Tuesday, October 30, 2007

From ABDA to Desert Storm and the lesson missed by Bush/Cheney

By Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

During the Desert Shield buildup in the fall of 1990, two World War II names came together again for the first time in close to 49 years: Admiral Thomas C. Hart and Witte de With. American Admiral Hart was the first naval commander of ABDA, the American, British, Dutch and Australian unified command set up on the island of Java in January 1942. The Witte de With was a Dutch destroyer in his command. Their job was to stop the Japanese advance on the Netherlands East Indies, now Indonesia.

As part of the Desert Shield almost 49 years later, the American Navy sent the frigate USS Thomas C. Hart with the USS Saratoga battle group. The Dutch stationed two frigates in the Middle East at the same time, one of which was a new HNMS Witte de With.

The frigates Thomas C. Hart and Witte de With became part of a far more successful military operation than their namesakes of 1942.

Admiral Hart attempted to instantaneously weld the four World War II navies into an ABDA Unified Naval Command. But Japanese forces sank most of the Allied ships in their path. The destroyer Witte de With, after escorting the wounded heavy cruiser HMS Exeter from the Battle of the Java Sea, was bombed by the Japanese at Surabaya on March 1, 1942. She was scuttled and abandoned the following day.

ABDA was the first attempt at a multi-national, unified command in the 20th century. Hastily assembled after the Pearl Harbor disaster, ABDA faced the full weight of the Japanese assault in the far east. It failed to stop them at sea, on land and in the air.

Desert Storm was fought by an international, unified military command. But this time it was a resounding success, capable of capturing far more than it was authorized to subdue.

ABDA involved just four nations in 1942. Those four nations squabbled over tactics and who should be in charge. Their communication systems, training and ships didn't mesh into cohesive fighting units. They hadn't planned and trained together to fight a common enemy. They weren't prepared.

As a result, in 1942 the British surrendered Singapore and 70,000 troops in Malaya to the Japanese. The Dutch lost their East Indies Empire, two cruisers and all seven destroyers in their far eastern fleet. Australia lost fighting men and the HMAS Perth, a modern light cruiser. And the United States lost the Philippines, thousands of fighting men, the USS Pope, a World War I vintage destroyer and the USS Houston, a modern, heavy cruiser, one of President Franklin Roosevelt's favorite warships.

ABDA's inability to stop the Japanese in 1942 wasn't due to any deficiencies in the fighting men from the four Allied nations. Chris Droste, a harbor pilot at Tjilatjap on the southern coast of Java in 1942, wrote in his book, Till Better Days, that the American and Allied sailors were far from demoralized before the battles. Knowing that the odds were stacked against them, "...they went as hounds to a hunt, agitated only that they might miss the opening clash."

Desert Storm's success as a unified command in 1991 is a testimonial to the heroism and sacrifice of ABDA soldiers, airmen and sailors. It was in the waters around Java, on Javanese beaches and in the air over Java in the first three months of 1942 that the Allies learned that cooperation in training, that standard equipment and communications were required to defeat a powerful and determined enemy.

That knowledge enabled 28 nations, led by the US under the UN banner, to defeat Iraqi aggression in Kuwait. President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney ignored this valuable lesson when they launched the US attack on Iraq in 2003. The attack wasn't authorized by the UN, wasn't really authorized by the American people because of the lies they were fed, wasn't supported by enough armed forces and wasn't supported by most of our Allies.
It has been a disaster, launched by men who have never served in the active armed forces (and did everything they could to be certain of that), have never studied military history and have never failed to use deception to get their way.--Copyright 2007 by Walter Haan. www.war-books.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

40 Years and nothing has changed in book printing

I just sent our current book printer the following message, rejecting the book proof we just received from them:

"Our instructions clearly called for the cover hard copy to be scanned same size. Instead, the cover text has been reduced on the back cover and on the front cover from the book title down. The gold bars that connect the front cover to the back cover are missing on the spine. In your reduction of the text copy on the back cover, you turned the word 'meet' to 'mee' by lopping off the 't' and you eliminated the hyphen after 'Vietnam' in the same copy on the right. Re scan the cover same size and send another proof."

Technically, the world has changed enormously in the production of the printed word in the last 40 years. But the one thing that has not changed is printers not following publishers' instructions. When I was composing the message above to send to the printer, I started reflecting on this problem.

I have been employed to produce periodicals and books since 1964, minus two years in the US Army, for Dow Jones Books, Oxford Books (now Sadlier-Oxford), RCA Records, Weekly Reader Books and Southfarm Press for the past 25 years. And I still have to send rejections to printers because they don't follow publisher instructions. It's getting a little old.

The worst case I ever experienced was in 1995 after I received several samples for a hardcover book with a sewn binding for my approval. The bindings on the books were so bad, so loose, that I could not imagine what the printer was thinking when they were sent. When I requested a second set of books for approval, the ones then sent were just as bad. I decided that the only thing to do was to actually travel to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where the printer was located, from my office in Connecticut.

So, on a hot August 1995 day in Benton Harbor in a warehouse not air conditioned, I sorted through every carton of books, throwing the unacceptable ones on the floor. The pile amounted to over 10% of the books being bad.

The technology has improved. When is customer service and quality control in the printing/publishing industry going to improve?--Walter Haan, www.war-books.com

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Facing extinction

What do Belgium, daily newspapers, one-color book printers and book readers all have in common?


For the last decade, Belgium has been periodically threatened with extinction. Here is a nation that figured prominently in both World War I and II that just might unravel, just as Czechoslovakia did in the nineties. A hundred years from now when students read about the World Wars and the battles Belgium endured, the students will wonder where the hell it was. Why? Because Belgium is divided into the Flemish, Dutch speaking, north and the Walloon, French speaking, south. There is supposedly only one Belgian in the whole world, the king. The Flemish north is now more prosperous than the Walloon south and the Flems are tired of picking up the deficits of the south. Stay tuned.

Daily newspapers have been under assault by radio and television news for decades, and survived. Now Internet news is driving newspapers out of business. Or driving them into the Internet news business themselves. You're probably like me. I read the New York Times Web Site daily, but almost never actually buy the paper. Why should I? Why should you? Remember in the old days if you found an article that interested you, you'd get the scissors to cut it out. A laborious process compared to highlighting the article and copying it onto your computer for printing later at your convenience. Newspaper circulations dropped 2.1 and 2.8 percent in the last two six-month periods. Trees are very happy about this development, however.

I had a phone call last Friday from a book printer salesman looking for business. I had previously used them three times: once to print a book jacket at their plant A; once to print a full color, hardcover children's book at their plant B; and once for them to print a hardcover black and white book with a color jacket at their plant C. Plant C is gone. I used a competitor of plant C to print 10 black and white hardcover books with color jackets between 1999 and 2004. It's now a parking lot for a hospital. There simply wasn't the business to sustain them. Too much capacity as one executive explained to me.

How could there be too much unused capacity in book printers? Besides the fact that even one- color books are increasingly being printed overseas, in Canada for example (yes, that is overseas), Americans are reading less and less books. Book readers may become extinct! In 2006, one in four American adults had read no books at all. The typical American claimed on the average to have read four books in 2006. If you eliminate the 25% who read no books, the usual number read was seven. Now seven may be a lucky number for many of us, but in this case it does not bode well for the American book industry and the American public at large. Southfarm Press, my book publishing firm, is located in Middletown, Connecticut. We noticed something right away back in the eighties. People in New England read less than people in the south, midwest and far west. We had a sign up in our office for years claiming we sold more books in Guam than Connecticut! Do you know where Guam is? It's north of New Guinea.--Walter Haan, www.war-books.com