Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Over the side

75 years ago.

Official caption: “Japanese ammunition being dumped into the sea on September 21, 1945.”

During the U.S. occupation, almost all of the Japanese war industry and existing armament that fell into Allied hands in the Home Islands was dismantled, with the country’s self-defense forces eventually rebuilt a decade later with U.S. military aid.

The detritus of the Empire outside of the Home Islands, on the other hand, was quickly recycled. From Indonesian separatists in Java fighting the Dutch to Viet Mihn scrapping the French soon put surplus Arisakas and Nambus to use. Meanwhile, Americans fighting the Chinese in North Korea in the 1950s often found themselves on the receiving end of Japanese-made ordnance, washed clean of its imperialist origins via the hands of Mao’s eager Red Army.

Meet the brand new CI Regiment

The Cayman Islands have stood up their first formal military formation, the appropriately named Cayman Islands Regiment. Currently numbering some 50 men and women who began their selection and training of in June, the Territorial Army “regiment” will actually be more company-sized, growing to approximately 175 strong by the end of 2021, and is commanded by a light colonel, formerly of the Royal Dragoon Guards.

As the 65,000-person autonomous British Overseas Territory known for its flexible banking and great skin diving is very much an extension, by law, of the UK, the Ministry of Defense has been supplying equipment and trainers drawn from 131 Commando Squadron Royal Engineers, 40 & 45 Commando Royal Marines, the Welsh Guards, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, The Grenadier Guards, and the Royal Navy while a number of junior officers of the CI Regiment have been sent to Sandhurst. Other recruits will apparently train alongside the part-time soldiers of the more established (circa 1965) Royal Bermuda Regiment in that British territory.

A Royal Marine trainers with the new Cayman Island Regiment territorials. Note the traditional English pace stick, a British NCOs number one enforcement tool

The Caymans, of course, have a long military tradition, with local colonists having taken part in the island’s defenses since 1662 and many a young man enlisted in the redcoats of the West Indies Regiment or in Royal Navy for service overseas. In World War II, a 44-strong home guard unit was formed to watch out for saboteurs and German U-boats, a conflict that also saw the Empire raise the short-lived Caribbean Regiment, which served in North Africa.

Since 1907, the chain has maintained a professional police force that today has evolved into the current 400-member Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, which the CI Regiment will support with a concentration on Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) skills.

They will not be the only new British regiment in the New World. Last December, Turks and Caicos Islands Governor Nigel Dakin had announced that they will also follow the lead of the Cayman Islands in the formation of the Turks and Caicos Regiment drawn from among their 42,000 islanders.

The MoD typically has a portion of an RM Commando on tap to support West Indies deployments as well as the Royal Navy’s rotational West Indies Guard Ship (currently the OPV HMS Medway) which roam across not only the Caymans, Bermuda, and the T&Cs, but also protect the territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, and Montserrat while supporting the regional Commonwealth states of Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Rule Brittania.

The more things change, Devil 155 edition, with Idaho tanker bonus

A 155mm howitzer is fired by artillery crewmen of the 11th Marines, Guadalcanal

Marines work a 155mm gun position on Guadalcanal in 1942.

A Marine M777-A2 155mm howitzer at night using tactical red lighting as part of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, 2020

Of course, as Plan 2030 gets underway to “lighten” the Marines and trade assets like tanks, Engineer ABVs, bridging companies, and heavy-lift helo squadrons for things like rockets and UAV squadrons, the number of cannon batteries in the Corps is set to drop from the current 21 to just 5 in the next decade, so USMC-manned 155s will be few and far between in the future.

Marines loss, National Guard’s gain

In related news, 39 former Marine reservists in a recently disbanded M1A1 Abrams tank company of the (C coy, 4th Tanks) have switched teams and were sworn in at a joint ceremony into the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team.

In line with a storied Marine tradition, they will be using better mounts after shifting from Devils to Joes, as the Guard operates updated M1A2s.

