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Huế 1968: a Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam

2 September 2017

Huế 1968: a Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, Mark Bowden, 2017, ISBN 978-0-8021-2700-6, 610 pp.

Huế 1968: a Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden

Not another, nor ordinary book, Vietnam War book and not another battle book. Huế 1968 is both a book about this pivotal battle as well as a book bringing the reader into the fight with all of its sweat, fear, valor, dishonor, pain and brotherhood. We’ve see Mark Bowden do the same in the Somalian War with Black Hawk Down and he brings the same spellbinding style.

Some reviewers opine the book has unwanted detail but the story is mesmerizing. Learning how the NVA and Viet Cong altered the rhythm of the war with their urban warfare strategy. Learning how 75 yards saved a U.S. Army battalion from annihilation after 50% casualties. Learning how a USMC Colonel saved the fight by reading old manuals from a resource trunk. Learning how the NVA and Viet Cong scouted as well as infiltrated the city with men and weapons. The list goes on with none of the story seeming to extraneous or repetitive.

Bowden does well to have readers understand the mind sets of combatants as well as civilians—with a lot to understand. The military strategies are simple enough to comprehend but Bowden also delves into the minds of draftees in U.S. military service as he does into the motivations of Viet Cong.

Bowden scratches the surface in regard to the NVA and Viet Cong preparation, tactics and successful withdrawal (for that understanding read H. John Poole’s Phantom Soldier: the Enemy’s Answer to U.S. Firepower) but is engaging as well as remarkably informative in all other dimensions. This is more than okay since this is not a tactics manual. This is an understanding of the human dimension work, however, and in this Bowden also excels—along with his historical accuracy and objective writing. He often writes of the people behind historical photos taken during the battle and these stories are compelling. Readers will be surprised to find that out of the combatant population of a small town so many achieved leadership positions, both military and civilian.

Get this book to understand the Battle for Huế for its military, political and social effects since this single battle was so costly to both sides. If there is room for only one title on how people think and act in battle, whether military or civilian, this is the book to have.

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The HMS Queen Elizabeth afloat—2nd post

27 August 2017

The United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier is the HMS Queen Elizabeth and, pursuant to the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier design history, innovative—after all, it was the Royal Navy which invented the aircraft carrier. The most obvious innovation is her two island structures—the forward island controls ship operations and the aft island controls flight operations. Much of the ship’s aircraft arming is mechanized to increase sortie rates [But, can aircraft maintenance keep up?] and, in theory, can be crewed by as few as twelve. A pair of Rolls Royce Trent gas turbines deliver the ship’s primary power of nearly 100,000 hp allowing for the design maximum speed of more than 26 knots.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship built in the UK, displacing over 70,000 tons. She is sans catapults, instead using a ski ramp which has the Queen Elizabeth married to the Lockheed F-35B Lightning II to not become a helicopter carrier. It is the F-35B Lightning II (which has V/STOL abilities) which gives her fangs and it is the helicopters, with V-22 Ospreys, which gives her claws. Unlike other navies, the Royal Navy uses helicopter borne airborne early warning systems—in present case the AugustaWestland Merlin Crowsnest. The Boeing Vertol Chinook, Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, Boeing Apache, the AugustaWestland HM2 Wildcat and AugustaWestland HC4 Merlin round out the vertical flight compliment—for as many as 70 aircraft all up.

