Saturday, October 3, 2015

EXCLUSIVE In South China Sea, a Tougher U.S. Stance

The United States is poised to send naval ships and aircraft to the South China Sea in a challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims to its rapidly-built artificial islands, U.S. officials told Foreign Policy.

The move toward a somewhat more muscular stance follows talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington last month, which fell far short of a breakthrough over how territorial disputes should be settled in the strategic South China Sea.

A final decision has not been made. But the Obama administration is heavily leaning toward using a show of military might after Chinese opposition ended diplomatic efforts to halt land reclamation and the construction of military outposts in the waterway. The timing and details of the patrols — which would be designed to uphold principles of freedom of navigation in international waters — are still being worked out, Obama administration and Pentagon officials said.

“It’s not a question of if, but when,” said a Defense Department official.

The move is likely to raise tensions with China. But U.S. officials have concluded that failing to sail and fly close to the man-made outposts would send a mistaken signal that Washington tacitly accepts Beijing’s far-reaching territorial claims.

As the unprecedented scale of Beijing’s reclamation work came to light earlier this year, Defense Secretary Ash Carter asked commanders to draw up possible options to counter China’s actions in the South China Sea, which serves as a vital transit route for global shipping.

Now, the administration is preparing to endorse what the military calls enhanced “freedom of navigation operations,” which would have American ships and aircraft venture within 12 nautical miles of at least some artificial islands built by Beijing.

China argues it has sovereign authority around each of its newly built islands within a 12-mile boundary, a legal argument rejected by neighboring countries as well as by the United States. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea — which Beijing has signed — does not recognize artificially constructed outposts as legitimate islands.

The expanded patrols by the U.S. Navy could mean more close encounters between American and Chinese vessels and aircraft, raising the risk of a potential collision or volatile incident.

Just days before Xi’s trip to Washington, a Chinese fighter jet flew in front of a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance plane east of the Shandong Peninsula in the Yellow Sea. And in August 2014, a Chinese J-11 fighter jet passed within 20 feet of a U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft, performing a barrel roll in a maneuver the Pentagon condemned as reckless.

To avoid misunderstandings and possible crises, U.S. and Chinese defense officials have recently worked out protocols for encounters between ships at sea. And last month during Xi’s visit, the two sides announced a memorandum on rules for action when aircraft from the two nations fly in close proximity.

Apart from China’s assertive military stance in the western Pacific, American ships also must contend with swarms of Chinese fishing boats, which Beijing has employed as maritime militia to assert its territorial demands without taking explicit military action.

The United States and its partners in Southeast Asia have grown increasingly alarmed by China’s massive reclamation effort in the Spratly Islands. In less than two years, China has built outposts on top of seven reefs covering more than 3,000 acres, according to the Pentagon.

Stepped-up U.S. naval patrols would be welcomed by China’s neighbors in the region, which have sought out American diplomatic and military assistance to try to counter Beijing’s actions.

The United States has stressed it does not take a position on rival territorial claims among China and other states in the area. But it has voiced concern over tactics aimed at coercing other countries and attempts to install military bases on disputed reefs or rocks.

Washington believes that a crucial principle is at stake in the dispute over the South China Sea — the international laws and rules that serve as the foundation of the global economy.

“If one country selectively ignores these rules for its own benefit, others will undoubtedly follow, eroding the international legal system and destabilizing regional security and the prosperity of all Pacific states,” Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September.

The admiral, who oversees U.S. forces across the Asia-Pacific region, said he favored sending ships and planes within the 12-mile zone to make clear the Chinese claims to “territorial sea” carried no legal weight. The patrols had been conducted routinely until 2012, before Beijing launched its vast land reclamation work.

His comments drew an angry response from China’s Foreign Ministry, which said Beijing “opposes any country’s attempt to challenge China’s territorial sovereignty and security under the pretext of safeguarding navigation” and urged the United States “to exercise caution in its words and deeds.”

About 30 percent of all maritime trade passes through the South China Sea every year, including about $1.2 trillion worth of goods bound for American ports. And the seabed is a potentially rich source for oil and natural gas.

China has built three airstrips on its outposts in the Spratlys, installed radar and communication gear, and dredged deep ports that could accommodate large warships. U.S. officials say the construction work appears aimed at creating a military network on the man-made islands, which they fear could be used to coerce smaller countries into bowing to Beijing’s territorial ambitions. In such a scenario, China could declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, in the area, as it did two years ago in the East China Sea — where Beijing is at loggerheads with Japan over a group of uninhabited islands.

13 Different Things You Didn't Know About Trident

1. Next year, Britain will decide whether to build a new generation of nuclear missile submarines.

Since 1998, the only nuclear weapons Britain has are Trident intercontinental ballistic missiles aboard four Vanguard-class submarines.

