Nov 29

“Part of America” 29 November 1943

Monday, November 29, 2010 12:01 AM

“A man-of-war is the best ambassador,” wrote Oliver Cromwell, a true statement whether applied to the wooden sailing ships of his era or the modern warships of the U.S. Navy that today ply the world’s oceans. With the majority of the Earth’s surface covered by water, the ships of our Navy in so many ways represent the nation they serve. They protect against enemies that seek to hurt America and guard the flow of natural resources and foodstuffs that sustain her citizenry; serve as instruments of aid and compassion to others in need and keepers of the sea. 

This fact is not lost on those who serve at sea. In the profession of arm in which unit pride is sacred, there are few bonds more special than that between a sailor and his or her ship and among shipmates. For some, the affection is born of the fires of combat, be it the wet and weary men of the carrier Yorktown (CV 5) watching their ship slip beneath the waves off Midway despite their best efforts to save her or the crew of the destroyer Cole (DDG 67) fighting to keep their ship afloat in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. For others, the devotion stems perhaps from milestone events while on board, be it making rate or receiving an award or, in a more personal way for younger sailors, feeling the satisfaction of growing up during the first extended period of time away from home and family. In this latter way, a ship is not only a servant of a nation. Indeed, its crew is an extension of the country’s most valuable asset, its people. Shipmates are of all races and creeds, their backgrounds as varied as the stars seen from the bridge during midwatch, the values they possess distinctly American.

Such was the realization for Lieutenant Larry White, who during 1943 received orders to the carrier Hornet (CV 12), under construction at Newport News, Virginia. As a “plankowner,” he joined the rest of the crew in preparing the ship for her launching and eventual commissioning. The urgency of their task was not lost on them given the stream of headlines in newspapers reporting from the war fronts and the tales of combat occasionally shared by new shipmates transferred from ships that had been in harm’s way. Finally, the momentous day arrived, the cold 29 November 1943, day contrasting sharply with the hot and humid Pacific where Hornet would eventually make her name. That was something the future held; Lieutenant White knew nothing of what the coming months had in store for him. Yet, from the words he penned on the back of the commissioning program that he sent to his parents, it is clear that his was a solid foundation for what lay ahead, as a son and a citizen serving a cause greater than himself.

Dear Mother and Father,

I sincerely wish that you could be here for this day and that I might have arranged it…I will be thinking of you and wishing that I could have been free to have had you here…It is a thrill to me to have been with the ship from its launching and I most assuredly am pleased and proud to be on board. I want you both to come down later and see us both.

As I feel this great pride, I can’t help wanting you both to know that wherever we go, it will be part of America. Every state is represented on board among the officers and men. I will often think of both of you and know that if I am able to do a creditable job it is because of my many opportunities of the past, my upbringing, and the traditions of our family, all of which I owe to you.

Much Love,

Larry

It was also apparent that Lieutenant Larry White had come to a realization on the eve of America entering her third year fighting World War II. Hornet, and the men with whom he served, were family.

 
Nov 28

Happy 235th Birthday to the Navy Chaplain Corps!

Sunday, November 28, 2010 12:01 AM

Today, marks the 235th birthday of the Navy Chaplain Corps. This day commemorates the Continental Congress’ adoption of the Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North America.

Article 2 of these rules stated: “The commanders of the ships of the 13 United Colonies are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent it.”

Navy Chaplains like Joseph Timothy O’Callahan have always answered the answered the call to service:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER JOSEPH TIMOTHY O’CALLAHAN

CHAPLAIN CORPS, UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Chaplain on board the U.S.S. FRANKLIN when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lieutenant Commander O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lieutenant. Commander O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the FRANKLIN to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.

 
Nov 25

Operation Swift Freedom

Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:01 PM

During the first month of Operation Enduring Freedom, Navy and Marine Corps forces collaborated to initiate a second front in southern Afghanistan. The immediate need was to position forces to destabilize the enemy’s command and control apparatus, and then defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda before they had an opportunity to regroup in Kandahar or escape into neighboring regions of Pakistan. At Vice Admiral Charles W. Moore’s behest, Brigadier General James N. Mattis took charge of all maritime forces in Central Command’s theater of operations on 1 November 2001 and established Naval Expeditionary Task Force 58. The bulk of his forces was comprised of the USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, already on station off the Pakistani coast, and the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, then operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

While the initial assignment had called for a series of amphibious raids along the border, the mission soon shifted to seizing a desert airfield in southwestern Afghanistan and establishing a forward operating base. Navy SEALs from Captain Robert S. Harwood’s Task Force K-Bar (JSOTF-South) were the first ashore, inserting on 21 November to provide surveillance over Objective Rhino. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s assault force landed on the evening of 25 November, following a 400-mile flight from the coast, to become the first conventional force deployed into Afghanistan.

