Category Archives: US Army

Rangers, BARs and bayonets, 70 years ago today

Men of the 3rd Ranger Company, 3rd Infantry Division, adjust their gear before undertaking a dawn combat patrol across the Imjin River, Korea. 17 April 1951. Korea.

Signal Corps Photo # 8A/FEC-51-12902 (Welter). From U.S. Army Archives.

Note the BAR M1918 on the left, the “broken TV” patch of the 3ID, fixed bayonets on the Garands, and the M2 select-fire Carbine with its distinctive cone flash-hider to the right.

OSS Training Grounds, as Close as Your Local National Park?

You wouldn’t think it, but the NPS has a great book online that stretches 600 pages and chronicles the use of the country’s national parks during WWII as training grounds for the secret squirrels of Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services: OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in World War II, by Professor John Whiteclay Chambers II of Rutgers University.

It makes sense as many of the early trainees used old CCC camps located deep in the woods on newly-cut logging and forestry roads. Where else would you train super-soldiers, right?

Besides the logical NPS details, the book also goes into extensive coverage of the teams that deployed overseas, with some great illustrations.

Enjoy!

About Yamashita’s “surrender”

Via the Philippine News Agency:

The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) wants erroneous entries on the supposed “surrender” of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita corrected using an original document from soldiers on the battlefield during World War II.

“[General Tomoyuki] Yamashita did not surrender, he was captured by the operatives from the USAFIP-NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon),” retired Maj. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the PVAO, said in an interview.

The USAFIP-NL was a scratch-built force of five Filipino infantry regiments and a field artillery battalion, consisting of roughly 20,000 men with a handful of American officers for liaison and tactical control.

American instructor, with M1 carbine, stands with Filipino guerillas after they were refitted upon making contact with the US Army in 1945 armed with M1 carbines and M1A1 Tommy Guns. They were to become USAFIP troops. 

Commanded by Col. Russell W. Volckmann, U.S. Army, USAFIP-NL was formed from guerillas who fought against the Japanese occupation, and, according to the PVAO, the force, under the U.S. 6th Army, beat the last of Yamashita’s men to ground, capturing the general, who was later turned over to the Americans in Kiangan. The next day, he was flown to Baguio to formally surrender and the Allies later executed the infamous “Tiger of Malaya” for war crimes.

All that is remembered by the history books is the Kiangan-Baguio action, not the initial capture by the Filipino troops. 

A minor point of history, but one that is strongly felt among the country’s remaining 4,000 WWII vets and their families.

Triple 7 Bonus

Chaos Battery, 4th Battalion, 319th (Airborne) Field Artillery Regiment, of the Army’s forward-deployed 173rd Airborne Brigade, recently fired the 155mm Bofors Mark II Bonus round while working with French Army alpine troops in Canjures on 7 March. The Sky Soldiers are using their airmobile BAE Systems M777 “Triple 7s” howitzer alongside the Chasseurs Alpins and their distinctive CAESAR 6×6 truck-mounted guns.

Developed in partnership with France-based Nexter, the Bonus MkII has a range of up to 22 miles and deploys a pair of independent submunitions that scan for targets on their descent, firing through the weak top armor of tanks and AFVs. Unlike smart shells like the Copperhead, which has to be radar-guided, the Bonus is fire-and-forget due to the nature of its autonomous submunitions.

More on that from a BAE propaganda film, below.

Retired from a long career: M1903A3

While attending this year’s inaugural Shooting Sports Showcase, held at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s superb 500-acre Talladega Marksmanship Park, I was lucky enough to find the former Creedmoor shop open on-site. The gun store at the TMP is one of three retail sites that the CMP maintains to sell surplus military rifles to qualified members of the public, with the other two locations being the North Store at Camp Perry and the South Store in Anniston.

Besides a good collection of M1 Garands, they also had a rack of M1917 Enfields and another of M1903A3s on hand.

M1903s

M1917s

The bolt guns have been listed as “sold out” on the CMP’s website for years, as the Army had long ago transferred the final stocks of those rifles on hand to the program. In fact, I remember Shotgun News ads when I was in college for $349 M1903s from the newly-formed CMP, which must have been effective.

The CMP’s site has for years stated, “We do not expect to ever again receive large quantities of these models. Currently, M1903 and M1903A3 models are not available, and CMP is not accepting orders,” when it comes to these guns.

The few that they do get from time to time are typically returned ceremonial rifles loaned by the Army decades ago to Veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans, and others like National Cemetery and LE groups.

