Category Archives: US Army

Flying Banana Gunner

We’ve come a long way in 60 years when it comes to helicopter gunships.

Here we see U.S. Army PFC Glenn W. Rehkamp, 57th Helicopter Company, manning his .30-caliber M1919A6 door gun on a CH-21 helicopter, 1 Feb 63.

U.S. Army Photo by PFC Jose C. Rivera DASPO via NARA

The Piasecki H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee, commonly called the “flying banana” for obvious reasons, served extensively with the French Army and Air Force in the Algerian War in the 1950s– sometimes equipped with .50 cals and 20mm cannons as some of the first helicopter gunships.

After some heavy use in the early days of U.S. involvement in Vietnam– including the 57th THC with early H-21C gunship variants– the type was soon withdrawn in favor of the Huey and Chinook.

Drink in these shots from 1957 of H-21 gunship experiments at Fort Rucker, including a chin turret repurposed from an old B-29, forward-firing M1919s, and HVAR rockets.

West Pac Coasties

As covered in detail in the past few years, the Coast Guard has been pumping up its assets in the Pacific and extensively putting them to use West of Hawaii.

A few new updates came across the wires to this overall strategy recently that underline that.

First, the big frigate-sized 418-foot national security cutter USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752) is currently operating as part of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71, U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force, deployed in the Indo-Pacific. She recently called at Singapore and operated with Indonesian and Singapore naval assets.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) conducts passing exercises with the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency patrol boat KN Belut Laut-406 and the Republic of Singapore Navy MSRV Bastion on May 22, 2023. Stratton deployed to the Western Pacific to conduct engagements with regional allies and partner nations, reinforcing rules-based order in the maritime domain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Brett Cote)

Meanwhile, on the ground in the PI, San Diego-based USCG Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) personnel participated in Balikatan 23, the growing multi-week annual combined-joint military exercise between the Philippines and the U.S.

Sure, it is just a handful of guys, but this is how connections are made.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Special Warfare Operators pose for a photo with members of U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) after conducting close-quarters training during Balikatan 23 near El Nido, Philippines, April 13. 2023. MSRT West personnel operated in multiple locations throughout the Philippines, and provided maritime interdiction operations training alongside other U.S. and Philippine armed forces. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo).

Dig that tiger stripe camo and the M203! Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Special Warfare Operators conduct close-quarters training with members of U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) members as part of Balikatan 23 near El Nido, Philippines, April 14. 2023. MSRT West personnel operated in multiple locations throughout the Philippines and provided maritime interdiction operations training alongside other U.S. and Philippine armed forces. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo).

Via USCG PAO, emphasis mine:

During the exercise, MSRT West personnel trained, operated, and lived alongside partner agencies in the Philippines, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard Special Operations Forces, the Philippine Force Reconnaissance Group, and the Philippine Naval Special Operations Unit.

The deployed MSRT West personnel participated in the exercise’s opening ceremonies, integrated with command-and-control elements, conducted close-quarters combat training, shared tactical shipboarding skills, maritime operational planning, littoral and maritime target analysis, static hook and climb training, basic tropical environment survival training, and law enforcement case package preparation exchanges.

Finally, some 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) ODAs recently teamed up with Coast Guard reservists from Port Security Unit 308 to train to “clear and re-take a vessel overrun by adversaries,” with the subject vessel being the USCGC Walnut, a 225-foot buoy tender.

Sure, 3rd Group is tasked with Africa deployments, but the takeaway here is all of the Coast Guard’s PSUs are worldwide deployable, and VBSS-style ship takedowns are a bit past what they were traditionally trained for. Such skills could be very useful in a white hull vs blue hull struggle in the South China Sea.

Of note, the Philippine coastguard recently anchored five navigational buoys carrying national flags in several locations including the Whitsun Reef, where China has routinely moored hundreds of Chinese Maritime Militia “little blue men” vessels since 2021.

Electric Acorn adding Raider Boats to the Mix

The U.S. Army’s Hawaii-based 25th Infantry “Tropic Lightning” Division has been putting its troops into Zodiacs for what the Marines these days would call a Maritime Raid Force or combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC) boat company work.

A series of great images released this week on social media show elements of the 25th ID’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team including B Coy, 2-35 Infantry, and 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry getting wet. Photos: SPC Jet Hodgkin | HHC, 2-35 IN

Official captions:

“Recently Beast Company strategically executed Amphibious Assault training consisting of ocean navigation, beachfront terrain, and a hasty assault on a Military Operations in Urban Terrain site. Upon securing their objective, B Co egressed via Zodiac waterborne vehicles to follow on with interrogation operations with their captured high-value target.”

“Soldiers assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID conducted waterborne operations, honing their skills on zodiac small boats. Soldiers focused on open water transit, insertion, and extraction techniques. Training like this prepares Soldiers for difficult transitions between sea and land, making them more flexible and lethal in the Pacific theater.”

