One Bullet Away Book Review

One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer

By Nathaniel Fick

Hardcover in dustjacket, 369 pages, photographs

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt October 2005

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-61855-613-3

ISBN-13: 978-0-61855-613-7

Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.3 x 9.0 inches

Nathan Fick was a classics major at Dartmouth when he volunteered for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, and that is where his account begins.  He subsequently graduated from The Basic School and the Infantry Office Course.  His first assignment after completing his initial training was with the First Battalion, First Marines as the Weapons Platoon Officer of Bravo Company.  He was deployed aboard the USS Dubuque (LPD-8) when the 9/11 attacks occurred.  In Darwin for a port call, they were the closest Marine force to Afghanistan and sailed immediately.

Fick and his Marines went ashore in Afghanistan, moving quite a bit but seeing little direct combat.  They rotated out of Afghanistan during the holidays, and Fick was offered the opportunity to train to be Marine Recon.  More schools, more training.  At the end was assignment to a Platoon in the First Recon Battalion.  Instead of mission they trained for – observing objectives in small teams without being discovered – they were issued five HMMWVs.  The platoon was to spearhead one of the major thrusts of the Invasion of Iraq.

The majority of the book is a day-by-day account of First Recon’s push though Iraq from the Platoon Leader’s perspective.  Their story will be familiar to most readers, as correspondent Evan Wright rode with the platoon and his book, Generation Kill, was made into an HBO miniseries of the same name.  I read both books together to compare the perspectives.  Wright’s book focuses more on the personalities and banter of the Marines in the platoon, and things unusual to those unfamiliar with Marines or the military in general.  Fick’s account is more thoughtful and less focused on tensions between the Marines and their leadership.  Fick is an excellent writer who cares for his men, and the perspectives of history and politics are not lost on him.  This is a great read which I can recommend without reservation.

Generation Kill Book Review

Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and The New Face of American War

By Evan Wright

Hardcover in dustjacket, 354 pages, photographs

Published by Putnam, 2004

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-399-151193-1

Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches

This is the book which was made into the HBO miniseries of the same name.  Author Evan Wright was a Rolling Stone reporter embedded with the Marine’s First Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq.  Marine recon teams usually operate covertly, scouting out an objective and retiring, hopefully without the enemy even knowing they were there.  For this operation, First Recon was equipped with HMMWV light vehicle, more commonly known as the Humvee.  Their mission was to be the point element for one of the columns entering Iraq.

Wright rode in one of the five Humvees of Second Platoon, so he was able to observe events first hand.  His account is very personal and focuses on the actions and reactions of the twenty-three men in the platoon.  Much of the story is told in their own words.  At the Platoon level the overall strategic objectives are not always clear, the day’s plans are constantly evolving.  There is a constant cycle of moving to the next objective, maintaining equipment, eating, digging in, and moving again.  Sleep is replaced with snuff, energy drinks, and instant coffee, which the Marines eat as well as brew.

It is a messy business and Wright reports it all, both good and bad.  Some things went to plan while others did not, there are heroics and mistakes.  This is an honest and interesting account, both as a history of the war from a small unit perspective and as a study of men in combat.  I can recommend this book, even if you have watched the series.

Chance Vought F4U Corsair Color Photographs Part III

F4U_21_RA
A factory-fresh F4U showing details of the landing gear. A total of 12,571 Corsairs were produced. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_22_Vought-F4U-1A-Corsairs-VMF-214-White-829-at-Munda-Point-1943-01
A study in paint wear. This F4U-1A is seen at Munda Point during the last months of 1943. It was assigned to VMF-214, a Marine squadron.

F4U_23_HG
A view of the underside of a birdcage Corsair in the Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme. The folding portion of the wings were painted Blue Gray so they would better blend in with an aircraft carrier’s Deck Blue flight deck when the wings were folded. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)

F4U_24
This Corsair carries a bomb rack under the wing. Even though this is a comparatively new aircraft the paint has already begun to wear at the ring root where mechanics stand while servicing the engine.

F4U_25_RA
The same aircraft from a different angle. The white dots on the fuselage are factory inspection stickers. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_26_RA
A posed photograph of a brand-new Corsair, showing details of the wheels. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_27
A Navy Lieutenant Commander in his “choker whites” summer dress uniform poses for the photographer. Interestingly, the propeller on this Corsair displays the pre-war warning stripes on the tips.

F4U_28
Another shot of a factory fresh birdcage Corsair. The radio mast was offset to starboard to allow an unobstructed view through the gunsight.

F4U_29_HG
A sentry armed with a shotgun protects the aircraft as they roll off the assembly lines. Sabotage was a constant concern which never materialized. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)

F4U_30
A derelict F4U-4 at Blythe, CA. The outer wing panels were covered in fabric, which has mostly rotted away on this aircraft.

Chance Vought F4U Corsair Color Photographs Part II

F4U_11_HG
A fine study of a Corsair in the Blue Gray over Light Gray scheme showing how the grime can build up on the inner wings. On this aircraft the cowl flaps have been installed without regard to color. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)

F4U_12
The Corsair was a beautiful aircraft from any angle. The bent wings were adopted to allow ground clearance for the 13-foot propeller, giving the Corsair its distinct appearance. (LIFE Magazine)

F4U_13
Artwork on Corsairs was a rarity compared to types operated by the USAAF. Here is a close-up of a FAA Corsair displaying a colorful image of Donald Duck.

F4U_14
The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm ordered over 500 Corsairs. The examples here are seen in the Temperate Sea Scheme with the last three digits of their serial numbers roughly sprayed on their cowls.

