The australian naval institute

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Playing catch-up is a hard and frustrating game. On a national scale, as when a nation races to rebuild its defenses, it can be grossly wasteful and dangerous.

The United States is engaged in one of the biggest games of catch-up in national defense the world has ever known. On the theory that deprivation of funds caused the decay of our armed services, we are now engaged in the time-honored American custom of throwingmoney at a problem in the hopes it will be solved.

The worst thing about playing catch-up is that it frequently repairs the edifice while letting the foundation crumble. The foundation of any military service is its manpower and the man­power problems of the American armed forces are in a critical state. The time has come to institute a form of universal military service (UMS).

Conscription has had a checkered history in the United States. Several of the colonies required men to train each yeai to protect western outposts from Indian attacks. During the Revolution, some attempts were made to con­script soldiers for the Contnental Army (an unpopular duty for an unpopular war) but those efforts met with little or no success. Our lack of a strong national government to pass and enforce draft legislation was one of the primary reasons for this failure. James Madison seriously con­sidered proposing a draft bill during the War of 1812 because there were not enough volunteers to fill the needs of the Army.

Our first major experience with the effects of conscription occurred in the American Civil War Both sides were forced to oass conscription legislation but civil disturbances erupted in several cities when it was enfcrced. The Federal statute was full of loopholes, the most notorious of which allowed the hiring of a substitute by a draftee. Even President Grover Cleveland made use of this provision to buy himself out of service.

During World War I. it was immediately evident to our military planners that conscription would be necessary if we were to build the massive armies required on the Western Front. Over considerable opposition, a conscription bill was passed. Its enforcement, however, was sur­prisingly easy, considering the vociferous anti-war movement that existed prior to our entry into the war and the large number of immigrants and descendents of immigrants who had come to this country from the nations making up the Central Powers.

The first peacetime military draft was passed in 1940 but only after fierce debates on the floor of Congress and throughout the nation. One year later the draft was renewed in the House of Representatives, but only by a one vote margin. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, however, ended all debate on the matter of conscription. The tide of patriotism rose to full crest and many men, like my father, found the Selective Service System too slow in calling them to the colors, so they volun­teered.

Although the draft ended after World War II, the Cold War brought a renewal which lasted until the early 1970s. Twice during this time-frame the United States entered major wars without a specific congressional declaration mandated by the Constitution. These two conflicts. Korea and Vietnam, were neither temporary interventions nor "police actions". They were full-fledged wars which demanded the treasure and human resources of the country. What the Founding Fathers had sought to prevent had come to pass; the president on his own authority had taken the nation to war.

The drafting of men to fight in these conflicts met with increasing opposition Many felt that undeclared wars were a danger to the security of our form of constitutional government. President Nixon's shift to an All Volunteer Force (AVF) was one of his most popular acts; liberals opposed the draft for they believed it provided the manpower to enter undeclared wars and conservatives favoured the promise of a more highly trained and

Page 46 Journal ol the Australian Nazal Institute

motivated professional force. But the plan is not working.

Some see the establishment of a large pro­fessional military force as contrary to the traditions of English-speaking peoples dating from the time of Charles I. Certainly the Congress had never seen lit to maintain a professional army in excess of 100,000 men prior to the last decade

As has been discussed repeatedly of late, the quality of many of our troops is doubtful at best. It is enough to quote West German Foreign Minister Hans Mathoefer's observations of American and German forces. At least our soldiers do not use drugs and can read and write". There are, however, encouraging signs regarding these serious problems.

The American high command is taking strong steps to curb drug abuse in the services Enlishment of high school graduates sharply increased last year Retention problems are easing because of the large pay increases voted by Congress over the last two years. The weakness of the civilian economy is playing a mapr role in persuading those in uniform to stay in the service as well as bring in new recruits

Overall enlistments are up. In the first nine months of 1981. every branch of service met its recruitment goal except the Army which was only 2% short. Thus, it is not inconceivable that the estimation of an additional 300.000 active troops needed by the armed forces in the next five years can be met with volunteers

Why men Droach such a potentially decisive question as UMS now? First, because of the status of our reserves. Second, for the moral well-being of the nation.

Early in 1981 the Economist observed that America was fit to fight, but not for long. Many experts, headed by the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Maxwell D. Taylor, agree. General Taylor has pointed out that regular divisions are scheduled to receive battalion-size artillary, engineer, signal, transport and medical units on mobilization without which they cannot function properly. The Individual Ready Reserve is down from 900,000 during the draft to 200,000 today and is unable to support the number of active divisions we have in Europe and Korea.

