27 March 2006

My father's last combat cruise

Looking at the dates for today, I realized that this past weekend was the last cruise that my father did that lead to dropping of live ordnance on some bad guys. I didn't think about this completely until I started to read Chaotic Synaptic Activity's memories of being there as a screen commander. Most of what I am repeating here is coming from talking to my father and his memories. We were going to try and compare with his cruise book but since his office is being repainted and in a box some place, the dates and places are just a little hazy.
Now to start with my father had by this time served in the Navy for well over 18yrs himself with inside the A-6 community. Starting out as an E-1 with VA-128 back in 1967/68, did 3 Vietnam combat cruises with VA-165, and by the time that these events had transpired become an AQC and then was accepted into the Warrant Officer program. He was one of the first 4 officers to check into the squadron he was serving with as initially the assistant maintenance officer he was also given a temporary promotion from W-3 to LTJG. He was assigned to VA-55 and was there in the ready room when the orders came through to knock the Libyans teeth back.

Let us take a quick step in the time machine and roll back about 20yrs to 1986 and over to the wonderful Mediterranean Sea. So it has come to past that the Libyan leader Qaddafi is still trying to challenge the US and most of the rest of the world. As part of the 6th Fleet representation on hand most of the winter of 85 through to the spring of 1986 was the USS America (CV-66) with CVW-1 and the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) with the brand new air wing CVW-13. It was also the first deployment in the Atlantic and the Med of the F-18A. Anyhow, just after Christmas was the Rome airport terrorist attack, which had followed earlier in 1985 with the hijacking of TWA flight 847 and the seizure of the SS Achille Lauro. On top of that Libya had been claiming for about 2yrs the area from the Tunis Peninsula over to where Benghazi as his own private waters and there was a "Line of Death" where anyone that crossed this line would be subject to attack, unless they pay tribute. Now anyone who has happened across my blog should know that this isn't the first time that a tribute claim has come from Tripoli. Okay so Reagan, order the JCS to do something about this. So the Department of State filled a complaint about the "Line of Death" thing with the UN, along with how the US was only going to recognize the 12nm limit as mandated by the UN Law of the Sea thing. The DoD came out and stated that it was going to conduct what is called a Freedom of Navigation (or FON) exercise. Now a FON is done anytime the US feels that a nation is over extending its rights to claim portions of international waters as it own. The US does them almost yearly and most of them don't every get noticed unless of course the nation that the US is protesting by this event tries to come out and play. That is what happened with the third FON that was called Operation Attain Document by his air wing commander. So after leaving port in Sicily they started to operate in conjunction with the USS America where 6th Fleet was flying his flag at the time and they were rejoined by the USS Sara toga who was on her way home from her deployment and was actually about to out chop when this went down and the whole force was renamed Task Force 60. So you have largest US carrier group arranged in anyone place since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. 3 Carrier Battle Groups and their attached air wings along with 2 of the Amphibious Readiness Groups were sticking close to the area ready to run in if needed. Well over 200 aircraft just on the carriers alone. 4 F-14 squadrons at 20 aircraft per squadron, 3 A-6 squadrons with 15 aircraft, 4 A-7E squadrons with about 20 aircraft, and the 4 F-18A squadrons on the Coral Sea which came in around 35-40 aircraft. That is a hell of a punch just air wing size and on top of that according to some other things that he read recently . There was P-3's out of Sig and VQ-2 out of Rota flying EP-3A's that were preforming the surface search and ELINT missions. So that you have an idea of what is all set up against the bad guys what my father remembers is this.

