Tag Archives: army

Tanker Boots

Reader Samuel Suggs in the previous post about 120mm ammunition has a sharp eye:

This is an off topic and possibly stupid question but: why does the soldier in second photo have buckles on his boots?

One of the things about the Army that I liked was that for a “uniform” service, there was considerable scope for individuality.  From the way one wore their patrol cap, the how they bloused their trousers into their boots, there was a surprising array of styles and techniques. From the outside, to civilians, troops look mostly indistinguishable. But as an insider, you could tell a lot about a troop by his sense of style.

And then there are those traditions among the various arms and services. Perhaps best known is the Cavalry’s attachment to Stetsons and spurs. There was also the famous “jump boots” which, by the time I was in, was authorized, and indeed pretty much expected of every troop to have  pair for ceremonial use.

But tankers too have their own institution- the tanker boot. For many years, armor crewmen have had either tacit or explicit permission to wear boots using straps and buckles in lieu of the more traditional laces.

Tanker_boots

Back when the Army wore black leather boots.

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Current tan rough side out version.

As far as I know, their adoption by armor crewman has never been universal (after all, the Army will issue lace up boots, but tanker boots came out of your own pocket).

Wiki tells us that the idea of the tanker boot in the US Army originated with George Patton in World War I.

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June 25th, 1950

tank03

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.  Most of us here know that the war itself has not ended, that the DPRK and the ROK remain in a state of war, temporarily becalmed by an armistice signed in July of 1953.

The war was fought by Veterans of World War II, as well as their little brothers.  There were more than 36,000 US killed in action among the more than 130,000 American casualties in that war, many times the order of magnitude of Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  In just over three years.   There are lessons aplenty from that war regarding preparedness, combat training, leadership, and budget-driven assumptions.

There are several superlative works on the Korean War, fiction and non-fiction.  Here are some I recommend highly:

T. R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War

James Brady’s The Coldest War

Two Martin Russ works, The Last Parallel, and Breakout.

S. L. A. Marshall’s The River and the Gauntlet

Pat Frank’s magnificent novel Hold Back the Night

P. K. O’Donnell’s Give me Tomorrow

Clay Blair’s The Forgotten War

There are many, many others, including some incredibly good Army monographs, but those are among my favorites.  I lent out Marshall’s book some years ago (you know who you are!!) and never got it back.  So that may be my next purchase.

Anyway, the first test of the Strategy of Containment began in the early hours, sixty-five years ago this morning.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING

Fort Ebey

We’ve written before on the coastal defenses of Puget Sound, mostly focusing on the turn of the 20th century Taft/Endicott period forts such as Ft. Casey.  The beginning of World War II saw a massive investment in more modern coastal defenses, along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and such places as the Panama Canal Zones. Bureaucratic inertia being what it is, by the time most of these forts were ready for service, it was abundantly clear, particularly along the West Coast, that no invasion fleet would reach even the central Pacific, let alone Hawaii or the actual continental US.

In 1942, the Coast Artillery Corps decided to upgrade the defenses of Puget Sound with a modern coast artillery battery located a few miles north of the existing Ft. Casey. It was to comprise a battery command post, an SCR-269A fire control radar, and two M1905A2 rapid fire 6” guns mounted on semi-armored barbettes.

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Image via Fortwiki.

800px-Fort-Columbia-Gun

Image via Fortwiki. 6” gun at Ft. Columbia.  Note the older Endicott period emplacements in front of the mount. None are at Ft. Ebey.

A quick look at this image from Google Earth tells us that the fort was well sited to cover any approach to Seattle.

Ft Ebey

Mind you, this doesn’t even take into account the other batteries, including 16” batteries, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the entrance to Puget Sound.

The only problem is, the battery wasn’t completed and ready for service until March 1944. By that time, the fighting in the Pacific was taking place in the Carolines Islands roughly 5000 miles away. All the effort to complete the fortifications were superfluous to actually winning the war. The guns of the battery were removed sometime shortly after the war. The concrete support structure was not demolished, however. Turned over to Washington state in 1965, it opened as a state park in 1981, and has been a popular park ever since, with its quaint trails and gorgeous view of Puget Sound.

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Filed under army, Artillery, history

A Scathing Indictment of the Wounded Warrior Project

Over on the porch.  Well worth the read.

I haven’t liked that organization for quite some time, mostly because of the way they portray wounded Veterans as being objects of pity.  Salamander puts it better than I have been able to.

an organization that uses the same visuals, tone and background music for those who fight our wars, that are are also used for starving African children … and at the same time squash local organizations using a huge legal budget.

Touché.

