Collateral Duty

Editor’s Note: Some moments at Willow pop up in memory. This one seemed appropriate to run today, the day before the real Veteran’s Day, but which we observe today so that much of the Federal Bureaucracy gets a three day weekend.

– Vic

(Mac, Left Coast Guy and Vic at Willow).

Spring was lurking out there in northern Virginia. It was early 2012, the year that Mac left us. For me, it had been one of those awful days of meetings, starting off with a pre-noon meeting out in Fairfax, and the drive revealed nature’ promise that the winter was indeed over. I still had the fancy convertible and was seriously tempted to drop the top coming back.

Daffodils were poking up along I-66 with bright yellow abandon. If the trees have not yet assumed that certain sheen of light green, the time cannot be far off.

The temperature rose slowly through the day and it felt magnificent to be alive. The back of this winter appears to be broken, and there was a spring in my step as I walked over to Willow to meet Mac and Left Coast Guy. LCG was in town checking on a contract, and I was looking forward to catching up.

Liz-with-an-S was enjoying a last smoke by the back door and I walked back to chat before entering the bar. We made some Spring-like resolutions to get serious about the legal flash cards to help her prepare for the Virginia Bar exam later in the year. There is nothing like quizzing her on the finer points on Constitutional Law and Torts to spice up a Happy Hour at Willow.

Not that anyone seems to be paying much attention to the Constitution these days, except as a point of departure for our brave new world, but what the hell.

We parted when her cigarette was done, Liz-S to enter through the back entrance, and me to enter via the front door to assume our appointed roles and positions.

Left Coast Guy was sitting next to Old Jim when I arrived, just minutes before Mac.

I was a little disorganized- go figure- but I don’t like to keep the Admiral waiting. I had printed the Wikipedia articles on the Japanese super battlewagons IJN Musashi and Yamato as aids to ask questions, but they were still sitting on the printer at the office. Mac had told me that the Combat Intelligence Unit (CIU) code-breaking unit at Station HYPO was involved in the sinking of both, and naturally I wanted to know more.

It sort of worked out that way, though as usual there were some of the usual rabbit holes to duck down as Happy Hour progressed.

Mac’s War had been in the background all day.

Someone out there in internet-land had realized that it was the anniversary of the flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, and it started a viral dissemination of a series of images taken by AP photo-hound Joe Rosenthal. The five images depicted the first and second American flags being raised on the height above the pork chop-shaped black sand volcanic island.

The images came without commentary, but the shots of the Marines included the iconic image that became the Marine Memorial that looms next to Route 50 in Rosslyn. It was pretty amazing. I must have got it in the e-mail four or five times as vets recycled it. I sent the files to Mac in the afternoon, 67 years to the day, I thought.

(Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. It is at peace now).

The battle for the island had been raging for four days when the Jarheads seized the peak, and the fight would go on for another month before the island was secured. The SeaBees would start working on the airstrip before the last of the defending Japanese troops were mopped up.

Mac would have been on Guam at the time, I thought, with Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s forward staff. I made a mental note to ask him about it. It was the relatively swift collapse of Japanese forces in the Philippines that advanced the timing of the landings on the first Japanese soil to be occupied by the Americans. Halfway between Japan and the Marianas, Iwo had been a Japanese early warning station to detect the in-bound heavy bomber streams headed for Honshu.

That was over, by the time the flag went up.

Mac was clutching a manila envelope when he arrived, and he slapped it down on the bar as Liz-S appeared to ask him his choice of poison.

“Did you re-stock the Sierra Nevada?” he asked hopefully. Liz-S nodded, her chestnut ponytail dancing over her slim shoulders. “Good. I will take one. I have a case of it back at The Madison,” he declared.

“You must be feeling better,” I said.

“Best in years,” he said. “We need to figure out the arrangements for the trip to Hawaii this summer.”

Then he began to dig through the envelope. He reads the obituaries in the Post religiously. I guess it is kind of a sport at his age, keeping track of those who leave the dance before he does. We discussed whether to run an appreciation of the life of a line officer who had been in the corps of Attaches, though not an intelligence officer, and the spouse of another retired officer who had pulled the plug completely on the community once retired. “Disappeared completely,” said Mac, “Though I understand she still lives in Vienna.”

“I can understand why some folks would want to just get away from the whole thing. But I can’t seem to let it go. Did you get the pictures I sent you from Iwo Jima?”

“Oh my, yes. That is a story.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I was on Guam with Admiral Nimitz,” he said, taking a sip of refreshing Sierra Nevada. He likes it when he can bully the oncologists into have a couple beers.

“Right,” I said, starting to scrawl notes on the outside of the manila envelope. “You were on Nimitz Hill.” Jasper, the best bowler on the island, was behind the bar, and his ears pricked up at the mention of his home on Guam. “That makes both of you guys the locals.”

Mac smiled. “Yes. Although I was a temporary Guamanian. But I had a variety of duties in addition to Estimates and Current Intelligence.”

“Oh, I vividly remember what we called Collateral Duties, or worse, ‘Other Duties as Assigned.’ In Fighter Squadron 151, I was not only the squadron Air Intelligence Officer, but the Squadron Legal Officer, Tax Advisor, Coffee Mess Officer and Wardroom coordinator to ensure everyone had paid for the chow.”

“I did not have it that bad, but there were some jobs that required security assessments and duties like that. I was also the censor for the pictures taken by the war correspondents. We called it PubInfo- Public Information. What you call what the Public Affairs Officers do today. I had to review all the outgoing pictures to determine if they contained any classified information.”

“Wait a minute- you released the picture of the Marines raising the flag?”

Mac nodded. “Yes. Joe Rosenthal sent his film to Guam to be developed. He did not see them while he was on Iwo Jima. Not like today with your digital cameras and instant gratification.”

“So you were one of the first to see the most famous image of the war?”

(Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Photo AP).

“Yep. I think the photo tech was a guy named George- George Tiaden, of Minnesota.”

“What did you think?”

Mac pursed his lips. “I thought it was powerful. I told George it was one for the ages- maybe the best photograph of the war. Once I gave it the OK as not having any classified information in the image, it was distributed by Associated Press within eighteen hours after Rosenthal shot it.”

“That is an astonishingly fast turnaround time for those days,” I said. “Mac, you are incredible,” I said, taking a sip of happy Hour White.

The Admiral just smiled. There is a lot more, of course, but one astonishing thing at a time, you know?

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Life & Island Times: Twitter, Graffiti and Draft Rules for Modern Media Political Discourse

Editor’s Note: as part of a related research project, a colleague and I are looking at how the Millennial generation exchanges information and knowledge, and what their views are regarding things like security. The devices and social media appear to be actually changing our brains. Happy Veteran’s Day, the one the Government takes off from work while the Vets in the civilian sector report to the office.

Author’s note: I wrote this late last month before visiting family on the west coast. The trip was excellent. More on that later.

Modern media argue that we learn a lot about how people actually think from what they post on social media. Of that I am not so sure. Yet, one presidential candidate discovered and used the power of social media to becone the most powerful person on earth last fall. More importantly, I’d contend that bathroom graffiti has been replaced by Twitter and that the media is now focussed on the leavings of those who used to do their writing on bathroom stall walls.

If you use or follow Twitter, you probably suspect what I do: people tweet the most when they are sitting on the throne. Tweeters are not going anywhere for a while, they have their phones but no other means of entertaining themselves, and they’re on the throne, which is one of the the most philosophical places of human existence.

