Born out of World War I, the flamethrower could only shoot flames for a matter of seconds, but it was essential for rooting out the enemy from entrenched positions. The flamethrower was a simple innovation – one canister for fuel, one for propellant. Launch fire. Charlie Mike.
The video below outlines exactly how the weapon worked and why it became a fundamental weapon for a World War II unit to have in the arsenal.
This video also introduces Hershel “Woody” Williams, a WWII-era Marine and flamethrower operator who fought on Iwo Jima. (He’s shown wearing the Medal of Honor he received for his actions there.)
What the video doesn’t tell you is that Williams is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima. He singlehandedly took out seven Japanese pillboxes with his flamethrower that day.
“I remember crawling on my belly,” Williams told Weaponology. “I remember ’em coming, charging around that pillbox toward me. There were five or six of them. And I just opened up the flame and caught them. It was like they went from real fast running to real slow motion. But by cutting out those seven pillboxes, it opened up a hole and we got through.”
The humble Marine forgot to mention the seven fortifications he took out were part of a network of hardened, entrenched positions, minefields, and volcanic rock protected by withering machine gun crossfire that held the entire American invasion back.
Duke Robotics, a Florida-based defense contractor, developed the TIKAD sniper drone, and recently sold some to the Israeli military.
They’re also pitching it to the Pentagon.
The drone is capable of being fitted with a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, a machine gun, or a variety of other weapons, Defense One and Popular Mechanics reported.
It was used successfully by the Israelis but it only stayed airborne for about five minutes due to weight problems, Defense One reported. The TIKAD drone, however, has overcome previous weight and recoil issues.
The co-founder of Duke Robotics, Israeli military veteran Lt. Col. Raziel “Razi” Atuar, said the drone — which is flown and shot by an operator at a distance — will save civilian and soldier lives because it is more precise, as opposed to Reaper, Predator or Switchblade drones that fire missiles.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in. Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt. The operational challenge, it bothered us,” Atuar told Defense One.
“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” University of Sheffield Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC.
“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more,” Sharkey said.
Mary Wareham, of Human Rights Watch, also voiced similar concerns.
Sharkey also told the BBC that he worries about the TIKAD drone, which private citizens can purchase from Duke Robotics, being copied by terrorist groups like ISIS.
“It won’t be long before everyone has copies,” Sharkey told Popular Mechanics. “Some of these will be a lot less stable and less precise. We have already seen ISIS employ small commercial drones for strikes with explosives.”
ISIS has been known to use drones for surveillance, guidance and even for dropping bombs.
Officials say 12 US paratroopers have been hospitalized after they sustained minor injuries during a nighttime parachute jump in Romania.
Brent M. William, a spokesman for the “Atlantic Resolve” military exercises, told Romania’s Agerpres news agency the accident occurred early July 22 at the Campia Turzii air base in northwest Romania. He said 500 troops jumped from C-130 Hercules planes during “a very rigorous exercise, which carries a certain level of risk.”
The Cluj Military Hospital spokeswoman, Doina Baltaru, said 11 soldiers were discharged July 23 from the hospital. She said one other soldier suffered a bruised spine and would remain hospitalized up to two more days.
The soldiers were participating in Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led exercise, which aims to increase coordination between the US, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.
When planning their annual vacations, most American families don’t normally top their lists with Dayton, Ohio. While there are probably some sights to see in Dayton, arguably the most enticing reason to visit is the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
With notable examples of aircraft from before powered flight to the present day, the museum also includes slices of history from the U.S. and its Air Force. Watching the Avengers in IMAX is cool, but so is flying a fighter mission or buzzing through the skies on D-Day.
The exhibits aren’t limited to aircraft and wars. The museum documents air history from the balloons of the Civil War to the first powered flights (the Wright Brothers were bicycle mechanics from Dayton). It also takes visitors through exhibits on the Holocaust all the way through Cold War tensions and its nuclear armaments, as well as a tribute to Bob Hope and his dedication to the USO.
You can’t ride the bombs, though. They’ll ask you not to do that.
It was terribly difficult to narrow this list to a few items, considering the extensive Air Force and U.S. Military history contained here. Notable runners-up include a very visual walkthrough of Checkpoint Charlie, an explanation of POW tapping codes in the Hanoi Hilton, a graphic description of MiG Alley during the Korean War, a Boeing Bird of Prey, and an F-22 Raptor.
