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City saves history by turning over rare StG 44 to Navy museum system

A police department in Virginia sat on a seized German military rifle for almost a decade before moving to turn it over to a military museum.

The gun was mailed home by a GI from Europe in 1945…

The Chesapeake Police Department seized a Sturmgewehr 44 in 2009 from a felon that could no longer possess the firearm. Seeing that it had historical significance — the StG 44 is considered by many to be the first true “assault rifle” due to its select-fire design and use of an intermediate cartridge — the agency rendered it inoperable and this week moved to have the City Council approve donating the piece to the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

The resolution was approved 8-0 last Tuesday without discussion.

More in my column at Guns.com

 

‘Demolition Crew – The Marianas’ 74 years ago today

Painting, Oil on Board; by Robert Benney; 1944; Framed Dimensions 40H X 58W, Accession #: 88-159-AF as a Gift of Abbott Laboratories. Naval History and Heritage Command

Official caption: Before D-Day and H-Hour, these tough, hardened, and highly trained men went in on the beaches at Saipan to pave the way for invasion. It was they who made possible the approaches to the beach and the subsequent landings of our Army and Marines. Pictured here, a group of men has approached the beach at low water at a previously charted area. They are attaching “satchel” charges to the “Crib” in the rear. In the foreground is a Japanese horned “Scully” and the man directly behind it is attaching a demolition cap to a “J-13 Mine.” In a few minutes, their hazardous job will have been completed and another highway to Tokyo opened, thanks to the “Demolition Demons.”

The landings began at 07:00 on 15 June 1944– 74 years ago today. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00.

By 16:15 on 9 July, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured at a cost of 3,426 U.S. and an estimated 60,000 Japanese casualties, many of whom were civilians who committed suicide.

The neat, but probably unwise, Fitz Colt

I’ve always been a fan of the Fitz Special concept, although not a practicing fan. More of an idle curiosity you could say, as I personally think they are unsafe.

Around 1926, retired NYPD cop John Henry Fitzgerald began customizing both full-sized Colt New Service, Police Positive, and Police Positive Special models to make them small concealed handguns, much like Colt’s then-new Detective Special. This modification included shortening the barrel to two inches or less, fitting a new front sight, removing the hammer spur and carefully checkering the top of the now-bobbed hammer, shortening the grip, and—unique to this type—cutting away the front 1/3 of the trigger guard and rounding off the now open edges.

A previously auctioned Fitz Colt

This trigger guard surgery left the bulk of the hammer exposed while carefully shrouding the very bottom and back of it to avoid snagging in the pocket. The open trigger guard allowed faster firing, accommodated large or gloved fingers, and according to some accounts made the weapon easier to fire through a pocket (if needed). While these modifications were done to large frame revolvers, they were performed mainly to the smaller Colt Detectives.

Although Fitz only converted less than 200 Colts, (some say as few as 20), the concept lived on and you see many other guns converted to the same degree.

Like this M1917 .45ACP moon gun:

That’s guaranteed to set the target on fire at close range…

My friend Ian over at Forgotten Weapons got a chance to check out a Colt Fitz at RIAC last week:

PSD in the future could get pretty interesting, subgun wise

In the Army, Personal Security Detail duty is either collateral part-time stuff (for visiting dignitaries or when deployed overseas for leadership at the brigade level and higher) or dedicated full-time stuff (for like SACEUR, Commander UNC/CFC/USFK, et. al). In the former, it can be as simple as a squad-sized element detailed from a regular platoon with their standard battle rattle, in the latter, it is typically specially-trained MP/CID types (or even special ops guys, Schwartzkopf was famously protected by a plainclothes detail from Delta during the Gulf War) with purpose-dedicated equipment.

The Army has long provided a 2-3 week PSD course at Fort Leonard Wood for just such a skill qualifier.

A U.S. member of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe Security Detachment shoots with a Heckler and Koch 9mm MP5 submachine gun at close distance during a Criminal Investigation Command protective services qualification at the Training Support Center Benelux 25-meter indoor range in Chièvres, Belgium, Jan. 14, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie/Released)

It’s that latter type of PSD that is seeing the Army planning to award a flurry of small contracts to 10 different firearm companies for what it is terming “Sub Compact Weapons” for those occasions when it is preferable to have something more serious than a handgun under your jacket to sweep gremlins away.

A synopsis of the contract award says the Army is looking for a commercially-available (COTS) design to meet the branch’s need for a “highly concealable” SCW, “capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal and accurate fires at close range with minimal collateral damage.”

The awards, ranging from $8,500 to $39,060 include a small quantity of 9mm weapons with along with magazines, cleaning kits, suppressors, spare parts and other tools and accessories if needed.

And they have some pretty interesting weapons on the table to T&E.

