Gallipoli, China, and the Snapping Shrimp

An article in the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute says that a major factor in the Gallipoli disaster of WWI was the great effectiveness of the Turkish minefields, which checkmated the power of the Allied (British, French, and Russian) navies and prohibited a seapower-only passage through the Strait of Dardanelles.  The authors argue that China’s intensive production of naval mines could result in a similar strategically-critical threat in a future conflict.

Several approaches to reduce the minefield threat are discussed…one rather surprising angle is to exploit the characteristics of the snapping shrimp…these crustaceans generate extremely loud sounds when they close their claws, and American submarine commanders in WWII would sometimes hide in snapping shrimp colonies to mask their acoustic signatures from enemy hydrophones.  These creatures are especially and conveniently dense, it seems, in the East and South China Seas, and it is suggested that arrays of sensors, backed by considerable computing power, could process the returns from the noise generated by the shrimp and hence locate the enemy mines.

Stranger things have happened…I guess.

30 thoughts on “Gallipoli, China, and the Snapping Shrimp”

  1. It seems silly to make grand strategic pronouncements based on the British experience in Gallipoli. The entire affair from the first attempt to run the strait to the withdrawal of the survivors at the end was a textbook fiasco. Their minesweepers were trawlers with poorly trained crews that were barely able to operate in the currents.

    China is especially vulnerable to having their harbors mined. They are within easy range of their most likely adversaries. While war ships have various counter measures available, merchant shipping tends to be easily paralyzed. Even a single mine can close a port until approaches can be swept. It’s sort of hard to see how China would stand to gain more than they’d lose from mining the South China Sea.

    Here we see an examination of our mining efforts in the Pacific during WWII:

    Much more apposite.Some people have used this to argue that the U.S. submarine campaign against Japan should have relied on mines from the start. I think the Navy finds that argument uncomfortable.

  2. the us navy has autonomous mine sweeping technology (boats without human crews) that negates whatever advantage china (or anyone else) might have gained from deploying mines.

  3. The authors of the linked piece…3 Navy commanders and a Marine Corps captain…seem to believe that such autonomous technology is necessary but isn’t there yet. See also the comments.

  4. Today’s US Navy can’t seem to avoid hitting other vessels, or undersea obstructions, so I’m not sure why anyone should think they have some sort of magic mine-avoiding powers…

  5. yes, their capacities are overrated, remember how they freaked out in the 80s, when they mined managuas harbors, and haiphong a decade earlier

  6. MCS: “China is especially vulnerable to having their harbors mined.”

    What is the scenario? Would our suitably-diverse Navy even be able to navigate to a Chinese harbor without ending up in the wrong country or running aground? If the US Navy got close, what would stop the Chinese from destroying the ship, submarine, or aircraft that was intending to place mines? And if the mine placement was successful, the cargo ships transporting all those necessary goods which the US can no longer manufacture because of offshoring would no longer be able to get through to the US. Talk about an own goal!

    The issue about Gallipoli was that the shore defenders were able to target the Allied minesweepers moving slowly close to the coastline. Very difficult to sweep mines while being shot at. It brings to mind that old saying about it being hard to remember you are there to drain the swamp when you are wrestling with alligators.

  7. Whether at sea or land, mine warfare is a neglected art. Why? Because there ain’t no coolness to it. You get your name up in brightwork, as a carrier commander. The guy who hauls bombs to the carrier? Not so much; you sink enemy ships, you get famous; lay a mine that does it, instead, when you’re a thousand miles away? You get jack for credit. No glamor; no interest. The same reason why the Air Force isn’t about to do away with fighters or bombers, even though they’re probably essentially obsolescent.

    There’s a lot more ego involved in this BS than anyone with sense would like to admit. Were you to come out and say “Yeah, we’d be better off building a fleet of minelaying subs and mothballing the carriers…”, your career would be over.

    It’s the same in the Army; nobody wanted to spend the money on route clearance gear, ‘cos that wasn’t sexy-sexy stuff, and you can’t go haring about the battlefield playing Erwin Rommel Jr. with a boring old MRAP.

    The number of areas across our military where these issues exist is mind-boggling; nobody seems to be able to unwrap their egos from their invested identities and go “Yeah, that’s clearly an obsolete way of making war… We need to try something else…”. Instead, they keep doubling-down on stupid. It’s the same idiocies, all the time.

