Monday, December 12, 2011

Firepower Breakdown - AC-130U Spectre

The AC-130U model Spectre. This particular aircraft is in operation with the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The primary mission of the AC-130U Spectre is to deliver precision firepower in support of Close Air Support (CAS) for special operations and conventional ground forces. CAS is defined as air action against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and that require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces. The Spectre can provide accurate fire support with limited collateral damage and can remain on station for extended periods of time. These activities are normally carried out under cover of darkness.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bomber Breakdown - Petlyakov Pe-8

The Petlyakov Pe-8 was a Soviet heavy bomber designed before World War II, and the only four-engine bomber the USSR built during the war. Originally designated the TB-7, the aircraft was renamed the Pe-8 after its primary designer, Vladimir Petlyakov, died in a plane crash in 1942. Supply problems, inexperienced pilots and crews (compared to the pilots of the Luftwaffe), and persistent engine problems heavily hindered the bomber's effectiveness throughout the war. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Bombers 1939-1945 by Chris Chant. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From the Pages - The USS Dale at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

By Michael Keith Olson, author of Tales from a Tin Can: The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay.
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Pilots aboard Nagumo’s six carriers awoke very early from what surely must have been a nervous sleep. Yet, despite all of the anxiety, Flight Commander Fuchida found Lieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata, leader of the torpedo bombers who would soon strike Pearl Harbor’s battleship row, hungrily wolfing down a hearty breakfast. Murata called out, “Good morning, Commander Fuchida. Honolulu sleeps!”

“How do you know?” Fuchida asked.

“The Honolulu radio plays soft music,” Murata responded. “Everything is fine!”    

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

From the Pages - Misdiagnosing the Threat to Pearl Harbor

By William Hopkins, from The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players That Won the War
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The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came as a tremendous shock to the American public. Most believed that if war came it would be against Germany and Italy, and most Americans failed to recognize that the United States was unprepared to fight an aggressive war. Most believed the nation was much stronger militarily than was the case and that no nation would dare attack. War became inevitable with the change of command in Tokyo on 16 October 1941. With Emperor Hirohito’s blessing, Gen. Hideki Tojo, the Japanese army’s strongest advocate of war and the main opponent of withdrawal from China, became the prime minister. He relieved Prince Fuminaro Konoe. In his letter of resignation, Konoe pointed out that on four separate occasions he had sought to withdraw troops in order to preserve peace with the United States, while Tojo had opposed both the action and its purpose. “With the China incident unresolved, he, as a loyal subject of the emperor, could not take on the responsibilities of entering into a huge new war whose outcome could not be foreseen.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Military Snapshot - USS Missouri Celebrating Anniversary of Japanese Surrender

The last battleship built by the United States, the USS Missouri was the site of the surrender of the Empire of Japan which ended World War II. In this photo, the Missouri's crew celebrates the fourth anniversary of the Japanese surrender on her decks. Turret two is trained as it was on September 2, 1945. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy, from USS Missouri at War by Kit & Carolyn Bonner.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Warbird Breakdown - Lavochkin La-7

The Lavochkin La-7 was a piston-engined Soviet fighter developed during World War II by the Lavochkin Design Bureau (OKB). It was the final development and refinement of the Lavochkin La-5, and the last in a family of aircraft that had begun with the LaGG-1 in 1938. The La-7 was felt by its pilots to be at least the equal of any German piston-engined fighter and played a significant role as both a bomber and fighter in the Soviet Union’s push west in mid-1944. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Fighter 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

From the Pages - Bloody Nose Ridge (Part 2 of 2)

The following is the second of a two-part excerpt (see Part 1 here) from Dick Camp's Last Man Standing in which men from the legendary 1st Marine Regiment detail their desperate -- and deadly -- struggle to take the now-infamous "Bloody Nose Ridge" on Peleliu Island on D + 2, September 17, 1944. 

