20 December 2008

Political correctness

The following is the winning entry in an annual contest at Texas A&M University calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term: This year's term was Political Correctness.

The winner wrote:

Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

H/t: gomids.com

18 December 2008

Monstrously clever

How to get the junk off of a bank's balance sheet.

Credit Suisse Group AG’s investment bank has found a new way to reduce the risk of losses from about $5 billion of its most illiquid loans and bonds: using them to pay employees’ year-end bonuses.

From Ritholtz.

Try this using game theory

Freakonomics asks us to answer the following standardized test question without knowing what the question is:

Which of the following is the correct answer?
a) 4π sq. inches
b) 8π sq. inches
c) 16 sq. inches
d) 16π sq. inches
e) 32π sq. inches

Did you get it right, too? I still got my game.

17 December 2008

Do you know your car's GPM

Very interesting when thinking about becoming more fuel efficient we should be using GPM not MPG. For example over 10,000 miles - a jump from 10 MPG to 11 MPG gives the same savings as going from 33 MPG to 50 MPG. In each case, you'rve reduced your consumption by about 100 gallons.

Check yours here.

10 December 2008

Building allies against Sharia in the US

Take the libertarian stance and legalize gay marriage.

05 December 2008

Galrahn unmasks

Anonymous blogger drops the shields. Maybe he is looking for a job with DONCIO? Just kidding.

04 December 2008

Where was this program when I was in school?

I don't remember this episode

More here.

03 December 2008

OMG, no!

Liberal milblogger, who apparently doesn't know the man, suspects a familiar face for Obama's SECNAV:
Anyway....no mention of keeping Winter around. To me, that silence sounds like a political obit.
And, if we're in the guessing business, somebody, a few days ago, wrote in and suggested we here at the Springboard float Joe Sestak for SECNAV. But...more on that later...
Wonder what Phibian would say?

02 December 2008

Constitution lecturer to nominate ineligible cabinet officer

Pajamas media (Steve Gill) reports:
The selection of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state reveals that President-elect Barack Obama does not limit his lack of appreciation for the Constitution to just the First and Second Amendments. While there has been plenty of analysis focused on whether or not this is a good political decision, the choice may actually reveal more about Obama’s respect or disrespect for the Constitution than about his political judgment.

The Emoluments Clause in Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution provides: “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time.” On January 4, 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order 13454, which increased the “Emoluments” (salary) of the secretary of state position. Hillary Clinton, as an elected senator from New York at the time and with a current term of office that runs through the end of 2010, would seem to fall clearly within the definition of a “senator” under this clause.

I don't expect any more adherence to this provision of our supreme law than the Tenth Amendment.
Much more detailed analysis here and here.

26 November 2008

Brilliant Brits

The Washington Post describes a British ploy to determine who was making the bombs in Northern Ireland.
The plan was simple: Build a laundry and staff it with locals and a few of their own. The laundry would then send out "color coded" special discount tickets, to the effect of "get two loads for the price of one," etc. The color coding was matched to specific streets and thus when someone brought in their laundry, it was easy to determine the general location from which a city map was coded.
It's good to have smart people working for you.

Lex will not be amused

Blue Angels to hold open tryouts.

Kingdom of schoolteachers

Perusing the Strange Maps blog, I found the Kingdom of Elleore, founded during WWII...12 minutes ahead of Copenhagen.

25 November 2008

19 November 2008

Physics for Future Presidents

Sounds like an interesting book.

17 November 2008

Kaus on the Obama legacy for Dems

Mickey Kaus wonders about the Time magazine cover:
'If Obama and the Democrats succeed in restoring the economy and stabilizing the government's finances without cutting popular programs or producing social disorder, they'll keep being reelected for decades'?
However, he better not screw it up like FDR did. Thanks to some research from UCLA economists.
The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened.

07 November 2008

Optimism for conservative principles just not the GOP

The Club for Growth has a very enlightening survey. Seems that although the Dems won in this round, all is not lost for the GOP, if it adopts some fiscally responsible positions. I'd add a dash of libertarianism to counter the religious conservatives, too.

05 November 2008

Not the worst thing in the world

Well, the US electorate has chosen. Long live the Republic. Surprisingly, I will pray for President Obama's health. Just because I shudder to think what an imbecile like Biden would do in the White House. I, at least, believe Obama is intelligent.

Some others are predicting some bad outcomes (nuclear war in the middle east) and some good one disguised as bad ones (world economic implosion). Both are worth a read.

03 November 2008

Biggest Navy Football Comeback (ever?)

Down 27-7 to Temple (the Fighting Jello Puddings) in the 4th quarter. Then the comeback courtesy of Ricky Dobbs (Navy backup QB), Clint Sovie (Navy LB) and Al Groden (Temple Coach). Click for video.

27 October 2008

This is a constitutional law lecturer?

Our dear (presumptive future) leader, via Hotair:

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I’d be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.
To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that. …
I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn’t structured that way.

Give people permission to use their brains

We were at the local Babies-R-Us for some birthday photos for the eldest child. He lets us know that he's thirsty. My wife informs me she forgot to bring water. No problem, just get some from the convenience cooler at the checkout line, that's what it's for.

So the cashier scans my one 20 oz. bottle of water, and asks, "Is this for a registry or do you need a gift receipt?"

Wow, I just wish I had thought of something snappy and sarcastic to say in response. I just said, "no."

Great quote from the office today

We plant Rickover seeds and pray an O'Kane plant sprouts.

Submarine officer inside joke.

Theory to practice: redistribution of wealth

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need–the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

From Robert Bluey.

24 October 2008

Billy Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn's Manifesto

Zombietime found a copy of Prarie Fire and have provided some interesting snippets for us to peruse. Warning, these are disturbing.

30 September 2008

24 September 2008

PETA jumped the shark a long time ago

But this just reinforces that undisputable fact. They wrote a letter to Ben & Jerry's to encourage the ice cream maker to stop using bovine milk and substitute HUMAN BREAST MILK!

