Friday, April 29, 2011

Naval Snapshot - Farragut-class Destroyers on Exercise

Farragut-class destroyers of DesDiv 2 in San Diego fleet exercises. Including from left, USS Aylwin, Monaghan, and Dale. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy, from Tales from a Tin Can: The USS Dale from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay by Michael Keith Olson.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

They Said It... - Flame Thrower Harry Parley on Omaha Beach

In the following account from War Stories of D-Day: Operation Overlord: June 6, 1944, flame thrower Harry Parley, a private first class with the 29th Division, 116th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, E Company, describes the chaos of stepping foot off the landing craft and into the hell that was Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.


"As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell. Some boats on either side of us had been hit by artillery and heavy weapons. I was aware that some were burning and some were sinking. I can’t recall if there were cries from the wounded. I shut everything out and concentrated on following the men in front of me down the ramp and into the water. Ahead of me was a stretch of beach at least a couple of hundred yards deep. I read the actual yardage somewhere many years ago, but I no longer remember it.

"The air was thick with smoke and the roar of exploding shells. I stepped off the ramp into a deep, water-filled pocket in the sand, and went under completely. With no footing whatsoever, and with the weight on my back, I was unable to come up. I knew I was drowning, and made a futile attempt to unbuckle the flame thrower harness. Inadvertently, I had raised the firing arm, which is about three feet long, above my head. One of my team saw it, grabbed hold, and pulled me up out of the hole onto solid sand. Then slowly, half drowned, coughing water, and dragging my feet, I began walking toward the chaos ahead." 

Photo courtesy of National World War II Museum, from War Stories of D-Day: Operation Overlord: June 6, 1944 by Michael Green and James D. Brown.

Monday, April 25, 2011

From the Pages - History of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II

Excerpted from 10th Mountain Division by Fred Pushies

Chapter 2: 10th Mountain Division—World War II

With the Allied invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, combat in Italy was relegated to the background. For the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division fighting in the Apennine Mountains, it was far from the “forgotten front.” For the German Army as well, the battles in the Italian Alps were as real and lethal as those their comrades were facing in France. During the campaign the mountain soldiers of the 10th would do battle with nine German divisions that were well entrenched and occupying the high ground. By the end of the campaign, five of the nine German divisions would be totally destroyed as effective combat units. The men of the 10th Mountain Division not only had to fight the Germans, but also had to deal with the environment and elements—the jagged mountains, cliffs, rivers, lakes, and towns. In early January 1945, the 86th Infantry Regiment arrived at the frontlines near Mount Belvedere in the North Apennine Mountains of Italy.

By January 20, 1945, all three regiments of the 10th had arrived in Italy and were positioned along the Serchio Valley and Mount Belvedere. The 85th was commanded by Col. Raymond Barlow, the 86th by Col. Clarence Tomlinson, and the 87th by Col. David Fowler. Here, the division was up against the German positions that were positioned along the five–mile-long Mount Belvedere–Monte della Torraccia Ridge. General Lucian Truscott Jr., who had just taken command of the Fifth Army, informed General Hays of his strategy for dealing with the enemy. The plan called for the 10th to first capture Mount Belvedere, which served as an enemy observation post. The artillery observation post provided the Germans with a view of Highway 65, which was one of the main routes into the Po Valley. Protecting Mount Belvedere were more Germans on Riva Ridge toward the west.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Military Snapshot - A Tank's-eye View in Najaf, Iraq

Looking through a tank driver's view port down a debris-laden street in Najaf. Note the barrel of the tank's 120mm cannon. Photo courtesy of 1st Lt. William Birdzell, USMC, from Battle for the City of the Dead by Col. Dick Camp.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 1943 - The Death of Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto

April 18, 1943 -- In the midst of an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific, Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto and his staff took off from the Japanese stronghold at Rabaul in two Mitsubishi G4M fast transport aircraft bound for Ballalae Airfield near Bougainville. The commander-in-chief of Japan's Combined Fleet, and the mastermind behind the at Pearl Harbor and Midway, would not survive the day.

