Back Page


  Issue/Date 20190916




Sunday, September 15, 2019 10:46 AM





P O. Box 465, Silverdale, WA 98383-0465

"Stuff you won't see in the local fish wrappers"






Left Click on Headline to go Directly to Back Page Article


Grayling (SS 209)

Op-ed: The truth behind the ‘Twisterville mutiny’

Board of Inquiry recommends no punitive separation for former McCain CO

William Earl Smith, Navy captain and Kitsap County booster, dies

The Loss of USS S-51 (SS-162)

Combat Fleets


Grayling (SS 209)
Naval History and Heritage Command

Grayling (Lieutenant Commander R.M. Brinker) departed Fremantle on 30 July 1943, for her eighth patrol, going through Makassar Strait and thence to the Philippine area. On 19 August, she reported having damaged a 6,000 ton freighter near Balikpapan, and the following day told of having sunk a 250 ton Taki Maru-type pocket tanker by gunfire in Sibutu Passage, taking one man prisoner. This was the last report received direct from Grayling. On 23 August, she completed a special mission at Pandan Bay, Panay, delivering cargo to guerrillas. This mission was reported by guerrillas. Then she departed for Tablas Strait, there to reconnoiter until 2 September, when she would patrol approaches to Manila until 10 September. She was to return to Pearl Harbor for refit, passing from SubSoWesPac to Subpac on 13 September.

She was not heard from after 19 August 1943, and on 30 September 1943, Grayling was reported as presumed lost.

Following war's end, the Japanese have submitted the following reports which bear on Grayling. On 27 August 1943 a torpedo attack was seen by the enemy at 12°-36'N, 121°-33'E, and the next day a surfaced submarine was seen at 12°-50'N, 121°-42'E. Both of these positions are in the Tablas Strait area. On 9 September a surfaced U.S. submarine was seen inside Lingayen Gulf; this ties with Grayling's orders to patrol the approaches to Manila. It is said that the freighter transport Hokuan Maru was engaged in a submarine action on the 9th in the Philippine area, but no additional data were available, and no known enemy attacks could have sunk Grayling. Her loss may have been operational or by an unrecorded enemy attack. At any rate, it is certain thatGrayling was lost between 9 and 12 September 1943 either in Lingayen Gulf or along the approaches to Manila. Commander Task Force 71 requested a transmission from Grayling on the latter date, but did not receive one.

Grayling's first patrol, made in January and February 1942, was a reconnaissance of the northern Gilbert Islands. She went to the Japanese homeland for her second patrol, and sank a freighter and damaged a sampan. Truk was the scene of Grayling's third patrol; she sank a large freighter. On her fourth patrol, this boat again went to Truk, and sank a medium tanker, while she damaged an aircraft transport.

In January and February 1943, she patrolled the approaches to Manila on her fifth patrol. Here she sank two freighters and a medium freighter-transport. Grayling patrolled the lesser islands south of the Philippines on her sixth patrol, and sank two freighters, a small freighter-transport and two schooners. Damage was done to a large tanker and two freighters. She went to the area west of Borneo for her seventh patrol, and sank a medium freighter and two sampans. Damage was done to a large tanker. Thus Grayling's total record is 16 ships sunk, totaling 61,400 tons, and six ships damaged, for a total of 36,600 tons    





Your Navy

Op-ed: The truth behind the ‘Twisterville mutiny’



Board of Inquiry recommends no punitive separation for former McCain CO

Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, who led the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain when it fatally collided with an oil tanker in 2017, was not recommended for separation earlier this month at a Board of Inquiry, his attorney confirmed Thursday.

The tribunal of captains convened on Sept. 5, attorney Cmdr. Stuart Kirkby told Navy Times.

Such forums provide officers a chance to rebut allegations that could cause them to be separated from the service.

The Navy presented its case for separation based on a charge of hazarding a vessel and general substandard performance.

But for the board, that argument didn’t hold water, according to Kirkby.

“They found the basis brought forward by the government was not met,” Kirkby said. “They recommended that if he was separated it would be honorable as an O-5.”

Kirkby said the board’s ruling is just a recommendation and that Navy Secretary Richard Spencer still could decide to separate Sanchez at a lower rank, which would affect the surface warfare officer’s retirement pay and benefits.

But the attorney said he doesn’t think that will happen.

“I would be very surprised if (Sanchez) was not retired as an O-5,” Kirkby said.

Chief of Naval Personnel spokeswoman Capt. Amy Derrick declined to comment on the board’s ruling due to privacy concerns.

Sanchez originally faced a court-martial trial for hazarding a vessel and negligent homicide charges, but the Navy quietly dropped those charges and the officer pleaded guilty to a dereliction of duty specification in May 2018.

The Navy dropped a homicide charge against the former McCain CO and no one’s sure why

The Navy quietly ended its pursuit of a homicide charge against Cmdr. Alfredo Sanchez, who oversaw the warship John S. McCain when it collided with a tanker in August, killing 10 sailors.

As part of his pre-trial agreement, Sanchez agreed to put in for retirement and Kirkby said his request is pending.

Ten McCain sailors died on Aug. 21, 2017 off the coast of Singapore after their warship collided with the commercial tanker Alnic MC east of the bustling Strait of Malacca.

While Navy leaders and publicly-released investigations chided crew members for their contributions to the disaster, a U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board report issued last month blamed the institutional sea service for failing to ensure the ship’s crew had sufficient training and bridge operating procedures.

Sanchez returned to the states last year and is assigned to a command in the Washington, D.C., area, Kirkby said.

“Many, many things” went wrong on board the McCain before the collision, he added.

