Sen. Lindsey Graham said Dec.3 that he believes it’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will also urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.
Last week, North Korea shattered 2½ months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country’s ability to strike the U.S. East Coast. It was North Korea’s most powerful weapons test yet.
The launch was a message of defiance to President Donald Trump’s administration, which, a week earlier, had restored North Korea to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also hurt nascent diplomatic efforts and raised fears of a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Threats traded by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have further stoked fears of war.
Graham expressed confidence in the Trump administration’s ability to manage the growing conflict with North Korea.
“He’s got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington,” said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.
The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.
“Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,” Graham told CBS. “I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”
Trump has said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea. China is North Korea’s only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North’s nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China’s northeastern border.
Russia must scrap its Novator 9M729 missile systems and launchers or reduce their range to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and prevent a U.S. withdrawal from the Cold War-era pact, U.S. officials say.
Andrea Thompson, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters on a teleconference call on Dec. 6, 2018, that the weapons system has a range that is not in compliance with the 1987 INF pact.
She added that Moscow must “rid the system, rid the launcher, or change the system so it doesn’t exceed the range” to bring Russia back “to full and verifiable compliance.”
“The ball’s in Russia’s court. We can’t do that for them. They have to take the initiative,” she added.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that Washington would abandon the INF, citing alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.
U.S. officials have said Russia’s deployment of the 9M729, also known as the SSC-8, breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
On Dec. 4, 2018, the United States said it would suspend its obligations under the treaty if Moscow did not return to compliance within two months.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision after NATO allies meeting in Brussels “strongly” supported U.S. accusations that Russia violated the terms of the INF.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo said.
Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands, and President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that Moscow plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.
Russia has alleged that some elements of U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the treaty, which Washington denies.
The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, who was on the briefing call with Thompson, insisted that a U.S. withdrawal from the INF did not mean “we are walking away from arms control.”
“We are doing this to preserve the viability and integrity of arms control agreements more broadly,” he said.
“We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and do not have one in Russia on INF, or for that matter on other treaties that it’s violating.”
He said “one can only surmise” that Moscow is attempting to “somehow seek an advantage” with the missile — “a little bit like violations we’re seeing with other treaties, whether it’s the Open Skies Treaty or whether it’s the Chemical Weapons Convention.”
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
Glen Coffee was a superstar at Alabama — an SEC First Team running back in 2008, Coffee decided to skip his senior year with the Crimson Tide and throw his name into the NFL draft.
He was picked up by the San Francisco 49ers in 2009 in the third round of the draft and played a decent season there, rushing for 226 yards with 11 receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown.
But according to a Washington Post profile, Coffee quickly fell out of love with the gridiron and wanted to something more with his life.
“I just felt like the league and that path wasn’t for me,” he told the Washington Post. “I just knew that I didn’t want to waste, for me, my younger years doing something that I didn’t want to do. That was kind of my viewpoint on the situation.”
In 2013, Coffee enlisted in the Army with the intent to become a Ranger. He didn’t make it into special operations, but he was assigned to the 6th Ranger Training Battalion in Florida to help America’s commandos hone their craft. But now Coffee wants back into the NFL — a tall task for a player who’s been out of the game for nearly a decade.
The closest analogy would be Deion Sanders, who sat out four NFL seasons before returning to the Baltimore Ravens in 2004.
The 30-year-old free agent might have a tough time attracting a team given this year’s crop of talented young running backs who are eligible for the draft on April 30. But with his Army training and military focus, this “squared away” soldier might have what it takes to get back in.
“My cardio and endurance is definitely a lot better right now,” Coffee said during an interview with The Post in 2015. “Because in football, you’re not really in shape. People think you’re in shape, but you’re really not. Not like that.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that two “military personnel” died in a mortar attack on its Khmeimim airbase in Syria’s Latakia Province on Dec. 31.
