worldwide.

Jeffrey Barlow’s chapter discusses U.S. Navy maritime interception operations in the Persian Gulf from 1991 through 2001. The Navy enforced an embargo against Iraq using a loose coalition with multiple operational areas that gradually came under U.S. Navy control. Barlow introduces a theme that crops up in several essays: the uniquely American contribution of command, control, and intelligence capabilities to naval coalitions.

Stephen Prince and Kate Brett’s chapter on the Royal Navy’s contribution to Operation Sharp Guard off Yugoslavia in the early 1990s analyzes the complications caused by the presence of two naval coalitions: one NATO-led and the other organized by the Western European Union (WEU). Prince and Brett demonstrate that the use of NATO communication standards as well as regular drill and exercise played a key role in integrating these two command structures. By 1995 the British, French, and Americans were coordinating carrier deployments to the Adriatic and regularly engaged in cross-decking helicopters and aircraft from one carrier to another.

In the third chapter, Randy Papadopoulos shows how the U.S. 6th Fleet’s contribution to Operation Sharp Guard was enhanced by the dozens of multinational exercises the Fleet performed each year. The coalition also successfully completed a workable solution when the U.S. Congress tried to limit the role of the 6th Fleet. The U.S. contribution to the coalition was most notable in niche areas: nuclear submarines, maritime patrol aircraft, and coordination of surveillance data.

David Stevens’ account of Australian-led operations in East Timor notes that the naval component of the intervention force provided a strong multinational show of strength. The amphibious ships and auxiliaries of the force played indispensable logistical roles, while the warships’ showers, galleys, and email access gave the ground soldiers a hotel-like break from their duties. Stevens also highlights the benefits of Australian efforts to develop ties with other Southeast Asian militaries, an important reminder for other nations to consider the regional context of coalitions.

In the following chapter, Papadopoulos takes on the U.S. Navy’s contribution to the East Timor operation. The chapter demonstrates how American domestic political considerations served to limit American naval presence. The American contingent faced substantial logistical challenges, in part because of the Navy’s limited presence in the area. This chapter and the previous one work well together in that they provide different perspectives on the same event, as do to the two chapters concerning operations off Yugoslavia. The multinational nature of these operations is well served by a multinational analysis.

Jeffrey Barlow’s coverage of the naval response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks emphasizes the successful cooperation between the four navies in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Barlow also notes the often-overlooked importance of differing national rules of engagement (ROEs) that served to limit the Royal Navy’s contribution to maritime interception operations.

Robert Caldwell’s chapter provides an extended analysis of the Royal Canadian Navy’s recent experience with interoperability. Perhaps most fascinating were the descriptions of conferences used to coordinate the various national contingents in operations from Haiti to the Persian Gulf. These conferences illustrate the impacts of the full range of interoperability issues: ROEs, doctrine, command and control arrangements, personal relationships, past experience, and domestic political considerations. Caldwell also effectively challenges the conventional wisdom that the deeper Canadian forces are integrated with the U.S. military, the more Ottawa is tied to Washington’s foreign policy positions. In fact, the RCN’s experience with the USN demonstrates that extensive interoperability gives Canadian policymakers more options in international affairs, rather than less.

Edward Marolda provides a clear, concise survey of the previous chapters that emphasizes the success of multinational coalitions in operations other than war. Randy Papadopoulos’ conclusion argues for the importance of personal relationships, trust, and time together at sea in developing interoperability.

Works on multinational operations are difficult subjects for historians. This book makes an important contribution to this understudied area. The analytical focus on interoperability makes this volume even more unique. While the chapters vary in length, they work together well, which is not always a given in an edited volume.

Williamson is a Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State working on a dissertation on Western naval cooperation during the early Cold War.


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MOVIE REVIEW – Murph: The Protector: The True Story Of Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy

MURPH_MMurph:  The Protector:  The True Story Of Navy Seal Lt. Michael P. Murphy
Video produced by Scott Mactavish, Mactavish Pictures New York, NY. (2013).

Reviewed by Nathan Albright

It is altogether fitting that Murph: The Protector should be seen in tandem with the big-budget film Lone Survivor. Murph is based on the book by Lt. Marcus Littrell, one of Murphy’s fellow team-members responsible for bringing the final moments of Murphy’s life so vividly into view.  While Lone Survivor provides a spectacle of bravery in warfare, this particular film is a more modest but deeply moving documentary that provides context and a memoir of a brave man whose death was cut from the same cloth as his life.

