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June 25, 2005

Normandy AAR

Sorry for the delay, guys. Hope none of you were holding your breath…

The Museum

The D-Day Museum is located outside Caen, right across the street from the University. It’s built on a German command bunker and the architect retained the multilevel subterranean rooms and passageways of the original.

Walk through the main entryway and you’re greeted by the A-10’s granddaddy (a bit of warbird pr0n for Dusty). And, for the modelers, a three-quarter shot.

My initial impression was that the place was ‘way too noisy for a museum, then I saw the cause. About 500 French schoolkids being shepherded by their teachers.

From the main floor, you travel a downward-spiraling ramp, passing exhibits from the First World War, the Armistice, the Roaring Twenties (which really rocked in France, evidently), the Depression, the rise of National Socialism and of Hitler, the Sitzkrieg, the Blitzkrieg.

The lighting becomes dimmer the deeper you descend. By the time you reach the invasion and occupation of France, the only light is provided by the exhibits. Uniforms. Books and posters. Letters. Photographs. Flags and banners and military impedimenta.

And now the ramp bottoms out and the level floor begins. More exhibits. The passageway winds dimly past the Resistance, British commando raids, OSS operations, airdrops of weapons and explosives and the preparation for D-Day. I am suddenly aware that the only voices I’ve heard are those of the tour guides, speaking English, French and German. I turn a corner and emerge into light. The D-Day exhibit – photographs, equipment, uniforms, ship models, a diorama of the invasion beaches, letters from participants (not all of whom survived the day).

The tour guides leave us to wander. The voices return, hushed and somber. I converse with a British couple about the break in the weather which enabled the landings and notice a couple of the schoolkids watching us.

After a time, I climb a short flight of stairs, enter the main lobby and realize the thing hanging around my neck is my camera. I’d been so absorbed, I hadn’t taken a single pic. One of the French kids walks up to me and says, “M’sieur? Merçi…” and walks off to rejoin his classmates.

Geez -- do I look that old?

The museum’s website at is worth a peek, for the online bookstore, if nothing else.


Battery Longues consists of four 150mm guns housed in Regelbau M272 bunkers, a command bunker, a radar mount and troop quarters. Longues is the only battery which survived the pre-invasion bombardment intact.

Well, almost intact.

Ajax got in a lucky shot that evidently went right into the bunker opening and detonated the magazine, shattering the gun and blowing it off its mount.

Took me a while to recognize the gun barrel, located ten feet from the bunker and rammed into the dirt…

Longues was manned by Polish conscripts. When #4 blew, they decided they no longer had a dog in the fight and went to ground and waited for the Brits to arrive. They did have a few close calls before they had the opportunity to surrender, though.

Ooops -- almost forgot John’s gun pr0n.

Mulberry B

If you're unfamiliar with the history of the artificial harbors, drop in here for some background and an overview.

After the war, Mulberry A, the “American” artificial harbor at Omaha destroyed in the storm which followed close on the heels of the invasion, pretty much disappeared. The sunken blockships were salvaged for scrap by a metal-starved continent and the surviving Phoenix caissons now rest off the Dutch coast; Charles deGaulle decided that helping live people in trouble took precedence over letting a potential monument disintegrate in place. I can’t fault his logic in using them to save lives ten years after they’d been abandoned in place.

Mulberry B, the “British” Mulberry, was better protected by terrain and survived the storm relatively intact. The caissons still extend from Arromanches in the west eastward to the juncture of Juno and Gold. Their only visitors these days are local scallop fishermen.

