Sunday, November 15, 2009

UPDATE: Halsey’s Typhoon II -- Integrity

By Bill Doughty
For former chief petty officer (retired lieutenant commander) Archie DeRyckere, the leadership lessons of Typhoon Cobra -- “Halsey’s Typhoon” -- are personal and last a lifetime.
We linked DeRyckere’s website, Typhoon Cobra 1944 on our last blog post. He sent the following email to Navy Reads:
That is interesting.
The heroism by Captain Plage and his
ship should be interesting to patriots.
I have been earnestly attempting to have Captain Plage awarded the Medal of honor for his performance as he definitely saved the life of myself and 54 others.
President Gerald R. Ford supported my efforts, to no avail. President (then-Lt.j.g.) Ford saved the USS Monterey(CVL 26) in typhoon cobra.The ship was being consumed by a fire on its hangar deck from stem to stern and Captain Ingersoll had been ordered by Admiral Halsey to "abandon ship".
The captain said "to seventy foot waves. I have a better idea; Jerry go down to the hangar deck and put the fires out."
President Ford collected the dead and injured and proceeded to fight fires for five-and-one-half hours, put all fires out and the ship continued to fight to victory in Tokyo Bay.
President Ford was one of our finest athletic Presidents, a legend on ski slopes and one of our most professionally proficient Presidents. He never, to my knowledge, received a medal for saving the USS Monterey.
LCDR Archie G. DeRyckere, USN (Ret.)
Lt.j.g. Jerry Ford playing basketball
on USS Monterey, June 1944.
Faced with Halsey’s directive to abandon USS Monterey (CVL 29), Captain Ingersoll said, “No. We can fix this.” Authors Drury and Clavin write, “Now, with a nod from his skipper, Ford donned a gas mask and led a fire brigade below. Aircraft gas tanks exploded as hose handlers slid across the burning hangar deck. Into this furnace Ford took his men, his first order of business to carry out the unconscious survivors.
“Hours later, he and his team emerged burned and exhausted, but they had put out the fire,” Drury and Clavin write.

Thirty years later, Vice President Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the United States after President Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, leaving the nation in a storm of turmoil.
The authors of Halsey’s Typhoon report that Ford thought about Typhoon Cobra on the morning of Nixon’s resignation.
USS Monterey in Typhoon Cobra
“I remembered that fire at the height of the typhoon,” Ford wrote, “and I considered it a marvelous metaphor for the ship of state.”
More leadership lessons in the wake of a storm: just contrast how Nixon’s character as a leader is remembered with how Ford’s integrity as a leader was demonstrated when our nation needed healing.
On Saturday, Nov. 14 Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and the Navy marked the keel-laying of the Navy’s state-of-the-art aircraft carrier: the Gerald R. Ford.
President Ford’s daughter, Susan Ford Bales, the ship's sponsor, attended the event, as did son Michael Ford.
Both said their father learned of the naming before his death nearly three years ago.
Former President Ford, himself, said, when he learned of the honor, "It is a source of indescribable pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name may be permanently associated with the valor and patriotism of the men and women of the United States Navy."
The new carrier, scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2015, will be the first in the Ford-class series, all designed to bring improved warfighting capability in support of the Navy’s Maritime Strategy.
Susan Ford Bales, said on Nov. 14, “Much has been written about Dad and his integrity. For him the question was always straightforward: What was best for the American people? Period. As the history books have begun to explain, Americans have come to admire his integrity...”
Lt. Jerry Ford, second from right, front row, with USS Monterey team.
To learn more about the shipmates bound together by Typhoon Cobra, visit Archie DeRyckere’s website,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Typhoon Cobra - Nimitz & Leadership '...Lessons of'

If you don’t read the entire review that follows, do yourself a favor and read Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet ADM Nimitz’s confidential letter of Feb. 13, 1945. It’s a thoughtful, reasoned and balanced treatise on accountability in time of war. It shows why Nimitz was such a great leader -- a man whose emotional intelligence matched his analytical abilities.
Fleet Admiral Chester A. Nimitz
Halsey’s Typhoon
Review by Bill Doughty
Their decks, already top-heavy with armaments and equipment, were pushed nearly vertical in mountainous seas. Sixty-five years ago, caught in a giant storm, the Sailors of U.S. Third Fleet fought wind, water and waves trying to escape their own sinking ships and surrounding sharks. Some lost the fight.