This documentary begins by discussing an incident in Michael’s childhood where he stood up for a boy with learning disabilities who was being bullied, which resulted in a fight.  This story (and many others like it), along with the many pictures, video clips, interview clips, and moving score are lovingly stitched together in this film.   It is an effort to understand a life and place it in its context and also give it a sense of meaning.  The film goes in a generally chronological manner from early childhood (showing a love of swimming foreshadowing his career as a Navy SEAL) up through his general team player attitude shown time and time again. They also discuss how his partying (part of his love of camaraderie) and willingness to break rules but his acceptance of consequences help form the picture of a serious-minded man with a deep sense of self-sacrifice and patriotism and loyalty.

Any time there are stories that reflect somewhat poorly on Michael’s maturity, like his love of partying as a young man or his trip to Penn State in the bed of a pickup truck, there is a bit of a reluctance for people to tell the story, lest they tarnish the image of bravery and moral rectitude that this movie’s subject possesses.  It is telling and unfortunate that there are no interviews in this film from his fiancée Heather, who was to marry Murph in November 2005.  The movie does mention their love and how long Murph cared for her. Her absence from the film does leave a bit of a hole when it comes to explaining how they got together and engaged, and how Heather coped with the loss of her heroic husband-to-be.

This film spends a substantial amount of time in showing the humanity and graciousness of President George W. Bush, an aspect of his character that has not received particular notice in many film portrayals. They also spend a lot of time looking at the aftermath of Murphy’s death.  The interview the film has with the young man who was the first student to receive a memorial scholarship in Murphy’s honor provides an interesting parallel between their shared well-roundedness and desire to help others.

This film will tug at the heartstrings of many of its viewers with its honest-to-goodness patriotism and sorrow from weeping friends and relatives of the fallen Sailor at its core.  It provides an example of how the life of a fallen Sailor can be best remembered in the hints and contexts that lead people to put their lives at stake for the sake of defending their country, ultimately paying the price for their loyalty.  In remembering heroism abroad, we cannot forget the cost that is suffered back home when soldiers fail to return again, either whole or in peace.  It is a useful reminder, lest we glorify war too much, or remember its heroes too little.

Albright is a frequent contributor to NHBR and resides in Portland, OR.


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BOOK REVIEW – At the Crossroads Between Peace and War: The London Naval Conference of 1930

At-the-Crossroads-Between-Peace-and-War-The-London-Naval-Conference-of-1930-Hardcover-P9781612513263At the Crossroads Between Peace and War:  The London Naval Conference of 1930
By John H. Maurer and Christopher M. Bell, Eds., Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD. (2014)

Reviewed by Joseph Moretz

The naval conference that met in London from January to April 1930 is instructive to the modern observer for the light it shines on the difficulty of securing agreement in multi-party talks where the fundamental issue at hand is merely part of a broader problem. If naval limitation had been the only consideration, then doubtless a formula for success satisfying all parties might have been devised in 1930. Yet, each of the principals retained other desiderata which operated at variance to the putative objective with security, prestige and equality of standing being merely three. Given such divergences, it is to be wondered agreement of any kind followed. The balanced essays appearing in At the Crossroads recount the conference from the perspective of each of the protagonists. Each essayist manages to say something new about something old. Johns Ferris and Kuehn do so perhaps explicitly, tying the conference to key sub-genres of historiography, with all relating their portion of the story displaying scholarship and finesse.

The agreement reached saw the United States, Britain, and Japan scrap a number of over-aged capital ships, extend the moratorium on new heavy ship construction, and clarified the previous definition of what constituted an aircraft carrier. The Washington ratio system now encompassed cruisers and destroyers with parity in submarines granted to all. At an earlier, failed conference in Geneva in 1927, France and Italy had not even participated. Thus, their inability to reach agreement in London did not detract from the broader contemporary view that the Americans, Japanese, and British—the period’s three major naval powers—had revived and continued to further the naval arms limitations process. Yet, the parleys had been contentious and the concluding climate did not necessarily indicate a more pacific world was near notwithstanding the tempered statements of the principal delegates. There is a warning in this for the modern observer: Process in international dialogue is important, but it is not everything. Concluding a treaty may actually exacerbate tensions rather than alleviate the very problems seemingly requiring resolution in the first instance. This may be so the longer negotiations continue with positions becoming entrenched and where each side is set on maximizing a perceived comparative advantage.

