Target Centermass

8/15/2006

Pardons in Sight for WWI Soldiers Shot at Dawn

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:53 pm

For some U.K. families, haunted for decade upon decade, a justice of sort may be pending.

Dozens of Scottish soldiers who were shot for cowardice or desertion during the First World War are finally set to win pardons, it emerged last night. Defence Secretary Des Browne announced that the government is to seek parliamentary approval to pardon more than 300 British soldiers who were executed during the First World War for alleged “military offences”.

The announcement came hours after the family of Private Harry Farr, who was shot for cowardice during the conflict aged just 25, revealed they had been told he was to be pardoned.

Mr Browne said: “Although this is a historical matter, I am conscious of how the families of these men feel today. They have had to endure a stigma for decades.

“That makes this a moral issue too, and having reviewed it, I believe it is appropriate to seek a statutory pardon. I hope we can take the earliest opportunity to achieve this by introducing a suitable amendment to the current Armed Forces Bill.”

More than 300 Commonwealth troops – including 39 Scots – were shot by their fellow soldiers during the Great War. Their alleged crimes included desertion, cowardice, and sleeping at their posts.

But campaigners who have fought for years to have the men’s names cleared believe the majority were young and suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after months in the trenches and enduring endless artillery bombardment.

Many of them, including some as young as 17, were sentenced to execution after courts martial lasting less than 30 minutes.

Pte Farr’s granddaughter, Janet Booth, said the family’s solicitor had been informed last night that their wish had been granted. “We are over the moon,” she added.

The move will require an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill currently going through Parliament.

John Dickinson, of Irwin Mitchell, said: “This is complete common sense and rightly acknowledges that Pte Farr was not a coward, but an extremely brave man.

“Having fought for two years practically without respite in the trenches, he was very obviously suffering from a condition we now would have no problem in diagnosing as post-traumatic stress disorder or shellshock as it was known in 1916.”

Pte Farr’s daughter Gertrude Harris, 93, added: “I am so relieved that this ordeal is now over. I have always argued that my father’s refusal to rejoin the front line, described in the court martial as resulting from cowardice, was in fact the result of shellshock, and I believe that many other soldiers suffered from this, not just my father. I hope that others who had brave relatives who were shot by their own side will now get the pardons they equally deserve.”

Some of these men may well have been deserters and cowards. That said, I truly believe this would not be the case for a great many who were courageous but worn individuals, burdened by a long, grinding war that gnawed at the soul while many cases of inept leadership cost needless gallon upon gallon of precious blood. For a good look at the years of poor Allied command decisions that almost certainly contributed to many of the involved cases, I again recommend John Mosier’s The Myth of the Great War.

Here’s wishing the pardons come that are deserved, as soldiers today would be granted greater understanding after years in the meatgrinder — if any ever again faced such enduring exposure. Here’s also wishing peace for their families.

8/10/2006

John Batchelor: Prelude to War

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:22 pm

Interesting, though not exactly cheerful.

Why is America waiting to be attacked by Iran? Why do we sit on the sidelines while Tehran makes war on our ally Israel in order to provoke America to join the fighting, first against Syria and then against Tehran itself? Why do we listen to the European appeasers as they pretend the Lebanon front is a regional conflict, a national liberation contest, when it is demonstrably the prelude to the wider war — the Spain 1936 to the continental war of 1939? What is the explanation for America’s willful fiction that the United Nations Security Council can engineer an accommodation in Lebanon, when it is vivid to every member state that this is a replay of September 1938, when Europe fed Hitler the Sudetenland as the U.N. now wants to feed the jihadists the sovereignty of Israel?

The most threatening answer is that America waits to be bloodied because it has lost its will to defend itself after five years of chasing rogue-state-sponsored gangsters and after three years of occupation in failed-state Iraq against Tehran- and Damascus-backed agents. A grave possibility is that America is now drained, bowed, ready to surrender to the tyrants of Tehran.

Then again, perhaps America has been here before, and it is part of America’s destiny as the New Jerusalem that we rarely start wars but that we are unusually good at finishing them.

