Posts filed under ‘Army’

FRIDAY FOTO (August 5, 2022)

DELIVERING CHAOS.

(U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sergeant Tara Fajardo Arteaga)

U.S. soldiers assigned to Chaos Company, 1st Battalion of the 68th Armor Regiment exit an M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle during a live-fire exercise at Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland on July 13, 2022.

That’s right — Poland. The U.S. Army now has a permanent post in the former Warsaw Pact country, which has been a member of NATO since 1999. In addition to its small 144-mile (232 kilometer) land border with the Russian enclave, Kaliningrad Oblast, Poland also has a 328-mile (528 kilometer) coast along the Baltic Sea, a region roiled by Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior, starting with the seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The United States has been beefing up its military presence in Eastern and Central Europe since Vladimir Putin started massing troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine before launching a vicious invasion on February 24.

President Joe Biden announced in June, during NATO’s summit in Madrid, that the U.S. will establish a new garrison in Poznan, where the Army’s V Corps coordinates troop movements in Europe. The primary mission of the new forward headquarters will be to conduct operational planning, mission command and oversight of the rotational forces in Europe. It will also provide additional capability to support allies and partners in the region, according to the U.S. Army.

Biden said the V Corps, headquartered in Poland, will become permanent, and a new rotational brigade will operate out of Romania, giving the military a boost in the strategic Black Sea region, according to the Stars and Stripes website.

The new post will be named Camp Kosciuszko, after Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish army officer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution and for his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland. Appointed a colonel of engineers in the continental army in 1776,  Kosciuszko was responsible for strategic fortifications at Saratoga, New York and reinforcing West Point as a defensive position along New York’s Hudson River. In the spring of 1781 in South Carolina, Kościuszko conducted the Battle of Ninety-Six and then a lengthy blockade of Charleston. At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship and was made a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. In 1784 Kościuszko returned to Poland,  where he commanded troops fighting a Russian invasion in 1792.

The 68th Armored is part of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, which is among other units assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, providing “combat-credible forces” to V Corps, America’s forward-deployed corps in Europe, according to the Army.

August 5, 2022 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Lion 22 Exercise in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia; New AFRICOM Commander Tapped; Troubles in Mali

EXERCISES/TRAINING WITH PARTNERS.

AFRICAN LION 22: Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia.

U.S. Africa Command’s premier annual exercise, African Lion 22, ended nearly a month of training operations across four nations in north and west Africa on June 30.

Sergeant Anthony Ruiz, an infantry squad leader assigned to Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Tunisian troops participate in an integrated training event during African Lion 2022, near Camp Ben Ghilouf, Tunisia on June 21, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Marcela Diazdeleon)

African Lion 22 is a multinational, combined arms joint exercise focused on increasing training and interoperability between U.S. forces and  partners and allies on the African continent to increase security and stability within the region.

Led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force for Africa, the exercise saw operations ranging from maritime training exercises in the Mediterranean waters off Tunisia and Morocco’s Atlantic Coast to field training and combined arms exercises in Ghana and Senegal.

Military units from Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the African nation of Chad, joined U.S. and host nations’ troops in the exercises. A total of 7,500 troops, nearly 4,000 of them from the United States, participated in African Lion, which began on June 6.

African Lion also included a Special Operations cyber exercise, a medical readiness exercise, a humanitarian civil assistance program,  a joint forcible entry with paratroopers, an air exercise with U.S. heavy heavy lift transport, aerial refueling and bomber aircraft.

Approximately 80 Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, along other Guard units from from California, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are training with the Royal Moroccan Army in the northern Sahara Desert as part of African Lion ’22.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Becky Vanshur)

Historically, African Lion has taken place only in Morocco and Tunisia, but this year Ghana and Senegal were added.  While Ghana has participated in the past as observers, “This is the first time that we’re actually doing the exercise in Ghana,” Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, told a June 28 U.S. State Department digital press briefing with African journalists. Speaking from Morocco, Rohling noted that Ghana “has chosen to partner with its African neighbors and the United States to help provide peace and security across the continent.  Ghana has a growing leadership role in regional security.”

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U.S. Africa Command.

President Biden has nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Langley to be the next commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the president’s decision June 9. Langley currently heads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command. He is also the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

AFRICOM, based in Stutgart, Germany, oversees U.S. troops dispersed throughout Africa, including conflict zones such as Somalia, where Biden has decided to return up to 500 troops — withdrawn by the Trump administration — to expedite airstrikes for counter terrorism operations, according to Military Times.

