Have you ever run into a spider web at night, and gotten a case of the “screaming mimi’s?” Ever met a sizeable lady, and silently spoken the words “Big Bertha?” Ever fired a bottle rocket at your cousin on the Fourth of July, used a GPS nav system, or shot a gun? Well, you have artillery to thank for all of that. And a lot more.
Big artillery pieces are like great warriors in their own rights. They’ve got names, personalities, biographies, and histories of their own. Gustav and Dora, Thor and Little David, Davey Crockett and Satan himself; they all have seen battle from time to time. It’s kind of odd how much of artillery history has worked its way into pop culture, and how often we refer to the big guns of days gone by.
Here are a few of the biggest, coolest and most important ballistic weapons in history. Vote up the best artillery pieces from history, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
A Russian Su-27 Flanker came within five feet of an American reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The incident came shortly after a major multi-national exercise concluded.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the advanced Russian fighter armed with air-to-air missiles buzzed an Air Force RC-135. Since June 2, there have been 35 encounters between American and Russian aircraft, but this incident was notable due to how close the Flanker came to the American plane.
It was not immediately clear which version of the RC-135 was intercepted by the Russians in this incident. The Air Force has three variants of the RC-135. The RC-135S Cobra Ball specializes in ballistic missile tracking. The RC-135U Combat Sent is an electronic intelligence aircraft that specializes in locating emitters for radar systems. The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint specializes in electronic intelligence – and is even capable of intercepting communications.
The white craft look innocuous, like small blimps, but veterans of the war in Afghanistan may remember the difference they made in combat, allowing friendly forces to constantly see everything happening in an area.
The aerostats have traded their cameras for sophisticated radars and are now part of a cruise missile shield for America’s capital.
The blimps work in pairs to defeat these threats. One collects 360 degrees of radar information at all times while the other holds a fire control radar that hones in on specific threats. Flying from 10,000 feet, they can cover an area nearly the size of Texas. The targeting information can be passed on to defending forces in the area. Adm. William Gortney, NORAD and U.S. Northern Commander, wants the aerostats’ radars to be integrated with Navy ships and Air Force fighter jets in the area.
If the upgrades are approved, ships and planes would be able to collect targeting data from the ships and launch missiles to bring down the threat immediately.
Like the video above states, the blimps don’t only watch out for cruise missiles. They can also see approaching ships and vehicles, allowing defenders to identify cruise missile launchers and other threats as well. This would allow forces to target the launchers before the missiles are in the air, a much cheaper and safer option than going after in-flight missiles.
Camp Pendleton is the best place in the world for Marines to be stationed.
Sorry Hawaii Marines, but I’m calling it for Pendleton. That giant wonderful base found between San Diego and Orange County on the Pacific coast is simply the best.
I’ve been stationed or visited Marine bases in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Okinawa, 29 Palms, Camp Lejeune, and others. But no place is better than Camp Pendleton, in my opinion. Here are six reasons why:
1. Camp Pendleton is home to the oldest and largest active-duty Marine division.
Marines at Camp Pendleton who fall under the “Blue Diamond” can be especially proud of their heritage. With roughly 25,000 Marines and sailors in its ranks, 1st Marine Division is “the oldest, largest and most decorated division in the United States Marine Corps,” according to its official website.
It has also had some notable commanders, like the legendary Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who led the division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Then there are others who made 1st Mar Div their home at some point before they rose to the top as Commandant of the Marine Corps: Gens. Vandegrift, Shoup, Gray, and Dunford (who will soon take over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs).
You also can’t beat the motto: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.”
2. Pendleton is located right between two amazing cities.
Camp Pendleton is situated right between Los Angeles and San Diego. Running about 20 miles of I-5 from San Clemente to Oceanside, the sprawling installation offers countless opportunities for fun off-base. Many junior Marines visit Oceanside while in training at the School of Infantry, but others know to head further away to San Diego for awesome bars, culture, and parks, or they head further north and brave L.A. traffic.
And for those stationed on the north end of the base, Orange County offers amazing beaches, clubs and bars, and perhaps most importantly …
3. Burritos, burritos, and burritos. Oh, and tacos too.
Pedro’s Tacos in San Clemente claims the title of “world’s best tacos since 1986” and I believe them. While its awesome fish tacos are about 10 minutes outside of Pendleton’s northernmost gate, there are plenty of great Mexican food options to choose from in southern California.
