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SCUBAPRO Sunday – Carlson’s Raiders

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

It’s not hard to say that anyone who wanted to be in military Special Forces when they were a kid has watched the movie Gung Ho! So, in honor of Evans F Carlson’s Birthday on the 26th. He was one of the best leaders in military history and helped build today’s Special Forces foundation. He spends over two years in China with the guerrilla, learning unique tactics that he would bring to the U.S. to help fight the Japanese in WW2. We need more leads like this in the world.  

Evans F Carlson enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 16 and began his military career in 1912. He served in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Mexico, and less than a year after leaving active duty, he reenlisted in time for the Mexican punitive expedition. During his military service, he was wounded in action in France and was awarded a Purple Heart. He was promoted to Captain in May of 1917 and was made a lieutenant in December of 1917. After the war, he entered the Marine Corps as a private and gained the rank of second lieutenant the following year.

Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, he was awarded the first of three Navy Crosses. In 1940, he became an observer in China during the years leading up to World War II and was impressed with the guerrilla warfare being waged against Japanese troops. While he was in Japan, he became convinced that Japan would attack the United States.

He advised General Douglas MacArthur of an impending invasion in the Philippines and the need for guerrilla units in case the Japanese army attacked. However, MacArthur ignored his recommendation.

Carlson returned to the United States and joined the United States Army again. Carlson and Merritt Edson advocated the use of guerrilla warfare as part of the Allied Pacific War effort. After Edson was assigned the 1st Raider Battalion, Carlson received command of the 2nd Raider Battalion.

Approximately 7,000 applied for enlistment in the 2nd Raider Battalion, but many people that applied were rejected. He asked each candidate about the political significance of the war. He later said he favored men with initiative, adaptability and held democratic views. James Roosevelt, the son of Franklin D. Roosevelt, became Carlson’s assistant.

The Raiders learned the tactics employed by the Red Army against the Japanese. This practice involved learning how to kill people silently and quickly. To more effectively imitate the guerrillas of China, Carlson eliminated the privileges of officers. The same level of nutrition, wearing the same clothing, and carrying the same equipment were all factors.

Carlson’s field research into the Red Army convinced him that trust in the men in battle improved their performance and the belief in a better pollical system. So, he would provide information on how undemocratic governments are under Nazi Germany and Japan. Also, he encouraged the men to discuss their vision of a functioning society after the war.

In August of 1943, Carlson and 222 marines left Pearl Harbor and landed on Makin Atoll. After two days of battle, Carlson’s men destroyed the radio station, burned the radio station’s equipment, and captured documents. Thirty marines were among the first to die during the Battle of Tarawa. As a result of this raid, the Japanese fortified the Gilbert Islands.

On 4 November 1943, the Raiders landed on Guadalcanal. During the next 30 days, Carlson’s man killed over 500 enemy soldiers and only lost 17. Carlson had been wounded and was forced to return to the United States for medical treatment.

Carlson’s superiors expressed concern about his unorthodox tactics and ideas. They were also concerned about his relatively close relationship with Agnes Smedley. This radical journalist was involved in campaigning for USA support of communist forces in China to help them defeat the Japanese Army in Asia.

In May of 1943, Carlson was promoted to be the Raider Regiment’s executive officer and was stripped of the direct command of his battalion during the Guadalcanal campaign. Carlson was also upset with his superiors by becoming involved in a controversial project of publishing pamphlets on the contribution of the Afro-Americans in the war. Carlson eventually returned to action in November 1943 at the battle of Tarawa. On Saipan, he received severe wounds when trying to rescue a radio operator who the Japanese had shot.

Carlson eventually returned to action at Tarawa in November 1943. During the Battle of Saipan, he was injured while rescuing a radio operator who the Japanese had shot. Being injured caused him to have to retire from the United States Marines after the war.


Here is the movie:

Historian Shares 101st Airborne Division Black History Moments

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – When the 101st Airborne Division needed big guns at the Battle of the Bulge, two corps artillery units of Black Soldiers delivered.

When the Little Rock Nine needed escorts just to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in 101st Abn. Div. Soldiers from Fort Campbell.

And when the odds were stacked against them, two Black Soldiers from the 101st Abn. Div. risked it all to save others.

These were all touchstones in the history of the 101st Abn. Div. (Air Assault), the United States Army and nation’s progress in race relations over the years, said John O’Brien, director of the Brig. Gen. Don F. Pratt Memorial Museum.

As the Army celebrates Black History Month, O’Brien reflected on several moments that tell the story of successful integration over the years.

“The result of the progress that has been made is visible when you look at pictures and listen to the stories of where we are today,” he said. “You look at a picture and you see men and women of all races, creeds and religions involved in the operations in which we have been involved.”

World War II

“In World War II, the Army was racially segregated,” O’Brien said. “There were occasions where those segregated units fought with the 101st. One of those occasions was the very famous defense of the city of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge, which occurred December 1944 to January 1945.”

