Tag Archives: Navy

Anchorman

Posted by lex, on September 7, 2008

James Robbins makes your correspondent feel just that little bit better about his own class standing at the Trade School on the Severn:

(There) is no clear relationship between Academy class rank and leadership qualities. For example, Jimmy Carter, the only Naval Academy graduate to serve as president to date, graduated 59th out of a class of 820, so draw your own conclusions. Seventeen class anchors have attained flag rank, and many low-ranking graduates have gone on to brilliant careers. This tracks with the thesis I developed in my book Last in Their Class; the bottom of the class tends to produce a different kind of leader than the top. Those who wind up at the foot are often there by choice. They could do better if they studied, but they would rather trade class ranking for other pursuits. They tend to be the risk takers, the innovators, usually very well liked and in their own way driven. They know how to get into trouble, and more importantly how to get out of it. They also tend to have more than their share of luck.

Also profiled is the legendary “Hoser” “Toeser” Satrapa, F-14 jock of the “no kill like a guns kill” fame, and self-made armorer of the “blow your thumb off with a 20mm cannon and replace it with your big toe” variety.

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A More Super Hornet

Just finished an interesting article in the latest Smithsonian Air and Space magazine. The Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet will be getting an extensive retrofit giving it more range and even though it is a “4th Generation” fighter, some stealthy qualities even though that was not in the initial design.

But through avionics change, it will gain some of that invisibility.

Another interesting bit? At $10,500/hour, it costs less than a third to run as the new F-35.

I’m sure Hizzoner would have had a lot to say about it.

I guess you could say these are a 4th generation Hornet, following the original single seat Legacy version, to the dual seat FA-18E, to the Super Hornet (about 25% bigger) to this revised version.

…a Super Hornet coming off the Boeing assembly line in St. Louis today is not at all like the Super Hornet I last flew in 1998″.

Seems like an intelligent way of utilizing technological improvements to an original airframe without the huge expense of designing a new airframe.

Lex had an interesting history on the original Hornet. Not a bad ending for the “loser” of the original competition. The winner didn’t do to badly, either.

How the “loser” in the competition became the Navy’s frontline fighter.

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Packing

Posted by lex, on July 9, 2006

Off again, to sea this time. A very short trip, but it’s an early wake-up and I found myself – probably not for the last time – muttering a few curses under my breath as I stuffed my parachute bag. A 0500 out-or-down, and it’s not like I’m looking forward to it. Getting too old for this sort of thing, says I. But, it’s well and truly writ that time, tide and formation wait for no man. And when your ride draws forty-plus aft, the tide can be a stern mistress.

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Zero Tolerance

Posted by Lex, on Sat July 24, 2004 at 07:00 PM

 

As a squadron commanding officer, I had to discharge two otherwise fine Sailors who had “popped positive” on urinalysis screens for having THC in their systems. They were good kids, from bad backgrounds – the service had been a lifeline for them, a chance to remove themselves from bad situations.

And I had cut that lifeline – sent one back to the gang infested streets of El Paso. The other returned to East Los Angeles. Truly, my hands were tied.

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James E. Williams

James E Williams

In between working on another post, which may take a few days, I was watching a program on Amazon Prime involving that famous trio, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.

Except this wasn’t the Grand Tour but a boat trip through Cambodia and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. It was a pretty interesting program, with the usual silly assortment of vehicles.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Naval History, Navy, Vietnam

Lex Describing the Nature of a Navy Command

Lex wrote so many things that I consider to be timeless. I’ve told people from time to time that many of his blog posts were not so much posts as essays.

And here he describes in a succinct and complete manner, the nature of a Navy command.

He wrote this 15 years ago, but it could have been written yesterday.

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UFOs and the Navy

I had an interesting conversation with a good friend the other day. He is quite a fan of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens. In looking at a lot of ancient ruins, he believes there is evidence of  extraterrestrial presence everywhere.

I can remember when I went to Egypt, every guide that we had would have a different story as to how the pyramids were built. One thing they could all agree was the site of the quarry – some miles from Giza and the pyramids.

I don’t believe that extraterrestrials built the pyramids – but with so much in history, it’s what we don’t know and assume that piques my interest. It would be fun to be able to travel back in time as an invisible witness – to see how things really evolved.

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Epilogue – Neptunus Lex

EpilogueNeptunusLex1

EpilogueNeptunuLex

It’s funny where life takes you. Sometimes the smallest step takes you in an unforeseen new direction. I had never heard of Carroll “Lex” LeFon, until that fateful day at chicagoboyz when David Foster told his readers of Lex’s accident. He linked a few of his favorite Lex posts, and from my very first Lex post I was off in a new direction.

How could I have foreseen that from one click on a link over 5 years ago I’d be writing about Lex today? How could Lex have foreseen 14 years ago that for nearly 9 years he’d be telling readers stories of his life and opinions of the day? Or that he would come to consider many of his readers to be “the best friends he never met”?

I found his writing to be addictive. I had, however, been trying to understand for quite a while why his writing was so enjoyable for me.

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Iwo Jima

By Lex, on Sat – February 19, 2005

Was it only 60 years ago?

Somehow it feels like more ancient history.