Here is some perspective, without minimizing the sacrifice.  The total US combat wounded in 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan numbers around 52,000, with the vast majority being minor wounds with RTD (return to duty), such as mine were.  (Of the approximately 1,400 wounded suffered by 1st Marine Division in Anbar from February-September 2004, about 1,200 were RTD.  If those percentages hold for the larger number of 52,000, the total number with wounds serious enough to prevent a return to duty numbers around 7,500.)  We know that the number of traumatic amputations is fewer than 1,600.  This means, with just the last three years of donations, WWP has received enough money for almost $100,000 for each of the 7,500 seriously wounded Vets, or $457,000 for each traumatic amputee.  This is on top of the medical care and equipment provided by the VA for these Veterans.

With a CEO salary of almost half a million a year, the selling of donor lists, and this sort of reprehensible behavior:

According to a number of smaller groups, the Wounded Warrior Project…  has been spending a good deal of time and money suing other veteran-serving nonprofits on the basis that their names or logos constitute infringement on their brand.

I agree with Salamander, not a dime to WWP from me.  I will give to a smaller charity in a heartbeat.  One that does not make helping our wounded Veterans a “common business practice”, and one that does not intentionally harm others trying to give back to those who gave so much.

UPDATE:  XBradTC here. C0ncur all and endorse original message. There are many fine organizations to donate to, and it’s your money. But I would like to mention one that does have a sterling reputation, Fisher House.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING

Yet Another Guided Projectile Program

We’ve talked numerous times about the Guided MLRS, the Excalibur 155mm artillery round, guided mortar rounds and recently the HVP. Having cracked the code on how to design a guidance system for artillery ammunition, we’re going to see a growing range of projectiles with precision capability for an expanding set of guns.

Oprah

Here’s BAE System’s self funded project, the Multi-Service Standard Guided Projectile, or MS SGP. It’s an adaptation of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) designed for the 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers.

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LRLAP

The MS SGP is being designed specifically for the US Navy’s current standard 5” gun, the Mk45 Mod 4. BAE systems, noting that 155mm is larger than 5” (127mm) has proposed using the MS SGP in a saboted configuration from Marine and Army 155mm guns.

To date, there’s been a successful guided shot, but no production contracts.

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Filed under army, Artillery, navy

The Army and Amphibious Warfare- Repost

Here’s a repost of one of the earlier works on the blog, but that might seem fresh to newer readers.

When you mention the words “amphibious warfare” most people think immediately of the US Marines, and rightly so. But during WWII, the Army invested huge resources into the ability to land on a hostile shore and conduct operations.

There are two general types of amphibious operations: ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore. Ship to shore operations are those in which the landing force is transported to the objective in large, ocean going vessels, then landed via small craft onto the shore. Shore to shore operations take place over relatively short distances, and generally the troops are carried in smaller craft, rather than large transports. Obviously, the anticipated objectives will dictate which approach is taken.

In the late 1930s, with war clouds clearly on the horizon, both the Army and the Marines came to the conclusion that they would need to develop a serious amphibious capability, but they reached different conclusions because of very different assumptions about what type  of war they would be fighting.

For 20 years, the Navy had forseen war with Japan in the Pacific. And the cornerstone of the Navy’s strategy to defeat Japan was to defeat the Japanese fleet in a battle, likely somewhere near the Philipines. Since it would be impractical for the fleet to steam all the way from San Diego or Pearl Harbor and fight in those waters, the need for advanced bases was clear. And the Marines understood that as a consequence of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, any islands that could serve as an advance base would almost certainly be held by the Japanese. That meant the Marines had to be ready to travel the huge distances of the Pacific, land on remote islands, and seize relatively small objectives. For the Marines, this was a raison de etre.

The Army faced a different challenge. The Army had no desire to get into the amphibious warfare business. But watching the rise of Nazi German power, the Army leadership was convinced that sooner or later, they’d have to go fight in Western Europe again. And, unlike 1918, they weren’t at all sure the French ports would be available to land the huge armies planned. After the fall of France in June of 1940, the cold realization came that just to get  the Army to the fight would mean sooner or later, landing somewhere in Western Europe, under the guns of the enemy. And not only would the Army have to land there, they would have to build up their forces and simultaneously supply them over the beaches until a suitable port could be seized. Fortunately for the Army, England was still available as an advance base.

