Saturday, December 24, 2016

The lost art of the Christmas card

Not quite at the water's edge, yet. This 1865 depiction of colonists at Manly celebrating Christmas appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News. Image: ANMM collection 00006061.

Not quite at the water's edge, yet. This 1865 depiction of colonists at Manly celebrating Christmas appeared in The Illustrated Sydney News. Image: ANMM collection 00006061.

It was bound to happen. There was only one this year: a lone Christmas card arriving in my mailbox, stoically spreading Christmas cheer and best wishes for the season. Likely, next year there will be none and although we may discover new ways to spread cheer, via emails or seasonal emojis, but for me, the demise of the Christmas card is cause for some lament.

The ideology of the Australian beach Christmas beginning to be entrenched. ANMM collection 00039786.

The ideology of the Australian beach Christmas beginning to be entrenched. ANMM collection 00039786, c1905.

The museum has a collection of Christmas cards, that in addition to being a poignant reminder of their long gone senders, inadvertently tell a social history of colonial Australia. There is nary a pine tree, bell or snowman to be seen. European settlers realised early on that celebrating the holiday with traditional accompaniments didn't fit with an Australian summer and they quickly embraced Christmas by the water.

Credit for creativity to this Christmas card celebrating Cairns from around 1930. ANMM collection 00044547.

Credit for creativity to this Christmas card celebrating Cairns from around 1930. ANMM collection 00044547.

Residents and immigrants used Christmas cards to send love and wishes back 'home'. These utopian scenes did as much for tourism and immigration to Australia as they did in spreading Christmas cheer. Beachside 'bathing' scenes were a popular topic on the cards as were water sports such as rowing, fishing and sailing. We were becoming a nation of maritime lovers in as many ways as we could.

No snow or ice fishing here! Christmas at Saltwater Creek in Tasmania celebrated the ability to enjoy the holiday outdoors. ANMM collection 00044545.

No snow or ice fishing here! Christmas at Saltwater Creek in Tasmania celebrated the ability to enjoy the holiday outdoors, c1930. ANMM collection 00044545.

Not restricted to cliché, Christmas themes or garish modern graphics, early cards served as a snapshot into the aspirations of the colonies and how colonial Australia wanted to be seen. Outdoorsy and healthy, yet still retaining a touch of the genteel. Embracing Australia's uniqueness yet hanging on to a sense of British tradition. A country that was bursting with opportunities and untouched natural beauty.

Not committed to using traditional European Christmas icons, Australian cards were diverse and celebrated many different industries and regions. This card was sent by Irish immigrant Edward Telford, to his friend in England in 1914. Edward notes that the weather in Mildura was '101 in the shade'. ANMM collection 00050150.

Not committed to using traditional European Christmas icons, Australian cards were diverse and celebrated many different industries and regions. This card was sent by Irish immigrant Edward Telford, to his friend in England in 1914. Edward notes that the weather in Mildura was '101 in the shade'. ANMM collection 00050150.

And so, as the humble Christmas card likely fades into obscurity, I am beyond grateful that these small paper tokens of love and best wishes have found their way into the museum collection. As much for the enormous diversity and quirkiness of the images, as for the eternal messages of peace and good will they carried.

Quintessentially Australian, this hand painted Christmas card was sent to Douglas Fraser of the 1st RNBT while he was serving at Gallipoli, 1916. ANMM collection ANMS1259[010].

Quintessentially Australian, this hand painted Christmas card was sent to Douglas Fraser of the 1st RNBT while he was serving at Gallipoli, 1916. ANMM collection ANMS1259[010].

— Myffanwy Bryant, Curatorial Assistant

Want to see more postcards and seasonal greetings from the past? Why not check out our collection online (Warning: you might lose a few hours doing this).

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Japan, U.S. to jointly collect remains of war dead: sources

Japan will start jointly collecting remains of the war dead with the United States next year mainly in the Pacific area where the two countries fought during World War II, Japanese government sources said Friday.

Tokyo is hoping to accelerate the collection by joining hands with U.S. experts with advanced scientific knowledge in analyzing skeletons, and to strengthen the alliance between the two countries through the joint operation.

The plan may be announced when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in Hawaii on Tuesday to remember those killed in Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the sources said.

"The collection project has to be done under the government's responsibility but it's hard to say we're making progress," said a source linked to the Prime Minister's Office, adding that Tokyo has hence decided to draw on U.S. experience and expertise.

Under the joint operation, Japan will cooperate with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a Hawaii-based agency in the U.S. Defense Department with experience in finding remains of the war dead based on war-related documents and identifying them through DNA tests.

The joint operation will cover former battlefields in the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Iwoto Island, formerly known as Iwo Jima. If the operation goes well, the coverage area may widen, the sources said.

The government has been collecting war remains since fiscal 1952. Japan lost around 2.4 million lives in battlefields outside the nation during the war, of which 1,126,000 remained unaccounted for as of the end of October, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Washington sounded out Tokyo about cooperating in the collection of war remains around 2014, and Tokyo had been contemplating the offer.

Japan has set the nine years from fiscal 2016 as a period to intensively accelerate efforts to collect the remains of the war dead in accordance with a law enacted in March to promote the task.

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Repost: Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of Sailors – “May St. Nicholas Hold the Tiller”

st-nicholas-patron-saint-of-sailorsIn honor of the holiday season, a repost from 2012.

We recently learned that good Saint Nicholas, long associated with Christmas and gift-giving, is also the patron saint of ships and sailors. The St. Nicholas Center notes: "Many ports, most notably in Greece, have icons of Nicholas, surrounded by ex-votos of small ships made of silver or carved of wood. Sailors returning safely from sea, place these in gratitude to St. Nicholas for protection received. In some places sailors, instead of wishing one another luck, say, "May St. Nicholas hold the tiller."

