Ben Carson Shows True Image of Conservatism

Jonah Goldberg shows the true image of Republicans as does the candidacy of Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Republicans are the inclusive, “big tent” party. This is the progressives’ nightmare.

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From Jonah Goldberg.

Here’s something you may not know: Dr. Ben Carson is black.

Of course, I’m being a little cute here. The only way you wouldn’t know he’s black is if you were blind and only listened to the news.

For instance, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” — a program that often serves as a kind of artisanal boutique of inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom — host Joe Scarborough expressed consternation over Carson’s popularity. “I just don’t get it,” Scarborough said more than once. Remarking on some Carson ad he didn’t like, Scarborough said, “This guy is up 20 points in Iowa? . . . It’s baffling.”

Co-host Mika Brzezinski kept saying, “I just don’t get the Ben Carson . . .” before trailing off into in articulate exasperation.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson took a plausible stab at why Carson is popular. “They like him, they like him,” he repeated, referring to conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere who admire Carson’s dignified and soft-spoken demeanor.

True enough; Carson has the highest favorables of any candidate in the GOP field.

But what’s remarkable is that at no point in this conversation did anyone call attention to the fact that Carson is an African-American. Indeed, most analysis of Carson’s popularity from pundits focuses on his likable personality and his sincere Christian faith. But it’s intriguingly rare to hear people talk about the fact that he’s black.

One could argue he’s even more authentically African-American than Barack Obama, given that Obama’s mother was white, and he was raised in part by his white grandparents. In his autobiography, Obama writes at length about how he grew up outside the traditional African-American experience — in Hawaii and Indonesia — and how he consciously chose to adopt a black identity when he was in college.

Meanwhile, Carson grew up in Detroit, the son of a very poor, very hardworking single mother. His tale of rising from poverty to become the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital is one of the most inspiring rags-to-riches stories of the last half-century. (Cuba Gooding Jr. played Carson in the movie about his life.) He was a towering figure in the black community in Baltimore and nationally — at least until he became a Republican politician.

And that probably explains why his race seems to be such a non-issue for the media. The New York Times is even reluctant to refer to him as a doctor. The Federalist reports that Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, is three times more likely to be referred to as “Dr.” in the Times as brain surgeon Carson. If the Times did that to a black Democrat, charges of racism would be thick in the air.

Or consider the aforementioned Eugene Robinson, who routinely sees racial bias in Republicans. “I can’t say that the people holding ‘Take Back Our Country’ signs were racists,” he wrote in 2014, recalling a tea party rally four years earlier, “but I know this rallying cry arose after the first African-American family moved into the White House.”

Wrong. Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry all used the slogan incessantly when George W. Bush was in office.

How strange it must be for people who comfort themselves with the slander that the GOP is a cult of organized racial hatred that the most popular politician among conservatives is a black man. Better to ignore the elephant in the room than account for such an inconvenient fact. The race card is just too valuable politically and psychologically for liberals who need to believe that their political opponents are evil.

Carson’s popularity isn’t solely derived from his race, but it is a factor. The vast majority of conservatives resent the fact that Democrats glibly and shamelessly accuse Republicans of bigotry — against blacks, Hispanics and women — simply because they disagree with liberal policies (which most conservatives believe hurt minorities).

Yet conservatives also refuse to adopt those liberal policies just to prove they aren’t bigots. Carson — not to mention Carly Fiorina and Hispanics Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — demonstrates that there’s no inherent contradiction between being a minority (or a woman) and supporting conservative principles. And that fact is just too terrible for some liberals to contemplate.

America’s Weakening Military Strength Is Terrifying

Military Readiness: Pretty much everyone — even ex-state senator Barack Obama — says a president has no greater responsibility than national defense, protecting the homeland, its people and interests abroad. So why isn’t he?

Americans have learned over time and especially since 2009 that what an administration says are its priorities and goals may be mere words.

Remember those millions of new jobs promised for the summer of 2010? Or the $2,500 in health care savings every family would enjoy with ObamaCare that have turned into $3,000 more in expenses?

So, it’s particularly disturbing to read the Heritage Foundation’s latest annual Index of U.S. Military Strength. We’d make some kind of timely Halloween reference here, but the nation’s eroded, corroded military strength and capabilities documented therein are beyond scary. They’re terrifying. A few disheartening examples:

• From 566,000 in 2011, the Army has been cut to 490,000 on the way to 450,000 and possibly 420,000.

• Under severe budget constraints, the Air Force is retiring older planes more expensive to operate. But their replacements are late coming into service. KC-135s comprise 87% of a vital flying tanker fleet, but average 50 years old, way past 100 in human years.

• The Air Force’s tactical aircraft squadrons will soon number 26, down from 133 in the 1990s.

• The Navy stretches deployments to cover gaps. It’s one carrier short into next year. Vice Chief of Operations Michelle Howard says, “Navy readiness is at its lowest point in many years.”

• The Marine Corps, the crisis strike force, has fallen from 292,000 to 184,000. Fewer to come.

It’s one thing to not recruit foot-soldiers. It’s another to forcibly retire (even prosecute) career generals, as Obama’s done. Worse, he’s forced out hundreds of career majors and colonels. That wipes out an entire cohort of experienced officers who would have been our generals of the future.

A variety of domestic fiscal and political forces have combined over time with doubtful assumptions, wishful evaluations and lazy rationalizations to downgrade across the board the military capabilities of the country’s all-volunteer forces in size, equipment and reach.

No wonder the world’s dark sides, including Russia, China, ISIS and North Korea, take advantage of that voluntary vacuum to escalate their own rise. The U.S. can no longer handle a variety of global threats, even if the current president had the will to do so.

Remember Obama’s 2013 National Defense University speech proclaiming victory over declining terrorist forces and the end of continual wars? There’s a problem with such wishful thinking: It takes two to not have a war. It also takes two sides to reach and honor that new agreement on nuclear weapons.

Recall Obama dismissing ISIS as a JV team? That got him through a few months of news cycles. But ISIS didn’t get the memo and spread its tentacles of death far and wide before he reluctantly faced its reality. Even then, his “strategy” was a half-hearted, ineffective bombing campaign that’s produced only stalemates. And even Canada has quit that effort as useless.

The good news is Obama’s reign of error has just 446 days left; the bad news is 446 long days and nights left.

We echo the haunting words of former Vice President Cheney, who last April observed:

“If you had somebody as president who wanted to take America down, who wanted to fundamentally weaken our position in the world and reduce our capacity to influence events, turn our back on allies and encourage our adversaries, it would look exactly like what Barack Obama’s doing.”

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True Story of Jackie Robinson’s Signing by Branch Rickey

Jackie Robinson’s Signing: The Real Story

Jules Tygiel and I collaborated on this story forSPORT magazine in June 1988. Subsequently it appeared in SABR’s The National Pastime, in several editions of Total Baseball, and in Jules’s Extra Bases: Reflections on Jackie Robinson, Race, and Baseball History. Despite this drumbeat of evidence, the legend surrounding Jackie Robinson’s signing has persisted. Jules and I believed that the real story was not only more interesting than the schoolboy version but also made Jackie’s pioneering mission even more heroic.

October 1945. As the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs faced off in the World Series, photographer Maurice Terrell arrived at an almost deserted minor-league park in San Diego, California, to carry out a top-secret assignment: to surreptitiously photograph three black baseball players.

Terrell shot hundreds of motion-picture frames of Jackie Robinson and the two other players. A few photos appeared in print but the existence of the additional images remained unknown for four decades. In April 1987, as Major League Baseball prepared a lavish commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Robinson’s debut, I unearthed a body of contact sheets and unprocessed film from a previously unopened carton donated in 1954 by Look magazine to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. This discovery triggered an investigation which led to startling revelations regarding Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and his signing of Jackie Robinson to shatter baseball’s longstanding color line; the relationship between these two historic figures; and the stubbornly controversial issue of black managers in baseball.

The popular “frontier” image of Jackie Robinson as a lone gunman facing down a hostile mob has always dominated the story of the integration of baseball. But new information related to the Terrell photos reveals that while Robinson was the linchpin in Branch Rickey’s strategy, in October 1945 Rickey intended to announce the signing of not just Jackie Robinson, but of several other Negro League stars. Political pressure, however, forced Rickey’s hand, thrusting Robinson alone into the spotlight. And in 1950, after only three years in the major leagues, Robinson pressed Rickey to consider him for a position as field manager or front-office executive, raising an issue with which the baseball establishment grappled long after.

The story of these revelations began with the discovery of the Terrell photographs. The photos show a youthful, muscular Robinson in a battered cap and baggy uniform fielding from his position at shortstop, batting with a black catcher crouched behind him, trapping a third black player in a rundown between third and home, and sprinting along the basepaths more like a former track star than a baseball player. All three players wore uniforms emblazoned with the name “Royals.” A woman with her back to the action is the only figure visible amid the vacant stands. The contact sheets are dated October 7, 1945.

The photos were perplexing. The momentous announcement of Jackie Robinson’s signing with the Montreal Royals took place on October 23, 1945. Before that date his recruitment had been a tightly guarded secret. Why, then, had a Look photographer taken such an interest in Robinson two weeks earlier? Where had the pictures been taken? And why was Robinson already wearing a Royals uniform?

I called Jules Tygiel, the author of Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, to see if he could shed some light on the photos. Tygiel knew nothing about them, but he did have in his files a 1945 manuscript by newsman Arthur Mann, who frequently wrote for Look. The article, drafted with Rickey’s cooperation, had been intended to announce the Robinson signing but had never been published. The pictures, Jules and I concluded, were to have accompanied Mann’s article; we decided to find out the story behind the photo session.

