Friday, May 1, 2015

Ship captain promoted despite crash Widow of lost Navy pilot says promotion is "disrespectful".

English: US Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3 insignia
English: US Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3 insignia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Navy ship skipper partially blamed for a fatal 2013 helicopter accident has been selected for promotion -- a move that the widow of one of the pilots says deepens her family’s wounds.
“It’s not only disrespectful to those who gave their lives, it also diminishes the advancement opportunities for more qualified officers who didn’t err when the stakes were highest," said Theresa Jones, the widow of the late Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones.
Former San Diego destroyer skipper Cmdr. Jana Vavasseur was chosen this month for promotion to the rank of captain, a step that still must be confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee
She declined to comment for this story.
Vavasseur was commanding officer of the William P. Lawrence when, on a choppy day on the Red Sea, her ship handling and other factors led to a helicopter being broken apart by high waves. 
The two pilots, who had just landed, were killed when the helicopter was swept off the deck in September 2013.
Jones, 35, and his co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan Gibson, 32, belonged to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 6 in Coronado. Both were married and had young children.
A Navy investigation last April concluded that Vavasseur’s abrupt maneuvering contributed to the loss of the pilots and their MH-60 aircraft. 
However, officials also found that she was operating within procedures -- though they acknowledged a longtime hole in Navy guidelines for destroyers with low sides, called “low freeboard.”
The case has attracted attention because it goes against one of the oldest tenets of the Navy: The captain of the ship is ultimately responsible when things go wrong.
Commanding officers have been punished for much less.
This week, the captain of the San Diego cruiser Lake Erie was relieved of command after an investigation found that he created a “poor command climate.”
Being removed from command is generally considered a career-ending action.
Meanwhile, in November, Vavasseur passed a review that opens the door for her to command another warship, such as an amphibious assault ship or a cruiser, in a year or two. 
First, her promotion to captain would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
People familiar with the process said it would be unusual for the Senate to derail a captain’s nomination. Congressional scrutiny is usually focused higher up the chain of command on promotions to admiral and general.
However, Vavasseur’s record has already sparked questions from the Hill, according to one insider, after a report in U-T San Diego brought attention to the case last year.
It’s happened before. In 2002, the Senate shut down the promotion of Cmdr. Kurt Lippold, commanding officer of the destroyer Cole in 2000 when it was attacked in Yemen. 
The Navy eventually withdrew his nomination even though an investigation determined Lippold and his crew probably couldn’t have prevented the attack. Lippold’s supporters have claimed he was scapegoated.
Like the Cole case, assigning blame for the events on the William P. Lawrence is not simple. The debate has caused an internal rift between the aviation and ship communities. 
Ship officers who investigated the accident said that Vavasseur followed the rules. The helicopter was “chocked and chained” on the deck before she turned the ship abruptly. She was in a hurry to follow orders to escort the aircraft carrier Nimitz.

Since the investigation was released, sailors who served on Vavasseur's crew have defended her in online comments, calling her a good and safety-conscious captain who doesn't deserve blame.
But aviators got the last word. Adm. Harry Harris, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander and a former flight officer, directed that Vavasseur receive a counseling letter.
In the Navy’s final report, he opined that, “The commanding officer did not exercise the highest degree of judgment, seamanship or prudence. ... We require more."
That counseling letter -- because it was not considered a punishment -- was not in the personnel file considered by the promotions board. 
At least one aviator has grumbled privately that a special fitness report could have been written to ensure that the fatal incident was reflected in her file.
Whatever happens with Vavasseur’s career, the William P. Lawrence crash has led to new policy for destroyers.
Last month, the Coronado-based surface ships command announced a new procedure that will increase safety during flight operations.
In short, the procedure helps sailors and pilots identify limits and safety considerations that take into account a destroyer's speed and sea conditions in addition to pitch, roll and relative winds.

