Category Archives: war

80 Years Ago Today: NZ Invaded…with Yanks

On 12 June 1942 five transports landed the 145th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 37th Infantry “Buckeye” Division, composed largely of men of the Ohio Army National Guard, at Auckland (after having first reinforced Fiji the month before), complete with wool uniforms and brand-new M1 helmets and M1 Garands as four military bands stood on Prince’s Wharf ready to greet them. New Zealand’s own forces, at the time, some 100,000-strong, were heavily engaged at sea as well as in the Middle East– and London would not let them leave– meaning the country was wide open to Japanese domination.

As noted by the NZ Government today:

As the ships berthed, another interesting exchange occurred. The Americans threw down oranges, cigarettes and money; the waiting Kiwis picked up the gifts and threw back New Zealand coins. When some of the visitors wondered where they were, an American on the wharf, one of the advance guard, told them all they needed to know: ‘No Scotch, two per cent beer, but nice folks.’ Some evidently did know what country they had reached, for the first of the newcomers to land on New Zealand soil was Sergeant Nathan E. Cook, chosen as a namesake of the explorer Captain James Cook.

The 37th would, in April 1943, start moving out for Guadalcanal, and fight its way across the Northern Solomons and Luzon before the war was out, earning 9 unit citations and 7 MOHs. Not a lot of overcoats and fresh milk there.

The next day, 1st Marine Division elements arrived in Wellington aboard USS Wakefield, moving into hastily constructed camp facilities.

In all about 100,000 Americans served in New Zealand, averaging between 15,000 and 45,000, peaking at 48,200 in July 1943, with the numbers declining well below that amount in late 1944. Besides the 37th, the Army’s 25th as well as the Marine 2nd and 3rd Divisions would spend significant time in the islands, with Joes remaining based around Auckland and Devils at Wellington. In addition, many thousands of other American sailors, merchant seamen, made visits to the country.

Dean Cornwell, Have a “Coke” = Kia Ora, c. 1943-1945 (Archives New Zealand, AAAC 898 NCWA Q392)

A memorial to the Americans in NZ during the conflict is located at the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington.

It is also noted that American “bedroom commandos” managed to take an estimated 1,500 Kiwi women back to the U.S. as war brides. Thus goes the spoils of war. 

Yomping

From the first shots to the last, the Royal Marines were involved in ground combat in the Falklands in 1982.

To open the conflict, it was the platoon-sized Naval Party 8901 that fired 6,450 rounds of 7.62 (along with five 84mm and seven 66mm rockets) in defense of the initial Argentine landings on 2 April, suffering three casualties. One section of RMs, led by Corporal York was even able to displace and hide out in the sparse countryside for three days.

Providing the muscle for most of 3 Commando Brigade in Operation Corporate, the RMs sent all three Commando battalions at the time (40, 42, and 45) along with most of the crack SBS frogmen and even the Mountain and Arctic Warfare training school cadre down to liberate the islands. The men of NP 8901, repatriated by the Argentines, clocked back in to get some payback, forming J Company of 42 Commando.

Royal Marines lined up for weapons check-in the hanger of HMS Hermes in the South Atlantic on their way to the Falklands in 1982

A Westland “Junglee” conducting fast rope training with RM Commandos on the way to the Falklands. It was an 8,000 mile trip from the UK to the “front”

The first ground combat of the liberation came with the recapture on 26 April of the windswept island of South Georgia in Operation Paraquet, conducted by 42 Commando and assorted SAS/SBS operators. 

Members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines hoisting the Union Jack and White Ensign over Grytviken, capital of South Georgia, April 1982. Before the Falkland Islands could be recaptured the island of South Georgia had to be taken. On 26 April 1982, after a short naval bombardment, a force of Royal Marines, Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service (SBS) went ashore and the Argentine garrison surrendered. NAM. 1988-09-13-22

Then came the landings on East Falkland, kicking off the 25-day land campaign to liberate the island, ending with the Argentine surrender of Port Stanley. 

