Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hue 1968: Urban Warfare, Then And Now

Bing West, an author and Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, offers an interesting and enlightening piece in National Review on Mark Bowden’s new book Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam and the comparisons of Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 1968, more than 500,000 Americans and 800,000 South Vietnamese troops were fighting 400,000 Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese (NVA) soldiers. In early February, the enemy launched a surprise attack against dozens of cities and bases throughout the 400-mile length of South Vietnam. While most of the offensive was beaten back within days, it received enormous press coverage and badly shook the confidence of the military and political leadership in both Saigon and Washington.

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, the new book from Mark Bowden of The Atlantic, tells the tactical narrative of these events splendidly — albeit with a dubious epilogue focused on broader questions of strategy and foreign policy.

The most savage battle occurred inside the historic city of Hue in the northern part of the country. Ten thousand NVA seized the heart of the city, including the ancient citadel enclosed by stone walls 20 feet thick. For 25 days a confused, chaotic battle raged up and down the city’s streets. When it ended, most of the city was destroyed, and the death toll included approximately 250 Americans, 500 South Vietnamese and 5,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, plus 6,000 civilians killed in the fighting and another 2,000 executed by the NVA.

Bowden has stitched together dozens of riveting squad-level firefights, writing from individual points of view collected via dozens of extended interviews over four years of research. Via this accumulation of short stories depicting love, sacrifice, gore, madness, valor, blood, and horror, the reader follows the battle down the deadly streets day by day.

… In the book’s epilogue, Bowden writes, “the battle of Hue and the entire Vietnam War seem a tragic and meaningless waste. . . . As some of the nation’s more recent wars have helped to illustrate, ‘victory’ in Vietnam would have been neither possible nor desirable.” This exculpation by blanket denial is both mystical and bewildering. It does not fit with the focus (one significant 25-day urban battle) or the deep research of the book.

Yes, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are comparable to Vietnam in two particulars. First, in all three cases America insisted upon democratic nation-building that was resisted by the indigenous cultures and eventually exceeded politically sustainable resources. Second, in Vietnam, we conceded a vast sanctuary to our enemy; in Afghanistan, we similarly allowed Pakistan to provide aid and refuge to the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

However, unlike North Vietnam, the Islamist terrorists pose a continuing danger to America. Defeating them cannot be dismissed as “neither possible nor desirable.” There must be “victory,” narrowly defined as an end state that is tolerable to our security interests. Tell me where we are in three years if I follow your strategy should be the directive the commander-in-chief issues to his generals. And most certainly Bowden’s aversion to nation-building should be heeded in regards to our future role in Syria.

… Bowden has written a classic narrative about the role of grit and the individual soldier in urban battle.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Vietnam War and the lessons learned for Iraq and Afghanistan via the below link:

The Doddering Don: 100-Year-Old Crime Boss Bears The Odds, Is Released From Prison

Michael Hechtman at the New York Post offers a piece on a 100-year-old mobster released from prison.

Geriatric gangster John “Sonny’’ Franzese — the oldest guest of the federal prison system — is a free man at the age of 100.

The Colombo family underboss was rolled out of the Federal Medical Center in Massachusetts in a wheelchair Friday and headed to the home of his daughter in Brooklyn, Newsday reported.

At the age of 93, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for shaking d own the Hustler and Penthouse strip clubs in Manhattan.

Authorities said at the time the doddering don — whom they believed responsible for the murders of between 50 and 100 people — could be released at the age of 100 if he behaved himself in the lockup.

Assistant US Attorney Cristina Posa doubted Franzese would live that long. She told Judge Brian Cogan, who sentenced him, that “for him to die now as a criminal in jail is not an inappropriate response to the lifestyle he lived.”

Posa added, “He is largely responsible for the glamorization of the Mafia over the past century.’’

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Coalition Forces Kill ISIS Financial Facilitator

The Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve released the below information:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 23, 2017 — Coalition forces killed a key Islamic State of Iraq and Syria financial facilitator with an airstrike in Abu Kamal, Syria, June 16, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials announced today.

Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, a Syrian native and an experienced terrorist financial facilitator, moved millions of dollars for the terror organization's attack and logistics network. He owned the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Abu-Kamal, which he used along with a network of global financial contacts to move money into and out of ISIS-controlled territory and across borders on behalf of the group.

The Treasury Department, pursuant to U.S. Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism, imposed sanctions on al-Rawi and his company, Hanifa Currency Exchange’s branch in Abu Kamal, Dec. 13, 2016. This was the first U.S. action specifically targeting ISIS-affiliated money-services businesses.

