4 things you may not know about USS Constitution - We Are The Mighty
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4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

The sailing frigate USS Constitution (ex-IX 21) was re-floated on July 23 in an event overshadowed by the commissioning of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).


The ship has been around for 220 years. But here are a few things you may not have known about this ship.

1. Paul Revere provided some crucial materials for the ship’s construction

According to the Copper Development Association, Paul Revere, best known for his midnight ride prior to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, provided a number of copper bolts and a copper bell for USS Constitution.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

2. The Constitution had a hull number

In 1941, the Constitution was given the hull number IX 21, along with a number of other vessels. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the list included the prize USS Reina Mercedes (IX 25), the sloop USS Constellation (IX 20), the cruiser USS Olympia (IX 40), and the training carriers USS Wolverine (IX 64) and USS Sable (IX 81).

The hull number was rescinded in 1975 at the suggestion of the ship’s commanding officer, Tyrone G. Martin, who instituted a number of traditions that carry on to this day.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

3. She is the only survivor of her class

Of the first six frigates, the Constitution is the only survivor. Sister ship USS Constellation was thought to have been converted to a sloop and preserved in Baltimore, but later research determined the Navy had scrapped the original vessel. The frigates USS Chesapeake and USS President were captured by the British. USS United States was captured by the Confederates, but eventually scuttled and scrapped.

USS Congress was scrapped in 1834.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

4. She was the battlecruiser of her era

The Constitution and her sisters were designed to be able to outgun enemy frigates and to out-run enemy ships of the line. She had a mix of 24-pound cannons and 32-pound cannons, compared to the 18-pound cannons used on the British Leda-class frigates, built around the same time as Constitution and her sisters.

In fact, late in the war of 1812, British frigate captains were ordered to avoid combat with the Constitution and her sisters.


Articles

This artist flies with the Air Force to capture its modern history in paint

Rick Herter is one of the most prolific artists in the world of aviation art. His work hangs in private collections, museums and both corporate and military headquarters. So how did Herter get so good at painting aircraft? Part of it is his firsthand experience with them.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Pieces like “Heading Home Reflections” highlight Herter’s combined love of art, aviation, and history (Rick Herter)

Herter’s fascination with aircraft and history first came from illustrations of the Battle of Britain in Time Life Magazine. He loved the drawings of Spitfires and Messerschmitts dogfighting over the Tower of London.

Working on a southwest Michigan farm as a boy, Herter also regularly saw Cessnas and Piper Cubs flying the navigational route directly overhead. However, his love of flight was propelled furthest on his 13th birthday.

His mother, an amateur artist herself, took him to their local airport to fly in an airplane. With a former WWII B-24 pilot at the controls, Herter’s half-hour in the air solidified his love for all things aviation.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Herter calls “If Only I Could Fly” an autobiographical piece (Rick Herter)

Through the rest of his childhood, Herter hung out at the airport in his spare time. A family friend occasionally took him flying in a Cessna 182. “I tried to fly as often as I could from the age of 13 until I went away to college,” Herter recalled.

In 1984, Herter graduated from Spring Arbor University with a BA in art. He initially went into the advertising industry as an illustrator with a diverse portfolio. However, after meeting with the art director of an ad agency, Herter decided he needed to specialize in just one subject. Naturally, that subject was aviation.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Herter still paints other scenes like “Summer of 1944, The Daylight Arrives” (Rick Herter)

His foray into aviation art came in the form of an air show poster. Thirteen weeks before the show, Herter walked into the director’s office and said, “You guys need a souvenir poster and I’m the guy to do it for you.” With continued confidence, Herter donated the art and worked with a local print shop to donate the posters to the High on Kalamazoo Air Show. The poster went on to win a national award and Herter began receiving commissions the next year.

Herter worked commissions all across the country. Within two years, he was approached at an air show by an Army colonel who was a fan of his work. The colonel referred Herter to the Air Force Art Program at the Pentagon to which he submitted his portfolio and was accepted in 1987.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
“Into The Wind, The Enterprise on Yankee Station” (Rick Herter)

AFAP artists create and donate art free of charge to capture the service’s modern history. To best do this, artists like Herter generally travel Mil-air and stay on bases with service members during a mission. In fact, taxpayer dollars are only used to reimburse their travel per diem. The artists have furnished all the art supplies necessary to create the AFAP’s 10,000+ piece collection.

Using Herter’s work for recruiting purposes, the Air Force Recruiting Service nominated him for their highest form of recognition, the American Spirit Award, which he won. “It was quite an honor,” Herter humbly noted, “and it still is an honor.” Other notable recipients of the award include Bob Hope, Dolly Parton and Ted Turner.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
“Ground Zero, Eagles on Station” (Rick Herter)

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, Herter received a call from Russell “Rusty” Kirk, the director of the art program. The Secretary of the Air Force tasked Kirk with finding an artist to paint the first F-15s as they arrived over the World Trade Center on that infamous day. Kirk offered the job to Herter who gladly took on the challenge.

