Battleground Pacific Book Review

DSC_7363

Battleground Pacific: A Marine Rifleman’s Combat Odyssey in K/3/5

By Sterling Mace and Nick Allen

Hardcover in dustjacket, 330 pages, illustrated

Published by St. Martin’s Press, May 2012

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1-250-00505-2

Dimensions:  5.7 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches

Sterling Mace grew up in Queens during the Great Depression.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor he failed the U.S. Navy eye exam but was able to bluff his way through the second time and was accepted into the Marines.  He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, 5th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company K.  When he joined the 5th Marines they were rebuilding on the island of Pavuvu, after having fought at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester.  His first combat operation was the assault on Peleliu.

Mace was a BAR man on Peleliu, an island which had no natural source of fresh water but an abundance of heat, insects, and Japanese defenders.  Company K was intended to be on the island for three days but due to the ferocity of the Japanese defense they were in combat for thirty.  Mace describes the constant combat as well as the deprivations of fighting in an inhospitable environment with no relief and little support.  Those Marines who survived the campaign emerged emaciated, their uniforms in tatters.

The 5th Marines were rebuilt and redeployed for the assault on Okinawa.  This was a very different campaign in many ways.  The amphibious landing was unopposed, the Japanese defenders withdrawing into prepared positions for a battle of attrition.  There were civilians on Okinawa, and rear areas where there was relatively little chance of encountering the Japanese.  The Marines were much better supported and supplied compared to earlier campaigns in the Pacific, but Kamikaze attacks put the Fleet offshore at much greater risk than previously encountered.

If readers find some aspects of Mace’s account familiar, there is good reason.  Eugene Sledge was a Marine mortarman who was also assigned to K/3/5, the same Company as Mace.  Sledge authored “With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa” which was one of the books used as the basis for the HBO / Tom Hanks production of “The Pacific” miniseries.

This book is well worth a read and goes by quickly.  I did find the writing style a bit distracting, it often wanders from a straight description of events into metaphor, striving for the poetic.  More pages are devoted to Peleliu than Okinawa.  I can recommend this book, but read “With the Old Breed” as well.

DSC_7364

Italeri 15 cm Field Howitzer sFH 18 / 10,5 cm Field Gun 10,5 cm sK 18 Build in 1/72 Scale

sFH15c_01
This is a new tool offering from Italeri for 2020, the WWII German 15 cm Field Howitzer sFH 18 / 10,5 cm Field Gun 10,5 cm sK 18 kit number 7082. As the name implies, the kit contains parts to build either version. Also included are a set of five figures and four shells in each caliber, all of which are nicely sculpted and posed. This kit pushes many of the right buttons for me so I was eager to get started!
sFH15c_02
The upper sprue contains detail parts for the carriage and limber, the two smaller sprues are for parts specific for the type of gun one chooses to build. All parts are finely detailed. There was no flash present on my example, and no ejector pin marks in visible locations so clean-up will be limited to mold attachment points and the occasional mold seam.
sFH15c_03
More sprues, the upper one has the trails and the slide along with additional fiddly bits, the lower contains the figures. All the accessories and pioneer tools are molded separately which should make painting easier. The kit contains five figures, normal crew size for these guns was seven men so purists will need to source two additional figures. There are four shells provided for each gun. The shells are unpacked as opposed to boxed or in the wicker packing sleeves, and there are no propellant charges for the shells or their cases. Also missing are the four wicker mats which were issued with each gun and used for a variety of purposes by the crews.
sFH15c_04
The carriage and limber build up quickly and go together without problems. These parts are common to either gun.
sFH15c_05
This is the barrel assembly for the sFH 18 15 cm howitzer. It is at this point that the modeler must choose between the deployed configuration ready to fire or the transport configuration as the position of the gun on the slide is different for each.
sFH15c_06
This page from the instructions illustrates the major differences between the two configurations. The upper gun is in the traveling configuration. The limber is obvious, the position of the gun is more subtle. When moving, the barrel assembly is detached from the recoil cylinder on top of the gun and the gun is moved back along the slide towards the limber. The spades at the end of the trails are also detached and secured to the middle of the trails. There are pins on the trails which engage the slide to keep the barrel from moving in elevation while being towed.
sFH15c_07
Here is the model assembled in the towing configuration ready for primer. I have left off the accessories to make painting easier.
sFH15c_08
Photographs of the sFH 18 being towed usually show covers over the sights, the breach, and the muzzle. Here I have begun making the canvas with masking tape. The seams will be smoothed with superglue and Mr. Surfacer.
sFH15c_09
I decided to paint this one Panzer Gray, with a darker mix sprayed from below and a lighter mix sprayed from above to emphasize shadows and highlights. The spades cover several of the pioneer tools and aiming stakes so I have left them off for now.
sFH15c_10
Everything is assembled and the model has been given a gloss coat for decals. The gloss coat also protects the finish while washes and weathering are applied. Always tempting to stop at this point in a build but it’s also fun to push a little further too.
sFH15c_11
This is the finished product after weathering layers and a flat coat, some experimenting with different techniques on this one. The mud effects on the wheels were made with oil paint and Vallejo pigments, I have found this to be easy to control. I also used oils to blend the tones of the canvas covers and to make the splashes. I’ll be working this build and a few others into vignettes so you’ll be seeing more of this one in the near future.