Halsey’s Typhoon, the True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue is the gripping account of Typhoon Cobra and its aftermath.

McCain and Halsey, Dec. 1944.
Characters like Adm. William “Bull” Halsey, Adm. John “Slew” McCain (Sen. McCain’s grandfather), Capt. Henry Lee Plage, Capt. James Marks and Chief Quartermaster Archie DeRyckere (one of the true heroes of the tale, who retired as a Lt. Cmdr.) are revealed, warts and quirks and all.

Why were the ships in the path of the huge storm? How does a typhoon form and why is it so dangerous? What’s it like to be thrown off a ship into 90-foot waves in a storm with 150-mph winds? The authors address these questions through extensive research and interviews.
Although this book is not currently included on the Navy’s Professional Reading Program, it is on the informal must-read list of many Navy leaders. These leaders also value the lessons of history brought forth in books, including all the way back to one of the most well-known books in history, Homer’s Iliad, written around the 8th Century B.C. Here’s a quote from the Iliad, used on one of Halsey's Typhoon’s title pages:

Bursts as a wave from the clouds impends,
And swell'd with tempests on the ships descends;
White are the decks with foam; the winds aloud
Howl o'er the masts, and sing through every shroud:
Pale, trembling, tir'd, the sailors freeze with fear;
And instant death on every wave appears.

  Halsey’s Typhoon is not the first book about this famous incident in Navy history. Capt. C. Raymond "Cal" Calhoun, skipper of the USS Dewey (DD 349) at the time, was an eyewitness to history and wrote a gripping account, Typhoon: The Other Enemy, in 1981. Highly recommended.
There have been other books, written by apologists or accusers, including several other first-person accounts -- even one co-authored by Capt. George Kosco, Fleet Aerologist at the time of the storm.

Unidentified destroyer during Typhoon Cobra.

Typhoon Cobra formed and hit as the Third Fleet was moving ever closer to Imperial Japan. The Navy was achieving success using McCain’s “Big Blue Blanket” strategy, modeled after a U.S. Naval Academy football defense, of interweaving radar to defend against kamikaze (divine winds) attacks.
The name kamikaze came from the Shinto belief that the gods intervened twice in the 13th Century, sending separate typhoons against invading Chinese armadas -- drowning thousands of Mongol soldiers and sailors.

The Imperial Japanese warriors believed the gods were on their side and that they were ordained to win the war.
Ultimately science triumphed over superstition.
Halsey’s Typhoon narrates the lessons of history.
(Today, as a direct result of the devastating storm in the Philippine Sea, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center protects the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the years after the war weather stations were set up in the Caroline Islands, Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Guam.)
Communication has improved. Command-and-control incorporates maritime forecasts as a top priority to ensure the safety of Sailors. Nimitz addresses in his letter, "Lessons of," that leaders must take all information into account, but must also rely on their own intelligence.
This book is purposely a vital guide to good leadership. Compare the fearless bravery of destroyer escort USS Tabberer’s CO Capt. Plage -- whose interactions were generous, even-handed and caring -- with Capt. Marks, CO of destroyer USS Hull. Marks is shown as petty and controlling. The reporters suggest he was the basis for the Capt. Queeg character in the 1952 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk.
Plage defied convention and came to the rescue of survivors treading water, fighting sharks and clinging to rafts and debris. Marks became paralyzed and failed to respond.
True wisdom during Typhoon Cobra was revealed in acts by brave leaders who acted correctly -- not blindly -- in the face of unimaginable terrors.
This Veteran’s Day, we think of all the men and women who have served selflessly in uniform in recent and distant wars.
Halsey’s Typhoon reminds us of some of the lessons learned -- and taught -- by the veterans of World War II. And, it introduces us to some of the heroes we continue to honor.
“...Lessons of”:

The book explores the role of Fleet Adm. Chester A. Nimitz -- one of the greatest heroes in our nation’s military history. Nimitz’s confidential letter of Feb. 13, 1945, just two months after Typhoon Cobra, while not included in Halsey’s Typhoon, is available at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command site.