“There were a number of other units that were on the battlefield that came to be encircled with the 101st and fought with the 101st,” he said. “Two of those units were segregated, all Black artillery units.”

He said the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion and 969th Artillery Battalion, made up of Black Soldiers, supplied the big fire power that turned the tide during the siege and repelled the Germans.

The 969th and 333rd were equipped with M1 155mm howitzers, one of the heaviest pieces of artillery at the time. The 101st were a light airborne unit so they had only 75mm and 105mm howitzers.

“Part of the success of the 101st at Bastogne was overwhelming use of artillery and so these two co-corps artillery units that ended up working with the 101st, being part of the 101st and awarded battlefield honors, along with the 101st, are these two African American units,” O’Brien said. “They had the big guns, big artillery pieces. Despite there being a segregated Army, there was not a segregated battlefield.”

Little Rock Nine

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and called to desegregate schools nationwide.

“The Supreme Court did not say when segregation was to end, and in Arkansas, Gov. (Orval) Faubus prevented the integration of the Little Rock Central High School,” O’Brien said.

President Dwight Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Allied Commander of the European Theater of Operations in World War II, had relied on the 101st to be the vanguard in the invasion into Europe. As president and faced with national and international criticism of segregation in 1957, he again reached out to the 101st Abn. Div.

Some 600 101st Abn. Div. Soldiers assigned to 1-327th Airborne Battle Group were deployed to protect the nine black students from protestors for about three months, O’Brien said.

“It was a civil disturbance and their mission was to make sure the students got to school and protestors were not allowed to prevent them from getting into the school,” he said.

Vietnam and Medals of Honor

“The 101st deployed to Vietnam from 1965 to 1972 and what’s going on in the United States is the height of the Civil Rights movement of that era,” O’Brien said. “We have a fully integrated Army but race relations in Vietnam were an interesting problem.”

O’Brien said the integrated units were not a problem on the battlefield, but at division base camps and some other areas, “there were manifestations of the racial tensions in the United States. The division was very aggressive in addressing that problem.”

Even in combat, he said, leaders addressed racial issues rather than ignoring the topic.

Two 101st Medal of Honor recipients were Black Soldiers – only Sgt. 1st Class Webster Anderson made it home.

Staff Sergeant Clifford C. Sims was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after the squad leader of D Co., 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, led a furious attack against the enemy Feb. 21, 1968.

After moving his Soldiers away from a burning munitions building, it exploded, wounding two Soldiers but his actions saved lives, according to the Medal of Honor citation.

“While continuing through the dense woods, Staff Sgt. Sims and his squad were approaching a bunker when they heard the unmistakable noise of a concealed boobytrap being triggered immediately to their front,” the citation reads. “Staff Sgt. Sims warned his comrades of the danger and unhesitatingly hurled himself upon the device as it exploded, taking the full impact of the blast. In so protecting his fellow Soldiers, he willingly sacrificed his own life.”

The Staff Sgt. Clifford C. Sims Building on Indiana Avenue at Fort Campbell was named in his honor.

Anderson, then a staff sergeant, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions while serving as chief of section in A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.

After being attacked by North Vietnamese infantry Oct. 15, 1967, Anderson directed howitzer fire on the enemy while providing rifle and grenade defensive fire. Two grenades landed at his feet, severely wounding his legs. Despite excruciating pain he continued to fire and encouraged his men to fight.

“Seeing an enemy grenade land within the gun pit near a wounded member of his gun crew, Staff Sgt. Anderson, heedless of his own safety, seized the grenade and attempted to throw it over the parapet to save his men,” according to the Medal of Honor citation. He was grievously wounded again but refused medical evacuation and encouraged his men to defend the position, showing heroism at the risk of his life.

By Stephanie Ingersoll, Fort Campbell Courier

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Shackleton

Sunday, February 14th, 2021

On 5 December 1914, the HMS Endurance left South Georgia for Antarctica, carrying 27 men (plus one stowaway who became the ship’s steward), 69 puppies, and a tomcat named, Mrs. Chippy. The goal of expedition leader Shackleton, who had once agonizingly fallen short of reaching the South Pole twice, was to establish a base on Antarctica’s Weddell Sea coast.

From there, on the first crossing of the continent, a small party, including himself, would eventually arrive at the Ross Sea, south of New Zealand, where another group would be waiting for them, having set up food and fuel depots along the way. Endurance joined the pack ice two days after leaving South Georgia, the barrier of dense sea ice standing guard across the Antarctic continent. The ship pushed its way through leads in the ice for several weeks, gingerly working its way south, but on 18 January, a northern gale jammed the pack hard against the ground and tightly squeezed the floes against each other. There was suddenly no way forward, nor any way back.

They were sailing from their landing place within a day; now, with each passing day, the ice’s drift was slowly moving them farther south. Nothing else could’ve been done but to create a routine and wait for the winter.