1. The First Presidential Jet
Though the President’s plane began its designation as Air Force One during the Eisenhower era, the first jet aircraft to fly with the distinctive blue and white pattern as we know it today was President Kennedy’s Special Airlift Mission (SAM) 26000. It was the first aircraft specially designed for the President of the United States. President Johnson was sworn in as President on it. It was also the plane that flew President Kennedy’s body back to Washington after his assassination in Dallas and the plane that flew Nixon to China.
2. An SR-71 Blackbird
You might wonder why the Air Force fly this plane anymore. My guess is the Blackbird just wasn’t fair to America’s enemies, so we stepped back a little bit. It was the first stealth aircraft, and paved the way for later stealth technology. It holds the record for fast aircraft not destined for orbit and from 1966 to 1998, it was the Department of Defense’s go-to for high altitude reconnaissance. The SR-71 was capable of Mach 3 speeds and was never lost in combat because the Blackbird would just fly faster than any missile launched at it. Peace out.
3. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. All of them.
Ok not ALL of them, but one each of many kinds. Officially called The Missile Space Gallery, it houses Thor missiles, Titan I and II, Minuteman, Peacekeepers and Jupiter missiles. It also contains Mercury and Gemini spacecraft as well as the command module from Apollo 15, the fourth mission to land on the moon. You can see the missiles from the ground or go on a raised platform and see them from the nose cones — the last thing Nikita Khrushchev would have seen if Curtis LeMay had his way.
4. The Doolittle Raiders’ Toast
Eighty small silver goblets commemorate the 80 men who joined together to blacken Japan’s eye after the sucker punch at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In less than six months after the sneak attack, 16 B-25 Medium Range Bombers took off from aircraft carriers (a then-unheard of feat) to bomb Tokyo undetected, without fighter escort. The attack had little military value beyond boosting U.S. morale and hurting Japanese morale, but it set the tone for the war in the Pacific as an all-out street fight.
The surviving raiders met annually on Doolittle’s birthday and in 1959, were presented by the city of Tucson with the silver goblets, each engraved twice with the name of a Raider. The case they’re in was built by Richard E. “Dick” Cole, Doolittle’s copilot during the 1942 raid. At every Raiders’ Ceremony, the surviving Raiders toast the deceased and then turn the recently deceased goblet’s upside down, where the engraved name can be read that way. When there are only two left, the two will share the final toast.
5. The Beginnings of an Iraq War Exhibit
I don’t know about how any other post-9/11 veterans feel about seeing themselves in museums. For me, museums have traditionally held stories from faraway places and some very old things. So it’s a strange feeling to see your own war already immortalized in a museum. Though admittedly, there isn’t much to this exhibit save for what a tent city DFAC looks like from the outside and the wall of the Air Terminal Operations Center from al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar from 2003. What’s interesting about the wall is that many of those who deployed in support of Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom went through this passenger terminal, and many of those wrote and drew on the drywall supporting the tent. It’s interesting to think of how the wars our current troops are fighting will be remembered in the future.
The Aletti Hotel bar was reserved for field-grade officers. The bartender served drinks to an out-of-place group of muscular soldiers; one had a pair of jump boots slung over his shoulder by the laces. Their antics over the next hour grew too much for the other bar patrons to handle, and they were asked to leave, not the proper send-off for their last Saturday in Algiers before they would receive new assignments in war-torn Europe.
Jim Russell — an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Jedburgh who had three combat jumps into North Africa, Italy, and Sardinia to his name — hopped into the driver’s seat of their three-quarter-ton truck. A pair of jump boots sat next to his leg. John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway had purchased them earlier in the evening at the Allied Forces Headquarters PX. Hemingway, simply known as “Jack,” was the eldest son of Ernest Hemingway, widely proclaimed as one of the greatest American literary figures of the 20th century. He was leaving for jump school in the coming days and had managed to convince Russell to grab a nightcap at a civilian sidewalk cafe located on the outskirts of town.
The rumbustious group of OSS commandos funneled into the cafe. Hemingway would bring his jump boots with him everywhere but decided to leave them within his view on the truck’s dashboard. The commandos were soon engulfed by curious “threadbare urchins” who begged to shine and polish their footwear, in a clever diversion. Hemingway’s prized jump boots were snatched from his sight, and the thief disappeared around the corner of a back alley. Hemingway, Russell, and the others gave chase and watched as the Arab thief threw the jump boots over a wall and into a courtyard.
