The Maxim Gun's devastating firepower changed warfare forever - We Are The Mighty
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The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
A British Maxim gun section that took part in the Chitral Relief Expedition of 1895. (Public domain photo)


During the pre-dawn hours of October 25, 1893, a British column of 700 men from the British South African Police under the command of Maj. Patrick William Forbes camped in a defensive position next to the Shangani River. While they slept, the Matabele king Lobengula ordered an attack on the column, sending a force comprised of up to 6,000 men – some armed with spears, but many with Martini-Henry rifles.

Among its weapons, the column possessed five Maxim guns – history’s first recoil-operated, belt-fed machine gun. Once a British bugler sounded the alert, the machine guns saw action, and the results were horrific. More than 1,600 of the attacking Matabele tribesman were mowed down like grass. As for the British column, it suffered only four casualties.

The British military not only measured the Maxim gun’s success by the number of Matabele killed in action. They could gauge the Maxim’s potential as a weapon of psychological warfare. In the aftermath, several Matabele war leaders committed suicide either by hanging themselves or throwing themselves on their spears.

The Maxim gun was an earth-shattering a weapon in its heyday – and a true weapon of empire.

Hiram Maxim‘s invention brought industrial-level killing to the battlefield. More than any other weapon developed in the late 19th and early 20th Century, the Maxim gun is responsible for changing the nature of warfare forever.

The British square and “the thin red line” of massed infantry firepower eventually went the way of the dodo.  When the Maxim gun opened fire at 500 rounds per minute, the tactic of soldiers firing in ranks became suicidal – from then on, the infantryman would have to dash and weave, relying on his ability to maneuver to bring fire to bear on the enemy and to stay alive.

The Maxim gun has two phases to its history. The first is when it was used as the weapon of choice to help expand the British Empire during the late 19th Century.  The weapon’s devastating use during The Great War launched the second phase of its history as one of the guns of modern 20th Century warfare.

But to really understand the weapon you have know something about Maxim, an American who was both an impressive genius and a shrewd businessman.

Born in Maine in 1840, tinkering came naturally to Maxim. While still a teenager, he literally built the better mousetrap – his automatically reset and rid local mills of rodents. At 26, he patented a curling iron, the first of 270 more patents to come. Then, Maxim became chief engineer of the United States Electric Lighting Co. in New York, where he introduced longer-lasting carbon filaments for electric light bulbs.

But he wanted fame and fortune – particularly fortune. He went to Europe in an effort to seek wealth by developing peacetime inventions like he had in the United States.

“In 1882 I was in Vienna, where I met an American whom I had known in the States,” Maxim wrote in his memoir. “He said: ‘Hang your chemistry and electricity! If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each others’ throats with greater facility.'”

Sound advice: In 1884, he harnessed the recoil of a bullet with a spring-loaded bolt mechanism and feeding device that fed ammunition into the gun on a cloth belt. The Gatling or Nordenfelt rapid-firing guns of the time were hand-cranked, gravity-fed weapons with multiple barrels prone to jamming.

Maxim also invented a cleaner burning, smokeless powder that he called cordite, which fouled a weapon much less than the black powder of the era. The combination of mechanized automatic fire and cleaner ammunition was revolutionary. By 1889, the British army adopted the Maxim gun; a year later, the armies of Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia all had Maxims.

The quintessential incarnation of the Maxim gun came when the inventor partnered with the British Vickers Co. The result was a water-cooled, tripod-mounted machine gun in .303 caliber, fed by ammunition on a 250-round belt.

It came just in time for World War I.  However, many generals and military planners doubted the effectiveness of the Maxim gun as well as similar machine guns against troops of Western European powers.

They still preached the bayonet charge. As one infantry manual said, “The spirit of the bayonet must be inculcated into all ranks, so that they go forward with aggressive determination and confidence of superiority born of continued practice, without which a bayonet charge will not be effective.”

