Category Archives: military history

Rangers, BARs and bayonets, 70 years ago today

Men of the 3rd Ranger Company, 3rd Infantry Division, adjust their gear before undertaking a dawn combat patrol across the Imjin River, Korea. 17 April 1951. Korea.

Signal Corps Photo # 8A/FEC-51-12902 (Welter). From U.S. Army Archives.

Note the BAR M1918 on the left, the “broken TV” patch of the 3ID, fixed bayonets on the Garands, and the M2 select-fire Carbine with its distinctive cone flash-hider to the right.

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 Pulled out of the continent only weeks before Pearl Harbor, they were withdrawn to the Philipines just in time to defend Bataan.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.

Warship Wednesday, April 14, 2021: Just a Little DASH

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, April 14, 2021: Just a Little DASH

NARA KN-1814

Here we see a great original color photo of the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Hazelwood (DD-531) with an early torpedo-armed Gyrodyne-equipped Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter hovering over her newly installed flight deck, 22 March 1961. Hazelwood was an important bridge in tin can history moving from WWII kamikaze-busters into the modern destroyers we know today.

Speaking of modern destroyers, the Fletchers were the WWII equivalent of the Burke-class, constructed in a massive 175-strong class from 11 builders that proved the backbone of the fleet for generations. Coming after the interwar “treaty” destroyers such as the Benson- and Gleaves-classes, they were good-sized (376-feet oal, 2,500 tons full load, 5×5″ guns, 10 torpedo tubes) and could have passed as unprotected cruisers in 1914. Powered by a quartet of oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers and two Westinghouse or GE steam turbines, they had 60,000 shp on tap– half of what today’s Burkes have on a hull 25 percent as heavy– enabling them to reach 38 knots, a speed that is still fast for destroyers today.

USS John Rodgers (DD 574) at Charleston, 28 April 1943. A great example of the Fletcher class in their wartime configuration. Note the five 5″/38 mounts and twin sets of 5-pack torpedo tubes.

LCDR Fred Edwards, Destroyer Type Desk, Bureau of Ships, famously said of the class, “I always felt it was the Fletcher class that won the war . . .they were the heart and soul of the small-ship Navy.”

Named in honor of Continental/Pennsylvania Navy Commodore John Hazelwood, famous for defending Philadelphia and the Delaware River against British man-o-wars in 1777 with a rag-tag assortment of gunboats and galleys, the first USS Hazelwood (Destroyer No. 107) was a Wickes-class greyhound commissioned too late for the Great War and scrapped just 11 years later to comply with naval treaty obligations.

Portrait of Commodore John Hazelwood by Charles Willson Peale 1779 NH 77362-KN

The subject of our tale was laid down by Bethlehem Steel, San Francisco on 11 April 1942– some 79 years ago this week and just four months after Pearl Harbor. She was one of 18 built there, all with square bridges, as opposed to other yards that typically built a combination of both square and round bridge designs. Commissioned 18 June 1943, she was rushed to the pitched battles in the Western Pacific.

Aft plan view of the USS Hazelwood (DD 531) in San Francisco on 3 Sep 1943. Note her three aft 5″/38 mounts, depth charge racks, and torpedo tubes.

Forward pan view of the USS Hazelwood (DD 531) in San Francisco on 3 Sep 1943. A good view of her forward two 5″ mounts.

By October 1943, she was in a fast carrier task force raiding Wake Island.

Switching between TF 52 and TF 53, she took part in the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, Kwajalein, and Majuro Atolls in the Marshall Islands, then came the Palaus. Next came the Philippines, where she accounted for at least two kamikazes during Leyte Gulf.

Hazelwood in Measure 32, Design 6d during WWII

In early 1945, she joined TF 38, “Slew” McCain’s fast carrier strike force for his epic Godzilla bash through the South China Sea, followed up by strikes against the Japanese home islands.

Then came Okinawa.

While clocking in on the dangerous radar picket line through intense Japanese air attacks, she became the center of a blast of divine wind.

From H-Gram 045 by RADM Samuel J. Cox, Director, NHHC:

As destroyer Hazelwood was steaming to assist Haggard (DD-555) on 29 April, three Zekes dropped out of the overcast. Hazelwood shot down one, which crashed close aboard, and the other Zeke missed. The third Zeke came in from astern. Although hit multiple times, it clipped the port side of the aft stack and then crashed into the bridge from behind, toppling the mainmast, knocking out the forward guns, and spraying flaming gasoline all over the forward superstructure. Its bomb exploded, killing the commanding officer, Commander Volkert P. Douw, and many others, including Douw’s prospective relief, Lieutenant Commander Walter Hering, and the executive officer and ship’s doctor.

