The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

The Air Force has been holding out on us. Over 50 years ago they developed a functional robot that stood over 26 feet high, could carry 2,000 pound loads, and punched right through concrete walls.


So why, 50 years later, does warfare not look like this?

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
GIF: Youtube/GerritE82

Besides the obvious answer (the Air Force hates fun), it’s because the “Beetle” was designed for just a few missions, all of which were eliminated before it was completed.

The 85-ton robot was ordered by the Air Force to provide a maintenance capability for their nuclear-powered bombers. The Beetle would have been used to change out nuclear materials, payloads, and irradiated parts on the bombers in situations where a normal mechanic or ordnance worker would be irradiated.

The cab of the Beetle housed a single driver behind one-foot-thick walls of lead lined with 1/2-inch steel plates. The materials cut the radioactive exposure of the driver to a 3,000th of ambient levels.

The bomber program was canceled. But the Beetle was undergoing its final stages of construction, so the Air Force finished and tested it.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Historians agree the tests looked nothing like this. GIF: Youtube/Cellidor .

It did alright in testing, accomplishing all of its major goals despite throwing a track during a pivot test and suffering problems with the air conditioner/filtration system.

The test report also notes the high level of maintenance required to keep the robot working, something a 1962 Popular Mechanics article also highlighted. The system was prone to leaks and short circuits, among other issues.

After testing, the Air Force allowed the Beetle and one of its support vehicles to be transferred to the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to aid with a nuclear rocket program. But, that program was also canceled as scientists found better ways of creating chemical propellants for rockets and missiles.

So the Beetle found itself without a job and just disappeared. The Air Force has never said what happened to the giant robot. So while no one can prove they started a robot fighting league in the desert, no one can prove they didn’t.

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade and Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron land after a parachute jump as a part of Emerald Warrior.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Airman 1st Class Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/USAF

An MC-130J Commando II from the 9th Special Operations Squadron taxis for departure from the Red Horse Landing Zone in support of Emerald Warrior.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew/USAF

NAVY

An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 performs ground turns aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto/USN

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) tip their caps to the crew of the MilitarySealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) following a weapons onload.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/USN

ARMY

Paratroopers, assigned to U.S. Army Alaska‘s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, push toward an obstacle during a combined arms maneuver live fire exercise, part of Exercise Spartan Phoenix.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Staff Sgt. Daniel Love/US Army

A soldier, assigned to 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, loads a M240 machine gun during a gunnery exercise on Camp Konotop, Poland.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Sgt. Brandon Anderson/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Philippine Marines train with U.S. Marines attached to the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific during a fast-rope exercise.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Mains/USMC

A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise in the vicinity of SR-10 aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Sgt. Austin Long/USMC

COAST GUARD

A beautiful sunset view aboard USCGC STRATTON WMSL 752 to end a great weekend of Service to Nation.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: USCG

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City conducts training with the Great Lakes Maritime Academy to prepare for future ops.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: USCG

NOW: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

AND: The 14 best military non-fiction books of all-time

OR: Watch the top 10 American Civil War movies:

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QUIZ: Who said it, Tupac or Patton?

General Patton and Tupac are two very different historical figures. One is a legendary World War II hero, while the other is hip-hop royalty. Patton is immortalized in stories of military exploits and Tupac’s songs transcend time — he’s like the Elvis of the Hip-Hop genre.


Despite their differences, they both have a similar outlook on life. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Did the Hip-Hop martyr or the World War II general say these things?

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This is what the Army wants in a new, more powerful combat rifle

US Army weapon officials just opened a competition for a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle to arm infantry units with a weapon potent enough to penetrate enemy body armor.


“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” according to an August 4 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps.gov.

The service plans to initially award up to eight contracts, procuring seven types of weapons from each gun-maker for test and evaluation purposes. Once the review is concluded, the service “may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons,” the solicitation states.

“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” the solicitation states. “The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
The 5.56mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round. (U.S. Army photo from Todd Mozes)

The opening of the competition comes just over two months after Army’s Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the US military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

This past spring, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn released a directed requirement for a new 7.62mm rifle designed for combat units, prompting Army weapons officials to write a formal requirement.

The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in Army infantry squads is nothing new. Since 2009, the Army’s squad designated marksman rifle has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, 14 — a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.

The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
A soldier spotting a target, EBR in foreground. (U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

The EBR is heavy, just under 15 pounds unloaded, compared with the standard M14’s unloaded weight of 9 pounds.

