Posts filed under ‘Army’

SHAKO/FRIDAY FOTO: Devil Dogs

The Devil Dogs’ Dogs

Dog days aboard Wasp

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Bernadette Plouffe)

Marine Corps military working dogs rest at the feet of their handlers aboard the USS Wasp in the South China Sea on October 1, 2018.

O.K., this is kind of an unusual format for the 4GWAR blog, but since November 10 marks the U.S. Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, we seized on the opportunity to combine the regular Friday Foto for November 9, with a SHAKO feature on a World War I battle that has taken its place with other iconic engagements like Iwo Jima and Tripoli in the history of the Corps.

The nearly month-long Battle of Belleau Wood (June 1-26, 1918) was the first major engagement of American troops on the Western Front in World War I. It also is one of the most significant battles fought by the U.S. Marines, earning them France’s highest military award and the nickname Devil Dogs from the Germans.

Belleau Wood painting

Marines in close combat as depicted in Franc-Earle Schoonover’s Belleau Wood. (National Museum of the Marine Corps collection)

The 4th Marine Brigade, some 9,500 men, was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, one of the U.S. units rushed to France just a few months after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. The Marine Brigade consisted of two regiments — the 5th Marines and the 6th Marines — each with three 800-man rifle battalions and a machine gun company.

One June 1, a major German offensive moved south to the Marne River, where they were held at Chateau Thierry by French troops reinforced by the U.S. Army. One of the leading German assault regiments, the 461st Imperial German Infantry, occupied Belleau Wood, a former hunting preserve about 50 miles northwest of Paris. It was a nearly impenetrable forest of dense underbrush, trees, boulders and ravines.

In early June, the Marine Brigade was dug into a defensive line near Belleau Wood, facing a wheat field. More than 2,000 Germans with 30 machine guns were dug in amid the trees and rocks. There were 100 more Germans with at least six machine guns concentrated in the nearby village of Bouresches.

Retreating French troops advised the Marines to withdraw. “Retreat? Hell we just got here,” snapped a company commander with the 5th Marines, Captain Lloyd Williams, whose remark that went down in Marine Corps lore.

800px-DanielDaly

Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly. (Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections)

The Marines took and held Bouresches and drove the Germans out of the  But success came at a horrendous cost. Relying on their celebrated marksmanship (“Every Marine a Rifleman”) the Marines advanced about 400 yards across the wheat field without concentrated artillery support. Heavy German machine gun and artillery fire cut the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marines to shreds.  The 6th Marines’ 3rd Battalion managed to make it to the edge of the woods before enemy fire stalled the advance. In the confusion of battle, another iconic Marine Corps legend was born when Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly — who had earned the Medal of Honor twice , in Peking in 1900 and Haiti in 1915 — turned to his men and growled “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”

By nightfall on the first day of battle, both Marine battalions suffered  debilitating casualties. Six officers and 222 enlisted men of the 4th Marine Brigade were killed in action. Another 25 officers and 834 men were wounded. This amounted to more casualties than the Marines had suffered in their entire history up until that day, Norwich University professor David Ulbrich observed in an anniversary piece for War on the Rocks.

As the Marines moved into Belleau Wood itself, the fighting seemed especially grim, with hand-to-hand fighting, fixed bayonets and poison gas attacks, noted Michael Ruane in a Washington Post column last May.  The headline on his piece noted: “The Battle of Belleau Wood was brutal, deadly and forgotten. But it forged a new Marine Corps.”

Exploding shells splintered the trees, raining down a deadly shower of wood splinters and metal shrapnel. The Americans and Germans grappled in hand-to-hand combat with knives, rifle butts, bayonets and entrenching shovels.

Belleau Wood shattered trees 1918

Tree Damage, Belleau Wood, circa 1918. An inscription on the photograph reads “Every tree in Belleau Wood bears the scars of battle.” (From the collection of Adolph B. Miller (COLL/1068), United States Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections.)

After three weeks of heavy combat, the Germans were driven out of Belleau Wood. The Marines reached the northern edge of the woods on June 26, sending out the report; “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.

The victory at Belleau Wood had saved Paris and the French were delirious with joy.  The French government renamed Belleau Wood, the “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” and both the 5th and 6th Marine regiments were awarded the Croix de Guerre.

