Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From the Pages - Japanese Surrender and the USS Missouri

Aerial demonstration over Missouri, September 2, 1945. U.S. Navy
On September 2, 1945, the USS Missouri culminated her World War II service by hosting the surrender ceremonies between the Allied powers and the Empire of Japan.

The  following brief history of that momentous day is excerpted from USS Missouri at War by Kit and Carolyn Bonner.
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With the horn blowing and the Missouri’s whistle also on full, Admiral Halsey had his four-star flag was broken out on the mast. Unfortunately, the whistle was somewhat corroded, and its deafening noise would not stop for two minutes. The significance of the flag was that it was rarely flown, so as not to alert wary kamikazes that the Missouri had high-ranking staff aboard.

At 11:11 a.m., the noise died down as the actual belief that it was true began to sink in: forty-four months and seven days of war were finally over. This meant not being frightened every day, even if it was a latent fear.

The war in the Pacific should never have taken place. It was the brainchild of Imperial Japanese Army hotheads against conservative civilian leaders and many high-ranking naval officers. It was also in retaliation for perceived racial discrimination by America and the Washington Naval Arms Limitation Treaty. That treaty did treat the Japanese military in a very cavalier fashion.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Aviation Snapshot - In the Driver's Seat of an F-16 Simulator

The F-16 Viper Driver's simulated office. Simulators have improved greatly over the years, and it is not uncommon for a pilot to walk away from the simulator drenched in sweat. Fighter simulators don't move, as human factors specialists determined years ago that a sim could not accurately replicate the violence of a real fighter. However, the brain believes what it sees, and if the sim freezes in a bank like this, the pilot will soon feel disoriented as his eyes and his butt argue about what attitude he is in. Photo courtesy of John M. Dibbs, from Viper Force: 56th Fighter Wing: To Fly and Fight the F-16.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unit Breakdown - U.S. Marine Corps Recon in Vietnam

Excerpted from 1st Marine Division in Vietnam by Simon Dunstan

Recon: Elite of the Elite

While the U.S. Marine Corps considers itself the elite of the U.S. armed forces, so the reconnaissance units of the Corps consider themselves to be the elite of the elite. This was particularly  so in the Vietnam War. One of the most frustrating aspects of the conflict was the lack of accurate and timely intelligence concerning enemy units. Their ability to blend into the local population or disperse into hidden base areas was arguably the greatest impediment to mounting successful operations against the NVA or VC. The Marine Corps employed two types of reconnaissance units in Vietnam. Each division had an integral reconnaissance battalion tasked with gaining tactical intelligence within the divisional TAOR. For deeper strategic reconnaissance, II MAF employed force reconnaissance companies. Traditionally these had conducted beach reconnaissance before an amphibious landing and long-range patrolling in the subsequent land campaign, often behind enemy lines.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Military Snapshot - GIs Taking Cover in Rennes

Under fire, American soldiers hug the ground. Before the 4th Armored Division could take the major Breton port of Lorient it had to take some intermediate objectives such as the city of Rennes, the capital of Brittany. This occured on August 4 with the help of an infantry regiment. Photo courtesy of National Archives, from Patton's Third Army in World War II by Michael Green & James D. Brown.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the Pages - The USMC Invasion of Guadalcanal

In 1942, the island of Guadalcanal looked like any other island in the South Pacific. Roughly the size of Delaware, it was a collection of beaches, rivers, coconut groves, and thick jungle vegetation. Starting in August of 1942, however, a six-month battle would take place on Guadalcanal, resulting in the loss of thousands of American and Japanese lives. At stake? Guadalcanal’s strategic value in the region and its newly construted airfield.

In the following excerpt from Guadalcanal: The U.S. Marines in World War II, author Eric Hammel describes the USMC invasion of Guadalcanal, the bloody Japanese response, and the impact that both would have on the coming engagements in the early days of the Pacific War.