The Marine Corps Reserve’s Company C, 4th Tank Battalion deactivates at Idaho National Guard Base Gowen Field, Aug. 14, 2020. More than three dozen of the former Marines enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard on Sept. 13, 2020. THOMAS ALVAREZ/U.S. ARMY

Thunderbolt!

Via the National Archives: This 1944 original color film captures footage of the air war over Italy during World War II, focusing on the life and death struggle of a train-busting P-47 Thunderbolt squadron operating out of Corsica.

In addition to showing how the pilots’ activities seriously crippled the Nazi fighting ability, hastening the sweep of Allied forces into Rome, the footage also shows the suffering of non-combatants on the ground. The film was directed by William Wyler and John Sturges, with an introduction by Jimmy Stewart (who flew B-17s during the war) and is narrated by Lloyd Bridges and Eugene Kern.

There are far worst ways to spend 42 minutes.

The film was compiled at Alto Air Base, call sign “Break Neck” which was home to 27-year-old Lt. Col Archie Knight’s 57th Fighter Group which consisted of the 64th, “Black Scorpion,” 65th “Fighting cocks,” and 66th “Exterminators” FS.

Grenadier found

USS Grenadier (SS-210) Off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 27 December 1941. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 99403

Commissioned 1 May 1941, the Gar/Tambor-class fleet boat USS Grenadier (SS-210) was only just past her East Coast shakedown cruise when the attack on Pearl Harbor put her on course for the immediate war patrols in the Pacific, the first of which she began on 4 February 1942– bound for Japanese home waters.

Over the course of six patrols, she drew a fair amount of blood from the Emperor’s supply lines, most important of which was the 15,000-ton Japanese Army transportTaiyō Maru (ex-Hamburg-America liner Cap Finisterre), sent to the bottom 120 nautical miles southwest of Kyushu with over 600 Japanese bureaucrats and technicians intended to run occupied the Dutch East Indies, as well as 2,500 tons of munitions.

In April 1943, while in the Straits of Malacca, Grenadier ran into trouble and became one of the 52 American submarines of WWII On Eternal Patrol. 

As noted by DANFS:

Running on the surface at dawn 21 April, Grenadier spotted, and was simultaneously spotted by, a Japanese plane. As the sub crash-dived, her skipper, Comdr. John A. Fitzgerald commented “we ought to be safe now, as we are between 120 and 130 feet.” Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15 to 20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet. She tried to make repairs while a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.

After 13 hours of sweating it out on the ‘bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect damage. The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his ship close to shore so that the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle, Comdr. Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night’s work proved futile. As dawn broke, 22 April, Grenadier’s weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. As the skipper “didn’t think it advisable to make a stationary dive in 280 feet of water without power,” the crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship. A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on its second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards from the boat and exploded.

Reluctantly opening all vents, Grenadier’s crew abandoned ship and watched her sink to her final resting place. A Japanese merchantman picked up 8 officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Penang, Malay States, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps. They were then separated and transferred from camp to camp along the Malay Peninsula and finally to Japan. Throughout the war they suffered brutal, inhuman treatment, and their refusal to reveal military information both frustrated and angered their captors. First word that any had survived Grenadier reached Australia 27 November 1943. Despite the brutal and sadistic treatment, all but four of Grenadier’s crew survived their 2 years in Japanese hands to tell rescuing American forces of their boat’s last patrol and the courage and heroism of her skipper and crew.

The AP is reporting that Grenadier has been located at about 270 feet, some 92 miles south of Phuket, Thailand. It was discovered last year by Singapore-based Jean Luc Rivoire and Benoit Laborie of France, and Australian Lance Horowitz and Belgian Ben Reymenants, who live in Phuket, and recently identified with a high level of certainty.

