May 31, 2010

It Was the Right Call

  The Presidents decision to cut short his Memorial Day speech in the face of a violent freak storm has elicited some criticism, but it absolutely was the right one. A prime example of a bad call would have been to simply slog through in utter defiance of God, nature and reason and risk having people in the audience killed by lightning or injured by the wind.

 Sometimes a failure really is due to bad luck or circumstances and not judgment. This is particularly true with regards to the weather.

As to those who complain that he was not at Arlington, give it a rest. He was at a U.S. military cemetery, one that does not get a lot of attention nationally, and its a pretty significant place for those who have loved ones buried there.

There is a lot to criticize about Obama but this is not one of them. He is also our president. Taking cheap shots is petty and does a disservice to those heroes we seek to honor on this day.

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No Words Are Adequate

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November 11, 2009

Thank You

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July 05, 2009

Moral Cowardice and Courage can Look Very Similar

In 1974 a company in Japan called Office Academy put out a childrens show that focused on the crew of a space battleship on a desperate mission.  The show was called Space Battleship Yamato, 1979-80 it was picked up by an American company which dubbed and syndicated it under the title Starblazers. Unlike many shows brought over it was translated quite respectfully, if not entirely accurately and, in my opinion was one of the better sci-fi shows to air in the 1980's.

Thee were several changes made for the American after-school audience, Saki became "..water from a spring that once flowed fresh and clear...and will again if we succeed", the name of the ship was changed to ARGO, and some of the more graphic violence was excised.
With the glaring omission of  one line in season two* the changes were either of little consequence or arguably improved the story. This was a remarkable accomplishment, especially given the terrible record US companies had of dubbing foreign shows until recently, and the writers and voice actors for the American version deserve considerable credit.

One particular scene from episode one really hooked me on the show as a kid. It very much set the tone for the series. I recently encountered the Japanese version of episode 1, and though the action is almost identical the difference is glaring.

Compare and contrast the difference, between this scene in Starblazers and Yamato....and ask yourself, given the choices of course, speed and targeting, is there any difference in results?

A few Points:
For clarity, In Space Battleship Yamato, it is subsequently revealed that Missile Ship 17 is named Yukikaze, In Starblazers it is the Paladin.

In both cases the overall strategic and tactical situations are identical. Earth is under bombardment by the mass drivers of an alien force that has established an artillery outpost on Pluto. As an added bit of dramatic overkill, the space rocks are highly radioactive (and are called planet bombs). Admiral Okita (Capt. Avatar) has put together a scratch force built around the last surviving Earth BB and several escorts. The mission goal to destroy the enemy mass drivers and buy earth some time. The enemy is at least a couple of decades in advance of Earth technologically and has superior numbers as well. Earth vessels must close to point blank range to destroy enemy forces as their energy weapons have a short effective range...their most effective weapons are armor piercing nuclear tipped rockets..but those have an even shorter reach, thus it is critical to mission success that the force not be discovered until it is very close to its goal. The only Earth vessel with any major ability to fight while hurt is the BB. The escorts are very lacking in durability and redundancy.

Shortly before the clip begins the Earth forces encountered an enemy picket which called reinforcements that out number the Earth forces by 5 to one. With a quantitative and qualitative advantage all on one side, the cold equations of the N-square Law scarcely need to be consulted to determine the outcome. Though the Earth forces do, surprisingly, destroy some enemy ships, the battle is utterly hopeless.

At this point the two versions diverge....


relevant footage ends at 2:22

Star Blazers:

relevant footage ends at 2:11

My Take:
In both series, Okita/Avatar realizes that no strategic goal could be accomplished given the forces arrayed against them at Pluto. He  makes the perfectly sensible (and correct) decision to husband his remaining forces to fight at a later date rather than squander 490 lives and 2 very precious ships for no strategic (or even tactical) gain. In Yamato however, Mamorou Kodai then disobeys orders because his ego is bruised by the order to retreat and, in a fit of utter narcissism, leads the ship and 19 personnel under his command into oblivion. After the speech he gave, the American Military would have likely brought him back in irons had he been rescued. Kodai is certainly physically brave, but, while that is an important quality, it is no substitute for perspective, professionalism or the ability to follow orders. His moral cowardice causes him to waste his ship and the personnel entrusted to him to no good end.**

