Troops deployed around the world aren’t always saddled with the modern conveniences of a private room. Instead, they get to experience communal living in an open bay that houses anywhere from five or six service members to hundreds of them, each with an entire cot’s worth of space to call their own.
For those unfortunate people who have never lived within spitting distance of nearly everyone they work with, here are six major perks to living in a military bay:
1. Everyone knows your business, and you know theirs.
When everyone is sleeping practically on top of each other, it’s sort of hard to keep anything private. Reading choices, hygiene habits, frequency of urination, everyone knows everything about you. And, this flows both ways. Whether you like it or not, you will know how long and how often your friends poop.
2. You always know which of your buddies are sick
Every cough, sneeze, and snore cuts through the air of the bay like a serrated knife through your dreams, ensuring that you always know who is congested and who has undiagnosed sleep apnea. This allows buddies to update each other on general health matters.
3. You learn all sorts of medical tips, like “Sleep head-to-toe to avoid respiratory infections.”
You’ll learn a lot about human anatomy in a large bay. For instance, humans breathing only a few feet from each other all night will often exchange respiratory diseases. To avoid this, all troops should sleep with their heads and feet on alternating ends of the cots. That way, you get to smell your buddy’s sweaty feet all night instead of picking up his horrendous cough.
4. You have the entire underside of your cot to store stuff.
One of the best things about living in a bay is that you have tons of storage space. Almost the entire underside of your cot can be used for holding duffel bags, rucks, and — for the truly elite — even footlockers. Some units fill the bay with beds and lockable storage, but then you need a key to get into your stuff. Best to just rock the duffel bag with flimsy lock for quick access.
5. Other military specialties divulge their secrets while holding meetings 3 feet from you.
Sleepers will learn a lot more about the Army when they’re frequently awakened by NCOs and junior officers discussing operations near their bunks. Want to learn more about electromagnetic warfare? Be sure to grab a bunk near the EWO. Want to never sleep again? The operations cell usually has bunks at the back.
6. The long treks to the latrines really wake you up in the morning (and at 0-dark-30).
Have trouble waking up without coffee? Many bays don’t have plumbing and the 300-yard walk to the latrines and sinks every morning just to brush your teeth can really get the blood pumping. In the bays with water, you’re sure to get frequent reminders to get out of bed as literally dozens of people start shuffling past your bed on their way to and from the urinal.
U.S. Marines received training from their British counterparts in how to operate in the extreme cold of the Arctic.
The training took place in Norway near the border with Russia, a region that’s relevant based on current events in places like the Ukraine and the state of NATO. Bottom line: Marines need to be ready to fight in this environment.
British Royal Marines hosted the training and included the obligatory inter-coalition harassment like dumping the Yanks into the cold water . . .
… and giving them a shot at building a snow shelter …
Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.
With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.
But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.
This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.
According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.
“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”
See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.
We previously brought you the amazing story of Jacob Miller, a Union soldier who walked around with a bullet in his face for 31 years. We thought Miller held the record for the longest amount of time spent alive with a Civil War bullet inside of your head. We were dead wrong. According to this article in theMail Tribune, Willis Meadows had him beat by a full 27 years.
Battle of Vicksburg | Wikimedia Commons
The Confederate soldier lost his right eye to a bullet at the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Fired by Union soldier Peter Knapp, the one-ounce slug lodged near Meadows’ brain and didn’t come out again for 58 years. How’d he survive?
“He was put on board a POW ship and transported to a Union hospital. Later, he was paroled to a Confederate hospital, where he spent the rest of the war as a patient and sometime nurse’s aide. After the war, he returned to his farm in Lanett, Ala., just east of the Georgia state line. He married, but had no children and probably would have died in obscurity had he not coughed up the bullet.”
Chew on that for a minute. He coughed up the bullet that took out his eye. Here’s how it went down. Meadows lived on his farm in Alabama in total obscurity for 58 years. When he was 78-years-old, he coughed up the bullet in his kitchen. Super intense, right? Everyone in 1921 thought so too:
“‘Coughs Up Bullet’ was a national newspaper story in 1921. Eleven years later, in a ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ cartoon, it was published around the world in 42 countries and 17 different languages.”
