The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat - We Are The Mighty
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The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat


During one of the final and most important sieges of the Civil War, a combination of racism towards black troops, concern for appearances, and sheer blinding incompetence and cowardice led to the bloody disaster that was the Battle of the Crater.

The Confederate Army was engaged in a last ditch defense of Petersburg, Va., the logistics and rail hub that supplied the forces defending their capital at Richmond, against the Union Army under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Once Petersburg fell, the war was as good as over.

The siege had turned into trench warfare that presaged World War I. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mastery of field fortifications and defense in depth had made offensive operations by the Union against entrenched Confederate troops a terribly bloody endeavor. The siege was at a stalemate, and new tactics were called for.

The Union 48th Pennsylvania Regiment was largely drawn from coal country, and its commander, Col. Henry Pleasants, was convinced they could dig a long mine under the rebel lines and use blasting powder blow to a large hole in their fortifications. A four-division assault force would then seize the heights overlooking Petersburg, greatly shortening the siege. His corps commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, endorsed the plan.

The operation was conducted with a strange mix of brute force labor and a strategic lassitude from higher command, and suffered from a chronic lack of logistical support. Most of the Union leadership, from Grant on down, was skeptical of the plan, and saw it as a way to keep the soldiers busy at best.

The 4th United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Gen. Edward Ferraro was specially trained to lead the assault, specifically to flank the crater on both sides. But Gen. George Meade, commander of the Union Army at the battle of Gettysburg, thought little of the plan and the abilities of the black troops to carry it out.

He also voiced concerns to Grant that if the attack failed, it would look as if black soldiers had been thrown away as cannon fodder. Grant agreed, Burnside inexplicably had his division commanders draw lots, and Brigadier Gen. James Ledlie drew the short straw.

It was bad enough that the last minute change brought in badly unprepared troops for a tricky attack, but Ledlie had the distinction of being one of the most drunken cowards in the Union officer corps. This was to have terrible consequences.

Union troops operating north of Petersburg had drawn off most of the Southern troops, leaving the line weakened, and the time was ideal for the assault. After months of labor and the emplacement of more than four tons of blasting powder under the Confederate fortifications, the attack began with triggering the explosives at 4:45 a.m. on June 30, 1864.

The resulting blast was the largest man-made explosion in history up to that point. A massive mushroom cloud, which sent men, horses, artillery, and huge amounts of earth flying into the air, left a crater 130-feet long, 75-feet wide, and 35-feet deep. The explosion killed a full third of the the South Carolina unit defending the strongpoint, over 200 men, in an instant. The concussive force of the explosion left the rest of the brigade stunned for at least 15 minutes.

Despite the spectacular success of the mine blast, the assault started to go wrong from the beginning. Ledlie was drunk and hiding in a bunker in the rear, and his leaderless division ran into the crater instead of around it, milling about uncertainly.Other units pouring into the attack only added to the chaos.

The recovered Confederate troops laid a kill zone around the crater, keeping the Union troops pinned down, and fired everything from rifles to mortar shells into the packed troops stuck in the blast zone. The 4th USCT, despite being relegated to the second wave, penetrated farther than anyone, but suffered severely in the process.

After holding out for hours, a final counterattack by a Confederate brigade of Virginians routed the still numerically superior Union forces, which suffered appalling casualties, and many were taken prisoner.

There are many Southern eyewitness accounts of black prisoners being summarily shot down by Confederate troops, and the particularly severe casualty rates suffered by the black units seem to bear this out. Even some Union soldiers were reportedly involved in the killings, driven by fear of the Confederate warnings of reprisals for fighting alongside black soldiers. The shouting of “No Quarter!” and “Remember Fort Pillow!” by the black troops during their charge was also later cited as a justification for the executions by the Confederacy.

Burnside and Ledie were both relieved of duty after the disaster, though Burnside was later cleared by Congress since it was Meade who decided to replace the USCT at the last moment. Burnside never held a significant command again.

The supreme irony of the battle was that despite the efforts to spare the lives of black troops from politically inconvenient slaughter, the utter failure of the lead wave to force the breach lead to terrible casualties for the black units they had replaced. Gen. Grant later said “it was the saddest affair I witnessed during the war.”

The siege would drag on for another eight months, and Petersburg’s fall led to the prompt surrender of Richmond, precipitating Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Crater remains a prime example of a brilliant plan spoiled by incompetent execution.

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The Navy’s baddest pilot in World War II isn’t who you think

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
(Official U.S. Navy photo)


David McCampbell might be the Navy’s “Ace of Aces,” but there is one pilot who might not have McCampbell’s kill total, but who arguably performed a more notable feat. That pilot was Stanley “Swede” Vejtasa.

Vejtasa didn’t start out flying fighters. Early in 1942, he flew the SBD Dauntless and saw action during the Battle of the Coral Sea. On May 7, 1942, he took part in the attack on the light carrier Shoho, helping put that ship on the bottom. He received the Navy Cross for his part in that attack. The next day, while trying to protect USS Yorktown (CV 5) and Lexington (CV 2) from a Japanese attack, his SBD got jumped by seven Mitsubishi A6M Zeros. Vejtasa emerged from that engagement with three kills, two using the SBD’s two forward M2 .50-caliber machine guns. The third came when Vejtasa rammed the Zero, slicing off a wing. That earned a second Navy Cross.

