Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

The Mighty D hangs up her guns

The sun is getting low on the half-century-old Reliance class cutters, and one of my favorite ones just finished up her last official tasking.

Via Coast Guard LANT

USCGC Decisive returns home from Eastern Pacific Ocean deployment, completing final patrol

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The crew of the USCGC Decisive (WMEC 629) returned to their homeport in Pensacola, Friday, following a 33-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, concluding 55 years of service to the Nation.

Decisive patrolled the Eastern Pacific Ocean in the Coast Guard Eleventh District’s area of operations. While underway, the Decisive’s crew supported the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction and search and rescue missions to promote safety of life at sea and deter the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States.

While deployed, Decisive’s crew collaborated with Coast Guard assets and foreign military aircraft to detect, deter, and interdict illegal narcotics voyages. At one point, Decisive disrupted two vessels suspected of drug trafficking in the same night. Decisive also collaborated with the USCGC Alert (WMEC 630) to safely transfer three suspected smugglers. While aboard Decisive, the detainees received food, water, shelter and medical attention.

“The crew’s remarkable professionalism, competence and determination were on full display as we met the diverse challenges of operations at sea,” said Cmdr. Aaron Delano-Johnson, commanding officer of Decisive. “Whether it was conducting simultaneous boardings or our skilled engineers conducting voyage repairs in Panama, the crew exceeded expectations at every turn. After a successful, final patrol for Decisive, we are looking forward to returning home to our family and friends on shore.”

During the patrol, Decisive traveled more than 6,000 miles and traversed through the Panama Canal. By transiting the historic waterway, Decisive’s crew earned their Order of the Ditch certificates, a time-honored nautical tradition recognizing mariners who have crossed the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Decisive is a 210-foot, Reliance-class medium endurance cutter with a crew of 72. The cutter’s primary missions are counter-drug operations, migrant interdiction, and search and rescue in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Back in 2011, while working on an article about the old girl for Sea Classics, I spent a day hanging out with the Swamp Rats of Decisive while she was based at CGS Pascagoula, formerly NAVSTA Pascagoula, directly across from Ingalls on Singing River Island. Since Decisive moved to Pensacola in 2017, the sprawling base, which had been originally intended for a battleship surface action group in the 1980s, has largely just hosted a Sentinel-class (154-foot) fast response cutter and the occasional passing NOAA survey ship in addition to overflow from Ingalls.

Anyway, enjoy! These were cleared by 8th District over a decade ago, but never published. 

As Close as it gets to an ‘Affordable’ Modular Carbine

Modular 5.56 rifles are the way of the future. However, they are expensive by any measure. Just look at the Beretta ARX160, the FN SCAR, and the CZ Bren M2– the cheapest of which hit the low $2K mark and go far north from there.

Take for example the new SIG Sauer MCX Spear in 6.5 Creedmoor. While I dearly love SIG– my West German P226 has been shot out twice over the three two decades, each requiring a new breechblock and spring rebuild; while my daily carry pistol for most of the past six months has been a P365 XMac– they are very proud of their guns.

There is a lot to be proud of with the MCX Spear in 6.5 Creedmoor.

A kind of stepped-up version of the new MCX Spear LT, which was announced last year in 5.56 NATO, 7.62x39mm, and .300 Blackout, the new variants will be in .277 Fury, .308 Win, and 6.5, with the latter being the most interesting in my opinion.

The new rifles share the same broad strokes of the Spear LT, including AR trigger compatibility, a push-button folding stock, fully ambi controls, dual charging handles (left side non-reciprocating and rear AR-style), SIG’s SLX suppressor quick detach muzzle device, a full-length top rail, and the ability to swap bolt/barrels for caliber exchanges.

Couple that with a 6.5CM and you run a laser-accurate round capable of effective hits to 800 yards with little hold over

Of course, SIG says the gun will cost $4K, sans optics.

Enter the Israeli IWI Carmel, which is now in production in the U.S. as the prospect of importing it adds a lot of flies and 922R problems to the mix.

Complete with a folding stock, fully ambidextrous controls, and a rock-solid reliable short-stroke gas piston that keeps everything cleaner (and doesn’t use the gas ring systems of the SCAR), the soft-shooting Carmel will hit the $1,600-$1,800 range and be available later this year.

Also, it uses AR-15 mags. Boom.

Moto in Miami

Always been a sucker for well-done unit photos and this one from Coast Guard Air Station Miami, showing five airborne MH-65D Dolphins hovering in unison behind five tarmacked EADS HC-144 Ocean Sentry patrol planes– the station’s entire airframe complement– is great.