In this excerpt, the 1st Marine Regiment's movement up the West Road is brought to a abrupt halt between Hills 200 and 210, a Japanese defensive point that relied heavily upon withering machine gun crossfire that would result in staggering casualties for American forces. For "Chesty" Puller's Marines, this engagement would represent some of the hairiest combat they would see throughout the entire war in the Pacific.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

From the Pages - Bloody Nose Ridge (Part 1 of 2)

The Battle of Peleliu, codenamed Operation Stalemate II, remains one of the most iconic, and controversial, battles in U.S. Marine Corps history. For the Marines of the 1st Marine Regiment, Peleliu would prove especially harrowing. Led into battle by the legendary Col. "Chesty" Puller, the 1st Marine Regiment would suffer unimaginable losses throughout the earliest days of the battle -- losses that would occur on the coral beaches and heavily fortified ridges of an island that resembled Hell on Earth.

The following account from Last Man Standing is the first of a two-part excerpt detailing the 1st Marine Regiment's desperate -- and deadly -- struggle to take the now-infamous "Bloody Nose Ridge" on D + 2, September 17, 1944. It was here that Puller would lead his men in numerous bloody assaults, with every attack quickly neutralized by strategically placed Japanese ridge fortifications supporting one another with deadly crossfire.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bomber Breakdown - Douglas A-20G Havoc

The Douglas A-20G Havoc served as a widely used medium bomber in the U.S. Ninth Army Air Force from 1943-45. The Havoc played a significant role in support of U.S. ground forces during and after the Overlord invasion of Normandy. The bomber would also play a role on the Eastern Front (as many A-20Gs were delivered to the Soviet Union through Lend-Lease) and the Pacific Theater of Operations (used on low-level sorties in the New Guinea campaign). Image and specs excerpted from Allied Bombers 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nine Principal Missions of Special Operations

Current percentage chart of SOCOM service forces.
In the post-9/11 world, the need for special operations forces dramatically increased. With the creation of the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in 2006, Marines officially became a part of the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Initially drawn from the ranks of Force Recon companies, these highly skilled and combat-proven Leathernecks joined their spec ops brethren in taking the war to al-Qaeda and the Taliban in American's global war on terrorism. The following is a list of the principal missions assigned to MARSOC and the other special ops forces.

Monday, November 21, 2011

From the Pages - The German Aces Speak

Generalleutnant Walter Krupinski was one of those men destined to always tempt fate. His fatherly approach and genuine concern for the welfare of his pilots, as well as his respect for captured enemy pilots, illustrated his humanity in a world where savagery was the order of the day. He became a teacher to many pilots, the most notable being the future “Ace of Aces” Erich Hartmann, who learned well from “Krupi” and other experts in JG.52.

By the time Krupinski was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight’s Cross) on October 29, 1942, he had been credited with shooting down 53 Allied aircraft. His final score of 197 could have been much higher, but he never claimed a probable victory or argued over a disputed claim, always giving the victory to the other man. Krupinski probably gave away more than 30 potential victories in that manner.

In the following excerpt from The German Aces SpeakKrupinski recalls meeting, and eventually taking to the skies with, Hartmann.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Warbird Breakdown - Bell P-39L Airacobra

The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service when the United States entered World War II. It was the first fighter in history with a tricycle undercarriage and the first to have the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot. As a key fighter aircraft in the US Twelfth Air Force, the P-39 played an instrumental role in the skies above North Africa in 1942-43. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Fighter 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SpaceShipOne - The Ten Phases of Flight

In April of 2003, a company called Scaled Composites lifted the veil of secrecy from a longtime research program and introduced SpaceShipOne—the world’s first commercially manned spacecraft. The program included an airborne launcher (the White Knight), a space ship (SpaceShipOne), rocket propulsion, avionics, simulator, and full ground support. SpaceShipOne's suborbital spaceflight could be broken down into ten different phases:

1. Liftoff of SpaceShipOne mated to White Knight
2. Captive-carry to launch altitude
3. SpaceShipOne separation from White Knight
4. Supersonic boost to space
5. Coast to apogee
6. Freefall from apogee
7. Supersonic reentry into the atmosphere
8. Descent with feather still up
9. Gliding descent back to runway
10. Horizontal landing

Diagram courtesy of Mojave Aerospace Ventures, LLC and SpaceShipOne, a Paul G. Allen Project, from Burt Rutan's Race to Space by Dan Linehan.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bomber Breakdown - Fairey Barracuda Mk II

The Fairey Barracuda was a British carrier-borne torpedo- and dive bomber used during World War II, the first of its type used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm to be fabricated entirely from metal. It was introduced as a replacement for the Fairey Swordfish, although the Swordfish remained largely preferred by many pilots. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Bombers 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Military Snapshot - Crossing the Ourthe River One Half-track at a Time

