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Warship Wednesday, May 5, 2021: De Gaulle’s Pearl

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 5, 2021: De Gaulle’s Pearl

BuShips photo 19-LCM-67592 via the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

Here we see a great surface view of the Free French Saphir-class minelaying submarine (sous-marin mouilleur de mines) Perle (Q-184) while off the Philadelphia Navy Yard, 5 June 1944– the day before the Normandy invasion to begin the liberation of her homeland. Perle, in the above photo, was preparing to sortie from PNSY to continue her already active war, having just completed an overhaul. Sadly, she would never see France again.

The six minelaying boats of the Project “Q6” Saphir-class were ordered across a series of naval programs in the late 1920s. With a double-hull construction, the 216-foot subs were small enough for work in the confined waters of the Mediterranean, displacing less than 1,000 tons when fully loaded and submerged. Using a pair of Normand-Vickers diesels and a matching set of electric motors they were not built for speed, capable of just 12 knots on the surface and less than that while under the waves. However, they could remain at sea for a lengthy 30-day patrol, able to cover 7,000nm without refueling.

Saphir

Besides the capability to carry and efficiently deploy 32 Sautter-Harlé HS 4 2,500-pound contact mines double-loaded vertically into a series of 16 Normand-Fenaux chutes built into the hull on either side of the sail, the class had three 550mm torpedo tubes and two smaller 400mm tubes (but only stowage for six spare torpedos) as well as some modest deck guns.

Drawing of a Saphir-class submarine. The black circles are the vertical mine launchers, which worked on compressed air to eject their mines. You can also note her 75mm deck gun forward and twin 13.2mm MG mount, aft. She also carried a pair of 8mm Hotchkiss MGs that could be mounted on her tower. Via К.Е.Сергеев/Wikimedia

Our Perle was something like the 18th warship used by the French to carry the name of the jewel of the ocean-going back to a circa 1663 34-gun ship of the line. Of note, the 17th Perle was also a submarine, a tiny (70-ton/77-foot) Naïade-class boat of the Great War era, complete with Russian-style Drzewiecki drop collar torpedoes.

Laid down in 1931 at the Arsenal de Toulon as the final member of her class, our Perle was commissioned 1 March 1937 and was assigned to the 21ème Division des Sous-Marins (DSM) at Toulon.

The Phony War

When the war kicked off against Germany in 1939, the French Mediterranean fleet was left where-is/how-is just in case the Italians decided to enter the game. When Mussolini obliged on 10 June 1940, Perle was dispatched to sow a defensive minefield off the Corsican port of Bastìa and patrol alongside sistership Diamant.

Vichy Boat

The general French ceasefire on the 22nd ended Perle’s initial involvement in the war. However, after the British plastered the Vichy battleline at Oran two weeks later, she and three other submarines were ordered to head to Gibraltar for a bit of revenge that was called off at the last minute.

Then came deployment to the strategic West African port of Dakar, which was under pressure from the British and De Gaulle’s nascent Free French movement. There, Perle joined the 16ème DSM, which consisted of several smaller submarines, to prepare for a second Allied assault on Senegal that never came. Instead, once the Torch Landings in North Africa triggered the German dismantling of the Vichy French republic and the order to scuttle those ships still in European French waters, Dakar came over to De Gaulle and Perle switched sides by default.

Working for the Liberation

By early 1943, Perle had been integrated into Allied efforts in the Med and was in Oran and was soon running patrols off Cannes and Marseille in between landing operatives and agents where needed, helping no doubt to spread the deception at play across the region as to where the Allies would strike next.

From December 1942 (Operation Pearl Harbour) through November 1943, the “Algerian Group” Free French submarines to include Perle, Casabianca, Marsouin, and Arethusa were heavily involved in running “Le Tube” along the Riveria. Run by intelligence officer Colonel Paul Paillole, the subs made regular runs to Southern France and Corsica, dropping off OSS, SIS, and French resistance agents and supplies ranging from STEN guns to suitcase transmitters.

On one of these missions, in October 1943, Perle landed Guy Jousselin Chagrain de Saint-Hilaire, who used the nomme de gurree “Marco” in the hills outside of Cavalaire sur Mer in Southern France. He would set up the Marco Polo network which played a key role in the liberation in 1944.

