The military supply system is stupid and messed up. Everything has a stock number and a description. They frequently don’t make sense. For example, a flyswatter is referred to as “Exterminator, Insect, Manual.” When I was a new E-4, I was forced into the role of Supply Petty Officer for the workcenter by the E-4 who was previously the most junior. He was glad to be rid of the job. I was soon to understand why.

On July 1, 1941, a requisition was submitted for 150 rolls of toilet paper by an officer aboard the submarine USS Skipjack (SS-184). As the boat patrolled the Pacific, the requested item never arrived. In March 1942, Lieutenant Commander James Coe took command of the Skipjack. As Coe settled into his new role, he learned of the missing toilet paper. On June 19, Coe received a canceled invoice for 150 rolls of toilet paper. The request was the original from July 1941 and was stamped “canceled-cannot identify.” Coe wrote a response that is famous within the Navy today.

1. This vessel submitted a requisition for 150 rolls of toilet paper on July 30, 1941, to USS HOLLAND. The material was ordered by HOLLAND from the Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, for delivery to USS Skipjack.

2. The Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island, on November 26, 1941, cancelled Mare Island Invoice No. 272836 with the stamped notation “Cancelled—cannot identify.” This cancelled invoice was received by Skipjack on June 10, 1942.

3. During the 11 1/2 months elapsing from the time of ordering the toilet paper and the present date, the Skipjack personnel, despite their best efforts to await delivery of subject material, have been unable to wait on numerous occasions, and the situation is now quite acute, especially during depth charge attack by the “back-stabbers.”

4. Enclosure (2) is a sample of the desired material provided for the information of the Supply Officer, Navy Yard, Mare Island. The Commanding Officer, USS Skipjack cannot help but wonder what is being used in Mare Island in place of this unidentifiable material, once well known to this command.

5. Skipjack personnel during this period have become accustomed to use of “ersatz,” i.e., the vast amount of incoming non-essential paper work, and in so doing feel that the wish of the Bureau of Ships for the reduction of paper work is being complied with, thus effectively killing two birds with one stone.

6. It is believed by this command that the stamped notation “cannot identify” was possible error, and that this is simply a case of shortage of strategic war material, the Skipjack probably being low on the priority list.

7. In order to cooperate in our war effort at a small local sacrifice, the Skipjack desires no further action be taken until the end of the current war, which has created a situation aptly described as “war is hell.”

J.W. Coe

Coe’s letter caused quite a stir and was circulated throughout the fleet. When the Skipjack returned to Australia after her patrol, she was greeted by quite a sight. The pier was stacked seven feet high with boxes of toilet paper instead of the usual crates of fresh fruit and ice cream. Toilet paper streamers decorated the dock, and a band greeted the boat wearing toilet paper neckties and toilet paper flying out of trumpets and horns. The men of the Skipjack would not have to do without toilet paper again, as they were greeted upon every return with cartons of the precious paper.

Back to my story: we had an upcoming deployment, and I had to order supplies to get us through the first six months. I was told to order some superglue and some wooden handled cotton swabs. I looked them up, and the superglue was listed as “adhesive, cyanoacrylate” with a unit of issue of CS (meaning case) and a unit cost of $1.44. The cotton swabs were listed as “applicator, cotton tip, wood handle” with a unit of issue of BG (bag) and a cost of $0.29. No mention in either case of how many were in a case or a bag. At the time, the military was known to be paying $400 for a hammer, so I had to guess.

I guessed that there were at most 2 tubes of superglue per case, and ordered 12 units of superglue, and that there were at most 10 swabs per bag, so I ordered 100 bags of them. What it turned out was that there were 144 tubes of glue per case, and 100 swabs per bag. I wound up with 1,700 tubes of superglue and 10,000 cotton swabs. This mistake was legendary. I caught shit about it for the entire deployment.

When I passed the job on to the newly promoted guy a few months later, I was evil about it. We sent him down to supply to get a can of eh-eye-arr. He came back to supply with a bottle marked “Air, room temperature.” He got the best of me.

Paper Tiger

These are US Marines.

I joined the military shortly after Reagan took office. I heard stories about the Carter years: how officers couldn’t go into enlisted quarters without escorts, for fear of violence. Enlisted openly using cocaine in berthing areas. Our military was effectively useless.

This looks every bit as bad as those Carter years.

Man Overboard

My Memorial day post on the loss of an airman reminded me of the procedures when a man went overboard. Navy ships drill for man overboard at least once a week while they are at sea. The drill goes like this:

An officer throws a mannequin dressed as a sailor into the sea. That mannequin is named “Oscar,” after the flag that is flown from a ship’s mast when they have a man overboard.