In January 2002, Herter travelled to Langley Air Force Base where he met with the Air National Guard Squadrons that responded over Manhattan on 9/11. In the back seat of an F-16, he flew with the 119th Fighter Wing and joined F-15s of the 102nd Fighter Wing in a Noble Eagle combat air patrol over New York.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
“First Pass, Defenders Over Washington” (Rick Herter)

“We flew down Manhattan and we started to make the turn at the south end, and you could look straight down past the Eagles and see Ground Zero,” Herter recalled. “As I came over the site, I could see the massive pile of debris…I was stunned.” From this mission came two of Herter’s most renowned paintings, “First Pass, Defenders Over Washington” and “Ground Zero, Eagles on Station.”

In addition to Noble Eagle, Herter flew with the first wave of Air Force transports that brought the 82nd Airborne Division into Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. He also flew on multiple combat missions in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
“Century of Flight” (background) covers 29,000 square feet and took Herter and another artist 16 months (Western Michigan University)

Outside of his military work, Herter has been commissioned by top aviation companies like Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Delta Airlines. He also holds a Guinness World Record. Herter painted the mural “Century of Flight” at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science museum in Kalamazoo. Measuring 32×900 feet, it is the largest indoor, hand-painted mural in the world. Still, Herter remains humble about his achievement in the record book.

“On the other side of the page is the guy who can stick the most marbles up his nose,” he joked. “I’m proud to just say it was a big piece of art.”

Herter has also flown with the other branches of the military to capture their aerial histories. Through his work, Herter hopes to be able to communicate the service and sacrifices of the armed forces to the rest of the country.

“I’ve met so many incredible troops…and for me, truly, as a civilian who has never had to deploy, it blows you away,” Herter said. “I wish more civilians had a chance to see those things.”

Herter’s work can be viewed on Facebook, Instagram, and his website.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Herter after a flight with the Tigers of the 79th Fighter Squadron (Rick Herter)

Feature Image: Composite of Herter after a flight with the 79th squadron and “Spirit Visitation” by Rick Herter

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Luftwaffe hero was shot down 32 times during World War II

Han-Ulrich Rudel was the kind of pilot that every soldier wants overhead. He was a close air support and dive bomber pilot who flew 3,500 combat missions and kept getting into the cockpit even after he was shot down 32 times and wounded five times.


Rudel began his career as a reconnaissance pilot in the Luftwaffe but entered dive bombing training as soon as he was allowed. After graduation in 1941, he was transferred to a Stuka dive bombing unit and flying in German blitzkrieg attacks. He would spend nearly all of his World War II career on Germany’s eastern front fighting the Soviets.

 

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
The Soviet battleship, the Marat, was sank by Hans-Ulrich Rudel with a bomb to the ammunition magazine. Photo: Public Domain

 

In Sep. 1941 he was sent against Soviet naval units and successfully sank the battleship Marat. In early 1943 he celebrated his 1,000 sortie. About a month later, in Apr. 1943, he took part in an attack against Soviet amphibious landing craft while flying a Ju-87. He sank 70 boats with the bird’s two 37mm cannons.

During the war, he pioneered a tactic where attack planes would hit the tanks from the rear. The primary benefit was that the planes could fire into the relatively thin armor over the tank’s engine, but it also meant that the planes were flying towards their own lines. That made it easier for pilots hit during an attack to make it back to friendly forces before bailing out.

 

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Hans-Ulrich Rudel, German flying ace. Photo: Public Domain

 

In a single day using this tactic, Rudel was able to destroy 12 Soviet tanks. In another heavy battle he set his own personal record of 17 tanks in a single day.

Rudel’s willingness to fly low and slow to take out Soviet targets left him exposed to ground fire though, and he was shot down 32 times by anti-aircraft batteries. He was also wounded both on the ground and in the air.

 

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
The Ju-87 Stuka was an ugly tank buster. Photo: Public Domain

 

His worst injury came while chasing a thirteenth tank kill in a fierce battle. After he fired off his final 37mm rounds, his right leg was shot off by anti-aircraft fire. Another pilot had to talk him through a crash landing and pull him out of the plane before he bled out.

Still, he got back in the cockpit after a short convalescence and kept flying on the front lines. Rudel’s return to the cockpit was against Hitler’s express orders. The Führer wanted to make sure his hero pilot survived the war, but Rudel wanted back into the fight.

Over his career, he destroyed 519 Soviet tanks, a battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, 70 landing craft, and 11 airplanes. And he was famous for regularly landing and rescuing downed air crews. For his efforts, Rudel was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, the second highest level of the Knight’s Cross. He was the only recipient of the award.

The only version of the award that was higher than Rudel’s was one specially made for Hermann Göring, and Göring basically got it for being head of the Luftwaffe, not for bravery.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Hans-Ulrich Rudel receives Germany’s top medal for bravery from Adolph Hitler. Photo: Public Domain

 

Of course, Rudel’s side thankfully lost the war and he was forced into an early retirement. His close-air support expertise was eventually pressed into the service of the U.S. American engineers consulted him about CAS while designing the A-10 Warthog, the beloved, tank-busting beast.

For anyone who is feeling pretty good about Rudel and maybe hoping he was a Rommel-type German, the career military men who turned on Hitler when it became clear he was a monster, sorry. Rudel really was a hateful racist. He spoke out regularly in support of the Third Reich and was a member of a one of the most abhorrent German political parties from 1953 to his death in 1982.

MIGHTY HISTORY

50 WWII ships sank during the battle for Guadalcanal

In August 1942, the Allies and Japanese would meet in the pivotal battle for Guadalcanal.