The crew saved as many provisions as they could in the time that passed between abandoning Resilience and watching the ice swallow it up entirely while sacrificing anything and anything that added weight or consumed valuable resources, including bibles, books, clothes, instruments, and keepsakes.

The original plan was to march toward the land through the ice, but that was abandoned after the men accomplished just seven and a half miles in seven days. There was no alternative,” Shackleton wrote, “except to camp on the floe again and to possess our souls with what patience we could until conditions would become more favorable for a revival of the attempt to escape.” The ice drifted further north slowly and steadily, and the snow-capped peaks of Clarence and Elephant Islands came into view on 7 April 1916, flooding them with hope.”

“The floe was a good friend to us,” Shackleton wrote in his diary, “but it has reached the end of its journey and is now obliged to break up at any moment.”

It did precisely that on 9 April, breaking with an almighty crack underneath them. Shackleton gave the order to break camp and launch the ships, and all of a sudden, they were finally free of the ice that had alternately surrounded them and supported them.

Now they had to deal with a new foe: the open ocean. It poured icy spray on their faces and threw cold water over them, beating the boats from side to side, and as they fought the elements and seasickness, it took brave men to the fetal position.

Captain Worsley navigated through the spray and the squalls through all of it before Clarence and Elephant Islands emerged just 30 miles ahead after six days at sea. The men had become tired. Worsley had not slept for 80 hours by that time. And although some have been crippled by seasickness, some have been wracked by dysentery. Frank Wild, the second-in-command of Shackleton, wrote that “at least half the party was insane.” But they rowed resolutely toward their target, and they clambered ashore on Elephant Island on 15 April.

They were on dry land for the first time since leaving South Georgia 497 days ago. Their ordeal was far from over, however. After nine days of healing and training, Shackleton, Worsley, and four others set out on one of the lifeboats, the James Caird, to seek aid from a whaling station in South Georgia, more than 800 miles away. The chance of someone coming across them was vanishingly slight.

They fought monstrous swells and furious winds for 16 days, blowing water out of the ships and beating ice out of the sails. Shackleton recorded, “The boat tossed endlessly at the great waves under grey, threatening skies.” Each surge of the sea was an adversary to be watched and circumvented.” The elements hurled their worst at them even as they were within touching distance of their goal: “The wind  screamed as it ripped the tops off the waves,” Shackleton wrote.” “Our little boat swung down into valleys, up to tossing heights, straining till her seams opened.”

The wind eased off the next day, and they made it ashore. Help was nearly at hand, but this was not the end, either. The winds had driven the James Caird off course, and from the whaling station, they had landed on the other side of the island. And so Shackleton, Worsley, and Tom Crean set out to reach it by foot, scrambling over mountains and sliding down glaciers, forging a route that no human being had ever forged before they stumbled into the station at Stromness after 36 hours of desperate hiking.

In no possible circumstances could three strangers possibly arrive at the whaling station from nowhere, definitely not from the mountains’ direction. And yet here they were: their stringy and matted hair and beards, their faces blackened with blubber stove soot, and creased from almost two years of tension and deprivation.

And the old Norwegian whaler remembered the scene when the three men stood in front of Thoralf Sørlle, the station manager:

The boss would say, “Who the hell are you?” ‘And in the middle of the three, the awful bearded man says very quietly:’ My name is Shackleton.’ I turn away and weep.’

Once the other three James Caird members were rescued, attention turned to the rescue of the remaining 22 men on Elephant Island. Yet, despite all that had gone before, this final mission proved to be the most challenging and time-consuming of all in many respects. Although attempting to cross the pack ice, the first ship on which Shackleton set out ran dangerously low on fuel and was forced to turn back to the Falkland Islands. The government of Uruguay provided a vessel that came within 100 miles of Elephant Island before being beaten back by the ice.

Every morning on Elephant Island, Frank Wild, left in charge by Shackleton, issued an appeal for everyone to “lash up and stow up” their belongings. Might the boss come today! “He proclaimed every day. His friends became increasingly bleak and questionable. Macklin reported on 16 August 1916, “Eagerly on the lookout for the relief ship.” “The hope of her coming was quite abandoned by some of the party.” Orde-Lees was one of them. “There is no longer any good in deceiving ourselves,” he wrote.

But Shackleton acquired from Chile a third ship, the Yelcho; eventually, on 30 August 1916, the Endurance saga and its crew came to an end. When they spied the Yelcho just off the shore, the men on the island were settling down to a lunch of boiled seal’s backbone. It had been 128 days since James Caird’s departure; everyone ashore had broken camp within an hour of the Yelcho emerging and left Elephant Island behind. Every one of the Endurance crew was alive and healthy twenty months after setting out for the Antarctic.

Never did Ernest Shackleton reach the South Pole or traverse the Antarctic. Another expedition to the Antarctic was initiated, but the Endurance veterans who accompanied him found that he seemed smaller, more timid, drained from the spirit that kept them alive. On 5 January 1922, he had a heart attack on a ship in South Georgia and died in his bunk. He was a mere 47.

