Brown Water Navy Monitor

The other day at a funeral luncheon I met a representative from the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). He was also a Vietnam War veteran so naturally I took the opportunity to do a brief interview and he was more than willing to oblige me.

As it turns out he was part of the Brown Water Navy, sailors that served mostly in the Mekong Delta region on various river type crafts. Some people are familiar with the Brown River Navy via the Swift Boat controversy that erupted during the 2004 presidential election. Then Senator John  Kerry was running for President against George Bush (43) and had made much of his Swift Boat record in Vietnam. Veteran’s groups, including Swift Boat veterans challenged Kerry’s record.

Swift Boat-Vietnam. In the movie Apocalypse Now a Swift Boat is featured.

Swift Boat-Vietnam.
In the movie Apocalypse Now a Swift Boat is featured.

Whatever the truth is regarding Kerry the Swift Boat is probably the most recognizable craft of the Brown Water Navy in Vietnam but it was not the only craft used by the US Navy.

The veteran at the luncheon served on a Monitor.

This took me by surprise especially as he explained the American Civil War connotation to the term Monitor!

USS Monitor-1862 famous for the Battle of Hampton Roads where the USS Monitor fought the CSS Virginia (Merrimac) to a draw. some called the Monitor a "cheese box on a raft."

USS Monitor-1862 famous for the Battle of Hampton Roads where the USS Monitor fought the CSS Virginia (Merrimac) to a draw. Some called the Monitor a “cheese box on a raft.”

According to the veteran who had pictures to prove it a Vietnam Era Monitor was a converted LCM.

LCM stands for Landing Craft Mechanized and as such was used in WW2 to transport vehicles and tanks to the beach. During the Vietnam War the Navy modified numerous LCM-8s to fulfill various other roles.

The veteran told me that his unit supported the Ninth Infantry Division in their river operations. He said their primary duty was to cover river landings by the Ninth ID who landed via ATCs (Armored Troop Carriers-a small boat that could carry a full platoon of infantry). Their particular LCM, now named a Monitor, featured a 105mm howitzer mounted on a deck that had been put over the former cargo area. The howitzer was in a turret which is why the LCM became a craft like the Civil  War Monitor. Secondary armament included 20mm cannon. The 105mm howitzer was the heaviest weapon mounted on a craft in the Brown Water Navy although some LCMs mounted flamethrowers.

Vietnam Era Monitor with the 105mm gun turret.

Vietnam Era Monitor with the 105mm gun turret.

The veteran went on to describe how Medivac helicopters had a hard time landing in the Mekong Delta because of the rice paddies and generally swampy conditions. The Navy then further modified other LCMs by installing flight decks for helicopters so that wounded soldiers could be ferried to MASH units. Converted LSMs were therefore responsible for saving the lives of many soldiers who needed treatment as quickly as possible.

Throughout modern military history troops have adapted old equipment to meet current needs and changing conditions. Converted LCMs and the sailors that served on them did valuable service in the Brown Water Navy.

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John Haslet, killed in action at Princeton


Haslet’s 1st Delaware Regiment of Continentals was one of the finest in the Revolutionary War. John Haslet was a clergyman and an excellent officer.

Originally posted on The Founder's Blog:

Colonel John Haslet was an American clergyman and soldier from Milford, in Kent County, Delaware. He was a veteran of the French and Indian War and an officer of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, serving as the first Colonel of the 1st Delaware Regiment. He was killed in action at the Battle of Princeton.

Haslet was born in Straw, Dungiven, County Londonderry in Ulster, Ireland about 1727, son of Joseph and Ann Dykes Haslet. As the eldest son, he attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland, earned his degree in divinity in 1749 and was ordained a Presbyterian minister at Ballykelly, County Londonderry, in 1752. About 1750, he married Shirley Stirling, daughter of the Presbyterian minister from Walworth, Ballykelly.[1] They had a daughter Mary, called Polly, born about 1752. Shirley most likely died in childbirth, as Polly was raised by her uncle, Samuel Haslet and followed her father…

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History for 2015

Like most book geeks I have a wish list on Amazon for the benefit of those wishing to bless me with books.

