When most think of ancient warfare, nothing more sophisticated than spears, bows, and maybe catapults come to mind. But like in modern warfare, few things breed ingenuity more than the need to outgun the enemy. Here are some of the more elaborate examples:
1. Claw of Archimedes
Archimedes, the famed Greek mathematician and inventor, developed a variety of weapons to aid in the defense of his home city of Syracuse, Sicily. This included improved versions of conventional artillery like catapults and ballistas, but he also designed more exotic devices to defend Syracuse’s seawall from attacking Roman ships during the Second Punic War.
Though the exact design of the Claw of Archimedes is not known, it is believed to have been a large crane fitted with a gigantic grappling hook. As Roman ships approached the wall, it would be deployed over them, snagging them with the hook, and then lifting the ship at least partially out of the water. When released, the ship would capsize or at least be dropped violently back into the water, damaging the vessel and throwing crewmen overboard.
The Roman historian Livy contended that the Roman fleet suffered terrible casualties from this device. A team working for the Discovery Channel recreated the device using technology that would have been available at the time and used it to capsize a replica of a Roman galley, proving that the device could have been effective.
2. Heat Ray
Another of Archimedes inventions–far more controversial and shrouded in mystery–is a form of heat ray designed to set enemy ships on fire. A strategically placed series of mirrors would focus the sun’s rays onto a single point on an enemy ship and ignite it, like a magnifying glass used to ignite paper. Most Roman ships of the era were coated with pitch as a sealant, which would only make the target more flammable.
Though some ancient historians record that such a weapon was used during the 212 B.C. siege of Syracuse, attempted recreations conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others concluded that the weapon was almost ridiculously impractical. It was completely dependent on the position of the sun and a utter lack of cloud cover, and could only function on a completely stationary target due to the time required for it to achieve ignition.
Even if it succeeded, at best it could create small, easily extinguishable fires. Regular flaming arrows and catapult ammunition would have far more range and effectiveness, not to mention being easier to deploy.The only practical function such a weapon would have is to use its rays to temporarily blind the crews and marines of the attacking ships. Despite its shortcomings, the novel concept of using light as a lethal weapon presages modern laser technology that is still under development to this day.
3. Biological Warfare
After a series of disputes, the Mongolian Golden Horde laid siege to the Genoese trading city of Caffa in 1346, in what is in the modern day Crimea. The bubonic plague had already started to ravage Crimea, and it rapidly spread to the besieging Mongolian forces, killing thousands.
According to the memoirs of the Italian Gabriele de’ Mussi, the Mongolian Khan Janibeg had ordered the bodies of his soldiers killed by the plague hurled over Caffa’s walls. De’ Mussi wrote: “Soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.”
It has been theorized that Italian ships fleeing the city helped spread the bubonic plague to Europe and start the Black Death, which may have killed more than a quarter of the continent’s population. Considering how many other sources there were for the plague, however, the siege at Caffa may have only played a small role in the ghastly pandemic.
Various flaming liquids and incendiary weapons are known to have been in use since antiquity, but it was the Byzantine Empire that created what could be considered an ancient precursor to napalm, though its exact composition has been lost. The substance known as naptha, or Greek fire, was typically used in clay pots thrown by hand or catapult to ignite enemy ships, siege engines, and troops, but it also was used in some the first flamethrowers.
When used on ships, large brass tubes mounted on the prow were filled with naptha, and large blacksmith’s bellows were rapidly pumped to spray the flaming liquid onto enemy ships. Naptha reputedly could only be extinguished with sand, and water would only spread it about and make the fire worse.
Small hand units, called cheiroseiphon, were scaled down versions of the ones used by ships. They were typically used to ignite enemy siege towers, but some ancient Byzantine strategists recommended its use on the battlefield to terrify enemy formations. It may have only been used to spray the liquid before a secondary fire source ignited it, but contemporary Byzantine illuminations show it being used to directly shoot fire.
Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works, the creators of iconic aircraft like the SR-71 Blackbird, F-22 Raptor, and F-117 Nighthawk, is now turning its skills towards drone helicopters.
The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded Systems is designed as a autonomous, vertical take-off drone that can be attached to vehicles, cargo capsules, casualty evacuation pods, and other payloads.
The entire system could be controlled by troops in the field with tablets and phones and would require a landing area half the size of a helicopter of similar strength.
