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Constant Peg: The (formerly secret) Red Eagles of Nellis

Below is a really great doc about the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron. Better known as the Red Eagles, they were active from 1978 to 1988. During this time, they made 15,000 sorties and trained 6,000 pilots. The purpose: teach American pilots to win against Soviet fighters.  Their aircraft, “acquired” Warsaw Pact/Chinese-made MiGs and Sukhois as part of Operation Constant Peg.

(Video by Airman 1st Class Olivia Grooms, Nellis AFB Public Affairs)

 

Quentin Walsh gets a well-deserved nod

A lot of people forget that the U.S. Coast Guard often carries a serious load in American military history, punching way out of their weight class. This had held true from the War of 1812 to the current standoffs in the East China Sea and the Persian Gulf, with stops at every conflict in between.

During WWII, besides putting some 250,000 men and women in uniform, put the equivalent of four infantry divisions on stateside Beach Patrol, manned squadrons of surface escorts (not only cutters but DDs, DEs, PFs, PCMs, and armed icebreakers), stood up the “Hooligan Navy” to protect the homeland from German and Japanese subs, conned flotillas of other landing craft and support craft, fielded patrol squadrons that included 120 PBY Catalinas, and put a fleet of small craft off the beaches of Normandy that pulled 1,500 men out of the water in June 1944. In all, the Coast Guard manned 802 of their own commissioned ships as well as 351 Navy, and 288 Army vessels during the conflict.

One of these unsung Coasties is Capt. Quentin Walsh.

Born in 1910, he graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1933 and was soon working Rum Row during the final days of Prohibition. He clocked in for peacetime service on the Clemson-class destroyer USS Herndon (DD-198)— which had been chopped to the USCG for the war on booze– as well as the famed cutters Yamacraw and Campbell. When the war began, he shipped out on the Coast Guard-manned troop transport Joseph T. Dickman which served across the globe, ferrying Allied troops across five continents.

Then-CDR Walsh in 1944 found himself on the staff of Commander U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, located in London, and was given command of a special scratch force (Task Unit 127.2.8) of about 50~ Navy Sea Bees that landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, armed with bazookas, hand grenades, rifles and submachine guns. Heading right for Cherbourg to the West, you could say he soon gained the keys to the city in a huge win.

As noted by the Coast Guard:

“Despite heavy casualties, his small force seized the port facilities and took control of the harbor the day after they entered the city.
After he discovered that the remaining German garrison at Fort du Homet held 52 U.S. Army paratroopers as prisoners, Walsh, under a flag of truce, exaggerated the strength of the forces under his command and persuaded the commanding officer of the remnants of the German garrison to surrender. These actions earned him the Navy Cross and, all told, he accepted the surrender of over 700 German soldiers.”

German prisoners march out of surrendered Cherbourg under U.S. Army guard. U.S. Navy photo

Members of the German Cherbourg garrison await transfer to prisoner of war camps, after the city’s capture by the Allies, 28 June 1944. 80-G-254358

His citation:

“Heroism as Commanding Officer of a U.S. Naval party reconnoitering the naval facilities and naval arsenal at Cherbourg June 26 and 27, 1944. While in command of a reconnaissance party, Commander Walsh entered the port of Cherbourg and penetrated the eastern half of the city, engaging in street fighting with the enemy. He accepted the surrender and disarmed 400 of the enemy force at the naval arsenal and later received the unconditional surrender of 350 enemy troops and, at the same time, released 52 captured U.S. Army paratroopers. His determination and devotion to duty were instrumental in the surrender of the last inner fortress of the Arsenal.”

Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh in his dress blues bearing his recently awarded Navy Cross Medal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh in his dress blues bearing his recently awarded Navy Cross Medal. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Walsh later helped open up the ports of Brest and La Harve, enabling Patton and Monty to get the gas and gear they needed to liberate Northwestern Europe. Leaving the service in poor health in 1946, he returned to active duty for Korea and retired as a captain in 1960.

Walsh crossed the bar in 2000 at age 90 and is buried in Hurlock, Maryland.

Last week, on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, SECNAV Richard V. Spencer named a future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, DDG 132, in honor of Walsh, in a ceremony at Cherbourg aboard the Coast Guard Training Ship Eagle (herself a captured German WWII-era vessel).