Twitter has changed the world’s political landscape. Now, instead of taking out a Sharpie and writing one’s thoughts on a stall wall, they taking out their iPhone and writing them on their feed. I have several issues with this:

  • Tweets are text-only for the most part. Drawings, especially of certain anatomical parts, were a big part of bathroom graffiti. Our earth withour art is just eh.
  • Lack of permanence. Sure, tweets are technically there forever, but once they fall on the feed, they’re essentially dead.
  • Exclusivity. You decide whom to follow on Twitter. Bathroom wall wisdom is forced upon you. Is it any wonder why today’s snowflakes are so surprised to confront something that is counter to their self selected twittersphere.
  • Price. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, you can still write on the walls.
  • Handwriting/color/size. You can’t personalize a tweet the way you can bathroom graffiti.
  • Anonymity. Twitter accounts at least have a handle name. Nobody knows who wrote what in the stall. That makes it timeless. Mark Twain could have written that haiku on the stall wall. You’ll never know.


I’m not saying that the media should abandon breathtlessly coveringTwitter. Just maybe next time someone types something odd, they could remember that they’re are affixing the phrase BREAKING NEWS to what used to be found on bathroom stall walls, while the author was likely breaking wind.

And now for some random draft rules governing current media political discourse . . . .


All of my side’s references and statements are to be taken in the coolest, hip-ironic, culturally aware, benign-metaphorical way possible that grants my side the full benefit of any conflicting interpretations.

All of your side’s references and statements are to be taken in the most mindlessly literal, threatening way possible.

Any charge against my side requires exquisite legally admissible proof of its accuracy.

Any charge against your side must be true if it was asserted by anyone, anywhere.

People on my side are responsible only for what they said personally, in full-quotation context.

People on your side are responsible for the inferred implications of anything said by anyone who ever held any idea vaguely similar to what your people think.

Sounds about right, no?

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat

Swamp Postcard #22

The New Normal?


Good heavens. I had just shuffled out of my office on Sunday to catch a few minutes of football, once I was confident that any political statements had occurred. Instead, I was treated to the unfolding story of yet another brutal massacre of the innocent 26 parishioners- men, women and children- at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The Las Vegas atrocity and the New York Jihadi attack are beginning to slide into primal memory, though they have all happened in the span of less than a month. It suggests we have a severe case of national ADD- or that we are beginning to accept this carnage as the “new normal.” Or both.

I din’t have much doubt that we are seeing the social fabric beginning to fray. A pal suggested that this level of political violence- shooting at Congressmen, assaulting Senators, slaughtering innocents at concerts, on bike paths and in Church- has not been seen since the 1850s. You know how well that turned out.

Everything is hyper political now. Did you note the “scream in” by alleged adults protesting last November’s election? Astonishing. Even things that were as American as Apple Pie and Chevrolet have become social lightning rods. I confess the ongoing controversy has chilled me on the NFL. I used to thrill that Monday Night Football continued Sunday’s gridiron excitement. I have not watched a Monday night game this year, nor the strange new Thursday NFL addition.

The fraying of the nation’s social fabric is continuing and getting stranger. According to the Sacremento Bee, “When California lawmakers return to the Capitol in January, the state chapter of the NAACP will be seeking their support for a campaign to remove “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.”

Of course it is California, but the fact that our social discourse now consists of slander and epithet. The campaign for Governor here was as slimy as anything I have seen. It was a good week for Democrats, except for that Donna Brazile bombshell about the Democratic National Committee shenanigans during the primaries. I suppose the old adage that goes “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin.”

Each time I put one of these post cards together, I think events can’t get any stranger, and each week my finely honed analytic skills are shown to lack imagination.

Is this all just the new normal, or are things accelerating? While the President is spinning around Asia, attempting to get the North Koreans in a box with China’s help, bucking up our regional allies, and fixing trade imbalance, there is something really weird going on in the Middle East, and for me to even say that would imply that what is politically normal in the region isn’t weird already.

The 32-year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is said to be behind the arrest of dozens of Royals, some with a personal wealth of billions, to neuter any opposition to his lightening ascent to the pinnacle of power.

But that is not all. Yemeni Rebels lofted an improved SCUD at Riyadh, which was shot down by an American-provided Patriot missile. It is widely suspected that the Yemeni rocket was provided by the Iranians, and a directly threatening escalation in tension between the Sunni and Shia tribes. To demonstrate their contempt for the Iranians, the Saudis fired the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri. I had no idea that was how things worked. Apparently the Saudis were displeased about the fact that who had the gall to include Iranian-backed Hezbollah legislators in his government.

Nuclear-armed Israel, as you might imagine, is aware that there could be 40,000 Iranian-provided Hezbollah pointed at them, too many even for the fine Iron Dome air defense system to fully counter.

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure I don’t like the direction this is all going. Feels like a dusty tome from history classes long past, the ones where you slap yourself in the forehead and say: “How could they have been so stupid?”

Here is the postcard. Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.


Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Japan-gazer Special — What Are The Real Undercurrents In Japanese Politics?

Editor’s Note: Japan-Gazer provides this particularly relevant analysis, since the President is on a whirlwind trip that passed through Japan and the Republic of Korea before arriving in Beijing. With the continuing crisis with North Korea, the alignment of Japanese domestic politics is a great aid in understanding our biggest regional ally.


What Are The Real Undercurrents In Japanese Politics?


COMMENT: If there is one thing to read & digest about the current state of Japanese politics, it is the very insightful column below from the Yomiuri Shimbun. As the Professors Saeki and Inoue discuss, the political labels “conservative” and “liberal” do not accurately describe what is going on, as Japan navigates through the strong currents of social issues, national security, economics, etc. My personal take is that Japan, as an (insular & resource-poor) island country, faces a constant challenge of how to deal with & adapt to challenges coming from “the outside” — and as those issues arise, Japanese politics is stimulated to take action. I sense that there are still sentiments of wanting to “be left alone” in some Japanese people, which connect back to the �i国 (SAKOKU — closed country) times — 1600’s though mid-1800’s — when Japan shut itself off from the rest of the world.

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== What is conservatism, liberalism in Japan?

(November 01, 2017; The Yomiuri Shimbun)

Kibo no To (Party of Hope) was launched under the banner of the “conservatives working for reform,” while leftist and liberal-minded members of the Democratic Party formed the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (clearly distinguishing themselves from Kibo). The latest House of Representatives election was said to be a battle among three forces, including the ruling parties. Yet what is a conservative and what is a liberal? We asked two experts.

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— There is no real conservative party

(Keishi Saeki; Professor emeritus of Kyoto University)

Japanese politics have traditionally been portrayed as a conflict between conservatives and liberals. However, this conflict has lost its meaning of late. What’s more, does a conservative party even exist in the true sense of the word?

The Liberal Democratic Party calls itself conservative, but ever since the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, it has adopted neoliberalism, promoting thorough deregulation and market competition, as well as accepting economic globalization.

However, over the last decade and more, excessive growth-oriented principles based on financial markets have seen the widening of the income gap, and young people beset by job insecurity. There are jobs in Tokyo, but regional areas are experiencing economic hardship.

In the midst of all this, the Japanese Communist Party’s policies advocating aid to those who fall through the cracks of competition and emphasizing the value of health care, education and local communities appear far more conservative.

The Abenomics economic policy package of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe depends on growth strategies. It promotes technological innovation through development of artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology. This is a form of progressivism, in that it seeks to reform society through technology. However, if continual growth is difficult because of the shrinking population, it is necessary to withdraw a little from the global economy that forces the nation into excessive competition, provide stability in the lives of the people, and improve social infrastructure such as health care and education.

Kibo no To (The Party of Hope) was born out of grandstanding by [Tokyo Gov.] Yuriko Koike. Koike repeatedly advocates “reform,” but what she intends to reform is unclear.