The Treasury Department designated al-Rawi for providing financial and material support to ISIS. Al-Rawi pledged loyalty to ISIS in 2014 and used his network of global financial contacts to help ISIS conduct weapons and ammunition deals at a time when the terrorist group was seizing land and committing atrocities across Syria and Iraq. In 2015, he facilitated ISIS financial transactions and money storage, including payments to ISIS foreign terrorist fighters; his property was also used by senior ISIS leaders for weekly meetings. As of May 2016, he was considered an ISIS finance emir, whose money exchange business was used for ISIS-related transactions.

Financial Network Disrupted

The coalition's efforts to disrupt and attack ISIS's financial networks have restricted the terror group's ability to move resources and export terrorism. Several of al-Rawi's close terrorist associates have also been targeted and killed by the coalition:

-- Samir Idris, a key ISIS financial facilitator for external terror attacks and an international money launderer, was killed June 7, 2017, near Mayadin, Syria. He was trusted by senior ISIS leadership to move funds across borders to pay for external terror attacks.

-- Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a foreign fighter and external terror attack facilitator, was killed April 6, 2017, near Mayadin, Syria. He was a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and helped facilitate the high profile attack that murdered 39 people on New Year's Eve at the Reina night club in Istanbul. U.S. Central Command announced his death on April 21, 2017.

-- Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, a senior external terror attack facilitator, was killed Nov. 12, 2016, in Raqqa, Syria. He was responsible for attacks across the Middle East, including against American, Turkish, and other European targets of interest, and was also involved in assassination plots, hostage situations and convoy reconnaissance and helped arm, fund and move terrorist fighters. U.S. Central Command announced his death Jan. 6, 2017. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Virginia Man Arrested And Charged With Espionage

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

Kevin Patrick Mallory, 60, of Leesburg, Virginia, made his initial appearance in federal court today on charges that he transmitted Top Secret and Secret documents to an agent of the People’s Republic of China. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Mallory, travelled to Shanghai in March and April 2017 and met with an individual (PRC1), who he believed was working for the People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service (PRCIS).

The announcement was made by Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious, and these charges should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public’s trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information,” said Mr. Boente.

“Kevin Mallory was previously entrusted with Top Secret clearance and therefore had access to classified information, which he allegedly shared and planned to continue sharing with representatives of a foreign government,” said Mr. Vale. “Furthermore, he allegedly misled investigators in a voluntary interview about sharing of this classified information. The FBI will continue to investigate those individuals who put our national security at risk through unauthorized disclosures of information.”

During a voluntary interview with FBI agents on May 24, Mallory stated that PRC1 represented himself as working for a People’s Republic of China think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). Since at least 2014, the FBI has assessed that Chinese intelligence officers have used SASS affiliation as cover identities.

Mallory told FBI agents he travelled to Shanghai separately in March and April to meet with PRC1 and PRC1’s boss. After Mallory consented to a review of a device he had been using to communicate with PRC1, FBI viewed a message from Mallory to PRC1 in which Mallory stated that he had blacked out security classification markings on documents transmitted to PRC1. Analysis of the device also revealed a handwritten index describing eight different documents. Four of the eight documents listed in the index were found stored on the device, with three containing classified information pertaining to the same U.S. government agency. One of those documents was classified TOP SECRET, while the remaining two documents were classified SECRET.

Mallory, a self-employed consultant with GlobalEx LLC, is a U.S. citizen who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. He has held numerous positions with various government agencies and several defense contractors. As required for his various government positions, Mallory obtained a Top Secret security clearance, which was active during various assignments during his career. Mallory’s security clearance was terminated in October 2012 when he left government service.

Mallory was arrested this morning  and is charged with gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government, and making material false statements. If convicted, Mallory faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trial Attorney Jennifer Kennedy Gellie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. Gibbs for the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case. 

Trump And His Generals

Victor Davis Hanson offers his take on President Trump and his generals in a piece in the Washington Times.

Donald Trump earned respect from the Washington establishment for appointing three of the nation’s most accomplished generals to direct his national security policy: James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national security adviser) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security).

In the first five months of the Trump administration, the three generals — along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO — have already recalibrated America’s defenses.

At home, illegal immigration is down by some 70 percent. Abroad, a new policy of principled realism seeks to re-establish deterrence through credible threats of retaliation. The generals are repairing old friendships with allies and neutrals while warning traditional enemies not to press their luck.

