Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in April, 2009.
Friday, 24
No Boot Camp for Barry Jones
My buddy Barry Jones is a very special Marine. Not that I don't consider all Marines to be special per se, but Barry is the only one I've met personally that claims the title without benefit of boot camp. I've had some of my unlettered brethren tell me it's impossible but I regularly refer them to the history of the Corps during the Korean War or provide a lecture that runs something like this.
The United States Marine Corps was fighting for its very existence in the demobilization and drawdown period following World War II under extreme pressure from sister services who wanted the Corps' bodies and budget. Adding to the threat of extinction were certain axe-wielding members of Congress and a short, feisty guy from Missouri in the White House who believed the Marines were irrelevant for the atomic age ushered in by the war-ending strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The heated arguments became moot when North Korea invaded its neighbors to the south in June 1950 and President Truman ordered U.S. troops into the fray. None of America's standing military outfits - all at low post-war strengths and mostly enjoying hedonistic garrison lifestyles, especially in the Far East -were ready for a combat call-up on short, unexpected notice.
The Army sobered up some soldiers on occupation duty in Japan and dispatched them to the Korean peninsula where the North Koreans had forced the rag-tag Republic of Korea (ROK) forces into an ever-tightening noose around the southern port city of Pusan. The soldiers did the best they could to establish what became known as the infamous Pusan Perimeter, barely keeping the raging enemy hordes at bay. They needed help and they needed it in a hurry. General Douglas MacArthur, El Supremo in the post-war Far East and de facto warlord for the Korean situation, was a fan of Marines based on his experience with them in the Pacific campaigns of WW II. He demanded a Marine Brigade be sent on the double to shore up the sagging defenses at Pusan and begin a planned northward push to recapture the South Korean capitol at Seoul. The Corps promptly began a mad scramble at posts and stations everywhere to find enough Marines to populate the brigade, realizing that it was now or never if they intended to pull the fat out of the fire and stay in business.
Now back to my buddy Barry Jones who had graduated from high school around this time in his home state of Pennsylvania. He found gainful employment a little hard to come by what with all the returning WW II vets re-claiming their jobs and thought he might do something to delay starvation by joining the Marine Corps Reserve unit in his hometown. So, there he was in the summer of 1950, trying to learn which end of the rifle launches the bullet, and waiting for his turn to head for boot camp where he would be transformed into a Real Marine through the tender ministrations of Drill Instructors at Parris Island. And then - as they taught me to say in OCS - the defecation hit the oscillation.
Wearing a set of recycled dungarees and wondering what he'd done to deserve this, Barry was packed up and shipped off to Camp Pendleton with his fellow reservists as part of a Corps-wide mobilization. They arrived in southern California to find a cobbled together fire brigade of dazed Marines stuffing gear and people into ships bound for the Far East. Barry felt certain he'd be offered a course of solid instruction by veterans but the situation was chaotic at Camp Pendleton with press gangs of NCOs descending on all commands to shanghai Marines and turn them into riflemen regardless of their specialties. Barry says he mostly just ran around trying to avoid working parties and sneaking into combat training events on the off chance he might learn something useful before he had to board one of those ships and head for Korea.
When the situation at Pusan stabilized somewhat after the arrival of the Marine Brigade and some very hard fighting through the humid Korean summer, the turbulence on the Camp Pendleton end of the replacement pipeline stabilized a bit and Private Jones thought maybe they'd ship him down the road to San Diego for his boot camp experience. The Corps had no time to waste on basics for guys like Barry who were already in place and under arms. MacArthur was hard at work planning a counter-offensive and a very risky amphibious assault to re-take Seoul through the port of Inchon. Barry was pushed and pummeled through an advanced infantry course under the tutelage of recalled WW II combat vets and became a light machine gunner. Before he had a chance to put very many rounds through his M1919A4 .30 caliber weapon across the ranges of Camp Pendleton, he was assigned to a replacement company and boarded a ship for the trip to Korea.
