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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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.