Sunday, August 4, 2013

Semper Paratus

Have been on the ocean lately doing some salmon fishing and I am once again impressed by the Coast Guard.  They were out there as well, but were assisting mariners especially the dumber ones among us (and the drunken ones).  The Coasties I see up here in Washington State put their lives on the line every day and night and not just in time of war.  This goes not only for the helo pilots with their famous rescue swimmers, but also the crews on the little 25 and 40 foot boats that ply the heavy surf along the rocky shores and treacherous river bars.  It seems like once a week or more there is a press article in northwest newspapers chronicling another rescue especially during fierce winter storms in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.  Looking back on my 22 years in the military, the majority of that service was safe and sane.  Even during two and a half tours in a combat zone I can count the times I was in serious danger on the fingers of one hand.  Not so with the Coasties.

And there were tens of thousands of CG involved in wartime also.  Book below is a great read:

In WW2 without enough destroyers to go around the CG was taken from the treasury department and went to war with the Navy.  Their cutters ran north Atlantic convoy duty, their cutters and aircraft patrolled the shipping lanes for U-boats and made some kills.  They organized and commanded the Coastal Pickets (aka the Hooligan Navy) of trawlers and yachtsmen.  They crewed many of the LSTs in the Pacific as well as the landings in North Africa and Europe.  And notably they crewed many of the small LCVPs (aka Higgins Boats) against defended beaches.  The Navy had a lot of trouble teaching their seaman how to operate small boats in heavy surf and strong inshore rip currents.  Coast Guard coxswains had been doing it for years, it was a natural for them.  Douglas Munro won the Medal of Honor for his action at the 2nd battle of Matanikau on Guadalcanal where he helped rescue a hundred or more Marines and Chesty Pullers crusty old a$$. 

They are going to name the new CG Headquarters building after him.  Too bad though that they have to give up their current HQ on Buzzard's Point.  But a tenth rated pro soccer team, DC United, has big eyes for that area for their new stadium.  Hmmm, has Congress again shown their venal side?  Or is the move solely to get them closer to their new Homeland Security bosses?

Today, August 4th, was the Coast Guard anniversary.  They started as a revenue service in 1790.  Most American shipmasters and owners of that era had learned the trade of smuggling against the British crown and were loath to pay the new duties imposed by Congress. 


  1. One thing that I always thought when I thought of the USCG was that whereas the "rest of us" spent all our time practicing they had real work to do 24/7, and an enemy - the sea - that was more relentless and often more powerful than any human foe.

    I've told my kiddo that if he really wants to go into a uniformed service to be smarter than his old man and choose the Coast Guard.

  2. I just went sailing on a twenty one foot keel boat here in Taiwan. We made about forty klicks in six hours. I was on the verge of getting seasick the whole time. Sloppy winds and for me a lot of rolling and pitching. I had to lie down on the deck to keep my stomach from churning. I couldn't fathom (forgive the pun) going downstairs to a bunk. I can't imagine having to work in a galley or engine room in rough seas. Those guys are truly special, at least in the stomach compartment!


  3. Chief - Yeah, the Coast Guard has a full plate of work in peacetime. In addition to Search and Rescue they also have the missions of:
    - drug interdiction
    - coastal security
    - harbor, port and waterway security
    - economic zone safekeeping(>four million sq mi)
    - enforcement of international fishery agreements
    - icebreakers
    - environmental protection
    - migrant interdiction
    - marine safety
    - aids to navigation

    Plus don't they still need to maintain a National Defense readiness posture in the case of navalization (is that a word?).

  4. James:

    Hope you weren't sailing south of Taiwan in the Luzon Strait. I read somewhere that the Taiwanese and Filippino fishermen were shooting at each other.

  5. Mike,

    We were in the Taiwan straight to the West. There are overlapping zones between Taiwan and the PI. to the SE. It was a PI Coast Guard unit that shot at a Taiwanese fishing boat, killing the captain. Sometime in the next month or so it should be resolved. Taiwan is demanding compensation and an apology and we will see what the PI comes up with.

