Category Archives: asymmetric warfare

Sun’s out, guns out

Resistance fighters with the French Forces of the Interior armbands meet up with curious recently arrived American troops on the beach in the Saint Tropez area during Operation Dragoon landings along the French Riviera, 15 August 1944. The irregulars of the FFI numbered an estimated 400,000 by this stage of the war and were no longer underground.

Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-212383 via NARA

The Resistance members all seem to have pistols stuck in their waist-band, channeling Dan Tanna long before the 1970s.

Inset of 111-SC-212383

The fella to the left has a Colt M1908 Hammerless stuck in his belt while his buddy with the short (German surplus?) wool jacket has what appears to be an Astra 400 grip just showing. The stabby guy with the bandana has what looks like a 6.35mm pocket pistol such as a Browning Baby or Colt Vest model in addition to his steel-handled sheath knife.

As for the GIs, the older Soldier on the right has the distinctive seahorse patch of the 36th Engineer Regiment.

The 36th Engineers were everywhere in the ETO, earning campaign streamers for Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, and Rome-Arno in the 22 months prior to the Dragoon landings. They would go on to prove essential in the push through Northwest Europe through Alsace and the Rhineland. An active-duty unit, after WWII they went on to serve in Korea, where they remained for 20 years. Reformed as the 36th Engineer Group in 1973 and as the 36th Engineer Group in 2006, they have continued to deploy downrange across the sandbox extensively over the past three decades.

There are now 40 154-foot patrol craft in the USCG

The new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter (FRC) has been termed an operational “game-changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 platform with some mods for U.S. use, Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyards won a contract for the first unit, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), in 2008 and has been plowing right along ever since.

A couple weeks ago, the yard delivered the 40th FRC to the Coast Guard, not a bad job in just 12 years.

USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), note her 25mm gun has not been installed. Photo via Bollinger. 

The newest vessel, USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), was placed in commission, special status, on 30 July and will remain in Florida while the crew completes pre-commissioning trials and maintenance. The cutter is scheduled to arrive in Santa Rita, Guam, later in 2020, and will be the second of three planned FRCs stationed in Guam, an important upgrade to sea surveillance and patrol capabilities in America’s forward-deployed territorial bastion.

“The Fast Response Cutters are a real game-changer here in the Pacific for the Coast Guard,” said LCDR Jessica Conway, the Coast Guard 14th District’s patrol boat manager. “Already the FRCs stationed here in Hawaii are conducting longer missions over greater distances than the older patrol boats they are replacing.”

FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, a state of the art C4ISR suite, a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat, and a combat suite that includes a remote-operated Mk38 25mm chain gun and four crew-served M2 .50 cals.

Note the 25mm gun forward. Unlike older models, it is the stabilized Mod 2 variant with a day/night electro-optical sight. The Mod 2 has shown to be 3x more likely to hit a target than the eyeball-trained and manually-slewed Mod 0/1 guns.  

While listed as having a range of ~2,500nm, FRCs have deployed on 4,400nm round-trip patrols to the Marshall Islands from Hawaii– completing two at-sea refuelings from a Coast Guard buoy tender– and have shown themselves particularly adept at expeditionary operations in devastated littorals in the aftermath of hurricanes. Further, the class has deployed to the coast of South America in joint Operations Tradewinds exercises for the past two years.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry staging out of San Diego headed to Oahu,  2,600-nm West on a solo trip. Not bad for a yacht-sized patrol boat

“Here in the Pacific one of our greatest challenges is distance,” said Conway. “With the FRCs boasting a larger crew size and greater endurance, they are able to complete missions both close to shore and over the horizon, aiding both the people of Guam and our partners in the region.”

In a hat tip to the fact they are so much more capable, the USCG uses the WPC hull designation, used last by the old “buck and a quarter” 125-foot cutters of the Prohibition-era with these crafts, rather than the WPB patrol boat designation of the ships they are replacing.

Most important, later in 2020, Bollinger will be delivering the first of a half-dozen FRCs to the USCG that will be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, to replace the 1980s-vintage 110-foot Island Class Patrol Boats supporting Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the service’s largest unit outside of the United States. PATFORSWA is almost continually engaged with Iranian asymmetric forces in the Persian Gulf region.

Welcome to the flying boat gap you didn’t even know we had

Curtiss A-1, The first Navy seaplane at the Curtiss airfield, Hammondsport, NY, June 1911, with Curtiss employees and early Naval aviators. NARA #: 80-G-418895

Almost from the time of the Wright Brothers, the U.S. Navy utilized an increasingly complex series of amphibious “flying boat” aircraft. From hundreds of Curtiss C, F, and MF model flying boats acquired from 1911 through the Great War, the Navy in 1919 used the four huge NC boats to cross the Atlantic, making history.

The 1920s brought the PN flying boats while the 1930s saw the early P2Y-1 Clippers, followed by the PBY Catalina and PBY2 Coronado– with both of the latter going on to be World War II workhorses.

Then came the twilight of the U.S. Navy flying boat era with lumbering Martin PBM Mariner and P5M Marlin, which replaced the Catalina and Coronado, and the aborted Martin P6M SeaMaster, the latter a seriously capable jet-powered sea-based strategic bomber capable of dropping nuclear ordnance. With no desire to continue in the art of seaplanes and their associated tenders, the final flying boat operations of the U.S. Navy were the 1965 Market Time patrols of VP-40 in Vietnam.

USS Guavina (AGSS-362), refueling a P5M-1 Marlin flying boat off Norfolk, Virginia (USA), in 1955. Prior to World War II several submarines were fitted to refuel seaplanes.  

