Category Archives: US Army

Masonry fort problems

This Hurricane Season has been surely one for the record books, with 26 storms logged– one of which, Delta (they have run out of names and are now using the Greek alphabet), is currently tracking for my location by the end of the week. It will be the fifth that has had my neighborhood in its sights this year.

Which brings us to an update on the old Third Period coastal forts in the Northern Gulf. Designed in the antebellum era just before the Civil War, in general, they sit on cypress rafts for foundations in the sand and climb above the dunes some 20-30 feet on layer after layer of locally-produced red brick, with walls up to five-feet thick at some points

Although most proved ultimately less than formidable during the War Between the States and were often given a second chance on life in the 1890s after being retrofitted with concrete batteries holding steel breechloaders, the Army finally abandoned them by the 1940s, at which point they were as obsolete as lines of pikemen.

Nonetheless, these old brick forts, none of which are newer than 1866, endure against everything mother nature can throw at them. We have already covered the damage from Hurricane Sally to Fort Gaines on Mobile Bay’s Dauphin Island.

A similar update has been posted last week by its larger companion fortification across the Bay, Alabama Point’s Fort Morgan.

“Due to the damages and flooding sustained in hurricane Sally, Fort Morgan State Historic Site is closed to all visitors until further notice,” says the Fort.
“Hurricane Sally was the fourth tropical system to hit Ship Island this year. Tropical Storm Cristobal damaged the ferry pier in June and Laura and Marco buried the cross-island boardwalk in several feet of sand in August. Following damage assessments, it is clear the island’s facilities will not be able to reopen this season,” says the Gulf Islands National Seashore of Fort Massachusetts, on Ship Island off of Gulfport, MS.
“After the storm, there were several inches of standing water in Fort Pickens. The water has since receded, and National Park Service archeologists are assessing the fort for damage,” says the GINS of Fort Pickens in Pensacola’s Santa Rosa Island.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Fort Pike, in coastal Lousiana near the Rigolets pass off Lake Borgne, have recently posted a drone overflight. After Hurricane Isaac in 2012, the fort was closed indefinitely pending repairs and debris cleanup. The fort was re-opened to visitors following Isaac but closed again in February 2015 due to state budget cuts. It has since been battered by several storms this year.

“We won’t forget about Irregular Warfare, we promise”

The DOD last week made a big deal of putting out a 12-page summary of the “Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy.”

The IW Annex details that irregular warfare endures, even as the military pivots from two decades of counter-insurgency and nation (re)building to near-peer Great Power Competition, and that the Pentagon will keep IW skills sharp as “an enduring, economical contribution to America’s national security, and will remain an essential core competency of the U.S. Department of Defense.”

The paper goes on to detail that the American way of war in the past was to build COIN skills and asymmetric warfare assets when we needed it (see Seminole Wars, Plains Wars, Philippine pacification, Banana Wars, Vietnam, El Salvador/Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Iraq), then put it aside and essentially throw away the manual when we didn’t need it on a daily basis any longer, requiring the military to start from scratch the next time. In each case, the lost muscle memory had to be regained with blood.

“In short, the IW Annex is a road map for deterrence and provides off-ramps for the U.S. in options short of kinetic warfare,” said a DOD official in firm language via a related press release.

No, really guys, we mean it this time

Sgt. Maj. Raymond Hendrick (left), Asymmetric Warfare Group Adviser, explains specifics of the blast radius of the man-portable line charge system during a training exercise just outside of Forward Operating Base Zangabad, Afghanistan, Oct. 20, 2013. (U.S Army photo by Cpl. Alex Flynn)

And in pure DOD logic, the word also surfaced last week that the Army will be disbanding both the Asymmetric Warfare Group and the Rapid Equipping Force as it transitions from counterinsurgency operations to better concentrate on “multi-domain and large-scale combat operations.”