Just prior to the start of this exercise the VQ-2 det that the Coral Sea had had been trolling pretty hard along the coast listening in with their EA-3B birds and were being chased at various times by the Libya MiG's and French built Mirages. Most of the time they were able to out run the bad guys and get with in range of F-14's off the USS America. So a smaller surface action group steams deep into the Gulf of Sirte all the while the CVBG's were conducting flight ops in and around the disputed region. On top of that 3 birds from VAQ-135 flew on almost immediately after the Carrier got under way from Palermo while the crew came on the last day of the port visit. All of these guys where from Whidbey, which was the home of the Prowler community and even more interesting was the fact that a lot of these guys were seasoned aircrew who were all from different commands with in the community. My fathers squadron accepted them with open arms. Sharing working space, living space, and ready room. CVW-13 didn't have a EA-6B outfit assigned to it initially. He remembers looking in the the cockpit of that bird during take off and looking at 4 different colored helmets, but they were all pros and all of them had see some sort of combat. They had their birds configured 3 different ways.
2 were for the Surface CAP mission (SUCAP) that was with 2 AGM-84D Harpoons and 8 Mk-20 Rockeyes and the other was with 12 Rockeyes only. The other config they had was 12 Mk83 bombs with the Snake-eye retardant fins attached for ground operations. The Rockeye is a cluster bomb that has been around since Vietnam and was pretty effective against the missile boats that the Libyans had. On top of that the aircrew was getting training in again on how to load, acquire, and launch the AGM-78 Standard ARM and AGM-45 Shrike missiles since if they needed to go after suspected radar sites near the coast these would of been the missiles they would use. At this time the AGM-88 HARM hadn't been cleared for use with their A-6E squadron yet and the only guys that could carry it was the A-7E's on the bigger carriers. The F-18 guys were also carrying Shrike and were also flying the air defense mission and final also configed for the SUCAP mission but they couldn't carry as much vs the A-6. So for about 2 days they had been flying with live ordnance on board and basically trolling for the "Dirty Harry" moment as he remember his roommate stated one night. Most of the aircraft had been painted a number of times by various radar systems that the Libyans had and the only one that air wing was really sweating was the SA-5 missile system, it along with some of the other air defense systems that they Libyans had were sold to them by the Soviets. Since it had a very long range some where around 255nm. It wasn't that hard of a missile to avoid but you had to see it coming. After a pair of F-14's flying CAP for the Surface Group that went south were painted and shot at on the 24th, a pair of A-7's from the USS America's went and put a pair of HARM's done the Libyan's throat. It was the first combat use of the HARM, a great missile that had longer range and better electronics then either the STARM or Shrike, it worked like a champ too. Even when the Libyans shutdown the radar system the missile was still smart enough to remember where the heck it was and shut it down. The Libyans and their Soviet Advisors tried 2 more times to bring out more radars and each time the HARM preformed like a champ.
2 days later the Libyan's tried to sortied their Navy which was composed of various Soviet built frigates like the Koni class FF's , Their Assad class which are almost carbon copies of Italian missile patrol boats, and some French built La Combattante missile boats. These ships really couldn't be considered a threat, but like anything else a lucky shot can ruin your day. So it was on the morning of the 3 or 4 day of operations the word came across the 1MC to launch the Alert 5 SUCAP (which had a pair of Harpoons and some Rockeyes on her). My father was up on the flight deck checking up on the various squadron troubleshooters, the guys who do the final check of the bird on the cats before it launches, and overall checking up on the maintainers looking out on them. He remembers 95% of them were hard charging guys who cared about their jobs and showed pride in doing what they were doing. So the Alert 5 crew closed the canopy, spun up the engines and were taxied out to the cats to be launched. Just as that was going down the call for a Yo-Yo tanker was put out across the 1MC at the same time. A Yo-Yo tanker is a tanker that is going up for the launch cycle and then coming right back down and not staying out as per a normal tanker package, hence the term Yo-Yo. VA-55 filled the tanker role (as well as the medium attack) on the Coral Sea and had a couple birds dedicated to carrying a buddy store on the center line with 4 drops on the wings. So that crew came wadding up out of the bowels of the ship and did the abbreviated pre-flight, since they had already done one when they assumed the alert watch. Got spun up and taxied out to their cat.
Now you need to understand that nearly everyone on the flight deck knows what is going on and where, it may look like complete and total chaos, but there is a rhyme and rhythm as to what is going on and it is amazing how fast an aircraft can go from sitting there all by itself with just some maintainers resting on it during the launch/recovery cycle to being preflighted and ready to go airborne.
So it was that in under 5 minutes both birds were taxied up and the rest of the Alert 5 guys were looking with envy at these guys going wondering when their chance to go in was going to come, sort of like sitting on the bench at a football game and the coach picks the other guy or squad to go in.
My dad hustle off the deck and went down to the ready room to listen in to what was going on through their radio repeater which was tuned to squadron tactical. It had seemed that one of the patrol boats that the Libyans had got a little too close for comfort, for CTF60, to a pair of destroyers watching the harbor of Tripoli and to see if the Libyans would sortie their one and only submarine so he ordered it removed. The airborne SUCAP from VA-85 got tasked first and put a Harpoon into the target. Which was later ID'd as a Nanuchka II class missile corvette. About that same time, 3 more Libyan missile boats came out to play a pair of La Combattents, which had the Exocet missile as part of their main battery, and an Assad which had the Italian built Otomat missile. The other two A-6 outfits (VA-34 and VA-55)had a chance to zap the other two guys and the only one that they both could find was the La Combattent which VA-34 tried to drop on and the aircrew had a release problem, so VA-55 bird came in and dropped a pair of Rockeyes on it. Which opened up over the sucker and looking at it later in debrief in the ready room via a TRAM FLIR video the whole screen turned a bright white and then the ship was shown on fire from one end to the other. Then later that night VA-34 and VA-55 birds were still hunting the Assad class missile boat and chased them around, fired a couple more Harpoons on them around midnight and though they have radar video of the missile hitting the target, they couldn't find it later on to confirm the kill. It was believed later on by the intel guys that both 34 and 55 fired missiles and both of them hit the boat and well over 4000lb of high explosives detonating on a fiberglass and aluminum hull just completely destroyed it.
It was really something, my dad explained, for the younger guys to see "their" bird go out with a full load and then come home with just the copper arming wires hanging from the racks. He said later there were friendly fights in the AO (the guys that load and build the bombs for the USN) and AQ (an older rating now gone that took care of the fire control systems) shops over who loaded and who fixed the radar systems on those birds so that could as one AOC said at the next port visit in Naples "Put warheads on foreheads". The rest of the FON ended without anymore shooting and near the end the talk was of going back to either Naples or Palermo for a port visit. When they arrived in Italy, the Italians thought the Americans were hero's for standing up to the Libyans and doing something instead of sitting on their hands. Of course he also remembers the Italian Communists were raising Cain and using the typical communist propaganda manual during that time. But it was the common man on the street that went up and thanked those guys that seem to give them even more pride in what they had done in showing Qaddafi was a paper tiger. That was just the start though of combat against Libya, because some of what was coming up came from what the VQ-2 guys were hearing from thier listening.

24 March 2006

The 1 Billion dollar ship or how the 5-sided wind tunnel is sinking the Navy

Every so often I read the Navy Times. This week's edition talks about the arrival of the latest ship to the US Fleet. The USS San Antonio, LPD-17. It is the first in a series of ships to upgrade the amphibious portion of the fleet. This is a ship built from the keel up to be innovatative for a large hull ship. Things such as computer controlled cameras looking in the engine room with computer controls to open and close valves, improved racks to increase crew comfort, and gender neutral berthing/head issues. This is all fine and dandy. A number of items that were covered by the 4 page article are interesting and look like they are going to be a serious boon to crew comfort and moral. However, the only question that I want to ask is this, At what cost? The ship when ordered back in Fiscal Year budget 1996 (passed in calendar year 1995) the first unit was slated to cost about USD$ 641 million. Now I do understand that the first unit of any class of ship, plane, tank, rifle will cost more since at times basically you are building something from scratch and the people in charge of the ship building and supervision process will make hopefully, as a friend of mine who is a yard worker says, minor changes to the interior layout.
Yet this ship is going to have cost the American taxpayer (and that includes me and every other member of the American military) about a billion dollars more then that. Total cost at delivery for this ship was 1.326 Billion dollars. Yes, good reader billion with a "B". At costs like that for just 1 (single, uno, one,ein, un) ship when Congress is talking about scaling back budgets who much will the expected run of ships around 8 cost us? Figure about 10 billion dollars if the costs stay up where it was for just this ship. Now the Department of the Navy is guessing that the costs should scale down for next few years to around 846 million dollars. If you take a look at the Navy's FY07 budget (a pdf) and flip down to table A-12. You can see that for this year past and for next year the Navy has only budgeted total 10.5 to 10.6 billion dollars to buy ships with and that is expected to continue to be the trend for the next few years. So if they plan on commissioning the next 7 over the next 4-5 years, either the US Navy is going to have to scale back buying other ships, weapons, and training dollars to pay just for one ship. If that isn't an option and to be honest it really isn't, then it will have to go to Congress and ask for more cash. Will that happen and will Congress be willing to give it the money? I seriously doubt it, if congress swings back the other way in next election . So what is the Navy's options? Well to start with the ships that this one is going to replaced have been serving the US Navy for 40+ years and were rode hard and put to bed wet. So they need to be replaced and soon. How? Well that is the tough part. Considering the fact that their isn't any major shipyards in the US anymore. So to distribute this around to other yards in the States to alleviate costs won't work. To cut back the buy is an option however, that will just increase final costs for the rest of the ships that are going to be bought. So the only thing that I can really think about right now for these ships is removing a large number of the high tech gear, leave room to install it, and then as costs come down install it in stages during the first yard period. Besides I know for a fact that anything high tech that the Navy has bought doesn't seem to work right or have all the features promised when the contracts were inked. So by the time that this ship hits its first yard period it will see replacement or upgrading of a large amount of its equipment. This is just the opinion of a lowly blue-shirt on the deck plates.

