Tinian Invasion, 1944: A Marine takes a field nap after coming off the line on Tinian, August 2, 1944. Note M-1 carbine, “duck hunter” camo helmet cover, and spare .30 cal ammo cans.
Tag Archives: m1 carbine
Arising from a need to rapidly build bases on remote islands for the push across the Pacific during World War II, today’s Seabee force turns 80 this month.
Tracing their unofficial origins to 300 skilled artisans who built an advance base in 1813 for Captain David Porter’s squadron operating against the British along South America’s west coast, the Navy officially formed and christened its first Naval Construction Battalions in March 1942.
Recruited from tradesmen in 60 skilled trades– both “vertical” such as in building construction and “horizontal” such as in the construction of roads and airfields– the new “Seabees” were also trained to defend their positions as the islands and beaches they would land on would often still be very much in an active combat zone. Fitting the job, Rear Admiral Ben Moreell set their motto as “Construimus, Batuimus” roughly meaning “We Build, We Fight.”
Early members received only three weeks of training and were sent overseas. They carried at one time or another just about every rifle and pistol in the Navy’s inventory and pioneered such exotic arms as the Sedgley Glove Gun/Haight Fist Gun.
During World War II, some 350,000 men served in the Seabees, organized into no less than 315 regular and special construction battalions. They would construct over 400 advanced bases spanning from Iceland to New Guinea and Sicily to the Aleutian Islands, operating in all theaters.
In the Pacific alone, they would build no less than 111 airstrips while suffering over 200 combat deaths. A further 500 Seabees were killed during their highly dangerous construction work under adverse field conditions. In addition to 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses, ‘Bees also earned more than 2,000 Purple Hearts in WWII, the hard way.
Korea and Vietnam
Drawn down to a force of just 3,300 by 1949, the Seabees remained a “Can Do” part of the Navy and Marines’ shore establishment and would rapidly expand to serve in the Korean War and Vietnam. During the latter conflict in Southeast Asia, the Seabees expanded to over 26,000 men in no less than 23 assorted Naval Mobile and Amphibious Construction Battalions by 1969.
In most cases, the bases in which Marines fought from during those conflicts were constructed and improved by Seabees, often, as in WWII, under threat from the enemy.
The Cold War, Desert Storm, and Beyond
Besides service in Korea and Vietnam, the “Fighting Seabees” engaged in new frontiers around the world during the Cold War, constructing bases everywhere the Navy went including in remote Diego Garcia, Greece, Spain, Antarctica, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. They served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Restore Hope, in Bosnia, in Panama, in Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The Seabees today still train to “build with rifles on their back.”
The unique Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist insignia, issued to qualified Naval Construction Force members since 1993, tells a bit of the unit’s history.
The Japanese Type 38 (as in the 38th year of the Meiji period) rifle, was first adopted in 1906 by the Emperor’s troops after feedback from the recent wars with Qing-dynasty China and Imperial Russia. Almost 3 million of these simple bolt-action 6.5x50mm rifles would be made at three Japanese arsenals (Tokyo, Kokura, Nagoya) as well as one in Japanese-occupied Korea (Jinsen) and Manchuria (Mukden) until as late as 1944. While you would think that these all went into Japanese military hands, you would be incorrect as lots were exported abroad including 728,000 to Russia of all places during the Great War; 150,000 to the UK to arm British sailors in the same conflict; 200,000 to Republican China in 1917-18; 24,000 to Estonia in the 1920s.
One of the lesser-known Arisaka rifle contracts was from the government of Siam, now Thailand, which had ordered several aircraft, naval vessels, and small arms from the increasingly powerful Asian power in the 1930s. The Thais bought 50,000 “Type 66” (Type 38s chambered in Bangkok’s domestic 8x52R caliber) in 1924 from the Tokyo Army Arsenal. These were later augmented by a smaller quantity of 6.5×50-chambered guns provided as military aid in WWII. Post-war, some of each were converted to 30.06 M2, of which the government had a lot of due to close relations with the U.S., and dubbed Type 83/88s. They even carried them to war in Korea in the 1950s.