National Guard Forces are showing a corres­ponding decline in manpower which is hampering their role as reserve troops and also as quasi-police units commanded by the governments of the individual states in time of natural disasters and other emergencies. To put it simply, the lack of proper reserves can obviate any improvements made in the active forces.

Finally, it is in the national self-interest to promote UMS. This could take the form of solely military service or could include a civilian service option. It should include women but the needs of

the military are so pressing that this question could be set aside, at least for awhile, to avoid the defeat of a military program.

During our Revolution, we criticized Britain for sending Hessians to fight us because they had no interest in the struggle. We have taken a dim view of mercenary troops ever since. But statistics show that many of our troops are drawn from the lower strata of American society. Are we not. therefore, hiring a Praetorian or Swiss Guard that has little at stake in our society? How long can the middle and upper income groups cling to the motto, Billions for defense, but not one of my


Richard Cohen, a respected columnist, has said. "Any war worth fighting is worth fighting as a nation. And any large army worth maintaining is worth maintaining with conscripts. We can't pick a fight and then pay someone else to do the fighting for us (as) we tried to do in the beginning in Vietnam — and no one wants to go through that experience again."

Times are changing. A recent opinion poll shows 71% of those surveyed in favour of all men giving one year of service to the nation, either in the military or in nonmilitary work, at home or abroad. It will take political courage to propose a resumption of conscription but the time has come when it is a necessity. We must catch-up militarily with our potential foes.

Harry S. Truman, in a message to Congress, stated the case for UMS in his usual succinct manner: "The backbone of our military force should be the trained citizen who is first and fore­most a civilian, and who becomes a soldier or a sailor only in time of danger — and only when the Congress considers it necessary — In such a system, however, the citizen reserve must be a trained reserve. We can meet the need for a trained reserve in only one way — by universal training."


Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute Page 4 7

Nobody asked me, but...


The arrival of a nervous, mostly long haired group of youths at the Adult Recruit School can. if witnessed, lead to the conclusion that the demise of the Australian nation is nigh. It can also lead to the conclusion that the curreni Press Gang staff is deficient of at least two of the five senses normally issued to home sapiens.

Not all of these youths will survive the recruit course but all will, by now, have survived a fairly comprehensive selection procedure. It is obvious, of course, that the recruiting staff are not infallible but the Navy can rest assured that a 120 cm Mongolian camel coxswain with 3 legs and one eye in the centre of his fo'ehead will not be admitted. Apart from his other attributes he would not meet the nationality requirements; even if he does support the V.F.L

The current selection procedure can uninten­tionally cheer up the staff no end.

The young hopeful suomits his Defence Force Application Form, and :his is then checked prior to allocating a test date. It provides some interesting information. One applicant who worked in a candle-making "acton/ gave as his reason for leaving "factory burned down", while another stated "My boss was homosexual and took a liking to me". A question requesting next-of-kin details also requested the relationship of the name entered and the answer to this was "Good". One applicant who had trouble with both his reading and spelling said his hair was blue and his eyes were "Black ".

Test day can be traumatic for both staff and the candidates. The latter are required to do a simple maths and english test and a test in logic and the results are a telling indictment of the modern education system. Over sixty-five per cent of all applicants fail the maths test.

The worried survivors of this mental torture are then interviewed by the psychologist who provides the Senior Naval Recruiting Officer with a recommendation to accept or reject. The SNRO

will normally follow this advice but may, and occasionally does, take the opposite view

The SNRO was perusing the Application Form and invited the applicant to sit down. On looking up he found himself gazing with interest at a large, square pallid face with one earring suspended from one side, two form the other, and a meat pie fitted securely into the forward section Not a pretty sight!

The doctors are kept entertained too; one applicant, on being told to stand on his toes, placed one foot on top of the other!

Police and security checks are of course, part of the procedure and these also provide a means of enlivening an otherwise dull day One police check merely read "attempted extortion" and further queries disclosed the fact that the applicant had wired four sticks of gelignite to the

male heads at a Supermarket in C and

displaying a form of sexual discrimmnation, six
sticks to the female heads. This was the gentle­
man known as the "C bomber". In case

Divisional staff are now looking at the latest intake with a more penetrating gaze than usual he was invited to offer his considerable talents to some other less demanding employer.

Naval Security recently returned a request for a security check from an Irish citizen (what else?) who gave his sister's name as Moyle, his father's as Foyle, and his mother's name as Doyle. Only the first letter has been changed to protect the innocent.