President Trump has turned over most of the details of military operations to his generals. According to his critics, Mr. Trump is improperly outsourcing to his generals both strategic decision-making and its tactical implementation.

But is Mr. Trump really doing that?

In his campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to avoid new ground wars while not losing those he inherited. He pledged to wipe out ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism without invading Middle Eastern countries to turn them into democracies.

Those are wide but nonetheless unmistakable parameters.

 Within them, the U.S. military can drop a huge bomb on the Taliban, strike the chemical weapons depots of Syria’s Bashar Assad, or choose the sort of ships it will use to deter North Korean aggression — without Mr. Trump poring over a map, or hectoring Gen. Mattis or Gen. McMaster about what particular move is politically appropriate or might poll well.

Other presidents have done the same.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of General McMasters. The middle photo is of General Mattis and the above photo is of General Kelly.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Washington Times Review Of Stephen Hunter's 'G-Man'

The Washington Times published my review of Stephen Hunter’s G-Man.

“Don’t shoot, G-Man,” Machine Gun Kelly cried out to the federal agents who were moving in to arrest him in 1933. The term later came to be synonymous with FBI special agents.

As Bryan Burrough noted in his excellent true crime book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34,” J. Edgar Hoover publicly mandated that all agents have a law degree, but he quietly, and wisely, also hired Southwestern lawmen to compliment his lawyer-agents. These “Cowboys,” as they were known, were knowledgeable about firearms and had considerable experience with gunfights against armed and desperate criminals. As the federal agents were going up against violent bank robbers such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger, the Cowboys were needed to back up the inexperienced agents with law degrees.

In Stephen Hunter’s thriller “G-Man” Charles Swagger, a World War I hero and sheriff of Polk County, Arkansas, is one of the Cowboys. The Justice Department’s Division of Investigation, later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, needed men in like Charles Swagger to go toe-to-toe with the violent bank robbers and gunmen of the 1930s.

In Mr. Hunter’s series of thrillers about the fictional Swagger family, Charles Swagger is the grandfather of Bob Lee Swagger, a former Vietnam War Marine sniper, and father of Earl Swagger, a former World War II Marine Medal of Honor winner and Arkansas state trooper. All of the Swaggers are gunmen and Mr. Hunter, a gun enthusiast, writes knowledgeably about guns.

“G-Man,” the 10th in the series, alternates between Charles Swagger’s story in 1934 and Bob Lee Swagger’s present day story. Bob Lee Swagger is an elderly, tall, and lanky man, looking more like Clint Eastwood than Mark Wahlberg, who portrayed the former sniper in the film “Shooter,” or Ryan Phillippe, who plays Bob Lee Swagger in the TV series “Shooter.”

… All of the infamous criminals and famous lawmen from the Depression-era make an appearance in the novel and Mr. Hunter places Charles Swagger at the center of every famous gunfight.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link:

Yuri Drozdov, Soviet spymaster Who Planted Agents Across The West, Dies At 91

Harrison Smith offers an obituary of a former KGB spymaster in the Washington Post.

They were known as the illegals, men and women who adopted the identities of the dead, worked as priests, poets, actors and inventors, and quietly gathered intelligence for the Soviet Union during the long years of the Cold War. 

Based in nondescript American suburbs and bustling European capitals, they spent up to two decades developing the trust of their neighbors and employers while stealing secret information about nuclear weapons, missile systems, Western intelligence efforts and political intrigue.

At the helm of their organization, a secretive wing of the KGB known as Directorate S, was a balding man with the rank of major general and the name of Yuri Drozdov (seen in the above photo). A square-jawed World War II veteran who led assaults in Afghanistan and helped arrange a high-profile spy exchange in 1960s Berlin, he died June 21 at 91.

The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known as the SVR, announced his death but did not provide additional details.

You can read the rest of the obit via the below link:

A Brief History Of U.S. Navy Ship Collisions

Kyle Mizokami at Popular Mechanics offers a list of U.S. Navy collisions at sea (which includes my old ship, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk).

U.S. Navy ships operate in close proximity to other ships all the time, from steaming in formation with supply ships to sailing in busy sea lanes. Inadvertent contact between ships, no matter how thorough the precautions, is inevitable.

Today's New York Times includes a list of collisions involving U.S. Navy vessels at sea. The list includes the famous USS John F. Kennedy/USS Belknap collision, which resulted in the guided missile cruiser's superstructure being virtually sheared off. It also lists the sinking of the Spanish fishing boat Barcona, which accidentally snagged the attack submarine USS Houston and was dragged underwater.

