FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 19th through 22nd 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

I got to work this morning and my boss told me ‘have a good day’, so I went home and had a great day!

US Criticizes China’s Militarization of South China Sea

It’s a we’re watching you kind of response, Military Times is reporting The Pentagon criticized what it called China’s “continued militarization” of island outposts in the disputed South China Sea, where the Chinese air force landed long-range bombers for the first time, putting entire Southeast Asia within their range.  The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber (below left) in the South China Sea.  China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.  A statement from the Defense Ministry late Friday said the exercise was conducted on an island reef, but it did not specify when or where, saying only that it took place recently at a “southern sea area.” It involved several H-6Ks taking off from an air base and making a simulated strike against sea targets before landing, the ministry said.  Wang Mingliang, a military expert, was quoted in the statement as saying that the exercises will help the air force improve its “real combat ability against all kinds of marine security threats.”  The U.S., which doesn’t have any territorial claims but insists on freedom of navigation and a peaceful resolution of the disputes without coercion or threat of force, criticized the move.  “The United States remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said in an email. “We have seen these same reports and China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”  The Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, using Chinese social media posts, identified the location of the exercise as Woody Island, China’s largest base in the Paracel Islands that are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.  With a combat radius of nearly 1,900 nautical miles (3,520 kilometers), the H-6K bomber would put all of Southeast Asia in its range from Woody Island, AMTI said.  Farther south in the Spratly group of islands, China has constructed seven man-made islands and equipped them with runways, hangers, radar and missile stations, further cementing its vast territorial claims in the busy waterway.  The U.S. and others accuse Beijing of militarizing the region to bolster its claims. Washington has said it violates a pledge by President Xi Jinping to former President Barack Obama not to militarize the area. China says it has a legitimate right to build up defenses on the islands.  Adm. Phil Davidson, the new head of the Pacific Command, said recently that China had reached the tipping point in its control over the South China Sea.  Beijing’s island bases can be used to challenge the U.S. presence in the region, “and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants,” Davidson wrote in recent testimony to Congress.  And as an aside, The Philippines has expressed “serious concerns”  and vowed to take “appropriate diplomatic action” over Chinese long-range bombers operating in disputed areas of the South China Sea.  No indication as to what would be considered “appropriate diplomatic action” might be.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 19th through 22nd 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 12th through 15th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

Today I was a hero. I rescued some beer that was trapped in a bottle.

 

Fireball on China and North Korea

I’ve mentioned several times here in FOD that I believe one of the worst things that could happen to China, from their prospective, would be a fall of the North Korean family business/government of Kim Jung Un.  A reunification of North and South Korea would result in US and/or western aligned troops on the border with China, a prospect much feared by China. Additionally a North Korea experimenting or threatening with nuclear weapons is one thing, but a North Korea with a real nuclear delivery capability is likely to foster the development of western supported nuclear capabilities in South Korea and eventually Japan.  And dare we mention Taiwan in that nuclear soup?  Such developments would realign the balance of power in Asia to China’s great disadvantage.  Remember just a few months ago Kim Jung Un made that mysterious train trip to China?  Since that time we have seen a distinct change in North Korea’s behavior.  No further missile testing, no boasting of eventual war with the US and/or other nations in the region.  And now President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un on June 12 in Singapore, the US president announced Thursday.  I think it possible Kim Jung Un was called upon Xi Jinping’s proverbial red Chinese carpet during that train trip.  Xi says, “OK Kim dude, it’s perfectly fine for you to play with your nuclear toys, but threatening the US and other countries in the region upsets my plan for dominance in Asia long term.  So here are your choices: make a deal with the US and soon before they export nuclear weapons to both South Korea and Japan and before they develop additional missile systems capable of shooting down your weapons and by extension my ICBMs in my backyard; OR, I will find a new family to operate North Korea.  Now go back home and execute my command.  We saw where North Korea has promised to allow the world to watch it blow up some of their nuclear test facilities.  Likely that already happened.  Back on 3 September when North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test on Punggye-ri registering 6.3 magnitude on earthquake sensors.  Several minutes later however, geologists detected a smaller 4.1 magnitude rumbling.  That got scientists speculating as to whether the nuclear test site, hidden inside a mountain, actually collapsed.  A massive collapse could render the test site useless for future nuclear tests and may even increase the risk of radioactive gases escaping from the rock and into the air, scientists said.  The case for this so-called “tired mountain syndrome” was bolstered three weeks ago, when North Korea announced that it planned to shut the main testing facility at Mount Mantap where five of the six tests, including the last explosion, took place. A few weeks ago, a group of Chinese geologists claimed in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters that the mountain had collapsed following the latest nuclear test. Of course the Chinese might be lying.  That wouldn’t surprise me either.  Now we see Kim Jung Un has cancelled recently scheduled talks with South Korea after the failure of the South and the US to cancel scheduled military exercises.  Then again he has always been unpredictable.  We can expect the unexpected.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 12th through 15th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 2nd through 7th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

In beer there is freedom, in wine there is health, in cognac there is power and in water there is bacteria.

 

Congrats On Your Retirement Taco

My congrats go out to Friend of FOD Taco who is retiring as the KC-46 Chief Test Pilot.  It was a good run my friend.  I can tell you there is a lot of fun to be had in retirement.  And congrats to another Friend of FOD Dobber who now takes over as the head of the KC-46 Flight Test Effort. All the best my friend!

 