The clandestine nature of the photo session did not surprise us. From the moment he had arrived in Brooklyn in 1942, determined to end baseball’s Jim Crow traditions, Rickey had feared that premature disclosure of his intentions might doom his bold design. No blacks had appeared in the major leagues since 1884 when two brothers, Welday and Moses Fleetwood Walker, had played for Toledo in the American Association. [In recent years an earlier African American major leaguer has been identified: William Edward White, a one-game first baseman for Providence of the National League in 1879.] Not since the 1890s had black players appeared on a minor-league team. During the ensuing half-century all-black teams and leagues featuring legendary figures like pitcher Satchel Paige and catcher Josh Gibson had performed on the periphery of Organized Baseball.

Baseball executives, led by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, had strictly policed the color line, barring blacks from both major and minor leagues. Rickey therefore moved slowly and secretly to explore the issue and cover up his attempts to scout black players during his first three years in Brooklyn. He informed the Dodger owners of his plans but took few others into his confidence.

In the spring of 1945, as Rickey prepared to accelerate his scouting efforts, advocates of integration, emboldened by the impending end of World War II and the recent death of Commissioner Landis, escalated their campaign to desegregate baseball. OnApril 6, 1945, black sportswriter Joe Bostic appeared at the Dodgers’ Bear Mountain training camp with Negro League stars Terris McDuffie and Dave “Showboat” Thomas and forced Rickey to hold tryouts for the two players. Ten days later black journalist Wendell Smith, white sportswriter Dave Egan, and Boston city councilman Isidore Muchnick engineered an unsuccessful ninety-minute audition with the Red Sox for Robinson, then a shortstop with the Kansas City Monarchs; second baseman Marvin Williams of the Philadelphia Stars; and outfielder Sam Jethroe of the Cleveland Buckeyes.  In response to these events the major leagues announced the formation of a Committee on Baseball Integration. (Reflecting Organized Baseball’s true intentions on the matter, the group never met.)

In the face of this heightened activity, Rickey created an elaborate smokescreen to obscure his scouting of black players. In May 1945 he announced the formation of a new franchise, the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers, and a new Negro League, the United States League. Rickey then dispatched his best talent hunters to observe black ballplayers, ostensibly for the Brown Dodgers, but in reality for the Brooklyn National League club.

A handwritten memorandum in the Rickey Papers at the Library of Congress offers a rare glimpse of Rickey’s emphasis on secrecy in his instructions to Dodger scouts. The document, signed “Chas. D. Clark” and accompanied by a Negro National League schedule for April-May 1945, is headlined “Job Analysis,” and defines the following “Duties: under supervision of management of club”:

1. To establish contact (silent) with all clubs (local or general).

2. To gain knowledge and [sic] abilities of all players.

3. To report all possible material (players).

4. Prepare weekly reports of activities.

5. Keep composite report of outstanding players . . . To travel and cover player whenever management so desire.

Clark’s “Approch” [sic] was to “Visit game and loose [sic] self in stands; Keep statistical report (speed, power, agility, ability, fielding, batting, etc.) by score card”; and “Leave immediately after game.”

Clark’s directions, however, contain one major breach in Rickey’s elaborate security precautions. According to his later accounts, Rickey had told most Dodger scouts that they were evaluating talent for a new “Brown Dodger” franchise. But Clark’s first “Objective” was “To Cover Negro teams for possible major league talent.” Had Rickey confided in Clark, a figure so obscure as to escape prior mention in the voluminous Robinson literature? Dodger superscout and Rickey confidante Clyde Sukeforth had no recollection of Clark when Jules spoke with him, raising the possibility that Clark was not part of the Dodger family, but perhaps someone connected with black baseball. Had Clark himself interpreted his instructions in this manner?

Whatever the answer, Rickey successfully diverted attention from his true motives. Nonetheless, mounting interest in the integration issue threatened Rickey’s careful planning. In the summer of 1945 Rickey constructed yet another facade. The Dodger president took into his confidence Dan Dodson, a New York University sociologist who chaired Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s Committee on Unity, and requested that Dodson form a Committee on Baseball ostensibly to study the possibility of integration. In reality, the committee would provide the illusion of action while Rickey quietly completed his own preparations. “This was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make while in office,” Dodson later confessed. “The major purpose I could see for the committee was that it was a stall for time. . . . Yet had Mr. Rickey not delivered . . . I would have been totally discredited.”

Thus by late August, even as Rickey’s extensive scouting reports had led him to focus on Jackie Robinson as his standard bearer, few people in or out of the Dodger organization suspected that a breakthrough was imminent. On August 28 Rickey and Robinson held their historic meeting at the Dodgers’ Montague Street offices in downtown Brooklyn. Robinson signed an agreement to accept a contract with the Montreal Royals, the top Dodger affiliate, by November 1.

Rickey, still concerned with secrecy, impressed upon Robinson the need to maintain silence. Robinson could tell the momentous news to his family and fiancee, but no one else. For the conspiratorial Rickey, keeping the news sheltered while continuing arrangements required further subterfuge. Rumors about Robinson’s visit had already spread through the world of black baseball. To stifle speculation Rickey “leaked” an adulterated version of the incident to black sportswriter Wendell Smith. Smith, who had recommended Robinson to Rickey and advised Rickey on the integration project, doubtless knew the true story behind the meeting. On September 8, however, he reported in thePittsburgh Courier that the “sensational shortstop” and “colorful major-league dynamo” had met behind “closed doors. . . . The nature of the conference has not been revealed,” Smith continued. Rickey claimed that he and Robinson had assessed “the organization of Negro baseball,” but Smith noted that “it does not seem logical [Rickey] should call in a rookie player to discuss the future organization of Negro baseball.” He closed with the tantalizing thought that “it appears that the Brooklyn boss has a plan on his mind that extends further than just the future of Negro baseball as an organization.” The subterfuge succeeded. Neither black nor white reporters pursued the issue.

Rickey, always sensitive to criticism by New York sports reporters and understanding the historic significance of his actions, also wanted to be sure that his version of the integration breakthrough and his role in it be accurately portrayed. To guarantee this he persuaded Arthur Mann, his close friend and later a Dodger employee, to write a 3,000-word manuscript to be published simultaneously with the announcement of the signing.

Glorious Death: The Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 23 — 25, 1944

Glorious Death: The Battle of Leyte Gulf,
October 23 — 25, 1944
By Tim Lanzendörfer

The four-day battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944 marked the eclipse of Imperial Japanese naval power, the last sortie in force of the Imperial Navy, and the largest naval battle ever fought on the face of the earth.
It was separated in four parts, each carrying its own name: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, when U.S. carrier planes struck the IJN’s Center Force and sank battleship Musashi; the Battle of Cape Engaño, where U.S. carriers destroyed the Japanese carrier force that had served as a deception; the Battle of Surigao Strait, where U.S. and Japanese battleships fought the last dreadnought engagement of all times; and lastly, the Battle off Samar, where the Japanese Center Force took to sinking the U.S. escort carriers defending the beachhead and were soundly defeated by miniscule forces.
Strategic Background
At the conclusion of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, the debate on the continuation of the war once more started. Two distinct factions were opposing each other: the Navy, led by Admirals Nimitz and King, vowed to take Formosa in the ultimate extension of island-hopping, neutralizing the Philippine Japanese Army garrison by air blockade. Formosa, sitting astride the seaways from the Dutch East Indies to Japan, would be the perfect base for economic strangulation of Japan and was capable of serving as base for the final attack on the Japanese home islands.
On the other side was General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the South-west Pacific Forces, who had dedicated himself to recapturing the Philippines in 1942. He was convinced that military reasons alone should not dictate the primary objective of the next months, but also political considerations: MacArthur argued that leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands would be an irreversible loss of American prestige in Asiatic eyes (and obviously a blow to his own prestige, he did not say).
To resolve this conflict of interests, President Roosevelt came to visit senior American commanders in Hawaii in July 1944. Meeting with General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, the President listened to the arguments presented by each, and, being a politician in an election year, listened very closely to what MacArthur told him in a private discussion the day of Roosevelt’s departure: should he elect to leave the Philippines alone, he had better be prepared for a negative reaction from American voters.
The influence of this remark to Roosevelt is hard to estimate: how much Roosevelt felt threatened by MacArthur’s comments is not known. Likely, Roosevelt did not need MacArthur to estimate for him the possible political results of leaving the Philippines in Japanese hands.
Whatever the results of MacArthur’s prodding, Roosevelt decided that the Philippines would have to be taken.
Both services quickly adapted to the new strategic situation. Preparation for the invasion of Mindanao tentatively set for December 20th, entailed invasions of the Palau group and Morotai, and strikes against the Philippines and connecting island groups, including Formosa. These preliminary operations would be executed by the two separate Pacific commands, Pacific Ocean Areas and South-West Pacific, without joint forces, while the actual Mindanao landings would be conducted by 7th Fleet amphibious forces (MacArthur’s naval units) covered and supported by 3rd Fleet’s warships (under Admiral William F. Halsey). Halsey took command of 3rd Fleet in August 1944, and met with his opposite number from 7th Fleet, Vice-Admiral Kinkaid, at Manus in the Admiralty-Islands in early September. While the two Admirals were conferring, Admiral Marc A. Mitscher took Task Force 38 and struck Iwo Jima, the Palaus, and Mindanao, against weak resistance. When Halsey and his flagship, the fast battleship New Jersey, met up with Mitscher on September 12th, attacks were renewed against Leyte, Cebu, and Negros. Two days of attacks cut up Japanese air power in the Philippines, and more: a downed aviator reported that Leyte was virtually clear of the enemy. That island, having once figured as fleet anchorage in the Orange War Plan and still considered one of the finest places to establish a foothold in the Philippines, seemed like a god-sent present.
The aviator’s report and his aerial successes convinced Halsey that there was no need whatsoever to carefully position air units within range of the islands – a swift invasion two months ahead of schedule would be able to secure a base in the middle of the Philippine Islands without fussing about in the smaller islands around them.
Nimitz, back at Pearl Harbor, listened to Halsey’s arguments, but refused to cancel the attack on the Palaus (and the capture of Ulithi atoll in the western Carolines), scheduled for September 15th, as did MacArthur the attack on Morotai, set for the same date. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, ordered Nimitz and MacArthur to take Leyte, instead of Mindanao, on October 20th, instead of December 20th.
The invasions of Morotai and Peleliu were vastly different operations. On Morotai, the Army units landed on the smaller of two adjacent islands against little opposition and soon had airfields in operation. On Peleliu, the same held true – but the campaign, after easily grabbing the local airfield, ran into the horrible terrain of the Umurbrogol Ridge, where Japan had carved a veritable fortress out of the hard surface of the atoll. It took an entire month to secure the island, costing two thousand American lives. The conquest of Ulithi atoll saw no ground and limited aerial resistance and provided the U. S. Navy with a superb advance base, immediately made serviceable by elements of the Service Fleet. Peleliu never served in any especially remarkable function, and was not at all vital to any of the succeeding operations. For once, Nimitz had made a mistake, costing 2000 servicemen’s lives.
While MacArthur’s 7th Fleet in Manus and Hollandia harbors was getting ready for sortie to Leyte (a long voyage given the slow speed of the prime mover, the LST), Admiral Halsey took Task Force 38 out of Ulithi on October 4th, 17 carriers and about seventy escort vessels from battleships to destroyers. Target of this sortie in force was the island of Formosa – if Nimitz was not allowed to take it, at least he would make sure that there would be no hindrance from that island’s air units in the assault on Leyte. For three days, the air battle smashed wave after wave of U.S. and Japanese planes against each other. For hits on cruisers Canberra and Houston, and 79 U.S. planes shot down, the Japanese suffered 600 planes lost on the ground and in the air.