The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer

You’ve all seen the annual Memorial Day and D-Day anniversary shots that the MSM feels obligated to publish – crowds of tourists, dignitaries, vets and families slowly walking amidst the graves, searching, finding, remembering…

This is what it looks like the other 363 days of the year – smaller numbers of tourists, vets and families slowly walking amidst the graves, searching, finding, remembering…

Oh -- I almost forgot the French schoolkids and their teachers, walking quietly around the site. Several were reading the names on the five large MIA panels on the Wall behind the Atrium. The Atrium’s central statue represents the Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Sea to save Europe. It’s a bit too sinuous for my taste and I’d already gone back into military mode somewhere along the way. I kept seeing fields of fire and likely ambush sites…


There were only three exits off the beach through the dune wall fronting Omaha, which is one reason casualties there were so horrendous. This is what German gunners saw looking down the easternmost exit. The scrub wasn’t there sixty-one years ago, just the beach grasses. Now, even though a blade of grass can feel like it’s a foot wide (just trust me on this one, okay?) when you’re seeking some concealment from the unwanted attention of a machinegunner, it won’t stop a bullet worth squat…

There’s a new road between the beach proper and the dune, protected by a seawall. And a half-an-hour’s worth of lowering tide altered Omaha’s expanse; this is what the second and third waves faced – over a hundred yards of terrain perfectly suited for grazing fire from a dug-in enemy.

One of the few surviving bunkers on the dune’s forward slope is here, overgrown, but still discernible as the rectilinear area to the left of the white house. And, just beyond a break in the guardian wall, almost invisible from the road, is the site where D-Day’s dead were originally buried.

It was a warm day, and the sand at the base of the seawall had been in the bright sunlight all day, yet when I knelt to touch it, it was cold…

Pointe du Hoc

You’re all familiar with the ordeal of the Rangers who scaled the cliffs here, so I’ll restrain the scope of this portion. Between 1941 and 1943, the architects of the Atlantic Wall designed gun emplacements which were open concrete platforms. They soon discovered that this configuration, when viewed from above, spelled “BOMB ME” to Allied air mission planners (moonscape courtesy of the 8th Air Force). So, beginning in early 1943, the architects decreed that the guns should be placed in protective bunkers, such as the ones at Battery Longues. For several reasons, including the occasional air delivery of high explosives to the site, the replacement guns were never installed in the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc.

Instead of their stated targets, the Rangers who survived the climb found these -- infantry fighting positions manned by aroused defenders.

The rest, so the saying goes, is history, but here’s a bit that hasn't made it into the books yet. To honor the Rangers’ gallantry, this monument was commissioned and erected on the promontory by – ahem – the French...

The Dagger's guard is concrete, the blade is limestone. The cliff face has been falling recently, which is the reason for the barrier.

Somehow, that whole “The French don’t like us” deal I keep hearing about rings kind of hollow, both in light of what I saw and my chat with Were-Kitty's Norman alter-ego...

More on all that later, though. Ummmmm -- maybe not *all* of it, though.


by CW4BillT on Jun 25, 2005 | Historical Stuff
» links with: Normandy
» The Politburo Diktat links with: Normandy Photos
» :: Links links with: Excellent photo series of the D-Day museum and beaches in Caen, France

June 24, 2005

Back on my head...

I see from spoor in the backoffice that Bill is getting busy and might have something up soon. I've been busy trying to catch up on my billable work while I've been out getting reblued on leadership (it really *was* a good class, as just about every bit of corporate training I've been to with this firm has been).

Some more AF Museum stuff (by now you know whether or not you *have* to go or would be bored out of your mind there... though I can't understand the latter type...)

The B-58 Hustler was a supersonic aircraft. Ejecting from same at speed would cause... problems. So no, this isn't some Star Wars space ship - it's a B58 crew escape pod.

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Hi-res here.

In the background of the next picture is a B-36 Peacemaker Bomber - the original "Aluminum Overcast". I saw this actual aircraft as a child when it flew overhead on it's final flight - to Wright-Pat and the museum. "6 turning and 4 burning" - the final variant of this aircraft had 6 props and 4 jets. I'll let others fill in the details in the comments.

Arrayed in front of it? Thermonuclear bombs. The City Crackers. Armageddon-in-a-can.

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Hi-res here.

