Category Archives: man card

Chainsmokers

A group of Marines having a smoke while checking out what looks to be a shell and fuse for either an 81mm mortar or 75mm howitzer.

Dig the M1917A1 Brodie helmets with EGAs, sewn-on stripes on light khaki uniforms, and the top-charging M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun. The Tommy gunner also has pretty bad trigger D and what looks to be a set of wire cutters in his five-cell stick mag pouch. At least there isn’t a mag in the Chicago typewriter. 

I can’t find a full-fledged source for the image, but reverse sources are all Chinese-language pages for 1938 Shanghai, a tense place and period in history as the country was torn between the Reds and KMT while under aggressive attack by the Empire of Japan as the rest of the world stood by to wish the Chinese the best of luck.

These men are likely of the 4th Marine Regiment, the famed “China Marines” stationed in Peiping, Tientsin, and Shanghai from 1927 to 1941. Pulled out of the continent only weeks before Pearl Harbor, they were withdrawn to the Philipines just in time to defend Bataan.

There is this great follow-up picture of these Devils.

OSS Training Grounds, as Close as Your Local National Park?

You wouldn’t think it, but the NPS has a great book online that stretches 600 pages and chronicles the use of the country’s national parks during WWII as training grounds for the secret squirrels of Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services: OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in World War II, by Professor John Whiteclay Chambers II of Rutgers University.

It makes sense as many of the early trainees used old CCC camps located deep in the woods on newly-cut logging and forestry roads. Where else would you train super-soldiers, right?

Besides the logical NPS details, the book also goes into extensive coverage of the teams that deployed overseas, with some great illustrations.

Enjoy!

Vale, Cape Matapan Vet, Prince Philip

A child whose lineage included the Danish, Russian and Greek royal families, Prince Philip of Greece was raised in France, exiled from his country of birth, speaking English, practicing Greek Orthodoxy, and identifying as Danish. When WWII came by, the young prince without a country entered the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and spent the war with the Royal Navy, serving as Philip Mountbatten. After a stint as a midshipman on convoy duty on the battleship HMS Ramillies, he was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Valiant in the very active Mediterranean with the rank of a humble sub-lieutenant.

Fighting in the battle for (withdrawal from) Crete and the battle of Cape Matapan, he later shipped to the destroyer HMS Wallace for more convoy duty and the Husky landings on Sicily, where the then-lieutenant was XO. Then came service as XO on the new W-class tin can HMS Whelp (R37), from whose deck he watched the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. Notably, Whelp was the first Allied ship to enter Sagami Bay on 27 August, leading the way for the battleships HMS Duke of York, USS Iowa, and USS Missouri.

In his own words, Philip on WWII.

Even after his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, he continued to serve, graduating from the Naval Staff College at Greenwich, serving as the first lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Chequers, and, as an LCDR, commanding the frigate HMS Magpie.

Although he left active duty in 1951, he continued in royal duties until 2017 which included having a wardroom stocked with honorary Colonel-in-Chief uniforms for various Commonwealth regiments which he visited and inspected regularly, as well as a number of similar general and admiral appointments. A cargo cult in the Pacific even worshipped him as a god, apparently.

An unreformed sonofabitch who was not a fan of political correctness (To a British trekker in Papua New Guinea, 1998: “You managed not to get eaten then?”), gun control (“If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean are you going to ban cricket bats?”), international niceties (greeting German chancellor Helmut Kohl as “Reichskanzler”) or the Bolsheviks ( “I would very much like to go to Russia – although the bastards murdered half my family”), his one-liners and “gaffes” which probably weren’t are legend.

RIP HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

100 Years Ago Today: Ishar Singh, VC

Via Under Every Leaf:

War Office, 25th November 1921.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned: —

No. 1012 Sepoy Ishar Singh, 28th Punjabis, Indian Army

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th April, 1921, near Haidari Kach (Waziristan). When the convoy protection troops were attacked, this Sepoy was No. l of a Lewis Gun- Section. Early in the action he received a very severe gunshot wound in the chest, and fell beside his Lewis gun. Hand-to-hand fighting having commenced, the British officer, Indian officer, and all the Havildars of his company were either killed or wounded, and his Lewis gun was seized by the enemy.

Calling up two other men he got up, charged the enemy, recovered the Lewis gun, and, although, bleeding profusely, again got the gun into action.

When his Jemadar arrived he took the gun from Sepoy Ishar Singh, and ordered him to go back and have his wound dressed.

Instead of doing this the Sepoy went to the medical officer, and was of great assistance in pointing out where the wounded were, and in carrying water to them. He made innumerable journeys to the river and back for this purpose. On one occasion, when the enemy fire was very heavy, he took the rifle of a wounded man and helped to keep down the fire. On another occasion he stood in front of the medical officer who was dressing, a wounded man, thus shielding him with his body. It was over three hours before he finally submitted to be evacuated, being then too weak from loss of blood to object.

His gallantry and devotion to duty were beyond praise. His conduct inspired all who saw him.

Leap of Faith

Some 77 years ago today, in the remote mountainous frontier area between India and Burma, an extremely understrength parachute light infantry brigade began an epic week-long battle against a Japanese force that was both much larger and much better armed– never an ideal task for airborne troops.

The place was Sangshak and the paras were from the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, made up of 152 (Indian) and 153 (Gurkha) Parachute Battalions along with supporting troops.

The battle was never supposed to happen, it turned out that the Japanese 15th and 31st Divisions, infiltrating toward India, blundered into the Indian/Gurkha paras while the latter were working patrols. Nonetheless, it was a nightmare for all involved.

