November 19, 2018

Open Thread 13

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't Culture War.

The Naval Institute Press Holiday Sale is here! This is an excellent chance to stock up on naval books for the coming year, as they give 50% off a bunch of books, and free shipping. I've only included items that are specifically on sale, either for Christmas (which runs through 12/14, but was extended a couple times last year) or in their normal "Clear the Decks" clearance. Members get 40% off more books, and the $40 web membership can be well worth it. Shipping is $5.50 for the first book and $3.50 for more books the rest of the year. In the process of making my own list, I also selected a few works that I think would be of interest to readers here. Yes, I do own every single one of these, and there's only a few I haven't read cover to cover.

First, they're selling the History of US Naval Operations in WWII bundle again. This is an excellent series, going into surprising detail on everything the USN did in WWII. I gave a couple sets as presents last year.

Second, a bunch of Norman Friedman stuff is on sale. His seminal US Battleships: An Illustrated Design History, the new British Battleships of the Victorian Era and its sequel British Battleships 1904-1945 are all 50% off. Other works available cheaply include US Submarines Since 1945, Revised Edition, US Aircraft Carriers, Fighters Over the Fleet, and the excellent Network-Centric Warfare. Also, the incredible Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems can be had for only $40.

From other authors we have Nicholas Jellicoe's Jutland: The Unfinished Battle (which formed the basis for my series), Kaigun, on the Japanese Navy, R A Burt's British Battleships 1919-1945, British Aircraft Carriers by David Hobbs, and the superb Nelson's Navy.

Overhauled posts include Iowa parts three, four, and five, Ballistics, US Battleships in World War II, all three parts of The Battleships of Pearl Harbor, and The Battle of Lissa.

November 18, 2018

Ship History - USS Missouri (BB-63) Part 3

When the Korean War broke out, the USS Missouri was the only battleship still in active service with the US Navy. She was President Truman's favorite ship, because she'd been sponsored by his daughter and named after his home state, and he'd kept her active against the advice of the military establishment. Even her grounding on Thimble Shoal was not enough to persuade him to retire her1 and this proved fortuitous when the Korean War broke out in June of 1950, the North Korean assault sending the South Koreans reeling back to a small corner of the country near Pusan.

Missouri bombarding targets in Korea

When the invasion began, Missouri was on a training cruise. Initially the training schedule continued despite the war, but in August, she was ordered to drop the midshipmen off and hurry to Korea, to support the upcoming invasion of Inchon. On the way, she encountered a hurricane which did enough damage to require a week in Pearl Harbor for repair and swept several helicopters over the side. On a training shoot in Hawaii, a mistake with the fire control system resulted in a constant range going to the guns, which missed the island they were shooting at entirely. Read more...

November 16, 2018

Commercial Aviation Part 1

A little over a year ago, while I was moving from LA to Oklahoma, I wrote a short series on commercial air travel at SSC. I've decided to repost it here in the Friday block. I don't plan to write any more on the topic, but I thought you guys would enjoy it. Hopefully, it at least helps make your next interaction with the airline industry make more sense.

First, I’m going to discuss how and why airlines sell seats the way they do. The basic principle is that they want to get paid as much as possible to move people between A and B, and do so as cheaply as possible. But there are lots of combinations of A and B, and lots of different kinds of people who want to go between them, so the airlines have very complicated rules in place to maximize their revenue. Read more...

November 15, 2018

Two Recent News Stories

There have been a couple of interesting naval news stories recently, and I figured I'd offer my take.

First, the recent sinking of the floating drydock that was carrying Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the drydock sank, and it was only fast work from the crew onboard Kuznetsov that kept her from following. The most common story is that the pumps keeping the drydock afloat lost shore power, and the diesel generators that were supposed to take over had no fuel. Read more...

November 14, 2018

The Falklands War Part 8

In early April, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, a few desolate rocks in the South Atlantic. The British mobilized their fleet, sending it south by way of Ascension Island. On the 25th, a force retook South Georgia, a even smaller and more desolate island that Argentina had also captured, while the main task force closed in on the Falklands. May 1st saw the British launch their attack, first via bombers from Ascension and then from the carriers.

General Belgrano

May 1st had passed with little interference from the Argentinian Navy, but on the 2nd, Admiral Juan Lombardo, in charge of the naval defense of the islands, sent his forces into action. He had divided his available assets into four task groups, and sent three to the north of the islands, and one to the south. The most obviously dangerous group, TG 79.1, was composed of the carrier Veinticinco de Mayo, which had begun her career as the British Venerable, and two Type 42 destroyers, sisters of the ships that formed the core air defense of the British fleet. This group was accompanied in the north by TG 79.2, two ex-US destroyers armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles.2 The last northern force was composed of three French-built Drummond class corvettes, also armed with Exocets. The southern force was built around the light cruiser General Belgrano, formerly USS Phoenix. She was escorted by another pair of Exocet-armed American destroyers. While it's easy to dismiss her 6" guns as obsolete in the age of supersonic fighters and guided missiles, the Belgrano was a serious concern for Admiral Woodward. His force was not set up to deal with a serious surface threat. The largest guns available were 4.5" weapons that were seriously outclassed by the Belgrano's guns, and their Exocets were not designed to kill armored ships. If the cruiser had managed to close within gun range of the carriers, probably at night or in bad weather, the results would likely have been disastrous. Read more...

