Archive for December, 2019

FRIDAY FOTO (December 27, 2019)


Full Moon brightens Air Force flightline operations

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Nash)

A 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit maintainer cleans an A-10C Thunderbolt II canopy, on December 11, 2019, at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea.

Longtime readers of the 4GWAR Blog will remember your editor has been a fan of the Cold War-Era tank busters since seeing half a dozen of them land while waiting to take off aboard a commercial airliner at Tucson International Airport.

The A-10s, better known as “Warthogs” because of their homely appearance, heavy armor and fierce attack capabilities, are designed to provide close support to infantry and destroy enemy tanks.

Earlier in the decade, the A-10s were endangered by budget constraints. Air Force and Pentagon leaders said they could save $3.5 billion over five years by retiring the 300-plus A-10 fleet rather than upgrade it. But Congress rejected those plans and instead approved initial funding of wing replacements needed to keep about a third of the nation’s 281 A-10s flying until at least 2030.

The photo below shows an A-10 with the Idaho Air National Guard about to be refueled in the air by a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the Utah Air National Guard. One can see the A-10’s 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun, located in front of, and below, the cockpit, like a cigar clenched in the teeth,

This all might seem an unlikely topic in the season of “Peace on Earth,” but we are reminded that there are a lot of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are still walking around because an A-10 was overhead and provided close air support when the ground troops came under attack.

Refueling Operation Flight with Spouses from the 124th Fighter Wing

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Taylor Walker)

December 30, 2019 at 12:20 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Christmas Countdown

’tis the Season.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, U.S. military installations across the country and around the globe have been getting the Christmas spirit and preparing for the Holiday Season. Here are some highlights.

December 2, Colorado

XMAS 2019 USAF Tree Lights.JPG

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Matthew Coleman-Foste)

Air Force Airman 1st Class Vincent Henderson, left, and Staff Sergeant Alex Peffer put holiday lights on a tree at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

December 3, North Carolina

XMAS 2019-2 Army Toy drop.JPG

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Justin W. Stafford)

An Army paratrooper conducts a jumpmaster personnel inspection during the inaugural All American Presents from Paratroopers event at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Paratroopers participating in the event donated toys for a chance to jump from a helicopter and earn foreign jump wings.

December 4, Louisiana

Barksdale Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Miller)

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Matt Baker, commander of the 96th Bomb Squadron, holds his son in front of a Chrstmas tree at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

December 7, Guam

Operation Christmas Drop 2019 Bundle Build

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael Murphy)

U.S. military personnel aren’t the only ones spreading the joy, here is Master Sergeant Koji Okunoapan of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force adding clothes to a package at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for Operation Christmas Drop. U.S., Japanese, Australian and New Zealand airmen participated in the 2019 charity operation.

December 7, West Virginia.

VMMT-204 Stuff a Plane

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Damaris Arias)

Marine Corps Sergeant Blake Mayo, left, and Corporal Eli Drake receive toys from community members during a Toys for Tots event at Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia. Both Marines are combat engineers assigned to the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion. The Toys for Tots program is run by the Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks, a Marine reservist.

December 10, Micronesia

Merry Christmas Drop from Woleai

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

An Air Force C-130J Super Hercules delivers humanitarian aid bundles filled with needed supplies to Woleai, Micronesia, as part of Operation Christmas Drop, the Defense Department’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.

The tradition began during the Christmas season in 1952 when a B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi, 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. In the spirit of Christmas the aircrew dropped a bundle of supplies attached to a parachute to the islanders below, giving the operation its name. Today, air drop operations include more than 50 islands throughout the Pacific. 

December 15, Italy

NSA Naples Hosts First Holiday Concert

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Charest)

Sailors with the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band perform during the holiday concert at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.

December 15, California

Service members, families participate in Santa Run

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Andrew Cortez)

Service members and their families sprint from the starting line during the Santa Run at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

December 18, Germany

Paratroopers give back to the Alzey Worms local community

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Sinthia Rosario)

Children receive toys donated by U.S. service members and NATO allies and partners during an event in Alzey, Germany.

And back to Colorado, Christmas Eve …

NORAD tracks Santa 2013

(2013 NORAD photo by Master Sergeant Charles Marsh)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (a joint U.S.-Canadian operation) tracks every aircraft that flies over North America — including, once a year, a certain magical sleigh.