Why a limited agreement was possible owed everything to the will of two statesmen now at center stage: Herbert Hoover for the United States and Ramsay Macdonald of Great Britain. This willpower was also present from Japanese leadership and, from what followed in the wake of the negotiated treaty, not necessarily to their statesmen’s good health. If accommodation was to be reached, given the differing strategic requirements of the participants and the non-congruent natures of their navies, the primacy of political objectives was imperative. Indeed, in view of the rancor sometimes present and the belief that others had not faithfully followed the spirit of the Washington Treaties, professional opinion was decidedly hostile to the efforts underway to continue and expand the regime of naval arms control. These views were present in each of the delegations in varying degrees. If they did not prevent the truncated agreement secured from being ratified by the three principal powers at the close of 1930, they fostered a climate in Japanese circles poisoning her future polity.

If a shortcoming is apparent in this otherwise excellent study, it is its narrow focus. A chapter outlining the contours of overall disarmament efforts which included the contemporary military and air sides of the equation and the measures pursued such as the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and the Locarno Agreement would have been useful to provide some of the missing context. Most of these are mentioned in passing, but the reader unfamiliar with the times may fail to appreciate the linkages. What was attempted at London in 1930 remained a part of a process. Meanwhile, something might have been said about the burdens of empire for Britain—bringing status but not much more as the dominions resisted an imperial navy while the Americans negotiated from the basis that such existed. Likewise and turning to our own period, a discussion how regulation of the seas has supplanted the regulation of navies could have anchored the essays more firmly to the interests of current readership. The previous does not detract from what is surveyed. The conference and its legacy have a broader context, resonance, and meaning than related. More surprising, however, is that no appendix specifying the final agreement is provided.

The editors do indicate, though, why the conference should be better known to the modern observer. Ongoing naval competition and rivalries remain a fact of life and juxtaposing the negotiations of 1930 to the perils of today, particularly in the Asia/Pacific region. This indicates one possible fault line where an analysis of the London Conference would not be wasted. The only real exception to At the Crossroads this reviewer takes is with its title. The issue of naval arms control was an important one for the period and influenced the configuration of navies when war came. Yet, it was not central to the causes of that war—not even the Pacific War. Here, Japanese actions in Asia were always the greater problem. Indeed, naval understanding was the one area where Britain and Germany had found common ground until Hitler repudiated the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1939. This, though, is a small difference. The work itself remains and Maurer and Bell are to be congratulated on successfully stewarding the essays presented.

What the anthology remains to poets, the edited work has become for historians: It provides an attractive introduction but leaves one desiring to know far more. Perhaps this is why there will always be a market for such works and why one should accept these offerings on the terms presented. At the Crossroads Between Peace and War is a very good collection of essays interweaving the story of diplomacy with naval history. If it moves others to plow deeper furrows, then Maurer and Bell will have succeeded amply.

Dr. Moretz is affiliated with the British Commission for Military History.


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BOOK REVIEW – Race to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole

Events_Lectures_Bartcover_mediumRace to the Top of the World: Richard Byrd and the First Flight to the North Pole
By Sheldon Bart, Regnery History, Washington, DC (2013)

Reviewed by Ingo Heidbrink, Ph.D.

Race to the Top of the World, by Sheldon Bart, not only opens again the question if Richard E. Byrd reached the North Pole on May 9, 1926, but provides an extremely detailed account of the events that led to Byrd’s attempt to reach the North Pole by plane and most importantly explains the various innovations in the field of navigation required for beginning such an endeavor.

Author Sheldon Bart is a writer-explorer who led the 1996 American Expedition to Baffin Island. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the American Polar Society and has published fiction and non-fiction books. Thus, it should be expected that the book is not only well researched, but also fulfills the criteria of a scholarly historical publication. While it is obvious that Bart has done research and unearthed a number of details that might help end the controversy about Byrd’s attempt to reach the North Pole in 1926. Unfortunately the book does not entirely fulfill the traditional standards of a historical publication. In particular, the book is widely under-referenced. The reader often feels left alone when it comes to the question where Bart received specific details of the story that can by no means be considered common knowledge. Given that Bart provides the history of Byrd’s flight to the North Pole mainly as a gripping and fast-paced story full of details and not as a dry historical analysis, it should be assumed that he was looking for a broad readership with an interest in aviation and polar history than providing a book to be discussed in the small circles of (professional/academic) historians dealing with the history of polar aviation. Thus, the critique on Bart’s book as being under-referenced might be important for polar-historians like the reviewer, but to a certain degree irrelevant for most other readers, especially if there is no specific reason to question the reliability of Bart’s research.

