ATTN: JMS, was Re: Ramming Speed

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at
Wed Jan 27 04:47:54 EST 1999

From: rthardy at (Tom Hardy)
Date: 26 Jan 1999 21:47:27 -0700
Lines: 28

In article
<Y6RpCBd5N2pd-pn2-I6pVdHmBOpYf at>,
philipcolumbus at (Philip R. Columbus) wrote:
:No, no, no, no, no.  You have probably never command troops in the field. 
:As one who has, let me tell you that precise language that  _everyone_  in
:the unit understands immediately is very important.  Well, only as 
:important as living to see another day.  Each individual must be trained 
:to understand immediately what the commander says and respond as if on 
:instinct.  And the terms must be precise.  In this case, there is no 
How is it not precise?  Only in not designating the target, and ship
captains or squad leaders can do that in creative ways.  "Get #&%$,"
he said, pointing.  

And how about special orders that only one unit will understand, or
are tailored for a specific circumstance?  "To the winds, march."  Do
you know precisely what that means?  Well maybe, but I learned it in
boot camp, oh, about 26 years ago, and never heard it again.

           Tom Hardy         <*>
     rthardy at
robert_hardy at
        PGP: 0xBC0E8015

From: jmsatb5 at (Jms at B5)
Date: 26 Jan 1999 22:07:39 -0700
Lines: 39

Since this debate began, I've heard from any number of people...and any number
of military types who actually would be in a position to either hear this, or
say this.

And it's totally a reasonable line.  Some, including former commanders on
shipboard and ordinary sailer-types  noted that there are two Really Worrisome
Orders: the first is "Emergency speed," which means "kill warning bells,
disable safety systems, give her everything she's got and let me know just
beore the engines burn out."

The other is...ramming speed.  Which means "kill warning bells, disable safety
systems, full emergency speed, today is a good day to die."

The basic delineation is that when you're in battle, you use the bare miminum
of words to express what you're trying to say, because seconds can mean the
difference between life and death and success and failure.

One could, indeed, make the longer, more involved statements others have said
they'd've preferred...but by that time, there would be no surviving ship to
give the order to.  Further, you want to give the crew the minimum possible
time to think about what these orders *mean* you keep it short and sharp
and rely on their training to get them to do what the order implies.

Yes, it's an old-fashioned term...but there's such a thing as tradition in
military language, where ships have decks even though they're not wooden decks
anymore...and there isn't a naval officer anywhere who on leaving port doesn't
say "set sail," even though he could be commanding a nuclear vessel without a
sail in sight.


(jmsatb5 at
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