THE FRIDAY FOTO (June 2, 2023)


(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Cassidy Shepherd)

Are these U.S. Marines in such a hurry to close with the enemy, that they can’t be bothered to don scuba diver wet suits?

No, they’re members of the 2nd Marine Division‘s 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion moving stealthily underwater (notice, no bubbles from their rebreather devices) during Exercise Caribbean Coastal Warrior on  May 18, 2023.

This bilateral amphibious training exercise conducted by the Netherlands Marine Corps (Dutch: Korps Mariniers) in Savaneta, Aruba allowed 2d Recon to expand its knowledge and proficiency for operating in littoral and coastal regions.

The training leveraged the amphibious adeptness of the Netherlands Marines and Royal Netherlands Navy Frogmen, who are experienced operating in Aruba’s island location in the Caribbean, and the Netherlands’ primarily coastal, below-sea-level regions in Northern Europe.

Exercise Caribbean Coastal Warrior focused on increasing proficiency in combat diving and amphibious reconnaissance operations for both 2nd Recon and the Dutch Marines’ 32nd Raiding Squadron.

The U.S. and Dutch Marines have another annual training evolution, Caribbean Urban Warrior, conducted at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps.

June 2, 2023 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

THE FRIDAY FOTO (May 26, 2023)


(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A specially-painted U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon, assigned to the Colorado Air National Guard’s 120th Fighter Squadron (FS), commemorated the 100th anniversary of the unit in a flight flies over Leadville, Colorado and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on May 8, 2023.

Accompanying the Colorado ANG fighter was an F-35A Lightning II, the Air Force latest fifth-generation fighter, assigned to the 134th Fighter Squadron of the Vermont Air National Guard. TheF-35s are replacing the F-16s and other fourth-generation aircraft.

The “Redeyes” of the 120th FS began service on June 27th, 1923, flying the Curtiss JNSE “Jennie” (or Jenny). The 120th Fighter Squadron, while flying P-51 Mustangs in 1946, became the first Air National Guard unit to obtain Federal recognition, thus the motto “FIRST IN THE AIR GUARD,” visible on the Falcon’s tail below a rendering of a Jenny biplane.

Today the Redeyes are a dual-purpose fighter squadron with pilots qualified to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions including Offensive Counter-Air , Defensive Counter-Air, Offensive aircraft interdiction, Close Air Support and Combat Search and Rescue missions.

May 26, 2023 at 1:57 am Leave a comment

THE FRIDAY FOTO: And Now for Something Completely Different


Sometimes people in the U.S. military  do some things that look — well, a little weird. Sometimes its training. Sometimes it’s tradition.

Here are a few examples. Hope they inform as well as amuse. Please click on the photos to enlarge the image.


 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Elliott A. Flood-Johnson)

Marine Corps recruits with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, execute a floating technique during a swim qualificaction at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego (California) on May 15, 2023. In order to continue training toward becoming Marines, recruits must pass a series of aquatic tests such as floating, learning different swim strokes, and jumping into water from platforms of varying heights.


(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

Soldiers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment run down Monte Kaolino after the unit spur ride ceremony in Hirschau, near Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany on  May 11, 2023. During the event, Troopers must complete a series of warrior tasks and drills in order to obtain the right to wear the cavalry’s coveted spurs.


(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Specialist Michael Schwenk)

Soldiers, with the New Jersey National Guard’s Reconnaissance and Sniper Platoon, 1-114th Infantry Regiment, participate in a ghillie wash at the Fort Dix Ranges on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey on March 25, 2023. The Soldiers use sand, water and mud, all in an effort to perfect their suits’ camouflage.


(U.S. Navy photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tom Tonthat)

Navy Captain Daniel Keeler takes a pie in the face from Petty Officer 2nd Class Roberto Griffin during a Second Class Petty Officer Association fundraiser event aboard the USS Anchorage in the South China Sea on April 23, 2023. The association’s mission is to enhance the social and professional interaction of sailors by building camaraderie and increasing command morale. (Note at least two other pie targets in the background between the two men.)


 (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

Prior to their upcoming graduation, senior Air Force Academy cadets continue the tradition of jumping into the Terazzo’s Air Garden fountains to celebrate the completion of final exams at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado on May 12, 2023.

May 19, 2023 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: New Ship Honors First Female Navy Cross Recipient

Second Ship Commissioned Honoring Nursing Pioneer.

