Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Classified photos: Nike Ajax surface to air guided missile


Now it can be told...

I recently found these photos at the local antique mall.  They were wedged behind a vintage file cabinet drawer in a folder marked "Confidential."  Not wanting to buy the file cabinet, I slipped the folder into a 1957 copy of PHOTOPLAY, went to the counter and purchased the magazine.

Exiting the store, I removed the file, threw the magazine to the ground, got in my car and sped away.

When I got home, I started some research on these photos.

An extensive online search netted the following information.

These photos were for a proposed LIFE magazine photo spread that was quashed by the Department of Defense.  The photos were taken by LIFE photographer Niles White and were intended for the May 29 1954 edition.  The photo essay was going to highlight the roll-out of America's first ground to air guided missile, the Nike Ajax.  The missile was first deployed at the scene of these photos - Fort Greenbrier near Boonsboro Maryland.

Upon review by Pentagon censors, the photos and article were deemed "injurious to national security" and all prints, negatives and text were confiscated by the Department of Defense.  Photographer Niles White publicly protested this high-handed treatment by the Pentagon and made quite a stink about the whole thing.  Coincidentally, later that year Niles White was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee, on trumped-up charges of "frequenting the same trainstation as known friends of suspected associates of potential Communists."  That ended the career of Niles White.  The last that was seen of him, he was on a street corner in Mexico City, taking photos of tourists perched on a burro for fifty pesos per wallet-size.

Now, we live in less paranoid times, and the days of the blacklist are behind us.  HUAC has been repudiated, and people like Joe McCarthy have gone down in our history as villains.  In these more enlightened times, I feel it safe to publish here, for the first time, this exceptional series of Niles White black and white photos of this historic event of the May 5, 1954, inaugural deployment of the MIM-3 Nike Ajax missile.

Niles White took this photo as his helicopter was making its final approach to the test site.

One Nike Ajax requires many support vehicles and personnel.  Here is the ground-air search radar that tracks and identifies the targets and electronically relays that information to the air-combat control trailer.

One missile is in the launcher...

while two more are in the transport vehicle.  All three were to be launched in this target firing.

Soldiers take a break and pose for White's camera.

Technicians fine-tune the launcher.

The missile is ready to fire.

The target is being tracked.

This photo, seconds prior to the launch, was the last one that Niles White was allowed to take.  Unfortunately, he was not allowed to photograph the actual launch, after making a casual comment about enjoying the work of Alan Ginsberg, to an Army official at the launch site.

Three years later, LIFE was permitted to do a full-color, eight-page spread on the military's guided missile program, including photos of the Nike-Ajax.  By that time, sadly, Niles White was a forgotten man, hawking tourist photos to skeptical American tourists in Mexico.

I'm happy that I was able to let these incredible photos see the light of day...for the first time.  Another Toy Soldiers Forever! exclusive.

Until next time,

Soldier on!


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Gettysburg Toy Soldier Show, April 18, 2021

See you there.

 I always enjoy this event.  This year I will be on the prowl for Marx Blue and Gray stuff.  I'm in the process of reconstituting the Marx Giant Blue and Gray Playset that I got for my tenth birthday.  I've just completed doing the same for the Marx Desert Fox set that I got a couple of years later.  It seems the older I get, the more I enjoy my childhood.

If you see me at the Gettysburg show, stop me to say hello.

Soldier on! (in Gettysburg)


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Battle of Guam: Finemolds Japanese type 41 mountain gun.

Battle of Guam: A story from 1971

(Me, deep in the jungle, hiking the Segua river.)

We used to do a lot of hiking on Guam, called "boonie-stomping."  My watch section at Naval Communications Station Finegayen, was on what is called  four-section duty.  Four-section meant that a radioman stands three watches, a day, a mid, and an eve, with eight hours off between each.  After the eve, we'd get 56 hours off.  This was a luxurious schedule (it didn't last long) and I went boonie-stomping, alone and with friends, during every off period for fifteen months.

One noisy midwatch, I and two friends were planning a wet hike up the Segua river, something we'd not done before, but was reputed to be a good, long, and strenuous hike.  The hitch in the plan is that we'd have to walk and hitchhike for many miles just to get to the trailhead.  This would use up time and water, and we'd be tired even before we got to the river.

During our conversation, the watch officer - an ensign (the lowest of the officer grades) - began showing some interest in what we were talking about.  My pal Beeler muttered to me that if we could get this car-owning ensign involved, we could be driven to the trailhead.

The ensign's interest went from vague to keen when Beeler mentioned that the Segua was full of fresh-water shrimp and that they were a cinch to catch.  Now the Ensign was all in, he'd drive, we'd all hike, and he'd catch a delicious dinner for his effort.

Next day we started early, and in the ensign's brand-new Honda Civic we comfortably and swiftly rode to the trailhead.  It was a breeze, with lots of great banter about the photos we'd get and the wildlife we'd see, and always the hope of encountering evidence of the Battle of Guam.  The ensign wasn't participating in the conversation, he was solely concentrating on a bumper-catch of shrimp.

We got to the trail-head early and with plenty of water and sandwiches  we hiked a little over a mile to the riverbank.  For the next six hours we were on the river, which went from ankle to chest deep, nowhere was it more than twenty feet across.  It was hot, humid, and there were lots of bugs, but we were enjoying every minute.

As the trip progressed the enthusiasm of the ensign began flagging as he wasn't seeing the promised bounty of  shrimp.

The hike was three hours downriver and then three hours back up.  As we hiked  the trail back to the car, something in the brush caught my eye... and it was a pair of Japanese guns, including the type 41 pictured below.  I snapped a couple of photos of it.  The front view got lost over the years, and I only have this still from behind the shield.  But it's indicative of the wealth of ordnance that was still lying around the island at that time.

When we finally got back to the car we were all really tired, but very happy and enthusiastic about our adventure...our ensign however, was pretty sour.  By the end of the long and tiring day, he had only about six, undersized, fresh-water shrimp.  He was very annoyed by the whole thing and had a feeling that he had been duped by enlisted men.

As he had

(my Guamanian type 41 mountain gun)

Now let's take a look at the FineMolds 1/35th version of the type 41 that I built for the Battle of Guam


I assembled most this gun when I was on a camping trip.  It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon under the open sky.

This kit is well-engineered and went together easily.

The anatomy and animation of the four crewmen is really good and I'm looking forward to painting them.

I'll have other 75mm Japanese guns, so I'll be getting a lot of use out of these guys in different battle scenarios.

An ammunition chest and three projectiles were included, and, as with the men, I'll be able to use them with the other 75mm guns.

The detail on this kit is really excellent.

The only camouflage I applied was to the shield.  I'm still noodling out exactly how much cammouflage I'll be applying to the various Japanese guns.

I rubbed graphite on the wheel rims to simulate dull steel.

I used Tamiya panel liner to bring out the detail...with limited success, as it tends to blot. 

This is the level of detail that I'll be applying to all materiel - Japanese and US.  As you see, it's very minimal.  Again, like all of my efforts, this is the realm of toy soldiers rather than military miniatures, so detail will be fairly simple and straightforward.  So do stay tuned for more developments.

As we say on Guam, "Half Adai!", and...

soldier on!


Monday, February 1, 2021

Battle of Guam update: Feb 2021

 I've been busy working on styrene gyrenes, but I took a few moments today to make this video update.

Soldier on!