Posts tagged ‘Navy’
WASHINGTON — Despite uncertain defense funding and a Pentagon strategy shift to get partner nation militaries to take a more direct role in commando operations, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), is still bullish on developing a lightweight ballistic protective suit for American forces.
Army General Joseph Votel has dispelled any speculation that support for the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS), may have waned since he took over as commander of SOCOM from Navy Admiral William McRaven, the super suit’s biggest booster. The futuristic commando body armor has been likened to the suit worn by the superhero, “Iron Man,” a characterization SOCOM has not discouraged – although TALOS won’t be able to fly.
Votel, an Army Ranger, told a defense industry-special operations conference Tuesday (January 27) that SOCOM’s goal remains to have a deployable suit ready for field testing a little over three years from now.
“Although many significant challenges remain, our goal of a Mark V prototype suit by August 2018 is on track right now,” Votel told the first day of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition. The two-day gathering, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), discusses the strategic and tactical needs of special operations forces (SOF) to fight small wars and prevent them from becoming big ones.
The TALOS suit, as envisioned by McRaven, will provide ballistic protection with advanced, lightweight armor and sensors to monitor the wearer’s heart rate, temperature and other vital signs. Using an integrated system of systems combiningg sensors, communications equipment and an electrically-powered exoskeleton, TALOS advocates say it will not only protect SOF troops but will make them run faster, hear and see better and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue. “If we do TALOS right,” McRaven told the SO/LIC conference last year, “it will provide a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need.” McRaven, a Navy SEAL, retired from the military in August.
“TALOS was charted to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technologies to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Votel said in his keynote address at the annual NDIA gathering.
Two early prototype suits, MK I with an early exoskeleton design, and MK II an assault suit, were delivered to SOCOM headquarters at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida in June. SOCOM is working on TALOS with input from the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency, the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center – as well as numerous corporations, universities and national laboratories.
The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the civilian executive in charge of the command’s equipment acquisition will be among the speakers at this year’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition this week in Washington.
Sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA), the gathering brings together Special Operations leaders from all the U.S. armed services and several foreign countries, as well as industry, foreign embassies and academics to discuss the role of Special Operations Forces in a rapidly changing world.
U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s new commander is slated to be the keynote speaker Tuesday (January 27), the gathering’s first full day. Later Tuesday, Michael Dumont, a civilian and principal deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) will be the luncheon speaker.
On Wednesday, attendees will hear from James “Hondo” Geurts, SOCOM’s acquisition executive, who is expected to outline what products are required to meet the needs of troops involved in SO/LIC activities.
As in past gatherings, money constraints are expected to be a hot topic as SOCOM deals with terrorism in Africa and the Middle East, countering ISIS and training local defense forces in places like Latin America. Special Operations Forces number about 67,000 — one of the fastest growing segments of the military. American SOF are working as trainers and observers at any given time in 90 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, Colombia and the Philippines. Their portfolio also includes rescuing hostages or capturing leaders of violent extremist organizations .
Special Operations Forces include Army Green Berets, Rangers and Special Ops aviators, Navy SEALS and Special Warfare Combatant-craft crews, Air Force Pararescue jumpers and combat air controllers, Marine Corps Corps critical skills operators and special operations combat services specialists.
The slow process of evacuating thousands of British troops from the chilly shoreline of Lake Borgne continues. Sailors in longboats and barges have to row the troops some 60 miles out to the waiting fleet, unload, and then row back to pick up more troops.
Fearing an outbreak of cholera after continuing heavy rains uncover British remains in a mass grave on the Chalmette Planation battlefield near the American lines, Major General Andrew Jackson orders his forces to withdraw back to New Orleans, where a tumultuous celebration is held on January 23 starting at the Roman Catholic cathedral of St. Louis with Abbe Guillaume Duborg, bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas presiding. (One wonders what Jackson, the son of Scotch-Irish Presbyterians made of all the candles, Latin chanting and incense).
On January 25 there is a brief skirmish between the British rear guard and Major Thomas Hinds’ Mississippi Dragoons. If there are any casualties, their number is not known.
The evacuation is finally completed. The last soldier makes his way aboard the waiting fleet. And by 11:30 a.m. the last sails of the British fleet disappear over the horizon, according to American sentries. But the fighting in the Gulf area is not over. The British are heading for Mobile Bay to capture Fort Bowyer and Mobile itself.
The famished British stop at Dauphin Island near Mobile and seize all the cattle and pigs.
Meanwhile, on the high seas the war goes on …
War at Sea
The Royal Navy’s blockade of the U.S. Atlantic coastline from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico is still in force. Captain Stephen Decatur and his frigate, the USS United States, have been bottled up in New Haven, Connecticut since June 1813. Late in 1814, the U.S. Navy assigns Decatur, a hero in the war with the Barbary pirates a decade earlier, to command another 44-gun frigate, the USS President, anchored in New York harbor.
On January 15, Decatur and the President slip out of New York in a snowstorm. But the ship runs aground on one of the many sandbars between New York and New Jersey. Battered by the storm, it takes hours to free the ship, soon after setting sail again, three British frigates ships are closing in.
