Tag Archives: old guard

Old Guard’s Buff Straps at 230, or at least 100

During the early part of the 19th century, Soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) wove strips of rawhide into the black shoulder straps of their knapsacks to show their pride in their distinctive colors. The black and buff colors were in keeping with traditional Regimental colors adopted in 1792 when the unit was under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne as part of the Legion of the United States and was authorized buff piping on their uniforms and black plumes on their hats.

In May of 1922, the Adjutant General approved the use of the Buff Strap for the Old Guard with General Order 6.

Today, members of the unit have to pass a three-week Regimental Orientation Program (ROP) designed to train new Soldiers in rifle movements, ceremonial marching, and uniform styles unique to The Old Guard, to earn their buff strap.

No Snow Days for the Old Guard

Arlington National Cemetery noted this week it is witnessing its first snowfall of the year with a series of photos that show quiet stillness and dignified respect.

(Photos by: Elizabeth Fraser, U.S. Army/ Arlington National Cemetery)

The above memorial is the mast of the lost USS Maine (Battleship No. 10), sunk in 1898, an event that sparked the Spanish-American War. It was dedicated at the cemetery in 1915 after the warship was raised. 

Among the images were some of the Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, who stand watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather.

Drawn from volunteers of the Fort Myer-based 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” they are equipped with Vietnam-era M14 rifles rather than the more current M16 or M4 variants. Sergeants of the Guard carry one of four custom M17 9mm pistols, specially crafted for the unit by Sig Sauer. 

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 100

On 11 November 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery was installed as a solemn final resting place for one of America’s unidentified service members.

The mortal remains of that initial Soldier, whose identity was only “Known but to God,” was selected from unknown Americans who gave up their lives in France during the Great War. Over 38,000 Americans were buried in French soil at military cemeteries in the Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, Somme, and Aisne-Marne regions. One set of unidentified remains were selected from each cemetery for review.

From those four sets of identical flag-draped caskets, a decorated GI who had served in the conflict and had been twice wounded, Sgt. Edward F. Younger, selected one to become the Unknown Soldier by resting a bouquet of white roses on its cover. The Unknown was then taken to the port of Le Harve under a ceremonial escort provided by French and American troops and attended by thousands of locals along the way.

André Maginot, the French Minister of Pensions, presented the French Legion of Honor– the country’s highest order of merit– to the Unknown Soldier.

French Minister of Pensions M. Maginot pinning the Cross of Legion of Honor upon the casket.in Le Havre, France, October 25, 1921. Maginot was a Great War veteran himself, who as a sergeant had both of his legs shattered in the conflict. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

The casket was carried aboard Dewey’s old flagship, the armored cruiser USS Olympia (C-6; CA-15; CL-15; IX-40) on 25 October by Sailors and Marines while the warship’s band played both the American and French national anthems as well as Chopin’s “Funeral March.”

Unknown Soldier’s body going aboard USS Olympia, Le Havre, France, October 25, 1921. The original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521763.

Installed on one of the cruiser’s topside hatches, the Unknown was guarded by Marines and Sailors for the voyage across the Atlantic to the Washington Navy Yard, where Olympia arrived on 9 November.

Casket of the Unknown Soldier in its transporting case on the after end of the superstructure of USS Olympia. (Original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521778.)

USS Olympia (CL-15, originally Cruiser # 6) Arriving at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C., with the remains of the Unknown Soldier, 9 November 1921. She had transported the remains from France. Among the destroyers in the background, immediately beyond Olympia’s bow, are: USS Barney (DD-149) and USS Blakeley (DD-150). Courtesy of Edward Page, 1979. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 89731

A detail of Marines and sailors lift the body of the unknown soldier as the funeral party disembarks USS Olympia (CL-15) at Washington, DC after its trip from Le Harve, France. (Original image is from the collections of the Marine Corps, #521811)

There, the remains were transferred to the escort of the Army.