They go on to say, "Saint Nicholas is said to be just about everyone's saint; he is surely named the patron saint of more causes than any other saint. Nicholas has been chosen as the special protector or guardian of a great many classes of people, cities, churches, and even countries."  St. Nicholas is the patron saint of gift giving and of children, as well as being the patron saint of prostitutes and thieves.  Sailors, being a generous lot, probably do not mind sharing the patron saint, especially as they have several others anyway, including Saint Brendan, Saint Elmo, and St. Micheal among many others.  Clearly we sailors need all the help that we can get.

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and in the new year, may St. Nicholas hold the tiller. Thanks to Dexter Donham for contributing to the post.

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U.S. Navy Reverses Course– Nevermind, You Are Still a Boatswain’s Mate Third Class

In the end of September, the U.S. Navy announced that it would be eliminating the rating system that they had used for the past 241 years in the ranks of enlisted sailors.  The old system, which used 91 ratings, would be abolished.  A Fire Controlman 1st Class and a Machinist's Mate First Class would both be referred to simply as Petty Officers 1st Class.  While the admirals may have thought that this was a good idea, no one else apparently did. Earlier this week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said essentially, "Nevermind. We'll stick with the old system for now," or words to that effect. Specifically, the NAVADMIN message, said, in part:

Since we made the initial rating modernization announcement in September, the SECNAV, MCPON and I, along with other Navy leadership, have had the opportunity to speak with thousands of Sailors during our travels throughout the fleet. The feedback from current and former Sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.  Furthermore, there has been a solid body of thoughtful input that pointed out that there is a way to have the benefits of the rating modernization program without removing rating titles.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944

the-conquering-tideBy Ian W. Toll, W.W. Norton, New York, NY (2016)

Reviewed by John Grady

Ian Toll's Conquering Tide is the middle piece of his Pacific War history, and it is a superb fit with the first volume, Pacific Crucible. Now available in paperback, Conquering Tide tells the story of the fight after the Battle of Midway in the air, on and under the water, and on specks of land. It was the struggle that rolled back the Japanese Empire and set the stage for the climactic events in the Inland Sea and the home islands.

As the book ends, victory was in sight after the Battle of the Philippine Sea, but it would come at a terrible price – for the Japanese and the Americans.

Toll's work on the Pacific War has been compared favorably with Rick Atkinson's Liberation Trilogy, his thorough examination of the American Army first in North Africa, then in Italy, and finally the push eastward from the Normandy beaches into Germany.

The trilogy is an excellent update of Samuel Eliot Morison's epic 15-volume magisterial opus on the Navy in World War II. Toll encapsulates the title, Conquering Tide, in this one sentence late in the book:

The Americans had developed the capability to project overwhelming force into the distant frontiers of the western Pacific, and no tactical masterstroke or blunder could reverse the increasingly lopsided balance of power between the two combatants.

The image of Japanese aircraft having to be pulled by oxen to airfields miles away from production plants contrasted with the non-stop output of American aviation assembly lines rolling out to close by runways captures in small detail "the capability to project overwhelming force" that Toll has set up.

Similarly, with a sailor's description of seeing thirteen American aircraft carriers in a single day in the Gilberts when at one point a short time before there was but a single flattop in the Pacific achieves the same effect of graphically demonstrating a projection of overwhelming force.

But the impending fight to bring this war in the Pacific to an end looms as a bitter, bloody, "no surrender" battle by the Japanese military and civilians on island after island. Toll chronicles the fall from power of Hideki Tojo and notes his replacement Kuniaki Koiso, a retired general and Tokyo's proconsul ruling Korea, "dutifully mouthed the same bellicose avowals and victory forecasts" of the old regime. There always was to be "a great offensive in the near future to crush Britain and America" he promised and propagandists repeated. All the time, casualties mounted, the empire shrank, and privation on the home islands spread.

While not having Morison's luxury of 15 volumes to expand on broad themes in critical detail, Toll does not give the Marines short shrift in his account, nor does he short change the contribution of the submarine force [once he addressed the longstanding and ignored problems with its torpedoes].

On the American side, Toll's narrative deftly moves between the towering figures – King, Nimitz, Halsey, Holland Smith, and deck-plate sailors and Marines who "do not know how many of the Japanese civilians [italics in text] will actively fight us." He weaves the Japanese narrative in a similarly efficient and coherent way.

Conquering Tide is not a Navy and Marine battle action history. It is a compelling account from the biggest of pictures of the "Europe first" strategy to the tiniest of pixels to help readers born years and decades after these events understand what happened, why it occurred, and ultimately what it all meant at the time to the Americans and Japanese.

This reviewer was particularly struck by Toll's description of the Japanese fight to the bitter end on Saipan and the decision by thousands of civilians to take their lives rather than surrender.

"Despite the bitterness of defeat, we pledge 'Seven lives to repay our country'" was part of Yoshitsugu Saito's last instruction to his battered forces. "About 3,000 Japanese troops answered the call" to report to a staging point and charged down a narrow-gauge railway into the Americans in a banzai charge shortly before 5 a.m. Those who had rifles fixed bayonets, those without fixed knives or bayonets on long poles. At the rear but pressing forward was "a pathetic cavalcade of sick and wounded men, bleeding and bandaged, some hobbling along on crutches, many with no weapons at all."

The stampede thinned out as soldiers and Marines "fought at close quarters … until infantry and tank were rushed in to join a punishing counterattack." The fight ended after four hours. Not far away, Japanese women and children were leaping from cliffs into the sea to their deaths rather than risk capture by the Americans.

