Category Archives: war

What a Difference 50 Days Makes

Well, this press conference didn’t age well at all, and in record time.

25 June 2021: “President Biden Welcomes His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to the White House”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not gloating.

This is a terrible situation, quite accurately the Fall of Saigon of our generation. A total kick in the nuts.

U.S. Embassy evacs: Saigon, April 1975, and Kabul, August 2021, respectively

I have friends and family that were part of the one million Americans who served– often several deployments– in uniform in the (now-old) Afghan Republic over the past two decades and I did contractor work. One of those friends I visit every year in the Biloxi Veteran’s Cemetery and would much rather he still be here to see his daughter grow up. 

This week stings quite a bit and I really felt like everyone saw it coming for the past several years.

The following is the text of a joint statement released by the Department of State and Department of Defense on Afghanistan, 15 August: 

Begin text:

At present we are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights.  Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control. Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks. For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened.

End text.

Manning the Oerlikon

Official caption: “Five steward’s mates stand at their battle stations, as a gun crew aboard a Coast Guard-manned frigate in the southwest Pacific.”

Note the gunner is missing his left shoe but doesn’t seem that affected by it, as there is a pile of 20mm brass in the gun tub. NARA 26-G-3797 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/513214

“On call to general quarters, these Coast Guardsmen man a 20mm AA gun. They are, left to right, James L. Wesley, standing with a clip of shells; L. S. Haywood, firing; William Watson, reporting to bridge by phone from his gun captain’s post; William Morton, loading a full clip, assisted by Odis Lane, facing camera across gun barrel.”

Besides their own vessels, the Coast Guard manned a myriad of ships on the Navy List to include LSTs, LCIs, and transports. Notably, of the 96 Tacoma-class patrol frigates built during the war, the USCG ran 75 (the balance had gone as Lend-Lease to Russia and Britain). Of those 75, most were detailed to convoy duty in the Atlantic but 18 that were built on the West Coast were dispatched in a squadron to the Pacific where they gave a good account of themselves in ASW patrols, landing Rangers and Marines on isolated atolls, and providing NGFS for invasion forces throughout the Philippine littoral.

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

How Many Can You ID?

Check out this layout of Warsaw Pact and WWII Allied small arms captured by U.S. Marines of the 22nd MAU from Cuban stores of the Grenadan People’s Revolutionary Army in that briefly-Marxist British Commonwealth nation in October 1983:

Note the Marine in the top left corner in ERDL camo with a slung M16A1, M1 helmet, smoke grenade, and early PASGIT kevlar vest. Notably, the Army’s 82nd Airborne and Ranger units in the same op had kevlar helmets. DOD Photo 330-CFD-DN-ST-85-0202 by PH2 D. Wujcik, USN, via the National Archives. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6395935

Give up?

Official caption: Seized weapons on display are: (clockwise from the back) Soviet-made 82 mm M-36 mortars, 5 Soviet 7.62 mm PK general-purpose machine guns, two Bren light machine guns, 7.62 mm ammunition, two AK-47 assault rifles, an RPG-2 portable rocket launcher, a 7.62 mm Mosin-Nagant rifle, a Czechoslovakian made Model-52 7.62 mm rifle and a US-made .45 cal. M-3A1 submarine gun

Warship Wednesday, June 30, 2021: Cleaning Up After the Queen

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
 
Warship Wednesday, June 30, 2021: Cleaning Up After the Queen
 
 
Here, in this grainy still from a 16mm camera, we see one of the last organized surrenders of Japanese forces, some 70 years ago today– 30 June 1951– on the island of Anatahan to a whaleboat sent ashore by the Abnaki class fleet tug USS Cocopa, whose hull number (ATF-101) can be seen on the boat. The group of Japanese had previously refused to believe World War II ended in 1945, but surrendered to LCDR James B. Johnson, after losing their queen. 
 
But we will get to that. 
 
The 27 hulls of the Abnaki-class were intended for far-reaching ocean operations with the follow-on tail of the fleet. Constructed during the war, they were large for tugs, stretching out 205-feet in length and weighing almost 1,600 tons when fully loaded. Capable of 16.5 knots, they could steam a whopping 15,000 miles at half that clip on a quartet of economical GM diesels. Fairly well-armed for tugs, they carried a 3″/50 DP main gun, two twin 40mm/60 Bofors, and two Oerlikons. 
 

