(For the audio version presented by Controversy and Clarity, please visit: https://anchor.fm/damien-oconnell/episodes/The-Ghost-and-General-Smith---Preface-and-Chapter-1-e17q1b4.)
Saint Barbara, Patron Saint of Artillerymen
Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm, Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse; Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse Huge imprecations like a blasting charm! Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm, And beat it down before its sins grow worse. Spend our resentment, cannon,-yea, disburse Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.
Yet, for men's sakes whom thy vast malison Must wither innocent of enmity, Be not withdrawn, dark arm, the spoilure done, Safe to the bosom of our prosperity. But when thy spell be cast complete and whole, May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!
'On Seeing a Piece of Our Artillery Brought into Action'
General Smith slumped into his desk chair at the official residence. Boxes, papers, and unhung pictures clutter his office. There was hardly time to unpack since assuming the commandancy. Tonight’s evening parade finished on time and without incident. The Marines did well – no one fell out despite the heat and humidity – but he wondered how to sustain his own excitement for the parades to come. Tradition was important but he had work to do.
General Smith picked up the hand-written note on his desk, reading it for the 4th time.
Dear 39 (Eric),
Congratulations on becoming our commandant. The hopes and security of millions of Americans are in your hands. You are the right man for the job. I can think of no one better suited for this moment.
This office is unique – unlike any other in the profession of arms. Very few know the burden and challenges you will face. Expect trials and critics daily but keep the faith and do what you know is right. Marines past and present are entrusted to your care. I know you will succeed.
David Berger, 38th CMC
General Smith put the letter in his top drawer. He looked at the stack of unread briefs and pulled out a notebook. A 0900 briefing with the Senate Armed Services Committee meant 0400 reveille.
Flag of the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Commandant_of_the_United_States_Marine_Corps.svg)
April 2041. The Pacific.
General Smith wakes in his dress blues. In mud. The air is thick with smoke and rot. There is an oily smell of death. He cannot see more than 10 feet in front of him and doesn’t know the time.
Smith turns and slips in the volcanic mud. He pushes off the ground until face to face with an apparition.
“Where am I?”
“This is hell, my son”, answers the ghost.
“This is a dream.”
“This is the future, general.”
Suddenly, he shoots into the air, arms locked to his side and legs frozen at attention. He climbs above the smoke until a shoreline is in view. The voice follows.
General Smith sees what looks like a controlled burn spreading across a small island. He’d spent enough time in III MEF to know this was the Pacific. Water-filled craters dot the landscape, remnants of trees and undergrowth scattered across uneven ground. And bodies. Some charred, some crawling, some still.
“Where am I?”, panic oozes from the commandant’s voice.
“You’re looking at a Marine Expeditionary Advanced Base, general. Or what’s left of it.”
Across the horizon are ships. Gray hulls and black hulls and cigarette boats and landing craft moving closer to shore. Nothing visible is flying.
“What happened here? Someone must be coming.”
“No one is coming, general”, pointing to the ships, “except them.”
The Enemy Approaches
General Smith closes his eyes trying to wake up.
“Three weeks ago, the satellites stopped. Two weeks ago, Internet protocols failed. Last week, a series of enhanced electromagnetic pulses triggered across the Pacific. Within 6 hours, every expeditionary advanced base was bombarded with naval gun fire. Thousands of awakened cannons with nothing to stop them. Your autonomous logistics crafts and small boats became erratic after losing satellites. They are nothing more than silent buoys and anchors now. No one in Washington or Hawaii knew for hours, and by the time they did, it was too late. You see, General, even your redundant systems failed.”
Artist's Rendering of Electromagnetic Radiation:
General Smith could not know from surveying the carnage that the EMP destroyed every chip in every programmable piece of equipment. Analysts back in the Pentagon weren’t certain if anything could be resurrected and if a reboot was possible.
“Those Marines have HF! They should be reporting and calling for help. For God’s sake, they have advanced missiles systems on that island.” General Smith is screaming and flush. “You’re telling me they can’t sink a Chinese junker?”
“General, you took those options away from them years ago. Harris radios are black boxes. They're closed systems designed to prevent Marine tinkering. Besides, no Marine has cut an antenna or programmed a radio by hand in a decade. You made it so. It’s the same with the Navy/Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System, your so-called NMESIS. Even though the Naval Strike Missile is immune to Electronic Countermeasures, the sensor to shooter link was taken out when we lost Link 16 two weeks ago. Manual operation is no longer an option without targeting data, and since the introduction of out-of-the-loop multi-domain weapon systems, the rest of their weapons can’t range. You spent the better part of 40 years professionalizing a force, prizing elite warriors of superior fitness, resourcefulness, and intelligence – but you built a mirage. Everything they are is touched by something they are not. All they can do is try to survive, but your avoidance of iron mountains left meager rations and supplies.”
“You’re telling me the Marine Corps equipped a helpless force? No. I don’t believe it.”
“You built a helpless force, general”, the ghost whispers as it moves within inches of General Smith.
“The only thing they have that wasn’t effected by the EMP are carbines, grenades, and e-tools.”
What Didn't Break: Guns, Grenades, and E-Tools
Dozens of rusty landing craft approach the island under methodical naval gun bombardment. Chinese troops scramble ashore without resistance and swarm the island. The last thought General Smith had before a white light consumes him was about the warfighting principle of mass.
The Enemy Lands