The admission comes amid reports from Russian newspaper Kommersant that the attack destroyed at least seven Russian aircraft as well — four Su-24 bombers, two Su-35S fighters, and an An-72 transport plane. Kommersant also reported that an ammunition depot was destroyed as well.
But the Russian MoD pushed back on those reports, according to the Russian government-funded news outlet RT.
“Kommersant’s report on the alleged ‘destruction’ of seven Russian military aircraft at Khmeimim Airbase is fake,” the MoD said in a statement, according to RT.
It would not be the first time Russian aircraft were destroyed in an artillery attack at an airbase in Syria.
STRATFOR published satellite imagery last May that revealed an ISIS attack at the T4 air base in central Syria had resulted in the destruction of four Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters and a supply depot. The attack also damaged a Syrian MiG-25 “that was likely already out of commission,” according to STRATFOR.
Other incidents have included a Russian jet being shot down and several reports of jets crashing due to mechanical failure.
Widescale destruction of Russian jets from ground attacks has not been reported before, and would be a significantly larger loss.
The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.
Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.
As of Dec. 21, they have them.
Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”
“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.
So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.
When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.
Below are five things that you should know about the Navy’s newest submarine.
1. The Virginia-class, fast-attack submarine, USS Colorado (SSN 788) is equipped with non-penetrating, digital-camera periscopes called Photonics Masts.
Normally, submarines are built with two, classic-style periscopes. The Technical Insertion, called TI-14, and Advanced Processing Build APB-13 allows the Photonics Masts the option to be controlled with wired video game controllers. Though others have tested prototypes, Colorado is the first submarine operating from the start with the gaming controllers.
2. USS Colorado’s crest was designed during a contest held by Colorado’s Commissioning Committee and USS Colorado.
Many submissions came in, and the winning design was submitted by Ens. Michael Nielson, who, at the time, was a student at the Navy’s Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa, New York. After contacting Nielson to let him know that his design was selected, USS Colorado found out that he was actually from Arvada, Colorado. Two days after finding out he won the design contest, he received orders to report to USS Colorado.
3. USS Colorado is the third ship to bear the name of our 38th state.
The first Colorado, named after the Colorado River, was a steam screw frigate that launched in 1856 and commissioned in 1858. Her service included serving as flagship to Commodore William Marvine while he ran a blockage squadron during the Civil War. During the Battle of Fort Fisher in Wilmington, North Carolina, she was pivotal in the fort’s capture. The battle was heralded by the New York Times as “the most beautiful duel of the war.” The first Colorado was decommissioned June 8, 1876.
The second ship was a Pennsylvania-class cruiser. She was commissioned in 1903 and joined the Atlantic Fleet in 1905. She was ordered to the Asiatic Station where she saw service in China and Japan as well as the Hawaiian Islands and Mexico. In 1916, she was re-commissioned under the name USS Pueblo so the name Colorado would be free to use on the Colorado-class battleship. She was decommissioned in 1927.
The third USS Colorado (BB 45) was the lead ship in the Colorado-class of battleships and she served our Navy from 1923 to 1947. Battleship Colorado engaged in combat in the Pacific, supporting landings on Tarawa, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam and Tinian. During the Battle of Tinian, she was hit 22 times by shore batteries but stayed in the fight. Colorado continued to serve bravely in Leyte, Mindoro, Luzon, and Okinawa. In the Philippines, on November 27, 1944, she was hit by two kamikazes which caused moderate damage. She earned seven battle stars for her service in the Pacific and continued to serve valiantly throughout the war. When the unconditional surrender was signed aboard USS Missouri, Colorado stood guard proudly in Tokyo Bay. She was decommissioned on January 7, 1947.
4. USS Colorado galley is named “Rocky Mountain Grille.”
This name was selected after a naming contest at the command. The crew’s mess and the serving line in front of the galley are adorned with landscape photographs by John Fielder, a photographer in Colorado. The photos were given and installed by USS Colorado’s Commissioning Committee. The photographs remind Colorado Sailors of the great people of the beautiful state they represent.