Sadly, there is a nationwide epidemic of Veteran halls closing both as the number of active WWII and Korean war-era vets are thinning and COVID restrictions are shutting down revenue-earning enterprises such as bars and bingo halls that were used to fund operations. Further, as the old bolt guns are replaced under the Army’s order to homogenize the program to just CMP-maintained M1s, these long-serving M1917s and M1903s are being handed in.

This brings me to the gun I picked up at Talledega.

The card shows the Remington M1903A3 I selected while at CMP was inspected by an armorer in Anniston on Feb. 17 of this year– just three weeks before I purchased it through the program. Classified as “Service Grade” it has a good bore and is virtually unshot as both the bore and muzzle read #1 when gauged. The serial number dates to February 1943 production as does the barrel.

It sure is pretty.

The Parkerizing is perfect and shows the tooling marks from rushed wartime production. Remember, February 1943 coincided with the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass in North Africa and the green hell of the slog up the Solomons

For reference, CMP’s Service Grade is:

Service Grade Rifles show less wear and better appearance than Field or Rack Grades. Good to very good condition. Rifle wear will be exhibited by worn and mixed colors of the parkerized finish. May have pitting on the metal parts. Wood will be either Walnut, Birch, Beech, or other variety and will be basically sound but may have minor hairline cracks, dings, scratches, and gouges. Wood may not match in color or type of wood. Bores will be generally good with only minor imperfections. The barrel crown may be nicked, but the muzzle will gauge “3 or less” and the throat erosion will gauge less than 5.

It has a Remington Arms “RA” marked S-stock.

As well as an “RA” barrel.

While M1903A3s saw lots of use in WWII, they were mostly issued to second-line troops such as signals, bridging, and engineer units. 

1944- U.S. soldier and Frenchman from Cherbourg toast the liberation of Paris with a glass of rare old wine. Note La Presse, Cherbourg’s newspaper on the table prewar, and the M1903

Odds are that this particular rifle, since the bore is so bright and tight, and it has the correct dated barrel for the receiver and a Remington stock, that it never saw war service and was shipped shortly after the conflict to a Veteran’s hall. There, it was carefully and lovingly taken out of storage once a month for low-impact drill purposes, served on a firing party for interments as needed, and was carried in dozens of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Independence Day parades to escort the color guard.

That would explain the very rough buttplate, that has met the pavement on a regular basis.

As well as nicks and scratches in the stock and sight ears

Nonetheless, I gladly paid $770 for the rifle which was likely just stricken off the Army’s “books” in the past few months.

The cash will go to support marksmanship activities– for instance, the CMP has a scholarship program for qualified junior marksmen in addition to supporting rifle teams in JROTC, 4H, and others. Besides the initial instruction I received from my retired senior NCO grandfather, it was in JROTC that I was first introduced to marksmanship.

Further, as I have no plans to ever put more than a box or so of 150-grain ball through the rifle, this old vet can finally retire at age 78.

The Ghost of Robert Rogers, now taking the Queen’s schilling

One of the key figures in the historically abhorrent but no less entertaining AMC series Turn, portrayed by Angus Macfadyen, was Robert Rogers, the famed irregular whose unit excelled in combat along the frontier during the French and Indian War.

Color mezzotint of a representation by Johann Martin Will of Robert Rogers, published by Thomas Hart Anne S K Brown Military Collection

Known as Wobomagonda (white devil) among the Abenakis, the frontierman gave birth to what was known then as “ranging” warfare, with his men being the Rangers, a scratch unit that had American Indians as well as freedmen in its ranks.

His men were no red-uniformed line infantry, ready for set-piece battle. 

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Rogers’ Company. Summer dress (1949)

Knötel, Herbert, Rogers’ Rangers, 1758. Ranger of Spikeman’s Company, Winter dress (1949)

His most lasting piece of military guidance is, of course, his 28 Rules of Ranging also seen in as a more concise 19 Standing Orders.

A defacto loyalist, as in 1775 he still nominally held a British officer’s commission, Rogers tried to wrangle an appointment from Washington but was spurned, which led him to raise the Queen’s Rangers in 1776– a unit he was cashiered from the next year. The Queen’s Rangers, led at the time by the unremarkable Maj. James Wemyss was decimated at Brandywine when used as traditional infantry, leading the unit to be resurrected by John Graves Simcoe. After the war, the Rangers were sent to Canada and quietly disbanded.

As noted by the British Army today, “After the loss of the North American colonies, the British Army lacked a forested frontier where it could usefully employ a ranger unit and the capability ceased to exist in its pure form,” with later “Ranger” units such as the Central London Rangers, The Connaught Rangers, The Royal Irish Rangers, and The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, holding the name as more of an honorific title than as descriptor for a force designed for a specialist ranger role, or that they used unconventional tactics.