USS Abnaki (ATF-96) underway at Pearl Harbor, February 1952, showing the simple and effective layout of the class, which kept their WWII-era armament well into the 1950s. Cocopa surely emulated the above impression at Anatahan.

Named for Native American tribes, Cocopa carried the name of an Arizona tribe and was constructed by Charleston Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Charleston, S.C., commissioned 25 March 1944. 
 

Cocopas by Balduin Mollhausen, circa 1860. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Her war history was largely skipped over by DANFS, with just 88 words dedicated it the period, but it was interesting if not the stuff of military legend, taking the tug from the Palmetto State to Shanghai with stops in the English Channel and brushes with German U-Boats while in two cross-Atlantic convoys. 
 
Via NARA
 
Amazingly, she did not earn a single battle star for her WWII service. 
 
Following a postwar overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, she was assigned to Alaskan waters, which at the time were still strewn in wartime wreckage and threats of mines. While operating out of Guam in 1951, she was dispatched to a far-off island to respond to the strange story of a group of Japanese holdouts that the war had forgotten. 
 

Anatahan

 
Located in the Northern Marianas, the natives there were removed by the Spanish in the 17th Century to turn the 8,300-acre volcanic island into a large coconut/copra plantation. This continued under the Germans, who picked up Spain’s remaining Pacific territories in 1899, and by the 1920s or so, the plantations had fallen into disrepair and, with the Japanese in charge, they stayed that way. 
 
 
Fast forward to June 1944 and U.S. air assets from the 15 carriers of VADM Marc A. Mitscher’s TF 58 found a Japanese convoy in the area, sailing from Tanapag to Japan.
 
 
Over the next three days, as a sideshow to the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” they had easy pickings, splashing the torpedo boat Otori, net layer Kokku Maru, transports Batavia Maru, Hinko Maru, Kamishima Maru, Imizu Maru, Nitcho Maru, Reikai Maru, and Tenryugawa Maru: the freighter Bokuyo Maru, Japanese Army cargo ships Fukoku Maru and Moji Maru, and the coaster Tsushima Maru.
 

Marianas Operation, 1944. Caption: Burning Japanese cargo ship that was attacked by USS LEXINGTON (CV-16) planes off Saipan, 14 June 1944. Description: Catalog #: 80-G-236902

In the aftermath, a group of some 31 Japanese soldiers and mariners including navy seamen, army privates, and four merchant ship captains, the survivors of several of the ships that were sunk, made it to the lush shores of Anatahan where they lived with a handful of locals who were leftovers from the old plantation days alongside Mr. Kikuichiro Higa, the Okinawan plantation manager, and one Japanese woman, Kazuko Higa, his common-law wife. The senior-most Japanese military member was Sgt. Junji Inoue. 
 
War came to the island when a Saipan-based B-29 Superfortress, T Square 42 (42-74248), from the 498th Bomb Group, 875th Squadron, 73rd Wing, crashed on 3 January 1945 on Anatahan, with no survivors. Meanwhile, the Japanese hid. 
 
On 10 May 1945, elements of the U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry Regiment, carried by the USS Marsh (DE-669), LCI(L)-1054 and LCI(L)-1082, landed on Anatahan and scouted around a bit, staying for a week. The Japanese continued to hide. 
 
In July 1945, the 6th Marine MP Battalion landed on the island and again the Japanese hid inland. They removed the 45 native Carolinians who remained in the village. Other Navy ships visited the island and, hailing the emperor’s remaining subjects there, urged them to surrender. 
 
After the war, in February 1946, a U.S. Army AGRS search party visited the island, located the crash site near the top of its 2,500 ft volcano, and recovered the remains of the crew. Still, the Japanese remained in hiding, despite messages to them that the war was over, including Japanese newspapers and magazines chronicling the peace, which were dismissed as a trick. 
 
As noted by the National Park Service, the Japanese eventually found the B-29, and their fortunes changed. 
 
Early in September 1946, Kazuko and Kikuichiro Higa were crossing the steaming 2,500-foot volcanic crater atop the island when they stumbled upon the wreckage of an American B-29.  Parachutes found in the aircraft yielded nylon for clothing and cord that was carefully unraveled, then rewoven into fishing lines. Using stone hammers, the men chopped away the duralumin plates and beneath them found aluminum, which was eventually formed into cooking utensils, razors, harpoons, fishhooks, spears, and knives. Wire from the springs in the machine guns was twisted into shark hooks. Oxygen tanks were modified for use as water catchments. Engine bolts were fashioned into chisels and other cutting and drilling tools. Plexiglass and strips of rubber were made into pairs of underwater goggles. Everything that could be carried away from this great prize was taken and zealously guarded.  When one man discovered a method for making a new implement, the less inventive of the group made copies. One man designed a model sailing vessel from duralumin and copper wire from the aircraft. Another produced several banjo-like samisens, traditional Japanese three-stringed instruments.
 
