Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day “Prometheus”

(Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War, a war successfully fought and ended by Commander-in-Chief President Abraham Lincoln.  As a young man, Lincoln was an avid reader of Shakespeare, the Bible and Lord Byron.  This poem, “Prometheus,” was first published in 1816, when Lincoln was only 7 years old.  It weaves themes of mythology, mortality and heroism. -- Bill Doughty)
TITAN! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality,
Were not as things that gods despise;
What was thy pity's recompense?
A silent suffering, and intense;
The rock, the vulture, and the chain,
All that the proud can feel of pain,
The agony they do not show,
The suffocating sense of woe,
Which speaks but in its loneliness,
And then is jealous lest the sky
Should have a listener, nor will sigh
Until its voice is echoless.
Titan! to thee the strife was given
Between the suffering and the will,
Which torture where they cannot kill;
And the inexorable Heaven,
And the deaf tyranny of Fate,
The ruling principle of Hate,
Which for its pleasure doth create
The things it may annihilate,
Refus'd thee even the boon to die:
The wretched gift Eternity
Was thine--and thou hast borne it well.
All that the Thunderer wrung from thee
Was but the menace which flung back
On him the torments of thy rack;
The fate thou didst so well foresee,
But would not to appease him tell;
And in thy Silence was his Sentence,
And in his Soul a vain repentance,
And evil dread so ill dissembled,
That in his hand the lightnings trembled.
Thy Godlike crime was to be kind,
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen Man with his own mind;
But baffled as thou wert from high,
Still in thy patient energy,
In the endurance, and repulse
Of thine impenetrable Spirit,
Which Earth and Heaven could not convulse,
A mighty lesson we inherit:
Thou art a symbol and a sign
To Mortals of their fate and force;
Like thee, Man is in part divine,
A troubled stream from a pure source;
And Man in portions can foresee
His own funereal destiny;
His wretchedness, and his resistance,
And his sad unallied existence:
To which his Spirit may oppose
Itself--and equal to all woes,
And a firm will, and a deep sense,
Which even in torture can descry
Its own concenter'd recompense,
Triumphant where it dares defy,
And making Death a Victory.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

James D. Hornfischer's Five Navy Reads

(Author James D. Hornfischer sent us five picks, all focusing on “Warfighting First,” the first tenet of CNO Adm. Greenert’s “Sailing Directions.”  The author of  Ship of Ghosts and The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, as well as Neptune's Inferno, Hornfischer, who was involved “one way or another” in helping these books get published, is a recipient of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature. -- Bill Doughty)
The following books may be of interest to your readers:

As the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise CVN-65 prepares for deactivation and decommissioning, naval aviation historian Barrett Tillman opens the book anew on the ship's legendary World War II forebear: the seventh carrier Enterprise, whose crew fought her from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, earning twenty battle stars along the way. If a single ship can tell the story of the Pacific War, the old CV-6 was that ship. Tillman tells the story better than anyone.
Since HBO aired the miniseries The Pacific there's been an explosion of excellent memoirs by World War II-era Marines. Mr. Mace, who enlisted in 1942, served as a rifleman in Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, fighting at Peleliu and Okinawa. You haven't seen the war clearly until you've seen it through his unsentimental eyes.
The story of this much-decorated 10th Mountain Division platoon during their 14-month deployment to eastern Afghanistan in 2006 is very relevant to Navy readers at a time when our NSW operators, corpsmen, EOD techs, pilots and many others are deeply involved in the war against terrorism in that forsaken place. Parnell's platoon took 80 percent casualties fighting formidably talented enemy light infantry, and his book brings you right into their desperate situation.
If you serve in our surface-warfare fleet and marvel at the fighting spirit of the best warfighters around you, you might want to know where that spirit came from. At Guadalcanal, in seven major naval actions from August to November of 1942, our peacetime black-shoe fleet transformed itself into a world-beater. You will not soon forget the stories of men like Rear Admirals Norman Scott, Daniel Callaghan, or Willis Lee -- or countless bluejackets who helped seize Imperial Japan's crown as masters of nighttime surface warfare.
The "Lone Survivor" returns with a powerfully drawn story of modern warfare and the brotherhood of all those who serve. The book follows the legendary SEAL back to war after Operation Redwing -- this time to Ramadi, Iraq, as SEAL Team 5 takes on Al Qaeda and other insurgents in the most violent city in the Middle East. Marcus gives tribute to all the warfighters who helped his teammates get the upper hand in 2006, before the "Surge."
(Special thanks to Jim Hornfischer! Look for more surprising recommendations on Navy Reads in the months ahead. Navy Reads will also have more to say about the bicentennial of the War or 1812 and the 70th anniversary of Battle of Midway“Joe Rochefort’s War” by Eliott Carlson, published by USNI, follows...)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Joe Rochefort - Midway Legacy