The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123), on May 13, in Key West, Florida.

The ship’s namesake, Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, served as the second Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps in 1911, and was also the first woman recipient of the Navy Cross.

Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee at her desk in 1918. (Photo by Harris & Ewing, via Naval History and Heritage Command)

When she entered naval service in 1908, Higbee was one of the first 20 women to join the newly established Navy Nurse Corps and contributed her nursing skills to the Navy during the First World War. This is the second time a ship has been named after Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee. The first ship, USS Higbee (DD 806), was the first combat warship named after a female member of the U.S. Navy.

A Canadian by birth, Higbee completed her formal nursing training at the New York Postgraduate Hospital in 1899. She married retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel John Henley Higbee that same year. Higbee worked in private practice following her marriage. After her husband died in April 1908, she  completed a post graduate course at Fordham Hospital in New York City.

On May 13, 1908, Congress passed legislation establishing the Navy Nurse Corps. The Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901. The Navy required its nurses to be unmarried and between the age of 22 and 44. The 36-year-old and widowed Higbee joined nineteen other females to make up this first group of female Navy Nurses—known as the “Sacred Twenty.”

Higbee became Chief Nurse at Norfolk Naval Hospital in 1909 and the second Superintendent of the Corps in 1911. She led the Nurse Corps through not only World War I, but the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Higbee was one of four Navy Nurses to be awarded the Navy Cross in 1920, however, the other three were victims of the flu and honored posthumously. Higbee retired from the Navy in 1922 and died in Winter Park, Florida on January 10, 1941. Her final resting place is in Arlington National Cemetery.

Navy Cross medal (via wikipedia)


The Navy Cross was established by an act of Congress a few months after the end of World War I (February 4, 1919) “to any person who, while in the naval service of the United States, since the sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and seventeen, has distinguished, or who shall hereafter distinguish, himself by extraordinary heroism or distinguished service in the line of his profession, such heroism or service not being sufficient to justify the award of a medal of honor or a distinguished service medal.” Higbee was awarded the Navy Cross, along with the three nurses who died during the influenza pandemic, for  distinguished service. However, on August 7, 1942, Congress limited the Navy Cross to combat-only recognition and elevated its status to just below the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for bravery.

The new USS Higbee will be the 72nd Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to be commissioned, with 17 additional ships currently under contract for the DDG 51 program. The future USS Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee will be 509.5 feet long and 59 feet wide, with a displacement of 9,496 tons. It will be homeported in San Diego.

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SHAKOSHAKO 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.

May 16, 2023 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

THE FRIDAY FOTO (May 12, 2023)


(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sergeant John Schoebel)

U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team,  maneuver an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during exercise Arrow 23 in Niinisalo, Finland on May 5, 2023. Regular 4GWAR visitors may remember the Finland became the newest member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ion March 30.

Exercise Arrow is an annual, multinational exercise involving armed forces from the United States, United Kingdom, and the three Baltic nations — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — all of them NATO members. They train with the Finnish Defense Forces in high-intensity, force-on-force engagements and live-fire exercises to increase military readiness and promote interoperability among partner nations.

The troops  in this week’s FRIFO are from the 1st Cavalry Division.

We were struck by the sharp detail of this image, while photos of tanks and armored vehicles are a little flat, either because the vehicles were moving or photographed at a distance, but the imagery in this FRIDAY FOTO just pops.

BTW, the U.S. is sending about five dozen Bradleys to help Ukraine in the war against Russian invasion.

May 13, 2023 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Okinawa Dragon Boat Race Winners


The Army Ladies’ Dragon Boat Team competes in the 49th Naha Hari Festival Dragon Boat Races in Okinawa, Japan, May 5, 2023. The team won the championship trophy for the event. (Photo by Brian Lamar, 10th Support Group)

With a come-from-behind finish, the U.S. Army Ladies’ Dragon Boat Team became the first all-women crew to win the 49th Naha Hari Festival Dragon Boat Races on May 5th, 2023 in Naha City, Okinawa. It was the first time the races were run in three years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Army all-women team dominated the event, placing first out of 21 teams in the trial heats with a time five minutes and five seconds for the 630-meter (688.9-yard) course. Only three teams qualified for the finals — the Army Ladies, the Army Black Knights and the Japanese Airlines team.

