April 03, 2020

Open Thread 49

It's our normal open thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not military/naval related.

I'd like to highlight the USN's response to the coronavirus, the deployment of the hospital ships Mercy and Comfort to Los Angeles and New York, respectively. Of course, this is somewhat overshadowed by the recent attempt by a rather disturbed train driver to ram Mercy.

Overhauls for 2018 are The Early Battlecruisers, Why do we need so many ships?, ASW in WWI, So You Want to Build a Battleship - Design Part 1, The Pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau, and Operation Staple Head. 2019 overhauls are the last part on commercial aviation, German Guided Bombs Part 4, Manila Bay, Naval Fiction, So You Want to Build a Battleship - Construction Part 2, The Philadelphia Experiment and A Brief History of the Destroyer.


  1. April 03, 2020beleester said...

    Naval news, so bizarre I would suspect an April Fool's joke if it wasn't still being reported: A Venezuelan navy patrol vessel lost a fight with an unarmed cruise ship.

    They fired warning shots, then attempted to ram the cruise ship, only to discover that the cruise ship had a reinforced hull designed to handle icebergs. The cruise ship suffered minor damage, the patrol boat started to sink.

    Bonus WTF: Venezuela claims that the cruise ship was actually carrying mercenaries, denounces it as an "act of aggression and piracy."

  2. April 03, 2020quanticle said...

    In the Venezuelans' defense, the last place I would expect to find an icebreaker is near the equator. I'm no expert, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of ice there.

    That said... the Resolute displaces somewhere around 8500 tons whereas the Naiguata displaced somewhere around 1500 tons, so the weight advantage was always going to be on the side of the cruise ship.

  3. April 03, 2020bean said...

    I had a rather amusing incident during my personal RTW2 game. I was playing as the US, and had an "unrest in unclaimed territory, do you want to try to take it over?" event for the Dominican Republic. I tried to take it, but ended up losing out to Russia. Which was very confusing, because their closest fleet was in St. Petersburg, and wasn't particularly capable of long overseas deployments. Whereas my nearest forces were in Haiti, and all I had to do was tell them to start walking. This definitely beats Austria getting control of Norway. At least they were on the same continent.

  4. April 03, 2020DuskStar said...

    In the Venezuelans’ defense, the last place I would expect to find an icebreaker is near the equator. I’m no expert, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ice there.

    Well, it's an expedition ship, so it'll be by the equator at least twice a year - few tourists want to go to Antarctica in July, just like few want to go to the Arctic Circle in December. So the ship will move to follow demand, and that means crossing the equator.

  5. April 03, 2020quanticle said...


    I've heard of some wild line-crossing ceremonies, but sinking a Venezuelan patrol boat is a bit much, isn't it? : )

  6. April 04, 2020John Schilling said...

    @Quanticle: It's not that it's inappropriate per se, but the Venezuelan Navy doesn't have enough ships to make a lasting tradition out of it.

  7. April 05, 2020Alsadius said...

    Bean, what do you tend to do when you "overhaul" old posts? I never notice much in the way of difference between the live versions and my memories from reading them the first time.

  8. April 05, 2020bean said...

    It's mostly adding links, usually to posts that hadn't yet been posted (or even written) when it originally went up. I also do a bit of polishing on the grammar, and occasionally add a sentence or two if I've learned something new that I think is relevant. I'll add an asterisk if there's any serious changes, but that's maybe one post a month.

  9. April 06, 2020Chuck said...

    So the SECNAV gave a rather...interesting address to the crew of the Roosevelt. It seems to include calling Captain Crozier "naive or stupid" and telling the sailors it was "Not (their duty) to complain".

    This certainly isn't a good look for him and I can't imagine that it will be a morale booster. It also does nothing to dispel the notion that the navy command is highly dysfunctional right now. Anyone have any insight into the repercussions of this whole debacle?

  10. April 06, 2020bean said...

    Wow. It's like the position of SecNav has become some sort of singularity of stupidity. First Mabus, then Spencer, and now Modly. I can sort of understand relieving Crozier. It's a no-win situation there. But this is doubling down in a way designed to beclown yourself in public, and I'd really hope that someone in Modly's position is smart enough not to do that.

