“Diving Boats”, Foote, Laconia and “What We Knew”

On 12 September 2001, it seems, we “knew” a lot more than we did just a few days before.  One of these was the extreme depths of courage, and of fear.  But even before we “knew” all of that, there were important events in the Thames, Connecticut and the South Atlantic.

Of many submarine boat experiments in history, the first multi-source documented public exposition of a submersible craft was in the River Thames on 12 September 1620.  Cornelius Drebbel, described as a Dutchman in the service of King James I of England, had designed and constructed the vessel, the nature of which is unclear, but is depicted as having oars.  Regrettably, oars would ill suit a submersible, so we really don’t know what Drebbel’s invention looked like.  But, it is accepted as the first public exposition of a submarine craft.

Cornelius Drebbel, described as a Dutchman in the service of King James I of England, had designed and constructed the vessel, the nature of which is unclear…

On 12 September 1808, Andrew Hull Foote was born in New Haven, Connecticut.  Knowing nothing of submarines except rumors and legends, Foote began his career at West Point, resigning in 1822 when he was appointed a midshipman (officer cadet) in the US Navy (the Naval Academy was established in 1845).  Foote rose steadily in the ranks until the Civil War, when he was appointed to command the Mississippi River Squadron, when it was less a squadron than an idea for a squadron.  By 1863, after Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, and Island Number Ten on the Mississippi had all fallen under the guns of the gunboats he helped to organize, Foote was appointed the US Navy’s second Rear Admiral, and sent to command the Southern Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  En route, however, he suddenly and unexpectedly died in New York on 23 June 1863.

Foote rose steadily in the ranks until the Civil War, when he was appointed to command the Mississippi River Squadron when it was less a squadron than an idea for a squadron.

On 12 September 1942,  HMS Laconia, a 19,000 ton former Cunard liner that had been launched in 1922, taken into the Royal Navy and converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) in 1939, then converted to a troopship in 1941, was torpedoed in the South Atlantic by U-156.  These are the bare facts of the matter but, like many such incidents, they tend to get buried under details.  Realizing that of the two thousand plus passengers and crew of the fast liner, sailing alone, stood little chance of surviving in the open Atlantic north of Ascension Island, the commander and crew of U-156 surfaced.  While broadcasting his humanitarian intent, the U-boat skipper began to rescue the survivors, along with other U-boats that were sent to the area.  The British thought it was a ruse, and after four days, in company with at least three (Vichy) French ships, an American B-24 bomber attacked the German submarines, which were then compelled to dive and abandon the rescue effort.  About half the passengers and crew were eventually lost.  The incident spurred Karl Doenitz to issue the “Laconia Order,” which forbade German U-boats from offering any humanitarian assistance to their victims.  Before this, many U-boat captains, especially after surface attacks, provided food and water, medical aid and navigational assistance, but rarely afterwards.  U-156 was lost with all hands off Barbados on 8 March 1943 by an American PBY. At Nuremberg in 1946, the Laconia Order became part of Doenitz’ indictment,  but was later withdrawn.

While broadcasting his humanitarian intent, the U-boat skipper began to rescue the survivors, along with other U-boats that were sent to the area.

For many of us who remember that fateful Wednesday in 2001, when we woke to find that the body count in New York, Arlington and Shanksville was considerably less than had been originally feared, what we all “knew” on Tuesday night was a great deal less than we thought.  What we were becoming certain of was that some outfit called Al Qaida had sent people–mostly middle class young men who had never seen a refugee camp–to crash airplanes kamikaze-like into buildings.  What the fourth target was is, to this day, still uncertain, though most evidence points at the White House.  And that next morning many of us who were military members in the Guard and Reserve took off with bag and baggage, while others who had been military members were called to service again, and many more who were hoping to separate were told “not today.”  Though this correspondent had retired earlier that year, they just didn’t need a beat-up old infantryman/interrogator/ analyst badly enough to call him up.  But, they did call many of this correspondents squad mates, classmates and former associates, twenty of whom were either killed or injured badly enough to be out of the military for good.  But, that’s all in the service of the Republic, and that’s what matters, right?

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Something Happening Here…

And what it is pretty damn clear.

Last week some murderers in Paris killed a hundred-odd people in the name of their god.  Since then the mass media has taken certain people to task for not saying the right words, the right descriptions for the murderers who boasted about what a good job they did at killing, and what a better job they will do at it in the near future.

But words are meaningless.  Actions only have meaning.  And the French did something, just as the murderers did.  The French military attacked the center of where these murderous fiends are getting their support.  Made them hurt, if only a little.

And now a majority of American governors have declared that certain refugees are not going to be allowed to come to their states…as if they have any say in it.

What’s happening here is a bunch of very un-serious people who are in positions of influence and even authority in America are trying to tell the rest of us that this murder rampage that’s been going on in Syria for years is all the fault of…somebody else, somebody not in power any more, or someone who is in power but has the wrong letter (either a D or an R, depending on the speaker) after their names.  No one in the West is taking responsibility for what it going on except for those who are doing the majority of the murdering.  And they are proud of it.

So what now?  Not much, likely.  No American politician will commit the resources needed to anything that will last beyond their own tenure in office, and we all know that the American president will last no more than eight years.  So, the United States will essentially do nothing about the rampage.  And because the Americas can do nothing, very little else will be done by anyone else, except the French for a few wees, and the Russians who will continue their desultory campaign as long as the cameras are rolling.

I will say the words “Islamic terrorists” so that the right-wing media will not chastise me for my failure to key them to my sentiments correctly.  Then I will tell them they are phonies just as those that they condemn.  Their war of words is a meaningless exercise, a smoke screen to cover their lack of influence and real power.

Then I will say the words “Islam is the religion of peace” so that the left-wing media will not start their “racist/sexist/homophobe/Islamophobe” drum-circle chanting and condemn me with their “Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism” and “climate change causes terrorism” fantasies.  They will chant that they, too, are committed to ending the killing, but their solutions like a jobs program, or Muslim outreach in NASA, have as much to do with stopping it as a rubber band has to do with trout fishing.

This bloodletting needs to stop, but serious people need to commit to the HUMINT resources necessary, to start the enormously expensive and time-consuming work of understanding how their message of “my way or the highway” is so superior to the disaffected that it makes people want to kill–and to die while killing.

Terror networks are run by serious people.  Serious people need to oppose them.  We don’t have any serious people in America even talking about what needs to be done.  Our “leaders” and wanna-be leaders are too interested in the right words, in popularity and what they get credit for.  Networks like ISIS can be forever and claim that their credit will only be given after the are dead.  Western leadership is very short term, and thinks only in the short term.  Someone in the West has to take responsibility for something they will never get credit for until they are long gone.