“Political reforms” began when Ichiro Ozawa split the LDP to form the Japan Renewal Party (Shinseito) in 1993. A single-seat constituency system was introduced to let the public choose a government from two major political parties. Efforts were made to shift policymaking from the hands of bureaucrats to politicians. However, almost all attempts resulted in failure.

Popular sovereignty in which the will of the people is reflected in politics transformed into former Prime Minister Koizumi’s “theatrical politics,” solidifying a populist course in which politics are driven by approval ratings. This trend gave rise to a government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, and also led to the advent of Toru Hashimoto’s “Ishin no Kai” (Japan Restoration Party.)

It could be said that Abe’s current dominance is a result of the introduction of single-seat constituencies and politician-led policy. But opposition parties, who are still calling for reform, criticize Abe’s dominance.

With the collapse of the Cold War order, leftists sympathetic to socialism transformed into moderate liberals. Their goal is to aid the disadvantaged within the framework of capitalism. However, if they do not squarely criticize the problems that arise from the global economy and a growth-centered approach, they will be swallowed up by the LDP.

In the Democratic Party leadership election, Seiji Maehara advocated prioritizing social welfare under the slogan “all for all.” Abe has pledged to do the same. He says that the additional revenue from a planned consumption tax hike will be allocated to providing free education and social security programs for low income-earners and young people.

Policies advocated by liberals have, for all intents and purposes, been appropriated by the LDP.

The CDPJ (Constitutional Democratic Party) was hastily formed in an environment in which the survival of the liberal faction was on the line, and its policies are little more than an afterthought, with no initiatives capable of standing up against the administration led by the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito.

As for the Constitution, liberals are anti-revision and Prime Minister Abe is pro-revision. The security-related legislation ― which allows Japan the right to exercise collective self-defense ― has been enacted. If the Japan-U.S. alliance is rock-solid after this, the desire to revise the Constitution will dwindle. Meanwhile, the liberal camp is unable to work out a national security policy in the face of issues such as the North Korea problem.

Japan does not have a conservative party in the true sense of the word.

At the very least, we should debate the Constitution and security within a larger framework. The constitutional issue is not something we should resolve through revisions. We ought to have the will that could result in enacting an independent Constitution and setting the task of exploring the feasibility of independent defense.

We are reaching a crossroads on the response to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

– The first option is to focus on seeking talks.

– The second is to stay under the umbrella of the United States.

– The third, which would be difficult to realize, is for Japan to have its own nuclear weapons.

Liberals are for the first option, but it lacks effectiveness. Realistically, they will be drawn into the second option. Liberals in the United States and European countries emphasize security. It is presumed that citizens will defend their countries on their own.

Whether they are conservative or liberal, if the parties cannot address the truly important issues, the voters have no way to make a choice. We don’t want voters to decide haphazardly based on the mood of the time.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Yasuhiko Mori.)

[* Saeki is also a special appointed professor at the Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University, and a social thinker. In 1997, he received the 7th Yomiuri Rondansho prize for his book “Gendai Nihon no Riberarizumu” (Liberalism in contemporary Japan). He has also written numerous books, including the upcoming “Datsu Sengo no Susume” (Recommendations for leaving the postwar framework). He is 67.]

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— Battle lines on top law ambiguous

(Tatsuo Inoue; Professor of the University of Tokyo)

In the latest election, voters were forced to choose a government without any choice on policy. While it was supposedly a three-way contest among the main conservatives, the minor conservatives, and the liberals, the reality was different.

First of all, the contention over the constitutional issue was in fact ambiguous. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed adding a provision stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces while maintaining the second paragraph of Article 9, which bans Japan from maintaining war potential. However, this preserves the current ambiguous situation of claiming the SDF does not have war potential. Despite the CDPJ’s opposition to revising Article 9, CDPJ leader Yukio Edano made a personal proposal for constitutional revision in 2013 that was much the same as Abe’s. His proposal leaves the current text of Article 9 intact, appending clauses after Article 9 as Article 9-2 and Article 9-3, and even includes provisions that allow Japan to exercise the right to self-defense jointly with a country, when that country is attacked when it is defending Japan.

This was criticized by the Japanese Communist Party as a right of collective self-defense. JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii has also stated in a party leaders’ debate session that if an anti-LDP coalition government should be formed, his party would go along with the doctrine of the constitutionality of the SDF.

Another axis is taxes and social security. Before the Democratic Party split, it was considering the idea of allocating increased revenues from a planned consumption tax hike to education and social security, rather than to national debt repayment. Prime Minister Abe copied this idea. Each party is trying to distinguish itself on this issue through how to secure revenue sources. However, they are unanimous in advocating investment in people through measures, including free education, and they have shelved fiscal reconstruction issues, obscuring the points of contention on policies.

Ideally, the points of contention between conservatives and liberals should be viewed from three different sides: politics, economics, and military and diplomatic affairs.

– On the political side, conservatives restrict individual freedoms and rights to preserve their country’s traditional religion and culture. Conversely, liberals stress civil and political rights such as separation of state and religion, as well as freedom of expression to protect religious and cultural minorities and dissenters.

– On the economic side, the conflict between liberals and conservatives is changing, even in the United States and European countries. Originally, conservatives protected the vested interests of the privileged classes. Liberals opposed hierarchical privileges and emphasized meritocratic free competition. However, from the end of the 19th century to after the Great Depression, liberalism in Britain and the United States changed to support for a welfare state to aid the socioeconomically disadvantaged. In opposition to this, conservatives ended up stressing “small government” and market competition. However, conservatives have assimilated the backlash to economic globalization, turning toward protectionism. The landscape has become distorted again.

– On the military and diplomatic affairs side, it is inaccurate to say that conservatives are hawks and liberals are doves. Neoconservatives supported military intervention by the U.S administration of George W. Bush, but there are also hawkish liberals who actively support humanitarian intervention.

Ultimately, the clearest distinction between conservatives and liberals is on the political side. This is also the case in Japan.

The conservative LDP limits civil and political liberties to some extent in order to maintain traditions and public order, as can be seen from:

– official Yasukuni Shrine visits,

– opposition to a proposal to allow married couples to use separate surnames,

– establishing the Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, and

– criminalizing the planning and preparation to commit such crimes as terrorist attacks.

Critics of these initiatives and positions are the “liberal opposition parties” such as the CDPJ.

Kibo is a mystery: While outwardly conservative, the outcome of the merger with former Democratic Party members remains uncertain.

There is no true liberal party in Japan as yet. The bedrock of liberalism is the concept of justice, which forms the framework for the equitable coexistence of opposing groups. It demands respect for constitutionalism as a means to provide the rules for fair political competition.

Advocates of protection of the Constitution criticize those who support a constitutional amendment as a threat to the Constitution. However, they politically sanction the SDF and Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, provided they are within the framework of the nation’s exclusively defense-oriented policy and the right to individual self-defense, which resulted in them papering-over the inconsistency with Article 9 and its prohibition of maintaining and exercising war potential.

They are also equally guilty of trampling on the Constitution for the sake of political convenience. If they stand for constitutionalism, at the very least they should advocate a constitutional amendment that protects the top law ― which involves amending the provisions of the second paragraph of Article 9 to permit the maintenance of war potential within the limits of the country’s exclusively defense-oriented policy and its individual self-defense right.

Furthermore, despite the current increased tensions over North Korean affairs, Prime Minister Abe is steering clear of recognizing the SDF as having war potential, through his plan of advocating adding new text to the Constitution and leaving paragraph two of Article 9 intact. His stance demonstrates the same complacency about peace as those opposed to constitutional revision.