The submarines are expected to be retired in 2028. In 2007, MPs voted overwhelmingly (by 409 votes to 61) to replace them; a final decision will be taken in 2016.

2. The current submarines each carry up to 16 missiles, and each missile can carry up to 12 warheads.

The Royal Navy has a total of 58 missiles, less than the 64 which would be needed to fully kit out all four boats. However, since only one submarine is required to be on patrol at any given time, one boat is usually out of service for maintenance, and the missiles are shared between the remaining three active boats. The boats are based at the Royal Navy base in Faslane, Scotland.

There are also only believed to be 192 British warheads. Most Trident missiles are believed to be fitted with three warheads each, although some will have more and some will just have one. The warheads can be independently targeted.

3. Each warhead has a maximum explosive yield of 100 kilotons (the equivalent of 100,000 tons of TNT). That’s about six times as powerful as the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima.

They can be programmed to detonate less powerfully: The website suggests that the likely lower settings are 0.3kt and between 5 and 10kt.

4. A 100kt bomb detonated in the air over central London would probably kill about 250,000 people, almost instantly.

That’s before taking into consideration the effects of radioactive fallout.

(Technical note: The 250,000 figure has been worked out using Nukemap, this population-measuring map, and a rule of thumb that the total dead caused by a nuclear explosion is roughly equivalent to the population inside the “5psi overpressure” radius.)

5. One Vanguard-class submarine, carrying 16 missiles with three warheads each, could therefore destroy 48 cities.

If those warheads were targeted at the 48 most populous cities in Russia, a conservative estimate for the number of dead – again ignoring fallout effects – would be 3 million.

6. At least one nuclear submarine is constantly on patrol.

Since 1969, there has always been one British nuclear-missile-armed submarine at sea. The Royal Navy describes this as the “continuous at-sea deterrent”. The idea is that even if Britain is destroyed by an enemy’s nuclear attack, the patrolling submarine will still be able to retaliate.


7. According to the Royal Navy, the Trident missile has a range of 4,000 nautical miles, or 7,500km.

That means that a submarine at its base in Faslane could hit targets in Nevada, or central India.

Within two minutes of launch the missile will be travelling at 6km a second, and can reach a target at maximum range in about 20 minutes.

8. The cost of replacing the submarines is expected to be up to £26 billion over the lifetime of the project.

That’s taken from a 2006 government estimate, which put the cost at £15 to £20 billion – equivalent to £19.5 to £26 billion today. Greenpeace claims it will be more like £34 billion, including taxes and other costs. If Greenpeace is correct, the Trident replacement would amount to about 8% of the total MOD annual budget.

Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon have quoted a figure of £100 billion, but the MOD told BuzzFeed News that they “do not recognise” this figure, which is “plucked out of the air”. They suggested it may be an estimate of the figure for replacing the whole deterrent, not just the submarines, and including yearly running costs. A parliamentary commission into the replacement of the whole deterrent estimated the total cost would be £57 billion in 2014 prices, taking into account inflation; it may be that the Corbyn/Sturgeon figure does not take inflation into account.

9. The Trident missiles are built, and owned, by the US, although the warheads and submarines are British-built.

The US weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin builds the missiles, and provides the technical support to keep them operational. This has led to criticism that the independent nuclear deterrent is not truly independent. The US does not have to give permission to launch the missiles – despite an attempt in the 1960s by John F Kennedy to bring Britain into a “dual key” system which would require both countries to give permission before firing. The nuclear deterrent is therefore operationally independent, at least in theory, although the scenarios in which it would be used without the US being involved are unlikely.

10. Only the prime minister has the authority to order the launch of nuclear weapons.

If there has been an attack on the UK, but the government is still operating, the chief of the defence staff recommends to the PM that a retaliation be made. The PM (or, in the event of their death, an appointed second person, usually a high-ranking member of the cabinet) then gives authentication codes to the Royal Navy headquarters at Northwood; the Navy commander-in-chief and his or her second-in-command would broadcast the orders to the submarine on patrol. The submarine commander and his or her executive officer then both have to authorise the actual launch.

General Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, told the BBC that there are safeguards against the possibility that a prime minister could “go mad” and launch missiles without good reason: “The chief of the defence staff, if he really did think the prime minister had gone mad, would make quite sure that that order was not obeyed… Prime ministers give direction, [but] it’s not prime ministers who actually tell a sailor to press a button in the middle of the Atlantic.”

11. When a new prime minister is elected, they give the commanders of each of the four submarines a sealed letter, known as the letter of last resort.

These letters contain orders of what to do in the event that the government has been destroyed, and the prime minister and the “second person” have been killed or incapacitated, in a nuclear attack on Britain.