With the Americans precariously holding Henderson Field, the Japanese desperately sought to reinforce the island and to drive the Americans back into the sea.

To accomplish this, the Japanese would run warships with troops and supplies down “the Slot” (New Georgia Sound) at night to avoid the Cactus Air Force operating out of Henderson Field.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Map of the location of World War II shipwrecks in Ironbottom Sound in the Solomon Islands. Some wreck positions are not exactly known. (Photo by Wikipedia user Vvulto)

The quick, nocturnal nature of the trip led the Japanese to call it Rat Transportation. To the Americans, it was the Tokyo Express.

The New Georgia Sound ended at Savo Sound, just off Guadalcanal where the American fleet was stationed to protect the Marines on Guadalcanal.

After a number of brutal, pitched naval battles, this place would earn a new name: Ironbottom Sound.

The first night, after the landings on Guadalcanal, a small Japanese naval force of seven cruisers and a destroyer surprised a larger American force and decisively defeated them at the Battle of Savo Island.

The Allied contingent, eight cruisers and fifteen destroyers, paid dearly. The Americans lost three heavy cruisers while the Australians were forced to scuttle another.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
USS New Orleans, after surviving Guadalcanal, lost her bow in a battle in December 1942. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The USS Chicago left its bow on the bottom as well.

The American and Japanese navies would meet again in October 1942, in what became known as the Battle of Cape Esperance. This time the Americans had a surprise of their own for the Japanese thanks to a bad radio call between American commanders.

Despite the confusion, Rear Adm. Norman Scott deftly commanded his ships in a ferocious night time engagement.

The American ships hit the unsuspecting Japanese with everything they had. In a quick, violent action at close range the American ships sent a Japanese cruiser and destroyer to the bottom, heavily damaged another cruiser, and killed the Japanese commander.

The engagement cost the Americans one of their destroyers with damage to two other ships.

Undeterred, the Tokyo Express continued down the Slot and into the carnage of Ironbottom Sound.

A month after the action at Cape Esperance, the Japanese and Americans would square off once again. Often called the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the incident was actually two separate battles on back-to-back nights.

The first night of the battle, November 13, 1942, saw an inferior American force intercept a larger Japanese force intent on shelling Henderson Field.

Leading the American force was Rear Adm. Daniel Callaghan. His second-in-command was Rear Adm. Scott who, a month earlier, had turned back the Japanese at the Battle of Cape Esperance.

In the confusion of the night, the two forces nearly ran right into each other. When Callaghan realized he was surrounded by the enemy, he gave a simple order to his column: “Odd ships fire to starboard, even ships fire to port!”

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Real Admiral Norman Scott. (U.S. Navy)

Despite being outgunned and mismatched, the American ships unleashed a maelstrom of fire on the Japanese.

The situation quickly deteriorated and turned into the naval equivalent of knife-fight in an alleyway at night. Ships fired on one another with virtually flat trajectories. The battleship Hiei blew two American destroyers out of the water before being incapacitated herself.

After 40 minutes of intense fighting, the two sides broke contact. The engagement had cost the Japanese one battleship and one destroyer, along with damage to nearly every other ship. The Americans had once again paid dearly.

Two cruisers and four destroyers joined their sisters at the bottom of the sound. Both Admirals Callaghan and Scott had also been killed. Both were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, along with three other sailors in the battle.

Most importantly though, the Americans had saved Henderson Field.

Also read: The reason Japanese battle ships dwarfed American ships during WWII

The Japanese weren’t done though and on the night of Nov. 14 once again sent a force to attack Henderson Field. They sent a battleship, four cruisers, and nine destroyers and this time were accompanied by troop transports intent on landing men and materiel on the island to retake the airfield.

Running low on serviceable ships, Adm. Halsey dispatched two battleships and four destroyers from his carrier’s escort. Most of the ships had never operated together as a unit. Their saving grace was their commander, Rear Adm. Willis Lee, an adept seaman and master of radar.

As the Americans intercepted the Japanese, the four destroyers were badly mauled. The battleship South Dakota was quickly pounced on as well and endured a terrific shelling. However, Lee, aboard the battleship Washington, had managed to maneuver around the Japanese undetected.

At near point-blank range, he opened fire with his ships’ 16-inch guns. In one of the few battleship-on-battleship fights of the Pacific, the Washington achieved a quick, decisive victory and sent the Kirishima to a watery grave.

Though the Japanese landed their transports, they were quickly destroyed by American aircraft sinking desperately needed supplies.

With the situation on Guadalcanal becoming dire, on Nov. 30 the Japanese made plans to reinvigorate the Tokyo Express in a last ditch effort to hold onto the island.

Alerted to the plan by intelligence, a superior American force moved in to intercept. American destroyers spotted the Japanese first and, after a command order delay, fired a spread of torpedoes that all missed their mark — the Battle of Tassafaronga was on.

The Japanese destroyers were prepared for American interference and, according to plan, unleashed a torrent of torpedoes of their own at the American ships.

As the American cruisers pounded one of the destroyers, the torpedoes found their marks.

The cruiser Minneapolis had her bow collapsed in front of the number one turret. New Orleans took a torpedo strike in her forward magazine and lost a full 125 feet of hull, including the forward turret, but remained afloat.