During the Battle of the Bulge, Houffalize, Belgium proved to be a strategic location. Specifically, Generals Montgomery and Patton met up there, Montgomery coming from the north and Patton from the south, in their counter-attack against the German forces remaining in the area. In this photo, a U.S. Army half-track crosses a temporary bridge over the Ourthe in the war-torn Belgian city of Houffalize, January 1945. Photo courtesy of Associated Press, from Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge by Martin King and Michael Collins.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beyond the Book - Q & A with Colin D. Heaton, author of "The German Aces Speak"

During World War II, the Third Reich’s fighter pilots destroyed some 70,000 enemy aircraft during the war, with approximately 45,000 destroyed on the Eastern Front.

In his riveting new book The German Aces Speak, author and historian Colin D. Heaton sheds a fascinating, long-overdue light on four of Germany’s most honorable and skilled fighter pilots from World War II. It is a refreshingly in-depth look at the oft-misunderstood German legends who took to the skies, not for their Führer, but for their country.

Heaton recently took a moment to sit down with Zenith Press to discuss his new book, the larger-than-life German aces he was able to interview, and the wealth of first-hand stories that fill his new book's pages.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bomber Breakdown - Short Sunderland GR. Mk III

The Short Sunderland GR. Mk III was a British flying boat patrol bomber developed for the Royal Air Force (RAF) by Short Brothers. It was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats throughout World War II, and was involved in countering the threat posed by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Bombers 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Military Snapshot - Two Brave Souls, a Bed Sheet and a .30-cal

During the Battle of the Bulge, details such as personal camouflage and foxhole cover could mean the different between life and death. In this photo, two GIs use bed sheets as camouflage for themselves and their water-cooled .30-caliber machine gun. While Hitler belittled the fighting abilities of the American soldier, the German soldier soon found how tough they could be during the Battle of the Bulge. Photo courtesy of the National Archives, from War Stories of the Battle of the Bulge by Michael Green & James D. Brown.

Monday, October 31, 2011

From the Pages - The Battle of Pineapple Forest

The Pineapple Forest
November–December 1967

Having moved into the Pineapple Forest on Halloween, Captain Brown and C Troop, as well as the engineers tasked with flattening the area, operated from a base camp on the north edge of the woods. Rolls of concertina wire were staked around the circular patch of raw earth and more than a dozen tents erected inside: troop tents, mess tents, supply tents, a commo tent, and a tent for the command group, too. The engineers pushed up berms behind which the M48s and ACAVs faced outward at night while guarding the perimeter.

The Chinook that resupplied the base camp each morning delivered not only fuel and ammunition but enough foodstuffs to run a diner: doughnuts, eggs, and cartons of milk and orange juice for breakfast; sandwiches, apple pie, and Kool-Aid for lunch; and for dinner, beer, soda, and steaks cooked to order on field stoves. In addition, the troops plucked pineapples and wild bananas during patrols and went fishing with hand grenades. It was not a bad war in the Pineapple Forest, all things considered. Charlie Troop’s platoons alternately protected the bulldozers as they felled trees—very boring—and, weather permitting, for the monsoon rains sometimes produced mud so thick and deep that armor could not pass, ran missions in those sections of the forest not yet scraped clean. The local-force VC did little more than snipe at the intruders destroying their sanctuary, armed as they were with old carbines and Thompson submachine guns, and obsolete bolt-action Mosin Nagant rifles from Russia.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Warbird Breakdown - Blackburn Skua Mk II

The Blackburn Skua Mk II was a carrier-based low-wing, two-seater, single-radial engine aircraft operated by the British Fleet Air Arm which combined the functions of a dive bomber and fighter. It was designed in the mid-1930s, and saw service in the early part of World War II. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Fighters 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Aviation Snapshot - Avengers Over Bairoko Harbor

During World War II, Japan used Bairoko Harbor to resupply its forces at Munda Point, an airstrip situated along the south coast of New Georgia. Allied forces deemed Munda critical for control of this section of the Solomon Islands and necessary for the continued progress northward toward Japan. In this photo, Marine TBF Avengers, stacked through the clouds in defensive formation, carry bombs to soften the Bairoko defenses on July 9, 1943. Official USMC photo, from New Georgia, Bougainville, and Cape Gloucester: The U.S. Marines in World War II by Eric Hammel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

