Operation Anaconda: Victory and Defeat in Afghanistan, March 2002

 

Operation Anaconda: Victory and Defeat in Afghanistan, March 2002

Operation Anaconda was the largest NATO combat operation since the Bosnian War of 1992-5, and the most complex Special Operations Forces (SOF) mission the United States has ever engaged in, dwarfing smaller but more high profile events such as the Battle for Tora Bora in December 2001 or the Battle of Mogadishu during Operation Gothic Serpent in October 1993.

Defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan would be a hugely complicated multi-domain operation conducted by Central Command (CENTCOM) the American military’s Unified Command responsible for the Middle East. What became known as Operation Enduring Freedom began only days after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the first component of which – involving CIA cash injections and Special Forces deployments – was codenamed Jawbreaker.

A pinprick in the now 19 year long war in Afghanistan, Operation Anaconda, 2 – 19 March 2002, was nevertheless the largest operation of the initial phase of the war. Today the operation has the reputation of a debacle, the result of flawed planning and joint cooperation.[1] Donald Wright, on the other hand, described Anaconda as “an overall success” and General Tommy Franks stated in his memoirs that the operation resulted in “winning a decisive battle”.[2]

 

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10th Mountain Division soldiers in the Shahi Khot valley, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

The two week-long battle for control of the Shahi Khot valley was the point at which, in the military sense, the coalition won the war in Afghanistan. The CIA had correctly identified a major enemy stronghold, and almost the entirety of the coalition forces in Afghanistan were employed to destroy it, demonstrating that not only American SOF and Special Forces, but also multinational conventional forces, could engage and destroy hardened al Qaida fighters on their home ground. The battle was the culmination of an operational concept meant to correct the errors of Tora Bora, by denying the mujahideen in the Shahi Khot the ability to escape.[3]

This post provides the background to Operation Enduring Freedom, and the essential battle narrative of Operation Anaconda, to give the reader the information needed to decide for themselves if the battle, and the war in Afghanistan, had by the end of March 2002 been a success or failure.

 

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Ethnicities map of Afghanistan, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War, (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010) & 1997 Ethnolinguistic map

 

Background: Enduring Freedom

The goal of Operation Enduring Freedom was to liberate Afghanistan, a mountainous Texas-sized country bordering on Iran, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Reflecting the multi-faceted nature of the Global War on Terror, a key objective of Operation Enduring Freedom would be to defeat and destroy al Qaida terrorists inside the country. Operational planning for the invasion began in the weeks immediately following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, and commenced with the insertion of the first CIA and SOCOM guerillas under codename Jawbreaker on 19 September, the day Bush later chose to designate as the beginning of combat operations in Afghanistan. The president had authorized CIA action against terrorists world-wide, beginning with Afghanistan, two days prior.[4]

 

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Pashtun belt and ring road, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

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1972 economic map of Afghanistan, showing the largely pastoral and agrarian nature of the country, textiles representing the only major industrial activity

 

The operation that developed was in fact a showcase of the new military concept of “transformation” that was a key goal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. On 20 September during a Pentagon press briefing, Rumsfeld told reporters that the campaign “we’re engaged in is very, very different from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Bosnia…”.[5] On 4 October President Bush announced humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, stating in his remarks that, “this is a unique type or war. It’s a war that is going to require building a broad coalition of nations who will contribute, one way or the other, to make sure that we all win.”[6] On 1 November National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice reinforced these sentiments, stating, “this may be one year, it may be several years, it may be more than one administration…. This is going to take some time.”[7]

 

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President Bush speaking to Chief of Staff Andy Card and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, 12 September 2001,photograph by Eric Draper  & President George W. Bush in the Oval Office with Vice President Dick Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, 20 September 2001

 

On 7 October under the CENTCOM leadership of General Tommy Franks, Operation Enduring Freedom officially commenced. Within a matter of days there were 110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces operators in country.[8] On 17 October President Bush told the assembled USAF air personnel at Travis Air Force Base, California, that, “you’re among the first to be deployed in America’s new war against terror and against evil, and I want you to know, America is proud – proud of your deeds, proud of your talents, proud of your service to our country.”[9] By 19 November Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was praising the special operators in Afghanistan, noting that just the day before, the coalition had flown 138 combat sorties and air dropped 39,240 daily rations.[10]

 

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20 September 2001, USAF stages assets for Operation Enduring Freedom, Washington Post archive

 

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), USAF General Richard B. Myers and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld giving a press conference on 9 October 2001., TSGT Jim Varhegyi collection. As early as 18 September Rumsfeld had stated that the War on Terror would require that the US “drain the swamp” the terrorists lived in, referring to the countries harbouring them, and that this effort would require “a distinctly different approach from any war that we have fought before.” On 7 October Rumsfeld and Meyers briefed the press at the Pentagon, announcing air and missile strikes against the Taliban, attacks by 15 bombers (including B2 stealth bombers), 25 naval aircraft, and 50 tomahawk missiles fired from USN and Royal Navy ships and submarines.

 

Airbases

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Coalition airbases at the outset of Operation Enduring Freedom, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War, & 7 October 2001, RAF, RN and USN, USAF airstrikes wipe out Afghanistan’s air defences.

 

Within sixty days the most immediate stages of the mission were complete: both Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, and its second largest city, Kandahar, had fallen to the US-led NATO coalition and the Afghan Northern Alliance (United Front), their fast moving teams of 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) green berets utilizing the coalition’s fearsome airpower to pulverize any opposition.[11] The combination of air support, air supply, and special forces on a large scale enabled a string of victories that effectively put the coalition in control of Afghanistan, and made possible Hamid Karzai’s elevation to head of the interim government, formalized by the UN’s Bonn Agreement of 5 December 2001.

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

18 October 2001, C-17A Globemasters launch from Naval Air Stations (NAS) Sigonella, Italy, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Staff Sergeant Ken Bergmann, USAF collection

 

Karzai was soon inaugurated as Chairman of the interim Governing Council, and just short of three years to the day later he was inaugurated as President under the newly promulgated Afghan constitution.[12] Parliamentary elections were at that time scheduled for the spring of 2005. On 7 November 2001 National Security Advisor Dr. Rice stated, “we are trying very hard to send the message this can’t be a made-in-America solution. This is something that the Afghans themselves are going to have to take on. And I think we are agnostic as to the form that takes… I think we will leave [it] at this point to the UN and to the members of the Afghan community who are trying to get it done.”[13] When Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Bagram Air Base on 16 December and met with President Karzai, one of the interim chairman’s aides applauded Rumsfeld’s approach: “The United States has done very well so far… The (American servicemen) who serve with our forces know our culture and respect it… You (are) doing this right,” said the aide favourably of the American effort, in contrast to the heavy-handed Soviet invasion of 1979.[14]

 

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Hamid Karzai posing with ODA 574, one of the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) teams that acted as the spearhead for the Northern Alliance, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks taking questions during a Pentagon press briefing, 15 November 2001 & on 6 December Rumsfeld reiterated that the Taliban and al Qaida leadership would be brought to justice.

 

Tora Bora

On 13 November, as the Northern Alliance approached Kabul, the remaining Taliban forces, including bin Laden with the other al Qaida leadership, withdrew with between 700, 1,500 or possibly as many as 3,000 fighters, to Jalalabad, fifty miles from the Pakistan border, and then to their stronghold cave complex in Nangarhar province, the location of Tora Bora in the White Mountains that overlooked the Khyber Pass gateway into Pakistan.[15]

Battle of Tora Bora

Battle of Tora Bora, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War. Unlike the initial two months when 5th SFG green berets had taken charge, the assault on bin Laden’s compound was primarily a JSOC operation.

 

The Taliban had long been supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), who had used Kunduz in the north as a base for training fighters inside Afghanistan. But with the Taliban on the run the Pakistani forces in Afghanistan made a quick departure and President Musharraf promised to work with the coalition to secure the border, although how seriously he took this request is certainly debatable.[16] Musharraf had visited New York on 8 November for the UN General Assembly meeting, where he met with Bush who was grateful for the diplomatic efforts Musharraf had undertaken with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. Bush gave his UN address on 10 November, describing the terrorist attacks on September 11 in graphic Straussian terms, a Huntingtonesque international tragedy with the potential to culminate in Tom Clancy-like sum of all fears WMD attack, and demanding justice for the attacks.[17]

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

HMMWVS deploying “at a forward operating location” from C-17, 20 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection & Navy SEALs disembarking from an MC-130E Combat Talon, 16th Special Operations Wing, 22 November 2001, TSGT Scott Reed.

In evidence of the United States’ resolve Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) attempted to infiltrate and capture bin Laden at Tora Bora.[18] This was the largest offensive of the war so far, with NATO and the Northern Alliance successfully clearing Tora Bora between 6 and 17 December.[19] This time the attack was spearheaded by Task Force Dagger, the Delta Force element, and the newly arrived Task Force K-Bar, Navy SEALs and 3rd SFG.[20] These SOCOM forces would enable three Afghan warlords of various competency, Hazarat Ali, Haji Zaman Gamsharik, and Hajji Zahir, to mass and deploy 2,000 fighters, combined with JSOC’s 40 Delta operators, 14 Green Berets, six CIA operatives (who had knowledge of the caves derived from their efforts aiding the mujahideen against the Soviets),[21] a handful of Air Force controllers, and 12 British SBS commandos.

 

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

2,000 lb Mk84 bombs converted to Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), loaded aboard the rotary launcher on a B-1B Lancer, 5 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Larry A. Simmons collection. & MV MAJ. Bernard F. Fisher unloading JDAMs on 26 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Shane Cuomo, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

JDAMs being loaded aboard B-1B bombers from the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing, 13 November 2001 & 28th Air Expeditionary Wing loading JDAMs onto B-52s, 28 November 2001, both from the collection of Staff Sergeant Shane Cuomo.

The coalition dropped 1,110 JDAMs and laser guided bombs (not to mention 15,000 lb daisy cutters) on the mountain caves but, despite the overwhelming firepower, Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mohammed Atef, all escaped by fleeing into Pakistan while Taliban leader Mullah Omar went into hiding in the mountainous south-east of the country.[22] Elsewhere, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed fled into Pakistan until captured in March 2003. General Franks, at the time of Tora Bora, had believed that Pakistan would be more diligent in terms of preventing al Qaida from crossing into its territory, and that the Northern Alliance was more united than was in fact the case.[23] Furthermore, Franks himself was under pressure from the DOD and White House to wrap up the war in Afghanistan and deliver a viable Iraq war plan. Franks’ frustration with pacing had gotten to the point where the CENTCOM commander was contemplating intervening directly above Lt. General Paul Mikolashek of Third Army, who, based at Camp Doha, Kuwait, was ostensibly in charge of operations in Afghanistan.[24]

 

Tora Bora

Villagers watch B-52 strikes on 9 December 2001 during the Battle of Tora Bora (6 – 17 December).

 

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Delta Force AFO coordinator Lt. Colonel Pete Blaber (right) author of The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008), with Major Jim “Jimmy” Reese, at the grave of Ahmed Shah Massoud, assassinated by the Taliban on 9 September 2001.

 

Although the propaganda impact of bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora was immense, the strategic situation had changed little: CENTCOM was moving into Phase IV after the New Year, which meant deploying conventional US Army forces to assist with stability operations.[25] The next phase of operations would require a dramatic expansion in air lift, housing and logistics which Franks knew would impose a serious delay on the tempo of operations.[26] Moving to Phase IV was therefore an extremely difficult and escalatory action that would require several weeks to prepare, involving the deployment of conventional US Army assets from the US 10th Mountain Division (CO, Major General Franklin Hagenbeck), and the 101st Airborne Division.

Major General Hagenbeck and the 10th Mountain’s divisional HQ had arrived at the K2 airbase in Uzbekistan on 12 December, at which point it became the campaign’s Combined Land Component Command (CFLCC), represented by Lt. General Paul Mikolashek, US Third Army.[27] The command situation within Afghanistan was complex, all the cooperation between Special Forces and the Afghan warlords now conducted by Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-N), based at K2, and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-South (CJSOTF-S, CO Captain Robert Harward), established in December 2001 at Kandahar.

 

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

UN Beechcraft B200 flying in to Mazir-e Sharif, 13 December 2001, Staff Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo, USAF collection

 

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Colonel John Mulholland, US Army, CO 5th SFG, and soldiers from the USAF and 10th Mountain Division, meeting with Donald Rumsfeld on 16 December 2001 at Bagram Air Base, Helene C. Stikkel collection. In addition to visiting the troops at Bagram, Rumsfeld met with international and Afghan press.

 

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

General Dostum’s Northern Alliance troops after capturing Mazar-e Sharif, 15 December 2001, Staff Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo, USAF collection

 

But already the war seemed over, and by 25 January Hagenbeck and Mikolashek were contemplating measures for drawing down.[28] The military mission to liberate Afghanistan had already been achieved within the first hundred days, with humanitarian missions and demobilization now the foremost goal under international leadership. As early as 28 November UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had raised the issue of the estimated 6 – 7.5 million refugees fleeing Afghanistan, an issue President Bush agreed was of major concern.[29]

By December humanitarian assistance to the tune of 127,368 tons of food (the USAF air dropped 2,423,700 ration packets), had been delivered. On the military front the NATO-led coalition estimated that it had killed 250 al Qaida fighters, captured hundreds more, and scattered as many as 800, including the top leadership.[30] The coalition had destroyed 11 training camps and 39 command posts, in addition to liberating the nation’s capital and second largest city, all with the use of fewer than 3,000 US military personnel.[31] By the spring of 2002 the USN and USMC had flown 12,000 sorties, representing 72% of all combat sorties flown during Enduring Freedom.[32] Between 7 October and 23 December, CENTCOM aviation flew 6,500 strike sorties, released 17,500 munitions, and destroyed 400 vehicles and artillery pieces.[33]

 

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

Refugees at the camp in Mazar-e Sherif, collecting aid from Doctors Without Borders, 23 December 2001, Staff Sergeant Cecilio Ricardo, USAF collection

 

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Karsai Bush

President Bush greets Chairman Karzai at the White House on 28 January, photos by Paul Morse and Tina Hager

 

Plans were now underway to introduce civilian stabilization measures, ranging from preparing a new Afghan school system to providing for vaccinations. Bush and Karzai, lauding the achievements of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) thus far, announced a joint New Partnership agreement during Karzai’s visit to the White House on 28 January 2002. Bush praised Karzai, stating that “the United States strongly supports Chairman Karzai’s interim government. And we strongly support the Bonn agreement that provides the Afghan people with a path towards a broadly-based government that protects the human rights of all its citizens.”[34] Karzai in return pledged to make Afghanistan an independent nation, fully backing the “joint struggle against terrorism… We must finish them. We must bring them out of their caves and their hideouts, and we promise we’ll do that.”

 

ASCFrankstestimony

7 February, General Franks testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Michigan Democrat Carl Levin. Republican Senator John Warner emphasized that the mission was almost complete, and Democratic Senator Landrieu emphasized the success of the Special Operations and Special Forces. General Franks emphasized the utilization of airpower, humanitarian airdrops, and that Afghanistan represented only one front in the broader war on terror, although in that theatre action had been taking place almost non-stop since mid-October.

On new years eve the President appointed Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, former Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and a ‘90s RAND cold warrior employed by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as his special enjoy for Afghanistan.[35] In his State of the Union address on 29 January, Bush unveiled the “axis of evil” – clearly indicating that Iraq was the next target in the Global War on Terror.[36] In fact, CENTCOM, in consultation with the Defense Department and the Vice President’s office, had been planning the invasion of Iraq throughout the entire duration of Operation Enduring Freedom.

 

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Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice talking in the White House Red Room, 13 February 2002, photograph by David Bohrer

 

Operation Anaconda 

With hindsight it is clear that the greatest risk to mission success in Afghanistan came from within the Bush administration itself. From the outset the White House had established three essentially conflicting objectives. The first, liberate and sustain a rebuilt Afghanistan, was a mission with a clear objective that was backed by the international community and best reflected the capabilities of the United States. The second, the Global War on Terror, was an ideological mission imposed by Bush and the Republican neocons to justify unilateral anti-terrorist action world wide. Third, the planning for the invasion of Iraq, was an unrelated but long-held objective of the former George H. W. Bush and Ronald Regan cold warriors once again dominant in the White House.[37]

In a C-SPAN interview on 8 January 2002, Donald Rumsfeld was confronted by these conflicting objectives when a caller asked the Defense Secretary to define victory in the War on Terror, and to differentiate between Afghanistan the broader anti-terror mission. While the Secretary was clear that the mission in Afghanistan constituted deposing the Taliban and capturing or killing Taliban and al Qaida senior leaders – requiring in his opinion further effort to destroy the “pockets” of fighters who had not yet surrendered – he was less clear on what the objectives of the War on Terror were, or how it could be concluded.[38] Of course, it is now evident that there was no intention to conclude the War on Terror so long as it could be useful to justify US-led interventions against potential enemy nations, such as the “axis of evil” Bush outlined in his 2002 State of the Union address.

 

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Joint Operations Graphic of the Gardez-Khost corridor

 

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Shahi Khot Valley showing Operation Anaconda area of operations and Takur Ghar peak, & Shahi Khot valley with surrounding mountain ranges.

 

But what about the mission to liberate Afghanistan, and the pockets of Taliban and al Qaida fighters still in the country? At the beginning of 2002 the main al Qaida controlled route out of Afghanistan was through the Shahi Khot valley, bordering on Waziristan, south of Kabul. Late in January 2002 human intelligence provided by the CIA indicated that there was enemy activity south east of Kabul in the Paktia province, focused on the Gardez, Khost and Ghanzi area.[39] On 6 January JSOTF-N received orders to prepare “a sensitive site exploitation (SSE) mission in the Gardez-Khost region”,[40] and on 13 February Lt. General Mikolashek – his staff including the special operations coordinator Lt. Colonel Craig Bishop and Major General Hagenbeck – relocated the CFLCC to Bagram airbase in preparation for the upcoming operation, at which point the flexible and by now very much overtasked 167 staff officers of the 10th Mountain Division HQ became Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) Mountain.[41]

 

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Commander Muhammad Smailzazi, CO Afghan Forces at Gardez, 10 March 2002, AP newsreel archive.

The following three weeks involved extensive reconnaissance, as the mission was organized and the Special Forces ODA teams integrated with their Afghan militia.[42] The CIA had designated a 10 km by 10 km box inside the 60 square mile Shahi Khot valley, 15 miles south of Gardez, that they believed contained the largest number of fighters. These combatants were holding key observation posts on the nearby mountains, and thus were in control of the villages between the mountain pass itself, although they were expected to attempt to retreat once the coalition arrived. By specifically isolating the escape routes the coalition intended to destroy or capture as many of the mujahideen as possible. The plan was worked out by CJTF Mountain and JSOTF-N staffs between 15 and 22 February.[43] Lt. General Mikolashek and Major General Hagenbeck both signed off on the plan, to which CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks also approved.[44]

 

Designated Operation Anaconda, the plan called for the rapid deployment of blocking forces followed by a thorough, possibly weeks-long, sweep of al Qaida and Taliban forces in the Shahi Khot valley. This ultimately took place between between 2 – 19 March and involved more than 2,000 coalition forces, plus several thousand Afghans.[45] The objectives of the operation were fourfold: first, to locate the enemy forces known to be operating in the Shahi Khot; second, while Afghan and Green Berets elements pressured the retreating al Qaida fighters towards the east, to deploy a blocking force, composed of components of the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Division, to prevent the enemy’s escape into Pakistan; third, to capture the enemy held mountain overwatch positions by helicopter assault; and fourth, to capture or destroy any high valued targets (HVTs) hopefully in command of the fighters in the valley.[46] This would be the largest and most complex operation of the coalition’s war in Afghanistan since inception.

 

Enemy Forces

Jalaluddin Haqqani was the overall Taliban commander in the southeast, in the ‘90s having been governor of Paktia province, and was an experienced strategist and guerilla who fought the Soviets on numerous occasions, including in the Shahi Khot in December 1987 during Operation Magistral, when Soviet mechanized units and paratroopers forced the route between Gardez and Khost.[47] The local commander was Maulawi Jawad, who had under him Maulawi Saif-ur-Rahman Nasrullah Mansour, the senior fighter actually in the valley. The mujahideen had fled to Pakistan following the defeat of the Taliban in October 2001 but, by February 2002, Jawad had gathered as many as 1,000 fighters and then despatched a picked force to return to Afghanistan through the old mujahideen stronghold in the mountains above the Shahi Khot. American estimates of the number of fighters in the Shahi Khot ranged from the low figure of 150 – 250, to as many as 800 – 1,500 at the upper scale.[48] In fact there were 440 fighters in the valley: Rahman Mansour with 175 Taliban fighters, 190 mujahideen from Uzbekistan and Chechnya under Qari Muhammad Tahir Jan, and 75 Arabs – al Qaidi fighters – from various countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Somalia, Jordan and elsewhere.[49]

 

Battlearea

Approximate battle area, centred on Tergul Ghar, “the whale”, the village of Shir Khan Kheyl, and the passes through the mountains to eastward.

 

The mission profile suggested that the CJTF believed the lower figure of only 150 to 200 was accurate, and so it came as quite a surprise when TF Rakkasan landed amidst a valley held by significantly more than double that number of fighters.[50] The Shahi Khot valley, the low “Whale” of Tergul Ghar to the west, and the foreboding Eastern Mountains which flanked the passes to Pakistan, had been well fortified by the mujahideen since the Soviet era.[51] The pashtuns had fought the Russians here in 1981, cutting the supply line between Gardez and Khost.[52] The mujahideen made the Shahi Khot a source of constant irritation for the USSR, ambushing Soviet forces trying to secure the Gardez – Khost roadway on numerous occasions: March 1982, August 1983, November 1984, August 1985, and November 1987. Thus the Shahi Khot, despite numerous Soviet attempts to clear the valley, remained a mujahideen stronghold after the Soviets withdrew in 1988.[53]

 

CJTF Mountain

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Brigadier General Hagenbeck in June 2000, & Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck, photographed in October 2006. CO CJTF Mountain

 

TFMountain

CJTF Mountain, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

The Coalition force selected to carry out Operation Anaconda was representative of the diverse mix of joint elements: a multinational force including soldiers from several Northern Alliance commanders, American Green Berets, CIA operatives, JSOC represented by SEAL Team Six, Delta Force squadrons, Army Rangers, and the USAF’s Combat Controllers, rounded out with Australian SAS, Canadian regulars and TF Rakkasan, the mixed 10th Mountain and 101st Airborne conventional forces.

 

Wiercinski

TF Rakkasan CO, Colonel Frank Wiercinski, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, 12 February 2002.

 

forces

3101st

TF Rakkasan organization, 101st Airborne Division, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

The coalition CJTF Mountain was itself commanded by 10th Mountain Division CO, Major General Hagenbeck. Operation Anaconda drew on elements from every component of CJTF Mountain, creating a confusing web of C2 that was in fact unprecedented in SOCOM history. At least nine nations were involved.

The various SOCOM and conventional Task Force designations were as follows:

TF Sword (aka, TF 11: JSOC), Major General Dell Dailey and USAF Brigadier General Greg Trebon (deputy CO JSOC), their AFO coordinator was Lt. Colonel Pete Blaber, Delta Force.[54]

TF Red (Rangers, CO Tony Thomas).

TF Green (Team Delta)

TF Blue (SEAL Team 6, DEVGRU, Joseph Kernan).

The Army’s Chinook helicopters were from TF Talon (Lt. Colonel James Marye).[55]

The 160th SOAR also provided their 1st and 2nd battalions, Chinooks, for the SOCOM missions, as TF Brown. TF 58 was the USMC designation.

Both Kernan and Thomas had elements in reserve at Bagram and Kandahar in the event an HVT was located and extraction was required on short notice (they also constituted the QRF force), although the flight out to the Shahi Khot at this distance would take at least an hour.[56]

 

Unidentified

Unidentified coalition soldiers boarding a C-17, 14 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

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Afghan National Army training at Gardez.

 

The Special Forces units employed were drawn from the two major commands that had so far run the SOCOM war in Afghanistan:

Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-N), out of the K2 base in Uzbekistan, CO, Colonel John Mulholland, 5th Special Forces Group, with 1st Battalion under Lt. Colonel Chris Haas, plus Delta A Squadron and a smattering of CIA operatives. CO Mulholland committed five SF teams to Anaconda: ODA 542, 563, 571, 574, and 594, plus TF 64, the Australian SAS.[57] This command was also known as Task Force Dagger (Northern).

ODA

 

Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-South (CJSOTF-S, CO Captain Robert Harward) at Kandahar,[58] with a collection of SOF forces including teams from Denmark, France, Germany and Norway, loaned to Anaconda 3rd SFG ODAs 372, 381, 392, 394 and 395.[59] This command was also known as Task Force K-Bar (Southern).

Blaber, Haas, with ODA 510, and the CIA (led by a man named Greg – “Spider”) were installed at Gardez, population 70,000, the capital of Paktia province, where the 50-strong SOCOM operators were variously involved planning, gathering intelligence, and training Zia Loden’s 400 strong Afghan militia contingent.[60]

 

The Plan

Shahikot plan

Coalition approach vectors, showing approach axis (Brass and Copper), and phase lines (Emerald and Ruby), from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 17

 

TF K-Bar would conduct the pre-operation reconnaissance, ultimately inserting 21 various teams for this purpose.[61] The TF 11 AFO teams would infiltrate several days in advance and secure the mountaintop observation points, before TF Rakkasan deployed the morning of, what at that time was still scheduled for, 1 March into the eastern Shahi Khot to secure the valley exits.[62]

Task Force Hammer would make the main drive from Gardez to the Shahi Khot, retrieve the AFO elements, and then clear the valley starting with the village of Babulkhel.[63] ODA 372, led by the 34 year old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stanley Harriman, would lead the mixed SOCOM force, convoying trucks carrying Zia’s Afghan fighters, ranging from 400 to 600 strong, with Zakim Khan (ODA 542, 381) and Kamel Khan (ODA 571, 392) both fielding reserve forces of 400 – 500 each for what was designated Task Force Anvil, that force meant to drive towards the Shahi Khot from the east, ie, from Khost, hopefully encircling the enemy in the valley and enabling TF Hammer to sweep into the valley from the west.[64]

 

Shahikhot

 

The helicopter assault force, Task Force Rakkasan, with the vital objective of securing the “inner ring” of seven blocking positions (BPs),[65] was commanded by Colonel Frank Wiercinski and composed of battalions from the 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain Division. Lt. Colonel Charles Preysler’s 2/187 (2nd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment), and Lt. Colonel Ronald Corkran’s 1/187 (1st Battalion, in reserve at the Shahbaz Air Base, Jacobabad), plus the 10th Mountain Division’s 1/87th (1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment) commanded by Lt. Colonel Paul LaCamera, and lastly attached at Kandahar was the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.[66] For the purposes of Anaconda, the Canadians were attached to CJTF Mountain, while 1/187 was attached to the CFLCC HQ, Lt. General Paul Mikolashek.

TF Rakkasan’s mission was to helicopter into the Shahi Khot and for 2/187 to secure the northern four BPs and 1/87 the southern three BPs. The helicopter assault would be escorted by the 101st Division’s Apaches, the gunships had the responsibility of determining if the LZs were clear or not.[67] Preysler intended to have Captain Frank Baltazar’s C Company secure BPs Betty, Cindy and Diane, leaving BP Amy for the second wave, Captain Kevin Butler’s A Company, at H+11.[68] BP Eve would be taken by Captain Roger Crombie’s 1/87 A Company, while Captain Nelson Kraft’s C Company would take Ginger and Heather.[69] Once these forces were deployed, Wiercinski would insert to small tactical control (TAC) post near BP Heather (on the slopes of the mountain nick-named “the Finger”), with some of Lt. Colonel Corkran’s 1st Battalion HQ, to monitor the situation in the valley in the event the reserves needed to be deployed.[70]

Generals Hagenbeck and Mulholland briefed General Franks by video conference on 26 February, and D-Day was set for 28 February, although this was delayed 48 hours to 2 March due to white-out weather conditions.[71] TF Anvil drove west from Khost on 1 March and established its blocking positions behind the eastern mountains.[72]

 

Reconnaissance, 27 February – 1 March

valley

The Shahi Khot valley, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008). Note the imposing snow capped Eastern Mountains, also note the aridity of the terrain: extremely difficult for the recon teams to exploit given the lack of concealment.

A critical component of the plan was to insert three of Lt. Colonel Blaber’s AFO elements to identify and knockout enemy positions covering the valley entrances, prior to the arrival of the main force. Generally successful, the recon teams made difficult hikes into enemy occupied territory and identified key over-watch positions from which to call in air strikes. Intelligence was spotty, but there were believed to be as many as 1,400 civilians and non-combatants in the three villages in the valley, Shir Khan Kheyl (or Serkhankhel), Babol Kheyl (or Babulkhel), and Marzak.[73]

The AFO teams were divided into two Delta Force elements, Juliet and India, and a SEAL element, Mako 31. Once in position these teams would hold their sniper and air controller posts and provide overwatch before TF Hammer and TF Rakkasan arrived at H-Hour (6:30 am) on 2 March.[74] The 1:100,000 maps the operators had been issued for their initial prior environmental reconnaissance had proven insufficiently detailed for the kind of, craggy, snow-covered terrain they were crossing.

 

Insertions

India, Juliet, and Mako 31 routes, from Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die (2005), p. 162

 

Juliet, India, Mako 31

Juliet Team, the northern five-man reconnaissance element led by Delta operators Master Sergeant Kris K. and Bill R., and supported by an Intelligence Support Activity (ISA), Gray Fox operator named Jason, drove in on ATVs, covering twelve kilometers through enemy held territory including the village of Menjawar (Menewar), that they navigated through at midnight.[75] Using JSTARS aircraft surveillance in combination with laptop GPS, the operators made their way north of the valley, designating a minefield and a pair of occupied DShK machine gun positions for the B-1s to strike, enroute to their south facing OP where they arrived between 4:45 – 4:47 am.[76] The Juliet team, from its position looking across the valley, could see the Takur Ghar peak and opposite it enemy positions, including mortar pits, along “the Whale” – the spine of the Tergul Ghar mountain.[77]

As the Juliet team was motoring north into the valley, John B’s SOF (three Delta and one SEAL Team Six operator) and Afghan fighter units were driving a pair of Toyota 4×4 pickup trucks, ferrying India Team, a three-man Delta recon element, and Mako 31, a five-man SEAL team, to their insertion points.[78] The recce elements departed at about 10:15 pm to hike into their positions at the southern end of the Tergul Ghar “Whale” and the north-facing prominence “the Finger” at the western approach to the valley, where they would have clear line of sight both of TF Hammer’s approach and the valley proper.[79] After deploying the recce teams, John B. and the Afghan fighters turned around their two Toyotas and started the drive back to Gardez.[80]

India team, led by “Speedy” and Bob H. (both Delta Force, armed with M4 carbines) and Dan (ISA, carrying an SR25), started their seven kilometer hike alongside Mako 31, following the Zawar Khwar creek, until three kilometers in at which point they turned north towards their OP.[81] The weather was at first poor, with intense sleet and snow, but by 5:22 am they were in position and undiscovered.[82] Speedy made satellite radio contact with Gardez at 9 am on the 28th.[83]

Mako 31, the five-man element, was composed of SEAL operators – three Team Six snipers and a demolitions expert armed with an M4 – plus their AFO, Andy. They started their hike alongside Delta’s India element but then diverted for the 11 km hike to their OP on “the Finger”. The round-about route combined with poor weather delayed the hikers, who had to take a position about a kilometer from their OP before daybreak. Between 5 and 5:15 am on the 28th they reported in to Gardez, informing Blaber, the AFO commander, that they would hunker down until the following night to make for their OP.[84]

The Juliet team, employing their thermal and night optics, spotted numerous mujahideen moving around on Tergul Ghar. Kris called Blaber on their satellite radio and informed him that “the Whale” was infested with enemy positions.[85]

The morning of 28 February India split up and moved into deeper cover as daylight revealed how exposed their OP actually was.[86] Speedy spotted a goat-herd and his flock below their position, but luckily avoided compromising the OP. Mako 31 meanwhile moved into a better position to view the roads heading east into the valley.

The three recce elements deployed telescopic lenses and Nikon handheld cameras to develop their intelligence while the AFOs and ISA operators designated targets for future air strikes. India could see that the TF Hammer approach was clear of mines and the village of Surki at the valley entrance appeared to be deserted.[87]

The two ISA operatives with the Delta teams detected radio and cellphone traffic, and around noon Mako 31 heard sporadic gunfire – presumably training – coming from the direction of Marzak.[88] Juliet by now also had positive IDs on a group of five men armed with AK47s and RPGs who, worryingly, seemed to have detected their ATV tracks and were moving in their direction, although they turned around at the last moment due to an approaching blizzard, and departed the area without discovering the AFO team.[89]

Sometime before the blizzard arrived the CIA employed an Mi-17 helicopter to film the valley, in search of enemy locations.[90] The weather then worsened as the blizzard carpeted the valley. Juliet took advantage of the two-hour long snow storm to booby-trap their ATVs and move camp to a higher position. The operators spotted another four suspected fighters on Tergul Ghar during breaks in the weather.[91] A few hours later they had identified at least several occupied positions: one fighter facing west on the Tergul Ghar ridge, another two in a camouflaged rock shelter nearby, and four more fighters moving between two shelters on the eastern side of the ridge, plus additional positions fifty meters below the ridge.[92] Mako 31 later confirmed these enemy positions.[93] Clearly “the Whale” was both occupied and well defended – knowledge that had thus far gone unnoticed to all of the aerial observations, suggesting the mujahideen’s mastery of camouflage as a cultivated experience from the Soviet war.[94]

India, meanwhile, could also hear the gunfire Mako 31 had reported in the direction of Marzak, although their OP was soon obscured by the weather and they were forced to rely on the ISA communication intercepts, the latter which were eventually relayed to Bagram for aircraft reconnaissance, as well as to the NSA for satellite tasking.[95]

At this time H-Hour was still set for 6:30 on 1 March, but Hagenbeck now made the decision to delay another 24 hours due to the weather.[96] Mako 31, by 2 am on 1 March, had moved to within 250 meters of the peak of “the Finger” the heights south of the valley.[97] Just after dawn Goody despatched his Team Six snipers to the ridgeline, and, after crawling for 500 meters, they spotted a large tent with attached stove pipe, and nearby a tripod mounted DShK machine gun. Mako 31 soon spotted two al Qaida fighters, who Goody at first suspected might be British SAS, a conclusion that was denied when Goody emailed digital photos back to Blaber at Gardez using the team’s laptop and satellite phone interface.[98] The SEAL Team Six officer knew the importance of knocking out the machine gun position, Blaber having briefed him that “the success or failure of your mission will predicate the success or failure of the entire operation”.[99] Blaber informed Hagenbeck of the enemy positions, and authorized Goody to wait until about an hour before H-Hour the next morning, and then knock out the machine gun before calling in an AC-130 gunship strike on the position.[100]

 

Shir Khan

The village of Shir Khan Kheyl from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

While the debate behind the lines was ongoing regarding the mission plan, in the Shahi Khot all the evidence was building towards a significant enemy presence in well concealed and defended positions. India reported three SUVs driving inside Babulkhel, near the valley entrance, and then three horsemen approaching the village. The horsemen were greeted by six men with Kalashnikovs. Speedy and Bob identified two occupied walled compounds in Serkhankhel, and spotted several women and a family, the only unambiguous sighting of civilians by any of the recon teams. Juliet’s view was at first obscured by clouds but as the weather cleared in the afternoon, and they were joined by a high-flying Predator drone, they also spotted armed men in pickup trucks moving around inside Serkhankhel.[101] Jason, the ISA operator, intercepted a call that he believed indicated a “group meeting” was being held that day.[102] Juliet spotted a group of six men carrying rucksacks moving back into Serkhankhel from a position no more than a kilometer from where the Delta team was observing (possibly the patrol that had almost discovered their ATVs before the blizzard).[103] By now both India and Juliet teams had seen enough enemy presence to convince them that the helicopter assault would be heading into a cauldron: the valley was not a series of villages with a hidden al Qaida presence, but in fact a mujahideen stronghold.[104] Familiarization with the conduct of the Soviet war confirmed the truth of this.[105]

Thinking about the implications of this intelligence Jimmy, Blaber’s deputy, went directly to Colonel Joe Smith, Hagenbeck’s chief of staff, and recommended changing the operation plan to better reflect the scale of the enemy presence. “The current plan is not going to work out for you,” Jimmy advised Smith. “I know, Jim,” said Smith, “but it’s too late to do anything about it.” Smith, according to Naylor and Blaber, turned down Jimmy’s request.[106] Hagenbeck, however, did inform Lt. General Mikolashek via video teleconference that there were many new positions they should airstrike before sending in TF Hammer. “Bomb these frickin’ things,” Hagenbeck said, according to Mikolashek. Air Force General Renaurt, Franks’ Director of Operations, again stated that the plan could not be changed at the last minute.[107] As a frustrated Pete Blaber wrote later, summarizing a fundamental truism regarding failed planning processes from time immemorial, “…the mission itself no longer had anything to do with the reality on the ground; the mission was to execute the plan on time.”[108] Ironically, the senior Taliban commander in the valley, Saif Rahman Mansour, was at that time making essentially the same error.[109]

At any rate the AFO teams managed to remain concealed for the remainder of 1 March and when night fell they received air support in the form of Grim 31, an AC-130H gunship, that arrived over the engagement zone at 2:04 am. At 2:55 am the India recce element spotted the headlights of TF Hammer as the main column drove south from Gardez along the muddy Zermat road to its planned staging ground at the Shahi Khot entrance. TF Hammer, with Ziabdullah and Chief Warrant Officer Harriman, ODA 372, in the lead vehicle (a HMMWV), would divide into two convoys: Harriman’s group heading to block the valley entrance north at a terrain feature known as “the Guppy” while the main body continued to the southern entrance known as “the Fishhook”.[110]

trucks

Some of TF Hammer’s trucks and vehicles viewed from their assembly point in Gardez, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

TF Hammer’s main column was commanded by McHale, Glenn Thomas, and Lt. Colonel Haas, and was composed of 39 or 40 vehicles, mainly pickup and flatbed trucks, consisting of a mix of SF (ODAs 594 and 372), SEALs, AFOs, CIA, Australian SAS, and an engineering squad attached to TF Rakkassan: this mixed coalition force supported 400 Afghan soldiers under Zia Loden and Ziabdullah, together having assembled at Gardez and then, at 11:33 pm on 1 March, commenced the treacherous two hour-long drive south.[111] Two trucks had to be sent back carrying wounded after a pair of vehicles became stuck in the mud and a third overturned.[112] They were already behind schedule, the plan being for TF Hammer to arrive at Phase Line Emerald, 1.5 km west of Tergul Ghar, while the pre-assault air strikes took place (about 5:30 am).

Around midnight meanwhile, Mako 31 was getting ready to move. Goody and Chris, armed with their suppressed SR25s, started to surround the DShK machine gun position while Andy, their AFO, called in P3 Orion and Grim 31 AC-130 coverage. At about 4 am Goody and Chris were spotted by a sentry.[113] With no choice but to attack, Chris and Goody charged towards the enemy tent, but their rifles jammed due to icing.[114] The sentries returned fire with their AK47s. A Chechen fighter charged Chris but was shot after the operator cleared his jam. Several fighters were killed fleeing the tent,[115] while another fighter tried to man the DShK but was shot before he could reach it. Meanwhile Eric was watching for fighters who might be attempting to flank them. Andy informed Chris that Grim 31 was ready to destroy the DShK position once the operators had withdrawn from their danger close positions. Andy received information from the sensor-laden AC-130 that there were at least two more fighters about 75 meters to their north. These fighters were in fact deploying a PKM machine gun, with which they quickly opened fire on Mako 31.[116] As the operators fell back, it was now approximately a quarter after four, the AC-130 gunship hovering above fired its 105 mm cannon, plastering the enemy camp and killing the machine gunners and several other nearby fighters.[117] This action, resulting in the death of the five al Qaida guards in the outpost, was the first combat of the operation, to be followed shortly at 4:44 when Grim 31 carried out a strike ordered by the Juliet AFO against an enemy OP on “the Whale”. These mountain top gunfires generally alerted the mujahideen around the valley that they were under attack from coalition forces.

When they checked the bodies of the enemy fighters they had killed on “the Finger” Mako 31 found evidence indicating that they were Arabic speaking Uzbeks and Chechens. The well serviced DShK position was armed with 2,000 rounds and included an SVD sniper rifle, several AK47s, the PKM automatic rifle, plus seven RPGs for a single launcher.[118] Mako 31 requested Grim 31 do another flyby of “the Finger” to verify there were no more enemy fighters, then phoned in to Blaber that they had terminated the threat, and hunkered down as dawn was breaking to watch TF Rakkasan arrive within the hour.[119]

 

Air Assault, 2 March

H-Hour was set for 6:30 am on 2 March, and was to be preceded by a 55 minute window for air bombardment. 2/187’s infantry would then make the first landing, followed by 1/87, the 10th Mountain troops, while 1/187 was held in reserve. The TF Rakkasan soldiers and officers had been preparing since 16 February, conducting their final rehearsal at Bagram on 28 February.[120] Senior NCOs were making it clear to the picked troopers that this was a combat mission.[121] The assault packaged continued to undergo last minute changes, with the second wave of troops being brought forward to three hours following H-Hour (ie, scheduled to arrive at 9:30 am), instead of the evening as had originally been planned, to provide ample forces for the blocking operation.[122]

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 5.34.16 PM

TF Rakkasan paratroopers boarding CH-47D helicopters during an exercise in the Shahikot, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 18

 

At half past noon on 1 March the TF Rakkasan commander, Colonel Frank Wiercinski, was in Bagram’s chow tent briefing the 60 helicopter pilots and chief warrant officers (CWO) of TF Talon.[123] The Apaches were drawn from 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, the “Killer Spades” and were split into three groups of two, tasked with ensuring the LZs on the valley floor were clear. Wiercinski reiterated the importance of the Apaches for providing escort to the Chinook groups: “It will be on my word that we unleash hell,” he said, quoting Gladiator. From the roof of a Humvee Wiercinski gave a speech to the entire assembled battle group of 1,700, quoting from Saint Crispin’s in Henry V.[124]

Early the following morning the Apache pilots boarded their six gunships and were warming them up at 4:37 am for their 5:07 launch time. They would escort the Chinooks in and then take up attack positions in the last minutes before the air strikes started, and then remain on station until 7:35 when they were scheduled to fly the 80 km back to midway fueling station “Texaco” already established between Bagram and Objective Remington.[125] Due to a last minute hydraulic leak in the 30 mm cannon aboard Team 2 Chief Warrant Officer Bob Carr’s Apache, Captain Bill Ryan, commanding the Apache flight, merged Team 3 into Team 2 so that Carr could stop off at the “Texaco” fueling point and make repairs.[126]

 

Route of Task Force Hammer

TF Hammer’s approach to the Shahi Khot, note Phase Line Emerald west of “the Whale” and also the location of the friendly-fire incident on Harriman’s convoy, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War & from Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die (2005), p. 187

 

After Mako 31 was forced to reveal themselves early, and the hydraulic leak in Carr’s Apache, the third major upset of the initial phase of the operation took place: At 5:30 am the AC-130 gunship Grim 31 mistakenly engaged Harriman’s four vehicle lead element. The eight rounds of 105 mm cannon they fired wounded several of the Special Forces, including Harriman himself who was hit in the back by a piece of shrapnel that punctured the door of the Hummer he was a passenger in, also wounding seven others and killing two of Ziabdullah’s fighters.[127] All four of Harriman’s vehicles were destroyed.[128] As soon as this unfortunate fire mission was delivered Grim 31 announced that they were low on fuel and departed, to be replaced on station by a flight of F-15Es.[129] Blaber and Glenn P. in Gardez quickly ordered a ceasefire when it became apparent from the AFO reports from the main TF Hammer column that Grim 31 was engaging Harriman’s northern element.[130] The main column despatched its four vehicle QRF, led by CWO2 Sean Ballard in an armoured SUV and including ODA 372 medic Sergeant First Class Brian Allen, who reached Harriman’s convoy ten minutes later.[131]

 

B05B-4

B-52s flying above the Shahi Khot on 5 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

At 6:30 the pre-planned air strikes started, including a B-1B, a B-52 and the two F-15s already on station.[132] A thermobaric bomb destroyed one of the cave complexes on Juliet’s target list, and the B-1B dropped 6 or 7 JDAMs on “the Whale” – but delays caused when the B-1B’s rotary launcher jammed added to concerns over hitting the AFOs in the valley, with the result that only a few of the designated targets were hit before the air assault commenced.[133] By now the friction of war had dramatically derailed the assault plan.

 

Chinookformation

helicopterassualt

CH-47 Chinooks in formation, with Apache overhead, MH-53 at right, 11 March 2002, & Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters leaving Bagram, 14 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

The initial components of 2/187 battalion in their Chinooks was already on the way south from Bagram. The lead Chinook element was informed by the airborne AWACS “Bossman” that they would need to stop on their way back to retrieve the wounded from Harriman’s convoy.[134] The TF Talon helicopters circled around the valley to the south and then entered from the east. The first and second wave of three Chinooks arrived at their LZ and dropped off their infantry while the Apaches circled over head.[135] Hearing the reports of heavy combat in the Shahi Khot, Hagenbeck made the decision to hold off sending in the second wave of Chinooks until the situation had cooled down. The mujahideen meanwhile rushed in their reinforcements to surround the landing zones.[136]

On the way back to Bagram the Chinooks landed at Harriman’s location and picked up the wounded. At Bagram Harriman was tended to by medics from the 274th Forward Surgical Team, but his wounds were mortal.[137] The TF Hammer QRF departed the accident area, leaving two AFO personnel, John B. and Isaac H., behind to establish an OP, as the sun was rising.[138]

McHale, leading the main TF Hammer column, continued south towards the village of Gwad Kala to the west of “the Whale”, that was expected to be deserted. When he arrived he was met by Thomas and appraised of the situation at the rear of the column, which necessitated unloading several of the forward trucks so they could be sent back to replace breakdowns.[139] McHale was in the process of deploying his Afghan platoon into a nearby wadi when he began to receive mortar fire directed at Gwad Kala from “the Whale”.[140] McHale, with rounds exploding nearby, thought the best option was to get back aboard their trucks and move out. Several of his SF NCOs could see the puffs of smoke on the slope in front of them from enemy mortars firing.[141] Sergeant First Class John Southworth, the designated radio operator for TF Hammer, was able to get in touch with the Apaches to request assistance, but Zia Loden, who was expecting greater air support and had now sustained casualties from the blue-on-blue incident against Harriman’s convoy, refused to attack further. This effectively terminated the TF Hammer mission, although had it actually driven through “the Fishhook” and into the valley it certainly would have taken more casualties from the surrounding ambush positions.[142]

 

lz2

Landing Zone (LZs) and Blocking Positions (BPs) from Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die, p. 228. BPs are only approximate. Note the locations of the AFO teams, Mako 31 & Juliet. India was on the southern tip of “the Whale”.

 

 

Anaconda plan

View of Shahi Khot Valley and concept of operations, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War. Note the seven blocking locations.

 

Apache pilots Hurley and Chenault, meanwhile, were busy attempting to identify and destroy enemy positions on the six kilometer-long ridgeline surmounting “the Whale”.[143] The two Apaches of Team 1 destroyed an eight-man mortar pit and surrounding area with rocket fire, and Chenault spotted tracer fire from a machine gun attempting to engage Hurley.[144] The Team 1 Apache moved back to the northeastern side of “the Whale” searching for a second reported mortar position, while the Team 2 Apache was taking fire from the southern valley. A lucky hit from a machine gun bullet in fact disabled several of the electrical systems associated with navigation and weapons control aboard Hardy and Pebsworth’s Apache, rendering their weapons useless.[145]

 

Apache

Apache gunship on 2 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Shortly after this Hurley, flying the second Team 1 Apache, used his cannon and rockets to engage a four-man RPG team that he had spotted aiming at Chenault’s Apache.[146] After looping around for another pass Hurley and Contant’s helicopter was hit by an RPG, destroying the Apache’s left Hellfire pylon, which had carried three missiles, and in the process wrecking the left rocket pod. Gunfire pelted the helicopter, by now leaking oil and smoking, and at least one round penetrated through the cockpit and became lodged in the console in front of Hurley.[147] Hardy and Pebsworth’s Apache was likewise still taking RPG and machinegun fire, and with their weapons system already disabled they moved into formation with Hurley and Contant’s Apache and together the two damaged helicopters retired to the Texaco waypoint to rearm and repair, although within minutes the loss of transmission fluid forced Hurely to land in a nearby creek bed, Hardy also landing nearby. From there Hardy, the more experienced pilot and technician, swapped pilot’s chairs with Hurley, poured their reserve oil into the badly damaged Apache, and lacking fully functioning navigation instruments, took off again to arrive 26 minutes later at the Texaco fueling point, which was quickly developing into the logistical waypoint for the entire operation.[148]

At 6:15 am Captain Frank Baltazar’s 2/187 C Company, 2nd Platoon, and elements of Lt. Colonel Preysler’s HQ, deployed from their Chinooks in the center of the valley and began securing a perimeter. C Company’s three platoons were spread out around the valley at different LZs, with 3rd Platoon landing at LZ 4 for their march to BP Diane, 1st Platoon landing at LZ 3 for BP Cindy, and 2nd Platoon with all the HQ elements landing at LZ 1. Their immediate objective was to clear a small al Qaida compound that had been identified in recent reconnaissance photographs. All three platoons were taking fire: the 2nd Platoon LZ was fired upon from a machine gun position 400 meters away, actually on a ridge behind the compound.[149] Two of the company’s machine gunners returned fire, supressing a pair of fighters before the position was destroyed by an Apache strike that Preysler had ordered.[150]

As 2nd Platoon was clearing the compound they discovered that it had been recently occupied. The mujahideen, who had fled to the surrounding hillside, had been heavily equipped, their stash containing “several recoilless rifles, [2] 82 mm mortar tubes and rounds, dozens of AK-style assault rifles and RPGs, Dragunov [SVD] sniper rifles, three [or 1?] sets of U.S. PVS-7 night-vision goggles, binoculars, and handheld ICOM radios that Sergeant First Class Anthony Koch, the troops’ platoon sergeant, said ‘were better than ours.’” Other debris included a Nike sports bag originally from Beaverton, Oregon, 50 alarm clocks and an assortment of wrist watches, in addition to a quantity of foreign currency.[151] The compound had six beds, and the fighters who had scrambled out had left behind not only their still brewing tea but also their shoes.[152] The compound was soon taking gunfire from the surrounding hills, and Preysler attempted to call in 120 mm support, but his forward observer discovered that the mortar, at the southern end of the valley with Kraft’s company, had already been engaged.[153]

Preysler decided to set up his HQ just outside the compound and called in Apache helicopter and Predator drone attacks, which quickly combined to silence the enemy who were firing on them from the vicinity of  BP Cindy.[154] At about 7 am Preysler now informed Baltazar that he wanted them to move, with 2nd Platoon, to secure BP Betty to the northeast.[155] This took five hours to accomplish, by which time 1st Platoon had taken BP Cindy and 3rd Platoon BP Diane.