The Germans, too were impressed with the Marines. An official German report described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident and remarkable marksmen.” Captured German soldiers and their letters described the Marines as Teufelhunde, or Devil Dogs.”

Marines in gas masks

Marines train with gas masks in France. (Photo: Marine Corps History Division)

 

 

 

Advertisements

November 11, 2018 at 12:47 am 1 comment

SHAKO: Why Elections Matter in 1 Picture and 4 Maps.

Make Sure You Vote … They Did.

soldiers-voting

PENNSYLVANIA SOLDIERS VOTING 1864 .-SKETCHED BY WILLIAM WAUD. (From Harper’s Weekly, October 29, 1864 via  Son of the South website)

The Civil War was the first time the United States had large numbers of soldiers deployed during a presidential election. Politicians of both parties were convinced that the army would vote for the commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. As a result, most states with Republican governors and legislatures passed laws enabling soldiers to vote, while most states led by Democrats did not.

 

825x550

A political map of the United States (circa 1856) showing free states in red, slave states in gray and territories in green. (From the Library of Congress)

The Dred Scott decision of 1857, in which the U.S. Supreme Court voided the Missouri Compromise (1820) and made slavery legal in all U.S. territories, exacerbated sectional differences between thos e who wanted to abolish slavery and those who sought to protect the institution. That volatile political climate set the stage for the presidential election of 1860.

 

1200px-ElectoralCollege1860.svg

Presidential Election 1860. Red shows states won by Lincoln/Hamlin, green by Breckinridge/Lane, orange by Bell/Everett, and blue by Douglas/Johnson
Numbers are Electoral College votes in each state by the 1850 Census. (via Wikipedia)

In the election of 1860, Southern and Northern Democrats split their support among Vice President John Breckinridge of Kentucky and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, while others, seeking to ignore the slavery issue, backed former Tennessee Senator John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. Those divisions put the Republican, Abraham Lincoln, in the White House with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, and put the slave-holding states of the South on the road to disunion and civil war.

Secession_Vote_by_CountyA.0

While eleven states voted for secession between December 1860 and June 1861, support for leaving the Union was not unanimous in many Souther counties as the above map shows. (Map via Vox)

Likewise, the Union army’s support for President Lincoln may not have been as widespread as historians have assumed, argues one academic. Lincoln was re-elected as president in 1864. He ran under the National Union banner against his former top Civil War general, the Democratic candidate, George B. McClellan — who had been very popular with the troops of the Army of the Potomac.

USAMAP1864

(Map created by History Central)

*******488px-Shako-p1000580

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.

 

November 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 12, 2018)

Remembering “A Bridge Too Far”

All American Engineers Honor Valor, Sacrifice of WWII Waal River Crossing

(U.S. Army photo by Major Thomas Cieslak)

Paratroopers paddle rubber boats across a pond at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on October 3, 2018, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the crossing of the Waal River under heavy German fire by 82nd Airborne Division troops during World War II.

The near suicidal mission — the boats were canvas and wood, there weren’t enough paddles to go around so soldiers used their rifle stocks, they launched the attack in broad daylight and the Germans knew they were coming — was part of the failed British plan to leapfrog across the Netherlands and into Germany, known as Operation Market Garden.

Led by Major Julian Cook’s 3rd Battalion of the 82nd’s 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the attack crossed the 250-foot wide Waal under blistering mortar, machine gun and rifle fire and took the north end of the bridge. That allowed Allied tanks to cross on their way to Arnhem to relieve British paratroopers holding another bridge. However, heavy German resistance along the exposed, narrow roads thwarted the advance, proving Arnhem was just “a bridge too far.”

Here’s a brief video of 82nd Airborne veteran, James “Maggie” Megellas, describing the attack. Operation Market Garden inspired a book, and later a feature film — both called “A Bridge Too Far.”

In the movie, Robert Redford portrays Cook leading a crossing he knows is insanely dangerous, with a non-stop “Hail Mary,” prayer. Here’s a film clip, that puts the action in perspective. It starts with Allied tank and artillery fire trying to dislodge the entrenched Germans across the river, and German officers planning to blow the bridge in the unlikely event the Americans make it across the river.

