Category Archives: USMC

The Emperor’s Magic Carpet Ride, 75 Years Ago Today

Rare postwar photo of SB2C Helldiver #43, carrying an AN/APS-4 radar pod under the wing, over kite-shaped Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 23 October 1945. The dive bomber is flown by Lt. Frederick C. Lambert USMCR.

(U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Museum/Naval Aviation Museum, Photo No. 1996.253.538)

In the background are the disarmed Japanese Katori-class light cruiser Kashima and her “escort,” the Cannon-class destroyer escort USS Thornhill (DE-195).

Kashima, the former Japanese Fourth Fleet flagship, spent the last part of WWII in Korean backwaters and escaped the Armageddon fate that was inflicted on the rest of the Imperial Combined Fleet. After the surrender, she had her munitions landed, her gun barrels torched off, breechblocks welded shut, and was tasked with repatriation duty, returning Japanese POWs and civilians home from overseas.

The old training cruiser was at Jaluit 22-23 October 1945 to retrieve 911 EPOWs and one-time Japanese immigrants for repatriation.

Officially stricken from the Japanese Naval List on 5 October, between 10 October 1945 and 12 November 1946, Kashima made a dozen voyages to New Guinea, the Solomons, the Marshall Islands, Singapore, French Indochina, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, transporting over 5,800 former Imperial Japanese military personnel and internees back Home.

She was then sold for scrap and broken up by mid-1947 at Nagasaki by Kawanami Heavy Industries, her steel being used to help rebuild that city.

As for Thornhill, she was decommissioned at about the same time that Kashima disappeared for good and was later transferred to NATO ally Italy, where she served as the frigate Aldebaran (F-590) through the 1970s.

Jaluit Atoll, which between 1914 and 1945 was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy as a seaplane base after spending 30 years as a coaling station for the Kaiser, currently has a population of around 1,200 locals today, and the former IJN power station, barracks, antiaircraft guns, and a Shinto shrine remain to the delight of tourists.

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. 

Recovering the banner, 70 years ago today

1st Marine Division, Seoul, 27 September 1950, during fierce street-to-street fighting to liberate the South Korean capital from DPRK forces:

USMC photograph by SGT J. Babyak.

“When Marines entered the U.S. consulate grounds at Seoul to replace the flag, they discovered remains of original stars and stripes in the trash at the rear of the building.”

The more things change, Devil 155 edition, with Idaho tanker bonus

A 155mm howitzer is fired by artillery crewmen of the 11th Marines, Guadalcanal

Marines work a 155mm gun position on Guadalcanal in 1942.

A Marine M777-A2 155mm howitzer at night using tactical red lighting as part of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, 2020

Of course, as Plan 2030 gets underway to “lighten” the Marines and trade assets like tanks, Engineer ABVs, bridging companies, and heavy-lift helo squadrons for things like rockets and UAV squadrons, the number of cannon batteries in the Corps is set to drop from the current 21 to just 5 in the next decade, so USMC-manned 155s will be few and far between in the future.

Marines loss, National Guard’s gain

In related news, 39 former Marine reservists in a recently disbanded M1A1 Abrams tank company of the (C coy, 4th Tanks) have switched teams and were sworn in at a joint ceremony into the Idaho National Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team.

In line with a storied Marine tradition, they will be using better mounts after shifting from Devils to Joes, as the Guard operates updated M1A2s.

The Marine Corps Reserve’s Company C, 4th Tank Battalion deactivates at Idaho National Guard Base Gowen Field, Aug. 14, 2020. More than three dozen of the former Marines enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard on Sept. 13, 2020. THOMAS ALVAREZ/U.S. ARMY

Devils wave goodbye to ABVs

No more of these bad boys roaring off LCUs and LCACs any time soon, barring some Army units hitching a ride.

A U.S. Marine Corps M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle exits a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Utility on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Mar. 17, 2020, during Type Commander Amphibious Training. The ABV is with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Mark E Morrow Jr/Released)

The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicles (ABV)s belonging to 1st MARDIV last weekend were “being divested from the Marine Corps in an effort to accelerate modernization and realign 1st Combat Engineer Battalion’s (1st CEB) capabilities.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Jailine L. AliceaSantiago)

And with that, the Marines with 1st CEB disembarked the ABV’s from San Mateo as a part of Force Design 2030, which is seeing the USMC ditch most of their armor.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Jailine L. AliceaSantiago)

As to what is to become of the Marine’s ABVs, looks like long term storage before they are offered to some overseas ally such as Egypt or Greece. Either that or the scrap heap.

The Army’s version, based on the M1A1, is newer. 

“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.

The M1911: a 108 Year Marine Tradition

The Marines are no stranger to the M1911, having– alongside the Army and Navy– begun issuing early Colt Government Issue models in June 1912.

Great War recruiting painting “First to Fight” by James Montgomery Flagg shows U.S. Marine Capt. Ross E Rusty Rowell– with his trusty .45 at the ready. 

Holding with the “GI 45” through the Great War, the Banana Wars, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Grenada and Lebanon, Marines were still carrying standard M1911A1s well into the late 1980s even as the service was replacing the gun with the then-new Beretta M9 (92F), a 15+1 double stack 9mm that offered twice the capacity of the old .45.

That didn’t mean the M1911 was completely down and out with the USMC moving into the 1990s. Marine Corps armorers constructed special Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), or MEUSOC, guns from old WWII-era GI frames, and a variety of high-speed aftermarket parts. These guns, augmented by a few unit-purchased Springfield Armory M1911A1s, remained in use with select units.

Fast forward to 2012 and this stop-gap method of relying on a mix of elderly guns diluted with small buys of commercial firearms wasn’t sustainable, and the Marines went looking for a more specialized replacement, the Close Quarter Battle Pistol.


More on the M45A1 CQBP in my column at 

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