Fast forward to October 1942. Vejtasa was now flying the F4F Wildcat, having been transferred from the SBD after his exploits at the Coral Sea. During the strikes the Japanese launched, he shot down two Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers and five Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo planes. It was a performance that arguably kept USS Enterprise (CV 6) from joining USS Hornet (CV 8) as hulks. Vejtasa got his third Navy Cross for his performance.

Vejtasa achieved all this in two days in the SBD and F4F. The former wasn’t even intended to fight the Zero, but Swede took down three. The F4F, while a good plane, was nowhere near the F6F Hellcat that McCampbell flew. The F6F had the benefits of insights gained from the Akutan Zero (an intelligence coup for the United States).

Vejtasa would share credit for a Kawanishi H6K “Mavis” flying boat during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal with three other pilots. It would be his last aerial victory, making his score 10.25 kills. Vejtasa’s kills are all the more impressive when you consider that in 1942, Japan still had many of the outstanding pilots who had flown the raid on Pearl Harbor.

Vejtasa would be sent back to the United States after the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was asked to test-fly the Vought F4U Corsair and angered Vought by handing them a list of changes that the “Ensign Eliminator” needed. After that, Vejtasa was sent to train the many pilots who were needed to fly the planes off of the carriers that would form Task Force 58 and Task Force 38. After the war, Vejtasa would spend most of his career as a test pilot, and even got some stick time on the F-4 Phantom before he retired.

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These American military bases are right out of ‘Game of Thrones’

The HBO series “Game of Thrones” (or GoT for short) is based in the mythical world of Westeros and Essos, continents of the Known World. Westeros is where most of the storylines in the show take place. The continent of Westeros is broken down into Seven Kingdoms made up of nine regions: The North, The Iron Islands, The Riverlands, The Vale of Arryn, The Westerlands, The Reach, The Stormlands, The Crownlands (King’s Landing), and Dorne.


The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
The Known World… in Game of Thrones, anyway.

Essos is located east of Westeros and separated by the Narrow Sea. Each location has its own unique geography and culture.

Many U.S. military bases, located both domestically and overseas, have similarities to the fantasy world of GoT. Here is a list of military bases that could parallel them: 

Fort Drum, NY (Castle Black and The North)

 

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
A 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) Soldier uses snowshoes to charge up a hill during a portion of the Mountain Winter Challenge competition, held Jan. 28-30, 2014, at Fort Drum, N.Y. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Pena)

Just like The North in GoT, the winters at Fort Drum are cold and harsh. Along with the large amounts of snow each year, Fort Drum, home of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, is located near the Canadian border.

For those familiar with the show, Castle Black, located on the Wall, is the headquarters of the Night’s Watch, a military order charged to guard the Wall that separates Westeros from creatures who are Beyond the Wall such as the White Walkers. Although we hope our Canadian neighbors don’t turn into mythological undead ice creatures anytime soon, one thing is for sure with the North and Fort Drum: “Winter is coming.”

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan (The Vale of Arryn)   

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
A C-17 Globemaster III takes off into the mountains Oct. 23, 2014, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Since 2006, the annual airfield traffic count has increased from 143,705 to 333,610 as the support for Operation Enduring Freedom nears its end. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez)

The Vale of Arryn is home to the Mountains of the Moon, a large mountain range with some of the tallest peaks in all of Westeros. Bagram Air Base is located surrounded by impressive snow-capped mountains ranging as high as 25,000 feet.

In GoT, the Mountains of the Moon are also home to mountain clans who reject and resist the House Arryn (the governing body in Vale). Sounds familiar. 

Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska (The Riverlands)  

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)

The Riverlands is a fertile region known as the Kingdom of the rivers and the hills. It’s located in the center of the continent.

Offutt Air Force Base, home to the 55th Wing, is sandwiched between the Missouri and Platte Rivers in the rolling hills of southeastern Nebraska. The base is smack dab in the middle of the Continental U.S. Both regions may be prone to flooding.

The Pentagon (King’s Landing)

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

King’s Landing is the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and the site of the Iron Throne, where the King sits. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Department of Defense, and it probably has some very impressive office chairs. Both places wield great power and can at times be ruthless. Just seems logical.

Fort Knox, KY (The Westerlands)  

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

Westerlands is rich in gold with mountain ranges and home to the port of Lannisport. Although Fort Knox does not have the exact geographic characteristics of The Westerlands, Knox does have plenty of gold being the home of the Knox US Bullion Depository used to store the U.S. gold reserves.

West Point (Old Town)

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

Old Town located in a region called the Reach is the oldest city in the Seven Kingdoms. West Point is the oldest active military installation founded in 1802, and home to the U.S. Military Academy, the nation’s oldest military service academy.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (The Iron Islands)

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

The Iron Islands is a group of seven rocky islands off the Western coast of Westeros. Despite being the smallest region in the Seven Kingdoms, the people of the islands enjoy great mobility due to their ships and superb naval skills.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is located in Hawaii and is the only U.S. state comprised of islands just like The Iron Islands. The base is a strategic location for operations in the Pacific theater and serves as shore side support to surface ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy Fleet. 

National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA (Dorne)  

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
New York Army National Guard Soldiers prepare to enter a mock village Oct. 9, 2011, during training at the National Training Center. (U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg)

Dorne is a vast desert land isolated from the rest of Westeros. The NTC, located in the Mojave Desert, is much like Dorne because it is very far from large populated areas.

Military personnel who rotate through NTC feel they are in the middle of nowhere, much like the people of Dorne they feel isolated from the Seven Kingdoms.

