Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day -- Navy, National Preparedness and Unity

by Bill Doughty
Commander-in-chief President Herbert Hoover said this in a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery in 1929 -- exactly midway between World Wars I and II: 

"Our Navy is the first and in the world sense the only important factor in our national preparedness. It is a powerful part of the arms of the world," adding, "To make ready for defense is a primary obligation upon every statesman, and adequate preparedness is an assurance against aggression."

Hoover wanted to prevent a world arms race. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan instead chose aggression. The Axis nations ignored agreements, treaties and promises in the decade that followed, leading to wars in Europe and across the Pacific.
Ship's company poses with President Hoover during his cruise aboard USS Arizona, March 1931. The president is seated front center.
Two years after his speech, in 1931, Hoover took a brief trip to the Caribbean aboard USS Arizona (BB-39) just before the battleship underwent post-modernization sea trials.

When Hoover spoke in 1929 there were still Civil War veterans alive to hear his words.

Hoover said, "This sacred occasion has impelled our Presidents to express their aspirations in furtherance of peace. No more appropriate tribute can be paid to our heroic dead than to stand in the presence of their resting places and pledge renewed effort that these sacrifices shall not be claimed again."

Frederick Douglass
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Decoration Day, precursor to Memorial Day, was established three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868 as "a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers."  Springtime tributes to Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors had sprouted in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia and other states.

Three years later, on May 30, 1871, former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave Decoration Day remarks at Arlington. His speech is rich with themes that still resonate today: unity, dignity, universal freedom, noble sacrifice, devotion and remembrance:
Friends and Fellow Citizens, 
Tarry here for a moment. My words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle and all-pervading eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living lips have ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holiest, and most enduring in human existence. 
Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring today is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble comrades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom are one and inseparable.  
Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously gathered here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave spirits, reached, in their glorious career that last highest point of nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for their country. 
No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers when we write above their graves this shining epitaph. 
When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, when our great Republic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of these states was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody hands to destroy the very foundations of American society, the unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for their country. 
We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration those who struck at the nation's life and those who struck to save it, those who fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and justice.  
I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I would not repel the repentant; but may my "right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth," if I forget the difference between the parties to hat terrible, protracted, and bloody conflict.  
If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with widows and orphans; which has made stumps of men of the very flower of our youth; which has sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, maimed and mutilated; which has piled up a debt heavier than a mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody graves and planted agony at a million hearthstones -- I say, if this war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what shall men remember? 
The essence and significance of our devotions here today are not to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, we should find enough on both sides to kindle admiration. In the raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching courage marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier. 
But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation's destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.
Douglass wrote his autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, and many of his speeches in his Cedar Hill library.
In 1971, on hundred years after Frederick Douglass gave his remarks, Memorial Day became a national holiday through an Act of Congress. Douglass, a scholar who loved books, is a gifted writer whose insights are worth reading today.

According to the VA, "The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: 'Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.'"

Sunday, May 18, 2014

L'attitude on 'Longitude' & Sailing Island Earth

by Bill Doughty

"Longitude" by Dava Sobel is subtitled "The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time." It's a fun and easy book that opens with a quote by Mark Twain. Sobel introduces us to the book's hero, John Harrison, and his mastery of space and time. "He succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth -- temporal -- dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe. He wrested the world's whereabouts from the stars..."

Harrison dedicated his life to the creation of an accurate seagoing clock, a marine chronometer, that could help sailors determine longitude in order to map commercial opportunities, prevent shipwrecks and avoid contact with enemy fleets or pirates.

In 2014, there are some notable milestones in the search for calculating longitude:

1514: Five hundred years ago this year, German astronomer Johannes Werner found a way to use the motion of the moon as a location finder.

1664: Three hundred and fifty years ago, Galileo's "intellectual heir," Christiaan Huygens's pendulum clock sailed aboard ship to and from the Cape Verde islands in the North Atlantic off the west coast of Africa and kept track of the ship's longitude. However the clock's pendulum would prove to have difficulty in long voyages and in rough seas.

