FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 15th through 19th 2017

Friends of FOD

Sorry, I got a bit long-winded here.  And a bit late.  A lot going on over the period of time.


OBIGS Issue Getting A Lot of Attention

Navy Times is reporting, Navy pilots have reported 461 physiological episodes in F/A-18 fighter jets and T-45 trainer aircraft since May of 2010 — an average of more than one every six days, Navy officials say. Yet the source of the problem remains unclear despite years of study and the recent completion of a 30-day review led by Adm. Scott Swift, Commander of the Pacific Fleet (photo below left – a attack pilot).  He took over from Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. in a ceremony on May 27, 2015.  On Thursday, Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, briefed reporters about additional safety measures coming as a result of the review that are designed to curb this bedeviling trend.  The Navy intends to immediately add a water separator in the T-45’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System, or OBOGS, a component common in high-performance jets but not found in the training aircraft. “Without a water separator in that system,”

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 20, 2017) A T-45C Goshawk training aircraft assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 1 approaches the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship is conducting aircraft carrier qualifications during the sustainment phase of the optimized fleet response plan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)

Moran said, “we believe that there’s a potential for water moisture to get in there and not provide effective, dry air.” A new mask configuration — there have been 300 new masks recently delivered to training centers — will continue to be implemented in the training aircraft as well. T-45 instructors are already using the redesigned masks, and the plan is to have flight-starved students begin using them soon.  “They’re out in the training command today,” Moran said. “Instructors are doing warm-up flights and using that mask before we put students in the airplane to make sure that they understanding procedures.” Recent efforts to address the problem have included installing redesigned OBOGS in 84 percent of in-service F/A-18s. The Navy fitted hyperbaric chambers aboard the carriers Bush, Vinson and Reagan for immediate treatment of aircrew. And some pilots have been provided watches that measure cabin altitude thresholds.



New Commanding Officer for USS Fitzgerald to be Named Soon

Seven American sailors are now accounted for after a Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, early Saturday local time, the Navy has said.  At approximately 0230 hrs local time on 17 June 2017, USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) was in a collision with your big old fat mama ACX Crystal, a container ship of 29,060 gross tons, roughly four times larger than Fitzgerald. The collision occurred about 50 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. The collision damaged the starboard side of the ship and caused flooding in a machinery space and two crew berthing spaces. Seven American sailors were missing after the collision and several others were injured. Those seven US sailors have now been found in one of the flooded berthing compartments.  Two sailors were evacuated by helicopter along with the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson.  He was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is reportedly in stable condition. A second MEDEVAC is in progress.  The executive officer assumed command as the destroyer returned to port with the assistance of tugs and the Japan Coast Guard.  Naval tradition requires the commanding officer to be relieved in such circumstances.  There is never, or hardly ever, a reason to accept a commanding officer of a war ship to have allowed his vessel to be involved in a collision at sea.  Proof the Law of Gross Tonnage Wins in a collision at sea.


4000 Additional Troops for Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief.  Military Times is reporting, the decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, the official said. It follows Trump’s move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels and seeks to address assertions by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan that he doesn’t have enough forces to help Afghanistan’s army against a resurgent Taliban insurgency.  The rising threat posed by Islamic State extremists, evidenced in a rash of deadly attacks in the capital city of Kabul, has only fueled calls for a stronger U.S. presence, as have several recent American combat deaths. The bulk of the additional troops will train and advise Afghan forces, according to the administration official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss details of the decision publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A smaller number would be assigned to counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and IS, the official said.  I really don’t understand why people in positions of authority believe it’s just OK to release information to the media.  But there ya go!


Senate Passes Additional Sanctions Against Russian and Iran

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would step up sanctions against Iran and Russia, in the process delivering a rebuke to President Trump’s policies toward Russia and Europe with a veto-proof majority.  Senators struck a deal this week to include the language stiffening measures against Russia’s intelligence, defense, energy, metals, mining and railway sectors in an underlying bill introducing new measures to punish Tehran for ballistic missile tests and the engagements of the country’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.  Critically, the Russia provisions also included provisions codifying all existing sanctions against Russia and giving Congress the power to block the president if he tries to scale back existing ones.  That includes preventing the president from giving the Kremlin control over two properties on U.S. soil that the government seized late last year, accusing Russia of using them for intelligence-gathering purposes, while expelling 35 Russian operatives from the country. The Washington Post has reported that the Trump administration was considering giving the compounds back to Russia.  Additionally, on Thursday, the Senate added one more tacit criticism of Trump’s foreign policy to the bill: an amendment reaffirming the commitment of the United States to NATO and its mutual defense obligations to other countries in the alliance. The measure, drafted by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), stands in sharp contrast to the recent posture of Trump, who attended a NATO summit last month as part of his first foreign trip and did not reaffirm the United States’ commitment to NATO’s mutual defense pact in his remarks.  The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 100 to zero.  The strong bipartisan vote for sanctions reflects lawmakers’ common frustration with aggressive activities by Iran and Russia. It also is unique because it is the first major piece of foreign policy legislation the Senate has considered this year to command so much support from both sides of the aisle.