There is a watch on the rear end of the ship, called the fantail watch. On aircraft carriers, there are two sailors assigned to this watch 24/7, one one each side of the ship’s rearmost point. They are wearing headsets attached to the lookout circuit. The fantail watch sees what appears to be a sailor in the water, and tosses a smoke float into the water to mark the position of the man in the water. He also calls “man in the water, (starboard/port) fantail” over the lookout circuit. The phone watch on the bridge hears this and notifies the Officer of the Deck (OOD). The OOD immediately orders three long blasts from the ship’s horn, orders the bosun of the watch to sound “man overboard” over the ship’s announcing system (1MC) and stops the ship by reversing the engines. Once it is below a certain speed, the ship will turn around and return to the location of the smoke float (if operations and conditions permit). The navigation crew uses as position tracker called a DRT (dead reckoning tracker) to coordinate the search. (This system uses inputs from the ship’s gyro to track its location. The advantage of the DRT over GPS is that the DRT can’t be jammed.)

The announcing of “man overboard” on the 1MC causes a few automatic actions. The signal bridge will hoist the above-mentioned oscar flag. The rest of the crew begins a face to face muster. There is a phone tree setup, where each crew member reports his location to a superior, who then calls their respective Division office. The division office calls the department office, who calls the bridge with a list of missing sailors. All 6,000 members of the crew must be accounted for in less than 20 minutes. Ten minutes after the initial “man overboard” call, the names of any sailors who remain unaccounted for are called over the announcing system until everyone is accounted for, or until the names of missing sailors are known. In a drill, the training team will randomly grab a couple of sailors just before the drill starts and hold them incommunicado, to make sure that they are reported as missing as a check to make sure divisions aren’t fudging the muster.

Another thing that happens is the ship launches a helicopter if possible, or a small boat if flight operations aren’t possible. The boat or helo has a rescue swimmer in it whose job is to grab the sailor.

Once the rescuers arrive near the man in the water, another smoke float is tossed in the water near him. This is in case they lose sight of him for some reason (waves, weather, darkness). They then deploy the swimmer to pull him from the water.

We used to lose 3 to 5 guys over the side in any given year. Most of the time we would find them, sometimes we wouldn’t. During the six years I was in, I remember two or three that we never found. The one referred to on Memorial day was one of them. I remember one time, we had a helicopter crash where an entire CH-46 Sea Knight went into the water, complete with aircrew. I saw that one happen. Luckily, we rescued the entire crew. That’s a story for another time.

It’s the one I was issued

When I joined the Navy, I was an idealistic young man who joined for patriotism, and not college money. It was a time when so many were joining because they wanted the GI bill. Not me, I declined it. I wanted to serve.

The military and the way that it works taught me more about life, government, and country than I ever bargained for. You get used to hearing things like: “We don’t care about your family. If the Navy wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one.”

One of the worst things that happened to me while I was in was an indirect result of the Navy’s beneficial suggestion program. This was a program where a sailor who saw waste, fraud, abuse, or a way that the Navy could save money, could make a report to the chain of command. If the Navy adopted your suggestion and saved money, the sailor making the suggestion would get a percentage of the savings.

In 1989, there was an explosion on the USS Iowa. In the case of the Iowa battleships, there was a flaw in the firing system. The silk making up the 50 pound bags that the gunpowder comes in were famous for leaving embers behind in the chamber of the 16 inch guns. Ramming them into the breech too quickly while those embers were still there was a recipe for explosions. They had been known to cause mishaps in those guns for decades.

However, those cannons were a huge PR point for the Navy, providing tons of photo ops and bragging rights for recruiting commercials. So when the Iowa had an explosion, instead of blaming a faulty process in a 50 year old weapons system and hurting their recruiting tool, they blamed a sailor who they alleged was a jilted gay lover.

The Tailhook scandal broke in 1991. It was such a huge deal that they made everyone in the Navy take sexual sensitivity training. Officers were exempt, which was ironic, since every person involved in the Tailhook scandal was an officer.

Back to the beneficial suggestion program. So the Navy had light fixtures that lit up the runways. These light fixtures were low voltage, with a transformer that stepped the power for that fixture from 120 volts down to 12 volts. The light fixtures would often fill with water, and this would short out the transformer, overheating it. The overheated transformer would then catch fire. I submitted a suggestion with a redesign of the circuit.