  11. April 06, 2020quanticle said...

    The acting Navy secretary also blamed Crozier for creating a “big controversy in Washington, D.C.” that has had Modly’s life difficult by creating the narrative of “a martyr CO, who wasn't getting the help he needed.”

    Well, if he were hoping to make Capt. Crozier less of a martyr, he achieved the opposite of that.

    Also, just yikes at that whole article.

  12. April 06, 2020Neal said...

    The 1:50 mark of the audio version of the speech (as found on Chuck's link) reveals some rather vocal, and salty, pushback, to say the least, within the ranks against the SecNav's remarks...

    @Bean "some sort of singularity of stupidity." May I borrow that line? Sadly, it is a fitting observation to any number of situations one might encounters although the Navy seems to be hogging the ball these days.

    If Bean permits, this article is from a former Professor at the Naval War College on how Modly's handling of Crozier's removal from command. https://warontherocks.com/%E2%80%A6/the-navys-crisis-of-special-t

  13. April 06, 2020Alsadius said...

    Honestly...as tone-deaf as that speech was, I give the guy some props for it. He went into a hostile room, delivered a message that nobody wanted to hear, and did it with a surprisingly low bullshit quotient. Obviously, this is nowhere near as good as if they'd just dealt with the situation well in the first place, but as disaster control goes, this is one approach to dealing with it. And I'm not sure if there's a better one unless they're willing to back down.

    If you can't make them happy, at least preserve your reputation for honesty. And for all its sins, this was clearly an honest speech.

  14. April 07, 2020Johan Larson said...

    If you're a military junky going stir-crazy under the quarantine, the 2003 series "The First World War" might offer much-needed diversion. At ten episodes, this British series is able to go into considerable depth about why the war happened, how it was fought, and what the consequences were. Shorter programs often focus on the trench warfare in France. This series, with more time available, can pull back and talk about other interesting fights: the North Sea blockade, the eastern front, Austria vs Italy in the Alps, the Middle East, Africa, and even the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This gives you a much better picture of just how broad the war was.

    If ten hours of black-and-white footage is a bit much, you might try just episode three, "Global War", about the Middle East, the African colonies, and the adventures of the German East Asia Squadron.

    The series is available on Prime Video.

  15. April 07, 2020bean said...


    Interesting article, and you're free to use the phrase if you wish.


    I'm not sure I'd call it honest. Defiant instead of defensive, sure, but not honest. Honest would be "Yeah, we relieved him for making us look bad."


    I'll definitely take a look at that. Thanks.

  16. April 07, 2020Alsadius said...

    @Bean: His thesis was basically "The media is not in your chain of command, they do not have your best interests in mind, and you really need to trust the system and not try to go around it - can you imagine the chaos if everyone did that?". There was also a hint of "You can do it if you want, but this is the price you pay, and he probably knew that going in".

    These are incredibly easy things to say when you are "The System", of course. But they tend to be honestly believed. "We wouldn't have thrown you under the bus, we like you" is something most superiors believe towards their subordinates. Even when they're screwing up and giving the subordinates a good view of the undercarriage of a Blue Bird, they rarely intend to.

    I actually think it was honest. It was grossly lacking in empathy, but it was what I'd expect from a boss who honestly believed what he was saying, and just didn't understand how it'd go over. (Or, alternately, knew he'd never be able to defend it any other way, and did his best to get through the shit sandwich he was eating)

  17. April 07, 2020Chuck said...


    I think the idea was "I'll state my case to the toughest crowd and if I can convince them I can convince anyone." Unfortunately for him it was gamble that didn't pay off. The crew didn't buy it-I'm sure parts like where he appealed for sympathy for the poor person onshore who was "working 15 hour days" and was demoralized by the news story didn't . All it really did was underscore that the captain knew the risks of what he was doing and felt he had no other choice.

    Furthermore, if he thought this was a private chat with 3,000 sailors and it wasn't going to leave the carrier then he is the one who is stupid, naive isn't even an option. The one thing I can say is commendable is that he owned the decision, but that might prove to be his undoing.

