Curtiss A-8 — the 1930s attack aircraft experiment
The U.S. Army Air Corps compared air cooled radial engine powered aircraft versus in-line liquid cooled engines in attack aircraft designs, during the 1930s, and the Curtiss A-8 was one of these designs. Powered by a Curtiss V-1570-31 Conqueror (600 hp/~450kW) the A-8 carried its pilot–observer/rear gunner nearly 500 miles at 153 mph/245kph. Marked by two glazed tandem cockpits it had a semi-sleek appearance though with distracting wing bracing. Aside from the rear position armed with a single 0.30 caliber machine guns there were four forward firing machine 0.30 caliber machine guns with the primary offensive armament of a four bomb mounting points for a total of nearly 500 lbs. /~230kg.
The Yompers — winning a modern war on foot the hard way
The Yompers: with 45 Commando in the Falklands War, Ian Gardiner, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84884-441-4, 208 pp.
We have read Ian Gardiner before with his other two excellent books and this one keeps to his high standard of excellent writing of his experiences, now as X-Ray Company Commander in the 45 Commando, as well as his wisdom and practical philosophical oversight. In Yompers the author covers logistics through tactics, politics through training as well as humour (we will use the Queen’s English spelling out of respect) and cigarettes.
Gardiner also has much in humour interspersed throughout Yompers and in fact succinctly explains why that trait is vital in when soldiers prepare to go into combat. Succinctness with spectacular writing marks Gardiner’s books as revelatory and educational as the reader not only learns of how it was like for individuals involved but also the strategic context of the issue at hand.
The overthrust of the story is how 45 Commando marched across unimaginably harsh terrain across East Falkland island to fight two night battles securing the western flank of Port Stanley. The story is an awestriking one. Since the heavy lift helicopter capacity was lost due to Argentinian attacks the 45 Commando had to “yomp” (i.e., march) with each man carrying a load of 120–150 pounds (55–70kg) over terrain that alternatively had them sinking up to their shins or traversing boot eating stone runs. As noted by Gardiner, this was the first battle fought without motorized vehicles since the invention of the reciprocating engine. From the first day of the march feet and clothing were not dry until its end so day after day men of the 45 Commando never slept well. Making matters worse the helicopter resupply was unreliable so food was often short in supply. Artillery ammunition had to be carefully thought out prior to commencing battle and boots often had to be liberated from the Argentine soldiers. But intense night assaults were made and Gardiner excels in describing the intensity of command decision making (advised by others but alone in responsibility) as well as the first hand accounts which are riveting. Only a thinking person who has experienced the event can write this descriptively and informatively.
Some of the above sounds counterintuitive and perhaps so it is but it is how the history unfurled. Gardiner writes an excellent prelude and summary illustrating the mistakes both countries made which brought them to war. His observations regarding the training of the Royal Marines and his comparison to the Argentinian officer corps could not be more stark. Some Argentinians fought well and some did not but the Falkland’s War was a close fought affair with remarkable gallantry on both sides which Gardiner freely acknowledges. His reflection on serving the Queen is both parsimonious, realistic as well as humourous.
This book, like his others, is happily challenging to write a short review of as each page is filled with insight or overview — more often both. So, much has to be left out of the material covered by Gardiner but to give an impression of the gamut addressed, and addressed well:
- Why, in his experience gained in Dhofar, his company armed themselves with nineteen light machine guns (7.62mm) when the normal complement was nine
- The unsung heroes of Britain’s merchant marine
- How the Argentine military thought as well as how the British military thought
- The incredible logistical effort to get man and equipment away is a short time and how some of the proverbial knots were untied along the route
- How unexploded bombs were left in medical areas as men continued their work to save lives and heal wounds
- The importance of air assets and how acute the feeling when they are not available
- The American military has the SNAFU, TARFU and FUBAR whereas the UK military has the AMFU, SAMFU and CMFU :)
This book should be read by historians and should be read by those who study leadership alike. The maps are drawn by the author and the many insightful images come from the Trustees of the Royal Marines Museum as well as the author and friends.
Additional books by Ian Gardiner and reviews:
In the Service of the Sultan — hard bought lessons in the winning of beating an insurgency
In the Service of the Sultan: a first hand account of the Dhofar Insurgency, Ian Gardiner, 2006 (reprinted several times since), ISBN 978-1-84415-467-8, 189 pp.
We are lucky to live in an age where most books are well written and published with high production values. A small number are well above average and extraordinarily well done. Then there are a rarefied few where enough good words cannot be written — In the Service of the Sultan, by Ian Gardiner, is one of these priceless books.
First hand accounts are excellent for their grit and emotion though usually limited in scope. Overview accounts are useful for understanding events in the context of their times. Gardiner, almost uniquely provides both making this book enlightening. Gardiner, as a combat team leader, has an ability to think philosophically about the events and people involved in those events — not an uncommon trait for an experienced warrior.