Holy Whole Foods

Amazon has announced its buying Whole Foods Market for an estimated $13.7 Billion in Cash.  Amazon’s stock went up after the announcement nearly enough to cover the cost of their latest purchase.  Amazon has been exploring real-world brick and mortar retail stores lately, launching several physical bookstores and adding a customer pick-up option to its AmazonFresh grocery service, with varying results.  While Whole Foods has been the darling of natural and organic foodies, their bottom line has slipped over the last year.  Much of the loss of market share has been attributed to Amazon’s pricing discipline and their home delivery options combined with a loss of brand loyalty among Whole Food shoppers who see rising prices and the fact you actually have to off your butt and go to the store as detractors from the brand.  Likely we’ll see changes in the way we purchase foods and stock our refrigerators.  Friend of FOD Roger is worried he won’t be able to purchase expired beer on a recurring basis.  Be assured Roger the Coast Guard Base Seattle’s Liquor Store has not been purchased by Amazon – yet!




Invasion of Saipan Begins

The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands from 15 June to 9 July 1944. The Allied invasion fleet embarking the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on 5 June 1944, the day before Operation Overlord in Europe was launched. The U.S. 2nd Marine Division4th Marine Division, and the Army’s 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Infantry Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito. (photo below right) In the campaigns of 1943 and the first half of 1944, the Allies had captured the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Papuan Peninsula of New Guinea. This left the Japanese holding the Philippines, the Caroline IslandsPalau Islands and Mariana Islands.  It had always been the intention of the American planners to bypass the Carolines and Palauan islands and to seize the Marianas and Taiwan. From these latter bases, communications between the Japanese archipelago and Japanese forces to the south and west could be cut. From the Marianas, Japan would be well within the range of an air offensive relying on the new Boeing B-29 Superfortress long-range bomber with its operational radius of 1,500 mi (2,400 km).  While not part of the original American plan, Douglas MacArthur, commander of the Southwest Pacific Area command, obtained authorization to advance through New Guinea and Morotai toward the Philippines. This allowed MacArthur to keep his personal pledge to liberate the Philippines, made in his “I shall return” speech, and also allowed the active use of the large forces built up in the southwest Pacific theatre. The Japanese, expecting an attack somewhere on their perimeter, thought an attack on the Caroline Islands most likely.  The bombardment of Saipan began on 13 June 1944. Fifteen battleships were involved, and 165,000 shells were fired. Seven modern fast battleships delivered 2,400 16 in (410 mm) shells, but to avoid potential minefields, fire was from a distance of 10,000 yd (9,100 m) or more, and crews were inexperienced in shore bombardment. The following day the eight older battleships and 11 cruisers under Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf replaced the fast battleships but were lacking in time and ammunition.  The landings began at 07:00 on 15 June 1944. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00. Eleven fire support ships covered the Marine landings. The naval force consisted of the battleships Tennessee and California, the cruisers Birmingham and Indianapolis, the destroyers Norman ScottMonssenCoghlanHalsey PowellBaileyRobinson and Albert W. Grant. Careful artillery preparation — placing flags in the lagoon to indicate the range — allowed the Japanese to destroy about 20 amphibious tanks, and they strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall, the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 mi (10 km) wide and 0.5 mi (1 km) deep.  The Japanese counter-attacked at night but were repulsed with heavy losses. On 16 June, units of the U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division landed and advanced on the airfield at Ås Lito (now the location of Saipan International Airport). (photo above right of Navajo phone talkers who played a vital role in taking Saipan) Again the Japanese counter-attacked at night. On 18 June, Saito abandoned the airfield.  The invasion surprised the Japanese high command, which had been expecting an attack further south. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Navy, saw an opportunity to use the A-Go force to attack the U.S. Navy forces around Saipan. On 15 June, he gave the order to attack. But the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. The garrisons of the Marianas would have no hope of resupply or reinforcement.  Without resupply, the battle on Saipan was hopeless for the defenders, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man. Saito organized his troops into a line anchored on Mount Tapotchau in the defensible mountainous terrain of central Saipan. The nicknames given by the Americans to the features of the battle — “Hell’s Pocket”, “Purple Heart Ridge” and “Death Valley” — indicate the severity of the fighting. The Japanese used the many caves in the volcanic landscape to delay the attackers, by hiding during the day and making sorties at night. The Americans gradually developed tactics for clearing the caves by using flamethrower teams supported by artillery and machine guns.  By 7 July, the Japanese had nowhere to retreat. Saito made plans for a final suicidal banzai charge. On the fate of the remaining civilians on the island, Saito said, “There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops. It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than be captured.” At dawn, with a group of 12 men carrying a great red flag in the lead, the remaining able-bodied troops — about 3,000 men — charged forward in the final attack. Amazingly, behind them came the wounded, with bandaged heads, crutches, and barely armed. The Japanese surged over the American front lines, engaging both army and Marine units. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment were almost destroyed, losing 650 killed and wounded. However, the fierce resistance of these two battalions, as well as that of Headquarters Company, 105th Infantry, and of supply elements of 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Artillery Regiment, resulted in over 4,300 Japanese killed. For their actions during the 15-hour Japanese attack, three men of the 105th Infantry were awarded the Medal of Honor — all posthumously. Numerous others fought the Japanese until they were overwhelmed by the largest Japanese Banzai attack in the Pacific War.  By 16:15 on 9 July, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured.  Saito — along with commanders Hirakushi and Igeta — committed suicide in a cave. Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the naval commander who led the Japanese carriers at Pearl Harbor, also committed suicide in the closing stages of the battle. He had been in command of the Japanese naval air forces stationed on the island.  In the end, almost the entire garrison of troops on the island — at least 30,000 — died. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War: out of 71,000 who landed, 2,949 were killed and 10,464 wounded.  Future Hollywood actor Lee Marvin was among the many Americans wounded. He was serving with “I” Company, 24th Marine Regiment, when he was shot in the buttocks by Japanese machine gun fire during the assault on Mount Tapochau. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge with the rank of Private First Class in 1945.  When I flew for Northwest Airlines, I flew in and out of Ås Lito (now the location of Saipan International Airport) on at least five trips.  I was a 33 hour layover and I got to tour all parts of the island.  One sees close by the island of Tinian and you can fully realize US forces had to take Saipan; for without Saipan you could not build and sustain runways capable of supporting B-29’s capable of striking mainland Japan.  There is a small US memorial on Saipan, but no American cemetery.  There are many monuments and memorials to various Japanese military units and one at the cave where Saito committed suicide.  Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff, along with a number of surviving isolated Japanese fortifications, are recognized as historic sites on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The cliffs are also part of the National Historic Landmark District Landing Beaches; Aslito/Isley Field; & Marpi Point, Saipan Island, which also includes the American landing beaches, the B-29 runways of Isley Field, and the surviving Japanese infrastructure of the Aslito and Marpi Point airfields.