The first shots of the Guadalcanal Campaign were fired by the 8-inch guns of the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser Quincy. Immediately, other cruisers and a number of destroyers added their fires against the darkened shore of Guadalcanal, and then flights of U.S. Navy F4F Wildcat fighters off the USS Saratoga zoomed in to work over the Japanese airfield and shore installations. Also targeted by aircraft off the Wasp were shore installations on Tulagi and the seaplane base at Gavutu. Behind the curtain of naval gunfire and bombs, the Marines of the leading waves climbed down cargo nets into waiting landing craft, and various landing forces formed up for the long, slow ride to the beaches.

Beginning at 0727 hours, a destroyer and a light antiaircraft cruiser opened fire directly at Haleta, a village on Florida Island. Next, the landing craft bearing Company B, 1/2, grounded on the beach fronting Haleta. Nothing happened; there were no Japanese there. Company B patrolled the area, as planned, but found nothing of interest. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Release - Voices of the Bulge (Book/DVD)

While many books have been written on the Battle of the Bulge, few, if any, have been able to respectfully and compellingly capture both sides of the conflict equally. Until now.

After more than twelve years of research and interviews, historians Michael Collins and Martin King have produced
Voices of the Bulge: Untold Stories from Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge (now available), a gripping oral history and documentary film of the battle that shifted the momentum of World War II. 

Told through numerous first-person accounts taken from the authors’ interviews of American officers and enlisted personnel who successfully repelled the German attack with their courage and blood, the story of the American struggle is uniquely and vividly portrayed in. To provide a well-rounded perspective, however, German veterans, including SS soldiers, were also interviewed by the authors after decades of silence. This incredibly rare and complete perspective of events gives Voices of the Bulge a unique place among histories of this crucial campaign.

Complete with a DVD of Collins and King’s documentary of the same name, Voices of the Bulge is a fitting tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to those veterans who persevered to finally tell their stories.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Naval Snapshot - Abandoning the "Gray Lady" at the Battle of the Coral Sea

USS Lexington's Capt. Frederick Sherman orders "Abandon ship" at 5:01 in the afternoon of May 8, 1943 during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The destroyer at right (just visible through the smoke) is taking on the wounded. Other crewmembers slide down ropes to the water to be picked up by small boats. Not a man was lost in abandoning the ship. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy, from The Pacific War: The Strategy, Politics, and Players that Won the War by William B. Hopkins.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Action Report - Air-to-Air Kill for "487"

Photo courtesy of USAF
“487” from Seymour,
More Than Just Paint
by James D’Angina, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing History, excerpted from F-15 Eagle at War by Tyson V. Rininger
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Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan—Airmen from the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron here are making history daily, as the “Chiefs” from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., take the fight to the Anti-Afghanistan Forces in combat operations throughout Afghanistan.

But one of the squadron’s aircraft, F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487, or “487” for short, carries with it a unique distinction in air combat history—it is the only F-15E in the Air Force inventory to be credited with an air-to-air kill.

The historic aircraft deployed in 1991 for Operation Desert Shield/Storm, and has seen multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq supporting Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

The aircraft, delivered to the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson in 1989, was assigned to the 335th Fighter Squadron, a unit with a long and decorated history— over 370 air-to-air kills to its credit.

One of the most unique air-to-air kills credited to the squadron took place Feb. 14, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. Captains Richard Bennett, pilot, and Daniel Bakke, weapon systems operator, scored the first air-to-air kill for an F-15E Strike Eagle.

A Special Forces team made an urgent call to an E-3 Sentry requesting assistance with three Iraqi Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships in the area. The Airborne Warning and Control System contacted Captains Bennett and Bakke who were already airborne leading a flight of F-15Es during a Scud combat air patrol mission.