The engineering officer, Lieutenant (j.g.) Chester M. Locke, took command of Hazelwood and directed the crew in firefighting and care of the wounded. Twenty-five wounded men had been gathered on the forecastle when ammunition began cooking off. Because of the danger of imminent explosion, the destroyer McGowan (DD-678) could not come alongside close aboard. The wounded were put in life jackets, lowered to the water, and able-bodied men dove in and swam them to McGowan. Only one of the wounded men died in the process. Hazelwood’s crew got the fires out in about two hours and McGowan took her in tow until the next morning, when Hazelwood was able to proceed to Kerama Retto under her own power and, from there, to the West Coast for repairs. Although Morison gives a casualty count as 42 killed and 26 wounded, multiple other sources state 10 officers and 67 enlisted men were killed and 36 were wounded. Locke was awarded a Navy Cross.

“USS Hazelwood survives two suicide plane attacks. US Navy Photo 126-15.” Okinawa, Japan. April 1945

USS Hazelwood (DD-531) after being hit by a kamikaze off Okinawa, 29 April 1945. Accession #: 80-G Catalog #: 80-G-187592

USS Hazelwood (DD-531), June 16, 1945. Damaged by kamikaze on April 29, 1945. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-323986

Notably, two of her sisterships– USS Pringle (DD-477) and USS Bush (DD-529)— had been sunk by kamikaze aircraft off Okinawa less than two weeks before the attack on Hazelwood and three more– USS Luce (DD-522), USS Little (DD-803), and USS Morrison (DD-560)— would suffer a similar fate within the week afterward. Life was not easy for Fletchers working the picket line in the Spring of 1945.

Sent to Mare Island for repairs, Hazelwood was decommissioned on 18 January 1946 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Diego, her war over. She received 10 very hard-earned battle stars for her World War II service.

She was luckier than 19 of her sisters who were sunk during the conflict, along with five others who, like her, suffered extreme damage and somehow remained afloat but were beyond economic repair once the nation came looking for a peace dividend. This works out to a loss rate of about 14 percent for the class.

DASH

By the time the Korean War kicked off, and the Soviets were quickly achieving parity on the high seas due to a rapidly-expanding snorkel-equipped submarine arm, 39 improved square-bridge Fletchers were taken out of mothballs and, through the project SCB 74A upgrade, a sort forerunner of the 1960s FRAM program, given new ASW weapons such as Hedgehog and Weapon Alpha in place of anti-ship torpedo tubes, deleted a 5-inch mount (earning the nickname of “4-Gun Fletchers) and swapped WWII-era optically-trained 40mm and 20mm AAA guns for three twin radar-guided 3-in mounts.

The Navy had something else in mind for Hazelwood.

Recommissioned at San Diego on 12 September 1951, she was sent to the Atlantic for the first time to work up with anti-submarine hunter-killer groups while still in roughly her WWII configuration.

USS Hazelwood (DD-531) in the 1950s, still with 40mm Bofors, at least one set of torpedo tubes, and all 5 big guns. USN 1045624

By 1954, she was back in the Pacific, cruising the tense waters off Korea, which had just settled into an uneasy truce that has so far held out. Then came a series of cruises in the Med with the 6th Fleet.

Ordered to Narragansett Bay in 1958, she was placed at the disposal of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory to help develop the Navy’s planned anti-submarine drone. Produced by Gyrodyne Co. of America, Inc., of Long Island, New York, it was at first designated DSN-1.

It made the world’s first free flight of a completely unmanned drone helicopter, long before the term “UAV” was minted, at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River in August 1960, and Hazelwood provided onboard testing facilities, with her stern modified for flight operations with the removal of her torpedo tubes and two 5-inch mounts and the addition of a flight deck and hangar– the first time a Fletcher carried an aircraft since the brief run of a trio of catapult-equipped variants.