Radio Program on Gulf War Illness - Guest, Dr. Beatrice Golomb

For those who might be interested, an internet radio program will air tomorrow on Gulf War illness. See the attached email for more details.
The host is Dr. Neil Nathan  on “Voice America,” in a show is called “The Cutting Edge of Health and Wellness Today.”  (Dr. Golomb will be a guest.)
The show will air tomorrow (Friday) May 1, 2015 at 2pm PST.
No worries if you are not interested; this is for those who might be*.
But for all of you, thank you so much for your service to your nation, and to your fellow Gulf War veterans
Warmest regards,
Beatrice Alexandra Golomb, MD, PhD
Janis B. Ritchie, BSN
Hayley J. Koslik, BS

*We do not want to be purveyors of unwanted email. Please let us know if you would rather not hear about events relevant to Gulf War illness. We will still let you know about our studies.

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The Cutting Edge of Health and Wellness Today 

Friday at 2 PM Pacific

May 01, 2015: Gulf War Illness: New Understandings of this underappreciated problem

Dr. Nathan is proud to be joined, on today's broadcast, by Dr. Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. The Golomb is best known for her research on Gulf War Illness and we will review what we now know of this serious medical problem and how to treat it. Gulf War illness is much more common than most people realize, so please join us for this important program.
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Friday at 2 PM Pacific Time on VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Channel 

Featured Guest


Dr. Golomb is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. She two decades of experience as a primary care physician, and has served as a Health Consultant at RAND. Her background includes a BS in physics, summa cum laude, an MD and PhD at UC San Diego (during which time she gave vaulting lesson to Francis Crick); a postdoctoral fellowship in the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, a Robert Woods Johnson Clinical Scholarship at RAND/UCLA and recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar Award. Her interests include: research methods and inference from evidence; the balance of treatment risks and benefi..... 

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Seven decades after second World War, Germany is still burying its deadDecades after they fell, dead soldiers are still being found and given burials

Animated map showing German and Axis allies' c...
Animated map showing German and Axis allies' conquests in Europe throughout World War II (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Coat of arms of Halbe
Coat of arms of Halbe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 123 miniature coffins, black boxes with numbers chalked on to their fronts, are resting beside a massive grave cut into Brandenburg’s soft, sandy soil. Before a large cross fashioned from two birch trunks, two red-bereted young soldiers from Germany’s postwar army, the Bundeswehr, stand guard. 
Seven decades after the second World War ended in BerlinGermany is still burying its dead. And here in the military graveyard in Halbe, an hour southeast of Berlin, hundreds of people have turned out to pay their respects to the latest soldiers to join the 27,000 already lying here. 
Most lost their lives here in Halbe in April 1945 in one of the last, vicious battles of the war. Among the graveside crowd is the bright-eyed 94-year-old Heinz Rothe. He was called up to the Wehrmacht as a 19 year old in 1939 and served in the 6th company of the 457th infantry division, known colloquially as the “Berlin Bears”, until he was captured in Romania in 1944. 
Rothe watches soldiers as young as he once was lower the small coffins into the grave, thinking about the 180 young men of his own company who once marched to war, and the 30 who returned. “I remember rushing forward in battle and noticing my comrades dropping away, one by one,” he says. “We had no time to go back for them, to give them a decent burial, so being here today brings me some peace.” 

Terrified locals

The Halbe graveyard is a peaceful and dignified place but seven decades ago, as local pastor J├╝rgen Behnken recalls, it was once anything but. As the Wehrmacht and Red Army clashed, terrified locals and deserters hid among the trees and the dead bodies, begging for the war to end. 
Organising the burial is Germany’s Volksbund – the war graves commission. To date the Volksbund has helped find and bury 25,000 soldiers’ remains: in forests, fields, building sites in Germany and around Europe. The end of the cold war a quarter century ago has opened up the former battlefields of central and eastern Europe. 
Sometimes the Volksbund teams can identify remains via soldier ID tags. Sometimes an engraved ring or a local’s testimony is enough. Then the hunt begins to link the remains to a family of a lost loved one. “It’s technical and emotional work and we make no distinction between the people we find,” says Joachim Kozlowksi, who heads the hunt for remains. 
“All those buried here in Halbe were very young people, some didn’t even know how to spell Wehrmacht but were drafted all the same.” 
This week’s burial is a sobre yet emotional event. Locals and visitors fight back tears; uniformed former Bundeswehr soldiers with drawn faces hum along as a brass band plays The Good Comrade. Honouring the war dead is a cultural touchstone in the former Allied countries but remains a moral minefield here, even as the Nazi era passes over the historical horizon. 

