Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wicked Spring

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Another Saturday night, searching Amazon Prime for something to watch. What I found was an independent film by the name of Wicked Spring.

Set during the Civil War, it takes place in what came to be known as The Wilderness, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, in the spring of 1864. While the war will rage for another year, for some men, it will end that spring.

Two men, one from the South, one from the North. We meet them first in 1861 as the war begins. Both men have a bittersweet parting from their loved ones as they go off to war. Three years later we meet them again in the Hell that was The Wilderness. They also meet each other...

I don't think I've ever seen a more authentic Civil War film at this level, the human level. No grand armies fighting across sweeping battlefields, this is the story of men caught up in the Hell of war.

Kinda left me speechless.

I highly recommend this film.



A short post for a Sunday, I know, but the film left me at a loss for words.

Brilliant.



Saturday, February 16, 2019

Gray Ladies

An aerial view of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard looking west/northwest on 30 October 1995. The shipyard closed on 30 September 1995, but the Navy Intermediate Ship Maintenance Facility (NISMF) continued to store decommissioned and mothballed ships. Vessels visible, left to right: the battleships USS Iowa (BB-61), and USS Wisconsin (BB-64) at the DD wharf; naval auxiliaries USS Sylvania (AFS-2), USS Milwaukee (AOR-2) and USS Savannah (AOR-4) at pier 5; the aircraft carriers USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Saratoga (CV-60); at pier 4; the amphibious assault ships USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) and USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7) at pier 2. In the back pool is the heavy cruiser USS Des Moines (CA-134) and numerous destroyers and frigates. (Source)
One of drjim's comments yesterday brought back some old memories, so I had to go digging, then (of course) had to write a post about it. Now that opening photo is one of the things I discovered while wandering the Internet. In that photo are USS Forrestal (CV-59), USS Saratoga (CV-60), and USS Iowa (BB-61). Yes, there are other ships in that photo (including ScottTheBadger's Big Badger Boat, USS Wisconsin (BB-64)).

Now the three ships I mentioned were, for a time, tied up at Pier 2 at Naval Station Newport, where I first saw them in August of 1999.

Big Mamie (USS Massachusetts (BB-59)) on the way to the Boston Drydock in 1998. She is passing the USS Iowa (BB-61),
USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Saratoga (CV-60) at Pier two Newport, Naval Station, RI.
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One evening shortly after our arrival here in Little Rhody, we decided to go exploring our new surroundings. I'd been retired from the Air Force for a few months and had finally found a job to my liking. (As I'm still there over nineteen years later I guess I made a good choice!) We were staying in one of the very few Howard Johnson's motor inns still remaining. (Didn't have a restaurant of that name, there was an Applebee's instead.)

So we piled into the family car and headed out onto Aquidneck Island. Which the locals simply call "The Island" and which is officially Rhode Island. I think we've covered this before but I'll tell you again, Little Rhody is officially "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," Rhode Island is "The Island," where I work, everything else is Providence Plantations, including the part where I live, but yes, I digress.

We drove past the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, which sits atop a ridge, headed towards Narragansett Bay (the other side of The Island is washed by the Sakonnet River, which is a tidal strait and not really a fresh water river, it's as salty as the Bay). As we crested the ridge, there before us lay the Bay, and  two aircraft carriers and a battleship, shown above, and again below.

There they are again, looks like the tugs were pushing USS Iowa into the nest. So this might have been the 24th of September, 1998. (She left on 8 March 2001.)
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Another view after USS Iowa had departed to become a museum ship in California (where drjim was instrumental in making repairs to her radios).

Most of the buildings in the foreground belong to NUWC, Pier 2 is where the carriers are tied up. The pier to the right was where I had the opportunity to tour USS Oscar Austin (DDG-79) and USS McFaul (DDG-74), the latter twice. The second time was when The Nuke was her Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer (ASWO). Some of the crew began referring to me as "ASWO's Dad" during the week USS McFaul was in town. I spent the better part of five days aboard her escorting tours for my work colleagues. Which kind of gives you an idea what I do these days to make a living. (Source)
USS Iowa left, as I mentioned, to become a museum ship, USS Forrestal and USS Saratoga left to meet a different fate, both to be scrapped at Brownsville, Texas, a sad fate for any warship. Some folks around here wanted one of them to remain and become a museum ship, possibly across the Bay at Quonset Point. The cost to move one of them, do the necessary repairs to turn her into a museum, and keep her maintained would have been prohibitive, no group could come up with that sort of cash. So off the two ships went.

It was sad when USS Iowa was towed away, but at least she would remain afloat. Sadder still when USS Forrestal and USS Saratoga headed down Narragansett Bay, under the Newport Bridge and out to sea for the very last time.

The end of an era...



Pier 2 sits empty now, but I remember the days when I drove by that pier and could see two aircraft carriers and a battleship.

Now we have no active battleships, and I wonder why.



Friday, February 15, 2019

Kermit

P-51C - Aviation warplane collector and pilot Kermit Weeks restored and flies this P-51C fighter painted in tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer's aircraft, "Ina the Macon Belle."
(Source)
What, you thought I meant Kermit the Frog? Uh, no. Though I am a fan of that Kermit, the fellow I'm talking about in this post is Kermit Weeks who owns and operates a pretty sweet museum down Florida way, which you can read more about here. Mr. Weeks also has a very nice YouTube channel featuring lots and lots of cool flying videos. (Where I will no doubt "waste" a lot of time!) With lots and lots of really cool aircraft. (I'm sorry, but I'm a sucker for dang near anything that flies.)

Now y'all know my love for the Supermarine Spitfire, but coming in a very close second (and yes, sometimes she steals my heart) is the P-51 Mustang. A sweet bird and one of the prettiest flying machines ever built.