New Possible Ship Deployment Schedule Ahead For Navy Ships

Defense News is reporting A typical carrier deployment from Norfolk goes like this: A tearful goodbye on the pier, a trip across the Atlantic, then one or maybe two port visits in Europe before heading through “The Ditch” and into U.S. Central Command territory. There you will stay for the bulk of the cruise before returning the way you came.  Those days might be coming to an end.  The Navy and Pentagon planners are already weighing whether to withhold the Truman Carrier Strike Group from deploying to U.S. Central Command, opting instead to hold the carrier in Europe as a check on Russia, breaking with more than 30 years of nearly continuous carrier presence in the Arabian Gulf. But even more fundamental changes could be in the works.  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has made clear as the military’s top civilian that he has a very different vision for how the military will be used in the future. And recent comments have hinted at big changes on the horizon for the Navy and how it deploys.  In testimony last month, Mattis twice compared that kind of predictability to running a commercial shipping operation, and said the Navy needed to get away from being so easily anticipated.  “That’s a great way to run a shipping line,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “It’s no way to run a Navy.”  But as Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford drive towards new ways of employing the fleet, changing the way that fleet deploys will put pressure on its existing deployment model, forcing the Navy to rethink a structure that governs nearly everything it does — from manning and training to its maintenance cycles.  In an era of great-power competition with China and Russia, Mattis describes the Navy showing up where it’s not expected, making deployments less burdensome to the fleet and its families but more worrisome to a potential adversary.  “The way you do this is [to] ensure that preparation for great power competition drives not simply a rotational schedule that allows me to tell you, three years from now, which aircraft carrier will be where in the world,” he told House lawmakers. “When we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment. There will be three carriers in the South China Sea today, and then, two weeks from now, there’s only one there, and two of them are in the Indian Ocean.  “They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment. They will not have spent eight months at sea, and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles — we’ll actually enhance the training time.”  Experts contend that what Mattis is describing, a concept he’s labeled as “Dynamic Force Employment,” would necessarily create tension with the Navy’s current deployment model known as the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP), an iteration of similar plans that have been in place since the Cold War.  Under the plan, introduced in 2014 by then-Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Bill Gortney, ships operate in a 36-month cycle that carves out 16 months for training and maintenance, a seven-month deployment and 13 months where the carrier and its escorts are to maintain a high level of readiness in case it needs to deploy again.  Around that model the Navy builds everything from when it brings in new recruits to boot camp to when an aircraft carrier needs to come out of its years-long reactor overhaul. It’s also a system that builds in a significant dip in readiness where, during maintenance phases, ships lose sailors with critical skills to other commands and shore duty assignments.  The dip in readiness is deliberate and informs both manning levels on the ship and the Navy’s overall end strength. Simply put, there are not enough trained sailors in the Navy to fill every job on every ship, and that’s all built into the plan.  The key to the whole plan working, however, is at least a degree of predictability. Shipyards need to know when they will have a ship and what the scope of the repair work will be so it can prepare in advance. School houses need to know when to convene classes. Commanding officers need to know that when they get ready for deployment, sailors with critical skills lost during a readiness dip will be replaced before the next cruise.  Predictability, however, is precisely what Mattis is trying to have less of in the face of a rising threat from Russia and China, said Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer skipper and consultant with The FerryBridge Group.   “[OFRP] was designed to be predictable,” McGrath said. “From the outset it was touted for bringing predictability to the shipyards and to sailors and their families. Secretary Mattis, in the face of great power competition, seems to value those things less and I could not agree with him more.”  What Mattis seems to value is a system that would bank more readiness. Indeed, his National Defense Strategy says as much when it describes dynamic force employment.  “Dynamic Force Employment will prioritize maintaining the capacity and capabilities for major combat, while providing options for proactive and scalable employment of the Joint Force,” the strategy reads.  His suggestion of sending ships on more 90-day deployments would put less strain on ships’ mechanical and electronic systems and would likely make shipyard availabilities shorter.  But his example of putting three carriers in a place like the South China Sea, even for a couple of weeks, would eat an enormous amount of readiness under the current deployment model. Not only do you need to gather three fully manned and trained carriers with all their escort ships present, but three air wings full of tactical aircraft that have been struggling with their own readiness issues, as well.  “You can bank readiness by decreasing forward presence,” he said. “That is, if you have fewer forces forward deployed for the hell of it, you have more to push forward when you want them.  “In other words, its punishment rather than deterrence — you surge after the enemy has made its move. Whereas if you want to deter them — to convince the enemy that the success of their planned attack is dubious, you have to be there, and be there powerfully, and that means a carrier strike group forward.”  Another way to put three carriers forward in one place on a semi-regular basis is to use the sustainment period that is built into OFRP. But sending a carrier group back out during 13-month period after a deployment where the group is held at a high state of readiness undermines one of Mattis’s stated goals of trying to put less wear on the ships and ease the burden of eight-month deployments on families.  Double-pump deployments for surge carriers is precisely the kind of unpredictability and strain that has caused a mountain of maintenance problems for the Navy through the 2010s — problems that then reduce operational availability of ships that are stuck in the yards for repairs.  “The Navy has not done much with the sustainment phase in OFRP, but presumably that will be one of the go-to moves to create flexibility and unpredictability in the schedule,” McGrath said. “There will, of course, be costs: fuel costs, less time with families, etc.  “It remains to be seen the degree to which Mattis’ plans are doable within the current readiness model. My sense is the readiness model is somewhat brittle and additional requirements will put pressure on that model. The current OFRP was designed to create predictable, sustainable levels of readiness. SECDEF wants to be unpredictable. There is going to be tension.”  Another potential stumbling block for Mattis’ vision for a retooled deployment model is his desire for shorter deployments, specifically his 90-day deployment idea.  Clearly, shorter deployments would reduce the strain on the ships and their sailors and families. But at some point, basic geography would seem to get in the way of this idea, said Thomas Callender, a retired submarine officer and analyst at The Heritage Foundation.  “I think the Navy needs to look hard at the proposed 90-day carrier strike group deployments,” Callender said. “It takes about six months to train and certify a CSG, including the aircraft carrier, its escorts and the Carrier Air Wing for potential combat operations. It also takes about a week (minimum) to transit from Norfolk to the Mediterranean. That means you would only have approximately 2 months of presence in the Med. To transit to the Arabian Gulf from East Coast takes almost three weeks more.  “When you look at the West Coast CSGs transiting from San Diego or Washington, it takes close to a month to transit to the South China Sea. At first glance, I do not see how six months of training for a three month deployment is an efficient use of [the Navy’s Operations and Maintenance Funding] resources, or its platforms and personnel —especially with the high Combatant Commander demand for global CSG presence.”  Addressing COCOM demand for Navy forces, which has been unrelenting over the past few years, would have to factor into any plan that Mattis and Dunford and trying to cobble together.  Under the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986, forces are assigned to the combatant commands by the secretary of defense, meaning if Mattis wants to change what COCOMs get and when they get it, he can do that. But COCOMs do have the authority to outline what they think they need based on the operational environment — to set the requirements.  It’s unlikely that COCOMs will be satisfied with a month of carrier presence here or three weeks there, if that’s what Mattis wants to give them under his authorities. But that might just be what Mattis is going after in the firsts place with dynamic force employment, said Dan Gouré, an analyst with the Arlington, Va.-based think tank The Lexington Institute.  “I think this is bigger than just the Navy and how it deploys, I think this is about clawing back power from the combatant commanders,” Gouré said. “We have been living in a COCOM-centric world. Because they generate the force requirements, they are the ones setting the terms.”  In order to adjust to global great power competition, Mattis sees a need to assert more control over who goes where and when, especially with a smaller force than the U.S. had during the Cold War, Gouré said.  “With great power competition and a limited force pool, the decision seems to be to have an operational capability that can be deployed when a crisis emerges,” he said. “The COCOMs are going to have to take their lumps on this one.  “It also raises the questions of what exactly are the real COCOM requirements? COCOMs are a black hole of requirements to the point where you run out the readiness string trying to fulfill them. But the assumption shouldn’t be that all requirements are equal. What’s critical?”

