Defense Primers for Congress

How to be as smart as Congress.  See the following list of Primers developed by CRS for Members of Congress.


The Congressional Research Service developed “a series of short primers to provide Members of Congress an overview of key aspects of the Department of Defense and how Congress exercises authority over it.” The defense primer series, several of which have been recently updated, can be found here.

Some other noteworthy recent CRS publications include the following.

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status, updated September 6, 2019

Congress and the War in Yemen: Oversight and Legislation 2015-2019, updated September 6, 2019

Afghanistan: Issues for Congress and Legislation 2017-2019, updated September 3, 2019

DHS Border Barrier Funding, updated September 6, 2019

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, updated September 6, 2019


Reblog: When Pianos Went to War

Music was a morale booster when America went to war so the United States made a piano exception for the ban on musical instruments.

During the war, the U.S. government essentially shut down the production of musical instruments in order to divert vital resources such as iron, copper, brass, and other materials to the war effort. Yet the government also determined that the war effort ought to include entertainment that could lift soldiers’ spirits. But just any old piano wouldn’t do. They needed ones hardy enough to withstand the trying conditions out in the field—including being packed into a crate and dropped out of a plane.

The caveat was that the piano had to be “sturdy enough to withstand being packed into a crate and dropped out of a plane.”

During the war, the U.S. government essentially shut down the production of musical instruments in order to divert vital resources such as iron, copper, brass, and other materials to the war effort. Yet the government also determined that the war effort ought to include entertainment that could lift soldiers’ spirits. But just any old piano wouldn’t do. They needed ones hardy enough to withstand the trying conditions out in the field—including being packed into a crate and dropped out of a plane.

Enter Steinway and Son’s Victory Verticals.  They looked like the standard uprights but  were much sturdier.

Steinway provides more information about their amazing Victory Verticals.

Intended to lift troop morale, the 40-inch-tall Victory Verticals were identified by their military colors (olive drab, blue and gray), absence of front legs (deemed too delicate for the battlefield), and durable shipping crates. About 2,500 of the verticals were transported to every theater of war, including Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and the South Pacific. They were played by a dance band in the Philippines, a special service unit in Alaska, and by performers from Bob Hope to violinist Isaac Stern as they toured on behalf of the United Service Organizations (USO).

September 11, 2001 Documents from the Library of Congress

Where were you on 9/11? What do you remember most about that day?

I was at work at the National Defense University Library in Washington, DC.  I remember how lovely that Tuesday way,  low humidity, bright sunshine and a feeling that the day could not get any better.

After 7 am, we heard people saying “Turn on the television. A plane has gone into one of the two towers of the World Trade Center.”

We gathered around a television set up in one of the library training rooms. Some of the university administration rushed in and out of the room as they compared what was on television with what they could get officially back on their computers and blackberries.

When another plane hit the second tower, we were confused as to whether this was a second attack or a re-run of the first attack.
After we heard that a plane had hit the Pentagon, they decided to send us all home. Some of us decided to  leave later because of the infamous DC rush hour traffic so we had an impromptu picnic outside.

On my way home, I drove past the Navy Annex while going south on I-395. Seeing the that American flag still waving up the hill while I could see the Pentagon burning in my rear view mirror was one of the most uplifting things I could have seen that dreadful day.

We came to work the next day and waited in long lines outside the gate as four soldiers checked each car inside and out, plus ran a long mirror on a pole to check the undercarriage of each car. (We probably been told not to come into work but nobody thought that far ahead.)

The Library of Congress has  put together an online account of September 11th, memorabilia and documents.

Based on a similar project created after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the September 11, 2001, Documentary Project documents eyewitness accounts, expressions of grief and other commentary on the events of September 11, 2001. Included in this presentation are photographs, drawings, audio and video interviews and written narratives. Of special interest are interviews with people who were in Naples, Italy at the time of the attacks

Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Pride Day

All of the US Armed Forces have nine enlisted grades, E-1 through E-9.  In the Navy and the Coast Guard, the top three enlisted grades are known as Chief Petty Officers.

  • E-7 – Chief Petty Officer
  • E-8   Senior Chief Petty Officer
  • E-9   Master Chief Petty Officer

From the Navy Live: 10 Things to know about U.S. Navy Chiefs.

U.S. Navy chief petty officers are afforded more responsibility than any other enlisted rank in the world.

The objective of Chief Petty Officer Pride Day is to provide a momentous opportunity for Chiefs and Chief Selectees to network, be reunited with shipmates past, and display to the San Diego community the camaraderie of the United States Navy Chief Petty Officer network.

2019 CPO Pride Day was celebrated aboard the USS Midway

My shipmate, Phil Eakin, USN ret shared the following info with me by email.