It would seem that at least some of those (probably non-firing) Arisakas are still soldiering on in Thailand as training rifles, as witnessed by these recent photos:
The above green-uniformed/bereted troops are members of the NST, or Military Student Training Supervisory Authority. The program, which runs for five years, is coordinated by local Territorial Defense Commands in the country and trains young men and women 17-25 with some 40-to-80 hours of field/classwork per year instead of joining the military proper for a period of active service (Thailand has conscription). After completion of the NST period, members transition to a non-drilling reserve.
Besides the Arisakas, the NST also uses lots of M1 Carbines, M1 Garands, and M60 GPMGs in their live-fire and fieldwork, which is run by local cadres from active-duty units. Besides the Vietnam-era hardware, they also run locally-made ALICE gear, M1956 style bottle canteens, and the like.
Via the Philippine News Agency:
The Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) wants erroneous entries on the supposed “surrender” of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita corrected using an original document from soldiers on the battlefield during World War II.
“[General Tomoyuki] Yamashita did not surrender, he was captured by the operatives from the USAFIP-NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon),” retired Maj. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, chief of the Veterans Memorial and Historical Division of the PVAO, said in an interview.
The USAFIP-NL was a scratch-built force of five Filipino infantry regiments and a field artillery battalion, consisting of roughly 20,000 men with a handful of American officers for liaison and tactical control.
Commanded by Col. Russell W. Volckmann, U.S. Army, USAFIP-NL was formed from guerillas who fought against the Japanese occupation, and, according to the PVAO, the force, under the U.S. 6th Army, beat the last of Yamashita’s men to ground, capturing the general, who was later turned over to the Americans in Kiangan. The next day, he was flown to Baguio to formally surrender and the Allies later executed the infamous “Tiger of Malaya” for war crimes.
All that is remembered by the history books is the Kiangan-Baguio action, not the initial capture by the Filipino troops.
A minor point of history, but one that is strongly felt among the country’s remaining 4,000 WWII vets and their families.
With this month being the 70th anniversary of the rush by the Free World to help keep the fledgling Republic of Korea from forced incorporation by its Communist neighbor to the North, it should be pointed out that the UN forces that mustered to liberate Seoul and keep it so carried an interesting array of arms. Gathered ultimately from 21 countries you had a lot of WWII-era repeats such as No. 3 and No. 4 Enfields carried by Commonwealth troops as well as M1 Garands/Carbines toted by American and a host of Uncle Sam-supplied countries.
But there were most assuredly some oddball infantry weapons that were used as well.
One historical curiosity was the initial contingent supplied by the Royal Thai Army, who left for Korea in October 1950 wearing French Adrian-style “sun” helmets and armed with 8x52mm Type 66 Siamese Mausers that were actually versions of the bolt-action Japanese Type 38 Arisaka built before WWII at Japan’s Koishikawa arsenal.
More in my column at Guns.com.
While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?
For all this and more, check out the easy 2,000-word primer I did for this last weekend at Guns.com.
U.S. soldiers on the beaches of Aitape, New Guinea, April 22, 1944, on this day 76 years ago, reminding us that it wasn’t just the Devils who island-hopped across the Pacific.
The soldiers are likely of the Montana National Guard’s 163rd Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division (“Sunsetters”). Note their early M1 Carbines, which had only entered regular production in May 1942, less than two years previously.
The 41st’s other two Regimental Combat Teams, the 162nd, and 186th, were making landings at Humbolt Bay on the same day, leaving the Montanans to take the airfields at Aitape-Tadji alone, dubbed Operation Persecution, and push back units of the Japanese 18th Army.
The 163rd moved rapidly and secured the beach then moved inland, replaced by the follow-on 32nd Infantry Div two weeks later, only to move on to the hell that was Biak.
Formed during the Great War and inducted into federal service 16 September 1940 at Billings for their Second World War, the 163rd fought throughout Papua/New Guinea and the Philippines, earning a Presidential Unit Citation. They ended the war on occupation duty in Honshu.