The Times' list is by no means complete, however. Here's a few more collision events you may or may not have heard of. Many took place during the Cold War between U.S. Navy and Soviet Navy ships, as the two fleets stalked one another in one cat and mouse game after another.

You can read the list via the below link:

Statement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions On The Bishop International Airport Attack in Flint, Michigan

Attorney General Jeff Sessions (seen in the below photo) today issued the following statement on the attack at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan:

“I’ve just spoken with officials at the FBI about the attack on a police officer in Flint, Michigan that is being investigated as an act of terrorism. President Trump has prioritized the safety of all law enforcement officers, and this Department of Justice is committed to that goal. I want to assure all our law enforcement across the nation, any attack on someone who serves and protects our citizens will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I am proud of the swift response from the FBI and our federal prosecutors and their partnership with local police and the Canadian authorities. Our prayers are with the officer and his family for a full recovery.” 

Note: The top photo is of the victim, Lt Jeff Neville, 

Miracle At Philadelphia: On This Day In History The U.S. Constitution Was Ratified

As notes, on this day in 1788 the United States Constitution was ratified.

You can read about the historical event via the below link:

And you can learn more about the Constitution by reading Catherine Drinker Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787.   

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Accused Mobster Joseph Merlino Wants Trial Moved To Philly

Kaja Whitehouse at the New York Post offers a piece on accused Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Merlino, who will soon stand trial on racketeering charges.

Accused Philly mob boss Joey "Skinny Joey" Merlino wants to stay close to the cheesesteaks.

You can read the rest of the brief piece via the below link:

Cartel Wives: Women Whose Husbands Worked For, Then Brought Down El Chapo Tell Their Story

Pamela K. Browne and Cyd Upson and offers a piece on a pair of Cartel wives whose drug trafficking husbands have become informants and will soon testify against their former boss, Joaguin “El Chapo” Guzman.   

They once enjoyed a life of ill-gotten luxury, married to identical twins who climbed to the top of the world’s most profitable – and deadly – drug cartel. But these days, Mia and Olivia Flores live in the shadows, wearing disguises and shuttling their children from home to home, always wary someone is coming for them.

Daughters of Chicago police officers, Mia and Olivia married Pedro and Margarito Flores Jr. as the brothers rose from street-level dealers to running Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán's Sinaloa drug cartel in the United States.

"They made a lot of money," Mia said in an exclusive, on-camera interview with Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge. "My husband and brother-in-law were a big asset to him. They knew the U.S. inside and out, they knew the roads, they knew how to maneuver in the U.S. And that's something Chapo and his team didn't know how to do."

The lavish lifestyle came crashing down in 2012, when the twins were each sentenced to 14 years in prison for smuggling 71 tons of cocaine and heroin and $2 billion in cash into the United States. The Flores brothers were the highest level American drug traffickers to be flipped by the Drug Enforcement Agency--DEA, and key to bringing El Chapo to U.S. justice. Key to the prosecution's case, they are expected to testify at his 2018 trial in New York City.

"I would say that they're probably the strongest witnesses in this case," Olivia said in the interview, at which she, like her sister-in-law, wore dark glasses and a wig. "They were the first to ever get El Chapo Guzmán on a recorded conversation. They're U.S. citizens. They speak English. They've trafficked drugs across the U.S."

In the meantime, Olivia and Mia are telling their own story in “CARTEL WIVES: A True Story of Deadly Decisions, Steadfast Love and Bringing Down El Chapo.” The book, which hits stores this week, is Mia and Olivia’s effort to detail the role their husbands played in bringing El Chapo to justice and to tell their own story of survival in the aftermath.

"We do not share our real names,” Olivia told Fox News. “We have to constantly hide. We have to constantly remember our lies. We don't mingle with neighbors. We try to just fly under the radar and try not to get noticed. We're soccer moms. We're on the PTA. We're in car line. We're dressed in sneakers every day. And we're just trying to give our children a normal life."

Although El Chapo, who was captured in his Mexican mountain hideout in January of 2016, after repeated escapes from prison, is now held at the maximum-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, Olivia and Mia fear they are "being hunted" by his loyalists.