“Ultimately, I think what the board decided was that Cmdr. Sanchez has acted honorably,” Kirkby said.

A similar board of inquiry looms later this year for Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commanding officer of sister destroyer Fitzgerald when it collided with a vessel off Japan two months before the McCain disaster, killing seven American sailors, according to his attorney Cmdr. Justin Henderson.      




William Earle Smith, Navy captain and Kitsap County booster, dies


Josh Farley, Kitsap Sun Published 5:14 p.m. PT Sept. 12, 2019

BREMERTON — William Earl Smith Jr., a submarine captain who saved lives during a distinguished Navy career and later also helped to resuscitate the downtown core of his adopted home, died last week. He was 85.

Smith died Friday of cardiovascular complications, his wife, Sandra Smith said.

A talented athlete in football, golf and baseball in his youth, Smith ultimately served on submarines in the Pacific before commanding the bases at Pearl Harbor and Bangor. In retirement, he served as the region's first economic development director and a linchpin in bringing the Turner Joy Museum Ship to Bremerton and the resurrecting the Admiral Theatre.

Through it all, Smith said it was her h
usband's ability of connecting with people that led to his success in the Navy and his life. With a southern charm, "he had a knack for making you feel important and welcome," said Smith, who summed up his approach in life by a Maya Angelou quote: “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.”

Smith grew up in Mobile, Alabama. A gifted athlete who grew to 6 feet 2 inches tall, Smith lettered 14 times in sports while at University Military School. He was both the captain of the Naval Academy football team and the school's No. 1 golfer in the same year, a sport he picked up at age 4. His batting average in baseball was so high the coach at the academy tried to get him out of football, according to his nomination for the Mobile, Alabama, sports hall of fame. Smith was a part of the football team that rose to No. 3 in the nation and beat Ole Miss 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl in 1955.

He Served aboard several  including the USS Tiru, where he's credited with saving the lives of several crew members. A torpedo malfunction during an exercise in 1962 led to 18 men being overwhelmed by toxic gases. Smith and three others were able to get them out alive.

Smith met his wife, Sandra, herself a retired Navy captain, at a war game exercise in Japan in 1979. She was from Seattle and after her husband's command of the base at Pearl Harbor, the two came to Kitsap in 1982.

His wife knew he'd adjusted to Northwest life when the scratch golfer came in from a day on the links, saying he'd played through the drizzle. "You have acclimated," she remembers telling him.

After retiring from a last stint at the Navy's now-defunct base at Sand Point in Seattle, he quickly got involved in the civilian world. Mary DesMarais, who he'd go to work with at the county's economic development council, said his Navy experience translated perfectly as the county's first director.

"The man had run an entire Navy base that had a whole lot of pieces to it. The puzzle of economic development had a lot of pieces, too," she said. "He listened to people and he never made us feel like we were the low man on the totem pole."

He worked in vain to keep the famed World War II battleship the USS Missouri in Bremerton, though the city would eventually watch it sail for Hawaii. However, Smith was pivotal in working with congressional, Navy and city leaders to bring another Navy ship here as a museum: the USS Turner Joy, which remains on the Bremerton waterfront.

Only a hip replacement slowed him down from volunteering aboard the museum ship after it arrived, his wife said.

As downtown Bremerton lost business to Silverdale, Smith eyed bringing something back to downtown. He was instrumental in helping restore the Admiral Theatre, writing grants, fundraising and volunteering countless hours to get the 1942-built property up and running following its closure in the 1980s.

He remained on its board for 26 years and had an office inside until 2016. But he had no computer — he'd carefully write and snip out language to plug into grant applications by hand. He carried a pen with him that said "Earl's Computer," on it. Brian Johnson, the Admiral's executive director, recalled at foundation board meetings, Smith would show up with a thick binder that had detailed notes and bylaws. He'd find references to almost anything, Johnson said.

"He had every record," he said.

The Smiths have always been steadfast in their support of the military following their own service in the Navy, continuing to co-chair the annual Veterans Day program in Kitsap County.

In a 2012 interview published by the Navy, Smith himself summed up his life of leadership.

“The people are what make it,” he said. “The Navy’s not the ships, it’s not any thing, it’s the people you serve with.”

Smith, who lived in South Kitsap, is survived by his wife, his brother and his three children.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date, Sandra Smith said. Her husband is to be buried at sea, his remains scattered by a submarine not unlike the ones he served on at a younger age.


(PS  Captain Smith was a USSVI Life member at large and  Holland Club member.  He served in Tiru, Tang, Barbel and Remora (CO))          





The Loss of USS S-51 (SS-162)

Submarine Force Museum

By Education Specialist on Thursday, 25 September 2014 at 8:00 am

On 24 June 1922, USS S-51 (SS-162), a fourth-group S-class submarine, was commissioned. She was homeported in New London, Connecticut, just up the coast from where she was built at the Lake Torpedo Boat Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. S-51 operated normally and uneventfully until the night of 25 September 1925. What follows are excerpts from a history of S-51 written by the Ships’ Histories Section of the Naval History Division.

“It was a clear starlit night with bright moonlight…. S-51…had exchanged positions and routine information—this was the last communication anyone had from S-51. According to the survivors, the routine aboard the boat was normal….

“On the CITY OF ROME [a merchant steamer], …a lookout sighted a clear white light about five miles off the starboard beam at 2203; although he continued to watch this light and noticed that it seemed to be drawing closer, he never again mentioned it to the officer of the watch…. About three minutes later, the captain of the CITY OF ROME, John H. Diehl, a veteran of nearly forty years in the merchant marine, came to the bridge; he too saw the light to starboard and remarked upon it…, but then moved to the port side of the ship to allow his eyes to adjust to the dark…and remained there a crucial seventeen minutes. The light continued to draw nearer.

