Category Archives: US Army

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023: The Kaiser’s Tin Cans do Broadway

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, Jan. 25, 2023: Kaisers Tin Cans do Broadway

Bain News Service collection, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-50381

Above we see, in the summer of 1920 a trio of once-sunk former torpedoboten of the old Kaiserliche Marine, anchored in New York City, from left to right ex-SMS V43, G102, and S132, with the newly commissioned Lapwing-class minesweeper USS Redwing (AM-48) outboard.

A closer look. Note that all the vessels have Union Jacks on their bows, as they are in possession of the Navy if not in direct commission. LC-DIG-ggbain-31137

Check out the inset, showing a little girl playing on G102’s forward 8.8 cm SK L/45 naval gun and her boater hat-wearing father close by. Besides four such guns, the 1,700-ton vessel carried six 19.7-inch torpedo tubes and could make 34 knots on her steam turbines, a speed that is still fast today. Another boater-clad man is inspecting the view from atop her wheelhouse.

German destroyer S132 in possession of the U.S. Navy, showing the mine laying stern. Note the stern of the minesweeper Redwing. LOC

German destroyers G102 and S132 in possession of the U.S. Navy, in 1920 in New York with a great view of Manhattan from the Hudson and the ships’ guns and searchlights. LOC

The vessels had been interned at Scapa Flow by the terms of the Armistice of 11 November 1918, then scuttled by their skeleton crews on 21 June 1919. Saved by the British, who worked quickly to beach these small craft along with a few others, they were turned over to the U.S. as war reparations as part of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1920, along with the German Helgoland class battleship ex-SMS Ostfriesland and the Wiesbaden-class light cruiser ex-SMS Frankfurt.

All five ships saw extensive action with the High Seas Fleet during World War I, including (except for SMS V43) the epic clash at Jutland. That service, while fascinating, is beyond the scope of this post but I encourage you to look into it if curious.

Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow: Tug alongside scuttled German destroyer G 102 at Scapa Flow, June 1919. Of the 74 interned German ships at Scapa, 52 were lost– including all three of G102’s sisters– with the remainder saved by the British and divvied up post-Versailles. IWM SP 1631

Turned over to a scratch American crew, they were shepherded across the Atlantic to New York by the minesweepers Redwing and USS Falcon (AM-28).

The German Imperial Navy destroyer SMS G 102 is escorted to a U.S. port by the U.S. Navy minesweeper USS Falcon (AM-28), circa 1920. Note her six assorted torpedo tubes arranged front, aft, and center. NH 45786

Ostfriesland, Capt. J. F. Hellweg (USNA 1900), USN, in command, became the only German-built battleship commissioned into the U.S. Navy on 7 April 1920 at Rosyth, Scotland, and made New York under her own power, where she was decommissioned on 20 September 1920. Hellweg, who had spent his career in surface warfare including service with the Great White Fleet and in Mexico, went on to command the Naval Observatory and was certainly an interesting figure at parties. 

After their summer as “propaganda ships,” the three tin cans were soon stripped at Norfolk and disposed of off Cape Henry, Virginia, at the infamous hands of Billy Mitchell’s land-based aircraft, followed up with a coup de grace on the humble yet still floating 1,100-ton V43 made by assembled American battleships on 15 July 1921.

Via NYT Archives

Direct hit on G102, July 13, 1921. They were sunk during the Billy Mitchell aircraft bombing tests on German and U.S. Navy ships, showing the vulnerability of ships to aerial bombing, on July 18, 1921. Photograph from the William “Billy” Mitchell Collection, U.S. Navy Museum.

Anti-Ship Bombing Demonstration, 1921. Shown: G-102 showing smoke from a direct hit made by SE-5 with a 25-pound TNT-filled fragmentation bomb, June 21, 1921. From the album entitled, “First Provisional Air Brigade, Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia, 1921.” Note her tubes and guns have been removed. From the William Mitchell Collection. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

As for Redwing, she went on to be sheep-dipped and serve in the Coast Guard during Prohibition, then would return to Navy service first on the West Coast in 1929 and then on the East by 1941. Converted to a rescue/salvage ship (ARS-4), she was lost to an Axis mine off the old Vichy French navy base at Bizerte, Tunisia, during WWII on 29 June 1943.