QH-50 prototype over Hazelwood, 1960, NARA 80-KN 1814

“U.S. Navy’s First Helicopter Destroyer Conducts Exercises. USS Hazelwood is the Navy’s first anti-submarine helicopter destroyer, steams off the Atlantic coast near Newport, Rhode Island. Attached to Destroyer Development Group Two, Hazelwood is undergoing extensive training exercises to acquaint her crew with air operations. Her flight deck is designed to accommodate the DSN-1 Drone Helicopter (QH-50) scheduled for delivery from Gyrodyne Company of America, Inc. Soon, an HTK Drone Helicopter with a safety pilot, developed by the Kaman Aircraft Company, is being used for training exercises until the DSN-1 Drone becomes available. Through the use of drone helicopter and homing torpedo, Hazelwood will possess an anti-submarine warfare kill potential at much greater range than conventional destroyers.” The photograph was released on 1 September 1959. 428-GX-USN 710543

According to the Gyrodyne Helicopter Historical Foundation, “the DASH Weapon System consisted of the installation of a flight deck, hangar facility, deck control station, CIC control station, SRW-4 transmitter facility, and fore and aft antenna installation” and could carry a nuclear depth charge or Mk44 torpedo.

Via Gyrodyne Helicopter Historical Foundation

USS HAZELWOOD (DD-531) Photographed during the early 1960s while serving as “DASH” test ship. NH 79114

 

Anti-Submarine Demonstration during the inter-American Naval conference, 1-3 June 1960. An HS-1 Seabat helicopter uses its sonar while S2F and P2V patrol planes fly over USS DARTER (SS-576), USS CALCATERRA (DER-390), and USS HAZELWOOD (DD-531). The demonstration was witnessed by Naval leaders of 10 American nations. USN 710724

USS HAZELWOOD (DD-531) during the early 1960s. Note her bright, modern-style hull numbers. NH 79115

Hazelwood received two lengthy respites from her DASH work, brought about by pressing naval events of the era. The first of these was the Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1962, serving as Gun Fire Support Ship for Task Force 84 during the naval quarantine of the worker’s paradise.

The second was in April 1963 when the newly built attack boat USS Thresher (SSN-593) failed to surface. Hazelwood was one of the first ships rushed to begin a systematic search for the missing submarine, escorting the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s RV Atlantis II to the site and hosting several of the lab’s scientists and equipment aboard.

After her search for Thresher, Hazelwood returned to her job with the flying robots, completing over 1,000 sorties with DASH drones in 1963 alone and helping develop the Shipboard Landing Assist Device (SLAD). That year, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara approved budgeting for enough aircraft to provide two plus one backup aircraft for each of the Navy’s 240 FRAM-1 & 2 destroyers in addition to development models.

By 1965, DASH drones were being used for hour-long “Snoopy” missions directing naval gunfire with real-time video in Vietnam at the maximum range of the ship’s 5-inchers.

With the drone, designated QH-50, ready for fleet use, Hazelwood’s work was done. Instead of a gold watch, she got what so many of her class ended up with– disposal.

Epilogue

Hazelwood decommissioned on 19 March 1965, just as the QH-50 program was fully matured and entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Stricken 1 December 1974, she was subsequently sold 14 April 1976 to Union Minerals & Alloy, New York, and broken up for scrap.

Her plans, war diaries, 1950s logbooks, and reports are digitized in the National Archives. She is remembered in maritime art.

Kamikaze attacks on USS Hazelwood (DD 531), shown battered but still afloat, April 29, 1945. Artwork by John Hamilton from his publication, “War at Sea,” pg. 256. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery, accession 88-66-K.

A reunion blog for her crew remained updated until 2019.

The rest of her surviving sisters were likewise widely discarded in this era by the Navy, who had long prior replaced them with Knox-class escorts. Those that had not been sent overseas as military aid was promptly sent to the breakers or disposed of in weapon tests. The class that had faced off with the last blossom of Japan’s wartime aviators helped prove the use of just about every anti-ship/tactical strike weapon used by NATO in the Cold War including Harpoon, Exocet, Sea Skua, Bullpup, Walleye, submarine-launched Tomahawk, and even at least one Sidewinder used in surface attack mode. In 1997, SEALS sank the ex-USS Stoddard (DD-566) via assorted combat-diver delivered ordnance. The final Fletcher in use around the globe, Mexico’s Cuitlahuac, ex-USS John Rodgers (DD 574), was laid up in 2001 and dismantled in 2011.

Today, four Fletchers are on public display, three of which in the U.S– USS The Sullivans (DD-537) at Buffalo, USS Kidd (DD-661) at Baton Rouge, and USS Cassin Young (DD-793) at the Boston Navy Yard. Please try to visit them if possible. Kidd, the best preserved of the trio, was used extensively for the filming of the Tom Hanks film, Greyhound.

