When you get your butt kicked all sorts of lessons from history come to mind. But when that butt-kicking is self-inflicted the analogies narrow
The lessons most learned from the Republicans’ self-immolation in the failure of their Obamacare repeal (sic) in 2017, then hand-over of the House in 2018, are that our own history proves these are sometimes unavoidable, but necessary, losses to point out weaknesses in our old thinking about things, and how we have to change all that if we are to win in the end. Consider Gen Washington after Brooklyn Heights or Lincoln after the first Bull Run, both losses that shaped future victories.
You may never have considered Savo Sound and the about-face the American military had to make after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Thanks to the magic of radio, by the 8th, the next day, the people of the United States had already gone all-in, and their representatives in Congress, especially the isolationist crowd, knew better than to challenge the People on this.
You can see from 2017 and 2018, our inner-strength isn’t quite as deep and wide as it was then, which is why VeteransTales and our Veterans in Class Teaching concept was created in the first place.
But from that day, December 7th, America’s Prime Directive going forward was “Finish it”, which we did with the surrender of the Axis forces in 1945, just under four years. That’s still my benchmark for how to do a complete about-face and win when the people speak with one voice.
As you can imagine, the American military was slower to react to this about-face, in part because while the ranks of enlisted swelled, the Officer and NCO ranks were slower to grow simply because of the additional time it took to train them, but also because of all the things those on board had to unlearn, inasmuch as Americas had not actually been blooded in war for a generation.
As with all democratic, peaceful nations, the re-learning of war was painful and costly.
While our history books aren’t flush with names of American military officers who lost their jobs in the first several months after Pearl Harbor because of their inability or unwillingness to adapt to the new credo, still, there were several, and some of them cost many American lives before they could be weeded out.
Many of those came at our first naval engagement with the Japanese fleet in August 1942, just nine months after Pearl Harbor. It was called the Battle of Savo Island, or Savo Sound.
Just three months earlier, June, 1942 we had won a major victory at Midway in a carrier-to-carrier action. This victory hastened a series of battles around Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, for by securing that island a path direct to the Japanese homeland could be assured and the Pacific War would no longer be in doubt.
Some say the Navy had to have its Savo Sound, or, as Navy seamen called it, “Iron Bottom Sound” or “Five Sitting Ducks”, a little tongue-in-cheek snark. That site in the Solomon chain is still one of our Navy’s most sacred…both for the men who went down there, with 13 destroyers, 4 cruisers, several PT boats, and other support craft, all of whom still populate the bottom of that water. And we still leave wreaths there every time a Navy vessel passes over.
Savo Sound was a total ass-whooping, and it would be seven months, February 1943, before Guadalcanal and Henderson Field could finally be secured and the route opened to Japan.
In the aftermath, what had to take place, what always has to take place, is that command had to cull some dead wood, and move forward with fresher faces and a clearer vision of the new mission the American people had defined for its military.
Admiral Kelly Turner, Chief if Naval Amphibious Forces in the Pacific later assessed why his forces were so soundly defeated at Savo Sound:
“The Navy was still obsessed with a strong feeling of technical and mental superiority over the enemy. In spite of ample evidence as to enemy capabilities, most of our officers and men despised the enemy and felt themselves sure victors in all encounters under any circumstances. The net result of all this was a fatal lethargy of mind which induced a confidence without readiness, and a routine acceptance of outworn peacetime standards of conduct. I believe that this psychological factor, as a cause of our defeat, was even more important than the element of surprise”. (Emphasis mine.)
Our American Army forces encountered the same kind of defeat in North Africa, at Kasserine Pass, in early 1943, (my dad was there) when Maj Gen Lloyd Fredenhall was totally outmatched by German General Irwin Rommel, but who had never bothered to read Rommel’s book. He was quickly “relieved and replaced” by Gen George S Patton…who had.
Again, the losses were great, but the learning curve was simple, and as time went on, it’s speed almost immediate, no longer hesitating. All because of that original Prime Directive, “Finish it” issued by America’s final authority, on December 8, 1941.
Those same People issued the same directive in November 2016 to Congress because just like December 7th, 1941 it was the people who most quickly understood the magnitude of the existential assaults on their homeland. (We talk about that a lot here and at VassarBushmills.com.)
The People sounded a clear signal to the political class that any deviation from their declaration of war against the political class who have every intention of stripping away all their freedoms, from Hillary-Lite, to Bernie-Dark to Barack-Mean, would be met with a string of punishments reserved only to the People.
That process has begun.
While the Japanese were shooting up China, only a few paid attention to what they were intending. The American people paid little attention. But once they hit our homeland, without any nuance, without any shades of grey, the American people knew, and immediately ordered, “they started it, we finish it”, or in Admiral Halsey’s words, to make sure “the only place the Japanese language could be understood would be in Hell.”
I lived in Japan for three years, love the people and the culture, so am glad Halsey’s prayer was not realized. But I also knew the generation who agreed with Halsey; those who lost loved ones at Pearl, or Savo, or so-many other engagements, who also felt it their duty to send their loved ones to end this. Even in my small town their gold stars adorned their porch windows where I dropped their newspapers.
I don’t wish American Leftists, even their hard core, to be descended into Hell. Besides they’ve greased the slope pretty well all by themselves. But I do want Democrat-speak, their lies, their hate, to be a language known only in Hell, from whence it no doubt arose in the first place. And right now, even after a pretty good purging (ass-whopping) a lot of Republicans still use part of that playbook as if it were still December 6th.
We must remind those Republicans in Congress, at first gently, that they’ve already had their Savo Sound and the necessary changes must begin moving out smartly.
Many are still proving that every unlearned lesson outlined by Admiral Turner (above) are still unlearned today in a broad spectrum of the Republican Party leadership.
The fate of this Republic stands on the re-thinking of the Republican leadership or their quick replacement if they cannot be retrained. Whatever emerges, however arrived at, cannot contain a political elite with one foot still firmly planted in the swamp the people have ordered drained. The people are of one mind, and while the Republicans have always said they also are, clearly they’re not.
This must change, and quickly, or as I have outlined above, certain immutable laws apply. Donald Trump knows this already. The people have spoken, and if the GOP thinks “Finish it” is just a rhetorical device, well, at that point everything becomes a crap shoot, doesn’t it?