During World War II, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps had an unusual soldier among its ranks, a 440-pound Syrianbear named Wojtek.
Wojtek first came to the company as a cub, but over the course of the war he matured and was given the rank of corporal in the Polish army.
Here’s Wojtek’s amazing story below.
After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Company began a long trek south toward Persia. Along the way, they bought an orphaned bear.
“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents, and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, former Polish soldier, told the BBC.
As he grew, his diet changed, but he remained friendly.
The bear became fond of drinking beer, as well as smoking, and even eating cigarettes. “For him one bottle was nothing, he was weighing 440 pounds. He didn’t get drunk,” Narebski said.
The bear became a major morale boost to the troops.
The company was fond of boxing and wrestling with Wojtek, as seen in this footage.
While he was still small enough, Wojtek would hang out of the passenger side of trucks, until he eventually grew so large he had to be transported in the back of cargo vehicles.
By 1943, the Polish company had reached Egypt and was preparing to reenter the war zone in Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.
Because of his fearsome size and strength, Wojtek carried crates of munitions much easier than his human comrades. He inspired the emblem for his company.
After the war, Wojtek spent his days in the Edinburgh zoo, where he was a beloved attraction. Wojtek died in 1963.
America’s first tank unit, known as the “Treat ’em Rough Boys,” rushed through training and arrived in Europe in time to lead armored thrusts through Imperial German forces, assisting in the capture of thousands of Germans and miles of heavily contested territory.
The tankers were vital to the elimination of the famous St. Mihiel salient, a massive German-held bulge in the lines near the pre-war German-French border.
American forces joined the war late, participating in their first battle on Nov. 20, 1917, over three years after the war began and less than a year before it ended.
America had never attempted to create a tank before its entry into World War I. So while American G.I.s and other troops were well-supplied and fresh, most weren’t combat veterans and none had any tank experience.
Into this gap rode cavalry captain George S. Patton. He lobbied American Expeditionary Force Commander Gen. John J. Pershing to allow him to establish a tank school and take command of it if the U.S. decided to create a tank unit.
Patton also pointed out that he was possibly the only American to ever launch an armored car attack, a feat he had completed in 1916 under Pershing’s command in Mexico.
The first-ever American tank unit consisted of the light tank units organized by Patton and heavy tanks with crews trained by England.
When it came time for the AEF to lead its first major operation, the St. Mihiel salient was the obvious target. Other allied forces had already pacified other potential targets, and the salient at St. Mihiel had severely limited French lines of communication and supply between the front and Paris since Germany had established it in 1914.
The tanks led the charge into the salient on Sept. 12 with two American light tank battalions, the 326th and the 327th, backed up by approximately three battalions worth of French light tanks and two companies worth of French-crewed heavy tanks.
Infantry units moved into battle just behind the tanks, allowing the tracked vehicles to crush barbed wire and open the way.
Per Patton’s design, the tank companies were equipped with a mix of heavy guns to wipe out machine gun nests and other prepared defenses and machine guns to mow down infantry that got within their fields of fire. This mix allowed for rapid advancement except where the Germans had dug their trenches too deep and wide for the Renaults to easily cross.
The American infantry attacked the remaining resistance after the tanks passed and then took over German positions.
Of course, the first American armored offensive was not without its hiccups. The French-made Renault tanks got bogged down in deep mud. While German artillery was only able to knock out three American-crewed tanks, another 40 were lost to mud, mechanical breakdowns, and a lack of fuel at the front.
Patton continued refining American tank deployments, ordering that U.S. tanks carry fuel drums strapped to the back of the tank. At the suggestion of an unknown private, he also began equipping one tank per company as a recovery and repair tank, leading to the dedicated recovery vehicles in use today.
The tank corps went on to fight in the Meuse-Argonne offensive through the end of the war, this time with their heavy tanks there to support the infantry alongside their light armored friends. All of the tanks continued to face greater losses from terrain and mechanical breakdown than they did from enemy forces.
The greatest enemy threat to the tanks was artillery and mines, but the Germans learned to place engineering barriers such as large trenches to slow down the advance, and early anti-tank rifles took a small toll.
Platoon sergeants aren’t just managers and leaders, they’re also mentors — proxy parents even.
But they’re (in)famously gruff about it. After all, they didn’t father any of these kids, and they didn’t pick them either. And their primary job isn’t to turn them into beautiful snowflakes but honed weapons.
So, below are 5 classic fairy tales as recited by cigar-chomping and dip-spewing platoon sergeants:
1. Red Riding Hood Learns to Secure Her Logistics Chain
So, this little girl was getting ready for a trip to her grandma’s house. Red Riding Hood started by doing a map recon and checking with the intel bubbas to see what was going on along her route. After she heard about the increase in wolf-related activity in the area, she requested additional assets like a drone for overwatch and more ammunition for the mass-casualty producing weapons systems.
