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Lead up to D-Day

The 75th Anniversary of D-Day is under a month away. Here we see a beautiful Kodachrome original color image depicting posed North European Invasion Rehearsals sometime either in late 1943, or early 1944:

NARA 80-G-K-13347

Here a Beachmaster uses an SCR-536 handie-talkie/walkie-talkie to maintain contact with other sections of his battalion during exercises on the English Coast. Other communications men, in the background, stand ready to use the signal lamp and semaphore flags.

Note man digging foxhole as another stands by with an M1 Thompson Submachine Gun.

Remembering Hartlepool

On 16 December 1914, German RADM Franz von Hipper led his squadron consisting of the battlecruisers SMS Seydlitz, Von der Tann, Moltke and Derfflinger, the armored cruiser SMS Blücher, light cruisers SMS Strassburg, Graudenz, Kolberg and Stralsund; and 18 destroyers to the English coast. There, he bombarded the ports of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby, causing nearly 600 casualties. Some 1,150 shells were fired into Hartlepool alone, producing the first British military death on British soil in some 200 years.

An alarm clock with a piece of German shell embedded in the dial, destroyed by the German naval raid on Hartlepool, UK, on the morning of 16 December 1914.

In 1999, locals in Hartlepool established the Heugh Battery Museum as the only WWI battlefield in the UK. Today, it needs $5,000 to stay afloat and only has half that amount.

More here.

Kampfflugzeug Phantom

The West German Luftwaffe began ordering the big F-4 Phantom II, with its twin smoky J79 engines, back in 1969 when it placed orders for the unarmed RF-4E recon variant. This was later expanded under the Peace Rhine program to include the very much armed F-4F from 1973 onward.

The below throwback film shows them in use in a Med exercise, flying from a NATO base in Sardinia in 1975.

In all, the Germans acquired over 200 R4/F-4s and kept the aircraft in front line service until 2013, logging more than 280,000 hours on the type, making the Luftwaffe one of the last Phantom Phlyers.

The below, from 2011, shows the type in service after 40 years, with Jagdgeschwader 71 Richthofen.

Speaking of VE-Day

Here is past Combat Gallery Sunday artist Alex Colville with his haunting painting, Tragic Landscape (oil on canvas 61 x 91 cm, painted in 1945) depicting a fallen German Fallschirmjäger in the tail end of the war, who has already been picked clean of his boots.

Alex Colville, Tragic Landscape German paratrooper 1944

Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. Canadian War Museum 19710261-2126

A Canadian military combat artist who landed in France in August 1944 and worked his way into Germany largely on foot, to Buchenwald and beyond, Colville saw the war up close and personal.

“I remember the paratrooper lying in a [Deventer] field,” recalled Colville in a 1980 interview. “He was about twenty. They [the Germans] would fight right to the very end; they had put up a tremendous fight until they were all killed.”

VE-Day, Russian style

This week saw the huge annual parade on May 8, across more than 30 Russian cities, to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe. Termed Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War rather than VE-Day in WWII, the Russians/Soviets have long gone majestic on the great celebration. After all, the country lost over 20 million during the conflict.

On display was lots of old gear.

Dig the SKS-45s, which were manufactured between 1950 and 54. These have been given blonde ceremonial stocks, chromed bayonets, and white leather slings. Note the dog-collar style cinches around the pistol grip

As well as lots of new gear.

The new AK-12/15/200 series were on hand, which takes the 5.45x39mm AK74M and slathers it with rails and a more M4-style adjustable stock. Note the EoTech style day optics and grenade launchers. The Russians just ordered 150K of these from Kalashnikov.

The break down in my column at Guns.com.

One special Colt Commando, delivered

Maj. John Plaster went on 22 missions while as an enlisted Green Beret attached to MAC-V-SOG in South Vietnam. Of course, none of those missions were IN Vietnam. He made contact on almost every mission. Later the recipient of a battlefield commission, he retired from the Army and went on to become a noted author and expert on sniping and military history. I must admit that I have almost all of his books on my own library and have attended several presentations of his over the years.

That’s why I made sure to squeeze his 2-hour talk in Indy last month on the guns of MAC-V-SOG into my schedule and ignored calls from my editor during that slice of time. And I was glad I did. After 50 years, he was given “his” XM177E2 back.

Kinda.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Swim Call! 75 years ago

USS Halford (DD-480). Men swimming from the ship, in the South Pacific, 8 May 1944.”

(NHHC: 80-G-256443)

A Fletcher-class destroyer, Halford was built by Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and commissioned on 10 April 1943. Sailing straight for Guadalcanal, she was in the thick of the Pacific War and from Dec. 1943 to Sept 1945– just 22 months, she earned an impressive 13 battle stars. Decommissioned 15 May 1946, she went into mothballs at the ripe old age of three and was scrapped in 1970.

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