Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Barbarossa at 80

Some eight decades have passed since what is arguably the largest land invasion in modern times kicked off,
Unternehmen Barbarossa, pitting 3.8 million German, Hungarian, Italian, Finnish, Slovak, and Romanian troops against the scandalously unexpecting Soviet legions of Generalissimo Stalin.

German soldiers crossing Soviet border post ,June 22, 1941, Barbarossa

Safronov Viktor Alekseevich (b. 1932.) – June 22, the border

Red Army anti-tank gun crew wiped out. “They fought for Homeland.”  By G. M. Zykov

Although the wave would eventually break on the outskirts of Moscow– even Napolean had at least captured the vacated Kremlin some 120 years prior– the war on the Eastern Front was far from over and would claim millions on both sides.

Today, Barbarossa is seen through the lens of a myriad of conflicting issues even today in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Russians have a view that nothing is forgiven, or forgotten. 

On the Road Again

So I spent the last week and change racking up the Delta Skymiles and Best Western rewards once again, filming new episodes of Select Fire for Guns.com.

These guys, Scott and Ben, are awesome. Yes, that’s me in the middle, looking somewhat more…vagabond than normal in my old age.

We were on the ground in Minnesota, spanning the length of the state for gun content. I ate my first Walleye (along the shores of Lake Mille Lacs), was amazed that the sun was still up and bright at 9:30 at night, posed with Babe the Big Blue Ox in Brainerd, shot some amazingly big handguns at Magnum Research, found out some amazing stuff (that I am sworn to secrecy over) at Maxim Defense, and hung out with thousands of student-athletes at the world’s largest shooting sports event in Alexandria.

How about this BFR in .500 JRH? This is, without a doubt, one of the finest and smoothest wheel guns I have ever touched.

Oh, yeah, and hung out at the GDC warehouse where I got to pour over 6,000 guns for a few days.

Yup, Colt Boa. Possibly one of the rarest serpents there is. Just 600 .357 Magnum-chambered 4-inchers such as this one were made for Lew Horton in 1986 only, and this one is immaculate.

So stay tuned for all that.

Much to follow!

Eagle Among the Volcanos

USCGC Eagle (WIX 327), “America’s Tall Ship,” arrives in Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 9, 2021. Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Eagle has served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946, offering an at-sea leadership and professional development experience as part of the Coast Guard Academy curriculum. (Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Kristjan Petersson)

The Gorch Fock-class training barque USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active-duty square-rigger (and past Warship Wednesday alum), recently commemorated the loss of the USCGC Hamilton in Icelandic waters during WWII, just before she arrived in Reykjavik to celebrate U.S.-Icelandic ties.

Via USCG PAO:

Aboard Eagle moored in the harbor, Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, joined by Jonathan Moore, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, met with Commadore Asgrimur Asgrimsson of the Icelandic coast guard, Chargé d’Affaires Harry Kamian, and Byrndis Kjartansdottir, director of security and defense directorate in the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I congratulate Iceland on a successful Arctic Council and Arctic Coast Guard Forum chairmanship, and I thank them for their persistent and reliable partnership in the Arctic Council and Arctic Coast Guard Forum. Maintaining a strong, rules-based order in the Arctic remains a top priority, both for my command and the U.S. Coast Guard. Steadfast partners like Iceland enable and enforce this,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin. “It was a great pleasure to discuss the challenges we share with such dedicated colleagues learning more about our partner agencies and their operations.”

The United States was the first country to recognize Iceland’s independence in 1944. In addition to being founding members of NATO, the United States and Iceland signed a bilateral defense agreement in 1951. Cooperation and mutual support are the foundation of the U.S.-Icelandic relationship. Visits such as Eagle’s allow opportunities to further effective partnerships, collaboration, and interoperability for various issues that can occur in the Arctic.
For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has been the visible U.S. surface presence in the Arctic, ensuring adherence to the rules-based order. We work with High North nations to safeguard and enable the uninterrupted flow of maritime commerce throughout the entire Marine Transportation System, including the burgeoning Arctic and ensure responsible stewardship of its resources. Allies and partners like Iceland are integral to protecting the United States’ enduring interests, preserving our mutual interests, and upholding the rules-based international order supporting good maritime governance.

On approach to Iceland, Eagle’s crew conducted a wreath-laying in memory of the Treasury-class USCGC Hamilton (WPG 34), torpedoed by German submarine U-132 on January 30, 1942, patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík. Hamilton capsized and sank 28 miles (45 km) from the Icelandic coast on January 30, at the cost of 26 of the ship’s 221-person crew. In 2009, divers discovered the wreck in over 300 feet of water, and in 2013, a memorial plaque was placed in honor of those lost.

On approach to Iceland on June 6, 2021, the USCGC Eagle (WIX 3287) crew conducted a wreath-laying in memory of the Treasury-class USCGC Hamilton (WPG 34), torpedoed by German submarine U-132 in 1942 while patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjavík. Of the 221 person crew, 26 members were lost. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Ensign Elena Calese)

Eagle is currently conducting summer U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet training in at-sea leadership and professional development. Their first port call was Portugal in late May. Eagle has served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946, offering an at-sea leadership and professional development experience as part of the Coast Guard Academy curriculum.

