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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mini Vacation

Heading for the mountains. Way out there. No phone, cell or land line. No cable, no TV and hardly any radio.

Lots of clean air and vistas.

Back early next week. Sunday Ship History is taking the week off, too.

Thanks for dropping by.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A real littoral combat ship goes to sea with an Army crew

Quietly, after the "as big as a WWII destroyer" LCS gets an operational test, a design far closer to what many of us thought the LCS should be also gets a test, as set out here:
DID has covered the late Vice-Admiral Cebrowski’s legacy at the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation. With the formal roll-out of the 88-foot Stiletto stealth ship and its cutting-edge “M-Hull” wave-damping design, that legacy takes another step forward. The Stiletto is part of Project WolfPac, which aims to test new concepts of shallow-water and riverine warfare organized around swarms of smaller, affordable ships linked by communications.
Give me a couple of "mother ships" for I would take one of these into harm's way...

Mship home page. "WolfPAC" PointPoint presentation can be downloaded from this page.

Wolf PAC – Command & Control of Distributed Operations
Technological and operational means to command & control large numbers of networked unmanned systems (>50) geographically dispersed
And it's not a "mother ship", it's an "Operations Support Vessel." See slide 40...

UPDATE: Army crew:
Army Sgt. Ronnie Monroe and Army Pfc. Eric Gilbert perform pre-underway checks on Stiletto while pierside during a refueling stop, June 12, 2008. Stiletto is a one-of-a-kind, experimental vessel designed for high-speed special operative amphibious insertions. Stiletto is operated by Army mariners from the 7th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division of Fort Eustis, Va. Joint Task Force Guantanamo conducts safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants. The JTF conducts interrogation operations to collect strategic intelligence in support of the Global War on Terror and supports law enforcement and war crimes investigations. JTF Guantanamo is committed to the safety and security of American service members and civilians working inside its detention facilities. ID: 98604 Date Taken: June 12th, 2008 Location: Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, CU Photographer: Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathaniel MogerView Portfolio
Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs More Photos from Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs


Video from I hope they don't mind me borrowing it.

Russian Anti-Piracy Idea: Simple and direct

A Russian idea on How to beat sea piracy: put grenade launchers on boats:
Russia’s top arms producer has unveiled plans to help repel attacks by pirates and reduce the number of hijacks on the country’s civil ships.

Vladimir Korenkov, from arms manufacturer Bazalt, said it‘s equipping vessels with it’s multi-barrel grenade launching systems to help curb pirate aggression.
Bazalt's "marine" grenade launcher:
In 1971 to ensure protection of Navy bases neighbouring areas vacilities against underwater divers at a range of up to 500m the Navy adopted for service the MRG-1 multi-barrel rocket grenade launcher.Firing is remotely controlled (distance is up to 30m) using a self-contained power source from a ship deck or ashore.

In 1991 the DP-65 automated small-size remotely-controlled grenade launcher system was developed and adopted by the Navy for service. Unlike the MRG-1 system, the DP-65 rocket launcher is fitted with electric drives of vertical and horizontal aiming mechanisms, it is controlled remotely (distance is up to 100m), one control console allows for a by-turn servicing of up to four grenade launchers. The DP-65 system can be mounted on large surface ships and vessels, as well as on various shore facilities. It can also be efficiently used against underwater swimmer saboteurs.
The MRG-1 and DP-65 grenade launcher fire 55mm RG-55M high-explosive rocket grenades which are actually small depth bombs detonating at a pre-set depth and efficiently engaging an underwater swimmer within a radius of up to 16m.

To mark the location of the detected underwater swimmeres the MRG-1 and DP-65 systems fire the GRS-55 flare grenade whose burning flare serves as a marker on water surface to enable aimed fire with the use of high-explosive grenades.

Portable grenade launchers enjoy wide application in the system of antisaboteur defense. Unlike stationary launchers, they require no specially equipped positions. One of these launchers is the DP-64 portable grenade launcher. Its design incorporates an active scheme of grenade triggering which makes it possible to equip the launcher with a closed breech end allowing for the weapon application capabilities to be expanded. Due to its indigenuous design the grenade launcher is virtually a silent weapon system which is of particular importance for its use at bases.

Monday, July 28, 2008


121 times Fred Fry has stepped up and delivered, as he does in Maritime Monday 121 at with nice pictures of a inter-island cargo shipper among a larger number of entries than the Somali GNP.

Maybe this is too much for some, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Coast Watchers in the South Pacific

It seems that every good movie about the naval war in the Pacific mentions the "Coast Watchers." In Harm's Way, Father Goose and even the The Wackiest Ship in the Army all feature coast watchers in setting out the path to Allied victory.

So, who were the Coast Watchers?
The Coast Watchers, also known as the Coast Watch Organisation, Combined Field Intelligence Service or Section "C" Allied Intelligence Bureau, were Allied military intelligence operatives stationed on remote Pacific islands during World War II to observe enemy movements and rescue stranded Allied personnel. They played a significant role in the Pacific Ocean theatre and South West Pacific theatre, particularly as an early warning network during the Guadalcanal campaign.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Coast Watchers were not a spur of the moment creation of World War II. Instead as is found here:
Shortly after World War 1, the [Australian] Naval Staff instituted a system of civilian coast watchers, whose duty it was to report any matters of naval intelligence coming to their notice. Slowly the scheme was developed until the settled part of the Australian coast was under observation. In the late twenties the organization was extended to Papua, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
More here:
The Coast Watching Organisation (WW2) commenced in 1939 under the command of the Royal Australian Navy through the Naval Intelligence Division, Navy Office, Melbourne. Lieutenant Commander R.B.M. Long was the Director of Naval Intelligence at that time. Lieutenant Commander Eric Feldt (that''s Feldt later in life to the right), who was on the Emergency List, was personally selected by Commander Long, mobilised and appointed Staff Officer (Intelligence), in Port Moresby. He had operational control of the Coast Watchers in the north eastern area of defence of Australia. This included the Australian Mandated Territories, Papua, and the Solomon Islands. There were about 800 personnel in the Coast Watching Organisation in 1939.

Eric Feldt had resigned from the Navy before the war and was employed by the Government in New Guinea. He knew the Island people, the Government Officials and the Plantation Managers who all placed great trust in Eric Feldt. Because of Eric Feldt, many civilian Coast Watchers opted to stay in New Guinea after war was declared and other civilians were ordered to be evacuated. They volunteered to stay behind Japanese lines and risked being captured as a civilian spy by the Japanese.

In 1942 the remaining Coast Watchers were mobilised into Navy service.
As set out here:
The Coastwatchers operated observation posts on the Australian coast, in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and other locations along potential invasion routes. They were colonial government officials, civil airline pilots. shopkeepers, missionaries and planters who were organized under the control of the intelligence section of the Australian Navy. The Europeans were aided by native residents who volunteered to work for the Allied cause and provided vital manpower and local knowledge to the effort. The Japanese were known for brutality against the natives which certainly aided Allied recruitment.

Coastwatchers defied Japanese efforts to disrupt their operations, brazenly risking torture and death to keep vital intelligence flowing to Allied commanders.
Coastwatchers in the Solomon Islands

In December of 1941, full scale war broke out between Japan and United States and its allies. As Japan rapidly expanded its conquered territories, the system of Coastwatchers and the accompanying intelligence network was expanded to cover an area of 500,000 square miles. At that time, about one hundred Coastwatchers in the Solomon Islands were placed under the control of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) that coordinated Allied intelligence activities in the southwest Pacific. Lt. Commander A. Eric Feldt, Royal Australian Navy, was in charge. The first mission AIB had for the Coastwatchers was intelligence regarding Japanese movements in the land, sea and air vicinity of Guadalcanal.