Now the commandos were furious, as their drunken night turned from a celebration into a violent encounter. Three of the thief’s friends arrived holding knives. In an instant, all of the thieves were disarmed, sprawled flat on their backs, and on the receiving end of a well-choreographed lesson in hand-to-hand combat. The thieves had picked the wrong set of American soldiers that night because despite their heavy drinking, all were unarmed combat instructors for the OSS.
Hemingway never found his beloved jump boots, and he ended his night with a court-martial. An Arab workman threw a rock at their truck while they were returning to the OSS training base in Chréa. The commandos jumped out and beat the man senseless. The man reported the incident, and although Hemingway and Russell didn’t take part, they were threatened with being thrown out of the OSS.
An upcoming airborne operation was their saving grace because the planning stages were moving forward and they couldn’t be replaced. Hemingway’s orders to jump school were canceled, and he reported to a colonel leading a Jedburgh mission.
The Fly-Fishing Commando
Jim Russell had experience as a seasoned radio operator. Hemingway described Russell as “the complete antithesis of an OSS staff person.” The OSS had gained two reputations since its inception in 1942, one as an extremely competent paramilitary force and another as “Oh So Social” for its staff officers’ participation in diplomatic cocktail outings.
“Part of our OSS team at Le Bousquet, with a downed U.S. flier, seated left. I am in the center, Jim Russell, right, and two French ‘Joes.'” Photo courtesy of The Hemingway Project.
Russell and Hemingway, however, wouldn’t be handling the radios on this mission. Two French noncommissioned officers named Julien and Henri were tasked with the job. Their mission was to parachute into occupied France, take over existing information networks, and support the local resistance forces in their insurgency against the Germans.
France wasn’t some foreign land to Hemingway. His boyhood infatuation with fly-fishing materialized as he explored the rivers and streams around Paris with his father. His childhood was spent surrounded by his famous father’s friends: Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. His first words were spoken in French, then English, Austrian, and German. The joys of running through the French countryside as a boy and fighting imaginary battles had become a devastating reality.
Their four-man team spent hours in their safe house studying maps, memorizing drop zones and names of contacts, and identifying intelligence on German troop movements. Hemingway had also assisted in previous planning phases to become familiarized with the process of how agents, including a woman and a one-armed man, were dropped into occupied France.
On the airfield’s tarmac, a British officer approached Hemingway before their jump and said, “You can’t take THAT with you, you know?” He was referring to Hemingway’s fly rod, which he deliberately packed in his gear wherever he went. “Oh, it’s only a special antenna,” he lied. “Just looks like a fly rod.”
Two B-17s took to the air. They were loaded with containers filled with weapons, ammunition, explosives, and radio equipment. One B-17’s belly gun turret had been removed, and the commandos used the hole in the floor to parachute safely to the ground. Hemingway’s first jump from a perfectly good airplane was during a real-world Jedburgh mission over France with zero training, and towing along his fly-fishing rod.
Capt. J.H.N. Hemingway, far right, training officer with the 10th Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Screenshot from Hemingway’s autobiography Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
On the ground they linked up with the French resistance. While Russell and the French commandos were preoccupied with jury-rigging a radio transmitter, Hemingway ventured to a nearby water hole. “Limestone means rich aquatic life and healthy, well-fed trout,” Hemingway wrote in his autobiography. “I was in khaki, civilian garb not uncommon at the time, but wore no cap and there was a U.S. flag sewn to my right shoulder, but no insignia on the left.”
An overwhelming emotion of glee swept over him as he skipped down the mountainside with his fly rod, reel, and box of flies. As he entered the water, he didn’t study the flow of the stream as he normally would have and was oblivious of the world around him. A German patrol with their rifles and machine pistols marched toward him.
“They were all looking toward me and making what sounded like derisive, joking comments as they went along,” Hemingway wrote. “For the first time in my life I made a silent wish that came as close to a real prayer as I had ever come.”
He wished to not catch a fish because if he had, the German patrol would have stopped to watch and, under closer inspection, realized the fisherman had a US flag on his arm. They had mistakenly assumed he was the professional fly fisherman who fished for the local inn at Avesnes and continued their patrol.
This close call wasn’t the fly-fishing commando’s only brush with potential violence.