John Harrison's H-1
1714: Three hundred years ago, the British parliament passed the Longitude Act and offered a prize of 20,000 pounds to anyone who could solve the problem of calculating longitude. This led to intrigue and controversy between those who tried to solve the problem through astronomy and others like clockmaker Harrison who tried through technology. He developed his land and sea clocks using intricate parts, new designs and innovative materials like tropical hardwood, diamonds and gridiron brass and steel. A replica of his breakthrough design, clock H-1, was produced by Larcum Kendall. Called K-1, it sailed with Captain James Cook in 1775 on his second voyage of HMS Resolution and helped Cook chart the South Sea Islands for the first time for England.
"So enamored was Cook of K-1 that he carried it out on his third expedition, on July 12, 1776 [eight days after our Declaration of Independence]. This voyage was not so fortunate as the first two. Despite the great diplomacy of the renowned explorer, and his efforts to respect the native peoples of the lands he visited, Captain Cook ran into serious trouble in the Hawaiian archipelago."
Captain Cook commemorative stamps from 2003.
In fact, Cook, originally hailed as an incarnation of the god, Lono, was drawn into hostilities on a return trip and was killed. According to an account of events, K-1 "also stopped ticking" at the time Cook died. But chronometers had proven their worth, and Harrison lived long enough to see the "infinite practicality" of his approach accepted and his life's work vindicated. His clocks "may have facilitated England's mastery over the oceans."

Sailors worldwide adopted the new technology at the end of the eighteenth century.

"By the turn of the century, the [U.S.] navy had procured a stock of chronometers for storage in Portsmouth, at the Naval Academy, where a captain could claim one as he prepared to sail from that port. With supply small and demand high, however, officers frequently found the academy's cupboard bare and continued to buy their own."

1814: Two hundred years ago, during the War of 1812, there were thousands of chronometers in use.

According to Sobel, on Charles Darwin's voyage aboard HMS Beagle in 1831, there were 22 chronometers on board to help fix longitudes of foreign lands, including the Galapagos.

John Harrison
"Longitude" is on the "recommended reading" list of the CNO's Professional Reading Program. It's packed with personalities of scientists involved in the search for an understanding of seagoing time and space: William Whiston, Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, Domenico Cassini, Ole Roemer, John Flamsteed, John Hadley, Thomas Godfrey, James Bradley and (the book's "antihero" to Harrison, Rev. Nevil Maskelyne).

Sobel includes snippets of poetry by Robert Burns, Diane Ackerman, W.H. Auden, Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge, William Blake, Lewis Carroll and William Shakespeare. Her book is endorsed by the late William F. Buckley, Jr., who writes of "Longitude," "An exquisitely done narrative of the chronometer. It is a wonderful and engrossing achievement."

Throughout, the narrative is a yin-yang of nature/technology, time/distance and, in the case of the Prime Meridian, Greenwich/Paris (England/France), where there was some negative "l'attitude" about where the first line of longitude should exist. 

Sobel's is an understandably Eurocentric view of the tension, history, and art of ocean navigation, with most of the story focused on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Of course, there's another side of the globe where Chinese and Polynesian voyagers were sailing accurately with nature's "star compass."

Yesterday members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society departed Oahu aboard two Hawaiian voyaging canoes for the beginning of a three-year tour around the globe. Dignitaries and well-wishers for master navigator/mentor Nainoa Thompson and his navigators and crew were Ocean Elders Captain Don Walsh, musician Jackson Browne and oceanographers Jean-Michel Cousteau and Dr. Sylvia Earle. Hōkūle’a was envisioned by legendary artist Herb Kāne, and voyages today were inspired by wayfinder and master navigator Mau Piailug and heroic Eddie Aikau, among others.

From "Hōkūle’a and Hikianalia, our Hawaiian voyaging canoes, are sailing across earth’s oceans to join the global movement toward a more sustainable future. Traveling through 47,000 nautical miles of Earth’s oceans and visiting 26 countries, Hōkūle’a carries a message of mālama honua (caring for Island Earth and each other)."

After a stop at Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, the first long leg of the journey is to Tahiti, and the voyagers plan to not use modern instruments -- no maps, sextants, clocks or GPS, only the sun, moon, waves, wind, sea life, and stars and their "houses." No Harrison's chronometer.

Again from "As we voyage, we bring together tradition and technology, timeless values and new visions, and the next generation of leaders that can build hopeful solutions for Island Earth’s and Hawaiiʻs future."

