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Making like the Civil War, 50 years after the fact

At first glance, with the kepis, droopy mustaches, buttoned-backed greatcoats, sword bayonets, and square tarred knapsacks with blanket bedrolls strapped tightly on top, I thought these troops were blue-coated Union volunteers mugging for Matthew Brady around the 1860s.

Turns out they are soldiers of the French Republic’s 124th Infantry Regiment de Laval posing in Pierrefonds, Oise Department, Northern France, in early 1915 with 8x50mmR Lebel Fusil Modèle 1886/M93 rifles. Notably, by mid-1915 the French Army uniform got a lot more modern to included the Adrian helmet and “horizon-blue” uniforms of a simpler cut.

On that note, here is Sgt. Joseph Dore, 7th New York State Militia. Carrying full Government-Issued kit in 1862, via the Library of Congress, for comparison.

Looks like the CMP is really going to get those M1911s after all

The Army bought millions of M1911/1911A1s between 1913 and 1946 and they remained the standard service pistol until 1985 when they were replaced by the M9 Beretta (92F), which in turn was replaced this year by the M17/M18 (Sig Sauer P320).

Well, the thing is, there are an estimated 100,000 old .45s still in the Army’s inventory in excess to the hundreds in use by various shooting teams and on display in the service’s museums and with historical honor guards. Stored at Anniston Army Depot, the service has been selling them for $150 a pop to law enforcement agencies since the 1990s but they still have a pretty large stockpile of the dated guns.

And the latest NDAA directs they get a move on to the CMP with said GI Longslides.

On the handguns headed to the CMP, the bill instructs the Secretary of the Army to conduct a two-year pilot program that will transfer “not less than 8,000 surplus caliber .45 M1911/M1911A1 pistols” in 2018 with a cap of no more than 10,000 transferred per fiscal year. The program would then be reviewed to ensure the guns were sold by CMP in accordance with applicable federal laws and evaluate its cost to the Army.

More in my column at

Back when the RN had more than one flattop

RN Fleet Air Arm carrier planes, 1944. Nearest to farthest is a Seafire (marinized Spitfire), Corsair, Martlet (Wildcat), two Barracuda to the right, aircraft at the end is a Firefly and a Sea Hurricane facing the camera. Photo was taken at RNAS training facility a Royal Navy mechanics school in the Midlands.

During WWII, the Royal Navy saw the writing on the wall in the respect that, to remain a first-rate naval power with a global reach, it needed a fleet of modern aircraft carriers. Entering the war in 1939 with three 27,000-ton Courageous-class carriers converted from battlecruiser hulls, the 22,000 ton battleship-hulled HMS Eagle, the unique 27,000-ton Ark Royal, and the tiny 13,000-ton HMS Hermes (pennant 95, the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier)– a total of just six flattops, within the first couple years of the war 5/6th of these were sent to the bottom by Axis warships and aircraft!

Luckily, two 32,000-ton Implacable-class and four 23,000-ton Illustrious-class carriers, laid down before the war, were able to join the fleet to help make good those losses until the first of 16 planned follow-on Colossus-class light fleet carriers, a quartet of 35,000-ton Audacious-class, four Malta-class supercarriers (57,000-tons), and 8 planned Centaur-class carriers could be built (although most weren’t)– not to mention 45 escort carriers quickly folded into service– hence the wide array of comprehensive carrier-based strike and fighter aircraft seen above.

The desperate search for the ARA San Juan

This undated photo provided by the Argentina Navy shows an ARA San Juan, a German-built diesel-electric submarine, near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina’s Navy said Nov. 17, 2017, it has lost contact with its ARA San Juan submarine off the country’s southern coast. (Argentina Navy)

The Argentine Navy submarine ARA San Juan (S-21) is currently missing inside a 482,507 area to the east of Argentina, north of the Falklands, while on a scheduled trip from the naval base at Ushuaia in Argentina’s extreme south to Mar del Plata. Her closest point to land is estimated to be about 200 miles offshore in 500-700m of the coldest and most inhospitable waters on earth.

The search area is being scoured by ships and aircraft from her home country (to include vintage but still effective S-2 Trackers), as well as Chile, Peru, South Africa, Brazil, the Royal Navy (a C-130 out of Port Stanley and the ice patrol ship HMS Protector), and the U.S.– the later of which has provided at least two Navy P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft, a number of UUVs, and a NASA P-3B research aircraft which still has its MAD sensor equipment.

The RN’s Submarine Parachute Assistance Group, NATO’s submarine rescue unit as well as two assets from the U.S. are staging to effect an emergency rescue is needed:

Three U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and one U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft will transport the first rescue system, the Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) and underwater intervention Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from Miramar to Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina. The four aircraft are scheduled to depart Miramar Nov. 18 and arrive in Argentina Nov. 19.

