Category Archives: asymmetric warfare

Christmas in Rayon City

Starting 30 November and running through the first week of December 1944, the “Angels” from the 11th Airborne Division made their first combat jump– Operation King II, better known later as “Operation Table Top,” for reasons that will be obvious. 

Unlike the huge brigade, division, and even corps-sized jumps seen in Europe from the Allied airborne forces already in the war, Table Top– targeting a short airstrip near Manawarat on Leyte in the Philippines to cut off a Japanese withdrawal– was a more pin-point operation. Rather than squadrons of C-46s/47s, each dropping sticks of a dozen men at once, Table Top came down to one Paratrooper at a time from grasshopper single-engined liaison aircraft, L4/L5 Cubs/Stinsons. Anything larger would have left men hanging in coconut trees.

Those dropped amounted to 241 Paratroopers drawn from across the Division with the 11th Abn. Div. RECON platoon going in first followed by a platoon of “Sky Beaver” engineers of Co.C, 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion; followed by one platoon element each from Co.C., 187th Glider (Parachute) Infantry Regiment, 221st Airborne Medical Company, 457th Parachute Field Artillery Bn, and HQs Grp 511th Parachute Signal Company.

In his book “Love in an Altered State” about his father, SSG Bill Potoka, Platoon Sergeant of 3rd Platoon, Co C, 127th AEB, Mr. William Potoka describes Sky Beaver actions: 
 
“Named Operation Table Top, the drop zone was 600′ x 200′ and fringed with coconut trees. Manarawat was to become the hub of all operations of the Division in Leyte Mountains. 1st Platoon supported C Co, 511th PIR. The jump was made one paratrooper at a time from L4 and L5 Cub airplanes. The cub planes zoomed the drop zone and pushed out a paratrooper on each zoom.”
 
In his book “When Angels Fall” about his Grandfather, 1LT Andrew Carrico III, of the 511th PIR, 11th A/B, Jeremy Holm describes Sky Beaver actions: 
 
“Engineers from the 127th AEB soon jumped on Manawarat to clear a larger landing with explosives which increased the range of the Division’s L-4s (L-5s couldn’t handle landing there) for artillery spotting, unit locating and casualty evacuation. Medical staff from 221st Airborne Medical Company airdropped soon after along with equipment for a Portable Surgical Hospital that further enlarged “Rayon City”. 
 
Casualties carried to Manawarat were cared for by three surgeons, ten surgical technicians and other medical staff working out of a thatched and parachute-covered bamboo structure.  Once the wounded were stabilized, they either recuperated on Manawarat then went back to their units or were flown to San Pablo then on to larger hospitals at Dulag (or back to the states).

With such a shoestring op, as the paratroopers remained on the ground at Manawarat, they had to make do with what they had for the rest of the month and “Rayon City” was born. After all, what would you make from hundreds of yards of parachute shrouds and thousands of feet of paracord?

December 1944. Official caption: “Rayon City,” the camp at Manawarat on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Shown here are men of the 11th Airborne Division, preparing for evening chow. House in the background is a native hut, now used as a radio shack and Command Post.

(U.S. Air Force Number 58643AC) National Archives Identifier: 204950331

“A shortwave radio being used in the Manawarat mission against the Japs on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Here, T/4 Warren Scott of Portland, Oregon repairs the set. [Note, he is likely from HQs Grp 511th PSig Co.]”

(U.S. Air Force Number 58644AC). National Archives Identifier: 204950127

“The Manawarat strip on Leyte Island in the Philippines is named ‘Randolph Field’ because many of the pilots there were trained at Randolph Field, Texas. The perimeter of the strip is marked with discarded parachutes. When large para-packs full of supplies, dropped on Randolph Field on Leyte Island in the Philippines, they made large holes in the strip, so the Engineers stand by to fill in the holes as soon as the pack is carried away.”

(U.S. Air Force Number 58641AC) National Archives Identifier:204950327

“The 11th Airborne Division Spends Christmas At Manawarat On Leyte Island In The Philippines And To Properly Celebrate The Occasion, Turkey Was Flown In And Shown Here Is A Vultee L-5 Dropping Fresh Bread Packed In Barracks Bags.”

(U.S. Air Force Number A58653AC) National Archives Identifier:204951950

“The 11Th Airborne Division Spends Christmas At Manawarat On Leyte Island In The Philippines And To Properly Celebrate The Occasion, Turkey Was Flown In. Shown Here Are A Group Of Men Carrying The Cases Of The Tinned Bird To The Food Dump.”

(U.S. Air Force Number 58653AC) National Archives Identifier: 204951948

This included a drop of five gallons of ice cream especially for those “Angels” that had been hurt on landing or taken sick due to assorted jungle malaise and had been laid up in the strip “hospital” where apparently making grass skirts was a thing.