While the Byrd/Amundsen controversy on who reached the North Pole first via through the might be less known than the Peary/Cook sledge over ice controversy, it is, in many aspects, a much more colorful and important story. It is not only a story about exploration of the most northern point of the globe, but about the use of aircraft in Polar Regions and for scientific purposes at large. Thus Bart deserves without any doubt praise for bringing the Byrd/Amundsen controversy to the public. The book served this purpose well. Furthermore, the book needs to be praised for clearly showing that flying to the North Pole was a complex endeavor that involved not only the flight itself, but substantial improvements in aircraft technology and a number of complete new innovations in areas like aerial navigation. By providing these side-stories, Bart manages successfully to explain that the relevance of exploration is not limited to the field of (polar) geography, but that even everyday life has indirectly benefitted from such exploration ventures (think about the improvements in aerial navigation and the development of trans-continental air-traffic).

Therefore, the book needs to be recommended to anybody with an interest in the history of polar-regions or the history of flight. It also needs to be mentioned that the book is not the ultimate scholarly answer on the Byrd/Amundsen controversy and hardly the standard reference for the history of polar flight. If the reader is looking for a well-written and entertaining new take on the controversy that brings a number of new materials to the discussion, this book will be a welcome addition to the bookshelf. The work is based on a traditional ‘Great-Men’ approach, sometimes using a casual or laid-back style that might be critical for a real historical analysis. For Bart’s book, it is definitely working, even if one may question if the reader really needs to know that the favorite dish of Fokker, the manufacturer of the airplane used by Byrd, was ice-cream.

In the end, Bart’s work has the qualities for a page-turner. Even if the Byrd/Amundsen controversy remains unsettled with this book, it is an important contribution to the discussion, if only by making the controversy known to a broad audience that would never engage in reading a scholarly article on a topic published in a renowned but largely unknown scholarly/scientific journal.

Dr. Heidbrink is Professor of Maritime History at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA.


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BOOK REVIEW – Captain Bulloch: The Life of James Dunwoody Bulloch, Naval Agent of the Confederacy

coverkinnamancptnCaptain Bulloch:  The Life of James Dunwoody Bulloch, Naval Agent of the Confederacy
By Stephen Chapin Kinnaman, Dog Ear Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.  (2013)

Reviewed by Mark Lardas

James Dunwoody Bulloch is best known as the man behind the Civil War’s Confederate raiders.  He organized the construction and outfitting of Florida, Alabama, and Stonewall, among others. Despite his significance, no biography of him was written about him prior to 2010. Captain Bulloch: The Life of James Dunwoody Bulloch, Naval Agent of the Confederacy, by Stephen Chapin Kinnaman, is the second biography of Bulloch published since 2012.

It is not “johnny-come-lately,” however.  Kinnaman’s biography has its gestation in his earlier 2009 book, A Most Perfect Cruiser, which was a study on the construction of CSS AlabamaCaptain Bulloch is the outgrowth of Kinnaman’s interest in the man spearheading Alabama’s construction. The result is a comprehensive biography examining all facets of James Bulloch’s life, from his 1823 birth in (or near) Savannah, Georgia, until his 1901 death in Liverpool, England.   Kinnaman puts James Bulloch’s life into context through his ancestors and descendants.

Bulloch is revealed as a complex man with a multifaceted career. While best known for his efforts as the CSA’s naval agent in Europe, he was also uncle to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Bulloch was an officer in the United States Navy, seeing service during the Mexican-American War. He later commanded civilian steam packets from 1852 until the start of the American Civil War.

The heart of the book is Bulloch’s term as the Confederacy’s naval agent, revealing his successes and failures in providing the Confederate Navy with ships, stores, and weapons. Kinnaman examines every facet of Bulloch’s life, including Bulloch’s childhood and education.  Kinnaman presents Bulloch’s naval career in detail, reveals his personal life, and gives a look at his career as a steamship captain and life in New York City prior to the Civil War.

Kinnaman shows how Bulloch helped spark Roosevelt’s interest in naval power, assisting Roosevelt with the preparation of The Naval War of 1812, still considered a standard work of the that war’s naval aspects.

