Being a flying boat has some advantages and during WWII the PBY-5A Catalina put them to good use. She was versatile and served a number of roles. This model does a good job of showing her off but they really need to be seen in person to be appreciated.
Around 3,300 were built for the war and they served in almost every theater. She was first introduced in 1936 and remained in service with the US Navy until 1957 but the Brazilian navy kept them in service until 1979. Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and even the Soviet Union all used them during their lifetime. Today some still fly and act as firefighting platforms all over the world.
The Catalina had a crew of ten and had two 1,200 horsepower engines. She could reach 195 miles per hour and had a range of about 2,520 miles. Armed with machine guns and capable of carrying 4,000lbs of bombs she could always manage to hold her own.
Her biggest role was as a submarine hunter in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic theater. They would escort convoys and when called upon would take the fight straight to the enemy subs. As patrol craft, few planes are in her league. They helped the Royal Navy track the Bismark in 1941, leading the sinking of the massive ship. The helped spoil a surprise Japanese landing in Malaya on December 7, 1941, and most notably took part in the Battle of Midway, spotting the location of the Japanese carriers in the early hours of the battle. Scenes like these were repeated many times during the war where the Catalina’s always seemed to be on point.
This is the Yorktown Victory Monument in Yorktown, Virginia. It was here in a siege that lasted from September 28, 1781, to October 19, 1781, that final act of the American Revolution started.
Wait a second. You do know that when the British surrendered at Yorktown, that was not the end of the war right?
The war did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. That means the war lasted for almost two years after Yorktown. Then why is it called the end of the war?
The Battle Was Over, But Not The War
After Yorktown, the British ended offensive operations in North America. They were fighting France and Spain for control of the Caribbean (and other places). These were far more valuable to them than the American Colonies.
Fighting still occurred as both sides took every chance to raid and smack around the other guys. Besides, Britain still controlled Charleston, Savannah, and New York which were no small potatoes. That wasn’t the worst news. The United States was broke, so even though the major fighting was over other issues, just as deadly started to take root. With no money Congress could not pay the troops, without pay, many troops wondering why they even stay in the army. Some thought that they should simply turn on Congress and there was a very, very real chance that the army would turn on Congress and put a dictatorship in place. Luckily General Washington himself put the kibosh on this.
During this time also, behind the scenes of the treaty negotiations was a bunch of backbiting double-dealing that threatened to prolong the war. In the end, the treaty was signed and the war was officially over. The adventure for the new country was just about to begin.
Few quotes actually do justice to the US Marine Corps and the one above that was offered up by General Oliver Smith during the Korean War is one that does in a nutshell.
By November 1950 the Chinese had been involved with the war in Korea for about a month. After a number of actions, it appeared that they may not be a match for the UN troops. Several initial battles led to Chinese defeats with high casualties around the area known as the Chosin Reservoir. Expecting a different result Chairman Mao Zedong personally called for the destruction of the UN troops. To achieve this he sent the 9th Army across the border into North Korea. UN intelligence never saw it coming.
On the night of November 27th, the Chinese 9th army completely surprised the US X Corps at the Chosin Reservoir and kicked off a terrible 17-day battle. The X Corps was made up of American, South Korean and British troops, about 30,000 strong. They were quickly surrounded by almost 120,000 Chinese soldiers hell-bent on their destruction.
General Smith, the commander of X Corps knew the only way out was through the Chinese lines. On December 6th Smith began the breakout with the 7th Marines in the lead and the 5th Marines bringing up the rear. When asked by a member of the press corps if the Marines were retreating Smith responded, “We are not retreating, we are just advancing in a different direction.” As happens with most historical quotes, time has changed it into the more familiar one seen above.
The running battle was the stuff of legend as the Marines did the impossible. Fighting through Chinese night attacks, ambushes, human wave attacks and even having to build a bridge from sections dropped by plane, the finally reached friendly territory on December 11th. When all was said and done the UN forces lost almost 13,000 men to the Chinese nearly 60,000. The Marines were a rock that the Chinese nearly broke on. It would it would be many months before the Chines would be able to continue offensive operations.
