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.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Airborne Mail - Operation Market Garden and the 101st Airborne Division

The following letter is an extremely rare artifact -- a letter from Division Command to be read to 101st Airborne Division's parachute and glider troops prior to the initiation of Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Note the last sentence indicating that these sheets were to be destroyed after each jumpmaster read this message to his troops.