World War II Tactics 101

Ubisoft/Gearbox Software

Entering Buildings
One of our frontline leaders felt that it was better to enter the lower floors of buildings so that, if necessary, the building could be burned from the bottom; he was doubtless bearing in mind that the enemy could do the same if our troops were above. This platoon leader found also that after the ground floor was captured, a few AP shots (from an Ml or BAR) upward through the floors would usually bring remaining enemy down with hands in the air. “When the enemy held out in a basement, a well-tamped charge of TNT on the floor above usually proved effective.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Warbird Breakdown - Lockheed P-38L-5-LO Lightning

The Americans initially believed that the Boeing B-17 heavy bomber's high performance and defensive armament would permit daylight precision bombing with the need for fighter escort. Events proved them wrong. The Lockheed P-38L-5-LO Lightning was one of a number of U.S. fighter aircraft tasked with protecting the all-too-valuable Flying Fortresses as they attempted to destroy German industrial facilities between 1943-45. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Fighter 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Military Snapshot - Cemetery Wall Firing Line

During the Battle of Najaf in August 2004, U.S. Marines use the wall around the Wadi Al-Salam Cemetery as convenient protection and a useful firing line position. The Marine in the foreground is firing an M-60 machine gun. Photo courtesy of Maj. Michael S. Wilbur, USMC, from Battle for the City of the Dead by Dick Camp.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Behind the Gates at Nellis Air Force Base

Home of the fighter pilot, Nellis AFB is one of the busiest bases in the world. Tyson Rininger

Nellis Range Complex
What makes Nellis AFB so valuable and the Red Flag exercise so successful is the Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR) or Nellis Range Complex (NRC). The range contains the largest area of land and controlled military airspace in the continental United States with weather that is reasonably predictable and suitable for year-round flying.

This enormous amount of land encompassed nearly 3,560,000 acres when established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. Originally referred to as the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range, Executive Order 9019 returned approximately 937,730 acres to the authority of the Department of the Interior (DOI) in 1942. Five years later, the Tonopah Bombing and Gunnery Range turned over an additional 154,584 acres to the DOI. After a few more instances of trading back and forth with the DOI and the Bureau of Land Management, the Nellis Air Force Range, more formally known as the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), currently consists of approximately 2.9 million acres of land. The airspace over an additional five million acres is shared with commercial aircraft encompassing the Nellis Range Complex.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Warbird Breakdown - Dewoitine D.510C.1

The Dewoitine D.510C.1 served as part of the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) that was numerically large and appeared formidable, but was in fact dependent largely on obsolescent aircraft, and was still suffering from the effects of political antipathies and the nationalization of the French aero industry in the mid-1930s. Until replaced by the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 in 1939, the Dewoitine D510 served as the primary fighter deployed in the defense of France in the earliest days of World War II. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Fighter 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aviation Snapshot - F7F Tigercat

The beautiful-looking F7F Tigercat was Grumman's next major project, during and after F6F Hellcat production. The big fighter was build around two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines, which had worked so well in F6F fighter planes. Although delivered to United States Marine Corps combat units before the end of World War II, the Tigercat did not see combat service in that war, instead seeing service during the Korean War. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy via Stan Piet, from F6F Hellcat at War by Cory Graff.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From the Pages - War Stories of the Tankers

In the following excerpt from War Stories of the Tankers, Lt. Chris Byron (U.S. Army) recounts his experience as a tank commander in the 70th Tank Battalion at Songhyon-ni, South Korea on October 12, 1950.

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I served in the Korean War as a platoon leader and was a member of the 70th Tank Battalion, which was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division.

In Korea, because of the terrain, tank battalions and even tank companies didn’t operate together as a unit. We were usually parceled out to an infantry unit. Quite often, it was just a platoon of tanks that was attached to an infantry battalion, and the platoon operated under the direction of the infantry battalion commander. Chances were that he didn’t know anything about tanks. Even so, some of them were pretty good. One would say to me, “Tell me how you can help us in this mission that we have.” Others were bullheaded and told you what to do. They thought they knew everything, like the one that I worked under quite a bit, Lt. Col. Paul Clifford. A good example would be on October 12, 1950.