Currently, the Marine Corps is leading the requirements planning for the drone, but they hope to get the other services involved to help share costs. The craft begins ground tests in Jan. 2016 and is scheduled for flight tests in Jun. 2016.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has Boeing’s latest and most powerful version of the highly successful F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter on its wishlist, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Funding for this potential purchase will come directly from the new Memorandum of Understanding reached with Israel in September, 2016 that spans 2019 to 2028, allotting $3.8 billion USD every year for that period. Signed under the Obama administration, this new memorandum which begins when the old one (worth $30 billion over its lifetime versus the new one which is worth $38 billion) expires in 2018, maintains provisions that allow for funding to be used specifically for the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth strike fighters, and to update the Israeli Air Force’s slowly-aging fleet.
Israel aims to have two squadrons of F-35I Adirs (its own designation for the Lightning II) by 2022, but the Adir is aimed more so towards eventually replacing the F-16C/D/I Barak-2020/Sufa multirole fighters which have formed the backbone of the IAF since the 1980s.
There are no planned successors to the F-15 Eagles and F-15I Ra’ams (essentially modified F-15E Strike Eagles) that the IAF currently operates in the air superiority and strike roles, however, and that’s probably where the push for newer, updated F-15s come in. The War Zone reported last February that the IAF was slated to receive 10 F-15Ds (two-seater Eagles) from the United States, all of which were retired US Air Force fleet types.
At the time, Israel had taken delivery of eight of those jets in the deal. But older fighters with significant usage in their airframes are definitely no match for newer freshly-built fighters.
What this could possibly mean is Boeing finding its first customer for the most advanced version of its Strike Eagle, based off the F-15B/D two-seater model. Marketed as the F-15 Advanced (very original and creative name, as you can see), it comes with a number of upgrades and new features that the Strike Eagle didn’t originally come with. This includes a Raytheon AN/APG-63(V)3 active synthetically scanned array (AESA) radar, a long-range infrared search and track (IRST) sensor system, allowing for a “first sigh-first shot-first kill” capability, when squaring off against enemy fighters, and a revamped cockpit with large area displays (LAD) with helmet cueing system integration.
Also included in the F-15 Advanced is a fly-by-wire flight control system (FCS), which completely replaces the original electro-mechanical FCS which used to be the standard for all F-15s McDonnell Douglas (and later, Boeing) produced. Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), known as FAST Packs on F-15Es, would be a part of the package, extending operational range without taking up vital space on weapons stations under the wings or belly of the aircraft. “Quad Packs”, attached to said weapons stations, would also allow for expanded weaponry carriage.
Boeing previously offered Israel, along with a number of other customers, the F-15SE Silent Eagle, an export-only stealth version of the F-15E with internal weapons carriage and a considerably-reduced radar profile, though not much interested was generated. Eventually, this led Boeing to shelve the project and invest more time in the F-15 Advanced, while incorporating technologies and hardware used in the SE into the Advanced.
Boeing also developed the 2040C upgrade package, which it proposed to the US Air Force last year, though 2040C is meant to be an upgrade for existing F-15Cs, adding in all of the hardware mentioned above as well as the ability to sling 16 air-to-air missiles, virtually doubling the Eagle’s combat payload. There’s no word on whether or not Boeing will offer the 2040C package to Israel as well, for its single-seater F-15s still in service with the IAF.
Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, will more than likely bring up the subject of buying new F-15s when meeting with US defense officials this week, when he visits Washington DC. The F-15 production line recently just got a lifespan boost from Qatar in the form of an order for 70+ Eagles.
A further order from Israel would keep the line active even longer. Additionally, also using funding from the aforementioned Memorandum of Understanding, the Israeli Defense Ministry has also expressed interest in buying new helicopters to replace its Sikorsky CH-53 Yas’urs (Sea Stallions) heavy-lift helicopters, the oldest of which are just a few years away from reaching 50 years of continuous service with the IAF. The US government would probably put the CH-53K King Stallion, the successor to the Sea Stallion, on the table to replace the Yas’ur.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated across the world since 1909, and is used as a day to laud the important contributions women make.
Women have long-since served in the U.S. military, even before they were officially allowed to enlist. From covert spy operations to battles on the front lines, women have been there for all of it.
Nancy Morgan Hart
During the American Revolution, Hart was supposed to stay and take care of her children at their Georgia home while her husband fought in the war, like many military spouses today do. However, Nancy couldn’t sit idly by while a war raged around her.
Pretending to be a crazy man, Hart was able to gain access to British camps in Augusta, where she successfully gathered intelligence and reported it back to the Continental Army. Hart also wasn’t afraid to defend her home against the enemy, as evidenced when six Loyalist soldiers entered her home and demand she feed them. While they were occupied with food, she hid their weapons and held them hostage with one, killing two when they tried to overpower her, until her husband and a neighbor came home.