Not even the evidence of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1906) with its long sieges and trench warfare – an eerie predictor of The Great War’s horrors to come – could persuade military observers of the Maxim gun’s lethality on the modern battlefield.

“The observers watched Russian and Japanese being mowed down in swathes by machine-gun fire and returned home to write: The machine gun is a vastly overrated weapon; it appears highly doubtful that it would be effective against trained European soldiery,” James L. Stokesbury drily comments in A Short History of World War I. “Apparently, they did not consider Japanese, or even Russians, to be in that supposedly elite category.”

The reality on the Western Front was something quite different. Some called The Great War “the machine gun war” – although artillery fire often caused the bulk of the casualties, soldiers vividly recounted watching their comrades drop like flies as machine guns traversed their ranks while firing.

In just one day during the Battle of the Somme – July 1, 1916 – the British saw 21,000 men slaughtered. The great majority of the casualties were killed by Spandau machine guns, the German version of the Maxim.

Maxim – wealthy, famous, and knighted by the queen – died on November 24, 1916, in London, his home after he became a naturalized British subject. A few weeks before, the Battle of the Somme had ended. The result was more than a million casualties.

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After a century of shame and silence, a soldier’s family gets the medals he earned

When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.


He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.

Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.

Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
Solders during WWI donning gas masks. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.

On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.

“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”

It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
US Victory Medal from WWI. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.

Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.

“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”

No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.

He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
District of Columbia War Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.

“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.

Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.

“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”

Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
Photo courtesy of the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation Facebook page.

She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.

Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”

“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”

Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.

A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”

Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.

“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”

After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.

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SecDef says failed coup in Turkey won’t affect ISIS campaign

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
Ash Carter shakes hands with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at a meeting of defense ministers from the coalition to counter ISIS at Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 20, 2016. | DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley


Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sought to minimize Wednesday the impact of the failed coup in Turkey and the ensuing purge of military officers on the NATO alliance and the campaign against ISIS.

Despite the recent anti-U.S. rhetoric from the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has demanded the extradition of a Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania, Carter said, “We support the democratically elected government.”

The secretary added, “I don’t have any indication” that the failed coup and Erdogan’s tough response would affect Turkey’s continuing membership in NATO. “The alliance is very strong, our relationship is very strong,” he said of Turkey, a founding member of NATO.

Carter also said he expected commercial power that was cut to the U.S. air base at Incirlik in southeastern Turkey following the coup attempt last Friday to be restored shortly, along with full flight operations that are vital to the air campaign against ISIS in Syria.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford phoned his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, on Wednesday and they “broadly discussed operations in Incirlik and the deep commitment the U.S. has to Turkey.”

Carter spoke at a news conference at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following the opening session of two days of meetings with the defense and foreign ministers of more than 30 nations in the anti-ISIS coalition on the next steps to eliminate the terror group’s remaining strongholds.

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu were no-shows at Andrews. Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, represented his government at the meetings, which will continue at the State Department on Thursday.

After failing to make contact with Isik in the aftermath of the coup, Carter said they spoke by phone Tuesday and he told Isik, “I was glad that he was safe and the ministry was functioning. He assured me very clearly that nothing that happened over the weekend will interrupt their support” for the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

Erdogan responded to the attempted coup with a wide-ranging purge of the ranks of the military, police, judiciary, media and academia.

By some counts, more than 50,000 people have been fired or suspended, and more than 9,000 have been detained on suspicion of supporting the coup that Erdogan has blamed on supporters of exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, now living in Pennsylvania.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup, but the Turkish government on Tuesday said that paperwork had been filed with the State Department demanding his extradition. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to review the extradition request while adding that the U.S. would adhere strictly to the law.

The purge has devastated the ranks of the Turkish military, with at least 118 generals and admirals now under detention, including the commander of Incirlik air base, which is shared by the U.S. 39th Air Base Wing and the Turkish air force.

Erdogan told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the attempted coup, which left at least 240 dead and more than 1,000 wounded, was carried out by a minority within the armed forces.

