It’s been a long time since the Cubs won the World Series. 108 years, in fact; the last time the Cubs won was in 1908, when they captured two World Series titles in a row.
Last night they made history and broke the Curse of the Billy Goat by clinching Game 7 of the World Series in extra (rainy) innings with a final score of 8-7.
A lot has happened in the world since 1908. The internet, Communism, Justin Bieber. But what about warfare?
Well, the military has changed quite a bit too, and some of the changes have completely revamped the way wars are fought today. Here are ten of the biggest military innovations and changes that occurred since the last time the Cubs won the World Series:
1. No more cavalry charges
Cavalry charges were still pretty common in the early 20th century, and in World War I all sides used horses to some extent. The Germans stopped utilizing armed cavalry on the battlefield shortly after the war’s outset, but the Ottoman Empire and the British used cavalry extensively in the Middle East theater.
During World War I, machine guns cut through horses in swaths, and the chemical weapons first used by the Germans killed many more. They were still used to drag equipment through the mud, however, and at one point German troops were told that the life of a horse has more tactical value than that of an infantryman.
Ultimately, though, machine guns and artillery rendered the horse-led cavalry charge obsolete. The horses were replaced by tanks, although these didn’t truly live up to expectations until World War II.
2. Planes flying around, shooting stuff, dropping bombs
Although the Wright Brothers first flew a heavier-than-air manned airplane in 1903, planes in warfare didn’t come about until around 1911. During World War I airplanes became very important for reconnaissance missions, and as they became more maneuverable, some planes were designed to shoot down the recon planes. This led to fighters, bombers, and the jets that we know today.
Modern warfare generally favors the side that controls the skies, and for that reason, high-tech planes with sophisticated radar and other technologies are closely guarded secrets by states concerned about their leakage. The United States’ protracted counterinsurgency wars, however, have proven that even though you control the skies, it doesn’t always mean you win.
3. U.S. Army Special Forces started operating operationally
The first true Special Forces Group, the 10th, was formed in 1952 under Col. Aaron Bank. They evolved from Office of Strategic Services troops that had served behind enemy lines during World War II. Concurrent with this was the founding of the Psychological Warfare School, later known as the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare. The original goal of the Army’s Special Forces was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air, deep into enemy-occupied territory and organize the resistance/guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations, with emphasis on guerrilla warfare.”
Special Forces have fought in every conflict since Korea and evolved into a number of different roles. They have grown in number and size and now consist of some of the most elite soldiers in the United States Army, trained in multiple missions, including direct action and foreign internal defense.
4. Chemical weapons: a sick burn
The Cubs might have gone 108 years without winning a world series, but the world has only gone 101 years since the first chlorine gas attack.
On April 22, 1915, a man named Fritz Haber oversaw the world’s first successful chemical weapons use. The German scientist had been attempting to convince a German commander to use the gas on Allied troops but had thus far met with scorn and derision. One commander, however, let him try it, and when the wind finally turned toward the Allied troops, he unleashed the gas.
That single attack killed more than 1,100 Allied troops. By the end of World War I, more than 50 different poisons had been used on the battlefield, and gas masks had become a tactical necessity.
Today, the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, although that didn’t stop Saddam Hussein from gassing thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, or Bashar al-Assad using gas on his own people.
5. Meals, Ready to Eat began constipating troops everywhere
The Department of Defense decided to re-vamp their combat rations in 1975, when they declared the MRE would be the new way of feeding troops in combat. The first delivery of MRE’s occurred in 1981, and they were first field tested by the 25th Infantry Division in 1983.
MRE’s were a huge step forward for field rations because they could be kept almost indefinitely, and they did not require a flame to heat the entrees. MRE’s nowadays are much tastier than the maggot-filled tack that soldiers of the Continental Army used to eat, and troops can pick and choose menu items. Plus, Jalapeno cheese. Enough said.