“The Recuperation Ward of the hospital at Manawarat on Leyte Island in the Philippines. Here the men with less serious wounds or sicknesses are hospitalized until they are well enough to return to duty. The man at left is making a ‘grass skirt’ from rayon shrouds of discarded parachutes. (U.S. Air Force Number 58648AC)

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022: The Loss of Trap Ship K

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, Nov. 2, 2022: The Loss of Trap Ship K

Above we see a circa 1917 Willy Stöwer painting depicting a dashing German U-boat of the Kaiserliche Marine encountering the British Q-Ship Headley at sea, with the crew pretending to abandon ship to sucker the submarine in close enough to be pounded under the waves by hidden Vickers guns and 12-pounders. While the British extensively used Q-ships/Mystery Ships– heavily armed gunboats disguised as merchantmen– despite Stöwer’s propaganda piece, the Germans also had a few Qs of their own during the Great War, one of which is the subject of our piece this week.

Rather than “Q-ship,” a code name that referred to the British vessels’ nominal homeport in Queenstown, Ireland, the Germans used the term “U-Boot-Falle Schiff,” literally “Submarine Trap Ship” with each further described simply on naval lists and orders as a support/supply ship (Hilfsschiff). In stark contrast to the no less than 366 British Qs (of which 61 were lost in action while they only took down 14 U-boats for their sacrifice), the Germans only had eight trap ships and five of those were very small coasters and trawlers of under 1,000 tons.

As all were merchant vessels converted to decoys, the Admiralstab decided to keep the ships’ prewar names and simply designate their wartime service with a letter designation as Hilfsschiff A, B, C, well, you get the drift, with the letter typically drawn from the first of the vessel’s name. They often also had alter-identities that would include fake name boards, flags, and shifting profiles.

The Hateful Teutonic Eight:

  • SS Alexandra (Hilfsschiff A) (1909, 1615 t, 4-10,5 cm L/35 guns)
  • SS Belmonte (B, fake name Antje) (1914, 193 t, 2-105/35) three-masted schooner
  • SS Friedeburg (F, fake name Anna) (1912, 211 t, 2-10,5 cm L/35) three-masted schooner
  • SS Hermann (H) (1901, 5000 t, 4-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Kronprinz Wilhelm (K, fake named Gratia, then Marie) (1914, 2560 t, 4-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Oder (O) (1897, 648 t, 2-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Primula (P) (1904, 834 t, 2-10,5 cm L/35)
  • SS Triumph (T) (1907, 239 t, 2-88/27)

Belmonte, Hilfsschiff B, of the German Navy as a submarine trap around 1916 with her 4.1-inch gun

The Germans also had about 20 armed Vorpostenboot (outpost boats), small trawlers that often illegally flew a Dutch flag and served as something of an early warning picket and were sometimes used in sabotage actions such as cutting submarine cables and landing/extracting agents, but, while interesting, they are beyond the scope of what we are covering.

Here, a Vorpostenflottille heading out in 1917.

Of the eight trap ships, Kronprinz Wilhelm/Hilfsschiff K, was the most interesting and most successful, and, as she was sunk by British destroyers in the Kattegat some 105 years ago today (2 November 1917), she is our primary focus.

Meet Hilfsschiff K

Ordered for the Stettin Rigaer Dampfschiff Gesellschaft, a small Baltic passenger, and merchant shipping company that ran a regular route from Stettin to Riga from 1874 until 1937 when it merged with Gribel, Kronprinz Wilhelm was a small cargo steamer with a few passenger berths.

Constructed in 1914 by Stettiner Oderwerke (Yard No. 654), she was 252 feet long and powered by two boilers and a single engine that developed 1,500 hp, making her able to chug along at 14 knots.

SS Kronprinz Wilhelm of the Stettin-Riga line

SS Kronprinz Wilhelm of the Stettin-Riga line

Once the war shut down her cargo route (although the Germans would occupy Riga in 1917 and remain there in one form or another until almost a year after Versailles), Kronprinz Wilhelm was soon requisitioned by the German navy for further use.

One of the largest trap ships, she entered service on 12 November 1915 as Hilfsschiff K and was assigned to the I. Handels-Schutz-Flottille (1st Trade Protection Flotilla) in the Baltic. Her armament was a quartet of 4.1-inch SK L/35 guns recycled from the casemates of turn-of-the-century Kurfüst Friedrich Wilhelm-class pre-dreadnoughts. These were hidden behind fake bulkheads and under on-deck dummy crates.

Her profile was also changed with a second funnel.

The British also did the same thing, so it is likely that the tactic was borrowed after reports from U-boats of the Q ships, after all, Stower knew about it.

