Accurate Chinese snipers, the brutal cold, and a lack of food were just some of the rough aspects allied forces faced while occupying the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
As the grunts moved into the frozen grounds of their defensive positions, every two men received a case of hand grenades, extra ammunition, and an encouraging hand shake from a superior officer as he passed through.
As the Marines dug into their icy fighting holes, they knew they needed to hold the line at all costs.
Once the Chinese assault commenced, thousands of enemy troops appeared over the top of the hill and dashed down the ravine toward the thin line of armed Marines who began to pull every trigger in their limited arsenal.
“I was standing right there looking at a thousand damn men just going, ‘Oh my God we’re in it,'” one retired Marine recalls. “You knew when you fired your rifle you were killing somebody.
Soon after, the outnumbering Chinese Army made their way toward the wall of Marines manning the front lines and an all out hand-to-hand brawl initiated.
The Marines pulled their knives from their sheaths and started to cut down the enemy force.
“I shoved my Ka-Bar straight through, and it came out the back of his neck,” another retired Marine emotionally explains. “He naturally squirted blood all over me, and the blood burned my eyes.”
After the first wave of attack, the Marines cleaned the blood from their faces and eyes with the cold snow that surrounded them. They quickly proceeded to an embankment near a stream to reorganize themselves and form a perimeter, protecting one another.
The injured Marines had expended most of their hand grenades and ammunition, but they still managed to hold the line. No enemy combatant made it through.
These nine icons and military veterans left us in 2014:
RUSSELL JOHNSON – U.S. Army Air Corps
Russell Johnson was an actor best known for playing “The Professor” on the classic TV series “Gilligan’s Island.” He joined the Army Air Corps in World War II, and earned the Purple Heart when his B-24 Liberator was shot down in the Philippines during a bombing run in March, 1945. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to enroll in acting school. Johnson was 89 years old when he died on January 16.
HIROO ONODA – Japanese Imperial Army
Hiroo Onoda was a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army who fought in World War II and didn’t surrender in 1945. He spent 30 years holding out in the Philippines. He eventually returned to Japan to much popularity and released a ghostwritten autobiography called No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Onoda was 91 years old when he died on January 16.
PETE SEEGER – U.S. Army
Pete Seeger was a folk singer and colleague of the legendary Woody Guthrie. Over the course of his music life, Seeger penned such classic hits a “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” He was drafted in 1942 and spent his tour of duty singing folk songs for soldiers on the front, often playing songs that included anti-war sentiments. He was discharged as a corporal and went back to folk music. His career was infamously short-circuited when he was blacklisted by McCarthyism for his Communists views. Seeger was 94 years old when he died on January 27.
SID CAESAR – U.S. Coast Guard
Sid Caesar was a legendary comedian who made his name on stage, in films, and in the early days of television. During World War II he served in the Coast Guard as a musician where he was part of the service’s “Tars and Bars” show. When the show’s producer heard him joking with some of the other musicians he was switched from saxophone to comedian, a move that set the course for the rest of his life. Caesar was 91 years old when he died on February 12.
MICKEY ROONEY – U.S. Army
Mickey Rooney was a beloved childhood actor who made his name at a young age in films and Broadway shows in which he co-starred with Judy Garland. He joined the war effort in 1943 as a member of the U.S Army and spent his 21 month in uniform entertaining the troops and working on the American Armed Forces Network. He is perhaps best known to military audiences for playing a SAR pilot in the film “The Bridges at Toko Ri.” Rooney was 93 years old when he died on April 6.
EFREM ZIMBALIST, JR. – U.S. Army
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. was a TV star best known for his roles in the series “77 Sunset Strip” and “The FBI.” He later did voice-overs for the “Batman” and “Spider Man” animated series. He served for five years during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained to his leg while fighting the German Army during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. Zimbalist was 95 years old when he died on May 2.
LOUIS ZAMPERINI – U.S. Army Air Corps
Louis Zamperini’s remarkable life is the subject of two biographies and the film “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. In May of 1943, Zamperini was the bombardier on a B-24 Liberator that crashed south of Hawaii due to mechanical difficulties. He was one of three of the 11 crew members to survive the crash and spent 47 days adrift. He was captured by the Japanese and held as a POW until the end of the war under brutal conditions. Zamperini was 95 years old when he died on July 2.
