Posts tagged ‘winter warfare’
U.S. Arctic Strategy
“The United States is an Arctic nation,” begins the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region, released last week by the White House.
With the apparently inevitable melting of polar sea ice, areas of the Arctic previously locked in by thick ice will be open – at least in summer months – for maritime shipping, oil and gas exploration, commercial fishing scientific research and tourism. The mineral riches beneath the Arctic Sea – which is bordered by six nations, Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States — have prompted concerns about a “Cold Rush” of industries, corporations, speculators and governments hoping to take advantage of resources once thought inaccessible. But there are many more nations in Europe and Asia that want a say in how the top of the world is managed. [More on that in Arctic Council item below].
The brief (12-page) document released by the White House last Friday outlines where U.S. policy should be going in the High North. It calls for three strategic priority efforts:
- Advancing U.S. security interests in the Arctic, including operating vessels and aircraft through, over and under the airspace and waters of the Arctic. Providing for future U.S. energy security is also seen as a national security issue.
- Pursuing Responsible Stewardship of the Arctic, and that includes protecting the environment, conserving its resources and considering the needs of native peoples in the region.
- Strengthening International Cooperation to advance common interest and keep the region stable and free from conflict. The eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Sweden and Finland as well as the six previously mentioned Arctic nations, approved an Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement in 2011.The opening of sea lanes through Arctic nations’ territory and the extent of the mineral riches beneath the ice has raised concerns about who owns what and who controls territorial waters. A few years ago, a Russian underwater robot placed a Russian flag beneath the North Pole to assert Russia’s stake in the region. And Canada has been gearing up its defense forces and mapping its Arctic coastline to secure sovereignty over its portion of the region. The U.S. Continental shelf claim in the Arctic region “could extend more than 600 nautical miles from the north coast of Alaska,” according to the Arctic Strategy statement.
Scientists estimate that as much as 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered but recoverable oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas deposits – as well vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore and nickel – lie beneath the waters of the Arctic Circle. Easier access has all sorts of implications. It could break the monopolies some nations like China have on resources such as rare earths (needed in advanced weapons systems and mobile devices). It could also take business away from transit points like the Panama and Suez canals and create all sorts of headaches for countries like Canada if all the world’s shipping starts taking unrestricted shortcuts through their backyard.
The United States will seek to enhance “sea, air and space capabilities as Arctic conditions change,” the new strategy says, adding that “We will enable prosperity and safe transit by developing and maintaining sea, under-sea and air assets and necessary infrastructure.”
The new Arctic Strategy also calls for eventual U.S. acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States is the only Arctic state that is not a party to the convention. The complex series of agreements defines the rights and responsibilities of national governments in their use of the world’s oceans. Despite the support by Presidents Bush and Obama, the Pentagon, State Department and several major business and industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opponents in the Senate have blocked ratification of the treaty largely on sovereignty and national defense grounds.
Patricia F.S. Cogswell, the senior director for Transborder Security on the National Security Staff, an a special assistant to the president for Homeland Security, says administration officials will be hosting roundtable discussions in Alaska sometime next month to discuss the best ways for implementing the concepts laid out by the strategy.
Arctic Council Grows
The eight member Arctic Council held their biennial ministers meeting in Kiruna, Sweden this week and decided to admit six nations – five of them Asian – as permanent observers. Only nations with territory in the Arctic (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States [Alaska] can be members. Permanent observers can’t vote or speak at the meetings but they can automatically attend, unlike non-permanent observers.
Added to the list of 26 existing observer nations were: China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. No non-state entities, like Greenpeace, were approved. And the application of the European Union – which has a dispute with Canada’s Inuit people over trading in the skins, meat and other parts of seals – was put on hold.
Canada’s Health and Northern Development Minister Leona Aglukkaq took over the two-year council chairmanship from Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The United States is slated to take over the chairmanship role in 2015.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the council meeting that he looked forward to filling out the details of the new U.S. Arctic strategy “with all of you over the course of the next few years.”
On and on and on
U.S. soldiers watch from the rear ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while flying over the mountains in the Khas Uruzgan district of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province, March 16, 2013. The soldiers are crew chiefs, who along with Afghan commandos, provided security for a government-led shura, or meeting.
Please click on the photo to see a larger image.
NORTHCOM looks North
Increased activity in the Arctic — brought on by the decrease in icebound waters during the summer months — could lead to more requests for U.S. and Canadian military assistance to other government agencies, the head of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) says.