“It is clear that they are in the minority,” Erdogan said. “This organization that we called a terrorist organization [Gulen’s] is trying to make the minority dominate the majority. We have taken all the steps necessary to prevent such an event.”

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, analyst Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations said the failed coup and Erdogan’s harsh response had reduced U.S.-Turkey relations to their “lowest point” in recent times.

“It’s hard to refer to Turkey as a democracy,” Cook said. The U.S. “has to start asking questions about the value of Turkey as an ally,” but has been reluctant to do so because of Turkey’s membership in NATO and the importance of Incirlik air base in the fight against ISIS, Cook said.

However, “the Turks have been reluctant to get involved in fight against the Islamic State,” Cook said. “By their own admission, they’re much more concerned about Kurdish nationalism.”

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The real story of Jane Fonda and the Vietnam vets who hate her

Jane Fonda is a star of stage and screen whose career began in 1960. She is the daughter of legendary actor and WWII Naval Officer Henry Fonda. Jane, now 83, is long regarded as enemy #1 among Vietnam veterans (because Ho Chi Minh is dead and even if he weren’t it would be a close vote).


 

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

Fonda was a prominent antiwar protestor in the 70’s, focused on the rights of troops while in the military and of those who wanted to resist being drafted. She was primarily associated with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to which she gave a lot of time and money. Fonda was no more or less a lightning rod for criticism than any other celebrity who spoke against the war during that time, but that all changed in 1972.

Jane Fonda

She went to Hanoi that year to tour villages, cities and infrastructure. A series of photos of her sitting at an NVA anti-aircraft battery earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and the undying spite of Vietnam veterans everywhere. There were also rumors she turned over secret messages from POWs to their captors. This is not true, but still, her father was probably more than a little disappointed in her.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

 

“There is one thing that happened while in North Vietnam that I will regret to my dying day. I allowed myself to be photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun,” she wrote in 2011. “It happened on my last day in Hanoi. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced.”

To this day, Fonda feels the scorn of the military veteran community. If you want to get a feel for how much scorn  the community feels, just Google “Jane Fonda Vietnam.” I’ll wait.

In 2005, a Navy vet spat tobacco at her during a book signing. There are Facebook groups like “Why We Hate Jane Fonda” and “Jane Fonda – we spit on your grave.” Veterans invite Fonda to go to Syria and take photos with ISIS. Even the war-zombie comic “68” has a Fonda-like character.

 

The hatred persists, even among non-Vietnam veterans and people who weren’t even born in 1972. Despite her attempts at apologies, and given the level of vitriol levied at her even 40+ years later, the anger and hatred is not likely to end any time soon.

“Whenever possible I try to sit down with vets and talk with them, because I understand and it makes me sad,” she told the audience, according to the Frederick News-Post. “It hurts me and it will go to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think I was against the soldiers.”

NOW: 17 wild facts about the Vietnam War

OR: John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

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6 times enlisted troops can rip on officers and get away with it (maybe)

It’s no secret in the military that everyone guns to rip on each other for one reason or another. Rank plays a huge part on how and when you can talk smack and get away with. Sergeants verbally disciplining their juniors in the wide open commonly happens on military bases regardless of who’s watching.


Outside of boot camp, getting ripped on happens with fellow service members you don’t even know — and lower enlisted personnel are prime targets.

So now let’s turn the tables for a change. Getting a chance to rip on an officer and get away with it is an extremely rare. So take notes and keep an eye out for one of these juicy opportunities for a little payback.

1. During PT

The military is highly competitive, so when you manage to beat your commanding officer in a push-up contest — it’s time to gloat.

“Can you do this, sir?” (image via Giphy)

2. Shooting Range

Being an excellent shot is one thing, having a tighter grouping than your commanding officer — priceless.

span class=”mce_SELRES_start” data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;”/span(images via GIPHY)

3. At Medical

In the field, Army medics and Navy Corpsmen have the power to call the shots when it comes to taking care of their patients. Regardless of the rank the”Doc” has on their sleeve or collar, it’s their time to shine and order how things go down (but you need to earn that power).