JAMES GARNER – U.S. Army
James Garner was a TV and film actor best known for his roles in the movies “The Great Escape,” “Space Cowboys,” and “The Notebook” and in the TV series “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files.” He served during the Korean War and was wounded twice – once by an enemy mortar explosion and once by friendly fire from an American jet. He received a Purple Heart for each injury, although he wasn’t awarded the second one until 1983. Garner was 86 years old when he died on July 19.
ROBERT GALLAGHER – U.S. Army
Sgt. Maj. Robert Gallagher was a decorated war hero whose action as a platoon sergeant with Task Force Ranger in Somalia served as the basis for the film “Black Hawk Down.” He also served in Panama during Operation Just Cause and during the second invasion of Iraq. Over the course of his military career, Sgt. Maj. Gallagher received two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. He later called that fateful day in Somalia “the best and worst day of my life.” He was 52 years old when he died on October 14.
Few states were as pivotal to the Union victory in the Civil War as the state of Ohio. Ohio lent 320,000 soldiers to the cause, among them Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan. After the big names, one Ohio family famously lent more of its flesh and blood than any other family in the Union. Known as “The Fighting McCooks,” Daniel and John McCook were the sons of George McCook, a Pennsylvanian and veteran of the Whiskey Rebellion who immigrated from Ireland. As young adults, Daniel moved his family to Carrollton. John raised his sons in Steubenville.
As older men, the two would join the Union cause – along with 13 of their sons and numerous other family members.
The elder brother, Daniel McCook, was already 62 years old when South Carolina Confederates began shelling Fort Sumter. Advanced in age, he volunteered to be a Union paymaster. His brother James, a physician, was also in his 60s. He volunteered his services as a doctor with the Union.
George, another McCook brother and surgeon, also joined the Union army along with his son, George. The father and son surgical team donated their time to the cause, working for free. But it was the other two brothers and their “tribes” who would earn the McCook family their belligerent nickname.
Daniel McCook was killed during Morgan’s Raid, the largest battle to take place in Ohio. Nine of his sons joined the U.S. military, most becoming officers and many did not survive either. Three from the “Tribe of Dan” (as they came to be called), died in combat.
John and his five sons were known as the “Tribe of John” – and all of them survived the war.
The Tribe of Dan
The oldest son of Dan McCook, Latimer, joined as an infantry officer and fought in General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Though wounded on two separate occasions, he survived the war. George Wythe McCook was already a former Attorney General for the State of Ohio and a veteran of the Mexican War. He led the 157th Ohio infantry and after the war, he ran for governor (he lost).
One of the middle children, Robert Latimer, raised his own regiment of infantry, trained them, and then led them into combat. He was soon transferred to the Army of Ohio. He would later lead troops in an attack against Confederates in Alabama, where he died from a gunshot wound.
Alexander McCook spent his entire adult career in the U.S. Army. A graduate of West Point, he was a veteran of the Indian Wars and the Mexican War when the Civil War started. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, Nashville, Shiloh, and Chickamauga. He stayed in the Army long after the war ended.
Daniel McCook, Jr. also became a Union general. A former law partner of William T. Sherman’s, he would end his career as a brigade commander under Sherman. It was Sherman who appointed him to lead a frontal attack on Confederate positions on Kennesaw Mountain. Daniel died in the assault.
Edwin Stanton McCook was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who also raised his own infantry regiment. He joined Sherman’s March along with his other brothers and fought a Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. The youngest McCook was John James, who started his adult life as 1st Lt. McCook, fighting at Chattanooga and Chickamauga, among other places. Both of these brothers died after the war.
Charles Morris McCook was the only brother to enlist as a private in the Union Army. He died at age 18 at First Bull Run. It was his first engagement of the war.
The Tribe of John
Though the patriarch of the tribe died shortly after the war’s end, all of John’s tribe lived at least 20 years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. His eldest son Edward joined a regiment of cavalry in Indiana and led them throughout the war, moving south and gaining rank, going from lieutenant to brigadier general in three years. It was Edward McCook that read the Emancipation Proclamation in Tallahassee, securing the Florida capital for the Union.
Just after becoming a lawyer, Anson McCook joined the Union Army. – twice. He fought under Sherman in Atlanta and was discharged after his term of service ended. He was later called to serve under Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, a call he answered.