Anyhoo, I ran across these three videos where Mr. Weeks gives us a pre-flight, a quick overview of the cockpit, then he fires up that sweet sounding Merlin engine, then takes us up in the air for a quick circuit of the airfield. I have to tell you this had me on the edge of my seat and turning my head to see what was going on. It was a bit of a let down to land so soon. I wanted more, much more. You'll see for yourself in a moment, but first a brief look at the man who flew the first "Ina, The Macon Belle."

Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer, Jr. (right)
(Source)
On October 12, 1944, Archer was a part of a group of six members of the 332nd Fighter Group that shot down a total of nine enemy aircraft while on a strafing mission from Budapest to Bratislava. Archer, flying Ina the Macon Bell, shot down three German Me-109s, and Capt Wendall Pruitt, flying Alice-Jo, show down an He-111 and Me-109. The combined aerial victories earned the duo the nickname “The Gruesome Twosome.”

He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts, and a spot in the history books. After another victory, he became one of only four Tuskegee Airmen to achieve four aerial victories. During his military career he also received special citations from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, along with the Director of the CIA.
(Source)
Archer is considered by some as the first and—as of 2010—only black U.S. pilot to earn an "ace" designation, for shooting down at least five enemy aircraft. Archer was acknowledged to have shot down four planes, and he and another pilot both claimed victory for shooting down a fifth aircraft. An investigation revealed Archer had inflicted the damage that destroyed the aircraft, and the Air Force eventually proclaimed him an ace pilot. He also destroyed six aircraft on the ground during a strafing mission in August 1944, as well as several locomotives, motor transports and barges. (Source
Now that's one hell of a pilot if you ask me! Lt Col Archer is buried at Arlington, I need to pay him a visit one of these days. Yup, I'll be throwing a nickel on the grass for him.

Now how about those videos Sarge? Well, alrighty then, here ya go!







Sweet!



Thursday, February 14, 2019

In Olden Times

When I was nobbut a lad, toy stores and hobby shops were common. Not, of course, in the sleepy wee New England town of my birth and upbringing, had to cross the river and go to the nearest "city". Which for us was Claremont over in the Granite State. (In 2010 Claremont's population was only about 5,000 more than my hometown. Both numbers are under 15,000. Small town New England right there.) At any rate, Claremont had a combination toy store/hobby shop. Up on a hill it was, Toy Castle was its name and , as you can see, it was aptly named.

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I bought my first Avalon Hill board game there, Afrika Korps, which I still have. Over the few years between discovering this place and then moving on to be a semi-adult in the Air Force, I'm sure I spent a lot of money in there. Worth every penny it was.

On Okinawa there at least one hobby shop as I recall, they stocked model aircraft, tanks, figures, cars, motorcycles, ships, and the like. The opening photo of the Tam Tam Hobby Shop in Tokyo reminded me of what you used to see in hobby shops. The picture below is another example of the things I used to spend my hard earned shekels on, but as you can see by the price tag on the box, times (and prices) have changed.

For those of you who don't have a handy yen to dollars conversion tool at hand, ¥5880 converts to roughly $52.99. Back in the day a kit like that would go for maybe ten bucks, less in some shops. Now you almost need to be independently wealthy to build model kits, or so it seems to this grognard*.

Not that long ago I was in the mood to build a model of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. I managed to track one down in a (now defunct) hobby shop in the local area. It was in 1/35 scale and was very nice. With a price tag of eighty-five simoleons, it went back on the shelf. While I could afford the kit, I doubted that The Missus Herself would be that understanding. While we're not poor, we're not exactly stinking filthy rich. So I passed, I still regret it.

But I am not looking at the not-that-long-ago, I need to go further back in time, when hobby shops had games, figures, models, radio-controlled stuff, trains, and all sorts of accessories for those. (Think paints, putty, glue, etc., etc.) While in college there was an awesome hobby shop not that far from where I lived. As Uncle Sam was paying for college and giving me my regular paycheck, I went to that hobby shop nearly every other week. Didn't always buy something, got to know the folks who worked there though and did spend more than my fair share of my scarcely earned pay therein.

While at Offutt AFB, found an even better hobby shop in nearby Papillion. I went there quite a bit as well. Bought a lot of HO scale Napoleonic figures, which I still have and swear to paint and mount on stands someday for to play war games with miniatures. We didn't use our garage that much in Omaha, that's where I held my battles. The Missus Herself wouldn't go in there, too many "toys" as she called them laying around.

One day I went off to work on a Monday, leaving the battle in progress. I returned home to discover that the neighbor kid, The Missus Herself was the "emergency" babysitter for the little guy, his Mom was Korean, his Dad was American, like us, so she would help them out when they needed to be someplace of an afternoon without the progeny tagging along.

Well, little Nathan (for such was his name) managed to find the garage whilst TMH wasn't looking. She found him quick enough but not before he had gone on a rampage across the battlefield and scattered the troops of both sides to the four corners of the garage. It was like Godzilla had wandered onto the field of Waterloo and sent the forces of the Emperor and the Duke reeling.

Yes, I was a bit miffed. But in my angst at this occurrence, TMH decided that that would be a good time to cease all "gaming" (playing with toys more like) activities in the family garage. For she needed to use that space for other things, like parking the car. What a concept!

In 1992 we were off to Germany, and while the Germans did have hobby shops, finding World War II models therein was not to be done. Seems die Deutscher have no fond memories of the period 1933 to 1945. Can't say I blame them completely, not what you'd call "good times." Also the prices they were charging would've made a Rockefeller choke! (Didn't stop me from buying a few things, trinkets really, don't tell TMH.)

