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Excelsior!

Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Stan Lee spent much of his life in the comics industry– with a break for WWII service in the Army– and with fellow artists, co-created legions of iconic characters.

Lee grew up in the Bronx and by age 17 was working at Timely Comics, a company that would later grow into Marvel. Some seven months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor brought the country into World War II, Lieber, using the Lee pseudonym, wrote his first comic, Captain America #3.

Setting down his pencils, Lee soon put on a uniform and joined the Army Signal Corps shortly after hearing of “The Day Which Shall Live in Infamy,” working as a lineman before his skills were put to use in making training posters and doing technical writing– so just think, some of those horrible WWII TMs could have included work by Lee!

In 2012, Lee was inducted into the Signal Corps Regimental Association and presented with an honorary membership into the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment.

“This is one of my proudest moments,” Lee said.

The move came just after he popped up in a classic WWII “pink and green uniform” during a cameo as a four-star general in the first Captain America film. Quite a promotion from the T-5 days!

Always a class act, he occasionally appeared at Veterans events over the years and made sure to interact with Servicemembers whenever possible.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers

Stan, you will be missed.

Excelsior!

The buck stops here

With the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I looming, it is only fitting that we take a look at the gun carried by the only President to see combat in the conflict.

While the former Spanish-American War veteran President Teddy Roosevelt (R/ Bull Moose) volunteered to return to service to fight the Kaiser in 1917, his offer was not accepted by President Woodrow Wilson (D). Further, although a career Army officer at the time, future President Dwight D. Eisenhower was stuck in training duties stateside and never made it to the frontline in France. One man who did go “Over There” was Missouri-native Harry S Truman, whose past jobs had included farmer and clerk.

Having served as a company clerk in a National Guard artillery unit for a few years before the war, Truman, then 33, reenlisted and was elected lieutenant. By 1918, he was in France with Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force as a captain in command of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th ID– in essence 200 Doughboys, four French 75mm guns and 160 horses to pull them and their shells.

Truman’s Battery fired over 10,000 shells in the course of their time on the Western Front, mainly during hard service in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Photo: Truman Library)

Post-Armistice, he brought his men home, B/129 losing none to combat, and opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, later getting into politics.

Since he elected to remain in the service, transferring to the Army Reserve (which he remained a member of until 1953) he kept the M1911 Colt .45ACP, serial No. 227577, issued to him in 1918 but did eventually turn it over to the federal government– to the Truman Presidental Library and Museum in 1957, where it, and his Great War uniform, are on display to the public.

Truman’s 1911 was made in January 1918 and was part of a batch of 4,000 guns shipped to Springfield Armory the next month. The Missourian kept it immaculate through an overseas war and 34 years of stateside service in the Army Reserve (Photo: NPS)

97 years ago today: Dewey’s flagship, bringing home the saddest casualty back from ‘Over There’

A colorized image of the Unknown Soldier’s casket being carried off of OLYMPIA, which is featured in the background. Via Independence Seaport Museum. You can see Gen. Blackjack Pershing to the right, commander of the AEF, and an honor guard of Marines in blues.

On this date, November 9th, 1921, cruiser OLYMPIA arrived at the Washington Navy Yard carrying the Unknown Soldier of the first World War, having brought the casket across the stormy Atlantic Ocean from Le Havre, France. It was at this time that the casket was transferred from the hands of the U.S. Navy aboard OLYMPIA to the waiting Army contingent, who would then carry the body to Arlington National Cemetery for interment where he rests at the Tomb of the Unknowns today.

CMP got 8,000 M1911s. Guess how many order packets they received?

The plan to transfer some of the Army’s stockpile of vintage M1911 pistols to the public via the Civilian Marksmanship Program has been met with a big response.

On Tuesday, the federally chartered non-profit corporation tasked with promoting firearms safety and practice announced that they had received and were processing 19,000 packets submitted for a chance to acquire one of the classic .45ACP handguns. That’s more than twice the number of guns in the CMP’s warehouse.

And they may not be getting any more.

More in my column at Guns.com

Bearing the Torch, 76 years ago today

U.S. troops aboard a landing craft head for the beaches during Operation Torch of the North African Campaign Oran, Algeria. 8 November 1942.

Imperial War Museum photo. Hudson, F A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer

Note the man wearing the old school “Brodie” helmet in the back of the boat, probably a Royal Navy man, as the group had spent 22 days aboard the converted ocean liner RMS Orbita on the voyage from Scotland to North Africa. The men aren’t wearing unit patches, but the cased gear to the front right look to be marked “1-19” which could be 1st Bn/19th INF Regt, which at the time was in the States and would later serve in the Pacific. In fact, they are men of the 1st coy, 19th Engineer Battalion, who did take part in the Torch landings.

Less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the Torch landings would be the U.S. Army’s first brush with war in the ETO. Other than a few officers and NCOs with Great War experience or service in the National Guard, most of these men were recent volunteers and draftees, living ordinary lives in George Bailey’s America and had only held a gun when going hunting or at a carnival shooting gallery. It’s a good thing the French didn’t really have the inclination to mix it up. The 19th Engineers went on to serve at the horrors of the Kasserine Pass (where they lost 3/4 of their active strength and it was reported that “the 19th Engineers no longer exist”) and the Rapido River, where the Germans were much more ready to fight.

