Category Archives: Marines

Taming Sangin

By lex, on July 12th, 2011

It wasn’t easy bringing security to Sangin, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines endured great hardships, took heavy casualties and had to improvise new tactics on the fly:

On Oct. 13, the day 3/5 took control of Sangin, the first Marine patrol to leave the wire came under fire 150 feet from the perimeter. One member of this patrol was shot dead. Within the next four days, another eight Marines died.

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TRAP

By lex, on April 29th, 2011

More info is leaking out about the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) mission executed in Libya last month:

As that back door opened, I see a group of young Marine recon units jump out, and that was probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my entire life,’ Major Harney said on a USAF prepared video.

That’s a pretty good way to tell if you’re one of the good guys or not, by the way: If you’re happy to see a group of Force Recon Marines bundle out of a helicopter, you’re one of the good guys.

If you’re terrified and try to run away, you’re one of the bad guys. And you’ll just die tired.

Trap

 

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The Price of Hours

By lex, on November 13th, 2010

In August of 1942, Allied amphibious forces landed in strength upon Guadalcanal, sweeping aside a small Japanese defense and seizing the airfield under construction there. With the possession of the island and its airfield, the Allies could defend the supply lines between the US, Australia and New Zealand. From August to November, the Imperial Japanese Army made serial attempts to reinforce their scattered troops on the island and re-take the runway, but the presence of the so-called “Cactus Air Force” on the island prevented them from using expansive, but cumbersome troop ships. Such forces as could be landed from the Tokyo Express of cruisers and destroyers came ashore piecemeal, lacking logistical and heavy weapon support. The Japanese forces fought bravely under difficult conditions, but were repulsed again and again, often with shocking losses.

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Old fashioned


By lex, on November 24th, 2006

The mission of the infantry, the way I understand it, is to “close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to defeat or capture him, or to repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack.” Which can be hard when an enemy who hides in plain sight usually has no intention of allowing himself to be positively identified, far less closed upon. In Iraq instead, he often chooses to wage his war at an anonymous distance via improvised explosive devices, IEDs.

And among the many unsung heroes overseas are the EOD technicians that walk towards the bombs, once they’ve been identified – all the while knowing that a triggerman may be lurking on a rooftop, behind a window or even in an onlooking crowd, hands thrust into his pants pockets and fingering his initiator – a cell phone maybe or a wireless phone – even a garage door opener.

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Iwo Jima

By Lex, on Sat – February 19, 2005

Was it only 60 years ago?

Somehow it feels like more ancient history.

The WSJ has a great op-ed up today from historian Arthur Herman on the sacrifices made on the beaches, and in the Grinder. After a sustained pounding by naval gunfire and bombers, the Marines went ashore for over a month of bloody murder.

Even before the attack, the Navy’s bombardment of Iwo Jima cost more ships and men than it lost on D-Day, without making a significant dent in the Japanese defenses. Then, beginning at 9 a.m. on the 19th, Marines loaded down with 70 to 100 pounds of equipment each hit the beach, and immediately sank into the thick volcanic ash. They found themselves on a barren moonscape stripped of any cover or vegetation, where Japanese artillery could pound them with unrelenting fury. Scores of wounded Marines helplessly waiting to be evacuated off the beach were killed “with the greatest possible violence,” as veteran war reporter Robert Sherrod put it. Shells tore bodies in half and scattered arms and legs in all directions, while so much underground steam rose from the churned up soil the survivors broke up C-ration crates to sit on in order to keep from being scalded. Some 2,300 Marines were killed or wounded in the first 18 hours. It was, Sherrod said, “a nightmare in hell.”

And overlooking it all, rising 556 feet above the carnage, stood Mount Suribachi, where the Japanese could direct their fire along the entire beach. Taking Suribachi became the key to victory. It took four days of bloody fighting to reach the summit, and when Marines did, they planted an American flag. When it was replaced with a larger one, photographer Joe Rosenthal recorded the scene–the most famous photograph of World War II and the most enduring symbol of a modern democracy at war.

Yet, in the end, a symbol of what? Certainly not victory. The capture of Suribachi only marked the beginning of the battle for Iwo Jima, which dragged on for another month and cost nearly 26,000 men–all for an island whose future as a major air base never materialized. Forty men were in the platoon which raised the flag on Suribachi. Only four would survive the battle unhurt. Their company, E Company, Second Battalion, 28th Regiment, Fifth Marine Division, would suffer 75% casualties. Of the seven officers who led it into battle, only one was left when it was over.

This was my father’s generation, the tale of his time. He was a merchant marine officer on the New York to Murmansk run, and saw some horrible things along the way – but nothing, I am sure, to match the Hell on a small island that was Iwo.