Culinary Specialist (Submarines) Seaman Carlos Sifontes poses for a photo while unloading food from the dry provisions store room aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Colorado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
5. A Colorado Sailor, Sonar Technician (Submarine) 3rd Class Brayden Kane, was awarded his Submarine Warfare Insignia, referred to as “dolphins,” by retired Lt. Col. Andy Palenchar at the Colorado State Capitol building.
Palenchar enlisted in the Navy and qualified aboard USS Finback (SS 320) in 1943. While USS Finback was deployed, serving “lifeguard duty,” rescuing downed Navy pilots, Palenchar was the one who hoisted a pilot named Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush aboard after the future president was shot down over the Pacific. After World War II, Palenchar joined the Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1978.
Results from NASA’s landmark Twins Study, which took place from 2015-2016, were published April 11, 2019, in Science. The integrated paper — encompassing work from 10 research teams — reveals some interesting, surprising and reassuring data about how one human body adapted to — and recovered from — the extreme environment of space.
The Twins Study provides the first integrated biomolecular view into how the human body responds to the spaceflight environment, and serves as a genomic stepping stone to better understand how to maintain crew health during human expeditions to the Moon and Mars.
Retired NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark, participated in the investigation, conducted by NASA’s Human Research Program. Mark provided a baseline for observation on Earth, and Scott provided a comparable test case during the 340 days he spent in space aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 43, 44, 45 and 46. Scott Kelly became the first American astronaut to spend nearly a year in space.
“The Twins Study has been an important step toward understanding epigenetics and gene expression in human spaceflight,” said J.D. Polk, chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters. “Thanks to the twin brothers and a cadre of investigators who worked tirelessly together, the valuable data gathered from the Twins Study has helped inform the need for personalized medicine and its role in keeping astronauts healthy during deep space exploration, as NASA goes forward to the Moon and journeys onward to Mars.”
Key results from the NASA Twins Study include findings related to gene expression changes, immune system response, and telomere dynamics. Other changes noted in the integrated paper include broken chromosomes rearranging themselves in chromosomal inversions, and a change in cognitive function. Many of the findings are consistent with data collected in previous studies, and other research in progress.
The telomeres in Scott’s white blood cells, which are biomarkers of aging at the end of chromosomes, were unexpectedly longer in space then shorter after his return to Earth with average telomere length returning to normal six months later. In contrast, his brother’s telomeres remained stable throughout the entire period. Because telomeres are important for cellular genomic stability, additional studies on telomere dynamics are planned for future one-year missions to see whether results are repeatable for long-duration missions.
A second key finding is that Scott’s immune system responded appropriately in space. For example, the flu vaccine administered in space worked exactly as it does on Earth. A fully functioning immune system during long-duration space missions is critical to protecting astronaut health from opportunistic microbes in the spacecraft environment.
A third significant finding is the variability in gene expression, which reflects how a body reacts to its environment and will help inform how gene expression is related to health risks associated with spaceflight. While in space, researchers observed changes in the expression of Scott’s genes, with the majority returning to normal after six months on Earth. However, a small percentage of genes related to the immune system and DNA repair did not return to baseline after his return to Earth. Further, the results identified key genes to target for use in monitoring the health of future astronauts and potentially developing personalized countermeasures.
“A number of physiological and cellular changes take place during spaceflight,” said Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of the Human Research Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We have only scratched the surface of knowledge about the body in space. The Twins Study gave us the first integrated molecular view into genetic changes, and demonstrated how a human body adapts and remains robust and resilient even after spending nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. The data captured from integrated investigations like the NASA Twins Study will be explored for years to come.”
International Space Station.
Part of the record-setting one-year mission, the NASA Twins Study incorporated 10 investigations to advance NASA’s mission and benefit all of humanity. Scott participated in a number of biomedical studies, including research into how the human body adjusts to known hazards, such as weightlessness and space radiation. Meanwhile, Mark participated in parallel studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects of space on a body down to the cellular level. The findings represent 27 months of data collection.