6. Aircraft carriers became a thing
With the advent and importance of aircraft in modern warfare, it was only natural that nations sought to project that flight power to different parts of the world. After all, what good was a runway for planes if it wasn’t near the combat zone?
To that end, armies and navies first tried launching balloons off of wooden ships, but when the propeller plane came around, they started putting aircraft on ships. The Japanese ship Wakamiya lowered seaplanes onto the water using its crane in 1914 during the battle of Tsingtao, making this the first use of an “aircraft carrier” in warfare.
During the 1920’s, truly dedicated carriers with launch pads were commissioned and became an integral part of shaping the way the world fights wars. Nowadays, the US Navy’s powerful carriers carry lethal jets and ground forces to places all over the world in order to project United States military power.
Tanks, along with airplanes and aircraft carriers, changed the way that wars are fought. Although the infantry was the major component of fighting in World War I, by World War II the way was being led by quick, lethal tanks that could maneuver and shoot accurately at the same time. The armor provided by the vehicle shielded its occupants from most small arms fire and allowed infantry to follow behind.
Modern land warfare owes its origins to the tank, which debuted at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to limited success. They simply could not operate in the artillery-churning mud of the front, and often became bogged down before even advancing.
During World War II, the Germans used their lightning-fast tanks in the Blitzkrieg doctrine in combination with airplanes and infantry. Later on, tanks became more and more technologically advanced, and in modern times a tank can make an enormous difference on the battlefield, although they are still vulnerable to ever-more-lethal anti-tank rockets and missiles.
8. Night vision let people see the night, visually
In the early days of World War II German scientists experimented with night vision devices with some limited success, even going so far as to equip their Panther tanks with night vision. But it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that the first practical, mass-produced night vision devices, the AN/PVS-1 and 2 starlight scopes, were introduced. Even though they were bulky and easily broken, these scopes gave U.S. troops an advantage on the battlefield. They used ambient light to amplify the picture around them, allowing troops to see enemies moving in the dark.
Today, the United States military has some of the best night vision around, giving it advantages in the wars that it fights worldwide. Each member of an infantry or special operations unit can have his or her own individual night vision device, which are now compact and project pictures in high definition. Some devices even incorporate thermal imaging along with amplified ambient light to produce a better picture. This gives US troops a massive advantage over enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, who have to use captured equipment and have little repair capability.
9. Widespread use of body armor
While the concept of protecting oneself from harm with armor has existed for millennia, the modern age of personally-issued body armor didn’t occur until around the time of the Korean War. Even then, the vests were issued mostly for protection from shrapnel, and were bulkier and heavier than modern vests.
It wasn’t until the 1971 discovery of Kevlar by scientist Stephanie Kwolek that body armor became ligher and able to stop real bullets, including most pistol rounds.
In 1975, American Body Armor introduced a vest that used 15 layers of Kevlar and a “shok plate,” which could protect against high-velocity rifle rounds. This set the standard for modern military body armor, which now often consists of so-called “soft” armor for pistol rounds and shrapnel, and hard ceramic plates for high-velocity bullets. Advances in technology have made it so that troops, particularly those in well-funded special operations units, can have the best of both worlds: lightweight protection for vital organs and ultimate maneuverability.
10. Missiles and precision-guided munitions
While airplanes changed the way wars were fought in the 20th century, the way airplanes were used was changed just as fundamentally with the advent of guided missiles. Although civilizations had been experimenting with rocketry for centuries, the V1 and V2 rockets of Germany in World War II were the first true guided missiles used in warfare. Following that, various countries began using missiles on their ships, jets and trucks, and creating massive, world-travelling Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. If it weren’t for our massive experimentation in missile technology, the world would not have known the war-shaping theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, or the standoff capabilities of a guided missile destroyer launching cruise missiles into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Modern missiles use Global Positioning Systems to find and destroy the enemy, and are becoming ubiquitous for the United States; today, more than 80 percent of bombs dropped by the United States military are precision-guided They are essential in preventing civilian casualties in a world where states fight terrorist groups rather than each other.
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