Their fear is real, according to recently retired Drug Enforcement Administration Deputy Administrator Jack Riley (seen in the above photo in front of a wanted poster of Guzman), who spent more than a decade hunting El Chapo. He said El Chapo is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

"Look, I hate the guy,” Riley said. “When I was on the border some 10 years ago, sluggin' it out with what was going on in Juarez, he put a bounty on my head. I was a little upset about it, because it was only $100,000, but he put a bounty to have someone cut my head off.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Monday, June 19, 2017

'The Marianas Turkey Shoot': On This Day In History: The United States Scored Major Victory Against Japanese In Battle Of The Philippine Sea

As notes, on this day in 1944 the United States Navy won a major victory over the Japanese in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

In 1944, in what would become known as the “Marianas Turkey Shoot,” U.S. carrier-based fighters decimate the Japanese Fleet with only a minimum of losses in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

The security of the Marianas Islands, in the western Pacific, were vital to Japan, which had air bases on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. U.S. troops were already battling the Japanese on Saipan, having landed there on the 15th. Any further intrusion would leave the Philippine Islands, and Japan itself, vulnerable to U.S. attack. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, commanded by Admiral Raymond Spruance, was on its way west from the Marshall Islands as backup for the invasion of Saipan and the rest of the Marianas. But Japanese Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo decided to challenge the American fleet, ordering 430 of his planes, launched from aircraft carriers, to attack. In what became the greatest carrier battle of the war, the United States, having already picked up the Japanese craft on radar, proceeded to shoot down more than 300 aircraft and sink two Japanese aircraft carriers, losing only 29 of their own planes in the process. It was described in the aftermath as a “turkey shoot.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: If you want to know more about the Battle of the Philippine Sea I suggest you read James D. Hornfischer's excellent book, The Fleet at High Tide: America At Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945.

Former Sicilian Cosa Nostra Boss In United Kingdom Offers His Take On Murder of Roberto Calvi, Known as 'God's Banker'

Tony Thompson at the British newspaper the Guardian offers a piece on the former Sicilian Cosa Nostra boss turned informant who is a suspect in the murder of Robert Calvi (seen in the above photo), known as “God’s Banker.” 

One month before the 30th anniversary of one of London's most enduring murder mysteries, the mafia godfather at the heart of the case has spoken for the first time about why he believes the real killers of Italian financier Roberto Calvi will never be brought to justice.

Calvi, dubbed "God's banker" because of his work with the Vatican, was found hanging from scaffolding beneath Blackfriars bridge in London on 18 June 1982. Bricks had been stuffed in his pockets and he had more than £10,000 in cash on him. In the months before his death he had been accused of stealing millions being laundered on behalf of the mafia.

His death was originally ruled a suicide but later judged to be murder. In July 1991, Francesco "Frankie the Strangler" Di Carlo, a mafia godfather who had lived in England since the late 1970s, was named as Calvi's killer by a supergrass. Di Carlo has since become a supergrass himself.

Speaking from the small town in central Italy where he now lives, Di Carlo related how he first came to hear that he had been accused of Calvi's murder.

"I was in university – that's what I called the prisons in England. We were all in the association room watching television when the news came on that the killer of Calvi was Francesco Di Carlo. All the prisoners and guards looked over and stared. I just shrugged my shoulders and said that they must be talking about someone else with the same name as me."

Di Carlo seemed a likely suspect. He had arrived in the UK in the 1970s, relocating shortly after being linked to the murders of two Sicilian police officers.

He bought businesses and a palatial home but soon came under the watchful eye of British customs, who believed he had moved in order to oversee the Cosa Nostra's operations in the UK. Between 1980 and 1985 customs officers allegedly linked him to at least a dozen multimillion pound drug hauls, only a handful of which were intercepted.

... Although Di Carlo denies killing Calvi, he admits that he and his mafia colleagues wanted him dead and that his boss had attempted to contact him to carry out the hit.

"I was in Rome and received a phone call from a friend in Sicily telling me that a certain high-ranking mafia member had just been killed. I will never forget the date because of this: it was 16 June 1982 – two days before Calvi was murdered. The friend told me that Pippo Calò [known as the "mafia's cashier"] was trying to get hold of me because he needed me to do something for him. In the hierarchy of Cosa Nostra, he was a general, I was a colonel, so he was a little higher up, my superior.

"While I finally spoke to Pippo, he told me not to worry, that the problem had been taken care of. That's a code we use in the Cosa Nostra. We never talk about killing someone. We say they have been taken care of.

"Calvi was naming names. No one had any trust in him any more. He owed a lot of money. His friends had all distanced themselves. Everyone wanted to get rid of him. He had been arrested and he had started to talk. Then he had tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists. He was released, but knew he could be rearrested at any time. He was weak, he was a broken man. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

U.S. Navy Identifies 7 Deceased Fitzgerald Sailors

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Public Affairs released the below information:

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The remains of seven Sailors previously reported missing were located in flooded berthing compartments, after divers gained access to the spaces, June 18, that were damaged when USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal.