The Twins Study helped establish a framework of collaborative research that serves as a model for future biomedical research. Principal investigators at NASA and at research universities across the nation initiated an unprecedented sharing of data and discovery. Supported by 84 researchers at 12 locations across eight states, the data from this complex study was channeled into one inclusive study, providing the most comprehensive and integrated molecular view to date of how a human responds to the spaceflight environment. While significant, it is difficult to draw conclusions for all humans or future astronauts from a single test subject in the spaceflight environment.
“To our knowledge, this team of teams has conducted a study unprecedented in its scope across levels of human biology: from molecular analyses of human cells and the microbiome to human physiology to cognition,” said Craig Kundrot, director, Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Application Division at NASA Headquarters. “This paper is the first report of this highly integrated study that began five years ago when the investigators first gathered. We look forward to the publication of additional analyses and follow-up studies with future crew members as we continue to improve our ability to live and work in space and venture forward to the Moon and on to Mars.”
The unique aspects of the Twins Study created the opportunity for innovative genomics research, propelling NASA into an area of space travel research involving a field of study known as “omics,” which integrates multiple biological disciplines. Long-term effects of research, such as the ongoing telomeres investigation, will continue to be studied.
NASA has a rigorous training process to prepare astronauts for their missions, including a thoroughly planned lifestyle and work regime while in space, and an excellent rehabilitation and reconditioning program when they return to Earth. Thanks to these measures and the astronauts who tenaciously accomplish them, the human body remains robust and resilient even after spending a year in space.
China has announced plans to begin production of a new two-seat variant of the Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation fighter that would, according to Chinese officials, dramatically increase the platform’s offensive capabilities. This announcement comes on the heels of China’s other significant J-20 announcement this week, relating to China’s decision to stop sourcing Russian engines for their stealth fighter. China will instead modify an existing domestic power plant for its purposes.
The J-20 “Mighty Dragon” is China’s first operational stealth aircraft, entering active service in March of 2017. The J-20 is indeed stealthy, though there remains some debate about just how effective the jet’s design may be. Some still argue that its front canards could potentially offer a weapons-grade lock on the jet when it’s flying horizontally across an aircraft’s field of view. Like all other fifth-generation fighters, the J-20 isn’t just sneaky, it also boasts a secure data link and the sort of advanced avionics one might expect from a data-fusing flying computer of its ilk. It has, however, suffered from long delays in its purpose-built engine program, forcing the Chinese to utilize Russian-sourced AL-31F engines.
Earlier this week, China announced plans to stop using the Russian power plant and to discontinue efforts on their purpose-built WS-15 engine that had been slated for the advanced fighter. Instead, China will now work to modify its existing fourth-generation fighter engine, the WS-10C, for the stealth jet. According to Chinese claims, the WS-10C will be as capable as the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine that powers America’s top air superiority fighter, the F-22 Raptor. This goal is hardly surprising, as the development of the J-20 was based largely on stolen plans for the F-22 in the first place.
The planned engine change is intended to offer the J-20 the same sort of thrust vector control the Raptor uses for acrobatic maneuvers during aerial warfare–a change that was already announced for the J-20B currently in production. In order to match the F-22, these modified engines will also have to offer super-cruising capabilities, or the ability to maintain supersonic speeds without the use of an afterburner, on par with that offered by the Raptor. Supercruising allows a fighter to fly further faster, while still keeping enough gas in its tank for a lengthy fight once it arrives.
But new engines aren’t the biggest change on the horizon for China’s J-20. A design change of a much broader stroke announced by the Chinese government earlier this week would see the aircraft modified to serve as a fighter bomber, adding a second seat in the cockpit for an onboard weapons officer and potentially increasing the aircraft’s payload capacity as a result of the design changes required to accommodate another crew member.
