Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Where are the Carriers, Dec 6, 1941 edition

A common refrain for the past half-century, when it comes to American diplomacy, is “Where are the carriers?”

The day before they were the most capital ship in the Navy, here is the rundown, via the NHHC and DANFS:

On 6 December 1941, the three Pacific Fleet aircraft carriers were USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Lexington (CV-2), and USS Saratoga (CV-3). By sheer luck, while most of the Pacific fleet’s battleships and cruisers and about half of its destroyers and submarines were at Pearl on 7 December, there were no flattops. 

USS Enterprise (CV-6) Operating in the Pacific, circa late June 1941. She is turning into the wind to recover aircraft. Note her natural wood flight deck stain and dark Measure One camouflage paint scheme. The flight deck was stained blue in July 1941, during camouflage experiments that gave her a unique deck stripe pattern. 80-G-K-14254

Enterprise: On 28 November 1941, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel sent TF-8, consisting of Enterprise, the heavy cruisers Northampton(CA-26), Chester (CA-27), and Salt Lake City (CA-24) and nine destroyers under Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., to ferry 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats of Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 211 to Wake Island. Upon completion of the mission on 4 December, TF-8 set a course to return to Pearl Harbor. Dawn on 7 December 1941 found TF-8 about 215 miles west of Oahu.

USS Lexington (CV-2) leaving San Diego, California, 14 October 1941. Planes parked on her flight deck include F2A-1 fighters (parked forward), SBD scout-bombers (amidships), and TBD-1 torpedo planes (aft). Note the false bow wave painted on her hull, forward, and badly chalked condition of the hull’s camouflage paint. 80-G-416362

Lexington: On 5 December 1941, TF-12, formed around Lexington, under the command of Rear Admiral John H. Newton, sailed from Pearl to ferry 18 Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators of Marine Scout Bombing Squadron 231 to Midway Island. Dawn on 7 December 1941 found Lexington, heavy cruisers Chicago (CA-29), Portland (CA-33), and Astoria (CA-34), and five destroyers about 500 miles southeast of Midway. The outbreak of hostilities resulted in the cancellation of the mission and VMSB-231 was retained on board [they would ultimately fly to Midway from Hickam Field on 21 December].

USS Saratoga (CV-3) flight deck scene, circa fall of 1941. Grumman F4F-3 “Wildcats” of VF-3 “Felix the Cat” are in the foreground (one wearing the two-toned gray scheme approved in October 1941); Douglas SBD-3 “Dauntless” and Douglas TBD-1 “Devastator” aircraft are parked beyond. NH 92500

Saratoga: The Saratoga, having recently completed an overhaul at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Washington, reached NAS San Diego [North Island] late in the forenoon watch on 7 December. She was to embark her air group, as well as Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 221 and a cargo of miscellaneous airplanes to ferry to Pearl Harbor.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic…

Yorktown (CV-5), Ranger (CV-4), and Wasp (CV-7), along with the aircraft escort vessel Long Island (AVG-1), were in the Atlantic Fleet; Hornet (CV-8), commissioned in late October 1941, had yet to carry out her shakedown. Yorktown would be the first Atlantic Fleet carrier to be transferred to the Pacific, sailing on 16 December 1941.

Florida reboots their (likely not a Secret Police) State Guard

A phenomenon of WWII was, with state militias being redesignated as part of the National Guard under the 1903 Dick Act, once the Guard was federalized in 1940 and soon deployed overseas in 1941-42, the “Homeland” was left without anything to ward off potential Axis attacks other than local police (itself depleted by a loss of men joining the colors, remember, even “Bert the Cop” from Its a Wonderfull Life did his bit!) and boy scouts.

This led to the formation of the Civil Air Patrol to span the skies and the Corsair Fleet of the USCG Auxillary to patrol the seas, both composed of volunteers who, at least at first, just used their own equipment.