(images via Giphy)

4. Infantry Tactics

Most infantry line officers are just starting out and are going to make mistakes — and that’s when the experienced enlisted troops can step forward and publicly correct an officer on how the mission should go.

Be slightly more professional when you address them, though. (images via Giphy)

5. Crypto

Many officers like to believe they know everything about everything — they don’t.

Crypto rollover is when the codes on your communication system are adjusted so the bad guys can’t hack them. Although it’s easy for the E-4 and below comm guys to handle the task, many officers don’t know the first thing about it even though some try very hard.

It’s okay sir, maybe you’ll get it next time. (images via Giphy)

6. Buying dumb sh*t after deployment

After months and months of saving up their money, officers — like enlisted — spend their earnings on things that don’t make sense either. They’re only human.

When you blow your money on something you don’t need, stand by for some sh*t talking.

Until the money runs low. (images via Giphy)

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Tom Cruise says ‘Top Gun 2’ is ‘definitely happening’

After years of rumors about a potential sequel to the 1986 blockbuster, Tom Cruise has confirmed that there will be a “Top Gun 2.” And it sounds like you won’t even have to wait all that long.


While on the Australian morning show “Sunrise” to promote his latest movie, “The Mummy” (out June 9), Cruise was asked about the rumors of a sequel.

“It’s true,” Cruise said. “I’m going to start filming it probably in the next year. It’s definitely happening.”

For the last few years, more talk about a “Top Gun” sequel has bounced around the internet as reports surfaced that it was in development.

Also read: What Hollywood gets wrong about military stories

In 2015, Skydance CEO David Ellison said a script was being written and that the story would take place in the contemporary times and feature drone fighters.

“It’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today,” Ellison said at the time.

Later that year, fellow “Top Gun” star Val Kilmer confirmed that he would be in the sequel.

The original “Top Gun,” which starred Cruise as a hotshot pilot who’s training at the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School, was one of the biggest hits of the late 1980s, earning over $350 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. The movie didn’t just attract the male audience that wanted to see intense aerial action scenes, but women also flocked to the theaters thanks in part to Cruise’s sex-symbol status and the music that ranged from Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” to Berlin’s Oscar-winning ballad “Take My Breath Away” (used as background music to Cruise’s romance with Kelly McGillis in the film).

Here’s Cruise making the official announcement:

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600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.


About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
A CH-47 aircrew from Fort Bliss drops off soldiers during an air assault training operation. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aura E. Sklenicka)

“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.

“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”

Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.

The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.

These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.

The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.

Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.

The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.

Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.

The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.

Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.

“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.

The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.

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CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

Don’t call it a comeback. Last year, CENTCOM deployed two Vietnam-era aircraft in a three-month trial run against ISIS. Based on that success, the U.S. military is considering reviving the dual-propeller OV-10 Bronco’s combat role.


The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

The aged airframe flew 132 sorties in 2015, 120 of those were combat missions, with a 99 percent completion rate. Its counterinsurgency role would be a bridge between fighters and helicopters. Its slower speed makes it more maneuverable than fast-moving jets while its short takeoff and landing needs allowed it to operate from remote or unprepared airstrips. It can carry troops, wounded, and up to 3,200 pounds of supplies.

Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss what the OV-10 Bronco means in the fight against ISIS. 

It’s a battle-tested, inexpensive, and reliable platform for moving small teams and for reconnaissance. It also provides a cheap close air support option with a 20mm cannon or its four internal 7.62mm machine guns to give Iraqis the same support U.S. troops have in ground combat. The Bronco has seven hardpoints that could be updated and adapted for GPS and laser-guided munitions and Griffon or Hellfire missiles.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
And it takes off from carriers too.

The planes deployed “to a location in Southwest Asia,” according to Capt. Bryant Davis, a CENTCOM spokesman. CENTCOM was trying to determine if the Broncos “increased effectiveness of airpower in a counterinsurgency… while reducing cost and preserving high-end special aviation resources performing similar missions.”