And just like that, the Navy was out of the seaplane biz.

Since then, the military use of seaplanes, once surplus USAF Hu-16 Albatrosses aged out, have been left to countries like Canada, Russia, and Japan.

However, the stirring dragon, China, is now getting very serious about a very serious flying boat, the AVIC AG600 Kunlong. The size of a 737, the AG600 had its first flight in 2017, and, while not in production yet, already has orders from the “little blue men” adjacent China Coast Guard.

Most importantly, the AG600 just had its first water takeoff last week. 

While pitched as ideal for civilian uses such as firefighting, you would have to be smooth brained to gloss over the potential of a giant seaplane with a 2,800nm range to China, a country that is increasingly looking to build its Spratly Island territory across the contested South China Sea.

As noted by Kyle Mizokami at PM:

The AG600, with a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 tons, can transport personnel and equipment to places like Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. The ability to take off and land from water will allow the PLA to keep Mischief Reef supplied even if the islet’s airfield is shut down by military action. Other military missions for the AG600 would include rescuing downed pilots at sea, convoy escort, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare.

It increasingly seems like we are in 1940 rather than in 2020.

A Close Look at a Shinyo

Just three Japanese Shinyo (Sea Quake) suicide boats are in existence today. One is in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, where it has been since the end of the war.

“A Japanese Shinyo suicide launch which was captured by the crew of the Bathurst-class corvette/minesweeper HMAS Deloraine (J232/M232), brought back to Australia and presented to the Australian War Memorial. Six of the 24 captured boats were in operational readiness. This image is from the collection of Lieutenant Paul Merrick (Mick) Dexter, who enlisted in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RANV) in 1943, and was a watchkeeper and anti-submarine specialist on Corvettes between 1944 and 1946. He continued to serve in the RANV after the Second World War, resigning his commission in 1964.”

From AWM:

Japanese suicide launch (Shinyo). Plywood hulled vessel over frames, with a rear open-topped compartment for a single pilot. Powered by a Chevrolet straight 6 cylinder engine housed in the central compartment. Painted emerald green above the waterline and red below. The original Japanese pea-green paint survives below more modern paint coats. The missing steering wheel and some controls.

“This launch was recovered by HMAS Deloraine at Sandakan Harbour, British North Borneo, during the period of the occupation of that area by Australian Naval & Military Forces in October 1945. It was one of six that were in an immediate state of operational readiness complete with petrol, out of a total of thirty discovered. An opportunity of using this type of craft in the area was never presented. There was a further eighteen similar craft in different states of repair. This launch was used by sailors from the Deloraine as a ski boat on Sandakan Harbour. It returned to Australia with the Deloraine in late 1945 and was presented to the Australian War Memorial.

Construction of these boats began in 1943. The boats were designed to be one-man suicide craft armed with a 300kg charge of TNT. By the end of the war, about 6,000 had been produced, most of them built of wood but a few built from steel. Most of these boats were deployed around the Philippine Islands and the Japanese Home Islands and hidden until they could be of use. Because of their green color, they were referred to as ‘frogs’ by Japanese troops. The launch when transferred to HMAS Deloraine was painted to conform to the ship’s color scheme, but the correct colors should be dark olive green with red below the waterline.”

To further detail how the Dexter boat got back to the AWM, check out the below radio (podcast) interview, which is very informative.

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives Photo No. 447-2863.1

Here we see the lead ship of her class of “treaty-era” heavy cruisers, HMS York (90) looming out of the fog in Vancouver, British Columbia, 10 August 1938.

Sometimes referred to as the “Cathedral” class cruisers, York and her near-sister HMS Exeter (68) were essentially cheaper versions of the Royal Navy’s baker’s dozen County-class cruisers, the latter of which were already under-protected to keep them beneath the arbitrary 10,000-ton limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Weighing in at 8,250-tons, the Yorks were intended not for fleet action but for the role of sitting on an overseas station and chasing down enemy commerce raiders in the event of war.

York mounted six 8″/50 (20.3 cm) Mark VIII guns in three twin Mark II mounts. Fairly capable guns, they could fire a 256-pound SAP shell out past 30,000 yards at a (theoretical) rate of up to six rounds per gun per minute. Importantly, they carried 172 rounds per gun, up from the 125-150 carried by the preceding County-class, a factor which allowed a slightly longer engagement time before running empty.

Bow turrets of HMS York. Photograph by Mrs. Josephine Burston, via Navweaps

Notably, Exeter was completed with the same main gun but in Mark II* mounts, which allowed for a shallower 50-degree elevation. That vessel also had a slightly different arrangement for her funnels and masts, giving her a distinctive profile.. (A 3553) HMS EXETER. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205137940

Rounding out the cruisers’ offensive armament was a half-dozen deck-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes and a battery of DP 4-inch guns and Vickers machine guns to ward off aircraft, the latter of which was apparently never installed. Built with overseas service in mind, they could cover 10,000nm at 14 knots. Able to achieve 32.3-knots due to having 80,000-shp via Parsons geared steam turbines, they sacrificed armor protection for speed and magazine space, with just 1-inch of steel on their turrets and a belt that was just 3-inches at its thickest.

As noted by Richard Worth in his excellent tome, Fleets of World War II:

In trimming down the County layout, designers managed to retain several features, though sea keeping suffered. Protection also received low priority; the armor scheme (similar in proportion to the County type) included some advances, but all in all, the Yorks seemed even more vulnerable, especially in the machinery spaces.

Ordered 1926 Build Programme, York was the ninth such RN vessel to carry the name since 1654 and was constructed at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow. Commissioned 1 May 1930, she was a striking vessel for her age. A true peacetime cruiser.

British Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS York (90) secured to a buoy 1930 IWM FL 4185

York’s motto was Bon Espoir (“Good Hope”) borrowed from Edmund Langley, First Duke of York, and she exemplified that for her early career.

For the next decade she would embark on a series of “waving the flag” port visits around the globe as she shifted between North America and West Indies Station to the Mediterranean Fleet. A beautiful ship, she was often the subject of amazing period photos and newsreel footage.

She would log 61,000 miles at sea between November 1936 and April 1939 alone, as ably told by Robert John Terry on his website.

A British man of war at Washington, D.C. H.M.S. York, the flagship of the British West Indian Fleet, docks at the Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. She brought Vice Admiral, the Hon. Sir Matthew R. Best, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O., R.N., to Washington where he will be the guest of honor at a round of social functions, 30 October 1935. Harris & Ewing photo in LOC collection.

The same day, with bluejackets inspecting the British man-o-war from the Navy Yard docks. Note her Fairey IIIF floatplane, an anemic biplane that dated back to the Great War. LOC Photo.

Same day. This photograph was made from the deck of the USS Sequoia, the yacht used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. LOC Photo.

HMS York in the port of Montreal 20 June 1937 via the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Vieux-Montréal, photo P48S1P01697

“Picking up the Plane at 20 MPH.” Note her 4-inch DP gun in the foreground. The new Supermarine Walrus floatplane was picked up in late 1936. As noted by Leo Marriot, in his book, Catapult Aircraft: Seaplanes That Flew From Ships Without Flight Decks, “By no stretch of the imagination could the Walrus be considered a graceful aircraft and it was universally and affectionally known as the ‘Shagbat.'” Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York Anchored St Lucia, Walrus on deck. Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York entering Havana, Cuba, with the historic Morro Castle in the background, 14 January 1938. Created from personal photograph in the collection of RN CPO(Tel) George A (“Art”) Browness, “Sparks” (Wireless Telegraphist) onboard HMS York, by Ian Browness, his son. Via Wikimedia Commons

In the summer of 1939, York would receive a new skipper that would see her throughout the war, CAPT Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN, a naval aviator turned surface warfare officer who earned his DSC in 1916, “For conspicuous gallantry during a combat with an enemy aeroplane in the Dardanelles.”

CAPT Reginald Henry Portal by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, January 1943, NPG x164616

Deployed with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the America and West Indies Station when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939, York made for Halifax and by 15 September was escorting convoys going across the Atlantic from Canada to Europe. Before the end of the year, she would be a part of a half-dozen Halifax (HX) convoys, keeping an eye peeled for German raiders.

York with her warpaint on

By February 1940, she was reassigned to 1st Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, and worked with the Northern Patrol looking for Axis blockade runners trying to make it back to the Fatherland. With a degree of success in the latter, she sent the 3,359-ton German freighter Arucas to the bottom of the Atlantic off Iceland on 3 March.

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

April through June saw her extensively involved in the Norway campaign from supporting landings at Andalsnes to the evacuation of Narvik.

Transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in August, she ran the gauntlet from Alexandria to Gibraltar for the next several months, escorting UK-to-Egypt troopship convoys, and often brushing up against the Italian fleet. Once such instance found York stumbling upon the Italian Soldati-class destroyer Artigliere, stopped, and on fire after the Battle of Cape Passero on the morning of 12 October.

Artigliere struck her flag, cleared her crew, and was promptly finished off by a brace of torpedoes from York.

The Italian destroyer Artigliere is finished by torpedoes from HMS York at 9.05 on the morning of October 12th, 1940, after the battle of Cape Passero. The ship’s stern ammunition magazines explode after the torpedo hit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A lucky ship thus far in the war, York screened the carrier HMS Illustrious during the famous Operation Judgement airstrikes on Italian Fleet at Taranto and increasingly became a player in the actions off Crete, as well as keeping the supply lines open to Malta. This saw her in 1941 start to fend off sustained air attacks by German aircraft.

In March, she took part in Operation Lustre, the move of Allied troops from Egypt to Greece, shepherding fast 3-day convoys from Alexandria to Piraeus. This left her in Suda Bay, Crete with the bulk of the Mediterranean Fleet cruiser force, safely behind a triple torpedo net array that left her impervious to attack from the sea.

Enter Xª Flottiglia MAS

On the night of 25/26 March, the old Italian destroyers Francesco Crispi and Quintino Sella hove to some 10 miles out from Suda Bay. Using special cranes, they deployed LT (Tenente di Vascello) Luigi Faggioni of the 10th MAS Flotilla and his five shipmates. Faggioni & Company each helmed an 18-foot Motoscafo da Turismo (Modified Tourism Motorboat).

The MTs, 18-foot long boats powered by a 95-hp Alfa Romeo AR outboard motor, could make 33-knots while floating in just a few inches of water– shallow enough to jump over torpedo nets.

With the single boat operator hanging 10 off the end of the MT, the bow of the vessel was filled with a 660-pound high-explosive warhead that could be rigged to either detonate on impact or detached and allowed to sink alongside a target for a later, timed, explosion.

Not intended to be a suicide craft, akin to the Japanese Shinyo/Maru-ni, the operator ideally would bail out over the back of the boat on the final leg of the attack run, and paddle to safety on their backrest which, predating today’s air travel briefing, doubled as a flotation device.

To make a long story short three MT boats managed to penetrate the harbor and braved the near-freezing water to make the final attack just before dawn. Two boats, piloted by future admiral Angelo Cabrini and petty officer Tullio Tedeschi, hit York’s portside– although it should be noted that numerous wartime reports are that just one boat struck the British cruiser. The third boat, piloted by Emilio Barberi, hit the 8,324-ton Norwegian tanker Pericles. Faggioni’s boat hit a pier.