The cruisers Pensacola and Northampton also took torpedo hits, sending Northampton down.

Though the Americans had paid a high price, their efforts began to convince the Japanese to abandon Guadalcanal.

By the time the fight for Guadalcanal was over, Ironbottom Sound had become the final resting place to some 50 ships and thousands of sailors from both sides.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘pirate’ was the unsung hero of British carrier operations during the Cold War

Believe it or not, during the Cold War the British had a number of real carriers, not just the V/STOL carriers that have served for years.


These vessels were primarily a mix of two post-World War II classes: The Audacious-class fleet carriers (HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal), one World War II-era fleet carrier (HMS Victorious), and the Centaur-class light carriers.

One of the planes that the fleet carriers relied on most was the Blackburn Buccaneer. According to MilitaryFactory.com, this strike plane was fast (a top speed of 667 miles per hour), was equipped with an in-flight refueling probe, and could fly up to 1,108 miles on internal fuel. It could carry up to 7,000 pounds of bombs, and upgrades gave it the ability to use laser-guided Paveway bombs and stand-off missiles.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
A Royal Navy Buccaneer S.2, two Royal Navy Phantom FG.1, from HMS Ark Royal, over Jacksonville, Florida in 1976, accompanied by three US Navy A-7E Corsair IIs. (US Navy photo)

The Buccaneer also was equipped with the Martel air-to-surface missile which came in two variants — the AS 37 for attacking enemy radars, and the AJ 168 anti-ship version. Either version had a range of just over 32 nautical miles and came with a 330-pound warhead. The Buccaneer later was able to carry the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, which had a range of just under 60 nautical miles.

The Buccaneer flew off the Royal Navy’s fleet carriers until 1978, when the Ark Royal was retired. They were then handed over to the Royal Air Force, where a dozen saw action during Operation Desert Storm, providing laser guidance for RAF Tornados and Jaguars. The RAF retired its Buccaneers in 1991 at the end of Desert Storm.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
A Blackburn Buccaneer on HMS Eagle in the Mediterranean Sea. (Wikimedia Commons)

The only export customer was the Republic of South Africa, which acquired 16 Buccaneers. These planes saw action from 1965 to 1991 in the minor wars that country had with its neighbors.

The Buccaneer is now gone, but it served well when it was in the British fleet.

You can see a video about this fascinating plane below.


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

These war games nearly triggered a nuclear holocaust

The great fear of nuclear weapons bombarding schools, churches, and homes in the 1980s was not one-sided. While American schoolchildren were scurrying under desks in “duck-and-cover” drills, Soviet citizens were bombarded by government reminders on the radio and television that an American attack could come at any time.


During this period of mutual terror, NATO held regular war games. One annual event was Able Archer, a command post exercise in Western Europe that tested the ability of NATO to respond to a nuclear attack. In 1983, a particularly realistic iteration of the event nearly triggered an actual nuclear war.

In Able Archer 83 and related exercises held in the same time period, NATO had upped the ante by including more units and by airlifting 19,000 troops to Europe to participate. They ordered that planes “readied” for a strike in the exercise be actually taxied out of the hangars with dummy warheads attached.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
U.S. armored vehicles move through Western Germany during exercises in 1983.

 

And, most alarming for the Russians, the exercise called for a simulated release of nuclear weapons. The Warsaw Pact had long predicted that the Americans would make the first move in a nuclear exchange and that they would do so by camouflaging the action as a war game.

To them, Able Archer 83 seemed like the perfect cover for an actual attack, and they readied their forces to respond or possibly attack preemptively.

They increased their reconnaissance flights, targeting areas that would show troop buildups or nuclear preparations. Nuclear warheads were placed on bombers, ballistic missile crews were placed on high-alert, and Soviet submarines were sent into the Arctic to ensure the Soviets could retaliate or, if they saw any signs of a strike, they could fire first.

Modern intelligence reviews of the exercise, the Soviet response, and information gleaned from spies indicates that the Soviets truly thought that Able Archer 83 was an attack.

A British spy in the KGB, Col. Oleg Gordievsky, said that about a week into the exercise, the KGB sent out a cable alerting KGB officers that the American military had just elevated their alert level and that the countdown to war may have already started.

Gordievsky alerted London to the risk the West was running in the exercise and London lobbied America to take steps to prevent a disaster.

 

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Photo: White House photographer Mary Anne Fackelman

Luckily, nothing in Able Archer 83 pushed Soviet fears over the edge and Russia never launched a preemptive strike. Reagan, who later met Gordievsky in the Oval Office after the spy defected to England, wrote that he thought someone should tell the Soviets directly that America had no intention of launching a first strike.

Otherwise, he feared the Soviets were so “defense-minded, so paranoid about being attacked” that they might launch a nuclear strike just to avoid suffering one.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How bureaucratic nonsense made the M16 less effective

When the Department of Defense first started buying AR-15s, they were clean, fast-firing, and accurate weapons popular with the airmen and Special Forces soldiers who carried them. But as the Army prepared to purchase them en masse, a hatred of the weapon by bureaucrats and red tape resulted in weapon changes that made the M16s less effective for thousands of troops in Vietnam.


