Between a week of 100 degree summer temperatures curbing use of the mobile station and a week of being down with a sinus infection, I didn’t have very many radio/monitoring days in August. As a result, the logs for the month aren’t very extensive. Instead of putting out a short Military Monitoring Recap and Mode-S log, I’ll combine August and September for one post at the beginning of October. The combined post will probably be out a bit late because I’m scheduled to be out of town at the time and the post scheduling will depend on when I get the chance to put everything together.
As I mentioned above, I was sick for the last week and it kept me from writing and putting together a couple of posts. Over the next few days I’ll be trying to get them posted and then move on to trying to put together an end of the IndyCar season post; IndyCar’s season ended Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway in California, capping off a very interesting season of racing in that series. Anyway, here’s what you can look for over the next couple of days:
- Photos from my 26 August trip to Harris Neck NWR before I got sick
- A follow up on the tagged alligator at the Savannah NWR
So many histories of the Battle of Midway consider the US Navy lucky in defeating the Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Historian and author Craig L. Symonds, in The Battle of Midway (Pivotal Moments in American History), argues that luck wasn’t the primary factor in the US victory at Midway. In the process of showing that there was more than just luck involved Symonds shows how the US and Japanese navies came to be in their respective positions, debunks a myth, and casts a shadow on an American carrier aviation hero. He also shows how the Battle of Midway was a pivotal moment in World War II, shaping how the rest of the Pacific War would pan out.
“Certainly chance – or luck – played a role at Midway, but the outcome of the battle was primarily the result of decisions made and actions taken by individuals who found themselves at the nexus of history at a decisive moment. In short, the Battle of Midway is best explained and understood by focusing on the people involved.”
Symonds argues that “the Battle of Midway is best explained by focusing on the people involved.” He does this by focusing on the command staff of the American and Japanese fleets including Nimitz, Fletcher, Spruance, Mitscher, Yammamoto, Nagumo, and others. He develops the personalities of these leaders before the battle because their personalities played into their decision making. He also looks at how cultural differences between the Americans and Japanese played into their decision making. Additionally, he explores the Pacific War from prior to the war up to the battle itself to show how the fleets came to be in the strategic and tacitical positions they were in and how those positions would effect decision making in the battle to come. By focusing on the individuals involved and the path to the battle, Symonds set not only the stage for the battle but the pieces to be involved.
Once he comes to the battle itself, Symonds manages strike an excellent balance between being detailed and capturing the attention of the reader. He goes into great detail about the classes of the ships and the types of planes involved. He also explores the decisions made on both the fleet staff level, ship/air group level, and even down to the squadron level. He gives a blow by blow account of the air strikes on both sides, sometimes down to the level of individual planes and crews. In doing so, he tells how the strikes were either successes or failures and explains why. It isn’t difficult to to lose the attention of the reader, especially one that isn’t a military or naval history anorak, when getting into such detail but Symonds did so while still engaging the reader and keeping things interesting.
The Battle of Midway also explores the role of something that, as an amateur radio operator and radio hobbyist, is close to my heart: Communications Intelligence. COMINT played a key role in the Battle of Midway and in some circles a myth has grown up that US Navy code breakers were able to provide the fleet with an order of battle and battle plans that enabled a US victory. Symonds demonstrates that while the code breakers and analysts made a significant contribution to victory they most certainly did not provide a full order of battle and set of battle plans that gave the US fleet leadership a key to certain victory at Midway.
Admiral Marc Mitscher became a hero of American carrier aviation later in World War II via his exploits with the Fast Carrier Task Force but this book casts somewhat of a shadow on Mitscher’s actions at Midway while in command of the USS Hornet. Of the three US Navy carriers involved in the battle, Hornet contributed the least as Symonds shows in his account of the battle. The Hornet’s squadrons performed poorly due to leadership problems and the after action reports attempted to cover it up. Symonds explores the Hornets actions and attempts to explain what, in the absence of any after actions reports other than Mitschers, may have happened and why. He also confronts the issue of how Admiral Fletcher was moved aside and Admiral Mitscher moved on to further combat command. Personally, I would like to think that Mitscher took Midway as a learning experience in combat command and applied what he learned toward future successes such as the Marianas Turkey Shoot.