When a wolf attempted to hit her basket carriers and then fled, she had her drone operator follow the wolf to the cave. Red and her squad conducted a dynamic entry into the cave and eliminated the threat. Now, they conduct regular presence patrols to deter future wolves from operating in their area of operations.
2. Goldilocks and the Three Tangos
Goldilocks was moving tactically through the forest when she spotted a large wooden structure with a single point of ingress/egress. Since she wasn’t an idiot, she didn’t just burst inside to try out the beds. Instead, she practiced tactical patience and established an observation post.
After tracking patterns of life for a few days, she was certain that the structure housed three bears of various sizes. In her head, she rehearsed the battle dozens of times before engaging. When the dust settled from the firefight, she found herself in possession of a defendable combat outpost deep in the woods.
3. Hansel and Gretel Learn About SERE
When two privates were led by their evil stepmother to play deep in the woods, they brought a compass and map. The stepmother then attempted to abandon them in the forest. Since they knew their stride counts and checked their azimuth often, the kids were able to quickly move back to their home.
Near the house, the kids prepared a number of traps normally used to hunt game for food. These traps were positioned on areas the stepmother was known to frequent and the kids waited. When she trapped herself in a snare near the river, the kids bundled her up and sent her to a black site hidden under a candy cottage. The HUMINT guys got valuable information about witch operations and everyone else lived happily ever after.
4. Jack Gives the Army Instant Cover and Concealment
Jack was a pretty forgettable little science nerd in his high school but he went on to join DARPA and invented some techno-wizardry-magical device that allowed soldiers to plant a single bean and create a towering observation post from which to cover the surrounding battlefield.
So soldiers began tossing these things all over the place to create forests overnight. Then, they’d slip into one of the beanstalks to get eyes on roads and other important battlefield objectives. The height of the stalks ensured them a clear line of sight for miles and since they could be grown overnight, troops could plant their own cover and concealment ahead of major operations.
5. The Three Little Pigs Use Concentrated Combat Power
Three little pigs were preparing for an imminent invasion by a big, bad wolf when one proposed that each pig should fall back to their own home, the senior pig got pissed. “What are you, some kind of dumb boot!?” he asked. “We should concentrate our forces in the most defensible territory we have.”
That pig led his brothers to his house made of brick where they took shelter behind the thick walls. When the wolf arrived, the oldest pig engaged him from a second-floor window while his brothers maneuvered behind the enemy. Then, the pigs established fire superiority and cut the wolf down.
If you have your own platoon sergeant fairytale, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #PltSgtFairyTales.
Sailors have unique ways to get under each other’s skin.
A comment that may seem harmless to an outsider might be a jab to a shipmate. Just add the word “SHIPMATE” to the insult to take it to the next level. Consider yourself warned and use the following sailor insults at your own risk:
140 sailors go down, 70 couples come back.
Submariners hate this one, used by surface sailors to mock submariners going on deployment.
“Unsat” is short for unsatisfactory. This is not derogatory, but sailors hate the term being used to describe their work, something they did, their appearance — anything. When the chief says, “Shipmate, your haircut is unsat,” sailors know they’d better do something about it.
Stands for ‘Barely Useful Body.’ Sometimes used in a derogatory manner, but sometimes used to describe someone who’s been injured or physically unable to perform 100 percent. Either way, it hurts the ego.
The Bulls–t flag
This is an imaginary flag someone raises when they believe that what you’re saying is pure bulls–t. It’s usually phrased, “I am raising the bulls–t flag on that one.”
Otherwise known as a brown-noser or butt snorkeler. This is a person who tries too hard to buddy up with another – usually a superior – to gain favor.
Also known as a “one-way check valve.” This is a term used mostly by submariners and surface ship snipes to describe someone who does things for him or herself but doesn’t reciprocate.
This one has several different derogatory meanings to describe the senior enlisted person aboard a ship: Chief of the Boat, Crabby Old Bastard, and Clueless Overweight Bastard.
It stands for Freeloading Oxygen Breather. This is a term mostly used by submariners to describe someone who is not carrying their share of the load.
“How’s your wife and my kids?”
A phrase used to get under the skin of sailors from opposite crews.
A derogatory term used for a lifer with no life outside the Navy who engages in a lot of buttsharking.
This is the official, unofficial term used to describe a Navy doctor or corpsman. Sailors know better than to address the doc this way before a physical.
By no means is this a complete list, so feel free to add more terms in the comments below.
The history of drones goes back much further than most people are aware. Not only were unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) — aka drones — used against targets in World War II, but four competing programs were tested during the first World War.
The first two were in the United Kingdom and focused on gliders that would explode when they impacted the ground. Both designs were unsuccessful and neither were used in the war.
The first American program was led by three scientists working for the Navy to create an “aerial torpedo.” They were Elmer Sperry, inventor of auto-pilot; Dr. Peter C. Hewitt, a specialist in radio signals and vacuum tubes; and Carl Norden, who would go on to create the Norden bombsight for World War II bombers.
