Comment and Discussion

With this in mind, our main challenges are to continue developing our maritime and naval capabilities and to support actively cooperation initiatives to achieve international maritime security. These initiatives include diverse international agreements on maritime safety and security, the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, the Asia-Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies forum, and exercises such as RimPac, where the Chilean Navy has been entrusted with greater responsibilities over the years.

From this perspective, it is our firm conviction that the U.S. Navy is a powerful ally that can continue to assist us in facing these challenges though achieving greater interoperability, improving the safety of life at sea, and increasing maritime and naval control and surveillance. All this can be demonstrated in the development of human and material factors, from the strengthening of preparation, training, and tactics, to the access to equipment and systems necessary to satisfy the demands of the new scenarios. However, beyond any consideration, the notion of our two navies seeing each other as complementary and essential partners in the fulfillment of shared objectives always will prevail.

— Admiral Admiral Julio Leiva Molina, Chief of Naval Operations, Armada de Chile

Thank you for including Chief of Maritime Staff Admiral Yutaka Murakawa’s remarks in “The Commanders Respond.” In editing it, your staff added an expression that is different from the one Admiral Murakawa used. Where he wrote “DDH Izumo,” the article reads “helicopter carrier Izumo.” The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force does not designate any ships as “helicopter carriers” and uses the term “DDH” exclusively.

—Japan Maritime Self Defense Force


(See T. Gilmore, pp. 48–53, March 2018 Proceedings)

Commander Gilmore’s excellent article on Iranian gray zone mastery illuminates how we have been outwitted at our own game, i.e., mastery of the seas. The incidents he cites cover a considerable amount of modern history for the Persian Gulf area and continue to occur; we apparently have not learned how to avoid them. The United States must remember that its “enemies” watch U.S. operations, study weaknesses, and exploit opportunities. What to us are minor incidents are to the enemy a great victory; they have confronted us and “won.” We need to think ahead of what an enemy might do to us, marrying knowledge of his capabilities with ours to prevent incidents.

The mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) occurred during Operation Earnest Will in February 1988. Many have bemoaned that the ship was worried about mines, but had no system to detect them save the “Mark 1 eyeball.” Although lookouts saw the mines, it was too late; the ship was in a minefield. Were it not for the heroic efforts of her crew, the Samuel B. Roberts would have gone down. The lesson here is not what many have written, i.e., that damage control saves lives, but that no ship should be exposed to mines without the ability to defend herself against them. Iran knew that we had no organic, mine detection/neutralization capability and exploited that fact. When will our ships have organic mine defenses?

The HSV Swift attack is another example of how the enemy exploits our weaknesses. The Swift was hit by missile fired by Houthi rebels on 1 October 2016, likely a Chinese C-802. This is a repeat of the Atlantic Conveyor sinking, a U.K. commercial vessel which carried helicopters to the British task force during the Falklands War. Argentine Exocet missiles fired at the convoy were deflected from the escorts by chaff but hit the Atlantic Conveyor, which had no defenses. Rear Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, Task Force Commander, later wrote that “Conveyor’s loss left the Land Forces very badly placed for any means of transport other than walking.” The Swift should have had some sort of defense against missile attack.

I predict that the next attack is one that Commander Gilmore doesn’t elaborate too much about (see his footnotes), and that’s the Iranian Sadegh-1 “drones” flying near our carriers and in their air traffic patterns. According to CNN, twice in August 2017 the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Persian Gulf encountered drones flying “within 1,000 ft.” Since that event, crudely made drones with improvised explosive devices on them were used in an attack on the Russian air base at Khmeimim in Syria. The Russians were able to neutralize them either by electronic or kinetic means, but the precedent is there.

It’s time for a different type of plane guard around the carrier. In addition to the plane guard, a “drone CAP” helo should be ready to intercept and down any drone flying too close to the carrier, either kinetically or with a Drone- Defender or similar type of device. We should not wait for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to collide with an F/A-18 in the pattern or hit an aircraft on the deck. The apparent lack of defense against the UAV is something the Iranians or their proxies will exploit.

—Captain Fred Furtek, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)


(See F. Rainbow, p. 6, April 2018 Proceedings)


(See J. Caverley and S. Tangredi, pp. 18–22, April 2018 Proceedings)

I am gratified by the kind words on the Editor’s Page concerning my contributions to Proceedings over the years. These words perfectly captured my view of how Proceedings articles should be—considering all sides of an issue and identifying assumptions, costs, risks, and alternatives before coming to a conclusion and recommendations.

