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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

Cruise books

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(You could look these guys up in the Cruisebook, if you had the right one. Here is a chance!)

Shipmates and fellow travelers,

I could rail on about what is going on this week- and which has been going on for some years in the context of the Conference theme of “Cognitive 5th Generation Warfare” from which I returned last night from downtown Saint Louis, MO. But I will restrain myself, unlike some members of the media as well as the Executive and Legislative Branches, since they are participating in it.

Rather, I am going to simmer the concept of 5th Gen Warfare- you know, the ‘Little Green Men’ in Crimea and the Ukraine- and when it is done, issue an essay on the topic. As to this afternoon, I chose to return to the land of the past when things did not seem safe at the time, but certainly appear so now.

The inspiration for this was a great note from one of the Old Spooks who does Docent Duty on our old Ship, the mighty ex-USS Midway (CV-41), proud memorial in glittering San Diego harbor.

In the course of his duties, he had a question from someone who thought that a close relative had served there in the gray hull around the time many of us were assigned. Turned out to not be true- well, sort of- but in the course of the subsequent research, he found a link to a bunch of cruisebooks online for free. A ‘cruisebook’ is exactly like a high school yearbook, only coarser and featuring more exotic locations in the pictures. They were much sought after, since they contained memories at least as powerful as Senior Year and some of them fatal.

My pal told me: “This guy in Germany has the best U.S. Navy website in the world. He doesn’t have all the carrier cruisebooks, but we sent him the three Midway cruisebooks he didn’t have, and he paid for the shipping back and forth. Now he has all the Midway cruisebooks scanned, and we just refer people to his website who don’t want to pay $150 and upwards for a cruisebook they paid for way back when but never got.”

There are more than 1,100 of the ancient tomes available for free at: http://www.navysite.de/cruisebooks/

The staff at the Daily- delightfully unsupervised while I was out of town- thought we would run this as one of the “who are these intel guys?” installments for the Web. We are not necessarily a lovable bunch, but the compiled information and images could be useful in future investigations.

The term ‘OZ’ in the margin below refers not to Australia, a place we all loved and would have preferred to be on liberty rather than under the florescent lights in the Carrier Intel Center, but rather to the Navy’s nomenclature for the space on the ship reserved for intelligence and mission planning. Look at them. Do you believe that these are the people we have sent- and continue to send- in harm’s way? They are- were- just kids.

These are the people who fight your wars, America.

And the location is exotic, if you consider they were taken in the bowels of a thousand foot warship underway. I think I prefer OZ, or Olongapo in the PI, all things considered, or perhaps best, Pattaya Beach in Thailand!

-Vic

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Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocora.com

Durham Bull

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This is going to have to be short- I am in between panel discussions at the big Defense IT conference and have many networking obligations this morning.

Still, I have to say that the news from Durham got me going this morning. The bullshit confrontation between Nazis and Commies in wonderful little Charlottesville- both groups being out-of-towners for the most part- except the dead, of course, which is sadly how these things seem to usually work out.

Anyway, being a historian by inclination, the destruction of the monuments of the past- good or ill- troubles me deeply. In another context, it reminds me of Germany’s late Weimar Republic and the street battles between Reds and Brownshirts. Does anyone these days recall the name of a young “demonstrator” named Horst Wessel?

I hope not. But he is part of history none-the-less.

Anyway, the people who attacked the monument in Durham decided direct action was the way to go. The police stood by and permitted the placement of a bungee cord around the neck and shoulder of a statue of a symbolic Confederate soldier and toppled it from the plinth on which if had been placed nearly a century ago.

I think people ought to chill a bit, though I recognize the political strategy inherent in all this. Really, it is a win-win for the acivists. If they manage to destroy some history and are not held accountable for the destruction of public property (and violation of state law prohibiting local municipalities moving war memorials without legislative authorization) they win. If the police react to them, they are martyrs and victims. And win.

I demure. I think they are just vandals, and of the vilest sort: political vandals. Want the statue gone? Go to the legislature. The erosion of the rule of law is, at least where I type in St. Louis a few blocks from the old courthouse that heard the Dred Scott case, deeply troubling.