Camp Pendleton, California (Vaes Dothrak)

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
U.S. Marines dangle from a UH-1Y Huey helicopter at Camp Margarita on Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 11, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Grant T. Walker

Located in the Essos continent, Vaes Dothrak is a warm land ruled by a fierce tribe of warriors called the Dothraki. Camp Pendleton, located near San Diego, is home to the famed I Marine Expeditionary Force. Both forces need to rely on a great fleet to cross large bodies of water.

Join the discussion at WATM’s Facebook page to add any ones we left off this list.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

 

 

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Watch this Green Beret-turned-aid-worker brave enemy fire to save an Iraqi girl

A dramatic rescue of a little girl trapped by ISIS gunfire was captured Friday on video.


David Eubank, a former Special Forces soldier-turned-aid worker, was filmed as he ran out in the open amid ISIS sniper fire to rescue the girl as two other men covered him with rifle fire.

“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,” Eubank told the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Times, Eubank’s dramatic rescue played out on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS snipers were firing at civilians that were attempting to flee. Wearing only a t-shirt, bulletproof vest, and helmet, Eubank is seen running out into the street approximately 150 yards where he picks up the girl and brings her back safely behind a tank.

Eubank, 56, served for a decade with the US Army Special Forces. After leaving the military, he founded an aid group called the Free Burma Rangers, which seeks to bring “hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan,” according to its website.

Watch the dramatic video:

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5 fairy tales as told by your platoon sergeant

Platoon sergeants aren’t just managers and leaders, they’re also mentors — proxy parents even.


But they’re (in)famously gruff about it. After all, they didn’t father any of these kids, and they didn’t pick them either. And their primary job isn’t to turn them into beautiful snowflakes but honed weapons.

So, below are 5 classic fairy tales as recited by cigar-chomping and dip-spewing platoon sergeants:

1. Red Riding Hood Learns to Secure Her Logistics Chain

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Photo: Public Domain

So, this little girl was getting ready for a trip to her grandma’s house. Red Riding Hood started by doing a map recon and checking with the intel bubbas to see what was going on along her route. After she heard about the increase in wolf-related activity in the area, she requested additional assets like a drone for overwatch and more ammunition for the mass-casualty producing weapons systems.

When a wolf attempted to hit her basket carriers and then fled, she had her drone operator follow the wolf to the cave. Red and her squad conducted a dynamic entry into the cave and eliminated the threat. Now, they conduct regular presence patrols to deter future wolves from operating in their area of operations.

2. Goldilocks and the Three Tangos

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Photo: Israeli Defense Forces

Goldilocks was moving tactically through the forest when she spotted a large wooden structure with a single point of ingress/egress. Since she wasn’t an idiot, she didn’t just burst inside to try out the beds. Instead, she practiced tactical patience and established an observation post.

After tracking patterns of life for a few days, she was certain that the structure housed three bears of various sizes. In her head, she rehearsed the battle dozens of times before engaging. When the dust settled from the firefight, she found herself in possession of a defendable combat outpost deep in the woods.

3. Hansel and Gretel Learn About SERE

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Photo: Public Domain. Cartoon bubbles by WATM Logan Nye

When two privates were led by their evil stepmother to play deep in the woods, they brought a compass and map. The stepmother then attempted to abandon them in the forest. Since they knew their stride counts and checked their azimuth often, the kids were able to quickly move back to their home.

Near the house, the kids prepared a number of traps normally used to hunt game for food. These traps were positioned on areas the stepmother was known to frequent and the kids waited. When she trapped herself in a snare near the river, the kids bundled her up and sent her to a black site hidden under a candy cottage. The HUMINT guys got valuable information about witch operations and everyone else lived happily ever after.

4. Jack Gives the Army Instant Cover and Concealment

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
GIF: YouTube/loverhole

Jack was a pretty forgettable little science nerd in his high school but he went on to join DARPA and invented some techno-wizardry-magical device that allowed soldiers to plant a single bean and create a towering observation post from which to cover the surrounding battlefield.

So soldiers began tossing these things all over the place to create forests overnight. Then, they’d slip into one of the beanstalks to get eyes on roads and other important battlefield objectives. The height of the stalks ensured them a clear line of sight for miles and since they could be grown overnight, troops could plant their own cover and concealment ahead of major operations.

5. The Three Little Pigs Use Concentrated Combat Power

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Photo: Public Domain

Three little pigs were preparing for an imminent invasion by a big, bad wolf when one proposed that each pig should fall back to their own home, the senior pig got pissed. “What are you, some kind of dumb boot!?” he asked. “We should concentrate our forces in the most defensible territory we have.”

That pig led his brothers to his house made of brick where they took shelter behind the thick walls. When the wolf arrived, the oldest pig engaged him from a second-floor window while his brothers maneuvered behind the enemy. Then, the pigs established fire superiority and cut the wolf down.

If you have your own platoon sergeant fairytale, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #PltSgtFairyTales.

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Here are 6 weapons the U.S. military should bring out of retirement

A combat trooper’s most important piece of gear is his weapon. And fortunately for the U.S. military, American arms makers have been for years at the cutting edge of weaponology, merging technology with practicality, durability, and accuracy to field some of the best arms in the world.


We all know that the choice of what to ultimately put in the hands of America’s warfighters is a tradeoff between a lot of different factors — and there are strong opinions on either side of the debate. Just strike up a conversation with a bar table full of gun nuts over .45 ACP versus 9mm and let the fur fly.

