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 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.


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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 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
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.


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.


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.


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.


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:




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.



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.

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.


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 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


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

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.


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


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
( -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.


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:

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.


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.

Total War


From Wikipedia


From Wikipedia

I have a copy of the movie, and about two years ago I watched it for the second time, the first time being 60 years ago. It’s Gone with the Wind, and it features Clark Gable as Confederate blockade runner Rhett Butler. In the opening scenes we see Butler mingling with the Southern aristocracy prior to the onset of the Civil War, and he is reminding these would-be rebels that there aren’t any factories in the South manufacturing cannons.

This problem for the Confederacy was one of the situations that fed the rebellion. The South was primarily agricultural and it’s economy depended on slave labor. The American industrial might was concentrated in the North, and the rising industrial revolution had little use for slavery. When the North, with its voting majority, began to insist on the abolition of slavery, the South rebelled.

The country split mainly along a line running through Washington, D.C., with all the states to the south seceding from the Union. The United States military split along similar lines, with Southern sympathizers deserting their commands and forming the Army of the Confederacy. Civil war began almost immediately when the Confederate forces attacked the United States post at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

President Lincoln and his military commanders quickly realized the weakness of the Confederacy and initiated a blockade of Confederate ports. If the South could no longer export cotton, it’s chief crop, and could no longer import materials of war from other industrial countries, its military campaign would wither like a vase of plucked flowers.

England and a number of other countries initially chose not to take sides in the conflict and traded with both the Union and the Confederacy, hence the source of Rhett Butler’s wealth during the war. Lincoln realized he needed to break the neutrality of the Confederacy’s foreign suppliers, and he counted on critical victories to demonstrate that the rebels were a lost cause. The capture of Vicksburg and the almost simultaneous crushing of Robert E. Lee’s forces at Gettysburg split the Confederacy east and west at the Mississippi River and put Lee on the defensive for the remainder of the war. The confederacy’s suppliers got the message, and the Confederacy entered a slow death spiral. Only it refused to lie down.

One hundred and fifty years ago Union generals William Tecumseh Sherman and his boss Ulysses S. Grant hit upon an audacious plan to put the final spike into the corpse. Sherman would take a force and cut through the heart of the Confederacy, splitting it once again, along an east-west line through Atlanta, Georgia. At the same time Sherman’s forces would destroy the South’s remaining economic power by laying waste to critical infrastructure. It was to be Total War.

It’s not as though the world had never seen total war. Attila the Hun made a name for himself completely annihilating cities that resisted his power. The American Civil War, however, was the first major conflict fought on an industrial scale. The Industrial Revolution was essential to the conflict. Forces and material were moved by steam powered boats and railways. Armies communicated almost instantaneously by telegraph. Mechanized factories turned out weapons of war on modern assembly lines. Repeating rifles were put to use, and the first machine guns spewed death into massed formations. It was time for total war of a modern kind.

Sherman instigated a campaign against Atlanta, Georgia, that began in May 1864 and ran to September of that year. That was the end of traditional war. Following the conquest of Atlanta, General Grant held Lee’s forces in check at Petersburg in Virginia, allowing Sherman to begin operations without interference. Once again, Sherman’s plan was audacious.

Sherman detached two armies, totaling about 62,000 men and left Atlanta, heading toward the Atlantic coast on 15 November. His forces carried rations for 20 days, and they did not hold the ground they crossed. They were completely cut off once out of sight of Atlanta. For continuing supply they foraged the country side as they advanced. It was an army of necessity on the move. If they stopped they would run out of supplies and die.

Sherman kept his ultimate destination a secret, and this foiled attempts by the Confederates to anticipate his moves and to mount an effective counter attack. Largely the Confederates fed small groups piecemeal into action against Sherman, losing heavily in almost every encounter.

With Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of the previous year, Dred Scott was dead. Any Southern slave who could escape his owner was free. Sherman’s forces made use of this, encouraging slaves to desert their masters, further depriving the South of its economic base.

