Archive for August, 2021

FRIDAY FOTO (August 27, 2021)

No Better Friend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

A U.S. Marine with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) escorts a boy to his family during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 24.

The Marines have a saying about themselves: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” This photo illustrates the first part of that saying.

Two days after the photo was taken, 11 Marines and a Hospital Corpsman — one of the Navy medics who take care of Marines in the danger zone — were killed by a terrorist bomb just outside the airport. Fifteen other U.S. service members were injured in the blast. Scores of Afghans were also killed and more than 100 injured.

The attack is believed to be the handiwork of a violent extremist group that calls itself ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist organization that established a sprawling caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The group was all but destroyed by a U.S.-led campaign but affiliates like ISIS-K have since emerged and drawn recruits from other local and regional militant groups.

Despite the tragic loss of life, the mission to evacuate American citizens and vulnerable Afghan civilians from Afghanistan will continue undeterred, Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, said during a briefing Thursday (August 26) at the Pentagon.

“Let me be clear: while we’re saddened by the loss of life, both U.S. and Afghan [citizens], we’re continuing to execute the mission,” the general said. Currently, there are now some 5,000 individuals awaiting evacuation from the country, McKenzie added.

Since August 14, more than 104,000 civilians have been evacuated — including about 5,000 Americans. McKenzie said he believed there are a little over 1,000 American civilians still left in the country. “We’re doing everything we can, in concert with our Department of State partners, to reach out to them and to help them leave, if they want to leave. And remember, not everybody wants to leave,” he said.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said “We must complete this mission and we will.” He also vowed to hunt down the perpetrators. “We won’t forgive. We won’t forget. We’ll hunt you down and we’ll make you pay,” Biden promised the attackers at a press conference hours after the attack.

We have a feeling that sometime in the not too distant future, the Marines, or some other unit of the U.S. military, will come knocking to collect that payment from ISIS-K.

August 27, 2021 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Righting Old Wrongs — Honoring the Harlem Hellfighters

All-Black WW I Regiment Honored.

President Joe Biden signed legislation August 25, to award a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal to the 369th Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service during World War I.

‘Hell Fighters’ from Harlem By H. Charles McBarron (Click photo to enlarge image)

During World War I, the 369th spent 191 days in frontline trenches, more than any other American unit. They also suffered the most losses of any American regiment, with 1,500 casualties.

On August 10, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to award the medal to the Hellfighters. It was the third Gold Medal to go to an African American unit, after the Tuskegee Airmen in 2007 and the Montford Point, North Carolina, Marines in 2011.

“The Harlem Hellfighters are an example of courage under fire,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Senate Majority Leader. “It has taken too long for this country to recognize their bravery.” Other supporters of the legislation were New York’s other senator, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Representatives Tom Suozzi and Adriano Espaillat, both of New York and Representative Joyce Beatty of Ohio.

Originally formed before the war as the 15th Regiment of the New York National Guard, it was an almost entirely African-American unit. They were the first black U.S. troops sent to France, arriving in late 1917, as part of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).

A U.S. Model 1917 Bolo knife.

The unit was relegated to labor service duties instead of combat training. As part of the 185th Infantry Brigade the 369th was assigned on January 5, 1918 to the all black 93rd Infantry Division.

Although he had commanded black troops (the famed 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers) in the Spanish-American War, AEF commander General John J. Pershing and others refused to integrate the armed services. Many white American soldiers refused to serve in combat with blacks. The Army decided on April 8, 1918 to assign the 369th to the French Army, which had been requesting American units as replacements. The men were issued French weapons, helmets, belts and pouches, although they continued to wear their U.S. uniforms.

“The American Negro soldier in France was treated with the same contempt and undemocratic spirit as the American Negro citizen is treated in the U.S.,” said civil rights activist, historian and author W.E.B DuBois.

The regiment, wearing French helmets while serving with the French army in 1918. (National Archives via wikipedia)

The original caption of the photo above read: “Negro troops in France,” Noting the unit had been under fire, it added: “Two of the men, Privates Johnson and Roberts, displayed exceptional courage while under fire and routed a German raiding party, for which the Negroes were decorated with the French Croix de Guerre.”