4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

During a lull in the fighting in the Citadel, a Marine takes time out to clean his M16 rifle.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

(A note on measurements in this article: Most of the historical data in this article came from when the Army still used inches when discussing weapon calibers. The most common measurements are .22-caliber, roughly equal to 5.56mm ammo used in M4s today and .30-caliber, which is basically 7.62mm, like that used by some U.S. sniper rifles. There is also a reference to a proposed .27-caliber, which would have been 6.86mm).

The AR-15 was a derivative of the AR-10, an infantry rifle designed by Eugene Stoner for an Army competition. The AR-10 lost to what would become the M14. But a top Army officer was interested in smaller caliber weapons, like the AR-10, and he met with Stoner.

Gen. Willard G. Wyman was commanding the Continental Army Command when he brought an old Army report to Stoner. The report from the 1928 Caliber Board had recommended that the Army switch from heavy rifle rounds, like the popular .30-cal, to something like .27-caliber. The pre-World War II Army even experimented with .276-caliber rifles, but troops carried Browning Automatic Rifles and M1 Garands into battle in 1941, both chambered for .30-caliber.

These heavier rounds are great for marksmen and long-distance engagements because they stay stable in flight for long distances, but they have a lethality problem. Rounds that are .30-caliber and larger remain stable through flight, but they often also remain stable when hitting water, which was often used as a stand-in during testing for human flesh.

If a round stays stable through human flesh, it has a decent chance of passing through the target. This gives the target a wound similar to being stabbed with a rapier. But if the round tumbles when it hits human flesh, it will impart its energy into the surrounding flesh, making a stab-like wound in addition to bursting cells and tissue for many inches (or even feet) in all directions.

That’s where the extreme internal bleeding and tissue damage from some gunshot wounds comes from. Wyman wanted Stoner to make a new version of the AR-10 that would use .22-caliber ammunition and maximize these effects. Ammunition of this size would also weigh less, allowing troops to carry more.

Stoner and his team got to work and developed the AR-15, redesigning the weapon around a commercially available .22-caliber round filled with a propellant known as IMR 4475 produced by Du Pont and used by Remington. The resulting early AR-15s were tested by the Army and reviewed by Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. The weapons did great in testing, and both services purchased limited quantities for troops headed to Vietnam.

But, importantly, the bulk of the Army bureaucracy still opposed the weapon, including nearly all of the groups in charge of buying ammunition and rifles. They still loved the M14s developed by the Army itself.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

Pvt. 1st Class Michael J. Mendoza (Piedmont, CA.) fires is M16 rifle into a suspected Viet Cong occupied area.

(U.S. Army Spec. 5 Robert C. Lafoon)

Approximately 104,000 rifles were shipped to Vietnam for use with the Air Force, airborne, and Special Forces units starting in 1963. They were so popular that infantrymen arriving in 1965 with other weapons began sending money home to get AR-15s for themselves. The Secretary of the Army forced the Army to take another look at it for worldwide deployment.

As the Army reviewed the weapon for general use once again, they demanded that the rifle be “militarized,” creating the M16. And the resulting rifle was held to performance metrics deliberately designed to benefit the M14 over the M16/AR-15.

These performance metrics demanded, among other things, that the rifle maintain the same level of high performance in all environments it may be used in, from Vietnam to the Arctic to the Sahara Desert; that it stay below certain chamber pressures; and that it maintain a consistent muzzle velocity of 3,250 fps.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

A soldier with an M-14 watches as supplies are airdropped into Vietnam.

(Department of Defense)

It was these last two requirements that made Stoner’s original design suddenly problematic. The weapon, as designed, achieved 3,150 fps. To hit 3,250 fps required an increase in the amount of propellant, but increasing the propellant made the weapon exceed its allowed chamber pressures. Exceeding the pressure created serious, including mechanical failure.

But Remington had told civilian customers that the IMR 4475-equipped ammo did fire at 3,250 fps as is. The Army tests proved that was a lie.

There was a way around the problem: Changing the propellant. IMR 4475 burned extremely quickly. While all rifles require an explosion to propel the round out of the chamber, not all powders create that explosion at the same rate. Other propellants burned less quickly, allowing them to release enough energy for 3,250 fps over a longer time, staying below the required pressure limits and preventing mechanical failure.

The other change, seemingly never considered by the M14 lovers, was simply lowering the required muzzle velocity. After all, troops in Vietnam loved their 3,150-fps-capable AR-15s.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

A first lieutenant stands with his M-16 in Vietnam.

(U.S. Army)

Instead, the Army stuck to the 3,250 fps requirement, and Remington and Du Pont pulled IMR 4475 from production. The Army turned to two slower-burning powders to make the weapon work, but that created a new issue. The powders created a lot more problems.

The new powders increased the cyclic rate of the weapon from 750 rounds per minute to about 1,000 while also increasing the span of time during each cycle where powder was burning. So, unlike with IMR 4475, the weapon’s gas port would open while the powder was still burning, allowing dirty, still-burning powder to enter the weapon’s gas tube.

This change, combined with an increase in the number of barrel twists from 12 to 14 and the addition of mechanical bolt closure devices, angered the Air Force. But the Army was in charge of the program by that point, and all new M16s would be manufactured to Army specifications and would use ball powder ammunition.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

Pvt. 1st Class John Henson cleans his XM16E1 rifle while on an operation 30 miles west of Kontum, Vietnam.

