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Operation Commando Hunt was a covert U.S. Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial interdiction campaign that took place during the Vietnam War. The operation began on 11 November 1968 and ended on 29 March 1972. The objective of the campaign was to prevent the transit of People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) personnel and supplies on the logistical corridor known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail (the Truong Son Road to the North Vietnamese) that ran from the southwestern Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) through the southeastern portion of the Kingdom of Laos and into the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

Interdiction (1964–1968)

Systematic U.S. aerial operations against the Ho Chi Minh Trail had begun on 14 December 1964 with Operation Barrel Roll. With the onset of Operation Rolling Thunder, the strategic aerial bombardment of North Vietnam in April 1965, the U.S. also expanded its interdiction effort in Laos by dividing the Barrel Roll area into two sections on 3 April. The former operation would continue in northeastern Laos while Operation Steel Tiger was initiated in the southern panhandle. The American headquarters in Saigon requested, and received, authorization to control bombing in the area adjacent to South Vietnam's northern provinces in Operation Tiger Hound on 3 December 1965. The U.S. Air Force had already begun to up the ante in its anti-infiltration campaigns by unleashing B-52 Stratofortress bombers against the trail in December 1965. From April through June 1966 there were 400 B-52 anti-infiltration sorties against the system. PAVN countered this effort by concentrating more anti-aircraft artillery weapons within its logistical network. Between 1964 and the end of 1967 there were 103,148 tactical air sorties launched against the trail. These missions were supplemented by 1,718 B-52 strikes. During the same time frame 132 U.S. aircraft or helicopters were shot down over Laos.
And so matters stood until the massive PAVN/NLF Tet Offensive of early 1968. Although a stunning triumph for American and South Vietnamese forces, Tet became a political disaster. The American public (who had been reassured by President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Pentagon that the communists were incapable of launching any such actions) were stunned by the size and ferocity of the offensive. The light at the end of the tunnel had been extinguished, if it had ever existed at all. The president, in an attempt to nudge Hanoi to the negotiating table, decreed an end to bombing operations in North Vietnam north of the 20th parallel, effectively ending Rolling Thunder on 11 November 1968.
What this effectively did was shift the bombing campaign southwestward to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The interdiction campaign against the enemy logistics corridor was massively expanded due to the increased number of U.S. aircraft (approximately 500 planes) made available by the closure of Rolling Thunder. By November 1968 bombing missions over southern Laos had climbed by 300 percent, from 4,700 sorties in October to 12,800 in November. By the end of the conflict, U.S. and South Vietnamese aircraft would drop over three million tons of ordnance on Laos, three times the total tonnage dropped on North Vietnam. The new campaign against the trail was unprecedented, and not just due to the numbers sorties flown or munitions expended. The U.S. was going to field its latest technology in its attempt to make the North Vietnamese pay for their continued effort to unite the two Vietnams.

Igloo White

As early as 1966 Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara had become increasingly disenchanted with the bombing of the north. No amount of pressure, it seemed, could either drive Hanoi to the negotiating table or slow the flow of PAVN supplies and men to the south. He then began to consider an alternative in the form of a physical strongpoint/electronic barrier to infiltration that would stretch below the Demilitarized Zone from the coast to the Laotian frontier (and possibly beyond). This was the origin of the so-called "McNamara Fence."
The physical barrier was to be backed up by air-dropped and hand-emplaced acoustic and seismic sensors that would provide both warning and location of enemy movements. A scientific group was established to find or develop the technology for what was initially titled Practice Nine. On 17 June 1967 the title of the program was altered to Illinois City and on 15 July to Dyemarker, the electronic barrier portion of which was designated Muscle Shoals. In June 1968 it was renamed for the last time, becoming Operation Igloo White.  Igloo White consisted of three interrelated parts. The battery-operated sensors would be monitored by an airborne command and control center (ABCCC), which would relay the information to an Infiltration Surveillance Center (ISC), located at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Computers at the ISC would collate and analyze the data and then relay target coordinates to the ABCCC which would, in turn, direct strike aircraft to the targets. The hand emplacement of sensors and bomb damage assessment missions were to be carried out by the reconnaissance teams of the highly classified Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (SOG), which already operated "over the fence" in Laos. Construction began on the ISC on 6 July 1967 and was completed within three months.
The anti-infiltration effort would be supported by MSQ-77 Combat Skyspot, a ground-based radar bombing system first introduced in Southeast Asia in 1966 to direct B-52 strikes in poor weather or in complete darkness. This system was utilized to direct one-quarter of all strike missions conducted by U.S. aircraft during the conflict. Combat Skyspot was complemented by expanding the radio-based LORAN system utilized by other strike aircraft.
A shakedown of the system took place during the first two weeks of November 1967 and it seemed to work. The PAVN siege against U.S. Marines at the Khe Sanh Combat Base, in western Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, provided the opportunity for an operational test. The American command in Saigon launched Operation Niagara, the largest tactical and B-52 operation thus far in the conflict, to support the Marines at Khe Sanh. By the end of January 1968, Muscle Shoals had emplaced 316 sensors in 44 strings to detect North Vietnamese troop movements in the vicinity of the combat base. The operation was deemed a success, but locating and targeting enemy troops moving toward a fixed location like Khe Sanh was not the same as doing it on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
And there were already problems with the system. The anti-personnel portion of the program had already failed. The presence and movements of enemy troops were to be detected by the utilization of small, wide-area Gravel mines that were to alert the acoustic sensors.  Unfortunately, the mines rapidly deteriorated in the heat and humidity of Laos, nullifying their effectiveness. The focus of any interdiction campaign, therefore, would have to concentrate on PAVN supply transportation. The war against trucks was about to begin.
The immediate result of the 11 November bombing halt was that the average daily sortie rate over southern Laos rose to 620 per day before the new campaign had even begun. The freeing of aircraft (Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps) that had previously been participating in Rolling Thunder, when combined with those from Steel Tiger and Tiger Hound (which were both superseded by Commando Hunt), promised to create an interdiction effort of unprecedented scale. The new sensor-directed effort would see, for the first time, continuous round-the-clock bombing of the communist logistical system. During daylight, the missions would be performed by propeller-driven and jet fighter-bombers and B-52s. At night, fixed-wing gunships would prowl for prey. The new effort would also be supported by aerial defoliation missions (Operation Ranch Hand) and the cloud-seeding weather modification effort known as Operation Popeye (see Ho Chi Minh Trail). On 15 November 1968 the Seventh Air Force was granted authorization for launch of Commando Hunt.