Dr. Mary E. Walker
Walker volunteered her expertise as a surgeon with the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, despite women not being allowed to serve as doctors. She was captured and became a prisoner-of-war after she was caught crossing enemy lines to treat wounded soldiers. She was considered a spy by the Confederates and was held until eventually released in a prisoner exchange.
For her bravery and willingness to confront the enemy to save Union soldiers, President Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor, after a recommendation by Gen. William Sherman, becoming the first and only women ever to be awarded the highest military honor.
Col. Eileen Collins
Collins became the first female to pilot a shuttle in space in 1995, and was also the first female commander of a U.S. spacecraft in 1999.
During her time in the Air Force, Collins served as an instructor for the T-38 Talon at Vance Air Force Base, and eventually transitioned to an assistant professor role at the U.S. Air Force Academy, teaching mathematics and instructing T-41 pilots.
Sarah Emma Edmonds
Edmonds fled to Michigan from Canada, escaping an abusive marriage. While traveling, she found that dressing like a man made life considerably easier, and eventually joined the military as a male nurse out of a sense of obligation. Edmonds used the alias “Franklin Thompson,” and served as a spy for Union soldiers until she was confronted with a bout of Malaria. Knowing she would be punished if Army doctors discovered she was a woman, Edmonds abandoned her male disguise and continued to serve as a female nurse in Washington D.C.
After she wrote a memoir about her time as a spy, Edmonds contributions to the war were accepted, and she received an honorable discharge, as well as a government pension for her service.
With most troops learning hand-to-hand combat in the military, it’s not surprising that some would end up getting really good at it.
UFC legend Randy Couture is a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, while Brian Stann was a decorated Marine Corps platoon commander before entering the Octagon. As it turns out, veterans have a history of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former Marine Sgt. Liz Carmouche has a 10-5-0 record in mixed martial arts and famously fought Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight title in 2013. Rousey admitted before the fight that fighting Carmouche would be different.
“She’s a Marine, I’m not going to be able to intimidate this girl,” Rousey said in an MMAFighting.com interview. “The prefight intimidation stuff won’t work.”
The Ranger and Sapper-qualified infantryman currently serves as a combatives instructor in Fort Hood, Texas, but has said he’s interested in a special operations assignment soon.
4. Tim Kennedy
Like Colton Smith, Tim Kennedy began his UFC career while on active duty. The Ranger-tabbed Green Beret was a sniper before he transitioned from active duty to the Texas National Guard to focus on his MMA career. He currently serves as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, and holds an 18-5-0 record in mixed martial arts.
Matt Baetz is a comedian, actor, writer, and host and a veteran of six Armed Forces Entertainment and USO tours across the world. He’s performed his standup routine for the troops in Afghanistan, Africa, Bahrain, Cuba, Greenland, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He’s also done numerous television and radio appearances on shows like “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and Playboy Radio. He was awarded Best of the Fest Performer from the NY Fringe Festival for his role in the 2014 play, “Kemble’s Riot.”
“Not just anyone can hack these tours,” Baetz said. “The schedule is demanding and the living conditions are sometimes not the best. But I explain to the talent right up front that, wherever we go, I don’t want them coming right out of the gate and asking whether there’s wifi or complaining about the coffee. We’re there for the people serving away from home.”
Here’s a look at four of the stops on the recent tour:
Today, Armed Forces Entertainment is the single point of contact for the Department of Defense for providing entertainment to troops overseas. More than 60 tours are sent out providing over 600 performances per year to 400,000 soldiers.
Here’s a brief history of the organization:
World War II-1951: The United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows program recruited and fielded live entertainment for military personnel. Camp Shows usually consisted of well-known celebrities who were recruited to entertain military personnel serving overseas. For many entertainers, this was their first time performing and traveling abroad. However, the Camp Shows scheduling, which was coordinated by each Service, was considered inconsistent.
1951-1970: Before the establishment of the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1951, the Military Services agreed to provide a single point of contact for the USO. The Secretary of the Army was designated as the administrative agent for the DoD’s relationship with the USO. Operational responsibility rested with the Adjutant General, then transferred to the Commander, U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. In 1951, Service representatives were assigned to the new Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office (AFPEO) to administer the fielding of USO Shows, provide shows where the USO Camp Shows were unable, and establish a regularly scheduled program. Units consisted of celebrities, professional artists, college groups sponsored by the American Theater Association (ATA) and the All American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS). The USO and DoD sent thousands of entertainers, celebrity and non-celebrity, to entertain U.S. military personnel, DoD and Department of State civilians, and their family members worldwide. By the end of the Vietnam era, virtually all of the programmed shows were non-celebrity with DoD fielding over half of the units.