It was an unqualified disaster for the Combined Fleet. After the Philippine Sea debacle in June, Admiral Toyoda Soemu, Combined Fleet chief, at Tokyo had distributed the SHO (Victory) plans – Sho-1, for a major sea action in the Philippines, Sho-2 for a similar operation at Formosa, and Sho-3 for the Ryukyu chain.
The fundamental part of this operation was an immediate reinforcement of the threatened area by aerial units and the sortie of all available Combined Fleet units to repel the invaders in yet another decisive battle. It would be horrendously complex, bound to the precise timing that always seemed to attract Japanese planners.
Thus, when Halsey’s planes struck Taiwan on October 12th, with Admiral Toyoda and Admiral Fukudome, Chief of the 2nd Air Fleet, visiting local air fields, SHO-2 was initiated to repel the attackers. It cost the Japanese almost their entire air force, certainly 90% of those forces who, two weeks later, could have been so valuable to support the Leyte Gulf operation.
Now, there remained only the sea-going elements of Toyoda’s plan. At Lingga Roads, south-east of Singapore, in the middle of Japan’s rich, if cut-off, oil fields, lay Vice-Admiral Kurita Takeo with seven battleships, Yamato, Musashi, Kongo, Haruna, Nagato, Fuso and Yamashiro, a dozen cruisers and around twenty destroyers. In Japan’s Inland Sea, Vice-Admiral Ozawa Jisaburo had four carriers, two hybrid-battleships, three cruisers and nine destroyers. With him was Admiral Shima Kiyohide, with three cruisers and seven destroyers. Ozawa’s role was sad: under the SHO plans, he would serve as a bait to draw the U.S. carrier forces away from the landing they were to cover, to allow Admiral Kurita and Shima to strike the landing forces and deliver a stunning defeat to them.
Admiral Thomas Kinkaid and his 7th Fleet sailed in several convoys starting October 10th. On October 17th, after an essentially eventless voyage, the minecraft that were to sweep clear channels arrived in Leyte Gulf. The unexpected appearance of enemy minecraft spelled out to Admiral Toyoda what was to come. He immediately ordered the execution of SHO-1. While the Combined Fleet prepared to sortie (Vice-Admiral Shima had gone to sea on October 15th, ostensibly to finish off claimed damaged carriers from the Formosa battle), Rangers secured the islands off Leyte to prepare a free passage into the gulf. After a two-day naval bombardment by Rear-Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s 3rd Fleet battleships, the amphibious groups under Rear-Admiral Daniel E. Barbey and Vice-Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson went ashore at Tacloban and Dulag respectively, creating a beachhead without major trouble and establishing themselves at Tacloban airfield on October 21st. By midnight on the 21st, most troops had been landed, most ships departed, and most warships established blocking positions along likely Japanese routes of attack – 7th Fleet to the south across Surigao Strait, 3rd Fleet in the Philippine Sea to the north-east of Samar Island.

Vice-Admiral Kurita at Lingga Roads received the telegram detailing the Combined Fleet to conduct Operation SHO-1 at 0928 on October 17th, two hours after an initial warning on the subject. A British diversionary raid against the Nicobar Islands had been dismissed as a viable threat, and Kurita sailed his entire force for Brunei on the 18th. Following him on the 20th was Vice-Admiral Ozawa at the head of his “Bait Force”, called the “Main Body”. Arriving at Borneo on the 21st, Kurita and his subordinates were for the first time informed on how the First Air Fleet intended to support the Combined Fleet in its sortie to Leyte. Vice-Admiral Onishi Takijiro, newly appointed commander of the First Air Fleet, had witnessed at first hand the devastation wrought by U.S. air defenses and was determined to devise methods to use his air power. From 24 Zeros, crewed by volunteers, he created after discussing the idea with subordinates and superiors a “Special Attack Corps” – what soon became known as the “kamikazes”. Kurita and his commanders discussed battle plans, including a major change: instead of sailing as a unit, Kurita split off the 2nd Battleship Division under Vice-Admiral Nishimura Shoji, battleships Fuso and Yamashiro, the cruiser Mogami, and four destroyers, to sortie through Surigao Strait and meet him again in Leyte Gulf to envelop the U.S. forces. Another force, that of Vice-Admiral Shima, sailing from the Pescadores, would take that route as well.
After tanking in Brunei (from tankers brought up from Singapore, likely because Brunei oil had the irritating tendency to give off highly volatile gases that could cause dangerous explosions, as witnessed by Taiho’s demise in the Philippine Sea battle), Kurita set sail for the Sibuyan Sea at 0800 on October 22nd, a Sunday.

The Battle October 23rd – 25th, 1944
Kurita intended to pass through the narrow passage between the island of Palawan and the shallow part of the South China Sea known on the maps as “dangerous area”, then enter the Sibuyan Sea, and finally pass through San Bernardino Strait and south along the coast of the island of Samar, into Leyte Gulf. So far so good – but events would turn out much more problematic than Kurita anticipated.
The first disaster was partially of his own making. Passing the Palawan Passage, he utilized an odd five-column formation that could neither serve as screen, nor battle formation, and actually put half the destroyers of his formation inside his battleships – how he supposed to defend himself in that formation, is impossible to discern, and how, as Admiral Ugaki Matome indicates, the Japanese could have regarded this as a formation against submarines, is, too.
Events would prove that there was little protection from submarines. Shortly after midnight on the 23rd, the submarines Darter and Dace, sent to cover the Palawan Passage, noted the impressive contact that Kurita’s force made on the greenish screens of the SJ-radars of the two U.S. subs. As usual during such major operations, the first priority was to radio a contact report to the fleet; that, Commander Dave McClintock did quickly. Then, the two submarines parted and prepared for attack.
On Yamato, Vice-Admiral Ugaki’s flagship, the radio room had intercepted Darter’s message to the U.S. fleet and correctly recognized it as being close; inexplicably, no change whatsoever was made in the Japanese formation. Thus, when Darter fired her first six torpedoes on the flagship Atago and four more on Takao, no one in the Japanese fleet was prepared for what was going to happen.
Darter’s shots were well timed. Four ripped open Atago from stem to stern; she capsized and sank in twenty minutes, fortunately not taking Admiral Kurita down with her. Takao was heavily damaged. As she witnessed the scene, Dace was presented with a perfect shot at the other heavy-ship column; four torpedoes from her salvo blew up heavy cruiser Maya; only the lack of torpedoes in her aft tubes prevented even more devastation. She retired, fearing having gone to close for comfort and being sure of having sunk a battleship. The same did Darter; the Japanese, meanwhile, were too busy surviving to care much for their U.S. assailants.
While Kurita was fished from the water and moved by destroyer to battleship Yamato, cruiser Takao and two destroyers were sent back to care to Takao’s wounds.
As the two U.S. submarines stalked wounded Takao throughout the day and into the night, there seemed little chance the heavy cruiser would come home without further damage. Luck, however, would not have it. Shortly after midnight with terrific noise, Darter ran aground on an uncharted reef, and would not come loose. Finally, Commander McClintock asked Dace for assistance. The other sub took off Darter’s crew and commenced attempts to destroy the wreck. However, although the boat was riddled by 5-inch fire, she did not blow up. The next day, a Japanese destroyer came alongside and took off again with valuable information, blueprints of radar and engine systems, and various other material. Although the code books and other highly classified material had been burned, the take was still not to be regarded lightly.
Meantime, the Imperial Japanese forces entered the Sibuyan Sea, closing their certain encounter with U.S. air power.