Volunteer trackers, like Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Roderick Schwald in this 2013 photo, answer calls from children and parents across the globe while the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center on Peterson Air Force

For more than 60 years, NORAD has followed Santa on his around-the-world journey from the North Pole, with radar, satellites and Santacams.

Santa Baby, the Man with the Bag, the Fat Man is coming, so try to be good for another day.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night, from the 4GWAR Blog!

December 24, 2019 at 3:52 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (December 20, 2019)

Bright Lights, Big City.

CRS 3 Conducts Maritime Infrastructure Protection Exercises

(U.S. Navy photo Chief Petty Officer Nelson Doromal Jr.)

Navy Petty 2nd Class Officer Vincent Dahl mans an M240 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat as it transits San Diego Bay on December 11, 2019.

To see the MarkVI in action, click here.

San Diego, California is home to the Navy’s premier Pacific Fleet surface force installation — Naval Base San Diego (NBSD) — and 54 ships, as well as Expeditionary Strike Group 3, the Navy Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center and Naval Medical Center San Diego.

December 20, 2019 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 13, 2019)

Stick in the Mud.

Truck Company Field Exercise

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Dylan Hess)

Even in an era of satellite communications, radar evading stealth fighter jets and artificial intelligence, some times the most effective tool is a man with a shovel.

Marines clear mud from a stuck High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV)  — probably better known as a Humvee — during a field exercise at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan on December 11, 2019. (See photo below)

Starting in 1983, the AM General Humvee family of light, four-wheel drive, military trucks and utility vehicles began replacing the Vietnam-era jeep, the latest version of an off-road vehicle first manufactured in World War II.

Although they were designed without armor for traveling back and forth at the rear in a combat zone, Humvees first saw combat in Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. They saw even more action in Somalia, the Balkans and the Gulf War in the 1990s. However, without armor, both vehicles and crews suffered considerable damage and losses during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.  Subsequent versions of the HMMWV were built with armor and bullet proof windows that could withstand small arms fire.

But the still lightly armored, Cold War-era Humvee could not protect troops from powerful, homemade bombs – known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – the enemy used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military replaced many Humvees with heavy-duty vehicles called MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) designed with specialized undersides to withstand IEDs. But the MRAPS were slow, top-heavy and had limited capability off-road and on narrow urban streets.

After an 11-year search and development program headed by the Army, both services picked Oshkosh Trucks to build the Humvee and MRAP replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).  It is bigger, better armored and more comfortable than the Humvee.

The Marine Corps declared the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle officially ready in August to deploy and support the naval expeditionary forces worldwide. The Army did so a few months earlier. However, due to shifting budget priorities and other factors, the full replacement of all HMMWVs is expected to take years.

Truck Company Field Exercise

This is how it’s supposed to look when Marines drive a Humvee through the mud at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, on December 11, 2019.

December 13, 2019 at 11:27 pm Leave a comment

Droids, Drones & ‘bots: Lost U.S. Drone; French Drone-Equipped Patrol Boats; Russian Armed Robots


Did Russians Down U.S. Drone over Libya?

The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone that disappeared near Libya’s capital in November was shot down by Russian air defenses and U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, according to Reuters.

U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM’s commander, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) when they fired on it.”

Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war, Reuters noted on December7. Rival armed groups have been fighting for control of Tripoli for months

When the unarmed aircraft was lost November 21, AFRICOM said drone operations are conducted in Libya to assess the ongoing security situation and monitor violent extremist activity. Those operations were said to be critical to counter terror activity in Libya and are fully coordinated with appropriate government officials.

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France Orders Drone-Equipped Patrol Boats.

France has ordered six 70-meter-long (230-feet-long) offshore patrol vessels –  equipped with drones — to patrol its vast economic exclusive zone, Defense News reported December 6.

The French Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement that the ships has been ordered  “in a context of increasing threats to our fishing resources, biodiversity and international maritime rules.”France has the largest economic exclusive zone (EEZ) in the world, at about 4,514,000 square miles. By comparison, the United States’s EEZ comes in at about 4,383,000 square miles, Defense News said.

Technical specifications, issued by the DGA procurement agency in 2018, called for the ships to be able to deploy a 700-kilogram-class rotor-blade drone, and to be able to keep it under cover.

