Category Archives: US Army

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen. Hold your family close today.

Pvt. William R. Loop (left) of Binghamton, N.Y., bids farewell to his father, Cpl. Roderick R. Loop, also of Binghamton, who is leaving Italy’s Anzio Beachhead for a tour of duty in the United States. Both father and son enlisted together in the Army, and have been in the same tank battalion which has figured prominently in recent attacks. 6 March, 1944. (Signal Corps Radio Telephoto from Algiers, now  in NARA)

Cracking the Army’s Budget Book on SmallArms

The Army’s recently announced budget request for the fiscal year 2022 includes at least $114 million for new rifles, handguns, and the next generation of small arms. 

While the overall FY2022 Defense Department Budget is $112 billion, most of the non-operational dollars are for high-level R&D and big-ticket items like the F-35 fighter. The Army’s budget book for weapons and tracked combat vehicles meanwhile has a low nine-figure ask when it comes to individual small arms. 

The bulk ($97 million) is to go to the Next Generation Squad Weapons, with much of the balance to acquire new Barrett-made Precision Sniper Rifles, and a few crumbs for M4s, M17s, and the like.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Brushing Up, 77 Years Ago Today

Original Caption: “PFC Rocco Festa, 328 Ft. Hamilton Parkway, Brooklyn, N.Y., brushes up on his French as he awaits transfer from a personnel carrier to a landing craft. Destination: a Normandy beachhead. Aboard SS John Hay.

Note the MP brassard and helmet stripe as well as the 2nd Infantry “Indianhead” Div shoulder patch, which was returning to France for its second world war. He also has an M1 carbine over his shoulder and a ship’s hose behind him. Signal Corps Photo 190428, via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/176887974

PFC Festa survived backpacking through Europe with 2ID and passed away in 2011, age 94. He is buried in Mount Saint Mary Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, alongside his wife Margaret who went on ahead in 2003 to get the house ready.

MPs on the Normandy Beachhead were extremely busy, securing thousands of enemy prisoners of war bagged in the initial landings and subsequent outbreak. Over the next 10 months, 2ID would process 51,055 EPWs, making the division’s MP platoon very, very busy. Odds are, PFC Festa learned a lot more German than French!

After suffering 16,795 battle casualties spending 303 days in combat across Northwest and Central Europe from Omaha Beach to Czechoslovakia– where they were still in combat on VE Day– 2ID would go on to see a war of a different sort in Korea, where they remain today.

Army Publically Reaffirms Their Love of the M240

The adage for the past couple of decades among Joes (skip this if you are sensitive as it may be NSFW) is that the 5056 NATO-caliber M249 SAW is like a high-maintenance first wife: you have to pamper and court her and maybe, just maybe, she will work out. The 7.62 NATO-chambered M240 on the other hand, is just a dirty whore: no matter what you do to her, she’ll keep on working through the night, rain or shine.

Thus endith the addage.

There may be some smoke to that, as, in my experience, I have never seen any but a factory fresh and over-lubed SAW run a full 200-round belt without a stoppage under field conditions whereas I have also seen some downright grungy and funky M240s chew through belt after belt. This may be why the Marines have largely dumped the SAW for the M27 IAR and the Army is looking to move on to the NGSW-AR to put the M249 in the rearview.

As further reinforcement to the M240 not going anywhere any time soon, Picatinny Arsenal just issued a five-year $92 million contract for more deliveries of that beautiful FN-made GPMG.

I got to see how the magic happens on FN’s 240 lines back in 2019, and these things are built like a tank.

Could the Army Ditch Brass for Plastic?

The hybrid polymer-cased cartridge, developed by Texas-based True Velocity as part of the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon program, is compatible with legacy firearms as well.

The 6.8mm TVCM composite case design, coupled with the Army’s 6.8mm (.277-caliber) common cartridge projectile, was originally developed and optimized for use in the NGSW-Rifle and NGSW-Automatic Rifle submissions submitted to that military program by General Dynamics-OTS. It performs better ballistically than 7.62 NATO and weighs 30 percent less.