 

compound

The compound 2nd Platoon, C Company, 2/187, was ordered to take near LZ 1, at the northeastern side of the valley, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

2:87A

The situation in the north, 2 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Sergeant First Class Kelly Luman of 3rd Platoon had responsibility for securing BP Diane, the easternmost position on Hill 3033, with Preysler’s Scout Platoon about half a kilometer away. Luman was a hard-charging platoon sergeant who had been promoted to command 3rd Platoon after Lt. Colonel Preysler had removed the lieutenant.[156] Luman’s platoon used M240 fire to eliminate an occupied camouflage position as they advanced towards their BP, reaching it in the snowline before 8:45 am, when they came under, and returned fire against, enemy positions on Hill 3033.[157] This was still going on at 10:30 am when all of Captain Baltazar’s platoons were in their positions, Baltazar, with Preysler and 2nd Platoon having left the compound and established themselves at to the north at BP Betty, before the HQ elements detached from 2nd Platoon to establish BP Amy.[158] By the afternoon, in short, all four northern blocking positions were established, a major success – if the mission had in fact still been primarily a blocking operation.

 

Amy

1/187 Soldiers at BP Amy, the entrance to the Shahi Khot from the north, Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Just south of the 101st BPs, Captain Roger Crombie’s 1/87 A Company had been planning to land on LZ 5 on the slopes of Takur Ghar, although the Chinook pilots vetoed this choice as too steep, and instead landed south of BP Eve, east of the village of Marzak.[159] A Company’s scouts tracked south towards BP Ginger, while Crombie and 22 men from 1st Platoon moved west towards Eve.[160] Sergeant Reginald Huber used his M203 grenade launcher to kill two shooters, and scatter a group of suspected child soldiers who he spotted hiding in a crevice 100-150 meters away.[161] From his position on the slopes of Takur Ghar Crombie’s force could cover the entire valley, while only being exposed to fire from that mountain’s ridge, 1.8 km to the south.[162] In Marzak Crombie could see a dozen fighters mobilizing and wanted to call down air strikes, but could not get priority over the communications net.[163]

 

South

The situation in the south by mid-day, 2 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

C Company’s CO, Captain Nelson Kraft, 1st Lt. Brad Maroyka’s 1st Platoon and Paul LaCamera, the 1/87 battalion commander, all landed at 6:15 am in the first Chinook south of Marzak (LZ 13A), and were immediately reinforced by the second Chinook (LZ 13), carrying the battalion operations officer Major Jay Hall and 1st Lt. Aaron O’Keefe’s 2nd Platoon, plus a single seven-man 120 mm mortar commanded by Sergeant First Class Michael Peterson.[164] The third CH-47, carrying 3rd Platoon, flew to a different LZ two kms distant.[165]

1st Platoon, accompanied by both the battalion and company commanders, was taking fire as soon as it stepped onto the LZ. Within minutes of clearing the LZ Captain Kraft noticed the volume of fire increase dramatically, including RPGs and machine guns from the surrounding valley, and made the decision to drop rucksacks and begin engaging the enemy along the hillsides to their north.[166] 1st Platoon, with Kraft’s company HQ and LaCamera’s TAC team, deployed into a wide depression later coined “Hell’s Halfpipe”, perhaps half a kilometer in advance north of BP Heather. This was close to but vertically separated by a significant drop from where Mako 31 had knocked out the DShK position on “the Finger”.[167]

1st Platoon was soon taking accurate mortar and machine gun fire from Tarkur Ghar to the east, and several American soldiers were wounded when the 120 mm team was hit by the enemy’s 82 mm mortar fire, of which as we have seen there were numerous positions around the valley.[168] 1st Platoon was under constant mortar and even direct artillery fire, Maroyka’s squads sustaining a number of casualties, but also inflicting casualties on the platoon strength enemy on Takur Ghar.[169] 2nd Platoon was still taking automatic rifle and RPG fire near its LZ, but the enemy were suppressed by rocket and cannon fire from one of the orbiting Apaches. Battalion commander LaCamera conferred with Colonel Wiercinski – who was not more than a kilometer away at his outpost (see below) – on the radio, and then ordered Kraft’s C Company to secure the area and establish a defensive perimeter. Kraft in turn ordered O’Keefe’s 2nd Platoon to move up and reinforce 1st Platoon.[170] O’Keefe quickly established a casualty collection station, attended by battalion surgeon Major Thomas Byrne.[171]

India could see the location of one of the mortar crews that was firing on C Company: a machine gun and mortar redoubt that was close to their own position on Tergul Ghar facing “the Fishhook” – the southwestern entrance into the Shahi Khot. The AFO team had in fact called in air strikes against this mortar at 7:10 am, but the target was not destroyed until the Apaches swept “the Whale” at 8:40 am.[172] At 9 am Juliet, in the north, called in a JDAM strike against a squad of six fighters they spotted approaching Major Preysler’s battalion HQ about a kilometer distant from the compound at BP Betty.[173]

From his position at the south of the valley, where most of the fighting was taking place, Captain Kraft radioed Maroyka at 1st Platoon and ordered him to continue moving north, towards BP Heather, with the 120 mm mortar in support.[174]

At about this time, the Apache piloted by Chenault and Herman fired a Hellfire missile, destroying an al Qaida cave that had been identified by Preysler’s 2/187 battalion.[175] Pilots Ryan and Kilburn at this time were attacking a position north of BP Ginger with 30 mm canon fire when their canopy was raked by gunfire, bullets narrowly missing Ryan’s head.[176] The three remaining Apaches were at the end of their endurance, and at 7:50 am they retired to the Texaco fueling point to reequip.[177]

 

Raktak

TF Rakkasan snipers and air controllers on top of the TAC ridge, south of Objective Remington, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

TF Rakkasan commander Wiercinski and Lt. Colonel Corkran, who were orbiting the area in their C2 Blackhawks, now deployed to their pre-selected position on “the Finger” with views of the entire valley. Wiercinski’s Blackhawk took RPG and AK fire while trying to land,[178] but both helicopters unloaded their high-value passengers successfully onto the position that became known as the TAC ridge, after Wiercinski’s tactical command post, in fact overlooking Captain Kraft’s C Company position.[179] From the ridge 1st Lt. Justin Overbaugh, scout platoon leader, established a sniper and air control position from which they attempted to engage an enemy squad several hundred meters to their north. Wiercinski called in a JDAM strike that missed the target, and a follow-up Apache strike succeeded only in suppressing them.[180] The enemy squad was composed of nine men, who seemed oblivious to the coalition HQ they were walking south towards, and as such they were quickly eliminated by Corkran’s scouts when they got close enough.[181] It was now that Mako 31 scrambled down from the DShK location that they had knocked out and joined the TAC ridge HQ group.[182] This 11-man headquarters unit was now in the process of coordinating air strikes around the valley when it was put under accurate fire by mortars and automatic rifles. Panama veteran Wiercinski had James Murray, coordinating air operations from the orbiting Blackhawks, deliver F-16 strikes that quickly wiped out the nearby mujahideen firebase.[183]

It was now at 9:30 am, and Captain Kraft’s C Company, still missing most of its equipped from when they had dropped their rucksacks at the LZ, was heavily engaged by machine gun fire, the blocking position now a funnel through which al Qaida escaping the north were rushing.[184] After 10:00 am Technical Sergeant McCabe, who was LaCamera’s battalion terminal attack coordinator, arranged a B-52 strike from “Blade” that delivered 24 Mark 82 500 lb bombs on positions at the base of Takur Ghar.[185] This fearsome display of airpower boosted morale, but was dangerous given the proximity to friendly soldiers. By noon C Company had sustained dozens of casualties, at least 20, mostly from the accurate 82 mm mortar fire they had received from Takur Ghar, and  by this time was also running low on ammunition and gun lubricants.[186] At 3 pm LaCamera’s HQ group itself was hit, wounding Hall, their command sergeant major, the fire support officer (FSO), and several others.[187]

Given the intensity of the firefight in the valley below him, Wiercinski, after consulting with LaCamera, made the difficult decision to delay medivac flights until nightfall. Wiercinski also called in a reserve Apache from Kandahar, in fact the last immediately operational Apache in country other than Bob Carr’s, whose 30 mm hydraulics had been fixed within 45 minutes at Bagram.[188] An hour later two of the damaged Apaches had been suitably repaired, giving Wiercinski a total of four operational helicopters. Chenault was the first back on station. Later in the day all the Apaches were sent back to Bagram to re-arm and repair.[189]

Back at Bagram General Hagenbeck was making the decision to pull LaCamera, along with Kraft’s company, out of the south so that they could re-organize in the north where the situation was more stable.[190] In the north Captain Baltazar’s C Company was in good condition and Captain Crombie’s A Company had been only lightly engaged by about a dozen fighters, encountering only sporadic guerilla targets.[191] TF Hammer, however, clearly was not going to reach the Shahi Khot on schedule, and there were still many fighters offering staunch resistance in the valley. Hagenbeck intended to bomb Marzak itself, which seemed to be the source of the Taliban fighters, but was also vacillating on whether or not to commit the second wave of Chinooks, carrying the rest of TF Rakkasan.

The TF Hammer approach was indeed completely stalled. As the morning continued that mixed column withdrew to the village of Carwazi and deployed its own mortars to begin engaging the enemy positions on Tergul Ghar.[192] McHale and Haas were weary about advancing any further given the accurate fire they were taking from “the Whale” and the lack of a clear understanding about the situation in the valley also weighed against being too aggressive with their tenuous Afghan force. An F-15E and a French Mirage attempted to support TF Hammer, but more air support could not be supplied given the divided air support priorities between the AFO teams, TF Rakkasan, and TF Hammer.[193] That afternoon the mujahideen started shooting their Soviet 122 mm howitzers alongside recoilless rifles at TF Hammer, further dissuading the convoy from approaching the valley.[194] As the convoy was pulled back to avoid the incoming fire one truck was damaged beyond repair, and mortar fire hit a small group of Afghans, killing one fighter and wounding three badly amongst several others. The CIA operative “Spider” attached to the convoy called in an Mi-17 helicopter to medevac the badly wounded.[195] Although Zia Lodin initially wanted to continue the attack, by 2:30 pm the demoralized Afghan decided discretion was the better part of valour, and the entire force presently returned to Gardez.[196]

 

F5F4F3F02

Video of airstrikes by F-14s and F-16s released by the Pentagon from 3 March raids, AP newsreel archive.

 

To the planners back in Bagram events in the valley seemed to be spiraling out of control. Major General Hagenbeck, in a satellite telephone discussion with Wiercinski at 3:27 pm, was on the verge of calling off the operation all together and pulling out that night.[197] Blaber and Jimmy opposed this option, noting that the AFOs were still coordinating air strikes around the valley, and were scheduled to be resupplied by airdrop that night.[198] Hagenbeck and Wiercinski ultimately decided to send in the second wave of Chinooks, marshal their forces in the north, and then sweep the valley as initially planned, before extracting the 1/87 force in the south that night.[199] Wiercinski was adamant that LaCamera and C Company be pulled out and reformed at Bagram.[200] The TF Rakkasan commander communicated this decision to the 2/187 CO, Preysler, who was north with Baltazar’s C Company at BP Betty.[201]

In a frustration for LaCamera his second wave of three chinooks, with Kraft’s 3rd Platoon and every 60 mm mortar in the battalion aboard, was unable to land in the south during the afternoon due to protracted gunfire from the concentrated fighters below.[202] At 6 pm however Preysler’s A Company, plus an attached 60 mm platoon, arrived at LZ 15 in the north near BP Betty where the rest of C Company 2/187 and Helberg’s 1/87 Scout Platoon were assembled to spend the freezing night.[203]

Night fell after 6 pm, and with AC-130 gunships on station pulverising the DShK positions as they were identified, the level of enemy fire dropped so that by 7 pm LaCamera was able to call in a MEDEVAC from two HH-60 Pavehawks to retrieve 14 of his more than two dozen wounded.[204] Captain Kraft sent 1st and 2nd Platoons to retrieve their rucksacks, so that when the TF Talon Chinooks arrived the entire 1/87 force could be quickly loaded and extracted, which took place around midnight, the same time Captain Kevin Butler and 2/187’s A Company (with his 60 mm mortar section) was landing in the north of the valley, six hours behind schedule, and deploying to secure BP Amy.[205] For its part, LaCamera’s 1/87 infantry had sustained 26 casualties, none of which were mortal. At about 10:15 pm India coordinated a B-52 strike that dropped a string of JDAMs on an enemy casualty collection point.[206] Wiercinski, taking advantage of the cover of night, conducted some final business and then extracted his TAC HQ position by Chinook around 3:30 am, minus the SEALs in Mako 31 who, resupplied, departed to join up with India on “the Whale”.[207] Around 6 am a B-52 strike, authorized by Hagenbeck, bombed locations in Marzak, the village suspected of being the primary Taliban stronghold.[208]

 

Takur Ghar, 3 – 4 March

interior3interior19interior13interior11interoir2

AP newsreels, describing situation in Gardez, 3 March 2002, and showing airstrikes on the Shahi Khot.

The morning of 3 March was hazy, giving both sides a chance to recuperate somewhat from the intense fighting the previous day. At Gardez Blaber, who along with “Spider” and Chris Haas, was planning how to get Zia Lodin’s Afghan force back to the valley, was now joined by two fresh Team Six SEAL elements from Captain Joe Kernan’s TF Blue, Mako 30 and Mako 21 (and a ISA operator known as “Thor”) under the command of Lt. Commander Vic Hyder with orders from Brigadier General Trebon at TF 11 to insert as soon as possible.[209] Earlier that morning at 2:25 another SEAL element, Mako 22, had already inserted by MH-47 several kilometers south of India, as their replacement.[210] Trebon, the JSOC deputy, was taking charge of the AFO elements, but Lt. Colonel Blaber, the Delta AFO coordinator, was not satisfied that this was either prudent or necessary, given both the preparation that the AFO teams already in valley had taken and considering the risk of sending even more exposed transport helicopters into the Shahi Khot.[211]

Upon arrival at Tergul Ghar Mako 22 discovered not only that they were missing key equipment (they had to use some of India’s gear) but also that the airstrikes they were tasked with calling in on mortar positions in Babulkhel and on “the Whale” were greatly delayed by the confused situation in the valley. The resupplied Juliet team continued to coordinate airstrikes, including a highly accurate B-52 JDAM strike that obliterated an enemy bunker on “the Whale” at 6:04 pm, and another around 6:30 that destroyed a mortar position identified on Hill 3033, actions that were complimented by CIA Predator drone strikes on enemy locations at Zerki Kale.[212] After sunset India turned over their position to Mako 22, and, joined by Mako 31, both teams walked southwest to an arranged exfiltration point where they were met by Captain John B. and Sergeant Major Al Y., who retrieved the two AFO elements with their small three-vehicle convoy.[213]

airstrike03airstrike02airstrike07

airstrike08airstrike05

3 March 2002 AP newsreel on coalition leaflets dropped around Shahi Khot, interrupted when B-52 strikes take place. Villagers described extensive multi-day bombing and civilian deaths.

 

In the north Preysler’s men, joined by Butler’s A Company at about 8 am, had slowly made their way to LZ 15, while Crombie’s A Company 1/87 crossed the original al Qaida compound that Preysler had cleared the day before, ominously encountering sporadic enemy resistance including 57 mm recoilless rifle, mortar, DShK and RPG fire in the process.[214] Crombie’s men dropped their rucksacks at the compound and headed north.[215] Preysler’s force at LZ 15 was under fire from several 82 mm mortars that had appeared on “the Whale” – so far managing to avoid the F-15 strikes called against them – although Butler’s 60 mm section believed they had knocked out one mortar position, while 2/187’s scout-snipers went into action against another.[216] Although the enemy’s fire had in some cases been highly accurate, focused primarily on Lt. Jack Luman’s 3rd Platoon, by 10:30 am none of Baltazar’s platoons had yet sustained any serious casualties, but, with LaCamera’s men pulled out of the south the night before, the enemy could now concentrate all their effort against the north, and intense gun and mortar fire continued all day of the 3rd. “This was a coordinated ambush that we walked into,” Captain Crombie recalled.[217]

Lt. Colonel Corkran, still at Bagram, was also ordered to deploy the 1/187, to the north of the valley around noon, near Juliet’s position, and to start moving south to clear the enemy’s cave entrenchments, in the process retrieving the friendly blocking forces before rendezvousing with Preysler’s 2/187 units (there would now be four different company HQs around LZ 15) and then conduct a unified sweep south.[218] Corkran embarked his mixed units, including Captain Patrick Aspland’s C Company, plus 3rd Platoon from D Company, Captain Chris Cornell’s B Company, 1/87, the battalion Scout Platoon, and a Canadian sniper team. This powerful force was aboard their Chinooks and underway to LZ 15 at 12 pm.[219] Due to the gunfire on their LZ, Corkran’s main force was unable to land and, with fuel low, was redirected back to Bagram: Corkran was not able to get into the LZ until 8 pm, by which time Wiercinski had redeployed to LZ 15.[220] The CH-47 carrying Cornell’s B Company HQ, parts of C Company 1/187, and the 1/187 engineer platoon, however, did not receive these notifications and landed despite the enemy fire at approximately 3:10 pm, Cornell presently joining with Preysler’s units in the reaction to contact firefight that was developing in the north of the valley.[221]

 

Mako 21 & Mako 30

The two SEAL teams that had joined Blaber at Gardez had different objectives. Both teams would be flown in by 160th SOAR Chinooks: Mako 21 was to insert near Juliet team, locate them, and deliver resupply to keep the Delta AFO in operation,[222] while Mako 30 was tasked with inserting at LZ 1 near Takur Ghar, hiking for four hours up the mountain, and then establishing an OP.[223] Around 10 pm, when Blaber and the other SOCOM leaders were preparing for their next TF Hammer attempt (“Operation Payback” – an attempt to insert ODA 394 plus the Afghans at the valley’s northern entrance, known as “the Guppy”),[224] the SEAL commander Vic suggested to Blaber that they change Mako 30’s insertion point to the peak of Takur Ghar itself. This was a risky decision, given that it was well known by now that the mujihadeen were emplaced on and around Takur Ghar. Blaber, although he recognized the importance of the target, stressed that this was impossible to do that night.[225]

The two 160th SOAR Chinooks, Razor 03 and Razor 04, designated to carry the SEAL teams arrived at Gardez at 11:23 pm, picked up Mako 30 and 21, and departed for the Shahi Khot. Their arrival was delayed first by lack of AC-130 coverage and then by ongoing B-52 strikes.[226] The flights returned to Gardez. An engine problem aboard Razor 03 now delayed their launching while replacement helicopters were flown in from Bagram,[227] which meant that Mako 30 would not have enough time to climb to the Takur Ghar summit in the darkness before dawn.[228]

Razor 03, the MH-47E Chinook now carrying Mako 30, was piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).[229] Mako 30 was primarily a SEAL Team Six unit, composed of six SEALs, one Air Force Combat Controller from the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and the ISA operator “Thor”.[230] Mako 30’s Team Leader was Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Britt K. “Slab” Slabinski. Slabinski’s point man was Randy, and they were joined by SEALs named Kyle, Brett, and Turbo, plus the M249 gunner who was Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil C. “Robby” Roberts. The attached USAF Air Combat Controller and radio operator was Technical Sergeant John “Chappy” Chapman.[231]

Slabinski, the Team Leader of Mako 30, was worried the delays would mean a daylight landing. His superior, Vic, called General Trebon (TF 11) at Bagram to request a 24 hour delay, pointing out that they could not possibly insert before 2:45 or 3 am.[232] While not ordering the mission to continue, Trebon strongly recommended that the target was important enough to be worth the risk of going ahead immediately.[233] Vic and Slab conferred with the Razor 03 pilot Al Mack, who had not seen imagery of the Takur Ghar ridge, although Vic and Slabinksi had both seen the AFO reconnaissance photographs of the peak. Mack was willing to try to land the team directly on the summit.[234]

An AC-130U, codenamed Nail 22, was covering the valley at this time. Al Mack requested that Nail 22 sweep the LZ (ie, the peak of Takur Ghar), to which the report was negative, no IR contacts.[235] Slabinski later said he thought the Nail 22 guys were bullshitting Mack: the confirmation had come back too quickly – worse, the AC-130 reported that it was supporting the troops in the valley, so could not maintain its focus on the summit. These cumulative red flags by this point seriously concerned Slab regarding the success of the mission, but he and Al Mack ultimately decided to proceed anyway.[236]

Razor 03 and 04 had refueled at the Texaco waypoint before heading for their landing zones at 2:30 am, now a moonlit 4 March. Mako 30 was thus approaching the snow covered peak of Takur Ghar at 3 am.[237] Approaching the 10,200 foot ridge the SEALs and Chinook pilot, through their night vision goggles (NVGs) could see the footprints of what they presumed to be Afghan goatherds in the snow.[238] The starboard ramp M60 gunner, Distinguished Flying Cross winner Sergeant Dan Madden, saw trenches criss-crossing the ridge. Over the Chinook’s internal ICS network Madden informed Mack.[239] As Mack flared the Chinook for landing a plume of snow was blown up around them, and it was at this moment that he spotted what he clearly identified as a DShK machine gun position facing away from them on the ridge. He reported this to Slab, mistakenly assuming the weapon was derelict from the Soviet war.[240]

As the Chinook was resting with its nose slightly uphill Madden, the rear right ramp gunner, spotted chickens and then a donkey slightly away from them and tied to a tree line.[241] Slab’s point man, Randy, augmented this report when he observed “goats hanging in a tree” – fresh meat, clear evidence that the LZ was occupied. A second later the left door gunner, Jeremy Curran, spotted a person, stating over the radionet that a “guy just popped his head up.”[242]

The Chinook pilot Mack was incredulous, so he ordered the gunners to hold since they were not yet taking fire. Slabinski at this point was convinced they were in an enemy occupied LZ, but Mack was not certain – the guys on the mountain could be anybody. Slab was ready to go. Madden called out to Mack, “We’ve been on the ground fifteen seconds already. Am I ramp-clear down?”[243]

“Yeah, ramp’s clear,” replied Mack. Madden started lowering the ramp. Curran again reported that he’d spotted somebody.[244] Suddenly machine gun fire was coming in along the rear of the helicopter. In the cockpit Mack remembered looking through the windscreen when he saw the first guy pop up and fire an RPG at them. The RPG penetrated the helicopter’s electrical pod, missed the fuel tank, but punched through the left minigunner’s magazine before exploding inside the helicopter. Mike Nutall, the right door gunner, was stunned and Jeremy Curran, the left door gunner, had the wind knocked out of him by the impact.[245] A second RPG at this point struck the helicopter’s right-side radar pod.

These two impacts instantly blinded and disarmed the Chinook, which, without AC electrical power, could not arm the miniguns or power the GPS navigation system or the CRT displays in the cockpit.[246] The intercom, however, used DC power and still functioned. Mack saw a third RPG explode in the snow in front of the aircraft, showering the windscreen in shrapnel, and he believed a fourth struck their starboard turbine engine.[247] Someone on the ridge was firing machine guns at them as bullets pierced the Chinook’s skin and significantly impacted the rotor transmission, cutting the hydraulic line and spraying the interior with hydraulic fluid, threatening to disable the aircraft entirely.[248] Luckily for the crew and occupants, now flat on their stomachs, the angle of the Chinook’s landing meant that the mujahideen’s fire was directed generally above them.

Al Mack wanted to know if Slabinski’s team was going or had already jumped. Madden, the starboard ramp M60 gunner, who had actually been hit twice by deflected AK47 bullets on his non-ballistic proof helmet, at this point shouted either “we’re hit, we’re taking fire, pick it up” or “fire in the cabin,” concluding with, “Go! Go! Go!”.[249] Madden tried to raise the ramp, but without hydraulic pressure the controls did not respond, so instead he grabbed his tethered M60 and started firing along the treeline, using the donkey they had spotted earlier as a reference point.[250]

Mack, however, was already lifting off and it was now that Neil Roberts, Mako 30’s M249 gunner, fell down the ramp. Madden saw the portside M60 gunner, Alexander “Prod” Pedrossa, trying to grab Roberts by the ruck handle, and Madden himself managed to catch Roberts by the boot, but the fully equipped SEAL weighed at least 300 lbs, and since he was not wearing a safety harness, nothing could stop his fall as the helicopter lifted off.[251] Roberts fell ten feet and landed on his back in the snow in the middle of the firefight on the mountaintop. Prod, strapped into the Chinook, was dangling from his tether as Madden pulled him back aboard, although Prod had ripped his M60 from its socket in the process.

 

roberts

Neil Roberts

“We lost one,” Madden shouted into his mic, “we got a man on the ground.” Mack and his co-pilot were convinced Madden was talking about a lost engine, which they suspected had been struck by an RPG, although Madden could hear that both engines had power.[252] What Madden could not hear was anything from the door gunners, Nutall and Curran, who he assumed had been killed. Mack wanted to know why the guns were not firing, to which Madden replied, “the miniguns are down. I got a 60. That’s all we got.”[253]

“There’s a guy on the LZ” Madden repeated. “What?” What did you say?” asked Mack. Madden repeated himself, adding that “one of the team guys is on the LZ.” Mack knew he had to go back. Curran clipped in over the net, wanting to know what was happening. Mack told him they were going back to get Roberts, despite the miniguns being out. The crew were ready to go when Mack realized he had lost control of the helicopter.[254] “I can’t move the controls” he reported, and then asked Madden to double check the hydraulic pressure. Madden reported again that the pressure was zero.[255] Madden saved their lives at this point by opening one of the spare cans of fluid kept near his station and pouring it into the auxiliary hydraulic fluid port.[256]

In the cockpit Mack felt his controls return. He circled the helicopter around the LZ, but feeling the controls going again he reported that he had “lost flight control” and was aborting the rescue.[257] Machine gun fire was hitting them again from the LZ, tracers flying through the night sky. Looking down at the ridge Madden was certain he could see the flashes from an M249, confirming in his mind that Roberts, 32, known as “Fifi” a 12 year SEAL veteran and graduate of BUD/S Class 184, was alive.

The Chinook limped four miles northward, down from the ridge, right over-top of Captain Butler’s HQ, before exhausting its supply or reserve hydraulic fluid (Madden pumped in all four of their spare cans),[258] and then crash landed at 2:58 am about 700 meters from Wiercinski and Preysler’s LZ 15 HQ, also relatively close to Juliet’s location.[259] Madden sustained fractures on two ribs and four vertebrae. Mack and his co-pilot exited the vehicle in shock while the remainder of the Mako 30 team grouped up on the ground. Mack asked Slab how many of his men had fallen out, but Slab had only seen Roberts fall.[260]

 

remainsRazor03
The remains of Razor 03, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 39

 

Slabinski had Chapman set up his radio and try to get in contact with a rescue party. Chapman was soon in contact with Grim 32 (piloted by Air Force Major Daniel “DJ” Turner) and Grim 33, the two AC-130Hs that were now on station. Chapman tried to contact Roberts on his interteam radio but it was out of range, so Chapman asked Grim 32 to scan the peak and determine if Roberts was alive. Chapman soon found himself in contact directly with General Trebon, who wanted to know what the situation was.[261]

Mack’s wingman, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Friel flying Razor 04, who had delivered Mako 21 to their insert near Juliet’s position at 2:38,[262] was quickly rerouted, thanks to information provided by one of the orbiting AC-130 pilots, to pick up the stranded crew whose position he arrived at 30-45 minutes later.[263] Slabinski now radioed Blaber who, having departed Gardez at 2:20 am, had just arrived with the rest of the reconstituted TF Hammer at the northern Shahi Khot entrance (“the Guppy”) and informed him of the helicopter crash.[264]

Initially Friel and Mack planned to leave the Razor 03 crew behind and fly back up to Takur Ghar, with Mako 30, to rescue Roberts, before returning to the Razor 03 crash site and retrieving Mack’s crew, with the entire group then exfiltrating.[265] Meanwhile Chapman (and Blaber) coordinated with Grim 32 and 33, vectoring the latter to fly protection over the crash site while the former went to survey Takur Ghar.[266] With reports from an Orion P3 aircraft that there were approaching enemy near the crash site (in fact Wiercinski’s TF Rakkasans – demonstrating a serious communication flaw if the SOAR pilots and AC-130 gunships could not properly identify Wiercinski’s by now battalion-sized forces who had been holding LZ 15 for almost two days) and with the Razor 04 Chinook now dangerously overweight carrying two helicopter crews and Mako 30, the only option was to return to base. General Trebon relayed this order to Chapman.[267] There was a brief panic when Friel landed Razor 04 and collected the crashed crew, as two of Mack’s men were still securing the Razor 03 crash, but the crew heard Friel’s rotorwash and quickly climbed aboard.[268] Razor 04 landed back at Gardez at 4:34 am.[269] As Naylor has pointed out, the astonishing factor in this series of events was the lack of communication between TF Blue and CJTF Mountain – it was as if two completely separate battles were taking place less than a thousand meters apart.[270]

These developments led to two actions that would have significant consequences for the operation. First, at 4 am, the JSOC QRF, Captain Nathan Self’s A Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was notified to prepare for a rescue operation. Second, Slabinski and Friel decided to try once more to deploy Mako 30 on Takur Ghar, this time to rescue Roberts.[271]

Roberts had in fact survived his fall and activated an IR strobe. Grim 32’s Fire Control Officer Ian Marr spotted Roberts’ IR strobe at the same time a Predator drone arrived to observe the ridgeline, by the clock no more than 25 minutes after the initial aborted landing. Grim 32 used a laser to designate the ridge, hoping that Roberts, if alive, would be able to see the beam through his night vision.[272] Roberts appeared to be leaning against a tree and was surrounded by between three to six enemy fighters, but to Grim 32 this looked like it could be as many as ten, who were possibly taking him prisoner.[273] In fact, Roberts had by now been shot and killed at close range after trying to engage the enemy fighters with his M249, which likely jammed during the brief encounter.[274]

Stripped down to make the flight back to Takur Ghar, Razor 04 left Gardez at 4:45 am, carrying Brett the M60 gunner, Chapman and Turbo with M4s, and Kyle, Slab, and Randy with SR25s.[275] Slabinski had briefed the team that they were going back up to the ridge and concluded his brief with the oblique statement that “we’re going back up there and killing every last one of those motherfuckers.”[276] Blaber communicated with Grim 32 and authorized the AC-130 to attack the enemy visible on the ridge – also visible from Juliet’s position – just prior to the arrival of Mako 30.[277] Due to a last second change in communication protocol the AC-130 did not receive final permission to fire.[278]

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

11th Reconnaissance Squadron RQ-1L Predator Drone, based out of Indian Springs, Nevada, conducting pre-flight checkout from an undisclosed Middle Eastern location in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 9 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection.

 

01

Razor 04 deploys Mako 30

 

Friel managed to make the landing, deploying Mako 30 on the mountain top, despite heavy enemy fire, just before 5 am.[279] Slabinski was temporarily delayed when he dropped waist deep into the snow, but John Chapman charged up the ridgeline, killing the two Chechen fighters who were manning the first position.[280] “It was as if the Controller [Chapman] was a man possessed” wrote Dan Schilling of this heroic moment.[281] In fact, by capturing the first position, Mako 30 was nearly on top of Robert’s body, but in the gunfight they never noticed the fallen SEAL.[282]

 

0203

Slab and Chappy move towards the enemy’s defensive position on the ridge

 

0405

Location of Roberts’ body and Chapman rushing the enemy

 

06

Chapman storms the enemy position, defeating two fighters, before being joined by Slab and the rest of Mako 30. Shortly after this Chapman is shot twice by the fighters from the second position.

 

Immediately after taking the first position, Mako 30 was exposed to PKM and RPG fire from a second entrenchment, 25 feet behind the first.[283] While Slabinski fired 40 mm grenades at the second position, Chapman was hit and mortally wounded, and as Chapman was the radio operator this temporarily cut off Mako 30’s communications.[284] Brett, the M60 gunner, blasted away at the second position, but was then hit by shrapnel from a frag grenade and shot twice in the leg.[285]

 

18

17

16

Visualization of Chapman storming the first position and engaging the second position, before being shot.

 

Despite throwing hand grenades and firing their weapons in an attempt to suppress the second position, the bunker had not been reduced and Mako 30 was already running low on ammunition.[286] Unable to capture the second position, with Roberts and Chapman both apparently killed and two or three others wounded, Slabinski tossed a smoke grenade and withdrew the team, scrambling down the mountainside at about 5:10, the entire firefight having lasted not more than thirteen minutes.[287] He then used his hand-held radio to regain communications with the orbiting AC-130 (Grim 32) – the pilots and crew described seeing gun flashes, tracers and lasers projecting in every direction – and proceeded to plastered the ridge with 75 rounds of 105 mm fire, as the mujahideen likewise fired mortars onto the mountain peak.[288]

 

0708

This shows Brett the M60 gunner (at left) engaging the second position (middle) from the boulder above the first entrenchment, until he is hit by grenade fragments and falls off the boulder, landing near Slabinski.

 

0910

Slabinski, with Roberts and Chapman believed dead and Brett injured, decided to pull out, and the SEALs can be seen here (bottom) retreating from the first position after popping a smoke grenade (just above them).

In fact, John Chapman had survived being shot, and continued to engage the enemy as additional mujahideen arrived on the summit. Chapman managed to despatch several fighters before being overrun and shot to death just as the QRF was landing around 6:11 am.[289]

 

1211

Grainy footage showing the wounded Chapman (green) engaging enemy fighters (red) after the GRIM 32 105mm howitzer strikes.

 

1314

Chapman, shortly before being overrun and shot at point blank range, attempts to distract the fighters around him from attacking the approaching QRF helicopter, which is nevertheless struck by an RPG.

 

Slabinski

In May 2018 Master Chief Petty Officer Britt “Slab” Slabinski was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role as the Mako 30 team leader at Takur Ghar on 4 March 2002

 

Chapman

 Air Force Controller Technical Sergeant John “Chappy” Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in August 2018

 

Robert’s Ridge

Roberts Ridge

Peak of Takur Ghar, March 2002

The 22-23 strong Ranger QRF, 1st Platoon, A Company (plus an air controller and a three-man 160th SOAR CSAR team), but lacking satellite communications had, about 5 am, departed Bagram aboard Razor 01 (piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Greg Calvert, carrying more than 20 men: the two pilots, a 160th medic, four crew chiefs, a CCT, 9 or 10 Rangers, an ETAC, and the CSAR parajumpers) and Razor 02 (about 16 men: two pilots, four crew chiefs, 10 Rangers and a SEAL).[290] As dawn was breaking the low-fuel AC-130 departed back to its airbase in Uzbekistan, meaning the QRF would be dangerously exposed when the Chinooks arrived on Takur Ghar.[291]

 

Self

Captain Nate Self and Staff Sergeant Arin Canon aboard an MH-47, from Nate Self, Two Wars (2008).

The sun was rising at 5:45 am, and between 6 and 6:15 am, Razor 01 arrived over Takur Ghar. The Chinook was immediately engaged by enemy machine gun fire, an RPG striking the Chinook’s right engine while the helicopter was still 20 feet off the ground. Riddled with gunfire, the cockpit glass was blown away and the helicopter crash-landed down onto the ridge. Razor 01’s copilot had been shot in the leg, and both door gunners were shot, Sergeant Phil Svitak, the right door gunner, was mortally wounded.[292] Three soldiers (Sergeant Bradley Crose, Specialist (Corporal) Matt Commons, and Specialist Marc Anderson) were immediately killed exiting the helicopter, and five more were badly wounded as the fighters on the mountaintop rained fire down on the crashed helicopter.[293] Razor 02 was waved off and flew back to Gardez.[294]

 

15

KIA and WIA from the QRF around the crashed Chinook

 

Razor01razor01peak

Razor 01 crashed on the peak of Takur Ghar, snow cleared. Al Qaida positions directly in front, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 54-6

 

The Rangers, pilots, medics and crew chiefs blew open the Chinook’s emergency exits and quickly established a perimeter around the Chinook crash, returning fire as machine gun bullets and RPG fire continued to pour in.[295] The Rangers managed to shoot two of the RPG gunners, reducing the danger from the incoming fire.[296] With Specialist Aaron Totten-Lancaster using his M249 to provide suppressive fire, support was added by Rangers Gilliam and Depouli with their M240 machine gun, freeing Captain Self, with shooters Sergeant Josh Walker and Air Force Staff Sergeant Kevin Vance, to form a flanking movement and begin countering the fire from the positions above them.[297] Brian, one of the crew chiefs, picked up Specialist Commons’ M203 (the only one in Razor 01) and handed it off to Walker who dropped 40 mm grenades on the enemy bunker.[298] “We really turned the fight around in about a minute,” Self explained later.[299]

 

fighters

Fighters shooting down at the Razor 01 crash site, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 52-3, note the sneakers

 

1280px-The_Battle_of_Takur_Ghar,_by_Keith_Rocco

Sergeant Keary Miller’s Silver Star action during the Battle of Takur Ghar, by Kieth Rocco.

 

At 7 am Vance, the QRF air controller, was able to call in F-15s which strafed the mountain with their 20 mm cannons.[300] Meanwhile Razor 02, carrying Staff Sergeant Arin Canon and the other half of the QRF again departed Gardez (the SEAL aboard Razor 02 was none other than Vic Hyder), along the way being informed by Slabinski that they should land near Mako 30’s position to avoid the hot LZ. Razor 02 touched down about 300 meters from Mako 30 at 7:30 am, although this meant a 2,000 foot climb up to the ridge to join the rest of the QRF.[301] While the Rangers climbed up to the summit, Vic Hyder went in search of Mako 30, reaching them about an hour later.[302]

 

Takur Gharridge

The tactical situation on Takur Ghar, 6 – 7 am, 4 March 2002.

 

The situation at the Takur Ghar ridge itself was critical, as the mujahideen were now deploying 82 mm mortars against the stranded Rangers.[303] The CSAR team moved the wounded, including Sergeant First Class Cory Lamoreaux,[304] and the PJ Senior Airman Jason Cunningham (who was in fact mortally wounded),[305] away from the crashed Chinook to avoid the mortars while Captain Self led a small contingent of four men to attempt to knock out the second position that was pinning them down, but were driven off.[306] An F-16 run that dropped two 500 lb bombs missed the enemy bunker, as did a Predator hellfire missile, although a second hellfire launched at 10:00 am (zeroed in by the Juliet AFO) scored a direct hit and wiped out the second position.[307] The Razor 02 Rangers reached the mountain top between 10:30 and 11 am.[308] The Rangers were still taking fire from mujahideen positioned on a false summit southeast of the Chinook crash site.[309]

 

battle

The firefight for the summit

 

ridge

The ridgeline, viewed from Specialist Randy Pazder’s M240B, from Nate Self, Two Wars (2008).

 

The QRF was still taking mortar fire, however, but by noon had cleared the Takur Ghar ridge, in the process discovering the fate of Roberts and Chapman.[310] A 70-man force (including 35 TF 11 operators) was at that time assembling at Gardez to fly onto Takur Ghar, escorted by Apaches, but this plan was delayed until 8 pm that evening, again indicating how important the cover of night and the presence of the AC-130s was to offset the enemy’s terrain advantage.[311] At 8:15 pm four Chinooks arrived and extracted the entire QRF and Mako 30, including the wounded (11) and KIA, of which there were seven Americans.[312] The mujahideen, however, had been dealt a serious blow as Takur Ghar was in fact their last stronghold in the valley. Furthermore the Taliban commander, Saif Rahman Mansour, was also killed during fighting on the 4th.[313]

 

rangers

Sergeant Philip Svitak, Specialist Marc Anderson, Sergeant Bradley Crose, PFC Matt Commons, USAF Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, from Nate Self, Two Wars (2008).

 

miller

Technical Sergeant Keary Miller, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, and Staff Sergeant Gabe Brown, mid-February 2002.

 

chalk1chalk2

Staff Sergeant Ray Depouli, Private First Class David Gilliam, Specialist Aaron Totten-Lancaster, rangers from Chalk 1 & Staff Sergeant Harper Wilmoth, Specialist Oscar Escano, Specialist Randy Pazder, Specialist Jonas Polson, Sergeant Patrick George, Specialist Omar Vela and Specialist Chris Cunningham, rangers from Chalk 2, from Leigh Neville, Takur Ghar (2013), p. 50, 62

 

shootdown

Looking into the Shahi Khot towards the Eastern Mountains from “the Fishhook”, 6:20 am on 4 March, just after the Razor 01 crash, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

 

Meanwhile early on the 4th, Corkran’s 1/187 troops had marched far enough to the north that they were in direct contact with the Juliet team.[314] Their task was to examine a cave complex identified by the Delta team, which in fact consisted of several huts and significantly two Soviet era 57 mm anti-aircraft guns, although they appeared to be non-functional.[315] Wiercinski now ordered Corkran to move south, clearing the eastern ridges in the direction of Takur Ghar as he did so. Corkran ordered Cornell’s B Company to take point as they moved south.

It was about midday when Cornell arrived at the compound already cleared twice, by Preysler and then Crombie. Aspland’s C Company now took the lead and continued the march south.[316] As they closed in on BP Diane on the afternoon of 4 March, the only area still not secure was BP Ginger, the slope of Takur Ghar through which Wiercinski was convinced the enemy’s reinforcements had been slipping into the valley. As such, Wiercinski now ordered LaCamera’s 1/87 infantry – waiting at Bagram since being withdrawn the night of 2 March, to form TF Summit (Kraft’s depleted C Company, reinforced by two of Crombie’s A Company platoons; all of C Company 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment – newly arrived from Kuwait; plus B Company 1/187 which until now had been in reserve) and to return to the Shahi Khot to secure BP Ginger. TF Summit was deployed at LZ 3 (west of BP Diane) by 4:30 pm on 4 March.[317] LaCamera’s orders were to clear Takur Ghar, which was a significant mountaineering challenge, and by nightfall TF Summit had only made it about a quarter up the mountain. They were soon joined by Crombie’s A Company who had marched south from LZ 15. As a snowstorm swept the eastern mountains a small group of Taliban, who had survived the battle on the summit, descended the mountain and surrendered.[318]

 

interior5InteriorBriefing by Major A. C. Roper, 101st Airborne, in Kandahar; he states more than 80 pieces of ordnance have been dropped around the Shahi Khot. Afghan Interior Minister Younis Qanouni states that they have started an operation with the Americans against the Taliban and al Qaida, intending “to clean them out.”

 

rumsfeld03rumsfeld01

Rumsfeld and Myers give press briefing at the Pentagon on 4 March. Rumsfeld describes heavy casualties, but states that the coalition will not be dissuaded and the Taliban and Al Qaida fighters must either surrender of be killed.

 

marchsouth

The march to the south, 4-6 March, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Operation Glock, 5 – 12 March

The following morning (5 March) before sunrise LaCamera received orders to secure a suspected helicopter crashsite to the north west, and he despatched Crombie’s A Company for that purpose. Meanwhile Kraft’s C Company encountered an enemy squad, and was able to destroy it with help from an AC-130.[319] In the event it turned out the reports of the crashed helicopter were false. TF Summit however could see enemy fighters moving around the villages in the valley, in some cases hurriedly loading SUVs. The TF, which by now had a proliferation of 60 mm, 81 mm and 120 mm mortars, quickly bombarded the enemy concentrations. By 6 March BP Ginger was secured, and the Shahi Khot was declared a “free-fire zone” allowing airstrikes on the villages themselves.[320]

 

G06G05g04Gingerbomb

The Ginger draw being bombed, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

hagenbeck06Hagenbeck05

Major General Hagenbeck briefing reporters on the conduct of Operation Anaconda, 6 March 2002, stating that CJTF Mountain has destroyed as many as 400 enemy fighters, AP newsreel archive

 

By 8 March reinforcements, under the Tajik General Gul Haidar, were being rushed from Kabul to Gardez, including six BMPs, four T-54 tanks, and about 600 Afghan soldiers.[321] Thus reinforced, Zia Lodin (overcoming the cultural conflict between Pashtuns and Tajiks) was now willing to go back to the valley and begin clearing the villages.[322] The next phase was known as Operation Glock, and took place following a sustained air bombardment of the Shahi Khot over three days, 6 to 9 March. ODAs 394, 594 and 372 would lead the Afghan fighters back into the valley, now supported by their tanks and mechanized elements, after the villages had been suitably bombarded.[323]

 

SmithDelta

8 March, Colonel Joe Smith, 10th Mountain Division Chief of Staff, tells reporters the Task Force has engaged between 250 to 700 fighters in the last few days, AP newsreel archive

 

Haidar was in position the morning of 11 March, but his men on “the Whale” would not wait for Zia Lodin to arrive and thus rushed into the valley in advance of both Zai Lodin and Haidar himself who was moving with the mechanized forces through the northern entrance. At first Haidar’s men confused Captain Baltazar’s C Company at BP Betty (ie, directly across the valley) with the enemy and were preparing to engage them when C Company was able to to open communications and prove that they were friendlies. While Haidar cleared Shir Khan Kheyl, Zia Lodin arrived to the south and cleared Babol Kheyl and Marzak. This phase of the operation was over by the afternoon.[324] TF Rakkasan, meanwhile, which had been holding the eastern mountains for the better part of a week, had been selectively exfiltrated since 9 March, the last units arriving back at Bagram on 12 March.

 

glock

Operation Glock, the Afghan forces arrive and clear the Shahi Khot, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

contrails2contrails1

10 March 2002, B-52 contrails over Gardez, AP newsreel archive

 

T13T12T11T09T07T03T05T04T02

8-9 March 2002, lead mechanized elements drive to Gardez to reinforce Operation Anaconda (in preparation for Operation Glock), while Afghan T-54 tanks and BMPs depart from Kabul, AP newsreel archive

 

hilferty

9 March 2002, interview with Major Brian Hilferty, 10th Mountain Division spokesman, at Bagram, AP newsreel archive Hilferty stated the valley was still and active combat zone and that ongoing resupply missions were taking place.

 

strike03strike02strike05strike01

12 March 2002, Pentagon released gun-camera footage of F-16 and F-14 strikes carried out on 10 March, AP newsreel archive

 

afghans

Afghan fighters with Pete Blaber, clearing the Shahi Khot, 12 March 2002, from The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

 

apacheapache2binoscoolguygunsinterviewairbornemortarmortar2satphonetrooperpeaksstrikesview

10 March 2002, various shots of 10th Mountain division deploying, firing an 81 mm mortar, and clearing compounds, AP newsreel Archive

S08S07S06S05S04S03S01

Afghan mechanized column returning from Shahi Khot, 11 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Operation Harpoon & Polar Harpoon, 12 – 18 March

harpoon

3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on “the Whale”, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Hagenbeck was still convinced there were enemy forces in the valley, although by this point the last pockets of the enemy were hopelessly overmatched. To follow-up the Rakkasan and Afghan effort, Hagenbeck formed TF Commando under Colonel Kevin Wilkerson’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain. They were supported by the Canadian’s 3rd PPCLI (Lt. Colonel Patrick Stogran), flown in from Kandahar, with Captain John Stevens’ A Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, plus HMM-165, a US Marine Corps helicopter unit with attached TF Talon Chinooks.[325] The Canadians were initially tasked with clearing the Naka Valley south of Takur Ghar, but due to confusion at CENTCOM were instead ordered to seize “the Whale” although by this point that objective had been thoroughly bombed and swept multiple times.[326] At any rate, Operation Harpoon was underway on 13 March, with the full Task Force deployed by 14 March.[327] Not surprisingly TF Commando discovered no enemy, although a number of weapons and ammunition caches were located. The afternoon of 15 March the TF did however locate an enemy emplacement held by three fighters, and quickly destroyed it. TF Commando was airlifted out on 18 March.[328]

 

return008return009return007return006return004return002return001

XbinosXfighterXflagXspecopsXt55

13 & 14 March 2002, coalition special forces and Afghan combatants, BMPs, T-54, return from the Shahi Khot, south of Gardez, as B-52 strikes take place overhead, AP newsreel archive

 

hagenbeck04Hagenbeck03

Major General Hagenbeck briefing reporters at Bagram on 14 March 2002, AP archive

 

anacondaplan

Graphic shown to the media by Hagenbeck, March 2002, AP newsreel archive, this indicates the situation during Operation Polar Harpoon.

 

The final sweep of the eastern valley was carried out by A and C Companies from 4/31 (Lt. Colonel Stephen Townsend) between 18 and 19 March. C Company with Lt. Colonel Townsends’ HQ landed on Takur Ghar and climbed the summit, while Captain Stevens with A Company swept the valley itself. Once again although few if any enemy were encountered a great number of weapons caches and fighting positions were discovered. One ammunition cache was so vast it took 6 hours to completely destroy. The mujahideen positions on Takur Ghar were revealed to be even more elaborate and developed than had been initially suspected, including trenches, command and control posts, and numerous weapons emplacements.[329] Townsend was still on the ridge the morning of 19 March when he heard over the radio General Franks – who was visiting Bagram – announce that Operation Anaconda was over.[330] The last of 4/31 was withdrawn before noon.

 

harpoon2

harpoon3

TF Commando movements during Operation Harpoon & Polar Harpoon, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

binosChinookchinooksupplyenemyenemycampphonesunsettroopsvaley02valleyvalley03valley04

US troops conclude operations in the Shahi Khot valley, 18/19 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

 

Aftermath & Conclusion

Cheney

Vice President Cheney touring the Middle East, 13 – 17 March, visiting Al-Udeid Airbase, Qatar, the USS John C. Stennis, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and other locations.

 

reed

Sergeant David Martin Wurtz receiving the purple heart from Thomas E. White, US Secretary of the Army, at Walter Reed hospital in Washington, DC. Also awarded purple hearts on this occasion were Andrew Brent Scott, Lieutenant Bradley Majorca, and Ricardo Miranda Jr. AP newsreel archive, 12 March 2002

 

hers4herss2Herssherss3

ANACONDA

Immediately after the initial battles the bodies of seven Americans killed during Operation Anaconda are transferred to the United States via Germany, 5 March 2002, AP newsreel archive. National Archive, Staff Sergeant Justin Pyle, USAF.

 

Franks10Franks09

18 March, in Kabul General Franks awards Bronze Stars to 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division soldiers Sergeant First Class Michael Peterson, Staff Sergeant Randel Peres, Staff Sergeant Dwayne Simms, Staff Sergeant David Hruban.

