From a one-man capsule to the space shuttle, here are ten facts about America’s space program that will remind you of NASA’s amazing history and the legacy of dedication and service on the part of all who’ve worked there over the years.
From a one-man capsule to the space shuttle, here are ten facts about America’s space program that will remind you of NASA’s amazing history and the legacy of dedication and service on the part of all who’ve worked there over the years.
The United States military has a long history of adopting so-called wildcat calibers from the civilian world. Hell, the 5.56mm round that fills every M249 belt and M16 magazine has its origins as an experimental varmint round for civilian hunters — the .222 Remington Magnum.
But this was back when the U.S. military’s budget was not only enormous, but had less congressional oversight.
In the middle of the Cold War and a heated arms race with the Soviet Union, America was willing to adopt new tech without concern for the pricy or problematic logistics of adopting a new round for all branches.
Today, only small special operations groups like hand-selected units from SOCOM can afford to rearm with bleeding edge tech or equipment
In particular, sniper elements of various units tend to be the first to adopt new cartridges for their highly specialized work.
For a long time, this meant choosing between 7.62×51, .50 BMG or .300 Winchester Magnum. Eventually, someone decided they wanted the incredible effective range of the .50BMG round without the awful ballistic coefficient that makes anti-personal use at extreme ranges difficult.
After all, .50 BMG began life as a heavy machine gun round suited for anti-vehicle use, then aircraft use before being adopted to anti-material use in big-bore sniper rifles.
Developed in the early 1980s, the resulting .338 Lapua Magnum was an immediate hit in the vast expanses of Middle East like the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. Yet, it didn’t perform nearly as well in an anti-material role as the .50BMG, and some experts argued it didn’t retain sufficient energy for reliable soft target neutralization past 1,800 yards — though data on terminal ballistics data at this distance are not normally available to the public.
But this seems like a moot point, the best snipers in any military consider a shot at that distance both incredibly difficult and exceptionally rare. Which makes the recent adoption of a new round for the Advanced Sniper Rifle by U.S. Special Operations Command so interesting.
Dubbed, the .300 Norma Magnum, this new round boasts an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua. However, the .300 Norma actually uses a .308-caliber round which is smaller than the one employed in the .338 cartridge.
If this seems strange given past complaints about limited effectiveness against semi-hardened targets, you’re on the right path. Indeed, instead of trying to shoehorn a cartridge designed for shooting soft targets into an anti-material role, the new .300 Norma Magnum fully embraces the .308-caliber bullet’s anti-personnel qualities and top-notch ballistic coefficient.
This excellent BC lead some military testers to achieve 20-round groups as small as four inches at 1,100 yards. This is much smaller than the average soldier’s mid-section, and puts a headshot on a stationary target at that range into the realm of possibility.
Some food for thought: At that range, the intended target wouldn’t hear the shot for a full three seconds after it left the barrel.
The new cartridge’s potential for accuracy brings distant soft targets in delicate locations – i.e. those saturated with non-combatants – within the grasp of the US military. While the caliber of the .300 Norma’s projectile may lead some to believe this round is a downgrade from the .338 Lapua, it’s more akin to a different tool for different situations.
This round may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.
But this is all speculation; with the round being as new as it is, and special operators just now adopting it, the public won’t likely hear anything about its performance for years.
Either way, one thing is certain: the long reach of America’s special forces, just got even longer.
Much has been made of Russian and Chinese missiles – and they do warrant attention. But the submarine still remains a very deadly assassin. If anything, that danger has taken on new forms, as the crew of the South Korean corvette Cheonan found out in 2010.
So, how will these underwater assassins be prevented from carrying out their nefarious deeds? Here are four systems that were displayed by L3 Ocean Systems at SeaAirSpace 2017.
The big problem many helicopters deal with is weight. Every pound for sensors is a pound that can’t be fuel or a weapon or a sonobouy.
