Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Admiral James Bond Stockdale, RIP

Just overheard television news reporting his death.  Unfortunately, most everyone my age knows him only from the '92 vice-presidential debate and know nothing of his POW experience.  Outside the Beltway has the AP story and some links...

Military comment []6:58:43 PM   trackback [] 

  Friday, June 17, 2005

WWII Missing in Action Soldiers Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of two Army soldiers missing in action from World War II have been identified and returned to their families for burial.


            They are Sgt. John T. Puckett, Wichita, Kan., and Pvt. Earnest E. Brown, Bristol, Va. Puckett will be buried tomorrow at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium.  Brown was buried last week near Bristol, Va.


            On Jan. 15, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge, Puckett and Brown were searching for German soldiers in a wooded area near Elsenborn, Belgium.  They were ambushed and came under intense enemy machine gun and mortar fire.  Eyewitnesses indicated they were killed, but their bodies could not be recovered due to enemy activity.


            Following the war, remains of American soldiers were recovered and identified, but not those of Puckett and Brown.  Then in 1992, two Belgian nationals located and excavated an abandoned fighting position in the forest east of Elsenborn.  They recovered remains and other evidence and turned them over to U.S. authorities in Europe.


            Scientists of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA as one of the forensic tools to identify the remains as those of Puckett and Brown.


            Of the 88,000 Americans missing in action from all conflicts, 78,000 are from World War II.

(Department of Defense press release June 17, 2005)

Pvt Brown's younger brother is still alive and had given up hope of giving his brother a proper funeral.  The story is told in the Bristol Herald Courier's story "Soldier Returns Home...60 Years Later":

BRISTOL, Tenn. – After 60 years, Private Earnest Brown returned home last weekend, wrapped in the same type of Army blanket that kept him warm through two European winters during World War II.

Every time Brown’s remains have been moved since 1992, he’s been carefully shrouded in a blanket, the folds held together with clothespins.

Until that year, the bones were undiscovered, lying in an abandoned foxhole in a Belgian forest. Brown, who grew up in Clintwood, died in 1945 during the Battle of the Bulge, the last great fight in the European Theater of World War II. He was 31.

The Army wrote him off as missing in action and unrecoverable. Over the years, his parents, wife, siblings and three children all died of natural causes until there was only one family member, younger brother Paul Brown, left.

He said he still thought about his brother, but had given up all hope of a proper funeral.

Indeed, Earnest Brown’s remains would never have been recovered if not for a remarkable confluence of coincidence and dedication.

His identification took the combined efforts of a team of Belgian diggers who knew what to do with the remains of a U.S. soldier and a group of veterans and advocates who refused to allow Brown to be remembered coldly as CIL-1992-167-I-02...

It's a remarkable story worth reading in its entirety.

Military comment []12:29:23 PM   trackback [] 

  Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Captain Slade Cutter, RIP

I saw this on Monday but neglected to post it. 

Captain Slade Cutter, Naval Athlete and Submariner, Dies (Washington Post)

Slade D. Cutter, 93, the U.S. Naval Academy athletic icon who later amassed one of the great World War II combat records as a submariner, died June 9 at Ginger Cove retirement community in Annapolis. He had Parkinson's disease.

"College football players should forget the game the moment it is over," Capt. Cutter once said. Still, he will be remembered for his sporting efforts as much as the far more dangerous work he completed during the war, exploits that earned him four awards of the Navy Cross and two awards of the Silver Star. The Navy Cross is the highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor

Capt. Cutter once wanted to be a professional flutist but was pressed into athletic duty at the Severn School, the preparatory feeder school for the Naval Academy. Being tall (6-2) and husky (215 pounds), the "blonde, easy-moving chunk of brawn," as one reporter wrote, became one of the collegiate athletic world's celebrated Depression-era figures.

He won the intercollegiate heavyweight boxing championship, became an All-America tackle and, in 1967, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

His most acclaimed feat came Dec. 1, 1934, the day of a wet mudfest against Army at Philadelphia's Franklin Field. He said he exchanged long cleats for shorter ones -- giving him better advantage for a smooth kick -- surprising coaches who expected him to fake-kick the ball.

"When they saw it was going to be a real kick, they yelled, 'The damned fool!' " he said years later. "Then it went through, and they thought it was great."

He kicked a game-winning, 20-yard field goal before 79,000 people, giving Navy its first victory against Army in 13 years. The final score was 3-0, and Capt. Cutter was heralded as the "hero of the day."

