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The military’s new 9mm, 1955 edition

In January 1955, United States Marine Corp. Lt. Colonel John Rentsch visited Smith & Wesson President Carl R. Hellstrom to examine the brand new Model 39 9mm pistol. Developed over six years and through 30 prototype changes, the Model 39 was the first double-action, auto-loading pistol manufactured in the United States.

(Photo: S&W)

Developed for the military, Uncle decided to stick with the millions of M1911s they had already on hand and do an open-handed shrug at NATO standardization when it came to pistol calibers until 1984, though the M39 did prove popular on the civilian market for years and was one of the best CCW guns of the 1960s and 70s. Just ask Paris Theodore.

Now with the 9mm Sig P320 winning the Army’s MHS competition, and the word that the Navy, Marines and Air Force are likely to tag on to replace their Berettas, it looks like the Devils are going Swiss-German (by way of New Hampshire) moving forward, with S&W being passed over yet again.

However, the Navy did end up using the M39 to one degree or another, in combo with the Hushpuppy Mk 22 suppressor in Vietnam.

156 years ago today: The polyglot Garibaldi at Bull Run

On 21 July 1861, some 30,000~ Americans met on the field of battle south of Washington D.C. and let the cork out of the bottle on the epic bloodletting of the Civil War. Until then, although there had been a number of sharp incidents, peace was still an option. After the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as Battle of First Manassas, there was no turning back.

One of the more colorful units on the fields of Prince Williams County that day was the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, best known as the “Garibaldi Guard.”

The unit was formed just nine weeks earlier by the flamboyant Hungarian Col. Frederick George D’Utassy who, at the ripe old age of 37 claimed prior wartime service as a field and staff officer in several European armies prior to his immigration to the states, and worked as a language professor (speaking 12 of them fluently). The regiment was a foreign legion of sorts comprising 11 companies of men of different national heritage from New York’s streets: three German, three Hungarian, one Swiss, one Italian, one French, one Spanish, and one Portuguese.

As such, they looked unlike any other U.S. infantry force at the time.

COL D'Utassy and 39th NY Garibaldi Guard Staff in the Uniforms they would have worn at Bull Run. Photo via USMA Collection

COL D’Utassy, short guy center, and 39th NY Garibaldi Guard Staff in the uniforms they would have worn at Bull Run. Photo via USMA Collection

The Guard attached into the 1st Brigade (Col. Louis Blenker) of the 5th Division (Col. Dixon S. Miles) and was in reserve at Manassas– but by most accounts they gave good service in helping cover the Union retreat.

They fought for the rest of the Civil War (often among themselves) and were disbanded 1 July 1865. The regiment suffered a total of 274 fatalities during the conflict, most from disease or by prisoners who died in Confederate POW camps.

As for D’Utassy, he was court-martialed in 1863 for “fraud and conduct prejudicial to military discipline” after selling the position of Major in his regiment, forging muster rolls, and forging accounts. He was discharged 29 May 1863 and, after a brief stint in Sing-Sing, became an insurance salesman.

Air Superiority, 1945 meets 2017

Official caption: To celebrate 70 years of air dominance, the United States Air Force showcased an array of aircraft at the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo, July 16, 2017, at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball)

This shot is great, showing a Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor keeping pace with a North American P-51 Mustang, the Cadillac of the sky.

The P-51 is made up to match Inglewood-made P-51D-5-NA, #44-13318, “Frenesi” flown by USAAF ace Lt. Col. Thomas L. Hayes, Jr. of the 357th Fighter Group, and is complete with 84 bomb marks, each indicating a completed ground attack mission rather than a bomb strike, as well as two Japanese kill marks and nine German ones.

In actuality, she is a late-production Dallas-made P-51/F-51K (P-51D with a different propeller, widely exported postwar) SN 44-12852, FAA N357FG, a former air racer and Dominican Air Force fighter recently very nicely restored by Dan Friedkin and the crew at Midwest Aero Restorations, Danville IL. She is one of only 1,500 or so Mustang-Ks made.