There is a strange parallel right now to the first days of December 1941, before the Japanese sneak attack. America was still not in the war in Asia and Europe, but it was busy getting ready for a momentous calamity and was filled with the presentiment of doom.

Go read the whole article, which actually becomes more of a look back at a moment in time when the U.S. stood on the brink of World War II (hat tip to Smash).

Something that adds to the intriguing nature of the column is that it’s the second time this week that I’ve linked to someone comparing current events to the Spanish Civil War with expectations of a wider war to follow. The first was by Grim at Blackfive and was included with a couple of other pieces to chew on just two days ago.

5/30/2006

Not-Quite-Back-Yet Link Dump

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:51 pm

Okay, call it a Maui honeymoon hangover, but I’m not really back to the blogging yet. I’ll try to put up a few things, but I doubt I’ll get too serious until I’ve finished moving in with my new bride and setting up my new Fortress of Solitude in the upstairs office. Oh yeah, some time in the near future I hope to have some pictures for y’all of the joyous nuptials of Mr. and Mrs. Gunner.

Still, I don’t want to leave you empty-handed tonight, so heres a few links worth your time.

The Troops Have Moved On

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease.”

So said Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address, describing a war that put 11 percent of our citizens in uniform and had by that point killed nearly one of out every seven soldiers. That his words are relevant again now is a troubling indicator of our national endurance.

We are at the outset of a long war, and not just in Iraq. Yet it is being led politically by the short-sighted, from both sides of the aisle. The deterioration of American support for the mission in Iraq is indicative not so much of our military conduct there, where real gains are coming slowly but steadily, but of chaotic leadership.

Somehow Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a large war by America’s historical standards, has blossomed into a crisis of expectations that threatens our ability to react to future threats with a fist instead of five fingers. Instead of rallying we are squabbling, even as the slow fuse burns.

[…]

This confusion, in turn, affects our warriors, who are frustrated by the country’s lack of cohesion and the depiction of their war. Iraq hasn’t been easy on the military, either. But the strength of our warriors is their ability to adapt.

[…]

Soldiers are sick of apologizing for a sliver of malcontents who are not at all representative of the new breed. But they are also sick of being pitied. Our warriors are the hunters, not the hunted, and we should celebrate them as we did in the past, for while our tastes have changed, warfare — and the need to cultivate national guardians — has not. As Kipling wrote, “The strength of the pack is the wolf.”

Go read the whole thing. Hat tip to Blackfive.

Final Salute

A flag-draped casket.
Rifle volleys.
Taps.

These are the images of war that many have seen since the beginning of the war.

There are many more images that haven’t been seen before.

For Marines stationed at Buckley Air Force Base and the families they touch, the images are unforgettable. According to Maj. Steve Beck, they should be.

This is a stirring presentation that shows how the American military honors its fallen and helps their families take the beginning steps down the road to healing. The Rocky Mountain News put it together for last Veterans Day, and I’ll send a hat tip to Florida Cracker for linking it on Memorial Day. Today may seem a day late to bring it to your attention, but I don’t feel that it is — our military pays such tribute and shows such care any day of the year.

New-to-me Blog: History Post

Welcome to Anthony Tully’s Online Discussion log of various musings regarding history, political science, current events, and fields of expertise like Naval and Romano-Byzantine History. Be sure to visit our website for a look at some of my Pacific War articles and information on just published full study of the Battle of Midway.

If the name Anthony Tully doesn’t ring a bell, please review this post where I asked Santa for a copy of the new book Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway. Santa may not have come through for me in this case, but critics and historians have voiced much love for work of co-authors Jonathan Parshall and, yes, Anthony Tully. Hat tip to Frankenstein at General Quarters. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve e-known both Mr. Tully and Frank for several years on my favorite discussion forum and have long valued their thoughts on history, religion, military and political matters.