But those of us “people of the gun” still harken back to some of the iconic weapons in U.S. military history and like to think about how things might be different if the U.S. were to bring some of them out of mothballs and hand them back to the troops fighting America’s wars.

So here’s our list of six weapons (largely) consigned to history that we’d consider bringing back to the armory:

1. The M1 Carbine

You might not know it, but more M1 Carbines were produced during World War II than M1 Garands — about 500,000 more — and it became the standard issue long gun for paratroopers and support troops like mortarmen and artillerymen.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
More M1 Carbines were produced during World War II and M1 Garand rifles. And the .30 caliber firearm was so successful, it found a home with U.S. troops and their allies into the Vietnam war. (photo Wikimedia Commons)

Beloved for its short, 36-inch length and 6-pound weight, the M1 fired a fairly accurate .30 caliber rimless round that zinged at about 2,000 feet per second at the muzzle — that’s getting close to the speed of a standard mil spec 5.56 round. The M1 feeds from either a 15- or 30-round magazine, making it a killer in close quarters. So why not ditch the .300 Blackout and go retro?

And FYI, one of the M1’s original builders, Inland Manufacturing, has restarted the line and is selling these things like hotcakes.

2. The Browning Automatic Rifle

Really, all you need to say about the BAR is “thirty-ought-six.”

End of discussion.

Designed by John Browning in 1917 for the trenches of Europe, the BAR sits in a nether world of not quite a machine gun, not quite a rifle. Fed from a 20-round magazine, the BAR’s .30-06 round packs nearly 3,000 feet-per-second at the muzzle and can reach out well over 1,000 yards.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
The BAR was popular during World War II and saw action for several decades after. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sure it weighs a whopping 16 pounds, and never mind that a BAR gunner in World War II was estimated by some to have an average lifespan of about 30 minutes. But with the popularity of the Mk-17 SCAR and it’s .308 round these days — not to mention the Marine Corps outfitting some of its designated marksmen with SR-25 .308 ARs — maybe the BAR should be given another chance.

3. Stoner 63/M63

Sure, the Stoner 63 was a maintenance headache, but its ground-breaking modular technology paved the way for predecessors like the Sig Sauer MCX and the early concept of the FN SCAR family of special operations rifles.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Chambered in 5.56 and designed primarily by Eugene Stoner, the father of the M16, the M63 was manufactured in a range of variants, including a light machine gun version with a 20-inch barrel fed from an open bolt to an assault rifle variant that fired from a closed bolt. Either fed from a standard 30-round magazine or a belt-fed drum, the Stoner 63 weighed anywhere from about 8 pounds to 12 pounds.

Manufactured in limited quantities in the 1960s, the Stoner 63 became a favorite of SEAL teams operating in Vietnam, before it was removed from the inventory in the 1970s in favor of the M249 SAW.

4. M79 Grenade Launcher

The M79 grenade launcher was America’s first attempt to meld the range of a mortar with the portability of a rifle grenade. The innovative “high-low propulsion system” kept recoil low while also reducing weight.

The single-shot, break-action M79 fired a 40mm grenade with a variety of warheads, including a specially-designed one for close-in combat (the regular 40mm grenade needed at least 30 meters to arm) and was used extensively in Vietnam. It was used and modified by special operations forces — including the SEALs and Special Forces — since its development in the 1960s and was eventually replaced by the M203 and later M320.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
The M79 was beloved by troops since Vietnam and still has a following in today’s military. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

But the M79 still had fans in more recent conflicts, with some arguing it had better range (about 400 meters) than the newer, Heckler Koch-built M320. It was even featured in the arsenal of bin Laden raid SEAL Mark Owen, which he dubbed the “pirate gun.”

5. 1911 Pistol

Ahhh, the M1911.

Literally one of the most revered guns in U.S. military history, the M1911 is one of the most comfortable and powerful semi-automatic handguns ever developed. It’s a favorite among competitive shooters (particularly more modern double-stack versions) and is still fielded in limited quantities to Marine Corps special operations troops — though that could change with greater adoption of the Glock 19 throughout SOCOM.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Marine Cpl. Alex Daigle fires at his target with an M45 1911 A1 pistol during a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anna Albrecht/Released)

With his powerful .45 ACP round and a magazine-fed, seven-round capacity, the M1911 served as the standard American military sidearm for about 75 years. The M1911 was ditched in the 1980s in favor of the lighter, higher-capacity 9mm Beretta M9, but with the Pentagon looking to replace that pistol, many are wondering whether the 1911 should make a comeback.

6. Thompson Submachine Gun

Originally dubbed the “Annihilator” by its inventor, the Thompson is believed to be the first firearm to be formally designated a “submachine gun.” Operating a straight- or delayed-blowback action like a pistol, the Thompson fired the .45 ACP round like the M1911 and could be loaded with a 30-round “stick” magazine or a 100-round drum. Though it was developed as a trench sweeper for World War I, the Thompson saw most of its action in World War II.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
The Thompson submachine gun is one of the most recognizable firearms in American history and played a key role in World War II. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In all, about 1.5 million Thompsons were reportedly manufactured during World War II, but the gun suffered from a hefty 11-pound weight and is notoriously difficult to control in rapid fire. The Thompson was all but scrubbed from the U.S. inventory in the 1970s in favor of newer submachine gun designs firing 9mm ammunition like the HK MP5.

