Archive for March, 2014

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 30-April 5, 1814)

Rattled by Rockets

Battle of Lacolle Mills (Royal Canadian Geographic Society/Parks Canada)

Battle of Lacolle Mills
(Royal Canadian Geographical Society/Parks Canada)

Following disastrous defeats at Chateauguay and Cryslers Farm on the St.Lawrence-Lake Champlain frontier in the Fall of 1813, and his failure to capture Montreal before going into winter quarters, U.S. Army Major General James Wilkinson is looking to shore up his reputation.

He decides to launch another attack across the New York State border into Quebec in late March, 1814. Wilkinson marches north from Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain with about 4,000 men and several artillery pieces.

On March 30 he attacks a much smaller force of British and Canadian troops at Lacolle Mills on the Lacolle River. The British regulars (the 13th Regiment of Foot and Royal Marines) have a Congreve rocket unit and are e sheltered in a blockhouse and large stone mill building. The Canadian forces include a company of militia (the Canadian Voltigeurs) and regulars recruited strictly for domestic defense (Canadian Fencibles).

The congreve rockets, an artillery weapon developed by the British after facing similar weapons in their colonial wars in India, unnerves the U.S. troops and wounds several. A Canadian flanking attack captures an American artillery emplacement but was later forced back. The weather changed as the day ended with the Americans making little headway and Wilkinson calls off the attack before committing all his troops.

A congreve rocket vintage 1806 (Courtesy British Science Museum/

A congreve rocket vintage 1806
(Courtesy British Science Museum/

The U.S. losses include 154 killed, wounded and missing. The British-Canadian force loses just 11 killed, 46 wounded and four missing for a total of 61 casualties.

This latest defeat marks the last time the United States will try to invade Canada during the war.  A month later, Wilkinson is relieved of command and later court-martialed. In 1923, Canada designated the battlefield a National Historic Site.



March 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 28, 2014)

Water Rescue

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller

A U.S. pararescueman assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron lowers into the ocean from an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter as part of a water rescue exercise near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 22, 2014.

Pararescuemen, commonly known as PJs (for Pararescue Jumpers) are part of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. They are the only Defense Department personnel specifically trained and equipped to conduct conventional and unconventional recovery operations – over land and water.

The PJ’s primary function is to recover personnel in emergency situations. They are trained in emergency trauma medical capabilities for both humanitarian and combat environments. Their motto — “That Others May Live” — says it all.

The 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron is the Air Force first responder unit charged with personnel recovery in the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa area of responsibility. Based in Djibouti, their mission is to recover aircraft personnel using both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to get to the scene.

To see more photos of this training exercise, click here.



March 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Hunting Kony, Ebola Outbreak, Pirate Activity

Hunt for a Warlord

The Obama administration is sending military aircraft and support personnel to assist the efforts of African Union troops to hunt down renegade warlord Joseph Kony and his vicious rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

CV-22 Ospreys liked these in Bamako, Mali  in 2008, will be aiding the hunt for Josph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Bryan Purtell)

CV-22 Ospreys liked these in Bamako, Mali in 2008, will be aiding the hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Bryan Purtell)

At a press briefing Monday (March 24) the Pentagon’s press secretary confirmed the Defense Department was deploying four CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, as well as two C-130 Hercules transport planes and a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker to northern Uganda to aid the counter-LRA effort and “specifically to support the air transport requirements of the African Union Regional Task Force.”

The spokesman, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, said the aircraft along with 150 aircrew and support personnel will be conducting periodic deployments to Uganda to support the counter-LRA effort.  All the aircraft and personnel are based in the East African nation of Djibouti, home to the only fixed U.S. military base in Africa.

They join about 100 U.S. Special Operations troops that have been posted in Central Africa since October 2011 to advise African militaries pursuing senior LRA commanders and protecting civilians. The aircraft deployment was first reported by the Washington Post.

Kony, who is being sought by the United Nations on human rights violation charges, has been leading the LRA on a rampage of pillage, rape, murder and kidnapping across Central Africa for decades, according to the U.S. State Department. U.S. strategy in the area has been to help the governments of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and South Sudan as well as the African Union and the United Nations  “end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA.” In addition to military advisers and air transportation, since 2010, the United States has provided $87.2 million to support food assistance, humanitarian protection and other relied activities in areas affected by the LRA.