Summing up, Toll noted, "Capture of the Marianas and the accompanying ruin of Japanese carrier airpower were final and irreversible blows to the hopes of the Japanese imperial project."

This reviewer eagerly awaits Toll's third volume.


 John Grady currently writes for USNI News

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Fullbore Friday

It is always good to remember your friends at Christmas time.

When we speak of the "Frozen Chosin" or the "Chosin Few" we think of US Marines. Well - take some time to read this

For those who have served with Royal Marines, the story of the

41 Independent Commando Royal Marines will ring a bell.
At Chosin, with 50 percent casualties from a unit strength of 250, they shaved every day in combat, looked after weapons and gear even when wounded, and refused helmets in combat. ... 41 Commando spent Christmas with the First Marine Division at Masan. ...Their ranks were badly depleted, particularly in specialists and NCOs, and it was eventually decided that they should withdraw to Japan to await reinforcements. It was with mixed feelings that the Commando left their USMC comrades. In his report, Lt.Col. Drysdale stated:

This is the first time that Marines of the two nations had fought side by side since the defense of the Peking Legation in 1900. Let it be said that the admiration of all ranks of 41 Commando for their Brothers in Arms was and is unbounded. They fought like tigers and their morale and esprit de corps is second to none.
Read it all.

When we fail to recognize what a great friend the British have been to this nation for so long, we not only do them a disservice - we dishonor ourselves.

Hat tip Derb. First posted DEC11.

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Road to Recovery Leads to Second Chance

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- "Because I didn't do my job, there was a wife without a husband; two kids without their dad. I felt it was my job as the senior enlisted to bring everyone home safe. I really felt as if I had failed." These are just some of thoughts going through Senior Chief Raina Hockenberry's mind over the past two and half years since she and other military personnel were attacked in Afghanistan. "That was really hard for me to process. It shook my belief in my ability to lead," said Hockenberry, who is currently serving at U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. "I think I still struggle with that." The morning of the attack back in 2014, Hockenberry was on a site visit at the Marshal Fahim Training Facility in Afghanistan when shots were fired. After a two-minute fire fight, Hockenberry had been shot five times; 15 others were also injured or killed. Nine months of physical therapy and countless surgeries in recovery followed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, all while a desire to deploy again slowly grew. Hockenberry said that during her recovery she thought a lot about the attack and how hard that was on her as well as how dangerous down time and overthinking can be for someone in recovery. Two factors that played a significant role in helping her bounce back during recovery were junior Sailors and the desire to get back to work. "During Chief initiation season, a lot of Chief selects came to speak with me as well as other junior Sailors throughout my recovery," said Hockenberry. "It helped me remember that I was a Chief and that junior Sailors were watching so I couldn't be a baby. I couldn't not do what I was supposed to do because Chiefs do what they need to do." A few weeks after the attack, Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time, visited Hockenberry in Bethesda. She recalled that when Harris asked her if she needed anything, she replied by asking for her laptop so that she could telework during recovery. "That laptop was so critical to me because I was no longer a patient, I became a Senior Chief again; I became productive," said Hockenberry. "That was huge to me. Being just a patient can drive you crazy." Another event stood out in Hockenberry's mind from her time serving in Afghanistan. She and her fellow service members helped to welcome wounded warriors who were taking part in a program called Operation Proper Exit (OPE). Hockenberry believes it was important for military members to be exposed to this welcoming to remind them of the dangers of their mission. "There are times out there that you get detached and complacency sets in," said Hockenberry. "It was a good reminder for everyone that there is a harsh reality in what we're doing, we are in a combat zone and you can't take that for granted." That memory stuck with Hockenberry and fueled her desire to become a participant in OPE. She began reaching out to the co-founder, Rick Kell, hoping for a chance to return to Afghanistan. "I remember when Rick called me to tell me it was happening and I didn't even let him finish, and interrupted him asking when we were going," said Hockenberry. "I was really excited because honestly I had lost hope about going back." The most difficult part of being injured for Hockenberry was being medivaced and not being given closure. "You just leave. You don't get to say goodbye. There are people out there that you want to say goodbye to and you don't get the chance," said Hockenberry. "That's why I love the title of Operation Proper Exit because I left on a stretcher and now I get the chance to walk out of Afghanistan and leave on my own terms."

For more news from U.S. Pacific Fleet, visit

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Inside a German U-boat

If you have ever toured the U-505 at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry or seen the movie Das Boot, you have gained an appreciation of the claustrophobic feeling of submarine service. This 1915 image from Tony Langley's collection is the best I've seen from the Great War at capturing that. Felix Schwormstädt was a German painter who created illustrations during the First World War for the magazine Illustrierte Zeitung.

Schwormstädt was something of a specialist in combat claustrophobia.  Here is a similar treatment of the inside of the gondola of a combat zeppelin.  

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Iranian Cargo Ship Reportedly Destroyed by Rocket Off Yemen

Photo: Ansar Burney Trust
Photo posted by Ansar Burney Trust allegedly showing the attack on an Iranian cargo off Yemen. 

Seven people are believed to have been killed in an apparent rocket attack on a Iranian cargo ship in the Red Sea off Yemen, Pakistani sources are reporting.

The Ansar Burney Trust, a human and civil rights organization in Pakistan, posted pictures of the alleged attack on its Facebook page. The organization said, citing its sources, that the Iranian-flagged cargo ship MV Jouya-8 was hit by a rocket and destroyed off Yemen.

All seven missing are reportedly Pakistani nationals. One person is believed to have survived. 

Photo: Ansar Burney Trust

"Ansar Burney Trust International has received information through its sources that an unfortunate ship namely "MV JOUYA-8" has been hit by a rocket in Sea of Yemen and reportedly destroyed… so far one Pakistani has managed to survive some how who has managed to swim towards some island," Ansar Burney said in a statement posted to its Facebook page. 