Above is a decommissioned version of the AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. One of the workhorses of the Vietnam War. From 1967 when it first entered service until 1973 over 1,000 of these saw service. Over that time they accumulated over 1 million hours of operational time.
Their main mission was close fire support of the infantry. They also served as escorts for the troop helicopters and as highly mobile rocket artillery platforms. Basically, they did whatever was needed. During the war, almost 300 were lost due to combat and other incidents.
The Cobra comes in a number of variants that served many different roles and as such. They have seen a lot of action. Starting in Vietnam, then the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989. The 1991 Gulf War saw the AH-1 and its variants in action. In they were on the scene in Somalia and again later in 1994 during the armed intervention in Haiti.
In 1999 the US Army officially pulled the AH-1 from active service. They found a home though with NATO and other allies. Over the years they have served a vital role for the US Forest Service, not as gunships, but as firefighting equipment. The AH-1W SuperCobra and AH-1Z Viper still are used by the US Marine Corps.
The AH-1G HueyCobra, the most common one in Vietnam had a maximum speed of 171mph and an effective range of 357 miles. For armament, it depended on the job but could include: 2 7.62 mm miniguns, 2 M129 grenade launchers, rocket pods, and additional minigun pods. Basically, for a small chopper, it packed a heck of a punch.
Quick question. When asked to name a WWII hero, what names come to mind? If Audie Murphy is not one of the first names you think of, you need to learn more about this man.
Born June 20, 1925, In Texas, he lied about his age to join the military during WWII. He tried to get into the Navy and the Marines before finding a home in the Army. In 1945, at the ripe old age of 19, he won the Medal of Honor after single handily holding off an entire German company. For over an hour! BY HIMSELF! What did you do today?
But wait, that is not all. After holding them off he helped to lead the counter-attack even though he was out of ammunition and wounded.
During the war, he served with distinction in Tunisia, Sicily, Naples, Anzio, Rome, France, the Ardennes and on into Germany. During that time he won every single award for valor that the US Army had. Then added several from France and Belgium for good measure.
After the war, Audie became an actor, best known for playing himself in the movie To Hell and Back and numerous westerns. For the rest of his life, he fought against what would be known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and worked hard for the cause of getting this disorder into the spotlight. Even our greatest heroes did not go untouched by their experiences. In 1971 he finally met a foe he could not defeat and died in a plane crash.
The picture above shows one of his caps and just a few of the multitude of ribbons that this man earned. There is no greater example of the American Warrior than this man and I behoove you to find out more of the details of his life and actions.
Ah yes… logistics. The science of transporting men and material from place to place. In military terms, it is the means by which the soldiers and sailors have places to sleep and recreate, bullets to shoot and food to eat. Without the logistics, service wars would be a lot more difficult to fight.
So where does the word “logistics” come from? How about the 18th-century French military? Originally logistiques and referred to one of the duties of the army’s quartermaster who were charged with finding the men places to sleep or to loger or lodge. They would then need to also make sure that there was food and supplies for the men.
The phrase logistics was apparently coined by Baron Jomini. A Swiss officer who fought with the French and later Russians during the Napoleonic Wars. He did so in his very popular Treatise on Major Military Operations. Jomini was a contemporary of Clauswitz and between the two pretty much set the standard for European military thinking up until today.
It is known by several names but the most widely used is Hinomaru, “circle of the sun”. Like many flags through history, it has seen its share of good and bad. This flag has represented Japan since 1870. Even before that the sun motif was used to represent Japan and the history of the Japanese people. During WWII it became a symbol of empire and domination. Since the end of the war, it has become a symbol of a past that many would soon forget.
It has been a long road since the war ended. Mainly among the Japanese themselves who turned away from their militaristic past and have tried to distance themselves from it. For a period the flag was seldom used, almost hidden from sight but once Japan sought to rejoin the world it could no longer be hidden raising the question on the validity of having such a symbol representing their nation.