 

The battle that took place between 2-19 March 2002 resulted in the death of three Northern Alliance fighters and 11 coalition soldiers, of whom eight were US servicemen, with another 40 to 80 wounded: the heaviest loss of US lives in combat since 18 Rangers and special operators were killed in Operation Gothic Serpent on 3-4 October 1993. Once again the casualties were proportionately on the side of the enemy, as many as 800 mujihadeen believed to have become casualties during Anaconda, of which at least 200 were killed. 41 cave complexes and 62 buildings were searched, and 26 mortars, 11 pieces of artillery (including five 122 mm howitzers left over from when the Soviet’s had penetrated into the Shahi Khot) and 15 DShK machine guns were captured or destroyed.[331]

 

artillery

Soviet 122 mm howitzers in the Shahi Khot, left over from Operation Magistral, November 1987 – January 1988, from Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me (2008)

 

The numerous friendly fire near misses and actual blue on blue accidents suggested that air-ground coordination could certainly be improved. The al Qaida fighters and Taliban mujahideen in the Shahi Khot were experienced and motivated and inflicted significant damage on TF Rakkasan, damaging three Apaches, one badly, and then shooting down two Chinooks.

The coordination between the diverse air components, the AFO teams, and the conventional forces in TF Rakkasan and Afghan forces in TF Hammer had been a major bottleneck, leaving important enemy targets un-attacked and forcing the Apache gunships attached to the operation to engage a dangerous degree of enemy anti-aircraft weaponry. The initial TF Rakkasan air assault in the valley had been based on enemy force level estimates that were half their actual number, with the result that both LaCamera’s battalion in the south and Preysler’s in the north were initially deployed into positions in the valley that were enfiladed by a determined enemy dug in to the mountains surrounding them. The JSOC attack on Tarkur Ghar had been ill-conceived and devolved into a casualty intensive battle in which two Chinook helicopters were lost, although the target had certainly been a valuable enemy strongpoint. Perhaps most notably the presence of mortars, artillery, and the mujihadeen’s proficiency with these weapons had been entirely overlooked during mission planning.[332]

 

hagenbeck08hilferty02

Major General Heganbeck briefing the media that Operation Anaconda has concluded, 19 March, and Major Hilferty and Sergeant Steve Melbourne, 45 Commando, Royal Marines, giving briefings on 23 and 24 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Rumsfeld4020408-D-2987S-123020427-M-0428C-002

Rumsfeld holding press conferences, 3 & 8 April 2002, Helene C. Stikkel collection, & Rumsfeld visiting Kabul, 27 April 2002, Staff Sergeant James Connolly collection

On 8 March in a televised interview with Fox News and CNN, Rumsfeld stated that Operation Anaconda was an example of a “cleaning up” operation, meant to dislodge and defeat “hard dead-enders” or loyalists who would never surrender to the coalition. Rumsfeld emphasized that the operation was winding down, in accordance with standard US joint doctrine for campaigns, and the following phases would see a transition to US involvement in the development of the interim government.[333] For the Bush administration the focus was shifting ever more rapidly towards Iraq. On 3 March, as Operation Anaconda was underway, General Franks had met again with President Bush in Crawford to refine war plans for the invasion of Iraq.[334]

Significant numbers of international forces, including commandos and special forces from Canadian, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Poland which had begun to arrive at Bagram in the new year, were now deployed in follow up operations in Gardez and throughout southern Afghanistan. On 13 March a follow-up mission in the Arma mountains just north of the Shahi Khot was conducted by American and Canadian forces. British operations, and other multinational operations started in April from Gardez.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan commenced on 28 March 2002.[335] CJTF Mountain was presently dissolved and reconstituted as Combined Joint Task Force 180. Within five months every battalion involved in Anaconda had left Afghanistan.[336] The 101st Airborne was superseded by the 82nd Airborne. Until 2004 there were never more than 1,500 US troops in theatre, and only 2,500 by 2006. Anaconda had been so successful in terms of defeating the Taliban and al Qaida fighters in country that there were only sporadic incidents of low intensity violence until late in 2005.[337]

The destruction of the mujahideen in in the Shahi Khot was in the fact the decisive battle of the war. As Carlotta Gall wrote in her history of the Afghan War, “The Taliban vanished after that. The survivors were seen trekking out along the well-worn mujahideen trail through the border village of Shkin, into Pakistan…. In May 2002, British Marines made a painstaking sweep through the mountain range of the Shahikot and found the insurgents were gone. The commander of the British task force, Brigadier Roger Lane, declared the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan ‘all but won.’”[338] General Franks stated that “the last al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan had been destroyed.”[339]

By early May 2002 the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group, chaired by representatives from the US, EU, Japan and Saudi Arabia, and including 60 other UN member countries and the World Bank, had raised US $4.5 billion to cover the cost of rebuilding Afghanistan over the next five years. Germany had committed to rebuilding the national police, Italy and the European Commission to training the Judiciary, the UK to the critical counter-narcotics mission (Afghanistan at the time of the invasion was the source of 90% of Europe’s heroin), while the UN and then later Japan took responsibility for general demobilization.[340] The draft of the new national constitution was completed on 3 November 2003.

 

2002map

Map of follow-up operations, 2002 – 2003, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Enduring Freedom

Rumsfeld addressing 500 members of the coalition armed forces on 26 April 2002, at the Manas International Airport, “Ganci Air Base” in Kyrgyzstan. On 17 April Rumsfeld denied that CENTCOM had failed to capture bin Laden at Tora Bora, stating that the only evidence bin Laden had been there was “repeated speculation” – a disturbing mischaracterization given the scale of the JSOC effort in December.

On 8 May 2002 Rumsfeld stated in a Pentagon briefing that the work in Afghanistan was not yet finished, and that in particular the Gardez area required additional security. The British had infact deployed to secure Gardez on 5 May in Operation Snipe. On 16 May Rumsfeld testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that Afghanistan had demonstrated a new path forward for US military ‘transformation’ – his long-term goal for the Department of Defense, including in particular the use of “long-range bombers to provide tactical, close-air support,” adding that “this had never been done before.”

In Kuwait on 9 June to visit US troops, Rumsfeld told the US forces at Camp Doha that Afghanistan was only the first battleground of the Global War on Terror. He reiterated this point after the invasion of Iraq on 14 August 2003, stating then that “the Global War on Terror is far from over”.

 

binoschinooksmapSFsweep2valleywalk2

US conventional and Special Forces on Operation Mountain Sweep, 25 August 2002, AP newsreel archive.

 

On 13 August 2002 Rumsfeld stated at a Pentagon press event that he was “impressed” with the ongoing coalition efforts to destroy pockets of al Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan, in particular, in south eastern Afghanistan where the remnants of the Taliban were hiding. The Defense Secretary pointed to the death of 28 year old Sergeant 1st Class James Speer, Special Forces, who had died of wounds sustained in a firefight on 27 July, significant as the incident took place at Khost, the other end of the Gardez corridor.

Of course, the war did not end even after Resolute Strike, however by now major operations had moved on to Iraq, essentially dooming the mission in Afghanistan by downgrading it from the frontline US war of the 21st century to a low order of importance. The lessons of the Afghan war regarding the tactical future of warfare were reintroduced in the war against ISIL, by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Reserve. Rumsfeld and Franks testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 1 August 2002, stating that the ISAF coalition required sustained funding and international commitment, with Franks adding that by the end of 2002 the coalition expected between 3,000 to 4,000 Afghan troops to be trained, making ground towards Rumsfeld’s objective of building security inside Afghansitan.

On 19 and 27 September Rumsfeld testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and then stated in a press briefing, that the link between al Qaida and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was “accurate and not debatable” and that Iraq was to be considered a component of the Global War on Terrorism. “We can fight the various elements of the global war on terror simultaneously,” Rumsfeld told the Armed Services Committee. At the following press briefing the Secretary went so far as to compare the situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis – another demonstration of the lengths the Bush administration was taking, long before the mission in Afghanistan was complete, to justify invading Iraq.

 

P22471-18.jpg

President Bush giving remarks on the success of the humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, at the Dwight Eisenhower Executive building, 11 October 2002

 

021024-D-9880W-021

Rumsfeld and Myers brief Pentagon reporters on 24 October 2002, Robert Ward collection

US Military Spokesman Roger King describing a battle that took place on 28 January 2003 when AH64 Apache gunships came under fire from a series of caves held by as many as 80 enemy fighters. QRF was flown in to support Special Forces, with their Afghan militia, who had discovered the location of the fighters. 19 JDAMs were dropped from B-1B bombers and two 500 lb laser guided bombs were dropped by coalition F16s  in the ensuing battle. Spokesman King stated that this was the largest enemy concentration the coalition had engaged since Operation Anaconda.

 

Bush

President George W. Bush delivering his January 2003 State of the Union Address, at which Captain Nathan Self was in attendance.

 

040304-F-0451J-011

4 March 2004, USAF Honor Guard retiring colors that flew over Afghanistan, in honor of the newly named SRA Jason D. Cunningham Leadership School, Moody AFB, after Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, pararescueman, 38th Rescue Squadron, 347th Rescue Wing, killed 4 March 2002 and posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross on 13 September 2002, Airman 1st Class Joshua T. Jasper, USAF collection

Major General Franklin Hagenbeck was promoted to Lt. General, and then in June 2006 to Superintendent of the US Military Academy, West Point, serving there for four years until his retirement.

 

Naylor

18 April 2005, author Sean Naylor discusses his book about Operation AnacondaNot a Good Day to Die.

 

bagramKarzaikabulkarzai2

President Bush visiting with troops at Bagram, meeting Hamid Karzai in Kabul on 15 December 2008, and being awarded the Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan Insignia, shortly before leaving office in the new year.

Lt. Colonel Paul LaCamera, who commanded the 1/87 force in the valley, took command of the 3rd Brigade, 75th Ranger Regiment, and between 2005 and 2007 was the CO, 75th Rangers. From 2007 until 2012 he held senior posts in JSOC, before being promoted to Lt. General, with command of XVIII Airborne Corps, serving as CO Operation Inherent Resolve from September 2018 to September 2019, at which point he was promoted to four star, and assumed command of US Army Pacific.[341]

 

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to Retired Navy Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt Slabinski for “conspicuous gallantry” in the East Room of the White House in Washington

24 May 2018, President Donald Trump presents Britt Slabinski with the Medal of Honor.[342]

 

Pashtunwali

Code of Pashtunwali, from Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

Appendix I, Photo Gallery

010502-D-2987S-004

Cabinet members at working lunch at the Pentagon, 2 May 2001, photo by Helene C. Stikkel.

 

cabinet2

Senior cabinet members conferring and listening to reports at the Emergency Operations Center at the White House, 11 September 2001, National Archives.

 

P7541-07

Dr. Rice on 18 September, by Tina Hager

 

BushMueller

President Bush and FBI Director Robert Mueller unveil a list of the 22 “most wanted” terrorists, 10 October 2001

 

BushTravis

President Bush delivering a determined speech to USAF personnel at Travis AFB, 17 October 2001

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

General Tommy Franks meeting with the US Ambassador to Qatar, Maureen Quinn, 26 October. TSGT Michael R. Nixon collection

 

Bush3KofiPowell

9:38 am, 10 November 2001, Bush delivers his speech at the UN General Assembly.

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

Lt. Colonel Ron Corkran, US Army, CO TF 1-187, listens to Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki on 23 November at a “forward operating location”. TSGT Scott Reed collection. & Shinseki meeting with Lt. Colonel Steven Hadley, USAF, CO 16th Special Operations Wing (Deployed)

 

Heather Mercer

President Bush meeting with Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer in the Oval Office, 26 November 2001. These Christian aid workers, along with six other prisoners had been held by the Taliban since 3 August, were liberated on 14 November when the Taliban fled Kabul.

 

Laura Bush

Laura Bush eating thanksgiving dinner, 21 November 2001, with members of the 101st Airborne division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

 

bushfranksBushFranks

The war in Afghanistan appeared to have been won, and on 28 December Bush invited Franks to his Crawford, Texas, ranch to discuss planning for the invasion of Iraq which, along with North Korea and Iran, he would label the “axis of evil” at his State of the Union address on 29 January, from Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (2004), and the same event by White House photographer Susan Sterner

 

blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with Afghan interim chairman Karzai at Bagram, 7 January 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Appendix II, Air Power & Naval Aviation

ENDURING FREEDOM

C-5 Galaxy carrying 366th Air Expeditionary Wing F-16C support personnel deploying, 8 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Michael D. Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM

Staff Sergeant Ken Bergmann, USAF, photograph of C-17 Globemaster III from Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, taking off in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 18 October 2001, & another C-17 taking off from Sigonella, 29 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Angela Evans, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

C-5 Galaxy carrying 366th Air Expeditionary Wing F-16C support personnel arriving in Middle East for Operation Enduring Freedom, 8 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Michael D. Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

F-16s operating in support of Enduring Freedom, 9 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Tiffany Page, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

E-8C Joint Serveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft arriving in the Persian Gulf to support Enduring Freedom, 9 November 2001, Staff Sergeant Tiffany Page, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

KC-10A Extender, 763rd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 29 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Wayne A. Clark, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM

B-52H from the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing returning to base at Diego Garcia after conducting air strikes in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 30 October 2001, Technical Sergeant Cedric H. Rusidill, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

B-1B Lancer from the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing refuelling from 60th Air Expeditionary Group KC-10 Extender, night of 1 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Cedric H. Rudisill, USAF collection. & B-1B refuelling over Indian Ocean, 17 October 2001, Technical Sergeant Cedric H. Rudisill, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

USAF C-17 loadmasters checking loadout during humanitarian airdrop missions that delivered 35,000 daily ration packages to refugees inside Afghanistan, before the first airstirkes took place, 6 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Jeremy Lock, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

HMCS Vancouver FFH 331 alongside USS John C. Stennis CVN 74, deployed to the Middle East in November 2001, photographed here on 20 May 2002 by Tina R. Lamb, USN collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter deploys USMC artillery, Bravo Battery, 1st Marine Division, 15th Marine Expeditionary unit, 22 October 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection. The Gardez – Khost mission had originally been a USMC objective, see From the Sea: U.S. Marines in the Global war on Terrorism

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

C-130 Hercules, Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 29 October 2001, Staff Sergeant Angela Evans, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

USN F-14 after refuelling from KC-10 on 7 November 2001, note the 2,000 lb GBU-32 laser guided bomb under the fuselage, Staff Sergeant Michael D. Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOMENDURING FREEDOM

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

USMC F/A-18C from VMFA-251 refuelling on 30 October from Technical Sergeant Scott Reed collection &  USN F/A-18s over Afghanistan, armed with 1,000 lb GBU-16 laser guided bombs, 7 November 2001 from Staff Sergeant Michael D Gaddis, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

Royal Air Force CH-47 landing with RAF EC-130 and USAF KC-135R, 92nd Refuelling Wing, parked in foreground at Thumrait Air Base, Oman, on 14 November 2001.  Technical Sergeant Marlin G. Zimmerman collection 

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

Marines from VMGR-352 refuelling two USN H-60 Seahawks from their C-130 tanker, 9 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM 2001

B-1Bs taking off, 12 November, and landing, 4 December, SSGT Shane Cuomo collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

F-15s refuelling night of 14 November 2001, Technical Sergeant Scott Reed, USAF collection

 

ENDURING FREEDOM

ENDURING FREEDOM

USS Iwo Jima (LHD7) and USS Peterson (DD969) at New York after returning from deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 22 May 2002, Michael Pendergrass, & Johnny Bivera collection.

 

Appendix III, TF Rakkasan

B03B02B01

Chinooks above the Shahi Khot on 5 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

chinooks6

Chinooks at Bagram, 6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

bab09bab08bab10bab05Bab04Bab03bab07bab06Bab02Bab01

US forces in the Shahi Khot, near Babulkhel, 3-6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

gardez2gardeznightvision006nightvision005nightvision007nightvision004nightvision003nightvision001apacheapache2gunnerphonephone2soldiersoldier3soldier4soldiers2soldiers5

Chinooks deploying US forces from Gardez in support of Operation Anaconda, 6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive & US forces involved in Operation Anaconda, 6 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

return003return005Xblackhawk101stblackhwakChinookschinooks2chinooks3M60

10 March, 101st Airborne division paratroopers returning to Bagram, AP newsreel archive

 

basereturn01Basereturn03

basereturn02Soldier01

11 March 2002, exhausted TF Rakkasan troops returning from Operation Anaconda, AP newsreel archive

 

Chinook refuelingchinook airlifting suppliesS10S11S09

Chinooks refuelling and delivering supplies from Bagram airbase, & Apaches attacking targets, 14 March 2002

 

BlackhawksUSMCCobraUSMCcobra2

TF 58 USMC Cobra gunships and Blackhawk helicopters, 19 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

c17coolguys

 C-17 unloading special forces, 23 March 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Appendix IV, British Forces

RM04rm03RM02RM01antitankchinookchinookbackcommandovalleyInterviewinterview2interview3ladsphonevalleyvalleyc

16 April, 45 Commando operations from Bagram, 3 Commando Brigadier Rodger Lane announces initial operating capability for his three brigades of Royal Marines, and Lt. Colonel Paul Harradine, Royal Marines spokesman, gives an interview on 17 April 2002, AP newsreel archive

 

Forces1Forces2Rodgerlanevalley

British forces on Operation Ptarmigan, 18 April 2002, and interview with Brigadier Rodger Lane, British Forces Commander, AP newsreel archive

 

chinookhowitzerinterviewinterview2mrinesroyal Marinesroyalmarines2valley

5 May 2002, Royal Marines on Operation Snipe, near Khost, and interview with British Forces Commander, Brigadier Rodger Lane, AP newsreel archive

 

Appendix V, Infographics

mobilization

List of National Guard and Reserve units mobilized by 20 September in support of Enduring Freedom

 

binladen

Concentration of Taliban forces, and movements of bin Laden, 2 October 2001, Washington Post archive

 

infographic

Washington Post Afghanistan infographic, 1 October 2001, note the ring road, location of the Khyber Pass, and the unmarked area southeast of Kabul.

 

 

bombs2bombs

October 7/8/9, maps showing location of coalition airstrikes, BBC

 

Enduring Freedom

7 October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom begins, Washington Post archive

 

Northern Alliance

Northern Alliance/United Front infographic, 27 September 2001, Washington Post archive. Note leadership: Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani with Muhammad Fahim as Ahmed Shah Massoud’s successor.

 

Oct2001Dec

SFsouth

5th SFG and Northern Alliance concentrations, October – December 2001, Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War

 

anacaonda

The complex multi-mission elements involved in Operation Anaconda

 

Slide 1

2008 resource and mining assessment 

 

Carriers

Sorties1Sorties2

USN Aircraft Carriers on station for Operation Enduring Freedom, September 2001 – March 2002, from Benjamin Lambeth, American Carrier Air Power at the Dawn of a New Century (2005)

 

 

Notes

[1] Richard B. Andres and Jeffrey Hukill, “Anaconda: A Flawed Joint Planning Process,” Joint Forces Quarterly, no. 47 (October 2007): 135–40., https://ndupress.ndu.edu/portals/68/Documents/jfq/jfq-47.pdf

[2] Donald Wright, A Different Kind of War: The US Army in Operation Enduring Freedom, October 2001 – September 2005 (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2010)., p. 173, Tommy Franks and Malcolm McConnell, American Soldier (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2004)., p. 381

[3] Stephen Biddle, Afghanistan and The Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy (US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2002)., p. viii

[4] Bob Woodward, Bush at War (Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2002)., p. 121, Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2004)., p. 26. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/12/20011214-8.html

[5] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44849

[6] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011004.html

[7] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011101-2.html

[8] Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006)., p. 78

[9] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011017-20.html

[10] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44434

[11] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 85

[12] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command, 6th ed. (MacDill AFB, FL: Kindle ebook, 2007)., loc. 2409. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/timeline-key-events-afghanistans-40-years-wars-69304042

[13] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011108-4.html

[14] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44350

[15] Peter Bergen, The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda, epub (New York: Free Press, 2011)., p. 160-3. Sean Naylor, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, Kindle ebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015)., p. 176-8. See also, Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2014, Kindle ebook (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2015)., p. 5

[16] Gall, The Wrong Enemy., p. 5-7

[17] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011110-7.html

[18] Naylor, Relentless Strike., p. 176 et seq

[19] Richard Stewart, Operation Enduring Freedom: October 2001 – March 2002, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols., 2006., loc. 354 et seq. See also, “Remembering the Battle of Tora Bora” https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-12-22/remembering-battle-tora-bora-2001

[20] Stewart., loc. 428

[21] Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006)., p. 73

[22] Barton Gellman and Thomas Ricks, “U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight,” Washington Post, April 17, 2002, sec. Politics, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/04/17/us-concludes-bin-laden-escaped-at-tora-bora-fight/b579f38a-24bc-49eb-99b1-a02e9e309623/. Mark Bowden, The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, epub (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2012)., p. 115. Bergen, The Longest War., p. 167-9, 172

[23] Bergen, The Longest War., p. 170-1, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 120

[24] Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, 1st ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006)., p. 30

[25] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 127

[26] Wright., p. 119

[27] Wright., p. 127

[28] Wright., p. 127

[29] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/text/20011128-7.html

[30] Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine., p. 75

[31] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/12/100dayreport.html

[32] Benjamin Lambeth, American Carrier Air Power At the Dawn of a New Century (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2005)., p. 28

[33] Lambeth., p. 28

[34] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020128-13.html

[35] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020128-8.html,  https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/12/text/20011231-1.html

[36] Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II., p. 36

[37] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44001; https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44046

[38] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=43874

[39] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 127

[40] Wright., p. 131-2

[41] Wright., p. 132

[42] Wright., p. 132

[43] Wright., p. 138

[44] Franks and McConnell, American Soldier., p. 378

[45] Bradley Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns in a Ridgetop Battle,” Washington Post, May 24, 2002, sec. Politics, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/05/24/bravery-and-breakdowns-in-a-ridgetop-battle/dce1eefb-d159-47e9-846c-2678b1615fee/. Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 127

[46] Dan Schilling and Lori Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World’s Deadliest Special Operations Force, epub (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2019)., p. 255

[47] Pete Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander, epub (New York: Berkley Caliber, 2008)., p. 309-10, Gregory Feifer, The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan (New York: HarperCollins Perennial, 2010)., p. 234-7

[48] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 255

[49] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 335, 384

[50] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 192

[51] Named after the hill at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin in California, it was said to resemble. Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 135

[52] Wright., p. 130

[53] Wright., p. 130

[54] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 177-80

[55] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 142

[56] Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, 2018 ebook (Penguin, 2005)., p. 121

[57] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 137, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2431

[58] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2562

[59] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 137

[60] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 181-3

[61] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2435

[62] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 259

[63] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 187

[64] Naylor., p. 197, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 137-9

[65] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 139

[66] Wright., p. 136

[67] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 193

[68] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 139

[69] Wright., p. 139

[70] Wright., p. 140-1

[71] Franks and McConnell, American Soldier., p. 379

[72] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2444

[73] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 135

[74] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 189

[75] Naylor., p. 162

[76] Naylor., p. 163-4, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 348

[77] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 256

[78] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 347

[79] Blaber., p. 342-3

[80] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 164

[81] Naylor., p. 165

[82] Naylor., p. 165-6, 188, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 349

[83] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 167

[84] Naylor., p. 166, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 350

[85] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 351, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 168

[86] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 167

[87] Naylor., p. 168

[88] Naylor., p. 168

[89] Naylor., p. 168-9, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 351

[90] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 174

[91] Naylor., p. 169

[92] Naylor., p. 170

[93] Naylor., p. 171

[94] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 354

[95] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 170

[96] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 353

[97] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 171

[98] Naylor., p. 173-5, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 354-5

[99] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 174

[100] Naylor., p. 176, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 355-6

[101] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 176

[102] Naylor., p. 177

[103] Naylor., p. 177

[104] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 357-8

[105] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 166. Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 309, 359-60

[106] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 178, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 358

[107] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 182

[108] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 359, italics added.

[109] Blaber., p. 359-60

[110] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 185, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[111] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 184-5, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 361

[112] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[113] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 189, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 363

[114] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 260

[115] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 189

[116] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 262

[117] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz., p. 263

[118] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz., p. 263-4

[119] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 363

[120] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 171

[121] Naylor., p. 172

[122] Naylor., p. 171

[123] Naylor., p. 179

[124] Naylor., p. 179-80

[125] Naylor., p. 192-3

[126] Naylor., p. 193, 218

[127] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[128] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 364

[129] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 201-3

[130] Naylor., p. 204

[131] Naylor., p. 204-6, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 141

[132] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 208

[133] Naylor., p. 208, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 142

[134] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 210

[135] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 143

[136] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 365-7

[137] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 211, 213

[138] Naylor., p. 212

[139] Naylor., p. 214

[140] Naylor., p. 214

[141] Naylor., p. 215

[142] Naylor., p. 215, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 142

[143] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 215

[144] Naylor., p. 216

[145] Naylor., p. 219

[146] Naylor., p. 220

[147] Naylor., p. 220-1

[148] Naylor., p. 222-6, 257

[149] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 146

[150] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 217-8, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 146

[151] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 217-8, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 146

[152] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 147

[153] Wright., p. 147

[154] Wright., p. 147

[155] Wright., p. 147

[156] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 249

[157] Naylor., p. 249-51

[158] Naylor., p. 251, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 147

[159] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 226-8, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 145

[160] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 145

[161] Wright., p. 145

[162] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 228

[163] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 145

[164] Naylor states that only the 120 mm mortar was brought, Wright stated that the 82 mm battery was also brought, see also, Daniel P. Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, ebook (New York: Mariner Books, 2014)., p. 74 et seq.

[165] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 143-4

[166] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 237, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 144

[167] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 237, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 144, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 370

[168] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 239, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 152

[169] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 240, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 144-5, 149

[170] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 151

[171] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 252

[172] Naylor., p. 260

[173] Naylor., p. 262

[174] Naylor., p. 239

[175] Naylor., p. 246

[176] Naylor., p. 247

[177] Naylor., p. 247

[178] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 143, Bolger, Why We Lost., p. 74

[179] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 241-2

[180] Naylor., p. 243

[181] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 149

[182] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 243

[183] Naylor., p. 245

[184] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 150

[185] Wright., p. 151

[186] Wright., p. 153, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 269

[187] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 153, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 268-9

[188] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 257

[189] Naylor., p. 257-8

[190] Naylor., p. 256

[191] Naylor., p. 259-60

[192] Naylor., p. 273

[193] Naylor., p. 274-5

[194] Naylor., p. 276

[195] Naylor., p. 277

[196] Naylor., p. 276-81

[197] Naylor., p. 265-6

[198] Naylor., p. 266, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 371

[199] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 267

[200] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 154

[201] Wright., p. 153-4

[202] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 268-9

[203] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 284

[204] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 154, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 282

[205] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 282, 288-9, 292

[206] Naylor., p. 285

[207] Naylor., p. 284

[208] Naylor., p. 290

[209] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 375-8, , Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 301

[210] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 297

[211] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 377, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 288

[212] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 297-8

[213] Naylor., p. 298

[214] Naylor., p. 291

[215] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 295

[216] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155-6, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 293

[217] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 294-6

[218] Naylor., p. 290

[219] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 155

[220] Wright., p. 156

[221] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 295, 297

[222] Naylor., p. 305

[223] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 379

[224] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 303

[225] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 380, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 305-6

[226] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 308, Malcolm MacPherson, Roberts Ridge: A Story of Courage and Sacrifice on Takur Ghar Mountain, Afghanistan, epub (New York: Bantam Dell, 2005)., p. 23-4

[227] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 25, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 308,

[228] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 381

[229] Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns.”

[230] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[231] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 21-2

[232] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 381, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 308,

[233] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 29-30

[234] MacPherson., p. 30-1, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 381, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 309

[235] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 385

[236] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 33, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 310

[237] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 36

[238] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[239] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 47

[240] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[241] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 39

[242] MacPherson., p. 39

[243] MacPherson., p. 47

[244] MacPherson., p. 48

[245] MacPherson., p. 41

[246] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 313

[247] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 42

[248] MacPherson., p. 42

[249] MacPherson., p. 48

[250] MacPherson., p. 49

[251] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 314

[252] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 51

[253] MacPherson., p. 52

[254] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 314

[255] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 55

[256] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 325

[257] MacPherson., p. 56

[258] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 326

[259] MacPherson., p. 66, 68-9, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 387, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 315

[260] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 73

[261] MacPherson., p. 73-4

[262] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 311

[263] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157

[264] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 386, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 310, 317

[265] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 77

[266] MacPherson., p. 84, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 387

[267] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 78

[268] MacPherson., p. 80

[269] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 332

[270] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 321-2

[271] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 157-8, MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 88-9

[272] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 87

[273] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 387-8

[274] Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns.”

[275] MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 90

[276] MacPherson., p. 91

[277] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 389

[278] Blaber., p. 394

[279] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 395

[280] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 343-4

[281] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 345

[282] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 349

[283] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 346

[284] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 349-50

[285] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 351, MacPherson., p. 133-4

[286] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2492

[287] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 353-4. MacPherson says 22 minutes. Turbo had also been shot in the ankle.

[288] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 395, Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 376, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 327, MacPherson, Robert’s Ridge., p. 139-42

[289] Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 383-91

[290] Every source gives a different description of the composition of the two QRF components. Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 396-7, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2499, Schilling and Chapman Longfritz, Alone at Dawn., p. 363, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 332

[291] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 399, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 336. According to Naylor several MANPADs were in fact fired at Grim 32.

[292] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 341

[293] https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/3745, Graham, “Bravery and Breakdowns.” US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2516, Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 342

[294] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 400, Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158

[295] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 343

[296] Naylor., p. 345-6

[297] Nate Self, Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts – Abroad and Within, ebook (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008)., loc. 2297 et seq

[298] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 346

[299] Naylor., p. 346

[300] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 158, Naylor., p. 351

[301] Wright., p. 158-9, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2524, Mark Skovlund, Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins, Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror (Colorado Springs: Blackside Concepts, 2014). p. 60, Naylor., p. 353

[302] Naylor., p. 353, 358

[303] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 159, Naylor., p. 354

[304] https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/17147

[305] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2540

[306] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 159

[307] Wright., p. 159, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 401, Naylor., p. 357

[308] US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2524, Naylor., p. 358

[309] Naylor., p. 361 et seq.

[310] Naylor., p. 359-60

[311] Naylor., p. 360

[312] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 159, US SOCOM History and Research Office, History of the United States Special Operations Command., loc. 2540

[313] Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 403, http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/Afghanistan-Fighting/4346a5f7d51910b2394ac00b70a7b774

[314] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 160

[315] Wright., p. 160

[316] Wright., p. 160

[317] Wright., p. 162

[318] Wright., p. 162

[319] Wright., p. 163

[320] Wright., p. 163

[321] http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/Afghanistan-Front/a923b8b4787c77a621dedebdc89ad4b1. Wright., p. 163

[322] Wright., p. 163

[323] Wright., p. 163

[324] Wright., p. 165

[325] Wright., p. 166

[326] Wright., p. 166

[327] Wright., p. 167

[328] Wright., p. 169

[329] Wright., p. 171

[330] Wright., p. 172

[331] Wright., p. 173, Blaber, The Mission, The Men, and Me., p. 404

[332] Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die., p. 296

[333] https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=44274. https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_0ch1.pdf?ver=2018-11-27-160457-910

[334] Gordon and Trainor, Cobra II., p. 38

[335] unama.unmissions.org

[336] Wright, A Different Kind of War., p. 173

[337] Donald Rumsfeld, Known and Unknown, A Memoir, epub (New York: Sentinel, 2011)., p. 1,613-6

[338] Gall, The Wrong Enemy., p. 37

[339] Franks and McConnell, American Soldier., p. 381

[340] https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/05/20020502-18.html

[341] https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1631934/operation-inherent-resolve-transitions-commanders-for-defeat-isis-mission/
https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/former-inherent-resolve-commander-takes-over-us-army-pacific-and-its-85-000-soldiers-1.607819

[342] https://taskandpurpose.com/code-red-news/john-chapman-medal-of-honor-citation

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1917 – 1918

 

The day is coming! Unterseeboot before London. Lithograph print.
Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1917 – 1918

Introduction

As Marc Milner recently explained in the context of the Second World War, ‘the first line of defense of trade was always the main battle fleet.’[i] What was true in 1939 was true in 1914. Germany’s High Sea Fleet, able to sortie from its protected anchorages only at significant risk, was reduced to relying on its destroyers, submarines, merchant raiders and naval air service to carry on the naval offensive. Britain’s Grand Fleet, although successful at confining the High Sea Fleet to the North Sea, was in turn unable to protect Britain’s far-flung merchant shipping. The two dreadnought fleets of the great naval antagonists were thus mutually immobilized. Flotilla craft, seaplanes and submarines became the primary instruments in the vast battle over oceanic trade. As British Prime Minister David Lloyd George prosaically described the situation, ‘When the last roving German cruiser had been beached in a mangrove swamp in Africa, in order to escape capture, the German Admiralty put more faith in the little swordfish which had already destroyed more enemy ships in a month than the cruiser had succeeded in sinking during the whole of their glorious but short-lived career. When they realized the power of this invention they set about building submarines on a great scale and constructing much larger types.’[ii]

While the Grand Fleet’s 10th Cruiser Squadron carried out the blockade of Germany, slowly strangling the Central Powers’ access to overseas trade, Germany’s U-boats, seaplanes and destroyers from the High Sea Fleet (HSF) and Flanders Flotillas attempted to circumscribe the blockade and attack Britain’s oceanic supply lines. The U-boats, like the Zeppelins and Gothas in the air, were new technological threats against which Britain’s traditional wooden walls provided no protection. To produce strategic effect with the aerial bomber and submarine, however, it was necessary to violate the laws of civilized warfare as they had been agreed upon by the European powers at the Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907.[iii] For the Zeppelins and Gothas this meant bombing British cities from the air without regard for civilian casualties, and for the U-boats at sea this meant violating the rules for prize capture and indiscriminately sinking enemy and neutral merchant shipping without warning.

The new Admiralty building, from N. A. M. Rodger, The Admiralty (1979)

After a trepidatious start in February 1915, when the ‘War Zone’ was established around Britain, by the spring of 1917 the U-boats were well on their way to wiping out Britain’s merchant fleet. During the months of March, April, May, June, July, and August, British shipping losses were always above 350,000 tons, with losses peaking at 550,000 tons in April, and 498,500 tons in June.[iv] The Admiralty, under the leadership of First Sea Lord Sir John Jellicoe and First Lord Edward Carson, had computed the loss rate and expected that, if no solution were found to the submarine crisis, Britain would soon be reduced by starvation and thus forced to abandon the war long before the yearend of 1918.[v]

London, c. early 20th century, by William Wyllie

The Royal Navy undertook a herculean effort to reduce shipping losses and increase Anti-Submarine (A/S) capabilities. Steadily improved counter-measures, reorganization at the Admiralty and in particular of the Naval Staff, and the gradual implementation of escorted convoys during the summer of 1917, began to alleviate the crisis. Although shipping losses remained high, frequently above 200,000 tons per month until the end of the war, this loss rate was not enough to cripple Britain’s supply lines. Furthermore, U-boats were now forced to attack defended convoys, raising the risk of counter-attack and eventually resulting in the development of wolf pack tactics, as were seen a quarter century later during the Second World War.[vi]

441px-the_eye_at_the_periscope_hm_submarine_art.iwmart923

The Eye at the Periscope aboard a Royal Navy submarine, Francis Dodd collection

Although the implementation of escorted convoys curtailed shipping losses, and forced the otherwise ephemeral U-boats to attack prepared warships, the inability of the Royal Navy to attack and destroy the High Sea Fleet meant that any operation aimed at capturing or destroying the U-boat bases themselves, or attempts to mine the U-boat areas of operations, could potentially prompt a fleet action in the enemy’s thoroughly mined waters: raising the prospect of catastrophic losses for the Royal Navy.

L8376

Convoy in rough seas, 1918, by John Everett

Later in 1918 the famous ZO operation was conducted in an attempt to block the bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend, while a redoubled aerial bombing campaign was additionally carried out. Finally, in October 1918, with the One Hundred Days offensive systematically rolling back the German army and liberating Belgian,[vii] the Royal Navy commissioned HMS Argus, an aircraft carrier system that included the Sopwith T1 ‘cuckoo’ capable or launching aerial torpedoes and thus opening the prospect for a torpedo strike against the High Sea Fleet in harbour – guaranteeing the defeat of Germany’s main fleet. And without the main fleet to protect the bases, the U-boats, minesweepers and flotilla destroyers carrying out the anti-shipping war would quickly find operations extremely difficult under the guns of Grand Fleet warships.

smoking-roomThe Smoking Room, HMS Ambrose, Francis Dodd collection

This blog examines the multidomain nature of the unrestricted U-boat campaign of 1917 – 1918, and demonstrates the unpreparedness of the Royal Navy to combat the submarine threat, but also the extensive reforms undertaken that eventually defeated the U-boats. By November 1918 the Royal Navy had devised a comprehensive and effective A/S and trade defence system, to which Germany’s raiders could not respond with any hope of success.

Various British warships sunk by U-boats and mines, 1914 – 1915, three armoured cruisers, three pre-dreadnought battleships, two light cruisers and HMS Audacious a 28,000 ton super dreadnought, completed in 1913, which struck a mine.

For both the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine), the First World War began with a flurry of surface and submarine activity. After the demise of Admiral von Spee at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, Admiral Souchen’s arrival in Istanbul, and the Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank engagements of August 1914 and January 1915, the surface threat, beyond a few isolated light cruisers and merchant raiders, had been broadly curtailed.[viii]

Germany’s U-boats, for their part, destroyed a series of high-profile targets early in the war, from the seaplane carrier HMS Hermes, to the scout cruiser HMS Pathfinder, and the three armoured cruisers: HMS Crecy, Hogue and Aboukir. The new dreadnought HMS Audacious was lost to a mine on 27 October 1914, and the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed by U24 on New Years Day 1915. To add insult to injury, HMS Majestic and Triumph were both torpedoed at the Dardanelles by U21 during the May crisis of 1915.

The submarine and mine threat had a significant impact on Britain’s strategic position. The Grand Fleet required not only a protected and submarine-proof anchorage from which to operate, but also a large force of destroyers to escort it while at sea. The submarine’s emergent role as a commerce destroyer caught the Allies off guard. The decision in January 1915 by the Kaiser to authorize the designation of a ‘War Zone’ around Britain, in which British merchant shipping would be destroyed as part of a counter-blockade strategy, seemed a barbaric example of German ‘frightfulness’.

The strategic situation in the North Sea, 1917 – 1918, Map 9 from Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (1998), p. 248

Although shipping losses increased, Germany’s U-boats were not yet plentiful enough to seriously impact the war, and the embarrassing sinking of the liners Lusitania in May and Arabic in August 1915, both with loss of life for American and other neutral citizens, encouraged the Kaiser to restrain the anti-shipping war. The new doctrine of surface battle, promulgated by Admiral Reinhardt Scheer, necessitated the withdrawal of the U-boats during 1916 to combine with the Navy’s Zeppelins for fleet operations. The singular result of the Battle of Jutland on 31 May, followed by the aborted August sortie, convinced Scheer that the British blockade could not be cracked by the High Sea Fleet.[ix] The new German war leadership under Ludendorff and Hindenburg, as such, made the decision late in 1916 to gamble on the U-boats sinking enough British, Allied and neutral tonnage to cripple Britain’s war effort and thus tip the war in Germany’s favour.

Various Francis Dodd drawings from 1918, done from Royal Navy submarines, trawlers, launches and merchant ships. The machine world successor to its wooden counterpart a century before.

On the Western Front, meanwhile, the Allied offensive in France was to be renewed under Generalissimo Joffre’s replacement, General Neville. This was to be an offensive the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) would support at Arras, and included the plan to capture Vimy Ridge.[x] The Allies, to supply this offensive, required huge quantities of material. The cross-Channel coal trade in particular was crucial for fuelling the French war effort: 800 coal transports crossed the English Channel in November 1916 alone.[xi] Other seaborne trade, such as food, shells, and especially fodder for the BEF’s horses, likewise required transshipment across the Channel by merchant ships. Critical supplies of metal and ore were delivered across the North Sea from Scandinavia, goods and commodities were imported across the Atlantic from America and out of the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar Straits. This cornucopia of merchant shipping was exposed, defenceless, and ready-made prey for the unleashed U-boats.

Merchant shipping tonnage sinking by submarines and other means June 1916 to October 1918, from Duncan Redford and Philip Gove, The Royal Navy, A History Since 1900 (2014)

U-boat Offensive, January – March 1917

From the perspective of the German high command the clear weakness in the Western Allied armies was their exposed seaborne logistics. High Seas Fleet C-in-C Admiral Reinhard Scheer, in his 4 July 1916 report on the Jutland battle to the Kaiser, stated his belief that the only way to defeat Britain would be through economic means, meaning “setting the U-boats against the British trade routes.”[xii]

scheer

Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet & Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, Chief of the Admiralty Staff (Admiralstab), photograph by Hanse Hermann, Leipzig, 1918

On 22 December Admiral Holtzendorff accepted this view and advocated, in a fateful paper, for the destruction of all shipping approaching Britain.[xiii] Holtzendorff was convinced that if 600,000 tons of merchant shipping could be sunk each month, and sustained for a period of five months, the British would give in.[xiv] The renewed unrestricted submarine campaign commenced at the Kaiser’s order on 1 February 1917.[xv]

Commodore Andreas Michelsen, author of the book Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918, CO North Sea U-boats, Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote, June 1917 – November 1918. He replaced Fregattenkapitan Hermann Bauer.

Early in 1917 there were 111 U-boats available, 49 with the HSF at Wilhelmshaven, 33 at Zeebrugge and Ostend, with another 24 at Pola in the Mediterranean, two at Constantinople and three in the Baltic.[xvi] The Flanders Flotilla (coastal) U-boats alone had managed to sink enough shipping to reduce the cross-Channel coal trade by 39% during the final quarter of 1916.[xvii] This was enough of a threat to the French armaments industry that the Royal Navy’s Auxiliary Patrol, on 10 January 1917, commenced escorting large convoys of 45 ships across the Channel, 800 ships every month.[xviii]

April 1917: the catastrophic increase in Atlantic shipping losses, combined with a spike in Mediterranean losses, seemed to defy all of the Admiralty’s efforts. The potential for disaster seemed overwhelming. By this point, the French coal trade was being escorted across the English Channel, and the Dover barrage was being rebuilt with more effective mines. Despite this, nearly 100,000 tons of shipping had been lost in the Channel by the end of April. From Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. IV, p. 382-3

With the restrictions on neutral shipping lifted, the U-boats began the slaughter. 35 merchant ships were sunk in the Channel and Western approaches the first week of February 1917 alone.[xix] By the end of February the U-boats had accounted for half a million tons, making more than a million cumulative when another 560,000 tons were sunk in March. The campaign high point was reached in April when 860,000 tons of Allied, British and neutral ships were destroyed.

1914-15

1916

Allied shipping losses in Channel and Western Approaches for 1914-15 and 1916

These figures represented the destruction of 1,118 Allied and neutrals in the first four months of 1917: 181 in January, 259 in February, 325 in March and 423 in April.[xx] Between 1 February and the end of April 1917, 781 British merchant ships had been attacked, another 374 torpedoed and sunk, plus 154 sunk specifically by U-boat cannons.[xxi] The United Kingdom exported 122,600,000 tons of goods in January, a value that fell to  93,200,000 in February.[xxii] Only nine U-boats, including accidents, were destroyed between February and April.[xxiii]

The Imperial War Cabinet, Jellicoe is standing at the back, second from left. First Lord of the Admiralty Edward Carson is third.

In Britain the new parliamentary coalition under former Munitions and then War Minister and now Prime Minister David Lloyd George was faced with an unprecedented crisis. In early December 1916 Admiral Sir John Jellicoe had been promoted out of the Grand Fleet and advanced to First Sea Lord (1SL), with the explicit objective of curtailing the submarine threat.[xxiv] There were many ideas about what to do, and it was not initially clear what the correct response was, and opinion in the Royal Navy was split. Captain Herbert Richmond believed convoy escort to be the obvious solution,[xxv] a subject he had studied in his historical work with Julian Corbett on 18th century naval warfare (published after the war as The Navy In The War of 1739-48).[xxvi] Both historians noted the importance of trade interdiction and convoy protection efforts in the Caribbean, and Corbett added the Korean peninsula experience in his staff history of the Russo-Japanese War.[xxvii]

Old Waterloo Bridge from South Bank by William Wyllie

Traditionally, Britain had indeed managed the threat from corsairs and privateers by convoying its merchant shipping. On 29 December Jellicoe, however, expressed his skepticism that convoy was the appropriate solution to the U-boat problem. The First Sea Lord’s position, in general, was that the historical analogy of convoy protection was no longer valid, given the vast increase in oceanic shipping, the supposed delays in loading, offloading, and assembling the convoys, coupled with limitations on available escorts.[xxviii] The reality was that the First Sea Lord perceived convoys as sitting targets, and was unable to transcend the tactical paradigm whereby the escorted convoy not only “reduced the number of targets” and thus increased the number of successful sailings, but also forced the U-boats to carry out attacks from positions where they would be exposed to destroyer counterattack.[xxix]

Furthermore, the figures the Admiralty estimated would be required for Atlantic merchant convoy escort were excessively high: 81 escorts for the homeward-bound Atlantic trade, and another 44 for the outward-bound trade.[xxx] Since the requirements of the western approaches had been minimized to increase destroyer numbers at Dover, Harwich, Rosyth and Scapa Flow, Jellicoe foresaw a situation in which the battle fleet’s escorts would be precariously reduced to endlessly feed requirement for merchant shipping escorts, as did in fact occur during Admiral Sir David Beatty’s second year as Grand Fleet C-in-C.

Jellicoe4

Photograph of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe as C-in-C Grand Fleet

When Jellicoe arrived, and until the April crisis, Britain’s trade defence policy was one of patrolling a series of shipping lanes, combined with aerial patrols over the coasts.[xxxi] The Admiralty had adopted an ‘approach route’ system, by which, rather than using its anti-submarine vessels as convoy escorts (convoys being believed to be large, slow moving, targets), the A/S vessels would patrol various approach ‘cones’ of which there were four, hoping to sweep them clean of enemy submarines.

Approach A: Apex at Falmouth, shipping from South Atlantic and Mediterranean, destined for London, English Channel, and East Coast Ports.

Approach B: Apex at Berehaven, shipping from North and South Atlantic, destined for Bristol Channel, London and English Channel and Mersey.

Approach C: Apex at Inishtrahull, shipping from North Atlantic for Clyde, Belfast, Irish Sea and Liverpool.

Approach D: Apex at Kirkwall, shipping from North Atlantic for North-East ports to the Humber.[xxxii]

The Admiralty’s initial Western Approaches ‘zone’ scheme, as established at the beginning of 1917, and the corresponding locations of sunk merchant ships. The unescorted approach lanes were ideal prey for the patient U-boat commander.

1917

Allied shipping losses in the Channel and Western Approaches for 1917

In practice this system proved disastrous, effectively funnelling in and outbound shipping into dangerously crowded and exposed lanes. Although the actual lane utilized was random, the need for a great number of destroyers to patrol the approach area still made U-boat contact unlikely and trade defence precarious. The approach-lane program, as Henry Jones put it, had the effect of ‘concentrating great numbers of ships along the patrol routes off the south coast of Ireland and in the Bristol Channel.’[xxxiii]

The Western approaches were at first starved for resources: only 14 destroyers stationed at Devonport for use ‘escorting troopships and vessels carrying specially valuable cargoes through the submarine danger zone,’[xxxiv] in addition to 12 sloops at Queenstown.[xxxv] Jellicoe transferred an additional ten destroyers from Admiral Beatty to the Senior Naval Officer (SNO) Devonport, at least partly with the intention of increasing the number of escorts available for providing escort to troop or munitions ships.[xxxvi]  Aircraft and airship bases had not yet been constructed to cover these approaches,[xxxvii] and the Dover Barrage, meant to prevent the Flanders U-boat flotillas from crossing the Channel, proved totally ineffective. Worse, there were only enough depth-charges to equip four per destroyer at the beginning of 1917, and as late as July, only 140 charges were being produced each month. By the end of 1917 this number had increased to 800, sufficient to equip destroyers with 30 to 40 charges.[xxxviii]

Although Jellicoe implemented strong reforms meant to improve all areas of the A/S patrols, from increased depth-charge production, to building new RNAS bases on the coast; the crisis continued to worsen. Shipping losses increased in March and by early April 1917 had reached an apex. The officers responsible for the particularly exposed Scandinavian sea route met at Longshope, in the Orkneys, on 3 April and determined in favour of implementing convoys to protect North Sea sailings.

Motor Launch in the Slipway at Lowestoft, Francis Dodd, April 1918

As we have seen, convoys – or protected sailings – had already been implemented to cover the Channel crossing, and they were far from a novel concept. The War Cabinet secretary, Colonel Maurice Hankey, had in fact prepared a paper for David Lloyd George on the subject of ASW on 11 February 1917.[xxxix] This paper outlined the flaws in the current patrol system and unequivocally advocated the adoption of convoy and escort as the correct solution. Hankey’s observations regarding the benefits of convoys were particularly cogent:

The adoption of the convoy system would appear to offer great opportunities for mutual support by the merchant vessels themselves, apart from the defence provided by their escorts. Instead of meeting one small gun on board one ship the enemy might be under from from, say, ten guns, distributed among twenty ships. Each merchant ship might have depth charges, and explosive charges in addition might be towed between pairs of ships, to be exploded electrically. One or two ships with paravanes might save a line of a dozen ships from the mine danger. Special salvage ships… might accompany the convoy to salve those ships were mined of torpedoed without sinking immediately, and in any event save the crews. Perhaps the best commentary on the convoy [escort] system is that it is invariably adopted by our main fleet, and for our transports.[xl]

Two days later, at an early morning 10 Downing Street meeting, Lloyd George, Carson, Jellicoe and the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division (DASD) of the Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Alexander Duff, spent several hours during breakfast discussing Hankey’s convoy paper. Jellicoe objected on the grounds that the lightly escorted convoys would make vulnerable targets and that merchant captains would not be capable of the complex station keeping required, or indeed zig-zag maneuvering, objections that did not convince Lloyd George, as Hankey described in his diary.[xli]

“The Pool” view of River Thames, by William Wyllie

The following week Jellicoe prepared a War Cabinet paper describing the progress of A/S measures so far taken by the Admiralty.[xlii] Jellicoe’s primary recommendation was merely to reduce the total maritime traffic, notably by abandoning supply for the Salonika front. This was a dismal situation, as Jellicoe put it, ‘the Admiralty can hold out little hope that there will be any reduction in the rate of loss until the number of patrol vessels is largely increased or unless new methods which have been and are in process of being adopted result in the destruction of enemy submarines at a greater rate than that which they are being constructed…’. At this time, Jellicoe illustrated mechanical thinking in his belief that an additional 60 destroyers, 60 sloops, and 240 trawlers would be needed for a patrol scheme of ultimately unspecified final scale, citing the case of the English Channel where auxiliary patrol vessels formed a complete lane through which traffic passed. His third recommendation was the destruction of the submarine bases themselves.[xliii]

1917admiraltyboard2.5-1

The expansion of A/S measures was above all else the priority for Jellicoe as soon as the new Admiralty administration was settled. The new First Sea Lord immediately set about re-organizing the staff and mobilizing naval logistics to supply new bases, improve torpedoes and mines, and create a host of flotilla and auxiliary craft for A/S purposes. DASD Rear Admiral Duff soon recognized the need for aerial patrol over the western approaches. In December 1916 Duff had requested that Director Air Services Rear Admiral Vaughan Lee implement a patrol schemes at Falmouth, the Scillies, Queenstown, Milford Haven, Salcombe, and Berehaven, to cover the exposed approach lanes.[xliv] In February three H12 flying boats were flown out to the Scillies to patrol the Plymouth approach.[xlv]

The U-boats were not alone in their exertion during February. The Kaiserliche Marine’s Zeebrugge force conducted raids against the Dover straits as the U-boats worked up towards maximum effort. The destroyer situation in the Royal Navy at this time was scattered: there were nominally 99 destroyers available with the Grand Fleet, 28 deployed with the Harwich Force, 37 with the Dover Patrol, 11 attached to the Rosyth, Scapa, Cromarty area, 24 at the Humber and Tyne, 8 at the Nore, 32 at Portsmouth, 44 at Devonport and 8 at Queenstown, although this includes ships refitting or being repaired, and not therefore the true operational strength.[xlvi] This great dispersion of force meant it was possible for Germany’s high-speed torpedo boat destroyers to sortie and conduct night raids with good chances of success.

