These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history - We Are The Mighty
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These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Snipers are undoubtedly the most lethal shooters on the battlefield, able to take out targets from hundreds and hundreds of yards away, without their marks being alerted to their presence.


They are experts at blending into the environment, masters of patience, physically developed and always well-trained. But snipers still can’t take the shots they they’re known for without a decent rifle in their hands, capable of helping them reach targets at longer-than-normal ranges.

Over the past 50 years, records for the longest kill-shots in history have been made and broken repeatedly by some of the greatest snipers the world has ever seen. These are the four guns they have used to break and set these records on confirmed kills at unimaginably far distances:

4. Browning M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ Heavy Machine Gun

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
The M2 machine gun Carlos Hathcock used for his longest confirmed kill in 1967 (Photo US Marine Corps)

A WWII-era machine gun used as a sniping system doesn’t exactly evoke any images of precision shooting, but it’s exactly what a 24 year-old Marine by the name of Carlos Hathcock used in early 1967 to take out a Vietcong militiaman pushing a bicycle loaded with weapons and ammunition. Built to fire the .50 BMG round, the M2 had exactly the range and stopping power Hathcock wanted in a gun that would allow him to hit targets at distances far beyond what a standard-issue sniper rifle permitted.

With an Unertl scope mounted to a custom-made bracket crafted by Hathcock himself, and the M2 in single-shot mode, the gun could engage targets at distances over 1600 yards. The machine gun was balanced on an M3 tripod and kept in place with sandbags.

His record-breaking February 1967 kill was made using this setup at 2500 yards, creating a record for the history books which would stand until the War in Afghanistan in 2002.

3. Barrett M82A1 Special Application Scoped Rifle

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
An M82A1 sniper rifle without its signature muzzle brake, circa 1990 (Photo US Army)

According to Chris Martin in his book, “Modern American Snipers,” Sgt. Brian Kremer currently holds the American record for the longest sniper kill in Iraq, while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment. The M82 SASR is every bit the beast it looks, firing a .50 Browning Machine Gun round at effective ranges up to nearly 2,000 yards. Weighing in 30 pounds, and measuring 48-57 inches long depending on the barrel used, the M82 is without a doubt one of the most fearsome small arms on the battlefield.

The M82 was originally put into service with the US military in 1990, and has been used in every conflict since. Though smaller-caliber sniper rifles are typically unable to hit targets behind cover, American snipers have been able to use the M82 and the Raufoss Mk 211 .50 caliber round to simply shoot their way through obstacles at great distances to reach their marks. Kremer’s shot reportedly measured 2,515 yards.

2. Accuracy International L115A3 Long Range Rifle

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
British Royal Marine commandos training with L115A1 sniper rifles (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

In 2009, British Army sniper Craig Harrison set a new world record for the longest confirmed kill in history with his L115A3, the standard long-range marksman’s rifle of the British military. During an ambush on a convoy he was attached to, Harrison hit a pair of Taliban machine gunners using 10 carefully-placed shots at a range of 2,707 yards, beating out the previous record by 50 yards.

Known in civilian markets as the Arctic Warfare Magnum, the L115A3 is chambered to fire the .338 Lapua round — a devastating bullet with phenomenal range. Known for its armor-piercing abilities at long distances, the .338 is now extremely popular among military snipers and marksmen across the world.

1. C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
A Canadian sniper training on the C15 .50 caliber sniper rifle (Photo Canadian Army)

Commercially known as the McMillan Tac-50, this is the rifle which has broken the world record for longest kill on three separate occasions over the last 15 years.

In March 2002 during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Canadian sniper Arron Perry broke Carlos Hathcock’s 35-year record with a confirmed kill at 2,526 yards. Later that month, another Canadian sniper, Rob Furlong, topped Perry with a shot ranging 2,657 yards. Recently, it was reported that yet another Canadian set and holds the world record — now at a mind-blowing 3,540 yards… that’s over half a mile longer than Furlong’s 2002 kill!

The C15, like its commercial name suggests, is built to fire .50 caliber rounds, and has seen service with a number of elite military units, including the US Navy’s SEAL teams, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, and Israeli special forces.