As Director of the Institute for Future Warfare Studies (IFWS) at the U.S. Naval War College, I always am interested in ideas from thoughtful, innovative, and motivated individuals who want to improve the naval service and U.S. national security overall. IFWS can provide an additional opportunity to expand and analyze your ideas in greater depth in the company and with the assistance of professional defense analysts and academic scholars.

Our primary products are a series of specific-issue working papers. These contributions are designed to analyze an existing or potential issue impacting the Navy/Department of Defense (DoD) into the future that is not being examined by the Navy Staff, Joint Staff, or other DoD organization (such as amphibious warships in sea control), and we circulate the papers among these staffs. We try to avoid duplicating other efforts while adding unique ideas and analysis.

Those who are interested in participating in our program can contact us at [email protected] .

— Captain Sam J. Tangredi, U.S. Navy (Retired), U.S. Naval War College

One has to be blind not to notice that today’s U.S. Navy has some two dozen aircraft carriers, equally divided between supercarriers and oddly-named “big-deck amphibs” or “CVLs” in the more-sensible new term.

All—repeat, all—are commanded by blue-suit Navy officers and are operated by blue-suit Navy officers and crews. As a bonus, the smaller CVLs carry U.S. Marine Corps air and infantry/ground forces with unique capabilities. What’s not to like?

Those who grumble that “destroyers are the only surface ships” call forth memories of the interwar “battleship navy” whose “gun club” priesthood resisted the war-winning aircraft carrier (large and small). Sound familiar?

—T. R. Murphy, former Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, and senior associate, Center for Strategic & International Studies


(See J. Cordle, October 2017 Proceedings Today; See F. Pezeshkian, pp. 18–19, February 2018 Proceedings)

ELEVEN MONTHS REMOVED from the tragic and heroic day on the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), and nine months for the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), it is important to remember that post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and its effects remain for some sailors and might yet manifest for others. Seven of my Fitzgerald shipmates gave their lives on that day, and 267 more gave everything they had to save everyone else.

After the initial recovery period, the Navy decided it would be best to break up the crew to help the surface force recover from a spiraling manning deficit in Seventh Fleet. While many of these sailors have returned to normal lives, some have experienced manifestations of PTSD brought on by returning to sea. I personally know of a number who have held their hands up and said, “I need more help.” Some of those may never see a ship again.

It is important to reemphasize the lessons from the USS Cole (DDG-67) bombing and other incidents with loss of life at sea. [Editor’s Note: Then-Commander Cordle served as executive officer of the Cole until shortly before she was attacked by terrorists. He knew most of the crew members injured and killed.] We as a Navy need to recognize that PTSD and the mental anguish of survival are real, debilitating, and need to be treated as such. All commands in the months and years to come need to examine their sailors for signs of PTSD and mental health issues related to these collisions tragic events in the summer of 2017. At the same time, our sailors need to remember there are many resources available to help them cope with the tragedy.

Mental health providers in the Navy Medical Corps only can do their job if we go and talk with them and if we allow our sailors to seek help. Most commands will, but some will not. For many, “getting back on the horse” will not be enough to restore them when to how they were when they went to sleep the night before the collisions. I sincerely hope the Navy will take this article’s recommendations seriously and establish a formal program to follow these John S. McCain and Fitzgerald sailors as they learn to live with the aftermath of these catastrophes.

The twin tragedies have served as a wakeup call for the surface fleet in many ways. Let’s make sure it includes awareness of the mental health requirements of our most irreplaceable assets, our sailors.

—Commander Sean M. Babbitt, former executive officer (March–August 2017), USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62)

I READ WITH SADNESS and frustration of Petty Officer Pezeshkian’s battles with PTSD. Sadness because he describes the turmoil that many veterans struggle with each day, usually for the rest of their lives. As Petty Officer Pezeshkian indicates, the challenges are varied, and those suffering and treating PTSD often must go back to the proverbial tool box for help.

And frustration because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as a federal agency, cannot administer cannabis as a treatment until the Food and Drug Administration or Congress removes this medicine from the schedule of controlled substances. Of the 29 states that have approved medical cannabis so far, 25 specifically name PTSD as an approved condition (the remainder stipulate “chronic or persistent medical conditions”). PTSD is neither a “red” or “blue” issue, nor does cannabis’ effectiveness change with geography; cannabis is recognized universally as a suitable treatment for this disorder.