It was decided to divide Commando Hunt into numerically designated phases that reflected the seasonal weather patterns in southern Laos. Odd numbered campaigns took place during PAVN's high activity period, which occurred during the dry season (November–May). Even numbered campaigns took place during the more dormant wet season (June–October). It was never assumed that the campaigns would halt the North Vietnamese logistical effort, so the goals of the campaigns were limited. They were to have two objectives:
First, to reduce the enemy's logistical flow by "substantially increasing the time needed to move supplies from North Vietnam to the south;" second, "to destroy trucks and supply caches along the roads, pathways, and streams and in the truck parks and storage areas along the Trail."
Due to the failure of the anti-personnel portion of the system, the targets of Commando Hunt were trucks, the infrastructure of the trail (truck parks, supply caches, POL storage, etc.), the terrain itself (by creating landslides to destroy sections of the system), and finally, the ever-increasing numbers of North Vietnamese anti-aircraft weapons.
It was a daunting challenge. The Ho Chi Minh Trail (controlled by the 259th PAVN Logistical Group) consisted of a labyrinth of dirt roads, bicycle and foot paths, bypasses, storage areas, workshops, and truck parks that stretched from the mountain passes of North Vietnam, through the panhandle of Laos, and into east central Cambodia. The entire system was elaborately camouflaged from aerial observation and was constantly being maintained, expanded, and improved. By 1968 PAVN was relying less on manual labor and increasingly utilizing modern construction equipment. The CIA estimated during the year the 259th Group was using 20 bulldozers, eleven road graders, three rock crushers and two steamrollers on the network. Manual labor was still provided by an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 Laotians (mostly pressed into service) and North Vietnamese volunteers.
By the end of Commando Hunt I, the first dry season offensive of the campaign (15 November 1968 to 20 April 1969), the Air Force estimated that 7,322 enemy trucks had been destroyed. At the rate of attrition claimed in December, however, the PAVN transportation network should have been destroyed in only a month and a half. It also claimed that 20,723 enemy had been killed by air, 15 percent of the total number believed to have been travelling on, operating, or defending the trail." 56 allied aircraft were shot down during the operation by an estimated 600 communist anti-aircraft weapons. The end of Rolling Thunder, it seemed, had freed up not only U.S. aircraft, but also allowed more PAVN anti-aircraft units to move south to defend the trail. During the year the North Vietnamese began deploying longer-ranged and radar-directed 85 and 100 mm guns.
For the U.S. program there were, of course, teething troubles. There was a lack of sufficient numbers of sensor strings and controlling the number of aircraft available for the missions proved problematic. These difficulties could be remedied. Commando Hunt II (1 May through 31 October 1969), however, was thrown off track by phenomena that the Air Force could do absolutely nothing about. The first wet season offensive was hampered by atrocious weather, especially heavy rain (48 inches of rain in July alone). The real problem for U.S. planners was a lack of sufficient intelligence on the numbers of infiltrators, the amount of supplies being transported, the number of trucks operating, the specific locations of targets in a rapidly changing environment, and the infrastructure of the system. This lack of real intelligence forced the Air Force to basically take its best guess as to PAVN numbers, intentions, and limitations. For instance, Air Force intelligence claimed that 9,012 enemy trucks were destroyed during 1969. Yet, an even lesser estimate of trucks destroyed by the Defense Intelligence Agency only resulted in their computer model reaching zero (where the enemy was supposed to be out of trucks) no fewer than 14 times during the same time period.
The Air Force's computing of communist personnel losses, according to Air Force historian Bernard Nalty was "based on so many assumptions that the end product represented an exercise in metaphysics rather than mathematics." He was seconded by historian Earl Tilford who explained that
"Americans expected progress, or at least quantifiable measures of success…It is in their nature to do so. Commando Hunt provided the figures that sated that appetite. Productivity epitomized what the war had become: an exercise in management effectiveness."
It was, however, difficult for the Air Force to do otherwise. Observation of the trail from the air was difficult at best. Human intelligence was provided by CIA-backed Laotian irregulars and Thai volunteers operating from the western side of the system while the eastern side was covered by SOG. The depth of penetration by these reconnaissance efforts was hampered by the same man who had the last word in the bombing effort, Ambassador William H. Sullivan in Vientiane. The ambassador (with the full backing of the State Department and the CIA) maintained a firm hold over all military operations conducted within the supposedly "neutral" Kingdom of Laos. All targets had to be pre-approved either by Sullivan himself or by the air attaché within Project 404, the understaffed U.S. military operations center within the embassy.
By the end of the year the Americans felt that they were better prepared to deliver destruction to the trail system. During Commando Hunt III (1 November 1969 to 30 April 1970), the Air Force claimed that 6,428 enemy trucks destroyed and another 3,604 damaged. 60 aircraft were shot down during this phase of the campaign by an estimated 743 anti-aircraft weapons. This increased number of aircraft losses forced the Air Force to decree that flak suppression missions would accompany the bombers on missions over the trail. Armed with cluster bomb units (CBUs), the fighter bombers were poised to pounce upon any enemy anti-aircraft positions identified by other aircraft.
On the other side of the fence, the North Vietnamese transported and/or stored 70,000 tons of supplies in 3,000 trucks with a net loss of 13.5 percent during the year. During the same period about 80,000 PAVN troops made the trip south. A new North Vietnamese logistical effort, discovered by U.S. intelligence in late 1968, was a petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL) pipeline running southwest from the North Vietnamese city of Vinh. By early the following year the pipeline had crossed the Laotian frontier and by summer it had reached Muong Nong and the approaches to the Ashau Valley. The plastic line, assisted by numerous small pumping stations, could transfer diesel fuel, gasoline, and kerosene all in the same pipe.
From October 1969 until April 1970 (probably anticipating the loss of their Cambodian supply conduit the North Vietnamese launched "probably their most intense logistical effort of the whole war." The motivating factor became evident in April, when U.S. and South Vietnamese ground forces launched an incursion into the PAVN Base Areas lining the eastern border of Cambodia. Although a huge haul of enemy weapons, munitions, and foodstuffs was captured and although this effort did buy time for the new American policies of withdrawal and Vietnamization, the downside of the operation for the Cambodian people was horrendous. The U.S. also assumed an abiding responsibility for the survival of the Lon Nol regime and this siphoned off air support from Commando Hunt III (1 May through 9 October 1970).
Missions conducted by CIA-backed Laotian irregulars and Thai volunteers operating on the western flank of the trail (and the Lon Nol coup in Cambodia) prompted PAVN to launch offensives in Laos to protect and expand their system. As a result, the North Vietnamese seized the towns of Saravane, Paksong, and Attopeu. Although fighting continued in these areas, what had once been a 30-mile (48 km) wide logistical corridor was now expanded to 90 miles (140 km). Meanwhile, PAVN was also expanding its other methods of logistical transportation.
In 1967 U.S. recon photographs uncovered an unusual sight. POL barrels were spotted floating in the waters of the Kong River south of Ban Bak, Laos. Soon, PAVN was making use of the Banghiang River which flowed southwestward from the Demilitarized Zone all the way to the Mekong River, for the same purposes. The watertight drums were launched en masse from tributary streams into the main channel, floated downstream, and were recovered by systems of nets and booms. The Kaman River was added to the system in 1969. By 1970 the North Vietnamese were making intense use of streams and rivers to supplement their logistical route, especially in the rainy season, when the water levels rose and the roadways became bottomless mires. During one two and one-half month period during 1969, over 10,000 POL barrels were spotted in the waterways of southeastern Laos.
The Air Force estimated that during the year there were 3,375 trucks working the trail system in southern Laos, yet it claimed that 12,368 enemy trucks were destroyed during the year. During the same time frame, the CIA estimated that only 6,000 trucks existed in the entire North Vietnamese inventory. The buildup of PAVN anti-aircraft defenses continued to increase. During Commando Hunt III the Seventh/Thirteenth Air Force estimated that 700 23-mm and 37 mm weapons, most of them radar-guided, were defending the trail system in southern Laos.
Beginning in 1967 the Air Force had fielded a whole series of fixed-wing, side-firing gunships for nighttime interdiction missions. This evolution in aircraft was a "dynamic reaction between opposing forces which led to a refinement of the tactics of employing round the clock interdiction and prompted development of specialized night attack systems."
As the operation progressed, newer technologies (low-light television cameras, infrared vision devices, side-looking radars, radar jamming equipment, and computer-directed fire control systems) were also fielded to improve the performance of these aircraft. The apex of these developments was reached by the deployment of the AC-130E Spectre, a conversion of the venerable C-130 Hercules cargo transport, in February 1968. By 1970 the Spectre had become the most formidable and productive weapon platform fielded by the Air Force in its war against trucks.The PAVN 377 Air Division's history notes "Just one hour when AC130s did not operate over our chokepoints was both precious and rare."

During Commando Hunt V (10 October 1970 to 30 April 1971) Air Force intelligence claimed 16,266 trucks destroyed and another 7,700 damaged during the dry season offensive. The Seventh Air Force headquarters in Saigon, chagrined by the enormity of the figures, recomputed them and lowered the estimate to 11,000 destroyed and 8,000 damaged. In fact, there were only 2,500–3,000 PAVN trucks operating on the trail during 1970–1971, each carrying approximately four tons of materiel.
77,000 combat sorties were flown during the offensive while the number of communist anti-aircraft weapons defending it reached 1,500. Although only 11 aircraft were brought down by air defense fire during the dry season, this lower level of destroyed aircraft was not the result of any U.S. countermeasures. The lower figures were attributed to the fact that many PAVN air defense units had been moved to the Tchepone area to support the counteroffensive against the South Vietnamese Operation Lam Son 719.
The interdiction effort during Commando Hunt VI (15 May through 31 October 1971) was thrown of by Lam Son 719 during April and May. During the offensive, 80 percent of all U.S. aerial sorties were directed to support it. This highlighted what was now rapidly becoming a dual dilemma for the Air Force: First, the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Southeast Asia meant that there were fewer and fewer air assets available with which to conduct more and more missions. During Commando Hunt, for example, 1,777 aircraft were utilized during the campaign. By the time of the opening of Commando Hunt VI, that figure had decreased to 1,199 aircraft and this number dropped to 953 before that phase was completed; Second, this state of affairs was exacerbated by the withdrawal of sorties to conduct missions for Operation Freedom Deal in Cambodia.
During the year the North Vietnamese transported or stored 60,000 tons of supplies with a net loss rate of 2.07 percent. During the same period, 195,000 PAVN replacements moved through the system to the southern battlefields. As during the previous year, PAVN continued to expand the system. By the end of May the North Vietnamese had occupied Muong Phalane, Ban Houei Sai, and Paksong. They also retook Attopeu, Saravane, and Ban Thateng, cementing their hold on the strategic Bolovens Plateau of south central Laos. Commando Hunt VI, launched during the wet season, was hampered by heavy rain and the arrival of two typhoons which threw off both the PAVN logistical effort and U.S. attempts to interdict it.

