Speaking of D Magazine contributors who do interesting work outside our pages, Brendan McNally sends along his most recent story for the Defense Media Network. It’s about how much trouble the Navy has trying to avoid getting blown up by mines. Because:
A war starts and U.S. ships find themselves on the wrong end of enemy mines. Ships get sunk and sailors die, but even more importantly, the Navy loses control of the sea. The reason is that during peacetime, the Navy’s mine countermeasures force was allowed to deteriorate. Quickly, the Navy builds up a mine countermeasures force that is second to none and it performs brilliantly. But once the war ends, the minemen who don’t become civilians seek more career-enhancing billets elsewhere in the service. Within a few years, all but a few of the minesweepers have been scrapped or sold and the hard-earned institutional knowledge forgotten. But then another war starts, and the Navy again lacks a viable mine countermeasures capability and the cycle starts all over again.
You want an example? Brendan has one for you:
In October 1950, an American-led, 250-ship United Nations task force tried to send an invasion force ashore at Wonsan. But then they discovered there were more than 3,000 mines floating between them and the beach. Minesweepers were sent in but they proved unequal to the task. After three minesweepers were sunk and more than a hundred lives lost, the invasion was called off. … [T]he task force commander, Rear Adm. Allen E. Smith, famously lamented: “We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre-World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ.”
If you’re one of those people (I’m one) who can’t flip past the History channel without getting sucked in to whatever they’re broadcasting about WWII, you’ll find the whole story fascinating. Recommended.