Recent Interviews and Podcasts

Interest in Learning War has been increasing lately and I’ve been fortunate to be in a series of podcasts and interviews.

Christopher Nelson conducted a very thorough interview for CIMSEC that drew out various aspects of the arguments in the book. I particularly liked his question about what I would do if I had ten minutes with the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, who, it turns out, has become a fan of my work.

P. R. Beckman interviewed me for the Strategy Bridge Podcast. His questions were excellent and forced me to think on my feet quite a bit. I liked the emphasis he placed on professional military education (PME) and how modern concepts can be informed by past lessons, many of which I tried to capture and describe.

Have a look and I hope you enjoy!

4 responses to “Recent Interviews and Podcasts”

  1. Mr Hone,

    I have listened to a couple of your podcasts, but haven’t gotten a copy of your “Learning War” book.

    In your CIC chapters, did you use the US Navy’s wartime CIC Magazine or the post war ORSD book COMBAT SCIENTIST BY LINCOLN R. THIESMEYER and JOHN E. BURCHARD as sources?

    I’m deeply into an article wanting to become a book on the Okinawa campaign’s fighter direction & electronic warfare. Some of what I’ve run across regards US Navy CIC’s does not track visa vi your pod casts.

    • Thank you for your comment. I am familiar with the references you mention, especially the wartime CIC Magazines. My focus has primarily been the development of the CIC for surface action; you will undoubtedly notice differences in the development path taken for fighter direction. Highly recommend Timothy S. Wolters’s _Information at Sea: Shipboard Command and Control in the U.S. Navy, from Mobile Bay to Okinawa_ if you are not already familiar with it.

  2. >>My focus has primarily been the development of the CIC for surface action;

    Alright, now some of what your were saying makes more sense. Timothy S. Wolters’s book is new to me and I’ll have to see about getting it.

    My lines of research included David L. Boslaugh, Capt USN, Retired, books “Radar and the Fighter Directors” and “When Computers Went to Sea: The Digitization of the United States Navy” and running an international e-mail list dedicated to General Douglas MacArthur’s multi-service and multi-national Section 22 Radar hunters.

    Several things jumped out from all that.

    The Western Allies and US military developed what was several different ‘dialects’ of fighter direction based upon available radios, radars, force doctrine and command relationships. These dialects were often mutually incomprehensible at the boundaries of military theaters and during joint operations like Leyte.

    I touched on these matters of dialect via the following blog posts —

    Operation Chronicle and Airspace Control in the South West Pacific
    Posted by Trent Telenko on 25th April 2014

    History Weekend — The Darwin Air Campaign’s “End of the Beginning”, Plus 75 Years
    Posted by Trent Telenko on September 16th, 2017

    These different fighter direction styles reflected a _lack_ of learning culture on the part of the US Navy, at least as far as taking lessons learned amphibious operations from outside the Central Pacific Theater are concerned. Why I got there requires a some explanation.

    My research into WW2 fighter direction showed there were three main dividing lines between the fighter direction dialects. First, was whether you used “directive control” or “running commentary” styles of air direction. The tight ‘directive’ control method where ground officers told pilots where to go originated in the RAF and was heavily associated with VHF radios. The looser ‘running commentary’ style, where pilots reacted to a dialog from the ground as to enemy position course and speed, was associated with HF radios. The UK Royal Navy originally used ‘running commentary’ and switched to directive control in early 1942 with the mass arrival of VHF radio equipped fighters.

    The “running commentary” fighter control style lasted in MacArthur’s SWPA command until just after Leyte due to the high percentage of his planes with Australian built HF radios.

    The second difference was whether grid coordinates or polar coordinates were used. Geographic grids were a RAF & American War Department methods. Polar coordinates were fleet centered and they were UK Royal Navy and US Navy in both the Atlantic and Central Pacific.

    The 7th fleet in the SWPA was a special case in that radar picket destroyers there had Fifth Air Force fighter controllers with grid maps aboard using the ‘running commentary’ style fighter direction for amphibious operations..