Revisionist danger

While most agree that individual victims of the war deserve a respectful burial, some fear the thin end of a revionist wedge towards a Wehrmacht-SS hero cult. For many, Halbe is synonymous with this dilemma, scene of several neo-Nazi marches in the past.
Modified assembly laws aim have put a stop to such instrumentalisation of the graveyard and locals quote the words of the graveyard’s founding pastor, Ernst Teichmann: “These were not heroes, these were men who wanted to go home.” 
In his burial ceremony speech, foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier walks a historical tightrope, recalling not just the 27,000 German soldiers here but also the 20,000 Russians and estimated 10,000 locals who died in one of many senseless battles of spring 1945 pushed by Berlin’s criminal regime. 
The final insult against basic principles of humanity, Steinmeier says, was the cynical decision to send out children and older men to their doom, facing down the Red Army as part of the so-called “Volkssturm”. “This couldn’t change the outcome of the war, simply drive up the terrible death count in the last months,” he says. In the peaceful forest graveyard, the crowd throws handfuls of soil on to the row of coffins in the grave and drifts away. 
But Heinz Rothe remains standing, lost in memory. He survived the war and returned home to Berlin in 1950, after six years in a prisoner of war camp. His father, who survived the first World War, was drafted into the Volkssturm.

Remembering Port's first fallen WWI soldier - Newburyport MA

Georges Scott's La Brigade Marine Americane Au...
Georges Scott's La Brigade Marine Americane Au Bois De Belleau in 1918 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The First World War was a long time ago — a century, in fact. With no living veterans, and battles fought in faraway places, it has faded from memory for many of us. I was lucky enough to have my memory jogged several months ago. 

I had recently completed some research on the Battle of Belleau Wood in France, a 1918 battle famous in the Marine Corps for its terrible death toll and the bravery of its soldiers. Later that day I drove by a memorial stone on Pond Street and really looked at it for the first time. It honors Eben Bradbury, who died on June 12, 1918, at the Battle of Belleau Wood. It was an eerie coincidence, but one that convinced me to find out more about how the war touched Newburyport, and about this young man in particular.
Newburyport has a wealth of information for those who wish to know about their past. The records of The Daily News at the library furnished the first sobering fact — Eben Bradbury had been killed in June, but his death was not reported until October. General Pershing, the leader of the American Expeditionary Force, had kept casualties from the battle a secret for months, fearing that the Germans would take advantage of the decimated Marines. Newburyport mourned its “first” World War I casualty, Pvt. John Henry, who died on July 19. Eben Bradbury had been dead for over a month. Between his death and its report, Eben’s sister got married, his grandfather died, Richardson’s Candy Store on Pleasant Street posted a reminder in The Daily News that sugar was for soldiers and recommended peanut clusters instead, two boys sold stolen grain bags, and life went on.As I dug a little deeper, more sources turned up. Census records revealed his address on Bromfield Street. A city directory pointed to his father’s pharmacy on Pleasant Street, and historian friends turned up valuable bits and pieces. The American Battle Monuments Commission verified that he is buried in France at the Aisne Marne American Cemetery, in Plot A, Row 07, Grave B4. He was born on Nov. 12, 1897, and was 20 years old when he died — just a few years older than my son is today. A message sent through a friend recommended a call to Steve Bradbury, a distant relative who has lovingly maintained the Pond Street memorial and the World War I artillery gun that stands near it. Steve was kind enough to share all of the information he had. Eben’s nickname was “Bunny.” He had studied at a private school in New Hampshire, but returned to Newburyport High School, and volunteered for the war from there. His parents and sister had moved to California shortly after he died. A medal had been made for him by the city of Newburyport, but never picked up by his family. He had no other known relatives. The medal should be with him in France, Steve said, his voice cracking. Would I take it with me when I go visit France?So, his medal, his photo, his service records, and some Newburyport soil will join Eben Bradbury in France, nearly a century after he died. It is a small gesture for a young man who lived his life in our neighborhood, and made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It was also an important reminder to look at the memorials we pass by every day with fresh eyes and think about the men and women whom they honor. The superintendent of the Aisne Marne American Cemetery has asked for any information that can be kept in his file in France. Anyone with additional information, please contact