AWG, for those following along at home, was founded in 2006 to help the Army gain an edge in low-key COIN and hearts-and-minds type operations through learning lessons that could be applied quickly to simultaneously save Joes and ghost Tangos. Similarly, REF– formed in 2002 as the Desert Storm/38th Parallel-oriented Army was faced with a new war of movement against fast-moving groups of guys armed with nothing more advanced than AK47s, IEDs, and cell phones– was designed to get urgently needed capabilities such as UAV jammers and MRAPs into the field in 180 days or less.

Insert Benny Hill chase scene, here.

KAC getting a lot of Pentagon Love

The aircrew of the Florida-based Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron stand for a photo after the 500th recorded drug bust in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo. Note the M107A1 with mounted AN/PEQ-15 aiming laser in the foreground, the M110 7.62x51mm sniper rifle with can in the background, and the fact that the crew names and weapons’ serials have been blurred for OPSEC/PERSEC.

In the past week, the DOD has announced two big contracts for Knight’s Armament Company in Florida.

For those who aren’t familiar with Reid Knight’s KAC, just keep in mind that the company served as the final home of Eugene Stoner, who redesigned his original AR-10 there as the new and very much improved SR-25. That 7.62 NATO precision rifle went on to pull down the Army’s XM110 Semi-Automatic Sniper Rifle competition in 2005.

The resulting M110 has gone on to be used not only by the Joes but also with the Navy EOD and Specwar community, the Marines in a designated marksman role, and the Coast Guard’s HITRON interdiction teams.

It is so well-liked that, even while the Army is picking up HK-made G28s for the new M110A1, they are still buying M110s from KAC, announcing a $13M contract for the rifles last week. 

Quiet Time

U.S. Marines assigned to Scout Sniper Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct an M4 Carbine live-fire exercise on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge, at sea, July 18, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone, 26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)

And in other related news, the Marines just issued a $25M contract to KAC for 5.56 NATO suppressors for their M4/M4A1s and M27 IARs. 

When it comes to suppressor-use by its warfighters, the Marines have been consistently striving to make them the standard rather than the exception. In 2016, the expeditionary-focused service moved to equip every element of a test battalion, from combat engineers to headquarters units, with suppressed weapons after company-level trials yielded results.

By 2017, they were exploring the option of picking up enough to outfit all of their battalions. The new contract will go a long way towards that if all the options are used.

A guy walks into a bar with a Cessna

Saturday night, September 29, 1956: While sitting at his local watering hole–Joe’s Bar on St. Nicholas Avenue and 191st Street in NYC– having a drink and laughing with friends, Thomas Fitzpatrick, a combat vet turned steamfitter, accepted a challenge to fly from New Jersey to Washington Heights in 15 minutes.

Now Tommy Fitz happened to be a man of many skills, having lied about his age (just 15) to serve in the Marines in China, and going on to fight first with the Devil in the PTO then with the Army in Korea, learning to fly a Grasshopper along the way.

AVG pilots inspecting an L-2 Grasshopper in SE Asia, by the amazing Romain Hugault

Shortly after Fitz left to prove his point, he showed up outside with a (borrowed) Cessna 140 and taxied up just before last call.

Responding police took Fitz off for flying a stolen plane while drunk and later had the Cessna dismantled to get it out of there. For his illegal flight, he was fined $100 after the plane’s owner refused to press charges

Nonetheless, Fitz repeated the stunt two years later. 

NGSW? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The current NGSW field 

The U.S. Army is full-speed ahead on an initiative to select a new series of innovative 6.8mm-caliber Next Generation Squad Weapons to phase out its 5.56mm platforms for combat troops. However, it would seem the Department of the Army is hedging their bets with traditional systems just in case things don’t work out like planned such as in past ambitious programs for futuristic small arms.

In April, FN won a 5-year $119 million contract for new M4/M4A1 Carbines from the company’s South Carolina factory– where 500 of the shorty 5.56s roll out every, single, day.