The second rescue system, the Pressurized Rescue Module (PRM) and supporting equipment will be transported via additional flights and is scheduled to arrive in Argentina early next week.

The SRC is a McCann rescue chamber designed during World War II and still used today. SRC can rescue up to six persons at a time and reach a bottomed submarine at depths of 850 feet. The PRM can submerge up to 2,000 feet for docking and mating, with a submarine settled on the ocean floor up to 45-degree angle in both pitch and roll. The PRM can rescue up to 16 personnel at a time. Both assets are operated by two crewmembers and mate with the submarine by sealing over the submarine’s hatch allowing Sailors to safely transfer to the rescue chamber.

Waves 4,5 meters in height and winds of 90 km are hampering the search.

While some attempted satellite communications attempts may have been made by the San Juan on Saturday, there has been no contact with the vessel since Thursday.

The San Juan, a West German-built Thyssen Nordseewerke TR-1700 type diesel-electric sub (a design used only by Argentina) was commissioned in 1985 and was most recently refit in 2014. The two completed TR-1700s were basically stretched Type 209 SSKs designed in the 1970s and, while four were to be constructed– half in Germany/ half in Argentina– just the pair of European subs were completed.

As the San Juan was built to NATO-specs, the dive rescue chambers being rushed to the area should prove compatible if she is located in time and the pressure hull is intact.

ARA San Juan (Argentine Navy)

Organized first with students who were trained in the U.S. in 1917, the Escuela de Submarinos received their first three submarines– Italian Tosi-built boats– in the 1930s. Since then the force has operated four Balao-class fleet boats and two Type 209 submarines, with one of each of the latter types, saw service in the Falklands conflict.

At least 44 servicemen on board the missing submarine. Among the crew is South America’s first female submarine officer, Eliana María Krawczyk, who joined the Armada in 2009 and was accepted into the Escuela de Submarinos in 2012.

Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

A well-equipped Granite Stater on the move

(Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

(Photo Credit: Library of Congress)

Union Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in uniform complete with shoulder scales and Model 1858 Dress Hat (“Hardee hat”) with a Model 1841 percussion Mississippi rifle, the impressive 27-inch-long M1855 sword bayonet mounted, a tarred U.S. Model 1855 double bag knapsack with bedroll, canteen and haversack.

Civil War soldiers carried between 30 and 40 pounds of supplies on their backs when in marching order as shown above and could pull down 16 miles on average per day. As for Davis’ rifle, it was common in Civil War-era regiments formed in the beginning of the conflict to equip two of their 10 companies as flank units with rifles rather than more traditional muskets, for skirmishing. As the war wound on, all companies would typically be equipped with .58 caliber minie ball-firing Model 1855/61/63/64 US Sprinfield rifles with 21-inch triangular socket bayonets, replacing both earlier smoothbores and the .54-caliber Mississippi, though a large number of foreign pieces were utilized as well.

Organized in Keene, New Hampshire, the 6th NH mustered in for a three-year enlistment on 27 November 1861 (156 years ago today!) and fought in the Army of the Potomac and Army of Tennessee, seeing the elephant at such places as Antietam, Vicksburg, Fredricksburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and the Battle of the Crater, losing 418 men in the process.

An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age

Check out this beautifully etched 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry Officer’s Sabre from British service in the Napoleonic-era up for auction.

From Bonhams:

The blade bright over a third of its length to the point, the forte etched and gilt against a blued ground on one side with a cherub bearing the maker’s details on a banner, a martial trophy, post 1801 royal arms and Union foliage, and on the other a horse amid foliage, a cavalryman firing his pistol, crowned ‘GR’ cypher within a garland, and a design of foliage, regulation steel hilt retaining its buff leather tassel, and wire-bound leather-covered grip (leather with minor damage), in original steel scabbard with two rings for suspension, the throat on one side engraved with maker’s details in an oval (some light rust patination)

Topeka’s Terriers looking for turkey, 56 years ago today

Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: KN-3632

This image, shows the converted light cruiser USS Topeka (CLG-8) firing a Terrier guided-missile on 18 November 1961, during weapons demonstrations for the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George W. Anderson, a week before Thanksgiving. Photographed from on board USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). Planes preparing for launch on the carrier’s flight deck are a F8U Crusader jet fighter, at left, and an AD-6 Skyraider attack plane (Bureau # 137588), in the lower center.

While probably not aiming at Thanksgiving dinner, Topeka was known for warming up some VC and NVA on occasion.

USS Topeka (CLG-8) fires her forward turret’s 6/47 guns at the Viet Cong, while steaming slowly in the South China Sea on an in-shore fire support mission, April 1966. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: K-31264

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