Amendment I-Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."― Just a friendly reminder to our friends at the FEC

Friday, February 6, 2015

Well done...good and faithful servant...NOW, I feel like a hardy old salt.

The mighty P-3 with a Soviet "Victor" class submarine during the Cold War

VP-26 Begins Historic Last Deployment of the P-3C Orion

Yup, I guess all good things must come to and end...including the everlasting might P-3C.

The "Tridents" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 26 begin their last deployment with the P-3C Orion aircraft with a send-off of their first two planes out of Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Jan. 22.
The historic occasion was attended by senior leadership, family and friends of VP-26 Sailors and members of the Jacksonville community.
"This is a historic deployment for you," said Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter, commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Group. "You are the last operational P-3 squadron on the East Coast. Once you go, we are a P-8 only force. That does not diminish anything you do with this aircraft. America has given us the best, and this aircraft is still a very capable airplane."
Carter knows firsthand how much the P-3 community has contributed to the success of the Navy's mission. He served as both executive officer and commanding officer of VP-26, and he told the Sailors just how special it is to wear the Trident colors.
"We have been flying this aircraft for 50 years," said Carter. "The whole squadron, from the admin department, the maintainers and the aircrew has continued to go out and do great things, and I know you are going to go out on this deployment and do great."
I remember logging many long flights in the might Orion...with it's awesome 56K computer and incredible 256K of drum memory..the P-3 version of a hard drive...aww..the joy of sextant shots and hoping your inertial navigation systems don't start diverging halfway through a flight...there was also the joys of helping to load sonobuoys into the internal racks and discovering just how much gee dunk you could fight in the bomb bay "luggage rack"

And my favorite thing...the not to be repeated NSFW conversations that went on the airplane intercom during a long, long 8 hours of sighting on sonobuoy fields trying to detect a VICTOR or FOXTROT class Soviet submarine...ayyy matey, those Cold War days are long gone.

So now the Navy has the P-8...truly a marvelous airline simulator for those capitalists MPA pilots and a more capable aircraft for the NFOs...the guys who do the real work!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

World War I---as it might have been.

Alternate history is one of my favorite literary genres, and is  a fine art that few authors really master, in my opinion.

Harry Turtledove really made this realm of fiction stand out for the masses, I think, and I really enjoyed his Great War trilogy of trilogies. However, I didn't really like his recent series and never got beyond starting the first book. However, I think he may have a winner is new book out this summer Bombs Away: The Hot War which brings the Cold War HOT when MacArthur uses atomic bombs in Korea. Hopefully it will be as good as his earlier works.

Robert Conroy has really stepped up to fill a gap in the field that Mr. Turtledove used to dominate, and his last two books, published in hard cover, have been really excellent. I particularly liked his recent book on an alternative American Revolution where the British win the Battle of Yorktown.

But, in my humble opinion, the undisputed master of hardcore military alternate history remains Peter Tsouras. I have read nearly all of his books, covering D-Day, Gettysburg, World War II (several volumes), the Cold War, and an individual volume on Stalingrad.

All of them, particularly his anthologies, are well written, very realistic, and really make you think about how fragile history is and how the smallest of details, decisions, or even weather, could have changed everything.

His anthologies in particular are a magnificent collection of essays by military historians who get to let their imaginations run free while carefully following the 5 rules of alternate history put forth by my favorite grouchy guy, Ralph Peters, in the introduction of Tsouras' Stalingrad book.

Which brings me to the latest volume, a look at alternative
possibilities for World War I. This is an extremely timely book, coming at the close of 2014, the beginning of the 100th anniversary of the keystone conflict of the 20th century....the war that did not end all wars, but created the conditions for World War II, the Cold War, and even the current upheavals in the Middle East..(can anyone say Sykes-Picot...public school kids probably need to Wiki that...I'm certain it's not in Common Core Language Arts) .

This volume examines a number of potential scenarios- from the Germans shifting their attention to Russia and ignoring the Schlieffen Plan in 1914, to a more decisive Battle of Jutland, to a great Russian triumph of the Brusilov Offensive of 1916.  All of the essays are very well written, extremely plausible, and show how the tragic Armageddon from 1914-1918 could have ended quite differently.  