If conservatives take national defense seriously, then the Abe administration is not worthy of being called conservative. “Surmounting the national crisis” is no more than a slogan, and the public are forced into a fruitless choice. However, the fault for this lies with the public, who have ignored political deception and brought it on themselves. In a democracy, politics will match the people’s standards. To change politics, the people must change themselves.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Haruki Sasamori.)

[* Inoue specializes in the philosophy of law. His books include “Kyosei no Saho” (The etiquette of coexistence), “Ho toiu Kuwadate” (The undertaking of law), “Sekai Seigiron” (The theory of global justice), “Riberaru no Koto wa Kirai Demo, Riberarizumu wa Kirai ni Naranai de Kudasai” (Even if you hate liberals, please don’t hate liberalism), and “Kenpo no Namida” (Tears of the Constitution). He is 63.]

Copyright 2017 Japan-Gazer and Yomiuri Shimbun’ Haruki Sasamori

The Bomb Plot


There have been discussions for seven decades about how we got clobbered at Pearl Harbor. Mac did not arrive there until February of 1943, so he could not comment authoritatively on what was true or not about the claim that Washington short-sheeted the Pacific Fleet Commander on decrypted Japanese messages tracking the mooring locations of the American capital ships in the harbor.

Mac talked to Joe Rochefort about it when memories were still fresh and victory was far from certain. He said Joe wasn’t sure that knowing about the message stream would have changed anything in particular, but I was reading about it again. I had time- we got snow last night, most of this winter, and Washington is Predictably Paralyzed. Willow is closed for an unprecedented second night in a row, and I officially have cabin fever. In the meantime, the memories of the placid waters of Pearl Harbor will not leave me alone. This morning it was the Bomb Plot message.

No, it doesn’t refer to some nefarious scheme or plan. “Plot” is Navy-speak for information placed on a map. Like targets you might want to bomb sometime.

That is the intercepted message that might- or might not- have provided the advance information that the Japanese were interested in the precise locations of the American fleet. It might- or might not- have resulted in a different outcome in the attack. Some say that if the fleet was at sea, and might have tried to engage the attacking Japanese and been sunk in deep water, with thousands more casualties, and the proud ships lost forever, not salvaged as they were.

I got a note a week or so ago from a documentary filmmaker in the UK who is married to a pal who is a journalist based in the UK. Vicki Barker is the voice I trust on the CBS radio network. Her husband is interested in doing a documentary on the appalling way that Admiral Husband Kimmel, commander of the Pacific Fleet, and Lt. General Walter Short were hung out to dry in the wake of the disastrous attack on Pearl Harbor.

As I have told you (over and over) I lived and worked in the buildings that survived the Day of Infamy, and I was fortunate to have been a drinking buddy and tipsy Boswell to RADM Donald “Mac” Showers, the last of the JN-25 code-breakers at Station HYPO in Pearl.

My stories are sincere, but were never intended to be documentary history. I always liked to get to the loopy aspects of history- like, what was the party like at the quarters of chief code-breaker Joe Rochefort after the amazing results of the battle of Midway became known? (Answer: It was a good one).

Elliot Carlson is a professional historian who was working on his extraordinary biography of Rochefort through the same period, and detailed the scandalous story of Joe’s removal from command of HYPO by ankle-biting careerist hacks in the moment of his greatest triumph.


There is still a lot of emotion in all this. I know a pompous jackass here in town who was going around trying to discredit the story of how Joe’s band of Japanese linguists and cryptologists identified the target of the attack on Midway.

As you may recall, ENS Mac Showers was sitting at his desk in the Dungeon when Jasper Holmes outlined his scheme to tell the Commander at Midway (by way of secure submarine cable) to report by unencrypted radio that the fresh water plant on the coral atoll was malfunctioning. Holmes said that when the Japanese copied the radio transmission, it might reveal the identity of the target for the coming attack, and permit decisive action by the American Fleet.

Joe Rochefort liked the idea, and it worked. Within a few days, an encrypted Japanese message was de-coded that revealed the target- “AF”- was having fresh water problems.

It wasn’t perfect intelligence, but that is about as good as it gets in the world of COMINT. Joe was wary of the testy relations he had with the radio intelligence people back in Washington. He didn’t want the conclusion of the elegant subterfuge to be compromised by suspicion of who figured it out. So he provided the information to the Fleet Radio Unit in Melbourne, Australia, (FRUMEL) to have them report it.

Joe had a sign behind his desk that read: “There is no limit to what you can do, so long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” And so, sixty years after the fight, people were still fighting about stealing credit for what Jasper and Joe did in the basement of the 14th Naval District.

With things like that going on, Elliot relied heavily on Mac’s razor-sharp recollections to keep things straight. We are still attempting to get Mac’s 26-hour oral history transcribed and declassified- money and personnel bandwidth has been a challenge but we continue to press.

Elliot’s interviews with Mac were conducted in a much more focused manner than the ones I was doing, but they were complementary in nature.

I have asserted that the real villain in all this was Admiral Richmond Kelly “Terrible” Turner, who had been Chief of War Plans at Main Navy before the war had been instrumental in denying Hawaii access to the high-level Japanese Diplomatic messages in the Purple intelligence stream. That, and the famous Bomb Plot message are described In “Joe Rochefort’s War.”

The Bomb Plot message is presented on page 154 and onward in the book. The question from the filmmaker was about exactly that. I wrote him back that “Arlington Hall Station (across from where I now live) was where the Army conducted its code-breaking. Their charter- and part of the division of labor with Navy- was to attack the Japanese high-level diplomatic code (Purple) as well as less important cypher systems used by the Japanese diplomatic corps.”

HYPO’s mission was only to track Japanese Naval ships. The Bomb Plot message was in a different cypher system than Purple, known as “J-19,” and was considered a secondary priority to breaking Purple traffic. The message had originally been copied on 24 September at the Army intercept site at Fort Shafter on Oahu. They lacked translators and machine support at Monitoring Station-5 (MS-5), and so the cable in question was shipped back to Washington for processing.

According to Elliot, the message was eventually deciphered a few weeks later and circulated to the Army and Navy Radio Intelligence brass. They determined the request for detailed anchorage positions was routine and the message was then filed away without action.

It did not come to light until the Pearl Harbor inquiries were held- the first in the wake of the attack, and the second, more elaborate one, after the war was over and the sense of urgency slightly less.

Later, when the existence of the messages were revealed, Rochefort himself was not confidant that he would have recognized the Bomb Plot message as significant. He remarked that he might have just chalked it up to the obsessive nature of Japanese collection philosophy.

That was emphatically not true for Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lt. Gen. Short were, since they had already been railroaded and scapegoated. Both were back in Washington before the existence of the Bomb Plot message was revealed to either. Eddie Layton would probably have been the one to bring it to Kimmel as his Fleet Intelligence Officer, but it never made it back to Hawaii.

Nor did the high level Japanese diplomatic traffic transmitted in the Purple system. Richmond Kelly Turner made sure those messages did not get to Admiral Kimmel- including the ones that directed Japanese diplomatic staff to have things wrapped up by the end of November 1941. The Kido Butai, the IJN Main Body, sortied for Pearl on the 26th of that month.

At the dawn of the age of machine encryption, special machines had been constructed to assist the laborious process of breaking the contents of the messages- there are some great stories to tell about black-bag jobs and the like conducted by Naval Intelligence to enable the penetration of the codes. Station CAST in the Philippines had one. Station NEGAT in Washington had one.

The one intended for Pearl was in Bletchley Park in the UK. There is a story about that, too, and maybe we will get back to Beach Gradients one of these mornings soon.

But if anyone tells you that Joe Rochefort was wrong, or that the guys in Australia had anything to do with Jasper Holmes and his great idea, just tell them they are pompous partisan windbags.