Q ship disguises, in this case, on the HMS Farnborough

Hilfsschiff K was tasked with quietly escorting small convoys to Sweden with her “SS Gratia” disguise intact and embarrassingly ran aground in Swedish waters in January 1916. When responding Swede destroyers found out she had four popguns aboard and reported as such to the press, her cover was blown. This led Hilfsschiff K to get a new skipper– Leutnant (der Reserve) Julius Lauterbach, late of a series of Far East escapades.

Herr Lauterbach

Prisenoffizier Lauterbach, des Kleinen Kreuzers SMS Emden

Lauterbach was a Hamburg-America Line officer who joined Admiral Graf Spee’s Squadron when the war broke out and went on to be assigned to the cruiser, SMS Emden. Serving as a prize officer with the famed raider, in November 1914 he assumed command of the seized Admiralty chartered British coaler SS Exford with 5,500 tons of fine Welsh coal aboard and when the planned meet-up to refuel Emden two weeks later fell through after the latter was sunk by the Australian Navy, surrendered his 16-man prize crew to the armed British merchant cruiser Empress of Japan. Imprisoned in Singapore, he escaped during a mutiny of Indian troops there (which some reports say he had a hand in) in February 1915 and made his way across Asia back home.

As he had largely only ever had experience with merchant ships, it made sense to put the hero Lauterbach in charge of Hilfsschiff K once she was repaired.

Back in the Baltic Again!

Sailing alternatively as the “SS Marie,” Hilfsschiff K went on to a string of successes. On 27 May, she rammed and severely damaged the Russian Bars-class submarine Gepard after he fell for the German trap ship, and three months later had a tangle with the managed to damage the British E-class submarine HMS E43 which was operating from the Russian Baltic ports.

The Imperial Russian submarine Gepard and cruiser Oleg in Reval, 1915. The former was damaged by a 4-inch shell and ramming from Hilfsschiff K in early 1916.

Hilfsschiff K was also credited (erroneously) with sinking HMS E18 the same summer after the British boat disappeared while on a patrol off the Estonian coast, but after E18‘s wreck was discovered off Hiiumaa, her hull busted by a mine, this was dispelled.

Regardless, Hilfsschiff K was by far the most successful German trap ship. However, if you live by the gun, you can also die by the gun.

Tasked with protecting German fishing vessels from British gunboats in the Kattegat cod grounds between Denmark and Sweden. There, on the late night of 2 November 1917, Hilfsschiff K met with the 15th Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet and made battle with the shiny new destroyer leader HMS Parker (1916, 1700 t, 4-4.1 inch) under Captain Rafe G. Rowley-Conwy, together with the companion S and R-class destroyers Sorceress, Ready, Rigorous, Rocket, Rob Roy, and Trenchant, in a running engagement, complicated by rough weather, that stretched from around 9 p.m. to just before midnight.

At the end of the day, Hilfsschiff K and eight German trawlers (Frankfurt, Frisia, Emmy, Makrele, Julius Wieting, Seadler, Sonne, and Walter) were at the bottom while the British suffered only a few splinters and zero casualties. Of the trap ship’s 81-man crew, 28 were killed or missing while the British plucked 64 prisoners (some of them crewmembers from the lost trawlers) from the icy waters, taking them back to the UK for the duration of the war. Danish steamers, arriving at the site of the battle the next morning, pulled bodies, wreckage, and 17 additional German survivors– Lauterbach included– aboard.

Epilogue

Julius Lauterbach (später Lauterbach-Emden) would evade internment, return to Germany from Denmark, and go on to be promoted to Kapitänleutnant. Subsequently, he was given command of the raider SMS Mowe, although the war ended before he could ever try to break out with her.

He spent the last days of the Great War writing a sensationalized autobiography, “1000 Pds. Kopfpreis – tot oder lebendig” (£1000 Head Prize – Dead or Alive) which dealt principally with his time as the former prize officer of the famous SMS Emden, a ship that had much more name recognition than Hilfsschiff K. As part of that, he often toured around Weimar-era Germany on lecture tours about his experiences, often appearing in conjunction with Count Felix Graf von Luckner, “Der Seeteufel” of the commerce raider SMS Seeadler

Lauterbach passed in 1937 in Sonderborg, aged 59. From what I can tell, he never served in the interwar Reichsmarine or follow-on Kriegsmarine

In July 1920, the British Admiralty would grant HMS Parker and the rest of her flotilla a bounty for sinking the “Auxiliary Cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm.”

The wreck of Kronprinz Wilhelm was discovered in 1999. Resting in just over 100 feet of water off Torekov, Sweden it has become a popular dive site, inhabited by large eels and cod. At least two of her 4.1-inch guns and “piles” of shells are reported intact.