    Everyone (China, Japan, Taiwan, VietNam) is squabbling over islets(Spratleys, Paracels, Dia yotus) that will give them natural resource rights. I see the Japanese have launched a "destroyer" with a large flight deck called the Izumo. Looks like it could support VTOL jets. The PI is moving naval units to Subic to be closer to the areas of contention. It could get interesting in a bad way in the near future.

    If the seas were that rough to the relatively protected west I don't want to go into the unprotected East. I'd definitely get sick!


  6. James -

    Protected? Not sure about that. Heavy choppy seas are notorious in straits, especially in shallow ones. Yes, deep ocean swells are bigger but they are a lot gentler. Not so much pounding.

    Regarding that Japanese destroyer with the large flight dek: Another James -James Holmes- of the Naval Diplomat blog notes that China is building their own aircraft carrier. This is in addition to the former 'Varyag' carrier they bought from the Russians a while back:

    New Chinese Carrier Link

    He also has an earlier article on the brand new Chinese Coast Guard:

    China's Coast Guard Link

  7. A very busy and noble organization to be sure.

    And all those TV and Hollywood movie appearances! I saw most of that Kevin Costner movie.

    Watching it made me seasick. :)



  9. So far as I know, Mike, the USCG still has a "big war" mission, presumably similar to the one it had in WW2; convoy escort, patrol, and ASW duties.

    Here's the short description from the Wiki entry on "missions of the USCG": During wartime, by order of the President, the Coast Guard can fall under the operational orders of the Department of the Navy. In other times, Coast Guard Port Security Units are often sent overseas to guard the security of ports and other assets. The Coast Guard also jointly staffs the U.S. Navy's Naval Coastal Warfare Groups and Squadrons (the latter of which were known as Harbor Defense Commands until late-2004) which oversee defense efforts in foreign littoral combat and inshore areas.

    In 2002, the Coast Guard provided several 110-foot (34 m) Patrol boats that were shipped to the Persian Gulf to conduct maritime interception operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These ships became the core of a new unit, home ported in Bahrain, known as Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA). In addition to the patrol boats, PATFORSWA serves as the supporting unit for other Coast Guard units deployed in the Global War on Terrorism. Numerous Port Security Units, Harbor Defense Commands/NCW Squadrons and Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) from the elite Tactical Law Enforcement Teams (TACLETs) have also been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    So, yes.

  10. Mike,

    I will defer to your wisdom on channel/straits and the open sea. It seems, however, wherever you go around Taiwan there are nasty sea conditions. On the east side of the island the sea floor drops abruptly to more than a thousand meters. Strong currents and rapidly building waves upon the shore.

    I do some diving around the southern tip and it can be a maelstrom of converging currents and tides. One moment you are diving in southern Taiwan and three hours later you are on the east coast on an express current to Japan! People die every year as you would expect. Never the less I believe if you live on an island you must spend some time in the sea. I am going to have my daughter take some sailing lessons (in a lake, mind you).

    Below is a link to the Izumo. It is supposed to carry 16 helicopters but I think F-35 VTOL look viable. I guess it depends on what the deck is made of. Can it stand up to the extreme heat?

    I'm not to good at linking so if you can't use this link google Japan Izumo. Odd how they use American music in the video.


  11. So now we have China deploying a refurbished Soviet Era aircraft carrier and Japan deploying a British style short landing deck Destroyer. The Taiwanese have two Laffayette destroyers and I believe two Perry class destroyers. Taiwan also has two guppy class submarines from world war two. They use them for training but don't dare take them underwater as they are older than grandpa. No-one will upgrade their(our) submarine fleet.

    If you recall in the early Bush years, we had a spyplane intercepted which had to land in Hainan, China. That plane was spying on Sovremney class Russian built destroyers armed with Sun Fire surface to surface missiles sailing in the PR China's navy. These missiles can take out an American Carrier.

    Viet Nam and the PI have weak military assets and so after many years are inviting the US fleet back to their respective bases in Cam Rhan Bay and Subic.

    Any of you strategists have insights?


  12. BasilBeast,

    I read the perfect storm by Junger(?) and then saw the movie with Clooney. The next day my cousin wanted to go fishing in Santa Barbara. I deferred. I know. I am a P*ssy.