When we returned to the States the whole hobby shop concept seemed to be on the wane. There was one nice place in Keene, New Hampshire, where I would always stop on my way to visit my parents. One day we parked, The Missus Herself sighed at the thought of the funds I would no doubt expend in that place, and in I went. Arriving at an empty store front.

It was an ex-hobby shop, bereft of models, figures, games, and toys, it was pushing up the daisies, the business had joined the choir invisible. Leaving me to pine for the days of the hobby shop.

There are a couple in Little Rhody which aren't too bad, based on what they have in stock, the prices, and the dearth of clientele, I cannot imagine how they stay in business. Perhaps they have rich parents who gave the kid "something to do" to keep him out of trouble.

But many businesses of that type are no longer around, I mean it's kind of a specialty thing, your average Walmart customer isn't in to that sort of thing. I know, I know, I can get whatever I want online, if I'm willing to pay, and often I am, but it ain't the same.

I miss going to one of those places, nothing in mind to buy, just wanted to see what there was to see. I was a frequent browser and often I would buy something. Didn't have any one thing in mind, just wanted to look.

I'm the same way with book stores. I often go there with no firm commitment to buy something in particular. I want to see what they have, usually I walk away with at least one book, often four or more.

Yes, I do Amazon, just bought a book from them which a friend recommended. Bought it because he recommended it, the subject matter is near and dear to my heart, and the wee blurb on Amazon looked good. So I ordered it, had it in two days.

But I like the physical brick and mortar locations. You can't smell the new books online, and let me tell you, the smell of a new book is, to me, better than the smell of a new car.

A lot cheaper too!

Ah well, I guess I'm just an old coot who is set in his ways. But I miss those olden times, at least certain aspects of them.

Sigh...








* grognard - French slang for an old soldier, literally "grumbler."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In Memoriam: USS Hornet (CV-8)

USS Hornet (CV-8) cruising off Hampton Roads in October 1941.
She carried the Doolittle Raid to Japan, launching twin-engined B-25 bombers from her flight deck.

She was there at the Battle of Midway. Though her air group lost heavily in the early stages of the battle, her warbirds were there when U.S. Navy aircraft found, and sank, the Japanese heavy cruiser Mikuma. They also damaged a Japanese destroyer, and left the Mikuma's sister ship Mogami smoking and limping away from the battle, the last act of the battle of Midway. (Mogami would survive and be repaired, only to go to the bottom at the Battle of the Surigao Strait in 1944.)

She was there for the Solomons Campaign, for a time she was the only operational carrier in the entire Pacific theater what with USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Saratoga (CV-3) undergoing repairs for, respectively, bomb and torpedo damage, and with USS Wasp (CV-7) having been sunk off Guadalcanal.

She was there for the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where she met her end...
The Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands took place on 26 October 1942 without contact between surface ships of the opposing forces. That morning, Enterprise's planes bombed the carrier Zuihō, while planes from Hornet severely damaged the carrier Shōkaku and the heavy cruiser Chikuma. Two other cruisers were also attacked by Hornet's warplanes. Meanwhile, Hornet was attacked by a coordinated dive bomber and torpedo plane attack. In a 15-minute period, Hornet was hit by three bombs from Aichi D3A "Val" dive bombers. One "Val," after being heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire while approaching Hornet, crashed into the carrier's island, killing seven men and spreading burning aviation gas (Avgas) over the deck. Meanwhile, a flight of Nakajima B5N "Kate" torpedo planes attacked Hornet and scored two hits, which seriously damaged the electrical systems and engines. As the carrier came to a halt, another damaged "Val" deliberately crashed into Hornet's port side near the bow.

With power knocked out to her engines, Hornet was unable to launch or land aircraft, forcing its aviators to either land on Enterprise or ditch in the ocean. Rear Admiral George D. Murray ordered the heavy cruiser Northampton to tow Hornet clear of the action. Since the Japanese planes were attacking Enterprise, this allowed Northampton to tow Hornet at a speed of about five knots (9 km/h; 6 mph). Repair crews were on the verge of restoring power when another flight of nine "Kate" torpedo planes attacked. Eight of these aircraft were either shot down or failed to score hits, but the ninth scored a fatal hit on the starboard side. The torpedo hit destroyed the repairs to the electrical system and caused a 14-degree list. After being informed that Japanese surface forces were approaching and that further towing efforts were futile, Vice Admiral William Halsey ordered Hornet sunk, and an order of "abandon ship" was issued. Captain Charles P. Mason, the last man on board, climbed over the side, and the survivors were soon picked up by the escorting destroyers.

American warships next attempted to scuttle the stricken carrier, which absorbed nine torpedoes, many of which failed to explode, and more than 400 5-inch (130 mm) rounds from the destroyers Mustin and Anderson. The destroyers steamed away when a Japanese surface force entered the area. The Japanese destroyers Makigumo and Akigumo finally finished off Hornet with four 24-inch (610 mm) Long Lance torpedoes. At 01:35 on 27 October, Hornet was finally sunk with the loss of 140 of her sailors. (Source)
USS Hornet under attack during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
 The grave of USS Hornet has been located by the research organization founded by the late Paul Allen. She lies in 17,500 feet of water where she met her end. A fine ship, a proud ship, may her memory live on, may the valor of her crew be ever remembered.





Immortal Valor






* A tip of the hat to my old buddy EK, 12-Bravo, for alerting me to this story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Auld Sod

(Source)
As some of you may have noticed, I was on the road this past weekend. While I was able to finish up "Bayonet Week," as juvat called it (I mean, come on man, it was two posts, not like it rivaled Skunk Week, which was three posts) on Saturday, you did get a rerun on Sunday. A wicked funny rerun (at least I thought so), but a rerun nonetheless.