“At approximately 2223, Captain Diehl, his eyes now accustomed to the dark, returned to the starboard side of the bridge and looked at the light again; it seemed to be growing brighter, as if it were coming nearer, and he gave the order ‘Better starboard a little’ to give the other ship more passing room. Then a red light showed next to the white, and Diehl yelled ‘Port, hard aport, the fellow is showing a red light!’ simultaneously blowing a series of short blasts on the ship’s whistle to indicate danger. S-51 had apparently realized that the steamer was not going to yield right of way and had put her rudder hard right to avoid collision….

“…[W]ith a terrible grinding of metal, CITY OF ROME pierced S-51’s hull amidships, leaving a wound seven feet long and five to six feet high through which the sea poured in and began to fill the submarine. There was no panic below decks in the dying ship. The three survivors, thrown from their bunks by the force of collision, testified that as they waded through the rapidly deepening water in the compartments, they saw members of the crew helping each other through the hatches and attempting to secure the watertight doors….

“S-51 went to the bottom less than a minute after the collision; her clocks were stopped at 2225. Officers and crew other than the three survivors had apparently managed to get out, for only twenty-three bodies were recovered from the hulk of the ship. [There was a total of 36 men aboard.] The survivors testified that they had seen several others, the exact number impossible to determine, swimming around and calling for help.”

City of Rome lowered a lifeboat and rescued three survivors, but apparently did not realize that she had sunk a submarine and “that there might still be men alive in the sunken boat, trapped in an airtight compartment and waiting for rescue. When the survivors were questioned and Captain Diehl learned it had been a submarine, he didn’t think of going back to mark the place as clearly as possible so that rescue efforts could begin immediately.”

City of Rome notified her owners of the tragedy at 0010 on the morning of 26 September; the sub base in New London had no idea that anything was wrong until a message arrived via Western Union at 0120. Ships were immediately dispatched to the scene of the sinking, but the position supplied by the City of Rome was incorrect. S-51 was finally located, by a search plane whose crew noticed an oil slick and bubbles on the water’s surface, at 1045. “Ships converged on this spot, hoping that some of the crew might yet be alive within the hull. They hovered silently over the spot, listening intently, but could not hear any sound. The first divers reached the submarine [which lay in about 130 feet of water] at 1318, almost fifteen hours after the collision, but got no response to their tapping along the hull.” The twenty-three men remaining aboard the sunken sub were declared dead.

A court of inquiry convened by the Navy in the months after the disaster laid the blame for the sinking squarely on the shoulders of Captain Diehl, but he was later declared not guilty on civil charges of negligence and failure to stand by the sinking submarine when it was revealed “that the running lights on the S-class submarines…did not conform to the requirements of international law.” The Second District Court would later split the responsibility, blaming S-51’s running lights and City of Rome’s failure to take proper care to avoid collision for the sub’s loss.

S-51 was brought to the surface on 5 June 1926, nearly nine months after her sinking. There had been some hope of refitting her for further service, but the damage proved to be too great. The remains of the lost Sailors were removed and the hull was stripped. On 4 June 1930, the Borough Metal Company of Brooklyn, New York, purchased the hulk for $3,320.





Combat Fleets

By Eric Wertheim

September 2019 | Proceedings | Vol. 145/9/1,399


France heralded the future of its undersea warfighting capability with the launch of the Suffren, first in a new class of six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), at Cherbourg on 12 July. Ordered in 2006, the Suffren is part of the Barracuda program. The 326-foot boat has a 29-foot beam and a 4,600-ton surface displacement—5,300 tons submerged. Increased automation allows for a crew size of only 65. In addition to improved quieting and detection capabilities, the Suffren will be able to transport and deploy special forces by means of a diving hatch and an optional drydock shelter. The submarines are fitted with four 21-inch bow torpedo tubes and can carry naval cruise missiles for strike operations, modernized SM39 Exocet antiship missiles, and F21 wire-guided heavyweight torpedoes. The Suffren is scheduled to enter service in the early 2020s. All six submarines of the class are expected to be delivered by 2030 to replace the current Améthyste-class (also known as Rubis-class) SSNs, which entered service between 1983 and 1993.



Germany has announced acquisition plans for a new two-ship class of Type 707 double-hulled replenishment tankers. They will replace its aging class of single-hulled Type 704 replenishment oilers—the Spessart (pictured here) and the Rhön—which entered service in the 1970s and whose use has become operationally problematic and environmentally untenable in recent years. In addition to benefiting from the enhanced safety inherent in a double-hulled design, the new tankers will be notably larger than their Type 704 predecessors—at 558 feet, the Type 707s will be 131 feet longer and at 20,000 tons, will displace an additional 6,000 tons. With an enhanced fuel transfer rate, a fuel-carrying capacity of 15,000 cubic meters, provisions to embark up to 20 cargo containers, and a top speed of 20 knots, the new auxiliaries will be significantly more capable than their predecessors. The ships are expected to begin entering service in 2024.



The British Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s fourth and final Tide-class replenishment tanker, the RFA Tideforce, entered service on 30 July. Ordered in 2012 and built under the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) program, the Tideforce and her three older sisters—Tidespring, Tiderace, and Tidesurge—replaced the Rover- and Leaf-class fleet tankers. The new support ships provide supply and replenishment capabilities to British maritime forces and allied naval assets and were custom designed to operate with the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth–class aircraft carriers. Tide-class oilers have a hangar for a medium-sized vertical replenishment aircraft and can operate Chinook, Merlin, or Wildcat helicopters from their flight decks. The large 659-foot, 39,000-ton tankers have a 94-foot beam, a 33-foot draft, and a top speed in excess of 26 knots. Crewed by 63 personnel, the ships  can transport 19,000 cubic meters of fuel and 1,300 cubic meters of fresh water. 