At less than 400 pounds, the Firefly is a dipping sonar that can be used on much smaller helicopters – allowing someone who needs some coastal ASW to install it on more platforms than if it were a heavier sonar. Or, on the flip side, the helo that trades in a heavier dipping sonar for this lighter one gains more fuel, and thus, more range – or possibly an extra weapon, giving it an extra shot at an enemy sub.
Firefly can operate as deep as 656 feet of water, and can pick up a target almost 20 miles away. That’s not bad for this small package.
The Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar is used by nine separate navies, including Italy, Thailand, Greece, and Turkey. This sonar weighs 716 pounds – but it is also interoperable with the sonars on surface ships and the sonobouys dropped by other helicopters and maritime patrol planes.
It can operate at depths of up to 1,640 feet — meaning running silent and running deep won’t help a sub escape detection from this sonar. And once the sub is located… its captain will have an exciting – and short – time to ponder his situation.
Let’s face it – diesel-electric submarines are getting better and better. They are finding ways to operate without having to snorkel while charging their batteries. The batteries are getting better, and even cell phone battery technology is being leveraged for subs.
The solution is to do what they did in World War II – use active sonar to ping and find the submarine. The Low-Frequency Active Towed Sonar can do that – and can be placed on a vessel as small as 100 tons. It can operate at depths of up to 984 feet. In essence, in shallow water, there is no place for a sub to hide from this sonar. Not when every patrol boat can have one.
You might find it interesting that a towed-array for a submarine is on here, but the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines sometimes have to operate in shallow water where diesel boats can hide a lot more easily.
Able to operate at depths of over 1,000 feet at a speed of up to 12 knots, the TB-23F makes any submarine that tows it more capable when it comes to hunting the submarines of the enemy.
So, while the submarine threat has gotten worse, a lot of works has been done on developing ways to find these underwater assassins before they can do harm to the valuable ships.
In 2014, archivists from the U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) uncovered a rare trove of photos while moving furniture around during an office renovation. The photos were a donation in their backlog, glass prints of 150 images of the Navy during the Spanish-American War and Philippine War that followed.
The photos were taken by Douglas White, a special correspondent of the San Francisco Examiner during the conflict. His photos were uncovered at the beginning of a restoration project of the NHHC facility at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard.
“Once it was realized what they had uncovered, there was tremendous excitement amongst the staff, especially the historians,” Lisa Crunk, the head of the NHHC’s photo archives told Navy.mil. “The images are an amazing find, though they were never really lost – they were simply waiting to be re-discovered.”
Captain Dennis Geary of the California Heavy Artillery rides his horse through Cavite in the Philippines. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command)
The USS Boston, ca 1898. The Boston was in the Battle of Manila.
Two years ago, Air Force veteran Derek Blumke wound up staying in a sketchy neighborhood in Houston while on the road working for his first tech startup that had little money to spend on accommodations. After finding the external side door to his hotel ajar, he got to his room and saw — from the shoddy repairs to the hinges and the door frame — that the door had previously been kicked in “breach-style,” as he put it.
“I was texting my brother letting him know where I was in case he didn’t hear from me the next day,” Blumke said. At the same time, he quickly searched his phone for security apps and found none that fit what he needed. And so TripSafe was born.
“If you have a security system at home, why wouldn’t you have a smaller system that protects you when you’re away from your familiar surroundings?” Blumke asked.
With home security system functionality in mind, he set out to design something that was much more than what he called a “panic button app” on a phone. He wanted something that would cover all the undesirable contingencies surrounding a hotel stay — intrusion, theft, fire, whatever.
So he formed a team to make the product, drawing on the network of veterans he’d acquired while working in the entrepreneurial space. Joining him were former U.S. Army infantryman James McGuirk (Chief Hardware Officer and Co-Founder), former U.S. Navy diver and bomb technician Kathy Borkoski (Chief Operating Officer), and U.S. Marine Corps veterans Brian Alden (Technology Advisor and Co-Founder) and Adam Healy (Chief Technology Officer).
