Sunday, May 4, 2014


Namazu, former Japanese demigod, giant catfish, and now star analyst for AAB  

We reprint this by permission from Vic's May 3, 2014 blog. We read the DAILY SOCOTRA religiously here at the AAB. Below is a sample of why. We recommend the DAILY SOCOTRA to all of our visitors Click here for a look at the site:
Due to technical difficulties we had to swap out two of the illustrations for comparable images, the text is exactly as it appeared in the May 3, DAILY SOCOTRA 

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03 May 2014

The Michelin Guide to Bird Farms

Nimitz Carrier Task Force-Official USN Photo

I have been watching the slow progress on the construction of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier with a great deal of professional interest. There are some amazing technical innovations being incorporated into the design of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) and it is, as anything designed to steam the world ocean, phenomenally expensive. 

You can check out some of the innovations at this article in Popular Mechanics: 

One of the most impressive aspects, to my mind, is the fact that there are no urinals on the ship. There is some other stuff, too, like the fact that it is not high-pressure steam that powers things, but rather electro-magnetic power. It occurred to me when reading about the electrical marvels, that the use of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon against an all-electric ship would render it a dumb and defenseless chunk of metal- but I am sure the Navy has taken that all into account.


Anyway, that is a new thing for a lot of the usual suspects- we were accustomed to the oily steamy wisps that floated out of the catapult tracks, and coated everything with a thin film of oil. Everything. 

The ships were all little cities, and they all had their individual quirks. As an average, most of us have six or seven ships in our lives. The Midway sailors, and those who served on the successor ships permanently home-ported in Japan are a special lot, since the ship, whichever one it happened to be, was America. 

The discussion presented in the article tripped off a lot of bird farm memories. 

One irascible shipmate chimed in that we sounded “like the Battleship admirals of the pre-Pearl Harbor days!!! Ahhhh….Battleship Row….ain't she a sight to behold!”

Point taken, of course. Someone else suggested that we do a Michelin Guide for the bird farms: which ones could accomplish anything, no matter how hard, and others that had more chequered records- “floating roach hotels and unreliable platforms.” Zero Stars. 
(USS Midway departing YOKUSOKA, JAPAN 10 August 1991 Photo by PH1 Galen Walker USN
File:USS Midway (CV-41) leaving Yokosuka, Crew spelling Sayonara.jpg
A discerning shipmate summed up the experience nicely: “I have been on seven, including all three Midway class CVs, serving in air wing, ships company, and battle group staff intelligence billets---- though for three months I was the Training Department Head aboard Coral Sea.  Carrier duty is exciting and professionally rewarding; these ship are all technologically marvelous in their own ways but some are better to live on then others.  FDR, Coral Sea, and Ranger are at the bottom in no particular order (no stars) with Enterprise, Midway, Constellation, and Kitty Hawk pretty much in that order at the top with wide gap. The gap however from top group and the bottom was significant,” though I think all the latter group would warrant at least a star in the Michelin Guide.

No kidding- you could tell by the nicknames for some of the ships, though they could change based on who was in command: Shitty Kitty, Sorry Sarah, Handjob, Danger, Forest Fire where things stood with the great ships. Others had a sense of familiarity- O-Boat, Tico, Amerika-Jima, Connie. The ten newer ships- Nimitz class boats that were brand new when most of us were in the are now starting to arrive at the point in their service lives when extensive reactor-recoring is required. 

They have much less quirky eccentricity than the old conventionally-powered ships, and more formality in their names, since they reflect actual people in their naming conventions. 

Many of them proved it with cappuccino machines in the dirty-shirt wardrooms. All the Nimitz boats would get a star for comfort, though the smoking ban and the integration of mixed-sex crews made them social experiments as well, with all sorts of interesting aspects to life afloat.

The ages of my shipmates spans the Vietnam era to the current era, when every carrier (except JFK) went to The Show in SE Asia. We rode those ships (and crews) hard in those days and put them away wet. 

One shipmate claims that “Kennedy was the best because they did everything flawlessly and you could do surgery in the engineering spaces; there were formal zone inspections every week with flashlight and white gloves. You haven't lived until you draw the weapons storage spaces as your zone and climb down 8 decks from the main deck. Awesome storage-of course mostly empty.). If you were OOD and the 0800 launch didn't have the first CAT stroke concurrent with the 8th bell - you could find yourself in deep kimchee. Her showboat reputation was deserved.“ 

“The others blur together, with the Midway getting a special nod for Japanese maintenance (and signage on the Flag Bridge) and that unbelievable Midway Magic--some incredible launch rates.  You got me going!”

“Enterprise gets my top nod because Barney Kelly (later Admiral Kelly) was CO when I was embarked with CCG-3. Big radiated with his positive personality, leadership, and obvious competence. Constellation just after Stark and during Earnest Will was the best operating CV for that 6 month of any I was on her. 108 Days aboard Coral Maru during the Iranian Hostage crisis put a real strain on an already tired ship. And yes I went on the last cruise of the FDR twice! ! ! She made six more “last cruises” before being put out of her misery…”

Another shipmate- I worked for him twice- had a little more perspective: 

“I am a Ticonderoga, Enterprise (two cruises, with a squadron, then CAG staff)), Hancock, Coral Sea, Constellation, and finally Midway Maru! A few days/weeks on others do not count. Coral Sea is at the bottom of my list. Hell, as the boot LT on CARGRU 3 I was sent to "look for" doors to our staterooms two weeks before our '70 departure from Alameda. Not that we did not have fun…”

Of course, Tico and Hancock weren't much better to live on, Enterprise had it all, but Midway...what can I say? My two years as ships company, how it operated, and all we did puts her in first place for me...

I have to agree with that assessment- Ma Midway was home for 23 months, 1978-80, and I had a chance to steam on seven or eight more, including most of the Nimitz Class boats (the West Coast ones, anyway) with a Med deployment on Forrestal

It would be worth a longer treatment of the individual boats, but the truth of the matter is that most of these once-proud ships are razor blades now. They scrapped FDR and Coral Maru; are taking FID apart down in Texas this morning, They deliberately sunk O-Boat and America as artificial reefs and only Midway and Intrepid are safe for the moment, being memorial ships in San Diego and New York, respectively. 

As one of the curmudgeons noted, “the CV/CVN has been the cornerstone of U.S. Naval power for over 70 years!!! While the aircraft and ships have improved dramatically, they still have some serious vulnerabilities… I wonder if we are blinded by "platform" love and nostalgia….can you imagine the HMS Victory (the best warship of 1805) taking on the Monitor and the other ironclads of the 1860s? How about the Merrimac taking on Jackie Fischer's Dreadnoughts in the early 20th century? We are talking about that level of technological age spread.” 

"I hope we (and more importantly, the current Navy leaders) are not surprised by new technologies and tactics we were unable to see or appreciate."

We haven’t lost an aircraft carrier to hostile action in quite a while- the jeep carrier Bismark Sea was the last in 1945- but all things change. I guess we will see how the Ford Class performs. But I have to tell you, I think all of us would go back for one last deployment. 

It was that cool. 

(Five CVNs and a couple big deck Amphibs in Norfolk, the World's Largest Naval Operating Base. Photo USN)

Copyright 2014 Vic Socotra
Twitter: @jayare303 



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