I had dinner this week with a veteran of one of the lesser known squadrons that served in the Vietnam War, VO-67. In Naval Aviation parlance, that’s Observation Squadron 67. VO-67 had the dangerous mission of seeding the Ho Chi Mihn Trail with sensors under the aegis of Project Igloo White.

During the Vietnam War, support for the VC and regular units of the North Vietnamese Army traveled via a complex tangle of jungle trails and roads south from North Vietnam through Cambodia and Laos and entered South Vietnam. It was not politically feasible to invade North Vietnam to interdict these supplies, and until 1970, neither was invading Laos with ground troops. That left airpower to interdict the trail. The challenge was to find convoys of troops, trucks, and other transportation assets. The “trail” was actually an ever changing series of trails. Pinpointing the location of NVA forces on the trail was almost impossible. Almost.

In an effort to leverage our technological superiority over the North Vietnamese, Secretary of Defense McNamara the DoD to devise a program where acoustic and seismic sensors would locate NVA forces along the trail and cue observation and strike aircraft to interdict the flow of supplies.

In response, the Navy modified a dozen SP-2E Neptune patrol planes to deploy the sensors. The Neptunes had most of their anti-submarine equipment stripped, additional fuel tanks were installed, weapons were added, and armor plating was added to some critical areas. These modified Neptunes were redesignated OP-2E and deployed to Thailand to seed sensors along the trail in 1967.

Now, the P-2 was a good airplane, but it wasn’t really a speedy airplane. Flying at treetop level over the anti-aircraft defenses of the trail was not without great risk.  VO-67 was only in commission for about a year, and yet they lost 3 aircraft out of the 12 converted. Two of the aircraft were lost with all hands. The third was struck by anti-aircaft fire but the pilot, CDR Paul Milius was able to maintain control long enough for the other crewmembers to bail out. The Burke class destroyer DDG-69 was named for him. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism.

In addition to operations over the Ho Chi Mihn trail, VO-67 seeded sensors around Khe Sahn during the Marines epic siege there.  The information gathered on troop concentrations was used to direct Arc Light B-52 strikes on suspected concentrations.

VO-67 operated in obscurity. Few people knew who they were or what they were doing. The squadron was established overseas, and a year later, was decommissioned overseas as well. The Navy had originally anticipated losses of 50% or greater.  Eventually, the Air Force was able to modify a squadron’s worth of F-4 Phantoms to deploy the sensors, and the faster jet proved far more survivable in the dense anti-aircraft environment of the trail.

In another post, we’ll take a look at another version of the P-2, the AP-2H, and another operator of this big bird, the US Army.

September 2, 1945: Formal Surrender of Japan in Images | Reels and Highlights | Command Posts

September 2, 1945: Formal Surrender of Japan in Images | Reels and Highlights | Command Posts.

Today is the anniversary of the surrender of Japan, and the end of World War II, the most cataclysmic war in history.

Command Posts has a selection of very interesting photos from the event.



New U.S. Army uniform recalled after soldiers complain of ripping pants | Mail Online

They have to endure the rigours of enemy fire, extreme heat and the emotional stress of spending months away from families and loved ones.

And it appears the U.S. soldier now has another enemy to contend with – ripped pants.

via New U.S. Army uniform recalled after soldiers complain of ripping pants | Mail Online.

Again, Via War News Updates. Which is where I steal about half my stuff. I should just have the blog redirect there.


The old lightweight BDUs tore pretty quickly also. The 100% cotton fabric wasn’t the most durable stuff. But they were comfortable.

The temperate BDUs were made of a heavier poly/cotton blend, and the fabric itself was quite durable. Not impervious, but pretty durable. But it didn’t have the fire resistance the current uniforms have.

At any event, uniforms in a combat theater have a very short useful lifespan. Units had better be prepared to replace clothing and equipment at high rates.

In garrison, this poses a somewhat different problem. The current ASU is quite expensive, and troops are responsible for replacing uniforms themselves. They receive a very modest clothing allowance, but it is hardly enough to replace uniforms that fail long before they should.

U.S. Army May Cut 10 Active-Duty Brigades – Defense News

The U.S. Army may cut 10 of its 45 active-duty brigade combat teams (BCTs) as it works to meet President Obama’s order to slice defense spending, said an Army official familiar with the budget deliberations.

via U.S. Army May Cut 10 Active-Duty Brigades – Defense News.

As usual, when there’s a Democrat in the White House, it’s time to gut the services.


Via War News Updates.