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 2nd through 7th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Give a man a beer and he drinks for a day.  Teach a man to hang out with guys who brew beer and he has beer for a lifetime.  Thanks Friend of FOD Roger for a great FOD Saying of the Day suggestion.   This evolved from the famous fish saying:  Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he’ll buy a boat, poles, reels, waders, tackle, bad boat beer, and numerous ‘fish whisperer’ guides; all far surpassing the cost of buying fish from your local fish monger.  But – when you catch that fish – it’s all worth it.  This parable goes along with sell a man a streetrod and he has a car to show and be proud of.  Teach a man to build a streetrod and he’ll spend years and thousands of dollars trying to build a better one, or two or more of them.  What’s up with that?

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 16th through 21st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 9th through 11th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Remember: Don’t Insult the Alligator till after you cross the river.

 

Taiwan Under Siege From Chinese Cyber Attacks

I’ve reported here in FOD previously China is beginning to threaten Taiwan in a variety of ways in a not so subtle attempt to reign in what China considers to be rough province of China.  Asia Times is reporting Taiwan has admitted that cyber attacks from China are taking a toll on the island’s digital infrastructure, with government computer systems now subjected to as many as 40 million incidents each month.  The Department of Cyber Security (DCS) revealed earlier this week that there were 288 successful attacks from Beijing’s state-sponsored apparatus and affiliated groups in 2017. Targeting servers and intranets in civil, military and research departments, the incidents were mostly categorized as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs).  And China is just practicing to see what they can do against a government like Taiwan in preparation to do serious cyber battle against peer adversaries like the US.  DCS head Chien Hung-wei told Central News Agency that there were between 20 million and 40 million attacks each month, in addition to billions of probing actions made by hackers looking for weaknesses.  He said the overwhelming majority of cyberattacks were level one or level two incidents, the least serious categorization, and had resulted in unauthorized changes to web pages or other minor damage.  But the government’s digital domains were also infiltrated by 10 level three attacks, which means they might have compromised sensitive and classified data stored on the affected systems.  “The increasing precision of Chinese attacks is a matter of concern for Taiwan.”  Chinese hackers are said to route their attacks through servers in the US and European countries like Russia, as well as other nations, which makes it difficult to identify their point of origin. However, Taiwanese technicians are able to identify specific patterns, traits and even styles of coding that are typical of Chinese hackers.  Taiwan is often used as a testing ground for new hacking tools or techniques before their deployment against targets in other nations, Chien said in a filing to the island’s legislature. As a result, hackers from countries like North Korea and Russia were also highly active.  In one recent incident, a Taiwanese cabinet official received an e-mail containing an embedded virus that was designed to penetrate the government’s internal networks. It arrived the day he was sworn in.  The home page of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party was hacked in 2016, and visitor profiles were sent to cyber espionage groups in China. It is even rumored that President Tsai Ing-wen’s personal  e-mail account has come under attack, though it is not clear if any information was stolen.  At one time her advisors suggested that her computer be disconnected altogether from the internet because it contains sensitive information.

 

China Has Installed Radar and Communications Jammers on South China Sea Islands

I have commented in FOD previously on the continued Chinese militarization of their facilities on disputed islands in the South China Sea.  Other observers are beginning to pick up the thread.  Let there be no mistake, China is intent on controlling the South China Sea, exploiting its resources, denying other countries in the region access to fishing and other resources traditionally within their spheres of influence.  They intend to control access to and access through this strategically important crossroads of transportation and communication.  According to the Washington Examiner, China has installed equipment on two fortified outposts on the Spratly Islands capable of jamming communications and radar systems, which U.S. officials say signifies a stepped-up militarization of the South China Sea.  “China has deployed military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts,” a Department of Defense official said.  The Chinese military is conducting a large exercise in the South China Sea, including maneuvers with China’s first aircraft carrier and air force and ground units. Some U.S. officials describe it as the largest military exercise in that region to date, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The move to install the communication and radar jamming systems will strengthen China’s ability to assert territorial claims in the South China Sea and stop U.S. military operations in that region, which includes some of the world’s largest and busiest shipping routes.  The assessment by the U.S. is supported by photo evidence by commercial satellites last month that show a suspected jammer system with its antenna extended on one of the seven Spratly outposts where China has built artificial islands.  Although China says the islands are for defensive purposes only, the activity has spurred fears that the outposts could be used to enforce territorial claims overlapping with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.  China’s Defense Ministry has not yet responded to a request for comment.

 

Sri Lanka Cedes Major Port to China

My last rant regarding to China – for the moment anyway.  You’ll recall in previous editions of FOD I have pointed out China’s Road and Belt initiative is a thinly veiled land and resources grab.  Now Defense News notes Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean the size of West Virginia, has become another flashpoint in regional naval competition.  That’s because in December, Sri Lanka turned over the strategic port in the southern city of Hambantota to a Chinese company on a 99-year lease. The deal, which allowed the country of 20 million to lessen its debts to China, marked another toehold for Beijing in the heart of the Indian Ocean.  The Sri Lankan government officially sold an 80 percent stake in the Hambantota port to a Chinese state-owned company on Dec. 9 after falling behind in repaying $1.5 billion borrowed from Beijing to build it. That prompted complaints the deal was too favorable to Beijing and fueled concerns about Sri Lanka’s soveignty.  The port is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiative, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe. It’s been touted in the Chinese press as attracting further foreign investment and launching factories.  India, considered a rival with China, has reacted to the deal with suspicion, prompting Sri Lankan officials to repeatedly offer assurances the port will not be used by the Chinese military. (Fireball note:  China’s assurances in this regard are not to be believed).  On Monday at the sprawling Sea-Air-Space Expo outside Washington, D.C., the naval attaché of the Sri Lankan Embassy in the United States, Rear Admiral Dharmendra Wettewa, repeated the assurances his government has made to India, that there would be no foreign military activity at Hambantota.  “We have to walk the talk,” he said, adding that, “The Sri Lankan government needs to be as transparent as possible… You will see that happening.”  Under the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, since voted out in 2015, Sri Lanka extended billions of dollars in loans for mega infrastructure projects. But the Chinese investment has fueled protests and police clashes, over what critics see as Beijing’s excessive demands and unfavorable financing.  Wettewa said on the panel about international maritime cooperation, beside U.S., Australian and Italian naval officials, that his country has no definitive military agreement with China, but there is a commercial relationship.  Sri Lanka has no special military relationship with any country, he added, but has strong lateral partnerships with India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia and the United States.  On the commercial side, China has made a lot of investment in Sri Lanka, Wettewa acknowledged.  In late February, The Sri Lankan chief of defense staff, Adm. Ravindra Wijegunaratne, reportedly assured India that the Hambantota for would not be given to any foreign navy. He reportedly made the remarks at an Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue, in the presence of Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.  “There had been this widespread claim about the port being earmarked to be used as a military base,” Wijegunaratne is reported to have said. “I can assure you in this forum that no action, whatsoever will be taken in our harbor or in our waters that jeopardizes India’s security concerns.”