The men initially tried to create a radio-controlled aircraft that could fly to its targets, essentially attempting to create the suicide drones of today almost 100 years ago. When remote control failed, they settled on mechanically “programming” the drones to fly to their targets and detonate.
The resulting aerial torpedo could fly 50 miles with a 300-pound payload.
A successful test was conducted on November 21, 1917. Army Maj. Gen. George Squier was at the demonstration and ordered that the Army begin its own program.
The Army developed the “Kettering Bug” with the help of Charles Kettering and the famed Orville Wright. The “Bug” relied on an auto-pilot system to maintain steady flight, but had a mechanical system to shutoff its engine and jettison its wings after a set distance. The fuselage, filled with explosives, would then impact the target.
Unfortunately, both systems were plagued by problems with accuracy and neither was completed in time to aid the war effort. Research did continue though, leading to the drone missions of World War II.
Mary Ryan has been the curator at the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum since October 2010. As curator, she leads the museum’s exhibit program, shapes the artifact collection, and connects the public to the museum’s rich subject matter. Mary has worked for 15 years as a curator, interpretive planner, and exhibit developer creating exhibitions and interpretive plans for museums and historic sites across the country. She earned her Master’s Degree in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York, and completed her undergraduate training in science and anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
WATM: How did you decide to become a curator and a steward of our Nation’s history?
I discovered the museum field at a crossroads in my life, shortly after deciding not to attend medical school. I was immediately drawn to curatorial work — it’s intellectually challenging, always interesting and artifacts and exhibits have such power to tell meaningful stories. After completing a museum internship with an excellent mentor, I earned my graduate degree in history museum studies in 2008 and have worked as a curatorial and exhibit developer ever since.
When I joined the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum staff as curator in 2010, I didn’t know how much I would come to love the subject matter — the history, science, innovation and human ingenuity of the undersea communities is fascinating. I’ve met the most incredible people working here. It’s a privilege to do this job and serve these communities.
WATM: The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum was closed for COVID; what can attendees expect on their tour as it reopens?
We’re thrilled to share we reopened on May 24! We are excited to welcome visitors back to the museum. Initially, our open hours will be 10 AM to 4 PM on Monday, Wednesday through Friday, with weekend hours to resume as state and federal guidelines continue to expand.
Because the safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff is our top priority, we have implemented extra safety measures at the museum. We will be using a reservation system to ensure capacity stays within state guidelines (visitors can make a reservation here), disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and limiting group sizes to 10 or fewer people. And for the short term, our exhibit interactives have been converted into touchless experiences. As always, there are no admission or parking fees to visit!
WATM: What virtual content do you have available?
We have a mix of virtual content for different ages and interests! We post social media content several times a week on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts — lots of “this day in history” posts, sailor profiles, artifact features, STEM activities, behind the scenes content. In the past five years, our virtual community has grown to more than 20,000 people across our platforms.
Our virtual 3D tour lets anyone explore our exhibit galleries from any location. Having a virtual tour became an invaluable resource while we were closed during the pandemic. Now that we’re reopening, it makes the museum accessible to many people who can’t visit us in person. A handful of our artifacts have been turned into highly detailed, interactive 3D models by The Arc/k Project, and more than 500 artifacts are digitized on our Flickr page.
WATM: What are some upcoming virtual events readers shouldn’t miss out on?
This past February we staged our biggest education program of the year, Discover E Day, entirely online. Following up on that success, our educator has teamed up with several local Navy groups to offer two virtual Navy STEM summer camp sessions July 13–15 and August 10–12. Families of local kids who will be in grades 3–8 this fall can email email@example.com for more information or to register; it’s free and all learning will happen via Zoom.
I would definitely encourage readers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — we’re most active there and always posting new content! Keep an eye on our website, too, as we’re developing a new online collections page that will share digitized documents and finding aid for archival collections.
WATM: How can the public support the museum on its mission?
Our mission is to connect people to the U.S. naval undersea experience. Anyone who engages with our subject matter by learning about naval undersea history, technology, operations and people — whether through us or on their own — is supporting our mission.
As a federal organization, the museum is supported by a non-profit foundation that raises funds for education programs, new exhibits and artifact care and conservation. Their support allows us to take on projects that aren’t or can’t be funded by federal funding. Members of the public can support the museum by making a donation or becoming a foundation member.
We are lucky to have wonderful public support from the local community. Our volunteer corps includes more than 50 veterans, retired Navy civilians and community members that give generously of their time and expertise. Their contributions are almost immeasurable, and include greeting visitors, giving tours, operating the museum store, working with artifacts, supporting education programs and helping to build and install exhibits. Locals who are interested in joining our volunteer corps can learn more here.
WATM: Do you have anything you would like to say to the veteran and military audience?
Sharing the stories of undersea Navy veterans is an essential aspect of our work! There’s a lot we can’t say as a Navy organization because it’s not publicly cleared, but that just means we work harder to amplify the stories we can share.