Captain Bulloch is well-researched.  The effort which Kinnaman exercised is revealed by the level of detail provided. He visited Savannah and Liverpool in his research, and made extensive use of primary sources and correspondence with descendants. The book is also engagingly written.  Readers may see the style of Samuel Eliot Morrison’s maritime biographies echoed in Kinnaman’s writing.

Captain Bulloch will interest anyone that follows the naval aspects of the American Civil War in this well-written maritime biography.

Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.


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BOOK REVIEW – Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Vol. 1


Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, Vol. 1
By Arthur Marder, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD. (2013) (reprint)

Reviewed by Winn Price

Of the first of five volumes that compose Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, this review addresses Volume I, titled “the Road to War 1904-1914.” These books, which address the naval affairs in World War I, were first published in the 1960’s.  Each weighs in at around 450 pages. The set is roughly analogous to Samuel Eliot Morison’s 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. One important distinction, however, is that Morison spent much of his war at sea. Marder still ran about in knickers at the age of nine when the Great War ended. Sea time further eluded him during the Second World War when he attempted, unsuccessfully, to join the Royal Navy, the American Navy, and the Canadian Navy.

For the British, 2014 is the centennial of their entry into the Great War. Sentimental anglophiles might find this anniversary reason enough to read Volume 1. I did. However a more pragmatic reason might be to mine some lessons which might be applicable to a scenario such as:  The undisputed world naval power finds itself under increasing budgetary pressures while simultaneously facing a possible challenge to its hegemony for the first time in many decades. Subsequently it pivots its Navy to the waters off the challenger’s coast.

Adm. Jacky Fisher developed several major reforms that he intended to implement early in his tour as the First Sea Lord in 1904.

Selborne Scheme: This reform actually commenced while Fisher served as Second Sea Lord. At its crux was the common accession and indoctrination of executive, engineering, and marine officers, which would extend over four or five years until age 22. Thus the Royal Navy in this instance somewhat aligned with the American Navy’s practices in Annapolis during the second half of the 19th century. Professionalizing fleet gunnery training and improving conditions on the lower decks were also related to this reform.

H.M.S. Dreadnought: At the time of its commissioning in 1906, Dreadnought was to the naval calendar what B.C. and A.D. were to the Christian calendar. All battleships at sea, regardless of navy, were lumped together as obsolete ‘pre-Dreadnoughts.’ Fisher was of the correct opinion that secondary batteries were of little consequence in a fleet engagement. What mattered were a longer range main battery, accurate fire control, and speed advantage. The advent of the aeroplane as an effective offensive weapon changed this priority three decades later.

The next three reforms were very much interdependent.

Nucleus-crew System: The Fleet Reserve was reorganized and renamed the ‘Reserve Fleet.’ Each reserve ship was manned at 40% of complement including representatives of each specialty rating and key officers. The crews lived onboard and took practice cruises. In the event of mobilization, the shore establishment would be tapped to augment the crews.

Scrapping of Obsolete Men-of-War: Adm. Fisher recalled and decommissioned obsolete warships from across the empire. Mass decommissionings reduced the global presence of the Royal Navy but provided crews for new dreadnoughts and the Reserve Fleet. This struck the reviewer as reminiscent of the retirement of the Sumner and Gearing class destroyers, the Guppy submarines, and Essex class carriers in the 1970’s.

Redistribution of the Fleet: With the decommissioning of hordes of colonial cruisers, the Royal Navy pivoted from imperial handmaiden to master of the Channel and North Sea. The Channel and Nore fleets, as well as the nucleus crew vessels, came under the Home Fleet. Germany’s Grand Fleet in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven became the focus of the Royal Navy.


Each reform had its opponents. As Marder summarized, “Valuing tradition and custom at too high a price, many naval officers, the majority of which were on the retired list, seemed constitutionally opposed to change. What was good enough for their grandfathers was good enough for them, and any variation meant that the Navy was going to the dogs.”

One of the subplots of longstanding interest to naval historians was the prolonged feud between Adm. Lord Beresford and Adm. Lord Fisher. Marder’s index shows about 50 page numbers under ‘Beresford’. The 569 page Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford by ‘Himself’ list two entries for Fisher. A hint of disdain?

The first half of Part II, ‘Prelude to War, 1910-1914,’ seemed harder to follow as it focused on the political machinations of the Whitehall, the Foreign Office, and Parliament. These chapters held my interest with the same riveting affect as the squabbling over the ‘Sequester’ in 2013. Although historically important, it was a bit of a slog.