Today they form the MNG’s 163rd Cavalry Regiment and celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2017.
While the OSS, which helped organize resistance units behind the lines during WWII, was largely hands-off in the Philippines, make no mistake, the PI was lit ablaze by such groups from April 1942 through the final liberation in the Spring and Summer of 1945.
After all, it is hard to impossible to pacify 7,000 islands spread out across 1,000 miles of ocean filled with people that don’t want to be ruled by a foreign power, no matter how many troops you are willing to pour into the fight– the U.S. had learned that in the very same places in 1899-1902.
As noted by US Army Special Operations in World War II by David W. Hogan, Jr. (CMH Pub 70-42), covering the acts and deeds of Rangers, Alamo Scouts, OSS Jedburghs, Chindits Mauraders, and the like, there is a telling chapter on Philippines guerilla units as led by American hold-outs:
“General Douglas MacArthur, the imperious theater chief, and Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, commander of the U.S. Sixth Army, made extensive use of guerrillas, scout units, and commando forces, particularly in support of the effort to recapture the Philippine Islands.”
“Even before Pearl Harbor MacArthur, as commander of the forces defending the Philippines, considered the possibility of waging a guerrilla war. Under existing war plans his forces were expected to hold off a Japanese attack for several months before an American relief expedition could reach them. As part of his strategy for such a contingency, MacArthur established an embryo underground intelligence service among the numerous American businessmen, miners, and plantation owners on the islands and also contemplated the withdrawal of some Filipino reservists into the mountains to serve as guerrillas.”
“By 23 December MacArthur’s beach defense plan lay in ruins, and his remaining forces were withdrawing into the Bataan peninsula. Cut off from Bataan, Col. John P. Horan near Baguio, Capt. Walter Cushing along the Bocos coast, Capt. Ralph Praeger in the Cagayan Valley, and Maj. Everett Warner in Isabela Province formed guerrilla units from the broken remnants of Filipino forces in northern Luzon, and MacArthur sent Col. Claude A. Thorp to organize partisans in central Luzon. To meet the need for intelligence from behind enemy lines, Brig. Gen. Simeon de Jesus organized a network of about sixty agents who infiltrated by foot or by boat across Manila Bay and reported by radio to a central station in a Manila movie theater, which forwarded the data to MacArthur on Corregidor. Meanwhile, MacArthur directed Maj. Gen. William F. Sharp in Mindanao to intensify preparations for guerrilla warfare in the southern islands.”
To this were added other bands of scattered American fugitives and renegade Filipino soldiers led by Cols. Martin Moses and Arthur K. Noble.
While Sharp would surrender most of his forces in early 1942, with Horan and Warner following soon after, others kept fighting. By the end of the year, Cushing, Prager, and Thorp’s groups were all destroyed, and the aforementioned officers dispatched by their hunters.
In early 1943, Moses and Noble were killed.
Similar losses were suffered by indigenous forces, for example, Lt. Col. Guillermo Z. Nakar, Philippine Army, was captured and killed by the Japanese in October 1942, reportedly beheaded. Leading the Philippine 14th Infantry Regiment (a scratch unit mashed together after the fight for Northern Luzon from remnants of the Philippine 26th Cavalry, 11th Infantry, and 71st Infantry) he had withdrawn to the island’s Nueva Vizcaya province and managed to hold out there as late as September, maintaining intermittent radio contact with the Allies in Australia. Ultimately run to the ground, he was captured and executed by the Japanese.
The two most effective American guerrilla leaders were the red-beared Lt. Col. Wendell W. Fertig on Mindanao– who crafted an uneasy alliance among Moros, the local Catholic church, and other groups– and Maj. Russell W. Volckmann in northern Luzon. Volckman, who had started 1941 as a company commander, would by 1945 command a mixed force of 22,000 guerillas in the field.
Fertig notably, “maintained his support among the opportunistic Moro tribes in part through the distribution of a LIFE magazine article in which King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia allied Islam with the United States.”