The Loss of USS S-5 (SS-110)

By Education Specialist, Submarine Force Museum

USS S-5 (SS-110) was launched at Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine, on 10 November 1919, and commissioned about four months later. As August of 1920 drew to a close, she set out for an area off the Delaware Capes for sea trials. Then she was supposed to head for Baltimore as part of a routine recruiting tour. Unfortunately, she would not survive to be shown off. .

Early in the afternoon on 1 September, LCDR Charles Cooke, Jr., S-5’s young but experienced and well-liked commanding officer, ordered the boat to crash dive. As procedure dictated, the main air-induction valve, which fed oxygen to the diesels, was left open until the engines came to a complete stop; it was supposed to be closed just before the submarine submerged completely. But at the critical moment, issues with another set of valves distracted Chief of the Boat Percy Fox, the man assigned to close the valve. When he noticed his error and slammed the lever, the valve jammed open. Water poured into the submarine and, given her downward angle, flooded forward. Most of the open vents throughout the boat were closed quickly, but the men in the torpedo room, way up in the bow, were quickly forced out of their space by the rising water. As they escaped, they slammed the watertight hatch closed behind them. They were not, however, able to close the vents through which the seawater poured, leaving the space open to the sea. The approximately 75 tons of extra weight in the bow and bilges pulled the sub inexorably down; she finally settled on the bottom nearly 200 feet below the surface.

There was both good and bad news for the 40-man crew. On the good side, four of the sub’s five compartments were essentially dry, the boat was upright, the hull was undamaged, there was some lighting, and any injuries that had been sustained were minor. On the bad side, the main-induction valve was still open a crack, allowing water to continue to trickle into the torpedo room, there was no way to pump water out of the space, and there was no means of communicating with any surface ships that might be passing by. For the next few hours, Cooke worked his way methodically through all his damage-control options, trying to get his boat back to the surface. She would not budge. Then, in a moment of either breathtaking ingenuity or acute desperation, Cooke blew all the remaining air in his tanks into the aft ballast tanks. The effect was immediate—S-5’s buoyant aft end sucked free of the muddy bottom and bobbed to the surface, tipping the boat to an angle of about 60 degrees and sending men, water, and loose objects tumbling down what had, moments before, been horizontal passageways.

Now there was a new problem. The space just aft of the torpedo room was the battery room. When saltwater pouring forward from the bilges hit the batteries it produced deadly chlorine gas. The men who remained in the compartment were quickly hauled up and through the hatch into control and the hatch was shut behind them. The ocean had now claimed forty percent of S-5’s “people tank.”

But now there was truly good news: S-5 was 231 feet long and therefore, even at an angle, taller than the water was deep. By listening to changes in tone as they tappedon the hull, crewmembers in the motor room, the aft-most (now top-most)

 compartment, were able to conjecture that about 17 feet of the stern was above water. Still, the aft escape hatch was thirty feet below the surface, so the men seized on the next-best means of escape: cutting a hole in the ¾-inch-thick hull. At about 2000, with nothing more than a collection of hand tools, the men began working. Cooke estimated it would take about three days to make a hole large enough for a person to squeeze through, problematic because there was virtually no freshwater aboard and the atmosphere, which could not be sufficiently refreshed through such a tiny hole, was becoming increasingly toxic. Plus, even the small amount of air escaping through the hole would cause S-5 to lose buoyancy like a rubber raft with a pinhole leak. The men could only hope to cut through before the boat settled enough to submerge their precious opening and drown them all.

Twenty-four hours after S-5 crewmembers began to cut, the hole was only about six inches long by eight inches wide. Some of the men had already passed out due to lack of oxygen; most of the others could only work on cutting for a couple of minutes at a time before the foul air exhausted them. As hope began to dim, a bit of luck appeared in the form of a small wooden freighter passing relatively close by. Desperate to be seen, the men extended through their tiny opening a length of pipe with a white undershirt attached to it. The freighter, named Alanthus, had already passed by the boat when a crewmember noticed an unusual object protruding from the water and the crazily-waving flag. Captain Earnest Johnson immediately turned his vessel around and then rowed over in a small boat to have a closer look. The ensuing conversation between the two captains demonstrated that the beleaguered Cooke had not yet lost his sense of humor.

“What ship?” Johnson asked.

“S-5,” Cooke replied.

“What nationality?”


“Where bound?”

“Hell by compass.”

Johnson, realizing the gravity of the situation, nosed Alanthus up against the sub—“without scratching the paint,” he reported, although one can imagine Cooke would have forgiven him. He and his small crew secured the boat to the ship’s side so it would not sink any further and then improvised a wooden platform so that workers coming at the hole from the surface would have somewhere to stand. Alanthus’s crew helped to enlarge the hole—with tools passed up from the sub—and then threaded through two hoses: a half-inch one for water and a two-inch one for fresh air.

Later in the evening, Alanthus, which had accidentally left her wireless operator ashore and thus could not make contact with the outside world, hailed a passing liner, General Goethals. Her captain, E.O. Swinson, immediately sent a message to the Navy and dispatched his chief engineer, William Grace, and Grace’s assistant, Richard McWilliams, to take over the drilling. Grace, a giant of a man, began boring holes with a handheld drill at about 1900; McWilliams followed behind him, chiseling out the metal between each hole like a child playing connect-the-dots. At midnight, Grace took a sledgehammer to the roughly circular two-foot-diameter section of hull plating in the midst of those mostly-connected dots and S-5 crewmen lowered it out of the way as it fell free. At 0125 on 3 September, the first Sailor emerged; the last, Cooke, pulled himself through at 0245. All told, the ordeal had lasted more than 36 hours.