So, this year I received two books from the list plus a third not on the list. All three dealt with the Revolutionary War.


Two deal with the British side of the American Revolution. The first book, With Zeal and Bayonets Only by Matthew H. Spring illustrates the challenges the British Army faced in trying to put down a colonial rebellion.

The numbers are interesting. At no time did the British and German Regulars in North America number more than 35,000 soldiers spread out over a rather large area. Approximately 250,000 Americans took part in fighting these Regulars although most of them served in short term enlistments.

The war which was a civil war as well as a rebellion was fought over terrain quite unlike Central Europe. The British adopted their methods quite effectively and Spring’s book puts to death the myth of the stealthy American rifleman picking off mindless Redcoats as they plodded along in an unimaginative way.

I’m about 1/2 of the way through and find it interesting to see aspects of the Revolutionary War through the eyes of the British. Yes Britain lost but it sure was not for lack of commitment or bravery from the Redcoated Regulars.

The second book, Fusiliers by Mark Urban (also a British author) details the Revolutionary War experiences of the 23rd Regiment of Foot otherwise known as the Royal Welch Fusliers.

The Regiment is unique having been at Lexington and Concord and ending the war at Yorktown. According to the author he selected the 23rd because it served throughout the conflict and there is abundant information regarding it’s service. There are not many regimental histories from the period so this should be interesting.

The last book is David McCullough’s 1776. It was a 2005 national best seller and McCullough won a Pulitzer for it. For some inexplicable reason I did not purchase the title when it was hot but always kept it in the back of mind. Fortunately, my son’s mother-in-law picked it up at a used book sale and it became my third Revolutionary War read for 2015.

This is assuming that I do not get side-tracked by other books for other periods of history.

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Let’s Revisit the Crusades_God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark

I remember watching Hollywood’s epic production of the Kingdom of Heaven and wondering just how much was factual especially when it came to the much noted chivalry of Saladin. Was he really the very picture of the western knight in eastern garb and were the Templar’s as bad as the movie made them out to be?

If you saw the movie you might remember that Saladin, impressed with the bravery of Balian in his defense of Jerusalem allows the Christians to evacuate the city peaceably. This scene is supposed to be in contrast to the First Crusade when the crusaders massacred the Muslim inhabitants of the city (and they did). The message was and is the crusaders barbarous and the Muslims civilized.

The below scene is from the Director’s Cut of the movie and it features an apparition in the garb of a Knight Hospitaller who warns Bailian that a reckoning is coming because “the Muslims will never forget” an allusion to the above First Crusade and the massacre of the Muslims.

So what really happened? Was Saladin the chivalrous Muslim or was he little different from other men of his age, both east and west?

Historically Saladin destroyed a large crusader army at Hattin in 1187. Thousands of crusaders died in the battle. All the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller who were captured were beheaded and all other captives enslaved. In the aftermath of the battle most of the crusader cities and fortresses were over run and Saladin headed to Jerusalem. This is how Rodney Stark author of God’s Battalion’s-The Case for the Crusades records what happened next:

Jerusalem was crowded with refugees from other cities already fallen to the Muslims: “for every man there were fifty women and children. There were only two knights in Jerusalem. So, arms were distributed to every able-bodied man-although most knew little or nothing how to use them. In late September, Saladin’s army arrived and surrounded the city. After several days of preparation the Muslims attacked the walls and met furious resistance from the tiny band of untrained defenders. Some of the Christian fighters wanted to charge out through the breach and fight to the death. But cooler heads prevailed, noting that only by surrender could they prevent all the women and children from becoming slaves. So they asked Saladin for surrender terms. He demanded a ransom of ten gold pieces for each man to be spared (with two women or ten children counted as one man). As for the poor, Saladin agreed to free seven thousand of them in return for thirty thousand bezants. That left thousands without hope. If, in the end, there was no massacre about half of the city’s Latin Christian residents were marched away to the slave markets. pp. 197-98 God’s Battalion’s, Rodney Stark

Not exactly the picture one would get from the movie. After the Battle of Hattin all Templars and Hospitallers were beheaded and the other soldiers and knights sold as slaves. After the siege of Jerusalem at least half the city’s Latin Christians are sold into slavery because they were too poor to pay ransom. Chivalry?