Ships are more than steel
and wood
And heart of burning coal,
For those who sail upon
them know
That some ships have a
soul.


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Scraping horses

Found this interesting for anyone curious about U.S. Army Great War-era veterinary and farrier services for transport, cavalry, and artillery horses.

22 January 1919, U.S. Army of Occupation in Montabaur, Rhineland, Germany (official caption):

Horses from 1-7th Field Artillery [part of the 1st Infantry Division at the time] being led to “Dipping Vat” constructed by 1st Engineers for the Veterinary Dept. The animals take a plunge in a bath composed of sulfur, lime, carbolic acid, and creosote. The bath is kept at a temperature of 100 degrees fahr. After the plunge, the animals are “scraped.” This is the method of treating these animals for the mange [probably rain rot] and cooties. Horses are bathed at a rate of one a minute.

U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-51250 by SGT J.A. Marshall, via NARA

“Ready to Plunge.” 111-SC-51252 by SGT J.A. Marshall, via NARA

“Scraping Horses.” 111-SC-51251 by SGT J.A. Marshall, via NARA

Wolverines and Thunderbolts

If you think you are cold, how about this shot from 78 years ago today?

20 January 1945, with an M-10 Wolverine tank destroyer of Co. C, 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion, in the frame, track commander SGT Jimmy Richardson talks to his driver, PVT Joe Honig, while Joes of the 83rd Infantry Division (“Thunderbolt”)’s 331st Inf. Regiment warm themselves by the fire after their retirement to the sector following the Battle of the Bulge, all trying to keep warm “somewhere near Courtil, Belgium.”

Richardson and Honig are likely in the jeep caps and jackets while the infantrymen are in the heavy coats and M1 helmets. Signal Corps Photo 455222. NARA #0006

Of the 58 Tank Destroyer battalions that shipped overseas during WWII, the 629th was one of 52 sent to the European Theatre.

The 629th TD Battalion first saw the elephant alongside the 9th Infantry Division in France during the third week of August 1944, then served with the 28th Division for the last two weeks of September during the Siegfried Line fighting and the 2nd Infantry Division into November. During the Battle of the Bulge, it supported the 75th until early January when it was attached– as shown above– to the 83rd Division. It then supported the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division (which were fighting as “leg” infantry) during the first two weeks of February, and the 99th Division from the last week of February until the end of the war, concluding the campaign equipped with the M36 90mm GMC.

As further detailed by TankDestroyer.net:

Unit History: Established 15 December 1941, at Fort Meade, Maryland. Arrived in Liverpool, England, on 9 January, 1944 and disembarked at Omaha Beach on 2 July with M10s. Performed artillery missions in Caumont sector. Joined 30th Infantry Division in fighting at Mortain in early August, then supported reduction of the Falaise Pocket. Participated in V Corps parade through Paris on 29 August. Advanced to Luxembourg by early September and then supported operations in the Hürtgen Forest and against the Siegfried Line. Shifted to Ardennes sector on 24 December. Fought to eliminate the Bulge in January 1945. Joined renewed assault on Siegfried Line in February. Crossed Rhine River into Remagen bridgehead on 11 March and converted to the M36 that same month. Participated in operations against the Ruhr Pocket in April, then conducted road march south to Bavaria and reached the Isar River before ending offensive operations.

As for the 83rd, during the division’s later headlong rush across Germany to the Elbe (280 miles in 13 days) in 1945, it earned the nickname “The Rag Tag Circus” from war correspondents due to MG Robert C. Macon’s ordering the supplementing of the division’s transport with anything that moved, “no questions asked.”