  18. April 07, 2020Directrix Gazer said...

    Well that was quick.

  19. April 07, 2020Directrix Gazer said...

    Aaaand resignation accepted. James MacPherson, undersecretary of the army and a retired USN JAG, is now acting SECNAV.

    Really quick.

  20. April 07, 2020bean said...

    If anything, I"m surprised it took this long. I was wondering if this was an attempt to make Braithwaite look good, but it appears he had his fingers in Caimbridge Analytics, so he's probably not going anywhere. Since 3 of the last 4 holders of the office have failed the "better than a cabbage" test, I'm considering starting a petition calling for Trump to appoint one of those, instead.

  21. April 08, 2020Alexander said...

    @Johan Larson

    I watched the first episode of “The First World War”, and it seemed to portray Germany's 'blank cheque' as an accidental oversight, rather than part of a deliberate campaign to weaken Russia. I was under the impression that the German officers and officials who were making policy were very comfortable with escalation, up to the point of a general European war (providing Britain stayed neutral) if necessary, because waiting would lead to Russia growing stronger, and their ally Austria becoming weaker. I thought that they were more concerned with ensuring that any war looked like Russia's fault, than preventing one. Did I have the right idea? Does the series (or at least the first episode) go too far in absolving Germany of responsibility? Or was I wrong, and the Germans would have preferred the Austrians not provoke Russia?

  22. April 08, 2020Johan Larson said...

    @Alexander, my impression is that the Austro-Hungarians wanted to teach Serbia a lesson, Russia felt it had to back the Serbians, and the Germans felt they had to back their allies the Austro-Hungarians. All things considered, the Germans would have preferred peace. But once the Russians mobilized, the Germans feared being caught between Russia in the east and their allies France in the west, with time very much being against the Germans. They therefore acted very aggressively, figuring that the alternative was losing the coming war. I don't get the impression that Germany hoped to gain something at Russia's expense. But a weaker Russia, or a stronger Austro-Hungary, would have been their preference, given the state of alliances.

  23. April 08, 2020bean said...

    I'm not sure I'd agree that Germany didn't want war. There's at least a serious school of thought that the war was caused by the German Army/conservatives, who wanted a "short, victorious war" to hold back the liberals, who were doing better and better in the Reichstag, and who manipulated everyone else, including the Kaiser, to get it. I'm not an expert on this stuff, but it's a camp I'm definitely sympathetic to. If Austria had made reasonable demands, they would have gotten away with it. Germany gave them the backing to be unreasonable, which raised Russian hackles. The way the Imperial Germany Army operated is more than a bit reminiscent of the IJA/IJN in the runup to WWI.

  24. April 08, 2020Alexander said...

    @Johan Larson

    Your summary is pretty much exactly as the documentary presents it. @Bean's perspective doesn't really get discussed (at least in the first episode). I sort of had the idea that the German army felt that war with Russia and France was going to happen at some point, and that waiting favoured their enemies, so they wanted to weaken Russia, or precipitate a conflict. I may be looking at historical events as if they were something that happened in a strategy game rather than reality, but then the German officers did play a lot of Kriegsspiel...

  25. April 08, 2020Johan Larson said...

    @Alexander, ultimately I don't know. This isn't my area of expertise. But it should be possible to do much better than mere speculation. The senior German military leaders of the time -- men like Helmuth von Moltke, Erich von Falkenhayn, Paul von Hindenburg, and Erich Ludendorff -- had long careers during which they must have written many papers, given many speeches, and sent many letters. There should be a wealth of information about what the German military aristocracy actually wanted.

  26. April 08, 2020Alexander said...

    Reading up on it again (on Wikipedia Ü) I think I must have heard Fritz Fischer's analysis and taken it as the end of the matter. Even if it is a bit more complicated than that, Gen. v. Moltke saying in 1912 "I consider a war inevitable—the sooner, the better. But we should do a better job of gaining popular support for a war against Russia, in line with the Kaiser's remarks." looks bad, if you later try to claim you didn't intend Austria to take things so far. He also appears to have been attempting to escalate things at every opportunity through the July crisis.