1982: USO canceled the non-celebrity program to concentrate on the recruitment and fielding of well-known celebrity entertainment. The DoD directed the Secretary of the Army to assume responsibility for the non-celebrity program. In June, all non-celebrity entertainment units sent abroad were participating in the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program overseas, nicknamed “DoD Overseas Shows”. In addition to the non-celebrity program, the AFPEO continued to uphold DoD’s portion of the celebrity show responsibilities with the USO. These shows were renamed “USO/DoD Celebrity Shows.”
1989: The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) assumed operational control of the AFPEO with the Secretary of the Army remaining the Executive Agent. This assumption was designed to elevate the AFPEO’s authority, facilitate coordination, and increase program visibility.
1997: The U.S. Air Force was assigned the Executive Agent for providing celebrity and non-celebrity programs to troops serving overseas, creating the jointly-manned office, Armed Forces Entertainment.
Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.
Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.
Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.
When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”
Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.
A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)
Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:
Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
Purpose begins with passion
Out of many, one
We are fueled by gratitude
Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo
Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.
This video shows airmen and soldiers rescue people, three women, and three children, after a building near Songtan, South Korea caught fire and trapped them in a third-story apartment. Luckily, Songtan is near Osan Air Base. Local airmen from the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan and the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, along with soldiers from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade happened to be in the area and rushed to the scene.
The Korea service of the Armed Forces Network shared the mobile phone video of the rescue, as Army Master Sgt. talks about grabbing a blanket from a nearby store to use to catch children, as their mother tosses them out of the high window.
In all, the troops rescued three women and three young children.
America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.
But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.
Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.
But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.
Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.
As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.
The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.
Several Naval Academy alumni have asked the alumni association to rescind an award planned for former U.S. Sen. James Webb because of his decades-old essay questioning the decision to admit women into military service academies.
Webb, who also served as Secretary of the Navy, wrote the 7,000-word essay “Women Can’t Fight” for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.
“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” Webb wrote.
He called the dormitory Bancroft Hall “a horny woman’s dream” and quoted former male alumni arguing that attending the academy is “scarring many women in ways they may not comprehend for years.”
The essay has been described by several alumni as a “manifesto” that potentially empowered male midshipmen to harass their female counterparts.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, a 1981 graduate, wrote in an email that the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give its Distinguished Graduate Award to Webb was “a hit to the gut.” She taught at the academy from 1998 to 2001 and described Webb’s essay as a “living document” still referenced by mids.
Miklos wrote the Annapolis-based association, arguing Webb’s essay validated those who thought women didn’t belong at the academy. She recalled an upperclassmen ordering a female classmate during her time at the academy to stand at attention at meals and shout “I am not a horny woman, Sir.”
Webb plans to be be present Friday when the association holds its Distinguished Graduate Award Ceremony. The award is given to alumni who have “personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps” and have made “significant contributions” as officers or leaders in industry or government.
Webb, who graduated from the academy in 1968, served as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. He earned the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism” and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his active-duty career.
Webb released a statement to The Capital on March 27, 2017, saying he wrote a “strongly argumentative magazine article” during the intense national debate of women serving in combat.
“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he wrote in the statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”
But Webb, who ran a brief campaign for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, said he doesn’t regret debating the “long-term process of properly assimilating women” into the military. He said he is “deeply proud” of the contributions he made as Secretary of the Navy and a senator from Virginia. He cited the Navy-wide study he commission as secretary, which he said “opened up more positions to women than any secretary in history.”
Retired Adm. Robert Natter, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the association, said in a statement that Webb’s most recent comments “reflect how his views have evolved since that article 38 years ago.” Natter said Webb was selected by an independent selection chaired by retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a classmate of Webb’s and a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“His many years of service are a matter of very public record, and on that entire record he was selected as a Distinguished Graduate,” Natter wrote.
Retired Capt. Jack Reape, a 1984 graduate, said an upperclassmen handed him a copy of the essay as a plebe. Reape said he and his classmates didn’t “support the women at the academy” during his time but that has since apologized to several of his female classmates.
Reape said he doesn’t see the point of taking the award from Webb because he “couldn’t name anyone else on that list.” He also said the award doesn’t have a big impact.
“He wouldn’t have been on my list of people,” Reape said. “We were in the Navy, we’re used to things not going to our way and pressing on. It’s the way it goes.”
Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also wrote the association with criticism of the award. Henry said Webb’s essay was highly-circulated while she was in Annapolis and it caused “harm” to many of her classmates.