    The third, final and deadly divergence was between CenPac and everyone else with regards “Deconfliction” in amphibious operations That difference was centered on who controlled and prevented all the anti-aircraft weapons, land and sea, from engaging friendly aircraft.

    The Mediterranean theater disaster of Operation Husky — where 23 transports were downed by the Allied fleet off Sicily killing over 400 air crew and paratroopers — hammered a deconfliction lesson into Ike’s combined and joint staff which never made it to the Pacific.

    The signals plans for Normandy had 2nd and 3rd order harmonic interference patterns for every radar and radio system with priorities on which system gets the best terrain features. And Ike’s staff had a visual “go to hell plan” for when all the electronic “deconfliction” gadgets failed due to “friction” — paint big fat invasion stripes on every Allied plane over both the Fleet and Normandy,

    After Husky, the War Department controlled ETO, MTO, and SWPA theaters made fighter sectors and later air defense centers the primary C3I center controlling both anti-aircraft fire and fighter strike allocation. In the ETO/MTO amphibious operations these were located on command ships which were separate from both Amphibious Force Fighter Direction tenders for controlling land based airpower and the Carrier fighter direction. These command ships included the anti-aircraft brigade commander of the landing force and used grid type maps of the operations area as well as RAF signals intelligence.

    The SWPA was never so blessed with amphibious shipping and developed an air delivered fighter sector for New Guinea for early amphibious air control and deconfliction.
    “History of the Flying Circus: 5279th Airborne Fighter Control Center”

    Click to access HistoryOfTheFlyingCircus.pdf

    It would be fair to say that the US Navy never really thought about deconflicting it’s planes from enemy planes in continuing operations the Central Pacific. Nor of deconflicting it’s own land and sea based anti-aircraft fire from its own planes, come to that.

    This lack seems to have been the predicate to the Smith Versus Smith controversy in that Adm Turner never designated a geographic point of reference for land based anti-aircraft units to base their firing instructions upon prior to the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

    It was expected that land based AA units would conform to the fleet’s fire/no fire instructions but when the fleet lit off from Saipan to fight Ozawa’s IJN carrier force. The land based AA units had no idea where the fleet was located to base their firing instructions on. All Fleet engagement instructions were in relation to the fleet in polar coordinates…that Army and Marine anti-aircraft units didn’t have a geographic reference point to use.

    General Smith (US Army) exercised his discretion as the highest ranking Army officer ashore to authorize land based Army AA units to shoot at Japanese planes. Adm Turner neither forgot nor forgave Gen Smith stepping on Turner’s command prerogatives here and may have manipulated/indulged Gen Smith (USMC) to fire the Army General Smith. This certainly seems within the lane of both Adm. Turner’s character and command style.

    While geographic reference point was part of the later Iwo Jima and Okinawa Operations plans. All the US Navy AGC’s amphibious control ship’s 10CM SP radar height finding radar’s at Okinawa were all tuned to the frequency of maximum performance for their cavity magnetrons…which meant that they could not operate next to one another at Hagushi beach due to mutual interference.

    Too be blunt, the US Navy in the Pacific had a technological literacy problem with both radio comms and radar, or to put it in current military jargon, they were “clueless about spectrum management”. This was classic Dunning Kruger effect technological illiteracy — They did not know what they did not know…and discounted the experience of others that said differently because they thought they were more expert on all things Amphibious.

    This was not the last time this R/F spectrum issue has happened. There are on-going major
    arguments now about spectrum management as military-only use R/F spectral bands shrink, as commercial services lobby legislatures to reassign them. And the problem extends well beyond today’s UAV’s and Radars. 😦

    • Thank you for the details and the references. I think you would find a valuable perspective in my book. One of the reasons the Navy, and the Pacific Fleet especially, was good at developing new approaches was the reliance on decentralization and bottom-up experimentation. There are potential flaws with this, and you’ve highlighted some of them, but I believe it is important to see those flaws in context, as part of a system organized to achieve certain ends.

      In this case, there was a deliberate decision to foster decentralized approaches in order to allow the identification of more effective options. Greater centralization may have avoided some of the challenges, but it also might have stifled the creativity required by the war in the Pacific.

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