Things only got crazier from there. How’s that even possible? Because the Union soldier who fired the bullet ended up seeing the story and he and Meadows became best friends:
“Turns out that after Knapp saw the story, he realized he was the one who fired the bullet that lodged near Meadows’ brain. Within a few months, he contacted Meadows and when they compared notes, they realized it was true. As young mortal enemies they had tried to kill each other, but now, as aging veterans, they would spend their last few years as friends, exchanging photographs and wishing each other good health.”
Today, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser is the epitome of a vessel designed with the primary purpose of protecting capital ships from an aerial threat.
With the Aegis fire control system, two 64-cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems, and a pair of five-inch guns, among other weapons, the Tico can handle just about anything the enemy has that flies.
But this wasn’t the only cruiser designed to primarily confront the aerial threat. That honor falls to the cruiser USS Atlanta (CL 51), which was commissioned 17 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Atlanta was also designed to serve as a scout or a flotilla leader for destroyers, but her main battery of 16 5-inch/38 guns gave her a powerful anti-aircraft armament.
The Navy originally ordered four of these cruisers, but doubled the total after the start of the war. Three slightly modified versions, known as the Juneau-class cruisers, were later acquired, but not finished until after the war.
According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the USS Atlanta saw action in the Battle of Midway, the invasion of Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In that last battle, she was heavily damaged by both friendly and enemy fire, and ultimately had to be scuttled.
Other than the second ship of the class, USS Juneau (CL 52) — best known as the vessel that the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, perished aboard — the rest of the Atlanta-class cruisers survived the war.
The USS Reno (CL 96) did have a hell of a fight for survival after being torpedoed in November 1944.
The last Atlanta-class cruiser to serve in the United States Navy was the USS Juneau (CL 119), the lead ship of her sub-class that was completed in the months after World War II.
“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”
This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.
The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.
Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.
Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.
“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.
Early discussions about increasing production of Tomahawk-armed Virginia-Class submarines are underway as the Navy and lawmakers look for ways to more quickly deliver new high-tech attack submarines to the force, Congressional sources told Scout Warrior.
The discussions, involving lawmakers and senior members of the Navy, are still very preliminary and in the early stages. The possibility being considered includes the prospect of building more Virginia-Class submarines per year – instead of the amount called for by the current ship-building plan.
The current status-quo effort to build two Virginia-Class boat per year, however, will drop to one as construction of the Ohio Replacement Program, or ORP, begins in the early 2020s.
The possibility now being deliberated is whether, at this future point in time, the Navy and industry could produce two Virginia-Class boats and one Ohio Replacement submarine per year, increasing the current plan by one Virginia-Class boat per year.
Increasing production hinges on whether the submarine-building industry has the capacity to move up to three submarines per year, the Congressional source said.
Current budget constraints and industrial base capacity limitations may make building three submarines per year too difficult to accomplish, even if the desire to do so was there from both Congressional and Navy leaders.
While Navy officials, including Navy Acquisition Executive Sean Stackley, did tell lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee Sea Power and Projection Force Subcommittee, production changes could emerge in the future, depending upon funding and industrial base capabilities.
Stackley explained that the service would like to maintain a two per-year production schedule for Virginia-Class attack submarines, even after production of the ORP begins.
“We are working today, and we hope and expect you to work with us, to determine how can we keep two Virginias a year proceeding within all the fiscal constraints and within the limitations of the industrial base, to address this compelling requirement for the nation,” Stackley told lawmakers.
The Virginia-Class Submarines are built by a cooperative arrangement between the Navy and Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Each industry partner constructs portions or “modules” of the submarines which are then melded together to make a complete vessel, industry and Navy officials explained.
In the past, various sub-building industry executives have indicated that this might be possible, however such a prospect has not yet been formally confirmed as it would likely involve an increase in resources, funds and man-power.
One industry source told Scout Warrior that the submarine building community would support whatever the Navy and Congress call for.