When the prime minister leaves office, their orders are destroyed unopened. No one knows what Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, or any of their predecessors wrote in their letters of last resort, and what action would have been taken if there had been an attack.

12. There are believed to be four possible versions of the orders.

According to the BBC’s documentary The Human Button, the four options are: To retaliate, with nuclear weapons, against the attacking state; not to retaliate; to use the commander’s own judgment; or to place the submarine under the command of an ally, for instance the United States or Australia.

13. It has been claimed that one of the ways that a submarine commander will know if the British government has been destroyed is if BBC Radio 4 stops broadcasting for several days in a row.

According to Lord (Peter) Hennessy, author of The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War, 1945–1970, there are several tests, but one of them is to listen for the Today programme on Radio 4’s frequencies. If it isn’t heard for some days – Hennessy says three – it is taken to be evidence that the state has been destroyed and that the letters of last resort should be opened.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions [feedly]

Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions
// Library of Congress Blog

(The following is featured in the September/October 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, wrote the story. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) 

When books went to war, many American soldiers and sailors discovered the joy of reading.

Between 1943 and 1947, nearly 123 million copies of flat, wide and easily pocketable paperbacks were distributed by Army and Navy Library Services—free of charge—to U.S. service members around the world.

How did this happen? In 1942, U.S. Army librarian Ray Trautman and Army graphic arts specialist H. Stahley Thompson approached a publisher with their idea to distribute inexpensive paperback editions overseas. They enlisted support from the Council on Books in Wartime, a nonprofit coalition of trade publishers, booksellers and librarians who viewed books as "weapons in the war of ideas." The council turned a good idea from the U.S. Army into an efficient cooperative enterprise that involved the Army, the Navy, the War Production Board and more than 70 publishing firms.

Designed to appeal to a wide variety of reading tastes, the Armed Services Editions included best sellers, classics, mysteries and poetry. A total of 1,324 titles were published in the series. The Library of Congress holds one of only a few complete sets that survive today.

20150707SM003 20150707SM005 20150707SM008 Selected Armed Services Editions. Rare Book and Special Collections Division 20150617SM055

The first title in the series was "The Education of Hyman Kaplan," a collection of humorous stories by Leo Rosten. The author received these words from a grateful serviceman:

"I want to thank you profoundly, for myself and more important, for the men here in this godforsaken part of the globe. … Last week we received your book on Mr. Kaplan. … As an experiment, I read it one night at the campfire. The men howled. Now they demand I only read one Kaplan story a night: A ration on pleasure."

The volumes were designed and printed to be read and discarded. While paperback volumes date to the late 15th century, the Armed Services Editions were a harbinger of the postwar mass-market approach that revolutionized American book-buying and reading habits.

Author Wallace Stegner was proud that his work, "The Big Rock Candy Mountain," was part of "that first great experiment in the mass production and mass distribution of books." He added, "The paperback revolution that followed owed an incalculable debt to the Armed Services Editions."

Author Irving Stone, whose works "Lust for Life" and "Immortal Wife" were included in the series, believed the book-distribution program to be "one of the most significant accomplishments of our war effort." He recalled letters from soldiers who credited the project with their desire to "read a book straight through for the first time in their lives."

Authors who served overseas took particular pride in the inclusion of their books. David Ewen ("Men of Popular Music" and "The Story of George Gershwin"), who served in the armed forces during World War II, said he "knew only too well what a solace books could be."

"I myself not then being too long a civilian remember my pride at seeing the small paper edition and thinking of it going out to beguile the time of soldiers and sailors," said novelist Herman Wouk about his work "Aurora Dawn."

Serviceman Arnold Gates carried a copy of Carl Sandburg's "Storm Over the Land" in his helmet during the 1944 Battle of Saipan. "During the lulls in the battle I would read what he wrote about another war and found a great deal of comfort and reassurance." Years later, Sandburg inscribed the book for him.

Author Kay Boyle learned from retired servicemen that her book "Avalanche: A Novel of Love and Espionage" was "more or less required reading for them before they took part in missions over France."

Amid concerns about government distribution of titles that might favor the re-election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to a fourth term, Congress passed Title V of the Soldier Voting Act of 1944. The law banned some titles from being distributed to the armed forces. A temporary ban was placed on E. B. White's "One Man's Meat," though White recalled that "the boys overseas told me that my essays about life in New England reminded them of home and made them feel good about what they were doing."

Distribution of 155,000 copies of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" to the armed forces during World War II helped spur the novel to a level of success it had not achieved in the author's lifetime. To date, the book has sold more than 25 million copies.

"'The Great Gatsby' endures because it's our most American and our most un-American novel at once: telling us the American Dream is a mirage, but doing so in such gorgeous language that it makes that dream irresistible," says Maureen Corrigan, author of "So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures."