Escaping a German POW Camp
In October 1944, Hemingway took another assignment to recruit, infiltrate, and train allied resistance forces. While he traveled to his safe house with Capt. Justin Greene, who commanded the OSS team with the 36th Infantry Division, they stepped past a dead tank and into a German hornet’s nest. Greene walked up the slope and then immediately turned around and dove for cover, as if he had seen a ghost. Small arms fire and explosions followed close behind, and two German alpine soldiers appeared in Hemingway’s field of fire.
“After a hectic courtship, I finally got Puck to the altar in Paris, 1949.” Screenshot from Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
Another German opened fire from above Hemingway’s position, and he was hit with a single round. He dropped to the ground and tried to hide in a ditch as two more bullets ripped through his right arm and shoulder; grenade fragments peppered his side. He called out in German, surrendered, and immediately told them his cover story while they attended to his wounds. A German surgeon later threatened to amputate his arm, but he refused because, he reasoned, it was his casting arm.
Hemingway and Greene boarded the Luft Bandit en route for a German hospital prisoner of war (POW) camp. German civilians called their passenger train the Luft Bandit because it stopped often in tunnels and dense forests to escape American planes.
While in the POW camp, the commandos prepared for their escape. On March 29, 1945, US Army tank divisions broke 50 miles behind enemy lines to free US officers held in POW camps. Their intelligence, however, anticipated only 300 soldiers were being held in these camps — instead, the number averaged close to 3,000. Hemingway hitched a ride on one of these tanks as they rolled through an area the Germans used for army maneuvers and artillery practice.
“Preparing to net the catch on England’s Itchen River.” Screenshot from Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
From a distance of no farther than 3 yards, Hemingway was knocked off the tank’s turret by a Panzerschreck bazooka. He jumped onto another tank as American infantrymen decimated the hedgerow with their rifles and automatic weapons. Instead of staying with his rescuers, Hemingway decided to leave the tanks and travel on foot with another soldier. The next morning, six German Tiger tanks surprised and destroyed all 57 armored vehicles of the American tank division with overwhelming firepower.
Hemingway evaded German patrols for two days, surviving off raw rabbit and gardens of abandoned homes. He was nearly shot by a patrol of German teenagers who nervously trained their weapons on the unknown Americans. Hemingway spoke slowly in lousy German and was captured unharmed. For 10 more arduous days he and other prisoners death marched away from the evacuated Nürnberg POW camp to Bavaria. After a P-51 Mustang mistakenly strafed their position, they were forced to spell “US POW” on the ground. Once they arrived at their new home, which Hemingway called the biggest POW camp he had ever seen, they spent the next six months as POWs before being liberated on April 29, 1945. His once fit and healthy 210-pound body at the beginning of the war was a gaunt 140 pounds by war’s end.
Field & Stream
After World War II, Hemingway debriefed with X2, the OSS counterintelligence section, and took a commanding officer position at a German POW camp in Camp Pickett, Virginia. Hemingway kept alive his passion for fly-fishing after his service. He wrote for National Wildlife Magazine, describing his adventures hunting in Africa and trolling a fly behind a deep-sea fishing boat off the coast of Tanzania.
Screenshot from Jack Hemingway’s autobiography Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.
“All together, while trolling and casting from shore and around a small atoll on the edge of the Pemba Channel, I caught twenty-seven different species of fish on the fly, including everything from small, brightly-colored reef species to dolphin in the blue water, and I had one big shark for a short while which had swallowed a tuna I was fighting,” he wrote in his autobiography.
In his 40s, Hemingway became the Northwest field editor for Field Stream, “which meant contributing an annual roundup of fishing prospects in my region and any other pieces I could produce that might fit,” he wrote in his autobiography. Hemingway also influenced decision making through the Federation of Fly Fishermen. As the commissioner of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, he successfully swayed the state to adopt a catch-and-release fishing law.
Jack Hemingway was the son of a famous writer and the father to famous children, but he was also a legend in his own right. The former OSS commando, American POW, fly fisherman, conservationist, editor, author, husband, and father died of heart complications in 2000 at age 77.
Journalist Javier Espinosa described the horrifying experience of being an Islamic State hostage in The Sunday Times.
In the piece, Espinosa, a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo who was held by the jihadist group for several months, recalled in vivid detail how infamous executioner “Jihadi John” would psychologically and physically torture his victims.