The Army’s Interim Combat Service Rifle should have either 16-inch or 20-inch barrels, a collapsible buttstock, an extended forward rail, and weigh less than 12 pounds unloaded and without an optic, according to a May 31 Army request for information.

Multiple proposals may be submitted by the same organization; however, each proposal must consist of the weapons, proposal, and System Safety Assessment Report. All proposals are due by 3pm EST Wednesday Sept. 6, 2017, the solicitation states.

In addition to the weapons, gun-makers will also be evaluated on production capability and proposed price, according to the solicitation.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
M16 assault rifles. (DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

All weapons should include items such as a suppressor, cleaning, specialized tools, and enough magazines to support the basic load of 210 rounds.

The competition will consist of live-fire testing and evaluate the following:

  • Dispersion (300m – function, 600m – simulation)
  • Compatible with family of weapon sights – individual and laser
  • Weapon length (folder or collapsed)/ weight (empty/bare) / velocity (300m and 600m calculated)
  • Semi-automatic and fully automatic function testing (bursts and full auto)
  • Noise (at shooter’s ear) / flash suppression
  • Ambidextrous controls (in darkness or adverse conditions) / rail interface
  • 20-30 round magazine to support a 210 round combat load
  • Folding sights

“Areas to be evaluated could include, but not be limited to: Controllability and Recoil, Trigger, Ease/Speed of Magazine Changes, Sighting System Interface (e.g., ability to acquire and maintain sight picture), and Usability of Controls (e.g., safety),” the solicitation states.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caleb Strong

“Additionally, a small, limited user evaluation may be conducted with qualified soldiers,” it states.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army’s most rapid-deployable infantry units.

“We would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor,” Milley said.

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This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

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This why a soldier’s chow came in a can back in the day

C-rations, c-rats, Charlie-rations: Call them what you will, there isn’t a soldier from the Korean War- or Vietnam War-era who doesn’t remember the military’s answer to balanced nutrition.


Relished and reviled, C-rations fed millions of troops in the field. The iconic green cans were far from home cooking – but they did sustain a fighting man when he was far from home, or at least the mess hall, until 1981 when they were replaced by the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat).

“If you were in the field, hungry and you could heat them up, they were great – slightly better than shoe leather,” said Dick Thompson, vice-president of the Vietnam War Foundation Museum in Ruckersville, Va., and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.  “If you were in garrison where you had a choice, forget about it!”

Napoleon once said an army marches on its stomach. In other words, poorly fed troops fight poorly – food is a force multiplier.

The U.S. military is no different. From the Revolutionary War to the U.S. Civil War, military rations could be summed up by mentioning the Three Bs: Bread, Beans, and Beef. (However, salt pork made frequent appearances as a meat item as well.)

The items fit the dietary habits of the times, cooked up with relative ease under field conditions and (usually) satisfied the troops. But as time passed spoilage increased – some Civil War hardtack had more weevils than wheat flour in them when soldiers got their rations.

Canned foods improved the situation. They were heavy, but canned food stayed edible and palatable for long periods of time and in a pinch they could be consumed cold right out of the can.

During the 1930s, the U.S. War Department did its best to develop several kinds of compact, long-lasting rations that could feed men in combat.

One was the C-ration, first issued in 1939. It was three cans of different meat and vegetables (field manuals of the time described the contents as having “the taste and appearance of a hearty stew”) and three cans containing crackers, instant coffee, and sugar.

It wasn’t Mother’s home cooking, but it was filling. Each complete C-ration contained about 2,900 calories and sufficient vitamins to keep the troops healthy.

C-rations were just one of the letter-coded rations issued during World War II. Most soldiers and Marines from that time remember – and detest – the K-rations of the era, which had three separate meal units for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When it comes to palatability, C-rations won hands down. But that didn’t keep more than one soldier from cracking wise about the canned rations.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Dig in, Devil Dogs! Yum-meee . . .

A story goes that a World War II GI attended a USO show where one of the acts was a man who consumed unusual items. As the audience watched, the entertainer chewed glass, gobbled nails and even swallowed swords.

Unimpressed by the spectacle, the soldier turned to a friend sitting next him and asked, “But can he digest C-rations?”

C-rations remained the choice of soldiers in the field. By the Korean War, the Defense Department phased out K-rations and began work on updating the C-ration menu.