Battle of the Philippine Sea

The Battle of Saipan was seen by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as a surprise and unanticipated attack on their inner circle of defense ring.  From the very start of the conflict in December 1941, the Japanese war plan had been to discourage America by inflicting such severe and painful losses on its military that the public would become war weary and the American government would be convinced to sue for peace and allow Japan to keep her conquests in east and southeast Asia.  Though at a numerical disadvantage from the outset, and an industrial disadvantage that would add to that disparity over the course of time, the Japanese high command believed they could fight the U.S. Navy in a single, decisive engagement, known as the Kantai Kessen, which would allow them to defeat the Americans. However, their ability to fight and win such a battle was slipping away. Imperial Navy aircrew losses suffered over the course of the earlier carrier battles at Coral Sea and Midway, and the long Solomon Islands campaign of 1942-43, had greatly weakened the Japanese Navy’s ability to project force with its carriers.  While U.S. commanders, particularly Admiral Spruance, were concerned about the Japanese trying to attack U.S. transports and newly landed forces, the Japanese objective was actually to engage and defeat the Fast Carrier Task Force.  The Japanese commanders saw the Marianas island group in the central Pacific, including GuamTinian, and Saipan, as their inner circle of defense. Land-based fighter and bomber aircraft on these islands controlled the sea lanes to Japan and protected the home islands. As the Americans prepared for the Marianas campaign, the IJN concluded that the Kantai Kessen could be delayed no longer.  For this battle, the American force was designated the Fifth Fleet, under the command of Admiral Raymond Spruance. The Fast Carrier group was designated Task Force 58, commanded by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher. Spruance flew his flag aboard the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, which was sailing in the outer defensive ring of Task Group 58.3.  Mitscher’s flagship was USS Lexington, (photo right) also in Task Group 58.3.  TF 58 was made up of five task groups. Deployed in front of the carriers to act as an anti-aircraft screen was the battle group of Vice Admiral Willis Lee, Task Group 58.7 (TG-58.7): seven fast battleships (Washington (flagship), North CarolinaIndianaIowaNew JerseySouth Dakota, and Alabama), and eight heavy cruisers (BaltimoreBostonCanberraIndianapolisWichitaMinneapolisNew Orleans, and San Francisco). Just north of them was the weakest of the carrier groups, Rear Admiral William K. Harrill’s Task Group 58.4 of one fleet carrier (Essex) and two light carriers (Langley and Cowpens). To the east, in a line running north to south, were three groups, each containing two fleet carriers and two light carriers: Rear Admiral Joseph Clark’s Task Group 58.1 (HornetYorktownBelleau Wood and Bataan); Rear Admiral Alfred E. Montgomery‘s Task Group 58.2 (Bunker HillWaspCabot, and Monterey); and Rear Admiral John W. Reeves’s Task Group 58.3 (EnterpriseLexingtonSan Jacinto, and Princeton). These capital ships were supported by 13 light cruisers, 58 destroyers, and 28 submarines.  The Fifth Fleet also controlled the Saipan invasion force, Task Force 52, under Vice Admiral Kelly Turner. TF 52 included two Fire Support Groups with seven older battleships and eleven cruisers, and two Carrier Support Groups with seven escort carriers.  None of these ships participated in the carrier action; planes from the escort carriers engaged the Japanese land-based aircraft along with TF 58’s planes.  The Japanese fleet, commanded by Vice-Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, consisted of three large fast fleet carriers (TaihōShōkaku, and Zuikaku), (photo of Zuikaku under attack below right) two slower carriers converted from ocean liners (Junyō and Hiyō), four light carriers (RyūhōChitoseChiyoda, and Zuihō), five battleships (YamatoMusashiKongōHaruna, and Nagato), 13 heavy cruisers, 6 light cruisers, 27 destroyers, six oilers, and 24 submarines.  At 18:35 on 15 June, submarine USS Flying Fish sighted a Japanese carrier and battleship force coming out of San Bernardino Strait. An hour later USS Seahorse spotted a battleship and cruiser force steaming up from the south, 200 miles east of Mindanao. The submarines were under orders to report sightings first, before attempting to attack. Thus Flying Fish waited until nightfall, then surfaced to radio in its report.  Fifth Fleet commander Spruance was convinced that a major battle was at hand. After consulting with Admiral Chester Nimitz at Pacific Fleet Headquarters in Hawaii, he ordered Task Force 58, which had sent two carrier task groups north to intercept aircraft reinforcements from Japan, to reform and move west of Saipan into the Philippine Sea.  TF 52’s old battleships, cruisers, and escort carrier groups were ordered to remain near Saipan to protect the invasion fleet and provide air support for the landings.  Locating and destroying the Japanese fleet was not his primary objective, and Nimitz was unwilling to allow the main strike force of the Pacific Fleet to be drawn westward, away from the amphibious forces fighting desperately on Saipan.  As the morning broke, TF 58 launched search aircraft, combat air patrols (CAP), and anti-submarine patrols, and then turned the fleet west to gain maneuvering room from the islands.  The U.S. Navy had developed a sophisticated air control system, which vectored CAP fighters by radar to intercept enemy bombers well before they reached the fleet. Any attackers that got through the CAP would then face a “gun line” of screening battleships and cruisers, putting up devastating barrages of VT-fuzed anti-aircraft fire.  