Saturday, December 31, 2016

Who is President of the United States in 2017?

Review by Bill Doughty

According to Mark Greaney (and the late but immortal Tom Clancy) President Jack Ryan leads the free world in 2017 – as ISIS works through a rogue Saudi, Yemeni and Romanian to allow Islamist militants to target, attack and kill hundreds of Americans in cities across the United States.

The remedy: Arm every off duty service member with military-issued concealed handguns but resist the urge to invade another Middle East country. Also, beef up cyberdefense. Finally, while under attack, keep your cool even in the face of threats to the Constitution and the very existence of the nation.

According to Greaney, speaking through President Ryan in his novel "True Faith and Allegiance" (Putnam, 2016), "People have a reasonable tendency to do one of two things when they listen to someone in government warn them of a threat. They either tune in or freak out."

It's the voice of reason from the fictional commander-in-chief – channeling Peter Bergen. Here's the wisdom of Clancy's and Greany's speaking through their President Ryan:
"Let's keep this in perspective for the average U.S. citizen. It is a sad fact that there were more than fifty shootings in Chicago over the weekend, with seven dead. There exists, quite unfortunately, violence all around us. What is happening with these Islamic State terrorists in our borders is of utmost concern to us, but I would not want the average American citizen to do anything more than report any concerns you may have to your local law enforcement agency."
The president watches as his son Jack Ryan Jr. and his team of quasi-official operatives save the world. No spoiler alert needed.

Tom Clancy gets a brief aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk in 2002. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
In "True Faith" bad guys get information about military service members and federal civilians from stolen SF-86 e-QIP forms, the 127-page paperwork required to get and maintain a security clearance. They then set out to assassinate and otherwise terrorize in hopes of drawing more radical militants to their cause – and to draw the United States deeper into the Middle East.

The premise is drawn in part from real-life events in June 2016 when hackers stole personal private information about millions of people from the Office of Personnel Management.

Cybercrime + open source intelligence x cyberwarfare = terror.

USS Sampson (DDG 102) operates off the coast of Kaikoura, New Zealand in November 2016.
"Someone was fusing legal data with an illegal theft of data and then weaponizing the results," Greaney writes.

Working with more than forty characters, Greaney never loses the pace, balance or intrigue moving from narrative and dialog, including in White House press conferences, to then unleash the action. And, unlike some other thrillers, there's only a minimal amount of eye-rolling to some pretty unrealistic situations.

For example: The story opens at a Mexican restaurant in New Jersey with a harrowing and seemingly disconnected attack on Cmdr. Scott Hagen, captain of USS James Greer (DDG-102) by a crazed Russian avenging the death of his brother in a Baltic sea battle. (The real DDG-102, by the way, is USS Sampson, homeported in San Diego. Sampson recently assisted New Zealand after an earthquake.)

Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, Eastern Europeans and various spies of all persuasions make appearances, as do the Peshmerga and their friends.

U.S. Army AH-64E Apache helicopters (Photo by Capt. Brian Harris).
Peppering the narrative are some terrific action scenes featuring U.S. Army Capt. Carrie Ann Underwood copiloting and operating the guns on an AH-64E Apache in northern Iraq. Hornets from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) also make an appearance.

Intended irony? Both the protagonists and evildoers in this thriller are fired up by a desire for "righteous payback."

Fortunately, President Jack Ryan (played in the past by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine and reportedly to be played by John Krasinski fighting ISIS/ISIL in an Amazon TV series) is a voice of relative reason in a dynamic and dangerous world waiting for the better angels of our nature.

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 15, 2016) Aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) conducts flight operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class J. M. Tolbert/Released)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Diary of Pearl Harbor Survivor – Navy Chief Al Rodrigues

Review by Bill Doughty

Pacific Historic Parks provides this short book at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, overlooking USS Arizona and "Battleship Row" next to Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

The cover reads: "A Native Son of Hawaii's memories of the War in the Pacific while on duty during the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and while serving on the battleship USS Washington in the Pacific Theater."