Henry Johnson wearing his French Croix de Guerre, the only decoration he received during his lifetime, for his heroism in France during World War I.

Private Henry Johnson was  cited for his heroism on the night of  May 15, 1918 on the Western Front in France. While on sentry duty with another soldier of the 369th, Johnson fended off a night raid by as many as a dozen German soldiers. Johnson and the other soldier fired on the Germans until they ran out of ammunition. They then used hand grenades and rifle butts to fight the Germans. When the other soldier was knocked unconscious, the Germans tried to carry him off as a prisoner, but Johnson battled back using his rifle as a club and then slashing at the Germans with his bolo knife. He may have killed four Germans single-handed in the dark while rescuing his comrade. 

Despite 21 wounds, Johnson did not receive the Purple Heart medal or any other citation from his country, even though former President Theodore Roosevelt described him as “one of the five bravest American soldiers in the war.” He received the Purple Heart posthumously in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. The DSC was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for bravery in combat, and posthumously presented by President Barrack Obama in 2015.

“America can’t change what happened to Henry Johnson,” Obama said at the award ceremony. “We can’t change what happened to too many soldiers like him, who went uncelebrated because our nation judged them by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. But we can do our best to make it right,” he added.

As part of the French Army’s 161st Division, the 369th took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On September 29, after a brutal struggle, during which heavy casualties were sustained, Sechault was taken and the 369th soldiers dug in to consolidate their advanced position. That action is depicted in the painting at the top earned the Croix de Guerre for the entire regiment. But the Meuse-Argonne claimed nearly one-third of the 369th as battle casualties.

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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 in the photo.

August 26, 2021 at 1:27 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 20, 2021)

Viva Las Vegas!

(U.S. Air Force photo by William R. Lewis)

An F-16C Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron, taxis prior take-off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on August 4, 2021. Nellis is located on the northeast edge of Las Vegas, and lights from some the city’s iconic hotels and casinos can be seen in the background.

This aircraft was about to join Exercise Red Flag at Nellis as a simulated enemy aircraft. Unlike iterations 1 and 2, Red Flag 21-3 only involves U.S. personnel. Alongside the U.S. Air Force, Red Flag-Nellis 21-3 included the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Space Force, Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

Aggressor pilots are highly skilled in U.S. and adversary tactics. They provide realism to U.S. and allied forces during training exercises.

August 20, 2021 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: Maritime Unmanned Systems; NATO, Turkish, USAF Drones

Sea-Air-Space 2021. UPDATED

Among the topics frequently discussed at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition August 2-4 were unmanned systems and the challenge of the Arctic. We start off with where those two topics intersect.

Droids and Drones in the Arctic.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star breaks ice in the Chukchi Sea, in late December 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland – The U.S. Coast Guard is exploring the use of unmanned aerial, surface and undersea systems in the harsh and distant environs of the Arctic.

Captain Thom Remmers told a briefing at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space exposition August 2 that unmanned underwater vehicles could “very easily and capably look for environmental spills” under the ice from passing tankers or oil drilling rigs.

The first big defense industry conference to return to an in-person format since the coronavirus pandemic shut down nearly all such events in 2020, Sea-Air-Space 2021 drew thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors.

At his exhibit hall briefing, Remmers discussed the Coast Guard’s creation of an Unmanned Systems Cross-Functional Working Group to lead a service-wide effort to explore how unmanned systems could help the Coast Guard execute its mission. The Working Group was created on advice from the National Academies of Sciences for the Coast Guard to  “take a more strategic and accelerated approach to exploit the capabilities of existing and future unmanned systems.”

Remmers told SEAPOWER magazine the Coast Guard has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles on some icebreakers — like the Coast Guard Cutter Healy — to look for ice floes.  Unmanned systems could also provide “a long-range persistent MDA [maritime domain awareness] type of capability that we need up there,” Remmers added.

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Drones are Helpful, But Not Enough Up North.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Unmanned systems may be a solution for handling dirty, dull or dangerous tasks in the Arctic, but they’re no substitute for a U.S. flagged ship when it comes establishing presence in the Far North, according to a  key Coast Guard Arctic expert.