Although the rapid build-up of combat power quickly eliminated any real threat from the enemy, the requirement for sustaining a brigade-sized unit ashore strained the Marines’ logistic capabilities. Fortunately, the two Navy amphibious squadrons were able to conduct replenishment operations at sea, enabling the two Marine expeditionary units to push supplies inland through the port facility in Pasni, Pakistan. At the same time, Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 arrived to maintain the dirt airstrip at Rhino, enabling the Marines to receive a near-continuous flow of sustainment flights from airbases throughout the theater. In anticipation of combat operations, two Navy forward surgical teams also deployed to support the Marines ashore.

Task Force 58 maintained its swift-paced operational tempo for three months, conducting a wide variety of missions in support of the war effort. The Sailors and Marines blocked western escape routs along Highway 1, provided security for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and a special operations facility in Khowst, occupied Kandahar International Airport and established a short-term holding facility for detaining enemy prisoners, and conducted numerous sensitive site exploitation missions. In the latter case, the Marines often supported Task Force K-Bar, providing the SEALs with air transportation and security forces.

In addition to demonstrating America’s willingness to confront those who sponsor terrorism and signaling an end to Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the strategic agility and operational reach showcased by the Navy amphibious squadrons and Marine expeditionary units validated the utility of task organized expeditionary forces and the effectiveness of long-range ship-to-objective maneuver. With the subsequent appearance of expeditionary strike groups in 2003, the naval services are now better able to address emerging crises around the globe, regardless of whether they occur in littoral or land-locked regions of the world.

 
Nov 25

FDR Proclamation 2600 – Thanksgiving Day, 1943

Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:01 AM

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

God’s help to us has been great in this year of march towards world-wide liberty. In brotherhood with warriors of other United Nations our gallant men have won victories, have freed our homes from fear, have made tyranny tremble, and have laid the foundation for freedom of life in a world which will be free.

Our forges and hearths and mills have wrought well; and our weapons have not failed. Our farmers, victory gardeners, and crop volunteers have gathered and stored a heavy harvest in the barns and bins and cellars. Our total food production for the year is the greatest in the annals of our country.

For all these things we are devoutly thankful, knowing also that so great mercies exact from us the greatest measure of sacrifice and service.

Now, Therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, November 25, 1943, as a day for expressing our thanks to God for His blessings. November having been set aside as “Food Fights for Freedom” month, it is fitting that Thanksgiving Day be made the culmination of the observance of the month by a high resolve on the part of all to produce and save food and to “share and play square” with food.

May we on Thanksgiving Day and on every day express our gratitude and zealously devote ourselves to our duties as individuals and as a nation. May each of us dedicate his utmost efforts to speeding the victory which will bring new opportunities for peace and brotherhood among men.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.

DONE at the City of Washington this 11th day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-eighth.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

 
Nov 24

Political Infighter: The Story of Admiral Thomas Hinman Moorer, USN

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 12:01 AM

Thomas Moorer stands out as one of the few senior American military leaders who fought hard with the political establishment over the conduct of the Vietnam War. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from July 1970 to July 1970, Moorer constantly pushed for the authority to strike targets in the Hanoi area with air power, and

mine Haiphong harbor. President Nixon finally agreed to Moorer’s proposals in the spring of 1972, and the war ended eight months later on terms acceptable to the United States. A hardliner and reactionary to some critics of the war, Moorer is seen as patriot and a hero by many veterans—someone who, in the words of Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, “always put his country’s interest before anything else.”

Born in Mount Willing Alabama in 1912, Moorer graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933, completed aviator training in 1936, and then flew a variety of aircraft, including fighters, bombers, and patrol planes. He also served on the carriers Langley (AV 3), Lexington (CV 16), and Enterprise (CV 6).