Those landed ran the gamut from single operatives, such as Marco, to teams of exiled field-grade French Army officers complete with regimental banners that had been spirited out of France in 1940, eager to reform units to spring into action for the liberation. The trips, coordinated with local Resistance cells, would also pick up Allied agents and downed pilots looking to exfiltrate from Nazi-occupied France and carry back important dispatches, reports, objects of intelligence, and film.

In short order, Perle, along with the other Algerian Group subs, conveyed shadowy individuals to Barcelona (where she planted Deuxième Bureau Capt. D’Hoffelize on the beach), Cap Camarat in Corsica, and elsewhere.

Speaking of Corsica, Perle was used to deliver 30 operators of the Bataillon de Choc near Ajaccio in early September to help pave the way for the Firebrand landings. The larger Casabianca would land 109 commandos of the same unit.

Free French soldiers from the Bataillon de Choc, a commando unit created in Algeria in early 1943. The Bataillon was decisive in the liberation of Corsica and Elba. This picture, with a recently repurposed camouflaged German 7.5cm Pak 40, was taken after they landed in Provence during Operation Dragoon, during the fight to free Toulon, August 1944. Note the mix of gear including British watch caps, American M1903 rifles, boots, uniforms, and gaiters; and Italian Beretta MAB 38sub guns. Also, note the open 75mm shell crate with two rounds ready, no doubt fixing to get back into service against its former owners.

The French commandos, meeting no opposition, soon linked up with Corsican partisans, some 20,000-strong, who had been in open revolt against the German occupation force. The campaign evolved rapidly and De Gaulle, on his arrival in Ajaccio on the 8 October 1943, declared Corsica to be the first part of Metropolitan France to be liberated – eight months before Overlord.

The final “Tube” mission was one of Perle’s. On 29 November, she appeared at the designated point and time off the French coast only to find their comrades ashore had been recently scooped up by a German patrol, resulting in two French prisoners and one killed on both sides.

The results of the covert efforts in Southern France were evident in the Dragoon landings the next year, where it seemed that well-organized FFI units were everywhere. 

Free French Resistance meeting Allied troops on the beach at Saint Tropez, Aug.1944 During Dragoon (Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-212383 via NARA)

Refit

At this point, Perle was in dire need of an overhaul and made for Philadelphia, one of numerous Free French vessels to do so at the time. There, arriving just before Christmas 1943 by way of Bermuda, she would land her 13.2mm machine guns for a set of American-made 20mm Oerlikons, as well as undergo general modification for continued work with the Allied fleets.

A great series of photos exist of her from this time in the states. 

Cleared to return to the war, she sailed in late June 1944 for Holy Loch via Newfoundland in the company of the destroyer escort USS Cockrill (DE-398). Leaving St. Johns with the Flower-class corvette HMCS Chicoutimi (K156) on 3 July.

Five days later, while some 1,000 miles out into the Atlantic, Perle came close to the outbound 94-ship convoy ONM243, sailing from Halifax to Clyde, while it was roughly between Greenland and Iceland. The convoy was protected by a pair of merchant aircraft carrier (MAC) ships, MV Empire MacColl and MV Empire MacCallum who, tragically, were not notified of the possible presence of the Free French submarine until it was too late.

In the early afternoon of 8 July, a Fairey Swordfish Mark II torpedo bomber flown from Empire MacCallum by a Free Dutch Navy pilot of 836 Squadron FAA, was flying ahead of the convoy performing routine a sweep and spotted the mysterious submarine, and subsequently executed a textbook attack that proved successful.

From an article by Dr. Alec Douglas, a former Canadian Forces Director General of History, in the Autumn 2001 Canadian Military Journal:

The pilot, Lieutenant Francoix Otterveanger of the Royal Netherlands Navy, assumed that the submarine, surfaced and on a northeasterly course, was a U-boat, as did the senior officer of the Canadian Escort Group C5 in HMCS Dunver [a River-class frigate]. That officer, Acting Commander George Stephen, the colorful and widely respected Senior Officer Escorts (SOE), is reputed to have exclaimed “Sink the bastard!”, as he ordered the two MAC ships in company to get all available aircraft up.

