Friday, December 6, 2013

LESSONS FROM DECEMBER 7th. 1941 and 1968


 Battleships USS WEST VIRGINIA and USS TENNESSEE after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 Department of the Navy. Fourteenth Naval District. (1916 - 09/18/1947), Photographer (NARA record: 1172763 Click on the link below for an hour and half documentary on the attack at Pearl Harbor:

Damage at Pearl Harbor, early color photo by U.S. Coast Guard

  Explosion of the USS SHAW at Pearl Harbor Public Domain photo.

  USS TENNESSEE (middle) fights her fires at Pearl Harbor. The ARIZONA (foreground) and the WEST VIRGINIA were also afire. TENNESSEE damage control teams fought fires of both of these adjacent ships which threatened to spread to the TENNESSEE.

Today is also the 45 Anniversary of what was once the worst peace time loss of Coast Guard crew men in the history of the service.

Unfortunately the loss of 17 crewmen would be exceeded before the 20th century was over in the loss of the CGC BLACK THORN.  The WHITE ALDER sank on the lower Mississippi River just above New Orleans when it was cut in half by the Freighter HELENA registered in Taiwan on December 7, 1968.
 The CGC WHITE ALDER is pictured left in an official USCG photo. Oddly this photo was taken about a year prior to the loss of the CGC WHITE ALDER while she was attempting to salvage the sunken CGC LOGANBERRY, a smaller buoy tender/aids to navigation cutter that sank in rough weather after striking an uncharted submerged object. Our own Johnas Presbyter was there for the LOGAN BERRY mission in charge of a smaller responding Coast Guard vessel. The entire crew of the CGC LOGANBERRY was rescued and the vessel raised and repaired. For the complete story of the WHITE ALDER click here:

 In 1980 a larger Coast Guard Buoy tender the CGC BLACK THORN was sunk after a collision in Tampa Bay with a loss of 23 Coast Guard crew members.   The Loss of the BLACK THORN now stands as the Coast Guard's largest single day loss of personnel in peace time.

  CGC BLACK THORN, Official USCG Photo
 Between the two Buoy tender losses the service lost a training vessel.  The CGC CUYAHOGA was sunk in a collision on the Chesapeake Bay on October 20, 1978. Aboard the CUYAHOGA 10 Coast Guard crew and Officer Trainees were lost as well as one Indonesian Navy Trainee.  USCGC CUYAHOGA 1974 CGC CUYAHOGA, Official USCG Photo:

To put the Coast Guard peace time losses in perspective that started on December 7, 1968 consider that each of these losses of 17, then 10, then 23 members occurred in a single day in a service smaller than the New York city police department at the time. 

 The Coast Guard was present at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941:
 The CGC TANEY was present at Pearl Harbor and returned fire. The TANEY survived the rest of the war as well and now is a museum ship in Baltimore harbor. In addition to the Taney at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 were the unarmed 190 foot buoy tender the CGC KUKUI, Two 125 foot armed cutters the RELIANCE and the TIGER. The CGC TIGER was outside the harbor at the time of the attack and was subjected to fire from Japanese air craft which signaled its immediate change of course to its war time predesignated station as the outer harbor entrance patrol vessel, the station from which it rode out the rest of the attack. The actions of the CGC RELIANCE were not posted to the official Coast Guard website on the USCG at Pearl Harbor, nor were those of most of the several smaller numbered vessels ( generally the Coast Guard does not name vessels under 65 feet) with the exception of CG-8 which was under aerial attack, was underway in the harbor and participated in an evacuation of unarmed personnel from a harbor facility and other search and rescue duties during and after the attack. In one of the little know actions of the Pearl harbor attack nearly 1,000 miles away at Midway Japanese destroyers shelled the harbor in the hopes of destroying any naval vessels present. Among the few present was the Coast Guard buoy tender WALNUT which was unarmed. The shells of the Japanese destroyer all fell short of the WALNUT which got under way after the shelling stopped and made a bee line for Pearl Harbor arriving a few days later. At Pearl Harbor the WALNUT was promptly armed.

As we continue to monitor the transgressions of the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard  ( and recently air forces) towards their neighbors Japan and the Philippines, December 7th seems a good time to pause and remember that Japanese and American naval forces are still vulnerable to surprise attack at places like Guam where China recently moved shore base missiles on their mainland to within range of Guam. Both U.S. and Japanese forces are vulnerable to sneak attack at Yokosuka and it is publicly stated Chinese national policy to drive the United States Navy back to Pearl Harbor. It is the Coast Guard forces of both Japan and China that mostly confront each other over the disputed islands at the moment. Both sides have emphasized Coast Guard forces in the hopes that their police like nature will enhance legal claims of "effective administration" and save face over any confrontations that look like backing down. Unfortunately China has a poor legal case and no right what so ever to be invading the relevant sea and air spaces. With the recent establishment of an aerial defense zone over the disputed islands by China , air force to air force confrontations are going to occur. December 7, 2013 finds us in a situation all too similar to 1941. In the blink of an eye the distinction between Coast Guard and naval forces can be lost for the duration of a long and costly war. Lets hope the Dragon finally awakens to common sense and the rule of international law. But lets not lull ourselves into the slumber that enveloped Honolulu on December 6, 1941

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