Another guerilla force involved one Lt. Iliff Richardson, USNR, a PT-Boat man who, much like the last five minutes of They Were Expendable, took to the hills and kept fighting after Corregidor fell, where the locals soon took up the fight armed with latongs, improvised slam-fire single-shot shotguns.
“Like a character in the book A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT, Lt. Richardson showed the guerrillas how to fashion the badly needed guns right in their own villages using scrap material like plumbing pipe and old lumber,” correspondent Ben Waters reported in 1944.
By the end of 1943, despite many initial setbacks, the underground resistance groups in the Philipines had started to turn the tide and were linked by radio with MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia.
Instead of the airdrops frequently seen in Europe from SOE and OSS, the Navy organized an effort by Tagalog-speaking LCDR Charles “Chick” Parsons, an officer well aware of the PI coastal waters, to supply the insurgents with vital material. Parsons’s “Spy Squadron” of 19 submarines delivered 1,325 tons of supplies in at least 41 missions to the guerrillas between December 1942 and the liberation in 1945, with an emphasis on medicine, weapons, ammunition, and radio gear.
This led to increased organization and effectiveness, with fresh local recruits fleshing out the ranks of legitimate organizations of companies, battalions, and even divisions.
One of the most unlikely leaders was Lt. Col. James Cushing, a former mining engineer.
Another successful light colonel was Ernie McClish, a Native American.
In April 1945, after more than three years as a guerrilla leader in the Philippines, Lt. Col. Edward Ernest McClish came home to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where his family, who had refused to believe him dead, waited for him. Some of his story has been told in American Guerrilla in the Philippines, by Ira Wolfert, and other details have been added in a report given to the Public Relations Bureau of the War Department by Col. McClish. It is an extraordinary tale of accomplishment against great odds.
Lt. Col. McClish, a Choctaw, who graduated from Haskell Institute in 1929 and from Bacone College two years later, was called to active duty in the National Guard in 1940, and early in 1941 he arrived in the Philippines, where he became commander of a company of Philippine Scouts. In August he went to Panay to mobilize units of the Philippine Army there, and as commander of the Third Battalion he moved his men to Negros, where they were stationed when the war broke out. Late in December they crossed by boat to Mindanao, and there all the Moro bolo battalions were added to McClish’s command.
The Japanese did not reach Mindanao until April 29, 1942, shortly before the American capitulation on Luzon, and Col. McClish’s men fought them for nearly three weeks. When forces on the island finally surrendered, McClish, a casualty in the hospital, some distance from headquarters, was fortunately unable to join his men. Instead of capitulating he began to organize a guerrilla army.
By September 1942, he had an organization of more than 300 soldiers, with four machine guns, 150 rifles, and six boxes of ammunition. Some American and Filipino officers had escaped capture and joined the staff. In the early stages of the organization, McClish got word of a Colonel Fertig, of the Army Engineers, who was working along similar lines in the western part of Mindanao, and he managed to reach Fertig by travelling in a small sailboat along the coast. The two men decided to consolidate their commands, and Colonel Fertig asked McClish to organize the fighting forces in the four eastern provinces of the island as the 110th Division.
Organization was at first very difficult. Independent guerrilla bands had sprung up all over the island, some of them composed of robbers and bandits who terrorized the villages. Some were anti-American, says Colonel McClish. Most of them lacked military training and education. But slowly the work proceeded. The bandits were disarmed and jailed; the friendly natives were trained, and young men qualified to be officers were commissioned. By the spring of 1943 McClish had assembled a full-strength regiment in each of the three provinces, a fourth had been started, and Division headquarters staff had been completed.
Simultaneously with the military organization, civil governments were set up in each province. Wherever possible, the officials who had held jobs in pre-war days were reappointed, provided that they had not collaborated with the Japanese. Provincial and municipal officials worked hand in hand with the military, and helped greatly to build up the army’s strength.
Because of the shortage of food, reports Colonel McClish, a Food Administrator and a Civil and Judicial Committee were appointed to begin agricultural and industrial rehabilitation. Army projects for the production of food and materials of war were begun throughout the Division area, and all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 50 were required to give one day’s work each week to one of these projects. They raised vegetables, pigs, poultry, sugar cane, and other foods. The manufacture of soap, alcohol, and coconut oil was started. Fishing was encouraged. In some of the provinces food production was increased beyond the peacetime level. The civilians realized that they were part of the army, and that only a total effort could defeat the enemy.