It also provided instruments of death: A pair of 45 caliber automatic pistols. The weapons were seized by two of Kazuko’s suitors. For the remaining months of their lives, the two reigned as kings of the island.
 
Soon, Kikuichiro was killed, as were no less than three other survivors, in a series of feuds over crab fishing and Kazuko, who became something of the Queen of Anatahan.  
 
In June 1950, LCDR James Johnson, Deputy Civil Administrator on Saipan, began to wage a hearts and minds campaign to get the Japanese on Anatahan to lay down their arms and go home. This included regular delivery of care packages under a white flag, amounting to letters from the soldiers’ relatives and Japanese authorities, Tokyo newspapers, magazines, food supplies, Japanese beer, and cigarettes.” 
 
This brought about the “surrender” of Queen of Anatahan, who was eager to leave her subjects behind. 
 

Kazuko Higa, the lone woman on Anatahan, the day of her surrender, June 1950. (N-1993.02). http://libweb.hawaii.edu/digicoll/ttp/ttp_htms/1993.html

 
Johnson kept up his efforts to get the last of the marooned Japanese off the island for eight months. After dropping leaflets promising the 18 men who were left would be returned to their families, a white flag appeared and our tug sailed from Guam, complete with a platoon of armed Marines and a LIFE journalist, Michael Rougier.
 
By Rougier, via the LIFE Archives: 
 
I found these two videos in the National Archives of the event and uploaded them to YT. They are silent but moving. 
 
 

Junji Inoue, the day of his surrender at Anatahan, June 1951. (N-1993.05). Inoue reads a document urging his compatriots to surrender. Scene aboard M.V. Cocopa, Anatahan, June 1951. Inoue’s personal implements. Note fiber zoris, coconut husk hat, knives fashioned from B-29 wreckage. (N-1993.07)

 
Once the men arrived in Guam, they were hospitalized for a week then flown to Japan. 
 

From the Aug. 1951 All Hands

 
The Lord of the Flies tale of shipwrecked soldiers and sailors fighting over a single queen while surviving on coconut wine and crabs was turned into several books and at least one internationally popular film, Josef von Sternberg’s Anatahan (1953).
 
 

Meanwhile, back to our ship!

 
With the war in Korea increasingly drawing in naval assets after the entrance of Chinese volunteers by the hundreds of thousands, USS Cocopa (ATF-101) was soon off to combat. Deployed to the region in the summer and fall of 1953, she was key in saving the Canadian Tribal-class destroyer HMCS Huron (G24), which had grounded while in range of Nork shore batteries. The mighty tug took the damaged Canuck, stern-first, to Sasebo. 
 
Cocopa did receive a battle star for Korea. 
 

USS Cocopa (ATF-101) moored pier side, date, and location unknown. Note The tug’s engineers have managed to paint their battle efficiency “E” on their ship’s tiny smokestack. NHHC

 
By 1954, she was supporting Operation Castle, a series of atomic tests at Bikini Atoll.
 
Then came numerous trips to Vietnam, deploying there five times between 1963 and 1972, earning five stars for her service in Southeast Asia. One of the most interesting taskings during her time there was as a “Yankee Station Special Surveillance Unit” to deceive and jam Soviet Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and Electrical Intelligence (ELINT) trawlers that were monitoring American operations in the Gulf of Tonkin.
 

USS Cocopa (ATF-101) underway,1969, still with her 3-inch gun but with her Bofors and Oerlikons removed. L45-54.04.01

Decommissioned, 30 September 1978, she would go on to continue her service in more North American waters. 

Viva Armada!

 
Sold under the Security Assistance Program to Mexico, 30 September 1978, Cocopa was commissioned into the Republic of Mexico Navy as ARM Jose Maria Mata (ARE-03) until 1993, then as ARM Seri with the same hull number. 
 
She is still on active duty, based in Tampico. 
 

ARM Seri ARE03 Tampico Mexico 2016 via ShipSpotter IMO 7342691

Check out this video of her underway in 2017, looking good for her age. 
 