This monster of a weapon weighs 26 pounds on its own, and measures 57 inches from stock to barrel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The real reason top mobsters didn’t fight World War II

The United States began registering men for the draft well before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (it’s like they knew something was coming on the horizon). After all, you don’t want to go to the mattresses without the men and material necessary to win a war. The U.S. needed men and guns, but somehow, the heads of New York’s Five Families managed to avoid it.


While there were a lot of men associated with the mafia who fought in World War II, the guys at the top (many of which who were still the prime age for selective service) did not. It wasn’t about their connections; they had a legitimate reason to stay stateside.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Maybe the draft letters got lost in the mail. I dunno. Probably.

It has nothing to do with patriotism. If you consider the idea of pure capitalism, no one could possibly be more pro-America than the wiseguys who played the system to their advantage. Besides, the mafia was no fan of Mussolini. In Italy, the dictator was going to war with mafioso families in Sicily, men he considered a direct threat to his regime.

Back in the United States, members of New York’s crime families did join the military to fight in the looming World War. Matty “The Horse” Ianniello, who would one day be the acting boss of the Genovese family, served in the Army. The Genovese’s George Barone was one of the family’s most feared hitmen, but before that, he was in the Navy fighting on Guam, Saipan, Leyte, Luzon, and Iwo Jima. The Bonnano family’s “Johnny Green” Faraci landed at Normandy on D-Day.

But their bosses were absent.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

“In this suit? Fuggedaboudit.”

But there was a reason, and that reason didn’t include intimidating selective service officials or beating the unholy crap out of draft boards. Some of the wiseguys at the top of New York’s five families were still (mostly) of draft age. Though many of the fathers at the top were just a hair older, even Bonanno family father, Joe Bonanno, was eligible for the draft. But these guys weren’t just running numbers, prostitution, and carjacking rings; they also ran legitimate businesses. Basically, they still needed a legitimate income, they just had the best marketing and growth plans every business owner dreams about.

In his autobiography, Joseph Bonanno talked about what happened to the mafia during the war, albeit very briefly. He mentioned for his part, he managed to avoid being drafted because one of his legitimate businesses was a large dairy operation in upstate New York – which was considered an industry vital to the war effort, and thus kept his name off the draft rolls.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

“Whatsa matter? You don’t like farming?”

Mafiosos famously controlled labor unions across the United States and, as a result, were considered essential members of key war production industries, including concrete construction, harbors, and the Teamsters unions. What would become the Genovese family got its start laundering money through extensive fishing operations. This became an especially powerful way to avoid the draft in the 1970s, where the Mafia reached the peak of its power in the United States.

This work was known as a “reserved occupation” and included dock workers, farmers, scientists, railway workers, and utility workers. Joseph Bonanno was just your average crime family father, and a simple dairy farmer.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Paul Allen found the first carrier the US lost in WWII

While the converted collier, USS Langley, was America’s first aircraft carrier, it wasn’t America’s first fleet carrier. That honor goes to the converted battlecruiser, USS Lexington.


Under the terms laid out in the 1923 Washington Naval Treaty, a naval arms control accord, the United States had the right to convert two of six planned battlecruisers into aircraft carriers. The Lexington and her sister ship, USS Saratoga, were selected and effectively saved from the scrapheap for this role. The Lexington was commissioned in 1927 and, over the next 14 years, she served in the peacetime Navy.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
One of the explosions that doomed USS Lexington during the Battle of the Coral Sea. (US Navy photo)

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Lexington took part in the abortive effort to relieve Wake Island. She then took part in various hit-and-run attacks on Japanese bases in the Marshalls until she went to the South Pacific to ward off a Japanese thrust towards Port Moresby. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Lexington’s planes helped to sink the Japanese carrier Shoho, but on May 8, she came under attack.