If the Senate confirms Langley, he would succeed Army General Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July 2019. As head of one of the geographical combatant commands, Langley would also be promoted to the rank of full general, making him the first four-star Marine Corps general.

Langley would be in charge of of all U.S. military operations in Africa. The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic, according to The Hill newspaper site.

Speaking from Morocco to a digital State Department press briefing June 28 about African Lion 22, Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, brought up Wagner Group when asked about the rising number of foreign military operations and bases in Africa. The United States and China each have a base in the East African nation of Djibouti and French and U.S. troops have been assisting several West African nations resist terrorist groups like al Queda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

“I think it’s clear that we’ve seen the impact and the destabilizing effect that Wagner brings to Africa and elsewhere. And I think countries that have experienced Wagner Group deployments within their borders found themselves to be a little bit poorer, a little bit weaker, and a little bit less secure,” Rohling said. “So an exercise such as African Lion aims to build capacity as well as the trusted, long-term relationships to address future challenges.  And I think that’s the difference between United States and others that are operating here on the continent.”

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PEACEKEEPING/CONFLICTS

French Troops Leaving Mali.

Concerns have grown that the exit of 2,400 French troops from Mali – the epicenter of violence in the Sahel region and strongholds of both al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates – is worsening violence, destabilizing neighbors and spurring migration.

Coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened France’s alliances in its former colonies, emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of desert and scrub, and opened the door to greater Russian influence.

All the logisticians of France’s Barkhane force are involved in the transfer of military equipment out of Mali after nearly eight years fighting armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and supporting the armed forces of partner countries against the threat. (French Ministry of the Armed Forces photo)

With the withdrawal from Mali expected to be completed by the end of the summer French officials were negotiating in neighboring Niger  to redefine France’s strategy to fight Islamist militants in the Sahel as concerns mount over the growing threat to coastal West African states, Reuters reports.

France’s plan calls for Niger will become the hub for French troops, with some 1,000 soldiers based in the capital Niamey along with fighter jets, drones and helicopters. Some 300-400 French troops would be dispatched for special operations with Nigerien troops in the border regions with Burkina Faso and Mali, French officials told reporters.

West Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Another 700-to-1,000 would be based in Chad with an undisclosed number of special forces operating elsewhere in the region. French troops will no longer carry out missions or pursue militants into Mali once the exit is complete, the officials said.

A key area of concern is how and whether French and European troops will used to support countries in the coastal Gulf of Guinea nations such Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast, where there has been a rise in attacks. Al Qaeda’s regional arm has said it would turn its attention to the region.

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Trouble between Mali and Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, the military-led government in Mali says it is suspending all new rotations of United Nations peacekeeping troops due to national security reasons, the BBC reports. The action comes days after soldiers from the Ivory Coast were arrested on arrival in Mali on suspicion of being mercenaries.

Officials in Ivory Coast said they were there to support the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, under an agreed contract between the two countries. The junta in Mali, which is trying to put down an Islamist insurgency, says its foreign ministry was not informed of the deployment via the official channels.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the troops were not officially part of MINUSMA but came as “support of their contingents,” what he described as “a common practice in peacekeeping missions,” the VoA website reported. The Malian government labeled them “mercenaries.” Ivory Coast has called for their release.

Peacekeepers serving with the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). (Photo: MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko)

The arrests were not mentioned in the statement announcing the peacekeeper suspension.

Since April, the U.N. has been seeking access to the town of Moura, where locals told human rights investigators and journalists that the army and Russian mercenaries carried out a massacre over five days.

The mandate for the mission in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29. During renewal talks, Mali’s U.N. representative said the government would not allow the United Nations to carry out investigations of alleged human rights abuses as part of its mandate.

The U.N. mission in Mali has almost 12,000 troops and 1,700 police officers. It is a visible presence in many of Mali’s northern cities, which were taken over by Islamist militants in 2012 and have seen increasing insecurity in recent months following the French army’s withdrawal from the country, according to VoA.

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Egypt Halts Its Mali Troop Rotation.

Egypt has told the United Nations it will temporarily suspend the activities of its contingent in a Mali peacekeeping mission, citing increased attacks on its peacekeepers who escort convoys supplying U.N. bases, Reuters reported July 15.

The attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year. Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.