The TripSafe is basically two electronic door-stoppers magnetically attached to a base unit that has a video monitor, motion and sound sensors, and smoke and gas detectors. The user can tailor Smartphone alerts and a 24/7 emergency response. The system easily fits into a computer bag or purse.
“We can’t trust that everything will be fine everywhere we travel,” Blumke said. “And if I have these concerns as a 6-foot-tall former military guy, what does my girlfriend have in those sort of situations?”
Watch:To learn more about TripSafe, please visit www.tripsafesecure.com.
And go here to contribute to TripSafe’s Indiegogo page.
The Turkish Armed Forces – or at least elements of them – carried out a coup d’etat in the late-night hours Friday. The intention of the coup was to depose President Recip Tayyip Erdogan. This was quite a shock to most Americans, as Turkey would strike many people to be a very unlikely country for a coup. This is partially due to its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and it has in the past petitioned for admission into the European Union. Turkey, though, has had a turbulent domestic history with military involvement.
This should have Americans’ attention. Not only is Turkey next door to the Syrian civil war, as well as on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State, but American forces, notably the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, are deployed in-country. The safety of American troops during this time is one area of concern.
Turkey is not the only NATO country to have seen a military coup. Portugal had one in 1974 that toppled a dictatorship (the “Carnation Revolution”), and Greece saw a coup in 1967 that catapulted a notorious military junta into power for seven years. Spain saw attempted coups in 1981 and 1982, both of which were thwarted by the government. France also famously had a close call with a coup in 1958.
Since Turkey’s admission to NATO in 1952, the country has seen two full-fledged military coups take place (in 1960 and 1980) as well as three other military interventions (“memorandums” issued in 1971, 1997,and 2007) in Turkish domestic politics prior to the one that started Friday. Some circles believe that the Turkish military carried out a “stealth coup” in 1993, citing a number of suspicious deaths, including that of then-President Ozal. In most cases, the coups took place when the government was perceived as going too far in an Islamist direction.
Erdogan had faced a number of allegations that he was going in an Islamist direction during his rule. The Turkish government had been reportedly turning a blind eye to fighters joining ISIS. Erdogan’s government also had been arresting members of the military, including some who were purportedly involved in the alleged 1993 coup. Erdogan had also been accused of trying to set up a dictatorship, involvement in electoral fraud, and even imprisoned a former Miss Turkey over comments she made. He may have had this coup coming.
The coup could also have some serious consequences for the Turkish military. The United States has generally issued sanctions against juntas installed via military coup. One notable case was in 2013 when weapons sales were placed on hold in the wake of the coup that deposed Morsi. Egyptian forces facing a fight against terrorists in the Sinai peninsula did not get Apache helicopter gunships that had been provided as military aid.
What effects could this coup have on the Turkish military? Surprisingly, the Turkish military may be better postured than some other countries to weather some sanctions from the United States. Turkey does produce the F-16 Fighting Falcon locally, so its force of over 200 Falcons will still be able to operate. The same is true for its UH-60 Blackhawks, and some other systems.
But the older F-4E and RF-4E Phantoms in the Turkish Ai Force could have readiness issues, as the United States could cut off spare parts for the fighter-bombers and recon planes. The same would also apply for other modern systems Turkey has, including the M270 Multiple-Launch Rocket System, the MGM-140 ATACMS, and the eight Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates that the United States gave to the Turks in the last 1990s. Turkey also could see trouble remaining a partner in the F-35 program for the duration of military rule, and it is an open question whether it would be able to keep its stocks of AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AIM-120 AMRAAMs operational. Furthermore, the Turkish Navy’s force of SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, which operate off frigates and corvettes, could have problems operating.