“The women will tell you that article was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” she said.
Henry said she was one of the “lucky” ones during her time at the academy and was in a company that welcomed the female mids. She said she was surprised to see Webb honored with the award, since 2016 marked the 40th year of women attending the Naval Academy.
She attended the academy’s celebration in the fall.
“At that celebration I felt we were embraced in the community,” Henry said. “We are no longer seen as something that tainted it, but now to see this? It completely takes away that feeling.”
Other 2017 Distinguished Graduates
—Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II ’49 — Train served as NATO supreme allied commander Atlantic and was also commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from 1978 to 1982. He retired in 1982 and became involved in civic affairs in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
— Milledge A. “Mitch” Hart ’56 — Hart is the founder/co-founder of seven companies. After serving as a Marine in Oklahoma and Okinawa, he worked with alumnus Ross Perot to found Electronic Data Systems, a information technology equipment and services company. He later co-founded Home Depot, which became the second-largest retailer in the country.
—Retired Vice Adm. Cutler Dawson ’70 — Dawson is president and CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union and was in the Navy for about 35 years. Under Dawson, the Enterprise Battle Group conducted strikes for Operation Desert Fox in the Arabian Gulf and Operation Allied for in the Adriatic Sea. He retired from the military in 2004 and became president of the Vienna, Virginia-based credit union.
—Retired Adm. Eric T. Olson ’73 — Olson is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the first Navy SEAL to reach three- and four-star rank and the first naval officer to lead Special Operations Command. He retired in 2011 after serving for 38 years. After retiring, he founded ETO Group, an independent national security consulting firm.
Ever since the devastation caused by World War I and World War II, people have hypothesized how another globe-encompassing war would play out. World War III in the public consciousness tends to envisage a nuclear exchange, this playing out from fears created during the Cold War. However, despite the fall of the Soviet Union, it is still a fear and image that resonates in the contemporary mind, one that has developed for over half a century.
The Origins of World War III
It was inevitable, considering the possible political fallout (pun intended) of the conclusion of World War II and the development of atomic weapons that had been concurrent with the war, that the idea of another world war immediately succeeding World War II was a possibility. “Operation Unthinkable” was a scenario put into development by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the waning months of the war against Nazi Germany. Its purpose would have been to: “impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire.”
Churchill saw Joseph Stain as untrustworthy and saw Soviet Russia as a threat to the west. World War III in this instance would have hypothetically started on July 1, 1945. It encompassed the idea of total war, with the aim being to occupy enough metropolitan areas to reduce Russia’s capacity “to a point at which further resistance becomes impossible” and the defeat of the Russian military forces to a point where they could no longer continue the war. The implementation of this plan to start World War III was partly held back due to the three-to-one sheer overwhelming numerical superiority of Soviet Forces in Europe and the Middle East when compared to the Allies.
Nevertheless, following the successful deployment of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945, a new element arose to a more prominent position in the conceptualization of World War III. After the success of these bombings, Churchill and right-wing policy-makers in the United States pushed forward the idea of a nuclear bombing of the USSR. An unclassified FBI note read:
‘”He [Churchill] pointed out that if an atomic bomb could be dropped on the Kremlin, wiping it out, it would be a very easy problem to handle the balance of Russia, which would be without direction.”
Nuclear bombing would prevent Allied casualties in a war against a heavily beleaguered Soviet Union coming out of the Second World War. By 1949, the Soviet Union had detonated its first nuclear weapon; World War III would now have a new deadly, nuclear element.
The Dynamic Nuclear Element
The Cold War is cited in general as a period of paranoia, an age where humanity seemed to be on the point of blundering into extinction. It was a human condition, that if man was in possession of weapons capable of causing worldwide destruction, then they would inevitably use them. The brinkmanship of some of the more famous crises of the Cold War, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, offer haunting glimpses into how close we could have come to a World War III, but more importantly how at these tipping points people genuinely believed in the real potential of an apocalyptic World War III. This is the popular view of World War III conjured in the modern mind, the apocalyptic vision that shows up in popular culture and real fears generated by current affairs.
However, to deny that World War III would be exempt of conventional warfare would be a misdemeanour. Nuclear responses were often incorporated together with conventional responses in plans. Able Archer 83, the background to German drama Deutschland 83, was part of series of military exercises that envisaged an escalation from conventional warfare into chemical and nuclear warfare. In this instance, 40,000 U.S. and NATO forces moved across western Europe. The life-like nature of the wargame and increasing tensions due to recent events such as the shooting down of Korean Airlines Boeing 747, which resulted in the death of all 269 people on board, and Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire,” all contributed to the Soviet Union believing a nuclear attack was imminent. Even with the increasing potency of nuclear weapons, Able Archer anticipated that World War III might involve traditional military maneuvers and actions, combined with nuclear warfare.