By all accounts, S-5’s crew arrived in Philadelphia on 4 September in good spirits; the New York Times reported that several men sang a song entitled “How Dry I Am” as they walked down the gangplank and onto solid ground. Joseph Youker, a young torpedoman, seemed to speak for all when he said that the events of the past few days “showed that we have the best crew in the navy. I want to be on the next dive…”

Sadly for S-5, that next dive was not to be. Shortly after the crew escaped from their somewhat sunken boat, the battleship USS OHIO (BB-12) tried to tow her to shallower water in the hope that the brand-new sub might still be saved. But the cable connecting the two vessels parted and S-5 sank, never again to return to the surface.

For their heroic efforts to save the Sailors, several men from Alanthus and Goethals were rewarded by the Navy. Earnest Johnson (Alanthus’s captain), Carl Jakobsen (Alanthus’s chief engineer), and William Grace (Goethals’ chief engineer) received gold watches. E.O. Swinson (Goethals’ captain) and Richard McWilliams (Goethals’ chief engineer) were given binoculars.
(This shows how far we have come in the last 100 years!/ed)



The Influence of Seapower upon China

August 2019 | Proceedings |Vol. 145/8/1,398

Naval History Essay Contest

China sees its defensive frontiers under Xi Jinping very differently than it did at the People’s Republic’s founding. The United States and its allies need to understand the differences.

By Jonathan D. T. Ward


Above all, China’s strategists think of military power not only in terms of homeland defense, but increasingly in terms of the country’s growing global interests. As China’s own national military strategy puts it:

The most significant transformation in modern strategic history may be the transformation of China from a land-based to a sea-based power.

If the Chinese Communist Party had a Mount Rushmore, it would have three men on it: Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese Revolution; Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China who thought of himself as Sun’s heir; and Deng Xiaoping, who opened China’s economy and set the country on a path to become the world’s largest trading nation. It is here, in this succession, that the road to Chinese naval power begins.

Portraits of Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong, Deng Xioaping, and Xi Jinping

As any naval historian understands, sea power and trade go hand-in-hand. Though not a communist, Sun led the movement to overthrow the Qing Dynasty, paving the way for the communist revolution. While Mao and his strategists worked to secure the original borders of imperial China, Deng opened the nation to trade, investment, and growth, building the Chinese economy from a semi-industrial, impoverished nation to one that would eventually surpass even the United States in total volume of trade.

Deng set the path for China’s transformation from a major regional power to an economic superpower, with interests in every corner of the globe. As Deng’s economic plans took shape, however, his strategists began to see a problem: A trading nation, especially one heavily dependent on foreign oil, could not survive without substantial naval power.

Admiral Liu Huaqing, working under Deng in the 1980s, established a vision of China as a maritime power, summarized as follows by China military scholar Bernard Cole:


Since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, China’s leaders have envisioned a world of unencumbered Chinese power.

Rising from the ashes of the “Century of Humiliation”—a century in which China was devastated at the hands of foreign powers, crippled by internal stagnation, corruption, and civil war—Mao Zedong’s communist China embraced a vision of national resurrection. He set a goal to bring about what he called the “New China.” With the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Mao proclaimed that “the Chinese people have stood up,” and that “ours will no longer be a nation subject to insult and bullying.”

The Communist Party would lead China’s resurrection. In the words of historian Chen Jian, Mao’s revolution “aimed at . . . reasserting China’s central position in the world.” The wealth and power of the Middle Kingdom, once dominant in its known world, would now be restored by the Chinese Communist Party.

But maritime power was never a significant piece of Mao’s understanding of China.

The People’s Republic under Mao, which fought numerous international wars and skirmishes, including with India, the United States, South Korea, United Nations forces, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China (Taiwan), was a land-based power. Mao inherited a perceived military geography that had been relatively unchanged for thousands of years. Mao’s imperial ancestors concentrated their military power on the Eurasian steppes, facing repeated invasions and military conflict with enemies ranging from the Junger Mongols to the Jurchens to the first forays of the eastward expanding Russian Empire. Imperial dynasties dealt with Japanese pirates along the Chinese coasts, punitive expeditions in Southeast Asia, Tibetan and Turkic expeditions, and the occasional conquest by Mongol tribes. But aside from several decades in the early 15th century, the Chinese state and military never set out to sea in a meaningful way.

Mao’s military operations focused on the integration of China’s imperial borders and on expeditionary wars and interventions around China’s periphery. From the conquest of Tibet in 1950 to an aborted attempt to take Taiwan before the outbreak of the Korean War, Mao was working with a military geography that his Nationalist predecessor Chiang Kai-shek described as follows:

This concept of China’s defenses, and the six “fortresses” that surround the heartland also meant military intervention in four key places during the early decades of the PRC: Korea, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and the Himalayas. Each was a peripheral defense line, a strategic buffer zone the Party could not allow to be held by foreign powers, and that the Party would defend—through war, if necessary. The Korean War, the support for Ho Chi Minh’s forces from the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu onward, the China-India Border War of 1962, and the inability to accept an independent Taiwan, all flowed from this sense of China’s vital military geography and core strategic interests. However, at this time, China was a land-based, agrarian, insulated power, working with ancient, regional strategic geographic features, and standing in unimaginable contrast to the China of today.