U.S. Army Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee today (March 19) that “other traditional military actors” are already setting priorities for the region. For example: Russia is actively recapitalizing its Arctic-focused fleet. And China — which doesn’t even have any territory in the Arctic, but is looking for maritime short cuts in the High North to cut the travel time of its merchant ships — is acquiring a second icebreaker. The U.S. has two ice breakers — the Healy and the massive Polar Star, both based in Seattle — far from the Arctic.
In his testimony before the committee, Jacoby — who also commands the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) — said NORTHCOM and NORAD have signed an agreement with the Canadian Joint Operations Command to support other government departments and agencies “in response to threats and hazards in the region when requested or directed.”
Sea lanes across the Arctic have been opening up with the summer melt of sea ice in recent years. For the first time, this accessability is expected to draw more oil drilling, commercial fishing, shipping activity and sightseeing in the harsh environment (See March 6 posting on 4GWAR)
Jacoby also said U.S. military leaders were reaching out to engage with the Russian military, which has been expanding its modernization and training efforts “that extend the range of patrol activities by their air forces.”
The fourth annual Vigilant Eagle counter hijacking exercise between the U.S. and Russia is slated for August 2013. It will be a live-fly exercise involving a variety of NORAD and Russian military aircraft.
Fix it, or Lose it
The U.S. government is banning Shell Oil from drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic waters until it overhauls how it manages it’s drilling operations.
In one of his last acts before leaving office, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a press conference call March 14 that the oil company “screwed up” its preliminary drilling operations in 2012 and would not be allowed back until the oil giant developed an integrated management plan.
Salazar’s decision came after a new report found that Shell’s contractors were repeatedly ill-prepared to meet the demands of operating in the harsh Arctic environment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
During its first efforts in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, Shell suffered a number of mishaps including the grounding of its Kulluk drilling rig during high winds and heavy seas in the Gulf of Alaska. Another Shell drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, came within 100 yards of grounding in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Shell has already said it will not be coming back to drill in Alaskan waters until 2014.
The grounding of Shell’s Kulluk drilling rig during high winds and heavy seas in the Gulf of Alaska was the most heavily publicized incident in a season plagued with misadventures. Shell’s second drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, drifted and came within 100 yards of grounding in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the report said, because of contractor Noble Corp.’s use of “only the minimum amount of anchor chain” and failure to have a contingency plan for bad weather.
The report’s harshest criticism was directed at Shell’s management of its contractors, Britain’s The Guardian newspaper site said. “The review said the company failed to make sure its contractors were up to operating in Arctic conditions, the Guardian reported.
Something Different: Readers Choice
Over the last few weeks we’ve been bedeviled by the number of great photos taken by photographers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. That has made it very difficult at times to pick just one for the FRIDAY FOTO. Longtime 4GWAR visitors have probably noticed we sometimes cheat and run two related photos of the same event or a FRIDAY FOTO Extra (usually a pretty picture without much back story).
This week we’ve decided to try something different. We’re going to let you, the readers, pick this week’s Friday Foto. This isn’t a contest. There are no prizes. Our budget doesn’t allow a cash prize and we have no 4GWAR ballcaps or coffee mugs to award. We just want to see if our taste is in synch with our readership’s.
Below you’ll find three recent photos from the Defense Department website with their original captions. You can pick the one you like by commenting at the bottom of the page or emailing us at 4GWARblog@wordpress.com.
We’ll announce the winner next Friday and post some of the comments we get on the photos and whether you think this was a good idea.
Photo No. 1
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) approaches the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in Sattahip Bay, Thailand, on March 10, 2013. Frank Cable conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
Photo No. 2
U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces move in on an enemy position together during the final comprehensive bilateral force-on-force training evolution during Exercise Forest Light 13-3 at the Hokkaido-Dai Maneuver Area, Hokkaido, Japan, March 3, 2013. The training began with the Marines and JGSDF patrolling separately on foot and by mechanized vehicles to reach a temporary position and set up a hasty defense
Photo No. 3
A soldier keeps watch from the hatch atop a M2 Bradley fighting vehicle as it maneuvers during a training mission at the National Urban Warfare Center in the Mojave Desert on Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 24, 2013.
O.K., so there are our three candidates. Don’t forget to click on each photo to enlarge the image (it often makes a difference in one’s appreciation).
