Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Night Before Christmas

A Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: "Miracle on 34th Street" (1948)

Tired of political kabuki?

Need a boost to your spirits?

Here's the radio version
of the classic movie - about Santa and the human spirit . . . Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2019

Naval Infantry?

 Infantry drill. U.S. Naval Training Camp, Charleston, South Carolina. December 4, 1918

One hobby horse of my Midrats co-host, CDR Salalmander, (you can hear him discuss it here at 4:35) is bringing back "naval infantry."

As it happens, there is a very thorough history of the history of "Sailors as Infantry" here at the Naval History and Heritage Command website. Written in 2005 by retired Captain Patrick H. Roth, it's an interesting read:
Up until the 1970s, competency as naval infantry—sailors performing as infantry, and sometimes providing land based artillery support—was an integral part of the Navy’s operations and mission.

· The use of sailors as infantry (and as artillerymen ashore) was common during the 19th century. At sea boarding was a recognized tactic. Likewise, landings and operations ashore were normal. Marines were a minority and landings were generally a ships company evolution, i.e., involving both marines and sailors.

· Use of sailors as infantry was part of the late 19th century great debate by naval reformers over the direction of the Navy. The debate centered on how to best use “our officers and men as efficient infantry and artillerymen,” not around the desirability or utility of use of sailors as infantry. Everyone in the Navy accepted that the use of sailors as infantry was a required Navy’s competency.

· Sailors performed as infantry a lot: at least 66 landings and operations ashore on distant stations during the 19th century; 136 instances in the Caribbean and Central America during the first three decades of the 20th century; numerous times on China Station and elsewhere. Using sailors as infantry ashore was what the Navy’s primarily did during the Seminole Wars and the War with Mexico. It was the Navy’s most valuable contribution during the Philippine Insurrection. Operations ranged from election security, pacification, peacekeeping, land convoy escort, protection of roads and railroads, occupation, and guard duty to large-scale major combat operations against regular Army forces.

· The Navy promulgated infantry tactical doctrine in 1891and continuously refined and updated it until 1965. During the Cold War period naval infantry schools existed. Navy infantry tactics followed U.S. Army, not Marine, tactical doctrine during its formative period reflecting a desire for inter-service interoperability. All fleet units were required to maintain, and train, landing parties.

· It was not until establishment of the Fleet Marine Force in 1933 that the use of Navy landing parties declined. Even then, organized infantry capabilities continued to be required both afloat and ashore until the 1970s.
There's a lot more which I commend to you for the historical perspective. Keep in mind what Captain Roth points out:
· Sustainability has been the Achilles heel of the use of Navy forces as infantry. Logistics and support poor, naval infantry could not sustain itself very long. Future consideration of sailors as infantry must consider combat support services.
More highlights:
The largest operation during the early years of the 20th century involved the occupation of Vera Cruz Mexico in 1914. A seaman brigade of some 2,500 bluejackets conducted the landing and infantry assault alongside a 1,300 man marine brigade.37 Vera Cruz highlighted two problems associated with naval infantry: tactics and sustainability. The Mexicans, using machine guns, repulsed the assault by the Second Seaman Regiment on the Mexican Navy Academy when the regiment, used the massed infantry tactics of 1891 and earlier. The bluejackets quickly had to adopt improvised small unit tactics to cope with the street fighting.

Tactics could be changed. The second problem—sustainability—would be more difficult. Even during the age of sail, there was recognition that landing party sustainability was limited. At Vera Cruz, the sustainability problem was finessed when US Army formations quickly relieved the sailor brigade. Introduction of steam and complex gun systems also made the problem more difficult. Sailors were really required aboard ship in order to work and maintain it. In the sail navy, sailors were largely interchangeable and there were few specialists. The new steel, steam, navy was a different organization. Sailors were specialists and ships operation was more complex. Some specialists were just too valuable to send ashore—gun pointer and turret captains could not be included in landing forces. Sufficient men, with the right skills, were necessary to remain on board in order to maintain and fight the ship.38 After Vera Cruz very large-scale fleet bluejacket landings did not occur. Effectively use of the landing party was constrained, but not eliminated.
While most ships can manage small VBSS teams, it is hard to imagine assembling a force large enough from the smaller ship crews of today to put together a "seaman brigade" of the 2,500 man Vera Cruz from our fleet today. That might constitute the entire crews of almost a dozen ships. Even if we put "extras" on, say, an LCS, as, Jimmy Drennen (@11:26 in the above Midrats) suggests "A naval infantry mission package" it is difficult to see why Marines would not make up most of that package- though Captain Roth and CDR Salamander both point to Admiral Vern Clark's 2005 call for a "Navy Expeditionary Sailor Battalion Concept” - the problem today, unlike the heady days (of planning for) a 600 ship navy - is finding the bodies and absorbing the cost of training and equipping this "force in being."