“None of this detracts from the crucial contributions of the code breakers, but it does remind us that the subsequent decisions made by the commanders on the scene were more complex and open-ended than might otherwise be assumed. The Battle of Midway was not won by the code breakers alone but by the analysts, the decision makers who trusted them, and finally by the men who drive the ships, manned the guns, and flew the planes at the point of contact. Certainly there is enough glory for all of them.”
Symonds makes clear that that while COMINT played a significant role in victory, it was not the key in victory. He shows that decision making was the key role, not just decisions made by American leadership but Japanese leadership as well. He shows that the decisions to made weren’t always easy. Sometimes the code breakers and analysts put leadership in the position of making informed decisions but not always. There were times when the decision making process was complex and made with incomplete information and this is often where cultural differences and strategic considerations affected tactical decision making. He also gives credit to the men who carried out the plans of the decision makers with the bravery and determination to push the attacks home despite the destruction of entire squadrons (VT-8 for example).
Finally he describes how Midway was a pivotal battle. Through the almost complete destruction of the Japanese Navy’s striking force, the US Navy didn’t just balance the scales in the Pacific after 6 months of Japanese domination, they tilted the sales in American favor. The Japanese lost four aircraft carriers and squadrons of planes and pilots. They were never able to recover from that loss; the US had the industrial capacity and manpower reserves to replace what they would lose not only at Midway but in the hard slog across the Pacific to come, the Japanese did not. While they were able to make the US pay a heavy price for victory in the Pacific, the Japanese would never be able to stem the tide of the American advance.
While secondary sources were used in writing The Battle of Midway, Symonds made heavy use of both oral histories and interviews in research for the book. No doubt the use of those primary sources helped him explore the role of communications intelligence and tell the detailed story of the carrier strikes in the battle. Simply put this book is well researched and Symonds presents the results of that research in a very interesting, very engaging, and very readable form. Not only that, I consider it a very balanced look at the battle. Symonds grinds no axes, shows no allegiances toward any particular personalities, and points out mistakes where they are made regardless of who made them. If you are a student of World War II or Naval history I strongly recommend this book.
I recently received a query from Lew, N4CO in Beaufort about F-35 frequencies and since it was something I’ve been thinking about lately, I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post. For those that aren’t familiar, the USMC training squadron for the F-35B, VMFAT-501 is in the process of moving to MCAS Beaufort from Eglin AFB. They currently only have a few of the F-35Bs at MCAS Beaufort but as the year goes by, those numbers will increase until all 20 of the squadrons aircraft are at Beaufort. Because not all of the squadron’s aircraft are at Beaufort yet there hasn’t been heavy activity from the squadron, making it hard to pick up any squadron frequencies. As a result, I can only pass on one frequency that I’ve heard in use; the rest of it is potential frequencies from a pool of those used by squadrons previously based at MCAS Beaufort.
In order to catch the F-35Bs, the first thing you need to know is what callsign they’re using. I’ve caught them a few times going back and forth between Beaufort for demonstrations before they started the move. At that point, they were using the callsign SWEDE. I suspect it will remain the same during and after the move. There are three types of frequencies to listen to in order to catch the F-35Bs. The first group is the air traffic control frequencies that they’ll when going back and forth between the Air Station and the training areas. The second set of frequencies is the training area frequencies. Third are the squadron’s Base and air-to-air frequencies. The first two sets are already known but the third set of frequencies will be found through searching while the jets are in the air. There is one exception for the third set – during flights back and forth between Elgin and Beaufort, I’ve heard them use 289.950; whether that frequency will be used now that they’re based at Beaufort remains to be seen.
- 342.675 – Tower
- 328.425 – Beaufort Approach/Departure
- 292.125 – Beaufort Approach/Departure
Training Area Frequencies
- 284.500 – SEALORD North Primary
- 313.700 – SEALORD North Secondary
- 349.800 – W-157 Discrete
- 376.900 – W-157 Discrete
- 385.300 – W-157 Discrete
- 228.400 – Townsend Range
- 252.900 – Townsend Range
As I mentioned above, for the most part all I can do is speculate for squadron frequencies other one air-to-air frequency that’s been heard prior to the move. That doesn’t mean that it will be used after the move but it’s worth listening out for. The rest of the frequencies below have been used by squadrons formerly based at MCAS Beaufort or previously used by other squadrons based at Beaufort.