November 11, 2018


A century ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the most destructive war history had ever seen came to an end.

For four years, Europe had torn itself apart. While popular memory is overwhelmingly dominated by the trenches and mud of the Western Front, the war was much wider than that. At sea, Britain and Germany battled to strangle each other, with Britain finally emerging victorious. Italy and Austria shed staggering quantities of blood in the Alps, in a war even more static than that in France, before Italy finally prevailed. In the east, Russia had collapsed a year earlier, after fighting a war in spaces too vast to allow the stalemate that had occurred in the west. In the Middle East, the British and French had finally defeated the Ottomans after a long and difficult campaign. They had taken the war to German colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, setting the stage for much of the Pacific War 30 years later.

1918 had been a tumultuous year. It had begun with great German victories, barely contained by the French and British, with the aid of the Americans now pouring into Europe. The three nations then went on the offensive, swiftly reclaiming the German gains and destroying their army. The writing was on the wall, and the Germans requested an armistice while the negotiations for a final peace took place.

The day a century ago when the war was brought to an end is commemorated as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day or Veterans Day. Approximately 10 million soldiers and 8 million civilians were killed between August of 1914 and November 1918, and millions more wounded. Remember them today.

And remember those who died later. The Allies never reached German soil, and many Germans believed that they had been betrayed instead of being defeated on the battlefield. Their desire for revenge would plunge Europe into another war 21 years later.

November 09, 2018

Museum Ships - Rest of World

I've previously posted lists of museum ships in the US and Europe. This post completes the list of museum ships worldwide. As with the European one, it's sorted by country, then city, and comes from this list. I'd encourage you to go support the nearest one. If you'd like to review it for Naval Gazing, that's even better. Read more...

November 07, 2018

Museum Review - 45th Infantry Division Museum

The 45th Infantry Division is an old and respected unit. Its subordinate regiments fought in WWI, and the division as a whole served with distinction across Sicily, Italy, France and Germany during WWII. It went to Korea, and its successor unit, the 45th Infantry Brigade, was deployed during Desert Storm and later to both Afghanistan and Iraq. The history of this unit, part of the Oklahoma National Guard, is chronicled in the excellent 45th Infantry Division Museum, located northeast of downtown Oklahoma City.

Me with an M48 tank
Type: Museum with an eclectic collection of mostly ground-focused military paraphernalia
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Rating: 4/5, Definitely worth a visit if you're in town
Price: Free

Website

November 05, 2018

Open Thread 12

It's time for our regular open thread. Talk about whatever you want, so long as it isn't culture war.

First, our regular link. I'm going to call out the FY 19 National Defense Authorization Act. No, it's not a particularly good read, or even totally comprehensible outside the Beltway. But it is useful to get a better idea of how the military gets its money. Or if you need to cure insomnia.

Second, overhauled posts include A Brief History of the Battleship, Iowa Part 1 and Part 2 and Fire Control Part 1 and Part 2.

Third, remember to update your bookmarks from to The CAPTCHA won't load on obormot.

November 04, 2018

Anti-Submarine Warfare - WWII - Operations Research in the Atlantic

While we've previously examined anti-submarine warfare in WWII in some detail, including forces, weapons, sensors, and how the British managed the Battle of the Atlantic, I haven't touched on what I find to be the most fascinating aspect. The war against the U-boats gave birth to a new science, Operations Research, which would find applications in almost every field of human endeavor.3

U-426 sinking in the Bay of Biscay

In principle, Operations Research or OR is fairly simple. It's the use of quantitative methods to provide decision-makers with information. Good OR recognizes that there are unquantifiable factors which may override the best numerical solution, and is most concerned with the use of existing equipment instead of the development of new technology. It's closely tied to fields such as industrial engineering and management science, but applies more broadly than either of those. A simple example can be found in Methods of Operations Research. An OR analyst saw that there was often a long line for soldiers to wash and rinse their mess gear at his new duty station. He also noticed that on average it took a soldier three times as long to wash as it did to rinse, but that there were two tubs for washing and two for rinsing. He suggested that one of the rinse tubs be switched to washing, and when the change was implemented, the line didn't even form most days. Read more...