Please comment at the bottom of this post (click on where it says comment or click on the blue headline at the top of this post to get the comment box to appear at the bottom of the post) or send us an email at 4GWARblog@gmail.com and give us your pick for next week’s Friday Foto.
Jingle bells, mortar shells, bullets all the way
Already gotten your fill of warm and fuzzy Holiday movies from Miracle on 34th Street to the numerous versions of A Christmas Carol (including the one starring Mister Magoo)? If so, you might want to check out one of the six films listed below. They are not Christmas movies but they all take place during the holidays in wartime. Christmas is not the focus in any of the plots but it plays a significant role in all of them.
1. Stalag 17 (Paramount, 1953 black and white) — Hundreds of escape-minded U.S. Army sergeants find themselves confined behind barbed wire in a German POW camp during Christmas 1944. A comedy-drama deftly directed by Bill Wilder that won William Holden a best actor Oscar.
2. Battleground (MGM, 1949, black and white) — The “Battered Bastards of Bastogne” are encircled during the German breakthrough at the Battle of the Bulge. In one touching vignette, Leon Ames, as a Lutheran chaplain, gives a moving, ecumenical sermon on Christmas Day 1944.
3. The Lion in Winter (MGM, 1968, color) — King Henry II of England gathers his patricide-plotting sons and banished wife Eleanor for the Yuletide at the castle of Chinon in Medieval France. The film opens with a clash of broadswords and nearly ends with a scramble for daggers. Katherine Hepburn won her third best actress Oscar for her portrayal of scheming Queen Eleanor.
4. Castle Keep (Filmways Pictures, 1969, color) — Another war film set at Christmastime during the Battle of the Bulge. In this offbeat and downbeat picture, Burt Lancaster plays an eyepatch-wearing major in command of a band of dilettantes, goldbricks and head cases holed up for the holidays in a Medieval castle in the Ardennes Forest.
5. The Crossing (A&E Television Networks, 2000, color) — To save the faltering Revolution, General George Washington crosses the frozen Delaware River Dec. 26, 1776 to attack a regiment of Hessian mercenaries who made too merry the night before.
6. A Midnight Clear (A&M Films, 1992, color) — Still another Battle of the Bulge story. This time about a squad of U.S. soldiers who encounter a German unit of old men and boys who want to forget the war — at least for Christmas.
If you have a favorite film that’s not on this list — but meets the criteria of Christmas in wartime – send us an email to email@example.com or add a comment below.
Thanks, Happy Holidays and please stay safe!
Your 4GWAR Editor
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Battle of the Mississinewa
Three days after a forced 80-mile march through snow and bitter cold from Fort Greenville in Ohio (see last Monday’s posting), Lieutenant Colonel John Campbell and a force of 600 mounted troops arrive Dec. 17 at the Mississinewa River in the Indiana Territory. The mixed force of U.S. Dragoons and volunteer units mostly from Kentucky – but also Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan – is on a mission to attack and destroy several Indian villages strung out along the river, especially the Miami village of Mississenaway).
The Shawnee leader Tecumseh has been trying to organize the tribes East of the Mississippi River to resist further encroachment by the Americans. Tecumseh, who has encouraged the Miamis, Kickapoos, Wea and other tribal peoples to join him, has thrown in his lot with the British in their war with the Americans. In the summer of 1812, Indian bands attack several white settlements and Army forts in Indiana and Major Gen. William Henry Harrison, commander of the Northwest Army, wins Washington’s approval to launch a punitive expedition against the Miamis and their allies. He picks Campbell to lead
Campbell’s troops take the first village, kill about eight Indian men and take 42 prisoners – all but eight of them women and children. The captured village is that of the Delaware (Lenape) leader Silver Heels. Campbell is under orders to avoid harming Silver Heels and his people, who have to join Tecumseh’s war with the whites. The U.S. forces continue along the river, burning two evacuated Miami villages. Many of Campbell’s men are suffering from frostbite while ammunition and food are running low, so he decides to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ and head back to Fort Greenville.
The next morning (Dec. 18), about 300 Indian warriors attack Campbell’s camp at dawn. The U.S. troops manage to drive them off after about an hour of fierce fighting but a dozen soldiers and militia men are killed and more than 40 wounded. Indian casualties are unknown but believed to number about 30 dead. More than 100 soldiers’ horse are killed in the fight. To hasten the return back to Ohio, the Indian women and children captives are placed on captured ponies while the soldiers who lost their mounts have to walk in knee-deep snow.
