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Copenhagen Joes

The below historical video was recently posted by the Forsvaret, the Royal Danish armed forces. Filmed 1 August 1951, it covers the visit to the country of then five-star Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who just four months prior had been named the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The occasion of the visit was for Ike to stress how important Denmark was to the new NATO alliance, expressed through the handover of surplus Republic F-84 Thunderjets to the rebuilding Danish Air Force, which would soon be bolstered by 240 new F-84Gs over the next four years– a huge upgrade from their previous force of 40~ WWII surplus RAF Spitfires handed over in 1948.

An especially interesting part of the video for me– which incidentally is about 60 percent in English– is the Danish Army honor guard for the occasion.

Outfitted in British-pattern wool uniforms and American M1 helmets, M1 Garand rifles (adopted as the M/50 GarandGevær) and canvas-holstered Swiss-made SIG P210 pistols (adopted as the M/49), they are very exotic in a sense. Danish by way of Portsmouth, Neuhausen, and Springfield.

The Danes would continue to use the Garand as their primary infantry arm until 1975 when it was replaced by the German-made HK G3, adopted as the Gevær M/75.

Garands would continue to soldier on with the Danish as a second-line and Home Guard rifle through the 1990s, when it would finally be replaced by Colt Canada C7 (M16A2) rifles and C8 (M4A1) carbines, which would be adopted as the Gevær M/95 and Karabin M/96, respectively. As such, the Danes would be the last Western European NATO member to field John Garand’s vaunted 30.06.

Still

Dorie Miller to be remembered in a new carrier

The (A)SECNAV over the weekend announced that, in honor of MLK Day, USS West Virginia Pearl Harbor hero cook PO3 Dorie Miller will be the namesake of a new Gerald Ford-class carrier, the future CVN-81.

Of course, it does kinda rub me a skosh the wrong way as far as naming conventions go, with aircraft carriers generally named after famous battles, other aircraft carriers, and presidents. Traditionally, destroyers and frigates were named in honor of naval heroes up to and including Medal of Honor winners. In fact, Miller formerly had a Cold War-era Knox-class frigate named after him (DE/FF-1091)

USS Miller (DE/FF-1091) underway off Cape Henry, Va., on 20 May 1974. (U.S. Navy photograph K-103414, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.) NHHC K-103414

Still, in my mind, it is far better to name a carrier for Miller than for Carl Vinson and John Stennis, as have been done in the past, just saying.

Sure, you can argue that Vinson and Stennis both held and pulled important purse strings while in Capitol Hill for the military– but they never had to face down an incoming Japanese Val with a machine gun they were never trained to use.

As noted by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly’s office:

This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American. This will also be the first aircraft carrier to be named in honor of a Sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks.

“In selecting this name, we honor the contributions of all our enlisted ranks, past and present, men and women, of every race, religion and background,” said Modly. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, ‘Everybody can be great – because anybody can serve’. No one understands the importance and true meaning of service than those who have volunteered to put the needs of others above themselves.”

On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was collecting laundry on the battleship West Virginia (BB-48), when the attack from Japanese forces commenced. When the alarm for general quarters sounded he headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it. Miller was ordered to the ship’s bridge to aid the mortally wounded commanding officer, and subsequently manned a .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. Miller then helped move many other injured Sailors as the ship was ordered abandoned due to her own fires and flaming oil floating down from the destroyed Arizona (BB-33). West Virginia lost 150 of its 1,500 person crew.

Miller’s actions during the attack earned him a commendation from then Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and the Navy Cross, which was presented to him personally by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time.

Nimitz stated: this marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I’m sure the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.

“Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation, and his story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today,” said Modly.

In 1943, Miller died aboard USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) when the ship was hit by a torpedo and sank off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.

The future USS Doris Miller and other Ford-class carriers will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and humanitarian relief, and early decisive striking power in major combat operations. The aircraft carrier and the carrier strike group will provide forward presence, rapid response, endurance on station, and multi-mission capability throughout its 50-year service life.

Meanwhile, USS Gerald R. Ford is apparently making good progress when it comes to launches and traps on Hornets, Greyhounds and T-45 Goshawks, working through teething problems on its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), which is good news as far as the class itself goes.

Hopefully, they will get the bugs worked out before the next “big one,” a factor that could help deter just such an event.

Bazooka Boy Scout

In this 1960s Army recruiting poster, we see PFC Vernon K. Haught, of the 82nd ABN Divison’s 325th Glider Rgt, around the final act of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, as he strolls in the snow-covered countryside near Ordimont, Belgium.

