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Redlegs on Gypse Hill

19 November 1917: “Camouflaged French 75’s being used by the American 6th Field Artillery, 1st Division. Gypse Hill, near Einville, Meurthe et Moselle, France.”

Photo by Capt. PD Miller, Signal Corps. 111-SC-67137

Note the detail which shows these redlegs, including two NCOs, in a mixture of emotion towards themselves and the camera, belaying the fact that it is a candid shot rather than posed. Further note their M1911s on cavalry-style M1912 holsters.

Constituted in 1798 and later became the first horse artillery in the Army, the 6th Field Artillery was assigned 8 June 1917 to the 1st Expeditionary Division (later the Big Red One) and would go on to earn honors for actions at Montdidier-Noyon, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Lorraine, and Picardy.

A Century at La Citadelle

The Canadian Army’s Royal 22e Régiment, the Van Doos, dates back to 1869 and today they are the only French-speaking Regiment of the Regular Force. Make no mistake about blue flannel-wearing “Jon Paul” Quebecois jokes, the Van Doos are legit, especially when it comes to cold weather ops.

A snow-camo’d member of 3e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment standing watch in front of a barn during Exercise RAFALE BLANCHE in St Sylvestre, Québec on February 3, 2014. Note his C7 with Elcan sight

In 1919, after returning with 21 Battle Honours from a very serious tour on the Western Front during the Great War, the unit was barracked in metropolitan Quebec.

On 22 May 1920, the Van Doos moved into the City’s historic Citadelle on Cap Diamant, the site of fortifications protecting the city going back to 1608.

This place

This month the Regiment celebrates its 100th year in residence, which remains a functioning military installation as well as an official residence for the Monarch– the Queen is their Colonel-in-Chief– as well as being the typical summer home of Canada’s Governor General.

In such official public duty at the Citadelle, with the site entertaining a quarter-million visiting tourists each year, the Van Doos wear the familiar scarlet uniforms and bearskin caps of British Foot Guards regiments.

They earned them, having stood post at St. James and Buckingham in 1940, during the Blitz, the first French-speaking unit to do so. In that gig, they wore standard kit, down to gas masks, and charged SMLEs.

Their traditional mascot, Batisse, is a goat, and their motto is Je me souviens, (I remember).

The Literal Watch on the Rhine

“THE WATCH ON THE RHINE” Occupation Duty, 1919.

Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-45142 via the National Archives

Official caption: Sentry posed upon a rock at the river’s edge resting on his rifle and looking off across the water. In the background arm stacked arms of Infantry Organization and few men warming themselves about an open fire. Chief figure is Pvt. Chas. H. Purviance of 310th Radio Field Signal Battalion. Men in the background are members of 301st Engineers, Co. D. Moselle Valley, Germany, 18 January 1919.

Note the stacked M1917 Enfields complete with rarely-seen canvas breech covers. Pvt. Purviance is well kitted out with leather gloves, a wool greatcoat, M1917 Brodie helmet, and a 10-pouch belt that is apparently well-stuffed with .30-06 stripper clips at the ready.

For reference, the 301st was part of the 76th (Liberty Bell) Division, which arrived to France late in the Great War and was largely broken up and used as replacement troops for depleted units.

The Tiger’s Everyday Carry Pocket Gun

Here we see a .32 ACP Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless self-loading pistol carried by General (later Field Marshal) Sir Gerald Templer, KG, GCB, CB, GCMG, KBE, DSO. The S/N (377681) dates to 1921 production.

UK National Army Museum NAM. 1998-01-118-2

Dubbed  “The Smiling Tiger,” Sir Gerald commanded infantry and armored divisions, as well as the German Directorate of the Special Operations Executive, during the WWII and later went on to lead British forces during the Malayan Emergency, one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western powers during the Cold War.

He was also something of a gun buff.

General Sir Gerald Templer (left) testing a .45 inch De Lisle bolt action silenced carbine during a visit to 1st Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, Perak, 1952. He may very well have a Colt in his pocket. 

The signed 1954 card in the pistol’s case reads:

“The .32 Colt revolver and ammunition, in this case, was one of about 20 purchased by me when I was GSO I (1(b)) at GHQ, BEF. It was necessary for some of my officers to/ have a small automatic in their pockets on a good many occasions. I carried this one throughout the War, and when I was High Commissioner and Director of Operations in Malaya it never left my side. It was under my pillow every night whilst I was in country, ready and cocked.”

Sir Gerald died in 1979, aged 81.

The more things change, USS Farragut edition

Below we have the second U.S. Navy warship named after Adm. David Farragut, the 1,400-ton Clemson-class destroyer, USS Farragut (DD-300), shown rolling in heavy seas, during the 1920s.

Courtesy of Lieutenant Gustave Freret, 1970. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 70922

DD-300 was only in service from June 1920 until April 1930, then was sold for scrap.

Fast forward about 100 years and we see the 9,200-ton Flight IIa Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Farragut (DDG 99) transiting the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG), 2 May 2020.