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Russia Developing Armed Robot Plans.

The Russian military is assembling proposed tactics, techniques and procedures for using robots in urban and coastal combat, the state news agency, RiaNovosti, announced Sunday (November 24).

If you clicked on the link above, you saw that report was in Russian. No we didn’t/couldn’t read it but someone at Defense One did. Here’s what they gleaned:.

The defense ministry has asked various military-industrial enterprises to provide proposals for review by early next year to the military’s Combined Arms Academy. Quoting the Russian agency, Defense One noted the initiative was meant to address “the virtual absence of a unified concept for the use of military robotics by the Russian armed forces.”

According to Defense One, the increased interest in robotic weapons may reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire for more unmanned systems as well as the military’s experience in Syria, where numerous ground and air vehicles made their first operational appearance.

December 13, 2019 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Pearl Harbor, Plus 78; Tuskegee Airman, Plus 100 UPDATE

Double-Barreled Day of Note.

December 7, is remembered by many Americans (after 78 years it may no longer be accurate to say most Americans) as the Date of Infamy, the day of the devastating Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor and other U.S. military installations in the Hawaiian Islands.

And we’ll get to that in just a moment, but we found out from local radio station WTOP that today, December 7, 2019, one of the famous Tuskegee Airmen — retired Air Force Colonel Charles E. McGee — turned 100. We thought it would be good idea to link the two commemorations in our December 7 Blog.

P-51B (serial unknown) KITTEN of 2Lt. Leon ‘Woodie’ Spears, 302nd FS, Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945

Illustration of Charles McGee’s World War II P-51 Mustang, named “Kitten.” (U.S. Air Force art via Wikipedia)

The Survivor.

World War II Veterans visit MCBH

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Marine Corps Corporal Matthew Kirk)

Seventy-eight years ago aircraft carrier-borne planes attacked Pearl Harbor Naval Base and Hickham Army Air Forces Field and what was then Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay. More than 2,400 military personnel and civilians were killed that day, 1,178 more were wounded. The attack by Imperial Japanese Navy fighters, bombers and torpedo planes also sank or damaged eighteen Navy vessels and  destroyed more than 180 Army, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

For decades, the survivors of that attack have returned to Hawaii to commemorate the tragedy and honor the dead. And every year the number of survivors still with us shrinks. The Best Defense Foundation returned six Pearl Harbor and Naval Air Station Kaneohe Bay survivors to Hawaii for the 78th commemoration this December.

One of those tough old members of the Greatest Generation, Donald Long — a retired Navy radio operator — is in the photo above, hugging a Mokapu Elementary School student during his visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Long was a new sailor standing watch on a seaplane moored in a bay on the other side of the island of Oahu when the Japanese struck that Sunday morning. He saw the smoke and fire and heard the explosions coming from afar, but soon Japanese planes attacked Kaneohe Bay, too. They strafed his plane, setting it afire. He had to swim for his life through flames on the oil and gasoline covered waters.

The First.

One of the legendary heroes of Pearl Harbor that day was Doris “Dorrie” Miller a sailor who was doing laundry below deck on the battleship USS West Virginia, when the attack began.

Pearl Harbor 2019 Doris-Miller-1942

Dorrie Miller wearing his Navy Cross

He was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s second highest decoration for bravery, for his actions on December 7. He was also the first African American to receive the award. The Army and Navy were largely segregated all-white organizations in 1941 and the few blacks in the services were assigned menial jobs, like Miller, a messman — essentialy a waiter, busboy and dishwasher — on the West Virginia. Nevertheless, when a torpedo struck the ship, Miller began carrying the wounded to safety. Among them was the ship’s commander, Captain Mervyn Bennion, who was mortally wounded. Miller then manned a .50-calibre anti-aircraft gun, for which he had no training, and continued firing on the enemy planes until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.

There’s more to the story, some of it is sad,  click here to read more.

The Aviator.

Charles E. McGee wasn’t at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but it was his 22nd birthday. Within two years he would be flying fighter planes — they were called pursuit planes back then (P-40, P-47, P-51) — against the German Luftwaffe over Central Europe and the Balkans.

