Category Archives: war

80 Years Ago: Boyington is Back, Baby

Born in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in December 1912, Gregory Boyington sought out the military at age 21. Commissioned a 2nd LT in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1934, serving with the cannon cockers of the 630th Coast Artillery on the Washington coast for 11 months, Boyington was then accepted to the Marine Corps Reserve Aviation Cadet program where he trained from 18 February 1936 to July 1937.

Pappy Aviation Cadet Gregory Boyington taken during his flight instruction at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, 1936

Gregory Pappy Boyington NAS Pensacola Class 88-C standing second from right

After finishing the program, he was granted a regular commission in the Marines, where he served until 27 August 1941 when he resigned his commission with an understanding “that I would be reinstated without loss of precedence when I returned to United States Service,” then left the Corps as a 1st LT to join the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) fighting for the KMT forces in China against the Japanese.

Boyington was a private military contractor of sorts with the original Flying Tigers, operational from December 20, 1941. Note the P-40 Warhawks in the background. Boyington claimed six victories, but that number is unconfirmed with some sources just saying he got two. The Chinese eventually paid him bonuses for 3.5 meatballs at $500 per kill.

Returning home from China in July 1942, he promptly sought to return to the Corps in a flying assignment, after all, there was something of a war on.

This was granted after passing a new flight physical and obtaining several endorsements, on 16 September 1942– some 80 years ago today– as a 1st LT in the USMC Reserve. After fighting with the brass for two weeks over getting a reserve commission when he left on a regular one and being told essentially “we will see,” Boyington went ahead and accepted the appointment on 29 September.

The Corps’ Director of Aviation nonetheless recommended to the Commandant that Boyington’s recommissioning halted, noting his previous stint with the Marines prior to leaving for China did not point to him as becoming a career officer and that Claire Chennault with the Tigers had noted, “This pilot was a capable flyer and would have been of valuable service were it not for his excessive drinking,” despite the fact Boyington was officially credited with at least 2 “kills” in China.

Cooling his heels, Boyington kept the telegrams to Marine HQ rolling.

Finally, on 10 November– the Birthday of the Corps– he was ordered for a second physical at Pasco, Washington (he lived at the time at Okanogan) and, if passed, to proceed to San Diego where he would report to Marine Airwings Pacific for assignment to “active duty in the Aeronautic Organization of the Marine Corps Reserve.” Passing his cough check, Boyington was duly promoted to Major (temporary) in the USMCR on 24 November.

Working through enhanced flying training on the West Coast, he was then appointed in January 1943 to XO of the “Candystripers” of VMF-122 on Guadalcanal, operating F4F Wildcats with the Cactus Air Force at Henderson Field until July of that year. Raised up to become the squadron’s skipper in July, he was there for the unit’s transition to F4U Corsairs.

Soon after, he was made commander of VMF-214 which he joined at Turtle Bay Airfield on Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides in August 1943.

It took roughly a year from the time he was reinstated before he would become the head of VMF-214.

Marine Attack Squadron Two Hundred and Fourteen – VMF 214 (Black Sheep Squadron) on Turtle Bay Fighter Strip, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides. They are shown before leaving for Munda, with an F4U in the background, on 11 September 1943. Note, Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, 8th from left, front row. U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-54288.

Flying with his famed “Black Sheep” the elderly — at age 31– “Gramps” Boyington claimed 13 kills in aerial combat over the Solomans between 15 September and 20 October 1943.

Remarkably, an act of Congress (S.1427) was introduced in October 1943 to grant him a regular commission (as a 1st LT). Over time, the Gramps nickname would fade to be replaced by the more lovable “Pappy” and the rest, as they say, is history…

Ukraine Goes 1973 Yom Kippur

Some of the videos and photos coming back from around Kharkiv/Kharkov, where Ukraine has mounted what seems by all accounts to be a very successful counteroffensive, are stunning. Russian forces have without question abandoned significant amounts of equipment and materiel around the city, with indications pointing to a disorganized rout.

“Russian equipment abandoned. Russian soldiers switching into civilian attire and trying to blend into the population and escape the front. This is not a ‘red badge of courage’ moment for Putin’s army,” noted ADM James Stavridis.

Even the Russians are confirming they have pulled back their lines, which is a rare admission from Moscow in a war that for the past 200 days has been akin to Baghdad Bob.

By some accounts, the military feint to the south around Kherson and detailed intel provided to Kyiv/Kiev by Western sources, set up the Russians for an easy fall.

It is all very reminiscent of the Israeli counter-push in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

Takeaways as noted from the ISW:

  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to make impactful gains in Kherson Oblast and are steadily degrading the morale and combat capabilities of Russian forces in this area.
  • The Russian military command may be suspending the deployment of newly formed units to Ukraine due to recent Russian losses and overall degraded morale.
  • Russian forces are failing to reinforce the new frontline following Ukrainian gains in eastern Kharkiv Oblast and are actively fleeing the area or redeploying to other axes.
  • Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian military assets and positions in Kherson Oblast, likely steadily degrading them.
  • The Ukrainian recapture of Izyum has likely degraded Russian forces’ ability to conduct artillery strikes along the Izyum-Slovyansk highway.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced the restoration of the second reserve power transmission line to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
  • Ukraine’s sweeping counteroffensive is damaging Russian administrative capabilities and driving Russian departures from occupied parts of Ukraine far behind the line of contact.

Of course, the Russians are regrouping and plastering the region to the Northwest of Kharkiv/Kharkov with lots of rockets and air-delivered weapons (often with VDS flying missions that stop at the Russian border then lofting weapons to target down range) and if the Ukrainians outrun their supply lines the tide could turn. However, the first snowfall in the region normally hits in mid-October so the “fighting season” is likely to close in just a few weeks.

One key statistic that I would like to reference is that Oryx, which has been keeping a public running tab of equipment lost by both sides– using photographic reference as confirmation — since the war started on 24 February, has surpassed the 1,000th tank documented lost by the Russians. In comparison, Russia lost only three tanks during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

The Oryx Russian tank tally as of 13 September stands at 1,087, of which destroyed: 654, damaged: 44, abandoned: 51, and captured: 338. Most are T-72 variants (638) but a lot are newer T-80s (210) and even some T-90s (22) while only a few are ancient models such as the 43 T-64s logged.