(U.S. Army)

Rifle jams and failures skyrocketed, tripling in some tests. And rumors that M16s didn’t need to be cleaned, based on AR-15s firing cleaner propellants, created a catastrophe for infantrymen whose rifles jammed under fire, sometimes resulting in their deaths.

Many of these problems have been mitigated in the decades since, with new powders and internal components that reduced fouling and restored the balance between chamber pressure, muzzle velocity, and ballistics. Most importantly, troops were trained on how to properly maintain the rifle and were given the tools necessary to do so.

Articles

This British D-Day vessel was the only battleship to torpedo another battleship

The British battleship HMS Rodney stands out just by looking at her photo.


She and her sister ship, HMS Nelson, had a unique design — their entire main battery forward of their superstructure.

The Rodney took part in the bombardment of the Normandy beaches during the initial stages of Operation Overlord, capping off a wartime career that also included taking on the German battleship Bismarck.

It was during the final battle with the Bismarck that HMS Rodney would achieve a unique distinction among battleships — as the only one to torpedo another battleship. How did this come about? In fact, torpedoes seem like an odd thing to put on a battleship, especially as MilitaryFactory.com notes that the Nelson-class battleships had nine 16-inch guns.

But HMS Rodney was equipped with two 24.5-inch torpedo tubes with a number of reloads.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Torpedo room in HMS Rodney. (Imperial War Museum photo)

These torpedoes could pack quite a punch. According to NavWeaps.com, they carried 743 pounds of TNT and could travel at a top speed of 35 knots and a maximum range of 20,000 yards. In other words, it could ruin just about any warship’s day.

That can be very useful for a ship in combat.

Why? Because sometimes, battleships fought at close quarters. For instance, the Battle of Tsushima Strait was fought at very close range, according to WeaponsandWarfare.com. In that case, a torpedo would have a good chance of scoring a hit.

Even if the torpedoes were fired at a longer range, an opponent would have to dodge them, and that might allow for a tactical advantage because even though battleships are tough, their captains don’t want to take a torpedo hit if they can help it.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution The Nelson-class batt;eships in front of HMS Revenge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

On May 27, 1941, when the Brits caught up to the Bismarck the Rodney closed in, firing numerous broadsides at the Bismarck. According to a report by an American observer, at one point, the commander of the Home Fleet, Sir John Tovey, ordered the Rodney to fire her torpedoes if possible. About 2.5 hours later, one of the Rodney’s torpedoes scored a hit on the German battleship.

Ultimately, the Bismarck would be sunk by torpedoes from the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire. The Rodney would go on to serve in the Royal Navy until she was scrapped in 1949. But she always holds the distinction of being the only battleship to torpedo another battleship.

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This pilot defected with the Soviet Union’s most advanced plane

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 


Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.

Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.

The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.

 

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Viktor Belenko

 

But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.

Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.

Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

Articles

These vets opened a coffee cafe — and found community

If you’ve ever worked a job that you hate, you know how unfulfilling it can be spending hour after hour trying to stop day-dreaming scenarios in which your life hadn’t led you to this point.


A couple of years ago, Ben Owen and Brolen Jourdan found themselves in just this situation. Both veterans with history in the food service and hospitality industries, the office job life just wasn’t providing the stimulation or reward they were used to. Together, they decided to do something about it, and in July 2016, they opened the doors to their cafe, Liberation Coffee Co. in Coppell, Texas.

“We liberated ourselves from lives we were unhappy with and followed our dreams to open a shop,” says Owen, who in addition to needing a career change, saw a need within his community as well. “I live in the area and was always on the hunt for a craft shop that was convenient. It was a tough ticket to fill, so we built one.”

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

Our shop is pretty straightforward, with no frills, doing our best to do a few things well.

Like many veterans, Owen’s experiences in the armed forces — he served both in the Army and the Air Force — have informed much of his worldview, including his philosophies on running a business.

“I think that my years in the service come through in our model quite a bit,” he says. “Our shop is pretty straightforward, with no frills, doing our best to do a few things well.”

The craft coffee industry can feel a little over-the-top, Owen says, sometimes sacrificing form for fashion. While latte art and trendy aprons can do plenty to garner the attention of consumers, they can act as a deterrent to people seeking a plain cup of coffee. He hopes he can bridge the disconnect he perceives between craft coffee and vets.

“I can’t speak for all vets, but I think there is definitely a disconnect between the veteran community and craft coffee shops,” Owen says. “We’re used to function over form, so a lot of folks don’t know what they’re missing. Using my veteran status, I hope to alleviate that disconnect and bring other vets some quality coffee they might not otherwise seek out. We offer a military discount, and I’m always up for talking shop with my fellow servicemen and women.”

This philosophy of function over form is evident upon entering the space. Absent are the forests-worth of wood, exposed brick walls, and upcycled furniture composing the aesthetics of many DFW specialty cafes. In their place are comfy armchairs, tasteful light fixtures and Ed Sheeran on the sound-system.

Despite these “second-wave” aesthetics, the underlying care for the craft of coffee is apparent from the Kalita Wave pour-over drippers on the shelves to the coffee taster’s flavor wheel poster displayed prominently on the wall.

