Category Archives: US Army

The 175mm God of War, or at least Southeast Asia

Official Caption: Ready for Firing – The 30-foot tube of the 175mm gun points the direction. Its 150-pound projectile will travel up to 20 miles. Date: 1969.

That year, the Marine Corps retired the aging M53 gun and converted all the 155mm Fires batteries to 175mm Gun Batteries after the 12th Marines had enjoyed the support of Army 175s in Vietnam in 1967-68.

Note the flak vests and M1 helmets without blouses, and the on-gun rack for the M16A1s. Source: 1stMarDiv [1st Marine Division] Photog: LCpl A. C. Prentiss Defense Dept. Photo (Marine Corps)

The M107 175 mm self-propelled gun was a 28-ton beast that could move over roads at up to 50mph (in theory) and was able to hurtle 147-pound shells to 25 miles, far outclassing 155mm and 105mm pieces and rivaling the impractically large 203mm guns and naval gunfire support from 6- and 8-inch guns on cruisers and 5-inch guns from destroyers/frigates.

SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires an M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, January 1968. (U.S. Army photo)

The guns could lay lots of warheads on foreheads so to speak. In 1968’s six-day Operation Thor, Marine artillery averaged 4,000 rounds per day into the target area from 155, 175, and 203mm guns, in addition to 3,300 daily naval gunfire support shells and 2,400 tons of ordnance dropped by aircraft every 24 hours.

Post-Vietnam, the Army updated their remaining M107s to 8-inch guns for use in Europe for another decade along the Fulda Gap, dubbing the new vehicle M110A2s, while the Marines went back to lighter, towed 155mm guns.

Other than use by the IDF against various neighbors and by the Iranians against the Iraqis in the 1980s, the only combat saw by the M107 was by the Army and Marines in Vietnam– where several captured in 1975 are still in arsenal storage.

Ever Seen a General Officer Beretta?

Typically, the only way to get one of the coveted and extremely rare General Officer pistols is to become a general in the U.S. military. About that…

The Army’s General Officer Pistol program dates back to at least 1972 when the service’s Rock Island Arsenal began producing M15 pistols for general officers, a gun that led to the now-popular Officer series of M1911s.

U.S. Army issue an M15 General Officer pistol (S/N GO481). The M15 pistols were manufactured solely by Rock Island Arsenal starting in the early 1970s through approximately 1985 when the US Army adopted the Beretta M9 pistol. This gun was sold at an RIA auction a few years ago for $6,900.

Marked with serial numbers prefixed with the letters “GO,” the program switched to issuing M9 Berettas in the 1980s then in 2018, in a story I previously broke for Guns.com, to Sig Sauer M18 GO models.

Other than the special serial number range, GO models are issued for operational use and are essentially no different from standard-issue pistols. However, the average Joe can’t buy his gun when out-processing from the military, whereas generals can.

According to U.S. law, at the end of their service, generals can purchase their issued pistols, which are unfathomably rare, museum-worthy collectibles if not retained by the family. As noted by the Army, famed WWII Gens. Omar N. Bradley, George S. Patton, and Dwight D. Eisenhower all purchased their guns when they left the military

A rarity, the General Officer M9 I’ve been checking out lately was obtained directly from a retired U.S. Army general who had more than thirty years of successful military service spanning the Cold War and Desert Storm, including more than five years with the famed 82d Airborne Division.

Boom

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Army to Glock: Give us $15M worth of ‘Perfection’

The Pentagon apparently went looking for some “Glock Perfection” and last week tapped the company with a contract worth up to $15 million. 

Smyrna, Georgia’s Glock, Inc, was awarded a $14,999,980 firm-fixed-price five-year contract “for various firearms, spare magazines, and spare parts.”  The contracting activity was the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Newark, New Jersey. 

The 59-page Solicitation Notice, published by Picatinny Arsenal in July, was specifically to “procure non-standard weapons/commercially available Glock weapon systems” including up to 1,500 G17 model handguns; 5,000 G19s; and 2,200 G26 pistols across several generations (Gen3, Gen4, and Gen5). Modular Optic System (MOS) (G19, Gen 3, 4, 5) and threaded barrel versions (Metric or Standard threads, G19 MOS, Gen 4, 5) were also covered.