“Unmanned systems are a great tool but they don’t deliver presence,” according to Coast Guard Senior Arctic Advisor Shannon Jenkins. “Presence is a U.S. flagged [manned] sovereign vessel,” Jenkins told the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo on April 3. “You can’t surge into the Arctic. You have to be up there,” he explained.

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz has said repeatedly that “presence equals influence in the Arctic” to counter a resurgent Russia, and China — which styles itself a “near Arctic nation” — from ignoring the rules-based international order and modern maritime governance as they have done in other regions like the Black and South China seas.

Maritime domain awareness in the Arctic requires more than periodic exercises. It is important to understand how the environment is changing, Jenkins said, “So that we’re better prepared for when industry changes their operations up there, so we can be prepared to be up there and regulate, enforce and protect those operations as well as the U.S. citizens up there,” he said. Full story? Click here.

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Drone Delivery Tests.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is testing out a new unmanned cargo delivery platform that can transport small amounts of cargo between Navy ships, according to SEAPOWER.

(Photo courtesy of Skyways)

And a NAVAIR official at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo said he expects the concept to become a program of record soon. Tony Schmidt, director of rapid prototyping, experimentation and demonstration, said a NAVAIR team was able to take the Skyways unmanned aerial vehicle and demonstrate it aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford after just a few months. Schmidt said the Navy is highly interested in going beyond that test.

Schmidt said his team was initially approached by Military Sealift Command, which had discovered that about 80 percent of the parts they were transporting by helicopter weighed less than 10 pounds.

In July, the team took the UAV on a ship-to-ship mission from the destroyer USS Bainbridge  to the USNS Joshua Humphreys, a replenishment (refueling) oiler. In recent weeks, the team has been holding conversations with Navy officials and Schmidt said he is “pretty sure” supply by drone is going to get picked up as a program of record.

Some visitors may remember that the Navy released video last October (2020) showing electronics technicians piloting a quadcopter-style drone to deliver a small payload to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson.

The test was successful, with the drone dropping its package on the submarine’s hull and returning to operators aboard a nearby surface ship

While short in distance and small in size, the experimental resupply, which took place near the Hawaiian Islands,  demonstrated potential for future resupply without the need for ports or nearby ships, according to Navy Times.

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Another Dangerous Job.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — The people who have to clear waterways of naval mines using minesweeper ships or human divers, have long championed unmanned systems as a way to “get the man out of the minefield.” Now the U.S. Navy has wrapped up initial operational test and evaluation of an unmanned surface vessel for countermine operations on Littoral Combat Ships. The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) platform is expected to be ready for fielding on an LCS by the end of this summer, a Navy official told SEAPOWER.

Captain Godfrey Weekes, program manager for Littoral Combat Ship mission modules, told the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo in early August that initial operational capability (IOC) for the platform is planned for the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year — which ends on September 30, 2021.

The UISS platform is designed for the LCS’s mine countermeasures mission package. It “consists of a mine countermeasures unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and a towed minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types,” according to the Navy.

The UISS’s Minehunt USV is currently in contractor verification testing. Low-rate initial production of that platform should begin sometime in late fiscal 2022, Weekes said.

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Navy Version of Global Hawk.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — On it’s first test flight, the systems functioned well on a MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with a signals intelligence capability, a Navy official said.

The first MQ-4C equipped with Integrated Functional Capability-Four (IFC-4) made its first flight on July 29, mainly to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the new configuration. The test team, while evaluating aspects — such as stability and control — also checked out the performance of the mission systems and sensors.

“The sensors and systems are performing better than expected,” Captain Dan Mackin, the Navy’s Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems program manager, told the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo August 3.

The IFC-4 hardware and software configuration will enable the Triton to become an integral part of the Navy’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (MISR&T) transition plan. As such, it will eventually replace the Navy’s EP-3E Orion electronic reconnaissance aircraft beginning in the fall of 2023. The IFC-4 upgrade also includes the Minotaur mission system now used on the EP-3E. See the full story? Click here.