There is another way to do this, and though I rarely look to India for inspiration on democracy, I recall the marvelous day I on a trip to Delhi a few years ago. Joint Travel Regulations permitted us some downtime after the long flight to get there. Some of our delegation headed for Agra, and the Taj Mahal, intending to sleep on the bus. A few of us pooled cash and rented a car and driver and set out to see what was left of the Raj.

It was pretty cool- the monument to the Great Mutiny is still there- different signage being the only change, explaining that despite the plaques and inscriptions that remain unchanged, the “mutineers” were actually “patriots.” Otherwise completely intact.

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The ubiquitous statues of Empire were another matter. Coronation Park is unreal. It is located on Burari Road near Nirankari Sarovar. It is a highly significant location, having been the site of the grand ceremony announcing the proclamation of Queen Victoria as Empress of India in 1877. The inscription on the obelisk for the next one held there is untouched:

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“Here on the 12th Day of December 1911, His Imperial Majesty King George V, Emperor of India accompanied by the Queen Empress in solemn Durbar announced in person to the Governors, Princes and Peoples of India his Coronation celebrated in England on the 22nd day of June 1911 and received from them their dutiful homage and allegiance.”

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When we rolled up to the park and passed through the gate and waved to the groundskeeper, who was outside his modest family hut. A dog and her puppies was sleeping at the foot of the grand statue of George, which used to be on the Rajpath (“King’s Way”), the Delhi equivalent of the DC National Mall. The largest and tallest statue in the park, it is a 50-foot high marble statue designed by Delhi’s grand architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

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Surrounding George are statues moved from various locations to the red stone plinths that surround it. Nineteen pedestals were built to install the displaced statues from the capital and other public locations but only five are present, with the others vacant. Some of the statues that were supposed to be on them were stolen or damaged, while several expected to populate the empty plinths were retained by the communities in which they were first installed.

Apparently there are some people want to remember what happened to them, pleasant or not.

I wonder if we could try that?

Of course, that is not the point of any of this, is it?

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Herman Kahn, Captain Kirk, and Kim Jong Un

Editor’s Note: We are publishing this morning from St. Louis, where the annual Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems (DoDIIS) conference is being held at the convention center. Travel and flight arrangements were great, (“Saint Louis in August!”) though our arrival seemed to catch the hosting hotel- I won’t defame it by name- completely by surprise. Traveling downtown in the cab, we passed the exit for Ferguson, flashpoint for some previous violence and making me think of the vehicular attack on Antifa counter-protestors to a alt-right demonstration about the preservation of a century old statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA, 41 miles south of Refuge Farm. With the specter of war looming elsewhere, Arrias presciently talks about an issue that has both international and domestic implications.

– Vic

Herman Kahn, Captain Kirk, and Kim Jong Un

Herman Kahn, the 20th Century Strategist, in his work “On Escalation” introduced the concept of an “escalation ladder,” which began with various political acts and escalated – if unchecked – to nuclear attacks on each other’s cities. 52 years later the “ladder” remains valuable in understanding how a crisis might develop. But it contains a fascinating warning; in his own discussion of the defects in his metaphor, Kahn referenced the game of “Chicken,” noting: “This is a game in which it is usually better to be opposed by a good player than a poor one!”

His point is obvious: the poor player won’t know when to veer to the side.

Which brings us to Captain Kirk. In the episode “A Taste of Armageddon,” Kirk encountered two planets engaged in a centuries-long war in which, in order to prevent the devastation and horror that accompanies war, attacks were computer simulated, and casualties identified, and then those named were directed to report for – real – execution by their own government.

This kept the war from “destroying” their society.

It also, as Kirk noted, kept them from a meaningful understanding of the horrors of war, or a reason to end it. As Kahn might say, the leaders of these two planets were poor players of the game.

Consider this: last week was the 72nd anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (06 and 09 August 1945).

In two invasions immediately prior to the bombings – Iwo Jima and Okinawa – the Japanese army had simply refused to surrender. On Iwo Jima 99% of the Japanese forces were killed. On Okinawa the numbers were slightly better: between 10-14% surrendered. Additionally, on Okinawa between 25 – 35% of the civilians died. Compared to other wars and other battles, these numbers are incomprehensible.

