Think of the U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Carriers – Protecting the Peace

by Hank Boerner

December 27, 2016…75 Years On…Ceremonies at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Yesterday, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Japan met at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to deliver messages of condolence and remembrance of the 2,400 U.S. service members lost in the attack on the U.S. Naval base in that long ago December morning (it’s 75 years on since the Empire of Japan launched an attack on the United States of America at Hawaii, then a U.S. territory).

The important lessons learned in the attacks on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, during WW II, and in all the years since: it is clear to policy makers and should be clear to all of us that the U.S. aircraft carriers are key to our nation’s safety and well-being. As well as the safety of many of our allies around the world.

On that December 7th morning 75 years ago, a Japanese naval strike force sailed close to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, our major U.S. Navy facility at midpoint in the Pacific between the U.S. coastline and the Japan home islands. The attacking force consisted of six aircraft carriers with 400-plus aircraft (attack and defense); two battleships; three cruisers; nine destroyers; eight fuel tankers; two dozen submarines; and a handful of “midget” subs.

The original plan as tensions between the U.S. and Japan escalated was for the Empire of Japan to lure the powerful U.S. fleet into Pacific waters accessible from the Japanese homeland, to be attacked and defeated. This would enable the Japanese military to attack and conquer Pacific nations and territories (which they did as the Pearl Harbor attack was underway and in the days after).

The bombs began to fall from enemy aircraft overhead at 07:48 a.m. on Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941. It was 75 years ago this month that America thus entered World War II after the attack that President Franklin Roosevelt described as on a date “…that will live in infamy…”

Beneath the shiny metal wings of the Japanese attack planes lay the bulk of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet — battleships, cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, and more. The military forces of the Empire of Japan launched this stealth attack on the fleet, launching planes from heaving carrier decks in the rough seas of the North Pacific Ocean…in minutes they were overhead thus shattering the “isolationist” mood of the United States of America that had prevailed since the late-1920s and into the 1930s.

At anchor that quiet Sunday morning lay the Navy’s capital ships (battleships) USS Arizona; USS Pennsylvania; USS Nevada; USS Oklahoma; USS Tennessee; USS California; USS Maryland; USS West Virginia. Heavy cruisers USS New Orleans and USS San Francisco. And on and on: light cruisers; destroyers; submarines; coastal minesweepers; gunboats; support craft; ammunition ships; hospital ship USS Solace; ocean-going tugs; PT boats.

But — most important — not at the harbor that day were these important vessels with squadrons of aircraft on board and their accompanying support task force vessels: America’s relatively small but powerful fleet of aircraft carriers (designated “CVs” then). The targeted U.S. carriers were not to be found by searching attack aircraft.

The USS Lexington (CV-2), newly commissioned, was on a cruise to Midway Island (leaving Pearl Harbor on 28 November) to deliver Grumman F4F “Wildcat” aircraft to the U.S. Marines. (Sister ship USS Saratoga was at home port, San Diego, California harbor, picking up more aircraft for Pacific service and due to head into the Pacific.) The USS Enterprise had delivered fighter aircraft to the U.S. Marines at Wake Island and was en route back to Pearl but was delayed one day by bad weather.

Of other carriers, USS Ranger was in the British West Indies. USS Yorktown (CV-5) was at Norfolk, Virginia. USS Wasp was at Bermuda. USS Hornet was on training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean.

And one more: a source of pride here in our home region, the USS Long Island — a smaller “jeep” carrier — was in Norfolk, Virginia.

These capital ships — plus five more “Essex” class carriers then under construction — would carry the war to Japan in the Pacific. The five new ships were: USS Essex – CV-9; USS Yorktown, the second to carry the name, renamed Bon Homme Richard ; USS Lexington/Cabot; USS Bunker Hill; and, USS Intrepid, now a major tourist attraction in New York City. The USS Lexington/Cabot is now a floating museum in Corpus Christi, Texas. USS Yorktown (II) is a museum at Patriots Point, South Carolina.