Map showing the simplified Channel Barrage, the main Folkestone – Gris Nez line and the outer Channel explosive mine net at the end of 1917, Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

To test the Channel defences, Admiral Scheer, early on 25 February, ordered the Zeebrugge destroyers to conduct a raid on the Dover coast with three groups, the first comprised of six boats of the First Half-Flotilla (G95, G96, V67, V68 and V47, Lieutenant Commander Albrecht in G95), the second comprised of four boats of the Sixth Flotilla (Lieutenant Commander Tillessen in S49, with V46, V45, G37, V44 and G86), plus a small diversion force of three boats from the Second Half-Flotilla.[xlvii] Albrecht was to target the Downs while Tillessen attacked the Barrage itself. HMS Laverock, a destroyer armed with three 4-inch guns under the command of Lieutenant Henry Binmore, encountered one of the approaching flotillas around 10:30 pm on the 25th.[xlviii]

SMS V43, 1913-class torpedo boat destroyer & Representations of Zeebrugge flotilla destroyers, V67 & G37

After a brief encounter the two sides slipped into the darkness, contact was lost and Tillessen turned back to base. The diversion force found no targets near the Maas, while the First Half-Flotilla carried out a brief shore bombardment of North Foreland and Margate, with no military consequence. Admiral von Schroder, in command of the naval and marine forces in Flanders, considered the operation a success in so far as it was a worthwhile distraction, drawing RN assets away from submarine hunting.[xlix]

paragon

HMS Paragon

A second raid on the Dover defences was organized for the night of March 17-18, during which 16 Flanders destroyers sortied under Tillessen’s command. On this occasion, the Dover destroyer HMS Paragon was torpedoed and sank, with the loss of 75 members of the crew, by boats from Germany’s Sixth Flotilla.[l] HMS Llewellyn was badly damaged by a torpedo attack when it came to assist the sinking Paragon.[li] The Second Half-Flotilla, for its part, sank the anchored merchant ship Greypoint and damaged a drifter near Ramsgate, which they also shelled without effect. Another raid on 24 March, this time against Dunkirk, destroyed a another pair of merchant ships.[lii] While these surface raids kept pressure on the Dover Strait defences, the shipping crisis itself was spiralling out of control.

U-boat Crisis, April – June 1917

On Saturday 24 March 1917, the London Times reported on Mr. J. M. Henderson’s parliamentary speech. On Friday the MP from Aberdeenshire stated that, due to the hardships suffered by the poor during the harsh winter of 1916, it would be necessary that ‘the Government should issue regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act directing the local authorities throughout the country to establish depots for the sale and delivery of coal, sugar, and other necessaries.’[liii] The creeping realization amongst the commons that the supply situation was deteriorating was not lost on the Lloyd George government. Indeed, the War Cabinet had already recognized, notably in a series of meetings during the second half of February, that food stockpiling and public rationing were both imperative and imminent.[liv]

Loading torpedoes aboard a coastal U-boat (UB-type), maintained at the Bruges base, 1917

By 21 March the situation was so serious that Arthur Balfour, then the Foreign Secretary, had been forced to convey to the Netherlands that the UK was likely going to begin requisitioning their shipping.[lv] On 2 April the War Cabinet considered the situation ‘most serious’.[lvi] The desperate nature of the shipping losses, and the inability of the Admiralty to resolve the crisis, can be seen in the War Cabinet’s consideration that smaller merchant ships should be built, thus compelling ‘the enemy to expend as many torpedoes as possible in his submarine campaign.’ It was also considered at the 2 April meeting that compulsory mercantile service may be required due to the potential collapse of crew morale.[lvii] All this chaos was being caused by roughly 50 U-boats, an unsustainably high figure that dropped to 40 in May as a result of the exhausting operational tempo the preceding month.[lviii]

Jellicoe, as First Sea Lord, could imagine only material solutions: strengthening merchant ships with bulkheads, or building enormous 50,000 ton ‘unsinkable’ ships for transporting wheat – further indications of the desperate situation.[lix] Indeed, some of the measures recommended to reduce losses were so desperate that had they been implemented the result would have ultimately had a negative impact on the anti-submarine war, such as the War Cabinet suggestion that the Admiralty reduce construction of airship sheds to save steel (airships proved to be ideal platforms for escorting convoys).[lx]

UB III type costal submarine, 500 tons displacement, crewed by three officers and 31 men, armed with four bow and one stern firing torpedoes, plus a single 8.8 or 10.5 cm gun

 

By 4 April figures provided by Sir Leo Chiozza Money, the Shipping Controller, indicated that by February 1918 merchant shipping tonnage would increase by 850,000 tons from building in Britain, plus 312,000 tons abroad, to which could be added the 720,000 tons of German shipping then seized in American ports. At this time it was believed that this new construction, combined with other efficiencies, would be enough to see the United Kingdom through only until the end of the year.[lxi]

On 1 January 1917 the British Empire possessed 16,788,000 tons (gross) of shipping. By 1 May this figure had fallen to 15,467,000 tons, despite new construction.[lxii] At the height of the crisis in April it was expected that the total would likely fall to around 12,862,000 by the end of the year, in other words, that 3.9 million tons would be erased during 1917. In fact, a staggering 9,964,500 tons were destroyed, globally, during the year, of which 3,729,000 had been British, almost matching the Admiralty estimate in April 1917.

Merchant shipping losses, British and World, to all causes. Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., Appendix III, section O, p. 381-2

The British Army needed to import 428,000 tons a month. The Ministry of Munitions imported another 1,400,000 tons monthly. For comparison, Britain imported one million tons of cotton, 70,000 tons of tobacco and 400,000 tons of fertilizers on a monthly basis. It was believed that a minimum of 553,000 tons of goods were required every month to sustain the civilian population.[lxiii] According to Jellicoe’s calculations, 8,050,000 tons of shipping were required for the Navy and Army, and on 1 January 1917 there were 8,394,000 tons available for vital imports. By 31 December 1917 the latter figure would therefore have been reduced to 4,812,000 tons, or a loss of 2.78 million tons of civilian imports per month.[lxiv]

The degree of the crisis is told by these statistics, implying a monthly loss rate of between 300,000 and 500,000 tons for the remainder of 1917. The final, and potentially decisive, result was that civilian imports would fall from three million tons in January to 1.6 million tons by the end of the year. Certainly strong economy would be necessitated, in addition to rationing that if continued unchecked would result in the extinguishing of non-military trade by the summer of 1918.[lxv]

Top scoring U-boat ‘aces’ based on proven tonnage destroyed, from Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, p. 218

While the debate carried on at the Admiralty and in the War Cabinet, the district commanders and SNOs were beginning, on their own accord, to form proto-regional commands and implement convoys. As we have seen, the Scandinavian mineral trade and the Channel food and coal trade. had both been placed under convoy with good results.

Some relief occurred on 3 April when the United States joined the war, a momentous event that was welcomed by the War Cabinet three days later. Diplomatic efforts were crucial if the American and Allied war efforts were to be united for maximum impact. Balfour therefore traveled to the United States aboard RMS Olympic while Rear Admiral William Sims, USN, crossed over to Britain in exchange.[lxvi] When Sims, who had traveled across the Atlantic in civilian disguise – in fact, aboard a merchant ship that struck a mine during the voyage – arrived in London and met with Jellicoe, the message Jellicoe had to convey, as Prendergast and Gibson put it, was dire: ‘the German submarines were winning the war.’[lxvii] On Monday, 9 April, Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that Admiral Sims would make the utmost efforts to mobilize American support for the anti-submarine campaign.[lxviii]

US Ninth Battleship Division, showing USS New York & USS Texas off Rosyth by William Wyllie.

Close coordination with the Americans brought immediate returns as it would now be possible for American imports to Britain to be carried in American merchant ships, freeing British vessels for other duties.[lxix] Auxiliary ships in the form of the 10th Cruiser Squadron (25 armed merchant cruisers and 18 armed trawlers), that patrolled the Shetlands and Faeroes line intercepting American contraband, was no longer required and its ships were redirected to more fruitful purposes until the squadron itself was abolished on 29 November 1917, shortly prior to the arrival in European waters of the United States Navy’s Battleship Division Nine under Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman.[lxx]

Francis Dodd artwork from 1918 showing RN submarine L2 engaging aircraft with its deck cannon.

As part of Jellicoe’s material strategy, Royal Navy aircraft were expanded alongside A/S flotilla craft. Flying boats stationed at Yarmouth and Felixstowe were equipped to locate and attack submarines, making possible large-scale A/S patrols supported by surface vessels. As the patrol system evolved the U-boats adjusted their tactics.

By March 1917 Jellicoe could inform Beatty that the Staff believed between 11 and 21 U-boats had been destroyed so far that year.[lxxi] Three German torpedo boat flotillas, between 30 and 40 destroyers were deployed to support U-boat operations.[lxxii] German seaplanes were engaged in a significant battle with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) for control of the North Sea, as well as carrying out anti-shipping missions, occasionally with success. April was a particularly busy month for the east coast air stations, the Felixstowe H12 flying boats being assigned to conduct ‘spider web’ patrols off the Kentish coast.

H-12 type Felixstowe flying boats on patrol, from Theodore Douglas Hallam, The Spider Web (2009) & ‘Spider Web’ style octagonal patrol areas for NAS Felixstowe.

In fact, the situation at Dover, since the raids in February and March, had resolved into an intense destroyer and seaplane conflict in its own right. The War Cabinet was informed on 26 March that 30 German destroyers had been massed at Zeebrugge.[lxxiii] Another destroyer raid was shortly organized, taking place on 20 April. The Fifth Half-Flotilla (V71, V73, V81, S53, G85 and G42) under Korvettenkapitan Gautier was to conduct an attack against Dover, while boats from the Sixth and First Half-Flotilla (Commander Albrecht in V47, with G95, V68, G96, G91 and V70) raided Calais.[lxxiv] Although in the event little damage was caused, the raid alerted Dover forces which sortied to intercept the retiring German destroyers. About 12:45 am the 21st, HMS Swift, commanded by Commander Ambrose Peck, with HMS Broke in support, spotted an unknown torpedo boat to the port bow. Swift attacked the boat, torpedoing G85 and disabling it, while Broke, under Commander Edward ‘Teddy’ Evans, rammed G42 and disabled the torpedo boat in hand-to-hand action.[lxxv] Broke was damaged by S53’s 105 mm cannon, but still managed to sink G85 with a torpedo after the German flotilla retreated. 89 sailors were recovered from G42 and G85.[lxxvi]

HMS Broke, from Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

The temporary defeat of the Flanders raiders, the introduction of the Felixstowe flying boats, and above all else, the introduction of the United States, made a powerful tonic for the Admiralty’s ailing morale. Jellicoe, however, still faced a mounting crisis. He turned to the Naval Staff for answers.

Organization of the Naval Staff, 1905 – 1917 (May), from Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (2011)

In April 1917 the Anti-Submarine Division (ASD) of the staff was composed of 15 officers and two civilians, spread across seven offices located in the Admiralty Building, Block III.[lxxvii] The U-boat threat plot was kept in a Chart Room within the Convoy Section of the Naval Staff. The Chart Room was managed by Commander J. W. Carrington.[lxxviii] this room, known as the ‘X’ room, displayed a 6’ by 9’ map of all of the known information on submarines, convoys and their most recent locations or sightings.[lxxix] The ASD thus controlled a centralized hub for collecting from the Intelligence Division and disseminating to the Operations Division, U-boat data on the approaching Atlantic convoys. U-boat signal intercepts detected by the Direction Finding (D/F) stations along the coast alerted the Director of Intelligence to submarine activity. The cryptanalysts in Room 40 could then triangulate the location of a transmitting U-boat to within 50 or 20 miles and send this information, via pneumatic tube, instantly to the Chart Room.[lxxx]

Naval Staff2.5

It was imperative that Jellicoe be in the closest touch with the Staff, and in May 1917 he was promoted to Chief of the Naval Staff, uniting that position with the office of the First Sea Lord.[lxxxi] These reforms resulted in Admiral Duff’s promotion to Assistant Chief of the Staff, with Henry Oliver becoming the Deputy Chief.[lxxxii] By assigning duties to the assistant and deputy the Chief of Staff was, in Winston Churchill’s words, relieved of ‘a mass of work.’[lxxxiii] The Director of Operations, Captain Thomas Jackson and, after June 1917, Captain George W. Hope, were to prepare a weekly appraisals of the naval situation, with specific attention to submarines, for the First Sea Lord and the War Cabinet.[lxxxiv]

Organization of the Naval Staff and Admiralty Board, c. September 1917, from Jellicoe, Crisis of the Naval War (1920), p. 20

Captain William Fisher, playing a part in Jellicoe’s reforms, replaced Admiral Duff as DASD. Fisher took a direct interest in operational aspects, orchestrating Jellicoe’s broader mission to centralize methods and material; he would communicate directly with the district commanders, such as on 21 July when he wrote a letter to Plymouth commander Admiral Bethell, proposing the use of kite balloons as a screen for convoys in his Area of Responsibility (AOR).[lxxxv]

 

The Decision for Convoys

The First Sea Lord, as we have seen, was initially skeptical of the possibilities of convoys.[lxxxvi] Early interest in convoy formation, not only in the English Channel and across the North Sea, but also in the Mediterranean, was ignored.[lxxxvii] Jellicoe’s initial blindness to convoy adoption hinged primarily on the scale of the endeavour. As he pointed out in 1934, the convoy system as had evolved by November 1917 for the Atlantic and English Channel required 170 escort vessels of all kinds (of which, 37 were USN destroyers), plus another 32 escorts covering the northern crossing with Norway, and a another 30 escorts in the Mediterranean for a total of 232 vessels, with another 217 escorts working with the fleet units.[lxxxviii] In practice, assembling, directing and communicating with the convoys proved a strenuous task, atmospheric conditions, enemy jamming, battle damage to communications equipment, all had an impact on a convoy’s, or squadron’s, ability to communicate. An officer was assigned to each arrival/departure terminus to manage assembly and coordinate with the escorts and merchantmen. In any given convoy the convoy itself was under the command of the convoy Commodore, while supporting warships were under the authority of the Senior Officer, Escort.[lxxxix]

 

Jellicoe as First Sea Lord, attending the Inter-Allied Conference in Paris, 27 July 1917, Rear Admiral Alexander Duff, the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division of the Naval Staff to his right

In early April the Scandinavian trade began to be convoyed, and with success. This was done at the insistence of the Norwegian government, who urged that the Admiralty do more to protect Norwegian merchant ships in the North Sea, of which 27 were sunk during March, and another 27 in April, plus six Danish and two Swedish neutrals.[xc] Of these ships, as Steve Dunn observes, nine were torpedoed by a single U-boat, U30, over the period 10 to 15 April.[xci]  Losses in the Lerwick – Bergan route, between the Shetland Islands and the Norwegian coast, were running at 25% per month since inception.

Although cross-Channel trade was by now routinely convoyed, the scale of crossing the North Sea, and the importance of the trade, including vitals such as ‘nitrates, carbide, timber, iron and steel,’ now necessitated new tactics.[xcii] Vice Admiral Frederick Brock, in command of the Orkneys and Shetlands, and on his own authority, was sharing destroyers for escort work with the C-in-C East Coast of England, and the C-in-C Rosyth: a plan they initiated on 3 March.[xciii]

Greenwich and the Thames, by William Wyllie

Jellicoe could see that this was the best option, given the dismal results from all other efforts.[xciv] Still, the First Sea Lord was wary about depleting the Grand Fleet’s destroyer flotillas, and was skeptical the convoy system would succeed in the long run.[xcv] In April, however, with the success of the Channel coal trade, where ‘controlled sailings’ had been implemented since 10 February with correspondingly dramatic reduction in losses such that, between then and the end of August, only 16 of the 8,871 ships convoyed across the Channel had been sunk.[xcvi] Jellicoe was just beginning to come around to the implementation of Admiral Duff’s comprehensive recommendation for convoying ‘all vessels – British, Allied and Neutral – bound from North and South Atlantic to United Kingdom’.[xcvii]

The pivot, from the perspective of the War Cabinet, occurred on Monday 23 April, when Lloyd George decided upon an upcoming visit to the Admiralty. The PM’s objective was certainly to put pressure on the Admiralty, but also simply to discover the details of whatever trade protection schemes the Navy was working on. Jellicoe had so far not suggested arranging convoys as the solution, rather relying on a multitude of measures, some more effective than others. In this case, DASD Rear Admiral Duff was in agreement with Grand Fleet C-in-C Admiral Sir David Beatty, as well as Admiral Sims, that convoy should be universally adopted. Jellicoe was still skeptical, having been convinced, in the weeks following the 13 February debate with Hankey, by interviews with a number of merchant ship captains who testified that station-keeping and convoy assembling, in particular, of inbound traffic, would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible.[xcviii] Jellicoe also clung to the dearth of destroyers, as well as an apparently deficient convoy trial that Beatty had conducted as counter-arguments. Under pressure from the PM, however, Jellicoe stated that he would reconsider Duff’s convoy proposal.[xcix]

Merchant convoy maneuvering with air support

Duff produced his report three days later, suggesting a program for convoying all Atlantic trade. The DASD observed that, in fact, contrary to Jellicoe’s perspective that convoys were merely larger targets, ‘it would appear that the larger the convoy passing through any given danger zone, provided it is moderately protected, the less the loss to the Merchant Services; that is, for instance, were it feasible to escort the entire volume of trade which normally enters the United Kingdom per diem in one large group, the submarine as now working would be limited to one attack, which, with a Destroyer escort, would result in negligible losses compared with those new being experienced.’[c] Jellicoe approved the scheme the next day, 27 April 1917, that is, three days before the PM arrived at the Admiralty.[ci]

Under Duff’s scheme, the Atlantic trade would be assembled into convoys at four key depots, where they would be joined by escorts and then shuttled into British harbours. Every four days 18 vessels would depart Gibraltar, escorted by two vessels outward and inward bound (requiring six escorts altogether – the other two being spares). Every five days 18 merchants would depart Dakar, protected by three escorts out and in, (nine escorts total). Every three days between 16-20 vessels would leave Louisburg, escorted by four destroyers both ways (12 total), and lastly, every three days 18 ships would depart Newport News, to be escorted by six destroyers (18 total), for a total program of 45 escorts. A further 45 destroyers would provide protection for the final leg of the inbound convoys, with six destroyers meeting each incoming convoy and escorting it to one of the pre-arranged collection points, either St. Mary’s, the Scillies, Plymouth, Milford Haven or Brest.[cii]

130 ton armed lighter X222, one of the armada of light vessels constructed or converted during PM Asquith’s wartime ministries. Originally designed for amphibious landings, these support craft were in converted to A/S patrol and convoy escort duties in 1917

 

Lloyd George and Hankey did indeed visit the Admiralty on 30 April, and had lunch with Carson, Jellicoe and his family, plus Duff, Captain Webb of the Trade Division and several Assistant Directors from the Naval Staff.[ciii] Jellicoe, the pessimist, considered the Prime Minister ‘a hopeless optimist’ who could not be swayed from his opinions regardless of the 1SL’s cold calculations.[civ] As Hankey phrased it, the meeting ‘set the seal on the decision to adopt the convoy system’.[cv] As significant as the decision in favour of convoys had been, another important decision was made at the next War Cabinet meeting: Lloyd George and Jellicoe agreed that Eric Geddes should be appointed as a civilian naval controller to administer all shipbuilding and supply for naval purposes.[cvi] Geddes strong hand ensured the delivering of the mass of material needed for ASW, with vessels available for A/S duty ballooning from 64 destroyers, 11 sloops and 16 P-boats in July 1917 to 102 destroyers, 24 sloops and 44 P-boats by November, a standard that was maintained well into 1918 when in April there were 115 destroyers, 35 sloops and 45 P-boats available for ASW.[cvii]

Various Francis Dodd artwork detailing shipboard convoy and patrol routine

It was still early in May when in Washington meanwhile, Sims and Balfour had convinced the Americans to supply 36 destroyers for RN use, a welcome development that would fill half of Jellicoe’s destroyer requirements.[cviii] Indeed, on the 22nd Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that the general situation was, ‘for the moment, more reassuring.’[cix] During May the loss rate fell significantly: 106,000 tons of shipping had been destroyed in the Mediterranean, with another 213,000 tons – 78 British ships – lost in all other theatres.[cx] 

Furthermore, the RN and RNAS were conducting more frequent engagements with U-boats, suggesting that the A/S measures were having some impact, although as yet there were few concrete results. Of the seven U-boats destroyed during May, only three were attributable to RN efforts: U81, torpedoed by RN submarine E54, UC26, rammed by the destroyer HMS Milne, and UB39 which blew up on Dover Strait mines.[cxi] Significantly, the nature of the U-boat attacks had changed. In March, only 69 ships approaching Britain from the North or South Atlantic had been attacked, with only 32 ships attacked leaving British ports for the same destinations (this was in addition to 62 fishing vessels that were attacked, and another 60 ships in the Channel). By May the figure for import ships attacked had climbed to 100, while the export number had fallen to 20 (only 38 vessels in the Channel attacked, and only 20 fishing vessels).[cxii] Whereas 100,333 tons had been sunk in the Channel during May, only 32,000 tons were sunk in June 1917, a major success.[cxiii]

HMS Fawn, a 380 ton destroyer armed with one 12 pdr and five 6 pdr guns plus two torpedo tubes, on convoy escort duty & a Japanese destroyer escorting the Alexandria – Tarento convoy, 1918

By the end of May 1917, as Henry Newbolt observed, it was the unescorted import trade that was now at the greatest risk of attack: ‘five times as vulnerable as the export trade’.[cxiv] Experimental Atlantic convoys were tested late in May and, by the end of July 1917, 21 Atlantic convoys had run successfully. Of the 354 ships escorted across that ocean, a mere two were sunk by U-boats. Of all convoys run during this period, of 8,894 ships convoyed, only 27 were destroyed by enemy submarines. The statistics demonstrated that convoys were the best method for protecting merchant shipping. Although ships traveling in convoys were relatively safe, there was still a great mass of unescorted traffic that was easy prey for the U-boats. During the May to July period, 910,133 tons of the total 1,868,555 tons sunk was destroyed by High Sea Fleet U-boats operating in the Atlantic.[cxv]

U-boats operating in 1917, and British tonnage sunk per submarine. Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, 1931, p. 195

Shipping losses were heavy and Jellicoe reported that, up to 20 May, 185 ships had been sunk by U-boats (105 British, 36 Allied and 44 neutrals), for 239,816 tons of British shipping lost: a cumulative total of 362,183 tons destroyed.[cxvi] Jellicoe estimated this number would likely climb to 500,000 tons before the end of the month. In the event, 616,316 tons (or 596,629)[cxvii] were indeed sunk by the end of May, 352,596 tons of which were British.[cxviii] There were 126 U-boats in Germany’s possession that May, with 47 the average number at sea on a daily basis that month. A month later the figure was 55, falling to 41 in July. 15 boats were lost during that three-month period, equating to 53 merchants ships (124,750 tons) sunk on average for each U-boat lost, which was down from the rate of 86 ships (194,524 tons) during the previous period, February to April.

In terms of U-boats lost or destroyed versus new commissions, September was the costliest month for the German submarine force. From Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 278

Unfortunately for the Allies, U-boat losses were more than made up for by the 24 new U-boats constructed during May and July.[cxix] In James Goldrick’s phrase ‘the navy admitted reality’ as more U-boats were urgently required, and an order for 95 boats, mainly UB and UC types but including ten U-cruisers, was placed in early June. At the peak of new construction, after another 220 boats were ordered in June 1918, some 300 U-boats of varying types were on order, 74 were completed in the ten months before the armistice, 1.85 per week.[cxx] Besides the battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg, and three further light cruisers, these would be amongst the last warships completed for the Kaiserliche Marine.[cxxi]

 

Convoy Implementation, July to September 1917

The improvements in air support, war material, American destroyers, the rolling adoption of convoys, combined with fatigue amongst the U-boats and loss of some experienced crews, was having an impact on the spiralling shipping loss rate. Import trade, which was now generally convoyed, was well protected so once again the U-boats concentrated their efforts against outbound shipping, which so far had not been incorporated into the convoy system.[cxxii] Jellicoe was now convinced of the need to implement a total convoy system, and outward-bound ships began to be convoyed on 13 August, the needed escorts being removed from the Grand Fleet. The results were excellent: during August, only three of the 200 ships convoyed in outbound convoys were lost, a figure that increased to 789 ships convoyed with only two losses during September. Likewise, 1,306 ships were convoyed inbound across the Atlantic, with only 18 lost that month.[cxxiii]

When the system was fully operational, as Arthur Marder described, there were ‘on the average, sixteen homeward convoys at sea, of which three were in the Home Submarine Danger Zone (Western Approaches, Irish Sea, of English Channel), under destroyer escort. There was an average of seven outward convoys at sea, of which four to five were in the Home Danger Zone. It is worth emphasizing that the convoy system protected neutral as well as British and Allied shipping’.[cxxiv]

The effectiveness of the U-boats had been crippled by this comprehensive convoy system, although the Mediterranean, where convoys had not yet been implemented, remained fertile hunting grounds, albeit with too few submarines operating there to represent a serious impediment to Allied supplies. Regardless, between October and November 1917 a convoy system was arranged for those waters, and by the end of November 381 ships, or 40% of all the Mediterranean traffic, had been successfully convoyed with the loss of only nine vessels.[cxxv]

Depth charge attack, by William Wyllie.

One of the key material improvements was in the quality and quantity of Britain’s undersea weapons, from torpedoes to depth charges and mines. During 1915 and 1916, 6,177 not very effective mines were laid in the Heligoland Bight. In 1917 the Allies reverse-engineered the more effective German mine, and production numbers increased significantly. Jellicoe was an aggressive advocate of mine operations and he championed the introduction of the German ‘horned’ type over the defective British ‘lever’ mines, specifically for the Dover Barrage,[cxxvi] while also advancing the technical and quantitative refinement of aerial bombs and escort depth-charges.[cxxvii] 12,450 mines were produced between October and December 1917,[cxxviii] with 10,389 laid in the Heligoland Bight and Dover Strait. Marder states that 20,000 mines were laid in the Dover Strait and Bight between July and December 1917, of which 15,686 were laid (in 76 fields) in the Bight during 1917.

hornedmines

‘Horned’ mines carried aboard a minelayer.

British mine counter-measures also improved, with 726 vessels counted in the sweeping force, or paravane equipped, so that only ten British vessels, less than 20,000 tons, were sunk by mines during 1918, compared to more than 250,000 tons lost in the first ten months of 1917.[cxxix]

Six U-boats were in fact destroyed by mines between September and the end of the year.[cxxx] At the beginning of 1918 the increased lethality of the Dover, Bight and Zeebrugge minefields meant that U-boats wishing to reach the Atlantic approaches had to exit the North Sea via the Orkney’s passage, or risk running the Channel nets and minefields. A vast effort was decided upon to mine the North Sea exit (250 miles, requiring 100,000 special ‘antenna’ mines),[cxxxi] and plans were examined to block the U-boats’ bases at Zeebrugge, Ostend, and Kiel. Another 7,500 mines would cut-off the Danish strait.[cxxxii]

A scheme to deploy 21,000 mines from Wangeroog to Heligoland to Pellworm, thus attempting to block the base of operations for the High Sea Fleet’s U-boats, was also considered. Actually executing these plans once again raised problems exposed by the schemes of Winston Churchill (Borkum) and Sir John Fisher (Baltic), that had not been resolved in 1914-15. The operation would require a vast armament, success was not guaranteed, and the potential for a catastrophic defeat was real.[cxxxiii]

 

RNAS Million based Coastal airship C23A escorting a convoy early in 1918 (C23A was wrecked on 10 May near Newbury)

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) had not been neglected in this vast expansion of military hardware. Indeed, the coastal patrol and convoy escort roles supplied by the naval aviators were essential and had been significantly expanded, with 324 seaplanes, flying boats, and airplanes on duty, plus around 100 airships of various types.[cxxxiv]

Felixstowe F3, N4230, IWM photograph.

During 1917 the majority of these aircraft were involved in air patrol missions, in June 1917 only 46 airplane and 46 airship convoy escort missions were flown, but the figure rose to 92 and 86 respectively in September before poor weather curtailed flying.[cxxxv] By April 1918 the figure was 176 and 184, jumping to 402 and 269 in May. Airships provided the convoy with a constant deterrent to submarine attack, except during night, while flying boats and airplanes could fly in advance of the convoy on look-out, or counter-attack any located U-boats with bombs, which increased in potency from 230 lb delayed-fuse bombs introduced in May 1917 to the 520 lb bombs in use by 1918.[cxxxvi]

 

RNAS and RAF coverage of the Atlantic approaches by the SNO Plymouth and Queenstown. The RNAS South West Group under Wing Captain E. L. Gerrard implemented sweeping ‘spider-web’ flying-boat patrols off the coast of England and Wales, while Vice Admiral Bayly at Queenstown worked with Captain Hutch Cone, United States Navy, to develop flying-boat bases in Ireland.

Although convoy escort and improved A/S methods and material reduced the potential for a starvation defeat, shortages were still a serious problem. Oil imports to the UK were falling drastically as tankers were destroyed. On 11 June Jellicoe reported that he intended to form weekly oil convoys to relieve the situation.[cxxxvii] Two days later Jellicoe reported to the War Cabinet that the implementation of the convoy system was ‘nearly complete.’[cxxxviii]

Convoys were highly successful in 1917, as this figure from Marder indicates. Of the 26,404 ships that sailed in convoys during that year, only 147 were lost. The Scandinavian and Atlantic convoys were the most susceptible targets for convoy interdiction missions, while the sparsely escorted Mediterranean had the highest loss rate that year.

Effects of Ocean Convoys, with the losses vs successful convoy sailing ‘cross-over’ point at August – September 1917, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 73

By the end of 1917 26,404 ships had sailed in organized merchant convoys: 4,484 across the Atlantic, 6,155 between Scotland and Scandinavia, and 15,684 in the French coal trade, with a total loss of only 147 vessels.[cxxxix] 32.5% and 42.5%, respectively, of those ships that were lost while being convoyed, were sunk while entering or leaving a convoy, when confusion was at its greatest.[cxl] These results were significant, as compared with June 1917 when 122 British merchant ships were sunk with a loss of 417,925 tons in a single month. Although loss rates dropped significantly by November, 85 ships were still lost to mines (8) and U-boats (76) at loss of 253,087 tons of British merchant shipping in December.[cxli] Allied tonnage losses, that is, non-British shipping losses, plummeted from 72 ships at 111,683 tons in July to only 46 ships at 86,981 tons in December.[cxlii]

By August 1917 the convoy system had been systematically implemented in all three maritime theatres, the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean

The Flanders UB and UC flotillas were, however, continually destroying Channel shipping at an average of 50,000 tons a month for the entire period and the Third Ypres offensive had failed to capture Passchendaele, and critically, the U-boat bases along the Belgian coast. Despite these set-backs there was room for hope. In the Atlantic the tonnage loss rate fell from 550,000 tons in April, to only 165,000 tons in November. 37 U-boats were destroyed during the second half of 1917, 16 by mines, the total equivalent to 7.4 boats a month, nearly matching the commission rate for new U-boats, 8.8 per month.[cxliii]

Counter-blockade submarine U151, 1,500 tons displacement, first of seven initially designed for use as blockade runners and in April 1917 converted to an Atlantic battle submarine, entering service in July 1917.

In September there were 139 submarines operating, the wartime peak, allowing for an increased daily average of 56 U-boats in October, more than the 39 at sea in November or the 48 in December.[cxliv] With nearly fifty U-boats continuously at sea every day, and new long-endurance U-boat cruisers plumbing the Atlantic to the tune of 52,000 tons per three month cruise, as U155 achieved in the fall of 1917 (10 steamers & seven sailing ships), the submarine war was far from over.[cxlv]

Daily average of U-boats at sea & total (Allied, Neutral & British) tonnage sunk on average per boat. The sinking rate was cut almost in half between March and December 1917. Furthermore the average daily number and size of vessels sunk was falling: whereas in March 889 tons of British shipping was on average destroyed each day, by August that number had fallen to 485 tons, & half again to 284 tons by December. In March – June the average size of each ship sunk was 5,084 tons gross, falling to 4,342 tons in July – October. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 58

 

Convoy Battles, October – December 1917

From Jellicoe’s perspective, the Royal Navy was engaged in an unprecedented destroyer and submarine action with the German Navy, with the possibility for a High Sea Fleet sortie at any time. Early in the morning of October 17, German light cruisers raided a west-bound Scandinavian convoy of 12 (two British, one Belgian, one Danish, five Norwegian, three Swedish) that had departed Marstein in the company of two destroyers, HMS Strongbow and Mary Rose.[cxlvi] Just after 6 am on the 17th, Strongbow spotted two unidentified vessels on a converging course. In fact, these were the 3,800 ton German minelaying cruisers SMS Brummer and Bremse, with orders to mine the Scandinavian convoy routes.

 

SMS Brummer, minelaying cruiser that along with sistership SMS Bremse, attacked a Scandinavian convoy on 17 October 1917 & HMS Strongbowdestroyed by SMS Brummer & Bremse at the action of 17 October 1917

The light cruisers proceeded to make short work of Strongbow and Mary Rose with their 15 cm guns.[cxlvii] The trawlers Elise and P. Fannon, armed with only one 6 pdr gun apiece, along with three unarmed steamers, managed to escape and retrieve Lieutenant Commander Brooke, CO of the Strongbow and others, from the water.[cxlviii] The enemy cruisers destroyed the remaining nine merchants in the convoy.[cxlix]

Locations of major minefields, Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, p. 62 & The chaotic minefield situation in the Heligoland Bight, 17 November 1917, from Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, p. 168-9

On 17 November the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight took place when the First Battle Cruiser Squadron, under Rear Admiral Phillimore, a component of Admiral Pakenham’s Battle Cruiser Force, intercepted a group of High Sea Fleet minesweepers that were attempting to clear the edge of the Bight minefields.[cl] Rear Admiral Phillimore’s HMS Repulse group pursued the minesweepers, but the Germans deployed a large smoke screen that successfully covered their escape.[cli]

HMS Repulse or Renown at steam, by William Weyllie. & Second Battle of Heligoland Bight, 17 November 1917, also by Wyllie

On 11 December Admiral Scheer ordered Commander Heinecke’s Second Flotilla (Torpedo Boat Flotilla II), comprising the largest and fastest destroyers in the fleet,[clii] to raid Britain’s merchant convoys. The Fourth Half-Flotilla was to attack shipping near Newcastle, while the Third Half-Flotilla raided the Scandinavian Bergen-Lerwick line. During the winter darkness early on 12 December, the Fourth Half-Flotilla destroyers (B97, B109, B110 & B112), moving north up the coast, encountered the stragglers from a southbound coastal convoy out of Lerwick, Shetlands, and torpedoed two transports, the Danish Peter Willemoes and the Swedish Nike and sank a third small coastal steamer shortly afterwards.[cliii] The Fourth Half-Flotilla then withdrew for its rendezvous with the light cruiser SMS Emden at 5:15 pm.[cliv]

German destroyers in formation, from Goldrick, After Jutland (2018), photo 9.1

The complexities of night-time communication in crowded sea-lanes meant that no clear indication of what was happening reached the Admiralty. Furthermore, the poor weather conditions and dearth of coastal lighting (suppressed except at specific times at Admiralty orders) resulted in the Third Half-Flotilla becoming lost and eventually approaching the Norwegian coast.[clv]

 

G101-type German destroyer, c. 1916

So it was with complete surprise that the daily convoy from Lerwick to the Marstein lighthouse, escorted by destroyers HMS Pellew and HMS Partridge, plus four armed trawlers, at 11:30 am south-west of Bjorne Fjord, encountered the German destroyers of the Third Half-Flotilla, under the command of Korvettenkapitan (Lieutenant-Commander) Hans Kolbe, a powerful force composed of SMS G101, G103, G104 & V100.[clvi] Lieutenant-Commander J. R. C. Cavendish of the Pellew, when the unknown destroyers approaching the convoy did not answer his signals, transmitted a warning notice to Beatty informing the C-in-C of the expected enemy contact (a signal actually received by the armoured cruiser HMS Shannon and its group, about sixty miles away), and then ordered the convoy to scatter.[clvii]

A RN destroyer and three armed drifters escorting a convoy of merchant ships, c. 1917-18

The 12 December 1917 convoy action, from Scheer’s High Sea Fleet, p. 383

Pellew and Partridge placed themselves between the German destroyers and the convoy hoping to buy time.[clviii] Kolbe’s force destroyed Partridge with gunfire and torpedoes until it sank. Pellew, partially disabled by gunfire, was lost in a storm and LTC Cavendish was able to navigate the destroyer towards the Norwegian coast while Kolbe turned on the convoy (six merchants, four trawlers) and annihilated it.[clix] Although the Partridge distress report was received by HMS Rival and then transmitted to the HMS Birkenhead group (3rd Light Cruiser Squadron) south of Norway, Kolbe’s force managed to slip east past the picket line shortly after sunset.[clx]

Chart of 12 December 1917 destroyer raid on the Scandinavian convoy route, from Marder, FDSF, IV

While this example demonstrated that Germany’s surface assets were very much still a risk to the convoy system, another encounter a week later with U-boats operating near a convoy assembly point highlighted the multidimensional nature of the battle.

A convoy of 17 departed Falmouth in stormy weather at 11 am on 18 December, screened by several trawlers. When the convoy was clear of the Channel and off Prawle point at 1:30 pm, the SS Riversdale was torpedoed. At noon the C-in-C Devonport, receiving reports of sunk merchant ships, ordered all merchant traffic between Plymouth and Portland to be halted, a condition that remained in force until 8 pm, and then again from 5:15 am.[clxi]

The 7,046 ton Cunard liner SS Vinovia was the next to be torpedoed, off Wolf Rock an hour later, with nine lives lost.[clxii] The Rame Head wireless-telegraphy (W/T) station reported a sighting, and the C-in-C Devonport ordered the trawlers in F section to investigate. These were the Mewslade and Coulard Hill. These hydrophone equipped vessels established a hydrophone picket, but did not locate any submarines.[clxiii] Meanwhile, airship C23, which had been despatched to investigate the Rame Head W/T contact, discovered that the French steamer St. Andre had also been torpedoed, sometime around around midnight.[clxiv]

UC100, UCIII-type coastal minelayer submarine, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive (2000)

Lieutenant John Lawris RNR, in the sailing ship Mitchell, encountered a U-boat surfacing in windy weather off the north Devon coast. When, at 10:10 am, a submarine surfaced in front of the Mitchell Lt. Lawris opened fire, multiple shell hits causing the U-boat to dive. Although the trawler Sardius raced to support the Mitchell, the submarine was already gone.[clxv] Mitchell relayed this information to the Trevose Head W/T station at 10:25, and the report was broadcast around the region, where it was received at Penzance, Falmouth, Newlyn and elsewhere.[clxvi] The rush of W/T communication amidst the flurry of sighting reports caused communication delays. One Falmouth flotilla, carrying out hydrophone investigations of sightings, did not receive a sinking report until five and half hours after the event.[clxvii]

UB148 at sea

At 4:00 pm the Prince Charles de Belgique, a Belgian steamer, was attacked by a submarine eight miles from the Lizard. Luckily the torpedo missed, whence the U-boat was spotted by a Newlyn NAS seaplane cruising overhead at 500 ft. The seaplane carried out a bombing attack but was unsuccessful. Simultaneously at 4 pm, the trawler Take Care, while protecting the Brixham fishing fleet, spotted a submarine near Berry Head, although no further sightings were made. Several hours later trawler Lysander was picking up the survivors of the torpedoed Norwegian steamer Ingrid II, which had been enroute to Cardif for repairs.[clxviii] The Alice Marie was sunk next, sometime before midnight, then the Warsaw at 1:20 am, and then at 4 am the Eveline. The trawlers Rinaldo and Ulysses could do nothing to intervene, dashing between reports and unable to make firm detections with their hydrophones.[clxix]

A significant score of ships destroyed, and no submarine caught in the act. The impact of A/S measures continued to be essentially random, thus when UB56 crashed into a mine in the English Channel it became the only German casualty associated with the 18 December action.[clxx] Ten merchant ships of three nations had been lost, but the convoy, reduced to 16, still crossed successfully.

St. Paul’s and Blackfriars Bridge, by William Wyllie.

These battles and others like them demonstrate that as 1917 came to a close the Royal Navy had to strengthen and refine its procedures for convoy escort and ASW. Outside of the Mediterranean, the English Channel, Irish Sea and the Scandinavian corridor were all vulnerable to attack, especially near the as yet unescorted coastal routes.

 

Resolution: Attacks on the Belgian Submarine Bases & the Defeat of the U-boats in 1918

When 1918 opened the convoy system had been widely adopted and plentiful resources were being supplied to the regional commanders. The coastal space, however, had become highly contested. A German surface raid attack near Yarmouth on 14 January involved 50 vessels of various kinds, but was driven off by Commodore Tyrwhitt’s Harwich Force.[clxxi] Despite the ongoing surface and submarine battle, crucially, merchant sinkings were well below crisis levels and falling.[clxxii] In December 1917 the German Admiralty made Vice Admiral Ritter von Mann-Tiechler head of a dedicated U-boat office, recognition of ad hoc nature of the previous year of unrestricted submarine warfare.[clxxiii]

Sir Eric Campbell Geddes as Vice Admiral and First Lord of the Admiralty, 1917, photograph by Walter Stoneman

Naval Staff reforms c. January 1918, from Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (2011)

The Naval Staff as organized in January 1918 for the Geddes – Wemyss administration, from Jellicoe, Crisis of the Naval War (1920), p. 27

1918adboard2.5jpg-1-1

Jellicoe, in a controversial decision by Lloyd George and Geddes, was removed from office in December, and then replaced by his Deputy, Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.[clxxiv] Vice Admiral Sir Herbert L. Heath became the Second Sea Lord, Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey retained the Third Sea Lord position, and Rear Admiral Hugh H. D. Tothill became the Fourth Sea Lord. Duff stayed on as ACNS, and Rear Admiral Sydney R. Fremantle became Deputy DCNS and Rear Admiral George P. W. Hope of the Naval Staff’s Operations Division the Deputy First Sea Lord.[clxxv] Geddes now reformed the staff again, delegating home operations and air to the DCNS, the ASD and other trade protection elements to the ACNS, while the Deputy 1SL assumed responsibility for foreign operations.[clxxvi]

naval-staff3.3-1918

Next to fall from the famous Geddes axe was Vice Admiral Bacon, the long serving SNO Dover. Wemyss appointed Rear Admiral Roger Keyes in his place on 1 January 1918. Captain Wilfred Tomkinson became Captain of the Dover Destroyers.[clxxvii] The arrangement of the Dover Barrage, as it had been under Bacon, was expanded with a new system of illumination, authored by Wing Commander F. A. Brock (RNAS), son of the Brock of Brock’s firework (and explosive bullet) manufacturer, coinciding with a new patrol scheme, whereby 80 to 100 destroyers and auxiliaries were constantly patrolling the Straits by day and night.[clxxviii]

The positions of the Channel mine net and Folkestone – Gris Nez minefields in 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, 1914-1915 (2000)

Between 19 December 1917 and 8 February 1918 four U-boats were mined in the Channel, and UB35 was depth-charged by HMS Leven.[clxxix] The increased danger was so significant that Commodore Michelsen was forced to prohibit the use of the Channel route and instead endorse the northern route around Scotland, effectively adding five days of transit to the U-boats’ cruise.[clxxx]

Drifter net-mine deployment

The Flanders command launched another anti-shipping sortie on 14 January with 14 destroyers, although in the event no merchant ships were encountered.[clxxxi] A month later, on 13 February, Commander Heinecke’s Second Flotilla was despatched to attack the Dover – Calais barrage, in particular, the lights that since December 1917 had drastically increased the risk to transiting U-boats.[clxxxii] Heinecke’s destroyers departed in thick fog, and anchored overnight north of Norderney.

Dover trawlers and motor-launches, from Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea (2017)

After working around to the English coast the attackers, eight in total, split into two half-flotillas and waited until night, and then, around 12:30 am on the 15th, began their raid against the well lit and heavily defended cross-Channel barrage. Attaining complete surprise, Heinecke’s force (Fourth Half-Flotilla) destroyed, according to Scheer, a searchlight vessel, 13 drifters, a U-boat chaser, a torpedo boat and two motor-boats, while the other half-flotilla (Third Half-Flotilla), working the southern end of the barrage, sank 12 trawlers and two motor-boats. Steve Dunn and James Goldrick give the accurate figure of seven drifters, one trawler sunk, with three drifters one paddle steamer damaged.[clxxxiii]

Zeebrugge raid of 22 April 1918, showing location of harbour assault force and canal blockships, from Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes (1951)

Dover’s new C-in-C Admiral Roger Keyes now conducted the long-planned Flanders coast raid on 22 April.[clxxxiv] Although the blockships meant to obstruct the Zeebrugge harbour were only effective for a few days, the daring raid was described as a triumph by the press, with eight Victoria Crosses being awarded to the participants.[clxxxv] A further attempt to block the Ostend canal was attempted on 9-10 May, with likewise limited results.[clxxxvi]

On 23 April 1918 the High Sea Fleet launched a planned raid against the Scandinavian convoy route.[clxxxvii] This was a major operation involving the battlecruisers of the Scouting Group under Admiral von Hipper, in addition to light cruisers and destroyers, supported by Scheer’s main force. As the advanced group cleared the Heligoland minefields, however, SMS Moltke threw a propeller and suffered a turbine failure that ultimately damaged the engines and caused a breach in the hull. The battlecruiser had to be taken in tow by SMS Oldenburg.[clxxxviii]

24 April 1918 High Sea Fleet sortie, from James Goldrick, After Jutland (2018), map 13.1

The Grand Fleet was notified by Room 40 that the High Sea Fleet was out of harbour and Beatty prepared the fleet for sea,[clxxxix] although there was no chance the British could catch the Germans before they returned to harbour.[cxc] Later that evening, after being restored to its own power, Moltke was torpedoed by RN submarine E42, but managed to return safety of the Jade.[cxci] The fleet operation had failed to locate any convoys and the High Sea Fleet would not sortie again until it sailed for internment on 24 November 1918.

The bomb-proof U-boat pens at Bruges.

While the U-boats’ areas of operation were slowly being squeezed by increasingly comprehensive convoys and sophisticated hydrophone and aerial sweeps, the bombing campaign by RNAS Dunkirk, and after 1 April 1918, RAF No. 5 Group, against the Flanders U-boat bases was renewed.  Wing Captain Charles Lambe’s 27 May operating orders called for the No. 5 Group (Dunkirk) to bomb the Bruges docks twice a day, both day and night.[cxcii] Indeed, 70 tons of bombs were dropped on Bruges and Zeebrugge during May 1918.[cxciii]

 

Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) naval air, airship, and training establishment map, March 1918, and Royal Air Force (RAF) Home Defence Groups.

From mid-June until the end of August, 86 tons of bombs were dropped on Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges by No. 5 Group, with another 49 tons dropped by other RAF squadrons.[cxciv] Between February 1917 and November 1918 the various Allied bombing forces (the US Northern Bombing Group had been forming since June 1918),[cxcv] managed to drop 524 tons of bombs on Zeebrugge, Ostend and Bruges, and, although the Bruges electrical works were destroyed and the Zeebrugge lock gates targeted, only three submarines were damaged by the bombing programme.[cxcvi]

The U-boats, for their part, had been forced once again to change tactics, focusing on the lightly escorted outbound traffic returning across the Atlantic to America. During the summer of 1918 the U-boats, by expanding their area of operations into the western and southern Atlantic, scored a series successful sinkings.

Powerful 2,000 ton U139 – U141 ‘cruiser’ type developed for long-range operations in the Atlantic, armed with two 150 mm cannons and 19 torpedoes for its six torpedo tubes. & U140, double-hulled 12,000 nm range 2,000 ton submarine crewed by six officers and 56 men, armed with 8.8 cm and 10 cm guns and six torpedo tubes, four bow and two stern, from Eberhard Moller and Werner Brack, Encyclopedia of U-boats from 1904 to the Present (2004), p. 39

1918

Allied shipping losses in the Channel and Western Approaches for 1918

However, as the return voyage traffic was empty of supplies or troops the impact on the war was marginal in comparison to the 1.5 million American soldiers that successfully crossed the Atlantic.[cxcvii] Although shipping losses remained in the 300,000 ton/month range for the first eight months of 1918, with a high of 368,750 tons sunk in March, followed by a low of 268,505 tons in June, the sinking rate was not high enough to cripple Allied shipping.[cxcviii]

 

convoy01Convoys in 1918, by John Everett

justicia

32,000 ton White Star liner Justicia, sunk 19 – 20 July 1918, despite escort, by the combined efforts of UB64, U54, with UB124 in support (damaged by escorts and then scuttled).

A notable footnote is the 10 – 25 May 1918 concentration, wherein eight U-boats grouped against the western approaches off the Irish coast. Luckily for the Admiralty, this concentration was known and cleared through careful routing of approaching convoys, thus, as Newbolt phrased it, the Royal Navy had avoided the ‘the most methodical and elaborate attempt that the Germans Staff had as yet made to interfere with the convoy system.’[cxcix]

Meanwhile, the monthly loss rate for U-boats climbed significantly during 1918, from Gibson & Prendergast, German Submarine War

The U-boats certainly needed some change in method, as during 1918 69 U-boats were destroyed, a figure that matched new construction.[cc] As Lawrence Sondhaus concluded, ‘the balance sheet of Allied tonnage sunk versus German submarines lost clearly tipped from favoring the Germans in 1917 (6.15 million tons at a cost of sixty-three U-boats) to favoring the Allies in 1918 (2.75 million tons at a cost of sixty-nine U-boats).’[cci] The implementation of air-escorted coastal convoys for the East Coast of Britain and the Irish Sea – the two remaining areas of highest shipping losses – closed the final weakness in the trade defence system, and, as Tarrant phrased it, ‘all hopes of the U-boats forcing a decision finally evaporated’.[ccii]

Sinking locations, February to October 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive, 1914-1915 (2000)

In August 1918, with the submarine war failing and the Allies preparing for their final Western Front offensive, Admiral von Holtzendorff resigned, being replaced by Admiral Scheer.[cciii] At a meeting between Scheer and senior German industrialists held 1 October 1918 it was determined that every effort should be made to increase submarine construction, first to 16 per month and eventually up to 30 per month.[cciv] This was too little too late, however, as the submarine war was winding down as Germany’s military situation on the continent collapsed.

