Saturday, June 4, 2016
In this season of congressional budgeting, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said recently, “Protecting our nation from threats to our freedom, democracy, and way of life is the most important responsibility of Congress.”
So why have he and his colleagues charted a course to unilaterally de-fang the U.S. Navy, reducing not only the number of ships in the inventory but also diminishing much needed firepower?
For example, the plan to buy 52 littoral combat ships has been cut to 40. These lightly-armed ships in search of a mission are unlikely to be able to fill the Navy’s offensive requirements outlined in the service’s Distributed Lethality doctrine. Worse, we’re not buying armament for the highly capable guided missile destroyers that arein high demand for both offensive and defensive punch.
Russia and China, as well as Iran and North Korea are threatening the United States and our allies in the Middle East, Europe and Asia with a growing ballistic missile capability. Further, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are on the move in the Crimea, Ukraine, and now their jets are harassing our ships in the Black Sea as Russian Naval forces attempt to relegate those international waters.
China, whose ballistic missile capability is modern and well regarded, is likewise flexing its military muscles by sponsoring a robust shipbuilding program, altering the balance of naval power in the South China Sea. Besides expanding and upgrading their fleet, they are boldly creating new territory from which they could launch attacks, building artificial islands and threatening the right of free passage while also interfering with the economic zones of its neighbors.
This is not good news for Naval planners who will need more, not less offensive and defensive capabilities in the coming years.
Finally, Iran and North Korea, against the will of other nations, have developed, tested, and successfully launched ballistic missiles capable of delivering devastating destruction on allies and possibly on U.S. territories.
If the threat of ISIS is a problem, the proliferation of ballistic missiles worldwide is extremely troubling.
The U.S. plan to counter this emerging Ballistic Missile threat lies with the development and deployment of the SM3 Missile, capable of intercepting and destroying enemy ballistic missiles, and other threats from space. The United States has already invested $2 billion and the Japanese another $1 billion in the SM3 missile thus far.
But the proposed 2017 Congressional markup has cut the already anemic appropriation for 52 missiles to 35. These missiles not only support Aegis Cruisers deployed worldwide, but also “Aegis Ashore” in Romania today and Poland in 2017 to guard against missile launches by rogue Middle Eastern states such as Iran.
With a growing ballistic missile threat, we cannot afford to jeopardize the production line by continuing to buy this capable and critical weapon system in small quantities that limit their deployment and deterrent effect.
We simply cannot afford to fixate on one target at the expense of another. Let’s get the correct balance of Defense spending, fully funding the right mix of Navy ships and weapon systems, and prepare for the threats we face.
Rear Admiral Garry E. Hall retired from the United States Navy after more than 30 years of service and today is a national security and defense strategic advisor at the Spectrum Group in Washington, D.C.
Arriving in Table Bay Harbour from her home port of Port-des-Galets in La Réunion on 28 May 2016, La Grandière, a landing ship with amphibious qualities, is the last ship of its kind in the French Navy and is on her way to France to be decommissioned.
Commissioned on 21 January 1987, the Batral-class La Grandière was the last of five similar ships built for the French Navy, spending its entire service life in the Indian Ocean providing missions such as sovereignty, supply of the Eparses Islands (Mozambique channel), deployment of troops and contribution to the French diplomacy by representation and cooperation as part of the French Armed Forces of South Indian Ocean (FAZSOI). She regularly exercised with forces from nearby countries such as Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and South Africa.
Although her first time in Cape Town, La Grandière has visited both Durban and Richards Bay numerous previously, the most recent being in September/October last year for joint maritime exercise Oxide between South Africa and France.
An award ceremony was held aboard on Wednesday 1 June 2016 in honour of Leonard Harries (91), a former British soldier who was awarded La Legion d’Honneur for his efforts in Normandie, France, during the Second World War in 1944. He is a British citizen residing in South Africa.
READ MOREFrance patrolling the southern Indian Ocean
La Grandiere departs Richards Bay
French Navy amphibious supply ship calls on Richards Bay
The French government has been awarding the Légion d’honneur, the highest French order for military and civil merits, to D-Day veterans from many different countries for several years as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War
Harries, who father served in both the First and Second World Wars, joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) at the age of eighteen and served in an anti-aircraft unit and later an anti-V1 flying bomb unit. In August 1944, he embarked on a LCT (Landing Craft Tank) and crossed the English Channel to France. There he passed through Amiens, Cambrai and Belgium before entering Germany.
Accepting the award, Harries noted that he was “well aware of the great honour that has been bestowed upon me.”
Reflecting on the occupation of Europe by Germany, Harries observed that it must have been a very cruel time for the proud French people.