From their unit history: 

In those thirteen days the Thunderbolt Division threw away the books and improvised. We became a weird caravan. We picked up vehicles of any kind — and kept moving. Some of us drove deep into the Harz Mountains. Some of us dashed toward the Elbe. Our eyes ached, our backs were sore — but there was no let up. At times we were so tired we did not know what we were doing.

The Germans could not stop us. Rivers and mountains could not stop us. We passed beyond the Elbe, threw back counterattacks, then waited. Suddenly it became very quiet. We had time, then, to recollect a few of the things we had done and seen.

130 Years Ago: Boxing up the Queen’s Own

The below image details Queen Liliuokalani’s 272-man Royal Household Guard being disarmed by Col. John Harris Soper, late of the California National Guard and a former Marshal of the Kingdom of Hawaii, following the overthrow of the monarchy in January 1893, while outgoing Captain of the Guard Samuel Nowlein looks toward the camera beside the bowler-hatted Soper. The Hawaiians stacked arms, turned over equipment, and list to “The Authority” notice read by Colonel Soper, who had been appointed commander-in-chief of military forces of the Provisional Government of Hawaii the day before.

Hawaii State Archives: Call Number: PP-54-1-001

Note the Union Army-style sack coats and kepis over white canvas trousers, and stacked “Trapdoor” Model 1873 Springfield breechloaders with Mills-style cartridge belts atop.

A small force of about 16 men were left to provide a ceremonial detachment to serve Liliuokalani in exile for another year or so.
 

Royal Guards in front of the house of Queen Lili’uokalani (known as Washington Place), circa 1893. Pictured here is the “fallen Queen’s house,” Washington Place, and the guard of sixteen, plus their captain. Photograph by Hedemann, 1893. It appears Nowlein is to the left, armed with a sword. Courtesy of the Bishop Museum.

Souper’s force also had the backing of the U.S. Navy, in particular, the Atlanta-class protected cruiser USS Boston, soon to be of Battle of Manila Bay fame.

As outlined by Lillich, on the Forcible Protection of Nationals Abroad, in International Law Studies, Vol 77, Boston’s Marines and Bluejackets were landed under the old “protection of lives and property” pretext:

When Queen Liliuokalani informed her cabinet that she planned to promulgate a new autocratic constitution by royal edict, some of her ministers informed the prominent American residents of the islands. These Americans requested the support of the U.S. Minister, John H. Stevens, and the protection of the U.S. Navy. Stevens arranged to have a detachment from the fifth USS Boston, a protected cruiser, land at Honolulu on 16 January 1893, for the ostensible purpose of protecting American lives and property. Curious to their stated purpose, the Americans were not stationed near American property, but rather were located where they might most easily intimidate the Queen.

The American presence served its function and on 17 January, Liliuokalani’s opponents deposed her and established a provisional government under the presidency of Sanford B. Dole. The provisional government requested that the United States assume the role of a protectorate over the islands. Mr. Stevens complied with the request and raised the American flag on 1 February. The Boston landed another detachment of Marines that same day, increasing the number of American forces in Honolulu to about 150 men. Subsequently, there was a change of administration in Washington, with President Cleveland disavowing the actions of Mr. Stevens.

On 1 April 1893, the American flag was hauled down and the landing force withdrew.

Sources: Baily 429-33; Ellsworth 93; Offutt 72-73

Fine screen halftone reproduction of a photograph of the USS Boston’s landing force on duty at the Arlington Hotel, Honolulu, at the time of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, January 1893. Lieutenant Lucien Young, USN, commanded the detachment and is presumably the officer at right. The original photograph is in the Archives of Hawaii. This halftone was published prior to about 1920. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 56555

Going further down the rabbit hole, the dour Soper, aged 46 in the top image, would become Adjutant General and Chief of Staff of the National Guard of the Republic of Hawaii and then the Hawaii Territorial Militia in 1900 when the islands were formally absorbed by the U.S., retaining that post through 1907 when he retired at the rank of brigadier general. Of note, he managed Soper, Wright & Company, a large sugar plantation on the Big Island.