In 1958, the Defense Department created 12 different menus. Each menu contained one canned meat item; one canned fruit, bread or dessert item; one “B unit” that contained items such as crackers and chocolate; an accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, toilet paper, coffee, creamer, sugar, and salt; and a spoon.

Although the meat item could be eaten cold, even the military admitted the updated ration was tastier when heated.

The Pentagon designated the new rations “Meal, Combat, Individual.” Whatever – soldiers in the field still called them C-rations.

Troops considered some of the items downright toothsome. Canned fruit, canned fruit cocktail, canned baked goods like pound cake and cinnamon nut roll, and canned meat items like ham slices and turkey loaf were G.I. favorites.

But one menu item was universally loathed by soldiers: Ham and Lima Beans. It was considered so disgusting that it acquired an obscene nickname – “Ham and MoFo’s” is a polite rendering of its nom de guerre.

“It was an unnatural mix of ingredients,” said Vincent E. Falter, who enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private during the Korean War and retired as a major general after 35 years of service. “Why not red beans? Navy beans? Any beans other than Lima beans?”

Efforts to improve the taste included troops adding heavy doses of Tabasco sauce or serving the ration scalding hot. It didn’t work – most soldiers from the C-ration era declare Ham and Lima Beans the most detestable military ration ever created.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Soldier chows down during the Vietnam War. (Photo:atroop412cav.com)

Other C-ration menu items earned equally colorful names. G.I.s called Beans with Frankfurter Chunks in Tomato Sauce “beans and baby dicks.”  In addition, Chopped Ham and Eggs earned the nickname “H.E.s” (high explosives) because of the bloating and gas they caused.

Heating your food always was a challenge. Some literally fastened cans of rations to the engine block of vehicles in an effort to warm the ration – just remember to puncture the can for steam vents so it won’t explode.

If you didn’t have an engine manifold handy, there were “heat tabs” made of a solid-fuel called Trioxin to warm food.

If troops ran out of heat tabs, there was always C-4 – as in C-4, the explosive. When ignited, a small chunk of it burned like Sterno with a steady, hot flame sufficient to heat food and beverages.

Some soldiers will do anything for a hot meal.

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The 4 best surrender decisions in military history

There’s nothing great about having to surrender. At best, the loser gets to keep most of his men alive. At worst, well… he doesn’t and the outcome is a room full slaughtered defenders. Brave defenders, sure. But they’re still outnumbered and slaughtered.


The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

So sometimes, surrender is the best option – but no one brags about it, and it sure as hell won’t win any drinks at the bar. But at least your unit will still be at the bar later. Here’s a few people who also chose wisely.

1. The French Foreign Legion in Mexico.

In the 1860s, the United States was too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which basically was meant to keep European powers from messing around with the Americas. Naturally, as soon as the U.S. turned its sights on the Civil War, France invaded Mexico.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

During the fighting, the Foreign Legion was tasked with resupplying the French at the Battle of Puebla. Since only 65 of them weren’t struggling with dysentery and the Foreign Legion isn’t exactly known for not getting the job done, that’s the number of troops who rolled out to Puebla with the supplies. Along the way, they stopped at a place called Palo Verde – where they were immediately met by Mexican cavalry.

The Legion fought their way back to an inn in the city of Camarón, where they decided to make a stand. They didn’t know that the cavalry was just the beginning – the Mexicans had three battalions of infantry too, totaling 1,200 men and 800 cavalry. Even when the Mexican commander informed the French about how they were outnumbered 33-to-1, the French accepted the challenge.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

Over the next 11 hours, the legion killed or wounded 600 of the Mexican attackers. The Mexican commander returned under a flag of truce to find only two Legionnaires remaining. After the Mexican demanded their surrender, the half-dead Frenchmen still demanded terms: immediate safe passage home, their wounded, their fallen captain, their weapons and their regimental flag.

The Mexican accepted.

2. Hezbollah gives in to the KGB.

In 1985, four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in West Beirut – right in front of the Soviet embassy. They were held by one of the many extremist organizations in the decade-long Lebanese Civil War. The abductors called themselves “The Khaled Al-Walid Force” and were demanding the Soviet Union pressure its Syrian client to squeeze its factions to stop attacking Muslim-held positions in Tripoli. And they wanted the Soviets to evacuate their embassy in the city.