Nainoa Thompson looks at weather charts with Lt. Bill Karch in 1978.
The U.S. Navy is spiritually part of the journey. Sailors homeported in Pearl Harbor have worked with the Polynesian Voyaging Society over many years. They have helped refurbish canoes, offered advice on the dangers voyagers might face, and provided search-and-rescue training to navigators and sailors. The Navy shares some of the same interests: a sustainable future, environmental stewardship, love for the ocean, cooperation and partnership-building, STEM and leadership through empowering the next generation.

On land, people around the world, expecially young people in classrooms, can witness how Hōkūle’a and Hikianalia navigate and follow the journey through the Web and via social media, including Facebook.

“That piece about the navigation to me, it teaches perseverance," says master navigator Nainoa Thompson. "It teaches young people to be willing to take risks to train and prepare, to find their destination. It helps understand the power of vision, and it makes people work together. It teaches leadership.”

In 2011, U.S. Navy Sailors home-ported in Pearl Harbor sand pieces of a Polynesian canoe for the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Sailors helped restore the canoe, support vessels and work areas while learning about ancient Hawaiian culture in the process. (Photo by MC2 Paul D. Honnick)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

'God-Awful Luckiest' Battle of Midway

by Bill Doughty
Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz
How did the United States Navy achieve victory at Midway and turn the tide in the Pacific so early in World War II?  An anthology from the Naval Institute Press shows the answer: Sailor ingenuity, science and skill blended with Admiral Nimitz's wisdom and determination -- along with some luck.

Other factors contributed, including miscalculations and overconfidence of Imperial Japan, whose military leaders were set on taking out "Hawaii's sentry," Midway Atoll. But fortune favored many of the U.S. carrier aviators who fatally damaged three enemy carriers, writes John B. Lundstrom in historian Thomas C. Hone's "The Battle of Midway: The Naval Institute Guide to the U.S. Navy's Greatest Victory."  Imperial Japan would lose four carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor and more than 100 of its aviators.

Lundstrom notes, "The actual sequence of events was stranger than anyone could have imagined; as [Rear Adm. Murr] Arnold wrote in 1965, it was 'the most god-awful luckiest coordinated attack.'"
In "The Battle of Midway" editor Hone brings together a gifted roster of writers and leaders including Craig L. Symonds, E.B. Potter, James Schlesinger, Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, Rear Adm. Edwin T. Layton, Elliot Carlson, Mitsuo Fuchida, Masatake Okumiya, Lundstrom and Mark R. Peattie, among others.

Throughout this book of mostly essays written over a span of seven decades, Hone adds context and analysis. In his introduction to Chapter 9, "Prelude to Midway," he explains Imperial Japan's motive for the attack.
"The Midway operation had two central objectives. The first and more limited one was the seizure of Midway as an advance air base to facilitate early detection of enemy carrier forces operating toward the homeland from Hawaii, with the attack on the Aleutians as a diversion ... The second, much broader objective was to draw out what was left of the United States Pacific Fleet so that it could be engaged and destroyed in decisive battle. Were these objectives achieved, the invasion of Hawaii itself would become possible, if not easy."
America's fury against Imperial Japan and commitment to avenge at Midway immediately after the attack on Oahu of December 7, 1941 was fueled by lies: pretended diplomacy in Washington D.C. even after the "Rising Sun's" torpedo bombs exploded in Pearl Harbor. Americans, led by President Roosevelt, called the act illegal, ignoble and infamous.
Eri Hotta's "Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy," published by Alfred A. Knopf Publisher, describes how the two emissaries, Nomura and Kurusu, were set up by the military government "warmongers" in Japan. The two were returned to Japan in a citizen exchange via Rio de Janeiro in the Atlantic, Mozambique in the Indian Ocean and finally Yokohama in Pacific, arriving August 20, 1942. Hotta writes:
"By then, Japan's preponderance at sea was declining precipitously. The balance of power had been tipped. From June 4 to 7, the Imperial Japanese Navy fought one of the most devastating naval battles in modern history, the Battle of Midway. The same men who planned the Pearl Harbor attack conceived of the Midway strategy, hoping to eliminate the United States from the Pacific once and for all. The operation ended in disaster for Japan. By this time the Japanese military code had been broken by the United States ... The Japanese navy was dragged down from its glorious pinnacle only six months after it had reached it."
Hotta's "Japan 1941" shows how misunderstanding, miscalculations and misinformation not only led Japan into war but also perpetuated the fighting even after defeat was inevitable.