Pictured is an aerial view of HMS Queen Elizabeth as she conducts vital system tests off the coast of Scotland.
HMS Queen Elizabeth left Rosyth, where she has been under construction since 2014, to conduct sea trials. The Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers are the biggest warships ever built for the Royal Navy with four acres of sovereign territory, deployable across the globe to serve the United Kingdom on operations for 50 years. HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be the most advanced warships in the Royal Navy fleet and are the future flagships of the nation. Initially the ships will carry helicopters. The vast flight deck and hangar can accommodate any helicopter in Britain’s military inventory. From 2020, however, the primary punch will be delivered by the F35 Lightning II—© Crown Copyright image

Pictured is an aerial view of HMS Queen Elizabeth conducting vital system tests off the coast of Scotland and bet displaying the unique twin island structures of the class—© Crown Copyright image

The HMS Queen Elizabeth riding at anchor awaiting low tide before departing at the start vital system tests off the coast of Scotland—© Crown Copyright image by Andrew Linnett

 A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter in a fly past of the HMS Queen Elizabeth—© Crown Copyright image by LPhot Caz Davies

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, bottom, and an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Blacklions” of VFA-213 fly in formation above the HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) during exercise Saxon Warrior 2017—U.S. Navy photo by Capt. Jim McCall

SonicBAT II—Sonic Boom Play

27 August 2017

SonicBAT II—NASA’s latest research into the study of sonic booms, Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence Part II. A NASA F/A-18 Hornet flew at 32,000 feet at Mach 1.38 at the same time a NASA TG-14 motor glider (a Brazilian made Aeromot AMT-200 Super Ximango in civilian life) flew at varying altitudes during the 69 tests above the surface turbulence layer recording the sonic boom signatures (with the engine off) for comparison with those same sound signatures collected in three ground based microphone arrays.

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This NASA F/A-18 jet preparing for flight at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for SonicBAT II testing—NASA image

This NASA F/A-18 jet preparing for flight at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for SonicBAT II testing—NASA image

One of the NASA F/A-18 jet Hornets departs the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for SonicBAT II testing—NASA image

NASA pilots board an F/A-18 Hornet prior to take off from the agency’s Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA at Kennedy is partnering with the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, Langley Research Center in Virginia, and Space Florida for a program in which F/A-18s will take off from the Shuttle Landing Facility and fly at supersonic speeds while agency researchers measure the effects of low-altitude turbulence caused by sonic booms—NASA image

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The TG-14 motorized glider with wingtip mount mic in preparation for flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Flying with its engine off, the glider will be positioned above the 14,000-foot level to measure sonic booms created by agency F/A-18s to measure the effects of sonic booms—NASA image

Frontal view of the TG-14 motorized glider at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Flying with its engine off, the glider will be positioned above the 14,000-foot level to measure sonic booms created by agency F/A-18s to measure the effects of sonic booms—NASA image

The TG-14 motorized glider in preparation for flight from the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Flying with its engine off, the glider will be positioned above the turbulence level to measure sonic booms created by agency F/A-18s to measure the effects of their sonic booms—NASA image

Solar Eclipse 2017 results

21 August 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017 from the Solar Dynamic Laboratory at 304Å (NASA image)

Solar Eclipse 2017 from the Solar Dynamic Laboratory at 170Å (NASA image)

Composite image of Solar Eclipse 2017 over Madras OR (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Composite image of Solar Eclipse 2017 over Ross Lake WA (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The International Space Station transits the Moon and the Sun during Solar Eclipse 2017 over Ross Lake WA (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The umbra (darkest part of the shadow) falls onto Earth, caused by Solar Eclipse 2017 and seen from the International Space Station (NASA image)

Solar Eclipse 2017

15 August 2017

The U.S. Postal Service has Solar Eclipse stamps. Place a finger on the eclipse and the thermochromic ink changes the image of the eclipsed Sun to the Moon!

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Note NASA’s website for the 2017 solar eclipse

The talk has been about the path of totality (a 100% eclipse) locations quite a bit south or north of the path will experience substantial eclipses—Fort Lauderdale FL will experience an 80% eclipse though hundreds of miles away, by way of example. This map can help make plans for witnessing this spectacular event on August 21st.

NASA’s map of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

NASA publishes this schedule

From NASA

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From Dr. Charles Stanley (see comment below) we have this sage advice:

 

The solar eclipse will be here next Monday.  The countdown is proceeding apace.  If you are near the center of totality, you will have approximately two and a half minutes of total eclipse. The time becomes shorter the closer you are to the edge of the zone of totality. 