    I think a lot of it is structural, to be honest. The way we think of these things, and the paradigms we apply, are the things that straight-jacket everyone’s thinking: You start out as an Armor officer, or a surface warfare officer, and then you approach everything through that paradigm, whether or not it makes sense. “I was a tanker; therefore, everything I understand and believe in will be wrapped around armor…”. Even if 70-ton Main Battle Tanks we can’t logistically support don’t make a lick of sense, by God, that’s what we know, that’s what we’re going to do.

    The reality is that we can’t do things like this, for much longer. Too expensive, too inflexible, and too easy to counter. The point of a military is to win wars; you don’t do that by being married to a particular way of doing things. Look at how long the idiots stuck with the idea of a horse cavalry charge during WWI… And, how, despite the fact that there were limited circumstances where horse cavalry made strategic, operational, and tactical sense, they wholeheartedly abandoned the idea because it went “out of fashion”.

    Frankly, if you’re making military decisions based on “fashion”, you’re an idiot. And, you deserve to lose, which you likely will.

  8. “The point of a military is to win wars”

    The great forgotten truth — which will remain forgotten until there is an encounter with a genuine peer.

    Since WWII, the US military has not really been about winning wars; rather the focus of those climbing the greasy pole has been racial integration (good), gender integration (ruined by lowering standards), and now completely insane transgendered wokeness. Sadly, it is easy to guess what will happen if/when that kind of degraded military is put to the test against a peer military which has remained focused on war-fighting. There are at least two on the planet today.

    Kasserine Pass, North Africa, WWII. US Army’s first real test in that conflict did not go well. Fortunately, lessons were quickly learned, and changes were made, leading to later success. (Too late for the guys sacrificed at the front end). The risk in any 2022 conflict with a peer is that there may not be time to learn. The choices for the US very quickly will become abject surrender or go nuclear — neither of which is a good choice.

    Cousin Eddie may have some interesting insights on historical lessons.

  9. Oh, you can tell exactly what is going to happen. Because, it already has.

    Circa 2003, we waltzed into Iraq; initially, we had control of the battlefield and the countryside, but as soon as we shifted over from “destroy military” mode to “pacify countryside”, we encountered a form of warfare that we were totally unprepared for, one which we had not a single excuse to be unprepared for, in any way. Yet, there ya go–Nobody had the equipment, the doctrine, or the mentality to respond in a timely manner. Why? Because we were fettered by the structural inflexibility of the minds running our military.

    People had spent the 1990s, and I was one of them, pointing out the likely nature of the IED campaign. The system diligently ignored everything we said, and denied that any such form of warfare existed, and insisted that if it did, we would not need to fight it. Easy and relatively cheap countermeasures could have been taken from back in the early days of the post-Cold War reequipping, but nope… Not our problem, not our reality.

    The basic problem is that we do not train or select people with any imagination or real, functional intelligence. They could have said, sometime in the 1990s, that “Hey, we think you guys with the IEDs on the brain are wrong…”, and then done things like run validation exercises to prove we were. They did not–In fact, they downplayed that aspect of operations in wargames, such that they created an entirely delusional mindset on the parts of exercise designers when it came to things like rear-area battle. Hello, 507th Maintenance Company…

    They need to destroy the entire paradigm they operate under–The basic branch structure of the Army, for example: That needs to go. You cannot fight wars successfully wherein there are what amount to trade unions within your military, ones that are married with the passion of a thousand burning suns to whatever that branch traditionally does. You start out making decisions based on the idea that it’s “Tanks forever”, and you’re gonna miss that moment when the tank is actually no longer a really viable weapons system.

    You see the same sort of idiocy in the Navy and Air Force; are the big carriers still a useful tool, or are they merely trillion-dollar targets? Should we be building new fighters, or should we be building motherships for drones?

    You have way too many people with these ideas burned into their skulls–“I’m a fighter pilot…”, and that’s how they process the world. Which can be a useful thing, right up until it isn’t.

    When you get down to it, we have to find a way of breaking these structural pipelines in people’s thinking. You start seeing yourself as a hammer, all you can come up with for solutions is pounding on things, even if the problem at hand is more one of requiring a wrench or a screwdriver.