Wild took the ship to Antarctica with his death, but it proved inadequate to the task, and he set course for Elephant Island after a month spent futilely trying to penetrate the pack. He and his comrades, from the safety of the deck, peered through binoculars at the beach where so many of them had been living in fear and hope.

“Once again, I see old faces and hear old voices, old friends scattered all over,” Macklin wrote. “It is impossible, however, to express all I feel.”

And with that, one last time, they turned north and went home.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – The Battle of Hue

Sunday, February 7th, 2021

I will try and tell this story the best I can, but there was a lot that happened during this month of fighting, and not going to lie, I forget how it all happened every time I read about it.

The Tet Offensive was a coordinated series of attacks by the North Vietnamese on over 100 South Vietnamese cities and outposts. The attack was an attempt to promote resistance among the South Vietnamese people and encouraging the U.S. to decrease its participation in the Vietnam War. The ensuing battles were characterized by confusion, gallantry, and bravery for almost one month, 30 January through 28 February. Without losing any strategically important foundation, the United States effectively repelled the assaults by the north in every city except Hue.  

Hue City is a center of Vietnamese culture and religion. The city’s cultural prominence during the war made it a place of strategic importance for U.S. forces. The Marines were forced to go home-to-house, for 26 days, carrying out urban operations for the first time since WWII. Hue was challenging for Marines as the Perfume River separates it, and no air support was provided for the first ten days following the Tet Offensive.

Hundreds of Viet Cong (VC) had already entered the city in the days leading up to Tet and had mingled with the pilgrim crowds that were streaming into Hue for a holiday. Their arms and munitions were quickly transported into the vibrant city and disguised in the bikes, cars, and trucks carrying the flood of merchandise, food, and goods intended for the day’s festivities. Like clockwork, the VC unpacking their guns in the middle of the morning of 31 January, and they put their uniforms into their assigned positions in Hue in preparation for connecting them with cracked Vietnamese People’s Army (PAVN) and city-closed VC agents. Infilters gathered at the gates of Citadel to lead their comrades to achieve their primary objectives.

On the holiday morning of 31 January 1968, as dawn broke, almost all could see it in Hue’s old walled town. The National Liberation Front’s gold-starred, blue-and-red banner flew at the top of the Citadel’s ancient flag tower. Just a few hours before bed on the eve of Tet, the elegant former capital city citizens were packed with anticipations for the forthcoming festivities and celebrations. But now, as they were in battle, a shield of terror and foreboding descended on them. The Communists now appeared to be in charge of Hue in a flash.

This moment was inevitably made possible by months of careful preparation and training. The Communists chose the time for the attack attentively. With Tet, the enemy knew that troops in the city were reduced in strength, with northeastern monsoon usually bad weather impeding all ally re-supply operations and impeding close air support.

Around 0330, the assault forces signed an attack by launching a simultaneous missile and mortar barrage from the mountains to the West of the city. This lasted until daybreak, and by then, they had gained reasonable control of the city. As PAVN and VC troops roamed to consolidate their victories, political officials were unlucky to compile the “special lists” for South Vietnamese and foreigners. The cadres marched along the Citadel’s narrow streets, called out the names on loudspeakers, and told the cadet to report to a local school. Those that do not submit will be hunted down. It is not until the end of the war that what became of the rounded-up would become readily apparent.

The activity in Hue on the morning of 31 January was just one aspect of an astonishing, orchestrated assault. About three-quarters of southern Vietnam’s capital and most of its key cities were affected by about 80,000 North Vietnamese and VC simultaneously. They were almost completely surprised in most objective locations, as they did in Hue, where a long, bloody battle was being waged.

Hue’s 140,000 inhabitants in 1968 made it the third-largest town in South Vietnam and one of the most celebrated areas in Vietnam. In reality, Hue is two cities separated by the Song Huong River, two-thirds of the city population living in the old town’s walls called the Citadel, to the north of the River of Perfume. The 3-square-mile Citadel, once the residence of the Annamese emperors who controlled the center of Vietnam, was enclosed by walls up to 30 feet and up to 40 feet in thickness, each about one mile and a half in length on its side. There is a zigzag seam across three walls not bordering the Perfume River, 90 meters wide at several points and 12 meters deep.

The Citadel had homes, apartment blocks, villas, restaurants, and parks. Another fortified experience, the Imperial Palace, is located in the old walled city, where emperors kept court until the French took over Vietnam in 1883. The square with 20-foot high 2,300-foot-long walls is situated at the south end of the Citadel. The Citadel was once was dream destination, but it would prove to be “a marine rifleman’s nightmare” in February 1968.

The current portion of the city of Hue, which had around half of the Citadel site and existed in around 1/3 of the city’s population in 1968, is located to the south of the Perfume River and connected to the Citadel by the Nguyen Hoang Bridge. The jail, the regional prison, the Catholic Cathedral were there.