Early in World War II, Japanese fighters attacked his PBY-5 patrol plane during a reconnaissance mission in the Southwest Pacific. Although wounded in the thigh, Moorer landed his aircraft in the water and got his crew of seven safely into a life raft. A Philippine merchant ship soon picked the group up but was attacked by Japanese aircraft that same day. One of Moorer’s crew died in that attack, but Moorer and the other survivors and many of the ship’s crew managed to escape from the vessel in a lifeboat and row to a nearby island. For his gallantry that day, the Navy awarded Moorer a Silver Star. He later received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying supplies into and evacuating wounded from Timor Island in October 1942.

After the war, Commander Moorer continued to serve in both aviation and staff assignments and was promoted to rear admiral in 1957. As a junior flag officer, Moorer worked as a strategic planner for the Chief of Naval Operations. He commanded Carrier Division 6 for 17 months in 1959 and 1960. In 1962, Moorer received his third star and assumed command of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. Two years later, the Navy promoted him to full admiral and appointed him Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. In that position, he commanded U.S. Navy forces in the Pacific during the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident and subsequent retaliatory strikes against North Vietnam. Moorer took command of the Atlantic Fleet the following year, thus becoming the first officer in the Navy’s history to lead both fleets.

Vietnam once again became a major focus for Moorer when President Johnson appointed him as Chief of Naval Operations in June 1967. Privately, Moorer opposed the land war in Vietnam “for the simple reason that we cannot afford to trade a high school graduate” for a North Vietnamese peasant. Once committed to the endeavor, however, he argued that the United States should focus its efforts on the source of Communist aggression in the region: North Vietnam. Moorer advocated bombing Hanoi, the enemy’s center of gravity, and mining North Vietnam’s most important port facility, Haiphong Harbor. Moorer, in short, rejected the idea of limited war and containment, instead favoring a decisive application of force, and with it, the possibility of compelling North Vietnam to end its aggression in South Vietnam.

His arguments fell upon deaf ears in the White House, and over time, frustration set in. President Johnson’s bombing halt following the 1968 Communist Tet Offensive and then his failure to retaliate against North Korea following the seizure of the technical research ship Pueblo (AGER 2) greatly concerned Admiral Moorer, who was afraid that America was losing global credibility. He also worried about the Navy’s aging ships and infrastructure. In January 1969, he testified to Congress that 58 percent of the fleet was at least 20 years old, while only 1 percent of Soviet navy ships were the same age. Finally, he deeply disagreed with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s habit of “meddling” in the selection and assignment of flag officers, which, Moorer argued was the purview of the Chief of Naval Operations.

On 2 July 1970, President Nixon appointed Admiral Moorer as the seventh Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Moorer perceived Nixon as a kindred spirit, someone willing to make hard choices and take significant risks to extricate America from Vietnam. Other members of the administration, however, often blocked his efforts to liberalize the rules of engagement and resume the bombing campaign against North Vietnam. In an attempt to counter these opponents and gain an upper hand with the new president, Moorer encouraged Charles Radford, a young yeoman working for the National Security Council, to make copies of pertinent White House policy documents for him. When President Nixon found out about Radford’s “spying” in December 1971, he sent Attorney General John Mitchell over to the Pentagon to let Moorer know that “we had the goods” on him. Nixon, however, retained Moorer as chairman because he valued him as a fellow hardliner and a vital counterweight against administration doves, especially Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird.

The Communist Easter Offensive of 1972 finally gave Nixon the justification he needed to relax bombing restrictions and turn up the heat against North Vietnam. One of the first moves he made was to order the mining of Haiphong harbor, an idea that Moorer and others in the Navy had been advocating since the early 1960s. He also initiated the Linebacker bombing raids against North Vietnam. Both operations helped convince Hanoi to agree with a peace settlement acceptable to the United States.

In addition to helping settle the Vietnam conflict, Moorer oversaw the transition of the U.S. armed services from a conscript based military to an all-volunteer force. He also managed deep cuts in the defense budget. While he did not always prevail in Washington’s bureaucratic battles, Moorer managed the services with great strength and confidence during a deeply divided period in our nation’s history. Appointed to a second term as JCS Chairman by President Nixon, Admiral Moorer retired in July 1974. He died on 5 February 2004.