The deceased are:

- Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia

- Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California

- Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut

- Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas

- Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California

- Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland

- Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio

The incident is currently under investigation.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Admiral Praises USS Fitzgerald’s Crew, Announces Investigations

The DoD News released the below report:

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2017 — The response of the crew of the severely damaged USS Fitzgerald “was swift and effective, and I want to point out -- as we stand by the ship -- how proud I am of them,” Navy Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, said today at a press conference in front of the stricken ship that’s now moored in Yokosuka, Japan.

The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal in the Philippine Sea at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, according to U.S. 7th Fleet news releases.

The Fitzgerald was able to return to its home port at Yokosuka under its own power aided by tug boats about 16 hours after the collision, according to a release.

Extensive Damage, Flooding

The Fitzgerald experienced extensive damage and flooding after the collision, Aucoin said in a news release issued today. The damage, he added, included a significant impact under the ship's pilothouse on the starboard, or right, side and a large puncture below the ship's waterline, opening the hull to the sea.

The ship, he continued, experienced rapid flooding of three large compartments that included a machinery room and two berthing areas for the ship’s 116-member crew.

Aucoin said the Fitzgerald’s commanding officer's cabin was also directly hit, trapping Navy Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commander, inside. Benson is one of three injured sailors who were transferred by helicopter to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka for treatment after the collision.
All three patients are alert and under observation at the hospital, he said.

Thanks Japanese for Assistance

Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard, which was the first on scene, according to a release.

Several U.S. Navy aircraft, as well as Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft were deployed to render assistance to the Fitzgerald, a release said.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri and JS Enshu were sent to join the JCG ships Izanami and Kano, according to a release. The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey served as an escort for the Fitzgerald and has also returned to Yokosuka.

The admiral expressed his “most heartfelt appreciation to our Japanese allies for their swift support and assistance.”

Praises Crew’s ‘Heroic Efforts’

At today’s press conference in Yokosuka, Aucoin saluted the Fitzgerald crew’s “heroic efforts” that prevented the flooding from spreading, which could have caused the ship to founder or sink.
The crew, he continued, navigated the Fitzgerald into one of the busiest ports in the world with a magnetic compass and backup navigation equipment. One of two of the ship’s shafts became locked, he added.

“Because of the tireless damage control efforts of a resolute and courageous team, the ship was able to make its way back to port safely on its own power last evening,” Aucoin said in the release.

“The Fitzgerald crew responded professionally as all sailors are expected to fight the damage sustained to their ship. They are known as the "Fighting Fitz," and the crew lived up to that name,” the admiral added.

Navy Finds ‘A Number’ of Missing Fitzgerald Sailors

Seven Fitzgerald sailors were reported unaccounted for after the collision, and the Japanese Coast Guard launched a search effort, according a release.

After the Fitzgerald returned to its home port in Yokosuka, search-and-rescue crews gained access to the ship’s spaces that were damaged during the collision, according to a release.
At the press conference, Aucoin said the Navy “has found the remains of a number of our missing shipmates.”

He added, “Our deepest sympathies are with the families of these sailors. Out of concern for the families and the notification process, I will decline to state how many we have found at this time. We owe that to the families and friends of these shipmates and hope you can respect this process.”

The sailors’ remains were transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Aucoin said, noting the “families are being notified and will be provided the support they need at this difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts are prayers.”

He said the names of the deceased will be released pending notification of next of kin.

In a Twitter message issued yesterday, President Donald J. Trump said his “thoughts and prayers [are] with the sailors of the USS Fitzgerald and their families. Thank you to our Japanese allies for their assistance.”


Aucoin said he’s initiating a Judge Advocate General Manual investigation into the collision, and that he’ll appoint a flag officer to lead that investigation.

There will also be a safety investigation, he added.

“We owe it to our families and the Navy to understand what happened,” Aucoin said.
The U.S. Coast Guard is slated to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation, he said.

More information on any further investigations will be forthcoming, the admiral said.

“I will not speculate on how long these investigations will last,” Aucoin added.

Every 'Breaking Bad' Fan Should Embrace 'Better Call Saul'

Michael Starr at the New York Post offers his take on Better Call Saul, the clever, amusing and quirky crime drama that is a prequel to Breaking Bad.