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Air Force Global Hawk Crash.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk crashed several miles away from Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota on August 6, the Air Force announced. The unmanned aircraft went down in a rural field near Gilby, N.D., and no injuries were reported.T he cause of the crash or the drone’s condition have been identified yet by Air Force authorities.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data in 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The latest crash marks the third time in the past 18 months that an Air Force drone has gone down, according to Air Force Magazine. Pilots deliberately crashed an MQ-9A Reaper in June 2020 after remotely piloted aircraft suffered a major fuel leak while flying over Africa. Another MQ-9 crashed that same month in Syracuse, New York, when its pilot mixed up the controls.

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NATO Seeks Arctic Underwater Robots.

NATO officials say more investment in autonomous platforms, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data will be critical to understanding how a thawing Arctic Ocean will affect military operations, planning, and infrastructure in the High North.

According to Defense News, scientists from NATO’s Center for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) want to use autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to ensure they have continuous and sustained samples from the Arctic region. Investments in AI will be key to ensuring those systems remain in operation for long periods of time in the changing — but still austere conditions, said Catherine Warner, CMRE’s director.

“We have to improve the autonomy and the artificial intelligence of our systems,” Warner told an August 5 virtual roundtable with reporters. “We have to improve the intelligence, so that if there’s something wrong — just like with the Rover on Mars — if it knows that there’s something wrong with itself, that it can send the error codes back home so that we can try and fix it remotely,” she added.

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Turkish Sea-Going UAVs

Turkish drone-maker Baykar has released details about its newest armed drone, which designed to launch from ships packed with unmanned aircraft, Defense News reports.

“The Bayraktar TB-3, which is still in development, will be a larger and more capable model in the same family as the TB-2,” the company’s chief technology officer, Selcuk Bayraktar, said during an August 4 online presentation sponsored by Gebze Technology University.

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drone on the runway in 2014. (Photo by Bayhaluk via wikipedia)

“When we began this project, no fixed-wing UAV could take off from LHD-class, short-runway ships,” he explained, using shorthand for unmanned aerial vehicles and landing helicopter dock naval vessels. “We believe that the TB-3, which can stay in the air for an extended period and is equipped with ammunition, will fill a gap in this field,” Bayraktar said.

The new TB-3 drones are slated to ride aboard Turkey’s future Landing Helicopter Dock Anadolu.

August 19, 2021 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment



On this date 175 years ago, August 17, 1846, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, commanding the U.S. Army’s 1st Dragoons Regiment entered Santa Fe (in what is now the state of New Mexico) and occupied the town without resistance from the local populace.

Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny, U.S. Army 1st Dragoons (via wikipedia)

It was the first time since the War of 1812 that a large U.S. force crossed an international boundary to invade another country.

It was also the first time U.S. forces planned to take permanent control of an area populated by people who spoke a different language and generally had a different culture than that of the United States.

Kearny was dispatched from Fort Leavenworth (Kansas) to Santa Fe by President James Knox Polk on June 16, 1842. It was just a month since Congress passed war legislation and two battles had been fought in the disputed border area along the Rio Grande.

After a difficult, horse-killing trip with little water or forage along the Santa Fe Trail, Kearny issued a proclamation before he arrived in Santa Fe, that said in part, he came to “New Mexico with a large military force for the purpose of seeking union with, and ameliorating the condition of the inhabitants.” He advised the locals that “so long as they continue in such [cooperative] pursuits they … will be respected  in their rights, both civil and religious.”

Mexican-American War map.

The colonel wasted no time, however, building a fort overlooking the main plaza of Santa Fe to remind the New Mexicans and Indians — who had been raiding villages in the region — of U.S. authority.

This blog is the first in a series of, at first occasional and later regularly scheduled, posts taking a look at the war between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 and its implications for both countries.

It was a war of many firsts from the first large-scale joint Army-Navy amphibious landing in a foreign country, at Vera Cruz, to the Army’s first encounter with bloody urban warfare in Monterrey. The rugged geography of Mexico, desserts, mountains,  challenged U.S. planning, transportation and logistics. The war also was a training ground for the most recent graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Young officers like Ulysses Grant, George Meade, P.G.T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg and Thomas Jackson would rise to command troops on both sides in the American Civil War.