*** *** ***

Ebola Outbreak

Guinea's location in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea’s location in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The death toll in Guinea from a rare Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 63, according to health officials in the West African nation. International aid workers have set up quarantine centers in the country’s south to isolate patients with the deadly and highly infectious disease, the Associated Press reported.

United Nations agencies and medical charities such as Doctors Without Borders are scrambling to help Guinea – one of the world’s poorest countries – to cope with the virus, amid fears that it could spill over borders into neighboring countries, according to Reuters. Five deaths from the suspected infection were reported in Liberia, which borders southeastern Guinea. And in neighboring Sierra Leone officials said two deaths are suspected to be linked to Ebola.

Guinea and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Ebola is one of a handful of diseases so deadly and contagious that they pose a risk to national security, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bloomberg reported. The CDC lists Ebola as a Category A bioterrorism agent, along with anthrax and smallpox. The virus identified as the one causing the Guinea outbreak is known as the Zaire strain, the most common and the most deadly variety.

There is no known cure or vaccine for the hemorrhagic fever which is spread by close personal contact with people who are infected. The disease killed between 25 and 90 percent of its victims. Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the BBC.

*** *** ***

Pirate Activities Shifting

While pirate activities have dwindled off the Horn of Africa there are concerns about an increase in illegal activity in the waters of West Africa.

In its latest ‘Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly Report,” the Office of Naval Intelligence OPINTEL report lists two kidnappings from tugboats off the coast of Nigeria, but zero incidents off the Horn of Africa, according to

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

But officials in Ghana are becoming increasingly concerned about piracy off their coast. At a three-day conference on coastal and maritime surveillance in Accra last week, a Ghana Navy official said that while Ghana’s waters were spared pirate activities, there were 50 incidents of ship hijackings in West African waters in 2013.

Captain Issah Yakubu, the director of Naval Administration, said the incidents included ships being taken hostage, their cargo stolen, the crew molested, sometimes even killed. “Fortunately we (Ghana) haven’t suffered any of these insecurities, but then we are not complacent,” he told the Ghana website

Yakubu said security chiefs in the countries around the Gulf of Guinea are also concerned about drug trafficking, citing a recent seizure of a ship carrying 400 kilograms of cocaine from South America to Ghana’s waters, the website noted.




March 26, 2014 at 8:48 pm 1 comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 23-March 29, 1814) UPDATE

UPDATES with new final item: court martial of Brig. Gen.  Hull returns guilty verdict.

A Widening War

From the cane bottoms of Alabama to the Pacific Coast of South America, military and naval actions in March 1814 illustrate how the war between the United States and Great Britain has spread far beyond the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. U.S. Navy ships and privateers raid British commerce in the Caribbean Sea and around the British Isles. The Royal Navy sends more and more ships to tighten the blockade of most U.S. ports along the Atlantic Coast. In Mississippi Territory, Major General Andrew Jackson confronts the pro-British Red Stick faction of the Creek Indian Nation … and the American frigate USS Essex is raiding the English whaling fleet in the South Pacific.

Sharp Knife’s Revenge: Horseshoe Bend

Battle Diorama at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Battle Diorama at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

March 27, 1814: With more than 3,000 troops, including regulars from the 39th U.S. Infantry Regiment and 700 Native American allies – mostly friendly Cherokees and about 100 Creeks – Andrew Jackson prepares to attack the Creek Indian stronghold, Tohopeka, at a bend in the Talapoosa River known to the whites as the Horseshoe.

Politically, the Red Sticks are more anti-American than pro-British, but the Brits, looking to offset their limited resources in the Americas while fighting Napoleon, give the Indians ammunition, supplies and encouragement. The 1813 massacre of American settlers and friendly Creeks at Fort Mims on the Mississippi-Spanish Florida border incensed Jackson and other Americans in the western states intent “on a single purpose: the destruction of the Creek Nation as a potential threat to the safety of the United States,” according to historian Robert V. Remini.

Of course, in hindsight, Jackson seems little troubled by the wholesale slaughter his troops committed .

The Horseshoe is a heavily wooded peninsula jutting out into the river above high bluffs. Across the neck of the Horseshoe peninsula, the Red Sticks have built a 350-yard-long barricade of horizontal logs five-to-eight feet high. Behind the wall are some 1,000 warriors and 300 women and children.