As I deprived you of a new post on Sunday, I thought I might regale you with a tale of my weekend, wherein I returned to The Auld Sod, the land of my birth (sort of*). While I have, according to a DNA test taken by The Olde Vermonter, a great deal of Irish blood running in my veins, all the ancestral Gaels went to Scotland. No doubt one step ahead of the law.

Anyhoo, I digress.

The weekend started in grand fashion with Yours Truly attempting to find the leftover chili in the fridge. For you see, The Missus Herself was out visiting some of her elderly friends and left me to fend for myself. I mean how hard is it to nuke a bowl of leftover chili? (A recipe from The WSO which The Missus Herself had given a Korean twist, very tasty.)

Well nuking it was the easy part, finding it wasn't so easy. I mean how hard can it be, no doubt thought the love of my life, "I'll leave the chili right here, I mean it's red, it's right in the front of the fridge, even an idiot should be able to find it."

Well, this idiot did eventually find it. After carping on the phone to The WSO for a good five minutes as I searched high and low in that refrigerator. Which no doubt inspired my youngest to post the following on the Book of Face -


Ha, bloody ha. (The truth, it can sting.)

At any rate, after dining on the chili, it was off to the computational device to write Saturday's post and then search through the extensive archives here at The Chant to find a tidbit for to post on Sunday. While you may (or may not) have found that post amusing, I found it to be just as funny/embarrassing now as when the incident occurred and again when I wrote about it.

At any rate, Saturday's post had some good comments, which I answered Saturday night (near enough to midnight as dammit) on my cellphone with a rather spotty cell signal. Now Mom does live in the boondocks, so to speak, surrounded by lots of mountains, hills, valleys, and maybe two or three cell towers in about a thousand square miles. Yes, I am exaggerating, but not by much.

Big fat fingers, little tiny cellphone "keyboard," and maybe one to one and a half bars of connectivity. So of course, Beans has to make a crack about my loquaciousness rivaling PLQ's. Damning with faint praise right there. I thought I was being polite and succinct. I mean, I like letting you folks out there know that I read (and yes, cherish) your comments. (And I like to think that PLQ's comments are succinct, ya know, to the point.)

Anyhoo (again), up there in the north country of my birth (sort of) it is still winter. While I was expecting that, I hadn't expected the dearth of snow not thirty miles south of the Homeland. I mean, normally we start seeing beaucoup (pronounced boo-koo, heh, not) snow when approaching Worcester (pronounced Wustah, really) in the Massachusetts snow belt. Not much at all did we see, not even as we approached the New Hampshire line.

Sure, there was some back in the trees and on the side of the road that gets very little sun, but I'm used to seeing much more. (Like in that opening photo, that place isn't too far from where my maternal grandparents lived.) Even north of Keene the snow seemed sparse. Heck, the Connecticut River wasn't even frozen south of Bellows Falls (town of my birth, in  Vermont, nicht New Hampshire).

Just north of there the Connecticut was frozen. Solid enough where I saw a couple of ice fishermen, not out on the river proper but in one of the setbacks. The Missus Herself opined that "surely they must be crazy people" to be out there. Well, the wind was blowing and the "feel like" temperature had to be in the teens. So she had a point, especially as they had no shelter other than the leafless trees along the shore. Ah well, northern New Englanders (of which I am one) are a bit daft. In a good way mind you.

But the visit to my Mom's house was pleasant. We had a nice meal at The Sumner House (a local eatery) on Saturday night I had a New York strip steak with a bourbon glaze topped with caramelized onions, green beans (or haricot vert when I'm "putting on airs," which is often), and a very nice baked potato. All washed down with a Sam Adams (the variety of which I don't remember). Afterwards we retired to the Elks Club where fortuitously some of my Mom's and our mutual friends happened to be, where I sampled a local brew called a Rainbow Red Ale from the Trout River Brewing Company of Springfield, Vermont, the place I was raised. Quite tasty, though it tasted neither like trout nor like river (which was a good thing). I was sore tempted to have another, but as I was the driver, I opted to behave.

The trip, though short, was grand. The sky was blue, the roads were dry, and the scenery was lovely. I do so enjoy going up north to the ancestral homeland. As we weren't able to make it up there at Christmas time nor in January (due to weather, ill health, and the non-availability of the feline staff's Godmother, which is what our next door neighbor calls herself, she is a most excellent cat sitter as both Anya and Sasha really like her, something which doesn't apply to many humans).

Monday it was back to work and back to eating "healthy." The Missus Herself has declared a fatwa on my substantial bulk and is determined to get me down to a weight where I won't be mistaken for a beached whale when I get near the water. For once I am attempting to comply for reasons which will be revealed at some time in the not so distant (I hope) future. (Think happy thoughts, no dire premonitions here, all will be revealed in due course.)

At any rate, I'm back and I shall endeavor to avoid reruns for the foreseeable future. I do get so lazy at times...



Good song, good album.



* I keep writing "sort of" as I was born and raised in Vermont, just across the river from where Mom lives now. Same neck of the woods though dontcha know? As my Mom and Dad are both from New Hampshire, and both sets of grandparents lived there, I consider the Granite State to be every bit a part of The Auld Sod as Vermont.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Basco 3

Isn't the internet interesting? So many distractions, so much information (some of which is factual), so many answers to questions we never knew we had. I mean, who knew I needed to know about Neanderthal Burial Rituals?  

I was sitting at my computational device a few days ago (right about the time, Sarge went all in with Bayonet Week on the Chant Channel.) and happened to be researching a topic ("Any topic, just get me something to write about!" which, of course, is the prayer offered every Sunday by mois.) when I happened upon a YouTube video from Dogfights on the History Channel.