Also read: A brief history of coffee in the US military

Liberation’s coffee is courtesy of Eiland Coffee Roaster’s, which, as one of DFW’s oldest specialty roasting companies, has been producing traditionally roasted coffees in Richardson since 1998. A variety of blends and single-origin offerings are available as both drip and pour-over, and while the espresso is dialed in, the milk could use some work.

In addition to coffee, a variety of pastries like a rosemary-provolone scone ($3.50) and blueberry bread ($2.59) are available from Zenzero Kitchen Bakery, as well as macarons in flavors like espresso, strawberry and honey (all $2) from Joe the Baker.

The food and coffee menus cover all the necessary bases for coffee-house expectations without complicating things too much, making decisions quick and easy. Drinks come out quickly as well, so if you’re in need of a commuter-cup in the morning, don’t let the absence of a drive-thru fool you into thinking you don’t have time to pop in and out.

Establishing a specialty coffee presence in an area like Coppell can be challenging, but Liberation Coffee’s lack of pretension, cozy and casual environment and friendly staff all bode well for their success in the area.

“We want to make coffee accessible,” Owen says. “The community here is very locally focused, so for us, it’s important to do right by these folks. We try to offer the very best we can to continue to support that local mentality.”

The brand has plans for a small expansion within Coppell, in addition to simply growing their business in their current space. They may have forgotten about Zenzero when writing their Facebook bio claiming the title of “first specialty shop in Coppell,” but it’s great to see the coffee community growing in the area all the same.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Japanese American soldier set the standard for Special Forces Engineers

Ernest “Ernie” K. Tabata was born on Oahu, Hawaii in 1930. The son of Japanese immigrants, he began his military career at the age of 15 with the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. In 1949, he enlisted in the Army and completed combat engineer school at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Pfc. Tabata in Korea in 1951 (U.S. Army)

In June 1950, Tabata was among the first American soldiers sent to the Korean War. During the war, he served with the 14th Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. Afterwards, he returned to Hawaii and was honorably discharged in 1952. However, his Army career didn’t end there.

In 1955, Tabata re-enlisted in the Army. He spent the next six years as a paratrooper in the 11th and 82nd Airborne Divisions. In 1961, he applied for Special Forces and made the cut. Following Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, Tabata was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and deployed to Southeast Asia.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Sfc. Tabata instructs Laotian soldiers on the 60mm mortar during Operation White Star (U.S. Army)

As the Vietnam War heated up, Tabata volunteered for the clandestine mobile training team codenamed Operation White Star. Under the command of Green Beret legend Arthur “Bull” Simmons, Tabata and other Green Berets secretly trained the Royal Lao Army. In 1964, he was reassigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)and deployed to Vietnam where he trained the Montagnards. The next year, he was reassigned again to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa. There, he served as a team sergeant on a HALO Team.

While assigned to 5th SFG, Tabata and his detachment were sent to Korea. They trained the elite Korean White Horse Division and prepared them for their own deployment to Vietnam. In November 1965, Tabata was deployed to Vietnam himself. For his third combat tour, Tabata joined the elite Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, better known as MACV-SOG.

After completing his tour with MACV-SOG, Tabata returned to the states in August 1970. He served with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and 12th Engineer Battalion. Following his promotion to Sgt. Major, Tabata served as the senior enlisted advisor to the assistant division commander, 8th Infantry Division, in Mainz, Germany. In 1978, he returned to Special Forces with 7th SFG(A). He retired from active duty in 1981 after 31 years of service.

In November 1984, Tabata returned to Special Forces as a civilian instructor. Working for the Special Forces Training Group, he instructed Special Forces engineers during the specialized training. He also provided demolitions instruction to Special Forces Warrant Officers. During his time as a civilian instructor, he participated in static-line jumps to maintain his jump qualification as an instructor.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
Tabata prepares for a static-line proficiency jump with SF Engineer students (U.S. Army)

In 2014, Tabata retired from the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as an instructor. He tallied up a total of 59 years of honorable federal service. He passed away the next year. To recognize Tabata’s lifetime of service, the Special Forces Engineer Training Facility was named for him in 2018. “There is not a Combat Engineer who has not benefited from Ernie’s vast knowledge and skills,” said Donald Bennett, Jr., President of Special Forces Association Chapter 4-24. He remains one of the most well-known figures in the Special Forces community for his dedication, professionalism, and commitment to excellence.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
(U.S. Army)
MIGHTY HISTORY

What Chinese veterans of Korea think about their war

The Korean War is strange anomaly in the history of American wars, especially of the 20th Century. So much consideration is reserved for wars and the people who fought them in today’s culture that it makes the term “the forgotten war” seem like an impossibility. But that’s what we face with Korean War veterans.

Theirs is a very insular generation of veterans. Those who don’t share an experience in World War II or Vietnam because they only fought in Korea, they can only find an ever-dwindling number of fellow Korean War veterans.


Because of this, they have a very detailed memory and analysis of not just their part in the war, but of the entire war itself, so conversations tend to be lively between them. And, if you have a question, you will find a thoughtful answer. They’ve discussed every aspect of the war quite a bit.

Related: ‘Anyone trying to kill me, I’m going to kill them’

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

Some Korean War veterans, like the “Chosin Few” seen here, form alumni groups of single battles.