The 1954 Dino De Laurentiis action film, Siluri umani, released as “Human Torpedoes” in English-speaking markets, highlighted the MTMs of Xª Flottiglia MAS and the Suda Bay raid.

The highly dramatized meat and potatoes of the raid starts at about the 1:16 mark

York, crippled, was beached with two of her crew dead, five men injured, and most of her below deck machinery spaces full of water.

The British continued to use York as a AAA battery for another two months with her hull resting on the bottom of the Bay as her engineering gang tried to pump out and shore up her spaces in the hope of putting to sea for Alexandria and more repairs.

To provide power to her ship’s systems, the submarine HMS Rover tied up alongside and arranged electrical lines enough to work the big ship’s guns and communications. This, however, left her in a fixed position in an increasingly German part of the globe, which left her a target.

Various sources list a range of German air attacks by JU-88 bombers on 12, 21, 22, and 24 April– two of which caused further damage to the ship– with one such raid leaving a pair of divers working over the side on her broken hull dead from a near miss.

At the same time, some of the ship’s company were detailed to provide beach parties for the evacuation of Greece.

On 18 May, the party was over and York was hit and seriously damaged by a German JU-87 dive-bomber attack, ending her usefulness, at the time the largest surface ship chalked up by Stuka pilots (Hans-Ulrich Rudel would later be able to claim a kill on the Great War-era Soviet Battleship Marat/ex- Petropavlovsk in Leningrad in November).

With the endgame in Crete being written and the German airborne invasion starting on the 20th, York was abandoned and blown up in place on the 22nd, her remaining crew withdrawn to Egypt where the understrength Mediterranean Fleet was licking their wounds.

The hype

By June, the Italians outnumbered the British in the Eastern Med four operational battleships to two and with 11 cruisers stacked up against three, nonetheless, this would soon be rectified by coming events after December.

Sir Henry, York’s skipper, would go on to become commander of the battleship Royal Sovereign, serve as an ADC to King George VI, become a member of the Bath in 1946, and retire as an admiral in 1951.

As a result of her damage from the Luftwaffe, the Germans claimed to have destroyed York in battle for the remainder of the war, although the Italian Navy cited their own MTM attack as her principal method of death. Half a dozen of one, six of the other, I suppose.

Both countries circulated images of her smashed hull and deck spaces for their own purposes.

Epilogue

After the war, the rusty hulk of York was raised and towed to Bari, where it was scrapped by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952.

Her boat badge is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

She was also remembered in maritime art and several scale model companies over the years have recreated her in plastic.

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Her only sister, Exeter, would famously go toe-to-toe with the “pocket battleship” KMS Adm. Graf Spee in December 1939 and be left nearly crippled after seven 11.1-inch shells found a home in her spaces. Patched up, she would be sunk at the Java Sea by 8-inch Japanese shells in 1942.

York’s name was recycled in 1981 for a new Batch III Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98), the last of her class. She was decommissioned in 2012 after more than three decades of hard service to the Crown and is the 12th in an exceptionally long line of HMS Yorks.

Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98) making a turn on her 2005 Far East deployment. MOD Photo 45145563 by LA(Phot) Kelly Whybrow. She was broken up in Turkey in 2015, and the name “York” has not appeared on the RN List since.

As for the MTM drivers, the six Italian frogmen were picked up floating around Souda Bay by the British, and kept as POWs until after the Italian armistice in 1944 although they would be decorated in absentia with the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare, Italy’s highest military honor. Faggioni would become an admiral, working with COMSUBIN commandos after the war, and died in 1991.

Likewise, Cabrini and Tedeschi would later lend their names to a class of high-speed multipurpose patrol boats for the modern Italian Navy, intended to carry frogmen on deeds of daring-do.

Tullio Tedeschi was launched in 2019 by Tullio Tedeschi’s daughter, Rosangela Tedeschi.

The Angelo Cabrini-class patrol boat, Tullio Tedeschi (P421). Some 144-feet oal, they can carry a team of 20 commandos at speeds up to 50 knots

Specs:

1932 Jane’s listing. Both ships of her class would be gone from Janes by 1942

Displacement:
8,250 long tons (8,380 t) (standard)
10,620 long tons (10,790 t) (deep load)
Length: 575 ft
Beam: 57 ft
Draught: 20 ft 3 in
Propulsion: 8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Parsons geared steam turbines, 4 shafts 80,000 shp
Speed: 32.25 knots
Range: 10,000 nmi at 14 knots
Complement:628
Armor:
Belt: 3 in
Decks: 1.5 in
Barbettes: 1 in
Turrets: 1 in
Bulkheads: 3.5 in
Magazines: 3–4.375 in
Aircraft: FIVH style catapult, one Fairey IIIF seaplane (1930-) Walrus flying boat (1936-)
Armament:
3 × twin 8-inch (203 mm) guns
4 × single QF 4-inch (102 mm) anti-aircraft (AA) guns
2 × single 2-pounder (40 mm) AA guns
2 × triple 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

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Bumping into Dad’s Army in the local pub

The Royal Armouries this week posted a great 6-minute short film. Shot from the first-person perspective, the viewer bumps into a shotgun-equipped Local Defense Volunteer– soon to be a Home Guardsman– in late 1940.

It is pretty informative, and entertaining.

Enjoy.

If you like the above, the National Army Museum has also been doing a similar program as part of the 75th VE Day Festival.

Check out this detail of the 1940s Tommy’s marching kit.