There have also been lots of pool training and swim tests across the 25th ID in the past few years.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Scott)

Keep in mind that, while over-the-beach ops are the Marines’ specialty, it was the Army that pulled off D-Day, and any future Pacific dust-up could see lots of Joes in boats at some point.

Cue, ‘Fortunate Son’…

I recently hit the road in southwest Alabama and visited the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, one of the largest military helicopter collections in the world.

Located at Fort Novosel (formerly Fort Rucker, aka “Mother Rucker”), the sprawling 60,000-acre complex has been home to all Army helicopter training since 1959 and all aviation training since 1973. 

The Museum has over 250 aircraft in its inventory – some incredibly rare.

The post earlier this year was named in honor of Army CWO Michael J. Novosel, a UH-1 medevac pilot who evacuated an amazing 5,589 wounded personnel while in Vietnam, earning a well-deserved Medal of Honor.

While I have a full 15-minute video and lots of images over in my column at GDC, these two struck me as appropriate for today.

In a sobering display, a downed Huey is shown in the center of the museum’s main gallery.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association estimates over 3,300 UH-1 models were lost either due to combat or accidents during the war.

Marshal-Admiral, departing

80 years ago today: The ashes of Marshal-Admiral (posthumous) Isoroku Yamamoto return to the Empire of Japan aboard the Yamato-class super dreadnought Musashi, 23 May 1943, his last flagship, prior to a full state funeral to be held two weeks later.

He had been eliminated the month prior in a special mission (Operation Vengeance), in which P-38 Lightnings from the 339th Fighter Squadron downed his relatively lightly escorted transport bomber over Bougainville.

“Mission Accomplished” by Roy Grinnell, depicting Lt Rex Barber downing Yamamoto’s Betty, 18 April 1943

Legend had it he was found in the jungle, thrown clear of the wreckage, his white-gloved hand grasping the hilt of his katana, still upright in his seat under a tree. Less widely disseminated was that he was the recipient of a burst of .50 cal tracer.

While Yamamoto had indeed “run amok” across the Pacific for the first six months of the war, his track record for the last 10 months of his command was by far less successful. The command baton for the Combined Fleet would be passed to Admiral Mineichi Koga, who would also be killed when his plane went down in March 1944.

While Musashi has long been on the bottom of the Pacific, Yamamoto’s G4M1 Model 11 Betty, Manufacture Number 2656, Tail 323, is still on Bougainville and is a popular, if remote, attraction for those who know.

Warhawk Close-up

80 years ago. North African Campaign, Tunisia, May 1943: A great shot of a Curtiss P-40K-1-CU Warhawk from the 64th Fighter Squadron (The Black Scorpions), 57th Fighter Group, of Ninth Air Force, USAAF. The ground crewman is riding the wing to relay to the pilot to avoid ground obstacles that the aviator at the controls of the tail dragger is unable to see due to the angle. 

Via LIFE Archives

The above aircraft is “White 13” (SN 42-46040), “Savoy” assigned to 22-year-old 1st LT (later Capt.) Robert Johnson “Jay’ Overcash, and was likely taken either at Hani Airfield or Bou Grara Airfield in North Africa. Note the dot-dot-dot-dash (Morse= V) code and black scorpion on the aircraft’s fuselage along with the disembodied skull. Does it get any more moto?

The image was snapped just a couple weeks after the 64th Squadron famously mixed it up over the Sicilian straits with a German air convoy on 18 April during which 74 enemy planes, mostly transports, were claimed destroyed. The event was known in the 57th FG as “The Palm Sunday Massacre.”

Soon after this image was taken, 46040 was transferred further East to a Chinese KMT AF training unit in Karachi, India, and would be wrecked at Malir Air Base, India on 30 September, with the pilot trainee at the stick killed.

The unit, constituted as the 64th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) on 20 November 1940, would end the war flying P-47s on interdiction and support operations in northern Italy.

In all, Overcash would be credited with 5 victories, an ace, the last two flying White 13 (then a P-47) on 26 April 1944, while escorting USAAF B-25s and RAF Baltimores on a bombing mission. Post-war, he transferred to the new U.S. Air Force and retired in 1980 as a U.S. Air Force Reserve Colonel.

Today, the 64th Aggressor Squadron of the 57th Adversary Tactics Group is still around, located at Nellis AFB Nevada.

Army’s New SMG spotted in the Wild

B&T USA in 2018 was one of six companies that submitted designs to the Army for what the service termed “Sub Compact Weapons.” These guns, “capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal and accurate fires at close range with minimal collateral damage,” were to be used by the special teams tasked with protecting high-value officers and dignitaries such as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, as well as units like CID.

In the end, B&T’s APC9K won, giving it big time bragging rights, and the USAF doubled down on a shipment for their own specialized uses.

