Thomas E. Crew —Commander Witzleb and Dr. Truver paint a frightening and realistic picture of our nation's vulnerability to a maritime version of 9/11—an attack aimed not at killing our citizens, but at crippling our economy. Recent events have proven just how fragile our economy is to even the prospect of bad news, let alone the shock of a real-world event that could strangle our maritime commerce. Disrupting our maritime trade for weeks or months could do far more damage to our nation's health and its ability to defend itself than an attack whose impact is largely limited to human casualties.
Unlike many of the terrorist threats facing us, there are well-defined and affordable methods for mitigating the impact of the mining of our ports and waterways. Even after multiple massive economic bailout packages aimed at shoring up a failing economy, we are now more vulnerable than ever to the impact of such an attack on our maritime trade. Yet, while the banking industry gorges itself on the latest slug of the taxpayers' money, U.S. government agencies fight for the budgetary scraps to piece together what amounts to an insurance policy against the threat of terrorists attacking our economy by mining our homeland's waters.
I cannot help but compare Witzleb's and Truver's prognostication to Billy Mitchell's prophetic warnings in 1925 of a Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor. Widely discounted by his contemporaries for his out-of-the-box predictions, Mitchell stands out in history as a man who risked his professional reputation in an effort to prod his country into making a long-term commitment to threats that had not yet materialized. I can only hope that someday we will not be mentioning the names Mitchell, Witzleb, and Truver in the same sentence during a Naval War College seminar examining why as a nation, we again turned a deaf ear to the clear voice of intuitive reason.
(See B. Parlatore, pp. 20-24, October 2008 Proceedings )
Matt Dinzey —As a regular reader of both Proceedings and Passagemaker magazines, I was pleasantly surprised to read Bill Parlatore's article about the DHS maritime civilian watch program. America's Waterway Watch is a great idea, and should be pursued.
Today's recreational cruising vessels are far better equipped than most on the "big gray ships" might realize. With the advent of the DSC-equipped VHF radio, and computer-based GPS navigation systems with software from major corporations such as Jeppesen and Nobeltec, the cruising boater is safer and more aware of his surroundings than ever before.
Add to the equation the fact that the innate level of interest and curiosity is extremely high among boat owners. A good portion of cruisers are successful business owners, professionals, and retired military. Many have taken courses in safe operation from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadron, and other private enterprises such as Florida's Chapman School, as well as 2-3 day seminars offered by boat and equipment manufacturers themselves.
A voluntary course taught by the Coast Guard would enhance the ability of these fine people and their desire to help. Learning how to recognize a threat, and how to make a coherent, accurate report will go a long way in making the volunteer fleet of pleasure craft a true force multiplier.
(See T. J. Geraghty, pp. 56-61, October 2008 Proceedings )
Dr. Malcolm Muir Jr.— Colonel Geraghty's article gives a valuable personal perspective on the horrific 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and convincingly links that attack to later suicide strikes on American targets, especially by Iranian backed extremists. But his article fails to put the Marine presence in Lebanon into context. Why were Marines there in the first place? Who dispatched them? And, following the bombing, who withdrew them? In short, who made these decisions that cost this country such a grim price?
The author correctly remarks that "Our timidity to respond created an aura of impunity that the Islamic extremists sensed and pursued all the way to the 9/11 attacks. . . ." However, in tracing America's feeble policy over the next decades, Colonel Geraghty fails to mention the Iran-Contra scandal in which Reagan administration officials, less than two years after the deaths of 241 American servicemen in Beirut, traded arms to the Iranians in exchange for American hostages held by Iran's proxies. No wonder our enemies thought they could strike us with impunity.
The Border War 
(See D. Danelo, pp. 48-52, October 2008 Proceedings )
Steven J. Forsberg —In his article "The Border War" the author brought up the subject of the shooting of Esequiel Hernandez by a Marine corporal. The author wrote "Rules of engagement granted Marines the authority to use deadly force in self defense, and Banuelos . . . had behaved according to standard Marine Corps procedure when under fire." This sentence has the potential to mislead readers about the law and its implications.