In the preparations for the invasion of Guadalcanal by the U.S. Marines and Army units, Coastwatchers were extremely useful, providing reports on the number and movement of Japanese troops, and the location of enemy forces in their objective areas. After the landings, Coastwatchers provided vital reports on approaching Japanese bombing raids. Japanese war planes and ships en route to destroy the beachhead at Guadalcanal had to pass over Bougainville, in the middle of their route from Rabaul. On 8 August 1942, Coastwatcher Jack Reed (note: should be "Read" - see comments)  at Buka in the north on Bougainville alerted American forces to an upcoming raid by forty Japanese bombers, which resulted in thirty-six of the enemy planes being destroyed. Paul Mason watched from a post in the south mountains over Buin and radioed, "Twenty-five torpedo bombers headed yours." All but one of those planes was intercepted and shot down. Reed  (Read) also reported more than a dozen enemy transports assembling at Buka with Japanese troops for a Guadalcanal counterattack, all lost or beached by the attack of U.S. planes Reed summoned. The Coastwatcher's early warning system was vital to the Marine's success holding Guadalcanal's Henderson Field airstrip.

In addition to intelligence, Coastwatchers rescued and sheltered 118 Allied pilots during the Solomons Campaign, often risking their own lives to do so. Coastwatcher Reed also was responsible for coordinating the evacuation on Bougainville of four nuns and 25 civilians by the U.S. submarine Nautilus. They picked up survivors of sinking ships, including an assist in the rescue of Lt. John F. Kennedy and the crew of PT-109.

The combined activities of the Coastwatchers in the Solomons was so important that Admiral William F. Halsey was quoted as saying:

Guadalcanal saved the Pacific, and the Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal.
The U.S. Marines, like Admiral Halsey, acknowledge the remarkable contributions of a Scottish-born coast watcher:
Were we to seek the most pivotal individual, broadly involved in the Guadalcanal campaign, that man might well be Martin Clemens. He was an Aberdeen born Scot, the son of the choir master of Queen’s Cross Presbyterian Church, who died when Martin was nine years old.
He was graduated from Cambridge and sent out to the Solomon Islands in 1938 as a member of the British Colonial Service, where he served a three year probationary period on the island of Malaita. He became a district officer on San Cristobal in November of 1941. With the advent of the Pacific War he volunteered for military status and was told that he was in a reserved occupation. After a brief leave in Australia he returned on the evacuation ship to evacuate the Europeans and Chinese. He became the District Officer and coastwatcher of Guadalcanal on 28 February 1942 responsible for 15,000 native inhabitants, various other white occupants on the island and reporting Japanese activities.

The Japanese juggernaut was rolling across the Pacific largely unopposed. The managers of the coconut plantations had fled Guadalcanal in panic, abandoning the native workers from neighboring islands, who were left to be returned by Clemens. He then established his radio station and coastwatching activities, the latter based upon his native police and helpers. Though commissioned a Captain in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate Defense Force He had no uniform, nor carried any military credentials. A likely catch for the Japanese, who had in early May occupied Tulagi, and in June had commenced the construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal, further isolating Clemens and his activities and forcing him to conduct them from native enclaves in the mountains. The Japanese move into the southern Solomons was an obvious attempt to establish a base for future disruption of U. S. contact with Australia and New Zealand. Guadalcanal thus became the site of a first and major offensive against the Japanese. Clemens was destined to make a significant contribution to this effort.

The coastwatchers were an integrated network of individuals at strategic locations throughout the Solomons, headed by Lt. Commander Eric A. Feldt RAN, the effort was designated Ferdinand. (John Brown, World War II, May 1998, p. 8) The 1st Marine Division and attached troops under Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift USMC were designated as the, “Cactus”, landing force. Cooperation between Ferdinand and Marine intelligence placed Clemens as the principal operative on Guadalcanal. A bare foot Clemens on his jungle shielded mountain, playing hide and seek with the Japanese, was running low on food, supplies, power for his radio and shoes as his had disintegrated. A delightful episode was the delivery by his islander crew, of a dressed duck to the deprived location and the ingenious approach to cooking it.

Despite this deteriorating status he continued to supply vital intelligence of Japanese activities. He maintained an information gathering network of natives, who reported to island police, this information was evaluated by Clemens and transmitted through Ferdinand operatives to Feldt. A significant addition to his islander force came in June, when Jacob Vouza, a retired Sergeant Major of the Colonial Constabulary, came back to Guadalcanal from Malaita. Clemens was kept uninformed of plans for the invasion, although suspecting that a large move was underway; meanwhile, his very life was in the hands of the Solomon Islanders, who were aware of his location. It is a tribute to Clemens and the Solomon Islanders, that they never informed to the Japanese.
The assault landings in the Solomons ... occurred on 7 August 1942 ... Clemens who had retreated deeper and deeper into the bush to avoid the Japanese, could now make his entry into the Henderson Field beachhead, which he did with his loyal native staff on 15 August. Major General Vandegrift, on their first meeting was indeed positive, recognizing Clemens value as an addition to his staff and placed great responsibility upon him, " ---and told me to take complete charge of all matters of native administration and intelligence outside the perimeter. I was to attach myself to Colonel Buckley of D-2. collecting information through my scouts, on the whole Island and supplying guides as required---”. Clemens had moved from the relative security of his mountain retreat to the hazards of the Henderson Field beachhead, with only a Marine Division for protection.

Clemens to his credit quickly integrated into the headquarters group, interpreting local information and his scouts constantly supplied pertinent intelligence from beyond the perimeter. His scouts first detected the, “Ichiki Detachment” A reinforced Japanese battalion which attacked the beachhead from the east, along the Tenaru river on the 20-21 August 1942 and were annihilated by the Marines. Prior to the onset of this action Sergeant Major Vouza was captured by the Japanese, though tortured and repeatedly bayoneted he gave no information to them. Left for dead, he crawled through the battle lines and his life was saved by the US Navy doctors. He made a miraculous recovery.
Clemens and his scouts repeatedly provided timely information that saved many Marine lives. Photo caption:
LOYAL NATIVES such as these, together with their leader, Captain Martin Clemens, United Kingdom government representative and Coastwatcher on Guadalcanal (even while in Japanese hands) rendered invaluable services to the Marines. These natives were all members of the Solomon Islands police force.
Naturally, the U.S. Army has a slightly different version:
An important factor in the Guadalcanal Campaign made itself felt at this time-AIB "coast watchers " sent out by General MacArthur's G-2 to operate secret radio stations behind enemy lines and report on Japanese troop, plane and ship movements. Carefully placed at strategic locations in the Solomon Islands, these agents were particularly effective in sending radio spot reports on imminent Japanese aerial attacks.