The Japanese had already launched their morning search patrols, using some of the 50 aircraft stationed on Guam, and at 05:50, one of these, a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, found TF-58. After radioing his sighting of U.S. ships, the Zero attacked a picket destroyer and was shot down.  Alerted, the Japanese began launching their aircraft on Guam for an attack. These were spotted on radar by U.S. ships. A group of thirty Grumman F6F Hellcats were dispatched from the Belleau Wood to deal with the threat. The Hellcats arrived while aircraft were still launching from Orote Field. Minutes later, additional radar contacts were seen, which were later discovered to be the additional forces being sent north from the other islands. A battle broke out in which 35 Japanese aircraft were shot down for the loss of a single Hellcat. It was a pattern that would be repeated throughout the day. At 09:57 large numbers of bogeys were picked up approaching the fleet. Mitscher said to Burke “Get those fighters back from Guam”. The call “Hey, Rube!” was sent out.  The fleet held steady until 10:23, when Mitscher ordered TF 58 to turn into the wind on course east-southeast, and ordered all fighter aircraft aloft, deployed in several layers of (CAP) to await the Japanese.  He then sent his bomber aircraft aloft to orbit open waters to the east, so they wouldn’t be in danger of a Japanese bomb going off in a hangar deck full of aircraft.  The recall had been ordered after several ships in TF 58 picked up radar contacts 150 miles (240 km) to the west around 10:00. This was the first of the raids from the Japanese carrier forces, with 68 aircraft. TF 58 started launching every fighter it could, and by the time they were in the air, the Japanese had closed to 70 miles (110 km). However, the Japanese began circling to regroup their formations for the attack. This 10-minute delay proved critical, and the first group of Hellcats met the raid, still at 70 miles (110 km), at 10:36. They were quickly joined by additional groups. Within minutes, 25 Japanese aircraft had been shot down, against the loss of only one U.S. aircraft.  The Japanese aircraft that survived were met by other fighters, and 16 more were shot down. Of the 27 aircraft which now remained, some made attacks on the picket destroyers USS Yarnall and USS Stockham but caused no damage. Between three and six bombers broke through to Lee’s battleship group and attacked; one scored a direct hit on the main deck of USS South Dakota, which killed or injured over 50 men, but failed to disable her. South Dakota was the only American ship damaged in this attack. Not one aircraft of Ozawa’s first wave got through to the American carriers.  At 11:07, radar detected another, larger attack. This second wave consisted of 107 aircraft. They were met while still 60 miles (97 km) out, and at least 70 of these aircraft were shot down before reaching the ships. Six attacked Rear Admiral Montgomery’s group, nearly hitting two of the carriers and causing casualties on each. Four of the six were shot down. A small group of torpedo aircraft attacked Enterprise, one torpedo exploding in the wake of the ship. Three other torpedo-aircraft attacked the light carrier Princeton but were shot down. In all, 97 of the 107 attacking aircraft were destroyed.  The third raid, consisting of 47 aircraft, came in from the north. It was intercepted by 40 fighters at 13:00, while 50 miles (80 km) out from the task force. Seven Japanese aircraft were shot down. A few broke through and made an ineffective attack on the Enterprise group. Many others did not press home their attacks. This raid therefore, suffered less than the others, and 40 of its aircraft managed to return to their carriers.  The fourth Japanese raid was launched between 11:00 and 11:30, but pilots had been given an incorrect position for the U.S. fleet and could not locate it. They then broke into two loose groups and turned for Guam and Rota to refuel.  One group flying toward Rota stumbled upon Montgomery’s task group. Eighteen aircraft joined battle with American fighters and lost half their number. A smaller group of nine Japanese dive bombers of this force evaded U.S. aircraft and attacked Wasp and Bunker Hill, but scored no hits. Eight were shot down. The larger group of Japanese aircraft had flown to Guam and were intercepted over Orote Field by 27 Hellcats while landing. Thirty of the 49 Japanese aircraft were shot down, and the rest were damaged beyond repair. Aboard the Lexington afterward, a pilot was heard to remark “Hell, this is like an old-time turkey shoot!  The air battle portion of the battle became known as the Marinas Turkey Shoot.  Including the continued aerial slaughter over Orote Field, Japanese losses exceeded 350 planes on the first day of battle. American losses were relatively light, with about thirty planes being lost. Damage to American ships was minimal, and even the damaged South Dakota was able to remain in formation to continue her anti-aircraft duties.  Most of the Japanese pilots who successfully evaded the U.S. fighter screens were the small number of seasoned veterans who had survived the six-month Japanese advance early in the Pacific war, the Battle of Midway, and the Guadalcanal campaign.  At 08:16 the submarine USS Albacore, (below right) which had sighted Ozawa’s own carrier group, had maneuvered into an ideal attack position; Lieutenant Commander James W. Blanchard selected the closest carrier as his target, which happened to be Taihō, (below left) the largest and newest carrier in the Japanese fleet and Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa’s flagship. As Albacore was about to fire, however, her fire-control computer failed, and the torpedoes had to be fired “by eye”. Determined to go ahead with the attack, Blanchard ordered all six torpedoes to be fired in a single spread to increase the chances of a hit.  