 

 

Trump Promises Decision on US Response After Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

Military Times is reporting President Donald Trump has promised a decision within 24 to 48 hours on how the U.S. will respond to the latest attack against civilians in Syria.  Fireball opinion: We should have lined up a collision of allies in advance and the President should have had at his fingertips several courses of action.  The President’s team should have known it was never about if, but when Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and/or his Russian backed cronies would again employ chemical weapons against his own population.  At a White House meeting on Monday, Trump condemned the attack as “atrocious” and “horrible.”  “This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen,” Trump said, according to remarks released through a media pool report. “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.”  Also on Monday, during a separate meeting with the Qatari defense minister, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he won’t rule out striking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.  “I don’t rule out anything right now,” Mattis responded when asked by reporters if the U.S. military would launch airstrikes against Assad’s chemical weapons facilities, following an alleged use of the deadly weapons by Assad’s forces.  President Donald Trump has promised a decision within 24 to 48 hours on how the U.S. will respond to the latest attack against civilians in Syria.  At a White House meeting on Monday, Trump condemned the attack as “atrocious” and “horrible.”  “This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen,” Trump said, according to remarks released through a media pool report. “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.”  Also on Monday, during a separate meeting with the Qatari defense minister, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he won’t rule out striking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.  “I don’t rule out anything right now,” Mattis responded when asked by reporters if the U.S. military would launch airstrikes against Assad’s chemical weapons facilities, following an alleged use of the deadly weapons by Assad’s forces.  “The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all, when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons,” Mattis said. “And so, working with our allies and our partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere, we are going to address this issue.”  Amid the tough talk from the White House, the U.S. military appeared to be in position to carry out any attack order. A Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, was underway in the eastern Mediterranean after completing a port call in Cyprus. The guided missile destroyer is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the weapon of choice in a U.S. attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians.  On Saturday, a chemical weapons attack in the formerly rebel-held town of Douma, Syria, allegedly killed dozens of civilians, according to multiple news reports. One video, recorded by the White Helmets, a group of rescue workers, shows men, women and children lying lifeless in a living quarters, some with foam coming from their mouths.

 

Boeing 737 First Flight

At 1:15 p.m., 9 April 1967, the prototype Boeing 737-130, N73700, (internal number PA-099) took off from Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, with test pilots Brien Singleton Wygle and Samuel Lewis (“Lew”) Wallick, Jr., in the cockpit. After a 2 hour, 30 minute flight, the new airliner landed at Paine Field, Everett, Washington.  When asked by a reporter what he thought about the new airplane, Boeing’s president, Bill Allen, replied, “I think they’ll be building this airplane when Bill Allen is in an old man’s home.”   He was correct.  In the 1990s, Boeing introduced the 737 Next Generation, with multiple changes including a redesigned, increased span laminar flow wing, upgraded “glass” cockpit, and new interior. The 737 Next Generation comprises the four -600 (no longer made), -700, -800, and -900 models, ranging from 102 ft to 138 ft in length. Boeing Business Jet versions of the 737 Next Generation are also produced.  The 737 series is the best-selling jet commercial airliner in history.  The 737 has been continuously manufactured by Boeing since 1967 with 9,448 aircraft delivered and 4,506 orders yet to be fulfilled as of March 2017.  Assembly of the 737 is performed at the Boeing Renton Factory in Renton, Washington. Many 737s serve markets previously filled by 707727757DC-9, and MD-80/MD-90 airliners, and the aircraft currently competes primarily with the Airbus A320 family.  Boeing produces over 50 737s per month and expects to increase that number with the 737MAX coming on line.  As of 2006, there was an average of 1,250 Boeing 737s airborne at any given time, with two departing or landing somewhere every five seconds.  In 2011, Boeing announced the 737 MAX program. Boeing will be offering three variants-the 737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8 and the 737 MAX 9. These aircraft will replace the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900ER, respectively. The main changes are the use of CFM International LEAP-1B engines, the addition of fly-by-wire control to the spoilers, and the lengthening of the nose landing gear. Deliveries began in 2017.  Southwest Airlines announced on December 13, 2011 that it would order the 737 MAX and became the launch customer.  Since entering service in 1968, the 737 has carried over 12 billion passengers over 74 billion miles (65 billion nm), and has accumulated more than 296 million hours in the air. The 737 represents more than 25% of the worldwide fleet of large commercial jet airliners.  After the flight test and certification program was complete, Boeing handed N73700 over to NASA at Langley Field, where it became NASA 515 (N515NA) and was used for research in cockpit design, engine controls, high lift devices, etc. Because of it’s short and stubby appearance, NASA named it “Fat Albert”.  The prototype Boeing 737 ended its NASA career and was returned to Boeing, landing for the last time at Boeing Field’s Runway 31L, 3:11 p.m., PDT, 21 September 2003. Today, PA-099 is on display at the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington.

 

Robert E. Lee Surrenders

After four long years and many battles fought, more won than lost, Confederate Army general Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia  surrendered to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on 09 April 1865.  The signing of the surrender documents occurred in the parlor of the house owned by Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9. Interesting is the fact Wilmer McLean was an American wholesale grocer from Virginia. His house near Manassas, Virginia was involved in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861. It was the first major battle of the American Civil War.  After the battle he moved to Appomattox, Virginia, to protect his family and business from further involvement in the conflict.  His houses were, therefore, involved in one of the first and one of the last encounters of the American Civil War.  Later, McLean is supposed to have said “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.” Well dressed in a full general’s uniform, Lee waited for Grant to arrive. Grant, whose headache had ended when he received Lee’s note proposing to discuss surrender, arrived at the house in a mud-spattered uniform—a government-issue sack coat with trousers tucked into muddy boots, no sidearms, and with only his tarnished shoulder straps showing his rank.  It was the first time the two men had seen each other face-to-face in almost two decades.  Suddenly overcome with sadness, Grant found it hard to get to the point of the meeting and instead the two generals briefly discussed their only previous encounter, during the Mexican–American War. Lee brought the attention back to the issue at hand, and Grant offered the same terms he had offered the previous day:

In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

The terms were as generous as Lee could hope for; his men would not be imprisoned or prosecuted for treason. Officers were allowed to keep their sidearms.  In addition to his terms, Grant also allowed the defeated men to take home their horses and mules to carry out the spring planting and provided Lee with a supply of food rations for his starving army; Lee said it would have a very happy effect among the men and do much toward reconciling the country.  Lee never forgot Grant’s magnanimity during the surrender, and for the rest of his life would not tolerate an unkind word about Grant in his presence. Likewise, General Gordon cherished Chamberlain’s simple act of saluting his surrendered army, calling Chamberlain “one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal army.  On April 10, Lee gave his farewell address to his army.

Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia, 10th April 1865.

General Order
No. 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

— R. E. Lee, General, General Order No. 9

 

First Astronauts Introduced

On April 9, 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduces America’s first astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a group of 32 candidates to take part in Project Mercury,America’s first manned space program. NASA planned to begin manned orbital flights in 1961.   In January 1959, NASA began the astronaut selection procedure, screening the records of 508 military test pilots and choosing 110 candidates. This number was arbitrarily divided into three groups, and the first two groups reported to Washington. Because of the high rate of volunteering, the third group was eliminated. Of the 62 pilots who volunteered, six were found to have grown too tall since their last medical examination. An initial battery of written tests, interviews, and medical history reviews further reduced the number of candidates to 36. After learning of the extreme physical and mental tests planned for them, four of these men dropped out.  The final 32 candidates traveled to the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they underwent exhaustive medical and psychological examinations. The men proved so healthy, however, that only one candidate was eliminated. The remaining 31 candidates then traveled to the Wright Aeromedical Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, where they underwent the most grueling part of the selection process. For six days and three nights, the men were subjected to various tortures that tested their tolerance of physical and psychological stress. Among other tests, the candidates were forced to spend an hour in a pressure chamber that simulated an altitude of 65,000 feet, and two hours in a chamber that was heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. At the end of one week, 18 candidates remained. From among these men, the selection committee was to choose six based on interviews, but seven candidates were so strong they ended up settling on that number.  After they were announced, the “Mercury Seven” became overnight celebrities. The Mercury Project suffered some early setbacks, however, and on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. Less than one month later, on May 5, astronaut Alan Shepard was successfully launched into space on a suborbital flight. On February 20, 1962, in a major step for the U.S. space program, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. NASA continued to trail the Soviets in space achievements until the late 1960s, when NASA’s Apollo program put the first men on the moon and safely returned them to Earth.  In 1998, 36 years after his first space flight, John Glenn traveled into space again. Glenn, then 77 years old, was part of the Space Shuttle Discovery crew, whose 9-day research mission launched on October 29, 1998. Among the crew’s investigations was a study of space flight and the aging process.

 

Bataan Death March

the Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60,000–80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war from Saysain Point, Bagac, Bataan and Mariveles to Camp O’DonnellCapas, Tarlac, via San Fernando, Pampanga, where the prisoners were loaded onto trains. The transfer began on April 9, 1942, after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II. The total distance marched from Mariveles to San Fernando and from the Capas Train Station to Camp O’Donnell is variously reported by differing sources as between 60 and 69.6 miles.  Differing sources also report widely differing prisoner of war casualties prior to reaching Camp O’Donnell: from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march. The march was characterized by severe physical abuse and wanton killings, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.  Following the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942 to the Japanese Imperial Army, prisoners were massed in Mariveles and Bagac town.  As the defeated defenders were massed in preparation for the march, they were ordered to turn over their possessions. American Lieutenant Kermit Lay recounted how this was done:  They pulled us off into a rice paddy and began shaking us down. There [were] about a hundred of us so it took time to get to all of us. Everyone had pulled their pockets wrong side out and laid all their things out in front. They were taking jewelry and doing a lot of slapping. I laid out my New Testament. … After the shakedown, the Japs took an officer and two enlisted men behind a rice shack and shot them. The men who had been next to them said they had Japanese souvenirs and money.  Word quickly spread among the prisoners to conceal or destroy any Japanese money or mementos, as the captors assumed it had been stolen from dead Japanese soldiers.  Prisoners started out from Mariveles on April 10, and Bagac on April 11, converging in Pilar, Bataan, and heading north to the San Fernando railhead.  At the beginning of capture there were rare instances of kindness by Japanese officers and those Japanese soldiers who spoke English, such as sharing of food and cigarettes and permitting personal possessions to be kept. This was fast followed by unrelenting brutality, theft, and even knocking men’s teeth out for gold fillings, as the common Japanese soldier had also suffered in the Battle for Bataan and had nothing but disgust and hatred for his “captives” (Japan did not recognize these people as POWs).  The first atrocity—attributed to Colonel Masanobu Tsuji —occurred when approximately 350 to 400 Filipino officers and NCOs under his supervision were summarily executed near the Pantingan River after they had surrendered.  Tsuji—acting against General Homma’s wishes that the prisoners be transferred peacefully—had issued clandestine orders to Japanese officers to summarily execute all American “captives.”  Though some Japanese officers ignored the orders, others were receptive to the idea of murdering POWs.  During the march, prisoners received little food or water, and many died.  Prisoners were subjected to severe physical abuse, including being beaten and tortured.  On the march, the “sun treatment” was a common form of torture. Prisoners were forced to sit in sweltering direct sunlight, without helmets or other head covering. Anyone who asked for water was shot dead. Some men were told to strip naked or sit within sight of fresh, cool water.  Trucks drove over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue, and “cleanup crews” put to death those too weak to continue, though some trucks picked up some of those too fatigued to continue. Some marchers were randomly stabbed by bayonets or beaten.  The Death March was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.  Once the surviving prisoners arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to spread rapidly.

Taken during the March of Death from Bataan to the prison camp march at Cabanatuan. (Defense department USMC 114,540, National Archives).

The Japanese did not provide the prisoners with medical care, so U.S. medical personnel tended to the sick and wounded with few or no supplies.  Upon arrival at the San Fernando railhead, prisoners were stuffed into sweltering, brutally hot metal box cars for the one-hour trip to Capas, in 110 °F heat. At least 100 prisoners were pushed into each of the trains’ unventilated boxcars. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll on the prisoners. According to Staff Sergeant Alf Larson: The train consisted of six or seven World War I-era boxcars. … They packed us in the cars like sardines, so tight you couldn’t sit down. Then they shut the door. If you passed out, you couldn’t fall down. If someone had to go to the toilet, you went right there where you were. It was close to summer and the weather was hot and humid, hotter than Billy Blazes! We were on the train from early morning to late afternoon without getting out. People died in the railroad cars.  Upon arrival at the Capas train station, they were forced to walk the final 9 mi to Camp O’Donnell.  Even after arriving at Camp O’Donnell, the survivors of the march continued to die at rates of up to several hundred per day, which amounted to a death toll of as many as 20,000 Filipino and American deaths.  Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese had dug behind the barbed wire surrounding the compound.  Of the estimated 80,000 POWs at the march, only 54,000 made it to Camp O’Donnell.  Credible sources report widely differing prisoner of war casualties prior to reaching their destination: from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march. 