Germans listen to fading voices of World War II’s last survivors

A Russian armoured vehicle is pictured at the junction between Ritter Street and Alexandrinen Street in this undated photo taken May 1945 in Berlin. — Reuters picA Russian armoured vehicle is pictured at the junction between Ritter Street and Alexandrinen Street in this undated photo taken May 1945 in Berlin. — Reuters picBERLIN, May 1 — Huddled with her younger brother and scores of other children in a Berlin bunker, Gisela Teichmann was gripped by fear rather than relief when the German army capitulated 70 years ago on May 8, 1945, bringing the war in Europe to an end.
“There was no rejoicing. We were scared. The Russians were here, we were awfully frightened of them,” recalls the 80-year-old west Berliner whose father was killed on the Russian Front.
“The Russians used to come into the shelters saying 'Frau komm.' That meant they were going to rape the women. I can still hear the women shrieking. I remember the Russians saying 'Uri, Uri,' when they wanted people's watches. It was a dreadful time.”
Just 10-years old at the time, she recalls eating dry bread, stealing food and scrounging cigarettes from British soldiers in the western sector of the city they occupied. The streets near her home were reduced to piles of rubble and the charred remains of buildings poked into the sky.
For decades she blocked out the worst memories.
“It was bewildering, uncertain. Now, it is moving to talk about it,” said spritely Teichmann who, seven decades on, is still wary of Russia, still ashamed of her nationality when abroad.
Nazism, the Holocaust and the devastation wrought by the war continue to exert a strong influence on German identity and politics.
But as they near the end of their lives, many Germans who lived through it are talking more openly and younger generations are grasping at their last chance to hear personal accounts.
The trend has intensified around the 70th anniversary of May 8 with media running stories about the last days of the war and tales of German civilian suffering, tales subsumed even a decade ago by national guilt over the war.
“There is a yearning for memory,” said historian Paul Nolte of Berlin's Free University. “We are seeing an increasing appetite for individual stories about people's fates.”
Media are reporting the little-documented rape of German women by US and British soldiers. Books have appeared on war orphans, unwanted children fathered by Soviet, US or British soldiers and 'disgraced children' of Wehrmacht soldiers born in occupied countries.
A show at Germany's Historical Museum about 1945 features biographies from 12 countries. They include a Norwegian resistance fighter and a Berlin policeman who joined a Nazi murder squad (Einsatzgruppe) that killed some 150,000 Soviet civilians and later returned to his former occupation in Bremen.
A major documentation centre on the Nazis opened yesterday in Munich on the site of the former party headquarters. And Berlin has organised special tours and a series of open-air photo exhibitions entitled “May 1945 — Spring in Berlin.”
Defeat to liberation
Polls show a clear shift in attitudes. A Forsa survey for the Koerber Foundation think tank found 89 per cent of Germans view May 8 as a day of liberation.
Only nine per cent see the end of the war as a defeat, down from 35 per cent a decade ago.
“For a long time there was no strong identification with May 8, Germans saw the end of the war as a defeat, capitulation and upheaval,” said Sven Tetzlaff of the Koerber Foundation.
In the years directly after the war, many Germans who had gone along with Hitler's Nazis preferred not to mark it.
British veteran Bernard Levy, who arrived at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp days after it was freed, recalls defiance from some Germans, in particular members of the SS.
At the end of the war, regiments of German troops on trucks drove through the northern town of Celle, recalls Levy. One man in striped camp clothes shouted “Hitler kaputt” at the SS men on a truck. One of them leapt off and started beating him.
Seeing the incident, another bystander shot his pistol in the air, prompting the SS man to jump back onto the truck.
“These guys felt undefeated, betrayed by the surrender,” Levy, 19 years old at the time, told Reuters.
For the establishment of peace in Europe, it was essential that that notion die its natural death. After World War One the “legend” that the German Army's defeat resulted from betrayal on the home front took root and helped propel the Nazis to power.
In a month in which the trial of an SS “bookkeeper” at Auschwitz topped the news and Athens presses for war reparations as it tries to renegotiate the terms of its bailout, there is little prospect that the potency of the war will fade.
“World War Two affects how our neighbours see us and how we shape our politics. The question constantly arises: Are Germans done with their past, with their responsibility?” said Tetzlaff. — Reuters
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Combined Assessment Program Review of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California