The main Japanese air bases for operations against Guadalcanal were at Rabaul on New Britain, Buin on Bougainville, and Buka Island, with Kavieng on New Ireland as a supporting base. AIB agents located at the key points of Buin and Buka Passage were ideally situated for observation purposes. (Plate No. 25) They had perfected a network by which they were able to give three successive warning signals of Japanese bombers en route to Tulagi and Guadalcanal. United States forces at Tulagi and at Henderson Field had ample notice of impending air attacks and were able to gain a decided advantage by having their planes aloft and ready to strike at the most opportune time.24

AIB "coast watchers" also reported on Japanese harbor activity in the waters adjacent to the Solomon Islands. One party in the hills overlooking Bougainville Island sent daily reports on enemy harbor activity to the Allied Fleet off Guadalcanal's shore. Another party gave details of sea and air arrivals and departures at Buka Passage, an important anchorage for ships operating against Guadalcanal. Other agents at Gold Ridge near Lunga and in northwest Guadalcanal formed an interlocking and efficient intelligence and radio communication net.25
Let's give credit to the Australians for their prescient establishment of the Coast Watcher early warning network and to the steadfast and brave men who took up the mantle of Coast Watchers. The success of the Allied Solomons campaign and the defeat of the Japanese in the South Pacific owes a great deal to the timely information provided by the hundreds of Coast Watchers (native and imported) along the island chains.

More information of the "sea daddy" of the Coastwatchers, LT Eric Feldt, here. A bit of his writing about the Coast Watchers here.

Walter Lord's book Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons and A. B. Feuer's work: Coast Watching in World War II: Operations Against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, 1941-43, pretty much cover the topic, except for books by individuals who served as Coast Watchers, like Clemen's Alone on Guadalcanal.

There a lot of other naval connections with the Coast Watchers - in 1943, Subchaser SC 761 was dispatched to retrieve Coast Watchers who had been gathered by submaine from Bougainville:
SC 761 was now overloaded with its human cargo. Lt. Commander John R. Keenan, RAN was in charge of the group of Coast Watchers. Of the 59 personnel there were about 20 Australian and New Zealand Coast Watchers, some native Police, some loyal natives, 2 or 3 Fijians, a large number of Chinese, plus two survivors of an RAAF Catalina crash.

SC 761 left USS Guardfish at 0540 hrs and headed for Guadalcanal. The 59 passengers were very hungry and tired. The Commander of SC 761, Lt. Ronald B. Balcom, USNR, asked "Frenchie" their cook, to feed their hungry guests. The ship was overstocked with Salmon which they were always required to draw from stores at their Naval supply facility. The crew of SC 761 were sick of Salmon, so "Frenchie" took this opportunity to reduce their stocks. John Keenan offered some of his Chinese to assist in the galley. Using hand signals "Frenchie" to communicate with the Chinese, they served up several cases of Salmon and large helpings of rice. After this hearty meal, the Chinese meticulously cleaned the galley, and all the plates and cooking and eating utensils. They even cleaned the aft crew quarters where many of them had eaten. "Frenchie" would loved to have kept a few of these Chinese in his galley for the rest of the war.

Lt. Comdr. John R. Keenan consumed a pot of hot tea while he relived some of his experiences on Bougainville. The Japanese would constantly track them while they were broadcasting with their teleradios, so they were constantly on the move to avoid capture. The Coast Watchers had their photograph taken on the forecastle of SC 761 after they had showered, shaved and eaten. Lt. Cmdr. Keenan advised that he had lost two men who were captured by the Japanese and thereupon beheaded.
Coast Watchers were also involved in the rescue of John F. Kennedy's PT109 crew.

As a monument to the Coast Watchers, a lighthouse was dedicated as a memorial to their service:
The lighthouse, 90 feet high, stands on a base of red terrazzo tiles, and on this circle, between each set of fins, is a bronze plaque. The plaque between the two front fins is the Honour Plaque with the names of the fallen, on the left side is a plaque which reads:
"In honour and grateful memory of the Coastwatchers and of the loyal natives who assisted them in their heroic service behind enemy lines during the Second World War in providing intelligence vital to the conduct of Allied operations. Not only did they transmit by means of teleradio from their jungle hideouts information which led to the sinking of numerous enemy warships, but they were able to give timely warning of impending enemy air attacks. The contribution towards the Allied victory in the Pacific by the small body of men who constituted the Coastwatchers was out of all proportion to their numbers."
The Coast Watchers who gave their all:

“They waited and warned and died that we might live”.
This outstanding site put the toll even higher, but also places it in some perspective:
For a loss of forty-three Europeans and sixty natives their achievements approached the spectacular. These losses were matched, more than a hundred to one, by the enemy. But disregarding the conflicts in which they personally engaged, their achievements remained high. They rescued 75 prisoners of war, 321 shot-down Allied airmen, 280 shipwrecked naval personnel, 190 missionaries and civilians, and uncounted natives and 260 Asiatics who had put their own lives into danger. The Coastwatchers wrote a glorious page in the sad history of war.
Render up a salute to all these brave men.

Perhaps unrelated to any tale of the Coast Watchers except for the movie, The Wackiest Ship in the Army is the side story of IX-95, a New Zealand sailing scow named Echo borrowed by the U.S. military as a supply craft and which, in fact, formed the basis for the "ship" in the movie. The Echo today.

Somalia: Except for the al Qaeda connection and the pirates - no one much cares

How to win friends and influence people: Somalia Islamist warns U.N.,
The man who claims to be Somalia's new opposition leader promised Friday to pacify his shattered country through Islamic law, warning U.N. peacekeepers they will face attack if they deploy and support the government.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, whose Islamic regime was ousted from power in 2006 with tacit support from the United States, is gaining influence again as a deadly insurgency ruptures Somalia. Thousands have been killed in the fighting since 2007.
"Fighting U.N. peacekeepers depends on how they behave in Somalia," Aweys told The Associated Press in an interview that touched on subjects ranging from accusations of terrorism — which he denied — to his four wives and 22 children.

The U.N. Security Council has said it would consider deploying peacekeepers to replace African Union troops if political reconciliation and security improve
An Iraq-style Islamic insurgency, which Aweys promised after he was driven from power with the help of Ethiopian troops, has contributed to a humanitarian emergency, with millions of Somalis dependent on aid. The United States fears Somalia could become a haven for al-Qaida.
Kenya, and Tanzania just to its south, have already been victims of al-Qaida terrorism. The U.S. embassies in those countries were bombed in 1998, and militants attacked a hotel and an Israeli airliner in Kenya in 2002.

The attacks emanated from Somalia.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when clan warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The current government was formed in 2004 with the help of the United Nations but has failed to protect citizens from violence or the country's breathtaking poverty.

In recent years, the United States backed a secret program to pay Mogadishu's widely detested warlords to help track down those in Somalia with links to terrorism. But the policy backfired when the Islamists united under Aweys and ousted the warlords from the capital.
The same UN which is threatened by Aweys has a at least one voice shouting in the wilderness about protecting Somalia's offshore economic rights - which are now frequently violated by fishing vessels from around the world, but specifically include North Korea, China and Taiwan:
The UN special envoy for Somalia on Friday sounded the alarm about rampant illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste off the coast of the lawless African nation.

"Because there is no (effective) government, there is so much irregular fishing from European and Asian countries," Ahmedou Ould Abdallah told reporters.

He said he had asked several international non-governmental organizations, including Global Witness, which works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide, "to trace this illegal fishing, illegal dumping of waste."

"It is a disaster off the Somali coast, a disaster (for) the Somali environment, the Somali population," he added.