Colonel Clifford commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Cavalry Regiment. His battalion was given the mission of passing through the 8th Cavalry in a place called Songhyon-ni and attacking toward Kumchon, South Korea. On that morning, Colonel Clifford told me that he wanted me to lead an attack through a valley that contained heavy ground fog. Fog was not a common occurrence in Korea, but on that day, it was thick. I told the colonel that because of the heavy ground fog the gunners could not see through their telescopic sites; under those circumstances, it would be much better if the infantry lead the attack. His reply to me was, “If you can’t see them, they can’t see you.” Of course, you know, they could hear us coming, and because of the size of the tanks, we would be seen first. Tanks in those days were not known for their stealth in storming enemy positions.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Warbird Breakdown - Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3P

The Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-3P played a key role in the defense of Moscow in late 1941/early 1942. With the Germans closing in and Soviet armor and troop numbers perilously thin, the MiG-3, MiG-3P, and Lavochkin LaGG-3 were leaned on heavily in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat operations during the wicked winter months. Image and specs excerpted from Allied Fighter 1939-1945 by Chris Chant.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Military Snapshot - A Very Different Kind of Goliath Falls at Saint-Lo

In this photo, an American soldier climbs over a pile of Goliaths shortly after Operation Cobra outside Saint-Lô. The Goliath was a German-engineered demolition vehicle -- also known as the beetle tank or tracked mine. It carried 170–220 lbs of high explosives and was intended to be used for multiple purposes, such as destroying tanks, disrupting dense infantry formations, and demolition of buildings and bridges. Photo courtesy of National Archives, from Patton's Third Army in World War II by Michael Green & James D. Brown.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

From the Pages - Heart for the Fight

Excerpted from Heart for the Fight: A Marine Hero's Journey from the Battlefields of Iraq to Mixed Martial Arts Champion by Brian Stann, with John R. Bruning

Fight Night, Las Vegas, August 2008  

Their screams are the worst. We’re more than a hundred meters away, on the other side of the river, but I can hear Marines dying. Their armored vehicle hit a land mine. It caught fire with fifteen men aboard.

They scream as they burn alive. The radio chatter is desperate, almost hysterical. Nobody can get to them. There will be no salvation, only a torturous death in the flames. From our position across the river, we hear every agonizing moment and can see their funeral pyre rising over the riverbank.

I can do nothing. It is the most helpless, enraging feeling I’ve ever experienced. I have no way to get across the water to those burning men.

It takes forever for the last screams to fade away.

My eyes flick open. I’m instantly alert. For a second, it feels like I’m back in western Iraq.

Travis Manion, one of my closest friends, stares at me from across the makeshift locker room, as if he senses I’ve relived that day in 2005 all over again. He knows I always do.

You gotta have heart for the fight, Bro.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vehicle Breakdown - Fast Attack Vehicle (FAV)

Fast Attack Vehicles (FAVs) were first introduced into military service in 1980 with the 9th Light Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. The program lasted until the mid 1980s, around which time the U.S. Special Operations Forces took deliver of a number of the FAVs, and as one of the troops comments, "We began to tinker with them." Today, this modified dune buggy, which now is fitted for three men, is officially called the Desert Patrol Vehicle (DPV), although it also carries the moniker of Light Strike Vehicle and is still referred to as the FAV. Excerpted with permission from Weapons of Delta Force by Fred J. Pushies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aviation X-Ray - The F-107 and the J75 Engine

The North American F-107 was North American Aviation's  entry in a U.S. Air Force tactical fighter-bomber design competition of the 1950s. The F-107 incorporated many innovations and radical design features, and was based on the F-100 Super Sabre. The competition was eventually won by the F-105 Thunderchief, and the F-107 prototypes ended their lives as test aircraft. 

The powerplant used in the prototype F-107A was the YJ75-P-11. The J75 engine was intended to meet the requirements for the next generation of supersonic aircraft. This photo shows the interior components responsible for the proper functioning of the J-75. Diagram courtesy of Pratt & Witney via Jack Connors, from F-100 Super Sabre at War by Thomas E. Gardner.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Military Snapshot - Prepping a Frozen 'Ma Duece' in the Ardennes

The original .50-caliber machine gun was developed by John Browning in 1918. An improved version was adopted in 1933 as the Browning M2 water-cooled machine gun. The legendary M2, with nicknames like the "Faithful 50" and "Ma Duece," is an automatic, belt-fed, recoil-operated, air-cooled, crew-operated machine gun. This versatile and reliable gun had many uses and proved to be a valuable defensive weapon during the Battle of the Bulge. In this photo, a soldier preps ammo for his visibly frozen .50 cal. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army, from Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge by Michael Collins and Martin King.

