Book Reviews

Black Shoes and Blue Water is a story of the surface navy in the heart of the Cold War, the 30 years after World War II to the mid-1970s. Dr. Muir defines Black Shoes in the narrow sense as those who served in the gun and missile ships. These "Black Shoes" were the predominant clique within the surface navy. The "destroyer club," those who served on gun and missile ships, were the successors of the battleship sailors. Within this circle of elites were the select few who manned and commanded the missile ships. These are the people who fought, planned, and schemed for the weapons and ships that make up the surface navy today.

The tale that Dr. Muir spins is gloomy. Chapters titled, "Sinking Fast," "Caught in the Doldrums," and "Shocks to the System" establish the tone: A 30-year period in which the Black Shoe came to be perceived as a second-class citizen in column formation astern of the aircraft carrier. The task of putting ordnance on target continued an inexorable shift, begun at Pearl Harbor, from ships to the airplane. Leadership roles went to the aviators. The money for ships and weapons, research and development, operations and maintenance was focused on the aviation mission.

From the Baltimore (CA-68)-class cruiser to the Charles F. Adams (DDG-2) and Spruance (DD-963)-class destroyers, the author focuses on the ships and weapons. Dr. Muir traces the slow demise of the big gun when in 1975 the cruiser Newport News (CA-148) fell victim to a budget crunch. The promising years of Admiral Arleigh Burke were followed by the dark ages and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The single-screw destroyer escorts and the FRAM conversions reinforced the surface navy's submissive position astern of the carrier. At the end of this era came a note of optimism-the Spruance class 8,000-ton ships with two guns. It was the epitome of the expression "reserved for space and weight and room to grow."

Woven within the story of the ships of this era is the development of the missile, primarily the antiair warfare missile. This painful experience went from great promise with the early Terrier system to the trauma of a "get-well" missile program that seared and annealed a generation. Nothing seemed to work. The low point came when a missile demonstration for the president went zero for three. Blended into the story of the birth of a new weapon is a story of how strong the sinews of the gun club are.

The Black Shoe as "surface warrior" started to emerge in the mid- to late1960s with the closing of the destroyer school and the establishment of the successor schools for all surface officers in Newport, Rhode Island. If there is a defining metamorphosis of the surface warrior, it occurred in 1975 with the introduction of the surface warfare device and professional qualification.

The struggles of the generation this book is about are important. The weapons of today are its legacy. Black Shoes and Blue Water shows where we have been. It is the responsibility of today's warriors to show the way forward; press on, ordnance on target.

 

Into the Storm: A Study in Command

Tom Clancy with General Fred Franks, Jr. USA (Ret.), New York: G.R Putnam's Sons, 1997. pp. 551. $27.50 ($24.75).

Reviewed by Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

It is not often that a field commander publishes an almost hourly account of his thoughts and doings in battle. With the help of a popular novelist, General Fred Franks, commander of the Army's VII Corps in the Gulf War, does just that. In doing so, he provides significant insights into the armored war of the Iraqi western desert. It also serves as exculpation for the criticism leveled at him by his theater commander, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The first part of the book traces both the development of Franks the officer and the modern U.S. Army. Its starting point is Vietnam, a disaster for both. Franks lost a leg to a grenade in 1970; about the same time, the Army lost its bearings. For both, it was a painful recovery during the postwar years. Franks successfully fought to stay in the Army; the Army, equally successfully, fought to rebuild itself into a magnificent fighting force. By the time of the Gulf War, both were in good shape.

Franks commanded the VII Corps in Germany in the autumn of 1990, when the call came to go to the Gulf early in 1991, the Corps was in place. Three armored divisions (one British), one mechanized infantry division, and an armored cavalry regiment stood ready to attack the Iraqi Republican Guard, made up of Saddam Hussein's best armored forces in the Kuwaiti theater. It was VII Corps that was tasked to make the impressive sweep around the right flank of the Iraqis to deliver the fatal blow.

Its attack would not be a cavalry charge, hell-bent-for-leather across the desert wastes. Instead, VII Corps planning was detailed and meticulous. Franks characterized his four-division attack as a "fist" with all divisions striking the enemy simultaneously. The planning was a reflection of the man; careful, deliberate, and conservative. This account of the campaign is replete with reflections, musings, and rationale for his actions. These show Franks to be prudent-to the point of being risk-adverse.