The ‘string bag’, a slow old biplane, had to give a wide berth to U-boat flak. Lieutenant Otterveanger put his Swordfish into a position upwind between the sun and the target. He waited for the other aircraft from Empire MacCallum and Empire MacColl to join him, and then held off for another ten minutes or so while the six Swordfish (four from Empire MacCallum and two from Empire MacColl) formed up, flying clockwise around the submarine, to carry out a series of attacking runs.

It was just about then, at 1358Z, an hour and five minutes after receiving the sighting report at 1253Z, that Commander Stephen suddenly passed a voice message to the MAC ships: “Have aircraft been informed that submarine ‘La Perle’ might be in our vicinity?”

The bewildered air staff officer in Empire MacCallum knew nothing about La Perle, nor exactly what to do about the message, but tried to alert the aircraft with a belated warning: “Look out for recognition signals in case the sub is friendly. If not, attack.” Only one aircraft heard him over the RT (radiotelephone) traffic that filled the air, and asked in vain for a repetition, just as Lieutenant Otterveanger was beginning his attacking run between 1404 and 1408Z, about an hour and fifteen minutes after the first sighting.

When Otterveanger saw a series of “L’s”, the correct identification for the day, flashing from the conning tower of La Perle, and not having heard the last-minute caution, he concluded it was simply a ruse de guerre and fired four pairs of rockets at the target. All the other aircraft followed up with rocket attacks and (now running into light machine gun fire from the submarine), in the last instance, with two depth charges on the order of Lieutenant Otterveanger, “who had conducted operations in a most proper manner from the start”.

So effective was the operation that the air staff officer in Empire MacCallum was moved to comment, in a more triumphal tone than probably was intended: “The attack was extremely well coordinated and was over in the space of a minute. At least eight hits were scored on the submarine which sank within four minutes of the attack.”

By the time escorts from Convoy ONM-243 reached the scene, only one man out of a crew of sixty men, a Chief Petty Officer machinist [Émile Cloarec, rescued by HMCS Hesperler], was still alive.

A board of inquiry into the loss pointed a lot of fingers, largely at Acting CDR Stephen, and exonerated Ottervaenger.

She was not the only Free French submarine to be lost during the war. The mighty cruiser submarine Surcouf would vanish on her way to Panama in 1942, taking 130 men down with her.

Epilogue

Documents on “the French submarine Le Perle” including her PSNY repair log and the report of her sinking by a Swordfish aircraft are on file in the U.S. National Archives.

Of her five sisters, Nautilus, Saphir, and Turquoise were captured by the Axis in North Africa in 1942 who tried to put them to use but instead scuttled them. Diamant was likewise sunk at Toulon by her own countrymen.

Rubis, like Perle, would join the Allied effort, escaping the Fall of France in 1940 by nature of already working out of Scotland with the Royal Navy at the time. She would carry out an impressive 28 war patrols including almost two dozen mining operations off Norway, sowing deadly seeds that could claim at least 15 Axis vessels.

French submarine Rubis as seen from the anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curacoa in the North Atlantic. Photo via the Dundee Submarine Memorial

Rubis would have a stacked Jolly Roger by the end of 1944.

What is left of the 6-submarine Saphir class in the 1946 edition of Jane’s.

One of a handful of submarines in the immediate post-war French Navy, Rubis would retire in 1949. She was scuttled as a sonar target in 1958 off Cape Camarat. Her wreck is in 135 feet of water between Cavalaire and Saint-Tropez and is a popular dive spot.

The French Navy has carried on the legacy of both of the hardworking WWII Saphirs with the Rubis-class attack boat SNA Pearl (S606) commissioned in 1993. She is currently under extensive repair and refurbishment at Cherbourg-en-Cotentin following a fire last summer.

Rubis-class SSN Perle (S606) surfacing. Just as the previous Perle was the sixth and final boat of the Saphir-class in the 1930s, the current boat is the sixth and last of the Rubis series.