Quarrels between the activist First Lord Churchill and the uniformed Sea Lords perked up the prose. It sometimes brought to mind Secretary McNamara’s alleged activism during the Cuban blockade and the TFX acquisition.  Marder sums up these years with, “The Churchill period […] noteworthy for more than naval reforms, big dreadnought programmes, and futile negotiations with Germany. There were important developments in strategy in these years.” Two defensive strategies (“The Invasion Bogey” and “The Guerre De Course Bogey”) as well as three offensive strategies (“Fleet actions and blockade,” “Commerce Warfare,” and “Combined operations”) were also reviewed. Finally, Marder provides a baseline comparison of the British and German navies in 1914.

The Fisher and Churchill reforms took time to settle out. They remain a backdrop to the international politics between London and Berlin during the buildup to Armageddon.  Of course there is little suspense at the end of Vol. I. As we all know, ‘things did not end well.’

This book and the next four volumes are classics in naval history and deservedly so. A slightly shorter alternative source on the build up to and conduct of the Great War would be Robert K. Massie’s Dreadnought and Castles of Steel.

Price will review Marder’s second volume of Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The War Years: To The Eve  of Jutland 1914-1916 later in 2014. His manuscript for a historic novel, Tattered Ensign, set in Samoa in 1889, is in review with a publisher. He has started writing the sequel also set in the Pacific initially but ending at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.


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BOOK REVIEW – American Sniper: Memorial Edition

DeFelice, Jim - American SniperAmerican Sniper: Memorial Edition
By Chris Kyle, with Jim Defelice and Scott McEwen, William Morrow, New York, NY, (2013)

Reviewed by Stephen Phillips

The war on terrorism will be the source of many memoirs. All of them will undoubtedly provide valuable and important insight. Historians and military enthusiasts will always particularly enjoy books that are pivotal in their action or cover the exciting aspects of special operations. Within this category are those written by and about the men of Naval Special Warfare, Navy SEALs. These have become an unofficial genre commonly referred to as “SEAL Books.”

Chris Kyle’s autobiography American Sniper (written with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen) is one such book. The version reviewed is a memorial edition that includes an appendix of personal reflections on Kyle’s life written by teammates, friends, and family.

Kyle had over 160 confirmed kills as a sniper in Iraq. He surpassed Carlos Hathcock, a Marine sniper who served in Vietnam. This feat makes Kyle somewhat of a celebrity, though he states that his high numbers were based on luck, or as he calls being ‘on the gun’ at the right time. He relays several examples of taking an overwatch position from a sniper who spent hours without a target to then take out several targets within minutes. As a result of this luck, combined with his honed skill, Kyle earned the moniker ‘Legend’ among his teammates and ‘The Devil’ among the insurgents. Even with this recognition, he had no intention of writing about his time as a SEAL until he learned that if he did not his story, others intended to. Thus, as he reported in an Episode 8 of “Inside the Team Room: U.S. Navy SEALs,” he did so to control the content and ensure its accuracy.

Like most SEAL books, Kyle writes about his journey through Basic Underwater Demolition School, or BUD/S. He describes fracturing his foot two days before Hell Week, yet keeping this fact to himself. Otherwise he would be rolled back to the beginning of the course and have to endure the grueling process all over again. Kyle completed Hell Week but then rolled in the dive phase due to perforated ear drums.

Just as he joined SEAL TEAM THREE as his first assignment, Kyle met his future wife Taya. Her voice joins the American Sniper narrative from this point on to provide the perspective of the difficulties of maintaining a family, a relationship with a special operator.

Fans of SEAL books will enjoy reading about Kyle’s adventures. He conducted ship takedowns and reconnaissance using Desert Patrol Vehicles or ‘DPVs.’ He even found chemical weapons and aircraft buried in the desert. (Of note – chemical weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction. Kyle and many others have reported finding them, yet the official narrative from the second gulf war for some reason remains that none were found).

Kyle was selected for sniper school, quickly discovering it was a challenge even for those who have completed BUD/S. The standards are so exacting that only 50% of the frogmen who begin the course graduate. The course starts not with weapons, but with other tools of the trade; computers, GPS, and cameras. Observation and collection is as important to the discipline as the kill shot.

For gun enthusiasts, Kyle provides much detail on the weapons in his arsenal, like the Mk 12, Mk 11, or the .300 Winchester Magnum. He describes each ones dominant features, their advantages and disadvantages, and the circumstances in which he decided to employ each. Kyle even modified his M-4, having it combined with his Mk 12 upper so that he is able to go full auto if required and have a collapsing stock for his sniper rifle. As one would expect in such a narrative, American Sniper also delves into the science, engineering, and art of precision targeting with a long gun.