In Starblazers, Wildstar executes the same course changes Kodai did, fires weapons at the same targets with the same results and likewise loses his entire command. However his stated reason... "It's a simple matter of mathematics Captain. There are 470 people on your ship, 20 on mine." not only correct from a humanitarian standpoint, it is tactically sound. The Battleship, however inadequate it may be, is a very hard to replace asset and 470 trained personnel are an invaluable resource. The destroyers JOB is to defend the capital ships. In his case the refusal to follow Avatars orders come off very much as a military professional who displays sufficient initiative to act upon information his command does not yet have..."...can't talk now! There are Gamilon ships approaching!". In contrast to the pointless sacrifice of Yukikaze, the Paladins last battle brought enough time for the Earth Battleship to escape. As an added bonus, the fact that Avatar and Orion were aboard made that have far reaching strategic implications...but that is only clear to fans of the show.

The final action of Paladin is reminiscent of Themopolae or the USS Johnston at Samar and is in the finest traditions of any military service. That of Yukikaze is more like the arrogance of Roland or the charge of the light brigade...but worse than either.

The "simple mathematics" line is in IMHO much better from a dramatic standpoint as well...

* As to the season 2 line in question:
** More damning still, is the implication, absent from the American version, that Kodai could have saved his ship and crew if he'd followed orders.

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June 13, 2009

"Oh..that was ME!?"

John Moffat fought a hard war. He served on 4 carriers in the Second World War, saw action in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific and survived the sinking of the HMS Ark Royal and the terrible fire aboard HMS Formidable. However, his most famous action took place early in the war.The target was the Nazi battleship Bismark, which was had sent the Home fleet flagship to the bottom of the Denmark Straits and was at extreme range. Churchill himself  ordered ordered the carrier Ark Royal to launch an be damned....At the time HMS Ark Royal was  caught in hurricane force winds and taking green water over her flight deck.

"The ship was pitching 60ft, water was running over the decks and the wind was blowing at 70 or 80mph... And nobody mentions the deck hands who had to bring the planes up from the hangars  -  they did something special. After they brought them up they had to open
the wings which took ten men for each wing. And then they had to wind a handle to get the starters working."

 Only 3 pilots were able to get their machines into the air under those hellish conditions and those machines were Fairy Swordfish....utterly obsolete biplane Torpedo bombers.
3 Stringbags against a battleship.
3 torpedoed dropped in the face of a hellstorm of flack.
One of those torpedoes struck.
It jammed the Bismark's rudder.
That hit allowed the remnants of the home fleet to get within range.  
KMS Bismark died as a result.

Nearly 60 years later, John Moffat was informed by the Royal Navy that it had been his torpedo that landed what turned out to be a fatal blow. His response?
It gave me a sort of satisfaction.'


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June 06, 2009

June 6... not about Tetris.

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May 25, 2009

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May 20, 2009

Mike Rowe Explains It

A very engaging and thoughtful talk by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs. He ties together some of his experiences on the show, philosophy, and the increasing contempt in which out society now holds manual labor.

He also points out the obvious but increasingly ignored fact that theory and practice are two very different things.

I highly recommend you take 20 minutes of your time and watch this. It is important.

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January 19, 2009

More Heroes

Much has been written about the recent astounding landing and rescue of flight 1549 and with good reason. It should be remembered that on a smaller scale heroes do there deeds all the time.

Case in point two USN petty officers stationed in Yokuska who recently saved a Japanese citizen who had fallen onto a busy Yamanote line track with the oncoming train already in view.

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The Reason for the 3 Day Weekend

In 15 or so hours Barak Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of this republic. I did not vote for the guy and although he has pleasantly surprised me with some of his appointments as well as many of his statements I am very concerned about the direction he will take this nation.

