Bob Novak reports:
U.S. Marines, while fighting valiantly in Iraq, are on the verge of serious defeat on Capitol Hill. A Senate-House conference on the Armed Services authorization bill convening this week is considering turning the Navy’s last two battleships, the Iowa and Wisconsin, into museums. Marine officers fear that deprives them of vital fire support in an uncertain future.
Gen. Michael W. Hagee, the current commandant of the Marine Corps, testified on April 1, 2003, that loss of naval surface fire support from battleships would place his troops “at considerable risk.” On July 29 this year, Hagee asserted: “Our aviation is really quite good, but it can, in fact, be weathered.” Nevertheless, Marine leaders have given up a public fight for fear of alienating Navy colleagues.
Hagee’s complaint reminded me of something I read back when the Navy’s other two remaining Iowa-class battleships were re-retired a decade ago. I Googled until I just couldn’t Google any longer, but never found the exact quote or who said it. I do remember it was a Navy or USMC officer of flag rank.
Under President Reagan, the four WWII-era Iowa ships were retro-fitted with Harpoon missiles, modern radars, etc., and reintegrated into the Navy. The rationale was simple: Those old ships had thick hides (12-inch thick cold-rolled steel!*) and nine 16-inch guns