Combined Assessment Program Review of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California
04/29/2015 08:00 PM EDT

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to evaluate selected health care facility operations, focusing on patient care quality and the environment of care. During the review, OIG provided crime awareness briefings to 699 employees. This review focused on eight operational activities. The facility complied with selected standards in the following four activities: (1) medication management, (2) coordination of care, (3) surgical complexity, and (4) emergency airway management. The facility’s reported accomplishment was using telehealth in the treatment of complicated head and neck cancers. OIG made recommendations for improvement in the following four activities: (1) quality management, (2) environment of care, (3) magnetic resonance imaging safety, and (4) acute ischemic stroke care.

Sinking of the Lusitania

Topics in Chronicling America - Sinking of the Lusitania

Despite published newspaper articles warning against travel on Allied ships, the RMS Lusitania departed from New York on May 1, 1915, bound for Liverpool. As the ship sailed near Ireland on May 7, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank, killing over 1,100 people on board. A later British investigation into the incident ruled that the Lusitania was attacked with the intent to kill civilians, as the ship did not carry explosives. Read more about it!
The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • February 4, 1915: Germany declares the water surrounding the British Isles a war zone and warns that all Allied ships will be attacked. 
  • April 22, 1915: The German Embassy publishes a warning in some newspapers to tell passengers that travel on Allied ships is “at their own risk.” The Lusitania, a is mentioned specifically in some of the discussion about the warning in the week leading up to its departure. 
  • May 7, 1915: The Lusitania is torpedoed and sinks, killing over 1300 passengers including more than 130 Americans. 
  • June 15, 1915: The Board of Trade begins its investigation into the sinking. The claim by German forces that the ship had been armed is ruled untrue at the end of the trial in mid-July.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Lusitania, Berlin Decree, German Embassy warning.
  • To narrow the results, include specific dates (such as February 4, 1915) or date ranges (May 1-31, 1915).

Sample Articles from Chronicling America: 

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bravery and Folly at Gallipoli, One-Hundred Years Ago -WWI

Bravery and Folly at Gallipoli, One-Hundred Years Ago

by Emerson Brooking
April 29, 2015

Bearing heavy loads, a group of Entente soldiers tow their rowboat to the shore of Gallipoli, April 25, 1915. (Charles Bean)Bearing heavy loads, a group of Entente soldiers tow their rowboat to the shore of Gallipoli, April 25, 1915. (Charles Bean)


