Tag Archives: World War II

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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Somewhere, Red Mike Edson is Smiling

Marine_Raiders_insignia.svg

From Marine Corps Times:

An official flagging ceremony to rename Marine special operations battalions in honor of their World War II predecessors is set to take place June 19, MARSOC officials confirmed. The ceremony comes 10 months after the command first announced its plan to change the names of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command’s component units to reflect their history.

The formal renaming was held up while Headquarters Marine Corps approved a bulletin announcing the upcoming change, said Capt. Barry Morris, a MARSOC spokesman. He said MARSOC’s headquarters in Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, also had to coordinate with its major subordinate elements to determine a date for the ceremony.

The Corps does a lot of goofy sh*t sometimes, but we do cherish our traditions.  Love the skull patch, too.  It will remind people that the job of the Raiders, and the USMC writ large, is to kill.  Destroy the enemy.

Semper Fi, Raiders!

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The British Pacific Fleet

Growing up in a Naval Aviation family, it was a given that I would know the major exploits of the Fast Carrier Task Force that formed the heart of the US Navy’s striking power in the Pacific. Operating alternately as TF 38 when under Halsey’s 3rd Fleet and TF 58 when under Spruance’s 5th Fleet, the FCTF roamed the Central and Western Pacific, at sea for weeks at a time, supporting various invasions, striking territory the Japanese had seized, and even raiding the home islands of Japan.  The FCTF was the powerhouse of the Pacific, making that ocean an American pond for 70 years. Every other part of the United States Navy, from the submarine service, to the stupendous fleet train,  to the Seabees to the amphibious shipping and indeed, the entire US Marine Corps, served simply to better enable the Big Blue to rule the mighty Pacific as a wholly American territory.

Of course, the US Navy wasn’t alone in those waters. Britain, with its many colonial outposts, maintained a significant fleet presence in the Pacific. Sadly, the opening months of the war saw them more soundly defeated by Japan than even our own fleet. Eventually, the Royal Navy would retreat to Trincomalee, Ceylon.  The bulk of the Royal Navy’s fighting strength would be devoted to operations in the North Atlantic and in the Mediterranean Sea.

However, by early 1944, the situation in those waters was sufficiently in hand that Britain felt it could spare ships and planes for the Pacific. The Chief of Naval Operations, Ernie King, was not exactly an Anglophile, and was not enthusiastic about the Royal Navy returning to the Western Pacific. In this, he was overruled by FDR.

Of course, it was more than mere politics that gave the US Navy pause about a Royal Navy fleet in the Pacific. The RN mostly operated close to its bases in comparatively close waters. Their ships had less endurance, and even less space for food stores. Furthermore, they had little experience in replenishment underway. Worst of all, they had virtually none of the fleet train of ships that the US Navy relied upon to allow the Fast Carrier Task Force to stay at sea for weeks. Any significant RN participation would almost certainly have to receive at least some support from the US Navy.

The RN did amass a sizeable fleet train to support its operations (though they also received quite a bit of help from the USN) and soon amassed a significant fleet of carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers and other combatants.

When operating with the US Navy, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was under  the US command structure, and designated either TF 37 or Task Force 57, depending on whether it was with 3rd or 5th Fleet.

The most significant operations of the BPF were in support of the US invasion of Okinawa, where the BPF conducted raids on Japanese airfields to suppress kamikaze attacks. Of course, that invited kamikaze attacks upon themselves. Unlike US carriers that had wooden flight decks, British carriers had steel flight decks. Generally, a kamikaze hit on them resulted in far less damage.

While some British carriers operated British designed planes such as the Seafire and the Barracuda, many operated US built planes, including the Corsair, the Avenger, and the Hellcat.

No audio, but still an interesting look at British carrier operations in 1944.

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The Army Air Forces in 1944

A US propaganda film showing the various numbered air forces of the USAAF in early 1944. Lots of good footage of some of the more obscure theaters. It’s about 40 minutes, so grab a cup of coffee.

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The Death of Ernie Pyle

Stoop shouldered 44 year old correspondents aren’t normally an object of admiration and love for grunts. But World War II newsman Ernie Pyle was, undoubtedly, the exception.

While most correspondents covered the headquarters, the big picture, Ernie covered the dogfaces, the grunts, from North Africa to Italy, and from France to the far reaches of the Pacific.

He earned the Pulitzer Prize for his writing, his empathy for the hardships the average American soldier faced. He showed the humanity of the troops in that most inhumane arena, war.

Probably his best known column was The Death of Captain Waskow.

AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, January 10, 1944 – In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had led his company since long before it left the States. He was very young, only in his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.

“After my own father, he came next,” a sergeant told me.

“He always looked after us,” a soldier said. “He’d go to bat for us every time.”

“I’ve never knowed him to do anything unfair,” another one said.

I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow’s body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked.

On this day in 1945, Ernie Pyle was accompanying officers of the 77th Division during a “minor” operation to seize the island of Ie Shima, near Okinawa. A concealed Japanese machine gun nest fired upon the group.  The four men dove into a ditch. Pyle, raising his head to check on the others, was struck in the left temple by a second burst of fire, and killed instantly.

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Inspection Ready

Can you imagine an NCO meeting a Colonel, let alone a five star general, shirtless and greasy today?

Hap

My how times have changed.

There’s very much a place for spit and polish in the service. But there’s also very much a time for senior officers to see past the dog and pony shows and see what the actual conditions are.

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Salient Visible Characteristics of Fighting Ships

from Fahey’s “Ships and Aircraft of the US Fleet

I have a knack for finding interesting militarily historical artifacts and after reviewing my purchases at the second annual Pritzker Military Museum and Library booksale, this is a lesson I keep having to relearn. I had that feeling I should purchase that copy of Fahey’s  “The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet“, in this instance, available there as a 5 volume set, which already having a tendency to listen to feeling, I purchased.

I found a document from the Office of Naval Intelligence dated 11 March 1942 titled: “Salient Visible Characteristics of Fighting Ships.” It provides an interesting glimpse of what the US Navy was like during World War 2. Thusly:

Hesitation caused by the uncertainty as to whether a vessel is friend or foe may lose for the aviator his opportunity to attack, and for the naval officer may result in the loss of a ship or failure to discharge a mission or destroy an enemy vessel.

Heady and still very relevant stuff especially for those currently deployed.

Below you’ll see my pictures of some of the document. Enjoy:

 
 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, history, navy, ships, veterans, war, World War II