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You failed to maintain your weapon, son

Public Service Announcement: This unidentifiable semi-auto handgun came into a shop in Michigan recently, unable to fire.

I wonder why?

After an overnight soak and full disassembly, it was returned to service. The baggie of debris is what had to be scraped away.

A little regular maintenance can work wonders. Also, be sure not to get too crazy with the lube, as it drags lint, dandruff, cat hair, et. al down from the surface into the inner regions of a gun’s action, and can leave you after a while with an unsat condition.


A link to Kearsarge, up at auction

We’ve talked extensively in passed Warship Wednesdays and other posts about the epic contest off France between the British-built steam privateer CSS Alabama, under the swashbuckling Capt. Raphael Semmes and the Mohican-class screw sloop of war USS Kearsarge on June 19, 1864.

The Battle of the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama By Claude Monet, hanging today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Aboard Kearsarge that day was Acting Master James R. Wheeler, a Massachusetts man who later went on command, as a volunteer lieutenant, the captured blockade runner-turned-Union gunboat USS Preston in the tail end of the war before serving as U.S. consul to Jamaica under President Grant, where he died in 1870. Importantly, Wheeler commanded the crew of the Union vessel’s key 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun, which pummeled Alabama into the sea at relatively close range.

This guy:

Well, sometime after Alabama and before Preston, Wheeler was presented a custom Ames Model 1852 Officer’s Sword by popular subscription among Boston gentlemen, complete with acanthus scrollwork, naval battle scenes and the likes of both Amphitrite and Poseidon.

Interestingly, it is well preserved and is coming up at auction in May, after once being part of the esteemed collection of Norm Flayderman.

(Photo: RIA)

More here:

Estimate Price: $75,000 – $125,000.

Happy First Day of Spring

The coastal bayou is already coming back to life. Spent the day kayaking yesterday.

Now go get some sun on your face.

Raven 42: Citizen soldiers at their ‘part time’ job 14 years ago today

“Raven 42” by James Dietz Via U.S. Army Center of Military History

March 20, 2005: Two U.S. convoys were about to converge at a crossroads 30 miles south of Baghdad. They were attacked by one of the largest groups insurgents ever to hit a convoy. This stretch of road happened to be guarded by the 617th Military Police Company-Kentucky National Guard, from Richmond, Kentucky. The 4th Platoon’s 2nd Squad, 10 men and women in three armored Hummers, operated as “Raven 42.”

As both convoys came under heavy attack and the insurgents were closing in Raven 42 fought through heavy fire aimed at them to go on the offensive in protecting the convoys. By the end of the firefight, 30+ insurgents were dead, wounded or captured and only a few American Soldiers were wounded.

The citizen soldiers reacting to contact that day included a shoe store manager, hotel worker, printing press operator, and several students.

Specialists William Haynes, Casey Cooper, and Ashley Pullen received Bronze Stars for valor. Medic Jason Mike received the Silver Star, as did SGT Hester and SSG Nein. Nein’s award was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross. Pullen and Hester were the first women in U.S. history to receive medals for valor in actual combat.

Note: Back to Warship Weds next week!


I promised myself I would never go back to Jordan, and then I see this,
via the Sea Breeze Dive Club:

“Aqaba’s newest dive site is the C130-Hercules plane wreck. After serving its time in the Jordanian Air Force, the retired Lockheed C130 Hercules military aircraft was laid in its final resting place on 16 November 2017, to become an artificial reef in the Gulf of Aqaba.

The C130-Hercules is 112 ft (34 m) long plane with a wingspan of 132 ft (40 m). Before sinking it, all the fuel, paint and hazardous materials from the aircraft were removed.

The plane now sits about 300 meters from shore, in a depth at around 15 meters, making it easily accessible to divers and visible to snorkelers and from glass-bottom boats as well.”

Vraciu remembered

On 19 June 1944, during the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot,” VF-16 Hellcat flyer Lt. Alexander Vraciu splashed not one or two or three but six (6) Japanese Yokosuka D4Y Judys in eight minutes, firing just 360 rounds of .50 cal to get the job done– 60 rounds per bogey.