 

Epilogue 

 
Of Cocopa’s 26 Abenaki-class sisters, they have been very lucky with two exceptions– USS Wateree (ATF-117) was sunk during a typhoon, 9 October 1945 with a loss of eight crew members; and USS Sarsi (ATF-111) met her fate during Typhoon Karen in 1952 at the hands of a drifting naval mine off the coast of Korea. The rest lived to a ripe old age with the U.S. Navy, eventually being retired by Uncle Sam in the 1960s and 70s. While the last of her class in U.S. service, USS Papago (ATF-160), was disposed of in 1997, many were transferred overseas– such as Cocopa, who continues to serve alongside classmates ARM Yaqui (ex-Abnaki) and ARM Otomi (ex-USS Molala ATF-106)
 
 
As for Anatahan, it is uninhabited these days but is still home to one very testy queen. Home to a stratovolcano that consists of the largest known caldera in the Northern Mariana Islands, it blew its top in 2003, producing a cloud that was seen 600 miles away and burying the island in ash. 
 
Specs:  
Displacement 1,205 t.(lt) 1,675 t.(fl)
Length 205′
Beam 38′ 6″
Draft 15′ 5″ (lim)
Propulsion: (As-Built) four Busch-Sulzer (mod 12-278) Diesel-electric engines, single propeller 3,000shp
Ship’s Service Generators: two Diesel-drive 100Kw 120V/240V D.C., one Diesel-drive 200Kw 120V/240 D.C.
Modernized: (the 1960s) four Alco Diesel engines driving four General Electric generators and three General Motors 3-268A auxiliary services engines
Speed 16.5 kts.
Radar: SPS-5
Complement 5 Officers, 80 Enlisted
Armament (as completed)
one single 3″/50 dual-purpose gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
two single 20mm AA gun mounts
 
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They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm 
 
The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.
 
With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.
 
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MIG Alley

70 Years Ago Today.

Air Guard in MIG Alley by William S. Phillips, via the U.S. Air Force National Guard’s Heritage Collection

MIG Alley, North Korea — June 26, 1951 — During the Korean War over 45,000 Air Guardsmen, in 22 wings and other units, were called into active Federal service. The 136th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Texas ANG, was among the first Air National Guard units to be called. Flying the F-84E Thunderjet, the Texas Guardsmen moved to Japan in May 1951 and, shortly thereafter, became the first Air Guardsmen to enter combat in the Korean War. During the winter and spring of 1951, the Chinese Communist Air Force mounted a major air offensive against the United Nations air forces. The major contested area were the skies over northwestern Korea known as MIG Alley.

The U.S. Air Force retaliated by mounting a counteroffensive aimed at destroying the enemy’s aircraft and bases. In June 1951 the 136th’s 182d Fighter-Bomber Squadron was given the mission of protecting B-29 flights on bombing missions over North Korea.

On June 26, 1951, the pilots of the 182d were escorting four B-29s to an enemy airfield near Yongyu when five MIG-15s attacked the American bombers. Although relatively new to combat, the pilots of the 182d turned back the veteran MIG pilots. During the ensuing dogfight, 1st Lt. Arthur E. Oligher, assisted by Captain Harry Underwood, shot down a MIG-15–the first Air Guard jet kill. The Air National Guard went on to make an impressive combat flying record.

Today’s 182d Tactical Fighter Squadron, Texas Air National Guard continues to add to its impressive flying record.

Scratch One of Donitz’s Sharks

Original caption: Coast Guard Cutter sinks sub. Heaved up from below by the force of a depth charge, the Nazi U-Boat 175 breaks surface as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER, guns ablaze, bears down on it, full speed ahead. The submarine was sunk on April 17, 1943, in the North Atlantic, as it was approaching inside a convoy of ships ready to attack with torpedoes.

National Archives Identifier: 205574156 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205574156

Original caption: Coast Guard Cutter sinks sub. Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER watch the explosion of a depth charge which blasted a Nazi U-Boat’s hope of breaking into the center of a large convoy. The depth charge tossed from the 327-foot cutter blew the submarine to the surface, where it was engaged by Coast Guardsmen. Ships of the convoy may be seen in the background.

National Archives Identifier: 205574168 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205574168

USCGC Spencer (WPG-36), a 327-foot Treasury-class cutter, is shown above sinking KMS U-175, in position 47.53N, 22.04W, by depth charges and gunfire some 500 miles SW of Ireland. Assigned to 10. Flottille under skipper Kptlt. Heinrich Bruns, the Type IXC boat had chalked up over 40,000 tons of shipping before Spencer ruined her paint job. Some 41 Germans were picked up from the ocean that day and made POWs for the rest of the war while 13 rode the submarine to the bottom.