As a note on propaganda and “body counts,” the Ukrainian MOD says they have zapped twice as many Russian tanks, which is obviously inflated.

The Ukrainians claim 2,175 Russian tanks have been accounted for, roughly a 100 percent inflation from what has been confirmed with open-sourced imagery.

By comparison, Oryx has Ukraine losing 259 tanks, mostly modified T-64BV models. This points to the massive amount of modern anti-tank weapons sent to the country in recent months.

Just take a look at the latest (8 September) fact sheet from the Pentagon on the $15 billion worth of goodies the U.S. alone has provided– it contains 8,500 Javelins (which will take at least four years to replace, just saying), 1,500 older TOW missiles, and 32,000 “other” mostly one-shot anti-armor systems such as M136/AT-4s, M72s, M151 BDM/Mk 153 SMAWs, etc.

Another interesting development is using cheap drones– even commercial Chinese quad-copters– by Ukrainian “poacher” units to drop grenades and mortar bombs down the hatches of resting Russian tanks behind the lines.

In short, Ukraine is the scariest environment imaginable for a Russian tanker to operate.

Into the Lion’s Den

50 years ago today.

Haiphong Harbor, 27 August 1972: In the last naval battle of the Vietnam War and the last time that American surface ships would close within mutal range of enemy shore batteries in a naval gunfire raid, Operation Lion’s Den was one for the books.

The four ships task unit four-ship task unit (TU 77.1.2) surface action group included the 8-inch-gunned heavy cruiser USS Newport News (CA-148) – -with VADM James Holloway, COMSEVENTHFLT, aboard no less!– followed by the 6-inch-gunned light cruiser USS Providence (CLG-6), the missile destroyer USS Robinson (DDG-12), and the ersatz “Wild Weasel” tin can Rowan (DD-782), would lay down a naval gunfire strike against targets in Haiphong, on the Do Son Peninsula and Cat Ba Island, all in North Vietnam’s home waters in conjunction with Operation Linebacker air strikes.

They would reportedly trade shells at a roughly 2:1 rate with NVA shore batteries, with the American guns being much more effective.

“When Lightning Followed Thunder” by Dale Byhre, showing the destroyer USS Rowan astern of the cruiser USS Newport News, as they engage in bombarding enemy shore installations and suppressing fire from enemy shore batteries.

The engagement as related by the flag officer on Providence, who fired 250 shells in the half-hour raid and reported a trio of responding P-6 (Soviet-made) torpedo boats sunk.

From Newport News‘ history:

During the 33-minute raid 433 8-inch, 532 5-inch, and 33 3-inch rounds were fired. Two secondary explosions had been observed and ammunition was seen “cooking off” at a coastal defense site. Seventy-five enemy rounds were counted. Shrapnel was found around some of the weather decks, but damage to the ship was negligible.

As noted by NHHC:

At 2300, Newport News opened fire with her 8-inch guns at the primary targets. Rowan fired four Shrike anti-radiation missiles at North Vietnamese radar sites (Rowan had been specially equipped with a “Shrike on Board” system mounted on her ASROC launcher).

During the course of the 33-minute engagement, North Vietnamese coast defense artillery fired about 300 rounds at the U.S. ships. Although none hit, many came as close as 15–20 yards. Newport News had shrapnel on her weather decks, but no serious damage. Holloway spent part of the battle outside the pilot house to “experience the battle” as he later said, probably to the consternation of the skipper. The North Vietnamese lacked flashless powder, so their guns proved vulnerable to U.S. fire and most were silenced. The U.S. ships ceased shelling at 2333 after expending about 700 rounds of ammunition and noting at least five major secondary explosions ashore.

While the U.S. would go on to use Naval Gunfire Support off Lebanon in 1983 (USS New Jersey) and in the Persian Gulf (destroyers and frigates during Operation Preying Mantis in 1988, and Desert Storm in 1991 with 1,083 16-inch shells lobbed by the battleships Missouri and Wisconsin), they wouldn’t take enemy shells back in kind.

Warship Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022: Last Dance of the Prancing Dragon

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, Aug. 24, 2022: Last Dance of the Prancing Dragon

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Above we see the Japanese light carrier Ryujo (also sometimes seen in the West incorrectly as Ryukyu) on sea trials at Satamisaki-oki, 6 September 1934 after her reconstruction, note her open bow and tall flight deck, showing off her bridge under the lip of the flattop. Built to a problematic design, she had lots of teething problems and, while she breathed fire in the Empire’s dramatic expansion after Pearl Harbor, the sea closed over her some 80 years ago today and extinguished her flames.

If you compare the development of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s aircraft carrier program in the 1920s and 30s to that of the U.S. Navy, there is a clear parallel. Each fleet had an initial, awkward, flattop commissioned in 1922 that proved to be a “schoolship” design to cradle a budding naval aviation program (Japan’s circa 1922 10,000-ton Hosho vs the 14,000-ton USS Langley). This was followed by a pair of much larger carriers that were built on the hulls of battlewagons whose construction had been canceled due to the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty but still carried large enough 7.9-inch/8-inch gun batteries to rate them as heavy cruisers in armament if not in armor (the 38,000/40,000-ton Kaga and Akagi vs. the 36,000-ton USS Lexington and USS Saratoga) that would pioneer the art of using such vessels via war gaming exercises. Then came smallish (to make the most of treaty limits), specially-designed, one-off carriers that were built after several years of experience with the type– the “under 10,000-ton” Ryujo vs the 15,000-ton USS Ranger (CV-4), which would be test beds for the bigger and better designs that each country would turn to for heavy lifting in 1942 (32,000-ton Shokaku class vs the 25,000-ton Yorktown class).

Laid down on 26 November 1929 at Mitsubishi in Yokoyama, Ryujo, whose name translates into something akin to “prancing dragon” or “dragon phoenix,” was slipped in by the Japanese as a nominal 8,000-ton aviation ship before the 1930 London Naval Treaty came in and limited even these small carriers as well as placed an armament cap of 6-inch guns on flattops.