We meet so many veterans at the museum and it’s an honor to be a place they can reminisce or show their families more about what they did in the Navy. To all the veterans out there, please come say “hi” if you visit the museum! Many of the volunteers who staff our lobby are veterans themselves. And if there is any way we can be of assistance, please reach out anytime!
WATM: What is next for you and the museum?
Every summer we host a popular education program called Summer STEAM, which offers hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math activities for kids. Summer STEAM will be back this July and August with a twist: this year families can pick up activity kits to take home! Our educators and volunteers have been hard at work assembling kits to make this possible.
And coming next spring, we’ll open a new temporary exhibit called “Giving Voice to the Silent Service.” It’s an inside look at the strong collective identity that submariners share. While it centers on the submarine community, many of the ideas will resonate with anyone who served. This was one of the most interesting and fun exhibits I have ever developed and I can’t wait to see it come to life in our exhibit galleries!
On May 28, 1754, then 22 year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington defeated a party of French scouts in southwestern Pennsylvania, an event that would become the first engagement of the French and Indian War.
During the pre-America days the French and the American colonists had some disputes about who owned land in what is now the Northeastern United States. Two years before, Washington had been appointed adjutant in the Virginia colonial militia. The following year, he administered a warning to the French in Ohio Valley, warning them to abandon the territory to the British crown. A number of skirmishes and land disputes continued as tension rose to a head.
On May 28, 1954, on the verge of war, Virginia Royal Governor Robert Dinwiddie sent Washington to the frontier land of Pennsylvania to instruct the French to leave. In a surprise attack, Washington’s party killed ten French soldiers and took twenty-one prisoners. Only one of Washington’s men was killed.
For his victory, Washington was appointed a full colonel.
Fighting in the French and Indian War began in 1754, but Britain and France did not officially declare war against one another until May 1756. Also known as the Seven Years War, the fighting continued until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in February 1763.
The war would have lingering effects on the fate of America; King George II and the British parliament would levy taxes against the colonists to pay down the war debt, taxes the colonists would soon grow tired of paying…
Featured Image: British forces under fire from the French and Indian forces at Monongahela, when the Braddock expedition failed to take Fort Duquesne.
Each empire seemed unstoppable for an age, but they all crumbled in the end.
Indeed, the age of empires may have ended with World War II, as world powers have moved on from colonization and conquest in favor of geopolitical and commercial influence.
We’ve ranked the 19 greatest empires of all time by the number of square miles each had conquered at their peak.
The Turkic Khaganate spanned 2.32 million square miles at its height in 557 until a civil war contributed to its collapse in 581.
The Han imperial dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its peak in 100 B.C. It collapsed by A.D. 220 after a series of coups and revolutions.
The Ming Dynasty spanned 2.51 million square miles at its height in 1450, but economic breakdown and natural disasters contributed to its collapse in the early 17th century.
The Sasanian Empire spanned 2.55 million square miles at its peak in 621 and was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam. It fell around 651 following economic decline and conquest by the Islamic caliphate.
The Empire of Japan was one of the largest maritime empires in history, spanning 2.86 million square miles at its peak in 1942 before surrendering to the Allies on September 2, 1945.
The Achaemenid Empire, also known as the First Persian Empire, spanned 3.08 million square miles at its peak in 480 B.C. before falling to Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.
The First French Colonial Empire spanned 3.12 million square miles at its height in 1754, before a series of wars with Great Britain resulted in both countries losing most of their New World colonies.
After declaring independence from Portugal, the empire of Brazil spanned 3.28 million square miles at its height in 1822, but it would soon lose the territories that make up modern Uruguay, and the empire would fall in an 1889 coup.
The Rashidun Caliphate spanned 3.6 million square miles at its peak in 654, before being followed by another Islamic Caliphate. It was the largest empire by land area ever at that point in history.
The Portuguese Empire reached 4 million square miles at its height in 1815, before losing Brazil and most of the rest in the next 150 years.
The Abbasid Caliphate covered 4.29 million square miles at its height in 850 before losing ground to the Ottomans, who captured the capital city, Cairo, in 1517.
The French bounced back with second colonial empire that covered 5 million square miles at its peak in 1938, before shedding territories in the post-World War II decolonization movement.
The Yuan Dynasty, the first dynasty to rule all of China, extended 5.4 million square miles at its peak in 1310, before being overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368.
The Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, controlled 5.68 million square miles in 1790 at its greatest point. It fell in 1912 following defeat by foreign powers in the Boxer Rebellion and many local uprisings.
The Umayyad Caliphate spanned 5.79 million square miles at its height in the 7th century, before it was defeated by the Abbasids in 750.
The Spanish Empire governed 13% of the world’s land — 7.5 million square miles — at its height in the 18th century before losing much territory in the 19th century Spanish-American wars of independence.
The Russian Empire spanned 8.8 million square miles at its peak in 1866. It was overthrown by the February Revolution in 1917 and was replaced by the Soviet Union.