Specs:

A scale model of the Saphir class with a net cutter forward and no 13.2 twin mount. If you look close, you can see the doors to the mine chutes. Via Wikimedia Commons

Displacement: 761 tonnes (surfaced), 925 tonnes (submerged)
Length: 216.5 ft.
Beam: 23.3 ft.
Draft: 14 ft.
Machinery: 2 Normand Vickers diesels of 650 hp ea., 2 Schneider electric motors of 410 kW ea., 144 batteries
Speed: 12 knots (surface), 9 knots (submerged)
Range: On 75 tons diesel oil- 4000nm @12 knots, 7000nm @7.5 knots surfaced; 80nm @4 knots submerged. 30 days endurance
Hull: 13mm shell, 80-meter operating depth
Crew: 3 officers, 10 petty officers, 30 enlisted
Armament:
2 550mm bow tubes with four torpedoes.
1 trainable 550mm tube
2 400mm tubes with four torpedoes
1 x 75mm/35cal M1928
1 x Twin 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine gun mount
2 x 8mm Hotchkiss M1914 machine guns
32 Sauter-Harlé HS4 mines (2,400lbs each with 704 pounds of explosives)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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The Spice of Life

It has always struck me– since being sent outside as a grade-schooler by my Nana to yank up green onions from the garden for the soup pot, or tomatoes for a sandwich– is that growing one’s own produce is an admirable trait that should be practiced whenever possible. Basic adult stuff as much as learning how to drive a stick, change baby’s diaper, clean a gun, or apply a tourniquet.

With that, over the years I’ve run the gamut of “standard” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, assorted peppers, squash, beans, kale) and will continue to do so. Last year was a bumper year. This year, in addition to the regular items, I’m adding herbs.

And they are coming in mighty fine!

How many can you name?

Now, to try my hand at drying and storing these bad boys for future use.

May the 4th, Sternenkrieger style

For those of you who are Star Wars fans, May the 4th be with you today!

The below is a different take on the more historic term of “German stormtroopers,” showing a Star Wars reenactment group with several generations of Imperial troops (and a token Jawa) accompanying Lord Vader arrayed before of a “real steel” Bundeswehr Schützenpanzer (SPz) Puma fighting vehicle.

(Photo: Bundeswehr / Jonas Weber)

Of note, the Germans refer to the Star Wars franchise’s Stormtroopers not with the1917-era term Stoßtruppen, which has negative connotations in modern Germany due to its later use by the little Austrian and his black-uniformed crew, but instead as Sternenkrieger, which translates roughly as “star warriors.”

The term is also the title of the German-language translation of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

The more you know…

Like the Original, but Worse

In July 1879, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was ordered to produce a self-extracting revolver to compete against foreign models for an upcoming British Army test. Enfield’s first handgun, it was accepted, but soon found “a clumsy weapon” and, within a decade was replaced by a Webley-pattern break top design.

The mighty Webley .455 Mark VI, seen here at the Berman Museum in Anniston, Alabama with an aftermarket Pritchard-Greener bayonet, was the standard British Army revolver of the Great War-era. (Photo: Chris Eger)

For the next almost 50 years, Webley had a lock on the British sidearm trade but, in 1932, this changed after Enfield was ordered to cough up a second revolver design in a short-cased .38 caliber chambering, and did so with a model that looked a lot like the Webley.

The Enfield No. 2 was born and was soon made worse by the Enfield No. 2 Mk. 1* standard.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Queen City Slammer

Here we see, 70 years ago today, the Cleveland-class light cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83) alongside the ammunition ship USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) at Wonsan Harbor, Korea, on 3 May 1951. To save time the re-arming took place within sight of enemy-held Wonsan. Rows of propellent canisters can be seen on the deck of Mount Katmai, projectiles, and canisters on the deck of Manchester.

NARA 80-G-428168.

USS Manchester (CL-83) replenishing ammunition while alongside USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) in Wonsan harbor, North Korea, within sight of enemy gun batteries, circa early 1951. Note projectiles on deck on both ships, powder tanks stacked on Mount Katmai, and wooden planks laid on Mount Katmai’s decks. It appears that projectiles are being brought on board Manchester, while empty powder tanks are being carried off of her. Projectiles are being hoisted into Manchester’s turret number two (in the lower left). NH 97184

Completed too late for use in WWII, Manchester was commissioned on 29 October 1946. All of her 26 sisters were decommissioned before the Korean War with Manchester being the only active Cleveland during the conflict.

