Sergeant York

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I’m posting this on the 100th anniversary of the critical events. On 8 October 1918 Corporal (later Sergeant) Alvin York’s heroic actions and spectacular feats of arms earned him the highest military awards of any American soldier in what is now called World War One. Alvin York never wrote a book, but 22 years later consented to having his story made into a film:

The film was based on the diary of Sergeant Alvin York, as edited by Tom Skeyhill, and adapted by Harry Chandlee, Abem Finkel, John Huston, Howard Koch, and Sam Cowan (uncredited). York refused, several times, to authorize a film version of his life story, but finally yielded to persistent efforts in order to finance the creation of an interdenominational Bible school. The story that York insisted on Gary Cooper for the title role derives from the fact that producer Jesse L. Lasky recruited Cooper by writing a plea that he accept the role and then signed York’s name to the telegram.

Cooper went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal. The film also won for Best Film Editing and was nominated in nine other categories, including Best Picture, Director (Hawks), Supporting Actor (Walter Brennan), and Supporting Actress (Margaret Wycherly). The American Film Institute ranked the film 57th in the its 100 most inspirational American movies. It also rated Alvin York 35th in its list of the top 50 heroes in American cinema.

And the only parts of the story that closely match reality are the battle scenes.

If it’s local color you want, this picture has it. Alvin York was a true hill billy, living in the back woods of Tennessee. We see him first as a hell raising bachelor, riding hard on moonshine and shooting up the countryside. He is nearly 30 years as the movie begins and war comes to the United States. Here we see the mail carrier arriving at Rosier Pile’s country store on a mule singing this:

Froggie went to see the mouse,
Timma ring ting bottom and a ky-mo.
From the well into the house.
Timma ring ting bottom and a ky-mo.

Chorus: Ky-mo nee-ro captain kee-ro bom-a-nishy ky-mo,
Semma nicka bomma nicka flata bony rig
Domma rig tum clatta bona ky-mo.

He took Miss Mousie on his knee,
Timma ring ting bottom and a ky-mo,
And says, “Miss Mouse, will you marry me?”
Timma ring ting bottom and a ky-mo.

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It’s a great rendition. The character’s name is Luke, but I can’t find any credits for him in the movie.

He brings the mail and also the newspaper. There’s a war in Europe, and American is about to get in it.

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The movie shows Alvin York’s path to redemption that begins here at a local target shoot, where he scores spectacularly to win the main prize of a “beef critter.” We see everybody shooting muzzle loading rifles. They also melt the lead and pour their own bullets.

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When a local land owner reneges on a deal York gets drunk and rides through a storm, armed and with murder on his mind. A lightening bolt knocks him down without killing him, and he wanders into a church meeting, where his friend Rosier Pile (Brennan) is the pastor. He makes a religious conversion and adopts strict non-violence.

Non-violence comes into conflict when York is drafted. Pile helps York apply for conscientious exemption status, but the draft board does not recognize York’s status, and he is inducted into the Army. Then the fun begins.

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But first there’s the scene where Alvin York rides off to the induction center on a mule, along with his brother, George (Dickie Moore), leaving his mother (Wycherly) and sister (June Lockhart) behind, wondering what it’s all about.

Sister: Ma, what are they a-fightin’ fer?

Mother York: I don’t rightly know, child.

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And neither does anybody else. The Great War was started for no good reason and grew disproportionately for the worth of those involved.

We see Alvin York saying before he rides off, “I’ll be comin’ back.” If you didn’t already know the outcome of the story, you would be wondering at this time.

We see the Army suspicious of York as a new recruit. His record shows his application for conscientious objector status. They figure him for a weak sister.

Things change when the recruits are issued their rifles. York is a crack shot with a muzzle loader, but the Army doesn’t know this. He marvels at the repeating rifle (likely an Enfield M1917). First time out on the firing range all the recruits are getting their first target practice. His buddy “Pusher” Ross (George Tobias) misses completely with his first shot. Then York takes his first shot, as his instructor looks on with skepticism.

The target markers call York’s shot a miss, as well. York expresses great surprise. The instructor requests a remark. the markers examine the target again and notice a hole in the black circle. The instructor gives York a full clip and York puts the remaining shots close to the center of the ball.

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York attains considerable respect and is employed assisting the other recruits in rifle training. He’s offered a promotion to corporal, but he declines. His captain offers him a week’s leave to reconsider his religious opposition to the war. He takes that and returns with a commitment to fight when necessary. He accepts promotion to corporal, and then he goes to war.

The movie shows little of Yorks early weeks in the war zone (France). We do see the new recruits coming to terms with trench warfare. A buddy, Bert Thomas (David Bruce), is killed by a shell fragment.

Comes the crucial day, 8 October 1918. The Germans will be conceding defeat in 34 days, but they don’t know it yet. On that day his unit goes “over the top,” out of their trenches to attack German positions near “Hill 223.” It’s the classic World War One charge across no-man’s land. American troops are advancing through shell holes and among broken trees. German machine guns are chugging relentlessly. German shells are falling around the advancing American. Men are dying right and left.

Ultimately the charging Americans reach a crisis. Their advance is stopped. They are pinned down among the shell craters. York’s sergeant is ordered to take his platoon and work their way up and knock out the machine gun positions.

The Americans infiltrate into a German trench and kill enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand fighting. Bayonets and hand grenades are the weapons of choice. They realize they have not advanced far enough, and they continue until they are behind the enemy positions. Two German soldiers discover the Americans and alert the others on the front line. It’s too late. By then the Americans are above and behind the German firing positions. They have the drop on a large group of Germans and force them to surrender, including their commander, a major.

After the Americans occupy the German line with their prisoners they are detected by German machine gunners farther up the hill. The machine gunners open up, killing many of the Americans and pinning the rest down. With York’s sergeant badly wounded York becomes the lead NCO. He tells the remaining Americans to guard the prisoners, and he works his way, under fire from the machine guns, to a point where he can out flank the enemy positions.

It’s at this point that York’s marksmanship comes into play. Whenever he can see a German he kills him with a well-placed shot. A scene that is right out of York’s diary shows him taking out a squad of charging Germans with only a pistol. He fires six times and kills all of them.

There’s a small bit of artistic license here. The movie shows York using a captured Luger. Actually he used an Army issue .45 Colt. The problem is the Colt could not handle blank ammunition, but the Luger could. Using rifles and captured pistols, York lays waste to the German positions.

In one instance he positions himself in line with a German trench position and kills them one after the other as each falls in front of him. After many of them have been killed, the Germans lie low while a sharpshooter attempts to get a shot at York. York kills the sharpshooter. They all give up.

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York leads the remainder of the German detachment down the hill to join the other prisoners. He and eight others are the only Americans left standing. Then a German prisoner pulls a grenade and kills “Pusher” Ross. The Americans gun down the prisoner and march the survivors back toward American lines.

Along the way they spot more Germans along a ridge line, and York orders the German major to command them to surrender. He has a pistol pointed at the major. The major tells his bugler to sound the retreat call, and all the Germans on the ridge throw down their weapons and join the parade back to American lines.

I’ve tried to figure out the Germans’ willingness to surrender in this kind of situation, but a look at the back side of the war during this time shows a considerable dip in morale among German troops about this time. They have mostly had their fill of this war. By 11 November it will all be over, and those still alive will be able to go back home.

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Back behind American lines with 132 prisoners, York and his men are greeted with amazement. Eight men bringing in a full company of combat infantry. The word begins to get around. York becomes the talk of the war zone.

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We see General John Pershing awarding now Sergeant York the Medal of Honor. Sergeant York has picked up a number of other awards along the way.

Back home he gets a hero’s welcome and prepares to marry his sweetheart, Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie). Gracie was by then 19 years old. Joan Leslie was 16 years old when she played the part, making her about the age as Gracie at the start of the movie. York insisted the part of Gracie be played by a non-smoking, non-drinking girl, and pickings for this profile were scarce in Hollywood.

Contrary to the movie, Alvin York did not come to religion from an epiphany along a mountain trail. Rather, his conversion began years before the first scenes.

The movie also features Ward BondNoah Beery Jr. and Gig Young as an uncredited marching soldier. Margaret Wycherly started in movies in 1915 and would eight years later play the villainous Ma Jarrett with James Cagney in White Heat. Walter Brennan actually fought in World War One. A gas attack left him with a scratchy voice, and he played codgers of various stripes throughout his acting career. He finished up with how own TV show, a codger to the end.

At the same time Alvin York was involved in the action that earned him the Medal of Honor, Major Charles White Whittlesey, Captain George G. McMurtry, and Captain Nelson M. Holderman were concluding the siege of The Lost Battalion. A TV movie of this World War One drama depicts the five-day ordeal. Today I’m also posting a review of this movie and a recount of this critical battle in the Argonne Forest.

The Awful Truth

Number 6 in a Series

Earlier this month I reviewed a companion book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, by James Clapper. Here is another view along the same lines. It’s The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by former NSA director General Michael Hayden. Both writers have long experience in public service, having served in the United States military and in national intelligence agencies. Both take a dim view of the administration of President Donald Trump. Both consider his persistent use of fabrication and his abuse of the intelligence agencies to be scandalous and (my interpretation) and also an abuse of his office.

I’m using the same approach here that I did with the previous review. I will illustrate with pertinent excerpts from the book and add context and elaboration where helpful. Start here:

Two months into the Trump administration, Jim Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, were asked in an open congressional hearing if the president they were serving was misleading the nation with his claims that they or their British friends had wiretapped him while he was president-elect.

They said that he was.

It was a remarkable moment. That question doesn’t get asked very often in open parliamentary session in a democracy, let alone get answered—to say nothing of being answered in that way. It made me proud to have been associated with an intelligence community that felt free to do that.

But that was not the end of the matter, at least as far as the White House was concerned. The administration stuck to its alternate version—Obama wiretapped me—even after the FBI and NSA chiefs had confirmed that objective reality was clearly otherwise.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Hayden has concluded, as have a growing number of Americans, that the current President of the United States is a calculating liar who seeks to persuade his political base that truth is what he says it is, and that hard facts are distortions promulgated by opposing and disloyal sources. For General Hayden the threat to civilized society crystallized during his working intelligence tour in the former Yugoslavia during the events of the 1990s.

The veneer of civilization, I sadly concluded then, was quite thin—perhaps a natural thought for an intelligence officer, whose profession consistently trends pessimistic, whose work is consumed by threats and dangers, and who routinely travels to some of the world’s darkest, most troubled places.

Later I learned that intelligence officers were not so alone in their dark thoughts. Robin Wright, the American chronicler of the Middle East’s woes, told me that Israel’s Shimon Peres once despairingly lamented to her, “We’re so primitive. We’re so very primitive.”

Over the years it became clear to me that the structures, processes, and attitudes that protect us from Thomas Hobbes’s world of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” lives are not naturally occurring things. They are inherently fragile and demand careful tending if they are to survive.

That brought me to the idea of this book, which is not that civil war or societal collapse is necessarily imminent or inevitable here in America, but that the structures, processes, and attitudes we rely on to prevent those kinds of occurrences are under stress, and that many of the premises on which we have based our governance, policy, and security are now challenged, eroded, or simply gone.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 2-3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He summarizes:

Deeply involved in this is the question of truth. It was no accident that the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016 was “post-truth,” a condition where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Liberal British academic and philosopher A. C. Grayling characterized the emerging post-truth world to me as “over-valuing opinion and preference at the expense of proof and data.” Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl predicted that the term could become “one of the defining words of our time.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The author bears down on the seriousness of our present situation:

We’re really breaking new ground when, at the six-month point of the new administration, the former head of CIA, John Brennan, and the former director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper—with more than seven decades of experience between them and a record of service for both political parties—spend a rainy afternoon in Aspen telling hundreds that they harbor deep concerns about Russian election interference, openly criticize President Trump for refusing to face that reality, and warn that “in some respects we are a government in crisis.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 6). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Like James Clapper, Michael Hayden is unable to escape that the Russian government is working to upend the American  political  process:

And it continues. A quick look at articles pushed by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter in early January shows that attacks on Democrats and liberals comprised more than a quarter, with discrediting Fusion GPS and the Steele dossier at 14 percent, and pushing “deep state” narratives and conspiracies constituting 13 percent. Sound familiar? When Trump speaks, the Russians amplify.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 7). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump campaigned on a policy of “America First,” and the author traveled back to the place of his origins in Pittsburgh, where he connected with friends from his youth and other, like-minded people.

So I resolved to reengage the “America First” issue, in the back room of a Pittsburgh sports bar over some Iron City beer. I asked my brother to arrange for several dozen of his friends, all Trump supporters, to meet with me for a couple of hours.

I knew many of the participants, indeed had grown up with several. But we could have been from different planets. They are angry. They feel abandoned and disadvantaged even though they work hard, pay their taxes, and struggle to raise their kids. They hate Hillary Clinton, I mean really hate her. And for them, it is still midnight on November 8, 2016. Donald Trump is still their guy. “He is an American . . . He is genuine . . . He is authentic . . . He doesn’t filter everything or parse every word.” They don’t seem to be very interested in “facts,” either. Or at least not in my “facts.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden attempts to winkle out what is underlying the disconnect:

About two months after my Pittsburgh meeting, the New York Times’ David Brooks wrote that political partisanship in America had become what he called “totalistic.” It was no longer about better policies as it was with Eisenhower and Kennedy. Nor was it about better philosophy as it was with Reagan. Now “people often use partisan identity to fill the void left when other attachments wither away—religious, ethnic, communal and familial.”6

Around the same time as the Brooks article, conservative ethicist Peter Wehner told me that in today’s America, beliefs are really tied up with identities, and he pointed me to this: “If changing your belief means changing your identity, it comes at the risk of rejection from the community of people with whom you share that identity.” Wehner also reminded me that data is not particularly useful to argue a point that itself was not particularly data-derived (which is not quite the same distinction as true and untrue).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 22-23). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hayden saw what I often see when communicating with conservative acquaintances:

When I asked in that Pittsburgh back room if anyone really believed that Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, most hands shot up. I tried to explain how the relevant agencies (NSA and FBI) had said it wasn’t true. When I asked why they still thought it was so, they simply replied, “Obama.”

“Obama was against the country and did everything he could to undermine it,” concluded one participant.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 23-24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The basis behind “America First” comes out:

It was also true that most in the room had spent their entire lives in or near Pittsburgh. National statistics say that Trump won by nine points among white voters who live within two hours of where they were born and by an overwhelming 26 percent among those who live in their hometown proper. Everybody in the room in Pittsburgh was white, too.

When I asked what they thought “America First” meant, the answer was pretty simple. It meant that someone was paying attention to them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 24). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Observers of the 2016 presidential election point to the declining relevance of traditional left-right, Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative divides in American politics. Technological change, the explosion of information, and the erosion of borders have smothered old dividing lines over the size of government, family values, and the national debt. Changes in technology, information, and borders have created winners and losers, and these folks are in that group of Americans who are feeling left behind.

Collectively they view themselves as disadvantaged in a globalized world and they catalog refugees and immigrants as threatening their safety, trade deals as taking away their jobs, and political institutions as wasting their money. Hence the surge of a populism that claims “to speak in the people’s place, in their name, and convey an undeniable shared truth on their

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 24-25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He further analyses his impromptu focus group:

Reading the audience, I decided against asking the group a question I had formed during my preparation: “How many of you have passports?” It had been a pleasant evening and I don’t think they would have appreciated the tone of my question. I also suspect that I wouldn’t have liked their answer. They were polite, patriotic, sincere, and enthusiastic, but foreign affairs wasn’t a strong suit or strong interest.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 38-39). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

He analyzes the Trump phenomenon in terms of Hamiltonian and Jacksonian views:

Famed American academic Walter Russell Mead broke down the whole dynamic for me in terms of his four paradigms of the American presidency. He reminded me that there were Hamiltonians, wedded to the tough realism of America’s first secretary of the treasury: America cannot be free unless America is prosperous, America cannot be prosperous unless America is strong. I had limited contact with Mitt Romney as an adviser during his 2012 campaign, but I suspect he would have trended Hamiltonian as president.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 27). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And then there was Andrew Jackson: man of the people, frontiersman, Indian fighter, war hero—the first democrat in the White House whether you write it with a big D or a little d. Jacksonian foreign policy is shaped by an intense patriotism to an America defined by blood, soil, and shared history, and it is largely uninterested in international affairs unless, of course, somebody really ticks us off (like Japan in 1941, or al-Qaeda in 2001). Only half-jokingly do I describe it as a security policy organized around Robert De Niro’s immortal line in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

America’s post–World War II internationalism has been largely shaped by Hamiltonian and Wilsonian concepts. In fact, the history of that era was often written as a struggle between the two factions, trying to balance American interests and American ideals in the conduct of our policy.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That crowd in the back room in Pittsburgh was overwhelmingly Jacksonian…

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 28). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There is an analysis on the former president’s relationship with the intelligence community, ultimately to be contrasted with President Trump’s:

Over time the president, who came into office with a liberal Democrat’s distrust of an intelligence community around which multiple controversies had been swirling, grew more comfortable with both the institutions and the people who were serving him. Obama also came to office with little intelligence background, since he had not served on the Intelligence Committee while in the Senate. He had a steep learning curve, but gradually absorbed both the capabilities and the limits of the community. The PDB in the president’s second term was described to me as often a ten- to fifteen-minute tactical update for someone who was now quite familiar with the issues. Both John Brennan and Jim Clapper recall Obama as genuinely appreciative. Jim said the president was gracious and complimentary during his last meeting with him in the Oval Office.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 34-35). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In their comparative views, James Clapper’s book takes readers on a historical ride, bringing the shape of today’s intelligence community ultimately into view, while Michael Hayden’s work is rooted in the present and the recent past. Both heap condemnation on the current administration’s aversion to, and the destruction of, basic truth. I will finish out with some highlights on the author’s observations. First a 30,000-foot view:

Internationalist—nativist. Nuanced—blunt. Informed—instinctive. No drama—all drama. Studied—spontaneous. Fully formed paragraphs—140 characters. America as idea—America as blood and soil. Free trader—protectionist. And then there was the issue of truth. All candidates shape their message, but Trump just seemed to say whatever came into his head. Was he uninformed, lazy, dishonest . . . or did he simply reject the premise that objective reality even existed or mattered?

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 41). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump’s issues with the truth were early apparent:

My little email universe was steadily lit up in the spring and summer of 2016 with commentary on the Trump campaign. That universe comprised a lot of people with backgrounds like mine: intelligence, security, military, diplomatic, and related fields. We had lots of issues, but the key themes of truth, inclusion, and lawfulness quickly emerged.

The most intense buzz was about telling the truth, or, more specifically, about Donald Trump not telling the truth. Or at least not bothering to find the truth in order to speak accurately.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 43). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There follows a litany of Donald Trump’s obvious fabrications:

We had a long list of out-and-out lies, too, like the candidate’s claim that there were pan-Islamic legions celebrating wildly on the streets of New Jersey as the Twin Towers were aflame and collapsing. And then there was the moment Mr. Trump, hammering Obama-era political correctness, departed from prepared remarks to say that the neighbors of the San Bernardino terrorist couple, beyond seeing suspicious behavior, “saw bombs on the floor,” a claim for which there was absolutely no evidence.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 44). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think it fair to say that the Trump campaign normalized lying to an unprecedented degree, and when pressed on specifics it routinely tried to delegitimize those who would disagree with countercharges about the “lyin’ media,” “intelligence” (in accusatory quotation marks), “so-called

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols credits a 1999 study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, research psychologists at Cornell, with driving home this point. Nichols writes, “The lack of metacognition sets up a vicious loop in which people who do not know much about a subject do not know when they’re in over their head . . . and there is no way to educate or inform people who, when in doubt, will make stuff up.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Nichols is Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College.

The concept came to mind again when after a year in office the president riffed on climate change with British journalist Piers Morgan: “There is a cooling, and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level.”2 For the sake of history and science, I should add that arctic sea ice levels were at record lows as the president spoke (a generally well-known and accepted fact regardless of your views on human-caused climate change).

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 46). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It really wasn’t clear that Mr. Trump actually wanted much advice anyway. He told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in March, “My primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff, I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain.”

He had earlier identified the source of his foreign policy thinking to Chuck Todd of NBC: “Well, I really watch the shows. You really see a lot of great, you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows, and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 62). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

One of the complaints that we cataloged was that Mr. Trump “has shown no interest in educating himself. He continues to display an alarming ignorance of basic facts of contemporary international politics. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mr. Trump claims that he understands foreign

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 67). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The morning of the first Trump briefing on August 17, he was asked on Trump-friendly Fox News whether he trusted U.S. intelligence. He replied, “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. I mean, . . . look what’s happened over the years. I mean, it’s been catastrophic. In fact, I won’t use some of the people that are standards—you know, just use them, use them, use them, very easy to use them, but I won’t use them because they’ve made such bad decisions.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 68). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The candidate started well: “I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings . . . they were terrific people.” Indeed, one of the IC participants later told me that the candidate walked into the September 7 meeting with a decidedly respectful air, the way a layman would walk into a conference of experts or specialists. But then Mr. Trump alleged that despite the great advice these professionals had given them, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.”