The National Guard of Hawaii, formed to serve the Hawaiian Republic from 1893-1898, was a battalion-sized unit comprised of two companies of mostly whites recruited in Honolulu (most of the former Honolulu Rifles), one company of Portuguese volunteers, and one of Germans. Hawaii State Archives

As for Nowlein, the native Hawaiian and devoted monarchist would later play a big role in the so-called Wilcox Rebellion in 1895, named such due to its leader, Robert William Kalanihiapo Wilcox, a surveyor with experience in the Italian Army. Nowlein’s and Wilcox’s ~500-man force of Royalists would fight the much-larger Republican Hawaii National Guard, which was augmented by two companies of U.S. Army regulars and a battalion of local Citizen’s Guard volunteers, in three pitched battles across three days, ultimately failing. Pardoned of most of a resulting five-year prison sentence, the last Captian of the Queen’s Guard died in 1905.

In 1916, the U.S. Army’s 32nd Infantry Regiment was first organized at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. At its activation, it was known as “The Queen’s Own” Regiment, a title bestowed by the deposed last queen of Hawaiʻi, Liliʻuokalani. Although it long ago left Hawaii (1/32 has been part of the 10th Mountain Division in New York since 1996), it still retains the nickname as part of its lineage. 

32nd Inf memorial on Fort Benning. Note the islander’s “Kamehameha” war cap and “The Queens Own” scroll

The Royal Guard would remain disbanded for 70 years. 
 
In 1963, the state enrolled a small ceremonial guard, outfitted in pith helmets and Trapdoor Springfields, to be the Royal Guards of Hawaii. Drawn from members of the Hawaiin Air National Guard, each of its 42 volunteers has to be of full or partial Hawaiian descent. 
 
As noted by the state: 
 
They were re-established on November 16, 1963, marking the beloved 19th-century monarch King Kalakauka’s birthday celebration. Members of the unit go to great lengths to maintain period-correct uniforms, even refurbish original helmets all on volunteer hours, and use the Hawaiian language to call commands during their drills and ceremony. The members of the Royal Guard help the state and its Guard members to connect to their unique place in history serving as reminders of the heritage and history of their forbearers. 
 

Hawaii Air National Guardʻs Royal Guard posts ceremonial watch on the anniversary of refounding, November 16, 2021. (US Air National Guard Photos by Master Sgt. Andrew Lee Jackson)

The Butgenback Shuffle

Jan. 13, 1945: a Big Red One Soldier, from the 16th Infantry Regiment, in a protective snowsuit (aka Spok suit) advances toward enemy positions in the Butgenback sector of Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

Signal Corps Photo 248311

PFC George Kelly of Philadelphia near Bütgenbach Belgium – January 1945. LIFE Magazine, George Silk Photographer. Kelly was KIA shortly after this picture was snapped, at age 25.

For more on the 16th Infantry’s trip through snow “knee-deep on the level and drifted to two to three times that depth where the wind could get at it,” check out the regimental historical society’s detailed account.

Ukraine gets Western Armor (in six months)(maybe)

With the muddy season in Ukraine morphing into the frozen season with the arrival of General Winter on the front, Western military allies in the proxy international war with Russia have decided to up the ante from just supplying small arms, air defense systems, artillery of all sorts and anti-tank weapons, to delivering some significant medium armor to Kyiv.

Germany is sending hulking 40-ton Marders, armed with a 20mm cannon. France is sending AMX-10 RCR– neat little 16-ton 6×6 wheeled tank destroyers with a 105mm gun that we have covered several times before. The U.S. is sending 50 Bradley CFV/IFVs, which typically mount a 25mm chain gun and a dual TOW launcher and has infamously ballooned to 30 tons over the years.