And she was very active.

Operating with TF 77, she provided support for the Inchon landings in September 1950, go on to bombard North Korean troop concentrations on Tungsan Got, supported the invasion at Wonsan, stood by for the evac of Hungnam then switched back to the Wonson area to lend her guns to the blockade there.

In her second tour in Korea, the cruiser covered the grounded Thai corvette Prasae where she prevented the vessel from being swarmed by Norks. In addition, “Manchester patrolled along the Korean peninsula shelling military targets in areas such as Chinampo, Chongjin, Tong-Cho‑Ri as well as regularly returning to Hungnam, Songjin, and Wonsan to add to the destruction of those tightly held enemy positions,” notes DANFS.

Although completed with catapults for seaplanes, they had been removed by Korea and replaced with a wooden deck for a whirlybird.

Sikorsky HO3S helicopter, of squadron HU-1, lands on the cruiser’s after deck after a gunfire spotting mission off the Korean coast, March 1953. Note Manchester’s wooden decking with aircraft tie-down strips and hangar cover tracks; 6/47 triple gun turrets; 5/38 and 3/50 twin mounts in place of WWII-era 40mm Bofors– the only such Cleveland to receive this conversion. NH 92578

Speaking of which, one of Manchester’s choppers, an H03S1, flown by enlisted pilot Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic ADC(AP) Duane “Wilbur” Thorin of HU-1, became a lifesaver of international renown. Besides earning a DFC in saving 126 Thai sailors from Prasae over the course of 40 sorties, the NHHC elaborates that he:

[M]ade over 130 rescues in hostile territory before his helicopter crashed under fire during an attempted rescue in February 1952 and he was captured. He escaped from a POW camp in July 1952 but was recaptured. He was awarded a Silver Star and two more DFCs for his rescues. With his trademark green scarf, he was the inspiration for the fictitious Chief Petty Officer (NAP) Mike Forney in James Michener’s book, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, played by Mickey Rooney in the movie adaptation. Thorin was commissioned after the war and served as an analyst at the National Security Agency.

On Manchester’s third Korean war tour, she was again a regular sight on the gunline, often dueling with enemy shore batteries.

USS Manchester (CL-83) returns enemy counter-battery fire with her forward turret’s 6/47 guns, while operating off the North Korean east coast, March 1953. Note life rafts and floater nets stowed atop turret two. NH 97186

USS Manchester (CL-83) fires the left 6/47 gun of turret three at enemy shore batteries while operating off Wonsan, North Korea. NH 97185

USS Manchester (CL-83) engaging shore batteries off Wonsan, North Korea. Note splash from an enemy shell that has hit over. The small island on right is Hwangto-Do. 80-G-483203

She wrapped up her last tour just a week before the truce at Panmunjom.

A lone sailor observes the enemy coastline as the cruiser USS Manchester (CL-83), her shore bombardment completed, steams away from Wonsan Harbor. Photo and caption released by Commander Naval Forces Far East, under date of 7 July 1953. NH 97187

In all, she earned nine battlestars for the conflict and suffered no major battle damage. It would be her only war, being decommissioned 27 June 1956 after just 10 years of service and was scrapped four years later.

Of the rest of the Clevelands, most never left 1940s mothballs and were sent to the razor blade factory by 1960. Five were given a new lease on life and modified post-Korea as Galveston- and Providence-class guided missile cruisers, going on to see duty in the Vietnam era– with some receiving shells from USS Mount Katmai (AE-16) ironically. Just one of the class, the converted USS Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), is preserved, serving since 1977 as a museum ship at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Referred to as the “Queen City” reportedly due to being the most populous city in northern New England, Manchester, New Hampshire’s name is currently carried by an Independence-class littoral combat ship, LCS-14, commissioned in 2018.

Sig Shows off Planned Army Future Weapons

Sig Sauer, as I’ve covered a few times in the past couple of years, is one of the three teams who are in the running for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapons, a group of guns using the same 6.8mm caliber that is set to replace the M4 and M249 families. Further, they are the only one that is solely a firearms company and plans to do everything in-house as opposed to the other two teams which are made up of several sub-contractors. 