After laying in state at the Capitol Rotunda for two days and being visited by 90,000 people, the casket was transported to Arlington on Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the Great War that had occurred three years prior on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

The procession from the Capitol to Arlington included several military units to include those from nine allied nations as well as nurses who served in France, while Gen. John Persing, who commanded the American forces in Europe during the war, walked behind the horse-drawn funeral caisson.

Honors rendered that day included the presentation of the Medal of Honor by President Harding. Four military chaplains (to include a rabbi) participated in the funeral service. A national two-minute silence augmented the thousands in attendance. Flowers and wreaths were massed while salutes were fired. Pershing deposited some soil from France into the tomb. The chief of the Crow Nation rested his coup stick across the tomb as a tribute to the fallen and presented his war bonnet.

Today, Armistice Day is known as Veterans Day and the Tomb has had other Unknowns interred to include the World War II and Korean War Unknowns in 1958 and 1984, respectively. Guarded originally by details from nearby Fort Myer and, since 1948, by an elite group of Sentinels provided by the 3rd Infantry Regiment “The Old Guard,” the Tomb has been reverently secured 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter the weather.

In honoring the 100th anniversary of the interment of the WWI Unknown Soldier, for the first time in a century, the public has been allowed entrance to the normally off-limits Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza this week to place flowers near the memorial.

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the public is invited to observe a joint full honors procession, meant to replicate elements of the World War I Unknown Soldier’s 1921 funeral procession. Following this, there will be a combined services flyover of the cemetery and the National Mall in conjunction with the Armed Forces Full Honors Wreath Ceremony to honor the Unknowns and the centennial of the Tomb, set for 11 a.m.

For more information on the Tomb, here is a tour of the display room in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery.

As for Olympia, she lingered on in Naval service, decommissioned in 1922 and preserved as a relic/floating office space at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard until 1957 when she was stricken and transferred to a local non-profit for use as a civilian-run museum ship, a task she continues to perform today.

A lead plaque was installed on the cruiser’s hatch in the 1920s where the Unknown had rested for the trip from France but, sadly, is not on the ship today, being removed when she was decommissioned. However, it is preserved at the NMUSN. 

A commemorative plaque, part of the exhibit of the cruiser USS Olympia at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy (NMUSN), hangs on display during a symposium held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Unknown Soldier to U.S. soil after WWI. The plaque identifies where the casket containing the remains of the Unknown Soldier was placed aboard the cruiser USS Olympia during the voyage from Le Havre, France to Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jalen D. Walton)

Touring the Caisson Platoon’s home

Located in the legacy stables leftover from the 3rd Cavalry at Ft. Myer– where Patton kept his own horses back in the day– the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard)’s Caisson Platoon stables are an interesting place steeped in history.

Of note in the short virtual tour just posted by the Old Guard, they have the Gipper’s 2004 caparison horse, SGT York, as well as a caisson that has Great War damage to its limber.

Remember, today is not about saving (up to) 40 percent on select items

It’s a small plot of land that’s never left unguarded. The Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are a small and exclusive group. They stand their post 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather. Hear the Sentinel’s Creed and you’ll know why. DOD video edited by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jared Bunn

Farewell, CSM Adkins

Alabama-born Special Forces Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins, MoH, was a man among green-faced men when in 1966 he was part of an A-team at Camp A Shau and the fit hit the proverbial shan.

As noted by the Army:

Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself during 38 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces on March 9 to 12, 1966. At that time, then-Sergeant First Class Adkins was serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces at Camp “A Shau”, in the Republic of Vietnam.

When Camp A Shau was attacked by a large North Vietnamese force in the early morning hours of March 9th, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp. He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position at the camp dispensary.

Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to enemy fire transporting a wounded casualty to an airstrip for evacuation. He and his group then came under heavy small-arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese. Despite this overwhelming force, Adkins maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire away from the aircraft all the while successfully covering the rescue. Later, when a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Adkins again moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much-needed supplies.

