It doesn’t matter how great some weapons seem on paper – sometimes, stuff just happens and even the coolest, most badass weapons end up relegated to the White Elephant chapter of history. Often times, these weapons that never saw action get caught up in political quagmire, or show up in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no war to fight.
Other times, in the greatest stroke of irony, some of the weapons that never saw action were just too great for their own good. Too big, too powerful, too expensive or just too over-the-top to prove practical in battle. But no matter what ultimately kept them off of the battlefield (including peace), it’s hard for military hardware enthusiasts to not feel a little pang of regret at the idea of these great machines winding up in mothballs.
Vote up the coolest weapons that never saw action below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
The Roman loss to Carthage at the Battle of Cannae pretty much broke Rome, spiritually, mentally and physically. The historian Livy mentions Hannibal killing some 200,000 Roman soldiers. If that wasn’t bad enough, Roman citizens went on to do their worst – to themselves.
In some of the worst displays of Roman human sacrifice, Livy says citizens of Rome threw an “oversized baby” into the Adriatic Sea while burying others alive in the Forum in an attempt to appease the gods. Panic struck the citizens of Rome as they wondered when Hannibal would besiege the capital.
The Battle of Cannae came during the Second Punic War between the Roman Republic and Carthage, the two most powerful entities on the Mediterranean Sea. Rome spent the first half of the war getting their asses handed to them, losing two important battles in as many years. Cannae was Rome’s opportunity to redeem itself. They blew it.
Rome came to the field with 86,000 troops, with its heavy infantry massed deeper than usual. Hannibal used his infantry in a much different formation, massing his troops on the wings of his line, instead of the center.
When the fighting started, the heavy Roman force thinned out the middle of the Carthaginian lines while the Carthaginians’ wings extended and surrounded the advancing Romans. It was a classic double envelopment tactic and the Roman legions walked right into it. An estimated 48,000 legionnaires were slaughtered.
It’s remembered as the most perfect defeat of an enemy army ever. The resulting loss nearly broke the Roman Republic. Philip V of Macedon declared loyalty to Hannibal, as did King Hieronymus of Syracuse, the provinces of Arpi, Capua, Salapia, Herdonia and Uzentum.
There are many reasons for the Roman loss, aside from the army’s major formation. By Roman law, the army had to be co-led by the two Consuls of Rome, in this case, Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro swapped command of it day after day. It was Paullus’ turn during the Battle of Cannae, and he died there. Varro was recalled to Rome in a panic.
The Roman army was completely remodeled following the defeat at Cannae to increase its mobility and make it less susceptible to the double envelopment. There would also never again be two commanders of the same army. Finally, the Roman army would not be made up of hastily formed militia. Rome would pay for a professional force of soldiers in the future.
As for the Roman survivors of the battle, they were formed into two legions and all but exiled to the island of Sicily, forbidden to ever take part in any Roman military operations ever again. The disgraced legions could not participate in the Roman army’s later eviction of Hannibal from the Italian peninsula or the conquest of the Iberian peninsula.
The republic was ashamed of the legionnaires who were so soundly defeated at the hands of Rome’s worst (but most capable) enemy. They were a walking reminder of the failure of Rome’s old ways and how that failure gave Hannibal free reign over the entirety of Southern Italy.
But their exile wouldn’t last forever. The hero of Rome’s redemption in the Second Punic War, Publius Cornelius Scipio, was a veteran of the Battle of Cannae who managed to fight his way out of the envelopment. Scipio traveled through Sicily on his way to bring the war home to Carthage and he needed men to bolster his numbers.
The surviving veterans of Cannae were ready to give Hannibal what he had coming. When Scipio led the Roman army against Hannibal at Zama, he did it with survivors from Cannae. Hannibal’s defeat at Zama ended the Second Punic War. Scipio returned to Rome in a Triumph and was given the title Scipio Africanus for his performance.
Feature image: “The Death of Aemelius Paulus,” John Trumbull, The Athenaeum / Yale University Art Gallery
Everyone is up a tizzy now about the possibility of an actual Space Corps, the sixth branch of the military. But this isn’t America’s first pass at space occupation. The Army and Air Force launched two separate studies in the late 1950s about establishing a base on the moon and permanently occupying it.
Since America ultimately won the first round of the Space Race, it’s easy to forget that the Soviet Union spent years firmly in the lead. It launched the first man-made satellite in 1957 and landed the first man-made object on the moon in 1959.
So the U.S. looked quickly for a way to catch up. The CIA was stealing technology as quickly as it could, Eisenhower ordered the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (now DARPA), and the Army and Air Force got to work planning moon bases.
While it may sound odd today, both military studies took it as a given that someone would occupy the moon relatively soon and that it should be America — even if there wasn’t a firm plan yet on what to do with it.
The Army said:
The primary objective is to establish the first permanent manned installation on the moon. Incidental to this mission will be the investigation of the scientific, commercial, and military potential of the moon.
The Air Force was more direct, saying, “The decision on the types of military forces to be installed at the lunar base can be safely deferred for 3 to 4 years provided a military lunar base program is initiated immediately.”
But both services did have their own plans on what to do with it, even if they were relatively hazy ideas in the far future.
Both services wanted to use the moon base as a point for intercepting Soviet signals, an idea partially proven by the 1948 detection of air defense radar signals bouncing off the moon and later by “ELINT” which detected cutting-edge Soviet radar technology via lunar reflection.
The Army and Air Force were both interested in using the moon as an observation platform from which to watch activity in the Soviet Union.
But the most surprising proposed use of the moon base came from the Air Force, which twice mentioned the possibility of a “Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System,” a weapon projected to be accurate within 2-5 nautical miles.
The study doesn’t go into detail on what ordnance the LBEBS would use, but…pretty much the only weapon that can destroy an enemy installation by landing within five miles of it is a nuke.
When it came to planning the construction of the base, both services focused on their strong points.
The Army, used to building large and complex bases around the world while under fire or during other adverse conditions, wrote up a detailed plan on how a 12-man team could bury modular containers three feet under the surface to establish a base for them to live in. They would use a special tractor and other excavation equipment to do so. It even planned out potential meals.
The Air Force, meanwhile, spends a lot of time and energy discussing how to send automated rocket flights with equipment payloads to specific points on the surface for later construction. But the study essentially kicks the can down the road when it comes to assembling those payloads into a functioning base.
A nuclear power plant was slated to power each base.
The timelines for the projects were ambitious, to say the least. The Air Force called for an operational lunar base by June 1969. In reality, Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon a month later, almost two years after the Air Force’s projection for the first manned mission.
The Army was even more optimistic, envisioning that the first people would reach the moon in 1965 and that the first outpost would be fully-functioning by the end of 1966.
Instead, here we are in the new millennium without a single moon base. The Space Corps is going to be busy playing catch up if it ever actually gets formed.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez had accompanied top special operators in some of the most dangerous missions of the War on Terror, including the Battle of Shok Valley. He was a combat controller assigned to Army Special Forces, calling in attack runs from aircraft supporting the Green Berets.
In 2009 he was tested like never before when, during a raid to capture a high-level Taliban leader, Gutierrez was shot in the chest. The round passed through his lung, collapsing it and ripping a chunk out of his back.
Gutierrez had seen this kind of wound before and estimated he had three minutes left to live.
“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez told Fox News while discussing the raid. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”
He stayed on the radio, calling in strikes from aircraft to help the team escape alive. At one point, enemy fighters were lined up on a wall only 30 feet from him. Gutierrez called in three A-10 danger close gun runs against the fighters. The rounds struck so close to Gutierrez that his ear drums burst from the explosions. After the first of the three runs, he allowed an Army medic to insert a needle into his lung, relieving some of the pressure that was forcing his lungs closed. It was the only time he came off the radio despite his injuries.
In fact, through all the chaos of the fight, Gutierrez remained so calm and clear on the radio that the pilots supporting the operation didn’t realize he was injured until he was removed from the battlefield.
“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin told Business Insider. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.
Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battle after nearly four hours of fighting and losing over half of his blood. No American lives were lost in the raid, a success credited largely to Gutierrez’s extraordinary actions. He recovered from his wounds and was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for valor awards.
The infamous Molotov Cocktail got its start in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939 when Soviet-backed forces with a large number of tanks were met by forces wielding glass jars with blankets or drapes wrapped around the lid and set on fire.
The rebels took the weapon formerly used in Spain and perfected it. Some earlier versions used fuel that was too thin, causing it to burn out too quickly, so the Finns added thickening agents like tar. And the Finns preferred to use a bottle with some air inside instead of the completely full jars that were common in Spain. The air gap in the bottles made them more likely to break.
The Cocktails are thrown against the tanks. Today, throwers either need to hit the intake or the fuel storage of the tank in order to really threaten it. During World War II, the treads of many tanks were propelled via rubber wheels which could be targeted and the crew was susceptible to cocktails thrown against the air intake for their cabin.
And of course, a tank with the hatches open becomes a rolling oven if someone gets a cocktail inside.
The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.
But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.
The abandoned projects are largely the result of a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.
Sequestration, indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is currently the greatest threat to the US military, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.
Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially because of a lack of funds:
Future Combat Systems
Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion
Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle program, which was also ultimately canceled.
On Sep. 18, 1947, the United States Air Force became an independent branch of the military.
Initially part of the U.S. Army, the Department of the Air Force was created under the National Security Act of 1947. On Aug. 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed the Aeronautical Division, which later evolved into the U.S. Army Air Force. The National Defense Act of 1947 created an independent Air Force.
The mission of the Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace — and it does.
In 1947, then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, kicking off a race of pilots who competed to do the next big thing, eventually leading to outer space and a man on the moon.
While an “ace” is a pilot from any branch who has shot down five or more enemy aircraft, the top jet ace in USAF history is Joseph C. McConnell, a “Triple Ace” who shot down 16 MiG fighters during the Korean War over a four month period, bagging three on his last combat mission of the war. His American record still stands.
In addition to missions that include cyber warfare and defense, personnel recovery, agile combat support, and global precision attack, the United States Air Force prides itself in maintaining global air superiority through training, capability, number and modernity of aircraft, and rather exceptional personnel, if I do say so myself.
Fun fact, the Air Force also tracks Santa. On Dec. 24, 1955, a newspaper ad told kids that they could call Santa at an included phone number. The number listed would call the U.S. Air Defense Command. The colonel on duty ordered his team to give all kids Santa’s “current location.” This tradition now handles calls from over 200 countries.
It is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. You might even say no one comes close.
In Tom Clancy’s fictional “Rainbow Six” universe, customizable teams of special operatives use intelligence from around the world to strike at threats against NATO. Designated “Rainbow,” the team was originally 30 members and is comprised of the best Delta, SAS, and other top NATO-member special operations units have to offer.
Rainbow deploys on quick notice around the world, fulfilling both a deterrent and a direct action role, mostly against terrorists.
The real-world NATO must have seen all of this and — in light of recent Russian aggression — decided Rainbow just wasn’t big and strong enough for the real world.
Instead, NATO announced in February the planned components of their Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. As part of the overall NATO Response Force, the VJTF does have special operators from around the world supporting it and an international intelligence network.
But VJTF doesn’t end at special operations. Dubbed “Spearhead Force,” it centers on a land brigade of approximately 5,000 troops that can hit a target and begin operations within 48 hours of notification. The primary component of the Spearhead Force will change year-to-year, coming from whichever country is in primary command of the unit. Germany is taking the first turn and leading the force in 2015 and has already taken the interim VJTF out for a spin.
In addition to their special operators and land forces, the VJTF will have air assets and naval forces on the ready. Britain has volunteered four fighter jets to the air mission already, in addition to 1,000 troops for the land component.
What units will make up the rest of the air component, as well as the exact forces in the maritime and special operations components, have not been announced.
Of course, the special operations support could be coming from Rainbow — if you believe the government is hiding an international special operations force from the American public.
Work can be monotonous for junior sailors who spend their days cleaning, cranking, and painting. The trick is to make the best of it, so we asked seasoned sailors from the Submarine Bubblehead Brotherhood and US Navy Veteran Facebook groups for their advice on how to avoid working without getting caught — better known in the fleet as “skating.”
There’s an art to skating. As one sailor from the Bubblehead Brotherhood put it, “Many people think that skating is merely a lazy man’s forte. But few fail to realize its complexity as a whole. To skate is to be a good actor, good talker, and well-liked among divisions.”
Take it from the pros; here are nine tips for skating:
1. Volunteer to go on a run for the division
Runs involve going for snacks, supplies, or other LPO-type errands. The key here is to take your time. Turn it into a half-day event, go to the NEX, the barracks, or anywhere you want, but avoid looking suspicious.
2. Hide in plain sight with cleaning materials
If you look busy, no one will bother you. Always have a cleaning item on hand and pull it out when someone of a higher rank approaches. Here’s how it worked for one sailor:
3. Sit in a stall in the head
Go to the head and take your time. It also pays to know the cleaning schedule. You can spend half the day rotating through different heads.
4. Volunteer for a dreaded task or one that requires little supervision
This works best with a task that you don’t mind doing. This plane captain will probably clean the same spot for 30 minutes before moving to another spot.
5. Walk around the ship with a worried look while holding a clipboard.
The key to skating with a clipboard is your facial expression. Always look focused, worried, or angry. Nobody will want to get involved in whatever you’re dealing with.
6. Chase the signature
In order to stand watch or use a piece of equipment in the Navy, you must first get qualified. Earning your qualification requires that another qualified sailor give you a tutorial on the peace of gear. You can be “Joe Navy” and have your qualification in a couple of days, or you can drag this out by asking for the tutorial at the wrong time. When asked for the status of your qualification, no one can deny that you weren’t trying.
7. Leave an extra cover and set of keys on the desk in the shop
Have a spare cover and set of keys that you keep at your desk and use the other set for leaving the shop. The spare set is to throw your shipmates off your scent. “He’s got to be here somewhere. His keys and cover are right here.”
8. Take a nap in a storage room
Get your buddy to lock you in a storage or munition room. The rooms lock from the outside, so make sure that your buddy is trustworthy, otherwise prepare to go to mast if a man-over-board is called and you miss your muster.
9. Get a wireless alert chime.
Wireless chimes are great for catching sleep during working hours. They are meant to be permanent, but you can make them mobile with Velcro tape. Place the magnetic sensors over the door or hatch and take the speaker/receiver with you away from view. The receiver will sound off when the door is opened.
Russia recently announced that a nuclear strike was on the table after Norway allowed 330 U.S. Marines into the country.
Not 330 Marine divisions. Not 330 tanks and their crews. But 330 Marines with their personal gear.
You know, enough Marines to firmly hold a small town, but about 380,000 fewer troops than the U.S. used to invade Iraq.
But Russia has freaked out like this is a huge military force staged on their border instead of a couple of hundred troops 600 miles away. Frants Klintsevitsj, the deputy chairman of Russia’s defense and security committee, even went on national TV and said that Norway had been added to Russia’s target list for nuclear weapons.
Listen to the author and other veterans talk about the damage 330 U.S. Marines can do on the Mandatory Fun podcast.
It turns out that most people have been underestimating Marines since 330 of them are apparently such a strategic threat that it necessitates a nuclear deterrent. In light of this new information, here are six things that 330 Marines could do on their own:
1. Conquer Russia, obviously
Clearly. Russia has basically admitted it.
2. Kill Xerxes and use his bones to beat the rest of the Persian Army to death
The famed 300 Spartans at Thermopylae did a good job holding back the Persian forces, but they’re not a nuclear-equivalent force like the Marines are. And, the Marines enjoy a 10 percent size advantage against the Spartans. Expect the Marines to quickly cut their way through to Xerxes’ private traveling palace, dismantle the god-king, and use his bones as cudgels against the rest of the Persian army.
3. Install Gen. James Mattis as the Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas
Since Idi Amin died in 2003, the Earth has gone without a Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas. While Amin was seen as a lackluster Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas, this was mainly because he was more interested in being a tyrant of humans than anything else.
But, 330 Marines could easily quash the lions or any other animal who tries to claim dominion over our planet’s living creatures. This would allow them to install their favorite candidate for anything ever, Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
5. Conquer all of Westeros and sit on the Iron Throne
Seriously, it’s been six seasons already. It’s time for the Marines to end the ongoing instability of Westeros and install a strong leader. Mattis would be a great king if he’s not interested in beasts and fishes, but there are certainly other Devil Dogs who could sit on the throne. Rob Riggle might do it.
6. Claim the Arctic circle for America, including the parts that are already property of other countries
A race for resources has slowly gotten underway in the Arctic, and the 330 Marines in Norway could go ahead and take over the whole area. Since the Arctic circle is only 310 miles north of the Marines training area at Vaernes, Norway, it would actually be easier for them to head to the Arctic than for them to attempt an invasion of Russia.
On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.
In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
On Sep. 3, 1777, the American flag flew in battle for the first time.
It was the Revolutionary War. American General William Maxwell ordered that the newly adopted “Stars and Stripes” banner be raised as he faced a line of British and Hessian troops in Delaware. General Maxwell was defeated in battle that day, retreating to join General George Washington’s forces, but, of course, America would go on to win the war.
Three months before, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution, stating: “The flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” The origin of that first American flag is unknown, though some historians believe it was designed by New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson and sewn by Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross.
As the young country evolved, so, too, did her flag, until 1960, when the 50th star was added to Old Glory’s blue field. Today, the flag of the United States consists of thirteen horizontal stripes — one for each of the original colonies — seven red alternating with six white. Red symbolizes valor and strength, white symbolizes purity, and blue represents justice.
In 1814, an enormous garrison flag flew during the siege of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, inspiring Francis Scott Key’s composition of The Star-Spangled Banner. That original flag survives today with the preservation efforts of The National Museum of American History.
To this day, the American flag is meant to be treated with dignity and respect and there are guidelines to properly display those Stars and Stripes, including lighting and weather conditions and priority on a flagpole.
Forever in peace may she wave.
Featured Image: The Birth of Old Glory (Percy Moran, 1917)