The Army women began to fall behind in the first half of the final race, while the Black Knights began to pull ahead. But at the turnaround, the Army Ladies’ team made up all the lost ground. After the turn, all three teams were within a half boat’s length of each other.

The Ladies’ boat crossed the finish line at 5 minutes and 8 seconds. The Black Knights finished second and the Japanese Airlines Team was a distant third.

Finals of the 49th Naha Hari Festival Dragon Boat Races on May 5, 2023 in Naha City, Okinawa. (Photo by Brian Lamar)

The Black Knights needed help achieving a full crew for the dragon boats, which require 32 rowers, two more people to steer the boat and two drummers. The gaps were filled by affiliated Army personnel and members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Haarii (dragon boat races) date back hundreds of years in Okinawa. The festivals are held to pray for a safe voyage and a good catch and to thank the sea for its blessings. Fishermen compete against each other during haarii in sabani (small dragon-shaped fishing boats). Haarii, which have been held by fishermen in Itoman City and Naha City for 600 hundred years, are traditional events celebrated by people who live with the sea, according to the Okinawa Island Guide.

May 9, 2023 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THE FRIDAY FOTO (May 5, 2023)


(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Samantha Jetzer)  Please click on the photo to enlarge the image.

Hula students perform on the Nohili Dunes at the Pacific Missile Range Facility during a cultural site visit the island of Kauai, Hawaii on April 1, 2023.

The U.S. Navy facility is the world’s largest instrumented, multi-domain missile range capable of supporting surface, subsurface, air and space operations simultaneously.What that means is U.S. Missile Defense Agency, in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, can test things there like the Aegis Weapon System and  demonstrate the capability of a ballistic missile defense (BMD)-configured Aegis ship to detect, track, engage, and intercept a medium range ballistic missile target in the terminal phase of flight.

Barking Sands started out as an Army Air Force Base during World War II. Early in 1942, the single existing runway was paved and lengthened to 6,000 feet with a width of 200 feet. Soon a second, equally sized runway was added. They were built to accommodate heavy bombers like the B17 Flying Fortress and B24 Liberator, as well as C47 and C54 cargo planes.

Traditionally, Hawaiians congregated at these dunes to fish and gather sustenance.

For the record, the Hula haumāna (hula students) with Hālau Ka Lei Mokihana o Leinā‘ala dance group were performing a hula to the mele (song) called “Ike I ke One Kani AʻO Nohili (The Barking Sands of Nohili)” at the wahi pana (legendary place) of Nohili Dunes.

May 5, 2023 at 12:38 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Two Days, Two Legendary Battles

The Battles of PUEBLA and CAMARON

The calendar this month is bracketed by two important dates in the military histories of Mexico and France: April 30, 1863, the Battle of Camaron, and May 5, 1862, the Battle of Puebla. Both took place during the invasion of Mexico in a failed attempt to create an imperial French colony.

In 1861, Benito Juárez, the embattled president of Mexico, declared a two-year moratorium on his country’s debt payments to England, France and Spain.

Mexico, which gained its independence from Spain in 1821, had been battered over the intervening years by revolts (including the Texas Revolution in 1836), invasions (the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848), and a ruinous, recently concluded civil war (1858-1861) with Mexican conservatives, who sought to establish a monarchy with a European prince.

All three creditor countries mounted a joint naval expedition to force Juárez to pay what Mexico owed them.  England and Spain — after reaching a deal with the Juáristas — soon withdrew when it became apparent France’s Emperor Napoleon III (THE Napoleon’s nephew) was loo0king to collect more than an overdue check. With the unpaid debt as a pretext, and the United States too distracted by its own Civil War to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, the Second French Empire of Napoleon III invaded Mexico in December 1861.


French commanders planned a rapid thrust from the Gulf port of Vera Cruz to take the capital of Mexico City, but outnumbered Mexican forces defeated them in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Battle of Puebla 1862 via wikipedia.

Certain of a swift victory, 6,000 French troops under General Charles de Lorencez set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a city about 80 miles southeast of Mexico City. From his new headquarters in the north, Juarez rounded up a ragtag force and sent them to Puebla, according to the History Channel website.

Led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, an estimated 2,000—5,000 Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the assault by the better-equipped French force. On the fifth of May, or Cinco de Mayo, Lorencez began an attack from the north side of Puebla.