As for the DASH, achieving IOC in late 1962, it went on to be unofficially credited as the first UAV to rescue a man in combat, carrying a Marine in Vietnam who reportedly rode its short skids away from danger and back to a destroyer waiting offshore. However, due to a lack of redundant systems, they were often lost. By June 1970, the Navy had lost or written off a staggering 411 of the original 746 QH-50C/D drone helicopters built for DASH. Retired in 1971 due to a mix of unrealized expectations, technological limitations for the era (remember, everything was slide rules and vacuum tubes then), and high-costs, OH-50s remained in military use with the Navy until 1997, soldiering on as targets and target-tows. The last operational DASH, ironically used by the Army’s PEO STRI-TMO, made its final flight on 5 May 2006, at the SHORAD site outside the White Sands Missile Range, outliving the Fletchers in usefulness.

A few are preserved in various conditions around the country, including at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum.

Ever since USS Bronstein (DE/FF-1037) was commissioned in 1963, the U.S. Navy has more often than not specifically designed their escorts to operate helicopters, be they unmanned or manned.

Specs:
Displacement 2,924 Tons (Full),
Length: 376′ 5″(oa)
Beam: 39′ 7″
Draft: 13′ 9″ (Max)
Machinery, 60,000 SHP; Westinghouse Turbines, 2 screws
Speed, 38 Knots
Range 6500 NM@ 15 Knots
Crew 273.
Armament:
5 x 5″/38 AA,
6 x 40mm Bofors
10/11 x 20mm AA
10 x 21″ tt.(2×5)

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

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Livgardet at 500

Before the Swedes discovered heavily-armed neutrality in 1814, they had perhaps the fiercest military in Northern Europe, frequently engaged under the command of fighting king Gustavus Adolphus and the subsequent trio of Carolean ruler/warlords – Charles X, Charles XI, and Charles XII– everywhere the waters of the Baltic touched and beyond. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the oldest and most renowned unit in the Swedish military, whose ensign carries a score of hard-earned battle honors, is the modern Livgardet, or Life Guards.

These guys.

Today’s unit was formed from an amalgamation of the Svea Livgardet (who had previously absorbed the I 13/Fo 53 Dalarna and I 14/Fo 21 Hälsinge Regiments, which dated to 1625 and 1630 respectively) and the Life Guard Dragoons, with the senior infantry regiment dating to a group of 16 volunteers from the Central Swedish town Dalarna, selected in 1521 to serve as bodyguards for Gustav I.

Some 2,600-strong today, besides its ceremonial duties as the royal family’s household troops and public taskings (performed by the 10. Livbataljonen, the King’s Guards Battalion, which includes a horse guard element), the Livgardet also includes the only active-duty MP battalion in the Swedish Army (11. Militärpolisbataljonen), a mechanized battalion equipped with Patria AMV 8x8s (12. Lätta mekaniserade bataljonen), a constabulary/counterintelligence battalion for securing the capital (13. Säkerhetsbataljonen), runs Sweden’s military working dog school, maintains the country’s primary martial bands (three of them!), and provides training and organization to six battalions of the home guard stationed around Stockholm.

Make no mistake, they are no chocolate soldiers. Much like the guards units of other European armies, they train for a real-world wartime mission. The Livgardet specialize in urban warfare and combat in the country’s heavily forested areas, training regularly for wartime missions.

You gotta love those AK5s, license-produced FN FNCs made by Carl Gustav

In honor of the 500th anniversary of the Livgardet this year, one of the most metal bands in the world, Sweden’s own Sabaton– who hail from Dalarna where the unit was born no less– this week released an English dub of The Royal Guard. The Swedish version, which released last month, already has over 2 million views on YT.

The video, in true Sabaton fashion, is a bit bloody and over the top, showing the band as 18th Century royal guards fighting off a swarm of Turkic Janissaries in the throne room, but it does have some basis in reality. In 1713, Charles XII, Tsar Peter the Great’s regular nemesis, was hiding out in Ottoman-controlled Moldova with a small band of his royal guard when he outstayed his welcome and scrapped with the locals at Bender in what was widely regarded as a swirling and confused action, with the Swedish king at times even sniping at the Ottomans with a carbine from cover until his forces were captured.

Nonetheless, the motto of the Livgardet is Possunt nec posse videntur (roughly, “They do what appears to be impossible”)

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.

