Monday, April 15, 2019

Military Monday - Major Blows Edition

The world is a lesser place. Lieutenant Colonel R.E. Cole has left us. Hopefully, to go pilot some hugely strategically important raid in the final battle of good and evil. The Good Colonel was a right good stick, so I'm sure he could fly a B-47 or B-21 if the situation arose.

LTC Cole was GEN Doolittle's co-pilot during the Doolittle Raid on the Japanese mainland in early '42.

I often subject my friends, my wife, and my friends' wives to several selected rants. These generally concern things such as how we should have relieved Wake, why the F-8 kicks ass, why we should have let General Pershing press on all the way to Berlin, and why the Doolittle Raid was not in fact nothing more than a morale victory.

We all know that the American Navy kicked the crap out of the IJN at Midway. However, most people fail to stop and think as to why FADM Yamamaoto was so insistent on forcing the American fleet into a decisive engagement.

Simply put, ole' Isoruku was mighty embarrassed that the damn Yankees were able to sneak a carrier task force within 600 miles of the Homeland, launch a strike, and escape unnoticed.

Sort puts a damper on that whole mighty invincible Imperial Navy thing he had going there.

And also, I like Bill Halsey as much as the next guy. I really do. Whatever his faults at Leyte; they were more than eclipsed by his success off the 'Canal. And hell, nobody ever seems to think about how He took the Enterprise from one side of the Pacific to the other in late '41 and blew the hell out of small Japanese forward positions.

But I don't think he was the right tactical commander for what would become the Battle of Midway. Admiral Spruance was a textbook example of the right man in the right place. I don't know if the Bull would have been successful there as the old destroyer skipper was. And the reason a Black Shoe was running a carrier task force was because Bill Halsey was laid up at Pearl with a skin condition. A skin condition exacerbated by the last seven months of running back forth across the Pacific making life hard on the IJN, including getting Jimmy Doolittle and his boys close enough to give it the old college try.

Oh yeah, back to the good General. Jimmy Doolittle was the 1930s equivalent to Elon Musk. Except without the recreational pharmaceuticals. The guy was smart, charismatic, and damn could he fly. Another thing that grinds my gears is the characterization of him as a cowboy hothead who somehow got his B-25s off the deck of the Hornet by the seat of his pants. Bullshit. The guy was a brilliant engineer. He knew what he was doing. And practice it to hell and gone down on the panhandle. Oh, and he was in the lead plane of the raid, LTC Cole as his co pilot, so therefor was the first guy to take off. Leading from the front and all that.

In short, the raid was well planned and well executed. Not some half ass morale stunt. Oh, yeah, and it helped us win at Coral Sea, which was a very near run thing.

Now you see, the Japanese had not been defeated nor even seriously challenged at sea prior to their attempt to take Port Morseby. So, when pre war regular 1st Lt E.E.McElroy in his Mitchell bomber put a 500 lb GP bomb into the light carrier Ryuho, the IJN simply shurgged and decided to make to great effort in getting her prepped for their upcoming foray down south. One more IJN flight deck might have put a hex on the whole damn thing.

So, yeah. LTC Cole was the last of the Doolittle Raiders. And that truly sucks. They were brave men who went deep early in the 1st to turn the ball game around. We were privileged to have them wear the uniform.

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