5/29/2006

Memorial Day: USS Arizona

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:52 pm

Memorial Day 2006

Filed under: — Gunner @ 12:59 pm

[The following is a modified posting of last year’s Memorial Day postings. New Memorial Day content wil follow]


“Here Rests
In Honored Glory
An American Soldier
Known But To God”

U.S. Memorial Day.org
The Day’s Background
Arlington National Cemetery
The Tomb of the Unknowns
Texas National Cemetery Foundation
Texas National Cemetery Memorial Plans and Fundraising

Tomb of the Unknowns: Changing of the Guard (embossed)
The Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns

If you have not seen the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, I’ve witnessed it more than once and highly recommend it.

The guard is changed every hour on the hour Oct. 1 to March 31 in an elaborate ritual. From April 1 through September 30, there are more than double the opportunities to view the change because another change is added on the half hour and the cemetery closing time moves from 5 to 7 p.m.

An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.

The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknowns who have been symbolically given the Medal of Honor. Then the relief commander orders the relieved sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the black mat. When the relief commander passes by, the new sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

The ritual is slow. It is determined. It is meticulous. It is touching.

The majesty of the ceremony lies in its detailed, determined nature. It shows that our honored dead are not remembered only one day a year by our military — their memory is unfailingly revered . Their sacrifices receive tribute constantly from both comrades and strangers. Such is as it should be, both in the military and among all of the citizenry that value the freedoms and security that have been bought and paid for in blood and sacrifice. Our heroes deserve their special day, but their honor deserves our hearts throughout the year.

(On a side note, the above photos were taken by my then-girlfriend-now-new-bride. The photo of the ceremony was perfect in every way but one, a slight discoloration I was unable to overcome. In desperation, I tried the embossed effect and was quite happy with the outcome.)

4/25/2006

ANZAC Day

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:40 pm

April 25, ANZAC Day.

Doesn’t ring a bell? John at Argghhh!!! does an amazing job of explaining a treasured day of some of our staunchest friends and allies, those blokes in Australia and New Zealand.

As for me, I’ll mark the with the haunting Gallipoli-based tune “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” by the Pogues.

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all

[full lyrics can be found here]

4/21/2006

April 21

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:54 pm
Painting of Battle of San Jacinto by Henry Arthur McArdle, 1895, from Texas State Preservation Board

That’s an important date in Texas. On this day in 1836, Texans won their independence from Mexico at the battle of San Jacinto.

About 3:30 in the afternoon, during the Mexican siesta period, Houston distributed his troops in battle array, bracketing the line with the “Twin Sisters” cannon. Shielded by trees and a rise in the terrain, the Texans were able to advance with some security. Then with the cries “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember La Bahia” or “Remember Goliad” ringing along their lines, the Texans swooped down on the dismayed Mexican army, pursuing and butchering them long after the battle itself had ended.

630 Mexicans were killed and 730 taken prisoner. Texans lost only 9 killed or mortally wounded; thirty were less seriously wounded. Among the latter was General Houston, whose ankle was shattered.

The date is also marked by Aggie Muster, the most moving of the many traditions at Texas A&M.

Aggies gathered together on June 26,1883 to live over again their college days, the victories and defeats won and lost upon the drill field and in the classroom. By April 21, 1903, this annual gathering evolved into a celebration of Texas’ Independence on San Jacinto Day. These early meetings included field games and banquets for Aggies to reflect and celebrate their memories of Aggieland. ‘Let every alumni answer a roll call’ wrote the former students. It was not until 1922, however, that April 21 became the official day of events for all Aggies, thus, the annual tradition of Muster was born. The March 1923 Texas Aggie urged, ‘If there is an A&M man in one-hundred miles of you, you are expected to get together, eat a little, and live over the days you spent at the A&M College of Texas.

[…] Twenty-five men, led by General George Moore ’08, mustered during the Japanese Siege of the Philippine island of Corregidor. Knowing that Muster might soon be called for them, these Aggies embodied the essence of commitment, dedication, and friendship- the Aggie Spirit. They risked their lives to honor their beliefs and values. That small group of Aggies on an outpost during World War II inspired what has developed into one of our greatest traditions.