The Pakistani news agency Geo News said the attack occurred Wednesday night as the ship was underway from Egypt to Dubai. 

According to AIS information the MV Jouya-8 was built in 1990 and is 58-meters in length and 699 dwt. 

The alleged attack comes after several attacks on both civilian and military ships off Yemen in recent months. 

gCaptain has been unable to independently verify the details of this week's attack.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Paul Wieser’s Veteran Legacy as a World War II Navy Veteran

In this Veteran Spotlight, NCA intern Maari Weiss tells the story of Paul Weiser, a Navy Veteran who served in World War II. Actually he served for more than that: he enlisted before, and his contract was not up until after the war. He served his full six and one-half years with the Navy honorably. Maari will share Mr. Weiser's Navy career in battleships, at some of the toughest battles in the Pacific theater of that war.

She is able to share Wieser's story of service because he was interviewed for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. Recently, I was at a Veteran event in South Dakota where the issue was raised about recording Veterans' experiences from World War II before it is too late (approximately 3,000 Veterans of World War II are passing away each day; the youngest known World War II Veteran is 89). I was surprised how few had heard of this resource at the library of Congress.

Anyone who knows a Veteran (of any era) who would like to be interviewed can go to the website of the Veterans History Project and find information on how to conduct the interview and submit it to the Library of Congress, where it will become part of their collection.

Please enjoy Maari's research on Paul Wieser. His interviews are kept at the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. Find the links to them in the story below.

Like many other men and women of his generation, Paul A. Wieser volunteered to serve his country at a young age. In two separate oral history interviews available online as part of the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project (video interview), Wieser shared his experiences as a member of the United States Navy, focusing on his memories of World War II.

Wieser was born and raised in Linden, New Jersey. His parents were immigrants who came to this country from Austria, and he "had six brothers and two sisters." He described his parents as "hardworking people" who instilled in their children a "love of the country very early. [His] parents were very proud of the United States."

After graduating from high school, Wieser found that "work was hard to get." He also recalled that "as a youngster, … [he] thought the greatest thing in the world was to be a soldier." Although he had participated in an Army program as a high school student and found that Army life was not for him, Wieser determined that his earlier experience did not rule out all military service. He therefore "decided to join the Navy," formally enlisting on "February the 14th, 1941." In choosing to become a sailor, Wieser was required to commit to "six years" of service, and, for most of that time, the United States was at war.

Wieser went through recruit training in Newport, Rhode Island, before being "assigned to the new battleship, North Carolina." On the ship, he "was put in the deck force…[and] assigned to … Mount 7 and a Left Gun. [He] was the powder man … the guy that put the powder charge in the tray" to fire projectiles. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, men who had been on leave came back early, and Wieser, who had been on duty, learned the news from them. After the United States declared war, the USS North Carolina was sent "down to the Gulf of Mexico … [to] train for 40 days." Then, they were ordered to Maine, where they practiced and patrolled the area for German battleships. After a little while, the Navy told the North Carolina to go to the Pacific, and it "just about fit through" the Panama Canal en route to San Francisco. They continued to practice before being sent to Pearl Harbor in June 1942.

black & white pictureof USS North Carolina

USS North Carolina in June 1942, en route to Panama Canal.

Wieser was saddened by the destruction that was still evident there, but the North Carolina was soon on the move again, this time headed to fight in the Pacific Theater of World War II.

As a fast battleship, the North Carolina was tasked with protecting carriers from air attacks, and it was "the only battleship there at the time of, uh, Guadalcanal." On Aug. 24, 1942, the North Carolina "got baptized in fire," firing at enemy planes for the first time after being attacked by the Japanese. Wieser praised his shipmates, saying "We had a good crew. …They were … really good." After this event, the ship continued to patrol the waters, "operating with the aircraft carrier Hornet."

On Sept. 15, 1942, a Japanese I-19 "saw the Wasp [another aircraft carrier], and … fired six torpedoes at him." Unfortunately, the Wasp sunk when three of the torpedoes hit it. Even though the North Carolina was "miles away," one of the torpedoes that had missed the Wasp "came all the way over and hit [the North Carolina]. … It blew a, uh, 35-foot hole." Luckily, "the ship is compartmentized [sic] off," which prevented it from sinking. Growing up, Wieser's father was very strict about proper treatment of the United States flag, which Wieser later credited with helping him get "a good job" as crane operator on the USS North Carolina. As a crane operator, Wieser "was kinda [his] own boss," and, when the torpedo hit, he had snuck away from the crane because he heard that they were selling ice cream elsewhere on the ship. The whole ship shook when the torpedo hit, so he was lucky that he wasn't up on the crane, but, after the hit, he had to hustle to get back to his battle station before the doors on the ship closed and he got in trouble for not being where he was supposed to be.

USS North Carolina in battle

USS North Carolina in battle

During its time in the Pacific Theater, the North Carolina island-hopped and was involved in events in Guadalcanal, the Eastern Solomons, Tarawa, Palau, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, among others. When the war ended, Wieser "still had a year and a half to go" on his enlistment, and he continued to work on the North Carolina until he was discharged in "Brooklyn, where [he] went aboard it." He had survived the war and come full circle on that one ship. The North Carolina "never went to sea again," and, since Wieser ended up living less than ten miles away from where the ship was kept, he frequently took Sunday drives out to see it.

After being discharged from the Navy, Wieser "worked on the dock for a short while" and then decided to join one of his brothers on the fire department of his town. He also enlisted in the Naval Reserve. Due to the United States' involvement in the Korean War, Wieser was called into duty, serving aboard the USS Kula Gulf.

