The Most Interesting Story You’ll Read About Minesweeping Today

Speaking of D Magazine contributors who do interesting work outside our pages, Brendan McNally sends along his most recent story for the Defense Media Network. It’s about how much trouble the Navy has trying to avoid getting blown up by mines. Because:

A war starts and U.S. ships find themselves on the wrong end of enemy mines. Ships get sunk and sailors die, but even more importantly, the Navy loses control of the sea. The reason is that during peacetime, the Navy’s mine countermeasures force was allowed to deteriorate. Quickly, the Navy builds up a mine countermeasures force that is second to none and it performs brilliantly. But once the war ends, the minemen who don’t become civilians seek more career-enhancing billets elsewhere in the service. Within a few years, all but a few of the minesweepers have been scrapped or sold and the hard-earned institutional knowledge forgotten. But then another war starts, and the Navy again lacks a viable mine countermeasures capability and the cycle starts all over again.

You want an example? Brendan has one for you:

In October 1950, an American-led, 250-ship United Nations task force tried to send an invasion force ashore at Wonsan. But then they discovered there were more than 3,000 mines floating between them and the beach. Minesweepers were sent in but they proved unequal to the task. After three minesweepers were sunk and more than a hundred lives lost, the invasion was called off. … [T]he task force commander, Rear Adm. Allen E. Smith, famously lamented: “We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre-World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ.”

If you’re one of those people (I’m one) who can’t flip past the History channel without getting sucked in to whatever they’re broadcasting about WWII, you’ll find the whole story fascinating. Recommended.


  • mynameisbill

    That is a fascinating story and one in which I can identify with. I was a Machinist Mate in the Navy(worked in the engine/boiler room beneath the waterline) and was quite grateful for those guys when we entered the Persian Gulf waters. I’d hope to think that they were constantly in the know/trained for this very pertinent assignment. To end my malingering typing on your site for the day….To control the land, one must control the seas! Anchors Aweigh!

  • MineBubba

    What is sad is that it is happening again as we speak. 4 Avengers are on their way to the Gulf. For them next to nothing has changed since 1991. I know. I was there. All the tripe about LCS MCM is wrong. Great goal–very poor execution. How many of the programs started after Desert Storm to get the man out of the minefield have been provided to the fleet? One? The EOD UUVs. The LCS MCM concept does not even have EOD teams. It now has one neutralization device and that depends on a single Helo that is also the primary searcher. ( Where is the RMMV?) At least the Avengers can really do something against mines, even if they are slow and the man is in the mine field. They at least have a sonar that can find most mines–The LCS will never know it is in the minefield until one goes off–just like every other ship. Thank God the Navy has extended the Avenger Class and done some upgrades. Nothing now planned can really deal with the mine threat–no matter what they say. Get past the Powerpoint and the LCS MCM capability is really weak.