How better to inspire the troops to victory?


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Satellite Images May Show China’s First Domestically Built Aircraft Carrier [feedly]

Satellite Images May Show China's First Domestically Built Aircraft Carrier

China's first aircraft carrier  BEIJING, Oct 1 (Reuters) – New satellite images show China may be building its first indigenous aircraft carrier in the northeastern port of Dalian, according to IHS Jane's Defense Weekly, which has released the pictures. Little is known about China's aircraft carrier programme, which is a state secret, though Chinese state media have hinted […]



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GAO-16-84T, Ford Class Aircraft Carrier: Poor Outcomes Are the Predictable Consequences of the Prevalent Acquisition Culture, October 01, 2015 [feedly]

GAO-16-84T, Ford Class Aircraft Carrier: Poor Outcomes Are the Predictable Consequences of the Prevalent Acquisition Culture, October 01, 2015
// GAO Reports

What GAO Found The Ford-class aircraft carrier's lead ship began construction with an unrealistic business case. A sound business case balances the necessary resources and knowledge needed to transform a chosen concept into a product. Yet in 2007, GAO found that CVN 78 costs were underestimated and critical technologies were immature—key risks that would impair delivering CVN 78 at cost, on-time, and with its planned capabilities. The ship and its business case were nonetheless approved. Over the past 8 years, the business case has predictably decayed in the form of cost growth, testing delays, and reduced capability—in essence, getting less for more. Today, CVN 78 is more than $2 billion over its initial budget. Land-based tests of key technologies have been deferred by years while the ship's construction schedule has largely held fast. The CVN 78 is unlikely to achieve promised aircraft launch and recovery rates as key systems are unreliable. The ship must complete its final, more complex, construction phase concurrent with key test events. While problems are likely to be encountered, there is no margin for the unexpected. Additional costs are likely. Similarly, the business case for CVN 79 is not realistic. The Navy recently awarded a construction contract for CVN 79 which it believes will allow the program to achieve the current $11.5 billion legislative cost cap. Clearly, CVN 79 should cost less than CVN 78, as it will incorporate lessons learned on construction sequencing and other efficiencies. While it may cost less than its predecessor, CVN 79 is likely to cost more than estimated. As GAO found in November 2014, the Navy's strategy to achieve the cost cap relies on optimistic assumptions of construction efficiencies and cost savings—including unprecedented reductions in labor hours, shifting work until after ship delivery, and delivering the ship with the same baseline capability as CVN 78 by postponing planned mission system upgrades and modernizations until future maintenance periods. Today, with CVN 78 over 92 percent complete as it reaches delivery in May 2016, and the CVN 79 on contract, the ability to exercise oversight and make course corrections is limited. Yet, it is not too late to examine the carrier's acquisition history to illustrate the dynamics of shipbuilding—and weapon system—acquisition and the challenges they pose to acquisition reform. The carrier's problems are by no means unique; rather, they are quite typical of weapon systems. Such outcomes persist despite acquisition reforms the Department of Defense and Congress have put forward—such as realistic estimating and "fly before buy." Competition with other programs for funding creates pressures to overpromise performance at unrealistic costs and schedules. These incentives are more powerful than policies to follow best acquisition practices and oversight tools. Moreover, the budget process provides incentives for programs to be funded before sufficient knowledge is available to make key decisions. Complementing these incentives is a marketplace characterized by a single buyer, low volume, and limited number of major sources. The decades-old culture of undue optimism when starting programs is not the consequence of a broken process, but rather of a process in equilibrium that rewards unrealistic business cases and, thus, devalues sound practices. Why GAO Did This Study The Navy set ambitious goals for the Ford-class program, including an array of new technologies and design features that were intended to improve combat capability and create operational efficiencies, all while reducing acquisition and life-cycle costs. The lead ship, CVN 78, has experienced significant cost growth with a reduced capability expected at delivery. More cost growth is likely. While CVN 78 is close to delivery, examining its acquisition history may provide an opportunity to improve outcomes for the other ships in the class and illustrate the dynamics of defense acquisition. GAO has reported on the acquisition struggles facing the Ford-class, particularly in GAO-07-866 , GAO-13-396 , and GAO-15-22 . This statement discusses: (1) the Navy's initial vision for CVN 78 and where the ship stands today; (2) plans for follow-on ship cost and construction; and (3) Ford-class experiences as illustrative of acquisition decision making. This statement is largely based on the three reports as well as GAO's larger work on shipbuilding and acquisition best practices, and also incorporates updated audit work where appropriate. What GAO Recommends GAO is not making any new recommendations in this statement but has made numerous recommendations to the Department of Defense in the past on Ford-class acquisition, including strengthening the program's business case before proceeding with acquisition decisions. While the Department has, at times, agreed with GAO's recommendations it has taken little to no action to implement them. For more information, contact Paul L. Francis at (202) 512-4841 or

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Fire and Devastation! Reconstructing World War II Service [feedly]

Fire and Devastation! Reconstructing World War II Service
// Blog

This is a guest post by Jennifer Holik.