Ould Abdallah said the phenomenon helps fuel the endless civil war in Somalia as the illegal fishermen are paying corrupt Somali ministers or warlords for protection or to secure fake licenses.
Foreign trawlers reportedly use prohibited fishing equipment, including nets with very small mesh sizes and sophisticated underwater lighting systems, to lure fish to their traps.

"I am convinced there is dumping of solid waste, chemicals and probably nuclear (waste).... There is no government (control) and there are few people with high moral ground," Ould Abdallah added.

Allegations of waste dumping off Somalia by European companies have been heard for years, according to Somalia watchers. The problem was highlighted in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when broken hazardous waste containers washed up on Somali shores.
Some Somali pirates have reportedly claimed to be acting as "coastguards" protecting their waters from illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste.

Ould Abdallah cited the case of a Spanish trawler captured by pirates while illegally fishing for tuna off Somalia in April.
Once again, "coast guarding" is one thing, capturing ships that have nothing to do with either fishing or dumping is another thing all together.

However, since the only way to "save Somalia" is probably completely take it over, except for the potential al Qaeda link, no rational country wants anything to do with the place.

International aid worker moving out:
By December this year, aid agencies estimate that the number of displaced and hungry people in need of life-saving aid in Somalia will swell to 3.5 million-nearly half the country's population. Yet, as drought and conflict conspire to worsen the crisis, the humanitarian space to deliver food and other essential assistance in this conflict zone has all but vanished.

"At sea, ships carrying aid face the threat of piracy, on land (aid workers face) armed robbery and kidnapping," says Abdullahi Musse, a Somali worker for an international humanitarian organisation. "Then, in the process of reaching our warehouses as well as on their way to the beneficiaries, the trucks cannot move without security escorts and have to pass through countless checkpoints which cannot be crossed without paying a 'fee' to a variety of armed groups.

"It is a high-risk activity with minimal guarantees of security," says Musse.
All international aid workers and UN staff have been forced out by continuous fighting between Islamic insurgent groups and forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) backed by Ethiopian troops. Both sides accuse each other of attacks on aid workers and vow to protect them. Added to this are professional kidnapping rings, which have been encouraged by the large ransoms paid by foreigners to release ships taken by pirates.

The UN agencies and nine international organisations still maintain a presence in Mogadishu, but they rely exclusively on local staff. Musse told IPS over the phone from Mogadishu that Somali workers, too, are now being targeted and aid delivery has completely stalled.
Unfortunately, this sense of urgency in the humanitarian sector is not matched by developments on the political front. With the help of Ethiopian forces, the TFG controls a few towns in south-central region while an assortment of Islamic groups remain in ascendancy in most of the territory. (The Puntland and Somaliland regions in north and north-western Somalia claim autonomous status.)

The UN-brokered peace agreement in Djibouti between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and leaders of the Union of Islamic Court has split the UIC. Radical Islamic factions reject the deal and increased attacks in south-central regions.

The Islamic courts are now divided into two main groups: the Djibouti group headed by Sheikh Sharif and signatory to the peace deal with TFG, and the Asmara group based in Eritrea and led by Hasan Dahir Aweys, an Afghan war veteran who is now wanted by the United States on terrorism charges for his alleged links with al-Qaeda.

"It is difficult to say how much control these two have over Al-Shabab, a group which is also on the U.S. terror list, and other insurgent groups of 'mujaheddin' (holy warriors) that have waged a war to throw out the Ethiopian forces from Somalia," says Bashir Awale, a radio journalist based in Mogadishu. Bashir says many previously unknown groups with Islamic names have recently issued threats against humanitarian workers. "But the TFG forces are equally culpable of deterring aid," says Bashir who points to the fact that there are four TFG checkpoints within a few kilometres drive to from Mogadishu to Afgoye and dozens more within the city.

Given the volatile and complex nature of the conflict, the UN special representative is seeking an international peacekeeping force to stabilise the country and provide cover to humanitarian operations. Ould-Abdalla believes that in "the current favourable political context following the Djibouti Agreement, it is time for the Security Council to take bold, decisive and fast action."

However, when asked if the United States would lead a coalition of countries into Somalia to implement the peace deal, US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said: "Well, you know that we are quite busy as you know, number one. Number two, that there are always issues with the U.S. leading a coalition "

Blaming al-Qaeda related groups for the attacks on humanitarian workers, Khalilzad did not agree to prompt Security Council action. He said no plan for a peacekeeping force will be discussed before August 15, when the Security Council Secretariat is expected to present a future plan for Somalia. A peacekeeping force with a strong mandate could take months.
An update on the Somali pirates
Meanwhile, Somali pirates have shifted their operations to the far north, on the Gulf of Aden (which separates Somalia from Yemen, in southern Arabia). Over 80 percent of the pirate attacks are now taking place in the Gulf of Aden, where heavy Red Sea traffic provides a larger number of potential victims.
For the last three years, an international naval patrol, CTF 150 (Combined Task Force 150, operating out of Djibouti) has patrolled the 3,000 kilometer long coast. But with only about fifteen ships (from half a dozen nations), the CTF 150 has been able to slow down the pirates, but not stop them.

Moreover, unless this coastal patrol force was willing to send troops ashore to kill or arrest the pirates in the land bases, the pirates will keep playing hide-and-seek with the naval patrols, and continue to attack ships and get away with it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 23 Jul 08)

Latest ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 23 Jul 08) - highlights:
       3.  GULF OF ADEN: Bulk carrier (STELLA MARIS) hijacked 20 Jul 08 at 0430 local
time/0011 UTC while underway in position 13:16N-050:02E, approximately 87NM northwest of
Caluula, Somalia. The vessel was enroute Suez when UKMTO Dubai was alerted via
INMARSAT that pirates were onboard, repeated three times before the line went dead. No
returned calls were answered. The ships operators were alerted and at the same time a SSAS
message was received by the operators and forwarded to UKMTO. According to Puntland
presidential advisor Bile Mohamoud Qabowsade, there were 38 heavily armed pirates that
stormed the ship while sailing in international waters. Hared Ise Umar, the District
Commissioner of Caluula, stated that the hijackers sailed the vessel close to Caluula and
indicated he expected the vessel to sail to Eyl (Operator, UKMTO, IMB, AFP, LM:
4. GULF OF ADEN: Container ship reported aggressive skiffs 18 Jul 08 at 0720 UTC while
steaming in position 12:47.5N-051:02E, approximately 48NM north of Caluula, Somalia. Two,
six meter yellow fiberglass crafts with 5-6 heavily armed men chased the vessel. The vessel was
traveling at 25knts when it was overtaken by pirates on the port side. The master estimated the
speed of the pirates at approximately 30knts. The vessel took evasive maneuvers, raised the
alarm, and the crew prepared fire hoses. Suspected pirates moved away. No weapons were
released and the vessel continued its voyage to Singapore (Operator, UKMTO, IMB).

Nigeria: Pirates seize sailors

Sounds like Somalia, but according to a Russian news source, Pirates seize sailors in Nigeria:
Five sailors from Russia and Ukraine are being held hostage by militants in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta region, according to reports. The crewmen are thought to have been abducted by gunmen who boarded the Swedish tugboat on Thursday.

According to Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, the Herkules, which was carrying 12 Russian and Ukrainian crewmembers, was seized on July 24. The gunmen later released the vessel along with seven crewmembers, and retained five men.

"The demands of the hostage takers and the location at which they are being held are not known," the ministry said.

The Italian oil-producing company responsible for the ship says they're expecting to receive a ransom demand, with negotiations already under way.