To stand sentinel at factories, vital chokepoints, and potential targets like bridges and railway yards– as well as provide the governor muscle during times of local need such as natural disaster and riots– states formed “State Guard” units from those too old, too young, or too 4-F to head overseas but still had a desire to serve. Sort of like Dad’s Army but in American format.

California State Guard’s 5th Inf. Regiment at Camp Rubidoux, 1942, note the M1917s and recycled CCC jackets

Florida Defense Force Personnel at U.S.O. Jacksonville. 1942. Spottswood Studio Collection. The Florida Defense Force, later known as the Florida State Guard, formed in 1941, numbered 2,100 men in 36 units two years later. It was disbanded in 1945.

We’ve talked about assorted State Guard forces in WWII several times. As a throwback to this, nearly every state has laws authorizing state defense forces still on the books.

There was something of a resurgence in SG formations during the darkest spots of the Cold War, then another post-9/11 with a Homeland Security flavor. Today, at least 17 states, plus Puerto Rico, have “active” SDFs or State Guards each with different levels of activity, support, with a (squishy) force strength of approximately 14,000 individuals nationwide.

With that, Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida last week announced $3.5 million to reestablish the Florida State Guard. Envisioned to be a 200-member unit, “The establishment of the Florida State Guard will further support those emergency response efforts in the event of a hurricane, natural disasters, and other state emergencies. The $3.5 million to establish the Florida State Guard will enable civilians to be trained in the best emergency response techniques.”

Chapter 251 of the Florida Statutes authorizes the formation, organization, and rules regarding a Florida State Defense Force.

According to the group pushing for the reactivation:

The proposed Florida State Defense Force (SDF) would be a voluntary professional military corps who offers support in totality to the Florida National Guard (FLNG). Operations in security operations, engineering, transportation, chaplaincy, emergency management, legal, and medical services among others operational areas.

​The Florida SDF will be comprised of retired, prior service military personnel and selected professional individuals who volunteer their time and talents in further service to their state.

The Horror!

The move from DeSantis, rumored to be a potential POTUS candidate in 2024, has brought lots of handwringing and overheated pearl-clutching from political opponents. They compared the nascent FSG to something akin to Modero’s notorious colectivos, the Tonton Macoute of “Papa Doc,” or Castro’s “popular revolutionary vigilance detachments.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat running for governor next year, tweeted, “No Governor should have his own handpicked secret police.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, another Dem running to replace DeSantis, echoed, “Can’t believe I have to say this, but Florida doesn’t need a paramilitary force that only answers to @RonDeSantisFL. Millions of Floridians know what it’s like to live under regimes like this — and came to our state to escape them. This must be stopped.”

Come on

I was in the Mississippi State Guard for a decade, joining around 1998 when it was battalion-sized (and even boasted a platoon-sized MP “company” drawn mostly from state-certified LEOs), totaling about 500 or so members, with a lot of those being ghosts. Drills were supposed to be monthly, but usually were held quarterly, with attending members having to eat their own uniform, chow, and travel costs. However, both Camp Shelby and Camp McCain made their barracks facilities open to the MSG, which was helpful, although, naturally, you had to supply your own fire watch and CQ folks (been there, did that).

From my own experience, and talking to members of other states’ units, State Guards are pretty innocuous, focusing on delivering Red Cross 1st Aid training (I was an instructor for decades), pushing FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) training, and joining the non-profit national State Guard Association (SGAUS) to complete that group’s Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) Academy– which is basically the EMI with extra steps. All of these are vanilla programs and none of which stress secret police squads, weapons training, giving “helicopter rides” to political opponents, or standing to serve as “build your own Wolverine resistance group” primers.

I saw a lot of good in my time with the MSG, as the group helped out in a lot of ways ranging from providing honor guards and funeral details to helping with toy and food drives besides their bread-and-butter emergency management/support. Kinda like overgrown boy scouts in camouflage. They asked for nothing from the state, which was good, because they wouldn’t have gotten it!