 

Some Other Events From April 9:

1859 Mark Twain receives steamboat pilot’s license

1881 Billy the Kid convicted of murder

1940 Germany invades Norway and Denmark

 

John Paul Jones Sets Sail

After having mentioned Captain John Barry in the most recent edition of FOD, it seems only appropriate to mention the other “Father of the American Navy, John Paul JonesOn June 4, 1777 Jones was assigned command of the newly constructed USS Ranger, the same day that the new Stars and Stripes flag was adopted.  Jones sailed for France on November 1, 1777, with orders to assist the American cause however possible.  (Now those are orders – Go forth, protect and defend American interests abroad – Report when you get back).  On February 6, 1778, France signed the Treaty of Alliance with America, formally recognizing the independence of the new American republic. Eight days later, Captain Jones’s Ranger became the first American naval vessel to be formally saluted by the French, with a nine-gun salute fired from captain Lamotte-Piquet‘s flagship. Jones wrote of the event: “I accepted his offer all the more for after all it was recognition of our independence and in the nation.”  April 10, 1778, Commander John Paul Jones and Ranger set sail from Brest, France, for the western coasts of Britain.  He engaged in a variety of raids and encounters along the Irish Sea.  He later, crossed the Solway Firth from Whitehaven to Scotland, hoping to hold for ransom the Earl of Selkirk, who lived on St Mary’s Isle near Kirkcudbright. The Earl, Jones reasoned, could be exchanged for American sailors impressed into the Royal Navy. The Earl was discovered to be absent from his estate, so his wife entertained the officers and conducted negotiations. Canadian historian Peter C. Newman gives credit to the governess for protecting the young heir and to the butler for filling a sack half with coal, and topping it up with the family silver, in order to fob off the Americans.  Jones claimed that he intended to return directly to his ship and continue seeking prizes elsewhere, but his crew wished to “pillage, burn, and plunder all they could.”  Ultimately, Jones allowed the crew to seize a silver plate set adorned with the family’s emblem to placate their desires, but nothing else. Jones bought the plate set himself when it was later sold off in France, and returned it to the Earl of Selkirk after the war.  Jones now led Ranger back across the Irish Sea, hoping to make another attempt at the Drake, still anchored off Carrickfergus. This time, late in the afternoon of April 24, 1778, the ships, roughly equal in firepower, engaged in combat. Earlier in the day, the Americans had captured the crew of a reconnaissance boat, and learned that Drake had taken on dozens of soldiers, with the intention of grappling and boarding Ranger, so Jones made sure that did not happen, capturing Drake after an hour-long gun battle which cost the British captain his life. Lieutenant Simpson was given command of Drake for the return journey to Brest. The ships separated during the return journey as Ranger chased another prize, leading to a conflict between Simpson and Jones. Regardless of any controversy surrounding the mission, Ranger’s capture of Drake was one of the Continental Navy’s few significant naval victories during the Revolution, and was of immense symbolic importance, demonstrating as it did that the Royal Navy was far from invincible. By overcoming such odds, Ranger’s victory became an important symbol of the American spirit and served as an inspiration for the permanent establishment of the United States Navy after the revolution.

 

 

USS Thresher‘s on 10 April

The USS Thresher (SS-200) was a Tambor-class submarine, and the first United States Navy ship to be named for the thresher shark.  She was commissioned on 27 August 1940.  She was employed on the first wartime sub patrols and completed 15 patrols during WW II.  Thresher departed 23 March 1942 for a patrol area near the Japanese home islands. There, she was to gather weather data off Honshū for use by Admiral William Halsey‘s task force (the carriers Enterprise (CV-6) and Hornet (CV-8), then approaching Japan. Embarked in Hornet were 16 United States Army Air Forces B-25 Mitchell medium bombers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, intended to attack Tokyo on 18 April.  On 10 April 1942, she spotted and attacked a Japanese ship. One torpedo broke the back of freighter Sado Maru (3,000 tons) off Yokohama, sending it to the bottom in less than three minutes. The subsequent depth charge attack was delivered by three or four patrol vessels (one of the most severe of the war), caused Thresher to lose depth control and she plunged to 400 feet before control was regained. She then disobeyed orders and remained to assist Halsey. She conducted periscope patrols in the advance screen of Halsey’s task force, searching for any enemy craft that could warn the Japanese homeland. She was detached from this duty on 16 April and, after evading two Japanese patrol planes, returned to Pearl Harbor on 29 April.  Thresher received 15 battle stars and a Navy Unit Commendation for World War II service, making her the most decorated submarine and amongst the most highly decorated US ships of World War II.  The second USS Thresher (SSN-593) was the lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the United States NavyAt the time she was built, she was the fastest, and quietest submarine in the world.  SSN 593 was considered the most advanced weapons system of its day, created specifically to seek out and destroy Soviet submarines. Its new sonar (both passive and active) was able to detect other submarines and ships at greater range, and it was intended to launch the U.S. Navy’s newest anti-submarine missile, the SUBROC.  On 10 April in 1963, during deep-dive tests some 220 miles east of Boston, she broke up and sank, killing her complement of 129 crew and shipyard personnel aboard.  The bathyscaphe Trieste, was used to originally discover the debris field as being six major sections in some 8400 feet of water.  Recovered artifacts, underwater photographs and many simulated dock-side test on Thresher‘s sister sub, Tinosa allowed the Court of Inquiry to conclude Thresher had probably suffered the failure of a salt-water piping system joint which relied heavily on silver brazing instead of welding; earlier tests using ultrasound equipment found potential problems with about 14% of the tested brazed joints, most of which were determined not to pose a risk significant enough to require a repair. High-pressure water spraying from a broken pipe joint may have shorted out one of the many electrical panels, causing a shutdown (“scram“) of the reactor, with a subsequent loss of propulsion. The inability to blow the ballast tanks was later attributed to excessive moisture in the sub’s high-pressure air flasks, moisture which froze and plugged the flasks’ flowpaths passing through the valves.  Unable to restart her reactor and with no propulsion she continued to sink further and rapidly until she imploded at a depth of 1,300–2,000 ft.   The U.S. Navy has periodically monitored the environmental conditions of the site since the sinking and has reported the results in an annual public report on environmental monitoring for U.S. Naval nuclear-powered craft. These reports provide specifics on the environmental sampling of sediment, water, and marine life which was done to ascertain whether Thresher‘s nuclear reactor has had a significant effect on the deep ocean environment. The reports also explain the methodology for conducting deep-sea monitoring from both surface vessels and submersibles. The monitoring data indicates there has been no significant effect on the environment. Nuclear fuel in the reactors remains intact.  According to newly declassified information, the Navy sent Commander (Dr.) Robert Ballard, the oceanographer credited with locating the wreck of RMS Titanic, on a secret mission to map and collect visual data on both the Thresher and Scorpion wrecks.  The Navy used Ballard’s search for Titanic as a screen to hide the mission. Ballard approached the Navy in 1982 for funding to find Titanic with his new deep-diving robot submersible. The Navy saw the opportunity and granted him the money on the condition he first inspect the two submarine wrecks. Ballard’s robotic survey discovered Thresher had sunk so deep that it imploded, turning into thousands of pieces. The only recoverable piece was a foot of marled pipe.  His 1985 search for Scorpion revealed such a large debris field that it looked “as though it had been put through a shredding machine.” Once the two wrecks had been visited, and the radioactive threat from both was established as small, Ballard was able to search for Titanic. Due to dwindling funds, he had just 12 days to do so, but he used the same debris-field search techniques he had used for the two subs, which worked, and Titanic was found.  As the lead vessel, the class name was originally the Thresher-class. However, when Thresher was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 16 April 1963, out of respect for naval tradition its name was retired and the class name was changed to that of the second boat, Permit: thus, despite being the lead boat, Thresher is, officially, referred to as a Permit-class submarine. Having been “lost at sea,” Thresher was not decommissioned by the U.S. Navy and remains on “Eternal Patrol.”  A recent update calls for a declassification of the Thresher files.  Retired Navy CAPT Jim Bryant, who served on board three Permit-class subs and commanded the USS Guardfish (SSN 612), recently authored a new analysis of the submarine disaster, highlighting discrepancies between the Naval Court of Inquiry’s (NCOI) findings and evidence available for its investigation at the time. He raises concerns about the court’s accuracy in recording the last understandable message sent by the sub, at about 9:12 a.m., pieced together from the testimony of several witnesses:

“Experiencing minor difficulties. Have positive up angle. Am attempting to blow. Will keep you informed.”

In his analysis, Bryant said, “Thresher’s difficulties were anything but minor by the time Skylark received that message.”  The USS Skylark (ASR 20) was the submarine rescue ship that accompanied the Thresher for its sea trials about 200 miles off the Massachusetts coast.  Bryant’s paper, excerpted and paraphrased below, faults the Navy for not being forthcoming enough regarding the historic disaster.  “The NCOI report cannot be accepted verbatim. It is not an acceptable reference for defining the sequence of events that occurred as the Thresher lost control and sank,” Bryant said in his analysis.  “The boat was below test depth of about 1,300 feet and its nuclear reactor had just shut down. The Thresher had negative buoyancy and there was no power to drive it back to the surface,” he continued.  The Thresher tried to blow its main ballast tanks with no effect. According to Bryant, it would take the crew at least another 20 minutes to restore main propulsion — time they did not have.  The Thresher kept sinking until its hull imploded at a depth of about 2,400 feet, releasing energy equivalent to the explosive force of about 22,000 pounds of TNT. The hull collapsed in 47 milliseconds, about one-twentieth of a second.  The Thresher’s crushed and shattered hull was later found just off the Continental Shelf, at a depth of more than 8,000 feet.  Bryant said the Thresher’s final descent and implosion was recorded on paper time-frequency plots in great detail by the Navy’s underwater Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS).  “All of the data recorded by SOSUS was available to the Naval Court of Inquiry,” he said. “But it wasn’t used effectively because the court didn’t trust it. If the NCOI had thoroughly understood the acoustic data, it could have ruled out major flooding as a cause of the disaster, since the resonances created by such an event were not detected.”  Bryant said the court did hear the testimony (in closed session) of a single acoustics expert: Navy LT Bruce Rule, analysis officer for the SOSUS Evaluation Center in Norfolk, Va. He went on to become the lead acoustic analyst for the Office of Naval Intelligence.  Rule analyzed the acoustic data from the Thresher during her final dive. Not only did he discount a major flooding incident, Bryant said, he indicated that the sub’s nuclear power plant shut down completely at a critical moment — from an electrical failure — when all the main coolant pumps stopped.  Rule said the NCOI softened its conclusion by stating that the Thresher’s main coolant pumps “slowed or stopped,” a phrase that would deflect blame from ADM Hyman G. Rickover, who created the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program and who had selected each officer involved in the Navy’s submarine force and therefore every officer on the NCOI.  And at this time, he had dictatorial power over every member of the court.  “In fact, I was aggressively confronted by a couple of Navy commanders who challenged my data,” Rule said. “I don’t recall their names, but I do remember their vicious — and unsuccessful — attempt to get me to change my testimony.”  Because the court of inquiry didn’t trust the SOSUS data, Bryant said, it relied heavily on the Skylark’s underwater telephone communications log and testimony from crew members in defining the tragic sequence of events.  The NCOI interviewed many witnesses about underwater communications with the Thresher during its final dive, he said. Yet the Navy has released only a small portion of that testimony since 1963.  “We have no way of comparing the original words from witnesses with the language of the NCOI’s final report on the Thresher’s loss,” Bryant wrote.  As far as Bryant is concerned, it is time for the Navy to release all remaining documents related to the Thresher disaster.  “The entire NCOI report, especially all of the testimony, should be made available to scholars and the public at large,” he wrote. “That report is sitting in a federal records center, waiting for more than a decade to be transferred to the National Archives.”  In other words, he argues the Navy should comply with the spirit of Executive Order 13526, issued in December 2009. It created the National Declassification Center to facilitate the timely and systematic release of classified material.  Bryant said that even a small gesture, such as releasing the unclassified Sea Trial Agenda, would demonstrate a concern for transparency and provide greater insight for historians.  “To date,” he said, “formal requests for Thresher’s Sea Trial Agenda have been repeatedly and systematically deferred by the Navy.”  For more information, see “Thresher Disaster: New Analysis” by Capt. Jim Bryant, USN (ret.), a research paper currently under review for publication by the Naval Engineers Journal. A 3,000-word article based on this paper is tentatively scheduled for publication in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings magazine.

 

Some Other Events From April 10:

1866 ASPCA is founded

1970 Paul McCartney announces the breakup of the Beatles

1933 FDR creates Civilian Conservation Corps

 

