FRIDAY FOTO (October 12, 2018)

Remembering “A Bridge Too Far”

All American Engineers Honor Valor, Sacrifice of WWII Waal River Crossing

(U.S. Army photo by Major Thomas Cieslak)

Paratroopers paddle rubber boats across a pond at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on October 3, 2018, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the crossing of the Waal River under heavy German fire by 82nd Airborne Division troops during World War II.

The near suicidal mission — the boats were canvas and wood, there weren’t enough paddles to go around so soldiers used their rifle stocks, they launched the attack in broad daylight and the Germans knew they were coming — was part of the failed British plan to leapfrog across the Netherlands and into Germany, known as Operation Market Garden.

Led by Major Julian Cook’s 3rd Battalion of the 82nd’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the attack crossed the 250-foot wide Waal under blistering mortar, machine gun and rifle fire and took the north end of the bridge. That allowed Allied tanks to cross on their way to Arnhem to relieve British paratroopers holding another bridge. However, heavy German resistance along the exposed, narrow roads thwarted the advance, proving Arnhem was just “a bridge too far.”

Here’s a brief video of 82nd Airborne veteran, James “Maggie” Megellas, describing the attack. Operation Market Garden inspired a book, and later a feature film — both called “A Bridge Too Far.”

In the movie, Robert Redford portrays Cook leading a crossing he knows is insanely dangerous, with a non-stop “Hail Mary,” prayer. Here’s a film clip, that puts the action in perspective. It starts with Allied tank and artillery fire trying to dislodge the entrenched Germans across the river, and German officers planning to blow the bridge in the unlikely event the Americans make it across the river.

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October 12, 2018 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 5, 2018)

Cutting edge.

Recruit Training Command Graduation

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer Spencer Fling)

New sailors march inside Midway Ceremonial Drill Hall during a graduation ceremony on September 28 at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois.

And yes, that weapon held by the parade leader is an honest-to-god cutlass. The Navy jealously guards its traditions and this time-honored sword is one of them.  The cutlass was an official Navy personal weapon until 1949. However, a cutlass is still carried by the recruit designated as the Recruit Chief Petty Officer for each training company  while at Great Lakes, the Navy’s only boot camp.

On March 31, 2010, the Navy said it would permit optional wear of a ceremonial cutlass as part of the Chief Petty Officer dress uniform, pending final design approval. That approval came in January 2011.

For another view of the cutlass in the Great Lakes graduation ceremony, click here.

October 5, 2018 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

1918, The Final Weeks: Aerial Combat

The Arizona Balloon Buster.

Frankluke

Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. with his SPAD S.XIII on September 19, 1918.

Some legendary World War I aviators — like Germany’s Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen, or America’s top ace, Eddie Rickenbacker — are still well known to many today.

However, Frank Luke Jr., has seldom been a household name, even though he was the No. 2 U.S. aerial ace during the Great War and earned the Medal of Honor.

Young, handsome and feisty (he was often in trouble with his superiors) Luke had the temperment, skills and killer instinct shared by the best fighter pilots on both sides. And in just a few short weeks in 1918, he shot down eight German planes and 14 enemy observation balloons. His head-on attacks on the hydrogen-filled, heavily guarded balloons earned him the nickname the “Arizona Balloon Buster.”

During a seven-day period, September 12-18, 1918 — two days of which he did not fly — Luke scored 13 confirmed victories, including five victories (two balloons and three airplanes) on the last day, according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Luke was born in 1897 in Phoenix, Arizona — ironically the son of German immigrants — and with anti-German feeling running high after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 (remember sauerkraut’s name was changed to “Liberty Cabbage”) he enlisted almost immediately in the U.S. Army. He joined the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps, earned his wings and sailed for France. He was assigned to the famed 27th Aero Squadron in July 1918.