In the following excerpt from Fortress Rabaul: The Battle for the Southwest Pacific, January 1942-April 1943, author Bruce Gamble details the U.S. interception of Yamamoto's aircraft and the ensuing aerial combat that would result in the death of one of Japan's most honored military figures.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Aerospace X-Ray - Space Shuttle Mid-Fuselage

Structural loads from the wings, the main engines and the aft body flap are carried by the U-shaped mid-fuselage section, which also provides the void for the cargo bay. Illustration courtesy of NASA, from NASA Space Shuttle Owners' Workshop Manual by Dr. David Baker.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Moving Pictures - Bristol's Bastards

Raw, comical, disturbing, and unflinchingly honest all at once, Bristols Bastards tells the all-too-true story of Specialist Nick Maurstad, his brothers-in-arms, and the war that would meet each and every one of them head-on, refusing to let go of a few of them along the way. One of the most irreverent and outrageous memoirs to come out of the war in Iraq, Bristols Bastards pulls no punches, describing the danger, monotony, humor, and heartbreak experienced on a battlefield thousands of miles away from Americas Heartland.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Military Snapshot - HH-3 Mini-gunner In Vietnam

A U.S. Air Force HH-3 helicopter crewman fires a mini-gun during rescue patrol over South Vietnam, October 17, 1968. Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force, from Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue by Thomas Phillips & George Galdorisi.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

From the Pages - Darkest Hour

January 23, 1942, 2:30 A.M.…the darkest hour of the day. On the little-known Southwest Pacific island of New Britain, all hell was about to break loose. Japanese invaders, with visions of establishing a major military complex in the city of Rabaul, would use the cover of night to initiate the landing of an overwhelming force upon the pitch-black shores. In front of them lay a determined, yet outmanned and outgunned, assemblage of island defenders.

Known as Lark Force, these fourteen hundred Australian soldiers would face an onslaught of more than 20,000 Japanese marines—insurmountable odds that would result in the overrunning of their defenses in a matter of hours.

In the following excerpt from Darkest Hour: The True Story of Lark Force at Rabaul, author Bruce Gamble details the early hours of the Australians' valiant, but ill-fated, defense of Rabaul against an overwhelming Japanese landing force. 

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In contrast to the bloodless occupation of Crater Peninsula, the Japanese encountered resistance at their other landing sites. Three companies of the 3rd Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Ishiro Kuwada, went ashore at two different positions along the rim of the caldera. They would accomplish their objective, the capture of Vunakanau airdrome, with a pincer movement. The plan called for the 8th Company to assault Raluana Point while the 7th and 9th Companies landed south of Mount Vulcan—but it didn’t work out that way. In the darkness, the coxswains steering the 9th Company’s landing craft strayed north of Vulcan, exactly where Major Owen’s reinforced A Company and the NGVR were waiting for them.

Concealed behind coconut log fortifications, the Australians could clearly hear the rumble of diesel motors and the scrape of steel hulls on coral. John N. Jones, a twenty-three-year-old corporal from New South Wales, was patrolling the perimeter at 0225 when he saw the barge-like landing craft approaching the beach, their silhouettes faintly backlit by the fires burning in Rabaul. The first boatload displayed remarkably poor discipline. Some of the Japanese were talking, others laughing, and one even shined a flashlight. Jones pointed a Very pistol skyward and pulled the trigger.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Military Snapshots - GIs on Patrol in the Ardennes

Hitler was well aware of just how thinly stretched were the U.S. Army units stationed in the Ardennes. He believed his forces could break through the forest and then drive on to the main Allied supply port of Antwerp, Belgium through sheer strength in numbers. In the photo, American GIs prepare to go out on patrol in the Ardennes. Photo courtesy of the National Archives, from War Stories of the Battle of the Bulge by Michael Green and James D. Brown.