Posts Tagged ‘Military’

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Political Monday: Dealing with Cuts in Defense

May 28, 2012

As the United States looks to reduce its overall budget deficit, it is natural for conservatives and liberals to push for cuts in areas outside their own interests. Generally speaking, for conservatives, it’s social programs.  For liberals, it’s defense spending.  Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about various areas of cuts and try to step beyond the “politics as usual” and look for what is really going on.  To that end, a look at a small sliver of proposed defense spending cuts sheds some light on the subject.

Andrea Shalal-Esa of Reuters reported on the effects of proposed cuts at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Tank Plant, in Lima Ohio[i], on the local Lima economy.  It is well worth your time to read her article as it takes spending cuts down to a personal level.  While Andrea’s article is politically neutral, I think stories like this will be the fodder for the current political season.  Unfortunately, both political camps will miss the point of her story; budget cuts have real impact on individuals.

Upon reflection though, I think the real culprit in this situation is the company running the Lima facility – General Dynamics.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am very fond of General Dynamics.  I served in the US Navy’s Submarine Service and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division plays a large role in construction of safe and capable submarines.  That is not to blame them for budget cuts but more in how they react to budget cuts.  We must remember, our military is their customer.  By extension, that makes our government and ultimately, “We The People” their customers.

In business, management has the responsibility to return to investors the maximum amount of profit.  In the Lima case, they entered into a contract to run the facility for the government and produce tanks.  With the winding down of two wars, we have a surplus of tanks.  It is silly to spend over $6 million per tank on new ones, regardless of its impact on the Lima community.  In business, you must make the products the customer needs, not the product you want them to buy.  The question is not what can we do to keep the military buying unneeded tanks but what can we do to manufacture equipment at the facility until the military needs more tanks.  Companies supplying our military have for far too long depended on increased sales to maintain their profitability.  It is time that changes.

General Dynamics knows this.  Their latest acquisition of IPWireless Inc. shows they understand the need to diversify.  So how do we help them keep the Lima plant operational in the near-term?  This is the question our politicians need to answer; this is where their rhetoric fails.  The plant needs to remain operational in regards to manufacturing but idol in regards to building tanks.

The point is, it is not a political question as much as it is a one of practicality.  We need the ability to manufacture tanks but we cannot afford to pay for tanks just to keep the plant working.  Just off the top of my head, one obvious task the plant can take on is refitting and refurbishing tanks for overhaul.  As the number return from our combat zones, they will overwhelm the depot-level repair facilities.  Another task might be the recycling of tanks that reach the end of their planned life cycle.  It is up to General Dynamics to find useful work to keep their employees working, not the federal government.  Of course, it is in the government’s best interest to assist them in finding such tasking.

Another point to keep in mind when you hear a politician blast the opposing party for their lack of leadership on this particular issue, neither party shows any leadership.  The conservatives simply want to keep buying new weapons, the budget be damned, and the liberals want to slash production without thinking about the long-term effect on our national security.  Of course, I generalize but you get the point.

Today is Memorial Day.  Perhaps it is fitting to take on this subject on a day we honor the brave men and women that have kept our nation safe since before we were even an independent country.  We owe it to them, and the current men and women keeping us safe to spend each penny wisely.  We must give them the equipment they need.  We need to be frugal so we can afford to do just that.  Wasteful spending is just as unpatriotic as not spending at all.  We need companies like General Dynamics to do their part and keep the Lima plant open and working so, they can respond quickly when the demand for tanks returns.  We need their creativity to find ways to keep it operational.  This will make General Dynamics a true partner to our freedom and not just the beneficiary of unbridled defense spending.

 

 


[i] Shalal-Esa, Andrea. “U.S. Defense Cuts Hit Home at Ohio Tank Plant.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 May 2012. Web. 28 May 2012.
<http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/us-usa-defense-ohio-idUSBRE84N1DW20120524>.