That being said, he is going to be the president...our president...and it is our job as citizens to give him a chance and to give him support as he faces the crushing set of challenges and dreadful options that our chief executives are confronted with.

There will no doubt be all sorts of things to bang ones head against ones keyboard over and policies that those of us on the right will oppose on principle. However, whatever misgivings many of us may have, the fact that a person of color has achieved the highest elected office is surely a cause for celebration.

Today is more than an extra day off. It is a day to reflect upon how far we have come as a nation. Because today is not only the day before this inaguration. It is the day we celebrate one of the great civil rights leaders of this country.

Dr. King's dream, far too long in coming, has finally been fuffilled.

He was a visionary who anticipated some of the best aspects of America today...but he did not live to see it....Hours after giving this speech he was assasinated.

I was born in 1970, so many of the injustices the civil rights movement was about are hard to comprehend. I encounter bigots of various flavors from time to time, but I frankly can't get my head around such absurd and alien notions as segregated water fountains, toilets, and restaurants or anti miscegenation laws...but for over a hundred fifty years, they were the reality.  Dr. King stood up to that awful reality, and he did so peacefully and with dignity.

Some perspective on that time can be gleaned from one of the more important documents of our nation, The Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which is quoted in its entirety below the fold.....

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November 11, 2008

Thank You

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October 10, 2008

Last Survivor of HMS Hood Passes

Ted Briggs, the last of the 3 men who survived the destruction of the HMS Hood at the Battle of the Denmark Straits passed  away on the 6th.

Only 18 at the time of the ships loss, Briggs went on to serve for 30 years on the Royal Navy before retiring.
He was the president of the HMS Hood Association.

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July 21, 2008

Leading From the Front!

Eagle 1 has a follow up piece to this astounding tale of courage and seamanship.

Much like the original, the sequel would strain ones suspension of disbelief if  it were a film .

 John H. Morrill  had risen to the rank of commodore in the time since he got his surviving crew out of the hell that was Corrigodor. Despite the fact that Commodore was flag rank and with his wealth of experience he could have commanded a squadron of frontline warships, he requested command of a force of landing craft support ships....vessels so small and expendable that the Navy did not waste names on them.

Commodore Morrill was determined that the sailors assigned to this most perilous of duties should not feel that they were being thrown the words of his 'flag' commander "The Commodore never asks a man to do anything he wouldn't do himself. He leads all the raiding parties ashore. "

Emphasis mine.

Read the whole thing.

One final note. Eagle 1 points out the unusual nature of Commadore Morril's volunteering in the context of the USN's attitude towards inshore warfare and the 'gator navy' in general. I find it telling that there is no US warship named for him nor does a search for his name on the USN website produce any results. No disrespect to the victor of Virginia Capes....but before we name another ship the DeGrasse...lets name one for this home grown hero.

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June 26, 2008

One of the Most Influential People You Have Never Heard Of

Colleen Doran has a long and informative post on Rose O'Neil, the inventor of the Kewpie Doll and a person far more important in the development of the film and comic industries than you probably know.

Go read the whole is worth it!

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June 13, 2008

Another great One Passes

The youngest person to have ever been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Civil War has passed away.

 Rather Large for a 14 year old, Jack Lucas lied about his age to enlist in the Marines during World War 2. Just shy of his 17th birthday he saved his platoon on Iwo Jima.

Go read the whole story at CDR Salamander's.

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March 03, 2008


Today saw the honoring of two American heroes, one long past and one who has achieved a much deserved retirement.

Sgt Woodrow Wilson Keeble, a veteran of World War 2 and the Korean War was recommended TWICE for the Congressional Medal of Honor. The second time his entire surviving command signed a petition recommending he be awarded the honor.

It seemed the recommendation fell on deaf ears.

Keeble's postwar story was a sad one for many years. After working as a teacher he contracted Tuberculosis which precipitated several strokes resulting in his loosing the ability to speak. He then suffered the loss of his wife shortly thereafter. Sgt Keeble had to raise his children in poverty while disabled. His indomitable spirit served him well in civilian life as it had in Guadalcanal and Korea for he eventually got back on his feet, successfully raised his kids and remarried. His second wife was an impressive individual in her own right (the First Lakota woman to earn a PHD) and began the process of appealing his CMO award.