The Profound Influence of Sea Commerce

The fear of encirclement that plagued Mao and his comrades in the founding decades of the PRC would be overcome through the expansion of China’s navy.

As Deng Xiaoping built the foundations for the growth of Chinese trade, his successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao took up the cause of building a blue-water fleet. An important new assessment took shape under Jiang Zemin in the 1990s that shows the expansion of China’s strategic geography beyond the original six “fortresses” inherited by Mao.

In the words of historian Ezra Vogel, “Chinese military modernization was soon extended beyond denying Americans access to Taiwan; because China was dependent on sea lanes for its energy, it began to develop a navy and to aim to become a top power overall.”4

Mount Rushmore has four faces. China’s might, too—but the fourth has not yet earned his place. Current president Xi Jinping plans to do so through the sheer muscle of his global vision.

If fully realized, Xi’s plans will transform China as much as those of either Mao or Deng. For Xi and those around him, it is not enough for China to be a regional power. China has found its place in the 21st century as the top trading partner for many other nations, making it by far the largest trading nation on Earth. Therefore, China must now wield global power.

Xi Jinping’s vision cascades across an enormous new geography—territories that never have been part of China’s military lexicon in all its thousands of years of history.

The New Silk Road

Chinese trade supremacy is a recent achievement. In 2013, China surpassed the United States for the first time in total volume of trade.5 In the language of international development and commerce, trade is a boon to all, a game with many winners. But the history of every major power from the British Empire to the United States says something else, as well: Trade is the foundation of and predecessor to global military power.

China’s leaders understand this well. A 2006 series on state television called The Rise of the Great Powers brought the rise and fall of nations to the nightly airwaves in millions of homes around the People’s Republic. The lessons of Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and the United States were told in terms of economics, culture, and military might. This series introduced these themes to the Chinese people under Hu Jintao, who proclaimed the “peaceful rise of China.”

Xi Jinping has gone much further. Invoking his predecessors’ visions of “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” Xi has promised his people geographical expansion, military prowess, and resolution “to fight the bloody battle against our enemies.” Speaking for an invigorated country, he declares that rejuvenation “has become the biggest dream of the Chinese people.”6 Speaking to the world, he declares: “Backed by the invincible force of more than 1.3 billion people, we have an infinitely vast stage of our era.”7

China’s military geography has expanded immeasurably beyond what Sun or Mao could have foreseen; its economic interests spread across the planet. Xi and his colleagues are now focused on building a military that can protect these interests, from the South China Sea to Europe.

Consider China’s military exercises with Russia and Pakistan, its two most essential strategic partners, from 2012 to 2017. China has exercised with Russian navy ships in the South China Sea, the Sea of Japan, the Mediterranean, and the Baltic Sea.8 The PLAN has exercised with Pakistan in the Arabian Sea and the East China Sea, as it expands its reach across the Indo-Pacific.9

The consolidation of China’s global trading system is on vivid display in Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, China’s new strategic geography. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aspires to give China overland access to the mouth of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, where China has erected its first overseas naval base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa. Port-to-rail infrastructure in Myanmar links Yunnan to the Bay of Bengal. A 99-year lease on the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota strengthens China’s hand in the heart of the Indian Ocean.

Shipping in the Port of Piraeus, Athens, Greece, Europe

China’s economic strategists have unveiled a threefold plan that will link the major waterways of Eurasia back to China through the South China Sea. Its leaders envision three “blue economic passages” encompassing the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific, and the Arctic Ocean:

The China-Indian-Ocean-Africa-Mediterranean-Sea blue economic passage will run westward via the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean, and link with the China- Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, then connect with the China-Pakistan, and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridors.

The China-Oceania-South Pacific passage will run southward via the South China Sea into the Pacific Ocean, while another economic passage is also envisioned linking Europe via the Arctic Ocean.10

The South China Sea is not an end in itself, but the heart and center of China’s global maritime vision.

Like the Himalayan “fortress” that once guarded the Chinese heartlands, this near sea is China’s stepping stone to the great Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the fulcrum of the new geopolitics of this century and the bedrock of the Indo-Pacific. Chinese strategists see control of this maritime high ground as essential, just as control of Tibet was for earlier generations.

Map showing Chinese trade routes


Chinese Naval Power ‘Second to None’

China’s expanding navy exists to serve its expanding global interests. From the first and second island chains, across the Indian Ocean Region, and throughout the Belt and Road, China aims to become over time a military power second to none. China would see itself become the preeminent nation, with unrestricted power projection and the ability to prevail in any conflict with any power. (See Kevin Rudd, “Can China and the United States Avoid War?” December 2018, pp. 20–27.)

Chinese strategists envision their dominion extending across an “arc-shaped strategic zone that covers the Western Pacific Ocean and Northern Indian Ocean.”11 The island chains are of paramount importance, as they have been since Mao’s time. Seizure of Taiwan matters not only for ideological purposes of “reunification” but for the breaking of other Pacific nations through blockades that could even allow China to create famine. In the words of a manual from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Command College:

With unrestricted power projection and the ability to prevail in any conflict with any power. (See Kevin Rudd, “Can China and the United States Avoid War?” December 2018, pp. 20–27.)

The New Chinese ‘Fortresses’

As Mao envisioned, for now China is focused on overwhelming U.S. and partner forces in the island chains. But what will stand in globally for Chiang Kai-shek’s six fortresses when the “great rejuvenation” is complete? And how will China use a combination of sea power, military, political, and economic influence to ensure it can control the empire of trade and influence that it is busy building?

Let me offer six possible new Chinese “fortresses”—the strategic grounds of a truly global China:

The West Pacific island chains. These are the Pacific gateway to the Eurasian continent and can be used in the future to keep the United States out.