Fearing another Indian attack, Campbell’s troops build a fortified camp every night during the six-day retreat back to Ohio, depleting the men’s strength even further. One day out from Fort Greenville, with all food gone, half the force suffering from the cold and many of the wounded near death, the force is met by a relief column. Campbell’s force reaches the Fort on Dec. 24. More than half of his men are incapacitated by frostbite.
Even though the main objective, Mississineway, is never reached, Harrison declares the operation a success and Campbell is promoted. The Indian captives are sent to an Indian settlement in Ohio. Harrison’s plans to march north and retake Fort Detroit are put on hold.
One of the largest historic re-enactments of the War of 1812 marks the Battle of Mississinewa every October outside Marion, Indiana. Here’s a brief YouTube video, which gives a sense of the uniforms and weapons used 200 years ago by British and American troops (even though most of the actual participants in the Battle of Mississinewa were frontiersmen and Native Americans).
The Niagara Frontier
Fort Erie is a stone fort on the Canadian side of the Niagara River opposite Buffalo, New York. It replaced an earlier wood and earth fort — destroyed by river ice — that the British first constructed in the 1760s after the French and Indian War.
Construction of the stone fort started in 1804, but Fort Erie is still undergoing renovation when U.S. troops attack its outlying fortifications on Nov. 28, 1812.
The Americans launch a two-pronged raid across the Niagara in advance of a full-blown invasion of Canada planned by Brigadier Gen. Alexander Smyth.
One group of 150 regular Army soldiers and 70 sailors captures and burns a small British-Canadian post and disables its cannons. Those guns pose a threat to any planned U.S. invasion across the Niagara River. A second group of 200 U.S. infantrymen have less luck destroying a bridge over Frenchman’s Creek. The axes they brought for the job either didn’t make it to shore or were left behind in the boats that did reach Canadian soil. The bridge needs to be taken out to deny the British a route for bringing up reinforcements to counter attack. A small party is left to tear up the bridge as best they can while the rest head back to the shore to be picked up..
Due to mis-communication and poor planning, not enough boats are sent to pick up all the raiders when their work is done. More than 30 soldiers and sailors are stranded on the Canadian side and captured. Another 350 reserve troops sent by Smyth to assist the raid, come under fire, suffer casualties and turn back.
U.S. casualties total 88 killed and wounded and 39 captured – out of a total force of 770. The combined British-Canadian forces – numbering about 650 troops – lose 13 killed, 44 wounded and 34 captured.
Brig. Gen. Smyth decides to go ahead with his invasion plans to send 3,000 U.S. troops to seize Fort Erie and drive the British off the Niagara Peninsula. But poor planning again leads to chaos in the nighttime attack. Only about 1,200 men make it into the boats before sunrise. The situation is aggravated by torrential rain and freezing cold. Smyth postpones the attack for another day.
U.S. troop morale plummets when Smyth calls off another chaotic amphibious assault on Nov. 31 and eventually drops plans for a late fall/early winter campaign. He sends the militiamen home and goes into winter quarters with the regulars. Three months later, President James Madison quietly fires Smyth, who is dropped from the Army’s rolls.
The Americans will take another crack at Fort Erie in 1814 and the surrounding area will be the scene of the bloodiest fighting in Canada during the war.
Defeat and Retreat
Another hard week for American morale 200 years ago. A party of Indiana militia are ambushed and defeated at Wildcat Creek … and U.S. troops begin to withdraw – for the third time – from Canada.
Early in November, a large U.S. force consisting of three regiments of Kentucky infantry, a company of regulars from the U.S. 7th Infantry Regiment, a troop of mounted Indiana Rangers and a company of scouts march north from Vincennes on the Wabash River toward an Indian village near the scene of the Battle of Tippecanoe a year earlier. The punitive expedition, led by Major Gen. Samuel Hopkins, aims to destroy several Indian villages in retribution for attacks on Fort Harrison and Fort Wayne in Indiana as well as several Indian raids on civilian homes and farms along the frontier during the summer.
On November 20, a force of 300 from the Hopkins expedition burn an abandoned Kickapoo village near Tippecanoe on Wildcat Creek. The next day a scouting party is fired upon. One man is killed and the scouts retreat. A party of 60 Indiana Rangers set out the next day, Nov. 22, to retrieve the slain soldier’s body.
