Blooper getting it done, 52 years ago today

“Bloop!: A Marine grenadier fires an M-79 round into a sniper’s position in Hue as 1st Marine Division Leathernecks advance toward the Citadel.” 22 February 1968

Official USMC photo by Lance Corporal R. J. Smith. From the Jonathan Abel Collection (COLL/3611), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.

Oh, Canada…

The Canadian Navy has been heavy into the submarine biz for generations.

The Canucks got into subs in a weird way when in August 1914, Sir Richard McBride, KCMG, the premier of British Columbia, bought a pair of small (144-foot, 300-ton) coastal submarines from Seattle Construction and Drydock Company, an act that your local government normally doesn’t do. The boats had been ordered by Chile who later refused them as not up to snuff.

Sailing for Vancouver in the dark of night as they were technically acquired in violation of a ton of international agreements (and bought for twice the annual budget for the entire Royal Canadian Navy!) they were commissioned as HMCS CC-1 and CC-2. The Dominion Government of Canada later ratified the sale while a subsequent investigation was conducted into how they were acquired.


Nonetheless, the two tiny CC boats were the first submarines of the Maple Leaf and continued in service until after the Great War when they were laid up and replaced by a pair of American-made 435-ton H-class submarines from the Royal Navy, HMS H14 and H15, which remained in the Canadian fleet as HMCS CH-14 and CH-15 until broken up in 1927.


After this, Canada went out of the submarine business for a while until 1945. Then, Ottawa inherited two newly surplus German Type IXC/40 U-boats, sisters U-190 and U-889, both in working condition and constructed in the same builder’s yard. After transferring them on paper to the Royal Navy, they were transferred back (apparently the same day) and both became vessels of the RCN, dubbed HCMS U-190 and U-889, which they kept as working souvenirs for a couple years.

Canadian war artist Tom Wood's watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John's. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat's crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190's crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine's surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Canadian war artist Tom Wood’s watercolor depicts German sailors being transferred from U-190 on 14 May 1945. Wood, assigned to paint subjects in eastern Canada and Newfoundland, was present when Canadian ships escorted U-190 to Bay Bulls, south of St. John’s. There, Canadians removed the last of the U-Boat’s crew, who had been operating the vessel under guard. The majority of U-190’s crew had been taken onto Canadian ships at the time of the submarine’s surrender. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. CWM 19710261-4870

Fast forward a bit and the Canadians began using two U.S. boats, —USS Burrfish (SS-312) and USS Argonaut (SS-475), as HMCS Grilse (SS 71) and Rainbow (SS 75), respectively– from 1961 to 1974.

Then they bought their first new subs since CC-1 & CC-2, a trio of British Oberon-class diesel boats– HMCS Ojibwa (S72), Onondaga (S73) and Okanagan (S74), which served from 1965 to 2000.

Three O-boats (Oberon-class) submarines of the Royal Canadian Navy in Bedford Basin, Halifax, 1995. RCNavy Image 95-0804 10 by Corp CH Roy

Since then, they have been using the quartet of second-hand RN Upholder-class subs, HMCS Victoria (SSK-876), Windsor (SSK-877), Corner Brook (SSK-878) and Chicoutimi (SSK-879) which are expected to remain in service in some form until the 2030s.

HMCS Submarine Chicoutimi.

The thing is, the Canadian Navy managed exactly zero (-0-) days underway with their subs last year– but not without cause.

As reported by CBC:

“The boats were docked last year after an intense sailing schedule for two of the four submarines over 2017 and 2018. HMCS Chicoutimi spent 197 days at sea helping to monitor sanctions enforcement off North Korea and visiting Japan as part of a wider engagement in the western Pacific. HMCS Windsor spent 115 days in the water during the same time period, mostly participating in NATO operations in the Atlantic.”

It is hoped that three of the four may return to sea at some point this year.


A Plinker from the days where aesthetics– and commonality– mattered

Winchester’s Model 1903 was introduced while Teddy Roosevelt was President. Chambered in then-newly-introduced .22 Win Auto, the “03” was designed by noted firearm engineer T.C. Johnson and was fed by a 10-shot tubular magazine inserted through the buttstock. A simple blow-back action, the rifle could be quickly taken down into two parts for storage.

Although it remained in production through 1932, the .22 Win Auto cartridge never caught on and wasn’t used by any other firearms on the market, thus handicapping the rifle’s popularity. With that, Winchester redesigned the rifle to accept the common UMC-designed .22LR, which has been around in one form or another since 1884. Further, the walnut stock was restyled from a typical straight stock found on the Model 1903 to one with a pistol grip.

With that, the Model 63 was born:

Entering the market in 1933 at a price of about $34– which adjusts to around $700 in today’s dollars– the new Winchester 63 was billed as, “the easiest handling, cleaning, and handiest shooting .22 caliber automatic,” available. In early marketing material, the new rimfire rifle was dubbed “The Speed King.”