Muster is celebrated in more than four-hundred places world wide, with the largest ceremony on the Texas A&M campus in College Station. The ceremony brings together more Aggies, worldwide, on one occasion than any other event.

[…] The Campus Muster involves an entire day of activities for students both present and past. Alumni enjoy a special program including tours of the ever-changing campus. At noon, all Aggies congregate at the Academic Plaza for the Camaraderie Barbecue that rekindles the tradition of the original Muster celebration. That night, the Muster ceremony consists of an address by a keynote speaker, the reading of poems, followed by the Roll Call for the Absent. The Roll Call honors Aggies that have fallen since the last Muster roll was read. As the names are read, a friend or family member answers ‘Here’, and a candle is lit to symbolize that while those Aggies are not present in body, they will forever remain with us in Aggie Spirit.

Aggie Muster

3/31/2006

400 years of Glory and Valour Consigned to History

Filed under: — Gunner @ 11:25 pm

‘Tis a sad time for the Scottish, as five legendary regiments are piped into the annals of history.

In Basra, the sun beat down on the soldiers gathered in the dust of Shaibah camp. In Edinburgh, a light drizzle fell on the men and women lined up on parade at the top of the castle. In Glasgow, Baghdad, Omagh, Belfast, Cyprus and Canterbury, similar ceremonies were taking place. As midday struck in Scotland, the country’s old regiments slipped into history.

Gone were the Royal Scots – almost 400 years old – the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and the Highlanders. In their place, to a flurry of pipes and drums, was the new Royal Regiment of Scotland.

It was certainly not the first merger imposed on Scotland’s soldiery, but it has proved to be one of the most controversial. Yesterday, however, the army was putting a brave face on it.

As the moment drew near, a large crowd had gathered around the edges of Edinburgh Castle’s Crown Square. Kenny Mackenzie, the Royal Scots’ Regimental Sergeant Major, marched smartly into the square and snapped to attention.

“By the right, quick march,” the order came, and from around the corner came the new regimental band, belting out the tunes of the Athol Highlander and Glendaruel Highlander. Behind them, a carefully chosen cross-section of the new regiment marched into the Crown Square, wheeled right and came to a halt.

They had been practising hard, apparently, but perhaps in keeping with the furore surrounding the merger, not all were in step. Their boots hit the cobbles like a burst of machine gun fire, rather than the single sharp report that the sergeant major was hoping for. He made them suffer by shuffling them backwards and forwards for a couple of minutes, barking out instructions until he was happy.

Still, as Major-General Euan Loudon, the new regiment’s most senior officer was to say, change may be painful.

“Parade will remove head dress”, RSM Mackenzie yelled, and they whipped off the old caps. Two more soldiers appeared, bearing between them a tray draped in the new regimental tartan and worked their way among the ranks, collecting the last vestiges of the old regiments. They marched out smartly, covering the abandoned hats discreetly with the tartan.

Those remaining in the square waited. The drizzle continued. The crowd, mainly tourists interspersed with press and some military types, craned their necks to see what was going on. Nothing happened. “Where’s the general?” one soldier whispered. More drizzle fell. The onlookers began to talk among themselves.

In Basra, the soldiers of the Royal Scots were baking in the heat. The regiment, the oldest in the British Army, is not due back until May; they had the curious experience of being consigned to history while still being called on to serve in action.

As if there was not enough historical baggage hanging around, the Ministry of Defence had chosen the 373rd anniversary of the formation of the regiment to disband it. About 200 soldiers who were not required for patrolling stood and watched as the standard of the Royal Scots was lowered for the last time, while a lone piper played a lament.

[…]

Back in Edinburgh, the general finally appeared, striding into the square, sleeves rolled up. The others had apparently been a little too quick off the mark.

“Parade, general salute,” barked RSM Mackenzie and the band broke into a stirring burst of regimental music. And stopped again, just as quickly.

