There’s only a handful of dates in our country’s history that one can say there was a “before” and an “after”. A date that totally transformed the country.
A few years ago, I read the voluminous biography of Charles Lindbergh. As the family gave access to this author Lindbergh papers, I think it was the definitive biography of him.
And one theme that became obvious was how polarized America was before December 7th, 1941.
The times today are certainly not unique.
By lex, on June 4th, 2007
“After that, I have no expectation of success.” — Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, speaking to the Japanese Cabinet during planning for war with the United States in 1940.
On December 7th, 1941 Yamamoto’s fleet delivered a crushing surprise attack on the US at Pearl Harbor. Exactly six months later, four of his six fleet carriers: Soryu, Hiryu, Kaga and Akagi went to the bottom in the waters off Midway Island. The battle began 65 years ago today and was a turning point in the Pacific War, and as US industrial capacity ramped up to wartime production levels the strategic tide had turned.
The only questions remaining was how long it would take to end the fighting, and how many would have to die along the way.
Too long, as it turned out. And far too many.
George H. W. Bush in his Grumman TBF Avenger
The thought just came to me that he is the last President we had for which there was no polarization. Whether people voted for him or not, he was recognized as a good and decent man by the country.
One thing I want to add: While it is well known that he was the youngest US Naval aviator to enlist, and that he was shot down in the Pacific and rescued, it is not well known what would have been his fate had he been captured by the Japanese.
Something that stayed with me after years ago reading James Bradley’s book, Flyboys. This was his follow up book to Flags of our Fathers, the story of the Iwo Jima landing.
Chichi Jima is about 150 miles north of Iwo Jima, and was a hub for Japanese radio transmissions in the Pacific. Eight U.S. Navy Airmen were captured, with only Bush able to evade capture.
On the orders of the garrison commander, 5 of them were beaten, tortured and then beheaded. The Japanese then ate their livers.
The future of the country depended on a submarine commander seeing him in a raft on the Pacific.
Fair winds and following seas, Mr. President.
By lex, on February 1st, 2012
“Pacific Crucible,” by Ian Toll, who also happened to author the wonderful “Six Frigates” recommended to me a few months back. Covering the period just before the Pearl Harbor attack until just after the tide turned at Midway, “Crucible” covers familiar territory for the hobbyist naval historian, but does so in a compelling manner, with vivid prose that fleshes out sympathetic and informative portraits of flag officers and captains on both sides, highlighted by short sketches about sailors in the gun tubs and engine rooms.
Appropriate attention is paid to Joseph Rochefort and his dogged team of cryptanalysts who made the Midway victory possible, and who paid for it – Rochefort in particular – with outrageous treatment by his Washington “superiors“.
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By lex, on October 7th, 2010
Naval news trackers will learn from Live Science that the Spanish Armada is once again deployed:*
By lex, on September 28th, 2010
From occasional reader Phil, a photo essay of USS Constellation‘s 1980 visit to Singapore, with the signs of the sea showing plain.
Seven years later, I’d make my first deployment aboard that ship. Twenty-three years later I’d put her to bed after one more fight. She was if anything, more tired than photographed here, but the captain found a way to get the starboard side painted in Oz so that she could come home proud. On the pier side, anyway.
A’ was a good ship.
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By lex, on November 1st, 2008
Home to the sea: **
When the submarine USS Ohio surfaced at sea and Machinist Mate 1st Class Jason Witty emerged from the hatch to look around, he saw calm, blue water under a peaceful sky — perfect for the solemn task he was about to perform.
On the map, the Ohio was afloat in just another indistinguishable expanse of the Pacific Ocean. As Witty stood on deck holding a silver pitcher, the vessel was alone.
Just like the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, 63 years earlier.
The pitcher contained the ashes of Witty’s grandfather, Boatswain Mate 2nd Class Eugene Morgan, who had survived the sinking of the Indianapolis — one of the worst tragedies for the U.S. Navy in World War II.
Morgan had died of a heart attack in June at age 87, just before Witty went to sea, and among his last wishes was the desire to be rejoined with his shipmates at roughly the same spot in the Pacific where the Indianapolis went down.