U.S. Army Buys Switchblade Small Loitering Weapons | Defense Update

The Switchblade air vehicle launches from a small tube that can be carried in a backpack and transmits live color video wirelessly for display on AeroVironment’s standard small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) ground control unit. Upon confirming the target using the live video feed, the operator then sends a command to the air vehicle to arm it and lock its trajectory onto the target. Flying quietly at high speed the Switchblade delivers its onboard explosive payload with precision while minimizing collateral damage. With the ability to call off a strike even after the air vehicle is armed, Switchblade provides a level of control not available in other weapon systems.



via U.S. Army Buys Switchblade Small Loitering Weapons | Defense Update.

Wolfhounds in the A-stan

Esli’s been a busy little helper of the blog. He forwarded this picture of a troop from the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, The Wolfhounds* manning a TOW missile system in Afghanistan.


Staff Sgt. Frankie Berdecia of Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry
(the Wolfhounds), operates a TOW missile system at Observation Post Mace
in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province near the border with Pakistan
August 28. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Now, the TOW system was designed to destroy tanks, but it is pretty handy at popping bunkers and machine gun nests also. More importantly, with the new ITAS thermal imaging sights, the TOW mount makes an excellent surveillance tool. If you can see it, you can hit it, and if you can hit it, you can kill it.

It’s possible to defeat detection by thermal sensors on the battlefield, but it sure ain’t easy.

*I was in the 1st Battalion. We never really acknowledged the guys in 2nd Bn as real Wolfhounds.

General Donn Starry, RIP

Via Esli:

At the Army’s Command and General Staff College, in the Hall of Fame, there hangs a picture of one of the true giants of the army.  I pass it by on pretty much a daily basis, but don’t often pause to give it much thought.  But I did today. I just found out that he died on the 26th of August, at the age of 86. 

You can talk all you want about the current crop of generals, and indeed they are famous for a variety of reasons:  Generals Petraeus, Casey, Odierno, ad infinitum.  With the nation involved in multiple wars, we see their names in the news every day.  But few of them have, or will, make an impact as large as General Don Starry. 
General Starry was the driving force behind bringing the army out of the malaise of Vietnam.  From the standpoint of both Training and Doctrine, he was a visionary, and pushed for the development of “the Big Five.”  Those are the same weapons systems that we still use, and are still without peer on the battlefield:  the M1 Abrams, the M2 Bradley, the AH 64 Apache, the UH 60 Blackhawk, and of course the Patriot missile.  Not only did he push for the development of those systems, but fathered the doctrine of AirLand Battle with which to employ them, and developed the institutional training base on which to hone that Army to a lethal edge.

The Army’s Combined Arms Center recently ran a poll, asking if the Army had ever developed an operational concept as powerful as AirLand Battle.  By a margin of 85% the respondents (all masters of history and/or Army doctrine) replied in the negative.  You can argue that in this more modern, more complex operational environment, that ALB was passé; however, for the decades that it was the guiding operational concept for t he army, it had no match, and was certainly validated in combat in the Middle East.  Twice. 
Not to mention, Starry was a Soldier’s Soldier.  Rising from his enlisted roots (I must say that I am partial to that, myself), he commanded the Blackhorse 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam on his way to greatness.

Though XBrad mentions AirLand Battle doctrine frequently (having been a product of that training), I suspect that General Starry’s name is not commonly known in America today. That is too bad.  Amongst those that do know it, his is an incredible and lasting legacy, one that is still realized, every day, in the day to day actions of the greatest army in the world. 

XBrad here. For my money, GEN Starry’s work revamping and revolutionizing the Army’s training in the post-Vietnam era was even more important. But most folks who study that phase of the Army’s history understand that the doctrine and the training were developed symbiotically. One would not happen without the other.

GEN Starry also had a personal influence on me. A large factor in my decision to accept orders to Germany (and thus transition from light infantry to mech infantry) was reading his excellent history Armored Combat in Vietnam.

The AUSA obituary for this remarkable man is here.

Gen. Donald A. Starry, USA, Ret., who began his service in the U.S. Army as a private during World War II and rose to the rank of four-star general to command U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and U.S. Readiness Command, died after a lengthy illness in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 26. He was 86.

Known as a great soldier, scholar, mentor, author and visionary, Starry, after serving two years as a private, entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1948 as a second lieutenant in the Transportation Corps. He eventually became an armor officer.

Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army, said, “ The nation has lost one of our most courageous, selfless, perspective and innovative Army leaders. His accomplishments are many and his legacy is found in the very being of countless American soldiers.”

Strange things in space

Roamy here. From Life’s Little Mysteries, 6 Everyday Things that Happen Strangely In Space. Just in case you thought they were just doing this for giggles and grins, the study of boiling liquids in space led to better heat pipe design, i.e. active cooling of a spacecraft. The study of flames, which was one of the experiments on the doomed STS-107 mission, will lead to better fire suppression methods on future manned spacecraft. Fire in space is pretty damn scary.