July 17, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 1, 2022)

STILL LIFE WITH GALAXY.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Stewart ) Click on photo to enlarge the image

Army Sergeant Justin Covert mans an M1A2 .50-caliber machine gun on a Stryker vehicle during training on May 24, 2022 at Fort Irwin, California with the Milky Way galaxy visible overhead.

The original M2 “Ma Deuce” .50 Caliber Machine Gun is a belt-fed, heavy machine gun that mounts on most aircraft and vehicles and can be fired from a tripod. The system is highly effective against light armored vehicles, low- and slow-flying aircraft, boats and enemy personnel.

The Stryker is a wheeled armored vehicle that combines firepower, battlefield mobility, survivability and versatility, with reduced logistical requirements. Manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, the Stryker family of vehicles consists of nine variants of eight-wheeled armored vehicles mounted on a common chassis that provide transport for troops, weapons, and command and control.

Fort Irwin, located in the Mojave Desert between Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angleles, is home to the Army’s National Training Center.

For a short (2:14 minutes) video of Marines learning how to load and operate the M1A2, click here.

A very short National Guard video shows some of the ins and outs of the Stryker. Click here to see it.

July 1, 2022 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: More Heroics of the Greatest Generation

WORLD WAR II.

Last Surviving WWII Medal of Honor Recipient Passes.

Hershel W. “Woody” Williams, the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, died June 29.

Williams’ passing at age 98 “marks not just the death of a hero, but the end of a line of heroes of the Greatest Generation,” the Defense Department said .

President Harry Truman congratulates Hershel “Woody” Williams at the White House on October 5, 1945 after awarding the Marine the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jim in World War II.

Williams landed on Iwo Jima on Feb. 21, 1945, with 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. Two days later, he famously destroyed enemy emplacements with a flamethrower, going forward alone into machine gun fire, covered only by four riflemen, according to Marine Corps Times.

Williams’ Medal of Honor citation can be found here:

He was discharged in 1945, but stayed in the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement. He continued to serve through his foundation, the Woody Williams Foundation, which honors families who have lost a loved one in service to their country.

“From his actions on Iwo Jima to his lifelong service to our Gold Star Families, Woody has left an indelible mark on the legacy of our Corps,” Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black, said in a statement, SEAPOWER reported.  “As the last of America’s “greatest generation” to receive the Medal of Honor, we will forever carry with us the memory of his selfless dedication to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to our great nation. The Marine Corps is fortunate to have many heroes, but there is only one Woody Williams. Semper Fidelis, Marine,”

Hershel “Woody” Williams was a guest at a sunset parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 2, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Jason Kolela)

In 2020, the Navy commissioned the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams in his honor.

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Last Survivor Of Malmedy Massacre.

Harold Billow, the last known survivor of the infamous Malmedy Massacre during World War II died May 17 at the age of 99, The Associated Press reported.

Harold Billow, last known living survivor of World War II Malmedy Massacre died May 17, 2022. (Photo: The World War II Foundation tweet)

Billow was attached to the Army’s 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944-January 1945 when German forces launched a last ditch offensive in Belgium to try to stem the war’s tide.

On the second day of the surprise German offensive, December 17, 1944, Billow’s lightly armed unit surrendered after a brief battle and he was taken prisoner by Waffen SS soldiers. According to various accounts, the Germans opened fire on the unarmed prisoners in a field, killing more than 80 in what came to be known as the Malmedy Massacre.

“As soon as the machine gun started firing, I went face down in the snow,” Billow told Lancaster Online in 2019. He played dead as the Germans checked for survivors. Billow said he stayed there for several hours before he and other survivors bolted. He made his way through hedgerows before reaching the safety of American lines.

After the war, he was called to testify at a war crimes trial in which 43 German soldiers were sentenced to death for the Malmedy Massacre. However, they were eventually released after investigators determined U.S. guards had coerced confessions.

Massacred American Soldiers Near Malmédy December 17, 1944. (US Army Center for Military History)

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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.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

June 30, 2022 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Juneteenth 2022; Happy Birthday U.S. Army; Flag Day

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865 did not end the Civil War. There were still two armies, one in North Carolina commanded by Joseph Johnston and another in the West commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith. Johnston surrendered on April 26 and Kirby Smith surrendered on May 26, 1865.