When pressed on how he knew that, the candidate responded, “In almost every instance. And I could tell you. I have pretty good with the body language [sic]. I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 70). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Candidate Trump would have none of it: “I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are. . . . Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rejecting a fact-based intelligence assessment—not because of compelling contrarian data, but because it was inconsistent with a preexisting worldview or because it was politically inconvenient—is the stuff of ideological authoritarianism, not pragmatic democracy. And for the American intelligence community, seeing that from someone who could be president would have been very discomfiting.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 72). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The president’s charge of “political hacks” at the head of the American intelligence community was part of a broader pattern. When the institutions of the American government refuse to kowtow to the president’s transient whim, he sets out to devalue and delegitimize them in a way rarely, if ever, seen before in our history. A free (but admittedly imperfect) press is “fake news,” unless, of course, it is Fox; the FBI is in “tatters,” led by a “nut job” director and conducting a “witch hunt”; the Department of Justice, and particularly the attorney general, is weak; the intelligence community, in addition to being led by political hacks, is “Nazi”-like; the courts are manned by “so called” judges. Even the National Football League and the Boy Scouts of America have had to defend their integrity against presidential attacks designed solely to protect the president’s brand.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 208). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In early December, McMaster was again called on to defend the president, this time over his retweeting of three videos purporting to show gruesome Muslim violence against innocents that had been originally produced and captioned by a fringe anti-immigrant British group whose leader had been convicted of a Muslim hate crime. The Dutch embassy in Washington said that one of the videos showing its citizens was patently false, and British prime minister Theresa May condemned all of them, at the same time rebuking Trump for endorsing them.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 213). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That was clear in February when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee approved a memo written for and signed by their chairman, Devin Nunes, charging the FBI and the Department of Justice with malpractice and politicization for using the notorious Steele dossier to get a FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Most folks like me condemned the memo’s thin four pages, especially its injection of hyperpartisanship into what has historically been a matter between career intelligence or law enforcement professionals and the federal courts. The memo was also misleadingly silent with regard to other evidence presented to the FISA judge beyond the Steele dossier and was almost immediately contradicted by press reports that the judge had indeed been aware of the political motivation behind those bankrolling Steele.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 217). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A healthy skepticism teaches that theories (i.e., current truths) are only temporary tools, subject to inquiry and observation, but this is the only path to knowledge, which is—in the Nobel tradition—the only course to betterment. Hence the alarm was sounded at the beginning of the day by Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, that “knowledge and pure facts are being questioned.” Ebadi, the Iranian activist, later warned that “cruelty to man begins with cruelty to words”; she cited “Islam” as a code word for misogyny, “nationalism” for xenophobia, “globalization” for closed factories, but there could have been many other examples.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (pp. 221-222). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

That theme and the apparent bottomlessness of presidential behavior were borne out two weeks later when, as much of the country was embarking for holiday destinations and the president was landing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump pressed the narrative that the FBI was in “tatters,” the Russia plot was a “hoax,” and Bob Mueller’s investigation was a “witch hunt.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 227). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And this president at various times has signaled his distrust, questioned the credibility, risked the capabilities, and downplayed the value of his intelligence community and, after ten months in office, when asked about vacancies in various foreign policy positions that historically have advised the White House, famously responded that this shouldn’t be a concern because “I’m the only one that matters.”

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 244). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Coverage extends beyond an analysis of Donald Trump’s lies. Much is devoted to intelligence analysis of Russia’s (Vladimir Putin’s) grand campaign to influence the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and ultimately in support of candidate Trump. There is also coverage of fringe players who cooked up imaginative scenarios and the politicians, prior to Trump, who played into them. Famous are Jade Helm and the concoctions of Bill Binney.

Jade Helm has since become a focus of mirth here in Texas and something used to pummel Republican Governor Greg Abbott:

It’s over, readers and fellow Texans. The greatest attempted power grab and threat to civil liberties since the Civil war is over, and vigilant Texans have prevailed. Jade Helm 15, the contrived “military exercise” that flooded Texas and other states with federal troops, concluded on September 15th. And Obama lost, again.

I cautioned of The Gathering Storm a few weeks ago:

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT
April 28, 2015

Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty
Commander, Texas State Guard
Texas Military Forces
2200 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas 78763

Dear General Betty:

To address concerns of Texas citizens and to ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15. During the Operation’s eight-week training period from July 2015 to September 2015, I expect to receive regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.

During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed. By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.

U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has assured Texas that each location selected for training exercises will pose no risk to residents or property and that they will coordinate with local residents via verbal and written communication.

Directing the State Guard to monitor the Operation will allow Texas to be informed of the details of military personnel movements and training exercise schedules, and it will give us the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with local communities, law enforcement, public safety personnel and citizens.

The action I take today comes with the recognition of Texas’ long history of supporting our military forces and our proud tradition of training, deploying and supporting our active-duty troops and returning veterans. As Governor, I have the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave military men and women who put their lives en the line to fight for and defend out freedom. I remain certain that our military members will keep America the freest and strongest nation the world has ever known.

Binney is a former CIA official, more lately a hair’s-on-fire conspiracy theorist for conservative outlets:

Binney is known for making the claim that the NSA collects and stores information about every U.S. communication. Binney was invited as a witness by the NSA commission of the German Bundestag. On July 3, 2014 Der Spiegel wrote, he said that the NSA wanted to have information about everything. In Binney’s view this is a totalitarian approach, which had previously been seen only in dictatorships. Binney stated that the goal was to control people. Meanwhile, he said that it is possible in principle to monitor the whole population, abroad and in the U.S., which in his view contradicts the United States Constitution.

In August 2014 Binney was among the signatories of an open letter by the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity to German chancellor Angela Merkel in which they urged the Chancellor to be suspicious of U.S. intelligence regarding the alleged invasion of Russia in Eastern Ukraine. In the open letter, the group said:

[A]ccusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

And that should be enough to get you interested in reading the book. It’s fresh, out earlier this year, and the Kindle edition is $15 ($14.99 plus tax). General Hayden is a clean writer, and the narrative flows effortlessly. His experience is deep, and this is the book shows this.

The book touches on a number of issues, but one I found to be close to me:

One evangelical leader (Reverend John Hagee, pastor of a San Antonio megachurch) labeled support for Israel “God’s foreign policy”11 and personally lobbied President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Hayden, Michael V.. The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (p. 52). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yes, I receive Reverend Hagee’s newsletter headed Christians United for Israel (CUFI), finding time to comment on occasion:

Hagee has pointed out the correct solution was right under our noses all along. What fools we were:

On his Hagee Hotline show, Pastor Matthew Hagee told his listeners that climate change is not man made, but was foretold in the Bible as a sign that the return of Jesus Christ is imminent, according to Right Wing Watch. Hagee points out that the reports by scientists indicating the climate change can attributed to man made causes should not be believed because “in another place in scripture it says, ‘let God be true, and every man be a liar’.” Citing Matthew 25, where the Bible says that “strange weather patterns” would emerge prior to the arrival of Jesus, Hagee says we must take the word of God over men, “who are wrong, in spite of their education, in spite of their expertise, in spite of their philosophy. Whomever, and whatever, contradicts the word of God, is not correct.” Hagee goes on to explain that man should not waste time trying to “make everything as clean in the air as possible,” and that time would be better spent telling people about the return of Jesus. “The Bible says that whenever we approach the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strange weather patterns,” Ha[g]ee explained. “Jesus said this in Matthew the twenty-fifth chapter. So we have a decision to make: do we believe what an environmentalist group says and choose to live in a world where we’re attempting to make everything as clean in the air as possible, or do we believe what the Bible says, that these things were going to happen and that rather than try to clean up all of the air and solve all of the problems of the world by eliminating factories, we should start to tell people about Jesus Christ who is to return?”

See? All these stupid scientists had to do was to read Matthew (no relation) 25. Actually, it is Matthew 24 that describes these events, but what’s a chapter or two among biblical scholars?

And there’s more. Use the Search box at the top of this page to read more fascinating stuff about wacked out Reverend Hagee.

The Awful Truth

Number 5 in a Series

The title of this series derived from that of an old movie, but I use it to highlight that for some people the truth is often sorry news. The topic today is not a movie but a recent book by James R. Clapper, retired Air Force lieutenant general and most recently Director of National Intelligence. The book is Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence. I obtained the Kindle edition from Amazon after catching an interview with General Clapper on CNN. It’s 431 pages, but it’s an interesting read, provided stuff like intelligence and truth are of interest.

It’s a story of a life, quite literally, in the national intelligence business. Clapper is about five months younger than I am, and his father was in the Army signal intelligence field. So Clapper grew up in that world, traveling with his parents as his father was posted to exotic places following the fall of fascism. An early memory was arriving with his mother in Cairo, a visit that terminated abruptly somewhat later when King Farouk made a pass at his mother, and his father took a swing at the king. Someday let me tell you about my exciting childhood growing up in Hood County, Texas.

Anyhow, young James showed great promise and naturally drifted into military intelligence and eventually into  Wasington  bureaucracy. The key to the book is Clapper’s perspective on the current tussle over fact and truth in the Donald Trump administration, viewed with the vision of a person who spent a long career learning how to sift fact from fiction. He leaves a grim reminder that fiction is on the ascendancy. I’m going to present this perspective by way of showing pertinent clips from the book and adding elaboration when available. Start here with Clapper’s reaction to the outcome of the 2016 election:

I was shocked. Everyone was shocked, including Mr. Trump, who’d continued on Election Day to cast doubt on whether he would accept the election results as legitimate. Having a few minutes alone, I kept thinking of just how out of touch I was with the people who lived in Middle America. I’d been stationed in heartland states repeatedly during my military career, particularly Texas, and I had traveled extensively as an agency director in the early 2000s and again during the past six and a half years as DNI, meeting with Intelligence Community employees outside of St. Louis, speaking at the University of Texas at Austin and with the Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, and visiting many other places. I’d joked to audiences about just how out of touch people in Washington were, and I’d never failed to draw a laugh, sometimes applause. Working down in the “engine room” of our national security enterprise—“shoveling intelligence coal,” as I liked to say—I never recognized just how much frustration with and resentment toward Washington those communities had, and just how deep the roots of their anger went. But Donald Trump had, and he’d appealed to them more than I’d realized or liked.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 1-2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It came as a surprise to most right-thinking people that fact no longer mattered, being cast aside over a call to our basest impulses. This is from the Introduction, and there’s more from this section summarizing Clapper’s take on the situation.

I also thought about the warning on Russian interference in the election that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and I had issued to the American public a month earlier. We’d agonized over the precise wording of the press release and whether naming Russian president Vladimir Putin as the mastermind and puppeteer of the Russian influence operation would cause an international incident, drawing Jeh’s department and the Intelligence Community into the political fray. Reading responses to exit polls, I realized that our release and public statements simply hadn’t mattered. I wasn’t sure if people were oblivious to the seriousness of the threat we’d described or if they just didn’t care what the Russians were doing.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I wondered what President Obama was thinking and if he regretted his reticence to “put his thumb on the scale” of the election—as he put it—by not publicly calling out the Russian interference while Putin was effectively standing on the other end of that scale. At the same time, I was no longer sure it would have mattered to the people in Middle America if the president had presented everything we knew about Russia’s massive cyber and propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy, disparage former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and promote Donald Trump.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 2). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I didn’t realize it then, but the Russians were just as shocked as we were. They’d succeeded beyond their wildest imagination and were completely unprepared for their own success. The Russian propaganda network in the United States, formerly known as Russia Today and since rebranded as just “RT,” was jubilant in calling the election for Mr. Trump: “That’s what this is, a defining moment in global history, that America is willing to turn the page and possibly isolate itself from the rest of the world.” They declared, “The next speech that Donald Trump gives to the world will be one of the most important speeches in the history of the world.” As the anchors reveled in Trump’s victory, the crawl at the bottom of the screen continued running lines intended to delegitimize Clinton’s win, such as SEVERAL STATES REPORT BROKEN VOTING MACHINES. The Russian internet troll factory scrambled to stop its #DemocracyRIP social media campaign, set to run from its fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

After the election, the CIA and the FBI continued to uncover evidence of preelection Russian propaganda, all intended to undermine Clinton and promote Trump, and the Intelligence Community continued to find indications of Russian cyber operations to interfere with the election. At a National Security Council meeting on Monday, December 5, President Obama gave us more explicit instructions. He wanted the CIA, NSA, and FBI—each agency with the mission-specific tradecraft and capabilities to determine what the Russians had done—to assemble all their findings, encompassing the most sensitive sourcing, into a single report that he could pass on to the next administration and to Congress. He also asked us to produce a paper for public consumption with as much information from the classified version as possible. And critically, he wanted all of this done before he left office. The highly classified IC assessment that resulted was, I believe, a landmark product—among the most important ever produced by US intelligence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 3-4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

For me, there was no specific moment in that time, no flash of insight when I understood that our primary adversary for nearly all of my half century as a US intelligence professional was—without exaggeration—hacking away at the very roots of our democracy. That realization slowly washed over me in 2016 in a tide that continued to rise after the election, and even after I’d left government and the new administration had transitioned into power. My concern about what I saw taking place in America—and my apprehension that we were losing focus on what the Russians had done to us—is ultimately what persuaded me to write this book, to use what we had learned in our IC assessment to frame my experience and our collective experience as Americans.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

My hope is to capture and share the experience of more than fifty years in the intelligence profession, to impart the pride that intelligence officers take in their work, the care with which they consider the ethical implications of surveillance and espionage, and the patriotism and willingness to sacrifice that they bring to the job. And finally, I intend to show that what Russia did to the United States during the 2016 election was far worse than just another post–Cold War jab at an old adversary. What to us was a sustained assault on our traditional values and institutions of governance, from external as well as internal pressures. In the wake of that experience, my fear is that many Americans are questioning if facts are even knowable, as foreign adversaries and our national leaders continue to deny objective reality while advancing their own “alternative facts.” America possesses great strength and resilience, but how we rise to this challenge—with clear-eyed recognition of the unbiased facts and by setting aside our doubts—is entirely up to us. I believe the destiny of the American ideal is at stake.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And that pretty much sums up the book’s introduction. Any more, and I would have pasted here the entire text. I will skip over much that details Clapper’s career in military intelligence, highlighting only a few excerpts. Then I will close out with events most of us recall from watching TV. First some career highlights. Here’s something that came up in another book I reviewed recently:

Many of the prominent code crackers of World War II had been women who’d stayed with the agency after the war, and NSA in the 1960s was appreciative of their contributions and more open to having them in leadership positions than the rest of government or corporate America. My dad had worked for several of these women in the 1950s, including Juanita Moody and Ann Caracristi, who in 1980 would shatter the glass ceiling as deputy director of NSA. Hearing him talk about these individuals as smart, capable leaders, without his making a big deal about their gender, made a bigger impression on my views of women than any feminist views my mother ever expressed.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 19). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

His years in military service encompassed historical transformations:

family. The most indelible experience I had was processing the dishonorable discharges of two airmen who were roommates in the barracks, and who had been “outed” (which was not a term used back then) as homosexual. In the day, there was—by regulation—no other recourse. They automatically lost their security clearances and were expelled from the service. At best, homosexuals were given general discharges; some received dishonorable. These two individuals were model airmen: superb Russian linguists, meticulous about their military responsibilities, and devoted to serving their country. I remember thinking what a waste of talent it was, in addition to being a profound injustice, and it viscerally bothered me that I was forced to play a part in their unceremonious dismissals.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 21). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In those days intelligence was largely historical, telling people what had happened, not what was happening and certainly not forecasting what was going to happen.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 22). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Because of the size of the Soviet Union and China, high-frequency Morse code was the primary way to effectively communicate across such vast distances, so the entire Eurasian landmass was ringed with SIGINT sites, stretching from Japan to Turkey to Britain. Each signals intelligence station employed hundreds of GIs—soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines—copying “dits and dahs” around the clock, day in and day out.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 25). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In February 1959, the Air Force attempted the launch of its first “overhead” collection capability—Corona. The first launch vehicle never left the pad. In assessing America’s early successes in space photoreconnaissance and just how much they changed the game against the Soviets, people tend to forget that in 1959 and 1960 our first thirteen attempts at Corona failed.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 26). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tensions between North and South escalated, and US Air Force B-52s continued to fly patrols parallel to the DMZ. The North Koreans, in turn, put their air-defense systems on high alert, flew MiG fighters on frequent patrols, and dispatched their submarines out to sea. We intercepted communications indicating that Kim Il-sung might order an invasion into South Korea. I stayed in the office for about three days without going home, communicating via Teletype with an Army major who was my counterpart in South Korea. The sense of an imminent war was palpable through the crisis, and it took several weeks for the situation to stabilize enough for us to fall back into a regular rhythm.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 34). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I had not fully appreciated the consuming siege mentality that pervades North Korea until I visited and engaged directly with senior officials there. The leadership elites in the North work hard to maximize paranoia among the population. Portraying the United States as an enemy that’s constantly on the brink of invading it is one of the chief propaganda themes that’s held North Korea together for the past sixty years. They are also deadly serious about any perceived affronts to the Supreme Leader, whom they literally consider a deity. The DPRK is a family-owned country and has been that way ever since it was founded in the 1940s. Because of its history, the DPRK sees developing nuclear weapons as its insurance policy and ticket to survival. North Korea wants to be recognized as a world power, and its entire society, including their conventional military forces, suffers for the relentless, single-minded commitment to develop and field these weapons and delivery systems to threaten the United States. Neither they nor we really know if their weapons work, but in many ways, it doesn’t matter. They achieved nuclear deterrence long ago, because we have to assume that if they do launch an ICBM at the United States, it will reach our shores and detonate. They have effectively played their nuclear hand to the hilt, for without even proving they have the relevant capability, they’ve capitalized on nuclear deterrence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 49-50). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Reading the account of  his own career, which nobody will deny is factual, you have to conclude that James Clapper came to be knowledgeable about all facets of intelligence gathering and analysis. He gives the impression of one who values true and useful information, but he reemphasizes that the job of intelligence agencies is to present proper detail and the significance of intelligence but at the same time not to extrapolate and not to suggest consequences. Military, law enforcement, and politicians bear the responsibility for taking action.

His service in Washington provided Clapper with insight into  a number of personalities, insight that eventually became reflected in news headlines. One such person was two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. When Clapper applied to head up the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (then NIMA), Secretary Rumsfeld had to sign off on his hiring:

Almost as soon as I sat down, Rumsfeld was off on a rant about Congress, complaining about partisan politics and how too many members catered to their constituents over the best interests of the nation.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 90). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper found the meeting uncomfortable, resulting in this exchange:

As my thirty-minute appointment extended to forty-five minutes, I thought that if I was a wagering man, I’d bet he’d be out of the job before Christmas. The interview came to a merciful end. He stood, shook my hand, and wished me luck. Outside, Staser saw my quizzical look and told me I had the job.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 91). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“Staser” is “retired Vice Admiral Staser Holcomb, who had been Secretary Rumsfeld’s military assistant the first time he’d served as secretary of defense and who was now serving informally as Rumsfeld’s “executive headhunter,” recruiting people for senior positions in DOD.” [Page 87]

A subsequent encounter with Secretary Rumsfeld led ultimately to Clapper’s firing from head of NIMA.

At that lunch, Mike and I both advocated establishing a strong DNI, rather than creating a weak figurehead that would diffuse or confuse authority, and we told the secretary that he should back legislation that would align the three “national” agencies under a DNI. The agencies could still fulfill their combat support responsibilities, but they would produce better intelligence under an authority whose full-time focus would be on integrating their work. We appealed to him to support improving how intelligence functioned, rather than protecting the existing bureaucracy. Secretary Rumsfeld cut short the lunch and left, missing a good dessert. Mike would later say that my discourse that day was the reason my NGA directorship was ultimately terminated early.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 105). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“DNI” is Director of National Intelligence, and “NGA” is a subsequent abbreviation for the agency that was NIMA.

Another personality eventually to become notable is Lieutenant General Michael Flynn:

When I first went to Russia in 1992, I was taken aback, even disappointed, at seeing the run-down infrastructure and the plight of Russian citizens. It was graphic evidence that behind the formidable Soviet military power was a third- or fourth-rate economy. On a subsequent trip, I visited GRU headquarters—the Russian military intelligence agency that was DIA’s nominal counterpart, much as the KGB was CIA’s. (I don’t know if I was the first DIA director to visit GRU, but I do know that Lieutenant General Mike Flynn was not the first DIA director to visit there in 2013, as he claimed.) There we found Soviet military equipment being sold at bargain-basement prices to raise funds to keep the agency functioning, so DIA bought jets, tanks, guns, antiaircraft systems, and whatever else we thought would be useful to study and exploit, as well as anything we wanted to keep off the black market.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 79). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

General Flynn served briefly in the administrations of President Obama and President Trump. Prior to that he became noted for keeping his own facts, which facts have come to be called “Flynn facts.”

Mike had spent his career, particularly the decade since 9/11, on the tactical edge of battle. He had never directed a large organization before, and he made some of the same mistakes I’d made as a new DIA director in 1991, including not properly engaging the workforce before undertaking a major reorganization. He could have rectified the situation, but he didn’t address the civilian workforce’s concerns when they were brought to him, and he made matters worse by increasingly demanding that civilians behave like uniformed service members. Stories started leaking out of DIA that he was using analysts to chase down crazy conspiracy theories, which the workforce had dubbed “Flynn facts.” He also clashed with his boss in the Pentagon, Mike Vickers, and publicly criticized the president’s policy decisions, asserting that the president should refer to terrorists as “Islamic extremists.”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 331). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As General Flynn exited military life and entered politics, his persona became more flamboyant and his discourse more strident:

With the Trump team setting the agenda, the convention seemed to revel in pessimism about the state of the nation and the direction it was heading. On Monday, Mike Flynn led the crowd in chanting “Lock her up!” in reference to the Clinton email scandal. He seemed so consumed by partisan anger that I barely recognized the man I’d traveled the world with when he’d still been in uniform.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 341). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper notes with alarm Flynn’s actions as he entered the Trump administration:

Three days after candidate Trump released his December 7 anti-Islam statement, former DIA director and retired lieutenant general Mike Flynn appeared in Moscow at a gala for RT. He was seated beside Putin at dinner and was paid forty-five thousand dollars to speak. I knew Mike well, and it boggled my mind that he would so knowingly compromise himself.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 330). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

RT is the new name for Russia TV, a television network funded by the Russian government.

The book addresses the matters of Bradley Manning—an Army private—and Edward Snowden, both of whom filched classified information, eventually shared world-wide by WikiLeaks. For details of these episodes you might want to read the book or wait for separate blog postings that concentrate on these matters.

People who want to discredit our intelligence and law enforcement services have found a target in Clapper’s statements before a Senate “worldwide threat assessment hearing” on 12 March 2013. His response to a question from Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has become fodder for a host of those seeking to avoid the embarrassment of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections and more. Senator Wyden posed a question during an open session:

And this is for you, Director Clapper—again, on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer, because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer, the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, ‘‘The story that we have millions, or hundreds of millions, of dossiers on people is completely false.’’ The reason I’m asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don’t really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question, does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 207). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Of course, Director Clapper knew of the NSA program to track phone traffic related to conversations that included suspicious foreigners, and he knew that these conversations sometimes involved American citizens, people who might not be involved in illegal activity. The program was a closely kept secret, because it would not be a good idea for spies to know the NSA was doing this. Senator Wyden demanded a yes or no answer, which the question did not deserve. There was hardly any response Clapper could have made, even beyond a yes or a no. If he told the senator that he was unable to answer that question in an open meeting, that would have given a strong signal that the NSA was monitoring telephone traffic, and he would have been guilty of divulging classified information. But the senator referred to “dossiers” on Americans, something which the NSA was not compiling in the manner indicated. Clapper answered no to that question, which was technically correct, but which later turned out to be something used to torch him.

The theme of this book is the fading esteem for fact and truth in the new government, and I will finish with some pertinent quotes.

For the past several years, I’d watched as “unpredictable instability” instability” around the world had prompted angry populations to rise up against their governments and societies. It led to al-Qaida, ISIS, and their ilk proliferating from Afghanistan to Southwest Asia and into North Africa and Europe. It led to civil wars in Libya and Syria and a global refugee crisis unlike anything the world had seen since the end of the Second World War, which my dad had helped end. Unpredictable instability brought pain, war, and suffering to the world. In the United States, it gave us Donald Trump.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 357). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I was far from being the only person who was shocked by the outcome, and as the Russians scrambled to stop their #DemocracyRIP social media campaign, President-elect Trump’s circle seemed to have no strategy for shifting from campaign mode to administration-transition mode. Rather than working with the State Department, or even contacting it, Trump was taking calls from world leaders, apparently from whoever could get his personal cell phone number. Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull famously obtained it from professional golfer Greg Norman and was one of eight world leaders to call Trump with congratulations on the day his victory was announced. With no State Department involvement, no one briefed the president-elect on bilateral issues or existing agreements, and the United States has no official record of what was said during those conversations.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 357-358). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

There was and remains no doubt the government of Vladimir Putin dreaded the possibility Hillary Clinton would be elected, and they worked against her candidacy from the get-go. When Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee they shifted their focus and worked toward his election. As seen from the foregoing, toward the end they feared Trump would lose and focused on discrediting the American election process.

During his final weeks employed by the government, Director Clapper had the opportunity to read the world’s response to Donal Trump’s election:

I traveled from Oman to Kuwait and then to Jordan, where I had lunch with King Abdullah on Friday. The king tried to hide his pique that there had been no communication between Trump’s team and his government. He ended the lunch early, and I watched wistfully as someone carried off my plate after I’d had only a couple of bites of a superb steak. The next day, I flew from Jordan to Israel, ending another trip to the Middle East with a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He seemed a different person, jubilant with the results of the election. He couldn’t stop smiling and noted that he’d had a terrific conversation with the president-elect within hours of Trump’s delivering his victory speech. I congratulated him, and he gave me another of his cigars.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 359). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The election of Donald Trump is one of the few joys shared by Putin and Netanyahu. There was valid concern the new administration would seek to minimize the actions of the Putin government.  Members of the intelligence community sought to forestall these efforts while they still had the directive to do so.

Regardless of our cooperation with the Trump transition team, we hadn’t forgotten what Russia had done. The FBI and CIA were coming across new evidence of Russian activities relating to the election every day, and I was starting to see that the scope and scale of their effort was much bigger than Jeh or I had understood when we’d released our statement in October.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 361). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The concerns of the intelligence agencies turned out to have merit. The words and actions of Donald Trump following the election make it clear he sees this Russian business as a threat to his legitimacy:

As we discussed those possibilities in the White House Situation Room, the public dialogue about Russian interference was heating up. Seeming to fear it called the legitimacy of his election into question, the president-elect responded defensively whenever the subject was raised. In an interview with Time magazine on November 28, he countered a question on Russian activities with, “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point.” Asked who he thought had hacked the Democrats’ email accounts and IT systems, he responded, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

We knew it was not someone in New Jersey, and I was fairly certain that President-elect Trump knew that as well. At an NSC meeting on Monday, December 5, President Obama told us he wanted CIA, FBI, and NSA to integrate all their relevant intelligence into a single report to pass on to the next administration and Congress. He also asked us to derive from it an unclassified document for public consumption with as much information from the classified version as possible. And critically, he wanted all of this done before January 20—the end of his administration.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 361-362). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

On Friday, December 9, unnamed “officials briefed on the matter” leaked the effort to the press, saying the CIA and FBI had reached the conclusion that Russia had helped Trump win. The leak wasn’t quite accurate, and certainly wasn’t helpful, but the immediate response from President-elect Trump’s transition team was even worse. Under the seal of “President Elect Donald J. Trump,” the team published a press release that—with no preamble—began, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’” It was stunning. Based on rumors from anonymous sources, the president-elect had lashed out reflexively to delegitimize the Intelligence Community—the same IC that would be serving him in forty-two days, that was already giving him President Obama’s PDBs. The attack was disturbing, as was its demonstrably false assertion that his victory was one of the “biggest” ever.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 362-363). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Fact was dying a quick death.

The president-elect seemed increasingly desperate to make the story of Russian interference go away, constantly denying there had been any impact on the election or any interference at all. On December 28, he said that it was “time for the country to move on to bigger and better things.” President Obama didn’t want to focus on the Russian issue during his final weeks in office, either, but he wasn’t simply going to “move on.” On December 29, he ordered new sanctions against Russia and declared thirty-five known Russian spies in the United States to be persona non grata and sent them home. He also closed the two Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York. I didn’t think that response was commensurate with what they’d done to us, but I also knew we weren’t prepared to take more drastic steps. We waited to see how Putin would respond, fully expecting a reciprocal retaliation.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 365-366). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The same day, as was confirmed when he later pled guilty to lying to the FBI about it, National Security Adviser-designate Mike Flynn called Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, assuring him not to worry about the sanctions and asking that Russia not retaliate. On the following day, Putin announced he would not expel anyone from Russia and would not respond in kind to the new US sanctions, saying he would wait to work with the next US presidential administration. Trump tweeted, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin)—I always knew he was very smart!”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 366). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper details the Russian propaganda successes:

We showed unambiguously that Putin had ordered the campaign to influence the election, that the campaign was multifaceted, and that Russia had used cyber espionage against US political organizations and publicly disclosed the data they collected through WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the Guccifer 2.0 persona. We documented Russian cyber intrusions into state and local voter rolls. We described Russia’s pervasive propaganda efforts through RT, Sputnik, and the social media trolls, and how the entire operation had begun with attempts to undermine US democracy and demean Secretary Clinton, then shifted to promoting Mr. Trump when Russia assessed he was a viable candidate who would serve their strategic goals. We added historical context to show just how much of an unprecedented escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort all of this represented, and we assessed that the election operation signaled a “new normal in Russian influence efforts.” The Russian government had done all of this at minimal cost and without significant damage to their own interests, and they had no real incentive to stop.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 366-367). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

As events moved toward the change in government, the president-elect became strident in his denunciation of truth:

On Tuesday President-elect Trump attempted to undercut our assessment before its release, tweeting, “The ‘intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 367). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

At 8:30 on Friday morning we were back on Capitol Hill, presenting our briefing to the “Gang of Eight”: the party leaders in the House and Senate and the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. Our presentation was fast-paced and terse, as we had to leave by 9:30 to stay on schedule. I departed the Capitol with the impression that the leaders of both parties were taken aback, both by the extent of the Russian operation and by the thoroughness with which we’d documented the facts and evidence.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 373). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The matter of the Steele dossier (think “Pee Pee Tape”) was first broached to :the president-elect at a briefing in Trump Tower:

As we closed the briefing, Jim Comey took advantage of a pause in conversation to address the president-elect. We’d agreed that one of the two of us would bring up “one additional matter,” a subject “best discussed on a one-on-one basis” with the president-elect. The additional matter was a dossier—a collection of seventeen “pseudo-intelligence” reports created by a private company—which I first learned about from John Brennan a week or so after we’d been tasked to conduct the IC assessment. I didn’t know until after my tenure as DNI that the dossier had begun as opposition research against Mr. Trump during the Republican primary race and then, sponsored by the Democrats, had continued to expand during the general election campaign. The memos covered a wide range of topics all related to long-standing interactions between Trump, his associates, and the Russians. It further alleged that the Russian government had compromising material on the president-elect and his team, which it had not disclosed during the course of the election or since.

Some details in the report were salacious, but in our professional opinions, the more ominous accounts alleged ties between members of the Trump team and the Russian government. Because we had not corroborated any of the sources used to generate the dossier, we had not included it as part of our IC assessment. We knew that at least two congressional members and some of the media had copies of the dossier, and that it could be published—in whole or in part—at any moment. While we could neither confirm nor refute anything in the document, we felt what I expressed as a “duty to warn” the president-elect that it existed and that it potentially could be made public. I wondered at the time—and have often done so since—what the reaction would have been had we not warned the president-elect about the existence of the dossier, and he later learned we had known about it and chosen not to tell him.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 375-376). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Steele dossier and the matter of the “Pee Pee Tape” continues to roil the debate and to be a subject of attacks on the intelligence agencies. For me, it’s a never ending source of mirth;

During the course of briefing the incoming administration, Clapper received clear signs there was no plan to follow advice regarding the Russian government operations. He took action to ensure some pertinent facts would get out.

Before we cleared the conference room, the Trump team had already begun drafting their press release about our meeting. I overheard their first point, that the US IC had assessed that the Russian interference did not change the outcome of the election—which was very different from our acknowledgment that we hadn’t, and couldn’t, assess its impact. We had to let it pass. In the hallway I took the opportunity to engage Tom Bossert, who in turn introduced me to the vice president-elect. I spoke with them briefly, suggesting that the new administration consider asking Nick Rasmussen to stay on as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, which it did.

In the car on the way back to Newark Airport, I called Brian Hale (who only requested to be described as “tanned and rested” if we mentioned him in this book) and told him to publish the unclassified IC assessment immediately.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 376). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Clapper emphasized the word immediately.

The facts of the Russian operation continued to be a political football, in play by both parties.

For the next two hours, as the American public, the Russian government, and the rest of the world watched, we answered questions about the Russian cyber and influence operation. The senators, and simultaneously the media, sought to parse our every word, Democrats looking for collusion between Trump’s team and the Russians, Republicans for evidence of a conspiracy that the IC was attempting to undermine the president-elect.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 379). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

When I finally had the free time to check on world events, I found that all the contentiousness of the hearings and briefings had been completely overshadowed by other breaking news: BuzzFeed had published the now-infamous dossier on Trump, the one that Jim had warned the president-elect about five days earlier. In a classic case of “shoot the messenger,” Trump publicly blamed us for the publication of the dossier—yet another indication to me that his administration would not appreciate anyone’s speaking truth to power, particularly if the truth was politically inconvenient.

I woke Wednesday to find that Trump had tweeted another early-morning attack on us: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” I was floored by the analogy, and Jewish communities in the United States and abroad called for him to apologize and retract the statement. That afternoon in my office, I watched the president-elect in a televised news conference, doubling down on his Nazi tweet, again alleging that US intelligence agencies had “allowed” the dossier to leak—as though we had any control over a document we’d discovered already “out in the wild.” He continued, “I think it’s a disgrace. And I say that, and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.” Not helping the situation, the New York Times quickly published a story apparently intended to clarify that he meant to refer to US intelligence as the Stasi, not the Gestapo.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (pp. 379-380). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Following his retirement, General Clapper watched unfolding events with a combination of humor and horror (my interpretation):

And I watched from the outside as the new administration struggled to govern while contending with the new president’s aversion to inconvenient facts.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Contrary to all the images and data, Sean Spicer berated the media for their coverage, announcing, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Telling them the White House would hold them responsible for misrepresentations, he took no questions.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

An hour and a half later, President Trump was on camera at CIA headquarters. When I’d heard the first place he would visit as president was the CIA, I naïvely wondered if my appeal to his higher instincts had somehow had impact. No. He took to the microphone and began rambling about the “dishonest media,” the size of his inauguration crowd, and his belief that military and law enforcement people had voted for him en masse, lumping the CIA into those categories and saying, “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks.” He expressed his support of the IC with “I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody.” He briefly interrupted himself to say, “The wall behind me is very, very special,” and then resumed his self-aggrandizing diatribe. The problem was that the sacred wall he was standing before—with its 125 stars representing fallen CIA officers—is the CIA’s equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, not a place for politics or boasting. I considered putting out a statement, but John Brennan expressed that he was “deeply saddened and angered” and that “Trump should be ashamed of himself,” and I felt that covered it.

Clapper, James R.. Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence (p. 384). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Neither the book nor outside information identify James Clapper as a Democrat or a Republican. Throughout he comes across as holding decidedly progressive views, on the promotion of  women and on equal treatment of people of all kinds. He leaves no doubt he considers the current president as both corrupt and an enemy of the truth.

People Unclear

An ongoing scandal – number 14

Some people do not get the concept:

A U.S. Air Force chaplain who ministers to thousands of men and women at an Ohio base is asserting that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members’ right to practice other faiths.

In an article posted on BarbWire.com three days ago, Captain Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, criticized Christian service members who rely on the Constitution “and not Christ.”

He wrote: “Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home—which means they have no accountability for their souls (Heb. 13:17). This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.”

I think I have this straight, so let me expand on it. Captain Hernandez thinks people—in this case members of the Air Force—should not tolerate other religious beliefs. Hernandez cautioned that Christians should be intolerant, but by extension this should extend to the notion that practitioners of other religions also need to be intolerant. Else the implication is that Christianity is the one true religion, and the others are a wagon load of bunk. That’s worth examining.

Christianity:

  • This planet and everything on it are slightly more than 6000 years old.
  • Snakes and donkey’s can talk.
  • There is an unseen person in the sky who has pre-ordained all events on this planet and is also infallible, but this person is sometimes wrong and will accept pleas from people to accept his mistakes and make changes in the plan.
  • People who have died can come back to life.

And that’s only a scraping of the surface. There are multitudinous other factual flaws in Captain Hernandez’s one true religion, which kind of puts a new definition to the term “true.”

I concede that some of the flaws listed above can be attributed to another religion and were inherited by Christianity, but since Christianity is based on Judaism it now owns these flaws and cannot reject them without doing serious damage to itself.

Yes, it is time for the pot to quit calling the kettle black, to coin a phrase. It’s time for Captain Hernandez to climb down off his high horse and admit he is peddling bull shit of equal quality to all the others. Once he accepts this bit of wisdom he can get back to his supposed purpose in the Air Force and stick to telling the troops, “You all do good, and always be kind to one another.”

But then, I could have told them that, leading us to wonder what purpose Captain Hernandez serves in the Air Force. Some people are unclear on the concept.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Junior Varsity Team

A rehash

Posted on Facebook

The history goes a few years back, so I’m going to need to recap some points. Begin nearly three years ago. Back then I was comparing the newly-emerged ISIS (Islamic State In Syria) to a bunch of frat boys with Kalashnikov rifles. I said this:

All right then. We have all seen the videos. We have all studied the news reports of atrocious behavior. The threat “We will raise the flag of Allah in the White House,” has caught our attention. What then to make of this new face of religious fundamentalism?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lightly put it “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything.” He is speaking of ISIS, Islamic State in Syria, which can most generously described as a bunch of frat boys with Kalashnikov rifles.

My observation then was the so-called Islamic State had a motivated base and some conventional weapons, but not much depth. But they had accomplished much. They controlled territory in Syria and they had captured key cities in  Iraq, including Ramadi, Fallujah, and most importantly, Mosul, with a population of about 1.8 million people. This latter accomplishment was surprisingly swift, considering the size of the attacking force and their available weaponry. The truth is the defending Iraqi army units threw down their weapons and fled, leaving the civilian population to fend for themselves and also leaving behind large stocks of modern, American-supplied materials of war. And President Obama called them a junior varsity team, meaning second stringers.

To be sure, the President caught much flak over that remark, and to additional surprise I defended the remark. I considered ISIS, also known as Daesh, to be a JV team. I since explained my logic:

If ISIS is not JV, then who is? Here are the facts about ISIS:

  • No firm control over defined geography
  • No significant industrial base
  • Dependent on external clients for financial support
  • Fluid or weak bureaucracy
  • Ill-defined legal structure
  • Weak technological and intellectual resources

Nothing much changed since then, with a significant exception. With its captured territory Daesh acquired a considerable financial resource. It was able to broker captured petroleum resources for cash and arms. To be sure, Daesh in Syria and Iraq still did not have the industrial base required to sustain protracted conflict, and it was geographically cut off from any such base. Weapons still flowed in, but the supply lines were not secure. When the United States military rejoined the fight at the request of Iraq, a key tactic became to maintain a strangle hold on Daesh-controlled territory and starve them out. With the United States and Iraq in firm control of regional airspace, this approach began to have an effect.

In the meantime Daesh flexed its fundamental strength—its ideology. Still intellectually connected with the outside world, Daesh struck at the heart of its nemesis, Western civilization. Their minions attacked soft targets, especially in the United States and Europe, killing hundreds of noncombatants. It was terrorism in its purest form. It was and still is Daesh’s key chip in its conflict with the modern world. And it’s soon to be their only chip. Daesh, the Islamic State, is about to become a state without territory:

In Syria, American-backed militias have surrounded Raqqa, the group’s capital, and breached its historic walls. Across the border, Iraqi forces have seized the remains of the Mosul mosque where Mr. Baghdadi appeared and besieged the remaining jihadists in a shrinking number of city blocks.

That’s the good news, but I omitted the headline, which reads:

ISIS, Despite Heavy Losses, Still Inspires Global Attacks

Yeah, those guys are not through, but some comparisons are helpful.

Nazi Germany hung to the end upon a nail driven into a wall, and that nail was Adolf Hitler. Never was power so pyramidal than under his rule. He stood at the very top, controlling an increasingly reluctant second tier of command, and on down to the very last farm boy who was executed by the Gestapo in the final days because he refused to volunteer with some repair work. When Hitler shot himself within the sound of Soviet guns, the fabric began to unravel, and total capitulation was complete eight days later.

The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 started the Soviet Union on the road to decline as pragmatism gradually replaced idealism. The Soviet Union was disbanded nearly 30 years ago, although communistic fervor is still ripe in the Russian Federation.

The death of Francisco Franco in 1975 brought an end to Spanish fascism after nearly 40 years of oppression.

Following the capture of Abimael Guzmán the Shining Path movement has declined to insignificance.

The death of Mao helped usher in the rise of a capitalistic PRC but not the end of communist oppression.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) eventually made peace with the British government after decades of carrying out attacks of mass murder.

On a much smaller stage idealistic terror groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army lacked any base of support and folded after a single, disastrous, confrontation with armed police.

It’s worth noting that a cadre of Nazi die-hards, known as the Werewolves, hung on past the capitulation of May 1945, and they did do some killing. Nazi ideology persists, not only in the modern German state, but also in this country, and extreme elements do dabble in terror. Timothy McVeigh was not strictly a Nazi, but his right-wing ideology skirted Nazism. The less destructive, in magnitude only, Dylan Roof is a prime example of the damage lingering Nazism can wreak.

We can look forward to decades of hearing from Daesh (calling themselves ISIS) in much the form inflicted by the IRA in years past. The difference is it’s not going to be like the skinheads marching with their swastikas and throwing stiff-arm salutes, and it’s not even going to be Daesh patriots gathering in encampments and darkened houses as the IRA might do. Such activities are much too vulnerable to modern police capabilities. A saying dating back to the Russian Revolution goes, “When three people sit around a table to make revolution, two of them are fools, and the other is a police spy.”