Hone's "The Battle of Midway" opens with Part I, which explores Nagumo's kido butai (air fleet), presents Admiral Yamamoto from a Japanese perspective, and shows why Imperial Japan's carrier pilots were so skilled in the first year of the war with the U.S. Navy; it was because they had already gained experience in the previous decade in China. Part II is titled "Approach to Midway" and includes a brief but powerful piece from Proceedings, "Lest We Forget: Civilian Yard Workers," by Lt. Cmdr. Thomas J. Cutler, USN (ret.). Cutler is author of "Bluejacket's Manual," "A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy" and numerous other books.

USS Yorktown struggles in vain to survive during the Battle of Midway.
Part III, "The Battle," recounts the battle Kurosawa-like, from different angles and viewpoints including several from an Imperial Japanese perspective. "I Sank the Yorktown at Midway," by Yahachi Tanabe and Joseph D. Harrington, is one provocative title. Parts IV and V deal with the aftermath of the battle, its finale and the official report by Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. 

Part VI of "The Battle of Midway" explores the personalities, strategies and relationships of the commanders: Nimitz, Spruance, Nagumo, Yamato, Fletcher and Mitscher. Part VII shows how code-breaking helped provide some of the "god-awful luck" that gave U.S. Navy the edge against the enemy fleet. Editor Hone leads with an analysis of the complicated state of affairs with regard to code-breaking, and he includes an excerpt from Elliot Carlson's excellent "Joe Rochefort's War: The Odyssey of the Codebraker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway."

Hone's book concludes with Part VIII "Assessments of the Battle" and appendixes, including the USS Enterprise Action Report and Spruance's Letter to Fletcher of June 8, 1942. 

There are several implied and outright pleas by historians to ensure Midway is understood and commemorated. Since Adm. Jonathan Greenert became CNO, The Battle of Midway has been part of a curriculum for Sailors and has been honored at every command.

The source materials, oral histories, chronologies and analysis in "The Battle of Midway" make this book a compelling overview of the heroic battle while leaving some mysteries, fog-of-war questions, and the impact of luck as still part of the story and lessons of Midway.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert, members of the official party and ceremony attendees salute a wreath at the U.S. Navy Memorial placed there in honor of the Battle of Midway Commemoration Day ceremony in Washington, D.C. June 4, 2012, the 70th Anniversary of the decisive Battle of Midway. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor/Released)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Geography: Bigger Splash than Godzilla

by Bill Doughty

Robert D. Kaplan's amazing "The Revenge of Geography" explores history, geopolitics and "the battle against fate" through his own ideas and by incorporating the ideas of other strategic thinkers like Mackinder, Mahan, Spykman and Braudel.

His work explains how and why the Navy balances power in oceans far from the continental United States, and his conclusion leads to a provocative proposal much closer to home.

Kaplan introduces us to Frenchman Fernand Braudel's broad history over time, "in which every detail of human existence is painted against the canvas of natural forces."

Braudel perceived history in three varying wavelengths of time: at the base, (1) landscape that is "slow, imperceptibly changing geological time." Next, (2) a faster wavelength with "systemic changes in demographics, economics, agriculture, society and politics." Finally, (3) the shortest-term  cycle, "the daily vicissitude of politics and diplomacy that are the stuff of media coverage." Kaplan writes:
"Braudel's analogy is the sea: in the deepest depths is the sluggish movement of water masses that bear everything; above that the tides and swells; and finally at the surface, in (Oxford archeologist Barry) Cunliffe's words, "the transient flecks of surf, whipped up and gone in a minute."
That puts into perspective Monica Lewinsky, Youtube cat videos, the Kardashians, Donald Sterling and most other popular culture -- even Godzilla. They're just sea spray in the wind.

Kaplan is instead concerned with the depths of geography and history over millennia -- the influence of mountains, deserts, rivers, oceans and natural resources, especially oil -- and the impact of population growth, urbanization, global climate change, democracy and overall human nature.