The general strode up and down the lines, dishing out new caps, each bearing the hackle appropriate to what were once individual regiments, but are now mere battalions: black for the 1st Battalion (Royal Scots Borderers – the old Royal Scots and King’s Own Scottish Borderers); white for 2nd Battalion (Royal Highland Fusiliers); the famous red for the 3rd Battalion (Black Watch); blue for the 4th Battalion (Highlanders); and green for the 5th Battalion (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders).

The caps also bore the new insignia of the Royal Regiment, a lion rampant on a cross of St Andrew, or the crucified cat, as some wags have taken to calling it. It looked quite smart. The general stood in front of them and made his big pitch. It was, he said, a new chapter in the story of the Scottish soldier. “Change may be painful, but it has come to visit us in our day and generation,” he said, but it followed on from a glorious past.

The article briefly tells the story of each of the regiments that are going by the wayside.

• The Black Watch’s name came from the dark tartan its soldiers wore and from its role to “watch” the Highlands after its formation in 1725, when six companies were formed to stop fighting among the clans. The regimental motto was Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (No-one Attacks Me With Impunity).

• The King’s Own Scottish Borderers were the local infantry battalion for the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, and Lanarkshire. They were founded 1689 to defend Edinburgh from Jacobites and fought in every major conflict of the last 300 years including, with distinction, the Gulf in 2003.

• The Royal Scots was the oldest Infantry Regiment of the Line in the army. It was formed in 1633 under a warrant granted by Charles I, raising a body of men for service in France. The regiment saw conflict in many theatres, both world wars and the Gulf war, and action in Northern Ireland.

• The Royal Highland Fusiliers were formed in 1959 by the controversial amalgamation of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Highland Light Infantry. The regiment was awarded more than 200 battle honours, a number unsurpassed by any other unit in the British Army.

• The Highlanders, a combat infantry regiment of about 550 men, was formed in 1994 with the amalgamation of the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) and The Gordon Highlanders. It was the only one with a Gaelic motto – Cuidich ‘n Righ (Aid the King).

• The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, nicknamed the “Thin Red Line” for their actions at Balaclava, were formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the Princess Louise’s Argyllshire Regiment and the Sutherland Highlanders. They had the army’s largest cap badge and the Glengarry as headgear.

The new Royal Regiment has adopted the stirring and traditional “Scotland the Brave” as its regimental march (music and lyrics). Hat tip to Irish Elk via the Llama Butchers

More on the rationale for the change can be found in this Reuters piece:

The army says the new regiment is being forged to meet the changing needs of the 21st century, including more short-notice deployments, peacekeeping duties and the need to operate alongside allies — as with U.S forces in Iraq.

Four of the old regiments will constitute individual battalions with the Royal Regiment, but the Royal Scots and the KOSB will be combined into one battalion over the next few months. The army is also losing three regiments in England.

[…]

Loudon said the new super-regiment had emerged from a review of defence policy in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War. What emerged, he told Reuters in an interview, was that “we would have to be prepared to fight across a broad spectrum of operations and, of course, peace support and peacekeeping missions, and to go to these operations at quite short notice and plug in effectively with allies”.

[Loudon] said that a legacy of the Cold War had left the army unbalanced, with a preponderance of “heavy forces that were pretty immobile,” and “light forces that had relatively light combat power”.

“The big idea was that we would re-balance that structure into three areas of capability: light, which would be beefed up; medium, which would be created; and heavy, which would be made as mobile as we could in the future.”

He said the traditional system where units changed locations and roles every three years or so also failed to meet these needs and meant that about 25 percent of infantry in the British Army could be unavailable for operations at any one time as they moved to new locations and retrained for new roles.

In the Royal Regiment of Scotland, the merged Royal Scots and KSOB will constitute the 1st battalion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers the 2nd battalion, the Black Watch the 3rd battalion, The Highlanders the 4th battalion and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders the 5th battalion.

The Royal Scots and KOSB have traditionally worn tartan trews (trousers) rather than kilts, but the Royal Regiment of Scotland will be kilted, wearing the Black Watch, or “government” tartan.

The battalions will, however, retain their distinctive coloured feathers behind their cap badges, known as the “hackle”, and the pipe and drum bands will keep the regimental tartans and accoutrements.

Loudon said history and tradition were integral to the new regiment, but added: “A tradition is only relevant if its legacy, when it is handed down to the next generation of people inspires, them to soldier as their forebears have done.”

He said the spiritual homes of the old units would remain at their old bases in Scotland in the form of regimental museums and associations covering past and present members.

First the 49th Lone Star Armored Division, now the Scottish regiments — ah, but military history can be a cruel mistress.

At least the new Royal Regiment will carry on with the dark but beautiful Black Watch tartan. Unfortunately, there may be insult added even to that saving grace, as the British army has recently lowered the quality standard on kilts, opening them up for the bidding of foreign contractors.

Borders weavers Robert Noble has produced the tartan for the ceremonial kilts worn by Scottish regiments for 150 years.

But in an effort to drive down costs, the Ministry of Defence has announced it is putting the contract to produce tartan for the amalgamated Royal Regiment of Scotland up for tender.

It is also lowering the standards of the tartan’s quality to allow other companies producing cheaper, lower-grade cloth to compete against the expertise of Borders textile companies.

The MoD has launched a competitive tender allowing any manufacturers to compete for the contract of 5,000 kilts, estimated to be worth £300,000, for the new regiment.

Previously, only a few firms in Scotland could produce woven woollen cloth to the high standards required, but the MoD has lowered standards so more firms can compete at lower prices.

Jeremy Purvis, a Borders MSP, said the MoD cost-cutting was misguided.

“This is about the standard of cloth provided. It is an insult to the company that has been providing it for over 100 years,” he said.

The MSP also said the MoD’s attitude and insensitivity towards the contract was a worrying reflection on attitudes towards the new Royal Regiment of Scotland. He added: “I hope very much it is not, but the way they have behaved in this incident does give that indication.

“The kilts are clearly going to be sub-standard. Now there will be different cuts and shades on parades and it will be an embarrassment. The ceremonial Scottish wear of kilts and trews should absolutely be made in Scotland.”

Yeah, kick ’em while their down. Don’t worry, despite poorer kilts, the Scots will bravely soldier on, creating a new regimental history.

2/27/2006

WWII Ace Scott Dies at 97

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:28 pm

Flying Tiger, ace, author, general and Olympic torch bearer — truly a life to be celebrated and a passing to be mourned.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, the World War II flying ace who told of his exploits in the China-Burma-India theater in his book “God is My Co-Pilot,” died Monday. He was 97.

His death was announced by Paul Hibbitts, director of the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, where Scott worked in recent years.

The Georgia-born Scott rose to nationwide prominence during World War II as a fighter ace in the skies over Asia, then with his best-selling 1943 book, made into a 1945 movie starring Dennis Morgan as Scott.

Among his other books were “The Day I Owned the Sky” and “Flying Tiger: Chennault of China.”

Scott, who retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general, won three Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars and five Air Medals before he was called home to travel the country giving speeches for the war effort.

He shot down 22 enemy planes with his P-40 Warhawk, though he recalled some were listed as “probable” kills.

“You had to have two witnesses in the formation, or you needed a gun camera to take a picture,” he once said. “Only we didn’t have gun cameras in China. I actually had 22 aerial victims, but I only had proof of 13.”

He worked with the Flying Tigers, Gen. Claire Chennault’s famed volunteer force of pilots who fought in China, but he was not one of its original members in mid-1941. With the Flying Tigers, he earned five of his aerial kills in May 1942 when he flew more than 200 hours in combat.

[…]

From the mid-1980s onward, Scott was an active staffer at the Robins air base’s aviation museum.

Scott, who had more than 33,000 flying hours during his 60 years of flying, credited the museum with giving him a new lease on life, Hibbitts said.

Despite his age, he remained active until a few years ago, carrying the Olympic torch in 1996, piloting an F-15 fighter jet on his 88th birthday and flying a B-1 bomber on his 89th birthday, Hibbitts said.