But that still did not end slavery in Texas. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 — more than two months after Lee’s surrender — when U.S. Major General Gordon sailed across Galveston Bay with 1,800 Union troops and announced his General Order No. 3.

General Order No. 3 informed the people of Texas that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States (President Lincoln), all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Until then, the estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas did not know that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them — and all the other slaves in states in open rebellion against Washington, as of January 1863. It’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t be enforced until Union troops gained control of each state that had left the Union.

June 19th, or Juneteenth, slowly grew to be seen as a second independence day — marking the end of legal slavery — by African Americans, first in Texas, where it became a legal holiday in 1980 and elsewhere culminating in 2021 when legislation making June 19 a federal holiday was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

As we wrote at this time last year, we hope that Juneteenth will grow to be appreciated by all Americans, and that whites and other people of color will see it as something more than a black holiday marking the beginning — just the very beginning — of the United States of America doing the right thing about racial inequality.

And we hope people of color will realize than in addition to the 180,000 black soldiers who fought for freedom, thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of white men and boys fought and died, not just to preserve the union, but to set other people free.

We all have a stake in the meaning of Juneteenth.

 

Statue in St. Louis, Missouri of Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, who unsuccessfully sued in 1846 for freedom for themselves and their two daughters, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott Decision. The newspaper coverage of the ruling and the 10-year legal battle fueled outrage in non-slave states, increasing political tensions that sparked the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright Sonoma Road Strategies. 2022.)

Your 4GWAR editor, on travel gathering information for future articles and blog posts, missed two other June commemorations this week: the U.S. Army’s 247th birthday and Flag Day — both on June 14.

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U.S. ARMY, 247 YEARS YOUNG.

On June 14, 1775 — at the urging of John Adams (the future 2nd U.S. president) — the Continental Congress, in effect, created the U.S. Army by voting $2 million in funding for the colonial militias around Boston and New York City.

Congress also ordered the raising of ten companies of expert riflemen from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Together with the ragtag militias in New England and New York they would form the first Continental Army. George Washington of Virginia, one of the few colonials with military command experience would take command in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, perform at a military tattoo marking the Army’s 237th birthday. (U.S. Army photo)

When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Congress ordered the last Continental Army to disband. Its remaining soldiers were discharged on June 2, 1784. Congress retained two companies to safeguard military arms and stores. The next day, Congress voted to form, from this nucleus, the 1st American Regiment for national service. By the fall of 1784, the whole U.S. Army was this one regiment, consisting of eight infantry and two artillery companies.

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FLAG DAY

June 14 is also Flag Day in the United States, to commemorate the day in 1777 when Congress adopted the 13-star, 13-red-and-white-striped flag as the year-old republic’s national flag. Flag day was celebrated on various days in various ways around the United States until the 20th century.

As war wracked Europe and the Middle East in 1916, it looked more and more like the United States would be drawn into the Great War. To inspire unity and patriotism, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress — but it’s not an official federal holiday.

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze (via wikipedia)

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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.

June 19, 2022 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: D-Day Remembered and Other Greatest Generation Notes

D-DAY, PLUS 78 YEARS.

One of the monuments to U.S. D-Day Landings in Normandy, France. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Akeel Austin)

D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, is the day when more than 160,000 Allied forces landed in Nazi-occupied France as part of the biggest air, land and sea invasion ever executed. It ended with heavy casualties — more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in those first 24 hours.

Still, D-Day is largely considered the successful beginning of the end of Hitler’s tyrannical regime and the war in Europe.

A bird’s-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons and Allied troops landing in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo By: U.S. Maritime Commission)

In the past we’ve mostly written about the airborne landings the night before D-Day, largely because 37 years ago your 4GWAR editor once interviewed a Catholic priest who jumped into the dark as a chaplain with the 101st Airborne Division. But this year, we thought we’d try something different.

Here’s a D-Day quiz that Defense Department had on their website for the 78th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy. See how you do.

And here’s a 2016 article the Defense Department rolled out again this year: Five Things You May Not Know About D-Day.

And let’s not forget the Boys of ’44.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Vincent Levelev)

These are some of the World War II Veterans, and representatives of those who could not be in attendance, receiving a challenge coin at the Eternal Heroes Monument in Normandy, France, on June 2, 2022. World War II Veterans and representatives of the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division’s (Air Assault) came to honor fallen Paratroopers who liberated Ravenoville in June of 1944.

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BATTLE OF MIDWAY REMEMBERED.