“We’ll support Navy programs,” the source said.
Navy Leaders Want More Attack Submarines
The prospect of an acceleration comes as Navy commanders tell Congress they would like to see the fast arrival of more Virginia-Class attack submarines added to the Pacific Fleet.
Pacific Commander Harry Harris told Congress that he would like to see more submarines in his area of operations.
“The Pacific is the principle space where submarines are the most important warfighting capability we have. As far as Virginia-Class submarines, it is the best thing we have,” Harris told lawmakers. “As I mentioned before, we have a shortage in submarines. My submarine requirement is not met in PACOM (Pacific Command).”
Virginia-Class attack submarines are necessary for the U.S. to maintain its technological superiority over rivals or potential adversaries such as Chinas, Harris added.
With their technological edge and next-generation sonar, the platform can successfully perform crucially important intelligence and surveillance mission in high-risk areas inaccessible to surface ships. For this reason, Virginia-Class attack submarines are considered indispensable to the ongoing Pentagon effort to overcome what’s talked about in terms of Anti-Access/Area-Denial wherein potential adversaries use high-tech weaponry and sensors to prevent U.S. forces from operating in certain strategically vital areas.
Virginia-Class Attack Submarine Technology
Virginia-Class subs are fast-attack submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, torpedoes and other weapons able to perform a range of missions; these include anti-submarine warfare, strike warfare, covert mine warfare, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance), anti-surface/ship warfare and naval special warfare, something described as having the ability to carry and insert Special Operations Forces, Navy program managers have said.
Compared to prior Navy attack subs like the Los Angeles-Class, the Virginia-Class submarines are engineered to bring vastly improved littoral warfare, surveillance and open ocean capabilities, service officials said.
For instance, the ships can be driven primarily through software code and electronics, thus freeing up time and energy for an operator who does not need to manually control each small maneuver.
“What enables this is the ship control system that we use. You can drive the ship electronically. This allows you the flexibility to be in littorals or periscope depth for extended periods of time and remain undetected,” former Virginia-Class attack submarine program manager Capt. David Goggins said several years ago.
The Virginia-Class submarine are engineered with this “Fly-by-Wire” capability which allows the ship to quietly linger in shallow waters without having to surface or have each small move controlled by a human operator, Goggins added.
“There’s a person at the helm giving the orders of depth and speed. There’s always a person in the loop. The software is telling the planes and the rudder how to move in order to maintain a course and depth. You still have a person giving the electronic signal,” he said.
Also, unlike their predecessor-subs, Virginia-Class subs are engineered with what’s called a “Lock Out Trunk” – a compartment in the sub which allows special operations forces to submerge beneath the water and deploy without requiring the ship to surface, service officials explained.
“SEALs and Special Operations Forces have the ability to go into a Lock Out Trunk and flood, equalize and deploy while submerged, undetected. That capability is not on previous submarine classes,” Goggins added.
The Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.
Unlike their “SSBN” Ohio-Class counterparts armed with nuclear weapons, the Virginia-Class “SSN” ships are purely for conventional attack, Navy officials said.
Thus far, more than ten Virginia-Class subs have been delivered to the Navy, and seven are currently under construction. Like other programs, the Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.”
Blocks I and II totaling ten ships, have already been delivered.
The program has also delivered its first Block III Virginia-Class Submarine, the USS North Dakota.
The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.
Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have — 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.
“For each one of these tubes you have hydraulics and you have electronics. What we did for Block III is we went to two very large Virginia Payload Tubes – now you have two tubes versus twelve. It is much easier to build these two tubes,” Goggins said.
Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say.
“In the future, beyond Tomahawk — if you want to put some other weapon in here– you can,” Goggins said.
Also, for Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 97-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. In fact, the Navy has already finished its Capabilities Development Document, or CDD, for what’s called the “Virginia Payload Modules.”
The Block V Virginia Payload Modules, or VPM, will add a new “module” or section of the submarine, increasing its Tomahawk missile firing capability from 12 to 40.
The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers, he explained.