While the USS North Carolina was deployed to the Pacific during World War II, Wieser spent his "spare time… [doing] a lot of writing." He and his future wife grew up next door to each other, and they kept in touch by sending each other letters, even deciding to get married through this long-distance correspondence.

Jean and Paul Wieser on their wedding day

Jean and Paul Wieser on their wedding day

In total, Wieser "wrote 600 letters to her." Wieser's wife saved the letters that she received from him, and, more than a decade after the war ended, when the state of North Carolina bought the USS North Carolina and turned it into a memorial museum, Wieser's letters became a part of that museum. Wieser himself maintained a relationship with the North Carolina, as he later moved down to North Carolina and "spent 10 years giving tours" aboard his old ship.

Paul A. Wieser passed away on Dec. 12, 2006 and was laid to rest in Culpeper National Cemetery. We honor his service.

Grave site of Paul Wieser, Culpeper National Cemetery (Virginia)

Grave site of Paul Wieser, Culpeper National Cemetery (Virginia)

Paul A. Wieser Collection (AFC/2001/001/14529), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
Paul A. Wieser Collection (AFC/2001/001/29578), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

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Record Waves in the North Atlantic

In the last day or two, there have been numerous press reports of a 19 meter (62.3 ft) wave, recorded by an automated buoy in the North Atlantic between Iceland and the UK off the Outer Hebrides. This is a new record for a wave recorded by a buoy.

What does this really mean? Rogue waves are often larger than 19 meters. The first scientifically reported rogue, the Draupner wave, which struck a drilling platform of the same name on New Year's Day in 1995, was recorded to be 25.6 metres (84 ft) high. So why is a 19 meter wave such a big deal? 

The best answer may be that there are different sorts of waves and they are measured differently. Automated buoys generally cannot accurately measure rogue waves. They are designed to measure the overall seastate. What makes the 19 meter wave so remarkable is that it was not a single wave but an average of a series of waves.

Technically, the World Meteorological Organization expert committee which reviewed the event called it "the highest significant wave height as measured by a buoy". The WMO World Weather Climate Extremes Archive explains that "significant wave height" is "in essence, what an observer would have seen if he/she averaged over 15-20 waves passing by the buoy."

So, an average wave height of 19 meters of a series of waves is rather remarkable. Or was remarkable. The WMO announcement about the new record significant wave height was released yesterday. The waves themselves were recorded in February 2013. 

But what about rogue waves? They are something quite different. Often called "freak" waves, they do not fit the standard wave models and are generally explained using quantum physics, specifically the nonlinear Schrödinger equation. If you are familiar with Schrödinger's cat, a rogue might be called Schrödinger's wave.

Rogue waves are often defined as waves whose height is more than twice the significant wave height. If conditions were right for the formation of a rogue wave in a sea with a 19 meter significant wave height, that would an impressive wave indeed. 

Thanks to Alaric Bond for contributing to this post.

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Commission Weighs MSC Offer for Hanjin Shipping Terminal at Port of Long Beach

The MSC Flavia is docked at Pier T in the Port of Long Beach. File Photo: MSC
The MSC Flavia is docked at Pier T in the Port of Long Beach. File Photo: MSC

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is set to consider an offer from a unit of Mediterranean Shipping Company to purchase Hanjin Shipping's majority stake in the long-term lease to operate the Port of Long Beach's largest container terminal, known as Pier T.

If approved, the pact could bring in business to replace cargo volume lost at the terminal when South Korea's Hanjin Shipping, who held the lease, declared bankruptcy in August. It would also make Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC), the world's second largest shipping line, the sole holder of the lease at Long Beach's largest terminal.

Terminal Investment Limited (TIL), a subsidiary of MSC, this week announced it had signed an agreement to purchase Hanjin Shipping's 54% stake in the terminal operator at Pier T, Total Terminals International (TTI). The South Korean bankruptcy court is seeking approvals for the agreement from U.S. authorities, including the Port of Long Beach.

"We welcome the industry's interest in Long Beach's Pier T. As our largest terminal, it's a remarkable asset, with an important role in handling the cargo that sustains so many jobs in Long Beach and the region," said Board of Harbor Commissioners President Lori Ann Guzmán. "If the Board approves this agreement, we look forward to working with our industry partners to continue improving and modernizing the Port of Long Beach."

TTI, the terminal operating company for Hanjin Shipping, signed a 25-year lease to operate Pier T in Long Beach in August 2002. In 2013, Mediterranean Shipping Co. bought a share of the lease at Pier T. The new pact would give MSC sole control over the lease and would require installation of two new cranes capable of handling container ships with capacities of 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), within three years.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is scheduled to hold a special meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the sale.

The Port of Long Beach is one of the world's premier seaports, a gateway for trans-Pacific trade and a trailblazer in goods movement and environmental stewardship. With 175 shipping lines connecting Long Beach to 217 seaports, the Port handles $180 billion in trade annually, supporting hundreds of thousands of Southern California jobs.