An image on a sonar screen shows a silhouette shape of a submarine lying on the ocean floor somewhere in the Strait of Malacca on 21 October 2019. The Grenadier (SS-210) lies in approximately 83 meters of water & identified with a probability of 95%. Photo courtesy of Jean Luc Rivoire, submitted by Steve Burton from the article written by Grant Peck of the Associated Press. via Navsource

Grenadier received four battle stars for World War II service and her name was later re-issued to a new boat, the Tench-class GUPPY SS-525.

Her 12-page war diary is in the National Archives in digital format. 

Sally Update

Well guys, made it through the latest hurricane. Sally’s eye passed within about 40 miles of me. No serious damage here to report. Thank you all for your good wishes.

However, I have lots of friends on Dauphin Island/Gulf Shores that have suffered greatly from the storm, which passed directly overhead at an agonizing 2 knots. Trying to help out there as much as I can in the coming weeks through volunteering, fundraising et. al.

As you may know, I grew up spending summers in GS, set my zombie novel series there, and have a variety of personal connections to the Mobile Bay forts (Gaines and Morgan). Lot of sadness across the Bay this week.

For you history buffs, Fort Gaines has a variety of pictures posted of the damage there. While the 170~ year-old masonry and 120~ year-old portland concrete batteries are still ticking, it looks like the more recently installed roofing and wooden casemate doors have taken a beating while the Gulf has come in and will likely take weeks to fully drain away.

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020: Haida Maru

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time 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, Sept. 16, 2020: Haida Maru

Cordova Historical Society.

Here we see the Tampa-class U.S. Coast Guard Cutter/Gun Boat Haida (WPG-45) at the dock in Cordova, Alaska Territory likely in the 1930s. Only 240-feet long, Haida had a long and interesting career that, while it only ran along the West Coast north and south from Oakland to Nome, spanned 26 very busy years.

The four Tampas were designed as the USCG’s first true “multi-mission” cutters, vessels that would be able to perform constabulary work in far-flung U.S. territorial waters, run the newly established post-Titanic International Ice Patrol, serve as gunboats for the Navy in time of war, and perform the service’s traditional SAR, derelict destruction, and at-sea towing roles. For their use in time of conflict, each carried a pair of 5″/51-caliber guns with a provision for a third as well as a 3’/50– big medicine for vessels that before the Great War typically ran 6-pounders. Running a novel turbo-electric drive, they could make (up to) 16.2 knots. Some 240-feet long with a plumb bow and counter stern, they weighed 1,506-tons on builder’s trails.

Guns on USCGC Tampa, note the big 3-incher. The class also carried two 5-inch guns 

Rush-ordered to take on the fleet of Rum Runners coming down from Canada and up from Mexico during Prohibition, all four of the class– Tampa, Mojave, Modoc, and Haida— were built side-by-side on the West Coast by Oakland’s Union Construction Company. The first keel was laid on 27 September 1920 and the last of the four was commissioned 14 January 1922– the entire class delivered in just under 16 months for $775,000 per hull with the armament provided by the USN from stores at Mare Island Navy Yard.

These “proof of concept” ships in turn led to a larger class of 10 multi-mission 250-foot Lake-class cutters ordered in 1927 at $900,000 a pop, and finally, seven fast 327-foot $2.4-million Secretary-class cutters ordered starting in 1935.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian,

Haida was first stationed at Seattle, Washington, and began a peacetime career on the annual Bering Sea Patrols. She first sailed to Unalaska, the headquarters for the Patrol, and then sailed on her assigned tasks, which included acting as a floating court for the inhabitants of the isolated areas she sailed, caring for the sick, conducting search and rescue activities, checking on aids to navigation, regulating fisheries, and other duties.”

U.S. Judge Simon Hellenthal on U.S. Cutter Haida, outbound from Dutch Harbor in 1940 – conducting floating court. Via Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center AMRC-B1990-014-5-Pol-20-51

Aerial view of Seward, Alaska, taken from Bear Mountain. The Coast Guard Cutter Haida is tied up at the dock. 1923-1930. Original size of photograph: 5 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ Seward Community Library SCLA-1-1504

Haida in Unalaska. For her prewar career, she carried USCG-standard scheme including a gleaming white hull and superstructure, buff stack, mast and vents; and black caps with wooden decks. Via NOAA Collection from Van Woert album

A hand-embossed photo of Haida, likely in the 1930s. USCG Historians Collection.