The Mongol Empire spanned 12.7 million square miles at its peak in 1279, spanning from the Sea of Japan to Eastern Europe, but it disintegrated into competing entities at about 1368.
The British Empire stretched over 13 million square miles across several continents — 23% of the world’s land — at its height in 1922, until decolonization began after World War II.
Movie-goers know Danny Trejo as one of Hollywood’s toughest dudes, mostly because of his role in “Machete” where he plays a badass who knows his way around a blade.
Trejo is about to hit the screen again in “Range 15,” a collaborative project between the veterans of the Ranger Up! and Article 15 apparel companies.
“It was an honor to be with these guys,” Trejo says of the veterans who he worked with on the ‘Range 15’ set — guys like Mat Best and Nick Palmisciano. “It’s one of the most exciting movies I’ve ever been in.”
The veterans behind the making of “Range 15” are well known to the military community as a result of their popular YouTube videos and killer t-shirt designs. This is their first major motion picture.
Watch Danny Trejo talk about his role as Zombie Machete in ‘Range 15’ (a WATM exclusive):
Get more information about the GI Film Festival coming up in the Washington DC area in a few weeks here. (“Range 15” will be screened there and the stars will be in attendance. Don’t miss it.)
Today, America’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines represent two of the most potent forms of force projection wielded by any force in military history. For a short time in the late 1950s, America had plans to put them together into a single GI Joe style superweapon: A submarine aircraft carrier.
The nuclear days before we got MAD
For a short four years after the United States dropped the only atomic bombs ever used in anger on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America enjoyed a monopoly on the destructive power of splitting the atom. But on August 29, 1949, America’s former World War II allies in the Soviet Union conducted their own nuclear test at the Semipalatinsk test site in modern-day Kazakhstan. While America’s use of atomic weapons may have brought the world into the atomic age, it was truly the Soviet test that hurled the world’s two dominant superpowers into the decades-long staring contest we now know as the Cold War.
The massive destructive power of these new weapons forced a strategic shift in military operations the world over. Today, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the scope of the challenge nuclear weapons posed to military operations in those early days. Since the early 1960s, the nuclear powers of the world have operated under the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. The premise behind MAD was simple as laid out by President Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara: Any single Soviet nuclear attack would be met with a barrage of American nuclear weapons, which would prompt a full-fledged launch of Soviet nuclear weapons in a deadly cascade.
The result, everyone knew, would be the end of life as we know it. MAD ensured there would be no winners in a nuclear conflict — effectively rendering nuclear weapons moot on the battlefield. If any single nuclear attack could bring about the end of the world, it was in the best interest of all nations never to launch such an attack at all. But prior to the advent of the MAD doctrine, nuclear weapons were largely seen like any other weapon in a nation’s arsenal. Because these weapons were so capable, many military leaders began devising entire strategies around their creative use (from developing what would become America’s nuclear triad to fielding backpack nukes on skiing Green Berets).
Of course, not all military planning was based on finding new ways to use nuclear weapons. There was also a pressing need to develop strategies and technologies that would be able to fight after the first few volleys of a nuclear exchange. One area of particular concern was America’s newfound air power. At the onset of World War II, the United States maintained just 2,500 or so military aircraft, but by the end of the war, America was an aviation powerhouse. With more than 300,000 tactical aircraft and a fleet of the most advanced bombers on Earth (the B-29 Stratofortress), America knew a potential World War III would be fought largely in the skies… but that posed a problem. How do you launch aircraft after all your airfields have been erased by nuclear hellfire?
That question led to a number of interesting programs, including the UFO-like VZ-9 Avrocar that theoretically wouldn’t need runways to take off. Another strategy first introduced in the 1950s called for a fleet of fighters that didn’t need runways, or even hangars that could be targeted by enemy bombers. Instead, the U.S. Navy wanted to launch fighter jets from submarines, just like they had been experimenting with launching cruise missiles.
Launching winged cruise missiles from submarines
In the 1950s, the United States was already hard at work experimenting with the idea of launching large missiles from submarines, in the early stages of what would become America’s seaward leg of the nuclear triad. In fact, the concept seemed so promising that some Navy officials began to wonder if they could launch small fighters from the hull of a submarine, just like they could with missiles.
After conducting missile tests aboard modified fleet ships, the Navy built two diesel-electric cruise missile submarines known as the Grayback Class. These subs could carry four large Regulus II missiles — which were turbojet-powered cruise missiles. After the Grayback Class subs’ promising performance, the Navy built a single Halibut-class vessel: a nuclear-powered submarine that could carry five of these large missiles. Unlike the submarine-launched ballistic missiles of today, these missiles were not fired while the sub was submerged. Instead, it would surface and launch the winged-cruise missiles via a ramp that led down the bow of the ship.
In order to defend itself against enemy ships, the USS Halibut also carried six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes, making the 350-foot long submarine a 5,000 thousand ton warfighting behemoth. Thanks to its S3W nuclear reactor, the Halibut had limitless range, which was important because the Regulus II missiles it carried had a range of only around 1,000 miles.