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These 4 aircraft were the ancestors of the powerful SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 Blackbird is the arguably the most popular and easily recognizable airframe ever used by the U.S. Air Force. It maintains the speed record it set back in 1976 (even with a broken engine). The Blackbird’s missile evasion technique is legendary; it simply flew faster than the whatever was chasing it.


Not one SR-71 was ever shot down.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

It could take a full photo of the entire country of North Korea in seven minutes and fly across the entire United States, lengthwise, in just over an hour.

Not bad, but that capability didn’t happen overnight. The Air Force actually developed more than one supersonic plane for its reconnaissance and strike missions.

1. XB-70 Valkyrie

Only 2 of North American Aviation’s B-70 bombers were ever built, and the program only lasted for the five years between 1964 and 1969. The Valkyrie was a six-engine bomber, capable of flying Mach 3, designed to outrun enemy interceptor aircraft with speed and altitude. At the time, interception was the only defense against bombers.

Surface-to-air missiles changed the game.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
The XB-70 is shown climbing out during take-off. Most flights were scheduled during the morning hours to take advantage of the cooler ambient air temperatures for improved propulsion efficiencies. The wing tips are extended straight out to provide a maximum lifting wing surface. The XB-70A, capable of flying three times the speed of sound, was the world’s largest experimental aircraft in the 1960s. (NASA photo, 1965)

The XB-70 was still fast enough to fool radar, but its limited range and expense made the B-52 a more economically efficient choice for production. Though short-lived, the Valkyrie did blaze a trail for the structural dynamics that would be so crucial to the SR-71.

The last XB-70 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

2. Lockheed A-12 “Archangel” or “Oxcart”

Not to be confused with the later naval stealth fighter proposal dubbed the A-12 Avenger II, the A-12 Archangel was a recon aircraft developed by Lockheed for the CIA between 1962 and 1967. The defense giant’s “Skunk Works,” the nickname given to its Advanced Development Programs department, developed the A-12 for the CIA’s Oxcart Operation.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
An A-12 in flight. This aircraft was lost over the South China Sea on June 6, 1968.

Oxcart was the agency’s effort to replace the U-2 spy plane after it became increasingly susceptible to Soviet SAMs. They were wildly successful – the planes boasted a host of new technologies designed just for the program. They were built with titanium to handle hypersonic speeds (strangely obtained from the Soviet Union).

Though designed to fly over Cuba and the USSR, the Lockheed A-12 never executed that mission. It flew over North Vietnam and North Korea during the Pueblo Crisis.

The North Vietnamese were able to track the A-12 via radar, and routinely launched missiles at it. It never took a direct hit from a SAM but did get debris from an exploding missile lodged in its fuselage.

Since the A-12 was never going to fly over the Soviet Union and the use of satellite photography was on the rise, the program was scrapped almost as soon as it had begun. The A-12s were either stored in Palmdale, California, or sent to museums.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
A-12s in storage in Southern California. (CIA photo)

The A-12 could fly higher and faster than the SR-71, but the Blackbird’s side-looking radar and cameras could see enemy territory without penetrating their airspace.

3. M-21 Drone Carrier

The M-21 variant of the A-12 was designed to carry the Lockheed D-12 Drone. This variation had a cockpit for the drone’s launch control officer who released the autonomous drone which was mounted on the back of the M-21 airframe.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Modified A-12 (codename M-21) carrying D-21 drone (Project Tagboard – CIA photo)

The D-21 was launched from the back of the A-12. Once its mission was complete, the drone would eject the data it collected at a preprogrammed point and then self-destruct. The ejected data was caught in mid-air by a C-130.

This program was canceled in 1966 when a drone collided in midair with its launcher. The M-21 crew all bailed out, except for the LCO. From then on, the D-21 would be launched from under the wing of a B-52.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
A B-52 carrying a D-21 reconnaissance drone and rocket booster. This photo was taken by a crewman in the tail of a tanker aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

4. Lockheed YF-12

The YF-12 was a twin-seat version of the A-12. Designed to be an interceptor, the YF-12 set the speed records that would only be surpassed by the legendary SR-71. It also has the distinction of being a publicly announced aircraft, which had benefits of keeping the A-12 a secret because the public couldn’t tell the difference.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
The YF-12 (U.S. Air Force photo)

The cost of the Vietnam War kept the YF-12 from the Air Force inventory. And by the time the funds were available, the YF-12 wasn’t necessary to defend the mainland U.S., so the program was scrapped.

The aircraft did successfully test the AIM-47 Falcon missile, which was the predecessor to the Phoenix missiles. The YF-12 also tested how AWACS could command bombers in a tactical environment, which later helped the development of the B-1 Bomber.

The YF-12 also tested how engine inlet performance affected airframe for NASA, as well as issues related to propulsion interaction, boundary layer noise, heat transfer under high-mach conditions, and altitude hold at supersonic speeds – all necessary to develop the SR-71, not to mention the Space Shuttle program.

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6 times you played dumb while serving in the military

For the most part, we’ve all pretended to play dumb to have a positive impact on our workday or to get out of something we didn’t want to do.


For sure, we didn’t do it to screw anybody else over. But there are just a few moments in all the years we served that we managed to pull off a small scheme to get out of a sticky situation.

Related: 5 things you should know before diving into a ‘contract marriage’

So check out a few ways veterans have played dumb to get themselves out of a negative situation.

1. That time you pretended to be incompetent because don’t want to get assigned extra duty on the weekend.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
But everyone knows you know how to stand Quarter Deck watch.

