Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 16th Infantry Takes to the Field!

AP Wire- Date Line Ft. Drum, NY.  March 20 1940

This morning the doughboys of New York's own 16th Infantry Regiment completed several days of field training exercises at Ft. Drum, NY, just a few miles south of the US-Canada border.  These field training exercises, known as FTXs to our doughboys, only seem to highlight the growing tensions between the United States of America and the British Empire.  

Doughboys from A Company, 16th Infantry
train with the newest tanks in America's arsenal.

The 16th Infantry Regiment, a component regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, normally stationed at Ft. Jay on Governors Island, was moved to Ft. Drum two weeks ago for additional training and to ensure that New York's borders are safe from any British or Canadian incursions.  

Doughboys of B Company rush a defended ruin while their
squad mates lay down suppressing fire!

Only months ago the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, like every other unit in the US Army, was just a skeleton of a unit having only four platoons organized into two small companies.  However with the possibility of war growing daily the US has drafted hundreds of thousands of young American men for national service.    Now the old hands of the 16th, in the tradition of their regiment's motto: Semper Paratus (Always Ready), have set about working to prepare the raw recruits for war, if it happens.

A MG squad operate their weapon under
the watchful eye of their commander, Lt. Colonel William Ekert.

Among the tactics that our young soldiers are learning is how to work with the newest engines of modern warfare:  the tank!  Many experts say that the tank is going to be a permanent fixture of the battlefields of the future, and that the infantry have little choice but to learn how to work with these armored behemoths if they wish to prevale.  Now the doughboys of the 16th are getting their chance to work with latest tank in America's arsenal: the M3 Light Tank.  

Team work!  M3 Light tanks and infantry in action

"The thing is," says Colonel William Ekert of Billings, Montana, "that we have so many new guys in the outfit and a lot of new weapons and gear to break in.  Hell, many of the old boys who were in the World War have never seen a real tank up close, let alone train with one. We NEED all the training time we can get! God only knows when, or even if, the balloon will go up.  Regardless, we HAVE to be ready no matter what!"

Fire and maneuver!  C Company practices
assault drills in the fields of Ft. Drum.

When asked how the men are reacting to all this extra training time Colonel Ekert said, "There is a real sense of urgency in these exercises.  In years past FTXs were seen as an annoying break-up of the normal barracks life to a lot of the men.  But this is different and the boys know it!  War can come at any time! And this war won't be in some god-forsaken field in Europe.  It's gonna be right here in our own backyards.  They call us (the 16th Infantry Regiment) "New York's Own" and it really could be up to us to keep the good folks of The Empire State safe."

While everyone here at Ft. Drum prays that the diplomats will come to a peaceful solution to the crisis between the two nations it's quite clear that all have resigned themselves to the possibility, no matter how remote, that war could be just around the corner.  

In the next article of our series we leave Ft. Drum and join the bluejackets on board the battleship USS Arizona as they ward our nation's shores.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just for the record!

Just for the record and before I start getting hate mail I just want to make one thing very clear!  I'm actually quite the Anglophile!  My family originally hailed from Sussex in the UK, I work (as a teacher) with a British national (who I adore!), and honestly I holiday in the UK every chance I get.  I love Britain and I greatly admire the British people.  Heck, I dated a London girl in my college days.

One of the great things about this project is that I don't have to collect a force that I don't like, or want, just so I can play.  I can quite happily collect forces from both sides without dealing with the "ick" factor that sometimes comes from gathering real world forces.  I can quite happily assemble forces from such great units like the 16th US Infantry and 3rd Cavalry and pit them against some of my favorite British units like the Parachute Regiment, the KOSBs, and DLIs and I don't have to paint a single Nazi or SS trooper, or worse still... I don't have to collect a bevy of Tigers and Panthers!  In this war the Matilda is the queen of the battlefield and the 37mm is more than a pop gun!  Even more enjoyable is that I get to try out such what if classic matches like what would happen if Patton's 2nd Armor ever met Montgomery's 3rd Division in the field?