Every 5th generation fighter in operation on the planet is a single-seat aircraft, from the original F-22 Raptor to the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even Russia’s troubled Sukhoi Su-57 Felon. It’s unlikely that China will produce only two-seat J-20 variants in the future, but the addition of a J-20 fighter bomber could offer a new level of capability to China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Single-seat aircraft tend to be smaller and highly capable in the air, and while all fifth-generation fighters are considered multi-role in their range of capabilities, a two-seat J-20 could improve the aircraft’s survivability in contested airspace as well as its ability to effectively engage ground targets.
While a single-seat fighter has one operator tasked with managing everything from flying the jet to identifying and engaging targets, two-seat fighters have a second crew member to offload some of those responsibilities on. Most two-seat fighters utilize a single pilot and a second weapons officer (think Maverick and Goose, respectively, in Top Gun). While the pilot manages the battlespace, the weapons officer or co-pilot can manage weapons systems, communications, and electronic warfare capabilities.
Two-seat fighters are, however, much heavier than single-seat jets on average, so the added capability comes with a trade-off in performance.
“An upgraded twin-seat J-20 could carry more offensive weapons and have stronger air-to-ground attack capabilities, so … it would become both a fighter and a bomber,” Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, said to the South China Morning Post.
Of course, building a two-seat J-20 isn’t as simple as just stretching the fuselage and bolting a new chair in. The aircraft itself will likely have to undergo significant modifications to support both the new crew member and any added capabilities the PLA wants incorporated into a new J-20 fighter bomber.
If China manages to bring its WS-10C engine into full fifth-generation maturity, it will offer a significant capability increase for the fighter itself, and it will almost certainly find a home in the two-seat J-20 as well. However, despite China’s headline-grabbing announcements over the past week, all of these changes should be regarded as notional at best right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean to discount the potential capability of the J-20 in the future, but as far as claims about military superiority go, China’s reputation is almost as compromised as Russia’s.
A highly-decorated Navy SEAL was killed in a skydiving accident on Sept. 30.
The SEAL, Cmdr. Seth Stone, died after jumping out of a hot air balloon in Perris in Riverside County. The Federal Aviation Administration said his parachute failed to open properly and the agency is investigating.
Stone, 41, of Texas, was most recently assigned to Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii, a unit that receives Navy personnel from the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego.
“The Naval Special Warfare community is deeply saddened and mourns the tragic loss of one of our best. Seth’s absence will be sorely felt across the staff, command, and the entire special operations community. NSW is a close-knit family and our primary focus is to provide care and support for Cmdr. Stone’s family,” said Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.
Stone earned two silver Silver Stars, the military’s fifth-highest commendation, including one for a well-known firefight in Ramadi, Iraq. On Sept. 29, 2006, Stone and the group of SEALs under his charge were attacked with small arms fire and rockets while they were protecting another unit.
“The mortar fire, machine gun fire randomly sprayed the patrol, who were contacted by the enemy about 75 percent of the time,” Stone told National Public Radio in 2008.
According to the citation for the medal, Stone led them through the firefight to wounded SEALs, and helped evacuate the wounded.
One SEAL under Stone, Petty Officer Second-Class Michael Monsoor, was killed after he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade. He was credited with saving several lives and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
“He recognized immediately the threat, yelled grenade, and due to the fact that two other SEAL snipers, our brothers, could not possibly escape the blast, he chose to smother it with his body and absorb the impact and save the guys to his left,” Stone told NPR.
Stone, who died one day after the tenth anniversary of Monsoor’s death, was on an adjacent rooftop during that battle and later said the petty officer’s bravery inspired him to re-enlist after the end of that deployment.
Besides the two Silver Stars, Stone also received a Bronze Star with a “V” insignia for valor, and the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Commissioned through the Naval Academy in 1999, he was a surface warfare officer and was assigned to a cruiser before he trained to become a SEAL.
The FAA said it typically looks into whether parachutes were properly packed when it investigates accidents that occur during skydiving. The accident is being investigated by civilian authorities since it occurred off-duty.