On April 25, 1915, 78,000 British, French, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers stormed ashore the Gallipoli peninsula amid a fury of Ottoman machine guns and shellfire. They struggled up treacherous bluffs wreathed with barbed wire, reading from maps as much as seventy years out of date. This was D-Day fought with the tactics and technology of World War I. The amphibious assault, intended to dismantle the Turkish guns that dotted the straits of the Dardanelles, would fail decisively. Facing hardened trench lines and determined Turkish defenders, the Entente forces would spend eight months and 47,000 lives to advance—at their maximum—four bloody miles. They would never come close to their day-one objective.
How did it go so wrong? There is a tendency, particularly given the centrality of Gallipoli to modern Australian and New Zealand national identities, to say that the operation’s failure was due simply to circumstance—that if the dice had rolled a little differently, the landing might have been a success. In fact, Gallipoli was doomed to fail from the start. It was an operation dictated by political pressures and grounded in a virtually impossible strategic objective. It was hastily conceived, executed by soldiers with virtually no amphibious preparation or training. Today, amid worldwide memorials to the courage of Gallipoli’s combatants, it is worth reflecting on another of its legacies: all military operations require rigorous, objective planning. If the final plan is vague and aspirational, it is worse than having no plan at all.
Seeds of a Catastrophe
The path to Gallipoli began on November 3, 1914, when First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill (essentially a much-empowered U.S. Secretary of the Navy) ordered the bombardment of Turkish forts at the mouth of the Dardanelles in response to the Ottoman Empire’s entry into the war on the side of Germany. This was a feint, comprising only four allied cruisers and twenty minutes of shelling, ordered at Churchill’s own initiative. In a stroke of luck, one shell struck a direct hit on a Turkish magazine; the ensuing explosion disabled roughly a dozen heavy guns.
This early attack had no strategic significance—damage to the Ottoman defenses was quickly repaired. However, it carried two long-lasting consequences.  The first was to accelerate Turkish fortification of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli peninsula, a process that would continue for the next six months. The second was to instill in Churchill an unrealistic expectation about the power of naval bombardment against hardened coastal defenses. He became a vociferous supporter of naval action against the Ottoman Empire, intent on bringing about “the end of the Turkish menace.”
As the Great War ground to bloody stalemate in France, British and French military planners desperately sought ways to open a new front against Germany and relieve their beleaguered Russian allies. As time passed, Churchill’s proposal became more attractive. A naval action to “force the straits” of the Dardanelles, the thinking went, would clear a path through to the Black Sea, aiding Russia and opening a new front against Germany. By placing Istanbul under threat of direct attack, the Entente could even coerce the Ottomans into a separate peace.
The April landings at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove as well as the August landing at Suvla Bay were intended to break Turkish defenses and dismantle the guns overlooking the Dardanelles' narrows. This, in theory, would open a path for the Royal Navy to enter the Sea of Marmara and place Istanbul itself under threat. (NZ History)
The April landings at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove as well as the August landing at Suvla Bay were intended to break Turkish defenses and dismantle the guns overlooking the Dardanelles’ narrows. This, in theory, would open a path for the Royal Navy to enter the Sea of Marmara and place Istanbul itself under threat. (NZ History)
It mattered little that the Royal Navy had never before operated in waters so narrow and contested: ringed by heavy guns, peppered with submerged mines, and supplemented by dozens of mobile mortar batteries. It was equally unimportant that a central assumption of the whole effort—that the Turks would surrender the moment their capital came under fire—was entirely unsubstantiated.  Indeed, as the catastrophic bombing campaigns of World War II would show, the destruction of cities was only very loosely correlated with the imposition of peace. The strategic thinking behind Gallipoli was built on a foundation of sand.
In the end, Churchill’s lobbying won out; these crucial details were ignored. A massive naval operation was authorized, with preparations for a possible amphibious landing. Remarkably, seeking to shed excess inventory, military planners instructed that old and obsolete battleships should make up the majority of the fleet—small comfort for those ordered to sail them.
D-Day in Forty-Three Days
