Category Archives: Naval History

The wreck of the Exeter

Posted by lex, on May 18, 2008

 

The Java Sea yields up one of its more famous ghosts:

The cruiser HMS Exeter, best known for its valiant role in the Battle of the River Plate when it hunted down the pride of the German navy, the Admiral Graf Spee, was located by divers searching the Java Sea.

The British vessel was sunk on March 1, 1942, when, with two escorts, the destroyer HMS Encounter and the American destroyer Pope, it was intercepted by nine Japanese warships.

All three Allied ships were lost in the action. The wreck of Encounter, which had passed up a chance to escape by turning back in a brave but futile attempt to protect Exeter, has also now been located…

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Losing the Scorpion

Posted by Lex, on May 18, 2008

 

It is one of the more poignant images from the Silent Service’s Cold War days: Dozens of families huddled on a Norfolk pier in foul weather, waiting for their husbands and fathers to return from patrol aboard the USS Scorpion, a Skipjack-class attack submarine:

The 1 p.m. arrival time came and went. Eventually, the commander of a sub tender moored nearby invited the cold, wet families to wait aboard his ship.

Hours later, with no sign of the submarine, the worried families headed home.

Later that night, televisions across the U.S. broke news that broke hearts in Norfolk: The Scorpion was missing.

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Flying With Spike

Flying With Spike

Hard to believe it has been 27 years since Navy Captain  Michael “Spike” Scott Speicher disappeared with his FA-18 over Iraq. In my reposting of Lex’s posts, a few days ago I reposted his news of finding his remains in 2009.

 

I am sure that had Lex come across this post by Kevin Miller, he would have linked it. But alas, it was just written a few days ago. He tells us the kind of man Spike was.

H/T to spill.

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Finding Spike

By lex, on August 2, 2009

Finally:

 

The US military has found the remains of the last American still officially missing in action from the Gulf War.

Capt Michael Scott Speicher, an F18 pilot, was shot down over Iraq on the first day of the war in January 1991.

Last month, an Iraqi citizen took US marines, based in Anbar Province, to the crash site. He told them where the remains had been buried in the desert.

Subsequent excavations recovered bones and bone fragments. Capt Speicher was identified through his dental records.

Spike was one of the good guys among a group of good guys. He was flying a SEAD mission on the first night of Operation Desert Storm when an Iraqi MiG-25 leaked past the Eagles and some FA-18 strikers and shot him down. His status got changed from MIA to KIA and then Missing/Captured over the years. We never stopped looking for him, fearing the worst and hoping for the best.

At least his family knows, now. Rest in peace brother.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
.”

 Laurence Binyon

 

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A Famous Find Within A Famous Find

A Find Within A Find

Paul Allen’s Team discovering the wreck of the Lexington  a few days ago was exciting enough. But now they found a rather famous Wildcat in the debris field.

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VT-8

Posted by lex, on March 11, 2008

 

An edited version *  of the John Ford tribute to the men of Torpedo Squadron 8, 30 of whom died in the first strike against the Japanese assault forces gathering around Midway island, 4 June 1942.

I can’t imagine what it felt like to be in that formation, watching your wingmen and squadron mates go down in flames one by one, cartwheeling into the sea. Seeing the nimble Zeros move from one to the next until  – knowing that any other choice only delays the inevitable –  they finally saddle at your six as you Stay. On. Target. What it felt like to hear their rounds strike home. To see the ocean loom up in the windscreen, the joyous dance of the sun sparkling on the wave tops, through the oil smoke and the pain.

I’ve often wondered what it felt like to be Ensign George Gay, fished out of the water at last and returned to the  Hornet. Walking into that ready room; now an empty mausoleum. Personal things in suspense everywhere – a flight jacket draped over a chair. A necktie. A paperback novel left open to its place. Coffee cups hanging from their hooks. Letters from home that would never be read. Stern tactical guidance on the chalk board written in a dead man’s hand. The echoes of fled voices.

In every modern day air strike, training or tactical, the strike lead will brief “abort criteria” – the airborne fallout of a critical asset, or the presentation of an unanticipated type or number of threats which would tend to make the mission risk unacceptable. We always brief it, but it seems so often to be merely an intellectual exercise – we almost never abort a strike once it has “pushed.” Some of the bombers launched into Lebanon against anti-aircraft artillery in 1983 weren’t even loaded with ordnance. They went anyway. To help out, maybe. By drawing fire.

This “damn the torpedoes” thing is a cultural foible of ours. Torpedo Squadron 8’s example may be a part of the reason why.

 

** Lex’s link was gone; found similar on YouTube – Ed.

 

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Signing the logbook

By lex, Posted on December 9, 2006

 

I saw the best pilots of my generation destroyed by
Bacardi, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the Cubi streets at dawn,
looking for the way back-sheep…

So Cubi Point it was, in the Philippines that was, on one or another cruise from here to there and back again in the service of the Greater Good and racking up shipboard arrested landings, just for the bragging rights that were in it. ‘Twas a “working inport,” which meant of course that the blackshoes professional surface warfare officers had to busy themselves about the rust stains adhering to the hull of our warship, herself half-way returned from the uttermost parts of the world, with the signs of the sea showing plain. Well, that and ordnance offloads and re-tiling of the mess decks, a task that seemed an almost monastic devotion aboard certain ships, the one aboard which I had the honor to serve being not least among them.

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