Over the past decade, on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps has enhanced its reputation as an elite fighting force. But as the U.S. military role in that region winds down, the Corps’ main focus is shifting from land warfare back to expeditionary warfare. Commandant General James F. Amos alluded to this Marine forte when he wrote in the November issue of Proceedings that America’s “leaders need a ready force that can be committed at a moment’s notice to buy time for strategic decision-making. . . . Marines are that force.”
But to move forward, it’s useful to know where you’ve been, so this issue’s cover story by retired Marine Reserve Colonel Jon Hoffman explores the Corps’ expeditionary roots. In “Fighting Far from Home,” Hoffman explains how, following early miscues, the Marines evolved into “the premier exemplar of an expeditionary force.”
Elsewhere in this issue, “The Navy’s Deep-Ocean Grab,” by Lee Mathers and retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Beauford Myers, examines a little-known clandestine effort in 1971–72 to recover U.S. spy-satellite film from the bottom of the Pacific. The mission is reminiscent of Project Azorian, the U.S. effort two years later to recover the Soviet submarine K-129. Several books on that subject have recently been published, including David Sharp’s The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation (see “Book Reviews”).
After three years of researching the later recovery mission for the documentary Azorian: The Raising of the K-129 and Norman Polmar and Michael White’s book Project Azorian (Naval Institute Press, 2010), Mathers said he still had an unproven theory: “that the [U.S. Navy bathyscaph] Trieste II had dived on the K-129 wreck and recovered a missile warhead.” He eventually contacted Myers, former XO of the Trieste’s support drydock, the White Sands, who believed that the bathyscaph’s early ’70s target was a reconnaissance satellite’s re-entry vehicle, not a warhead.
After verifying Myers’ theory, the pair “worked together to interview as many participants in those events as we could find,” Mathers said. Later, they had to revise their article several times as additional information about the earlier operation was declassified or otherwise became available.
Naval History has long profited from its close relationship with the preeminent publisher of naval history books—the Naval Institute Press—and this issue features three articles connected to NIP releases:
• David Hobbs’ article, “The Royal Navy’s Pacific Strike Force” summarizes his 2011 book The British Pacific Fleet: The Royal Navy’s Most Powerful Strike Force.
• “Top Sub Shop,” by Rodney Watterson, is based on the author’s 2011 book 32 in ’44: Building the Portsmouth Submarine Fleet in World War II.
• “Black Sea Humanitarian Mission,” by Robert Shenk, is excerpted from America’s Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy amidst War and Revolution, 1919–1923, published by the Press in 2012. If the articles leave you wanting more, now you know where to go.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce that Jonathan Parshall and J. Michael Wenger have been selected as Naval History’s Authors of the Year for their article in the December 2011 issue, “Pearl Harbor’s Overlooked Answer.” The thought-provoking piece provided fresh insights into how the Imperial Japanese Navy was able to catch U.S. forces so unprepared on 7 December 1941.