2. That time you pretended to get “lost” on a stateside company movement because you were in no hurry to get there.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Regrouping is an excellent strategy.

3. When you were a boot, and you fumbled with operating a piece of equipment because you don’t want to use or carry the damn thing.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
What do all these number and letters represent?

4. That time you told the roving duty you didn’t see sh*t to cover up for one of your brothers or sisters.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
In this case, I think we should believe him.

5. That time you got busted for having something in your barracks room, and you claimed to have never seen it before.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
I’ve never seen that delicious looking vodka before in my life. True story. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Also Read: Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

6. After you arrived late to formation, but you blamed your tardiness on your alarm clock. “I swear I set it, gunny.”

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Number one excuse for anyone running late.

How did you play dumb during your service? Comment below.

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7 reasons ‘Enlisted Service Member’ is actually the worst job

A bunch of data crunchers at CareerCast have released their list of the Worst Jobs of 2017 and enlisted military service member was ranked number 4, causing a few headlines.


But seriously, when did the 3 worse jobs (newspaper reporter, broadcaster, and logger) ever have to stir their buddies’ MRE dumps into a diesel mixture and then mix it while it burns?

Here are 7 things CareerCast failed to mention about why being an enlisted service member is actually the worst:

1. The aforementioned MRE dumps

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
This is an airman preparing to change out the crappers on his base in Iraq. Yeah, even airmen have to take dumps with their thighs touching sometimes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Stagner)

Look, CareerCast looked at a lot of factors, but they don’t once mention diet and food choices in their methodology. Pretty sure newspaper reporters and broadcasters aren’t stuck eating 5-yr-old brisket and then trying to crap it out after it turns into a brick in their intestines.

2. Multi-year contracts guaranteed by prison time

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Holding a ceremony at the bottom of the ocean makes exactly as much sense as signing away the next four years, so why not do both at once? (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

They did look at “degree of confinement” as one of the “physical factors” of their measurements, but not as an emotional factor. Remember the last time a logger got tired of their job, walked off, and spent the next few years in prison?

No, you don’t. Because the only way that happens is if they set some machinery on fire or crap into someone else’s boots on their way out. But troops can’t quit, and there ain’t no discharge on the ground.

3. Long ruck marches, range days, and multi-day field operations

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Having to patrol 20 miles while wearing 65 pounds of gear is worth a maximum of five points but having tough competition for promotion is worth up to 15 points. (Photo: National Guard Sgt. Harley Jelis)

The list’s method discounts physical factors compared to emotional factors (“stamina” and “necessary energy” both top out at 5 points while facing strong competition for job placement and promotion is worth 15 points on its own).

Ummmm, anyone actually think waiting an extra year or two for promotion is harder than brigade runs every payday, 12.4-mile ruck marches every few months, and having to unload and re-load connexes whenever a lieutenant loses their radio? All so you can go face a nine-man board when you want to get promoted?

4. The barracks

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Who wouldn’t want to live here? (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Drunken parties spill into the hallways just an hour before sergeant major drags everyone out to pick up cigarette butts whether they smoke or not. Idiots knock on your door because they don’t know where their buddy lives, which sucks for you since you have duty in the morning.

But hey, at least your boss’s boss’s boss is going to walk through the building this Friday and critique every detail of how you live. That sounds like something that happens to reporters. Sure.

5. Beards

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Half the reason to go Special Forces is to be able to grow a beard when deployed. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Look, loggers are famous for their beards. And most people in the news and broadcast businesses can grow beards as long as they aren’t on camera.

Enlisted folks, meanwhile, have their faces checked for stubble at 6:30 most mornings.

6. PT Formation

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Speaking of which, that 6:30 formation where they’ll get destroyed for having a beard is the physical training formation, the one where they have to spread out and do a lot of pushups and situps in the cold and dark while wearing t-shirts and shorts because first sergeants have some perverse hatred of winter PTs.

All of that without a beard. It’s tragic.

7. All those extra laws

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
(Photo: U.S. Navy Lt. Ayana Pitterson)

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is a major part of maintaining unit discipline, but man is it annoying to have your own set of laws on top of everyone else’s. And, some of those UCMJ articles basically just say that you have to follow all rules and regulations, which are a couple hundred extra ways to do something illegal.

A sailor who smokes or eats while walking is in violation of NAVPERS 15665I, which is backed up by articles of the UCMJ and federal law Title, U.S. Code 10. Think chowing down on a donut while walking into the office is illegal for loggers, broadcasters, or reporters?

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Top 9 songs for the 4th of July that aren’t by Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood

It’s time, America. It’s time.


Summer’s officially here, the BBQ is hot, the beer is cold, and it’s time to party. Old Glory is still soaring from when we honored Memorial Day, but now we have a holiday where the only requirement is to celebrate.

It’s the 4th of July.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Let freedom ring, b****. (Image via Giphy)

If you’re gonna have an epic party, you need an epic playlist. These tunes will light some fireworks in your soul. Enjoy.

9. Team America World Police — “America F*#k Yeah!”

I LOVE THIS SONG EVERY TIME I HEAR IT.

8. Tom Petty — “American Girl”

A good party playlist should rise and fall. Tom Petty and his ode to the American Girl can keep things calm for a few.

7. Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the USA”

This is a classic and cannot be omitted. Let it happen.

6. Lenny Kravitz — “American Woman”

This makes every woman, including yours truly, want to lose some layers and show off her moves. You’re welcome.