19 September 2008

Good on ya' Les

GROTON, Conn. – Capt. Leslie R. Elkin relieved Capt. Christopher R. Pietras as Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair (SUPSHIP) Groton, a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) field activity, during a Sept. 10 ceremony at the Nautilus, a submarine museum in Groton.
Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, Superintendent, U.S. Naval Academy, gave the ceremony’s keynote address. Fowler spoke about the importance of family support and sacrifice for those who serve our country in executing the Navy mission.
Rear Adm. Mark A. Hugel, NAVSEA Deputy Commander, Logistics, Maintenance and Industrial Operations, joined Fowler on the platform to present Pietras with the Legion of Merit award.
Pietras spoke briefly about the accomplishments of SUPSHIP Groton during his tour including the delivery of four Virginia Class new construction submarines, conversion of four Trident submarines into guided missile submarines (SSGN) and major repair/overhaul of seven Los Angeles and Seawolf Class submarines. The Electric Boat and SUPSHIP Groton team, working together to deliver the best and most capable submarines to the fleet “have steadfastly and professionally accomplished our mission,” said Pietras.
Elkin thanked Pietras for his years of service to SUPSHIP Groton and the U.S. Navy. Elkin spoke about the opportunity to return to Groton to continue to work with the men and women of SUPSHIP and Electric Boat. “Status quo is unacceptable. Once we achieve a standard, we decide it is no longer good enough and the bar gets higher the next time. This is the attitude of this team and I couldn’t be prouder than I am today to be a member of your team,” said Elkin.
During his previous tours at SUPSHIP Groton, Elkin served as a ship coordinator in the Repair Project Office and as Assistant Seawolf Class Project Officer. He later served as the Seawolf Project Officer. Elkin was also assigned to the Staff of Commander Submarine Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet where he was responsible for depot maintenance budget and scheduling. At NAVSEA, Elkin served as the Conversion Manager in the SSGN Submarine Program Office (PMS 398) and then as Assistant Program Manager for Refueling and Conversion in the SSGN Program.

That's what I've observed, too

The rise of weapons system advocacy analysis in Washington to support the budget process, I believe, corrupted the analytical process in general. You have an approach which supports the answer rather than attempting to find the answer. The rise of contractor analytical support has created a demand for more analysts than the system can support and still maintain the required professional quality.
ADM Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret)
50th anniversary of CSDS-12

18 September 2008

Real election projections

It indeed is not a popularity contest. This site has sound methods and confirm that (today) it is likely to be a very close election.

17 September 2008

Listen in on the conversation

Check out blogtalkradio tomorrow to hear the Durham, NC visit of the Navy's Conversation With The Country.

Wonder if NMCI will allow streaming of it?

FAA type certifications in doubt

Eclipse E500 Very Light Jet (VLJ) certification process is being called a "calendar driven process" where the outcome "was not in doubt." Very bad stuff.

When asked if it was a safe aircraft to fly, the FAA IG could only say that "My office has no evidence that it is unsafe."

16 September 2008

Three ways to lie

From chartjunk, first the Washington Post version of tax plans.
Next, the same story, but arranged for to show the numbers of people affected.
And lastly, according to the revenue share of the population.

19 August 2008

Movie review

I know Joel does movie reviews. Me, not so much. However, I feel compelled to give you the benefit of my $7.50. Perhaps it's because I don't go that often. Netflix + 58" @ 16:9 is so sweet.

Obama may not be the post-racial candidate, "Tropic Thunder", however, is probably the post-racial movie. Robert Downey Jr. may be the first actor to be nominated for best actor while in blackface (perhaps since Al Jolson?). He's become a terrific actor and does an amazing job with an easy to detect parody of Russell Crowe. He plays an acclaimed aussie bad boy actor who tries to get into his role by going through a controversial pigmentation treatment. What makes this work is the rapper working on his revenue streams (e.g. Booty Sweat) who lays into him, incessantly.

From the beginning of the movie (actually an ad for Booty Sweat energy drink) to the credits dancing of special guest star Tom Cruise, the movie is crude, lewd, clever and hilarious.

Some overly sensitive groups have been complaining over the use of the term "retard". The problem is that I don't believe the people complaining have seen the film. If anything the movie makes fun of people using the term. There should be no controversy here.

One strong word of caution - I thought this movie should be NC-17. It's extraordinarily strong language, even in the company of submariners, with persistant and graphic discussions of sex acts of every possible kind. So be aware.

Obama in Lynchburg, VA - implies town name is racist

j/k, but I wouldn't be too surprised.

16 August 2008

I have nothing to say

Project 119

This is the Chinese government's program to boost their medal count and score their propaganda coup. However, the surprises that they are foisting on the sporting world are raising eyebrows. Where did these unknowns come from?

The latest is the world record Gold (and Silver) in the women's 200m butterfly. Liu Zige, 19, was unknown in the international swimming community. She has obviously not had a problem passing the drug tests. And swimming is not a head-to-head sport where you need international competition (see USA boxing this olympics). You just need enough seasoning to not get psyched out by a big meet. You train against yourself, and against the clock.

The Chinese are describing this as a type of 'rags to riches' story, but with a Chinese flavor (Szechuan?). Instead of the individual rising to the top, it's the benevolent state that finds her
from the northeastern province of Liaoning and brought to Shanghai to enter China's sports mill. Within a year, she was a promising member of the Shanghai swim team.
But there is a cost to these athletes. One that they may not choose themselves. Separation from family, friends, and enormous pressure on them. I like our system.

Oh, and more reality bending from the opening ceremonies. Wonder if they are frantically revising their closing gala plans?

11 August 2008

From handwavium to unobtainium

Some scientists that really need to skip their next Trekkie convention have produced a paper outlining that warp drive is possible. They claim that by shrinking the 11th dimension ahead of a spaceship and expanding it behind the craft, they can move spacetime past a 'stationary' spacecraft.
These calculations are based on some arbitrary advance in technology or some alien technology that would let us manipulate the extra dimension," said Cleaver.

What the scientists were able to estimate was the amount of energy necessary, if the technology was available, to change these dimensions: about 10^45 joules.

That's about the amount of energy you'd get if you converted the entire mass of Jupiter into pure energy.
handwavium, unobtainium

08 August 2008

It's all about me!

Now, I generally like the Olympics. I'm a sports fan in general, and in college I played a sport usually only seen every four years (if that). However, a lot of the charm is the idea of representing your country in a contest among the best of each nation.

This girl doesn't get it. She was not likely to make the USA Olympic Womens Basketball squad, so she inquires via her winter season employer about playing for them in Beijing. She happens to play during the WNBA offseason in Russia.

Here's a great quote from this idiotic narcissist:
Just the fact that it's Russia throws an alarm with people," said Hammon, the WNBA MVP runner-up last year. "People thought I should be on the national team. I'm 31 years old. I wouldn't have done it if I was 25, 26. This is my last shot. They had 10 years to not consider me seriously. It hasn't mattered how I played in WNBA . . . I was never a legitimate option.

So, hun, you weren't feeling loved and this being your last shot and all - we can all understand the desire to represent a totalitarian oligarchy in what's supposed to be the highest competion is sports.

Becky, it's not all about you. I will actively avoid anything having to do with the WNBA or this numb-skull.

31 July 2008

Well that pretty much hit the target

Results of my Belief-o-matic quiz only have a couple surprises - Quaker so high and I thought Buddhist and Islam would be further separated. Hmmm.