“Feel it? Cold, isn’t it? Can you imagine the pain you’ll feel when it cuts? Unimaginable pain,” the notorious militant would say as he tickled Espinosa’s neck with a long knife. “The first hit will sever your veins. The blood mixes with your saliva.”
“Jihadi John” also staged mock executions for his hostages, whom were often captured in Syria by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
“Jihadi John wanted maximum drama. He had brought along an antique sword of the kind Muslim armies used in the Middle Ages,” Espinosa wrote, according to The Telegraph. “After finishing with the sword he holstered his pistol, a Glock. He placed it against my head and pulled the trigger three times. Click. Click. Click. It’s called a mock execution. But not even this terrifying intimidation seemed to satisfy them.”
“Jihadi John,” gained infamy last year after appearing as the executioner in Islamic State videos, including those where US journalists were beheaded. In February, The Washington Post identified the militant as Mohammed Emwazi.
An Islamic State defector told Sky News last week that Emwazi was the “boss” in the jihadist group’s hostage operations. According to Sky News, the mock executions had a dark purpose: to make the hostages more relaxed for their ultimate execution videos.
“The execution rehearsals took place so that when the moment of death finally came, the hostages were not expecting to be killed and were relaxed to appeal for their release on camera,” the outlet reported.
The men were calling in bomb after bomb — pinpointing al Qaeda positions in the hills and ridges of Tora Bora, miles from support and operating on their own for days.
In the end, the special operators from the Army’s elite Delta Force did all they could in the face of intense danger, feckless allies and brutal conditions to kill America’s public enemy number one. But to no avail.
The man who led those elite teams of Delta Force soldiers in the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan later wrote a book under the pen name Dalton Fury. Titled “Kill bin Laden: A Delta Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” it told in granular detail the risks this highly trained counterterrorism unit took to infiltrate the jagged mountains where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding and stitch together an ever-fraying patchwork of Afghan allies to help block his escape.
“We went into a hellish land that was considered impregnable and controlled by al Qaeda leaders who had helped defeat the Soviet Union,” Fury wrote. “We killed them by the dozen. Many more surrendered. … And we heard the demoralized — bin Laden speak on the radio, pleading for women and children to fight for him.”
“Then he abandoned them all and ran from the battlefield,” Fury added with some satisfaction. “Yes. He ran away.”
Fury was savaged by many in his former Delta and Special Forces community when the 2008 book was released, with many arguing he’d broken a code of silence on the secretive unit’s operations. His former colleagues outed his real name, Maj. Tom Greer, but he kept using Dalton Fury as his nomme de plume for a later series of popular fiction books about door kickers and contractors who hunted the world’s worst.
With the passage of time, the special ops community has settled down and Fury became Greer again. But despite his success in the world of fiction and his survival of many dangerous missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, among others, Greer is now fighting a battle he may not win.
According to friends and other sources, Greer recently has been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer. His supporters have established a Facebook page in hopes of helping his family in their time of need.
Greer is a true warrior and decorated combat veteran of the world’s most deadly counterterrorism unit, doubtless he’ll fight this battle with the same grit and tenacity he did against America’s most dangerous enemies.
The western world is always in a rush for the latest and greatest iPhone or other tech gadgets, but troops know that some weapons systems stand the test of time without too many, if any, mods. Here are 11 of them:
1. M2 (1933)
This baby predates World War II, entering service in 1933. The M2 fires a .50-caliber round at 2,910 feet per second. It was originally adopted as an anti-aircraft weapon, but has served for decades in anti-personnel, anti-light vehicle, and anti-ship roles as well.
The C-130 Hercules was a radical, and ugly, design departure from Lockheed’s previous transport aircraft. But the ridiculed “Herk” of 1954 has proven itself over hundreds of thousands of sorties and still serves with distinction today.
Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, the youngest F-35 crew chief in the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was born in 1996. “The Macarena” somehow was No. 1 on the charts, “Independence Day” topped the box office, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon had already been flying for 22 years.
The 20-year-old native of Byron Center, Michigan, and his fellow F-35A Lightning II maintainers generated combat sorties with America’s youngest jet at Red Flag.
The Jan. 23-to-Feb. 10 iteration of Air Force’s premier air combat exercise included both U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces, providing aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s like a family atmosphere,” Kosters said. “We’re extremely busy, working long hours, but everyone pulls together and makes sure the mission is successful.”