The Lexington was struck by two torpedoes at least one bomb. The ship’s crew worked hard to keep the vessel afloat. The ship’s Damage Control Officer, Commander Howard R. Healy, suggested to the captain that if he were to take additional torpedo hits, “it would be as well to take them on the starboard side.” Healy would die in the process of controlling the extensive damage done.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
The Lexington’s crew prepares to abandon ship before she was scuttled by torpedoes from the destroyer USS Phelps

A series of internal explosions would force the United States to scuttle the Lexington, making her the first fleet carrier America lost in WWII. She went down in the Coral Sea in 1942, but not before the Japanese were turned back, suffering a strategic defeat.

Earlier this week, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced on Facebook that he found the Lexington. See this heroic vessel, whose sacrifice saved Port Moresby, in the video below.

 


MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking a swing at the drill sergeant is a horrible, stupid idea

Life in the military isn’t for everyone. It’s totally understandable if you get started, realize it’s just not the life you’ve envisioned for yourself, and seek a different path. Best of luck with that, dude. Be a productive and helpful member of society in whatever way you feel best.

Yet, for some odd reason, whenever douchebags open their mouths and offer an unnecessary excuse for not serving, they’ll offer the same tired, anti-authoritarian, pseudo-macho, bullsh*t along the lines of, “I couldn’t do it because I’d knock that drill sergeant out if he got in my face.”

Okay, tough guy. 99 percent of the time, you’ll lose that fight — no contest. That other one percent of the time, when you put up a brief fight, you’ll end up wishing a broken nose was the worst thing you had coming.


First and foremost, drill instructors, Marine combat instructors, drill sergeants, military training instructors, and recruit division commanders are highly disciplined and trained to never initiate a physical altercation. They’ll yell, they’ll get in your face, and they’ll generally treat you like the lowest form of scum on this Earth to break you down before building you up into what Uncle Sam needs. Picking a fight with you is pointless when they’ve got thousands of other tools in their repertoire.

And if they start getting physical without being provoked, the consequences are severe. It’s not completely unheard of, but reports of drill sergeants resorting to violence are few and far between — even when considering old-school drill sergeants. Of course they’re going to threaten it — stressing out and terrifying recruits is kinda their shtick— but they can’t even touch your uniform to correct a deficiency without informing you they’re going to do so, let alone take the first swing.

Now. Up until this point in the article, the disclaimer of “starting the fight” has been attached to each and every instance of hypothetical ass-beatings. What happens to the sorry sack of crap who tries to assault a non-commissioned officer in the United States Armed Forces? Well…

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Ever wonder why they’re always in PTs?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)

Spoiler alert: It won’t end well.

In order to reach the point where they’re screaming in your face, an instructor has undergone intensive hand-to-hand training — to later teach it to young recruits. In the Army, you can’t teach combatives unless you’ve undergone an intensive one-week course specifically on training a platoon-sized element and another two-week course on training a company-sized element. All of this is in addition to whatever personal CQC training they’ve undertaken.

And then there’s the size disparity. Drill sergeants and drill instructors are, generally, physical monsters. That “make you pass out” smoke session is a warm-up for most instructors. They PT in the morning with the troops, with them again throughout the day to prove “it’s nothing, so quit b*tching,” and then find time to hit the gym afterwards. Technically, a drill sergeant just needs to pass their PT test, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t get a (or near to a) 300.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

And because this will get mentioned in the comments: Hell no. A drill sergeant would never lose their military bearing by recording a brawl between a troublesome recruit and another drill sergeant and uploading it to the internet.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the hyper-macho scumbag lands a good one and they aren’t given an impromptu tracheotomy via knife-hand. Before that clown can clench their other fist, each and every other instructor in the area will pounce. Drill sergeants are loyal to their own, so expect them to join in swinging — even if they clearly have the fight won.

Finally, there’re the repercussions. The fool that initiates a fight is going to jail and is getting swiftly kicked out with a dishonorable discharge — no ifs, ands, or buts. Don’t expect that court-martial to go over well when every instructor there is a credible witness and the other recruits who watched have recently been instilled with military values. No one will back up the scumbag.

Keep very much in mind — these instructors will never lose their military bearing. Dropping that bearing for even a fraction of a second could mean the loss of the campaign hat they worked so hard to earn. There’s no way in hell that one asshat will take that away from them when they know countless ways to deal with them that don’t involve realigning their teeth.

