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Nov 17, 2023·edited Nov 17, 2023Liked by CDR Salamander

always been proud of my dad's Merchant Marine life. His was later, setting up atomic bomb tests near Eniwetok atoll, and the DEW line up in the arctic; surviving a satchel charge bombing in "French Indochina"; but merchant marine stories like this Fullbore heighten my appreciation of all he did and all they do................

and the sad, sad state of our merchant navy, now.

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Since guns aren't the primary weapon anymore, I think most ships, if they are sunk, are going to die in a hail of missiles and/or guided bombs, or a guided torpedo. It seems like we'd see the HMS Hood scenario more than this one.

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Great post. It's hard to imagine anything like the merchant marine in a current conflict since we have almost no commercial shipbuilding capability. So many policy mistakes letting key industries atrophy into nothingness.

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Great story. I volunteer at the National WWII museum and we have a section dedicated to the Merchant Marine contribution to the war. This would be an excellent additional story to highlight. Keep up the excellent work.

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Pro Publica had an excellent summation of the USS FITZGERALD collision. Confusion and lack of GQ training hampered the efforts to save the ship. (They did, thankfully) One selection stood out, and that was the Officer melting down and crying in the corner of CIC repeating "I F'd up, I F'd up" instead taking change and carrying out the duties assigned. I believe the Chief grabbed the leadership reins after that.

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This would indeed make a helluva war film. Drachinifel also has a good retelling in one of his videos.

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Stories like this one are your other great strength in these columns. I particularly like the point made about cross training! There's a "compare and critique" to be made between this column and yesterday's "Diversity Thursday" -- the crew of the Stephen Hopkins weren't on a fast ship intended to go in harm's way, but, to paraphrase Kipling, when fate laid upon them their task, the crew of the Hopkins did not shame the day.

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Nov 17, 2023Liked by CDR Salamander

Commander Salamander, that you for your inspiring story. Americans were men back then. I wonder how we today would measure up to those in your story.

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I remember the battle and the accompanying picture from an article in the magazine, American Heritage.

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The jobs you should know:

Two up, all the way down, and sideways as far as you can.

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We often do not choose the battle, or even the war, we want. Sometimes the war or the battle chooses us. Cross-training and simulated deaths instead of those standard "by the book" REFTRA exercises might just save the next ship in mortal danger. Make training hard. It saves lives.

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Great story. There was also an incident where a Dutch merchant vessel and an Indian manned corvette were attacked by two Japanese auxiliary cruisers and a shot from the merchant ship sank one of them. This from "Combined Fleet" http://www.combinedfleet.com/Hokoku_t.htm,

11 November 1942:

Indian Ocean. SW of the Cocos Islands. HOKOKU MARU attacks Captain Willem Horsman's 6, 341-ton Royal Dutch Shell tanker ONDINA and her escort, LtCdr William J. Wilson's, RINR, Australian-built minesweeper HMIS BENGAL at 19-45S, 92-40E. BENGAL closes the range with HOKOKU MARU to protect the tanker.

At 1545 (JST), HOKOKU MARU opens fire. Both ships are damaged in the ensuing action. AIKOKU MARU is 6 miles NW of the scene and closing. A lucky shot from ONDINA's 4-inch gun hits HOKOKU MARU's starboard torpedo tube which had just been loaded. After the ensuing explosion, a fire breaks out that rages out of control and reaches the aft magazine. More explosions follow that blow out her sides. At 1752, HOKOKU MARU sinks. [4]

AIKOKU MARU arrives and hits BENGAL. LtCdr Wilson, confident the ONDINA can outrun the AMC, disengages at best possible speed. AIKOKU MARU scores six hits on ONDINA and virtually disables her. Captain Horsman is killed. AIKOKU MARU fires two torpedoes at the tanker, but both miss. With her ammunition expended, ONDINA's crew Abandons Ship.

AIKOKU MARU rescues 278 of HOKOKU MARU’s crew. She fires a last torpedo at ONDINA and departs. Later, AIKOKU MARU departs the Indian Ocean for Penang, then proceeds via Singapore to Rabaul.

ONDINA's crew reenters the ship, effects temporary repairs and departs the area for Fremantle, Australia.

17 November 1942:

BENGAL makes port at East Point, Diego Garcia for repairs. LtCdr Wilson reports ONDINA as lost.

18 November 1942:

ONDINA arrives at Fremantle.

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A Coast Guard manned subchaser did sink a German E-boat during the Normandy invasion. A USN destroyer sank a couple of German corvettes in the Med. The corvettes were former Italian ships taken over by the German Navy after the Italians switched sides.

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My final ship was an Aegis CG. Within a few days of reporting I had to pass the drill of finding my way blindfolded from my bunk to my life raft and battle station. That was SOP for the ship. That was a first for me in 25 years. During the final drill in RefTra, the Mass Conflag, on an FFG, I was GQ OOD. The RefTra observer killed me first to begin a drill. With my dying breath, I passed the conn to my noob LTjg JOOD. He performed like a champ. Impressed the hell out of the CO. Then the observer killed the Captain. It was very heart-warming to see people rise to the occasion, even as more of the new leaders were killed off. Sort of reminded me of the old adage, "The first thing you do after reporting aboard is to start training your relief." Great article.

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Superb! Thanks so very much. My uncle, my father's older brother, Stinson Wood, was a Merchant Mariner during all of World War II. He was on merchant tankers and was twice sunk by German submarines in the area between the US and South America. And, both times, he and his crew members were rescued by the US Coast Guard. He also served in the Pacific during the latter days of that war, was at anchor somewhere in the South Pacific, when subjected to a Japanese kamikaze attack, and the ship closest to them was hit. He survived, and was the first skipper of one of the first super tankers in the Esso (now EXON) fleet.

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Of all the services, which is the one that has the LEAST difficulty meeting recruiting numbers?

Bear with me here, this is directly related to Sal's questions and unstated conclusions...

The answer to the question is of course, Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, your favorite bunch of degenerate crayon eaters, the US Marine Corps.

Why? The Marine Corps sells pride in self and service far better than the other services. We don't focus on benefits etc..

Now, the Marines have a philosophy that bears mentioning here, central to our ethos and self-image.

EVERY Marine is a Rifleman, and EVERY Marine officer is a Rifle Platoon Commander.

No matter what other duties they may focus on, no matter their MOS and career, at their most basic level, every Marine is first inculcated with the basic skills, morale and ethos of the rifleman.

How, you ask, does this relate?

The Navy would benefit greatly from a comparable philosophy.

Every Sailor is a gunner's mate, and every SWO is a gunnery officer. (I'm a Marine so forgive if the terms could be better) Every other skill learned and assigned must be built atop that foundation.

Because if the warship can't shoot, what f***ing purpose does it serve? Therefore the job EVERY sailor must be able to step into must be to MAN THE GUNS.

When was the last time a new sailor (other than those explicitly pursuing special warfare or related fields) really thought of themselves as a gunner first.

Day 2 of Navy basic training should include hosing down floating targets with a .50 cal. It's not like we don't have enough surplus .50's and ammo to do that for the next 1,000 years

Bring the focus back to FIGHTING. That's what a Navy is for.

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