Lastly - remember I said I liked cut-aways, so you could see the guts and understand the relationships? This isn't really a cut-away, it's more a 'skinning' of an F86 Saberjet, showing just how complex more modern aircraft are...

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Hi-res here.

...say, in comparison to a WWI style aircraft, such as this Curtiss JN-1 "Jenny".

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Hi-res here.

by John on Jun 24, 2005 | Aircraft

June 23, 2005

I think, on balance...

...the gestalt of the Denizen population qualifies...


Whattaya think?

As a group, we span the spectrum...

by John on Jun 23, 2005 | Rino-plasty

June 22, 2005

Live from Dayton, again.

The upside and the downside to deployed milbloggers - the war is real, and they are at risk. Speedy recovery, Chuck. H/t CAPT H.

It would appear that the Chinese government is up to it's usual tricks.

SondraK has an option if you like visiting sites and commenting on them... the ones that measure time in the Lunar Standard Time, that is.

Karl Zinsmeister is perhaps a little optimistic... but probably no more so than the MSM is pessimistic. H/T, SWWBO!

Speaking of SWWBO - this news is Important! It is Imperative that you follow this link!

Carnival of Cordite #18 is up at Technogypsy!! You remember Cordite, don't you?

At Carnaby Fudge - Kitty and Gun Pr0n! What more could you ask for?

Triggerfingers invites you into the mind of a gun-fearing wuss. Note the orientation-confusion the author (not Triggerfinger!) is suffering from. Heh.

Garand abuse! Shame! Shame! (The Armorer prefers his weaponry unfiddled-with, obviously, Publicola's mileage varies...)

Publicola also invites your attention to US Forestry Service actions in shutting down public shooting areas in Colorado. He wonders if it is a 'test the waters' tactic... and recommends you weigh in on the issue if you have an opinion. It might be nothing, but it might be something, too. And if they aren't coming out with reasons for doing it right away, my experience with bureaucracy is they *always* have a reason for doing something, and if they won't articulate it up front... well, there's reason to dig. And, well, there was... as Michael Bane points out.

I'll close this out with a little bit of KittyZen...

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Dayton, Day 3.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Dayton, just an excuse to put up more pics...

First off, this guy saw me, and immediately knew I represented a danger to the firearms collection and called for help to watch the kapitalist myrmidon...

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Hi-res here.

Neffi's 1st Flying Lesson.

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I do *love* a good cut-away, showing all the fiddly-bits. This time, a Cyclone radial engine.

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Hi-res here.

Now, JTG suggested in a comment below that we all troop down to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola (not a bad idea, but not needed in this case) so that Neffi could give the Denizennes rides in an SBD... JTG - the Army flew them too.

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Hi-res here.

Hi-res here.

by John on Jun 22, 2005 | Aircraft

June 21, 2005

Live from Dayton!

Heh. Well, aside from visiting the Air Force museum, and reconfirming my MBTI type, and discovering that some of my co-workers think I don't manage disagreement well (though they do like my integrity, technical and functional expertise, and the fact that I coach and develop (although it seems I must channel Bobby Knight at times), I'm also driving a tank.

Well, a Ford Expedition, but the distinction is meaningless. When I arrived at Dayton International (a grand name for an airport with exactly *two* aircraft at the myriad of empty gates... I think Cincy has been stealing their business) I trundled off to Avis, where they treat me right (because the company pays 'em to) and I walk out to my space... only to find that the keys don't work in the car there. Now, I *could* read the tag and do all that, but let's face it - it's just easier to be like Jason Bourne in the Bourne Supremacy and just start pushing the lock button on the keyfob until something squawks.

That works - it's the car three spaces to the left. So, I maneuver my now-sweaty bulk to the rear of that machine (a nice, gold, Grand Am) pop the trunk, drop in the overnighter... and note that the left rear bumper seems to be a *bit* near the streetlight stanchion base. As in, rubbed up against, indented, and otherwise folded, spindled, and mutilated.

So I wave over the little guy sitting at the Avis shack - who determines from my body language that I am a "Customer with a Problem" and promptly spies a young managerial type to deal with it.