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Navy Leaders Bring Back Rating Titles

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- On Dec. 21, the Navy announced that effective immediately, Sailors may continue to be addressed by their Rating Titles. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson, with the support of Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Steve Giordano, made the announcement in NAVADMIN 283/16. "Our Navy needs to be a fast-learning organization - that includes Navy leadership," Richardson wrote in the NAVADMIN. "The Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority states that our most junior teammate may have the best idea and that we must be open to capturing that idea. We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored." "The SECNAV, MCPON and I, along with other Navy leadership, have had the opportunity to speak with thousands of Sailors during our travels throughout the fleet. The feedback from current and former Sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles was unnecessary and detracted from accomplishing our major goals." The rating modernization working group will continue its work on the substantive portion of the rating modernization effort. "As we looked at rating modernization effort over the past few months, we saw that we could still achieve the positive results we want without changing rating titles right now," said the Navy's Chief of Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke. "However, modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide Sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us. Our personnel system has not fundamentally changed since the 1970s, and just like our ships, aircraft and weapons systems, it needs updates to keep pace with a rapidly changing world. We must not shy away from adapting to meet the needs of a 21st century Navy -- including the way we manage our people." "As we move forward into the execution stages of the rating modernization, more and more Sailors will have multiple occupational skill sets or ratings," Burke continued. "Before we get there, we will need to tackle the issue of managing rating names. We will involve Sailors throughout the Fleet and leverage the Rating Modernization working group to figure out how to best do that." Sailor 2025 is a set of initiatives collectively aimed at modernizing the personnel system, improving the training process and improving career readiness of the Navy's Sailors. The program has been a major focus of effort for SECNAV and CNO as they seek to better prepare the workforce for the current and future operating environment. Sailors have a direct line to provide input to the Rating Modernization working group to make sure their ideas are heard. Send them to

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GAO-17-101, Homeless Veterans: Management Improvements Could Help VA Better Identify Supportive-Housing Projects, December 21, 2016

What GAO Found

As of September 2016, for veterans who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had developed 35 enhanced-use leases (EUL) for supportive-housing with low cost rental housing and coordinated access to medical, rehabilitative, mental healthcare, and other services. Each supportive-housing EUL is located on a VA medical center campus. Some lessee representatives told GAO that having access to federal property at little or no cost helped them to rehabilitate or build facilities to create supportive-housing. Furthermore, they noted that the close proximity to VA healthcare services allowed them to invest in other needed services for homeless veterans, such as counseling, job training, and quality-of-life amenities.

VA has plans to develop additional supportive-housing EULs, 6 of which are under construction and 16 in development. However, VA needs to improve its documentation and update its policies to develop additional EULs. VA officials did not provide clear and complete documentation for the selection of supportive-housing EUL projects, as required by VA policy, and Standards for Internal Controls in the Federal Government. Completely documenting this decision-making process for selecting properties could provide institutional knowledge to inform future decisions. Also, Standards for Internal Controls in the Federal Government states that management should periodically review policies and procedures for continued relevance and effectiveness of a federal program, and that management considers the impact of deficiencies identified in achieving documentation requirements. VA's existing policy on EUL projects is outdated. For example, it refers to an EUL authority that previously allowed the development of a full range of EUL projects. However, this authority is no longer in effect. VA is updating its EUL policy; however, the updated draft policy still does not discuss VA's limited authority to provide housing for homeless veterans. Further, the updated draft policy does not specifically provide direction on how to determine whether a proposed supportive-housing EUL meets the needs of homeless veterans. Without documented policies and procedures that address these needs, VA may not be well positioned to identify viable supportive-housing EUL projects and help ensure that those projects are successfully developed.

Three programs—Housing and Urban Development and VA Supportive-Housing (HUD-VASH), VA's Grant and Per Diem (GPD), and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)—were used in conjunction with supportive-housing EULs to help support the goal of ending veteran homelessness. From fiscal years 2012 to 2016, the number of chronically homeless and vulnerable veterans housed through the HUD-VASH program increased from about 37,000 to 72,500. Community officials GAO interviewed stated that the HUD-VASH program has been instrumental in reducing chronic veteran homelessness. From fiscal years 2012 to 2016, veterans served by the transitional housing-focused GPD program remained relatively steady. Veterans and their family members participating in the SSVF program increased from about 33,000 in fiscal year 2012 to 149,000 in fiscal year 2016. According to the VA, rental assistance made up the majority of the temporary financial assistance provided by the SSVF program.

Why GAO Did This Study

In August 2016, HUD and VA announced that the number of homeless veterans in the United States had been cut nearly in half since 2010 to less than 40,000. Part of this effort is the EUL program, which uses unneeded federal property (land or buildings) for housing for homeless veterans.

GAO was asked to review VA's EUL program and other efforts to end veteran homelessness. This report examines: (1) how VA uses EULs to provide supportive-housing and services, (2) VA's plans to develop additional supportive-housing through EULs and how past plans have been implemented, and (3) how HUD-VASH, GPD, and SSVF have helped support the goal of ending veterans' homelessness. GAO analyzed agency documents, VA data on enhanced-use leases, and VA data on the HUD-VASH, GPD, and SSVF programs. GAO visited 13 active supportive-housing EUL sites, selected to provide a range of locations and housing types. GAO interviewed VA and HUD officials, lessee representatives, service providers, and veteran organizations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that VA (1) document its decision-making process in selecting projects as required by VA's policy and (2) update its policy to address the current authority and specify how to identify properties for supportive-housing EULs to meet the needs of homeless veterans. VA concurred with both recommendations but disagreed with some of GAO's findings. GAO believes its findings are valid based on the evidence presented.

For more information, contact David J. Wise, (202) 512-2834 or or Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678 or

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New Selection of Artwork Now on Display in "WWI: American Artists View the Great War" Exhibition - Library of Congress

DECEMBER 21, 2016New Selection of Artwork Now on Display in "WWI: American Artists View the Great War" Exhibition

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Katherine Blood (202) 707-4622 | Sara Duke (202) 707-3630
Website: View the exhibition online.

A new selection of 28 posters, prints, drawings and photographs is now on display in the ongoing Library of Congress exhibition “World War I: American Artists View the Great War.” 

The exhibition opened in May 2016 and is on view through Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017 in the Graphic Arts Galleries on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.  It is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Tickets are not needed.