During the early morning hours of March 10th, enemy forces launched their main assault. Within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective rifle fire upon enemy as they infiltrated the camp perimeter and assaulted his position. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacking North Vietnamese soldiers.

Adkins then withdrew to regroup with a smaller element of soldiers at the communications bunker. While there, he single-handedly eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire, almost completely exhausting his supply of ammunition. Braving intense enemy fire, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and evaded fire while returning to the bunker. After the order was given to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker, and fought their way out of the camp.

Because of his efforts to carry a wounded soldier to an extraction point and leave no one behind, Sergeant First Class Adkins and his group were unable to reach the last evacuation helicopter. Adkins then rallied the remaining survivors and led the group into the jungle – evading the enemy for 48 hours until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12th. During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 – 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.

Adkins, age 86, passed away this weekend, reportedly from complications of COVID-19.

In related news, while the Tomb Guards at Arlington are still walking post, the Old Guard is currently conducting Memorial operations while wearing masks, in accordance with Army and CDC guidelines.

JTF-NCR burning the midnight oil

The 58th Presidential Inauguration Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) has stood up and has been practicing for the swearing-in event, scheduled for Jan. 20. The task force is under the command of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bradley Becker.

As outlined in the below infographic, each of the five military branches– the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S  Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard– will have a 180-strong marching company in the parade as well as a 355-member (103 for the Coast Guard) cordon stretched along the parade route.

Each of the four federal service academies will have 90 cadets marching as will the Army and Air National Guards.

Finally, there will be six military premier bands encompassing 550 members and a 2,340-strong combined honor guard primarily drawn from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment– the famous “Old Guard” who are tasked with ceremonial military duties in the Washington Military District such as mounting the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

58th-president-inaguration

More here.

Keeping the flame of 1776 alive

george-washington-valley-forge

Washington’s Life Guard, officially dubbed “His Excellency’s Guard,” was authorized 11 March 1776 and was a mixed infantry and cavalry unit of about 200~ men though this fluctuated during the war, swelling to almost 300 in 1780 and shrinking to just 60 or so men by the end of the conflict. Originally drawn from each colonial regiment encamped around Boston, with each unit sending four vol-untold men, it was possibly the first true polyglot formation with soldiers from each of the 13 original colonies.

Originally commanded by Captain Caleb Gibbs, an adjutant of the 14th Massachusetts Continental Regiment, they were drilled by Baron Frederick von Steuben, himself and were the tightest unit in the army– being used as shock troops on more than a few occasions when the chips were down.

After the war, the Guard remained dormant and while just 300 or so men’s names are known to have legitimately served, apparently several thousand aging Yanks in the late 18th and early 19th century made quick boasts in parlors and taverns of being a member of old George’s personal bodyguard– perhaps the original instance of U.S. Army stolen valor.

Fast forward…

In 1922, when stationed at Fort Snelling, Minn., the U.S. 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) –the oldest active duty regiment in the Army, having been first organized as the First American Regiment in 1784– established a Continental Color Guard consisting of two veteran soldiers in the livery of Washington’s old guard. They were popular and remained until the regiment went off to World War II and subsequent disestablishment in Germany in 1946.

Meanwhile in 1926, the Military District of Washington permanently detailed select dismounted horse soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Brave Rifles), then at Fort Meyer, to stand guard at the the tomb of an unidentified American serviceman from World War I interred in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater, thought they did it in standard uniforms of the day.

Then, in 1948, the 3rd Infantry Regiment was reorganized and they assumed the role of the capital’s ceremonial troops from the 3rd Cav, working Arlington, the Tomb and greeting dignitaries (all with a military role in crowd control and protecting from enemy raids and sneak attacks in the event of an outbreak of hostilities).

By the 50s, the Old Guard again had a small contingent of ceremonial color guard who wore the uniforms of  Washington’s men.