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Explosive drone jet skis make a difference in the Black Sea

Although the Russians by far outstripped Ukraine’s naval forces (which were mostly coast guard in nature) at the outset of the war in February, the smaller country has proved an underdog with a lot of bites when it comes to littoral operations. Besides sinking the 14 April 2022 sinking of the cruiser Moskva and a handful of other incidents, the Ukrainians keep slugging away.

Russia’s current Black Sea flagship vessel, the relatively newly commissioned 4,000-ton Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Makarov, was damaged and possibly disabled during an audacious Ukrainian drone attack on Sevastopol over the weekend. The attack included a swarm of aerial drones coupled with a flotilla of small water-borne USVs. TASS reported that all the air drones had been destroyed, but it nonetheless seems Makarov is badly hurt and possibly two or three other ships damaged as well with the Russians confirming at least some problems with the Natya-class minesweeper Ivan Golubets.

The attack videos, widely available, look like something out of a Bond movie.

HI Sutton has been chronicling the Ukrainian explosive USVs over at Covert Shores for the past few months. They first popped up back in September when Russian naval forces in Sevastopol found one aground there.

They appear made of several commercial off-the-shelf components including a jet ski drive train with a contact exploder on the bow and a Starlink antenna for uplink

Via Covert Shores

While the propaganda victory to Kiev/Ky’iv is great, the Russians soon retaliated by canceling the ongoing grain shipping program from Ukraine ports to hungry third-world countries, which is kind of a bummer for places like Ethiopia and Sudan.

Still, those who are interested in anything expeditionary who are not paying attention to the great possibilities– and the great threats– that go with drones are not really paying attention. 

Marines’ Ship-Killing RC Truck Gets (Some) Funding

A Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher deploys into position aboard Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler, released)

As spotted in last week’s DOD Contracts:

Oshkosh Defense LLC, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is awarded a $23,709,168 hybrid firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires) carriers for use in the Navy/Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). NMESIS is a land-based missile launcher platform that provides the Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battalions and operating forces with anti-ship capabilities. NMESIS integrates a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launcher unit, capable of launching two NSMs, onto a ROGUE-Fires carrier. Work will be performed in Alexandria, Virginia (18%); Gaithersburg, Maryland (15%); and Oshkosh, Wisconsin (67%). Work is expected to be completed in November 2023. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Marine Corps) funds in the amount of $15,989,908 will be obligated and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This action is a follow-on production contract in accordance with 10 U.S. Code § 4022(f). Marine Corps Systems Command, Program Manager Long Range Fires, Quantico, Virginia, is the contracting activity (M67854-22-D-1002).

As covered previously on the blog, ROGUE Fires, a remote-control JLTV loaded with a containerized module that includes a two-pack of the Norwegian Kongsberg-developed 900-pound Naval Strike Missile, is set to be a big deal for Marine Littoral units. The current buy is set to field 14 new Marine expeditionary precision strike units with 252 launchers. These could be useful on anything from atolls and reefs to oil platforms and grounded old hulks. The concept was validated after it got some actual hits in during a SINKEX against a moored FFG last fall.

A Naval Strike Missile is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands during the sinking exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps/MC2 Lance Cpl. Dillon Buck)

The Marines are already theorizing about using their NMESIS batteries while underway on amphibious support ships if needed. The same concept could quickly arm ships taken from trade, such as old RO/ROs and tankers, giving the 1990’s Arsenal Ship theory an ersatz rebirth, at least for anti-ship purposes.

Suitcased-Sized Marine Eyeball and Targeting Teams

Earlier this summer, members of Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division (TF-61/2), operating under U.S. Sixth Fleet, joined their Estonian counterparts to kick off exercise Siil 22, also known in English as Exercise Hedgehog 22. While not a large force of Marines involved, TF-61/2 took advantage of the deployment to test out the new Commandant’s concept for Stand-in Forces (SIF) to generate small, highly versatile units that integrate Marine Corps and Navy forces and have “multi-domain reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance (RXR)” capabilities.

When talking of Maritime Awareness in 2022, the above references little groups of Marines– a team small enough to be inserted in a UH-1Y Venom which can only lift 8-10 combat-loaded men– equipped with back-packable/UTV-mountable Small Form Factor surface search radars, SATCOM, small UAS, and enhanced observation telescopes/binos to provide actionable intelligence and targeting data to upper headquarters.

Check out the highlight reel:

Highly mobile SATCOM on a UTV:

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Division test a Small Form Factor Satellite Communication (SATCOM) on the move (SOTM) device, while it’s attached to a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 10, 2019. The CopaSAT STORM is a replacement for the current Networking on the move (NOTM) system, which will allow Marines better communication services while stationary or forward deployed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)

The Marines in the video are shown with Lockheed-Martin’s Stalker VXE Block 30 VTOL UAV, which can be shipped in three large pelican-style cases.