Another decisive battle in World War II also took place in June — on the other side of the world against a different enemy.

June 4, marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, considered by most military historians to be the turning point in the Pacific during the Second World War.

Torpedo bombers on the flight deck of the US Enterprise CV-6 just before the Battle of Midway (Navy archival photo)

In 1942, a large Japanese fleet, led by four heavy aircraft carriers, planned to destroy the three U.S. carriers they missed during the Pearl Harbor attack six months earlier. But by early June, Naval Intelligence had cracked the Imperial Japanese Navy code and Admiral Chester Nimitz, the head of the Navy’s Pacific forces, knew where the enemy was and what their plans were.

After three days of battle, where the opposing surface ships never saw each other, Japan lost all four of its heavy carriers as well as hundreds of planes and thousands of sailors and pilots. U.S. losses were limited to one carrier – the USS Yorktown (CV-5) – a destroyer, the USS Hammann (DD-412), less than 150 planes and 305 men. After Midway, Japan was never able to launch a large naval offensive again.

To commemorate that historic victory, two EA-18G Growlers — electronic warfare aircraft — conducted a fly-by during a ceremony being held aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111). In the photo below one can see the Growlers approaching as the ship’s crew salute the ensign (flag) during the playing of the National Anthem.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor Crenshaw)

The Spruance is named for Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, considered the victor at Midway. He commanded Task Force 16, which included the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6). Once within range of the advancing Japanese fleet, he capitalized on the element of surprise to launch the decisive attack near Midway.

Spruance is part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in the Western Pacific. The June 4 ceremony was held less than 1,000 miles from the 1942 battle zone.

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GOLD MEDAL FOR MERRILL’S MARAUDERS.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded May 25 in a virtual Capitol Hill ceremony to a famed World War II Army special operations outfit, the 5307th Composite Unit, better known as Merrill’s Marauders.

Merrill’s Marauders crossing a jungle river with pack animals.
(U.S. Army photo)

Created as a long range, light infantry unit trained in jungle warfare, the 5307th, code-named Galahad, was tasked with penetrating deep into Japanese-held territory to disrupt communications, cut supply lines and capture an airfield in Burma.

The volunteer unit was formed in 1943, with more than 900 jungle-trained officers and men from Caribbean Defense Command, 600 Army veterans of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign, a few hundred more from Southwest Pacific Command, veterans of the New Guinea and Bougainville campaigns, and another 900 jungle-trained troops from Army Ground Forces stateside. Fourteen Japanese-American (Nisei) Military Intelligence Service translators were also assigned to the unit. In just five months in 1944, the Marauders fought often larger Japanese forces in 32 engagements including five major battles across some of the toughest conditions of the war: the disease-infested jungles of Burma and the rugged foothills of the Himalayas.

“Merrill’s Marauders stand among the great heroes of our history. Nearly 80 years later, Americans remain in awe of their courage, valor and patriotism – willing to go where no others would dare,” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said during the gold medal ceremony.

“On behalf of the United States Congress and all Americans, I’m honored to present this Congressional Gold Medal to Merrill’s Marauders in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service. May this medal serve as an expression of our nation’s deepest gratitude and respect. And may its place in the Smithsonian remind future generations of the Marauders’ fight for freedom and democracy,” Pelosi said.

She also cited lawmakers who worked for years to get the congressional recognition for the Marauders — the late Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Congressman Sanford Bishop Jr. of Georgia and former Congressman Peter King of New York.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, then-Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China. In their final mission, the Marauders were ordered to push enemy forces out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma, according to Military Times

Brigadier General Frank Merrill, commander of “Merrill’s Marauders,” poses between two of the 14 Japanese-American interpreters assigned to the unit, Tech Sergeants Herbert Miyasaki and Akiji Yoshimura in Burma on May 1, 1944. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Weakened by disease, malnourishment and enemy attacks during their march through Burma, the Marauders, effective force dwindled from nearly 3,000 men to 1,500. Even with reduced numbers of the 5307th was still able to take the airfield on May 17, 1944. But the nearby town of Myitkyina proved to have a larger Japanese garrison than intelligence reports indicated. It was only with Chinese reinforcements that the town fell to Allied troops on August 3. After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat.

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia. Considered a forerunner of today’s Special Operations troops, the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment’s distinctive unit insignia honors the legacy of the Marauders by replicating the design of their shoulder shoulder sleeve insignia.