U.S. Navy photo 200502-N-MQ631-0009 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maxwell Higgins/Released 

U.S. Navy photo 200502-N-MQ631-0009 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maxwell Higgins/Released

Commissioned in 2006, she is the fifth such ship named for the good Civil War-era Admiral, and her bluejackets no doubt have just as much skin in the game as the ones who walked the decks of the previous four vessels– especially those quartered in the zero-gravity zones in high sea states.

Battleship No. 36’s final resting place, visited 15,000 feet down

USS Nevada (BB-36) survived the hell of Pearl Harbor and was famously the only battleship able to get underway that day. Repaired and returned to service, she earned seven battlestars from France to Okinawa and, in the end, was subjected to far more damage post-war.

From DANFS:

Nevada arrived at Bikini atoll on 31 May 1946 and was one of 84 targets used in Crossroads. The tests consisted of two detonations, the first Test Able, an airburst, on 1 July, and the second, Test Baker, an underwater explosion, on 25 July. Despite extensive damage and contamination, the ship survived the blasts and returned to Pearl Harbor to be decommissioned on 29 August. She was sunk by the cumulative damage of surface gunfire, aerial bombs and torpedoes, and rocket fire off Hawaii on 31 July 1948. Nevada was stricken from the Navy Register on 12 August 1948.

Nevada being sunk in ordnance tests off Pearl Harbor on 31 July 1948. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-498257 National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Now, over 71 years since she took her plunge to the ocean floor over 15,000 feet down, she has been discovered and documented.

SEARCH, Inc. and Ocean Infinity are pleased to announce the discovery of USS Nevada, one of the U.S. Navy‘s longest-serving battleships. The wreck was located 3 miles deep in the Pacific during a joint expedition that combined SEARCH, Inc.‘s maritime archaeologists and Ocean Infinity‘s robotic technology and deep-water search capability. The veteran battleship, which survived Pearl Harbor, German artillery, a kamikaze attack, and two atomic blasts, is a reminder of American perseverance and resilience.”

The stern of the wreck has the remains of “36” and “140.” Nevada’s designation was BB-36 and the 140 was painted on the structural “rib” at the ship’s stern for the atomic tests to facilitate post-blast damage reporting. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity / SEARCH, Inc.

By the end of World War II, Nevada carried thirty-two 40mm Bofors antiaircraft guns. The airplane had changed naval warfare and guns like this helped the crew fight off enemy attacks from the air. This 40mm gun, still in its gun “tub,” is mounted next to a partly fallen, standard-issue Mark 51 “gun director” used by the crew to direct the fire of these guns. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity / SEARCH, Inc.

USS Nevada, like other ships at Bikini, was a floating platform for military equipment and instruments designed to see what the atomic bomb would do to them. One of four tanks placed on Nevada, this is either a Chaffee or Pershing tank that survived a 23-kiloton surface blast and a 20-kiloton underwater blast and remained on Nevada until the ship was sunk off Hawai’i on July 31, 1948. Photo courtesy of Ocean Infinity / SEARCH, Inc.

Mighty Mo and O’Ryan’s Roughnecks: Hail, Hail, the Gang’s all here

The original caption of this Underwood and Underwood news service photo received 3 May 1919:

U.S.S. Missouri steaming into her berth at Hoboken with last of 27th Division, namely the 106th Machine Gun Battalion. Red Cross women at left nearest the river’s bank are waiting for the ship to dock so as to distribute delicacies to the men, a regimental band playing, “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s all here,” and shows the men getting their first eyeful at the rail of the ship, of New York and the skyline of the city with the Metropolitan tower in bold relief against the eastern sky.”

War Department Archives, LOC 165-WW-138A-119

USS Missouri (BB-11), was the middle child in the three-ship Maine-class of pre-dreadnoughts ordered during the Spanish-American War. Commissioned 1 December 1903, she was obsolete just three years after she joined the fleet. A veteran of the circumnavigating Great White Fleet, she would spend most of her career alternating between ordinary and training cruises. Speaking of which, her Great War experience was spent in the Chesapeake, schooling new gunners and firemen. Once the war ended, she transitioned to what would have been termed “Magic Carpet” duty in the next World War, shuttling back and forth to Europe to bring 3,278 Doughboys back from “Over There” across four runs.

She would decommission 8 September 1919, at the ripe old age of 16 years old, and be sold for scrap three years later to comply with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. Her name would be recycled in the 1940s for a “fast battleship” that you may have heard of.

As for the 27th ID, the Division was formed from NY Army National Guard units in 1917 and put under the command of Maj. Gen. John F. O’Ryan, an NYC attorney and politician who later went on to be Fiorello LaGuardia’s Police Commissioner. “O’Ryan’s Roughnecks” arrived at Brest, France, 10 May 1918 and by July were in action, seeing heavy losses along the St. Quentin Canal before going on to break the Hindenburg Line.

After WWII service in the Pacific from Makin Atoll to Okinawa, the 27th was later downgraded to an infantry brigade in 1986, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (“Empire”) of the NYANG, and has recently seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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