Only the sixth torpedo struck the carrier on her starboard side, rupturing two aviation-fuel tanks. After coming under depth charge attacks from the carrier’s escorting destroyers, Albacore escaped with only minor damage.  Another submarine, USS Cavalla, was able to maneuver to an attack position on the 25,675-ton carrier Shōkaku (below right) by about noon. The submarine fired a spread of six torpedoes, three of which struck Shōkaku on her starboard side.  Badly damaged, the carrier came to a halt. One torpedo had hit the forward aviation fuel tanks near the main hangar, and aircraft that had just landed and were being refueled exploded into flames. Ammunition and exploding bombs added to the conflagration, as did burning fuel spewing from shattered fuel pipes. With her bow subsiding into the sea and fires out of control, the captain gave orders to abandon ship. Within minutes, there was a catastrophic explosion of aviation fuel vapor which had built up between decks, and which blew the ship apart. The carrier rolled over and slid beneath the waves about 140 miles north of the island of Yap, taking 887 crew plus 376 men of the 601st Naval Air Group, a total of 1,263 men in all, to the seabed. There were 570 survivors, including the carrier’s commanding officer, Captain Hiroshi Matsubara.  Destroyer Urakaze attacked the submarine, but Cavalla escaped with relatively minor damage despite near misses from depth charges,  Meanwhile, Taihō was falling victim to poor damage control. Hoping to clear the explosive fumes, an inexperienced damage-control officer ordered her ventilation system to operate at full blast. This action instead spread the vapors throughout Taihō, putting the entire vessel at risk. At approximately 14:30, a spark from an electric generator on the hangar deck ignited the accumulated fumes, triggering a series of catastrophic explosions. After the first explosions, it was clear that Taihō was doomed, and Ozawa and his staff transferred to the nearby Zuikaku.  Soon thereafter, Taihō suffered a second series of explosions and sank. From a crew of 2,150, 1,650 officers and men were lost.  The US counterattacked on the late afternoon of 20 June at the far range of Mitscher’s aircraft. The first launch would be at their limits of fuel, and would have to attempt landing at night. Mitscher canceled the second launch of aircraft, but chose not to recall the first launch.   The carriers ZuikakuJunyō, and Chiyoda were damaged by bombs. Returning American strike pilots generally assessed these carriers as more crippled than they actually were, mistaking for devastating direct hits what Japanese post-war records revealed to have actually been huge geysers caused by near misses.  The battleship Haruna was also hit by two bombs, including one directly on a main battery turret. Damage was contained and she was able to keep station, however, in some part thanks to her captain’s prompt decision to flood the turret’s magazine to avoid a chance of an explosion.  Twenty American aircraft in the strike were destroyed. These were lost both to Japanese fighters and to anti-aircraft fire that made up for a relative lack of accuracy with high volume of fire.  After the protracted strike, it became clear that most of the aircraft returning to their carriers were running dangerously low on fuel, and to worsen matters, night had fallen. At 20:45, the first returning U.S. aircraft reached TF 58. Knowing his aviators would have difficulty finding their carriers, Mitscher decided to illuminate his carriers, shining searchlights directly up into the night, despite the risk of attack from submarines and night-flying aircraft. Picket destroyers fired starshells to help the aircraft find the task groups.  Planes were given clearance to land on any available flight deck (not just their home carriers, as usual), and many did land on other carriers. Despite this, 80 of the returning aircraft were lost. Some crashed on flight decks, but the majority ditched into the sea. Some pilots intentionally went down in groups to facilitate rescue, and more ditched individually either in a controlled landing, with a few gallons of fuel left, or in a crash after their engines ran dry.  Most of the crews (approximately three-quarters) were fished from the seas, either that night from crash locations within the task forces, or over the next few days for those further out, as search planes and destroyers criss-crossed the ocean looking for them.   Losses on the U.S. side on the first day were only 23 aircraft. The second day’s airstrike against the Japanese fleet saw most of the aircraft losses for the U.S. Of the 226 aircraft launched on the strike, only 115 made it back. Twenty were lost to enemy action in the attack, while 80 more were lost when they ran out of fuel returning to their carriers and had to ditch into the sea, or crashed attempting to land at night.  Spruance’s conservative battle plan, while not destroying all of the Japanese aircraft carriers, severely weakened the Japanese naval aviation forces by killing most of the remaining trained pilots and destroying their last operational reserves of naval aircraft. Without the time or resources to build sufficient aircraft and train new pilots, the surviving Japanese carriers were useless as weapons, a fact the Japanese acknowledged by using them as sacrificial decoys at Leyte Gulf. With the effective crippling of her best striking arm, Japan chose to rely increasingly on land-based kamikaze suicide aircraft in a last-ditch effort to make the war so costly that the U.S. would offer peace terms (other than unconditional surrender).




