Category Archives: US Army

Sitting Bull’s Warhawks

Casablanca, 9 January 1943.

Official caption: “Line-up of 13 P-40 United States Warhawks which Americans recently presented to the Fighting French air forces at an airport somewhere in North Africa on behalf of the people of the United States.”

Note the Curtiss Hawk 75 and at least two Dewoitine D.520s inside the hangar, still wearing Vichy-French stripes. A C-47 Skytrain is visible in the background. U.S. Signal Corps Photo via LOC LC-USW33-000982-ZC. 

These former USAAF 33rd Fighter Group P-40F Warhawks had (unofficially) been transferred to the Free French Armee de l’Air on 25 November 1942, just weeks after the Torch landings, during which they had arrived on the continent via the escort carrier USS Chenango (CVE-28). Meanwhile, the 33rd FG moved up to P-40L models until they transferred to the Far East in 1944 and moved to P-47s. 

The P-40Fs shown above were the property of the Groupe de Chasse GC II/5, dubbed the Lafayette Escadrille, after the American volunteer group of the Great War era whose distinctive “Sitting Bull” logo they carry. As the French pilots had been flying Hawk 75s previously– a type that was basically the uglier older sister to the P-40– transition was likely easy. 

Commanded by the exiled White Russian Kostia “MadKot” Rozanoff, GC II/5 flew missions against Axis troops in Tunisia in 1942 and 1943, and covered convoys through the Med.

Renumbered Escadron de Chasse 2/4 in 1947, La Fayette went on to see service in Indochina and Algeria and currently has a nuclear strike role (dissuasion nucléaire) in Metropolitan France, flying Rafale Cs out of Saint-Dizier.

PFC Milton L. Cook

Original Caption: On 8 January 1967, PFC Milton L. Cook (Baltimore, MD) fires his M60 machine gun spraying a tree line. The platoon received sporadic sniper fire from the tree line earlier. PFC Cook was one of many Soldiers from “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Mechanized Infantry, 25th Infantry Division on a search and destroy mission. The mission was a part of Operation “Cedar Falls” conducted in and around the Filhol Plantation near Cu Chi, Republic of Vietnam.

Killed on at least his second tour in Vietnam, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; Cook’s name is inscribed on the wall on Panel 49W, Line 54.

 

Do you have a Wilde Tool M1905E1 bayonet?

As a gun guy who also has a debilitating knife habit, of course, I am into bayonets, an addiction that I have regularly chronicled. Since my early teens, if I came across one in a swap meet, gun show, estate sale, or buddy’s collection at a decent price, it attracted my hot little hands.

If you have a similar monkey on your back, check your collection for a “WT” marked M1905E1. Produced by Wilde Tool out of Kansas City, Missouri, who made some 60,000 standard 16-inch M1905s for the U.S. M1903 Springfield rifle/M1 Garand, the “E1” mod is the later cutdown mod with the blade trimmed to 10-inches.

Thus

Apparently, they are running the same price as M1s themselves these days!

From the Midwest to Malmedy

Just three Midwestern guys smoking and joking while backpacking through Europe, 76 years ago today.

Official caption: En route to front lines, beyond Malmedy, Belgium, American Infantrymen pause to rest. Left to right, Sgt. Lyle Greene, Rochester Minnesota, S/Sgt. Joseph DeMott, Greenwood, Ind., and Pfc. Fred Mozzoni, Chicago, Illinois. 29 December 1944.

Note the extra bandoliers and enthusiasm for grenades. Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-198409 via National Archives

Due to the geographical makeup of the above group, I would wager they are dismounts from the 106th Cavalry Regiment, an Illinois Army National Guard whose armory was in the Windy City, which would explain the tanker boots on DeMott and Mozzoni.

The 106th, formerly the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cav back when they rode horses, was federalized 25 November 1940 and spent most of the war in Texas and Lousiana. Landing in Normandy in late June 1944, they pushed from Northern France, through the Ardennes-Alsace, into the Rhineland, and finished WWII in Austria, being the first unit American troops to enter Salzburg before going on to free King Leopold of Belgium who had been a German prisoner for five years.

They fought dismounted at the Battle of the Bulge, which is when the above image hails from, and patrolled north of Sarrebourg to scout for German forces.

Suffering 700 casualties in their 10-month trek across Europe from the coast of France to the Alps, they returned to the States in October 1945 and today make up part of the 33rd Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard.

Redlegs Stretch theirs out to 70 Clicks

Who says Tube Arty is irrelevant? The Army contends they have made the longest distance precision-guided shot in history using one.

The Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA), designated the XM1299 howitzer, was developed in 2019 by BAE Systems. Based on the pre-existing M109A7 Paladin, it uses a much-longer XM907 155mm/58 caliber gun rather than the legacy 155/39, as well as a host of other improvements above the turret ring, and is planned to enter service in 2Q FY2023.

From an Army Presser:

The first successful test of a 70 km (43 miles) shot with a precision-guided munition took place on December 19, 2020 at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground.

The live fire demonstration used the Excalibur projectile and was the culmination of a campaign of learning on multiple systems.

“Not only did the test show the design robustness of a current fielded projectile to demonstrate lethality at extended ranges, it did so while maintaining accuracy, marking a major milestone in support of Long Range Precision Fires objectives of achieving overmatch artillery capability in 2023,” said Col. Anthony Gibbs, Project Manager for Combat Ammunition Systems.