Another new tool is the Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, which allows the deployment of laser designation and target location at extended ranges, day and night, in a GPS-denied environment with high accuracy and “allows Marines to prosecute targets at increased standoff ranges.” 

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Marine peers through a prototype version of the Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, March 2021 at U.S. Army Garrison Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. The Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, is an innovative, man-portable targeting system allowing Marines to rapidly and accurately conduct target location and laser guidance during combat operations. Photo By: MCSC_OPAC

More on NGHTS: 
 
Years of market research, technology maturity and miniaturization resulted in NGHTS. The unit, lighter and less bulky than past targeting systems, includes a selective availability anti-spoofing module GPS, a celestial day and night compass, a digital magnetic compass, a laser designator and a laser range finder, all in a single handheld system weighing less than ten pounds.

The Marines have recently been fielding more AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (GATOR) systems, including one in Estonia but there may be something smaller at play here that was kept off-camera.

GATOR, for reference:

All in all, this all seems right on point for use across nameless Pacific atolls in addition to its already-interesting use in the Baltic.

SPSS Art

Dubbed either self-propelled semi-submersibles (SPSS) or low-profile vessels (LPVs), “narco subs” have gone from being a unicorn type of thing discussed only in Clive Cussler books to the real deal, especially when it comes to the Eastern Pacific, where they seem to be the vessel of choice running coke from South America to transshipment points in Central America.

Since they first started popping up in 2006, these craft have become an almost weekly thing in the past few years. The USCG and SOUTHCOM assets stopped almost 40 such boats in 2019, this number continued into 2020 where, across four days in mid-May Southcom stopped three narco submarines in the same week (remember the “Alto su barco” incident?), and showed no sign of stopping if you look at the typical patrols done by cutters throughout 2021-22.

Almost every recent EastPac patrol by the Coast Guard (or Fourth Fleet with a USCG LEDET aboard) shows off images of an LPV stopped with a gleaming white cutter in the background.

USCGC Northland (WMEC 904) interdicts a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in August 2021. The Northland crew returned to Portsmouth Monday, following an 80-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of the Coast Guard Eleventh District and Joint Interagency Task Force South. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This translates into a whole series of art produced as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Art Collection in the past few years on the subject:

Quiet Developments in 5th Fleet

It hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but CENTCOM has seen some interesting visitors and additions in recent days.

First up, the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), commissioned on 17 November 2018, arrived at Manama, Bahrain on 25 June, marking the completion of a “historic” 10,000-mile journey from her homeport in Mayport, Florida, becoming the first LCS of either class to operate in the Middle East.

Littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), arrives at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, on June 25. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Terry Vongsouthi)

Of course, the Navy wants to decommission all nine Freedom-class ships currently in service, Sioux City included, but at least it shows they can reach overseas if needed. Maybe.

The day after Sioux City arrived, she operated with unmanned surface vessels and crewed ships in the Arabian Gulf, on June 26. The vessels included a 23-foot Saildrone Explorer, a 38-foot MARTAC Devil Ray T-38, the Island-class patrol cutter USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318), the new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142), and the aging (27 years young on a hull built for 15) Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12).

Of note, the Coast Guard is rapidly replacing the Islands with the Sentinels, as we have covered several times before, while the Navy is ridding itself of the Cyclones, leaving the 5th Fleet to be staffed largely just with six forward deployed Sentinels of Coast Guard PATFORSWA, and visiting Navy units.

Speaking of which, two of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinels: USCGC Clarence Sutphin (WPC 1147) and USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), departed CONUS last week en route to their new homeport in Bahrain alongside their trans-Atlantic escort, the 270-foot medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913).

Of course, the Navy could always just forward deploy half of the Freedom-class LCSs there to take up the slack caused by the departure of the Cyclones and leave the other half stateside as training platforms, allowing crews to fly out and rotate.

Handoff? USS Sioux City Blue Crew (LCS 11) and Cyclone-class USS Thunderbolt PC-12 transit the Strait of Hormuz, June 24. For years the Navy wanted to get rid of the Cyclones and even loaned a couple to the Coast Guard. Then, after 2001, they saw the utility in forward deploying most of them to Bahrain as a standing FU force to the Iranian IRGCN.

The hulls could do good work in minesweeping and as drone mother ships, a job in which their iffy combining gear wouldn’t be a deal-breaker as they would serve largely as depot/station ships. I mean, they are littoral combat ships, right?

Maybe Sioux City could be a harbinger of a Plan B for her class.

KNIL KST, Ok?