A reinforced army of the Republic (RVN) 1st Infantry Division head office in the Citadel’s northwest corner has been the only military presence in the region. In the city, the only fighting force was the recognition company, the Hac Bao elite, called the Black Panthers, which was established outside of the city. The national police were mainly responsible for the preservation of protection within Hue.

Around one- and one-half blocks to the south of the Ngary Hoang Bridge in the eastern edge of the modern sector was the U.S. military’s only presence in Hue on 31 January. The compound had approximately 200 U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and officers and men of Australia who acted as advisors of the 1st Division of ARVN.

The closest U.S. combat base was at Phu Bai, about eight miles south on Highway 1. Phu Bai was a major Marine Corps command post and support facility, home to Task Force X-Ray, a forward headquarters of the 1st Marine Division. Commanded by Brig. Gen. Foster LaHue, assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division, the task force consisted of two Marine regimental headquarters and three battalions—the 5th Regiment, with two battalions: and the 1st Regiment, with one battalion. LaHue and most of the troops had only recently arrived in Phu Bai from Da Nang and were still getting acquainted with their area of operations when the Battle of Hue City began. There were U.S. Army units in the area as well. Two brigades of the 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile), including the 7th and 12th Cavalry Regiments. The 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, recently attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, had recently arrived at Camp Evans, north on Highway 1 between Hue and Quang Tri.

There were eight thousand communist forces in the area of Hue, with ten total battalions, including two three PAVN regiments and one battalion each. The North Vietnamese regular units were highly trained. The PAVN units were joined by six major battalions of the Viet Cong, including the 12th and the Hue City Sapper units.

While the PAVN and VC troops were very skilled in the jungle and rice paddies, they required more urban areas training. As the soldiers preparing for the war ahead, a list of “cruel tyrants and reactionary elements” prepared by VC intelligence officials was ready for Hue’s battle during the early hours of the attack. Most officers, military officers, and politicians from South Vietnam and American civilians, and other foreigners were on this list. They were taken to the jungle outside the town after being “arrested,” and they were held responsible for their “crimes” against the Vietnamese people.

The PAVN 6th Regiment launched the main southeast assault, connecting it to the VC infiltrate and racing across the Perfume River into the Citadel to the ARVN 1st Division’s headquarters, with two infantry battalions and the 12th VC Sapper Battalion. Much of the Citadel was taking, but General Ngo Quang Truong, the first commander of ARVN Division, and his squad held attackers at the compound at bay, hoping not to be overrun by the 800th and 802nd Battalions of the 6th Regiment.

Meanwhile, the ARVN held its position on the east end of the airfield until it was ordered to retire to the Division’s headquarters to facilitate its reinforcement. While in the hours of pre-dawn, the PAVN 802 battalion has repeatedly probed the ARVN defenses, its soldiers were thrown back, leaving the I Division compound in the hands of the southern Vietnamese. But at daylight, much of the Citadel and the Imperial Palace was occupied by the PAVN 6th Regiment.

The condition was not much better for Americans south of the Parfum River. Twice, the PAVN 804th Battalion attacked the MACV complex. Each time, security forces armed with individual guns were quickly mobilized. The North Vietnamese soldiers subsequently stormed the compound walls, where a group of Marines in a bunker held them away for a short time until they were removed with several B-40 rockets. This action slowed down the PAVN attack and allowed the Americans and Australians time for defense organization. The communists attempted to cut down with mortars and automatic guns from the adjacence building after they did not take the compound in an intense firefight. The defenders went to the ground and called for reinforcements.

Two Viet Cong fighters took over the Thua Thien headquarters, the police station, and other state buildings south of the river as the fighting went raging around the MACV complex. The PAVN 810th Battalion also blocked the south edge of the city to avoid this route’s strengthening. The PAVN 810, The 4th Regiment of North Vietnam, occupied the entire city south of the Perfume River in the morning except for the MACV complex. The Communists thus took over almost all of Hue in very short order.

With only a tiny hold of his Citadel headquarters, General Truong ordered his 3rd Regiment to battle their way into Citadel northwest from their positions, supported by two airborne battalions and an armorial cavalry troop. These forces met with heavy opposition, but Truong’s headquarters reached late afternoon.

As Truong strengthened his forces, the surrounding Americans and Australians in the MACV complex issued yet another call for reinforcement. Responded, but not completely aware of the enemy situation in Hue, Brig. General Foster C. Marine Amphibious Force order. LaHue Frosty, Commander of the X-ray Task Force, has sent Company A, 1st battalion, and 1st Marine (1/1) to Phu Bai on Route 1 to alleviate the 200 MACV advisor surroundings.

Once the Marines entered the area, just a few kilometers away from the consulting team. More Phu Bai Marines joined the original forces to fight for the compound with ten people who were killed in the fight. After their relation, the Marines were ordered to cross the river and break into the Citadel of ARVN 1st DivisionDivision’s headquarters. A hail of enemy fire met the Marines as they went across Nguyen Hoang Bridge, subjecting them to heavy casualties.