Ryujo under construction Drydock No. 5, Yokosuka, Japan, 20 Oct 1931. Note how small she appears in the battleship-sized dock

Built on a slim 590-foot cruiser-style hull that, with a dozen boilers and a pair of steam turbines could make 29 knots, the Japanese elected for an extremely top-heavy build above the waterline placing her double-deck hangars and stubby 513-foot long flight deck towering some 50-feet into above the 01 deck to what proved to be an unsteady metacentric height (GM). Like Langley and Hosho, she was a true flattop, lacking a topside island, which would have made the whole thing even more unstable, instead opting to have a broad “greenhouse” bridge on the forward lip of the flight deck.

A period postcard of the Japanese aircraft carriers Ryūjō (top) and the legacy Hōshō. Note the height difference

Close-up view of the stern of carrier Ryujo, Yokosuka, Japan, 19 June 1933. Note how high her flight deck is from the main deck.

Ryujo Photograph taken in 1933, when the ship was first completed. The original print was provided by Dr. Oscar Parkes, Editor, Jane’s Fighting Ships. It was filed on 27 October 1933. NH 42271

She spent 1933 and 1935 in a series of rebuilds that moved to address her stability issues– which she suffered in a typhoon that left her hangar flooded. These changes included torpedo bulges and active stabilizers on her hull, more ballast, and, by a third rebuild completed in 1940, carried a redesigned bow form with re-ducted funnels.

Close-up of Japanese carrier Ryujo’s side mounted exhaust funnels and 12.7cm anti-aircraft guns, Yokosuka, 20 March 1933

This pushed her to over 12,700 tons in displacement and change her profile.

Aircraft carrier Ryujo undergoing full-scale trials after restoration performance improvement work (September 6, 1934, between the pillars at Satamisaki). Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

She saw her inaugural taste of combat in the war with China in the last quarter of 1937, operating a mix of a dozen Navy Type 95 Carrier Fighter and Type 94/96 Carrier Bombers (Susies), both highly maneuverable biplanes. Her Type 95s met Chinese KMT-flown Curtiss F11C Goshawks in aerial combat with the Japanese claiming six kills.

Ryujo at sea 1936. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Ryujo. Underway at sea, September 1938. Donation of Kazutoshi Hando, 1970. NH 73072

Ryujo at sea between 1934 and 1937 with only 4×2 127mm AA-guns after 1934 refit

It should be observed that the two 670-foot submarine tenders, Zuiho and Shoho, that were converted to light carriers in 1940-41, as well as the tender Taigei (converted and renamed Ryuho) and the three Nitta Maru-class cargo liners converted to Taiyō-class escort carriers in 1942-43, greatly favored our Ryujo in profile and they were surely constructed with the lessons gleaned from what had gone wrong with that latter carrier in the previous decade. Notably, while still having a flush deck design without an island, these six conversions only had a single hangar deck instead of Ryujo’s double hangar deck, giving them a smaller maximum air wing (25-30 aircraft vs 40-50) but a shorter height and thus better seakeeping ability.

Japanese carrier Zuiho, note the similarity to Ryujo

Running Amok for five months

Ryujo would be left behind when Yamamoto sent Nagumo’s Kido Butai eight-carrier strike force (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Shokaku, Soryu, and Zuikaku on the attack itself, screened from a distance by Hosho and Zuiho) to hit Pearl Harbor, instead tasking the wallowing light carrier with being the sole flattop supporting Takahashi’s Third Fleet’s invasion of the Philippines.

USN Recognition slide of the Ryujo LOC Lot-2406-5

With the Japanese keeping their battleships in a fighting reserve in the Home Islands for the anticipated Tsushima-style fleet action, and every other carrier either in the yard or on the Pearl Harbor operation, Ryujo was the Third Fleet’s only capital ship, a key asset operating amid a force of cruisers, seaplane tenders, and destroyers– appreciated at last!

Ryujo was still 100 percent more carrier than RADM Thomas Hart’s Asiatic Fleet had in their order of battle, and the dragon was very active in the PI with her airwing of Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers and Mitsubishi A5M “Claude” fighters. It was her planes that delivered the first strikes of the Japanese invasion on 8 December when they hit U.S. Navy assets in Davao Bay in Northern Luzon then spent the rest of the month covering the landings there.

A Japanese Nakajima B5N1 Type 97 from the aircraft carrier Ryujo flies over the U.S. Navy seaplane tender USS William B. Preston (AVD-7) in Malalag Bay, Mindanao, Philippines, during the early morning of 8 December 1941. Two Consolidated PBY-4 Catalinas (101-P-4 and 101-P-7) from Patrol Squadron 01 (VP-101), Patrol Wing 10, are burning offshore. Via Maru magazine No. 461, December 1984 via j-aircraft.org

In January 1942, she was shifted south to support the Malaysia invasion from Japanese-occupied Camranh Bay in French Indochina, with her Claudes thought to have shot down at least two RAF Lockheed Hudsons off Redang Island while her Kates are credited with anti-shipping strikes off Singapore on 13-17 February that sent the Dutch tankers Merula (8,226 tons) and Manvantara (8,237 tons) along with the British steamer Subadar (5,424 tons), to the bottom. Fending off counterattacks, her Claudes shot down two RAF Bristol Blenheim from 84 Squadron and a Dornier Do 24 flying boat of the Dutch Navy.

Here we see Hr.Ms. Java was under attack by Japanese Nakajima B5N “Kate” high-altitude bombers from the light carrier Ryujo in the Gaspar Straits of what is today Indonesia, 15 February 1942. Remarkably, the Dutch light cruiser would come through this hail without a scratch, however, her days were numbered, and she would be on the bottom of the Pacific within a fortnight of the above image. Australian War Memorial photo 305183

While her Kates twice attacked Hr.Ms. Java and HMS Exeter (68) of Graf Spee fame on 15 February without causing either cruiser much damage, Ryujo’s air group found more success in attacking the Dutch destroyer Hr.Ms. Van Nes two days later. A strike of 10 B5N1s chased the Admiralen-class greyhound down in the Java Sea and landed two hits, sending her to the bottom with 68 of her crewmen.

Two Japanese Nakajima B5N torpedo bombers (B5N2 in the foreground and B5N1 in the background) over the Java Sea on 17 February 1942. The smoke in the background is coming from the Dutch destroyer Hr.Ms. Van Nes. She was sunk by Japanese aircraft from the aircraft carrier Ryujo circa 30 km from Toboali, Bangka Island while escorting the troop transport Sloet van Beele.