Myth and misunderstanding surround World War II records access and reconstruction due to the 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Eighty percent of the Army, Air Corps, and National Guard Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) were lost in the fire. Do not worry though because all is not lost, contrary to what you may have heard. Rather than rehash the fire and record loss, you can read about it on the National Personnel Records Center website.

You may ask, how do I find information if the records burned? Am I entitled to receive any information if I'm not the next-of-kin? And, where do I start?

The first place to begin is the same place you would if you were doing any other type of genealogical research. Start with what you know and record everything. To help you record information and locate sources, download my Military Service Questionnaire and some research checklists. Begin filling them out, including source citations. Military records, like all other records, sometimes contain errors and conflicts with dates and information.

Research Fact: The majority of the records you need to reconstruct World War II service are not online. The OMPFs at the NPRC have not been digitized and are not available online. There are however many databases, indexes, maps, photographs, and various unit-level reports you can use on Ancestry and Fold3 to navigate your journey, create service timelines, guide you to offline resources, and honor service.

To help you move along the research path after completing the Military Service Questionnaire you've downloaded, let's explore the myths and misunderstandings of World War II research.

Myth & Misunderstanding #1: You must be the next-of-kin to receive records.

This is partially true. If your soldier, sailor or Marine, died or was discharged by 1953, the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF,) also known as service records, are available to anyone. If your soldier died or was discharged after 1953, you still must be the veteran or next-of-kin to receive access.

Medical records are a different story.

It is important to understand that medical records are kept separately from the OMPF. These records have different rules for access. For Army, Air Corps/Army Air Forces, and National Guard, the medical records are available to anyone.

For Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps, you must be the veteran or next-of-kin to access medical records. Even if a sailor or Marine has been dead 100 years, you cannot access those records unless you are next-of-kin. If you have the opportunity to access these medical records, I encourage you to do so, because future generations will be unable to do so.

Myth & Misunderstanding #2: I do not have a serial number/service number so I cannot attempt a record search.

The serial number/service number was a number issued to every serviceman and woman. This was not their social security number. Social security numbers were used in the military post-WWII.

There are several ways to attempt to locate a serial number or service number.

  1. For Army personnel, search the Ancestry collection of U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 to see if your soldier enlisted. If he or she did, the serial number will be within the indexed record.
  2. For Marine Corps personnel, search the U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958 on Ancestry. If you locate your Marine, the serial number will usually be found within the Muster Rolls.
  3. For Navy personnel, search the U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 on Ancestry.
  4. If your soldier, sailor, or Marine died in service during the war, you can check the U.S. Rosters of World War II Dead, 1939-1945 on Ancestry.
  5. If you are unable to locate a serial number through those sources, the NPRC in St. Louis has a Veterans Affairs (VA) index on microfilm. To access the information, send a letter to them with $5 requesting a search for your soldier. They will mail you a copy of a VA index card with the name, address, serial number, service branch, sometimes a unit, and dates of enlistment, discharge, and sometimes death. Mail your letter to: NPRC, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, Mo. 63138.

Myth & Misunderstanding #3: If the OMPF burned, there is no way to trace service or reconstruct service, because there are no records online.

First, whether the OMPF burned or not, unless someone hands you a serviceman's file and all resources to tell their story, you will need to reconstruct the service history. Everyone basically begins in the same place, but those without the OMPF have to do a little extra work.

Second, in our age of digital records, with more resources available online daily, we have become a society conditioned to believe it all exists online. The reality is, it does not. We should approach our World War II research from the collaborative standpoint of using both online and offline resources to reconstruct service history.

The NPRC in St. Louis has several record sets that can help you reconstruct a timeline of service, so that you'll know where your soldier was at any given time. Utilizing those resources and continuing to build on that information with unit records from the National Archives in College Park, Md., and Ancestry and Fold3 record sets, the possibilities to tell a soldier's story are endless.

Myth & Misunderstanding #4: I can search online for information, because I know the exact unit in which my soldier served. Or, he was in the 1st Division. That's all I need to know.

It is not a good idea to assume the one unit you believe your soldier was in, was the only unit – or the correct unit – and go look for everything about that one unit. You could be chasing the wrong lead. It is also important to locate unit information down to the company, as many records are kept by the company.

There are many reasons we may believe we know the exact unit in which our service member served.