Material assets were reduced, as well. Lines of communication, especially rail roads were destroyed. Where there was no resistance the Union troops left houses and buildings standing, but complete destruction followed any attacks from locals. Although ordered not to enter people’s homes unless there was armed resistance, Union foragers (bummers) took every bit of food for miles on either side of the two lines of advance.

In planning for the march, Sherman used livestock and crop production data from the 1860 census to lead his troops through areas where he believed they would be able to forage most effectively.

Sherman’s March ended with the capture of Savannah on 21 December. Here was the first conventional battle of the campaign. Confederate General William J. Hardee put up a force of 10,000 against the two Union armies. The Union Navy waited off shore to assist the army whenever contact could be established. On 20 December Hardee pulled his men out of the fight and headed north across the Savannah River. City officials met with Union forces and surrendered the city. Sherman’s exercise is total war was over.

The aftermath was that the South was now truly finished. Grant was to the north engaging Lee’s forces, and Sherman was to the south, now resupplied by the Navy. It was just a matter of time. It took until 12 April the following year for reality to catch up with the Confederacy.

Sherman’s tactic of total war was decisive in finishing off the Confederacy and likely forestalling much future war misery. However it earned him the enmity of the South for its supposed brutality. In truth, Sherman’s tactics and the actions of his troops were more pragmatic than brutal. There was no wholesale slaughter of civilians. Houses were only destroyed when armed opposition was encountered. There was collateral destruction, but the standing order was to reduce only means for making war, which did include railway stations and business that could be used to support the Confederate cause. Generally, claims of destruction later alleged tend to not be based on fact. The action of Sherman’s troops was confined to within a few miles of the lines of march, and a sizable amount of grumbling after the fact came from outside the area of destruction by the military.

The March to the Sea was devastating to Georgia and the Confederacy. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million (about $1.4 billion in 2010 dollars) in destruction, about one fifth of which “inured to our advantage” while the “remainder is simple waste and destruction.” The Army wrecked 300 miles (480 km) of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills. Military historians Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones cited the significant damage wrought to railroads and Southern logistics in the campaign and stated that “Sherman’s raid succeeded in ‘knocking the Confederate war effort to pieces’.” David J. Eicher wrote that “Sherman had accomplished an amazing task. He had defied military principles by operating deep within enemy territory and without lines of supply or communication. He destroyed much of the South’s potential and psychology to wage war.”

[Links deleted]


Freed slaves were particularly hard hit, for which I can assume the Confederates had little sympathy. Sherman’s armies could only feed themselves, and refused to take freed civilians with them. Only those former slaves willing to join forces were accepted and not many of the willing were taken. Many former slaves followed Sherman’s march in hopes of succor, but they were abandoned by the armies, whose only task was to fight the war. Freed slaves suffered along with their former masters from the destruction wrought by the Union armies.

Sherman’s March echoes in the minds of Southern sympathizers to this day, but this is from people with little knowledge of the actual history and without any recognition of the far worse depravity of the Confederate cause—ultimately the enslavement of human beings.



I stake out a number of conservative outlets, just to pick up on any salacious or incriminating items I can use to hammer Democrats, free thinkers, atheists and liberals in general. While waiting for something to come along I do from time to time pick up something of interest:

Franklin Graham: Obama is Waging an “Anti-Christ” War Against God

See what I mean? You never know what’s going to turn up once you start listening.

“Anti-Christ?” “War Against God?” Who would have suspected? I decided to read more:

Franklin Graham: Some Administration Officials Are ‘Anti-Christ’

Well, that wasn’t so interesting, after all. Not President Obama, just “Some Administration Officials” are anti-Christ. It would appear those people at Conservative Tribune (“In Defense of Western Civilization) went a little overboard in declaring the president is waging an “anti-Christ war against God.”

Actually, I suspect it goes deeper than that. It’s likely “some administration officials” are Jews. As we know, even nearly 2000 years after the Resurrection Jews have not come to accept Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ. I’ll bet those Jews in the Obama administration are “anti-Christ.” Let’s not get into the Muslims, Hindus and such who may also be in the Obama administration.

