Category Archives: USMC

Warning signal

Original Caption: Symbolically, there’s a warning signal against them as Marines move down the main line to Seoul. 1st MarDiv. Korea. 9/20/1950

Photog: Sgt Keating. NARA 127-N-A3206

Following the landing at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul, the First Marine Division reembarked on amphibious ships and transferred Wonson on the east coast of Korea, preparing for the advance on the Yalu. Just when the war seemed wrapped up, the Marines were hit by eight fresh divisions of Chinese “volunteers” at a place called the Chosin Reservoir.

For more information on the 1st MarDiv during the conflict, check out the Korean War Project.

McHenry (or Derna) Flag at the Golden Gate

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 11, 2021) Sailors aboard USS Tripoli (LHA 7) man the rails as the America-class amphibious assault ship prepares to pull into San Francisco for an annual Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) exercise, part of the upcoming San Francisco Fleet Week (SFFW). SFFW is an opportunity for the American public to meet their Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard teams and experience America’s sea services. During Fleet Week, set for Oct. 4-11, service members participate in various community service events, showcase capabilities and equipment to the community, and enjoy the hospitality of San Francisco and its surrounding areas. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julian Moorefield)

Easy to spot, against the fog-shrouded Bay, is Tripoli’s 15-starred flag, of the kind flown from 4 July 1795 to 4 July 1818, including the 1805 Battle of Derna where U.S. Marine Corps First Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon led seven Marines (and 500 of what we would call today “regional private military contractors” under Navy LT William Eaton) to storm the “Shores of Tripoli.”

Of course, that “star-spangled banner” is flown at a number of War of 1812 locations, including Fort McHenry and Fort Morgan (nee Fort Bowyer).

A shot I took at Ft. Morgan a few years ago, where it flies to remember Fort Bowyer, an earlier earthwork on the same location that fought off the British in 1814 but fell in a more aggressive attack in 1815

Back-to-Back Gulf War Champ: End of an Era

Beretta recently announced the end of an era as the final M9 pistol left the factory for bound for a U.S. military contract.

A variant of the Beretta Model 92, which was introduced in the 1970s, was adopted by the U.S. Army as the M9 in early 1984 to replace stocks of the M1911A1 that dated back to World War II. The initial five-year $56.4 million contract, to produce 315,930 units for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, ended up running more than three decades, greatly surpassing those numbers.

The famed Italian gunmaker built a plant in Accokeek, Maryland to produce the pistol, then moved production to a new facility in Tennessee in 2014.

The last U.S. martial Beretta M9, shipped last week.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Marines to get upto 904 new CRRCs, which is way more than they ‘should’ need

From DOD: 

Wing Inflatables Inc., Arcata, California, is awarded a $31,921,100 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the purchase of up to a maximum 904 Enhanced – Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft. Work will be performed in Arcata, California, and is expected to be complete by August 2026. Fiscal 2019 and 2022 procurement (Marine Corps) contract funds in the amount of $3,126,894 will be obligated on the first delivery order immediately following contract award and funds will expire the end of the fiscal 2022 and 2023, respectively. This contract was competitively procured via the System for Award Management website, with three proposals received. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Virginia, is the contracting activity (M67854-21-D-1801).

Wing’s five-chamber P4.7 series inflatable runs 15′ 5″-feet long, has a 6′ 5″-foot beam, offers 38.32ft² of usable deck space on a 12×3-foot deck. Empty weight is 180-pounds not counting the 274-pound rollup hard deck insert and can accommodate a 65hp outboard and 10 passengers/2,768-pounds of payload. The whole thing folds up into a 27″x29″x56″ package, or roughly the size of a curbside garbage can.

Each of the 7 Marine Expeditionary Units (a battalion landing team with a bunch of stuff bolted onto it and a harrier/helicopter airwing for support) has a bunch of different ways to get to the beach. These include of course the choppers, navy landing craft (LCU, LCAC, etc), and the Marines own amtrac swimming APCs. However, each one of these MAUs also has 18 of these little rubber zodiac-style boats, designated Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC, or “Crick”).

PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2013) Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) depart from the stern gate of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in a combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). Boxer is underway as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of Boxer, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Biller/Released)

A little larger than a sectional couch and powered by an outboard (or two) these can motor out from a task force still some 20 miles out at sea and approach an enemy-held beach, port, or vessel with very little footprint. They are hard to spot by eyeball, radar, or other means, especially in a light chop state. It’s a wet ride for the Marines aboard and anyone who has ever ridden one through the surf doesn’t look forward to doing it a second time– especially on a contested beach.

For landings, a company of the battalion landing team is designated the “Boat Company” and they spend a couple weeks figuring these boats out. This includes sending as many as 36 of its force before deployment through a four-week coxswains school where they learn basic sea-nav, and what not to do with these temperamental crafts. Meanwhile, other members of the Boat Coy head off to scout swimmer school where they learn the finer points of exiting a rubber raft on fins and doing lite frogman shit.