  • It may be listed on a discharge paper or in the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). Unfortunately, this final unit could be a unit in which soldiers were placed for their return to the U.S. for discharge. They may have never seen combat with this unit.
  • Soldiers who died, like my cousin James Privoznik, was only in an infantry regiment 14 days before he was Killed In Action (KIA), because Patton needed replacement soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge. The rest of the nine months he was overseas, he was in the Ordnance Company.
  • The veteran or a family member told us. Over time, memories fade. It has been my experience in speaking with people and conducting research for clients, that veterans tell a story one way or pass it to their children, with some facts jumbled. This is not to say the veteran or the family member lied, only that war was full of chaos and change. It is easy to confuse which unit you were with and when.

In addition, soldiers were often transferred between companies and units for various reasons. Never assume what you've found is the final answer. The best advice I can give you, is to follow every lead and compare what you learn against other records.

What's Next?

Come back next month and learn how to begin a timeline of service, what information to search for in your home, how to request military records, and if your soldier died in service, how to request the IDPF.

Military research is a lengthy, but rewarding process, and there are many tips and tricks to searching the vast resources offline and on Ancestry and Fold3. I hope you'll join me next month and continue our journey.


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War-Time Exploding-Chocolate-Bar Scheme Revealed in Drawings


One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device. Photo: Lawrence Fish.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device.

Photo: Lawrence Fish.

Long-lost drawings from World War II show some of Germany's crafty plans to defeat the Allied Forces, including an exploding chocolate bar, a bomb buried in an army mess tin beneath the classic British dish of bangers and mash, and an incendiary motor oil can.

Drawn by self-taught British draftsman Laurence Fish, the technical schematics were based on intelligence obtained by the UK's M15 counter sabotage unit.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device. Photo: Lawrence Fish.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device.

Photo: Lawrence Fish.

Germany is said to have plotted to assassinate Winston Churchill using the chocolate bar. Other imaginative Nazi weapons diagrammed by Fish include a bomb designed to look like a Thermos, a magnetic mine that could destroy British supply ships, and a timing device activated by exposing dried peas to water, all drawn by hand with remarkable, machine-like precision.

Fish was recruited for the assignment by his father, Donald, one of just two members of the small team who served under lieutenant colonel Victor Rothschild (the other being Rothschild's secretary and future wife). After dismantling the unsuccessful German booby traps, Rothschild turned to the younger Fish to document the ingenious devices.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device. Photo: Lawrence Fish.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device.

Photo: Lawrence Fish.

"He didn't draw a salary; he almost certainly paid Fish for the illustrations himself," historian Nigel West told the BBC of the third baron Baron Rothschild, calling him "immensely generous with his family's money."

The drawings lay forgotten for 70 years, until Rothschild's daughter uncovered them in a chest of draws while cleaning out her family home just a few weeks ago.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device. Photo: Lawrence Fish.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device.

Photo: Lawrence Fish.

"It was so exciting," Jean Bray, Fish's widow (he died in 2009), told the Gloucestershire Echo of the unexpected discovery. Bray had Rothschild's letters commissioning her husband's work, stamped "secret," "but nobody knew what had happened to the drawings. We presumed that they had been destroyed or lost."

Bray now hopes to find a museum that would be interested in her husband's wartime work.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device. Photo: Lawrence Fish.

One of Lawrence Fish's technical drawings of a German sabotage device.

Photo: Lawrence Fish.

"Nowadays people would say these drawings are nothing and you could do it with a computer in seconds," Bray added. "But there was no machinery or anything like that at the time. They are all hand drawn."

Following the war, Fish went on to a successful career as a graphic designer and landscape painter. According to the artnet Price Database, two of Fish's later commercial works, vintage travel lithograph posters, sold at auction in 2009 for $1,239 and $1,858, respectively.

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    The Destruction of the S.M.S. Cormoran and the First U.S. Shot Fired in the First World War

    fired by the United States in the First World War did not occur anywhere near the battlefields of Europe. Instead, as Commander Owen Bartlett, USN related in the following excerpts from his August, 1931 Proceedings article, the shot was made nearly half a world away in the harbor of Guam.

    "The first violent hostile act of the war between the United States and Germany probably was the destruction of the S.M.S. Cormoran by her own commander in Apra Harbor, Guam. To those actively participating, the episode loomed large in interest, and in tragedy, owing chiefly to the unique situation which, over a long period of time, had permitted the friendly intercourse between the personnel of the ship and the colony ashore. In a large community, this friendly interest between the ship’s company of an interned vessel and the authorities of the neutral nation could not have been feasible; but in Guam, no one could get away, and the addition of cultured foreign officers was a distinct boon to the small group that formed the local society. A number of the German officers and several of the chief petty officers lived ashore. Moreover the enlisted men were granted regular liberty, more or less restricted to certain localities.