Relax, Beans, I'm building suspense.  The video is at the bottom of the post.  

That series was one of my favorites and had some very realistic renditions/simulations of the engagements they were reporting on.  Engagement being the military term for Dogfight.  One "engages" the enemy aircraft rather than "attacks", "fights" or "shoots at".  I don't know...Someone made Colonel coming up with that term.

But, engaging as the term is, engagement is the word for an air to air furball.

However, as Sarge often reminds me, at this point, I digress.

So, I'm watching the video of Showtime 100 with  Cunnigham and Driscoll "engaging" Col Tomb.  Pretty well done video simulation along with some analytical graphics to better explain the maneuvering.  The episode was filmed before Cunningham's fall from grace, so he, Driscoll and Steve Richie are providing analysis.

As I'm watching it, I can feel my stomach muscles tightening as I subconsciously strain against the G's.  Yes, I do that whilst flying my computer simulations also.  Helps the aircraft turn better.  Besides...Mrs J says it's got to help with my waistline.  

Whatever!

The video's over, and I'm back on my YouTube Homepage when Google/YouTube quickly analyzes my browsing history and pops up a new series of recommendations.  Another Vietnam era air to air engagement documented on the History Channel.  Realizing that I really should be actively processing activities on the "Honey-Do" list, I click play.

I'm treated to an excellent video, and as it begins to play, I recognize the name of one of the pilots in the engagement and I'm fairly positive, I've flown the jet mentioned in the clip.

The Pilot was Dan Cherry and his backseater was Jeff Feinstein.  At the time of the engagement Cherry was a Major. Later, I met him at Moody and called him Colonel or "Sir".  He was the Vice Wing Commander.

I Knew that he'd flown in Vietnam.  Everybody in my Squadrons up to that point (1980) above the rank of Captain had flown in Vietnam, so it was not unexpected.  However, Col Cherry's claim to fame, as far as I knew, was that he'd commanded the Thunderbirds.
Source

Which was cool, but at that point in my career, I was more interested in employing my aircraft to do what it was supposed to do (drop bombs, shoot missiles and cannons etc) rather than in flying pretty formations.  Formation flying is important when you're coming down initial and everybody on base is evaluating your flight.  But other than that, it's just a method of getting several aircraft somewhere without using a lot of airspace.
Source

I do remember flying on his wing on a range ride to Eglin.  (For those who don't know, Eglin AFB is near Ft Walton Beach and has a very large weapons range to the northeast of the base.  I expended a LOT of ordinance there.)  As Beans is no doubt aware, the Southeastern part of the country, during the afternoon in the Summer has these things that pop up with disturbing regularity.  They're called Cumulo-Nimbus and flying through them is not for the faint of heart.

So, I'm the element lead on Col Cherry's wing with two Lt's in the front seat of #2 and #4.  I'm a seasoned F-4 guy now with 5 or 6 hundred hours in the jet.  Ok, somewhat seasoned, with a lot or room for more seasoning.  

In any case, due to scheduling issues, we had to hold for a while before entering the range, so we're a tad low on fuel.  We've dropped our bombs and are headed home, but Thunderstorms are building a wall across where we need to go.  Going above them is not an option with the configuration we have, and we can't find a hole on radar.  (It says something about thunderstorms that you can get a radar return from them in a 1970's model aircraft.  Maintained by the finest radar technicians in the world, Sarge, of course.)
Source

We're coming into the squall line and Col Cherry rocks us in to close formation.  I close in and align the wingtip light with the star on the fuselage, and lign up the trailing edge of the horizontal stabilizer.  That triangle puts my wingtip slightly behind and below and about 3' out of #1's wingtip.  My WSO confirms that my wingman (#4 ) is in formation, but bobbling a bit.  Which is normal, if a little bit concerning.  It's going to get rough enough, no need to bounce in clear air.  

But that's Lead's issue.  I've just got to keep the light in the star.  

Which is unbelievably easy.  Apparently, his aircraft is not moving although a quick look at my instruments still show us at about 400K and the Distance to Moody is still decreasing.

As we enter the thunderstorm, Col Cherry starts talking, "ok, coming right.  ready, ready, now."

"Rolling out, ready, ready, now"

This goes on for forever, (If you've flown formation in the weather, you know what I mean.)   Finally, we break out on the far side of the storm.  #2 is still in formation.  I ask the WSO about, #4.

"He didn't move an inch."

 I guess Thunderbird Lead was good practice.

However, at no point in my association with him (Mrs J at the time was the Wing Commander's Executive Officer, so we interacted regularly) did I know he'd shot down a Mig-21 in Vietnam.

So,  I watched this video with a lot of interest.  



I think there are a few take away's of interest.


1.  This was April of '72 for all intents and purposes, the War is going to be over for the US in 9 months.  We've been fighting Air to Air over North Viet Nam for several years, and of the 10 missiles on Basco 3 and 4 (2 x Aim 7's and 3 X Aim-9's each) , 6 were launched at the Mig and only 1 worked.  That's just wrong!  

2.  Again, we've been in the War for quite some time.  We're still using Fighting Wing as the tactic.  This tactic involves the wingman being very close (relatively speaking, he's about 1500'-3000' away from his lead) and is supposed to be protecting his 6.  In reality, he's trying to avoid hitting his lead and isn't watching squat else. It speaks well for the wingman that he's in that formation and spots the pop-up Mig-21 in front and above Col Cherry (that only could have happened because #4 was low and outside the formation looking up at Col Cherry. Spread formation had been developed and tested (Robin Olds) well before this fight.  WWII generals far from Vietnam dictating tactics?