Marines also rave about Colima’s Mexican Restaurant in Oceanside, which offers monster carne asada burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and everything else you’d expect. They are also known for the “California burrito,” which has french fries in it. Trust me, it’s good.
4. The weather at Camp Pendleton is perfect.
Marines stationed in the desert of Twentynine Palms, California are sweating their butts off year-round, while Camp Lejeune’s weather can be hot, pleasant, or freezing, depending on the time of year. Then there’s Okinawa, which is so humid, I’m overheating just thinking about it.
Some might argue in favor of Hawaii for this point, but let’s not forget the mysterious rain that comes out of nowhere when there are no clouds in sky.
Southern California offers the best weather overall. The average annual temperature is around 62 degrees, but that’s only due to the winter months bringing temps down slightly below 70. Most of the year, the region enjoys sunshine, little rain, and temperatures in the upper 70s and 80s.
Which leads me to the next point:
5. You can literally go surfing and snowboarding in the same day.
If you are into surfing, Marines in Hawaii have the obvious edge over everyone else. But you can’t beat southern California in this boast: You can go surfing on Saturday morning and be snowboarding on a decent mountain in the same afternoon.
This amazing feat can be worked out by hitting up one of the best surf breaks in the world at Trestles (located at San Onofre beach on base) before driving up to Mount High or Big Bear — a little over two hours away — to hit the slopes.
6. When you leave the base, you are actually leaving the base.
At my first base in K-Bay, Hawaii, most Marines left base for the local area of Kailua or took the drive out to Waikiki for the weekends. But since it was a tiny island, you could never really escape the base: High-and-tight haircuts and Marines were everywhere (among other military service members).
Hawaii may be an island, but most Marine Corps bases are similar. The towns outside it are filled with Marines (and higher-ups). It’s kind of a bummer if you are filling up your gas tank in Jacksonville, N.C. (outside of Camp Lejeune) and told your civilian clothing choices are incorrect and you need to go fix yourself.
Camp Pendleton doesn’t really have this problem, especially if Marines are heading out to the larger cities of L.A. and San Diego (Oceanside is another story).
The Pullman Palace Car Company, a railway car manufacturer, was located in Pullman, Illinois. The company owned the houses, the stores, the land, the churches — everything.
The company was not named after the town; the town was named after Pullman Car Company owner George Pullman. It was designed around housing his workers and their families – but the cost of everything they needed for survival was deducted from their paychecks.
So the Pullman workers only had about $6 to live on (roughly $150, adjusted for inflation). One worker, who said he earned $.02, had his check framed (that’s 51 cents in 2016). The next year, Pullman’s workers joined the American Railway Union and decided to strike.
Soon, rail workers all over the country would not operate lines that used Pullman cars out of solidarity with the workers in Illinois. Boycotts and strikes against lines and the Pullman company caused complete paralysis in national transportation. The New York Times called it “the greatest battle between labor and capital that has ever been inaugurated in the United States.” The Chicago Tribune called it an “insurrection.”
The General Manager’s Association called for the use of Federal troops to end the strike.
President Grover Cleveland was happy to oblige. His Attorney General, Richard Olney, worked for the railways before coming to the White House. He and Cleveland concluded that if strikers were not put down in Chicago, it could spread to the rest of the country. He decided it was imperative to restore federal authority.
The Attorney General banned all labor strikes. The workers were unmoved, and over the protests of Illinois’ governor, U.S. troops marched on Chicago.
Up until this point, the strike was relatively peaceful. Union leader Eugene V. Debs maintained that violence would only play into the hands of their employer. When the Army came in, “the very sight of a blue coat aroused their anger.”
Both Debs and Army leader Gen. Nelson Miles worried the confrontation would spark a new Civil War. It didn’t, but the violence that started on July 4, 1894, spread across the country like wildfire. Nearly 14,000 troops – funded by the railroads – occupied Chicago while workers called each other out to meet them and destroy railroad property.
Eventually, the blockade on Chicago was broken by sending in trains full of U.S. troops to clear the lines. Within two weeks, freight movement was on the rise, Debs was in jail, and the military controlled the city.