Decline in global merchant sinking, May – November 1918, from Tarrant, The U-boat Offensive (2000)

The Flanders U-boat bases were liberated during October 1918, a decisive event in the Allied Hundred Days offensive. The Germans evacuated Ostend on 17 October, and then Zeebrugge and Bruges two days later. On 21 October the U-boat command issued the order to cease attacks on passenger ships, followed by the recall of all U-boats to Wilhelmshaven, from which the expected final sortie of the High Sea Fleet was to take place.[ccv] The naval mutiny following the 28 October order for the suicidal final sortie, and resulting capture of the fleet bases at Wilhelmshaven, Cuxhaven and Kiel by revolutionaries on 3 November, at last terminated the submarine threat.[ccvi]

Approximate locations of U-boats destroyed during the First World War, from Gibson & Prendergast

“The Archaeology of First World War U-boat Losses in the English Channel and its Impact on the Historical Record,” Innes McCartney, Mariner’s Mirror, vol. 105, no. 2, May 2019, p. 183-201
UB131 beached near Hastings, 9 January 1921, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 65

The RAF memorial, Victoria Embankment, c. 1923 by William Wyllie

Conclusion

As Stephen Roskill observed of the British experience with ASW during the Second World War, the immediate lesson was the complete failure of hunting groups, and the superior nature of escorted convoys, in particular with destroyer and air support. The old argument of offensive versus defensive measures masked the aggressive naval officer’s distaste for the rigors of convoy duty.[ccvii] The advantages of convoys were undeniable: the total space the convoy occupied was marginal when compared to the visibility of thousands of independently sailing vessels, which in effect acted as a screen for the convoys, until controls were tightened as losses continued into 1918.

First World War Royal Navy officers, by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1921.

Fast attack forces able to slip through the Royal Navy’s blockade, such as minelayers and destroyers, produced decisive results against convoys, as they were able to overwhelm the escorts. The U-boats, by concentrating against the coasts and the convoy dispersion points, and attacking the thinly escorted Atlantic and Norwegian convoy routes, were still able to inflict serious losses. The Admiralty did arrive at the essential formula for success – vastly improved A/S escorts, convoys, qualitative and quantitative improvements in material and technology from mines, depth-charges, bombs and shell, plus flying boats, airships, Q-ships, hydrophones, minesweepers and paravanes. So long as as the High Sea Fleet did not escalate the scale of its counter-blockade operations, the crucial merchant supplies would get through, while peripheral attacks, such as by the Zeppelins and Gothas against London and the coastal bases and arsenals, could not decide the outcome of the war.

The German naval command had gambled on an uncertain weapon, and come close to success. As the U-boat war evolved during 1917, both sides were forced to dramatically adjust their operations and tactics. For the Allies, restricting the movement of, and eventually counter-attacking the U-boats became the new paradigm, whereas Germany abandoned main fleet battle to focus completely on submarine construction and flotilla deployment. The historical parallel with 18th century convoy and the guerre de course was proven correct,[ccviii] and by the end of the war the tools to effectively locate and destroy U-boats had been invented, tested and operationalized. For the U-boats the lessons were clear: strength lay in numbers, and safety at night, far away from air patrols. The Second Battle of the Atlantic, twenty years later, would prove which side had truly grappled with the crisis, and mastered it.

After the War: UB77 in Portsmouth harbour with HMS Victory, from Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, p. 55

HMS Renown departs Portsmouth, 16 March 1920, with HMS Victory and UB77 at left, by William Wyllie.
Francis Dodd drawing of the crew cabin aboard Royal Navy ML558 & sketches of U-boats surrendering, 20 November 1918, & Square-rigged sailing ship at sea, by William Wyllie

Notes

[i] Marc Milner, “The Atlantic War, 1939-1945: The Case for a New Paradigm,” in Decision in the Atlantic, ed. Marcus Faulkner and Christopher M. Bell (University of Kentucky: Andarta Books, 2019), 5–19.

[ii] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, Vol. I, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Arcole Publishing, 2017)., chapter 40, loc. 14420

[iii] Hague Convention on Land Warfare, July 1899, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=CD0F6C83F96FB459C12563CD002D66A1&action=openDocument

 & Hague Convention on Neutral Powers in Naval War, October 1907, https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=06A47A50FE7412AFC12563CD002D6877&action=openDocument

[iv] Henry Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. V, 5 vols., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1931)., p. 195

[v] V. E. Tarrant, The U-Boat Offensive, 1914-1945 (London: Cassel & Co, 2000)., p. 50

[vi] Donald Macintyre, The Battle of the Atlantic (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military Classics, 2006)., p. 73-7

[vii] Nick lloyd, Hundred Days: The End of the Great War, Kindle ebook (New York: Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013)., Chapter 13, loc 4088

[viii] See for example, Nick Hewitt, The Kaiser’s Pirates, Hunting Germany’s Raiding Cruisers in World War I, Kindle ebook (New York: Pen & Sword Books, Ltd., 2013)., also, Julian Corbett, Naval Operations, vol. I, V vols., History of the Great War Based on Official Documents (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1920).

[ix] Nicolas Wolz, From Imperial Splendour to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War, trans. Geoffrey Brooks, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2015)., chapter 7, loc. 2730-5

[x] Gary Sheffield, “Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Arras: A British Perspective,” in Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment, ed. Geoffrey Hayes, Andrew Iarocci, and Mike Bechthold (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2010), 15–30., p. 15-6

[xi] John Terraine, Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars, 1916-1945, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2009)., part I, chapter 3, loc. 1297

[xii] Wolz, From Imperial Splendour to Internment: The German Navy in the First World War., chapter 7, loc. 2735

[xiii] Holger Herwig, The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914-1918, Kindle ebook (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)., p. 308

[xiv] Edwyn A. Gray, The U-Boat War, 1914-1918, Kindle ebook (London: Leo Cooper, 1994)., chapter 10, loc. 2443

[xv] Gray., chapter 10, loc. 2451

[xvi] H. A. Jones, The War In The Air, Antony Rowe Ltd. reprint, vol. IV, VI vols. (Uckfield: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1934)., p. 47

[xvii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 51

[xviii] Tarrant., p. 51

[xix] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 47

[xx] Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 4 vols. (New York: RosettaBooks, LLC, 1923)., chapter 15, loc. 5209

[xxi] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 48

[xxii] ‘”Blockade” Effect in U.S. Trade,’ 19 March 1917, London Times, p. 7

[xxiii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 49

[xxiv] Gray, The U-Boat War, 1914-1918., chapter 10, loc. 2443

[xxv] Arthur Marder, ed., Portrait of an Admiral, The Life And Papers Of Herbert Richmond. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952)., p. 228

[xxvi] Daniel A. Baugh, “Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond and the Objects of Sea Power,” in Mahan Is Not Enough: The Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, ed. James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, Naval War College Historical Monograph 10 (Newport, Rhode Island: Naval War College Press, 1993), 13–49., p. 18 fn. See also in particular, Herbert Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48, Volume III, vol. 3, 3 vols., Cambridge Naval and Military Series (London: Cambridge University Press, 1920)., p. 52 et seq

[xxvii] Julian Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: The Folio Society, 2001)., p. 267-80; & Julian Corbett, Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume I, Kindle ebook, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015)., p. 290, 359

[xxviii] Arthur Marder, From The Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Year of Crisis, vol. 4, 5 vols. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969)., p. 120-1

[xxix] Terraine, Business in Great Waters., Part 1, Chapter 3, loc. 1314-21. See also, Winston Churchill, The World Crisis: Volume III, 1916 – 1918, Kindle ebook, vol. 3, 4 vols. (New York: RosettaBooks, LLC, 2013)., Chapter 15, loc. 5253-60

[xxx] Marder, FDSF., p. 122

[xxxi] John J. Abbatiello, “The Myths and Realities of Air Anti-Submarine Warfare during the Great War,” Air Power Review 12, no. 1 (2009): 14–31., p. 14

[xxxii] Norman Leslie, “The System of Convoys for Merchant Shipping in 1917 and 1918,” Naval Review 5, no. 1 (1917): 42–95., p. 43

[xxxiii] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 45

[xxxiv] John Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1934)., p. 16

[xxxv] R. H. Gibson and Maurice Prendergast, The German Submarine War, 1914-1918, Reprint (London: Naval & Military Press, 1931)., p. 160

[xxxvi] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 17-8

[xxxvii] Alexander L. N. Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918” (PhD thesis, King’s College London, 2019)., p. 125-9

[xxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 14

[xxxix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 10-14

[xl] Newbolt., p. 14

[xli] Marder, FDSF., IV p. 156

[xlii] War Cabinet paper by Jellicoe, 21 February 1917, ADM 1/8480, #33 in A. Temple Patterson, ed., The Jellicoe Papers, 1916-1935, vol. 2, 2 vols. (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1968)., p. 144-9

[xliii] War Cabinet paper by Jellicoe, 21 February 1917, ADM 1/8480, #33 in Temple Patterson., p. 146-8

[xliv] Jones, WIA, IV., p. 45-6

[xlv] Jones., IV p. 47

[xlvi] Marder, FDSF., IV p. 123

[xlvii] Henry Newbolt, Naval Operations, vol. IV, 5 vols., The Naval History of the Great War (Antony Rowe Ltd., Eastbourne: The Naval & Military Press Ltd, 1928)., p. 353; James Goldrick, After Jutland: The Naval War in North European Waters, June 1916 – November 1918, Kindle ebook (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2018)., chapter 9, loc. 3018. Goldrick says Tilleson.

[xlviii] Steve Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea: The Dover Patrol, 1914-1918 (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2017)., p. 134

[xlix] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3036-45

[l] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 360-68

[li] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 134; Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3126-41

[lii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3149-58

[liii] ‘Distribution of Coal and Sugar,’ 24 March 1917, London Times, p. 8

[liv] Paul Guinn, British Strategy and Politics, 1914 to 1918 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1965)., p. 228; see also, Stephen Roskill, Hankey: Man of Secrets, vol. I: 1877-1918, 3 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1970). p. 359-60

[lv] War Cabinet meeting 100, 21 March 1917, CAB 23/2/18, p. 2

[lvi] War Cabinet meeting 110, 2 April 1917, CAB 23/2/28, p. 3

[lvii] War Cabinet meeting 110, 2 April 1917, CAB 23/2/28, p. 3

[lviii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 42

[lix] War Cabinet meeting 117, 11 April 1917, CAB 23/2/35, p. 4; see also, War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 4

[lx] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 4

[lxi] War Cabinet meeting 113, 4 April 1917, CAB 23/2/31, p. 2-3

[lxii] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 2

[lxiii] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 3-5

[lxiv] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, p. 2

[lxv] War Cabinet meeting 125, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/43, Appendix II, p. 8-9

[lxvi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 12 April 1917, #42 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 156

[lxvii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 159

[lxviii] War Cabinet meeting 116, 9 April 1917, CAB 23/2/34, p. 5; War Cabinet meeting 117, 11 April 1917, CAB 23/2/35, p. 2-3; see also Jellicoe to Rear-Admiral W. S. Sims, 7 April 1917, #41 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 155.

[lxix] War Cabinet meeting 115, 6 April 1917, CAB 23/2/33, p. 1

[lxx] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 274-5. See also, William Sims, The Victory at Sea (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016)., p. 352-3

[lxxi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 17 March 1917, #36 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 153

[lxxii] Jellicoe to Beatty, 24 March 1917, #37 in Temple Patterson., p. 153

[lxxiii] War Cabinet minutes 104, 26 March 1917, CAB 23/2/22, p. 3

[lxxiv] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 135-41. Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 373

[lxxv] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1928., p. 377-8. Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 137-8

[lxxvi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 9, loc. 3221-50

[lxxvii] The Naval Who’s Who, 1917 (Polstead: J. B. Hayward & Son, 1981). p. 273

[lxxviii] Nicholas Black, The British Naval Staff In The First World War (Rochester: Boydell & Brewer Inc., 2011), p. 301

[lxxix] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 264. Patrick Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918 (London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1982)., p. 254

[lxxx] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 264. Beesly., p. 254fn

[lxxxi] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, Appendix, p. 5

[lxxxii] Black, British Naval Staff., p. 34

[lxxxiii] Churchill, The World Crisis, 1915., chapter 15, loc. 5231

[lxxxiv] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, Appendix, p. 5; see also, Black, British Naval Staff., p. 248-9

[lxxxv] DASD Fisher to C-in-C Portsmouth, 21 July 1917, Bethell Papers (VII), LHCMA. See also, Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare, p. 113.

[lxxxvi] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. vii

[lxxxvii] Marder, FDSF., p. 118-9

[lxxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. xi

[lxxxix] Marder, FDSF, IV, pp. 268

[xc] Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., Chapter 10, loc. 1977

[xci] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 2002

[xcii] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 1984

[xciii] Temple Patterson., Chapter 10, loc. 1977-93

[xciv] Jellicoe to Beatty, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157 fn

[xcv] Jellicoe to Beatty, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157

[xcvi] Terraine, Business in Great Waters., Part 1, Chapter 3, loc. 1305

[xcvii] Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 157

[xcviii] Report of Admiralty meeting 23 February 1917, #34 in Temple Patterson., p. 149-51 & Jellicoe to Admiral Sir Frederick Hamilton, C-in-C Rosyth, 25 April 1917, #43 in Temple Patterson., p. 157

[xcix] War Cabinet meeting 124, 23 April 1917, CAB 23/2/42, p. 3; see also, Holger H. Herwig and Donald Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918,” The Historian 33, no. 4 (August 1971): 611–36., p. 614

[c] Rear-Admiral Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., vol. 2, p. 158

[ci] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 160

[cii] Rear-Admiral Duff to Jellicoe, 26 April 1917, #44 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., vol. 2, p. 159p.

[ciii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 159, 164

[civ] Jellicoe to Beatty, 12 April 1917, #42 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 156

[cv] Maurice Hankey, The Supreme Command, 1914 – 1918, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 2 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2014)., chapter 62, loc. 4257

[cvi] War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, p. 3

[cvii] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 275

[cviii] War Cabinet meeting 128, 1 May 1917, CAB 23/2/46, p. 2; War Cabinet meeting 130, 2 May 1917, CAB 23/2/48, p. 2

[cix] War Cabinet meeting 142, 22 May 1917, CAB 23/2/60, p. 2

[cx] War Cabinet meeting 156, 6 June 1917, CAB 23/3/3, p. 3

[cxi] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 54

[cxii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 43

[cxiii] Newbolt., V, p. 57-8

[cxiv] Newbolt., p. 43

[cxv] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 52-3

[cxvi] War Cabinet meeting 144, 23 May 1917, CAB 23/2/62, p. 7

[cxvii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 42

[cxviii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 53

[cxix] Tarrant., p. 52

[cxx] Andreas Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918 (Miami: Trident Publishing, 2017)., p. 76, 78; see also, Herwig and Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918.”, p. 635

[cxxi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4190

[cxxii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 259

[cxxiii] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 260-1

[cxxiv] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 263

[cxxv] Marder, FDSF, IV, p. 261-2

[cxxvi] Jellicoe to Beatty, 2 April 1917, #39 in Temple Patterson, Jellicoe Papers, Vol. II., p. 154-5

[cxxvii] John Jellicoe, The Crisis of the Naval War (London: Cassell and Company, Ltd, 1920)., Chapter III, p. 53-101

[cxxviii] Jellicoe, The Submarine Peril., p. 13

[cxxix] Marder, FDSF. IV, p. 286-7

[cxxx] Marder., IV, p. 226

[cxxxi] Marder., IV, p. 227-8

[cxxxii] Marder., IV, p. 233

[cxxxiii] Marder., IV, p. 228-9

[cxxxiv] Marder., IV, p. 271

[cxxxv] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 140; see also, John J. Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare in World War I: British Naval Aviation and the Defeat of the U-Boats (New York: Routledge, 2006)., Appendix I, p. 174

[cxxxvi] Dwight Messimer, Find and Destroy: Antisubmarine Warfare in World War I (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2001)., p. 134; Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 116; see also, H. A. Williamson, “Employment of aeroplanes of Anti-Submarine Work”, 14 August 1918, AIR 1/642, #267 in Stephen Roskill, ed., Documents Relating to the Naval Air Service. Volume I, 1908-1918 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1969)., p. 703-4

[cxxxvii] War Cabinet minute 160, 11 June 1917, CAB 23/3/7, p. 2

[cxxxviii] War Cabinet minute 162, 13 June 1917, CAB 23/3/9, p. 4

[cxxxix] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 282

[cxl] Marder., IV, p. 283,

[cxli] Marder., IV, p. 277

[cxlii] Marder., IV, p. 277

[cxliii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 59

[cxliv] Marder, FDSF., IV, p. 276

[cxlv] Marder., IV, p. 276

[cxlvi] Steve R. Dunn, Southern Thunder: The Royal Navy and the Scandinavian Trade in World War One, Kindle ebook (Barnsley,: Seaforth Publishing, 2019). chapter 13, loc. 2882

[cxlvii] Reinhard Scheer, Germany’s High Sea Fleet in the World War, Kindle ebook (Shilka Publishing, 2013)., p. 378-81

[cxlviii] Dunn, Southern Thunder. chapter 13, loc. 2873-968

[cxlix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 153-5

[cl] Newbolt., V, p. 168, et seq

[cli] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4407-27

[clii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 381. Dunn says this is Commodore Heinrich.

[cliii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4499

[cliv] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 383

[clv] Scheer., p. 383

[clvi] Dunn, Southern Thunder. chapter 14, loc. 3199, 3249;  Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 184-8.

[clvii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4518

[clviii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 189.

[clix] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4518; Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 190-2

[clx] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 12, loc. 4525

[clxi] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 198, 200-1

[clxii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 231

[clxiii] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 198

[clxiv] Newbolt., V, p. 198

[clxv] Newbolt., V, p. 199

[clxvi] Newbolt., V, p. 199

[clxvii] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxviii] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxix] Newbolt., V, p. 200

[clxx] Eberhard Moller and Werner Brack, The Encyclopedia of U-Boats From 1904 to the Present Day, trans. Andrea Battson and Roger Chesneau (London: Greenhill Books, 2004)., p. 47

[clxxi] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 208

[clxxii] Newbolt., V, p. 205

[clxxiii] Herwig and Trask, “The Failure of Imperial Germany’s Undersea Offensive Against World Shipping, February 1917 – October 1918.”, p. 622

[clxxiv] Stephen Roskill, “The Dismissal of Admiral Jellicoe,” Journal of Contemporary History 1, no. 4 (October 1966): 69–93.

[clxxv] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 204

[clxxvi] Figure 7.2 in Black, British Naval Staff., p. 230

[clxxvii] Arthur Marder, From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: Victory and Aftermath: 1918-1919, vol. 5, 5 vols. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014)., p. 39-50.

[clxxviii] Marder., V, p. 41

[clxxix] Marder., V, p. 41

[clxxx] Marder., V, p. 41-2

[clxxxi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 4822

[clxxxii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 386

[clxxxiii] Scheer., p. 387-8; see also, Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 171-4, Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 4879

[clxxxiv] Cecil Aspinall-Oglander, Roger Keyes (London: The Hogarth Press, 1951)., p. 222-53; see also, Lawrence Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare in World War I: The Onset of Total War at Sea (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2017)., p. 179-80

[clxxxv] Dunn, Securing The Narrow Sea., p. 191

[clxxxvi] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5123; see also Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., p. 241-77

[clxxxvii] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5186

[clxxxviii] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 393

[clxxxix] Beesly, Room 40: British Naval Intelligence 1914-1918., p. 284-9

[cxc] Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5232

[cxci] Scheer, High Sea Fleet., p. 396, Goldrick, After Jutland., chapter 13, loc. 5269

[cxcii] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 164

[cxciii] Abbatiello, Anti-Submarine Warfare., p. 75

[cxciv] Abbatiello., p. 76-7

[cxcv] Geoffrey Rossano and Thomas Wildenberg, Striking the Hornets’ Nest (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015)., p. 140-1

[cxcvi] Howlett, “The Royal Naval Air Service and the Evolution of Naval Aviation in Britain, 1914 – 1918.”, p. 164-5

[cxcvii] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 298. See also, Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 168-9

[cxcviii] Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 173-4

[cxcix] Newbolt, Naval Operations, 1931., V, p. 278-82

[cc] Sondhaus, German Submarine Warfare., p. 174

[cci] Sondhaus., p. 175

[ccii] Tarrant, U-Boat Offensive., p. 69

[cciii] Tim Benbow, Naval Warfare 1914-1918, Kindle ebook, The History of World War I (London: Amber Books Ltd, 2011)., chapter 6, loc. 3344-8

[cciv] Michelsen, Submarine Warfare, 1914-1918., p. 78-9

[ccv] Gibson and Prendergast, German Submarine War., p. 324-5

[ccvi] Gibson and Prendergast., p. 328-9

[ccvii] Stephen Roskill, War at Sea, 1939 – 1945, Volume II: The Period of Balance, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 4 vols., History of the Second World War (London: HMSO, 1956)., chapter IV, loc. 2353-95

[ccviii] Richard Woodman, “The Problems of Convoys, 1914-1917,” in Dreadnought to Daring: 100 Years of Comment, Controversy and Debate in The Naval Review, ed. Peter Hore (Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2012), 53–66., p. 55-6

Operation Urgent Fury

 

URGENT FURY

Operation Urgent Fury: Cold War Crisis in Grenada

Prelude 

C14159-28A

US President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy at Andrew Air Force Base, 23 April 1983, honouring victims of the 18 April Beirut US embassy bombing.

 

On Friday, 21 October 1983, President Ronald Reagan was in a budget overview meeting. Afterwards, the President met with Henry Kissinger and the Commission on Central America. Communist infiltration into Nicaragua was discussed. Finishing up the week, the President departed the White House for the Eisenhower cottage at the Augusta Country Club in Atlanta. With Reagan went Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, along with the newly appointed National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane.[i] The President was expecting developments in the Lebanese crisis, bright on the National Security Council’s (NSC) radar after the US embassy bombing in Beirut that April

The President turned in for bed after dinner, but was awoken hastily at four in the morning. It was Bud McFarlane and George Shultz. The President had been requested to authorize the invasion of Grenada, led by the United States, and supported by the Dominican headed Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), formed in 1981 and composed of St. Lucia, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

schultz.jpg

Secretary of State George Shultz being updated by satellite phone while staying at the Augusta Country Club, Atlanta Georgia, 21 October. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

The US President spoke to Margaret Thatcher by phone on the 22nd and the British Prime Minister requested calm, emphasizing that no immediate military action should take place. For the British government, the twin crisis in Grenada and Lebanon came too soon on the heels of the 1982 Falkland’s war, itself involving a major amphibious operation requiring carriers and assault ships acting against an island base.

C17822-15telephone.jpg

President Reagan at the Eisenhower cabin in Atlanta, Georgia, consulting with Secretary of State George Shultz and National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane early on the morning of 22 October. & Teleconferencing with NSC staff, 22 October.

 

Discussion and a 9 am teleconference followed, after which the President approved Operation Urgent Fury – the invasion of Grenada – and then went back to sleep.Since the end of American military involvement in the Vietnam war in 1973 and the subsequent over-running of Saigon in 1975, there was a perception that the United States was reticent to utilize military action in a potential conflict. Jimmy Carter had put his presidency on the line over Operation Eagle Claw – the effort to rescue American Iranian embassy hostages in 1980 – and so the decision to intervene weighed heavily on the mind of his successor.

Reagan spent the rest of Saturday, October 22nd playing golf, a normally mundane event punctuated by the incident at the 16th hole: A gunman held up the golf shop, taking hostages and demanding to speak to the President. While he was being escorted away from the country club, Reagan called the gunman as requested, but the man on the phone hung up every time the President got through.[ii] The man was duly apprehended after his hostages escaped.[iii]

At 2 am the following morning, Sunday 23 October, Reagan was awoken again and informed about the Beirut barracks bombing and the enormous death toll, later reports finalizing at 242 Americans and 58 French dead.[iv] The suspects included the Iranians, Syrians, or the organization that eventually became Hezbollah.[v] The killing of so many American marines and French peacekeepers – one-fourth of the US component of the four nation peacekeeping force – came as a shock. This second major attack followed closely on the heels of other United States Marine Corps (USMC) casualties, resulting from sniper-fire and a car-bombing incident against a convoy on 19 October.[vi]

The President returning to Washington on 23 October.

The morning of Sunday, 23 October President Reagan, Shultz and MacFarlane returned to Washington D.C. Hurried meetings with the National Security Council followed, and it was decided to continue with the invasion of Grenada. Special Operations Forces (SOF) were going in immediately, flown 1,500 miles by C-130s to investigate landing beaches for the Tuesday morning attack.

Before finishing for the evening, the President briefed congressional leaders Tip O’Neill, Jim Wright, Bob Byrd, Howard Baker, and Bob Michel about the invasion, and then took a phone call from Margaret Thatcher, who, again, warned of the potentially negative international reaction to American military action and advised against rushing the operation.[vii]

In the Caribbean waters around the small Windward Island nation of Grenada, nevertheless, an amphibious assault ship and an aircraft carrier battle group – hundreds of thousands of tons of warships – laden with United States Marines, aircraft, helicopters, artillery and commandos, was assembling under the command of Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf,[viii] and Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf,[ix] to overwhelm Grenada’s small People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), and its Cuban and Soviet bloc fighters. Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) 120 was steaming steadily towards Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was about to begin.

SR-71 TR-1

SR-71 Blackbird and TR-1 (U-2), high altitude reconnaissance aircraft of the type used by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to photograph Grenada between 20 – 24 October 1983

 

CJTF 120, responsible for carrying out Operation Urgent Fury, led by Vice Admiral Metcalf, has itself become a model for joint operations. Meltcalf’s career and resolute decision-making during the thirty-nine hour planning phase prior to Operation Urgent Fury’s execution are now considered a military case-study in leadership during an international crisis.[xiii] Furthermore, the future commander of Central Command, Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, had been significantly influenced by his role as Metcalf’s deputy during Urgent Fury, and thus the otherwise brief campaign in Grenada is of interest to those studying the Gulf War and the end of the Cold War.

This post examines Urgent Fury and its planning, providing the reader with the essential battle-narrative and conclusions required to understand the nature of the conflict and judge why, in a House Appropriations Committee meeting on 26 February 1986, Secretary of the Army John Marsh and Chief of Staff of the Army General John Wickham testified that Urgent Fury had been a great success and, as General Wickham put it, “…a whale of a good job”.[xiv] Likewise, the seventh edition of the Marine Officer’s Guide describes Urgent Fury as a, “coup de main”. On the other hand, Norman Schwarzkopf would later write that, “the coup de main had failed utterly” and Sean Naylor, in his history of JSOC, described Urgent Fury as, “a fiasco”.[xv]

Bishop.jpg

Maurice Bishop, Revolutionary Prime Minister of Grenada (1979 – 1983)

Ultimately a successful joint campaign, the brief struggle over the future of Grenada is a watershed moment in the history of the Caribbean during the Cold War.[x] The United States was set to reassert itself through a massive conventional arms buildup and a more aggressive foreign policy.[xi] Utilizing a combined force architecture that included Navy, Marines, Army Rangers, Airborne, and JSOC Special Operations Forces (SOF), components, the planning and execution of Operation Urgent Fury should not lightly be dismissed as a brief example of US imperialism or a distraction in some calculated Machiavellian dry-run for a futuristic cold-war doctrine.[xii]

Far from it, the Caribbean leaders outside of Cuba could see where the political situation in Grenada was heading. The US, with historical interest in the integrity of the Caribbean states, especially those members of the British Commonwealth, including Grenada, had a responsibility to protect the islands from internal conflict and their exploitation by the Soviet Union. The United States was requested to enable what the local Caribbean forces did not have the capacity to implement: the capture of the traitorous members of Bishop’s cabinet, and the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) junta who had overthrown the island’s government and murdered Maurice Bishop.

PART ONE

 A Revolutionary Spark

Grenada in 1983 was a favourite tourist destination, only 133 square miles in size, with a population of 110,000. Grenada’s significant domestic product was nutmeg, of which the island produced a third of the world’s supply. Grenada had been a French colony until captured by Admiral Rodney’s forces in February 1762 and then ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris at the end of the Seven Years War.[xvi] Although briefly captured by France during the American Revolutionary War, the island remained a member of the British Commonwealth into the 20th century. In 1983 Grenada was home to more than 600 medical students at the island’s St. George’s University, comprising the majority of the 800 Americans and 120 other foreign nationals then visiting Grenada.

 

grenadabishopcastroortega

Daniel Ortega, Maurice Bishop and Fidel Castro.

In March 1979 Maurice Bishop’s New JEWEL (Joint Endeavour for Welfare, Education, and Liberation) movement, including Colonel Hudson Austin (chief of the Grenadian armed forces), seized power in a bloodless coup, overthrowing the corrupt Sir Eric Gairy. 1979 was a critical year in the Cold War. That year the Somoza family, led by Anastasio Somiza, was overthrown in Nicaragua, General Romero was ousted by a coup In El Salvador,[xvii] and Ayatollah Khomeini returned to head the revolutionary government in Iran.

Fidel-Castro-and-Maurice-BishopCastroBishop.jpg

Fidel Castro greeting Maurice Bishop; The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

In Havana, Castro’s Cuba quickly aligned with Bishop’s Marxist government, agreeing to finance the construction of a modern airport at Point Salines on the southern-most tip Grenada.[xviii] US analysts believed this airfield, scheduled for completed in January 1984,[xix] would enable the operation of MiG-23s from Grenada, while also acting as a staging ground for guerrilla deployments to Central America and West Africa.[xx]

letterstoandropov.jpg

Letters from the New JEWEL government to Yuri Andropov, then the Chairman of the State Security Committee of the Politburo, and the future General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, requesting counter-intelligence training. Also a letter to the Ministry of Defence of the USSR requesting military training. From The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

 

Bishop, despite his revolutionary Marxism, had recently shown signs of gravitating towards the United States, and had met with US officials in Washington in June 1983. Although Bishop then met with Castro early in October, hardliners in Bishop’s cabinet now decided to remove him from power. Cuban and Soviet backed Marxist revolutionaries, led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and the Leninist General Hudson Austin, placed Bishop under house arrest during the night of 13 October.[xxi]

Spurred by counter-revolutionary broadcasts supporting Bishop from Radio Free Grenada, a mob began to form outside the government run newspaper office. By 18 October General Hudson’s government was in crisis, with five cabinet members, including foreign minister Unison Whiteman having resigned to join the pro-Bishop mob, now more than 1,000 protester strong.

On Wednesday, 19 October 1983, the mob, led by Whiteman, freed Bishop from his house arrest and proceeded to march towards Fort Rupert, the police headquarters, and the entry point to St. George’s harbor. At this point troops loyal to Bernard Coard and General Austin, including armoured personal carriers (APCs), surrounded the mob and opened fire. Bishop and his cabinet were arrested and marched to Fort Rupert where they were executed. 18 people altogether, including education minister Jacqueline Creft and others, were killed.[xxii] General Austin declared himself head of the new Revolutionary Military Council and imposed a 24-hour curfew, in addition to closing the island’s commercial airport at Pearl, Grenville, on the island’s east coast.[xxiii]

coard.jpgAustin.jpg

Bernard Coard, Deputy Prime Minister & General Hudson Austin, Chief of the People’s Revolutionary Army, from the Associated Press newsreel archive.

Fort Rupert.jpg

Fort Rupert being stormed by the coup forces. Soviet BMP armoured vehicles lead the charge to capture Maurice Bishop, who was shortly thereafter executed by the junta. From The Grenada Papers by Paul Seabury and Walter McDougall (1984).

 

On 20 October Tom Adams, the Prime Minister of Barbados, denounced the violence on Grenada, followed shortly by Prime Minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica.[xxiv] On 21 October it became known, at an OECS meeting held on Barbados, that the US was looking for a reason to intervene in Grenada, and would be willing to do so at the OECS’s behest. A written request for intervention was thus drawn up,[xxv] and on 21 October, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, supported by Jamaica and Barbados, agreed to respond militarily to the overthrow of Bishop.[xxvi]

Prime Minister Adams of Barbados formally appealed to President Reagan for US military intervention in Grenada on 23 October.[xxvii] The OECS’s eight point request for information was also sent to the US State Department.[xxviii]

grenadaGeographical map of Grenada and the Grenadines from 1990

Grenada’s Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon, had long before requested American assistance towards countering the rise of Cuban guerrillas on the island. Indeed, fighters from all over the Eastern bloc had been arriving in Grenada, including operatives and technical personal from Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Libya, East Germany and Bulgaria.[xxix] Castro, himself a promoter of Bishop’s government, however, refused to further support Austin,[xxx] no doubt concerned about directly confronting the United States over the crisis.

The Cuban dictator did, however, despatch Colonel Tortolo Comas to organize defensive measures on the island. Colonel Comas’ force included 43 Cuban soldiers and 741 Cuban construction workers, many of whom were also army reservists.[xxxi] Comas organized the Cuban fighters into companies to resist American intervention and deployed Soviet quad 12.7 mm Anti-Aircraft guns around the island, also authorizing the blocking of the runway at Point Salines with heavy equipment.

The People’s Revolutionary Army

PRA.jpgPRA strengh.jpg

From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). There were about 40 Cuban guerrillas fighters on Grenada, plus handfuls of fighters from the Soviet Union, North Korea, Syria and other Soviet bloc countries. There were 650 Cuban construction workers on the island, many of whom had military reservist training. The PRA was composed of a large battalion of soldiers, more than 450, supported by a small company sized militia.

19 October – 24 October: The Crisis & Planning

The Americans had become aware of the imminent possibility of action on 12 October. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Langhorne A. “Tony” Motley, convened the Regional Interagency Group of the National Security Council (NSC),[xxxii] and Motley informed the representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Colonel James. W. Connally (USAF) – the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Plans and Policy Directorate – that the Pentagon should begin a planning process in the event a US evacuation were ordered and military support required.[xxxiii]

crisisThe rungs of “Traditional Crises” in Herman Kahn’s On Escalation (1965)

This started the ball rolling, and on 14 October the Latin American desk officer for the NSC, Alphonso Sapia-Bosch, got in touch with Commander Michael K. McQuiston, USN, at the Joint Operations Division (JOD), Operations Directorate (J3), who informed Lieutenant General Richard L. Prillaman, US Army, the Director of Operations, who in turn raised the problem of military intervention with the National Military Command Center. A crisis unit composed of officers from the Western Hemisphere Branch of the JOD, an officer J5, and a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) were assembled to consider the possible program of operations.[xxxiv]

Meanwhile, on Barbados, the US Ambassador (also responsible for Grenada) began to receive reports of threats to the US medical students on Grenada. The NSC’s Regional Interagency Group met on 17 October to consider the ambassador’s reports, and, during this meeting, Assistant Secretary of State Motley asked Lt. General Jack N. Merritt (US Army), the Director of the Joint Staff, to prepare plans for a military rescue of the students. On 18 October Lt. General Merritt asked Lt. General Prillaman to contact Admiral Wesley L. McDonald (CINCLANT) to consider options.[xxxv] The group met again on 19 October, with Vice Admiral Arthur S. Moreau Jr., Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in attendance.

The Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Caribbean Affairs, Richard Brown, briefed the group, specifically mentioning that at least 600 Cubans, mainly workers for the Point Salines airfield construction, were on the island, and two Cuban vessels were currently moored in St. George’s Harbor. At this point Vice Admiral Moreau pointed out that the JCS crisis unit was working on the problem, and that Lt. General Prillaman was monitoring the situation and in touch with USCINCLANT. It was decided to brief the Vice President (Special Situation Group) and the President (National Security Planning Group) to get authorization for military action.[xxxvi]

800px-Gen_John_Vessey_Jr.JPGJames Watkins

General John W. Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffAdmiral James D. Watkins, Chief of Naval Operations, 1982 – 1986

 

That evening Lt. General Prillaman sent Admiral McDonald the JSC Chairman’s warning order, requiring Admiral McDonald to submit plans covering various evacuation contingencies by the morning of the 20th. Readiness Command (USCINCRED) and Military Airlift Command (USCINCMAC) were to be in close touch with USCINCLANT. This planning group now requested DIA photoreconnaissance coverage of Grenada.[xxxvii]

As it happened, USLANTCOM had carried out rescue operation exercises involving Ranger and Marine landings in the Caribbean back in August 1981, and thus Admiral McDonald was able to reply speedily to the JCS, providing a full briefing to the Chairman later on the 20th. The need for higher resolution photography of Grenada, combined with better information on Grenadian forces (believed to number 1,200 regulars from the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA), 2,500 – 5,000 militia, and four torpedo boats) was paramount.[xxxviii] It was known from DIA sources that a Cuban vessel (Vietnam Heroica) had delivered Cuban workers to the Point Salines airfield site, and that on 13 October more Cuban ships had delivered arms caches to the island.

Given the unknown nature of possible resistance on Grenada, the Atlantic Command staff recommended two general positions: first, diplomatic negotiations followed by civilian airlift of the hostages, if possible, or, in the event of opposition, the deployment of Marine Amphibious Ready Group (MARG) 1-84 and the USS Independence battle group, both in the process of transiting from the continental United States to Lebanon, with the possibility of a follow-on attack by multiple airborne forces from USREDCOM.[xxxix]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Vessey, now briefed the Crisis Pre-Planning Group (CPPG) of the National Security Council, in a meeting chaired by Rear Admiral John M. Poindexter (USN), the Military Assistant to the NSC (and Bud McFarlane’s deputy). Also present were John McMahan, the Deputy Director of the CIA, and Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Assistant Secretary of State Langhorne A. Motley, the CIA’s Latin American specialist, Constantine Menges, and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North.[xl] This meeting essentially passed the buck up to the Special Situation Group (SSG),[xli] although the lack of intelligence on Grenadian defences was discussed, with the CIA being requested to provide additional information. The CIA, however, had no agents actually in Grenada. Eventually the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was contacted to provide immediate intelligence and, under this authorization, TR-1 and SR-71 overflights took place.[xlii] Although the results of these high-altitude reconnaissance missions were passed on to JSOC, they did not reach the assault force in time for the invasion.

At 6 pm on the 20th the Special Situation Group of the National Security Council was convened by the Vice President. Present at that meeting were Secretary of State George P. Shultz and General Vessey, who briefed Vice President Bush, the Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger), the Director Central Intelligence (William Joseph Casey), the Counselor to the President (Edwin Meese), the President’s Chief of Staff (James Baker), the Deputy Chief of Staff (Michael Deaver), and the National Security Advisor (Robert McFarlane) on the Grenada situation. The Vice President approved an expanded mission including “neutralization” of the Grenadian forces, although both “forceful extraction” and “surgical strike” plans were also considered.[xliii] Both Casey and Shultz favoured an invasion followed by the restoration of democracy, a plan supported by the CIA’s Menges.[xliv]

The timeframe was an issue, as the forces diverted to Grenada were needed to relieve MARG 2-83 in Lebanon, while the naval forces were required for the CRISEX ’83 exercise to be held with Spain. Nevertheless, as evening fell on 20 October, orders were issued to divert the task force.

Combined Joint Task Force 120

At 3 am on October 21st MARG 1-84 started heading in the direction of Puerto Rico, while the CV-62 (USS Independence) group made for Dominica.[xlv] At 10 pm on 22 October orders were received for the entire force to combine near Grenada.[xlvi]

Urgent Fury org.jpgOrganization Chart for Operation Urgent Fury, reproduced from Edgar Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

General Vessey was in contact with Admiral McDonald the morning of the 21st by which time it had been decided to add the two battalions of US Army Rangers and components of the 82nd Airborne Division to the invasion force. Vessey, due to attend a speaking engagement that evening, was briefly replaced by Admiral James D. Watkins the Chief of Naval Operations, to continue the planning processes. By now it was suspected that as many as 240 Cuban soldiers were on Grenada, plus as many as 50 Soviet citizens.[xlvii]

Vessey, about to depart for Chicago, contacted Atlantic Command, Military Airlift Command, Readiness Command and JSOC, instructing them to manage the deployment of Rangers, airborne and special operations forces to Grenada, in conjunction with the CINCLANT naval force deployments, all while maintaining operational secrecy and security. Grenada’s message traffic, being intercepted at the Pentagon, was, at Lt. General Prillaman’s behest, transferred to SPECAT (Special Category restrictions) channels. This was prudent, and helped to reduce later leaks, however, the story was nevertheless about to break: CBS had gotten wind of the Task Force diversion and ran the story on the 21 October evening news.[xlviii] Staff planners from the Rangers, JSOC, and 82nd Airborne were already aboard flights to Norfolk to meet with planners from the USMC, MAC and Atlantic Command headquarters.

 

Norfolk.jpg23mcdonald_190.jpg

Atlantic Command, Norfolk, Virginia. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). & Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, CINCLANT, October 1983

 

Meanwhile, Donald Cruz, the consular officer in Barbados, traveled to Grenada to meet with Major Leon Cornwall, a senior figure in the Revolutionary Military Council. Cruz met with the students at St. George’s university, who expressed concern about their situation. Cruz then departed by plane after it was cleared for Grenadian airspace.[xlix] At Bridgetown, Barbados, the OECS convened, and invoked Article 8 of the 1981 treaty, requesting the intervention of Barbados, Jamaica and the US in a multinational peacekeeping effort aimed at Grenada. Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon requested OECS support to liberate the island. These requests were relayed to the US State Department from Barbados between 21 and 22 October.

On the evening of the 21st Constantine Menges and Lt. Colonel Oliver North drafted an invasion order under the authority of a National Security Decision Directive for Reagan to sign. The order was sent to the President in Augusta, Georgia, but Reagan delayed.[l]

JCS.jpgThe Joint Chiefs of Staff, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). Vessey seated.

 

At 1:30 in the morning of 22 October, General Vessey returned to Washington, and the SSG was convened. At 4:30 am, as we have seen, the SSG phoned President Reagan, Secretary of State Shultz and National Security Advisor McFarlane, who were staying at the Eisenhower cottage at the Augusta Country Club in Atlanta. A teleconference was arranged for the complete National Security Planning Group at 9 am.[li] In that conference, Bush, Poindexter, McMahon, Motely, Menges and North consulted with Reagan, Shultz and McFarlane. By 11:30 am the NSC had reached a consensus decision on intervention.[lii]

The Joint Chiefs had prepared two force packages, utilizing combinations of Army Rangers and other JSOC elements (Team Delta and Navy SEALs), supported by a Marine Corps landing and 82nd Airborne assault. The primary objectives involved capturing the Port Salines and Pearls airfields, followed by capture of the Grenadian capital at St. George’s (including radio station, government buildings and police HQ), the St. George’s medical school, the Grand Anse beach, and then the Grenadian army barracks at Calivigny. All objectives would be secured within the first four hours. The airborne force would then deploy to consolidate and reinforce. D-Day would be Tuesday, 25 October, requiring an action decision no later than 8pm, 22 October.[liii] In fact, the decision for action and the order to carry out Urgent Fury had been issued at 4:45 pm.[liv]

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President Reagan’s evening meeting with the National Security Council in the White House Situation Room, 23 October. George Shultz to Reagan’s left, Vice President Bush to his right.

When Reagan, Shultz and McFarlane arrived back in Washington on the 23rd, they discussed the Lebanon crisis and the Grenada operation. After discussing Lebanon, Secretary of Defense Casper W. Weinberger briefed Reagan on the Grenada plan. Reagan was wary of the risks, both to the medical students, and to the American forces. The Joint Chiefs assured the President that the the risks were marginal.[lv] Reagan signed the formal invasion order.[lvi] With the President’s approval, operation planning kicked into high gear. Secretary Weinberger authorized General Vessey to take control over of the operation, with the objective of speeding the decision cycle now that the political choice for action had been made.[lvii]

As with any action in the Cold War dynamic, American intervention in one hemisphere could prompt a Soviet response elsewhere. Reagan would brief Congress (under Section 3, War Powers Resolution) or inform Congress within 48 hours of the legality of the mission. The State Department would inform the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of American States regarding the justification for the invasion under UN Charter Article 51 and Rio Treaty Article 5. The United Kingdom would also be informed, considering Grenada’s status as a member of the Commonwealth. Shultz argued that Article 22 of the OAS and Article 52 of the UN charter, in addition to Prime Minister Eugenia Charles’ request for American assistance, provided the legal background for the intervention in Grenada.[lviii] With these issues outlined, new intelligence from the DIA (high-altitude reconnaissance) placed Grenadian and Cuban forces at as many as five thousand with eight Soviet made BTR-60 APCs and 18 ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns, in addition to 81-mm mortars and several 75-mm recoilless rifles located around the island.[lix] Grenada had no radar, ships or air units. The National Security Planning Group decided upon a maximum effort utilizing all available assets, and thus issued the Go order to Admiral McDonald.

After concluding his secure telephone call to Admiral McDonald, General Vessey contacted Strategic Air Command (SAC) and informed them of the operation. SAC immediately prepared KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft to support the operation from Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia and Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, Puerto Rico. SAC also approved reconnaissance missions over the Eastern Caribbean.[lx]

Grenada-physical-mapplan2

Grenada and Carriacou.

On 23 October Secretary Shultz despatched Ambassador Francis J. McNeill, supported by Major General George B. Crist, USMC (future CENTCOM commander), the Vice Director of the Joint Staff, to meet the OECS representatives and determine their willingness to join in a peacekeeping force, coordinated by the State Department, the Joint Chiefs and the CIA.[lxi]

Meanwhile, Admiral McDonald’s staff revised the operational plan, now composed of four phases: Transit, Insertion, Stabilization/Evacuation, and finally, Peacekeeping. The US assault force would manage the first three phases, which essentially amounted to maneuver, special operations forces landing, full invasion, including US Marines, and pacification followed lastly by the OECS force being assembled to act in the constabulary role in the fourth phase during which an interim government would be created.[lxii]

Admiral McDonald flew to Washington to brief the JCS on the evening of the 23rd. He proposed placing Vice Admiral Metcalf (CINC Second Fleet) in command of the Combined Joint Task Force 120.

MetcalfSchawrz.jpg

Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf III, Second Fleet, Atlantic Command, selected to command Combined Joint Task Force 120, photographed here in October 1986. & Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf  (centre, as Lt. General I Corps in 1987) was assigned as the Army – Navy liaison for Atlantic command, and then appointed by Metcalf as the operation Deputy Commander.

The Joint Chiefs were aware that the Navy needed access to consultation from someone with experience commanding combined operations, including Rangers, Airborne and Marines, and decided to appoint an Army-Navy liaison to Metcalf’s staff. On the afternoon of Sunday, 23 October, Major General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, then the divisional commander of the 24th Mechanized Division, received a phone call from Major General Dick Graves, informing him that he was being considered for the position of Army – Navy liaison. Schwarzkopf soon discovered that this operation was the full-scale plan for the Grenada invasion.[lxxx]

urgentfuryUSN.jpgList of USN warships involved in Operation Urgent Fury

The core of the CJTF was Task Group 20.5: the reinforced USS Independence (CV-62) battle group, commanded by Rear Admiral Richard C. Berry. Captain John Maye Quarterman Jr. in USS Guam (LPH-19) provided the base for amphibious operations and the flagship for Vice Admiral Metcalf. Amphibious Squadron Four itself was commanded by Captain Carl R. Erie (Task Force 124), with Commander Richard A. Butler as his chief of staff (Butler would later prove invaluable as one of the few naval officer in the squadron with knowledge of Grenadian waters).[lxvi] Captain David Bennett was also on hand in USS Saipan (LHA-2), part of Destroyer Squadron 24, in addition to two modern nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) amidst a host of destroyers, frigates and landing craft.

 

USS_Independence_(CV-62)_underway_in_the_Mediterranean_Sea_on_8_December_1983USS Independence, Air Wing CVW-6 and a Wichita-class refueler operating off Lebanon in December 1983.

The JSOC force element, including Rangers, SEALs, Delta, and 160th Aviation Battalion pilots, was designated Task Force 123. JSOC had received the notice to prepare on 21 October.[lxvii] The MH-60A Black Hawk Helicopters from the newly formed 160th Aviation Battalion,[lxviii] composed of pilots selected from brigades of the 101st Airborne division, would lead the way in their battlefield debut. Delta Force and US Army Rangers, received orders to surge on 23 October, deploying to Barbados in C-5A aircraft before assembling their seven UH-60 helicopters.[lxix]

USS Independence (CV-62), Task Group 20.5, Carrier Group Four

DN-ST-85-08955.jpegTask Group 20.5 CO, Rear Admiral Richard C. Berry, photographed in 1983, to the left of Vice Admiral Edward Briggs (center), Commander US Surface Forces, Atlantic Fleet)

The centrepiece of the USN task force was Carrier Group Four’s fleet carrier, USS Independence (CV-62), a 60,000 – 79,000 ton Forrestel class aircraft carrier.

USSIndependencedougherty_william_a_jr.jpg

CV-62 photographed alongside USS Savannah, (AOR-4), in the early 1980sCV-62 CO, Captain William Adam Dougherty Jr. (seen here as Rear Admiral)

CJTF 120 was created on 23 October with Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, Second Fleet, appointed as Operation Urgent Fury’s commander. Metcalf’s amphibious force was designated Task Force 124, placed under the command of Captain Carl R. Erie, with attached 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit under Colonel James P. Faulkner.[lxiii] Additional elements included Task Force 121, which was comprised of components of the 82nd Airborne. Major General Edward Trobaugh, commander 82nd Airborne Division, had received the warning order on 22 October. The Division Ready Brigade at the time was 2nd Brigade’s three battalions, 2/325th, 3/325th, 2/508th, plus fire-support from B & C batteries 1/320th AFAB.[lxiv]

82nd Airborne Division, US Army

82nd wait.jpegTrobaugh

82nd Airborne troopers waiting to deploy for Operation Urgent Fury air assault, MSG Dave Goldie colleciton. & Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division.

airborne4.jpgB Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th, December 1983 in Grenada, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017). Major Edward Trobaugh’s 82nd Airborne Division’s Ready Brigade, three battalions of the 2nd Brigade, 2/325th, 3/325th, 2/508th and B & C batteries 1/320th AFAB.