1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (96%)
3. Orthodox Quaker (94%)
4. Eastern Orthodox (83%)
5. Roman Catholic (83%)
6. Liberal Quakers (79%)
7. Bahai Faith (76%)
8. Seventh Day Adventist (75%)
9. Orthodox Judaism (73%)
10. Reform Judaism (73%)
11. Unitarian Universalism (70%)
12. Mahayana Buddhism (68%)
13. Theravada Buddhism (68%)
14. Islam (68%)
15. Sikhism (60%)
16. Hinduism (58%)
17. Neo-Pagan (55%)
18. Jainism (54%)
19. Scientology (54%)
20. New Thought (53%)
21. New Age (51%)
22. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (47%)
23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (46%)
24. Taoism (39%)
25. Nontheist (38%)
26. Secular Humanism (34%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (33%)

Nozzle Rage

27 July 2008

I believe some sonar techs have heard this

Whale flatulence?

All things nuclear are not the same

Add another one to the long list of ignoramuses that:

1) Can't distinguish between nuclear weapons and nuclear power:
Accidents involving American and Soviet ships, bombers and rockets have left at least 50 warheads and nine nuclear reactors scattered on the ocean floors.
2) Believe that any incident of release of contamination (radioactive material) is an accident that harms the public:
In the 1980s, a study by the nonprofit Fund for Constitutional Government estimated there had been at least 37 cases of radioactive leaks on Navy ships.
3) Think that thousands of feet of seawater are not sufficient shielding from a downed nuclear reactor or that any leaked radiation will make it into our food or water supply.
4) Can't understand that civilian nuclear plants don't have to navigate the seas and can be made even safer than nuclear power for naval propulsion.
5) Believe that the Navy could and does keep secret the many accidents and death from nuclear power that they must have :
There's a long tradition of military secrecy that shrouds ships carrying nuclear weapons, making it hard to know for certain why some accidents occurred - or what injuries or deaths might have resulted.
Errol Lewis, you are a doofus. Do some research next time.

24 July 2008

Wes Clark doesn't believe the USMC or Michael Yon

Wes Clark apparently thinks that it was the Saudis paying off the Sunni insurgents in Anbar that worked and that the surge was only a Baghdad phenomenon.

Wonder if Michael Yon agrees? Or the Marines?

Oops, I did it again

So an Air Force missile crew changes removes some launch codes (superceded) from the bunker after their relief. Probably to return them to the CMS custodian for proper destruction.

Little problem is that while waiting for the bus, they got sleepy - and there goes your two person control.

18 July 2008

Fun with Google maps

Did Google maps help to identify a 'secret' Iranian nuclear facility?

Who's afraid of the big bad nuke?

Comments about Al Gore's new energy speech:
Why is Mr. Gore still afraid of discussing nuclear power? He tries to sound Kennedyesque in setting his decade-long quest and inveighs against “the defenders of the status quo.” But he’s still reluctant to use his stature among greens to get them to reconsider the largest carbon-free source of electricity in America today, nuclear power. Is this a profile in courage?

14 July 2008

Higher Ed hipocracy

Courtesy of Victor Davis Hanson
I wonder…

1. When universities open their for-profit, cash-garnering campuses in the oil-rich Middle East, do they extend their “oppression studies” curriculum as well. I mean does a Saudi petroleum engineering major, like his American counterpart, take a gender studies requirement, mutatis mutandis, learning how his gender-apartheid society harms women? Do Dubai pre-medical students in US overseas campuses learn about the evils of slavery in an African-experience course, especially how 11 million African slaves were shipped to the Arab, Muslim world? Or is such instruction left behind at the American shore, money trumping the gospel of multi-culturalism? If you think about it, a certain sort of truth emerges—that such oppression studies are felt even by those who peddle them to be unserious, since they wouldn’t dare offer them to those who in theory might need them the most. Business trumps PC?

Wonder if Rickover is rolling over in his grave

One of the things I was told early on in my nuclear training was that we went to prototype because Rickover would not allow the use of simulators.

Now this:
Adm. Kirkland Donald, director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program developed the simulator, which provides operators with a realistic, real-time depiction of actual conditions for a range of normal operational and simulated casualty situations.

I wonder what Bubblehead has to say?

Kursk Photos

Came across some photos of the Kursk and thought I'd relay them. Very sobering.

11 July 2008

Should have seen this coming

When you expect to sell MILLIONS of iPhones and have people actually want to use them, don't fail to upgrade your severs or rent some extra server space or bandwidth!

Also, Apple should probably have rewarded current iPhone owners (early adopters) by giving them the 2.0 software a couple days early to avoid this:
Apple this afternoon officially released version 2.0 of iPhone software for both first-generation iPhones and the iPod touch. iPhone users, however, should not attempt to install the update at this time due to ongoing Apple server issues.

09 July 2008

Massive spellcheck FAIL!!!

"Moorman goes to the Navel Academy"

I thought it was a two-fer, but it turns out the guy's last name is Moorman and he's not from SLC.

Ah, but there is hope:

Moorman’s dreams of flying machines in the Navy was replaced with his long-term goal to graduate from the Marine Corp., and become an intelligence officer for the CIA.

Marine Corp - several times in the article.

Best of luck kid. Hope your mom saves the newspaper clipping.

01 July 2008

No there there

It is remarkable that now two savvy guys like Krugman and Brooks can’t figure out what Obama is. And neither seems to be playing coy to make a rhetorical point — they really don’t know.
But maybe that’s no accident. Obama has told us there is no there, there. In his book he wrote: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” So perhaps searching for Obama’s “core” is a fool’s errand. He is glib and clever and seized upon a clever formulation (Agent of Change) to attract young and idealistic people longing for meaning. But perhaps that is all there is.

Read the whole thing.

27 June 2008

Who owns the West

Great graphic at this blog on the percentage of each US state owned by the federal government.

26 June 2008

Boundless data does not mean the end of models

Chris Anderson is a very smart guy and I agree with him on his concpets of the Long Tail. However, I think he's very wrong on this idea.

"All models are wrong, but some are useful."

So proclaimed statistician George Box 30 years ago, and he was right. But what choice did we have? Only models, from cosmological equations to theories of human behavior, seemed to be able to consistently, if imperfectly, explain the world around us. Until now. Today companies like Google, which have grown up in an era of massively abundant data, don't have to settle for wrong models. Indeed, they don't have to settle for models at all.

Sixty years ago, digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition. They are the children of the Petabyte Age.

The problem wiht this is that it works in the area where: you don't have to understand the underlying phenomenon to use it (Google selling ads based on the perception of value to the advertiser); you have a readily reported massive data sets (internet usage); and highly mathematically related items (difficult with taxonomy related ideas like biology or astronomy). It won't work at all with cosmology and other non-observational sciences.

Thanks for trying, but get your head out of the internet (I blog, ironically).

19 June 2008

Maybe evolution is a theory after all

One of my finer nits about evolution was that it was really more of a postulate than a theory. This was because it was hard to produce any experiments that could be used for hypotheisis testing. It was all based on assembling diparate observations and then crafting an explanation, consistent with chemical and biological processes that explained the observed data.