AMX-10 RCR (RCR stands for Roues-Canon, or wheeled gun, Revalorisé, upgraded)

Why the light armor rather than Leopards, Leclerc’s, and Abrams? Well, several reasons. One, there are few roads and bridges anywhere in the world that support such heavy tracks. Two, the tracks themselves are much more fragile than you would think, and require massive tractor-trailers such as the Oshkosh M1070A0 Heavy Equipment Transporter and its 5-axle trailer, just to be able to move around the countryside to the battlefield. Third, a tank isn’t just a vehicle but a collection of advanced mechanical, mobile artillery, and electronic systems that all need their own dedicated training and support pipeline.

And it is the latter that is the biggest deal, by far.

It takes months for the U.S. Army to mint new armor MOS Soldiers and they still require extensive training once they reach their units to be able to operate their tracks at a platoon, company, and battalion level. Just training in basic vehicle operation takes a long time, and that isn’t even getting into gunnery or maneuvering.

You don’t just whistle up an armored brigade from nothing.

See, Desert Sheild Round Out Woes

For reference, in Desert Sheild, the Army called up three National Guard “Roundout brigades” (48th, 155th, and 256th Brigades from Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana, respectively) just in case they were needed to fight a North Africa 1941-style armored campaign against Saddam’s armored legions. The Roundout process was a holdover from the old REFORGER days when it was expected to rapidly activate units that were in supposed “enhanced readiness” and bolt them on to understrength active duty divisions to make them combat-ready should the Russkis cross the Fulda Gap. This saw National Guard units in the 1980s and 90s take possession of M1 Abrams, M1 Bradleys, and AH-64 Apaches at a time when a lot of active duty units still had M60s, M113s, and AH-1s.

Prior to Desert Sheild, the three Guard brigades were reporting C-2/C-3 readiness ratings meaning that they could go to war anywhere from 15 to 42 days after the “balloon went up.” However, this soon changed to 120 days minimum to get to a basic acceptable standard once they were actually called up, not including the 15 day alert warning they got before mobilization.

Besides the dental and health issues of the reservists that would sideline as many as 2,400 troops in one brigade alone, almost a quarter of those called up hadn’t met basic training goals with more than 600 Soldiers still needing to go to A-school across 42 specialties, even though all units were required as part of their Round Out status to qualify 100 percent of its crews on their Abrams or Bradley during a gunnery cycle.

Check out this breakdown of the 12 mandatory events for minimum deployability requirements, just based upon the more realistic 86-day Desert Sheild post-mobilization training plan and how long it actually took the 155th to get validated (131 days). The 48th managed to pull this off in a more compressed 115 days (30 November 1990 to 28 February 1991, ironically the day the ground war ended in the Gulf War) while the 256th wasn’t ready until M+160. And remember, this was for National Guard brigades– which included a large percentage of prior active service personnel– that had been regularly training for this in monthly drills and yearly summer camps in peacetime long before they were called to pack their duffles for real.

So how long to get the Ukrainian tracks running?

The plan, at least for now, is to allocate the equipment at some future date, which is likely to be stripped from active duty units, and perform crew training somewhere in the safety of the West. I’d bet in a maneuver area in Poland’s Silesia region that has recently been expanding.

Then, picked Ukrainian crews would have to be taken from the lines or depots and sent West to undergo 4-5 months’ worth of training before they could be minimally capable of fighting their mixed bag of Bradleys, Marders, and AMX-10s. Even if they had been schooled on T-64s and BTRs/BMDs, those are nothing like the vehicles they are getting, so it would actually be better to train guys from scratch so they don’t have to “unlearn” things from their Warsaw Pact equipment.

The crews would probably not be trained on the actual vehicles they would use, which in the end would have to be shipped over the border by train under threat of Russian attack. Once the crews would be married up with their (surplus) tracks in a staging area in Ukraine, they would require additional weeks to make ready. 

So even with today’s good news, it will probably be sometime in the summer before this second-hand ex-NATO armor arrives on the frontlines in Ukraine, if at all. At that point, it may very well be a moot point.

Now THAT is how you do a Recognition Test

I just love ship, aircraft, and vehicle recognition tests and flashcards, something I dug ever since I was a kid and saw the posters on the walls of Cary Grant’s cabin in the WWII Coastwatcher comedy Father Goose.