Jackson’s two small cannon open fire on the stout log wall at 10:30 a.m. With little effect. The 39th Infantry and Tennessee militiamen face the barricade but Creeks firing through slits in the logs keep them pinned down. On the opposite side of the river, surrounding the rest of the Indian stronghold, are Colonel John Coffee with 700 mounted riflemen and Jackson’s Indian allies. Those Indians cross the river in canoes and begin the climb the bluff, attacking the stronghold from the rear – distracting its defenders on the log barricade.


Taking advantage of the confusion, Jackson orders a charge. The regulars and militiamen breech the barricade and a killing orgy begins inside the Red Sticks’ encampment. When the fighting ends at sundown, an estimated 800 Red Sticks are dead. Jackson’s losses are 49 killed, 154 wounded – many mortally.

The military power of the Creeks has been crushed and Jackson will pressure their leaders to sign a treaty in August ceding 23 million acres of land. Much of it will form the state of Alabama in 1819. The Indians begin calling Jackson, “Sharp Knife” for his tough tactics on and off the battlefield.

** ** **

Valparaiso: USS Essex vs. HMS Phoebe

Frigate USS Essex in 1799 (U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection via Wikipedia)

Frigate USS Essex in 1799
(U.S. Naval Academy Museum Collection via Wikipedia)

March 28, 2014: Trapped in Chile’s Valparaiso Harbor for the last six weeks by two Royal Navy ships, American Captain David Porter decides to make a run for it in the USS Essex before more British ships arrive on the scene.

Since rounding South America’s Cape Horn in early 1813 – the first U.S. warship to do so – the Essex has been playing havoc with the British whaling fleet in the Pacific Ocean. Between April and October 1813, Porter captured 12 of the 20 British whalers operating in the Eastern Pacific.

Essex sailed back across the Pacific to Valparaiso, a neutral port, arriving on February 3, 1814. According to author George C. Daughan in his book, 1812, The Navy’s War, Porter was “intent on falling in with an enemy frigate. He knew British hunters were after him, and he meant to accommodate them.”

On February 8, the 36-gun HMS Phoebe and the 28-gun HMS Cherub arrived on the scene. Porter tried to provoke the Phoebe’s captain, Capt. James Hillyar into a one-on-one duel but Hillyar declined to accommodate the American. The took up position at the harbor’s mouth, trapping the Essex.

Capture of USS Essex 1838 engraving via Wikipedia

Capture of USS Essex 1838 engraving via Wikipedia

Taking advantage of a change in the wind, Porter attempted to outrun the slower British ships on the 28th. But a sudden heavy squall carried away the Essex’s main topmast. Porter tried to slip back into the harbor unscathed but the Phoebe and Cherub headed straight for the Essex. A brutal sea-battle ensued. Essex carried 46 cannon, but only six were long range guns. But the Phoebe carried mostly long range canon that were able to pound the Essex out of the range of the American ship’s 40 heavy – but short range – guns. After failing to close with Phoebe to board her, Porter tried to run Essex aground and destroy her to keep the ship out of enemy hands. But the wind wouldn’t cooperate and Porter finally had to surrender.

The Essex suffered 58 killed, 39 severely wounded, 26 slightly wounded and 312 missing out of a crew of 255. On the Phoebe, five were killed and 10 wounded. Porter and his crew were paroled by Hillyar and allowed to return to the United States in one of the English whalers the Essex had captured.

*** *** ***

A General’s Disgrace

On March 26, 1814, Brigadier General William Hull, is convicted of cowardice and neglect of duty for surrendering Detroit in 1812. The Army court martial, which has been hearing the case since January in Albany, New York, does not convict the general of the most serious charge, treason.
Nevertheless, Hull is sentenced to be shot, although the court recommends clemency because of his distinguished service in the Revolutionary War. On April 25, President Madison upholds the conviction but dismisses the death sentence and cashiers Hull, throwing him out of the Army. Hull, who died in 1825, at age 72, spent his remaining years trying to clear his name and recover his previously sterling reputation.




March 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (March 21, 2014)

Rocket Away

 (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Sara Wakai)

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Sara Wakai)

We don’t see photos of Special Operations Forces in combat very often but here’s one from the Defense Department.

It shows a U.S. Special Forces soldier (Green Beret) firing a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle system after receiving small-arms fire during a clearance operation at the village of Denasaro Kelay, in the Mizan district of Afghanistan’s Zabul province on March 8. The Afghans’ 3rd Special Operations Kandak (battalion), assisted by the Green Berets, conducted the clearance to disrupt insurgent movement in the area.