Potential Base Frequencies
Potential Air-to-Air Frequencies
- 289.950 – heard used by VMFAT-501 prior to move to MCAS Beaufort
I hope these help Lew and others that are and will be listening out for the F-35s. Since the VMFAT-501 is the Fleet Replacement Squadron, I expect heavy activity from them once their fully established at Beaufort which means it shouldn’t take long to search out their squadron frequencies. I’m excited that the F-35 FRS is going to be based at Beaufort and look forward to being able to listen to them as the Marine Corps works up their new aircraft!
Review: Blackett’s War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Blackett’s War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare by Stephen Budiansky. If you’re expecting a history of the Manhattan Project or the story of scientists developing weapons systems, you’re in for a surprise. It is a very different history of World War II than many you’ll read; it concentrates on the science and scientists that changed how militaries looked at things during the war and changed military thought and science to this day. Budiansky concentrates on Patrick Blackett but also includes the contributions of other scientists; in doing so, he tells the story not just of how these scientists helped the Allies win the war but began a new type of science: Operational Research.
“As director of the antisubmarine analysis effort for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy during World War II, Blackett not only helped win that battle, and the war, but in doing so founded the new science of operational research; it has been an indispensable part of military training and planning ever since, a revolution in the application of science to the art of warfare.”
Budiansky first develops Patrick Blackett as a character, describing his World War I service in World War I and his subsequent development as a scientist before going into how he contributed to the development of a revolution in military thought. He describes how Blackett’s experiences and education made him the perfect person to be at the forefront of development of Operational Research. It wasn’t easy to convince the military to accept the suggestions of scientists who weren’t trained in the art of war; you have to think that Blackett’s prior military experience helped him get a foot in the door and get the Admirals, Generals, and politicians to listen. Scientists had always had a role in inventing and developing the tools of war but because of Blackett, scientists and mathematicians of various backgrounds were brought in to study things that they themselves had no background in; with no axes to grind they transformed the Art of War in to the Science of War. They began to have input into not just the development of weapons, but how those weapons were used through the application of the scientific method.
“The traditional military view was that the scientists’ role was to develop “weapons and gadgets,” hand them over, and that was that. But now scientists were intimately involved in what previously had been the exclusive purview of military commanders: the running of operations.”
As mentioned above, it wasn’t easy and Budiansky describes the struggle the scientists had being accepted in both the UK and in the US. We learn about successes and failures and we learn about which military political leaders and political leaders picked up on the advantages the scientists offered and which ones resisted the move toward Operational Research. One of the successes for the scientists was the Battle of the Atlantic. Naval leadership accepted their suggestions and the scientists were able to develop ways of using existing weapons systems and methods, from depth charge patterns to the convoy system, more effectively. On the other hand, the scientists never really were able to break through to air force leadership and convince them of the inefficiency and futility of area bombing cities. When it came to the submarine and bombing wars, I found this quote from Blackett’s War not only an interesting one but one that many don’t consider when looking back at World War II:
“It was the final irony of the modern industrialized slaughter of the Second World War that the two fronts about which so much romantic and heroic nonsense would be spilled were the most barbaric and pitiless, for the men who fought upon them and their victims alike.”
Blackett’s War was a fascinating, five star read. I enjoyed the way the personalities of Blackett and the other scientists were developed, the glimpse into the science world between the world wars, and the explanation of how science and critical thinking changed the way war was waged. It really is a fresh take on World War II history and perhaps that’s what I enjoyed most. If you’ve grown tired of normal military histories, give this book a try. Likewise if you’re into science – and even if you’re not a fan of military history – this could be a book for you. While writing this review, I have come to think that this book would make an excellent documentary; perhaps The History Channel or Discovery Channel could curtail their slides into the Reality TV universe to make some enlightening TV.
Those that keep up with the Mode-S feed from my RadarBox may have noticed that it hasn’t been 24/7 lately. This is due to a problem with the broadband internet at home. For some reason, the broadband has been intermittent to non-existent from around 2200/2300 local to 0600/0700 local. With no internet access, of course, the data doesn’t feed from the RadarBox to Live Military Mode-S or FlightRadar 24. The provider has so far been unable to locate the cause of the nighttime disruptions but they are working to identify it and I hope things will be back to normal soon. I apologize for any inconvenience.