Air Force planners believed that Operation Commando Hunt VII (1 November 1971 to 29 March 1972) would be the most fruitful of the entire campaign. During this dry season phase, the U.S. averaged 182 attack fighters, 13 fixed-wing gunships, and 21 B-52 sorties per day. As a result of this all-out effort, U.S. intelligence analysts claimed 10,689 North Vietnamese trucks were destroyed and credited AC-130E Spectres alone with 7,335 of these kills. During the campaign, however, ominous signs appeared in the mountains of Laos. On 10 January 1972. A U.S. 0–1 observation aircraft, flying near the Mu Gia Pass, dodged the first surface-to-air missile(SAM) launched from Laotian soil. This event, and others like it, were compounded by the crossing into Laotian airspace of North Vietnamese MiG fighters. Both of these threats tended to force off B-52 and tactical air strikes. During the campaign, ten American aircraft were lost to SAMs (mostly SA-2 Guideline)s and another thirteen were lost to more conventional weapons.
One new innovation that took place during the campaign was renewed interest in personnel infiltration. This aspect of the PAVN effort had been virtually ignored since the initiation of the Commando Hunt in 1968. An intelligence collection and technical reassessment effort invited the Air Force to make another attempt to force the North Vietnamese pay for their effort in blood instead of in imported supplies and trucks. The result was Island Tree the launching of a personnel anti-infiltration effort during Commando Hunt VII. Unfortunately, it was too little and far too late.
American analysts were elated when they discovered that the number of trucks ordered by North Vietnam from its communist allies in late 1971 exceeded those of previous years. 6,000 vehicles had been ordered from the Soviet Union alone (as opposed to the usual 3,000) and this seemed to indicate that the enemy was hurting for transportation and that the campaign was working. However, since 80 percent of the vehicles arrived in North Vietnam at least six weeks before the launching of the Nguyen Hue Offensive (known to the U.S. as the Easter Offensive, they probably reflected anticipated losses.
Commando Hunt VII came to a close with the launching of the PAVN offensive mentioned above. This conventional attack, backed by armour, heavy artillery, and anti-aircraft units (including SAMs) rolled over the two northernmost provinces of South Vietnam while two smaller offensives were launched in central and southern parts of the country. All U.S. and South Vietnamese air assets were diverted to first slowing, and then halting the onslaught. They were then utilized in the first sustained bombing of North Vietnam since late 1968 (see Operation Linebacker). Interdiction missions were then diverted to carry out an even more heavy aerial offensive against the north (see Operation Linebacker II). The end was nigh for Commando Hunt. With the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in March 1973, the Vietnam War finally came to an end for the U.S.
The goal of the Commando Hunt campaigns was not to halt infiltration, but to make the North Vietnamese pay too heavy a price for their effort. Corollary to this was the destruction of as much of their logistical system as possible and to tie down as many PAVN forces in static security roles as possible. Aerial interdiction could not succeed unless Hanoi felt the pressure and relented. The seed of the campaign's failure, however, was sown in its first operation. Despite the expenditure of an enormous amount of ordnance over five years, the level of that pressure was never going to be sufficient to deter Hanoi from its goal.
This failure had three sources. First, there were the political constraints imposed by Washington that limited the entire American effort in Southeast Asia (the continued fiction of Laotian and Cambodian "neutrality", failure to disrupt the trail with U.S. ground forces when it would have made a difference, etc.) The second source of the failure was the utilization of what Colonel Charles Morrison has called "over-sophisticated methods" against "elemental systems." The primitive logistical needs of the North Vietnamese (at least until the final phase of the conflict) allowed them to slip under the radar of their more technologically sophisticated enemy. Finally, all of the above were exacerbated by the communist's enviable ability to adapt their doctrine and tactics and to turn weaknesses into strengths.
The interdiction effort (like the entire American effort in Vietnam) became focused on statistics as a measure of success and "devolved from considered tactics to meaningless ritual." At the end of the Commando Hunt campaigns the Air Force intelligence service claimed that 51,000 trucks and 3,400 anti-aircraft guns were destroyed in all seven operations. Statistics, however, proved no substitute for strategy and, "for all the perceived success in that numbers game, the Air Force succeeded only in fooling itself into believing that Commando Hunt was working. Regardless of the constant American belief that its enemy was on the verge of collapse, PAVN maintained and expanded its logistical flow to combat units in the field and managed to launch major offensives in 1968 and 1972 and a counteroffensive in 1971. The North Vietnamese built, maintained, and expanded, under a deluge of bombs, over 3,000 kilometers of roads and paths through the mountains and jungles while only two percent of the troops sent south were killed by the American effort to halt their infiltration into South Vietnam.
[Source: Oct 2012 +]


Midway Plan of the Day Notes

FOR THE FLEET May 29 – June 4

In all the stories you see and read about Midway, the focus is on the surface and air activity. Yet one of the assets the Pacific fleet had plenty of where submarines. Submarine activity up until June 4th of 1942 had demonstrated capabilities beyond what the original concept was thought of. Certainly intercepting warships and merchant shipping would remain the most critical task of the submarine fleet. But many missions would keep the boats busy as the Navy decided the best course to pursue the enemy. What follows are the actual notes about submarine activities s before, during, and after the Battle of Midway.

“Although LCDR William H. Brockman, Jr., CO of submarine Nautilus (SS-168), had been given command of the boat without the usual PCO training, he foresightedly ordered his radiomen to monitor the aircraft search frequency in advance of the time in the operations orders. Thus prepared ahead of time, Nautilus intercepted the contact report that told of the enemy’s proximity. Nautilus would find herself in the middle of the Japanese carrier force, and cause such consternation that the destroyer Arashi was detached to drive her off or sink her. Arashi’s haste to rejoin the main Japanese force attracted the attention of LCDR C. Wade McClusky, Commander, Enterprise Air Group, the former CO of VF-6, who decided to follow the enemy ship when he had not found the Japanese where expected. McClusky’s dive bombers and the Yorktown Air Group strike arrived almost simultaneously over the Kido Butai, and changed the course of the Pacific War soon thereafter.” From the war reports: At 07:55, 4 June, while approaching the northern boundary of her patrol area near Midway Island, she sighted masts on the horizon. Japanese planes sighted the submarine at the same time and began strafing. After diving to 100 feet (30 m), she continued observation. At 08:00, a formation of four enemy ships was sighted: the battleship Kirishima, the cruiser Nagara, and two destroyers (misidentified, as they often were early in the war, as cruisers) in company. Within minutes the submarine was again sighted from the air and was bombed. Two of the “cruisers” closed for a kill and nine depth charges were dropped at a distance of about 1,000 yards (910 m). When the attack ceased, Nautilus rose to periscope depth. Ships surrounded her. Sighting on Kirishima, she fired two bow tubes; one misfired, one missed. At 08:30, a destroyer immediately headed for the boat, which dove to 150 feet (46 m) to wait out the depth charge attack. At 08:46, periscope depth was again ordered. The cruiser and two of the destroyers were now out of range; echo ranging by the third appeared too accurate for comfort. At 09:00, the periscope was raised again and an aircraft carrier was sighted. Nautilus changed course to close for an attack. The enemy destroyer followed suit and at 09:18 attacked with six depth charges.

“As part of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s plans to meet the expected Japanese attack on Midway, Rear Admiral Robert H. English gave a dozen submarines the basic task of defending the atoll. One of those boats, Trout, had made three war patrols since the war began, and had an experienced commander, Lt. Comdr. Frank W. “Mike” Fenno, the oldest of all the submarine C.O.’s involved in the Battle of Midway. Fenno’s boat had already earned fame for bringing out the gold from the Philippine treasury. While detection by Japanese planes forced Trout down several times, limiting her effectiveness, the boat rescued two Japanese sailors on 9 June 1942, survivors of the sunken heavy cruiser Mikuma, who provided much useful intelligence material. Her retrieval of the enemy bluejackets proved the precursor of more involved submarine rescue efforts as the war progressed.” The Trout completed 10 war patrols. On her 11th, she refueled at Midway Island before sailing off into history in February 1944. Japanese records indicate she was probably sunk in an attack on the 29th of February. She was carrying the Mk. XVIII electric torpedoes, and it was also possible that one of those had made a circular run and sunk the boat, as happened with Tang. On 17 April 1944, Trout was declared presumed lost with all 81 hands, including Commander Clark and his executive officer, Lt. Harry Eades Woodworth, both of whom had made all 11 war patrols.