Navy engineers have been working on requirements and early designs for a new, 70-foot module for the Virginia-class submarines engineered to house an additional 28 Tomahawk missiles.
While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.
The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Goggins explained.
From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”
“When the SSGNs retire in the 2020s – if no action is taken the Navy will lose about 60-percent of its undersea strike launchers. When we design and build VPM and start construction in 2019, that 60-percent shortfall will become a 40-percent shortfall in the 2028 timeframe. Over time as you build VPM you will eliminate the loss of firepower. The rationale for accelerating VPM is to potentially mitigate that 40-percent to a lower number,” Goggins explained.
Shipbuilders currently working on Block III boats at Newport News Shipyard, Va., say Block V will involve a substantial addition to the subs.
“Block V will take another cylindrical section and insert it in the middle of the submarine so it will actually lengthen the submarine a little and provide some additional payload capability,” said Ken Mahler, Vice President of Navy Programs, Huntington Ingalls Industries, said several years ago.
The first Block V submarine is slated to begin construction in fiscal year 2019, Navy officials said.
Early prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology – which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.
Virginia-Class Acquisition Success
The official baseline for production of Virginia-Class submarines calls for construction of 30 boats, Navy spokeswoman Collen O’Rourke told Scout Warrior. However, over the years, many Navy officials have said this number could very well increase, given the pace of construction called for by the Navy’s official 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan.
The submarines are being built under a Dec. 22, 2008, the Navy awarded a contract for eight Virginia Class submarines. The third contract for the Virginia Class, or Block III, covering hulls numbered 784 through 791 — is a $14 billion Multi-Year Procurement, Navy officials said.
Multi-year deals are designed to decrease cost and production time by, in part, allowing industry to shore up supplies in advance and stabilize production activities over a number of years.
The first several Block IV Virginia-Class submarines are under construction as well — the USS Vermont and the USS Oregon. In April of last year, the Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding a $17.6 billion deal to build 10 Block IV subs with the final boat procured in 2023.
Also, design changes to the ship, including a change in the materials used for the submarines’ propulsor, will enable Block IV boats to serve for as long as 96-months between depots visits or scheduled maintenance availabilities, service and industry officials have said.
As a result, the operations and maintenance costs of Block IV Virginia-Class submarines will be much lower and the ships will be able to complete an additional deployment throughout their service live. This will bring the number of operational deployments for Virginia-class submarines from 14 up to 15, Navy submarine programmers have explained.
Overall, the Virginia-Class Submarine effort has made substantive progress in reducing construction time, lowering costs, and delivering boats ahead of schedule, Goggins said.
At least six Virginia Class Submarines have been delivered ahead of schedule, Navy officials said.
The program’s current two-boats per year production schedule, for $4 billion dollars, can be traced back to a 2005 challenge issued by then Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen. As mentioned, deliberations are already underway to consider stepping up this production schedule.
Mullen challenged the program to reduce production costs by 20-percent, saying that would allow the Navy to build two VCS-per year. This amounted to lowering the per-boat price of the submarines by as much as $400 million dollars each.
This was accomplished through a number of efforts, including an effort called “capital” investments wherein the Navy partnered with industry to invest in ship-building methods and technologies aimed at lowering production costs.
Other cost-reducing factors were multi-year contract awards, efforts to streamline production and work to reduce operations and sustainment, or OS costs, Navy officials explained.
The U.S. Navy is working to adjust the documentation paperwork regarding the size of its fleet of Virginia Class Submarines, changing the ultimate fleet size from 30 to about 51 ships, service officials have said.
These five American generals and admirals did things that played with the thin line between cunning and crazy, but they were awesome at their jobs so most everyone looked the other way.
1. A Navy admiral dressed up in a ninja suit to ensure his classified areas were defended.
Vice Adm. John D. Bulkeley was an American hero, let’s get that straight right out of the gate. He fought to attend Annapolis and graduated in 1933 but was passed over for a Naval commission due to budget constraints. So he joined the Army Air Corps for a while until the Navy was allowed to commission additional officers. In the sea service, he distinguished himself on multiple occasions including a Medal of Honor performance in the Pacific in World War II. War. Hero.