However, according to the Russian shipping news website, Maritime Sovfracht Bulletin, the ship's owner, Sweden's Marine Carrier AB, said the militants are holding four Russians and one Pole.

The website said the vessel captured at Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta was working for Italian oil services company Saipem SpA, a subsidiary of oil and gas multinational Eni SpA.

Citing local reports, the Maritime Sovfracht Bulletin said that the militants took control of the vessel and steered it toward Sombereiro River, 15 miles west of the Bonny River. The militants later freed seven of those on board and took five hostages. The crew members were reportedly robbed of their possessions.
Ship owner site here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Reading

Some facts about the Berlin airlift corrects a recent speech.

Mostly right compared to completely wrong.

Mistakes or ignorance? Which would be worse?

UPDATE: Well, there is just making stuff up...

Lex seems to be having some server issues, but did post this gem which I quote:
“Israel is a strong friend of Israel’s. It will be a strong friend of Israel’s under a McCain…administration. It will be a strong friend of Israel’s under an Obama administration. So that policy is not going to change.” — Barack Obama, reassuring Israelis. In Israel.
So much for the argument that Israel might be its own worst enemy...

And, since history seems to repeat itself with variations, how about a the possibility of a history-limited rookie facing a "Cuban bomber crisis?" Chavez gets a cameo, too. Not much time for on the job training...
(Historical reference here)

Speaking of Chavez - he may need a stern talking to with a threat of sanctions from the Big O if the Big O makes it past the voters.

Bill Roggio sees the surrender of chunks of Pakistan as the Pak government tries to appease their way along. Is a Talibanistan on the agenda?

Mudville Gazette. Daily.

A great white whale.

An Indian warrior.

Fred Fry's healthy travel diet. Just jealous, Fred.

Pinch goes moron hunting,again.

Steeljaw looks at Vigilantes.

UPDATE: The speech that was not on all the networks:
Eighteen months ago, America faced a crisis as profound as any in our history. Iraq was in flames, torn apart by violence that was escaping our control. Al Qaeda was succeeding in what Osama bin Laden called the central front in their war against us. The mullahs in Iran waited for America's humiliation in Iraq, and the resulting increase in their influence. Thousands of Iraqis died violently every month. American casualties were mounting. We were on the brink of a disastrous defeat just a little more than five years after the attacks of September 11, and America faced a profound choice. Would we accept defeat and leave Iraq and our strategic position in the Middle East in ruins, risking a wider war in the near future? Or would we summon our resolve, deploy additional forces, and change our failed strategy? Senator Obama and I also faced a decision, which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief. America passed that test. I believe my judgment passed that test. And I believe Senator Obama's failed.

We both knew the politically safe choice was to support some form of retreat. All the polls said the "surge" was unpopular. Many pundits, experts and policymakers opposed it and advocated withdrawing our troops and accepting the consequences. I chose to support the new counterinsurgency strategy backed by additional troops -- which I had advocated since 2003, after my first trip to Iraq. Many observers said my position would end my hopes of becoming president. I said I would rather lose a campaign than see America lose a war. My choice was not smart politics. It didn't test well in focus groups. It ignored all the polls. It also didn't matter. The country I love had one final chance to succeed in Iraq. The new strategy was it. So I supported it. Today, the effects of the new strategy are obvious. The surge has succeeded, and we are, at long last, finally winning this war.

Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn't just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better.

And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would choose to lose in Iraq in hopes of winning in Afghanistan. But had his position been adopted, we would have lost both wars.

Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: "My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now." His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn't have been more wrong.

By November 2007, the success of the surge was becoming apparent. Attacks on Coalition forces had dropped almost 60 percent from pre-surge levels. American casualties had fallen by more than half. Iraqi civilian deaths had fallen by more than two-thirds. But Senator Obama ignored the new and encouraging reality. "Not only have we not seen improvements," he said, "but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there."

If Senator Obama had prevailed, American forces would have had to retreat under fire. The Iraqi Army would have collapsed. Civilian casualties would have increased dramatically. Al Qaeda would have killed the Sunni sheikhs who had begun to cooperate with us, and the "Sunni Awakening" would have been strangled at birth. Al Qaeda fighters would have safe havens, from where they could train Iraqis and foreigners, and turn Iraq into a base for launching attacks on Americans elsewhere. Civil war, genocide and wider conflict would have been likely.

Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war. Every American diplomat, American military commander, and American leader would have been forced to speak and act from a position of weakness.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ONI Worldwide Shipping Threats (to 16 July 08)

ONI Worldwide Shipping Threats (to 16 July 08)can be found here. Highlights:
1. NIGERIA: Britain to propose training army in Nigeria to combat Niger Delta rebels, 12 Jul 08 reporting. Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to offer British help to the Nigerian government in combating rebels at a meeting in London next week with Nigeria
president Umaru Yar’Adua. However, British officials aren’t certain if Yar’Adua would even accept such an offer. The plan has received a mixed response in Nigeria, where one official said the authorities were hoping for help in curtailing an international cartel trading in stolen Nigerian crude. Also, the prospect of British intervention in the delta conflict has prompted the end of a ceasefire in the region and drawn accusations of neo-colonialism from rebel groups. They’ve also accused the Nigerian government of illegal actions. Brown's statement on Wednesday that Britain stood "ready to give help to the Nigerians to deal with the lawlessness that exists in this
area and to achieve levels of production that Nigeria is capable of", led to the rebel group MEND to claim it will call off its ceasefire 12 Jul 08. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the focus will be on providing training for the Nigerian military. The plans do not include deployment of British troops in significant numbers, but the country’s defense ministry is said to be resistant, warning it might further stretch military resources (LM: The Independent, Financial Times).
1. Yacht (RAVEN EYE) boarded, robbed 5 Jul 08, 10 miles from Puerto Santos, Venezuela
2. Yacht (NAXOS) boarded, robbed 1 Jul 08, NNE of Cacao, Venezuela
3. Sailboat boarded 8 Jul 08, Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela.
4. Yachts boarded, some robbed 4 Jul 08, Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela.
5. Sailboat boarded, robbed 28 Jun 08, Pampatar, Margarita Island, Venezuela.
1. VENEZUELA: Yacht (RAVEN EYE) boarded, robbed 5 Jul 08, while underway, 10
miles from Puerto Santos. A couple was approached by six men in a battered, unmarked pirogue
speeding towards them. One man was in a military uniform. As the men approached, they fired
a shot. The yacht took evasive maneuvers. The attackers boarded the vessel and shot and
stabbed the family dog, but didn’t kill it. They tied the man on the deck and pointed a gun at
him, then went down below and held his wife with two guns pointing at her face. They took
USD $300, a laptop computer, tool boxes, the SSB radio, outboard motor, and ripped the
microphones from the VHF. They tried to take the compass as well, along with the radar and
forward looking sonar, but they were fixed to the ship too well. They also tried to steal the
woman’s wedding ring, but she could not remove it and in the process severely cut her hand.
After the attackers left, there were no means to call for help so they traveled to Trinidad.
(Operator:, LM:
2. VENEZUELA: Yacht (NAXOS) boarded, robbed 1 Jul 08 at 1500 local time while in
position 10:46.41N-62:16.8W, NNE of Cacao. The vessel was approached from behind by a fast
pirogue-type open fishing boat with four Yamaha 75hp outboard motors. The hull was mostly
dark green with a wide turquoise stripe over and a narrow red stripe separating the green from
the turquoise. The boat displayed the name “AMGUNA” on the stern and “MOSS” on the bow.
The attackers came alongside and asked for water. When the captain of the (NAXOS) attempted
to pass a water container to them, he was confronted by six guns (five 9mm automatic pistols and
one semi automatic rifle). The attackers boarded the vessel and stole everything of value,
including, cash, jewelry, computers, radios, satellite/cell phones, outboard motor, AC unit, food,
clothing and other items. The attackers made no effort to hide either their own identity or that of
the attacking vessel. None of the three crewmembers aboard the vessel was injured during the
encounter (Operator:
3. VENEZUELA: Sailboat boarded 8 Jul 08 at 2300 local time, Porlamar, Margarita Island.
One female crewmember and a baby were on board at the time. The woman was blindfolded
with a towel and tied up with duct tape. The intruder went through and searched for money.
After 30 minutes the intruder left. The incident was reported to the local police and the VHF Ch.
72. No injuries to crew (Operator:
4. VENEZUELA: Yachts boarded, some robbed 4 Jul 08 at 1830 and 2030, while at
anchorage, Porlamar, Margarita Island. The first boat was boarded by three men while the owner
was on board. He heard noises and woke up and saw the perpetrators leave quickly. Nothing
was stolen from this vessel. The second boat was boarded, and the perpetrators attempted to cut
off two big fenders, however a watchful cruiser nearby chased them off by pointing a light at
them. A call for help was made via VHF, but no response. The third boat was boarded and
robbed of a life raft, lines and fenders. All incidents were reported to the local police and on
VHF 72 to make all cruisers in the anchorage aware, no injuries (Operator:
5. VENEZUELA: Sailboat boarded, robbed 28 Jun 08 between 0200 and 0400 while at
anchorage, Pampatar, Margarita Island. Five armed men boarded the vessel and tied up the
owner for the next two hours while they went through the boat and stole all valuables. The
incident was reported on 30 Jun 08 to the cruisers net on VHF 72 and local police (Operator:
Well, yachtsmen should stay clear of Margarita Island, I guess.