This led US Army planners to forecast monstrous losses in any invasion of Japan — for the US it would mean many more casualties than we’d already suffered in 4 years of war; for the Japanese it would mean a minimum of several million more dead, and an utterly destroyed society.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki thus became the best of a number of very harsh options. For the Emperor, they represented one final opportunity to “veer” out of the way.

War is hell, as Gen. Sherman observed. But sometimes it’s the only option. And once started, what was once unthinkable may, in fact, become the best path ahead.

The horror of war should keep us from choosing that path until it’s truly the only option. The North Koreans – and the Chinese – need to remember that as we try to deal with this current crisis; and prevent a worse future crisis.

In short, neither try to make war antiseptic, nor couch your diplomacy in terms that downplay what might happen.

So, if it’s acceptable that our “near future” (perhaps 10 years) includes a North Korea with 100 or more nuclear weapons, and perhaps 20 or 30 ICBMs and 50 intermediate ranged missiles that can target Japan and Guam, than we must simply talk our way past this current situation; kick the can down the road.

But if the thought that North Korea will soon possess a capable nuclear arsenal is terrifying and unacceptable, than we need to apply pressure now to prevent that future. That entails risk. But that risk now may well be one we need to accept in order to prevent a far worse future.

This leads us to Kim Jong Un. We mustn’t confuse ourselves and believe he’s stupid; he isn’t. But he may well be misinformed, and he almost certainly doesn’t understand what he’s facing in the US nuclear arsenal. He is, to return to Kahn’s warning, probably a poor player of this game of nuclear chicken.

So, what might we do?

From the military perspective it would seem we’re prepared.

Diplomatically it appears our key allies are “in synch” with our efforts.

China continues to play it’s own game – and will. We should tell them that, as the key enabler of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, we hold them in large part responsible for this mess and any possible outcome.

But finally, we need someone the North trusts to go to Pyongyang and explain to them what really happens if they fire one nuclear weapon at US territory.

Kim needs to understand just how this particular game of chicken can end.

Copyright 2017 Arrias
www.vicsocotra.com

Where Are the Carriers?

Editor’s Note: we have a peripatetic correspondent named Jim whose jottings reflect a life of service. This is a gem, and he has allowed me to forward to both the professional website and the Socotra distribution. For those who have not done a tour at sea, it may be a revelation. For those that have, it is a trip down some not always pleasant memory lanes.

– Vic

Where Are the Carriers?

… “where are the carriers ?” and …”Send in the carriers!” (and the Marines) are comments often heard when the U.S. is faced with a new world-wide hot-spot or problem.

As noted below, now it’s a planned U.S. Navy carrier port visit that is to used demonstrate increased political support for ….. the government of Vietnam…… in what is touted as the first carrier visit there…. ever…

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, left, met with Ngo Xuan Lich, Vietnam’s defense minister, to discuss further steps in their mutual defense relationship and regional security challenges at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.

As you all know, we’ve really had a long history of carrier diplomacy with Vietnam…….
John McCain’s Flight Suit and gear on display at the Hanoi Hilton – December 2006.

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They weren’t exactly port visits, but we’ve already had Vietnam officials fly out to the USS George Washington in the SCS in 2011 ……

.. and again in Oct., 2012 … they were called ‘flyouts”……

http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ccsg5/Pages/VietnameseDistinguishedVisitorsTourGeorgeWashington.aspx

and there was an earlier visit to USS John Stennis in 2009…….

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PACIFIC OCEAN (April 22, 2009) Rear Adm. Mark Vance, commander, Carrier Strike Group Three, welcomes Senior Col. Do Minh Tuan, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Vietnam People’s Armed Forces Air Defense Force, aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

http://blogs.reuters.com/global/2009/04/23/vietnamese-officers-visit-us-aircraft-carrier-as-china-celebrates-navy-anniversary/

But our biggest carrier effort by far was during the war of course … some 22 different U.S. Navy carriers conducted about 90 combat deployments in the Gulf of Tonkin from 1964 to 1973; doing recce armed and otherwise, dropping ordnance in both North and South Vietnam as well as Laos and engaging in aerial combat ……. that was some 40 yrs ago, unknown by many younger Vietnamese but still not forgotten……

Those were at-sea ops and Navy carrier in-country flight ops ….. however, a couple of Navy auxillary carriers, the USNS Card and USNS Core made regular port calls up river to Saigon, ferrying in acft, helos, APCs, troops and other equipment. in the early 60s…….