The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening. Artillery bombardments preceded two French infantry assaults, one of which was repulsed in close quarters combat. The French artillery ran out of ammunition before the third assault and Zaragoza took advantage in the pause, launching his cavalry against the flank of the French third assault. That caused the French formations to break and flee the battlefield, according to Chicago’s Pritzker Museum and Military Library.

After Lorencez realized his superior French force was losing far more troops than the Mexicans, he withdrew. Though not a major strategic victory in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza’s victory at Puebla galvanized Mexican resistance.

The Mexican general was hailed a hero but he died of typhoid fever four months after the battle. French general Lorencez was replaced after the unexpected defeat, but the French did not depart Mexico. They took Puebla a year later, and in 1864, the French were in Mexico City and Napoleon III installed Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian as emperor of Mexico.

Once the American Civil War ended in 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant sent thousands of troops to the Mexican border and shipped arms to the Juaristas. Eventually, Secretary of State William Seward insisted the French leave. and in 1867, the Mexican “empire” collapsed as French troops withdrew. Maximilian was deposed and executed by Juárista forces

The first victory at Puebla played an important role in U.S. history, according to a 2022 blog posted on the Library of Congress website. France had not recognized the Confederacy — no nation ever did — but was considering it. According to Clark Crook-Castan, a historian, former U.S. diplomat and vice president of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, the victory at Puebla delayed French consideration of a plan that might have helped the Confederates.

“The French hoped to circumvent the Union naval blockade by shipping long-range artillery overland to Texas and on to the Confederate armies in the east,” he said. By the time the French gained control of Mexico’s border with Texas in the summer of 1863, Grant had won the Battle of Vicksburg, cutting off the Confederates’ access to weapons from the west.

Modern day Cinco de Mayo celebrations are widespread in the United States but in Mexico, they are largely confined to the area around Puebla. However, some of the first U.S. Cinco de Mayo celebrations were in California in the 1860s. California Latinos were strong Union supporters and staunch opponents of slavery, which Mexico had outlawed long before the United States.

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Almost a year after their setback at Puebla in 1862, the French expeditionary force in Mexico resumed its push toward Mexico City. Puebla was placed under siege.

The 1st Regiment of the French Foreign Legion arrived in Mexico to reinforce the French troops who had been stationed there for two years. Because their ranks were filled with men from all over Europe, many French commanders distrusted the legionnaires, and did not want them on the front lines. So, they were given the mission of providing security for supply convoys on the road from Vera Cruz to Puebla and beyond.

Captain Jean Danjou and two other officers volunteered for a reconnaissance mission in advance of a valuable supply convoy heading for Puebla, with artillery, ammunition and a payroll of 3 million French francs. With sixty-two men and two lieutenants under his command, Danjou encountered some 3,000 Mexican cavalry and infantry.

Danjou was a battle-hardened veteran who served in North Africa, the Second Italian War of Independence and the Crimean War. He lost a hand when his musket exploded during a mapping expedition in Algeria. In its place he wore a wooden hand he made himself.

Danjou’s men held off the Mexican cavalry, before falling back to a strong defensive position in “Hacienda Camarón,” a high-walled former ranch house. The situation was hopeless, but Danjou refused to surrender. His legionnaires swore to fight to the death. Barricaded in the hacienda, they cut down wave after wave of Mexican infantry with disciplined fire.

“Maudet’s charge,” by Pierre Bénigni. Source: Musée du Souvenir de la Légion étrangère (Foreign Legion Remembrance Museum).

At around midday Danjou was shot in the chest and killed. Resistance continued for another four hours and the number of dead and wounded mounted until only six men were left fighting—Lieutenant Maudet and five legionnaires. Rejecting Mexican calls to surrender, this remnant fixed bayonets and charged the Mexican line. Two men fell immediately and the rest were surrounded. When a Mexican major ordered the Legionnaires to surrender, Corporal  Phillipe Maine answered, “We will surrender if you leave us our weapons and our equipment. You also have to promise to take care of our wounded lieutenant.”

When the remaining legionnaires were brought to the Mexican commander, he asked, “Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” Then, in amazement, he exclaimed, “These are not men! They are demons!”

Forty-three members of Danjou’s 65-man command were killed. Another 20 were wounded. Mexican losses were said to be more than 90 dead and several hundred wounded.

Emperor Napoleon III decided that the name Camarón would be printed on the Foreign Legion’s flag and that the names Danjou, Vilain and Maudet would be engraved in gold on the walls of the Invalides in Paris.