Because the Halibut had been designed to deploy winged cruise missiles of a similar size and weight to crewed fighter aircraft, the Navy saw an opportunity. Not only could these new submarines be used for missiles… they could also feasibly be used as carriers.
The plan to build submarine aircraft carriers
World War II had proven the value of aircraft carriers to the U.S. Navy, but after losing five such vessels and seven more escort carriers in the conflict, the Navy could see the value of an aircraft carrier that could submerge after launching its fighters.
Using the Halibut as a model, the U.S. Navy devised the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier, which would carry eight fighters stored within two hangers inside the ship’s hull. In order to launch the fighters, the submarine would surface and orient the fighters straight up to be launched vertically. In order to manage the vertical launch, separate boosters would be affixed to the aircraft once they were on the launch rail. Those boosters would then fire, propelling the fighter into the air with enough speed and altitude for the fighter’s own engines to keep it flying.
According to the Navy’s plans, the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier could launch four fighters in just 6 minutes and all eight fighters in less than eight minutes. Today’s Nimitz-class supercarriers can launch a fighter every 20 seconds when moving at full steam, but nonetheless, eight fighters in eight minutes was seen as an impressive figure at the time, especially for an aircraft carrier that could submerge again after launch.
Initially, the Navy hoped to use conventional fighter aircraft with the new submarine, and for a short time, the Grumman F-11F Tiger was considered for the role. But the 1950s saw such rapid advancement in aviation that the F-11 was soon deemed too slow to compete in the latter half of the 20th century. Instead, the Navy looked to Boeing to devise purpose-built fighters that could not only manage the stress of a vertical launch from an aircraft carrier submarine, but that could also attain speeds as high as Mach 3.
The challenges of flying a fighter from a submarine aircraft carrier
The proposed Boeing fighters never received a formal designation, but plans called for them to have an overall length of 70 feet, with a height of 19.5 feet and a wingspan of just 21.1 feet. They were to use a Wright SE-105 jet engine that produced 23,000 pounds of thrust and were to be crewed by a single pilot.
Boeing’s plan called for two additional SE-105 engines to be attached to the fighters to sustain its vertical liftoff, but once it had reached sufficient altitude, the aircraft would eject the two additional engines, which would later be recovered for re-use.
Vertical lift-off tests on other platforms had proven the viability of such a launch approach, but take-off is only half of what fighters do aboard aircraft carriers. In order to work, the fighters also needed to be able to land. On surface ship aircraft carriers, that’s done in a somewhat traditional manner, with fighters landing on the carriers’ deck and using a tail hook and cable to arrest its forward momentum.
Without sufficient deck space for such landings on a submarine, Boeing considered having its AN-1 fighters land vertically just like they took off. In theory, it was possible, but tests of such a landing approach proved too risky for all but the most experienced pilots. In order to land vertically with the engine facing the deck of the ship, the pilots would have to turn and look over their shoulder during landing — like using a jet engine to back into a parking spot from above, knowing full well that your aircraft (and potentially the submarine) would explode if you made even the slightest mistake.
The military landscape would shift dramatically again in the years that followed, as new ballistic missiles made it possible to launch nuclear weapons at far-flung targets with a great deal of accuracy and the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction reduced the likelihood of an early nuclear exchange wiping out airfields. America would ultimately invest heavily in massive supercarriers that, while unable to hide from enemy missiles, offer a great deal more capability and versatility than the AN-1 submarine aircraft carrier ever could.
Military recruiters have to convince normal people that their best option for the future is signing a multi-year contract for a job with workplace hazards like bombs, bullets, and artillery. And since many people aren’t eligible to serve, the service branches need a lot of people coming into recruiting offices.
To make recruiters’ jobs a little easier, each branch has an advertising budget. Here are some of the most iconic commercials from that effort.
1. “The Climb” (2001)
With arguably the best uniforms, awesome traditions, and swords, it’s no surprise that some of the best commercials come out of the Marine Corps. “The Climb” reminded prospective recruits that yes, becoming a Marine will be hard, but it’s worth it.
2. “Rite of Passage” (1998)
Some commercials stop making sense after the era they were written in. The idea of climbing into a coliseum to fight a bad-CGI lava monster may seem like an odd advertising angle now, but it was rumored to be pretty effective at the time.
3. “America’s Marines” (2008)
Some videos target adventure nuts, while some go after aspiring professionals. This one targeted people who wanted to be part of a long-standing tradition. It also reminded people that Marines get to wear some awesome uniforms.
4. “Army Strong” (2006)
“Army Strong” was an inspiring series of advertisements, though it opened the Army to a lot of jokes (“I wanted to be a Marine, but I was only Army Strong”).
5. “Army of One” (2001)
“Legions” was part of the “Army of One” campaign. Though “Army of One” brought recruits into the Army during the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, it never quite made sense to professional soldiers. In the Army, soldiers are schooled daily in the importance of teamwork and selfless service. During basic, they’re even required to be with another recruit at all times, so what is an “Army of One”?