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea
The contact report issued by Darter and Dace made the weight resting on the shoulders of Admiral William Halsey so much lighter. Halsey had been determined from the very start to be liberal in the adoption of CINPAC Chester Nimitz’ fighting orders. He much preferred whatever way there was to fight the Imperial Navy over the laborious and less than glorious task of protecting the South-West Pacific forces of Admiral Kinkaid. He assumed that the IJN would not sortie in defense of the Philippines, and that he would have to go after them. He proposed to pass through the Philippine islands, instead of around them, to hit the Imperial Navy beyond. This dangerous and dumb scheme of operations, which Halsey had not discussed with Nimitz, was ripped apart by a message from CinCPac directing that 3rd Fleet units only with the express permission of Nimitz would be allowed to sail through the archipelago.
This order might well have denied Halsey his chance for a fleet action, but now, with Kurita dauntlessly steaming in his direction, all Halsey had to do was sit and wait.
On the morning of October 24th, it was Intrepid’s Air Group 18 that drew air search duty for the area including the Sibuyan Sea, one of the larger bodies of open water in the Philippine archipelago. There, shortly after 0800, on of the fighter/bomber teams that were send out to search the area, dispatched the news back to Halsey: at the entrance of the green Sibuyan Sea, they had found the fleet under Vice-Admiral Kurita.
Several hundred miles to the south, in a different search sector, it was planes from the veteran Enterprise and her Air Group 20 that located the two old battlewagons of Admiral Nishimura.
Halsey wasted no time: from the fleet flagship battleship New Jersey, at 0837 the call went to the available three carrier task groups: “Strike, Repeat, Strike. Good Luck.”
While aboard the carriers of Bogan and Davison, the crews, as if reiterating a long-learned poem, flawlessly readied the attack planes for their strikes against the oncoming dreadnought fleet, Admiral Frederick C. Sherman’s Task Group 38.3 consisting of carriers Essex, Lexington, Princeton and Langley, had more immediate concerns than Kurita.
Vice-Admiral Onishi Takijiro had decided to utilize the remaining weak firepower of his 1st Air Fleet in attacking the U.S. carriers, rather than covering Kurita. As a result, he was able to muster almost 80 planes in a powerful strike against Sherman’s forces. From Essex, Lexington, Princeton and Langley, fighters scrambled in intercept of the enemy.
There seemed to be little reason for worry – but there was. It was not a massive strike that dealt damage to the U.S., but a single D4Y Judy dive-bomber, clinging closely to the returning U.S. fighters and escaping detection, that singled out the light carrier Princeton as its target. Furiously fired at by the small flattop, the Judy planted an armor-piercing bomb in the middle of the flightdeck. In her interior, the bomb wrecked the ready-made Avengers that had been intended for the strike on Kurita, igniting severe fires inside her hangar deck. The damage was not looking bad – but indeed, it was disastrous. Sherman left behind the light cruiser Birmingham and three destroyers, and went his ways to strike Kurita. In the meantime, Birmingham and her supporting destroyers tended to the ailing Princeton in every way possible. It seemed possible to heal her; but at 1530, her aft magazines, heated by the blaze in the hangar deck, ignited, sending splinters in all directions, killing 230 Birmingham crew members and maiming others. With her aft deck blown away and the hangar deck fires relentlessly spreading forward, Captain Buracker decided to abandon his ship. At 1630, he left as last man alive.
Destroyer Irwin was ordered to scuttle the carrier with torpedoes, but she had little luck – almost hit by her own, circle-running torpedoes, frustration spread among her crew. Finally, the light cruiser Reno was ordered to take the unhappy task from Irwin. A torpedo hit Princeton near her forward magazine, another at her fuel tanks, and blew her apart.
As Princeton struggled for her survival, deckload strikes from Gerry Bogan’s task group swooped down on the Center Force of Kurita’s. Simultaneously, from Dave Davison’s forces came air strikes on Nishimura’s smaller, but still potent force. The results were less than expected. As bomb churned the waters around giant Yamashiro and Fuso, others merely ignited small fires aboard the battlewagons. The cruiser Mogami, tagging along with the battleships, was hit by rockets but showed no sign of damage; the destroyers likewise had been strafed, but went on.
Bogan’s planes meanwhile, at half past 10, had found what had been reported as three battleships to be five, among them the largest naval vessels to sail the face of Earth. Like magnets, the two super-battleships attracted the attention of the majority of U.S. strike planes. 1000lbs bombs hit on and around Yamato and Musashi, a torpedo hit Musashi, but the giants continued on, seemingly impervious to the assault from the air. Ahead of Musashi and ahead and to starboard of Yamato sailed the heavy cruiser Myoko, easily confused for a battleship. She was damaged and forced to retire at 15 knots to Brunei.
With the Nishimura force obviously less powerful (and also well blocked from Leyte by the battleships of the 7th Fleet), Rear-Admiral Davison’s planes soon entered the fray. In the second wave at 1200, three more torpedoes hit Musashi, hit because her size permitted her no escape, still swimming because it also prevented her succumbing to so little effort. The third wave included Enterprise planes, scoring an incredible 11 hits out of 18 bombs and eight torpedo hits along the superbattleship Musashi’s length. Her command facilities were destroyed; one torpedo buried itself in the hole left by another torpedo and blew apart the machinery of the dreadnought. At the same time, Kurita radioed his fleet to turn about. He would try to pass San Bernardino Strait during the night.
As he had done with the previous victims of attack, Kurita dispatched Musashi (which had been largely singled out by the U.S. and prevented them from attacking other valuable targets) to Brunei, shepherded by two destroyers and the cruiser Tone. But she did not make it. Her innards wrecked, her superstructure aflame, the huge vessel capsized and sank at 1835, taking with her 1000 men.
After five strikes, however, and with the coming of the night, the Kurita force was left to itself, turning about yet again at 1715, headed for San Bernardino. Battleships Nagato and Yamato had been damaged, as had been cruiser Tone and a number of destroyers. Finally, after an entire day of relentless aerial assault, Admiral Ozawa had managed to get himself to the attention of Admiral Halsey, where he fatally stayed to the end of the battle.

Battle of Cape Engaño
The role that Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa had been supposed to play in the SHO-Plan was in itself considerable cause for worry to the fleet under his command. The four carriers under his command, Zuikaku, Zuiho, Chitose and Chiyoda, the latter three converted submarine tenders, were home to merely a hundred planes – each of Halsey’s groups had 250 planes ready for use. Ozawa had sailed from Kure naval base on the 20th of October, keeping to the south of the Ryukyu island chain, and heading for the Philippines. Ozawa’s task was to make himself known to the U.S. fleet and thus draw it away from Kurita. An easy task under any normal circumstances, but in this case, there gods of war thought it a better proposition to deny Ozawa his sighting. The reasons are easily found: by the time Ozawa had desired to be found, on the morning of the 24th, the U.S. group which had the northern sectors to cover was busy with other things: Admiral Sherman had his hands full combating Vice-Admiral Onishi Takijiro’s air strikes from Luzon to care much about searches. When Ozawa intercepted the news of Kurita’s temporary retirement, he opted to retire to the north. Despite having no idea of Kurita’s whereabouts, Ozawa felt obliged by a 2000 order from Combined Fleet commander Toyoda, who ordered all forces to attack. On the morning of the 25th Ozawa began his active part in the battle. Having received a position report from a scout plane he had sent out earlier, he launched a 75-strong air strike against the target, which the Americans didn’t even realize came from a carrier.
He did not realize that in fact, he had already been sighted: at 1640 on the 24th, a Helldiver had found him, but no attack materialized because of the swiftly coming night. Now, Halsey had his three available carrier groups moving north at swift speed, poised to strike Ozawa and to wipe out the enemy carriers for good.
Behind him, Halsey left nothing, despite repeated pleas from Vice-Admiral Willis Lee, in command of Halsey’s battleships, to let him have two light carriers and stay south to cover the San Bernardino Strait. Halsey would have none of it; he was determined to get his first crack at Japanese carriers and do it right here.
In doing so he left in considerable problems Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, commanding the 7th Fleet in Leyte Gulf. Kinkaid had arrayed his available naval power so as to repulse the threat posed by Admiral Nishimura Shoji’s smaller Southern Force – including the six battleships of his bombardment squadron. He firmly believed, a set of mind bestowed upon him by confusing signals from Halsey, that Lee was indeed guarding his northern flank. The road to Leyte, however, was wide open to anyone willing to try it.
While disaster loomed for the 7th Fleet forces placed in the middle of the Leyte Gulf, the same held true for the redoubtable Admiral Ozawa. In the perfect knowledge of standing no chance against Halsey, he regardless committed himself to the battle. He had placed himself to the north of the U.S., abreast Cape Engaño. He retained little aerial firepower, only a rudimentary air defense group, which was hurriedly reinforced when, at 0707, the Japanese detected the incoming Americans to their south.
The initial air strike of five was already telling the battle’s story: against miniscule resistance, the Americans brushed aside the aerial defenses, then concentrated on the flat-top vessels. Carrier Chitose was disabled, Zuikaku severely damaged, destroyer Akizuki sunk. The next wave, two hours later, found Zuikaku and Zuiho behind the main part of the fleet, as it did Chitose. The combined force of the second and third waves smashed the small Chiyoda.
At the end of the fifth wave, the Ozawa fleet had been bombed into submission, although the Americans had not managed to destroy the two battlewagons Ise and Hyuga; as an interesting note, the Americans had, all through the war, only had the luck to sink two operating battleships by air attack alone, and, oddly enough, those were the two super-battleships Yamato and Musashi. Four other battleships were destroyed via air attack: Hiei, which had been crippled in prior surface action, and Haruna, Ise and Hyuga in harbor at Kure, Japan.
As Ozawa retired north, luck helped him for a final time. Just as Halsey was releasing Admiral “Ching” Lee to use his fast battleships to sink the remnants of Ozawa’s force, news arrived from Kinkaid and Nimitz: Leyte Gulf was under attack and Halsey was thought to have had done something against that possibility. Left to mop Ozawa up was a small cruiser/destroyer force under Rear-Admiral Laurence T. DuBose, who sank Chitose with gun and torpedo fire. Lee and the battlewagons, as well as a carrier TG were speeding south, desperate to aid their beleaguered comrades in the Gulf.

