Thursday, August 20, 2015

Some Things You Just Can't Forget, Nor Forgive

Rusk, Johnson and McNamara
Do I hold these guys responsible for the deaths of over 58,000 Americans in Vietnam?
Yes, partially. The generals of that era have to shoulder a lot of that debt as well.
In a recent post, I mentioned the new books I have to read, one, Dan Hampton's The Hunter Killers I started just the other day. It's a good read, Lt Col Hampton puts you right there in the cockpit Up North. A scary time.

It's tough reading this book. Vietnam dominated my teen years on the television, radio, magazines and newspapers. Many of my generation grew up with that dark cloud, out there on the horizon. It felt like we'd all go there, someday, in some capacity. The war seemed never ending.

It's also a tough read because the topic is the Wild Weasel program (Juvat wrote about Col Thorsness, a Wild Weasel pilot, recently), some of the first aircraft I worked on in the Air Force were the F-4C versions of the Wild Weasel. Much of the equipment Lt Col Hampton writes about rings a lot of bells. While my shop didn't maintain that equipment, we knew how the stuff worked and guys from that shop would show us what it could do.

So there's two personal reasons why this book has an effect on me. There's another.

One of the projects I've been associated with in a professional capacity over the past decade is the Zumwalt-class destroyer project. There are three ships planned.

The names of the first two hulls I don't have a big problem with - USS ZUMWALT and USS MICHAEL MONSOOR.

The first hull (DDG-1000) is named for an admiral, Elmo Russell "Bud" Zumwalt, Jr. who had a stellar naval career. Kind of a political move naming a ship after him, but there are many names that could have been much worse. (Stand by for heavy rolls!)

Admiral Zumwalt, namesake of DDG-1000

DDG-1000 at Bath Iron Works, still a work in progress. (Source)

The name of the second hull (DDG-1001) follows all the traditions of the Naval Service. The USS MICHAEL MONSOOR is named for MAA2 Michael A. Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Iraq and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions there.
MAA2 Monsoor, namesake of DDG-1001

MAA2 Monsoor's Medal of Honor and SEAL trident
"The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


For service as set forth in the following CITATION:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Automatic Weapons Gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army sniper overwatch element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent-held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element's position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy's initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor's chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
At left, DDG-1001 under construction at Bath Iron Works
(To the right is DDG-115 under construction, to be named for Sgt Rafael Peralta, USMC. Posthumous Navy Cross)
(Source, there are a number of good Zumwalt pics at that link)

Now what really sticks in my craw is the name of the third ship in this class. The name of DDG-1002 bugs the Hell out of me, even more so based on things I'm reading in Lt Col Hampton's book.

The third hull will be named for the guy who was President after JFK and before Nixon. This was a very political naming and is right up there with Murtha, Chavez and Giffords. While all three of those ship names make me want to projectile vomit, naming a ship after Johnson is, in my opinion, a travesty.

The clown was a consummate politician. Rigged things to get himself a commission in the Navy (Lieutenant Commander no less), went on to fix it so he could be awarded a Silver Star from another consummate politician (Douglas MacArthur, at least he was qualified for his position) for a mission where he was essentially a passenger.

His piss poor decisions in the Vietnam War cost a lot of lives. Domestically his policies were not all that hot either. The man was a disgrace.

Naming a ship after him?

Good Lord. What's next?

I shudder to think.

If this post seems a tad incoherent and somewhat disjoint, my apologies. Nothing quite sets off the old temper like that cad Johnson and his idiot SecDef McNamara. I am quite beside myself with rage at the moment.


  1. Hang in there Sarge, It'll get better. After it gets worse, of course.

    I blame modern medicine, which has allowed multiple generations of what would formerly have been self-limiting idiots to survive their mistakes long enough to breed.

    1. Oh, don't I know it Shaun!

      (Self-limiting idiots, now there's a nice turn of phrase. Of course, you seem to have a knack for that.)

  2. Quite agree all. There are those who still fulminate against Zumwalt in the Navy, but I am not among them. You are, however, right on about LBJ.

    1. I've heard good and bad about Zumwalt. History will be kind to him I think.

      He did his duty and served to the best of his abilities. That's all you can ask from a man.

  3. I pass LBJ's grave regularly. I have been known to give it a salute as I pass. Single finger only.

    1. I do so despise that man.

      Next time give him one from me as well.