82nd Org.jpg

taskforce121.jpg

Organization of the 82nd Airborne Division, with units then on readiness selected for Urgent Fury. From Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

In addition to SAC and MAC air support, the USAF would provided Task Force 126: eight F-15s from the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing and four E-3As from the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) detachment, with the explicit objective of preventing Cuban interference around Grenada’s airspace.[lxv] General Vessey roughly determined that Grenada would be split into two areas of operation, with the north designated for the US Marines, and the south for all Army operation

Task Force 123

Joint Special Operations Command, 75th Infantry Regiment (Rangers), Team Delta, US Navy SEALs, 160th Aviation Battalion, 1st Special Operations Wing (USAF)

MGEN_Richard_A_Scholtes.JPEG.jpegJSOC.jpg

Major General Richard Scholtz, CO of JTF 123 and the first commander of JSOC. & Organization of Task Force 123, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010). This was the first battlefield test of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), created by Charlie Beckwith following the debacle during Operation Eagle Claw in 1979. The idea was to combine the US military’s elite special operations forces under a single tactical command, supported by specially trained helicopter pilots, enabling rapid insertion and exfiltration during hostage rescue and counter-terrorism missions.

The JSOC Ranger assault (1st Battalion, Lt. Col. Wesley Taylor) would drop or land in five C-130 aircraft, escorted by four helicopter gunships, and secure the airfield at Salines. The Rangers would then secure medical students at the True Blue campus, afterwards moving to support the capture of St. George’s. 2nd Battalion’s Lt. Col. Ralph Hagler would then deploy and lead an attack on the PRA barracks at Calivngy.[lxx] JSOC commander Scholtes notified the Rangers on 22 October, and informed them that due to the limitation in available night-trained C-130 pilots, the Rangers would have to manage the initial deployment with only 50% of their total force.[lxxi]

The Point Salines objectives were given to the Rangers’ 1st Battalion’s A Company, Captain John Abizaid – later CENTCOM commander – and B Company, Captain Clyde Newman. Total strength was 300, plus two 25-man HQ elements. The Calivigny assault, scheduled for dawn on D+1, was given to 2nd Battalion’s A Company, Captain Francis Kearney, B Company, Captain Thomas Sittnik, and C Company, Captain Mark Hanna. Each company captain was to select 50 or 80 Rangers for their portion of the mission.[lxxiii] Once the 1st Ranger Battalion had cleared the Point Salines runway, C-141 Starlifters would arrive with Team Delta’s Little Bird helicopters, deploy them, and then carry out an assault on Fort Rupert.[lxxiv]

Under the guise of a training exercise, the two battalions now mobilized at Hunter Army Air Field, Georgia, at 2 pm, 23 October.[lxxii]

1st SFOD-Delta, A & B Squadrons

Delta2.jpgEricHaney.jpg

B Squadron. Eric Haney in back with sunglasses, Grenada, October 1983; Eric L. Haney, author of the memoir Inside Delta Force (2002).

JSOC had a number of targets to hit: while the Rangers were capturing Point Salines, Team Delta’s B Squadron, flown in by Major Larry Sloan’s Black Hawk, would secure the Richmond Hill Prison,[xcii] and SEALs from Team 6 would land from Major Bob Johnson’s Black Hawks in St. George’s to capture the Governor’s residence (behind Fort Rupert at the harbour entrance) as well as the Beausejour radio station. Nearby, Fort Frederick would be plastered by USAF aircraft to prevent the PRA from intervening in the Richmond Hill attack.[xciii]

 

Delta.jpgA Squadron operators on 25 October. Emerson “Mac” Bolen, Tommy Carter, John Turner, unknown, and Danny Pugh. Reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

After the Rangers had taken Point Salines, Delta’s A Squadron would land its Little Bird helicopters via C-141s and make an airborne assault against Fort Rupert. Although JSOC possessed plenty of detailed maps, most were left behind in the scramble to mobilize: USS Guam had only a 1936 copy of an 1895 British nautical chart of the Island, and Guam’s only Xerox machine printed copies too small to be useful.[xciv] The Delta operators bought Michelin guide maps of the Windward Islands to make do.[xcv]

SEAL Teams 4 & 6

1024px-US_Navy_100107-N-0000X-003_Members_of_Seal_Team_4_pose_for_a_group_photo_before_Operation_Just_Cause.jpgSEAL Team 4 operators in January 1990 during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama. During Urgent Fury, Team 4 would carry out UDT reconnaissance of the Grenville – Pearls area.

US Navy SEALs from Team 6 were scheduled to insert on the morning of the 23rd to provide beach reconnaissance for the planned Marine Corps and Ranger landing sites. Once cleared to land, the Marines would secure the medical school campus at the Grand Anse beach, while simultaneously securing the nearby town of Grenville and the Pearls Airfield – the island’s commercial airfield – [lxxv] SEALs from Team 6 would work with the Delta and Ranger assault force to secure inland objectives, beginning with Sir Paul Scoon, the Governor-General, held captive in his residence at For Rupert. Team 6 was also tasked with capturing Grenada’s radio station, and several other key targets including Fort Frederick, the Richmond Hill Prison, and the PRA training camp at Calivigny.[lxxvi]

1st Special Operations Wing (USAF)

ac-130-dllFive AC-130 gunships (16th Special Operations Squadron) provided close air support for the landings at Salines as well as during the SEAL insertion at St. George’s. The Ranger elements were deployed from 10 C-130s and two MC-130Es flown by this wing. The USAF Combat Control Teams used as pathfinders for the Rangers were also attached.

22nd Marine Amphibious Unit, USMC

On 22 October the Marine officers in MAU-22 – Colonel Faulkner, Lt. Colonel Smith and Lt. Colonel Amos – met aboard Guam to discuss the expected Grenada operation, which they believed at this time would be essentially an evacuation mission, assuming of course that the mission was going to go ahead.[lxxvii] It was decided that Company D would be used for amphibious assault, Company E for air assault, with Company F in reserve, or for a landing at the Pearls airfield.[lxxviii] Intelligence also arrived detailing what information was known about the PRA and its Cuban and Soviet bloc advisers. Liaison officers from CINCLANT, flown out from Antigua in a CH-53s, arrived the following evening, carrying information concerning the mission planning and Vice Admiral Metcalf’s objectives.[lxxix]

SmithHagler

Ray Smith (USMC), the regimental Lt. Colonel who was commander of the 2/8th Battalion Landing Landing team. Smith’s Marine Corps career spanned the Vietnam and Cold War. Lt. Col. Ralph Hagler (left), CO 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment, Rangers, US Army, photographed on 3 November, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

 

Amphibious Squadron Four, the MAU’s parent naval component, had sailed from the continental US for the Mediterranean on 18 October, with orders to relieve the Marine battalions stationed in Lebanon. Amphibious Squadron Four included the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) embarked under the command of Colonel James P. Faulkner (USMC). The entire force consisted of 43 officers and 779 men. Lt. Colonel Ray L. Smith’s men composed the core Battalion Landing Team 2/8. Lt. Colonel Granville R. Amos commanded the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (HMM-261) and the Service Support Group 22 was commanded by Major Albert E. Shively. The Marine companies were commanded by Captains Henry Donigan (E), Michael Dick (F), Robert Dobson (G).

BLT2org.jpg

Early on 24 October Major General Crist was meeting with the chiefs of staff of the defense forces of Jamaica and Barbados, as well as the OECS Regional Security commander, to iron out the contribution of the Caribbean Peacekeeping Force (CPF). It was determined that the CPF would deploy on the 25th, following the American assault, and would relieve US forces from holding key targets such as the Richmond Hill Prison, government buildings and the radio station in St. George’s. Jamaica was sending 150 troops, including a rifle company, an 81-mm mortar section and a medical team. Barbados contributed a rifle platoon of 50 soldiers, with the OECS unit comprising 100 constabulary personnel.[lxxxi]

Admiral McDonald called a meeting early in the morning on 24 October at Norfolk. In attendance were Vice Admiral Metcalf (CJTF 120), Major General Ed Trobaugh (82nd Airborne – TF 121), Major General Richard Scholtes (JSOC – TF 123) and Major General Schwarzkopf, in addition to representatives from the CIA and State Department. The atmosphere, following the loss of the Navy SEAL team at Salines (see below) was tense.[lxxxii] With less than 24 hours to go before the invasion was to commence, Major General Scholtes recommended a 24 hour delay so further reconnaissance could be carried out. This was denied, and a compromise was agreed instead, with Admiral McDonald pushing back H-hour from 2 to 5 am on the 25th, so that the Navy SEALs could take one more shot at Salines early on the 25th.[lxxxiii]

Firstattacks.jpg

The attack plan as represented by Wikipedia, showing Ranger and 82nd Airborne Division drops, JSOC insertion, and USMC assaults; & Detail of the same, showing allocation of US forces and targets. The initial landings were centred around securing three primary objectives: the Point Salines airstrip, the Pearls airport at Greville, and the capital buildings at Saint George’s. There were a series of secondary targets, including colonial fortifications, the university campuses, army barracks, and the surrounding hillside.

Metcalf suggested placing Schwarzkopf in the position of ground commander once the amphibious landings had taken place, but he was overruled by McDonald who pointed out that Major General Trobaugh outranked Schwarzkopf.[lxxxiv] Schwarzkopf, for his part, wasn’t certain how much use his input would be on such short notice. Metcalf made another important decision at this point, designating four members of his staff to send half-hourly status reports back to CINCLANT- the idea being to outflank any media reports while also providing a concise narrative of event for the political and military leadership to follow as the invasion unfolded.[lxxxv]

At 11 am, after concluding this meeting, Vice Admiral Metcalf and Major General Schwarzkopf boarded an aircraft for the flight to Bridgetown, Barbados, to meet Major General Crist and Brigadier General Rudyard Lewis, the commander of the Caribbean Peacekeeping Force. Arriving at the Bridgetown airport amidst a flurry of journalists – expectations of imminent American military action having leaked out – and with Brigadier General Lewis not immediately available, Metcalf met briefly with Major General Crist instead, ordering him to organize the CPF for airlift to Pearls or Salines.[lxxxvi] Next, Metcalf, Schwarzkopf and their staffs transferred to Navy helicopters for the flight out to USS Guam, arriving between 5:30 and 5:45 pm while the Task Force was still several hundred miles from Grenada.[lxxxvii] The last of the task force arrived in Grenadian waters at 2 am on 25 October.[lxxxviii]

In Tampa, Florida, General Wallace Nutting, C-in-C Readiness Command (REDCOM) ordered the XVIII Airborne Corps to prepare the 82nd Airborne for deployment to Grenada, placing the deployed battalions under the command of Admiral McDonald.[lxxxix]

blackhawks.jpegBlack Hawk UH-60 helicopters, 160th Aviation Battalion photographed near Point Salines airfield, where 1st and 2nd battalions, 75th Ranger regiment, deployed on 25 October. SPC Douglas Ide collection.

The Black Hawk helicopters of Colonel Terrence “Terry” M. Henry’s 160th Aviation Battalion, five from Charlie 101 and four from Charlie 158 – both technically 101st Airborne Division components, were being loaded aboard C-5A aircraft on the evening of 23 October. The battalion’s helicopters were being flown to Barbados, along with more than 100 SEALs and Delta operators, 45 pilots and crews for the helicopters, and a handful of CIA and State Department officers.[xc] The Black Hawks would be led by pilots Major Robert Lee Johnson and Major Larry Sloan.[xci] The fully loaded C-5As took off from Pope Air Force Base on the evening of the 24th, and after landing in Barbados early on the 25th were ready to launch an hour before the sun was due to rise.

targets.jpg

Detailed western targets, ie, not including Grenville and the Pearls Airport. During Operation Urgent Fury maps of Grenada were scarce. This was the result of short-timing and lack of local sources in the CIA and State Department. Estimates about force locations were often wrong and enemy skill with machine guns and anti-aircraft guns was underestimated, proving a real threat to Special Operations Forces helicopters and light infantry.

 

forts.jpg

Forts overlooking St. George. Fort Rupert/Fort George at harbour entrance in green, Fort Frederick & Fort Mathew in red and the ruins of Forts Lucas and Adolphus in blue. Richmond Hill Prison in purple.

 

C17855-21

24 October, President Reagan holds a briefing with the National Security Council to discuss Lebanon. Present are: National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter, James Baker, Ed Meese, Michael Deaver, David Gergen, Larry Speakes, Richard Darman, Ken Duberstein, Craig Fuller, and George H. W. Bush.

At noon on 24 October President Reagan met individually with the Joint Chiefs at the White House, who again expressed their belief in the success of the operation. Secretary of Defense Weinberger, General Vessey and the other Joint Chiefs met with Secretary of State Shultz and the President to brief Congressional leaders. After the meeting the President and the rest of the National Security Council met with National Security Advisor McFarlane who had converted the Situation Room into a War Room to receive Metcalf’s staff reports from Grenada. Reagan asked Vessey what he intended to do. General Vessey said he planned to telephone the Pentagon with the final authorization and then go home and go to sleep.[xcvi]

PART TWO

Reconnaissance, 23 – 24 October

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View of St. George’s harbour with Fort Frederick complex overlooking the Richmond Hill Prison, and Fort Rupert at right.

 

The Navy SEALs of Team 6 carried out the first JSOC mission. 12 SEALs and four members of an Air Force Combat Control Team (CCT) were sent in to reconnoiter the proposed beach landing site at Salines early on the morning of the 24th. The crews and their Boston whaler boats were parachuted into the water south of Grenada, near where USS Clifton Sprague was operating. The mission called for the crews to go ashore at Point Salines and carry out beach reconnaissance while the CCT operators planted radio beacons at the airfield for the C-130s to hone in on during the Ranger drop.[xcvii] This was a dangerous, complex, and untested mission and the results were poor.

The weather and sea conditions were not favourable, with the result that four of the SEALs drowned – either when their boat overturned or as a result of the drop. When the remaining SEALs and CCT men headed towards the shore in their only boat, the boat was swamped by waves and the engine flooded. Dawn was breaking by the time the SEALs were nearing the shore, and, for fear of revealing themselves and thus compromising the mission, the SEALs headed back out to sea, meeting up with Clifton Sprague.[xcviii]

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Cuban construction workers on the Point Salines airfield, from the Grenada Papers (1984). & View of the unfinished terminal buildings at the Salines airport

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Various SOF missions during the Grenada campaign. The failed Team 6 mission for 24 October was the Salines beach reconnaissance. The Paul Scoon rescue mission occurred on 25 October, as did the Beausejour radio tower mission. The first SEAL Team 6 mission to Salines (failed) is not listed. The 1st SOW mission for 25 October was the USAF Combat Control Team pathfinder jump.

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Patrol Boat Light (PBL)-type Boston whaler, improved variant of the single-engine type airdropped with Team 6 crew for the Salines mission.

 

Second, after meeting with Metcalf aboard USS Guam, a SEAL Team 4 crew attached to Amphibious Squadron Four and commanded by “Wild” Bill Taylor and Lieutenant Michael Walsh, departed USS Fort Snelling at 10 pm on 24 October in the SeaFox patrol-boat. Once near Pearls the SEAL crew took to their Zodiac boats and carried out a traditional frogman UDT mission at the Pearls airport landing site,[xcix] successfully examining Grenville’s beaches. Considering the unfavourable nature of the terrain, the SEALs recommended a helicopter assault rather than a shore landing, and this change in plans was approved by Captain Erie and Vice Admiral Metcalf, only a few hours before the beginning of the invasion.[c] Afterwards, with the invasion underway, the Team 4 crew exfiltrated, eventually making their way to Guam to brief Schwarzkopf on the mission outcome.[ci]

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SeaFox patrol boat used by the SEAL Team 4 crew as part of the Pearls airfield reconnaissance mission. Note Zodiac inflatable boat.

 

While SEAL Team 4 was beginning their mission, around midnight on the 24th, a second SEAL Team 6/CCT insertion was attempted at Salines, but again the whaler boats were swamped and the engines flooded. The operators, no doubt exhausted, were unable to reconnoitre the Salines beachhead before sunrise.[cii] The failure of the Team 6 insertion, and the loss of four SEALs during the unit’s first wartime operation since its inception, has generated considerable controversy, especially considering the relative success of the more traditional Team 4 mission at Grenville.

Although there was another Team 4 crew available at Puerto Rico, who theoretically could have been inserted by one of the Task Force’s two nuclear attack submarines (SSNs), hindsight is 20/20 and there almost certainly would not have been time for such a diversion.[ciii] Regardless of the exact details, the failure at Point Salines impacted not only mission planning – with Salines being deemed too dangerous for an amphibious landing – but also delayed the entire operation, with the Ranger’s C-130 drop pushed back twice from the planned 3 am launch to 5 am, only a dozen minutes before the sun began rising.[civ]

Helicopter Assault, 25 October

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Guam in October 1983 off Grenada & Dr. Robert Jordan’s photograph of Guam seen from Grenada on 25 October, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

guam

The Marines destined for Grenville were awaken at 1 am.[cv] The first 21 helicopters from Lt. Col. Amos’ HMM-261 element left USS Guam at 3:15 am.[cvi] Rain caused some delays, and thus the first components of Company E, carried in CH-46s with AH-1 Cobra escort, arrived at LZ Buzzard – south of Pearls – 30 minutes behind schedule.[cvii] A TOW equipped jeep was damaged during its deployment from a CH-53, and two marines broke arms or legs while unloading, but otherwise the deployment went off successfully.[cviii] 12.7-mm AA cannons fired on the incoming helicopters waves, but these guns were knocked out by Cobra gunships.[cix]

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Sikorsky R(C)H-53 Sea Stallions, a Boeing-Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight and Bell UH-1N Iroquois on Guam‘s flight deck during Operation Urgent Fury. & CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters deploying, SGT M. J. Creen’s collection

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CH-46 Sea Knights on 25 October 1983. UH-60 landings at Salines during Operation Urgent Fury. 

The helicopters delivered their Marines ashore at the Pearls airport at 5 am. Captain Henry Donigan, CO of Company E, deployed one platoon to secure the landing zone perimeter while the other two platoons attacked the airfield itself.[cx] Within two hours both the airfield and the Grenville objectives had been secured; the Marines captured two Cuban airplanes and their crews in the process.[cxi]

Lt. Colonel Smith was soon ashore with his HQ group, and he ordered the capture of Hill 275 that overlooked the airfield. The Grenadians had emplaced two 12.7-mm guns on the hill, but the crews fled as the Marines approached.[cxii] Company E now began moving west, encountering scattered 81-mm mortar fire in the process.

pearlsunload.jpgMarines landing at the Pearls airport, Grenville, 25 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

At 6.30 am the assault on Grenville began, with helicopters landing Company F at a soccer field, identified at LZ Oriole.[cxiii] In the case of both landings the initial landing zones had been less suitable than hoped, requiring quick adaptation by the helicopter pilots. Grenville and the port area were quickly secured without opposition, the population both friendly and excited to see the arriving Marines.

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Black Hawks touching down on 25 October, SGT Michael Bogdanowicz.  & UH-1N hovering 25 October, SPC Gregory Tully collection

On the west coast the Navy SEALs and Team Delta were about to hit their targets. Most of Team 6 was landed outside St. George’s to secure Sir Paul Scoon at the Governor’s residence, while one squad hit Grenada’s public radio station north of the capital. Fifteen SEALs, including Lieutenant Wellington “Duke” Leonard, Lt. Bill Davis, and Lt. Johnny Koenig, fast-roped successfully down to the residence. After deploying its SEALs, the command Black Hawk piloted by Major Robert Johnson and carrying Team 6 CO Captain Robert Gormly as well as the satellite radios, was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The helicopter’s instrument panel was blown to pieces and Johnson was badly wounded, forcing the co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer David “Rosey” Rosengrant to fly back to Guam.[cxiv] Indeed, the Grenadians and Cuban gunners manning the anti-aircraft and machine guns covering the St. George’s approach were putting up a tremendous fire at the approaching helicopters.[cxv]

residence.jpgThe Governor-General’s residence behind Fort Rupert, in St. George’s, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

The SEALs persevered and successfully entered the Governor-General’s residence, locating Sir Paul with his family hiding in the building’s basement.[cxvi] The SEALs were shortly surrounded by Grenadian forces, including three BTR-60 APCs.[cxvii] The besieged SEALs were able to communicate to the fleet using their short-range radios, and, through Guam, SEAL Team 6 commander Gormly, who was about to head for Point Salines, was able to call for AC-130 gunship support. Metcalf despatched four Cobra gunships,[cxviii] and the Grenadian APCs were shortly out of commission.[cxix] The other telling is that Lt. Bill Davis used a phone in the Governor’s residence to call, “the airfield where American forces were already in control [Salines], and asked for gunship protection…”.[cxx] At any rate, with gunship and Cobra support, the SEALs held off the Grenadian infantry until the following morning when the Marines reached the Governor-General’s residence (see below).

Two teams of SEALs – 12 operators total – commanded by Lt. Donald K. “Kim” Erskine had also landed by MH-60 Pavehawks in a field next to the radio transmitter at Cape St. George Beausejour.[cxxi] Although the SEALs quickly overwhelmed the local guards at the Soviet built radio transmitter, PRA reinforcements, including a BTR-60, arrived and a firefight commenced.[cxxii] The SEALs lacked communication with the fleet (their cryptographic satellite radios did not work as planned, and their short range sets were too short range), and, worse, did not possess any anti-tank weapons.[cxxiii]

radio.jpgRadio Free Grenada, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

At about 2:30 pm, with ammunition nearly exhausted, Lieutenant Erskine retreated under fire. Although many of his SEALs were wounded, they managed to make it to the waterfront.[cxxiv] As the Navy called in airstrikes and naval gunfire on the transmitter,[cxxv] Erskine’s teams swam along the shoreline until they reached a rocky cliff-face and hid there. Two pairs of swimmers were despatched to commandeer local fishing boats, but the SEALs were unable to free the boats from their fishing lines. Eventually the SEALs all made for the open ocean, where they were luckily spotted by a C-130 aircraft early on the 26th, and thence retrieved by USS Caron.[cxxvi] Lt. Erskine received the Silver Star.

Caron2.jpgUSS Caron firing on the Beausejour radio station after exfiltration by SEAL Team 6

While the SEALs were carrying out these operations, Delta’s B Squadron and components of Ranger C Company (1st Battalion) and their five Black Hawk helicopters were moving to their target. As the Black Hawks neared their objective at Richmond Hill they encountered heavy anti-aircraft and machinegun fire from Fort Frederick. Delta operator Eric Haney recalled his Black Hawk being hit by 23-mm rounds, wounding many of the occupants, including Major Larry Sloan, the commander of this Black Hawk section, who was hit in the shoulder and neck by 23-mm fire.[cxxvii]

 

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Richmond Hill Prison, atop Mount Cardigan, west of Fort Frederick & Mathew. The tip of Point Salines (end of the airstrip) is visible at the extreme left.

 

When they reached the Richmond Hill prison the Rangers and Delta operators were stunned to find the target deserted. The helicopters thus broke off the attack, heading back out to the fleet to repair, refuel, and drop off wounded. As they were departing, one of the Black Hawks (#5), was hit by 23-mm rounds, the shells exploding through the cockpit windshield and killing the pilot, Captain Keith Lucas.[cxxviii] The Black Hawk went down inshore at 6:45 am near Amber Belair Hill. Although the crew, Rangers, and Delta operators aboard were badly injured, they were able to hold off a Cuban patrol until a rescue team led by Steve Ansley arrived.[cxxix] The UH-60 that Delta team member Eric Haney was in made an emergency landing on USS Moosbrugger.[cxxx]

While attempting to repair aboard the Navy’s warships the 160th Aviation Battalion was encountering the sharp end of inter-service bureaucracy: the Navy comptroller in Washington cabled Guam instructing Metcalf not to refuel the Army’s helicopters due to budgeting issues between Army and Navy logistics.[cxxxi] “This is bullshit,” Schwarzkopf recalled Metcalf saying, “give them fuel.”[cxxxii]

Those uninjured in Delta’s B Squadron flew back to Grenada to support the Rangers, and the Delta operators landed at Point Salines, moving into the hills around the airstrip to try to disrupt the 23-mm AA cannons before the Rangers began their C-130 airdrop.[cxxxiii]

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SEAL Team 6 CO Captain Bob Gormly and Delta Deputy Commander Lt. Commander “Bucky” Burruss at Point Salines, during Urgent Fury & LTC Burruss with LTC John “Coach” Carney, USAF Combat Controller.

 

The Airdrop

A Company’s Rangers departed the airfield in Georgia at 11:30 pm on 24 October.[cxxxiv] The Pathfinders were over the target at 3:30 am and jumped from a reconnaissance C-130 at 2,000 feet. On the ground, they confirmed that the Salines’ runway was blocked.[cxxxv] As the Rangers were preparing for the airdrop, Col. Taylor was unable to communicate with all of the aircraft in the formation, the lead aircraft’s navigation instruments were malfunctioning, and there were no radio beacons to hone in on. Taylor’s executive officer, Major Jack Nix, in transport #5, anticipated the jump order.[cxxxvi] Due to conflicting orders, some of the Rangers were stowing their chutes when they received a twenty minute warning that they were in fact jumping.

Major General Scholtes, who was airborne in a command EC-130, delayed the drop by thirty minutes to 5:30 am.[cxxxvii] Although a specialist team of heavy machinery operators from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 618th Engineering Company were supposed to drop first and clear the runway, the C-130 they were in was forced to fall back, putting Lt. Col. Taylor’s aircraft in the lead.[cxxxviii]

The-jump.jpgPhotograph taken by Ranger during airdrop at Point Salines

 

Point SalinesPhotograph by Tom Tassakis of Rangers dropping on Point Salines, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

With dawn breaking and sky conditions partly cloudy, the 1st Battalion Rangers began their drop at Salines at 5:34 am. Immediately the aircraft were lit by PRA searchlights and then fired upon by quad 12.7-mm fire.[cxxxix] Once on the ground Lt. Col. Taylor and nearby B Company Rangers watched two of the C-130s curve away, having aborted their drop due to intense AA fire. With only 40 men on the ground, Taylor called in AC-130 support, with two gunships responding. The Rangers hurried to clear the airfield of debris and vehicles. At 5:52 A Company’s Rangers started their drop, and were assembled on the ground by 6:34 am.[cxl] The Rangers, leading an infantry charge, quickly cleared the enemy guns from the airfield and then commandeered a local bulldozer to clear the runway. Colonel Taylor’s force was fully deployed within the hour.

Landingmap.jpgAirdrop, 25 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

At 7:07 am 2nd Battalion began its drop, and sustained several casualties in the process: Sergeant Kevin Joseph Lannon and Sergeant Phillip Sebastian Grenier were dead when they hit the ground.[cxli] Specialist Harold Hagen broke his leg, and Specialist William Fedak was tangled exiting the C-130, but was recovered aboard the plane.[cxlii]

Private Mark Yamane, M60 machine-gunner in A Company, was killed by a shot through the neck while providing fire behind a truck on the tarmac. 1st Battalion was in an extended gunfight with the Cuban defenders, more than 75 of whom eventually surrendered.[cxliii] The Rangers moved out to secure the village of Calliste.[cxliv]

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Salines, showing the approach and runway, from the air. Department of Defense photograph of objectives at the incomplete Salines airfield

The Rangers reached the medical school’s True Blue Campus at 7:30 am, and the building was secured after a firefight lasting 15 minutes. The PRA guards fled to the north. While conducting a jeep reconnaissance around True Blue, Sergeant Randy Cline of A Company (1st Battalion) drove into a PRA Ambush, and Cline, Privates Marlin Maynard, Mark Rademarcher and Russell Robinson were all killed.[cxlv]

By 9 am the Rangers had rescued 138 of the American medical students who were being held at the True Blue Campus, and learned that there were another 200 students being held at the Grand Anse beach campus. In total 250 Cubans had by now been captured, however the assault force lacked translators to interrogate the prisoners.[cxlvi]

captured.jpg2nd Ranger Battalion soldiers cover captured Cuban prisoners at the Salines airfield, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

DeltaDelta operator overlooking Task Force 160s UH-60s and OH-6s, which had been flown in aboard MAC transports to the cleared Salines airfield during Urgent Fury

While B Company’s Rangers were securing the airport, Team Delta’s A Squadron was deploying at Salines by C-141s. A Squadron set off in their Little Bird helicopters to attack Fort Rupert, but was forced to abandon the assault due to heavy AA fire.[cxlvii] 2nd Battalion (Rangers) were meanwhile preparing for the Calivigny operation, consolidating their hold on the Salines airfield, while C-130s landed equipment and Major General Scholtes established his HQ.

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Prepared 82nd Airborne trooper, photograph by JOC Gary Miller collection, 28 October, & 82nd Airborne deploying for Grenada operation, SPC James Hefner

 

At 10 am the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, began their C-141 airlift from Fort Bragg to Point Salines. The Airborne troopers, beginning with A Company, 2nd Battalion, landed at 2:05 pm.[cxlviii]

salines25.jpgAdvance from Salines, 25 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

Vice Admiral Metcalf meanwhile was deploying the CPF to Point Salines to help reinforce the assault forces, and, along with General Crist, the CPF began landing at 10:45 am.[cxlix] CPF commander Brigadier General Lewis met with Major General Scholtes and Major General Trobaugh and agreed to use the CPF units to guard the Cuban prisoners.

EDFBarbados.jpegBrigadier General Rudyard Lewis of Barbados, commander Caribbean Peacekeeping Force (CPF), 25 October 1983 by JO1 Sundber

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Eastern Caribbean Defence force soldiers board a Black Hawk helicopter on 25 October, Creen collectionEastern Caribbean Defence (ECD) force soldiers, by PH2 D. Wujcik.

 

The Ranger’s final action at the Salines runway occurred at 3:30 pm when three BTR-60s attempted to break through a section of the line held by 2nd Platoon, A Company. Two of these APCs were quickly knocked out by LAW and 90-mm recoilless fire; Sergeant Jimmy Pickering is credited with the 90-mm hits.[cl] The third BTR, which had attempted to flee, was destroyed by AC-130 gunship fire.[cli]

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Knocked out Grenadian BTR-6. & C company, 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Rangers) on 25 October, at Point Salines

 

Cobras Down

As we have seen, earlier in the day SEALs from Team 6 attempted to rescue Governor-General Paul Scoon. The SEALs had quickly secured Scoon but where then pinned down by APCs.[clii] The Rangers who were supposed to support the SEALs were busy fighting what they thought was a Cuban battalion north of Salines. Metcalf ordered airstrikes around the Governor-General’s residence to hold off the Grenadian forces.

Four Cobra gunships – in addition to a 1st SOW USAF AC-130 gunship – were tasked to provide this support, but the Cobras were low on fuel and unable to communicate with the Army or Air Force ground coordinators outside St. George’s. While Captains John P. “Pat” Giguere and Timothy B. Howard were heading to Guam for refueling, Captains Douglas J. “Darth Flight” Diehl and Gary W. Watson were just about finished their own refuelling and ready to depart. As the Cobras were heading back to Grenada, Captain Watson managed to establish radio contact with a forward air controller from the 1st Ranger Battalion, who wanted the Cobras to attack a 75-mm recoilless gun positioned inside a house near St. George’s. Watson destroyed the target and a nearby truck with two TOW missiles.[cliii]

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AH-1 Sea Cobra in flight, 25 October, PH2 D. Wujcik collection, & HMM-261 AH-1S Cobra firing its 20mm cannon, 25 October, MSGT David Goldie

Watson and Diehl headed back for Guam, to re-arm and re-fuel, as Giguere and Howard had finished fueling and were again flying out to replace them on station. Now in touch with the ground air controllers, Giguere and Howard received a request to attack Fort Frederick, overlooking St. George’s. While the two Cobras were carrying out this strike, Captain Howard’s Cobra was hit by anti-aircraft fire, shells blowing out his engines and wounding both Howard and his co-pilot, Captain Jeb F. Seagle, who was knocked unconscious. With leg broken and arm injured, Howard brought the Cobra down on a soccer field.[cliv]

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LTC Marshall Applegate photograph of SeaCobra supporting 1st Rangers at Salines, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

Seagle, who had regained consciousness, pulled Howard from the crash only moments before the Cobra exploded, setting off the gunship’s 2.75-inch rockets. Howard gave Seagle his pistol and the co-pilot set off to find help while Howard tried to radio for rescue, sporadic fire from Fort Frederick landing around him. Unbeknownst to Howard, Captain Seagle was killed by enemy fire not long after departing the crash site.

HowardCaptain Jeb Seagle drags Captain Timothy Howard from their downed Cobra gunship, although Howard was rescued, Seagle was killed. Art by Lt. Colonel A. M. Leahy.

 

HowardCobra.jpgBurning wreck of Captain Howard’s Cobra at Tanteen field, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

Howard’s wingman, Captain Giguere, was able to hold off Grenadian reinforcements moving to the crash site with rocket fire, while he radioed for a CH-46 to come pick up the survivors. CH-46 pilots Major DeMars and First Lieutenant Lawrence M. King Jr. made the approach, landing under fire near Howard. Gunnery Sergeant Kelly M. Neidigh jumped from the helicopter and with the aid of Corporal Simon D. Gore, Jr., rescued Howard. The CH-46 took off and headed for Guam.[clv] Tragically, Captain Giguere’s Cobra, which had been flying protection for the CH-46 during this time, was now hit by AA fire coming from the forts, and crashed into the harbor of St. George’s, killing Giguere and his co-pilot, First Lieutenant Jeffrey R. Scharver.[clvi]

 

Crash2Dr. Robert Jordan’s photograph of Captain Giguere’s Cobra crashing, taken from the Medical School. Major Melvin DeMar’s CH-46 is evacuating Captain Howard at the left. Major DeMar & Gunnery Sergeant Kelly Neidigh received Silver Stars for this action, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

 

Vice Admiral Metcalf now authorized the destruction of Fort Frederick. “Bomb it” agreed Schwarzkopf.[clvii] A-7 Corsairs from Independence were ordered to strike the forts. When Fort Frederick was bombed at 3:25 they inadvertently also destroyed what was in fact a mental hospital that had been fortified by the Grenadians, killing 18 of the patients who were locked in one of the hospital rooms when the airstrike occurred.[clviii]

a7.jpgA-7 Corsair overflying the Salines airstrip. Photograph by Gunnery Sergeant Joe Muccia. reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

Amphibious Landing

The assault forces would now direct their efforts towards securing St. George’s. At 12 pm, Vice Admiral Metcalf met with Major General Schwarzkopf to discuss the situation. Schwarzkopf recommended a landing north of St. George’s at Grand Mal Bay by the Marine forces that were currently loaded in their amphibious transports but not yet deployed (Company G).[clix] This would create a flank to draw away PRA forces from the Grenadian capital.[clx]

Landing.jpgMarines disembarking from landing craft, 25 October.

Lieutenant Colonel Smith, who was ashore at Grenville, was having difficulty communicating with Guam. At 3 pm he received word from the Fort Snelling that an amphibious landing was being planned for the Grand Mal Bay. Smith departed for Guam in a helicopter, where he was briefed by Major Van Huss.

 

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UH-1 Iroquois landing amongst Marines, JOC Gary Miller collection & Marines with M16A1 rifles secure a housing complex on 25 October, photograph by PH2 D. Wujcik

 

The plan so far called for Captain Robert K. Dobson’s Company G to make the amphibious landing, while Company F would redeploy by helicopter from Grenville.[clxi] Smith convinced Metcalf and Schwarzkopf to delay the landing from 4:30 to 6:30, which meant recalling Company G – in the process of deploying to their landing craft from Manitowoc.[clxii] Navy SEALs hit the beaches and carried out a rapid beach reconnaissance.[clxiii] Dobson’s company had been sitting in its amphibious tractors since 3:45 am, their landing having been delayed four times until scrubbed at 7:30 am.

Still expecting to land at Pearls, Dobson was notified of the change in plans at 1:30 pm. USS Guam and the other amphibious ships were moving from the Pearls area to the west coast of the island for staging against Grand Mal Bay. Dobson, assuming the mission would be delayed until the following morning, at 5:50 pm had his marines prepare to stow their weapons and get some rest. Immediately after issuing this order the Go order was received for the Grand Mal Bay landing – designated LZ Fuel – at 6:30 pm.[clxiv] The first AAVs (amtracs) were ashore at 7:10 pm.

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Marine drinking from a coconut, photograph by PH2 D. Wujcik, 25 October & US Army Rangers at Point Salines airfield on 26 October

 

Captain Dobson had his platoons establish a perimeter while conducting reconnaissance of the road south towards St. George’s. At 11 pm the Marines established a helicopter LZ, enabling the MAU air liaison Major William J. Sublette to land in a UH-1. Sublette briefed Dobson on the situation, informing the Company G commander that it was believed there were significant enemy forces between their location and the capital. Company F was scheduled to arrive within the hour by helicopter. Sublette headed back to Guam to pick up Lt. Colonel Smith, who had been trying to coordinate the situation between Pearls and the fleet for several hours, and now came ashore by CH-46.[clxv] Smith ordered Sublette to return to Pearls and contact Lt. Colonel Amos, who would organize Company F for immediate deployment to LZ Fuel.[clxvi]

Smith now briefed Company G on the situation, utilizing a detailed map of Grenada that had been captured at Pearls.[clxvii] Tanks, jeeps with TOW missiles, and Dragon anti-tank missiles were arriving aboard utility landing craft. At 4 am on the 26th Company F began to arrive by helicopter. Company G was making its way south towards St. George’s, encountering only sporadic RPG fire as the PRA soldiers, hearing the approach of Marine armor, fled their positions.[clxviii]

shaving.jpegUS serviceman shaving, 25 October, by SGT Michael Bogdanowicz

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CV-62 under combat conditions during Operation Urgent Fury. Hundreds of sorties were flown, missions including strike, medievac, reconnaissance, anti-submarine and close air patrol.

 

D-Day + 1, 26 October

With the Marines ashore and morning breaking on the 26th, Lieutenant Colonel Smith ordered Captain Dobson to storm the Governor-General’s residence. Marines fought their way south into the capital, reaching the residence at 7:15 am.[clxix] Three hours later the Marines had relieved not only Scoon, his wife, and nine other civilians, but also the 22 SOF forces that had been pinned down at the residence (all but one of the SEALs involved had been wounded) for more than 24-hours.[clxx]

This entire group exfiltrated by helicopter to USS Guam,[clxxi] and by 10 am they were having tea in Metcalf’s messroom.[clxxii] Governor-General Scoon, however, requested that he be landed at Point Salines until St. George’s had been cleared by the Marines, who were at that time in a protracted battle against Fort Frederick. Once St. George’s had been fully liberated, Major General Crist and Governor-General Scoon moved into a private residence at the capital and established an interim government through a JCS and CIA connection to London.

 

helo2.jpegCH-53 Sea Stallion, photograph by JOC Gary Miller, dated October 1983

After the Marines had secured the residence, Lt. Col. Smith arrived. He issued orders for Company G to capture the remains of Fort Frederick itself.[clxxiii] As Captain Dobson deployed his platoons for this assault he observed PRA soldiers abandoning the fort, throwing their uniforms to the ground. The PRA was beginning to crumble.[clxxiv]

0ct26.jpgAdvance to Grand Anse, 26 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

Back at the Salines airfield, 82nd Airborne troopers were planning to deploy to capture the Grand Anse beach, where it was believed more medical students were being held. Facing significant defense preparations, Major General Trobaugh requested support from Vice Admiral Metcalf. Schwarzkopf, who was now formally designated the deputy commander CJTF by Metcalf,[clxxv] recommended a Ranger helicopter assault – flown in by USMC helicopters due to the Rangers’ helicopters being damaged or unavailable. “Make it happen,” replied Metcalf.[clxxvi]

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Marines boarding a Sea Knight, Creen collection, and Black Hawk UH-60 aboard USS Guam, 3 November, Creen collection

The fragmentary plan required CH-46s to land elements from three of the Ranger companies, followed by four CH-53s arriving to extract the rescued medical students. The CH-46s would then return and pick up the Rangers.[clxxvii] Lt. Colonel Amos would control the now extensive fire-support available (ranging from AC-130s gunships to A-7 Corsairs, and including naval gunfire and Army mortar and artillery), while aboard a UH-1.[clxxviii]

grand.jpgThe Grand Anse campus

At 4 pm 19 Marine Sea Knight helicopters departed from Salines to land the Rangers at the beach. The Task Force pummelled suspected Cuban and PRA positions with support fire from A-7 Corsairs, an AC-130 gunship, and Cobra helicopters up until the moment the CH-46s touched down at 4:15. One of the Sea Knights clipped a palm tree and, with a damaged rotor, had to be temporarily abandoned, although this helicopter was recovered later.[clxxix]

CH-53s arrived next to extract the medical students. Despite ongoing small arms fire, casualties amongst the Rangers were minimal; no Marines or Rangers were lost. After rescuing the students at Grand Anse, the Rangers learned of a third group being held at Lance aux Epines, east of Point Salines. As the CH-46s returned to pick up the Rangers, another Sea Knight clipped a palm tree, completely destroying the rotor. The crew abandoned their helicopter, utilizing a life raft to escape to sea where they were recovered by USS Caron.[clxxx] The entire operation was completed in 26 minutes with only one Ranger injured from flying shrapnel.[clxxxi]

wreck.jpgSea KNgiht.jpeg

Sea Knight abandoned on 26 October at Grand Anse, photographed on 29 October.  .

The Airborne battalions, meanwhile, were clearing southern Grenada. The 82nd’s 2nd Battalion, A and B Companies, had been tasked to secure the Cuban positions around Salines known as “Little Havana”. Prior to launching the attack at 4:30 am, B Company’s commander Captain Michael Ritz carried out a reconnaissance of the Cuban positions. Ritz was in fact walking into an ambush, and he was killed in a burst of gunfire that also wounded Sergeant Terry Guinn.[clxxxii]

A-7 Corsairs bombed the Cuban building complex and the Airborne troopers stormed the position. 16 Cubans were killed and another 86 captured. While collecting the large Cuban arms cache at the site, Staff Sergeant Gary Epps was killed when the recoilless rifle he was trying to disarm exploded.[clxxxiii]

Consolidation, 27 October

Marine Company E had meanwhile spent 25 October at Grenville awaiting a non-existent mechanized attack, and then spent the 26th covering the Pearls airfield. On the 27th Company E received orders to conduct reconnaissance around Mount Horne, three kilometers from Grenville, where a PRA battalion headquarters was expected to be located.[clxxxiv] Company E encountered no resistance as they secured the Mount Horne Agricultural Center, where maps, documents, and arms caches were discovered.

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82nd Airborne enroute (photograph by Larry Hennebery) & being ferried to a landing zone, 25 October by Specialist Douglas Ide

At the urging of local residents, the Marines moved to seize the nearby Mount St. Catherine television and microwave relay station, where they located an 81-mm position the PRA was in the process of abandoning.[clxxxv] Shortly afterwards Company commander Captain Donigan received orders to secure an arms cache at the nearby Mirabeau hospital. While the Company was moving by vehicle convoy towards the objective they encountered fire from several isolated groups of PRA, including a team that was captured and later identified as Cuban.[clxxxvi] During the return drive to the Pearls airfield another small squad of PRA fighters engage the Marines from a ridgeline, but again were driven off.

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JOC Gary Miller collection, UH-60 air ambulance. Wounded serviceman removed from OH-6A aboard USS Guam, 26 October

 

The Marine’s F and G Companies, on the west coast, spent 27 October consolidating St. George’s and the surrounding area. On the night of the 26th a jeep team with Company G encountered a BTR-60 and knocked it out with a LAW infantry anti-tank weapon. The following morning Lt. Col. Smith received orders to capture the Richmond Hill Prison – the abandoned complex west of Fort Frederick that JSOC had misidentified as occupied – as well as secure the ruins of Forts Lucas and Adolphus, slightly south of Fort Frederick.[clxxxvii] Captain Dobson’s G Company presently secured the abandoned Richmond Hill Prison, as well as the Fort Lucas ruins, and while the Marines were preparing to take-over the Fort Adolphus buildings they discovered that it was in fact the Venezuelan embassy.[clxxxviii] Company F now entered St. George’s to search for weapons caches.

 

patrol.jpgUS Marines patrol St. Georges on 28 October, filmed by JO1 Peter D. Sundberg

With St. George’s thoroughly secured, the Marines prepared to attack the Ross Point Hotel, where it was believed a further 400 Canadian, British and Americans were held. Company F secured the hotel in the evening, but found only a few Canadians.[clxxxix] On the morning of the 28th the Marines were relieved by the 82nd Airborne, 2nd Battalion. Not long afterwards, Lieutenant Michael Flynn, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 313th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division moved into the phone company building in St. Georges to tap into the Grenadian telecommunications, hoping to locate fleeing Cubans.[cxc]

The Canadian citizens were evacuated by Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft. 379 American medical students had by now been evacuated to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. Assistant Secretary of State Langhorne Motley, in addition to a dozen reporters, had arrived on Grenada on the 27th as part of the post-invasion consolidation aspect of the operation. Major General Crist flew back to the Pentagon on 28 October.

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Marine radio operator receives a call while shaving, photography by JO1 Peter D. Sundberg, 28 October. & Airborne troopers using binoculars in early November, Sergeant M. J. Creen’s collection

UrgentFurymarines.jpg82ndpatrol.jpeg

US Airborne trooper with M203 grenade launcher covering a building corner during Operation Urgent Fury & 82nd patrol, 25 October, SGT Michael Bogdanowicz

To reinforce the exhausted Rangers and Marines, two additional battalions of 82nd Airborne were landed at Point Salines at 9:17 pm. The JSOC commander, Major General Scholtes, departed Grenada in the afternoon on the 26th, and so at 7 pm Metcalf placed the Ranger battalions under Major General Trobaugh’s command.[cxci]

27Oct.jpgAdvance on Calivigny, 27 October, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

The final Ranger operation on the island was the capture of the Calivigny barracks on 27 October. This was expected to be a major operation, involving large numbers of PRA fighters and Soviet bloc advisors.[cxcii] The attack was to begin at 4:30 pm, leaving only one hour for planning and briefing. After a preparatory attack carried out by the 82nd Airborne’s 105-mm howitzers, the Rangers would fly in aboard Black Hawks and secure the site. 2nd Battalion was to carry out the attack with A, B, and C companies, along with the attached 1st Battalion’s Charlie Company.[cxciii] Each company would arrive aboard four Black Hawks resulting in four waves of landings.[cxciv]

Artillery.jpegartillery2.jpeg

82nd Airborne firing M102 (155 mm) howitzers during the 27 October Calivigny barracks attack. SGT M. J. Creen

caron3.jpgUSS Caron firing on Calivigny, 27 October, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

explosion.jpegStrikes2.jpeg

Explosion of 500-lb bombs on 27 October Sequence, during the Calivigny attack

Although the 82nd’s artillery fell short, Spectre gunship and naval gunfire from Moosbrugger destroyed a fuel and ammunition dump. A-7s then flew eight sorties, further destroying the camp. Unbeknownst to the Rangers, the barracks garrison had abandoned the camp, but were preparing an ambush for the approaching Black Hawks.

Blackhwaks3.jpegBlack Hawks at Point Salines, 4 November 1983, Staff Sergeant Haggerty collection

cal.jpgB Company Rangers from 2nd Battalion launching on the Calivigny raid, 27 October, reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

A fusillade of fire hit the Black Hawks as the first chalks landed at 5:50 pm. The target was obscured by smoke and fire from the airstrikes and it was now that a major incident occurred: As the second Black Hawk was unloading troops, the third Black Hawk, taking enemy fire, lost control and crashed into the second. The incoming fourth UH-60 attempted to steer clear of the disaster area, but in the process clipped its tail rotor and lost control, also crashing.[cxcv]

Although three Black Hawks had been destroyed, none of the pilots or crew were killed, although one disembarking Ranger (Sergeant Stephen Eric Slater) was killed,[cxcvi] and many others badly wounded. Medical Sergeant Stephen Trujillo received the Silver Star for his life-saving work on the wounded.[cxcvii]

burn.jpgWrecked2.jpg

Time Life photograph from Jay Harrison collection showing burning Black Hawk helicopters & USAF Major Marshall Applegate photography of wrecked Black Hawk, 28 October, both reproduced in Stephen Trujilo, Grenada Raiders (2017)

The barracks, which turned out to be empty, was searched and secured by 9 pm.[cxcviii] The Rangers loaded onto C-141s and flew home the next day, arriving at Hunter Army Airfied on 29 October.[cxcix]

There was a major friendly fire incident caused by communications problems on the 27th. Snipers attacking Airborne positions nearby Frequente prompted an Air Naval Gunfire Liaison team to order a Corsair strike against what turned out to be a 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne command post, resulting in 17 injuries.[cc] Badly wounded soldiers were evacuated to USS Guam and then Puerto Rico.

URGENT FURYHercules.jpeg

C-130 Hercules on approach to Pearls airport, 28 October, Creen collection & UH-60 helicopters flying over Point Salines airfield, 28 October 1983

By the evening of the 28th the primary objective had transitioned from high-intensity fighting to mopping up, while continuing to attempt to locate the Grenadian coup leaders. A team of post-invasion specialists, ranging from medics to military police were deployed to the island to assist with the return to normalcy.[cci] On the 29th Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard and his wife Phyllis, the Minister of National Mobilization Selwyn Strachan, and Lt. Colonel Liam Jones, were rounded up in St. Georges.[ccii] The final 202 medical students were located at Lance aux Epines near St. George’s by the 82nd Airborne troopers.

salines3.jpegAirborne2.jpeg

Salines under US control, 28 October 1983. 82nd Airborne Division soldiers resting at Port Salines airfield, 28 October, Mike Creen

Marincaptures.jpegUS Marine guards captured PRA fighter in plain clothes, 28 October, JO1 Peter D. Sundberg collection

Operation Duke, 1 November

The interior of Grenada and the island of Carriacou to the north were believed to be the location of the final Cuban holdouts, and focus now shifted to locating and eliminating those last opposition forces.

The Grenada coup conspirators were shortly located, captured, and interned aboard USS Guam. The Cuban embassy was surrounded on 29 October and the ambassador, Jullian Torrez Riso, verified that he had been ordered to leave Grenada immediately. By the end of the day 599 US citizens and 121 foreign nationals had been rescued and evacuated. Admiral McDonald and General Vessey landed at Point Salines on 29 October to inspect the prisoners and captured arms caches.

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A/V crew with Betacam filming Urgent Fury, 3 November, SGT M. J. Creen collection.

The Marines learned through a local informant that a PRA battalion commander was hiding in Grenville and captured him. With fresh information on the PRA formation in Sauteurs, Company E prepared to move out from Pearls, readying at 3:30 am on the 30th.[cciii] By 5:15 that morning the Marine column had entered Sauteurs and secured it, the local PRA commander surrendering without a fight.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Company G received orders to mount its amtracs and secure Gouyave and Victoria. The Marines moved out at 3:30 pm on the 30th, supported by two tanks carried by utility landing craft and Cobra gunships overhead.[cciv] Both towns were secured that evening without opposition.

On 31 October Metcalf approved Operation Duke, the capture of Carriacou island to the North of Grenada. Over the course of the day all of the Marine forces on Grenada re-embarked with the fleet, their positions being taken over by the 82nd Airborne. The Marines returned to their landing ships for a final amphibious operation against Carriacou, scheduled for 1 November.