On the morning of 1 March in the immediate aftermath of the overnight Battle of the Java Sea, her Kates all but disabled the old Clemson-class four-piper USS Pope (DD-225) off Bawean Island, leaving her to be finished off by Japanese cruisers.

April saw Ryujo join Ozawa’s mobile force for the epic “Operation C” raids into the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, where she split her time sending out Kates on search-shipping strikes (sinking the 5,082-ton British steamer Harpasa on 5 April) and raids on the Indian ports of Vizagapatam and Cocanada, accounting for eight assorted Allied ships on 6 April in conjunction with the guns of Ozawa’s cruisers. It is even reported by Combined Fleet that Ryujo was able to use her own 5-inch guns against surface targets as well, an almost unheard of level of sea control.

Arriving back home in Kure in May after five solid months of running amok, Ryujo would land her obsolete Claude fighters in favor of shiny new Mitsubishi Type 0 A6M2 “Zekes” of the latest design– some of which just left the factory– as the Admiralty aimed to send her into an operation where she may expect interference from American F4F Wildcats and P-39 Aircobra/P-40 Warhawks: Operation AL, the diversionary seizure of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians during the Battle of Midway.

Dutch Harbor & Koga’s Zero

Sent to attack Alaska as part of VADM Hosogaya Boshiro’s Aleutian invasion force in company with the new 27,500-ton carrier Junyo, Ryujo would be active in a series of three air raids on Dutch Harbor and Unalaska on 3-4 June which didn’t cause much damage on either side, then covered the bloodless landings at Attu and Kiska on the 7th.

Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Island, Alaska, 3 June 1942: A Navy machine gun crew watches intently as Japanese aircraft depart the scene after the attack. Smoke in the background is from the steamer SS Northwestern, set ablaze by a dive bomber (80-G-11749).

However, one of the aircraft that failed to return to Ryujo was one of those beautiful new Zekes, SN 4593/Tail DI-108, flown by 19-year-old Flight Petty Officer Tadayoshi Koga. His oil line hit by a “magic BB” from small arms fire over Dutch Harbor, Koga tried to land his smoking fighter on remote green Akutan Island, some 25 miles from nowhere, where it could possibly be recovered and flown back home or destroyed in place if needed. However, it turned out that the flat field Koga aimed for on Akutan was a bog and his aircraft flipped, killing him, on contact.

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-sen 10 July 1942, on Akutan Island, in the Aleutians aircraft had been flown by petty officer Tadayoshi Koga, IJN, from the carrier RYUJO. Aircraft damaged on 4 June 1942; the pilot was killed when the plane flipped over on its back. This “Zero” was the first captured intact for flight tests. NH 82481

U.S. Navy personnel inspect Koga’s Zero. The petty officer’s body was recovered still inside the cockpit, relatively preserved by the icy bog despite being there for over a month. Regretfully, a number of images of his cadaver are digitized and in wide circulation. Museum of the Aleutians Collections. MOTA 2018.16.10

Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero-Sen on the docks at Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 17 July 1942. This plane, from carrier RYUJO, had crash landed after the Dutch Harbor Raid on 4 June 1942. It was salvaged by VP-41 and was the first “Zero” captured intact for flight tests. NH 91339

The Zero on a barge in Alaska on August 8

More on Koga’s plane later.

The Dragon’s final dance

Having returned to Kure in July after the disaster that befell the Japanese carrier force in a single day at Midway (“scratch four flattops”), Ryujo was now suddenly more important than she had ever been before.

By early August, she was attached to Nagumo’s Main Unit Mobile Force– who the Japanese somehow still trusted– alongside the large fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku of the First Carrier Division which had survived Midway by not being at Midway. Coupled with the battleships Hiei and Kirishima (which would never come back home), the force was dispatched towards Truk to challenge the growing American presence on Guadalcanal. With Shokaku and Zuikaku large enough to tote both strike and fighter packages, the smaller Ryujo, paired with the old battleship Mutsu in a diversionary force away from the two bigger carriers, would instead have a fighter-heavy air wing of 9 Kates and 24 Zekes as American flattops were known to be lurking in the area.

On 24 August, Nagumo’s carriers were close enough to attack Henderson Field on Guadalcanal but in turn fell under the crosshairs of the numerical inferior Task Force 61, commanded by VADM Frank J. Fletcher (who had spanked Nagumo 11 weeks earlier at Midway), in what went down in the history books as Battle of Eastern Solomons. While Ryujo’s strike would hit the U.S. positions on Lunga Point– in a raid observed by Fletcher’s radar-equipped force– SBDs from Bombing Three and TBFs from Torpedo Eight off USS Saratoga (CV 3) would find the relatively undefended Ryujo and leave her dead in the water where land-based B-17s would find her in two follow-on raids.

A U.S. Navy Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless flies over the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CV-6), foreground, and USS Saratoga (CV-3) near Guadalcanal. The aircraft is likely on anti-submarine patrol. Saratoga is trailed by her plane guard destroyer. Another flight of three aircraft is visible near Saratoga. The radar array on the Enterprise has been obscured by a wartime censor. U.S. Navy National Naval Aviation Museum photo NNAM.1996.253.671

Battle of the Eastern Solomons, 24 August 1942: The damaged and immobile Japanese aircraft carrier Ryujo was photographed from a USAAF B-17 bomber, during a high-level bombing attack on 24 August 1942. The destroyers Amatsukaze and Tokitsukaze had been removing her crew and are now underway, one from a bow-to-bow position and the other from alongside. Two “sticks” of bombs are bursting on the water, more than a ship length beyond the carrier. The bow of the cruiser Tone is visible at the extreme right. 80-G-88021

Diorama of Ryjuo attack from the Don Garber Collection South Pacific WWII Museum

As detailed by Combined Fleet:

  • 1357 RYUJO is attacked by enemy aircraft (30 SBD and 8 TBF launched at 1315 from USS SARATOGA, (CV-3). The CAP manages to shoot down one TBF, but the carrier receives four bomb hits, many near-misses, and one torpedo hit aft of amidships. The torpedo floods the starboard engine room, and the ship begins to list and lose speed. A second torpedo hit, or large bomb appears to have damaged the port bow.
  • 1408, RYUJO turned north and attempted to retire as ordered by Admiral Yamamoto. But though the fire is extinguished, the list increased to 21 degrees, and flooding disabled the boilers and machinery.
  • 1420 RYUJO stops. At 1515 ‘Abandon Ship’ is ordered. AMATSUKAZE draws close along the low starboard side to attempt to transfer the crew bodily to her by planks linking the ships.
  • 1610-1625 During abandonment, the carrier and screen are bombed by B-17s that are engaged by her fighters, and she receives no further damage.
  • 1730 B-17s bomb again but again no additional damage. AMATSUKAZE completes rescue, and shortly after, about:
  • 1755 RYUJO capsized to starboard and after floating long enough to reveal holes in her bottom, sinks stern first at 06-10S, 160-50E, bearing 10 degrees 106 miles from Tulagi.
  • Four aircraft go down with the ship. Seven officers – including XO Cdr (Captain posthumously) Kishi and Maintenance Officer LtCdr (Eng.) (Cdr (Eng.) posthumously) Nakagawa – and 113 petty officers and men are lost; Captain Kato and the survivors are rescued by destroyers AMATSUKAZE and TOKITSUKAZE and heavy cruiser TONE. The destroyers soon transfer these survivors to the TOEI MARU and TOHO MARU.

Epilogue

While Ryujo has been at the bottom of the Southern Pacific for 80 years now, her legacy should not be forgotten. When it comes to Koga’s advanced model Zero, left behind in Alaska in what was described as “98 percent condition,” the aircraft was so key to Allied intelligence efforts that it has been described as “The Fighter That Changed World War II.”

Koga’s Zero in U.S. markings while assigned to NACA 1943

The folks over at Grumman were able to get their test pilots and engineers in it, then use lessons drawn from it to tweak the F6F Hellcat and later, the F7F and F8F.

Koga’s Zero in flight

As noted by Wings of the Rising Sun excerpts at The Aviation Geek Club:

Once the fighter had been sent to NAS Anacostia in late 1942, a series of test flights were performed by the Naval Air Station’s Flight Test Director, Cdr Frederick M. Trapnell. He flew identical flight profiles in both the Zero and U.S. fighters to compare their performance, executing similar aerial maneuvers in mock dogfights. U.S. Navy test pilot LT Melvin C. “Boogey” Hoffman was also checked out in the A6M2, after which he helped train Naval Aviators flying new F6F Hellcats, F4U Corsairs, and FM Wildcats by dogfighting with them in the Zero.

In 1943 the aircraft was evaluated in NACA’s LMAL in Hampton, Virginia, where the facility’s Full-Scale Wind Tunnel was used to evaluate the Zero’s aerodynamic qualities. It was also shown off to the public at Washington National Airport that same year during a war booty exhibition. By September 1944, the well-used A6M2 was stationed at NAS North Island once again, where it served as a training aid for “green” Naval Aviators preparing for duty in the Pacific.

RADM William N. Leonard said of Koga’s plane, “The captured Zero was a treasure. To my knowledge, no other captured machine has ever unlocked so many secrets at a time when the need was so great.” On the other side of the pond, Japanese Lt-Gen. Masatake Okumiya said the plane’s loss “was no less serious” than the Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway, and “did much to hasten Japan’s final defeat.”

PO Koga, the teenage son of a carpenter, was at first buried in the hummocks some 100 yards from his crash site after he was extracted from the Zero. Exhumed in 1947, his remains were interred in the cemetery on Adak, in grave 1082 marked as “Japanese Flyer Killed in Action.” He was exhumed a final time in 1953 for repatriation along with 253 others from the Aleutians, and since then has been in the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery in Japan. The location of his lonely crash on Atukan, half a mile inland from Broad Bight, is occasionally visited by groups from Japan.

While Koga’s Zero was mauled in a mishap on the ground in February 1945 and then later scrapped, instruments from it are on display at the Museum of the U.S. Navy and two of its manufacturer’s plates are in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum in Anchorage, some of the only relics of Ryujo left.

Ryujo is remembered in a variety of maritime art, most of which is used for scale model box art. 

Specs:

(1941)
Displacement: 12,732 tons
Length: 590’7″
Beam: 68’2″
Draft: 23’3″
Machinery: 12 x Kampon water-tube boilers, 2 geared steam turbines, 2 shafts, 65,000 shp
Speed: 29 knots
Crew: 924
Airwing: up to 48 single-engine aircraft
Armament:
8 x 5″/40 Type 89 naval gun
4 x 25mm/60 Hotchkiss-licensed Type 96 light AA guns
24 x 13mm/76 AAAs


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Last ‘Ace in a Day’

On this day in 1945, LT Oscar Francis Perdomo, USAAF, became the last American Ace of WWII, bagging four Ki-84 “Frank” fighters and one Yokosuka “Willow” trainer. (While the 507th Fighter Group mission reports confirm his kills as “Oscars”, they were actually Franks from the 22nd and 85th Hiko-Sentais.)

Via the Commemorative Air Force, Perdomo in front of Republic Lil Meatie’s Meat Chopper, his P-47N-2-RE Thunderbolt (serial number 44-88211), based on Ie Shima in 1945. The baby is an ode to the young officer’s boy who at the time, Kris Mitchell Perdomo, was still in diapers.

The combat took place over Seoul, Korea when Perdomo’s formation of 38 P-47 Thunderbolts, from the 507th Fighter Group of US 20th Air Force, encountered approximately 50 enemy aircraft. It was Perdomo’s last combat mission, and the five confirmed victories made him an “Ace in a Day” for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Air Medal with one leaf cluster.

An El Paso Texas native whose daddy rode with Pancho Villa, Perdomo received his wings on January 7, 1944, and only flew his first combat mission on July 2, while escorting a B-29 to Kyushu. Six weeks later, he was the last American ace.

Perdomo remained in the Air Force after the war, serving in Korea, then left the military in 1958 as a major. Sadly, he succumbed to self-destruction after the loss of Kris, who died when his Huey exploded in Vietnam, and died in 1976, aged 56.

Meanwhile, the CAF has flown a P-47N made up to salute Perdomo’s Meat Chopper since 2017. 

The Old Breed’s Last Bolt-Action Battle

Some 80 years ago this month, a scratch force of Marines waded ashore on a little-known island in the Pacific, with their beloved ’03s in hand, determined to stop the Rising Sun.