  10. I got called on! Somebody misses me.

    “America’s First Battles” edited by Charles Heller and W.A. Stofft (1986) examines the ten ‘first battles’ the US army has fought in its major wars (Long Island to Ia Drang valley). Five were defeats and five victories (four very costly).

    I ‘ll have to come back after a while. I missed this whole thread and haven’t read all the comments yet.

  11. The reality is that we can’t do things like this, for much longer. Too expensive, too inflexible, and too easy to counter.

    Yes, the Bomber Mafia drove off Claire Chennault and lost 35,000 aircrew.

  12. “The point of a military is to win wars;”
    Oh you sweet summer child. The US military at this point is merely a money laundering scheme, and has been ever since the end of the cold war, when defense industry consolidation made the rule of Ike’s military-industrial complex an undeniable fact to all those who aren’t blinded by nostalgia and propaganda.
    The post-9/11 boom made the corruption even more brazen, and at this point the military brass, following the lead of the IC leadership, has gotten into bed so deeply with the politicians of both parties, along with the completely co-opted national media, that there’s no one to even pretend to speak out against them anymore. The Dems don’t bother to complain about the military budget anymore, and they don’t even complain about military culture either, because it all serves their purposes now.

  13. The point you’re missing, Brian, is that what I’m talking about is the actual purpose of the military, not what the debased morons we have running this country have turned it into, which is a glorified jobs program cum club for boys to play with their very expensive toys.

    It’s the same across the board in governance; the true purposes for most of our agencies and organs of governance are not being performed or fulfilled; that is a state of affairs that can only last for so long before the whole thing collapses into a pile of self-contradictory internal and external conflicts. The military is only the most obvious issue, and likely the first one to begin the cave-in when it all starts to go. Why? Because it is also the one place where brute reality will rear its ugly head, manifested in defeat at the hands of the non-delusional realists we’ll likely be forced to deal with.

    Of course, the flip side to all that is that it’s never the most effective military that wins; it’s always the least ineffective one, and we sometimes have an edge in that regard.

  14. The point you’re missing, Kirk, is that you’re talking about some platonic ideal of what a military is for, and I’m talking about the actual purpose of the US military as it exists today.
    Ike had it perfectly nailed 60 years ago, and it’s shameful that as someone who grew up a few decades later, all I heard from conservatives was disparagement towards his warnings.
    Did we not think that if academia could be completely corrupted and co-opted, that the military could be just as easily? What blind idiocy. Decades of liberals attacking the military while the right mindlessly put it on a pedestal, not just the poor slobs at the bottom but the trash at the top, have completely predictably resulted in a military run by people who want to satisfy liberals–what would be the benefit of doing otherwise?
    Where’s the calls from the GOP to fire all the top Pentagon brass, Milley most immediately but anyone who won’t speak out against him the day after? Where’s the promise to make sure any soldier fired for refusing these stupid vaccines is made whole when the GOP is back in charge? These idiots still don’t know what time it is…

  15. Brian, what is the actual incoherent point you’re trying to make? Why don’t you back off and take a deep breath, and then try to say something that makes some damn sense, because you appear to be simultaneously in breathless disagreement with what I’ve said, and then you turn around and make supporting arguments…?

    The point I’m making has been that the idiot class has perverted the purposes of the institution to the point where they no longer fulfill what their actual purposes are, which is a failure point for the entire enterprise. It’s like they’ve piled so much bullshit on the cart that it can’t do anything else besides carry the bullshit itself, which makes the entire point of the cart as a conveyance totally pointless, a fact that’s going to come clear the first time you have to use that cart to actually haul something.

  16. Every human institution, absent some existential threat that provides a transcendent point of focus, devolves to serving the interests of its participants regardless of the high principals of its founding myths. The American military is no different. The nagging ache of Iraq and Afghanistan was never acute enough to counteract that.

    When you look at WWII, you see that the American commanders had to be continually redirected from inter-service and inter-theater rivalries toward the enemies we were fighting. It’s actually a little surprising that it’s taken this long for things like uniform schemes and beret colors to become ascendant. When success against the enemy in the field is no longer relevant, filling out all the forms and checking all the right boxes is the road to the next promotion. Milley isn’t the exception, he’s the rule, if you can him, where are you going to find someone better? Not from the pool he came from that’s been shaped for the last 20 years to look exactly like him.