Their submission:

Sig’s MCX Spear series carbine aims to be the Army’s NGSW-Rifle, replacing the M4. Standard features include a fully collapsible and folding stock, rear and side charging handle, free-floating reinforced M-LOK handguard, fully ambidextrous controls, and a quick-detach Sig Next Generation suppressor. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Sig’s Lightweight MMG is a belt-fed general-purpose weapon intended to become the Army’s NGSW-Automatic Rifle, replacing the M249 while hitting the scales at 40 percent lighter and with a round that has double the effective range of 5.56. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Both platforms use Sig’s 6.8mm hybrid ammunition, which is billed as offering a significant reduction in weight over traditional ammo while offering better performance and greater penetration while using a 121-grain bullet. (Photo: Sig Sauer)

Further, Sig thinks they are positioned to pull it off, a move that, when coupled with the fact that their P320 pistol has been adopted as the M17/M18, would give the company the Pentagon small arms hat trick with the exception of 7.62 caliber platforms.

Royal Navy Reboots Dazzle

Through the magic of 50 gallons of paint in “four shades of grey, plus black,” workers at the A&P yard in Falmouth gave the River-class Batch 2 OPV HMS Tamar (P233) what I think is a great upgrade to her scheme during a recent maintenance period. Headed to the Asia-Pacific region for an extended deployment, she is the first Royal Navy warship to receive a “dazzle” style camo since the Battle of the North Atlantic concluded in 1945.

“We’re really proud of our new paint scheme and the historical significance that it comes with,” said LCDR Michael Hutchinson, Tamar’s skipper. “Different styles of dazzle were used by the Royal Navy on ships in various stations throughout the world and were are pleased to have been given an iconic new look before we deploy in the summer.”

The Rivers are the equivalent of 19th Century station ships, based for years at a time in far-flung parts of the empire and Commonwealth such as the Caribbean, Falklands, and West Africa.

The 296-foot/2,000-ton OPVs only mount a 30mm gun and some small arms manned by their 40-person crew, which is fine as they are intended for low-risk constabulary-at-sea duties (anti-piracy, counter-smuggling/drug-trafficking, counter-terrorism, et. al). Capable of operating small UAVs alongside a Merlin-sized helicopter and hosting up to a platoon of Royal Marine Commandos, they are much like an LCS or a blue-water coast guard cutter in concept, only much more affordable and realistic.

Tamar has even been experimenting with using jet suits for boardings, which just looks like the coolest thing ever, although sets up a very real game of shooting skeet in the event of a contested boarding. 

The Admiralty says all five of the Rivers of the Overseas Patrol Squadron will receive similar dazzle patterns.

Notably, two vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy– HMCS Moncton (MM708) and HMCS Regina (FFH 334)– are sporting WWII-style North Atlantic patterns in an ode to that campaign. Perhaps they started a trend…

Photo by CPL Naples, Canadian Forces

Kingston-class coastal defense vessel HMCS Moncton (MM708)

40 Years O’Glock

On April 30, 1981, Gaston Glock filed for his 17th patent, a forward-looking pistol with a host of innovations. The gun at its heart is today’s Glock 17.

While Mr. Glock has over 50 patents to his name, with some filed as far back as 1953, he was 51 years old when he filed the original patent in Austria for his G17 handgun, which would be adopted first by his country’s Army before going on to what could best be described as a wild global success across the consumer, law enforcement and military markets.

Filed from a Vienna address, (Siebenbürgerstraße 16-12, A-1220) the final patent application included almost 40 drawings, making nearly a dozen separate claims.

The new handgun had largely been designed and prototyped by Glock, working out of his workshop next to his home garage in the small town of Deutsch-Wagram, just North of Vienna, where he first founded his company in 1963.

Before his handgun, the engineer had patented and sold an entrenching tool and field knife to the Austrian Army as well as lending his talent to design grenade casings and machine-gun belt links.

As detailed by GLOCK:

Mr. Glock was building the pistol for the Austrian military and law enforcement, which meant it had to be ready to fire at a moment’s notice in life-threatening situations. To address this critical need, Mr. Glock designed his pistol with three internal safeties – the trigger, firing pin and drop safeties – to ensure that the pistol would perform consistently while providing the best protection against accidental discharge.