Marines south of the river met Lt. Gen. Hoang Xuan Lam, commander of the ARVN I Corps, and Lt. Gen. Robert Cushman, commander of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, to come up with a plan to retake Hue. They chose to clear communist fighters from the Citadel and the rest of Hue north of the river by ARVN troops, while X-Ray task force would control the southern part of the city.

Colonel Stanley S. Hughes, First Marine Regiment Commandant, was sent by General La Hue to take overall charge of U.S. forces, now completely understanding what his marines were up to. A bitter, room-to-room building war to throw out the Marinas waged communist forces. The Marines were expected to learn on-site strategies and methods untrained in urban warfare, and their progress was expensive and methodical. The soil was gained in centimeters, and the blood was paid for each alley, street corner, window, and garden. Serious injuries have taken place on both sides.

The Thua Thien Province Headquarters, which acted as a post to monitor the PAVN 4th Regiment, was captured by H Company 2-5 of Marines on 5 February, which caused the North Vietnamese’ credibility defenses to collapse. The next week lasted hard fighting, but much of the city to the south of the river had been in U.S. hands by 14 February. Rockets and mortar rounds began to fall, and snipers threatened naval patrols, taking another 12 days to avoid. For the Marines, 38 dead and 320 injured, the new town’s fighting had been expensive. The communists were paying a higher price, and the bodies of over 1,000 soldiers from the VC and NVA were scattered over the city to the south of the river.

In the meantime, the northern battle of the river was still raging. While ARVN forces had been mobilized, the progress on the northwest and southwestern Citadel walls had effectively been blocked by 4 February, between the houses, the alleys, and the narrow streets. The Communists, who had burst deep within walls and tightly packed homes, still had the Imperial Palace and the majority of the area around and seemed to be improved as the reinforcements made their way into the city.

His troops halted, General Truong was disappointed and humiliated and compelled to seek III MAF assistance. General Cushman ordered General LaHue on 10 February to transfer a battalion to the Citadel. On 12 February 1/5 Marines reached the Citadel through a gap in the northwest wall on landing ships through the river. Around the same time, the Citadel’s south-west corner was pushed by two battalions. This accumulation of allies put intense pressure on the communist powers, but they stood up.

The Marines attacked the southern wall and suffered major losses, as the struggles were much more challenging than in the southern part of the city. The Marines were supported by aerial attacks, naval guns, and artillery support, but the enemy fiercely fought back. Back and forth was the battle before, after losing 47 people killed and 240 wounded on 17 February, the 1/2 Marines accomplished their objective.

The battle lasted for days, but ARVN soldiers eventually shot down a banner from Viet Cong, 25 days, at dawn of 24 February, hung the South Vietnamese flag on the Citadel flag tower. The communist forces suffered heavy losses in this battle, losing 5,133 men at Hue; about 3,000 more were estimated to be killed outside of the city. American losses were about 142.

The epic battle over Hue left much of the historical town a devastated pile, leaving some 116,000 people homeless, as 40% of its buildings were demolished. 5,800 people have been listed as killed or missing in the population. Many of the bodies disappeared for a long time, months after the battle, mass graves were found with about 1,200 civilian bodies in 18 hastily hidden mass graves. A second large group of graves was discovered within the first seven months of 1969. Then, in September, three communist defectors said that, at the Da Mai Creek, about 10 kilometers south of Hue in February 1968, 101 AIDS agents witnessed the killing of a few hundred civilians. The majority of about 300 people in the bed of the creek were found on a quest. In all, about 2,800 bodies from these mass graves have been retrieved.

In the beginning, in the American media, the mass graves were not widely talked about. The media did not accept the early findings since they came from outlets that they viewed as discredited. Instead, most journalists appeared to focus on the bloody battle and downfall of the region. However, when the graves were identified, inquiries were started to discover the truth of the murders.

Pham Van Tuong was hiding with his family when the VC came to make the list of “reactionaries” in Viet Cong for serving as a part-time janitor in the Government Information Office. The Viet Cong gunned down all of them instantly when he came out with his three-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and two nephews and left them on the street as a reminder for the rest of the family.

The Viet Cong traveled to Phu Cam Cathedral on the fifth day of the occupation, where about 400 men and boys had gathered. Some were on the list as the enemy; some were military age, and some looked wealthy.  This party was found later on in the bed of Da Mai Creek.

An account from a group of Mennonite aid workers trapped at their homes in the communist occupation is documented by Omar Eby’s book A House in Hue, published in 1968. The Mennonites said they saw some Americans, one a farmer from the United States. They had been seen with the VC leading them away with their arms bound behind their backs. They, too, were found to be executed later.