5. Iced Earth “Declaration Day”

Sometimes you just need to say it with metal: “Freedom is not free.”

4. Katy Perry — “Firework”

This song is catchy as hell and you know it.

3. Brad Paisley — “American Saturday Night”

You had me at French kissing and a cooler of cold Coronas.

2. Metallica — “Don’t Tread on Me”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmvG2ZiPfoo
Metallica knows how to make some epic tunes, but they’re also great about supporting the troops. Easy add to the list.

1. Whitney Houston “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Not only was Houston’s voice absolute perfection, when she recorded this song, she donated the proceeds of the single to benefit the veterans of the Persian Gulf War. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, she re-released it, this time donating her profits to the firefighters and victims of the attacks.

For those of you who are out there continuing to fight for the freedoms we cherish, you have our gratitude. Stay safe.

Check out the full list here, and Happy 4th of July, you freedom lover, you.

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That time a Confederate regiment was ordered to guard bat guano

There are bad guard details, horrible guard details, and then guard details where you and the bulk of your regiment are ordered to guard caves filled with bat shit.


The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
(Photo: National Park Service, Nick Hristov)

Gunpowder is made up mostly of saltpeter, a chemical powder generally mined from deposits on cave walls or extracted from urine and bat guano. When the South found itself under naval blockade early in the war, it had to find a way to make many of its necessities.

To make the saltpeter necessary to manufacture gunpowder, the Confederacy turned to large bat guano deposits near Austin, Texas. One deposit area was later estimated to contain at least one-thousand tons of guano.

The Confederate government ordered the deposits guarded to ensure wartime production was secured, but it’s unclear how much saltpeter was actually manufactured before the end of the war. The caves were later put back into production during World War I.

Modern ammunition uses cleaner-burning propellants, but the nitrates in guano are still valuable for fertilizers. The descendants of the bats that provided the guano are now famous in Austin. Spectators line up on bridges to watch the bats depart for their nightly feeding.

NOW: That time a US Navy aircraft carrier was shut down by a race riot

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9 times when cartoons were used to spread military propaganda

Propaganda cartoons play a big role in war by educating service members, encouraging the purchase of war bonds, and rallying the home front. The heyday of American propaganda cartoons was easily World War II, and a motley assortment of characters have been used to win the wars.


As a note, many of the war cartoons were deliberately racist towards the people of enemy nations, so expect some offensive imagery when viewing.

1. Private Snafu and his cigar-smoking Army fairy

Snafu was a young Army private who constantly got himself into trouble by complaining, shirking duty, or avoiding medicine and immunizations. In “Three Brothers,” Snafu wishes he had one his brothers’ jobs, and the cigar smoking fairy shows up to show Snafu what his brothers, Pvt. Tarfu and Pvt. Fubar, are doing for the war effort. Snafu was voiced by Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny.

2. Willie and Joe

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Me future is settled, Willie. I’m gonna be a perfessor on types o’ European soil.

Drawn by Army Sgt. Bill Mauldin, Willie and Joe were characters Mauldin used often to show the rigors in the field. Originally assigned to the 45th Infantry Division, Mauldin was soon assigned to the Stars and Stripes for which he drew six cartoons a week. His cartoons got him in serious trouble with Gen. George S. Patton, but the troops loved his work, especially the war weary Willie and Joe.

3. Superman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7eT-23id7k

The Man of Steel did his part in World War II. Superman was generally depicted as a newspaperman in the States, fighting spies and saboteurs. But, he did take the fight to the enemy a few times, like in “The Eleventh Hour” when he began sabotaging Japanese industrial efforts.

4. Donald Duck and the Disney crew

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWY-Nn0rDmA

Most of the Disney crew joined the war effort in different ways. Donald Duck famously took the fight to the enemy though. Oddly, the duck famous for his sailor uniform was typically depicted as being in the Army. Donald was even airborne. He makes his first jumps in “Sky Trooper” above, and eventually conducted a solo combat jump into Japan.

5. Annie Awful – The killer, sexy mosquito

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Photo: US Government Printing Office

Awful Annie, and mosquitoes like her, were depicted as waiting on cots for service members who neglected to hang anti-mosquito nets. The mosquitos, and the malaria they carried, were some of the deadliest killers in the war.

6. The Axis leaders

Of course, real world characters were recreated in the cartoon world, and the depictions of Axis leaders were not very flattering. In “The Ducktators,” Hirohito, Mussolini, and Hitler get depicted as zealous ducks. Other Nazi leaders were ridiculed beside Hitler in “Education for Death.”

7. Looney Tunes and the Gremlins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jljAMQNbl4Y

Like the Disney characters, Looney Tunes characters joined the war. In “Falling Hare,” Bugs Bunny goes up against gremlins that are trying to damage Allied aviation equipment.

8. Popeye

Popeye the sailor man joined the military in World War II. Predictably, he joined the Navy. He appeared in a lot of cartoons including “Many Tanks,” and “Seeing Red, White, and Blue.” In the above video, “A Jolly Good Furlough,” he gets to visit his nephews and see the jobs they do in home defense.

9. Mr. Hook

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voYVK2ftMyk

Mr. Hook was part of a short-running series that began in 1943 where a vet of World War II looked back at his time in the conflict and described his exploits to his son. The dad would tell his son the importance of war bonds to America’s eventual victory and then celebrate all the money they made off the bonds when they finally matured.