  27. April 08, 2020Eric Rall said...

    My read is that the Kaiser and the Chancellor of Germany didn't want a general war, but were prepared to risk one. Specifically, both of them came into the July Crisis with their main goals being 1) make sure Serbia is adequately punished for their role in the assassination, and 2) honor Germany's obligations to their most important ally. For #1, the Kaiser in particular considered diplomatic humiliation of Serbia to be sufficient: specifically, he considered the Serbian response to the Austrian ultimatum to be entirely satisfactory, at least as a basis for negotiation.

    But as @Bean noted, the Kaiser and the Chancellor weren't the entire German government all by themselves. It's quite plausible from what I've seen that a major faction within the German Army leadership wanted a war and tried to maneuver the rest of the government into one.

    It's also pretty well-attested that the German army leadership manipulated the Kaiser into following through with the Army's plan to declare war on France and Belgium as well instead of focusing on Russia and standing strictly on the defensive in the west. The Kaiser tried to order the latter, but Moltke and Falkenhayn responded that this was not just unwise but impossible: they claimed (probably falsely) that the Army only had plans for a France-first war and it was impossible to alter the plans on the fly. If they were willing to lie in order to manipulate their superiors into making war on France, that's decent evidence that it's at least plausible that they were doing the same w.r.t. Russia.

    On the other hand, "elements of the government/military wanted a Short, Victorious War" was by no means a problem unique to Germany and Austria. One of the main theses Clark argues in Sleepwalkers is that there were significant factions within the French, Russian, and Serbian governments that also wanted to take advantage of the crisis to start a war now when (as they saw it) the situation was maximally favorable to their side.

    @Johan Larson, one of the challenges of historians analyzing the first half of the 20th Century in Europe is that an awful lot of the official government archives which would contain answers to this sort of question were destroyed during WW2. I've heard at least one historian (in a lecture I watched on youtube) half-jokingly refer to the WW2 Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign as "The Great Censor".

  28. April 10, 2020bean said...

    Props to Duffelblog for winning the headline war over Modly. Ousted Navy Secretary Modly vows to find out who stole frozen strawberries

  29. April 10, 2020bean said...

    Also, for anyone looking for things to do in quarantine, USNI has opened the Proceedings archives, and is giving everyone member prices and free shipping through the end of June. This is an excellent time to stock up on naval books.

  30. April 11, 2020Alexander said...

    Just watched the second episode of 'The First World War' - if I felt that series was going easy on the Germans by not discussing the arguments that their generals wanted the war, it wasn't shy about portraying their occupation of parts of France and Belgium as pretty horrific. Possibly no worse than was typical historically, but they certainly didn't whitewash it.

  31. April 12, 2020bean said...

    Completely non-military related, but I thought I'd share anyway. If there's anyone looking for an online church service tomorrow, I'd recommend mine, Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma.

  32. April 13, 2020Lambert said...

    Since I've seen the game mentioned here before, I'd like to note that the C♯ version of Aurora 4x is now out. It's kinda like RTW, but In Spaaaaaaace! (but handwaved so that it works a lot more like the sea than like actual space)

    Runs much faster than the old VBA version and seems to be less buggy (not saying much). I think more stable updates will be coming out soon. UI still looks and feels like a piece of 1990s accounting software.

    A few mechanics have been changed/rebalanced. By which I mean read up on shuttles before you have a full freighter around Mars with no way to unload it.

  33. April 13, 2020bean said...

    He finally finished it? It's been about 3 years since I played, primarily because I could never bring myself to start a game with all the cool stuff coming in C#. I'll have to check it out.

  34. April 14, 2020Doctorpat said...

    I've recently read the train-time-table theory for the opening of WWI and it strikes me as having a decent argument.

    TL;DR - The only way for a 1914 great power to get a couple of million men from their scattered homes, to concentrated armies, arm and uniform them, and then get them to the border to fight a war, was a HIGHLY complex and inter-related set of pre-arranged train movements.

    The traffic required was orders of magnitude greater than the normal level of rail traffic, so the only way to get everything to function without breaking down into gridlock was a meticulous plan worked out for the whole national network.