The OV-10 first served in Vietnam, deploying in 1968 with U.S. Marines. It provided forward air control (FAC), helicopter escort, ground attack, observation,light logistics duties, and waterway patrols in the Mekong Delta. The last OV-10 was retired by the Marine Corps in 1995, after serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Catch the Bronco in action:

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This Marine’s actions against the Chinese during the Boxer Rebellion remain the stuff of legend

Marines in turn-of-the-20th-Century Peking found themselves outnumbered and surrounded in the foreign diplomatic section of the capital. Anti-foreign Chinese Boxers threatened to overrun their position and kill everyone inside: troops, diplomats, and civilian refugees. One Marine Corps officer, Capt. John T. Myers, added to the USMC’s steadfast reputation of attacking in the face of insurmountable odds by leading a daring counterattack with American, British, and Russian Marines that would save the garrison.


The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

John T. Myers was born into a family with an impressive legacy of military service. His great-grandfather John Twiggs served as a militia general during the American Revolution. One of John Twiggs’ sons, General David E. Twiggs – known as the “The Bengal Tiger” for his fierce temper – forged a reputation for stubbornness and bravery during the antebellum period until his death in 1861. Another son, Major Levi Twiggs, was a Marine officer killed while storming the castle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War. Myers’ father Abraham fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars. Abraham married the “Bengal Tiger’s” daughter in 1853 and served as Quartermaster General for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Abraham fled to Germany after the South collapsed in 1865. John T. Myers was born there in 1871 and returned to the U.S. with his family at age six. Ten years later, he attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He graduated in 1892, after suffering from a lingering illness and outlasting his tendency for poor behavior.

Myers served in the Navy Engineer Corps before being transferring to the Marines in September of 1895. He first “saw the elephant” – an American expression of the time, meaning he gained experience at significant cost – during the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. In March of 1899, the Marines promoted him to captain for his service during the Spanish-American War. The apex of his career came when the Navy sent him to Peking (modern-day Beijing) to protect the American Legation from violent anti-foreign sentiment brewing in China.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
Troops of the Eight nations alliance of 1900 in China. Left to right: Britain, United States, Australia (British Empire colony at this time), India (British Empire colony at this time), Germany (German Empire at this time), France, Russia, Italy, Japan.

On May 31, 1900, he led 48 Marines and two officers of the USS Oregon and USS Newark from Tientsin to Peking. He and his Marines fought behind stacked sandbags and barricades alongside British, Austrian, Italian, French, German, Japanese, and Russian troops to beat back numerous attempts to overrun the garrison.

“It was all a matter of ‘sitting tight’ behind a barricade, constant vigilance night and day and firing promptly at such of the Chinese as had the temerity to expose themselves,” Myers wrote.

“There was scarcely an hour during which there was not firing on some part of our lines and into some of the legations, varying from a single shot to a general and continuous attack along the whole line,” as U.S. Minister Edwin Conger described it.

On July 2, Myers discovered that “during the preceding night and day the Chinese had succeeded in building a wall into and across the bastion and were then busily engaged in erecting a tower directly on my left flank, the fire from which, when completed, would reach all parts of our position.” The English and Russian ministers and military officers inside the Legation Quarter gave Myers the go-ahead to storm the enemy’s barricade and drive them from the menacing tower.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

Myers reinforced his 14 U.S. Marines with 16 Marines from Russia and 25 from Britain for the counterattack. It was set for July 3rd.

“These men arrived between 2 and 3 a.m., and as the Chinese had almost finished their tower and were amusing themselves throwing stones into our barricade, I at once made the dispositions for the advance.” With sword unsheathed, Myers led the multinational detachment into the enemy’s barricade in a surprise assault.

During hand-to-hand fighting, Myers received a severe wound from an iron-pointed Chinese spear below the right knee but refused to leave the field. He reluctantly handed over command once his force pushed the Chinese Boxers back from their barricade.