Now, the newly formed Ranger Regiment in the British Army– to be stood up with volunteers drawn from across the infantry as well as from four battalions folded into its organization, 1 SCOTS, 2 PWRR, 2 LANCS, and 4 RIFLES — will officially carry the legacy of the American-born Robert Rogers.

True to form, it will be part of the Army Special Operations Brigade and will be tasked with “unconventional action.

As per the Army:

While the new Rangers might not have to abide by the original 28 Rules of Ranging – including turning up to evening parade with a ‘firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet,’ they will be self-sufficient and highly resourceful, just like the Rangers of the past.

95 Years on Post

Here we see an image of the first permanent armed military guard walking his post at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, 25 March 1926.

Per Arlington:

On March 24, 1926, Major General Fox Connor, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, sent a memorandum to the adjutant general, explaining: “The Secretary of War desires that orders be issued establishing an armed guard (rifle) at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery…. If practicable, orders should be issued by telephone this afternoon in order that the guard may begin tomorrow morning.” Per these orders, the first armed military guard began duty at the Tomb on the morning of March 25, 1926.

The initial day guard, a detail of troopers from 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry (Brave Rifles) at nearby Ft. Meyer, was later expanded to a 24/7 post in 1937, then assumed by the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)– who continue to stand post today— in 1948. 2-3 CAV, which had been sent to D.C. after arriving back from Occupation duty in Germany in 1919, spent so much time assigned to public duties around the District during the interwar period that it was known during this time as the “President’s Own.”

A smartly turned out 2-3 trooper on guard at the Tomb. Note the spurs as the regiment was still mounted until 1940.

The Tomb itself was dedicated on Armistice Day (11 November) 1921, making it 100 this year. Arlington has a special program to honor this somber milestone.

War Graffiti, .50 cal Edition

I’ve talked about the effort by Tooele Army Depot to demil some 7 million rounds of WWII-era .50 cal BMG-– much of it from the nearby Ogaden Arsenal– in the past weeks. Well, the TEAD guys just recently found this message scrawled at the bottom of one of the crates in what looks like black crayon, probably by a patriotic ordnance worker back during the big push on Berlin.

“May the contents of this box blow the shit out of Hitler.” This lot, DM 21170, was made in Iowa at the Des Moines Ordnance Plant (DMOP) which produced nearly four billion . 30 and . 50 caliber bullets from Jan. 1942 through July 1945.

While most of these 80-year-old now-surplus wooden crates are being destroyed, TAD says they will be keeping this gem of war effort salt and putting it in the base museum.

Want some Mustard with that Shell?

For you CBRN/NBC/CBW fans, courtesy of High Caliber History: Drilling into a Mustard Gas Shell!

Filmed in 1918, soldiers in the AEF’s Chemical Warfare Service are taking apart a 155mm German shell filled with mustard gas by drilling into it.

The next time you think your job might be dangerous, be thankful that you’re not somewhere in France during World War I literally drilling into a poisonous mustard gas shell.

Nice Mackinaws

Via the California State Military Museums Program, the below amazing original color photos show an inspection of elements of the newly-formed California State Guard’s 5th Infantry Regiment by the commander of the 4th Infantry Regiment at the CSG’s Camp Ribidoux in Riverside, circa 1942-ish.

Notably, the State Guardsmen are issued Great War-era M1917 “American Enfield” bolt action rifles with 10-pocket belts and long M1917 pattern bayonets, both modified from original British designs. 

Another notable piece of gear is the Mackinaw-cloth plaid jackets, likely drawn from old “Tree Army” Civilian Conservation Corps stocks, an item ordered originally by the U.S. Army that would remain a standard issue for civilian DOD contract construction workers in Iceland and other cold climes during WWII. 

As noted by CSMMP the stocks may have been around when the CGS moved in:

Formerly a labor camp, Camp Ribidoux served as a regimental headquarters, training center, supply depot, and field hospital for the State Guard. Later during the war, the camp was transferred to the Army Service Command’s 9th Service Command for use as a prisoner of war camp.

Both the old CCC guys and the State Guardsmen would likely find it hilarious that hipsters now pay $1K for Japanese repros of the same coat.

Of interest, during my recent trip to the CMP Marksmanship Park last week, the Creedmoor shop had several surplus M1917 returns, via Anniston Army Depot, all with dark bores, likely recently sent back to the Army from closing VFWs. 

They are a much better buy than Japanese repro CCC Mackinaws, in my opinion.

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