But the most intriguing chapter is Hone’s study of a critical but largely unrecognized reorganization that transformed Navy operations beginning in late 1942. The problem was that commanders of warships were being cognitively overwhelmed by all the new information thrown at them in battle. In addition to traditional sightings and signaling, they were now receiving reports by radio from aircraft and from other ships, as well as from radar readings. The Navy’s answer was to design a new Combat Information Center on each ship. Through it, all that data could be continually funneled, sifted, integrated and passed to the captain and others on the vessel who might need it, like gunners. Such an improvement may seem mere common sense, but then many great innovations do seem obvious — in retrospect. Interestingly, Adm. Chester Nimitz told skippers what to do (establish the new centers) but not how to do it. This meant that different ships devised different approaches, which provided the basis for subsequent refinements.
Really interesting paragraph from Thomas Ricks, writing about this book:
which I will read when I have time, Trent Hone sounds serious!
Late 1942: is that the point in time where the age of information overload began? Sorting, digesting, processing the enormous amounts of information that flow our way, telling signal from noise, is that a/the prevailing cognitive problem of the post 1942 world?
found that playing Smithsonian Channel’s The Pacific War In Color while KUSC our local classical station was coming out of my old radio created a cool effect.
Picked up the Island Fighting volume of the Time Life World War II series and found this incredible picture:
Couldn’t find a name of a photographer.
This book is so full of compelling anecdotes, character studies, and surprising, valuable lessons of leadership that I kind of can’t believe I got to it before Malcolm Gladwell or David Brooks or somebody scavenged it for good stories.
Consider how hard it would be to get fifteen of your friends to leave for a road trip at the same time. How much coordination and communication it would take, how likely it was to get fucked up.
Now imagine trying to move 156,000 people across the English Channel, and you have to keep it a surprise, and on the other side there are 50,350 people waiting to try and kill you.
Even at a lower scale, say a brigade, a brigadier general might oversee say 4,500 people and hundreds of vehicles. Those people must be clothed, fed, housed, their medical problems attended to. Then they have to be armed, trained, given ammo. You have to find the enemy, kill them, evacuate the wounded, stay in communication, and keep a calm head as many people are trying to kill you and the situation is changing rapidly and constantly.
Being a general is a challenging job, I guess is my point.
I saw this post about Gen. Mattis, possible future Secretary of Defense, on Tom Ricks blog:
The story was so compelling that I immediately ordered Mr. Ricks’ book:
A fantastic read. Eye-opening, shocking, opinionated, compelling.
The way that Marc Norman’s book on screenwriting works as a history of Hollywood:
The Generals works as a kind of history of the US since World War II. I’d list it with 1491: New Revelations On The Americas Before Columbus as a book I think every citizen should read.
The observation that drives The Generals is this: commanding troops in combat is insanely difficult. Many generals will fail. Officers who performed well at lower ranks might completely collapse.
During World War II, generals who failed to perform were swiftly relieved of command. (Often, they were given second chances, and many stepped up).
Since World War II, swift relief of underperforming generals has not been the case. The results for American military effectiveness have been devastating. Much of this book describes catastrophe and disaster, as I guess war is even under the best of circumstances and the finest leadership.
Ricks is such a good writer, so engaging and compelling. He knows to include stuff like this:
Ricks describes the catastrophes that result from bad military leadership. How about this, in Korea?:
What kind of effect did this leadership have, in Vietnam?:
He discusses the relationship of presidents and their generals:
Here is LBJ, years later, describing his nightmares:
Ricks can be blunt:
Hard lessons the Marines had learned:
A hero in the book is O. P. Smith
who led the Marines’ reverse advance at the Chosin Resevoir, when it was so cold men’s toes were falling off from frostbite inside their boots:
The story of what they accomplished is incredible, worth a book itself. Here’s Ricks talking about the book and Smith.
A continued challenge for generals is to understand the strategic circumstances they are operating under, and the political limitations that constrain them.
Recommend this book. One of the best works of military history I’ve ever read, and a sobering reflection on leadership, strategy, and the United States.
FDR turned the tables on the scandal with this rejoinder:
That was back when you could make a good clean Scottish joke and the nation would love it.
The other day a friend of mine’s mom died. She was 87. I’d had maybe eight meals with this woman.
One story she told me was about having lunch at Eleanor Roosevelt’s house.
She was in college at Vassar in the early 1950s, and she knew some niece or something of Mrs. Roosevelt. Eleanor, then a representative at the UN, asked the niece to round up some young people for a luncheon, so there she went.
She didn’t have much to say about Eleanor, but in her memory Fala sat on her feet under the table.
Anyway, I thought I would commemorate the passing, perhaps, from living memory of this historic and noble dog.
Suffering from deafness and failing health, Fala was euthanized on April 5, 1952, two days before his twelfth birthday.
This fact is so crazy:
There were 38 sets of brothers on the USS Arizona; 23 sets were lost.
How about this story, introduced to me by reader Bobby M.? A Japanese plane crash landed on the remote Hawaiian island of Ni’ihau after the attack. It was so isolated that the island’s residents didn’t realize what had happened. When they did though, that was the end of the pilot.
Found this picture of John McCain Sr. (the Senator’s grandfather) and William “Bull” Halsey on Wiki while looking up something or another.
Here’s McCain Sr and Junior (the Senator’s dad) at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. McCain Sr. dropped dead four days later.