The colors used to identify the Marauders can be found on every tan beret worn by a Ranger, said Colonel J.D. “Jim” Keirsey, commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The Rangers’ crest displays a star, sun and lightning bolt to symbolize the “behind enemy lines, deep-strike character” of their predecessors, he said, according to the Stars and Stripes 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.

June 6, 2022 at 11:52 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 3, 2022)

SWEETHEART OF THE AIRBORNE.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Catessa Palone) Click on photo to enlarge image.

A little Polish girl enchants U.S. Army paratroopers during a festival celebrating Poland’s Constitution Day in Rzezsow, Poland, May 3, 2022.

May 3 is a national holiday commemorating the adoption of the Polish-Lithuanian Constitution of May 3, 1791. The May 3 Constitution was the first written democratic national constitution in Europe, and the world’s second, after the United States Constitution, adopted on June 21, 1788. 

The paratroopers, from Task Force Dragon and Task Force 82, were invited to join in the festivities of “Swieto Paniagi,” festival including a parade, concerts, performances and outdoor attractions.

Thousands of U.S. troops were sent to Eastern Europe in early February to reassure Allies and reaffirm the United States’ NATO commitment as Moscow massed 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.

Soldiers from the XVIII Airborne Corps established Task Force Dragon in Europe to help deter further Russian aggression amid its invasion of Ukraine February 24. They included units from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

June 3, 2022 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 20, 2022)

ALREADY THERE.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Elizabeth MacPherson) Click to enlarge

Another U.S. Army armored convoy of Stryker armored vehicles transiting a Pennsylvania highway? Nope. Germany? Guess again. If you have trouble reading the blue road sign on the right side of the photo, one reason could be because it’s in Finnish.

This is Outlaw Troop, 4th Squadron of the 2d Cavalry Regiment, leading a convoy from Niinisalo Training Area, Finland as part of Exercise Arrow on May 8, 2022.

Finland is not a member of NATO, yet, but the Finns, and their neighbors the Swedes, have been participating as partner nations in joint exercises with NATO forces for years. Nevertheless, both Finland and Sweden — while not neutral — have been firmly nonaligned with NATO, the Soviet Union or Russia until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 “upended their thinking about security,” according to The Washington Post. Both Nordic countries are already members of the European Union.

Moscow has objected to widening NATO’s membership, especially to include countries like Finland that have long borders with Russia. But as this week’s FRIFO shows, troops from the United States and other NATO states are already training on Finnish soil.

Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join NATO on May 18. “You are our closest partners. And your membership in NATO would increase our shared security,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors to NATO when they handed in the applications.

Exercise Arrow is an annual, multinational exercise taking place in Finland, where visiting NATO forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Latvia, and Estonia, train together with Finnish Defense Forces.

Training operations include high intensity force-on-force engagements and a live fire exercise. The purpose of the exercise to enhance mechanized units operational and procedural performance, develop interoperability with participating forces and demonstrate the ability to cooperate with partners.

May 20, 2022 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 13, 2022)

DEEP BLUE.

(Canadian Armed Forces Photo by Corporal Hugo Montpetit, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Members from the Royal Canadian Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic and Pacific, assisted by U.S. Army Divers train Caribbean divers in search techniques training during Exercise TRADEWINDS 22 in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize on May 10, 2022.

To watch a video of this training exercise, click here, but you may want to skip it if you’re prone to seasickness.

May 13, 2022 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 29, 2022)

Desert Water Hazard.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Blake Wiles)

OK, hold on tight. This one will make your head spin.

This week’s photo shows U.S. troops with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) performing a swimming obstacle course during a French Desert Commando Course (FDCC) pre-assessment  — that’s right a Desert Commando Course — in the East African nation of Djibouti on April 19, 2022.

During the FDCC, participants are evaluated on mountain confidence, knot tying, night obstacle courses, aquatic obstacle courses, and battle maneuver tactics as well as physical challenges like timed pushups.  Since 2015, the French Forces stationed in Djibouti, a former French colony, have invited U.S. service members at Camp Lemonnier (the only U.S. base on the African continent) to participate in the course at the 5th Overseas Interarms Regiment base in Dijbouti.

The 5th OIR is a troupes de marine regiment, and has been the Djibouti garrison since November 1969. Despite its name, the Marine troops are part of the French Army, not the Navy.

April 28, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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