Friday, January 28, 2011

Aviation Snapshot - Airbus A380 at Farnborough Air Show

The Airbus A380 SuperJumbo was the star of the 45th Farnborough International Air Show, held in England between July 17 and 23, 2006. In this photo, the A380 makes a historic flyby at the air show with the Red Arrows, an unexpected treat for show attendees. Photo courtesy of David Maxwell, from Airbus A380: Superjumbo on World Tour.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the Pages - U.S. Navy SEALs

The U.S. Navy SEALs were officially born on January 1, 1962, with President Kennedy doing the honors, commissioning Teams One and Two, assigned to the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. Both teams would see extensive service during the Vietnam War.

In the following excerpt from U.S. Navy SEALs, Captain Bob Gormly describes SEAL Team Two's insertion into the Mekong Delta in 1967, a mission that would be anything but routine and would help set the tone for future special operations combat missions during the war.
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Captain Bob Gormly has commanded SEAL Teams Two and Six, UDT-12, and NSW Group Two during a long career in NSW, just concluded. As a young lieutenant he went to Vietnam with SEAL Team Two’s first deployment to the combat zone in 1967. SEAL Team Two was sent to the Mekong Delta, a hotbed of enemy activity, in the first use of the SEALs in that part of the country—though Team One had been working for some time up to the north, around Saigon.

“Our operations at first were kind of ‘touch and feel,’” he says. “We were always searching for a strategy that we fitted into—and we never found it—but we had a lot of fun. Us young lieutenants had tremendous freedom about how we wanted to run an operation. We couldn’t be told by anybody to run an operation that we didn’t want to do.”

Back then the entire delta was considered “Indian” country—hostile territory. The only real U.S. presence was the Navy River Patrol Force (CTF-116), which used PBRs to patrol the major rivers for about a year, getting shot at regularly. The VC had pretty much free run of the rest of the area.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Military Snapshot - MQ-1 Predator over southern Afghanistan

A Predator armed with Hellfire missiles flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. The MQ-1 provided interdiction and armed reconnaissance against critical targets for Operation Enduring Freadom. U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt, from Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan by Matt J. Martin.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From the Pages - Road of 10,000 Pains

From April to June of 1967, U.S. Marines engaged the North Vietnamese is a series of bloody battles in South Vietnam's Que Son Valley. Dubbed Operation Union I and Operation Union II, the operations were designed to wrestle control of the strategically important region from the enemy, giving U.S. forces a larger permanent residence in the area.

In the following excerpt from Road of 10,000 Pains, author Otto Lehrack and several Operation Union II veterans from the 1/5 Marines recount their initial contact with the enemy moments after setting foot in their landing zone on May 26, 1967.

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A MACHINE GUN OPENED UP AND SENT the Marines to the ground. They lay there in a trough of indecision and taking casualties until Lance Cpl. Gordon Seablom stood up, waving his .45, and urged the Marines on. Fields, being in the gun team, set his gun up next to a mature stand of bamboo and sent bursts of fire into the enemy position. Corporal Charlie Crump was showing Fields where to shoot when a mortar round exploded right next to him, blowing Crump’s life away and throwing his body on top of Fields’s legs. Sharp, hot steel punched into the ground all around Fields, but good battlefield luck was with him that day, and he was not hit except for a piece that grazed his knee.

For Pfc. Fred Riddle, mortar man and FNG, it was the first time being shot at.

Pfc. Fred Riddle: The feeling can’t be explained unless it has happened to you. We were given the word to move out, and it really didn’t have a lot of meaning at the time, because I still was unaware of what this whole thing was about. When we landed I found out, and very quickly. There was heavy ground fire and mortar fire everywhere.
       We moved up out of the paddies to a small house with some trees and bamboo bordering it. Captain McElroy was on the radio, but even though I was around the CP, I had no idea of how things worked. We started to move out, and in a split second everything around me changed. I heard the mortars coming in, but you could not act that fast. Two 82mm mortar rounds landed right in the middle of our group, and Marines were down everywhere. After the initial shock of the event—it seemed like hours, but I know it was just seconds—I got my senses together and noticed the Marine in front of me was holding his face. I asked if he was OK, and he said, “No, I’m not,” and that’s when I noticed the blood. He got his face torn up and part of his right shoulder. I looked at my right shoulder and noticed that my shirt was torn, and I was bleeding also. I looked around and found several wounded Marines on the ground. I found Rocky, but he was killed, so I looked for Harold. We had become friends, and I had an urgent need to see if he was OK. I saw a Marine that was halfway in an air-raid hole on the side of the paddy dike. He had his arms up holding onto the dirt wall, but something didn’t seem right about it, as there was no movement. I yelled to him to see if he was OK but got no response. I pulled him back and removed his pack and started to check him, and it was Harold, my friend, the guy just minutes before I was talking to and sharing my thoughts and my fears about the whole thing, and he was gone. He feared mortar fire more than anything, and almost got to cover, but one small fragment entered through his back and right through his heart. I was in shock.

       After we carried the wounded back to the tree line and the dead to another area, we set up a perimeter. We couldn’t get the wounded out by chopper because of the heavy fire, so the corpsman had to do what he could for them. Because the rest of the mortar section was either KIA or WIA, it didn’t exist any longer. I was all that was left, so I was put in 3rd Platoon and assigned to the perimeter on the left side of the trees.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Military Snapshot: Marines of Fox/2/5 Advance in Hue City

During Fox/2/5's advance toward Ly Thuong Kiet Street from Highway 1, they were accompanied by a Marine flame tank affectionately known as "Zippo." In the photo above, Zippo unleashes a stream of flame at one of the buildings on the block of Tran Cao Van as Fox/2/5 machine gunners look on. Photo courtesy of Alexander Kandic, from Marines in Hue City: A Portrait of Urban Combat, Tet 1968 by Eric Hammel.