 
Nov 23

From Thanh Hoa to Sarajevo: The Odyssey of Admiral Leighton W. Smith

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 1:05 PM

When Leighton Warren “Snuffy” Smith was commander of Attack Squadron 86 on board the carrier America in 1972, an intelligence officer approached him and suggested he claim a target he had not hit: “Just put down that you cratered the approaches to the bridge or something,” he suggested. Smith replied, “I didn’t crater the approaches; I put the damn bombs in the water.” The officer still refused to write a truthful report, so Smith told him to remove his name from the document. Smith remembered episodes like that more than his successes, which included helping destroy the famous “Dragon’s Jaw” bridge at Thanh Hoa. He’s an example of a young officer from the Vietnam War who helped lead the Navy with great integrity many years later.

Smith flew three tours and 280 missions in Vietnam, but his most memorable experience was the attack on the Thanh Hoa Bridge. The Dragon’s Jaw was one of the strongest and best-defended targets in North Vietnam. Completed in 1964, the 540-foot-long bridge was first attacked by the Air Force in April 1965. Thereafter, Air Force and Navy aircraft struck the bridge dozens of times, but to no avail, and the bridge ended up surviving the three-year-long Rolling Thunder bombing campaign in-tact. On 13 May 1972, a 14-plane Air Force strike finally knocked down two spans with laser-guided bombs. While the attack took the bridge out of commission, the bombing campaign against it did not end on that date. In order to hinder repair efforts, the Air Force flew two more missions against the target; and the Navy, 11. Smith’s mission occurred on 6 October 1972. As Smith recalled, “We rolled in simultaneously. Pulled the power back, popped the speed breaks and we got our scopes locked-on to the bridge and I said, ‘Lock-on.’ Once everyone confirmed that they had locked-on, I counted ‘three, two, one, launch.” The four Navy A-7s hit the bridge on the west side of the center piling and that’s where it broke in half. Later that afternoon, an RA-5 Vigilante flew over the structure and took a picture, confirming that the bridge was down for good.

Many years later as the Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe in 1995, Admiral Leighton Smith initiated Operation Deliberate Force in the Balkans—a politically sensitive NATO air operation against Serb forces. At one point in the campaign, U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrook, who was negotiating with the Serbs, wanted Smith’s forces to continue launching Tomahawk missiles and air strikes, even if it meant hitting targets twice. Smith did not concur. Recalling his Vietnam experience, Smith observed, “You don’t go back and hit old targets. You don’t bomb holes in the ground. You lose all kinds of credibility with the forces you lead if you say, ‘Hey, guys, we got to keep up this charade, this facade. Let’s go bomb some more targets. And oh, by the way, don’t worry about that exposure out there.’” Smith held firm, and as a result of the air strikes and a coincidental offensive by Bosnian Muslim and Croat forces, the Serbs acceded to U.N. terms for ending the conflict. Smith paid a price for his principled stand. Despite leading an especially successful air campaign, Smith was retired from the Navy in 1996. Smith’s run-in with Holbrook ended his promotion prospects in the Clinton administration.

 
Nov 20

World Record Flight

Saturday, November 20, 2010 1:01 AM

On November 20th 1933, LCDR Thomas G.W. Settle, USN and MAJ Chester I. Fordney, USMC set a world record balloon flight into the stratosphere at 62,237 ft.


LCDR Settle & MAJ Fordney

The Soviet Union had captured the imagination of the world by sending men higher than anyone had ever gone before. America’s response was made shortly afterward by a naval officer and a Marine officer. Their names were not Shepard and Glenn, and the time was not the Sixties, but the Thirties. In an all-but-forgotten flight, two American military men carried their country’s colors to a world altitude record and began the race for space …

From the article; “When the Race for Space Began” by J. Gordan Vaeth printed in Proceedings August, 1963


Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 18

USS Kirk – (FF 1087) The Lucky Few

Thursday, November 18, 2010 3:08 PM

Now Showing on NavyTV: – the story of the USS Kirk.

In late April and early May of 1975, the destroyer escort USS Kirk became a haven for refugees fleeing South Vietnam. Kirk‘s officers and enlisted personnel–trained as warriors–instantly transformed their man-of-war into a humanitarian assistance ship. Desperation and anguish gave way to reassurance as crew members fed their unexpected guests, dispensed medical care, diapered infants and provided hope to a dispirited people.

A story of courage, of compassion and hope.