There were two members of the “Fighting McCooks” who did not actually fight. Henry McCook was a Presbyterian chaplain in a volunteer infantry regiment. John James was also a Presbyterian chaplain for a three-year infantry unit.
The only McCook who fought the Civil War in the Navy, Roderick McCook was out capturing slave ships before the war started. During the war, he harassed Confederate shipping and naval forces in South Carolina and Virginia, most notably aboard a newly-mined Union ironclad warship.
Honorably discharged veterans who want to shop at the online exchanges could be given access early as part of a group of “beta testers” through a new veteran shopper verification system launched June 5th.
The Defense Department resale board last year approved a plan to open the exchange’s online stores to all veterans. Those who are verified through a new site will have access to all of the online exchange stores, including AAFES, the Coast Guard Exchange, the Marine Corps Exchange and the Navy Exchange.
The verification site, VetVerify.org, asks users to input their first and last names, last four digits of their Social Security number, birth date, email address, and service branch. Veterans will then be notified whether they are ineligible, are already eligible to shop, that they will be eligible on the official Nov. 11 launch date, or that they have been randomly selected to be a beta tester.
The new benefit is available to all honorably discharged veterans. The rule change does not allow the new veteran shoppers to use the exchange in person or shop at the commissary. It also does not include access to gasoline, tobacco, or uniform sales.
Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said early shoppers will be given access on a rolling basis in an effort to make sure the system is ready when the benefit fully opens on Veterans Day. Although verification and shopping should be seamless, they said it is possible that beta users could experience some hiccups.
“They don’t want to just open this thing on Veterans Day … when you can work the kinks out ahead of time,” said Chris Ward, an AAFES spokesman. “That is the point of doing this — to make sure there aren’t any hiccups or bugs in the system.”
Products purchased through the exchanges are tax free, and a percentage of revenue benefits Morale, Welfare, and Recreation programs.
About 13 million veterans qualify for the new benefit. Officials did not have an estimate for how many veterans are expected to shop the online exchanges after Veterans Day or how many will register early.
“We’re kind of just going in blind,” Ward said. “We’re rolling it out this early — I don’t anticipate everyone comes today.”
Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.
The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.
Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.
Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.
“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.
All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.
“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.
As the United States was preparing to carry out the invasion of Panama, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” there was a very real problem that had to be dealt with before any meaningful operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega could take place.
The regime had an American hostage in its prison, and the guards where this hostage was being held had orders to kill him if America attacked.
According to an account posted on SpecialOperations.com, Kurt Muse had been making pirate radio broadcasts until he was arrested in early 1989. He’d received some technical assistance from the CIA to make those broadcasts, which had the goal of taking Noriega down a peg or two.
Muse would daily hear – or see – Noriega’s thugs torture inmates at the prison.
As tensions increased, Muse was visited by a military officer, later identified as Air Force Col. James A. Ruffer, who would pass reports to Delta Force. The special operators constructed a full-scale mock-up of the prison where Muse was held captive, and the Delta commandos carried out numerous rehearsals.
On December 19, 1989, Muse would receive his last visit. In the presence of reporters, prison guards, and others, the colonel asked Muse if he was aware that orders had been issued by Noriega to kill him if the United States carried out any military action against Panama.
Muse said he understood.
The colonel then made a statement that if Muse were to be harmed, nobody in the prison would emerge alive.
Muse knew that something was up.
At 12:45 AM on the morning of Dec. 20, 15 minutes before the official H-Hour, two AH-6 Little Bird helicopters carried out an attack on a nearby military compound using M134 Miniguns and Hydra rockets. One of the helicopters would be damaged and forced to crash-land, with the crew making an escape.
Two AC-130H Spectres then carried out their own attack on that compound, using a tactic called “Top Hat.” The massive volume of fire from the gunships had the effect of drawing the attention of Noriega’s goons.
As that went on, MH-6 Little Birds landed on the roof of the prison and deposited Delta commandos. The operators went through the prison, killing anyone who resisted the rescue. They reached Muse’s cell, forced it open, bundled Muse into body armor and a helmet, then began their exfil.