“We in England only just escaped the same fate,” Harries said, “I can imagine that the French people would have been very thankful that that period came to an end.”
After 72 years, Harries recalled going through the small French town of Albert, located in the WW I poppy fields in the department of Somme: “I remember telling that to my father, who thirty years earlier had trodden the same ground in the First World War.”
As for Lt-Cdr Nicolas Napal (Commanding Officer of La Grandière), the final trip to France is very emotional. “It is an honour to be the last commander of the ship and to bring her to France,” he said.
Appointed as Commanding Officer in July 2014, the one event which stands out for Napal was his second mission he made with the ship. Undertaking a replenishment trip to the Eparses Islands in the Mozambique Channel, they were their way back to La Réunion when they caught illegal fishers from Madagascar and Comoros near Glorioso Island in the North Mozambique Channel. This resulted in the fishermen being arrested for illegally fishing in French waters.
Departing Cape Town on 2 June, the La Grandière will be visiting the DRC, Senegal, Canary Islands and Lisbon in Portugal before arriving in the port of Brest, France on 11 July.
declared an anxious Nimitz as battle approached
By David Tweed and Kristine Servando (Bloomberg) — As China spends billions to upgrade and reorganize the People’s Liberation Army, the deficiencies in competing Asia-Pacific militaries are coming into focus. And even some of China’s much heralded military advances are drawing attention for their shortcomings. Here is a snapshot of some of Asia’s less illustrious […]
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An Argentine Navy patrol ship has been damaged after dragging anchor and colliding with a tanker in strong winds near the Puerto Belgrano Naval Base in Argentina. Local media reports that the incident occurred Tuesday night when the fisheries patrol ship ARA Esporta, anchored in the outer harbor of the naval base, began dragging anchor in […]
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Friday, June 3, 2016
It’s so hidden even John Long, education director of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, said it is one of Bedford’s “best kept secrets.”
Long, with D-Day Education Coordinator Maggie Mitchell and two interns, Will Harris and Tyler Harris — no relation to one another — work tirelessly to process more than 10,000 items families have donated to their archival storage room.
Items include military uniforms, weapons, maps, books, correspondence, photographs, photo albums, souvenir items from Germany and even prisoner of war guidebooks advising what to do if a soldier was captured.
The building at 133 E. Main St. is home to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation — about 2 miles from the actual D-Day Memorial. Unlike the Memorial, the archives are not open to the public.
The team said they are constantly mesmerized by the things dropped off.
“People bring in donations all the time,” Tyler Harris said. “Usually they are kind enough to stop in and tell us what it is but sometimes things are just dropped off on the stoop and we have to figure out what it is.”
Not too long ago, family members of Robert “Bob” Slaughter, who helped establish the D-Day Memorial, brought by several items owned by the veteran in the war.
Not a “Bedford Boy” but a “Roanoke Boy,” Slaughter, who died in 2012, is described by Will Harris as unique because he served from D-Day all the way to the end of the war and was only wounded twice.
“By the end of the World War II, the entire 116th Infantry Regiment had pretty much 100 percent casualties, everyone was either wounded or killed,” he said.
Company A, which was part of the 116th Infantry, was home to 35 Bedford men.
Proportionately, Bedford, a community of 3,200 in 1944, suffered the nation’s highest losses on D-Day with 19 killed.
Of Slaughter’s things, one particularly struck the attention of the team — a complete and original “Order of the Day” from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower with all the signatures of the men in Slaughter’s platoon.
All American personnel received this order before the invasion and Slaughter carried this in his pocket on D-Day and throughout the rest of the war, Tyler Harris said.
The foundation is in the process of creating a master plan for an education center where there will be museum space to exhibit items currently in the archive storage room — which is full.
The center will not be built for several years, and Long added it is going to take more money and fundraising.
Some of the items go on loan to other museums, such as the Marshall Museum on the campus of the Virginia Military Institute.
The foundation began collecting artifacts after descendants started donating them in 1995 even before the memorial was built or dedicated.
Once donated, the items are processed, researched, given a description, preserved in a box and wrapped in paper if necessary.
“The goal is to keep it in the condition it came in because things don’t tend to get better, they tend to get worse,” Mitchell said.
His favorite item, a pair of binoculars, comes from Frank Draper, a Bedford Boy.
“When you know the story behind a veteran and you get to see that, because he was wearing those binoculars when he died. I mean, how can you not get emotional about that?” Mitchell said.
There is a hat from a French POW worn in a concentration camp, boots worn on D-Day that went across Omaha Beach, propaganda leaflets used to convince the Germans to surrender, a parachute, a 49-star flag that was issued for only a year, and a watch worn by James Foster that stopped the moment he hit the water and presumably died.