The event led to this iconic image:

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.

An Indiana native, Vraciu was a first generation American of Romanian parents and cut his teeth as “Butch” O’Hare’s wingman. He finished the war with 19 confirmed aerial victories (plus 21 on the ground) and, although nominated for the MOH, he walked away with the Navy Cross instead and 3 DFCs, among other decorations. Overall, he is the 4th highest U.S. Naval ace in history when ranked in terms of victories.

Retiring from the Navy in 1964 after 23-years in uniform, he was still one hell of a good shot late in his career. In 1957, he won the individual gunnery championship at the U.S. Navy’s Air Weapons Meet at NAS El Centro, California, while pushing 40 as while skipper of VF-51, then flying the FJ-3 Fury.

To commemorate Vraciu, who died in 2015, the Navy has dedicated the field at El Centro in his honor.

EL CENTRO, Calif. (March 9, 2019) The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, conduct a flyover during the naming ceremony of Vraciu Field at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, March 9, 2019. The Blue Angels are conducting winter training at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California, in preparation for the 2019 show season. The team is scheduled to conduct 61 flight demonstrations at 32 locations across the country to showcase the pride and professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to the American public in 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker/Released)

The last groundpounder in Liechtenstein

Herr Kieber, late of the Royal Liechtenstein Army, shown hanging around Schlosses Vaduz in 1935, aged 91. Note the Schutzenschnur cord award for rifle marksmanship. The medal? That’s for the 1866 War, of course. Photo via Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum

The tiny principality of Liechtenstein, cuddled between Austria and Switzerland, today has a population of about 37,000 and has always been one of the smallest modern nations since its inception. With alliances going back to the old Holy Roman Empire, the country was smushed up by Napoleon into the Confederation of the Rhine and later became part of the 38-member German Confederation in the 19th Century after he was sent to Elba. Membership in the latter forced the principality to form its own military force, by terms of the confederation.

Garrisoned at Vaduz Castle, they drilled on its grounds and mounted regular guard duty. With a national population of just 6,000 souls at the time, the entire force was less than the size of a small light infantry company.

When the Seven Weeks’ War broke out in June 1866, which was basically a family feud among all the German-speaking nations of Europe, Fürst Johann II of Liechtenstein eschewed direct combat in the campaign but instead sent his mighty 80-man Army to guard a key pass near Aufkirchen/Santa Maria on the Tyrolean border of Austria against the Italians, releasing its normal garrison of Austrian troops to fight elsewhere.

Legend has it that, once peace broke out, on September 4, 1866, the Army returned home without incident, all its men in tow to include one Kaiserjäger Lieutenant Radinger, formerly of the Austrian Army, proving that “Liechtenstein has gone to war with 80 soldiers and returned with 81!”

In 1868, the thrifty country, with the Confederation dissolved, disbanded their required military and furloughed their soldiers, remaining officially neutral and disarmed during both World Wars. A Veterans group was formed in the 1890s and counted over 100 members.

However, at least one of the veterans of the Seven Weeks’ War remained on tap for photos.

Andreas Kieber, born in 1844 in Mauren, lived until 1939 and his image was captured, in his old uniform, at Vaduz Castle several times in the twilight of his life, still standing post.

The images were used in a number of postcards of the day, and show the soldier complete with his cartridge box and Mannlicher rifled musket topped with a giant Yataghan sword bayonet.

Liechtenstein 1957 colored tourist postcard: The Last Soldier. At the point in which the card was made, Kieber had been dead for two decades. The color of his tunic is very close to a Prussian blue. Also, note the highly polished brass dragoon-style helmet. 

A B&W version of the above. Note, he is carrying a hanger in addition to his mounted bayonet.

With a felt shako cover rather than a metal helmet, still identified as “Liechtenstein’s letzter Soldat.”

Today a wax statue of Kieber is in the Landesmuseum in Vaduz.

While the country’s constitution requires men under 60 to stand ready for service, the closest thing the principality has to a military is  Harmoniemusik Vaduz a group of 55 musicians who wear a variant of the old Army’s uniform complete with a badged and plumed cylinder shako– but do carry swords, just in case.


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