Interesting topic though, and certainly one of interest in times when a small force, well applied on short duration operations might be just the thing.

UPDATE: Also worth reading is a look at some of the older operations of the U.S. Navy in the littorals or engagements ashore with pirates is B.J. Armstrong's book, Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy

Photo from the Naval History and Heritage Command

Update2: Fixed some self-inflicted errors. 

Friday Film: "Chester Nimitz"

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Your Assignment: Read and Listen

Want "forever wars?"

Go into them without an clear end in mind.

Go into them with agendas that try to put lipstick on the pig that is war.

Go into them with "we always done it this way" mindset.

Go into them without learning from the lessons of history.*
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.
If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler's bidding.
If you can't clearly define "victory" then why the hell are you fighting?

First, the read CDR Salamander: Shaping the Blame in Afghanistan

Then, the listen:
Listen to "Episode 519: Going Sideways in Afghanistan & Iraq, with Daniel P. Bolger" on Spreaker.

*Sun Tzu has a lot to say that makes sense. Americans tend to read these quotes but often lack the patience to follow the advice.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Films: War Bond Films from WWII

Way back in the past, when war involved almost everyone.

On Midrats 15 December 2019 - Episode 519: Going Sideways in Afghanistan & Iraq, with Daniel P. Bolger

Please join us at 5pm EST on 15 December 2019 for Midrats Episode 519: Going Sideways in Afghanistan & Iraq, with Daniel P. Bolger
In the 18-months since the publication of his book, Why We Lost, each passing day more and more people are starting to look at what,
18-yrs on, we have brought in to being with our long running land wars in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Using his book as a starting point, this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, our guest will be Daniel P. Bolger, Lieutenant General, US Army, (Ret.) to discuss these two conflicts and larger implications of our Long War.

Bolger served 35 years in the U.S. Army, retiring in 2013. He commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include five Bronze Stars (one for valor) and the Combat Action Badge. He earned a bachelor's degree at The Citadel and a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago. The author of nine books and numerous articles, he teaches history at North Carolina State State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
If you can't catch the show live and you use Apple Podcasts, you can pick up the episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the button at the main show page - or you can just click here. Or on Spreaker. The show also is reportedly on Spotify.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

On Midrats 8 December 2019 - Episode 518: "Holding the Line" with Guy Snodgrass

Please join us at 5pm (EST) on 8 December 2019 for Midrats Episode 518:"Holding the Line" with Guy Snodgrass
How do you report history as you live it? When, why, and how do you write about it?

When even the most experienced DC watchers are having trouble tracking what is going on in the Trump Administration, what can people expect to learn from first hand accounts?

If you haven't already heard about our next guest and his book - and you count yourself as someone interested in national security - then welcome back on the grid.

Returning to Midrats, our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss his new book, Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis, will be Guy Snodgress, CDR USN (Ret.)

Guy is a retired American naval aviator, Topgun instructor, and former commanding officer who served as Jim Mattis's chief speechwriter and communications director during his time as Secretary of Defense. Snodgrass owns and manages a strategic advisory firm in Northern Virginia, serving government and tech industry clients.
If you can't catch the show live and you use Apple Podcasts, you can pick up the episode and others and add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the button at the main show page - or you can just click here. Or on Spreaker. The show also is reportedly on Spotify.

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: What We Are Fighting For - "What Pearl Harbor Means to Me" (1942)

The end of the beginning of a long war.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday Films - WWII German Attacks on Allied Shipping

So, it's 1941 and the German government needs a little internal propaganda to show that things are going its way:

Attacks on the shipping supplying the English Isles and Russia -

And in 1942, U-Boat attacks - trying to accomplish the same mission -