The Army didn’t completely ignore the ship to shore model of amphibious warfare, mostly because they couldn’t. When it became apparent that no cross-Channel operation to invade Europe would be possible in 1942 (mostly because of a lack of landing craft) President Roosevelt made the decision that a front in the Atlantic theater would be opened in North Africa. A combined British and American force would be landed in the French occupied territories of North Africa, then drive east to engage the German forces in  Tunisia. Due to the distances involved, this could only be a ship to shore movement. Many forces sailed from England, but a significant portion sailed all the way from ports on the East Coast of the US. Even against only fitful French and German resistance, the invasion fleet lost five large transports. One of the lessons the Army learned was that transports waiting to discharge their troops and cargoes were extremely vulnerable. In response, the Army wanted to make sure as many ships as possible had the ability to beach themselves to unload, minimizing the reliance on small craft such as the Higgins boat, LCVP, and the LCM.

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

These craft were carried near the objective by transports, and lowered over the side by booms or davits. That took time, time during which the transports, only 5-10 miles offshore, were vulnerable to submarines, airplanes and even coastal artillery.  While they were fairly good for getting the first units of lightly armed troops ashore, they were less efficient at getting ashore the huge numbers of follow-on troops needed, and importantly, the massive numbers of vehicles the troops would need to break out from any beachhead. Further, they just weren’t capable of bringing ashore the cargoes of supplies, fuel and ammunition the troops would need.  Something bigger was needed. And the first of these bigger craft was known as the LCT, or Landing Craft Tank. An LCM3 could carry one tank, barely. An LCT was a much bigger craft and could carry from 3 to 5 tanks. Five was an optimum number, as that was the number of tanks in a platoon, and keeping tactical units together on a landing greatly assisted in the assualt. As you can see from the picture, the LCT was essentially a self-propelled barge with a bow-ramp.

2lctmk5pageThe LCT could easily sail from England to France, or from Mediterranean ports in North Africa to Sicily and Italy. And while it could carry real numbers of tanks, something even better was in the works- the Landing Ship Tank, or LST. Early in the war, espcially as the Allies were first gearing up  for the invasion of North Africa, the Army (and especially the British) realized they had no way of shipping tanks overseas and landing them across beaches in any numbers. The LCT couldn’t handle the voyage, and loading LCMs over the side of a transport was problematic in anything but a flat calm. Worse, tanks kept getting heavier and heavier, faster than the booms on transport ships could grow to handle them. The idea arose of converting vessels originally built to carry rail cars from Florida to Panama as tank carriers. But while they could drive the tanks on at the embarkation point, the problem of discharging them remained. To unload them, the Army would need to seize a port. Indeed, this limitation was precisley why Casablanca was a target of the invasion. Enter the British. They had built a series of very shallow draft tankers to serve the waters around Venezuala. The reasoned that the design could quickly be adapted to build a large vessel that could safely beach itself, unload tanks held in what had formerly been the holds via a ramp in the bow, and then retract itself from the beach. Unlike an LCT, the LST might be ungainly and slow, but it was a real seagoing vessel.

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

LST (Landing Ship Tank)

While the LST was very valuable in bringing tanks, up to 20 at a time, it turns out the real value was in trucks. The Army in WWII was by far the most mechanized and motorized army in the world. And that meant trucks. Lots of trucks- to move people, supplies, tow guns, you name it. And the LST could carry a lot of trucks, already loaded, both on its tank deck, and on the topsides. And unlike the hassle of unloading a regular transport, all they had to do was drive down a ramp. After making an initial assault, as soon as an LST had discharged its tanks, it would turn around, go back to England (or where ever) and load up on trucks to build up the forces on the beachhead. To say the LST was a success would be a bit of an understatement. The US built roughly 1100 of them during the war for our Navy and the British.

While the LST was great for carrying tanks and trucks, it didn’t do so well at carrying people. One thing the Army really wanted was a small ship that could carry a rifle company from England and land them on the shores of France, non-stop and as a unit. The trick was getting the size just right. It had to be small enough to be built in large numbers, but big enough to cross the Atlantic on its own. It wouldn’t be expected to carry troops across the Atlantic. Those would come across on troopships. But any vessel large enough to do the job would be too large to carry aboard a transport. Pretty soon, the Navy designed and built the Landing Craft Infantry, or LCI. This was a vessel designed almost entirely with the invasion of Normandy in mind. It carried about 200 troops, roughly a reinforced rifle company, for up to 48 hours, which is about the time it took to load and transport them from ports in the Southwest of England and discharge them over the beaches of Normandy.

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

The Army had one other great tool for bringing supplies across the beach. In the days before the LST was available, the only method of getting trucks ashore across the beach was to winch them over the side of  a transport into an LCM. Someone at GM had the bright idea of doing away with the LCM part, and making the truck amphibious. That way, the truck could swim ashore, then drive inland to the supply dumps.  The result was basically a boat hull grafted onto a 2-1/2 ton truck, known as the DUKW, and commonly called a “duck.” Thousands of DUKWs, almost all manned by African American soldiers, brought wave after wave of critical supplies ashore across the beaches of Normandy and at other beaches the Army invaded. Unlike most landing craft, these were bought by, and operated by the Army, not the Navy.