I was particularly intrigued by the essay on the Brusilov Offensive--the Austrian Empire was a large albatross on the Central Powers...ehh, the Ottomans weren't much better actually, but the Russians could have really made a strategic difference in the war with a little better leadership and a little more luck and persistence.  The Germans faced some real challenges in the East propping up their weaker ally, and if the Allies had been a little more coordinated and lucky with their 1916 offensives, they  might have forced the Central Powers to seek an armistice two years early.

Some of the smaller essays were equally intriguing, especially the essay on Greek assistance with the Gallipoli Campaign.  With the usual micro attention span of Americans, and the need to sweep a lot of past sins under the rug for the sake of maintaining alliances, it's good to remember that ISIL and Al Qaeda are only carrying on the tradition of ethnic cleansing of Christians by the Ottoman Turks (good Muslims all) starting with the great Armenian genocide and the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans (hmmm where have I heard that before)  after the Balkan Wars just prior to World War I.  

History does indeed have a funny way of repeating itself..eh?

But I digress...I think I am getting my mojo back...this was a great book...the ONLY complaint is that I never got my hardcover from Amazon...I pre-ordered it....then it kept getting push back on release...THEN they said they were out and back ordered....WTF?  I have always gotten my pre-orders within a day or two of the release date.  Very disappointing...so I ordered the Kindle version and read it.  Very enjoyable, but I am one of those whiners that likes pictures and to flip back and forth to the provided maps.  Neither of which works well on Kindle.

Now, to be fair I will say that all of Tsouras' books seem to disappear quickly and you can often buy them only on the used market.  Disappointing, but one of those publisher things I guess.  The good news is that now many of them are available on Kindle...albeit without pictures.  

So, for an interesting look at the World War I that might have been...pick up or download this book...it is a quick and thought provoking read.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Time and Tide Wait for No Man---back to some books

So now that I have made it through the worst birthday ever, I suppose it's time to saddle up and get back to writing about the things I know best...books, bacon and stupid people.

I figured I would ease into it with a review of a really excellent new book on the Battle of the Bulge. I did my usual memorial post on the battle already where I introduced this book as a work in progress. It was a bit of a doorstop, so I just finished it yesterday evening.

As I mentioned in my yearly post, this was a very fresh look at the battle with a fairly unique perspective.  Dr. Caddick-Adams provides a somewhat revisionist view of what brought the battle about (hint-it had to do more with Hitler's politics and world-view than sound military strategy) and why it was doomed from the start.  What is more remarkable is that he makes a pretty compelling case that the Germans launched a much weaker offensive than reported by many historians, with many infantry divisions, especially in the supporting German 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army, under strength and suffering from severe logistical short-comings.  

This is a perspective that I didn't really see emphasized in many earlier works.  In spite of hard fighting, and not to undermine the stout resistance by many American GIs, the Germans had no chance of successfully crossing the Meuse River, much less reaching their stated objective of Antwerp.  Planning on refueling your tanks using captured enemy supplies, which was a key factor in German planning is not really what I would consider sound logistical planning.  

In fact, the battle was really a tribute to the Allies emphasis on logistical planning.  The American Army were able to rush reinforcements to critical areas of the battle, namely the city of Bastogne and the northern parts of the battle near the city of St Vith, because of the huge advantage in motorization and mechanization of the Allied armies.  In contrast, as he points out, many German units continued to use horse drawn artillery and supplies and could barely sustain and reinforce the units in combat, much less run supplies all the way to Antwerp.

In addition to the fresh perspective on topics such as the motivation and thinking (if you could call it that) behind Hitler's planning of the attack and the total Allied intelligence failure due to command hubris, what makes this book really special for me is the historiography on the Battle of the Bulge provided as a post-script.  Dr. Caddick-Adams examines most of the best-selling histories and memoirs written about the battle and offers his commentaries and insights.  

If you have never read a book about the battle, or even if you have, pick this up and you will definitely learn something new about the biggest battle ever fought by the US Army.