The files were stored in cardboard boxes stacked on steel shelves lining the sixth and top floor of a large, rectangular federal building in a small, northwest suburb of St. Louis. They were packed so tightly within the thousands of boxes that, when the fire erupted, it burned so intense, so quickly, so out of control, it took the responding 43 fire departments more than two days to smother. When the smoke settled and the interior temperature cooled, the building’s staff found that up to 18 million of “the most fragile records in our nation” had been reduced to smoldering piles and puddles of ash.*
There was no motive, no suspect, and few clues. The person(s) responsible for destroying 80 percent of Army personnel records for soldiers discharged between 1 Nov 1912 to 1 Jan 1960 and 75 percent of the Air Force records of Airmen discharged between 25 Sep 1947 to 1 Jan 1964 (with surnames beginning with Hubbard and running through the end of the alphabet) has never been found.
The NPRC records fire is 42-year old news, yet even today it continues to impact the lives of our most sacred Veterans and their dependents and survivors.
How does an Army Air Forces bombardier from our Greatest Generation apply for VA healthcare and benefits without records of his service? What can be done for the fiduciary of an Army Nurse Corps Veteran looking for records to piece together his grandmother’s legacy? How does NPRC staff deal with the thousands of records requests from this time period it fields each year?
In the days following the fire, NPRC used experimental treatments to recover about 6.5 million burned and water-damaged records. Today, it has a preservation program, split between two teams (1 2), reconstructing what was recovered. This has proved helpful and hopeful for the many “treasure hunt” stories that occasionally surface in media profiles.
But, what about those whose records were not recovered?
You can help VA help NPRC reconstruct the damaged record. There is a specific request you must fill out that gives VA the authority to ask NPRC to reconstruct that file. This request provides information that allows the NPRC to search for other types of documents, such as individual state records, Multiple Name Pay Vouchers from the Adjutant General’s Office, Selective Service System registration records, pay records from the Government Accounting Office, as well as medical records from military hospitals (current Army list; current Air Force list), unit records and morning reports, and entrance and separation x-rays and organizational records, that would assist you with your VA healthcare access or compensation claim, or for valuable research on your family member’s service history.
When it comes to VA compensation, however, maybe you don’t have time to play detective. It is critical, in the request you send to VA, that you provide as much information as you can, including the units you were assigned to, as well as the name of the company, battalion, regiment, squadron, group, and/or wing.
VA will accept, as alternate sources for records, statements from service medical personnel, certified “buddy” statements or affidavits, accident and police reports, Employment-related examination reports, letters written during service, photographs taken during service, pharmacy prescription records, insurance-related examination reports, medical evidence from civilian/private hospitals, clinics, and physicians that treated you during service or shortly after separation, and photocopies of any service treatment records that you may have in your possession.
It is important to note that, although these details can significantly help, VA does not rely only on service treatment records when deciding claims for cases that are related to the 1973 fire.
While this can appear daunting, there is help available; VA encourages you to work with an accredited representative or agent if you need assistance. You can also request an attorney, claims agent, or Veteran Service Organization representative online.
The ramifications of this tragedy have been longstanding and well documented, and it couldn’t have happened to a more heroic group of Veterans at a worse time—when those files were needed most. Archaeologists two centuries from now are not going to magically dig up microfiche duplicates that were never created. Those records are lost to time. With NPRC’s assistance, VA is committed to ensuring that no eligible but affected Veteran goes without the benefits and services (or information) to which he and she have earned.
*In 2012, NPRC relocated to a new building housing 60 million records (from the Spanish-American War to about the year 2000) in 1.8 million boxes “in a climate-controlled warehouse with a constant temperature of about 35 degrees and with a relative humidity that never dips below 40 percent.”
Some information within this post has been sourced from outside, non-VA media. Each instance has been hyper linked to the original material.
Jason Davis served five years in the 101st ABN, including two combat tours to Iraq. He’s currently an M.A. candidate in Writing at Johns Hopkins University and serves as social media administrator for the Veterans Benefits Administration.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The “Judgment Day” of the Terminator films didn’t come on Aug. 29, 1997. But it almost came on Sept. 26, 1983.