Likewise, the Warsaw Pact also accounted for a World War III that took conventional and nuclear war and made them into one. In 2005, the newly-elected conservative Polish government released a map from 1979, the simulation entitled “Seven Days to the River Rhine,”whichshows the possible response to a conventional NATO attack, involving overwhelming forces. It would have entailed nuclear bombardments on major German cities in Germany, such as Munich and Cologne, as well as the capital of the West German capital of Bonn. Further targets included the base of NATO headquarters, Brussels, and targets in Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The name of this proposed scenario is titled due to the conventional counter-attack that would have been carried out by military forces against NATO, that would try and reach the Franco-German border within seven days, and it would also involve a push to the North Sea.
Interestingly, nuclear attacks on France and the United Kingdom were not planned, perhaps more surprisingly in the case of the U.K., who unlike France was part of NATO’s military structure. Of course, the plan took into account the almost certain prospect of nuclear retaliation. Key eastern European cities, such as Prague and Warsaw, however, it also included bombing across the Vistula River to prevent Warsaw Pact reinforcements reaching the frontline. This also shows how an idea of a “nuclear-conventional” combined arms approach would have been used in World War III.
This combined approach has much older origins, as seen through Churchill’s “Operation Unthinkable.” However, the deployment of nuclear weapons also needs to be taken into account, as this would have been a large part in a hypothetical World War III. For example, the U.S advantage in weapons and bombers at the start of the Cold War faced the threat of new jet-powered interceptors. The introduction of B-47 and B-52 reduced this threat. Meanwhile, submarine-based deployment, such as the U.K.’s Trident, is yet another example of how physical assets have a large influence on nuclear warfare. If these assets can be potentially threatened by more conventional means, then it is certain they would form part of a nuclear war with more traditional elements.
World War III could have also amounted as an escalation of conventional proxy wars. In See Magazinein March 1951, CBS War Correspondent Bill Downs wrote, “To my mind, the answer is: Yes, Korea is the beginning of World War III.” A common fear was that the Korean War would escalate into a conflict between China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S. The Yom Kippur War of October 1973 is also an example of a possible escalation. Although neither the U.S. nor the USSR participated directly in it, the Soviet Mediterranean Squadron and U.S. Sixth Fleet came close to blows. Admiral Murphy of the United States believed there was a 40 percent chance that the Soviet squadron would lead a first strike against his fleet.
These cases show how World War III was not only a constant danger, but was also still seen in traditional and conventional military terms as a hybrid with the much more destructive capabilities of nuclear arsenals. Therefore, we can infer that World War III was not always seen as necessarily apocalyptic by governments and militaries, despite the existence of concepts such as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Finally, it is essential to admit the varying degrees of intensity in east-west relations, through the cooling effects of détente to the heightening of hostilities in the 1980s, when studying a hypothetical World War III.
A Popular Culture Phenomenon
World War III is also an ever-growing concept in popular culture throughout multimedia. The theme is generally post-apocalyptic in its nature, though a World War III “in action” is still present. The earliest forms of the pop-culture World War III coincide with World War II, much like the political idea of World War III, but the idea of an actual nuclear war, regardless of its status as a “third global war,” precedes these. In his 1914 novel, The World Set Free, H.G. Wells developed the idea of a uranium-based hand grenade that would explode unlimitedly, with the novel following the traditional lines of mass destruction. This novel is the emergence of the apocalyptic, yet atomic, war in popular culture.
Stories appeared even before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in the World War II era, but the growing paranoia over a World War III following the end of the war led to a seemingly-anxious output. This is a Cold-War pattern in varying forms. In 1951, Collier, more known for investigative journalism, dedicated an entire 130 pages — all of the content — to a hypothetical World War III with the heading “Preview of the War We Do Not Want.” Although the U.S. and the Soviet Union exchange nuclear salvos, we do see conventional Soviet forces invading Germany, the Middle East, and Alaska, all starting from events in Yugoslavia.