Some eight months after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and long after Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines fell to the Japanese onslaught during World War II, the Allies in the Pacific moved to seize the initiative and launched the first Allied land offensive in the Theater as well as the first American amphibious assaults of the war. Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, 1942, some 11,000 men of the newly-formed 1st Marine Division landed on the beaches of Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Japanese-occupied Solomon Islands, a chain of islands far closer to Australia than to Tokyo. There, the Marines aimed to seize an airfield the Japanese were carving out of the jungle and use it for their own fighters and bombers.

However, while the Army in 1937 had opted to switch to the M1 Garand from the M1903 Springfield– a bolt-action .30-06 adopted during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt– the Marines were slower to move towards the semi-auto battle rifle. It was only in Feb. 1941, just ten months before Pearl Harbor, that Marine Gen. Alexander Vandegrift wrote that he considered the Garand reliable enough to arm his Marines. With that, it wasn’t until after America was in the war that the Corps officially adopted the M1 Garand and later the M1 Carbine.

“Captured Japanese Battle Flag, Guadalcanal Airfield, circa 1942.” (Photo: Thayer Soule Collection/Marine Corps History Division)

Guadalcanal Campaign U.S. Marines rest in the field on Guadalcanal, circa August-December 1942. Most are armed with M1903 bolt-action rifles and carry M1905 bayonets along with USMC 1941 pattern packs. Two men high on the hill at the right have vests to carry patrol mortar shells and one in the center has a World War I-style hand grenade vest. The Marine seated at the far right has an M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.)

More in my column at Guns.com.

Marines do Gettysburg to Prep for Guadalcanal

Some 100 Years Ago This Weekend: Across early July 1922, the Marine Corps East Coast Expeditionary Force, based at Quantico, Virginia, headed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for maneuvers and field exercises on the 59th anniversary of the great Civil War battle there. Spearheaded by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, the maneuvers and exercises, were also utilized as a method of obtaining favorable publicity and were often attended by the President and other dignitaries at the time.

All photos are via the Marine Corps History Division which has a great catalog of the event.

Two Civil War veterans post for a photograph with Marine Corps artillery in Gettysburg in July 1922

Excercise included road march via vehicle from Virginia to Gettysburg. Note the back tractor tows a 155mm heavy artillery piece.

Marine participants in the reenactment are carried off the field. Gettysburg 1922

Marine perform maintenance on three M1917 FT17 Renault light tanks during the 1922 Gettysburg maneuvers helped win the battle for Confederates

Marines skirmishing along the Emmitsburg Road during the 1922 Gettysburg maneuvers

Of note, Chesty Puller and the gang would use abatis, or chevaux de frise, a classic defensive anti-cavalry measure common in the Civil War, to defend Henderson Field against the Japanese in August 1942.

Cheval de frise/Frisian horses by Ponder House, Battle of Atlanta, Fort X 1864

Chevaux de frise anti-cavalry measures at Fort Blakely, Alabama. Dating to medieval times, they were still effective in the 1860s. photo by Chris Eger

Bamboo cheval de frise gates around the Coffin Corner area covering trails into Marine lines Guadalcanal 1942. Hey, if it works, it ain’t stupid. Those who don’t study history…

Take a minute and listen to this

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the British Army’s new Chief of the General Staff, recently attended the RUSI (The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studie) conference and, speaking to the group, stated the UK and its allies face a “1937 moment” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is an interesting take on current events in Europe, and his plans for mobilization, a historically scary word.

The transcript:

I stand here as the first Chief of the General Staff since 1941 to take up this position in the shadow of a major state on state land war in Europe. As I do, I’m reminded of the words of a man in whose footsteps I tread. In relative obscurity, and recognising the impending danger the nation faced, the then Brigadier Bernard Montgomery wrote this in the pages of that magnificent publication Royal Engineers’ Journal of 1937:

We have got to develop new methods, and learn a new technique…. There is no need to continue doing a thing merely because it has been done in the Army for the last thirty or forty years – if this is the only reason for doing it, then it is high time we changed and did something else.

For us, today, that “something else” is mobilising the Army to meet the new threat we face: a clear and present danger that was realised on 24th February when Russia used force to seize territory from Ukraine, a friend of the United Kingdom. But let me be clear, the British Army is not mobilising to provoke war – it is mobilising to prevent war.

The scale of the war in Ukraine is unprecedented. 103 Battalion Tactical Groups committed. Up to 33,000 Russians dead, wounded, missing or captured. A casualty rate of up to 200 per day amongst the Ukrainian defenders. 77,000 square kilometres of territory seized – 43% of the total landmass of the Baltic states. Ammunition expenditure rates that would exhaust the combined stockpiles of several NATO countries in a matter of days. The deliberate targeting of civilians with 4,700 civilian dead. 8 million refugees. For us, the visceral nature of a European land war is not just some manifestation of distant storm clouds on the horizon; we can see it now.

In all my years in uniform, I haven’t known such a clear threat to the principles of sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom to live without fear of violence, as the brutal aggression of President Putin and his expansionist ambitions. I believe we are living through a period in history as profound as the one that our forebears did over 80 years ago. Now, as then, our choices will have a disproportionate effect on our future.

This is our 1937 moment. We are not at war – but we must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion. So surely it is beholden on each of us to ensure that we never find ourselves asking that futile question – should we have done more? I will do everything in my power to ensure that the British Army plays its part in averting war; I will have an answer to my grandchildren should they ever ask what I did in 2022.

We have agency to prevent war now. But only if we take a new approach.

These are extraordinary times. So I will not take the usual approach of a new CGS to this event. It will not be the traditional tour of the horizon covering the full breadth of Army business. I will concentrate on one area alone – how I intend to mobilise the British Army – our Regulars, Reservists and Civilians – to deter Russian aggression. To prevent war.

We are already a busy Army. But today is about mobilisation, and to mobilise effectively we will need to suppress our additive culture and guard against the ‘tyranny of and’ – we can’t do everything well and some things are going to have to stop; it will mean ruthless prioritisation.

From now the Army will have a singular focus – to mobilise to meet today’s threat and thereby prevent war in Europe.

This is not the rush to war at the speed of the railway time tables of 1914. It is instead an acceleration of the most important parts of Future Soldier’s bold modernisation agenda, a move to a positional strategy, an increased focus on readiness and combined arms training and a broader institutional renewal that creates the culture required to win if called upon. This process, given a name Operation MOBILISE, will be the Army’s primary focus over the coming years.