This is just one ship that is part of a larger attempt by those in the Navy's portion of the 5-sided wind tunnel to replace a large number of ships in the fleet right now. They are (and have been for the better part of 15yrs now) arguing about what the next style of Aircraft carrier, no dubbed CVN-21, will look like and what it will have in it. The replacement for a number of cold war destroyer and cruisers will be replaced by the DD(X) and CG(X) projects which are hitting costs around the same for the LPD-17 class. Finally the LCS ship which no one still yet inside the 5-sided wind tunnel or at Newport, Rhode Island can say what they want it to look like let alone to do.
Some how in the period of a 40yrs the US Navy was able to progress from early steam ships during the Civil War up to the precussor of the modern battleship that was able to defeat the Spanish Fleet in both Manila and then with in a few days off the coast Santiago in Cuba. Now the US Navy wants to make the jump from basic networked and computer controlled ships to almost completely HAL controlled with in the period of a decade. Yet the technology just isn't there yet or isn't cheap enough yet.

This is just the opinion of a lowly blue-shirt on the deck plates. For those of you curious what the US DoD budget looks like broken down completely (and need some light reading :) ) check out the Office of the Comptroller's Defense budget link and read to your hearts content.

22 March 2006

Some interesting pictures

In a posting yesterday, I talked how much I liked CBS's newest action drama "The Unit". Digging around on the shows website and via google I read up that the technical advisor used to be the Command Sargent Major of the Delta Force. I have only personnally meet members of the 1st/75th Rangers, they came out with elements of a SEAL team and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) onboard USS Oldship. To play and pracitice using a carrier to conduct operations while we cruise off Key West and Miami one week. I don't know nor care what they were doing, it was just interesting to be told to leave the flight deck while up there running one summer night and then watch on the PLAT as MH-47's, AH-6's and MH-60's started to land. Most of those guys I meet were great people, real nice and willing to sit with you at chow and BS about anything. I am sure that if we had time together in a port, it would of been a good time telling sea stories and "There I was.." type over a few beers.
Anyhow, what I know about the Delta Force is from popular media. Books like "Black Hawk Down" and MSM articles about what they know from talking to them. I do know that the first mission for the Delta was the rescue of the Hostages from the American Embassy in Iran after the 1979 revoultion. I ran across some offical DoD pictures over at a frequent website that I haunt looking for cool and interesting pictures. That site is called, The Defense Visual Information Center. It is a clearing house for all sorts of DoD related photos and video that is shot. They have a search engine and have still photos that people can download and use for personal use. Just on a whim I put in a certain designator for a helo type, the RH-53D Sea Dragon which use to be a helo that the Navy used as an aerial minesweeper. Anyhow I ran across photos of some of those RH-53's as they flew on to the USS Nimitz a week before the rescuse attempt and then pictures of the helos hours before they left the deck. Just made me think again about history and what all those guys were thinking before they left. So for you to view here are some of those pictures:

For those guys that didn't come back, first round is on me when we meet in the next life.

Work, people, and shift wars

Now I work as a maintainer on some pretty old aircraft. The last one built left the factory back in the late '70's. Some of the systems we have in it date from the start of the Vietnam war. There also in the life of these birds been enough mods that the maintenance manuals that all my instructors in school taught me were the bibles on how to fix all manner of aviaton electronics end up contradicting themselves. One publication shows wires going one way and in another for different mod show those same wires being dyked off and capped. So for those really hard gripes that are written up by the aircrew.
On top of that I work the day shift. The day shift is were 90% of the flight time for a squadron is done. All of day shift's sweat, blood, tears and engery is to putting aircraft up into the air. Even if we have to push the dang thing down the taxi way to get enough air over the wings for flying. Around the flight sked we try and knock out out the other things on our maintenance work load. I had an seasoned salty AT1 tell me once that if you can keep your work load report under two printed pages that is a good thing. Also since we are on the day shift that is when 100% of the khaki's are walking around and doing things, so there is more time eaten up by requests such as sending two bodies to help move item X from one side of the barn to the other, or meeting in the ready room about incident Y.
So today at shift change a full blown shift war broke out in my workcenter between the two shifts. The night shift supervisor an AT2 that has been in less time then I have came in and jumped on my shift for not accomplishing anything on our workload for the day. I tried to calmly explain to him all the events that went down for the day. Namely that we have 2 up aircraft (out of 3 total), that our maintenance control couldn't make concessions for us to bring a bird inside the barn for us to fix a couple thing since the plan was 2 bird go for morning launch, land at lunch gas/crew switch and then launch for the afternoon shift. Upon which he said that it was bull that his shift has to do everything. At the same time that statement came out of his mouth my division chief came in. This night shift sup went into a long, spittle and hate filled screech about how long his shift works and they are here from 1500 to 2330 or if he is really unlucky 0300 in the morning. I tried to explain what was going on upon which my chief grab me, the night sup, and our LPO who just happen to walk back into the shop while this screech was going down. My chief then explained everyone needs to kiss and make up or else! The night sup started to say something about how screwed up me and my shift was and the chief said, something along the lines of ; "I don't get a rats ass if your here at shift change in the morning at 0600. Congratulations, on joining the Navy the ultimate in despotic rule. If the you want to I will mandate that you or the other second on your shift comes in to give a verbal pass down every morning and stay until morning maintenance meeting is concluded."
That statement lead the the night shift sup to shut up, cause he really didn't want to see his time with his kids in the morning messed with. I know that it is still simmering just below the surface. I have a pretty good feeling what his problem is, the first off is that he is starting to get short timers diease since he is getting ready to rotate to another command in about 2 months. On top of that a couple of more seasoned seconds and firsts that he learned leadership from were really poor leaders. Those guys use to go home and leave messages about calling them if anything went wrong or would just sit in the shop put direction out about jobs that needed to be done all while they sat around and either played on the internet or played cards with other shop shift sups.
I tried to change that a little bit when I was intitally placed on nights and I failed. My own leadership skills weren't enough to combat the rut and ingrained attitudes that the whole night shift has. All those guys on that shift have great maintenance skills, but they don't want to do anything unless the maintenance sup is yelling at them. It induced so much stress on my part that I got physically sick for about a week and a half. I know that some people that read this will say "why didnt you just kick them in the ass", it would of accomplished nothing since at the time I took over we had a first class petty officer that was running my shop who had no spine and didnt' want to make enemies of the people working under him. So I just surrendered to that and just worried about trying to make sure that my job was done and that my skills were being improved on and finally I was training some of the new check-ins into not becoming like thier older workers.
Oh well, It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of days and see how far this shift war goes.