The soldier in the photo is assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. To see more photos of how the operation went, click here.

March 22, 2014 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 21, 2014)

Cold Target

U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jeffery J. Harris

U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jeffery J. Harris

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Maglott fires a 9mm Berretta pistol while competing in the Army Reserve Medical Command’s 2014 Best Warrior Competition at Fort Harrison, Montana.

All 13 competitors in the week-long competition wore satellite-linked safety beacons that detected if they were stationary for more than 10 minutes. The 13 represented five brigades of the Army Reserve Medical Command. The competitors, including one female soldier, Army Specialist Mai Quyen Thi Dang, made an air assault landing from a CH-47 Chinook and then began a four-mile ruck march through the mountainous terrain. There were also physical fitness tests, day land navigation, urban orienteering courses, road marches, tactical combat casualty care and a written essay. The temperature stood at 15 degrees during the competition.

To see a slideshow of the event click here.

March 21, 2014 at 2:52 am 1 comment

AVIATION: Robert “Muck” Brown, A-10 Pilot, Instructor and Defender

In Memoriam

Lt. Col. Robert "Muck" Brown.

Lt. Col. Robert “Muck” Brown.

We were saddened to learn Thursday (March 20) that retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Muck” Brown has died after a long bout with cancer.

Brown, 56, was an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with 3,100 hours in the 1970s-era tank buster known affectionately as the Warthog, for its homely – some would say ugly – appearance as well as its sturdy, resilient airframe and fearsome armament. That combination made it ideal for delivering close air support to troops on the ground.

Brown flew NATO peacekeeping missions in A-10s over Bosnia and combat missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch in the late 1990s, according to a local North Carolina newspaper, The Mountaineer.

Brown also served as an A-10 instructor. He retired in 2001 but returned to the Air Force for three years after 9/11 – including three months in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He told 4GWAR that he got the nickname “Muck” as a young lieutenant after falling face-first into the mud.

On March 18 he passed away after a three-year struggle with cancer. Funeral services and burial were held Monday, March 24 in Waynesville, N.C.

Your 4GWAR editor met Lieutenant Colonel Brown last November when he emerged as a passionate — but gentlemanly — defender of the Warthog when the Air Force began hinting that it might retire the whole fleet as a cost-savings measure.

At a close air support conference sponsored by two Washington watchdog groups, the Straus Military Reform Project and the Project On Government Oversight, Brown rose to defend the A-10, challenging Air Force claims that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — a Fifth Generation fighter/bomber — could easily replace the A-10 in the ground support mission.

Two Idaho Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II (better known as Warthogs)  wait to refuel. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

Two Idaho Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II (better known as Warthogs) wait to refuel.
Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

Later, in a lengthy phone interview as he drove back home to North Carolina, Brown told 4GWAR that the A-10 was better suited for the close air support mission because it could fly low and slow – even in bad weather – and take off and land on short, forward area runways. He and other A-10 supporters insisted the Warthog wasn’t a one trick pony and that it was useful for intelligence gathering and surveillance as well as combat search and rescue. The digitized Warthog C model, Brown told us, with a number of technology upgrades, including color multi-function displays and state of the art targeting pods is “more relevant now than it was before 9/11.” “The airplane continues, decade after decade, to prove it’s extremely survivable,” he added.

But in February, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that in order to save money in these fiscally restrained times — and protect top priority Air Force projects in the 2015 defense budget, like the F-35, a new aerial refueling tanker and a planned long range strike bomber, the A-10 fleet would be retired. The Air Force can save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it, Hagel said.

Hagel, an infantry sergeant in Vietnam who knew first-hand the importance of close air support,  said it was a tough decision to eliminate the beloved A-10. But he noted it was a “40-year-old single-purpose airplane originally designed to kill enemy tanks on a Cold War battlefield.” The A-10 “cannot survive or operate effectively where there are more advanced aircraft or air defenses,” Hagel added.

Several members of Congress — including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican and wife of a retired A-10 pilot — have voiced concern or outright opposition to the planned A-10 retirement. So it could be months before we know the fate of the twin-engine A-10.

March 21, 2014 at 1:53 am Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (March 16-March 22)

Fuss and Feathers

On March 19, 1814 Winfield Scott, just 27-years-old, was promoted to brigadier general in the U.S. Army. It was the start of his long career as a general officer and a commander in the Black Hawk and Second Seminole wars, the Mexican-American War and the early days of the Civil War.

