Doesn’t take a Genius. . . . As a self proclaimed military historian, no doubt you can guess what today’s blog will discuss. This is “Pearl Harbor” day, the day which lives in Infamy, and one that we should never forget. What we have to remember is that December 7th, 1941, is more than just an historical event or collection of facts in a dusty old book, it is even more than just the event that launched us into World War II, and thus changed our world completely. This event, aside from September 11, 2001, is one of the most seminal events in American History, because it took our nation from a blissful childhood to a very tough adulthood. So, what is the real lesson to take from these events? It should serve as a reminder of how a national mind set, coupled with complacency, can lead to disaster. The concept that “it can’t happen here,” or “it won’t happen to us,” looms large over most disasters of this kind. When this type of even takes place, we will argue it was just “intelligence failures” or that someone “missed the clues” and that is what led to the event. While much of this is true, the more fundamental question to me has always been, WHY did they miss those clues? Why were there failures? My study leads me to believe that most often those failures are based on faulty premises or assumptions. Pearl Harbor is the most studied and actually, the most classic of those failures, as are the assumptions made leading into the event. In 1940 and 1941, the commanders in the field, as well as some in Washington, missed the clues because of their entrenched thinking, and the assumptions that came from that thinking. We are all guilty of this type of thought, since we seldom feel comfortable asking the tough “what if” or “why” questions. In short, we hate stepping outside our “mental box.” Pearl Harbor is that perfect example because, everyone “knew” that the fleet at Pearl Harbor, prior to December 7, 1941, was so strong that only an idiot would dare approach the Island for an attack. Everyone “knew” that with so many ethnic Japanese on the Island, the real threat was from sabotage. Everyone “knew” that the real combat threat was either in the Philippines or in Malaya, and most certainly, not in our own back yard. (We had oceans to protect us!) We also “knew” that the Japanese just didn’t have the temerity to come that far to attack something, when there were too many targets closer to their home. Finally, we just “knew” that the Imperial Japanese Navy, didn’t have enough combat capability to attack several places at once, much less a place like Pearl Harbor while still going after the Philippines or Malaya. Some would claim that this was racial or racist thinking, and I’m sure with some it would be true; however, the leadership indisputably did not hold a racist view. Instead, to their credit, they all knew that the enemy was capable of reaching Oahu, and capable of a raid that could come from the air. The most chilling evidence of this was the Martin-Bellinger report that predicted the type of raid in their “worst case” scenario. Unfortunately, the senior officers in place discounted capability, and started chasing the probability. In 1941, throughout our military, the question of probability won the analysis battle, hence the “surprise” when it actually happened. Herein lies one of the most common and fundamental errors in military intelligence. The give and take or tension between capability and probability. The questions boil down to: “Can they?” “Will they?” Some argue that the job of Intelligence agencies is to report the facts, in some Dragnet fashion, while others state that the “best guess” should accompany this information. The examples of this battle can be seen in other events. Another good example didn’t happen in our country, but instead, in Israel. The Yom Kippur War for Israel was a “surprise,” even though some intelligence officials had identified that the “capability” indicated that it was very plausible that something was “up” and they were about to be attacked. The leadership of that intelligence sat on it, since he didn’t think it probable, at least until he had it confirmed by “his” source. Needless to say, he was wrong, his staff was right, and it became a very near thing for all involved. As we reflect on today, and the history it represents, let us also reflect on the inside the box thinking we use to analyze the world around us. Let us face it, and then look at it closely from a different perspective. Can we prevent another Pearl Harbor, or 9-11, with 100% surety? Probably not, but we can do our best to try, and we can achieve better results if we start questioning our “pre-conceived notions.” To me, the need to think outside our mental box is the real lesson from Pearl Harbor. ~ Michael S. Pauley
On December 3, 2013, it was announced that deep sea researchers discovered the wreckage of the scuttled Imperial Japanese Navy’s submarine, I-400. At the close of World War II, several Japanese submarines were captured, studied, and then scuttled to keep their technology out of the hands of our “Cold War” enemies. What made the I-400 unique is that she revolutionized the thinking behind submarine warfare and design. Prior to the end of the War, submarines were thought of as a means of destroying enemy shipping, or maybe the insertion of commandos or air sea rescue vessels. They were also used for scouting the enemy, and for the resupply of forces that were cut off in places like Bataan or Corregidor, P.I. They were not thought about as a means of projecting offensive power around the globe, except in the sense that they could help cut off supply lines by sinking freighters. The I-400 changed that line of thought, and now it was “game on” to