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Samuel Dealey, American Naval Hero

December 11, 2011

World War II is full of heroes, as all wars seem to be.  Still, given the scope, scale and especially the sacrifice of our entire nation, the heroes of World War II stand apart as even the average soldier and sailor would be heroic, judged by the standards of other wars.  Samuel David Dealey is just such a standout when it comes to heroes.  His story speaks directly to the spirit of America and the ability of Americans to put country above self.

Born September 13, 1906 in Dallas Texas, Samuel‘s father died when he was six, causing his mother to move the family to California for a time.  He returned to Texas and finished high school and spent two years studying at Southern Methodist University before transferring to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Sam was not the most dedicated student to say the least.  His studies lapsed at Annapolis in 1925 for a time.  He buckled down in 1926 and graduated in the middle of the pack in the class of 1930.  By all accounts, Sam was a smart young man who simply did not apply himself.

Entering the fleet in 1930, Dealey served on several ships (including the USS Nevada (BB- 36) and the USS Wyoming (BB-32)).  In 1934, Samuel made a decision that changed his life; he joined the United States Submarine Service where both his talent and bravado served his needs as well as the Navy’s.  Rising quickly, in 1941 he took command of USS S-20 (SS-120), an experimental submarine, stationed in New London, Connecticut.  He was serving on S-20 when war broke out with Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.

Due to his success on S-20, Sam was assigned to USS Harder (SS-257) a new-construction submarine as its commanding officer.  Many of the improvements tested while he commanded S-20, including the diesel-electric drive, were used on Harder.  After commissioning and shake-down in New London, while in the Caribbean, Harder survived an attack by US aircraft that mistook her for an enemy submarine.  After that, she sailed to Pearl Harbor to join the fleet in mid-1943.

Movie lore often obscures the true acts of heroism as they usurp notable achievements to advance their plots.  Separating fact from fiction becomes very hard.  Such is the case when talking about Commander Dealey.  You see, Commander Dealey earned a nickname during his time on Harder.  He was known as “The Destroyer Killer.”  It seems a requirement for World War II submarine movies to include what is known as the “down the throat” shot.  This is when you fire at a contact that is heading right for you and dive under them as your torpedo slams into them.  Commander Dealey did not invent the maneuver, but it can be argued he perfected it.   During his fifth war patrol, Dealey and the crew of Harder sank five Japanese destroyers in four days.  His tactics we so successful the Japanese thought the island of Tawi-Tawi was surrounded by numerous submarines and abandoned it as a base of operations.  The fact is, the numerous submarines they feared turned out to be just one, USS Harder.  For his actions during this war patrol, Commander Dealey was awarded the Medal of Honor.  The citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Harder during her fifth war patrol in Japanese controlled waters. Floodlighted by a bright moon and disclosed to an enemy destroyer escort which bore down with intent to attack, Cmdr. Dealey quickly dived to periscope depth and waited for the pursuer to close range, then opened fire, sending the target and all aboard down in flames with his third torpedo. Plunging deep to avoid fierce depth charges, he again surface and, within nine minutes after sighting another destroyer, had sent the enemy down tail first with a hit directly amidship. Evading detection he penetrated the waters of  Tawi Tawi with the Japanese fleet six miles away and scored death blows on two patrolling destroyers in quick succession. With his ship heeled over by the concussion of the first exploding target and the second vessel nose diving in a blinding detonation, he cleared the area at high-speed. Sighted by a large hostile fleet force on the following day, he swung his bow towards the lead destroyer for another “down-the-throat” shot, fired three bow tubes and promptly crash dived to be terrifically rocked seconds later by the exploding ship as the Harder passed beneath. This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Cmdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.

In another act of daring, Commander Dealey placed his submarine nose-first against a reef off the Woleai Island to rescue a downed and injured pilot.  Using he engines to keep the submarine against the reef, Harder faced continued sniper and machine gun fire, as well and horrific rip-currents along the reef.  The crew used a rubber raft to cross the reef and retrieve the pilot.  Without his and his crew’s extraordinary efforts, the pilot would have fallen into enemy hands.

