the last Mustangs in the US Army

The P-51 Mustang was one of WWII’s greatest fighters and one of the best era-adjusted fighter planes of all time. Within the American consciousness it is almost synonymous with WWII.

Decades after WWII and after the P-51 had left service as a fighter, the Mustang briefly “came back from the grave” to serve not in the US Air Force, but in the US Army.

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(P-51 Mustang during WWII.)

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(F-51D Mustang chase plane follows the Sikorsky YUH-60A prototype during the US Army’s UTTAS competition of 1976, seeking a replacement for the UH-1 Iroquois of Vietnam War fame. Sikorsky’s design defeated Boeing’s YUH-61 to win UTTAS and was developed into the UH-60 Blackhawk of today.) (official US Army photo)

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(US Army F-51 Mustang during 1970s experiments with airborne recoilless rifles.)

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merry Christmas 2022

Wishes for a merry Christmas season to all readers of wwiiafterwwii.
Below is Christmas 1945, the first after peace came, aboard the WWII attack transport USS Selinur (AKA-41).

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Santa Claus has exchanged his red cap for a US Marine Corps campaign cover.

USS Selinur was an Artemis class attack transport. The Artemis class could not beach itself but could put 264 troops directly ashore via LCVPs and LCMs. They also transported 980t of supplies. The 426′-long Artemis class displaced 7,080t fully loaded however the hullform was optimized with a full draught of only 16′, allowing it to get close to shore during amphibious assaults and also use minor staging ports in the Pacific. They had one Mk12 5″ gun, four Mk2 twin 40mm AA guns, and several 20mm light guns.

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(USS Selinur in the Marshall Islands during August 1945, when the final invasion of the Japanese home islands was being planned.) (photo via navsource website)

USS Selinur commissioned on 21 April 1945. A peaceful Christmas after WWII’s end in September 1945 was probably extra-welcomed by the ship’s crew as it had been slated to participate in operation “Olympic”, the first amphibious landings in the Japanese home islands; set for either the end of 1945 or early 1946. The US Navy expected heavy amphibious ship losses and was probably correct. Postwar interviews with Imperial Japanese Army pilots revealed that, with the sea war already effectively lost, they were going to ignore American battleships and cruisers and instead direct everything against amphibious ships.

Instead, USS Selinur ended WWII repositioning forces in the Philippines and landing occupation troops in Japan.

USS Selinur and the Artemis class overall had a very limited career after WWII, other than two ships sold to the Chilean navy. The US Marine Corps was downsizing after WWII and correspondingly there was a lesser need for ships to move them. USS Selinur decommissioned in 1946 after only 13 months of service, an expensive thing seeing little use which was common in the late-1940s US Navy.

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(USS Selinur being deactivated at Philadelphia, PA in 1946. The small WWII subchaser tied up was presumably also doing the same.) (photo via Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper)

The disarmed ex-USS Selinur was loaned to the Pennsylvania Maritime Academy as T.S. Keystone State for training merchant sailors. It only served one year in that role, before being mothballed in 1947. It was never reactivated and scrapped in 1968.

WWII destroyer using “coal power” in 1973

The Gearing class destroyers entered US Navy service during WWII. Decades later one of them, USS Johnston (DD-821) took part in a unique experiment to test the feasibility of using a coal-derived synthetic liquid fuel as opposed to imported oil.

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(The “late-war Gearing” layout, the template to which USS Johnston (DD-821) was built in 1945.)

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(Crew patch for sailors involved in the 1973 experiment.)

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Libya from Rommel to Quadaffi

The nation of Libya has seen a great deal of conflict, starting with WWII, then the 1980s skirmishes against the United States, and finally the terrible 10-year civil conflict of the 21st century.

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(Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in Libya during WWII; and Libyan dictator Muammar Quadaffi presenting a WWII Italian Carcano Modello 91 rifle to the Italian prime minister in 2002.)

Almost forgotten now is that the nation had a two-decade interlude as a pro-western kingdom and was host to a major American military base. The Libyan army of this era was equipped with WWII-surplus weaponry.

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(Soldiers of King Idris’s small army march with Enfield No.4 Mk.I rifles during the 1950s. This WWII British rifle became Libya’s first standard longarm after it achieved independence. During 2011, the old 1950s flag seen here was again made Libya’s official flag.)