3.  I liked the thought process that went through Col Cherry and his wingman's minds when it became obvious that #3 had a weapons problem.  Without much coordination, #4 took the lead and continued to press the attack until having weapons and radio problems of his own.  Col Cherry was then able to regain the lead and fire the kill shot without endangering his wingman.

Enough about debriefing the engagement.  They did thing's right, made the best of some interesting obstacles and got the kill.

So, after watching the video, I wondered what had happened to Col Cherry after I left Moody.  Well, he went on the become the Wing Commander of the 8TFW at Kunsan AB ROK, former home to your's truly and Sarge.  Was promoted to Brigadier General, retiring in 1989 as Commander of AF Recruiting Service.
Source

He also met the MiG-21 pilot he'd shot down and wrote a book about it. (It's fairly short, only took me about an hour to read.)





 He also arranged for the preservation of the F-4D he'd scored the victory in, Tail # 66-7550.  The Aircraft is restored and is at Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green Kentucky.  As I said earlier, I'm pretty sure I've flown that aircraft.  I remember one of the 80th TFS jets had a single star on it and the tail number seems familiar.  Got to find where I stashed my flight records and see.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Rambling On

Google Street View
As I'm on the road this fine day...

Now, now, you there in the back, settle down.

Yup, rerun time. But you get music as well as the "blast from the past."



Man I love that song, I can even sort of play it on the bass. Well, it's been a while but I think I remember it. Anyhoo, I'm traveling, so without further ado, here's a little thing I like to call -
The Jacket
Alright, I need to confess one thing right up front.

I didn't say "effing". I said that Anglo-Saxon epithet which (in the form I used) would rhyme with "trucking". While I'm not proud (per se) of my choice of words at times, I'm also not ashamed. Much. (Well, maybe a little...)

So with that being said, let me take you back to December of '08.


It was the Thursday before Christmas. Our plan was to spend the holiday with The Nuke and The WSO at their place in Virginia Beach. Both of the progeny were single back then. The Nuke was assigned to Norfolk, The WSO to Oceana. So they shared a place. A townhouse actually. Very nice it was.

Now 
The Nuke was visiting someone up in Saratoga Springs, she being on leave from her ship, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. (I know, that should be all caps, but like Tuna says, it's too much like shouting to use ALL CAPS. Unless you're talking about TOPGUN. Then it's not only cool but required. But I digress.)

The plan called for 
The Nuke to drive down from Saratoga Springs on that Thursday evening. We would then all get a good night's sleep and then head down to the Old Dominion bright and early the next day. A Friday.

But the weather along the East Coast had other ideas.

I came home from work round about 1700 local (that would be 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time for all the civvies out there. In other words, Mickey's big hand was on the 12 and Mickey's little hand was on the 5, and it was dark.) 
The Nuke has already arrived at Chez Sarge from upstate New York and proclaims (and yes, I'm paraphrasing for dramatic effect) "Oh. My. God. We need to leave RIGHT NOW! There is a storm bearing down upon us which is supposed to deposit enough snow to trigger a new Ice Age!"

I said, "It's not supposed to start snowing until..."

"Dad, we have to leave now. OMG. Alarm! Alarm!"




Or words to that effect...

So we ate, packed up Big Girl (back in those days she belonged to 
The Nuke) and approximately three hours later we were headed south on I-95.

So we've got 550-odd miles of driving ahead of us, neither 
The Nuke or I have had squat for sleep in the past 14 hours and we have a "Winter Storm Watch in effect" (that last bit said with a sonorous tone, of course).

But we figured, it's late, traffic should be light. And, God willing, we will get to Virginia Beach before it starts snowing.

Right.

(Before I continue, I need to remark on something. Something critical to our story. In the back of Big Girl is our luggage. Perched atop that luggage is a black jacket. Remember that. It's my primitive form of foreshadowing...)

Well, things went real smoothly through the wilds of western Rhode Island (I swear, no one actually lives there, it's miles and miles of nothing. Um, check that. Little Rhody is called little for a reason. Perhaps I should've said "it's yards and yards of nothing". A bit more accurate.) And oddly enough the stretch of I-95 which runs along the coast of Connecticut was very smooth. During daylight hours that highway can be a choked nightmare.

Things were going well.

Too well.

That's when we hit New York. First the state, then the environs of the metropolis which is the greater New York City area. Now this stretch of highway is often packed but it moves quickly enough during non-rush hour times.

Not this night.

Now this highway is like 80 lanes wide (no, that would be L.A.) okay, more like six. And some genius had decreed that construction was going to occur along this stretch of highway feeding into the Cross Bronx Expressway. In the "dead of winter". At Christmas. Et cetera, et cetera. 


Said construction would, of course, reduce this massive thoroughfare down to one lane.

Yes, that's right.


One. Lane.

It took three hours to get to New York and three MORE hours to get through New York. 

We rolled into the Vince Lombardi Rest Area on the New Jersey side to refuel Big Girl and fortify ourselves with caffeinated beverages before sailing forth to cross the Garden State. Known to all and sundry outside of the state as New Jersey. Some call it "Jersey". Which I was led believe was a small island belonging to the United Kingdom lying off the coast of France. Again, I digress.

After discovering that Big Girl had a leaky tire, oh boy, and getting that semi-repaired at the gas station at the rest area, we set forth.

Long and wearisome was that drive through the long, cold winter's night. Nary a soul was seen after we crossed into Delaware. We could see the campfires lights of the inhabitants in the far distance and felt rather alone. Until we would come to one of the numerous towns strategically placed along U.S. Route 13 which force one to average approximately 15 miles per hour while traveling through Delaware. Which makes driving the length of Delaware feel like the same amount of time it takes to drive across Kansas. I know. I've done both.

