Torpedo Squadron 8 and the Sacrifice that helped win the Battle of Midway

For want of a nail is a classic proverb in the military. The opposite is also true though. Sometimes what appears to be needless and futile sacrifice can turn out to have huge ramifications and win a battle, even though who sacrifice themselves will never know.

That is the story of Torpedo Squadron 8.

The Battle of Midway in 1942 is accepted as the turning point of the war in the Pacific. Over the course of two days of battle between the American and Japanese navy’s, conducted almost entirely by air, the Japanese suffered a resounding defeat losing four of its main carriers.

A prominent naval historian has called the battle the “most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

Credit must be given to the cryptographers who broke the Japanese code, but I always focus on one unit when I think of this battle: Torpedo Squadron 8.

Because the launch of American planes was uneven at a critical point in the battle, the American squadrons that did find and attack the Japanese aircraft carriers did so piecemeal rather than in a coordinated attack as per doctrine. Nevertheless, without fighter cover, the 15 planes in Torpedo Squadron VT-8 (along with VT-6 and VT-3) attacked. It was, essentially, a suicide run given the lack of fighter coverage.

The Japanese fighters protecting their fleet made short work of the unaccompanied American torpedo planes as they flew straight in at low level to launch their torpedoes, making them easy targets. Nevertheless, the Navy pilots did it. All 15 planes of VT-8 were shot down and only one man survived, Ensign Gay. VT-6 lost 10 of 14 planes and VT-3 lost 10 of 12 planes.

Ensign Gay (on the right in the picture) ended up in the water near the Japanese carriers. And got to see what real effect the sacrifice of his comrades had wrought. Because the Japanese fighters were now all at sea level, were scattered, and had expended most of their ammunition and fuel on the torpedo planes, there was no protection at altitude for the Japanese carriers. The Japanese were completely exposed.

While all three torpedo squadrons were destroyed, the three dive bomber squadrons arrived at the perfect time. VB-6, VS-6 and VB-3 attacked and sank three of the four Japanese carriers, effectively winning the battle.

We must also remember those on the Yorktown, the one carrier (on the left) the US lost at that battle.

Those who sacrificed themselves in what was, by itself, a vain and suicidal attack, will never know that their sacrifice led the way to ultimate victory in the Pacific.

Biking Oak Ridge and Thinking About History

On Sundays I tend to go up to Oak Ridge and bike the north perimeter park. Nice gravel roads and some good hill work.

When I bike along this road which was part of the northern boundary of the massive reservation (it’s still huge–  it covers a lot of ground) I think about the MPs who drove along it, keeping the place secure. And having no idea what they were guarding while World War II raged.

Then I pass one of the old family cemeteries that predated the facility. And I see ruins like this– stone stairs leading to a house that is no longer there. Generations lived in those hills. They had scant weeks to get out. But I think of the people who went up and down these stairs and what their hopes and dreams and fears were, and it makes life seem rather important.

Just some Sunday thoughts.

The Americans Wraps Up– thoughts on the finale

The Americans has consistently been one of the smartest and innovative series for the past few years. The very concept of telling a story from the ‘enemy’ point of view, historically, where we know what will inevitably happen in the big picture, was daring.

The character studies were intriguing. Right away there is inherent conflict in Russian spies being an American family.

Given my limited background in covert operations, I felt the plots were very realistic. Also, those who have studied the history of the time or lived through it, can see how it resonates (read James Clapper’s new book—excellent coverage of the last 50 years of covert ops).

The season finale last year was one of the most blah finales I’ve ever seen. No cliffhanger. Just—ended.

This season has been brutal with a high body count, including an axe dismemberment.

Last night we watched the finale and there were a lot of ways it could have gone. I felt that Philip and especially Elizabeth were unredeemable. That’s always ominous. And they had children.

There have been several series with ‘bad’ protagonists. Breaking Bad, naturally comes to mind. The difference there, though, was that Walter White really didn’t care about his family. Neither did Tony Soprano. They paid lip service to it, but ultimately we knew they didn’t give a shit. Philip and Elizabeth not only cared about their children, they cared about each other.

That complicates things.

Then through in Stan, the FBI agent who moves in across the street. As each says when they confront each other in the last episode: “you were my best friend.” That scene in the parking garage was intense—because Philip was both lying to manipulate, which is a main theme of The Americans, but also telling the truth. And isn’t that the hardest thing to bear? The truth wrapped in lies?

Move forward. I didn’t agree with them calling their son. How is he going to remember his last conversation with his parents: “I’ve got a ping-pong game”?

The train scene was intense. I didn’t expect what Paige did, but it makes sense given her arc. She’d already done the religion thing, then turned on it. She couldn’t turn on another core believe system she’d assumed. I expected Philip to get off the train, leaving Elizabeth to travel to ‘safety’ on her own. Which brings up a concern. As Elizabeth said: “I killed a KGB agent.” What “welcome” could they really expect in Russia?