Dug relics, still potent

As a tie-in with the 50-year long West Papuan rebellion post today, the below image is of rag-tag Bougainville Revolutionary Army insurgents using some heavy hardware against local Papua New Guinea Defence Force units in 1995 during that country’s decade-long civil war.

Those with a sharp eye will notice the ordnance is a Japanese Type 96 AAA/AT 25mm cannon, a variant of the Hotchkiss 25mm GP gun that hasn’t had any spare parts or ammunition manufactured since 1945.

This thing, with a latter example shown still in use by the KMT in 1950s Taiwan

Leftover from WWII, the gun was reportedly scrounged from the remains of an old Japanese position and returned to working condition, fed with ammo that was in some cases dug from the jungles and beaches of yesteryear. While antiquated and no doubt cranky, it was still heavier than what the PNGDF had in terms of armored vehicles to oppose it, which amounted to some French AMX-10P APCs and French VABs.

Apache Junction

Back at the hottest part of the Iran-Iraq Tanker War in 1987-89, Operation Prime Chance saw Army SOAR Little Birds and OH-58s deploying from FFGs as well as two leased Brown & Root crane barges dubbed Mobile Sea Base Hercules and Mobile Sea Base Wimbrown 7. Set-up in the Northern Persian Gulf, the latter supported eight MkIII 65-foot patrol boats and an array of Army AH-64D Longbow Apaches, Navy Seahawks for C-SAR while they were protected by Marine air defense units to pop interloping low-flying tangos.

An aerial view of the leased barge Hercules with three PB Mark III patrol boats and the tugboat Mister John H tied up alongside. The barge is part of Operation Prime Chance, supporting U.S. Navy efforts to provide security for U.S.-flagged shipping in the Persian Gulf. 1 January 1989 Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Smith DNST8908773

Fast forward to 2020 and the concept is fully fleshed out some 30 years later with the 78,000-ton purposely-built expeditionary mobile base vessels of the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3) class.

USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) employs a flight deck for helicopter operations. ESB 3 is able to carry at least four MH-53E helicopters or five Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit Military Vans and still have room to maneuver and store other equipment.

Puller has a dozen weapon stations (think M2 .50 cals) to protect against small boats, and the ability to support at least four CH-53-sized helicopters and 300 mission crew.

Recently, Puller showcased Task Force Saber, an Army AH-64 unit, which caused a lot of interest from Iranian Revolutionary Guard guys last week.

Official caption: Soldiers of Task Force Saber conduct rotary-wing deck landing operations with the U.S. Navy onboard the USS Lewis B. Puller in the Persian Gulf April 15-16, 2020. Task Force Saber utilized the USS Puller as a maritime base to practice launching rotary-wing assets. (U.S. Army video by Sgt. Trevor Cullen):

Cry Havoc, and let slip…the LCS?

The 1911 Treasure Island pirates by Wyeth.

This month’s USNI’s Proceedings has an interesting piece by COL Mark Cancian, USMC, Ret, entitled, “Unleash the Privateers! The United States should issue letters of marque to fight Chinese aggression at sea.”

As the title would suggest, Cancian pitches the concept that modern-day LLCs could outfit ocean-going raiders, legalized by old-school letters of marque and reprisal to cover what would otherwise be acts of international piracy. The targets, in said scenario, would be the 6,000-strong Chinese/Hong Kong merchant/fishing fleet in the event of a hot war with Beijing.

Notes Canican:

Capitalizing on Chinese vulnerabilities requires large numbers of ships, and the private sector could provide them. The ocean is large, and there are thousands of ports to hide in or dash between. While the Navy could not afford to have a multibillion-dollar destroyer sitting outside Rio de Janeiro for weeks waiting for Chinese vessels to leave, a privateer could patiently wait nearby…

My thoughts on the good Colonel’s interesting concept is that it is one possibility, even if it is simply used as a threat. Project the prospect of the boogeyman and the boogeyman becomes very real, even if he isn’t under your bed.

What about the LCS?

Alternatively, I think we may have finally found a use for those first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronadothat have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use.

The LCS in its current form is fundamentally a “peace cruiser,” akin to the light cruisers built in the 1920s which were used primarily to show the flag in areas where it would be overkill to send a battleship– which probably wouldn’t fit inside the local harbor anyway.

You know what peace cruisers were also theoretically good for in the event of a war? Commerce raiders operating under Cruiser Rules away from the warzone.

Just saying.

140423-N-VD564-013 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014) The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)

The Partisan Archipelago

April 12, 1945 – “The youngest guerrilla in the Philippines is Ponciano “Sabu'”Arida of Santa Maria, Laguna, Luzon. He is eleven years old and has five Japs to his credit. He is attached to the 1st Bn., 103rd Inf. Regt., 43rd Div. He is a member of the ‘Marking’ guerrilla forces.”

While the OSS, which helped organize resistance units behind the lines during WWII, was largely hands-off in the Philippines, make no mistake, the PI was lit ablaze by such groups from April 1942 through the final liberation in the Spring and Summer of 1945.

After all, it is hard to impossible to pacify 7,000 islands spread out across 1,000 miles of ocean filled with people that don’t want to be ruled by a foreign power, no matter how many troops you are willing to pour into the fight– the U.S. had learned that in the very same places in 1899-1902.

Small beginnings 

As noted by US Army Special Operations in World War II by David W. Hogan, Jr. (CMH Pub 70-42), covering the acts and deeds of Rangers, Alamo Scouts, OSS Jedburghs, Chindits Mauraders, and the like, there is a telling chapter on Philippines guerilla units as led by American hold-outs:

“General Douglas MacArthur, the imperious theater chief, and Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, commander of the U.S. Sixth Army, made extensive use of guerrillas, scout units, and commando forces, particularly in support of the effort to recapture the Philippine Islands.”