While the M1 2.36-inch Bazooka on his shoulder is likely his go-to should an errant Panzer poke its nose out of the woods, the thin-handled knife on the German army belt around his waist probably got a lot more daily use. The blade seems to be a Norwegian-style speiderkniv, or scout knife, of the kind commonly used by boy scouts in Western Europe at the time, differing from the beefier U.S.-style PAL or Western Cutlery-made fixed blade Boy Scout knives sold back home in the 1940s.

Also, note the M1 bayonet strapped to his leg.

After all, “Be Prepared.”

Dr. Watson, bring your revolver(s)

So I saw this interesting listing pop up from Milestone Auctions, centered on a cased pair of beautiful (although non-sequential) Colt Model 1878 double action cartridge revolvers.

As you may well remember, the Colt 1871 and follow-up 1873 (aka Peacemaker, aka Single Action Army) brought the iconic wheelgun maker back from bankruptcy and into the cartridge revolver-era, and the 1878 being double action, was essentially the most tactical wheelgun on the market when it was released.

With 5.5-inch barrels and a massive .455/476 Enfield Eley Mark III chambering, these big gate-loading Colts were certainly man-stoppers.

Even more interesting, and the caliber may have given it away. is the fact that these two Colts are English silver plated with bird’s head rosewood grips and are covered with both British proof house marks and Colt’s London address on the barrels.

For sure, these were presentation guns for a special occasion or person. A clue is in the auction listing which reads that one of the guns :

“..appears in the copy of Army & Navy sales ledger as sold in England to Caton Jones, Sup FW on Sept 9, 1885, with no details on guns finish. How they ended up together as a pair and plated while in England is a mystery.”

Going to the Army List for that year, we find one Frederick William Caton Jones, MB (Medicinae Baccalaureus), MRCS (Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons), is listed as commissioned 30 May 1885. He was 25 years old.

Bound for India, our good Dr. Caton Jones later turns up in future listings as a Surgeon assigned in 1891 to the Bombay garrison with the Army in India, where he was still posted as of the 1906 Army List. During that period he rose to Major on 30 May 1897 and to Lt. Colonel on 30 May 1905.

As published in The Western Australian, 24 August 1900, Caton-Jones was mixing it up with the Boers while in Kitchener’s brigade.

Surgeon-Major F. W. Caton Jones, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, writing to his sister, Mrs. Cumming from Newcastle, South Africa, under date July 22, says :–

I am just getting over that Ladysmith business now and can get along all right without taking medicine, but it has taken four months to do it. I have a very nice commando of my own now. Am in charge of the 7th Brigade, Field Hospital and Bearer Company. It is an Indian hospital and a perfect unit.

I have under me one officer, R.A.M.C.; two civil surgeons (in place of R.A.M.C. officers); eight assistant surgeons (Indian Apothecaries); one conductor (Indian army); two civilian conductors, four sergeants, and eight nursing orderlies (British army from India); 42 Indian Army Hospital native corps, 126 Indian dhoolee-bearers, and 50 drivers.

I am equipped for a hundred sick in hospital, and put up double that number at a pinch. I can carry 52 men lying down and 12 sitting in my sick transport, 20 lying in the dhoolies, and 94 sitting in my wheeled ambulances, if I put no lying down cases in the latter; a good deal to be responsible for.

Our brigade, under Brigadier General Kitchener, is at Newcastle, on the lines of communication. Of course, we are very sick at not getting forward, but someone must stay behind. Thank goodness, the grass is burnt round the camp. Veldt fires happen every day. One field hospital was burnt, but luckily no one was injured.

This is a fine country, and very healthy. All colonists say we shall have to be much sterner with the Boers before they will give in. I believe sternness would save very many lives both of, theirs and ours. If the Indian hospitals are sent back to India in September, I may go to China.

By 1911, the good doctor was back from his long overseas deployments and stationed in Tidworth Barracks in south-east Wiltshire, England where he remained until 1914.

By 1916, I can find then-Colonel FW Caton-Jones OB, AMS, ADMS (Assistant Director Medical Services), as head of the Medical Board of Officers assembled at No 1 General Hospital, Etretat, in Normandy, serving with the BEF “on the Continent.”

Col. FW Caton-Jones, 1916, via IWM

Why the big pistols for a man of medicine, besides the obvious need for a gentleman of the period to have arms while campaigning?

It seems the good Dr. Caton-Jones was a true English gentleman officer while abroad and was something of a noted big game hunter as well as a man of arts, science, and letters.

In 1914, he contributed a chapter to Major-General A.E. Wardrop’s “Modern Pig-Sticking,” a tome about horse-mounted tiger and boar hunting, particularly centered in India.

An illustration from Modern Pig Sticking, circa 1914

Caton-Jones was uniquely qualified to write the chapter at the time as he was the 1907 winner of the Nagpur Hunt cup. The Spectator called the volume, “one of the pleasantest books on the sport that we have seen for a long time.”