ICC CCS Weekly Piracy Report (to 22 July 08)

ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report (to 22 July 08) can be found here. Highlights:
-05.07.2008: 1900 LT: 10:45N - 063:00W, 8 nm off Puerto Santos, Venezuela. Six pirates armed with guns and knives in a pirogue fishing boat, one dressed in military uniform and two with facemasks approached a yacht underway. The skipper rammed into the fishing boat but the pirates managed to board the yacht. They tied the two-crew members and pointed guns to their heads. They shot and stabbed the skipper’s dog. The pirates stole equipment, property, and left. One crew injured.

-20.07.2008: 0011 UTC: 13:16.99N - 050:03.47E, SE of Al Mukalla, Gulf of Aden. Pirates boarded a bulk carrier underway. The ship activated SSAS and sent voice message to the coalition forces indicating pirates on board. The owners are unable to contact the ship and suspect all communication equipments have been damaged. There are 21 crew onboard the ship. Further details are awaited. (See here)
-18.07.2008: 0720 UTC: 12:47.5N - 051:02.0E, Gulf of Aden. Heavily armed pirates, in two, six-meter long yellow craft, attempted to board a container ship underway from the aft. Master took evasive manoeuvres, raised alarm and crew mustered with pressurised fire hoses. Upon seeing crew alertness, pirates aborted the attempt.

-15.07.2008: 1030 LT: 13:31N - 049:11E, 44 nm Off Yemen, Gulf of Aden. D/O onboard a chemical tanker underway noticed about 10 - 12 pirates in two blue and white coloured speedboats at a distance of 2.5 nm. The speedboats suddenly approached the tanker and fired upon her. D/O raised alarm, sounded whistle and crew mustered. Pirates noticed crew alertness and reduced their speed and aborted the attempted boarding.
UPDATE: revised maps X off Venezuela is approximate yacht attack. Box off Somalia is area of all the indicated attacks.

UPDATE2: IMB Piracy Map for 2008 attacks/attempts in the Gulf of Aden:
Hmmm. Is there a pattern?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


With a hat tip to Beavis at Rantburg:

Somali Pirates Grab Japanese Ship

Reported here:
Somali pirates hijacked a Japanese- owned cargo ship while it was sailing in international waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa country, a piracy-monitoring group said.

The Panama-flagged vessel, owned by Turtel Marine Shipping and managed by MMS Co. of Japan, was seized on July 20, Andrew Mwangura, head of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, said in a telephone interview today from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The ship's cargo included consignments of lead and zinc, he said.

``It is not clear where it sails from or where it sails to and also the number of crew members and their nationalities are not clear yet,'' Mwangura said.

Follow Up: Lehmann Timber Finally Safe in Port

According to this, the unlucky crew of the ship Lehmann Timber (captured by pirates, ransomed, adrift at sea after an engine failure, rescued by USS Momsen) has been towed safely into port in Oman.

The U.S. Navy has released photos of the assistance rendered:
An SH-60B Seahawk assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 47, embarked aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92), takes supplies to the German cargo ship MV Lehmann Timber after the ship suffered engine problems and became stranded in a storm. Momsen is providing food and water to the ship until a tug arrives. Pirates recently released the crew of the Lehmann Timber after the owners paid a $750,000 ransom. Momsen is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations. U.S. Navy photo (Released)

and from
USS Momsen (DDG 92) and its embarked helicopter detachment provides assistance to Motor Vessel Lehmann Timber after it experienced a main engine casualty leaving it unable to operate at sea. Assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, Momsen is providing food and water at sea to motor vessel’s crew, who were recently released by pirates.
UPDATE: In a related press release, Lloyd's insurance market has a pirate related note, "Protecting against the modern-day pirates":
As levels of piracy rise, so ship owners can expect insurance premiums to go up, with Ken Alston of risk specialist Marsh saying this was an eventuality to be ‘expected’. He added that the scale of the additional premium being charged at the moment is ‘unlikely to have an impact on the consumer’ but if the number of incidences increases, this may change. In May 2008, the Joint War Committee added the Gulf of Aden, located between Somalia and Yemen, to a list of places at high threat of hull war, strikes, terrorism and related perils. It is now comparable to the likes of Iraq in terms of insurance risk, according to the committee.

Monday, July 21, 2008

B-52 Down off Guam

Reported here:
According to an AAFB release, emergency responders were called to duty around 9:45 a.m. when the B-52 crashed Northwest of Guam. According to the Federal Aviation Administration Guam Office's Terry Pyle, the B-52 left Andersen Air Force Base at 9:00 a.m. Around an hour or so later, the local FAA Office lost contact with the pilot of the aircraft.

Andersen Air Force Base 36th Wing Public Affairs Sgt. Stephen Teel confirms that a B-52 was scheduled to participate in a fly over during the Liberation Parade, but he could not confirm if the down aircraft is the same plane that was scheduled to participate in the fly over.

The debris site is located approximately 25 nautical miles Northwest of Guam and as of four o'clock this afternoon, officials were still searching for the six crew members believed to be on board.

The Coast Guard Cutter Assateague responeded to the aircraft crash along with two 25-foot safe boats. The Guam Police Department's Marine Patrol Division also was activated to assist in the search efforts as two Navy HSC-25 aircraft searched for any survivors.