Battlle of Surigao Strait
The Battle of Surigao Strait must rate as one of the primary puzzles of the entire Leyte Gulf operation. Under Vice-Admiral Nishimura Shoji, two battleships, a heavy cruiser and four destroyers, under Vice-Admiral Shima Kiyohide three cruisers and seven destroyers would penetrate Surigao Strait, the southern entrance to Leyte Gulf, in the night hours of October 24/25. Inside Leyte Gulf, the force would meet up with Kurita and then smash the enemy.
This operation had not been in the original SHO plans, but was added at Brunei by Kurita. His reasons are unclear. He may have regarded this force as a useful diversion or even as a useful strike force, presuming the U.S. to be unable to mass against both approaching forces. As it turned out, Nishimura would sacrifice himself and his ships running into a massive Allied barrier of warships. However, certain details are still unclear.
Nishimura sortied from Brunei on October 22 at 1500. He sustained the above mentioned air attacks rather well, although superficial damage was incurred by both Fuso and Yamashiro. It was clear that Nishimura would be hard pressed now that he was sighted, but incredibly he did not try to make the best of Kurita’s plans by following closely Kurita’s movements. Instead of turning and waiting for Kurita to head back towards Leyte, he pressed on. Behind him by 40 miles was Shima’s smaller force. Neither Admiral seemed inclined to join forces, which would have given both far better chances of survival in combat. Instead, seemingly oblivious to anything going on around him, Nishimura led his force into the fray.
The fray would be created by a carefully set-up trap of major proportions involving the greater part of Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet. The first line of defense and especially reconnaissance were 49 torpedo-boats, positioned along the approach to Surigao. Their first priority was to report the incoming vessels, then attack.
Second in the line were destroyer forces tasked with putting torpedoes into the approaching foe. Their number was ten, divided into two DesRons, to attack within ten minutes of each other. Their attacks would open the final phase of the battle, involving the six battleships of Vice-Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf’s Bombardment Force and the cruisers previously screening transport and battle forces. Their concentrated artillery fire would put under any survivor of the other battles.
As Nishimura pressed his vessels into the tight strait leading up to Leyte, he was first detected by the torpedo boats. From them, the call went out that the enemy was approaching. Nishimura pressed on, firing on the torpedo boats on his flanks and sustaining no damage from the torpedoes fired. As he headed onward, however, doom came to his force.
It was Captain Jesse G. Coward’s DesRon 54 which attacked first, with five ships from two sides. His spread was incredibly successful, matching that of Tanaka at Tassafaronga. Torpedoes sank destroyers Michishio and Yamagumo and damaged Asagumo and battleship Yamashiro. Another sinking made the success of this attack definitive: several torpedoes plowed into battleship Fuso, blowing her to pieces and putting her under in a matter of minutes.
Nishimura, oblivious to the loss of Fuso, headed on, jumped by the second group of U.S. destroyers just in the planned time interval. Another torpedo ripped into Yamashiro. Aboard her, Nishimura realized he was missing Fuso; slowing to five knots, he awaited his companion to come out of the confusion behind him. The torpedo, compliment of Monssen, had bereft Nishimura of the services of two magazines and their attendant four turrets; he desperately needed the firepower that Fuso could provide.
But even as Yamashiro headed north at five knots, she could not long delay her demise. Approaching Leyte Gulf, she also neared the narrows where Oldendorf had assembled his battleships. Behind a screen of cruisers Columbia, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and Louisville on his left flank, and Boise, HMAS Shropshire and U.S.S. Pheonix on his right, the six battleships of his force trained their guns toward the approaching radar contacts. At 0351, his cruisers opened up; West Virginia followed at 0353; Tennessee and California at 0355.
Only Pennsylvania expended no rounds, Maryland joined the other BBs at 0359, and Mississippi got off one salvo towards the enemy as well. Their problem was technical: on their superstructures rested the Mk3 fire-control radar system, whereas the three other ships mounted Mk8. The latter’s improved resolution, range, and accuracy helped them to deliver devastatingly accurate fire.
Only ten minutes of furious gunfire followed the opening up; at 0401, with Oldendorf’s battleships brought on a course of 270° (exactly opposite to base course held at 0351), West Virginia and California ceased firing. Oldendorf, realizing his target was smothered, ordered a general cease fire at 0409. Desperately, Yamashiro attempted to extract herself from the danger facing her. Realizing no asssistance was forthcoming from Fuso and her own survival was unlikely in the face of such overwhelming fire, she turned south and increased speed to 15 knots. As she did so, she enabled U.S. destroyers to cap their success that night with yet another battleship. Newcomb, Albert W. Grant, and Richard P. Leary. Two torpedoes fired by Newcomb impacted on the battleship. At 0419, having taken the coup de grâce, Yamashiro turned over and sank into the strait.
It had not really been a battle. Each American ship had fired between 60 and one hundred rounds; Yamashiro was torn apart by the explosions of these shells and the torpedoes and sank at 0419. Six minutes later, Admiral Shima behind the now-dead Nishimura realized the senselessness of following him, and ordered his forces to retire. Joining him were the two survivors of the Nishimura force: destroyer Shigure, the famous Solomons veteran, and cruiser Mogami, badly battered in the Midway battle. As Nachi, Shima’s flagship, passed Mogami, the men aboard her realized they had badly misjudged the other vessel’s speed. Franticly, they attempted to avoid a collision, but Mogami’s bow buried itself in Nachi’s stern; damage to the latter ship was minor, but Mogami had her steering room flooded by the concussions of the impact and her bow deformed. As slowly, the two ships parted and headed south, Mogami fell back. Coming up behind her were the cruisers of Oldendorf’s screen, sent to mop up the straits. They shelled and stopped her, but with the coming of the morning, they decided to retire to less submarine-endangered areas. In the light of the new morning, however, Mogami was an easy target for repeated air attacks. The situation became untenable: a destroyer took off her crew and scuttled her.
As the scenes closed over the Surigao Straits, Yamashiro having joined the selected few of her kind of dreadnought ever sunk in combat with another dreadnought, the curtain fell over an era of naval warfare dominated by the sound of large guns; for Surigao Strait marked the last engagement between battleships, and the Battle of Samar would prove the battleship hopeless against an aerial onslaught. And even in Surigao, the battleship had found its master in the deadly combination of destroyer torpedoes and radar.