Despite downplaying the severity of his wound, Myers could not return to the front line. He was moved to the Russian Legation to recuperate but continued to issue orders to his men from this position. At some point septicemia set in, and “considerable quantity of pus discharged from counter-opening made about 4 inches below original wound,” forcing him to hand over command of the U.S. Marines to his deputy. Not until the end of July was he was “able to hobble about with aid of crutch.” He soon fell victim to a bout of typhoid fever.

Eventually, the European defenders of Peking were relieved by a multinational column on August 14 after a 55-day siege. Captain Myers returned home to a hero’s welcome in January 1901. He served the U.S. military for another 34 years and rose to the rank of Major General until placed on the retired list in February of 1935 at the mandatory age of 64-years-old. He died in April 1952 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

John Twiggs Myers’ counterattack was immortalized by Charleton Heston 11 years later in the 1963 film “55 Days at Peking.”

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‘Squad’ drops you right back into anti-terror combat (in a good way)

“Squad” is a super-realistic modern shooter that pits large teams of players, up to 50 on each side, in combat using modern weapons, vehicles, and battlefields. Most importantly, the game features such realism that modern tactics are necessary to win.


Players in the game are broken down by squad and can opt to fill roles from squad leader to medic to rifleman.

These squads move forward under the command of their leader in what quickly becomes a tense, suspense-filled match. Every player can die from just a round or two hitting them center mass, making it super important that players spot their enemy first.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

This makes the long movements over the sprawling maps stressful in the best way. The point man needs to stay super alert while the squad moves in a wedge behind him. Crossing linear danger areas like roads and rivers in a tactical manner can save the team from detection and destruction.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

In short, If you learned it in basic training, it’s probably important in “Squad.”

All this realism makes every decision feel important and heavy. Selfish glory hogs are quickly outed in the game as leaving a blocking position or moving away from overwatch can doom the rest of the team, no matter how many kills the hero gets.

This makes it easy to tell a veteran from a newb despite how simple the controls are. Veterans carefully position themselves in areas of cover or concealment and assault through dead space to hide their approach while new or unskilled players quickly die because they’re trying to defend a point on the map from an exposed position.

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever

Vets make sure to work as a team, frequently talking to each other in the in-game voice chat that actually works similar to a radio network. There are separate channels for speaking within the squad or within the platoon as a whole. Hot keys allow players to quickly choose whether they’re speaking on the squad or platoon net.

The game is still in Alpha mode, so there are a lot of tweaks and new features being added. But, it’s already a fun and tense experience that players can buy on Steam today.

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Navy rescues puppy “lost at sea and presumed dead” for 5 weeks

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
Warrior Scout


The U.S. Navy has rescued a small and very hungry German Shepard puppy which had been lost at sea for five weeks and presumed dead.

Luna, a friendly dog, disappeared from a fishing vessel on Feb. 10 of this year off the coast of San Diego, Calif.

“On Feb 10, 2016, personnel assigned to Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island received a call for help from a fishing vessel.  Nick Haworth (Luna’s owner) reported that he and the crew were bringing in traps, and one moment Luna was there and the next she was gone. They were about 2 miles off the coast and he thought she may head for shore,” said a Navy statement given to Scout Warrior.

After this incident, ships continued to search the waters nearby San Clemente Island for an entire week without finding Luna, only to determine the little puppy was “lost at sea and presumed dead.”

“We searched the island. The initial radio call was taken by a Navy helicopter in the area,” Sandy DeMunnik, spokeswoman for Naval Base Coronado, Calif., told Scout Warrior. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 was the unit that received the call, she added.

“They fly MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters,” she said.

Then, on March 17, Navy officials found Luna on the coast of the island sitting next to the road.

“They were shocked,” the Navy statement said, because there are no domestic animals on the island because of the very sensitive environmental programs that take place there.

“Luna ran right up to the staff,” Navy officials said.