However, using what True Velocity characterizes as a “switch barrel” capability, they have demonstrated it can work with much of the Army’s currently fielded small arms including the M240B belt-fed machine gun, the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, and the M134 minigun.

Which could mean that, even if NGSW tanks, there could be a revolutionary advance in the ammo used by U.S. troops in the near future.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Marauders Over the Beach

76 Years Ago this morning.

Original caption: One of the many B-26 Martin Marauders of the 9th AF is shown over the coast of France during the early morning giving a cover to the landing craft shown on the beaches below. These hard-hitting medium bombers gave cover for the greatest airborne troop-carrying armada ever assembled, then furnished an air umbrella for the landing craft as the final phase of the Battle for the Liberation of Europe got underway.

Photo 342-FH-51988AC via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/12003988

Photo 342-FH-51988AC via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/12003988

Remember the Reason Today

Keep in mind today the real reason why the mail doesn’t run, public employees have a three-day weekend, and why your mailbox is full of tasteless fliers.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) commissioning pennant, used 15 November 1932, currently enshrined at the Indiana War Memorial. (Photo: Chris Eger)

Col. (Ret.) Ralph Puckett Jr., new to the MOH at age 94

Born 8 December 1926 in Tipton, Georgia, Ralph Puckett Jr. was still at West Point when VE and later VJ Day came, and, when he joined the service as a freshly-minted butter bar in 1949, wanted to be a Ranger so bad that he volunteered to “take a squad leader’s or rifleman’s job” with the 8th Army Ranger Company since no officer billets were available.

It was with the Rangers that Puckett shipped out for Korea the next fall, having a meeting with destiny at a place remembered as Hill 205, where his 57 Rangers and Korean soldiers held on against six battalion-sized attacks over two days and nights in freezing conditions.

From his, eventual, MOH citation:

First Lieutenant Puckett distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Unsan, Korea, on 25 and 26 November 1950. With complete disregard for his personal safety, First Lieutenant Puckett led his company across eight hundred yards of open terrain under heavy enemy small-arms fire and captured the company’s objective. During this operation he deliberately exposed himself to enemy machine-gun fire to enable his men to spot locations of the machine guns. After capturing the objective, he directed preparation of defensive positions against an expected enemy counterattack. At 2200 hours on 25 November 1950, while directing the defense of his position against a heavy counterattack, he was wounded in the right shoulder. Refusing evacuation, he continued to direct his company through four more counterattacks by a numerically superior force who advanced to within grenade range before being driven back. During these attacks, he left the safety of his foxhole in order to observe movements of the enemy and to direct artillery fire. In so doing, he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy small-arms and mortar fire. In the sixth counterattack, at 0300 hours on 26 November 1950, he was wounded again, so seriously that he was unable to move. Detecting that his company was about to be overrun and forced to withdraw, he ordered his men to leave him behind so as not to endanger their withdrawal. Despite his protests, he was dragged from the hill to a position of safety. First Lieutenant Puckett’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army

Initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his Korean tour, Puckett would remain on active duty, picking up a second DSC in Vietnam in 1967 to add to two Silver Stars; two Legions of Merit; two Bronze Stars with V device for valor; five Purple Hearts; ten Air Medals; the Army Commendation Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.

He picked up his MOH upgrade last week at the White House, dressed in newly issued Army Greens, which ironically are almost identical to his 1949 service uniform.

Guard Gets A7 Paladin Long Toms

Soldiers with the North Carolina National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment, fire newly fielded M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, May 20, 2021. The battalion is the first National Guard unit to receive the new Artillery. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)

Via North Carolina National Guard:

The 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment (1-113th FA), 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) conducted an artillery live-fire exercise with the newly fielded M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer System at Fort Bragg May 20-21.

The 30th ABCT was the first National Guard brigade to receive the newest iteration of the Paladin and trained for almost two weeks before the live-fire event.

During the training, 1-113th Soldiers had the opportunities to learn the differences between the old hydraulic system and the new electric system before heading to the range.

Staff Sgt. Cody Fields, a section chief with C Battery, 1-113th FA, was excited to learn the new system.

“The new weapons system allows us to do it a little bit faster,” Fields said. “Everything went from hydraulic to electric. It allows us to mitigate some of the maintenance issues we had in the past.”