Caton-Jones had previously written other scholarly works for the Journal of Bombay Natural History (“Some Notes on Wild Dogs and Panthers”) as well as for the British Army’s Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (“The Sanitation of Standing Camps in India”). He also wrote/co-wrote at least seven papers in the respected The Lancet medical journal. Still other papers appeared in The Medical Press and Circular, and The Journal of the Royal Institute of Public Health.

After moving to the reserve list following the Great War and more than 30 years of military service, Caton-Jones later reappeared in India and Kenya while still submitting articles on both medicine and hunting (see= The Hoghunter’s Annual, Times of India Press, 1930).

At some point, he was made a Companion of the Order of Bath and a fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Health.

Colonel Frederick William Caton Jones, CB, RAMC, Veteran of the Boer Wars, the Great War and assorted Indian campaigns, and scourge of tigers and wild boar, died at his Earlsdale estate on 7 June 1944, aged 83.

No word on if a Mr. Holmes attended his funeral.

Warship Wednesday Jan 15, 2020: TF38 Running Amok in the South China Sea

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

Warship Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020: TF38 Running Amok in the South China Sea

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 89378

Here we see, 75 years ago today, the last seconds of the No.1-class landing ship T-14 of the Imperial Japanese Navy after it was sunk by U.S. Navy carrier strike planes in Takao Harbor, Formosa. Note the dramatic concussion ring on the water around the ship.

Under the command of VADM John S. “Slew” McCain Sr, Task Force 38 was organized into four fast carrier task groups (one of those specializing in night fighting). All in all, the force consisted of a whopping 14 fleet and light carriers, embarking around 900 aircraft, and were supported by 8 battleships, 16 cruisers of all sorts, and 68 destroyers. It rightfully could have taken on any circa-1939 navy in the world and won.

And for just under two weeks in January 1945, it absolutely owned the South China Sea in what was termed Operation Gratitude.

Sailing from Ulithi, they plastered Formosa, carried the war to Japanese-occupied French Indochina, raided occupied Hong Kong and Southern China, then departed towards the Philipines.

On 15 January alone, in addition to T-14 above, aircraft from TF 38 sent the tanker Harima Maru, the Kamikaze-class destroyer Hatakaze, the cargo ship Horei Maru, the armed fleet tanker Mirii Maru, and the Momi-class destroyer Tsuga to the bottom. Not bad for a day’s work– and it was a busy week!

A large Japanese cargo ship settles by the bow after she was torpedoed by U.S. Navy carrier planes off Cape St. Jacques, French Indo-China, 12 January 1945. Waves from a torpedo hit in her port bow have not yet subsided. Taken from a USS ESSEX plane. NH 95787

Dockyard hit bombs are shown hitting Taikoo Dock Yard, Hong Kong, China. 16 January 1945. They are from planes of Vice Admiral John S. McCain’s Fast Carrier Task Force. Note the fires in the foreground. Stiff Anti-Aircraft fire was encountered. NH 121586

This photo shows Hong Kong harbor, Hong Kong, China under attack by planes from an Essex Class Carrier of Vice Admiral John S. McCain’s Fast Carrier Task Force. Bombs can be seen hitting ships on the left of the photo. Smoke pours up from several places along the waterfront. The Dock Yard was one of the targets for that day. 16 January 1945 NH 121588

Saigon River Front, French Indochina, Caption: Ships and installations afire after aerial attack by carrier-based planes of US Pacific fleet, 12 January 1945. Taken by plane from USS TICONDEROGA (CV-14) #: 80-G-301944

Saigon River Front, French Indochina, Caption: Ships and installations afire after aerial attack by carrier-based planes of US Pacific fleet, 12 January 1945. Taken by plane from USS TICONDEROGA (CV-14) #: 80-G-301944

In all, TF38 sank no less than 49 enemy ships between 9 January and 16 January. This works out to something on the order of 300,000 tons of Japanese shipping, including the core of the Empire’s remaining tankers– ships vital to carry on the war– and shot down some 600 land-based aircraft that rose to meet them.

The most curious of the Japanese warships sunk was IJN No. 101 the former RN minesweeper HMS Taitam (J210) which had been captured in Hong Kong in 1941 while still under construction.

In return, TF 38 lost 200 carrier aircraft, half of those to accidents flying in horrible conditions, but suffered no vessels sunk.

And yet, the question of Japanese surrender would linger unanswered for another seven months.

If you like this post and other Warship Wednesdays, please check out the INRO.

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

A break between Fallschirmjägers and destiny

TEC5 Thomas “Red” O’Brien, C Company, 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th (Yankee) Division, getting a quick meal in while parked on a snowbank near Mecher, Luxembourg, 75 years ago yesterday.