Articles

John McCain learned two big things when he was a prisoner of war

Before he was a U.S. senator, and later a presidential candidate, John McCain was a naval aviator over the skies of Vietnam. But the 1958 graduate of the Naval Academy is probably known less for his flying skills and more for what he did on the ground, as a prisoner of war for more than five years.


“I hated it, and yet I made some of the most important discoveries and relationships of my life in prison,” McCain wrote in a post on Quora, in response to the question of what it was like to be a P.O.W.

When he was shot down, McCain was on his 23rd mission: A bombing run over Hanoi. “A Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up — the sky was full of them — and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber,” he recalled in U.S. News World Report.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
John McCain being captured in Vietnam. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

With his jet traveling at roughly 575 mph, he was able to eject. But when he landed in enemy territory, he had broken his left arm, his right arm in three places, and his right leg near the knee. He was captured soon after, and taken to the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison, better known by its prisoners as the “Hanoi Hilton.”

In his Quora post and in his book “Faith of my Fathers,” he recounted his poor treatment and very limited contact with the outside world. But there were two big things McCain learned:

“I learned I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, but I was strong enough,” he wrote. “And I learned there were things I couldn’t do on my own, but that nothing is as liberating as fighting for a cause that’s bigger than yourself.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 wildest conspiracy theories about Osama Bin Laden’s death

In a daring, well-documented nighttime raid, 23 Navy SEALs landed in an al-Qaida compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. They were there to kill or capture the world’s most wanted man. The entire operation lasted only 40 minutes and ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.

Or did it? That’s what the deep state, reptile aliens or any number of conspiracy theory boogeymen would want you to believe, sheeple. The truth is out there.


Imagine instead believing that the bin Laden raid wasn’t a result of years of research, intelligence work and training. Since there were no photos released to the public, some believe the government isn’t telling the whole truth about the “alleged” death of bin Laden in 2011.

The U.S. government’s reluctance to release the photos of his body and the immediate burial at sea didn’t help quash these theories, either.

You don’t have to go far on the Internet to find alternate theories about bin Laden’s death. And if this author is mysteriously killed in the coming weeks, you can be sure one of these is true. Definitely.

Osama bin Laden died in December 2001

Some say the world’s most wanted terrorist was suffering from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic mutation that affects the proteins keeping the body’s tissue together. bin Laden, according to former State Department official Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, looked like a textbook case of the disorder. His tall frame, long limbs and long face all displayed classic symptoms.

The disease affects one in about 5,000 people and can cause sudden death and there is no definitive DNA test for it. Instead, doctors begin with judging the outward appearance of a suspected “Marfanoid” person — someone thin and often lanky, sometimes with spidery fingers and curved spines. Pieczenik claimed CIA doctors had treated OBL for Marfan, and the al-Qaida leader died just months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Other claims say he died at the same time, but of renal failure, not Marfan Syndrome.

He didn’t die — he got a vacation.

Like all great conspiracy theories, this one is fact mixed with a healthy dose of fiction — but the facts make it just believable enough to catch on. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA flew Soviet-built weapons from Saudi Arabia to the Afghan Mujahideen during Operation Cyclone.

The conspiracy theory alleges that bin Laden became a CIA asset at this time. The CIA, partnering with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Agency, worked to build the mythos surrounding Osama bin Laden, so that fanatical terrorists would come to Afghanistan. Funded through the heroin trade, tacitly permitted by Pakistan, the CIA created a means to fight Islamic fundamentalism in one place.

The raid that killed bin Laden the terrorist was allegedly a means to let bin Laden the CIA asset retire. This is a theory backed by the Iranian regime.

Pakistan Captured bin Laden in 2006

This one comes from legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh alleges that Pakistan’s ISI captured the terrorist in 2006 and used him as leverage to operate in Afghanistan. The ISI then sold bin Laden to the U.S., but forced them to stage the raid that killed him.

