This AM post is already late, and it will likely be a slow day on posts. That’s because stuff is happening.
Some Thoughts About Ships
Yesterday we drove past Bath, Maine, where we could see three Zumwalt Class destroyers in various states of completion. (There might have been more, but our landlubber eyes don’t pick them up until they start looking entirely shiplike). Here’s an official photo of the class namesake:
They’re funny looking. We mistook them for the controversial Littoral Combat Ships. Indeed, it’s so funny looking that we wonder about its seakeeping, but we think (and hope) the Navy knows what it’s doing. The LCS, on the other hand, seems to have a more serious problem, two of them in fact: where’s the armament? And where’s the mission? So we want to know more about the Navy’s expensive, troubled shipbuilding program — why are these what our nearly moribund shipbuilding program is building? And why do they cost so much? (One clue is that the shipyards that build Navy ships are economically unable to build any other ship for any other customer).
In a loosely related story, we’re reading Japanese Destroyer Captain by Tameichi Hara. Hara’s book is searingly honest, and combines the pride of a Japanese samurai (as Hara descended from an impoverished member of this deprecated class) with cold analysis. Hara is especially interesting because he generally served in destroyers, something that Japan assigned its less brilliant officers to do; he was both capable and very, very lucky; and he was involved in the Japanese torpedo program. We’ve been fooling around with some fiction that involves, among other things, some Japanese naval SOF in World War II, and the more we learn about the IJN the more ahistorical our imagined SOF turns out to be. While the IJN wised up to aviation in the 1930s, when Hara graduated the Academy in the previous decade, aviators were the guys beneath the destroyer dummies on the cognitive scale. The top brains went onto staffs and hardly ever went to sea. The next level of top brains became battleship sailors. These were the admirals who led Japan to defeat. But what other result was possible? The IJN only seemed like it was near parity in 1941, thanks to long American naval neglect. He begins the book’s prologue with this remarkable set of facts:
Japan’s Imperial Navy had an overall wartime inventory of 25 aircraft carriers, 12 battleships, 18 heavy cruisers, 26 light cruisers, 175 destroyers and 95 submarines.
The US equivalent numbers were: 99, 23, 72 (heavy and light combined), 377 (plus 361 frigates), and 232, and that’s just a snapshot on 14 August 45, (The numbers on 7 Dec 41 were 8,17, 37, 171 (+0), and 112, which looks at first like parity, until you remember that’s the US war-entry inventories, and Hara’s numbers are with the Japanese entire-war inventory).
But it was the destroyer flotillas, totaling never More than 130 at any one time, which shouldered the heaviest burdens of the war. They were the work horses of the Imperial Navy.
The Japanese destroyers, looked at next to their American and British counterparts, were beautiful, lithe ships with greyhound lines, and the most powerful, fastest, and longest-ranging torpedoes by far of any wartime combatant. Unlike their American counterparts, the Japanese also had torpedoes that worked. Hara was involved in these torpedoes and, in point of fact, wrote Japanese surface-naval torpedo doctrine before the war. The fate of the Japanese Navy with its superior destroyers and torpedoes seems a cautionary tale for those who discount quantity to build quality.
The book’s highly recommended. (Google link. Amazon link, but why not go to someone who’s Amazon-supported like our friends at ForgottenWeapons.com, first, and click on one of his Amazon links before searching for Japanese Destroyer Captain, so that Ian gets the commission?) But we fear our bold Japanese naval commandos are entirely fictional, and we may have to ask this indulgence of our readers, when we get around to sharing that stuff.
Off the top of one’s head, today’s navy has about 115 surface warships and 65 submarines, of whom about two-thirds are mission-ready at any given time. The surface fleet has regressed to 19th-century, pre-seapower levels.
The Mess in Ferguson
Rather predictably, there are riots, and rather predictably, the riot sponsors like Al Sharpton and the President are blaming the victims. People are rioting because a policeman was not punished for killing a criminal who was attacking him.
One of the amusing aspects of it has been the tear-gassing and beating of newsmen, the latter by the very rioters their networks have been egging on. When we rise to condemn violence, we’re tempted to carve out an exception here.
A certain subset of people seems to think that a history of oppression of one’s ancestors constitutes a license to attack and steal. It does not.
The blogbrother has had an insight: the most screwed people in all this are the good citizens and petty merchants of Ferguson, MO, and their workers. They have lost a great deal. Those that rebuild will not do it here. No doubt many of them are minorities themselves. The city itself is toast. If you wonder how Detroit 2014 came from Detroit 1954, Ferguson, MO is a model doing the same thing on an accelerated timeline.
It’s time to stop our “national conversation on race” and start treating people like the individuals they are. This entire riot has occurred because the criminal was black and the cop white — as ever in a race-laden story, do the mental exercise of reversing the races to see how much of the story is real, and how much is baloney. We’d never have heard of Ferguson still, if Michael Brown had been the white guy.
As for Darren Wilson, he’ll be hunted for the rest of his life by the dregs of our society — race rioters and news reporters.
He didn’t jump, he was pushed. We’ve been very critical, but any successor will probably implement similar policies, and focus similarly on using the military as a social-experimentation lab flask to the exclusion of readiness or morale issues, and do little for the forgotten men at the sharp end, the ones Hagel seems to have completely lost touch with.
What’s that line from the Who about, “Here’s the new boss, same as the old boss?” That’s the best-case scenario. The DC national-security academic bench has plenty of worse cases to choose from, and Steve Jobs tells us “A Players hire A Players, B Players hire B Players.” And Obama hires Z players. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
We heard CBS radio telling us that one candidate was RI senator Jack Reed, “a combat veteran” (he isn’t) “in the Rangers” (he wasn’t, but he has the Ranger tab that was a routine ticket punch for infantry officers when he did his minimum obligated service — NTTAWWT). But it’s interesting to see the media trying to puff a candidate’s minimal credentials. Do they know something we don’t know?
Today’s Gun Stuff
We’ve got to straighten out an admin thing that’s keeping us off the range, as yesterday a new toy came in the big brown truck (X Products Can Cannon) and we still have to pick up our M4LE and stamp at the shop (and, pick up the next For 4 at the station with the chief’s John Hancock).
Sometimes we wish we’d done like friends and bought out in Booniesistan where we could have our own range. (We wouldn’t have range cards in the windows, though. Just sayin’). But the range is also a social event, in a way, for a not especially social old soldier.
We also have a video, a bit of history for all y’all, if we can figure out where we put it. Maybe inn the 1400 slot today.