Now that may have all changed.
A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers' eyes. It's the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

Essentially, they took E. Coli and grew it in twelve different populations for 44,000 generations and found that some of them obtained characteristics absent in E. Coli. The kicker is that the were able to test when the traits originated and reproduce the results.

The replays showed that even when he looked at trillions of cells, only the original population re-evolved Cit+ – and only when he started the replay from generation 20,000 or greater. Something, he concluded, must have happened around generation 20,000 that laid the groundwork for Cit+ to later evolve.

Lenski and his colleagues are now working to identify just what that earlier change was, and how it made the Cit+ mutation possible more than 10,000 generations later.

Pretty cool.

Karl Rove sounding very mature

Obama and McCain have both been quite populist and at times idiotic in their statements about the economy and 'big oil'. Karl Rove takes them to task.

Messrs. Obama and McCain both reveal a disturbing animus toward free markets and
success. It is uncalled for and self-defeating for presidential candidates to
demonize American companies. It is understandable that Mr. Obama, the most
liberal member of the Senate, would endorse reckless policies that are the DNA
of the party he leads. But Mr. McCain, a self-described Reagan Republican,
should know better.

I would have hoped for better from McCain. Perhaps he'll see it as an opportunity to create a contrast.

03 June 2008

John McCain his own man

The New York Times approves of McCain's independence,
There can be no doubt that McCain would not be a puppet - that having and opinion and judgment of his own, he would act from his own impulses rather than the impulses of others
- that possessing great integrity he would not sacrifice his country's interests at the shrine of party...

Just kidding, that was written of John Adams in the Philadelphia Aurora. But it fits, and well.

Taken from John Adams by David McCullough, page 464.

Bardot vs. Islam

She's one of the few liberals who doesn't turn the other way when she sees something she doesn't like. Now if she could get PETA involved...

I still don't understand how it's considered 'racial hatred'. Islam is not a race, but a creed.

04 May 2008

Economic stimulus - thanks kids

Found out that we'll be getting our economic stimulus direct deposited on the 9th of May. The government want us to spend it to keep the economy out of recession. I'm feeling more like putting it into my kids savings accounts. They're loaning us the money in reality. Don't feel right spending it without their permission.

29 April 2008

Hot for Words

Marina was on the factor. She seems to be smitten with Bill, and he with she. Wonder why.

25 April 2008

Saluting the US WWII sub force on ANZAC Day

From the NZ Herald:
On Anzac Day thoughts turn to those who gave their lives during various
wars over the last century. But there is one group which has never been given
recognition for what they achieved in World War II and that is the United States
submariners, 3505 of whom lost their lives, including 374 officers.
When one
analyses what they achieved there is no doubt they did more than any other group
to defeat the Japanese and save Australia and New Zealand from being

VCJCS speaks about new SSBN

Global Security Newswire has a strange lede on a story about Navy plans to replace retiring Trident SSBNs. The initial thrust of the article is about whether to mix load (strategic and conventional missile on same ship) or to build two different ships (SSBN and SSGN like we now have). This has been debated before in congress with OSD's proposed Conventional Trident Modification that hasn't really gotten off the drawing board.

But midway through the article the theme shifts to discussing plans to replace the Tridents twenty years from now.

Each of the submarine replacements would cost roughly $7 billion, measured
in 2009 dollars, senior analyst Eric Labs of the Congressional Budget Office
said in House testimony last month.

The service has not offered its own cost estimate for the program, saying a price tag is nearly impossible to pin down before additional design details have been determined. However, this is a departure from past practice in which the Navy has offered early estimates for other future ships, naval affairs specialist Ronald O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service testified alongside Labs.

Given the competition for resources in the defense budget and an already costly long-term shipbuilding budget, it could be that the Navy “just didn’t want to scare the bejesus out of us” with a huge price tag, one congressional staffer said this week.

Probably a good call there.

There is a positive sign from the hill, however:
To date, there has been little debate about whether a new submarine should be
developed and built, according to experts.

“I have seen no indications that anyone would oppose this next-generation SSBN,” one congressional staffer said this week. Instead, the source said, discussion has been focused on one question: “When are we going to get started?”

15 April 2008

Victor Davis Hanson on the Obama gaff

From Works and Days:
What is really tragic is that successful African-Americans, who have had it far rougher than the Obamas—a Condoleeza Rice, Colin Power, Clarence Thomas, Tiger Woods—excel in American society and really do transcend race. And yet white elite leftish America senses that such talents don’t need liberals’ permission and ratification, and so don’t do anything for their own left-wing guilt.
As usual, the whole post is great. Obama is our European candidate (not Manchurian like HRC). And the Orwellian speak analysis of the two versions of the Obama Pennsylvania quote.

11 April 2008

Michael Yon - 'Let's Surge Some More'

Final paragraph:
Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.
Read the whole thing.

10 April 2008

45th Anniversary Of The Loss Of USS Thresher

Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles, NAVSEA 07

Forty-five years ago today, on April 10, 1963, while engaged in a deep test dive, USS THRESHER (SSN 593) was lost at sea with 129 Officers and men on board. Based on the findings of a Court of Inquiry and the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy hearings into the loss, it was concluded that a flooding casualty in the engine room, resulting from a piping failure in one of the seawater systems, was the most probable cause of the loss.

From this tragic event, the Submarine Safety (SUBSAFE) Program was established on December 20, 1963 to ensure implementation of recommendations resulting from findings of the THRESHER Court of Inquiry and THRESHER Design Appraisal Board. Today, the technical and administrative requirements of the SUBSAFE Program continue to evolve, and the most current are contained in the Submarine Safety Requirements Manual, NAVSEA 0924-062-0010 Revision C.

Simply stated, the purpose of the SUBSAFE Program is to provide maximum reasonable assurance that seawater is kept out of the submarine and that the submarine and crew can recover if there is a seawater casualty.

Our challenge today, 45 years after the loss of USS THRESHER, is to maintain the standards established by the SUBSAFE Program and to avoid ignorance, arrogance, and complacency.
The culture of the SUBSAFE Program needs to be continually reinforced at all levels of our community. The rigorous compliance with SUBSAFE requirements and attention to detail begin with design and extend through every aspect of construction, maintenance, and operations. The ability of our submarines to continue to operate successfully and return home depends on the vigilance and integrity of each one of us who works in this community. The ability of USS NEWPORT NEWS (SSN 750) and USS SAN FRANCISCO (SSN 711) to survive collisions at sea and to return home is testimony to the success of the SUBSAFE Program and the training of the personnel who operate our ships.

Recent findings regarding weld wire problems at a new construction shipyard with a long-standing successful submarine construction history demonstrate the need to be forever vigilant, particularly on well-established programs. We must continually re-examine our established practices and processes to ensure that we are doing the right things the right way. Every aspect of everything that we do needs to be approached with an attitude of “trust but verify.”