Slade Deville Cutter was born Nov. 1, 1911, in Chicago and raised on his family's corn and alfalfa farm in Oswego, Ill.

He was steered away from sports by his father, who had been severely injured as a college athlete. Encouraged by his mother, Slade learned piano and then the flute. He won an interscholastic solo flute championship at which John Philip Sousa was a judge.

Later, in his Naval Academy yearbook, he listed the flute, along with chewing tobacco and swearing, as among his major vices.

At Severn, he was spotted by Paul Brown, later the famed coach of the Cleveland Browns, who called Capt. Cutter's father to plead permission to sign up his son. That began his athletic career, which accelerated when he entered the academy in 1931.

Despite lucrative temptations to became a professional boxer, he stayed in the Navy and attended submarine school.

Early in the war, he served as executive officer of the submarine Pompano and was mentored by then-Capt. Lewis Parks, who encouraged aggressive action by his crew. Parks also wanted his officers to calculate firing trajectories in their minds, which he felt would save time and allow quicker maneuvering and successful attacks.

Made executive officer of the submarine Sea Horse in early 1943, Capt. Cutter soon clashed with his new commander over what he viewed as the man's cautious tactics. Capt. Cutter was relieved of duty and ordered to his quarters. He wrote in a letter to his wife that the officer was letting enemy vessels go by "like trolley cars."

Back at Pearl Harbor, a vice admiral agreed with Capt. Cutter and gave him command of the Sea Horse for its second patrol. He received the Navy Cross awards while on the Sea Horse, which sunk more than 100,000 tons of Japanese vessels in enemy-controlled waters.

Although he is sometimes credited with sinking 23 ships, four were believed to be unarmed Japanese trawlers. Capt. Cutter expressed regret at having torpedoed those vessels, despite orders to shoot all enemy craft. He preferred to say he sank 19 ships, mostly troop transports and oil tankers.

Capt. Cutter once said his most worthy wartime contribution was a reconnaissance mission in the southern Philippines in June 1944 that warned of the massive and fast-moving Japanese fleet off Mindanao, preparing for a surprise attack against the Americans.

"The U.S. hadn't known where that task force was for two weeks," he told a reporter in 1997. "It was far ahead of us and we couldn't catch up, but we radioed its position, course and speed to headquarters."

After every battle or depth-charging, he was known to meet with his crew to explain what they had just been through. This openness earned him great admiration among his sailors.

Known for his great tenacity, he had a blunt personal style that often rankled superior officers and may have hindered his advancement to flag rank, said Carl LaVO, author of "Slade Cutter: Submarine Warrior" (2003).

LaVO cited Capt. Cutter's invitation to witness the 1954 launching of the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. According to LaVO, he told the media that the Nautilus was not an offensive fighting ship but instead a vehicle meant to test nuclear propulsion -- the opposite of how the military had sold the expensive vessel to the public.

In the late 1950s, Capt. Cutter was made the Naval Academy's athletic director to encourage popular football coach Eddie Erdelatz to resign. LaVO said that Erdelatz was running a "professional-style football program" but that too few players were opting to remain in the Navy after graduation because of his reputed disparaging of the service. Capt. Cutter's knowledge of the sports program and his feeling that Erdelatz was "disloyal to the Navy" led to Erdelatz's departure. Much of the task was helped by Capt. Cutter's stature as an athletic and wartime hero.

His final active-duty assignment, in 1965, was head of the Naval Historical Display Center in Washington. He later became headmaster of a boys school in Tucson, where he moved to care for his first wife's asthma condition.

His first wife, Frances Leffler Cutter, died in 1981.

Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Ruth McCracken Buek Cutter of Annapolis; two children from the first marriage, Slade D. Cutter Jr. of Austin and Anne McCarthy of Santa Fe, N.M.; three stepchildren, Scott Buek of Delran, N.J., Harvey Buek of Conshohocken, Pa., and Pamela Sullivan of Sparks, Nev.; a sister; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

So let's see: He won an intercollegiate heavyweight boxing championship, an interscholastic flute championship, and kicked a game winning field goal against Army ; a most unusual trio of accomplishments.