“Lt. Comdr. John W. “Spuds” Murphy, commanding the submarine Tambor, had been in command of that boat since the start of the war; Tambor had made two war patrols. During the mid watch on 5 June 1942, ignorant of the location of friendly forces, Murphy spotted four ships on the horizon that proved to be four Japanese heavy cruisers. When carrying out emergency evasive maneuvers, two of the enemy ships, Mikuma and Mogami, collided. Without firing a torpedo, Tambor had caused damage to two ships, one of which, Mikuma, was sunk by U.S. carrier-based planes on 6 June.” The main contribution the Tambor and her sister boats ended up being that the Japanese were forced to take her presence into account as they prepared for each part of the attack. Sadly, her commanding officer failed to pursue the enemy and was relieved of command upon return to Pearl Harbor. The boat itself went on to a great career in the Pacific and earned 11 Battle Stars.

“The new Gato-class boat Grouper, under Lt. Comdr. Claren E. “Duke” Duke, had yet to make a war patrol, and when attempting to get close enough to carry out an attack on the Japanese ships, found herself frequently under attack from aircraft. Diving to avoid one such attack on the afternoon of 5 June, Grouper plunged to an estimated 600 foot depth. The investigation for damage showed several electrical cables “pushed in a couple inches,” while cast iron plugs in the water manifolds for the generator coolers flew around the engine room “like machine gun bullets,” while water poured in through the stern tubes. The Mare Island Navy Yard product, however, proved tough, and survived the mishap, while “everyone had a few more gray hairs.” Grouper was assigned to the submarine screen which ringed the area as the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the decisive battle. Patrolling the fringe of the fighting 4 June, Grouper sighted two burning enemy aircraft carriers, but could not close for attack because of heavy air cover. On that day she was strafed by fighter planes and driven deep in a series of aircraft and destroyer attacks which saw over 170 depth charges and bombs dropped on the novice submarine. The next day, as the battle still raged, Grouper crash-dived to avoid heavy bombers. When you think about it, this was quite a baptism of fire for the boat. In addition to receiving ten battle stars, the Grouper went on to help the submarine force grow by serving as a great platform for development. Incredibly, she served until 1968 as an experimental platform. In the traditional sense, the twelve submarines present at Midway did not accomplish as much as they would later in the war. Many fault their positioning (close in rather than on extended patrol where they could have caught the enemy on their way in). The experience proved that a defensive posture for these boats would not gain as much as an offensive role. Problems with the torpedoes were still being identified and even if they had been in the proper position, there is no proof that they would have been any more successful. It would take dedicated work by Admiral Lockwood’s team to finally solve the mysterious issues that plagued the weapons. What is decidedly important though is that fleet submarine tactics were improved from that day and the Submarine Force continued to learn lessons that would make them the killing force that helped to turn the tide of the war.
[Source: The Lean Submariner Aug 2012 ++]


Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Orlando Update 02: Rain had recently fallen inside the long-awaited Orlando VA Medical Center when members of the Florida congressional delegation gathered 13 AUG near the unfinished facility to find out why the project is off schedule and to determine how much it will exceed cost estimates when done. A roof change is one among hundreds of costly design changes blamed for delaying completion, originally scheduled for October 2012. The hearing, called by House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) did not produce clear answers about when the medical center will be ready to treat some 90,000 veterans in the region, nor how much it will cost in the end. “A billion dollars,” American Legion Department of Florida Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission Chairman Kelton Sweet estimated afterward. “And 2014. I would say about October.” VA and the general contractor, Brasfiled & Gorrie, differ about when the project will be completed and money owed over mid-project design changes. The 1.2-million-square-foot medical center was originally expected to cost $347 million, a figure that has since swollen to $656 million and rising, depending on two uncertain variables: the number of order changes yet to come and what the actual completion date will be.
Design plan changes, both in the form of architectural drawings (foreground), and binders (background), served as props for a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing Monday in Orlando to find out why the new VA medical center project there is behind schedule.
Stacks of color-coded architectural drawings, some more than two feet deep, and rows of binders describing order changes were arranged in front of the congressional panel and as a backdrop to illustrate the project’s many design revisions since ground was broken in 2008. “My single interest is the expeditious completion of this facility for the veterans of central Florida, who have been waiting over a decade for this medical center,” Miller said in the auditorium of a brand-new University of Central Florida College of Medicine Health Sciences. “This project, we need to get off the dime and get it done,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who was joined at the hearing by Reps. Corrine Brown, Gus Bilirakis, Richard Nugent, John Mica, Sandy Adams and Daniel Webster. Brown, a Democrat, and Bilirakis, a Republican, both serve on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “I have been working on getting a veterans hospital built here for over 25 years,” Brown said. “Veterans can’t wait. “I am 78 years old and still no hospital,” said Sweet, a military retiree who has been closely involved with efforts to build a new VA medical center in Orlando since the mid-1980s when central Florida was first identified as a high priority for a full-service, around-the-clock inpatient veterans health-care facility. Veterans requiring full inpatient care still have to travel two or more hours to receive it in Tampa. “It's all very frustrating,” Sweet said.
As the years passed and conflicts arose over where to locate the facility, funding opportunities came and went. The 2004 Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) report made it clear that Orlando was past due for a VA medical center of its own. Once it was finally budgeted, the new veterans hospital was expected to be a cornerstone in a new “medical city” in southern Orlando that would complement the Central Florida University medical school, two academic research centers, alongside a new children’s hospital that is now nearly finished. “Our VA medical center, which was scheduled to be complete by October of this year, the anchor of this city, is still an empty shadow,” Miller said. “Four years and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars later, VA has yet to yield anything near the same results as its neighbors. Brand-new state-of-the-art facilities are all around us. Students are being educated, and VA can’t even turn the lights on, much less accept visitors inside their facility.”
VA issued a Contract Cure Notice in June to Brasfield & Gorrie. Company officials at Monday’s hearing argued that neither final cost nor exact completion date could be set because change orders continue to arrive, disrupting work flow and leading to problems like the unfinished roof that has allowed rainwater into the building, rusting some of the medical equipment inside. “Changes are still coming,” explained Jim Gorrie, president and chief executive officer for Brasfield & Gorrie, who added that VA’s final list of medical equipment for the hospital has yet to appear. “I can’t commit to something I don’t have. You have to have a direction. We haven’t gotten it yet.” VA and the contractor are meeting this month to resolve the problem and get the project back on track. VA officials estimated that a change of contractor could delay the project an additional eight to 10 months and balloon the final costs even more. [Source: American Legion Online Update 16 Aug 2012 ++]



Las Vegas: In response to the growing health care needs of Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs opened a new Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Las Vegas, with the dedication ceremony held 6 AUG. It was the first new medical center opened in 17 years. “This is, importantly, a promise kept with the 164,000 Veterans who live in Clark, Nye, and Lincoln counties, and all 234,000 Veterans who call Nevada home, as well as Veterans from surrounding states who will find here the care and compassion they seek,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, who provided keynote remarks at the dedication ceremony. “As President Obama recently told the Veterans of Foreign Wars: ‘We keep our promises.’” Dr. Robert Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health said, “The Las Vegas VAMC underscores VA’s commitment to provide the best care anywhere to America’s Veterans, particularly in the critical area of mental health. The opening of this world-class facility is another milestone, and ensures VA provides the care and services our Veterans have earned through their service.” The brand-new $600 million facility will have 90 inpatient beds, a 120-bed community living center (skilled nursing home care facility), and an ambulatory care center. The 90 inpatient beds include a state-of-the-art 22-bed mental health unit, 48 medical/surgical beds, and 20 intensive care unit beds.
The outpatient mental health clinic will be operational the month. The clinic will provide specialized treatment programs for general mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, gambling addiction, and other unique services such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and other conditions. The mental health section has ample patient parking and is located next to the main facility. The inpatient unit is directly above the outpatient mental health clinic, and is in close proximity to the main facility. Beyond the mental health services, the new VAMC will provide 23 dental exam chairs; 13 surgical, 14 radiology, and 6 audiometric sound suites; as well as a 268 seat food court. A phased opening is planned for August through December 2012. The center will possess a telehealth unit, with bidirectional just-in-time communication capability with its outlying clinics. This allows doctors to deliver specialized mental health and other services to
these clinics. The VAMC and its outlying clinics are also equipped with “smart boards,” to enhance continuing education for staff and patients. The new facility meets the latest environmental standards. Portions of the parking areas will have overhead solar panels to provide additional energy to the campus. [Source: VA News Release 6 Aug 2012 ++]