According to Hersh, when Navy SEALs arrived in Abbottabad, they were met by an ISI officer who casually walked them to bin Laden’s bedroom. The SEALs then riddled him with bullets, tore his body apart, and dispersed them throughout the Hindu Kush, just because.

Hersh’s sources for this story are both dubious and anonymous.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Pictured: No Arabs. Definitely no Arabs here.

Bin Laden Didn’t Even Live In Abbottabad

In the London Telegraph, Abbottabad resident Bashir Qureshi dismissed the idea that bin Laden and his family lived in the area. Though the raid blew out the windows on his house, he still dismissed the idea, saying “Nobody believes it. We’ve never seen any Arabs around here, he was not here.”

The Pakistani press didn’t help. Newspapers in the country allege the raid was set up so U.S. forces would have an excuse to enter Pakistan. Former ISI officials seconded that idea in Western media, noting that someone was killed and removed by the U.S. forces during the raid, but it wasn’t bin Laden. The real bin Laden was already dead, they said, and the U.S. knew it … they just didn’t know where he died.

The U.S. Captured bin Laden Well Before 2011

Another theory promoted by the Iranian regime says that the U.S. captured and held bin Laden for years before finally killing him. Fearful that forcing the world’s most wanted terrorist to face trial in the U.S. could result in a hung jury or worse, an acquittal, the United States decided to execute him and stage his death as an elaborate raid.

This theory alleges that killing Osama bin Laden was a stunt by the Obama Administration in order to secure an election victory — even though the presidential election was more than a year away at the time.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Science!

Bin Laden Was Literally Kept on Ice

In keeping with the “bin Laden was already dead, the United States just confirmed it” line of thinking, this theory states that the United States had either captured bin Laden after the raid on Tora Bora or that he died of renal failure well before 2011. The U.S. then allegedly froze his body in liquid nitrogen to wait for an expedient time to announce the “victory.”

The expedient times listed by proponents of this conspiracy include not clashing with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and knocking an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” off the air so President Obama could thumb his nose at Donald Trump.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of the Civil War’s only double-barrel cannon

It always struck me as odd when I read history books as a kid: cannons are pretty much giant shotguns — why didn’t they ever make double-barreled cannon pieces? Well, I wasn’t the only genius with the idea.


A Southerner from Athens, Ga. named Pvt. John Gilleland forged one in 1862. Gilleland’s idea was to connect the two three-inch barrels by firing chain shot connected by two six-pound balls. When fired, the designer’s idea was for the balls to be shot at different angles to allow the ten-foot chain to fully extend.

If you’re not sure what chain shot does to walking bags of meat (soldiers), the guys at MythBusters demonstrated this on a pig carcass – warning: it doesn’t end well for the pig carcass.

So imagine a ten-foot nunchuck weighing in at roughly 50 pounds flying into a massed formation of people at more than a thousand feet per second. That was Pvt. Gilleland’s great idea. Except it didn’t go quite as he would have liked.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
This ends well for no one.

His tests showed erratic and often dangerous results. Though the gun was designed for both barrels to be fired simultaneously, they often didn’t, meaning an intense veering in an unintended direction. When they did fire, the chain would sometimes break apart, with two end of chain led by a ball, each veering three degrees away from each other at more than a thousand feet per second.

Gilleland still declared it a success and sent it to be tested with the Confederate Army. The Confederates found the cannon “not usable due to unpredictable rates of powder burn and barrel friction which led to unpredictable performance.”

No kidding.

So the Confederate government sent the cannon back to Gilleland in Athens. The weapons was still used in combat in just one battle. As Union raiders approached Athens on July 27, 1863, the double-barrel cannon was used as a signal gun to rouse the population to arms.

Some 9,000 Union cavalry approached Athens as part of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Athens would be put to the torch, but not if the Georgia Home Guard Artillery could repel them.

At Barber’s Creek, just south of Athens, the cavalry hopped across the Confederate earthwork defenses. But before they could break the home guard completely, the city’s cannon and howitzers stole the initiative and fired a volley into the oncoming traffic. The yankees broke off the attack and Athens was spared.