And what did he accomplish after that?   He was merely one of the top submarine captains of World War II.  I don't have my copy of Silent Victory handy, but a glance at some records online indicate that he was the second or third ranked captain in terms of tonnage sunk, (which, I believe   to be less than 100,000 however.  The Post probably got that number from WWII records, not any of the re-assesments done after the war (which reduced, sometimes drastically, the amount of tonnage sunk credited to particular submarines)).

Submarine Hero - Slade Edward Cutter (Undersea Warfare) has a great write-up of his submariner career and also has a picture of him kicking the game winning field goal.

Military comment []1:29:36 PM   trackback [] 

  Saturday, May 21, 2005

CV 66 sunk

(from the Virginian-Pilot)

NEWPORT NEWS — The retired aircraft carrier America is on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, sunk by the Navy in a series of explosive tests that upset some veterans.

The 84,000-ton, 1,048-foot warship that served the Navy for 32 years rests about 60 miles off the coast and more than 6,000 feet down, according to Pat Dolan, a spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

She did not give a location, but the Navy previously said the explosions would take place off North Carolina.

Dolan said the America went down May 14, finally flooded after the series of explosions over 25 days. No announcement was made at the time.

The America launched warplanes during the Vietnam War, the 1986 conflict with Libya, the first Gulf War, and over Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s.

The Navy said in March that the explosive tests would provide valuable data on survivability for the next generation of aircraft carriers, which are now in development.

Since its decommissioning in 1996, the America had been moored with other inactive warships at a Navy yard in Philadelphia.

 Dolan did not immediately return a call Friday from The Associated Press.

No warship this size or larger had ever been sunk, and plans to sink the America caused controversy.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it,” said Lee McNulty, president of the USS America Foundation, which wanted to turn the ship into a museum. “Of all the carriers, that one should have been saved, just for the name America.”

My grandfather served on the America in the late 60's and one of my Lead Petty Officers on the Spruance served on her in the 90's. Both are certainly sad to see her go.

It is my hope that the forthcoming generation of carriers (currently designated as CVN(X)) will be called the America class.

Military comment []9:07:44 PM   trackback [] 

  Saturday, May 14, 2005

A sampling of BRAC reactions in the press

As one would expect, the coverage in newspapers varies wildly depending on whether the area was a 'winner' or 'loser'.  Plenty of non-sensical statements of outrage from politicians, etc.

Starting from my current location: Jacksonville.  Huge front page headline accompanied the story, Jacksonville big base winner.  With two frigates slated to come to Mayport and five P-3 squadrons to come to NAS Jacksonville, the outcome was about as good as possible for the area.  Happines abounds.

Of course, there is unhappiness in Maine: Maine takes big hit and 'Plan makes no sense'
(Portland Press-Herald)

Here are some choice quotes:

"Obviously, this is a stunning and devastating decision," said Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. "It is a very unwarranted loss and flies in the face of reason, logic, strategic value, and it certainly is a blunder of epic proportions, nothing short of a travesty."


Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine and a member of the Armed Services Committee, argued that the decisions didn't follow the Pentagon's own priorities. Portsmouth is the most-efficient submarine yard, Brunswick's geographic location can't be duplicated

Yes, the geographic location is unique, but does it provide any military value?  It did during the cold war, but not now and not at anytime in the forseeable future.  On balance, the location is a negative due to the weather.  When my father was stationed there, the runway was closed six hours every night during the winter.  Jacksonville has an operational availability that is  very near 24/7/365.

Ralph Dean, a retired Navy captain who has served on the volunteer Brunswick Naval Air Station Task Force - a group that formed two years ago to make a case to the Pentagon that BNAS should remain open - said the base can play a vital role in maritime surveillance and in ensuring that no weapons of mass destruction are smuggled into the heavily populated cities and ports of the Northeast.

P-3s are not currently performing that role.  If in the future, P-3s are expected to do so, a squadron (or more) can be returned to Brunswick. That''s the point of maintaining the facility.

Of course there is much unhappiness in Connecticut: State lawmakers vow to fight for Groton site (New Haven Register) (again, selected quotes)

"Having an operational base very close to the facility that develops and builds submarines is extremely important because operations, and the people that operate submarines, are very intimately connected with building the submarines that they have to operate in times of war," Hunter said. "From a national security standpoint, I think it’s important to keep that base open."

Gee, I guess we should build a Naval Air Station in St Louis (home to the factory that builds F/A-18s) then and not have bases in silly places like Virginia Beach and California (where they are close to  the fleet). 