Bob Dylan Lays Down “Like A Rolling Stone”

By the spring of 1965, Bob Dylan’s presence in the world of music was beginning to be felt well outside the boundaries of his nominal genre.  On June 16, 1965, on their second day of recording at Columbia Records’ Studio A in Manhattan, he and a band featuring electric guitars and an organ laid down the master take of the song that would announce that change: “Like A Rolling Stone.” It would prove to be “folksinger” Bob Dylan’s magnum opus and, arguably, the greatest rock and roll record of all time.  And in fact according to Rolling Stone, “It was exactly 50 years ago today that Bob Dylan walked into Studio A at Columbia Records in New York and recorded “Like a Rolling Stone,” which we [Rolling Stone] have called the single greatest song of all time. The track was on store shelves just a month later, where it shot to Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 (held back only by the Beatles’ “Help!”) and influenced an entire new generation of rock stars. “That snare shot sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind,” Bruce Springsteen said when he inducted Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. “When I was 15 and I heard ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ I heard a guy who had the guts to take on the whole world and who made me feel like I had to too.”  It was the fourth of 11 takes that day that yielded the six-minute-and-34-second recording that very nearly didn’t become a revolutionary hit single. Returning to the CBS studios to hear “Like A Rolling Stone” several days after the recording session, Dylan and manager Albert Grossman were thrilled by what they heard, but the sales and marketing staff of Columbia Records—the gatekeepers who decided what songs would and wouldn’t be released as singles—did not agree. At 6:34, “Like A Rolling Stone” was nearly twice as long as the average single, and its raw rock sound was way outside the comfort zone of a label best known for artists like Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis. As Shaun Considine, the coordinator of new releases for Columbia Records at the time, recounted 40 year later in a New York Times Op-ed, Dylan’s magnum opus was rejected as a single and resurrected only after Considine slipped a studio acetate to a DJ at a prominent Manhattan nightclub in mid-July. Two well-known radio DJs in the audience heard “Like A Rolling Stone” and the overwhelming crowd reaction to it that night and called Columbia the next day, demanding their copies of “the new Bob Dylan single.” Sales and marketing got its last dig in by chopping “Like A Rolling Stone” in half and putting it on separate sides of 45, but a re-spliced full version was what radio stations played and what climbed very nearly to the top of the Billboard pop charts.