Photo by USCG Aux Joey Feldman

As noted by the station:

When exceptionally hard work meets opportunity. This photo would not have been possible without the hard work of our Aviation Engineering department. They worked tirelessly to make all ten of our aircraft available in a very short time window and on top of that, they made sure all five of our MH-65 Dolphins were operational to provide an amazing backdrop for our 2023 unit photo. To our AvEng department, be proud of this accomplishment. Your hard work has paid off. Bravo Zulu!!

Coast Guard Air Station Miami first opened in June 1932 at the old Navy seaplane base on Dinner Key in Biscayne Bay next to the Pan Am station, originally flying Fokker PJ Flying Life Boats as the Coast Guard’s first “modern” aviation unit, and celebrated its 90th-anniversary last summer– a span that included flying armed Vought OS2U-3 Kingfishers on ASW patrols and CSAR during WWII.

“Coast Guard planes from the Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida, greeting new 165-foot patrol boat/subchaser USCGC PANDORA arrival December 6, 1934, to take station.” Top to bottom: Fokker PJ Flying Boat ACAMAR, Douglas RD-1 Amphibian SIRIUS, and Fokker PJ Flying Boat A. 

For those curious:

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami employs a highly trained and exceptionally motivated crew of 339 personnel, comprised of 71 Officers, 255 Enlisted, and 13 Civilians. Its fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft conduct a variety of Coast Guard missions from Charleston, S.C. to Key West, and throughout the Caribbean Basin. Air Station (CGAS) Miami is located at Opa-Locka Executive Airport.

 

One door closes, another opens

U.S. Marines participate in the deactivation ceremony for 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 13, 2023. The battalion is deactivating in accordance with Force Design 2030 as the Marine Corps modernizes to remain the premier crisis response force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Israel Chincio)

In Marine Corps news this month, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines cased its colors during the unit’s deactivation ceremony at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, on 13 January 2023.

Surely it is a bad sign when a famed unit– one that formerly counted Commandant Krulak, John Ripley of Dong Ha bridge fame, Ollie North, Dakota Meyer, and “Terminal Lance” Maximilian Uriarte– cases its colors on Friday the 13th.

The move will allow for the transformation of 3d Marines to the 3d Marine Littoral Regiment.

Of note, first stood up on 1 June 1942, 3/3 Marines were bled white in the liberation of Guam in July 1944, suffering over 400 casualties, half its strength.

Speaking of which, the Corps is marking the naming and reactivation of Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, on Jan. 26, 2023, on Guam. MCBCB is named in honor of the late Brig. Gen. Vicente ‘Ben’ Thomas Garrido Blaz, the first Chamorro Marine to attain the rank of general officer.

Thirteen years old when the Japanese invaded Guam during World War II, Blaz worked in labor camps, building aviation fields, planting rice, and digging trenches until American forces retook the island in 1944. Post-war, following a BS from Notre Dame, he would serve in the Marines in both Korea and Vietnam.

The base will be the first Marine installation after Marine Barracks Guam was deactivated on Nov. 10, 1992. Ultimately 5,000 Marines will be stationed there, ironically “partially funded by a large monetary contribution from the Government of Japan,” as part of a pivot of Marines from Okinawa.

“MCBCB will play an essential role in strengthening the Marine Corps’ geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable posture in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Everything you want in a P365, without the loudener

SIG has an optimized variant of the 17+1 round 9mm P365 XMacro headed to the market– minus the integrated compensator that a lot of folks detest– but with a few extra goodies.

The new P365 Macro TACOPS will have the slightly taller grip module of the XMacro that comes standard with a frame-mounted M1913 accessory rail for lights and lasers. The upper half is that of a standard P365 XL. What is totally new on the micro 9 is an integrated magwell for faster reloads, an extended slide catch lever, and, as it is a TACOPS package, four flush-fit 17-round magazines.

I ran into the P365 Macro TACOPS at SIG’s media event in Nevada last week on the eve of SHOT Show and got a sneak peek at the new pistol.

The P365 Macro TACOPS can be looked at as a P365 XMacro in which someone swapped out a regular XL top half and added a magwell and extended slide lever. The pistol shown wears a SIG RomeoZero Elite 1×24 micro red dot– which fits the Shield RMSc/Holosun K footprint of the series– with its optional metal shield installed.

More in my column at Guns.com.