I can’t tell you how many different decks of these I have on the shelf! And don’t even get me started on how many dusty old volumes of Jane’s Fighting Ships I have.

However, as anyone can tell you from actual spotting work, those flat diagrams and silhouettes leave much to be desired when it comes to actually being able to tell things apart in real life.

Enter a recent NATO exercise in the Baltics as part of the Iron Spear armored gunnery competition saw 34 teams from 13 NATO countries deploy to Latvia to strut their stuff. With so much dissimilar equipment on hand, it seemed the perfect time to do some real-world up close and personal recognition training.  

How many can you identify?

Oh what a night!

Here’s hoping your New Year’s is off to a better start!

Official caption: “New Years’ morning, 1945, found this Douglas C-47 cargo carrier of the 14th AF on a China Road after a moonlit landing.”

“U.S. Air force Number 3A00987. Print received 16 Feb 1945 from BPR (Air Forces Group) Stamped: Passed for pub., U.S. Army Press Censor.” NARA 342-FH_000382

Fighting the battle of “the Hump” just to get into the War, the Fourteenth Air Force’s work in the China Burma India Theater (CBI), from inheriting the Flying Tigers of Claire Chennault’s American Volunteer Group just after Pearl Harbor and morphing to the China Air Task Force (CATF) before becoming the full-fledged 14th AF in March 1943, then two years fighting the Japanese across the sub-continent are largely forgotten.

Nonetheless, as noted by the National Museum of the USAF:

Despite supply problems, the 14th Air Force grew from fewer than 200 aircraft to more than 700 planes by the end of the war. American airmen in China destroyed and damaged more than 4,000 Japanese aircraft during the war. They also sank more than a million tons of shipping and destroyed hundreds of locomotives, trucks, and bridges while helping to defeat the Japanese in China.

“… I judge the operations of the 14th Air Force to have constituted between 60 percent and 75 percent of our effective opposition in China. Without the (14th) air force we could have gone anywhere we wished.” – Lt. Gen. Takahashi, Japanese Chief of Staff in China.

Ping! Happy 90th Birthday, Garand Patent

On 27 December 1932, the U.S. Patent Office granted Case File No. 1,892,141, for a “Semi-Automatic Rifle” to one John C. Garand, aged 44 of Massachusetts. The rest is history.

The 75-page patent application filled out and filed by Mr. Garand himself is so historical that it is fully digitized in the U.S. National Archives.

Filed in April 1930, it was endorsed by the Secretary of War with W.N. Roach, the Army’s Chief of the Patent Branch of the Ordnance Department, signing the drawing sheets and application forms as Garand’s attorney of record. His address was simply listed as Springfield Armory.

The petition, signed by Garand. (Photo: National Archives)

Among the most captivating pieces of the application were several pages of diagrams, all of which are suitable for framing in any man cave.

Tooth to Tail Ratio

The United States Military Academy at West Point may have only a nine percent acceptance rate but they have an 85 percent graduation rate, offering undergrad degrees across 36 majors and 19 minor options. Marking its 220th anniversary this year, the school is the oldest service academy not only in the U.S. but in the hemisphere.

Earlier this month, West Point’s 944 Army-accepted “Firsties” (seniors) attended Branch Night, learning their branch assignments among the service’s 17 branches and receiving its corresponding insignia.

Of interest is the breakdown, as follows:

  • Infantry: 185
  • Field Artillery: 146
  • Engineers: 122
  • Armor: 92
  • Aviation: 88
  • Military Intelligence: 61
  • Air Defense Artillery: 53
  • Cyber: 40
  • Signal Corps: 38
  • Medical Service: 21
  • Transportation Corps: 18
  • Adjutant General: 16
  • Quarter Master: 16
  • Ordnance/EOD: 13/12
  • Military Police: 10
  • Chemical Corps: 8
  • Finance Corps: 6
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