Congress Declares War on Great Brittan in 1812

The American merchant marine had come close to doubling between 1802 and 1810, making it by far the largest neutral fleet. Britain was our largest trading partner, receiving 80% of U.S. cotton and 50% of other U.S. exports. The British public and press were resentful of the growing mercantile and commercial competition, seeing this as a challenge to British maritime supremacy.  In 1807, Britain introduced a series of trade restrictions via a series of Orders in Council to impede neutral trade with  Napoleonic France, with which Britain was at war. The United States contested these restrictions as illegal under international law.  The United States’ view was that Britain’s restrictions violated its right to trade with others. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy expanded to 176 ships of the line and 600 ships overall, requiring 140,000 sailors to man.  While the Royal Navy could man its ships with volunteers in peacetime, it competed in wartime with merchant shipping and privateers for a small pool of experienced sailors and turned to impressment from ashore and foreign or domestic shipping when it could not operate its ships with volunteers alone.  The United States believed that British deserters had a right to become U.S. citizens. Britain did not recognize a right whereby a British subject could relinquish his status as a British subject, emigrate and transfer his national allegiance as a naturalized citizen to any other country. This meant that in addition to recovering naval deserters, it considered any United States citizens who were born British liable for impressment. Aggravating the situation was the reluctance of the United States to issue formal naturalization papers and the widespread use of unofficial or forged identity or protection papers by sailors.  This made it difficult for the Royal Navy to distinguish Americans from non-Americans and led it to impress some Americans who had never been British. (Some gained freedom on appeal).  Thus while the United States recognized British-born sailors on American ships as Americans, Britain did not. It was estimated by the Admiralty that there were 11,000 naturalized sailors on United States ships in 1805. U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin stated that 9,000 U.S. sailors were born in Britain.  Moreover, a great number of these British born sailors were Irish. For instance an investigation by Captain Isaac Chauncey in 1808 found that 58% of sailors based in New York City were either naturalized citizens or recent immigrants, the majority of these foreign born sailors (134 of 150) being from Britain. Moreover, 80 of the 134 British sailors were Irish.  American anger at impressment grew when British frigates were stationed just outside U.S. harbors in view of U.S. shores and searched ships for contraband and impressed men while within U.S. territorial waters.  Well publicized impressment actions such as the Leander Affair and the ChesapeakeLeopard Affair outraged the American public.  The British public in turn were outraged by the Little Belt Affair, in which a larger American ship clashed with a small British sloop, resulting in the deaths of 11 British sailors. Both sides claimed the other fired first, but the British public in particular blamed the U.S. for attacking a smaller vessel, with calls for revenge by some newspapers, while the U.S. was encouraged by the fact they had won a victory over the Royal Navy.  The U.S. Navy also forcibly recruited British sailors but the British government saw impressment as commonly accepted practice and preferred to rescue British sailors from American impressment on a case-by-case basis.  The Northwest Territory, which consisted of the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, was the battleground for conflict between the Native American Nations and the United States.  The British Empire had ceded the area to the United States in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, both sides ignoring the fact that the land was already inhabited by various Native American nations. These included the MiamiWinnebagoShawneeFoxSaukKickapooDelaware and Wyandot. Some warriors, who had left their nations of origin, followed Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet and the brother of Tecumseh. Tenskwatawa had a vision of purifying his society by expelling the “children of the Evil Spirit”: the American settlers.  The British had the long-standing goal of creating a large “neutral” Native American state that would cover much of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. The United States Navy (USN) had 7,250 sailors and Marines in 1812.  The American Navy was well trained and a professional force that fought well against the Barbary pirates and France in the Quasi-War.  The USN had 13 ocean-going warships, three of them “super-frigates” and its principal problem was a lack of funding as many in Congress did not see the need for a strong navy.  The American warships were all well-built ships (New England had many old growth forests from which to draw the best lumber for strong ships) that were equal, if not superior to British ships of a similar class (British shipbuilding emphasized quantity over quality). However, the biggest ships in the USN were frigates and the Americans had no ships-of-the-line capable of engaging in a fleet action with the Royal Navy at sea. On the high seas, the Americans could only pursue a strategy of guerre de course of taking British merchantmen via their frigates and privateers.  Before the war, the USN was largely concentrated on the Atlantic coast and at the war’s outbreak had only two gunboats on Lake Champlain, one brig on Lake Ontario and another brig in Lake Erie.  On June 1, 1812, President James Madison sent a message to Congress recounting American grievances against Great Britain, though not specifically calling for a declaration of war. After Madison’s message, the House of Representatives deliberated for four days behind closed doors before voting 79 to 49 (61%) in favor of the first declaration of war. The Senate concurred in the declaration by a 19 to 13 (59%) vote in favour. The conflict began formally on June 18, 1812, when Madison signed the measure into law and proclaimed it the next day.  This was the first time that the United States had declared war on another nation, and the Congressional vote would prove to be the closest vote to formally declare war in American history. (The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 1991, while not a formal declaration of war, was a closer vote.) None of the 39 Federalists in Congress voted in favor of the war; critics of war subsequently referred to it as “Mr. Madison’s War.”  Although the outbreak of the war had been preceded by years of angry diplomatic dispute, neither side was ready for war when it came. Britain was heavily engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, most of the British Army was deployed in the Peninsular War (in Portugal and Spain), and the Royal Navy was compelled to blockade most of the coast of Europe.  The number of British regular troops present in Canada in July 1812 was officially stated to be 6,034, supported by Canadian militia.  Throughout the war, the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies was the Earl of Bathurst. For the first two years of the war, he could spare few troops to reinforce North America and urged the commander-in-chief in North America (Lieutenant General Sir George Prévost) to maintain a defensive strategy. The naturally cautious Prévost followed these instructions, concentrating on defending Lower Canada at the expense of Upper Canada (which was more vulnerable to American attacks) and allowing few offensive actions.  The United States was not prepared to prosecute a war, for Madison had assumed that the state militias would easily seize Canada and that negotiations would follow. In 1812, the regular army consisted of fewer than 12,000 men. Congress authorized the expansion of the army to 35,000 men, but the service was voluntary and unpopular; it offered poor pay, and there were few trained and experienced officers, at least initially.  The militia objected to serving outside their home states, were not open to discipline, and performed poorly against British forces when outside their home states.  American prosecution of the war suffered from its unpopularity, especially in New England, where anti-war speakers were vocal. “Two of the Massachusetts members [of Congress], Seaver and Widgery, were publicly insulted and hissed on Change in Boston; while another, Charles Turner, member for the Plymouth district, and Chief-Justice of the Court of Sessions for that county, was seized by a crowd on the evening of August 3, [1812] and kicked through the town.”  The United States had great difficulty financing its war. It had disbanded its national bank, and private bankers in the Northeast were opposed to the war. The United States was able to obtain financing from London-based Barings Bank to cover overseas bond obligations.  I’m not quite sure how the British government allowed one of their own banks to lend money to the United States in order to fight a war against the bank’s own country, but that is the historical account.  Once Britain and The Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, France and Britain became close allies. Britain ended the trade restrictions and the impressment of American sailors, thus removing two more causes of the war. After two years of warfare, the major causes of the war had disappeared. Neither side had a reason to continue or a chance of gaining a decisive success that would compel their opponents to cede territory or advantageous peace terms.  As a result of this stalemate, the two countries signed the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. News of the peace treaty took two months to reach North America, during which fighting continued. The war fostered a spirit of national unity and an “Era of Good Feelings” in the United States, as well as in Canada.  It opened a long era of peaceful relations between the United States and the British.


