Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Army Museum

Rifleman 95th
National Army Museum, London

My good friend Stuart Laycock wrote a book called All the Countries We've Invaded.  I reviewed it earlier...  According to Laycock Britain has, over the course of its history, invaded or fought in nearly 90% of all the countries in the world.  You can find Laycock's book  The British Empire, on which the sun never set, once spanned about one quarter of the earth and one quarter of the world population.

If you want to gain an insight into the British forces that have done most of the invading please consider a visit to the National Army Museum in the Chelsea section of London.  Here is the link for the National Army Museum...  Sadly, the NAM is now closed for redevelopment until 2016.  The museum is located near the Chelsea pensioners barracks which is the ancient home for retired British veterans.  These are the fellows in those magnificent scarlet coats that one can still see tottering around London.

Commander K. with Napoleon's horse's skeleton
National Army Museum, London
At NAM you can trace the history of British land warfare from colonial days to the the present day.  The Napoleonic era is well represented in this museum with displays of the battle of Waterloo, whose bicentennial will be celebrated next year (June 18, 2015).

Scotch Highlander
National Army Museum, London
Many generations of soldiers have taken the King's shilling and served their country around the world.  English soldiers in the British Army were augmented by Welshmen, Scots, Irishmen as well as colonial troops including the extraordinary Gurkhas.

British Army Mustering Sergeant
National Army Museum, London
The class system that dominates so much of British society also obtained in the Army.  The red coats worn by officers and sergeants were dyed with cochineal (made from beetles) while the coats of ordinary soldiers was dyed with madder, a vegetable dye, that tended to run in wet weather.

Many may recall the chorus from the television series Sharpe's Rifles written by John Tam (see video below)...

O'er the hills and o'er the main
Through Flanders, Portugal and Spain.
King George commands and we obey
Over the hills and far away.

British Colonial Redcoat
National Army Museum, London
The Pax Britannica was preserved in the 19th century with a "thin red line" of Colonial troops such as these.  The phrase "thin red line" was originally coined by Times correspondent William Howard Russell who described a "thin red line, topped with a line of steel" at the battle of Balaklava in the Crimean war in 1854.

Commander K. and Protected Fighting Vehicle
National Army Museum, London
You can get a sense of life in the trenches in World War I and well as the Tommys' experience in WWII here.  Even recent British deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan are featured here with many testimonies from serving soldiers.

I look forward to the re-opening of the NAM in 2016.

How many Americans have served their Uncle Sam "over the hills and far away"...?

I am excited to announce that this September a new history of America's Military Involvement with the world will be published.  I have collaborated on this book with the historian Stuart Laycock.  Our work is titled America Invades: How We've Invaded or been Militarily Involved with nearly Every Country on Earth.  You can learn about our work

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fort Lewis Museum

Commander K. and Fort Lewis Museum
Tacoma, WA
The first American soldiers to visit the Northwest were Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark on their 1804 expedition.  They spent a wet winter on the Oregon coast near what is today the town of Astoria.

Commander K. with M4 Sherman
Fort Lewis Museum
In 1904 the US Army and Washington National Guard held maneuvers by the shores of American Lake in what is today Lakewood Washington (just south of Tacoma).  In 1917, with America's entry into WWI fast approaching, the federal government bought the land on which Fort Lewis is located from Pierce county.

Fort Lewis Museum
Construction began on the camp on July 5, 1917 less than three months after the United States declared war on the Central powers in WWI.  At an astonishing cost of just over $7 million 1,757 buildings and 422 other structures were erected in just 90 days.  Many generations of soldiers would learn to become soldiers under the shadow of Mount Rainier.
Washington State's US Civil War History
The 91st Division, known as the "Wild West Division," trained at Fort Lewis prior to being sent "over there" to fight in Europe.  The 91st was drawn mainly from soldiers from Western states.  In spite of the segregation of the US Army at that time many ethnic groups did train at Fort Lewis.  Squa De Lah, for example, was a native American who trained at Fort Lewis and was killed on Christmas day 1917 on the Western Front.

US Army Canon
Fort Lewis Museum
After WWI the site was allowed to languish becoming effectively a "ghost town".  During the 1930s the pace of military activity picked up significantly at Fort Lewis.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Grosvenor Square, London
From November 1940 to June 1941 Lt. Colonel Dwight Eisenhower served as chief of staff of the IX Army corps based at Fort Lewis.  He was regarded as "amiable and efficient".  Ike would, of course, become the leader of Operation Overlord -- the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe and, later, President.
Vietnam Display
Fort Lewis Museum
A hotel built by the Salvation army was later transformed into the Fort Lewis Military Museum ( which now houses two floors of military artifacts and displays.

Anti-air missile
Fort Lewis Museum
Today the JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord) is home to over 25,000 military from the US Army and US Air Force.  Visitors to the JBLM require a day pass which can be obtained with presentation of a valid driver's license, registration and proof of insurance at the visitor's center.  See...

Source: Fort Lewis, Images of America, Alan H. Archambault, 2002,

For more on Eisenhower and my new upcoming book with Stuart Laycock please watch the following video...

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on

Sunday, August 3, 2014

USS Essex

Commander K. aboard the USS Essex
Seattle, WA

This week I had the opportunity to tour the USS Essex while it visited Seattle for the annual Seafair celebration.  The Essex is a USN Amphibious Assault ship (LHD-2) that was first launched in 1989.  the ship can carry 33 aircraft, a crew of 1,200 as well as 1,800 marines.  She is the fifth ship to bear the designation Essex and her nickname is "Iron Gator".  Her motto is "Take notice" and her home base is San Diego.

USS Essex, Iron Gator
Seattle, WA
 The first Essex was a 32-gun frigate that fought in the War of 1812.  The fourth Essex (CV-9), launched in 1942, was an aircraft carrier with a distinguished record of service in World War II.  Below you will see the original ship's bell from the WWII carrier...

Ship's Bell, USS Essex (CV-9)
The current USS Essex has a short flight deck which works for helicopters such as the new MV-22A Osprey and short take off aircraft such as the British-made Harrier jump jets.  Some helicopters perform Search and rescue missions such as the one pictured below...
Search and Rescue Chopper
The Navy and Marine pilots aboard the USS Essex pride themselves on being "straight-shooters"...

USN Pilots are Straight Shooters!
The Marines aboard the ship even allowed the young gentleman pictured below to hold a stinger missile.  President Reagan had these weapons shipped in quantity to the mujahideen during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan where they made a decisive difference in the conflict.  This simple weapon is still in service.

Stinger missile
The USN defends our country and protects the free flow of commerce around the world.  If you drive an imported car, thank the Navy.  If you drink an imported beer, thank the Navy.  If your job depends on exporting US-made products overseas, thank the US Navy.

The USS Essex has also been deployed on numerous humanitarian missions. Thank you for your service to all those who serve aboard the USS Essex!

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's first book, America Invades or on