Tag Archives: marines

Little Groups of Marines

Ten U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command teamed up with the U.S. Navy for a three-month deployment aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), returning to Little Creek this week. The SPMAGTF-SC detachment provided the 1,500-ton Burlington, officially a noncombatant manned by civilian mariners of the MSC alongside a USN commo team, with an embarked security team, providing force protection for the deployment.

This is the type of tasking that little groups of Marines will increasingly see in the future, no longer just the stuff of the “Gator Navy.”

Of course, it is something of a case of everything old is new again, as the Marines for something like 220 years regularly provided small dets on surface ships for security/gunnery/landing force missions. Back in the day, ships as small as gunboats, sloops, and frigates often had Marines aboard, although the practice was trimmed back to cruisers, battleships, and carriers by the 1920s (with a few notable exceptions).

The Marine Detachment, gunboat USS Dauntless (PG-61) – mid-1942

The last Marine Carrier Dets, useful for guarding admirals, performing TRAP missions, and keeping an eye on “special munitions” (aka nukes) were disbanded in 1998.

Ready for Action, 77 Years Ago Today

Official caption: “PFC Kenneth C. Crowley, USMC, Plymouth, Mass., crouches behind a log on the first day of action on Cape Gloucester. A few minutes after this picture was made, he advanced with his unit and helped knock out a Japanese pillbox. Hdqtrs No. 72489. Marine Corps Photo.”

Note Crowley’s M1 Garand– which the Marines had only been issuing for about a year at this time–, extra bandoliers of clipped 30.06 ammo, and camo helmet cover. NARA 127-GR-85-72489

The 1st Marine Division hit the beaches at Cape Gloucester on 26 December 1943, fighting Iwao Matsuda’s Imperial Japanese Army’s 65th Brigade to annihilation over the course of a three-week campaign in thick jungle, suffering 1,300 casualties in the process.

While there are three Crowleys listed from Massachusetts as having died in WWII while serving with the Department of the Navy, none are the above-mentioned Kenneth.

Santa, C-130s, and isolated Pacific resupply

The U.S. Air Force, operating in conjunction this year with the Japan Self-Defense Force, just wrapped up the 69th annual Operation Christmas Drop, tossing out 3,200-pounds of humanitarian aid from the back of a moving Herky bird in 64 bundles over the course of a week to eagerly awaiting communities in Micronesia.

A bundle is airdropped from a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, onto Kayangel, Republic of Palau, during Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 10. By using low-cost low-altitude airdrop procedures, the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force were able to deliver humanitarian aid across the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)

To be sure, it is a feel-good operation. Something to be proud of. Winning hearts and minds. 

However, keep in mind that such drops are real-world training for these same Western Pacific-based C-130 units should they be needed to, say, handle low-key resupply for isolated company-sized Marine rocket batteries dropped off on random atolls with little infrastructure but within range of Chinese maritime assets.

Speaking of which, this year’s OCD was the first that saw bundles dropped on Peleliu.

For those keeping track at home, Peleliu was, of course, a hard-won strategic pin in the map on the push towards Okinawa and the Philippines in 1944-45. The historic island currently has a population of about ~400 locals and the WWII-era airstrip, seen towards the end of the OCD video, is in pretty rough shape.

That beat-down airstrip doesn’t negate the fact that places like Peleliu are getting important once again. Maybe important enough that C-130s ought to be practicing cargo drops there. Oh wait. 

Over the side. Hit the nets!

The bane of O-courses for generations, the unsung cargo net was a vital step in what these days we would call the sea–to-shore connector during World War II.

With the Navy pressing whole classes of old flush-deck destroyers as well as newer destroyer escorts into use as “Green Dragons,” a modification that saw some topside weapon systems (torpedo tubes) as well as below-deck equipment (one of the boiler rooms) deleted, these tin cans could carry a reinforced company/light battalion’s worth of Marines to earshot of a far-off Japanese-held atoll where they would load up in a series of Higgins-made plywood LCVRs to head ashore.

The easiest way to get said Marines from the tin can to the waiting fiddlestick express below? A debarkation net deployed over the side.

Troops boarding the converted destroyer USS WARD (APD-16) from an LCP(R) landing craft at Maffin Bay, New Guinea, en route to the Cape Sansapor Landings, 30 July 1944. The low freeboard of the converted “four-stacker” is a boon to amphibious operations since there is less danger of the men being pitched off the cargo nets in the short descent to rocking landing boats. 80-G-255402

Nets were also a facet of transferring troops to landing craft from attack transport (APA) ships, which were fundamentally just converted freighters or passenger liners designs with davits filled with LCVPs.

Photo of landing rehearsals in June 1943 by USS McCawley (APA-4), note the nets #80-G-254933.