All told, 30 people died and the railways suffered an estimated $80 million in damage.
As state militia replaced Federal troops, Pullman began to rehire its workers as soldiers looked on.
While the union workers were dedicated to a lasting victory through legal means, the illegal use of force made that kind of victory all but impossible. In the long run, the workers were happy to prove that a joint effort could upturn the deeply-entrenched social order.
Six days later, President Cleveland designated Labor Day as a federal holiday to reconcile national sentiment between business and labor.
The Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder might just have been one of the least pilot-friendly aircraft ever built by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and that’s saying something, considering that MiG fighters were notorious for their cramped quarters and poor pilot visibility. The very first supersonic bomber to enter service with the Soviet Air Force, around 311 models were produced with a number going to Iraq and Libya as part of large export deals brokered by the USSR in the 1970s. Not only did the Blinder look like something out of a space-age comic book, it seemingly functioned like one as well. I mean, at least with how its aircrew entered the aircraft. Its performance characteristics were anything but next-generation, far from what the Soviets had hoped to accomplish with such an aircraft.
The Tu-22 flew with a pilot, a navigator and a weapons officer as its full complement. Each crewmember sat in front of the other, and had to be “lifted” into the aircraft using a motorized chair. Unluckily for them, they were also firmly strapped to downward-firing K-22 ejection seats, which could not be used at altitudes below 820 feet. The runway handling dynamics of the aircraft were atrocious, leading to numerous mishaps without the Blinder even leaving the ground. But, at least it looked cool, right?
One Russian special operator was pinned down by jihadi fighters while conducting a reconnaissance mission that included calling in airstrikes. His position was overrun by the enemy, so he called for close air support assets to attack where he was so that classified information wouldn’t fall into ISIS hands.
“He was carrying out a combat task in Palmyra area for a week, identifying crucial IS targets and passing exact coordinates for strikes with Russian planes,” a Russian military spokesperson told the UK’s Mirror. “The officer died as a hero, he drew fire onto himself after being located and surrounded by terrorists.”
ISIS published photos from their mobile phones in mid-March, depicting five bodies they said were Russian special forces. The Russian Defense Ministry denied that report, saying the advance on Palmyra was being conducted by the Syrian Army (the one supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Asad).
While Russia has admitted to five combat deaths in the conflict so far, including a pilot of a fighter shot down by Turkish forces and a Marine who died trying to rescue that pilot. Russian special forces have been on the ground since the beginning of Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War, in September of 2015.
The city has art and architecture dating from 100 AD, including Greco-Roman ruins, over 1,000 columns, an ancient Roman aqueduct and 500 tombs on site. In 2015, ISIS captured the 2,000-year-old city and dynamiting ancient monuments, temples, and shrines it deemed blasphemous and executed people on the stage of the Roman amphitheater.
Syrian government troops entered the city on March 24, 2016. In the last five days, the Russians claim they carried out 146 airstrikes supporting the operation. Syrian troops recaptured the city on Sunday.
Athletes who were military heroes represent some of the bravest men and women to ever play professional sports. These Americans gave up the fame and fortune that would have come with being a professional athlete to serve their country. Many sacrificed more than that, giving up their lives on the front lines of World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq.
The military hero athletes on this list undoubtably include many names you know as sports stars first and soldiers second or vice versa, but each has a story behind their service in the United States Armed Forces.
For some, that story includes leaving professional sports at the peak of their career to serve their country during wartime, such as legendary baseball player Bob Feller, boxer Joe Louis and baseball great Joe DiMaggio. These athletes can be considered military heroes.
Others, such as basketball star David Robinson and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Art Donovan, their military service came before their professional sports careers as they were fortunate enough to return from battle healthy enough to continue.
Sadly, many were not so lucky. In one of the more recent cases, up and coming Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman left the NFL shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to become a U.S. Army Ranger. Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in action in April 2004.
These notable athletes who served in the military may not have all been the best of their respective sports and may not have all been decorated soldiers but each of these fine men and women should be thanked for their service nonetheless.
Norwood Thomas was a young American soldier during WWII when he met Joyce Morris in England. In the chaos of the war, they lost touch. But the story doesn’t end there.
Thomas, now living in Virginia Beach, and Morris, now living in Australia, found each other online and had their first date in 70 years over Skype.