As we have touched on in past articles, the Dutch East Indies had its own army, totally separate from the one based in Europe, that dated back to 1814– the Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger, or KNIL. Coming up on the losing side (among good company) against the Empire of Japan in 1942, the KNIL was rebuilt in exile with the “Free Dutch” forces that ran a clandestine infiltration and intelligence gathering campaign behind Japanese lines (see Korps Insulinde) and helped liberate Borneo in 1945. Post-war, it was tossed into the maelstrom (along with British Army– mostly Indian troops– and, curiously, recycled Japanese occupation forces) that was the four-year, often very bloody, conflict that is listed in the history books as the Indonesian War of Independence.

As the history books and any map of the globe will tell you, the Dutch politionele acties (“police actions”) in what is now Indonesia would ultimately fail, and a Sukarno-led independent country would emerge and enter the greater Soviet influence, but that is going past the point of this post.

No, what I want to highlight here is the special COIN unit set up by the KNIL to fight Sukarno and company, one whose model would be recycled throughout the Cold War to tackle insurgent guerillas in bush wars ranging from Malaysia to Mozambique and Bolivia. The company-sized (Depot Speciale Troepen) and later battalion-sized Korps Speciale Troepen, literally the Special Troops Corps, was formed from a mix of Dutch volunteers– including veterans of the disbanded British No. 2 (Dutch) Troop and the Korps Insulinde— along with Eurasians and native soldiers– often drawn heavily from minorities in the islands such as the Moluccans. The latter was a tactic used in Vietnam by the U.S. a decade later with the persecuted ethnic Degar, Bahnar, Hmong, Nung, Jarai, Khmer Krom, and Montagnards who made up the core of the Mike Force and CIDG units fighting the Viet Cong and NVA.

Led by such men as the infamous Capt. Raymond Westerling, aka “The Turk,” who had become so good in commando training with the Free Dutch in 1942 that Fairbairn had selected him to become an instructor, the KSK was sent to islands and regions where guerilla fighters held more sway than the Dutch government. To get to these remote regions, the Dutch established a local parachute school on Java, forming 1e Paracompagnie (1st Para Company), to augment amphibious operations.

Due to their lineage, they were equipped with a strange mix of American, Australian, British, and– sometimes– even Dutch kit. They often wore a green beret, a holdover from the old No. 2 (Dutch) Commando days of WWII. 

Photo dump ensues.

KST paratrooper in school at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea 1946-47. Note the Australian-made Owen submachine gun. NIMH AKL023561

A stick of 1e Parachutisten Compagnie troopers loaded in a Dakota on Operatie Ekster (Magpie) 12.29.49. Note the American chutes, British HSAT helmets and the SMLE .303 rifle. NIMH AKL023617

KST training paratrooper school, Hollandia (New Guinea) 1946-1947. Providing fire support. Note the Bren gun, centered, flanked by two Own SMGs, and American M1 helmets. AKL023560

Paratroopers from the KST gather in the field after a jump during an action or exercise. Dutch East Indies. 1948. One could easily imagine this photo captioned to be French paras in Dien Bien Phu. NIMH 2155_502065

KST Paratroopers are being prepared for an action 1948-50. Note the American frogskin “duck hunter” camo pants to the left, USMC HBT shirts, M1 Carbines, US-marked canteens and aid kits, and field knives, coupled with British HSAT para helmets. NIMH AKL023638

KST troops training in an old factory complex near the barracks, 1949. Dutch East Indies. This photo could almost pass for commando training in Scotland in 1945. NIMH AKL023619

Troop II of the 1st Para Company in action northeast of Krawang in West Java. 2.1948. Note the Owen gun in the foreground, sans magazine, and American M1 helmets

The advance of Dutch airborne troops from Magoewo airport to Djokjakarta at the start of the Second Police Action in Central Java. A Bren gunner positions his weapon at a signpost 4 km away from the city to be captured. 12.19.1948. NIMH AKL024567

Paratroopers of the Special Troops Corps walk at Magoewo airport near Djokjakarta to a number of (not visible) Dakotas. Note the PBY Catalina on the tarmac and slung SMLEs. NIMH AKL024539

Korps Speciale troepen Padalarang, West Java 11.29.1949. Note the skrim’d helmets and SMLEs

KST two man rubber rafts Padalarang, West Java 11.29.1949 AKL023586

KST assault boat with Bren gun Padalarang, West Java 11.29.1949 AKL023606

American paramarines, err, never mind, KST exercise, Batoedjadjar, Java, Dutch East Indies, 1949. NIMH

KST troops late in the conflict with locally-made Dutch camouflagekleding uniforms.

While we aren’t getting into the more controversial aspects of the KST such as its record of extrajudicial killings– the somewhat factually incorrect film The East (De Ost), which is currently available on Hulu, does plenty of that– the KST did go on to be the stepping stone that today’s professional Korps Commandotroepen of the Dutch Army counts in its linage.