For much of the year, especially before 1939, the random Seattle-based cutters were the only “military” force in Alaska, and on occasion, her skipper was dual-hatted as the United States Commissioner for the Territory. 

Which meant parades. Here, an armed a contingent from HAIDA march in the 4th of July parade in downtown Juneau c.1936.

The Haida’s warrant officers photographed on her quarterdeck. The photo is dated 04 August 1926. Note their distinctive Treasury Service swords. Provided courtesy of Ray Sanford in the Coast Guard Historians Collection

Grandaddy of NorPac SAR

It was on this hardy tasking in the frozen north that Haida shined when it came to pulling souls from the peril of the sea. In 1928, she along with the old (1911) 190-foot cutter Ungala and lighthouse tender Cedar, went to the assistance of the grounded Alaska Packers’ windjammer Star of Falkland on remote Akun Island. 

“Star of Falkland Rescue by Tom Hall” The Coast Guard cutter Haida and the lighthouse tender Cedar prepare to rescue the passengers and crew from the sailing vessel Star of Falkland near Unimak Pass, Alaska on May 23, 1928. The Star of Falkland, a commercial fishing ship, was returning for the fishing season from its winter port in San Francisco when it ran into high winds and fog and struck stern first on rocks at Akun Head near Unimak Pass. The 280 Chinese cannery workers and 40 crewmen spent a night of terror while the ship pounded on the rocks – eight passengers committed suicide. The next morning, the U. S. Lighthouse Service buoy tender Cedar and the Coast Guard cutter Haida arrived on the scene and managed to take all the passengers off Star of Falkland without loss of life. This rescue is one of the most successful in Coast Guard history, and one of the few instances where the United States Coast Guard and one of its future integrated agencies worked together to perform a major rescue. (USCG Art Collection)

Haida also rescued the crew of the steamship Victoria grounded off Pointer Island, British Columbia on 30 December 1934, the survivors of the Patterson, which went aground and was smashed “to pieces” near Lituya Bay in 1938

Patterson aground at Cape Fairweather, Alaska, 1938. Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society

And others…

Her crew even trialed some of the first “Gumby” style exposure suits.

A state-of-the-art military issue survival suit issued onboard cutters on Arctic duty. Shown is a member of Coast Guard Cutter Haida wearing one of the survival suits. U.S. Coast Guard Collection.

Taking a break from saving lives, investigating volcanos, warning the Graf Zeppelin of weather from 1,800 miles away, conducting rowboat crew races in Ketchikan, and otherwise policing Alaska, Haida supported a polar leg of the U.S. Army’s daring Around The World Flight and exercised with the fleet, showing just how “joint” the USCG could be.

Two of the Army’s World Cruisers on the water at Atka, Alaska, on 5 May 1924 with Coast Guard Cutter Haida in the background. The Aleuts of Atka, being unfamiliar with flying apparatus, applied the term “thunder-bird” from their mythology to the Cruisers. National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution Photo Number: NASM USAF-11533AC

One period newspaper article covered her annual cruises thus:

Haida Back After Long Stay At Sea: Weathers Four Storms And Has Busy Night In Dutch Harbor Gale”

After nearly two months’ absence from Juneau during which she cruised into the shadow of the Arctic Circle and back again for 6,200 miles on the log, the Coast Guard cutter Haida is back at her moorings at the Government Wharl. She sailed from Juneau to Attu, the outermost island in the Aleutian chain. Other points on Haida’s voyage were Seward, Kodiak, Chignik, Unalaska. Chemofski. Atka, Nome, Sabonga, and King island.”