Official Caption: “NAZI SUBMARINE SUNK BY THE FAMED CUTTER SPENCER: Effect of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER’S fire are visible in this closeup shot of the U-Boat, taken as the battle raged. The Nazi standing by the stanchion amidships disappeared a moment after this picture was taken by a Coast Guard photographer. The U-Boat had been trying to sneak into the center of the convoy.” Date: 17 April 1943 Photo No.: 1512 Photographer: Jack January? Description: The “Nazi” mentioned in the above caption was probably in fact a member of the Coast Guard boarding team–one of the first Americans to board an enemy man-of-war underway at sea since the War of 1812.

Official Caption: “OFF TO RESCUE THEIR BEATEN FOES: A pulling boat leaves the side of a Coast Guard combat cutter to rescue Nazi seamen struggling in the mid-Atlantic after their U-Boat had been blasted to the bottom by the cutter’s depth charges. Two Coast Guard cutters brought 41 German survivors to a Scottish port.” Date: 17 April 1943 Photo No.: 1516 Photographer: Jack January Description: The men in this pulling boat were in fact a trained boarding team led by LCDR John B. Oren (standing in the stern and wearing the OD helmet) and LT Ross Bullard (directly to Oren’s left). With the assistance of the Royal Navy they had practiced boarding a submarine at sea in order to capture an Enigma coding machine and related intelligence material. They were forced to take a pulling lifeboat when the Spencer’s motor lifeboat was damaged by friendly fire.

As for Spencer, named for President Tyler’s T-secretary, she would survive the war and go on to complete a 40-year career.

(Courtesy USCGC Spencer Association)

Decommissioned 23 January 1974 she was used for a further six years as an Engineering Training School and berthing hulk at the CG Yard in Maryland then fully decommissioned on 15 December 1980 and sold the following year to the North American Smelting Company of Wilmington, Delaware.

Her name is currently carried by a 270-foot Bear-class high endurance cutter (WMEC 905), which has been with the Coast Guard since 1986, a comparatively paltry 35 years.

Hitting the Beach: 60 Years Ago Today

Porto Tramazzu, Sardinia: The first assault wave hits Blue Beach, landing the Teufelhunden of the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines (3/6) for an exercise, on April 27, 1961. The assorted LCVPs are from the Bayfield-class attack transport USS Fremont (APA-44) and the Andromeda-class attack cargo ship USS Muliphen (AKA-61/LKA-61).

The 3rd Battalion had just three years prior taken part in the landings in Lebanon and, four years after this image, would go on to take part in the wildly confusing intervention in the Dominican Republic. (National Archives KN-2431 via NHHC)

The scene looks much like the landings during WWII. Heck both Fremont and Muliphen were built during the war as were likely the landing craft, whose hull numbers look right out of D-Day.

Besides the easy propaganda purpose that such shots sent to Moscow during the Cold War, ops like this were also good fodder for camera crews to shoot high-quality B-roll for Hollywood movies on the war, which always helped as recruiting tools. Sure, the Devils are wearing ODs instead of HBTs or frogskins, but Tinsel Town wouldn’t care.

While the concept of such “wet” landings fell rapidly out of popularity with the USMC in favor of vertical envelopment via helicopter during the 1960s and the following on air-cushioned landings by LCAC, the use of landing craft never fully went away and, in the near future, Marines could once again be getting their feet wet more often.

Sunrise Service Among the Depth Charges

Official Caption: Sunday Services on board a Coast Guard destroyer escort in the Atlantic, during the Easter Season, in 1944-45. Here, the ship’s Chaplain Leads the crew in prayer.

National Archives 26-G-3425

For reference, among the myriad of Army- and Navy-owned vessels the USCG operated during WWII in addition to their own, the Coasties ran no less than 30 destroyer escorts in five divisions, including the ill-fated USS Leopold DE-319, the first of its type to be lost in combat.

Happy National Napping Day

“Rare and wonderful sleep,” a worn-out Marine M1918A2 BAR gunner catches a wink behind what looks like an overturned grade school desk during a break on the push out of the Pusan-Changwon perimeter, South Korea, 1950.

USMC Photo A2292, via National Archives https://catalog.archives.gov/id/74244434

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