Today the cannon is parked on Hancock and College Avenues in Athens.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Pointed North, of course.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is why a modern torpedo sinks a ship with one hit

If you’ve seen any submarine-themed movie, whether it’s Hunt for Red October, the classic Operation Pacific, or Crimson Tide, you understand the severity of an incoming torpedo. Anyone who knows naval history knows that torpedoes are lethal to ships – just look at what they did to the liner Lusitania, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV 7), and a host of other ships.


Back through World War II, the primary way torpedoes did their damage was with a direct hit. The impact of the torpedo on a ship’s hull would drive a firing pin that sets off a warhead. The hope here is that the blast punches a hole in a ship, allowing water to flood in, causing the ship to list to one side or the other and, eventually, capsize. Generally, this approach worked well, but it could take many direct hits to do damage enough to sink a vessel. The Japanese battleship Musashi, for example, took over twenty hits from Mk 13 air-dropped torpedoes before she went down.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
One of many air attacks carried out on HIJMS Musashi during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It took over 20 torpedo hits to put that ship on the bottom. (US Navy photo)

This was a problem — as defensive anti-aircraft capability developed, planes launching torpedoes needed to do so from higher altitudes, at faster speeds, and from further away in order to survive. This was not conducive to scoring the many hits you needed to sink the enemy ship.

In fact, with rare exceptions, the only vessels that use heavy anti-ship torpedoes today are submarines. The torpedoes used by planes and ships are often less than 13 inches wide and hold warheads packed with less than 100 pounds of high explosive. They’re not that good against surface ships, but you don’t need much to sink a sub that’s a few hundred feet below the surface of the ocean.

The heavy torpedoes themselves have also evolved, and not just in tracking capabilities.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
USNS Concord during her service with the United States Navy. She was nearly 600 feet long, displaced just under 19,000 tons fully loaded, and was sunk by one torpedo during a RIMPAC exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Haws)

During World War II, the United States Navy fielded torpedoes equipped with magnetic exploders. However, they didn’t quite work right. With bigger fish to fry and a war to fight, the U.S. Navy simply disabled them and went on fielding functional, contact exploders. These torpedoes helped force Japan’s surrender.

But the magnetic exploder concept wasn’t forgotten after the war — and for good reason: Hitting the hull does some damage, but if you want to really kill a ship, it’s best to break it in two. The best way to do that is to set off the explosion just below a ship. That will damage the ship’s keel in a process called “breaking its back.” Modern torpedoes with magnetic exploders are designed to do exactly that.

You can see what that does to the former USNS Concord (ex-AFS 5) in the video below.

 

Articles

Are military bands a thing of the past?

Music in the military has a long history.


While marching toward the enemy, the armies of the ancient Greek city states would sing paeans to the God Apollo in unison. It was an homage to their god, inspired the Greek hoplites to fight, but also was intimidating to the enemy. It also helped the tight, packed formations typical of hoplite warfare keep time in their march.

In a similar way, music played a vital role after the musket was introduced to the battlefield in the 16th century. The weapons were relatively inaccurate and short-ranged, and the concept of massed coordinated volley fire was needed to make them effective in the open-field engagements of the time.

Drums, flutes, and bugles were all used to issue commands over the noise of battle, as well as helping large groups of soldiers keep their ranks as they marched and maneuvered. Young boys were often used for the role, and they could face dangers as great as any of the regular soldiers. More conventional bands were used to entertain troops during the Civil War, often even on the front lines.

Two weeks ago, the House passed legislation that would ban military bands from performing at social functions other than formal military ceremonies and funerals to help cut defense spending.

The Defense Department spent $437 million in Fiscal Year 2015 on “musicians, instruments, uniforms and travel expenses,” according to Stars Stripes.

“For every dollar that is spent on our bands to entertain at social functions, that’s a dollar we’re not spending on national security and on our troops and our families,” said Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, a retired Air Force colonel who sponsored the bill.

The Army currently has 99 bands, the Air Force has 15 bands, the Marine Corps has 12 bands, and the Navy has 11, according to Politico. The bill now heads to the Senate.

The history of military bands is long and storied.