Lured up a narrow canyon by a taunting Indian warrior on horseback, the Indiana Rangers are ambushed by waiting Kickapoo, Winnebago and Shawnee warriors. More than a dozen soldiers are killed within minutes. The Rangers retreat in disarray back down Wildcat Creek.
Over the two days, Nov. 21-22, 17 regulars and militia men are killed and three wounded. An unknown number of Indians take part in the attack and their losses – if any – are also unknown.
Hopkins learns of a large force of Indians are coming to attack his troops and he prepares for battle but the weather turns bitter cold, a snowstorm threatens and Hopkins heads back on Nov. 24 to Fort Harrison and then Vincennes. More than 200 of his men are down with sickness or frostbite.
The troops that failed to invade Canada from northern New York and Vermont earlier in the month begin heading south on Nov. 23. The troops are part of a large army commanded by Major Gen. Henry Dearborn.
As we previously chronicled (Nov. 6), Dearborn’s advance guard — commanded by Major Zebulon Pike — was turned back by Canadian troops and their Indian allies.
Some of the militia in Dearborn’s army balk at invading Canada and the general gives up the idea of a large scale invasion and goes into winter quarters.
“War” Near the Top of the World
New photos and information on air operations.
More than 16,000 troops from 14 countries just completed a weeks-long exercise in the frozen hinterlands of Norway and Sweden training in winter warfare skills such as infantry maneuvering and amphibious landings in extreme temperatures.
Called Exercise Cold Response 2012, the biennial training exercise – hosted by the Norwegians – is in its fifth iteration. In addition to Norway, the largest troop contingents among NATO countries included Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other participants included Sweden and Finland, two non-aligned Nordic countries, who belong to NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
The exercise began March 5 with a week of acclimation for troops not used to Norway’s harsh winters. Operations ran from March 12-21 with a few clean-up and departure duties beginning March 21.
U.S., British and Dutch Marines conducted joint amphibious assault operations along the northern Norwegian coast near Bardufoss. The Royal Netherlands Navy’s landing ship platform Hr. Ms. Rotterdam served as a base for the U.S. British and Dutch marines. The HMS Bulwark, a British amphibious assault ship, served as headquarters for the joint staff.
Other land operations were conducted mainly in Troms County along the northern coast. Maritime operations also covered parts of Nordland County. And air operations were conducted from Andøya, Bardufoss, Bodø, Evenes and Ørland air bases in Norway, and Luleå in Sweden. Those ops covered most of Northern Norway and parts of Swedish air space.
Smaller forces and air assets operated in the border areas from Narvik in Norway to Kiruna in Sweden, and Swedish military aircraft flew in Norwegian territory from Swedish air bases.
Other units taking part in the exercise included about 800 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment and some 215 Finnish soldiers from a Jager (ranger) company.
For the first time the exercise included air operations that crossed national borders. A Royal Norwegian Air Force cargo plane flew a transport run from Norway to Sweden and back again. Norwegian F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets supplied air cover over Norway with Swedish JAS Gripen 39 fighters taking over in Swedish airspace. But tragedy struck on March 15 when the Norwegian C-130J Hercules cargo plane crashed into a mountain just over the border near Kiruna in Sweden, killing all five crewmen on board.
Air operations concluded with a large force engagement exercise with 36 aircraft participating including Norwegian and Belgian F-16s and Swedish Gripens. A Swedish pilot served as mission commander in the exercise, which tested coordination and aircraft management, including air refueling.
To see a video of the troops, ships, planes, helicopters and tanks in action, click here.
To a video of Norwegian tanks and troops, click here.
Two Reconnaissance Platoon corporals from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment prepare to “ambush” a combat vehicle with an 84mm rocket launcher during Exercise Cold Response 2012 in northern Norway. The 800 soldiers from the 1st Battalion were among 16,000 participants from 14 nations — including a company of U.S. Marines — in the Norwegian-led invitational military exercise, which just ended.
We’ll have a full report Monday on the fifth iteration of this massive exercise — the largest yet — which saw Swedish fighter jets, Norwegian tanks, British helicopters, Dutch landing craft and Canadian armored all terrain vehicles roaming the seas, skies and woods near the Arctic Circle.
The exercise was marred by the crash of a Norwegian C-130J transport plane, killing all five on board.