    As a result, you really could not alter plans on the fly. You could start and stop them, but a new plan was months in preparation.

    Furthermore, there was an absolute speed limit to the mobilization. It will take 7 days to get 200 000 troops to the border. It will take 5 days to get another 500 000 troops there. It will take another 7.5 days to get another 300 000 troops. etc.

    If you delay starting the process, you can't catch up. Now the hated French will have 1 million men there when you only have 200 000. Your country will lose what was expected (somewhat wrongly) to be fast, dramatic advances conquering huge areas of territory in the first weeks.

    Hence the decisions made on day 1 were based on the fears that 1 million men would be needed on day 15. And because nobody did the long term preparation for limited responses that was not an option.

    @bean, I will agree that the on-line church services have been a significant innovation that seem to have addressed the issue with a frankly unexpected degree of rapid implementation and technical competence over all of Christendom (I pondered, but I could not come up with a better, less anachronistic sounding, term.)

  35. April 14, 2020bean said...

    Pretty much. From what I know of Army strategic thinking at the time (pretty much from where it overlaps with what the navies were doing) they tended to be super-detailed in their initial plans, and have no clue about after that. Kind of a streetlight thing. I believe the British Army's plan included a coffee break, which the chief of staff used against the Navy when Fisher was refusing to divulge his war plans. As for why there were no backup plans, well, that's a very good question.

    Re church services, a lot of the credit there goes to Facebook. They've got it set up so that livestreaming is pretty simple to set up. If you really need to, you can just use a decent cell phone. Henderson's setup is more complicated, but they also have 3 full-time media people and do video even on normal services. Things would have been very different 10 years ago.

  36. April 14, 2020bean said...

    Also, the new Aurora remains Aurora. Good thing I have a big buffer, because I expect post writing to dive for a couple of weeks.

  37. April 14, 2020AlexT said...

    The only way for a 1914 great power to get a couple of million men from their scattered homes, to concentrated armies, arm and uniform them, and then get them to the border to fight a war, was a HIGHLY complex and inter-related set of pre-arranged train movements.

    Then again, the Russian opening attack into East Prussia was unexpectedly swift, and the Russians weren't famous for thoroughness or detailed planning. While the attack ended in disaster, it got off to a good early start and possibly saved Paris by diverting German units to the east.

    I had the impression that it was mostly the Germans that took train tables fanatically seriously, while the French and the Russians - not so much. Of course everyone had mobilization plans, but only the Germans went to extremes of planning that didn't allow them to do anything other than follow the master plan. There was a quip at the time, whereby the best and brightest in the German army were assigned to train scheduling, and went mad within five years. Another quip had the French run their military trains using the secret Systeme D, the D standing for "se debrouiller" (to make do).

    Don't have references to hand, but iirc the German system didn't even work out that well. Accidents and malfunctions did happen, delays piled up and eventually the resulting mobilization was only slightly less chaotic than their opponents'.

  38. April 14, 2020Alexander said...

    I'm reading through Steve's NATO Vs Soviet Union campaign - Aurora sounds pretty compelling. Not sure I've got the time to get into it, but definitely tempted Ü

  39. April 14, 2020bean said...

    First, I should note that that particular campaign was old a decade ago when I first got into Aurora, and the rules are extremely different now.

    It's a game for a very specific type of person. The closest thing I know of is RTW2, but it's not limited to just the naval aspects of the civilization, and you have a lot more flexibility in how you play. You'd probably enjoy it, although be aware that the learning curve is very steep. You're not a real Aurora player until you've accidentally bombarded one of your own planets.

  40. April 14, 2020Alexander said...

    Yeah, it's from 2010, so it won't feature the C# update (or presumably several other changes over the past decade) but it's fun to read, even if I can't believe that the various human nations wouldn't get suspicious when foreign battlefleets suddenly deploy to newly discovered systems, then later return to rearm.

  41. April 14, 2020Lambert said...

    Might want to wait a week or so, since new patches are coming out thick and fast (and saves are incompatible between them).