But, you may ask, how does this “anti-Christ” manifest itself? I’m glad you asked. I dug deeper.

Some of the people working in the Obama administration and in the White House are trying to “completely secularize our military” and are “hostile to Christians,” to the point that they “are anti-Christ in what they say and in what they do,” said Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of world-renowned preacher Rev. Billy Graham.

Franklin Graham made his comments during a Mar. 24 interview with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, which published an updated report on religious persecution in the U.S. armed forces this month.

Imagine that. The United States Military, given the task of ruthlessly killing enemies of this country is being denied the mantle of the Prince of Peace. What’s the world coming to?

Once again, I am asked to drill down into the stack of nested references:

What follows is a list of discrete events presenting a larger picture of the threat to religious liberty that now exists in America’s armed forces. The examples provided represent only a portion of the concerted efforts to scrub the military of religious expression, through which the chilling effect of punishment and potential career destruction lie at the back of everyone’s mind.

To view and download this entire document please click this link

OK! So there’s a list. Let’s look at the list:

Casey Weinstein – 2004
United States Air Force (USAF) Academy grad (1977) and attorney, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein’s
son, Casey, was a USAF Academy cadet at this time. Casey complained that flyers that were
placed on all cadets’ breakfast plates advertising Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
Distribution of the flyers stopped after that. (In 2005, Mikey Weinstein founded the Military
Religious Freedom Foundation [MRFF], headquartered in Albuquerque, NM).1

This is only the first item in “the list.” I will give this one a little scrutiny before I go on to other points.

Wait! Something is amiss here. This is from 2004. I’m not to sure that Barack Obama was working for the United States Government at the time, much less having his administration wage an “anti-Christ war on God.”

Wait again! We’ve already heard of Michael Weinstein:

Reviled by the radical fundamentalist Christian far-right, Mikey has been given many names by his enemies including “Satan”, “Satan’s lawyer”, “the Antichrist”, “That Godless, Secular Leftist”, “Antagonizer of All Christians”, “Most Dangerous Man in America” and “Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan”.

Apparently whatever Michael Weinstein is doing he must be doing something right to get these people on his case. “The list” explains more:

Weinstein emerges as a major critic of the USAF Academy – February 19, 2005
Mikey Weinstein emerged as a critic of the Air Force Academy and appeared on Good Morning
America. Weinstein warned: “What you’ve got is a lusty and thriving religious intolerance that is
objectively manifesting itself in prejudice and discrimination and is obliterating the First
Amendment, civil rights and the US Constitution.” According to Weinstein one group in
particular posed a risk at the Academy: “There are senior people that view evangelical
Christianity at the Air Force Academy the way that you and I would view gravity. Pick up a pen
and drop it and it falls on the desk. Well, it just exists, it’s gravity.”2

Air Force Superintendent General John Rosa responds – February 19, 2005
After apologetically telling the Good Morning America audience that misdeeds had taken place
at the Academy, the Superintendent, General John Rosa, presciently warned of an overreaction
that could threaten religious liberty.3

Weinstein complains about USAF Academy course on religious sensitivity – May
In response to critiques from Weinstein and others, the Air Force created a task force to review
the religious climate at the Academy. The Air Force sent a warning about “religious respect” to
all installations worldwide, and the Academy started a course, “Respecting the Spiritual Values
of All People” (RSVP) that, as described by the Washington Post, made a good-faith effort to
correct problems at the school. Weinstein called this effort “putting lipstick on a pig” and
blamed the religious climate on “a leadership that encourages the evangelicals and tolerates bias.” 4

The Weinstein saga has since continued:

A significant MRFF victory arrived in 2011 when the US Air Force, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Foundation, revised a training course taught to nuclear missile launch officers which included quotations from Werner Von Braun and also cited Christian Just War Theory, among other materials. This led to Mikey coming under attack from various opponents, including radio shock jock Michael Savage (Weiner), who mocked Weinstein’s name as “Mickey Whine-stein” while asking “Why do you hate Christians, America, and the military, when, was it not for the Christians and the military your ancestors would have been turned into [something edited out]?” Savage also noted that “What Weinstein doesn’t know was if it was not for the warrior mentality of the Christians he hates so much, who rescued his ancestors from the ovens of Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz, Mickey Whine- [something edited out] wouldn’t be here plaguing the United States of America.”.Weinstein responded in a Newsletter to his audience, noting that Savage’s “stupefying rant” was “a rabidly ad-hominem, personal assault… which should serve as a particularly revealing clue as to the psychological state of this specimen, a professional bottom-feeding hyena who earns his daily bread by foaming at the mouth and spreading extremist hysteria which he likely doesn’t even believe himself.”

[Some links deleted]

Allow me to sum this up. Weinstein is not a Christian. He’s a Jew. His two sons are Jews. Both experienced official Christian proselytizing at government expense while attending the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs in Colorado. Both endured anti-Jewish comments, including “how it felt to kill Jesus.”

OK. This is definitely taking an anti-Christian turn. I mean, if you’re not allowed to put Jews in their place, then what are you doing calling yourself a Christian. And it all happened on Obama’s watch. Back before he was elected.

This is a great list. It’s from the Family Research Council by Tony Perkins and is titled A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military (March 21, 2014 Edition). In case this ever gets deleted from the FRC site I’ve archived a copy on this blog for your reading enjoyment.

I swear, this document is a treasure. I picked another item almost at random, and I will share it here:

Department of Defense training materials suggest conservative viewpoints are
“extremist” – August 22, 2013
A Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request produced Department of Defense (DOD)
anti-discrimination training materials implying that some conservative organizations are “hate
groups.” Students were told to be aware that “many extremists will talk of individual liberties,
states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.” The documents repeatedly cited the
leftwing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a resource for identifying “hate groups.” One
document suggested that the American colonists who rebelled against British rule were
members of an “extremist movement.”75

That’s obviously anti-Christ. I think. Call them left wing if you want, but the SPLC has been dealing with the KKK and other extremist groups for longer than many of its critics have been around. The American colonial rebels, they were an extremist group? Throwing other people’s property into Boston Harbor is not a Sunday school homework assignment.

Oh, Christ, I forgot one thing. This business about Jesus being the son of God and dying for our sins and then being resurrected and eventually ascending into Heaven—it’s well known to be a myth. In the end, the President, bless his black heart, is being accused of working to make the United States military less myth based. I should add, less myth based than it otherwise would be.

Save Jesus

Save Jesus

People Unclear


Did I mention I was once in the Navy Reserve?

We were marched to chapel every Sunday morning and sometimes discussed spiritual concepts with the Navy chaplain. He was a nice enough person, but there were a few of us uneasy with his overt religiosity. For some reason, one of my fellow trainees was embolden to raise serious questions about religion and was threatened with military discipline if he persisted. And that was the point at which all enthusiasm for government sponsored religion evaporated.

That was in 1959, over half a century ago and back in the previous millennium. I was an airman apprentice at the time—the equivalent to an army buck private for those of you unfamiliar with Navy ratings. We were in a reserver summer boot camp to prepare us for our active tours with the fleet.

Forward to the present century and the present millennium, there is still an issue with government sponsored religion in the form of the military chaplain service. And there are specific examples:

Some of the old timers here may remember Klingenschmitt. He posted here for a while during the developing scandal that led to his court marshal and eventual discharge from the Navy. He was a huge embarrassment to the Navy due to (among other things) his appearances in uniform at political protests against the Navy that were staged in front of the White House. I’m sure he thought he could find sympathy and support on the discussion boards, but he didn’t get much of either here. He left in disgust after several of us told him how disgraceful and dishonorable his behavior had been.

After his discharge he went on the lecture circuit for a while with his fellow religious right martyr figure, ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, the “Ten Commandments Judge”.This message has been edited. Last edited by: BPCR45_90, Thu 10 November 2011 09:36 AM

The former chaplain in question is Norman Klingenschmitt, who has previously surfaced on this blog:

Forget about the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the United States government pays people to pray. I’ve been there. In the armed services we have people called chaplains, and they are members of the armed services, holding the usual ranks as officers, and they are paid to administer to the religious needs of service members. As such they are paid to pray.