Our outstanding submarine safety record since THRESHER is a direct result of rigorous compliance with the technical and administrative requirements of the SUBSAFE Program. This success has not gone unnoticed. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board used the SUBSAFE Program as a model of an organization that successfully operates a high-risk program.
We must continue to maintain our vigilance, intensity, and integrity in all matters involving the SUBSAFE Program. The supreme sacrifice of those lost with USS THRESHER can best be remembered by never letting it happen again.


USS THRESHER (SSN 593)...Let us pause today to remember.

07 April 2008

Terry Lee - geek humor on Youtube

Unlikely support for submarine construction

Wired.com blogs seem to be supporting the recent push by Congress to increase submarine production to two per year.
Then why subs at all? Because, despite the best efforts of naval technologists over the past 100 years, submarines are still by far the most powerful seaborne weapons ever developed. Nothing's better for winning a full-scale sea war. Need proof? See here and here. Forget $5-billion DDG-1000 battleships . Submarines rule the waves.

For once, there's good news. Nearly every other aspect of Pentagon weapons-buying might be spinning out of control and piling on cost, but submarines construction is actually going remarkably well. Our brand-new, super-powerful Virginia-class attack boats are on-time, on-budget (around $2 billion per copy) and getting cheaper.
Couldn't have said it better. Nice to see the general public onboard.

03 April 2008

What the frack?

Better study up before tomorrow night.

02 April 2008

Secret programs through patches

An amateur military historian has written a book about black programs that has an interesting approach. He did a good bit of social engineering to acquire the unit patches from these test squadrons and skunkworks type programs. Then tried to interpret them and tie them to budget program elements. The NYT has a profile, with a gallery of patches.

I think he's off base where he alludes to this secret language embedded in the pictorial elements in the patches. More likely, the individuals came from the same slightly geeky, well read, middle class upbringing.

24 March 2008

The power of data

Spend some time just playing with the pure data that has been tapped into by the gapminder project. There are some lectures that are somewhat obvious and somewhat simplistic. Behold the power of the internet.

Local TV ad idea

With March Madness underway at my household, I've been thinking about a new way to prioritize local ads during sporting events. I wonder if local ad buyers would prefer to play their ads during commercial breaks when the home/local team is doing well in the game. My thoughts are that the audience would be more likely to respond positively to an ad played when the they are more happy. Kind of like the concept of anchoring, but for sentiment toward advertisement.

03 March 2008

Title IX is not just for sports anymore

Some in academia want to correct the lack of women graduates in math, science and engineering with a liberal dose of stupidity. I did learn that Title IX states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex...be denied the benefits of...any education pro­gram or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
This is fine, but it has usually meant not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome. This won't end well for education in the US. Guess my kids better start learning Chinese to get a decent science education.

21 February 2008

Good shot

Great CGI video of the NRO satellite shoot down by the LAKE ERIE.

13 February 2008

Yes, Mr. President.

Excellent submarine nickname

Apparently the HMAS Rankin is also know as "The Black Knight." Very appropriate, and much better that "The Fighting Conch" - bonus points for whoever can name that USN submarine.

GM is not building a nuclear car

GM Hybrid Car Uses Submarine Power System. It's really just battery powered drive train with an engine to recharge.

India still refusing Kilo delivery

Looks like the Russians will have to prove the Klub ASCM system works sometime in Summer 2008.

05 February 2008

Virginia-class program changes boost affordability, capability

Seapower magazine has a good report on the success of the VIRGINIA class program.

Design innovations will allow the Navy to reach its goal of affording two Virginia-class submarines per year.

  • New bow design accrues millions in savings with an increase in payload capability.
  • Production savings are achieved by combining modules and changing materials.
  • Future production blocks will feature advanced sensors, weapons and communications.
The best part is from CRS analyst Ron O'Roarke:

“The program that the Navy and the shipbuilders put into place for achieving the Virginia-class cost-reduction goal has struck me as highly organized and methodical,” said Ron O’Rourke, a defense analyst for the Congressional Research Service. “Consequently, I have not been surprised to learn that it’s achieving results. At a time when other shipbuilding programs are increasing in cost, in real terms, or are viewed as being at risk of experiencing real cost growth, the Virginia-class program currently stands out as an apparent case in point in the other direction.

“I never understood why the Virginia class appears to be the only shipbuilding program that was explicitly and publicly put in the position of having to achieve its unit procurement cost target as a condition for the Navy retaining all planned ships of that type in its shipbuilding program,” he said. “It raises a question of what the recent cost performance on other shipbuilding programs might have been had they been pursued under analogous conditions.”

03 February 2008

Superbowl Ads

  • Sobe Life Water - Thriller
  • Barack Obama
  • Sales Genie - Panda
  • eTrade - Talking baby
  • Planters - Not hot girl
  • NFL - Chester Pitts the oboe player
  • Bridgestone - Alice Cooper / Richards Simmons
  • Bud Light - Flying
  • Bud Light - Breathing fire
  • Bud Light - Wheel / bottle opener
  • Clorox - Talking Stain
  • Careerbuilder.com - Heart quits
  • Audi - R8 Godfather
  • Doritos - Rat trap

Belichik learned something from Randy Moss

How to walk off the field before the game is over.

29 January 2008

Perhaps this one would only rate a slab

Possibly the worst trailer for a movie I've seen in years.

This guy would probably rate it a single wide at most.

23 January 2008

B$ statements from flag officers

"The government was complicit," Sullivan told reporters at the Surface Navy symposium in Arlington, Virginia, Jan. 17. "We used the same procedures on our Los Angeles-class subs...not realizing we were opening ourselves up" to problems.

Not according to what I've heard about the root causes. Read the article if you can keep your bile down.

Perhaps NGNN should have used better material controls and we wouldn't have this issue to debate.
Some welders and fitters used different welding materials than prescribed to hold portions of the boats together. Welding is a process that joins together materials, in this case steel and other metals, by heating a filler substance to form a pool of molten material that cools to produce a strong joint.

Using incorrect filler material, which included trace amounts of copper alloy welded into steel joints, can lead to cracking of the joints, and eventually, leaks, according to the Navy.

Once those errors were identified, the yard went to work repairing them, Dellapenta said.

In perhaps the most sweeping yard action, all welders and welding foremen will be required to attend a mandatory, eight-hour training session over the next few weeks. The training session will be followed by an examination, Dellapenta said.

More info here and here.

Additional thoughts: I might want to keep watch for what corporate boards VADM Sullivan inevitably is appointed to after retirement.

Pricey little tikes

The US Department of Agriculture (?) has data on how much families spend on raising their kids.

21 January 2008

Oprah scientology sympathizer?

Scientology has been in the news with the leaked video of Tom Cruise's award ceremony and interview.

One thing I noticed in the video below is how many celebrity scientolgists seemed to be guests on Oprah. Tom Cruise, Kirsty Alley, John Travolta are all best buds with the 'O'.