The F-22A is a late-model Block 35 bird, SN 09-4180, delivered in 2009, and active with the 27th FS/1st Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, and has no mission marks as of yet. She is one of only 195 made, though production only halted on her line in 2012.

More documented war service of the suppressed 22LR SMG with the huge mag

I’ve always been a fan of the American-180 and have in the past written about it a good bit. I’ve even had a chance to handle one several times–I can vouch that it will fire 275 rounds rather quietly in about 12 seconds with a SilencerCo Sparrow attached– and the aforementioned suppressor company regularly shows a tricked out suppressed one off at trade shows.

The Yugoslav rip-off MGV-176 (reflecting the magazine capacity) was used on all sides during the Balkan wars, often with fitted suppressors.

Well, as noted by The Firearms Blog and detailed in Douw Steyn ‘s excellent Iron Fist From The Sea: South Africa’s Seaborne Raiders 1978-1988, the AM180 saw a good bit of service by South African/Rhodesian SAS clandestine services/frogmen in Mozambique.

The attack team was armed with standard AK47 rifles as well as two American-180 submachine guns equipped with suppressors.  These unique .22lr weapons were fitted with standard 177 round multilayered pan magazines.  With a firing rate of between 1,200 and 1,500 rounds per minute (depending on the ammunition used),a magazine could be accurately emptied in seven seconds with devastating effect on a static target…

More here

Canadian whisky in U.S-built FFG recovered in Oz

To replace their aging Adams (Perth)-class DDGs, the Royal Australian Navy in the 1980s ordered a six-pack of Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigates. Known as the Adelaide-class in RAN service, the first four vessels were built in the U.S. at Todd in Seattle, while last two were constructed by AMECON of Williamstown, Victoria.

Besides the names of large Australian cities, the vessels carry the names of past RAN vessels including two HMS/HMAS Sydney’s that fought in WWI and WWII, and Oz’s two aircraft carriers.

Canberra and Adelaide were paid off in 2005 and 2008 respectively, then sunk as dive wrecks. Sydney struck in 2015 and began scrapping last month, while Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle are sticking it out until the new Hobart-class destroyers arrive to replace them by 2019.

One of the Todd-built greyhounds now being dismantled, Sydney, just gave up her mini-bottle of now 41-year-old blended MacNaughton Canadian whisky, which had been wrapped in pipe insulation in the forward starboard leg of the main mast back in April 1982.

The yard got the word from the states that the bottle may still be there, and it was.

Should have been Kentucky bourbon, but hey…

Via the RAN


Warship Wednesday, July 19, 2017: The Belgian sword master and his legacy

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, July 19, 2017: The Belgian sword master and his legacy

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

Here we see the Butler-class destroyer escort USS Corbesier (DE 438) in an undated photo, likely somewhere in the Pacific in late WWII. She was named after an extremely well-known (for his time) expert with a blade.

“Cutlasses, lads!” was a standard call to prepare to repel boarders going back to the Continental Navy with Colonial armorer Richard Gridley and John Bailey reportedly crafting a number of these curved short swords for Washington’s fleet.

As described by JO2 Meckel in 1957’s “The Cutlass Carved Its Niche in Our Navy’s Annals,” the fledgling U.S. Navy ordered small lots of cutlasses from sword makers Nathan Starr of Middletown, Connecticut; Lewis Prahl of Philadelphia; and Robert Dingie of New York.

Starr later made three different 2,000-cutlass lots in 1808 (for $2.50 each), 1816 ($3.00) and 1826 ($4.25)– talk about inflation! These were needed in large numbers as frigates such as the USS Constitution were authorized no less than 156 cutlasses.

These early swords were later augmented and then replaced by the Ames Cutlass in two variants (1842 and 1860) with the latter, remaining in service amazingly through WWII.

The 1860 Ames was 32-inches long with a 26-inch blade, and was in service from 1860 through 1949! This example marked U.S.N. D.R. 1864, is in the National Park Service collection.