That was the plan, anyway.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
(Laughs in Communist)

When one of the abducted men was found dead in a field in Beirut, riddled with bullets, the KGB we have all come to know through ’80s movies and real goddamn life showed up. KGB station chief Col. Yuri Perfilev met with the Grand Ayatollah of Lebanon’s Shia muslims Muhammad Fadlallah and told him that “A great power cannot wait forever” and that waiting could lead to “serious action” and “unpredictable consequences.” The Russian then told him:

I’m talking about Tehran and Qom [Shiite holy city and the residence of Ayatollah Khomeini], which is not that far from Russia’s borders. Yes, Qom is very close to us and a mistake in the launch of a missile could always happen. A technical error, some kind of breakdown. They write about it all the time. And God or Allah forbid if this happens with a live, armed missile.

If that wasn’t enough, the KGB kidnapped a relative of a top Hezbollah leader, castrated the relative and sent his organs to Hezbollah – along with photos of his other relatives – and demanded the release of Soviet prisoners. The three hostages were released back at the embassy and no Soviet citizen was ever kidnapped in Lebanon again.

Good call.

3. Japan surrenders to the Atomic Bomb.

The end of WWII was pretty harsh to Japan. Its surrender to the Allies had to be unconditional, which must have been a huge bitter pill to swallow for a warrior culture like Japan’s.

Still, after the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union was forced to declare war on Imperial Japan in the weeks following the fall of the Third Reich. The Russians quickly moved into Manchuria as the Americans warned of “prompt and utter destruction” if they didn’t give up soon.

After mistranslating the Japanese for “no comment,” the Americans infamously rained nuclear death on Japan, first at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. The destruction itself wasn’t the biggest aspect of the choice to surrender – U.S. Army Air Forces General Curtis LeMay had been firebombing Japanese cities for much 0f 1945.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
And firebombed fitness regs for the rest of time.

Still, wonton destruction isn’t a good look for any culture and the horrifying reports and photos – not to mention radiation and fallout – in the days that followed sealed the deal. the Emperor took to the radio (through a recording) and announced Japan would submit to the Allied demands.

4. Anyone surrendering to the Mongols.

The great Khans had one rule: give in and be spared. Cause a Mongol casualty and your city will be laid to waste and everyone inside will be killed or worse.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
We’ll let you imagine all the things that could mean.

Even after many, many examples of the Mongols winning against great odds and destroying cities much greater than anything they’d build on their own, people still refused to submit to the Mongols. At Nishapur, an arrow killed Genghis Khan’s favorite son-in-law. In response, Khan killed every living thing in the city as he sacked it – an estimated 1.7 million people.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

The fun didn’t stop there. Legendary cities like Kiev, Samarkand, and Herat were all put to the Mongol sword. Whereas those who surrendered were let off comparatively easy – the Mongols may kill off the royal family and do some light looting, raping, and pillaging for a few days. A light sentence compared to the mass murder and destruction of Baghdad, where the center of learning was destroyed, its contents thrown into the Euphrates.

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Lost Purple Hearts returned to families of dead soldiers

The families of seven dead US servicemen gathered August 7 to receive lost Purple Heart medals their loved ones had earned in four wars.


An eighth veteran was present for the ceremony at the historic Federal Hall on Wall Street on August 7, which was National Purple Heart Day.

The group Purple Hearts Reunited, based in Georgia, Vermont, has made it its mission to track down misplaced medals. Founder Zachariah Fike said as many as five are found each week across the country.

Seven of those medals returned August 7 went to men who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The eighth was presented to Army Specialist Daniel Swift, a firefighter injured by a roadside bomb in 2004 in Iraq as a member of the National Guard. In his honor, the ceremony opened to the sound of the Fire Department of New York’s bagpipe band.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

Rebecca Crofts, 72, was 10 when her dad, WWII Staff Sgt. Bernard Eldon Snow, of Santa Barbara, California, misplaced his medal.

“‘Little Becky, have you seen my medal?'” Crofts, of Superior, Wisconsin, quoted him as saying. “I began hunting for it and never found it.”

Snow’s medal was eventually recovered in a California jewelry shop and returned to the Purple Heart Foundation.

A tearful Crofts was handed a folded American flag honoring her father.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
US Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA

The Purple Hearts were presented framed, next to each recipient’s military rank.

Besides Snow and Swift, the Purple Hearts went to: Army Pvt. Frank Lyman Dunnell Jr., of Buffalo; Staff Sgt. George Wesley Roles, of Edna, Kansas; 1st Lt. Brian Woolley Flavelle, of North Caldwell, New Jersey; Pvt. Dan Lawrence Feragen, of Carlyle, Montana; Pvt. 1st Class Jack Carl Kightlinger, of Franklin, Pennsylvania; and Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Thomas Calhoun, of Great Bridge, Virginia.