This is his wartime diary aboard USS Washington (BB-56) as well as his insights and reflections as a volunteer at the Visitor Center, where his message to visitors is: "Freedom is not free."

This enjoyable little book, published in 2014, starts with Rodrigues's recollections as a young boy growing up in Hawaii.

Al was born on the island of Kauai on February 7, 1920. His full name: Alfred Benjamin Kameeiamoku Rodrigues. Al's mother was Hawaiian. She died when Al was only 8, "and I felt like I wanted to die also. I loved her so much." Al's father was of Portuguese descent. He experienced some prejudice growing up in mixed-race family on Kauai.

Kapaa Kauai in 1924, looking away from Lihue and toward "Sleeping Giant" mountain range.
"Kauai is geologically the oldest island of the group of islands and, without any personal prejudice, the most beautiful of all." Al attended Kauai High School in Lihue, where he competed in various sports, when he wasn't surfing or caddying at the Waialua Golf Course (25 cents per bag for nine holes, with usually a ten-cent tip).
"I played football, volleyball, basketball and baseball and was also on the swimming team so kept busy. The only wrong thing I did was take up smoking, so there went my caddy money. I finally quit smoking when I retired from the Navy."
Rodrigues joined the Navy with an ambition to be an engineering, but under the guidance of Navy Chief George Maile, a fellow Sailor from Hawaii, he chose instead to become a storekeeper. "It made a difference on the rest of my career in the Navy."

Gunners aboard USS Ward (DD-139).
He remembers holding air raid drills in November of 1941. "It was an omen that something was to happen," he said.
"On December 7, 1941, I had the four-to-eight watch; and the officer of the deck, who was a quartermaster second class, told me that they had received a message at 3:30 a.m. that our destroyer the USS Ward (DD-139) had dropped depth charges on an unidentified submarine and sunk it."
Al had just put his breakfast tray down when he could hear explosions "in the shipyard area." He and his buddies assumed it was dredging work until he heard the General Alarm. They all ran to the armory where they were issued .30 caliber rifles or .45 pistols. Not much help against the incoming enemy planes, red rising suns on the bottom of their wings.
"They were flying low enough that you could see the pilots' faces. We heard yells to shoot the pilot as they had open cockpits. Hell, it was hard enough to shoot the airplane, much less the pilot. With a rifle of 1941 vintage, you could only shoot one bullet at a time then cock the rifle before shooting the next shot, and by then the plane was out of reach."
Naval Supply Center at Pearl Harbor in the 1940s.
Storekeepers like Al provided supplies and made room "for sailors who lost everything." He worked closely with the Naval Supply Center, now known as Fleet Industrial Supply Center.

This book is filled with tweet-size stories about characters like Sake-Mac, the Chief Commissary man; an unnamed bunkmate accused of murder in New York; and C.B. Wilson, who helped Al sneak out at night for a luau. 

USS Washington (BB-56) in the Shipyard after a collision with USS Indiana (BB-58) in 1944.
Most of "Diary" is in fact a diary, a journal, and a way to keep track of events at a time when news was blocked, letters were censored and information was subject to propaganda and what we'd now call fake news.

Al gives us a feel for day-to-day life during wartime aboard USS Washington and how the enemy was viewed by Sailors and the nation at the time. The cover of his diary was inscribed with some of the locations he visited, including Palau, Gilberts, Nauru, Marianas and Marshall Islands, where his ship's bow was crushed in a collision with USS Indiana (BB-58).

We see how close Al was to his sister, Nani.

Al remembers fondly some time he finagled in New York City, which welcomed service members who had served in the war. After the war he returned to Hawaii.
"The City and County of Honolulu had an ad asking for men to join the police force and I applied. The first thing they did was make me get on a scale and I weighed 149 pounds. The sergeant told me to go home, eat some bananas and come back tomorrow as the minimum weight was 150 pounds. Did that; I ate a few and the next day I was accepted for the next recruit training as I met the correct weight."
Al Rodrigues's diary.
But Al changed his mind and rejoined the Navy, where he served as a Navy Chief at the Yards and Docks Supply Depot.