The Daesh revolutionary is going to be a loner, gaining inspiration through a thin wire connected to his computer. He will get inspiration but no material support. His attack is going to be unexpected, swift, deadly, and final. There will be no trial by jury, and there will be no confessions. To be sure, even if the attacker lives, he will have nothing to confess that the police do not already know.

The defeat of Daesh will be ideological. It has to be. It has to be demonstrated that the ideological basis for Daesh is unfounded. Islam is not a target for destruction or subjugation. And that will be a difficult ticket to sell, owing to hard line Christianity’s antipathy for other belief systems. Something fundamental is going to have to change. There’s more.

It could be truly righteous people in Western democracies need to be willing to stand by and observe without interference what we consider assaults on humanity. We will have to overlook suppression of women, institutional  slavery, religious oppression, summary executions. Something besides overt intervention will need  to be employed to salve our consciences, which thing we are already doing, as in  the case of our relationship with Saudi Arabia and other global partners of convenience. It will be a difficult course for this nation to undertake, considering we just spent the past 70 years in a war on communism.

I will post again on the topic as matters shake out. Keep reading.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Again, another I am viewing for the first time. It came out in 1990 and is based on Tom Clancy‘s first published novel of the same name. It’s The Hunt for Red October, and it stars  Alec Baldwin as CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the character’s premier appearance. This was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes, as the titles roll, show a massive Soviet nuclear submarine, Red October, leaving the port of Murmansk and heading out on its maiden voyage. The captain is Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius (Sean Connery). The air is ominous.

thehuntforredoctober-01

Meanwhile, Jack Ryan is in London, and he is poring over some drawings he has been given to analyze. He shortly says goodbye to his lovely wife and his daughter. He boards a plane for Washington, D.C., ignoring the stewardess’s advice to sleep on the flight. He is met at the airport and driven immediately to CIA headquarters. At the Patuxent River Naval Base he receives evidence that the new Soviet sub is powered by a magneto hydrodynamic propulsion “caterpillar” drive. Such a drive has no moving parts, allowing the submarine to move under water almost silently. It’s a major breakthrough.

thehuntforredoctober-02

The Soviet plan is a surprise attack on the American East Coast, and Captain  Ramius’ plan is to circumvent this plan and defect, along with the sub and officers aboard. He starts by murdering the boat’s political officer, Ivan Putin (Peter Firth) after the two of them open the mission’s sealed orders.

thehuntforredoctober-03

The captain  has previously left behind a note to his superior telling of his plan. When the note is delivered the Soviets immediately put into operation a mission to find and destroy Red October.

thehuntforredoctober-04

Word comes through intelligence channels of the unfolding events, and Jack Ryan deduces the captain’s scheme. He has a Navy helicopter deliver him to the American SSN Dallas, which has been tracking the Red October. A crafty sonar operator aboard the Dallas has devised a means for tracking the silent Red October.

thehuntforredoctober-05

Ramius’ scheme involves getting the enlisted crew off the boat without their knowing of the subterfuge. This he accomplishes through the ruse of a phony radiation leak. An American ship rescues the sailors while the officers remain aboard Red October to complete the defection. Jack and an American Navy captain board the Red October by means of a submersible rescue vehicle and negotiate the surrender. The plan is almost undone by a saboteur, who stays behind after the remainder of the sailors leave. A gunfight settles the matter, and the Soviet sub that is sent to destroy Red October, is destroyed by its own torpedo. The subterfuge is complete. Red October is apparently down in deep water with all its officers aboard. The disappearance of the soviet attack sub remains a mystery only to the Soviets.

Ryan and Ramius talk as Red October sails into hiding up the Penobscot River in Maine.

My own experience with anti-submarine warfare and sonar systems leaves me unable to make a critical assessment of the tactics involved in the plot. My first assignment as a software developer involved a system to automate (computers) the tracking of submarines with existing sonar gear (sonobuoys). That was in 1982, two years before Clancy’s book came out. Aboard the Dallas there is a master operator, Sonar Technician Second Class Ronald Jones (Courtney B. Vance), who has ears of gold. No computers are used to automate the tracking.

Red October defeats an attacking torpedo by heading directly down its path. This works because the torpedo strikes the nose of Red October before it reaches its arming distance. Clay Blair’s book Combat Patrol recounts tragic incidents from World War Two when American torpedoes ran wild and circled back toward the sub that fired them. An earnest assessment is that the Soviet torpedo should have armed long before striking Red October. It makes for good drama, however.

The destruction of the Soviet attack sub is unrealistic. The sub is hit by a lone torpedo and goes up in a cataclysmic explosion under water. No. That’s not what happens when a torpedo hits an underwater target. What should have happened was a significant underwater explosion from the torpedo warhead, followed by flooding of critical compartments aboard the sub, followed by rapid sinking and likely breakup of the boat on its way to the bottom. Not what viewers of the movie paid to see.

Alec Baldwin has since moved from impersonating CIA operative Jack Ryan to Saturday Night Live, where he is enjoying commercial success scewering President-elect Donald Trump.

American Thriller

books-theamericanblackchamber

I chuckled at the naiveté of Edward Snowden. It was while I was watching a documentary on Amazon Prime Video titled Breaking The Codes, I came across this title. It’s The American Black Chamber, and it’s by Herbert O. Yardley, widely considered the father of modern American cryptology. I have the Kindle edition.

Yardley’s history is startling, if not unique. He began work as telegraph operator at the Department of State at the age of 24 in 1913, and three years later he submitted a proposal that would shake world affairs and set him on an amazing career that was to last only 13 more years. It came about this way.

His job involved processing highly sensitive messages between the United States government and its agents abroad. It was a new era. Radio telegraphy had come into universal use, and sensitive material was being thrown into the atmosphere for everybody to read. Codes and ciphers were a must to maintain security. The casual atmosphere of the Department code room alarmed Yardley, and he formulated a plan for a special office that would bring the best of intellect and technology to bear. His proposal, which was accepted, was a department that deciphered military and diplomatic transmissions from foreign countries. Thus was formed the American Black Chamber, named after a comparable British institution. Yardley was inducted into the Army as an officer and was put in charge. Funding was mostly from the Department of State, but there was also Justice Department and War Department funding, a factor that was subsequently to prove problematic. For reasons of discretion, the facility was moved to New York City, completely severed from public association with the United States government. Plausible deniability was the aim.

It was not just radio transmissions that were handled by the Black Chamber. The government had no compunction regarding pilfering cable correspondence from foreign sources. The Black Chamber also acquired outstanding capability in the processing of secret writing, including techniques for opening sealed dispatches that had been pilfered secretly. They developed the fine art of forging post marks and diplomatic seals. Spies were also employed:

“I’ve got a job for you, Captain. I____”

“What for?”

“I’m not going to tell you what for. I want a Washington society girl who—”

“I don’t deal in society girls.”

“You ought to. This girl must speak Spanish like a native. She must have not only culture and charm, but also brains. She must be a conversationalist. She must have as her background the nationalistic traditions of the Navy, or the Army, or the diplomatic corps. Her age must be close to thirty. All these requirements she absolutely must have. As for beauty— I’ll let you be the judge. But I want to see her here to-morrow afternoon.”

He hesitated a moment before replying. Then, “If you would tell me what it is all about it would help.”

“I can’t tell you.”

“All right. I’ll go see Mrs. Blakeslee.* She rules the society roster in Washington. I’ll give you a buzz when your lady friend shows up.”

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 2181-2191). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

The lady was, indeed, striking, and she cozied up to the right people and the following day delivered the name of the Spanish diplomatic secretary in charge of their code books. That is all that was required. No hanky-panky. She got friendly with one of the staff at the Spanish embassy, and eventually the name dropped out. It was Gomez.

1916 was a touchy year in American politics. Europeans had been killing each other in a World War for two years, and the United States was finding it difficult to stay out. Telegraphy between the American and European continents had been first established in 1866, and 50 years later communication was routine and reliable. The problem was that cable traffic between the United States and England was not secure. A German submarine could lay out a length of cable adjacent to the telegraph cable and pick up the dots and dashes. Conversely, one of the first things England did at the start of the war was to sever all German trans-Atlantic links, which of necessity passed through the British Isles. The Brits were not then, and perhaps not now, so keen on the 4th Amendment. In fact, they possibly never had one. Cable companies were required to copy the government on all pertinent communications.

A distressing observation of Yardley’s was that none of the Allies, neither the British nor the French were willing to give an inch in sharing their methods. He traveled to England and France during the War and received the cold shoulder from intelligence agencies in both countries. In France he did hook up with Captain Georges Painvin and immediately recognized him as the foremost cryptanalyst of the day.

Tragically, Yardley observed that, while the Black Chamber was demonstrating its ability to crack every code and cipher that came its way from foreign sources, American cryptologists made no use of the obvious. Yardley’s team was able to crack all the American codes without benefit of inside knowledge. That meant the Germans, no slouch in the field, were reading all American battle plans sent over the air. For the duration of the Black Chamber, American codes and ciphers never approached any measure of security.

A famous code breaking case of the time, and one that had historical implications, was one that never came the way of the Black Chamber. This was the famous Zimmerman cable message. At the time, Mexico was still smarting from General Pershing’s punitive raid into Mexican territory, and General Carranza, the President of Mexico decided to throw in his lot with the Germans:

The reader will recall the sensational Zimmermann-Carranza note which the President read before Congress just before we entered the war, the note in which Zimmermann, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, promised Mexico financial aid and the states of New Mexico, Texas and Arizona if she declared war against the United States. This telegram was deciphered by the British Cryptographic Bureau early in 1917, just before we entered the war.

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 1606-1609). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Throughout the War the Black Chamber was heavily invested in deciphering German-Mexican communications.

Yardley employed 165 people in the Black Chamber at the height of its existence, all funded, salaries, rents, equipment, expenses, in secret. It paid for itself in one magnificent effort up to and during the First Armament Conference of 1921 – 1922. The United States was determined to challenge Japanese naval strength in the Pacific, holding Japan to six tons of warship to every American ten. The Americans needed to crack the Japanese codes to gain what bargaining advantage was possible. To this end Yardley had to obtain a loyal American, fluent in both verbal and written Japanese, the two being widely divergent. American missionaries were reluctant, because they rightly figured the first missionary cooperating with the American government would be the last to be allowed into the country. A retired fellow, very agreeable and a pleasure to work with, volunteered. He was assigned the job of teaching the Japanese language to one Charles Mundy in two years. After six months, the elderly missionary chanced to translate a message implying grave consequences, and his conscience would not allow him to continue in the spy business. Fortunately, Yardley had chosen well in Mundy, for that chap had mastered Japanese in those six months and subsequently proved to be a linguistic magician. The cracking of the Japanese codes proceeded:

I shall not of course attempt to give all the details of the decipherment of the Japanese codes, for these would be of interest only to the cryptographer, but when I tell the reader that the Black Chamber sent to Washington, during the Washington Armament Conference held two years later, some five thousand deciphered Japanese messages which contained the secret instructions of the Japanese Delegates, I am sure he will wish to know how it was possible for the Black Chamber to take such an important part in the making of history. Let the reader therefore, for the moment at least, put aside his natural desire to listen to the whisperings of foreign diplomats as they lean closer together to reveal their secrets, and I shall try to tell a few of the tremendous discouragements that I had to overcome in the decipherment of this code, written in the most difficult of all languages, Japanese.

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 3103-3109). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

The consequence of this success was the Americans learned the Japanese were in collusion with America’s allies, France and England, who were willing to be soft on Japanese naval parity. The Americans also learned the Japanese negotiator in Washington was told to give in to the 6:10 parity if bluffing failed against the Americans. America prevailed in this first armament conference, and the Japanese felt stymied. Later, when the cracking of their codes became public, Japanese pride was challenged, and the Empire redoubled its aggressive stance. This latter occurred after the closure of the Black Chamber in 1939 and is not included in the book.

Not all intrigues were completely foreign:

“Now, Yardley, I have a most unusual story to tell you. Yesterday morning, a few moments after this message arrived, the Secretary took it over to show it to the President. The President glanced at your decipherment, then, handing it back to the Secretary, said, ‘Yes, the Attorney-General showed that to me a few moments ago. He just left.’”

He paused and eyed me furtively. He waited for some comment. I made none, for I knew now what was coming.

At last he said very slowly and deliberately: “Now, tell me if you can, how did the Attorney-General get a copy of this message?” He said this as if he were exploding a bomb.

Some one, perhaps the Secretary, had tramped on his toes, for he was very angry by now.

“That’s easily explained,” I answered, “though you may not yourself appreciate the explanation. You see, during the war the department that I organized was the central Code and Cipher and Secret-Ink Bureau for the War, Navy, State and Justice Departments. At that time the Department of Justice had on their pay-roll an agent who had dabbled in ciphers. The Department of Justice contributed his services when we asked for him. He became expert. So after the war, when we moved to New York and organized as a civilian bureau on secret pay-roll, though we severed relations with the Navy Department, we took him with us. But he remained on the Justice Department pay-roll. Your predecessor knew of this and concurred. Am I clear?”

“Yes. Go on.”

“Now, he must have an excuse for being on their pay-roll. So now and then I permit him to send to the Attorney-General a message that____”

“But of all messages, why this one?” he demanded.

“Well,” I said, “in the first place I happened to turn this particular message over to him for decipherment. In the second place this looked to me like a Justice Department case.”

“A Justice Department case!” he exclaimed. “The activity of an Ambassador is never a Department of Justice case.”

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 4371-4390). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

What went on in Washington 90 years ago is pretty much what goes on in Washington today.

Toward the end of the Black Chamber, Yardley was called down to Washington and allowed to give a frank appraisal of American codes and ciphers. The news was grim. When presented with evidence of a weakness, the cryptologists’ response was simply to fix the weakness and not scratch around for additional weaknesses, of which there always were many. We can only assume the Nazis and the Japanese read American transmissions well into the commencement of hostilities.

The Black Chamber came to an abrupt end with a change in administration:

In 1929, the State Department withdrew its share of the funding, the Army declined to bear the entire load, and the Black Chamber closed down. New Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson made this decision, and years later in his memoirs made the oft-quoted comment: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” Stimson’s ethical reservations about cryptanalysis focused on the targeting of diplomats from America’s close allies, not on spying in general. Once he became Secretary of War during World War II, he and the entire US command structure relied heavily on decrypted enemy communications.

Cracking secret messages was grueling, and it took its toll on Yardley and others. Yardley describes the agony of pulling the innards out of the Japanese code:

The reader must not get the impression that I had given up all hope of deciphering the Japanese codes without aid. I had not. Nor were any of my plans fulfilled, for as we shall soon see I had no need of them. But I was preparing myself for failure. I might need assistance.

By now I had worked so long with these code telegrams that every telegram, every line, even every code word was indelibly printed in my brain. I could lie awake in bed and in the darkness make my investigations— trial and error, trial and error, over and over again.

Finally one night I wakened at midnight, for I had retired early, and out of the darkness came the conviction that a certain series of two-letter code words absolutely must equal Airurando (Ireland). Then other words danced before me in rapid succession: dokuritsu (independence), Doitsu (Germany), owari (stop). At last the great discovery! My heart stood still, and I dared not move. Was I dreaming? Was I awake? Was I losing my mind? A solution? At last— and after all these months!

I slipped out of bed and in my eagerness, for I knew I was awake now, I almost fell down the stairs. With trembling fingers I spun the dial and opened the safe. I grabbed my file of papers and rapidly began to make notes.

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 3287-3297). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

After weeks of intense effort Yardley had unfolded the origami:

 

The impossible had been accomplished! I felt a terrible mental let-down. I was very tired.

I finally placed my papers in the safe, locked it and leaned back in my chair, checking up my blunders, and at the same time wondering what this would mean to the United States Government. What secrets did these messages hold? Churchill would want to know of my accomplishment. Should I telephone him at this hour? No, I would wait and dictate a letter.

I was unbelievably tired, and wearily climbed the stairs. My wife was awake.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“I’ve done it,” I replied.

“I knew you would.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“You look dead.”

“I am. Get on your rags. Let’s go get drunk. We haven’t been out of this prison in months.”

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 3316-3325). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Yardley was nearly broken by the effort. He had to take a month off in Arizona for his health. Others were equally spent or more so. Some never recovered. Many put survival at a premium and quit the service.

The Black Chamber was dismantled almost overnight. Two years later Yardley wrote this book, a periscope into some of the darkest workings of the United States government. Snowden would have been distressed. Howls of protest rattled the Internet three years ago when it was revealed, after nearly 100 years, that our government read other countries’ mail. As mentioned, I was but amused. I wondered in what world these people had grown up. That tale is told elsewhere.

A game I play when reviewing Kindle books is picking out transcription errors. Obviously this book came out 40 years before the advent of computerized word processing. Missteps between hard and soft copy typically come from OCR failures. Here are some odd constructions I picked out:

but he was visibly anxious arid asked me repeatedly when I was leaving Paris.

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Location 2825). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

after my cable, thif new code was in my hands.

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Location 2887). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

This edition, as with many Kindle editions, lacks page numbers. This is particularly troubling when the text references a page number, such as here:

The illustration facing page 313 also shows a thoroughly mixed code in use by the British Foreign Office during the Washington Armament Conference.

Yardley, Herbert O.. The American Black Chamber (Bluejacket Books) (Kindle Locations 4309-4310). Naval Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

A casual reader will detect Yardley wrote this from a lingering fit of pique. Although he identifies co-workers and superiors of admirable character and capability, many references are to individuals and methods beyond redemption. In any event, he had the last word. He lived until 1980, about which time the Data Encryption Standard was well established, the Diffie-Hellman paper had been published four years previous, and Pretty Good Privacy was eleven years in the future. These days we conduct video conferences incorporating both video and audio being transmitted live with “secure” encryption. America’s entry began with a telegraph operator working in Washington, D.C. 100 years ago.

Don’t Bump The Trump

One of a series

Politics-TrumpFamilyInMilitary

A warning for those who chance to meet a wild Trump coming home late at night, past a graveyard, all alone in a storm: Don’t bump the Trump. [With apologies to Shel Silverstein.]

I started this thing for presidential candidate Donald Trump over three weeks ago with no idea where it was heading. Now I find I will be able to post a new item every day from now until November without repeating myself. Thank you, Mr. Trump. It’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me. Thank you very very very much!

Self-obsessed billionaire Donald Trump earlier snatched the campaign torch from the Republican Party by scooping up conservative America’s low-hanging fruit. Full disclosure: it’s something I proclaimed over a year ago could not be done. I was wrong! How wrong? Very wrong. I completely failed to take into account Donald Trump’s tremendous support from Americans in uniform:

While Donald Trump sends millions of Americans fleeing the GOP, Hillary Clinton scoops up more endorsements of the type Republican nominees usually enjoy. The Clinton camp announced endorsements from two retired four-star generals, Bob Sennewald (former commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command) and David Maddox (former commander in chief of the U.S. Army in Europe). In a joint statement they said, “Having each served over 34 years and retired as an Army 4-star general, we each have worked closely with America’s strongest allies, both in NATO and throughout Asia.” They explained, “Our votes have always been private, and neither of us has ever previously lent his name or voice to a presidential candidate.” They nevertheless announced, “Having studied what is at stake for this country and the alternatives we have now, we see only one viable leader, and will be voting this November for Secretary Hillary Clinton.”

Of course, the above doesn’t take into account Donald Trumps service to his country as a cadet in a private military academy:

In Trump’s telling, he was elevated as a reward for stellar performance. “I had total control over the cadets,” he said in a recent interview. “That’s why I got a promotion — because I did so good.”

Former cadets recall the change differently. They say school administrators transferred Trump after a freshman named Lee Ains complained of being hazed by a sergeant under Trump’s command. School officials, those cadets say, were concerned that Trump’s style of delegating leadership responsibilities while spending a lot of time in his room, away from his team, allowed problems to fester.

“They felt he wasn’t paying attention to his other officers as closely as he should have,” said Ains, who lives in Connecticut and works in the aerospace industry.

Readers, you have to admire Donald Trump for the sacrifices he has made for this country’s security.

Yeah, it’s game on. We are going to have more fun between now and November. We can be assured Donald Trump will never fail to entertain us.

Continue reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

The Dirt On Drones

Drone Strike

Drone Strike

It’s so odd how all of this got started. The naming, that is. A drone is a male bee, and with bees the drones don’t seem to do much except to carry bee sperm to assist in the making of new bees. They don’t work, and, except early in their lives, they don’t fly. They mate with a queen bee in flight, and shortly after, they die. It would seem a drone is a useful, expendable, piece of hardware. But what likely got unpiloted aircraft to be called drones was the semblance of early such aircraft to the noisy, chunky drone bee.

Unpiloted aircraft have been in use since about 1849, when Austria used free-drifting balloons to attack Venice with bombs. We have gotten much better in the years since.

An early use of drone aircraft was target practice. Gunners needed something to shoot at, and towed targets did not always fill the bill. Some early drones were simply combat aircraft that had outlived their usefulness. They were fitted with remote control, and sent aloft to finish their lives testing guidance systems for missiles. In the past 35 years military drones have graduated to more sophisticated roles.