When Kyle’s platoon deploys to Iraq, he is seconded to Polish Special Forces, known as GROM. Their mission was to capture high value targets in Baghdad. GROM needed Kyle’s navigation skills to ensure safe ingress and egress to target locations, but in short order he earned their trust and became an assault team member. As Fallujah heated up, he was assigned to Kilo Company of the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked with these men as they took the city building by building, block by block. Kyle’s role as sniper, sometimes simply to augment the “grunts,” is riveting. His viewpoint and the descriptions of his actions with Marines serve to highlight the hard work and sacrifice made by America’s service men and women.

American Sniper touches on a few points that are the source of debate. For example, there was a debate about where SEALs should operate. Some suggested there should be a ten mile limit from the sea. Kyle disagrees. Still, any reader can read this book and consider the role of Naval Special Warfare. Is it to be a maritime force first (like conducting ship takedowns and amphibious reconnaissance missions), or is it a highly capable element to bring force to bear anywhere in the world, even far from the sea. Whatever the answer, it is clear that Kyle’s presence on the battlefield, even the urban environs hundreds of miles inland, had a positive impact. The calculus of 160 kills is simply immeasurable, as is the loss of this American hero.

Phillips served in the U.S. Navy as a surface warfare officer and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician. He is the author of The Recipient’s Son, a novel about the U.S. Naval Academy published by the Naval Institute Press.


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BOOK REVIEW – Gun Bay: A Tale of Shipwreck on Grand Cayman

white-gun-bay-ballantyneGun Bay: A Tale of Shipwreck on Grand Cayman — An Edward Ballantyne Novel
By William H. White, Sea Fiction Press, Red Bank, NJ. (2013)

Reviewed by Capt. Roger Jones, USN (Ret.)

Gun Bay is a sea-going novel that incorporates the historic and powerful Caribbean hurricanes of October 1793 and January 1794. These caused significant and cumulative damage to Grand Cayman Island, as well as the unhappy landfall of an English naval squadron caught in the second hurricane’s path.

The prologue describes the onslaught of the hurricane upon the island and its inhabitants in the form of a “fictionalized history.” The next fifteen chapters are similar, as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Royal Navy junior officer Edward Ballantyne. We first meet our hero in England on his way to join the HMS Europa on a voyage to America. The Europa sails from England to the Bay of Biscayne to join a squadron when they are struck by a hurricane. This is a bit of hyperbole perhaps; as such storms are relatively uncommon in these waters. Ballantyne learns first-hand about the awesome and destructive power of such a storm, foreshadowing what was to come on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. While in Jamaica over a month later, Ballantyne transferred to the HMS Penelope. Soon afterwards, the Penelope encounters an enemy French warship L’Inconstante off the coast of Hispaniola (Santo Domingo). A grim and bloody battle takes place but the Penelope prevails and Ballantyne survives another test of his skills and courage.

Next, the reader gets a glimpse of eighteenth century life in the New World, which includes parties and a duel of honor between two English naval officers. The latter event results in the deaths of both combatants. Ballantyne, the senior “second” present, is held accountable by his captain for failing to stop the participants. Consequently, he is transferred to another ship, the HMS Convert (ironically, it is the former L’Inconstante, now refurbished), and has the good fortune to find himself serving under the Penelope’s previous captain, Lawford, who holds a high opinion of Ballantyne.  The Convert is named the flagship of a convoy of about fifty commercial vessels heading back to England.  However, they are short-handed and must find enough unattached seamen “on the beach” to fill their roster.  This took nearly a month, but the convoy finally gets underway to Cuba where they are joined by another English warship for the balance of the voyage to England.  Alas, the convoy is struck by a particularly strong hurricane, and the Convert and nine merchantmen are driven onto the reef of Gun Bay (at the eastern end of Grand Cayman Island).  The epilogue tells how the captain and his subordinates are tried by a Royal Navy court-martial – and acquitted, a rare outcome for the time period!

The author accomplished a difficult endeavor by making an interesting and entertaining novel out of an historic event that transpired over two hundred years ago.  The reviewer enjoyed reading this book and recommends it.

Jones has been a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.


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Norman’s Corner: A Most Unforgettable Character

By Norman Polmar

(Editor’s note: This is the 26th a series of blogs by Norman Polmar—author, analyst, and consultant specializing in the naval, aviation, and intelligence fields. Follow the full series here.)