Published in 2012, two years before Putin took Crimea and threatened an invasion of Ukraine (which held faux elections this weekend), Kaplan explains why the Russian president had his sights on Ukraine, "suddenly challenging Europe." Russians were deprived of the benefits of the Renaissance because of invasions by Mongols. Russia was attacked on both sides in the previous century, by Japan and Germany. Because of their place in geography and history, Kaplan says, they continue to gravitate to autocratic leaders and blind nationalism.

"Truly, the Russian climate and landscape are miserably rugged and as such hold the keys to the Russians' character and to their history," Kaplan writes.

Writing more than a century ago, many years before the World Wars, creation of the Soviet Union and Cold War, Rear Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan in "The Problem of Asia" discussed Russia's vulnerability, being so far from the Indian Ocean. Mahan predicted that Russia's dissatisfaction would readily take the form of aggression.

Writes Kaplan, "Mahan emphasized the importance of China, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. It is no coincidence that in 1900 he is able to identify the pivotal states of geopolitical significance in our own time: for geography is unchangeable."

However, Kaplan acknowledges that a warming Arctic is creating new sea power lanes, the widening of the Panama Canal will create significant changes in our hemisphere, and communication technology is changing geography virtually.

Cobra Gold opening ceremony in 2014, Photo by Spc. Tyler Meiester.
Naval War College professors James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara, whose work is discussed in detail in Kaplan's "Monsoon," contribute their study of China's maritime perspective in "Revenge." Other NWC professors, Andrew Erickson and Lyle Goldstein, show how the politics in he South China Sea make it an Asian Mediterranean in the twenty-first century and where the future for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force may be as part of a "concert of power" with other nations.

Millions of mainland Chinese visit Taiwan in 270 flights per week, where they can visit book stores and see free-spirited political talk shows on TV.  According to Kaplan, "a more open China is certainly more of a possibility than a repressive one."
"Navies have multiple purposes beyond fighting, such as the protection of commerce. Sea power suits those nations intolerant of heavy casualties in fighting on land. China, which in the twenty-first century will project hard power primarily through its navy, should, therefore, be benevolent in the way of other maritime nations and empires in history, such as Venice, Great Britain, and the United States: that is, it should be concerned mainly with the free movement of trade and the preservation of a peaceful maritime system."
In "Revenge" Kaplan explores not just Russia and China in great detail but also India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. His is a sweeping description of migration, invasion, revolution, religion, peace and war.
France's Fernand Braudel, 1902-1985.
Among other thinkers and authors cited in "revenge" are Thucydides, Herodotus, Toynbee, Solzhenitsyn, Darwin, Jared Diamond, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samuel Huntington, Nikolas Gogol, W. Bruce Lincoln and George Orwell.

In 2014's world of big ideas and big thinking, Thomas Piketty is the rage, with his bestselling "Capital In the Twenty-First Century" warning about the dangers of income inequality and wealth disparity.

But another Frenchman, Fernand Braudel (who wrote about the Mediterranean and North Africa's Sahara while a captive of the Nazis in World War II), is presented by Kaplan in the context of today's challenges.
"In an era of climate change, of warming Arctic seas opening up to commercial traffic, of potential sea-level rises that spell disaster for crowded, littoral countries in the tropical Third World, and of world politics being fundamentally shaped by the availability of oil and other commodities, Braudel's epic of geographical determinism is ripe for reading. In fact, Braudel with his writings about the Mediterranean establishes the literary mood-context for an era of scarcity and environmentally driven events in an increasingly water-starved, congested planet."
Kaplan brings his insights home in the final chapter, "Braudel, Mexico and Grand Strategy," where he says our country's destiny is north-south, not the "sea-to-shining-sea" east-west.
USS Independence (LCS 2) in Manzanillo, Mexico. Photo by PO2 Trevor Welsh
"While we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars to affect historical outcomes in Eurasia, we are curiously passive about what is happening to a country with which we share a long land border, that verges on disorder, and whose population is close to double that of Iraq and Afghanistan combined." We should pay attention to Mexico in part because, "American GDP (is) nine times that of Mexico" -- the largest income gap of any tow countries next to each other in the world.

Kaplan's startling conclusion in "The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflict and the Battle Against Fate" is that Mexico may be more important than China.