In the end, Cricks allow a 144-man company to be landed on a strip of beach or empty pier in three, six-boat waves. The former was done under OOTW conditions by Marines in Somalia in 1992.

Air transportable, Cricks can be slid out the rear ramp of MV-22s or parachuted from cargo planes such as the C-130 (and Navy C-2 CODs), can be launched from surface vessels such ranging from Amphibious assault ships (shown) or smaller craft like patrol boats, LCS and frigates. They can also be (and are) carried up from submerged submarines by divers for inflation on the surface.

The thing is, if you do the basic math on 7 MEU boat companies x 18 E-CRRCs, you get just 126 boats. Even if you double that amount to cover training and attrition, then add some for SEAL ops from submarines and for the use of Force Recon/Raider units, you still have like ~500 extra small boats.

That’s an interesting thing to ponder. 

I’d like to mention that a few months back, I theorized that the Marines might use Cricks to displace human assets from anti-ship missile batteries after they have fired their missiles from isolated atolls before the Chinese show up in force. Fire off their NSSMs, drop some WP grenades on their trucks, hop in the inflatables, and meet with a passing SSN or EPF just past the 15-fathom curve. May be easier to accomplish and have less of a footprint than an MV-22 pickup. 

53 Years ago Today: Get the Pig, boys…

Does it get any more Vietnam that this image of Marines trying to suppress an enemy sniper, 30 August 1968?

“Firepower: Lance Corporal Harry J. Howell (left) 20, (McKenzie, Alabama) and Private First Class Pete G. Heckwine (right), 20 (Carpentersville, Illinois) fire on an enemy sniper during a sweep and clear operation 13 miles south of Da Nang. The L Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines [L/3/7] helped account for 55 NVA soldiers killed and numerous weapons captured during the four-day operation. The Marines also destroyed a fortified NVA complex of reinforced bunkers and trenches (official USMC photo by Staff Sergeant Bob Bowen).”

From the Jonathan F. Abel Collection (COLL/3611) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division

Farewell, Ingraham, you deserved better (but NMESIS works)

Smoke billows from the decommissioned guided-missile frigate ex-USS Ingraham during a sinking exercise in the Pacific, Aug. 15. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Mora Jr.)

Same, (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Danny Kelley)

VADM Steve Koehler, C3F, on a SINKEX in the Pacific as part of Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021, where U.S. joint forces — the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, Submarine Forces Pacific, I Marine Expeditionary Force, 3rd Marine Air Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, 3rd Marine Division, and U.S. Army Multi-Domain Task Force– conducted coordinated “multi-domain, multi-axis, long-range maritime strikes” on the decommissioned frigate ex-USS Ingraham (FFG-61):
“Lethal combat power was effectively applied to a variety of maritime threats over the last two weeks in a simulated environment as part of the U.S. Navy’s Large-Scale Exercise and expertly demonstrated Sunday with live ordnance. The precise and coordinated strikes from the Navy and our joint teammates resulted in the rapid destruction and sinking of the target ship and exemplify our ability to decisively apply force in the maritime battlespace.”
Ingraham was the final Perry (FFG-7)-class guided missile frigate commissioned in 1989 and was decommissioned in 2015 after 26 years of hard service and could surely have been transferred for FMS as have many of her younger sisters. Notably, 34 of her sisters are still on active duty with overseas allies.
The ship was named for Captian Duncan Nathaniel Ingraham, who entered the Navy during the War of 1812 at the age of 10 (!)  and earned a Gold Medal from Congress for gunboat diplomacy in the 1850s while on a Med cruise. Ending his career dual-hatted as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrographer of the Navy in 1860 to cast his lot with the Confederacy, he commanded the Charleston (SC) naval station while wearing a grey uniform in the Civil War.
FFG-61 is the fourth Navy ship with the namesake. It is the second of its name to be used in a sinking exercise; ex-USS Ingraham (DD 694), which was decommissioned in 1971 and sold to the Greek Navy, was sunk in 2001.
Importantly, the Marines got to confirm their brand new Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS) anti-ship missile truck in the sinking, firing a Norwegian Naval Strike Missile from a position onshore some 100 miles away.

A Naval Strike Missile is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands during the sinking exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps/MC2 Lance Cpl. Dillon Buck)

A Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher deploys into position aboard Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2021. The NMESIS and its Naval Strike Missiles participated in a live-fire exercise, here, part of Large Scale Exercise 2021. During the training, a Marine Corps fires expeditionary advanced base sensed, located, identified, and struck a target ship at sea, which required more than 100 nautical miles of missile flight. The fires EAB Marines developed a targeting solution for a joint force of seapower and airpower which struck the ship as the Marines displaced to a new firing position. The Marine Corps EABO concept is a core component of the Force Design 2030 modernization effort. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler, released)

Half a Deck

Here we see a good overhead shot of a modern Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ship, essentially a straight-decked aircraft carrier (USS America does not have a well deck) with berthing for 1,687 embarked Marines.