In the end, Commander Dealey simply took the fight to the enemy.  He was well aware of the danger he faced with the tactics he used.  Though successful as they were, sadly, USS Harder was lost to enemy action during her sixth war patrol with a loss of all hands aboard, including Commander Dealey.

While much controversy surrounds the reasons for this sixth patrol, nothing can diminish the bravery and sacrifice of men such as Commander Dealey and his crew.  They join the fifty-one other submarines, 374 officers, and 3131 men lost in World War II.  During the war, the US Submarine Service lost a higher percentage of men and any other service.  Remarkably, the entire service only made up 1.6% of the sailors in the US Navy but accounted for over 54% of Japanese ships sunk.  The submariners of World War II put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis.  Commander Dealey exemplifies the spirit and love of country these special men had, to borrow from Winston Churchill “Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners.” 

During his time as Captain of Harder, Commander Dealey was awarded the Navy Cross with three gold stars, the army’s Distinguished Service Cross (presented to him by Gen. Douglas MacArthur), two presidential unit citations, and a Purple Heart, all in addition to the Medal of Honor.  He was responsible for sinking over 15,000 tons (16 ships) and damaging over 27,000 tons of enemy shipping.

Today, if you visit the submarine base in New London, you will see most buildings are named to honor a hero of the submarine fleet.  Dealey Center, the base cinema complex, is named in honor of Commander Dealey and dedicated to the memory of him, his crew and the USS Harder.

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The Mighty 8th

January 19, 2010

I saw in news recently the Georgia chapter of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society held their last statewide meeting.  Age is catching up to the men and travel is difficult.  After reading the article, I recalled my visit, a few years ago, to the Mighty Eight Air Force Museum outside of Savannah, Georgia.  I speed past the museum driving along Interstate-95 many times, seeing the bomber behind it catches the eye, but it was a long time before I stopped in.

Entering the museum grounds, you really do not get a sense of the place.  It is an attractive building but somehow does not capture the special nature of its contents.  I’m not sure any building could.  Opening its doors and entering is stepping back in time and you begin, just begin, to understand the debt we owe to these brave men.

I arrived late in the day and the museum had few visitors.  They give guided tours throughout the day but the last one was well underway.  The woman at the ticket counter said I was free to wander around though and suggested I speak with an older gentleman sitting near the entrance of the first exhibit.  He obviously was one of the tour guides and had finished for the day.  I felt bad at bothering him but did as the woman suggested.

The man sat in a folding chair and looked tired.  Not the kind of tired you get mowing the lawn on a hot day, rather the kind that takes a lifetime of accumulation.  Still, as I approached him, I could see a glint in his eye, a spark of the fire that started many years earlier.  I told him I knew I was too late for a tour but asked if he minded telling me about the museum and what I’d see.  He rose to his feet, no longer looking tired, full of life.  He took me by the arm and said, “Son, can’t do it, there’s just some things in life ya have to see.”  He took me on the tour.

Turns out, he fought with the Mighty Eighth during World War II and was one of several veterans giving tours.  He spent the next hour telling me what I would see at each exhibit, and then gave me time to take it in.  After, he told me something personal about each one.  Everything from letters from home and buddies lost, to flying in combat and finally coming home.  He gave me a history lesson I will never forget.  Without him, the day would have been special, with him – it was magical.  After the tour, I told my guide I wanted to write about it and asked if he minded me using his name, he said he did not but preferred me say, “it was just one of the boys.”

The Mighty Eighth paid a heavy price in World War II.  Of the over 200,000 men who served in it, 26,000 died in combat.  Over three times that number wounded.  They attacked Germany’s ability to make war, something the Germans were keen on protecting.  The Eight Air Force played a major role in the Allied victory.  Now, when I drive down I-95 and see the museum, I take my foot off the gas; give a glance and a salute to all the boys, the heroes of the air, who gave so much of themselves to our country.

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