The MH-6 Muse was loaded on took some hits. In a display of superb airmanship, the pilot would fly the helo down a side street until it was hit again and crashed. Ironically, Muse would help defend the perimeter until they were retrieved by U.S. Army armored personnel carriers.
Operation “Acid Gambit” ended with the mission accomplished.
The Apache is the big brother in the sky that grunts love to see, hear, and feel flying above them. Its racks of Hellfire missiles are designed to destroy heavy tanks and light bunkers with ease, its rockets can eviscerate enemy formations, and its chain gun is perfect for mopping up any “squirters.”
The Stinger missile was originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. Operators aim the weapon, and it detects the infrared energy of the target. When the missile is fired, it homes in on that signature for the kill.
Apaches currently cannot carry a dedicated air-to-air weapon unless the operators buy an upgrade kit. Even then, the missiles have to be mounted on the outer wingtips instead of on actual weapons pylons.
But missile maker Raytheon and Apache maker Boeing reached an agreement in May to incorporate the attachments for the air-to-air Stinger missile into all new Apaches starting in 2018, Jane’s reports.
The new build will also move the mounting location for Stinger missiles from the outer wingtips to the dedicated weapons pylons.
It will then be much easier for Apaches to engage enemy air assets, something that attack helicopters are surprisingly good at. During the military’s Joint Countering Attack Helicopter exercises in 1978, helicopters with air-to-air weapons racked up a 5:1 kill ratio against jets.
Even if Boeing adds Stinger missile mounts to Apaches, that doesn’t guarantee the Army will buy them. The service is still fighting a long battle about whether it will keep any Apaches in the National Guard due to shortfalls of the aircraft for active duty missions.
So, there’s a very real chance that the Army would rather keep all of its Apaches supporting ground troops rather than re-tasking some to provide anti-air coverage — no matter how cool it would be to see an Apache shoot down an enemy jet.
As a wise man once said, “They say that the best weapon is the one that you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree! I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once.”
Adhering closely to this mantra, the M65 was indeed only fired once and then simply used as a deterrent in the early days of the Cold War. Why was this weapon so special? Well, it helps that it fired 280mm nuclear tipped artillery with blast power approximately that of Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima.
Designed by engineer Robert M. Schwartz in 1949, the shells, in addition to being larger than anything the US military had ever produced before, had to have a case some 4000 times stronger than that of the aforementioned bomb dropped on Hiroshima in order for the nuke to survive the extreme forces it would be subjected to when the weapon was fired. While you might think designing such an round would be insanely difficult, if not wholly impossible, Schwartz reportedly had a working rough design ready in just 15 days. The resulting W9 was essentially an 850 pound, 11 by 55 inch shell with a gun type nuclear tip capable of producing a 15 kiloton blast.
Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.
Of course, there was also the problem of the U.S. not then having a cannon capable of firing these W9 shells. Schwartz solved this too, drawing inspiration for the ultimate design of the M65 from German WW2-era railway cannons like the Krupp K5. He also designed the M65 such that it could be transported via roads, hugely increasing the weapon’s utility over railway cannons.
That said, to say the M65 was cumbersome is a massive understatement. Weighing around 83 tons tons, it was rather difficult to move, requiring two trucks packing 375 horsepower engines, one truck on each end of the cannon, with the drivers needing to be in constant communication as they drove. The top speed on this setup was a breakneck 35 mph, if the road was straight and reasonably flat.
Its mobility was also limited by the length of the vehicle- about 80 feet- with one soldier, Jim Michalko, recalling that after getting the cannon stuck in a narrow street during transport in Germany, they ended up having to destroy several buildings in order to make necessary turns.
Despite these issues, a well-trained crew of around 5 people could have the cannon ready to fire in around 15 minutes, with the weapon capable of hitting any target within roughly 20 miles with pinpoint accuracy. It likewise only took around 15 minutes to get the cannon back on the road, ready to nuke another target.
As alluded to earlier, the M65 is known to have only been fired once, as part of Operation Upshot–Knothole, a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada National Security Site in 1953.
In the one and only time a nuclear bomb has been shot from a cannon, during the Grable test at Frenchman Flat, the nuke flew 10 kilometres (roughly 7 miles) through the air, where it exploded about 500 feet above the ground.