    Chief, Count me as jaded using the coast guard to patrol far off shores. They should be used in the USA. We have more than enough coast for them to guard! Remember when McCain wanted to send them to Georgia?

    One last thing Mike. Thanks for posting a relatively innocuous post. It's a relief to come to site and not have it go red hot through provocation. I'd love to hear Pf Khans, Publius' and Seydlitz thoughts on the maritime build up in the south China Sea.


  13. Love the Coast Guard. Had a couple of high school friends join and they hopped between Alaska and the Caribbean, which are the two Coastie-heavy areas. Have also worked with them in my reserve unit - we do overwater rescues when they can't (which is pretty rare, maybe 1-2 a year.)

    And yes, they are overseas along with customs and border patrol.


  14. James -

    No wisdom on my part. My comment was based on some words from an old salt over 40 years ago. Maybe he was feeding me BS or maybe my memory fades. And I never sailed Taiwan so I will take you as the expert there.

    On the Izumo link, yes the music is odd. 'Anchors Away!!! You think they played that at the actual ceremony or was it added later when posted to YouTube?

  15. basil -

    Innocuous!!! Must come with old age. I just thought they, the Coasties, rated an 'attaboy' here. Not that they read this blog or give a rats a$$ about what we say here.

    But if my blandness disturbed you then in next months posting I can make an effort to be offensive and write more of a 'black powder' diatribe instead of a 'powder puff' piece.

    Or maybe not. Chief can do marvels with provocative postings and he gets your attention no matter which side you are on. He has the knack. When I try I just pi$$ everybody off.

    1. Not my fault!, mike.

      That's James addressing me and making the "innocuous" remark. :D

      And James, I've not read the book nor seen "PS" in its entirety. I saw the last part, the sinking and the aftermath, and bits in the middle.

      Made me mad, in addition to sad.

      More than any other US armed force, the USCG performs more police work, and like land police forces, get some strange duties or strange stories attached to them.

      Ghost Ship

      Sea Monsters





      Congressional ScumBags!!


  16. Hell, Mike, you're being too sensitive. There's nothing in Basil's post that's not complimentary. And God knows the USCG deserves credit.

  17. Mike,

    Maybe misreading whom my reply was to comes with old age! I replied to Basil Beast and at the bottom paid you what I thought was a compliment. You thought Basil said you were innocuously posting when it was I!

    Referring to an old salt's words from forty years ago counts as wisdom in my book. I just read the local rags here and you were proven right regarding sea conditions.. Two died last week in the waters off Southern Taiwan and two more are missing. One got sucked out in a rip current while swimming at a beach and died and a fishing boat capsized just out of Kaohsiung where I went sailing. One died there and two crew are missing. A rescue boat went out and that capsized as well. Yikes.

    The PI/Taiwan imbroglio is coming to a resolution soon. The PI will charge the coastie with homicide, NOT murder which the Taiwanese wanted. There will also be an official coming to Taiwan to apologize. It remains to be seen if it will be a representative of the government which is what the Taiwanese are holding out for.


  18. As for reading the rags I also saw that the PI has bought a ship from France to bolster their defense. These countries are arming up. There was also an article referring to a Code of Conduct to resolve these issues but China is deferring as they reckon their build up will determine things.

    It is nice to come and make some comments without your ears tingling with anticipation of getting flamed. Ask Chief about that when he went in to RAW about some media thing. I've done that many times and it is entertaining but sometimes it's just nice to discuss things.


    Ps. Anchors Away! I knew I recognized that song. Just couldn't put my finger on it.

  19. James & Basil: Consider me contrite for mixing you two up.

    James - As that old salt explained to me, when waves travel from the deep towards the shallows they get higher and the distance from wave to wave gets shorter (meaning choppier?). This effect can be compounded in straits especially shallow ones. Not sure why that is true: nozzle effect maybe? tidal race due to constriction? competing offshore winds from the land on both sides of the strait? These are guesses on my part. And it may not apply to the Formosa Strait as it is over a 100 miles wide.

