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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
ACTION: ALL SHIPS AND STATIONS
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.
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.
On 23 January 1945, with sisters Conklin (DE-439) and Raby (DE-698), Corbesier sank the Japanese submarine I-48 off Yap Island.
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.
And yes, there are still a few old-school Ames-style cutlasses around, which would warm Corbesier’s heart.
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.
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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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.