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Sure enough, they made tempting tgts and the Card was the victim of a successful VC sapper attack in May of 1964. Fortunately the ship settled in the relatively shallow river bed, was patched up, towed to Subic and repaired….

Additionally, during the war, in 1970 USS Shangri-La, came off Yankee Station early for a port call in Danang …. another first … to inspect/work on a bad shaft in the harbor. Turned out a shaft coupling had sheared and the Shang went on up to Yoko for 12 days in the drydock … effecting, of course, the schedule for the rest of us.

Even earlier – carrier port calls up north were made in the early 1950s ….. by again ex-USN carriers….. USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24) which had become Bois Belleau after its’ transfer to the French Navy to aid them during their earlier turn at the Vietnam war…. . and USS Langley became the French carrier La Fayette.

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(A French navy Helldiver warming up; the elevator pattern and deck planking identifies the ship as either Lafayette or Bois Belleau.) (photo from Langevin collection)

Both transported and were equipped U.S. supplied ex-Navy Hellcats, Helldivers and Corsairs….. and I believe operated mostly from ashore……

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Unfortunately Bois Belleau arrived a bit late in May, 1954 to help out in the defense of Dien Bien Phu …. if that was possible,
but her aircraft were employed for the last few months of the war…. and she would be used to evacuate French forces.

Bois Belleau, arriving….. clip http://cloudybright.biz/v/Aircraft-Carrier-Bois-Belleau-Arrives-In-Indo-China-1954-id=-zaEfMqQfp0

Interestingly, the French would keep her …. and she would fight again, next in Algeria……!

It was also during this time period, that on occasion, U.S. Navy carriers; Boxer*, Essex, Philippine Sea, Hornet and Wasp were on station for contingency ops in the GoT to possibly support the French, particularly at DBP…..
This was part of OPLAN Vulture, whose options included large scale B-29 raids and U.S. Navy carrier tacair strikes… and at least a plan for the delivery of tactical nukes ! In the end, Ike would not approve any of these but the Navy carrier acft did conduct tactical recce of the BDP area…….

Even earlier, there was another carrier effort involving Vietnam….. in 1950, just as we had set up our MAAG, with a Navy section, … they organized a fly-over of Saigon air show by 60 acft from USS Boxer* to show some solidarity with the French forces……..

So …. not exactly new, U.S. Navy carriers have had a variety of ops for about a 60 year run in our country’s relations with Vietnam……

It will be interesting to see where the port call will take place. For max visibility and proximity to their capital, I would
guess the Ha Long port area, just east of Haiphong and about 100 miles east of Hanoi…… (3+ hours by car….!)

We absolutely need a carrier in this picturesque Ha Long Bay setting……….

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A couple yrs ago on our Hong Kong to Singapore run, we stopped there. They would undoubtly anchor out… like we did, on a 1,000′, 90,000 ton ship.

Should be another interesting chapter…… lots of different ‘first’……

Jim…..

* an interesting aside (maybe) on USS Philippine Sea and USS Hornet, carriers on contingency ops in the GoT during 1954. In July, the new PRC Air Force shot down a Cathy Pacific DC-4 airliner heading from Bangkok to Hong Kong in what was known as the Hainan Incident.

Carrier acft were assigned to assist in the SAR. During this, two of their A-1 attack aircraft were fired on by Chinese La-11 fighters and the Spads quickly shot them both down!

Great to always have a gun, and some simple ROE……. in this case, the Chinese apologized and reportedly executed the responsible pilots…….

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* USS Boxer’s CoC, Manila, in 1954……

Copyright 2017 Jim
www.vicsocotra.com

Night Shift

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(President Chon Tu Hwan of the Republic of Korea)

As you well know, there is more talk about nuclear weapons than in a long time. DC is not in range, according to what they are reporting, but apparently the little fat guy thinks he can hit Guam, which makes this all personal.