by Sherwood R. Zimmerman, Ensign, U.S. Navy
On July 24, 1944, the Naval Task Force landed Marines on Tinian. After victory in the Battle of Saipan from June 15 to July 9, Tinian, which was 3.5 miles south of Saipan, was the next logical step in the U.S. strategy of island hopping. Tinian was Phase III of Operation Forager, which began with the capture of Saipan (Phase I) and the battle for the liberation of Guam (II), which was raging even as the Marines were approaching Tinian. Submarines were used to destroy enemy forces approaching the islands , clearing the way for the beach landing. The following article, published in the August 1964 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of the submarines’ success.
Japanese planes burning on the air strip on Tinian Island.
By May 1944, General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army, and his Southwest Pacific Forces had driven westward along the northern coast of New Guinea to the island of Wakde, in preparation for the next step, the invasion of Biak. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, U. S. Navy, in command of the Fifth Fleet, had completed Operation Desecrate on 30 March and, with a carrier air raid on the Palau Islands ended, plans were laid to thrust the sword of sea power deep into the underbelly of the Japanese Empire.
Meanwhile, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was preparing for quite a different type of operation. The Japanese Empire had been pushed back to a line joining Biak to the Carolines, Marianas, and home islands. Toyoda realized that an attack on this perimeter was imminent, but was determined to hold the line at all costs. A confrontation of enemy fleets was, therefore, unavoidable; it resulted in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Before this battle was concluded, 28 American submarines had been called into action in support of the Fifth Fleet. Could 28 submarines, responsible for more than 1,250,000 square miles of ocean area, support the Fifth Fleet with any significant contributions? They could, indeed, as the following account reveals.
Operation Forager called for a giant-step invasion across the Pacific from Majuro Atoll, where the Fifth Fleet was then based, to the islands of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian-a leap covering 1,800 miles of ocean.
During previous invasions-including the most recent, the Marshall and Gilbert operations-the assault forces had been supported by land-based aircraft. With no air bases close enough to the Marianas to provide such support, the Fifth Fleet would be required to provide pre-invasion air bombardment and to act as the covering force during the actual assault. Carrier task forces could not be spared for scouting missions, since their planes would be needed for strikes to consolidate positions at the Saipan beachhead.
Admiral Spruance, therefore, asked for submarines to act as the eyes of the Fleet. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, U.S. Navy, Commander, Submarines, Pacific, and Rear Admiral Ralph W. Christie, U. S. Navy, Commander, Submarines, Southwest Pacific, shifted their submarines from regular patrol areas to accomplish this special mission.
By 1944, experience with submarine support of Fleet operations had proved that submarines were capable of cutting the enemy’s supply lines to the target areas; carrying out photographic reconnaissance of beachheads marked for amphibious landings and enemy military or naval installations marked for future reference; lifeguarding during air strikes; scouting in the target area and off enemy bases to report enemy forces which sortied to oppose the attacking U. S. forces; and intercepting and attacking fugitive shipping attempting to flee the target area. Forager submarines were assigned stations with these objectives in mind.
In March, while Forager was still in the planning stage, the USS Greenling (SS-213) successfully completed the photographic reconnaissance of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.
During the month preceding the invasion, the Japanese supply line to Saipan was effectively interdicted by ComSubSoWesPac’s wolf packs. A pack patrolled its area along the expected convoy course and maintained a distance between pack members of a little less than twice the range of visibility or radar range. This provided them with the broadest area of search, while maintaining an uninterrupted path of convoy detection. The first submarine to make contact informed the pack members by radio, then attacked the nearest flank of the convoy. The other pack members quickly took positions on each flank of the convoy. The original attacker then assumed the “trailer” position to the rear and matched the convoy’s course. From this position she could transmit information to the “flankers” concerning the enemy’s tactical maneuvers; attack escorts as they charged after her mates; or finish off stragglers or cripples. Meanwhile, the “flankers” were busy making repeated torpedo attacks.
Patrol areas were divided into appropriately named sectors, “Pentathlon” covering the Marianas Islands area. The most successful operation of this type along the Honshu-to-Saipan sector of the
Pentathlon area was conducted by a pack consisting of the USS Pilotfish (SS-386), Lieutenant Commander R. H. Close, the USS Pintado (SS-387), Lieutenant Commander B. A. “Chick” Clarey, and the USS Shark (SS-314), Commander E. N. Blakely. Captain L. N. Blair was the pack commander.
At 0500 on 21 May, the USS Silversides (SS-236), Commander J. S. Coye, operating in the vicinity, radioed the pack that a convoy was coming their way-contact was made at 0900. The Shark took up the port flanker position, the Pintado took the starboard flank, and the Pilotfish dropped back as trailer. This planned attack was foiled by a radical zig on the part of the convoy, as was a second approach made shortly after midnight on 1 June.
At this time, however, the Silversides made contact with a second convoy, and the Pilotfish was sent to intercept it. Finally, the Japanese merchant ships, or Marus, began to feel the bite of the wolf pack that surrounded them. An unfortunate zig for the convoy created a perfect attack position for the Pintado. She sank the 4,716-ton Toho Maru with five torpedo hits and damaged a second merchant ship with a single shot from her tubes.
When the Shark contacted a third convoy, the real action began. Japanese aircraft arrived and a chase to the northwest ensued from dawn, 1 June, until dusk, 2 June. Each time a submarine raised her periscope, a Japanese plane was there to force her below. At 2300, 2 June, however, their tenacity was rewarded; the Shark sank the Chiyo Maru, a 4,700-ton freighter.
The Silversides withdrew to refuel, but the pack continued to trail the Japan-bound convoy during the next day. That afternoon, the Pintado spotted a fully loaded convoy heading south, probably bound for Saipan. Since the first three convoys were returning to Japan in ballast, the pack about-faced for a crack at the loaded merchant ships.
When the submarines had attained attack position at 1400 on 4 June, they began a series of coordinated attacks that lasted two days and riddled the convoy with losses. The Shark was first to draw blood. The Katsukawa Maru, a freighter of 6,886 tons went down at 1430 on 5 June, followed by the 3,080-ton Tamahime Maru and, that same evening, the Takaoka Maru. The Pintado sank the 2,825ton Kashimasan Maru, and the 5,652-ton Havre Maru, both heavily loaded with cargo.
USS Pintado
One pack had prevented nearly half a division of reinforcements from reaching Saipan. A Japanese officer’s diary, recovered later at Saipan, stated that they were expecting 10,000 troops with arms, ammunition, and artillery. When the remaining ships of the convoy arrived at Saipan, 6,000 soldiers were missing and the reinforcements that did arrive were largely without arms.
Patrols in the other areas of the Pacific were meeting with similar successes. Vice Admiral Lockwood, based at Pearl Harbor, and Rear Admiral Christie at Fremantle, Australia, were busy reassigning patrol submarines to new scouting and lifeguard positions. Christie’s area of command was located west of Guadalcanal, south of New Guinea, west of the mid-Philippine Sea and south of mid-Luzon Strait. ComSubPac controlled the rest of the Pacific.
SubPac’s bases had advanced westward during the War, causing its area to be increased accordingly. Since Forager required scouting in both command areas, a more practical scouting boundary was worked out between ComSubPac and ComSubSoWesPac which moved SubPac’s area south to include Luzon Strait and west to include the coast of the Philippines.
ComSubPac spelled out his strategy for Operation Forager:
Those in the immediate vicinity of the Marianas will be retired in order to clear the area for the advance of our surface forces. During Forager operation submarines as available will be placed in interception positions to the southwest of the Marianas and on the approaches to the Marianas from the Japanese empire to attack and destroy enemy forces approaching the Marianas and escaping therefrom and to furnish advance warning of the approach of the enemy Task Force.
Specific interception positions were not enumerated, since a long campaign was anticipated and the number of submarines on patrol would vary from week to week. The plan also provided for lifeguards to be assigned positions off the coast of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan for the air raids of 11 June which softened up the islands for the 15 June invasion.
Intelligence reports from Seventh Fleet Headquarters at New Guinea indicated that the main Japanese Fleet was now based at Tawitawi, the southernmost island in the Sulu Archipelago. The movement from Japan to Tawitawi was necessitated by the ever-decreasing supply of fuel oil arriving in Japan from the “Southern Resources Area.” U. S. submarines had been at work. The South China Sea, Luzon Strait, and East China Sea formed a graveyard for Japanese tankers. Japanese warships were forced to come down to the source of supply-the oilrich islands of Borneo and Java. Since Headquarters in Tokyo expected an attack in the Caroline or Mariana Islands, Tawitawi was chosen as an anchorage between the oil fields and the expected battle area.
ComSubSoWesPac assigned the USS Harder (SS-257), Commander Sam 0. Dealey, the USS Redfin (SS-272), Commander M. H. Austin, and the USS Bluefish (SS-222), Commander C. M. Henderson, to the Tawitawi area, with the USS Haddo (SS-255), Commander C. W. Nimitz, Jr., as relief. The USS Hake (SS-256), Commander J. C. Broach, the USS Bashaw (SS-241), Lieutenant Commander R. E. Nichols, and the USS Paddle ( SS-263), Lieutenant Commander B. H. Nowell, were stationed between Mindanao and the Talaud Islands. The USS Jack (SS-259), Commander A. E. Krapf, and the USS Flier (SS-250), Commander J. D. Crowley, patrolled off the west coast of Luzon.