THE FALKLANDS CONFLICT, APRIL – JUNE 1982 (FKD 178) A Royal Marine of 3 Commando Brigade helps another to apply camouflage face paint in preparation for the San Carlos landings on 21 May 1982. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205124181

40 Commando Royal Marines. Note the L1A1 Sterling sub machine guns .Falklands 1982

Royal Marine Snipers and a GPMG Gunner prior to the Assault on Mount Kent. Falkland’s War, May 1982. Note the L42 sniper rifle and early starlight scope

British Royal Marine armed with a Lee Enfield L42a1 during the 1982 Falklands war. AN PVS starlight scope sniper

Royal Marine RSM Chapman at Teal Inlet, a member of the elite Mountain Arctic Warfare Cadre with an M16, June 1982 Falklands. The MAWC fought it out with Argentine special forces for Top Malo House

Lacking transpo, 45 Commando famously “yomped” 56 miles in three days from their beach landing at San Carlos harbor to engage the Argentines, carrying everything they had on their backs.

“They faced bleak conditions – horrendous boggy terrain, wind, rain, sleet, low temperatures – not to mention a series of battles on hills outside the islands’ capital Stanley before reaching their objective,” notes the RN. “The Plymouth [based] unit then skilfully ousted Argentine defenders from the slopes of Mount Harriet in one of the final set-piece actions of the war before marching down into Stanley after the surrender.”

A column of 45 Royal Marine Commandos yomp towards Port Stanley. Royal Marine Peter Robinson, carrying the Union Jack flag on his backpack as identification, brings up the rear. This photograph, taken in black and white and color, became one of the iconic images of the Falklands Conflict. IWM FKD 2028

Retracing the Yomp in 2012: 

42 Cdo attack Mount Harriet

14 June, Royal Marines raised the Jack at liberated Government House, some 10 weeks after they saw it come down.

June 14 1982 Royal Marines prepare to raise the Falklands flag outside Government House

Royal Marine Commandos hoisting the original Union Jack at Government House, Port Stanley, 14 June 1982 NAM. 1988-09-13-24

The RN recently had three Falklands Royal Marines veterans; Russel Craig (then a 23-year-old RM), Stephen Griffin (also 23 at the time), and Marty Wilkin (then 26) talk to current recruits about their experiences in an incredible series, below:

Besides the initial invasion opposition, an outnumbered separate platoon of RMs famously gave the Argentines a “bloody nose” at South Georgia Island (followed later by Operation Paraquet by 42 Commando), and the men of 3 Cdo fought set-piece battles for the hills outside of Stanley at Mount Kent, Mount Harriet, and Two Sisters.

Of 255 British personnel killed in the conflict, the Royal Marines lost 27; two officers 14 NCOs, and 11 Marines, in addition to about three times that many wounded. While official battle honors fell on the Royal Navy (“Falkland Islands 1982”), RAF (“South Atlantic 1982”), and the British Army (“Falkland Islands 1982” with unit honors earned for “Goose Green,” “Mount Longdon,” “Tumbledown Mountain” and “Wireless Ridge”) for the campaign, as noted by Parliament:

“In accordance with a long-standing tradition which dates back more than 150 years, the Royal Marines do not receive battle honours for any individual operation or campaign in which they have been engaged. Instead, the corps motif of the globe surrounded by laurel is the symbol of their outstanding service throughout the world.”

The beret badge of the Royal Marines. The badge of the Royal Marines is designed to commemorate the history of the Corps. The Lion and Crown denote a Royal regiment. King George III conferred this honor in 1802 “in consideration of the very meritorious services of the Marines in the late war”. The “Great Globe”, itself surrounded by laurels, was chosen by King George IV as a symbol of the Marines’ successes in every quarter of the world. The laurels are believed to honor the gallantry they displayed during the investment and capture of Belle Isle, off Lorient, in April-June 1761.

Remember Today

It isn’t about the 1,000 sales emails you get this weekend.