October 12, 2018 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

1918, The Final Weeks: Aerial Combat

The Arizona Balloon Buster.

Frankluke

Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. with his SPAD S.XIII on September 19, 1918.

Some legendary World War I aviators — like Germany’s Red Baron, Manfred von Richtofen, or America’s top ace, Eddie Rickenbacker — are still well known to many today.

However, Frank Luke Jr., has seldom been a household name, even though he was the No. 2 U.S. aerial ace during the Great War and earned the Medal of Honor.

Young, handsome and feisty (he was often in trouble with his superiors) Luke had the temperment, skills and killer instinct shared by the best fighter pilots on both sides. And in just a few short weeks in 1918, he shot down eight German planes and 14 enemy observation balloons. His head-on attacks on the hydrogen-filled, heavily guarded balloons earned him the nickname the “Arizona Balloon Buster.”

During a seven-day period, September 12-18, 1918 — two days of which he did not fly — Luke scored 13 confirmed victories, including five victories (two balloons and three airplanes) on the last day, according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Luke was born in 1897 in Phoenix, Arizona — ironically the son of German immigrants — and with anti-German feeling running high after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 (remember sauerkraut’s name was changed to “Liberty Cabbage”) he enlisted almost immediately in the U.S. Army. He joined the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps, earned his wings and sailed for France. He was assigned to the famed 27th Aero Squadron in July 1918.

In September 1918, Luke began a personal campaign against German observation balloons and airplanes. In a single week, he scored 13 confirmed victories, including three aircraft and two balloons in one day.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOKERA:  WORLD WAR I/AVIATION, PHOTOGRAPHY, OBSERVATION

Luke brought down three German observation balloons in 35 minutes. He stands beside one of his kills. (U.S. Army photo)

His final flight took place during the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in late September 1918. After shooting down three observation balloons six miles behind the German lines, Luke was severely wounded by a single machine gun bullet on September 29, 1918. He landed in a field just west of the small village of Murvaux — after strafing a group of German soldiers on the ground. Weakened by his wound, he collapsed some 200 meters from his airplane. There are contradicting stories about what happened next. Some say Luke drew his Colt 1911 pistol as German infantry approached  and fired a few rounds at his attackers before dying. Others state he refused enemy calls for his surrender and killed several Germans before succumbing to his chest wound.

Here is the official Medal of Honor citation:

After having previously destroyed a number of enemy aircraft within 17 days he voluntarily started on a patrol after German observation balloons. Though pursued by 8 German planes which were protecting the enemy balloon line, he unhesitatingly attacked and shot down in flames 3 German balloons, being himself under heavy fire from ground batteries and the hostile planes. Severely wounded, he descended to within 50 meters of the ground, and flying at this low altitude near the town of Murvaux opened fire upon enemy troops, killing 6 and wounding as many more. Forced to make a landing and surrounded on all sides by the enemy, who called upon him to surrender, he drew his automatic pistol and defended himself gallantly until he fell dead from a wound in the chest.

Luke Air Force Base, located west of Phoenix, Arizona, is named for the Balloon Buster.

October 4, 2018 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Ground Combat Vehicles

Planning Ahead.

Back in the Fight!

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle moves into position during training at Fort Irwin, Calif., August 6, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May).

The U.S. military is changing the way it will fight in the next 30 years. The rise of China as a global competitor and Russia’s increasing belligerence in the regions around the Baltic and Black seas, have U.S. military planners – especially in the Army — rethinking their procurement needs, including what kind of armored ground combat vehicles will be needed.

“Russia and China continue to assert themselves in an effort to gain dominance in key regions and are developing advanced weapons to achieve parity both strategically and in close combat,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told a Senate appropriations panel in May. The potential threat was on full display in mid-September when Russia conducted its largest military exercise since the Cold War in Eastern Siberia.  The week-long Vostok 2018 maneuvers, involved not only 300,000 Russian personnel, but 3,200 Chinese troops and 36,000 tanks and other armored ground vehicles.

But prototypes of the Army’s future ground combat vehicles are not expected to be delivered for another two or three years. So U.S. military leaders are looking for interim defensive systems that can protect tank and armored vehicle crews from advanced armor-piercing shells and missiles. The usual solution–adding more armor– isn’t feasible with 70-ton M1A Abrams tanks already too heavy for Eastern European bridges to accommodate.