I am not suggesting that cannabis use for active-duty personnel be permitted at any time or that all PTSD patients start using cannabis. But when a patient comes to a VA hospital and is told, “Cannabis might help with your symptoms but is not an option here. Go next door or to the next state to get it,” reasonable citizens must speak out to try to accelerate Federal action.

PTSD is forever, and far too often, it becomes a death sentence. As President Donald Trump said in the State of the Union address, “People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure—I want to give them a chance right here at home. It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.’”

If Petty Officer Pezeshkian and others suffering from PTSD desire the “right to try,” the VA should be able to honor their requests.

—Commander Paul Amrhein, U.S. Navy (Retired)

To Carry the Weight of Nagasaki

(See H. Zisselman, p. 27, March 2018; J. Hannon, pp. 10, 84, April 2018 Proceedings)

Prudent planning for each succeeding generation’s flight of fact, fiction, and fancy regarding the mission that ended World War II in the Pacific theater of operations should require input to the weight-and-balance sheet from the pilot who planned and executed that mission. Anything less results in an asymmetrical flight and/or a crash. This pilot was Major Charles W. Sweeney, the training officer of the 509th Composite Group, pilot of the instrument plane at Hiroshima and command pilot of the Nagasaki mission. I note proudly that Charlie Sweeney was a Quincy, Massachusetts, boyhood neighbor, friend, fellow parishioner, and hero of mine.

As the nation approached the 50th anniversary of the end the war in 1995, now–Major General Sweeney felt compelled to give testimony to Congress regarding his missions. The Smithsonian was in the process of producing a revisionist, anti-American, false account of the story of the Enola Gay (the name given to the B-29 used to drop the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima, under the command of Army Air Force Colonel Paul Tibbets). The thoughts the museum was enshrining as facts were falsehoods and distortions.

Charles Sweeney’s testimony should be required reading for anyone who seeks to understand and/or comment on this event ending the war. His testimony is available on the internet.

The only weight I carry from Nagasaki is the deep sorrow I have for the loss of the widows, orphans, Gold Star parents, and unborn children of those KIA/MIA/POW/WIA Americans who sacrificed their all.

When I stand over the hulk of the Arizona and sit on a bench at the Punchbowl, I am overcome by awe with the demonstrated courage of “The Greatest Generation.” God Bless America.

—Captain Richard A. Stratton, U.S. Navy (Retired)

It is important for U.S. commissioned officers to study every aspect of past military operations, including their rationales for action as well as the impacts of our organized violence. We also must understand that as a military, our primary function is to manage organized violence on behalf of our nation—and that invariably means human beings die because of our actions.

The atomic bombing of Nagasaki resulted in fewer initial dead and wounded than the firebombing of Tokyo the same year. At Nagasaki, around 75,000 to 87,000 people died in the initial blast. However, the 9–10 March 1945 fire-bombing of Tokyo resulted in 97,000 killed directly, according to an estimate of the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department. The atomic bomb shocks because of the quantity of instantaneous death and resulting radiation sickness as well as the post-war social and political reactions (and exploitation of the events).

The rationale for the attack was guided by U.S. conclusions on the role of the Emperor. Emperor Hirohito was the ultimate target of the attack for an indirect effect—to convince him to surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen for a mixture of factors related to their wartime roles as well as the range limitations of the B-29. Kyoto was specifically removed from the target list overall because of its cultural importance to the Japanese and the risk of enraging the populace. At the time, President Harry S Truman believed that taking this the action led to a swifter termination of the war and saved both American and Japanese lives.

Seeing those killed and wounded from our action, enemy action, accidents, or nature is part of what we must be prepared to face. Foreign humanitarian assistance and rescues at sea are not our primary purpose. Our core function is to enact our national policy through force, which includes overt and implied threats of violence against other nations and people. We also must be prepared for the possibility that we will be the ones directly causing death intentionally in the course of our duties, and that is something that we must each reconcile to effectively lead our sailors in combat.

—Commander Frank Cowan, U.S. Navy

Overuse Devalues Personal Awards

(See P. Kingsbury, p. 14, March 2018; B. Tillman, p. 10, April 2018 Proceedings)

Fleet Master Chief Kingsbury does not cite any empirical evidence to support his supposition that awards are being overused. Instead he brings up one anecdotal situation after another. I learned long ago that the term “anecdotal” means this is just another damn story and does not necessarily apply to the universe under study.

Barrett Tillman’s response is seeded with much the same biases as the Kingsbury article. The remote observation that some airman cannot remember what a specific ribbon represents should not indict an entire system.

