Know Your WW2 History: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

The Heroic Tin Can Sailors Held Off the Japanese Saving Thousands of Lives in WWII


When asked about great naval WW2 books I always tell people The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors by by James D. Hornfscher is in my top 5.

It’s an amazing story of heroism and never say die grit in war.

Never give up until the last round is fired and even then, if you have propulsion and steering, prepare for ramming speed!

As a general rule, anything Hornfischer writes is worth your money, whether it be Neptune’s Inferno or The Fleet at Flood Tide, which I just recently finished.

In Memoriam: Capt. Dale “Snort Snodgrass




Great article about a military naval aviation Pioneer who put the F-14 Tomcat on the map forever.

Read a touching tribute about his death on July 24th, 2021 HERE.


Cold War “What If” History: The World War III Naval Battle of A U.S. Iowa Class Battleship vs Russia’s Battelcruiser



It’s 1988. World War Three has begun, with the armies of the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact pouring over the Inter-German Border. Their destination: the Rhine River and beyond, dealing NATO a knockout blow that will end the war.

Meanwhile at sea, an equally titanic battle is about to take place. A Soviet Kirov-class battlecruiser, attempting to intercept a U.S. Navy carrier battle group, is intercepted by the battleship USS Iowa. The biggest ship-against-ship battle since the World War Two is about to begin. Who wins?

Built in the late 1980s, the Kirov-class battlecruisers were designed—like much of the Soviet navy at the time—to neutralize American carrier battle groups during warfare. American aircraft carriers were a threat to not only the Soviet mainland but also Moscow’s nuclear missile submarines, and were to be taken out as quickly as possible. A secondary mission of the Kirov class was as commerce raider, designed to cut the flow of American and Canadian ground reinforcements to the battleground in Europe.

The Kirov class were the largest surface warships built since the end of World War II. Each displaced twenty-four thousand tons and measured 826 feet long—nearly as long as an aircraft carrier. Nuclear powered, they could cruise indefinitely at speeds of up to thirty-two knots.

The purpose of the battlecruisers was to attack, and they were well suited for the task. Each carried twenty enormous P-700 Granit antiship missiles. Each, a Granit missile weighed more than fifteen thousand pounds. This was enough to include 1,653-pound high explosive warhead, enough fuel to give it a range of three hundred miles at Mach 2.5, and a both inertial and active radar guidance. Initial targeting data would be provided by the space-based Legenda satellite targeting system, shore-based aircraft, shipboard helicopters or the battlecruiser itself.

Granit was unique among Cold War–era antiship missiles in having an early networking capability. One missile per salvo rises higher than the rest, providing radar targeting information to the rest of the missiles though a network. If that missile was shot down, another would rise to take its place.

The Kirov cruisers were also designed to be self sufficient in anti-air weapons, the overall armament forming a layered defense system. Each carried 96 S-300F long-range surface to air missiles, a naval adaptation of the land-based S-300 system. The ships also carried 192 3K95 short-range surface-to-air missiles based on the Tor, and forty 4K33 missiles based on the Osa. As a last resort, the ships had six AK-630 close-in weapon systems equipped with thirty-millimeter gatling guns.

Read the Remainder at National Interest

Military Naval History: The Naval Battle That Set The Stage for World War II

Russo-Jap War

Throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, the Russian and Japanese empires had been engaged in a political struggle over who would dominate northeast Asia. In a decisive naval battle at the Tsushima Strait in 1905, Japan would be the dominant power in Manchuria and Korea until its defeat in World War II and set back Russia’s far eastern ambitions for decades.

Japan had been rapidly modernizing since the Meiji Restoration of 1868 ushered in a generation of reforms, and was more and more exerting its influence as a Pacific power. Russia had been expanding its footprint across central and eastern Asia, and warm water ports in China were vital to this vision. Both desired Korea and Manchuria as colonial buffer zones between the two empires, but defining those zones grew so intractable that war became inevitable.

A key point of the dispute was the strategic Russian-controlled Port Arthur in Manchuria, the only major Russian naval base on the Pacific outside of Vladivostok farther north, and unlike Vladivostok was warm water and could be used year round. When war broke out in 1904, a large Japanese army attacking out of Korea besieged and after suffering terrible casualties seized the port. Most of the Russian Pacific fleet was bottled up at Port Arthur after their defeat in the Battle of the Yellow Sea and was destroyed as well, and Russian forces were forced to retreat northward.

While the battle for Port Arthur was still raging, Tsar Nicholas II had ordered a large force from his Baltic fleet to the Pacific to help break the siege. Designated the Second Pacific Squadron under Admiral Rozhestvensky and composed of 11 battleships and numerous cruisers and destroyers, on paper, it was a formidable force. In reality, many of its ships were older vessels and badly maintained by ill-trained crews. The incredibly long voyage of over 18,000 nautical miles would only add to these problems.

Setting sail on Oct. 15, 1904, the voyage was off to an inauspicious start in the North Sea when rumours of Japanese torpedo boats in the area led to panicky crews firing on British shipping, sparking a diplomatic incident. Denied the use of the Suez Canal by the British, the fleet was forced to sail around the Horn of Africa, and it was not until April 14, 1905, that the fleet reached Cam Rahn Bay in Indochina. Port Arthur, the original target of the expedition had fallen on Jan. 2, and the fleet set sail instead to Vladivostok to refit for a counterattack.

Read the Remainder at Business Insider

Military History: The Barbary Wars and the USMC


By John Farnam

George Washington, even before he was president, lobbied heavily for a full-time, standing, Federal Army. In 1792, a distrustful Congress gave him and his successors, instead, the Uniform Militia Act, which involuntarily inducts every able-bodied male, in all states, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, into his State’s “Militia,” which can be subsequently “Federalized” under certain emergency circumstances. There is provision for neither arming nor equipping this Militia, and each of its inductees is therefore expected to present himself for duty, when called, armed with personally-owned, military weapons. It is indeed this “Militia” that was referenced in the Second Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1789) and was herein finally and officially defined by Congress, and that has been endlessly contended ever since, right up to the present.