Apollo 13 Launches

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, launches from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.  It was to have been the seventh manned mission to land on the MoonThe mission was commanded by James A. Lovell with John L. “Jack” Swigert as Command Module Pilot and Fred W. Haise as Lunar Module Pilot. Swigert was a late replacement for the original CM pilot Ken Mattingly, who was grounded by the flight surgeon after exposure to German measles.  Approaching 56 hours into the mission, Apollo 13 was approximately 205,000 miles (330,000 km) from Earth en route to the Moon.  Houston flight controllers asked Swigert to turn on the hydrogen and oxygen tank stirring fans in the Service Module, which were designed to destratify the cryogenic contents and increase the accuracy of their quantity readings. Two minutes later, the astronauts heard a “loud bang,” accompanied by fluctuations in electrical power and the firing of the attitude control thrusters.  The crew initially thought that a meteoroid might have struck the Lunar Module (LM). Communications and telemetry to Earth were lost for 1.8 seconds, until the system automatically corrected by switching the high-gain S-band antenna used for translunar communications from narrow-beam to wide-beam mode.  Immediately after the bang Swigert reported a “problem,” which Lovell repeated and clarified as a “main B bus undervolt”, a temporary loss of operating voltage on the second of the spacecraft’s main electrical circuits. Oxygen tank 2 immediately read quantity zero. About three minutes later, the number 1 and number 3 fuel cells failed. Lovell reported seeing out the window that the craft was venting “a gas of some sort” into space. The number 1 oxygen tank quantity gradually reduced to zero over the next 130 minutes, entirely depleting the Service Module’s (SM) oxygen supply.  Because the fuel cells generated the Command/Service Module’s electrical power by combining hydrogen and oxygen into water, when oxygen tank 1 ran dry, the remaining fuel cell finally shut down, leaving the craft on the Command Module’s limited-duration battery power and water. The crew was forced to shut down the Command Module (CM) completely to save the battery power for re-entry, and to power up the LM to use as a “lifeboat.”   This situation had been suggested during an earlier training simulation, but had not been considered a likely scenario.  Without the LM, the accident would certainly have been fatal.   Mission planners in Houston selected the free-return trajectory using the lunar module’s Descent Propulsion System (DPS) engine.  A 30.7 second burn was initiated to establish the free-return trajectory and was used again two hours after pericynthion, the closest approach to the Moon (“PC+2 burn”), to speed the return to Earth by 10 hours and move the landing spot from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.  The availability of lithium hydroxide (LiOH) canisters for removing carbon dioxide presented a serious problem. The LM’s internal stock of LiOH canisters was not sufficient to support the crew until return, and the remainder was stored in the descent stage, out of reach. The CM had an adequate supply of canisters, but these were incompatible with the LM. Engineers on the ground improvised a way to join the cube-shaped CM canisters to the LM’s cylindrical canister-sockets by drawing air through them with a suit return hose. NASA engineers referred to the improvised device as “the mailbox”.  Another problem to be solved for a safe return was accomplishing a complete power-up from scratch of the completely shut-down Command Module, something never intended to be done in-flight. Flight controller John Aaron, with the support of grounded astronaut Mattingly and many engineers and designers, had to invent a new procedure to do this with the ship’s limited power supply and time factor.  This was further complicated by the fact that the reduced power levels in the LM caused internal temperatures to drop to as low as 4 °C (39 °F). The unpowered CM got so cold that water began to condense on solid surfaces, causing concern that this might short out electrical systems when it was reactivated. This turned out not to be a problem, partly because of the extensive electrical insulation improvements instituted after the Apollo 1 fire.  The last problem to be solved was how to separate the Lunar Module a safe distance away from the Command Module just before re-entry. The normal procedure was to use the Service Module’s reaction control system (RCS) to pull the CSM away after releasing the LM along with the Command Module’s docking ring, but this RCS was inoperative because of the power failure, and the useless SM would be released before the LM. To solve the problem, Grumman called on the engineering expertise of the University of Toronto. A team of six UT engineers, led by senior scientist Bernard Etkin, was formed to solve the problem within a day. The team concluded that pressurizing the tunnel connecting the Lunar Module to the Command Module just before separation would provide the force necessary to push the two modules a safe distance away from each other just prior to re-entry. The team had 6 hours to compute the pressure required, using slide rules. They needed an accurate calculation, as too high a pressure might damage the hatch and its seal, causing the astronauts to burn up; too low a pressure would not provide enough separation distance of the LM. Grumman relayed their calculation to NASA, and from there in turn to the astronauts, who used it successfully.  As Apollo 13 neared Earth, the crew first jettisoned the Service Module, using the LM’s reaction control system to pull themselves a safe distance from it, instead of the normal procedure which used automatic firing of the SM’s RCS. They photographed it for later analysis of the accident’s cause. It was then that the crew was surprised to see for the first time that the entire Sector 4 panel had been blown off. According to the analysts, these pictures also showed the antenna damage and possibly an upward tilt to the fuel cell shelf above the oxygen tank compartment.    The CM, Odyssey regained radio contact and splashed down safely in the South Pacific Ocean, 21°38′24″S 165°21′42″W, southeast of American Samoa and 6.5 km (3.5 nmi) from the recovery ship, USS Iwo Jima. The crew was in good condition except for Haise, who was suffering from a serious urinary tract infection because of insufficient water intake. The Apollo 13 mission was called “a successful failure” by Lovell, because of the successful safe return of the astronauts, but the failed lunar landing. Lead Flight Director Gene Kranz and Flight controller Sy Liebergot, the first one to see the telemetry of the initial oxygen tank failure, both describe it decades later as “NASA’s finest hour.  President Nixon awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the crew and the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team for their actions during the mission.  The original lunar plaque affixed to the front landing leg of Aquarius bore Mattingly’s name, so a replacement plaque with Swigert’s name was carried in the cabin, for Lovell to place over the other after he descended the ladder. He kept the plaque as a souvenir. In his book Lost Moon (later renamed Apollo 13), Lovell stated that, apart from the plaque and a couple of other pieces, the only other memento he possesses is a letter from Charles Lindbergh.   The Apollo 13 crew patch featured three flying horses as Apollo’s “chariot” across space. Given Lovell’s Navy background, the logo also included the mottoes “Ex Luna, scientia” (“From the Moon, knowledge”), borrowed from the U.S. Naval Academy‘s motto, “Ex scientia tridens” (“From knowledge, sea power”).   As a joke following Apollo 13’s successful splashdown, Grumman Aerospace Corporation pilot Sam Greenberg (who had helped with the strategy for re-routing power from the LM to the crippled CM) issued a tongue-in-cheek invoice for $400,540.05 to North American RockwellPratt and Whitney, and Beech Aircraft,  prime and subcontractors for the CSM, for “towing” the crippled ship most of the way to the Moon and back. The figure was based on an estimated 400,001 miles (643,739 km) at $1.00 per mile, plus $4.00 for the first mile. An extra $536.05 was included for battery charging, oxygen, and an “additional guest in room” (Swigert). A 20% “commercial discount,” as well as a further 2% discount if North American were to pay in cash, reduced the total to $312,421.24. As a young midshipman at USNA in 1970, we were all shuffled over to the Field House after evening meal one night in May, where Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Ken Mattingly gave the 4000 man brigade an in-depth debrief of their mission.  It was a great moment for me.  The story of the Apollo 13 mission has been dramatized multiple times, most notably in the 1995 film Apollo 13.

 

Events From April 11:

1814 Napoleon exiled to Elba

1961 Bob Dylan plays his first major gig in New York City

1945 The U.S. army liberates Buchenwald concentration camp