In one of the most surprising stories from SHOT…

Confession time: I have long owned and used an 8+1 shot Bersa Thunder CC .380, finding it both reliable and very easy to conceal. At the time I picked it up, I’d gone down a rabbit hole in which I owned several Argentinian-made pistols including a few HAFDASA Ballester–Molina .45ACPs and a couple of 9mm FM (not FN) Hi-Powers.

Not a bad little gun…

Founded by a trio of Italian immigrants to Argentina back in the 1950s, the company made a name for itself crafting small and dependable blowback-action pistols that evoked a sort of Walther PP/PPK flavor.

Long imported by Eagle Imports, Bersa switched gears in 2021 and elected to go with Talon moving forward while also looking to bring some production to the U.S. This led to a new state-of-the-art facility in Kennesaw, Georgia which has been slowly standing up for the past two years.

That’s what brought me to Bersa’s booth hidden over in the 70,000-block of Ceasar’s Forum during SHOT Show last week.

Did I mention they are making a half dozen different AR models now?

More in my column at Guns.com.

Ukraine’s Rusty Iron Fist

M1A2 Abrams Tank 1st Marine Division TIGERCOMP Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Aug 2019. 1st Marine Division photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb

So, the Western allies are ramping up planned tank main battle tank deliveries to Ukraine. The sums are pretty paltry and diverse to an almost Kafkaesque extreme.

From the U.S. will come 31 M1 Abrams supported by eight M88 recovery vehicles (but no additional HET transporters, essential to move both to the front.) These will join a planned 109 M1 Bradley IFVs, 90 Stryker 8x8s (which may include some gun systems), 300 Vietnam-era M113 APCs, 250 M1117 4×4 armored cars, and 580 largely new MRAPs that never made it to Iraq.

From Germany will come 14 Leopard 2s (with as many as 100 additional third and fourth-hand Leos on the menu from places like Poland and Finland).

From the UK will come 14 exceedingly rare (and exceedingly cranky) Challenger 2 tanks.

The figures are arbitrary, based on the size of a Ukrainian tank company (14 tracks) and battalion (31 tracks). In the end, the Ukrainians want 250 to 300 Western tanks over and above the surplus T-62s and T-72s that have already been transferred. 

While some commo gear between the three incoming tank platforms is compatible, be sure that the tanks themselves are bewilderingly complicated with dozens of subcomponent systems, unique drivetrains, and main gun systems. For instance, Challenger uses a special two-piece shell (known to cause death in its crews if handled without respect) for its Royal Ordnance L30 120mm rifled gun that no one else in the world uses, the Leopard series runs several different models of the Rheinmetall Rh-120 120mm smoothbore that are fairly omnivorous in that caliber, while the Abrams, at least in A1 and A2 models, run a Watervliet-made variant of the German gun with some tweaks to barrel thickness and chamber pressure that is modeled specifically to mate with the M829 family of sabot rounds that have proven deadly effective against T-72s going back to 1991. Are M829s themselves going to be risked in a theatre where tech transfer can occur easily and often?

The logistics (not to mention training) nightmares to support these tanks– which surely (especially in the case of the thrifty Germans) will be older models that have long been in arsenal storage– will be daunting. Like tossing the proverbial keys to a well-used and abused F1 car to a guy that has only ever driven a Lada and expecting him to get in the ongoing race and finish with a win. Meanwhile, the pit crew is still watching PowerPoint slides written in another language on how to keep it running, and, while they have a pallet of spare parts, they go to a different car.

The Leopard 2A7 tank gunner’s position. Not something you could figure out on the fly…

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, in yesterday’s White House press briefing, confirmed the Abrams at least will be coming from storage rather than current unit stocks, which means months longer to get them to Europe and ready to hand over to crews that will, likewise, need lots of time to spin up. 
 
There’s — there’s training that’s needed. There’s sophisticated maintenance requirements. There’s a supply chain. I mean, it uses a gas turbine engine to — basically, a jet engine — 1,500 horsepower. So, there’s a lot that goes into operating these tanks on the field.

This is fine, because apparently the Abrams transferred would have to be built as export models such as those operated by Egypt and the Saudis without any of the current armor that the Army has used for the past couple of decades, which is restricted to U.S. military use only. 

But Ukraine seems to think this cobbled-together force of 3-4 battalions of NATO-supplied MBTs will become a hard armored fist for future planned offensive operations. The tip of the spear in piercing the Russian occupiers’ lines this upcoming Summer. A Cinderella story akin to the Lake Placid Miracle on Ice with armor taking the place of hockey skates.