NOW: Watch this Iraq War veteran’s tragic story told through the lens of a cartoon

OR: This powerful film tells how Marine fought ‘One Day of Hell’ in Fallujah

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These 9 weapons are banned from modern warfare

The idea of limiting warfare and its effects on soldiers and civilians have roots that can be traced back to the American Civil War. Shortly before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Lieber Code. Named for a Prussian professor from South Carolina, Lieber was a former Prussian soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, wounded at the Battle of Waterloo. He aimed to convince the Union to adjust its battlefield conduct to bring a sharper end to the war, and thus, slavery.


The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
It shouldn’t really suprise anyone that an infantryman wanted to limit the horrible ways he could have died.

On April 24, 1863, President Lincoln issued the finished code as Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, General Order No. 100. The code featured 157 articles in 10 sections and covered everything from martial law to the treatment of deserters, women, prisoners of war, partisans, scouts, spies and captured messengers.

Prisoner exchanges, flags of truce, battlefield looting, and assassinations were also covered. Most importantly, the code governed the treatment of POWs, treatment of rebels, and the respect for human life (especially those of slaves and former slaves fighting for the Union).

The Lieber Code was the foundation text for the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Although many of the provisions of the Hague Conventions were subsequently violated during World War I, the conventions still stand as the standard for modern day arms limitation and battlefield conduct agreements.

Subsequent arms agreements include the Geneva Conventions of 1925 and 1949, The 1979 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, and the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, to name a few.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Now guess how many we’re actually party to.

After more than 150 years of arms control treaties, countries have invented, used, and then banned weapons designed to choke, maim, and otherwise kill warfighters in an inhumane fashion (as ironic as that sounds).

1. Poisonous Gases

There are five types of chemical agent banned for use in warfare. Blood agents are toxic and fast acting. They’re absorbed into the blood (hence the name) and cause a long, violent death, usually from respiratory failure. Phosegene Gas and Hydrogen Cyanide are two kinds of blood agent. Next are blister agents that cause severe chemical burns on the skin and eyes. Blister agents like Mustard Gas can be fatal if ingested or inhaled.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

Nerve agents like VX and Sarin gases break down the neurotransmitters that make organs function. They can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Victims slowly lose control of their bodily functions, their limbs start jerking involuntarily, and death comes from respiratory failure. A choking agent impedes the victim’s ability to breathe, causing a buildup of fluid in the lungs, and eventually death by drowning. Phosgene gas can also be considered a choking agent. A final type in nettle agents. Nettle agents irritate the skin, but do not cause blisters.

2. Non-Detectable Fragments

The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons bans the use of non-metallic fragment in war because they can’t be found by using X-rays. The fragments are said to cause unnecessary suffering. Surgeons have to go through the body by hand looking for these fragments

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Yes, Tony Stark is technically a war criminal.

While plastic itself isn’t prohibited in weapons production, using plastic as the primary effect is.

3. Land Mines

The failure of a total ban of anti-personnel mines in the 1979 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons led to the Ottawa Treaty, which did. This treaty doesn’t cover anti-tank mines, booby traps, and remote mines.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Say goodbye to everyone’s Goldeneye N64 fun.

Previous treaties have demanded the anti-personnel mines be able to be remotely deactivated, to shut down after a certain time period, or to be removed by the implementing party once the conflict ends.

4. Incendiary Weapons

The use of weapons designed just to burn or set fire to large areas which may be full of civilians are also prohibited. The ban covers actual flame, heat or chemical reactions, so this limits the use of flamethrowers, napalm, and white phosphorus. You can still use a flamethrower, you just can’t use it near civilians, which, on today’s battlefield, might be a tall order.

Napalm is that the substance itself isn’t banned as a weapon, but using it on anything other than a concentrated area where the enemy is using foliage as concealment is banned.

5. Blinding Laser Weapons

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Laser Weapons also ruin the shooter’s peripheral vision. Apparently.

This covers any laser designed to cause permanent blindness, but it does say that if the laser in question just happens to cause blindness, you can’t be held responsible for that.

6. “Expanding” Ordnance

Technically, this covers “bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body,” which were developed by the British in India at the time of the Hague Convention in 1899. The delegates to the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 wanted to limit warfare to only the combatants. They reasoned that if weapons were deadlier, there would be less suffering. Since exploding bullets under 400 grams would only kill one man and that ordinary bullets would do, why create exploding ones?

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.

Today, this prohibition covers hollow-point bullets, which are designed to remain in the body and limit collateral damage.

7. Poisoned Bullets

In the earliest known arms agreement, the Holy Roman Empire and France agreed not to use poisoned bullets on each other. At the time, troops stored bullets in unclean planes, like corpses. It would be another 100+ years before the idea of germs spreading disease caught on in the medical world, so the infections caused by these bullets were a serious hazard to injured troops.

8. Cluster Bombs

A cluster bomb releases a number of projectiles on impact to injure or damage personnel and vehicles. The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions banned these for two reasons. First, they have wide area effects and are unable to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Second, cluster munitions leave behind large numbers of dangerous unexploded ordnance.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
This double whammy carries clusters of Sarin Gas.

 9. Biological Weapons

The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention was the first treaty to completely ban a whole class of weapons. It prohibits the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons, though has no governing body to enforce compliance.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
That’s how this happened.

Biological weapons are some of the oldest weapons of mass destruction known to have been used by man. The Mongols tossed rotting bodies over the city walls at the 1343 Siege of Caffa, spreading disease and infection throughout the city.

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat
Now enjoy these blankets.