Winfield Scott during the War of 1812 (Image via Wikipedia)

Winfield Scott during the War of 1812
(Image via Wikipedia)

As a lieutenant colonel in the regular Army, Scott was captured at the Battle of Queenstown Heights in 1812. He and about 900 men were stranded on the Canadian side of the Niagara River when New York State militiamen refused to cross over into Canada to reinforce their beachhead.

It was one of several failed U.S. attempts to invade Canada but Scott was considered one of the few heroes of the defeat because he had crossed the river under fire and made his way up to the captured British artillery emplacement where U.S. regulars and New York militiamen were holding off a series of attacks by British, Canadian and Native American opponents. Scott, an artillery officer, took command when the militia and regular Army commanders were wounded.

Promoted to colonel after he returned to the United States in a prisoner exchange in 1813, Scott was wounded during the successful capture of Fort George on the Niagara Frontier between Canada and New York State in 1813.

Later in the year he will play a key role in the battles of Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane. Scott, who later commanded the U.S. Invasion force that captured Mexico City in 1847 during the Mexican War, would be promoted to lieutenant general – the first in the United States since George Washington held that rank.

Known as “Fuss and Feathers” for his flashy uniforms and attention to detail, Scott ran unsuccessfully for president in 1852 as the standard bearer of the Whig Party.

Statue of Gen. Winfield Scott on Scott Circle in Washington, D.C. (photo by Ben Schumin via Wikipedia)

Statue of Gen. Winfield Scott on Scott Circle in Washington, D.C.
(photo by Ben Schumin via Wikipedia)

March 17, 2014 at 2:13 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 14, 2014)

Fast Boat

(Photo by Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command South)

(Photo by Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command South)

A Green Beret with 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) provides security as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force  travel to their target on Chacachacare Island, located on western-most island off of Trinidad.

The boat assault was part of an exercise that ended February 14 in the Caribbean nation. The month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training session tested skills like marksmanship, equipment maintenance, rappelling, fast-roping, and other tactical maneuvers focusing on drug interdiction in support of Special Operations Command South.

March 14, 2014 at 2:26 am 1 comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Special Ops Command Seeks $7.7 billion for 2015

By the Numbers UPDATE

UPDATES with new spending numbers and McRaven testimony

The Defense Department budget request for fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015) seeks $7.7 billion for U.S. Special Operations Command, including $1.52 billion for procuring weapons, equipment and supplies.

Army Rangers wearing night vision goggles provide security during a multilateral airborne exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Army Rangers wearing night vision goggles provide security during a multilateral airborne exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

That procurement figure includes $112.2 million for rotary wing upgrades and sustainment, $25.6 million for modifications to CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft, $25.5 million for underwater systems, $144.3 million for ordnance, $81 million for communications equipment and electronics, $63 million for tactical ground vehicles and $38 million for “global video surveillance activities.”

The total defense budget request – capped at $496 billion by a congressional budget deal in December – is actually $495.6 billion. But the Pentagon has yet to specify what it will seek for what is known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO, for short) to pay for the war in Afghanistan and unforseen costs like disaster relief missions after earthquakes and typhoons.

But the Obama administration is seeking an additional $26.4 billion in defense funding from Congress through what it terms the Opportunity, Growth and Security initiative (OGS). The White House claims there will be mandatory spending cuts and tax loophole closings to offset the additional spending. The administration’s budget documents maintain OGS will be “fully paid-for,” but many critics are skeptical.

With that extra money, the Pentagon has laid out what it would be used for, including: $300 million for an increase at SOCOM in training, readiness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); $100 million for SOCOM recapitalizing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence activities.

Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that they were willing to cut other parts of the military – including weapons programs and the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – to protect “key capability areas” like special operations and counter terrorism from the budget ax.

Unlike the rest of the military, Special Operations Command won’t be seeing a reduction in its current force of approximately 66,000 in fiscal 2015. In fact, the Pentagon is seeking to add 3,700 personnel. That’s still below the 72,000 end strength planned just a few years ago, but Admiral William McRaven, the SOCOM commander, told the emerging threats panel of the Senate Armed Services Committee this week (March 11) the lower number will mean “we’ll have to prioritize our efforts globally.”

Noting that SOCOM has about 7,000 people deployed in 84 countries now, McRaven said the challenge would be “making sure we can continue to meet priority demands globally,” which he said he could do with 69,700 instead of 72,000.

March 13, 2014 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

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