“So Many Graves” Arlington National Cemetery, 1995, by Army Artist Sieger Hartgers

 
 
When tomorrow starts without me
And I’m not here to see
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me
 
I wish you wouldn’t cry
The Way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We did not get to say
 
I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
Each time that you think of me
I know you will miss me too
 
When tomorrow starts with out me
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand
 
The angel said my place was ready
In heaven far above
And That I would have to leave behind
All those I Dearly Love
 
But When I walked through Heaven’s Gates
I felt so much at home
When GOD looked down and smiled at me
From his golden throne
 
He said This Is Eternity
And All I promised you
Today for life on earth is done
But Here it starts a new
 
I promise no tomorrow
For today will always last
And Since each day’s the exact same way
There is no longing for the past
 
So When Tomorrow starts without me
Do not think we’re apart
For every time you think of me
Remember I’m right here in your heart
 
Author: David M Romano
 
 

What a $2.4 billion Pentagon Draw Down gets you

Javelins arriving in Boryspil Feb 2022, via U.S. Embassy Kyiv

The Department of Defense on Thursday released a fact sheet of the arms transferred from DOD warfighting stocks on hand to transfer to Ukraine.

The Run-Down of United States security assistance committed to Ukraine includes:

  • Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
  • Over 5,000 Javelin anti-armor systems;
  • Over 7,000 other anti-armor systems (e.g, M72 LAWs, AT4, M141 BDM);
  • Hundreds of Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
  • Over 7,000 small arms;
  • Over 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition;
  • 45,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
  • Laser-guided rocket systems;
  • Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
  • Four counter-artillery and counter-unmanned aerial system tracking radars;
  • Four counter-mortar radar systems;
  • Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
  • Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, and optics;
  • Tactical secure communications systems;
  • Commercial satellite imagery services;
  • Explosive ordnance disposal protective gear;
  • Medical supplies to include first aid kits.

In the transfers, everyone wins but the Russians, with Ukraine getting stuff they need, the Pentagon getting rid of stuff that was timing out and would have likely had to pay to dispose of, and defense contractors sure to get new contracts to fill the stocks back up.

For example, DOD contracts today:

U.S. Ordnance,* McCarran, Nevada, was awarded a $49,925,895 firm-fixed-price contract for the MK19 MOD 3 Grenade Machine Gun, spare parts kits and spare barrel assemblies. Bids were solicited via the internet with four received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of April 7, 2026. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Newark, New Jersey, is the contracting activity (W15QKN-22-D-0013).

Seen on the U.S. Embassy Kiyv’s social media from two months ago:

40mm ammo for MK19s…

Just saying.

No Snow Days for the Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery noted this week it is witnessing its first snowfall of the year with a series of photos that show quiet stillness and dignified respect.

(Photos by: Elizabeth Fraser, U.S. Army/ Arlington National Cemetery)

The above memorial is the mast of the lost USS Maine (Battleship No. 10), sunk in 1898, an event that sparked the Spanish-American War. It was dedicated at the cemetery in 1915 after the warship was raised. 

Among the images were some of the Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather.

Drawn from volunteers of the Fort Myer-based 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” they are equipped with Vietnam-era M14 rifles rather than the more current M16 or M4 variants. Sergeants of the Guard carry one of four custom M17 9mm pistols, specially crafted for the unit by Sig Sauer. 

Basswood of the Pacific

Here we see the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Basswood (WAGL-388, later WLB-388) underway during World War II. Marianas Section, off Victor Wharf, Agana Heights, Guam, late 1945.

Library of Congress photo HAER GU-3-1.

Commissioned on 12 January 1944, Basswood was one of 39 180-foot Balsam-class seagoing buoy tenders built from 1942–1944, specifically being one of the 20 improved Class C (Iris) subvariants. She is fairly well armed to tend navigational aids, with her 3″/50 gun visible pointing over her stern while” Y-gun” depth charge throwers are clearly visible on her starboard side. If you look to her stack– under her mast with an SL1 radar system– you can see two 20mm Oerlikons mounted. Unseen are two Mousetrap ASW rocket systems as well as a QBE-3A sonar suite. Several former Warship Wednesday alumni from the same class got to use those weapons during the war.

Capable of a blistering 13-knots, Basswood would go on to have a long career in the Western Pacific, supporting nuclear weapons testing during Operations Greenhouse (1951), Castle (1954), and Redwing (1956). She also completed three deployments to Vietnam in 1967, 1971, and 1972, earning a trio of both Vietnam Service Medals and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medals.