The B&T APC9K will almost fit in the palm of your hand– if you have really big hands. (Photos: Chris Eger/

The B&T APC9K will almost fit in the palm of your hand– if you have really big hands. (Photos: Chris Eger)

And, the APC9K has been spotted in use by CID types in New Jersey recently.

Spc. Michael Richardson, an Army Intelligence Analyst with the 733rd Military Police Battalion (CID), fires the APC9K submachine gun at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. (Photo/Caption: U.S. Army)

More in my column at

Insult to Inury

80 Years Ago Today: The 6th of May, 1943, near Tunis, Algeria. 1st. Lt. Jerry Collinsworth, USAAF, thumbs his nose at the pilot of a German Luftwaffe Fw190 he just shot down. This was the fourth of six victories scored by Collinsworth, all were Fw190s, all achieved in his Spitfire.

Col. Jerry D. Collinsworth, born in 1919 in Dublin, Texas, was one of the few Americans to become an “ace” flying the British-made Supermarine Spitfire in World War II. Volunteering for the U.S. Army Air Corps in August 1941, by late 1942 he was a pilot in the 307th Fighter Squadron of the 31st Pursuit Group in Europe and North Africa, where he would log 125 sorties, first in P-39 Airacobras and then in Mk. V Spitfires.

Between February and July 1943, he shot down six Axis aircraft along with one probable and one damaged.

“As I said, I shot down one a month. A couple of them bailed out. I even went back and thumbed my nose at one of them,” noted Collinsworth in a 2002 interview.

In all, just nine USAAF fighter squadrons (2nd, 4th, 5th of the 52nd FG; 307th, 308th, 309th of the 31st FG, and 334th, 335th, 336th– formerly “Eagle Squadrons” Nos. 71, 121, 133 RAF– of the 4th FG) flew “Spits” during WWII. Meanwhile, five reccee squadrons (13th, 14th, 16th, 22nd, and 111th) utilized a handful of Spitfire PR.XI photo birds and the U.S. Navy’s Cruiser Scouting Squadron Seven (VCS-7) flew Spitfire VBs instead of their floatplanes off Normandy in June-July 1944.

A Spitfire of the 307th Fighter Squadron “Stingers” after an emergency landing on the beaches of Paestum, Italy. In the background, LST 359 is beached at shore. (Incidentally, the 307th still exists, flying the F-15E Strike Eagle from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina while the ship, USS LST-359 was sunk by torpedo attack, on 20 December 1944, by the German submarine U-870 in the eastern Atlantic.)

Finishing the war stateside as a flight instructor, Collinsworth later became certified on jets and flew F-94s, F-104s, and F-100s, retiring as a full bird in 1965.

Postwar, he served as a Professor of Aerospace Studies at Southern Methodist University in Texas and, passing in 2010, is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix, Section 18D, Site 1891.

One last laugh with Billy Waugh

You may have previously heard that ARSOF legend, Retired SGM Billy Waugh, recently packed his duffle for the last time at the age of 93. His military career spanned 30 years from Korea to Vietnam, joining the Army in 1948 (after an unsuccessful attempt to join the Marines at 15 during WWII to make the final push on Japan).

Once retired, in 1977 he joined the CIA’s paramilitary guys and, among other places, took part in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom– in his 70s. While most of his agency work is lost to history, he for sure took part in operations against Quadaffi’s Libya, the Soviets, and in chasing Carlos the Jackal.

In noting his death, the 1st Special Forces Command said Waugh had “inspired a generation of special operations.”

There are three services planned:

12 May: Fairview Cemetery, Bastrop, Texas: There will be a small, private, gathering of family and close friends to spread a small amount of BIlly’s ashes at the Waugh family plot. Billy’s parents, infant brother, and sister are buried there.

27 June: A large memorial, organized by SOCOM, will be held at MacDill AFB. Location and time not provided yet.

22 July, 11:00: Jumping of the ashes. Billy requested that his ashes be HALO jumped and scattered by the HALO team. The time is not known yet, but it will be at Raeford Drop Zone, Raeford, North Carolina.

Happy Saint George’s Day!

This 23 April is roughly the 1,720th anniversary of the execution of a Roman Army Officer, George of Lydda, so condemned by Emperor Diocletian for not renouncing his religious faith. In addition to being venerated across Europe, both Eastern and Western, Saint George is the only saint depicted fighting on horseback– slaying a dragon at that.

Saint George Killing the Dragon c. 1434, Bernat Martorell

Thus he is the patron saint of Cavalrymen and now modern Tankers and Scouts, going back at least to 1917.

Great War BEF commander, Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, a polo enthusiast who began his career as a lieutenant into the 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars on 7 February 1885, slaying the Hun Dragon from his mount on a Mark V tank, Punch 1917

So for all those horse soldiers past and present– the cossacks, cuirassiers, dragoons, chasseurs, hussars, spahis, uhlans, lancers, jäger zu pferde, and mounted rifles, as well as those riding tracks and wheels today, raise a glass!

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