Aoshima Tank Ta 152 H-1/R-11 of Oberfeldwebel Willie Reschke in 1/72 Scale

This is the Aoshima kit of the Tank Ta 152 H-1/R-11 of III. /JG 301 flown by Oberfeldwebel Willie Reschke.  He scored 27 victories during the war, including three while flying Green 9 and an earlier one by ramming, but was shot down eight times himself and wounded once.  He survived the war.

The kit is Aoshima’s Ta 152 with a Quickboost replacement cowling and scratchbuilt wheelwells.  Reference for this aircraft is Hitchcock’s volume 3 of the Monogram Monarch series, published by Eagle Editions.  The profile of this machine on page 160 shows Green 9 with the horizontal bar of III Gruppe, which differs from the markings in other references but is consistent with Luftwaffe marking practices .

DSC_7058

DSC_7057

DSC_7056

DSC_7055

DSC_7054

DSC_7144

DSC_7145

DSC_7146

DSC_7147

DSC_7148

New York City Vintage Photographs Part I

NYC_01_SSNormandy
In May of 1935 the French liner S.S. Normandie set the world’s record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing of 4 days, 3 hours, and 2 minutes. At the beginning of the Second World War the French Line kept the Normandy berthed in Manhattan, fearing German U-boats. After the attack on Pearl Harbor the U.S. took possession of the ship, renaming her the USS Lafayette.

NYC_02_USSLafayette
The US intended to use the Lafayette as a troopship and began conversion work. Shipyard welding started a fire which quickly got out of control. Efforts to extinguish the fire eventually flooded enough of the ship to capsize her, and she sank at her moorings at Pier 88.

NYC_03_J4F_Widgeon_Lafayette_1943_SSNormandie
The hulk of the USS Lafayette was stripped and re-floated, but she proved to be beyond economical repair and was eventually scrapped in 1946. Here a US Coast Guard Grumman J4F Widgeon is seen above the wreck in late 1943.

NYC_04_USS_Arizona_EastRiver_1916
The battleship USS Arizona (BB-39) was built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Here she is seen on the East River in New York City returning from sea trials on Christmas Day, 25 December 1916.

NYC_05_Colorado_1932
A beautiful photograph of the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45) off Manhattan in 1932. Colorado was the lead ship of her class, her sister ships were USS Maryland (BB-46), and USS West Virginia (BB-48). The USS Washington (BB-47) was cancelled while under construction under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty and sunk as a target. The Colorados had turbo-electric propulsion and were armed with eight 16”/45 main guns.