In short, not a chance of a state guard doubling as a terror squad, unless you are afraid that your pot of old coffee will be drained– and $3.17 in pocket change left behind.

I left around 2009 after the MP company (which responded during Hurricane Katrina and other statewide emergencies) was disbanded and the group kinda just devolved into an old boys club with all the 50 or so remaining active members (half of which were designated chaplains regardless of actual theological certifications) seemingly promoted to full colonel and above. “We are a cadre division with three brigades!” was the motto every time a promotion round was announced. But I digress.

From what I understand, the MSG has revitalized off and on in recent years, even trying to form another MP “battalion.” Good on ’em if so!

My thoughts on Florida rebooting their State Guard? Great! I think every state should have such a volunteer force ready for community service. As long as the group tries, and is successful in recruiting to keep new blood revitalizing it, it can do a lot of good.

Incidentally, the Floridan Army National Guard contends they have the longest Western military tradition in the country, dating back some 456 years: 

According to the Florida National Guard State Historian’s Office, the “first muster” took place on Sept. 16, 1565 when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers that had accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine. He was about to march north to the French settlement of Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River, with the purpose of driving out the “usurpers of Spanish land.”

Because his plan called for the use of the majority of his regular soldiers, Menendez drew upon Spanish laws governing the militia, or milicia, in an imperial province. As both the civil governor and commander-in-chief of the military establishment he had the authority to call all free male settlers in the presidio province to active service. That first muster in St. Augustine consisted of about 50 men.

The exact location of that first muster is unknown, but local historians and archeologists believe it lies a few miles north of the present site of the Florida National Guard headquarters.

In the earliest tradition of the Citizen-Soldier, the musters of the late 1500s and early 1600s were not much more than simple gatherings of able-bodied men in the town square. It wasn’t until 1671 that volunteer militia units were organized in St. Augustine.

Greg Moore, a Florida National Guard historian, said that while the English militia tradition in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is credited with giving the modern National Guard its earliest organized regiments, it is a fact of history that the Spanish first brought the European tradition – men available for short terms of military service in time of war or domestic turmoil – to the New World … first in Cuba and Puerto Rico, then to the continent at St. Augustine.

Slow Salute to CAPT Dole and COL Shames

The “Greatest Generation” included over 16 million Americans who served during WWII in uniform. Today, the VA estimates that barely 300,000 of these Vets remain, a number that is growing smaller literally every day.

Case in point, over the weekend we lost esteemed Kansas lawmaker, and the man who charged at the windmill that was an incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996 at a time when the economy was peaking, Robert “Bob” Dole.

Dole, born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, interrupted his college studies at the University of Kansas to enlist in the Army, serving with the famed 10th Mountain Division in Italy where he was gravely wounded and initially left for dead on the battlefield. In postwar rehabilitation, he had to learn to write with his left hand after his right was left with limited mobility. He was medically discharged as a captain in 1947 and returned to his studies, eventually becoming a lawyer. 

Dole died Sunday, aged 98.

He was the last WWII Veteran to be nominated by any party for President. With that, check out his 2008 interview with the National WWII Museum about his service.

Edward Shames

The last surviving officer of the “Band of Brothers,” Edward D. Shames,  died at age 99 on Friday. Participating in some of the most critical WWII battles, Shames parachuted into Normandy during the Overlord as Operations Sergeant with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne. Earning a battlefield commission for his actions on D-Day, he transferred shortly thereafter to Easy Company as leader of 3rd platoon and fought in Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.

Notably, Shames, who was Jewish, was credited as being one of the first in Easy Company to enter Dachau to liberate the death camp in 1945.

As noted in his obit, “When Germany surrendered, Ed and his men of Easy Company entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest where Ed managed to acquire a few bottles of cognac, a label indicating they were ‘for the Fuhrer’s use only.’ Later, he would use the cognac to toast his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.”

Postwar, he remained in the military and retired as a full colonel in the reserves in 1973, and worked for “No Such Agency” at Fort Meade until 1982.