2. Lt. Gen. George Custer was obsessed with his huge pack of dogs.
Gen. George Custer had “crazy cat lady” numbers of dogs with between 40 and 80 animals at a time. It’s unknown exactly when he began collecting the animals, but while in Texas in 1866 he and his wife had 23 dogs and it grew from there.
Custer’s love of the animals was so deep, his wife almost abandoned their bed before he agreed to stop sleeping with them. On campaign, he brought dozens of the dogs with him and would sleep with them on and near his cot. Before embarking on the campaign that would end at Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send all the dogs back home. This caused his dog handler, Pvt. John Burkman, to suspect that the campaign was more dangerous than most.
Some of the dogs refused to leave and so Burkman continued to watch them at Custer’s side. Burkman had night guard duty just before the battle, and so he and a group of the dogs were not present when Native American forces killed Custer and much of the Seventh Cavalry. It’s unknown what happened to the dogs after the battle.
3. Gen. Curtis LeMay really wanted to bomb the Russians.
Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay is a controversial figure. On the one hand, he served as the commander of Strategic Air Command and later as the Air Force Chief of Staff. He shaping American air power as it became one of the most deadly military forces in the history of the world, mostly due it’s strategic nuclear weapons.
On the other hand, he really wanted to use those nukes. He advocated nuclear bombs being used in Vietnam and drew up plans in 1949 to destroy 77 Russian cities in a single day of bombing. He even proposed a nuclear first strike directly against Russia. Any attempt to limit America’s nuclear platform was met with criticism from LeMay. Discussing his civilian superiors, he was known to often say, “I ask you: would things be much worse if Khrushchev were Secretary of Defense?”
4. LeMay’s successor really, really wanted to bomb the Russians.
Gen. Curtis LeMay may have been itchy to press the big red button, but his protege and successor was even worse. LeMay described Gen. Thomas Power as “not stable,” and a “sadist.”
When a Rand study advocated limiting nuclear strikes at the outset of a war with the Soviet Union, Power asked him, “Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards … At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.”
5. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne made his soldiers fight without ammunition.
In the Revolutionary War, bayonets played a much larger role than they do today. Still, most generals had their soldiers fire their weapons before using the bayonets.
Not Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. He was sent by Gen. George Washington to reconnoiter the defense at Stony Point, New York. There, Wayne decided storming the defenses would be suicide and suggested that the Army conduct a bayonet charge instead.
Shockingly, this worked. On the night of July 15, 1779, the men marched to Stony Point. After they arrived and took a short rest, the soldiers unloaded their weapons. Then, with only bayonets, the men slipped up to the defenses and attacked. Wayne himself fought at the lead of one of the attacking columns, wielding a half-pike against the British. Wayne was shot in the head early in the battle but continued fighting and the Americans were victorious.
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.
Last year marked the fifth consecutive year I’ve visited France, but this time, the mood was markedly different. Terrorist attacks had changed both the topics and the nature of civil discourse, and there was a dramatic increase in physical security around all public events. It was noticeable as soon as I stepped off the plane.
In years past, you’d see pairs of uniformed soldiers of various noncombat arms strolling around Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris looking bored, checking out the young women, and trying to feign interest in a largely symbolic duty. In contrast, last summer I saw squads of jocked-up infantry veterans deployed to even second-string airports, where they were actually patrolling and even — horror of horrors — had magazines in their weapons.
The rifle they carried was the FAMAS, the iconic “Bugle” and the last service weapon to be produced in a nation that at one time led the world in firearms innovation. In 2016, France was in the process of selecting a replacement, which would come from either Belgium — on whose soil hundreds of thousands of French servicemen died — or from Germany, whose conscripts faced them across artillery-scarred mud and from behind the sights of K98 Mausers. France wound up choosing the HK version of America’s service rifle. But hey, we’re all Europeans now.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to visit the city in which France produced the millions of rifles, bayonets, machine guns, and pistols needed to equip their armed forces, who just 100 years ago were locked in a bloody, existential battle for their nation’s survival. The factory where thousands of workers toiled in a desperate race to put weapons in the hands of those who were battling the Teutonic hordes had been shuttered and bulldozed in the 2000s, but their remarkable product line had been placed behind glass for visitors to gawk at.