Legion Etrangere, Ukraine edition

Borrowing an idea from the French and Spanish, and in an ode to the foreign volunteers who flocked to Finland to fight the Soviets in 1939, the Ukrainian government is being deadly serious about forming their own unit of foreign-born fighters as part of their military.

They even have a website with detailed information and a seven-step process. 

 

Of note, the French Foreign Legion is telling their members to stay put, that they (and their contract) are honor-bound to remain in the force, with their first loyalty not to any country (even France) but to the Legion. Of the elite force’s 9,500 members, some 710 are of Ukrainian origin of whom 210 have been naturalized, and there are some 450 Russian-born troops as well. General Alain Lardet, the Legion’s COMLE, issued a rare public video to the force explaining that, while the country will make allowances for an impacted member’s family to come, and two-weeks leaves for those from the warzone will be allowed, the Legionnaire himself needs to remain in his unit and honor their commitment.

The Legion has reported only 25 desertions by Ukrainian-born soldiers.

Ky’iv says some 18,000 foreign volunteers have arrived in Ukraine or have contacted overseas representatives. 

Reportedly, some 100 South Koreans including former ROK Navy SEAL Lieutenant, LT Ken Rhee, have left for Ukraine, risking a year in prison as Seoul has placed such travel off-limits.

From outside London’s Ukraine embassy, with a mix of experienced and inexperienced signing up, for better or worse: 

A more sober take from a British vet: 

One American combat Veteran, a former 82nd Airborne guy, has been living in Ukraine for the past year and has already signed up a month ago with the Georgian Foreign Legion, according to an interview.

Speaking of volunteers from Georgia– who have had their own run-ins with the Russians in recent years– dozens of men recently gathered outside Ukraine’s embassy in Tbilisi to sign up.

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. at least one eager volunteer was arrested by the local authorities with a gun near the Ukrainian embassy. While the Ukrainian military attaches are wanting volunteers to provide as much kit as possible, this does not extend to firearms apparently.

It seems those who have made it to Ky’iv already are able to arm up. 

Via Battles and Beers: War Stories, a blog that has been chronicling the conflict via emailed interviews with those on the ground, a warning sign that only those with lots of experience should even think about it and neophytes should not apply: 
 
*Professionals*
 
“Advice to volunteers: This isn’t a game. What we are witnessing is a scale of combat that’s unprecedented in modern times. I’m an infantry veteran of the battles of Fallujah and Ramadi and even I’m questioning my qualifications for this. If you aren’t a professional soldier, don’t get involved. 
 
Watching YouTube videos and receiving civilian level training just isn’t good enough. I’m sorry, I know you want to help, but it’s not good enough. You can help more by staying out of it. 
 
Your ignorance of conventional warfare will get yourself, or those around you killed. Light discipline. Crossing danger areas. Treating sucking chest wounds. Self-aid, buddy aid. Max effective ranges. How to dig a fighting position and not get your head shot off. I saw this in a comment on here and I’ll repeat it. I don’t walk into a bank robbery and pretend I’m a police officer. I don’t walk into a plane and pretend I’m a pilot. I don’t walk into a fire and pretend I’m a firefighter. To be a GOOD, USEFUL soldier takes at least two full years of active military training. 
 
Leave this to the professional soldiers and medics. You will seriously help MORE by staying HOME. Don’t get killed or get someone else killed because you want to brag about how you “were in the big one”. You had your chance to volunteer and receive professional training for the last 8 years. You missed it. Oh well. You wouldn’t hop in a fighter jet and try to fly it, why would you hop in a trench and try to be a soldier?”
 
– Former US Marine. Observer. Invasion of Ukraine, March 1st, 2022

Nick Gunar, Ukraine edition

The most current map, via the British MOD:

Tea leaves?

The minutes after the Russian offensive into Ukraine kicked off, RIA Novosti, which is owned and operated by the Russian federal government and is basically just a descendant of the old Sovinformburo, released a fairly wild piece by commentator Petr Akopov that, while it has been zapped from RIA’s website proper, still exists in web archives. 

So interesting, and mechanically translated, excerpts (with commentary added), basically painting the conflict as a civil war that is correcting the wrongs of 1918, when the old Russian Empire fell apart, and 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed:

A new world is being born before our eyes. Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has ushered in a new era – and in three dimensions at once. And of course, in the fourth, internal Russian.

Russia is restoring its unity – the tragedy of 1991, this terrible catastrophe in our history, its unnatural dislocation, has been overcome. Yes, at a great cost, yes, through the tragic events of a virtual civil war, because now brothers, separated by belonging to the Russian and Ukrainian armies, are still shooting at each other, but there will be no more Ukraine as anti-Russia. Russia is restoring its historical fullness, gathering the Russian world, the Russian people together – in its entirety of Great Russians, Belarusians and Little Russians (Ukrainians). If we had abandoned this, if we had allowed the temporary division to take hold for centuries, then we would not only betray the memory of our ancestors, but would also be cursed by our descendants for allowing the disintegration of the Russian land.