Commander Richard B. Laning. Photo Courtesy U.S. Naval Institute

Commander Richard B. Laning. Photo Courtesy U.S. Naval Institute

Being a “character” is a very positive description of a person.  To me, a character is one who thinks for himself or herself, who does not necessarily follow the crowd, and who often “thinks outside of the box.”   Captain Richard B. (Dick) Laning was a “character” of the first order.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1940, Laning served in the new aircraft carrier Hornet (CV 8), from her commissioning in October 1941 until August 1942.  Thus, he was on board when she launched the Doolittle air strike against Japan in April 1942, and at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Laning then attended submarine school and went to sea in the USS Salmon (SS 182).  Rising to executive office of the submarine, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Silver Star Medal for his role in several actions against the Japanese.  The official record of one action reads, the Salmon “scored two direct hits on an enemy tanker, in defiance of four escort ships within 1,000 yards of the target…. Forced to dive twice her test depth by terrific depth charging, which started many leaks and put vital machinery out of action, she daringly battle-surfaced to effect emergency repairs and fight it out….” The submarine  received the Presidential Unit Citation for this action.

The Salmon was decommissioned in 1944 and Laning became executive officer of the submarine Stickleback (SS 415) for the remainder of the war.  After the war he was given command of the Pilotfish (SS 386), which had been damaged in the war and was scheduled  to be used as a target in the Bikini atomic bomb tests in July1946.  (The submarine was sunk in the tests.)

At Bikini Laning spoke with Dr. George Gamow, a theoretical physicist and expert on nuclear physics.  They discussed the feasibility of a nuclear-propelled submarine… not knowing that the Navy had actually begun research on such a project in 1939.  After their discussions, Laning wrote a letter, through the chain-of-command, recommending a nuclear propulsion program and volunteering to serve in the program.  He did not receive a reply.  Subsequently, Laning served ashore, and earned a master of science in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkley.  Back at sea, he commanded the diesel submarines Trutta (SS 421) and then the brand-new Harder  (SS 568 ).  And, after nuclear power training, on 30 March 1957, he placed in commission the USS Seawolf  (SSN 575), the world’s second nuclear-propelled submarine.   Laning commanded her until December 1958, when she went into the yard to have her unique sodium-liquid-cooled reactor replaced by a pressurized-water reactor, which was used in all other U.S. nuclear submarines.

Always looking for “better,” Laning strongly opposed the change, arguing with Admiral H.G. Rickover, head of the nuclear program, that the unique propulsion plant should be further evaluated.  Rickover “won” the argument.

In 1960, after attending the National War College, he received another unique assignment: To take command of the submarine tender Proteus (AS 19), then being converted to support Polaris missile submarines.  About this time my “submarine mentors,” then-Captain F.J. (Fritz) Harlfinger and then-Commander Dominic A. Paolucci, were introducing me to all of the early nuclear submarine skippers.  Thus I met “Dick” Laning and we immediately “hit it off.”  We kept in contact when he took the Proteus to sea, and when she was based at Holy Loch, Scotland, the first tender to support U.S. missile submarines.

He ran a “taut” ship and—the story goes—he always wore a .45-caliber pistol… he had nuclear-armed missiles on board and was prepared for any eventuality.   He commanded the Proteus until 1962, when he went on to shore duty at Pearl Harbor.

Dick retired from the Navy in 1963 and became a corporate planner for United Aircraft Corp.  In 1973 he and his wife, Ruth, moved to Florida where he was active writing and in the local Chamber of Commerce.  We kept in contact and he helped me considerably when I was writing Rickover: Controversy and Genius  (1982), which I coauthored with Thomas B. Allen.
On one occasion Dick and I met in Orlando, near his home, to discuss the Rickover project.  I had found a copy of the Navy orders to Lieutenant James Earl Carter to report to the USS Seawolf.  I asked Dick about what kind of a person and officer he was aboard the submarine.  Dick laughed.  He said that Carter—who would become the 39th president—had never reported aboard.  His father had died and he resigned his Navy commission  just before reporting to the Seawolf.
In his letters and our direct conversations, the latter usually over lunch or dinner, often with Harlfinger or Paolucci  joining us, Dick always confirmed that he was an original thinker—someone always looking for a “better” solution.

He passed away on 5 March 2006.  The world lost an outstanding submariner, a hero, and a most original “character.”

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