More in my column at

Buck Rogers Men

One of the more unusual units that hit Green and Red Beaches on Iwo Jima 75 years ago this month were the Marines of the 1st Provisional Rocket Detachment, assigned to the 4th Marine Division, and the 3rd Provisional Rocket Detachment assigned to the 5th Marine Division.

Dubbed the “Buck Rogers Men” by other Marines, the weapon of choice for these rocketeers were seemingly humble one-ton International Harvester M2 4×4 trucks, made dangerous with the addition of racks for M8 4.5-inch HE barrage rockets.

“ROCKET BARRAGE— Hit and run rocket fire was the order when these Marines of the Fifth Division loosed a barrage at the enemy on Iwo Jima. Being mobile, the units used hit-and-run tactics so that the enemy could never get an exact fix on their positions.” USMC Photo.

While the Army used the same 38-pound fin-stabilized rockets in Europe, they did so typically from the 60-tube Calliope launcher mounted on an M4 Sherman tank or massed batteries of the smaller towed 8-tube “xylophone” launcher.

The Marine version used a six-tray slotted rack, each capable of holding six rockets, which was lighter than the Army’s tube system and provided 36 rockets at the ready. Operators would fire the unguided rockets from a control box while dismounted and the vehicle had an M2 .50 caliber Browning for emergencies.

As Col. Joseph Alexander notes in his USMC History Division text, Closing In: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima:

A good crew could launch a “ripple” of 36 rockets within a matter of seconds, providing a blanket of high explosives on the target. This the infantry loved—but each launching always drew heavy return fire from the Japanese who feared the “automatic artillery:”

Using early “shoot and scoot” tactics to avoid return fire, the rocket men learned to fire a salvo or two max, then rapidly displace.

“The nearby infantry knew better than to stand around and wave goodbye; this was the time to seek deep shelter from the counterbattery fire sure to follow,” noted Alexander.

“FIRECRACKERS—A Marine rocket truck empties it’s launching rack of projectiles as it lays a barrage on Japanese positions on Iwo Jima. Being mobile, the rocket units used hit-and-run tactics during the operation, so that the enemy could never get an exact fit on their locations.” USMC Photo.

Nonetheless, the two detachments fired more than 30,000 rockets in the six weeks of the Iwo Jima campaign, often launching single rockets to clear suspected enemy positions.

Today, the old Buck Rogers Men are ably represented in the Marine’s new M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which uses an M1140 FMTV truck frame to tote around a half-dozen MLRS M270A1 rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile. As with the Iwo trucks, the system weighs a good bit less than the Army’s comparable MLRS system. Further, it can be used while aboard a ship, such as an MSC vessel or even a merchant taken up from trade, and in conjunction with over-the-horizon targeting such as provided by an F-35.

HIMARS, still a truck with some rockets on the back, ready to land at a beach near you

Frozen Mosin!

If you are anywhere near the Pleasant River Fish & Game Conservation Association in Columbia, Maine, they have their annual Frozen Mosin shoot coming up this weekend, promising that it is the “most unusual shooting event in the Northeast.”

If you have a Nugget and want to get it icy, head on over!

When you want to cram an M4 into an ejection seat

The U.S. Air Force has released some more details about their very neat GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon. Fundamentally, it is an M4 with a folding pistol grip and quick-detach barrel/handguard that takes down and stows, with four mags, into a 16 x 14 x 3.5-inch ejection seat compartment.


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Oh that? That’s just my CUSV, thanks for asking

NORFOLK, Va. (Feb. 12, 2020) A developmental, early variant of the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) autonomously conducts maneuvers on the Elizabeth River during its demonstration during Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain 2020 at Naval Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Rebekah M. Rinckey/Released)

The Navy has been testing an armed 40-foot drone boat developed by Textron at Norfolk this month.

From Maritime Executive: 

The Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), built by the defense conglomerate Textron, is a 40-foot remotely-operated launch with long endurance and range. CUSV was designed in the 2000s as a component of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine countermeasures “mission package.” It has large towing and payload capacities for minesweeping and mine neutralization systems, and it was designed to be modular and adaptable for a variety of other tasks.

The CUSV test during Solid Curtain aimed to evaluate the platform’s suitability for defending moored warships – in this case, the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke and the carrier USS John C. Stennis. The boat was fitted with a remotely-operated .50 caliber machine gun station with cameras, sensors and a data link to a control station on shore. During the exercise, it intercepted a suspect boat (a manned Navy launch) and hailed it, then fired simulated shots to “disable” it.

The vessel likely has several radar reflectors to make it seem bigger to local traffic. In a real-world scenario, this bad boy could prove interesting in a littoral

The auto .50 seems to be an FN/M3 remote control mount with an LRAD

Pierside. Note the 41-foot ex-USCG UTM behind it, for scale

A better view

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