As noted by Paradata:

The Indian Parachute Brigade group held up the Japanese advance for six days, in appalling conditions, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy but at great loss. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting revolved around the Sangshak church within 200 yards of Brigade headquarters. Counter-attacks with bayonet and Kukri drove the Japanese back.

And from The Museum of the Parachute Regiment & Airborne Forces in Duxford:

On the 26th March, with both sides nearing complete exhaustion, the arrival of the 5th Indian Division allowed the Brigade to ‘fight its way out’ back to Imphal, having lost 40 officers and 585 men.

Patched back up, the Indians and Gurkhas would later finish the war with a drop into Rangoon.

“Rangoon Assault – As The Chutes Of Three Gurka Paratroopers Open Up Over Their Dropping Zone Near Rangoon, Three More Gurkhas Stolidly Step Out Of USAAF’s C-47’S Of The Combat Cargo Task Force, Eastern Air Command. This Is Precision Jumping In The Airborne phase of the land, sea, and air attack launched south of the Japanese held capital of Burma. Parapacks, containing equipment and supplies needed by the paratroopers, are carried like bombs under the bellies of the plane. They will be dropped as soon as the men have cleared the aircraft. U.S. Signal Corps photo via NARA 342-FH-3A37292-A57336AC

“Killing Japanese Is Great Sport To This Husky Gurkha Paratrooper, Who Smiles As A Fellow Member Of His Unit Helps Him Buckle On His Equipment While He Waits His Turn To Board A Usaaf C-47. Pilots Of The Combat Cargo Task Force, Under Major Gen. George E. Stratemeyer’s Eastern Air Command, transported these fighters to the jumping ground behind Japanese lines. U.S. Signal Corps photo via NARA 342-FH-3A37291-57336AC

One anecdote from the formation of the Gurkha parachute unit at Delhi in October 1941 was that the hardy mountain men were absolutely ready to jump out of a moving airplane to fight, but were greatly relieved when later told they would do it with a parachute!

Gurkha Paratrooper going into action against the Japanese near Rangoon, Burma SC photo via NARA 342-FH-3A37293-B57336AC

Happy National Napping Day

“Rare and wonderful sleep,” a worn-out Marine M1918A2 BAR gunner catches a wink behind what looks like an overturned grade school desk during a break on the push out of the Pusan-Changwon perimeter, South Korea, 1950.

USMC Photo A2292, via National Archives https://catalog.archives.gov/id/74244434

Gurkhas Still Gurking, Despite the Coof

In the past, we’ve extensively covered the Nepalese Gurkhas and, how their continued overseas (basically mercenary) service in the British Army, Indian Army, Royal Brunei military, and Singapore Police Force, is both highly sought-after by the contracting branch and life-changing for the Gurkha.

While the recent COVID restrictions have wrought havoc around the globe, the Brits still managed to have the required 340-strong Gurkha trainee draft fully fleshed out “despite one of the most challenging selection procedures in history.”

Talk About Recruiting Posters…

Recruiting propaganda, likely going back to the Romans, has always been replete with snazzy uniforms, exotic climes, and sweet gear.

Speaking of which, the Dutch Korps Mariniers were recently in Norway undertaking regular ops in the snow, a task they have held along with their allied British Royal Marines of 3 Commando for well over 40 years.

And man, did they make a recruiting poster-worthy moto photo.

Incidentally, the Dutch Marines have a long combat history, especially in the Dutch East Indies in the 1940s after being trained and equipped by the U.S. Marines for late 1945 landings in Japan that didn’t happen.

Dutch Marines heading for the beach at Pasir Putih during the police actions in Indonesia, 1947. Note the USMC-issue gear and the PBY in the distance. 

Historically tasked with staffing far-off outposts in places such as in the Dutch West Indies (Aruba, Curaçao Sint Maarten, et. al) they used to run the more old-school snazzy uniform posters back in the day. You know, to get the kids out of the tulip fields and into the barracks.

Pickelhaube-wearing Royal Netherlands Marine Corps recruitment poster (c.1902), showing European and tropical uniforms, via the Nationaal Archief Den Haag

Odds are, That’s an Ironic Nickname

Sergent Len “Happy” Knox, 2nd New Zealand Division, 2NZEF, cleans an old-school .455-caliber break action Webley revolver Maadi Camp, near Cairo, Egypt, around 1940-41.

Alan Blow Album PH-ALB-497, Collection of Auckland War Memorial Museum / Tāmaki Paenga Hira

2NZEF would spend all of WWII under the British Eighth Army, seeing the elephant in Greece and at Crete, the fighting at Minqar Qaim and El Alamein; and the end of the North African campaign. They then crossed the Med and fought up up the Sangro and Monte Cassino across central Italy, finishing the war on the Northern Adriatic.

By which time, Happy was probably ecstatic.

Vale, Art Cook

After falling in love with smallbore riflery while at Boy Scout Camp as a kid, Arthur Edwin Cook, “Art” or sometimes just “Cookie” to his friends, went on to become pretty good at it, winning two National Junior Smallbore Rifle Championships in high school– and pitching in to help train Navy personnel in marksmanship during WWII although he was too young to enlist himself.

Speaking of youth, while attending the University of Maryland as a member of their All-American rifle team, he took a break to represent the U.S. at the XIV Olympiad in London, pulling down the Gold in the 50m Free Rifle Prone rifle, both setting a world record at the time with a score of 599 in a 60-round course and becoming the youngest American– at age 20– to bring back the gold in Olympic shooting sports until 2008.

Air Force veteran, gold medalist, and renowned shooting sports coach and icon Arthur Cook just left for that big shooting match in the sky last week, aged 92.

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