A monument was erected in 1892 on the battleground. It bears the inscription: Here there were less than sixty men fighting against an entire army. Its numbers crushed them. Life rather than courage abandoned these French soldiers on April 30, 1863. In their memory, the motherland has erected this monument.


The wooden hand of Captain Danjou presented on 2016 Cameron Day in Aubagne, France is carried by General Grosjean, a former Foreign Legion officer. This duty is considered the highest honor for any veteran of the Legion.

Capitain Danjou’s wooden hand was taken to Aubagne, where it remains in the Legion Museum of Memory. The hand is the most cherished artifact in Legion history. April 30 is celebrated as “Camerone Day,” when the wooden prosthetic hand is brought out for display in a grand ceremony. The honor granted to the legionnaire to carry it on parade in its protective case is among the greatest bestowed by the Legion.

As part of its traditional celebrations, the account of Camarón is read out to the troops in each Legion unit, wherever it may be in the world and whatever the circumstances.

Narration of Cameron (Recit de Camerone) in the Sahara in the early 1950s, read by a lieutenant of the 1st Legion Saharan Motorized Company (via French Foreign Legion information website).

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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


May 4, 2023 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

THE FRIDAY FOTO (April 28, 2023)

“High shall our purpose be.”

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Hillard) Click on the photo to enlarge image.

Coast Guard personnel conduct maintenance aloft on the Coast Guard cutter Eagle, a three-masted barque, in the Atlantic Ocean on April 9, 2023.

The Eagle is the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. A permanent crew of eight officers and 50 enlisted personnel maintain the ship year-round. They also provide the knowledge and seamanship for training  up to 150 cadets at a time.

In early April, Eagle began a four-month summer deployment to teach practical seamanship skills to officer candidates from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Corps, as well as foreign military personnel.  During this voyage, cadets and crew will meet with U.S. allies in Northern Europe (the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark), the Portuguese archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira — and later, Bermuda.

Eagle will return to its homeport in New London, Connecticut by mid-August.

The German-built Eagle is an actual war prize, taken from the Nazis at the end of World War II.  Launched in 1936 by the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, the sailing ship was commissioned as Horst Wessel, after the Nazi icon and “martyr.” Originally operated by Nazi Germany to train cadets for the German Navy, the ship was taken over by the United States after World War II. In 1946, a U.S. Coast Guard crew – aided by the German crew still on board – sailed the tall ship from Bremerhaven to its New London.

By the way, the words of the headline are taken from the Coast Guard marching song, Semper Paratus, Always Prepared.

April 28, 2023 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

THE FRIDAY FOTO (April 21, 2023)


(U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Laura Stephens.) Click on photo to enlarge image.

Soldiers assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment’s Continental Color Guard prepare for a performance — with all but one in PT garb — at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia on April 11, 2023.

The 3d U.S. Infantry, traditionally known as “The Old Guard,” is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the U.S. Army, serving the nation since 1784 (three years before the first states ratified the Constitution). The Old Guard is the Army’s official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and it also provides security for Washington, D.C., in time of national emergency or civil disturbance.

The Continental Color Guard is one of  six specialty platoons in The Old Guard, including the Fife and Drum Corps, the Presidential Salute Battery, the Army Drill Team and two units supplying ceremonial duties at Arlington National Cemetery: the Caisson Platoon and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier guards.

The blue uniforms worn by the Color Team are replicas of the 1784-style infantry uniforms worn by The Old Guard’s predecessor, the First American Regiment. The pattern of the uniform for wear by all Continental Army infantry units was approved by General George Washington in 1782. It consisted of a blue coat faced with a red collar, cuffs and lapels, white buttons and lining, long-fitting overalls, and a black cocked hat with cockade.

Some 4GWAR visitors may have seen the 3rd Infantry’s Fife and Drum Corps, in their redcoats trimmed in blue, playing at White House ceremonies and other celebratory events.  In 18th Century warfare, the reversed colors on the fifers and drummers’ uniforms would stand out on a battlefield obscured by musket smoke. The hope was that soldiers on both sides would see, but not shoot, bandsmen since they were unarmed — and during battle they often served as stretcher bearers and provided other medical assistance to the wounded.

April 21, 2023 at 3:42 pm Leave a comment

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