Moving from the Barbary Wars and War of 1812 to the Civil War, the Navy’s love affair with the cutlass remained intact, even as armor plate, steam engines, Gatling repeaters, torpedoes (mines) and rifled naval guns moved combat into modern terms.

With the need to remain trained in these traditional edged weapons, you need a sword master.

Enter one very dapper Antoine Joseph Corbesier, a man skilled at the noble art of attack and parry with a sword.

As noted by DANFS, Corbesier was born 22 January 1837 in Belgium and, after service with the French, emigrated to America.

As described by Fencing Classics, “A brief advertisement in the New York Tribune, from October 19, 1863, places him in New York during the time of the Civil War, where he was a teacher at the New York Fencing Club before opening his own school.”

By 1865, the 28-year-old European fencer was Sword-Master of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and, had made such an impression on the very gruff Admiral David Dixon Porter, then Superintendent, that Porter endorsed Corbesier’s 76-page text on sword fighting published in 1868.

“Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword” soon became the standard tome for the use of naval cutlasses in the U.S. Navy and the influence can be seen for decades, along with other works he produced on the bayonet.

USS GALENA, 1880-92. Caption: Left flank cut, during cutlass practice. Description: Catalog #: NH 53998

Left flank cut, from Corbesier’s book

“Left face cut.” Cutlass exercises for apprentices on board USS MONONGAHELA at Newport, Rhode Island, circa June 1891. Halftone of a photo by Frank H. Child, Newport, Rhode Island. From the book: “U.S.T.S. Monongahela and the U.S. Naval Training System, illustrated,” 1892. Description: Catalog #: NH 45885

Left face cut, from Corbesier’s book

Meanwhile, new ships coming on line, even though they were modern steam vessels lit by electric light, were still given their (reduced) allotment of cutlasses which, in naval tradition, would remain aboard until the ship was removed from the Naval List, ensuring the swords would float around through the Spanish-American War, Great War, and even into WWII.

Cutlass exercise Caption: Aboard a U.S. Navy warship during the later 1800s. Post card photo. Description: Catalog #: NH 80750

USS Enterprise (1877-1909) Ship’s Apprentices pose by the port side quarterdeck ladder, while Enterprise was at the New York Navy Yard, circa spring 1890. Photographed by E.H. Hart, New York City. Note the figure-eight Apprentice mark visible on the uniforms of several of these men, and cutlass fan on the cabin bulkhead at left. Stern of receiving ship Vermont is partially visible in the left background. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 54215

USS CHICAGO (1889-1935) Caption: View on the gun deck, about 1890. Note cutlass and rifle racks, with 6″/30 broadside guns beyond. Description: Catalog #: NH 55124

By special act of Congress, after more than 40 years of instruction at the Academy, Corbesier was given the rank of first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps 4 March 1913.

Lieutenant Antoine J. Corbesier, USMC, taken sometime between 1913-15. Catalog #: NH 51707

He died in the Naval Hospital at Annapolis on 26 March 1915, where he lived at the time.

His obituary ran in several nautical journals of the day, the below from Seven Seas Magazine.

Even with the great swordsman gone, the Navy kept the cutlass on tap, and they continued to see service in far flung ports when needed, even apparently being broken out once or twice in China as late as the 1930s.

On the eve of the Great War, the Navy attempted to replace the Civil War-era Ames Cutlass with the new M1917 Naval Cutlass, based on the Dutch Klewang boarding sword, though its adoption seems more miss than hit.

Then came this:

JJ55-3/1510, 15 October 1942

1.Officers of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps, shall no longer be required to possess swords as part of their uniform equipment.

2.The various uniform regulations will be modified accordingly.

3.It is expected that a form of dirk will, in due course, be adopted as uniform equipment in lieu of the sword.

4.Due to the urgent need for metals, it is suggested that officers, who may so desire, turn in their swords for scrap.-SecNav. Frank Knox.