The “Barbary Pirates” of the late 1700s were actually the “Navy” of Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, and several other North African city/states, descendants of Islamic Moors who had invaded, and subsequently been thrown out of the nominally Christian Iberian Peninsula. They freely and brutally victimized commercial shipping, of all nationalities, as it entered and exited the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. Their favorite tactic was to sweep alongside a vessel and drop a sail over its rail, locking the two ships together. Then, heavily-armed pirates would swarm onto the victim ship, quickly neutralizing resistance. Captives were either murdered on the spot or spent the short remainder of their lives as slaves in African gravel pits. Lucky ones were held, in some semblance of comfort, for ransom. The young American commercial fleet, eager to become involved in world trade, found itself victimized on a regular basis, so much so, that piracy began to cripple the fledgling American economy.

In fact, this African pirates’ seizure tactic so impressed Samuel Nicholas, a prominent and well-connected Philadelphian, that he persuaded the Continental Congress to direct him to raise two battalions of infantry trained to fight aboard ship. These “Soldiers of the Sea” were to man the new fleet of warships being hastily constructed. A popular and notorious local watering hole, Tun Tavern, was selected as an extemporaneous base of operations, and Sam started actively recruiting there on 10 Nov 1775. So long as they were at sea, Congress didn’t consider them a threat. It was the inception of the United Sates Marine Corps, and that date is still celebrated today by all Marines, no matter where we are! Nicholas became the first “Commandant.”

The period in question spanned three administrations: Washington’s, Adams’, and Jefferson’s. All three presidents had their hands full! There was the pressing issue of attacks by British-incited and armed Indians of frontier settlements in the Northwest Territories. In fact, the Revolutionary War with England never really ended until 1818, when Andrew Jackson executed two British nationals in Florida who were inciting local Seminoles. There was also the short-lived “Whisky Rebellion,” and the equally short-lived “Shays’ Rebellion.”  The smart money was not on the USA surviving for long as an independent nation, particularly with its fractured, dyspeptic, chaotic form of government, and a “president” whose powers were poorly defined and endlessly disputed.

In an effort to secure the release of American hostages, held in Algiers since 1785, the Washington Administration, over the objection of Jefferson and many others, unwisely took the expedient route and agreed to pay ransom, in the form of cash and arms, to the current head Algerian warlord/thug (called the “Dey”). As is always the case, the moment you agree to pay extortion (what was called “Dane-Geld” by the British) extortionists everywhere will smell blood, and that is exactly what happened. In fact, as news of this easy score spread, even the French had the audacity to hit us up for a bribe or two!

Accordingly, the “Bashaw” (chief thug) of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli, was not about to be excluded from America’s foolish largess! Karamanli, in his lust for power, murdered one brother and blackballed another. The cheated brother, Hamet, in an effort to reclaim the throne he contended was rightfully his, would become an ally of the United States, albeit briefly. He would be subsequently shamefully betrayed by the young nation he had naively trusted.

 When Jefferson took office in 1801, he had no particular reputation as a fighter, and Karamanli took him for a pushover. It was a poor call on Karamanli’s part! Jefferson decided to blockade Tripoli with every ship he could send. When one, the Philadelphia, ran aground and was captured by Karamanli’s men, a heroic American naval officer, Stephen Decatur, recaptured and burned it. Tripoli was then unmercifully shelled into submission.

 Simultaneously, William Eaton, an American living in Tunis, put together a diverse group of fighters, including eight US Marines under the command of an audacious Virginian, Lt Presley O’Bannon, landed in Egypt, marched undetected over four-hundred miles of desert, and attacked the City of Derna, a suburb of Tripoli (present-day Libya). It was an impossible, unwinnable battle that was won anyway, mostly through shear determination. With Eaton and O’Bannon was Karamanli’s estranged brother, Hamet.

 Upon hearing the news from Derna, the Bashaw was further traumatized and meekly sued for peace. Naive American negotiators, anxious to end the whole affair quickly, made a hash of subsequent discussions and produced a fatally flawed agreement which demanded nearly nothing from the vanquished Bashaw, save the release of the captured Philadelphia’s crew. Hamet never got his throne back, although he had been promised it by Eaton, and, by extension, the United States.

By the time he found out about the bungled agreement, it was too late for Jefferson to change it, and the unsavory stain remained with Jefferson and his administration, tormenting him until his death.

 Hamet was, however, unabashedly grateful to an heroic and unswerving Lt O’Bannon. Upon their parting, he presented O’Bannon with his “Mameluke” sword (the “Mamelukes” were Asian mercenaries, recruited to fight with the Egyptians in their conquest of Palestine in the 1200s). The unique Mameluke hilt is found on the ceremonial sword issued to every US Marine second lieutenant ever since. Mine is among my most prized possessions, as it carries me back to these heroic times!

Lessons: “All this by mighty deeds is done. All this by patient hearts is born. And, they by whom the laurel’s won are seldom they by whom it’s worn”

 Great victories are won by mighty warriors through superiority of will and superiority of purpose, only to be undervalued and frittered away by self-serving politicians who contribute nothing but gas!

Even now, freedom-loving multitudes everywhere, straining under the bonds of local tyranny, hesitate to throw in with the United States, because we have abandoned so many brave allies, starting with a trusting Hamet Karamanli, shamefully selling them down the river, all for political expediency, the most contemptible of all unworthy motives.

Be Sure and Read More of John Farnam’s Quips and Stories at Defense Training International