The Japanese carrier-based aircraft in attacking Pearl Harbor and not finding the carrier task force groups at anchor was important: only a few months later (May 1942), in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the U.S. carriers would help send portions of the Japanese Empire’s fleet to the bottom of the sea. That set up the bigger victory for the U.S. Navy shortly after in the Battle of Midway. These were the first battles between aircraft carriers and their respective aircraft — where the combatant ships involved could not see each other.

While not in action on December 7 at Pearl, the USS Yorktown and USS Lexington aircraft squadrons began repaying the Japanese Imperial Navy for their deeds on December 7th, 1941 — that is, in only a few months’ time. And the damage done to Japan’s fleet was significant.

The point of all this is that aircraft carriers have been the main method of projecting U.S. military, diplomatic and other “power” in American waters, and in far-flung nations in situations that are of “strategic interest” to the United States of America for most of the 20th Century and into this volatile 21st Century. The U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are among the most potent weapons of war ever to be deployed, in both offense and defense.

During the many years of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy deployed carrier task forces to the important maritime “choke points” to assure freedom of the seas and peaceful trade, the movement of fuel, for protecting waterways needed for military protection, and more. These included the Caribbean Basin and the Panama Canal; the Mediterranean Sea; the coastal waters around Japan; the North Sea passages; the Persian Gulf regional waters; and the U.S. coastlines (the carrier bases are along Atlantic and Pacific harbors).

In times of war, the carriers have been on station offshore projecting power into the theater of war — both recent wars in Iraq; in the Viet Nam conflict; off the Korean Peninsula in the 1950s war; in the Caribbean Sea.

The carrier fleet (the “Carrier Strike Group“) today could consist of the huge carrier and its aircraft; a guided missile cruiser; accompanying guided missile destroyers; an attack submarine; a replenishment/support ship with combined ammunition, oil and supplies. Other ships could be added as needed — cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and so on.

The modern air wing consists of four strike group squadrons (up to 40 fighters each); an electronic attack squadron (five aircraft); an early warning squadron (four aircraft); a helicopter sea combat squadron (eight a/c); a helicopter maritime strike squadron (up to a dozen a/c); and other support aircraft. The Navy’s air wings are made up of 1,500 personnel and just shy of 80 aircraft; there are nine of these stationed at key locations (NAS Jacksonville, NAS Cherry Point, in Japan, etc.) and the crews and aircraft rotate on carrier duty.

Today, there are 10 U.S. aircraft carriers in active service. They are:

• CVN-68 – USS Nimitz: Now at home port, Bremerton, Washington State.
• CVN-69 – USS Dwight D. Eisenhower: operating in the Atlantic Ocean waters (having recently left station in the Persian Gulf).
• CVN-70 – USS Carl Vinson: Now at home port, San Diego.
• CVN-71 – USS Theodore Roosevelt: Now at home port, San Diego.
• CVN-72 – USS Abraham Lincoln: ship is being completed at Newport News, Virginia
• CVN-73 – USS George Washington: being qualified in the Atlantic; home port, Norfolk.
• CVN-74 – USS John C. Stennis; was at Pearl Harbor for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day events in December; at home base, Bremerton, WA.
• CVN-75 – USS Harry S Truman: at Norfolk for servicing until 2017.
• CVN-76 – USS Ronald Reagan: based at home port of Yokosuka, Japan; has been operating off the Korean Peninsula coast line, with a stop in South Korea.
• CVN-77 – USS George H.W. Bush: home port Norfolk; has been on training exercises in the Atlantic.

These advanced design carriers are under construction:

• CVN-78 – USS Gerald R. Ford: due for initial operational test in 2017 to enter service (a $14 billion investment for our defense).
• CVN-79 – USS John F. Kennedy: scheduled for launch in 2018-19.
• CVN-80 – USS Enterprise: construction underway for launch in 2023, to replace the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).