The last couple of minutes really turned me off initially. The two of them standing, talking. I just didn’t feel it. But my wife and I talked about it. She had the same initial feeling. Blah. Who cares? What does this resolve?

But that last question is key. It really didn’t resolve anything. Because you can’t. They were caught in something bigger than themselves. They were broken people who were shaped into something even more broken. How can we expect a resolution to that?

I think the series ended as best it could for a series about a broken system and broken people. There is no nice, neat wrap up.

I do feel for Oleg though. He really tried to do the right thing. His father’s reaction when told of his imprisonment in the park was heart-rending.

And poor Stan. He’s got to figure out about Renee. There’s no doubt given the look on her face in her last scene that she is who Philip and Elizabeth feared she was.

If you haven’t watched The Americans, while there have been spoilers above, they won’t make much sense. If you need a great series to binge, this is it.

Cool Gus gives it four paws up and a belly rub.

If you haven’t noticed, check out Becca the Labrarian’s daily deal that she sniffs out on this page. She finds free or heavily discounted ebooks for you.

Water is the key to life– one thing everyone should have

In the slideshare below I present various ways to make drinkable water. A good filter is the easiest. The other day I updated my inventory and purchased a Katydyn Hiker Microfilter. Iomething like this could be the most important thing you own in a crisis. There are many types that do the same thing. Some are designed for base camps and use gravity to feed from one bag to another. Whatever works for you. But this is one of the best investment you can make, because we can only live 3 days without water as you’ll see below. I’ve put that filter in my Jeep because we actually spent the money to instill a large filter of the same caliber underneath our kitchen sink and we use that to fill reusable metal bottles which we use for our daily drinking water (no tossing of plastic here). The hanging one to the right is a Platypus Gravityworks 4.

I can think of so many natural and man-made disasters where you won’t have a good source of drinkable water for a while. Hurricane, storm, flood, earthquake, kraken, tornado, broken or polluted water supply, and more. Plus think of your pets! Cool Gus likes a good slug of water every once in a while.

  Water. The gift of life!




Memorial Day

ARLINGTON, VA – MAY 27: Mary McHugh mourns her dead fiance Sgt. James Regan at “Section 60” of the Arlington National Cemetery May 27, 2007. Regan, an American Special Forces soldier, was killed by an IED explosion in Iraq in February of this year, and this was the first time McHugh had visited the grave since the funeral. Section 60, the newest portion of the vast national cemetery on the outskirts of Washington D.C, contains hundreds of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Family members of slain American soldiers have flown in from across the country for Memorial Day. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mary McHugh

This photo has always represented Memorial Day for me. Both the people who have sacrificed and lay under the tombstones and the families they leave behind. The pain for them will never end.

Sergeant Regan was a member of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He’d attended Duke, where he helped lead their lacrosse team to two ACC championships, and graduated with a degree in economics. Instead of going to Wall Street, deeply affected by the events of 9-11, he enlisted.

He left behind his parents, three sisters and his fiancee.

He is typical of those who answer the call to duty.

This is the meaning of Memorial Day.

Cool Gus reviews Red Sparrow

Finally got around to watching Red Sparrow. I remember there being a lot of hub-bub (that’s a Cool Gus term) about Jennifer Lawrence and nudity, yada yada and not much talk about the actual film. I’ll try not to do spoilers in this review. The trailer is at the bottom.

It didn’t seem to take off and came and went. The ratings, Rotten Tomato and whatever the other one is, are like 50%, so not the greatest. My expectations weren’t high.

It’s a long movie. It is a complicated movie. It is a brilliant movie.

It’s one I’m going to have to watch again to figure out key points in retrospect.

I compare it to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which I also loved, and Cool Gus reviewed HERE, but it’s different in some key areas. In  Tinker, Smiley is at the heart and you know Smiley has a plan. In Red Sparrow, Jennifer Lawrence is at the heart and she doesn’t have a plan. She’s constantly reacting. But she reacts well. As she tells her uncle at the end—“didn’t I do well?”

Yes. She did.

Got to give her credit not only as an actress but seeing a brilliant script and understanding it. Frankly, I don’t think many people really got what happened in this movie. Speaking from my limited experience, covert operations are complicated. The first thing we used to do in Isolation after getting a mission packet was ask: What if they’re lying to us? What if the purpose of this mission is something other than the stated purpose? What if we’re pawns being moved on a board (because we mostly were) and we don’t know the larger game? Because one thing about playing chess: pawns are expendable.

I have a hard time getting across to people without the background the rampant paranoia in special operations. Just because you think they’re out to get you doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

No one is the deus ex machine in Red Sparrow although the mole comes close. But even he expected to die. He didn’t expect Jennifer Lawrence to come up with her brilliant improvisation. And that’s the key. She’s caught up in something and has to constantly react. She did expect to die in that key scene. But she also had no choice but to play that hand out. And she played all her hands against a stacked house hand successfully.