ComSubPac organized Submarine Task Force 17 to support Operation Forager. Admiral Lockwood stationed the ubiquitous Pintado and Pilotfish and the USS Tunny (SS-282), Commander J. A. Scott, southeast of Formosa in the Luzon Strait, but later reassigned them to the route between the Marianas and Ryukyus. The USS Flying Fish (SS-229), Lieutenant Commander R. D. Risser, was stationed at San Bernardino Strait; the USS Growler (SS-215), Commander T. B. Oakley, reported to Surigao Strait after lifeguarding at Saipan until 12 June. Watching for sorties from Japan and covering the Bonin Islands area were the USS Plunger (SS-179), Lieutenant Commander E. J. Fahy, the USS Gar (SS-206), Commander G. W. Lautrup, the USS Archerfish (SS-311), Commander W. H. Wright, the USS Plaice (ss390), Commander C. B. Stevens, and the USS Swordfish (SS-193), Commander K. E. Montrose. Ulithi Islands to the Philippines was covered by the USS Muskallunge (SS-262), Commander M. R. Russillo, the USS Seahorse (SS-304), Lieutenant Commander Slade D. Cutter, and the USS Pipefish (SS-388), Lieutenant Commander W. N. Deragan. The area west of the Marianas, north of the Palau Islands, and south of the 20th parallel was patrolled by the USS Albacore (SS-218), Commander J . W. Blanchard, the USS Seawolf (SS-197), Lieutenant Commander R . R. Lynch, the USS Bang (SS-385), Commander A. R. Gallaher, the USS Finback (SS-230), Lieutenant Commander J. L. Jordan, and the USS Stingray (SS-186), Lieutenant Commander S. C. Loomis. Three unnamed submarines also covered the islands of Woleai, Palau, and Truk, scouting the area and availing themselves for lifeguard duty.
Thus, it was arranged that an enemy sortie to the Mariana Islands from any direction would be detected in all likelihood by one or more of these submarines.
USS Harder
The most productive scouting accomplished by a submarine in the Tawitawi area was that of the Harder. On 26 May, the Harder left Fremantle on her fifth war patrol with a twofold mission. She was ordered to pick up six British coast-watchers from the northeast coast of North Borneo, and then to scout the Tawitawi area.
By evening of 6 June, the Harder had arrived at the entrance to Sibutu Passage between North Borneo and Tawitawi. To transit this passage, Commander Sam Dealey had to pass the entire Japanese Combined Fleet. That evening, he commenced an end-around on an enemy convoy, but was discovered by an escort destroyer. As the destroyer charged toward him, Dealey turned his sub away, firing torpedoes from his stern tubes as he submerged. The payload struck home and down went the Minatsuki in a ball of flames. On 7 June, at 1200, another Japanese destroyer spotted the Harder and headed directly for her. There was no time to turn away, so Dealey fired torpedoes “down the throat” of the Hayanami, sending her to the bottom.
The Harder finally arrived off the coast of North Borneo the night of 8 June, and succeeded in rescuing the six British agents, aided by Major W. L. Jinkins, A.I.F., an Australian commando. The trip back through Sibutu was more hair-raising than the original transit. Japanese planes had sighted the Harder on the morning of 9 June, and had radioed ahead to warn Japanese destroyers. At 2101 that evening, Dealey spotted two destroyers patrolling the narrowest part of Sibutu Passage. He waited until the destroyers were close enough that they would be behind one another when his torpedoes arrived. Firing a four-torpedo spread, he observed the first one run wide and the second and third hit the bow and the bridge of the first destroyer, Tanikaze, which sank immediately. The fourth torpedo found the second destroyer’s keel; the ship sank but was never identified. On 10 June, Dealey spotted a large Japanese Task Force of three battleships, four cruisers, and six to eight destroyers. As a destroyer peeled off toward the Harder, Dealey waited until the range was only 1,500 yards, then fired three torpedoes, “down the throat” again. The first and second stopped the destroyer with tremendous explosions, as the Harder passed only 80 feet below.
Remaining in the area until 10 June, the Harder that afternoon observed the sortie of three battleships, four or more cruisers, and about six destroyers. She reported this important contact, and then retired from the scene, little realizing the forceful effect her devastation of the Japanese destroyers had had upon Admiral Toyoda.
Admiral Spruance, on board the USS Lexington (CV-16), received the 10 June Harder report, but realized that this was probably not a reaction to the presence of his fleet. His first air strikes were scheduled for 11 June, and he had no reason to believe that he had been detected as yet. Actually, this sortie was headed for a different target. Admiral Toyoda was anxious to come to the relief of Biak after MacArthur’s 27 May invasion. He ordered Operation KON into effect, sending Vice Admiral Matome V. Ugaki south with his Task Force of battleships to counter MacArthur’s movements.
Toyoda soon realized, however, that the decision to split his fleet was unwise. He was laboring under the misconception that his anchorage was the focal point of a great enemy submarine force. The Harder had single-handedly played the part of a “great enemy submarine force” by sinking three destroyers, with two probables to her credit. Badgered by the submarine threat,
Toyoda decided his fleet would be safer on the high seas. They could ill afford to lose another escort destroyer. As reports reached Tawitawi of the 11 June air raids by Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s Task Force 58, Toyoda, already over-anxious, “jumped the gun.” At 1830 on 12 June, Admiral Toyoda ordered Operation A-Go into effect.
A-Go was designed to counter any further moves by the Allied forces. Intelligence indicated to the Japanese that the Palau Islands would probably be invaded next. In this case, the Combined Feet was to halt the invasion by steaming from Tawitawi to the Palaus to attack the Fifth Fleet. In the event that the Marianas were invaded first, aircraft from the Bonin Islands would attack the U .S. Fleet, land in the Marianas for refueling and rearming; then take off the next morning, bomb the Fleet again, and land on aircraft carriers of the Combined Fleet, which, by that time, would have reached the area. The Japanese Fleet could then complete the destruction of the Fifth Fleet. Such was the thinking of the Japanese Headquarters in Tokyo. This plan, however, required precise timing, an element that was sorely lacking.
At 1000, 13 June, Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa, in command of the main body of the Combined Fleet, sortied with his Task Force from Tawitawi to implement A-Go. But Headquarters in Tokyo, believing the major invasion still would appear at Palau, did not put A-Go into effect until the morning of 15 June, when they finally realized that Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito and Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo at Saipan had mistaken the preliminary bombardments for a hit-and-run raid. This two-day delay had a significant effect on the battle which ensued in the Philippine Sea.
No sooner had Ozawa’s fleet put to sea than it was discovered. At 1100, 13 June, the Redfin was on hand at the northwest sector off Tawitawi when the impressive armada passed before her. Commander Austin quickly dispatched his message, reporting that a fleet of six aircraft carriers, four battleships, five heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and only six destroyers were headed for the Sulu Sea.
Admiral Spruance received this report with some relief. He knew that the Main Body of the Japanese Fleet was now on the seas and had been detected. At least there would be no sneak attack this time.
At 0840 on 15 June, the Flying Fish was patrolling off San Bernardino Straits when Lieutenant Commander Risser observed several scouting planes in the area. As the aircraft patrols continued throughout the day, Risser related, “Something was apparently in the wind, and we figured we were right downwind.” Sure enough, at 1635, he sighted masts emerging from the Straits, but, unfortunately, the Flying Fish was 11 miles north of the contact. His estimate was inaccurate due to the long range, but at 1925 Risser reported three carriers, three battleships, and various cruisers and destroyers on course 080 degrees, speed 20 knots.
Inaccuracy did not obscure the significance of this report from Nimitz and Lockwood at Pearl Harbor, or Spruance on board the Lexington. This was Ozawa’s Main Body emerging into the Philippine Sea. Lockwood now put into motion his plan to intercept Ozawa’s fleet. He and his operations officer, Captain Richard G. Voge, U. S. Navy, had plotted a square on the chart athwart the probable track of the onrushing enemy. The square, 60 miles to a side, was to be
patrolled by the submarines Albacore, Bang, Stingray, and Finback, one to each corner. The submarines would cover 270-degree arcs, around the outside of, and at a 30-mile radius from the four corners. This left the center of the square vacant for possible Fifth Fleet maneuvers.
Spruance now knew his principal adversary’s location, but where was the southern battleship fleet that the Harder had reported five days earlier? The Admiral would soon have his answer.
Lieutenant Commander Cutter in the Seahorse, was heading his ship northwest en route to patrol station at Luzon. At 1945 on 15 June, while 200 miles east southeast of Surigao Strait, he reported, “TASK FORCE IN POSITION 10-11N, 129-3SE, … COURSE NORTHEAST, SPEED 16.5 KNOTS … SEAHORSE TRAILING.” Engine trouble doomed her chase, however, and Japanese jamming of the Seahorse transmission prevented her report from reaching Admiral Spruance until 0400, 16 June.
These two enemy task forces, located and reported on converging courses, caused Admiral Spruance to alter his plans for the invasion of Guam, scheduled for 18 June. Faced with the prospect of covering a new invasion and simultaneously defending against a Japanese naval offensive, Spruance on the morning of 16 June postponed the invasion of Guam and prepared for battle.
The enemy tracks were plotted ahead, and a proposed rendezvous was located. Spruance figured they would have to refuel at this time, but the true location of the refueling area was anyone’s guess.
The Philippine Sea at this time was almost crowded with submarines, either on station, proceeding to the relief of a patrol, or returning from being relieved. With all this activity going on, one submarine was bound to run into ships of the enemy fleet. At 2306 on 16 June, the USS Cavalla (SS-244), Lieutenant Commander H. J. Kassler, heading west to relieve the Flying Fish at San Bernardino, came upon a convoy of two tankers and three escorts on course 120 degrees at 15 knots. Kassler had found the Second Support Force, following Ozawa’s Task Force from its anchorage at Guimaras in the Philippine Islands. By 0315, 17 June, he had brought his ship ahead of the convoy and was about to make an approach when, at 0402, he discovered an escort close abeam attempting to ram the Cavalla. Kassler quickly submerged and hid for an hour. At 0506, the Cavalla surfaced in an empty sea, and Kassler dispatched his contact report at 0545, informing Lockwood that he had lost contact and was proceeding to relieve the Flying Fish.
Lockwood received the message with alarm. If the Cavalla could find these tankers and sink them, he reasoned, the Combined Fleet could be partially immobilized for, obviously, they were running low on fuel. In this condition they would be sitting ducks for Task Force 58. If attack was not possible, at least by trailing the tankers, the Cavalla would probably be led to the Combined Fleet, itself. Therefore, he quickly replied to the Cavalla, “DESTRUCTION THOSE TANKERS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE … TRAIL … ATTACK … REPORT … KEEP YOUR CHIN UP.” The last part of this transmission referred to the Cavalla’s reported engine trouble. She attempted to chase at fourengine speed, but Lockwood ordered twothirds speed, aware that engine failure at such a moment would ruin a golden opportunity.