The Haida, during Bering Sea Patrol. took medical aid to many, gave help to two storm-tossed vessels, saved two men from drowning. worked on a third who did not revive, and weathered four severe storms heightened by winds at 80 mph or better. One of the gales blew so hard that the plates of the ship were battered and damaged.”

On Armistice Day in Dutch Harbor, the old Alaska Line vessel Northwestern, now a temporary floating barracks and powerhouse at the navy base, nearly broke away from her moorings as an 80-mph wind lashed the harbor. The Haida crew made the Northwestern safely fast to the dock with a 12-inch hawser. and also secured the Wildlife Service vessel Penguin. On the same night, the cook from the Penguin fell overboard from the Northwestern’s plunging gangplank. A Haida resuscitation crew worked for three hours but were unable to revive him.

At Nome, two of the Alaska Line freighter Sutherland’s crew were pulled from the icy waters of the Bering Sea when they fell overboard, Haida crew making the rescue. At Chignik, ship’s doctor Dr. L.W. Brown saved three of four cases of septic throat, stemming an epidemic, and assisted a woman in childbirth.

Then came war

Before Pearl Harbor the entry of the U.S. into WWII, the Coast Guard had been assigned to the Neutrality Patrols in the Atlantic (5 Sept 1939), ordered to stand up the Greenland/Iceland adjacent Atlantic Weather Observation Service (Jan 1940), lost 10 of its fairly new Lake-class cutters to the Royal Navy as part of Lend-Lease Program (April 1941), stood up the Greenland Patrol against German weather stations in the Arctic (July 1941) and was officially transferred to the Navy by executive order (1 November 1941).

This saw the 240-foot cutters converted for war with depth charges, additional guns, sonar, and radar. Modoc, Mojave, and Tampa— who had been stationed on the East Coast before the war– were assigned to the Greenland Patrol to chase Germans.

U.S. Coast Guard Combat Cutter, The Tampa, which patrols the North Atlantic, in the resumption of the International Ice Patrol World.” Accession #: L41-03 Catalog #: L41-03.02.02

Meanwhile, humble Haida, dubbed Haida Maru by her crew, was tasked to patrol the Pacific Northwest and Alaskan waters, assigned to NOWESTSEAFRON.

CGC Haida in the Bering Sea sometime in 1945. Note her wartime appearance and armament including camo scheme. Photo courtesy of Jack Alberts in the USCG Historian’s Collection.

Haida’s wartime armament was considerable for a tub her size, at the end including four 40mm Bofors mounts for AAA, two depth charge racks, four Y-guns, and two Mousetrap ASW mortars in addition to her 5-inch guns. However, with her weight now pushing almost 2,000-tons, her 20+-year-old GE electric motor did not push her at blistering speeds.

As described in Fern Chandonnet’s Alaska at War, 1941-1945: The Forgotten War Remembered:

On one eastbound escort– remembered by crew member Robert Erwin Johnson– the Haida steamed straight ahead at about 14 knots while the steamship being escorted zigzagged back and forth to avoid overtaking her escort.

Haida prosecuted various possible Japanese submarine contacts, dropping ASW weapons on at least four of them in 1943, at a time when assorted Japanese boats were in fact in that part of the North Pacific, while escorting troopships and freighters to Alaska.

By 1944, she began a regular albeit boring job of manning Weather Station “A” at fortnightly intervals through March 1946, an important facet of trans-oceanic shipping and air traffic.

With the end of the war at hand and the USCG chopped from the deep-pocket FDR-era Navy to the strapped-for-cash post-conflict Treasury Department, all four Tampas were deemed surplus, replaced by a baker’s dozen of newer 255-foot Owasco-class cutters. As such, they were all decommissioned in 1947 and thereafter sold for breaking.

Haida was sold in 1948 and later scrapped in 1951 by the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company, within sight of her traditional Seattle home port. One of her crew, Robert Erwin Johnson, penned a book of his war experience, Bering Sea Escort: Life Aboard a Coast Guard Cutter in World War II.