The Coast Guard Cutter Basswood works a buoy as busy Vietnamese fishermen travel to open sea and their fishing grounds from Vung Tau harbor during her 1967 deployment. The cutter battled monsoon weather for a 30-day tour to establish and reservice sea aids-to-navigation dotting the 1,000-mile South Vietnamese coastline. USCG Historian’s Office photo

Decommissioned 4 September 1998 after 54 years of service, she was disposed of in 2000, eventually scrapped.

Remember Wake

With the surrender of American forces at Wake Island on 23 December 1941, this flag was captured by LCDR Taro Fukatsu of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Upon his return to Japan in the spring of 1943, he gave the flag to his mother before he was killed at sea on 25 October 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

USMC photo

The flag was returned to the Marine Corps in 1956 and currently has a place of honor at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, on display in the institution’s WWII Gallery.

Strange Encounter

73 Years Ago Today: An American pilot in an Israeli-marked German plane made in Czechoslovakia went head-to-head with two Egyptian pilots behind the sticks of British-made fighters in one of the most curious dog fights in history.

“Strange Encounter” Israeli Messerschmitt Me-109 (Avia S-199) fighter piloted by the American ace Rudy Augarten vs an Egyptian Spitfire, Oct 1948, painted by Roy Grinnell (1995) https://www.roygrinnellart.com/workszoom/3108707/strange-encounter#/

Rudolph “Rudy” Augarten was born in Philadelphia in 1922 and flew for the USAAF during WWII, logging time in P-47s in Europe where he earned the DFC after shooting down two Messerschmitts with the 403rd Fighter Squadron. Notably, he also survived being shot down over Normandy where he was eventually captured and imprisoned by the Germans until he and another aviator escaped

Postwar, he threw in his lot flying for the IDF’s 101st Squadron in 1948, where he downed a total of three REAF Spitfire IXs as well as an REAF Dakota. Ironically, his plane for some of that combat was the Czech-built Avia S-199, which were assembled from surplus Messerschmitt BF-109G airframe mated to bomber engines (Junkers Jumo-211s) that resulted in an aircraft with horrible handling characteristics. Still, Rudy seemed to be able to make his work.

Via World Machal: 

On October 16, 1948, one day into the first major Israeli offensive against the Egyptians, called Operation Yoav, Augarten’s turn had finally arrived. Egypt’s airbase at El Arish had been one of the sites of the previous day’s raid by Israel’s only fighter squadron, the 101st. Augarten was on a photo-reconnaissance mission to determine what targets the Air Force had destroyed, and what it still needed to finish off. Although his assignment was not very demanding, he was happy for the chance to fly at all. Rudy flew southward toward the coast. Suddenly, in the distance, he spotted two Spitfires flying in formation. Augarten could tell by their shape that they were not ME-109s, like the plane he was flying. He was too far away to make out their markings, but that didn’t really matter. Though the Israeli Air Force had several Spitfires in its arsenal, he knew immediately that the two Spits were Egyptian, because mechanical problems and fuel shortages limited the Israeli Air Force to using only a few planes in the air at any one time. When pilots in the air saw another plane, they could always be confident that it wasn’t one of their own.

Augarten carefully got into position behind the two Egyptians, hoping they wouldn’t detect his approach. Just then, fellow 101 pilot Leon Frankel, who was patrolling in the area, saw Augarten beginning to engage the Spits. Trying to come to Augarten’s aid, Frankel rolled his plane over and dove toward the combatants. But before he reached the scene, Augarten lined up one of the Spits in his gun sight, and fired a burst from the Me-109’s two 7.92 millimeter machine guns. Pieces of the Spitfire flew off as the bullets pierced its thin aluminum body. The Egyptian plane plummeted toward Israeli lines, leaving a trail of black smoke. The other Spit fled the battle scene. With no other enemy planes in sight, Frankel and Augarten fell into formation for the trip back to the base. A few days later Augarten got a treat that few fighter pilots ever receive. An army unit took him by jeep to see firsthand the wreckage of the plane he had downed. Smiling broadly, he posed for a photograph in front of what remained of the Spit. With that victory, Augarten had experienced the Czech version of the ME-109 at its best.

Rudy lived to a ripe old age of 78 and died in California in 2000.

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.

« Older Entries