It may be difficult to comprehend but for every sterling representative of Australian youth who enters the Royal Australian Navy there are seven to eight who are advised they are below the standards required. The latter sometimes fail to accurately inform their parents of the reason for their failure and the staff occasionally receive acrimonious telephone calls which tend to lower the normal level of hilarity in the office.

To paraphrase Thucydides ("An interview with an angry parent can ruin your entire day".


Page 48 Journal ot the Australian \aval Institute


Why don't we have a Naval Review during the

Bi-Centenary in 1988? We seem on past occasions to have been willing to put on the odd Fleet entry, together with a few ships dressed alongside and one or two foreign visitors. But we have yet to emulate other countries — notably Britain — by putting the whole Fleet together for a few days to show the Navy off to the world.

Since Sydney Harbour does not have the anchorages of Spithead, we would probably have to have a moving feast, with the ships entering harbour, steaming around the navigable channels and then dispersing around the various dockyards and bases.

We should be able to assemble a reasonable collection of warships, even without going to the length the British do of dragging out the reserve ships. (As if we had any. anyway.) On the other hand, we should go to every length to ensure that the entire active Fleet is present.

With proper planning and publicity we could arouse enormous popular interest and probably get Sydney Harbour and its foreshores packed with spectators. By my reckoning, we would have over 20 major fleet units, including the sub­marines, and 30 minor war vessels. I am sure that we could also invite the British (perhaps HMS SIRiUS?), the New Zealanders (two or more), the Canadians, the Yanks and the French, to name but the more important. We might also have the Tall Ships "out.

The fact is that a Review of this size would emphasise the importance of the Navy and the part which it played in the foundation of Australia. The affair would not cost inordinately much and might very well serve to convince the Great Australian Public that the RAN consists of a little more than two patrol boats and an enraged LCH. Who knows, it might convince the politicians that we deserve the second carrier.

Mind you, we had better make sure that the Yanks don't bring the NIMITZ!







Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute — Page <9



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WHO SANK THE SYONEY? by Michael Montgomery Cassell Australia Limited. 242pp. illustrated. $15 95

HMAS SYDNEY and her entire complement of 545 dis­appeared almost without trace on 19 November 1941 I will assume that readers are familiar with the otlicial account ot her loss, pieced together by Naval Intelligence alter interrogation of survivors (rom the German raider KORMORAN Michael Montgomery, the son ol SYDNEYs navigating officer, was not satisfied by this account, as given n Hermon Gills Royal Australian Navy 1939- > 942 He began the research which led to this book soon after the release ol documents in 1976 under the 30 year rule and went on to interview KORMORAN survivors and others involved

Assimilation and evaluation of the enormous quantity ol information must have been a daunting task, particularly as many of the German survivors had apparently been instructed by their officers to give incorrect answers under interrogation, but Montgomery s personal interest doubtless helped him cany it through He highlights the many distrepancies and inconsis­tencies in the official account and I think it unlikely thai anybody who reads his book carefully will reman satisfied with the official account, even it they do not accept the alternative version postu­lated by Montgomery

The most convincing ot his arguments involve the location of the action, the disguise worn by KORMORAN. the purpose of the Q signal sent by the latter, and the likelihood that SYDNEY had accepted the disguise as genuine and reverted to cruising stations There appears to be considerable merit in the sugges tran that she was to tower a boat to provide assistance in response lo a false SOS from KORMC RAN

Montgomery also speculates tha a Japanese submarine may have been involved, as pad of an ambush intended to capture the transport AOUITANIA. and that SYDNEY survivors may have been machine-gunned in the water At first sight both ideas may seem far-fetched, but there is some evidence to support both and such possibilities should not be discarded lightly, particularly as they fit in well with the remainder ot the scenario painted by the author

It would seem that there are good reasons lor alleging a cover-up by the Navy, although (he possible causes for such a cover-up appear rather inadequate Certainly there are indica­tions that Naval Intelligence may have fabricated some evidence lo bolster the official account at its weakest points

The book is somewhat disorganised, in lhat it is often difficult to re-locate previous pertinam evidence, but to some extent this is ottsel by an excellent reference list and biblio­graphy, which should ease the lask of checking sources.

Once or twice Montgomery has tried a little too hard to support his hypothesis, notably in the map showing the positions at which KORMORAN survivors were picked up. several of

which should be shown some 30 miles further west, and m the cartoon from SALT magazine which, he claims, lists only RAN ships sunk by the Japanese, but includes WATERMEN and NESTOR, both sunk in the Mediterranean However. I think that this represents an excess of enthusiasm for his subiect rather than any serious attempt to mislead the reader It is also most tantalising that he did not complete the passage Navy Office records show thai three of Ihe persons whose names appeared
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