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Hill fights!

The Marine Corps University History Division’s newest publication is now available online:

Hill Fights: The First Battle of Khe Sanh, 1967 (click here)

It’s 67 pages.

It’s free.

It was 50 years ago this month.

It’s a great read.

Navy completes Vietnam War book series

USS Saint Paul bombarding communist positions off Vietnam, Oct 1966

With the publication last week of End of the Saga: The Maritime Evacuation of South Vietnam and Cambodia, the Naval History and Heritage Command has announced the completion of its nine-year, nine-book series titled The U.S. Navy and the Vietnam War.

All books in the U.S. Navy and the Vietnam War series are available online for free download as 508-compliant PDF files, MOBI versions for Kindle devices, and the ePub for most other readers. Readers can download their free copy and enjoy them on the go. If you want a hard copy, you can purchase one from the Government Printing Office (GPO).

The series traces its roots to the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which directed the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

The titles in the series include (with pdf hyperlinks in the titles):

1.) The Approaching Storm: Conflict in Asia, 1945-1965

2.) Nixon’s Trident: Naval Power in Southeast Asia, 1968-1972

3.) The Battle Behind Bars: Navy and Marine POWs in the Vietnam War

4.) Navy Medicine in Vietnam: Passage to Freedom to the Fall of Saigon

5.) Combat at Close Quarters: Warfare on the Rivers and Canals of Vietnam

6.) Naval Air War: The Rolling Thunder Campaign

7.) Knowing the Enemy: Naval Intelligence in Southeast Asia

8.) Fourth Arm of Defense: Sealift and Maritime Logistics in the Vietnam War

9.) End of the Saga: The Maritime Evacuation of South Vietnam and Cambodia

Enjoy, and get to reading.


Looks like a story board from Apocalypse Now, but it’s real

On the night of October 27-28, 1965 Viet Cong forces launched an attack on a newly built helicopter facility at Marble Mountain, southeast of Da Nang, RVN.

“Reflected Night Battle, Marble Mountain” Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Gene Klebe; 1965; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W NHHC Accession #: 88-162-I

After 30 minutes of fighting, American casualties were three dead, 91 wounded, 19 helicopters destroyed, and 35 damaged.

Pritzker on Southeast Asia

“Home Cookin’, 1967. A member of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division eats his first hot meal in five days after operating in the Quảng Ngãi Province. Photo by Specialist 5 Robert C. Lafoon, U.S. Army”

“…He was known for his Mohawk haircut. He’s sitting there eating some turkey and some peas. We had been out and had humped all day long and I mean humped—it was mountains. Fortunately, they flew in hot chow. In that unit itself he was known for that Mohawk haircut so I said hey, I gotta get a shot of this guy.”— Photo commentary shared by Specialist 5 Robert C. Lafoon, U.S. Army 1967

Visit the Pritzker Museum & Library in Chicago or go to this website to explore more than 150 images and listen to dozens of firsthand accounts of those who fought and documented the Vietnam War.

That’s one Phast Phantom

On this day in 1961, McDonnell F4H-1F (F-4A) BuNo 145307, crewed by pilot LT Huntington Hardisty and radar intercept officer LT Earl H. DeEsch averaged 902.769 mph for a new low-altitude world speed record over a three-kilometer course at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

The project and Phantom’s name: Sageburner.

Photos via National Naval Aviation Museum

Photos via National Naval Aviation Museum

F4H-1 Phantom II crewed by pilot LT Hunt Hardisty and radar intercept officer LT Earl H. DeEsch sageburner in operation

The maximum altitude reached during this flight was only 125 feet, fully living up to the name of the project-Sageburner. BuNo 145307 was later turned over to the National Air and Space Museum and is preserved in storage at the Paul Garber Restoration Facility at Suitland, Maryland. Another Sageburner F-4, 145310, is undergoing restoration.

Melbourne hawks in review

Here we see a pair of McDonnell Douglas A4G Skyhawks of the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm 805 Squadron (VF-805) coming in low and hot over the RAN’s only operable aircraft carrier of the time, HMAS Melbourne (R21) sometime in the 1970s.

While the RAN FAA traces its lineage back to the Great War, it was only after WWII that it was able to stand up fixed-wing carrier squadrons, flying Hawker Sea Fury’s in Korea. After a brief interlude in Sea Venoms, 805 Squadron picked up their Seahawks in 1968.

The two ‘Hawks shown above were part of 21 A-4s operated by the RAN between 1967-84 with #887 eventually transferring to New Zealand from where she was sold in 2012 to Draken International (where she still flies as a contract aggressor in Florida). As for #888, she crashed in 1979 but her pilot, a U.S. Navy aviator on exchange duty, was rescued.

New skins for an old warrior

When my grandfather joined the National Guard at 17, but before he headed off to war on active duty, he bought a “fighing knife” from a local hardware store as any strapping youth in olive drab needed just such the item.

It was a PAL RH-36.

The PAL Cutlery Company of Plattsburgh, NY. was established in 1935, specializing in kitchen implements. The company was a merger of the Utica Knife & Razor Company of Utica, NY and the Pal Blade Company of Chicago, IL. Pal used both the “Blade Company” and “Cutlery Company” monikers interchangeably during the next two decades until they went out of business in 1953. They purchased the cutlery division of Remington in 1939, along with all of their machinery, tooling and designs and soon began production in the old Remington owned factory in Holyoke, MA.

The design of the RH-36 came from that Remington acquisition, as the designations meant “Remington, Hunting, Pattern 3, 6” blade”. These were one of the most common US fighting knives of WWII, these were bought by all branches during the war, often with unit funds, and were also available as private purchase knives– such as my gramps.

Overall length is 11-inches with the razor-sharp blade just over 6, thus balancing well. Though some blades were parkerized, this one is bright though there is some patina. The old “PAL RH-36” markings are clear on the ricasso. The leather washer grip with red spacers is still tight, though dark. The pommel and guard are still surprisingly tight after more a half-century of use.

It has been sharpened and resharpened perhaps hundreds of times and was used by my grandfather overseas until he left the military in 1974, then sat in a box until I recently inherited it. The original sheath has long since broken, and subsequently discarded, leaving the blade naked.

Now, with the help of my friend Warren at Edged Creations who handcrafted the new sheath with three layers of leather, hand stitching and copper rivets, it should be good for another 70 years.

Thanks, Warren!

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