Shames was played by actor Joseph May in Band of Brothers.

Shames is survived by his sons Douglas and Steven, four grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service will be held at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at 11 a.m. with Cantor David Proser officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his honor (memory) may be sent to Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8516 and the American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 910, Arlington, VA 22201. Online condolences may be offered here. 

Mirage Before the Storm, 80 Years Ago Today

The new C-in-C of the Eastern Fleet, Adm. Sir Thomas Spencer Vaughan “Tom” Phillips GBE, KCB, DSO, (short guy, hands on hips) watches his flagship, the brand new (and still not fully complete) King George V-class HMS Prince of Wales, fresh from catching the Bismarck, berth at Singapore on 4 December 1941. The second officer on the Admiral’s right (holding briefcase by his side) is Chief of Staff Rear Admiral A F E Palliser.

Prince of Wales, being the flagship of Force Z, was given the best berth alongside the West Wall of the Naval Base, opposite the main office buildings. Meanwhile, her companion, the Renown-class battlecruiser HMS Repulse was left moored out in the stream like some sort of ugly cousin.

It was a happy time, as the “Gibraltar of the Pacific” seemed even more impenetrable with the arrival of the two battlewagons. Surely the Japanese would take notice and steer clear, looking for easier targets. 

Just six days later, both of the proud capital ships would be on the bottom with a loss of 840 of HMs officers and men – including Tom Phillips and flagship captain John Leach. The spell was broken. 

Palliser, meanwhile, would survive, go on to command the British part of the ill-fated ABDACOM, then ride a desk at Trincomalee and New Delhi before ending the war as Fourth Sea Lord– Chief of Supplies and Transport.

Used F-4 Phantom, Half Off!

Via Platinum Fighter Sales, not a joke:

“Price Slashed. 1959 McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II. Restoration is 80-85% complete. The airframe has undergone a complete IRAN per U.S. Navy standards. Everything has been overhauled to 0-time condition. Needs engines overhauled, avionics, and ejection seats. Was $2,950,000. Now asking $1,500,000. Trades considered.”

F4H-1F BuNo 145310 was one of the first dozen pre-production Phantoms

History of the aircraft:

F4H-1F BuNo 145310 was delivered to the Navy in 1959 and was the 11th pre-production aircraft built. 1961 was a memorable year for the jet. On 22nd April 1961, it carried a very impressive 22 Mk83 500lb bombs on various hardpoints under the aircraft and dropped them on a range at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This demonstration was the deciding factor for the United States Air Force to also order the aircraft.

In August 1961, 145310 was one of three F4H-1F Phantom II’s used by the U.S. Navy to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of U.S. Naval Aviation. 

Later, during a weapons test, 145310 had part of the undercarriage door and pylon were burnt by a Sidewinder missile and later that year, the aircraft suffered an engine failure. Thankfully landing safely. The aircraft last saw use in September 1964 when the Navy retired their test aircraft. It had completed 461 hours.

Never demilled, 145310 has been under restoration to airworthy condition for the past 10 years by Aircraft Restoration Services LLC at the French Valley Airport, CA. It is being offered for sale “As Is, Where Is.”

Taurus goes TORO with the GX4

Taurus’ micro-compact 9mm just got a little better as the company on Friday announced a new optics-ready TORO model addition to the line.

The increasingly American-based company debuted its new micro pistol in May with an 11+1/13+1 capacity and a sub-$400 asking price. This made the gun– which I found dependable in testing— a budget competitor against similarly-sized contemporaries such as the Sig P365 and Springfield Armory Hellcat, with about the only rock that could be thrown against it is the fact that it did not come with a slide cut to support popular micro-red dot carry optics.

Well, that has now changed as the new Taurus GX4 TORO series has a factory cut and mounting pattern that supports Hex Wasp GE5077, Holosun HS507K/HS407K, Riton 3 Tactix MPRD2, Trijicon RMR, Shield RMSc, Sig RomeoZero, and Sightmark Mini Shot A-Spec M3 sights.

