Category Archives: Foreign Forces

Historic Fleets - The Saga of the Williebee

Historic Fleets – The Saga of the Williebee

Naval History Magazine, December 2012
Shortly before the end of the midwatch on 8 December 1941, a radioman on board the destroyer-seaplane tender USSWilliam B. Preston (AVD-7), at anchor in Malalag Bay off Davao Gulf, Mindanao, in the Philippines, picked up an urgent message: JAPAN HAS COMMENCED HOSTILITIES. GOVERN YOU[R]SELVES ACCORDINGLY.

Lieutenant Commander Etheridge Grant, the ship’s commanding officer, seeing no mention of exactly where the Japanese had “commenced hostilities,” immediately put his ship on a full war footing. Bluejackets belted ammunition for the ship’s four .50-caliber water-cooled Browning machine guns on the galley deckhouse amidships.

Within hours, 13 Nakajima Type 97 B5N “Kate” attack planes and nine Mitsubishi A5M4 Type 96 “Claude” fighters from the carrier Ry­u­jo swept in, destroying two Consolidated PBY-4 Catalina patrol bombers moored a mile from the ship, killing one man and wounding two. The William B. Preston slipped anchor and zigzagged out of the bay Noting the enemy approaching from downwind, Grant remembered he “had always had a tendency to over-shoot [in those situations] . . . thinking that the Japs weren’t any smarter than I had been I applied that lesson to good advantage.” Thus when the B5N pilots reached the drop point on the beam, Grant had the ship turned toward them. “We took aboard some muddy water and a few bomb fragments,” he noted later, “but no one got hurt.” The William B. Preston , the first ship of the Asiatic Fleet to come under Japanese attack at the start of the Pacific war, had survived her first battle.

The William P. Preston (AVP-20) as she was first commissioned as a small seaplane tender in the summer of 1940, painted in No. 5 Navy Gray with her identification number in white with black shadowing. J.M. Caiella

The William P. Preston (AVP-20) as she was first commissioned as a small seaplane tender in the summer of 1940, painted in No. 5 Navy Gray with her identification number in white with black shadowing. J.M. Caiella

Authorized on 6 October 1917, the William B. Preston (Destroyer No. 344)—named for the Secretary of the Navy under President Zachary Taylor—was laid down at the Norfolk Navy Yard on 18 November 1918, a week after the Armistice that ended World War I. At launching on 7 August 1919, however, it appeared as if the ship did not want to go to sea, for she proceeded just 28 inches in 45 minutes before she stuck fast. The next day a tug pulled her an additional 190 feet before she once again stopped. Divers discovered her weight had forced the ways apart some 10 feet. A 150-ton yard crane was positioned and put into use, allowing the William B. Preston finally to enter her element at 2022 on 9 August.

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China vs. Japan Dispute is No Gordian Knot

China vs. Japan Dispute is No Gordian Knot

Proceedings, December 2012
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Tai Islands dispute between China and Japan has ramped up in a heated season of discontent, but given the position China has backed itself into through official pronouncements and military showmanship, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States have the opportunity to resolve the dispute. They can do this by forcing China to recognize a transfer of administrative control of the islands to Taiwan, or rather, the Republic of China (ROC), the legally binding designee of World War II–era diplomatic agreements. This action would accomplish a number of things:

NHTF1Dec12

  • Reward China and Taiwan for recent stabilization of cross-strait ties and improve economic relations, and place the two sides in common cause over a security/territory issue.
  • Remove a perennial crisis point from the first island chain and the potential for its recurring destabilizing impact on Sino-Japanese relations.
  • Keep the islands within the U.S. alliance structure and security umbrella.

The Constitution's Victorius Captains

The Constitution’s Victorius Captains

Naval History Magazine, December 2012
Hull, Bainbridge, Stewart—the roll call of Old Ironsides’ commanders during the War of 1812 conjures a series of sea fights that helped put the young U.S. Navy on the map.

MartinFOND12

The outbreak of the War of 1812 in June of that year pitted a U.S. Navy of fewer than two dozen ships of all sizes against the elephantine Royal Navy, which had almost that many ships of 100 guns or more. Furthermore, the officers and men manning that fleet had had nearly two decades of real-world combat experience. Among our fledgling officer corps of that day, only one senior seagoing officer had experienced a ship duel (and, ironically, he never managed to gain the glory of another during the new conflict). The frigate Constitution , one of the largest American warships, had three captains and two crews between 1812 and 1815, virtually none of whom had any combat experience—and yet they managed to amass an unbroken string of victories. These were those leaders.

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Syria's War May Spill Over Into Lebanon

Syria’s War May Spill Over Into Lebanon

Lebanon is one of the few Middle Eastern countries left that hasn’t been thrown into turmoil by the “Arab Spring.”

But with Syria next door, that may not last long.

Lebanon’s northern urban hub, Tripoli, has long been on the edge of stability. But now that it’s both a destination for Syrian refugees and potentially a rear base for Syrian rebels it has fallen into tit-for-tat killings and urban warfare.

Flag_of_LebanonOn Monday last week, the city was quiet with tension, and cars were backed up as far as the eye could see at military checkpoints.
At the Citadel, a formidable medieval fort that is normally one of Tripoli’s biggest tourist destinations, there was hardly a foreign soul to be seen. Asked why attendance was so light, the government ticket-seller there mumbled, “Syria.”

In the three days following, according to press reports, at least 10 people were killed— most gunned down by snipers on the aptly named Syria Street, which divides a Sunni – Muslim neighborhood from an Alawite one.

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Combat Fleets: USS Enterprise

Combat Fleets: USS Enterprise

Proceedings, December 2012
In early November the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, to prepare for her December 2012 inactivation. Her final deployment lasted seven and a half months, during which time she steamed nearly 90,000 miles throughout the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Arabian Sea.

U.S. Navy Photo

U.S. Navy Photo

This marks the 25th homecoming for the nation’s first and longest-serving nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Built by Newport News Shipbuilding, the Enterprise was laid down early in 1958, launched in September 1961, and commissioned on 25 November 1962. She has participated in every major U.S. conflict since the Cuban Missile Crisis. She is 1,088 feet long, has a beam of 248 feet, and a full-load displacement of more than 93,000 tons. The Enterprise is not due to be replaced in service until around 2015, when the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) joins the Fleet.

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Bradley Manning and a History of Intelligence Leaks

Bradley Manning and a History of Intelligence Leaks

U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, the soldier accused of the largest leak of state secrets in U.S. history, plans to speak in a pretrial hearing this week. It will be his first opportunity to speak publicly since his arrest in May 2010.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, U.S. Army Photo

Pfc. Bradley Manning, U.S. Army Photo

Manning is accused of giving the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks thousands of documents related to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

While Manning’s case is the most prolific leak in U.S. history, he is far from the first.

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China's Carrier: The Basics

China’s Carrier: The Basics

The first look at video of Chinese carrier operations recently released shows China has been paying attention to the way flight deck operations are safely conducted by the U.S. and other navies. Flight deck crew personnel jersey colors and hand signals are similar to international standards. There seem to be two sailors at every position, indicating that one of them is “under instruction.” There seems little doubt that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is above the aircraft carrier learning curve, albeit in good weather and basic operations. Potential material problems lie in Liaoning’s very long construction period, which likely have resulted in significant structural problems, and with its pressure-fired steam propulsion system, which historically has been difficult to maintain and operate efficiently.

An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo

An undated photograph onboard the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning during a take-off and landing test. Xinhua News Agency Photo

China’s Carrier History
Beijing first acquired an aircraft carrier in 1985, when it bought the ex-Australian Melbourne. Engineers studied the World War II-designed ship in detail before it was scrapped. Next, during the 1990s came two former Soviet aircraft carriers—Minsk and Kiev—both purchased to serve as theme park attractions in China. Those ships were actually called “heavy aviation cruisers” by Moscow, so the first modern aircraft carrier to arrive in China was another ex-Soviet ship, the Varyag.

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Admiral Greenert: Year One

Admiral Greenert: Year One

Cid Standifer is a freelance reporter, web designer and translator based in Arlington, Va. She has written for Military Times, Inside Washington Publishers and the Roswell Daily Record.

World Naval Developments: Nationalism Unleashed

World Naval Developments: Nationalism Unleashed

Proceedings, November 2012
A simmering dispute over some uninhabited islands south of Japan offers insight into the way domestic politics can drive foreign policy—perhaps all the way to war—in both China and Japan.

The islands in question, which the Chinese call the Diaoyus and the Japanese the Senkakus, have little or no intrinsic value, but the Chinese view is that enforcing a variety of claims to islands in the South China Sea is worthwhile, because it also reinforces the claim that the sea, which covers valuable resources, is Chinese territory. That other countries, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, also claim some of these islands has long made the South China Sea a potential flashpoint. In the current case, however, the driving force in both countries seems to be domestic.

Navy Diver assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, Company 4, operates a suction dredge system during an underwater recovery operation in search of a missing service member on 6 October in the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. Navy

Navy Diver assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, Company 4, operates a suction dredge system during an underwater recovery operation in search of a missing service member on 6 October in the Mediterranean Sea. U.S. Navy

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has long used World War II as a way of rallying public support. For China, the key facts of that conflict were Japanese aggression followed by gross atrocities such as the rape of Nanking. The Communist Party claims that it, rather than the rival Nationalists, offered effective opposition to the Japanese. Whatever the reality, to many in China the important point is that the party has created a China that never again need fear such an attack. Japan has never effectively apologized for its aggression in the way that Germany did after World War II. As a consequence, few in China (or, for that matter, in Korea) have forgiven the Japanese. Some of the consequences may not be obvious to Westerners. For example, Taiwan, which Japan acquired in 1895, was treated rather well within the Japanese Empire: many Taiwanese have positive views of the Japanese. Some, perhaps many, mainland Chinese consider Taiwanese leaders tainted by such attitudes. It happens that in the dispute over the islands, the Taiwanese stand with their brethren on the mainland, the claim for the islands first having been made by the Nationalists (who took refuge in Taiwan when they were defeated on the mainland) in 1947.

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China's 700 Ship Navy

China’s 700 Ship Navy

China is building tandem maritime forces, blurring the line between military and civilian maritime missions.

The new People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) aircraft carrier, Liaoning, further expansion of the nuclear submarine force, and new warships such as the 052D Luyang III-class destroyer, are all indicators of China’s emphasis on maritime modernization. However, China’s maritime strategy consists of more than just PLAN modernization efforts: It’s building two maritime forces with more than 700 surface ships by 2020. China’s Maritime Surveillance (CMS) agency, under direction from the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), serves a critical role in further developing China’s maritime strategy.

The CMS is unlike any civilian government entity in the United States. CMS falls under the SOA for resource allocations and management purposes. If compared with the United States, the SOA would probably be similar to combining the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and a host of intelligence agencies. While the U.S. equivalents are controlled by three different cabinet level positions (Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence); SOA is controlled by only one cabinet-level equivalent, the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Adm. Wu Shengli, PLAN Commander (Left) and Liu Cigui, SOA Director (Right) in Feburary, SOA photo

Adm. Wu Shengli, PLAN Commander (Left) and Liu Cigui, SOA Director (Right) in Feburary, SOA photo

Though the SOA has several missions and controls more than 20 different agencies, it has two primary functions: protection of national sovereignty and as political component of the Party. CMS over the past several years has been tasked with the protection of national sovereignty issues throughout the South China and East China Seas. There are several examples of that including the 2009 USNS Impeccable incident, the planting of a Chinese flag on the seabed floor by a submersible in 2010, CMS ships cutting the cables of Vietnamese ships conducting exploration and seismic surveys in 2011, and the recent dispute in the Scarborough Shoals between China and Vietnam. In addition, CMS ships also have the primary role in patrolling the waters near the Senkaku or Daioyu Islands. These activities suggest China has developed a “first use policy” where CMS ships serve as the front line of protection and the PLAN may serve as the defender of national sovereignty.

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