The resulting explosion incinerated everything within about a mile of desert, excepting of course a lead lined fridge that was thrown free, and released a shockwave of searing hot air that tore apart lightly armoured vehicles positioned at set distances from the target area- all while several thousand soldiers, hundreds of military officials, several members of congress and then Secretary of Defence, Charles Wilson, looked on in awe from a mere 10 miles away.
Footage of this test was quickly circulated by the military as a show of force to the Soviets, and twenty M65 cannons were ordered to be created, all of which were shipped to Europe and South Korea where they spent around a decade being moved to various classified locations.
However, with the combined advent of tactical nuclear missiles and smaller nuclear shells that could fit in more widely used 155mm and 203mm cannons, the M65, which debuted with a bang in 1953, quietly went the way of Dodo by 1963.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The British-made Centurion tank was first developed in 1945 but came much too late to be used in World War II. The British needed a larger, heavier version of the Comet. The Centurion also had sloped armor and a more powerful main turret.
The tank was also an effective deterrent in postwar Western Europe. NATO planners saw it as a perfect counter to the Russian T-34. The Centurion served in the Korean War, a dominant partner in the UN forces’ breakout from Pusan. The tank operated in the subzero temperatures and even on the tops of mountains. Australians in the Vietnam War also used it, as did India and Pakistan (their wars pitted Centurion tanks against other Centurion tanks), Sweden, South Africa, Jordan, and Israel. The British used the Centurion through the 1991 Gulf War.
The Nuclear Test
Besides powering through the high mountains and subzero temperatures in North Korea and fighting through the dense, sweltering jungles of Vietnam, the biggest testament to the Centurion’s toughness came in Australia in 1953. An Australian Army Centurion Mark 3 was left at ground zero of a 9.1 kiloton nuclear detonation — engine running and loaded down with ammo, supplies, and a mannequin crew.
When test crews inspected the tank after the blast, they found the vehicle intact, if heavily sandblasted. The only reason the engine stopped was because the tank ran out of fuel. While the blast wave would have killed a real tank crew at that distance from the epicenter, the researchers realized they could have driven the tank off the test site.
The actual tank that withstood the nuclear blast, naturally nicknamed The Atomic Tank, was used by the Australians in the Vietnam War. It took an RPG and stayed in the fight during an engagement with the North Vietnamese.
Israel, Jordan, Libya, and South Africa still use variants of the Centurion today.
General Charles Denis Bourbaki forged a long career fighting in the French Second Empire’s wars in North Africa, the Crimea, and Italy. He served as a lieutenant with the Zouaves from 1836 to 1838 and received a promotion to captain in June of 1842. He quickly rose to the rank of Colonel by 1851 and received advancement to general of division in 1857. He served with distinction at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, and the assault of Sebastopol during the Crimean War. He fought in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859 and in July of 1870, was nominated as aide-de-camp to Emperor Napoleon, earning renown as one of his most resourceful generals.
With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, he took command of the First Army of the North. Like most of Napoleon III’s most senior generals, he too proved to be unprepared and unqualified for the war. The Prussian superiority in modern firearms and tactics proved to be too much for the French, who at one time seemed to possess the best army in the world. The Franco-Prussian War ended the myth of French military superiority.
Famed Marxist philosopher and war correspondent Friedrich Engels called the January 1871 Battle of the Lisaine “Bourbaki’s shipwreck.” The battle and subsequent flight of Bourbaki and his army left most of his surviving soldiers without winter clothing, ammunition, or provisions.
Five days after his First Army of the North met defeat at the hands of the Prussians, Bourbaki and 80,000 surviving troops reached the French city of Besançon on their way to the Swiss border in search of sanctuary. They were cold and dispirited.
The choices were grim: flight across the neutral Swiss border or surrender to the victorious Prussians. The condition of his shattered ranks, coupled with the censure for his indecisiveness and poor decision-making during the battle, proved to be unbearable for Bourbaki. In thirty-plus years of campaigning, the general had never experienced defeat on this scale.
“The whole behaviour of Bourbaki, from the 15th to the 26th, seems to prove that he had lost all confidence in his men and that consequently he also lost all confidence in himself,” Engels reported in The Pall Mall Gazette on February 18, 1871. No one ever questioned Bourbaki’s bravery, but his ability to command an army left much to be desired.