Thinking to my own connections to history

I just happened to bounce over and read a few other blogs and ran across Chaotic Synaptic Activity talking about being haze gray and underway as part of Operation Attain Document. Which was the freedom of navigation exercise against Libya in 1986. I dropped a comment about being a kid when my father was deployed as part of that with the USS Coral Sea air wing. We talked back and forth a couple of times and I have been thinking tonight as I look around my office at pictures I have of my dad, uncle, god father, and other family friends. All of whom have worn Navy blue and gold at sometime in their life, how close a number of them were all part of various historical events.
I know my father was there as part of President Reagan's attack against Libya for sponsoring terrorism. An uncle of mine was stationed back in the states with the might EA-6B and was part of a crew that was able to get 3 birds from the Prowler squadrons stationed at Whidbey and enough flight crew and maintainers to take care of that many birds were flown out on a weekend after 24hrs from the phone call to meet up with the Coral Sea since the powers to be wanted some serious jamming on station for the air wing. I had a cousin that was a Corpsman attached to the Marines during the Inchon and Chosin campaigns, later on he was part of the FMF that landed in various place through out the Caribbean to assist the governments there against terrorists; he then went on as a Chief Petty Officer Corpsman to serve in Vietnam and left just before Tet '68. Another relative that I am looking at his picture right now as I type this was a Corpsman during World War 2 and was on an LST that was part of D-Day. He survived that day, but the ship he was on was torpedod by a German S-Boat on the way back home with wounded from D-Day, he had just assumed the watch in sickbay when the torpedo exploded in his berthing compartment killing his relief instantly along with 5 other guys in that space. He started life saving measures and was awarded a commendation for basically saving the life of about 4 guys just by himself after the inital attack. Again other people of my family or family friends scattered throughout history that now as a grown adult, I am finding out were there when the orders came through to be part of America's Big Stick or the tip of the spear or whatever other term you want to call it. Yet, when I was a kid I thought they looked cool or like heroes to me when they would come in thier uniforms or pictures would be broken out of them during family get togethers.

Then I started to think about my own involvement in history. I was on USS Oldship in 2001 and woke up to a live GQ alarm one night. Why? Well I was listening to the Boy Skipper talk about attack against the CONUS by agents unknown. Against our families, our friends, our homes. I stumbled in half sleep out to where we had a TV in our berthing compartment and watched live as the second plane struck the towers. Realized that this wasn't a drill. Upon which I experience a Chinese fire drill for real when 4 other guys all try to get dressed at the same time in a space about as big a walk in closet. Later on standing in a full fire gear at condtion Zebra through out the ship wondering to myself what was going on with my family.

After spending time thinking about this I have come to the realization, that I was just part of a greater family tradition that always seems to place us there when the order comes down to stand up with the rest of the fortress defenders to the barbarians at the gate.

There were a few that I wish I could of known them more then just a few meetings as a little kid at the holidays. I know that they are watching over me from whever they are now.

21 March 2006

GI Joe in a live action TV show

I grew up watching GI Joe cartoons on TV and playing with the action figures. Not dolls, action figures damn it! I use to have a number of the figures, vehicles, and command posts. My room was never big enough to create a serious pitch battle between the agents of COBRA and GI Joe, so I would drag most of them out to the living room in my house or in the dining room. It was great toy from the 80's. Cause of that and growing up in as a military brat since my father was in the Navy, I grew attached to reading and watching action adventure novels, movies, and TV shows. One of the shows that I was really additicted to for the longest time was "JAG" then I got hooked on "NCIS "since it is produced by the same guy. Recently they were showing ads for new TV show on CBS is a show called "The Unit" It stars Dennis Haybert, recently off "24" and the main man in all the current Allstate commericals; Robert Patrick, who was T-1000 in Terminator 2 and also recently played Johnny Cash's dad in the movie "Walk the Line". Check out the website and the cast info there are a number of other people that you might recognize off hand to.
I have seen three epsoides so far and have really gotten a kick out of this show. Reminds me a lot of the things I use to do with my GI Joe action figures and some of the things I use to read in the Marvel comics published as a kid. The other really neat thing I like about this show is that it isn't all action, but also seems to show the home front as well. What the wives have to put up with when thier husbands are gone. I really like this show even if it is about Army guys but over all it is a really good show and something that I hope will survive for a few seasons. I really think that CBS may have something going here in my humble opinion. I think if they drop the reality TV crap and bring in more action adventure dramas and more shows along the themes of CSI (another of my favs recently), I think they could pull themselves ahead of other major networks.

Still figuring out this whole blogging thing

I finished the second part of my "Fun and Hi-jinks while haze grey". I actually finished it late last night, but didn't feel like publishing it right away until I got it edited to my liking. Long story short it disappeared underneath my third history lesson about the US Navy vs Piracy. I didn't realize that the way things are organized here is on time written not on time posted. Will have to remember that next time. As one of my friends use to same for minor mistakes, "My bad!"
On top of that, my template will be an ever evolving thing with additions and deletions depending on how I want things to look like. Please feel free to leave any comments on my posts or comments via my email link. I will try and get back to you depending on how much my real life takes up free time.

20 March 2006

US Navy vs Pirates round 3

Hopefully if you have been following this thread about piracy you notice that I have been talking about the various engagements between the US Navy and pirates. I brought this up since some of the people I know and have talked to believe that pirates are something from the movies and distant past, on top of that they don't believe it affects them. Well yes and no. There are pirates in movies and from distant past, but piracy does affect them (and you dear reader). The battle against piracy as I have delved more and more into looking at the history of the US Navy, actually is the first set of battles against terrorism. There are a large number of parallels between the various actions against piracy and the current administration's war on terrorism. Along with congress and the public being filled with "war hawks" and people willing to sell out for peace and no military. Finally there were various heroes and heroic actions in battling piracy by the USN through out its history.
Rolling along in a Delorean at 88mph and the flux capacitor fully charged, we arrive around 1831 in Sumatra. It is now 17yrs since the end of the War of 1812. The war could rightly be called the "Revolutionary war part deux". A war which saw the resolution of who was going to control the NW territories, trade embargoes by the French and UK against each other that lead to neutral American shipping being seized on the high seas, and finally RN ships seizing American ships and taking crews to serve on theirs. It all ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1813 and the last battle actually fought was the Battle of New Orleans . The hero of that Andrew Jackson rose to become 7th President of the United States.
Following the end of the war the US Navy establishes what is called the "Mosquito Squadron" a squadron based in the Caribbean run around the West Indies chasing pirates out of the Mississippi delta region, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and Yucatan along with the rest of the West Indies. Some of these are left overs from the French Privateers that were operating in a lawless area, some were former Spanish ships captures after the Spanish Government fell apart following Napoleon's invasion of Spain, the rest were restless natives. It is reported that in a time period between 1810 and 1825 when the squadron was stood down about 3000 pirate attacks on American flagged vessels occurred. It was called the "Mosquito squadron" since their was a large number of mosquitoes in the West Indies at the time and the crews couldn't avoid the masses of them on bad days.