6. “Be All That You Can Be” (1982)
The slogan “Be all that you can be,” sometimes written as, “Be all you can be,” was one of the Army’s longest-running slogans and most iconic campaigns. The jingle is as dated as the video technology in the video, but some soldiers went from their enlistment to their retirement in the Army under this slogan.
7. “Footprints” (2006)
One of the Navy’s best ads focused on some of the world’s best warriors. “Footprints” manages to highlight how awesome Navy SEALs are without showing a single person or piece of equipment.
8. “A Global Force for Good” (2009)
Though popular with recruits, the slogan for this recruiting drive ended up being unpopular with the Navy itself. Much like the Army with its “Army of One” slogan, the Navy dropped “Global Force for Good” after only a few years.
9. “Accelerate Your Life” (early 2000s)
“Accelerate Your Life” commercials were always full of sexy imagery. From fighter jets, helicopters, fast boats, automatic weapons, and camouflage, just about everything was tossed in. Like the commercial Air Force campaign “We have been waiting for you” below, dating the commercial to an exact year is tough, but the campaign began in 2001.
10. “Air Force: I Knew One Day” (2014)
“I Knew One Day” is an odd title for this commercial, but it’s not bad as a whole. It puts a face on the airmen who crew the AC-130, perform surgeries, or pilot Ospreys, and it tells recent high school and college graduates that they can become the next face of these jobs as well.
11. “We Have Been Waiting For You” (early 2000s)
With the tagline “We have been waiting for you,” the Air Force aimed to bring in recruits for all the jobs in the Air Force that weren’t about flying. Since two of the ads they released starred pilots, it seems like they weren’t trying that hard. While it’s hard to pin down the exact year this commercial was released, the “We’ve been waiting for you,” line began showing up in 2001.
12. “Science Fiction” (2011)
The Air Force is proud of its technological advantages on the battlefield, and it made a series of commercials comparing themselves to science fiction. The commercials were critiqued for including a lot of things Air Force technology couldn’t do, but they did highlight actual missions the Air Force does using technology similar to, though not as advanced as, what is featured in the commercial.
The fighting in Syria is not as simple as a schismatic civil war. And there is more to the religiosity of the conflict than just Sunni vs. Shia. Theologists and other influencers, including U.S. lawmakers, see the coming “end of days” prophesies via religious texts, visions of the Apocalypse, and other theories that they claim support the notion of our living in a time when the curtain falls for good.
1. Isaiah 17
This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,’ says the Lord Almighty Isaiah
The Bible warns a series of horrible events will take place in Israel and Syria. Central to this vision of the apocalypse is the destruction of Damascus as one of the finest cities in the world.
Joel Rosenberg is a Christian author, an expert on Christian “end times” discussions. He told MotherJones unidentified members of the U.S. Congress called him to Washington to consult on the biblical end of days. Yes. Congress is concerned about the End of Days, as if they could just pass the “No to End of Days” Act and go on with life. Other legislators interested in this verse include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Representative Louie Gohmert.
Hal Lindsey is an influential evangelist, something that should be an oxymoron but isn’t, who believes the Russians will lead a “Gog-Magog Alliance” foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, which means this bit is in the Torah, the Bible, and Koran as well. Gog and Magog could be individuals, a person and his homeland, or basically whatever suits the theory you’re peddling. In Revelations, Gog and Magog join Satan in the final battle.
Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.
Many fighters in Syria (on all sides) believe was a large battle was foretold 1,400 years ago in the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and anecdotes about things he said and did from his closest followers.
The “No sh*t, there I was” collection of Islamic religious stories.
Some Sunni jihadis and other militias aren’t really even there to fight Asad. They’re there for a Grand Battle the prophet talked about in the 7th century CE. According to Muhammed, two huge Islamic armies are destined to meet near Damascus, coming from the North and West of the area. Fighters are pouring in to various sides from all over the world because Mohammed promised this would happen. The goal is to establish an Islamic state.
In the hadith, Mohammed also said Syria is God’s favored land and if not Syria, the faithful should go to Yemen, which is also not the first place anyone would associate with the phrase “God’s favored land,” as it is currently experiencing a civil war exacerbated by external aggression. Bringing the U.S. and NATO (especially Turkey) to Syria made some believe the U.S. aggression was deliberately planned by you-know-who to bring about the Grand Battle.
3. The Return of the Mahdi
What sounds like the worst Star Wars movie ever (or a new hymn by Mark Morrison) is actually also prediction mentioned in hadith. Shia Muslims believe the Syrian war is paving the way for the Imam Mahdi, a descendant of Mohammed’s who disappeared a thousand years ago but is going to resurface to re-establish Islamic rule during a time of war, shortly before the end of the world. To them, the Islamic state foretold by the hadith was established during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War is the war in question.