More here.

Ghost Army Halfway to Congressional Gold Medal

“Ghost Army” Insignia circa 1944.

The U.S. House passed H.R.707, Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act, on the 19th, sending it to the Senate.

The bipartisan (173 Dems, 126 Republicans as co-sponsors) resolution finds the following:

(1) The 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, comprised of the 23d Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops, the 603d Engineer Camouflage Battalion, the 406th Combat Engineer Company, the 3132d Signal Service Company and the Signal Company, Special, 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company were top-secret units of the United States Army that served in Europe during World War II.

(2) The 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, was actively engaged in battlefield operations from June of 1944 through March of 1945. The 3133d Signal Service Company was engaged in operations in Italy in 1945.

(3) The deceptive activities of these units were integral to several Allied victories across Europe and reduced American casualties.

(4) In evaluating the performance of these units after the War, a U.S. Army analysis found that “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign.”.

(5) Many Ghost Army soldiers were citizen-soldiers recruited from art schools, advertising agencies, communications companies, and other creative and technical professions.

(6) The first four members of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, landed on D-Day and two became casualties while creating false beach landing sites.

(7) The 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, secret deception operations commenced in France on June 14, 1944, when Task Force Mason, a 17-man detachment of the 23d led by First Lieutenant Bernard Mason, landed at Omaha Beach. Task Force Mason conducted Operation ELEPHANT between 1 and 4 July, 1944, to draw enemy fire and protect the 980th Field Artillery Battalion (VIII Corps) as part of the Normandy Campaign.

(8) Operation ELEPHANT was a prelude to 21 full-scale tactical deceptions completed by the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops.

(9) Often operating on or near the front lines, the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, used inflatable tanks, artillery, airplanes and other vehicles, advanced engineered soundtracks, and skillfully crafted radio trickery to create the illusion of sizable American forces where there were none and to draw the enemy away from Allied troops.

(10) The 3132d and the 3133d Signal Service Companies, activated in Pine Camp (now Fort Drum), New York, at the Army Experimental Station in March 1944, were the only two active duty “sonic deception” ground combat units in World War II.

(11) Soldiers of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, impersonated other, larger Army units by sewing counterfeit patches onto their uniforms, painting false markings on their vehicles, and creating phony headquarters staffed by fake generals, all in an effort to feed false information to Axis spies.

(12) During the Battle of the Bulge, the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, created counterfeit radio traffic to mask the efforts of General George Patton’s Third Army as it mobilized to break through to the 101st Airborne and elements of 10th Armored Division in the besieged Belgian town of Bastogne.

(13) In its final mission, Operation VIERSEN, in March 1945, the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, conducted a tactical deception that drew German units down the Rhine River and away from the Ninth Army, allowing the Ninth Army to cross the Rhine into Germany. On this mission, the 1,100 men of the Ghost Army, with the assistance of other units, impersonated forty thousand men, or two complete divisions of American forces, by using fabricated radio networks, soundtracks of construction work and artillery fire, and more than 600 inflatable vehicles. According to a military intelligence officer of the 79th Infantry, “There is no doubt that Operation VIERSEN materially assisted in deceiving the enemy with regard to the real dispositions and intentions of this Army.”.

(14) Three soldiers of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops, gave their lives and dozens were injured in carrying out their mission.

(15) In April 1945, the 3133d Signal Service Company conducted Operation CRAFTSMAN in support of Operation SECOND WIND, the successful allied effort to break through the German defensive position to the north of Florence, Italy, known as the Gothic Line. Along with an attached platoon of British engineers, who were inflatable decoy specialists, the 3133d Signal Service Company used sonic deception to misrepresent troop locations along this defensive line.

(16) The activities of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company remained highly classified for more than forty years after the war and were never formally recognized. The extraordinary accomplishments of this unit are deserving of belated official recognition.

(17) The United States is eternally grateful to the soldiers of the 23d Headquarters, Special Troops and the 3133d Signal Service Company for their proficient use of innovative tactics throughout World War II, which saved lives and made significant contributions to the defeat of the Axis powers.

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