Now American merchant shipping is really flourshing and American goods are starting to spread through out the lands, along with various world goods are coming back to ports like San Francisco, Norfolk, Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah, Boston, etc.
In February of 1831 while the merchant ship SS Friendship was in the anchorage in at Kuala Batu. She was taking on a load of peppers on when members of a Malay pirates boarded the ship rank-sacked the ship, killed every member of the crew that was on board at the time. They were able to board since they were disguised just like Malays on-loading the cargo. The total value lost was about 8000 dollars. Well the skipper and 3 other members of the crew were ashore gather supplies; when they came back on board they beat feet out of there and sought out other American flagged ships. They all returned and requested payment or return of the cargo and punishment of the guilty parties. The chief of the Kuala Batu village denied all knowledge of the attacks. This chief then turned and put a bounty out on the heads of the surviving members of the SS Friendship's crew and master. So ships all returned home to Salem, MA (yes that Salem, MA) to report the incident to the authorities. Jackson decided on some direct action. He ordered a USN frigate into the area to bring "...immediate satisfaction for the injury and indemnity to the sufferers".
So the USS Potomac a frigate built in 1822 at the Washington Navy Yard (in DC) and armed with forty-four guns that can hurl a 32pound ball. On the 5th of Feb 1832 the USS Potomac arrived off Kuala Batu. After receiving advise from an American friendly native of a village a few miles down the coast, Commodore John Downes put ashore a landing party composed of the full detachment of US Marines (which in today's measures would be a reinforced platoon) along with 3 detachments of sailors ashore under arms to request repayment for the cargo lost and the Mayla's that committed the crimes. However, the chief of the village told them to stick it. So the landing party returned to the ship. On the 7th the same force arrived again and instead of talking to an obviously uninterested leader. The force composed of a total 282 men stormed 4 forts arranged around the harbor and village. They broke into three smaller parties while attacking these forts. The first fort was stormed after the stockade was blown up by gunpowder and that force engaged the Malay warriors in some fierce hand to hand combat. This fort fell only after every last warrior was killed. They fought with spears, knifes, and ancient flintlocks from about a century previous. The Malay pirates couldn't stand up to modern troops and modern firearms. At the end of the day all four forts fell with complete loss of their defenders; it was estimated by the leader of the Marines, one Lt. Alvin Edson, that over 150 enemy troops were killed. Total loss for the Americans was 2 KIA's and 11 WIA's.
The Americans left the next morning, however on as they sailed away word filtered to the commodore of the ship that the chieftain had put a bounty on every members of his ship's head. So on the 9th of February he returned to Kuala Batu and took it under cannon fire and torch and burned the place to the ground killing not only the chieftain but also 300 other members of that village.
Members of the press and various members of the public wanted the Commodore taken to task for doing what he did. However, President Jackson stood by the man and stated during a state of the union address that; "to inflict such chastisement deter them and others from like aggressions. This was done and the effect has been increased respect for our flag and additional security for our commerce."
Such a threat did stay in the minds for the Malays for about 6yrs. However in August of 1838 another American merchant was boarded again by Malay pirates on the island of Sumatra, this time near the village of Trabongan. They boarded the SS Eclipse murdered her captain after being received by him and tried to stab the second mate to death. He escaped only by jumping over the side of the ship, the rest of the crew had to climb the rigging or jump overboard to escape a similar fate. They plundered the ship carrying away 4 large chest filled with opium and and about 18000 Spanish dollars.
After the Malays left the crew rescue the second mate from the water and made for home. A USN frigate named Columbine with Commodore Read as skipper made for Sumatra and sailed not only back to Kuala Batu and bombard that but also the town of Muka was was just around the harbor from Trabongan. He took that town under fire and landed with 330 men (about 300 men and 30 officers) and rank sacked that town. Most of the civilians fled to the jungle.
Though these two events didn't check the Malay pirates attacks in the region, they did earn the fear and respect of not only US Marines but also US Naval ships.
There is also reason to believe that the Sultan of Achech (which controlled Sumatra at the time) was under pressure from either British or Dutch (or even both) to keep out American traders. There is little to go on whether these two major pirate attacks and other minor ones were part of Colonial Power games or were actually independent piracy under taken by Malay Pirates. It really wasn't until the Royal Navy showed up with one of the first steam powered ships the HMS Diana in 1836 did were the attacks by the Malay pirates started to be put in to check. Since a steam powered ship was able to under take and maneuver at will against the Malay's prahus (similar to a dhow or skiff).
The Malay pirates themselves were viewed all over the Straits of Sumatra region as a tough group and considered by members of the Royal Navy that have reported on them as the 'Vikings of the East". The region they operated in was really conducive to piracy , since there were a number of bays and coves with which to hide in and come striking out of. These guys operated in packs of no less then 10 and with their prahus which were fast and nimble (like the boghammers that the Iranians used during the Tanker Wars of the 80's) they could easily over take slower merchant men and take as much as their craft could hold. Depending on the moods of the leaders would depend on whether the crews of these captured ships would be all killed off or would be sold into slavery in any of the local slave markets in the region.

Fun and Hi-Jinks while Haze Gray Chapter 2

on this Haze Grey Channel at this Haze Grey time, Southern found himself on USS Oldship and underway for the first time....

Anyhow, the GQ things continues every other day for the first week out to sea. On underway+8 they decide to do an abandon-ship drill. The ships bosun had pulled off a couple of the 25-man life rafts that sit off the side of the ship in neat little grey pills. He pulled them since they were due to be replaced for being too old and placed them in the middle of the hangar bay. My shop LPO who was part of the training team for our locker grabbed me a couple hours before the GQ event went down and said "When I grab you, follow me". I am just a dumb young airman, so I nod my head. I really wasn't paying attention since I was watching yet again Titanic for the billionth time and wondering if Rose would slip under the water with Jack this time. During the events the damage came fast and furious, they killed off most of my hose team and the replacement team from an explosion in the forward paint locker, engineering lost a couple of her teams when a couple high pressure steam lines let go due to torpedo hits. Long story short the XO came across the 1MC , since supposedly the CO was killed when a missile struck the island and blew up the bridge, to announce manning of abandonship stations. My LPO in his DCTT cover grabbed me, I followed back to the shop and found Ms. Reservist passed out during the middle of the mandatory TV DC training, the rest of the shop and other two reservists assigned to us were paying rapt attention to the training being presented by standard Navy video.

I was still dressed in all my gear and sounding like Darth Vader. He told me what to do, while making the rest of the shop muster in HB one:
" Go up to AT2 Winelots and tap her on the shoulder and shout, We have struck and Iceberg and are sinking."
"Just do it."
"Okay, AT1!"
"AT2 follow me everyone is mustering in the hangar bay, here take this rubber ducky and put it on."

Upon which the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) came back across and repeated his statement across the 1MC as we left the shop. Remember folks, we are off the coast of Virginia near the end of June. If there is an iceberg that far south there are more serious problems with the world then a ship sinking just a few miles offshore.
So we trudged past all sorts of people pretending to be dead bodies and all sorts of damage control gear is laying about. About the time she is starting to think something is up we get out in bay one and we hear a pop followed by a rush of compressed air filling a raft and see one inflate while being surrounded by a bunch of still living people. At which point she freaks, runs to the hole for elevator one and proceeds start taking off her shoes and wondering if she should pull the cord and fire off the rubber ducky (which was the nickname of the personal floatation device we had that was on a little belt and stored in it own fanny pack) or jump in and pull the cord. She then shouted "What the hell are the rest of you waiting for, do you want to swim out!"
Everyone from the shop is trying their best not to laugh too loudly and everyone else from her unit and the regulars were looking at her like she had snapped. Our LPO stood up, walked over and whispered something in her ear. She then made a loud comment on her belief of relationships between ourselves and our mothers. She walked back over and the BM1 near the raft finished up his explanation of abandoning ships and what is in a raft and how to get in. What was even better was how he didnt' even miss a beat since he mentioned her and commented on how well she would of done had this been an acutal event. That just cause more steam out of her ears and more red on her face.