Mr. Glock met additional requirements of the Austrian government by including a high-capacity magazine, lightweight materials, consistent trigger pull, and a hammer-forged barrel. Mr. Glock understood that reliability resides in simplicity, and therefore, he designed his pistol with as few parts as possible, minimizing its complexity. Today, the GLOCK pistol is made from an average of only 35 parts, which is significantly fewer than any other pistol on the market and makes it more durable, reliable, and easier to maintain.

On this side of the pond, the original G17 patent was approved on Sept. 10, 1985, and issued Patent Number 4,539,889.

In 1986, GLOCK opened its U.S. headquarters in Smyrna, Georgia, with what we would call today 1st Generation G17s showing up in ads in national gun magazines that July with the tagline, “Put the Future in the Palm of Your Hand.”

Today, the G17 Gen 5 is the current version of the gun in production. They come standard with a Marksman Barrel, recessed barrel crown, nDLC finish on the barrel and slide, an ambidextrous slide stop, and the same 17+1 capacity that the original did. Moreover, the profile is unmistakable from the original guns.

Today’s Gen 5 Glock 17 MOS, now optics-ready, because this is the 2020s

If you ask me, 40 years from now it will probably still look the same.

A Look at the Biggest Royal Navy Deployment in at least 10 Years

The Queen Elizabeth carrier task force is set to leave on its first operational deployment on Sunday, May 2nd.

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) has spent the past 40 months in a series of workups, trials, and visits to the yard to correct issues and is ready to head out on an Indo-Pacific cruise on what has been termed “the UK’s largest deployment of sea and air power for a generation.”

Besides the 65,000-ton carrier, the task force will be protected by six escorts to include a Dutch frigate and the Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) as well as an Astute-class SSN and two auxiliaries. Although she could theoretically carry as many as 40 aircraft, Queen Elizabeth will be carrying 18 F-35Bs (10 of which are from the USMC’s VMFA-211 “Wake Island Avengers” with the balance from the joint RN FAA/RAF-manned 617 Squadron), and, counting those of her escorts, 14 helicopters. Of note, this is the largest F-35 deployment for the type as a whole so far.

Marine Wake Island Avenger F-35B BuNo 169610 of the British Carrier Strike Group, with HMS Queen Elizabeth markings

The Joint British force stacks up nicely compared to a traditional American CSG, although with much fewer aircraft and more escorts.

However, it is impressive for the RN in the respect that the country retired their last flattop, the Harrier carrier HMS Illustrious (R06), in early 2014 and the final British GR9/A Harriers themselves were withdrawn in 2010 with the disbanding of the Naval Strike Wing. Even so, the Invincible-class “carriers” were actually designed in the 1970s as something of a through-deck destroyer with limited aviation capacity and rarely deployed with more than eight Harriers (with a few notable exceptions such as the Falklands.)

With that, Queen Elizabeth is really replacing the capability lost to the Admiralty when the 53,000-ton Audacious-class carrier HMS Ark Royal (R09) flew off the last of her 892 NAS McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1s in November 1978.

Smoke Break

“Medcap”, June 1969, showing Marines smoking and joking atop lumbering a 37-ton LVTP-5 (Landing Vehicle, Tracked, Personnel) amphibious armored fighting vehicle “somewhere in Vietnam.”

Note the sandbagged fighting position, complete with an M2 .50 cal HMG and an M1919 .30 cal LMG, and tarp sunshade.

From the Kenneth W. Koldys Collection (COLL/5791) at the Marine Corps History Division

Powered by a Continental V12, the LVTP-5 was good for about 20 mph on roads and a wallowing 4 knots on the water but could carry a platoon of Marines over the beach from as far as 30 miles offshore and withstand (some) small arms fire. Replaced in the 1970s by the AAVP-7A1, which itself has been the subject of various replacement programs for decades, the big amtrac is still reportedly in use in the Philipines.

MEDCAP, of course, was for the underappreciated Medical Civil Action Program, which provided much-needed medical care across South Vietnam during the American involvement in Southeast Asia. True hearts and minds type stuff that was underreported both then and now.

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