I’m just not sure trying to beat the Russians at tank-v-tank offensive warfare with the Russians shortening their supply lines while Ky’iv’s stretches back to the Sierra Army Depot outside of Reno is the best play here. Especially when you look at the past Russian relish for the immovable die-in-place scenario (see Port Arthur 1904, Petropavlovsk/Sevastopol 1855, Osowiec 1915, Leningrad 1941-44, Brest Fortress 1941, Smolensk 1502/1514/1609-11/1613-17/1654, et. al.) that has so often popped up in that country’s military history.

To me, it would probably have been a better idea to keep up the artillery game, which can be easily trained at the crew level, while keeping the little groups of anti-tank killer teams in heavy operations and hundreds of cheap Turkish drones and purpose-built American loitering munitions overhead supported by realtime NATO targeting data (which, let’s face it, makes the war a legit NATO conflict). After all, it has worked thus far.

Anyway, the updated U.S. military aid to Ukraine list, just in case you haven’t seen it in recent weeks.

Shoehorned Greyhounds

Mare Island Naval Shipyard‘s Dry Dock No. 2 is filled with six unidentified “four-piper” type flush-deck destroyers circa 1922. To the side, you can see California Avenue, east side near Ninth Street, in Vallejo, California.

Photocopy of photograph (the original is located at Mare Island Archives). The original photographer is unknown. LOC HABS CAL,48-MARI,1BR–1

All of the destroyers are four pipers with four open-mount deck guns and four triple 21-inch torpedo tubes. Of note, the center ship of the top trio has landed two of its torpedo tube racks and has two empty turnstiles looking to heaven.

The arrangement identifies the six as members of the prolific Wickes or follow-on Clemson classes of tin cans of which a staggering 267 hulls were completed between 1917 and 1922. Several of both classes have been profiled on past Warship Wednesdays.

As for Dry Dock No. 2, the 720-foot long/98-foot wide concrete graving dock is still in active service and has been extensively photographed over the years.

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023: The Kaiser’s Tin Cans do Broadway

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan. 25, 2023: Kaisers Tin Cans do Broadway

Bain News Service collection, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-50381

Above we see, in the summer of 1920 a trio of once-sunk former torpedoboten of the old Kaiserliche Marine, anchored in New York City, from left to right ex-SMS V43, G102, and S132, with the newly commissioned Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Redwing (AM-48) outboard.

A closer look. Note that all the vessels have Union Jacks on their bows, as they are in possession of the Navy if not in direct commission. LC-DIG-ggbain-31137

Check out the inset, showing a little girl playing on G102’s forward 8.8 cm SK L/45 naval gun and her boater hat-wearing father close by. Besides four such guns, the 1,700-ton vessel carried six 19.7-inch torpedo tubes and could make 34 knots on her steam turbines, a speed that is still fast today. Another boater-clad man is inspecting the view from atop her wheelhouse.

German destroyer S132 in possession of the U.S. Navy, showing the mine laying stern. Note the stern of the minesweeper Redwing. LOC

German destroyers G102 and S132 in possession of the U.S. Navy, in 1920 in New York with a great view of Manhattan from the Hudson and the ships’ guns and searchlights. LOC

The vessels had been interned at Scapa Flow by the terms of the Armistice of 11 November 1918, then scuttled by their skeleton crews on 21 June 1919. Saved by the British, who worked quickly to beach these small craft along with a few others, they were turned over to the U.S. as war reparations as part of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1920, along with the German Helgoland class battleship ex-SMS Ostfriesland and the Wiesbaden-class light cruiser ex-SMS Frankfurt.

All five ships saw extensive action with the High Seas Fleet during World War I, including (except for SMS V43) the epic clash at Jutland. That service, while fascinating, is beyond the scope of this post but I encourage you to look into it if curious.

Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow: Tug alongside scuttled German destroyer G 102 at Scapa Flow, June 1919. Of the 74 interned German ships at Scapa, 52 were lost– including all three of G102’s sisters– with the remainder saved by the British and divvied up post-Versailles. IWM SP 1631

Turned over to a scratch American crew, they were shepherded across the Atlantic to New York by the minesweepers Redwing and USS Falcon (AM-28).