Friday, September 23, 2011

From the Pages - Into the Viper's Nest

Taking place over three harrowing days in December 2007, the Battle of Musa Qala proved to be one of the bloodiest and most pivotal battles of the Afghan War. The engagement between troops from the U.S., Great Britain and Afghanistan and those of the heavily entrenched Taliban would become one of the deadliest to date and would serve as an ominous sign of the type of combat coalition forces could expect in the years to follow.

In the following excerpt from Into the Viper's Nest, author Stephen Grey looks at the a lesser-known battle that took place a month prior between Royal Marines and the Taliban near Forward Operating Base Inkerman during the "Battle of 9/11."

North of Forward Operating Base Inkerman, 9 November

The Royal Marines patrol from Alpha Company had been out for nearly six hours now, pounding out from the FOB to explore the villages up north. The intelligence reports said up to thirty foreign fighters were lying in wait. But it was no good just sitting in the base and waiting for an attack.

Back at brigade headquarters, members of the staff were reporting a level of Taliban activity across Helmand that had not been seen since the Green Zone clearances of Operation Palk Wahel in September. New fighters were coming in from Pakistan, said intelligence, and others were slipping down from the north. All in all, the brigade staff thought, it was a clear attempt to divert NATO from its pressure against Musa Qala.

All day long the marines overheard the taunts over the Taliban’s radio network. Every other moment, they heard an order to attack and a reply saying, “I’m ready.” But no one had seen anything. Nothing had happened. So they started heading home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aerospace Snapshot - The Discovery Kicks the Tires and Lights the Fires

The launch of STS-26 Discovery (above) on September 29, 1988 helped restore the space shuttle to flight status after a distressing two years of self-reflection for NASA.  Photo courtesy of NASA, from The Space Shuttle: Celebrating Thirty Years of NASA's First Space Plane by Piers Bizony.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Profile of a Legend - General Creighton W. Abrams

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
General Creighton W. Abrams—The Soldier’s Soldier
by Brian M. Sobel, excerpted from M1 Abrams at War

The speed, power, mobility, and fire capability of the M1 Abrams tank is the very personification of the general whose name is indelibly associated with one of the world’s most feared battlefield weapons. Named for Creighton W. Abrams, who rode the lead tank in numerous engagements during World War II, the M1 gives a commander a variety of options, something Abrams knew was vitally important in battle.

The story of Creighton Abrams and his advancement through the ranks of the United States Army, up to and including army chief of staff, is the material of legend, as were his exploits during three wars. In World War II, he achieved victory after victory against the Germans, including a heroic breakthrough to relieve Bastogne during the famed Battle of the Bulge. The general they called Abe was tough, demanding, gruff, and loved his soldiers. In turn, his soldiers loved him.

The fighting general was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1914 to Creighton and Nellie Abrams. The oldest of three children, Abrams was a success early in life. As a senior in high school he was the captain of the 1931 Agawam High football team that went undefeated and unscored-upon. As important in his overall development, Abrams was also the class president, class orator, and editor of the school paper, and in a singular honor voted by his classmates as the boy most likely to succeed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Aviation Snapshot - Berlin Firestorm Below

Fires burn in the Berlin streets below, silhouetting a Lancaster in its hellish glow. During some air raids, the firestorms created turbulence and smoke clouds over ten thousand feet above the urban areas being consumed. RAF crews could navigate to the target by the flames, which could sometimes be seen from sixty miles away. Photo courtesy of National Archives, from Bombs Away! The World War II Bombing Campaigns over Europe by John R. Bruning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beyond the Book - Q & A with Martin King and Michael Collins, authors of "Voices of the Bulge"

In their new book and film, Voices of the Bulge, authors Martin King and Michael Collins provide new perspectives about and amplify new voices from one of the most intriguing and iconic battles of World War II -- the Battle of the Bulge. In Voices, the authors interview both German and American veterans, as well as civilians from the Ardennes region, to provide a uniquely balanced look at the engagement that shifted the tide of the war.