“They laughed like teenagers,” The Virginian-Pilot reported. “At the end of their two-hour video reunion, [Thomas] told [Morris], his wartime girlfriend, that he’d love to reunite in person someday – said he wanted to give her “a little squeeze” after more than 70 years apart.”
After The Virginian-Pilot broke the Skype story two months ago, a gofundme page was created. It quickly raised more than $7,500 from more than 300 people to reunite the two. The page’s creator froze donations after Air New Zealand, who’s a big supporter of this love story, waived the ticket fee. Instead, the money will be used to cover additional travel expenses during Thomas’s trip next month.
Looks like they’ll be having that happily ever after, after all.
Gordon Lease was 17-years-old and living in California when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The next day Lease was queued up to join the Navy, but the line was so long, the recruiters told him he wouldn’t be able to join that day. Lease joined the Coast Guard instead. But he ended up with the Navy . . . in an unexpected way.
Lease, now 92, told SDPB how he ended up as an amphibious sailor on Navy Landing Ship Tanks (LST), designed to land men and material on beaches.
“The Navy found out we were good in small boats,” Gordon said. “And they needed amphibious sailors … that’s where we went.”
After a few years of guarding the West Coast against another Japanese attack and conducting search and rescue operations, the Navy exercised its authority to appropriate Coast Guard assets. In 1943, Gordon learned LST operations, driving the boats onto the shores of Maryland.
Soldiers, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen trained for amphibious operations in the Chesapeake Bay and then boarded troop convoys bound for Europe and elsewhere. In Britain, Navy and Coast Guard personnel continued training to land men on beaches. LSTs like Lease’s were specially trained to land at certain places at certain times.
It wasn’t long before he was in the fight. Lease trained in February, and, by July 1943, he would land men and tanks on Sicily. He also piloted an LST during the landings at Salerno, Anzio, and Normandy.
Operation Neptune, the naval assault portion of Overlord, remains the largest single combat operation in Coast Guard history. It was more than just landing on the beaches; the Coast Guard managed boat handling, loading and discharging cargo at sea and ashore, and directing vessel traffic. These landing craft carried up to 30 men and were also charged with taking the dead and wounded off the beaches under fire.
A Sherman Tank makes its way ashore during the invasion of Salerno, Italy in September 1943. Gordon Lease describes this assault as worse than what he experienced at Normandy on D-Day. (Courtesy Gordon Lease)
“It doesn’t do you any good to be scared,” Gordon said. “I’m serious about that. If you want to do your job, forget getting hurt, forget being scared, forget about that aircraft, forget about the guy shooting at you. Just do your job.”
At Normandy, the Coast Guard ran a rescue flotilla, suggested by President Roosevelt himself. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Russell R. Waesche collected dozens of landing craft, small boats, and patrol ships to do the job. Sixty 83-foot USCG cutters made up “Rescue Flotilla One.” This flotilla saved more than 400 men on D-Day and more than a thousand more by the end of 1944.
Lease took his LST to the beaches of France 10 times throughout D-Day, trips that included picking up wounded men for treatment in England. For his efforts, he received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal and the French Legion of Honor.
The Coast Guard helped to develop the Mulberry; the artificial harbors used to offload cargo in recently captured ports. Coast Guard Cmdr. Quentin R. Walsh also helped plan the occupation of Cherbourg, assessing the condition of the ports there and accepting the surrender of a German-held fortress.
More Coast Guard ships were lost in the days following D-Day than any time in its history. Four landing craft were destroyed on the beaches while another 85 sank offshore. Their losses were not in vain, however. The wrecks of the Coast Guard vessels served as navigation markers, guiding other incoming ships and landing craft. The Coast Guard also lost 15 among the ranks during the invasion. Six of them are buried at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.
“I was operating a landing craft. And someone kept count,” Lease recalled. “I brought a-hundred-and-ten people off the beach at Normandy back to our ship to evacuate them to England for treatment.”
Gordon Lease left the Coast Guard after the war and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he would remain until 1951. Now 92 years old, Lease still fits into the Coast Guard uniform he wore on LST-381 on D-Day.
The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.
“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”
“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”
“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.
“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.
The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.
While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.
Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.
Lasers, Railguns, Robotics
While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.
So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.
The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.
“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”
Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.