Backtracking a little, the first highly-successful drone combat vehicle was the German V-1, used in World War Two. It was a jet-powered aircraft with stubby wings and fitted with an 1870-pound warhead. In sophistication the V-1 was the aerial equivalent to the underwater torpedo. You launched it, it flew a prescribed course, it (sometimes) hit the target.

Following the war the United States and other countries completed the development of the concept, and a recent result was the Tomahawk. This is still in use, and has demonstrated remarkable utility. Launched from a submersible or from a surface ship, it can fly itself hundreds of miles, following a prescribed course to avoid terrain or hostile situations and can strike with pinpoint accuracy, thanks to the addition of GPS navigation. None of the Tomahawks now carry nuclear warheads, but they do offer a conventional warhead of 1000 pounds or a variety of submunitions.

I worked on two Tomahawk programs, neither of which went anywhere. Both made use of this drone’s ability to manage its own flight path, compliments of a load of sophisticated software.

One of these programs was called simply “Smart Weapons,” and for many months it paid the bills around our house. The idea was to equip the Tomahawk with a variety of imaging systems and send it off to locate and attack, on its own, enemy targets. These might be mobile missile launchers, armored vehicles, whatever was easily recognized as a military target. At the time I recognized that a mistake in the computer code could get a school bus recognized as a Scud launcher. And therein lies some concern regarding pilotless warcraft.

The notion that the Obama Administration has carried out drone strikes only when there is “near-certainty of no collateral damage” is easily disproved propaganda. America hasn’t killed a handful of innocents or a few dozen in the last 8 years. Credible, independent attempts to determine how many civilians the Obama administration has killed arrived at numbers in the hundreds or low thousands.  And there is good reason to believe that they undercount the civilians killed.

That’s it. Modern warfare has turned to extensive use of drone warcraft, and civilians are getting killed. Call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you want, but I have to wonder at this concern. In the interest of Skeptical Analysis, here is a reality check.

From the moment warriors started using missiles in combat, they started killing people they did not intend to kill. Pass over for a moment that through history non-combatants have been the target of war fighters. Sometimes the objective of a military mission was to wipe out an entire village, town, nation of people. As the use of missiles escalated, unintended consequences tracked upward.

Arrows (they are missiles) were not much of a problem, since you generally have a target in view before you let fly with an arrow. Then came long-range artillery, and gunners started firing over the hill, even over the horizon. Spotters were needed, but the gunner could never know for sure who was on the receiving end of the shell. In World War One the Germans shelled Paris from a distance of about 100 miles. To be sure, civilians were the target.

Came World War Two, and civilians were promoted to military targets. Generally, the pilots of these warplanes saw what they were aiming at and knew about the presence of civilians in the target zone. Sometimes mistakes were made, at least once with some irony. The United States Army Air Force was on a mission to bomb a Ford Motor Company plant in Belgium. Yes, an American company commandeered for Nazi war work. The bombardier made a mistake. He lined up on a park for his initial point and set his bomb sight to track it. He forgot to disengage the auto release, and the bombs released on the park, taking out a row of buildings adjacent to the park. It turned out this particular row of buildings was a major German Wehrmacht command center, only slightly reducing the embarrassment.

And my point is, seventy years have gone by, and we are suddenly concerned with civilian casualties. The difference being? The difference being that now there is no pilot risking his life to make these kinds of mistakes. And I think I know what the problem is.

Somewhere along the line somebody has decided that warfare is a sort of sport, and rules of fairness need to apply. When I read critiques of this country’s drone combat I’m unable to get past the implication that lack of chivalry lies at the base. Detractors hint at the anonymity involved in these transactions—as though warfare needs to be up close and personal. Critics may want us to ignore that lack of personal involvement has been a growing element in warfare for hundreds of years. Some examples.

The romantic image of fighter pilots going one-on-one contributes to their (deserved) heroic image. Two warriors face off in a boundless sky and do battle until one of them is dead. Truth is, it seldom happens that way. Most fighter-on-fighter kills are by ambush. Catch the enemy unaware, charge out of nowhere, guns and missiles blazing, then make a quick escape.

Navy sniper Chris Kyle has been maligned by detractors for killing people from ambush. I am guessing these critics have 1) never been in combat, 2) never talked to somebody who has been in combat, 3) never made a serious study of the history of combat. No soldier in his right mind wants a fair fight. What a soldier wants, what a soldier should want, is to win the fight.

And that’s where drones come in. Drones have been recognized for decades as an answer to pilot attrition, the scourge of air warfare. Not only does pilot attrition drain the priceless resource of trained and experienced warriors, its effect on the morale of combatants cuts into mission effectiveness. In the European air war of World War Two, missions into the German capitol of Berlin were euphemistically called “going downtown.” For many it was a one-way trip. Decades later, when I worked on software for the Joint Stand Off Weapon (JSOW), they had a big poster boosting its potential. The poster headlined “No more going downtown.”

After all this, the implication—the claim—that drone strikes are inherently more deadly to non-combatants than piloted strikes doesn’t bear reason:

  • Both drone strikes and piloted strikes require prior and extensive surveillance to ensure the worth of the target. And also to minimize civilian casualties.
  • In the case of a drone strike, the operator can study the target at greater leisure before dispensing munitions. This is because the drone is often less obvious to defenders and is also more oblivious to counter fire.
  • A pilot, taking with him on his mission the 100% requirement to return to base, is eager to get in and out more quickly.

There are issues that skew the statistics differentiating drone strikes. A drone strike is more likely to be undertaken. Drones go places where pilots will not be sent. Drones get the dirty jobs. Drones strike deep into enemy territory, even into sovereign airspace. Miles from ground combat is where civilians reside, and these missions are more likely to be assigned to drones. Conceding a point: some missions would not be carried out without the benefit of drones. With drones removed from the equation, there would be fewer missions. There would be fewer enemy casualties. There would be fewer civilian casualties.

Finally, what inspired this dive into the morality of warfare:

Use of police robot to kill Dallas shooting suspect believed to be first in US history

Police’s lethal use of bomb-disposal robot in Thursday’s ambush worries legal experts who say it creates gray area in use of deadly force by law enforcement

[University of California at Davis law professor Elizabeth] Joh said she was worried that the decision by police to use robots to end lives had been arrived at far too casually. “Lethally armed police robots raise all sorts of new legal, ethical, and technical questions we haven’t decided upon in any systematic way,” she said. “Under federal constitutional law, excessive-force claims against the police are governed by the fourth amendment. But we typically examine deadly force by the police in terms of an immediate threat to the officer or others. It’s not clear how we should apply that if the threat is to a robot – and the police may be far away.” That, Joh added, is only one condition for the use of lethal force. “In other words, I don’t think we have a framework for deciding objectively reasonable robotic force. And we need to develop regulations and policies now, because this surely won’t be the last instance we see police robots.”

Others are not so gracious. Much that has been said cites “lack of due process” and more:

Many noted the connection between potentially the first use of an armed robot in domestic policing and the deployment of such tools in active war zones. Defense technology expert Peter W. Singer wrote on Twitter, “this is 1st use of robot in this way in policing. Marcbot has been ad hoc used this way by troops in Iraq.”

[Marjorie Cohn, Professor Emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and editor and contributor to Drones and Targeted Killings: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues] said, “The same way that the Obama administration uses unmanned drones in other countries to kill people instead of arresting them and bringing them to trial, we see a similar situation here….As the technology develops, we’re going to see the increasing use of military weapons in the hands of the police, which is going to inflame and exacerbate a very volatile situation.”

“We can see that many of the weapons that are being used by the military are in the hands of the police,” she added. “This is a very volatile situation, very dangerous situation, and is only going to make the tensions worse and kill people and violate constitutional rights.”

Left-wing liberal that I am, I see little distinction between using a robot to blow up an individual posing a threat and rolling an M67 fragmentation grenade his way. Or bringing in a sniper. To be sure, Micah Xavier Johnson had not been arrested. He had not been charged with a crime. He did not receive his day in court, and no judge or jury passed sentence and handed down a death sentence. Whether this was the day or whether this was the instance for executive action, neither have bearing on the use of a robot to do the deed.

Once you have decided to take a human life, you have passed by all matters regarding the process.

Don’t drop the soap.

I thought we had seen the last of this.

Hard Time

Hard Time

Roll it up Governor. Your course has run, your time has gone, your soup is supped, your ride is done, your wad is shot. It’s over. It’s time for you to waddle off into the sunset.

Was I ever wrong:

“Perhaps it’s a byproduct of nearly eight years of an arch-liberal in the Oval Office combined with an American population increasingly disconnected from the men and women who serve in the military,” Perry said.

Wow! What was that all about? What it was all about was the matter of some people setting straight the narrative of Chris Kyle’s book American Sniper. I previously reviewed the book and the movie. Here is an excerpt:

Chris had a life-long passion for firearms, and sniper training put him on the track of becoming the most lethal killer in American sniper history. In four deployments to Iraq he is confirmed to have killed 160 enemy combatants. His actual lethal shot count is likely much higher—as high as 255. If this is the case, then he surpassed Zaitzev’s claimed 225. As remarkable as this count is, Kyle’s longevity is even more so. Historically in modern warfare an sniper’s life expectancy is a few weeks. In combat involving modern forces, a sniper gets a lot of attention and becomes the focus of an intense eradication effort.

Kyle relates that his first shot was the one and only woman he killed, and this was with great reluctance.

The book relates the decorations he earned for his combat accomplishments:

All told, I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze Medals, all for valor. I’m proud of my service, but I sure as hell didn’t do it for any medal. They don’t make me any better or less than any other guy who served. Medals never tell the whole story. And like I said, in the end they’ve become more political than accurate. I’ve seen men who deserved a lot more and men who deserved a lot less rewarded by higher-ups negotiating for whatever public cause they were working on at the time. For all these reasons, they are not on display at my house or in my office.

Kyle, Chris; McEwen, Scott; DeFelice, Jim. American Sniper: Memorial Edition (p. 155). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The book also relates an incident that, according to court findings, did not occur:

“We’re all here in mourning,” I told him. “Can you just cool it? Keep it down.”

“You deserve to lose a few,” he told me.

Then he bowed up as if to belt me one.

I was uncharacteristically level-headed at that moment.

“Look,” I told him, “why don’t we just step away from each other and go on our way?”

Scruff bowed up again. This time he swung.

Being level-headed and calm can last only so long. I laid him out.

Tables flew. Stuff happened. Scruff Face ended up on the floor.

I left.

Quickly.

I have no way of knowing for sure, but rumor has it he showed up at the BUD/ S graduation with a black eye.

Kyle, Chris; McEwen, Scott; DeFelice, Jim. American Sniper: Memorial Edition (pp. 311-312). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

In subsequent public statements Kyle identified “Scruff” as former Navy SEAL, former actor, former governor of Minnesota, current media personality Jesse Ventura. The problem is Ventura claims the incident never happened, or, if it did, he is not “Scruff.” He alleged he was defamed by Kyle’s false statements. Ventura sued and was awarded $1.8 million, this after others present at the supposed incident refused to back up Kyle’s version.

Prior to the court decision, Kyle, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield, were murdered by a mentally disturbed Marine they were attempting to help. The case is now against the Kyle estate, and the award is being appealed.

Some other matters are not being appealed. Official Navy records show that the “two Silver Stars and five Bronze Medals” is a slight exaggeration. The awards are listed on Kyle’s DD-214 form, but the form is incorrect in this matter. In fact, Kyle was awarded one Silver Star and three Bronze Medals.

The inclusion of the false information in the book can properly be laid at the feet of the book’s co-authors, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. Kyle was no writer, but McEwen and DeFelice are, and this is the kind of stuff professional writers are supposed to take care of.

As we see, now a former governor of Texas is laying this big blowup to eight years (almost) of a liberal president. And that is what is most strange. What the governor seems to be saying is that absolute truth is a liberal thing. How amazing! May we all be so blessed.

The Ever-Diminishing List of Those Who Cannot Obtain Life Insurance at any Price

One of a continuing series

www.cbsnews.com ISIS leaders (left to right): Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al-Falih al-Awni al-Harziv

http://www.cbsnews.com
ISIS leaders (left to right): Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al-Falih al-Awni al-Harziv

Let me check. I may be running out of space for these. No. That’s good. There’s enough for plenty more. Keep reading.

(CNN)The Pentagon said Friday that it had killed ISIS’ finance minister, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, whom many analysts consider the group’s No. 2 leader.

Those analysts believe al-Qaduli would have been expected to take control of the day-to-day running of ISIS, also called ISIL, if its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed or incapacitated.

The U.S. operation was intended to capture him alive, a U.S. official told CNN. Helicopters loaded with special operations forces swooped in on a vehicle carrying al-Qaduli, but at the last moment something happened that caused them to decide to fire on the vehicle instead. The official would not say what it was that caused them to modify the plan.

The official (not named) would not say what caused the change in plans. I am guessing the team was contemplating having to listen to Mr. al_Qaduli complain all the way back to the base. These special operations guys can be awfully irritable at times.

Not mentioned is whether Mr. al-Qaduli’s life insurance policy was paid up. I’m guessing not. Word on the street is these guys have been unable to obtain whole-life for some time now, at any price.

With the exit (72 virgins) of Daesh (ISIS) number two man, there will naturally be a scramble for the coveted spot.  Perquisites are legendary.

  • Did I mention the virgins?
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses will definitely not be knocking on your door.
  • On the freeway other vehicles give you at least 100 meters space in all directions.
  • Visiting relatives don’t hang around for dinner.
  • No problem finding a parking space at the bazaar.
  • Business meetings are always short.
  • Business meetings are sometimes canceled.
  • Business meetings are very often canceled.
  • You don’t need to set aside funds for retirement.

So, we need to start a pool on who’s going to be the next Daesh number two. Get your submissions in early. Choices will be few. My pick? You want to know my pick? Here’s my pick: Maqduq al-Fuzzi. He hasn’t had any luck since his suicide van was stolen last week.

There will be more. Keep reading.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

One of the last useful things I did during my Navy Reserve tour was work in the Sidewinder shop at NAS Dallas. My first encounter with a Sidewinder was educational. There was one on a work stand, and I looked it over. One thing I noticed was that each of the rear stabilizing fins featured a curious mechanism. See the photos. I have scrounged up three so make sure people can get a good view of what I’m talking about.

On the trailing edge of each rear fin, at the outer corner, is a hinged fixture. The fixture is a flat plate with a solid brass disk enclosed in the plate so that the outer edge of the disk is exposed to the wind stream. The edge of the disk is serrated, and the disk is mounted so it can spin freely on its axis. The air stream spins the brass disk at high speeds. The flat plate is attached to the fin along its leading edge by a hinge so it can freely swing to either side.

Sidewinder-01

An AIM-9 Sidewinder Missile installed on an F-14 Tomcat. The AIM-9 is a short range, heat seeking air-to-air missile.

An AIM-9 Sidewinder Missile installed on an F-14 Tomcat. The AIM-9 is a short range, heat seeking air-to-air missile.

Sidewinder-03

So, when the missile is fired, the brass disk is spinning very rapidly, and it’s mounted in the flat plate, which can swing from side to side. And here is the Quiz Question.

What does this arrangement do? If you are an engineer or a physicist looking at this you will figure it out immediately. Engineers and physicists are invited to have a go at this immediately. Post your answers in the comments section below.

UPDATE AND ANSWER

Jim Medding has provided the correct answer that these tabs are used for roll stabilization. He left it for me to provide the mechanism.

This was over 50 years ago, but at the time I first examined this mechanism I was a full time engineering student and a part time Aviation Ordnanceman in the Navy Reserve. About five seconds, and it dawned on me. The tabs work this way:

The outer edge of each brass disk sticks out into the wind, causing the disk to rotate. Applying some basic principles of physics, If the missile rolls (to the right for example), then each disk will be rotated to the right. Because of the direction it’s spinning, the disk will apply torque on the hinged tab and force it to swing to the right, into the air stream on the right side of the fin it’s mounted on. That will produce an aerodynamic force to resist the roll in that direction. Similarly if the missile rolls to the left. These tabs with their rotting disks are an automatic roll stabilization mechanism with a built in control mechanism and requiring no power from the missile control system, which is located way forward on the missile body, anyhow.

It was so slick, I never forgot about it in all this time, and I tip my hat to the engineer who came up with the concept.

Terminal Velocity

Forty years ago I worked for a company that made document processing systems, and we hired a new guy from Texas Instruments. His name was Clyde, and he was going to be my new boss. He had been working on the project at Texas Instruments called Paveway. He showed us this remarkable picture.

Yes, that’s a 2000-pound low-drag bomb making a direct hit on the driver’s side window of a 2-1/4-ton truck. How would you like to be the driver of that truck? In this case the bomb is a dud, but for the driver it would not matter.

Later I went to work for Texas Instruments, and I got to meet a number of the remarkable people who developed this weapon system. One was a guy named Art. Then ten years ago I was working on a contract job at Raytheon Corporation in Tucson, and there were some of these same people. Raytheon had purchased the Texas Instruments military component and moved it out west.

One of the people who moved to Tucson was Art. I don’t have to describe him. You have already seen the cartoon. Art would be a good stand in for Dilbert.

dilbert

Right down to the pocket protector.

Anyhow, it was Saturday, and I went in to work to get caught up. The work area was a large room about the size of a basketball court, and there weren’t many there that Saturday. But Art was there, working away on guidance and control software for Paveway. And that was so ironic. The news had just announced the untimely demise of al-Qaeda in Iraq mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He had been attending a meeting at a house north of Baqubah when an F-16 fighter dropped two guided bombs on the house. One of the bombs was a Paveway. The thought immediately, struck me: “Dilbert killed al-Zarquawi.” The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the pocket protector is mightier than the Kalashnikov.

Interestingly, al-Zarqawi was not killed immediately. Troops on the ground were ready to go in and pick up the pieces when al-Zarqawi emerged, dazed and moribund. But I began to wonder would it must have been like to be the target of a 500 to 2000-pound bomb that comes right at you barely over the speed of sound. Many have found out, and the answer is nothing. Those so targeted likely have no idea they are acting out the last seconds of their lives.

And that’s kind of too bad. In the recent case of Jihadi John here was a person who took obvious pleasure in working agony on people before ultimately killing them, not always in the most pleasant way. Yet, for him last week, the end came unbidden and unseen. He never got to know he was going to die. There is some injustice here. It is, however, an injustice I am willing to accept.

Keep reading, jihadists. And keep an eye on the sky. Dilbert is out there waiting for you.

Lock and Load

I get introduced to a variety of people on Facebook. I would not trade these experiences for anything. A few days ago a conservative Facebook friend linked to a post by Steve Reichart. Steve is a United States Marine, currently not on active duty. He’s a Marine with an attitude. That’s what I expect of a Marine. I’ve known a few, and every one had an attitude.

Steve’s attitude is decidedly anti-liberal. He’s not slow to let us know:

If you could list three attributes common amongst liberals what would they be?

I know my 1st one would be “Unarmed”

No doubt his Facebook followers share his views on liberals. Of course, they could be wrong on a few points. For example, “Unarmed?” Pardon me while I chuckle. I’m counting five ultra-liberal souls in my immediate acquaintance, some related to me, and they are all heavily armed. And they know how to use their weapons. Another, a former boss of mine, ex-Navy officer, Ph.D. in mathematics, is an absolute gun fanatic. It’s likely this kind of information would take some of the shine off Steve Reichart’s rhetoric, but I resist pursuing that quest.

Besides being down on liberals, Steve has a thing with guns, ammo, and other symbols of firepower. He posts a bunch of appropriate images on Facebook. Here are some of them:

ReichartPistol

ReichartAPICartridges

ReichartMoreAPICartridges

Pictures of weapons and ammo show you are the type of man who is familiar with this kind of stuff. While some may say this is a bit of pointless bravado, I beg to disagree. I think it’s kind of cute.

img352loadingammunition-01

JSS-512

The Junior Varsity Team

From Wikipedia: ISIS territory as of 24 August 2014

From Wikipedia: ISIS territory as of 24 August 2014

Here’s what the President had to say about ISIS:

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

That looked like a sizable opening for some:

Christians are being “butchered” in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State and we knew this was coming starting last year, but President Barack Obama called ISIS “junior league or something JV,” said Rev. Franklin Graham, adding that the president “absolutely” must be more vocal and speak out in defense of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East.

That was from the notable expert on international military balance of power the Reverend Franklin Graham. There have been others:

Yes, truth is the first casualty of war and the Obama administration certainly wouldn’t be the first to fudge the numbers. But there is a line between propaganda to confuse the enemy and lies to confuse the American people. And this administration is guilty of some real whoppers.

That post did not directly address the President’s assertion that ISIS is junior varsity. The fact remains that he has gotten a lot of heat over this assertion, so it may be worth an assessment. Is ISIS (ISIL, Daesh) big league or not.

I did that already months ago:

All right then. We have all seen the videos. We have all studied the news reports of atrocious behavior.The threat “We will raise the flag of Allah in the White House,” has caught our attention. What then to make of this new face of religious fundamentalism?

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lightly put it “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything.” He is speaking of ISIS, Islamic State in Syria, which can most generously described as a bunch of frat boys with Kalashnikov rifles.

