Category Archives: Marines

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:

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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:

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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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(K)V-22 Osprey tanker tests.

Aviation Week has an article on the recent tanker trails of the V-22 Osprey. Boeing wants to push the Osprey as a truly multi-role platform.

Here are some pictures from the trails with an accompanying F/A-18 Hornet:

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The refueling system makes use of onboard tanks as well as a roll-on/roll-off bladder, Sparks says. The hose extends 90 ft., about 80 ft. from the end of the ramp of the MV-22. The operator must open the ramp to extend the refueling hose; once extended, the ramp is then raised back up with the top ramp door left open, Sparks says.

Depending on mission profile, the system can offload up to 12,000 lb. of fuel, Karika says.

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The F/A-18 Hornet was used to test behavior at that distance below and behind the V-22. More testing with fixed and rotary winged aircraft are slated for the future.

After all, no one kicks ass without tanker gas.

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Aviation Briefs

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First up, Stars and Stripes has an article on the USMC’s VMA-513 “Flying Nightmares” being decommissioned.

VMA-513 has participated in major conflicts such as World War II and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. It was one of the first squadrons to see action in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, spending nearly a year on deployment from October 2002 through the autumn of 2003.

The squadron also holds several aviation milestones, including the first kill of a supersonic drone with a Sidewinder missile in 1964, the first Corps squadron to transition to the Harrier in 1970, the only squadron in the world to simultaneously employ all three variants of the AV-8B in 2001 and the first squadron to employ the Lightning II targeting pod in combat.

That’s a lot of history.

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Next, as usual, English Russia has interesting walk-around of the Mysischev 3MD NATO codenamed “Bison.”

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The Bison was intended as a competitor to the TU-95 “Bear” but, despite it’s jet power-plants,  never managed to have an extensive service life with the Soviet Air Force as the Bear did.

If you’re interested in new uses for Lockheed’s F-104 Starfighter, Star Lab is testing the Starfighter as a a vehicle to bring it’s reusable StarLab payload vehicle to a low-Earth orbit.

The Star Lab suborbital vehicle is an air-launched sounding rocket, which is designed to be reusable and can reach a maximum altitude of about 120km.

The Star Lab vehicle carrying scientific payloads is launched from the venerable F-104 Starfighter jet. After the Star Lab payload stage reaches its predetermined altitude, it will descend by parachute into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Star Lab is capable of carrying up to 13 payloads per flight

Here’s a photo of the vehicle being attached to the F-104 aircraft:

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Finally, having quite a bit of time on my hands this week I found some cool walk-around photos from Warbird Radio:

The PA-48 Enforcer, is the ultimate development of the iconic P-51 Mustang fighter. The Enforcer was designed to be a cost effective, light, close-support aircraft. She’s currently on display at the National Museum of the USAF in the Research and Development Hangar.

It’s amazing how we keep revisiting history with the current controversy in the LAS competition between the T-6 Texan 2 and the A-29 Super Tucano. Sigh.

Warbird Radio also has a few other walk-arounds featuring the F-106 and the XF-91. Cool stuff.

P.S. Ever wondered what Earth sounds like when you capture it’s radio waves from space and convert them to sound:

Eerie.

Everyone have a great weekend.

 

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DoD Drops the Ball, Again

Sgt Peralta

Sgt. Rafael Peralta
United States Marine Corps

Go read this: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/12/panetta-denies-medal-honor-marine-dived-grenade/. It’s a story of incredible bravery and sacrifice by one of our country’s finest. And a story of abject failure in our nation’s capital.

It seems that the a$$hats who run the Department of Defense (DoD) can’t trust eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony from the Marines whose lives were saved by Sgt Peralta. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Sgt Peralta, you earned this by giving your life for your fellow Marines.

Navy MoH

You will not be forgotten.

Semper Fi!

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