So why do we need to mobilise?

Under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary, the United Kingdom has risen to meet Moscow’s aggression. Defence has worked at a phenomenal pace to bring together a coalition of partners to provide materiel, intelligence and training to sustain Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invaders. Our bi-lateral relationship with Kyiv has gone from strength to strength; this year alone we have supplied 9500 anti-tank missiles, of which over 5000 were NLAW. We have already provided UK-based training for 650 AFU soldiers, and in the coming months, the British Army will deliver battle-winning skills to a further 10,000 Its just started.

The upcoming Madrid Summit is a timely opportunity to demonstrate our leadership in NATO and our enduring commitment to our allies. Mobilising the Army to prevent war is as tangible and concrete an act of leadership as I can offer – the UK will lead by example.

It is dangerous to assume that Ukraine is a limited conflict; one of its obvious lessons is that Putin’s calculations do not always follow our logic. It’s also worth remembering that historically, Russia often starts wars badly. And because Russia wages war at the strategic, not the tactical level – its depth and resilience means it can suffer any number of campaigns, battles and engagements lost, regenerate and still ultimately prevail. History has also shown us that armies that have tasted defeat learn more quickly. While Russia’s conventional capability will be much reduced – for a time, at least – Putin’s declared intent recently to restore the lands of ‘historic Russia’ makes any respite temporary and the threat will become even more acute. We don’t yet know how the war in Ukraine will end, but in most scenarios, Russia will be an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than it was before. The Russian invasion has reminded us of the time-honoured maxim that if you want to avert conflict, you better be prepared to fight.

So this is the challenge that I will address through mobilisation. And to make it crystal clear – This means focusing on winning the war, working with these allies, against this threat and in this location. And we will see the first orders issued in Madrid tomorrow.

This threat has also materialised at a time when the world is already looking less secure – the viewpoint set out clearly in last year’s Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper. In meeting a revanchist Russia, we cannot be guilty of myopically chasing the ball. Defence cannot ignore the exponential rise and chronic challenge of China, not just within the South China Sea but through its sub-threshold activities across the globe. Beijing will be watching our response to Moscow’s actions carefully. But ceding more territory to Putin could prove a fatal blow to the principle of national sovereignty that has underpinned the international order since 1945. And we cant allow NATO states to live with the grim reality of the human cost of occupation that we see in front of us.

Given the commitments of the US in Asia during the 20s and 30s, I believe that the burden for conventional deterrence in Europe will fall increasingly to European members of NATO and the JEF. This is right in my view: taking up the burden in Europe means we can free more US resources to ensure that our values and interests are protected in the Indo-Pacific

And we are not alone in facing this new reality. Looking out at you here today I am reassured by the number of allies and partners I see before me. The faces of friends from previous campaigns where we have shared hardship and laughter, failures and victories. We have shed blood together. We remember those we left behind. And it this our willingness to shed blood to protect our common values and each other’s territory that will see us prevail.

So, how are we going to mobilise?

Article V remains the cornerstone of our national security; that makes it a critical national interest. The conflict in Ukraine will herald I think a paradigm shift in how NATO delivers collective deterrence; from a doctrine of reacting to crises, to one of deterring them. This principle is at the heart of Op MOBILISE: Russia knowing that they cannot gain a quick localised victory – that in any circumstances and any time frame they will lose if they pick a fight with NATO.

Deterrence demands all of the tools of statecraft, underpinned by soldiers, sailors, aviators and Civil Servants operating across all five operational domains. It requires forces across Defence that are modernised, relevant, and harness the potential of the fourth industrial revolution. Effective deterrence also means communicating clearly so we maximise deterrent effect without increasing the risk of mobilisation.

When faced with an adversary such as Mr Putin, with the campaigns of Peter the Great as his reference point, the war in Ukraine also reminds us of the utility of Land Power: it takes an army to hold and regain territory and defend the people who live there. It takes an Army to deter. And this army, the British Army, will play its part alongside our allies.

In Ukraine we’ve seen the limitations of deterrence by punishment. It has reinforced the importance of deterrence through denial – we must stop Russia seizing territory – rather than expecting to respond to a land grab with a delayed counteroffensive.

To succeed, the British Army, in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners, must be in-place or at especially high readiness – ideally a mix of both. Tripwires aren’t enough. If we fail to deter, there are no good choices given the cost of a potential counterattack and the associated nuclear threat. We must, therefore, meet strength with strength from the outset and be unequivocally prepared to fight for NATO territory.

If this battle came, we would likely be outnumbered at the point of attack and fighting like hell. Standoff air, maritime or cyber fires are unlikely to dominate on their own – Land will still be the decisive domain. And though I bow to no one in my advocacy for the need for game changing digital transformation, to put it bluntly, you can’t cyber your way across a river. No single platform, capability, or tactic will unlock the problem.

Success will be determined by combined arms and multi-domain competence. And mass. Ukraine has also shown that engaging with our adversaries and training, assisting and reassuring our partners is high payoff activity. Future Soldier’s new Ranger Regiment – on the ground in Ukraine before the invasion – and the new Security Force Assistance Brigade are well set for this. With the right partner and in the right conditions persistent engagement and capacity building can be really effective. Operation ORBITAL has made a key contribution to preparing the Armed Forces of Ukraine for this fight and it continues to expand exponentially. And We must be wary of Russia’s malign activities further afield – our global hubs, including Kenya and Oman, will still play a vital role as we seek to mobilise to meet aggression in Europe – allowing us to help our partners there secure strategic advantage elsewhere in the world.

This is the war that we are mobilising to prevent, by preparing to win. With our NATO and JEF partners. Against the Russian threat. In Eastern and Northern Europe. And in doing so it is my hope that we never have to fight it.

So what does this mean for the Army…

My predecessor, and my friend, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, laid the foundations for the most ambitious transformation of the British Army in a generation, Future Soldier. We, I owe him a great debt. The Government has also generously committed 41 billion pounds to Army equipment over the next decade.

But as we face a new reality, a race to mobilise, we must be honest with ourselves about Future Soldiers’ timelines, capability gaps and risks – and now our own diminished stockpiles as a result of Gifting in Kind to the brave soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We should not be afraid of necessary heresies. Defence is only as strong as its weakest domain. And technology does not eliminate the relevance of combat mass.