    Basil - thanks for the links. The money quote in the Bloomberg article seems to me to be the average age of 43 years for the Coast Guards high endurance cutters. Seems to me the Coast Guard should get a bigger budget for their port security duties to do upgraded inspections on all those oil tankers coming in from the mideast.

  20. James -

    Here is another blog post on the Izumo. Seems this ship was unveiled on the anniversary of the Enola Gay dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. So is the message for the Chinese, or for us?

    Izumo Link

    I note also that the Japanese have ordered the land based 'A' version of the F-35 and not the 'B' STOVL version or the 'C' Carrier version. But their SH-60 helos which they use now for ASW can be potent surface ship killers as well.

  21. Mike,

    How does that work? Period and amplitude, Frequency? I learned this stuff twenty five years ago so have forgotten alot. "Nozzle affect" could be Brunellis first equation. We need Chief to give the simple explanation. It's the same for all waves weather through air land or water. What was that machine I used so many years ago? An oscilloscope?

    In any event after my day of sailing we had a picnic in the harbour of fish balls, whole boiled squid (yeach) and eggs wrapped in a Taiwanese tortilla. I would have preferred Fresh bread, olive oil, wine and something grilled.

    Nice people but not my choice of food.


  22. James -

    I will pass on the fish , but fish sticks with mac and cheese is considered living high on the hog by the grandkids and me. And when you are eating that Taiwanese squid think 'Calamari' as it brings top dollar here in stateside restaurants. What are Taiwanese tortillas, how are they different from the TexMex variety?

    Brunelli, is that Bernoulli?? As I recall we called it the Venturi Effect: '...a fluid's velocity must increase as it passes through a constriction...'. But that has more to do with current and tidal race rather than wave amplitude and period. But I guess it might increase wave power.

    But as I said above I am not sure if it applies to the Formosa Strait.

  23. ...pass on the fish balls... is what I meant to say. I do love grilled or smoked salmon or steelhead.

  24. Mike,

    I like my calamari sliced and beer battered with fries. Not boiled whole with the eyes still looking at you! Though I DO like them barbecued whole on a stick with sesame seeds. You are right on Bernoulli. Though I was never that good at science I enjoyed it and really liked the stories about the scientists behind these great concepts.

    I especially liked Tycho Brahe who lost the tip of his nose in a duel over who was correct in spat over math! He had various prosthetics made from copper or silver for special occasions. He died some say by feasting and not getting up to urinate as that would be bad form. Others say he was poisoned,

    There was another guy, whose name slips my mind at the moment who pioneered integrals as he thought the local wine merchant was ripping him off selling him casks of wine. He was instrumental in using integrals to figure out volume. Leibniz? I know it wasn't Newton.

    Chinese tortillas are made of flour with chives mixed into the dough and then fried on a hot plate. Sort of like a pratha but with no eggs. Quite good and sometimes referred to as Chinese pizza. Being from California I am corn tortilla guy myself.


  25. James -

    Squid on a stick sounds like something you would get from a street vendor. Or do you barbecue your own over a beach bonfire?

    Yes, Liebniz. I dug out my old calculus textbook. He along with Gauss, Pascal, DesCartes, and Newton are on the cover. All were savants and I understand Leibniz's early basis in mathematics was self taught. And interestingly for you perhaps because of your location, he was noted as an admirer of Confucianism and also studied the Taoist classic 'I Ching'.

  26. Leibniz was also the first Western scientist to write about the Chinese game Weiqi (Go in Japan), in 1710, and to ponder the math behind games generally (though Pascal and Fermat preceded him on probability theory, as applied to gambling!).

  27. Mike,

    Squid on a stick is street food round about here. Not bad.

    Brian, I didn't realize these early western scientists studied eastern game theory. There is always something to learn! How did that knowledge transfer from from East to West? The dates don't seem to add up. Please enlighten me.


  28. Thanks Brian, fascinating!

    James - By the time Leibniz was born, Jesuit missionaries had been in China for at least a hundred years.

    BTW that squid on a stick sounds like something the Coasties would bbq up during their annual beach bash. There are a few Taiwanese restaurants in Seattle. Next time I visit my granddaughter up there I am going to try one and see if the have that delicacy.

  29. Not exactly Coast Guard, but Coast Guardy