Decatur and the 475 sailors and Marines on the President are facing the 40-gun HMS Endymion, HMS Pomone and HMS Tenedos –both carrying 38 guns. Decatur battles the Endymion first, but by nightfall, the President had lost 24 dead and 55 wounded. There are steering problems and the other two ships are getting ready to pound the President., so Decatur is forced to strike his colors.
The British take the President as a prize and sail her back to Bermuda, where a few days later they learn the war is over.
No Easy Task.
A U.S. Marine Corps raiding force clambers from a rigid-hulled, inflatable boat up into a gas and oil platform during maritime interoperability training (MIT) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Another group of raiders descended by rope (fast-roping) from a hovering MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
MIT prepares the Marines for their upcoming deployment by enhancing combat skills, and teaching them techniques for boarding vessels. These Leathernecks are with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Raid Force.
To see a slide show of this exercise, click here.
And here’s another photo from a different angle to show how far up the oil rig deck was. Please click on both photos to enlarge the image.
Where are the British?
All is quiet outside the small American fort at a bend in the Mississippi River 80 miles south of New Orleans. The cannon fire has stopped after nine days of shelling from a small British naval task force anchored downstream.
The siege of Fort St. Philip is over and the five-ship British squadron sails downstream January 18 to rejoin the rest of the British invasion fleet at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Like Fort McHenry in Baltimore, the garrison of Fort St. Philip has persevered under heavy bombardment and outlasted the British. Unlike Fort McHenry, however, no song like the “Star Spangled Banner” emerges from this little-known engagement – although the U.S. flag over the fort is shot down and replaced under heavy fire by a U.S. sailor who climbed to the top of a new flagstaff to unfurl the Stars and Stripes.
Upstream, Major General Andrew Jackson is worried the British may attack again despite their heavy losses on the morning of January 8. From his headquarters in the battered but still standing Macarty Planation He orders a constant cannonade to harry the British camp at the Villere Plantation nearly two miles away.
Some of Jackson’s subordinates, especially the commanders of his small cavalry and dragoon detachments want to mount a counterattack. But Jackson opts to stand pat, mindful that the enemy still has more than 5,000 experienced troops to his barely 4,000-man force scattered over a wide area around New Orleans.
The British soldiers, sailors and Marines still on U.S. soil are battle-tested veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. Jackson’s army is a pick-up force of regular Army infantry and artillery, sailors from the Navy and local merchant ships, a small contingent of U.S. Marines, Jean Lafitte’s pirates, Choctaw Indians, New Orleans volunteers (black and white) and militiamen from Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee – many of them ill-trained and poorly armed. Jackson wonders if the British are changing tactics and preparing to attack from the north. Or have they found a different way through the swamps to attack him from behind? Jackson orders his cavalry and scouts to learn what the British are planning. Reinforcements are sent to other possible approaches to the city.
Meanwhile, British Major General John Lambert – pretty much the last man standing among the senior British commanders after the disastrous assault on Jan. 8 – meets with his officers that night to assess their situation: more than 2,000 dead, wounded and missing; morale low after weeks of cold rainy nights in the Louisiana swamps with the Tennesseans and Choctaws sneaking out of the dark to kill and capture sentries; no shelter and little food available from a supply line that stretches over a nearly two-day slog through the swamps and bayous back to a fleet blocked by sandbars from getting any closer.
Lambert decides further assaults on New Orleans’ defenders are futile and so he orders the invasion force to withdraw back to the fleet. Like George Washington’s evacuation of Brooklyn Heights in 1776, it’s a masterful withdrawal under difficult conditions without tipping off the Americans.
It takes nine days for the British to prepare a way through swamps infested with alligators, snakes and quicksand. Wide ditches and streams in the cypress swamps have to be bridged with branches and reeds because there aren’t enough trees for lumber. On the night of the 18th, the withdrawal begins, moving the wounded, weapons and remaining supplies to the fleet. Ten heavy guns have to be abandoned. Once through the swamps the troops have to wait on the shore of Lake Borgne for the Navy to row them out to the fleets. Each trip takes hours.
On the morning of January 19, peering through his spyglass on the top floor of the bomb-shattered Macarty mansion, Andrew Jackson notices a strange lack of activity in the British camp. A cavalry patrol reports back that the British have departed.
The Americans discover the British path of retreat late that night and some enterprising Louisiana militiamen begin ambushing the slow moving longboats transferring the British troops. Forming small convoys of rowboats to fend off the Americans slows the evacuation process to a crawl as do high winds and rough seas. By January 24, some British units are still waiting and starving on the lakeshore.
New Orleans: The Last Battle.
PART III of Three Parts, The Ending
(Click on all images to enlarge)
As Major General Andrew Jackson moves along the length of his defensive line congratulating and praising his men for their resounding victory over the British late in the morning of January 8, he suddenly realizes he hasn’t heard any firing from the American positions on the west side of the Mississippi River directly across from the battlefield before him.
Navy Commodore Daniel Patterson commands a battery perpendicular to Jackson’s battle line to catch the British in a crossfire as they advance on Jackson’s right (close to the river). In addition to the sailors and Lafitte pirates manning those guns, Brigadier General David Morgan has 600 men and three cannon stationed a mile or so downriver to defend Patterson’s river battery.