To mobilise the Army I intend to drive activity across four focused lines of effort:

First, and most importantly, boosting readiness. NATO needs highly ready forces that can deploy at short notice for the collective defence of alliance members. Deterring Russia means more of the Army ready more of the time, and ready for high-intensity war in Europe. So we will pick up the pace of combined arms training, and major on urban combat. We will re-build our stockpiles and review the deployability of our vehicle fleet. And having seen its limitations first-hand as the Commander of the Field Army, I think we need to ask ourselves whether Whole Fleet Management is the right model given the scale of the threat we face. The time has come to be frank about our ability to fight if called upon.

Second, we will accelerate the modernisation outlined in Future Soldier. NATO needs technologically advanced modern armies able to deploy at speed and fight together. They must be able to integrate effects across the domains, all stitched together by a sophisticated and robust command, control and communication network. We will seek to speed up the delivery of planned new equipments including long range fires, attack aviation, persistent surveillance and target acquisition, expeditionary logistic enablers, Ground Based Air Defence, protected mobility, and the technologies that will prove pivotal to our digital ambition: CIS and Electronic Warfare. Most importantly, this will start now – not at some ill-defined point in the future.

Third, we will re-think how we fight. We’ve been watching the war in Ukraine closely and we are already learning and adapting. Not least to the help of RUSI, Many of the lessons are not new – but they are now applied. We will double-down on combined arms manoeuvre, especially in the deep battle, and devise a new doctrine rooted in geography, integrated with NATO’s war plans and specific enough to drive focused, relevant investment and inspire the imagination of our people to fight and win if called upon.

And Fourth, I am prepared to look again at the structure of our Army. If we judge that revised structures will make the Army better prepared to fight in Europe, then we will follow Monty’s advice and do “something else”. Now of course adapting structures has implications for the size of the Army – and I know that there will be questions on Army numbers locked, loaded and ready to fire from the audience! Put simply, the threat has changed and as the threat changes, we will change with it. My job is to build the best Army possible, ready to integrate with fellow Services and Strategic command and ready to fight alongside our allies. Obviously our Army has to be affordable; nonetheless, it would be perverse if the CGS was advocating reducing the size of the Army as a land war rages in Europe and Putin’s territorial ambitions extend into the rest of the decade, and beyond Ukraine.

Importantly, the four mechanisms I have used to illustrate how the Army will mobilise will all be initiated from the line of march. This means now rather than in some distant and ill-defined point in the future.

Op MOBILISE is as much about people as it is about training and hardware. The last 125 days of conflict in Ukraine have shown us if we needed showing the enduring nature of war; its violent and human nature, and its timeless interplay of friction and chance. It has reminded us all that war fundamentally remains a clash of wills. Russia’s so called ‘Special Military Operation’ has shown that while Moscow may have invested in some of the most modernised land technology in the world, it lacked the will to fight when faced with a tenacious Ukrainian defence. Let down by its leaders, we have seen the moral decay of the Russian Army play out in front of us.

The fighting spirit of our people is the Army’s single greatest responsibility. The moral component matters. To succeed in mobilising we must ensure that we engender the culture and behaviour required to forge and cohere a confident and winning team, and, in my 37 years’ experience, I have learnt that trust increases tempo. I am fully behind the TEAMWORK initiative set up by my predecessor. It is not woke-ism nor in any way a lessening of standards at a time where the British Army must be prepared to engage in warfare at its most violent. To put it simply, you don’t need to be laddish to be lethal – in a scrap you have to truly trust those on your left and right.

And when the British Army has been faced with any challenge during its long history, it has always been the ingenuity of our people that has seen us through. I know there will be an opportunity cost to mobilising – and we must continually review and balance our priorities to meet emerging threats. But mobilisation also requires us to cut down that which slows us down. I want to you all, I’m talking to the Army here to identify those areas of our process and bureaucracy that take up your time – like any public institution we have accumulated some barnacles that slow us down – but we are not just any institution, so it’s time to strip them back.

Mobilisation is not just an internal focus. We must take industry with us and have the right relationships with our enabling agents to deliver and quicken the ambitious modernisation targets we have set ourselves. I will use the next few months to engage personally with you, our industry partners and encourage you to use the framework offered by the new Land Industrial Strategy to make the Army more lethal and more effective, with better equipment in the hands of our soldiers at best speed. We can’t be lighting the factory furnaces across the nation on the eve of war; this effort must start now if we want to prevent war from happening.

I’d be naïve if I ignored the fact that the Army’s platform procurement has not been a smooth journey during the last decade. We have the humility to learn the lessons from where it has gone wrong and the confidence to engage with industry to generate the mutual trust required to get the very latest technology for the best value for money. And we should also be bolder in celebrating our successes – AH64 Echo is flying now, the first Boxer will be in service in 2023, the first Challenger 3 arrives in 2024 ‘and the Sky Sabre air defence system was deployed and operating in Poland only weeks after entering service.

This speech forms my first order of the day. Mobilisation is now the main effort. We are mobilising the Army to help prevent war in Europe by being ready to fight and win alongside our NATO allies and partners. It will be hard work – a generational effort – and I expect all ranks to get ready, train hard and engage. We must be practical and cut through unnecessary bureaucracy, be prepared to deprioritise where activity is not mission critical, honestly highlight risks where we identify them and avoid falling victim to the say-do gap or the lure of institutional panaceas – conscious of the advice of the late, great, John Le Carre that Whitehall panaceas often simply go ‘out with a whimper, leaving behind…the familiar English muddle’.

I expect this change to be command led. And that includes all commanders: from the General in Main Building, to the young Lance Corporal in the barrack room, from the reservist officer on a weekend exercise, to the Civil Servant in Army Headquarters.

And as we mobilise, I echo the words of General Montgomery to his team in the dust of the North African desert in 1942, “we must have confidence in one another”…

As the new CGS I have confidence in each and every one of you. And I am proud to stand among you.

And my final message to you is this:

This is the moment to defend the democratic values that define us;

This is the moment to help our brave Ukrainian allies in their gallant struggle;

This is the moment we stand with our friends and partners to maintain peace throughout the rest of Europe.

This is our moment. Seize it.

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.

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