In September 1918, Luke began a personal campaign against German observation balloons and airplanes. In a single week, he scored 13 confirmed victories, including three aircraft and two balloons in one day.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  WORLD WAR I/AVIATION, PHOTOGRAPHY, OBSERVATION

Luke brought down three German observation balloons in 35 minutes. He stands beside one of his kills. (U.S. Army photo)

His final flight took place during the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in late September 1918. After shooting down three observation balloons six miles behind the German lines, Luke was severely wounded by a single machine gun bullet on September 29, 1918. He landed in a field just west of the small village of Murvaux — after strafing a group of German soldiers on the ground. Weakened by his wound, he collapsed some 200 meters from his airplane. There are contradicting stories about what happened next. Some say Luke drew his Colt 1911 pistol as German infantry approached  and fired a few rounds at his attackers before dying. Others state he refused enemy calls for his surrender and killed several Germans before succumbing to his chest wound.

Here is the official Medal of Honor citation:

After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by 8 German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames 3 German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing 6 and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.

Luke Air Force Base, located west of Phoenix, Arizona, is named for the Balloon Buster.

October 4, 2018 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 28, 2018)

Dress Rehearsal.

Papa Company Receives New Female Blue Dress Coat

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Vivien Alstad)

Marine Corps recruits try on their blue dress coats for the first time at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina on August 21, 2018.
This photo presents 4GWAR with the opportunity to note that 2018 marks the centennial of women serving in the United States Marine Corps.
Opha May Johnson was the first of more than 300 women who enlisted into the Marine Corps on August 13, 1918, the day after then-Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels allowed women to enlist for clerical duty in the Marine Corps Reserve.
FRIFO 9-28-2018 Add women Parines centennial
In 1918, American women had not yet been granted the right to vote, but Johnson, who was 39 years old at the time, joined the Marine Corps anyway. She served as a clerk at Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to ABC News.
Since 2001, more than 15,000 female Marines have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ten women have lost their lives in combat, ABC noted in an August 10 piece on the first female Marine officer to command an infantry combat platoon —  1st Lieutenant Marina A. Hierl.

September 28, 2018 at 11:31 pm 2 comments

Ground Combat Vehicles

Planning Ahead.

Back in the Fight!

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle moves into position during training at Fort Irwin, Calif., August 6, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May).

The U.S. military is changing the way it will fight in the next 30 years. The rise of China as a global competitor and Russia’s increasing belligerence in the regions around the Baltic and Black seas, have U.S. military planners – especially in the Army — rethinking their procurement needs, including what kind of armored ground combat vehicles will be needed.

“Russia and China continue to assert themselves in an effort to gain dominance in key regions and are developing advanced weapons to achieve parity both strategically and in close combat,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told a Senate appropriations panel in May. The potential threat was on full display in mid-September when Russia conducted its largest military exercise since the Cold War in Eastern Siberia.  The week-long Vostok 2018 maneuvers, involved not only 300,000 Russian personnel, but 3,200 Chinese troops and 36,000 tanks and other armored ground vehicles.

But prototypes of the Army’s future ground combat vehicles are not expected to be delivered for another two or three years. So U.S. military leaders are looking for interim defensive systems that can protect tank and armored vehicle crews from advanced armor-piercing shells and missiles. The usual solution–adding more armor– isn’t feasible with 70-ton M1A Abrams tanks already too heavy for Eastern European bridges to accommodate.

The added weight of heavier armor–sometimes several tons–can slow the vehicle down, make it less maneuverable and complicates logistics from transportation to maintenance to repair. Instead, the Defense Department is looking at lightweight, off-the-shelf solutions utilizing active or passive technology. Active protection systems, or APS, use physical countermeasures, such as blast or projectiles that destroy or limit the impact of incoming fire.

In February, officials announced the Army would buy the Trophy active protection system — made by Israel’s Rafael — for more than 250 of the Abrams main battle tanks. Currently deployed with the Israeli Defense Force, Trophy is the only battle-tested APS in the Western world, although Russia has had success with its own APS in Ukraine. Trophy maintains a ring of radar around the vehicle to detect threats in all directions. Once the system detects an incoming weapon, Trophy tracks it, determines its trajectory and destroys it with a blast of metal pellets like a shotgun.

