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Fooling with sticky plastique

Making friends and influencing people with some M118 Demo Charge, aka Flex-X (the military version of Detasheet or Primasheet, a PETN-based rubberized sheet explosive) via this 1960s Army training film

As a bonus, here is a period piece on electric priming, because you really need one to have the other

Warship Wednesday: Coral Sea, arriving with a mighty flock, 55 years ago today

A brief WW this week gives us the view of the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) underway in the Pacific, April 18, 1963, just out of Pearl Harbor with various aircraft of Carrier Group Fifteen (CVG-15, NL) spotted on deck.

Would you look at that enormous Douglas A-3 Skywarrior (Whale) from VAH-2 on the center deck!


Other aircraft are F-4B Phantoms from VF-151, A-4C/Es Skyhawks from VA-153 and 155, F-8C Crusaders from VF-154 along with photo birds from VFP-63, and A-1H Vigilantees from VA-165. The radar domes of VAW-11’s E-1B “Stoofs with a roof” are easy to spot.

All of the above aircraft types have long been discarded in U.S service (although Japan, Turkey, Iran and others still fly F-4s in limited numbers and roles).

Of the squadrons, most don’t exist anymore. Two notable exceptions are the Vigilantes of VF-151 that fly F-18E/Fs from CVW-9 (Stennis) while the Knights of VF-154 fly the same type from CVW-11 (Nimitz). In 1968, the VAH-2 was redesignated as Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) and have been in the jamming game ever since, flying EKA-3Bs, then later EA-6Bs and currently EA-18G Growlers.

As for CVG-15, on 23 Dec. 1963, it became CVW-15 and would deploy on the Coral Sea an amazing 10 times (Vietnam-1964, Vietnam-1967, Vietnam-1968, Vietnam-1969, Vietnam-1970, Eastpac-1971, Vietnam-1972, Vietnam-1973, WestPac-1975, WestPac-1977). After the Coral Sea was retired, CVW-15 spent two decades swapping between Carl Vinson and Kitty Hawk before it was disestablished in 1995 as part of the post-Cold War drawdown.

The Coral Sea, decommissioned in 1990 after 43 years of hard service, was dismantled slowly over a seven-year period and was the largest vessel ever scrapped up until that date. Her sistership, USS Midway, of course, survives as a museum.

A look at Spooky

In the developmental process of the modern USAF airborne gunship, the AC-47D was very special.

She mounted a trio of MXU-470A modules portside each with a 7.62x51mm GAU-2B A (M134) Minigun.

The affect was, well, spooky.

Here is one Spooky mock-up on display at the Air Force Armament Museum outside of Eglin Air Force base in Crestview, Florida that took photos of awhile back. However, it should be pointed out that the airframe in question was never an actual AC-47, but rather a visually modified regular unarmed C-47– but you get the point.


That mouth, tho

Operation Market Time:

Photo was taken on 29 November 1966 by Photographer’s Mate Second Class Whitmarsh. USN 1120032

A Cat Lo-based U.S. Navy large personnel landing craft (LCPL) cruises in Vung Tau Harbor in South Vietnam during an Operation Market Time patrol. The LCPL is armed with a .50-caliber air-cooled Browning M2 machine gun complete with shield and a pair of muzzle-oriented spotlights– “the better to see you with.”

By the looks of it, LCPL#33 is a 36-foot fiberglass MK11-type, which could float in as little as three-feet of brown water and make a blazing 19-knots on its Detriot Diesel, though the bone in the mouth of that sharkjaw looks to be more impressive than that.

Fire mission, 48 years ago

American gunners of B Bty, 6 Bn, 27th Artillery, fire an M110 8-inch howitzer during a fire support mission at LZ Hong, approx. 12 km northeast of Song Be, South Vietnam. 26 March 1970.

Entering service in 1963, the big M110 with its 203mm gun M201A1 howitzer could lob a host of exotic 8-inch shells including the M426 round– full of Sarin nerve gas– and the M422A1 which held a 40-kt W33 nuclear warhead. These big guns were slowly withdrawn after the Cold War with that last seeing service with the Army Reserve as late as 1994. Demilled, their tubes were turned into GBU-28 bunker-buster bombs capable of penetrating thick reinforced concrete several meters underground.

However, some M110s remain in service with about a dozen allies, including Taiwan who use them as long-range artillery against neighboring Chinese batteries.

As for the 27th Artillery, one battalion (4th) is still on active duty and is based at Fort Bliss as part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1AD, equipped with M109A6 Paladins and towed M777A2 howitzers, both in 155mm.

Get your Starlight on

Ever wondered how the old Vietnam-era Starlight scopes worked? Ask no more, here is “Night Vision” 1974 US Army; Research & Development Progress Report No. 53

Happy International Women’s Day

Photographer Catherine Leroy about to jump with the 173rd Airborne during operation "Junction City", Vietnam, 1967 Photograph taken by a GI and sent recently to Catherine Leroy

Photographer Catherine Leroy about to jump with the 173rd Airborne during operation “Junction City”, Vietnam, 1967 (Photograph taken by a GI and sent recently to Catherine Leroy)

Catherine Leroy was just 21 when she arrived in Vietnam with little more than a Leica and $100 to her name. She went on to take some of the conflict’s most striking photographs. Born in Paris in 1945, her childhood had been permeated by the reports from France’s war in Indochina and, when the war again escalated with American intervention, she decided to travel to Vietnam, arriving in 1966.

Speaking little English she managed to meet Horst Faas, the Associated Press’ bureau chief in Saigon; he offered her $15 a picture. She would spend the next decade periodically covering the war in Vietnam until the fall of Saigon in 1975. Under five feet tall and sporting blonde pigtails she didn’t fit the conventional image of a war correspondent.

Leroy, however, was determined to capture the human aspect of the war. A qualified parachutist, Leroy became the first female war correspondent to take part in a combat jump with the 173rd Airborne Brigade when they launched Operation Junction City in February 1967.

Catherine Leroy 2
(More on Leroy at Historical Firearms)

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