Providing longer range than that of potential adversaries, is a significant combat multiple for maneuver commanders and the Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team (LRPF-CFT) was established to tackle that objective. Their mission includes increasing lethality, improving rates of fire, and enabling deep fires to shape the battlefield and set conditions for the brigade combat team close fight.

Multiple efforts including new propellant charges, an Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system, multiple projectiles with varying capabilities, and target identification and tracking systems, are under development to increase range and reduce the time from target identification to effects on target.

Personally, I’d like to see one or two of these guns navalised and put in low-profile mounts on the Zumwalts, perhaps alongside if not in place of the fabled Naval Rail Gun system, replacing the failed 155mm AGS. But that would make too much sense. 

Bastogne Beer Run

World War II Veteran Vincent J. Speranza, spent 144 days in combat with Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and, at 95, is one of the estimated 600 or so remaining vets who served at the Battle of the Bulge. A few months ago, he jumped with the Black Knights.

However, in the Bastogne area today, he is far better remembered for a beer run than for his staunchly-defended machine gun nest.

Check out the detailed backstory behind that, below.

Four Hours from Sicily to Dachau

For those looking to get a little war movie fix over the coming holidays, I suggest you check out The Liberator on Netflix. Based on Alex Kershaw’s excellent 2012 book of the same name, it covers the real-life “500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau” traveled by (later Brig Gen.) Felix L. Sparks.

Sparks, who enlisted during the Depression to make sure he was fed, was first a company and later a battalion commander in the 45th (Thunderbird) Infantry Division’s 157th Infantry Regiment— drawn literally from “Cowboys and Indians.”

“Troops of the 45th Division march thru Caltanissetta, Sicily. 157th Infantry, Company L. [old] Signal Corps Photo # MM-LCE-7-18-43-P2-11-6.” 7/18/1943. Photographer: Klein. Via NARA 111-SC-176493

Notably, the unit saw the elephant– and by all accounts was trampled flat by it– at Anzio, then went on to duke it out against crack SS mountain troops (the dreaded Black Edelweiss of 6. SS-Gebirgs-Division “Nord”) in the frozen hell of Reipertswiller, before playing a key part in the taking of Aschaffenburg in the face of downright wasteful and fanatical resistance in the last days of the war. Famously, the unit was also involved in the controversial death of unarmed SS troops at Dachau during its liberation.

The four-part series is filmed in a new CGI hybrid Trisoscope technique which looks vaguely similar to what A Scanner Darkly was produced in a few years back and an upgrade to the woefully underappreciated Heavy Metal and circa 1978 version of Lord of the Rings.

Now don’t write off The Liberator as a “cartoon,” as the technique is on point and allows for an easy and more accurate (ironically) portrayal of period places and equipment– especially tanks, and aircraft– that is just not possible in live-action films (admit it, you cringe a little bit every time you see the Russian T-34/85s mocked up like Tiger Is in Kelly’s Heroes).

How about that mortar data plate?

While not Band of Brothers, and Sparks is not Dick Winters, The Liberator is a good retelling of a story that is oft forgotten. There are way worse ways to waste four hours.

Who Doesn’t Love a Visit to a Fort?

Especially while backpacking across Northwestern Europe?

Official caption: Seventh Army soldiers wait at the entrance and in the pit of a Maginot Line fort near Climbach, France. 2nd Platoon, Co. F., 2nd Battalion [no mention of battalion or regiment]. 12/15/44.

Happy B-day, National Guard

Not counting French and Spanish colonial militias, the first muster of what later evolved into the U.S. Army National Guard occurred 13 December 1636, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s General Court ordered the colony’s unorganized militia, consisting of all males between the ages of 16 and 60, organized into three permanent units– the North, South and East Regiments– to better provide for the common defense.

The First Muster By Don Troiani National Guard traces the traditional foundation to the East Regiment in Salem, the regiment formed as part of three organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636-37

“The First Muster” by Don Troiani, via the U.S. National Guard Bureau. The early colonial militia drilled once a week and provided guard details each evening to sound the alarm in case of attack.

The Guard has evolved much since then, especially in the wake of the Total Force concept after Vietnam. My son-in-law, long a member of the 155th ABCT, has deployed to the sandbox many more times than his family would like to talk about.

Happy 384th!

A Captured Santa

Watercolor by the well-known turn of the century illustrator William Leroy Jacobs showing an old soldier bending over sleeping children by firelight with parents in the background, a cavalry saber at his side. It appears the older man is wearing a blue uniform while the younger’s is grey, with the 3-button pattern on his frock coat typical of a Confederate major general. Published in: A Captured Santa Claus by Thomas Nelson Page. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902.

While I am not sure of the story behind the image’s depiction, it makes me recall the tale of the “Father of the U.S. Cavalry,” Virginia-born Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, who penned the country’s then-modern horse cavalry tactics manual in 1858 after being an observer during the Crimean War, where cavalry was famously ill-used. Cooke, who commanded a brigade of federal horse soldiers early in the conflict, was perhaps best known during the Civil War for being the father-in-law of Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, Lee’s flamboyant cavalry commander.

Flora, the good General Cooke’s daughter, wore black the rest of her life after Stuart was killed at Yellow Tavern in 1864. The couple had two children, in 1856 and 1857, respectively, only one of whom lived to adulthood, and Cooke was unable to see them during the conflict.

A family divided, indeed.

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