Saint-Étienne was, during the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, one of the most important manufacturing centers in Europe, producing textiles, machine tools, bicycles, and farm equipment, but its history as an arms maker dates to the Middle Ages. Swords and armor were manufactured for French kings and emperors to equip their armies, and as edged weapons transitioned to powder, the musket of 1777 became the most prolific firearm ever produced until the advent of WWI.
Over 7 million examples were made (though not all by Saint-Étienne), and troops so equipped faced off against those armed with the Brown Bess in Europe and Asia. French firearms featured prominently in the early days of American history too. Although the famed Charleville musket of the Revolutionary War was named after the eponymous state arsenal in the Ardennes, many were produced in Saint-Étienne and made their way across the Atlantic. Later, in the Civil War, France supplied cannons, Minie rifles, pistols, submarines, and ironclads to both sides.
Pair of presentation pistols from the workshop of maître Nicholas Boutet.
While the history of French firearms development in Saint-Étienne could easily fill its own building, the collection shares space with other notable local trades and is housed almost entirely on the upper floor of the Musee d’Science et Industrie. The building itself is reached by crossing a small town square that’s quintessentially French; while we were there, the weekly market was well underway and townsfolk were stocking up on locally grown produce, meat, and cheese.
Climbing a few limestone steps to the entrance, the ballistic pilgrim enters the usual foyer-slash-gift-shop, ponies up their entrance fee, and then climbs the stairs past displays of glass and lace.
Examples of medieval armor, swords, and halberds greet the museum’s visitors as they enter the third floor space of the Museum of Science and Industry. Inside, displays cover both combat and jousting, with examples of both highly decorated plate armor and mail in evidence, along with the lances and shields every well-equipped nobleman needed in order to win the heart of a fair maiden.
The period where armor was being supplanted due to the ability of commoners to punch big frickin’ holes in it with their comparatively cheap matchlocks overlaps the birth of several of the most notable area workshops. Locks from this time are displayed in wall-mounted cases and some are quite stunning in both design and execution. The earliest service firearms on display are a pair of wheel-lock cavalry pistols dating from 1550, while a suit of Maximilian armor dates all the way back to 1415.
Although Alexandre Dumas’ characters were fictitious, his father was an honest-to-God general in the French revolutionary wars, and there really were two companies of Musketeers who served as the king’s bodyguard. The only remaining example of a Musketeer pistol is on display in the MSI, along with corresponding Mousquetons, or cavalry carbines.
Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne.
At around the same time, an enterprising gunsmith by the name of Nicholas Boutet was hiring the best artisans he could find to produce what could be fairly considered some of the finest guns the world has ever seen. As arquebusier, or gunsmith to the court of Louis XVI, he was given free reign to create extraordinary works of art, such as the pair of cased pistols shown here.
As the industrial age progressed, cartridge arms replaced flintlocks in a process familiar to amateur historians on both sides of the pond. Production became both codified and centralized, with Saint-Étienne’s place as a strategic asset to the French Empire cemented in place with every one of the bricks laid to enclose the new factory. Revolvers from the 1870s are showcased and demonstrate just how advanced their designs were in comparison to contemporaries on the world stage.
While we were taming the west with Colt single-actions, the French were fielding their first sophisticated D/A revolver, which for a military pistol was exquisitely made (in the officer’s variant anyway — rank has its privileges). The 11mm 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne was made until 1886 and continued in service until well into the Second World War. Civilian versions were widely distributed, with Belgian copies hitting the market soon after the military adopted the pistol; we encountered examples of both at a local flea market, where, due to being over 100 years old with no currently manufactured ammunition, they’re freely traded.