Regardless of the "rules of engagement" promulgated by the Marine Corps, the laws of the State of Texas governed. Corporal Banuelos was not just investigated by law enforcement but was also the target of grand jury proceedings and subject to prosecution. Wearing a uniform did not shield him from prosecution under Texas law, regardless of the Marine Corps ROE. As was pointed out in a later article in The Army Lawyer , "the incident highlights a neglected point of law—that military members are generally subject to the criminal law and procedure of the state in which they operate. Alarmingly, Corporal Banuelo's unit received no instruction on Texas law, even though it applied to their activity."
Some people may feel that "A service person's right to protection from criminal liability for applying military rules should be as inherent as the right of self-defense." This, however, is not the law. When one steps off the federal reservation, the uniform and orders are no longer necessarily shields against criminal prosecution and every military member who conducts such operations should understand that. As the same article points out, "More importantly, the rules [i.e. ROE] purport to authorize, in some cases, violations of governing law." (All quotations are from "How to Keep Military Personnel from Going to Jail for Doing the Right Thing: Jurisdiction, ROE, and the Rules of Deadly Force," Lieutenant Colonel W. A. Stafford U.S. Maine Corps, The Army Lawyer , November 2000.)
(See E. Walsh, p. 86, October 2008 Proceedings )
Lieutenant J. Gordon Vaeth, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)— Edward J. Walsh's article about the Coast Guard's new National Security Cutters, Berthoff (WMSL-750) and Waesche (WMSL-751), reflect an apparent decision by that service to start naming vessels for its commandants. Berthoff was first to command the modern Coast Guard. Waesche led it in World War II.
Another memorable commandant was Rear Admiral Frederick C. Billard, the only commandant appointed for three terms. His watch, 1924-1933, coincided with the Prohibition era in which the hard-pressed Coast Guard operated its ships (which included ex-Navy "four stacker" destroyers) against rum runners in American waters. Admiral Billard died in the ninth year of his tour as commandant and lies in Arlington Cemetery across the road from the memorial to the Coast Guardsmen who were lost in the cutter Tampa in European waters during World War I. Billard was awarded the Navy Cross for his convoy work in that conflict.
There have been monuments to his career but never the naming of a cutter for him. The Tampa memorial in Washington is one such monument. The Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is another. He was the prime mover in bringing both to reality.
A Coast Guard cutter carrying his name is long overdue. Hopefully it will be one of the future National Security Cutters of which Mr. Walsh writes.
Save the Greens 
(See C. Bates, p. 10, September 2008 Proceedings )
Commander Al Ross, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)— Lieutenant Bates is right on, especially in this time of war. I wore my aviation greens as a tribute to the pioneers in naval aviation and the sacrifices made then. Just as we would not "update" the family coat of arms, we should keep this uniform, especially since the individual elects to purchase it himself to pay this tribute. After all, we are not dressing for an outing at the country club.
(See T. Lea, pp. 54-61, September 2008 Proceedings )
Griffin T. Murphey, D.D.S.— I certainly was surprised and delighted to see Tom Lea's painting of the USS Hornet (CV-8) on your cover.
As a boy in the late 1950s, I had one book about World War II, Life's Picture History of World War Two . Lea's paintings figured prominently in that book. I'll never forget the picture of the Marine in stop-action, catching a full burst of fire in his arm and chest.
The article in the September issue explains the personal stake he had in the war, and why his works are not just "art," but rather reflect his personal experiences as an eyewitness combat veteran in his own right.
(See R. W. Selle, pp. 30-31, September 2008 Proceedings )
Bob A. Gabbert —I would like to invite the author and other Americans into the 21st century with the rest of us. To suggest that we could, at this late date, find some escape clause in the turnover of the Panama Canal is not worth commenting on, but to suggest that any Panamanian would welcome another American occupation of their country is beyond belief.