Oh, and it is good to have friends. Thanks to that, I can give you a look at two of the Great Americans who labored in The Dungeon in the basement of the 11th Naval District at Pearl Harbor:

IMG_2117   IMG_2118

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra


(The Usual Suspects at the Amen Corner of the Willow Bar. Mac took the picture).

This is about mysteries- and personal Crusades. Mac had one- getting Joe Rochefort the Distinguished Service Medal. For VADM Earl Frank “Rex” Rectanus, it was to get justice for our only MIA intelligence officer from the Indo-china conflict.

Mac had some back problems last week, but he came roaring back and was ready to hit the bar at Willow on Monday. The weather was loosening up just like his sacroiliac- unseasonably warm in Arlington, and the rising temperature featured the best of both worlds- the ladies shed their coats to revealing advantage but kept their tall leather boots with the spike heels.

“I was admiring the view on the way over,” I said. Mac had beat me to the bar by minutes, and he was sitting by Old Jim and Mary, who stopped on her way back from the office downtown.

“There was a cracked rail on the Metro,” she said. “Things were a mess all day.”
I nodded, grateful that I do not have to travel far to get to the office. I looked around for a pen, found that I had conveniently forgotten mine, and borrowed one from Katya, whose dark-eyed beauty graced the business end of the bar along with Tinkerbelle and Jasper and the lovely Liz-with-an-S. “So,” I said to Mac, grabbing a stack of napkins, “Where were we?”

The door to the bar swung open with a rush and in walked Point Loma with Jiffy, another Midway sailor of our vintage in tow. I knew this was going to get complicated, particularly with both Johns, with and without H’s, and The Lovely Bea.

Mac is a babe magnet, for sure, and he was in fine fettle and thoroughly enjoying the first of his two Race 5 India Pale Ales. He cleared his throat and said, “I don’t know. What do you want to talk about?”

“Well, the big news is about Hawaii, and where we should stay if we go for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway this summer.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “The Hale Koa is all the way downtown, and the events are supposed to happen at Pearl Harbor.”

“I like the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton, too. That is where the Navy used to put us when they tented the houses to kill the monster cockroaches. The housing area at McGrew Point was built on landfill, and there was no way to really eradicate the things. They just moved from house to house.”

“I was always in quarters at Makalapa, on the rim of the Crater. It was nice to walk to work.”

“I bet. Kimo is out there now, in your old job as the Fleet Intelligence Officer. It will be good to see him again back in his element. And Admiral Paul, who works up at the PACOM HQ at Camp Smith. This will be fun if we can pull it off.”

“We will see,” said Mac. “Paul was leaving on official travel to Thailand, I think.”

“Should be time for COBRA GOLD,” I said, thinking of the best joint naval exercise in the world, since it normally came with a four-day port visit in Pattaya Beach. Colonel Ike was further down the bar, huddled with Jake. I pointed at him, saying: “Ike just got back from Cambodia. I have always wanted to go there.” Katya topped up my white wine. “And Laos, of course. Damn, there is a lot to see.”

Mac smiled. “I was one of the last Americans on the Plain of Jars,” he said. “That was the trip with Lt Gen Bennett when I was Chief of Staff at DIA. We were visiting the Ambassador, G. McMurtrie Godley, which made things confusing since we were both known as “Mac.” Everyone else knew him as “The Field Marshall,” since he was involved in everything going on in the country, political or military.”

“So, you were there just ahead of the Pathet Lao guerrillas?”

Mac nodded. “It seemed like a good idea to see the place while we could.”

“And now we can again,” I said. “I sort of feel like just heading west from Hawaii this summer.”

Mac took a sip of beer. “I think I have been to SE Asia for the last time,” he said. “That was the same trip we saw Admiral Rex in Saigon, and had dinner with him and Admiral Bud Zumwalt.”

I picked up my pen. “Wait,” I said, scribbling. “That is impossible. He was not Zumwalt’s Intelligence Officer then. He had PCS’d back to DC when you visited. I have talked to the guy that relieved him the year before. Rex was back here, working collections issues.”

(VADM Earl “Rex” Rectanus in Vietnam).

“That may well be, but when General Bennett and I walked into Zumwalt’s quarters, he was there, big as life. I sat between him and Bud.”
I screwed up my brow in puzzlement. “If he was there, and I believe you, Sir, that means something had caused him to be sent temporary duty from Washington, and it must have been something big that he did not mention to you.”

“Like the case of the missing Jack Graf,” said Mac. “But we have been down this rabbit hole before.”

“Jack’s loss was a major crusade for Rex in his later years. I learned a lot helping to research the available evidence on his POW-Missing in Action status. A lot of the Naval Intelligence guys obviously followed the case pretty closely, and they came close to rescuing him at least once, with the camp where they held him showing signs they had only left hours before.”

“Torture can make anyone talk,” I said. “I heard the SEALs even found some of the Viet Cong interrogator’s notes.”

Mac nodded thoughtfully. “That is why the whole shot-while-trying-to-escape and Jack’s body being buried in a place where the river washed it away is an interesting story.”

“Yeah. When I found out that Jack had been to the Kodak School to learn about how they were going to do electro-optical imagery from earth orbit before he went back to Vietnam I was stunned. They never let people with those clearances get far out of Saigon for fear they would be captured and compromise the biggest secret in the Intelligence Community. And then Jack parachutes down right into the middle of them after he got shot down.”

“Do you think Rex was in Saigon to do a damage assessment on his loss?” asked Mac.

“I don’t know, and if Jack was traded to the Soviets, we have lost our window of opportunity to find out from the KGB files.”

“I don’t suppose we will ever know the answer, but to get a technician who knew how the spy satellites really worked would have been worth a lot to the Russians.”
Mac shrugged. “Case closed, as far as the POW-MIA folks are concerned. But it would explain why Rex was there. The Navy would have been embarrassed at the screw-up that put Jack in a place where he could be captured.” Then we drifted away from mystery, and talked about other ones, cancer being one of them, according to my notes, and then about Mac’s top-ten recipes. “Eggplant Parmesan, hands down,” he aid. “I did all the cooking for the last few years that Billie was still living at home. I got pretty good at it. The stuff they serve at The Madison is abysmal. They don’t have a clue.”

I scribbled frantically. “I need the recipe,” I said. “I would like to try it. What else did you have in the rotation?”

“Chili con carne,” he said. “I have a recipe I invented myself. Spaghetti, apple crisp as a dessert.”

“No pear pies, like the ones from the C-rations on Guam.”

“No, definitely not. I don’t think I have had a pear of any kind since the War. And tenderloins. I would get the big ones form the Commissary- I would toss one in the over at 400 degrees for an hour, then turn it off an let it rest for an hour. Couldn’t miss. Perfect every time.”
“That sounds delicious,” I said.

“The kids liked a thing we called ‘Porcupine Balls.”

“That doesn’t sound very appetizing,” I said.

“Actually quite tasty. We used a pressure cooker. Dangerous things, and you had to watch them closely. I would take hamburger and shape them into meatballs mixed with regular white rice. When they cooked under pressure- I don’t recall how long, but not too long- the rice stuck out like the quills on a porcupine.”
I wrote it down. There were several other conversations in progress. Point Loma was talking about Ops Officers he had known on Midway, and Mary was saying why Bob Ryan the weatherman had changed stations, and why he got eased out of his old job at Channel 7.

The threads were all interesting, and I decided to stop writing and concentrate on the wine. Mac smiled. “Good, now that you are not writing things down, I have a story for you that you can’t tell.”

I put down my pen. “I am all ears,” I said.