So, I was thinking back to my time as a nuclear warrior, something a lot of folks have no experience with these days. In order to get to the Indications and Warning Watch at US forces Korea, HQ 8th US Army, and the United Nations, it was useful to understand how this all worked. My first fleet tour, which I can neither confirm nor deny, might have featured some movement of what my pal Roger might have called “shapes,” and some other sort of weird stuff accompanied by Marines who were authorized the use of deadly force in the event anything made them uneasy.

I like those rules of engagement. It made everyone really polite.

Not a bad system, in my opinion, if it existed, that is.

It was 1980. I was working in Seoul, ROK, in an attempt by Washington to get my two-year tour on Midway to line up my my cohort of young officers who had three-year tours on the showboats from the West Coast.

I think the experience made me a better person, but it was sort of like living in Detroit, where the riots of 1967 and 1968 made you understand in a visceral manner that the world can be a very strange place. More so if you added the science fiction scenario that there might be an existential threat that the Ontarioans in Windsor were going to send special operations forces across the Detroit River to kill us all.

Anyway, I listened to my favorite cuts from Roxy Music and Bob Seeger before leaving the Quonset hut where I lived on South Post to the North and passing through the Brit detachment’s Ghurka guards around the compound without having my throat slit by one of their big scary knives. Then I walked down the long concrete steps and I was on the night watch.

I think I had SGT 1st Class Volsco, Army cryppie, and SSGT MacCarron, USAF, on the desk that night, ostensibly under my charge, though figure the odds of that. Our secure communications were a KY-4 telephone and a teletype, and we had Armed Forced Radio and Television on the television, trying to figure out what was going on in Kwang-ju, a province in the SW ROK mostly famous for some extraordinary red pepper. Highly recommended, if you can find it. I had a one-pound sack that lasted me almost a decade.

Anyway, at the time, there was a former General named Chon du-Hwan who had decided to make a career change and become President (I think he was Korea Military Academy Class 10). He did so, though his support was kind of like Mr. Trump’s today in America. There appeared to be some locals who thought there might be a better democratic process than handing over power to his class at KMA. But what do I know. I was a long-term visitor, but a visitor none-the-less.

Down in Kwang-ju, there was some general police rioting and brutalization of activists- we called it the Kwang Ju Massacre at the time- and a lot of uncertainness at the HQ, since this sort of civil unrest normally wasn’t something that worked back home, although it was not entirely unfamiliar.

Anyway, SFC Volsco was doing his best to keep us entertained with stories of how the Army SIGINT people got authority to go after anti-Vietnam war protestors after some idiot made a direct threat to West Coast military bases. My favorite part of the tale was when he got to use a military-strength jammer against a kid with a Motorola phone and a megaphone and fried his ponytail. Then the KY-4 phone rang on the rack behind us.

Sometimes we would play around with it, answering “Yobo sayo, Secure Drop 4” to disconcert the caller that they were not talking to Americans, but this was a high tension environment and not a time to screw around. SSGT MacCarron answered the call with a crisp military greeting: “USFK Indications and Warning Center, may I help you?”

I saw him squeeze his eyebrows together, and he handed me the phone. Sotto vocce, he said, “We got problems in Kwang-Ju.”

When I announced myself on the phone, I discovered I was speaking to a US Army Lieutenant Colonel who was commanding a munitions magazine in the troubled city. It appeared there were a bunch of angry people at the front gate who thought somehow we were enabling the former General to subvert the Republic.

I can neither confirm nor deny the remaining substance of the conversation. But the Colonel thought he might need guidance from higher headquarters just in case he had to defend some special ordnance, and how many people he was authorized to kill to do it.

I made sure to get his name and call-back secure number, and told the Sergeants to hold down the fort while I went to go find a grown-up in Ops.

It was not the most challenging shift I had in the building at Yongson Garrison that had once been a Japanese Army Hotsi Bath, but it was damned close.

I guess what I am trying to say is: “Everyone stay cool. We have done this dance before. Just not with the people we are doing it with.”

The question is who leads, and I think we have let the Kims lead long enough.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Newman’s Own

As you are doubtless aware by now, I am privileged to be a mostly passive participant in a bunch of email strings with other retired Navy spooks (I generate too much of my own blather), and generally respect (and protect) their privacy and stories. I have saved several of the strings about places like Cambodia and the long mostly cold opposition to the Soviet Union which could curdle the cream in your coffee. Maybe the whole NORK Nuke thing brought this all around to me this morning.

I mentioned yesterday about blankly staring at the variety and diversity of the types Newman’s Own salad dressings at the Harris Teeter supermarket in my neighborhood, and his amazing image featured on each bottle. I had to look it up when I got home (Ranch is what I got, but I will be back) and being startled by the fact that a man who was the epitome of youth and vigor in my growing-up years (Like Clint Eastwood was, as wrangler Rowdy Yates on the small screen) has been in his grave nearly a decade, and his lovely wife is suffering the same indignity as my folks, having her memories of a magical life and very personhood stolen from her.

I did not compile the below, but our pal Jim did, and I feel I have lived at least part of it. I am grateful to the amazing pals we have who do what they do. From Jim’s account:

Paul enlisted in the Navy in 1943, after graduating from high school and just days before his 18th birthday, hoping to become a Navy pilot…..

Failing the eye test, he was instead sent to boot camp and aviation training to become a radioman-gunner and was assigned to the TBF “Avenger” Replacement Air Group (RAG) at Barber’s Point on O’ahu’s western shore.

He was eventually assigned to “Torpedo Eight” (VT-8) … the one we have talked about frequently of battle of Midway fame – and flew combat missions in the Western Pacific, evidently mostly aboard USS Hollandia….

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Maybe the highlight of his career was missing an assignment to USS Bunker Hill with the rest of his squadron during the Battle of Okinawa… his pilot had a “medical down” (Flight Surgeon says you can’t fly) and the crew and aircraft did not shift carriers with the others.

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Bunker Hill would be hit by two Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa and lost almost 400 men. VT-8 was heavily hit and lost almost two dozen…..

This piece of luck had a profound effect on Paul and his future outlook on life…….

The Avenger was the largest single-engined Navy acft of the time, 18,000 lbs… and had a 50′ wingspan….. and a 3-man crew, pilot, bomb/nav, and radioman-rear gunner.

Like the Grumman F4F Wildcat, it employed a new innovation …. the STO-wing mechanism developed on the XF4F-4 prototype by Leroy Grumman (1895-1982), a founder of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, proved to be crucial to the USN’s carrier successes during World War II.

The mechanism could not only fold the large wings, but also pivot them rearward in order to save deck space. E-2 Hawkeye early warning and aviation control aircraft still used his feature in all my time at sea.

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Newman mustered out at Naval Air Station Seattle in 1946 and go to college on the GI Bill … and onward…which is where you came to know him. I don’t know who the other guy in the picture below is.

Later, Paul said he felt ‘lucky’ and fortunate to have survived, and was later noted for some significant philanthropic efforts…some based on salad dressing.”

One notable Avenger pilot was future American President George H. W. Bush, flying a TBM Avenger off the light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto (CVL-30) in 1944.

Most of them noted another famous American, Lt(jg) George Bush… as a very young Avenger pilot…and at the time the youngest Naval Aviator on active service.”

My great thanks for this account of a great American’s early life, and particularly to our peripatetic pal Jim. There is a lot more to share- but it may have to be in a book reviewed by the security dweebs.

www.vicsocotra.com

Swamp Post Card #10

Yeah- I know. How did it get to be Wednesday so quickly? The news cycle, even in the dog-days of August is so fast and furious that it is exhausting just to drink the morning coffee and see what will have changed by happy hour.

I have been more sporadic than usual in publication of late, for reasons I won’t go into. Thankfully, my pals Arrias and Marlow have stepped up to the task and pulled hard on the hawser. Me? The trip to the wedding of Susan and my Brother Mike took a lot out of me. It was enough to almost convince me that long road trips- once one of the special joys in my life may be a thing of the past. It was grand fun to see everyone, and if I can survive the big conference in Saint Louis next week, we will see how things go.