Photo by TEC5 Arthur Hertz, 166th Signal Photo Company, for Stars and Stripes. Via LOC

O’Brien’s unit had been engaged with elements of the tough German 5. Fallschirmjäger-Division, fighting small unit actions in the snow for the past several days prior to this image being shot. Veterans of the 101st would refer to the Battle of the Bulge as “Our Valley Forge.”

Sadly, CPL. O’Brien was killed less than two weeks after this image was captured, on 25 January, by German sniper fire at a crossroad outside Clervaux, Luxembourg, aged 23. He was a native of Rhode Island but a Massachusetts resident when he volunteered in 1942 and is interred at the American Military Cemetery, Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.

The 101st, as was most of the 26th ID, hailed from New England, where they had previously served as a Massachusetts National Guard and state militia outfit dating back to the Civil War. While the regiment cased their colors in 1993, the 26th is still around as the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in the MARNG, headquartered at Natick.

So I saw 1917

Over the weekend I watched 1917, the Great War Western-front epic by British filmmaker Sam Mendes.

Not to spoil too much of the plot, the broad-strokes (which you can get from the preview) is that two humble lance corporals of the fictional 5th Rifles (KRRC)– salty veteran Will Schofield and newcomer Tom Blake– are sent on a last-ditch near-suicide mission to deliver a message to the 2nd Dorsets, the latter of which have broken out and are chasing German troops who they believe are on the run from the Noyon and Bapaume salients.

The reason to stop the Dorsets? The Germans are not running, but are instead evacuating in good order to prepared positions at the massively fortified Siegfriedstellung (aka the Hindenburg Line, from Arras to Soissons) against which the British light infantry, attacking alone, would surely be massacred.

While elements are true (the Hindenburg Line and the relocation from the salients happened as part of the so-called Alberich Maneuver), others were slightly fictionalized. For instance, the 2nd Dorsets never saw France, as they were deployed from India to Egypt and fought in Palestine during the war while the 5th KRRC never stood up in the Great War. The story the film is based was a soldier’s tale passed on by Mendes’s paternal grandfather who served in the KRRC during the conflict, so there is that.

With that being said, I felt there was great attention to detail. For example, the BEF veteran, Schofield, wears older Pattern 08 gear while the newer Tommy, Blake, has elements of modified Pattern 14 leather gear.

P08 vs P14 British gear

Likewise, they use period-correct SMLE Mk III rifles with magazine cutoffs and long P’07 sword bayonets, carry E-tools, wear their puttees correctly, and have Brodie helmets (but, like most actual soldiers, often do not wear said tin caps.)

Further, while threading their way across No Man’s Land, they encounter the most horrific scenes imaginable. One that struck me was the extensive and complex barbed wire entanglements they have to negotiate. Too often in film, barbed wire is shown as a single strand or two, something that could be quickly snipped by a small cutter or a line that an energetic point man could fall across to allow his mates to tread over.

The real thing was far from being that simple:

Ultimately, our two Tommies find themselves in abandoned but excellently-constructed German trenches, complete with concrete blockhouses and an extensive underground bomb-proof barracks. This again was correct to form.

Read Storm of Steel by German field-grade officer Ernst Junger, who spent years in such complexes, and he talks about them on virtually every passage. Even relating that he would on occasion sleep through British bombardments, knowing that his batman would come and fetch him should something pressing develop.

Tales of the German “Labyrinth” at Arras, captured by the British in 1917 during the repositioning, highlighted such installations.

The German “Labyrinth” at Arras, under new management, 1917

It should be remembered that the Kaiser’s men had been in their positions since 1914 in most cases and were determined not to take a step back when they laid them out, hence the extensive fortifications. Some dugouts even had wallpaper and electric lights! The British and French, on the other hand, were always on the assumption their trenches would be only temporary before the “Big Push” came in which they would drive the Jerries/Boche out, so they often would leave their men in muddy holes.

Other scenes in the movie were striking, but I will not cover them as they would be too spoiler-filled.

All in all, for the correctness and “grit” the film does a better job than just about any WWI Western Front movie I have seen prior.

The plot, while slightly far-fetched, is workable enough to move the story along. The Germans are, with the exception of one close-up encounter with a very blonde young man in the middle of the night, faceless and appropriately unseen but no less ominous, and remain deadly even when you think they would not be. The British officers are, for better or worse, very proper English, ala the final season of Blackadder.

I’d watch it again and would recommend it to others. Do yourself a favor and watch it on a big screen rather than a small one should you have an interest.

For a great short work specifically on life in the trenches, check out Eye Deep In Hell by John Ellis. You can often buy used copies for like $3.

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