And there our “retired” carriers still afloat:

• CV-63 – USS Kitty Hawk: stored at facility in Bremerton, WA.
• CV-64 – USS Constellation: “mothballed” at Bremerton, WA.
• CVN-65 – USS Enterprise: stored at Newport News, Virginia.
• CV-67 – USS John F. Kennedy: based at the “inactive ships maintenance facility” in Philadelphia.

So as we hear about a carrier task force entering the very narrow Straight of Hormuz to patrol the Persian Gulf waters (the vital waterway between Saudi Arabia and Iran), or entering the South China Sea to project power and protect shipping lanes, or off the coast of Korea as the madman ruler in the North escalates his threats against other nations, we should keep in mind the lessons learned over the past 75 years. The carriers are our sovereign territories afloat, guarding the nation, protecting allies, projecting American power.

I was reminded of all this as I watched President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday paying their respects to the 2,400 U.S. military personnel who lost their lives in the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.

Irony: Seventy-five years on, it is an American carrier task force now protecting Japan operating out of its home port of Yokosuka. This is the largest U.S. naval base in the Pacific region located at the entrance to Tokyo Bay. The USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group Five (12 ships and submarines/up to 75 aircraft ) are regularly there as part of the mighty Seventh Fleet, which is commanded from Singapore, with a total force of 50-to-70 ships; 140 aircraft; 20,000 sailors, notes the U.S. Navy.

I am tuning in to the events in the South China Sea, and the expansion of China’s military forces there, keeping the power of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in mind. You see, this forward-deployed force operates in 120 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India / Pakistan border, from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South, with 36 maritime countries and half of the world’s population in the operation territory. Having the fleet there saves more than two weeks’ sailing time from the U.S. mainland.

The world’s largest navies operate in this region: China, Russia, India, North Korea, South Korea. And the Seventh Fleet protects our mutual defense allies: the Philippines, Australia, Republic of Korea, Thailand, and of course Japan’s home islands.

Best wishes to the U.S. Navy and its carrier strike forces for 2017 — the men and the women of the carriers, accompanying vessels and the many aircraft are helping to keep us safe. “CAVU” to you in the coming days.

naval ships

Update:  April 9, 2017 – via The Washington Post

The U.S. Navy has a carrier strike group moving toward the Western Pacific water near the Korean coastline to “provide a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula.”  The carrier group includes the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and a number of missile launch destroyer and missile cruiser escorts.

The ships are deployed from home port San Diego to the western Pacific Ocean water since January 5th, and has been maneuvering with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Republic Korea Navy, in the South China Sea, say the Associated Press report.

This as the North Korean government continues to rattle swords, in testing ballistic missile launches and developing nuclear weapons.  The USS Carl Vinson in the American show of force and projection of considerable power through its air fleet and shipboard missiles.

UPDATE:  July 11, 2017 — Where Are The U.S. Carriers Today?

On station:

The USS Nimitz:  Off coast of India, for exercises with the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force; was in the South China Sea, enforcing open navigation of the region’s waters.

The USS Ronald Reagan:  off coast of Australia, Coral Sea; exercises (Talisman Saber 2017). Earlier, participated with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. Home port:  Yokosuka, Japan.

The USS George H.W. Bush:  with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, was off coast of Israel a week ago.

Source:  www.gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html

Update:  September 8, 2017 — Tensions rising in Asia and Persian Gulf regions.

The USS Nimitz — In the Persian Gulf.

The USS Ronald Reagan – was near Australia, then off coast of Japan; now in home port of Yokosuka, Japan.