Monday Reading

Fred Fry has Maritime Monday 120 at with a look at the Swiss "paddle steamer fleet." And the usual outstanding link fest.

Learn about "R-Division" at The Destroyermen.

Obama and the Swan.

Makes sense - video game controllers used to control drones and UAVs. Heck, most of the operators are already familiar with them. I don't think think the "endless ammo" thingy will work, though.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Economist does Somali Pirates

The Indian Ocean | The most dangerous seas in the world:
But the pirates’ biggest victim has been Somalia itself. Some 2.6m of the country’s 8m people depend on food aid that comes by sea. French, Danish and Dutch naval ships have escorted ships carrying food from Mombasa to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, for the UN’s World Food Programme, but it is a fragile supply line. In May, a Jordanian freighter, the Victoria, carrying sugar for displaced people, disappeared 56km (35 miles) off Mogadishu before being freed a week later. It is hard for the UN to find shipowners willing to take the risk without an armed escort.

After Somalia’s collapse into civil war in 1991, some Somalis began to steal the odd small fishing boat. These days the pirates are a lot more sophisticated and better organised, with powerful speedboats, mother ships in the high seas, heavy weapons, satellite equipment, and negotiators abroad who handle ransoms. They target bigger ships at night, lighting up the sky with tracers, heavy-machinegun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Sunday Ship History: The Continuing Saga of J.H. Morrill

When last visited, Lieutenant Commander John H. Morrill had made good an escape from the Japanese capture of Manila Bay to Australia with 17 members of his crew in an open 36-foot motor launch, as set out here and here. He probably had enough "hero points" to leave the war zone and do war bond tours for the duration.

Fortunately, neither the war fighting U.S. Navy nor the Japanese had not seen the last of J. H. Morrill.

Now, as CDR Salamander and I have both discussed here and here, during the war the Navy produced a collection of inexpensive "Landing Craft Support" ships. What neither Salamander or I touched on was the creative development of the LCS from the original "Landing Craft Infantry" (LCI) design (see here). The LCS was not the only variation on the LCI - there were several iterations:
* LCI(R) - Rocket; a platform for six 5-inch rocket launchers. This platform was rather unsophisticated as the rockets were static mounted and the ship had to be manoeuvered to aim the rockets. At firing time the crew proceeded below decks to escape the commotion caused by the rocket engines firing.
* LCI(G) - Gunboat; two 40 mm guns, six .50 inch machine guns and ten MK7 rocket launchers added to the existing armament
* LCI(M) - 4.2 in Mortar was dismountable for naval use and amphibious deployment
* LC(FF) - Flotilla Flagship

The LCI(G) variant was used for the basis of the LCS(L) class of Landing Craft Support ships. The same hull was used and more armament was added, but the troop carrying capability was removed.

The Landing Craft Support (Large) or "LCS (L) Mark 2" was the same vessel as the LCI(S) but intended for use as a support vessel to provide firepower alongside other landing craft and was not to being beach but carried extra armament. The LCS(L) Mark 1 had carried a tank turret complete with its QF 2 pounder gun but for the Mark 2 this was replaced with a tank turret mounting the QF 6 pounder gun. To this was added two oerlikon 20 mm cannon and two 0.5 inch Vickers machine guns. Ten were built in all.
I recommend visiting the USS Landing Craft Infantry Association website for some more information..

What does this have to do with Morrill? Explained here:
LCI Gunboats played a decisive role in protecting the American airfield at Peleliu from 25,000 Japanese in the northern group of islands. The front was a thin line of LCIs strung across the coral reefs just twelve miles north of the airfields.

These LCIs were under combat conditions for more than six months, shooting up mines, rafts. barges plus fighting off attacks by parties of Japanese swimmers. It was physically possible for the Japanese to wade at low tide on the coral reefs from the north, then swim the last 50 yards into Peleliu. LCIs and Marine fighter-bombers broke up the attempts.

A legend came out of this bitter daily struggle: Capt. John H. Morrill of Minneapolis....

Morrill entered the U.S. Naval Academy 31 July 1920 and graduated in 1924. He had duty in battleships, cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers, minelayers and ten years in S-Boat submarines. He may be the only career naval officer who EVER requested duty in LCIs.

The Skipper of the LCI Flotilla Flagship... said,"The Commodore never asks a man to do anything he wouldn't do himself. He leads all the raiding parties ashore." his men idolized and respected Morrill.

During the Palau "by pass", fifteen or twenty LCIs were stationed each night in a semicircle around Eil Malk to seal off the reef approaches. They bombarded the shore line and kept a sharp lookout for Japanese swimmers. ..
In the Kansas City Star article, Morrill said, "Our job is to keep them back from the shores... it's a type of warfare that requires knowledge of the tides, the sea and the weather."
Capt. Morrill described an attack on LCI 730 when 35 swimmers came toward then with 100 pound aerial bombs on rubber rafts. Searchlights picked them up and were dispatched but one was captured.
Known as the "Black Cat" Flotilla their mascot was Midnight, a coal black female cat greatly pampered by the crew. The other mascot is Elsie, a brown, terrier-like female dog. Captain Morrill believed black cats were lucky. What pride in having served in that unique Flotilla 13 ... the Black Cats.

John H. Morrill II retired from the U.S. Navy as a Rear Admiral.
The reason for the emphasis on Morrill volunteering for LCI duty is because of the "career" Navy view of the amphibious force:
For the most part, the "amphibious force" was considered a "disposal school for ensigns." "Assignment to an amphibious craft was merely a ticket to the battle zone with no return - that the crews and the craft on which they served were the expendables of the new war." According to some, the amphibs were the Siberia of the Navy.
No wonder the crew of Flotilla 13 loved a skipper who thought of them as fighting men and not prospective casualties of war!

A more personal tale can be found here:
[O]ur LCI was stationed in a natural deep water lagoon off the island of Peleliu. We were a “gun boat,” designed to come close to shore and fire “grass cutters” – bombs that would hit the Japs just behind the shore where they were hiding to fire on our men as they were coming ashore. Our LCIs had no names, only numbers. We were the flagship of “Flotilla 13,” the lucky “Black Cat Flotilla.” Our orders were to stop the Japanese from infiltrating from the surrounding islands. We did a pretty good job of it. We had destroyed barges carrying the enemy, low in the water, or spotted them for the Marine pilots to destroy.
1944 there had been no more attempts to infiltrate for some time but we stayed vigilant. Every night we had the OD and two lookouts on the bridge. The bridge of an LCI is something like a submarine’s, being very small, only about 6’ x 6’. As the Quartermaster, I spent most of my time on the bridge as well.

Constantly scanning the water with binoculars, the lookouts were supposed to report to the OD any sightings and he had to decide what action to take.

This night a lookout reported seeing something in the water, and the OD ordered our search light turned on. Then all hell broke loose!

There were dozens of Kamikaze swimmers in the water, all wearing yellow caps (we found out the significance of that later). They all had grappling hooks and bamboo poles and some of them were pushing rafts of bamboo loaded with explosives.

Their objective was two-fold; to board the ships silently and kill the crew (whom they assumed would be sleeping) and to place the five hundred pound bombs under the sterns of the LCIs and blow them up. All of the swimmers had large sashes tightly bound around their waists to protect them from the blast of the bomb going off.

The problem was that many of the kamikaze swimmers were too close to the boats for our 20mm and .30 calibre guns to be leveled at them.