  17. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about WWI. One comment I have found interesting is how officers in the British Army, career officers of a certain age, seemed to resent the war disrupting their contented careers. Of course, the British had not had much war for a century. The Boer War and the Crimean had been rather local events. The Boxer Rebellion was far away. The present day US military seems to be similar in complacency. Aside from Iraq and Afghanistan, many senior officers seem more interested in things like CRT and Wokism. The Navy has similar problems with gender quotas. In 1942, Marshal had a lot of generals cashiered.

  18. I guess we would all agree that the US has some quite amazing weapon systems. (Let’s leave aside for now the probability that key components of those weapon systems come from China, and essential materials come from Russia). The issue is the human side of using those weapon systems effectively — which is where most of us have serious concerns.

    Since we have concerns about our “leaders” ability to use the military effectively, it is presumably a good guess that the highly focused leaders of Russia & China have identified the same issue. This leads to the obvious question of how this figures into their plans?

    My guess is that neither Russia nor China have any interest in occupying the territory of the United States. Their objective is probably to get the US to back off and retreat behind the Atlantic & Pacific oceans, leaving the rest of the world to them. With Biden*’s discredited post-Afghanistan military, a de-industrialized US declining into bankruptcy, and a NATO in the process of fracturing, the leaders of Russian & China probably believe they are making good progress. If the US ends up as a harmless neo-Third World exporter of food products in exchange for imports of manufactured products, they will probably be quite satisfied.

    The wrinkle in all of this is the US nuclear arsenal. The paper tiger has nuclear teeth, as Mao reportedly said. That nuclear arsenal depends on the availability of unstable Tritium, with a half-life in the order of 12 years. The US stopped making Tritium in 1988, 34 years ago. Manufacture of Tritium was restarted in 2003, reportedly with only a 67% probability of being able to meet military needs. On searching the internet, there seem to be a fair number of Chinese-language documents referencing Tritium.

    The leaders of Russia & China may be in no hurry to push the contest with a steadily weakening US to its conclusion. The longer they wait, the more those “nuclear teeth” are likely rotting.

    If anyone can point to good information about the US Tritium situation, please share.

  19. @MikeK,

    The nub of it is in that one word: Career.

    Once you have a situation wherein the participants in a given activity are more concerned with “career issues” or their progress along some cursus honorum, the institution is pretty much a dead thing walking. Mostly because the careerists are going to warp everything around them in order to serve their almighty careers, and ensure their personal primacy over everything else, to the exclusion of all common sense and reality.

    Acquaintance of mine was a naval officer; he was told that going into countermine warfare was a career-killer, and that he should not waste his time. He ignored his mentor’s advice, and went into that field with a vengeance–He was one of the guys who was behind all the ECM suites and other counter-IED work that the Army had to get help from the Navy for.

    But, and here’s the point: He was basically sidelined and did not get past Lieutenant Commander in the Navy because of his work. Wasn’t judged vital, despite the fact that the work he was doing was essential to the counter-IED campaign. I could recount a couple of dozen similar cases from within the Army, but it’d be redundant.

    Reality has a way of coming for you, and validating what you’ve been doing, one way or another. You can make believe and wish really, really hard, but eventually, someone is going to come calling you on your bullshit. The situation we’re in, right now? The cruft has built up to an incredible degree, and I doubt that the institution is going to survive having its teeth kicked in by reality when it finally happens. It’s kinda like that whole deal with the way the Hungarians and the rest of the Eastern European feudal elite got their asses handed to them by the Mongols at battles like Legnica; they really had not the slightest idea of how to fight war at the level which the Mongols were operating at.

    There’s a Legnica or two waiting for us, out there in the not-so-distant future.

  20. As many problems as we have, we are very fortunate in our enemies.

    The Russian Bear is mostly toothless. They may, or most probably, may not be able to sustain an attack on an even more decrepit regime in Ukraine. They are no longer capable of credibly attacking Western Europe. While I believe there are good reasons to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the practical effect of a Russian invasion would be to accelerate the ever more precipitous decline of Russia.

    China is like a gilded porcelain doll. All appearance and no substance. An army that is untested outside of losing their last minor war. I’ll guaranty your average Chinese general is much more worried about how to export the proceeds of the PLA corruption out of the way of a Chinese crash than their next war. The navy is having trouble recruiting in competition with video games. 2020 will be the year that all China’s chickens came home to roost. Foreign companies still entangled there have no delusions that China represents the future and are now in damage control mode.

