Saturday Snippet: The Old Navy

Rear Admiral Daniel P. Mannix III served in the US Navy from the 1890’s until the 1920’s.  He recorded an amusing, absorbing account of his service in his private journals, letters, etc.  Later, his son, well-known author Daniel P. Mannix IV, took those documents and used them to write “The Old Navy”, a record of his father’s life and naval career. The paper edition is long out of print, although used copies are available.  Fortunately, there’s also an inexpensive Kindle edition, which makes the e-book version available to a new generation of readers. Here’s a selection of excerpts from Admiral Mannix’s early years

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Fascinating background information on the Bin Laden attack in 2011

The “flight lead” of the helicopters on the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, recently retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Englen, has provided more information about that mission, with encouragement from his superior officers. It was just 30 seconds into the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011 when special operations Chinook pilot Chief Warrant Officer 5 Douglas Englen heard the call of “Black Hawk down” come over his radio. Black Hawk 2′s pilot alerted Englen — the pilot in charge of the air operation that night — that Black Hawk-1 had just crashed inside the 9/11 mastermind’s

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Shangani Patrol – the movie

Last Saturday I put up a snippet from Frederick Russell Burnham‘s book, “Scouting on Two Continents“. The excerpt concerned the famous Shangani Patrol, that was wiped out in a legendary “last stand” fight against the Matabele tribe in 1893.  In colonial Rhodesia the incident was regarded in the same light as the last stand at the Alamo in Texas, or that of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae. In 1970 a feature film was made on location about the incident, called simply “Shangani Patrol“.  I remember it as being a bit too unquestioningly patriotic for my taste (given that at the time, white

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Saturday Snippet: An American with the Shangani Patrol

The so-called Shangani Patrol was a legendary encounter in 1893 between colonial forces and the Matabele tribe of Lobengula in what is today Zimbabwe.  The entire patrol was annihilated, after having killed more than ten times its own number in an epic fight through the bush.  In colonial Rhodesia, it was regarded in the same light as the fall of the Alamo in Texas, or the doomed fight of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae. In this excerpt from his book “Scouting on Two Continents“, the world-famous American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, a legend in his own lifetime, describes some of his experiences

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Saturday Snippet: Between silk and cyanide

One of the most remarkable autobiographies to come out of World War II was that of Leo Marks, who became the code specialist for Special Operations Executive (SOE), the clandestine operations department set up by Winston Churchill with the directive to “set Europe ablaze”.  SOE supplied arms, money and operators to resistance movements all over occupied Europe and throughout the Far East.  It made many mistakes and experienced many failures, but grew into a massive organization that made a measurable contribution to victory. Many years after the war, Marks wrote about his SOE experiences.  He battled for almost a decade to get

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New Marine Corps rifle qualification

I was interested to read about the new standards being applied by the US Marine Corps to rifle qualification.  The Corps has always had the motto “Every Marine a rifleman”, and it’s good to see they still take that seriously.  Their new standards offer a useful yardstick to evaluate our own weapons skills, and perhaps improve our training accordingly (if we’re young and supple enough to do so, of course!  I’m old and creaky now.  I daresay my days for such athleticism are long past.) As a combat veteran from a different service (and nation, and continent) I’m particularly interested to

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SOCOM and the USAF: the internal politics could get interesting, to put it mildly

I was intrigued to read that the US Special Operations Command is looking into fielding up to 75 light attack aircraft. The US Special Operations Command plans on buying 75 fixed-wing aircraft for its just-announced Armed Overwatch program. The aircraft are intended for close air support of special operations troops, according to a notice announcing an upcoming industry day posted online 3 February. “Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling close air support, precision strike, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments,” says the notice. The program is similar to a faltering light attack

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Saturday Snippet: The sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in 1941

Americans tend to forget that Japan didn’t only attack Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  She simultaneously attacked across a wide swath of the Pacific Ocean, including the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya.  Britain had just sent to Singapore one of its most modern battleships, HMS Prince of Wales (which had recently played a part in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck), accompanied by a World War I battle-cruiser, HMS Repulse.  Operating together as Force Z, they attempted to attack a Japanese landing fleet near Singapore a few days later, with disastrous results. This description of what happened was written by then-Sub-Lieutenant (equivalent to

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The radioactive tanks of Chernobyl

There’s a fascinating article at Firearms News titled “The Radioactive ISU-152“.  It describes how some of the biggest, heaviest tanks of World War II returned to the scene of one of their victories, four decades later, to act as saviors rather than destroyers. The SU/ISU-152 was designed specifically to be a part of both the shock and breakthrough elements of the Soviet Deep Battle doctrine. The KV heavy tank chassis would provide the base for the massive ML-20S, a portable version of the standard 152mm howitzer in service. The gun had a range of 10km for indirect fire but was reduced to less

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“Trouble in the Wind”

Earlier this year, authors Chris Kennedy and James Young partnered to bring to market a trilogy of alternate-history short story anthologies of combat.  They called it “The Phases of Mars“.  The first book, “Those in Peril“, dealt with the sea and naval combat.  The second volume, “To Slip the Surly Bonds“, dealt with aircraft and aerial warfare. The third and final volume covers war on land, and includes a story by yours truly.  It’s titled “Trouble in the Wind“, and has just been published.  In less than 24 hours, it’s already reached the #1 New Release position on Amazon.com in Science Fiction Anthologies. The

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