F4U_15
A Fleet Air Arm Corsair showing details of the wing fold mechanism. The three dark circles near the wingtip are colored recognition lights, red, green, and amber.

F4U_16_USS_Block_Island
A Marine from VMF-511 inspects the guns of this F4U-1D aboard the USS Bock Island (CVE 106). The covers for the ammunition feed trays were interchangeable, this has disrupted the bar of the insignia on the port wing as Glossy Sea Blue panels have been substituted for white, a common occurrence.

F4U_17_RA
One of the first Corsairs off the production lines, this is BuNo 02170. She is seen in the standard Blue Gray over Light Gray Scheme in September 1942. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_18
The photographer has caught this Corsair cycling its landing gear. The wheels turned 90 degrees when retracted to lie flat within the wings. (LIFE Magazine)

F4U_19-VMF-218-White-465-Barakoma-Airfield-Vella-Lavella-Solomon-Islands-15th-Jan-1944-02
A Marine Corsair of VMF-222 on Barakoma Field, Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands in November 1943. This is BuNo 03833. She wears a Graded Scheme camouflage which is already showing fading and wear under the harsh South Pacific sun.

F4U_20_HG
An atmospheric photograph of a birdcage Corsair semi-silhouetted in the glare. (NASM, Hans Groenhoff collection)

Chance Vought F4U Corsair Color Photographs Part I

F4U_01
The first of the breed! This is XF4U-1 BuNo 1143 seen in 1940. The prototype flew just 1n time to be painted in the colorful US Navy “Yellow Wings” scheme.

F4U_02_RA
Early production Corsairs had a framed canopy center section, leading to the nickname “birdcage Corsairs”. Although the paint is rather worn and faded, the white dots visible on the fuselage are factory inspection stickers. Note the primer showing through at the forward wing root, and the fading of the fabric wing panels and ailerons. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_03_RA
Although designed as a fighter, the Corsair could carry an impressive bomb load. This F4U-1D is seen hauling two 1,000-pound bombs beneath the fuselage. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_04-4-corsair-of-vbf-82-uss-randolph_1946
The Corsair was kept in service after the war, even as several other types were retired in the general de-mobilization which followed. Here is a rather worn F4U-4 in overall Glossy Sea Blue of VBF-82 aboard the USS Randolph (CV-15) in 1946.

F4U_05_XF4U-3_1_RA
The XF4U-3 was designed to provide the Marines with a high-altitude interceptor by fitting a turbocharged Pratt & Whitney XR 2800-16 engine and four bladed prop. The turbocharger inlet is visible under the fuselage in this photograph. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_06_XF4U-3_2_RA
A fine study of one of the three XF4U-3 prototypes. Problems with the engine resulted in fitting a Pratt & Whitney R 2800-14 engine instead, the aircraft achieving an impressive speed of 480 mph at 40,000 feet. (NASM, Rudy Arnold collection)

F4U_07_TorokinaAirfield_Bouganville
Torokina Airfield on Bouganville provides the standard South Pacific setting for this Corsair as it taxies out on the Marston mat runway.

F4U_08
Several Marine squadrons employed the Corsair primarily in the close air support mission. This aircraft is being prepped for another mission to add to her already-impressive scoreboard.

F4U_09
The FG-1D of Marine Lt Leroy Anheuser displays his Ace of Hearts emblem. The aircraft was assigned to VMF-122, based on Peleiu during 1944-45.

F4U_10_Jeremiah_OKeef
Marine 1Lt Jeremiah O’Keefe of VMF-323 poses in the cockpit of his Corsair on Okinawa. O’Keefe downed five Japanese aircraft during a single sortie on 22APR45, and an additional two on 28APR45. He was awarded the Navy Cross.

Douglas C-47 / R4D Skytrain / Dakota Color Photographs Part III

C47_21_80-G-K-5297_R4D_Flag aircraft of Rear Admiral Osbourne B. Hardison, chief of Naval Air Primary Training, is checked out by ground crew at NAS New Orleans, circa early 1945
Not all R4D’s were camouflaged. This is the aircraft of Rear Admiral Osbourne B. Hardsion, Chief of Naval Air Primary Training. His two-star flag placard is visible beneath the pilot’s window. (80-G-K-5297)

C47_22
Another Navy R4D in a natural metal finish, this one is assigned to the Naval Air Transport Service.

C47_23
Another mission frequently assigned to the Dakota was casualty evacuation, as being performed by the Royal Air Force example seen here.

C47_24
A patient being transferred to a Skytrain with invasion stripes. This photo provides a good view of the boarding ladder and inside of the cargo door.

C47_25_Vella Lavella
A similar view of a U.S. Marine casualty being evacuated from Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands.

C47_26
Not the clearest of photographs but some interesting markings with yellow and red identification panels. An earlier “55” aircraft identification number has been removed aft of the yellow 25.

C47_27
A paratrooper poses in front of a rather weathered C-47, the nose of which has been repainted. Compare the size and positioning of the Troop Carrier Command lettering with that of the photo of the paratrooper from last week’s post here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/06/09/douglas-c-47-r4d-skytrain-dakoda-color-photographs-part-ii/

C47_28_32d_Troop_Carrier_Squadron_Douglas_C-47A-15-DK_Skytrain_42-92862_1945
42-92862, a Skytrain of the 32nd Troop Carrier Squadron.

C47_29
Sad Sack hauling cargo is the subject of this nose art.

C47_30
Puddle-Jumper displaying some interesting details of propeller markings. Note the white trim to the carburetor intakes. One has to wonder if the nose art is intentional or the victim of an over-zealous removal of another marking. (LIFE Magazine)