There were also moral issues. As young Lieutenant Grant would write years later, after his term as the 18th U.S. president, that it was “the most unjust war ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”

U.S. infantry and dragoon on the march in Mexico.

August 17, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO on SUNDAY (August 15, 2021)

Meeting the Challenge.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Tia Dufour)

U.S. Marine Corps officer candidates with Alpha and Delta Companies conduct the  at Officer Candidates School, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia on August 9, 2021.

A 2013 article on the Quantico website describes some of the challenges along the 2.91-mile obstacle course. They include commando crawl, high crawl under barbed wire and balancing while running on elevated logs. Then picking up 40mm ammo cans and carrying them up and down hills and through knee-deep swamp water. After putting down the ammo cans, candidates pick up stretchers — each weighted down with three sandbags — and carry the load up and down trails with  more obstacles. After taking a quick break to hydrate, teams had to pick up a log and run back down the trails to face more obstacles, ending with a rope climb.

The Montford Point Challenge was created in 2011 to honor and celebrate the sacrifice and heroism of the Montford Point Marines They were the first African American Marines — who, from 1942 to 1949 — were segregated from white recruits.   They received basic training —  initially from all white officers and drill instructors — at Montford Point, a facility at the Marines’ Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Despite the hardships and indignities endured at a segregated basic training facility in the Jim Crow South, Montford Point Marines went on to serve at Peleliu and Iwo Jima in the Pacific during World War II and the Chosen Reservoir in Korea and paved the way for an integrated Marine Corps, according to the website.

For more information about how and why the Montford Point facility came to be — despite the misgivings of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the opposition of the Marine Corps Commandant — click here.

Here is a video (almost 9 minutes long) showing part of what officer candidates go through today in the Montford Point Challenge.

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Uprooted tree and the utility pole it destroyed. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle. Copyright 2021 Sonoma Road Strategies).

This FRIDAY FOTO is appearing two days late because of a storm-related interruption of 4GWAR Blog’s wifi and internet service. We regret the delay.

On the plus side, it has shown us the weak points in our technology set-up and left us resolved to become more resilient.

August 15, 2021 at 7:42 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 13, 2021) UPDATE


Cable/wifi service have been restored at 4GWAR World Headquarters.

We will be posting the “FRIDAY FOTO on SUNDAY” this afternoon.

Sorry for the delay. Unfortunately Mother Nature (and the cable company) get a vote on our plans from time to time.

Your 4GWAR editor

August 13, 2021 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: August 6, 2021

So, Not a Swimming Pool Dive

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez) Cliick on the photo to enlarge the image.

Navy Diver 2nd Class Michael Clutch ascends on a stage during surface-supplied (air) diving operations during his unit’s pre-deployment training cycle. Clutch is assigned to Mobile Diving Salvage Unit (MDSU) based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia.

MDSU2 is a combat ready expeditionary force capable of deploying worldwide in support of all diving and salvage operations.

There’s no word on what unit the fish are assigned to.

August 6, 2021 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Happy Birthday U.S. Coast Guard

231 Years Young.

U.S. Coast Guard imagery

In case you missed it, today (August 4) is the official birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The history of the Coast Guard goes back to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on Aug. 4, 1790, as part of the Department of the Treasury, under Alexander Hamilton. The Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service were merged to form the Coast Guard on Jan. 28, 1915. In 1939 the Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard.

Since then, the Coast Guard has been handed many assignments: From intercepting intruder aircraft over the National Capital Region, preserving marine wildlife, maritime search and rescue, enforcing maritime law in U.S. waters and intercepting smugglers of drugs and people.

In all the Coast Guard has eleven separate missions.

Praise came from in from points as diverse as President Joe Biden to defense and homeland security contractors to the U.S. Marine Corps.

Your 4GWAR editor was at National Harbor, Maryland, this week covering the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo, where they celebrated the Coast Guard birthday with some pomp.

At least one exhibitor at Sea-Air-Space, Peraton, took matters into to their own hands –shovels, actually with a huge indoor sand sculpture.

Sand sculpture honoring U.S. Coast Guard’s 231st birthday at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space expo Aug. 2-4 at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo copyright by John M. Doyle)

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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 in the photo at left.

August 4, 2021 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment


August 2021


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