But it was not just his tale, World War II and the fight against fascism – from the current distance, viewed down the lens of history it seemed to be national narrative. Somehow our national participation has grown in size over the passing years – not quite as remarkably perhaps as has the size of the French Resistance: Many more resistance fighters were “active” members after the liberation was complete than ever were during the years of Vichy collaboration. But in our national myth, everyone was there – fighting if they were men, joining the nurse corps, or serving in factories (remember Rosie the Riveter) or keeping the home fires burning if they were women.

But it’s not really true of course – many fought, and the nation was at war, but life went on at home, even with a draft. Even with millions of men under arms. One of my friends from church is a member of that generation, and he was one of those who made his way through the war in business, because the country didn’t really stop while the soldiers went to war. And my friend, when he talks about those times, nearly always seems to regret that his part of the tale did not involve heroic service in foreign lands. He is now over 80, and has accumulated a number of regrets – but it is this I think, that he regrets most bitterly. And it is not that he should, because the industrial capacity of the nation won the war nearly as certainly as did her soldiers, Sailors, airmen and Marines.

I grew up in Virginia, which means of course that I grew up within convenient range of many battle fields. I have walked the Wilderness, looked down upon Fredricksburg from the heights over the river, visited Appomatox Courthouse. I have been to Cold Harbor, looked up upon the Little Round Top at Gettysburg and wondered how it could have happened that men could shake out battle flags, form up lines and walk up that long field into the plunging fire.

But all of that is truly ancient history.

These World War II veterans are among us still. We can still hear their voices. And they can still teach us.

I have been to Iwo Jima – when I was stationed in Japan, we used to fly down there to practice our carrier landing patterns prior to going aboard ship for carrier qualification. It is a small, small place to have held such death. One wonders that it did not sink under the weight of the blood of 28,000 who died there on both sides. I have walked up LST beach with Suribachi to my left, glowering down from its fog-shrouded heights. Looked right and seen more rising terrain, an elevated sea wall to the right. I have made the long climb through soft volcanic sand and finally waist high grass, to get to an uncertain summit, and everywhere, seen the mouths of cave and tunnel systems in which the fanatic hordes poured out in counter-attack after counter-attack.

In nothing but tennis shoes and a bathing suit, I have found myself panting and out of breath, and thought about the men who waded ashore that day, 60 years ago today, with 80 pound packs and the noise and their brothers falling all around them like blades of grass beneath a mower. And I have wondered how they did it, and if we, whom they made, are made of the same stuff.

After Fallujah in November, I believe that at least some of us are. As for the rest, perhaps in 60 years’ time we will learn about how our great campaign to once again liberate millions from tyranny and throw down fascism of a different stripe was truly national in character. I am sure that if this great task we are embarked upon is successful, that will be the narrative.

Success, it is truly said, has many fathers.

———–

Update – thanks to Oyster, for this pic, taken from Suribachi, looking down the beach:

iwojima0205

 

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Cutaway Thursday: CH-53K King Stallion

Since xbradtc blogged about this earlier in the week, I’m thowing up a cutaway for the latest incarnation of the western world’s (i.e. non-Russian) largest helicopter (that’d be helo to the NAVY/USMC team and “chopper” to the Army). This done is taken from the King Stallion’s website at Sikorsky:

mil_CH53K_safe_amil_CH53K_safe_b

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USMC wants USN to adopt Osprey in COD role

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David Axe at Medium has a piece on how the USMC is placing pressure on the Navy to ditch the C-2 Greyhound .

The Greyhound serves an important role in Carrier On-Board Delivery (COD). COD helps to keep CVWs supplied with the various sundry items to keep it running at sea (along with VERTREP and UNREP, from helos and oilers respectively). Most importantly to those deployed CVWs they deliver the mail (because of this, it’s easily the MOST popular aircraft in the airwing).
In addition to COD, the Greyhound does special forces insertion and VIP transport to and carriers.

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The Osprey is controversial because its darn expensive and having the COD Osprey lowers the per unit cost so it would make sense perhaps to buy for that role. Or maybe not:

Extending the tiltrotor’s flying distance would require the constant attention of Air Force aerial tankers, which can cost up to $10,000 per hour to operate. The V-22 is also slightly slower than the C-2, can’t fly as high because it’s unpressurized and costs more: $68 million for a new V-22 compared to an estimated $50 million for a new C-2.

We talked earlier about the proposed aerial tanker role for the Osprey. Also the Osprey did operate in a COD role for the deployed airwing on the USS Bataan during combat operations off Libya in 2011. The Osprey is a new platform and has enough flexibility to operate in an “impromptu COD” role but I think the C-2 is better suited.

The Axe piece makes for interesting reading and makes me think how flexible the Osprey platform is.

But…

K.I.S.S.

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