“It’s assumed to have stopped [at] the time of his death, when he was exiting the craft,” Mitchell said.
With the room just about at full capacity, some items have to be turned down, but not if they can be used for educational purposes.
Mitchell said they have so many ration stamps — which are not rare — it gives children an opportunity to touch something.
“That helps leave an impression with them,” she said.
Last summer, an item that had never been donated before came into the office — a gold star banner.
When a solider went off to war, families would put a blue star banner in their window. When that solider died, they would replace it with a gold star banner.
The banner was in remembrance of Daniel Womack of Lynchburg, who served in Company B in the 116th Infantry.
“What I like about artifacts is they come with stories,” Long said. “But we do have to do a lot of research to find out more information.”
When asked what Long would love to see come in the archives room, he had his hopes set high.
“The Higgins boat,” he said jokingly.
A Higgins boat, known to the Navy as a landing craft, vehicle and personnel, was used in World War II to carry troops onto a beach, as on D-Day.
Actually what he really would like is something much smaller — a clicker used by Allied paratroopers for identification on D-Day.
“In the dark, you hear someone coming and you click once, and if they were American, they would click twice,” he said. “If they didn’t click back you knew they were German.”
Sgt. Melissa Karnath
Lance Cpl. Escamilla Emmanuel, protocol clerk, drinks water from the Devil Dog Fountain in Belleau, France, May 26, 2016. More than 70 Marines walked in the footsteps of the original Devil Dogs while touring the battle fields of the Battle of Belleau Wood during a professional military education trip. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath/Released)
Marine Corps University sponsored the five-day PME trip for Marines with Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall, and Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. After a full day of travel, a day in Paris and a day at Normandy, the Marines spent the fourth day at Belleau.
Led by Mr. Ray Shearer, a Marine veteran and director and chairman of the American Oversees Memorial Day Association, the day began at Les Mares Farm, in the countryside near the town of Belleau. Marines learned the Marines of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments arrived without adequate food, water, equipment or maps of the terrain and area.
Marines continued the tour by bus then hiked from the roadside through a trail and local farm fields to Hill 142. With the trail leading into woods, Marines explored trenches that were once fighting positions for Marines during World War I.
“There’s no better way to educate than by walking on the battlefield,” said Shearer.
By bus, the next stop was a wheat field to continue learning about the battle. Throughout the day, three Marines each spoke about the heroic acts of Marines during the Battle of Belleau Wood.
From the wheat field, Marines walked down the road to a small town of Lucy le Bocage. From a hill in the town, a house in the distance of the countryside was pointed out as the headquarters for the 6th Marine Regiment.
“Being able to walk and see some of these sights that still exist after almost 100 years,” said Cpl. Joshua Bettis, a distribution management office outbound counselor. “To me it’s unbelievable; there’s still trenches dug out by the Marines who came before us.”
After a short bus ride, the Marines continued the tour on foot, walking to the town of Bouresches, continuing along the edge of farm fields into the woods of Belleau. While in the woods, Marines paused to look at trenches, holes and impressions in the ground from fighting holes and enemy shelling.
“For me I had goose bumps all day getting to see these places,” said Sgt. Curtis Dunham, operations noncommissioned officer in-charge, Administrative Resources Information.
After hiking for more than an hour through the woods passing by a bunker and fortification, Marines stood in a clearing of Belleau Wood where the final attack of the battle took place. Marines took photos of the Marine Monument with a life-size sculpture of a World War I Marine surrounded by cannons. A tree with a huge knot also stands in the clearing. Under the knot is a shell which the tree has grown over. Marines also collected dirt, bark and leaves.
From the Belleau Wood Marine Monument, Shearer led the Marines down a trail to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial where more than 2,200 American service members are interred. Each service member is honored with a white marble marker of a cross or Star of David.
Marines had time to tour the chapel over looking each service member’s final resting place. Evening colors took place with Marines lowering two American flags as the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save, was sounded from the chapel, followed by God Bless America.
“The colors ceremony is something I will never forget. To see the colors come down at Belleau Wood, I’ll never forget that,” said Dunham. “Being at the Belleau Wood Memorial and Cemetery gave me a tingle up my spine.”
Following the path lined with neatly trimmed trees, bushes of flowers and immaculately cut, lush, green grass, Marines traveled to take a quick drink from the Devil Dog Fountain a short distance down the road.
“Our memories dim with time and the best way to honor the service members who fought here for freedom, our liberties and France is to educate our young troops today,” said Shearer.