Our shop CPO and Div O grabbed us, pulled us over after the GQ drill secured. They then asked us about what had happened, my LPO stood up and said explained some of what had been going on and it was a way to lighten the mood in the shop. They both thought it was funny themselves (including our chief who was a woman and a tough smart one at that), however we would have to pay the piper and had to give training to the division the night before we pulled in on Harassment and Consideration of Others.
The end effect was a good laugh, less tension, and less complaints from some people.


Fun and Hi-jinks while Haze Gray chapter 1

There I was getting ready to experience my first underway as a member of the mythical "Fleet". I had already been in the Navy for about 9 months total from boot camp to completion of NAMTRAGRU. All I had heard from the various chiefs and senior PO's at all these billets was how the "Fleet" was different then training commands I was passing on through. Here it is late June in Norfolk, I am a brand new airman apprentice assigned to USS Oldship. I was proud to be part of her, be on her, and hopefully make history with her. Her name is one well associated with history of the Navy going back to the days of wooden ships and iron men. She made a name for own self as part of the ongoing challenges to the Soviet bloc through out the world. What were we getting underway for? I could of cared less, in reality this was going to be my first and last for about 9months. We were going out to sea to offload all the bombs, rockets, missiles, etc that they had in preparation to hit the yards for a post-deployment overhaul. It was only going to be a two week tour cruise up and down the Virginia Capes operating area. God how I was going to hate reading for the next 4yrs the short hand for that area, VACAPES, later on in my tour. Like I said today I didn't give a care. We also had a special detail on board, portions of the Naval Reserve CV augmentation unit from New York on board doing their 2 weeks of active duty for drill. Talking with them, most of these folks were in during Regan Era of the Cold war and big Navy. However, they decided after Desert Storm to walk away from the active side for whatever reason; yet they still like the Navy to stick around.
The fun and excitement of being underway for my first time last, oh about 36hours. Upon which I realized that when the pier and land disappear over the horizon and you end up haze gray you are up to your own resources to find something to do and not be in someones way. I spent part of that time learning my way around the ship, being thrust into various ship-wide training evolutions "Send Southern to the Mass Cass he is the new guy!", finally being assigned collateral duties.
One of those collateral duties was being a member of a repair locker. Now when a ship is haze grey and under way the only people that can be called on to fight a fire is the ships crew. They are all trained in basic DC (firefighting, shoring, water removal, first aid, etc) and then some lucky folks are assigned to join a repair locker which operates just like a neighbor firehouse. The repair locker is responsible for a specific area to fight damage that is caused to the ship. They are the first responders. On a carrier there are 7 major lockers spread through out the ship and some of those lockers are subdivided in to letter codes designated where they are assigned: Fox-forward, Bravo-Midships, Alpha-Aft. I was attached to 1-Fox and we were responsible for everything from the divisional doors on the Hangar bay forward to the anchor windlass and up to the 02 level.
Now as I mentioned we also had some reservists on board, most of them were pretty cool. One though was a total jerk and some other not nice words. She had been in the Navy for 12yrs active duty and 8yrs reserves as an avionics repair tech for the AWG-9 radar system which was held in the
F-14 Tomcat. She had never been to sea, some of that wasn't her fault when she came in the Navy wasn't letting women at sea in combat ships and after she switched to reserves she found a way to do most of her time over at Oceana. This time though, the unit instead of rolling to Oceana came to USS Oldship to give the reservists some sea time. She hated every minute of it. Every day all of us in the shop heard complaints about either the food, noise, racks, bored, or how seasick she was. I stayed out of her way though cause in my eyes she was a "salty" 2nd class PO.
We were arranged by our bosses over in production control to work a 12 on and 12 off scheduled and only one shift since we weren't getting anyone form the attached air wing or training wings to fly on board. That is we worked from 0700 in the morning to 1900 at night. When we got off shift we could do whatever we wanted, the most popular thing to do was sit around and play spades or hearts and watch one of the three movie channels on the TV. For reasons only known to God himself and the joker that was in charge of programming one of the movie channels the total two weeks we were out the movie "Titanic" was being shown at various times alternating through the three channels. Since those in charge of programming were lazy they never changed programming during a day you were able to pick it again around the same time just 12 hours later (ie if the movie started at 0800 you could catch it again at 2000 starting again).
So I was assigned to a repair locker and found out the first GQ went down on underway+3 just basically a refresher for the experienced guys and to start training the new folks (like me) into filling spots of guys that were leaving. It was an experience! Sweating in a fire-fighting ensemble with an oxygen breathing apparatus on my chest for two hours. I was a messenger between the Hose teams and the on-scene leader. Lots of running and jumping, a butt ton of weight loss.

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How dangerous are modern Pirates?

This piracy incident seems to grow as more and more people notice it and comment on it. I have seen the two of what I feel personally are the best bloggers (and the guys that got me interested in making my own); Neptunus Lex and Cdr Salamander. I have also since posting my short history lecture gotten a couple emails asking "Pirates like Black Beard, Jack Sparrow and such?". Well these Somalis were pirates in all of the legal sense of the terms and honestly if I had someone sticking a gun in my face or shooting rounds across my bow of my ship; expletives and the word pirates would be coming out of my mouth.
These are modern pirates:

Here are some of the weapons the USN captured over the weekend with these pirates.

Not this:

So that being said. Modern Pirates are some pretty vicious bunch like I said partially in an earlier post . The International Maritime Bureau has a Piracy Reporting Center in S.E. Asia. From the stats that I have read published by them they have had reported to them by shipping owners losses on average USD$35-50million per ship (that can add up to about 1-2 Billion dollars in lost revenue) that transit certain areas. Some of what pirates steal is either cargo, portions of the ship's equipment (things such as radios, life boats, ropes, etc), robbing the crew, to out right capture of a ship so that a large majority of its cargo is offload in a friendly anchorage.
So what does that mean to the common person reading this? Well basic economics. If a company is losing money to pirates stealing their goods then they need to pass that loss off to their consumers. Sometimes the price changes is minor but it is there.
What is really bad is how a large number of nations that are economically "third-world" have turned a blind eye to piracy operating in their home waters. Some of those places do so because it seems to favor the strongest politico that is in power and when they do clean up it is done almost similar in the way that some police forces in the USA use to look the other way when the Mob did hits. Go through arrest a couple low level guys and pretend to clean things up for a while and make good new video doing it. In reality the bite they did was either a portion that he bosses wanted to die or were their own competitors. So that being said there is attempts to combat piracy. Part of it has been a renewed effort by the US Navy as part of the larger Global War on Terrorism, the other part has been the increase in awareness on most nations parts about the need to combat piracy in their waters, and finally attempt to convene another UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and for the US and the rest of Europe to push for and allow "Hot Pursuit" of pirates into the territorial waters of other nations. Piracy is not something that we need to let stand and those nations that allow it or turn a blind eye to it should be put in the same category as the terrorist sponsoring states.