“A Green Beret demonstrates how to dismantle an M249 light machine gun to partner force soldiers of the Maghaweir al-Thowra (MaT) during a machine gun familiarization range at al-Tanf Garrison, Syria, March 4, 2020.” Note the holstered Glock, complete with factory night sights, in what could be termed a “field-modified” holster. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Howard)

More in my column at Guns.com.

Buffalo Soldiers Remembered at West Point

Lost in the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 remembrances over the weekend was a small ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy where Gen. (Ret.) Vincent K. Brooks presided over the dedication of a monument honoring the service of the “Buffalo Soldiers” who served for 40 years at West Point.

Founded immediately after the Civil War to take advantage of a pool of over 140,000 surviving members of the segregated wartime USCT, which had been disbanded on October 1865, the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiments, along with the four regiments black infantry (the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st– later amalgamated in 1869 to the 24th and 25th Infantry due to service-wide budget cuts) carried the legacy of some 175 regiments of freedmen who fought in the last two years of the War Between the States.

Fighting in virtually every campaign of the Plains Wars in between policing the border regions and patrolling Yosemite National Park in the days before the service’s armed rangers, the Buffalo Soldiers also went overseas to mix it up with the Spaniards in 1898 and serve in the Philippines against assorted insurgents. Notably, five members of the 10th Cavalry earned the Medal of Honor during the Spanish–American War.

The 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, fighting dismounted in the Battle of Las Guasimas, Cuba, 24 June 1898. Via the LOC LC-DIG-PGA-01889

One of the most unsung duties, at least until this week, that these professional horse soldiers performed, was in providing for the standing United States Military Academy Detachment of Cavalry.

Made up of 100 long-service black non-commissioned officers and senior enlisted who were considered among the best in the Army, the detachment formed 23 March 1907 to teach future officers at West Point riding instruction, mounted drill, and cavalry tactics, a mission they would perform by the numbers until 1947. The cadets who earned their spurs in such drill included George S. Patton Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Omar N. Bradley.

U.S. Army Photo by John Pellino/USMA PAO

Gifted to the academy by the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, the 10-foot-tall bronze trooper mounted on horseback characterizes the level of horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers. Nationally renowned sculptor Eddie Dixon was commissioned for the piece that bears a likeness to SSG (Ret.) Sanders H. Matthews Sr., a Buffalo Soldier stationed at West Point. Sanders, who founded the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, Inc., worked tirelessly to pay tribute to their memory, and plans to erect the monument have been underway since 2017.

“These Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country, and ideals of the Army Ethic,” said the U.S. Military Academy 60th Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams. “This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored, and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”

U.S. Army Photo by John Pellino/USMA PAO

A Splash of Color in a Sea of Doughboy Brown

American Expeditionary Forces Distinctive Cloth Insignia Chart.

For reference, on 6 April 1917, when the U.S. declared war against Imperial Germany, the nation had a standing army of 127,500 officers and men while the entire National Guard had another 181,620 members. The concept of full divisional-sized operations was almost alien, an abstract theory.

By Armistice Day, one cavalry division and a staggering 63 infantry divisions were planned, although many of those never took the field. By the end of the war, over four million men had served in the United States Army, with an additional 800,000 in other military service branches. While 24,234,021 men registered for the draft, a full third of those that served in the ranks were volunteers. Some 745,845 left in the American Expeditionary Forces. 

1917 Government Issue

I recently got a chance to check out this beauty

What we have here is a beautiful Colt Model of 1911 U.S. Army whose serial number, 164462, puts its production squarely in the range of guns made in 1917, during the ramp-up between American pre-war examples and the simplified “Black Army” Colts. For reference, Colt in 1917 produced some 70,000 GIs while in 1918 they made over 360,000.

The frame is correctly marked with the “GHS” stamp of U.S. Army Major Gilbert H. Stewart, who was the inspector of ordnance from Sept. 1914 to Jan. 1918. Accepted martial Colts in the serial number range between 101,500 and 230,000 should have Stewart’s initials.