Her plans and logbooks are in the National Archives, with most of the latter fully digitized. 

Specs:

The Coast Guard Cutter HAIDA’s sister, MODOC, seen in pre-1941 arrangement. USCG

Displacement: 1,506 tons (trial); 1,955 tons (1945)
Length: 240 feet oa (220 ft at waterline)
Beam: 39 feet
Draft: 13′ 2″ (designed) 17′ 9″ max (1945)
Machinery: 1 x General Electric 2,040 kVa electric motor driven by a turbo-generator; 2 x Babcock & Wilcox, cross-drum type, 200 psi, 750° F superheat
Performance:
Maximum speed/endurance: 16.2 knots on trial (1921)
Maximum sustained: 15.5 knots, 3,500 mile radius (1945)
Economic speed/endurance: 9.0 knots @ 5,500 mile radius (1945) on 87,400 gal fuel oil
Complement:
14 officers, 2 warrants, 80 men (1945).
Electronics: (1944)
Detection Radar: SA
Sonar: QCJ-3
Armament:
1921: 2 x 5″/51 single mounts; 2 x 6 pounders; 1 x 1 pounder
1942: 2 x 5″/51 single mounts; 1 x 3/50 (single); 2 x .50 caliber machine guns; 4 x “Y” guns; 2 depth charge tracks.
1943: 2 x 3″/50 single mounts; 4 x 20 mm/80 (single); 2 x depth charge tracks; 4 x “Y” guns; 2 x mousetraps.

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Bracing for Sally…

Ok, guys,

Normally I post 2-3 articles MTTF, and a Warship Wednesday on, well, Wednesday. However, I have Tropical Storm/Hurrican Sally knocking on my door so posting may be sparse later this week depending on power and/or internet connection.

If so, till we meet again!

Sketch of the sloop-of-war USS Vincennes running before a gale amid the Antarctic ice. From The Narrative, courtesy Smithsonian Institution Libraries as found in “Sea Of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition 1838-42” by Nathaniel Philbrick. Robert Hurst/Navsource

Devils wave goodbye to ABVs

No more of these bad boys roaring off LCUs and LCACs any time soon, barring some Army units hitching a ride.

A U.S. Marine Corps M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle exits a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Utility on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Mar. 17, 2020, during Type Commander Amphibious Training. The ABV is with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Mark E Morrow Jr/Released)

The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles (ABV)s belonging to 1st MARDIV last weekend were “being divested from the Marine Corps in an effort to accelerate modernization and realign 1st Combat Engineer Battalion’s (1st CEB) capabilities.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Jailine L. AliceaSantiago)

And with that, the Marines with 1st CEB disembarked the ABV’s from San Mateo as a part of Force Design 2030, which is seeing the USMC ditch most of their armor.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Jailine L. AliceaSantiago)

As to what is to become of the Marine’s ABVs, looks like long term storage before they are offered to some overseas ally such as Egypt or Greece. Either that or the scrap heap.

The Army’s version, based on the M1A1, is newer. 

Stinger over Inchon, 70 Years Ago

Vought F4U-4B Corsair #306 of fighter squadron VF-113 (“Stingers”) flies over U.S. ships at Inchon, South Korea, on 15 Sep 1950, during the largest amphibious assault since WWII. The battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) is visible below the Corsair.

NH 97076 (Detail)

The “V” tail code belongs to Carrier Air Group Eleven (CVG-11), which flew a mix of jet (F9F Panther) and piston fighters from the straight deck Essex-class fleet carrier USS Philippine Sea (CV-47). The pilot is LCDR (later CPT) James Victor Rowney, the operations and maintenance officer of CVG-11.

While the Philippine Sea is long gone, the Stingers endure as Strike Fighter Squadron 113 (VFA-113), based at NAS Lemoore, and currently use the Super Hornet to deliver their sting as part of Carrier Air Wing Two.

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