The added weight of heavier armor–sometimes several tons–can slow the vehicle down, make it less maneuverable and complicates logistics from transportation to maintenance to repair. Instead, the Defense Department is looking at lightweight, off-the-shelf solutions utilizing active or passive technology. Active protection systems, or APS, use physical countermeasures, such as blast or projectiles that destroy or limit the impact of incoming fire.

In February, officials announced the Army would buy the Trophy active protection system — made by Israel’s Rafael — for more than 250 of the Abrams main battle tanks. Currently deployed with the Israeli Defense Force, Trophy is the only battle-tested APS in the Western world, although Russia has had success with its own APS in Ukraine. Trophy maintains a ring of radar around the vehicle to detect threats in all directions. Once the system detects an incoming weapon, Trophy tracks it, determines its trajectory and destroys it with a blast of metal pellets like a shotgun.

Bravo Company, 1/4 Mechanized Raid

(Marines operate an assault amphibious vehicle during a simulated mechanized raid at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., on August 28, 2018. The shaped steel Enhanced Applique Armor Kit is visible on the AAV’s flank. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Private First Class Brendan Mullin).

There are also “passive” solutions of specialized armor plating that use composite materials to simply deflect or absorbs blasts and projectiles, like the EAAK (Enhanced Applique Armor Kit), developed by Rafael and installed on the U.S. Marine Corps’ ageing Assault Amphibious Vehicles. Baseline protection was increased through a shaped-steel external armor fitting. However, that forced modifications to the engine and suspension system to counter the additional weight of the EAAK installation.

A survivability upgrade that would have replaced the EAKK armor with more advanced defensive and amphibious technology was cancelled by the Marine Corps in late September, according to USNI News.

Metal Foam

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a range of composite metal foams that are lighter and stronger than the materials they are made of. The composite material offers much more protection that all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight by as much as one-third, say researchers. (Photo by Afsaneh Rabiei)

One promising composite solution is metal foam, literally metal with sponge-like holes, that combines strength, thermal shielding and both ballistic and thermal radiation detection. Developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, composite metal foam, or CMF, “offers much more protection than all other existing armor materials while lowering the weight remarkably,” according to Afsaneh Rabiei, senior author of the paper outlining CMF’s benefits. “We can provide as much protection as existing steel armor at a fraction of the weight – or provide much more protection at the same weight,” added Rabiei, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at N.C. State.

Advanced armor materials will be among the topics discussed at IDGA’s Future Ground Combat Vehicles summit in Detroit, December 5-7. Click here for more information.

September 27, 2018 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 21, 2018)

Worth a thousand words.

Florence Flooding in Bladen County

(Nebraska National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley)

Nebraska Army National Guard Spc. Matthew Reidy surveys the flooding from the air on September 19 (Wednesday) in Bladen County, North Carolina.

Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and 13 Soldiers assigned to a Lincoln-based Nebraska National Guard aviation unit supported the ongoing Hurricane Florence relief operations from the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Raleigh International Airport in North Carolina. The Company G, 2-104th General Aviation Battalion Soldiers are equipped and trained to conduct search and rescue operations, as well as air movement missions.

For days, the storm dumped relentless rain — in some places about 3 feet — and rivers keep on rising. The storm’s death toll ticked up to 41 people in the Mid-Atlantic region on Thursday (September 20); 31 of them in North Carolina alone, according to NPR.

The disaster sparked a widespread government response from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard units — as well as the Department of Homeland Security and local emergency workers.

September 21, 2018 at 8:10 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 24, 2018)

Training Squeeze.

Firefighter Confined Space Training at CSTX 86-18-02

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist John Russell)

Army Specialist Alex Thompson crawls through a tunnel during confined space familiarization training at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin on August 13, 2018.

Thompson is a reservist assigned to the 376th Engineer Firefighter Detachment.

The photo below shows another soldier, Army Private Kenneth Collins, pulling himself from the tunnel. Confined space  indeed!

Firefighter Confined Space Training at CSTX 86-18-02

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist John Russell)

August 24, 2018 at 11:14 am 3 comments

Older Posts


Posts

November 2018
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Categories


%d bloggers like this: