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July 17, 2004

4th ID OIF Memorial Update.

From this thread comes this picture from Ft Hood:

I'm guessing photo credit goes to Todd, but perhaps not.

For more context, check my previous post, here.

My contribution to the discussion in the thread... placing helmets on rifles initially started at least in WWI (first big war of the modern era with helmets, eh?) to mark the location of fallen soldiers for recovery - and quickly morphed into a symbol of fallen comrades. I think the use of the boots, helmet, rifle in memorial services started in WWII, and was firmly cemented during Vietnam.

July 16, 2004

Theirs was a lonely war...

...though oddly enough, one of the safer overall positions on the B-17 was the ball turret. The gunner could not raise or lower the turret himself - other crewmen had to do it. The obvious problems being getting out when the bomber is shot down - or if the turret is stuck and the bird has to make a gears-up landing. Being the pilot who had to make that decsion would have given me nightmares for life. The bomber crews suffered 10% casualties during the war - the highest percentage of any overall branch. Knowing the nature of men at war, it makes me wonder how many men died who might have lived... except that they stayed with the aircraft as it was falling, trying desperately to get the turret up so the ball gunner could jump, too.

As ever, click the pic for a high-res view.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
by Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Update: The Heartless Libertarian is right - I confused the B-17 ball turret with the B-24 and the B-25. My bad! The B-17 turret does not retract. It had to be rotated to let the gunner out, and unless he was teeny tiny, he couldn't wear a parachute.

While I was out checking, I came across this - the diary of a ball turret gunner.

I don't mind a little fact-checking. If I did, I'd have banned CPT H long ago!

July 15, 2004

Notes on the redesign of the Army

Those of you who already wear the uniform should have seen this already - as the Chain Teaching requirement deadline is today...

If you've been paying attention to the pundits and others, there has been much griping about how unwieldy and hard-to-use the Army is. Herein is the Army's current plan to get from where we're at now to a more flexible structure.

Some of us older guys will note, "Hmmm, seen some of this before..." but there is nothing like a war to focus your attention.

Trying to get to a lighter, more modular force, without completly giving up the heavy punch. Several branches (to include my beloved artillery) are being redesigned and reduced from their Cold War structures to smaller structures more reflective of today's realities. Getting rid of almost half the the artillery structure, as precision munitions are taking over the niche at the middle ranges, retaining the all-weather capability of the guns in the close fight. We are giving up some ability to 'weight the main effort' with artillery, but we don't anticipate fights where we can't use Close Air to meet that niche. Short term, I think they're right. Mid-term and beyond... we'll see. Truth is, with computerized firing data, ginning up a bunch of general support artillery units in a relatively short amount of time isn't that hard, as long as you've still got the guns/launchers in storage somewhere.

ADA and Engineers are taking a hit, to up the MPs, Infantry, Transportation, Civil Affairs, Special Ops, and Military Intelligence units. Gonna be some annoyed mid-career soldiers in the downsized branches having to learn a whole new trade. Flip side - promotion opportunities in the expanding specialties.

Anyway, click on the slide to go to the rest of the brief. Feel free to praise or rant. I'm sure CPT H. will have some document somewhere to show how we just copied a Canadian idea... 8^D

A new entrant to my military idol list.

One of the reasons for a slow-down in posting, aside from a general ennui, has been a strong desire to catch up on my reading. I work through several books simultaneously, (being somewhat ADD I suspect) and one that I just about finished with is The Battle of Alamein by John Bierman and Colin Smith, published by Viking in 2002.

It takes advantage of some new archival material and access to interviews that are either new, or passed over by other authors on the same subject. Written by professional journalists, it is well written from a reader’s perspective, and in general also satisfies my historian meter. A good general read if you know nothing about El Alamein and the Brits and to some extent, German view of the war in North Africa. Their journalistic background slips in with the occasional slip-in of modern journalistic snarks regarding the essentially bloody nature of war. They are sympathetic to the cause, but can get a bit tart at times about casualties and apparent indifference to them. If you are looking for bold new insights, well, nothing like that here; nor do I suspect there are really any juicy undiscovered bits left to unearth anyway. What stories left to tell about the war in the Western Desert are the unit histories and soldier memoirs. An arab view might be interesting, too, if in the form of memoirs and not a political screed. If you already know your way around the story, it does have some new participant viewpoints and vignettes, and it is one of those that prompt this post. From the author's description of the Crusader battles comes this little snippet:

…It took the British twenty-four hours to accept that the hook around Bir Hacheim was the real thing and not a feint. By that time the 3rd Indian Cavalry Brigade had been overrun, surprised by artillery and tank fire at about 6:30AM as they were brewing tea for breakfast over sand-and-petrol fires. Eleven officers and more than 200 men were killed and many wounded. Among the 1,00-odd prisoners taken was Sir Walter Cowan, a seventy-one-year-old retired British Admiral, captured as he valiantly emptied his revolver at an oncoming German tank. His interrogators soon discovered that they were dealing with the 3rd Cavalry’s ‘liaison officer’, an ambiguous title Cowan had secured by dint of strenuous string-pulling and an unquenchable desire to smite His Majesty’s enemies.*…

Sigh. No amount of string-pulling would get you a cool job like that now, at least not with our armed forces. Gotta add Admiral Cowan to my list of military idols. He was also a Captain commanding the Princess Royal under Admiral Beatty at Jutland.

Curious about the asterisk?

Here’s the skinny on that.

*Admiral Cowan had won a first DSO fighting with Kitchener (and Churchill) in the 1898 River Nile Campaign. In 1943, declared ‘too old to be dangerous’ he was released by the Italians in a prisoner exchange and promptly joined a commando unit in which he eventually won a second DSO, forty-six years after his first.

I found some other stuff on the web that says the Bar to the DSO was for this event (Crusader), and not with the Commandos, but, good golly gee, who cares about that in terms of Is This Guy Cool Or What?

July 14, 2004

Chief Wiggles has been robbed.

Go and read about the Chief's woes with a company in Atlanta.

Spread the word.

Anyone admitted to the appropriate bar who is interested in some righteous pro bono work might help, too.

I'm thinking the blogosphere can help with this.

Just a guess.

UPDATE: All ya'all did help with this. Good.

Answer to the "What is it"


The object in question is one of four darts contained in the bullet in this experimental bullet designed to improve the performance of what Kim du Toit calls the "9mm Euroweenie Pellet." The case is marked 9mm Luger. Well, actually, because it's cut in half, it's marked 9mm Lug. The darts are embedded in rubber.

Here is the cut-away with a standard Winchester 9mm, and here it is with an 8mm Mauser, just to keep you in scale.

So, those of you who argued for penetrator, or 'core' were correct, if you had a leetle teeny tiny scale problem.

In looking at everyday things since I posted the initial bit, I noted that the metal tip of a ball point pen looks very similar, and, so would a removable tip from a drawing compass, something one commenter got very close to.

Now - anybody know who made these? I don't. I got it off of Auction Arms some years ago and have no idea where it originated.

Oh! Yeah! The background - that's not pigskin. It's a really cheap blanket!

July 13, 2004

New Army Collaborative Planning Tool

Sometimes, the best answer is to just change the name of an old tool and pretend it's a new one. If it works, it works, right? I mean, sure, this is cool... But! This is cheaper, and if it has a catchy acronym, it will get adopted, cuz it works even if you are out of batteries.

Hat tip to John D. (no, not me) and Mike L!

Ooo! Ooo! Pictures of Cannon!

Ya want a link from me - it's easy. Post pics of cannon!

UPDATE: More cannon! Movies of cannon! Ah, blissful joy!

by John on Jul 13, 2004 | Artillery
» Brain Shavings links with: Here's your cannon, John
» triticale - the wheat / rye guy links with: Art Illary

July 12, 2004

Apparently my blogging jones is wandering aimlessly in the void...

...and I'm stuck with nothing to say. Politics has just gotten painful. Iraq is going better than the media will tell us, but there's no telling some people.

I'm not getting good jokes or juicy stuff in email - or the new classification regime has overclassified everything into non-usability.

So I'm stuck, as Homebru puts it, "Posting pictures of rusty bits of metal and saying "What's this?""


Some of you guys actually play the game, and it's kinda fun seeing how peoples minds work on the the problem.

Homebru didn't even come by, near as I can tell, for his special one. And no one tried guessing what the rusty gun in a field was... (it was a 20mm from a Colorado Air Guard F-100 fighter that crashed on Mt. Cirrus in the Rockies in 1967, that was re-visited in 1996. Sounds like a fun hike, actually). Homebru's challenge was, of course, a red herring. It was a picture of farm disks from Jacob Rose's website, here. Jacob takes some nice pictures.

So, my Muse having deserted me, I'm left to posting pics again.

This time at least, it ain't rusty.

Any guesses?