In the new rotation of art, notable themes include the vilification of the German enemy; trench warfare and the use of poison gas; the service of Red Cross nurses and volunteers; and the aftermath of the war and recovery.  Artists represented include George Bellows, Kerr Eby, Charles Dana Gibson, Gordon Grant, Edwin Howland Blashfield and Samuel J. Woolf; poster artists Frances Adams Halsted, James Montgomery Flagg and John Norton; cartoonists McKee Barclay and Otakar Valasek; and photographer Lewis Hine. 

The works of art are drawn from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division collections.  In addition to the 28 new items on display, a monitor slideshow highlights another 60 items.

The exhibition examines the use of wartime art for patriotic and propaganda messages—by government-supported as well as independent and commercial artists.  Many of the artists worked for the federal government’s Division of Pictorial Publicity, a unit of the Committee on Public Information.  Led by Charles Dana Gibson, a pre-eminent illustrator, the division focused on promoting recruitment, bond drives, home-front service, troop support and camp libraries.  In less than two years, the division’s 300 artists produced more than 1,400 designs, including some 700 posters.

Heeding the call from Gibson to “Draw ‘til it hurts,” hundreds of leading American artists created works about the Great War (1914–1918).  Although the United States participated as a direct combatant in World War I from 1917 to 1918, the riveting posters, cartoons, fine art prints and drawings on display chronicle this massive international conflict from its onset through its aftermath.

“World War I: American Artists View the Great War” is made possible by the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon, and is one in a series of events the Library is planning in connection with the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I.  An online version of the exhibition is available at  Katherine Blood and Sara Duke from the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress led the division’s curatorial team.  Betsy Nahum-Miller from the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office is the exhibition director. 

The art exhibition complements the upcoming major exhibition “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I,” which will open Tuesday, April 4, 2017.  “Echoes” will feature more than 200 items and will draw from a wide array of original materials from the Library of Congress, which has the most comprehensive collection of multi-format World War I holdings in the nation.  In combination, these exhibitions reveal the extraordinary stories of this turbulent time in our nation’s history and the powerful global forces that war unleashed.

Now through April 2017, the Library of Congress is featuring twice-monthly blogs about World War I, written by Library curators who highlight stories and collection materials they think are most revealing about the war.  The blogs can be viewed at  In 2017 and 2018, the Library will offer lectures, symposia and other programming on World War I, produce educational materials, publish a book about the war, and plant Victory Gardens in the front beds at its Jefferson and Adams buildings. 

The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division holds nearly 16 million photographs, drawings and prints from the 15th century to the present day.  International in scope, these visual collections represent a uniquely rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history.  For more information, visit

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at, and register creative works of authorship at

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW – Sea Stories: A Memoir of a Naval Officer (1956-1967)

sea-storiesBy Gary Slaughter, Fletcher House, Nashville, TN (2016)

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

Gary Slaughter has crafted a fascinating book about his service in the U.S. Navy. The narrative starts with his life as a small town boy seeking greater opportunity than his surrounding area offers. His method of choice to escape his small town is to join the Navy. A scholarship to the NROTC program at the University of Michigan opens a new world to the author. The Navy was then his career choice until circumstances beyond his control led him to resign his commission. His seven years as a commissioned officer saw much of his Navy career revolve around the activities of Task Force Alpha, which was a U. S. Navy anti-submarine task force built around the carrier USS Valley Forge (CVS 45).  The author's two midshipman cruises were on board Valley Forge while his two sea duty tours were on USS Cony (DDE 508) and USS Blandy (DD 943).

Slaughter provides us with 60 short stories which chronologically tell of his progression from civilian to the naval officer and from bachelorhood to marriage. The stories revolve around Navy social life, Navy home life, attending Navy schools, and life on board Navy ships. All of these stories make a fascinating telling of the Navy culture that existed in the 1960s. I doubt that the manner in which the author was qualified for OOD would happen in today's Navy. His tale of the $5 for $7 loan racket operator and the ship's command buy into it, reads just like the $5 for $7 loan operation on my ship.

The two stories that were most interesting to the reviewer were the Slaughter's involvement in the surfacing of the Soviet Foxtrot Submarine B-59 while onboard Cony during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the boiler room explosion onboard Blandy. Both stories call for greater detail than that provided by the author in his account. In particular, the boiler room explosion is far too short in detail as this boiler room explosion would lead to the author's resignation from the Navy. The author faults the Navy's Personnel Department for failing to supply Blandy with qualified boiler room watchstanders, while the CNO expected Blandy to operate as if she had a qualified boiler room watch. The author notes with satisfaction and sadness that after the explosion, the Navy was able to deploy to Blandy the two qualified boiler room watchstanders he had been seeking without success during the previous six months.

After leaving the Navy, Slaughter went on to have a very successful career in management, working first for Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock and then AT&T, before founding his management company. The book is a great look back upon the Navy in the 1960s, if only more surface officers would write of their Navy careers.


Bogart is a frequent contributor to Naval History Book Reviews.

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DOJ Seeks Comments on “Release to One, Release to All” Policy by Dec. 23: FRINFORMSUM 12/15/2016

DOJ Seeks Comments on "Release to One, Release to All" Policy by Dec. 23: FRINFORMSUM 12/15/2016

December 15, 2016

Release to One, Release to All – Law Enforcement Carve-out Citing Mosaic Theory a Slippery Slope


The Department of Justice is seeking comments on the "Release to One, Release to All" policy prepared by the Office of Information Policy (OIP); the comment period is open through 11:59 PM on December 23.

The draft contains two potential options for the timing of posting FOIA-processed documents: "1) agencies should post documents online as soon as administratively feasible following a release to a requester; or 2) agencies should post documents online as soon as administratively feasible, but only after a delay of five working days following release to a requester, to allow requesters a brief period of time with exclusive access to the requested records."