Though bands had played varying roles since the Revolutionary War, it was Army Gen. John Pershing during World War I who set the stage for the military’s current band system after seeing the much more elaborate European army bands in action. He believed the bands to be essential to troop morale and set up a formal training system in place of what was previously fairly ad hoc, greatly expanding regimental bands.

Though by World War II such use of music on the battlefield had largely been abandoned, there were still some examples, if far more eccentric ones. The famed British commando ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill, who clearly had a taste for older styles of warfare, would go into action playing bagpipes to inspire his men while carrying a Scottish broadsword and a longbow. The Soviet Union was known to play patriotic music before it’s troops charged as well.

In modern warfare, however, military bands are seen more and more as an anachronism used for strictly ceremonial purposes, and are confined to the parade ground rather than the battlefield.

It’s been a long time since military bands performed in combat. In an era of tighter budgets and ever more modern warfare, it’s clear Congress is beginning to see military bands more as a frivolity than a necessity.

MIGHTY HISTORY

WATCH: The Grueling ‘D-Series’ Exercise That Prepared Elite Ski Troops from the 10th Mountain Division for Winter Warfare

In March 1944, a hardy group of mountaineers, skiers, rock climbers, and outdoorsmen all volunteered for a newly formed winter warfare unit known today as the famed 10th Mountain Division. On the Colorado slopes at Camp Hale was the proving ground where these elite ski troops participated in a grueling, monthlong final exercise known as the “D-Series.” The mock battle against an opposing force was designed to put everything they were taught in training to the test. The soldiers carried 90-pound packs, wore winter warfare clothing to protect their bodies from below-zero temperatures, and marched through 6 feet of snow in skis and snowshoes. 

“I thought they were going to kill us all off,” Lt. Col. Earl Clark told Outside TV in an interview. “Sleeping out in temperatures down to 30 below zero without a tent.” 

They learned to sleep on top of their skis and other little tricks to survive some of the harshest winter environments on the planet. The survival exercise was a critical step before they would travel to see action against the Germans in the Apennine Mountains of Italy.

The 10th Mountain Division had an unusual beginning. Charles Minot “Minnie” Dole, the founder of the National Ski Patrol, had the task of collecting intelligence on other winter warfare units around the world. The blueprint for success mirrored the formation of Finnish ski troops who courageously fought against the Soviet Union during the Winter War in 1939. Dole didn’t have support at first from the higher echelon and his equipment was outdated, yet there was a need for such a unit. 

“Ten thousand frozen to death — 25,000 dead,” Dole wrote, in reference to a report from the American embassy in Rome describing the debacle of the Italian winter campaign in Albania. He continued, “If a global war is contemplated or envisioned, men must be trained in mountain and winter warfare and time is of the essence as these troops cannot be trained overnight.” The 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division was activated less than one month later — shortly before the attack at Pearl Harbor.

The National Ski Patrol was the first civilian organization to recruit, screen, and approve applicants for military service. “When the Army decided to create a mountain division in WWII to fight in the mountains of Europe, they brought together a cast of Americans that was really quite remarkable — skiers, mountain climbers, trappers, outdoorsmen,” then Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend said in 2015, when he was commander of the 10th Mountain Division. “The 10th Mountain Division of WWII had the highest ratio of college graduates of any unit in the Army. That’s just an example of the type of people that the 10th Mountain Division attracted.”

The men of the 10th following World War II went on to transform the skiing industry into the winter sports mecca that exists today. In February 2020, some 76 years after the first D-Series military exercise, Army troops from the 10th Mountain Division followed in the footsteps of their predecessors in a challenge that tested their physical and mental toughness, competitive spirit, and marksmanship.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Russian military just landed in Venezuela

Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.


The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.

Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.

Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.

The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.

Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who saved North Carolina from nukes speaks out

Jack ReVelle, an Air Force munitions expert during the Cold War, recently went to a sound booth to record an interview with his daughter where the pair discussed one of the most harrowing moments of Jack’s life: That time he was called to North Carolina to defuse two hydrogen bombs that had plummeted to earth with a combined potential explosive power equivalent to 500 Hiroshima bombs.