    The harbor at Guam, in which the S.M.S. Cormoran was interned. USNI Archives.

    "S.M.S. Cormoran that figures in this yarn had originally been a Russian liner, captured by the German gunboat of that name. The gunboat had been cruising the South Seas when war broke in 1914. She picked up the officers and crew of a German survey and scientific ship; scuttled the ship; captured the Russian; and took the latter into Tsingtao, where she was reconditioned along with the Emden, Prinz Eitel Ereidrich and others, and, as the "new" S.M.S. Cormoran, started out on a career of commerce destruction. Luck was not with her and she ran short of coal.

    "Her captain took her into a hidden harbor, known to him and a few other white men, in the South Sea, and sent three officers in a small boat to Guam to dicker for coal, or, failing that, to send a cable to the German ambassador in Washington, asking assistance in the matter of fuel. How the personnel of the ship subsisted on coconuts and fish, manufactured soap, and even brewed beer was told afterward. The small boat, after a trip of some 600 miles, reached Guam safely, and was promptly interned. No cable was sent to the German ambassador. The Cormoran, having waited more than sufficient time for the return of her emissaries, set sail for Guam, using coconut husks for fuel, and slipped into Apra Harbor while a Japanese cruiser was patrolling the other side of the island. The ship was not allowed to leave.

    . . . .

    "That night [April 5th, 1917] the coded cable came announcing that diplomatic relations with Germany had been broken.

    "All the officers and enlisted personnel of the Cormoran were notified to return to their vessel. Within twenty-four hours all communication with the ship was severed except for the supply of provisions and the necessary official correspondence; outlying stations commanding the harbor had been occupied with men, searchlights, and field guns; a perpetual patrol of the harbor had been instituted, and plans laid for eventualities. German resourcefulness and ingenuity were not underestimated. . . . .

    "Under the provisions of international law the personnel of an interned vessel may be removed to a "fortress." There was no fortress nor any other place in Guam where the personnel, in their status of interned persons, could be fittingly housed. Their own ship was the only available solution. . . .

    "That particular hour of 1:30 p.m., on April 6, 1917, witnessed the signing of an epoch-making document in the White House. In Guam, on the other side of the world, almost simultaneously, a short, coded ‘flash’ on the cable came to the "Governor and Military Commander," Captain Roy C. Smith, U. S. Navy—a ‘flash’ that meant war.

    "A telephone tinkled once in my room. The unmistakable voice came quietly over the phone: ‘Please come to the office, Bartlett.’ I knew.

    "As the brief reports came in from the various stations that orders had been received, the official car, a Ford touring with the coat of arms of the United States emblazoned proudly on its panels, drew up outside. Lieutenant W. F. Lafrenz, U. S. Navy, who was to accompany me to the harbor, joined, and then the governor handed me three papers.

    "Since I believe that they are unique as being the only documents of similar nature used during our participation in the war, [one is] quoted verbatim:

    Naval Government of Guam Government House, Guam, April 7, 1917.

    From: Governor and Military Commander of Guam

    To: Senior Naval Aid

    Subject: Orders re surrender of S.M.S. Cormoran.

    1. War exists between the United States and Germany.
    2. Proceed to the Cormoran under a flag of truce. Inform her Commanding Officer of the fact stated in par. I hereof, and demand that he surrender his command to you as my representative.
    3. In case of his compliance arrange with him specific terms of surrender following the provisions of the Laws of War as accepted by the United States and take duplicate copies of the agreement. Arrange for immediate transfer of all armament.
    4. In case of surrender, arrange to turn over the prisoners of war to the commander of the Shore Force and to turn over the surrendered ship to the commander of Harbor Patrol, who will detail a prize master and prize crew to take charge of the ship.
    5. In case of refusal to comply with your demands inform the Commanding Officer that he and his command will be treated as an enemy.

    Roy C. Smith
    Governor and Military Commander of Guam

    "The governor shook hands, wished me luck, and we were off on the lovely 5-mile drive along the shore and through coconut palms to the port of Piti.

    . . . .

    "Evidently our errand had been understood as we approached, for the partial "field day’’ (weekly scouring and furbishing) was interrupted and on the ship there was general scurrying about.

    "When I reached the deck, however, about 7:57 a.m., the long broad starboard gangway that in other days had been a passenger promenade was deserted, and the officer of the deck only was there at the head of the ladder, standing in rigid military attitude, to greet me.

    "Requesting permission to speak to the commanding officer, I was escorted forward along this promenade to the captain’s cabin. Entering the cabin I faced the captain, Korvetten-kapitan Zuckschwerdt; the executive officer, Kapitan-leutnantCoulmann, who were standing together, and was followed into the cabin by the aid, Oberleut zur See Mueller. From the corner of my eye, I saw that all the ports framed blond, bearded German faces of the crew, with more faces beyond.