Delaware, by the way, is the second smallest state in the U.S. of A. Yup, Little Rhody is, indeed, the smallest.

At some point in Delaware, or perhaps it was the Eastern Shore of Virginia, The Nuke declared that she needed to catch 40 winks.

"Dad, you need to take over at the wheel."

Before I could start muttering about crew rest and such, The Missus Herself came over the 1MC*, "You will get behind that wheel, you will drive and you will let our daughter get some sleep! Are we clear?"

"Ma'am! Yes Ma'am! Getting behind the wheel aye! Driving aye!"

Or words to that effect.

About thirty or so minutes, hours, days (I forget) we came to the rest area just before getting onto the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel complex. I pulled in for a call of nature and to smoke a cigarette (for back in those days I did smoke, I don't now).

The Nuke woke up and asked, "Are we there already?" Looking around, she quickly realized that that was not the case. She also noticed that I was standing beside the passenger's door and not the driver's door.

"What? That's it? You're done?"

"Yes, dearest daughter of mine. We are now within 20 miles of your domicile and rather than take direction from you, I thought it best if you drove the rest of the way. We're almost there and there's no other place to pull over and swap drivers."

"Dad. There are plenty of places..."

On this particular occasion I won. She drove. I would like to think that this was due to my superior powers of reasoning and use of logical arguments.

Nope.

The Missus Herself was asleep. Or semi-so. She just mumbled, "Nuke, you drive. I'll deal with Your Father later." (Whenever she said "Your Father" like that, I knew I would pay the price. But not right at that moment. Much could happen before she...  Oops. Digressed again, didn't I?)

So we rolled into Virginia Beach with the sunrise. Well, it was lighter out. Overcast and cold. I'm sure the sun "rose" that morning, we just couldn't see it. But we were at the dwelling of the two sisters: The Nuke and The WSO.


Of course, The WSO was sound asleep on the couch. Awaiting our arrival. We woke her and while The Missus Herself crashed on the couch to continue her wandering through Dreamland the rest of us unpacked the car. Now, remember that jacket?

I picked that jacket up to bring into the house and realized that it was not my jacket! It belonged to The Missus Herself. Where is my jacket? Dammit. I am frantic. Where is my jacket. It was then that the following ensued...

"What's wrong Dad?" The WSO asked.

"Somebody stole my effing jacket!" I answered.

"No one is going to steal your crappy-ass jacket Dad. You probably misplaced it." said The Nuke.


"Really? Somebody stole your jacket? Those bastards!" sayeth The WSO. Who promptly began to pace up and down the sidewalk glaring at everyone who drove by. Accusing them, with her eyes, of being the perpetrator of The Great Jacket Heist of 2008.

I am livid. The WSO appears ready to do bodily harm to someone, anyone, when inside the house I hear -

"What is Your Father ranting about?" Oh dear Lord. We have awakened The Missus Herself.

"Dad claims that someone stole his jacket." The Nuke explained.

"Yeah, can you believe this crap? You guys drive all the way down here and some low-life steals Dad's jacket!" proclaimed The WSO.

"Tell Your Father to look in his suitcase. I told him to bring a light jacket just before we left the house. I saw him put it in the suitcase." said The Missus Herself.


Muttering dark imprecations I stalked into the house, tore into my suitcase and...

...found my jacket...


The Nuke "Dad. You're an idiot."

The Missus Herself "No. That's an insult to idiots everywhere..."

The WSO "Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Geez Dad. You worry me."


Yours Truly "Hey! Who wants some coffee?"

To this very day,

from time to time,


when I least expect it...

one of my daughters will look at me and say...

"Dad, remember that time when someone stole your effing jacket?"

Okay. So I'm excitable.

But seriously,

I really like that jacket.




*1MC = 1 Main Circuit, is the term for the shipboard public address circuits on United States Navy warships.

Yessir, I'm on the road again.



Hey, two tunes at no extra charge! Quit yer whinging.



Saturday, February 9, 2019

Fix, BAYONETS!!

In ancient times, men fought with clubs, spears, rocks and stones (thrown by hand or by sling). Eventually edged weapons like the sword were developed along with shields for protection. Armor in the form of helmets, to protect the head, and greaves, to protect the legs, were developed to protect the parts of the body not covered by the shield.

Up until gunpowder weapons were invented, men killed and wounded each other by stabbing, slashing, and by blunt force trauma. In olden times, warriors had to be very tough, those that weren't became extinct (their tribes were destroyed by those with the better warriors) or became slaves (rather than slaughter the defeated enemy, put them to work). Sometimes they were chased off to live in less desirable lands. Ancient times could be, as Hobbes said (in describing the natural state humankind would be in, were it not for political community):
In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (Source)
Eventually gunpowder weapons came along, the troops didn't have to close with the enemy anymore,  the men could stand off and pot them over a distance, admittedly a very short distance. But the early firearms took a long time to reload, cavalry could then charge home and cut the musketeers to red ribbons. So there were still men with long pointy things (pikes) who were still the main component of the infantry.

Until the plug bayonet came along. Essentially a blade attached to something which could be shoved into the barrel of the musket so that the musketeer could defend himself from cavalry. (Horses are very reluctant to charge into a hedge of sharp pointy things. Oh, you can get the horse to run at them, then the horse will stop short often flinging the rider onto the sharp pointy things.)