  4. Uncle Elmo was CNO during my Navy years. I tend to agree with your assessment above, Sarge.

    LBJ is worthy only of the bad things said about him, both here and elsewhere. After all, you'll notice there's never been a USS Andrew Johnson. Simply having been President is no recommendation for getting one's name on a ship of the line.

    1. Bingo! Rev's got bingo!

      Admiral Rickover once defended the naming of submarines after cities, states and politicians by saying "fish don't vote." (Subs were traditionally named after aquatic lifeforms.)

      He had a point. Still, wouldn't it be a better world if folks voted for what was necessary as opposed to voting for something which strokes their egos?

  5. So agree! I think Kennedy would have not escalated like LBJ did and what a wasteful war. Not only the loss of lives, but the war divided the country like never before, and we are still suffering from that division.

    1. From what I read, JFK did not intend to escalate. He knew the perils of getting into a war in Asia.

      It divided us badly and the current batch of political idiots in DC seemed to have learned nothing from that experience.

    2. Kennedy, for all practical purposes, put the camels nose under the tent. I see no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt as to that he would not have increased troops in VN, where we had no business being in at all. Most of what I have read about Kennedy, and what he would or would not have done, was written under the magic of Camelot umbrella. There is a reason that he is not on any Historians list of Top Presidents. Kennedy had about as much use for LBJ as FDR did for Truman.

    3. The nose was already under the tent when Kennedy took office.
      He just drove it further.

    4. @Ron, may indeed be a Camelot effect.

    5. @Skip, you make a good point.

  6. Hopefully the DDG 1003 sewage holding tanks will be named Robert Strange McNamara processor.

  7. I always try to figure out something good to say about people but when it comes to LBJ, I got nothin'!!

    1. Ditto. I can think of many bad things to say, that's not a problem.

  8. Viet Nam and the "Domino Theory" had some influence here, too.
    I separated from active duty at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin incident".
    The years immediately following were in college in the Bay Area, where the anti-war movement was rampant.
    It was nearly impossible to remain neutral.
    The SF Chronicle had a satirical columnist, Art Hoppe, who referred to Johnson as "Elbie Jay."
    I kinda liked that.
    My favorite Johnson quote - "We shall continya ta beautifa Murica."
    I may not have the words exactly right, but they refer to the 1965 Highway Beautification Act.

    I don't much think about any flag officers, other than those with whom I came in direct contact.
    They were all four stripers who commanded the destroyer squadron for which we were the flagship.
    The first was an a*****e, the last a joy.
    There's no way a tin can should be named after anyone but a true naval hero who's had a distinguished career or made the ultimate sacrifice.

    1. Absolutely concur with that last bit.

    2. Here's my favorite LBJ quote (among a rich group of candidates)

    3. Just another lying sack of dung politician.

  9. So disheartening to see a man with such a poisonous past receive anything that might prolong his fame. Some of my friends are just flat out dead because of him and RSMcN. Those two were just vicious and evil. Oh, and stupid. No, come to think of it, they did their work well - the Nation has never recovered and we continue to split more every day.

  10. To me the tragedy of Vietnam was the politicians continual interference in how it should be run, what should be attacked. I remember a post of Lex's where he is talking to a Naval aviator who was at Yankee Station - and he said that at the beginning of the war, they were all gung-ho to winning it - doing what it took.

    As the war dragged on and they were given silly targets to attack (like truck yards) while ripe targets were off limits (like SAM sites) they approached the war from a survival mode - just do their time and go

    But the politicians were afraid of China and Russia entering the war.

    You think - what really pissed off Nixon late in the war - 1972 - what the North Vietnamese refusal to go to the table in Paris - he had Haiphong Harbor mined - stopping all flow of Russian ships with SAM missiles and supplies - think had this been done in 1965...

    Finally heard something interesting on some documentary about Nixon's resignation during Watergate - the North Vietnamese had not tried to invade the South because they feared Nixon would resume the bombing - when Ford came in they had the green light -

    Don't know how true that is but it is certainly plausible given the history (I was draft age in 1968 - had a college deferment - drafted in 1972)

    1. Wouldn't surprise me.

      FWIW, the Chinese had no intention of going to bat for Vietnam. Any Russian involvement was also unlikely.

      Effing politicos were scared of shadows.

  11. Give 'em enough time and the LibDems will name ships after Jane Fonda and Bill Clinton.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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