""We have to reach out to the members of the BRAC Committee and carry our case to them," Lieberman said. "We have to show them it’s not only a blow to Connecticut, but also to the nation’s security.""

I have really grown tired of the 'national security' argument used for defending keeping a particular base open.  It would have some play if we were cutting the submarines from the budget as well.  But, of course, that is not the case.  They will just be operating from other places (Norfolk and Kings Bay).

Pascagoula's newspaper has a surprisingly level-headed story on their potential loss:  Homeport on chopping block (Mississippi Times)

PASCAGOULA -- In a move that was expected by many Jackson County officials, the Department of Defense announced Friday that it was recommending closing Naval Station Pascagoula and transferring the frigates USS John L. Hall and Stephen W. Groves to Naval Station Mayport, Fla...

While Florida was a winner in general the Pensacola area does have some potential losses as officer training may be moved to Rhode Island and the Center for Naval Education and Training may be moved to Millington.  Both are moves to consolidate similar functions in one location.  Cuts target 1,759 jobs (Pensacola News Journal).   Predictably, Senator Nelson called the cuts 'short-sighted'. 

If I can stomach it, I will provide some commentary on  the national media's coverage of  base closings.

Military comment []12:48:48 PM   trackback [] 

  Friday, May 13, 2005

What BRAC means for the Navy

As Outside the Beltway (and plenty of others) noted. the BRAC list came out this morning. (Detailed Recommendations here (PDF)).  As expected, it it is a mixture of surprises and things that were expected.  Here is a brief breakdown of what affect it has on  the Navy (organized more or less by significance).


- Naval Station New London, CT closed.  Submarines split among Norfolk and Kings Bay, GA.  Sub schools to Kings Bay, GA. 

  As I stated in a previous post, my father and I were expecting Kings Bay to be closed.  Not New London as it is to submarines what Pensacola is to Naval Aviation.  Nothing short of shocking, IMO.

- Naval Station Pascagoula, MS closed.  Ships and maintenance activity to Mayport, FL.

A surprise to me, but one that makes sense.  There is no need to have a base that has a just a handful of ships when you have a place like Mayport that has capacity for them.  One would think that this permanently soldifies the future of NS Mayport (regardless of the fate of the USS Kennedy).

- Officer Training Command Pensacola Florida relocated to Newport, RI. 

A move that makes sense in general (consolidating the various officer training programs), but one that you might have thought would have gone the other way.  For example, officers going into Aviation get their flight training in Pensacola, so it made sense to have them there.  (Of course, there is no longer an Aviation Officer Candidate School, it was integerated with the black shoe OCS some time ago). 


Massive closure and consolidation of Reserve Centers.

Active Duty Integration has been quite the buzz phrase over the past two years in the Reserves.  The Navy doesn't wants to greatly minimize the number of reserve centers that are not within 200 miles of a Navy base.

Naval Support Activity New Orleans closed.  Naval Reserve Personnel Center New Orleans to Millington, TN.  Naval Reserve Command to Norfolk.

Again, active duty integration (Millington is home to the active duty Personnel Center (formerly BUPERS)

NAS Brunswick, ME re-aligned.  P-3s going to Jacksonville.  Airfield to be maintained.

I discussed this one yesterday. 

Naval Shipyard Portsmouth (Kittery, ME) closed.  Functions dispersed to Norfolk, Pearl Harbor and Puget Sound.

Its day finally comes.

NAS Atlanta closed.   Commands dispersed all over the place.

Consolidating the commands with like commands.  Makes sense.

Supply School, Athens GA relocated to Newport, RI.


Naval Station Ingleside TX closed.  Commands to San Diego. 

See Pascagoula.

NAS Corpus Cristi closed.  Commands dispersed, mostly to Norfolk.

As far as the potential for howlers (from the Navy) go, I can see where some would be unhappy with the OTC going to RI.  Having not served at New London, nor knowing well anyone who has, I don't know how that is going to be taken by the submariners.  Both of these are minor however, to some of the outrages of the 90's (Closing boot camps in San Diego and Orlando, leaving Great Lakes, IL as the only one).

As far as howlers from the civillian side go, New London is certainly tops of the list.  Maine is going to be quite unhappy with losing both Portsmouth and Brunswick.  However, in Maine's case the decision is very solid.  Anyhow, the military's purpose should not include propping up local economies.


Military comment []1:58:30 PM   trackback []