The WSJ has a great op-ed up today from historian Arthur Herman on the sacrifices made on the beaches, and in the Grinder. After a sustained pounding by naval gunfire and bombers, the Marines went ashore for over a month of bloody murder.

Even before the attack, the Navy’s bombardment of Iwo Jima cost more ships and men than it lost on D-Day, without making a significant dent in the Japanese defenses. Then, beginning at 9 a.m. on the 19th, Marines loaded down with 70 to 100 pounds of equipment each hit the beach, and immediately sank into the thick volcanic ash. They found themselves on a barren moonscape stripped of any cover or vegetation, where Japanese artillery could pound them with unrelenting fury. Scores of wounded Marines helplessly waiting to be evacuated off the beach were killed “with the greatest possible violence,” as veteran war reporter Robert Sherrod put it. Shells tore bodies in half and scattered arms and legs in all directions, while so much underground steam rose from the churned up soil the survivors broke up C-ration crates to sit on in order to keep from being scalded. Some 2,300 Marines were killed or wounded in the first 18 hours. It was, Sherrod said, “a nightmare in hell.”

And overlooking it all, rising 556 feet above the carnage, stood Mount Suribachi, where the Japanese could direct their fire along the entire beach. Taking Suribachi became the key to victory. It took four days of bloody fighting to reach the summit, and when Marines did, they planted an American flag. When it was replaced with a larger one, photographer Joe Rosenthal recorded the scene–the most famous photograph of World War II and the most enduring symbol of a modern democracy at war.

Yet, in the end, a symbol of what? Certainly not victory. The capture of Suribachi only marked the beginning of the battle for Iwo Jima, which dragged on for another month and cost nearly 26,000 men–all for an island whose future as a major air base never materialized. Forty men were in the platoon which raised the flag on Suribachi. Only four would survive the battle unhurt. Their company, E Company, Second Battalion, 28th Regiment, Fifth Marine Division, would suffer 75% casualties. Of the seven officers who led it into battle, only one was left when it was over.

This was my father’s generation, the tale of his time. He was a merchant marine officer on the New York to Murmansk run, and saw some horrible things along the way – but nothing, I am sure, to match the Hell on a small island that was Iwo.

But it was not just his tale, World War II and the fight against fascism – from the current distance, viewed down the lens of history it seemed to be national narrative. Somehow our national participation has grown in size over the passing years – not quite as remarkably perhaps as has the size of the French Resistance: Many more resistance fighters were “active” members after the liberation was complete than ever were during the years of Vichy collaboration. But in our national myth, everyone was there – fighting if they were men, joining the nurse corps, or serving in factories (remember Rosie the Riveter) or keeping the home fires burning if they were women.

But it’s not really true of course – many fought, and the nation was at war, but life went on at home, even with a draft. Even with millions of men under arms. One of my friends from church is a member of that generation, and he was one of those who made his way through the war in business, because the country didn’t really stop while the soldiers went to war. And my friend, when he talks about those times, nearly always seems to regret that his part of the tale did not involve heroic service in foreign lands. He is now over 80, and has accumulated a number of regrets – but it is this I think, that he regrets most bitterly. And it is not that he should, because the industrial capacity of the nation won the war nearly as certainly as did her soldiers, Sailors, airmen and Marines.

I grew up in Virginia, which means of course that I grew up within convenient range of many battle fields. I have walked the Wilderness, looked down upon Fredricksburg from the heights over the river, visited Appomatox Courthouse. I have been to Cold Harbor, looked up upon the Little Round Top at Gettysburg and wondered how it could have happened that men could shake out battle flags, form up lines and walk up that long field into the plunging fire.

But all of that is truly ancient history.

These World War II veterans are among us still. We can still hear their voices. And they can still teach us.

I have been to Iwo Jima – when I was stationed in Japan, we used to fly down there to practice our carrier landing patterns prior to going aboard ship for carrier qualification. It is a small, small place to have held such death. One wonders that it did not sink under the weight of the blood of 28,000 who died there on both sides. I have walked up LST beach with Suribachi to my left, glowering down from its fog-shrouded heights. Looked right and seen more rising terrain, an elevated sea wall to the right. I have made the long climb through soft volcanic sand and finally waist high grass, to get to an uncertain summit, and everywhere, seen the mouths of cave and tunnel systems in which the fanatic hordes poured out in counter-attack after counter-attack.

In nothing but tennis shoes and a bathing suit, I have found myself panting and out of breath, and thought about the men who waded ashore that day, 60 years ago today, with 80 pound packs and the noise and their brothers falling all around them like blades of grass beneath a mower. And I have wondered how they did it, and if we, whom they made, are made of the same stuff.

After Fallujah in November, I believe that at least some of us are. As for the rest, perhaps in 60 years’ time we will learn about how our great campaign to once again liberate millions from tyranny and throw down fascism of a different stripe was truly national in character. I am sure that if this great task we are embarked upon is successful, that will be the narrative.

Success, it is truly said, has many fathers.

———–

Update – thanks to Oyster, for this pic, taken from Suribachi, looking down the beach:

iwojima0205

 

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Index – The Best of Neptunus Lex

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