    Maybe the best way to flatten the learning curve would be for a seasoned player to release a bunch of 'scenarios': savegames at various points with a bunch of commentary and maybe an example playthrough. E.g. one setup just before a battle so you can learn how combat works and use that to understand how to design your own warships/weapons.

    Also just to see what sensible defaults look like. The level of flexibility is quite daunting for beginners like me.

  42. April 14, 2020Eric Rall said...

    I’ve recently read the train-time-table theory for the opening of WWI and it strikes me as having a decent argument.

    I agree that it's facially plausible. The main claims I've heard against it are: 1. Germany had an older (1912) set of mobilization plans for an East-first offensive strategy. These plans were significantly outdated (OOB had changed significantly between 1912 and 1914), but could have been used as a template.

    1. Post-war (1925), a German general ([https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2016/01/10/general-hermann-von-staab/](Hermann von Staab)), who had been in charge of the General Staff's railway division at some point, wrote a book claiming as its primary thesis that they totally could have improvised an East-first deployment based on the 1912 plans. It sounds like he wrote the book in response to von Moltke the Younger's memoirs arguing in favor of the train-time-table theory.
  43. April 15, 2020Neal said...

    Does anyone know how much radar coverage California, in particular L.A. and the Bay Area, had during WW2 starting about late 1942?

    I am reading about the crash of a Pan-Am M130 flying boat that killed Admial Robert English (COMSUBPAC) in January 1943. They were trying to land in the bay next to SFO but could not as winds were roughly 80 knots at 3000 and low ceilings obscured the water. I'll skip the aviation details other than to say a lot of interesting factors led to the flight crashing north of Santa Rosa in Ukiah.

    The CAA held a secret hearing (Stanford library system graciously provided the report from archives), but I did not see any mention of radar.

    My question is that certainly the West Coast must have had some type of radar warning system? Granted, it might not have been accurate enough to precisely vector traffic, but possibly for general position identification.

    English was very much considered a VIP as was his accompanying staff and paperwork and if the pilots were doubtful of their position a radar "paint" would have been useful.

    I have never seen much published on overall West Coast defenses during the war other than naval escorts being provided.

    Any guesses or am I missing some good material on this topic?

  44. April 15, 2020Doctorpat said...

    I'll just observe that it seems kind of bizarre that we are still researching what happened in WW1 and WW2. Wasn't it all recorded at the time? Or at least nailed down thoroughly in the decade or so afterwards. Why is new information still coming to light and new theories being argued?

  45. April 15, 2020quanticle said...

    The War Zone has an article on how "modern" torpedoes work. I don't think there's anything in here that the readership of the blog isn't familiar with (at least in passing), but I do have a question: is this really modern torpedoes?

    The types of torpedoes he's referring to (wire-guided with either thermal or electric propulsion) date back to at least the '80s, and possibly before then. Wake-homing is possibly new, but I vaguely recall that the Soviet Union was playing around with wake-homing torpedoes just before it collapsed (and funding for naval research collapsed with it). There's surprisingly no mention of supercavitation, which I find surprising given that I've seen supercavitating torpedoes mentioned in the same breath as anti-ship ballistic missiles as "carrier killers".

    Anyway, I thought the article was more interesting for the question, than for the answer: what would a "modern" torpedo attack look like?

  46. April 15, 2020bean said...

    Re Aurora, not all updates break your save. Anything changing the second number of the version is a DB update, anything not is just an .exe update. So if the next is 1.41, the save will still work. If it's 1.50, then it won't. If there's interest, I can look at doing the sort of tutorial you're talking about, although it might replace the RTW2 game temporarily.


    I don't think it was a question of radar coverage per se. Remember, the English crash was January 1943, so radar had been in wideish service for less than two years. For a radar paint to help the pilots, or to come up in the investigation, it would have had to been on people's (pardon the pun) radar, and it probably wasn't. A lot of the early radars used the A-scope/B-scope, which told you how far away a given target was, but didn't provide an easy way to relate that to Lat/Long or anything. Also, it made it extremely hard to keep track of a complex air picture, and while PPIs were on their way, I don't think they were common yet. And then there's the lack of transponders, without which even PPIs are going to struggle to figure out which blip is the plane requesting the position.