The public relations office published a newspaper, and headquarters kept in communication with the regiments in each province by radio, by telephone (when wire was available), or by runner. The guerrillas acquired launches and barges which had been kept hidden from the Japanese, and these were operated by home-made alcohol and coconut oil. Seven trucks provided more transport, but it was safer and easier to use the sea than the land. In order to maintain their motor equipment, they “obtained” a complete machine shop from a Japanese lumbering company in their territory.
From September 15, 1942, to January 1, 1945, while McClish’s work of organization and administration was continuing, his guerrilla forces were fighting the Japanese, and more than 350 encounters–ambushes, raids on patrols and small garrisons, and general engagements–were listed on their records. One hundred and fifteen men were killed and sixty-four wounded. Enemy losses were estimated at more than 3,000 killed and six hundred wounded.
The guerrillas finally made contact with the American forces in the South Pacific and supplied them with valuable information about the enemy which was extremely helpful when the time for the invasion of the Philippines came at last. They did their part in bringing about the final victory in the Pacific.
On 26 May 1944, seven PB4Ys (Navalized B-24 bombers) of VB-115 flew to the recently liberated airstrip at Wakde in Dutch New Guinea, and on the next day, this squadron made the first regular air reconnaissance of southern Mindanao since early 1942 when MacArthur’s leadership was pulled out by B-17s for Australia. It would be the first of many American aircraft over the PI and heralded the official return of the U.S. to the islands.
By October 1944, some guerilla units had swelled to over 10,000 or more effective fighters, and openly wore uniforms, seizing control of large swaths of the country’s interior as well as numerous small cities and towns. They were even able to call in close air support at the tactical level.
It was during this later stage that PI guerilla forces ably served as lifeguards and protectors for downed American aircrews.
Opposed against them, the Japanese Kempati organized local collaborationist police and informants into snitch squads–who, while they did put a crimp in insurgent operations, were more often than not just used to settle local grudges. By 1944, stood up the Makapili (Makabayan Katipunan Ñg Mg̃a Bayani, or Alliance of Philippine Patriots) organization, armed with captured American weapons, went toe-to-toe with the local guerillas. However, the mighty Makapili only ever made it to brigade (5,000~) strength, although it should be pointed out that they fought alongside the Japanese to the bitter end.
Secret radio net
A radio net operated across the archipelago, linking operations with advancing Allied forces.
A specially-formed unit, the 978th Signal Service Company, operated clandestine radio nets blanketing the Philippines. Activated in Brisbane, Australia on 1 July 1943, the 978th consisted primarily of “Pinoy” Filipinos and Filipino Americans recruited by the Signal Corps from the U.S. Army’s First and Second Filipino Infantry Regiments then training in the United States at Camp Beale (now Beale AFB) and Camp Cooke (now Vandenburg AFG), in California and trained at Fort Gordon.
The 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion (Provisional), later known as 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, was formed at Camp “X” or Camp Tabragalba, near Beaudesert south of Brisbane in southern Queensland, to include the 978th and the 5218th Recon Coy (Provisional), whose motto in Filipino was Bahala na (Tagalog for Come What May).
Ultimately 200 parachute-skilled radio operators deployed with the insurgents providing a link back to MacArthur in Australia over which vital intelligence was sent back.
In the end, the Filipino guerilla movement retook large parts of the country and formed a standing, uniformed Army.
The famous Cabanatuan Prison Raid, conducted on 30-31 January 1945, could not have been pulled off without PI forces.
When MacArthur finally did return, much of the way had already been prepared, and guerillas came out of every thicket and town.