Intact M1911 models are rarely encountered even though some 650,000 or so were made between 1912 and 1925. After that time, most still in military stores were reworked to the updated M1911A1 standard which saw a different mainspring housing and small parts. Further arsenal rebuilds saw blued finishes replaced with a heavy parkerized coating. Likewise, such reworks will have a variety of arsenal codes (AA, SA, RIA, etc.), which this pistol does not carry.

As the price of even Black Army models skyrocket, nicely blued military-marked M1911s will likely continue to gain value.

Back-to-Back Gulf War Champ: End of an Era

Beretta recently announced the end of an era as the final M9 pistol left the factory for bound for a U.S. military contract.

A variant of the Beretta Model 92, which was introduced in the 1970s, was adopted by the U.S. Army as the M9 in early 1984 to replace stocks of the M1911A1 that dated back to World War II. The initial five-year $56.4 million contract, to produce 315,930 units for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, ended up running more than three decades, greatly surpassing those numbers.

The famed Italian gunmaker built a plant in Accokeek, Maryland to produce the pistol, then moved production to a new facility in Tennessee in 2014.

The last U.S. martial Beretta M9, shipped last week.

More in my column at Guns.com.

103 Years Ago Today (ish?), Pulling the 75s

September 9, 1918: Six-horse artillery caissons of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, “The Big Red One,” moving up through the woods in Mandres aux Tours (Mandres-aux-Quatre-Tours?), in north-east France’s Lorraine region. The guns should be famed “French 75s” (Canon de 75 modèle 1897) of which the American Expeditionary Forces used some 1,900 during 1917-18, dubbed the more GI “75 mm Gun M1897.”

Note the consistency of the horse’s coats and the doughboys smoking cigarettes as they ride. Photo via the Society of the First Infantry Division 

However, a 1936 Christmas Card for the veterans of the 1st ID’s 76th Field Artillery Regiment, signed by John J. Waterman, Lieutenant Colonel, reads:

Battery B moving through the woods, Mandres aux Tours, France, August 9, 1918. 

A copy of this picture enlarged by two by three feet hung in the office of the Chief of Field Artillery. The regiment spent a little over two weeks at Mandres, re-equipping, and training for the St. Michel offensive.

Of note, the commander of the regiment’s Battery D should be familiar to students of military history.

Besides St. Mihiel, the regiment fought during the Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, and Meuse-Argonne offensives in the Great War, for which it was presented the Croix de Guerre with Gold Star, and completed occupation duty in Germany.
 
During WWII, it was converted from horse-drawn to motorized operation then landed in France (again) at Utah Beach in 1944, then fought assigned in elements to the 7th, 8th, 3rd, and 1st Infantry Divisions (the regiment had five battalions). 
 
The last active element of the regiment, 1st Battalion, was part of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and carried its 105mm howitzers to Iraq three times and once to Afghanistan before inactivation in 2015.

Happy Labor Day, Almost Inverted Jenny edition

Sept. 1918, via the Ledger Art Service: “Airplane coming down at a difficult angle after a flight over Philadelphia’ Labor Day Parade.” From the looks of it, it seems to be an Army Curtiss JN-4 Jenny trainer, of the same type as the famous stamp.

Signal Corps photo 111-SC-45453 via the National Archives. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/86697115

Enjoy your day. See you tomorrow.

Lost Market Garden All American Identified

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced on Sept. 1 that U.S. Army Pvt. Stephen C. Mason, 21, of Jersey City, New Jersey, killed during World War II, has been recently identified.

Mason, assigned to Headquarters Co., 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd (“All American”) Airborne Division, was reported missing in action during the famed “Bridge too far” that was Operation Market Garden after his patrol failed to return from a mission “into a heavily-fortified enemy position and by aggressive action gained specific information of the enemy disposition and strength” near Beek, Netherlands on 3 November 1944. His body was unable to be recovered. Mason posthumously received the Silver Star for his actions.

Declared “non-recoverable” in January 1951, PVT Mason was later memorialized on the “Walls of the Missing” at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten.

Fast forward to 2017, and DPAA set to analyze a set of remains known as “X-3323 Neuville,” which had been recovered near Beek in 1946 and interred in the UK. This July, after extensive efforts, it was determined that X-3323 Neuville was Mason.

He will be buried in North Arlington, New Jersey, and a rosette placed next to his name at Margraten.

Welcome home, PVT Mason.

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