I have to admit, the Sig MPX is a heck of a fun gun to shoot (Photo; Chris Eger)

More in my column at Guns.com

Bonnie Dick on the scene, 49 years ago today

In a special Warship Wednesday, here we see the (then) 25-year-old Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) underway in the Gulf of Tonkin on 13 June 1969 during her fifth cruise to support operations from Yankee Station off the Vietnam coast. Note the F-8J Crusaders, A-4E/F Skyhawks and distinctive Grumman E-1B Tracer AEW “Stoof with a Roof” aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 5 on deck.

Commissioned in late 1944, “Bonnie Dick” was the first ship in the modern Navy to commemorate the name of John Paul Jones’ famous Revolutionary War frigate– and she got in enough licks in during WWII to earn one battlestar.

Her WWII cruise

She was much more active in Korea, carrying the F9F Panthers and AD-4 Skyraiders of first Carrier Air Group 102 (CVG-102) then CVG-7.

Stretched and given the SCB-125 overhaul in the mid-1950s, BHR was in the thick of the air war off Vietnam from 1964 onward.

USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) with her crew spelling out Hello San Diego, while en route to San Diego on 9 February 1963. She returned to San Diego, her home port, on 11 February, following a Western Pacific cruise that had begun seven months earlier, on 12 July 1962. Aircraft on her flight deck include three E-1, 11 F-8, six F-3, 13 A-4 and nine A-1 types. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97343

Completing her sixth and last deployment to Yankee Station on 12 November 1970 (again with CVW-5), she was decommissioned the next year and, after spending 21 years on red lead row as a source for potential spare parts for the similarly laid-up but slightly younger USS Oriskany (which the Navy saw as a mobilization asset through the Reagan years), she was scrapped in 1992.

However, her name lives on in LHD-6, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship of about the same size, commissioned in 1998.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) Underway in the Gulf of Mexico during builder’s sea trials, circa early 1998 NH 107664-KN

As for CVW-5, they have been flying as of late from USS Ronald Reagan and, when not aboard, cool their heels at Atsugi and Iwakuni, though the Crusaders, Skyhawks, and Tracers have long ago been traded for Hornets, Growlers, and Hawkeyes.

Why, Ron?

I’ve heard of “Flying Leathernecks,” but this is rediculous.

I give you, a trio of Gyrodyne RON Rotorcycles, packing assorted Devils.

Official caption: “Three Marine Corps one-man helicopters demonstrate their stability and hovering capabilities during tactical evaluations of the aircraft at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, called the YRON-1. The new motorcycle is being tested at Quantico for possible combat use in flying reconnaissance, observation, courier, and limited logistic support mission.

The YRON-1 weighs about 440 pounds empty, is capable of carrying a payload of 250 pounds, and has a top speed of about 70 MPH. Powered by a 62 horse-power Porsche engine, the YRON-1 has attained altitudes of up to 3,000 feet and has a maximum run of about 60 miles on five gallons of fuel.”

Photograph released 12 January 1960.

Only 10 of these rotorcycles were built, and while the Marines felt they were too heavy and too difficult to fly, the project grew into the Navy’s Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH ASW drone.

Remember that time B-1Bs simulated dropping Quickstrike mines in a Baltic op?

The Russians are sure to be a fan of the ongoing BALTOPS excercise which has seen, among other things, the Truman Strike Group including Carrier Air Wing One (CVW) 1, embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and B-1B’s sent from CONUS.

Speaking of which, how about those mines:

“In flight footage featuring drop of Navy Quickstrike Mine as well as taxi take off and landing. Two B-1B Lancers assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, dropped 12 inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mines while participating in BALTOPS 2018 which is an annual, multinational exercise designed to enhance interoperability and demonstrate NATO and partner force resolve to defend the Baltic Region. The Lancers were assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and sortied from RAF Fairford, England, June 2, 2018. (Video by Senior Airman Shawn White, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs)”

Sailors from the Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Unit at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., worked with members of the 7th Munitions Squadron to build the mines using Navy kits and Air Force practise bombs.

According to the Navy: The Quickstrike is a family of shallow water, aircraft laid mines used primarily against surface and subsurface craft. Quickstrike versions Mark 62 and Mark 63 are converted general purpose 500-pound and 1000-pound bombs, respectively. The Mark 65 is a 2,000-pound mine, which utilizes a thin-walled mine case, rather than a bomb body.

Mines can be used to deny an enemy access to specific areas or channelize the enemy into specific areas. Sea mines have been used by the U.S. Navy since the Revolutionary War. Mines have been used with significant effect in the Civil War and both World Wars. The most effective use of mines by the United States was against the Japanese Empire in World War II. U.S. aircraft laid over 12,000 mines in Japanese shipping routes and harbor approaches, sinking 650 Japanese ships and totally disrupting all of their maritime shipping.

Some stills:

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off in support of Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, June 2, 2018 (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron align 12 inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mines on a munitions assembly conveyor during Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, May 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

Warning tag is displayed on an inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mine firing mechanism for Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, May 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

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