Captain Bennett brought “487” up to full military power— top speed without the use of afterburners. After breaking through the weather, the crew had to deal with Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery batteries. The crew picked up the three Mi-24 Hind helicopters on their target pod and observed that the Hinds were offloading troops at different points in an attempt to surround the Special Forces team.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Aerospace Snapshot - The X-15 Rocketplane on a Wing and a Prayer

Carried aloft by a NASA B-52 and then released in midair like so many of the X-planes before it, the X-15, a winged rocketplane, made two suborbital spaceflights -- both in 1963 -- with apogees of 65.8 miles and 67.1 miles. Only two years earlier, the first two U.S. manned spaceflights, wichi were part of the mercury program, had flown suborbital spaceflights as well but reached apogees of 116.5 miles and 118.3 miles. Photo courtesy of NASA, from Burt Rutan's Race to Space: The Magician of Mojave and His Flying Innovations by Dan Linehan.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rescue Ops. - Apaches to the Cavalry's Rescue

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.
Excerpted from 10th Mountain Division by Fred Pushies.
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In the summer of 2007, Chief Warrant Officers Mark Burrows and Steven Cianfrini with the 17th Cavalry Regiment’s Troop C, 3rd Squadron, took off from their base in Iraq. What began as a routine reconnaissance mission with a sister scout helicopter would turn into a life or death situation for the two OH-58 Kiowa pilots.

The aviators were supporting an infantry unit south of Baghdad and had just located a suspected roadside improvised explosive device (IED). Chief Warrant Officer Cianfrini was the first to spot the enemy fire as tracers reached out to the OH-58 from the ground below. Chief Cianfrini immediately called out to Chief Warrant Officer Burrows to evade the incoming rounds. As the small-arms fire ceased, the pilots made the decision to return to base and assess any damage. All of a sudden, a heavy machine gun opened up on the small scout helicopter. Large caliber rounds began to impact the vulnerable Kiowa over and over. There was no time to locate and engage the enemy with the aircraft’s weapons. The pilots bobbed and weaved as best they could to avoid the incoming rounds.

Chief Warrant Officer Cianfrini recalled, “I saw the tracer rounds come up through the rotors, and at that point we tried to get out of range, check our instruments, make sure our systems were good and that nobody was hit.” As they continued to evade the enemy fire, several rounds from the machine gun found their mark. Slamming into the aircraft, the cockpit was abuzz with warning alarms and warning lights. More rounds hit the aircraft and destroyed the instrument panel. Chief Warrant Officer Cianfrini related, “One second it was there; the next it was a mess of wires.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Military Snapshot - Henderson Field, October 1942

Named after USMC Major Lofton Henderson, Henderson Field was perhaps the most important airstrip of the entire Pacific War. Control of the airstrip was the focus of months of fighting in the Guadalcanal campaign. In 1942 the airfield was under construction by the Imperial Japanese Army when captured by American forces. When October 1942 ended, Henderson Field remained firmly in American hands and the soon-to-be-legendary Cactus Air Force was still flying, better and stronger than ever. Photo courtesy of USMC, from Guadalcanal: The U.S. Marines in World War II: A Pictorial Tribute by Eric Hammel.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Stuff of Heroes - Lt. Col. John H. Michaelis

Lieutenant Colonel John H. Michaelis, known as “Iron Mike,” was a 1936 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was an outstanding tactician and a highly respected leader who always led from the front. He assumed command of the 502 PIR in June in Normandy, France, and led the regiment in Operation Market Garden. He was seriously wounded on September 22, 1944, “Black Friday,” when a German shell exploded near him killing Pfc. Garland Mills and several staff officers. After healing from his wounds, he returned to the division during the Battle of the Bulge and was appointed chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division in December 28, 1944. He served as chief of staff until the end of the war. After World War II, he served as aide-de-camp to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and was publicly praised by Eisenhower as one of four lieutenant colonels in the army “of extraordinary ability.” He commanded the 27th Infantry Regiment, the Wolfhounds, during the Korean War and was awarded the Distinguish Service Cross for heroism. He rose to the rank of general and served as the commander in chief, UN command/commander, U.S. Forces Korea/Commanding General, Eighth U.S. Army (CINCUNC/COMUSFK/CG EUSA) from 1969 to 1972.