“Even before Pearl Harbor MacArthur, as commander of the forces defending the Philippines, considered the possibility of waging a guerrilla war. Under existing war plans his forces were expected to hold off a Japanese attack for several months before an American relief expedition could reach them. As part of his strategy for such a contingency, MacArthur established an embryo underground intelligence service among the numerous American businessmen, miners, and plantation owners on the islands and also contemplated the withdrawal of some Filipino reservists into the mountains to serve as guerrillas.”

“By 23 December MacArthur’s beach defense plan lay in ruins, and his remaining forces were withdrawing into the Bataan peninsula. Cut off from Bataan, Col. John P. Horan near Baguio, Capt. Walter Cushing along the Bocos coast, Capt. Ralph Praeger in the Cagayan Valley, and Maj. Everett Warner in Isabela Province formed guerrilla units from the broken remnants of Filipino forces in northern Luzon, and MacArthur sent Col. Claude A. Thorp to organize partisans in central Luzon. To meet the need for intelligence from behind enemy lines, Brig. Gen. Simeon de Jesus organized a network of about sixty agents who infiltrated by foot or by boat across Manila Bay and reported by radio to a central station in a Manila movie theater, which forwarded the data to MacArthur on Corregidor. Meanwhile, MacArthur directed Maj. Gen. William F. Sharp in Mindanao to intensify preparations for guerrilla warfare in the southern islands.”

To this were added other bands of scattered American fugitives and renegade Filipino soldiers led by Cols. Martin Moses and Arthur K. Noble.

While Sharp would surrender most of his forces in early 1942, with Horan and Warner following soon after, others kept fighting. By the end of the year, Cushing, Prager, and Thorp’s groups were all destroyed, and the aforementioned officers dispatched by their hunters.

In early 1943, Moses and Noble were killed.

Similar losses were suffered by indigenous forces, for example, Lt. Col. Guillermo Z. Nakar, Philippine Army, was captured and killed by the Japanese in October 1942, reportedly beheaded.

The two most effective American guerrilla leaders were the red-beared Lt. Col. Wendell W. Fertig on Mindanao– who crafted an uneasy alliance among Moros, the local Catholic church, and other groups– and Maj. Russell W. Volckmann in northern Luzon. Volckman, who had started 1941 as a company commander, would by 1945 command a mixed force of 22,000 guerillas in the field.

Fertig notably, “maintained his support among the opportunistic Moro tribes in part through the distribution of a LIFE magazine article in which King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia allied Islam with the United States.”

Another guerilla force involved one Lt. Iliff Richardson, USNR, a PT-Boat man who, much like the last five minutes of They Were Expendable, took to the hills and kept fighting after Corregidor fell, where the locals soon took up the fight armed with latongs, improvised slam-fire single-shot shotguns.

“Like a character in the book A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT, Lt. Richardson showed the guerrillas how to fashion the badly needed guns right in their own villages using scrap material like plumbing pipe and old lumber,” correspondent Ben Waters reported in 1944.

Ramping up 

By the end of 1943, despite many initial setbacks, the underground resistance groups in the Philipines had started to turn the tide and were linked by radio with MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia. Instead of the airdrops frequently seen in Europe from SOE and OSS, the Navy organized an effort by Tagalog-speaking LCDR Charles “Chick” Parsons, an officer well aware with the PI coastal waters, to supply the insurgents with vital material. Parsons’s “Spy Squadron” of 19 submarines delivered 1,325 tons of supplies in at least 41 missions to the guerrillas between 1943 and 1945, with the emphasis on medicine, weapons, ammunition, and radio gear.

This led to increased organization and effectiveness, with fresh local recruits fleshing out the ranks of legitimate organizations of companies, battalions, and even divisions.

One of the most unlikely leaders was Lt. Col. James Cushing, a former mining engineer.

Another successful light colonel was Ernie McClish, a Native American.

From ‘Indians at War, 1945,” the chapter, “A Choctaw Leads the Guerrillas”

In April 1945, after more than three years as a guerrilla leader in the Philippines, Lt. Col. Edward Ernest McClish came home to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where his family, who had refused to believe him dead, waited for him. Some of his story has been told in American Guerrilla in the Philippines, by Ira Wolfert, and other details have been added in a report given to the Public Relations Bureau of the War Department by Col. McClish. It is an extraordinary tale of accomplishment against great odds.

Lt. Col. McClish, a Choctaw, who graduated from Haskell Institute in 1929 and from Bacone College two years later, was called to active duty in the National Guard in 1940, and early in 1941 he arrived in the Philippines, where he became commander of a company of Philippine Scouts. In August he went to Panay to mobilize units of the Philippine Army there, and as commander of the Third Battalion he moved his men to Negros, where they were stationed when the war broke out. Late in December they crossed by boat to Mindanao, and there all the Moro bolo battalions were added to McClish’s command.

The Japanese did not reach Mindanao until April 29, 1942, shortly before the American capitulation on Luzon, and Col. McClish’s men fought them for nearly three weeks. When forces on the island finally surrendered, McClish, a casualty in the hospital, some distance from headquarters, was fortunately unable to join his men. Instead of capitulating he began to organize a guerrilla army.

By September 1942, he had an organization of more than 300 soldiers, with four machine guns, 150 rifles, and six boxes of ammunition. Some American and Filipino officers had escaped capture and joined the staff. In the early stages of the organization, McClish got word of a Colonel Fertig, of the Army Engineers, who was working along similar lines in the western part of Mindanao, and he managed to reach Fertig by travelling in a small sailboat along the coast. The two men decided to consolidate their commands, and Colonel Fertig asked McClish to organize the fighting forces in the four eastern provinces of the island as the 110th Division.