And that should have just about taken care of that. Not only does the President of the United States consider ISIS to be junior league, I do, as well. And I have the last word here. Here’s a little skeptical analysis:

If ISIS is not JV, then who is? Here are the facts about ISIS:

  • No firm control over defined geography
  • No significant industrial base
  • Dependent on external clients for financial support
  • Fluid or weak bureaucracy
  • Ill-defined legal structure
  • Weak technological and intellectual resources

Besides all that, they are starting at the bottom rungs of military ratings. What they have going for them is an energetic, dedicated fighting force. What they do not have is a lot of depth in their military organization. They have some top generals and a bunch of committed fighters. They do not have the seasoned command structure required of a modern fighting force.

They lack the weaponry of a modern fighting force:

  • Limited or no air defense radar
  • No high performance aircraft
  • No military air transport
  • No navy
  • No long range missiles
  • No way to deliver heavy military ordnance
  • Primitive intelligence gathering capabilities.

Let’s compare ISIS to a modern, but not first tier military, Egypt:

  • F-16 fighter jets
  • One of the most powerful air defenses in the world
  • National military academy
  • M1 Abrams tanks
  • Electronic counter measures aircraft
  • Modern naval fleet, including submarines

And much more. In all of this there is not much left for ISIS/ISIL/Daesh but junior varsity. I really hate it when the President and I are on the same page with something.

Posted on Facebook

Posted on Facebook

Keep reading.

Hitler’s Super Weapons

I’m trying to recall when I first learned about the German Vergeltungswaffen (retribution weapons or vengeance weapons). My dad subscribed to Popular Mechanics, and in the mid-50s there was an item about rocket weapons, and there was likely mention of the V2 there. Arthur Daniel was our social studies teacher in high school, and he managed the library. We had some great books for a small time school, and one of these was Rockets, Missiles and Space Travel, by Willy Ley. Willy Ley grew up in Germany between the wars, and his fascination with rockets and space travel led him to the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel). Another member was Wernher von Braun, the brain behind the V2, for Vergeltungswaffe 2, rocket.

The VfR was a society of amateurs, whose interest was space. The group included some serious thinkers, including Hermann Oberth. Oberth significantly worked out (actually a straight forward problem in integral calculus) how a rocket’s mass ratio and exhaust velocity relate to the maximum velocity obtainable by the rocket. Nazis were just a troublesome fringe political group when the VfR was founded in 1927, but when they came to power in 1933 they were seen as a source of funding for rocket research. In this respect the VfR sold itself to the devil, with von Braun eventually becoming a party member.

I have said this before, and I’m repeating myself now. One of the best assets the Allies had in the European war was Adolph Hitler. His early successes cowed experienced German military commanders to the point that eventually few dared to question his decisions. Eventually Hitlers amateurish meddling in management of the war helped to grind the German war effort into the dust. One of Hitler’s pet ideas was a maniacal aversion to defensive. He considered talk of defense to be defeatist. In his autobiography Luftwaffe fighter ace Adolf Galland tells of his continued failed attempts to get Hitler (through Goring) to come around to placing more emphasis on fighter defense:

After a while Peltz and I were called in to Goring. We were met with a shattering picture; Goring had completely broken down. His head buried in his arm on the table he moaned some indistinguishable words. We stood there for some time in embarrassment. At last Goring pulled himself together and said we were witnessing his deepest moments of despair. The Führer had lost faith in him. All the suggestions from which he had expected a radical change in the situation of the war in the air had been rejected. The Führer had announced that the Luftwaffe had disappointed him too often. A changeover from offensive to defensive in the air against the west was out of the question. He would give the Luftwaffe a last chance to rehabilitate itself. This could be done by a resumption of air attacks against England, but this time on a bigger scale. Now as before the motto was still: Attack. Terror could only be smashed by counterterror. This was the way the Führer had dealt with his political enemies. Goring had realized his mistake. The Führer was always right. All our strength was now to be concentrated on dealing to the enemy in the west such mighty retaliation blows from the air that he would not risk a second Hamburg. As a first measure in the execution of his plan the Führer had ordered the creation of a leader of the attacks on England.

Galland, Adolf (2014-08-18). The First and The Last (p. 96). David Rehak. Kindle Edition.

Early on the V weapons were seen as a risky proposition, possibly not needed. This was supposed to be a short war. Then it became a long war. But by then some basic economics had set in.

Look at a map. In the beginning Germany was surrounded on all sides by enemies, except for Italy or by water. Then Germany made a deal with the USSR, eliminating the enemy on the east. In the mean time Germany had eliminated the enemy to the southeast, Czechoslovakia, through the aid and connivance of England and France. Germany first took advantage of the new void to the east and attacked defenseless Poland. That left only enemies to the west. Germany next struck west at the uncommitted countries of Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. Then France and, when it finally become necessary, at England. Here Germany’s advance cracked. Germany’s economic dilemma was now crystallized. It was this:

  • Germany could not get food or military supplies from overseas. The British Navy blocked these routes.
  • Germany had enormous industrial capacity, but it did not have sufficient raw materials for a protracted war. Eventually petroleum, metals, even food, had to come from the east and the south.
  • Italy was an ally, but it was a poor source of war materials. Not apparent at first, but Italy was eventually to become a millstone dragging down the German war effort.
  • Germany’s wherewithal to prosecute the war came from draining its war conquests. Conquered countries were exploited for slave labor, war materials and food. People in conquered countries were murdered to eliminate their drag on the war effort.
  • Sweden became the only neutral country supplying the German war effort, chiefly iron ore. It was not enough.

Starting with its attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941 Germany was on a rigid timetable to win the war or to die. With the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941 the timetable became breathtakingly short. Reverses at Stalingrad and in North Africa late in 1942 made it apparent the war would be lost. Hitler’s desperation began to show. He was now ready to give the V weapons serious consideration.

The first of these to come to fruition was not the famous space rocket but it was the world’s first cruise missile, the V1.

The V-1 was developed at Peenemünde Army Research Center by the Nazi German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. During initial development it was known by the codename “Cherry Stone”. The first of the so-calledVergeltungswaffen series designed for terror bombing of London, the V-1 was fired from launch sites along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts. The first V-1 was launched at London on 13 June 1944), one week after (and prompted by) the successful Allied landing in Europe. At its peak, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, 9,521 in total, decreasing in number as sites were overrun until October 1944, when the last V-1 site in range of Britain was overrun by Allied forces. After this, the V-1s were directed at the port of Antwerp and other targets in Belgium, with 2,448 V-1s being launched. The attacks stopped when the last launch site was overrun on 29 March 1945.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

The operation of the V1 was straightforward. It was a small airplane, no pilot. It had an autopilot to keep it flying straight and level at a prescribed altitude in a specified direction. On top was a pulse jet engine.

The interesting thing about a pulse jet engine is its simplicity. It’s got only about one moving part. That part is a flapper valve in front. It works like this: A fuel-air mixture in the compression chamber is detonated. The explosion drives exhaust gases out the back, creating thrust. The pressure also keeps the flapper valve closed so that no exhaust is expelled out the front, which is also the air intake. When the pressure wave from the explosion reaches the open end of the tail pipe, a low pressure wave is reflected. Ask any racing engine builder about tuned exhausts. When the low pressure wave reaches the front end of the combustion chamber, the flapper valve swings open, and more air enters, even if the engine is standing still. I have seen a demonstration of one of these engines (not on a V1) in operation. It just sit there and makes a horrible buzzing noise. Hence the name “buzz bomb.”

The V1 needed some assist taking off, so it had a rocket motor to propel it down it’s launching rail. The rocket motor was dropped off after the V1 cleared the launch rail, and the V1 continued on its mission.

The technology for autopilots had been perfected for decades. It’s been around in torpedoes since World War One. A gyroscope provided directional stability. Now the flying bomb was headed toward its target. It was just a matter of knowing when to dive into the ground. This was managed by a small propeller turning in the wind stream. So many turns of the propeller meant the V1 had arrived at its target, and the V1 dived toward the ground. It’s warhead of 850 kg of amatol-39 was fused to explode on impact. Not intended, but the dive of the V1 caused its engine to starve and shut down, so when the buzzing sound stopped people on the ground knew death had arrived.

V1 attacks on London and other parts England began seven days after the Normandy landings in June 1944. This was no coincidence. The idea of the Germans was to give the invaders something else to think about besides invading France. Initial launch sites were located near the French coast facing England.

Marschflugkörper V1 vor Start

From Wikipedia

Hitler had hyped his super weapons to a selected audience within the Reich. They were going to be the salvation of his collapsing regime. However, they were no secret to the Allies. Ground intelligence and aerial reconnaissance had given the Allies fair warning of what was to come. Already, attacks on Peenemünde and other installations had stalled progress. When the first blows began to fall the impact was no less alleviated.

During the first V-1 bombing campaign, up to 100 V-1s fell every hour on London. Over an 80 day period, more than 6,000 persons were killed, with over 17,000 injured and a million buildings wrecked or damaged.

Unlike conventional German aircraft bombing raids, V-1 attacks occurred around the clock in all types of weather, striking indiscriminately, causing suspense and terror among the population of London and parts of Kent and Sussex.

Since I’m analyzing the war against Germany in terms of economics, it’s only fitting I provide an economic excerpt. American General Clayton Bissell published an analysis. He produced the following table:

Blitz (12 months) vs V-1 flying bombs (2¾ months)
Blitz V-1
1. Cost to Germany
Sorties 90,000 8,025
Weight of bombs tons 61,149 14,600
Fuel consumed tons 71,700 4,681
Aircraft lost 3,075 0
Personnel lost 7,690 0
2. Results
Structures damaged/destroyed 1,150,000 1,127,000
Casualties 92,566 22,892
Rate casualties/bombs tons 1.6 1.6
3. Allied air effort
Sorties 86,800 44,770
Aircraft lost 1,260 351
Personnel lost 2,233 805

This compares the twelve months of The Blitz (beginining September 1940) to the critical period of V1 attacks from June to October 1944. The figures are for England and do not include the continued attacks on Belgium after V1 launch sites were overrun by advancing Allied soldiers in October. Also, General Bissell’s table does not include a number of German personal and aircraft lost in action related to their own V1 attacks. Note that the table lists 351 Allied aircraft and 805 crew lost in attacks on V1s and their installations, but it does not include Germany’s losses in defense of them.

Neither does this include the economic cost of the missiles.

Throughout the war over 34,000 V1 rockets were produced while roughly 10,000 were actually launched. Of those launched, around 25% reached their targets and caused extensive casualties. Over 12,000 people were killed outright and many more were injured, with most of the casualties occurring in London and Antwerp, which were the main two targets. What made the V1 so successful was its relatively simple design and low cost in terms of both money (5000 Reichsmarks, compared to 100000+ Reichsmarks for a Panzer tank)  and materials.

34,000 units at 5000 Reichsmarks each works out to 68,000 Reichsmarks for each bomb that exploded on a target. Now you still do not know what a Reichsmark is worth, except that it took 100,000 of them to build a Panzer tank.

The facts behind the low success rate of the V1 are worth noting. Since there was no pilot, the flying bomb could not take evasive action. It flew in a straight line until it was time to dive. That made for gunnery practice, and the fact is that the Brits quickly figured out the path of incoming V1s and stationed all their Bofors guns along the route—none in the target areas, principally London. The falling shells from the Bofors were considered comparable in destruction to the V1s. The deliberate targeting of V1s over the English countryside had the effect that people living there were killed who had thought they would be safe. The economics of war spoke for the benefit of this approach.

Also, the V1 was fast, but not that fast. At an average speed of 350 miles per hour it was vulnerable to a very fast fighter, especially if the fighter could make a diving attack. A dangerous occupation was to get behind one and pump rounds into it until it blew up. Gun sight footage of such an encounter is worth viewing. Another tactic was to fly alongside a V1 and nudge its wing over with the tip of the fighter’s wing.

The Brits also employed some counter intelligence. The Nazis had some spies on the ground, but eventually all known sources were turned by British intelligence. There existed a quandary about what the double agents should report back. If they reported that all V1s were falling long, then the Germans would get wind that something was wrong. Newspaper accounts, accessible to all the world, were telling of destruction throughout London. Eventually a compromise was reached, and enough erroneous reports were transmitted to cause the Germans to revise their aim—in the wrong direction. Interestingly the Germans put radio transmitters in some units to get a more accurate picture of where the bombs were impacting, but they even came to doubt this source in favor of the phony spy reports.

The short operating range (160 miles) was the V1’s ultimate undoing. Allied forces began to overrun the available launch sites in the summer of 1944, and they pushed into Holland in September and October, effectively shutting down the V1 blitz.

By September 1944, the V-1 threat to England was temporarily halted when the launch sites on the French coast were overrun by the advancing Allied armies. 4,261 V-1s had been destroyed by fighters, anti-aircraft fire and barrage balloons. The last enemy action of any kind on British soil occurred on 29 March 1945, when a V-1 struck Datchworth in Hertfordshire.

That was 70 years ago.

The V1 was not the showcase product of the von Braun and the VfR. That was the V2. It is appropriate to say the V2 was, after the atomic bomb, the most advanced weapon of the early 20th century. It embodied numerous technical achievements, any one of which would be a candidate for a Nobel Prize in engineering, if there were one. von Braun and his crew took the early work of Robert Goddard and carried it further an order of magnitude. Accomplishments included:

  • A liquid fuel rocket motor using a cryogenic oxidizer (liquid oxygen).
  • Boundary layer cooling of critical combustion chamber regions.
  • Thrust vector control to stabilize rocket flight until aerodynamic control could be established.
  • Aerodynamic control at supersonic speeds.
Aggregat4-Schnitt-engl-small

From Wikipedia

Once again Hitler resisted the enormous expense of developing a weapon that would not be needed in a short war. When the balance of the war shifted following 1942 Hitler came around.

By late 1941, the Army Research Center at Peenemünde possessed the technologies essential to the success of the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders in jet control. At the time, Adolf Hitler was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he pointed out that it was merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.

In early September 1943, von Braun promised the Long-Range Bombardment Commission that the A-4 development was “practically complete/concluded”, but even by the middle of 1944, a complete A-4 parts list was still unavailable. Hitler was sufficiently impressed by the enthusiasm of its developers, and needed a “wonder weapon” to maintain German morale, so authorized its deployment in large numbers.

It was a matter of too much too late. By 1944 German industry was on its knees. Allied air attacks regularly dismantled key pieces of the infrastructure. Materials were in short supply and becoming ever more scarce as Soviet and Western forces smothered their sources. The Wehrmact had lost millions killed, incapacitated and captured, and draft age men were pulled from their work places into the military. German war industry was running on women workers and slave labor from conquered lands, and slaves were dying by the thousands, squandered as an expendable resource.

Now came the V2, with essentially the same payload as the V1, but at multiple times the cost.

1280px-Esquema_de_la_V-2-small

From Wikipedia

As with the V1, the Allies knew about the V2 in advance. Operation Crossbow was a major Allied effort to quash the V weapons programs at the source. It was a costly drain on our offensive resources, drawing bomber assets away from more strategic targets and at a great cost in assets and personnel.

Operation Hydra was a Royal Air Force attack on the Peenemünde Army Research Center on the night of 17/18 August 1943. It was the first time a master bomber was used for the main force. Group Captain John Searby, CO of 83 Squadron, commanded the operation. It began the Operation Crossbow strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany’s V-weapon programme. 215 British aircrew members and 40 bombers were lost, and hundreds of civilians were killed in a nearby concentration camp. The air raid killed two V-2 rocket scientists and delayed V-2 rocket test launches for seven weeks.

As British Field Marshall Montgomery’s troops prepared to push into Holland the Germans initiated operations with the V2.

After Hitler’s 29 August 1944 declaration to begin V-2 attacks as soon as possible, the offensive began on 8 September 1944 with a single launch at Paris, which caused modest damage near Porte d’Italie,. Two more launches by the 485th followed, including one from The Hagueagainst London on the same day at 6:43 p.m. – the first landed at Chiswick, killing 63-year-old Mrs. Ada Harrison, 3-year-old Rosemary Clarke, and Sapper Bernard Browning on leave from the Royal Engineers, and one that hit Epping with no casualties. Upon hearing the double-crack of the supersonic rocket (London’s first ever), Duncan Sandys and Reginald Victor Jones looked up from different parts of the city and exclaimed “That was a rocket!”, and a short while after the double-crack, the sky was filled with the sound of a heavy body rushing through the air.

V2 casualties in Antwerp (from Wikipedia)

V2 casualties in Antwerp (from Wikipedia)

A V2 attack was different from a V1 attack in just about every conceivable way. People could hear a V1 coming from miles away. The V1 was small and fast, but it was still visible to people on the ground, wondering just when it would suddenly cease its journey and plunge to the ground. Anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons and fighter interception were effective against the V1.

The V2 literally came from outer space. Thirty seconds after launch it reached the speed of sound. It’s engine shut down after one minute, and the 47-foot-long monster continued into the lower reaches of outer space, reaching altitudes of over 55 miles and speeds of 3850 miles per hour before plunging down to earth and impacting at 1790 miles per hour. Considerably faster than sound, it hit the ground before anybody heard it coming. Its descent was so quick few people witnessed the event and even fewer photographs exist.

Despite carrying slightly more (1000 kg vs. 850 kg) of the same explosive charge (amatol) the V2 was substantially more destructive on impact. The entire airframe plus warhead (3780 kg) impacting at 1790 miles per hour delivered over a billion Joules at the impact point. And that was before the warhead went off. The warhead had a contact (impact) fuse, meaning the explosion occurred at or below ground. This diminished the destruction from the warhead, but the shock wave from the airframe was sufficient to do much damage to nearby structures.

A scientific reconstruction carried out in 2010 demonstrated that the V-2 creates a crater 20 m wide and 8 m deep, ejecting approximately 3,000 tons of material into the air.

At first the British were reluctant to announce the V2 attacks to the citizenry. They weren’t fooling anybody, and 10 November 1944 Prime Minister Winston Churchill admitted that England had been for some weeks under rocket attack.

Besides attacks on missile production and launch facilities, the only effective defense against V2 attacks was, as with the V1, misdirection. The British leaked information that V2s were overshooting their main target, London, and thereafter V2s started falling short as the Germans “corrected” their aim.

For all time the V2 remained an area weapon. From an extreme range of 200 miles enough variation in flight control crept in to produce a CEP (circular error probability) measured in miles. Regardless, people were dying:

An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is two people killed per V-2 rocket. However, this understates the potential of the V-2, since many rockets were misdirected and exploded harmlessly. Accuracy increased over the course of the war, particularly on batteries where Leitstrahl-Guide Beam apparatus was installed. Missile strikes that found targets could cause large numbers of deaths — 160 were killed and 108 seriously injured in one explosion at 12:26 pm on 25 November 1944, at a Woolworth’s department store in New Cross, south-east London.

England was not the only target:

These attacks in Germany were among the last in the war. American forces stormed and captured the Ludendorff Bridge across the Rhine at Remagen on 7 March 1945. It was the first bridgehead established across the Rhine, and Hitler was furious, ordering all means to destroy the bridge. One missile hit in the town and killed six American soldiers. By this time 70 years ago the German Reich was entering its period of catastrophic collapse. Hitler and many top Nazi officials had just days to live. The last of the V2s were fired off before the barrage fell silent:

The final two rockets exploded on 27 March 1945. One of these was the last V-2 to kill a British civilian: Mrs. Ivy Millichamp, aged 34, killed in her home in Kynaston Road, Orpington in Kent.

An analysis of the effectiveness of the V2 is due, and the numbers are not good for the program. For starters, two people killed for each rocket in London? And the economics were not impressive. The V2 was far less a bargain than the V1.

The German V-weapons (V-1 and V-2) cost $3 billion (wartime dollars) and were more costly than the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb ($1.9 billion). 6,048 V-2s were built, at a cost of approximately 100,000 Reichsmarks (GB£2,370,000 (2011)) each; 3,225 were launched. SS General Hans Kammler, who as an engineer had constructed several concentration camps including Auschwitz, had a reputation for brutality and had originated the idea of using concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in the rocket program. The V-2 is perhaps the only weapon system to have caused more deaths by its production than its deployment.

The V-2 consumed a third of Germany’s fuel alcohol production and major portions of other critical technologies: to distil the fuel alcohol for one V-2 launch required 30 tonnes of potatoes at a time when food was becoming scarce. Due to a lack of explosives, concrete was used and sometimes the warhead contained photographic propaganda of German citizens who had died in Allied bombing.

Of that $3 billion mentioned, $2 billion was for the V2, making it more expensive than America’s atomic bomb project.

Army Corps of Engineers General Leslie Groves was a man of big projects. After completing the construction of the Pentagon Building he was tapped for the new Manhattan Project. With a blank check, almost unlimited power and little detailed planning he built in a few months the largest industrial concern in the world at the time. The Manhattan project encompassed wholly new research laboratories and huge industrial plants erected on newly-purchased land. An observer noted later that the United States essentially duplicated its entire automobile industry to build the bomb.

This was in Nazi Germany, not the United States. Part way into the war the German economy was already dragging bottom, while the United States was producing 50,000 war planes and partying with the lights on right up to the final victory day.