Inspired by His Father
Growing up, he learned hard work from his father, a carpenter. He learned how to get up early and work until the job was done. The two worked side by side, he said, even throughout his father’s cancer treatments. “He is an inspiration to me — never giving up,” Kosters said. “Working was a great opportunity to be close to him.”
Kosters joined the Air Force a little over a year ago after graduating from high school and working in construction for awhile, because he wanted to leave the Midwest, get an education and see the world, he said. He got high scores on his entrance test, and the F-35 maintenance world, hungry for new talent, put him in the pipeline.
“I didn’t really know anything about the F-35,” Kosters said. “I knew it was the newest jet, and I heard all the negative press about it. My dad and I started reading up on it. He probably knew more about it than I did.”
After technical training and hands-on experience, Kosters said, he is happy he is where he is.
“It’s cool, working with the latest technology, he added. “I don’t want to make it sound like maintenance is easy. It’s just advanced. It’s great to be able to plug in a laptop and talk to the aircraft.”
Based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the 34th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit are the first combat-coded F-35A units in the Air Force. They were created by bringing together a team of experienced pilots and maintainers from across the Air Force’s F-35 test and training units. Kosters was one of the first pipeline maintainers to join the 34th AMU straight from basic training and tech school, and Red Flag is valuable experience for that greener group.
“At home, our young maintenance airmen are practicing and learning every day. Here, we’re able to put that training into a realistic scenario and watch them succeed and learn how to overcome challenges,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Soto, lead production superintendent for the 34th AMU.
“It’s not glorious,” Kosters said. “You’re not working 9 to 5. Your uniform is not going to stay nice and clean. But, next to being a pilot, I feel like I have the best job there is. It’s gratifying to see those jets take off.”
Kosters said he and his fellow maintainers take pride as they hear from pilots how their aircraft are performing in the fight.
“It’s had its doubters in the world, but it’s nice to prove people wrong with all eyes on us, especially here,” Kosters said. “The first couple missions, it was the F-35 versus everyone else, and our guys were showing them that the F-35 is a superior plane. We’re like varsity.”
Man’s best friend has also been man’s battle buddy for as long as dogs have been domesticated. The mechanical, industrialized slaughter in the trenches of World War I didn’t change that one bit. All the belligerents let slip the dogs of war, some 30,000 in all. They were used to hunt rats, guard posts as sentries, scout ahead and even comfort the dying.
The last were the mercy dogs of the Great War.
Our canine companions can do much more than just fight alongside us in times of war. Modern-day uses of dogs include bomb-sniffing and locating the bodies of the fallen. World War I saw some uses of dogs unique to that war, especially in terms of hunting the rats that spread disease and ate corpses in the trenches. Dogs were used in scouting parties; their unique senses, especially smell, allowed them to detect the presence of enemy troops long before their human counterparts. When on guard duty, sentry dogs alerted their handlers to even the most silent of a human presence. But the dogs of mercy were truly the most unique among them.
Mercy dogs, also called casualty dogs, were first trained by the Germanic armies of the 19th Century, but their popularity only grew. The sanitatshunde were trained to find the wounded and dying anywhere on the battlefield. Sometimes they carried medical supplies to help the wounded care for themselves until they could find care from a doctor or medic. If the soldier was too far gone for medical care, the dog would stay with him as he died, to ensure he wasn’t alone.
The most common kind of dog on the battlefields were German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, both of German origin. This was mostly due to their intelligence, endurance, and ability to be trained for even the most dangerous tasks. For the mercy dog, the most popular and able breed was the Boxer. Boxers are not only able to do what other breeds could but they were also fiercely loyal and on top of comforting the wounded and dying, they would also guard and defend them until the end.
If a mercy dog on the battlefield found a wounded man, it would return to friendly lines with its own leash in its mouth, indicating that one of their own was out there and in need of help. Most importantly, the dogs were able to distinguish between a dead and unconscious man. If he was dead, the dog would move on. If he were dying, the dog would stay with him.
Thousands of wounded troops owed their lives to these dogs.
In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.
First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.
The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.
Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.
Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.
Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.
Rapid Target Acquisition
“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”
Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.
“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”
Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.
A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.
In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.
“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.
Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.
Steep Learning Curve
At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.
Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.
Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.
“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.
Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.
“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”
Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”
A Family of Sights
The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.