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

Finally, in the Pacific, when you speak of amphibious warfare, again, you rightly think of the Marines. But in fact, the Army had a huge presence there as well. Indeed, it was always a larger prescence than the Marines. The Army made over 100 amphibious assualts in the Pacific theater, many in the Southwest Pacific in and around New Guinea. In conjunction with the US Seventh Fleet, MacArthur’s forces in the Southwest Pacific became masters at the art of amphibious warfare, striking where the Japanese least expected them, and routinely conducting sweeping flanking movements that left Japanese garrisons cut off and useless. Dan Barbey, the Commander of 7th Fleet became known as “Uncle Dan The Amphibious Man.” All this with a fleet mostly composed of tiny LCTs, a few LSTs and LCIs.

The Army also fought alongside the Marine Corps in some of their most storied battles, such as the invasions of Saipan and Okinawa. Indeed, if the atomic bomb attacks had not lead to the early surrender of Japan, the invasion of the home islands would have been mostly  an Army affair. Largely as a result of the Army’s preocupation with the European theater, these magnificent efforts have received little attention from the public at large.

After WWII, the Army’s focus again turned to Europe and the Cold War. For several reasons, including the vulnerability of shipping to nuclear weapons, amphibious operations fell out of favor with the Army. The Marines of course, continued to maintain that unique capabilty. Currently, the Army has no capability to conduct a landing against opposition. Current doctrine does still provide for limited ability to sustain forces by what is known as LOTS or “Logistics Over The Shore” and for the rapid deployment of troop units to hot spots via Afloat Prepositioning Squadrons. Basically, sets of unit equipment are mainained aboard large ships just days sailing from their possible objectives. If needed, they can sail to a friendly port or harbor, and unload their cargoes to meet up with troops flown in by either commercial aircraft or military transport planes. Alternatively, they can serve as a follow-on force to reinforce a beach seized by Marine amphibious assault.

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, ducks, guns, infantry, navy

EFSS- Marine Mortars versus Army Mortars

A couple years ago, URR had a nice post on the Marine Corps shift to the 120mm rifled mortar system known as the Expeditionary Fire Support System. Basically, it is a rifled 120mm mortar, its associated ITV prime mover, and the associated ammunition caisson and its prime mover, another ITV. General Dynamics, the prime contractor for the system, put together a nice little marketing video. Lots of shooty, even some splodey.

There’s a major, major difference between the Marine EFSS and the Army’s own 120mm smoothbore mortar systems. And it’s not really so much the  guns themselves.  It’s the organization of fire support assets.

A Marine Division has three infantry regiments, and an artillery regiment.  The Marines have elected to replace their light 105mm howitzers in the artillery regiment with the EFSS. That means the division’s artillery will lose significant range, but will also gain a much greater ability to land early via vertical envelopment using the MV-22 Osprey, and that the small size and light weight of the EFSS will allow battalions and batteries of fire support to move quickly right behind the supported infantry regiments and battalions. It is a fairly bold shift, but the Marines probably know better than I what their fire support requirements are. One other major impetus for shifting to EFSS is that space on amphibious shipping for artillery is incredibly tight. EFSS has a very small footprint, which makes finding space for it much easier. Or rather, not taking up as much space as a conventional 105mm artillery battery frees up space for other vehicles and equipment the Marines really want to bring along, but previously had no footprint for.

The Army, by contrast, doesn’t have the same shipping and footprint constraints. Further, the Marines have, historically, only operated in division or larger sized formations since World War II. The Army, by contrast, has always had (at least theoretically) the ability to field corps and field armies. And each of those formations had their own artillery to reinforce the  fires of divisional artillery.  For instance, today, each Brigade Combat Team has its own Field Artillery Battalion, to support its maneuver battalions. The division headquarters controlling the BCT might well have a Fires Brigade attached to effectively double the artillery available.  In the Marines, there simply isn’t any artillery above the division level.

In the Army, 120mm mortars belong to the infantry and combined arms* battalion commander, in the form of a mortar platoon organic to each battalion. That is, they are not an artillery weapon, but an infantry weapon, one of many supporting weapons organic to the maneuver unit.

Both the Army and the Marines have smaller mortars, 60mm and 81mm, that are infantry weapons, belonging to the rifle company or the infantry battalion, though how they are distributed differs in detail, if not in effect.

 

*Combined Arms Battalions are the maneuver battalions of Armored Brigade Combat Teams, and consist of a battalion with two tank companies, and two Bradley mechanized infantry companies.

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