The Indian Ocean. This is the maritime heart of the Eurasian intercontinental system. It connects China to Europe and Africa, and each of these regions to each other. It is the maritime system on which China depends—and in which China remains most vulnerable today.

Australia. Australia remains the continental connector between the Indian Ocean and the whole of the Pacific. In the Second World War, it was a vital foothold that kept the United States in the Pacific. Encirclement of this giant island from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific islands would allow China greater control of the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Africa. Chinese influence in this great continent is hard to overstate. It is a vital resource base and the object of decades worth of Chinese Communist Party political and economic influence. For China to project power here, from interventions in domestic conflicts to basing throughout the continent, would be a cornerstone of power and control, eventually providing Atlantic access on China’s terms.

Europe. Access to Europe is an integral piece of China’s vision—arguably the most important market in the entire Belt and Road system. An expanded Chinese military could easily overwhelm any given European power (however unlikely direct military confrontation is), but China’s efforts to build political influence in a host of European nations are clear.14

The South Pacific. Naval power projection, basing, and political and economic influence throughout the smaller island states of the South Pacific would give China more substantial control inside the broader Belt and Road system and would complicate or deny U.S. approaches to Eurasia, Africa, and Australia.

This would leave North America alone, cut off—“thrown out,” as Mao said—not only from the “West Pacific countries” but from the larger intercontinental system that China is building, where China’s leaders see themselves as sitting ultimately at the center, a global Middle Kingdom without rival and without peer.

The contest for the South China Sea, the first and second island chains, the Indian Ocean, and the whole Indo-Pacific Region is not a short-term game. As a speaker at last year’s StratCom Deterrence Symposium explained, if we had wanted to prevent Chinese control of the South China Sea, it was probably something we had to do 20 years ago. So, let us proceed by anticipating the whole of China’s intentions—the entire vision of victory from the island chains to the Arctic passages to Africa and Europe. Let us understand it all as best we can. Let us plan to compete—and let us compete to win.

1. Mao Zedong, Chronicle 1949–1976 (2013) vol. 3 (2 February 1959), 595.

2. Bernard Cole, “Reflections on China’s Maritime Strategy: Island Chains and the Classics,” U.S. Naval War College conference paper (2014), cited in Patrick M. Cronin, Mira Rapp-Hooper, Harry Krejsa, Alexander Sullivan, and Rush Doshi, “Beyond the San Hai,” Center for New American Security.

3. Chiang Kai-shek, China’s Destiny, 1947. Modern spellings of “Xinjiang” and “Manchuria” inserted to replace antiquated English spellings.

4. Ezra Vogel, Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2011) 551–52.

5. Angela Monaghan, “China Surpasses U.S. as World’s Largest Trading Nation,” The Guardian, 10 January 2014.

6. “Xi Jinping Vows to Fight ‘Bloody Battles against Our Enemies,’” The Australian, 20 March 2018.

7. Xi Jinping, 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, 18 October 2017.

8. Ethan Meick, “China-Russia Military-to-Military Relations: Moving Towards a Higher Level of Cooperation,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2017.

9. “Pakistan, China Hold Joint Navy Exercise,” The Nation (Pakistan), 10 December 2017.

10. “China Proposes ‘Blue Economic Passages’ for Maritime,” China Daily, 21 June 2017.

11. The Science of Military Strategy 2013 (2013), Academy of Military Science, quoted in Andrew Erickson, “Doctrinal Sea Change, Making Real Waves: Examining the Maritime Dimension of Strategy,” in Joe McReynolds, ed., China’s Evolving Military Strategy (The Jamestown Foundation, 2017).

12. Quoted in Ian Easton, The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2017), 28.

13. China’s Military Strategy, 2015.

14. Mercator Institute for China Studies, “Authoritarian Advance: Responding to China’s Growing Political Influence in Europe,” 2018.

Chinese strategists envision their dominion extending across an “arc-shaped strategic zone that covers the Western Pacific Ocean and Northern Indian Ocean.”11 The island chains are of paramount importance, as they have been since Mao’s time. Seizure of Taiwan matters not only for ideological purposes of “reunification” but for the breaking of other Pacific nations through blockades that could even allow China to create famine. In the words of a manual from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Command College:




He received a Medal of Honor, 2 Silver Stars, 6 Bronze Stars, and 8 Purple Hearts en route to 115 confirmed kills

By: J.D. Simkins |  MILCOM

Joe Ronnie Hooper’s service record remains one of the more difficult to fathom combat resumes in United States military history.

Throughout the course of his Army career — one that came in the wake of a three-year Navy enlistment — the Piedmont, South Carolina, native who was raised in Washington state earned two Silver Stars, six Bronze Stars, and eight Purple Hearts, among an abundance of other accolades. (Read  MOH)

Principal among these recognitions is the Medal of Honor Hooper earned for Herculean efforts during the evening of February 21, 1968 — during the savage Battle of Hue — a day in which he would be credited with 22 confirmed kills.

Then-Staff Sgt. Hooper was on his second deployment to Vietnam when he was tasked with leading a squad from Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 101st Airborne Division in an assault of a heavily defended Viet Cong position on the bank of a 20-foot-wide stream

Hooper and a few of his men, meanwhile, managed to avoid the enemy’s concentrated areas of fire just long enough to make a valiant push across the stream in the face of a series of hostile gun emplacements.


The display of fearlessness inspired the rest of the company to follow suit despite being greeted by waves of lead.


Hooper promptly shot them both before moving the wounded chaplain to safety.


Gathering his men to sweep the rest of the area, Hooper spotted three more enemy emplacements, small buildings where riflemen were still peppering the advancing U.S. forces.