The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.
Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.
More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.
Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.
For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.
“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”
In World War I, pilots on either side of the line enjoyed sudden lurches ahead in technology advances followed by steady declines into obsolescence. This created a seesaw effect in the air where Allied pilots would be able to blast their way through German lines for a few months, but then had to run scared if the enemy got the jump on them.
So the Allied pilots found a way to fake their deaths in the air with a risky but effective maneuver.
Some Nieuport planes had a tendency to break apart when pilots pulled them out of a steep dive.
(Nieuport, public domain)
By the time that America was getting pilots to the front in 1917, all of the early combatants from the war had years of hard-won experience in aerial fighting. U.S. pilots would have to catch up. Worse, U.S. pilots were joining the fight while German planes were more capable than Allied ones, especially America’s Nieuport 28s purchased from France.
France had declined to put the Nieuport 28 into service because of a number of shortcomings. Its engine burned castor oil, and the exhaust would spray across the pilots, coating their goggles in a blinding film and making many of them sick. It could also turn tight but had some limitations. Worst of all, pilots couldn’t dive and then suddenly pull up, a common method of evading fire in combat, without risking the weak wings suddenly snapping off.
Yes, in standard combat flying, the plane could be torn apart by its own flight. So new American pilots adopted a strategy of playing dead in the air.
The technique wasn’t too complicated. In normal flying, a pilot who stalled his plane and then entered a spin was typically doomed to slam into the ground. And so, enemy pilots would often break off an attack on a spinning plane, allowing it to finish crashing on its own.
But a British test pilot, Frederick A. Lindemann, figured out how to reliably recover from a spin and stall. He did so twice in either 1916 or 1917. So, pilots who learned how to recover from a stall and spin would, when overwhelmed in combat, slow down and pull up, forcing a stall in the air.
Then as they started to drop, they would push the stick hard to one side, causing one wing to have full lift and the other to have minimal lift, so it would fall in a severe spin. German pilots, thinking they had won, would break off the attack. Then the Allied pilot would attempt to recover.
U.S. combat pilot Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker was America’s top-scoring fighter ace of World War I.
(U.S. Air Force)
But spins were considered dangerous for a reason. Recovery required leveling that lift on the wings and then using the rudder to stop spin before pulling up on the stick to stop the fall. So, for the first few moments of recovery, the pilot had to ignore that they were pointed at the ground. If they tried to pull up while they were still spinning, they really would crash. In fact, on some aircraft, it was essential to steepen the dive in order to recover.
And this whole process took time, so a pilot who fell too far before beginning recovery would hit the ground while still trying to recover from their intentional spin.
Most future American aces learned these maneuvers from British pilots in fairly controlled conditions, but some of them were limited in their flight time by their duties on the ground. Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, in charge of maintaining and improving America’s major aerodrome at Issoudon, France, taught himself the maneuver on his own during stolen plane time, surviving his first attempt and then repeating it on subsequent days until he could do it perfectly.
Rickenbacker would go on the be America’s top scoring ace in World War I despite being partially blind in one eye and officially too old for training when he went to flight school.
Putin announced an “unstoppable” nuclear-powered “global cruise missile” that has “practically unlimited” range, then showed an animation of the device bobbing and weaving around the globe. He also played a computer animation of a high-speed, nuke-armed submarine drone blowing up ships and coastal targets.
“Russia remained and remains the largest nuclear power. Do not forget, no one really wanted to talk to us. Nobody listened to us,” Putin told a crowd in Moscow, according to a translation by Sputnik, a Russian-government-controlled news agency. “Listen now.”
David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Business Insider that the idea of an “unstoppable” cruise missile going around the world without being detected is “fiction,” since it’d heat up to an extreme degree. (CNN also reported that all tests of the cruise missile ended in crashes.)
But he said that at least one device Putin showed off likely does exist.
“We know they’re developing some new systems with a longer range and a larger payload,” Wright said.
Putin showed a video of the Satan 2 during his speech. In it, footage shows an intercontinental ballistic missile launching out of a silo, followed by an animation of it rocketing toward space. The video-game-like graphic follows the ICBM as it sails over a faux Earth in a high arc and opens its nosecone to reveal five nuclear warheads.
Putin claimed this 119-foot-tall missile is “invincible” to missile defense systems.