Organization was at first very difficult. Independent guerrilla bands had sprung up all over the island, some of them composed of robbers and bandits who terrorized the villages. Some were anti-American, says Colonel McClish. Most of them lacked military training and education. But slowly the work proceeded. The bandits were disarmed and jailed; the friendly natives were trained, and young men qualified to be officers were commissioned. By the spring of 1943 McClish had assembled a full-strength regiment in each of the three provinces, a fourth had been started, and Division headquarters staff had been completed.

Simultaneously with the military organization, civil governments were set up in each province. Wherever possible, the officials who had held jobs in pre-war days were reappointed, provided that they had not collaborated with the Japanese. Provincial and municipal officials worked hand in hand with the military, and helped greatly to build up the army’s strength.

Because of the shortage of food, reports Colonel McClish, a Food Administrator and a Civil and Judicial Committee were appointed to begin agricultural and industrial rehabilitation. Army projects for the production of food and materials of war were begun throughout the Division area, and all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 were required to give one day’s work each week to one of these projects. They raised vegetables, pigs, poultry, sugar cane, and other foods. The manufacture of soap, alcohol, and coconut oil was started. Fishing was encouraged. In some of the provinces food production was increased beyond the peacetime level. The civilians realized that they were part of the army, and that only a total effort could defeat the enemy.

The public relations office published a newspaper, and headquarters kept in communication with the regiments in each province by radio, by telephone (when wire was available), or by runner. The guerrillas acquired launches and barges which had been kept hidden from the Japanese, and these were operated by home-made alcohol and coconut oil. Seven trucks provided more transport, but it was safer and easier to use the sea than the land. In order to maintain their motor equipment, they “obtained” a complete machine shop from a Japanese lumbering company in their territory.

From September 15, 1942, to January 1, 1945, while McClish’s work of organization and administration was continuing, his guerrilla forces were fighting the Japanese, and more than 350 encounters–ambushes, raids on patrols and small garrisons, and general engagements–were listed on their records. One hundred and fifteen men were killed and sixty-four wounded. Enemy losses were estimated at more than 3,000 killed and six hundred wounded.

The guerrillas finally made contact with the American forces in the South Pacific and supplied them with valuable information about the enemy which was extremely helpful when the time for the invasion of the Philippines came at last. They did their part in bringing about the final victory in the Pacific.

By October 1944, some guerilla units had swelled to over 10,000 or more effective fighters, and openly wore uniforms, seizing control of large swaths of the country’s interior as well as numerous small cities and towns. They were even able to call in close air support at the tactical level. 

It was during this later stage that PI guerilla forces ably served as lifeguards and protectors for downed American aircrews.

Battle of The Philippine Sea, June 1944 (Catalog #: 80-G-23684): Lieutenant Junior Grade Alexander Vraciu, USNR; fighting squadron 16 “Ace”, holds up six fingers to signify his “kills” during the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”, on 19 June 1944. Taken on the flight deck of the USS LEXINGTON (CV-16). Note: Grumman in the background and sailor A.L. Poquet at right. Vraciu was the leading Navy “ace” between late June and late October 1944. He was shot down by Japanese AAA near Bamban Airfield in the occupied Philippines on 14 December 1944. Hitting the silk, he was scooped up by friendly Filipino guerillas and spent some six weeks with them, behind enemy lines, before linking up with U.S. forces again. 

Opposed against them, the Japanese Kempati organized local collaborationist police and informants into snitch squads–who, while they did put a crimp in insurgent operations, were more often than not just used to settle local grudges. By 1944, stood up the Makapili (Makabayan Katipunan Ñg Mg̃a Bayani, or Alliance of Philippine Patriots) organization, armed with captured American weapons, to go toe-to-toe with the local guerillas. However, the mighty Makapili only ever made it to brigade (5,000~) strength, although it should be pointed out that they fought alongside the Japanese to the bitter end.

Major Guerrilla Forces in the Philippines, 1942-1945. U.S. Army CMH

Secret radio net

A radio net operated across the archipelago, linking operations with advancing Allied forces.

The Philippine General Radio Net Developed during the Japanese Occupation, 9 October 1944. U.S. Army CMH.

A Marine radioman in a foxhole with Filipino guerrillas by James Turnbull; 1945, “Via Shore Party radio, a Marine transmits information from Filipino guerrillas concerning the numbers and disposition of Japanese defenders of Luzon during the invasion of Lingayen on January 9, 1945. In the background, a signalman semaphores a message to ships offshore.” Gift of Abbott Laboratories NHHC 88-159-KN

A specially-formed unit, the 978th Signal Service Company, operated clandestine radio nets blanketing the Philippines. Activated in Brisbane, Australia on 1 July 1943, the 978th consisted primarily of “Pinoy” Filipinos and Filipino Americans recruited by the Signal Corps from the U.S. Army’s First and Second Filipino Infantry Regiments then training in the United States at Camp Beale (now Beale AFB) and Camp Cooke (now Vandenburg AFG), in California and trained at Fort Gordon.

The 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion (Provisional), later known as 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, was formed at Camp “X” or Camp Tabragalba, near Beaudesert south of Brisbane in southern Queensland, to include the 978th and the 5218th Recon Coy (Provisional), whose motto in Filipino was Bahala na (Tagalog for Come What May).

Ultimately 200 parachute-skilled radio operators deployed with the insurgents providing a link back to MacArthur in Australia over which vital intelligence was sent back.