The passing of Glen Campbell this week took me aback. I know he had his problems, but he wasn’t that much older than our cohort, and I remember listening to his hits hurtling across America’s highways, stars twinkling in the night sky. Of course, I was looking at the remarkable selection of Paul Newman’s Own salad dressing at the Harris-Teeter supermarket the other day and realized Cool Hand Luke had passed almost a decade ago.

Congress left town with just a couple issues hanging- like a disintegrating health care system, urgent action to up the debt ceiling to avoid default and tax reform. You know, the usual. And of course maybe a nightmarish little war in NE Asia.

As you might imagine, the old Spooks with whom I share many afflictions are fairly agitated, and that was before the “F&F” tweet from POTUS.

One of our senior-est and wisest heads opined this:

“Nobody is asking me, but before unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea I would deploy a Yokosuka-based Aegis SM3-armed ship along with a JMSDF Aegis cruiser to the sea of Japan, protected by ROK destroyers and Tactical Air backed with Combat Air Patrols (CAP) from Kadena or a carrier to shoot down any ballistic missiles launched from North Korea. The US, Japan, ROK after these forces are on station should explain in a joint statement that this is necessary because we cannot know whether a North Korea ballistic missile launch is a test or is nuclear armed and headed to any of these three countries. If Russia or China feel compelled to demarche this action we should tell them to lean on their little fat friend in Pyongyang and we will stand down….The point here is to be completely defensive, but responsive to the threat being presented.”

That is what Joe thinks- what do you think?

– Vic

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Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com

Life & Island Times: Strangling Conversations

After another failed attempt to find some meaningful discussion on the Sunday morning news-talk shows, this off-the-cuff parody of Paul Simon’s song Danglng Conversations wrote iteself. In a kind of wised-up New York City way, Simon’s song was about lost love.

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DC’s a lifeless action hero comic book
In a early evening hotel room
The sun never shines through the window’s tattered lace
There’re no shadows in this gloom

And we sit and sip our cocktails
Cable TV’s news pounds us into indifference, like naval gunfire upon D-Day shores
No one hears our homeland hearts aching roars

In our politics’ strangling conversations
Full of superficial sighs
Lie the borders of desperate lives

And some read their Karl Marx
While others their Adam Smith
All argue their positions with markers
Measuring only their passing acquaintance with

Editorials and talking points, poorly written
Ideas and prose, out of tune with the time
Screaming graphics without context, reason or rhyme
Ever expanding in a New York City minute of time

In our politics’ strangling conversations
Full of superficial sighs
Lie the borders of desperate lives

Do we ever speak of things that matter
With words that should be said
“Can instant analysis be worthwhile?”
“Are Amercian politics really dead?”

And now as the country softly fades
And we only see its shadows, we cannot feel our neighbors hands
We’re strangers to each other

In our politics’ strangling conversations
Full of superficial sighs
Lie the borders of desperate lives

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat/Paul Simon
www.vicsocotra.com

Arrias on Politics: Equal Justice

If there’s one idea that encapsulates the goals of the Founding Fathers, it’s this: Equal Justice. A responsive government that worked – literally and figuratively – for the citizens, was a means to that real end: a political system wherein everyone – everyone – was treated the same.

Last week a Congresswoman opined that Vice President Pence would be impeached, just as soon as they finished impeaching President Trump, because ‘Pence would be no good.’

As no charges have been brought against President Trump, never mind any sort of impeachment vote in Congress, never mind any hint of Mr. Pence having done anything wrong, one might well ask what this really means.

Such comments – and they’re legion, and other behavior (the incessant leaks, the continual shopping for judges to issue injunctions even after Supreme Court rulings, the “sniping” commentary by elected officials, etc.), should concern everyone, whether you love Trump or hate him, because this isn’t how our government works. But, that’s precisely the issue: those saying and doing these things, the people insisting that there must be new forms of justice – to include some members of Congress – they don’t care. They use the words of government, but what they seek is simple power.

There’s more to this than simply: “one side won the election, the other lost.” After all, we’ve had 57 presidential elections and chosen 45 different presidents. To be sure, there’ve been hotly contested elections: 1800, 1812, 1828, 1861, etc. But, there’s something decidedly different since last November, and we need to look at what lies behind it all.