Carricou

Top: Details of Operation Duke. Navy SEAL insertion at Lauriston Point (green), Company F’s helicopter landing at the airstrip and march on Hillsborough (blue). Company G’s amphibious assault at Tyrrel Bay (red). Bottom: Captain Robert Dobson, G Company, speaks with locals from his amtrac after coming ashore at Tyrrel Bay, photograph by SGT Christopher Grey, USMC.

The Carriacou operation was to be carried out by USS Saipan, the Marines going ashore at 5:30 am on 1 November. One company would be air inserted at the Lauriston Point Airstrip, secure it, and then advance on Hillsborough. Simultaneously, another company would land at Tyrrel Bay and attack what was believed to be a PRA training base.[ccv]

SEALs went in first to reconnoiter Lauriston Point, and then, covered by eight USAF A-10 jets, Company F made the helicopter landing, while Company G performed the amphibious assault. The Marines secured all of their objectives without opposition in three hours.[ccvi] 17 or 19 Grenadian soldiers were captured, in addition to more equipment and ammunition, however, the expected Cuban guerrillas were not located and Lt. Col. Smith, sensing the situation was well in hand, paroled the PRA soldiers on good behavior.[ccvii] The 82nd Airborne relieved the Marines at 7 am the next morning. Within an hour the paroled PRA platoon reported to the 82nd Airborne and formally surrendered. By the afternoon of the 2nd all the Marines had departed for the fleet.

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The Liberated medical students with 82nd Airborne trooper, note bayonet . & US Airborne troopers watch a C-141 Starlifter arriving to evacuate rescued hostages on 3 November

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C-141 Starlifter at Point Salines airfield, Marines in foreground, photograph by GOC Gary Mille& 82nd Airborne trooper board C-141 Starlifter on 4 November 1983, the end of Operation Urgent Fury

Combat operations officially ceased on 2 November and the entire task force was redirected towards its original objectives in Spain and in the Middle East.

Ronald Reagan sent this message to the 22nd MAU:[ccviii]

Although you have scarcely cleaned off the sand of Grenada where you were magnificent, you will now shortly relieve 24th MAU in Beirut. Once there you will assume the key role in our efforts to bring peace to Lebanon. You have proven without a doubt that you are up to the task as our very best. Godspeed and a happy 208th [USMC birthday – 10 November 1983]. Semper Fidelis.

Back at Grenada, Admiral McDonald designated Major General Trobaugh the senior commander. The task was now to prepare for the return to normalized governance. The 82nd Airborne was completely redeployed on 12 December.

URGENT FURYStudents board lifter.jpeg

Students board a Starlifter during evacuation.

Trough2.jpegMajor General Edward L. Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division, greeting Command Sergeant Major Tommie McKoy after returning to the United States on 4 November 1983

 

Resolution and Aftermath

C17900-15President Reagan and George Shultz meeting with Dominican Prime Minister Eugenia Charles on 25 October.

reagandomincaPresident Reagan and Prime Minister Eugenia Charles announcing the joint military action at a White House press conference, 25 October.

Following the success of the initial operation, on 25 October, President Reagan and Prime Minister Charles of Dominica gave a press conference at the White House. When confronted with probing questions by the White House press pool Eugenia Charles defended the legitimacy of the mission. Charles argued that the United States had been requested to leverage its unique military capabilities within the Organization of American States treaty framework, due to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States members lacking the military capacity to carry out the liberation mission. A visibly shaky President Reagan echoed these sentiments, stating that the legitimacy of the “invasion” was to be found in the OECS treaty structure, in combination with Grenada’s status as a member of the British Commonwealth.

US Ambassador to the UN Jeane J. Kirkpatrick presented the US case for intervention to the Security Council on 27 October. President Reagan spoke to the nation that evening, addressing both the Grenadian coup and intervention, and comparing the relative cost of action: A single suicide truck-bombing attack against the US Marine Corps and French peacekeepers in Lebanon, an act of multinational terrorism, with hundreds killed, and the success of an amphibious intervention that removed a murderous tyranny and restored democratic governance at similar cost of life.

speech.jpg

reagangrenada

President Ronald Reagan drafts the 27 October speech, and then delivers it in a televised national address on the events in Grenada and Lebanon, 27 October 1983.

On 2 November Major General Crist and Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth W. Dam briefed the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while the Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed by Admiral McDonald and General Paul Gorman (CINC Southern Command).[ccix] On 6 November General Vessey appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to answer questions about the operation.[ccx] Vessey maintained that, given the planning constraints and despite the errors made, the operation was a great success.

Secretary of Defense Weinberger and the Commandant of the Marine Corps General Paul Kelley testified before the House Appropriations Committee on 8 November. Both Admiral McDonald and the Joint Staff carried out investigations into the planning process, the latter’s report being released in January 1984 and the former’s in February.[ccxi]

C17901-17

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Vessey briefs congressional leaders on the Grenada operation, 25 October 1983. Cheney on the left.

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A smiling Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf takes questions from reporters on Grenada shortly after the invasion.

bushlebanonVice President Bush with USMC Commandant General Paul Kelley (left) and Col. Geraghty (right) tour the Beirut USMC barracks rubble on 26 October.

In a May 1984 article of the US Naval Institute Proceedings, Lt. Colonel Michael J Byron, USMC, argued that the major lesson of Grenada was that it would no doubt become a model for the future of combined and joint operations.[ccxii] After Vice President Bush was elected President, the Grenada operation and the Lebanon crisis became a haunting reminder of the lure of military action, influencing decision making during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, and the conflicts of the 21st century.[ccxiii]

vessey.jpegChairman of the Joint Chiefs General John W. Vessey arrives aboard USS Guam, 28 October.

The conflict demonstrated several things about the nature of post-Vietnam 20th century conventional warfare and the American way of war. As was traditional, speed of planning could generate operational advantages in terms of surprise, however, the associated risks and unknowns were increased proportionately. Although the media quickly got word of the major naval maneuvers, the plans themselves were kept on a need-to-know basis amongst the decision-makers.

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Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division (left), alongside General Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (center), touring Grenada on 3 November.  Note USMC M60 tank in background

Commanders.jpeg

Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, CINCLANT, General John Vessey, Chairman JCS, unidentified soldier 82nd Airborne, and Major General Edward Trobaugh, CO 82nd Airborne Division, pose with captured M-52 Czechoslovakian quad 12.7 mm AA gun

A major sticking point for the public was the press embargo that had barred reporters from Grenada until 28 October, with the exception of several reporters who had managed to slip in. This lack of independent journalistic coverage contributed to the generally negative international reaction to the US intervention.[ccxiv] General Vessey’s quest for operational security  was responsible, a decision that also impacted the ability of the services to cooperate with one-another.[ccxv]

Interservice cooperation was also hampered by the rapid planning process, that did not allow the services time to coordinate their communications, with the result that friendly fire incidents took place on some occasions. At other crucial moments the soldiers in contact were unable to radio for the necessary supporting fire or contact outside help.

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Press cartoon denouncing the JCS media policy, representative of the negative reaction to Operation Urgent Fury, both in America and internationally. From Operation Urgent Memory: The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present by Shalini Puri (2014).

 

As with the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982, special operations forces and naval aviation proved their worth. SOF forces captured critical objectives with the lowest possible loss of life, utilizing their advanced tradecraft to overcome not only the enemy, but also critical equipment failures and untested tactics.

Naval fighter-bombers and reconnaissance aircraft had unlimited freedom to operate once the enemy’s anti-aircraft guns had been suppressed. USS Independence generated hundreds of sorties. VA-15 flew 143 combat sorties, VA-176 flew 350 sorties, HS-15 flew 97 Search and Rescue (SAR) sorties, VF-32 flew 256 sorties in Grenada and Lebanon during its 1983 tour, VF-14 flew 82 sorties, VAQ-131 flew electronic surveillance, and VA-87, VS-28, and VAW-122 flew an unknown numbers of sorties. No naval aircraft were lost.[ccxvi]

Marine helicopters provided rapid on-site transport, fire-support and medical extraction, often in the face of significant enemy fire and with despites losses in equipment and crews. Military Airlift Command delivered the rapid deployment of 82nd Airborne forces, military supplies, medical evacuation, and the extraction of captured Cuban prisoners and the liberation of the thrilled medical students.

kim.jpgCaptured communist literature, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

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Captured munitions, shells, autocannon, rifle ammunition, rifles, BREN guns, explosives, mortars

M-52 Quad.jpegCaptured Czech made M-53 12.7 mm quad cannon

ZU23 2.jpegAAgun.jpeg

Captured Soviet ZU-23 (mm) AA guns, (Note LSTs and support ship in background) 2nd by 28 October, PH2 D. Wujcik

zu30.jpegCH-53 picks up ZU-23, 3 November, Creen collection

bmp.jpegURGENT FURY

Soviet BRDM-2 amphibious vehicle captured during the assault, filmed 28 October by Sergeant Mike Creen & Soviet BTR-60PB captured, 28 October

 

The PRA achieved a number of tactical surprises, taking advantage of knowledge of the local terrain and the probable American plan of action to block key service routes and airports, defend positions with ambushes, RPGs, mortars and heavy machineguns. Positions were held furiously for a few minutes and then abandoned in anticipation of heavier attacks, the local force maneuvering around to establish roadblocks and ambushes. This combination of defensive elements by experienced Caribbean soldiers easily inflicted significant damage on the helicopter assault forces and denied them landing zones.

SovietCIA report for September 1984, based on seized Grenadian documents, highlighting Soviet bloc armament shipments to Grenada, which would have continued until 1986

 

The enemy’s resistance was often determined and unexpected, depending on the fighting capacity of the Grenadian, Cuban and Soviet professionals defending their objectives. Considering that Grenada possessed no radar installations or Surface to Air Missile (SAM) sites – allowing the USAF and Navy’s airpower to provide close air support and reconnaissance – the anti-aircraft equipment, mortars, rifles, machine-guns and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) possessed by the Grenadians were Soviet or European made, modern, and sold in large quantities with the intention of eventually being exported to South America.

Although the enemy’s capacity to sustain resistance was rapidly destroyed and, more importantly, a legitimate and popular democratic interim government re-established, at the tactical level individual actions could still frustrate the American effort. The PRA and its allies fought successfully against elite JSOC elements until being overwhelmed by conventional reinforcements and air strikes. Four Black Hawks, two Cobra gunships, and one Marine Sea Knight Marine helicopter were destroyed or shot-down during the operation, with many more badly damaged.

 

Butcher.jpgRobertRSchamberger.jpg

StephenLMorris.jpgLundberg

Clockwise: Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Kenneth J. Butcher, (1)  Senior Chief Engineman Robert R. Schamberger, (2), Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class, Stephen L. Morris, (3) Quartermaster First Class, Kevin E. Lundberg, (4), SEAL Team 6 crew killed 24 October 1983.

The loss of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 operators and the 160th SOAR pilots was another blow to JSOC and its mission, but also a transformative event for the incipient special operations force, similar in magnitude to the aftermath of Operation Just Cause in Panama (1989), Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia (1993), Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan (2002), or the set-piece Operation Vigilant Resolve, in Fallujah, Iraq (2004).

The success of the Rangers resulted in the creation of an additional Ranger battalion, with the three battalions of the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) regrouped together as the 75th Ranger Regiment on 17 April 1986.[ccxvii] The Goldwater-Nichols act followed, reorganizing the Defense Department and creating the new Special Operations Command (SOCOM), stemming from lessons learned regarding inter-service cooperation and communication during Urgent Fury.

casualties.jpgTask Force 120 casualties, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

 

Vets.jpg4 November 1983, Nancy and Ronald Reagan greet wounded veterans at the Grenada and Lebanon campaign memorial service.

US losses amounted to 19 killed and 116 wounded. The 160th Aviation Battalion’s 45-man crew had 11 wounded with one pilot killed in the first twenty minutes during the initial helicopter insertion.[ccxviii] At least 13 JSOC personnel had died in combat.[ccxix] Ten Rangers had been killed or died of their wounds, with another 10 seriously wounded.[ccxx] Two members of the 82nd Airborne had been killed.

82ndmemorial.jpgMemorial service for the two 82nd Airborne soldiers killed on Grenada, 2nd Battalion B Company CO, Captain Michael Ritz and Staff Sergeant Gary Epps.

howardkelleylucas.jpg

Marine Corps Commandant General Paul Kelley and his wife at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, visiting Captain Timothy Howard, the survivor of the Cobra shot-down on 25 October. & Captain Keith Lucas, helicopter pilot killed during Richmond Hill assault, the morning of 25 October 1983

RangerscubarangersKIA.jpg

1st Battalion Rangers with captured Cuban flag from Operation Urgent Fury. & A Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Rangers, KIA during Urgent Fury October 1983

Yamane.jpgTrujillo

Rangers Tony Nunley, Ramon Bual, and Manous Boles and others carry the coffin of Mark Yamane, the M60 gunner killed taking Salines on 25 October. & Silver Star recipient Ranger Medical Sergeant Stephen Trujillo beside Nancy Reagan at the State of the Union address on 25 January 1984. Stephen Trujillo’s story is told in his book, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders.

Cuban losses were 25 killed in action, 59 wounded and 638 prisoners, primarily the construction crew and Point Salines airport garrison. Grenadian forces casualties amounted to 45 killed and 358 wounded. 24 citizens of Grenada, primarily the 18 at the mental hospital near Fort Frederick, were killed during the operation.[ccxxi]

Paul_Scoon_(cropped).jpgGovernor-General Sir Paul Scoon gives a press conference on 9 November after being appointed head of the interim government of Grenada.

 US forces left Grenada by mid-December, and the government was intrusted to Governor-General Sir Paul Scoon and a nine-member council, tasked with managing the return to parliamentary democracy.[ccxxii] In 1984 Grenada elected Herbert Blaize as Prime Minister.

Castro.jpgNovember 14, 1983, Castro condemned the US action in Grenada in his Nineteen Lies Speech, denying that the Salines airfield was a military base, and holding a memorial for Cubans killed during the operation.

For Castro, the Grenada operation was confirmation that President Reagan would intervene in Latin America if American interests were threatened.[ccxxiii]

metcalfschwarz.jpgMetcalf & Schwarzkopf on Grenada, from Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War (2010).

Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf became Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, retiring in 1987.[ccxxiv]. In 1988 General H. Norman Schwarzkopf became the Commander in Chief of Central Command, succeeding General George B. Crist, thus becoming the architect of Operation Desert Storm.[ccxxv]

In December 1986, 14 of leaders of the anti-Bishop coup (the so-called Grenada 17) were convicted of murder by a 12-member jury. The various sentences, ranging from death by hanging to life in prison, were announced by Acting Chief Justice Denis Byron. The prosecution argued that the defendants, who pleaded not-guilty and in protest of the trial’s legitimacy had dismissed their attorneys, were members of the Central Committee that issued the orders to a four-man death squad, led by Lt. Callistus Bernard, to execute Bishop and his cabinet.

Grenada17.jpgPropaganda poster denouncing the murderers of Bishop (the Grenada 17), produced by the intervention forces, from the Grenada Papers (1984).

The guilty parties appealed their sentences on 8 March 1988. Although the sentences were upheld by the appeals court in 1991, they were commuted to life in prison by the Governor-General in August of that year. Further legal complications and protests from Amnesty International resulted in ongoing scrutiny of the Grenada 17 case, and in February 2007 the London Privy Council, the highest court of the former British colonies – still, pending a November 2018 referendum[ccxxvi]  – threw out the case, resulting in the release of former General Hudson Austin in December 2008 and on 5 September 2009 the final seven of the Grenada 17, including former Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, were released.[ccxxvii]

 

coard2007.jpgFormer Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard (photographed here at St. George’s in July 2007), General Hudson Austin and others (the Grenada 17) were released from prison between 2007-09 as a result of appeals to the London Privy Council that found irregularities in their trials and appeals between 1986 and 1991.

 

GrenadaMonument.jpgOperation Urgent Fury memorial at St. George’s University, Grenada.

Point Salines Memorial.jpgOperation Urgent Fury memorial at Point Salines, from Operation Urgent Memory: The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present by Shalini Puri (2014).

 

Appendix, Components of CJTF 120

Carrier Group 20.5

CVW-6.jpgforrestalclass.jpg

CVW-6 embarked aboard CV-62 off Lebanon in 1983. Specifications of Forrestal-class from Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1981-2

CVW-6october.jpgCVW-6 in October 1983  CV-62’s Air Group was CVW-6, composed of VA-15, VA-176, VA-87, HS-15, VF-32, VF-14, VAQ-131, VS-28, and VAW-122.

VA-87.jpgVA-15.jpg

VA-87 A-7E Corsair IIs, embarked on CV-62 in 1982. & VA-15 A-7E Corsair II, photograph from 1984

VF-32.jpgVF-14.jpg

VF-32 F14-A Tomcat launching from CV-62 in 1983, off Lebanon  & VF-14 F-14A Tomcat landing on CV-62 off Lebanon in 1983

 

VA-176.jpgProwler.jpg

VA-176 A-6E in 1970, also flown were KA-6D tankers. & VAQ-131 EA-6B Prowler launching from CV-62 in 1983, off Lebanon

hawkeye.jpghawkeyetakeoff.jpg

VAW-122 E-2C Hawkeye aboard CV-62 in 1979, and at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia

Viking.jpgSea King.jpg

VS-28 S-3A Viking in 1982. & HS-15 SH-3H Sea King, deploying A/S sonar

 

USS Independence (CV-62) Carrier Battle Group

cg20.jpgUSS Richmond K. Turner (CG-20), CO Captain David Brooks Robinson, photographed in September 1981

Caron2.jpgCoontz.jpg

DD-970 Caron, Urgent Fury CO Commander James Stanley Polk, photographed in March 1985.  & DDG-40 Coontz, Commander Leon Preston Brooks Jr., with USS Independence in background, Naval Station Norfolk, August 1983.

SpragueFerguson

FFG-16, Clifton Spragueunderway in September 1982. Clifton Sprague was used to retrieve the US Navy SEALs on the morning of 24 October. CO: Commander, later Admiral, James Beatty Ferguson III

moosbruggerdyer

DD-980 Moosbrugger, underway in July 1983. DD-980 CO, Commander Donald A. Dyer

 

Destroyer Squadron 24

saipanstats.jpgBennett.jpg

Specifications for Tarawa-class LHA, including 27,000 – 39,300-ton USS Saipan. LHA-2 CO, Captain David Michael Bennett (photographed here as Rear Admiral) 

Saipan.jpgUSS Saipan (LHA-2), September 1980, with CH-46 Sea Knight, AV-8A Harrier, and OV-10D Bronco on deck.

DDG-10negin

USS Sampson (DDG-10), photographed in 1988-9. Commander Jerrold J. Negin

FF13FFG13co02

USS Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13), photographed in 1988. FFG-13 commanded by CDR Laurence Joseph Gionet, Jr., during Urgent Fury.

TAO143USNS T-AO-143 Neosho, fleet oiler

 

Other components of Task Force 120

silversides.jpgUSS Silversides (SSN 679), Sturgeon-class nuclear attack submarine

PortsmouthOlson

USS Portsmouth (SSN 707), Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, commissioned on 1 October 1983.  Captain Donald D. M. Olson

BriscoeHontz

USS Briscoe DD-977 at Antwerp, May 1986, CO, Commander Edward Brigham Hontz

FFG34Weeks

USS Aubrey Fitch FFG-34 CO, Commander Floyston Allan Weeks

surabachiDuermeyer

AE-21 Surabachi, ammunition ship., CO, Commander Stephen P. Duermeyer

recovery

USS Recovery ARS-43, Urgent Fury CO, Lt. Commander Robert Peter Brittingham

TaurusPMH4

USS Taurus PHM-3  ,  Taurus CO, Commander Richard Stewart Moore, Jr. & USS Aquila PHM-4, Urgent Fury CO, Commander David Michael lee

Task Force 124

CO TSF 124 was Captain Carl R. Erie

Amphibious Group Ships

Naval warships in the squadron included USS Guam (LPH-9), – also the operation flagship – Trenton (LPD-14), Fort Snelling (LSD-30), Manitowoc (LST-1180) and Barnstable County (LST-1197)

guam2.jpg

USS Guam (LPH-9), an 11,755 (light) – 18,300 ton (full load), Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship, provided the staging point for the operation (seen here in November 1982 off Lebanon). Urgent Fury CO, Captain John Maye Quaterman Jr.

Trenton1974LSD30

9,000 (light) – 17,000 ton (full load) Amphibious Transport Dock (LPD 14), USS Trenton seen here in 1974. Urgent Fury CO: Captain Ralph Earl Whitby & LSD 30, Landing Ship Dock USS Forst Snelling (Commander William Ivey Taylor III), 7,000 to 12,000 tons loaded.

Barnstable.jpgWilliam Wagner

USS Barnstable County, LST-1197, Landing Ship Tank, with Landing Craft Utility 1664 alongside, 1 October 1981  Tod W. Wagner, then the commander of LST-1197

Manitowac.jpg8,450 ton LST-1180 USS Manitowoc underway off Virginia in October 1985. Urgent Fury CO: Commander John Dennis Kolata

Trenton and GuamTrenton and Guam near Barcelona on 16 January 1977

******

FortsGrenada.jpgMid-19th century (note steamship) watercolour of St. George’s with Forts George and Frederick visible. 

Notes

[i] Ronald Reagan, The Reagan Diaries, ed. Douglas Brinkley (HarperCollins e-books, 2007)., p. 188-9

[ii] Reagan., p. 189

[iii] https://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/23/us/reagan-unhurt-as-armed-man-takes-hostages.html

[iv] Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (London: Harper Press, 1993)., p. 328

[v] https://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/24/nyregion/monday-october-24-1983-bombings-in-beirut.html

[vi] Vice President George Bush personally visited Lebanon, attending at the site of the bombing on 26 October.

[vii] Reagan, The Reagan Diaries., p. 190; Thatcher, The Downing Street Years., p. 330-1

[viii] Dennis Hevesi, “Joseph Metcalf III Dies at 79; Led Invasion of Grenada – The New York Times,” New York Times, March 13, 2007, sec. Obituaries, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/obituaries/13metcalf.html.

[ix] https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/armour-tactics-at-the-battle-of-73-easting-26-february-1991/

[x] Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987, ebook (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1987)., p. 280-1

[xi]  Chris Cook and John Stevenson, World History since 1914 (New York: Longman, Inc., 1991)., p. 311. Ronald Reagan gave his “Star Wars” speech on 23 June 1983

[xii] Russell Crandall, Gunboat Democracy: U.S. Interventions in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Panama (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006)., p. 108

[xiii] Samuel D. Ward, Urgent Fury: The Operational Leadership of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Metcalf, III, Kindle ebook (Pickle Partners Publishing, 2014).

[xiv] James Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz, Kindle ebook (Hutchinson & Co. Publishers Ltd, 1988)., p. 204

[xv] Lt. Col. Kenneth W. Estes, The Marine Officer’s Guide, 7th ed. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008)., p.132-3; H. Norman Schwarzkopf and Peter Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero (New York: Bantam Books, 1992)., p. 250Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 252; Sean Naylor, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command, Kindle ebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2015)., p. 24

[xvi] https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2018/06/22/master-of-the-seas-of-the-two-indies-the-naval-career-of-admiral-sir-george-pocock/ see also, https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/captain-charles-middleton-and-the-seven-years-war/

[xvii] Cook and Stevenson, World History since 1914., p. 154

[xviii] Robert R. Quirk, Fidel Castro (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1995)., p. 820

[xix] Thatcher, The Downing Street Years., p. 329

[xx] Ronald H. Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, Kindle ebook (Joint History Office, 1997)., p. 10

[xxi] Steven J. Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor, ed. Greg Wurth, Kindle ed. (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 2004)., loc. 1101

[xxii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 11

[xxiii] George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State, Kindle ebook (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993)., loc. 6541 – 6578

[xxiv] Shultz., loc. 6578-90

[xxv] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[xxvi] Quirk, Fidel Castro., p. 821

[xxvii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., Loc. 1113

[xxviii] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[xxix] George Childs Kohn, Dictionary of Wars, Revised ed. (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1999)., p. 198

[xxx] Quirk, Fidel Castro., p. 821

[xxxi] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., Loc. 1126

[xxxii] Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State., loc. 6590

[xxxiii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 12

[xxxiv] Cole., p. 13

[xxxv] Cole., p. 12

[xxxvi] Cole., p. 13

[xxxvii] Cole., p. 14

[xxxviii] Cole., p. 14

[xxxix] Cole., p. 14

[xl] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 280

[xli] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 15

[xlii] Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz., p. 211-2

[xliii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 6; Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 281

[xliv] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 282

[xlv] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 16; Lt. Col. Michael J. Byron, “Fury From the Sea: Marines in Grenada,” in The U.S. Naval Institute on The Marine Corps at War, ed. Thomas J. Cutler (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016), 120–42., p. 129; Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz., p. 208

[xlvi] Ronald H. Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983, Kindle ebook (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, HQ, USMC, 1987)., loc. 168

[xlvii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 17

[xlviii] Cole., p. 18; Dan Rather, “Grenada,” Vanderbilt Television News Archive, October 21, 1983, https://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/broadcasts/287081.

[xlix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 18

[l] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 282-3

[li] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 19

[lii] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[liii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 20

[liv] J. D. Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present, Kindle ebook, 2nd ed. (New York: Pocket Books, 1998)., loc. 6657

[lv] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 20

[lvi] Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987., p. 283

[lvii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 26

[lviii] Cole., p. 21

[lix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6668

[lx] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 22

[lxi] Cole., p. 23

[lxii] Cole., p. 23; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6678

[lxiii] Byron, “Fury From the Sea: Marines in Grenada.”, p. 128

[lxiv] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., Loc. 1126

[lxv] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 24

[lxvi] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 123

[lxvii] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6657

[lxviii] Mark Markowitz, “Urgent Fury: U.S. Special Operations Forces in Grenada, 1983 | Defense Media Network,” Defense Media Network, June 3, 2013, https://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/urgent-fury-u-s-special-operations-forces-in-grenada-1983/

[lxix] Eric L. Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit (New York: Bantam Dell, Random House, Inc., 2002)., p. 365

[lxx] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 20; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6678

[lxxi] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6678

[lxxii] Lock., loc. 6688

[lxxiii] Lock., loc. 6688

[lxxiv] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 367

[lxxv] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 247

[lxxvi] Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 247; Mark Adkin, Urgent Fury: The Battle for Grenada (Lexington Books, 1989)., p. 137

[lxxvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 143

[lxxviii] Spector., loc. 157

[lxxix] Spector., loc. 196

[lxxx] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 245-6

[lxxxi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 28

[lxxxii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 246

[lxxxiii] Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 247; Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 27; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6730

[lxxxiv] Ward, Urgent Fury: The Operational Leadership of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Metcalf, III., loc. 164

[lxxxv] Ward., loc. 176

[lxxxvi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 29

[lxxxvii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 248; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc 228

[lxxxviii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 236

[lxxxix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 30

[xc] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 366; Michael J. Durant, Stephen Hartov, and Robert L. Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Kindle ebook (New York: New American Library, 2008)., p. 11, 15

[xci] Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 2, 11-12

[xcii] Durant, Hartov, and Johnson., p. 14

[xciii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 368

[xciv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 123; Joseph Metcalf, “Decision Making and the Grenada Rescue Operation,” in Ambiguity and Command: Organizational Perspectives on MIlitary Decision Making, ed. James G. March and Roger Weissinger-Baylon (Marshfield: Pitman Publishing, 1986)., p. 291; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 13; Adams, Secret Armies: The Full Story of the SAS, Delta Force, and the Spetsnaz., p. 211

[xcv] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 368

[xcvi] Edgar F. Raines, The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983 (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military Histroy, United States Army, 2010)., p. 164-5

[xcvii] Orr Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters, Kindle ebook (New York: Open Road Integrated Media, Inc., 1992)., loc. 3926-37

[xcviii] Kelly., loc. 3949-61. The Boston whaler boats are sometimes described as Zodiacs. Sometimes the team composition is given as 11 SEALs and one CCT.

[xcix] Michael Walsh and Greg Walker, SEAL!: From Vietnam’s Phoenix Program to Central America’s Drug Wars (New York: Pocket Books, 1995)., p. 227-32

[c] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 27; Dick Couch and William Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story (HarperCollins e-books, 2014)., p.141; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 236

[ci] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 27; Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 141; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc 442; Walsh and Walker, SEAL!: From Vietnam’s Phoenix Program to Central America’s Drug Wars., p. 237

[cii] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3961

[ciii] Kelly., loc. 3973

[civ] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6730; Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 248-9; Raines, The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983., p. 242

[cv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 247

[cvi] Edwin Howard Simmons, The United States Marines: A History, 4th ed. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2003)., p. 273

[cvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 257

[cviii] Spector., loc. 275

[cix] Spector., loc. 275

[cx] Spector., loc. 275

[cxi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 32; Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 287

[cxii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 303

[cxiii] Spector., loc. 318

[cxiv] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 142; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 23-4

[cxv] Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 19-20

[cxvi] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3881

[cxvii] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 142

[cxviii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 349

[cxix] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 144

[cxx] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3881; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 27

[cxxi] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3904; Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 125. In Couch and Doyle Lt. Erskine is referred to as Lt. Jason Kendall, although the text of the narration is identical to Couch’s telling of the event from The Warrior Elite where Erskine is referenced. Erskine did in fact receive the Silver Star, and there is no mention of Jason Kendall outside of this source.

[cxxii] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 125-6

[cxxiii] Dick Couch, The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228, Epub ebook (Three Rivers Press, 2009)., p. 16

[cxxiv] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 131; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3915

[cxxv] Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3926

[cxxvi] Couch and Doyle, Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story., p. 135-8

[cxxvii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 370-1; Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 22

[cxxviii]  Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 22

[cxxix] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 379-80

[cxxx] Haney., p. 374

[cxxxi] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6864

[cxxxii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 250

[cxxxiii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 377-8

[cxxxiv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6719

[cxxxv] Lock., loc. 6730

[cxxxvi] Lock., loc. 6740

[cxxxvii] Lock., loc. 6751

[cxxxviii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., loc. 1135; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6719, 6751

[cxxxix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6761

[cxl] Lock., loc. 6761-71

[cxli] Stephen Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders, Kindle ebook, 2017., p. 364

[cxlii] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 3961

[cxliii] Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 131

[cxliv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 6781

[cxlv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 6822

[cxlvi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 32

[cxlvii] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 379

[cxlviii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., loc. 1135

[cxlix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6781; Kelly, Brave Men, Dark Waters., loc. 6802

[cl] Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 173-7

[cli] Haney, Inside Delta Force, The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit., p. 378; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6874

[clii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 33

[cliii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 360

[cliv] Spector., loc. 376

[clv] Spector., loc. 411-22

[clvi] Spector., loc. 422

[clvii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 250

[clviii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 34

[clix] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 349

[clx] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 34

[clxi] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 432

[clxii] Spector., loc. 442

[clxiii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 252

[clxiv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 460

[clxv] Spector., loc. 480

[clxvi] Spector., loc. 493

[clxvii] Spector., loc. 509

[clxviii] Spector., loc. 515

[clxix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 35

[clxx] Edward N. Luttwak, The Pentagon and the Art of War: The Question of Military Reform (Simon & Schuster, 1985)., p. 54

[clxxi] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 524

[clxxii] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 253

[clxxiii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 524

[clxxiv] Spector., loc. 534

[clxxv] Schwarzkopf and Petre, It Doesn’t Take A Hero., p. 255

[clxxvi] Schwarzkopf and Petre., p. 254

[clxxvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 568

[clxxviii] Spector., loc. 568

[clxxix] Spector., loc. 590

[clxxx] Spector., loc. 610

[clxxxi] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6905; Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 210

[clxxxii] Mrozek, 82nd Airborne Division: America’s Guard of Honor., loc. 1154

[clxxxiii] Mrozek., loc. 1154

[clxxxiv] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 649

[clxxxv] Spector., loc. 649

[clxxxvi] Spector., loc. 681

[clxxxvii] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 38

[clxxxviii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 705

[clxxxix] Spector., loc. 726

[cxc] Michael T. Flynn and Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How to Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, ebook (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2016)., p. 16-18

[cxci] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6874

[cxcii] Lock., loc. 6915

[cxciii] Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 252-65

[cxciv] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6915

[cxcv] Lock., loc. 6936; Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 271

[cxcvi]  Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 271

[cxcvii] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6936; Trujillo, A Tale of the Grenada Raiders., p. 279-99

[cxcviii] Gordon Rottman, US Army Rangers & LRRP Units, 1942-86 (London: Reed International Books Ltd., 1997)., p. 46-8; Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6946

[cxcix] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6946

[cc] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 39-40

[cci] Cole., p. 42

[ccii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 741

[cciii] Spector., loc. 751

[cciv] Spector., loc. 786

[ccv] Spector., loc. 807

[ccvi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 45

[ccvii] Spector, U. S. Marines in Grenada, 1983., loc. 819

[ccviii] Spector., loc. 830-2

[ccix] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 47

[ccx] John Vessey, Selected Works of General John Vessey, Kindle ebook (Progressive Management, 2013)., p. 85-90

[ccxi] Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, 1997., p. 47

[ccxii] Byron, “Fury From the Sea: Marines in Grenada.”, p. 137

[ccxiii] Bob Woodward, The Commanders (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991)., p. 285

[ccxiv] Thatcher, The Downing Street Years., p. 332-3

[ccxv] Raines, The Rucksack War: U.S. Army Operational Logistics in Grenada, 1983., p. 170

[ccxvi] Mark Evans and Roy Grossnick, United States Naval Aviation, 1910-2010, Statistics, Kindle ebook, vol. 2, 2 vols. (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016)., loc. 3417

[ccxvii] Rottman, US Army Rangers & LRRP Units, 1942-86., p. 48

[ccxviii]  Durant, Hartov, and Johnson, The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment., p. 26

[ccxix] Naylor, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command., p. 24

[ccxx] Lock, To Fight With Intrepidity: The Complete History of the U.S. Army Rangers, 1622 to Present., loc. 6946

[ccxxi] Ronald H. Cole, Operation Urgent Fury: The Planning and Execution of Joint Operations in Grenada, 1983, Kindle ed. (Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1997)., p. 9

[ccxxii] Kohn, Dictionary of Wars., p. 198

[ccxxiii] Quirk, Fidel Castro., p. 819

[ccxxiv] Hevesi, “Joseph Metcalf III Dies at 79; Led Invasion of Grenada – The New York Times.”

[ccxxv] https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/armour-tactics-at-the-battle-of-73-easting-26-february-1991/

[ccxxvi] Dominica News Online, “Antigua and Grenada to Hold Referendum on CCJ on Nov 6,” Dominica News Online, accessed July 19, 2018, http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/antigua-and-grenada-to-hold-referendum-on-ccj-on-nov-6/.

[ccxxvii] Times Wire Services, “14 Convicted of Murdering Grenada Leader, 10 Others,” Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1986, http://articles.latimes.com/1986-12-05/news/mn-790_1_grenada-leader. & “BBCCaribbean.Com | Last of ‘Grenada 17’ Released,” September 7, 2009, http://www.bbc.co.uk/caribbean/news/story/2009/09/090907_grenada_release.shtml. & Linda Straker, “7 Convicted of Killing Grenada Leader Released,” sandiegouniontribune.com, September 5, 2009, http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-cb-grenada-coup-prisoners-090509-2009sep05-story.html. & Peter Ischyrion, “Privy Council Throws out Death Sentence against Maurice Bishop’s Killers,” Caribbean360 (blog), February 9, 2007, http://www.caribbean360.com/news/privy-council-throws-out-death-sentence-against-maurice-bishops-killers.

 

Master of the Seas of the Two Indies: the Naval Career of Admiral Sir George Pocock

national portrait gallery

Early 19th Century oil painting of Sir George Pocock, based on a c. 1761 painting by Thomas Hudson.

The Career of Admiral Sir George Pocock

A distant figure in our time, Sir George Pocock was a consummate naval officer, with victories in both the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, responsible in the latter for securing command of the Indian Ocean during 1759, and for Britain’s greatest maritime operation of the 18th century – the capture of Havana in 1762. Closely associated with controversial figures such as Lord Clive, John Byng and the Earl of Albemarle, Pocock was marginalized in the historiography during the 19th century in comparison to the towering figures of Anson, Rodney, Hawke and Boscawen. Pocock nevertheless played an integral role in several of Britain’s most important maritime operations and his well deserved reputation for courage, steadfastness and imperturbability encourage modern reappraisal.

The Young Gentleman

George Pocock was born on 6 March 1706 at Thames Ditton, Surrey, the son of the Reverend Thomas Pocock and his wife Joyce Master. Thomas was a Royal Navy chaplain who ministered to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.[i]

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HMS Superb, captured French Superbe of 1710, flagship of Admiral George Byng, Pocock’s first posting in 1718

Pocock’s naval career began in 1718 at the age of twelve when he joined HMS Superb (64), the captured French warship then the flagship of Admiral George Byng (Viscount Torrington) – himself married to one Margaret, Joyce’s sister. Superb’s flag captain was Streynsham Master, Pocock’s uncle. Pocock was accompanied to sea by his cousin John Byng (of eventual Minorca infamy) who was also beginning his career aboard the flagship of the Admiral, his father.[ii] Pocock’s path was thus smoothed by his close association with senior officers and his extended network of relatives and relations.

Both Byng and Pocock were aboard Superb when it fought at the battle at Cape Passaro, Sicily, 11 August 1718.[iii] From here Pocock spent three years aboard the hospital ship Looe and a further four years aboard the warships Prince Frederick (70) and Argyle (50).

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HMS Namur, 90 gun 2nd rate in which Pocock was made First Lieutenant in August 1732.

The Portrait of a Naval Officer, from Lieutenant to Post Captain

Pocock made Lieutenant on 19 April 1725 (other sources say December 1726), and was stationed aboard HMS Burford (70), followed by Romney (54), and then Canterbury (60).[iv] Pocock was next appointed to HMS Namur (90) the flagship of Admiral Sir Charles Wager, and in August 1732 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. Pocock’s first command was the fireship Bridgewater, to which he was appointed on 26 February 1733.

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1719 establishment frigate similar to the 1727 rebuilt 20 gun 6th rate HMS Aldborough, Pocock’s first command in 1738.

Pocock made Commander in February 1734,[v] and after four years of service was promoted, on 1 August 1738 at the age of 32, to Post Captain with command of the frigate Aldborough (20), first built in Pocock’s birth-year of 1706, then rebuilt in 1727.[vi] Thus, Pocock was stationed in the Mediterranean under Rear Admiral Haddock. The squadron in which Pocock served secured several lucrative Spanish captures following the declaration of war in 1739.[vii] Pocock continued in the Mediterranean until 1741, and then he returned to England.

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HMS Woolwich in 1677 as a 54 gun 4th rate, by Willem van de Velde, rebuilt in 1702 and again in 1736 as a 50 gun ship, to which Captain Pocock was appointed in 1742.

In August 1742, now 36, Pocock was appointed to the Woolwich (50), a heavily rebuilt 4th rate originally completed in 1675.[viii] He was transferred briefly to the Shrewsbury and then in 1744 (or January 1743) he was appointed to the Sutherland (50) a new 4th rate only three years out of the yards, in command of which he was despatched to the East Indies, convoying British East India Company (BEIC) ships. These 4th rates of the 1733 and 1741 establishment were designed by Sir Jacob Acworth, the Surveyor of the Navy between 1715-1749. Although plentifully armed,[ix] they were nevertheless under-gunned due to a shortage in heavier ordnance that prevailed in Britain during the 1730s, and have further been criticized as cramped and overly expensive.[x]

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Lines of the ‘Sutherland’-type 50 gun 4th rates built in 1741, Pocock’s command in 1744.

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Block model of HMS Preston a 1733 establishment 50 gun cruiser built in 1742. The 853 ton 4th rate was crewed by 300 men and equipped with 22 18-pounders, 26 12-pounders, 14 6-pounders on the quarterdeck and four 6-pounders on the forecastle.

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Model of 50-gun cruiser circa 1725, similar to the newer Sutherland commanded by Captain Pocock in 1744.

Pocock was ordered to the African coast in October 1744, but his sailing from Plymouth was delayed due to trouble fitting and manning the Sutherland and the operation was not carried out until April 1745 (Pocock arrived at Madeira on the 27th of that month).[xi]

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The eastern Caribbean during the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the principle convoy assembly points at Antigua (British – red), and Martinique (French – blue) circled.

Antigua

Map of Antigua made in 1780 and drawn from late 1740s surveys, base of Britain’s Leeward Island Station during the 18th century

Pocock was eventually assigned to the Barbadoes and Leeward Islands station under Commodore Edward Legge, who had been appointed to the Leeward Island station command on 24 October 1746.[xii] The Sutherland, arrived at Antigua on 28 April 1747. Under Legge’s command, Pocock’s Sutherland was employed on trade defence, convoy protection and shipping interdiction missions, working with the other cruisers on station in pairs. Sutherland worked alongside HMS Captain (70), Suffolk (70), Dragon (60), Sunderland (60), Dreadnought (60), Gosport (44), and assorted frigates and sloops against the French convoys sailing from Martinique.[xiii]

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Second Battle of Cape Finisterre, 14 (25) October 1747, Rear Admiral Hawke’s action scattered a large French convoy that proceeded to the West Indies where it was intercepted by Pocock’s Leeward Island’s squadron in November.

Pocock was thrust into command when Commodore Legge became seriously ill in August and then died on 18 or 19 September 1747 at the age of 37. Pocock, the senior captain, now succeeded Legge as C-in-C.[xiv] Pocock’s singular achievement came in November with the capture of a scattered French convoy, the result of Rear Admiral Hawke’s action off Cape Finisterre, 14 (Julian, 25, Gregorian) October 1747.[xv] Pocock’s small squadron of cruisers, frigates, sloops and privateers captured as many as 40 merchant ships – and 900 prisoners – although a further 66 merchant ships from the original convoy of 252 made it to Martinique.[xvi]

Pocock returned to England, having been relieved in the Caribbean in May 1748 by Rear Admiral Henry Osborne. Shortly afterwards, on 18 October 1748, the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the War of Austrian Succession.

Pocock, now a wealthy – although not yet rich – man as the result of his shipping captures, moved into an apartment on St. James Street, London. In 1749, at the age of 43, Pocock was painted by Thomas Hudson.

Hudson, Thomas, 1701-1779; Admiral Sir George Pocock (1706-1792)

Commodore George Pocock, 43, painted by Thomas Hudson in 1749

Pocock had no command until 1754 when he was appointed to the Cumberland (66) for home duty, before being transferred to the Eagle (60) – although this ship was badly damaged in a storm, and Pocock returned to the Cumberland – to sail on 24 March with Rear Admiral Charles Watson and 400 troops, destined for the East Indies.[xvii]

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Admiral in the Indian Ocean

The Seven Years War with France provided Pocock with the opportunity he needed to resume his naval career. Cumberland arrived in the Indian Ocean in September 1754 and Pocock’s role in the global conflict began at sea on 6 January (or 4 February) 1755 when he was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral of the White.

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Maps of India, showing European trade stations during the Seven Years War, and prevailing annual weather during.

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Pocock sails for India in early 1755 aboard HMS Cumberland

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The capture of Geriah, 12 – 13 February 1756, by Dominic Serres in 1771. Rear Admiral Watson’s flagship, HMS Kent is in the centre, with Pocock’s Cumberland to its right, facing backwards.

Cumberland reached Bombay on 10 November 1755. Watson and Pocock were soon engaged fighting the pirate Tugalee Angria, who sortied from his base at Geriah near Goa. Rear Admiral Watson in Kent, with Pocock as his second in command in Cumberland, transported a detachment of troops under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Clive to Geriah, arriving on 12 February 1756. Clive’s soldiers were landed in the evening while Watson’s force put Angria’s pirate flotilla to the torch and bombarded his base. Although Angria himself escaped, the pirate’s base and treasure (including £130,000 of spices, jewels, and other valuables) were captured. Watson returned to Madras at the end of April, and Pocock was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Red on 4 June 1756.

Almost two weeks later Suraj-ud-Daula, the nineteen year-old nawab of Bengal, deployed 30,000 men to surround Calcutta, where Britain’s Fort William was garrisoned by a mere 500 soldiers. The fort fell on 20 June, the captured British prisoners suffering their ignominious fate in the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta – more than half dying from suffocation.[xviii]

News of this disaster reached Madras on 16 August, where Watson and Pocock were stationed. A relief expedition was organised but it was unable to sail until October when the prevailing winds made progress tortuously slow. Pocock’s mission, working with C-in-C Watson, was to escort a landing force to Calcutta, but the squadron did not arrive until 8 December,[xix] while Pocock’s Cumberland had became separated from the attacking squadron and was running short on supplies. By the time Pocock reached Calcutta, in January, Calcutta and the surrounding forts had already been recaptured by Watson’s landing force of 700 regulars, 600 sailors and marines, and 1,200 sepoys, commanded once again by Colonel Robert Clive. Nevertheless, Pocock was promoted to Vice Admiral of the White in February 1757 (or possibly earlier on 8 December 1756).

Clive, after defeating Suraj-ud-Daula in open battle and securing his cooperation through a peace treaty on 9 February, was eager to advance on towards the French trade post at Chandernagore. Conveniently, it was now that news arrived from Europe that war had indeed been declared between France and Britain, so Clive and Watson set off upriver.[xx]

chandernagore

Rear Admiral Watson’s force – KentTiger (under Pocock) and Salisbury – bombarding Chandernagore on 23 March 1757, by Dominic Serres, 1771

Pocock, arriving at Calcutta shortly after this, followed up the Hooghly river in a boat and barge flotilla. He arrived on 22 March 1757 and immediately took command of the warship Tiger (60), which along with Kent (70) and Salisbury (50) had managed to work themselves upriver. The bombardment was opened the following day. In this violent action Pocock himself was wounded when he was hit by flying splinters (Salisbury failed to get into position while Tiger suffered 13 killed and 54 wounded; Kent another 19 killed and 74 wounded).[xxi] Following the surrender of Chandernagore, Clive went on to defeat Suraj-ud-Daula – who had once again turned against the BEIC – in the famous battle at Plassey, 23 June 1757.[xxii]

On 15 or 16 August 1757 Rear Admiral Watson died of fever at Calcutta and Pocock assumed command of the entire East Indies squadron. Also at this time, Pocock learned of the court martial and execution of his cousin, Admiral John Byng, stemming from the latter’s failure to recapture Minorca (20 May 1756).

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Royal Navy reinforcements arrive in 1757 & Pocock becomes C-in-C East Indies. Note the loss of Kent.

The Duel

Early in 1758 Pocock left Bengal for Madras, where he was met by Commodore Charles Steevens with reinforcements: four ships-of-the-line and a frigate,[xxiii] and on 5 February (or 31 January) Pocock was promoted to Vice Admiral of the Red.[xxiv]  The essence of fleet strategy in the Indian Ocean revolved around securing trade from the west coast of the sub-continent between April and September, before the monsoon season began, and no doubt the French would do what they could to interdict this trade.

Indeed, intelligence soon arrived that the French were sending reinforcements to counter-attack. A small force led by the skilled Anne Antoine Comte d’Ache de Serquigny had been despatched from Brest on 3 May 1757 (although three of d’Ache’s four ships-of-the-line had to be diverted to Louisburg).[xxv]

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Build up of forces in the Indian Ocean during 1758, Pocock battles the Comte d’Ache for control of the East Indies.

PocockMadras

Pocock’s East Indies squadron after being reinforced by Commodore Stevens in early 1758. Note Captain Richard Kempenfelt’s presence as Commodore Stevens’ flag-captain aboard HMS Elizabeth.

Pocock flew his flag from HMS Yarmouth (70) and put to sea on 17 April, passing Negapatam and Fort St. David, and on 28 April Pocock’s squadron of seven intercepted the Comte d’Ache’s squadron of nine (eight total owned by the French East India Company, some acquired enroute at Mauritius) near Cuddalore.[xxvi] D’Ache had previously arrived at Fort St. David where he forced two of Pocock’s detached frigates to run aground, whence the British crews torched the ships to prevent capture.[xxvii]

D’Ache was escorting 1,200 French reinforcements (four battalions) under the command of the Comte de Lally (Lieutenant General Thomas Arthur Lally, baron de Tollendal, descendent of an Irish émigré; a solider of fortune) destined for Pondicherry. While Pocock was preparing to close with d’Ache, the Comte despatched Lally-Tollendal in the Comte de Provence (74) to make for Pondicherry, leaving d’Ache with only eight ships to fight Pocock’s seven.

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HMS Yarmouth (70), Pocock’s command in 1758-9

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View of Pocock’s first action with d’Ache, 29 April 1758

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Order of battle for Cuddalore/Gondelour

Between 2:15 and 3 pm on 29 April Pocock steered directly for d’Ache’s flagship, the Zodiaque, and although he was receiving incoming fire from the French line, did not return fire until within pistol-shot.[xxviii] At the decisive moment he signaled for close action. In the ensuing battle (known as the battle of Gondelour in French and Cuddalore or Sadras in English), only four of Pocock’s ships engaged (leaving Cumberland, Newcastle, and Weymouth behind, and generating court martials for the three hesitant captains), and by the time the three laggard ships had caught up the British had been badly damanged, allowing d’Ache to make good his escape, limping into Pondicherry, where the Comte de Lally had already arrived.[xxix] Although Pocock flew the signal for general chase it was clear the British, with many sails and masts shot away, could not pursue and thus only the frigate Queenborough was sent ahead to try to locate the French squadron during the night, but to no avail.[xxx] D’Ache later lost the East Indiaman Bien-Aime (58) when it crashed ashore.[xxxi]

Nevertheless, Pocock’s force had inflicted numerous casualties: 162 killed and 360 wounded (or near 600 killed and wounded), in particular aboard d’Ache’s flagship. D’Ache, however, had done well himself, having achieved his objective of getting through to Pondicherry and had inflicted casualties of his own, primarily on the Yarmouth. Total British losses were 29 killed and 85 (or 89) wounded.[xxxii]

Pocock refitted at Madras and was prepared to sail on 10 May. Lally-Tollendal was on the move, however, and with 3,500 Europeans and another 3,000 Indian troops first captured Cuddalore and then laid siege to Fort St. David.[xxxiii] Pocock intended to relieve the siege of Fort St. David, but was unable to reach the outpost before it surrendered on 2 or 6 June, along with its garrison of 1,000.[xxxiv] Pocock’s normally cool temper was by now enflamed and upon return to Madras for victuals and water he ordered the court martials of Captains Vincent, Legge and Brereton, whom he held responsible for failing to engage on 29 April. Captain Vincent was relieved of his command, Legge was cashiered and Brereton reduced a year in seniority.[xxxv] The incident had stung Pocock – a man not easily shaken from his serene demeanour – and in later years he acknowledged this fact, coming to believe that he had been overly harsh in handing out these sentences.[xxxvi]

Neg1

British and French order of battle off Negapatam, 3 August 1758. Notice the change of British captains following the court martials held in July.