It was a vast armada of sixteen battleships, numerous destroyers and cruisers, and a swarm of minesweepers that sailed into the Dardanelles on March 18, 1915, a month into the campaign. This was the largest fleet the region had ever seen. The ships made slow and steady progress, blasting away coastal defenses on either side of the straits until they drifted into an undetected column of mines. Three battleships were sunk; several others damaged. 700 sailors drowned. It was the worst loss for the Royal Navy in over a century. Churchill and his planners resolved to try again—this time with ground forces.
The commander of this newly inaugurated Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) was General Ian Hamilton, a well regarded combat veteran who had been previously tasked with defending the British home islands. Hamilton, given charge of 78,000 British, French, Australian, and New Zealand infantrymen, received only the vaguest of instruction. He only knew that he had to act quickly. As then-Marine Corps Major C.R. Spofford wrote in his 1994 study of Gallipoli’s planning:
Hamilton…departed the next day for the Eastern Mediterranean, accompanied only by his undermanned and largely inexperienced General Staff… Remarkably, forty-three days later, he would lead an amphibious assault on a scale never witnessed before. In this short time, he had organized, equipped, and trained his multinational forces for an amphibious assault against a prepared, numerically superior enemy…Yet, just seven months later, he would be relieved of command.
Although Hamilton energetically marshalled his forces and coordinated the loading and embarkation of 78,000 soldiers from four countries in roughly 200 ships (an extraordinary feat under any circumstances, much less when limited to WWI-era technology), he evidenced significant failings as a commander. Pressured by politics and the expectations of his superiors, he was loathe to request more time or resources, much less accurately report the situation on the ground. In a burst of temper, he even denied an administrative staff tasked to help him, arguing that they had come too late to do any good.
A view of "V" beach from the deck of the River Clyde, roughly two days after the initial landing at Cape Hellas. Gallipoli was an extraordinarily complex logistical operation. Due to the proximity of Turkish lines, its beachheads were under almost perpetual threat of bombardment. (Public Domain)
A view of “V” beach from the deck of the River Clyde, roughly two days after the initial landing at Cape Hellas. Gallipoli was an extraordinarily complex logistical operation. Due to the proximity of Turkish lines, its beachheads were under almost perpetual threat of bombardment. (Public Domain)
Ironically, Hamilton became so consumed by planning the landings at Gallipoli—coordinating a logistical ballet of 200 ships, inventing new and untried amphibious tactics—that he had little time to anticipate the actual battle. He had virtually no knowledge of the terrain of Gallipoli, nor the number of Turkish defenders. Some of his operational maps dated to the Crimean War. The enemy scarcely received any attention at all; it was simply assumed that the Turks would turn tail and flee at first contact. This was a terrible mistake. At Gallipoli, soldiers of the Entente faced some of the best-trained and best-led infantry divisions in the Ottoman Army.
Most damningly, Hamilton planned almost exclusively for mission success, with only one rough, alternative plan, titled “Suggested Action in event of Failure.” There was no middle ground; no serious thought given to the possibility of stalemate or enemy counterattack. Hamilton’s soldiers would pay the price.
Gallipoli’s preceding strategic and operational failures exacted a heavy toll on the men who reached the peninsula’s rocky shoreline (many by rowboat) on the morning of April 25, 1915. Landing on five separate beaches, the Entente offensive was immediately beset by uncertainty and poor coordination. The soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), drifting a mile off course, were surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, layered with Turkish trench lines and machine gun nests.  Although initially disorganized, the Turks quickly rallied and began laying crippling fire on the allies’ exposed beachheads. John Keegan describes one such opposed landing in The First World War:
As the River Clyde grounded and the Hampshires and Munster Fusiliers struggled to find a way out of the ship and on to the gangplanks that were to lead them ashore, four Turkish machine guns opened fire. They had already raked the tows which beached first. The columns on the gangplanks, packed like cattle ranked for slaughter in an abattoir, tumbled one after another to fall bleeding into the sea, there to drown at once or struggle to their death in the shallows.