The MSI has numerous, well-preserved samples of drop-dead gorgeous French sporting arms from the golden age of gun making, but it’s the oddballs and one-offs that are particularly eye-catching. Such as the carbide-powered rifles and the high-powered airguns, along with early semi-auto shotguns that show a level of development that surpass their American counterparts. This is, after all, the country that was the first to field a self-loading service rifle, over 20 years before the Garand stepped onto the stage.
As visitors make their way past case after case of well-preserved and displayed products of the gunmakers’ craft, they eventually fetch up at the usual Euro-bullshit display of modern art, the message being, of course, that guns are bad m’kay? It’s ironic then that the last exhibit before having to suffer the artists’ smug self-righteousness is of the final products of the Saint-Étienne factory, which is, of course, where our story started. We can only hope that the gamble of neglecting and then destroying the remnants of their domestic arms industry doesn’t come back to bite them. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?
We Are The Mighty and Marine Corps veteran, actor and comedian Rob Riggle present The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran/celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will take place at the world-class Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2016.
During this high-octane golf tourney, veteran and celebrity teams will contend for the lowest scores and most laughs to raise funds and awareness for the renowned Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofits. Semper Fi Fund provides immediate and lifetime support to post-9/11 critically ill and injured service members from all branches of the military. Since inception, Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 16,800 service members and their families totaling more than $133 million in assistance.
“The #InVETational celebrates two of my greatest passions – veterans and golf,” Riggle said. “I am excited to partner with We Are The Mighty, a media brand that veterans love and trust, and Semper Fi Fund, which assists thousands of veterans and their families. It’s truly an honor to serve my fellow veterans with this special event.”
“We are honored to partner with Rob to give serious golfers and entertainers the chance to use their sport to bring attention to the great work of Semper Fi Fund,” said David Gale, WATM’s CEO and cofounder. “We Are The Mighty is committed to sharing the experiences of our nation’s military and will feature the remarkable stories of the veteran athletes participating in this tournament.”
Semper Fi Fund President and Founder Karen Guenther added, “As a Marine veteran, Rob Riggle truly understands the sacrifices our nation’s military heroes make for us every day, and how important it is to be there to support these men, women and their families for a lifetime. We are thrilled to be working with Rob and WATM to bring attention to the many needs of recovering and transitioning veterans and their families.”
Best known for his roles in “The Hangover,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” “Modern Family,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” and “The Daily Show” among other popular movies and TV shows, We Are The Mighty’s InVETational host Rob Riggle served over twenty years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Reserves as a Civil Affairs Officer and Public Affairs Officer across the globe including in Afghanistan. Riggle cares deeply about our veterans and has used his success as a comedian and actor to support those who have served our country.
The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will be produced by We Are The Mighty in conjunction with charity golf tournament expert Bob Levey of Independent Events & Media. The tournament will be featured on wearethemighty.com and shared via WATM, Riggle, and Semper Fi Fund social media sites. Celebrity and veteran golfers from Semper Fi Fund’s athletics program will be announced soon.
With the capability to carry a variety of weapons such as air-to-air missiles, precision guided bombs, and a 25mm machine gun that can fire up to 3,600 rounds per minute, the Harrier is the Marine Corps’ top choice when they need close air support where airfields are hard to come by.
“On my first flight, my instructor told me it was going to be like riding a dragon,” says Marine Capt. Brady Cummins during an interview. “He was definitely telling the truth.”
The AV-8B Harrier II was the first Marine tactical aircraft to arrive in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm in the early ’90s.
According to Boeing, the U.S. took 86 Harriers, flew 3,380 combat sorties and totaled 4,112 hours of combat flight time during the 42-day war.
The Harrier II jet demonstrated it’s effectiveness during Operation Desert Storm. (Source: Naval Technology”
These aerial marvels are known for their fixed-wing vertical short takeoff and landing — also known as “V/STOL” — which makes the Harrier one of the most maneuverable in service. The Harrier’s engines produce 23,000 pounds of thrust, allowing the aircraft to hover like a helicopter or launch forward at near-supersonic speeds.
At only 47 feet long and weighing 15,000 pounds when empty, this combat jet is approximately half the size of other modern fighter jets.