By the way, the video is pretty creepy and worth the look.

Surest bet before the Superbowl

Brett Favre will return next year.

20 January 2008

Rather tough grammar quiz

Scored a respectable 8/10. Try it.

MLK day thoughts

Provided by Christopher Hitchens in the Wall Street Journal. Key quote:
For years, I declined to fill in the form for my Senate press credential that asked me to state my "race," unless I was permitted to put "human." The form had to be completed under penalty of perjury, so I could not in conscience put "white," which is not even a color let alone a "race," and I sternly declined to put "Caucasian," which is an exploded term from a discredited ethnology. Surely the essential and unarguable core of King's campaign was the insistence that pigmentation was a false measure: a false measure of mankind (yes, mankind) and an inheritance from a time of great ignorance and stupidity and cruelty, when one drop of blood could make you "black."

18 January 2008

Chinese media grills USPACOM commander

I'll let the article speak for itself. Seems like there were many questions from a very controlled media that were nearly confrontational with ADM Keating. He handled himself well. Some quotes:
"We don't need China's permission to go through the Taiwan Strait, it is international waters," Keating said. He said the U.S. Navy "will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose, as we have done repeatedly in the past, and will do in the future."
Bravo. Concur, sir.

Xinhua asked the admiral what the United States would do if war breaks out across the Taiwan Strait in 2008.

"The reason we are here (is because) our fundamental goal is to make sure that the situation you describe does not happen," Keating said.

Great sidestep. Worth the read, just wish we had a full transcript of the event.

10 January 2008

09 January 2008

Sculpin's Lost Mission

USNI Naval History article on USS Sculpin

The Sculpin's Lost Mission: A Nuclear Submarine in the Vietnam War
By Admiral Charles R. Larson, U.S. Navy (Retired), with Captain Clinton Wright, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Paul Stillwell

One would expect that Cold War "special ops" involving U.S. nuclear-powered submarines are shrouded in secrecy. Other American sub activities during that era, however, are also hidden, one for a very strange reason.

In 1971, after he had spent two and a half years of duty in the White House as naval aide to President Richard Nixon, Commander Chuck Larson was ready to go back to sea. He was ordered to be executive officer of the attack submarine Sculpin (SSN-590), under Commander Harry Mathis. For several months the boat went through workups off the coast of southern California to prepare for a deployment to the western Pacific. That deployment included active
participation in the Vietnam War.

After leaving the West Coast in January 1972, our first assignment was a classified special operation that lasted about two months. It went very well. The mission helped us hone our ship-handling and intelligence-gathering skills and made us confident in our capabilities and feel good about the way the ship was operating. Although it is still classified after all these years, it's safe to say that it was intelligence-gathering targeted against the Soviet Union.

Years later, Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew's book, Blind Man's Bluff (New York: Public Affairs, 1998), described Cold War submarine operations. Because of security concerns, I can't specifically discuss the contents, but the book is a good read.

After the special operation, the Sculpin went into Yokosuka , Japan , for some liberty, and my wife, Sally, met me there. I had grown my beard while at sea and that, combined with my black hair and pale complexion after the extended period underwater, made me look—according to Sally—like Rasputin, the mad tsarist Russian.

In March, shortly after we began our second operation, patrolling the South China Sea , we were diverted for a specific mission. The U.S. government believed supply trawlers were operating out of Hainan Island , off the southern coast of the People's Republic of China . They were running arms, ammunition, and supplies from the northern part of the Gulf of Tonkin down to the Vietcong in the IV Corps region, the southernmost portion of Vietnam . U.S. forces discovered this when ground troops caught the enemy in the act of off-loading a trawler
on a South Vietnamese beach. The incident sparked a big firefight, creating the legend that the trawler crews were elite forces willing to fight to the death. It also initiated a concerted effort to stop the traffic by convincing the enemy that it could not succeed.

Each of the trawlers could carry about 100 tons of munitions. Several suspect ships were photographed, so we knew generally what they looked like, but as long as they were in international waters, we had no means to interdict them other than to turn them around by making low passes with a P-3 Orion patrol plane or a close approach by a surface ship. This was complicated by the fact that so many legitimate trawlers like them were in the area. Several gunrunners had been turned around, but this would not stop the at-sea resupply effort.

To convincingly discourage the effort, it would be necessary to destroy them in the waters off South Vietnam before they could land their cargo. The plan that evolved was to use a submarine to follow one from Hainan to South Vietnam and finger it for our forces to destroy. We were selected for this mission.

The Pursuit Begins

We took up a patrol station off Hainan on 10 April. After referring to a book with images of the different types of trawlers and what we could expect, we picked up our quarry on 12 April. The wardroom was divided on whether she was a good prospect. However, the ship resembled photographs of other known suspects, and her projected track was taking her toward the west coast of the Philippines , which did not make sense for a fisherman. So we took off in trail. Not long thereafter, the trawler turned to the south, and that was the clincher for us. She had an extremely distinctive shaft rub and propeller sound, which our sonarmen could easily discriminate from background noise. We relied completely on passive sonar to avoid being detected.

The active sonar in the Skipjack-class submarines wouldn't have been reliable because of the reverberations in shallow water. The ship we followed was probably 200 feet long, a large trawler, certainly suitable for open-ocean fishing. We did, of course, identify her by periscope before we started to trail, but we weren't able to follow her totally by periscope and maintain visual contact. We didn't want to take the chance of having our periscope seen in the flat, calm waters of the South China Sea . Also, she was making a speed of advance through the water of about 11 knots. That meant that if we were going to do our periscope operations every now and then, get out radio messages, and do our required housekeeping evolutions, we were probably going to have to run an average of about 18 or 20 knots submerged to keep up with her. We also had to include time for ocean analysis and tactical maneuvering to make certain we were staying with the correct target.

One more challenge was that the trawler was heading south, right through the "dangerous ground." On charts of the South China Sea , an area about 180 nautical miles wide and 300 miles long is simply labeled dangerous ground. Our charts had one track of soundings through that area—taken in 1885. We assessed that the terrain was fairly level, but the depth was 200 feet or less in most of this area. So we were in a position of running up to 20 knots in 200 feet of water, with between 30 to 80 feet under the keel at that high speed. Our ship could react very quickly to plane (control surface) movements, so we had only our most experienced officers of the deck, diving officers, and planesmen on station. Our chief petty officer diving officers controlled the ship's depth by supervising the planesmen. They did a superb job.

As the trawler headed south, she vectored a little to the east and went into an area in the dangerous ground where we couldn't go. Up to then, although we were in the dangerous area, we felt secure in knowing the bottom was fairly level. But now she went into an area that was littered with rocks, shoals, and shipwrecks. I wondered then if the trawler's crew was smart enough to do what we called a "sanitization move"—go whereeven surface ships wouldn't follow. She doubtlessly believed that if she went through there she would come out the other side well clear of any tailing vessel.