Success 

The famous Cabanatuan Prison Raid, conducted 30-31 January 1945, could not have been pulled off without PI forces.

M1918 BAR gunner, 6th U.S. Army Special Reconnaissance Force (Rangers), along with a Filipino guerrilla, Cabanatuan, early 1945

When MacArthur finally did return, much of the way had already been prepared.

Filipino guerillas and U.S. troops worked hand in hand behind Japanese lines in the PI during WWII

80-G-259551 Filipino Guerilla who fought against the Japanese. Possibly at Guerilla Headquarters at Gingoog on Mindanao, Philippines June 1945

Note the Japanese grenade, M1903 Springfield M1917 Enfield, and M1919 cloth machine gun belt. 80-G-259552

The transition from the secret army to a field army

As the Americans began landings in the Leyte Gulf and moved inland former irregular guerillas were quickly outfitted to fight as line infantry, a process that saw them clothed for the first time– typically in obsolete sateen uniforms– equipped with a mix of second-line rifles such as M1917 Enfields and M1903A3 Springfields as well as some newer ordnance like M1 Carbines and M1 Thompsons, then given a pair of often ill-fitting boots.

July 30, 1945 – “Type ‘A’, a bundle of clothing to drop for either POWs or guerilla forces. Supply for 50-men packed in a mattress cover and tied with steel strapping. This is a free drop bundle dropped from the plane without a parachute. Pile shows the complete bundle plus contents that go into said bundle; 50 pairs khaki suits, 50 pairs underwear; 150 handkerchiefs; 50 sewing kits; 50 caps, and 50 belts. Manila, P.I.” (NARA)

Some new PI divisions were even outfitted with 75mm howitzers for the final push to clear Northern Luzon, a campaign that didn’t end until mid-August 1945.

American instructor, with the M1 carbine, stands with Filipino guerillas after they were refitted upon making contact with the US Army in 1945 armed with M1 carbines and M1A1 Tommy Guns, the latter a weapon being replaced at the time by the then-new M3 Grease Gun. Note that most of the men are still barefoot. 

Amicedo Farola, of Dulag, Leyte, is a Philippine guerrilla scout, operating with a reconnaissance squadron of the 24th Division. The hair dress may be unusual, but Farola has more Japanese kills to his credit than he will admit to strangers. His associates confirm his scouting and fighting ability. Digos, Mindanao, March 26, 1945. US Army Signal Corps Photo

1944- Two young Filipino guerrillas are shown after they joined American forces on Leyte. The soldier on right is 16 years old. Note the Marine-issue one-piece frogskin coverall on the soldier to the right. 

Lt. Col. Ruperto Kangleon, Philippine Army, was the acknowledged leader of the resistance movement in Leyte during the Japanese occupation– the Black Army– a force that would be organized as the 92nd Division (PI) in October 1944. He would be decorated by MacArthur personally.

Colonel Ruperto K. Kangleon, Philippine guerilla leader (center) Reporting to General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, during ceremonies proclaiming the liberation of Leyte, at Tacloban, 23 October 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-328059

Others were remembered as well.

Meet Captain Nieves Fernandez, the only known Filipino female guerrilla leader, and school teacher.

Captain Nieves Fernandez. Gotta love a woman that can appreciate a nice sharp machete

In the above photo, she is showing U.S. Army Pvt. Andrew Lupiba how she used her bolo to silently kill Japanese sentries during the occupation of Leyte Island.

When the Japanese came to take the children under her care, she shot them. She didn’t hide in a closet, she didn’t put up a gun-free zone sign, she shot them in the face with her latong.

She then went on to lead forces credited with killing over 200 Japanese soldiers during the war and holds the distinction as the only female commander of a resistance group in the Philippines.

13-year-old Filipino guerilla Adone Santiago reportedly had seven confirmed kills, and by the way he isn’t feeling the American officer (Lt. Col. Robert W. King, 38th ID) pulling a Joe Biden, may have been eager for an eighth. 

Besides the Americans and local insurgents, there was also a formation of ethnic Chinese residents who formed the underground Wha Chi battalion, who fought the Japanese occupation tooth and nail, in the end helping to liberate the towns of Jaen, Sta. Maria, Cabiao, San Fernando, and Tarlac in 1945.

Once the war was over, the Americans, by and large, went home and received some minor notoriety.

PT-boat sailor Richardson, who had been promoted to a Major in the U.S. Army during his time behind the lines, went on to unsuccessfully market a line of “Philippine Guerilla Shotguns.”

Major Illif David Richardson, left, and Colonel Ruperto Kangleon of the guerrilla forces, Leyte, October1944

Meanwhile, Volckmann is seen today as a legend in the SF community and went on to literally write the book (several, actually) on COIN operations, based on his own first-hand knowledge. A book recently came out on him that is quite good reading. 

There was also any number of sensationalized accounts in men’s pulp mags and in trade paperbacks published in the states throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Stanley Borack– guerilla jungle pulp

Still, the resistance movement in the Philipines would never get the same type of coverage that similar, and often much less effective, efforts got in Europe, which is a shame.

Spirit of 1945 by James Turnbull “Filipino guerrilla waving an American flag while standing in the surf. This man was spotted by one of our observation planes waving a flag in the midst of our most concentrated pre-invasion bombardment a few minutes before H-Hour. He was attempting to signal our forces that the Japanese had retreated and that we would be able to land without bombardment. This was probably one of the greatest single acts of heroism of the whole operation.” NHHC 88-159-LD

For a great read on the subject see the CMH’s chapter on the Philippines Campaign dedicated to the Philippine Resistance Movement.

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