What makes ICBMs so threatening
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are similar to rockets that shoot satellites and people into orbit, but ICBMs carry warheads and hit targets on Earth.
The missiles travel in a wide arc over Earth, enabling them to strike halfway around the world within an hour. (North Korea recently launched its new ICBM in a high, compact arc to avoid rocketing it over US allies.)
Satan 2, which Putin claimed is already deployed in some missile silos, is a replacement for a 1970s-era Satan ICBM. The new version is slated to reach full service in 50 silos around 2020, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
According to the Center’s Missile Defense Project, the Satan 2 “is reported by Russian media as being able to carry 10 large warheads, 16 smaller ones, a combination of warheads and countermeasures, or up to 24 YU-74 hypersonic boost-glide vehicles.”
That means one Satan 2 ICBM could pack as much as eight megatons of TNT-equivalent explosive power. That’s more than 400 times as strong as either bomb the US dropped on Japan in 1945 — both of which, combined, led to roughly 150,000 casualties.
The technology used to deliver multiple warheads to different targets is called a “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle,” or MIRV. Such devices deploy their warheads after reaching speeds that can exceed 15,000 miles per hour.
Depending on where the warhead is deployed in space and how it maneuvers, each one can strike targets hundreds of miles apart.
Why Putin says the Satan 2 is ‘invincible’
A recently demonstrated technology made to neutralize a nuclear warhead is a “kinetic kill vehicle:” essentially a large, high-tech bullet launched via missile. The bullets can target a warhead, slam into it mid-flight, and obliterate the weapon.
“But there are a number of different ways to penetrate defenses” like a kill vehicle, Wright said, which may explain Putin’s “invincible” claim.
Satan 2 has advanced guidance systems and probably some countermeasures designed to trick anti-missile systems. This might include “a couple dozen very lightweight decoys made to look like the warhead,” Wright said, which could result in a kill vehicle targeting the wrong object.
Wright has also studied other methods to sneak past US defenses, including warhead cooling systems that might confuse heat-seeking anti-missile systems, and “disguising a real warhead to make it look different.”
But simply deploying large numbers of warheads can be enough: Kill vehicles may not work 50% of the time, based on prior testing, and they’re a technology that’s been in development for decades.
Yet Satan 2 is not exactly unique.
What the US has that compares
The US, in 2005, retired the “Peacekeeper” missile, which was its biggest “MIRV-capable” weapon (meaning it could deploy multiple warheads to different locations).
One Peacekeeper missile could shed up to 10 thermonuclear warheads, each of which had a 50% chance of striking within a roughly football-field-size area.
But the US has other MIRV-capable nuclear weapons in its arsenal today.
One is the Trident II ballistic missile, which gets launched from a submarine and can carry up to a dozen nuclear warheads. Another option is the Minuteman III ICBM, which is silo-launched and can carry three warheads.
Arms-control treaties have since reduced the numbers of warheads in these weapons — Trident IIs carry up to five, Minuteman IIIs just one — and retired the Peacekeeper.
Today, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons deployed, in storage, or awaiting dismantlement, with more than 90% held by the US and Russia.
Cold War 2.0?
Wright said Putin’s recent statements and the similarly heated comments and policy made by President Donald Trump echo rhetoric that fueled nuclear arms build-up during the Cold War era.
“What’s discouraging is that, at the end of the Cold War, everyone was trying to de-MIRV” — or reduce the numbers of warheads per missile — he said.
Removing warheads helped calm US-Russia tensions and reduce the risk of preemptive nuclear strikes, either intentional or accidental, Wright said. Russia’s move to deploy new weapons with multiple warheads, then, is risky and escalatory.
“One of the reasons you might want to MIRV is if you’re facing ballistic missile defenses, and Putin talked about that,” Wright said, noting that the US has helped build up European anti-missile defenses in recent years. “The clear response is to upgrade your offensive capabilities.”
He added that Russia’s move also shouldn’t be surprising in the context of history: After George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, a Russian general told the New York Times the move “will alter the nature of the international strategic balance in freeing the hands of a series of countries to restart an arms buildup.”
The charged statements of President Trump, who has called for a new arms race, have done little to reverse that course.
In fact, the Trump Administration plans to expand an Obama-era nuclear weapons modernization program. Over 30 years, the effort could cost US taxpayers more than $1.7 trillion and introduce smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons that experts fear might make the use of nukes common.