In the movie Saladin is portrayed as he almost always has been in the west, the perfect example of chivalry while the crusaders have been portrayed as barbarous and one of the primary reasons the Muslims in general hate the west to this very day.

Now if Saladin is held up as the virtuous ideal that he clearly falls short of what are we make of Baibars the First?

Who was Baibars? It’s not surprising you have not heard of Baibars? If Saladin has been enshrined as the chivalrous Muslim then Baibars would win the award for being the most barbarous if western historians were the slightest bit honest and fair in the their reporting on the Crusades (which lasted for about 200 years!)

Saladin’s Egyptian dynasty died out around 1254 when the last sultan of Egypt was murdered by his own Mamluk slaves. One of the Mamluks who had helped defeat Louis of France and Fifth Crusade was Baibars. A Mamluk was not the name of an Arab or Turkish tribe. It was a designation that meant “to be owned.”

Mamluk slave soldier. They were still around in Napoleon's time and a number of them served in his personal Guard.

Mamluk slave soldier. They were still around in Napoleon’s time and a number of them served in his personal Guard.

Mamluks were enslaved or purchased as children by Egyptian rulers from their homeland in the Caucasus and raised to be soldiers, a skill they excelled at. Because their area of origin was the Caucasus it was common for a Mamluk to look more like a westerner than a Turk or Arab.  Baibars apparently was a decent general and became the new sultan after his fellow Mamluks murdered the last sultan from Saladin’s line. After consolidating his power Baibars embarked on a campaign to retake all the Christian cities and fortresses remaining in the Holy Land including the last big one, the City of Antioch.

The first town to fall was the small port of Arsuf that was defended by 270 Knights Hospitallers who fought with their usual tenacity and courage. Baibars was rebuffed  in his attacks so he proposed a surrender promising the surviving Hospitallers they would go free. The Hospitallers accepted the offer and were promptly enslaved.

Knight Hospitaller, knight of the hospital

Knight Hospitaller, knight of the hospital

Next on Baibars list was the Knights Templar stronghold at Safed, Rather than accept the large amount of casualties it took to take a castle defended by Templars (or Hospitallers) Baibars offered the Templars the chance to surrender and go in peace to the City of Acre. The Templars accepted and when they marched out they were captured and beheaded. Baibars then turned on the Christian village of Qara killing all the adults and enslaving the children.

Knight Templar or knight of the temple

Knight Templar or knight of the temple

[It should be pointed out that the military convention of the time for both sides was that if a city or fortress surrendered there would be no rape or murder and people would be allowed to leave unmolested. This was done to encourage surrender because the casualty rate among the attackers could be and often was substantial. If an army was forced to storm a city or fortress then no such mercy could be expected. This explains the somewhat lenient terms Saladin gave Jerusalem and it explains the crusader's massacre of Jerusalem since the defenders did not surrender for terms. Baibars therefore was outside the norm promising what was military convention and then breaking his word. As a point aside, this same Baibars became cozy with the Mongol Golden Horde many of whom converted to Islam. When it came to barbarity the Mongols had few equals.)

Next, Baibars attacked Acre but found it too strong. Instead he contented himself by killing every Christian outside the city he could find and surrounding Acre with their decapitated bodies. Acre did not surrender. Hardly a surprise given Baibar's growing reputation.

Acre would fall to a successor of Baibars in 1291 A.D.

Acre would fall to a successor of Baibars in 1291 A.D.

After Baibars moved on to slaughter the inhabitants of Jaffa he proceeded on to Antioch, a city and fortress. The Christians did not have enough men to effectively man the walls and negotiations with Baibars went no where because the defenders knew he could not be trusted to keep his word should they surrender.