That particular item related to Klingenschmitt only incidentally. The main topic was Texas’ own David Barton, historical revisionist extraordinaire. The mangled facts Barton was pushing were these:

The last two years the biggest debate has been over the rights of conscience. You see, two years ago when we did this… the issue was chaplains are being told, ‘You cannot use the word Jesus when you pray. We’ll tell you what words to pray, and you can’t use the word Jesus.’ Wait a minute. We’ve got chaplains for all faiths. We’ve got military chaplains that are Hindus, that are Buddhists, that are Muslims… Because whatever soldiers there want to be [garbled] according to their faith. About 88 percent of American soldiers are Christians, so 88 percent of our chaplains tend to be Christians, and that’s what they minister to. So you got Christian folks come to a Christian chaplain and have Christian chaplains who are saying, ‘hey, when you do your services, you can’t mention Jesus in a prayer.’ What? Where did this come from?

David Barton aside, Klingenschmitt has his own corner of the universe. And what a wonder it is to behold. How is this for starters?

disgraced former Navy chaplain said on Wednesday that he opposed President Barack Obama’s health care reform law because it actually “causes cancer.”

“Here’s my thesis: Obamacare causes cancer,” Chaplain Gordon James “Chaps” Klingenschmitt told the viewers of his Pray in Jesus Name Internet show. “Whenever you remove Obamacare and health insurance from 4.9 million Americans, it causes cancer because those people, since they can’t afford their premiums, they drop their insurance, they can no longer get cancer treatments!”

Since that time Klingenschmitt has gone on to bigger things:

A conservative radio host who once declared that “Obamacare causes cancer” and said he believes a demonic spirit is possessing the president is on his way to becoming a Colorado state legislator.

Gordon “Chaps” Klingenschmitt won his Republican primary with 52 percent of the vote Tuesday night. In November, he’ll face Democrat Lois Fornander to represent Colorado’s 15th state House District, which is located near Colorado Springs.

Fortunately for all of us, and especially fortunately for me, Klingenschmitt did not let it drop there. His antics continue to entertain:

On yesterday’s “Pray In Jesus Name” program, Gordon Klingenschmitt warned that recent court decisions striking down various gay marriage bans and the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the appeals of such rulings are God’s judgment on America and that legalizing gay marriage is sending Americans to Hell.

“Gay marriage is still illegal in all fifty states because God has decreed it so,” Klingenschmitt declared before praying that “our laws will reflect God’s highest law so that our government locally does not deceive our citizens into Hell by telling the citizens this is okay, this is normal, this is acceptable when God, you yourself, have decreed it to be sin”:

There have been a number of reactions from conservatives following the Supreme Court’s decision not to review rulings from lower courts striking down homosexual marriage bans:

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to let stand rulings that allowsame-sex marriage in Virginia, Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana and Wisconsin, a move that may dramatically expand across the nation a decades-long movement legalizing such unions.

The court’s action marks a turning point. A majority of Americans now live in states where gay couples can wed, and the court’s decision could soon bring the number of those states to 30, meaning there may be no going back.

That taken, Klingerschmitt’s response has been one of the more salient. In particular, he warns these rulings are “sending Americans to Hell.”

Call me a left wing skeptic if you want, but I need to tell you this could possibly be good advice. It could be good advice had it a smidgen of fact behind it. What Klingenschmitt has failed to grasp are a number of irrevocable facts:

  • There is no place such as Hell. Hell is a mythical place concocted in the minds of some people unclear on the concept.
  • God is a mythical person—again a concept from minds unclear.
  • Since God is a mythical person, God can hardly be the source of our own legal framework.
  • Again, what matter is it if a mythical person decrees homosexuality to be sin?

Since Klingenschmitt seems to be factually challenged, what does this say about those who vote for him? Sadly it says those people are us.