Back in early 2015, I joined the chorus of TV fans lamenting the premiere of “Better Call Saul,” a prequel series starring Bob Odenkirk reprising his combed over, shyster-lawyer character from “Breaking Bad,” which ended its scorching run just 17 months before.

Sure, Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman was a charming, slippery chameleon, providing whatever comic relief managed to slow-drip into the pitch black world of “Breaking Bad.” He was fun to watch, but he was a lateral character who couldn’t carry an entire series. Why not just let “Breaking Bad” rest in peace and move on? Enough already.

I was wrong, and as “Better Call Saul” barrels toward its Season 3 finale Monday night it’s become one of my go-to series. It’s no “Breaking Bad,” but it has carved out its own unique universe (in familiar Albuquerque, no less) and has succeeded in making Saul Goodman (or Jimmy McGill, as he’s known here) a multi-layered person surrounded by equally interesting and colorful characters.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Former U.S. Naval Attaché And Military Advisor To The U.S. Ambassador In The Philippines Sentenced For Taking Bribes In Massive Navy Corruption Scandal

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A Retired U.S. Navy Captain was sentenced in federal court today to 41 months in prison for his role in a massive bribery and fraud scheme involving foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis (seen in the below photo) and his firm, Singapore-based, Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson Southern District of California, Director Dermot O'Reilly of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Director Andrew Traver of the NCIS made the announcement.

In addition to the 41-month prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino ordered Michael Brooks, 59, of Fairfax Station, Virginia, to pay a $41,000 fine and $31,000 in restitution to the U.S. Navy.  Brooks pleaded guilty in November 2016 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Brooks, who served as the U.S. Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, from 2006 to 2008, has admitted accepting bribes of travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms and the services of prostitutes. In return, Brooks admitted that he used his power and influence to benefit GDMA and Francis, including by securing quarterly clearances for GDMA vessels, which allowed GDMA vessels to transit into and out of the Philippines under the diplomatic imprimatur of the U.S. Embassy. Neither GDMA nor any other defense contractor has ever been granted such unfettered clearances.

Brooks admitted that he also allowed Francis to ghostwrite official U.S. Navy documents and correspondence, which Brooks submitted as his own. For example, Brooks admitted allowing GDMA to complete its own contractor performance evaluations. A November 2007 evaluation, drafted by GDMA and submitted by Brooks, described the company’s performance as “phenomenal,” “unsurpassed,” “exceptional” and “world class.” Brooks also admitted providing Francis with sensitive, internal U.S. Navy information, including U.S. Navy ship schedules and billing information belonging to a GDMA competitor, at times using a private Yahoo! e-mail account to mask his illicit acts.

Twenty-one current and former Navy officials have been charged so far in the fraud and bribery investigation; 10 have pleaded guilty and 10 cases are pending. In addition, five GDMA executives and GDMA the corporation have pleaded guilty.

NCIS, DCIS and DCAA are conducting the ongoing investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher and Patrick Hovakimian of the Southern District of California and Assistant Chief Brian R. Young of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at or the DOD Hotline at, or call (800) 424-9098.

Note: To learn more about the ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy Bribery Scandal you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece via the below link:

Of Cats And Men This Father’s Day

I’m a dog guy. I love dogs and I’ve had dogs nearly all of my life.

But nine years ago I brought in a feral kitten whose siblings had been poisoned by a cat-hating neighbor. 

Previously, I hated cats and loved when my late dog Duchess would chase them from my yard.

But the feral kitten we named Kit won my heart. She has become my constant companion around the house.

While raising the kitten I thought of some of my favorite writers who loved cats, such as Ernest Hemingway (seen in the above photo), Mark Twain and Raymond Chandler (seen in the below photos). I’m still a dog guy, but now I know why they loved cats.

 Ronnie Casey at offers a piece on Hemingway, Twain and other famous men who loved cats. 

With Father’s Day tomorrow, it might be just a perfect time to recognize a number of men who challenge the female stereotype of “crazy-cat” person.

One of the most macho cat lovers that ever existed was writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). He was an American author, journalist, and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. Famously known for his hard drinking, adventurous lifestyle ways of deep-sea fishing, hunting, boxing, and bullfighting, he was definitely a pussycat when it came to the felines.