    Of course, even if these were overcome, it's possible that the Pan Am crew doesn't know about radar and/or that there's no setup to talk from whoever is running the radar to ATC.


    Because there was a tremendous amount of stuff that came out of the wars, and it takes time for historians to go through archives and analyze them. We're not likely to see any more revelations on the scale of, say, Ultra, but there's definitely stuff we don't know yet, and cases where views have changed since the early postwar years. (See the introductions to the USNI's editions of Morison for a good example of this.)


    The supercavitating torpedoes are not carrier-killers unless they're fitted with nuclear warheads. Those have to be unguided for obvious reasons, which tends to limit how useful they can be without a really big blast radius. Ignoring wake-homing is a more dubious choice. The Soviets did make extensive use of that, I believe because it's (as far as we know) almost impossible to decoy, but even then, it's an alternative, not the obvious next step.

  47. April 15, 2020Neal said...


    I might add that sometimes a real surprise pops up for those who are still delving into the wars. Bean might recollect which sub this was, but it was fairly recently (past five years maybe?) that someone in Japan was tucking into some of the naval/maritime records and helped find one of the unaccounted for U.S. subs from WW2.

    I am a little foggy on the details, but I believe he ran across a website in English which was discussing what was known about this particular sub and he weighed in with some timely info that led to its ultimate discovery. Not sure how many more moments like this are however, but this one was a real coup.

    Another view I would submit is that I have always been deeply moved by Lee Sandlin's outstanding essay Losing the War (sorry, can't get the italics to work). He writes of how much of WW2 rapidly faded into the past--the communiques,action reports, journals, orders, etc. Some worth remembering and some just paperwork.

    I like how he works with the idea of this retreat into the forgotten and I think he would be pleased that historians and interested parties finally realized what was being forgotten and that either out of honor to the combatants, mere curiosity, or a 1001 other reasons that we might not be able to readily divine, that collectively many decided it could not be allowed to slip so easily from mind.

    Granted that these pursuits might appear to be just plowing the same ground over and over, but perhaps that is for the best as we certainly do not want to see events so cataclysmic that they would push them into total oblivion. In other words, we enjoy the luxury of doing so and perhaps hedge concerns that we hope things will never be as bad again in our lifetimes or those of our children's children.

    @Bean Good comments on my radar question. Thanks.

  48. April 16, 2020Goose of Doom said...


    You also have the problem that the actors in any grand historical event do not necessarily tell or even know the truth. Beyond propaganda--whose propagators may well think it true, or close enough--you have wishful thinking, egomania, attempts to make the best of your own actions or the worst of your opponents', etc. Those kinds of distortions can obscure what really happened just as much as the secrecy Bean mentions. They can, in extreme cases, even render it uncertain what did happen.

    I'm a Roman historian, and we're still arguing about why the Empire fell, what it means to say it became Christian (or whether it make sense to talk that way at all), whether we can speak of a Roman "republic" before a "Principate," and a bunch of other things that you might think we had solved a long time ago. We had solved them, repeatedly, but then new people came along and pointed out that a lot of the "solutions" left out important details, too easily mirrored the historians' own prejudices, or looked different in light of some interesting new data or new theory, often drawn from fields such as anthropology, economics, or sociology (not one of which existed before the 19th century--well, economics is 18th century, but Marxism does, for good or ill, matter a lot). This is still happening all the time; how much worse when there are current political animosities and cultural sacred cows riding on your results!

  49. April 17, 2020Neal said...

    The lost sub had been the U.S.S. Grayback (208). Sunk off Okinawa in February of 1944. Discovered in 2019.

    An observant Japanese researcher noted a lat/long translation error and that let to the discovery. Bravo Zulu to that team.

  50. April 18, 2020Philistine said...

    @doctorpat - For a specific example of the sort of thing Goose of Doom mentioned, see Parshall & Tully's Shattered Sword, especially the final chapter, "The Myths and Mythmakers of Midway." Or watch a 30-min talk by Parshall here: https://youtu.be/23vL8AvqbDc

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