About Yamashita’s “surrender”

Via the Philippine News Agency:

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) wants erroneous entries on the supposed “surrender” of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita corrected using an original document from soldiers on the battlefield during World War II.

“[General Tomoyuki] Yamashita did not surrender, he was captured by the operatives from the USAFIP-NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon),” retired Maj. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the PVAO, said in an interview.

The USAFIP-NL was a scratch-built force of five Filipino infantry regiments and a field artillery battalion, consisting of roughly 20,000 men with a handful of American officers for liaison and tactical control.

American instructor, with 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. They were to become USAFIP troops. 

Commanded by Col. Russell W. Volckmann, U.S. Army, USAFIP-NL was formed from guerillas who fought against the Japanese occupation, and, according to the PVAO, the force, under the U.S. 6th Army, beat the last of Yamashita’s men to ground, capturing the general, who was later turned over to the Americans in Kiangan. The next day, he was flown to Baguio to formally surrender and the Allies later executed the infamous “Tiger of Malaya” for war crimes.

All that is remembered by the history books is the Kiangan-Baguio action, not the initial capture by the Filipino troops. 

A minor point of history, but one that is strongly felt among the country’s remaining 4,000 WWII vets and their families.

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.

Never Underestimate Determined Ersatz AAA

With this month being the 39th anniversary of the Falkland Island dustup, it is worth mentioning small arms vs modern combat jets. The Fuerza Aerea Argentina (FAA) and Comando de Aviacion Naval Argentina (CANA) flew several makes of then-top-notch aircraft, including Mirage IIIs, IAI Daggers, A-4 Skyhawks, and Super Etendard as well as some locally-made prop-driven COIN aircraft (Pucaras) and helicopters.

Argentine Mirage attacks San Carlos Harbor Falklands 1982

Argentine Mirage V passes between British ships after a bombing run during the Falklands War, 1982

To defeat the onslaught of these aircraft, often flown by fearless crews at wave- and hill-top level at the end of their endurance, the Brits had what was seen at the time as some of the best SAMs available— shore-based Rapiers, Blowpipe and Stinger MANPADS, as well as a phalanx of ship-based Sea Wolf, Sea Dart, Sea Slug, and Sea Cat.

The problem was, most of the British missile defenses proved ineffective against the collection of 140 Argentine tactical aircraft, leaving the 34 overworked Royal Navy and Air Force Harriers to do much of the heavy lifting over the battleground in combat air patrols. Of the 45 Argentine aircraft destroyed in the air, Harriers accounted for 20-21, the vaunted Rapier claimed only a single aircraft, Sea Dart 7, Sea Wolf 4, the older Sea Cat system one, Blowpipe/Stinger 3, friendly fire 2, and small arms gunfire at least 5– making humble machine guns and rifles almost as effective as the best SAM system used. Of course, most of this was due to the low-level nature of the Argentine strikes, but hitting a jet moving at 500+ knots as it screams overhead is no easy feat.

British soldier aboard the HMS Canberra waiting for an Argentine air attack with his FN MAG. Falklands War, 1982 IWM

THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL – JUNE 1982 (FKD 933) A Gurkha of 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles mans a 7.62 mm Machine Guns on an anti-aircraft mounting as a defense against Argentine air attack, probably in the Bluff Cove area. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205190393

Of the gunfire shootdowns, two were helicopters (Pumas) forced to set down after being hit, another was a Pucara downed by paratroopers at Goose Green, an A-4 shot down by small arms fire from the landing ship HMS Fearless (L10), and a further Sky Hawk splashed by an eyeball-directed manned 20mm Oerlikon cannon from the frigate HMS Antelope (F170).

Likewise, there were other Argentine jets that made it back home carrying 7.62 bullet holes as a souvenir of their time over the Falklands.

Argentine Mirage hit by 7.62 NATO round while over San Carlos. 

If you happen to be Bored…

…And looking for some naval scholarship, check out the latest issue of Warship International (Vol. 58) published by the International Naval Research Organization. In its pages, you will find a 23-page article covering the ships and boats that took part in the 1909 Hudson-Fulton exhibition’s naval celebration in New York.

Written by yours truly!

I should tell you though that it is part two of a two but relax, the first part (29-page) was already published in Vol. 49, which is available on JSTOR. Incidentally, all INRO members can read old issues of Warship International going back to the 1960s via JSTOR as part of their membership. Food for thought.

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