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We Aren’t Those People Anymore

While we were on vacation we took a quick day trip to Alabama so I could tick that state off my list, and then buzzed over to Florida for my wife who hadn’t been there before. The main point of the trip was to go to Mobile and visit Battleship Memorial Park, a massive complex that has all sorts of military memorabilia but is centered around the decommissioned World War II era battleship, the USS Alabama. Massive picture dump incoming….

It is hard to describe just how enormous those 16 inch gun really are, and I can only imagine how loud those are when they were fired. 

The Alabama is an absolute beast, it is impossible to fathom how much steel went into her construction. She is 680 feet long and over 38,000 tons of displacement. Her boilers put out 130,000 shaft horsepower and her war time crew numbered some 2,500 men. Just the logistics of keeping her crew fed and with fresh water, and fuel for the engines is mind boggling. 

On the other side is the USS Drum, a World War II era submarine. Where the Alabama is power personified, the Drum is complexity and craftsmanship as befits a vessel that would spend much of her time submerged.

I knew subs were cramped but even for a short guy like me, it was a little claustrophobic in there.

Every compartment is full of gadgets and gizmos to keep the sub underwater and running. It is pretty bewildering but the guys who ran this sub knew what they all did and managed to sink 15 enemy vessels and return home to America in one piece.

What gets me is that the U.S. was able to make vessels from massive battleships and aircraft carriers all the way to stealthy submarines, figure out the mechanics of it all without the aid of computers, and manufacture them with parts that were all made right here in America. Add in tanks and millions of rifles without CNC machines, airplanes that carried enormous payloads and others that could land on the deck of a moving aircraft carrier at sea, and the real miracle of World War II was that it was not won on the battlefields as much as it was won in the factories back home. That in no way diminishes the valor of those fighting men but the bravest soldier is useless without arms, food and other supplies. Not to mention that our factories equipped the Soviets and kept England in the fight long enough for us to get to Europe.

Those people are long gone, the Americans who could build and innovate. All we do anymore is simply tinker around with existing technology before sending the plans to China to mass produce products for consumers. The only exception might be the firearms industry.

For all of our vaunted knowledge and technology, we are a lesser people. We are less tough, less adventurous, less moral, less industrious. If we didn’t have an arsenal of nukes bequeathed to us by better men, we would have been conquered long ago. There are still men of the same caliber as those who built the Alabama and Drum but they are getting fewer by the day and they are being swamped by imbeciles, perverts and cowards. 

Visiting these monuments to the nation that is gone is bittersweet, fascinating and horrifying at the same time. 


  1. x

    Oh, the ability is still there.
    The will?
    As an ex commercial diver, if you think a submarine is claustrophobic, try spending a month or three in a saturation system.


  2. ChuckInBama

    The Alabama and Drum are sights(and times)to be experienced. Glad you enjoyed the trip! Did you, perhaps, got to Pensacola ? There is a very fine Naval Aviation Museum there you must see.

  3. JackDup

    Cool pics. I could not do the submarine thing; I need to see where I am going. Looks like you had decent weather. We were down there last fall right when that hurricane hit. We did enjoy the Hotel in Muscle Shoals, they had live music every night.

  4. Anonymous

    I've spent my entire adult life working for one of the Big Three defense contractors, and we produced a lot of the high-tech weaponry on every modern ship in the navy. But even just in my time in the field there has been radical changes that undermine the might and effectiveness of our military.

    Everyone remembers the outrage over $400 hammers and toilet seats that mil-spec producers got rich selling. That led to the use of COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) products, instead, which are a disaster in terms of quality and durability, while not saving the taxpayer much, if anything. My company used to design and manufacture its own PC boards, tested to exquisitely high military standards. Now we buy them, mass-produced by some pretty shady foreign actors. When one goes tits up, we toss it and swap in another (assuming there is a spare somewhere) rather than repair it. And they go tits up A LOT.

    Even the software that runs on the weapons systems is badly compromised. When I broke into the field as a coder many years ago, U.S. citizenship was required and it was all pale males as far as the eye could see. But now? H1-B's abound, English is a second language to half of my department and managers are mostly female or non-White. In my small division, every single manager for 3 levels above me is a woman. A recent catfight sent my previous female boss packing, and I get to meet (virtually) the new bitch-in-charge tomorrow morning, by coincidence.

    I used to be proud of the rugged, effective weapons systems we produced for a number of branches of the military. But now? I would not trust that shite as far as I can spit.

  5. The Gaffer

    Twice in my career I 've been with very senior and brilliant engineers who looked upon a base (Kings Bay) and a facility (NASA Stennis) and heard them express "we could never build this now, at best we may be able to maintain it".

  6. Anonymous

    Excellent post, Arthur, and spot-on commentary. I do mostly residential service work and have been in countless basements. Older houses occupied by an elderly widow almost always had a nicely set up workbench/workshop in the basement, created by said widow's late husband. People back in the 1930s, '40s and '50s were generally more capable building/fixing stuff, than later generations. Indeed, we have devolved.

  7. daniel_day

    Thanks for bringing that up. I had never heard of saturation diving.
    You were part of a small group. Wik says "of the 3,300 commercial divers employed in the United States in 2015, only 336 were saturation divers." In comparison, there were 868 pro baseball players in 2015.

  8. John Wilder

    Slept in a sub once (same class of sub) with a group of Cub Scouts. Next to my son. Stared up at Vietnam-era graffiti on the bunk above. I'm sure someone directly over the border from Honduras would still make the same connection with the past that I did.

  9. Pingback:History Is Driven By Chance – Dissident Thoughts

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