WWII weapons would again play a small role during the fighting between 2011 – 2020.

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(A WWII American M1919A6 machine gun in action near a burned-out T-62 during the overthrow of Quadaffi.)

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(A WWII Soviet DP-28 light machine gun in use during the Libyan Civil War of the 2010s.)

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(A young Libyan irregular poses with a Carcano Moschetto da Cavalleria M-91 during 2011. He told the photographer that he believed it was “an old American gun” but none the less knew how to properly use it. This WWII Italian carbine was surprisingly represented during the 2010s civil war in Libya.) (photo via NPR)

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WWII weapons in Liberia

Military history of Liberia is often covered only in the context of the civil wars fought between 1990 – 1997 and 1999 – 2003. Before those tragic conflicts, Liberia had an odd and unique army, mirroring the unusual story of the nation as a whole.

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(US Army soldiers in Liberia during WWII. They are armed with M1903 Springfields and a M1917, both of which would be used by the Liberian army after WWII.)

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(Liberian soldiers loading M1 Garands during the 1980 coup.)

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(A modified M1917A1 guarding a roadblock near Monrovia during 1992.)

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(A guerilla loyal to the warlord Charles Taylor during the 1990s, armed with a WWII Soviet PPS-43. Child soldiers were used by Taylor in outrageous numbers; at points more than half his force was under the international military age of 17.)

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“jumboized” WWII warships

After WWII the US Navy modernized war-built vessels to various degrees for many reasons. Many options were available: new weapons, new radars and sonars, enlarged superstructures, new radios, adding or removing aircraft capability, replacement engines, layout changes, and so on.

Normally one thing that couldn’t be changed was the physical size of the hull. Things could be added, moved, replaced, altered, or rebuilt inside or atop the hull; but at the end of the day the WWII hull was what it was.

In the examples below, extremely dramatic “surgery” actually changed the length and size of the entire ship.

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(Not a case of seeing double: the bow and stern sections of USS Navasota (AO-106) pointed in opposite directions during the WWII warship’s 1960s “jumboization”.)

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(The WWII submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) cut completely in half during 1959. This “jumboization” was one of the most complex engineering jobs ever done prior to the computer age.)

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happy Independence Day 2022 / Andrews Barracks in Berlin

For readers of wwiiafterwwii in the United States, I would like to extend wishes for a happy July 4th, our nation’s 246th birthday.

Below is a quite unusual Independence Day scene, taken in Berlin on 4 July 1945 – the first Independence Day after the European part of WWII ended and while combat in the Pacific was still underway.

The damaged building which both the Stars & Stripes and Hammer & Sickle are flying above, was the WWII headquarters of the 1st Waffen-SS Panzer Division, the LSSAH  (Liebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) as can be seen on the cornice of the building atop the four columns.

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MANPADS vs WWII C-47 Skytrain

The use of man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, against WWII-era aircraft was not totally unique to the 1986 story of the plane below; nor even against the particular plane involved, the C-47 Skytrain.

What sets this incident apart is that the plane and crew survived allowing the event to be fully documented after the fact, and also that another aircraft was able to photograph it in flight.

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(The South African C-47 Skytrain which was hit by a SA-7 “Grail” in 1986 making an emergency landing with its tail blown off.)

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(South African soldier with a captured SA-7 “Grail” during the 1981 “Protea” operation against SWAPO inside Angola.)

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M24 Chaffee during the Vietnam War

The American M24 Chaffee light tank of WWII saw postwar combat in southeast Asia for a quarter-century starting in 1950, first with the French army, then the South Vietnamese army, and finally the South Vietnamese air force. 

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(A French army M24 Chaffee in combat during the Indochina War.)

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(A M24 Chaffee of the ARVN (South Vietnamese army) attacking Gia Long Palace during the 1963 coup.)

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(With a PanAm Boeing 707 in the background, a M24 Chaffee of the VNAF (South Vietnamese air force) guards Tan Son Nhut in Saigon. Even as the Vietnam War was being fought, the airport’s civilian side continued to handle commercial aviation. These air force tanks would be the last WWII Chaffees in Vietnam.)

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