Happy Flag Day

Even in Preble’s day, the flag had to be guarded day and night to prevent souvenir hunters from making away with bits of it-Note the relative size of the Marine complete with heavy white buff leather belts, M1859 pattern enlisted dress frock coat with fringed epaulettes and tall painted shako. This particular antebellum uniform would be replaced in 1875.

This is the first known photograph, taken on 21 June 1873 in the Boston Navy Yard by then-Commodore George Henry Preble, of the Great Garrison Flag– the famous flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem. The flag was flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland during the bombardment of the position by the Brits in 1814. Preble, entered the Navy as a midshipman on December 10, 1835, and retired in 1878 as a rear admiral after a 43-year career.

While at the Boston Naval Yard, Preble had the cotton and dyed English wool bunting flag sewn to a piece of sailcloth in order to preserve it and penned the first book about the ensign, History of the American Flag. Even in Preble’s day, the flag had to be guarded day and night to prevent souvenir hunters from making away with bits of it– and swaths cut from the banner before then still surface today. 

The flag has been in the Smithsonian’s collection since 1912 and was restored/stabilized in 2008.

The preserved Star-Spangled Banner today is on display in its own protective chamber at the Smithsonian, and you can thank RADM Preble for that. (Hugh Talman / NMAH, SI)

Washington’s Standard

Also, if you are in the Philadelphia area this week/end, the faded and fragile blue silk flag known as the Commander-in-Chief’s Standard that marked General George Washington’s presence on the battlefield during the Revolutionary War will be on display this Flag Day through Sunday, marking its first public display in Philadelphia since the war itself. The Museum of the American Revolution is bringing the old banner out from secure archival storage for the event.

The AmRev will also have famous original Monmouth Flag and the Forster Flag on display, two of the oldest surviving flags from the American Revolution, dating to 1775-6.

 

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.

Where NICS appeals go to die

Part of the Brady Bill, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) went live at the tail-end of 1998 and since then they have processed 289 million checks. Most go through in under a minute.

I can remember working at a sporting good store for a few years moonlighting from my day job in my 20s and performing hundreds of checks in that time period. However, every now and then, you would get a “delay” while they are making a decision that requires more than a simple look-see. These come back later as either a “proceed” or a “denied.”

While there have been 1.5 million denials over the past 20 years, that doesn’t mean 1.5 million people who shouldn’t have a gun were kept from getting one.

In a lot of cases, guys with a spotty record will shop around and run a check several times over several years. Then again, there are a good many legit mixups, especially on people with common names. Odds are, if your name is Bill Johnson, there are probably a few prohibited firearms possessors that share your moniker, and it can jack up your profile– seems far-fetched but remember, this is the federal government here.

A lot of denials are appealed by those who were told to buzz off and, when the FBI eventually figures out where the mistake is, they fix it and the person gets greenlighted to buy a gun.

The problem is, appeals for denials have been glacial since 2015 due to understaffing at NICS, which means people who were refused for no reason can’t often get their record corrected.

I spoke with a pair of lawyers representing five plaintiffs (and 100 more pending) in a federal lawsuit who are in just a such a pickle. In covering the case for Guns.com, I have gotten several emails from readers who have similar problems, leading me to think this may be more widespread than people know.

More on the case here

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)

Spec Ops dropping in with a snazzy light-interfacing holster

SureFire’s MasterFire is a rapid-deploy holster designed specifically to interface with most railed handguns equipped with a SureFire H-Series (XH15, X300UH, X400UH) weapon mounted light and an optional Ryder suppressor without dismounting the latter. The holster’s light activation switch can be set to automatically activate the weapon light and/or mounted laser when the handgun is drawn.

And according to SF, they have been used in a night combat jump…

More in my column at Guns.com.

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