Vladimir Putin has assumed, without a drop of exaggeration, a historic responsibility by deciding not to leave the solution of the Ukrainian question to future generations.

Now this problem is gone – Ukraine has returned to Russia.

Did someone in the old European capitals, in Paris and Berlin, seriously believe that Moscow would give up Kiev?

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry has set up a Telegram channel with videos that it says show captured Russian soldiers– which the country says they have over 200– and in public statements say they were tricked or otherwise threatened to take part in the operation. These statements were replayed on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is of course paid for by the U.S. government.

These kinds of videos are extremely distasteful, no matter who puts them out, as EPOWs should never be made to release public statements while in enemy custody.

However, it does kind of point to the fact that the Russians seem to have pushed into Ukraine with their “B Team” of second-line units and recalled reservists outfitted with old equipment– the better to soak up Ukraine’s limited supply of expensive donated MANPADS and ATGMs (NLAW, Javelin, Stinger, Panzerfaust 3, etc).

Notably, when you see Russian vehicles and aircraft in videos and images from the conflict they are older models with none of the cutting edge types (e.g. Su-57 strike aircraft and T-14 Armata tanks) seen. Further, there are few divisional- or even brigade-size maneuvers, with the Russians sticking to battalion-sized elements, as well as a lack of significant night-time operations, another indicator of lower-trained, under-equipped troops. 

Now a half-week in motion, Russian troops seem to be facing growing morale and logistics issues, with videos circulating widely of tanks and AFVs parks on roadways out of fuel and with poor (no) perimeter security. As anyone who has been around tracks can vouch, armor is the Great White shark of the battlefield, always hungry, always looking to top off every day, whether on the move or not.

The Pentagon on Sunday acknowledged, “We believe that their advance was slowed both by resistance from the Ukrainians, who have been quite creative in finding ways to attack columns and, number two, by the fuel shortages and the sustainment issues that they have had.”

The British MOD had the same take on Saturday:

With the Russian lines of communications being very porous, and growing longer every day, the current Ukrainian bywords seem to be “Ласкаво просимо до пекла!,” or “Welcome to hell” with roadway signs defaced with the warning and official government ministries signing off their social media posts with the catchphrase.

Ironically, as far as I know, the most popular pop culture reference to this is in the tragically underrated popcorn action film Men of War (1994) in which Swedish strongman Dolph Lundgren, portraying former SF weaponsman Ameri-Swede Nick Gunar, uses it when taking on a group of mercs looking to carve off a random South Pacific island for its value in guano. Welding a CG-84, he also delivers a great “Spring, era jävlar” line, which is funny if you know Swedish.

The Ukrainians say the current tally (as with all “body counts” issued during war should be taken with a grain of salt) 60 hours into the war is:

Aircraft – 14 (including an Il-76 reportedly full of VDS)
Helicopters – 8
Tanks – 102
Combat armored vehicles – 536
Guns and howitzers – 15
SAM (Buk-М2) – 1

The war is also getting very asymmetric, with reported “Russian saboteur teams” engaging in wild gun battles in Kyiv and elsewhere. These units, dressed in Ukrainian police and military uniforms, and in Ukrainian-marked vehicles, are a throwback to Skorzeny’s Battle of the Bulge Operation Greif and need lots of pre-planning.

At the same time, the Western Europeans are getting more muscular with their support of Ukraine, mirroring roughly what was seen with the Finns and the Soviets in 1939.

As noted by the ISW:

The European Union announced direct military aid to Ukraine for the first time in EU history (€500 million worth) on February 27 while Germany announced a dramatic reorientation of its foreign policy to mitigate the threat that Russia poses to Germany and its allies. Germany will prioritize military spending and energy independence despite short-term economic costs.

Unexpected new allies such as Belgium, Sweden, and Germany are all sending Ukraine anti-armor weapons directly from their war stocks while France and Denmark have announced they will allow volunteers– including furloughed military personnel– to head to join a new “foreign legion” set up by Kyiv and recruited through the country’s embassies and consulates abroad. 

A number of Americans have been war tourists in Ukraine since 2014, sometimes paying for it with their lives, and I am 100 percent sure this next wave will be high and deep. I can vouch that some of my own acquaintances have messaged they will be taking an extended vacation in Eastern Europe starting as early as next week, a sticky proposition if captured, as they are on the Retired Reserve rolls.

While peace talks are reportedly on the horizon, there seems to be little hope of them yielding any results in the near future. I hate to say it is WWIII by proxy, so maybe let’s just call it the Winter War Part II. 

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