Pocock put to sea again on 25 July and made a half dozen merchant ship captures before scouting the harbour at Pondicherry on the 27th. D’Ache, realizing he was about to be trapped, and with few provisions remaining, took his force of seven and a frigate and fled to sea, once again alluding Pocock’s general pursuit.[xxxvii] Pocock was, however, able to capture and burn a French ammunition ship that had been approaching Pondicherry.

Pocock sighted d’Ache on 1 August, and, although d’Ache skillfully delayed with a series of maneuvers all of August 2nd, Pocock was finally able to bring the Comte to action on the morning of the 3rd near Negapatam.[xxxviii] At 1:20 pm d’Ache decided it was time; his fleet drawn up in a crescent, and signaled to engage. Pocock followed suit, but was temporarily frustrated as d’Ache pulled his squadron away, firing chain shot at the English line, carrying away signals and masts.[xxxix] Pocock was determined to fight, however, and at 2:25 flew the signal for close action.

Captain Kempenfelt in the Elizabeth furiously attacked the Comte de Provence, temporarily setting it ablaze, then moving on to attack the Duc de Bourgoyne. Meanwhile, Pocock, in the Yarmourth, once again made for d’Ache’s flagship, the Zodiaque, and engaged it with a heavy fire, destroying the ship’s wheel. A gun exploded aboard the French flagship and in the confusion the Zodiaque collided with the Duc d’Orleans.[xl] With Yarmouth and Tiger closing in, d’Ache could see that the battle was turning against him – once again the daring French commander effected his escape, making for Pondicherry at 2:08 pm. Pocock signaled for general chase but, again, it was too late and d’Ache, although shaken, limped back into harbour. Pocock’s squadron suffered 200 casualties (31 killed and 116 – 166 wounded, including a slightly injured Pocock and Commodore Steevens – who had been shot by musket ball in the shoulder)[xli] to d’Ache’s 800 (250 killed and 600 wounded, amongst the latter including d’Ache himself as well as his flag captain).[xlii]

The strategic situation was liable to worsen as the French, on 9 March, had despatched additional reinforcements from Brest: Minotaure (74), Actif (64), and Illustre  (64), as well as Fortune (54) from Lorient on 7 March. The Royal Navy was able to spare only Grafton (70) and Sunderland (60) sailing from England on 8 March.[xliii]

In the meantime, with the monsoon season set to arrive, Pocock made for Bombay to effect his repairs while d’Ache sailed for Mauritius (where he combined with Captain Froger de L’Eguille’s force of three-of-the-line). On 14 December Lally-Tollendal sieged Madras, but the siege was broken when Captain Kempenfelt, despatched by Pocock, arrived with frigates and several small craft loaded with stores and reinforcements, forcing Lally-Tollendal to raise the siege on 17 February 1759.[xliv]

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Order of battle for Pondicherry

Bataille_de_Pondichéry_le_10_septembre_1759

Battle of Pondicherry, 10 September 1759, the culminating battle between Pocock (top) and d’Ache (bottom), concluding with d’Ache’s flight from the Indian Ocean, securing India for Britain, much as Admiral Saunders and General Wolfe had done for Canada at Quebec (13 September), Commodore Moore had done for Guadeloupe in the West Indies (1 May), while Hawke destroyed the Brest fleet at Quiberon Bay (20 November) and Boscawen destroyed the Toulon fleet at Lagos (18 August): the string of victories that made 1759 Britain’s annus mirabilis.

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Royal Navy casualties at Pondicherry

The situation remained a stalemate until 17 April 1759, when Pocock, with the weather once again favourable, sailed for Ceylon, hoping to intercept d’Ache at sea. For the following four months Pocock cruised, hunting for the French squadron.[xlv] Nevertheless, d’Ache was nowhere to be found and with provisions running low, Pocock set course for Trincomale on 1 September. However, within 24 hours of this decision, the frigate Revenge located d’Ache’s squadron at sea and hastened to inform Pocock. Hearing of this break of good fortune Pocock put about and signaled for a general chase. D’Ache, once again faced with his old nemesis, knew exactly what to do and proceeded to amuse Pocock at sea for three days, until the French commander disappeared into a bank of haze.

Pocock immediately made to blockade Pondicherry, hoping to intercept d’Ache should he try for that port – which was in fact d’Ache’s intention as he carried supplies for that critical base.[xlvi] Pocock arrived off Pondicherry on 8 September early in the morning; exactly eight hours before d’Ache. The French squadron was sighted at 1 pm and two hours later had been identified as 13 sail.[xlvii] Pocock continued ahead of d’Ache to prevent his escape and hounded the French squadron for 48 hours, finally closing on d’Ache’s line at 2:10 pm on 10 September. On this occasion (known as the battle of Pondicherry) Pocock had nine of the line against d’Ache’s eleven. D’Ache, with Yarmouth nearly within musket shot, saw that battle was now unavoidable and signaled for action, Pocock immediately following. An intense cannonade commenced until d’Ache pulled away not long after 4 pm. Once again Pocock’s ships were too badly damaged in their masts and yards to pursue. In the pitched battle d’Ache himself was again wounded (and his flag-captain killed), one amongst a total of 1,500 French casualties. Pocock’s forces had sustained 569 casualties (118 killed and another 66 dying afterwards, with another 385 variously wounded).[xlviii] Furthermore, Captain Michie of the Newcastle had been killed.[xlix]

Pocock ordered the frigate Revenge to follow d’Ache while the English made quick repairs at sea. The next morning the English sighted the French squadron but d’Ache again made sail, disappearing over the horizon. With Tiger and Cumberland under tow, Pocock made for Negapatam to repair, where he sent to Madras for reinforcements. At sea again on the 20th, Pocock set course for Pondicherry, where he found d’Ache at anchor beneath the fortress guns on the 27th – the French admiral had achieved his purpose and had landed his supplies. To Pocock’s frustration d’Ache proceeded to slip away, avoiding the still damaged English ships. Pocock returned to Madras. D’Ache, meanwhile, made for Mauritius, leaving the Royal Navy in control of the Indian Ocean, and clearing the way for the capture of Pondicherry itself, accomplished on 15 January 1761.

pitt.jpg

The East Indiaman “Pitt” engages St. Louis on 28 September 1758/9, by Dunn Lawson. St. Louis was a veteran of all three of d’Ache’s battles with Pocock. An artistic representation of the grand naval duel for India – if the exact particulars are perhaps imaginary.

Pocock, his health weakened by five years of relentless warfare in the East Indies, was ordered to hand-over his command to Commodore Steevens and return to London at the end of 1759. Pocock, however, felt his presence was still required and thus did not relinquish his command until April 1760. Back in London, he was rewarded with a marble bust commissioned by a grateful East India Company. Later that year, at the age of 54, Pocock was elected MP for Plymouth, and was subsequently knighted in March 1761. Pocock used his influence and his close relationship with Lord Anson to advance the interests of his commanders, being able to get James Hawker promoted, although not William Owen.[l] Pocock believed in rewarding those who had supported him, telling a follower that, “…if not too open and glaring an impropriety, I might rely on him.”[li]

Of Pocock’s actions in Indian waters Sir Julian Corbett wrote in 1907, “It is the fashion now merely to deride his battle tactics, which after three actions in eighteen months had failed to secure a real decision, though the tactics which would have secured a decision against a superior force determined to avoid one are never very clearly indicated. More just it would be to praise his vehement ‘general chases’, the daring and resolute attacks which in manner yielded nothing to Hawke’s, and above all for the strategical insight and courage which enabled him to dominate a sea which it was practically impossible for his inferior force to command.”[lii]

As for D’Ache, Pocock’s great antagonist in those distant waters, Pitt’s American strategy – culminating in the capture of Quebec while treating India as a holding action – had effectively terminated the threat from Mauritius. Clive now wrote that, “…this time the superiority of our force at sea, I take for granted, is beyond dispute, and of consequence our resources must be more than those of the French… A victory on our side must confine the French within the walls Pondicherry; and when that happens, nothing can save them from destruction, but a superior force at sea…”[liii] On 8 June 1760 news arrived at Mauritius informing D’Ache that the English were now preparing to shift their efforts to the Indies and thus that he should expect an operation with sizable forces against his island base, precluding any chance of further operations in Indian waters.[liv] D’Ache sent two frigates to inform Pondicherry of this unhappy fate and in January 1761 that last, all-important, French base in India capitulated.[lv]

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Return of a fleet into Plymouth Harbour, Dominic Serres, 1766

Triumph: The Havana Operation of 1762

War was declared against Spain on 4 January 1762 when the British government learnt of a treaty signed between France and Spain in August the previous year. The Cabinet, once again under the Duke of Newcastle, reached the decision to strike Havana on 6 January (a project Pitt had proposed before his resignation in October 1761), and Pocock, promoted to Admiral of the Blue, was selected for overall command, with Lieutenant General the Earl of Albemarle commanding the land forces.[lvi] Lord Anson drew up the plan, part of a two-pronged assault against the Spanish empire’s key colonial outposts: the Philippines and Cuba. On 7 January the Navy Board issued its request for transportation for the project and by the end of January the transports had been prepared and supplied for seven months rations. Pocock’s final orders arrived on 18 February.[lvii]

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Lord Anson by Joshua Reynolds

Cubamap1762.jpg

Caribbean during the Seven Years War, showing Pocock’s “Old Bahama” route to Havana.

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Lines of HMS Namur, 90 gun second rate built in 1756, Pocock’s flagship for the Havana operation.

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Pocock’s initial force as assembled (minus transports, etc) at Spithead.

By 26 February the entire force was prepared and assembled at Spithead (Albemarle described Pocock’s effort as “indefatigable”).[lviii] Pocock was to proceed with his forces to the Lesser Antilles, rendezvous with Major General Robert Monckton and Rear Admiral George Rodney, then sail to St. Domingue to collect additional forces for the landing before moving onto his objective. Pocock was to collect another four thousand regulars and American militia from New York, as well as a planned regiment of 500 blacks and 2,000 slaves from Jamaica, plus pilots from the Bahamas (who turned out to be inexperienced).[lix] Celerity was imperative as the onset of the hurricane season in August was bound to terminate operations, as was the prevalence of tropical disease, such as yellow fever.[lx]

Pocock, with second in command Commodore Augusts Keppel,[lxi] departed England with five sail, 67 transports, and 4,000 troops (four regiments – the 22nd, 34th, 56th and 72nd) on 5 March and arrived at Barbados on 20 April, before sailing to Martinique on 26 April, the latter island recently captured by Rear Admiral Rodney and Major General Monckton that January (St. Lucia had also been captured on 25 February under Captain Augustus Hervey). Rodney had already been informed by the arrival of the Richmond late in March that he was to prepare to join with Pocock – orders made difficult by an expected French assault on Jamaica, to intercept which Rodney had despatched ten ship-of-the-line under Commodore Sir James Douglas.

In the event, further intelligence confirmed that the French attack was not likely to take place and thus Commodore Douglas, aware of the all important nature of the Havana operation, decided to use his detached squadron to blockade the French base at Cape Francois, Saint Domingue, thus preventing the French and Spanish fleet from combining and possibly threatening the invasion force when it arrived.[lxii] Next Douglas despatched the Richmond to the Old Bahama Channel to prepare soundings and make sketches for the approach.

When Pocock arrived at Martinique he assumed supreme command and immediately requested Rodney (who was then ill) to provide him with all available intelligence. Orders were also sent to Commodore Douglas to join him on 12 May off Cape St. Nicolas (Douglas, however, did not receive these messages until 3 May, and although he quickly despatched orders to collect his squadron this still took a number of days).[lxiii] As Rodney and Monckton were on bad terms at this stage of the occupation of Martinique, Pocock and Albemarle were required to significantly re-organize the landing force, including the purchase of slaves from Martinique and elsewhere (as it was realized that Jamaica was unlikely to provide any) – and about 600 slaves were thus obtained.[lxiv] Pocock further upset Rodney by taking charge of the latter’s flagship, Marlborough, and consigning his staff to a smaller 64, before departing.[lxv] Rodney subsequently penned an agitated series of letters outbound, including one to the Prime Minister.[lxvi]

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The Havana invasion force departing Martinique, 6 May 1762 (not showing frigates, sloops, transports, etc).

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Commodore Augustus Keppel by Joshua Reynolds, 1749. Keppel, aboard HMS Valiant, was Pocock’s second in command.

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Lt. General George Keppel, the Third Earl of Albermarle by Edward Fisher based on Joshua Reynolds, 1762

Pocock departed Martinique on 6 May and collected a trade convoy on its way to Jamaica, building the invasion fleet up to over 200 transports and 13 ships-of-the-line. The fleet arrived at Cape St. Nicolas on 17 May and collected what few of Commodore Douglas’ ships were in the area – the rest being still dispersed on blockade duties or re-victualing. The full squadron did not join Pocock until 25 May.[lxvii] Pocock’s complete force now consisted of 20 ship-of-the-line, a 50-gun cruiser, five frigates, three bomb vessels, a sloop, a cutter and the transports carrying 11,000 troops. Pocock allowed the merchants bound for Jamaica to depart (another indication of the powerful Port Royal merchant lobby’s influence) under the escort of HMS Centurion, with Commodore Douglas aboard.

Pocock, entrusted with a copy of Anson’s Spanish charts,[lxviii] and his own navigational experience from his time in the West Indies station, worked the invasion force around the dangerous north coast of Cuba, utilizing skilled navigators such as Captain Holmes in the sloop Bonetta and Captain Lindsay in the Trent, alongside the Lurcher to prepare the way. These vessels were in the process of scouting a route when they found Captain Elphinston of the Richmond on 29 May, who had completed his survey of the approach. A combination of sounding boats and coastal torch-fires to navigate allowed the fleet to sail through the Old Bahama Passage.[lxix]

Minor success occurred during this phase of the operation, such as on 2 June when Captain Alms in the Alarm captured the Spanish frigate Thetis and the storeship Phoenix.[lxx]

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Havana force passing through the Old Strait of Bahama towards Havana, 2 June 1762

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Map of Havana, showing location of Royal Navy operations: Pocock’s bombardment of the Chorea castle (left), the bombardment of the Morro fortress (centre) and Keppel and Albermarle’s landing (right); 1762.

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Detailed map of the same from David Syrett’s Navy Records Society volume on the capture of Havana

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Views of the harbour of Havana circa 1780, showing the harbour as entrance and exit.

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El Morro Fortress overlooking the entrance to Havana harbour today.

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Keppel covers Albermarle’s landing on 7 June 1762, by Dominic Serres.

Pocock arrived off Havana on 6 June and started the landing the following day, with Commodore Keppel – in fact Albemarle’s brother – in overall command. 3,963 soldiers and grenadiers, artillerymen and so forth were landed by 10:30 am. The light Spanish defences at the Coximar river delta were swept away by Keppel’s naval gunfire.[lxxi] While Keppel was carrying out this phase of the operation with his six of the line, Pocock moved with his 13 of the line past the harbour – where he identified 12 Spanish warships – and farther to the west, conducting a feint landing with the Royal Marines at his disposal. Meanwhile the Earl of Albermarle landed his complete force between the Boca Noa and Coximar rivers, supported by gunfire from Captain Harvey in the Dragon along with the sloops Mercury and Bonetta. On 8 June Pocock despatched frigates to scout for additional landing locations and to conduct soundings along the coast, in the process discovering that the Spanish had now sunk a blockship at the harbour entrance, followed by a second on 9 June.[lxxii]

The total Spanish force garrisoning Havana’s various redoubt and fortress environs was 2,800 – three regiments of infantry and a regiment of dragoons – regulars, marines and sailors (the Spanish Admiral in charge of the fleet in Havana harbour was one Hevia), 5,000 militia, 250 arsenal hands, and 600 freed slaves.[lxxiii]

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Pocock’s diversion bombardment of the Chorrera batteries, 11 June 1762

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The remains of the Terreon de la Chorrera today

After securing his position ashore, Albermarle informed Pocock that he intended to attack the La Cabana heights above the Morro fortress on the 10th, and so Pocock provided a diversion in the form of Captain Knight in the Belleisle, which, along with Cerebus, Mercury, Lurcher and Bonetta bombarded the Chorrera (Terreon de la Chorrera – Cojimar) castle. On the 11th at 1 pm Colonel Carleton, Albermarle’s Quarter-Master General, led the assault on La Cabana and carried the heights successfully. Major General William Keppel, the third Keppel brother, was now appointed to command the El Morro siege operation.

To follow up this success, Pocock ordered three bomb vessels and the sloops Edgar, Stirling Castle and Echo to attack the town of Havana. On 12 June the Spanish sunk yet another blockship, completely blockading the entrance to the harbour.

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Havana: landing artillery, 30 June 1762, by Dominic Serres, c. 1770-1775

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Another view of the 30 June landing

On the 15th further landings were made, including 800 marines in two battalions, the first under Major Cambell and second under Major Collins. Another 1,200 troops were landed under Colonel Howe. A few days later mortars were landed from Thunder and Grenado, which began to bombard Morro on 20 June. Cannon were ashore and emplaced, adding their weight of shell to the attack.[lxxiv] In the meantime, Pocock tasked Keppel with deploying Dragon, Cambridge and Marlborough, together led by Captain Hervey, against the Morro, and their cannonade commenced on 1 July. The three ships suffered heavily from the fortress guns (of which there were 70), however, and were called off after six hours of shelling. Captain Goostrey of the Cambridge was killed.

For the remainder of July the Earl of Albermarle sieged the El Morro fortress – despite ever shortening supplies of water and ever increasing sick cases – but it wasn’t until 30 July that the exploding of a mine enabled the taking of the castle by assault, during which as many as 1,000 of the Spanish garrison were made casualties (130 killed, 27 wounded, 326 captured another 213 drowned while fleeing) and the Captain of the Morro fortress, Don Lewis de Velasco, was mortally wounded.[lxxv]

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Dragon, Cambridge and Marlborough bombarding Morro Castle, Havana, 1 July 1762 by Richard Paton

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Losses sustained during the shelling on 1 July.

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Flatboats assault Morro Castle, 30 July 1762, by Dominic Serres. Alcide (64) shown.

Pocock for his part continued to carry out his theatre-level operation, constantly in touch with frigates carrying information about movements around Cuba and Florida, covering the Jamaica convoys, and watching for the approach of expected American reinforcements (who arrived 28 July – although reduced by 500 men who were captured in their transports by the Comte de Blenac’s detached flotilla) and simultaneously managing the supply situation of the siege itself.[lxxvi]

Havana was now surrounded, and the Spanish governor, Don Juan de Prado, asked for terms on 11 August, surrendering two days later. 12 warships were captured, eight line-of-battle ships being fit for sea (the other three being the sunk blockships), as well as £3 million in the process,[lxxvii] with Pocock and Albermarle split to the tune of 1/3 of the total treasure; Pocock’s take amounting to £123,000. Pocock handed out rewards as well, and the flagship’s purser, master and carpenter were respectively made the storekeeper, master attendant and master shipwright of Havana.[lxxviii]

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British flatboats Entering Havana, 14 August 1762.  (note sunken blockship at harbour entrance)

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The British fleet entering Havana, with HMS Namur, Pocock’s flagship, flying his pendent as Admiral of the Blue, 21 August 1762. Commodore Keppel leads his squadron in HMS Valiant at the left. By Dominic Serres, 1775.

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Capture of the Spanish fleet at Havana by Dominic Serres, 1768

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Spanish ships captured at Havana.

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The central plaza at Havana under British occupation following the successful siege, by Dominic Serres, c. 1765-70

The operation, however successful and profitable, had been costly, in particular in terms of sick cases resulting from the temperate climate and difficulty of the extended siege (560 army killed, 86 Royal Navy; and 4,708 army sick cases and 1,300 sailors).[lxxix] Anson, the architect of the plan, had died in London of a heart attack on 6 June, and thus never learned of the success of the campaign.[lxxx]

Pocock sailed for home but lost two ships and 12 transports as a result of stormy weather during the Atlantic crossing, reaching Spithead finally on 13 January 1763.

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Pocock at 56 as Knight of the Bath, Admiral of the Blue, & C-in-C Havana, October (25 March) 1762

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George Pocock as international celebrity: Chevalier de l’ordre du Bain, et Admiral de la flotte Britannique, fameux par les Explois sur les Mers des deux Indes

Legacy: An 18th Century Life

Pocock, now fabulously wealthy and internationally famous, purchased an estate at Mayfair, and, in 1764, bought the resplendent Orleans House at Twickenham. He married the widow Sophia Pitt Dent, together with whom he had a son, George (1765-1840; later the MP for Bridgwater and Baronet Pocock after 1821), and a daughter, Sophia (d. 1811), who married the Earl Powlet. Pocock retired in 1766 at the age of 60, returning to parliament where he notably voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act that February. Pocock, however, soon lost his seat in the 1768 election.[lxxxi] Pocock became master of Trinity House from 1786-1790, and was also vice-president of the Marine Society, his golden years noted for their public charity and serenity.

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The Orleans House at Twickenham, painted by Joseph Nickolls c. 1750

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The interior of the preserved Orleans House Gallery – the Octagon Room – as it stands today.

When Lally-Tollendal was captured – after the fall of Pondicherry – and sent to England, he pleaded that he might be introduced to Pocock, and, this request granted, is alleged to have spoken to the Admiral thus, “Dear Sir George, as the first man in your profession, I cannot but respect and esteem you, though you have been the greatest enemy I ever had. But for you, I should have triumphed in India, instead of being made a captive. When we first sailed out to give you battle, I had provided a number of musicians on board the Zodiaque, intending to give the ladies a ball upon our victory; but you left me only three fiddlers alive, and treated us all so roughly, that you quite spoiled us for dancing.”[lxxxii] Lally-Tollendal was traded back to France, where he was made a scapegoat for the failure in India, and executed at Paris on 9 May 1766.

Pocock outlived his erstwhile opponent of the East Indies, the Comte d’Ache, who died at Brest on 11 February 1780 at the age of 79.

Sir George Pocock, midshipman during the War of the Quadruple Alliance, commodore at the Leeward Islands during the War of Austrian Succession, master of the Indian Ocean and victor of Havana during the Seven Years War, Admiral of the Blue, died at Curzon Street, London, 3 April 1792 at the age of 86.

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Sir George Pocock memorial at Westminster Abbey. Beneath Pocock’s coat of arms (two seahorses abreast a lion, topped by the crest of an antelope issuing from a naval crown, with motto, “Faithful to the King and Kingdom”), sits a majestic Britannia, confidently grasping a thunderbolt, her left arm resting on a profile showing Pocock’s distinctive Mona Lisa smile. Commissioned by George Pocock, esquire, and sculpted by John Bacon in 1796. Sir George is buried at St. Mary’s Church, Twickenham.

Notes

[i] James Stanier Clarke and John McArthur, eds., The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII, 2010th ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1802)., p. 442

[ii] Tom Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).

[iii] John D. Grainger, Dictionary of British Naval Battles (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016)., p. 104

[iv] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).”

[v] List of Royal Navy Post Captains, 1714-1830, Navy Records Society online.

[vi] J. J. Colledge and Ben Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy, The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Philadelphia & Newbury: Casemate, 2010)., p. 10

[vii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 442

[viii] Colledge and Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy, The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy., p. 390

[ix] Brian Lavery, The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War, 1600-1815 (London: Conway Maritime Press, Ltd., 1998)., p. 119

[x] N. A. M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006)., p. 412; Robert Gardiner and Brian Lavery, eds., The Line of Battle: The Sailing Warship 1650-1840, Conway’s History of the Ship (London: Conway Maritime Press, 2004)., p. 19

[xi] Richard F. Simpson, “The Naval Career of Admiral Sir George Pocock, K. B., 1743-1763” (Indiana University, 1950)., p.2

[xii] Richard Harding, “Legge, Edward (1710-1747),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).

[xiii] Herbert Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 1920)., p. 70

[xiv] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 443

[xv] Grainger, Dictionary of British Naval Battles., p. 103; see also Hawke to Corbett, 17 October 1747, in Ruddock Mackay, ed., The Hawke Papers, A Selection: 1743 – 1771, Navy Records Society 129 (Aldershot, Hants: Scolar Press, 1990)., p. 51-55

[xvi] Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48., p. 72

[xvii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 443; Martin Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War (London: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2016)., loc. 1272

[xviii] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1300

[xix] Robson., loc. 1300

[xx] Robson., loc. 1323

[xxi] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).” Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1341

[xxii] A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783 (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1987)., p. 306

[xxiii] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 275

[xxiv] William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy, A History From the Earliest Times to the Present, vol. 3, 5 vols. (London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1898)., p. 565

[xxv] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1347

[xxvi] Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War (University of Nebraska: Thomson-Shore, Inc., 2005)., loc. 1847

[xxvii] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1368

[xxviii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 445

[xxix]  Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783., p. 307

[xxx] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 446

[xxxi] Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War., loc. 1847

[xxxii] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1401

[xxxiii] Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War., loc. 1847

[xxxiv]  Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783., p. 308

[xxxv] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 446

[xxxvi] N. A. M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (London: Fontana Press, 1988)., p. 247

[xxxvii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 447

[xxxviii] Clarke and McArthur., p. 448

[xxxix] Clarke and McArthur., p. 449

[xl] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1401

[xli] Clowes, The Royal Navy, A History From the Earliest Times to the Present., p. 181

[xlii] Sam Willis, Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2008)., p. 206

[xliii] Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War., loc. 1839

[xliv] Clowes, The Royal Navy, A History From the Earliest Times to the Present., p. 181

[xlv] Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783., p. 310

[xlvi] Julian Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: The Folio Society, 2001)., p. 452-3

[xlvii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 451

[xlviii] Willis, Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare., p. 207

[xlix] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 451-4

[l] Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy., p. 337

[li] Rodger., p. 289

[lii] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 456-7

[liii] John Malcolm, Robert, Lord Clive: Collected from the Family Papers Communicated by the Earl of Powis, Kindle, vol. 1, 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1836).

[liv] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 461-2

[lv] Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997)., p. 43

[lvi]  Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 285

[lvii] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 546

[lviii] David Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1970)., p. xv, also #64 Albemarle to Egremont, Portsmouth, 22 February, p. 51

[lix] Syrett., p. xiv

[lx] Syrett., p. xiv

[lxi] Alexander Howlett, “Captain Charles Middleton and the Seven Years’ War,” Canadian War Studies Association (blog), December 31, 2016, https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/captain-charles-middleton-and-the-seven-years-war/.

[lxii] Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762., p. xvi-xvii

[lxiii] Syrett., #143, Pocock to Douglas, 26 April, p. 98-9

[lxiv] Syrett., p. xvi-xviii

[lxv] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 553; see also David Syrett, ed., The Rodney Papers, Volume I, 1742 – 1763, vol. 1, Navy Records Society 148 (Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005)., #876, Rodney to Clevland, 27 May 1762, p. 452-3

[lxvi]  Syrett, The Rodney Papers, Volume I, 1742 – 1763., #879, Rodney to Newcastle, 1 June 1762, p. 456-7

[lxvii] Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762., p. xix

[lxviii] Andrew Lambert, Admirals (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2009)., p. 153

[lxix] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 456

[lxx] Clarke and McArthur., p. 456

[lxxi] Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762., p. xxiii

[lxxii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 457

[lxxiii] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 562 fn

[lxxiv] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 458

[lxxv] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).”; Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 460

[lxxvi] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 566-9

[lxxvii] Grainger, Dictionary of British Naval Battles., p. 222

[lxxviii] Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy., p. 287

[lxxix] Herbert Richmond, Statesmen and Sea Power (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1946).

[lxxx] N. A. M. Rodger, “Anson, George, Baron Anson (1697-1762),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).

[lxxxi] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).”

[lxxxii] George Godfrey Cunningham, A History of England in the Lives of Englishmen, vol. 5 (London: A. Fullarton and Co., 1853)., p. 412

Reflections on the 2017 McMullen Naval History Symposium

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This year’s biennial McMullen Naval History Symposium, hosted by the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, was a total success. This world-class conference featured a plethora of fascinating panels on subjects ranging from contemporary Canadian naval policy to Julius Caesar’s appreciation of naval power. As always, with a conference of this scale involving hundreds of historians and participants, any one person is only able to see a fraction of the total panels, so individual experience does matter. The conference was not generally digitized, thus, reflections from the participants provide the only method for intersubjectively preserving the experience itself, and there have already been (David Morgan-Owen) several (Trent Hone) contributions (Matthew Eng) in that regard.

The conference was organized by the vigilant Commander Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, one of the “New Young Turks” relentlessly in pursuit of greater historical appreciation amongst the cadets and midshipmen of the growing United States Navy, not to mention a senior editor with the all-star blog, War on the Rocks. Commander Armstrong also edited the “21st Century” Mahan and Sims volumes for the US Naval Institute Press. The major themes at this years conference were the First World War (naturally enough considering the centenary), global and imperial history, seapower in the Age of Sail, the Asian and the Pacific theatres, the Second World War, naval education, and the evolution of naval technology in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Day One: September 14, 2017

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From left to right: Panel Chair John Beeler, Louis Halewood, Alex Howlett, and David Kohnen (photo credit, Tim Choi)

I was a presenter on one of the first panels, along with Louis Halewood and David Kohnen. My paper on the Royal Naval Air Service and the development of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) 1917-1918, examined the impact of changing administration during wartime, and the organizational learning that took place in an unprecedented and high-technology environment. Louis Halewood described his research on the development of the Anglo-American theory of geostrategy, raising the prospect of the pre-1914 “Imperial Superstate” concept, notably diagnosed by historians such as Carroll Quigley, and Ramsay Muir. Louis Halewood introduced the influential work of luminaries such as Hartford Mackinder, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Julian Corbett, Spencer Wilkinson, and Lord Milner, theorists of naval and military power, strategy and imperial defence, who would all reappear with regularity in the politically charged panels and discussions to follow. Ultimately, the unity of the Wilsonian Anglo-American alliance broke down in the interwar period, in no small measure due to the challenge to British naval supremacy from the United States, in the process destroying the Anglo-Japanese alliance, with profound implications for Britain’s role in the Second World War.

David Kohnen discussed his research on the Knox-Pye-King report, a significant paper published in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings in 1920, bringing to the US Navy (USN) the strategic focus which had been raised in the British school, in particular, by the pre-war historians John Laughton, Julian Corbett, and Captain Herbert Richmond. Captains Ernie King, Dudley Knox and William Pye had been influenced by the irresistible force of Admiral William Sims, one of the significant contributors to the argument in favour of introducing trans-Atlantic convoys, a deciding factor in the victory over the U-boats in 1917-1918. David Kohnen argued that the modern USN had a worrying predilection for defaulting to technological dogma, with the result of the Navy utilizing the acronym saturated language of the Defense Department to stress uncritical “warfighting” instead of historical engagement and peacekeeping as the basis for doctrine.

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Right to left: Panel chair Caitlin Gale, presenters Anna Brinkman, David Morgan-Owen, Paul Ramsey, and commentator Andrew Lambert (photo credit, Tim Choi)

With turn of the century grand strategy on my mind, I moved to the panel specifically examining British foreign policy, with the first paper given by Anna Brinkman (of Imperial Entanglements fame), on Britain’s strategy for managing Spain during the Seven Years War, a complex subject that relied on the interaction between significant stakeholders, Britain and Spain’s differing conceptions of the law of the sea, and the emerging balance of power in Europe. David Morgan-Owen, the brains behind the Defence-in-Depth blog, next brought the discussion into the 19th and 20th centuries by examining Britain’s evolving European and global situation, a subject that hinges on the the sticky topic of imperial and homeland defence, explored further in David’s new book. The expansion of the Committee for Imperial Defence by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in 1904 was a watershed moment, ultimately leading to the development of conflicting army and naval strategies during the government of Herbert Asquith. Lastly, Paul Ramsey examined Spenser Wilkinson’s debate with historian Julian Corbett about the proper relation of Britain’s foreign and military policy to national strategy, a historically and politically charged sparring played out in the popular press. Professor Andrew Lambert, who was the panel commentator, observed the intricate connections between the papers, with Corbett, a scholar of the Seven Years War and Russo-Japanese War, visualizing Britain’s naval role as a component of an integrated system that only made sense once the land dynamic, with a debt to Clausewitz and Jomini, was integrated.

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Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson announces the winners of the CNO’s inaugural Naval History Essay Contest (photo credit, Tim Choi)

With this auspicious start, the conference was on a sound footing. I enjoyed lunch in the beautiful Bo Coppedge Room, at the Alumni Hall, where I had an enjoyable conversation with a young officer and naval scholar on the fascinating subjects of Athens versus Sparta, US Marine Corps culture, and the recent Graham Allison book, The Thucydides Trap, concerning the possibility of American conflict with China in the 21st century. I was impressed with the student’s insight, candor, and breadth of knowledge, all of which I found refreshing (as was the key-lime cheesecake). Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson then presented the awards to the winners of the inaugural Naval History Essay Contest, which promised to raise the bar for scholarly research amongst historians and practitioners alike.

After lunch we headed to the final panel for the first day, again focused on British naval policy in the 19th century. By this point the conference was beginning to resemble a choose your own type of adventure. This was both an advantage and disadvantage of the conference’s scale and international reach. Breaking out of my own area of interest was certainly possible, with simultaneous panels taking place on American, South American, and Second World War naval history, all of which would have been fascinating to attend, if not especially related to my research focus. The conference organizers did the attendees a service by arranging the panels in such a manner that overlap was minimal and it was a fairly straightforward process to figure out which panel was the best choice for my own preferences.

This panel was chaired by John Mitcham, and the first paper was presented by John Beeler, the editor of the Navy Record Society’s Milne papers, on the subject of the Liberal party’s naval policy during the late 19th century. Beeler, who literally wrote the book on the subject, argued that the questionable choices of the Liberal party in terms of naval policy were an indication of a lack of clear strategic thinking, compared to Salisbury’s vision. The nuances of the political situation was emphasized by Peter Keeling, who followed this thread by specifically expanding on the Liberal party’s 1889 Naval Defence Act with original research that examined who voted for and against the Act, and why. Presenting the last paper of the day, Rebecca Matzke, in a fascinating paper reminiscent of the work of Michael Neiberg, discussed the efforts of British propagandists to influence American public perception of the Royal Navy’s war effort, in particular, as it related to the Royal Navy’s blockade and Germany’s counter-blockade (the unrestricted U-boat campaign). Taken together, this panel explored the interrelation of optics, how public support is galvanized by policymakers and NGOs, and the realities of budgetary and geostrategic constraints, firmly recognizing that military policy is never formed in a vacuum, and more often than not, is the result of a complex patchwork of influence.

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James Goldrick delivers the 2017 McMullen Sea Power address in Mahan Hall, (photo credit, Tim Choi)

Thus we adjourned for day one. The next event was the McMullen Sea Power address to be held later that evening in the appropriately named Mahan Hall. Taking advantage of the warm evening air while moving between buildings, I stopped the always approachable James Goldrick for a brief discussion that touched on wide-ranging concepts such as Britain’s anti-submarine defence in the First World War, Germany’s strategic bombing campaigns in two world wars, and the origins of aircraft carrier strike doctrine. I was impressed as always by Professor Goldrick’s erudition. In this spirit of historical reflection, the conference participants made their way over to the fantastic US Naval Academy Museum. After touring amongst the excellent warship models and artifact displays, discussing defence policy with friends, I was stunned into a moment of clarity by news which spread like fire between the attendees that North Korea had launched yet another long-range missile, dramatically bringing home the importance of the subjects we had discussed, in otherwise academic detachment, throughout the day.

Not much more than an hour later I was sitting on the balcony of Mahan Hall watching Rear-Admiral (retired) Goldrick, Royal Australian Navy, deliver the formal 2017 Sea Power address. Professor Goldrick delivered his keynote directly to the young midshipmen sitting across from me on both wings of the balcony, and strove to reconcile the need for thorough professionalism within military education, transcending technological determinism, while also avoiding the other end of the spectrum, ivory tower detachment, a synthesis rare enough amongst long-time scholars yet also essential to the future of service culture: the next generation of young scholar-officers.

Day Two: September 15, 2017

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From left to right: Trent Hone, Wes Hammond, and John Miller, USN.

With three excellent panels on Anglo-American and imperial naval history behind me, I decided to start off day two on a slightly different tact. There would be four panels to see, and I felt it was time to broaden the discussion by revisiting some areas of interest from my previous academic work. Easing into things I visited the panel highlighting some of the winners of the CNO’s essay contest, starting with Trent Hone’s analysis of operational learning by the USN at Guadalcanal in 1942. Hone argued that the Navy, with a strong foundation in historical education and doctrine, derived from the inter-war period and First World War, was well situated to adapt to operational disasters such as the Battle of Savo Island, enabling the Navy to reverse-course and ultimately out think the Imperial Japanese Navy. Lieutenant John Miller then read his case-study analysis of training failure, notably looking at the USS Stark, USS Panay, and USS Chesapeake incidents, concluding that readiness can only be achieved by a thorough understanding of not only ship and crew capability, but also, significantly, environmental awareness, the multifaceted elements of which can only be mastered through carefully cultivated experience and preparation, frequently missing in a high-tempo, rapid deployment situation. Wes Hammond then expanded on this subject by observing the importance of mobile basing, stressing the element of fleet logistics, repair and salvage, upon which all other elements are reliant. An important theme uniting these papers, explored in the panel discussion, was the recognition that contemporary naval affairs are defined by questions with historical antecedents. The notion of having, “been here before” was startling, and a clear reminder of the importance of historical investigation prior to framing naval policy.

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From left to right: Dr. Nicholas Lambert, Alan Anderson, James Smith and G. H. Bennet

The fifth panel was chaired by the Naval Academy’s own Dr. Nicholas Lambert and featured papers by G. H. Bennet, Alan Anderson and James Smith. This panel took a sweeping look at the Admiralty as a political and educational organization in the 20th century. Plymouth University’s Bennet presented on the unique subject of ship and naval station libraries, a critical component in naval education that at first glance might appear parochial, yet, like many of the papers presented, once explored in detail provided rich insight. Bennet’s research explored the organic knowledge networks that developed aboard ships as crew and officers traded and circulated books, while providing a warning evidenced by the decline of these networks during the transformation of the Royal Navy as budgets tightened in the 20th century. Alan Anderson followed up by examining the seemingly bizarre decision of the Admiralty to promulgate the Declaration of London in 1909, and the implications this would have for Britain’s blockade strategy in 1914. Anderson, who has been critical of Nicholas Lambert’s work on British blockade theory, argued that in fact the Admiralty gained significant concessions from the Declaration, notably including affirmations on the illegality of shipping “absolute contraband” in times of war, while simultaneously shoring up neutral shipping rights, essential components of the Royal Navy’s historical mission as safeguard of the seas. James Smith (of the Seapower Thinker blog) built upon these papers with his criticism of the introduction of the Ministry of Defence by the Earl Mountbatten, who was Chief of the Defence staff for six years, starting in July 1959. Smith argued that Mountbatten’s personal ambitions led him to undermine Britain’s traditional maritime focus, relegating the senior service to equality with the RAF and Army, thus stripping the Navy of its institutional power, which had been carefully built up over hundreds of years.

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The Battle of Virginia Capes, 1781

Controversy continued to abound in the two finals panels, both of which I attended out of interest. The first was focused on the Battle of Virginia Capes, 5 September 1781, and second on Japanese naval policy in the 20th century. This was a trip back in time for me, as I had previously written my Masters thesis on the culminating naval battle of the American Revolution, as well as my undergraduate thesis on the only decisive naval battle of the ironclad age, the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May 1905. The first of these panels was known colloquially as the Naval War College panel, featuring papers drawn entirely from that fine institution. Chaired by the College’s John Hattendorf, James Holmes presented the first paper, an insightful strategic analysis of Britain’s naval policy during the Revolutionary War. Holmes argued that Admiralty decision-making ultimately led to the abandonment of the American colonies in favour of protecting the more profitable imperial territories in the Caribbean and India, and seen from the perspective of grand strategy, was reflective of the concept of “antifragility” which helped to explain the Admiralty’s thinking. Holmes provided a broad framework that was then detailed by Jim McIntyre’s paper, examining the egodocuments of Hessian mercenary Johann Ewald, who witnessed the siege of Yorktown. The presentation of Stanley Carpenter flowed naturally from this point, providing a thorough analysis of the Royal Navy’s tactics at the Battle of the Capes itself, with particular attention to the Graves-Hood controversy that emerged. I was pleased to see, eight years after completing my thesis on the subject, Lord Hood receiving the criticism he rightly deserves for failing to bring battle decisively against the Comte de Grasse’s fleet when ordered so by Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves. The discussion after this panel was particularly insightful, with John Hattendorf moderating a lively debate about the vagaries of timing, strategic movements, and the many “mistakes” made, for example, by Lord Cornwallis, who should have known better than to allow his Carolina offensive to become locked up in a position from which the only possible escape was by sea.

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Dr. Alessio Patalano presenting on Japan’s Cold War submarine policy, (photo credit: Tim Choi)

The final panel I attended was presented by Andrew Blackley, covering the lessons of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, in particular the Battle of the Yalu, followed by presentations from Masashi Kurarni, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, looking at the Japanese contribution to the Mediterranean in 1917, and finally, by Alessio Patalano, who introduced the Self Defense Force’s submarine policy during the early Cold War. Andrew Blackley argued that Japan’s naval doctrine of rapid-fire close attack proved decisive in two major naval wars, indeed, demonstrating significant flexibility when faced with technical faults or warship losses. Flexibility was further indicated by Masashi Kurarni’s paper, showcasing Japan’s significant international alliance contribution to the anti-submarine war in 1917-1918, providing insight into the under-examined U-boat campaign in the Mediterranean. In keeping with these themes, Alessio Patalano presented the final paper, kindly aware of his duty to move quickly prior to the conference’s conclusion. Patalano observed that Japan’s strategy of core-competency paid dividends when the submarine began to take on a more significant role in Japan’s defence planning. The JMSDF was able to retain capability despite political, budgetary, and strategic transformation on an unprecedented scale.

The conference concluded back at the official symposium hotel where the 2017 Knox Awards Banquet was held, during which Dr. Edward J. Marolda, Commander Paul Stillwell and Dr. Jon T. Sumida were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their stellar and dedicated contributions to naval history.

In conclusion, I was struck by the inspiring collegiality of this professional, academic conference. It serves the historians well to leave their monk-like confines to engage with the free-flow of ideas that historical symposiums inculcate. Between the brilliant and inspiring papers it was a real pleasure to be included in debate that frequently involved world-class subject experts and naval practitioners. In short, this was a transformative experience I highly recommend to anyone considering attending the next Symposium in 2019.

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The Hawker Osprey

INTER WAR BRITISH AIRCRAFT

Osprey Mark IV conversion, photographed at the Aircraft Armament Experimental Establishment, Martlesham Heath. This advanced Osprey had been designed to fulfill Air Ministry Specification 26/35, naval fighter/reconnaissance.

The Hawker Osprey was the naval version of the Hawker Hart/Hind: a two seater light bomber designed by the Air Ministry for Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, to complement the Hawker Nimrod, the naval version of the Hawker Hornet/Fury single seat fighter. Considered the most important RAF acquisition between 1918 and 1936, the Hart and its numerous variants defined the interwar period, becoming the Air Ministry’s single most widely produced aircraft. The Hart and Hornet had been designed to take advantage of the improvements in engine technology that had occurred ten years after the First World War, notably, the newly designed Rolls-Royce Kestrel V-12 inline of 1925.

The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Air Force had been formed in April 1924, effectively recreating the carrier wing of the Royal Naval Air Service, as it had existed at the time of its dissolution, six years prior, in April 1918. Under the new compromise, the Admiralty would control the FAA operationally, with the Navy and Royal Marines providing the majority of pilots, as well as all observers, gunners and wireless operators, and the Admiralty delivering its aircraft requirements to the Air Ministry.[i] In October 1924, the FAA was composed of 18 Flights, totaling 128 aircraft: Blackburn Blackburns (torpedo bomber), Avro Bisons (bomber/spotter) and Fairey Flycatchers (fighter), in addition to seaplanes.[ii] Although the wartime giant Sopwith corporation had gone under in the 1920s, the legacy of the 1 ½ Strutter ultimately lived on in the form of the Osprey.

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Wing Commander Richard Bell Davies takes off from HMS Argus in his Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter in October 1918. The Hawker Osprey filled the same role, functioning as a general purpose, two seat, carrier scout-bomber.

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The single seat Fairey Flycatcher fighter, seen here fitted with floats at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, Felixstowe.

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The Avro Bison, a four man gunfire spotter and bomber, replaced by the Osprey in the 1930s.

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Restored Hawker Demon today.

The Hart was the fighter-bomber variant of the two seater Demon, itself a modified Hornet/Fury/Nimrod, which, for the Hart and Osprey, effectively meant exchanging the second Vickers gun in the fighter, for the bombsight and gear of the light-bomber. Indeed, the Hart had been designed to fill the role of Single-Engined Day Bomber (SEDB), Specification 12/26, for which it competed against the Avro Antelope and Fairey Fox II in 1928.[iii] This was the year that the Fleet Air Arm was due to receive new aircraft, First Sea Lord David Beatty having delayed the upgrades from the 1926-27 Naval Estimate for reasons of economy.[iv] The Hawker line would go on, in 1933, to replace the Flycatcher fighter with the Hawker Nimrod, the naval version of the twin Vickers gunned Fury single-seater. The Hawker Horsley had also been adopted for the 1928 estimate as a torpedo bomber, a role likewise considered for Hawker Harrier as per Specification 23/25 in February 1927.[v]

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The Hawker Hart prototype, showing the Osprey variants- with folding wings (top right) and floats (bottom left). The Osprey had been designed to fulfill the RAF’s 21/34 Specification for a fleet spotter and reconnaissance aircraft.

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Hawker Harts being manufactured at the Hawker facility, Kingston, (top) and by Vickers Ltd., by sub-contract.

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Late model Rolls-Royce Kestrel XVI, the 21-litre 1,295 cu V12 water-cooled inline was first developed as an Air Ministry project to replicate the single-block architecture of the  18-litre American D-12 Curtiss during 1925-6. Kestrel variants could generate between 500 (IB model) and 600 hp (V model), and as much as 750 horsepower in the supercharged Peregrine derivative. This was the direct predecessor of the legendary 27-litre 1,650 cu (1,100 hp) P.V.12 (Merlin), utilized in the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and North American Mustang.

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The Hart/Osprey was equipped with a Mk. III Lewis gun and a single .303 Mk. II Vickers gun with C. C. synchronizing gear, which allowed the machine gun to be fired directly through the aircraft propeller. From The Armament of British Aircraft 1909 – 1939, by H. F. King, p. 235.

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Firing the Hart’s Vickers gun.

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The Hawker style Scarff ring for the observer’s Lewis gun.

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Part of the naval adaptations, other than folding wings and floats in the seaplane conversion, was the added Kiddle-Lux floatation bags attached to the upper plane wings.

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Line drawing of Hawker Hart by James Goulding, from Francis Mason’s Profile Publications volume 57.

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Two seater Hawker Demon with Osprey seaplane. The Demon was a two seat fighter variant of the Hart/Fury designed for the RAF. Note the seemingly interchangeable design.

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Squadron of Demon biplanes.

The Ospreys were first introduced to Flights No. 404 and 409 in November 1932, and No. 407 (seaplane) Flight had its Fairey IIIFs replaced by Ospreys for work with the cruisers of the Home Fleet. Ospreys also served in Flights 403, 406, 407, 443, 444, and 447. The Ospreys then joined Squadrons 800, 801, 802 and 803 when the FAA squadrons were re-formed in 1933.[x] Eventually the Squadrons were systematized, so that fighters (Nimrods) filled the 800s, FSR (Ospreys) the 810s and TSR (Horsleys) the 820s, each aircraft squadron colour-coded to the ship it was aboard: red for Courageous, yellow for Glorious, green for Eagle and black for Hermes.[xi] At the beginning of 1936 there were three Ospreys aboard Courageous, three aboard Furious, six on Eagle, three on Glorious, while there were another 34 seaplanes and other aircraft aboard 29 Royal Navy warships (144 aircraft in the entire FAA).[xii] Late generation Ospreys were still aboard HMS Ark Royal in 1939, when they were replaced by Blackburn Skua fighter/dive-bombers.

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Hawker Ospreys from No. 800 Squadron aboard HMS Ark Royal shortly before September 1939, from British Naval Aviation by Ray Sturtivant, p. 27

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Osprey showing folding wings.

In sum, 132 Ospreys served with the Fleet Air Arm, some ending their careers as seaplanes, having worked aboard the cruisers of the Royal Navy, others as trainer aircraft during the Second World War.

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Ospreys conducting a night sortie aboard HMS Courageous in 1935, from Hugh Popham, Into Wind, p. 112

Captain Richard Bell Davies, who returned to the Royal Navy after the formation of the RAF, was critical of the Osprey only in terms of its suitability as a seaplane: he believed a slower, more robust and specialized, aircraft was required.[xiii] Indeed, it was during the 1930s, as wartime learning began to be forgotten, and radical technological developments accelerated, that the Admiralty attempted to simplify its requirements, down to essentially two airplanes: Torpedo, Spotter, Reconnaissance (TSR), and fighter/dive-bomber, plus seaplanes, thus losing the pure naval fighter role.[xiv] Whereas technical homogeneity during the disarmament period of the decade following 1918, and Air Ministry control of production, meant that invariably the FAA was going to have to make due with imperfect aircraft, the excellence of the Hawker design meant relative success in terms of roles: single seat fighter (Fairey Flycatcher, then Hawker Nimrod), two seat bomber/spotter/reconnaissance + seaplane (Hawker Osprey), torpedo bomber (Horsley): in effect, Hawker aircraft had become the entire RAF, and indeed most of the FAA, so far as single engine aircraft was concerned. In this regard Sydney Camm had come close to achieving the dream of efficiency sought by defence planners ever since, that is, the production of a single aircraft that, with slight modification, could fulfill every role.

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Hawker Osprey seaplane aboard cruiser HMS Enterprise off Palestine in 1936.

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Osprey Mk3 launching from HMS Sussex.

Ultimately, the Hart and Osprey, designed ten years after the First World War, were representative of the last decade of inter-service cooperation before the defence upheavals of the 1930s. Although in 1928 the Fleet Air Arm was still controlled by the RAF, responsibly was shared with the Royal Navy through the arrangement that became known as dual control.[xv] This system was maintained, although its existence in terms of utility for the Navy was doomed in so far as the FAA officers, holding RAF rank, were unlikely to advance beyond flight lieutenants: this was at least partly why the Squadrons were formed in 1933, to provide billets for 16 Squadron rank officers.[xvi] The history of the FAA has perhaps never been more controversial than it was during the third decade of the 20th century. Despite the administrative conflict, the second decade had left the FAA in good condition, concluding with the development of the Hawker Hart and Osprey, thus beginning the 1930s on a hopeful note.

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Hawker Osprey Mark I flying above HMS Eagle,

Ospreys had been hunted to extinction in Britain by 1916, however, Scandinavian Ospreys recolonized Scotland starting in 1954. A joint English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage project successfully reintroduced the Osprey to the England Midlands, at the beginning of the 21st century, starting at Rutland was reintroduced to England in 2001.