“For over two centuries, the Navy and Marine Corps team and the Coast Guard have sailed side by side, in peacetime and war, fair weather or foul,” said Spencer. “I am honored the future USS Quentin Walsh will carry Capt. Walsh’s legacy of strength and service throughout the world, and I am proud that for decades to come, this ship will remind friends and adversaries alike of the proud history of our services and the skill and professionalism of all those who stand the watch today.”

190606-N-YG104-4001 NORMANDY, France (June 06, 2019) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Richard V. Spencer announces the nanming of a future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Quentin Walsh (DDG 132), in honor of Coast Guard Capt. Quentin Walsh, who was awarded the Navy Cross for his service during World War II at Normandy, France. Spencer made the announcement alongside Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, in a ceremony aboard the U.S. Coast Guard training ship Eagle in Cherbourg, France. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas)

190606-N-YG104-4001 NORMANDY, France (June 06, 2019) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Richard V. Spencer announces the naming of a future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Quentin Walsh (DDG 132), in honor of Coast Guard Capt. Quentin Walsh, who was awarded the Navy Cross for his service during World War II at Normandy, France. Spencer made the announcement alongside Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, in a ceremony aboard the U.S. Coast Guard training ship Eagle in Cherbourg, France. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas)

D-Day at 75: An Epilogue

P-47 with invasion stripes knocked out Sherman M4 Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, France, 1944

As The Greatest Generation ages and increasingly drifts from the present and into memory with each passing day, their footprints on those hallowed beaches on Normandy are washed away. With that, I find tributes tying today’s active military units, to their historical forebearers very important, a sign that those heroic deeds will continue forward.

At Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed the almost vertical cliff face to take out (what they were told) was a battery of strategically placed 155mm guns which could control the entire beach.

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day M1 Garand BAR 80-G-45716

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day. NARA # 80-G-45716

Of the 225 men with the 2nd Rangers at the dawn of D-Day, just 90 were still standing on D+1 when they were relieved.

To salute the Pointe Du Hoc Rangers, active duty Rangers of 2nd Battalion, 75th Rangers, some in period dress, reenacted the climb yesterday.

The 101st Airborne and 1st Infantry, meanwhile, had their own representatives on hand to walk in the footsteps of their predecessors that landed on the Cotentin (Cherbourg) Peninsula and on Omaha Beach.

Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa (CNE-A), dedicated a Lone Sailor statue on the seawall over Utah Beach, in honor of the bluejackets who cleared the beaches.

“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”

“The Lone Sailor statue stands on a plaza at the Utah Beach Museum overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from where the U.S. invasion force appeared on that historic morning. Although people come and go from this statue, the Lone Sailor will continue to serve as a universal sign of respect towards all Sea Service personnel for generations to come.”

At the same time, down the beach, CNE-A Fleet Master Chief Derrick Walters and U.S. Navy SEALS assigned to Special Warfare Unit 2 re-enacted the D-Day mission that Navy Combat Demolition Unit Sailors conducted in the cover of darkness to clear the beaches for the main invading force on Utah Beach, to include blowing up a recreated Czech Hedgehog beach obstacle with a bit of C4, as one does.

Meanwhile, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CV-69), read Ike’s famous D-Day Message

Make no mistake, a few precious Veterans of that Longest Day were able to be on hand in Normandy this week, such as 97-year-old 101st Airborne trooper Tom Price who came in just how he did back in 1944– jumping from a C-47.

As men like Mr. Price rejoin their units in the halls of Valhalla, memory is everything. It echos through eternity.

Meet the USAF’s new bailout gun

The USAF Aircrew Self Defense Weapon shown together, top, and taken down, bottom:

USAF Aircrew Self Defense Weapon together and taken down hr

(Photos: USAF)

The ASDW must stow inside a 16 x 14 x 3.5-inch ejection seat compartment. The guns get that small due to the use of an M4 style collapsible stock, flip-up backup iron sights, an Israeli FAB Defense AGF-43S folding pistol grip, and a Cry Havoc Tactical Quick Release Barrel (QRB) kit. The barrel is reportedly the standard 14.5-inch M4 model, although I have my doubts and looks more like an 11.5-incher.

More in my column at Guns.com.

F-16s over the Sound

Made it back home to see the Thunderbirds fly over Biloxi Beach at the Keesler Air Show over the weekend. It’s always a treat to see the TBs as I grew up firmly inside Blue Angels territory.