As noted by the Army “During World War II, The battalion conducted five amphibious landings while accompanying the victorious allied armies through Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. The battalion had suffered 902 combat casualties including 144 killed in action. For their gallantry and service, the battalion was awarded 10 campaign streamers from World War II, and soldiers from the battalion were awarded 7 Silver Stars and 13 Bronze Stars”

Below is a great doc on the 19th, with several interviews with vets, and directly shows the above image as a reference.

The 19th is still on active duty, based at Fort Knox.

You know you want one

U.S. Army Air Forces Lockheed P-38L Lightning aircraft ( Serial Number – 44-25734 ) and a ground crew member of the 94th Fighter Squadron 1st Fighter Group, poses in his self-styled auto made from salvaged Lockheed P-38 Lightning parts including a fuel tank with wheels added and a plexiglass windshield.

Air Corps Photo #75830. Of note, P-38 #25734, while assigned to 1st FG, 71st FS, was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire near Munich on 15 April 1945.

It also reminds me of this captured Japanese Human Torpedo, probably made from a plane fuel tank, from this 1949 photo taken at Naval Air Station, Saipan.

80-G-452861-A

 

82nd gets air-dropped armor, again

On 16 August 1940, a volunteer group of 48 Soldiers from the U.S. 29th Infantry Regiment became the Army’s first parachute test platoon and stepped from a few perfectly good airplanes– B18 bombers– at Fort Benning. They were behind the times as a small force of Italian Arditi assault troops had already gone into combat behind Austrian lines in 1918 and Kurt Student’s Fallschirmjäger troops had been all over Denmark, Norway, Belguim and Holland already in 1940, seizing key points just ahead of the panzers.

Speaking of panzers, the business of riding a parachute into combat translated into very lightly armed troops. The Fallschirmjägers, for instance, typically just dropped with a handgun and gravity knife, marring up with their rifles, LMGs and Schmeissers from canisters dropped separately once on the ground. Hell, the British Paras still only went into battle in 1982 in the Falklands with Sterling SMGs as the L1A1 (semi-auto inch-pattern FALs) were considered too bulky for airborne work.

In WWII, armed Jeeps and light armor– such as the Light Tank Mk VII Tetrarch, of which 22 were landed at D-Day by the British– had to be brought in by gliders. By the end of the war, the 7-ton M22 Locust light tank was developed and, capable of being carried by a C-54, was instead carried by Hamilcar gliders into the Operation Varsity drop across the Rhine just a couple weeks before Hitler sucked on his Walther.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, with the development of the para-capable T92 Light Tank stalled and the M41A1 Walker just too heavy to strap a parachute too, about the best the 82nd Airborne could term as mechanized units were teams of Jeeps carrying recoilless rifles, which could be air-dropped.

Operation Power Pack: Dominican Republic intervention, 1965. Jeep w, recoilless rifle of the 82nd ABN, about as good as it got until the Sheridan came along.

This ended when the much-maligned but very niche M551 Sheridan light tank err, “Airborne Assault Vehicle” entered service in 1967. The 15-ton tracked vehicle could be penetrated by 12.7mm (.50 cal) gunfire, but in theory, could zap an enemy T-34/55 with its innovative M81E1 Rifled 152 mm Gun/ Shillelagh missile launcher.

Sheridan being LAPES’d out of the back of a C-130

The 82nd used a battalion of these, some 51 vehicles, as the 4th Bn/68th Armored Rgt 22 March 1968 until 7 February 1984, when it was reflagged as 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor, later dropping a platoon of Sheridans in a combat jump in 1989 in Panama and deploying the whole battalion to Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield the next year (where the Shillelagh missile was finally used in combat to plink Iraqi bunkers and T-55s in the follow-on Desert Storm.)

A soldier from Co. A, 3rd Bn., 73rd Airborne Armor Regt., 82nd Airborne Div., lays out equipment for an M-551 Sheridan light tank prior to the 82nd Airborne Division live-fire exercise during Operation Desert Shield.

While the M8 “Buford” Armored Gun System (light tank) was to replace the Sheridan, it never went into production and in 1997 3-73 AR was stripped of its tanks. While since then an Immediate Ready Company (IRC) consisting of Abrams tanks and Bradley armored fighting vehicles from the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia has been “on call” to deploy with the 82nd, it has to be landed by C-5s at a strip, and can’t be airdropped.

But now, after 21 years without it, the All Americans have organic armor again in the form of a battalion of surplus Marine LAV25A2s.

The 4th Battalion, 68th Armored Rgt was reactivated this week at Bragg.

1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division celebrated the activation of Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment in the Hall of Heroes on Fort Bragg, N.C. on Oct. 26, 2018. 4-68 Armor carries a storied history, back to World War I. It last cased its colors on February 15th, 1984. Photo By Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte |

From the Army’s presser:

“We now have the capability to counter lightly armored threats on the battlefield with something more than missile systems,” said Cpt. Aram M. Hatfield, company commander of the newly activated 4th Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment in the division.

IBCTs constitute the Army’s “light” ground forces and are an important part of the nation’s ability to project forces overseas. They can get there fast with low logistics demand and they can work in severely restricted terrain.

“There’s nothing in the division right now with that amount of firepower and speed,” said Hatfield.

The LAVs have been drop certified earlier this year.

The LAV-25A2 is just about to land on Sicily Drop Zone, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Jim Finney, Audio Visual Specialist, Airborne and Special Operations Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs.)

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