The German Imperial Navy destroyer SMS G 102 is escorted to a U.S. port by the U.S. Navy minesweeper USS Falcon (AM-28), circa 1920. Note her six assorted torpedo tubes arranged front, aft, and center. NH 45786

Ostfriesland, Capt. J. F. Hellweg (USNA 1900), USN, in command, became the only German-built battleship commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 7 April 1920 at Rosyth, Scotland, and made New York under her own power, where she was decommissioned on 20 September 1920. Hellweg, who had spent his career in surface warfare including service with the Great White Fleet and in Mexico, went on to command the Naval Observatory and was certainly an interesting figure at parties. 

After their summer as “propaganda ships,” the three tin cans were soon stripped at Norfolk and disposed of off Cape Henry, Virginia, at the infamous hands of Billy Mitchell’s land-based aircraft, followed up with a coup de grace on the humble yet still floating 1,100-ton V43 made by assembled American battleships on 15 July 1921.

Via NYT Archives

Direct hit on G102, July 13, 1921. They were sunk during the Billy Mitchell aircraft bombing tests on German and U.S. Navy ships, showing the vulnerability of ships to aerial bombing, on July 18, 1921. Photograph from the William “Billy” Mitchell Collection, U.S. Navy Museum.

Anti-Ship Bombing Demonstration, 1921. Shown: G-102 showing smoke from a direct hit made by SE-5 with a 25-pound TNT-filled fragmentation bomb, June 21, 1921. From the album entitled, “First Provisional Air Brigade, Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia, 1921.” Note her tubes and guns have been removed. From the William Mitchell Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

As for Redwing, she went on to be sheep-dipped and serve in the Coast Guard during Prohibition, then would return to Navy service first on the West Coast in 1929 and then on the East by 1941. Converted to a rescue/salvage ship (ARS-4), she was lost to an Axis mine off the old Vichy French navy base at Bizerte, Tunisia, during WWII on 29 June 1943.


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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Mush v the Harusame

80 years ago today: The Shiratsuyu-class destroyer Harusame of the Imperial Japanese Navy was torpedoed by the famed Gato-class submarine USS Wahoo (SS-238) under the command of LCDR Dudley Walker “Mush” Morton, near Wewak, New Guinea. It would be the third of 11 attacks logged during the boat’s Third War Patrol

Harusame’s back is clearly broken. Wartime intelligence evaluated this photo as showing one of the Asashio-class (see Photographic Intelligence Report # 82, 17 March 1943). However, the ship’s bridge structure identifies her as a Shiratsuyu-class destroyer, with the # 2 (single) 5 gun mount removed. Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-35738 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

From Wahoo’s patrol report, in “Mush’s” words. 

Just two weeks after the above image:

Lieutenant Commander Dudley W. Morton, commanding officer of Wahoo (SS-238), at right with his executive officer, Lieutenant Richard H. O’Kane, on Wahoo’s open bridge at Pearl Harbor after her very successful third war patrol, circa 7 February 1943. Official U.S. Navy photograph now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-35725.

Beached to avoid sinking with her keel broken, Harusame was salvaged and towed to Truk where she was fitted with an emergency false bow, then sailed in convoy in May to Yokosuka for rebuilding. She returned to service in late November 1943, joining Desdiv 27, Desron 2, IJN Second Fleet.

Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Harusame underway after rebuild on November 30, 1943. Shizuo Fukui – Kure Maritime Museum, Japanese Naval Warship Photo Album: Destroyers, edited by Kazushige Todaka, p. 81

Her service would come to an end just seven months later, dispatched by USAAF B-25s 30 miles northwest of Cape of Good Hope near Manokwari on 8 June 1944 while on a troop transport run to Biak. She was lost with 74 of her crew.

As for Wahoo, she had already been lost by a remarkably similar fate– sent to the bottom by Japanese aircraft in October 1943 while returning home from her Seventh War Patrol, sunk with all 79 hands by a sustained air and surface attack as she was attempting to exit the Sea of Japan via the La Perouse Strait.

Detailed by DANFS:

The loss of Morton and Wahoo caused profound shock in the submarine force. All further forays into the Sea of Japan ceased, and it was not again invaded until June 1945, when special mine-detecting equipment was available for submarines. Morton was posthumously awarded a fourth Navy Cross. When he died, his claimed sinkings exceeded those of any other submarine skipper: 17 ships for 100,000 tons. In the postwar accounting, this was readjusted to 19 ships for about 55,000 tons. This left Morton, in terms of individual ships sunk, one of the top three skippers of the war. So ended the career of one of the greatest submarine teams of World War II: Wahoo and “Mush” Morton.

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