Protests at home and abroad have sought the removal of the flag for generations now. The issues of displaying it in their schools have divided the people. In many places across the country, it is never seen flying, even on national holidays. Yet there are many that see it as a symbol of pride and strength, and while many wrongs were done under it they question the validity of attempting to erase the history that it represents.
In August 1999 the Diet, Japan’s ruling body, officially passed legislation making the Hinomaru the official national flag of Japan. It would seem that it was decided that the best way to avoid repeating the past is to never forget it.
In a previous post, we looked at the history of the M60 Patton tank that served the US during the Cold War and beyond. Above is an action shot of an M48 Patton charging off into battle during the Vietnam War.
During the course of the war, there were very few “tank on tank” battles. The tanks served mainly in the role of infantry support. No sight was more welcomed than to see one of these bad boys flying down the road. This variant, used by both the US and South Vietnamese units, provided ample protection for the crew. They were able to win in most engagements against enemy armor. Of course, having the war fought in the jungle and mountains of the region did limit its deployment capabilities.
After the United States pulled out, many of the M48s were turned over to the South Vietnamese. They went to good use in several engagements against their Northern counterparts. However, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Congress began cutting off the military aid to the South and eventually actually passed laws that made the selling of fuel and ammunition to our former allies illegal.
Without that support, the tanks were unable to be put into the field and eventually the South Vietnamese were defeated. A number of the surviving tanks found their way into service with the victors but were soon abandoned in total.
So looking at the picture it is hard to say where that tank was headed, but I for one would not want to be on the other end when it got there.
The morning of July 3rd, 1863 at Gettysburg Pennsylvania the Union and Confederate forces were in day three of an epic battle. This was a battle for all the marbles. If the South could win they would have almost free rein in the Pennsylvania countryside. From there they could make a run at anywhere they wanted in the north, including Washington DC. A war-weary North may even consider bringing the war to an end.
General Lee decided this morning that he was going to play for the win. He ordered the men to make a strong focused attack on the Union center. That should have been the weak point. Break that line and win the war. He gave command of the attack to General Longstreet even though he opposed it. As such he delayed the attack longer than he should have. Eventually, after an artillery duel seemed to prepare the field Longstreet sent General George Pickett and his Virginians to attack.
One of the men leading the assault was General Lewis Armistead. A good man and a true soldier. He had been part of the US Army before the war and now served the South. That day he led the men from the front as the artillery and rifle fire rained down. He kept them moving forward. After what seemed like a week in Hell his men closed in on the stone wall the marked the Federal line. Waving his hat perched on his sword he lead the men over the wall. For a brief shining moment they drove the Yankees back and almost, maybe could see victory.
It was not to be the Union forces rallied and Armistead fell and with him the hopes of the Confederate victory. The spot that he fell, marked in the photo above became known as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. After that hope for victory would change to hope for survival as the long, slow death spiral of the CSA began.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “An army travels on its stomach.” If any one would know it should be him. During war, sometimes finding time to eat is one of the biggest challenges. The body is an engine and the engine needs fuel.
The picture above shows a meal being served to troops in the field during the Vietnam War. In this case, the food is classified as “B Rations”. These sorts of meals were usually prepared in a field kitchen from non-fresh ingredients, then shipped to the units where they were heated up and served. Not needing to be frozen or refrigerated means that even the guys far from the supply center would have the chance for a hot meal on occasion.
These were usually better than the C Rations or MRE’s that the individual soldier would prepare for themselves. Often from a package, and of dubious quality and taste. However that A Ration is the holy grail. A warm meal, made in a real kitchen, served in a nice safe dining hall.
“We ate when we could and what we could,” Bill Hatfield, who took the picture above, reminisced. “Sometimes we would be out on patrols that lasted longer than we planned and we never had enough of anything. After a couple of days of C-Rats, we didn’t really care how the food at the fire base tasted, just that there was plenty of it.”