We wander over to the wounded steed and he has some trouble understanding my odd midwestern dialect as I describe the problem. This could be because I *have* an odd midwestern dialect, but I'm thinking it has more to do that he wasn't from around Dayton himself, probably having come into this world in a nice sub-saharan African country once severely damaged with a French presence. Well, that and the fact that I'm half deaf, which wasn't helping.

Anyway - I finally get tired of saying "eh?" (he's trying hard, at this point it really *is* me with the problem) and wave my hand so he'll focus on it and then move it to the wounded area of my offered steed. And his eyes get big, understanding dawns, and well, the story is comical but repetetive and makes for a better video than novel. Sooooo, to make a long story short - I'm back at the terminal, speaking to another nice young man, who also doesn't understand my odd midwestern accent very well, because, well, let's just say he is from a country (a different one, I asked) that was also abused and saddled with a French administrative structure for a period of years, before being allowed to resume self-abuse, like we enjoy here!

And all that's left (I was perfectly happy with the still-hale, if flesh-wounded mount, but no, we can't have that!) is this parking lot behemoth, the Expedition. Which, if I might note, has a surprisingly pedestrian interior for what it costs, and is a voracious consumer of fossil distillates. But it *is* a nice bright Artillery Scarlet in color, so it ain't all bad, and all the little munchkin cars like Sions look even smaller and are more intimidated, too.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah - I've got some responsiblities!

For those who have never seen a militant Canadian other than the Castle's mole in Lord Raglan's, er, Strathcona's Horse, CAPT H - there is in fact a whole mob of Canadian bloggers who remember when Canada had an aircraft carrier. In fact, more than one. The Red Ensign Brigade, and their bi-weekly link-fest is up - I strongly encourage you to visit - there's a reason so many good comedians come from Canada - I don't know what it is - but it affects many of the members of the Brigaded Blogs - this week ably hosted by A Chick Named Marzi!

Castle Security Guy and Assistant Armorer Sergeant B is considering joining the Washington National Guard... some old warhorses still paw the ground when they hear the bugle... slightly younger ones can still answer the call and keep the pace we glue-factorys-on-legs just can't quite muster anymore. Yes, I'm envious, I won't lie.

SGT B sent us to Froggy Ruminations, who essentially suggests we quit coddling terrorists in our custody, and send 'em to Boot Camp, instead.

Via CAPT H, small cracks in the edifice...

In other international news, Ry forwards this bit about tolerance in Sweden. Don't let your dislike of the US blind you to the fact that the kids involved don't like or respect you, either, fellas.

On a lighter and far-more-important note, Say Uncle has created a Gunbloggers Community over at the Truth Laid Bear. Some of us were apparently drafted in, but I'm sure we're taking volunteers, too!

Speaking of guns... via Mathew Maynard we come to Boots and Sabers, with a little tutorial on "How Not To Shoot Your Anti-Tank Gun." I make that distinction, because Jed dedicates it to we cannoneers, when it's, well, it's infantrymen in this little movie (at least in the US Army it would be...).

Jeff Quinton reports that Senator Durbin apologized, tears in his eyes, for comparing Guantanamo Bay to Gulags, Vernichtungslagers, and other fine places of incarceration.

His voice quaking and tears welling in his eyes, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate also apologized to any soldiers who felt insulted by his remarks.

"They're the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them," he said.

Feh, Senator. Just, feh.

Oh, and I should note - I pretty much agree with what my co-workers said about me; the bad stuff anyway. The good stuff - well, that just shows that some of 'em are scared of the basement...

Dayton, Ohio, Day 1

Got here yesterday, spent the afternoon at the Air Force Museum (I'm with Mythilt, the new name is pretty pretentious, all things considered - even if it might be true...) Mythilt is also correct in that can't do it justice in one afternoon - or day, really. Heck, I filled up a one-gig memory card in the camera and didn't get all the pictures I'd have liked. And that doesn't count all the little film presentations scattered around. I did see the IMAX movie "Fighter Pilot," which was well worth the price of admission.