My wife, Carol, leaves the house at 0500 this morning because the chiefs and CPO selectees will be starting to gather on the pier at 0530 or so for the preliminaries and getting ready for boarding.  She’s the military events coordinator for the Midway, and CPO Pride Day has been big on the Midway for a number of years.  This evening, with a beer in hand, she reports 2,261 chiefs and selectees participated.  There is a spread of 13 photos on the Midway Facebook page (link follows).  If you see a lady with a broken foot, that is Carol.  The older gent in one of the photos is Stu Headley, retired CPO and Pearl Harbor Survivor who does a lot of stuff with the Midway.  CPO Selectees in lighter shirts; CPO’s in darker shirts.

I have known many memorabe Navy Chiefs over my career.  Before I went to library school, I was a receptionist at for the  Special Services Office at the Naval Training Center, where I got to know seveal very special chiefs.

The normal sea-shore rotation was five years at sea, followed by a two-three year shore tour.  Since San Diego have more ships requiring sailors than it did shore billets, it  was hard to find enough billets for sailors who wanted to remain in San Diego to serve their shore tour.  Special Services (now Morale, Welfare and Receration–MWR) was one of the places that a shore based sailor or CPO could be assigned.

One of the chiefs during that  period was BMC John Gobo. (BMC is a Chief Boatswains Mate–pronounced Bosun) From Wikipedia:

The United States Navy occupational rating of boatswain’s mate (abbreviated as BM) is a designation given by the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) to enlisted members who were rated or “striking” for the rating as a deck seaman. The colloquial form of address for a boatswain’s mate is “Boats”.

The rating of Boatswain’s Mate dates from the American Revolutionary War and was one of the oldest U.S. Navy ratings in continuous existence from 1775 to present. For a period of three months at the end of 2016, the rating (along with all ratings in the Navy) was scheduled for elimination, but the proposed change was unpopular with both sailors and Navy veterans and was reversed in December of that year.[1]

The Chief’s Creed according to BMC Gobo
A Chief will never drink
But if a Chief will drink, a Chief will never get drunk
But if a Chief Gets Drunk, a Chief will never fall down
If a Chief should fall down,
He will fall on his left side, throwin his right arm over his body
So that everyone will think he is an admiral
Master Chief Petty Officer
Note the abundance of gold hash marks on the sleeve of this master chief petty officer.  He earned a gold hash mark for each good conduct enlistment.  Otherwise the hashmarks would be red.


CPO Pride Day 2019
CPO Pride Day 2019 on the deck of the USS Midway. 


Reblog: Send a Letter to the 4 Remaining Veterans from the USS Arizona

 All the information you will need (their bios, mailing info, and more links) for this mission is here:

Know a teacher, coach, group leader, or corporate manager? Forward this to them as well! This is a great group project!  Deadline: October 6, 2019

Reblog: Beginnings 15 Years of Midway

I’m the East Coast volunteer for the USS Midway Library (which means that monthly I go up to College Park, MD to the Archives to download deck logs  and do some remote cataloging from time to time.)   The USS Midway Museum turned 15 years old in June.  Although it  is the most popular ship museum in the United States, in 2004 that was not yet a done deal.  Read Midway’s historian Karl Zingheims blog on the Midway’s early days.

USS Midway banner

The Volunteer: A True Tale of a Courageous Man and Auschwitz

To the people that say the Holocaust never happened, get your head out of whichever orifice or subterranean location you have parked it. DC Gilbert has written a book review of Witold PIlecki, a Polish hero who infiltrated Auschwitz at the possible cost of his own life to find out what was going on and to let the world know what was going on.

Author DC Gilbert

German soldiers crossed the border into Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering the beginning of World War II. In response to the German invasion of Poland, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. However, it would be several very long years before Poland would see any kind of relief from Allied action.

The Volunteer

The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather is an almost unfathomable true story of courage and sacrifice. It is a story that would make most of us ask the question of ourselves, “Is there any way I could possibly do what this man did?”

This is the incredible story of a courageous Polish national who volunteered to infiltrate Auschwitz in an attempt to sabotage the camp from the inside, and his extremely dangerous attempt to warn the Allies of Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

Would you volunteer?

In an…

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Reblog: Fear brought rise to an icon – Smokey

The Forest Service celebrated Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday on August 9.  GP Cox has provided more information on the background of Smokey Bear than I have seen anywhere else.  The shelling that prompted the entire thing was when a Japanese sub, I-17, shelled Ellwood, California, near Santa Barbara on February 23, 1942.  The sub was trying to hit a Richfield fuel tank near the beach.

via Fear brought rise to an icon – Smokey