According to the Naval Safety Center, a command that tracks on- and off-duty accidents involving sailors and Marines, the last fatal skydiving accident involving a member of the Navy outside of training or a mission was in June 2010 when a petty officer first class died after he attempted to jump from a cell phone tower in southeast Virgina.
Regulations require that the main parachute must be packed within 180 days by a certified parachute rigger, a person under the supervision of a parachute rigger, or the person making the jump. The reserve parachute must have been packed by a certified rigger within 180 days if it’s made of synthetic materials.
The United States Parachute Association held the National Skydiving Championship in Perris over the last two weeks, but the accident was not related to that event, the organization said. The Army’s skydiving team, the Black Knights, participated in the competition.
Did you ever wonder why the Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy?
Historically, marines serve as a navy’s ground troops. In fact, the word “marine” is the French word for sea, which may be why the French military historically called English troops — who all had to arrive by sea — “marines.”
Marines Aboard USS Wasp Engage HMS Reindeer. June 1814.
(Copy of painting by Sergeant John Clymer., 1927 – 1981.)
Back in the day, there wasn’t much difference between a sailor and a soldier on a ship. After all, most sea battles ended with the ships tangled together and the crews fighting each other hand to hand. So, if you were on a ship, you had to be able to fight. But you also had to be able to fight once your ship got where it was going.
Italy was the first country to use specially trained sailors as naval infantry. Back in the 1200s, the chief magistrate of Venice put 10 companies of specialized troops on a bunch of ships and sent them off to conquer Byzantium in present-day Greece. That went well for the Italians, so they decided that having marines was a good idea and kept them around, later calling them “sea infantry.”
The idea of marines eventually caught on with other naval powers. The Spanish marine corps was founded in 1537 and is the oldest still-active marine corps in the world, while the Netherlands marine corps, founded in 1665, is the second-oldest. But, even today, marines in most countries are specially trained sailors who are part of the navy.
The British Royal Marines, which is what the U.S. Marine Corps was modeled on, were probably the first naval infantry to not actually be sailors. During the 1600-1700s, marine regiments would be formed by taking soldiers from the British Army, and disbanded when they weren’t needed. This practice continued until 1755, when England’s parliament made the Corps of Royal Marines permanent.
When the Continental Marines were founded in 1775, the Continental Congress recognized the importance “that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required.”
Marine Capt. Brenda Amor helps to prepare an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter assigned to the “Black Knights” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 264 (Reinforced) for flight operations on the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24), Jan. 30, 2019. Arlington is on a scheduled deployment as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in support of maritime security operations, crisis response and theater security cooperation, while also providing a forward naval presence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Parker)
So, maritime knowledge has always been a critical part of being a marine, but the U.S. Marine Corps hasn’t always been part of the U.S. Navy.
Until 1834, the Marines were an independent service. President Andrew Jackson wanted to make the Corps part of the Army. However, the Marine Corps commandant at the time, Archibald Henderson, had proven that Marines were important in landing party operations, not just ship-to-ship battles, so Congress decided to put the Navy and Marine Corps into one department, forever linking these two “sister services.”
The Navy announced plans in September 2017 to survey the wreck of the World War I U.S. Navy cruiser, on which six American Sailors lost their lives when she was sunk as a result of enemy action off the coast of New York on July 19, 1918.
The survey’s objective was to assess the condition of the wreck site and determine if the ship, the only major warship lost by the United States in WWI, was sunk as a result of a German submarine-launched torpedo or mine. Ultimately, data gathered helps inform the management of the sunken military craft, which lies only a few miles south of Long Island.
The announcement comes just weeks after the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, and the survey is timed to allow researchers to conduct a thorough examination of the site and prepare, then release, their findings around the date of the 100th anniversary. The U.S. is currently commemorating the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I.