I was absolutely convinced that the trawler was unaware of our presence (that became clear later when we intercepted a radio message). We believed the ship's course change was simply a safety move. While we were able to use our fathometer to plot the bottom and know the depth under our keel, the device looks only directly down; it doesn't look ahead. We were genuinely worried about what we couldn't see ahead—an undersea mountain, a wreck, or something else.

Lost and Found

When the trawler had entered the dangerous ground, we requested cover from an on-call P-3 Orion. Although we were under the operational control of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in Saigon , we had the ability to call the shots on the scene. We wanted the aircraft to remain covert, so it would not scare the trawler back into port by making low passes near her. During the ship's voyage through this very shallow, wreck-strewn portion of the dangerous ground, the plane, remaining at high altitude to minimize the chance of being seen, kept track of her by radar and visual observation. We dodged around the area by hauling off to the west, then south, and finally back to the east, to an area where we predicted the trawler would emerge, still in the dangerous ground. As the P-3 turned the contact over to us, the trawler appeared just about where we thought she would. We picked her up from the distinctive shaft rub and propeller sound and got in close enough to get a good positive periscope observation. We then went back in trail.

As we headed south in the South China Sea , we approached a new hazard. We found a large number of oil-drilling platforms near the coast of Borneo . We first became aware of this hazard through the prolonged tracking of a diesel contact, which prompted the CO, Commander Harry Mathis, to go up to periscope depth for a look. We spotted an uncharted platform. If the rigs were operating, that was no problem; we could plot the location of their noisy diesel engines. We found some charted, some not, some operating and others not.

Our concern, of course, was about those uncharted and not running. We made frequent periscope observations to avoid the platforms, which forced us to run faster to maintain the quarry's speed of advance. We continued south at higher speeds for longer periods of time, sometimes with barely 20 to 30 feet of water beneath the Sculpin's keel.

As our target passed between the Great Natuna Islands , we made an end run around North Natuna . After that, our quarry was on a beeline for the Gulf of Thailand , passing through the busy sea-lane between Hong Kong and Singapore . The density of the large shipping traffic in this lane was incredible. Crossing it was like running across a busy freeway. It was night time, and sonar was useless amid all the traffic noise, so we crossed at periscope depth following our quarry's stern light, maneuvering to avoid the large ships bearing down on us from both directions.

The Gulf of Thailand presented a new challenge. The water was hot, 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and shallow, averaging 110 feet deep, and the bottom was flat. The surface was a dead calm mirror with fishing buoys and nets everywhere, not to mention small fishing boats of every description. It was also very hazy and so hot that the horizon was somewhat obscure. Such were the wartime circumstances that our operation order authorized us to operate in water as shallow as six fathoms. Who says nuclear-powered submarines can't operate in the littorals?

How Invisible?

During this time we half-jokingly talked about "the hump." We were trying to visualize what the Sculpin looked like on the surface, running at 20 knots, with maybe only 40 feet from the top of the sail to the surface. We visualized a hump—the water displaced above the boat's hull—roaring through the South China Sea like a mini tidal wave, with observers wondering what it was. We assumed the ship left some sort of trail but were certain one would have to be very close to be able to see it.

An incident when I had command duty got my attention. I brought the Sculpin up to periscope depth and saw what I thought was a periscope going by. My first reaction was, "Holy smoke, there's another submarine up here." Then I realized it was a small water-saturated log that was floating vertically. Just for a moment I thought there were two submarines staring at each other and wondered which one was going to blink first.

As the trawler moved farther south, she made a distinct turn to the west and then to the northwest. We were absolutely sure she was a gunrunner, going in to land and off-load her ammunition. Then, two things happened. We were ordered by MACV to photograph our target and alerted to prepare to execute a provision in our operation order for us to sink our target with torpedoes.

The photographic mission meant leaving our trail position and speeding up ahead of the target to take pictures as the trawler cruised by. The risk of detection was great because of the flat calm sea and our hump as we repositioned at high speed. To avoid this, we had to go as deep as possible. Commander Mathis selected 90 feet keel depth, leaving 20 feet between the keel and the bottom. We limited periscope exposure to 6 inches for less than ten seconds. We did get good pictures and apparently were not detected, although one photograph revealed three men on deck looking in our general direction. The depth control skill of our diving officer chiefs was extraordinary.

Where'd She Go?

Immediately after the trawler made the northwest turn, and just before we communicated with higher authorities, we lost contact for about two hours. Up to that point, our target had been somewhat predictable, cruising on a straight course to the northwest near the center of the Gulf of Thailand about 100 miles off the coast of South Vietnam , with the familiar shaft rub being tracked by sonar. It was night with a full moon, and we saw her lights through the periscope. The horizon was indistinguishable. Suddenly, sonar reported she had stopped, and while
the CO watched, the trawler turned off her lights. Blind and deaf, we then lit off the radar and made several sweeps that revealed nothing. This was not too surprising. When a radar hasn't been used in months and is not tuned, taking it out and rotating it a couple of times doesn't guarantee a high probability of picking up a small target. We were not sure whether she had stopped for the night or was moving away in a new direction at slow speed.

We reported the lost contact, which threw the operational command authority in Saigon into a panic. They had been moving South Vietnamese naval forces along the coast to maintain a blocking position based on our updates, so the whole operation threatened to unravel. Commander Mathis and I huddled and decided: "Well, we've got to assume that she's making a run toward the border up there. Let's just go down and run as fast as we can and get about 30
miles ahead of her predicted track and set up a barrier."

So we moved up and waited for her farther up into the Gulf of Thailand . We made that sprint at 20 knots with 20 feet under the keel. At first daylight, we contacted our on station P-3 aircraft and described our quarry, particularly her white color. We requested that the Orion's crew search the area from where we lost contact to the Vietnamese coast. They reported several widely separated contacts; only one of them was white. The CO authorized a low-altitude
identification pass, and the P-3 made a positive ID. They reported to Saigon , and we closed the target. As we neared, we regained that familiar shaft rub and when we took another periscope look, it was her—positive identification, both sonar and visual.

Originally, MACV requested authorization for us to sink the target with our torpedoes, but this was not approved. For years I assumed that the National Command Authority in Washington , D.C. , disapproved the request. However, several years later, Harry Mathis, who by then was a captain, was commanding officer of the Submarine Base Pearl Harbor. He regularly played tennis with retired Admiral Bernard "Chick" Clarey, who had been commander-in-chief
Pacific Fleet at the time of our operation. Admiral Clarey remembered the operation very well because he and Admiral John McCain, commander-in-chief Pacific, had followed our progress closely in daily briefings. Admiral Clarey told Mathis that he had argued vehemently in favor of having us shoot, but Admiral McCain was not convinced it would work. Instead, South Vietnamese naval forces were called in to do the job on 24 April.