Bourbaki’s staff officers worried about his mood over the days leading up to January 26. They intentionally hid his sidearm from him because they were afraid that he would attempt to take his life. Bourbaki located a gunsmith in the city to purchase another weapon, but the gunsmith turned him away, warned of Bourbaki’s suicidal intentions.
But the stubborn general was resolute. He would not be joining his men on their journey to Switzerland.
He commandeered a pistol from one of his aides and retired to his quarters. It was exactly seven o’clock on the evening of January 26, 1871 when his aides heard the single crack of a gunshot echo from Bourbaki’s room.
Bourbaki likely used a weapon like this “Pistolet Cavaliere Modele 1822 TBIS” – the sidearm issued to French officers at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War.
One of Bourbaki’s aides burst through the door of his room and discovered the general slumped over on his bed with his face and head covered with blood. He was miraculously still alive, still able to speak but unable to recall the names of his staff officers.
Two doctors rushed to perform immediate surgery. They discovered a 12mm ball lodged into his temporal muscle. No fracture of the skull was found and the general appeared to only suffer slight amnesia from the concussion of the bullet’s impact.
Bourbaki attributed his attempted suicide to the fact that he was denied a glorious death in battle. But by June, the war was over and he resumed his duties in the French Army.
He lived another 26 years and died in Cambo-Les-Bains on September 22, 1897, well-established among the public as the French general whose failed suicide became his legacy.
Of all the nuclear weapons in all the world, quite possibly the weirdest, most ridiculous is the nuclear torpedo which has been envisioned and developed as everything from an anti-submarine weapon to a city-ending doomsday weapon. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin even claims that he’s brought it back (more on that later).
After the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the entire world realized that a new paradigm existed. It was like the morning the first Dreadnought battleship was built. Once the Dreadnought existed, every ship built before it was essentially obsolete. Same with the nuclear bombs. Your massive armored corps don’t mean jack when a single bomb could’ve won the Battle of Kursk.
Another weird weapon on that list: the nuclear torpedo. The Soviet Union was the first to investigate the concept and came up with two designs dubbed the T-5 and T-15 from 1951 to 1952. The T-5 was a sort of tactically useful weapon, fitting in standard 21-inch torpedo tubes but featuring a nuclear warhead with a 5-kiloton payload.
But the T-15 was supposed to be an absolute beast. It would require a specially modified submarine with a 61-inch diameter torpedo tube elongated to carry the weapon. Inside its shell would’ve been a thermonuclear warhead capable of creating a tsunami at a targeted shore, destroying the city or naval base there.
But the project was kept secret, even from the Soviet Navy, until July, 1954. When Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Fleet Adm. Nikolai Kuznetsov, was briefed on the concept, he reportedly said, “I don’t need that kind boat.” One of his major sticking points: Most U.S. cities were either too well protected or too far inland for the T-15 to work.
Apparently, purpose-building a submarine with a large crew in order to carry a weapon that likely could never be used in combat is a bad idea. Who knew?
The weapon was primarily aimed at destroying surface ships, but was thought to be plenty capable of taking out enemy subs by compressing their hulls. One of these torpedoes was almost used during the Cuban Missile Crisis when a Russian sub was bombarded with training depth charges by U.S. destroyers trying to force it to surface.
If the nuclear torpedo had been launched, it likely would’ve destroyed the American warships and could’ve pushed the crisis into a full war.
The U.S. developed their own nuclear torpedo, the Mark 45. The Mk. 45 was designed in 1957 and first produced in 1959, though the design was tweaked in 1960. These torpedoes fit in standard tubes but had an 11-kiloton W-34 warhead on the front. They were made to travel up to 12,000 yards before being triggered by an operator.
At the moment of the blast, the weapons would crush the hulls of ships and submarines as well as crack the keels of enemy ships if detonated properly. This is like breaking a ship’s back, and it drastically increases the speed at which a ship will typically sink.
Russia later developed an even more powerful nuclear torpedo. The Autonomous Special Combat Warheads boasted a 20-kiloton warhead. Luckily, neither it nor its U.S. and Russian predecessors were ever used in combat.
But, of course, Russia once bragged that it has a new nuclear torpedo, a city killer that could wipe out U.S. coastal cities and make their surrounding area radioactive for decades. It was originally announced during a speech by Putin where he bragged about a number of supposedly functional doomsday weapons.