Napoleon Defeated at Waterloo

Referring to the War of 1812 above, many British scholars refer to the war against the United States as only part of the much larger Napoleonic wars going on in Europe at the time.  As you’ll recall from your junior high school history class, Napoleon (left) was defeated in 1814 by The Sixth Coalition referenced above.  But he escaped exile and returned to France.  The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. A French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition: an Anglo-led Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington, and a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Prince of Wahlstatt.  Upon Napoleon’s return to power in March 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition, and began to mobilize armies. Wellington and Blücher’s armies were cantoned close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack them in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. Napoleon successfully attacked the bulk of the Prussian army at the Battle of Ligny with his main force, while at the same time a portion of the French army attacked an Allied army at the Battle of Quatre Bras. Despite holding his ground at Quatre Bras, the defeat of the Prussians forced Wellington to withdraw to Waterloo. Napoleon sent a third of his forces to pursue the Prussians, who had withdrawn parallel to Wellington. This resulted in the separate and simultaneous Battle of Wavre with the Prussian rear-guard.  Upon learning that the Prussian army was able to support him, Wellington decided to offer battle on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, across the Brussels road. Here he withstood repeated attacks by the French throughout the afternoon, aided by the progressively arriving Prussians. In the evening Napoleon committed his last reserves to a desperate final attack, which was narrowly beaten back. With the Prussians breaking through on the French right flank, Wellington’s Anglo-allied army counter-attacked in the centre, and the French army was routed.  Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon’s last. According to Wellington,

(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

the battle was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life.”  Napoleon abdicated four days later, and on 7 July coalition forces entered Paris. The defeat at Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule as Emperor of the French, and marked the end of his Hundred Days return from exile. This ended the First French Empire, and set a chronological milestone between serial European wars and decades of relative peace. The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne,  about 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) south of Brussels, and about 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield today is dominated by a large monument, the Lion’s Mound.    (photo right) As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved.  It’s worthwhile to visit the site, but only after having read of the accounts of the day’s battle.  Carl von Clausewitz‘s study of the Campaign of 1815 is considered by many to be the best study and it’s a worthwhile read.  There was not a museum there when I visited the site, but perhaps there is now.  The butcher’s bill: Waterloo cost Wellington around 15,000 dead or wounded and Blücher some 7,000 (810 of which were suffered by just one unit: the 18th Regiment, which served in Bülow’s 15th Brigade, had fought at both Frichermont and Plancenoit, and won 33 Iron Crosses).  Napoleon’s losses were 24,000 to 26,000 killed or wounded and included 6,000 to 7,000 captured with an additional 15,000 deserting subsequent to the battle and over the following days.  Napoleon announced his second abdication on 24 June 1815. In the final skirmish of the Napoleonic Wars, Marshal Davout, Napoleon’s minister of war, was defeated by Blücher at Issy on 3 July 1815.  Allegedly, Napoleon tried to escape to North America, but the Royal Navy was blockading French ports to forestall such a move. He finally surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of HMS Bellerophon on 15 July. There was a campaign against French fortresses that still held out; Longwy capitulated on 13 September 1815, the last to do so. The Treaty of Paris was signed on 20 November 1815. Louis XVIII was restored to the throne of France and Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.


Watergate Burglars Arrested

Watergate was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the 1970s, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, and President Richard Nixon’s administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement. When the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by the U.S. Congress, the Nixon administration’s resistance to its probes led to a constitutional crisis.  The term Watergate, by metonymy, has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included such “dirty tricks” as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious. Nixon and his close aides also ordered investigations of activist groups and political figures, using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The scandal led to the discovery of multiple abuses of power by members of the Nixon administration, an impeachment process against the president that led to articles of impeachment, and the resignation of Nixon. The scandal also resulted in the indictment of 69 people, with trials or pleas resulting in 48 being found guilty, many of whom were Nixon’s top administration officials.  The affair began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex on Saturday, June 17, 1972. The FBI investigated and discovered a connection between cash found on the burglars and a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP), the official organization of Nixon’s campaign.  In July 1973, evidence mounted against the President’s staff, including testimony provided by former staff members in an investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee. The investigation revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations.  After a series of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the president was obliged to release the tapes to government investigators. The tapes revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and to use federal officials to deflect the investigation.

Facing virtually certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and equally certain conviction by the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, preventing the House from impeaching him.  On September 8, 1974, his successor, Gerald Fordpardoned him.  The name “Watergate” and the suffix “-gate” have since become synonymous with political and non-political scandals in the United States, and some other parts of the world.

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