King and Collins recently took a moment to sit down with Zenith Press to discuss Voices of the Bulge and the awe-inspiring stories that fill its pages.

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ZENITH PRESS: When did each of you first become intrigued by the Battle of the Bulge?

KING: I’ve always been interested in military history. My Grandfather had fought at Passchendale in the First World War, and I still have his medals. But it was while I was teaching European History at the university that I first heard about the Battle of the Bulge. I received a letter from Mr. James L. Cooley a 106th Division veteran (who appears in Voices of the Bulge). At his request I did some research on his unit and became absolutely engrossed in the story. Some months later I accompanied Mr. Cooley and his family back to the places he had fought in the Ardennes. That started me off 20 years ago. After that I wrote a paper on the Siege of Bastogne and began reading the works of McDonald, Toland and Whiting etc. They had all written excellent accounts of the battle, but they were also very subjective. Michael and I wanted to mildly emulate Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers approach. Get it from the horse’s mouth, for want of a better analogy. Unlike the previous authors, I live in quite close proximity to the actual area of the Ardennes where the battle occurred. As a result, I was able to jump in my car and visit whenever I liked. This gave me the possibility of really analyzing the battle from all angles.

COLLINS: The Battle of the Bulge is very personal for me. As I mention at the end of Voices of the Bulge, my grandfather fought in battle with the 10th Armored Division and survived despite the confusion, bitter cold, and difficult terrain. He never spoke of his experiences, and I never knew him, since he died before I was born. In 2005, my parents and I decided that we wanted to visit the D-day beaches in Normandy and also tour the Bastogne-area of Belgium. As it so happened, Martin showed us around. We started out early and, after seeing a few sites within Bastogne, Martin took us all over the Ardennes region, even into Luxembourg. It was the trip of lifetime to see the different places that I later heard veterans talk about, and it made my research even more fulfilling. I visit Martin in Belgium at least once a year, and it has become almost a second home to me. I had also read about the Battle of the Bulge through books by Toland and McDonald, but they were written over 50 years ago. I think we’ve learned so much more about it since then. Co-writing one has been a great journey. Hearing the stories from the veterans who fought in the battle gave me an even greater appreciation of the sacrifice they made during World War II.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Naval Snapshot - USS Iowa Letting Off Some Steam

The USS Iowa (BB-61) opens fire with a full main and secondary battery broadside to starboard. Nine 16-inch 50-caliber guns with six 5-inch 38-caliber guns in the secondary unit fire at a target in this July 1984 image. If armor-piercing shells were being used, the combined weight of the 16-inch and 5-inch shells fired was 12.3 tons. The main battery had a range of 24 miles at 45 degrees elevation, whereas the 5-inch gun fired up to ten miles. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy, from USS Iowa at War by Kit and Carolyn Bonner.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

WWII Profile - Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt

Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt

The most senior German Army officer of World War II, Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was born in Aschersleben in 1875. he served as a General Staff officer in the Great War. He commanded some of the largest armored campaigns in history, from the Ardennes attack in 1940 to the overall command in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. 

Rundstedt commanded Army Group South in Poland in 1939. In 1940, he commanded Army Group A in the invasion of France. He was promoted to Field Marshal after the fall of France on July 19, 1940. 

Rundstedt commanded Army Group South during Operation Barbarossa. Hitler sacked him on December 12, 1941 for a tactical withdrawal near Rostov. 

He was appointed commander-in-chief of Army Group West in France in March 1942,. Hitler sacked him on July 2, 1944 for failing to stop the D-Day landings.  

Rundstedt was reluctantly brought out of retirement one final time to command the Ardennes Offensive of December 1944. 

Excerpted from German Panzers in WWII (Order of Battle) by Chris Bishop. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Military Snapshot - M1A1 Abrams: 1, Insurgent Hideout: 0

The destructive firepower of the M1A1 Abrams 120mm main gun completely demolished an insurgent’s hideout. Infantrymen in the vicinity had to ensure they were some distance away from the gun, or the blast shock wave could cause bleeding from the nose and ears and take one’s breath away. Photo courtesy of, from Operation Phantom Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq by Dick Camp.