It was an interesting story, and it is too bad I can’t tell you. But I promised. Life is interesting, you know? And like the Jack Graf story, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense. “What did Shakespeare say about life?” I asked Mac.

He smiled broadly. “A tale full of sound and fury,” he said.

I gestured at my notes. “And told by an idiot,” I said. “Who would be me.”

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Going Ashore

Editor’s Note: This popped out from some place it had been hiding, and I will drop it into it’s appropriate place in the time line. It describes the time that the new and energetic Chief of Naval Operations, Bud Zumwalt, was on a tear to clean house on the list of Navy Admirals. There was some stuff going on here in town, as well.

– Vic
Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.58.18 AM

June, 2011. It was a delightful afternoon at the Amen Corner of the Willow Bar. The usual suspects were drifting in and Old Jim anchored the bar at his customary stool at the apex. Mac had driven his champagne-colored Jaguar sedan across the street from his apartment in The Madison, the assisted-living high rise across Fairfax Drive.

We could have talked about Midway, since it was the anniversary- the 69th- of the Battle that made Mac’s team of code-breakers into legends in the Intelligence Community. But we had pretty much beat his war time stories to death and I wanted to hear about what came after Mac’s active duty time. I had a stack of pristine cocktail napkins and a pen. A glass of Willow’s Happy Hour White was near my right hand, and a thirst for both stories and some life-giving alcohol.

Mac was in his usual aloha shirt topped with a sport jacket, looking quite dapper as usual. He was on the wagon again due to the drugs the oncologist had prescribed him for the prostate thing and his heart, and Willow tried to make up for it by making his Virgin Mary into a veritable cornucopia of jumbo olives, celery, cherry tomatoes and a pickle spear.

“That looks like a salad more than a glass of tomato juice,” I said.

“Mac smiled. “I won’t have to have dinner at The Madison tonight, that is for sure,” he said with a chuckle.

“It is time to hear about your life after the Navy, after Bud Zumwalt made you go ashore and retire. We agreed we are not going to talk about the details of your second career, right?”

“Mostly. We can talk about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and things like that, but there are some matters that are still a little sensitive after all these years.”

“Like Project JENNIFER?” I said, using the code-word people know about from the press and not the real name of the program.

Mac would not bite and shook his head. “Nope, not going to go there. But I can talk about Bronson Tweedy. He was old school, and the strong right arm to Director Helms.”

“Helms was Director for longer than most, wasn’t he?”

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.58.31 AM
(CIA Director Richard Helms. Photo CIA).

“Yes. Mid-sixties right up to 1973. He was old school. He had been Naval Intelligence in New York City, working on the Eastern Sea Frontier plotting U-boats when a friend approached him to join the OSS’s Morale Operations Branch. They did the black propaganda. He was a Spook the rest of his life.”

“It is interesting that the Navy Reservists in New York were in the middle of everything, isn’t it?”

Mac smiled. “They were their own Navy, that is for sure. They ran the Lucky Luciano connection with the Mob to keep the docks safe from Axis saboteurs.”

“In real life a lot of them were prosecutors and cops and stuff, right?”

“It was all mixed up together, military, law enforcement and justice. It was actually sort of a parallel universe.”

“In addition to the usual counter-intelligence work, they ran the scientific exploitation of the former Nazi scientists out on Long Island after the war.”

“Yes, the projects that came out of the Castle were of extraordinary value to CNO Arleigh Burke, who was creating the Nuclear Navy.”

“But you went to work at F Street at the IC Staff?”

“Not at first, and that wasn’t the name. I think we were in the Original Headquarters Building at Langley. Long before there was a new one.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.58.42 AM
(CNO Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt. Phtoto USN).

He took a sip of his Virgin Mary and seemed to be concentrating on something far away. “I was still on active duty in the fall of 1969. Bud Zumwalt was on a tear to get every admiral who had been senior to him to retire.”

“I have heard about Zumwalt and his Z-grams and whiz kids. He really shook things up in the Navy after he was put in charge.”

“I didn’t want to go ashore, but the CNO wanted my number to promote my friend Rex to flag rank and that is just the way it was. There was no animosity between us; Rex was Zumwalt’s guy from his days at NAVFORV (Naval Forces Vietnam), and that is who he wanted to be the Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI).”

“It was in October 1969 that I was approached by Bronson Tweedy, who was Helm’s Deputy and a career Spook very much like him. He was born in London to American parents; he went to school there in the 1930s , and lived with a family in Germany to get acquainted with their customs, language and culture. He arrived to start his visit the day Adolf Hitler became chancellor. He was a Princeton guy with a degree in European history, and went into the advertising game at Benton and Bowles on Madison Avenue before the war. In 1942, he volunteered for Naval Intelligence and served in North Africa and Europe interrogating captured German U-boat crews.”

“Naval Intelligence again,” I said in wonder. “Was he part of that secret POW camp the Army ran down at Fort Hunt?”

Mac nodded. “I am not sure, but it would have been Bronson down to the ground. That was the interrogation program code-named ‘P.O. Box 1142’ used against prisoners who were deemed ‘high value,’ like U-boat commanders.”

“I have walked around the grounds where the camp was located. You would not have known anything happened there, since they tore everything down right after the war except the old Coastal Artillery batteries. It is an interesting story, and it was also probably a violation of the Geneva Convention. You know, there are still things that people don’t want to talk about that went on at the intersection of operations and maritime intelligence.”

“I agree. I touched a live wire one time from the early 1950s,” I said. “I was working on a story about a counterfeit ring in France in the 1950s a while back with Tom “Big Smoke” Duvall and touched a live wire. Tom told me to back off and tell the story the way he wanted it or drop it. It might have had something to do with the intelligence connection to Lucky Luciano and the Mob, but I don’t know for sure and I was smart enough not to ask.”

Mac nodded. “After the war, Bronson briefly returned to advertising before being recruited by the CIA. He served in Switzerland, and DC just as the Agency was being formed, and he was Chief of Station in Vienna and twice in London. Then he founded the Africa Division, which was a result of Eisenhower’s dislike for Patrice Lumumba.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.58.57 AM
(Congolese leader Patrice Lamumba. Photo AP).

“Did he have anything to do with the coup and Lumumba’s death? I remember the revelations about the rubber gloves and lethal toothpaste they were going to slip into the Congolese President’s bathroom. It was as cool an idea as the poisoned cigars they were going to try to get Castro to smoke.”

“I assume that is the case, but I didn’t have anything to do with it personally. And the toothpaste ploy makes sense. Lumumba did have a brilliant smile, from what I recall. He died right before John Kennedy was inaugurated, and Bronson was in Leopoldville around that time, but we never talked about the list of shady things that later came to be known as being part of the Agency’s Crown Jewels. After that, he was tapped to head the Eastern European Division. When Dick Helms was confirmed as Director in 1966, Bronson moved up to be Deputy.”

“There was something going on in those years,” I said. “I mean, someone got away with killing the President of the United States. The Warren Commission had so many glaring flaws that everyone suspected it was not the open and shut lone gunman that the Report claimed it was.”

“We have talked about that before,” he said, looking around to see if anyone seemed particularly interested in the topic. “I think there was a Texas connection. When Nixon came into office in 1968, his people immediately focused on the Intelligence Community. Henry Kissinger thought he had all the answers and viewed the Agency with condescension.”

“He still does, from what I hear.”

“He thought the boys from Langley were not sharing all that they knew with the Administration. Nixon felt that steadily increasing capabilities and costs directed toward IC functions should be yielding better analysis. Plus, the coup in Cambodia in ’70 caught everyone by surprise, and Nixon hated being surprised. “

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 8.59.06 AM
(James Schlesinger as SECDEF, 1970. Photo DoD).