It turned out that the recommendation had not been had been lost during the war when American forces were overrun. In 1972 the convoluted process was begun to get the award reinstated, but given the byzantine mess of Army and Congressional regulations it was not until today that President Bush awarded his family with the Medal he so gallantly earned. Keeble died in 1984.

Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble
United States Army


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Master Sergeant Woodrow W. Keeble distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Sangsan-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951. On that day, Master Sergeant Keeble was an acting platoon leader for the support platoon in Company G, 19th Infantry, in the attack on Hill 765, a steep and rugged position that was well defended by the enemy. Leading the support platoon, Master Sergeant Keeble saw that the attacking elements had become pinned down on the slope by heavy enemy fire from three well-fortified and strategically placed enemy positions. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Master Sergeant Keeble dashed forward and joined the pinned-down platoon. Then, hugging the ground, Master Sergeant Keeble crawled forward alone until he was in close proximity to one of the hostile machine-gun emplacements. Ignoring the heavy fire that the crew trained on him, Master Sergeant Keeble activated a grenade and threw it with great accuracy, successfully destroying the position. Continuing his one-man assault, he moved to the second enemy position and destroyed it with another grenade. Despite the fact that the enemy troops were now directing their firepower against him and unleashing a shower of grenades in a frantic attempt to stop his advance, he moved forward against the third hostile emplacement, and skillfully neutralized the remaining enemy position. As his comrades moved forward to join him, Master Sergeant Keeble continued to direct accurate fire against nearby trenches, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Inspired by his courage, Company G successfully moved forward and seized its important objective. The extraordinary courage, selfless service, and devotion to duty displayed that day by Master Sergeant Keeble was an inspiration to all around him and reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

More here and here.

On the leatherneck side, today marks the retirement of one of only two Marines awarded the Navy Cross in Operation Desert Storm.

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Eddie S. Ray, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Commanding Officer, Company B, First Light Armored Infantry Battalion, Task Force Shepherd, FIRST Marine Division, in the Emirate of Kuwait on 25 February 1991. During the early morning hours of G+1 of Operation Desert Storm, an Iraqi mechanized division counter-attacked elements of the FIRST Marine Division in the vicinity west of the flame and smoke engulfed Burgan Oil Fields in Southeastern Kuwait. As dense black smoke shrouded the battlefield, an Iraqi mechanized brigade engaged the FIRST Marine Division Forward Command Post security forces. During the ensuing intense ten hour battle, Captain Ray repeatedly maneuvered his Light Armored Vehicle Company in harm's way, skillfully integrating his Light Armored Infantry weapons, reinforcing TOW's, and AH-1W Attack Helicopters to decisively defeat main Iraqi counter-attacks. Leading from the front and constantly exposed to large volumes of enemy fire, Captain Ray led swift, violent attacks directly into the face of the vastly larger enemy force. These attacks shocked the enemy, destroyed 50 enemy Armored Personnel Carriers, and resulted in the capture of over 250 Iraqi soldiers. Operating perilously close to the attacking enemy, Captain Ray's courage, composure under fire, and aggressive war fighting spirit were instrumental in the defeat of a major enemy effort and the successful defense of the Division Forward Command Post. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Captain Ray reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Colonel Ray has been heavily engaged in the current war in Iraq and now enters into a well deserved retirement.

Thank You Colonel!

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January 06, 2008

Last Survivor of the USS Panay

 Via Warships 1 comes this Navy Times article interviewing the last of the survivors of the USS Panay, a US Gunboat that was sunk by IJN forces as she attempted to evacuate refugees from the time the Japanese were descending upon that unhappy city.

Despite the loss of US life and the unspeakable atrocities being committed the US ultimately let the incident drop, accepting a monetary settlement for the lives of the US sailors. This figured heavily in Japanese (mis)calculations of Americas willingness to fight some years later.

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December 07, 2007

66 Years Ago

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