The "gravy" for the whole project is that I get to look at the forces of the Commonwealth too!  I now have an excuse to build an AIF battalion without needing to gather a force of Germans or Japanese to face them.  I also get look a our neighbor to the north, Canada, and use some of her famous regiments like Princess Patricia's Light Infantry or The Black Watch of Canada.  Even better still is that we are now at the beginning of the bicentennial of the War of 1812!  That works out great because I can use some of the battles of that war as templates and I can try them out with 1940s technology... and I don't have to collect a single Napoleonic miniature either!  

This blog is just for wargaming fun and nothing else.  So grab a pint, look around, and enjoy the show.  Feel free to toss in your $.02 worth or to let me know about some cool resources that are out there.

See you on the field!

Friday, August 24, 2012

3rd Cavalry Regiment

AP Wire- Date line Ft. Drum, NY.  March 10 1940.

With war clouds looming, the United States has been forced launch the first peace time draft in its history.  Over the last several months thousands of young Americans have been called up for national service.  These young men have flooded into existing Regular Army formations.  Even the elite cavalry regiments have been saturated with green recruits.

Last week elements of the United States Army's 3rd Cavalry Regiment (The Brave Rifles), at Ft. Drum New York, took to the field to bring their fresh faced youths "up to speed" on the weapons and tactics of the modern cavalry.

Here elements of Apache Troop, 3rd Cavalry Regiment learn the basics horsemanship and mounted combat:

Meanwhile, further along the line, troopers from Captain David York's machine gun troop conduct live fire exercises with their modern Browning machine guns (M1917). These young gunners aren't just getting some target practice in though, they are also firing their guns so that the cavalrymen and their horses can get use to the frightening sounds of gun fire.  

The cavalry isn't just horses any more either!  Joining York's troopers are some of the Army's newest armored cars: the M3A1 White Scout Car.

When asked if his troopers were ready if war were to come Machine Gun Troop commander Captain David York (pictured in the foreground), of Huntsville Alabama, said, "These are good boys.  They've worked hard and they've trained hard.  They know their duty and I reckon they'll give a good account of themselves if push comes to shove."

In our next article we will meet the doughboys of the fighting 16th Infantry. 

What is War Plan Red?

War Plan Red is an idea that I've had for over a year now... I blame it on the British Channel Five for their fascinating and sobering documentary that came out last year.  It was a real eye opener to say the least.

It's easy to forget now-a-days, but once, long ago, the United States and the United Kingdom were at each other's throats.  It started when the former English colonies, the original thirteen colonies of yore, broke away from the crown and fought a bloody revolution against their former colonial masters.  It was a long and hard fought war that finally ended when France joined the colonists and the combined Franco-American armies cornered Lord Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown, a small tide-water town, in Virginia.

Cornwallis surrendering at Yorktown

But Anglo-American hostilities didn't end there...

They would again burn bright during the Napoleonic Wars.  The 1812 a young and hot-headed America declared war on Britain and launch an audacious invasion of its neighbor, and sister, Canada.  What started out as a "matter of marching" became a long and grim war that almost saw the destruction of the new republic.  However luck and fate didn't abandon the young state and it achieved a near miracle... the US went toe-to-toe with the mightiest nation of the time and lived to tell about it.  But only just.

The Battle of Baltimore

While there would never be another Anglo-American war there were a number of times over the following years when tensions reached scary heights and it really looked like these two nations, the mother country and her eldest daughter, would again come to blows.  But it always cooler heads prevailed, peaceful solutions were found, and war as adverted.

 The Battle of Ridgeway

However that didn't mean that all was better. After World War One relations between these two great English speaking nations reached an all new low.  A cash strapped British Empire was forced to default on loans drawn from the United States... leaving the American taxpayers handfuls of worthless IOUs.  Worse still both nations began to look at the powerful battle fleets that the other possessed and realised that those great engines of war could easily be used against them.  Both of these nations depended greatly on foreign trade and control over these all necessary sea lanes was vital to both nation's economies.  The once allies began to drift apart and the military planners were forced to think the unthinkable and even plan for it.

The plan, a basic blue print for the unthinkable, was simply called War Plan Red.

This blog is a chronicle my efforts to recreate this alternate World War Two.  This is a world that is much like ours in the early 1940s.  However history has taken a different and maybe even darker turn.  This is a world where Nazi Germany never existed: Adolf Hitler is a mere footnote in German antebellum history.  Instead these former allies have drifted dangerously apart and fear, envy, and paranoia have taken over.

This is the world of War Plan Red.