Deep inside the Soviet Union that early September morning, a Soviet military officer was hearing an alarm signaling that the U.S. had launched its intercontinental ballistic missiles at his country. His name was Stanislav Petrov, and he had mere moments to react — and launch a counter-attack of Russian missiles.
“I realized that I had to make some kind of decision, and I was only 50/50,” Petrov told The Associated Press. Petrov, the duty officer whose job was to pass to his superiors reports of enemy missile launches, instead dismissed the signals as false alarms. It was not the correct protocol, but since his going against the rules saved the world from nuclear armageddon, we aren’t too mad about it.
“A minute later the siren went off again. The second missile was launched. Then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. Computers changed their alerts from ‘launch’ to ‘missile strike’,” he told the BBC. “I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it.”
From The Telegraph:
Just three weeks before, the Russians had shot down a Korean jet liner with 269 passengers on board, including a US Congressman and 60 other Americans, after wrongly suspecting it of being a spy plane. The incident pushed East-West tensions to their highest since the Cuban missile crisis, and prompted Ronald Reagan’s infamous remark that the Soviet Union was an “evil empire”.
So when, at 0015 hours, the bright red warning lights started flashing and a loud klaxon horn began wailing, indicating a missile from West Coast USA, Petrov and his colleagues feared the very, very worst. “I saw, that a missile had been fired, aimed at us,” he recalls. “It was an adrenalin shock. I will never forget it.”
Fortunately, Petrov reported the incident as an equipment malfunction. It turned out he was right, as it was later found the satellite had mistaken the sun’s reflection off high clouds as a launch, according to AP.
He was not hailed as a hero in the Soviet Union. Instead, the government swept the potentially embarrassing incident under the rug and he was reprimanded “for incorrectly filling in a log book,” the UK Express reported.
It’s a story that would make for a great movie. Which is probably why there is now a movie:
Dog people have had their day in the sun with the celebrations of the brave service of military working dogs across the web, including this site. But what about cat people? Where are the stories for them?
No need to take your frustrations out on the scratching post. Here are the tales of 7 felines who have proved their mettle under fire:
Acoustic Kitty is not the name of the cat itself, but the name of a $20 million CIA project intended to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet Embassies. A microphone was implanted into the ear canal of a cat, with a small radio transmitter implanted at the base of its skull. The first cat was thought to have been immediately hit by a taxi. CIA researchers concluded there were too many issues involved in training the cats and the project was discontinued.
Not just present at the most pivotal battle of World War II’s Eastern Front, Mourka was an active participant. Nicknamed the Battlecat of Stalingrad, Mourka belonged to the Soviet 124th Rifle Brigade. He delivered messages about German positions form Soviet scouts and carried propaganda leaflets to German troops.
In October 1963, the year after the U.S. put John Glenn into orbit around the Earth, the French medical research center CERMA launched a black and white female cat 97 miles from Earth’s surface, not quite reaching orbit. Félicette was the only cat ever in space and flew for fifteen total minutes before returning to Earth alive via capsule.
Mrs. Chippy was a tabby who met an unfortunate end during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The expedition endeavored to be the first overland crossing of Antarctica. Carpenter Harry McNish’s cat earned the respect of the crew after they watched in amazement as the cat walked the ship’s inch-wide rails, even in the roughest ocean days. When the ship was destroyed, Shackleton ordered the cat and all the ships dog’s shot. McNish never forgave Shackleton and told him so. Even though McNish built the boats that would return the crew home, Shackleton would deny McNish the medals awarded every other crewman because of his insubordination. A bronze statue of the cat was placed on McNish’s grave in 2004.
A veteran of the German battleship Bismarck, the HMS Cossack, and the HMS Ark Royal, a cat named Oscar survived three sinking ships during World War II. After his sea service ended, he served the governor of Gibraltar before moving to Northern Ireland after the war. He died in Belfast in 1955.
