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Hell for leather

You would be surprised by how much the U.S. military still uses horses these days. In the past few weeks, all of these pieces came out over the PAO wire for the Pentagon.

“Marines located in Barstow, California are part of the only mounted color guard in the Corps. They travel the country participating in ceremonies, continuing one of the oldest traditions of Marine Corps.”

The 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg AFB, has the only working horse patrol in the U.S. Air Force, used for law enforcement work across the huge base.

And, “Marines and soldiers attend a 15-day special operational forces horsemanship course from June 06, 2018 to June 21, 2018, at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California. This course teaches its students the benefits of navigating through rough terrain with the aid of animals.”

Pulaski, Sheridan, Grierson, and Patton would surely be tickled.

And the U.S. aren’t the only ones. Behold, the Auftrag für den Reitzug der Bundeswehr.

The more things change…

Two pictures, about a century apart, but in the same part of the world and with the same context.

An ANZAC soldier trying to spot Turkish snipers during the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915 Turkey, raises his Wolseley pith helmet on his Enfield as his buddy observes for Ottoman muzzle flash.

A USMC Marine uses his entrenching tool to hold his helmet and attract enemy fire while a spotter searches for targets through a small hole in Fallujah, Iraq, 2004

Just waiting for ET to kick up a fight somewhere past Uranus sometime around 2090, then we can put a Space Force sniper team here for a third picture follow-up.

Going back to Guam, 74 years ago today

5 August 1944. “Home Again” – Col. Merlin F. Schneider (kneeling, left), Commanding Officer of the Marine unit that recaptured the Marine Barracks on Orote Peninsula, Guam, holds the plaque that was removed by the Japanese when they took possession of the barracks and the island nearly three years earlier.

NHHC Photograph Collection, from the “All Hands” Collection, September 1944.

The three Marines, who located the plaque and presented it to the Colonel, stand behind it. They are (left to right): Privates First Class John C. Brown; Carmen J. Catania; and Corporal Joseph J. Mannino.

On 21 July 1944, the 3rd Marine Division launched an amphibious assault to liberate and recapture Guam during World War II.

Landing craft returning to their transports, after landing Marines near Asan Beach, Guam, on 21 July 1944. National Archives 80-G-248260

Last week, Guam celebrated their 74th Liberation Day parade. The Division Color Guard and III Marine Expeditionary Force Band participate annually in the parade and Liberation Day festivities with the local Chamorros, and it shows Asan Beach as it is today.

SOCCOM dropping coin on lots of suppressed uppers

Earlier this year in Dallas I got a chance to put some rounds downrange with Sig Sauer’s new SUR300, a suppressed .300 BLK upper that uses a 6.75-inch barrel with a permanently attached Ti suppressor that incorporates 19 baffles. It was hearing safe without earpro (we’re talking ~120dB range), good for 400 meters due to the combined length of the barrel and baffle stack, shorter than a comparable rifle with a threaded barrel and can, and had less blowback in my face when firing.

The SUR300, (Photo: Chris Eger)

While Sig has not released the upper on the commercial market just yet that I can find, they did recently pick up a $48 million contract for SOCCOM’s long-awaited Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG) program, which intends to marry a full-auto capable full-time hushed upper with standard M4A1 lowers, so you can expect lots more quiet time on the sharp end in coming years.

Happy 137th, Smedley

On this day in 1881 in West Chester, PA, Smedley Darlington Butler was authorized one body, human, which he used to join the Marines some 38 days before his 17th birthday during the great national crisis that was the Spanish–American War.

Some 34 years later, he retired as a full Maj. Gen (the highest rank authorised in the Corps at the time) after fighting in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the “Banana Wars,” and in France during the Great War, earning not just one but two Medals of Honor.

While in the Corps “The Fighting Quaker” wrote on counter insurgency warfare which was later published along with other texts as The Small Wars Manual in 1940 and, five years before his death at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, penned the slightly more notorious War is a Racket.

Here is Butler’s campaign hat on display at the National Marine Corps Museum.

Of watercooled Brownings, obsolete landing guns and horse Marines

Marine Corps Photo #530953 entitled “Ready for Anything–Maneuvers outside of Peking” showing some well-outfitted Devil Dogs clad in overseas winter gear to include fur caps readying a Browning M1917 water-cooled 30.06 machine gun while sheltering in what looks like a tilled field. Although the M1919 air-cooled Browning was around, the sustained fire M1917 was a thing of beauty on the defense.