With the Bicentennial fever sweeping the country in the 1970s, Company A of the Old Guard’s 4th Battalion (recently returned from combat duty in Vietnam), was christened the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard in 1973 and has been pulling that role, wigs and muskets and all, ever since.

Commander in Chief's Guard performed a firing demonstration on the Lexington Green followed by a performance by The United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, Lexington, Ma., April 16, 2016
The Commander in Chief’s Guard, based at Fort McNair, is patterned after George Washington’s personal guard and has a variety of weapons and uniforms unique to their company. Officers carry an espontoon (half-pike) used as a signalling tool while NCOs carry a halberd. All ranks tote short swords for close combat.

Washington himself in 1777 directed all Continental field officers to arm themselves with espontoons, noting “firearms when made use of with drawing their attention too much from the men; and to be without either, has a very aukward and unofficer like appearance.”

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The primary long arm of the unit are replica firing Brown Bess flintlocks with (always) mounted bayonet. All of which involves training.

The uniform for service is the 1784-pattern Army field pattern of the uniform for wear by all infantry consisting of a blue coat faced with a red collar, cuffs and lapels, white buttons and lining, long fitting overalls, and a black tricorn cocked hat with cockade.

Commander in Chief's Guard 2

The unit’s color guard carries the the U.S. Army Color with 172 campaign streamers, representing every campaign in which the Army has participated while the 3d Infantry Color bears 54 campaign streamers. The guard also carries a recreation of Washington’s own camp flag.

The guard is also the unit who gets roped into the other historical uniform duties, turning out Joes in Union Army blue, Confederate Gray, Doughboys and 101st Airborne paratroopers from 1944 and others for various events and public demonstrations.

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Just 66 strong, the unit also has a war and homeland security mission, being trained as the Old Guard’s Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) unit and still completes regular weapon qualifications etc. on standard arms.

For more information and to follow the guard, they have a great and very moto social media account.

Commander in Chief's Guard

If you think its cold where you are…

old guard m14 tomb unknown sentinels

U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Cody W. Torkelson

Sentinels, assigned to the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 22, 2016, as a record breaking snow storm hits the Washington, D.C. area. The Tomb Guards maintain a constant vigil at the Tomb no matter the weather conditions and has done so in an unbroken chain ever single second of the past 48 years.

 

Go for the big bang with a saluting cannon!

So you have those special occasions when you just want to call upon the gods of fire and smoke– but don’t necessarily want to hit anything. We are not talking about irresponsible gunplay here; we are talking about the satisfying, window rattling joy that is a saluting cannon.

What is it?

Back in the old days, the practice of firing gun salutes came as a way to show both sides that their cannon were empty and not ready to fire. For instance, if say a French warship sailed into a Swedish port, they would exchange salutes with the warship firing its cannon (sans ammunition) and the Swedish fort replying likewise. This evolved over time and is still practiced to this day. In many countries the saluting cannon became used to tell time (fired at midday), to deliver news (in Imperial Russia, naval ships and forts fired 100 shots for the birth of a girl to the Tsar, 300 for the birth of a boy– leading a lot of people to listen for that 101st shot), start races, and to celebrate special occasions.

How the professionals do it

The Navy, or more correctly, the Continental Navy, started the practice of military gun salutes in the United States as on Nov. 16, 1776, the American warship Andrew Doria fired a cannonball-less salute of 13 guns, one per each colony, on entering the harbor of St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies. Well the Dutch, checking the courtesy book, answered with a 9-gun salute, which was what is required for the warship of a visiting republic. Since then the Navy has been the caretaker of saluting gun traditions…

Gunners Mates First Class (GM1) Ronnie Owens and Richard Ashley fire a 40mm saluting cannon in honor of the Governor of the State of Florida from the destroyer USS Momsen in 2004. US Navy photo.

Gunners Mates First Class (GM1) Ronnie Owens and Richard Ashley fire a 40mm saluting cannon in honor of the Governor of the State of Florida from the destroyer USS Momsen in 2004. US Navy photo.

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

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