 

 

 

America – The Great Melting Pot – The Crucible

America – The Great Melting Pot – the “Crucible” of Humankind

A commentary by Hank Boerner

At least until recently, many of us took pride in the idea that our great United States of America was “a melting pot,” where immigrants from many nations, of varying religious and ethnic backgrounds, could figuratively “come ashore” as many of our ancestors did via Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

Lately, listening to the presidential and congressional campaigns and now the post-campaign rhetoric, the “Golden Door” of America (as attributed by numerous writers to the essence of our Statue of Liberty astride the gateway) is in danger of being sealed up and replaced by the promised wall along the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the U.S.A.  (As one author told us of the door, “…it is the entrance into liberty and freedom from oppression that is the promise of America, a land, a people, a way of life…”

You might recall the words of poet Emma Lazarus, firmly inscribed on the base of the statue:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” (“The New Colossus,” 1883.)

I grew up in New York, and have lived and worked here most of my life, with brief interludes in Washington, D.C. and Florida.  Riding on the city subway system most days, it is clear that at least in this bustling urban center, we here are still an example of the melting pot.

Where did this concept come from?  “The Melting Pot” was the title of a 1908 play by Israel Zangwill; it depicts the life of a Jewish-Russian immigrant family that survived an early-1900s pogrom in the Old Country and escaped to safety in America. The play was staged in Washington, D.C., and then-President Teddy Roosevelt (#26, a Republican) was in the White House and attended the debut performance.  (TR was born in New York City and lived most of his life in the Empire State.)

From this stage drama came the familiar phrase, “Melting Pot” to describe America…the “glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward…”  In the play, author Zangwill has his hero, David, write a musical symphony, “The Crucible,” with the dream of ethnicity disappearing in America.

In the early-1900s theatrical work, the phrase “Melting Pot” quickly gained in popularity to describe the American immigrant experience.

Thinking about this recently, I consulted the National Geographic (NG) magazine, mid-1914 issue, published just as the Old World (Europe, Near East) plunged into the worst armed conflict ever — the Great War, now known to many of us as World War One (which began in summer 1914).  One consequence of WW I for America would be that immigration to our shores would slow to a trickle.  That was a dramatic societal change when we consider what preceded the war.

In 1914, NG reported, one-in-seven people in the U.S.A. were born outside of our borders (13-and-a half-million), equal to the population of Belgium and The Netherlands combined, or Norway/Sweden/Denmark/Switzerland combined. (Of course, all of those nations were the former homelands of millions of new Americans.)

The magazine writers tantalized the readers with lively descriptions:  We had more Germans than the City of Berlin; enough Irish to populate four Dublins; enough Italians to populate three Romes.

Immigration Pushing Westward

The American civil war between the north and south states involved 23 slavery-free states and five border states supporting the Union and 11 states of the south forming the Confederacy.  That five-year long war that killed 600,000 Americans ended in April 1865.  In May of that same year, the transcontinental railroad was completed, linking America’s east and west coasts, and cementing our notion of “Manifest Destiny.”

Europeans (primarily) poured into these once again-United States of America — some staying in coastal cities, many more flowing westward.  The Erie Canal helped to move goods and people westward through the Great Lakes.  Railroads began to criss-cross states, old and new.  Vast agricultural lands were settled (Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, and on and on).

As the swelling American population began moving from farm-to-city to work in the factories of the new Industrial Age, many more immigrants poured into the cities.  Five million-plus arrived on our shores between 1900 and 1910 (when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House).  Actually, eight-and-a-half million arrived, but three million-plus turned around and returned to their home country.

The American Dream was sought by those “huddled masses” from: Germany, Russia, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Austria, England, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Scotland, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, France, Greece, Wales, Japan, Turkey-in-Asia, Portugal, China, Belgium, the Atlantic Islands, Cuba, Bulgaria, Australia, the many nations in South America, Montenegro, Newfoundland, India, Serbia, all of Africa, Luxemburg, Pacific Islands, and Central American nations.  In that descending order of origins — the German-born in the lead.  Perhaps your ancestors are included in the tidal wave of people that reached our shores before WW I.