17th-century plug bayonet
(Source)
Trouble was, you couldn't load or fire your musket with that plug bayonet in it.
The major problem with plug bayonets was that when attached they made it impossible to fire the musket, requiring soldiers to wait until the last possible moment before a melee to fixing bayonets. The defeat of forces loyal to William of Orange by Jacobite Highlanders at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 was due (among other things) to the use of the plug bayonet. The Highlanders closed to 50 meters, fired a single volley, dropped their muskets, and using axes and swords quickly overwhelmed the loyalists before they had time to fix bayonets. Shortly thereafter, the defeated leader, Hugh Mackay, is believed to have introduced a socket bayonet of his own invention. Soon "socket" bayonets would incorporate both socket mounts and an offset blade that fit around the musket's barrel, which allowed the musket to be fired and reloaded while the bayonet was attached. (Source)
Socket Bayonet
(Source)
As infantry became better drilled, and more and more armies adopted the bayonet, the numbers of infantrymen swelled while the cavalry dwindled. Especially when you factor artillery into the equation. Lots of men on horses make a large target, which artillerymen played havoc with. (Artillery was getting lighter and thus more mobile. During the Thirty Years War the guns would be emplaced before the battle and pretty much stayed put throughout. Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, experimented with lighter cannon which could keep pace with the infantry, but they didn't pack enough of a punch to make them that useful.)

The infantryman with his bayonet-tipped musket began to dominate the battlefield. Some armies, like the Russian, swore by the bayonet.

The bullet is a fool, the bayonet is a fine chap.
General Alexander Suvorov
However, an examination of the causes of casualties from the Napoleonic Wars indicated that wounds due to the bayonet constituted a very small proportion of the wounds suffered by men in battle, less than 5%. Quite often the inexorable advance of a steady body of infantry, bayonets at the charge advancing on a position, was often enough to cause the enemy to flee. Normally, an advance with the bayonet would only occur if the two sides had traded volleys. Blasting away at each other over shorter and shorter distances.

That was usually enough to rattle normal infantry. If your own men still had the stomach for it, advancing with cold steel would cause the enemy to run. Hand to hand combat in major battles was rare. Often hand to hand fighting would only occur would two units blundered into each other.

Or, if one side had no bayonets, as was the case early in our own Revolution. Militia would scatter upon spying British infantry coming at them with fixed bayonets. As they had few or none at all themselves. Not to mention not being trained in their use. Baron von Steuben was the remedy for that, not to mention acquiring a stock of bayonets and the muskets which could mount them. Which the French were more than willing to supply.

When some years ago, there were those in the U.S. Army advocating getting rid of the bayonet, traditionalists were aghast. The thought being that bayonets seemed less than useful on the modern battlefield.
US troops hadn’t launched a bayonet charge since 1951* during the Korean War. And new soldiers preparing for an increasingly violent war in Afghanistan already need to learn far more skills than the 10 weeks of basic training allows, says Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, head of initial entry training and the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.
So he made a change, substituting skills drill sergeants reported that they wanted to teach new recruits in favor of dropping the time-honored practice of the bayonet charge. (Source)
However...
“Traditionally in the 20th century – certainly after World War I – bayonet training was basically designed to develop in soldiers aggressiveness, courage, and preparation for close combat,” says Richard Kohn, professor of military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Ibid)
Furthermore...
In 2004, with ammunition running low, a British unit launched a bayonet charge toward a trench outside of Basra, Iraq, where some 100 members of the Mahdi Army militia were staging an attack. The British soldiers later said that though some of the insurgents were wounded in the bayonet charge itself, others were simply terrified into surrender. (Ibid)
When do you need the bayonet? When the ammo has run low, the enemy is closing in, and the only thing between you and eternity is a trusty blade affixed to the muzzle of your rifle. At the very least you might scare the crap out of the guy on the other side.

Nothing like the sound of this command -


And  yes, there's always that one guy...

Screen capture

* See yesterday's post.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Bayonet Hill

(Source)
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain (Infantry) Lewis Lee "Red" Millett, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company E, 2d Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, in action against enemy aggressor forces at Hill 180, Soam-Ni, Korea, on 7 February 1951. While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position Captain Millett noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Captain Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the two platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Captain Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Captain Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Captain Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service. (Source)
Korean War Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He was decorated for an uphill bayonet charge into a fortified position. Raised in Maine, he joined the National Guard at 17 and served until 1940, when he left (technically, deserted) to join the Royal Canadian Army Air Corps due to his belief that the United States would not enter WWII. Millett saw combat as a gunner in North Africa, then, upon returning to the US Army in 1942, rose to sergeant, won the Silver and Bronze Stars, and received a battlefield commission the same day he was notified that his old records had caught up with him; court-martialed in absentia for desertion, he had been fined $52. Millett continued his service, then, after the war, returned to the Maine National Guard. He graduated from Bates College in 1949, then was re-activated for the Korean War. On February 7, 1951, then-Captain Millett was in command of E Company, 2nd. Battalion, 27th. Infantry at Soam-ni, Korea, participating in "Operation Punch". Observing a large number of Chinese fortified atop a hill, Millett lead a completely exposed bayonet-and-grenade charge into the stronghold. Though wounded, he continued his command until his men captured the position. For this action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by Harry Truman on July 5, 1951, at the White House. In 1956, he graduated from Ranger School, and was assigned to the 101st. Airborne "Screaming Eagles". While at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, Millett established Division Recondo, an alternative Ranger training course (as opposed to the better-known one at Ft. Benning) that has been activated and de-activated several times over the years. In Viet Nam, he performed a variety of special operations duties, then retired in 1973. In his later years, he was active in veterans organizations, and a frequent guest at military functions. He died after a brief illness. The Colonel's awards include the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, three Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star, and four Purple Hearts. He is the only man in Army history to achieve the rank of Colonel after a conviction for desertion. (Source)
Millet's Charge
US Army Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning, GA

(Source)
Veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

What a man, what a soldier.

I stand in awe.



I encourage you to chase all of those links above, you won't be sorry.

RIP Colonel...