CORAL SEA (July 27, 2021) The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts a fueling-at-sea with Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155) during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21. Australian and U.S. Forces combine biennially for Talisman Sabre, a month-long multi-domain exercise that strengthens allied and partner capabilities to respond to the full range of Indo-Pacific security concerns. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Cavenaile)

Note she has nine MV-22B Ospreys, five F-35B Lightnings, three CH-53E Super Stallions (soon to be replaced by CH-53K King Stallions), and a pair of MH-60 Knighthawk/Seahawks parked on her deck well forward of the island while both of her elevators and five vertical landing spots are open. Out of sight but surely nearby are a handful of UH-1Y Venom liaison helicopters and AH-1Z Viper gunships.

The aircraft shown can put 400~ Marines ashore 180 miles away (unrefueled) in a single lift while the fighters run a CAP and the Seahawks prowl for surface contacts and mines. Keep in mind that the MEUs of old were hamstrung by shorter-range CH-46D/Es and CH-53Ds while strike was left to Harriers.

With a deck that greatly resembles the old WWII Essex-class fleet carriers, America is a stepping stone between the five Tarawa-class LHAs of the 1970s, eight follow-on Wasp-class LHDs, and the next-gen of big-deck ‘phibs that will hit the fleet when USS Bougainville (LHA-8) commissions in 2024. Unlike America and her sister USS Tripoli (LHA-7), Bougainville will have an AN/SPY-6 phased array volume air search radar, a small well deck, and be built from the keel up with F-35s and MV-22s in mind whereas LHA 6/7 had to be retrofitted.

Full-Color Phantom

You’ll never convince me that the full-color schemes that the Navy/Marines used in the 1930s, then again in the 1960s and 70s, weren’t beautiful.

USS Constellation (CVA-64), with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, NAS Cubi Point, Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, 28–30 October 1971. F-4B Phantom IIs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 115 “Silver Eagles” are on the pier.

VMFA-115, known during WWII as Joe’s Jokers after their skipper, the famed ace Joe Foss, was formed in 1943 and flew their Corsairs in intense combat throughout the Philippines Campaign. The Silver Eagles went on to fly F9F-2 Panther jets in Korea and, as shown above, Phantoms in Vietnam, the latter from both DaNang and Nam Phong. Cold War service and multiple deployments to the sandbox in the past 35 years with F-18A and later F-18C Hornet models brings us to the current, with the squadron based at MCAS Beaufort and converting to F-35Cs, which, sadly, aren’t very colorful at all.

Talisman Sabre Photoex

Talk about a great shot. The ships of the forward-deployed USS America (LHA 6) Expeditionary Strike Group steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21 in conjunction with warships from Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. In all, you have three ‘Phibs, six escorts, and two auxiliaries with a battalion of Marines and a half-squadron of F-35s along for the ride. 

The place? The Coral Sea. What a difference 80 years makes, right?

CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) steam in formation during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. This is the ninth iteration of Talisman Sabre, a large-scale, bilateral military exercise between Australia and the U.S. involving more than 17,000 participants from seven nations. The month-long multi-domain exercise consists of a series of training events that reinforce the strong U.S./Australian alliance and demonstrate the U.S. military’s unwavering commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni)

And the breakaway.

CORAL SEA (July 22, 2021) (From left) USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), ROKS Wand Geon (DD 978), HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154), USS America (LHA 6), USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), USS JS Makinami (DD 112), USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3), (center) HMCS Calgary (FFH 335), (back) USS New Orleans (LPD 18), HMAS Brisbane (D 41), and USS Germantown (LSD 42) break from formation steaming during Talisman Sabre (TS) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Serianni

For the record, the America ESG has the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. The 31st MEU currently comprises the F-35B-augmented Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) as the ACE, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines as the GCE, and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 as the LCE. 

103 years Ago: I will Hold

Via the National Museum of the Marine Corps:

On 19 July 1918, 1st Lt Clifton Cates, who would later become the 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps, sent this legendary message back to his command during the fighting at Soissons. At the time, his company, No. 79 of the Sixth Marines, was holding the line by its fingernails along with remnants of the regiment’s 2nd battalion, in the face of stiff German opposition. 

Cates, who was Commandant during Korea, would see his Marines involved in the mud once again, albeit 30 years apart. 

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Murray, commanding the 5th Marines, shows a captured percussion fired, black powder wall gun to Commandant of the Marine Corps General Clifton B. Cates, in Korea. From the Photograph Collection (COLL/3948), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

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