The first Purple Heart was created by George Washington when he commanded the army serving the colonies that became the United States. Washington was sworn in as the first US president at Federal Hall, then the nation’s capital building.

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This Civil War veteran served all the way through World War I

Just days after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Peter Conover Hains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At a time when officers and cadets were deserting the U.S. military in favor of serving their home states, especially those who seceded from the Union, this Philadelphia native stayed put — and the U.S. Army would get their investment back in spades.


After 26 of his 57 classmates left to join the Confederacy, Hains became an artillery officer, firing off the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run. There, he fought bravely, even though the Union Army lost terribly. After as many as 30 smaller combat engagements, he eventually found himself in the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States would never be the same.

During the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, the Union’s Chief Engineer fell ill and was unable to fulfill his duties. So, the responsibility shifted to then-lieutenant Hains. The engineering at Vicksburg would be crucial to the Union victory, so there could be no mistakes. The 12-mile ring of fortifications and entrenchments around the city kept the 33,000 Confederate defenders bottled up and isolated from the outside world. The surrender of Vicksburg, after a 40-days-long siege, along with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg sounded the death knell for the Confederacy.

Grant promoted Hains to captain for his work.

In the postwar years, he was appointed Engineer Secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Board and his constructions were so sound that many still stand to this day, undisturbed by rising sea levels or tropical storms. He also fixed the foul-smelling swamp that was Washington, D.C. by designing and constructing the Tidal Basin there, a sort of man-made reservoir that flushes out to the Washington Channel.

Still in the Army by the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he served as a brigadier general of volunteers, but no known record of deploying to fight exists. Before and after the Spanish-American War, Hains served on the Nicaragua Canal Commission and was responsible for successfully arguing that such a canal should be built in Panama.

He retired from the Army in 1904 — but the Army wasn’t done with him. World War I broke out for the United States and in September, 1917, Peter Conover Hains was recalled to active duty one last time. For a full year, he managed the structural defenses of Norfolk Harbor and was the district’s Chief Engineer. At age 76, he was the oldest officer in uniform.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Just be advised, every veteran who just got off IRR: They will find you.

His sons and their sons all continued Hains’ military tradition, attending West Point and serving on active duty. He, his sons, and his grandson are all interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

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How the Battle of the Bulge would have gone if GIs had the Javelin

Let’s face some harsh reality, folks. While we won World War II in the European Theater, infantry anti-tank weapons were not one of the big reasons why. The sad fact of the matter is that the M1 and M9 bazookas were…well…GlobalSecurity.org notes that they “could not penetrate the heavy front armor of the German tanks.”


Suppose, though, that the GIs had perhaps the most modern anti-tank missile in the world. One that could reach out and touch the German tanks at a much safer range for the anti-tank specialists. In other words, imagine they had the FGM-148 Javelin. How might the Battle of the Bulge changed?

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
U.S. Army soldiers with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division shoot the Javelin, an anti-tank weapon. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division)

Let’s look at the Javelin to understand how the battle would change. According to militaryfactory.com, the Javelin uses imaging infra-red guidance. By contrast, the bazooka rounds were unguided. This meant that the Javelin missiles have a much better chance of hitting their targets.

The Javelin also has longer range, a little over a mile and a half, compared to the bazooka’s two-tenths of a mile, allowing the anti-tank teams to move out of the way — or reload.

But how would World War II GIs have used the Javelin? While some infantry units might have these missiles, it is far more likely that they would have been used for blocking and delaying the armored thrusts. The best vehicle for that purpose would have been the classic Jeep.

According to militaryfactory.com, this vehicle could carry a driver and four troops. Or, a two-man Javelin team and, say, six to eight of the 33-pound missiles and a 14-pound launch unit. A section of two vehicles could easily be expected to take out a company of German tanks.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
Photo: Wikimedia

Their most likely use would be in ambushes, using hit and run tactics to weaken German units and to buy time for reinforcements of heavy units (like Patton’s Third Army) to prepare a devastating counter attack.

But its sheer effectiveness may even have ended that battle much sooner simply because the initial attacks would likely have been blunted — and the German tanks would have required infantry to move ahead to clear likely ambush sites, and that would have made it impossible to achieve the objective of capturing Antwerp.

