USS Midway: retrieval of land-based South Vietnamese warplanes 1975

The fall of Saigon in 1975, and along with it the fall of South Vietnam and final end of the Vietnam War, is most remembered in the United States for the dramatic helicopter evacuation of the American embassy.

Less known is the final chapter to the “Frequent Wind” story: how the aircraft carrier USS Midway, built to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII, ended up retrieving the remnants of the defunct VNAF (South Vietnamese air force) during the summer of 1975.

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(USS Midway (CV-41) at the end of WWII, prior to commissioning.)

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(USS Midway with US Air Force helicopters staged prior to the start of “Frequent Wind” in 1975.)

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(A most unusual scene as the flight deck of USS Midway is filled with land-based warplanes of the defunct South Vietnamese air force.)

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fate of the last Skytrain built

Through remarkable circumstances, the last C-47 Skytrain built during WWII ended up in the Congo where it lingered on into the 21st Century.

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(C-47 Skytrain. The stripes are an identification marking used during the 1944 “Overlord” D-Day landings.)

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(The last C-47 Skytrain built during WWII, in Goma, D.R. Congo during December 2014. This had been Mobutu’s DC-3.) (photo by Abel Kavanagh)

As a background to the astonishing story and unfortunate fate of this one Skytrain, it is perhaps worthwhile to look at the very long and varied history of the C-47 / DC-3 in the country. The plane is somewhat unique in aviation in that it became almost symbolic of a new nation’s struggles.

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Israel’s radar-busting Shermans

The M4 Sherman was the main American tank type of WWII. After the war, it saw additional combat worldwide – first as a tank in its original WWII form, then in following decades through various upgrades, and in rebuilt form for non-tank uses.

One of the more remarkable of the latter was the Kilshon, an Israeli system to destroy the radars controlling and guiding enemy surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

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(US Army M4 Sherman tank in action during WWII.)

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(The Israeli Kilshon ARM launch vehicle, which used a WWII Sherman as the lower portion.)

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Wu Chin III: Taiwan’s remarkable rebuilt WWII destroyers

Some warships which survived WWII were given updates during the late 1940s or 1950s, for the most part modest changes to keep them current a while longer. In terms of being the most dramatically altered, a few examples stand out including the two WWII Baltimore class gun cruisers transformed into the US Navy’s first guided missile cruisers; USS Boston (CAG-1) and USS Canberra (CAG-2).

Of all WWII warships later rebuilt, Taiwan’s Wu Chin III modifications to Gearing class destroyers may be the most amazing. Unlike the cruisers above, the Taiwanese were packing more technology into smaller hulls; they did not have the Pentagon’s budget to play with; and most amazingly this was done not just years after WWII ended, but almost a half-century later.

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(The Gearing class destroyer USS Power (DD-839) at the end of WWII.)

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(The Wu Chin III-rebuilt destroyer ROCS Shen Yang – the former USS Power of WWII – in the 21st century.)

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WWII aircraft in Lebanon

Sadly the military history of Lebanon will, at least for the near future, be dominated by the horrible 1970s – 1980s civil war. The country did have military history prior to that, including WWII-era warplanes in its early air force.

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(Lebanese air force Harvard, the RAF’s name for WWII lend-leased T-6 Texan trainers.)

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(Lebanese air force SM.79 bomber. The country was the last in the world to fly this WWII Italian warplane.)

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merry Christmas 2020

I would like to extend Christmas greetings to all readers of wwiiafterwwii.

Below is the 1953 Christmas mess deck menu cover from USS Lake Champlain (CV-39), a WWII Essex class aircraft carrier. This was the ninth Christmas after Japan’s surrender and WWII’s end, and the first since the end of the Korean War.

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WWII equipment in Soviet nuclear tests: part 2

(part 2 of a 2-part series)

The “Snezhok” test (described in part 1) illustrated the effects of an atomic bomb on land and air systems of WWII vintage and the first generation of Cold War gear. A year later, a naval nuclear test involved WWII-era warships.

The Soviet Union’s 21 September 1955 nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya is sometimes compared to the USA’s 1946 “Crossroads Bravo” test at Bikini. There were similarities (both were the first underwater nuclear detonation by the respective countries) but also many differences.

Novaya Zemlya is a large island (it is actually two islands, split by a narrow channel) in the Russian arctic. It is cold, barren, and uninhabited.

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(Novaya Zemlya with the naval test site marked in red.)

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WWII equipment in Soviet nuclear tests: part 1

(part 1 of a 2-part series)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union conducted regular nuclear weapons tests. One of these was unique in that it was not just a test detonation of a weapon, but a full-scale military exercise which involved a blend of WWII-vintage systems and their Cold War-era replacements.

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(One of the two Tu-4 “Bull” strategic bombers involved in the 1954 exercise. There was a primary and alternate Tu-4 staged, of which only one dropped a bomb. The “Bull” was an unlicensed copy of the WWII American B-29 Superfortress.)

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(An ex-Wehrmacht PaK 40 anti-tank gun smashed and radioactive following the 1954 Soviet atomic test.)

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(A WWII Il-10 “Beast” burns after the exercise atomic detonation.)

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USS Albemarle / USNS Corpus Christi Bay

WWII-era seaplane tenders were on their way out of the US Navy by the time of the Vietnam War. However one, USS Albemarle, would have a second life as a US Army floating repair base during that conflict.

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(Launching of the WWII US Navy seaplane tender USS Albemarle.) (Associated Press photo)

Charleston(The ex-USS Albemarle being converted into USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T-ARVH-1) at Charleston Naval Shipyard.)

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(USNS Corpus Christi Bay during the Vietnam War.) (photo by Bob Brandt)

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strange Stuarts of Brazil

The USA’s M3/M5 Stuart family is a fairly well-known tank used by numerous countries during and after WWII. In the case of Brazil, what makes the story interesting is the variety of modifications done to Stuarts decades after WWII had ended.

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(Brazilian M3 Stuarts on the Italian front during WWII. These are early-production tanks, still with the nearly-useless sponson machine guns and prewar hatch design.)

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(Brazilian X1A2 Carcara tank of the 1980s; the last member of the M3 family tree.)

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(The XLF-40 ballistic missile system of the 1970s.)

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