Battle off Samar
While Halsey pursued Ozawa to the north, he had opened the doors to disaster for the U.S. fleet off Leyte. In his confused communications with Admiral Kinkaid of the 7th Fleet, he had left the impression of guarding San Bernardino Strait with Admiral Willis Lee’s fast battleships, six formidable battlewagons that Kurita would have found difficult to overcome. So unclear were his communiqués that Admiral Nimitz and his staff in Pearl Harbor had essentially come to the same conclusion.
In fact, however, Halsey had not left anything behind. Task Force 34, as the hypothetical battleship formation was called, had accompanied him north – even though Halsey knew of Kurita’s coming back toward San Bernardino, he had not left a single ship in the vicinity of the strait, or even bothered informing Kinkaid (who did not make night searches, of the kind that found Kurita, over the area) of the impending danger and absence of Task Force 34. It must have been with relief and surprise that Kurita passed the empty San Bernardino Straits at around midnight on the 24th, then made his way down the east coast of the island of Samar during the early morning hours. At 0620, the radar screens of the Japanese battleships suddenly reported enemy planes in the vicinity, and Kurita assumed air defense formation. Not long thereafter, the lookouts in the tall pagoda masts of the Imperial battleships sighted masts and smoke on the horizon. As he came closer, the distinctive outlines of carriers became visible, as did smaller surface warships. However, the excited reports of large fleet carriers, battleships and cruisers were hopelessly optimistic.
Kurita had stumbled upon a much more modest force, Task Unit 77.4.3, or “Taffy Three”, six escort carriers and seven escorts, three destroyers and four destroyer-escorts. It was a pitiful force that Rear-Admiral Clifton A. Sprague was able of putting up against Kurita, especially since his composite squadrons were not equipped to deal with warships. Armor-piercing bombs and torpedos were not needed for their ground-support role, and everything else would have little effect on the oncoming behemoths.
As the Japanese closed the weak U.S. forces, however, confusion reigned. Under the impression of having encountered one of Halsey’s fast carrier forces, Admiral Kurita decided to rush his attack and not wait until his forces were placed in the most favorable way. There was obvious reason for choosing such a course of action: the art of maneuvering one’s ships into position for battle, called “evolution”, took precious time and was supposed to be exercised before battle was joined. Now, however, speed became imperative – against the determined opposition a carrier force could put up, it was essential that sinkings were scored early and the enemy not be allowed to assemble and prepare his forces, or even worse, open up the range. As his destroyers and cruisers left behind the sluggish battleships, then, Kurita had sacrificed coherence in his force for the only prospect for victory he had.
Meantime, Rear-Admiral Sprague had turned his ships due east, and begun launching his planes to commission even so weak a defense as they provided.
As the Japanese closed the slow U.S. force, the first shells were dropped between the flattops. From the flagship Fanshaw Bay, Admiral Sprague signaled his escorts to start covering attacks against the superior Japanese. Peeling off the screen of the fleeing baby flattops, destroyers Hoel, Heerman and Johnston, as well as destroyer escort Samuel B. Roberts, headed off and engaged the Imperial cruisers and battleships farther off.
All the while, the Japanese had continued with their uncontrolled, desperate hunt. Kurita’s only command to that point had been “Charge” – he was not inclined to specify exactly what or exactly how, even now.
On the easterly course that they were on, they chased and slowly closed the U.S. force, steadily straddling the fleeing flattops. By this time, there remained no planes on the U.S. carriers: they had all taken off, now picking at the battleships, destroyers and cruisers with machine-guns, depth charges and small bombs. They continued on to Leyte, where they were turned around and continued their pinpricks against the IJN fleet.
As the U.S. destroyers continued their loosing battle against the IJN fleet, they did more than their fair share of damage. Hunting the shell splashes enabled the U.S. ships to escape damage for an unduly long amount of time, and offered the opportunity to do real damage to the IJN. The first victim of the U.S. assault was heavy cruiser Kumano, flagship of the commander of the Seventh Cruiser division, loosing her bow to one of Johnston’s torpedoes. In return, the brave little destroyer was ripped into pieces by three 356mm shells from Kongo and left burning, though not sinking.
Then, the three other U.S. destroyers joined the fray, The miniscule artillery fire that the four ships offered could not hinder or delay the Imperial fleet, but their torpedoes were a different matter entirely. While the U.S. air attacks increased and the Japanese closed dangerously with cruisers, the powerful batteries of the battleships were kept out of the fight by the dedication of the U.S. attackers. Torpedoes forced Yamato to turn away and open up the range, causing her to loose value time. A charge by Johnston against Kongo forced that battlewagon to concentrate on her without success. Hoel attracted the fire of several battleships and cruisers that were thus unable to attack the U.S. carriers.
Support gradually became available to the U.S. As Sprague moved his forces east, then south, Taffy 1 under Rear-Admiral Felix B. Stump had became aware of the danger it was itself in and headed away from the danger, continuously launching planes to aid the sister force that was being hard-pressed by Kurita; together with Sprague’s own planes they created an impossible tactical situation: Kurita was desperately trying to get at the U.S. carriers, hampered by enemy air and destroyer attacks as much as by his own damaged cruisers.
As Kurita’s situation became more and more desperate, the air attacks that had been such a nuisance earlier became a real danger. Shortly after aiding Tone in the sinking of carrier Gambier Bay, which succumbed at 0907 the only carrier loss by surface engagement ever sustained by the U.S. Navy, Chikuma became the victim of concentrated air attacks, as did Chokai. Both vessels were crippled and sunk.
The sinking of Gambier Bay had peaked the Japanese assault. At 0911, Kurita had ordered retirement in fact of ever increasing danger from the air, correctly as it turned out. On his retirement, cruiser Suzuya, to which ComCruDiv7 had shifted his flag, was sunk by air attack.
Aiding his decision to retire was a clearly obvious development: he had made his bid when he launched his all-out attack on sighting the baby flattops; now, he was minutely paying a heavy price for no gain. Under the impression of heavy air attacks, Ozawa’s and Nishimura’s demise, and the likelihood that any delay now would only risk the return of Halsey before a successful retirement could be made, nothing could have been a wiser decision; and nothing could have made clearer the ultimate truth the Battle of Leyte Gulf showed: Japan’s Nihon Kaigun was finished.
Kurita’s sortie from Brunei had been Japan’s last bid for naval success. In its course, he had lost superbattleship Musashi; cruisers Atago, Maya, Chokai, Chikuma and Suzuya, with Kumano and Takao damaged severely. Several destroyers had suffered a similar fate. On the win side, he could note Gambier Bay, Hoel, Johnston, Samuel B. Roberts, and if one was kind to him, Darter. He had been repulsed from his main objective. He had played his role in the SHO plans with the necessary audacity and professional ability, and upon losing his last chance for a decision, made the courageous decision not to follow the way of Nishimura and add death to defeat, but retired his remaining forces successfully to Brunei. The Imperial Navy had engaged in the greatest battle of all times – and it was beaten bloodily. This was no Midway, no claim to bad luck could be made here: it was as fair a fight as war permits, and yet, the grave truth to Japan was that spirit had given way to technology.

Epilogue
Spirit had given way to technology; but by using greater spirit, the Japanese hoped they could turn technological odds. Leyte Gulf witnessed the first of perhaps the most harrowing type of attack delivered in World War II: Kamikaze.
“Kamikaze”, the “Divine Wind”, as Japanese a description for such a horrific weapon as there could be.
Although Tommy Sprague’s Taffy One would receive the dubious honor of being first to experience that assault, the damage incurred by his ships was comparatively slight: carriers Suwannee and Santee were hit, but not damaged heavily.
The next victims of the onslaught would be the already battered ships of Taffy 3, relaxing slightly after seeing Kurita’s masts vanish over the horizon. At 1050, the first Zeros appeared over the force. Weakened by combat losses, the ships were unable to put up too heavy defenses, and three hit home: two smashed into Kalinin Bay without major consequences, but the final one slammed himself into St. Lô, and in a huge ball of flame the baby carrier erupted and sank.
Thus, as it marked the eclipse of the seagoing Imperial Navy, it also marked the ascension of a new kind of warfare, that of guided missiles, for Kamikazes were no more than that. This last desperate attempt to turn the tide of the war would cost thousands of Allied sailors their lives; but there was no chance of it changing the outcome of the battles that followed – Luzon, Iwo Jima, Okinawa.
And though the battle of Leyte Gulf ended on a sour note for the U.S., the fact remained that on the evening of October 26th, 1944, there remained no Navy on any of the planet’s seven seas that would be capable of challenging Allied naval dominance.

The Key to Winning Pennants in the Major Leagues. It’s simple!

The regular Major League Baseball season has ended. The 10 winners are in the playoffs. The non-winners move to the off-season and start planning the next season. These teams, like my own favorite, the Minnesota Twins, try to take solace in the fact that they finished only 12 games behind the division winner, Kansas City. That is 12 games over 26 weeks; only one game every 2.3 weeks. Easy right? They will say that they are only .074 points behind KC. Next year, they hope, with phenoms Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, new pitchers, improvement from all players etc. etc, they can close the gap. The gap, however, is more formidable than first seen. All teams, by the way, do this analysis, but it is wrong.

Baseball is much more complicated than that. There is more balance in baseball than in any other team sport. All teams win 2 of 5 games and lose 2 of 5 games. It is that “Fifth Game” that determines pennants and there are only 32 of them. I call this “Fifth Game Theory,” href=”http://www.clarkgriffithblog.com/2013/06/1″>here The chart below shows the distribution of teams at the end of the season. For the most part, you can use the GB (games behind) column to see the difference in “Fifth Games” won. (The Phillies with 64 wins and Reds with 63 are rare outliers, but they were really bad.)

American League -East

      American League- East
      Team GP W L Pct GB Home Road
      Toronto Blue Jays 162 93 69 0.574 – 53-28 40-41
      New York Yankees 162 87 75 0.537 6.0 45-36 42-39
      Baltimore Orioles 162 81 81 0.500 12.0 49-32 32-49
      Tampa Bay Rays 162 80 82 0.494 13.0 41-40 39-42
      Boston Red Sox 162 78 84 0.481 15.0 43-38 35-46

American League – Central
Team GP  GB Home Road
Kansas City Royals 162  –
Minnesota Twins 162   12.0 46-35 37-44
Cleveland Indians 161  13.51 36-45
Detroit Tigers 161 74 87 0.460 20.5 38-43 36-44

American League – West
Team GP W L Pct GB Home Road
Texas Rangers 162 88 74 0.543 – 43-38 45-36
Houston Astros 162 86 76 0.531 2.0 53-28 33-48
Los Angeles Angels 162 85 77 0.525 3.0 49-32 36-45
Seattle Mariners 162 76 86 0.469 12.0 36-45 40-41
Oakland Athletics 162 68 94 0.420 20.0 34-47 34-47

National League – East
Team GP W L Pct GB Home Road
New York Mets 162 90 72 0.556 – 49-32 41-40
Washington Nationals 162 83 79 0.512 7.0 46-35 37-
Miami Marlins 162 71 91 0.438 19.0 41-40 30-51
Atlanta Braves 162 67 95 0.414 23.0 42-39 25-56
Philadelphia Phillies 162 63 99 0.389 27.0 37-44 26-55

National League – Central
Team GP W L Pct GB Home Road
St. Louis Cardinals 162 100 62 0.617 – 55-26 45-36
Pittsburgh Pirates 162 98 64 0.605 2.0 53-28 45-36
Chicago Cubs 162 97 65 0.599 3.0 49-32 48-33
Milwaukee Brewers 162 68 94 0.420 32.0 34-47 34-47
Cincinnati Reds 162 64 98 0.395 36.0 34-47 30-51

National League – West
Team GP W L Pct GB Home Road
Los Angeles Dodgers 162 92 70 0.568 – 55-26 37-44
San Francisco Giants 162 84 78 0.519 8.0 47-34 37-44
Arizona Diamondbks 162 79 83 0.488 13.0 39-42 40-41
San Diego Padres 162 74 88 0.457 18.0 39-42 35-46
Colorado Rockies 162 68 94 0.420 24.0 36-45 32-49

The argument that the Twins are within 12 games of the Royals is not the way to look at it. (You can insert your team here as well, like “Giants 8 behind Dodgers”)The proper way to look at next season, or any season, is to grant each team 65 wins and 65 loses for 2016. That means the winner will be the team that wins the most “Fifth Games;” that one game in five that is won or lost late in the game on a pitch, swing, catch or error. The Twins won 18 of these games in 2015,.562, while the Royals won 30 or .937; A huge difference. Instead of being 12 games in back of 162, they are 12 back in the 32 game “Fifth Game” schedule. In other words, the Twins have to improve dramatically in “Fifth Game” wins to get close to KC. Of course, the Royals have to win “Fifth Games” with the same efficiency​ as in 2015, but they are really good.