The transition from the secret army to a field army
As the Americans began landings in the Leyte Gulf and moved inland former irregular guerillas were quickly outfitted to fight as line infantry, a process that saw them clothed for the first time– typically in obsolete sateen uniforms– equipped with a mix of second-line rifles such as M1917 Enfields and M1903A3 Springfields as well as some newer ordnance like M1 Carbines and M1 Thompsons, then given a pair of often ill-fitting boots.
Some new PI divisions were even outfitted with 75mm howitzers for the final push to clear Northern Luzon, a campaign that didn’t end until mid-August 1945.
Importantly, Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the famed “Tiger of Malaysia” was captured by operatives from the USAFIP-NL (United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon). The USAFIP-NL was a scratch-built force of five Filipino infantry regiments and a field artillery battalion, consisting of roughly 20,000 men with a handful of American officers for liaison and tactical control.
This is well-remembered by the current Philippines veterans associations and today’s Philippine military.
Lt. Col. Ruperto Kangleon, Philippine Army, was the acknowledged leader of the resistance movement in Leyte during the Japanese occupation– the Black Army– a force that would be organized as the 92nd Division (PI) in October 1944. He would be decorated by MacArthur personally.
Others were remembered as well.
Meet Captain Nieves Fernandez, the only known Filipino female guerrilla leader, and school teacher.
In the above photo, she is showing U.S. Army Pvt. Andrew Lupiba how she used her bolo to silently kill Japanese sentries during the occupation of Leyte Island.
When the Japanese came to take the children under her care, she shot them. She didn’t hide in a closet, she didn’t put up a gun-free zone sign, she shot them in the face with her latong.
She then went on to lead forces credited with killing over 200 Japanese soldiers during the war and holds the distinction as the only female commander of a resistance group in the Philippines.
Besides the Americans and local insurgents, there was also a formation of ethnic Chinese residents who formed the underground Wha Chi battalion, who fought the Japanese occupation tooth and nail, in the end helping to liberate the towns of Jaen, Sta. Maria, Cabiao, San Fernando, and Tarlac in 1945.
Once the war was over, the Americans, by and large, went home and received some minor notoriety.
PT-boat sailor Richardson, who had been promoted to a Major in the U.S. Army during his time behind the lines, went on to unsuccessfully market a line of “Philippine Guerilla Shotguns.”
Meanwhile, Volckmann is seen today as a legend in the SF community and went on to literally write the book (several, actually) on COIN operations, based on his own first-hand knowledge. A book recently came out on him that is quite good reading.
There were also several sensationalized accounts in men’s pulp mags and in trade paperbacks published in the states throughout the 1950s and 60s.
Still, the resistance movement in the Philipines would never get the same type of coverage that similar, and often much less effective, efforts got in Europe, which is a shame.
For a great read on the subject see the CMH’s chapter on the Philippines Campaign dedicated to the Philippine Resistance Movement.
AP Wire Photo: 4 August 1964
Skull and Crossbones on the Cambodian border. Two leaders of a special South Vietnamese government platoon, identified by the Skull and Crossbones kerchief they wear, lead [a] group along a canal that marks the Cambodian border in the Plain of Reeds west of Saigon. The special outfit undertakes terrorist actions against the Viet Cong villages.
Both the Vietnamese Rangers (Biệt Động Quân) and Special Forces (Lực Lượng Đặc Biệt) used tigerstripe as did the “Sea Tigers” of Republic of Vietnam Marine Corps (TQLC) and Green Beret-organized CIDG units.
Of the latter, Mike (Mobile Strike) Force units, recruited from Hmong, Nung, and Montagnard peoples, often used Jolly Rogers in their locally-made insignia and “M.F.” patches.
A relaxed President John F. Kennedy talks to three “All American” officers of the 82nd Airborne Division during his visit to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, 12 October 1961
JFK, a Navy man, of course, has his hands in his pockets but his suit fits great and would blend right in on Mad Men. Note the officers as well, with shined jump boots, bloused and starched OD fatigues (complete with sharp creases) and tie-downs for the M1911 holsters. The WWII-era M1 Carbines (the Army had not moved to the M16 at the time and the M14 was often seen as too bulky for airborne operations) as well as the old Duck Hunter camo covers on their steel pots complete the setup.