The hadith says fighters with yellow flags (see Hezbollah) join to fight anti-Shi’ites (read: Sunnis) in Damascus as a prelude to the coming of the Mahdi. Fighters believe if they are killed during the war, they will be reborn when the Mahdi comes, so they can join his army. This also works for Christians, because the return of the Mahdi coincides with second coming of Jesus. Christian religious scholars in the U.S. believe a document labeled the “Arak Codex #190001” in a museum in Tehran, says the Imam is already here, and it contains a description of the Mahdi. Guess who he supposedly looks like.
4. Nostradamus predicted ISIS
Believers in the 16th century French prophet Nostradamus believe he wrote poems which predicted the future, and he was eerily accurate about events even 500 years later. They believe he predicted Napoleon and Hitler, who were two of three “antichrists” whose rise foretold the end of the world.
500 years ago, Nostradamus wrote:
He will enter wicked, unpleasant, infamous,
Tyrannizing over Mesopotamia:
All friends made by the adulterous lady,
Land dreadful and black of aspect.
In the original French, it rhymed. Just saying. Anyway, adherents to Nostradamus translate this passage to mean ISIS’ rise to prominence in Iraq and Syria, the black referring to ISIS’ uniforms and flags. There’s also a bunch of math involved which makes Common Core look reasonable. But who knows, there are so many tyrants to choose from in the Middle East, especially in recent history, “He” could be anyone. The adulterous lady could mean any coalition or Syria itself, no matter who might be in charge there. The verses devolve into a description of World War III, endless war, and the end of the world. More racist looks at the writings of Nostradamus predict the end of the world will be brought by someone special…
5. The Book of Revelation
Shortly before Russia intervened in Syria, there was a very large blood moon, visible in most of the world. John of Patmos (aka”The Revelator,” aka “the Greek” aka “Bad Host from Patmos.” [I made the last two up]) wrote in the Book of Revelation that the blood moon would appear when the sixth of seven seals are opened and then some bowls are poured, some trumpets sound, a bunch of other stuff happens. This theory doesn’t really jive with Isaiah 17, because this is where Gog and Magog gather everyone from the four corners for battle at the holy city… after a thousand years. So, unless the bowls and trumpets and the seals did this 1,000 years ago, we don’t have to worry about Gog and Magog.
Still others believe John foretold of a 200 million-man army. Since the entire world’s number of active duty uniformed personnel add up to about 20.2 million (and don’t all necessarily get along), it’s unlikely this army would be a conventional army. Enter ISIS. Some Christian groups see the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as a potential source of manpower for the apocalyptic 200 million man army. Just 10-15% of the worlds Islamic people gives said army a potential strength of 160-240 million.
Fortunately for the United States, the impact of World War II was almost solely felt through rationing and news from abroad and rarely were American civilians affected firsthand. As a result, the American home front became a strong source of resources and morale for the soldiers overseas – something that most countries involved in the war didn’t have. Realizing this, the Japanese looked for a relatively cheap and safe way to disrupt the American home front.
In 1944, the Japanese decided to tap into a jet stream that they had discovered a few years earlier, one that traveled from Asia to North America at about 30,000 feet. Their plan was to attach bombs to giant balloons and release them into the jet stream, where they’d be carried silently and dispersed across the US at random. Overall, the plan wasn’t to kill Americans, but rather to start forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and also instill panic in the population and, in turn, diminish morale on the home front.
The balloons were around 30 feet in diameter and from the top of the balloon to the payload underneath measured around 70 feet. Each balloon bomb consisted of sandbags for ballast that would be released as the balloon descended, allowing it to drop some weight, gain a little altitude, and carry on a bit further. Once the sandbags had all been dropped, four incendiary bombs would be released one at a time until none were left, then a single anti-personnel bomb would fall and the balloon would ignite itself and be destroyed.
Launched in groups, the balloons were at the mercy of the jet stream and typically took a few days to cross the Pacific. Since they were unguided, the balloons had a wide distribution and have been discovered from Alaska to Mexico and from Hawaii to Michigan.
The bombs started arriving in Western US in late 1944 and at first no one really knew what they were. However, geologists sampled the sand and determined that it had come from a small section of beach east of Tokyo. Until the end of the war, the US Government asked media outlets not to report on the bombs in order to prevent the Japanese from tracking whether they were successful. This apparently worked because the Japanese pulled the funding for the bombs after only a few months of launches, assuming that the balloons weren’t hitting their targets.
Overall, the bombs were not successful; less than 300 out of an estimated 9,000 have ever been found – around 3%. However, one bomb detonated in rural Oregon in spring 1945 and killed a pregnant woman and five children, making them the only American civilians killed in the US as a result of enemy action.
After the war, talk of the bombs began to spread and it was found that seven landed in Nebraska including one in Omaha, one landed ten miles from Detroit and another landed near Grand Rapids. Balloon bombs, while largely unsuccessful, continued to be discovered throughout the US and Canada following the war and one was even discovered in British Columbia in October 2014.