Add to the cost of the rocket, the cost of launching one was daunting. The V2Rocket.com site lays out the grueling steps involved in a mobile launch. I will just summarize the description here:

German Mobile Firing Procedure for A-4/V-2
(Photo stills taken from film Operation Backfire)

  1. The V-2 was launched from hidden wooded areas or even vacated city streets. Seen above is the entrance to the Duindigt area in Wassenaar and a city street Stadhouderslaan in Den Haag, 1945.
  2. Triangulation marks on trees, the Duindigt Estate entrance, and steel sleepers used for launch table stabilization.
  3. Rockets arrive by railway, where they are met by the Technical Troop at the transfer point. Two rockets occupy 3 flatcars. The mobile crane is positioned to lift the rocket from the flatcar to the Vidalwagen road transporter.
  4. The Technical Troop transports the rockets to the field store where the warheads are attached and minor adjustments made. The field store was not usually in the vicinity of the firing areas, but some kilometers away.
  5. The mobile crane is later towed to a prearranged spot where the Technical Troop meets the Firing Troop. This was usually done in another secluded location, so as to not draw attention to the field store or firing locations. The Vidalwagen pulls under the crane, and the Meillerwagen pulls next to it. The V-2 is hoisted and moved to the Meillerwagen vehicle.
  6. With the rocket secured in the clamps of the Meillerwagen, the Vidalwagen pulls away. The Meillerwagen is hitched to the towing vehicle, in this case a Hanomag SS-100, and then driven to the firing location.
  7. Back at the railhead, the liquid oxygen railway tanker is approached by members of the Supply Detachment. Using a small gasoline-powered engine to run an external pump, they attach the hoses and tow the Betriebstoffanhaenger liquid oxygen road tanker alongside the rail tanker.
  8. The super-cooled liquid oxygen soon creates frost on the hoses and attachments. The white vapor is exiting condensed water vapor. Meanwhile, the Firing Troop tows the Abschussplattform (firing table) onto the launch site.
  9. The legs of the Pfaff-manufactured Abschussplattform are screwed down to lift the weight of the platform. The towing dolly is then removed. The dial-sight is adjusted, and then the Meillerwagen is wenched backwards to the firing table.
  10. The extending supports are swung out and screwed down at the rear of the Meillerwagen for the support needed while raising the rocket. A small Volkswagen gasoline engine operates (2) hydraulic rams, which, are controlled by one man to raise the arm of the Meillerwagen into the vertical position. The Meillerwagen is then rolled back about 96 cm after the V-2 is resting upright on the Abschussplattform. Also shown is the electrical cable mast that is mounted at one corner of the Bodenplatte. These cables travel to the Feuerleitpanzer launch control vehicle and the Steyr power supply vehicle..
  11. Soon the Supply Detachment or Fueling Troop was moving quickly to the location of the firing site. In this case, we see a Hanomag towing an alcohol bowser, followed by the Opel Blitz alcohol tanker towing a trailer pump, followed by a Hanomag towing the liquid oxygen trailer and finally, (the small truck in the distance) is the Opel Blitz t-stoff tanker.
  12. At the firing site, the survey crew is busy measuring to make sure the rocket is level. The protective engine jet covers are removed from the venturi in the combustion chamber.
  13. The fragile carbon graphite exhaust rudders are carefully bolted in place. Fueling started with the alcohol bowser being pulled up to the rocket. The Meillerwagen arm was built to also act as a servicing tower, with built-in plumbing for permanent delivery of alcohol and liquid oxygen when fueling. The hoses were connected to the Meillerwagen at the tanker and at the top of the V-2 fuel tanks.
  14. The towed trailer pump in action. Alcohol fueling took about 10 minutes. When alcohol fueling was almost completed, the liquid oxygen tanker was towed to the other side of the rocket.
  15. The bevey of vehicles surrounding the V-2. Directly infront of the rocket is the t-stoff tanker (hydrogen peroxide). The liquid oxygen was always pumped into the rocket no more than one hour before firing to prevent the internal valves from freezing. The sodium permanganate was kept heated to quicken the reaction with t-stoff when powering the steam turbine. The alcohol bowser is finished and pulls away. This bowser shown was not used by the V-2 troops—it was a Luftwaffe piece of equipment.
  16. During the liquid oxygen fueling, the hydrogen peroxide is manually pumped into a pre-measured container mounted to the Meillerwagen, which, is emptied into the t-stoff tank by gravity. A technician climbs up to the midsection joint and adjusts the tension created by 8 tons of added fuel. The z-stoff is removed from its heater, and emtied into the rocket manually. Fueling completed, the liquid oxygen tanker pulls away.
  17. The support vehicles retreat to a safe distance. The igniter is prepared to be inserted in the combustion chamber and the rocket is oriented by using a dial sight on the Abschussplattform. The arm of the Meillerwagen comes down.
  18. Meillerwagen heads away from the area. The members of the Firing Troop take cover in slip-trenches prepared earlier. The Feuerleitpanzer (Sd.Kfz.7/3) firing control vehicle is located about 100-150 meters away from the rocket, usually down in a protective trench that was dug when the site was prepared. The launch control officer and crew enter the Feuerleitpanzer. Inside, the launch control officer asks the man on the steeringtable, “Steuerung klar?”—”Steuerung klar!” is the answer. Everything is quiet. The soldiers are only whispering. The launch officer calls, “X1” (t-minus one minute).
  19. The officer steps on a small perch in the Feuerleitpanzer. He is able to see the launch site, “Schlüssel auf Schießen!,” he orders. “Ist auf Schießen, Klarlampe leuchtet!,” says the man behind the propulsion controls. The fuel ignites, flowing under gravity, burning at 1.5 to 2.5-tons of thrust.
  20. After a precisely established sequence of commands, the last order of the officer is barely heard over the roar of the engine, “Hauptstufe!” After that, the man at the propulsion controls pushes the button and the fuel pumps and steam turbine begin to scream. The earth is shaking and vibrating under the pressure of 25-tons of thrust. The rocket goes straight up and turns itself slow to the target. A man at the propulsion table jumps to the table and turns the spanner of the high pressure bottles down. The soldiers slowly go to the launch site, that ironically, looks very empty.

cap001   cap016

cap043   cap051

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James Oberg produced the following comparison:

24,000 fighters could have been produced instead of the inaccurate V-weapons.

No Man Left Behind

U.S. 14th Armored Division Infantry of the 19th Armored Infantry Bn. with supporting M4 medium tanks from the 47th Tank Bn. (both units of the 14th Armored Division), during the successful drive to Hammelburg, 5 April 1945, following the failed Baum Task Force of March.

U.S. 14th Armored Division Infantry of the 19th Armored Infantry Bn. with supporting M4 medium tanks from the 47th Tank Bn. (both units of the 14th Armored Division), during the successful drive to Hammelburg, 5 April 1945, following the failed Baum Task Force of March.

Came last May the news that U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl was released by his Taliban captors in exchange for five senior Taliban officials we were holding. At first sight, this appeared to be an asymmetrical prisoner swap. When I tried to put it into perspective I came up with, “Suppose during World War Two we had captured Rudolph Hess (we did), Albert Speer, Reinhard Heydrich, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Martin Bormann and were prepared to trade them for Private Ryan.” As I reported previously:

These five we are giving up are classified by us as prisoners of war. When the war against the Taliban winds down in a few months we are going to have to give up all POWs. And next year we get nothing in return.

These are bad guys, and they have worked to kill Americans and will do so in the future. The government of Qatar has guaranteed these men will not leave Qatar for a period of one year, and they will not engage in Taliban activities while in Qatar. At this promise I expose  my bare bottom. Let me start my egg timer. These guys are going to be out of Qatar before I get back from summer vacation. Do we have a bet?

Are these guys going to be a threat to American soldiers? Most likely not. The Taliban are not a world-wide terrorist organization. They are a tribal force whose main concern is Afghanistan and their Western Pakistan enclave. Prior to our invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 they never were a threat to our security. Their crime, in our view, was harboring Al-Qaeda following the attacks on the United States in 2001. Once we leave Afghanistan we will likely hear no more from the Taliban. Afghans are in for some rough times, but that seems to be where we came in twelve years ago.

The reasoning given by the Obama administration was, “We leave no man behind.” Which brings us around to an event that has its 70th anniversary today. On 26 March 1945, Task Force Baum set out to rescue American prisoners held at a camp near Hammelburg in Germany.

Task Force Baum was a secret and controversial World War II task force set up by U.S. Army general George S. Patton and commanded by Capt. Abraham Baum in late March 1945. Baum was given the task of penetrating 50 miles (80 km) behind German lines and liberating the POWs in camp OFLAG XIII-B, near Hammelburg. Controversy surrounds the true reasons behind the mission, which may have been simply to liberate Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters, taken captive in Tunisia in 1943. The result of the mission was a complete failure; of the roughly 300 men of the task force, 32 were killed in action during the raid and only 35 made it back to Allied-controlled territory, with the remainder being taken prisoner. All of the 57 tanks, jeeps, and other vehicles were lost.

What was this all about? Did an American general throw away a contingent of 300 men plus weapons and vehicles in a failed attempt to rescue his son-in-law? Apparently so.

Colonel Waters had been captured in Tunisia two years before while we were fighting the Germans there. In the tragedy of the failed operation, he was wounded by a German soldier during a failed truce negotiation, and had to be left behind when our forces, what were left of them, withdrew. By this time the war in Europe had about seven weeks left, and Waters was eventually repatriated. Following the war his military career resumed, and he rose to the rank of general (four stars). He died in 1989. No thanks to his glorious father-in-law.

And what did our most successful general in the European war get for his efforts? I’m glad you asked:

This latest cycle had begun on April 18th, when Patton fired a SHAEF censor (over whom he had no authority) for having passed a story about the ill-starred Hammelburg raid. “Ike had taken Patton’s hide off,” Butcher then wrote. “But I think Patton must have as many hides as a cat has lives, for this is at least the fourth time General Ike had skinned his champion end runner.” But now it seemed that Patton was down to his last hide.

General Eisenhower realized at once that this time he could not save Patton’s skin. But he was still determined to give his stormy petrel the benefit of the doubt and the due process of a fair investigation. He instructed Robert Murphy to ascertain all the facts of the case and assess the damage Patton had done by falling into a sly reporter’s trap. But the pressure to punish Patton became so great that Eisenhower decided to take personal charge even before Murphy’s report was in his hands.

On September 24th, he ordered General Bedell Smith, his Chief of Staff, to call Patton on the phone, trying to clear up the incident without the necessity of employing more radical measures. Ambassador Murphy had a luncheon date with Patton that noon and had arrived early at the General’s villa at the Tegernsee, on the former estate of Max Assmann, deposed head of the Nazi Party’s defunct publishing house. He was chatting with Patton while a gifted Polish artist named Boguslav Czedekowski was painting the General’s portrait.

Farago, Ladislas (2005-05-03). Patton: Ordeal and Triumph (Kindle Locations 13782-13793). Westholme Publishing. Kindle Edition.

General Patton’s career was by now in a death spiral. He was killed in a traffic accident in Germany three months later.

The Sharpshooter’s Tale

From Enemy at the Gates

From Enemy at the Gates

People have been going at each other in war since before history. I’m going to start later than that. Early historical battles have been brutish to the extreme. Winston Churchill, in his four-volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples, recounts some of the reality of Medieval England:

Alfred, cheered by this news and striving to take the field again, continued a brigand warfare against the enemy while sending his messengers to summon the “fyrd”, or local militia, for the end of May. There was a general response; the King was loved and admired. The news that he was alive and active caused widespread joy. All the fighting men came back. After all, the country was in peril of subjugation, the King was a hero, and they could always go home again. The troops of Somerset, Wiltshire, and Hampshire concentrated near Selwood. A point was chosen near where the three shires met, and we can see from this the burdens which lay upon Alfred’s tactics. Nevertheless here again was an army; “and when they saw the King they received him like one risen from the dead, after so great tribulations, and they were filled with great joy”.

Battle must be sought before they lost interest. The Danes still lay upon their plunder at Chippenham. Alfred advanced to Ethandun— now Edington— and on the bare downs was fought the largest and culminating battle of Alfred’s wars. All was staked. All hung in the scales of fate. On both sides the warriors dismounted; the horses were sent to the rear. The shield-walls wereformed, the masses clashed against each other, and for hours they fought with sword and axe. But the heathen had lost the favour of God through their violated oath, and eventually from this or other causes they fled from the cruel and clanging field. This time Alfred’s pursuit was fruitful. Guthrum, king of the Viking army, so lately master of the one unconquered English kingdom, found himself penned in his camp. Bishop Asser says, “the heathen, terrified by hunger, cold, and fear, and at the last full of despair, begged for peace”. They offered to give without return as many hostages as Alfred should care to pick and to depart forthwith.

Churchill, Winston S. (2013-04-29). A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. 1: The Birth of Britain (Kindle Locations 1698-1711). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

In his narrative Sir Winston eventual moves into the next millennium and recounts the effect of the English long bow on warfare. The 1346 Battle of Crécy tells the story:

King Philip, arriving on the scene, was carried away by the ardour of the throng around him. The sun was already low; nevertheless all were determined to engage. There was a corps of six thousand Genoese cross-bowmen in the van of the army. These were ordered to make their way through the masses of horsemen, and with their missiles break up the hostile array in preparation for the cavalry attacks. The Genoese had marched eighteen miles in full battle order with their heavy weapons and store of bolts. Fatigued, they made it plain that they were in no condition to do much that day. But the Count of Alençon, who had covered the distance on horseback, did not accept this remonstrance kindly. “This is what one gets,” he exclaimed, “by employing such scoundrels, who fall off when there is anything for them to do.” Forward the Genoese! At this moment, while the cross-bowmen were threading their way to the front under many scornful glances, dark clouds swept across the sun and a short, drenching storm beat upon the hosts. A large flight of crows flew cawing through the air above the French in gloomy presage. The storm, after wetting the bow-strings of the Genoese, passed as quickly as it had come, and the setting sun shone brightly in their eyes and on the backs of the English. This, like the crows, was adverse, but it was more material. The Genoese, drawing out their array, gave a loud shout, advanced a few steps, shouted again, and a third time advanced, “hooted”, and discharged their bolts. Unbroken silence had wrapped the English lines, but at this the archers, six or seven thousand strong, ranged on both flanks in “portcullis” formation, who had hitherto stood motionless, advanced one step, drew their bows to the ear, and came into action. They “shot their arrows with such force and quickness”, says Froissart, “that it seemed as if it snowed.”

The effect upon the Genoese was annihilating; at a range which their own weapons could not attain they were in a few minutes killed by thousands. The ground was covered with feathered corpses. Reeling before this blast of missile destruction, the like of which had not been known in war, the survivors recoiled in rout upon the eager ranks of the French chivalry and men-at-arms, which stood just out of arrow-shot . “Kill me those scoundrels,” cried King Philip in fury, “for they stop up our road without any reason.” Whereupon the front line of the French cavalry rode among the retreating Genoese, cutting them down with their swords. In doing so they came within the deadly distance. The arrow snowstorm beat upon them, piercing their mail and smiting horse and man. Valiant squadrons from behind rode forward into the welter, and upon all fell the arrow hail, making the horses caper, and strewing the field with richly dressed warriors. A hideous disorder reigned. And now Welsh and Cornish light infantry, slipping through the chequered ranks of the archers, came forward with their long knives and, “falling upon earls, barons, knights, and squires, slew many, at which the King of England was afterwards exasperated”. Many a fine ransom was cast away in those improvident moments.

Churchill, Winston S. (2013-04-29). A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. 1: The Birth of Britain (Kindle Locations 4601-4623). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

All of this was before the introduction of gunpowder into modern warfare.

Early shoulder arms appear to have been merely a means of launching pebbles for long distances at enemy formations. More modern long-barrel weapons quickly doomed the armored knight on horseback. A bullet from one of these weapons would penetrate armor, bringing the foot soldier to the level of prime combatant. Armies in those days appear to have regarded the musket as an improvement on the bow or even the pike. Forces still arrayed themselves in opposing ranks and slugged it out. Then came the American Revolution.

The battles of Concord and Lexington in the opening round of the revolution introduced the British to serious warfare made possible by the musket and the long rifle. Following the initial skirmish, in which colonists took a drubbing, the red coats proceeded to march back to their barracks in formation. For the Americans the battle was not over. They slipped among rocks and trees, sniping away at the marching formations, inflicting horrible casualties against their outraged foe.

The revolution may have been the introduction of the sniper, the sharpshooter who targeted individual soldiers at long range:

Early forms of sniping, or marksmanship were used during the American Revolutionary War. For instance, in 1777 at the battle of Saratoga the Colonists hid in the trees and used early model rifles to shoot British officers. Most notably, Timothy Murphy shot and killed General Simon Fraser of Balnain on 7 October 1777 at a distance of about 400 yards. During the Battle of Brandywine, Capt. Patrick Ferguson had a tall, distinguished American officer in his rifle’s iron sights. Ferguson did not take the shot, as the officer had his back to Ferguson; only later did Ferguson learn that George Washington had been on the battlefield that day.

Marksmanship continued to gain favor with the years, but the Civil War saw ranks of soldiers facing each other and advancing under fire from muzzle loading rifles. Things were changing:

The Minié ball, or Minie ball, is a type of muzzle-loading spin-stabilized rifle bullet named after its co-developer, Claude-Étienne Minié, inventor of the Minié rifle. It came to prominence in the Crimean War and American Civil War.

The Minié ball was employed by the Union Army to great effect. The North had the industrial means to manufacture war weapons on a grand scale, and production of the Minié ball was a major endeavor. It brought the Union Army increased rate of fire over the Confederates, but battle tactics changed little from the time of the revolution. Pickett’s Charge exemplifies the thinking that was to continue into the next century. The tale of the repeating rifle underscores the thicker-than-tar military mindset. The Union had them. Commanders didn’t want to employ them. The used up too much ammunition.

The war that engulfed the European continent from 1914 to 1918 saw the final throes of centuries old monarchies, and also the military thinking that went with them. Something new had been added, something which tragically military leaders were slow to recognize. That was the machine gun.

The ‘battles of the frontiers’ were the first occasion on which most French, German and British soldiers came face to face with modern firepower, and they were devastated and disorientated by the effects. Lieutenant Ernst von Röhm, on coming under heavy French fire in Lorraine, thought that at last he would see the enemy and got out his field glasses, ‘but there is nothing to recognise and nothing to see’. As the fire of his own unit slackened, he stood up and called on his comrades to do likewise. ‘I want to see how many are still fit to fight. The bugler, who has remained by my side like a shadow, says to me sadly: “Herr Leutnant, there is nobody there any more!” And in truth nobody is standing on the whole front line. Only three men are still unscathed, everybody else is dead or wounded.’ On the other end of the line, at Mons on 23 August, the British army found itself holding ground against the main weight of Kluck’s 1st Army. Aubrey Herbert recalled that ‘It was as if a scythe of bullets passed directly over our heads about a foot above the earthworks. It came in gusts, whistling and sighing … It seemed inevitable that any man who went over the bank must be cut neatly in two.’

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 962-972). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Americans entered this gruesome bit of Hell in 1917, welcomed by their French and British, who were rapidly running out of bodies to face the Maxim machine gun. General John J. Pershing did not relish this prospect, and he insisted that American troops serve under American command. This decision may have accounted for the surprising (to the Europeans) success of American forces in the war.

The Allied forces, particularly the French, eschewed marksmanship. French troops obtained little in the way of target practice during their training. It was the Battle of Crécy all over again, only this time with rifles and machine guns.

Alan Axelrod’s book on the Battle of Belleau Wood is a story of the coming of the modern U.S. Marine Corps. Unlike their British and French counterparts, Marines, as well as American Army troops, received extensive training in marksmanship before being shipped across the Atlantic. The Marines, especially, had a different attitude. It was an attitude that made their German opponents very uncomfortable:

Rushed into the fight on a few hours notice, the Marines prepared to advance on the Wood in evenly-spaced ranks, as they had been trained by the French. As somebody who has never seen organized combat, I can only wonder what people were thinking back then. Author Axelrod wonders, too. There was no waiting for dark. There was no creeping along the ground behind bits of cover. There was no firing of smoke shells to provide concealment. There was no artillery bombardment to even frighten the machine gunners. The approach to the German positions concealed in the woods was across a wheat field, in one region a march of 400 yards. It was recipe for slaughter.

The American approach was to lean into the withering machine gun fire as though walking into a gale wind. Where the distance was short the advance wave was able to reach the woods and engage the enemy. The advance that attempted to cross 400 yards of wheat was reversed, although some men managed to crawl forward into the trees.

What amazed the Germans, however, was the action of the Marines as they advanced. They aimed their rifles and killed Germans one by one.

This tactic was something the Germans were unaccustomed to during the four-years of combat. They understood artillery, machine gun fire and massed rifle fire. These threats were impersonal, and if you were exposed there was nothing you could do about it. If you got hit, you got hit. It was all a matter of chance. The German troops were mentally prepared to take the chance.

The Marines’ rifle fire, however, was personal. A Marine put you in his sights and killed you personally. And Marines were very good at this. If a Marine shot at you, you were very likely to take the hit and die. The Germans did not like that.

All of this was during the final weeks of the War to End All Wars. This does not mean that sharpshooting had all along been dead. In fact, the previous Boer War that the British had just finished introduced modern sniping practice, particularly as practiced by the Boers. The British learned well and from that time have maintained mastery of the art.

Well prior to Belleau Wood, the war of the trenches provided fertile ground for sniping tactics. Vast armies facing each other in static positions for months on end provided the ideal setting for sniping tactics.