Rest in peace, sir. You’ve most assuredly earned it.

1/11/2006

Body Armor: a Quick Look

Filed under: — Gunner @ 10:39 pm

Over the weekend, a Pentagon study on troop body armor and its effect on casualties made big AP news.

Most torso wounds that killed Marines in Iraq might have been prevented or minimized by improved body armor, a Pentagon study found.

The unreleased study last summer by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner looked at 93 fatal wounds from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005. It concluded that 74 were bullet or shrapnel wounds to shoulders or areas of the torso not protected by ceramic armor plating.

[…]

According to a summary of the study obtained by The Associated Press, the 93 Marines who died from a primary lethal injury of the torso were among 401 Marines who died from combat injuries in Iraq between the start of the war and last June.

Autopsy reports and photographic records were analyzed to help the military determine possible body armor redesign. A military advocacy group, Soldiers for Truth, posted an article about the study on its Web site this week. On Friday evening, The New York Times reported in its online edition that the study for the first time shows the cost in lives lost from inadequate armor.

The study found that of 39 fatal torso wounds in which the bullet or shrapnel entered the Marine’s body outside of the ceramic armor plate that protects the chest and back, 31 were close to the plate’s edge.

“Either a larger plate or superior protection around the plate would have had the potential to alter the final outcome,” the report concluded.

Murdoc at Murdoc Online dissected the piece with a post where the title says it all about how increased armor could reduce casualties: So could carpet bombing and free-fire zones (hat tip to the Officer’s Club).

There are limits. You need to be able to put your arms down. Otherwise laying there like a slug might be your only defense.

Long-time readers of MO will know that I’ve been critical of the armor situation in the past. And I’ll continue to be critical in the future until absolute perfection is attained and US troops in combat zones are totally protected from every possible threat. But these stupid headlines and sensationalizing of a military study intended to improve our capability doesn’t help anyone.

Well, let me correct myself right here. Sensationalizing this story, making it sound like negligence or inability to cope with enemy tactics is killing troops does help some. They’re called the “enemies of America”. And not all of them are not American. So many in the media seem so focused on the “good old days” of media glory that they appear unable to report on military matters in a meaningful way.

Today, the military responded by pointing out that it is trying to find the proper armor that allows the best balance between troop safety and troop effectiveness.

Protecting troops is a top priority, but weighting them down with so much body armor that they are practically unable to move is not the answer to the continued deaths and injuries among armor-wearing deployed forces, military officials said Wednesday.

The Army and Marine Corps are rushing to buy and deploy improved body armor that provides more protection for the sides of the torso, which enemy sharpshooters have targeted as a weak point in U.S. troops’ body armor configurations.

But military officials, called before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss the status of the improvements, said they have not yet found a perfect balance between fully protecting troops and weighing them down so heavily that they cannot accomplish their missions.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the Armed Services Committee chairman, said he was satisfied the services had the money and authority to get the necessary gear and understood the limitations.

“Everything that can be done is being done,” Warner said.

Full body armor, with all the associated plates and extra protection, can weigh up to 125 pounds, a particularly heavy load in the extreme climates of Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

While at Texas A&M, I took a survey level course in American military history under the esteemed Dr. Joseph G. Dawson III. Many aspects and lessons of that class have stayed with me through the years, but one little piece of trivia stands out in my memory. Dr. Dawson pointed out that the average weight of arms and equipment carried by American troops into battle during the Revolutionary War was around sixty pounds. The average weight of the same carried by the typical American soldier in Viet Nam was … sixty pounds. I do hope that puts into a little perspective that 125-pound figure for full body armor. Oh yeah, don’t forget to add in weapons and ammunition. And rations and water. And needed communication devices. Yes, the troops could be encased in a cylinder of kevlar, but balance must be managed or the troops become worthless little knights, relatively safe from shrapnel and bullets but slow, ineffective and still prone to other dangers like RPGs.

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