We see growing self-doubt and anxiety in popular culture as the Cold War progresses. The war does not now emerge from the political establishment, but rather from technological blunders and the nature of humanity. The helpless sense of inevitability is building up in multimedia. In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove the mental health of a general is the new non-political factor. In Fail Safe, a film released the same year, a glitch causes U.S. bombers to launch a first strike against Moscow. The tragic element is that a bomb must also be dropped on New York City to appease the Soviets and to avoid an apocalyptic exchange. All of this is due to a technological fault, rather than any political or military hierarchy. The 1977 film Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a product of its age. This time, the renegade air force officers seize a nuclear missile silo because the U.S. government withheld information from its people. They knew there was no realistic chance of winning the war in Vietnam and only continued for the Soviet image of them; that they were unwavering in their fight against communism, weakness being revealed as a threat. In these instances, it is not simply the Soviet Union who causes World War III, but a tragic narrative develops, perhaps due to real efforts to smooth relations following the deadly Cuban Missile Crisis.
Popular culture also took aspects of World War III as seen by the militarists and politicians and added other elements to them. The Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks combines fantasy with the post-apocalyptic, as we see other creatures like elves and gnomes among humans as a result of mutation. The popularFallout series of video games, retro-futurist in its nature, not only has a range of mutants as a result of nuclear war, but also escapes standard time constraints. The nuclear war takes place in 2077 and involves the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China in an alternate history. In Tom Clancy’s 1986 Red Storm Rising, World War III is caused by Islamic extremists from Azerbaijan and the war is fought by conventional means, never escalating into nuclear war.
In post-apocalyptic popular culture we also see a new emerging narrative that is competing with the World War III image. This is the environmental disaster, not surprising considering the current political and social climate around global warming. The 1995 film Waterworld takes place on an earth where all the polar ice caps have melted and the planet is almost completely covered in water and the 2009 video game Fuel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where extreme weather is a potent danger caused by global warming. Therefore, we must admit that a hypothetical and nuclear World War III are not the only factors that play into the post-apocalyptic popular culture.
Regardless, World War III is still an image on the popular spectrum in various forms of multimedia. It provides a powerful insight in how the hypothetical war is seen outside of politics and it also provides an image of the doubts instilled in all of us regarding our future and relationship with the most destructive of weapons.
The Modern Spectre
World War III is still associated a lot with the Cold War and the potential conflict that could have emerged as a result of it. However, World War III remains a fear of many and it is often interpreted in a new light in the contemporary world. One of the first instances to show that there was room for an apocalyptic global war following the collapse of the Soviet Union was in 1995, during the Norwegian Rocket Scare. It was in this instance that the suitcases to enter the nuclear codes for a retaliatory strike against the United States were open, the cause being a research rocket that was mistaken for an EMP attack and, following that, a missile carrying multiple nuclear warheads. This incident, under Boris Yeltsin, proves that there was room for World War III in the post-Cold War era.
After 9/11, the “War on Terror” was declared. To many this was seen as a new World War. Even U.S. President George W. Bush likened it to World War III and many compared the 9/11 attacks to a Pearl Harbor-like event. The style of combat employed in the concept of “terrorism” is separate from the conventional notions of World War III. However, many groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda still have attacked military targets, as well as civilian targets and had large functioning armies which would fit into the standard concept of a world war. In 2015, the Taliban had an estimated 60,000 recruits in their core, fitting this idea. In recent history, the rise of Islamic State has also brought this question back to light, seemingly more vigorously.
However, the World War III of this millennium’s second decade has also seen the return of the nation state as a potential adversary. North Korea and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are headline hitters when it comes to a prospective World War III. For Russia, there is a new Cold War brewing between the east and west, primarily caused by his hard approach to handling political authority. The invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the conflict in Ukraine have shown that he is willing to assert territorial influence. In the case of North Korea in May 2016, during a rare party congress, leader Kim Jong-un praised his country’s nuclear achievements. Efforts to reduce Iran proliferating nuclear weapons seem to be working, as economic sanctions have recently been lifted against them after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report has shown it has taken steps to limit its nuclear-based plans. Therefore, it appears Iran is now less likely to develop nuclear weapons.
These examples show the ever-evolving scene of the hypothetical World War III in the modern world. Political tensions between major nations will always trigger fears of a larger scale war, whether it would be nuclear or more akin to the conventional global wars of the 20th century. Nevertheless, we have seen that new powers and new forms of combat are rising to add to and, in some respects, replace the traditional narrative of World War III. We must, however, realize that the prospect of World War III does not affect much of humanity’s approach to everyday life in the modern world and it still seems a far-fetched prospect, despite the continued political wrangling of modern nation states.
The Curtain Falls
As we have seen, the idea of World War III was an idea inevitable in its existence as soon as World War II started. It is impossible to stop humans speculating; they always have and always will. It is for reason that we have had military plans for a major global war and a reflection of the concept of World War III throughout popular culture. We live in a word where political tensions still play a significant role, yet perhaps not at the level of the Cold War, there is still considerable debate over the role the ever-dangerous nuclear weapon will play in the future.