The tactic was iconic enough to be captured in the maritime art of the era and was used hundreds of times.

“Amphibious Troop Movement” Painting, Oil on Canvas; by James Turnbull; 1945. “Burdened with full combat packs, assault troops clamber down a landing net into the landing craft which will debark them on the shores of Lingayen Gulf to open the battle for Luzon.” NHHC Accession #: 67-190-B

As LPDs, LSDs, LPHs (which in turn were replaced by LHAs), and LHDs phased out the old Green Dragons and APAs during the Cold War, the cargo net basically was just retained for use in swim calls and in areas with poor harbor facilities.

Now, with the concept of smaller groups of Marines operating from non-standard amphibious warfare vessels in a future warm/hot war in the Pacific, it seems the staple of 1943 could be making something of a comeback.

As noted by the 31st MEU, a recent exercise in Guam has brought the net back into play:

Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, completed the debarkation net rehearsal from the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) in Apra Harbor, Naval Base Guam, harkening back to a historic method of personnel movement with a focus on safety, according to Master Sgt. Daniel Scull with Weapons Company, BLT 1/5, safety officer-in-charge for the event.

200220-N-DB724-1125 SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 20, 2020) Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conduct cargo net training in the hangar bay of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). America, the flagship of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st MEU team, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jomark A. Almazan)

“This capability greatly enhances the 31st MEU’s ability to conduct increasingly dynamic tactical actions and operations across the Pacific,” said Scull. “Under the cover of darkness, specially-equipped Marine elements can debark onto a landing craft and insert uncontested onto small islands in the Pacific”.

Devils and Devils rushed to the Sandbox

In response to unrest at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on 27 December following a series of CENTCOM strikes on Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) bases, a group of 100 Marines from 2/7 attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (catchily abbreviated to just “SPMAFTF-CR-CC”) 19.2, rushed from Kuwait to beef up the MSG and State Department DS contingents on New Year’s Eve. They arrived via MV-22 Osprey, as shown in the below USMC videos by Sgt. Robert Gavaldon & Sgt. David Bickel.

Of interest, 2/7 recently filmed this short where they talk about training to do more expeditionary stuff of a ship-to-shore nature.

They were quickly backfilled in the region by a reinforced battalion of the 82nd Airborne (All Americans), which were airmailed over the New Year’s holiday from Fort Bragg to Kuwait. The unit on IRF rotation was the famed 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR. The 504th since 1944 has carried the nickname “The Devils in Baggy Pants,” taken from a comment by a Wehrmacht officer at Anzio.

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Jan. 1, 2020. Elements of the Immediate Response Force mobilized for deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities. The IRF and the All American Division remain postured and ready to deploy in support of the National Command Authority. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robyn J. Haake)

In a statement from SECDEF Dr. Mark T. Esper

At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq.

Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.

This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world.

Meanwhile, the “haze gray stabilizers” of Carrier Strike Group Eight (CSG-8), built around USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), are now reporting to the 5th Fleet. 

Further, the U.S. upped the ante on Friday by dusting Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who had almost cult hero status within IRGC and Quds Force Shia militias in the region, with many referring to him as the real man behind the curtain. The pressure for Tehran to retaliate will be immense.

From DOD this morning:

General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.

This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.

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.

The typical Devil Squad is changing, due to the M27

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017

The building block of every infantry platoon in the Marines is the squad, currently a 13-strong unit. Under the new format, it will shrink by one to 12 and constrict the size of each fire team from four to three members, but the number of M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle systems will swell as every member will carry one, effectively tripling the current volume of fire available to the unit, according to officials. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the development will make the squad “more lethal, agile and capable.”

While the unit has given up their M249 Squad Automatic Weapons — the U.S. version of the FN Minimi — the M27 has taken the place of that belt-fed weapon and will by 2020 phase out the M4 rifles in the squad, upping the number of the modified select-fire variant of the HK416 5.56mm gas piston rifle per squad from three to 12.

And that’s just the start of the changes.

The rest in my column at Guns.com

The Marines are wanting to suppress all the things

Marine with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, conducts a company attack range in Twentynine Palms, note the Surefire can on his M4. The can is a KAC (Knight’s Armament Company) NT4 which has long had an NSN number.

The Marine Corps has posted a Request for Information on commercially available suppressors that can work across all of their 5.56mm platforms.

The RFI, posted Aug. 3, is feeling out the industry for current availability of a detachable suppressor capable of reducing the sound of a 5.56mm round to 139dB. To be used by the M4 and M4A1 carbines, as well as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle — a select-fire HK416 — the Corps is interesting in buying in bulk.

Like 194,000 in bulk.

More in my column at Guns.com

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