The picture is comparable to one from RN Marines from about 30 years previous:

“The New Maxim-Gun mounting field Service with the Naval Brigade in South Africa 1900.”

While the USMC photo is undated, it likely comes from the late 1920s-30s, the heydey of the famous “China Marines” which saw the whole of the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in Shanghai from March 1927 onward to augment the Legation Guard Marines from Peking and Tientsin in protecting American citizens and property in the International Settlement during outbreak of violence that came with the Chinese Revolution– and, after 1937, the Japanese invasion of China.

“Technical Sgt-USMC-1938, Mounted, by Maj. J.H. Magruder, USMCR” typical of the kit of the 4th Marines in Northern China at the time of the photo at the top of the post.

Reduced over time to just two (sometimes horse-mounted on Mongolian ponies) battalions, each with only two rifle companies of two platoons each and one machine gun company (but augmented by the only fife band in the Corps), by 1940 the Marines were the only large international force in Shanghai as the French and Brits had withdrawn due to pressing needs elsewhere.

One of several Mark VII 3-inch landing guns remaining in the hands of the Marine garrison in Peking in service with the 39th Company, Marine Artillery. Just 51 of these handy 1,700-pound guns were built from a German Ehrhardt design 1909-12 and were used extensively by the Marines in the Banana Wars (although not in France in the Great War). China was the last hurrah of these peculiar 3″/23 caliber field guns– and the Japanese captured six of the example in storage at Cavite in 1942.

The 4th Marines was itself pulled from China less than a month before Pearl Harbor. These hardy regulars were withdrawn to the Philippines aboard the chartered Dollar liners SS President Madison and President Harrison, where they were soon ground down against the Japanese to the point that the remnants burned their colors on Corregidor before the surrender there in 1942.

Of the 204 remaining Legation Marines and their Navy support personnel under Col. William W. Ashurst in China not directly assigned to the 4th, their own planned extraction to the PI was interrupted by Pearl Harbor and, on 8 December 1941, they were captured by overwhelming Japanese forces. The men were interned in a prisoner of war camp in Shanghai under harsh conditions until it was liberated, 19 June 1945.

Scooter’s HIPEG, from the man who brought you the Spruce Goose!

Here we see what was then dubbed the Mark 11, 20mm Aircraft Gun, in the Mark 1 POD, attached to the centerline bomb rack of a Douglas A4D-2 Skyhawk aircraft, April 14, 1958. The system was known in development by Hughes as the HIPEG.

330-PS-8882 (USN 710123)

330-PS-8882 (USN 710122)

Master Caption:

“The U.S. Navy today unveiled a new pod-mounted weapon, a 20mm aircraft gun capable of firing 4,000 rounds per minute. This gun, called the Mark 11, was shown to Naval Aviators and representatives of the press at the Third Annual Naval Air Weapons Meet, held at the U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air Station, El Centro, California. This new weapon, which will offer a significant contribution to Naval Air Attack Capability, is carried and fired in an external pod which is fitted to the bomb rack of carrier-based aircraft. Its primary application is in an air-to-ground attack, where its controlled variable rate of fire makes it extremely effective. Ease of rearming, replacement of the gun, and maintenance are notable features which add to the practicability of the gun. Rear Admiral Paul D. Stroop, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, indicated that with the Mark 11 gun and POD meeting the firepower requirements of future attack aircraft, there will be a gain in aircraft structural simplicity since there would be no need for internal fixed guns. Mr. Frank Markquaret, a Naval Ordnance Engineer in the Bureau of Ordnance, conceived the Mark 11 gun and POD. It was developed for the U.S. Navy by Flier Industrialist, Howard Hughes. The Mark 11 is presently undergoing an evaluation at the Naval Aviation Ordnance Test Station, Chincoteague, Virginia, and is expected to be operational in 1959.”

According to a May 1962 report, 17 test pods cycled 16,000 rounds of 20mm ammo with a total of 29 stoppages or about 550-rounds on average between stoppages.

As reported by Popular Mechanics in 1963, three such pods could be added to a Navy jet to triple its gunfire available to somewhere around 12,000 rounds of 20mm per minute. It should be noted that at the time the A-4 mounted two Colt Mk 12 cannons (U.S.-made Hispano HS 404s), one in each wing root, with 100 rounds per gun.

Adopted as the Mk 4 Mod 0, some 1,200 of these pods were produced and served on Navy and Marine A-4s, F-4, and the OV-10 Bronco, primarily seeing active service in Vietnam for close air support missions.

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