World War III is also an evolving idea and it will always be based on the context of the form or time of the idea. The role of conventional warfare, the role of the nuclear bomb and the political/human nature of the cause are all factors that affect the view of a hypothetical World War III. We must, therefore, view the idea of World War III as not only an inevitability, but also one that is destined to change with the passage of time.
A good meal after a hard day in the field can make everything a little bit better. MREs aren’t that meal but they try to be. Everyone has their favorite ration meal, even if he or she has to doctor it up a bit by mixing different parts from other packages (here’s a list of ration recipes).
No matter how U.S. military rations change, there is always one meal in the box which makes you wonder who thought it would be a good idea. This is a list of those meals that made us yearn for the days of lettuce and powdered eggs from a field mess.
1. Vegetable Omelette
It’s understandable the military would want to come up with vegetarian options. Why anyone decided eggs would be a good idea is what’s hard to understand. Cheese tortellini wasn’t bad, why not use that as a starting point?
Instead, we have this monstrosity, aka the “vomelet,” which has all the flavor of cold scrambled eggs and all the texture of dried papier maché. It’s every bit what you imagine eating Spongebob Squarepants must be like.
2. Ham and Lima Beans
This is a throwback meal to the days of C-Rations. Lima Beans and Ham (aka “Ham and Motherf**kers”) was so bad, it was the Voldemort of field grade lunches, as troops wouldn’t even dare to say this meal’s name. When GIs gave rations to hungry civilians in Korea, the Koreans would throw this particular meal back at them. Troops added cans of cheese sauce and/or cracker crumbs to try to make this war crime palatable.
3. Jamaican Pork Chop
Jah, mon! Come on have little slice of this leather with some pepper on it. Uncle Sam try’nta save jah money by feeding jah garbage rejected by hog farms.
Seriously, if we’re talking about jerks, it’s the clowns who wanted to give us some of our favorite international cuisine but decided Jamaica was close enough. This is like eating the sole of your boot with noodles. To be fair, the guys over at MRE Info love this one.
4. Country Captain Chicken
Country Captain Chicken will give you Current Traumatic Stress Disorder. Imagine someone squished together a handful of Chicken McNuggets, flattened it out, then dried it in the sun for ten days. Then imagine they soaked the newly formed patty in a bath of tomato sauce and citrus juice, and what the hell, let’s throw a couple of almonds in there. Chunks of tomato and black beans round out the most awful thing anyone ever tried to pass off as food.
5. Buffalo Chicken
Buffalo Chicken might be the signature flavor of America and while the MRE version of Buffalo Chicken may not be all that bad, the effect on your stomach is like having forty tailgating Bills fans making a mess of your insides. Dig the latrine before you crack this bad boy open.
6. Beef Frankfurters
You know a meal has to be good when its nickname is “Fingers of Death,” right? Right. Beef Frankfurters deserved every single insult ever lobbed at them. While I can understand the urge to give troops in the field a taste of home through a good ol’ American hot dog, if you’ve ever tried this ration, the only home it makes you think of is Hannibal Lecter’s.
Nicknamed the “Desert Fox,” Gen. Erwin Rommel was a decorated officer who was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his outstanding service on the Italian Front. During World War II, the legendary military leader commanded the 7th Panzer Division as the Nazis invaded France, earning himself a reputation as a brilliant tank commander.
While his fame turned him into a propaganda tool, Rommel had another agenda — to kill Adolf Hitler.
On July 20th, 1944, a bomb was planted and exploded under Hitler’s East Prussia Headquarters — but the Führer survived the blast.
“A very small clique of ambitious, corrupt and at the same time irrational, criminally stupid officers have conspired to do away with me. It is a tiny group of criminal elements, which will now be mercilessly extinguished,” Hitler stated as he vowed revenge.
As Hitler’s Gestapo conducted intense interrogations of bomb plot suspects, one famous name managed to surface — Erwin Rommel.
Then, in Sept. 1944, British intelligence tapped into one of the conversations of captured German General Heinrich Eberbach which revealed: “Rommel said to me that the Führer has to be killed, there is nothing for it … that man has to go.”
Weeks later, two German generals arrived at Rommel’s home and explained his narrow options. He could either be tried in the people’s court which would lead to ultimate disgrace in the Third Reich or drink a small bottle of cyanide which they brought with them.
General Erwin Rommel died that same day, but the German people were told that their famous hero passed in a car wreck. At his funeral, the German people saluted him as his casket carried away.