And this week, Big Army likewise issued a $78 million award to FN for more M249s, the squad-level U.S-made variant of the FN Minimi light machine gun that has been standard since 1982.

Just google the Individual Carbine (IC), Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW), or the Advanced Combat Rifle (ACR) programs to see why keeping the legacy infantry arms in production until things work out is a good idea.

The army advanced combat rifle ACR prototypes.

Thunderbolt!

Via the National Archives: This 1944 original color film captures footage of the air war over Italy during World War II, focusing on the life and death struggle of a train-busting P-47 Thunderbolt squadron operating out of Corsica.

In addition to showing how the pilots’ activities seriously crippled the Nazi fighting ability, hastening the sweep of Allied forces into Rome, the footage also shows the suffering of non-combatants on the ground. The film was directed by William Wyler and John Sturges, with an introduction by Jimmy Stewart (who flew B-17s during the war) and is narrated by Lloyd Bridges and Eugene Kern.

There are far worst ways to spend 42 minutes.

The film was compiled at Alto Air Base, call sign “Break Neck” which was home to 27-year-old Lt. Col Archie Knight’s 57th Fighter Group which consisted of the 64th, “Black Scorpion,” 65th “Fighting cocks,” and 66th “Exterminators” FS.

Happy Birthday, Snake, the hardest laboring gunship in the Free World

“Cobras At Night” Vietnam Era, by Robert T. Coleman, March 1968. Acrylic on board, 18″ x 24″ depicting AH-1 Cobra gunships working 2.75-inch rockets amongst the locals.

Cobras At Night Robert Coleman 1968 US Army CMH

U.S. Army Center of Military History

Robert T. Coleman attended college at the Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He volunteered for the draft and traveled to Vietnam as part of Combat Artist Team VI from February to March 1968. We have talked about the Vietnam Combat Artist program extensively in the past.

As for the Cobra, the Snake first flew 7 September 1965 and over 2,000 were built of all types through 2019 with single-engine versions still being flown in Bahrain, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and Turkey while the twin-engined Super Cobra endures with the U.S. Marines and will continue to do so for some time.

STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 12, 2019) An AH-1Z Viper helicopter attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off during a strait transit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4).  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck/Released)

Not bad for a platform that dates back some 55 years.

Meet Sgt. Maj. Thomas P. Payne, MOH

From the DOD & the White House: On September 11, 2020, President Donald J. Trump will award the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas P. Payne, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry while deployed five years ago as an assistant team leader in Iraq as part of a Special Operations Joint Task Force in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Thomas “Patrick” Payne on Oct. 22, 2015, was part of a force given a mission to rescue over 70 Iraqi hostages being held by ISIS in a prison compound in the northern town of Hawija.

The rescue footage:

 

His story in his own words:

“The long and bitter struggle…”

Official caption: “Victory Carving-First Division Marines on Okinawa gather around Corporal John Dulin as he wields a Japanese samurai sword to cut a VJ cake that he baked for the celebration. That isn’t sugar cake though, the icing is made of starch.” From the Marion Fischer Collection (COLL/858), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

“On board all naval vessels at sea and in port, and at our many island bases in the Pacific, there is rejoicing and thanksgiving. The long and bitter struggle, which Japan started so treacherously on the seventh of December, 1941, is at an end,” began Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz’s address to the combined Pacific Fleet on Sept. 2, 1945, as World War II officially ended, some 75 years ago today.

While today is ostensibly a Warship Wednesday, and logically I should do the USS Missouri, I like to dedicate WW to covering little-known ships and, on this day, Mighty Mo will have her story told far and wide by more mainstream sources than I. This includes a live stream of the anniversary celebration on her decks today.

With that being said, let us take to the sky with a great video on the 75th Anniversary Warbird overflights in Hawaii.

No more posts today, Happy Surrender Day +75. Reflect on those lost. Salute those left.

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