Of note, the Biloxi lighthouse is to the bottom right and one of the Biloxi schooners is to the bottom left. I snapped this from the fourth level of Beau Rivage, about 60 feet off the deck. The Port of Gulfport is about 12 miles out to the horizon.

Have 63 foot of dockspace near you?

During WWII, Miami Shipbuilding Corp. cranked out some 740 63-foot AVRs (Auxiliary, Vessel, Rescue) for use in coastal search and rescue with as many as 200 being promptly sent as Lend-Lease to overseas allies. As most were co-located near seaside airbases and used to respond to downed planes they were typically dubbed “Crash Boats.”

Post-war, the type was largely sold off or abandoned, leaving very few to live on past the 1950s.

Speaking of which, this bad boy is up for grabs in British Columbia (via Craigslist of all things) :

The stunning P-619 is a WW2 AVR and is a major piece of US naval history. She is the last remaining AVR in the world in original military layout. Consigned by the USN, she was built in Oct/Nov 1943 by the Miami Shipbuilding Corp. Immediately transferred to the USAAF, she served in the Pacific from 1943-45. She went back to the Navy after the War and was stationed at a Sacramento air base until the ’50s when she left active service.

I acquired the boat in 2006 and began restoration which has involved hundreds of thousands of dollars and many thousands of hours. The boat is in excellent condition and while not all details have been completed, she is fully operational as a cruising vessel. She is very well built with a double planked hull of gorgeous Honduras mahogany, aircraft cloth, and fir. There are currently two Gray Marine 6-71s supplying power, and at 8 knots, consumption is about 6 gph. Supplied with the sale are four of the original Hall-Scott V12s with gears. Two of these motors are USN rebuilds (only one has been run) and the other two are apart and supplied on pallets. The two on pallets came from the boat used the 1997 movie McHale’s Navy. When installed, the boat could reach upwards of 40 knots when unladen.

I personally have run out of steam on completing details and the install of the V12s and would like to see someone(or some group) in the Washington area, acquire and look after our girl. Thus, our ‘crew’ could pay regular visits.

Price? $350K

Ghosts of The Hump

During WWII, the thankless task of running the airlift over the Himalayas from India to China to supply KMT units fighting the Japanese was known as flying “The Hump.” Beginning in 1942 with a scratch force, by 1945 more than 600 aircraft were schlepping 71,000 tons a month, dedicated to the mission of keeping the Chinese in the war– which in turn tied down over 1.5 million of the Emperor’s troops.

A C-46A en route to China over the Himalayas. The job started with the 10th Air Force and morphed until the China National Aviation Corporation was carrying most of the cargo (U.S. Air Force photo)

It was not without cost, with over 500 aircraft lost or missing in the treacherous effort and 800 Allied personnel killed or never heard from again.

From the Hump Pilots Association:

Severe weather existed on the Hump almost year around. The monsoon season, with heavy cloudiness, fierce rain and embedded severe thunderstorms with turbulence severe enough to damage aircraft, existed from around May into October of each year. The late fall and winter flying weather was better with many VFR days. However, heavy ground fogs, with ground visibilities down to zero/zero, occurred almost nightly during the early winter, and severe thunderstorms still occurred over the route on an irregular basis. Winter winds aloft were extreme, often exceeding 100MPH. Most night flying had to be done by instruments from takeoff due to lack of any ground or horizon references, until well into western China.

Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, Commander, U.S. Forces – China, said that “Flying the ‘Hump’ was the foremost and by far the most dangerous, difficult and historic achievement of the entire war.”

And it looks like the Indian Army has located one of the lost flights:

“Based on the information received from local trekkers of Lower Dibang district, troops from #IndianArmy discovered the wreckage of a World War II vintage US Air Force aircraft in Roing district of Arunachal Pradesh. The 12 member patrol successfully carried out the arduous task on 30 Mar 2019. The patrol located the aircraft debris covered by thick undergrowth and deeply buried under five feet of snow. The patrol moved cross country for 30 kilometers in thick jungles and snow covered areas for eight days to trace out the wreckage. The region had seldom been ventured by anyone in the past and is even obscured from the air due to thick foliage.”

Hopefully, it is a plane that the crew was able to bail out of near a populated area and it went down miles later. If not, the fine men and women of the DPAA will bring them home with honor, and provide closure to their families.

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