Posts tagged ‘winter warfare’
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.
Coordinating U.S. Arctic Efforts.
President Barack Obama has signed an executive order establishing a new panel that will advise the U.S. government on preserving the Alaskan Arctic.
Obama said he was establishing the Arctic Executive Steering Committee to help juggle more than 20 tribal, scientific, corporate, and federal interests at play in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen at twice the rate as the rest of the United States, The Hill reported.
“As the United States assumes the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, it is more important than ever that we have a coordinated national effort that takes advantage of our combined expertise and efforts in the Arctic region to promote our shared values and priorities,” the executive order, signed Wednesday (January 21), noted.
In April, the United States will take over from Canada the chairmanship of the eight-member Arctic Council — Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. The council, created in 1996, is a high level intergovernmental forum seeking to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States — with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities — on issues like environmental protection, oil and gas development, shipping and climate change.
Obama did not mention the Arctic specifically in his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday (Jan. 20) but he said climate change posed the greatest threat to future generations, USA Today reported. And while he didn’t announce any new climate initiatives in his speech, he did say he was “determined to make sure that American leadership drives international action.”
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Russian Arctic Buildup
Russia’s continuing activities in Eastern Ukraine are drawing criticism from NATO and other western nations. But in the Arctic, which is expected to grow more accessible as melting sea ice opens up shipping lanes, Moscow’s military buildup is also being noticed with some concern.
According to the Ottawa (Canada) Citizen, Russia is to looking to have 14 operational airfields in the Arctic by the end of 2015 as it pushes ahead with its plan to boost its military presence in its Northern region. Four airfields are already operational. Ten more will be built in the coming year, Russia’s deputy defence minister Dmitry Bulgakov told the country’s Sputnik news agency, the Canadian newspaper noted.
Newsweek notes that … A detachment of about 800 servicemen from Russia’s Northern Fleet has been stationed in the Russian town of Alakurtti, Murmansk region, just 50 kilometers from the Finnish border. It’s part of a large-scale expansion of Russian military facilities in the country’s northwest according to a press statement (here’s a link to the statement, in Russian) by the unit’s commanding admiral Vladimir Korolev.
The rest of the fleet are expected to be stationed there “soon” according to Korolev. The base will be one of the key strongholds in Russia’s northernmost territories, designed to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities from the west, and improve their territorial claims over areas in the Arctic, said Newsweek.
At full force, Russia’s Northern Fleet consists of about 3,000 ground troops trained for combat in Arctic conditions, along with 39 ships and 45 submarines. Its arrival in Murmansk follows Russia’s decision last year to create a united command for all of its units designated with protecting Russia’s interests in the country’s northern regions, the news website noted.
And UPI notes (via Military.Com ) that Russia’s military press service has confirmed the country will be sending drones to the Arctic in early 2015.
“Before the end of the current year specialists with several Orlan-10 sets will arrive at the permanent service base,” the press service told Russian news agency Tass. Test flight will begin in the next few months. The drones are allegedly meant to do surveillance over coastal areas and to help sea vessels navigate, according to UPI.
The Orlan-10 is a Russian drone with a front propeller, resembling a traditional manned aircraft. The aircraft was first discovered to be in use in early 2014, when one was shot down in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, The Moscow Times wonders if the worldwide drop in the price of oil, the driving force in Russia’s economy, could slow Russia’s activities – military and commercial – in its Arctic region.
ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
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.
This is what U.S. strategy planners are talking about when they discuss projecting power.
Twenty-four big U.S. Air Force cargo airplanes prepare to take off Dec. 6, 2014, from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas in support of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School’s Joint Forcible Entry Exercise 14B. This gathering of eagle includes 11 C-130H Hercules and 13 C-130J Super Hercules heavy lift aircraft. The C-130H models are from various Air National Guard units and the C-130J models are from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
In addition to the C-130s, the JFEX included approximately 20 C-17 Globemaster IIIs and various other aircraft.
Enter the Pirate.
U.S. Major General Andrew Jackson is scrambling to find the men, weapons, ships and supplies to defend New Orleans from a pending British invasion — that may outnumber his 1,500 troops 10-to-1 — when he encounters the pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother, Pierre, on a New Orleans street corner in early December.
Since August, when first approached by the British to join their efforts against the United States, Lafitte has been trying to get a similar offer, first from Louisiana officials, and then, United States authorities. After years of smuggling into New Orleans untaxed goods, mostly taken from captured Spanish ships by Lafitte and his fellow privateers, the so-called “pirate” wants to clear his record, help Jackson and the United States and — perhaps most of all — get about 80 of his men out of jail.
They were captured when the U.S. Navy attacked their hideout on Grand Terre Island in Barataria Bay, about 40 miles southwest of New Orleans, in September. The incarcerated pirates include Dominque You, a pirate captain who may be Lafitte’s eldest brother (historians disagree) and also may have been an expert cannoneer in Napoleon’s Grand Army. As the reader may surmise, little is known for sure about Lafitte. He may have been born around 1780 in France or in the French colony that became Haiti on the island of Hispaniola. He may or may not have been a pirate but he is certainly a smuggler of duty-free goods. And the new state of Louisiana (entered the union in 1812) as well as the federal government are looking to put Lafitte out of business after they collect the taxes owed them.
When first approached by the Lafittes’ attorney, Edward Livingston a prominent member of New Orleans society, who also happened to be Jackson’s private secretary and adviser, the general balked at enlisting the help of shameless bandits (Jackson called them “hellish banditti). But the surprisingly genteel and articulate Lafitte (he spoke English, Spanish, French and Italian) made his case again to Jackson at his headquarters on Royal Street (Rue de Royale). Lafitte explained he could supply gunpowder, shot, flints and cannon – which Jackson badly needed — as well as experienced gun crews that could man batteries on land or sea. Jackson relented. The jailed pirates were released and pardoned — if they enlisted in the defense force — and Jackson made Lafitte a member of his personal staff.
As we’ve said already, the facts of Lafitte’s life are hard to nail down beyond what he did during the Battle of New Orleans. However, there was enough swashbuckling to it, that Hollywood has made two fictionalized feature films about Lafitte. Click here to see a trailer (preview) of the second one, produced by Cecil B. DeMille in 1958.
We’ll have more on Monsieur/Capitane Lafitte in coming weeks as we approach the climactic battle of the New Orleans campaign.
Jackson closes his deal with Lafitte just in time. On December 12, the sails of the British invasion fleet are spotted approaching Lake Borgne (see map) 30 miles or so East of New Orleans.
Pair of Hunters
Two U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II aircraft prepare to take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Harriers, which can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, were participating in Red Flag-Alaska 15-1.
Red Flag-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces. It hones skills in combined offensive counter-air, interdiction and close air support missions as well as practicing large force training in a simulated combat environment.
The pilots are assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311.
To see more photos of Harriers, F-16 Fighting Falcons and EA-18G Growlers as well as runway operations coping with heavy snows in Alaska, click here.