Meticulously attacking one after another, Staff Sgt. Hooper decimated the buildings.


Hooper had just finished destroying the last of the three sites when he encountered a North Vietnamese officer face-to-face.

“The officer’s rifle jammed and Sgt. Hooper was out of ammo as the enemy tried to escape," Lonnie Thomas, a soldier who served under Hooper, told the Department of Defense.


"But Sgt. Hooper chased him down and stabbed him with his bayonet.”


Hooper then turned his attention to a small house facing the front of the Delta Company assault, one that was causing them fits.

Storming the house alone, Staff Sgt. Hooper once more used a deadly combination of rifle fire and grenades to kill the shelter’s inhabitants.


Despite bleeding severely from multiple wounds, Hooper then reorganized his men into an assault formation, pushing them forward until reaching a staunch line of last-ditch resistance.


To the left flank of Hooper’s men was a daisy chain of four enemy bunkers that unleashed hell upon spotting the weary soldiers.

Once more, however, the bloody, shrapnel-filled Hooper waited for no one, sprinting along the enemy line and dropping grenades into each bunker, an image reminiscent of Jim Brown in the “The Dirty Dozen.”


All but two of the enemy fighters were killed. Scanning the area, Hooper located two more bunkers, which he quickly destroyed.

A brief pause in the fight allowed Hooper to spot a wounded soldier laying in a nearby trench line.


Out of ammunition, he sprinted across open terrain to retrieve his comrade.


“I called to him and tossed him a .45-caliber pistol, mentioning that he might need it," Thomas told the Department of Defense.

“No sooner had he caught it and turned than he came face to face with an NVA raising a rifle to Sgt. Hooper’s head. Sgt. Hooper calmly shot the man dead with the pistol, then carried the wounded man back to safety.”


And yet, Hooper was still not done, finding and shooting three more NVA officers before getting his men to establish a line of defense.

Only then did he finally acquiesce to receiving medical treatment. He refused to be evacuated, however, until the following day.

Seven hours had passed since the fight of his life began — an eternity.


“Sgt. Hooper in one day accomplished more than I previously believed could have been done in a month by one man, and he did it all while wounded," Sgt. George Parker, who served with Hooper, said in a DoD release.


"It wasn’t just the actual count of positions overrun and enemy killed which was important. But far more so was the fantastic inspiration he gave every man in the company.”


Hooper, who was credited by the Army with 115 confirmed kills, was presented the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on March 7, 1969.


He would be commissioned as an officer before retiring from the military in 1974. Tragically, he would pass away at the young age of 40 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.


Joe Ronnie Hooper is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.




Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that “tribalism” must not be allowed to undermine American democracy and “we all know that we’re better than our current politics” in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.


Mattis’ thoughts, adapted from his upcoming book on his time in the Marine Corps and President Donald Trump’s administration, also echoed some of the messages in his resignation letter from last year, where he appeared to criticize Trump for his hostility toward traditional U.S. allies.


“Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither,” he wrote. “Alone, America cannot protect our people and our economy.

“At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering. A polemicist’s role is not sufficient for a leader. A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates respect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed.”


He also warned of increasing tensions worldwide, and said America alone cannot eliminate all of those threats.


“An oft-spoken admonition in the Marines is this: When you’re going to a gunfight, bring all your friends with guns,” he wrote. “Having fought many times in coalitions, I believe that we need every ally we can bring to the fight.”


Mattis wrote that he was surprised by Trump’s offer to make him defense secretary but felt prepared and duty-bound to take on the task.

Mattis was one of Trump’s best-known and most-praised Cabinet officials before the relationship between the two soured in 2018, after a series of military policy moves that seemed to catch Pentagon leadership by surprise.


On his resignation — a move that left the Defense Department without a permanent leader for more than 200 days, the longest in American history — Mattis said that he served in the secretary post “as well as I could for as long as I could” before he felt it was time to leave.


When my concrete solutions and strategic advice, especially keeping faith with our allies, no longer resonated, it was time to resign, despite the limitless joy I felt serving alongside our troops in defense of our Constitution,” he wrote.

“Unlike in the past, where we were unified and drew in allies, currently our own commons seems to be breaking apart. What concerns me most as a military man is not our external adversaries; it is our internal divisiveness. We are dividing into hostile tribes cheering against each other, fueled by emotion and a mutual disdain that jeopardizes our future, instead of rediscovering our common ground and finding solutions.”


Since Mattis’ departure from the administration, Trump has on several occasions belittled the former Marine Corps general, insisting that he fired Mattis because he was “not too good” at the job.


Mattis’ book, titled “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” is scheduled to be released next week.






Honoring the Enemy

Mark your calendar for 1:30 PM on 6 September 2019 for this special event at USS Turner Joy | U.S. Naval Destroyer Museum.

View this in your browser

Friday, 6 September at 1:30 PM

Come aboard for a Meet & Greet with author Robert N. Macomber. Macomber will be on hand to discuss the U.S. Navy’s role in the days of 1898, in addition to the relationship between the Navy and the Army back then .

Honoring the Enemy and his earlier novels convey the real stories and complex qualities of human nature, cloaked in the nuances of the late 19th century. The suspense, romance, and compelling strategies reflect not only the trials and triumphs civilians face during wartime, but also the harrowing decisions and sacrifices of those in the military who wrestle with life’s everyday challenges. Inspired by actual events, this page-turner helps us live history and remember truths which should never be forgotten.





Top                                                                                     Archives                                                                                  Front Page

Published for American Submariners by USSVI Bremerton Base -Webmaster Don "Red" Bassler