NYC_06_NewYorkTexas_WorldsFair_03May39_EmpireStateBldg
Sisterships USS New York (BB-34) and USS Texas (BB-35) light up the night sky with their searchlights while visiting New York City for the World’s Fair, 03 May 1939. The Empire State Building can be seen in the background to the right.

NYC_07_Dornier_DoX_1931
A fine study of the Dornier Do-X transferring passengers in New York Harbor, 1931. The Do-X arrived in New York on 27 August 1931 after several mishaps and a ten-month journey. She was to remain in New York for another nine months while her engines were overhauled.

NYC_08_Hindenberg
The airship Hindenburg passing over Manhattan on May 6, 1937 on her way to Lakehurst Naval Air Station, shortly before the disaster. Her explosion was captured by several news photographers sent to document her docking after crossing the Atlantic. Remarkably, 62 of the 97 people on board survived the fire and crash of the Hindenburg.

NYC_09_Y1B17_96BS_28MAR37
Two Boeing Y1B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 96th Bombardment Squadron seen over New York, 28 March 1937. The US Army Air Corps operated thirteen Y1B-17s, for a time they were the only heavy bombers in the USAAC inventory.

NYC_10_LosAngelesOverBatteryPark
The US Navy airship USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) seen over Battery Park in 1930. She was built as reparations for the First World War at Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH in Germany. She served the US Navy from 1924 to 1932 when she was decommissioned.

Revell Junkers Ju 88P-1 in 1/72 Scale

This is a conversion of Revell of Germany’s excellent Junkers Ju 88C-6 kit into a cannon-armed P-1 version using an Aimes conversion set.  This set consist of a vacuformed gondola, resin nose and canopy combing, brass gun barrel, and decals – a nice package.

The Ju88P-1 carried a 7.5 cm PaK 40L semi-automatic Bordkanone in a large gondola under the fuselage.  It was intended for use against ground targets and as a long-range bomber destroyer.  Forty Ju-88P were produced, but the heavy cannon affected both speed and maneuverability making the aircraft vulnerable to interception.

DSC_7436

DSC_7435

DSC_7434

DSC_7433

DSC_7432

DSC_7280

DSC_7281

DSC_7283

DSC_7285

DSC_7286

Junkers Ju 88 P-1

To Hell and Back Book Review

DSC_7297

To Hell and Back, The Epic Combat Journal of World War II’s Most Decorated G.I.

By Audie Murphy

Hardcover in dustjacket, 274 pages

Published by MJF Books, New York, Copyright 1949 by Audie Murphy

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-56731-116-4

Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.0 x 8.5 inches

Audie Murphy attempted to enter military service after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but was rejected due to his small size and for being underaged.  Returning with falsified papers, he successfully enlisted in the Army in 1942 at the age of sixteen.  Assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, fought in Sicily, Anzio, and Rome.  The Division then landed in the South of France as part of Operation Dragoon.  By January 1945 Murphy had received a battlefield commission and was acting as the commander of Company B.  At Holtzwihr, France The Company’s position was attacked by a superior German force with armored support.  It was there that Murphy stopped the German tanks by calling in artillery fire and engaged the attacking infantry using the machine gun atop a burning tank destroyer.  Although wounded, he then led his men in a counter-attack.  For this action he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

To Hell and Back is Murphy’s story.  There is no pretext, the account begins in Sicily and ends with Germany’s surrender.  It is nominally an autobiographical account, but the book was actually written as a collaboration with Hollywood writer David McClure.  This is apparent as much of the book is detailed banter between Murphy’s fellow soldiers which will be recognizable to any reader who has seen a Hollywood Western or war movie from the 1940’s.  While the characterizations have been embellished the underlying story is Murphy’s, and it graphicly conveys the ordeals of a combat infantryman.  After the war Murphy became an actor, and played himself in the 1955 Universal adaptation of this book.

This book is a classic, not only as a combat account, but as an example of human perseverance under the worst of conditions.  If you have only one shelf of military history books, To Hell and Back should be on it.  This is a great read (or re-read if it’s been awhile), highly recommended.

DSC_7298