He married "the cutest local Japanese girl," Ruth, and raised a family – three sons, Kammy, Jay and Ronald. Ronald was born in Yokosuka, Japan when Al was stationed at Naval Supply Depot there.  "In 1960, sometime while stationed at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Lualualei, Oahu, Ruth and I split. We had differences and she eventually married a guy named Pete, who was a Navy friend of mine. It sure is funny how some things just work out for the best – for all concerned."

Pearl Harbor Survivors Sterling Cale and Al Rodrigues meet young visitors in 2009.
Al met his second wife, Louise, who already had four children, Jimmy, Mary, Stella and Fred. "Now with four of hers, three of mine (from my first marriage) plus two of ours (son Kalani and daughter Aulani born at Tripler Army Medical Center) it adds up to nine in the family. And we are still one happy family. It is mine, hers and ours. Nice, huh!"

Today, Al Rodrigues volunteers at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center where he meets people "from many foreign countries and every state in the Union."
"In closing, I want to remind people that we should honor the memories of my generation so that we can pass to future generations the stories of what those brave, heroic men and women of World war II did to preserve our freedom. Freedom is not free."
Thank you to Agnes Tauyan, Director of Public Affairs for Navy Region Hawaii, for recommending this book for a Navy Reads review.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Post-75th – The Legacy of Pearl Harbor

Review by Bill Doughty

Parts II and III: Strike! to Victory...

Pearl Harbor survivor Donald Stratton renders a salute as USS Halsey (DDG 97) performs a Pass-in-Review during the 75th Anniversary National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Commemoration at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
USS Arizona Seaman 1st Class Don Stratton represented all Pearl Harbor survivors in returning the salute of guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey at the Navy's and National Park Service's Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony – the 75th anniversary commemoration held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam last week.

Young Sailor Don Stratton
In "Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" author Craig Nelson quotes Stratton, who remembers his injuries: "'Both my legs were burn pretty bad,' Stratton said, 'My legs, arms, face, my hair. Lost a couple of tattoos ... don't recommend that way to get rid of 'em...'"

Nelson provides short vignettes of dozens of warfighters impacted by Imperial Japan's attack on Oahu. He introduces readers to John Finn, Peter Tomich, Lee Soucy, Max Middlesworth, Sterling Cale and Dorie Miller, among others.

He reports, "A great many of America's servicemen at this moment were teenagers or young men, untried by life and untested by combat – of the forty thousand enlisted men on Oahu in 1941, the average age was nineteen." And, "All were bonded by that special tick of the heart that make a life of duty."

Young men who were coming of age were branded by what they saw and experienced. But their preferred lasting memories were the days before the attack, according to Nelson. Those memories include "battles of the bands," such as those involving the USS Arizona Band. Every member of the band was killed on Dec. 7, 1941.

Imperial General Quarters; the Emperor seen as a "living god."
"Many Pearl Harbor survivors would, for decades, hold vivid and precise memories not so much of December 7 as of December 6, since that was the last moment they were with so many, many friends who would be taken from them." But all would have images of the attack and the war branded in their minds for a lifetime.

Nelson does not hold back in his vivid description of the violence and gore of the war in the Pacific.

His timely and well-researched book offers drama of the lead-up to the war, of the actual attack, and in the aftermath, including conspiracy theories. His lead-up to the attack is covered in our previous post showing the various roads that led to war, both political – as the military controlled the civilian government and populace, actively promoting patriotism in the guise of and faith-based nationalism and xenophobia. 

Matsuoka Yosuke, Japan's foreign minister in 1940-41, pictured on the cover of Time magazine, at left, orchestrated the tripartite pact with Germany and Italy. Matsuoka advocated for war against Russia and then the United States in the name of the emperor.