PEARL HARBOR 78th Anniv the-Colonel-and-his-cheif-mechanic

Then Captain Charles McGee and his crew chief Nathaniel Wilson in 1944, stand beside McGee’s P-51C Mustang, named “Kitten” for McGee’s wife, Frances, but also because Wilson kept the plane purring like one.

He was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, an all black training unit of fighter pilots in the segregated Army Air Forces. By February 1944, McGee was stationed in Italy with the 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. He flew the Bell P-39Q Airacobra, then the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt and finally the North American P-51 Mustang, escorting B-24 Liberator and -17 Flying Fortress bombers over Germany, Austria and the Balkans. He also engaged in low level attacks over enemy airfields and rail yards.

After the war, McGee stayed in what later became the U.S. Air Force, flying a total of 405 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam — an Air Force record. He retired as a colonel in 1973.

Former Tuskegee Airman celebrates 100th birthday

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Quail)

The retired colonel high-fived airmen in the photo above during a visit to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on December 6, 2019 — the day before his 100th birthday. McGee served a total of 30 years in the Air Force, beginning with the Army Air Corps, and flew a total of 409 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Click here to see an interview he did with Washington radio station WTOP.

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SHAKO-West Point cadets

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.


December 8, 2019 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 6, 2019)

A Cloud of Mushrooms

Airborne Operation Dec. 3, 2019

(U.S. Army photo by Paolo Bovo)

U.S. Army, British and Italian paratroopers descend after jumping from an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft during airborne operations in Pordenone, Italy on December  3, 2019. On the right side of the photo, you can see the C-130 just above the ridge line.

The Hercules is from the U.S. Air Force 86th Airlift Wing. The U.S. paratroops are from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting ready forces anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Commands areas of responsibility.

Click here to see more photos from this operation.

December 6, 2019 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: The Passing of Eminent British Military Historian Michael Howard

He Expanded Military Studies Beyond Battles.

Sir Michael Howard from Library of Congress

Sir Michael Howard (1922-2019)

We learned from our Monday morning paper, (The New York Times, December 2, 2019) that the eminent and influential military historian, Sir Michael Howard, died on Saturday — just a day after he turned 97.

Howard was former Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University and Regius Professor of Modern History — one of Britain’s most prestigious academic chairs — also at Oxford. He also served as Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University.

In addition to his academic honors, Howard, who served as a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards during World War II, was awarded the Military Cross — Britain’s third highest decoration for gallantry — for leading an almost suicidal bayonet charge against a German machine gun nest in Italy. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his academic work in 1986.

Among historians, Howard was credited with changing the profile of military history from an account of specific battles or campaigns to a broader assessment of the context of those conflicts. Among his significant works was a study of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71  published in 1961,that sought to illuminate the societal roots of the opposing armies. He contributed to a major British study of World War II. In 1977, he was the co-translator, with the American scholar Peter Paret, of the 19th-century classic “On War” by the German military philosopher and theorist Carl von Clausewitz, according to the New York Times obituary by Alan Cowell.

“The history of war, I came to realize, was more than the operational history of armed forces. It was the study of entire societies,” Howard wrote in 2006 memoir, Cowell noted.

Sir Michael Howard books.jpg

Some of Michael Howard’s best-known works. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle, copyright Sonoma Road Strategies)

The British newspaper, The Guardian described Howard as “the most influential British military historian of his generation.” Adam Roberts, senior research fellow in international relations at Oxford University, wrote “He left a mark on public and professional debate in Britain and internationally. He also had a key part in building institutions” which included the International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in London, “which became the model for similar think tanks around the world.”

Howard also founded what is now the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the Study of War at King’s College London and the graduate studies programme in international relations at Oxford.

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On a personal note, your 4GWAR editor read the books in the photo above for a class on Military Thought and Theory at Norwich University (and found Howard and Paret’s translation of On War, the most understandable after several failed attempts to read earlier/lesser versions of von Krieg). As part of the Master of Arts in Military History program at Norwich, we were expected to declare what school of history we allied ourselves with and after much grumbling about looking at history through the telescope of an -ism or -ology, your editor picked War and Society — which Michael Howard had a large hand in developing — as the most relevant in a world that has always been more complex than we thought it was. We think we made the right choice.

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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.

West Point cadets

December 3, 2019 at 12:38 am 4 comments


December 2019


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