Sharpshooting skills and sniper tactics blossom in protracted urban warfare. Movement is slow and concealment is ample. So it was that Stalingrad was the birthplace of sniper legends. I have the book Enemy at the Gates, by William Craig. I also have the movie of the same title, inspired by the book. The main character in the movie is Vasily Zaytsev.

In the first scenes Zaytsev and other Soviet troops are herded like cattle into the battle. Armed political officers shoot soldiers who try to evade the murderous German aircraft gunfire by jumping into the Volga. There are not enough rifles for the newly-arrived troops, but all are given an ammunition clip and instructions to get rifles from soldiers who are killed. A frontal assault on a German position results in almost 100% casualties as soldiers who retreat from the slaughter are killed by Soviet troops in place for this purpose. Zaytsev is one of the survivors, and he teams up with a political commissar to wipe out a party of Germans who tarry too long near the field of dead. Zaytsev and the commissar then embark on a program to make Zaytsev famous in order to build morale among the troops.

Wikipedia provides details of Zaytsev’s origins:

Zaytsev was born in Yeleninskoye, Orenburg Governorate in a peasant family of Russian ethnicity and grew up in the Ural Mountains, where he learned marksmanship by hunting deer and wolves with his grandfather and younger brother. He brought home his first trophy at the age of twelve: a wolf that he shot with a single bullet from his first personal rifle, a large single-shot Berdan rifle, which at the time he was barely able to carry on his back.

It’s a background familiar to American marksmen of the two world wars. Corporal (later Sergeant) Alvin York grew up in the Tennessee hills, where he became an expert hunter. The movie Sergeant York shows his training with a repeating rifle in the army and also the amazement of his trainers as he shoots totally in the black his first time on the range. Audie Murphy was the son of share croppers in Texas, northeast of Dallas, where a single bullet determined whether there would be meat on the table. The first time he encountered the enemy on Sicily he shot two fleeing Italian officers off their horses. Both York and Murphy were Medal of Honor recipients.

The unpleasantness in Korea 60 years ago eventually devolved into a static war and a hunting ground for snipers. The newspapers of the time (I read them) told of an American sniper taking on a Chinese shooter who was killing American troops. He had a buddy named Friday, and the two of them worked out a plan. They needed to make the enemy shooter reveal his position, so our guy got into position, and Friday exposed himself briefly. The enemy took the bait and was killed by the American sniper.

The “Vietnam Conflict” saw a resurgence in sniper tactics. The legend of that brief encounter was Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock:

Hathcock only once removed the white feather from his bush hat while deployed in Vietnam. During a volunteer mission days before the end of his first deployment, he crawled over 1,500 yards of field to shoot a high-ranking NVA officer. He was not informed of the details of the mission until he accepted it. This effort took four days and three nights, without sleep, of constant inch-by-inch crawling. Hathcock said he was almost stepped on as he lay camouflaged with grass and vegetation in a meadow shortly after sunset. At one point he was nearly bitten by a bamboo viper but had the presence of mind to avoid moving and giving up his position. As the officer exited his encampment, Hathcock fired a single shot that struck the officer in the chest, killing him.

Hathcock is also known for killing an NVA sniper who had already killed several Marines. Waiting for the enemy to show himself, he saw a glint of light and shot that. His bullet went through the scope of the enemy’s rifle and into his head. Director Steven Spielberg recreated this event in Saving Private Ryan, when he has Private Daniel Jackson shoot a German sniper through the German’s scope.

Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills in the war. The NVA put a $30,000 bounty on his head, and he killed every sniper that came to try for the prize. He died of natural causes in 1999.

Today’s snipers serve in the Marines, the Army Special Forces and in the Navy SEALs. I have previously recounted the story behind American Sniper Chris Kyle.

The legend continues. Notably, a SEAL team was called in to put down the high jacking of the American-flagged merchant ship Maersk Alabama. With the captain, Richard Phillips, being held hostage in a ship’s lifeboat adrift off the coast of Africa, SEAL snipers were airlifted aboard the guided missile destroyer Bainbridge. One of the four pirates was conned into coming aboard the Bainbridge, leaving only three on the lifeboat. When all three shooters announced they were on target the order was given and three shots took down the three pirates. The Maersk Alabama captain was rescued, and the remaining pirate is now serving a 99-year term in an American prison. The movie Captain Phillips dramatizes the events.

On cable TV The History Channel regularly features stories about historical and modern snipers. Police in the United States and in other countries employ sharpshooters to handle cases involving hostages and barricaded desperadoes. When things get slack I will post some of these stories. Keep reading.

Disaster at Sea

One of a Series

This series of posts follows Hew Strachan’s book The First World War. The book is also the basis for the video of the same name.

TheFirstWorldWar

As mentioned in another post, the war was planned by the Austria-Hungary Empire in collusion with Germany and was intended to be limited in scope and duration. Austria-Hungary wanted to annex Serbia, and it used the murder of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Serbian nationalists as cause célèbre, a rationale for its motives and a catalyst for action. In July 1914, in the weeks following the murders, events quickly escalated, culminating with the commencement of hostilities against Serbia by Austria-Hungary on 28 July. Serbia’s ally, Russia, began to mobilize its forces, and Germany declared war on Russia on 1 August. France was in the process of mobilizing, and Germany declared war on France. Britain entered on 4 August by declaring war on Germany. This “limited war” quickly escalated to a world-wide conflict.

Not widely known these days is that 100 years ago Germany had a colonial empire that spanned the globe. These colonies were seen as immediate prizes of war by Great Britain and its dominions in those regions:

New Zealand occupied German Samoa (later Western Samoa) on 30 August 1914. On 11 September, the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force landed on the island of Neu Pommern (later New Britain), which formed part of German New Guinea. On 28 October, the German cruiser SMS Emden sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug in the Battle of Penang. Japan seized Germany’s Micronesian colonies and, after the Siege of Tsingtao, the German coaling port of Qingdao in the Chinese Shandong peninsula. As Vienna refused to withdraw the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth from Tsingtao, Japan declared war not only on Germany, but also on Austria-Hungary; the ship participated in the defense of Tsingtao where it was sunk in November 1914. Within a few months, the Allied forces had seized all the German territories in the Pacific; only isolated commerce raiders and a few holdouts in New Guinea remained.

[Some links deleted]

And that set the stage for early engagements with the far-flung German fleet. At Germany’s base on the Shantung Peninsula German commander Graff von Spee had the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, both armored cruisers and also the light cruisers DresdenEmdenLeipzig and Nürnberg.

But in mid-August, with Japan not yet in the war, Spee’s quandary was that his squadron was not – in local terms – the inferior force. As a professional sailor and as an admiral, Spee’s temperamental preference was to keep his squadron united and under his own control, and to exercise maritime dominance while he could. On 12 August he received a signal warning him of Japan’s probable entry to the war, but he did not revise his intentions. He had already resolved to direct his squadron south-east towards Chile. Chile was neutral, but was reported to be well disposed towards Germany and could provide coal. The Entente naval chain was weakest in this quarter of the Pacific.

When Spee told his captains what he intended, Karl von Müller of the Emden disagreed. Spee’s scheme would keep his command intact , but it would do so at the price of the principles of cruiser war, and it would not threaten Britain’s commerce at its most vulnerable points . Spee agreed to the extent that he allowed Müller to detach the Emden from the squadron and to make for the Bay of Bengal.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 1287-1295). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

The subsequent history of the Emden would make a novel in itself.

Over two months, beginning on 10 September, the Emden raided Madras and Penang, captured twenty-three vessels, and sank a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer. Müller applied the principles of cruiser warfare to brilliant effect. Although his exploits created chaos in British trade in the Indian Ocean , he was lionised as much by the British press as the German. On 9 November the Emden was surprised and sunk by an Australian light cruiser as she was raiding the wireless station on the Cocos Islands. Even then the Emden’s exploits were not over. Müller had put a landing party ashore on Direction Island. It seized a schooner and sailed to the Yemen. After crossing to the Red Sea, it braved the desert, despite attacks by hostile Arabs, and reached Damascus and then Constantinople . A German journalist greeted the party on its arrival by asking its commander, Hellmuth von Mücke, which he would prefer, a bath or Rhine wine: ‘Rhine wine,’ replied von Mücke.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 1294-1302). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Meanwhile von Spee and his fleet continued toward their doom. This was before the days when a nuclear powered vessel could sail the seas for years without refueling. This was even before the days of oil-fired boilers. These ships had to stop for coal periodically, and the coal had to be already there and for sale. Von Spee had to stop periodically at known coaling stations, and this limited the places the British had to look for him.

The expeditious destruction of Germany’s wireless stations in the region cut von Spee off from his sources of intelligence, but it also forced him into radio silence, which made it hard for the British to find him. He learned that Samoa had fallen by reading an American newspaper. When he raided Papeete on 22 September a French steamer radioed his presence. He determined to head for Chile, a neutral country and and one willing to sell the Germans coal.

One of those looking for von Spee was Sir Christopher Cradock, in command of the Royal Navy’s Western Atlantic Squadron.

The Admiralty’s orders to Cradock were ambiguous – the consequence of an offensive-minded First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who could not resist the temptation offered by the wireless to direct operations from London on the basis of outdated intelligence . The Admiralty certainly told Cradock that it was his job to seek out the enemy, and only by leaving [HMS] Canopus did it seem that he would have the speed to do so. The trouble was that [without Canopus] he now lacked the firepower to be effective when he found Spee.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Here we may be seeing for the first time the Churchill who was destined to manage much of the future war with Germany.

Cradock took his fleet into the southeast Pacific and found von Spee of the coast of Chile.

Spee used only one vessel, the light cruiser Leipzig, to transmit wireless signals. Cradock heard the signals and fancied that he might catch the Leipzig in isolation. In fact, Spee’s squadron had rendezvoused with two cruisers , including the Leipzig, off Easter Island. Cradock used HMS Glasgow in exactly the same way. The Germans heard the Glasgow’s signals and closed with her off Coronel at about 4.30 p.m. on 1 November. Cradock could still have escaped. He did not. He closed up to the Glasgow. While the setting sun was in the Germans’ eyes, his ships had a temporary advantage, but as soon as it sank over the horizon the British ships were silhouetted against a reddening sky. Spee kept his distance until the light was right, and then at 7 p.m . opened fire. His theoretical broadside was 4,442 lb to the British 2,875 lb. In practice , the British guns were mounted lower on the ship than the Germans‘, and the rough seas meant that water flooded the casemates, so up to half of them could not be used. Cradock’s flagship, Good Hope, was hit before she opened fire and sank within half an hour; HMS Monmouth followed two hours later.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 1326-1334). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Von Spee was realistic about the outcome. His fleet was still hunted, and escape and continue fighting with no hope of ever returning to Germany was all that was left to him. He sailed into the southwest Atlantic and to his doom.

Spee could have given the Falklands a wide berth, but once again his propensity for action got the better of him , even though his shell stocks were running low. As the Gneisenau closed on Cape Pembroke, its senior gunnery officer spotted the three-legged tripod masts characteristic of Dreadnoughts, the all-big-gun battleships pioneered by the British in 1905. Spee turned away, confident that he had the speed to outdistance battleships – if indeed they were there. But battle cruisers had been developed by Jackie Fisher, the First Sea Lord, for action exactly like this. They combined the hitting power of the battleship with the manoeuvrability of the cruiser. Not only did they mount 12-inch guns, but they could make speeds of up to 25 knots (as opposed to the Dreadnought battleship’s 21 knots). They forfeited deck armour to do so, but when on the oceans, with plenty of manoeuvring space, the risk was – it seemed – neutralised by their ability to engage at great ranges and at great speed.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 1341-1348). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

From Wikipedia: Eduard Rothert - Eduard Rothert, Karten und Skizzen zum Weltkrieg, Druck und Verlag von A. Bagel, Düsseldorf, 1916.

From Wikipedia: Eduard Rothert – Eduard Rothert, Karten und Skizzen zum Weltkrieg, Druck und Verlag von A. Bagel, Düsseldorf, 1916.

Von Spee’s two armored cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, were sunk, and von Spee was among the dead. And that was not the end of the family tragedy.

One of Spee’s two sons, Heinrich, drowned with the Gneisenau. The other, Otto , was on the light cruiser, Nürnberg. She was overhauled and sunk, as was Leipzig. Only Dresden escaped : she was not run down until 14 March. By the end of 1914 the German cruiser threat to Britain’s maritime trade was all but eliminated. So large was Britain’s merchant fleet that the achievements of Spee, Müller and others were in statistical terms insignificant. By January 1915 German surface vessels had accounted for 215,000 of the 273,000 tons of merchant shipping sunk, but that was only 2 per cent of British commercial tonnage.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 1357-1361). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

It was 100 years ago today, 8 December 1914. The British suffered 10 killed, 19 wounded and no ships lost. It was the end of the German surface fleet for the remainder of the war. Subsequently, U-boats were to figure prominently in the German Navy’s war effort, possibly to the detriment of that country.

One of those ironies of history came out of this battle. Subsequently the rebuilt German navy named one of its pocket battleships after Graf von Spee. In the opening months of The Second World War this ship roamed the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, sinking and capturing shipping of the Allied powers, plus some others. Just a few hundred miles from where Admiral Graff von Spee met his end and 25 years later, almost to the day, the British Navy caught up with the Graff Spee and cornered it in Montevideo harbor, where it was subsequently scuttled.

Fox on the Barbie

abc_shrimp_treadmill_dm_110526_wg

I really need to watch Fox News on a regular basis. At least more often. People may not know this, but Fox News is a wonderful source of useful information. Take scientific misconduct, for example:

Scientific studies conducted in the public interest appear to have veered off course, according to a new report that documents government-sponsored research gems such as having shrimp walk on tiny treadmills to measure the impact of sickness on crustaceans.

While the exercises may be adorable to watch, Sen. Tom Coburn says he’s not so sure it advances the cause of science.

The Oklahoma Republican issued a new report Thursday that concludes the National Science Foundation has misspent $3 billion on “waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement.” It offers a list of research projects that could have been left as questions for the universe.

This from a 26 May 2011 Fox News report.

That’s right. The National Science Foundation, your government, is spending billions of tax dollars on wasteful scientific research. Reading through the list will certainly bring tears to the eyes of hard-working tax payers. Or at least a gagging sensation to the throat. However, there is one study that has received a lot of Internet bandwidth and also my personal interest. That would include funding for a study which involved placing a shrimp on a treadmill. Conservative Cybercast News Service followed up, and a few months later Fox relayed the cruel facts to viewers:

U.S. Government Has Spent $682,570 to Study ‘Shrimp On A Treadmill’

By Eric Scheiner
December 27, 2011
(CNSNews.com) -Reports of $500,000 of taxpayer funds to study a project that has shrimp running on a treadmill hit the headlines early in 2011. A recent report now shows that $682,570 in grants has been awarded to the research effort.
According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) website, the money has been granted to the “Taking the Pulse of Marine Life in Stressed Seas” research conducted by biology professors Louis and Karen Burnett at the College of Charleston. The research page describes the professor’s “big question” as “How are human-made marine stresses affecting the marine life that we need?”

Pass over, as I have done, the $682,570 mentioned in the headline versus the $500,000 figure in the body of the story, the fact remains: Taxpayers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a shrimp on a treadmill. This cute meme, which has been floating about the net universe, sums it up.

shrimp

Call it scandal if you will, but the fact remains that tax payers are footing the bill while liberal scientists are having fun with shrimp. It would appear that now is the time for some skeptical analysis. I will start with . Earlier this month Professor Scholnick, of Pacific University in Oregon, stepped forward with a few words on the matter:

A video clip of a shrimp running on a treadmill has somehow become the nation’s poster child for wasteful spending and grounds for the Republican-led House of Representatives science committee to recently investigate wasteful spending of NSF-funded research projects across the country.

My name is David, and I am the marine biologist who put a shrimp on a treadmill—a burden I will forever carry. To be clear, the treadmill did not cost millions of taxpayer dollars, the goal of the research was not to exercise shrimp, and the government did not pay me—or anyone else—to work out shrimp on treadmills.

Simply put, my colleagues and I were studying how recent changes in the oceans could potentially affect the ability of marine organisms to fight infections—an important question, given that the amount of bacteria a shrimp is able remove from its body is directly related to how much bacteria could potentially end up on seafood-filled plates. And since shrimp are active animals in nature, it was logical to study the immune response of shrimp during activity.

Scholnick cites an article in Forbes listing Thirteen Silliest Uses of Taxpayer Money.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this post included a $3 million treadmill. It has been removed for accuracy.

Troubled Asset Relief Program: $700 billion. Projected budget deficit for 2011: $1.4 trillion. Spending $1.5 million of taxpayer money on a laundry-folding robot:  Shameless.

This is so disheartening. Forbes has dropped further mention of the shrimp treadmill. So, unless somebody has the original copy tucked away on a hard drive, I won’t be able to bring that to you. Wait, there’s more from Forbes. Please note the link to their article:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/seaneichenberger/2011/07/06/fifteen-silliest-uses-of-taxpayer-money/

Apparently there were originally fifteen silliest uses of taxpayer money. Forbes is now down to thirteen. Are we eventually going to get down to The Single Silly Use of Taxpayer Money? Knowing my United States government and yours, I tend to think not.

In case you became confused by the separate items above featuring Louis and Karen Burnett at the College of Charleston and David Scholnick at Pacific University of Oregon, the explanation is obvious. Both Scholnick and the Burnetts have been collaborating on the same project.

For the record, knowledge of things that affect the health of marine organisms is ultimately vital to the national economy. There are important American industries that depend on sustaining healthy marine life. It would be possible for large corporations engaged in these industries to conduct the needed research, but there is little economic incentive for them to do so. The knowledge does no good unless it is publicly shared, and no board of directors wants to spend company profits on activity that benefits the competition. It’s in situations like this that a democratic government is beneficial to a strong capitalistic society. People, involuntarily, pool their resources for the good of all.

Scholnick also cites conservative commentator Mike Huckabee’s attack on the shrimp research. Huckabee’s interpretation is worth watching:

Congress spent money to study how shrimp could function on a treadmill. … $503,000 to watch shrimp on a treadmill. You know, I don’t care what shrimps do on a treadmill. I don’t want my shrimp going to the gym. I want them going to the grill. Or the oven. And then to the table. I don’t want ’em getting skinny so they can outrun me. I want ’em to get fat so they can nourish me.

Please do not pause to observe these statements are remarkable. Do pause to note that this man once ran for the office of President of the United States.

As Scholnick points out in his Journal of Higher Education piece Huckabee linked the shrimp study to limitations on military spending. I’m glad he did that. Allow me to recount some personal experiences with spending on our military.

Not counting my brief career in the military, my first employment related to the military was about 33 years ago.

I went to work for a major American corporation with a sizable business in military contracts. My first task involved heading up a software team to develop a system to locate enemy submarines by sonar. I ultimately had about six highly-paid specialists working on the project, and we purchased an expensive computer system and hooked everything up in a lab at the company’s plant. Then we loaded the whole business up and shipped it to St. Croix Island in the Caribbean for testing. A bunch of us went down there and worked at a sonar test range on the west end of the island for a week or so before taking a break for the Thanksgiving holidays. Then we went  back to finish up. The project was highly successful, and we could locate the mock submarine more quickly and with better accuracy than the Navy team that was working on the same problem. Then the project was canceled.

I next worked on something called the Navigational Sonar System, which may or may not have ultimately been successful, but I never found out, because I left that job to take a position with another defense contractor that built guided missiles.

The first program I worked on relating to guided missiles was called IRHVTA, and it used an infra-red imaging system to identify fixed, high-value targets, e.g., power plants and bridges, so the missile could attack them without the aid of a gunner. While this technology was useful in follow-on projects, the concept was never implemented.

bridge

My next project was called Joint Services Seeker. We installed an infra-red imaging system into the nose of a small missile that was controlled through a fiber optic link to attack tanks and helicopters. The same technology was also developed for the Hellfire missile. Neither of these weapons was ever implemented.

I worked on a project called Smart Weapons. The idea here was to send a missile off on its own to locate and attack specific kinds of enemy targets, e.g., tanks and missile launchers. This was never implemented.

Another program developed technology to identify, locate and eavesdrop enemy radio transmissions. This was ultimately dropped, although some of the technology has found use in other military applications.

I did work for a time on software for the highly-successful Javelin missile, and I ultimately watched CNN video from the most recent Iraq war as soldiers used one of these to attack an enemy strong point. Score one for the taxpayers.

More recently I worked on software for the successful JSOW missile, which after a long evolutionary journey, pulled from IRHVTA technology. And I worked on software funded by the Spanish government (American taxpayers, take a short break) and also software for two military GPS programs and flight simulator software for FA-18 fighters.

Each of these programs represented expenditures of millions of dollars, a lot of it dead-end with little or no benefit at the back end. The wastefulness of some of these military programs can be written off as the cost of maintaining American superiority over some real external challenges. A lot cannot be so justified. One program was later determined to be funded without authorization and was canceled.

Being in the forefront of science (and militarily) comes with a cost, and that cost is borne by the taxpayers. People such as Mike Huckabee, with little understanding of science and also with little regard for important findings of science, can  be expected to say silly things about scientific research. It’s our job to observe these orations and to take note of the source.