At this time, Lockwood was functioning as Commander, Task Force 17, as well as ComSubPac, which placed the tactical direction of Forager submarines in his experienced hands. He stationed his submarines to trap the enemy and destroy him. The Seawolf was ordered south 150 miles from her station on the 16th parallel, the Seahorse, the Muskallunge, and the Pipefish were shifted north from the Ulithi area. These four subs were ordered to locate and attack the tankers. The “square” was shifted southwest 100 miles to intercept the proposed refueling area. Lockwood’s next order was most significant, for it granted the submarine skippers the freedom they had longed for-the freedom to attack the Combined Fleet at will, without first having to report the contact. The Cavalla, in the meantime, had been driving southwest, desperately trying to close the gap. At 1957, 17 June, a radar contact developed into 15 pips. Kassler had run into part of the Combined Fleet, zigzagging between 60 degrees and 100 degrees at a speed of 19 knots. Presented with such an array of targets, he was sorely tempted to drive in for the attack. But at 2029, he gave in and submerged to count the ships as they passed overhead. Unlike the group patrolling the square, the Cavalla had been ordered to continue reporting first and attack later. A similar ComSubPac instruction had stated: “The primary mission of all submarines is attack except in the case with a contact with a large enemy task force … concerning which there has been no previous contact. In such a case, the primary mission of the first submarine making contact is to send out a contact report and then to attack.” The Cavalla surfaced when she thought the Task Force had passed, but was discovered by two fast escorts in the rear of the group. After an hour of evasive tactics, she finally was free to transmit her report at 2245 of “15 or more large combatant ships.” Kassler then proceeded east, trying to catch the enemy.
Spruance received the report on board the Lexington at 0345, 18 June. He was puzzled by the fact that only 15 ships were reported. Previous intelligence reports indicated Toyoda was capable of sending 40 combatants to sea. Also, since the Flying Fish’s report at San Bernardino, Ozawa had advanced only 500 miles for an average speed of 8.8 knots. A strangely familiar Japanese fragrance was in the wind, and Spruance didn’t like the smell of it. Possibly the Japanese were holding back part of their Fleet, waiting for the remainder to outflank the Fifth Fleet and isolate the beachhead at Saipan.
Ozawa, however, had no such intentions. He was waiting for the order from Tokyo that would send the A-Go aircraft down from the Bonin Islands to attack the American Fleet. When Toyoda prematurely set A-Go into motion from his end, he had caused Ozawa to arrive in the Philippine Sea 24 hours early. He was now forced to waste time and fuel by steaming on east-west legs, which allowed his ships to be discovered. Ozawa stated after the war that he had intended to run straight through the middle, since his Task Force did not have enough fuel for a flanking action.
The Cavalla continued east, unaware that Ozawa’s Combined Fleet had turned on a northeasterly course. At 0545, 18 June, she informed Pearl Harbor that she had not regained contact. She then gave a more detailed description of the Japanese Task Force, and continued the search. The enemy was on the loose.
Toward evening of the same day, Spruance received further indications of a dual advance by the Japanese Fleet. At 1955, the Stingray attempted to transmit a routine report. A fire in her antenna wires, however, made her transmission unreadable. Spruance, believing the transmission to be a possible contact report, noted that the Stingray’s estimated position at the time of her report
placed her 175 miles east southeast of a High Frequency Radio Direction Finder fix, which was received from Pearl Harbor at 2030.
Spruance was now more suspicious than at the time of the Cavalla’s report that Ozawa was approaching with separate forces. He decided to remain on an easterly course throughout the night in order to protect Saipan. Informing Vice Admiral Mitscher, Commander, Task Force 58, of his decision, Admiral Spruance cautioned, “End run by carrier groups remains possibility and must not be overlooked.”
The Finback, patrolling the northwest corner of the square, found yet another portion of the enemy’s fleet. At 1910, 18 June, she sighted two searchlights over the horizon bearing 270 degrees at latitude 14° 19′ North, longitude 137° O5′ East. She headed west, but was unable to locate anything, and, at 2010, she reported the sighting.
The report was not received on board the Lexington, however, until 0150, 19 June, after Admiral Spruance, at 0038, already had made the decision to retire to the east.
Finally, Ozawa’s Carrier Division I ran headlong into a “square” submarine. On the morning of 19 June, the Albacore, working the southwest corner, made contact with Carrier Division I which contained Ozawa’s new flagship, the carrier Taiho. Commander J. W. Blanchard approached the carrier, whose speed was estimated at 27 knots, just as she was launching the second air raid against the Fifth Fleet. His position was perfect, but after waiting for the proper time to launch his six bow torpedoes, the Torpedo Data Computer failed to register a correct torpedo track. The carrier was approaching so fast that Blanchard had no time to recompute the track. Therefore, at 0909:32 he fired number one torpedo, observing its wake of steam, then correcting the lead angle on the second shot by compensating for errors in the first. He saw the first shots pass astern of the carrier so he led the sixth with a large angle. Number six did the job, exploding under the forward starboard elevator. The fifth shot might have been heading for the carrier, but Sakio Komatsu, piloting a Japanese bomber, exploded the torpedo with a suicide dive.
Blanchard was understandably disappointed with only one hit after waiting for such a beautiful setup. His report was listed as “probable damage” to the carrier.
Ozawa was not unduly disturbed by this single torpedo hit. The fire seemed to be under control, and his screening destroyers were making life miserable for the Albacore.
He continued to steam southeast and, at 1130, ordered the fourth raid of the morning to attack the Fifth Fleet. His planes had barely reached the horizon when disaster again struck Carrier Division I.
The ubiquitous Cavalla had been searching to the west for the Combined Fleet. After passing up two previous chances for shots at the convoy and Task Force, in order to make her contact reports, Kossler finally gave up the chase, and at 0055, on 19 June, reversed course and headed for San Bernardino. At 1148, she again stumbled upon her old friend, the Combined Fleet. It was Carrier Division I, and Kossler relates, “The picture was too good to be true! … it was apparent that we were on the track of a large task force heading some place in a pretty big hurry.” He
observed an aircraft carrier of the Shokaku-class, covered by two cruisers of the Atago-class, and one destroyer, and brought the Cavalla to a paralleling course to take a good look at the carrier. At a range of 1,000 yards, Kassler later said, ” It looked like the Empire State Building.” A periscope view of the mast confirmed its identity, ” .. . there was the Rising Sun, big as hell.” At this point, the Cavallo was abeam the destroyer, but remained undetected until 1220, when she fired four torpedoes. The fifth and sixth had to be fired on the way down, for by this time, the destroyer Urakaze was after her. The Cavallo fought for depth, heard the satisfying rumblings of her three torpedo hits, and then spent three hours dodging and absorbing 106 depth charges. About 1500, the Cavallo’s crew heard tremendous explosions-the Shokaku, the 30,000-ton monster had been blown apart by her own bomb magazines.
Things were not going well for Japan’s pride of the fleet. During the afternoon of 19 June, Ozawa ordered a retiring course to the northwest. At 1532, an awesome internal explosion lifted the flight deck of his flagship, blew the sides out of the hangar deck, and crushed the crew members in the engine spaces below. The Admiral quickly rescued his flag, and picture of the Emperor, and transferred to the waiting destroyer Wakatsuki, closely followed by his staff. He arrived aboard the cruiser Haguro at 1706, in time to witness the capsizing of the Taiho, the death of 1,650 of his crewmen, and the loss of 13 aircraft-all victims of one torpedo.
How had the Albacore’s single torpedo managed to sink a 31,000-ton ship? As discovered after the war, a novice damage control officer had hoped to rid the ship of deadly vapors from a ruptured gasoline tank by opening the ventilation ducts throughout the carrier. Instead, the fumes permeated the ship, and, coupled with the unrefined fuel oil from Borneo that the Taiho was using, this created the explosive situation. The Albacore did not learn of her feat for many months, until a Japanese prisoner of war finally told the story.
The Combined Fleet’s attack had withered and died. Ozawa’s plan for destroying the enemy’s planes as they passed over Vice Admiral Takeo V. Kurita’s heavily screened Van Force, had backfired. Ozawa’s Carrier Divisions 1 and 2 were not protected by this formidable advance guard. Instead they were left more vulnerable to the two crippling torpedo attacks. His four air raids had been systematically intercepted and chopped to pieces-victims of the “Marianas Turkey Shoot.” Ozawa wisely retired to Okinawa.
Submarine Forces of the Pacific and Southwest Pacific Fleets could be proud of their contribution to Operation Forager. They had covered over a million square miles of sea, and covered them well. Their basic tasks of interdicting enemy supply lines to the target area, photo reconnaissance, life-guarding, patrolling, scouting, reporting enemy movements, intercepting, and attacking enemy fleets were carried out with skill and tenacity.
Theodore Roscoe wrote:
From the point of view of the submarine forces, the Marianas Campaign and the Battle of the Philippine Sea . . . were-so far as submarine support of fleet operations was concerned-the high point of the war. Some naval strategists consider the action history’s outstanding example of the successful employment of submarines in a major fleet engagement. Effective scouting, efficient communications, intelligent handling and several smashing torpedo attacks combined to give the
Submarine Force a leading role in the victory which meant the beginning of the end for the Imperial Navy.
Sound strategic doctrines, a proven set of tactics, improved equipment, and experienced manpower stationed at Headquarters, Pearl Harbor; Headquarters, Fremantle; at each periscope; and throughout every submarine-all played their part in the culmination of a highly successful operation.
[Source: August 1964 issue of Naval Proceedings Aug 2012 ++]