Pavlov's Conditional response and me

So I went to bed pretty late last night actually about just past balls locally. I had spent an earlier part of the night listening to my radio from about 2100 to 2359 listen to an FM station that has a show which replays old radio programs. Things such as Gunsmoke, Dragnet, The Shadow, etc. I really enjoy sitting in my bed listening to them as I also read a book or just relax and get ready for the weekend. These shows seem to have more action and adventure packed into a 30minute show then about 85% of the things I see on TV today. Anyhow, to keep from going off on a tangent.
Ninety precent of the time I am able to stay up and remember to turn off my radio, bed light and roll over and sleep. The other ten precent, is I wake up with my book across my chest, the radio is on, and my light on. Well last night even after the show finished I still couldn't sleep so I stayed up a little longer reading my book and turned my radio to over to an all news AM station. That was the last thing I remember before waking up to the EBS alert test tone was a dream sequence about being haze gray and underway. So here I was dead asleep and I heard that tone and it sounded just like the GQ alarm that I use to hear about once a night every 3 nights while on cruise. So the first thing I did was come out of a dead sleep and start to look for my boots, coveralls, and flash gear. That to me was pretty amazing in the first part since normally at home and to a point when I am on the ship I am a heavy sleeper. I slept once through a drunk taking out 4 different cars in front of apartment while being chased by the police. That is how hard I can sleep. So here I am waking up and moving to get out of bed while in the back of my head there is a little nagging voice trying to identify first off what in the world that sound is and then where the blazes am I and why aren't there more people moving. I had gotten my eyes open and realized I was still at home in bed but was now sitting a pair of uniform pants that I had left off on my to be ironed pile at the foot of my bed and was trying to button them over top of pyjama bottoms that I normally wear to bed. I went to turn off the radio, got undressed and went back to sleep. Just before I rolled over though I looked at my clock and realized that it was about 2am.

Oh and for those of you that don't know Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist that won the Noble Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 1904 for study of the digestive sytem. He was one that learned through scientific testing that a dog could be conditioned to respond to an outside stimuli. The classic story is that he trained his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell even though there wasn't any food present.

19 March 2006

US Navy vs the Pirates part 2

Yesterday I presented a short history lesson on the first conflict of the US that didn't involve Britain and relating how the US Navy and Marine Corps has been fighting Piracy since the birth of the nation. All going back to how a number of people seemed surprise that some Somalia pirates have engaged some modern US Warships.
Well actually it wasn't the first time yesterday and it wasn't the first time that the US battled pirates back in 1801. I had a friend of mine point that over a cup of coffee this morning as we were talking during a get together. Actually the first attempt of the USN/USMC team to battle piracy actually came during a war with of all nations France. Now before you turn this off and think that I am going to go on a Franco-bashing turn I am not. I actually have some respect for the French. They have in the past be a very competent military force and one that is very professional when every I have served along side with them. That being said, now is time yet step back into the "Wayback Machine" with Peabody and his pet boy Sherman and appear in France in 1798.

Hopefully, you know all about the French Revolution. The whole Louis the 16th, "Let them eat cake", storming of the Bastille's, etc. So here we have the king is disposed in 1789 and the US started to not pay the debts that the new nation owed to the French nation. So the French National Assembly started to authorize her Navy and selected privateers (or Corsairs) to start raiding American Merchant Men. On top of that the US signed a minor treaty with England that allowed Royal Navy and US Navy ships to visit either nations ports for provisions and allowed the policy of "Hot Pursuit" into their waters while chasing said French privateers.
So we have all this coming up, then on the 7th of July of 1798. The American Congress pushed a bill through to John Adams that basically rescinded all the treaties that the two nations had together. Remember that it was the French Arms, French Navy, along with training offered by French Ad visors (such as Comte de Rochambeau and Marquis de La Fayette) that allowed the new nation of United States of America to really stand up and defeat the Royal Army and Royal Navy.
So the French were rightly pissed off, so what did they do? Well they started to have their Navy and corsairs capture American merchant ships and seize not only crews but also goods. Well the New England Yankee's who owned those ships saw their lively hood being destroyed. So they petitioned their representatives and Congress informed the first Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert to have the new Navy which wasn't very big to start challenging these pirates and the French Navy on the high seas. It was during this time that the first bills for the fast frigates that I mentioned in my previous post were thought of and the attempts by Stoddert to have Congress pay for them was announced. Stoddert intially wanted a decent size fleet, but all Congress was willing to pay for was six.
The first frigate commissioned was the USS Constellation and she along with about 8 smaller ships (a mixed bag of converted merchant hulls and seized ships from the Revolutionary War) were the first of the US Navy units along with her complement of US Marines in the sail tops went out to challenge and either sink or seize for themselves the privateers. The war only lasted about 2 yrs and at the end did the rest of the first true US Man-O-war started to appear. A quick link to Wikipedia's list of USN hulls involved.
The war was primarily concentrated in Caribbean along the trade routes between American ports in places such as Charleston, Norfolk, Savannah. These trade routes would stretch out to the English and Spanish colonies or ports in Bermuda, Cuba, Virgin Islands, Jamaica. There were raids on French ports in places such as Haiti, Martinique, and other French ports. However it also stretch to pitched battles along the American coast near the Virginia and N. Carolina capes and as far around the globe as US Naval Units chased French Merchants in the Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Sudan.
The war was ended by Napoleon Bonaparte with the convention of 1800. Since by that time Napoleon was on a war march through Europe and didn't want to see either the US drawn into the English side nor did they want to see the US as the French allies since that would allow the English to divert troops and easily crush the small nation. So the French and the US broke all treaties with each other and treated each other as people that didn't know each other. That way the French could get a decent price on raw US goods (such as textiles out of the south and US grain from the Mid-Atlantic region) and the French could use her full military force to bring Napoleon's idea of a United Europe to the world. Another benefit was that with the war ended and the costs of of buying those goods and the war for France. Napoleon sold to Jefferson's administration the Lousiana Terroritory for almost a steal.

A couple other links around the wild web that mention the Quasi-War between the US and France

Naval Historical Center's write up

The History Guy's write up with some other links

A Yale Law school project that covered the various letters between Congress and President Adams

The Mariner's Museum in Newport News, VA web page about the war

A decent book about.
Stoddert's War: Naval Operations During the Quasi-War With France, 1798-1801


The US Navy vs Pirates round 99

So by now nearly all of you have read and heard about the attempts of pirates in small skiffs to stand up and challenge the US Navy.
The Reuters write up for their wire.