I was told that the command could authorize an award of up to $500, and my idea would get me more than that. It was so valuable that they were sending it to Atlantic Fleet command. A month later, I asked the Lieutenant what had happened to my idea, and he told me that LantFleet could only authorize an award of $5,000, and this was worth more than that. They were sending it to Navy Sea Systems, where my award could be as much as a million bucks. Wow!

A year later, we went into the shipyards for a 6 month long repair cycle. While we were in there, I helped the yard workers incorporate my changes into the ship’s runway lighting circuits. I asked why we were performing this change, and where my reward was. They said, “what reward? This was the lieutenant’s idea.” The lieutenant that I had brought my idea to wound up getting a sizeable reward from the beneficial suggestion program.

By the time I got out, I was often heard to say, “Oh, you don’t like my attitude? It’s the one I was issued.” I left the Navy wiser, more cynical, and less trusting of government than I was when I entered as the idealistic, patriotic believer that I was when I entered. I was still patriotic, but I had discovered that my government and the people who worked in it were not.


In 2021, this was an example of the soldiers that they were protecting the Capitol with:

This is now the soldiers that are in the Army today:

What is our military good for? Shows of force to keep the regime in power by frightening the population into subservience?

US is Unreliable Ally

The US has a history of being an unreliable ally. Just ask Afghanistan. Or Vietnam. So it’s no surprise that South Korea is having some doubts about the commitment that the US has made to defend them. So when Biden announces that US nuclear armed submarines will be docking in South Korea is a sign that the US will extend its nuclear umbrella to that country, I’m sure they are taking it with a HUGE grain of salt.

It’s the same reason why the Philippines says that US bases in their nation can’t be used for offensive operations.

Triad? No. Spear? Maybe

It has long been said that the US has a “nuclear triad” made up of nuclear weapons that could be delivered by three different means- bombers, ground based missiles, and submarine launched missiles. Is that even accurate any longer? The short answer is no, it isn’t.

Our ground based bombers are no longer available as a part of the triad. Sure, we still have deliverable warheads, but there is no alert force, no SIOP, and no organized plan for delivering them. In fact, the US only has 66 nuclear capable strategic bombers remaining in our inventory. The B-1 bomber used to be able to deliver nuclear weapons. Nope. Not anymore. The B-52 can, but those bombers are older than the grandfathers of the pilots who now fly them. The B-2 Spirit can, but there are only a handful of those. At best, we could drop a few weapons, but the truth is that there just isn’t a way to deliver enough warheads by bombers to make that a credible deterrent. Don’t believe me, ask the Air Force, who has said:

You’re going to need more aviators, you’re going to need more Security Forces [personnel],  more maintainers … more bombers … infrastructure improvements at the [alert] facilities, and you’re going to need more tankers.

What about the Air Force’s ground based ICBMs? You mean the LGM-30 that was designed with a 10 year lifespan, but has been in service for over 50 years? The Minuteman III began development in 1964 and entered service in 1970 with a force of 550 missiles. There are 440 of them left, and 400 of them are on alert. The missiles originally carried a total of 1,500 warheads- most had three warheads each. As of June 16, 2014, on Obama’s orders, the U.S. Minuteman III missiles have only a single warhead. Now they carry only 400- a 75% reduction in deliverable warheads by this leg of the triad.

What about from the sea? When I was in the Navy, we had the capability to launch nuclear strikes from aircraft carriers. That capability was completely taken from the Navy by George HW Bush. That capability is gone, and cannot be replaced. The training and knowledge was lost when we eliminated the personnel whose job it was to make that happen.

The Navy also had the ability to use Tomahawk cruise missiles to deliver nuclear warheads. That’s gone as well.

Then there are the much advertised SLBMs. There are 18 of the Ohio class submarines, but 4 of them have been rendered incapable of carrying SLBMs, leaving 14 nuclear capable submarines in the Navy. Scheduling means that only 4 of them are on station at any given time, for a total of 80 SLBMs on alert at any given moment. As for the missiles themselves, they can carry up to 14 warheads each, but in practice they each carry four warheads, on average. So the Navy can deliver 320 warheads at any given time.

In total, adding them up, the US is capable of delivering less than 750 warheads in response to an enemy surprise attack. In October of 2022, US intelligence estimated that the Chinese had 450 land based ICBMs. They also estimate that the Chinese will have more than 1500 warheads by 2035.

Ate Too Many Crayons

You would think that a guy running for Sec State would be able to read COTUS. Instead, he relies on “I was a Marine, so I am a Constitutional Law Expert”

It’s almost like he hasn’t read the Heller decision.