At an asking price of $468.

Thus…

More in my column at Guns.com.

Remembering the Ark

As the Type 45 (Daring-class) air-defense destroyer HMS Dragon (D35)— recently made a Bond film veteran– passed through the Mediterranean this week, she marked a somber 80th anniversary, that of the loss of the legendary WWII carrier HMS Ark Royal (91), with a service over her wreck.

“The destroyer paused her patrol to remember all who served in the mighty Ark – a constant thorn in Hitler’s side until a U-boat finally sank her 30 miles east of Gibraltar in late 1941. A wreath was cast into the waters in memory of the sole man lost in the sinking, AB Edward Mitchell,” noted the Royal Navy.

Sunk by a lucky torpedo from U-81 (Oblt.z.S. Friedrich Guggenberger), 14 November 1941, the 27,000-ton flattop was less than three years old but was a steady veteran of the Norway campaign (where the British lost the carrier HMS Glorious with heavy loss of life just after sistership HMS Courageous had been sent to the bottom by a U-boat in 1939) as well as heavy engagements in the Med against the Italians (Spartivento) and in the Malta Convoy run.

Ark’s loss would put the Royal Navy down to just two pre-war carriers– HMS Furious (47) and HMS Eagle, the latter of which would be sunk by U-73 nine months later. Luckily, the Brits had four brand-new 23,000-ton Illustrious-class carriers (HM Ships Illustrious, Formidable, Victorious, and Indomitable) which had just joined the fleet, bringing the numbers up.

As for U-81, the Type VIIC U-boat survived a punishing depth charge attack from Ark’s escorting destroyers with 130 depth charges counted by the crew and would be sent to the bottom of Pola harbor in 1944 by 15th Air Force B-17s on the eve of the sub’s 18 war patrol.

Because some folks just want belt feds, man

Folks have been making semi-auto belt-fed machine gun clones for years. Why? Well, I guess, why not, right?

I mean, if you always wanted, say, an M1919, M60, or M249 but live in a state where it is unlawful for a “civilian” to own such hardware– even if it is transferrable and you pay the average $30K going rate for it– or just don’t want to jump through the NFA hoops, which can leave your family in an odd legal space should you pass without having it in a trust, these semi-autos make a certain sense.

These days, FN sells the M249S, a semi-automatic version of the SAW light machine gun, for $8,499.

Plus, if you are really into historical reenacting, such a piece can instantly catapult the user into a key player at the next event. For instance, I have a buddy that does WWII living history at Fort Morgan/Gaines/Battleship Alabama and has a fairly correct firing NFA-compliant MG42/M53 that always gets lots of attention.

Along that vein, Ohio Ordnance Works– a company that makes full-up M2 .50 cals for Mil/Gov customers as well as the semi-auto M1918A3 BAR for the rest of us– now has a “no stamps required” Ma Deuce, the M2 SLR .50 cal.

“Starting to ship on Dec 7th, 2021… what the people want, the people get!” says OOW. (Photo: OOW)

More in my column at Guns.com.

Queen’s new Rangers Low Crawling to a Reality

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week announced that The First Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, The Royal Scots Borderers (1 SCOTS), will be recast as the initial backbone of the British Army’s new Ranger Regiment, a force which will ultimately have four battalions when fleshed out. These will eventually be made up of the transferred 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2 PWRR); the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS); and the 4th Battalion, The Rifles (4 RIFLES).

The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) march down the Royal Mile after accepting the Freedom of the city of Edinburgh on behalf of the Regiment. Photo by Mark Owens/HQScot. MOD/Crown copyright

The Royal Regiment of Scotland’s other battalions will continue to be based in Scotland for now at least with 2 SCOTS staying in Edinburgh and 3 SCOTS staying in Inverness until 2029 before moving to Leuchars – forming an integral part of a new Security Force Assistance Brigade. The Scots Dragoon Guards will remain as a Light Cavalry Regiment based out of Leuchars.