by Bill Doughty
Today is the 112th anniversary of the birth of Joseph John Rochefort.  Tomorrow, May 13, 2012, is the 70th anniversary of Rochefort’s discovery of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s plan to attack Midway Atoll.
The Battle of Midway altered the course of World War II and saved Hawaii, Australia and perhaps the West Coast of the United States from further attacks by Japan.
With a reporter’s skills, Elliott Carlson shows the influence of one man on the outcome of Midway in “Joe Rochefort’s War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway.”
Carlson employs dogged research, personal interviews, presentation of facts and a resistance to speculate.  Thanks to his access to Rochefort’s family members and Navy archives he is able to paint a picture of the complicated man and the political intrigue that marked his naval career.
Rochefort is revealed as a “restless maverick” -- caustic, acerbic, sarcastic.  But he was also gifted with extraordinary memory, able to solve puzzles and synthesize complex shifting information.
These abilities proved indispensable in the Pacific War.  Rochefort implemented actionable intelligence in an independent, decentralized setting at Pearl Harbor’s Station Hypo -- predicting the future for Adm. Nimitz and Adm. King and allowing them to develop strategies to defeat the enemy.
Rochefort, the youngest of seven children, was born May 12, 1900 to Irish immigrant parents.  To put things into historical context: his father, Frank, was born in Dublin 160 years ago (1852), only forty years after the War of 1812 and nine years before the American Civil War.  One hundred years ago (1912), the Rochefort family moved from Dayton, Ohio to Los Angeles, where Joe would be recruited into the Navy.
With no college or even a high school diploma, Joe Rochefort joined the Navy in 1918.  His science and math abilities propelled him to the rank of ensign, and he served on training ships, tankers, a mine sweeper, and a destroyer.  He served aboard the cruisers USS New Orleans and USS Indianapolis, as he was recruited into the intelligence field, and on several battleships, including USS Maryland, USS California, USS Pennsylvania and USS Arizona.
Author Carlson shows how Rochefort was haunted by the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.  Rochefort felt a sense of guilt for not being able to predict the attack.  But Pearl Harbor motivated him, as it did for the rest of the nation.
Rochefort redoubled his efforts to crack the JN-25(b) code, analyze radio transmissions and track the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Carlson provides just enough information about the art of codebreaking -- in an era of nascent computing and related technology -- to show how daunting the task was for Rochefort’s team: 50,000 possible meanings of 33,333 5-digit codes with an indeterminate, shifting beginning.
Despite the challenges, Rochefort correctly predicted the location of the Imperial Fleet in the western Pacific as early as January 1942.  He gave Nimitz information that proved correct in the Battle of the Coral Sea, setting the stage for Midway.
“Gains registered in cryptanalysis and codebreaking permitted Rochefort to practically look over Yamamoto’s shoulder as he moved his forces around the Pacific,” Carlson writes.
On May 13, 1942, Rochefort decrypted information that the IJN was focusing on areas near Midway and the Aleutians.  Rochefort analyzed the information and made a case for an impending attack on Midway, suspected as being “AF” in the Japanese code.  He presented his analysis on sheets of paper on plywood and wooden sawhorses; PowerPoint would not be available for decades.
With help from former submariner, engineer and University of Hawaii faculty member Jasper Holmes, who knew Midway’s infrastructure, Rochefort devised a ruse so the Japanese would reveal their plans.  Nimitz approved the plan, and a fake message was issued that Midway was running short of fresh water.  The IJN then sent out their own message about the water shortage in code, thus confirming that “AF,” “Affirm Fox,” was indeed Midway.
Scene on board USS Yorktown (CV-5) during Battle of Midway. (Navy photo) 
Nimitz carried out his own subterfuge, directing fake carrier transmissions in the Coral Sea and a bombing of Tulagi by PBYs that fooled the Japanese into thinking that U.S. aircraft carriers were still on location.
With intelligence, guts and luck the United States Navy defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy at Midway.
Carlson writes: “Eventually the Battle of Midway would be compared with Trafalgar, Jutland, and other major campaigns at sea that turned the tide of history.  The battle transformed the conflict between the United States and Japan.  Many agonizing years of combat loomed ahead, but after Midway the United States would remain on the offensive.  ‘Midway was the crucial battle of the Pacific War, the engagement that made everything else possible,’ Nimitz said after the war.”
Rochefort’s contributions continued despite political intrigue and infighting within the intelligence community and a resistance to innovation and free-thinking by some leaders and colleagues.
Rochefort tracked Japanese action in Guadalcanal, acoustic mines, oil supplies and access to sea lanes and even the Japanese view of the situation in Germany late in the war.  He had other challenging assignments, as well, including working on floating drydocks, but he soon retired on Jan. 1, 1947 at the rank of captain and at 46 years old, returning to the Navy briefly during the Korean War.
The attack of Dec. 7, 1941 brings inevitable comparisons to Sept. 11, 2001, and, though he does not make the comparisons himself, several jump out in Carlson’s book.  Among the biggest: a lack of imagination in predicting the attack and a failure for agencies to share information, what Carlson quotes as “fatal defects in the Army-Navy relationship.”
Interservice rivalry continued to challenge Rochefort when the Army’s 7th Air Force doubted Hypo’s information analysis and resisted the evidence that Midway would be a target in June 1942.
Another 9/11 comparison comes after the war when consipiracy theories abounded.  Groups targeted FDR, accusing former President Roosevelt of knowing about the attack on Oahu and allowing it to happen in order to push the country into WWII.
Carlson shows the lack of evidence for the conspiracy theories and gives credit to Rochefort for resisting political and peer pressure to fix blame.
Author Elliot Carlson speaks at the National WWII Museum.
Time and perspective, combined with evidence and good sources, are a strong combination, and Carlson wields a deft pen in describing the life and impact of Joe Rochefort and his role in winning the Battle of Midway.
The book is made even better with the inclusion of photos, including rare family pictures.  Among the more fascinating are photos of a young Rochefort in Tokyo, 1929-32, where he studied Japanese and gained an understanding of the culture.
“Joe Rochefort’s War” is a tour de force and a top ten read for the history of the Battle of Midway.