Bravo Company, 1/4 Mechanized Raid

(Marines operate an assault amphibious vehicle during a simulated mechanized raid at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., on August 28, 2018. The shaped steel Enhanced Applique Armor Kit is visible on the AAV’s flank. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private First Class Brendan Mullin).

There are also “passive” solutions of specialized armor plating that use composite materials to simply deflect or absorbs blasts and projectiles, like the EAAK (Enhanced Applique Armor Kit), developed by Rafael and installed on the U.S. Marine Corps’ ageing Assault Amphibious Vehicles. Baseline protection was increased through a shaped-steel external armor fitting. However, that forced modifications to the engine and suspension system to counter the additional weight of the EAAK installation.

A survivability upgrade that would have replaced the EAKK armor with more advanced defensive and amphibious technology was cancelled by the Marine Corps in late September, according to USNI News.

Metal Foam

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a range of composite metal foams that are lighter and stronger than the materials they are made of. The composite material offers much more protection that all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight by as much as one-third, say researchers. (Photo by Afsaneh Rabiei)

One promising composite solution is metal foam, literally metal with sponge-like holes, that combines strength, thermal shielding and both ballistic and thermal radiation detection. Developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, composite metal foam, or CMF, “offers much more protection than all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight remarkably,” according to Afsaneh Rabiei, senior author of the paper outlining CMF’s benefits. “We can provide as much protection as existing steel armor at a fraction of the weight – or provide much more protection at the same weight,” added Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at N.C. State.

Advanced armor materials will be among the topics discussed at IDGA’s Future Ground Combat Vehicles summit in Detroit, December 5-7. Click here for more information.

September 27, 2018 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 21, 2018)

Worth a thousand words.

Florence Flooding in Bladen County

(Nebraska National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley)

Nebraska Army National Guard Spc. Matthew Reidy surveys the flooding from the air on September 19 (Wednesday) in Bladen County, North Carolina.

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 13 Soldiers assigned to a Lincoln-based Nebraska National Guard aviation unit supported the ongoing Hurricane Florence relief operations from the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Raleigh International Airport in North Carolina. The Company G, 2-104th General Aviation Battalion Soldiers are equipped and trained to conduct search and rescue operations, as well as air movement missions.

For days, the storm dumped relentless rain — in some places about 3 feet — and rivers keep on rising. The storm’s death toll ticked up to 41 people in the Mid-Atlantic region on Thursday (September 20); 31 of them in North Carolina alone, according to NPR.

The disaster sparked a widespread government response from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard units — as well as the Department of Homeland Security and local emergency workers.

September 21, 2018 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September16, 2018)

Spy Plane Selfie.

FRIFO 9-16-2018 U@-Dragon Lady

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lieutenant Colonel Ross Franquemont)

We confess we’re a little confused as to what we’re seeing here in this photo. The official caption reads: An Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady pilot flies the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location [on] August 13, 2018. The Dragon Lady is a single-seat, near space reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft that flies so high its pilots must wear a full pressure suit similar to those worn by astronauts.

Jammed with high tech sensors like infrared, and synthetic aperture radar, the Dragon Lady is the latest iteration of the Cold War-era U-2 Spy plane, which caused an international incident back in 1960 when one of the top secret, high-flying jets was shot down by a Russian missile.

U-2 New York Times, May 1960

For an easy-to-understand appreciation of that incident and the times it happened in, we recommend viewing the 2015 Steven Spielberg movie “Bridge of Spies,” starring Tom Hanks.

What confuses us at 4GWAR in this week’s FOTO is the American flag, which appears to be on display inside the U-2 cockpit, or else it is painted on the wing or fuselage and through some trick of light or photography, appears to be inside the plane.

Anybody with knowledge of the the real situation, please let us know.

At any rate, since U-2 photos from inside the super secret cockpit don’t come along very often, we decided to run this Air Force photo as this week’s Friday Foto.

September 16, 2018 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

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