I also got to meet AFSis! My first official Denizen meeting besides SWWBO. A good time was had by both of us, and we shamelessly gossiped about all of you, and about, oh, have the crowd that hangs at ALa's! (And no, ALa, she didn't wheedle pics out of me, either...)

Wandering through the museum, there was plenty of Armorer-fodder...


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Machine Guns!

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Planes! When I saw this Boeing P26 Peashooter - I immediately thought of Neffi - this just looks like the kind of pimped-out ride you could see him in, scarf flying.

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More later - I need to go learn how to lead!

June 20, 2005

Space holder

I'm on the road today. So, while I suffer the slings and arrows of modern air travel... why don't you guys look at some Castles?

June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

Go, hang out with your Dads, or your kids. If you no longer have a Dad, or kids - go... bowling! Yeah, that's it, bowling!

This is the first time in a long time there has been no kid at home, he having fled the nest to live in Manhattan, learn about apartment living, and asking people "You want fries with that?" And don't make assumptions about Manhattan, visitors - you will most likely be wrong...

Speaking of college students - if you are a GI Bill eligible kind of person as a result of the current unpleasantness - I recommend you go check out what Cranky has to say at The Balance Sheet on the subject of the Horatio Alger Scholarships.

I'll also be dropping SWWBO off at the airport for her trip to Tampa. I'll be chatting with my father tonight. I'm going to Dayton, Ohio tomorrow to get some corporate re-bluing on how to lead. Apparently 24 years in the Army is something to be undone... heheheheheheheh. But, since it's been 30+ years since I last visited the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, I'm betting they've changed the exhibits - so that's what I'll be doing tomorrow afternoon.

Speaking of airplanes... here's another picture of the TU-4 in Chinese Service - as a recon drone carrier.

Today is also Juneteenth. As has been noted in this space previously, the Armorer believes the outcome of the Civil War was a net good, regardless of what you think are it's true origins. Juneteenth is why. This is why.

Wars are never pretty things, and civil wars can generally be the most horrific (which, as far as such things go, ours was not). And there are *always* unintended and unanticipated consequences, as current events make clear. So too is true of the Civil War. But Juneteenth, for me, tips the balance.

Other bits of interest...

Napoleon III's attempt to expand his Empire in the new world suffers a setback as Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, AKA Emperor Maximilian, was executed by his unappreciative subjects, the Mexicans, preferring home-grown Benito Juarez to the well-intentioned Archduke. The Emperor, sometimes referred to as the "Archdupe," displayed class at the end, refusing to abandon his supporters, which resulted in his execution this day in 1867. Napoleon III wasn't a total hack - he did design this, a most excellent gun, the 12-pounder Napoleon.

The Rosenbergs got to meet their maker this day in 1953. While you can debate the merits of their case, I can't help but note that in today's climate, they would probably get elected to Congress from some place like Berkeley.

In 1943, the Navy was in the midst of a whopping great spanking of the Japanese Navy - the First Battle of the Phillipine Sea.

It's a bad day for American boxers. In 1936 Max Schmeling knocked out Joe Louis (The Brown Bomber creamed him in the rematch). In 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion. All three men went on to various forms of success in later life (Ali, of course, still being at it...)

In 1948, the Berlin Blockade begins. Bad decision, Joe.

On an different note - there was discussion a while back on flying Focke-Wulf 190's and such - and someone brought up the fact that the first useful German jet fighter, the ME-262 is flying again. And so, after a fashion - it is.

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This pic should make aircraft lovers *and* the military vehicle lovers happy... especially SGT B and Monteith! Hi-res click here.

Happy Father's Day all and sundry. Don't waste too much time at places like this. Tempus Fugit, after all!

by John on Jun 19, 2005 | General Commentary | Historical Stuff
» Mudville Gazette links with: Dawn Patrol