With the commissioning of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise, the world’s largest and fastest super-carrier, able to remain at sea as long as she had food for her crew and jet fuel for her birds, the U.S. Navy needed a group of fast escorts able to keep up with this ship and the follow-on 1970s era Nimitz class of CVNs.
In 1961, to match the Enterprise, the Navy had exactly one nuclear-powered cruiser, the huge 721-foot long, 15,500-ton USS Long Beach (CGN-9) and one nuclear-powered destroyer, the 9100-ton USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25). These three ships formed the all-nuclear-powered Task Force 1 and in 1964 circumnavigated the globe without refueling– going around the world in sixty-five days as part of Operation Sea Orbit.
Well in the meantime one more nuclear destroyer, the 8500-ton (the smallest U.S. Naval nuclear powered surface combatant ever built) USS Truxtun (DLGN-35) commissioned in 1967 and two follow-on nuclear cruisers USS California (CGN-36) and USS South Carolina (CGN-37) were birthed out in the 70s.
This led to one final class of cruisers, the magnificent 11,600-ton Virginias (Virgina, Texas and Missississpi) who were completed by 1980. This, along with the re-designation of Bainbridge and Truxton to cruisers, gave the Navy a grand total of 8 nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers, or one per each nuclear powered carrier in the Navy by December 1995 when USS John C Stennis (CVN-74) was commissioned.
However, as soon as this parity was achieved, it was gone. Truxton, in fact, had struck on Sept 11, 1995, even before Stennis commissioned, while Long Beach had likewise done so on May Day of that year. Bainbridge lasted a minute longer, being struck and decommissioned on 13 September 1996. The four Virginias, newest of the fleet, were all decommissioned by 1998– tragically less than twenty years old at the time and among the most effective anti-air ships in the world. California and South Carolina went hand in hand down the tunnel in 1999 as sister-ships should, the end of an era.
All were disposed of through recycling although some parts, such as the main mast from the Mississippi, are preserved. I visited the “Big Miss” on her last port call, in Pascagoula, just before she was deactivated in 1996 and her crew were somber. After all, its not often that you scrap an 18-year old battlecruiser.
So I saw this instantly classic image from among hundreds circulating from the ‘I Will Not Comply‘ rally of gun-rights supporters in Olympia, Washington after the narrow passage of ballot initiative I-594 which expands background checks to include most firearms transfers.
While I have to admit I dig the swagger of the two gentlemen here, something else besides the PacNorthWest attitude caught my eye.
Look at the bolts of their rifles.
They are both SKS’s.
Heavily modified SKS’s including one with a bullpup stock (and EoTech!), but Simonovs none the less.
Today’s modern man from time to time can benefit from having a little protection of the centerfire variety nearby. After all, some days can be more trying than others can and it’s in those moments that a concealed firearm can prove the difference between simply a bad day and a horrible one. I generally try to wear suits as little as possible but still wind up having to don them from time to time for business meetings, church services, weddings and funerals. This leaves me with often having to change my carry option to better adhere to the cut of my slacks and jacket.
With that in mind, we look at some of the best carry handguns on the market with an eye to an autoloading gun that goes well with a suit or otherwise office casual.
Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors and the like that produce them.
Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Paul Rizhenko
Born in 1970 in the Northwestern Russian city of Kaluga, Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko grew up as a normal kid in the Soviet Union. He served in the Soviet then later Russian military 1988-1990, as part of an elite guards airborne unit then at age 20 entered the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture for a six year course of study that left him a professor of art. Starting in 1997 he taught at the academy focusing on architecture, restoration and composition.
However, he soon took to painting historical military scenes, typically Russian in origin.
While he painted hundreds of these over the next two decades, the most striking were from the 1914-20 time period encompassing the World War I-Russian Revolution-Civil War era.
This included his haunting “Triptych: The Russian Century” series of images of the last Imperial Family.
His medium was oil on canvas, and his style one of striking realism, using direct and haunting stares from the subjects to encapsulate the moment. In many ways, he emulated the famous Russian war artist Vasili Verestchagin, who he even depicted in his last moments.
In poor health at just age 44, he donated all of his paintings to the Russian government before he died of a stroke in the summer of 2014. He is criticized by some as being a revisionist of the Monarchist era history of the Old Russian Empire, and some of the depictions he put on canvas may never have happened, but you have to admit, he knew his way around a brush.
Currently his paintings hang in the Russia Museum of the Armed Forces, the Russian Duma, the Sate Historical Museum and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. For more information, his gallery is still online although functionality may not be what it once was following his untimely death.
Turning 99 today is one Delmer Berg.
Among many accomplishments in life, Mr. Berg was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, an all-volunteer group that went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War to fight against the Hitler and Mussolini-backed forces of Gen. Franco. Among its members were Mississippi gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty, screenwriter Alvah Bessie (Objective Burma), composer Conlon Nancarrow, and novelist William Herrick. Both Hemingway and Orwell bounced into these hard-fighting anti-fascists in Spain during the war.
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade suffered over 30% casualties in the three years of war fighting the fascists in Spain. Berg was one of these, suffering wounds during a German air raid.
Berg, who had bought out his U.S. Army contract to go to Spain in 1937, rejoined the Army in 1939 after Franco’s victory, becoming a member of the 389th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AW) Battalion and seeing service in the Pacific Theater of Operations in WWII. That unit saw a good bit of combat, including the invasion of Morotai.
Sadly, Mr. Berg is the last surviving Abraham Lincoln Brigade Volunteer.
Saw this really neat article over at NPR today on how the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) started their now famous Santa Tracker program by complete accident.
Col. Harry Shoup’s secret red-phone hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD, rang one day in Dec.1955 and when he answered it:
“And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ “
His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.
“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’ And the mother got on and said, ‘You haven’t seen the paper yet? There’s a phone number to call Santa. It’s in the Sears ad.’ Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus.”
Ever seen Bladerunner? Perhaps the best film adaptation of a Phillip K Dick book? (I’m a huge Dick fan…wait that didn’t come out right) anyway, the mega city filled with people in a labyrinthine expanse of dystopian future in that tale actually came close to being a reality in the 1980s in Hong Kong.
Called the Kowloon Walled City, it was originally a Chinese Fort on the outskirts of Hong Kong. In 1947 the Brits decided they wanted no more to do with it, and the Chinese largely took the same approach which meant it became something of a buccaneer’s den of sorts where there was no law, no government, no control, no zoning.
This led to a sort of controlled anarchy for the next forty years in which over 50,000 people lived in the increasingly decaying buildings crammed in the space of a city block. As you can imagine, crime, prostitution, unlicensed dentists, and havens for everything on the outskirts of legal existed and thrived.
Still, some called it home.
However the Hong Kong government eventually moved in and tore the place down in 1993 at a cost of $2.7 billion which included buying out the population. Its now a park.