The ship’s cat on the HMS Amethyst, Simon was brought on board by a 17-year-old sailor in Hong Kong. The cat proved adept at catching rats (and leaving them as gifts for his fellow sailors). As Amethyst steamed up the Yangtze River to support British citizens during the Nanjing Incident, Simon was wounded when Chinese Communists opened up on the ship. Simon recovered and returned to duty, having earned the Dickin Medal for Animal Gallantry and the rating of “Able Seacat.” He died in 1949.
Another British cat who served in World War II, Faith was the church cat at the Church of St. Augustine and St. Faith’s in London’s Watling Street during the Blitz in WWII. In September 1940, the church was hit by the Luftwaffe and completely destroyed. Faith protected her kitten, Panda, in the church basement and was found by rescuers the next day. The story of the cat who saved her kitten in the basement became a well-known symbol for the “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude on Londoners during the Blitz.
With news that the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) is en route to the Korean peninsula with three other ships, there is no doubt that tensions are high. With two carriers, there is a lot of striking power, but it is also a target for the North Koreans.
This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.
Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.
North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.
That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.
But today’s carrier are much larger.
In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.
This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.
But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.
A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.
Myth: The way a soldier’s horse is portrayed in an equestrian statue indicates how the soldier died.
This myth, perpetuated by many a tourist guide the world over, simply isn’t true.
(Not unlike how tourist guides around the equator will often tell you that what hemisphere you’re in effects the way the water swirls down the toilet or drain. They’ll even sometimes take you a few hundred meters on one side of the equator and show you water swirling one way, then a few hundred meters from that on the other side of the equator and show it swirling the other. Magic! In fact, of course, what hemisphere you’re in has almost nothing to do with the way water swirls down toilets and drains.)
An example of a tourist guidebook that perpetuates the equestrian myth is the 1987 Hands on Chicago:
At Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue, the statue of [General] Sheridan beckons troops to battle. The horse General Sheridan rides is named Winchester…Winchester’s raised leg symbolizes his rider was wounded in battle (the legs of [General] Grant’s horse are on the ground, meaning he was not wounded).
This gives a pretty good account of the myth as it is generally stated, but leaving out the third commonly said option of the horse having both front legs in the air, implying the soldier died in battle. Another caveat is that if the rider died of complications from wounds received in battle, but at a later date from the battle, most versions of this myth have it that just one leg should be up as with the people who were wounded but didn’t die of complications from the wound.
According to the US Army Center of Military History, no such tradition has ever existed. This is not surprising considering that examples of multiple equestrian statues of the same person tend to be inconsistent in terms of the horse’s legs positioning. But let’s not take the US Army historian’s word for it, let’s look at some examples.
First, take a walk around Washington DC, which has the largest collection of equestrian statues of any city in the world. From this, you’ll quickly be disabused of the notion that the depiction of the horse’ legs has anything to do with the way the person died, with only about 30% of this city’s statues conforming to the above “rules”. (Given that there are 3 options here, that 30%-ish seems rather fitting.)
One of the oldest known equestrian statues in the United States is the 1853 statue of General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, Washington D.C., which was made in celebration of Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
In this statue, the horse has both forelegs in the air. Of course, Jackson did not die in battle, but of tuberculosis. The person who cast that sculpture, Clark Mills, was the first sculptor in the United States to cast a horse with a rider where the horse has some of its legs in the air (in this case both) — at this point it was more of a mark of the skill of the artist to have the horse with legs in the air rather than any sort of tradition relating to battle and death.
In cases where the same sculptor made multiple equestrian statues that could potentially apply to this “rule,” such as the case of world renowned Irish sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, we see that he, at-times, violated the supposed tradition and other times seemed to adhere to it.
One such statue he made of General William Techumsa Sherman has one of the front legs of the horse raised.