This order, as noted by NHHC Curator Mark Wertheimer in 2003, did not affect cutlasses still in unit and vessel armories, and they “remained an ordnance allowance item until 1949” indeed, being done away with in by NavOrd Inst. 4500-1 in November 1949. Reportedly, some Marines even carried them ashore in the Pacific for use as machetes during the jungle fighting of WWII.

However, the swordsman may have been gone, and his weapons headed for the literal scrap heap, but he was not forgotten.

On 11 November 1943 at Dravo shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware, a Cannon-class destroyer escort was named USS Corbesier (DE-106) in his honor. She went on to be commissioned as the Free French Naval ship Sénégalais (T-22) on 2 January 1944, which is fitting to a degree based on Corbesier’s French military service in the days of Napoleon III.

Sénégalais went on to seriously damage German submarine U-371 just five months after she was taken over by the French, taking a German homing torpedo in the exchange.

Sénégalais (French Escort Ship, formerly USS Corbesier, DE-106) French sailor paints a submarine kill symbol on the ship's smokestack, following the sinking of German submarine U-371 off the Algerian coast on 4 May 1944. During the action, Sénégalais delivered the final attack on U-371, but was herself torpedoed and damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1606

Sénégalais (French Escort Ship, formerly USS Corbesier, DE-106) French sailor paints a submarine kill symbol on the ship’s smokestack, following the sinking of German submarine U-371 off the Algerian coast on 4 May 1944. During the action, Sénégalais delivered the final attack on U-371 but was herself torpedoed and damaged. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1606

The French ship went on to serve that Navy until 1965, being scrapped in Germany.

Meanwhile, a second USS Corbesier, (DE-438), a John C. Butler-class destroyer escort, was launched in 1944 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N.J. Commissioned 31 March 1944, she sailed for the Pacific and performed ASW missions and general escort duties.

Via Steven Mortenson, Corbesier Historian/Navsource

On 23 January 1945, with sisters Conklin (DE-439) and Raby (DE-698), Corbesier sank the Japanese submarine I-48 off Yap Island.

From Combined Fleets:

23 January 1945:
15 miles NE of Yap Island. At 0310, USS CORBESIER (DE-438) makes a radar contact at about 9,800 yds. The target is heading 210 degrees at 18 kts. After CORBESIER closes to investigate, I-48 dives. At 0336, CORBESIER obtains a sound contact and fires a salvo of Mk.10 “Hedgehog” projector charges but misses. CONKLIN and RABY (DE-698) join the chase. CORBESIER makes five more Hedgehog attacks, all with negative results, finally, losing the contact.

At 0902, CORBESIER regains contact and executes another “Hedgehog” attack, again with negative results. At 0912, CORBESIER reestablishes sound contact with the sub, but loses it before an attack can be made. CONKLIN makes a new “Hedgehog” attack at 0934, from a distance of 550 yds. Seventeen seconds later, four or five explosions are heard from an estimated depth of 175 ft. At 0936, a violent explosion occurs, temporarily disabling CONKLIN’s engines and steering gear. Huge air bubbles come up alongside; soon thereafter oil and debris surface. Large quantities of human remains are likewise sighted.

17 miles N of Yap. A motor whaleboat from CONKLIN picks up pieces of planking, splintered wood, cork, interior woodwork with varnished surfaces, a sleeve of a knitted blue sweater containing flesh, chopsticks and a seaman’s manual. I-48 is sunk with her 118-strong crew and four kaiten pilots at 09-55N, 138-17.30E

It wasn’t gentlemanly swordplay, but it was no less deadly.

Corbesier went on to serve off Okinawa, parrying attacks from Japanese kamikaze off Okinawa. She completed the war with two battle stars, and berthed at San Diego, was decommissioned in 1946. She was scrapped in 1972.

The Navy has not named another vessel after Adm. Porter’s sword master.