So what does a team have to do to improve its “Fifth Game” record. First, pitchers must avoid walking batters in late innings. That is a simple but true statement. Never walk the lead off hitter, never. Middle of the plate fast balls are better than walks. (I am amazed by how many “Fifth Games” are lost to walks to lead-off hitters in the late innings.) A team must have hitters who can adjust to situations by preparing for the moment and make a single when the game is in doubt. The old adage, “up the middle to win the game” is always true. That forces the batter to focus on the ball, hit it square in front of the plate, and go up the middle. This is the sign of a smart hitter. Then, make sure your fielders can play under pressure. It is not the extraordinary play that wins games most of the time, it is the error on a simple play that loses them. A prime example occurred in the Rangers/Royals last game the ALDS when Texas Rangers’ second basemen, Rougned Roberto Odor, missed a pop up he had called for. The Royals scored three runs after that and won. If Odor made that play, it may have been different. (Teams measure their competence by their play in the field. Errors destroy this competence/confidence and that’s not good) Players who can play “Fifth Games” are discovered by diligent scouting and it is your own team you should scout hardest.

There are players who win “Fifth Games” by making the right pitch, catching and throwing the ball accurately, and being prepared to hit the opposing pitcher. These are mental preparation matters and that’s what wins baseball games and players with these skills win pennants. This is sometimes called “Small Ball,” but it wins critical games, go with it. That’s how teams win pennants.

600th Anniversary of Agincourt and the Band Of Brothers Speech by Henry V.

I had the honor of studying history with Louis Morton, a noted military historian. Agincourt was studied as a great victory of the few, The Band of Brothers as Shakespeare named them in ‘Henry V,” over the many, the French knights and soldiers who were slaughtered. This is an important moment in history, a mere 600 years ago.

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Thanks to Josh Gelernter in National Review Online.

Six hundred years ago this weekend, a wet and battered English army was fleeing France. King Henry V of England had invaded, hoping to press a claim to the French throne — a weak claim that was made stronger by the French king’s being insane: Charles VI believed, at times, that he was made of glass, and lived in deathly fear that someone would break him. Henry believed this made it a good time to undo England’s failure to capture France during during act 1 of the Hundred Years’ War. In August of 1415, Henry invaded Normandy and attacked the fortified city of Harfleur; he won, but the fight had taken a month and a half and cost Henry a third of his army. With a bitter, rainy autumn already giving way to winter, Henry decided that discretion would be the better part of valor. The last English possession on the continent, Calais, was a ten-day march away; that was where Henry and his army of 6,000 headed. Scouts soon reported that the English were being shadowed by the French army, which — after failing to assemble in time to reinforce Harfleur — was bent on revenge. The French force outnumbered Henry’s four or five to one, and blocked his way home. Henry had two choices: first, to offer himself to France as a captive for ransom, or, second, to fight a battle he was almost certain to lose. Henry sent his decision though a French herald named Montjoy: “Go bid thy master well advise himself: If we may pass, we will. If we be hindered, we shall your tawny ground with your red blood discolor . . . The sum of all our answer is but this: We would not seek a battle, as we are. Nor as we are, we say we will not shun it.” At least, that’s what he said according to Shakespeare. See, Henry was not only marching to one of the most important battles in European history, he was marching toward one of the defining moments in the English language: the Battle of Agincourt, and the Band of Brothers speech. The English army had walked 200 miles and was totally exhausted. Henry’s thousand knights had virtually no food left; his 5,000 archers were living off foraged berries. They were two days from Calais, but a French army of (a best-guessed) 25,000 men had camped ahead of them on the road. That night, Henry confessed his sins and heard Mass. The next morning — October 25, 1415 — he and his men lined up for battle a thousand yards in front of the French. The French herald, Montjoy, was a real person. It’s entirely possible that, as he does in Shakespeare’s play, Montjoy approached Henry again, as the armies took position, and repeated the offer of peace in exchange for the King’s surrendering himself for ransom. ADVERTISING I pray thee, bear my former answer back:” says Henry. “Bid them [defeat] me and then sell my bones. Good God! Why should they mock poor fellows thus? . . . We are but warriors for the working-day; our gayness and our gilt are all besmirched with rainy marching in the painful field — but by the mass, our hearts are in the trim!” Hearts-in-trim was about all Henry could claim. Historically speaking, the English had a single line of men-at-arms — that is, knights and other professional, armor-wearing soldiers — flanked by archers. The French had three lines, each one larger than Henry’s, backed up by cavalry. Defeat seemed certain. Four men who witnessed the battle wrote accounts of it; they agree on all the major points, leaving historians in little doubt as to what happened. Nonetheless, what happened seems inexplicable. The French were well fed and well rested. Henry hoped to fight from a defensive position, but the French knew they had time and food on their side, and refused to budge. Henry relented, and marched his men to within two or three hundred yards of the French — close enough for his archers to begin firing, in hopes of provoking a French attack. According to the great military historian John Keegan, the English archers’ volleys couldn’t have had much physical effect on the French knights, who were heavily armored in steel. But, as Henry had hoped, it was enough to goad them into a cavalry charge — directly into a line of sharpened pikes the English archers had driven into the ground. “A horse, in the normal course of events, will not gallop at an obstacle it cannot jump or see a way through,” says Keegan. “Even less will it go at the sort of obviously dangerous obstacles which the archers’ stakes presented.” But that’s exactly what happened: For an unknown reason (could they not see what they were riding toward?) the horses were driven by their riders into the spiked defenses. Many of the horses were killed; many others had their riders knocked to the ground. The de-horsed men were killed where they lay. The rest retreated — either because of frightened men or frightened horses — and crashed directly into the approaching first line of French infantry. The oncoming line broke, trying to dodge the escaping cavalry, and was thrown into chaos. Nonetheless, buoyed by its overwhelming manpower advantage, it continued toward the English line: men-at-arms flanked by the archers. The English men-at-arms were outnumbered roughly eight to one by each of the three French lines — but soon, according to several eyewitness accounts, the French dead were piled in heaps six feet high. “Six feet high” is probably an exaggeration. Historians assure us it’s not possible to pile bodies more than two or three feet high, without rigor mortis having set in. Nonetheless, within minutes, thousands and thousands of French had been killed, with hardly a single casualty on the English side. The witnesses don’t explain exactly what happened; what’s guessed to have happened is this: The French had shortened their lances for dismounted fighting; the English had not. With longer lances, the English were able to begin stabbing the French before the French could stab them back. The French line was so deep that the men in the rear couldn’t see what was going on; they pushed the men in front of them forward, like the jerks in an airport security line. What the men in front were being pushed into was, more or less, a meat grinder. Meanwhile, the second line of French infantry arrived and began to push the first, likewise unaware what was happening at the front. The crush of French soldiers was so great that the men actually doing the fighting had difficulty moving their arms, let alone themselves. Seeing the foundering French, the English archers — who were out of arrows anyway — ran to join the fight, attacking the French flanks with weapons they scooped up from the piles of corpses. In the space of a half-hour, six or eight thousand Frenchmen had been killed, and two or so thousand more had been taken prisoner. Fearing a second attack from the remaining French cavalry, Henry — in a famous act of savagery — ordered the execution of all French prisoners. The order was savage, but not illogical: There were more French knights who had been taken prisoner than there were English knights in total; Henry feared they would re-arm themselves, as his archers had, and attack from his rear. When he issued the execution order, though, he was rebuffed: His knights refused to kill the unarmed prisoners. So Henry ordered his archers to do the job instead; they weren’t bound by the code of chivalry. (Keegan argues that it’s unlikely many prisoners were actually killed; he suggests the execution order was more of a show to frighten the POWs than an actual call to massacre: “some [prisoners] would have been killed in the process, and quite deliberately, but we need not reckon their number in the thousands, perhaps not even in the hundreds.” Still, legendary or not, the incident is a quintessential violation of the rules of war.) According to Shakespeare’s play, the English had lost just 30 men. In reality, the English dead probably numbered between one and two hundred; still, it was an astounding ratio. According to Shakespeare’s play, the English had lost just 30 men. In reality, the English dead probably numbered between one and two hundred; still, it was an astounding ratio: Every dead Englishman had taken scores of Frenchmen with him. France’s military leadership had been decimated: The constable of France — the French army’s commander-in-chief — had been killed; so had the admiral of France, the master of crossbowmen, and the master of the royal household. France’s aristocracy had fared even worse: Three dukes were dead, along with eight counts and 90 lower-ranked nobles. The marshal of France, two more dukes, and two more counts had been taken prisoner. Soon, the French would sign a surrender; Henry V would take control of France, marry King Charles’s daughter, and unite the French and English monarchies. Keegan sums up the Battle of Agincourt as “a victory of the weak over the strong, of the common soldier over the mounted knight, of resolution over bombast, of the desperate, cornered and far from home, over the proprietorial and cocksure.” In his play, Shakespeare apologizes for having tried to sum it up at all, with his “rough and all-unable pen.” He may have been selling himself short. As the weary English prepare for battle, Shakespeare shows Henry’s nobles fearing inevitable defeat. Henry overhears the earl of Westmoreland wish the English had 10,000 soldiers more: Then maybe it would be a fair fight. Henry accosts him: “What’s he that wishes so, my cousin Westmoreland? . . . If we are marked to die, we are enough to do our country loss — and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honor. God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more. . . . Rather, proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, that he which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart. His passport shall be made, and crowns for convoy put into his purse — we would not die in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to die with us! “This day is called the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is named . . . strip his sleeve and show his scars and say, ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day!’ Old men forget — yet all shall be forgot, but he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day . . . And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by from this day to the ending of the world but we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition. And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here — and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!”