Logistical troubles struck almost immediately. In order to avoid having to land supplies too early, Hamilton’s staff had determined that every man should carry three days’ worth of rations and water in addition to their combat kit. Accordingly, leaping from exposed boats into waters too deep and far from the shore, soldiers had to choose between abandoning their packs or drowning under their weight. Even worse, the waiting British hospital ships, expecting 500 day-one casualties, were soon swamped by ten times that number. Thousands of wounded men were made to lie, dying, on the overcrowded beaches, raked by Turkish machine guns and artillery.
By the close of the first day, the forces of the Entente were nowhere close to where Hamilton’s plan said they should be. With Ottoman soldiers beginning to press the counterattack, any remaining momentum among the allies was lost. As days turned into weeks, both sides burrowed deeper into Gallipioli’s treacherous cliffsides. The offensive—intended to swiftly disable Ottoman coastal defenses in support of the Royal Navy—had instead devolved into another version of the trench warfare characteristic of the Western Front.
Entente soldiers go over the top in this undated photograph of the Gallipoli campaign. (Public Domain)
Entente soldiers go over the top in this undated photograph of the Gallipoli campaign. (Public Domain)
Things got worse. Because Entente forces only occupied a sliver of land, they were perpetually in range of Turkish artillery. There was no groundwater; all supplies had to be transported by sea. Water and food were extraordinarily scarce. There was little land available for latrine pits and no way to retrieve or bury the dead. Disease proved as dangerous as shellfire. By August, some 80 percent of ANZAC soldiers were incapacitated by dysentery. The battle became desperate. Men fought hand to hand through dark, interwoven tunnel networks. As soldiers were wounded or pushed past the brink, they would be rotated out, only to return to the meat grinder a few weeks later. Casualties would ultimately balloon to nearly 250,000 on each side.
Hamilton sought to break the stalemate in early August 1915 with a bold new landing attempt. The result was 25,000 additional casualties and complete loss of momentum within two days. By October, word arrived that the British government was considering a full evacuation. Hamilton angrily refused to countenance retreat, requesting more men and claiming that an evacuation would lead to a 50 percent casualty rate. He was relieved of command three days later. Hamilton’s replacement, Sir Charles Monro, began immediately planning an evacuation operation. That evacuation, concluded by January 9, 1916, would be the most successful leg of the entire campaign. 140,000 soldiers were saved, virtually without incident, all while deceiving 100,000 watchful Turks.
Not everyone agreed with the decision to withdraw. “He came, he saw, he capitulated,” grumbled Churchill of Monro. Churchill had been out of power since May, fired for his own part in Gallipoli.
Gallipoli’s Ghosts
In 1917, a special tribunal, the Dardenelles Commission, released its first assessment of the planning and conduct of the Gallipoli campaign. It censured Churchill and Hamilton, concluding that the operation’s planning had been rife with unsubstantiated assumptions; that “the difficulties of the operations were much underestimated.” Nonetheless, the consequences of Gallipoli would be borne mostly by its fighters and their families. These consequences would barely brush its architects.
Hamilton would enjoy a long and peaceful retirement in relatively high regard. Churchill, of course, would restore his political fortunes and shepherd his nation through a second world war just twenty years later. The successful D-Day landing of June 6, 1944—what remains the largest amphibious landing in history—would owe much to the bloody lessons learned at Gallipoli. It was a strange twist of history that Churchill would play a pivotal role in both operations.
Much has been written about the bravery of the British, French, and ANZAC soldiers who struggled for eight months through Gallipoli’s unforgiving terrain. It is also important, amid solemn memorials for Gallipoli’s fallen, to reflect on the campaign’s other legacy: that of widespread strategic and operational failure, characterized by intellectual complacency and contributing to one of the most preventable defeats in British military history.
Although Gallipoli was fought with WWI-era weaponry upon a radically different map of the world, the ideas that drove it to folly do not belong to a particular time or place. In 2015’s age of global strike and networked adversaries, defense planners are just as susceptible to the dangers of confirmation bias, myopia, assumption, political pressure, and underestimation of the enemy as they were a century ago. Overwhelming strength, technology, and noble intention are no replacement for basic facts and planning. They were not in 1915; they are not today.
Emerson Brooking is a research associate for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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