Luna was examined by our wildlife biologist and found to be undernourished but otherwise uninjured and in good spirits, service officials added.

She will be reunited with a family friend of her owner who is out of town for work and unable to get home in time.  When her owner returns to town, Luna will be reunited with him.

It is not clear how a young German Shepard would be able to survive for five weeks at sea with no food or shore.

“Luna swam somewhere between one and two miles. That is not smooth water out there. It is rough water,” DeMunnik said. “The fact that she survived for five weeks in that water struck a chord with military personnel on the island because they know how treacherous the waters there can be.”

Due to Luna’s resilience and spirit, the Commanding Officer of Naval Base Coronado presented Luna with a military dog tag with four lines inscribed on it saying — “Luna, keep the faith.” “Keep the Faith” is the moto of the Navy’s SERE, Search Evasion rescue escape training.

The spirit of the saying is, among other things, designed to connote that in the event someone is missing, fellow service members will never stop searching, DeMunnik added.

“We’ve all been walking around smiling for three days because she survived,” she said.

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Marines ground Hornets for safety review in the wake of recent mishaps

The Maxim Gun’s devastating firepower changed warfare forever
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)


The Marines have been having a hard time with their force of F/A-18 Hornets. The situation was bad enough that a couple of months ago, they pulled nearly two dozen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base’s preservation facility. But things have gotten worse, with three crashes, two of them fatal, over the summer.

The result: The Marines recently called a timeout. All three Marine Air Wings were ordered to halt F/A-18 operations for 24 hours while commanders figure out a way to reduce the accident rate on these planes. As reported by the USNI Blog, each MAW is required to take two such days each year for purposes of sharing “best practices” and to figure out how to improve the Marine Corps’ Hornets’ state of readiness. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, who ordered the stand-down, will receive reports on the readiness of Marine Hornet squadrons.

Service-wide groundings of a particular model of airplane have happened before. F-15s across the United States Air Force were grounded in November 2007 after one Eagle assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard fell apart during a flight. It was later discovered that a longeron (that connects the aircraft’s skin to the frame) failed, causing the aircraft’s mid-flight disintegration. The Air Force retired its F-15A/B models as they, too, aged. A report from The Los Angeles Times at the time of the F-15 crash stated that many F-15s were already under flight restrictions due to concerns about metal fatigue.

Despite the issues that the F-15 force had with fatigue and flight time, the F-22’s production was stopped at 187 airframes in 2009, forcing a number of F-15C airframes (roughly 178 – almost ten squadrons’ worth) to keep soldiering on, despite their advancing age (the last F-15C serial number for the United States Air Force was from Fiscal Year 1986 – over three decades ago).

The Marines use the F/A-18C/D versions of the Hornet, while the bulk of the Navy’s force has transitioned to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Super Hornets have longer range and greater payload, as well as more modern electronics and some signature reduction. The Marines did not buy Super Hornets, choosing to hold out for the F-35. But because of F-35 program delays, the Marine Hornets have had to hold out longer than planned.

This situation is ironic in one sense: The F/A-18 first entered service with the Marine Corps, which was seeking to replace aging F-4 Phantoms. The Hornet drew raves for ease of maintenance and its availability. Now, the F/A-18s are the aging mounts, and the Marines are struggling to keep them airborne.

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The CIA built a secret and groundbreaking mobile text messaging system in the late 1970s

One of the most significant US intelligence operations in modern history took place in the heart of Soviet Moscow, during an especially dangerous period of the Cold War.


From 1979 to 1985 — a span that includes President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech, the 1983 US-Soviet war scare, the deaths of three Soviet General Secretaries, the shooting-down of KAL 007, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — the CIA was receiving high-value intelligence from a source deeply embedded in an important Soviet military laboratory.

Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.

Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.

This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.

The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.

In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.

There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.

Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”

This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.

In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.

As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.

Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its

At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.

The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”

But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.

The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.

There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.

That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”

Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.

Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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