It is time to wake up and smell the latte. America is a net-debtor nation. We do not have the money to spend on the Panama Canal at what the author considers a good buy (twice the estimated cost of $5.6 billion, he says). Yes, we should ensure our carriers can use the new locks, and we should be willing to pay to make that happen, but only enough to make it happen. Panama will have no problem finding capital to complete the project without having to give up sovereignty. Our financial disarray does not allow us the luxury of throwing money around anymore, and Americans should get used to it.
As to foreign-flagged cruise ships such as Oasis of the Seas having the ability to use the Canal, who cares? Royal Caribbean makes a profit operating their ships, and they will continue to do so regardless of the Canal.
If the author has been through the Canal since the turnover, he should have noticed that the Panamanian government, through the Panama Canal Authority, operates the Canal at least as efficiently as the United States did. This creates an enormous source of income for their nation, with profits from the Canal estimated at $115 for every man, woman, and child. No one in their right mind would consider giving that up.
John Warre —I have a few comments on the "welcome return of the U.S. military presence."
First, "the large landing strip at Rodman Air Base" does not ring a bell. Was the author referring to Howard Air Base, which was the most significant of the U.S. air bases in Panama and which, with Fort Kobbe, is currently like a large ghost town? Also, the return of the Jungle Warfare School seems a bit farfetched to me as one of the major criticisms leveled at the United States was the amount of unexploded ordnance remaining when we left, specifically at Fort Sherman. It is currently being used as an eco-tourist site, so to return it to military usage is a 180-degree switch and most likely would encounter major opposition.
Lastly, the Panamanians have done a superb job since the turnover of the Canal. And not just the Canal, as the railroad is now a viable alternative for containers to cross the isthmus.
(See J. Dolbow, p. 10, August 2008 Proceedings )
Captain Robert L. Desh, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)— I was elated to read Lieutenant Dolbow's article on the need for a Coast Guard Historical Center. His assessments of the requirements and vision for the Center are spot on. The need for such a place and program are long, long overdue.
One of the largest obstacles to attaining the good lieutenant's dream is the unique culture of the Coast Guard itself. Guardians are "doers." Every Coast Guardsman grows up in a culture of get the mission done, hot-scrub the lessons learned, refuel, and move out on the next mission. The Coast Guard's "wars" never stop. This ability to succeed, recover, prepare, and succeed again is what makes the service great. Unfortunately, this same relentless pursuit of accomplishment leaves little or no time to savor and appreciate the history of all those events, heroes, and successes past.
The Marine Corps is arguably the best at using its proud history to infuse what it truly means to be a Marine. Spend a few hours at the Marine Corps Museum and you will come away swelled with pride that you were, or forever regretting that you weren't, a Marine. Sadly, the Coast Guard, despite an equally long, distinguished, and rich history, has never embraced its own accomplishments in the same way. Don't get me wrong. The Coast Guard doesn't ignore its history; it just doesn't cherish, preserve, and celebrate it with the same reverence and success as the Corps.
Obviously, Lieutenant Dolbow's vision will require a blend of appropriated and non-appropriated funds. He fails to mention that a non-profit Foundation for Coast Guard History already exists. This organization could become the much-needed fund-/friend-raising partner necessary for the success of the envisioned Coast Guard Historical Center. The fact that this organization has existed for over nine years and has a scant 300 members is testament to the struggles and challenges that preserving Coast Guard history endures.
There are also many other organizations dedicated to preserving the history of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services—the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association, The Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association, The Coast Guard Aviation Association, and the Coast Guard Tug Association to name but a few. The Coast Guard Historical Center, in partnership with the Foundation for Coast Guard History, could become the umbrella under which all these dedicated organizations gather to focus their historical preservation efforts—the central repository for all things Coast Guard history.
Lieutenant Dolbow has described a wondrous place. Let's hope Guardians past, present, and future can unite to make it a reality.