Okay you have linked over by now and are up to speed on this incident. Before anyone starts to think that these are a bunch of Johnny Depp wanna be's who have seen "Pirates of the Caribbean" too many times. These are not. Nor or they as some of the spin-misers will say these are misguided people. These are people that were looking to do serious harm to various ships through out the region to make money for the warlord that they belong to over in Somalia or Yemen or where ever near that strait they are based out off. This is one of those things that is part of Operation Enduring Freedom that isn't really getting a large amount of attention. That is the mission of various US and her Allies Navies to sweep selected areas in the world free of piracy. There has been a drastic step up for the straits that separate the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden and the rest of the Indian Ocean region.
However this isn't the first time that the US Navy has had to challenge pirates nor will it be the last. Pop-quiz time on American History... Name the foreign military action that President Jefferson authorized during his first term in office? 60 Secs on the clock go....... pencils down.

He authorized the US Navy and US Marine Corps to attack pirates off the Barbary Coast after they had seized a number of American Flagged Merchants Men and after they had seized a US man-o-war. These pirates were operating with the approval of the bashaw of Tripoli (sort of the city governor for the Ottoman Empire) and they were basically controlling the region along the straits of Sicily and around the Gulf of Sirt. Taking the ships and the crew and either having the captain of the ship pay a tribute or "toll" as the Caliph said, if not that then they would ransom the ship, cargo, and crew back to the home country. Up until Thomas Jefferson came into office nearly everyone in Europe was paying the toll and occasional ransom to free their ships and racked it up to a form of business. Jefferson didn't see it that way and tried to build a coalition between the European powers and the US to challenge this when he was a representative of the US to France under Washington, it didn't happen then cause the congress and the king of France was unwilling to fund the adventure at the time. Jefferson was willing to have George Washington fund the creation of 6 frigates. The USS United States (44 Guns), USS Constitution (44 Guns), USS President (44 Guns), USS Constellation (36 Guns) , USS Congress (36 Guns), USS Chesapeake(36 Guns). These ships were built in a number of shipyards up and down the East coast of the United States and a few of them were viewed as they were being built by John Paul Jones . Washington also authorized the creation of a Marine landing force as well. Total cost when signed into law was $688,888 on the 27th of March 1794.
The USS Philadelphia under command of one CDR William Bainbridge. She was sailing in conjunction with USS Constitution (a frigate with 44 guns, the same ship in Boston today), both of which were classed as Frigates. The schooners USS Enterprise, USS Nautilus, and USS Vixen all had 12 guns. Finally 2 small brigs named the USS Argus and USS Siren that both carried 16 guns. This force was lead by one Commodore Edward Preble who took as his flagship the USS Constitution. The ships were to take up a blockade of the Tripoli harbor and prevent the pirates from leaving their home port. For as well built the frigates were they did have a serious draw back to the smaller ships that the pirates were using that is how deep of water they could sail in. The shallow water and a deep water boat don't mix well and usually cause damage. In the end the USS Philadelphia ran aground on a reef, the Pirates at low tide board and seized the crew. In the end after months of bombarding and support from smaller European nations such as the state of Malta, Naples, Syracuse. It took a daring raid by one Stephen Decatur to blow up the USS Philadelphia and the over land march by a force of Marines and Greek Mercenaries to overthrow the bashaw and impose his brother who was living in Alexandria Egypt. His brother was one who had been replaced earlier by the current bashaw and was in the view of the US was the legitimate ruler of Tripoli. They attempted to be lifted by a ship to the Tunis peninsula. However that didn't work so they all marched over land from Benghazi on the far coast of the Gulf of Sirt around to Tripoli and march in and seized control. All of this occurred from 1801 to 1805. The same time that Jefferson had dealt with Napoleon and bought the Louisiana territory and sent William and Clark overland to investigate the new buy. This also sent the creation of US Navy and Marine Corps that would stand up pretty well against the Royal Navy and Royal Army during the War of 1812.
There were a number of firsts with this action:
  • This was the first time that the US fought the opening battle against terrorism (but it was called piracy before terrorism).
  • The first time that the US deposed a ruler and replaced them.
  • The first time that the US was involved in the Mid-East.
  • The first time that the US tried to build a coalition against terrorism and it failed.
  • The first time the US flexed is military muscle to protect its civilian population.
  • Finally this was also the first time that members of Congress were willing to give into the terrorists demands and recall the boys at war.

For a really good read on all the action, back room politicking, and creative ambassadorship check out "To the Shores of Tripoli: The Birth of the U.S. Navy and Marines "by A. B. C. Whipple .

Like I said at the top, the action today wasn't the first and it won't be the last if there is still a strong US Navy and Marine Corps out there protecting the US's intrests.


18 March 2006

If it was only as easy as they said

Well now I have been screwing around with the various ways to add and create this blog's template the way that I want it. I forgot how hard it is just to mess around strictly with HTML coding. I am not any where happy yet with the look, but I will be working my way around to being happy as soon as I read up more on HTML.

Sort of reminds me of trying to learn a foreign language in school. That was a complete fiasco. Way back when I was a lot younger and dumber, I jumped into full force into a foreign language. I really didn't want one, but the High School that I went to mandated that I need to attend one just to look good for colleges. I really wanted to learn German. That to me is an interesting language, also is sounded really easy. The Germanic tongue if you don't know is probably where most of English orignated from in a mutated form. Brought that up with my folks, they both squashed it like a bug. No, they didn't just squash it, but burned it, drawn and quartered it and finally mailed the various parts to seperate corners of the world. They thought that I should learn Spanish. Primarly because they both took it when they were in school. Both of them told me that it was going to be easy and pretty much walk in the park with considering how smart I am with reading books and picking up topic.
So after submitting my request for registaration to the school. The next week I get in the mail my course along with the school map and the rooms highlighted and my locker highlighted. Not that the map was ever right, it always happened that things changed in between registration and start of class. Anyhow, here I am sitting as a sophmore in a Spanish class learning that there are two different verision of Spanish along with two completely different dialects. One from Mexico and one from Spain itself. Although 99.99% of the word meaning is the same, there is that .0001% that is dependent completely on the inflection and tone of how you pronounce something. So I learning that, then as I progress through the semester I start to learn that whole macho and non-macho thing that goes with words all depending on who the noun refers to. Oh god my head started to spin. At that point I really quit learning and wanted to get out. The teachers I had tried to offer me tutoring, but I got to a point of not caring near the end of the school year that all I wanted to do is finish up and get back to learning something fun like history or comp science or even basic electrical science.

Now about 20yrs later the only Spanish I know is how to request Police, how to order a beer (or two or more) and how to say what my name is. Out of all that I have really only use the order beer line more every time I have stopped over in Spain. Almost the same with HTML. Now with the ability of various computer programs to do the "what you see is what you get" thing I forgot how hard it is to play around with this thing and make the computer do what I want.

Why am I here? Why are you here?

It is common knowledge that the first post of nearly every blog is full of nothing but why the person has chosen to do this.
So here you go as to why I have chosen to do this.
I am just full of random thoughts, ideas, comments, etc that I feel a need to release them to the public and let the public use and abuse them. On top of that it this will allow me to find a easy way to vent about various topics that surround my haze gray tinted view of the world with out worrying about annoying the people I work and play with. So that is what it as to why I am here. So then the question you need to ask yourself is what drew you here like a moth to a flame?