The Muslims broke through the defenses and what followed was the single greatest massacre of the crusading era, a massacre that even shocked Muslim chroniclers for its brutality. Baibars wrote a letter to Count Bohemend VI the ruler of Antioch who had been away when Baibars attacked. In the letter Baibars bragged of his brutality. It is true the city resisted but on the other hand given Baibars track record what option did they have other than fight?

Stark in his book God’s Battalions tells us why no one has ever heard of Baibars. Western histories of the Crusades give it scant attention. Steven Runciman (whom I’ve read) gave it eight lines. Hans Eberhard Mayer gave it one and Christopher Tyerman who gave pages and pages to the massacre of Muslims in Jerusalem in the First Crusade devoted 12 words to Baibars atrocity. Karen Armstrong, an apologist for Islam if ever there was one blamed the crusaders since they presented such a dire threat to Islam. She also noted that Baibars was a patron of the arts as if that somehow shows him more civilized than his enemies. pp.231-232, Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions

I’ve always been a little amazed by how the west, as a whole, seems to buy the notion that the Muslims during the time of the Crusades were innocent victims of the imperialist west and the Crusades were nothing more than a land grab for adventurous knights and royalty. During the two Iraq Wars hostile Muslims made much use of the term “crusaders” and the Iranians continue to do so as if they have been the victims of western aggression since the Crusades. I’ll say this, they make more effective use of propaganda than we do and they do with the assistance of an ignorant media and historians who should know better than to give one lop-sided side of the story.


Stark in God’s Battalions dispels much of the misinformation in 250 or so pages of well-researched facts. My example of Saladin and Baibars are two and at least in the case of Saladin someone who many people could at least identify.

My purpose in bringing this to my blog is not to defend crusader atrocities or justify them. It is to hint at the fact there was more to the Crusades than popularly believed and that both sides tended to behave as the products of the age they lived in. The example of besieged cities is a good case in point. If a city surrendered they could expect some level of mercy, if not, they could expect massacre and atrocity. This was true in the west and the east. It had little to do with chivalry and much to do with pragmatism. There was no Geneva Convention in 1100 A.D.

I recommend God’s Battalions-The Case for the Crusades, Harper Collins, 2009



US Threatens Denmark

As the world now knows the Danish PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, shamelessly enticed President Barack Obama and British PM David Cameron at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

Upon his return to the US the President ordered US warships to the North Sea to threaten the Copenhagen government and have it turn over their flirtatious PM to US officials.

English: Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Ministe...

The US Navy Seals have been prepped should the Danes refuse to hand the PM over. In such a case the Seals will capture Mrs. Thorning-Schmidt and bring her back to the US where she will be interrogated by former President Bill Clinton.

When asked about their mission the Seal Team Leader replied that they've had tougher missions but noted that the Danes were once Vikings so it could be a tough extraction.

When asked about their mission the Seal Team Leader replied that they’ve had tougher missions but noted that the Danes were once Vikings so it could be a tough extraction.

When asked about the incident President Obama said, “let me be perfectly clear, wars have started over less and that woman made me look bad and insulted the US. I hope the Danes are not stupid enough to cross my red line by refusing to hand her over peaceably.”

It remains to be seen if the Danish military will resist the US Navy.

It remains to be seen if the Danish military will resist the US Navy.

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Obama Crosses the Rubicon


A reblog from my other blog Church, State, Faith and Culture

Originally posted on Church, State, Faith and Culture:

I believe that the founders of our country had a measure of genius and most of that came from being keen observers of the past. They were educated men with a grasp of history as well as students of government of states long ago that had passed into the dust bin of history. They also seemed to understand human nature quite well which compelled them to create a system of checks and balances to prevent one faction of government becoming too powerful and tyrannical.

I'm Thomas Jefferson and if I could I'd roll over in my grave.

I’m Thomas Jefferson and if I could I’d roll over in my grave.

Perhaps the government they studied most was that of ancient Rome.

Rome was a republic before it became an empire. It wasn’t a republic in the same sense the US is supposed to be a republic but it did have republican ideals in an early development form.

For example, the Roman Legions under…

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