The chilly winds of winter were beginning to blow down from Manchuria across Korea when Barry arrived and was assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, Seventh Marines. His unit was headed north across the 38th parallel as part of MacArthur's ambitious push to build on his success at Inchon and the recapture of Seoul. Not that anyone bothered to tell Barry about it, but the plan was to push all the way to the Yalu River, taking the North Korean capitol at Pyongyang and ending the Korean "Police Action" in an allied victory. The battered and bruised veterans of Fox Company were happy to get replacements but a little dubious about guys who joined their ranks without having been to boot camp, the common denominator among all enlisted Marines. Barry Jones, boy machinegunner, was going to have to prove himself.
There were more than enough opportunities to do that on the march north with the 1st Marine Division headed for the Chosin Reservoir and a brutal, record-setting winter roaring into Korea. Barry fought all the way through that campaign, including the astounding stand made by his company on Fox Hill which guarded the road between Yudam-ni and Koto-ri and kept it open during the infamous withdrawal from the Chosin under intense pressure to communist Chinese forces that had entered the war a few weeks earlier. He endured some of the most horrendous battlefield conditions in military history during the Chosin campaign and took part in some of the most brutal combat ever experienced by American Marines. Barry Jones came out of that fight a bona fide member of the elite Chosen Few, bloody but unbowed with severe frost-bite in his fingers and toes.
Despite the hardships and heavy casualties, Barry Jones and most of the 1st Marine Division survived the Chosin Reservoir campaign and I thank my lucky stars for that. Korea vets, many of them Chosin survivors, taught me the little things about combat that kept me alive in Vietnam. That's the legacy of the Corps and it's one of the things that forges the tight connection between me and my friend Barry Jones.
Barry left the Corps physically after Korea but the Marine spirit is always with him and it's obvious to everyone he meets. It was partially that spirit that kept him alive and made him a successful detective during a long career with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. And it's that spirit that reassures me Barry will survive and prosper after the heart surgery he's just endured. He's a tough guy, true friend, hardened warrior and a fine Marine. But he still hasn't been to boot camp.

Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 4:33 PM / Category:General News
Monday, 13
Bravo Zulu U.S. Navy!
Last week I had my course corrected by a Navy Chief Petty Officer. It was not the first time such a thing happened in my semi-gloss military career, but this instance was unusual for a number of reasons. The Chief didn't call me a dumb-ass knuckle-dragger and he didn't threaten to heave me over the side to keep my presence in the Marine Corps from screwing up his Navy. And the Chief - there was absolutely nothing petty about this guy - contacted me through the Warriors website to let me know he was a big supporter of our avowed agenda of shining some positive light on the military in the popular media.
What the Chief wanted me to know and what he urged me not to forget in my regular dealings with films, TV, radio and all the other faucets for public consumption was that there is a whole hell of a lot more going on in our military community around the world than what we see or hear about the folks serving in The Sandbox or The Stan. It's been my experience that Chief Petty Officers are rarely wrong about anything and my correspondent serving with Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (JTF-HOA) certainly had a valid point.
For the past several years, the brilliant - often brutal - light of media attention has been focused on events in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's understandable. It's also unfair and a benchmark that tells us the mantra of those hard-headed editors, news directors and screenwriters regarding military stories attends: If it bleeds it leads. If it's a matter of routine service and sacrifice, it disappears into a wormhole. The Chief's point was that while the frenetic, hard-living soldiers and Marines continue rolling into and out of the two major war zones and creating a whole new generation of American combat veterans, their counterparts - mainly sailors and airmen - serving elsewhere around the world are just as dedicated and just as heroic but grossly under-appreciated.
Duly chagrined by the Chief's comments, I was trying to figure out how I might help when a gaggle of piss-ant pirates in The Big Eye Oh screwed the pooch and solved the problem. With the pirate attack on the U.S. flagged merchant vessel Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia and the kidnapping of her gallant skipper, the United States Navy roared from backwater swabbies to the heroes of the high seas in a four-day military operation that is destined to be a TV movie just as soon as some producer can secure the rights to the story of Captain Richard Phillips' ordeal. And that's as it should be.