  21. MCS — You could be right about the weakness of Russia & China. Or you could be whistling past the graveyard. Given that we are communicating over electronic equipment made with Chinese rather than American parts ….

    President Reagan helped to break the Communist regime in the USSR by stimulating an arms race which bankrupted the Soviets. Is it possible that China’s leaders learned the lesson and are now pulling the same tactic on an incompetently-led US? It does not matter whether their armed forces can defeat the US. What matters is that a bankrupt US keeps going deeper & deeper into unrepayable debt, at least in part in an effort to keep ahead of China.

    We are stuck in the past, like the French huddling behind their Maginot line. Warfare in the age of nuclear weapons is primarily economic — and China is winning that economic war hands down. When the EPA triumphantly shuts down the last factory in the US, China will have won — except for the issue of US nuclear weapons … if they still work.

    Meanwhile our Best & Brightest are losing the strategic battle of alliances. Russia ought to be a major ally of the US, because they have much to fear from a resource-hungry China on the other side of their border. But US politicians & bureaucrats have driven Russia into China’s arms. It is almost like China was paying those US bureaucrats & politicians to put their own pockets ahead of the interests of the country they supposedly serve.

  22. I asked John Keegan after a lecture about American military leadership how it was that Ike was plucked from obscurity. He noted that the US Army officer corps was so small back then that a guy like Marshall could know, or know about, a lot of them. I’ve also read that Marshall and his acolytes like Bradley were too quick to dismiss subordinates after short commands (that would have been in an old JMH article).

    I can’t argue with points well made already–the relations between the US, Russia, and China are between and among powers that are profoundly flawed and riven with weaknesses. A contest of the senile and fading, not a matter of vigor versus exhaustion or health versus decrepitude. Which doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous as hell.

  23. Kirk, Your point about careers is well taken. Joe Rochefort, who gave Nimitz the info that won Midway, ended his career commanding a ship dock.

  24. Russia ought to be a major ally of the US, because they have much to fear from a resource-hungry China on the other side of their border. But US politicians & bureaucrats have driven Russia into China’s arms. It is almost like China was paying those US bureaucrats & politicians to put their own pockets ahead of the interests of the country they supposedly serve.

    Ya think ?

    I even wrote about it here.

  25. How can anyone say Ike was “plucked from obscurity”? He worked directly for Pershing, MacArthur, etc, between the wars…

  26. Mike K: “I even wrote about it here.”

    Good article, Mike. Sadly, the principal/agent problem has just got worse in the years since you wrote that.

    Why are our Ruling Class agents in the Swamp so anti-Russian? Some of them are merely stuck in the Cold War past, but it seems that lots of them must be getting various kinds of sweeteners from China to pursue such boneheaded aggression against Russia. We see businessmen, academics, and entertainment types sucking up to China for reasons that revolve around money. Are we to assume that our “agents” in politics and the bureaucracy are not also getting in on the game?

    Imagine if the US had built a constructive relationship with Russia after the USSR collapsed. We could have dispensed with NATO, saving money and lives. And now China would have to be nervous about its long border with Russia — a border where shots have been fired within living memory. It could have been a different world, but our Ruling Class screwed up the opportunity. If it was not for easy Chinese money, then why?

  27. Ike was a light colonel hoping to retire as a full colonel; he was outranked by dozens of officers with combat experience which he didn’t have.

    Maybe ‘obscure’ is too strong, but he wasn’t as well known as many others in or out of the service.

    Do you imagine MacArthur picking him for anything important if Mac had been CoS at the time?

  28. “Imagine if the US had built a constructive relationship with Russia after the USSR collapsed.”

    Conducting nerve gas attacks on foreign soil might have something to do with that.

  29. Remember when Obama campaigned on a “Reset” with Russia, and his idiot Secretary of State had a mistranslated “reset button” made?
    Then remember when Trump also campaigned on his ability to improve the US relationship with Russia, and the same idiot Secretary of State couldn’t accept that she lost and made up a collusion story and drove the entire Democrat party, media, and half the country over the cliffs of insanity with her?
    Putin has his own interests and they aren’t ours but the current problems are overwhelmingly down to that insane harpy and a vile and corrupt US establishment that couldn’t tell her no.

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