Awards are not about what the viewer perceives them to be about but instead what they mean to the wearer. Some recipients are more than deserving and some less so. For my money the current system is working as well as it can. If anything, we should strive for all potential awards to get a fair (and honest) hearing, and our goal should be to award any and all that we can. Recognizing our troops costs us virtually nothing. There is no evidence that even remotely suggests that overuse (if it does exist) jeopardizes morale or diminishes readiness.

—Commander Richard G. Allison, MSC, U.S. Navy (Retired), Life Member

Build a Warfighting Edge

(See J. Lushenko, pp. 78–79, March 2018 Proceedings)

I endorse Lieutenant Commander Lushenko’s recommendation that surface warfare officer (SWO) billets be established in all aviation squadrons. From a SWO’s perspective, such an effort would provide myriad potential advantages and help improve overall tactical prowess and cohesion of the comprehensive (both the ship itself and embarked aircraft) afloat fighting unit. It is standard practice for submarine and aviation officers to be billeted to destroyer and amphibious squadrons—the surface community should adopt a similar practice.

Pipeline SWO tactical training at Surface Warfare Officer’s School (SWOS) and the Aegis Readiness and Training Center rightly focuses on organic ship systems and only tangentially covers embarked and carrier air wing aircraft. As antiair warfare coordinator on an Aegis cruiser, my pipeline training helped me feel confident and competent concerning the tactical capabilities and limitations of the SPY radar, Aegis combat system, and the Standard family of missiles, but I lacked a rigorous introduction to the various systems fielded on embarked carrier strike group aircraft.

In the coming fight, rapid, effective, and efficient employment of all aspects of naval power will be required to prevail. Watchstanders on the ship and aviators in the sky should be comfortable that their shipmates on the other side of the net understand their expectations, concerns, and intentions when conducting real-world operations.

For most junior SWOs, involvement in aviation operations goes little further than following the air-ops checklist and getting permission for a “green deck” from the commanding officer. While embarked detachments on cruisers and destroyers offer opportunities for aviation cross-training/exposure, competing duties such as watchstanding, administration, operational requirements, and earning warfare qualification preclude in-depth study and appreciation of aviation capabilities and operations. We can do better.

—Lieutenant Brendan Cordial, U.S. Navy

What Happened To Our Surface Forces?

(See K. Eyer, pp. 24–29, January 2018; L. Jones and J. Hinkle, pp. 10–11, March 2018; T. Pinney, p. 86, April 2018 Proceedings)

Captain Eyer wrote about “the [surface force’s] tendency to ‘get underway at all costs.’” If the command is not ready for sea, the commanding officer must say so. Better to injure pride than lose lives. My first NROTC instructor emphasized: “Know your job. Do your job. And look after your men.”

Where is your backbone?

—Commander Charles R. Burke, U.S. Navy (Retired)


(See J. Yurso, pp. 38–42, October 2017; K. Highfill, pp. 87–88, January 2018; J. B. Bryant, p. 87, March 2018 Proceedings)

IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY that we can determine the moment that the USS Thresher (SSN-593) began slipping beneath her test depth (1,300 feet). However, there is no “enigma” about the meaning of the message “experiencing minor difficulty”—or “minor problem” according to some recollections—that was transmitted from the dying submarine.

During lengthy interviews in the summer of 1963 with the first commanding officer of the Thresher, (later) Rear Admiral Dean Axene, the only problem that he said he would describe as a “minor difficulty” at test depth would have been a shutdown or “scram” of the submarine’s nuclear reactor. Axene enumerated all of the potential problems that could have occurred—from jammed diving planes to a pipe failure—and discounted all but the reactor shutdown.

The scram probability was confirmed in my follow-on discussions that summer with (later) Vice Admiral F. J. Harlfinger, at the time Commander, Submarine Flotilla 1, and (later) Captain D. A. Paolucci, then Commander, Submarine Division 71. Both officers were intimately familiar with the Thresher-class submarines. (Previously they were the head and deputy head of the Submarine Warfare Branch in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.)

Further, a short time after the Thresher disaster, Vice Admiral H. G. Rickover, the head of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, reduced the time required to restart a scrammed nuclear reactor.

—Norman Polmar, author, Death of the USS Thresher (Lyons Press, 2004)

The Comment & Discussion section now continues online! To read additional C&D from May, click here . We welcome brief comments on articles published in Proceedings and online and discussion of issues appropriate for the Naval Institute’s open forum. Submissions may be edited for clarity and length. Send submissions by email to [email protected] .



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