They did bring back the officer’s dress sword in 1952, in 2011 CPOs were granted the authority to carry a mil-spec cutlass on certain occasions, and today the (ceremonial) use of the sword is instilled in the Marine’s Corporal’s Course, so there is that.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joseph Bednarik, with Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, instructs Marines on proper sword manual during Corporals Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb 22, 2016. Sword manual is an honored tradition in which Marines command troop formations during formal ceremonies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Bekkala, MCIWEST-MCB CamPen Combat Camera/Released)

And yes, there are still a few old-school Ames-style cutlasses around, which would warm Corbesier’s heart.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tenika Fugate, assigned to USS Constitution, raises a cutlass during a color guard detail in Old Town during Albuquerque Navy Week. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Brown)

His “Principles of Squad Instruction for the Broadsword” is in the public domain, has been digitized, and is widely available, ensuring that it will endure.

And of course, if you are passing through the Naval Academy, stop by the Cemetery and Columbarium, and visit Lot 394 to pay your respects.

Yet, “If the Army and the Navy Ever look on Heaven’s scenes; They will find the streets are guarded By United States Marines,” holds true, the swordsman may still be holding class.


(DE 438)
Displacement: 1,350/1,745 tons
Length: 306 ft. (93 m) overall
Beam: 36 ft. 10 in (11.23 m)
Draught: 13 ft. 4 in (4.06 m) maximum
Propulsion: 2 boilers, 2 geared turbine engines, 12,000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h)
Range: 6,000 nmi at 12 knots (22 km/h)
Complement: 14 officers, 201 enlisted
2 × 5 in (130 mm)
4 × 40 mm AA (2 × 2)
10 × 20 mm guns AA
3 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
1 × Hedgehog
8 × K-gun depth charge projectors
2 × depth charge tracks
(though likely no cutlasses)

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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.

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Big J gets one of her lost 40mm mounts back

"USS New Jersey in Vietnam" Painting, Tempera on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1969; NHHC Accession #: 88-197-CE Launched in 1942, New Jersey (BB-62) saw service in WWII and Korea before being decommissioned in 1957. In 1968 she was reactivated and outfitted to serve as a heavy bombardment ship in Vietnam. At recommissioning, she was the only active battleship in the U.S. Navy. Between late September 1968 and early April 1969, she participated in Operation Sea Dragon, providing offshore gunfire support against inland and coastal targets. Soon thereafter, the Navy decided to reduce heavy bombardment forces in Southeast Asia. New Jersey was again decommissioned in December 1969.

“USS New Jersey in Vietnam” Painting, Tempera on Paper; by John Charles Roach; 1969; NHHC Accession #: 88-197-CE Launched in 1942, New Jersey (BB-62) saw service in WWII and Korea before being decommissioned in 1957. In 1968 she was reactivated and outfitted to serve as a heavy bombardment ship in Vietnam. At recommissioning, she was the only active battleship in the U.S. Navy. Between late September 1968 and early April 1969, she participated in Operation Sea Dragon, providing offshore gunfire support against inland and coastal targets. Soon thereafter, the Navy decided to reduce heavy bombardment forces in Southeast Asia. New Jersey was again decommissioned in December 1969.

When USS New Jersey (BB-62) was built, the wounds of Pearl Harbor were still fresh in the minds of battleship sailors and the new series of capital ships were stacked deep with 40mm and 20mm cannons, designed to fill the sky around the ship with a hurricane of flak to break up Japanese air attacks. The battlewagon carried no less than 80 40mm/56 cal Bofors cannon, arranged in 20 quad mounts. The ship and her crew earned nine battle stars for her World War II service and four for her service in the Korean War before she was put into mothballs in 1957.

The only battleship called in from “red lead row” for service in Vietnam, in 1968 she was stripped of her Bofors cannon– obsolete against jets– and all were destroyed except for one mount that was left as a display at (the now closed) Philadelphia Navy Yard, where she was built.

Now, as part of a crowd-sourced fundraiser to restore the gun and send it to Camden, New Jersey where the battleship has been as a museum ship since 2001, it has been picked up from Philly and moved to the Mahan Collection museum where it will be restored before reunited with the retired naval warship.

More in my column at 

Under Every Leaf.

A Site for the British Empire 1860-1913


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