Eagle is a three-masted barque with more than 6,797 square meters (22,300 square feet) of sail and 9.7 kilometers (6 miles) of rigging. At 90 meters (295 feet) in length, Eagle is the largest tall ship flying the stars and stripes and the only active square-rigger in United States government service.

The More Things Change, Forward Mount Edition

The guns may have shrunk, along with the ships, but the task remains.

Bluejackets standing atop turret No. 1 to clean the 12-inch/50 caliber Mark 7 guns in turret No. 2 aboard the brand new dreadnought battleship USS Wyoming (BB-32), circa 1913, likely during winter fleet gunnery practice off Puerto Rico. Wyoming carried six such Mark 9 twin turrets on her centerline and, as with coaling, was surely a massive undertaking to maintain her extensive fire-belching batteries.

Official caption: Sailors assigned to the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), and the “Sea Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, Detachment 3, conduct maintenance on the 57mm MK 110 gun while the ship is in port Ponce, Puerto Rico for a brief stop for fuel and provisions, May 12, 2021. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marianne Guemo/Released)

Ford Gets a Shock

The world’s largest warship and the lead ship of her class, the supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been getting rocked by underwater explosions in Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. It makes for some impressive images.

These provided by Warship 78’s social media account by MCSN Jackson Adkins, MC3 Riley McDowell, MC3 Zachary Melvin, taken 18 June.

Taking place some 100 miles off the Florida coast just before 4 p.m. Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey the blast hit the scales there as a 3.9 magnitude earthquake.

Laid down in 2009 after four years of pre-production, Ford commissioned 22 July 2017, two months after she was delivered, and has been undergoing trials, tests, and refits for the past four years.

The Navy hopes she will be ready to deploy in 2023.

SIG Goes Spectre

New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer recently debuted a pair of new pistols from their Custom Works program, the P320 XCOMPACT Spectre and P365XL Spectre.

Both Spectre series pistols are 9mm striker-fired handguns that feature the all-new LXG Grip Module with laser engraving on all four sides, a deep trigger undercut, and extended beavertail. The Spectre slide has a distressed finish and custom lightening cuts. Both include XSERIES flat triggers, XRAY3 Day/Night sights, and optics-ready slides.

And they don’t look all that bad.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen. Hold your family close today.

Pvt. William R. Loop (left) of Binghamton, N.Y., bids farewell to his father, Cpl. Roderick R. Loop, also of Binghamton, who is leaving Italy’s Anzio Beachhead for a tour of duty in the United States. Both father and son enlisted together in the Army, and have been in the same tank battalion which has figured prominently in recent attacks. 6 March, 1944. (Signal Corps Radio Telephoto from Algiers, now  in NARA)

A Bit Deeper on that British Dug LTV

The news that a group of Brits found a more or less intact LVT-4 Buffalo amtrac buried in the mud circled around the globe twice in the past few weeks. The war surplus LVT was brought in to help stem flooding around Crowland, in Lincolnshire, in 1947, but was swept away and sank into a hole and is “in fantastic condition for its age.”

To turn a phrase from Paul Harvey, here is the rest of the story…

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Sprite Underbelly

Here we see an unusual 1982 shot, not so much for its subject, but for the angle, a bottom view of an SH-2 Seasprite Mark 1 Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS I) helicopter in flight. Note the surface search radar, ASQ-81 Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD), and anti-submarine warfare torpedoes (Mk 44s?).

DOD photo 330-CFD-DN-SC-82-10553 via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6349820

The smallest of the Navy’s Cold War-era sub-busting helicopters, falling well behind the SH-3 Sea King and its replacement, the SH/MH-60 Hawk series, the Kaman Sea Sprite came about its name honestly. First introduced in 1962, only 184 were built for the U.S., with hoped-for export sales never really materializing.

The compact Sea Sprite, with a length of 38 feet, a rotor diameter of 44, and an empty weight of just 7,000 pounds, was small enough to operate from Knox1class destroyer escorts (later reclassed as frigates) and larger Hamilton-, Reliance– and Bear-class Coast Guard cutters in time of war, something the 15,000-pound, 65-foot SH-60 couldn’t pull off.

They even made stops on battleships when required. 

Crew members aboard the Iowa (BB-61) wait for a Helicopter Light Anti-Submarine Squadron 34 (HSL-34) SH-2F Seasprite helicopter to be secured before transporting a badly burned sailor injured during NATO exercise North Wedding 86. Official USN photo # DN-ST-87-00280, by PH1 Jeff Hilton

This meant that, even as the Sea Hawk was meeting widespread acclaim from the fleet, there was still a need for the smaller chopper. This led to the SH-2G Super Seasprite, an upgraded version of the original with the same footprint, in 1993. The Navy kept two squadrons of Super Seasprites (or Triple Ss) around in the reserve until 2001, by which time the last of the NRF Knoxes were all being put out to pasture and the Coast Guard was out of the ASW biz. A shame about the latter.

The SSS went on to serve much more extensively overseas and is still kicking with the Poles, Kiwis, Peruvians, and Egyptians.

The top aircraft, BuNo 147980, was an original Kaman HU2K-1/HU2K-1U later converted to the SH-2F standard. Used as a test helicopter at the factory from 1962-63, it eventually saw service with “every LAMPS squadron on the East Coast,” including HU-1/HC-1, HC-4/HSL-30, HSL-32, HSL-34, and HSL-36.

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