BTW—Mary Louise-Parker had a small roll but I love her. RED was a much more realistic movie than most people realize. And, of course, Weeds. I’d like to see her in more movies.

The male lead is one of those guys you kind of recognize but don’t know his name. Joel Edgerton. What I like about him and Jennifer Lawrence as characters is that they were very, very smart. There were times I was ready to groan and go—I hope this doesn’t go stupid, and it didn’t.

I think a lot of people not only didn’t get it, they also didn’t get all the nudity and sexuality that was hyped. There was nudity but it was what was necessary for the story and it certainly wasn’t erotic. Also, there was little violent action. Some but not the ass-kicking martial arts bullshit we see in a lot of movies. This was realistic stuff when needed. Not your run of the mill action movie. Some people have compared it to Atomic Blonde but that was more action, less thinking. This was a thinking movie.

Thus Cool Gus gives Red Sparrow four paws up and a big belly rub!

PS: A new feature has begun: Becca the Labrarian is now sniffing out free or discounted eBooks (not just mine but other bestselling authors starting in June). They will be featured on my freebies page. Also, every so often (not too often) they will be featured in the newsletter which always has good stuff in it. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

Nothing but good times ahead!

Is BARRY Redeemable?

I just watched the last episode of the first season of Barry. So spoilers ahead, but let me say I think it’s worth watching for those who haven’t seen it.

I ask whether Barry is redeemable because essentially the last line Barry utters after committing an act most of us would label unredeemable is “starting no–” and it cuts out, but essentially he’ s saying he’s changing “starting now” except he’s said it a couple of times before and ends up killing others.

There are two shocking killings where he essentially executes someone in order to maintain his freedom. The first, of his fellow Marine, is tough, even for Barry, but the guy should have gotten out of the car. Also, he was culpable for being part of the bum rush. On the other hand, he did save Barry’s life.

The second, of the police officer is the big issue. She didn’t deserve it. She was doing her job. His motivation there was 100% self-serving.

Of course it just occurred to me that I’m assuming the police officer is dead. Hmm. Perhaps a twist that we learn of in season 2?

So. The question is, how can Barry redeem himself in the second season? Can he even be redeemed? Redemption is the most powerful arc, but sometimes you run into a character who CAN’T be redeemed. In the movie Passengers is the Chris Pratt character redeemable after waking up Jennifer Lawrence? I don’t think so. The script tried to bail him out with the fact she, and everyone else, would have died, if he hadn’t but the fact he didn’t know that when did the act doesn’t excuse the act.

The closest example to Barry might be Dexter and they certainly kept him around a few season too long.

One wonders what Barry will do in season two. What do you think? Is Barry redeemable? Or perhaps we’ll have a season of an unredeemable character which could be interesting.


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When A Dream Becomes A Goal

I saw something like this the other day and amplified some parts, such as the external visible outcome part. Part of my Write It Forward program for authors and Who Dares Wins for other businesses.

By the way, I’ve started a new program; well actually Sassy Becca has decided on a new occupation: Becca the Labrarian. She is sniffing out good deal on the Internet on eBooks. Right now she’s started with some of my books, but the program will be expanding to other authors in June. These deals will be located on my Freebies page. Nothing but good times ahead!

Publication Day (and Kindle Daily Deal): Area 51: Redemption

Today the 10th book in the epic Area 51 series which has sold over 1 million copies in print and a million in eBook, comes out.The print and audio are also available.

AREA 51: Redemption

It’s also only $1.99. In fact, the entire Area 51 series has been on sale in April for $1.99 each book.

For those who need an update on the series, there is a brief summary of the previous nine books at the end.

Nothing but good times ahead. Well, as soon as Cool Gus gets out of his cone. He was out, but then he got drawn back in again when the stitches came out and it bothered him. So. Once more into the cone we go!


48 Hours Until Publication: Area 51: Redemption

My latest opus, which I believe is book #72, will be out on Tuesday. Area 51: Redemption picks up at the end of Area 51: The Truth while also incorporating material from Nosferatu and Legend. It’s been a while since I revisited this series. So much so that it was originally published under a pen name so people might not be aware I’m the author. I did 12 books under my Robert Doherty pen name. I chose Doherty because it was my mother’s maiden name.

The series sold over 1 million in paperback and now the same in eBook. It was #1 multiple time on Amazon US and UK science fiction lists.

I’m most of the way through the next book, Area 51: Invasion with a pub date of 14 July.

After that, I’m very excited about a book I’ve been researching for a while now. More to come on that, but I’m going back to my origins both in writing and life, with a suspense novel set in New York City in 1977. More to come on that.

Nothing but good times ahead.

And BTW, Chasing the Son (Green Berets) is FREE right now on Amazon.