Indeed, General Sherman was wounded twice in battle, and even had 3 horses shot out from under him. He did not die in battle, but lived to the ripe old age of 71, and is thought to have died from pneumonia. So from that respect, this one fits. It should be noted, though, that this statue also has one of the horse’s rear legs lifted. The equestrian statue horse legs myth doesn’t seem to cover what that potentially would mean…maybe…just maybe…it means the horse is supposed to look like it’s running and has nothing to do with the rider’s death/wounds…
There is also a major equestrian statue of General Sherman at the General Sherman Memorial in Washington DC. This statue has the horse with all four legs on the ground. (This is a common theme where multiple equestrian statues exist. One would guess the differences have something to do with sculptors wanting theirs to look markedly different than the already existing statue(s).)
The only place where this equestrian statue “tradition” seems to hold with any sort of consistency is with a few statues of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. (This is thought to be how the myth got started in the first place.) Of the nearly 500 monuments at Gettysburg, there are 6 equestrian statues. Five of the six conform to the myth and the sixth loosely does, but the problem is the statue of General John Sedgwick, who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House- his equestrian statue has all four hooves are on the ground.
(Aside: General Sedgwick’s last words were: “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” He then took a bullet through his head fired from about 900-ish meters (1000 yards) away.)
Of course, it could be argued that this “tradition” was meant only to refer to what happened at the battle of Gettysburg, in which Sedgwick was not wounded nor did he die in. If that’s the case, then his is correct. However, if that’s the case then the statue of James Longstreet in that collection is not. He wasn’t wounded in Gettysburg, but his statue has the horse with one foot raised.
(He was wounded in the Battle of Glendale, so that would fit there, but not if we’re limiting the statue’s positioning based on the battle of Gettysburg to make the statue of General Sedgwick fit.)
Even then, it seems odd such a code would be created just for 6 statues of prominent people who fought in the battle of Gettysburg, and even more odd that if the code did exist that they would have broken it in one of the statues. Given there is no record of the sculptors having done this intentionally, and the discrepancy, it’s really not clear that this is what they were going for. It’s possible given the small sample size and that this is the only place we find this somewhat consistent correlation, it just randomly happened to work out that way with the way the sculptors decided to make the statues.
So this covers pretty thoroughly the statues in America. What about the equestrian statues across the pond? The Ancient Romans had numerous examples of equestrian statues, but unfortunately nearly all were destroyed or melted down for use in other things. One of the very few surviving equestrian statues from Rome was of Emperor Marcus Aurelius who died in 180 of an illness.
His horse in that statue has one foreleg up in the air. There is no record of Marcus Aurelius ever being wounded in battle and as a prominent Roman and eventual Emperor, it’s unlikely he saw much direct, close-up battle time (though was a part of many battles).
(Aside: funny enough, probably the only reason the statue of Marcus Aurelius survived when most all the others did not is that for a long time it was misidentified as a statue of Emperor Constantine the Great, who was a Christian Emperor. Why is this important to its preservation? Because many of the Roman statues were melted down to make things like church bells, coins, and sculptures for churches. Melting down a statue of Constantine would have been borderline blasphemy.)
There is a surviving equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine with the horse having both front legs up. Constantine did not die in battle, rather of natural causes.
Fast-forward to more recent times, in Medieval Europe and there really aren’t many equestrian statues, as they were (and are) very expensive to make and require a skilled sculptor. The few examples that exist don’t seem to correlate at all with any sort of horse leg tradition. For one brief, slightly more recent example, we have King Louis XIV who had an equestrian statue at Versailles with both forelegs on the horse in the air.
Louis XIV died of gangrene at the age of 77, not in battle.
Given that many a sculptor has worked on equestrian statues throughout history, if there is supposed to be some sort of code, even if not generally followed, there would be documentation of it somewhere — after all, they have to pass that code on. Not surprisingly, there is not.
It’s almost as if the sculptor just chooses the horse’s attitude to suit personal artistic preference…
Just a few more hours until LIBO. To help you keep your noses clean until then, here are 13 funny military memes:
(via Sh-t my LPO says)
(via Military Memes)
(via Air Force Nation)
(via The Salty Soldier)
(via The Salty Soldier)