But even in the early-1900s there was a slowing of certain nationalities — notably, Germans and Irish.  But those earlier waves of immigrants were having families, and so by 1914 there were 19 million people whose parent or parents were foreign born.  And so an astounding 32 million of our citizens — one third of the total population — was either foreign-born or children of first generation immigrants who were foreign-born.

Stats Tell a Story

The earliest reliable statistics tracking immigrants to the U.S. are from 1820 forward.  In 1887, there were almost 500,000 new arrivees.  As the 19th Century turned to the 20th, the one million mark was reached (in 1905); heading toward 1914, the flow had reached 1.2 million — and then dramatically declined to 100,000 by 1918. The Great Migration to our shores was ending.

In 2016 we are a nation of three-plus times the population of those years (100 million then / 324 million today).

And the migration of the legally-admitted today is …. still about one million (2014 data).

What About The Un-Documented Among Us

The issue that irks many Americans, as evidenced in the political campaigns, is the presence of the “illegal or undocumented or illegally-admitted ” non-US citizens” among us.  That could be as many as 11 million (but dropping), according to The Washington Post  story earlier this year, citing the data of the Center for Migration Studies (of course, it’s a New York-based think tank.)  Trending Down: illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America with sharper declines from South America and Europe.

Today’s Immigrant Population

With changes in American law, “immigrants” today include such classifications as those who are lawful residents; tourists, students and workers admitted on a temporary basis; those who apply for asylum or refugee status; and the “naturalized” of the foreign-born.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act governs immigration policy.  There is a limit  set of 675,000 permanent immigrants allowed per year (with some allowance for close family members).  Non-citizens are also allowed on a temporary basis.

Our public policy accommodates family-based immigration; employment -based immigration; and, permanent immigration. There are country ceilings (limits).  And allowance for certain refugees and asylees, and vulnerable populations (think: today’s Syrians, Iraqis, etc.) The latter totals just 85,000 per year.

There is a Diversity Visa Program. Remember the German and Irish and Italian flows more than a century ago? They are not coming in such numbers now, so the Immigration Act of 1990 created a system of allowing immigrants from low-number countries to immigrate to the U.S. — about 55,000 persons per year.

Remember the excitement about President Obama’sDreamers,” a program designed for immigrants who might become eligible for citizenship? There are about 1.8 million eligible, including many who are between 15 and 30 years of age.  The Dreamers are mostly young, of various ages up to 30 and are those brought here as children by their parents entering the country without permission (“illegally” here in popular rhetoric). Half of the Dreamers live in California and Texas; New York has 89,000; Florida, 106,000.  About half are female.  Seven-out-of-10 came from Mexico.  They anxiously await the changes that may take place in public policy when President Obama leaves office.

As We Await the Trump Administration

All of this is interesting to say the least for us to think about, as we await the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress coming to Washington — with immigration reform high on the agenda.

One element of the running conversation on immigration is that of the Muslim population. Should those applying to come here who are of the Muslim faith be denied admittance if they come from certain majority-Muslim nations?  Should Muslim citizens (and non-citizens) among us be required to register and a special database kept (their whereabouts, activities, and so on to be tracked and charted)?

We had somewhat of the same question raised a century ago, back in that 1914 era, when people of German origins comprised a very large part of the American population. (Donald J. Trump’s grandfather among them).  If America went to war with the Kaiser’s Germany, the discussion of the day was, would the German-Americans / or / American-Germans be trusted in the U.S. military?  Would they fight their cousins on European battle fields?

 Loyalty of New Citizens

This was an important question.  The American ambassador to Germany at the time, James W. Gerard, delivered a speech on the subject in April 1918 – a few months before we went to war with Germany.

The German-Americans embraced their new nation’s cause unconditionally, he told the German leadership. And he warned them of what would happen to any German-American who betrayed America.  The German foreign minister had told the ambassador that [Germany] had 500,000 “German reservists” in America who would rise in arms against the United States if our country made any move against Germany.

