Thinking about War and how we “see the enemy”


I started recently contemplating “Wars” and how we think about them.  What reference points do we use when we think about World War Two (the Second Act of WWI), Korea, Vietnam and the War on Terror?  In WWII, we think of our foes primarily in two ways.  Our enemies were citizens of specific countries: Germany, Italy and Japan, and we think of them primarily that way. We fought the Gerries, Krauts, Japs, etc.  We also think of them in terms of their socio-political organizations: Nazis, Fascists, Imperialists.  In other words, by Ideology.

The two major Cold War wars that we asked our sons to fight in:  Korea and Vietnam were proxy wars in which by helping our allies, we were fighting Communism (Russia and China.)  In early days of our involvement in Vietnam, Kennedy’s advisors pushed hard the “Domino Theory” that if we didn’t stop Communism by helping South Vietnam stop Ho ChiMinh and the North Korean insurgency, well, then, where would it stop?  (If you’re as ancient as I am, perhaps you remember the graphics and map that Walter Cronkite showed on his nightly news to illustrate the impending fall of the dominoes.)

In these two wars, our enemy was not a country, but rather, an Ideology.

Fast forward to the War on Terrorism.  Most of the terrorists who tipped this country upside-down by their acts on 9-11 were Saudi Arabians.  We didn’t declare war on Saudi Arabia.  We did go to war with a coalition of allies in Desert Storm; once again as troops supporting our allies.  Subsequent military actions, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Afghanistan, in which many of our brave sons and daughters have perished and many more were seriously wounded (in body and mind) fighting to protect our freedom; the enemy has been cast in a different way.

Unlike previous wars we fought against other Countries or Ideologies, we now primarily see the enemy in the War on Terrorism in religious terms.  (I am pointing this out as an observation – not making a judgment on the rightness or wrongness of such thinking.)  We now mostly view this as a war on Radical Islam.    We have thrown a VERY big tent over this fight  –  because Muslims number more than 1.8 billion people worldwide (one quarter of the world’s population) and they belong to the second largest religion in the world, right behind Christianity.

I don’t know what to make of all this except that our notion of the enemy over the last one hundred years has changed as coming from a “certain Country”, to coming from a “certain Political System” to now as coming from a “certain Religion.”




Over the last year or so, several factors that influence this web/blogsite have occurred / changed.  As you probably know, we were hacked  –  the attacks came in through our email links, causing many headaches for Bill, as he worked diligently to build new protections.  As a result, we had to suspend auto alerts of new posts to those folks who had requested them.

We also put up another site about Task Force 58 / 38. ( – a work in place, but “unfinished.”

At Bill’s prodding, we put up a Facebook Group Page USS Boston CA-69; there are currently 78 members.  Oftentimes, I post the blogs from the original website ( onto the Facebook page  –  but not always.  Sometimes there is material that appears in one place but not  the other.

Which brings me to the final bit: me.  Regular readers of this site will have noticed my blogs have been less frequent of late.  The reason:  I have been immersed in writing something that I’ve wanted to do for 30 years.  I side-tracked it for many reasons (not the least of which was the Boston books and the websites).   I won’t reveal what it is exactly  –  but it involves a piece of colonial history that “changed everything.”  I have not walked away from the Boston, but until I finish what I started, my contributions will be less frequent.



carrier planes


A recap of Boston’s station in the task force(s):   Task Force 58 (and 38) was organized into a flotilla of warships.  There were destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers  –  typically around 100 ships.  In order for a large Task Force to carry out it’s objectives, it was broken down into smaller “task groups.”  Each task group was built around several carriers, and each carrier was surrounded by “screens”  (a screen = a group of ships whose purpose was to protect the carriers.)  Carriers were surrounded by a screen of “capital ships”  –  (battle wagons and cruisers), capital ships were screened by a ring of destroyers – first line of defense against enemy ships and aircraft.  A typical task group had 4 aircraft carriers, surrounded by a ring of large capital ships ( usually 6 or more), surrounded by a “picket screen” of destroyers – usually 12 or more.)

For example:  TG 38.1 (near the end of Philippines Operations and through “Operation Gratitude”  –  South China Sea and French IndoChina) consisted of 4 aircraft carriers (heavy carriers Yorktown, Wasp and Essex, and light carrier Cowpens), screened by 2 battleships (Massachusetts and South Dakota), 3 heavy cruisers (Boston, Baltimore and San Francisco), 2 light cruisers (Santa Fe and Flint), screened by two destroyer divisions (Cushing, Uhlmann, Colahan, Halsey Powell, Benham, Yarnall, Twining, Wedderburn, Stockham, DeHaven, Mansfield, Lyman K Swenson, Collett, Maddox, Blue, Brush, Taussig and Samuel N. Moore.   29 warships, by my count.  25 of those ships were there to protect the carriers.

Every ship’s job was to play a role in securing the viability of the main asset in the war in the Pacific: carrier planes.

Grumman F6F Hellcat as it comes to land on the Yorktown.
Formation of Navy Hellcats




Just the facts, ma’am.


Everyone who knows anything about WWII knows about Japanese Internment Camps.  Everyone reading this post, I’m sure, has an opinion about this chapter in our history: some think it was the right thing to do (under the circumstance), others think it was the entirely wrong thing to do.  I’m not writing this to fish for your feelings on the matter.  The fact is  –  it happened and it doesn’t matter one iota whether we think it was right or wrong.  That’s the thing about history.  Stuff happened.  Lots of stuff, over long periods of time.  And stuff is repeated – over and over and over again.

So, the Japanese camps . . .  Let’s go way back in the Way Back Machine (Sherman).  Now, this is a long and very complicated story in our history, so I’m gonna condense the hell out of it.   In Colonial New England,  in 1675 to be exact, there were two groups of people: Natives and European settlers. The Europeans in New England were almost entirely from England – a trend that started 50 years earlier with the first Pilgrims.  The Natives, while all being Algonquin speakers (from scores of tribes) could be broken down into two groups:  Indians still living in the “traditional ways”, and Indians who were converted to Christianity, the so-called “Praying Indians.” Those missionized Indians were relocated to “Praying Villages” and were encouraged to “live like English.”  The most notable village: Natick, Massachusetts.

Peaceful co-existence that glued colonists and Indians together from the time of Massasoit and the Pilgrims unraveled completely over 50 years, culminating in Massasoit’s own son “Philip” leading a devastating armed rebellion against the colonies.  The Colonies were immediately rattled, and military and civilian leaders scrambled to do everything they could to give themselves an edge.  One solution:  they rounded up all the Praying Indians, fearing they would help or join the natives, and led them off to “containment camps” across southern New England, in the late fall of 1675.  The most notorious was Deer Island in Boston Harbor, a treeless island onto which at least 500 Indian men, women and children were dumped without any food and very little shelter.  Christian missionary John Eliot was perhaps, the only colonist to visit, and he was terribly horrified by what he saw.  Lacking food, shelter, clothing and clean drinking water, most died within the first few months  of “containment.”