Over the ensuing four weeks, Hue’s fighting was house by house, street by street, block by block slow with the Marines battling and tactically adapting to their enemy’s new tactics. Gradually, untimely, the Marines won back the Triangle and the Citadel, first and foremost. The devastation and bloodletting were of the essence, as well as the killing of souls. The massacre of innocents was deep, with countless civilians embedded within the fighting forces.

The political system, rooted in the NVA, forces people to recognize, chase and exterminate lists of individuals unfolded. Political cleansing started deliberately immediately after the start of the Hue attack.

This battle is one of the most important for the Marine Corps history and has been taught to every new Marine. The Marines are trained from the beginning of training “Hue City: house by house, street by street,” shouting it until their voice is grieved. Lessons learned in Hue city are still used to this day and were used in the battle of Fallujah. This battle also demonstrated every Marine’s ability to improvise and overcome as they could adapt from jungle to urban territory. Hue City is an excellent example of how fast Marines can “adapt and survive.”

There were 5 Medals of Honors awarded for actions during the Battle of Hue.

Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.

Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War

Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.

Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.




SIg Announces M18-Commemorative: Own a Piece of History

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

The limited release of the M18-Commemorative Edition of the official U.S. military service pistol, a variant of the SIG SAUER P320, is now available. The M18-Commemorative pistol shares the same components, coatings, and markings as the firearm that was awarded the U.S. Army contract for the modular handgun system (MHS), and was recently chosen as the official sidearm of the U.S. Marine Corps.

To complement the M18-Commemorative, an exclusive M18 Collector’s Case is available and features a slate-grey flocked foam insert and precision laser placement cuts for the pistol, the official serialized M18-Commemorative Certificate of Authenticity, and the serialized M18-Commemorative Challenge Coin.


SCUBAPRO Sunday – BMCM (MDV) Carl Brashear

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Master Diver Carl Brashear was born on January 19, 1931, in Tonieville, Kentucky. He joined the Navy in Feb 1948. A 31-year Navy veteran, Brashear retired in 1979 as a Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate, the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy. In 1966 while diving to recover a lost nuclear weapon off Spain’s coast, Brashear was severely injured in an accident. As a result, surgeons amputated his left leg below the knee. He refused to submit to a medical board’s attempt to retire him as unfit for duty. After demonstrating that he could still dive and perform his other duties, he was assigned to Harbor Clearance Unit 2, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Experimental Diving Unit. He was the first person to be returned to full service as a Navy diver after losing a limb in a diving salvage accident. There was a movie made about him in 2000 called Men of Honor. Master Chief Brasher was everything a good senior leader should be; he led from the front, he didn’t take no for an answer when he knew he was right, took care of the people below him, and left the Navy a better place then he found it.

Below, Carl training after he lost his leg, getting back to full active duty status.


First There…That Others May Live: Special Tactics History

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

SCUBAPRO Sunday – The Watch That Won WWII

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

As the world marked the 76th anniversary of the end of World War II, people can claim a lot of items was the “one thing” we had that is the main reason we won the war. The .50 machine gun, The Higgins Boat, The Jeep (G.P.), and the M1 Grand rifle. There are more items I could list, but it would take a long time. There is one that was one of the best-kept secrets to helping win the war. In every campaign, everyone in charge of a ship, a plane, a boat, or a bomb had one, or it was part of that item. It was the Hamilton watch. Renowned for its accuracy. Hamilton’s wartime contributions took many forms, long known for their accurate timepieces, and they were essential to the Allied Forces’ victory in WWII.

The Hamilton watch company was incorporated in1892 in Lancaster, PA. In 1891, an engineer’s inaccurate pocket watch led to a terrible train crash near Cleveland, Ohio. As a result of the investigation into that crash, an industry commission devised precise timekeeping standards for pocket watches (there were no wristwatches at this time) (get it time) used by railroad personnel. Pocket watches that met those exacting requirements were known as “railroad watches,” and a leader in making them was the. Hamilton watch company. Hamilton’s first production of those watches in March 1894 became so highly regarded for their accuracy  they were called the “Watch of Railroad Accuracy.”

That reputation took Hamilton into World War I, as the official watch of the American Expeditionary Forces. Soldiers and some watch companies had devised strapped pocket watches to the wearer’s wrist so that their hands were free so they could still fight, and Hamilton took note. Soon, the 981 Wrist Watch was born. The below picture is a 981 with a shrapnel guard on it.

In the 1930s, its wristwatches’ accuracy led several new airlines to adopt Hamilton as their official timepiece. By 1940, Hamilton was one of America’s best-selling watch brands. They had their own designers, engineers, physicists, and metallurgists, and they were a leader in research in watch oils, hairsprings, jewel bearings, and escapement design. An Escapement is a mechanic, a device that permits controlled motion, usually in steps. In a watch or clock, it is the mechanism that controls the transfer of energy from the power source to the counting mechanism. For the ASVAB waivers in the room,  basically, it helps maintain a steady flow of energy. In the summer of 1939 and again late 1940, the United States Naval Observatory (the U.S. authority on timekeeping, chronometers, and other navigational equipment) sent letters to eight watch companies that might be interested in creating an American marine chronometer. Hamilton replied and requested a sample chronometer for them to study.