As for the Rangers, it is envisioned they would be a quick-deploying special operations-ish group, seemingly falling shy of SAS and about the same level as the Paras only without the chutes or the RM Commandos but without the amphibious skillset. 

The British Army has also in the past week unveiled the cap badge of The Ranger Regiment, a Peregrine Falcon clasping a Ranger scroll. The badge will be worn on a gun-metal beret, augmented by the shoulder flash of the old WWII Special Service Brigade, two Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knives:

The Ranger Regiment is very proud of its new cap badge which takes inspiration and spirit from the Peregrine Falcon; fast, agile and fiercely loyal to its partner, it operates around the world in all environments including deserts, mountains and cities. It has been designed to demonstrate a new capability for the Army.

It follows a long history of birds being used as emblems and logos around the world. Peregrine derives from the medieval Latin word ‘peregrinus’ which means wanderer. It is the most geographically dispersed bird of prey and can be found on every continent, less Antarctica. The Peregrine Falcon is also the fastest bird on the planet, with a diving speed of over 200 miles per hour.

While many regiments have a cloth badge for officers and a metal badge for soldiers, everyone serving in the Ranger Regiment will wear a metal badge, irrespective of rank.

Of course, the badge is already drawing flak due to the fact that it looks a whole lot like the Osprey badge worn by the Rhodies of the old Selous Scouts, the controversial and oft-smeared Rhodesian Army irregulars that did all sorts of nastiness during the Bush Wars in the late 1970s.

Ranger Falcon. vs Rhodie Osprey

And the beat goes on…

How to Borrow a Relic of the USS Arizona

Since the USS Arizona Superstructure Relic Program (ASRP) began, 150 pieces of the ill-fated battleship have been loaned out to museums, Veterans groups, and non-profits. To be sure, this is not a program to give individuals a souvenir of the lost warship– the relics belong to every American– but to provide tangible pieces of the vessel to provide a symbol of what was lost on that Day Which Will Live in Infamy.

Similarly, several 3-inch sections have recently been selected, preserved, and presented to 138 active-duty units of the Pacific Fleet, to carry on Arizona’s legacy. 

The ASRP has taken care to ensure the relics are available to inspire future generations. Each relic was preserved and mounted in a display case built and sealed with shipboard safe materials. Additionally, guidelines were created to ensure the relics will be passed-down when a ship or submarine is decommissioned.

Via the NHHC:

USS Arizona (BB 39) is the final resting place for many of the ship’s 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. Approximately 1,100 Sailors and Marines remain entombed within the ship’s hull. The ship was decommissioned in 1942. After the ship was sunk at her moorings during the attack, significant portions of the ship were salvaged for re-use among the fleet during the war. Ammunition, armament, electric motors and large amounts of scrap metal were recovered.

The final removal of material took place in 1961, in order to construct the memorial over the ship. This last portion removed came from the aft deckhouse superstructure of the ship and was brought to its final resting place on a quiet, remote parcel of land on Waipio Point located in Pearl Harbor. The Arizona Superstructure Relic Program (ASRP) was developed by the Navy to address requests for pieces of USS Arizona stored on Waipio Point while it is still possible to retrieve them.

The Department of the Navy, recognizing the historical value in the superstructure, placed the removed pieces under the jurisdiction of the Naval Historical Center in Washington D.C. (now Naval History and Heritage Command – NHHC). The Navy later notified Congress in 1994 that it intended to donate pieces of this deckhouse to qualifying organizations in accordance with federal law. To date over 150 relics pieces have been distributed through the United States as well as the Imperial War Museum in London.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CPF), initiated a program to provide USS Arizona (BB 39) superstructure relic pieces to U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) ships and submarines on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 2021 in coordination with the NHHC ASRP, designed to reinforce the importance of the Navy’s history and heritage to naval personnel aboard ships, submarines, and other commands, signified in the Arizona relic piece.

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