Imperial Japan's attack originated from a racist and religious extremist belief in racial superiority, exemplified in a verse by poet and war advocate Takamura Kotaro that include these lines:

Nippon, the Land of the Gods
Ruled by a living God

The "reluctant admiral," Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku, famously warned of awakening a sleeping giant – the United States – and instilling a "terrible resolve." Nelson describes that resolve, starting with heroic recovery, salvage and restoration in Pearl Harbor:
"The miracle of muscle and engineering that restored the American fleet at Pearl Harbor would continue on a grand scale in the United States, where a secret group of heroes now began turning the tide of war. The most brilliant of generals, the most inspiring of admirals, and the greatest of battlefield troops would pale in significance to the thousands of American Rosie and Ronnie the Riveters who outproduced both the Axis and the other Allied powers combined, contributing nearly three hundred thousand tanks to Roosevelt's arsenal of democracy in 1943. Like all wars, the winners of World War II were the guys with the most ships, guns, and planes; in 1944, Joseph Stalin even proposed a toast to the productivity of the American assembly live."
Why did Japan's warmongers prevail over the diplomats in bringing about the infamous attack? The militarists took control of the government and the press, and the people in power made irrational assumptions and decisions, which the largely uninformed populace followed blindly.
" the end, Japanese emotion won out over rational action. Starting with the fundamental theory – that killing thousands of Americans in a surprise attack would trigger the United States to falter and surrender – and ending with the decision to wage war – during which dozens in Tokyo, from graduate students to finance, foreign, naval, and prime minister, told the army that fighting the United States was nonsensical – Japan's course to pearl Harbor was irrational in the extreme. Sense, in the end, did not carry the day."
Stars & Stripes page one featuring Adm. "Bull" Halsey. 
Nelson shows how "The Pearl Harbor attack set in motion a series of events that rippled across the Pacific," to include an early turning point for the United States Navy – the Battle of Midway.

For the American Military "Remember Pearl Harbor" was a rallying cry. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's description of "infamy" captured the depth of shock of an adversary's deception – attacking under the cover of diplomacy:

"If the holocaust defined evil for the Americans of WWII, Dec. 7 was the embodiment of malignant treachery," Nelson writes.

"Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness" concludes with a hopeful context – that the world would learn the lessons of history.
"With a rage ignited by Tokyo, a confidence born with Doolittle, and the great idealism of ensuring such a thing would never happen again, Pearl Harbor's greatest legacy is our nation's continuing struggle to make sure that there will never be a World War III. Whatever you think of the United States of America, its foreign policy, its military, and its actions overseas, the world at overall peace since 1943 has been an American goal and an American triumph. What could be a greater legacy to those who served and died in World War II, beginning at Pearl Harbor?"
Pearl Harbor survivor Don Stratton gives his perspective as to why world leaders should commit to lasting peace: "'I seen everything that went on there, and I tell you what. There was more courage and more heroics and more valor and more sacrifice that day than a human being ought to see in ten lifetimes."

Minutes before Hawaii-homeported USS Halsey saluted USS Arizona, Don Stratton and survivors at the main ceremony last Wednesday in Pearl Harbor, the ship and its crew saluted USS Utah on the other side of Ford Island. USS Utah survivor Gil Meyer returned the salute for all of his shipmates past and present.
161207-N-QE566-008 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 07, 2016) (right) Retired Chief Petty Officer Gilbert Meyer, a USS Utah and Pearl Harbor survivor, and Capt. Jeffrey Rathbun, U.S. Pacific Fleet Command Deputy Director, Logistics, Engineering and Security Cooperation, return honors to USS Halsey (DDG 97) as the ship sailed past the USS Utah Memorial in Pearl Harbor as part of a pass in review and salute to USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor survivors Dec. 7.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Corwin M. Colbert)