It was just this prudence that made him subject to bitter criticism by the theater commander. Schwarzkopf thought him not bold enough in battle and kept urging him on against an army in retreat. But Franks though his Corps was doing just fine. As he brought it on line to smash the Iraqis he rejoiced that he had "fixed" the enemy for the kill. He apparently was unaware of the scope of the Iraqi rout, and that he faced not an organized defense but a hasty covering force protecting the bulk of the Iraqi army, fleeing north.

Some of the blame for the confusion was attributed to poor communications. But much of it, according to the author, was caused by his immediate superior, General John Yeosock-the Third Army commander 300 miles away in Riyadh who should have been more helpful to both Franks and Schwarzkopf. While Franks landed some painful jabs on the Iraqis, the cease-fire went into place before he could land the knockout punch. A modest victory was thus snatched from the jaws of major triumph. His frustration is palpable throughout the pages of Into the Storm.

With Tom Clancy's name on the dust jacket, the book is bound to sell. But it will have a short shelf life because it is too detailed and too technical for the average reader, and few will read it all the way through. But for a military reader and student of the Gulf War, it is a gold mine of information and a case study in the fog of war. The maps are adequate, but many of the objectives, phase lines and control measures that governed Franks' generalship are missing, as is an index-both indispensable to the serious reader. Surprisingly, at the conclusion of the book the author fails to analyze the campaign fully in retrospect. His thoughts during the offensive are quite valuable; of equal value would be his assessment of the enterprise that transported almost 200,000 of his troops from Germany to a remote desert battlefield-to fight an incomplete victory. 

 

Fleet Command: RIMPAC '96

Carl Kriegesotte, Producer. A two hour Discovery Channel presentation; 7 December 1997

Reviewed by Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, U.S. Navy (Retired)

This two-hour video is a Discovery Channel review of RIMPAC '96, a six-nation exercise designed to enhance cooperation among Pacific allies and to promote stability in the region. One of its unstated but included goals is to afford all participants an opportunity to train and exercise across the wide range of naval and air warfare, including live ordnance delivery.

In June 1996, Commander Third Fleet conducted the 15th RIMPAC (nations of the Pacific rim) exercise of a series dating back to 1971. For years, the exercise had focused on an anti-Soviet-bloc scenario; in 1996 it focused on collective action toward solving a regional dispute. Navies and air forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, South Korea and the United States participated.

The exercise took place in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands with "Capmid" the aggressor and "Pacifica" on defense. Although not the fault of the television producer, the authors of the exercise must have struggled mightily to come up with the scenario. For example, in an effort to maximize the number of platforms in play, both sides operate large deck aircraft carrier battle groups. How both "Capmid" and "Pacifica" acquired aircraft carriers is not explained.

Exercise play begins with an uprising of rebels in the two island nation of Pacifica. Capmid supports the rebels; a U.N.-sponsored fleet supports Pacifica. Confrontation escalates to war involving carrier aircraft, cruiser launched surface-to-air missiles, SEALs, submarine warfare complete with a torpedo shoot and a Harpoon launch, antisubmarine warfare, laser-guided bombs, an amphibious assault, and more. In short, there is something for everybody. For training in an era of scarce resources, it's absolutely necessary that as much as possible be crammed into whatever exercise time is allowed. Unfortunately, as a television show, because of the artificialities of the exercise itself, the production will come across to the naval professional and anyone else with any naval experience or knowledge as quite shallow.

That shallowness is exacerbated by a seeming lack of any input from a naval expert. Ships are shown on parade, in column or echelon doing "div-tacs" while ostensibly in combat. Airplanes dogfight in parade formation. A-6 Intruders also drop weapons from parade. A fighter crew claims victory over an F-15 while the video depicts an F/A-18. The carrier air boss gives a "Charlie" to the helo with a jet in the groove and others yet to land. The impression is that much of the production is a blend of publicity footage and exercise audio.

On the other hand, for families, the long retired, and the general public, it is a chance to see some great pictures of ships at sea, aircraft in the air, submariners in simulated battle conditions, SEALs at work, Marines hitting the beach in amphibious assault vehicles, air-cushion landing craft, and helicopters and several types of exploding ordnance. Allies, too, are prominent: Canadian ships and maritime patrol aircraft, Australians and South Koreans, Japanese ships and aircraft and a Chilean submarine, among others. It is indeed impressive that so many nations of the Pacific rim can and do work so well together at sea.

The uninitiated may enjoy, but naval professionals need tune in only if they can think of nothing else to do on a Sunday evening.

 

 
 

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