The National Security Archive would be happy to see agencies posting documents either immediately or with a brief delay.

The potentially problematic part of the policy, however, is part B – the "good cause" exemptions to posting. The "good cause" exemption, if enacted, would contain a broad carve-out for law enforcement agencies wishing to not publicly release records under the so-called"mosaic theory" argument, in which intelligence agencies argue that someone could collect "seemingly disparate pieces of information and assembl[e] them into a coherent picture" in such a way that would pose a grave damage to national security.  This could become an "any document, any time" excuse for some agencies to avoid their responsibilities under FOIA.

Department of Defense Releases Office of Net Assessment Documents


The Department of Defense recently posted a batch of 61 documents from Andy Marshall's Office of Net Assessment (ONA) (the documents begin with "litigation release"). Topics covered include "Axis of Troubles: Male Youth, Factional Politics and Religion," "Building 'Hedgehogs' in the Persian Gulf Region," and  "Why China Seeks Confrontation with the United States." ONA was established in 1973 and Marshall served as its director from its inception until early last year; the office looks at a wide variety of significant issues, ranging from "nuclear proliferation, future naval warfare and the use of space," and hopefully this batch of documents is an indicator that more ONA documents will eventually be made public.

Flynn "Did Not Have Permission" to Share Classified Information, Army Says

Army documents from a 2010 investigation into complaints Michael Flynn inappropriately divulged classified information on Afghanistan with foreign military officials "determined that Flynn did not have permission to share the particular secrets he divulged." The documents were released to the Washington Post under the FOIA. Flynn was not punished for the disclosure, "after the investigation concluded that he did not act 'knowingly' and that 'there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result.'"

In an interview with the Post's Dana Priest that was published on August 15, 2016, Flynn said of the investigation: "I'm proud of that one. Accuse me of sharing intelligence in combat with our closest allies, please."

A month earlier at the Republican National Convention in July, Flynn condemned Hillary Clinton for her her private email set-up, urging the crowd to "lock her up," and saying, "If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today."

First declassified listing of strategic warheads outside Russia in 1991 = 3,429

Newly declassified documents – released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Act –  show that the risk of nuclear proliferation at the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 was even greater than publicly known at the time, with 3,429 Soviet strategic warheads scattered outside of Russia in various former Soviet republics. The Nunn-Lugar legislation began a flow of U.S. funding that helped secure the post-Soviet nuclear weapons as well as reduce chemical and biological dangers, with the hands-on cooperation of Russian, Kazakh and American military personnel and scientists. The National Security Archive, in addition to posting ten newly declassified documents helping show just how much cooperative security worked, hosted a 25th reunion this week of dozens of Nunn-Lugar veterans including Russians, Kazakhs, and Americans – including Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar – in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room of the U.S. Senate.

Obama Declassifies Top Secret Intelligence Files on Repression in Argentina

The Obama administration has released a comprehensive CIA report on Operation Condor operations showing that there existed plans to target Amnesty International officials as well as human rights groups, and planned overseas missions in Paris and London . "The basic mission of Condor teams to be sent overseas," according to the CIA, was "to liquidate top-level terrorist leaders. Non-terrorists also were reportedly candidates for assassination," the CIA reported in May 1977, and "some leaders of Amnesty Internation[al] were mentioned as targets."

The secret CIA report is included among more than 500 pages of documents on repression during the military dictatorship in Argentina declassified today by the Obama administration as part of a commitment made by the president last March when he visited Buenos Aires on the 40th anniversary of the military coup.

Among the documents that the National Security Archive identified as newsworthy was a NSC summary of the torture of Alfredo Bravo the president of Argentina's Permanent Assembly for Human Rights. The report was sent in August 1978 to President Carter's National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, by his top aide for Latin America, Robert Pastor, who detailed the atrocities the military had committed against Bravo. Pastor reported that Bravo had been "subjected to a bucket treatment where his feet were held in a bucket of ice water until thoroughly chilled and then shoved into a bucket of boiling water." Bravo had also been subjected to electrical shocks and "subjected to 'the submarine'—repeatedly being held under water until almost drowned."

Remains of Eighth Individual Listed in Notorious Guatemalan "Death Squad Diary" ID'd

The exhumation of La Verbena cemetery in 2010 -- (c) James Rodríguez,

The exhumation of La Verbena cemetery in 2010
— (c) James Rodríguez,

The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG) has confirmed the identification of one of the victims associated with the notorious "Death Squad Diary," or Diario Militar, a Guatemalan military document of the disappeared made public in 1999 by the National Security Archive. FAFG unearthed Juan Ramiro Estuardo Orozco López's remains during its exhumation of ossuaries containing thousands of unidentified corpses at La Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City, and recently identified him by matching his body's DNA with his family's. In 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission concluded that some 200,000 civilians lost their lives during Guatemala's civil conflict, among them 40,000 disappeared by state security forces. The National Security Archive continues its forensic archival work to find evidence of the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared, as well as to hold the Guatemalan state responsible for kidnapping and killing them.

TBT – U.S. Nuclear Terrorism Exercise Leaves Indianapolis in "Ruins"

Today's #tbt pick is a 2012 posting on Mighty Derringer – a secret exercise by a U.S. government counter-terrorist unit that uncovered a host of potential problems associated with disrupting a nuclear terrorist plot in the United States. The posting contains almost 70 declassified documents and is notable for being the first publication of documents that provide in-depth exposure into all aspects of such an exercise – including the state-of-play at key points and the array of issues involved in disabling terrorist devices.

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Happy FOIA-ing!


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