“Since there did not appear to be a direct link between level of effort, and the money spent to produce it, Nixon commissioned James Schlesinger to conduct a survey of the IC. His chartered goal was to identify problems within the IC and recommend ideas for improvement.”

“I have been to that movie before. I think they are doing it again now,” I laughed.

“So all that is swirling around while I figure out what to do as I am being I am being pushed out of the Navy. Bronson must have heard about it on the grapevine. He gave me a call in October of 1969, and asked me to come down to the City Tavern Club on M Street and talk about a proposition he had for me.”

Prep work for the dinner trade complete, Willow Co-owner Tracy O’Grady came out to press the flesh with the usual suspects before the kitchen got busy with the dinner trade. She worked the Amen Corner there by the front window for a while as Old Jim showed her his latest flight of blank verse from the notebook he kept in his corduroy jacket. Jim is still quite the poet. My pen was still poised. “Ok, Sir, you retired in 1971?”

(CIA Deputy Broson Tweedy).

“Yes. Novermber of 1971. Bronson Tweedy called me and asked if I could meet him for lunch at the City Tavern Club on M Street in Georgetown, which I agreed to do. He liked that place- very traditional Washington institution. At lunch he said, “In view of the Schlesinger study making these demands on what the newly established Director of Central Intelligence is supposed to do, the DCI has decided reluctantly that he will have to expand his budget staff to carry out more coordination of the intelligence community. And among other things we’d like you to come and and work for us.”

“I asked him at that point if he wanted me to come in uniform or if he wanted me to come as a civilian. He said, “We want you as a civilian.””

“When was that, Admiral?”

“This was probably the first week of November. Bronson said: “We’d like to have you on board by the first of December.” I told him that I doubted that I could get “unhooked” from the Navy that quickly, but I would try. After a pleasant lunch, I returned to the Pentagon and made inquiries, and the first thing I was confronted with was that General Bennett, the Director of DIA, was away on a trip. I was told that there was no way that I could send my request for retirement without his endorsement and agreement, which was obvious. So, it being readily apparent that I couldn’t carry get on the retired list by the first of December, the earliest I would be able to do it would be the first of January the following year. That was agreed to, and that’s what happened. As soon as General Bennett returned from his trip, I had my letter on his desk requesting retirement. He endorsed it, I went through the necessary procedures, and I was retired as of the 31st of December 1971 and went on the retired list on the 1st of January 1972.”

“I was still worried about the Draft then,” I said with a sigh. “I was dodging the draft and hoping I wouldn’t get nailed as soon as I graduated. Did you have any regrets about going to the CIA after all those years in Naval Intelligence?”

“No. It was a good offer. I don’t remember the pay scale at the time, but Bronson Tweedy’s offer to me was that, “We will take you on as a contract employee. We’ll give you a one-year contract renewable. And we will pay you the equivalent of a GS-16 salary.”

“That would be a General Schedule employee equivalent to a Rear Admiral, right?”
“Yes. The concept of the Senior Executive Service did not exist then. Compensation was about the same as what I was making from the Navy. I knew that I would have to forego part of my retired pay. I think the formula at the time was that I’d have to lose half of my retired Navy pay while I was in government employ and have that restored to the full annuity upon leaving government service. But I would concurrently be getting a full civil service salary or salary from the DCI, which would really give me a pay-and-a-half and make me a real true “double dipper,” a status for which I was accused of many times.”

“It always seems to irritate some people around here when somebody in the military finally gets a decent salary. With full military retirement and a job, you can actually afford to live in DC. At least you did not have to go into bid-and-proposal work with the rest of us Beltway Bandits.”

“I am thankful for that,” he said, taking a nibble of the celery stalk in his Virgin Mary. “New Year’s Day of that year fell on a Sunday, so we had Monday off to observe the holiday. I believe I retired on a Friday, and went to work at CIA headquarters on Tuesday. I know I had a three-day break between careers Time enough to have a New Year’s party and recover from it.”

“That only means you were not trying hard enough,” I said with a snort. “You told me about the party the senior officers had at Joe Rochefort’s house during the War after the word came back that Station HYPO had been right, and the Japanese were shattered at the Battle of Midway.”

Mac nodded solemnly. “We did not see some of them for a few days. But this was no war and we were all a little older. When I arrived at the DCI headquarters, I first went into a group that was headed by J.J. Hitchcock, who was one of my previous friends in naval service.”

“More Navy” I said, underlining my notes.

“Yes. I had first met J.J. at the Naval Security Station back in ’47-48 when he was doing some research work on indications and warning. J.J. had become the I&W expert for the DCI over the years. He was instrumental in setting up the Watch Committee and doing the Weekly Review of worldwide Indicators and he issued the weekly Watch Report that was a major instrument of power in the government during those years. By then, though, J.J. wasn’t doing that kind of work any longer. He was simply doing staff work.”

“Did you work on the 6th Floor at Langley? That is where we had our offices on the Community Management Staff after they changed the name again.”

Mac looked contemplative. “Could have been. That seems right.”

“That is the subject of the first major review of the way the Intelligence Community worked. There was some thought that once the war in Vietnam was transferred back to the Republic of Vietnam, there would be plenty of budget authority to transfer to other more strategic tasking.”

“I have heard about the Williamsburg Conference when the big post-Vietnam drawdown was going on. The military divided up all the responsibilities for the DoD components of the IC.”

”That came later,” said Mac. “Once we had pretty much extricated our forces in the field in 1973. The Schlesinger report landed on our desks for implementation, with some lofty observations. It claimed the line between ‘military’ and ‘non-military”’ intelligence had faded; scientific and technical intelligence with both civilian and military applications had become the main battery for the community. All the other stuff was sorted according to the people that used it. The strategic stuff was for the national decision makers, and the tactical stuff they didn’t care about was for the regional and functional Joint Commanders.”

“Like CINCPAC and the strategic Air Command?”

“Precisely. The President and the National Security Council with Kissinger were served mostly by CIA for the national-level stuff, though NSA was the critical collector for special SIGINT. But there was more, and it was urgent. The rate at which the Soviets were cranking out innovative technology revolutionized the intelligence cycle.”

“We called it Tasking, Production, Exploitation and Dissemination,” I said. “TPED for short. I don’t know what they call it now. Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze, and Disseminate?”

“I can’t keep up with it,” said Mac with a lopsided smile. “That is the same concept we used starting with Operation intelligence in the Pacific War. Nothing changes except the acronyms.”

“So that is the 1970s under Richard Nixon at Langley.”

“Yep. Before we moved downtown and the two Congressional Panels blew the bottom out of everything. That is worth a conversation all on its own.”

I underlined a couple of Mac’s quotes on the square white cocktail napkin in front of me, and added the Congressional Pike and Church Commissions to my notes. “I will do my research, Sir, and be prepared to discuss them when you feel up to it.”

“I am always ready,” said Mac. “Those were some interesting times.”

I smiled and waved at Big Jim the bartender for the check. “Isn’t that a Chinese curse, Admiral?”

“Only if you are uninterested,” he said with a grin.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Fall Back


I had the privilege of attended the wedding of colleague’s lovely daughter yesterday- it was a delightful afternoon, and the skies did not darken nor the rain fell until the ceremony was done and the wedding party pictures were safely digitized. Then we were all safe by the bar.

It was a dark, dank black night, so we all stayed at the Embassy Suites near the venue at the River Creek Club, where we looked out over the Potomac to the wooded hills of Maryland.

Due to the joyful but sometime pernicious temptations of the open bar, a bus was provided to avoid untoward incidents and protect the residents of Loudoun County.