High-Seas Drama

The surface forces—led by a South Vietnamese destroyer escort—challenged the trawler, which hoisted a Chinese flag and an international flag signal designating they were fishing. The South Vietnamese commander was hesitant to take action because he was concerned about creating an international incident. Fortunately, we established communications with the U.S. liaison officer on board the destroyer with the UQC underwater telephone. His first question was whether we could verify this ship as our trawler. We told him, "Absolutely, this is the one without a doubt." We then went to periscope depth to observe.

The trawler tried to convince the South Vietnamese destroyer that she was an innocent fishing vessel. We spoke once again with the liaison officer and with higher authorities and said: "We are absolutely sure that this ship came out of Hainan flying a PRC [People's Republic of China ] flag. We have tracked her 2,500 miles to this position, and in our opinion she is a gunrunner making a run toward the border and certainly is not a fisherman. We can verify who she is, which should allow us to take whatever action is appropriate."

As we later learned from the intercepted communication, the trawler at one point said, "I think there is a submarine out there." This was the first indication that the trawler crew was aware of us as we coordinated with the destroyer. Based on our identification, the destroyer escort ordered the trawler to stop, and when she failed to comply, began making intimidating runs at her, finally opening fire from a standoff position withher 3-inch guns. The trawler was hit and began burning, running in a circle as if the rudder was jammed hard over.

We watched through the periscope, and our crew gathered in their mess to watch on the TV monitor. Suddenly, with a thunderous roar, clearly audible through the Sculpin's hull, the trawler exploded and disintegrated as its cargo detonated. Flames leaped hundreds of feet in the air, accompanied by the cheers of our crew.

At this moment, Commander Mathis asked the crew over the 1MC for a moment of silence. Enemy or not, they had perished doing their mission. Later, we were pleased to learn that 16 of the trawler crew had been rescued and they spoke Vietnamese, not Chinese. The captain and the navigator were among them and able to provide valuable intelligence about their operations. One of the few casualties was the political officer.

Our communication with command headquarters, through the loitering Orion during the urgent final search, was vital. Only later did we learn that, because of atmospheric conditions, the communications link with Saigon consisted of the P-3 aircraft on station relaying to another P-3 revving up its engines on the ground at its airbase while parked next to a phone booth. A flight crew member would run out to the phone and relay the messages between Saigon and us.

One other significant factor made the mission possible. It could only have been done by a nuclear-powered submarine. That experience gave me great admiration for the diesel-boat crews and skippers of World War II. We had more margin for error than they did because of their speed limitations owing to low battery capacity. If we made a mistake on the Sculpin, we could make it up through speed and repositioning, which couldn't be done with a diesel boat. Certainly our speed came in handy, not only in the basic trail, trying to stay up with a
ship doing 11 knots and do all the things we had to do, but also during that period when we lost them. We were able to run quickly forward, reposition up the track, and get a chance to pick them up again. But that blackout period was a low point. We had trailed the ship 2,300 miles and thought we'd lost her.

Hidden Valor

The trawler's crew verified that their ship was a gunrunner. They had on board enough arms and ammunition to supply the Vietcong in IV Corps for at least 60 days. Her destruction thus made a significant contribution to the safety of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops in the area and set back the enemy's military operations there.

The surviving crew were North Vietnamese. They were split up, with U.S. and South Vietnamese intelligence each interrogating half and their stories compared. It was determined that the navigator's responses were credible because he provided interrogators with exactly the same track we plotted.

The United States learned much about the North Vietnamese at-sea resupply strategy. It also learned that the trawler crews were not elite forces that would resist until death. One engineer told of being at his station when the political officer came to the engine room hatch, told him the enemy had arrived, and ordered him to stay at his post. The engineer, no doubt considering the nature of the cargo, said, "I immediately went on deck and jumped into the water."

It was an unusual operation. We spent more time submerged inside the 100-fathom curve than any U.S. submarine since World War II. Crew training, equipment reliability, ship control, navigation, sonar, communications, propulsion plant—everything and everyone performed superbly. We could not have asked for anything more. For that operation the Sculpin earned the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the only U.S. submarine during the entire Vietnam War to receive that award.

The Sculpin was also nominated for the submarine combat patrol pin, and our individual awards for the combat "V." If that had been approved, she would have been the first submarine since World War II to get the combat patrol pin. Instead, the nomination was disapproved somewhere up the chain of command. I assume it was probablyrejected by a World War II submariner who thought the operation wasn't nearly as hazardous as what he did during his war, and it didn't measure up. I can't argue with that, but the crew had great hope that they could proudly wear the pin for their contribution, particularly to the safety of our troops. Another consideration,
however, might have been that those pins would have raised questions and possibly compromised an operation that was still classified.

We covered a huge distance in trail during that operation. Someone asked me later how I slept at night. I said, "With a pillow under my head, up against the bulkhead in case we hit something."Admiral Larson went on to serve on active duty for 40 years. His senior position was as commander-in-chief of all United States military forces in the Pacific. Captain Wright served 26 years on active duty. He was commanding officer of USS Puffer (SSN-652) and operations officer for Commander Submarine Group Seven. Mr. Stillwell, the former editor of Naval History and the U.S. Naval Institute Oral History Program, has written the "Looking Back" column since 1993.

Cold War Records

This article is the result of merging my notes and recollections with those of Clint Wright, who stood a good many watches as Sculpin's officer of the deck during the pursuit of the trawler. Clint also gained access to the unclassified versions of the submarine's deck logs. Other OODs during the operation included Lieutenants Dick Snaider, Jim Gabala, Alan Beam, and Charlie Krupnick.

Getting our joint account through security review was an interesting challenge. Clint's original motive was to publish an article, because he wanted the Sculpin Sailors to get credit for what they did. My motive was to try and get it cleared for my oral history, so at least part of our special operations could be made public to my family and to other interested people. We jointly pursued this effort, dealing with the director of Naval Intelligence and several people who used to work for me. The first thing we discovered was that there were absolutely no records of the Sculpin's operations. They had all been destroyed.

This highlights weaknesses in the Naval Intelligence Command's record keeping. As far as we can determine, the Navy had its standard Cold War intelligence gathering, what we called "special operations," which were classified and compartmentalized. Those reports appear to have been preserved. But because the Sculpin's Vietnam operation was not in that category—it was a more conventional, although extremely unusual, operation and didn't have the protection of that system—the reports were purged at some point when the government discarded old records. There is just no official record of this operation.

In putting this story together and sending it forward for clearance by the Navy Department, I think we did a double service. We not only got it cleared so those who served in the Sculpin during this time can receive credit, but we made this operation public and prevented it from being lost forever. At some point, an old Sculpin Sailor would have wanted to talk about it, and there would have been no way to find the records. So I'm very pleased that we were able to do that for our fine crew.

—Admiral Charles R. Larson