I have seen partial eclipses before, but never a total eclipse. This is the first one to span the entire USA in 99 years. The last total eclipse to span the entire US from Washington state to Florida was on June 8, 1918.  The path of that one was similar, but not quite identical, to the one which will take place next Monday.

Xavier Jubiear created one of the best interactive sites on the internet. Xavier’s eclipse site.

Another good site is the Great American Eclipse, also interactive.

If you don’t get to see this one, there will be another that crosses from Mexico up through Maine on April 8, 2024. 

After that, the eclipse of August 12, 2045 will start over northern California, passing across the southern states and Florida.  That track will be similar to the one next Monday, but a couple of hundred miles south of Monday’s track.

If you are extremely young and have good health, you may get to see the last US eclipse of the 21st Century on September 14, 2099.

If you do not have special eclipse glasses yet, you may be out of luck. Lowe’s had a shipment in the other day, and the rather large display was gone in one day. You should use only NASA and American Astronomical Society approved vision protection. Smoking a piece of glass or using welder’s goggles is a bad idea. However, although arc welding glass rated at #14 or higher is a minimum requirement if you do decide to use welders goggles or mask.  Any welder’s filter glass rated less than #14 is totally unacceptable for viewing the sun.

NASA has has a list of approved eye protection equipment, as well as some instructions for viewing safely.  These are not so much suggestions as warnings.  NASA page on eye safety at this link.  

There used to be a caveat that eye protection should carry the label showing that it meets the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard; however, counterfeits are on the market through questionable vendors, so the label is not always to be trusted.  For a list of American Astronomical Society approved eye wear brands and reputable vendors, this page by the American Astronomical Society may be helpful.

For the sake of all that’s holy, NEVER look at the sun with your SLR camera, binoculars, or telescope. You will burn a hole completely through the back of your eye. That is not something that will grow back. You will be blinded permanently.  

Some of the telescope makers sell filters for the objective lens.  Use a filter that fits your device. The AAS has recommendations and instructions for using optical devices when viewing the sun at this link.  

As Sgt. Esterhaus used to say on the Hill Street Blues cop show, “Be careful out there.”

Dr. Billy Hix of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network gives some great instructions for the safest way to see any sun event. Indirect viewing is recommended if you are unsure about the safety of your filters. This cannot be emphasized enough.

This is the third of three excellent videos by Dr. Hix, but is the one which explains how to make an indirect viewing device.

If you are interested in seeing the other videos in this series, here are the links:

Solar Eclipse Video 1-What to Expect & Direct Solar Viewing  

Solar Eclipse Video 2-Direct Viewing with Optical Equipment

Solar Eclipse Video 3 – Indirect Viewing Tips

If you plan to view the eclipse, I suggest most strongly that you watch all three of Dr. Hix’s videos.

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From NASA: How to make and use a pinhole camera-like device to view the eclipse

From NASA: another way to view the eclipse safely

Solar Eclipse 2017

14 August 2017

We all know there will be a total solar eclipse will occur on August 21st—here is a graphical illustration 🙂

NASA’s graphical illustration of what the solar eclipse will look like, from space, showing the umbra as well as penumbra 

Montblanc Hails Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

13 August 2017

 

Montblanc’s Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ballpoint pen refill packaging. The color is named, Encre de Desert—which is Desert Ink when translated to English. But take care since Montblanc refills fit only in Montblanc pens.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a pioneering aviator of legend. Piloting during aviation’s Golden Age with much of his career consisted of flying and crashing in northern African countries. A prolific writer, as well, his personal life was as daring and tempestuous as his flying life. He died at age 38 on a combat reconnaissance mission during World War II in an F-38 Lightning. Quite a writer and quite an aviator—read his The Aviator, Night Flight, Flight to Arras  and The Little Prince to understand why.