The night before (January 7), British Colonel William Thornton crosses the Mississippi with about 450 soldiers, sailors and marines to capture Commodore Patterson’s guns and turn them on Jackson when the main British attack begins in the morning.
Thornton’s barges get a late start (see Part II), then the Mississippi’s strong current pull his barges farther down river than planned. By the time Thornton gets his men ashore and assembled on the morning of the 9th, General Pakenham has launched the British attack on the other side of the river.
Thornton easily routs the first line of American defenders, about 120 poorly trained Louisiana militia armed with bird-hunting guns and ammunition too big to fit in their gun barrels. A little father on, the British encounter the Louisiana militia again joined by a Kentucky militia detachment – also poorly armed and exhausted after an all-night march from U.S. headquarters. The Americans fire a few volleys but flee when three small British gunboats accompanying Thornton’s men open fire from the river. Marching farther northwest along the Mississippi, Thornton’s men encounter General Morgan’s final defensive line, a ditch with waist-high earthworks behind it. Morgan’s troops pour several volleys into the British before their right flank is turned and British sailors punch through their defenses. The Louisiana troops flee into the swamps and the Kentuckians run pell-mell for the Patterson’s river battery. Neither Morgan nor the Kentucky commander can stop the rout. The three gun crews, now out of ammunition, spike their guns, dump them in the river and retreat.
Three hundred yards farther upriver, Commodore Patterson sees the Kentuckians fleeing toward him. As he orders his guns turned to meet the approaching British, he realizes he can’t fire on the enemy without hitting Americans. When the Kentucky boys won’t stop running, the outraged Navy man orders one of his gunners to fire on “those damned cowards.” Just as the young midshipman is about to fire, Patterson countermands his own order. Calming down, he realizes his position is untenable. He orders his men to spike their guns, dump the remaining gunpowder into the Mississippi and retreat to the U.S.S. Louisiana, moored about 300 yards away. Patterson then turns and stalks off cursing the British and the Kentuckians.
Across the river, Andy Jackson is also cursing the Kentuckians and sends 400 soldiers across the river to reinforce Morgan, whose force now consists mostly of Louisiana militiamen and the Kentucky officers who didn’t flee. British troops lining the east side of the river cheer when Patterson’s river battery ceases firing on them, but those guns stay silent when Thornton discovers the Americans have rendered them useless. In a little while he receives orders to withdraw back to the east side of the Mississippi. The two-pronged British attack has failed. Pakenham is dead. Two other senior commanders are gravely wounded and hundreds of redcoats lie dead before Jackson’s ramparts. The numbers vary, depending on who is doing the counting, although all sources agree the British suffered more than 2,000 killed, wounded or taken prisoner. American casualties in all the fighting on both sides of the river total: 55 dead, 185 wounded and 93 missing.
Jackson assents to a British request for a temporary truce to exchange prisoners, bury the dead and care for the wounded, but Old Hickory keeps his guard up and his eyes peeled for the next move of the still dangerous British invasion force. Even though New Orleans is now safe, the British could attack Mobile or Pensacola.
While Pakenham was mounting his two-pronged land attack on either side of the Mississippi, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, the overall commander of the invasion force, decides to try sailing up the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
Cochrane sends five ships, including two bomb ships like the ones he used to bombard Fort McHenry outside Baltimore five months earlier, up the river to attack a small U.S. strongpoint, Fort Saint Philip. The fort, bristling with 34 guns (more than Jackson had at Chalmette Plantation), commands the Mississippi about 80 miles south of New Orleans. If the Royal Navy can reduce the fort, it can sail up the river, outflank Jackson and bombard New Orleans – at least that’s the plan.
At 3:30 p.m. on January 9 – a full day after the British defeat upriver – the Royal Navy bomb ships begin firing on the fort, which contains a little over 400 defenders—mostly Army regulars, with 50 Louisiana volunteers, 30 Free Men of Color and 40 sailors. The British are anchored out of range of all the American guns, except one, a mortar which doesn’t have the right size ammunition.
The bombardment continues all day, every day from January 10 to January 14 – with the exception of two hours every day at noon and sunset when the Royal Navy has lunch and dinner.
While the last big battle of the War of 1812 is concluded and negotiators in Ghent, Belgium have already agreed to a peace treaty (December 24, 1814) word of the treaty – which must be ratified by Congress and signed by President Madison – is still a month away in an era without undersea telegraph cables, railroads or fast moving steamships.
Meanwhile, the British naval blockade is still on, U.S. Navy and privateer ships are still raiding at sea, the Army is still trying to wrest control of the Upper Mississippi region from the British-Canadians and their Indian allies and the Treaty of Ghent, as well as the Constitutional resolutions of the recently ended Hartford Convention have not yet reached Washington.
So stay tuned, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 will continue here at 4GWAR until mid-March.
The third and final part of our blog’s coverage of the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans has been delayed.
We will be posting it before noon today (Friday, January 9, 2015)
We regret the delay.
Your 4GWAR editor