Details of exactly what happened with the SEALS and sailors of CTF-151 are still dribbling out of 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, but one thing is crystal clear: Facing the fortitude and courage of American merchant seamen plus the power and expertise of the U.S. Navy, the Somali pirates never had a chance in hell of adding the Maersk Alabama to their roster of captured merchant vessels. Nor did they have even a remote shot at collecting the $2 million in ransom they were demanding for Captain Phillips' safe return to friendly hands.
For the record, the four scrawny, weapon-wielding thugs who boarded the container ship some 300 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia never had control of the vessel. The civilian sailors fended them off with fire hoses and steering maneuvers for hours before they even got aboard Maersk Alabama. And when they finally managed to haul themselves and their weapons up onto the decks, they met resolute resistance that resulted in the pirate chieftain being captured and a twelve hour stand-off. The message sent to the pirates was both clear and shocking given the success they'd enjoyed in similar high seas hijackings: You people picked a fight with the American bull and now you're about to get the horn.
To prevent harm to his crew holding out weaponless against the armed pirates, Captain Phillips offered himself as a hostage and got the pirates to leave his ship in a small lifeboat. That's when the U.S. Navy steamed into the tactical picture and a tense chess game on the Indian Ocean began in earnest. The shocked pirates were now pawns and the king calling the shots was Commander Frank Castellano, commanding the USS Bainbridge, a guided missile destroyer crewed by highly-competent and motivated sailors. Before long he was reinforced with SEAL snipers and a flotilla of warships including the USS Gettysburg, the USS Halyburton and the USS Boxer, flagship of CTF-151. If it wasn't clear to the pirates bobbing around in the lifeboat that they were engaged in a losing effort when they got their butts kicked off the Maersk Alabama, facing those warships steaming in intimidating circles clarified the situation.
As the on-scene commander, Castellano enjoyed the full trust and confidence of his superiors from the White House to the 5th Fleet. There was no need to call the President or check with his superiors. Standing orders gave him both the responsibility and the authority to act as he saw fit and get Captain Philips safely rescued. There was a period of milling around while FBI hostage negotiators tried to coach their way around the concept that America's policy is that we don't negotiate with terrorists, but the end was in sight. Commander Castellano knew it. His sailors and SEALS who were war-gaming the situation from every conceivable angle knew it. And by Easter Sunday, the pirates knew the game had just about played out to their detriment.
With the lifeboat in tow at the end of about thirty meters of hawser off the fantail of the Bainbridge and the hog-tied Captain Phillips warned to take cover at the first shot, snipers aboard the Bainbridge got a solid sighting of all three pirates and caressed their triggers. Game over in seconds with a final score of pirates minus three and the U.S. Navy plus one very happy merchant captain. The remaining pirate in the quartet of dumb-asses involved in the initial attack was already aboard Bainbridge when the kill shots on his buddies were taken. He'd seen the light earlier in the day and requested to be taken aboard the destroyer for treatment of the boo-boo he got in the fight with the Maersk Alabama's crew.
That's lucky for him and his luck just might hold as the haggling over his legal status and trial disposition begins and the lawyers leap into the fray. He could face life in prison if convicted which would mean that his luck was still running because three hots and a prison cot would be a whole lot better than what he had back in Somalia. He'll be lawyered up to his ears in a couple of days but I believe there's only one question here. When we conduct the public hanging, do we drop him over the side and snap his neck or pull him up to a yardarm and let him slowly strangle?
But that's another movie. Right now our Navy - and by extension our merchant mariners - are deservedly basking in the glow of positive publicity. I guess I won't have to bang the drum for those guys here in Hollywood but I sure hope I get hired to work on the movie. Well done, Navy. Bravo Zulu, and you folks make me even more proud to wear an anchor on my emblems.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 5:07 PM / Category:General News
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