So it makes sense that whenever I talk to Korean War veterans, there’s one thing they all say they want to do: talk to veterans who were fighting on the other side of the fiercest battles. Whenever old adversaries get together, the talk generally comes to heal the emotional wounds of both parties, whether it’s between Americans and Germans, Japanese, or Vietnamese counterparts.

“They were fighting under the same orders I had,” Marine Corps veteran Joe Owen said when he told me about North Korean troops just days before his death in 2015. Owen was a lieutenant at the Chosin Reservoir. “They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them… I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”

But Korean War veterans will likely never get this experience.

North Korea is called the Hermit Kingdom for a reason. It is extremely difficult to get in as an outsider, especially as a U.S. military veteran. North Korea did not fare well during the Korean War. Despite its early success, the North was pretty much ravaged and bombed away for three years and today’s North Koreans remember the war very differently than the rest of the world. An American Korean War veteran visiting the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang would either have to be extremely diplomatic or agree to a vow of silence as he walked through.

Chinese veterans of the war are a different matter. China is a much more open, and relatively progressive country. The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army sent upwards of a million Chinese to North Korea during the war, with many of the surviving veterans still alive, like Zhang Yuzeng. Zhang told Voice of America News that even though the two were allies, North Koreans generally acted independently and the two forces couldn’t understand each other.

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution
“There were few [North Koreans],” he said. “[They were] badly equipped and were not as good at fighting…”The North Korean army would go first and we followed; we stopped where they stopped.”

To the Chinese fighters, they were protecting their country from American Imperialism, a protection they firmly believed was necessary. CNN interviewed a Chinese veteran of Korea at his retirement home in Henan Province. He proudly wears his Chinese Army dress uniform. He told CNN it was necessary to help the Korean people during the war.

“The people of Korea were suffering,” Duan said.”Seeing the people of Korea farming the land and being killed by enemy planes … what were they to do if they could not farm? The planes would just come and bomb them to death. We had to help protect the people of Korea.”

4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

A United States Marine stands guard over captured North Koreans just after the Inchon Landing.

Now Read: 8 parting thoughts from one of the Marine Corps’ ‘Chosin Few’

Zhang Kuiyuan joined the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army at age 18 and was sent to Korea. He drove a supply truck to the front lines and also mentioned the lack of cooperation. They were not even to speak to or form relationships with the locals.

“We didn’t have many contacts with the North Koreans unless we were cooperating in the same hills,” he said. Duan Keke remarked that North Korean people today probably have no idea what sacrifices were made by the Chinese fighting man on their behalf, since they were not allowed to communicate on a personal level. He laments that the Koreans only know what their government wants them to know.

What the Chinese and American Korean War veterans have in common is that their war, decades old, remains “forgotten” – especially by the youth of their respective countries.

“Young people? Of course they don’t know,” says You Jie Xiang, a former infantry soldier who was assigned to guard American POWs. “These wars took place decades ago. All the young people have no idea.”

Like Joe Owen, the salty former lieutenant who commanded Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, these Chinese veterans harbor no ill will toward their former adversaries. They call Americans a “peaceful people” who “did not want a war in Korea.”

“War is death,” the old Chinese vets agree, nodding to each other.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Federal teams up With Steven Rinella for release of new MeatEater ammunition

If you love hunting, then you know all about Steven Rinella. Host of the popular series “MeatEater,” his hunting skills are only rivaled by his impeccable storytelling abilities. For 2020, Federal decided to team up with Rinella to create an exclusive new line of ammunition, featuring its Trophy Copper rifle ammunition, 3rd Degree turkey loads, and the all-new Federal Premium Bismuth shotshells.


The new Trophy Copper ammunition will be available in at least two calibers, 6.5 Creedmoor and 280 Ackley Improved, with more calibers potentially being added later.

Here are a few features of the new Trophy Copper ammunition:

  • Gold Medal primer
  • Nickel-plated for easy extraction and corrosion protection
  • Specially formulated propellant with copper-reducing additives
  • Grooved bullet shank decreases fouling and improves accuracy
  • Copper-alloy construction for up to 99 percent weight retention
  • Tipped, skived bullet cavity ensures consistent expansion
  • High-performance polymer tip and boat-tail design for a flat trajectory and match-grade accuracy
4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

www.recoilweb.com

For waterfowl and upland bird hunters, the Federal Premium Bismuth shells have some great features to offer. Available in 12-gauge and 20-gauge, here are the specs:

  • Lead-free Catalyst primer
  • Safe and effective for use in all shotguns
  • Payload of high-quality Bismuth shot meets non-toxic requirements
  • Flitecontrol Flex wad for dense, consistent patterns
  • Pellets are almost as dense as lead, 9.6 g/cc, for lethality at longer ranges than steel payloads
4 things you may not know about USS Constitution

www.recoilweb.com

If you’re looking to get after the gobblers, Federal has released their MeatEater 3rd Degree TSS turkey loads in both 12- and 20-gauge.

  • 40 percent No. 7 Heavyweight Tungsten Super Shot; Groups tightly at the pattern’s center for long-range lethality
  • 40 percent No. 5 Premium lead; Creates a dense, deadly pattern at midrange
  • 20 percent No. 6 Flitestopper lead; Spreads quickly to create a forgiving close-range pattern
  • The Flitecontrol Flex wad works through both ported and standard turkey chokes

For more information on these and other products from Federal, visit federalpremium.com.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

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