Know Your Food

Posted: September 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sugary kids cereals are in the news again. A follow-up study from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity concluded that although manufacturers have made kids cereals a little more nutritious, they’re aggressively marketing their least-healthy options to kids. But what about your cereal? You should know to scrutinize the foods you feed to your children, but do you have any idea how much sugar is in your own? Many of the seemingly most healthy cereals on the market have more sugar than any kids cereal. Manufacturers often add several spoonfuls of sugar per serving to make up for bland but nutritious ingredients like bran, oats, and other fiber-filled whole grains that fill you up…
1. Oatmeal Crisp Hearty Raisin (General Mills): 19 grams of sugar per serving
2. Raisin Bran (Post): 19
3. Raisin Bran Crunch (Kellogg’s): 19
4. Raisin Bran (Kellogg’s): 18
5. Raisin Bran Cinnamon Almond (Kellogg’s): 18
6. Low-Fat Granola with Raisins Multi-Grain (Kellogg’s): 17
7. Smart Start Strong Heart Toasted Oat (Kellogg’s): 17
8. Total Raisin Brand (General Mills): 17
9. Oatmeal Crisp Crunchy Almond (General Mills): 16
10. Selects Blueberry Morning (Post): 16
To put this into perspective, compare those numbers to those of a few notoriously sweetened kids cereals…
• Fruit Loops (Kellogg’s): 12 grams of sugar per serving
• Frosted Flakes (Kellogg’s): 11
• Cinnamon Toast Crunch (General Mills): 10
• Cookie Crisp (General Mills): 9
The American Heart Association‘s budget-minded take on how sugar directly affects your health and your waistline is that many people consume more sugar than they realize. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume, because our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity, thereby reducing heart health. If you think of your daily calorie needs as a budget, you want to “spend” most of your calories on essentials to meet your nutrient needs. Use only left over, discretionary calories for ‘extras’ that provide little or no nutritional benefit, such as sugar. For the average person, the AHA recommends…
 Women: Limit added sugar intake to 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons, 6 sugar cubes, or 30 grams) a day
 Men: Limit added sugar intake to 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons, 9 sugar cubes, or 45 grams) a day
[Source: MoneyTalksNews Karla Bowsher article 26 un 2012 ++]

Following is the Jun 2012 listing of Marine Corp Retiree Services Offices and their contact info:
MCAS Yuma AZ – POC: Richard Welch | (928) 269-3159; fax: (928) 928-269-3723 |
MCAGCC Twentynine Palms CA – POC: Philip C. Cisneros | (760) 830-7550
MCAS Miramar CA – POC: Marvin Muskat | (858) 577-4806 |
MCB Camp Pendleton CA – POC: Jim White | (760) 725-9789; fax: (760) 725-8969 |
MCLB Barstow CA – POC: Patrick Rewerts | (760) 577-6533 |
MCRD San Diego CA – POC: Ray P. Bromley | (619) 524-5301 |
MCLB Albany GA -POC: Raymond Breaux | (229) 639-5278 |
MCB Kaneohe Bay HI – POC: Ricardo Paguio | (808) 257-7795 |
MCAS Iwakuni Japan
POC: Gary K. Saiki | 011-81-827-79-5762 | or
POC: Robert Bugawan | or
MCB Camp SD Butler Okinawa Japan
POC: Tony Ethridge, USMC (Ret) | DSN: 645-3159; off base:970-3159 |
POC: Ben Garcia | DSN: 645-3159, 011-81-611-745-3159 |
MCSA Kansas City MO – POC: Paul Farmer | (816) 843-3652 |
MCB Camp Lejeune NC – POC: Randy Reichler | (910) 451-0287, ext. 205 |
MCAS Cherry Point NC – POC: Ernie Buschhaus | (252) 466-5548 |
POC: Vonda Jones | (843) 228-6222 |
POC: Dennis Trimmer | (803) 525-2111 |
MCB Henderson Hall VA – POC: Larry Ward | (703) 693-9197 |
MCAS Beaufort SC – see MCRD SC Parris Island SC
MCB Quantico VA – Kimberly Bennett | (703) 784-3351 |
[Source: Semper Fidelis Jul-Sep Edition Aug 2012 ++]

President Barack Obama signed into law on Monday legislation to provide health care to thousands of sick Marine veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
President Obama signs the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 in Washington, D.C
Despite its previous contention that there was insufficient evidence to prove the illnesses were related to service at Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps said in a statement Monday that it was pleased and supported the new law. The law is expected to help thousands of veterans and their families who were exposed to drinking water that was poisoned with trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride. The law provides health care for 15 diseases and illnesses, including several cancers, female infertility and scleroderma, a group of diseases that causes skin and sometimes internal organs to become hard and tight. Miller, the original sponsor of the Janey Ensminger Act, which was included in a modified version of Burr’s bill, said studies are under way to learn whether there are connections between the poisoned water and other illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Meanwhile, the federal scientists who have been studying the contamination have several reports yet to come: on the extent and type of contamination, on death rates among Lejeune Marines, on male breast cancer and on miscarriages and birth defects. The Department of Veterans Affairs will determine the process for how veterans and family members can obtain health benefits under the new law. [Source: McClatchy Newspapers | Franco Ordonez and Barbara Barrett article 6 Aug 2012 ++]