(Author’s Note: This piece was written just moments after the Mets clinched an NLDS victory — a victory greater, more astounding, and more remarkable than any since Agincourt.) — Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard. He is a founder of the tech startup ach.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425729/henry-v-agincourt

THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS’ HORRIBLY DISAPPOINTING SEASON, WHAT WENT WRONG?

I grew up a Washington baseball fans for either the Senators or Nationals, the names seemed to change. I became a Minnesota Twins fan when the original Washington team and I were both moved to that state. My friend, Paul Mirengoff of Powerlineblog.com, still lives in Washington and suffered through the very disappointing 2015 season. Here’s his view of that season. He is an excellent writer and I share his observations.
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The regular baseball season ended yesterday, which means the end of the line for the disappointing 2015 Washington Nationals. The bookmakers pre-season favorites to make the World Series limped home in second place in their division, 7 games behind the New York Mets, with a record of 83-79. Today they fired manager Matt Williams.

Washington fans are debating whether the Nats’ season represents the biggest disappointment by a Washington team in memory. I say it does. The hockey team has often been disappointing in the playoffs. But anything can happen in the playoffs, and at least the Caps have made the playoffs when expected to.

The 2000 Redskins were very disappointing if one believed that the acquisition of past their prime (time) Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith made them a Super Bowl contender. I didn’t, but I did buy into the 2015 Nats.

So what went wrong?

We can start with the usual suspect — injuries. The team began the season without the services of the three batters at the top of their projected lineup: Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, and Jayson Werth. Not long after that, they lost their talisman Ryan Zimmerman (projected to bat fifth) for an extended period. That’s half of the lineup. None of the four managed to play 100 games this year. Span played only 61.

Ace starting pitcher Steven Strasburg missed 10 starts and must have been ailing in many more. His ERA was above 5.00 when the team finally shut him down in early July. After returning in August, he was so good that he ended the season with a 3.46 ERA.

These are only the most significant injuries.

But the team was relatively healthy when it headed into the back stretch of the season tied with the Mets. Thus, injuries can only carry the analysis so far.

A second key factor was (ex)manager Williams. Commenting about Yogi Berra’s managerial career, I wrote “isn’t it amazing how well ‘bad’ managers perform when they have a reliable closer?” Matt Williams had a reliable closer throughout this season yet managed poorly. That’s because he was a bad manager, not a “bad” manager.

For most of the season, Williams rigidly followed the unwritten rules for using relief pitchers (use closers only in “save” situations, never in a tie game; have them pitch only one inning, the ninth; always let them start that inning; etc.). As I have often complained, these “rules” seem designed to prevent managers from thinking, to protect them from being second-guessed, and to enable closers to amass impressive numbers of saves and thus help their bargaining position at contract time.

They shouldn’t dictate decisions in important games. For example, slavish adherence to the unwritten rules should be eschewed when you’re playing the team you’re tied for first place with in a three-game series in August, as the Nats did this year.

The Nats dropped all three games, two of them by just one run. Neither of Williams’ relief aces (Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon) appeared in any of the games. Why? Because the formula was never right for them to be called on.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of Williams’ poor decisions. But he’s gone now, so let’s move on to. . .

Ian Desmond, who next to Bryce Harper was the most heralded Nats regular that played regularly. Desmond reportedly turned down a seven-year $107 million contract extension. He thus entered the season knowing he would not be back next year.

That’s okay. Players do this all the time. But under the pressure of playing for his next contract, Desmond proved unable to perform at his usual high level. In fact, we were well into the season before he could be counted on to make a routine defensive play.

Desmond’s struggles at the plate lasted even longer. After the Mets swept the Nats in early August, Desmond’s batting average stood at just .216. He would raise it to .233 by the end of the season. But with so many regulars hurt early in the year, the Nats needed consistent production from Desmond, a clubhouse leader. They didn’t get it.

Then, there’s Drew Storen. Brilliant in the closer role, he was demoted to eighth inning man when the Nats acquired Papelbon. He was fine in this role for a few games, but then collapsed.

On August 6, his ERA was 1.52. By the end of the month, it was 3.24 and by season’s end 3.44. Moreover, Storen blew several big leads in important games.

Many blame management for moving him up one inning. Is there a causal relationship? I don’t know, but Storen also pitched poorly after losing the closer role in 2013, so maybe there is.

It’s difficult for me to understand, or sympathize with, a pitcher who goes into a tailspin because he’s assigned to pitch a different inning. And it’s difficult to be confident that such a pitcher won’t let you down as a closer when it really matters (as Storen has done in the playoffs).

The old school would have it that pitching one inning is pitching one inning, regardless of the inning’s number. I’m with the old school on this one.

Speaking of the old school brings us to the Jonathan Papelbon-Bryce Harper dust-up. This incident, in which, after an argument, Harper challenged Papelbon to a fight and the latter commenced trying to choke the team’s superstar, occurred after the Nats were out of the pennant race. It’s worth considering nonetheless.

The fight must be understood in the context of an incident that occurred a few days earlier. Papelbon threw two pitches at Orioles star Manny Machado, who had a key home run off of Max Scherzer and spent some time admiring it. After the game, Harper complained, “I’ll get drilled [in retaliation] tomorrow.”

I’m not old school enough to defend throwing at Machado. But Harper’s comment reinforced the suspicion that for Harper, it’s always about Harper.

If Papelbon’s pitch had led to a fight with the Orioles, he would have had the right to expect his teammates to defend him. The least he could expect from Harper was not to be thrown under the bus before the media.

Keep in mind too that Papelbon was probably acquired not just because of his ability as a reliever, but also to add some attitude to the team. He’s known to be a S.O.B., and unlike the Nats, he has a history of post-season success and a World Series ring.

Papelbon almost certainly had Harper’s comment in mind when, a few days later, he yelled at the young superstar for not “running out” a pop-up. The criticism was silly — Harper ran it out to first base. Yes, he stopped there, but few players would have headed to second on an obvious out in the context of this game.

Harper tried to brush off the criticism at first, but when Papelbon persisted, Harper reportedly said “let’s f___ing go” and the brief fight was on. (Manager Williams, by the way, didn’t know it had taken place even though two of his coaches helped break it up).

Papelbon later took the blame, as he should have. In his comments, though, he made several references to “brothers” and added, “next year when we are in the thick of it and we’re grinding together and big games mean something, we’ll pick each other up.” I take this mean that Harper did not behave like a “brother” or pick Papelbon up after the Machado incident.

Papelbon may not be around next year to be Harper’s brother. Harper had a monster year, and it’s not wise to fight with face of the franchise. Let’s hope, though, that the face of the franchise adopts a less self-centered attitude going forward.

Speaking of attitude, that of the local fans and media puzzles me. They continued to treat Desmond like a hero even as he was about to walk out on the team and was helping to sink its pennant prospects in the process. One writer even criticized management for not holding some sort of ceremony for the shortstop.

As I said, there’s nothing reprehensible about Desmond selling his services to the highest bidder. But he doesn’t deserve a parade.

The fans’ reaction to the Harper-Papelbon fight seemed over the top. The Washington Post collected some of the reaction:

“We don’t need a player like that on the team,” Patty MacEwan of Alexandria said, sitting in front of a sign asking the team to designate Papelbon for assignment. “That was assault; I don’t care what anyone else says.”

Another, Angela Halsted of Arlington, said she had trouble sleeping Sunday night because of the incident.

“I thought what he did was completely out of line, totally toxic, and the whole boys-will-be-boys response to it was really disturbing to me,” she said. “I don’t want someone like Papelbon on that team.”

After a third fan pledged to donate $100 to a charity of the team’s choice if Papelbon was jettisoned, fellow travelers promised thousands of dollars of additional donations. . . .

Jocelyn Dorfman had never before jeered a player on her favorite team; she said she would have reconsidered her fandom had Papelbon been in uniform Monday.

“I think he’s just horrible, and I think he will have a despicable impact on this team,” she said, while pledging an entire paycheck to charity if Papelbon is removed from the roster. “I still am not able to process what happened. I have two master’s degrees in psychology, and I can’t process that behavior.”

(Emphasis added)

Hide the women and children, the Nats have a mean hombre on their team. Avert your eyes, professional athletes have had a scrap.

Only in Washington, D.C. (I hope). Maybe we’re getting the baseball team we deserve.

UPDATE: Lee Smith, a brilliant analyst of the Middle East, argued in the Weekly Standard that Nats fans should blame general manager Mike Rizzo, not Matt Williams. It seems to me, however, that his article mostly highlights Williams’ deficiencies.

Smith makes the excellent point that situational hitting was mostly a foreign concept to the Nats. That’s on field management, it seems to me.

The Washington Post recounted how, when mired in a slump, Ian Desmond asked his coach (and friend) Randy Knorr for a tip. Knorr told him to stop swinging from the heels all the time.

The advice, which I think applied to most of the team’s hitters, helped Desmond. But why did Desmond have to ask for it? This too is on field management.

It’s true that Rizzo assembled the team. But the talent he assembled is formidable.

It’s also true that Rizzo has had good luck (Strasburg and Harper were available in back-to-back seasons when the Nats had the first draft pick) and that he has made some mistakes (most notably hiring Williams).

But I’m hard pressed to see as Rizzo as a major culprit given the team’s record before he arrived and its record in the past four years, during which the Nats have won two division titles and had seasons of 98 and 96 wins.