Korea leads me to Rodney Collins. Rodney was the brother of my best friend Marcellus Collins (from 1970 until he died around 2002). Marcellus was from Dania, Florida — outside of Miami. His Uncle was Wester Sweet, one of the first African American attorneys in Santa Clara County.
In 1971 Rodney came through San Jose, CA. He had been deployed to South Korea and in 1974 Rodney was Honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. See, Rodney’s “claim to fame” will be that he was one of the last men to have been drafted by the U.S. His number came up. The draft was eliminated a few days later.
He served in South Korea. He told me the day he hit San Jose, CA, over too many beers, that all he and the others were in South Korea were canon fodder. If anything happened, everyone knew (and he knew for certain) that he was dead. With my mother’s nephew’s experience, Rodney’s experience shapes my viewpoint of Korea. That thought leads me to the ship wrecks the U.S. Navy has had over the past months. South Korea, North Korea and the U.S.
I served in the U.S. Navy. I chose that branch of the service as a matter of survival after being drafted. I figured I’d have a higher probability of surviving warfare in the U.S. Navy, more than the U.S. Marines and definitely the U.S. Army. Alas, for me, the armed forces lived up to their reputation as being a place where you’re going to get screwed over. The reputation was that the recruiter will promise you what you say you want, but that means absolutely nothing. So, from my perspective, I believed nothing. And, sure enough … although I always wanted to serve on a ship, I never did. That’s right, three years + in the U.S. Navy and I never set foot on a war ship.
I met guys who did. The best ship, I was told, was an aircraft carrier. ‘It’s a city,’ one of my shipmates said. ‘You can get anything you want on a carrier. Dangerous, too. But, the galley is always open.’
There were stories about guys who didn’t get along. Racists or simply real jerks. Sometimes, they just disappeared. “Fell overboard,” I was told. Fantale. Nobody knew anything or saw anything, except the guy wasn’t accounted for when the muster occurred. The narrative was much like the stories of Fragging ROTC gung-ho order adventurers who everyone in the platoon knew was out to get everyone killed.
All of that gets me to the games played at sea. Sometimes, the game is chicken: who is going to change course based on what maritime rule is in effect and who is going to disregard it.
This year I had to tell a cop, tactfully, that he didn’t know what he was talking about in condemning Obama’s “weak” response to Russian aggression at sea. He was talking loudly to another cop about Obama. The cop’s patriotism was glowing red. And, overhearing his insults, I asked him what he knew about being on a warship, and whether or not he’d served in the armed forces or on the open seas.
I had to let him understand he was ignorant of reality. I ended my conversation by letting him know what I heard from those who did: “They’re always playing chicken.”
What does that have to do with Rodney Collins? Nothing, really, except the tensions over North Korean and the collision of two U.S. Navy destroyers (latest and greatest multi-million dollar war machines) makes me wonder exactly what’s going on?
My perspective, as a civilian without any maritime experience, is that the U.S. Navy captains must have been anticipating the behavior of other ships, and acting accordingly. That means some assumptions were made. And, as you know to assume is to make and “ass” our of “u” and “me.”
What I don’t understand is that with all the technology, the computing power and radars and personal watch or observations, how collision was not anticipated.
Sure, there are currents, wind, mechanical response or failure unforeseen at the time and other stresses. Still, collision avoidance must be fundamental to the operation of a vessel. In warfare, their are both enemy and friendly vessels that will be encountered. There must be a way to keep track (regardless of the number of vessels) and know friend from foe, and avoid unintended collisions.
So, the question, operationally is: What in hell happened? And, how did it happen a second time? There must be something related to operations and tactics used in the operation that is common to both collisions of the destroyers. After all, a destroyer is the fastest, most maneuverable and lethal weapons of naval warfare.
These are serious questions I think will be answered in time. I thought about these matters in relationship to North and South Korea, geopolitical entities I can always look at and point to as examples of human insanity and proclivities.
The “north” hates the “south.” “White” hates “black.” “Heterosexual” hates “homosexual.” “English” hate “Spanish.” “Catholics” hate “Protestants.” “Arabs” hate “Jews.” Any and every excuse to hate and kill exists. It doesn’t matter. Factor our one noun and somebody will find another reason to hate and kill. “Red” versus “Blue.” Someone will always find something to fight over and draw the line in the sands of time.
I write all of this looking at Trump’s conduct and wondering who will get this all under control.