Awaking refreshed and content on this Fall Back Sunday morning, I gathered up the wreckage of my grown-up clothes and checked out after a remarkably excellent breakfast.
I returned fairly early to Arlington, but was suffering from chronologic dysphoria, and resolved to force myself to “Fall back” as directed and change the displays on all the clocks in the residence. I was looking at the display on the dashboards of the Panzer and the Police Car.

At that point my resolve began to harden.

I recall the story about the Marines at Belleau Wood. As they arrived, they found French troops retreating through their lines. A French colonel scribbled a note to the Devil Dog company CO, Capt. Lloyd William of the 51st Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The Marine looked at the Frenchman coldly and said, “Retreat, Hell! We just got here.” No fall back for the Marines, and none here.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I wandered from the parking lot at Big Pink through all the rooms of my little apartment. As I went, I counted the two automotive clocks- neither working the same, of course- and two on the media center, two more clock radios, the Soviet “Krasniy Oktyabr” naval clock in the bedroom and I am sure there are more. Network time on all the devices changed themselves, thankfully., but I think it is time to take a stand.

But that said, I am prepared to fight injustice. I am seriously considering that I may not “Spring Ahead” in the Spring. People will just have to accept that I intend to be on Central Socotra time now, and half the year I will be an hour late for meetings and appointments.

Oh, and yeah, I spent the afternoon mapping the sections of the unorthodox biography of Admiral Mac Showers. Here is the table of contents for the Post War/Cold War period:

Table of Contents
Cocktails With the Admiral, Part Two:
Cold War, Vietnam and life in the Swamp

Tightening the Belt
Revolt of the Admirals
Liking Ike
Witch Hunts
Mac and Liz
Regime Change
The White Palace
The High Line
The Clip-On Bow Tie
The First Fleet
Old Navy
Det Alpha
Why One
Space Age
Blue Ribbon Panels
Higher Education
Way Down Yonder- In Vietnam
What Nedzi Knew
Zumwalt’s Whiz Kids

Arrias: A Great Society?

Begin with two assumptions: 1) American society today is more liberal today than it was 75 years ago, and 2) that shift, which in some sense paralleled LBJ’s Great Society, stems from a deliberate effort to change society – ostensibly better.

So, has society changed for the better? The thought occurred to me as I listened to the latest news, to include reports that prominent men in Hollywood were taking advantage of young women (and young men).

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about such behavior in Hollywood; the phrase “casting couch” has a sullied connotation that includes virtually all of the behavior being discussed, behavior that predates Hollywood.

Certainly, there are areas where society has improved with regard to minorities and women: the equal application of the law with regard to hiring and firing, ownership of property, access to education, etc., in these areas and others society has changed for the better, improvements that are obvious on their face.

But what about other areas? One of the mantras of the 60s and 70s, that continues to this day with only minor changes, was that women needed to be liberated. That translated into two interwoven story lines that needed changing: women as victims of men (sexual assault) and the restrictions of marriage. Both needed to be fought if we were to change society for the better.

There’s little argument that the way women are portrayed by those who would set our societal norms (Hollywood, the Media and academia) – has changed significantly. And, as any society responds to pressure, it would seem that society has responded. The question is, has the response been of benefit?

We all know the story on divorce: from the late 1800s until the 1960s divorce rates steadily rose from 3% in 1880 to 29% in 1944. Rates spiked to 43% in 1946, settled into the ‘20s’ during the 1950s, then started rising again in the late 1960s. By 1980 52% of marriages ended in divorce. Divorce rates have remained around 50% since then.

Consider the rate of rapes in the US over the last 80 years. (The figures include forcible rape, statutory rape, assault to commit rape and attempted rape): during the 1930s rape rates were regularly below 6 per 100,000. Rates jumped during the war years to over 10 per 100,000, dropped below 10 by 1960, but climbed precipitously in 1964 to 11.4 rapes per 100,000, and then continued to climb every year until 1980 when the rate hit 36.8 rapes per 100,000. Rates peaked in 1990 at nearly 43, then came back down and remained in the low 30s for more than a decade beginning in late 90s. But they’ve started to climb again. Figures for 2016 show the rate has increased in the last several years and is once again above 40.

Or, consider the black community in the US: how has the black community benefited?

In the 1940s some 15-16% of black children were born into single parent homes. By the 1960s, as Senator D.P. Moynihan pointed out, a crisis was brewing, and some 23% of black children were born into single parent homes. The federal government stepped in. Today, that number sits above 70% and has for some time.

Black unemployment was, from the late 1800s until World War II, essentially the same as the overall unemployment rate. Following the war black unemployment rates separated from the rest of the nation and have since then have been roughly twice the stated unemployment rate. (The current national unemployment rate is 4.1%, black unemployment sits at 7.5%).

Social engineering has become accepted, and the government today, despite caterwauling that President Trump is unraveling this or that, is huge, intrusive, and continues to grow. The social engineers defend this growth, and their actions, by claiming this will make society better.

But the facts don’t provide a convincing backdrop for their monologue. Rather, the facts provide, at the very best, a mixed message. Trying to make society better is a noble goal. But perhaps its time we stop looking at things through the lens of political ideology and start looking at the facts. There are some real problems in our society, problems made worse at least in part by the aggressive social engineering of the last 50 years.

If we’re really interested in making things better maybe it’s time we take a hard look at these numbers and figure out what they tell us about our current actions.

Copyright 2017 Arrias

Table of Contents

Just when we thought we had got the last of of the 2016 election scraped off our shoes, some other craziness comes up. Latest is the excerpt from former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile’s new book that looks a lot like someone is being thrown under the wheels of the Scoopy Van.

We will see who else is going to speak outagainst the Clintons- there has been nothing like this since the people from Arkansas swept into the capital playing in 1992 playing “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” the anthem from Fleetwood Mac.

Well, here is what I have working on- section one of three in the unconventional biography of a Great American. When I compiled some of these into the 25th Anniversary edition of Mac’s War Years in the Pacific, I had the quaint notion that I would order them in chronologic order- that is, in the order in which they were actually captured in an interview.

At the time, Mac and I agreed that the whimsy and juxtaposition of events would capture what the whole project actually was like. Mac often wanted to talk about what he was interested at the moment, and amid the organized chaos of the Willow bar, it felt right. We are going to be a little more linear in this outing.

The second and third parts- the Cold War and his time as a caregiver, respectively, were essentially in the order in which the history was compiled. That made for some cutting-and-pasting to put the war back in order.

I m in a three piece suit and outré classic 1970’s bow tie. as I write. My Colleague’s daughter is getting married at a venue out in Leesburg this afternoon, open bar, no expense spared. Private coach from hotel to the venue, so no impaired driving to spoil the fun, and a hotel in which to sleep it off.

I hope to be both sober and able to get to work on compiling part two and three tomorrow, convert the manuscript to portable Document File and then actually read the thing for continuity and completeness. I do get the feeling that things are lurching to some sort of conclusion. More on that tomorrow, I hope.



Table of Contents
Part One: War in the Pacific
The Day After
Written Approval
Dumb Luck
Welcome Aboard
Pacific Winds
Up Periscope
Foxing the Sun
With the Golden Pelicans at Midway
None Dare Call It…
The War in the Navy
Branches and Sequels
Gag Rule
Jasper, Mush and Mac
Sitting under a tree
First to the Blackboard
Pear Pie
Under construction
Iron Pants and Cherry Pie
Operation Starvation
Ernie (and Mac’s) War
You Have No Idea
Potsdam and Monkfish
Cagey Five
Put Up Your Dukes
Staff Work
Fish and Chips
Willow History
Three Feathers and a Flag