see where this would lead. The I-400 was unique because her design, coming in right at 400 feet long, was essentially an attempt to project the Japanese power to the mainland of the United States via the use of an undersea “aircraft carrier.” The I-400 was built with a water tight hanger deck, capable of carrying up to three amphibious aircraft (with folding wings). These aircraft were each capable of carrying an 1,800 lb. bomb, and since the I-400 could carry enough fuel to reach just about anywhere in the world, she was probably the very first of the “ballistic” submarines. Imagine the terror it could have wrought had she been sent against our West Coast at the right time or place. While it doesn’t sound like much, just three enemy aircraft winging their way into San Francisco, Seattle, or Los Angeles, in later 1944, would have been extremely damaging to the morale of an already war-weary nation. Couple this with the notion that not just I-400 existed, but apparently there were at least four more of these things, then the numbers become less of an annoyance and perhaps more of a strategic issue. What makes the I-400 special is that from her, we can see the evolution of the submarine as a global strategic weapon system. Complete with watertight hangers, now called missile compartments, and sufficient fuel to circumnavigate the world. Now that the I-400 has surfaced, (please pardon the pun), the history she brings with her is invaluable. ~ Michael S. Pauley
Cue the banjo music, and strike up the guitar. Today, we’re going to talk about the Dueling ADIZ game that is being played over the South China Sea. First of all, what is an ADIZ? Well, it technically is a definition regarding the use and control of airspace. The Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, is a chunk of airspace. You can’t see it, unless it is marked on a map, but you will enter an ADIZ only with permission of the nation that has so designated that area. Here in the United States, we have an ADIZ that extends out over our oceans, and any air traffic inside that area has to be identified. This was a large component of our air defense during the Cold War, since an unidentified aircraft wandering into the ADIZ was considered a threat. Against that background, we have the current “Dueling” ADIZ declarations by several countries with claims in the South China Sea. The Chinese started this latest bout, and now the South Koreans, and Japan appear to be jumping onto the band wagon. Why does this matter? These particular ADIZ declarations all extend over the same portion of the South China Sea, around the Spratly and other small Islands, that control fishing grounds and possible mineral deposits. In other words, economics are driving this train. Minds far greater than mine have provided tons of analysis on all this, but it is interesting to observe how the old “Cold War” tactics are rearing their heads again in this part of the world. While various nations, to include us, have flown through the new Chinese ADIZ since it was declared, the potential for danger is high right now. If continued, it is possible that three or even up to five nations, will declare this same airspace as part of their own ADIZ. Now imagine the commercial airliner that wanders through this airspace. Will someone shoot it down, or will the airline have to get permission from up to five different nations to transit? This is an interesting thing to observe, but the danger is quite real if allowed to get out of hand. ~ Michael S. Pauley
November is now in our “temporal rear view mirror,” and we look forward to the holiday season really kicking into high gear. Chanukah is already happening, having started several days ago on Thanksgiving, it is now several days into the experience. Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, and the “Festivus for the Rest of Us” are all right around the corner. Then, once that dust settles, we can look forward to New Years, where two things will be certain. One, the IRS is licking their chops wanting you to hurry up and pay before April 15th; and two, the football season is winding down towards the final grunt before the “playoffs” leading to the Super Bowl, or depending on your preference, the BCS season to wrap it up. For everyone now faced with the hard choices of who to root for, take heart, you have one other hurdle to cross first. This hurdle comes every year at this time, and as you face this problem, you have my absolute best wishes for success. What is this hurdle? Well, now you are in the process of figuring out what is the right present for each of your loved ones, many of whom are hard to buy for, since they usually already have everything they need. This is a challenge for anyone, and I get that more than most, since my family has a lot of those folks that have what they need or want. My lovely bride is one of those people for whom it is very tough to pick the right gift. Her being tight lipped about things makes it a further challenge. So, believe me, I get it. Now, I could be a real “snake oil” salesman, and hawk my book as the perfect gift, but I won’t. Unless of course you would like a copy, in which case, please feel free to click on that link. There should be enough days left to allow for delivery before your holiday of choice. Instead, I will just say that I’m wishing you all luck. Now what to get my wife? Hmmmm, I know, I’ll get her my book! ~ Michael S. Pauley
Michael S. Pauley is a Navy brat and an old soldier who served in all three components of the United States Army. Living in Lexington, South Carolina, Michael is now a practicing attorney and member of the United States Naval Institute and the American Legion, Post 154, Tybee Island, Georgia.