That said, while tactically this alternate Battle of the Bulge would have been a quicker win for the Allies, strategically German resources might not have been depleted so badly. This would mean a longer war and potentially more casualties — and the first atomic bomb may have been dropped on a city in Germany, not Japan.

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This massive air offensive had an adorable name

As the Allies put their plans into action in 1944 preparing for the eventual D-Day landings, they knew that they needed to break German logistics in Normandy. As part of the process, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the 8th Air Force targeted the rail networks that crisscrossed France.


But while the landings would be known as Operation Overlord and the evacuation of the Dunkirk was called Operation Dynamo, the rail bombings were named Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
The generals had a lot of choices for operation names, and they choo- choo- choosed that one. (GIF: YouTube/Simpsons Channelx)

The operation wasn’t named after the “The Simpsons” episode. That would be ridiculous, reader who apparently doesn’t understand that World War II happened before “The Simpsons.”

No, it was named after a popular song of the day. Glenn Miller had recorded the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 and someone on the staff must have liked it. That would be similar to the missile strikes on Syria having been named after a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
B-17 formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, Aug. 17, 1943. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Despite the silly name, the operation was a huge success. The air forces wanted to limit German logistics while obscuring the site of the upcoming landings in Operation Overlord. So they dropped bombs all over occupied France but stipulated that two bombs be dropped at Pas de Calais for every one that hit in Normandy.

Adolph Hitler and his cronies were convinced the landings could come at Calais. The bombs ripped through German railways, marshaling yards, wireless radio stations, and other key infrastructure, softening up Normandy for the invasion.

All thanks to Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

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Russia built an armored vehicle like the American M113

The M113 armored personnel carrier is perhaps one of the best-known armored vehicles in the world. Fully-tracked, it has a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, a crew of two, and holds 11 troops.


This vehicle has been sold around the world – and has seen conflict since 1962. That’s 55 years of service, and with so many around the world (at least 80,000 were produced), it will be around for a long time and see a lot of future wars.

Russia, though, built its own version of the M113 dubbed the “MT-LB.” This vehicle was also tracked, had a crew of two, and could carry 11 people. However the MT-LB was never used for the purpose of carrying troops into combat – that was the job of the BMP and BTR armored fighting vehicles. As such, while the vehicle had a turret, the turret only had a PKM machine gun in it.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
A MT-LB Acquired by the United States on display. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

That gun is no slouch, but it’s only really good against troops in the open. Even jeeps and Humvees can last for a bit when a 7.62mmx54R round is being fired at them.

So, what was the MT-LB used for? Towing artillery, evacuating wounded troops, delivering supplies, and a host of the not-very-glamorous but critically-important missions on a battlefield, without which, the tanks and IFVs would be in a world of hurt.

The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s
U.S. Marine Infantrymen from the 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion, 1st Marine Division, are riding in two soviet bloc MT-LB Multi-Purpose Tracked vehicles. The Marines were acting as the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) during this exercise. (DOD photo)

Like the M113, the baseline chassis of the MT-LB was modified into other roles. The SA-13 Gopher vehicle is based on the MT-LB. So is the 2S1 122mm self-propelled howitzer.

The Russians even developed a version that could fire the AT-6 Spiral anti-tank missile, a laser-guided weapon that is usually used on attack helicopters.

While not produced in the numbers of the M113, the MT-LB has found its way into many battlefields often with countries once aligned with the Soviet Union. Like the M113, it will be a long time before the last MT-LB is retired.

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North Korean fires missile over Japan’s airspace

North Korea has launched what appears to be a missile headed towards the northern end of Japan at around 5:58 a.m. local time, according to Japanese government officials.


Japan’s NHK News reported that the missile passed over Japan and warned people in northern Japan to take necessary precautions.

Although three missiles were fired, according to Japanese officials, it was not entirely clear if all of them were headed towards the same trajectory. NHK also reported that a missile broke off into three pieces before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.

South Korean military officials have also confirmed reports of the missile launch and  said that it flew  for about  1677 miles.

During the tense moment, multiple prefectures in Japan were reportedly put on alert.

“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, shortly following the launch.

The latest act of provocation from North Korea comes amid a spate of questionable moves, despite regional leaders, including Russia, denouncing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for his county to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the North makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” NK News reported.

On September 1, 1998, North Korea fired a missile towards Japan’s airspace, offering no explanation for the incident.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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