Our shouts brought the entire crew topside and everyone started shooting at the swimmers with their .45’s. It was like shooting clay pigeons. Those further away were dispatched with the machine guns. We also had to be careful not to hit any of the other LCIs close to us.

In the middle of this chaos, one Japanese had managed to hide behind our LCVP, which was tied to the stern. When all the swimmers had been killed or driven off, we discovered this lone Japanese. The “old man”, Captain Morrill (John Henry) yelled "“hold fire”" and we brought him on board.

He was pretty scared, and probably pretty happy, too. There was no question of talking to him as he had no English and none of our guys spoke Japanese; but we gave him coffee and cigarettes and he bowed a lot, I expect to say.
More here:
After they left Guadalcanal, they were told their mission (as part of the famous Rear Admiral John H. Morrill's "Black Cat" Flotilla "13"). Nobody could "spill the beans" now with secure communications and nobody getting off the ship. The invasion of Peleliu Island (code name - operation "Stalemate") was scheduled for September 15, 1944. The 396 (along with several other LCIs) would provide the extremely important close-in (700 yards from shore) rocket fire support for the 1st ("Old Breed") , 5th, and 7th Marine Divisions before the Marines crossed the 675-yard reef and stormed the Peleliu's western beaches and tried to secure the island (including the vital inland air field).
The 396's close-in rocket fire support was vital to the Marines (at Peleliu) and Army (at Anguar) just before they stormed the beaches. Many times this close-in rocket support would clear the way and save many American lives as the beaches were initially stormed.
John H. Morrill - a warrior - leading warriors.

More on LCIs here. LCIs did bombard Iwo Jima, too.

Somalia: Aid workers fleeing

If you wonder what al Qaeda is up to, here's a hint- they want aid workers out of Somalia:
At a time of drought, skyrocketing food prices, crippling inflation and intensifying street fighting, many of the aid workers upon whom millions of Somalis depend for survival are fleeing their posts - or in some cases the country.

They are being driven out by what appears to be an organized terror campaign. Ominous leaflets recently surfaced on the bullet-pocked streets of Mogadishu, Somalia's ruin of a capital, calling aid workers "infidels" and warning them that they will be methodically hunted down. Since January, at least 20 aid workers have been killed, more than in any year in recent memory. Still others have been abducted.

The deliberate assault on aid workers is a chilling new dimension to the crisis in Somalia that has unfolded over the past 17 years but has grown increasingly violent as outside forces, including the U.S. military, have turned a civil war into a more international conflict.[Note by Eagle1: WTF? It was an international aid mission that ran afoul of other agendas - especially al Qaeda's]
It is not clear who is behind the terror campaign or whether it is connected to previous assassinations of journalists and intellectuals. The leaflets and accompanying e-mail messages sent to several aid organizations seem to signify a new degree of organization.

Some of the warnings were signed by a little-known group called the Martyrs of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which takes its name from the notorious Jordanian terrorist killed by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2006. [Note by Eagle1: I wonder why the report left off that Zarqi was the head of al Qaeda in Iraq?] The group said the aid workers were conspiring with "infidels," and Western diplomats said the killings might be intended to make Somalia seem so chaotic that Western countries would abandon it.

But several factions of Somalia's Islamist movement, which is fighting an intense guerrilla war against the government, have condemned the attacks.

Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Monsur, a leader of the Shebab insurgent group, said Islamic militants were actually guarding food convoys. UN officials have mixed feelings about the Shebab, saying that some factions are violently anti-Western while others recently helped free two kidnapped aid workers.

Some Western security analysts theorize that in the violent murkiness that has overtaken the country, unsavory elements within the Somali government may be killing aid workers to discredit Islamist opposition groups and draw in UN peacekeepers, who may be the government's last hope for survival.

The government admits that it desperately needs peacekeepers. But it denies that it is killing aid workers to get them.

"It's obvious who's doing this," said Abdi Awaleh Jama, a Somali ambassador at large. "It's hard-liner Islamists who hate the West. They are forces of darkness, not forces of light."
Sounds like al Qaeda to me...but if I'm wrong, it's another collection of dirtballs.

UPDATE: Dirtballs with a profit motive?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Somalia: Death by Piracy

In Somalia about 1/2 the population depends on getting food from outside sources, especially the World Food Program. Now, not only are gangs (clans) attacking aid workers and other food distributors, one of the few successful Somali industries, piracy, is making matters worse. So bad in fact, that the WFP is contemplating engaging private contractors to escort its food ships - since the world's navies seem long on talk but short on action in supporting the WFP:
Gunmen in Somalia have shot dead three elders distributing aid in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The killings are being linked to a wave of apparently targeted attacks on humanitarian workers.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme has warned that it may have to use private security companies to protect its vessels from pirate attacks in Somalia.

The agency has been sending food ships without protective escorts after a Dutch naval mission ended last month.

The WFP country director for Somalia, Peter Goossens, told the BBC the threat of piracy was putting at risk vital food aid for millions of people in Somalia.

"The problem is twofold - the ships themselves can get hijacked and we lose the food... my biggest problem is that I can't find enough vessels that are willing to do this work for me unless they get an escort," he said.

Mr Goossens warned that the country was at a dire crossroads, with the risk of a famine similar to the early 1990s, when hundreds of thousands died.

He added that the UN had spoken to various naval powers who might provide military escorts to aid WFP ships, including Britain, Sweden and India.

He said he was grateful for their expressions of interest, but now wanted action.
Private contractors may not be loved...but if the money is there along with immunity from Somali and other prosecution, then I would guess they may be the only reliable source to which the WFP can look for shipping security. Especially since no one from any first, second or third world country really wants anything that smacks anything like ownership of the failed state of Somalia.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of lives teeter on the brink because of the pirates of Somalia...

Earlier suggestion of using "UN Police" can be found here (and in the comments). At least one comment concerns the use of an armed fishing trawler as an escort - which might work, but I believe a little more speed would be desired for an escort ship.

According to this, Risk Consultants International may be buying patrol boats:
Risk Consultants International Ltd has bought six Hugin and Kaparen class patrol boats for "patrolling Africas coast". The boats is of course now stripped of gun and sensors but should be a fairly nice platform to add stuff to.
UPDATE: Aljazeera coverage:
"Leading powers?" - there are enough other naval powers in the world to lend a hand - where are the navies of Turkey or Pakistan or Russia or China? Notice whose flag that is on the food bundles? How about some financial aid from the OPEC group?

A WFP video can be watched here.

UPDATE: (7/20/08) maybe it's just me, but I'm having trouble tying this headline U.S. targets Somali pirates with any content in the article suggesting that the headline is true:
In response to pirate attacks, the U.S. has stepped up its patrols to deter them and sometimes intervened to rescue hostages and ships. It also has increased its intelligence-sharing in the area, says Navy Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, which patrols Middle Eastern and African waters.

The U.S. is "very concerned about the increasing number of acts of piracy and armed robbery" off the Somali coast, he says. Somalia's weak government has admitted it can't control its territorial waters, and Nigeria is fending off a rebel group.

A U.N. Security Council resolution, pushed by the U.S. and passed June 2, allows the U.S. and its coalition allies to intervene by "all necessary means" for the next six months to stop piracy off the Somali coast. Coalition ships have since scared off pirates in at least two attacks, says the London-based International Maritime Bureau.

I dunno. To me "targeting" means just that.

Something like putting an AC-130 gunship into action along the known pirate havens in Somali.