In the Service of the Sultan, tells Gardiner’s perspective of countering a politically inspired insurgency in the Dhofar Provence of Oman. This war occurred over a decade from 1965 to 1975 and threatened control of the Straits of Hormuz. Incredibly, most of us are not aware of it as the Vietnam War occupied the news services at the time.
Gardiner serves to reminds of us of this signal strategic event as he furthered his career in the Royal Marines (United Kingdom) — an interesting process — as well as the uncommon feat of defeating an insurgency. Having limited artillery support, and even more limited close air support, the Sultan of Oman’s forces largely prevailed the hard way with infantry patrols and actions. Initially setting a barrier for the insurgents, who were based in Yemen, these forces adapted to their theater of operation. Almost always on foot due to sole eating terrain donkeys were used when insertions were made to set ambushes as they could quietly carry heavy machine guns, mortars and ammunition. Helicopters were used to supply isolated outposts since their noise announcing traits were less dangerous as well as to evacuate casualties. A handful of Jet Provosts would provide air support with their small bomb loads and inferior machine gun armament — at least by U.S. standards — but were more than sufficient to address an enemy without adequate air defense. Along the course of In the Service of the Sultan the reader learns many priceless lessons and professional thinking, such as:
- The planning of an ambush is much like complicated watch mechanism
- How the adoo thought and the development of how to out think them
- What it is like to fight with air support as well as without it
- How helicopter pilots flew into rugged terrain in poorly lit nights using airspeed, compass and stopwatch
- How taking casualties exponentially compounds the challenge of conducting a fight
The photographs are many and are outstanding. Notably those of Nicholas Knolly since they illustrate the events as they were occurring and leave readers with the grit that must have been.
The craft learned is there to be read. The thinking of the decision making is there. The emotions are there. This is a book that not only teaches history, it makes for vicariously experiencing that history. A history that is gone unsung and unnoticed though it may have been the most significant of the shooting wars occurring during the Cold War. The world would be frighteningly different from that of today should the Sultan of Oman have been overthrown.
Next week a post on Yompers: with 45 Commando in the Falklands War, Ian Gardiner, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84884-441-4, 208 pp. — also by Ian Gardiner — will publish and it will be seen how this commander became a more capable combat leader as well as his increased understanding regarding strategy, politics in war as well as soldiering.
It is not to be missed.
Air New Zealand’s 787-9 stretched Dreamliner encore
As Boeing demonstrates and displays the newest Dreamliner version, the stretched 787-9 at Farnborough Air Show this week, Air New Zealand has flown the first of ten to be purchased to Auckland. Preparations and training will see the stretched Dreamliner begin to ply the Auckland–Perth route commencing on 15 October. Shortly Air New Zealand will have at least 10 of these stretched Dreamliners connecting points across — as well as within — the Pacific Rim. The all black fuselages, with the Kiwi symbols of the koru and silver fern and white wings, will spend most of the their flight hours over blue water while looking positively striking at the airside.
The main article, describing Air New Zealand’s unveiling of the stretched Dreamliner, posted on Monday this week with many more photos and information :)
Air New Zealand unveils the stretched 787 Dreamliner — and more
Last week Air New Zealand unveiled its first Boeing 787-9 stretched Dreamliner and what an occassion! The unveiling saw over 1000 attending, the showing of Air New Zealand’s edgy new livery and The Band Perry playing to ensure all were as pleased as could be.
Air New Zealand’s 787-9 is a full 6m (~20 feet) longer than conventional Dreamliners. Air New Zealand’s plans are to serve the Pacific Rim with these aircraft with each able to carry 302 passengers in greater comfort (larger cabin windows, much lower cabin pressure altitude and higher relative humidity) than before as well as with much greater fuel efficiency and substantially less emissions as far as 15,372km (~9600 miles) while cruising at Mach 0.85. The comfort does not end there as seats in all classes are of brand new design with both comfort and style in mind (including in the economy class). No less than 2000 hours of entertainment content will be available as will be 14 rows of Air New Zealand’s unique Skycouch feature where three seats in a row can be converted into a large sofa-like space. Powering the 787-9 are a pair of Trent 1000 turbofan engines with each rated at 74,000 pound of thrust giving the stretched Dreamliner an ETOPS rating of 330 minutes (cannot be more than 330 minutes from an airfield should an engine cease operation).
Ten more 787-9 Dreamliners are to be acquired by year’s end in 2017 which will fill the Pacific Rim routes for the airline. This aircraft, ZK-NZE, will commence service on October 15th flying the Auckland–Perth route. The Auckland–Shanghai and Auckland–Tokyo routes have also been approved.
Perhaps the most visually striking dimension is the new livery Air New Zealand has selected. An all black affair with white lettering, white koru (the spiraled shape of a fern prior to unfurling) on the tail fin and white representation of the silver fern (officially known as the New Zealand Fern Mark but only officials use the term) on the rear fuselage.
Note: our thanks to Air New Zealand for providing the information and photos used in this post!