Midshipman Nolan Brandon, a student at the U.S. Naval Academy, assisted with the survey. He recounts his experiences below, in the first of our three-part series on the survey:
“You’re holding onto a $500,000 sonar head. Don’t drop it.” These were the words of encouragement I received from Tim Pilegard, a graduate student at the University of Delaware. At that moment, Tim and I were struggling to bolt the sonar onto the side of the R/V.
After several failed attempts, we finally got the bolts secured, and my risk of being heavily indebted to the University was momentarily over. As I looked over at a very large number of pelican cases containing more expensive equipment still resting on the dock, I realized it was going to be a long night, but there’s no place I’d rather be.
My name is Nolan Brandon, a Midshipman in my final year at the United States Naval Academy. I’m working with team members from Naval History and Heritage Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the University of Delaware, to survey the wreck of the USS San Diego, help preserve the ship’s heritage, and hopefully, to lay to rest the debate over its sinking. The story of this ship and its men is not well known. I had never heard of USS San Diego until I was invited on this mission. But now that I have learned of what happened on that day 100 years ago, I hope more Americans can hear the story, too, and be awed by the courage and skill of United States sailors.
History of the Ship
San Diego was a 504-foot long armored cruiser commissioned into service on August 1st, 1907. San Diego, and the other ships of the Pennsylvania class, was a new breed of ships that were more heavily armed and armored than cruisers, yet still faster than the great battleships. San Diego served in a multitude of roles from testing the channel of the then brand-new Pearl Harbor to escorting convoys of merchant vessels against German U-boat attacks during World War I.
It was during her time of service that San Diego met her sudden end. On the 18th of July, 1918, the ship was steaming towards her home port in New York through waters in close proximity to Fire Island, known to be hunting grounds for U-boats. San Diego’s commanding officer, Capt. H. H. Christy, was well aware of this threat and took every precaution to safeguard his ship, including stationing additional lookouts, zigzagging along his path, and closing additional watertight hatches. Unfortunately, these measures were not able to protect the ship from the explosion that rocked its port side below the waterline at 11:05 a.m. No one knows for certain whether this explosion was caused by a torpedo, a mine, or a spy onboard (that’s part of the reason why we’re here), but it was enough to cripple the San Diego. As the ship began listing to port, the captain kept his head and initiated evasive maneuvers while scanning for a suspected attacking U-boat. Despite the increasing list as San Diego took on water, Christy was reluctant to abandon ship in case a nearby U-boat could surface and take over San Diego. But as time passed, it became clear that the ship would soon capsize, and so, the call to abandon ship was sounded. Of the 1,183 men on the ship at the time of its sinking (including a few midshipmen), all but six safely escaped peril under the captain’s skillful command, and four of those six died in or as an immediate result of the initial explosion. As per tradition, Capt. Christy was the last to leave the ship. His actions, along with those of his men, reflect the competence, courage, and professionalism expected of United States sailors.
I’m excited and honored to be part of this mission. In addition to the $500,000 side scan sonar head, our equipment includes a fully autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with side-scan and bathymetric sensors, a remotely operated vehicle with a video camera, a drop camera, a quadrocopter, and a vast multitude of all the cables, tools, computers, monitors, and spares necessary to support our operation. After many hours of wrench-turning and troubleshooting preparations on Sunday, the team ate dinner and returned to the hotel, ready to hit the water and start the surveying work Monday.
We got an early start Monday morning in order to get a full day of surveying in with the AUV. After the team’s briefing with the senior Coast Guardsman at the base, the survey boat’s captain, Kevin skillfully steered the Daiber through the shoals of the inlet and out to the wreckage of the San Diego. As we made preparations to launch the AUV, I felt a little out of place surrounded by such capable individuals such as Dr. Art Trembanis, an oceanographer from the University of Delaware with a PhD in Marine Science and one of our team’s leaders, or Dr. Alexis Catsambis, an archaeologist with NHHC with a PhD in Nautical Archaeology and our team’s other leader. However, I did my best to prove my worth as a deckhand and to suck up as much knowledge and experience as possible.
Read Midshipman Nolan’s full account of the three-day survey here.