    "I addressed the captain, this man who at our last meeting had been my social host, this man who seemed to have shrunk, to have visibly greyed, to have aged many years: ‘I have a letter to present to you, sir,’ and handed him the demand for surrender quoted above. . . .

    "The captain then stepped past me to the door of his cabin and closed it. As the door shut, a guttural, throaty yell of exultation, "Cormoran! Cormoran!" went up on the deck outside, the faces disappeared from the ports, there was the quick thud, thud of many feet running, mingled with shouts and cheers.

    "Standing near the door of the cabin, the captain, very erect now, chose his words deliberately and carefully: ‘In reply to this letter, I state that this is an unarmed and defenseless ship, incapable of resistance. I am willing to turn over the officers and crew of the Cormoran to your charge, but I cannot turn over the ship!’

    "‘Then I have to inform you, sir, that; when your answer is received, you will be treated as an enemy, and your vessel as an enemy vessel.’

    . . . .


    S.M.S. Cormoran, 1909.

    "Saluting, I started toward the door, which Mueller opened, and leaving them there in the cabin, crossed in the athwartship passage to the starboard side and stepped on deck. Way aft, the crew were shouting and singing, a band was playing, cries of ‘Cormoran! Cormoran!’ came distinct from the jumble of sounds.

    "The officer of the deck saluted without a word in answer to my salute and customary: ‘With your permission, I am leaving the ship, sir.’

    "The sight from the ladder was not reassuring. Astern were many Germans in the water; others were jumping; boxes, suitcases, life-preservers, etc., were spewing overside in a shower—and in the midst of it, lying off the quarter near by, was the barge.

    "The craft leaped ahead as the coxswain sighted me. On the ship, cheers rang out— three great cheers—’Cormoran! Cormoran! Cormoran!’ Jumping as the barge came by, I left the ship.

    "We had gone toward Piti at full speed perhaps a hundred yards and were just well clear of the bow, when there came the dull heavy shock of muffled under-water explosion. Red flames with little smoke shot up around the bridge of the Cormoran; pieces of debris rose, arched, fell; the bridge and region of the captain’s cabin popped up, crumpled, collapsed.

    "The stricken ship settled by the stern, slowly listing heavily to starboard. For a moment the port half of the deck was exposed to view, the ship lying almost horizontally on her starboard beam ends. Then, as one blinked an eye there was nothing but a small column of water hanging suspended, a bubbling seething area of surface disturbance, a bit of flotsam shooting up like a fish jumping and falling back with a splash, two or three laden boats, and heads, hundreds of heads, bobbing here and there.

    "Men clinging to bits of wreckage, oars, life preservers, chests, were swimming toward the shore in all directions; pigeons, apparently carriers released from the ship, hovered over the water, circled, and were gone; men clinging to bits of flotsam with one arm, put bottles to their lips and drank from brown bottles, square colorless bottles; the black men of New Guinea, some carrying bundles dry on their heads, some pushing small chests, paddled off businesslike toward the nearest land. And then a voice was lifted, a strong true deep voice singing Deutchland ├╝ber alles, and the chorus went up from many a throat.

    . . .

    "Eventually, all but five were picked up, and the bodies of these were later recovered. Two others died that morning, one from heart failure, and one from the effects of a blow of a box thrown from the Cormoran. These seven men were buried in the naval cemetery at Agana with full military honors, and a cement monument designed and made by the Germans marks their graves.

    "The rescued Germans, now ‘prisoners of war,’ numbering about 350, were taken to the dock at Piti, and turned over to the custody of the marines.

    "At this time an incident occurred which seems worth recording. The captain of the Cormoran had been picked up by his own power boat after he had jumped overboard from the ship. He, with a couple of his officers, and the men that they had rescued, was asked to proceed from the harbor to the dock under their own power, and no guard was put in the boat. Though I cannot vouch for the story from personal observation, I was told by eyewitnesses that, as the boat came alongside of the dock, the captain ordered the engine demolished. The engineer seized a large sledge and thoroughly smashed the engine. A marine sentry seeing the pantomime, and sizing up the situation, snapped his gun to his shoulder, sighted on the engineer, but, as he fired, the muzzle of the gun was thrown up violently by a marine officer who stood near, and the shot went harmlessly overhead.

    . . . as he fired, the muzzle of the gun was thrown up violently by a marine officer who stood near, and the shot went harmlessly overhead.

    "The German enlisted personnel were placed in a prison camp, hastily thrown up, and the officers segregated in permanent hutments of a marine camp. Clothes were provided, and the wants of the prisoners of war tended with meticulous care—even to the matter of pay as prescribed for persons in similar circumstances. Three weeks later an Army transport took these men to the United States."

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