So, the ambassador said in his comments:  America would have 500,001 lampposts in where the “reservists” would be hanging the day after they tried to rise.  And if there were any German-Americans who were so ungrateful for the benefits they received that they are still for the Kaiser (the German leader) there is only one thing to do.  Give them back their wooden shoes and the rags they landed in, and ship them back to the Fatherland.

And for good measure he added:  “I have traveled over all the United States — through the Alleghenies, the Catskills, the Rockies (etc.).  And in all these mountains, there is no animal that bites and kicks and squeals and scratches, that would bite and squeal and scratch equal to a  German-American, if you commenced to tie him up and told him that he was on his way back to the Kaiser [and the former homeland].”

The Question Arose Again in 1941-42

The question was again raised in 1941 as the military-led Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. military bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and declared war on the U.S. (and we immediately declared war on Japan).  In what is now acknowledged by many to be a shameful period in American history, Japanese-Americans (“Nisei”) were rounded up and sent to internment camps — up to 120,000 men, women and children.

But the young men joined the military to fight for their country, the United States of America. More than 30,000 Nisei served in the U.S. Army, a good number fighting bravely as members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, one of the most decorated units in all of U.S. military history.  While they fought in Italy, the young Boy Scouts back in the internment camps in the U.S. conducted memorial services for the fallen.

The Nisei were Americans first in the 1940s, as were the German-Americans before them in the early 1900s.  Oh, and the Nisei soldiers were among those liberating Jews at the Nazi slave camps, including Dachau.  Wonder what they were thinking as they remembered the fate of their families back home in western U.S. internment camps.

About America, the Melting Pot, America, the Crucible

The originator of the “Melting Pot” and “The Crucible,” Israel Zangwill was a British-born teacher, author and playwright (1864-1926) who was an ardent supporter of 19th Century “Zionism.”  While championing a Jewish homeland, he had strong thoughts about America.  Look at the words his character says in the famous play:

“America is God’s crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!  Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your 50 groups with your 50 languages and histories, and your 50 blood hatreds and rivalries.

“But you won’t be like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you’ve come to — these are the fires of God.  A fig for your feuds and vendettas!  Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians. Into the Crucible with you all!  God is making the American.

“The real American has not yet arrived.  He is only in the Crucible, I tell you.  He will be the fusion of all races, the common superman.”

 Lessons for 2017

What are the lessons of all of this for we Americans in the last weeks of the year 2016 — and looking into what might happen in 2017?   When the first European explorers reached the North American shores, the land was sparsely settled — estimates range from 7 to 18 million indigenous peoples were here.  America as we know it is an immigrant nation.

Of course, every nation must be able to secure its boundaries, its borders.  We are a nation of laws, based on our wonderful Constitution and Bill of Rights as foundation, and it is not unreasonable to expect that people arriving here will do so within the framework of the law — “legally,” if you please.

The questions to be addressed going forward are:  (1) what should our legal immigration policies be? (2) What do we do — humanely — about those that did not follow the rules but now live among us?  (3)  What do we do about asylees and refugees who want to come to our country?  (4)  What do we do about citizens born here, and protected by our Constitution, if their parents came without permission when they were children?  (5) What should our conversation be about immigrants and immigration and so on, so that those we welcome here….feel welcomed!

Stay Tuned — the answers should be coming in early-2017.

* * * * * * * *

Check out The Washington Post story about illegal immigration at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/federal-eye/wp/2016/01/20/u-s-illegal-immigrant-population-falls-below-11-million-continuing-nearly-decade-long-decline-report-says/

About author Israel Zangwill:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Zangwill

More background on “The Crucible” and playwright: “American Crucible:  Race and Nation in the 20th Century” by Gary Gerstle (published by Princeton University Press, 2001).

I’ve commented in this blog about immigration and the wonder of our Immigrant Nation — see my Thanksgiving 2014 post:  http://www.hankboerner.com/staytuned/happy-thanksgiving-tomorrow-yes-it-will-be-heres-my-why/