In Feb, of 1942, 13 weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, they delivered two prototypes for review to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Navy officials were “simply astonished” by their precision, innovations, and reproducibility. Timekeeping and measuring devices were of critical importance to the military for planning missions, dropping bombs, time fuses for the bombs, navigation for ships and planes, and countless other efforts. As part of the war effort, Hamilton produced top-secret mechanical time fuzes for the exact timing of the anti-aircraft fire, jewel bearings, hairsprings, aircraft clocks, elapsed time clocks, altimeters, tachometers, map measurers—even tools, dies, and precision machinery for another watch, instrument, and jewel makers.

A lot of U.S. watchmakers made wristwatches for the military during WWII. Hamilton alone produced hundreds of thousands of them for the military and other special “military” sections. They also made them for Canada, the U.K., and the Russians. These included “hack” watches, “like in Let’s get a time hack” named for a mechanism in the movement, connected to the crown, which set time to the exact second. They were used to synchronize countless military attacks, troop and train movements, bombing raids, even training events.

Hamilton timepieces also included a top-secret Frogman watch, with a large “crown” over the regular crown to keep it watertight.

Hamilton made watches for almost every aspect of war. In the air, pilots, navigators of fighters, bombers, and even blimps navigate using a pocket watch as their “master time source.” This military version of Hamilton’s railroad watch was kept on simple rubber or spring shock absorbers in a small metal carrying case (to isolate it from magnetic fields, vibrations, and turbulence) with a glass window.

Also essential was Hamilton’s “bomb timer,” with wristwatch movement and dial mounted into a bombsight with a movie camera, which filmed the dial and target at the moment of impact to measure the bombs’ effectiveness. Hamilton’s most significant achievements in World War II were its marine chronometer and chronometer watches. Many experts consider its marine chronometer to be the finest ever produced. What makes this even more impressive is that, until World War II, Hamilton had never made such a timepiece. Before the invention of the GPS (you still should have a chart/ map and a way to navigate if the GPS goes down, especial if you are jumping your boats into the water), you would use time, speed, and distance to calculating longitude and plotting location and direction, from a place of departure or use the stars, you also needed to have the exact time to be in the right place to start an invasion.    

Hamilton’s marine chronometer Model 21 was based on traditional ones but with several improvements. Most evident was a unique balance and hairspring assembly, a radical departure from conventional chronometer design. Such advances made Model 21 more accurate than any other marine chronometer. Properly maintained, it kept time to within a half-second per day.

It wasn’t only the Navy (which bought around 9,000) that used them. The Army Air Corp bought 500, and the Maritime Commission bought 1,500. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had one in the White House map room to maintain a day and night watch. Hamilton continued making marine chronometers after the war; they made a little under 14,000 by 1970, when it ended U.S. production. Every vessel that belonged to the U.S. and many of our allies used a Hamilton chronometer for navigation. Battleships and aircraft carriers used the Model 21, housed in a glass-covered wooden box, with its movement swung on brass gimbals to keep it level and accurate even in the roughest seas. The Model 22 was used as an auxiliary timer for bigger ships and navigation on smaller vessels like destroyers, submarines, merchant marine, hospital ships, tankers, escort vessels, and P.T. boats. The model 22 was a chronometer watch, not a marine chronometer. Though smaller and less delicate than Model 21, Model 22 also was kept in a gimbaled wooden box. 

By war’s end in 1945, Hamilton timepieces ruled the sea, air, and land, getting victorious Allied troops to where they were going, whether on foot or by ship, plane, tank, submarine, or troop train. The Hamilton watch company made over 10,000-chronograph for the war effort. It should really be in the running, if not considered the one thing we could not have won the war without.

In 1957, Hamilton came out with the Ventura, the world’s first battery-powered watch; it was also helped by Elvis, who wore it in the 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii.”

The Hamilton watch served the U.S. military well into the Vietnam war and beyond; it is one of the longest serving watches in U.S. history.

As a foot note for Eric, in 1968, Hamilton was asked to design futuristic timepieces for the crew of Stanley Kubrick’s famous film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” A few years after being commissioned to make a “futuristic” looking watch for the movie, Hamilton invented (along with Electro/Data Inc. of Texas) the digital watch. They designed the watch to look far more like HAL 9000 than the watches that were actually in A Space Odyssey.

Lastly, for E.G., they designed the watches for the first “Men in Black” movie.

In 1968 they moved production to Switzerland. In 1971, they were acquired by the Omega & Tissot Holding Company SSIH purchased the Hamilton brand and utilized the Hamilton name for several branding efforts, including numerous quartz watches in the 1980s. Then in 1984, they became a subsidiary of The Swatch Group.