While the hypersonic nuclear missile famously was lost in a failed launch soon after the announcement, the nuclear torpedo isn’t nearly as technically challenging as the nuclear hypersonic missile.
The torpedo was called Status Six, later renamed Poseidon, and is remotely guided. So, it’s basically a drone and carries a warhead of up to 100 megatons. And it has an insane range and speed, capable of being launched from 6,200 miles away and swimming at 56 knots, faster than most U.S. torpedoes. And, it’s supposedly stealthy to boot, nearly undetectable.
The good news is, though, that a strategic nuclear torpedo isn’t actually a game-changer, anyway. Russia has a history of overestimating U.S. missile defenses, and so they compensate by trying to create weapons that can pierce them. The nuclear torpedo is one of those, a city-killer designed to keep us from firing out city killers.
But it’s just a different flavor of mutually assured destruction, similar to ballistic missile silos and nuclear missile subs or nuclear bombers. Except nuclear torpedoes are, actually, just a little weaker since they can only engage coastal cities.
Here in the modern world, many of us are more aware than ever of how the media can shape our perceptions of reality. While most debate about “perception management” these days is relegated to the arena of political mudslinging, the truth is, there has always been a concerted media effort to shape how we see the world in the form of advertising. And as many national governments learned early on, the same media infrastructure built to sell us products can also be used to sell us on ideas.
If you’re looking for a good example of how government initiatives can shape our idea of reality, you need to look no further than the air campaigns of World War II — because if you’re one of the millions of people that think eating carrots can help improve your vision, you’ve been duped by half-century-old wartime propaganda.
Not the wartime propaganda posters you were expecting?
(World Carrot Museum)
British (and eventually American) pilots defending the U.K. from Nazi bombers were among the first aviators in history ever to be tasked with night-time combat operations. Less than four decades after the Wright Brothers first took to the sky, Allied pilots were fighting for their lives in pitch darkness over the European theater.
At the time, aviators had to rely on their senses, rather than on the suite of technological gadgets we use for intercepts in modern combat aircraft, but it wasn’t long before the advent of onboard Airborne Interception radar (AI) gave the Brits the edge they needed over inbound Nazi bombers. The British also knew that announcing their new technological advantage would put the Nazi’s to work on finding ways to counter it, so instead, they chose a very different track.
As Allied fighters started closing with and destroying Nazi bombers in increasing numbers despite the difficult to manage night sky, the English Ministry of Information launched a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the world that their pilots had impeccable Nazi-hunting night vision thanks to a steady diet of — you guessed it — carrots.
Technically speaking, they’re not wrong. A serious Vitamin A deficiency could make you go blind.
(US National Archive)
Like any good misinformation campaign, they needed to find a basis in fact to use as the bedrock for their campaign, and carrots are known to be a good source of Vitamin A. Technically speaking, eating more vitamin A won’t do anything for an otherwise healthy person’s vision, but not getting enough of it can cause vision problems. Because of this, it was easy for the Brits to twist the story away from eating carrots to avoid a Vitamin A deficiency, and instead toward the idea that eating enough carrots could actually make you see better at night.
The decision to use carrots was also informed by the nation’s sugar rations limiting snack options for the U.K. populace. Carrots were a great snack for school kids to munch on and the nation had plenty of them to spare — so selling the public on the idea that eating more carrots could turn your kid into a hawk-eyed fighter pilot benefited the war effort in ways beyond German perceptions.
It wasn’t long before the idea of carrots improving one’s night vision simply became carrots improving vision altogether. Soon, no one remembered where they first heard about carrots being so important to eye health and just started accepting it as the truth.
Amazing what a few posters can do.
(Bryan Ledgard on WikiMedia Commons)
Even today, mothers and fathers all over the world continue to tell their kids to eat their carrots because they’re good for their eyes. This isn’t because there’s a great deal of Vitamin A deficiencies in the modern world, but rather, because we’re still operating off of the familiar wisdom we gleaned from propaganda posters printed while Hitler was touring Paris.
Propaganda, it pays to remember, is little more than advertising paid for by governments, rather than corporations. We all know and accept the idea that advertising works (to the tune of 3 billion in the United States last year alone). Whether we like it or not, it seems that propaganda does too.