This brawny man known for his love of big game hunting truly enjoyed returning home to his little “purr factories” as he so fondly called them. However, the one feline in Hemingway’s life who undoubtedly was the most special was Snowball. The popular story on how Hemingway acquired Snowball is that a ship’s captain, Stanley Dexter, gave the author the six-toed while ball of fluff after he admired the cat’s polydactyl condition. Hemingway believed men should be “macho” so he did not hesitate in giving Snowball the chance to sow his wild oats with as many “loose and free-lovin” female cats as he could find. Due to those glorious unions, each of the 40-50 polydactyl “Hemmingway cats” that still live on the property of the Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida, are presumed to be descended from Snowball’s adventurous ways.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on the kitten killers and my cat via the below link:

Back Story: Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of The James Bond Film 'You Only Live Twice'

“You only live twice:
Once when you are born
And once when you look death in the face”

From Ian Fleming's thriller You Only Live Twice.

Having watched the great Scot actor Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr No and From Russia With Love as a pre-teen, I went on to read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond thrillers and became a live-long Ian Fleming aficionado.

The first Ian Fleming (seen in the above photo) novel I read was You Only Live Twice. I loved the book. I loved the exotic Japanese background and the fascinating characters, Bond, of course, and Tiger Tanaka, Dikko Henderson and Kissy Suzuki, all based on people Fleming met in Japan.

I also loved the plot. Fleming offered a criminal madman with a Japanese castle surrounded by a garden full of deadly plants that enticed Japanese people to come and commit suicide.

Above the castle floated a balloon with a scull’s face, that was officially meant to be a warning, but was in fact, an advertisement. Great stuff.

I was thrilled to later visit Japan when I was a young sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. Prior to embarking the ship, I reread Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, as well as Fleming’s journalism piece on Japan in Thrilling Cities.   

 Today, on the 50th anniversary of the film version of You Only Live Twice, I recall that I was disappointed that the film did not use Fleming’s plot. Although Fleming’s stories were highly romanticized and improbable – but not impossible – the film’s plot was preposterous. 

The film got Bond's university and his Vodka Martini wrong, and there other glowing errors that a true Bond fan was able to catch.  

The film’s saving grace was Sean Connery as Bond, the exotic Japanese background, and John Barry’s wonderful soundtrack.

In Damian Flanagan’s piece in the British newspaper the Express he covers the back story of Ian Fleming’s novel and the film and writes about the late Richard Hughes (seen in the below photo), the Australian reporter and spy that Fleming modeled his character Dikko Henderson on. 

(John le Carre would later also model a character on Henderson in his novel The Honorable Schoolboy. Le Carre said that when he told Hughes he was using him as a model, the big Australian boomed “Libel me to the hilt!”)

You can read the Express piece via the below link:

You can also watch a video clip from the film and listen to John Barry's great soundtrack via the below link:

U.S.- Japan SAR Efforts Continue For 7 Missing Fitzgerald Sailors

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Public Affairs released the above and below photos and the below report:

PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) -- Search and rescue efforts continue by U.S. and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels in the hopes of recovering seven USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) Sailors.

Fitzgerald was involved in a collision with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, June 17, while operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

Shortly after the collision the U.S. made a request for support from the Japanese Coast Guard, which first arrived on scene and continues to be lead for finding the seven missing Sailors. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships JS Ohnami, JS Hamagiri, and JS Enshu have joined the JCG ships Izanami and Kano and USS Dewey (DDG 105). A U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft is working in concert with two JMSDF Helicopters and a JMSDF P-3 Orion aircraft to search the area. Names of the missing Sailors are being withheld until the families have been notified.

The collision effected Fitzgerald's forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room, which damage control teams quickly began dewatering.

While those efforts helped stabilize the flooding, it remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces pier side in Yokosuka to methodically continue the search for the missing and to inspect the damage and develop a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces.

As of this time, there have been three patients requiring medical evacuation. One was Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald's commanding officer, who was transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka by a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter. All three Sailors are awake and will remain under observation at the hospital until further notice. Two additional personnel have been medevac'd from Fitzgerald to USNH-Yokosuka by Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 (HSC-12) for lacerations and bruises. Other injured are being assessed aboard the ship.

The USS Fitzgerald Emergency Family Assistance Center will remain open for chaplain and counselor care indefinitely, 24/7, on the Command Readiness Center's 4th Floor (across from the commissary) - in the same classroom where the Area Orientation Brief (AOB) is hosted.

Interested family should call DSN at: 315-243-1728, 1729, 1730, 1731, 1731, 1732, 1733, 1734, 1735 or Commercial at: +81-46-816-1728, 1729, 1730, 1731, 1731, 1732, 1733, 1734, 1735

Note: You can click on the above photos to enlarge.