Not to get too esoteric but, there’s an important philosophic point to make: if you hold certain beliefs, you can’t meaningfully hold certain other beliefs. You can’t be for both government healthcare and free markets, for example. Further, to hold certain beliefs, we need to understand them. That means we need common values and a common understanding of what words mean.

Important words – justice, fairness, equality – either have an accepted, fixed meaning – or they don’t. You can’t believe in equal justice and also believe the definition of justice is ever changing. If justice is a fixed mark, we can hold our leadership accountable to that mark. But if justice is flexible, defined by the leadership, then we’ll never be able to hold accountable our elected or appointed leaders.

Yet that’s precisely the real struggle, a struggle over the nature of government and the understanding of virtually all values. And the philosophy that’s driving this intellectual struggle, that’s driving the progressive movement, is postmodernism.

Michel Foucault, the late French philosopher and a leading proponent of postmodernism, stated: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of—or against— Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.” This idea, the meaningless of reason, truth and knowledge, is central to the philosophy of postmodernism.

Postmodernism doesn’t speak about an “independent reality,” nor about “absolute truths;” for postmodernists there is no objective knowledge. Everything is subjective, and “histories” are collective; individuals are only identified inside social groups (sex, race, ethnicity, wealth, religion, etc.), and histories emphasize conflict between groups.

Therefore the only things that matter are these social groups (sex, race, etc.), and the conflicts between the groups. But that really means power. And because there’s no objective truth, no absolute right and wrong, there can be no meaningful attempt to be on the side of truth or right. Instead, what really matters is who wins.

There is, of course, the other side; Reverend King observed that: “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.” But in the postmodernist world there can be no right, no good, no morals, for there is no agreed, objective truth, no reason, no knowledge.

Western Civilization, evolving for over 2,000 years, is predicated on absolute truths, on clearly defined justice; where, despite our failings, the citizens work towards a single ideal of justice. Postmodernism asserts that justice of even 50 years ago is different than today, there are no fixed truths, and can be no fixed definition of justice. And that would mean the power of government could be wielded without meaningful restraint.

Washington, Lincoln, King et al envisioned a society based on justice, equal justice. But equal justice requires objective truth. Postmodernists insist there is no such thing. We need to choose which side we’re on.

Copyright Arrias 2017
www.vicsocotra.com

Swamp Post Card #9

Goodness, Gentle Readers, what a strange week!

I drove up to Greenfield, Mass, last Thursday afternoon to attend my brother’s wedding. It was a joyful trip, meeting the new family with fabulous weather. My lovely cousins made it up to the event from Florida after perilous adventures in Air Transport, including de-planing a couple times from Spirit Air, an inflight loss of cabin pressure and an emergency recovery in Tennessee.

Not a relaxed weekend for them, but it sure was good to see them!

The two lovely women form bright lights in my life, and we shared some interesting shared genetic information- the weird crook in the little finger of our right hands, and the periodic shaking that afflicts us all. It had been a concern that I assumed was due to something diabolic about how I live my life. I now know at least of part my general laundry list of afflictions is just hereditary.

I would give you the blow-by-blow of the drive, with the George Washington Bridge in NYC occupying the middle, but that is too hard. I am convinced there is something inherently wrong with I-95, and moreover the villains who drive it regularly. If there are three lanes, some dumbshit will of course be in your blind spot, overtaking at reckless speed and then veering wildly in front of you to get back to the passing lane in order to threaten the driver a few cars ahead. Disconcerting is putting it mildly.

That used to be me doing the reprehensible. Instead, I found myself immersed in satellite radio, in the middle of the News Cycle with Mr. Scaramucci, General Kelly and the pesky NORKS shooting rockets and dominating the information stream.

I contrast the joy of a wedding and the birth of a relationship precious in life there on the banks of the glittering Connecticut River with what is going on here on the muddy Banks of the Potomac and just have to sigh. Can you believe this week that was?

Oh, as an aside, I bought the place where I currently reside at Big Pink on Monday. I could not confront moving again. At least I know now where one of the places where I could expire is. When is the other question. I will keep you posted on that.

– Vic

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Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra
www.vicsocotra.com