These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

A Mark 39 nuclear bomb rests with its nose buried in the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

In 1961, a B-52 bomber was flying over the great state of North Carolina when it began to break apart. Its entire right wing failed and the plane began falling towards earth. The order was given to abandon the plane, and eight crewmembers attempted to escape. Five survived.

But two other objects joined the crew in the air with parachutes. Two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, one with a successfully deployed parachute and one with a failed chute, fell from the sky. The Air Force sent a team out relatively quietly to find and defuse the nukes. Jack ReVelle told his daughter about getting the mission:

“One night, I get a phone call from my squadron commander. And instead of using all the code words that we had rehearsed, he says, ‘Jack, I got a real one for you.’ You don’t often have two hydrogen bombs falling out of aircraft onto U.S. property.”
These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Air Force technicians dig through the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

There was precious little preparation done for such an insane mission, and the airmen found themselves scrambling to get everything they needed to do the mission:

“Ten – we call them the Terrible 10. I knew all of them very well. But nobody was cracking jokes like they usually did. And the first couple of days there, they didn’t even have food for us – nothing. It was snowing. It was raining. It was frozen. That’s why we worked in shifts, sometimes on our hands and knees.”

The first bomb was quickly found hanging from a tree. The parachute had kept its descent reasonable, and it had stuck vertically in the ground, buried only partially in the dirt. The team found that three of its four safeguards had either failed or triggered. Only one safety, the actual safe/arm switch, had prevented a nuclear explosion.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians remove components of a Mark 39 nuclear bomb from the deep hole that the bomb buried itself in.

(U.S. Air Force)

But the second bomb, the one with an improperly deployed parachute, had hit the ground at 700 mph and plunged 18 feet into the ground. It was Jack and his men’s job to dig in, find as many of the 92 detonators as they could, and recover the warhead.

Most of the detonators were found and recovered, one at a time. But the team got a horrendous surprise when they found the safe/arm switch:

“And as we started digging down, trying to find the second bomb, one of my sergeants says, “hey, Lieutenant, I found the arm safe switch.” And I said, “great.” He says, “no, not great. It’s on arm.” But we all knew what we were there for and the hazards that we were facing. So, we pulled it up out of the mud and brought it up over this wooden rickety ladder that we had, to the surface of the ground, in a safe condition.”

Yeah, the switch had been the only thing that prevented the first bomb from detonating. It had failed on the second bomb. As they recovered the rest of it, they found no safeguards that had properly survived. The bomb should’ve exploded. Engineers wrote in a classified report in 1969 that a single electrical jolt could’ve triggered a weapon. The lead on the study, Parker F. Jones, recommended that Mark 39 bombs no longer be used in an airborne role since they almost gave us Goldsboro Bay.

But Jack and his team were able, through painstaking work, to recover most of the bomb, including the nuclear core. If even one of them had gone off, it could have killed approximately 28,000 people. 60,000 live there today and would, obviously, not be able to live there if the bombs had irradiated the whole area in 1961.

Jack ReVelle’s interview is available on StoryCorps and NPR.

(This article was updated on Feb. 4, 2019. The article originally stated that seven of the eight steps needed to detonate a Mark 39 bomb had been taken and cited a Stanford paper from 2018. But the Stanford paper cites a Guardian article for that claim, and the Guardian article only supports that three of the four major safeguards had failed. This post was changed to reflect this more solid information.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The confusion of war: A Pearl Harbor survivor story

I don’t know what led me to sit at the foot of my Great Uncle Ray’s rocking chair and hear his story of being at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, at a family reunion. But I won’t ever forget that day. Even though at the time I had no intention of serving in the military, I was fascinated by the stories of those who had served. Oddly enough, sharing the stories of military women is where my passion lies today. My Great Uncle Ray died in 2008. Now his story lives on through my memory and in the book of Pearl Harbor survivors that he’s featured in, that he gave me a copy of. 

Ray decided to enlist in the Navy in 1940 for six years. As the next to the youngest of eight children, he knew his father needed any help he could provide to help his remaining family. He began bootcamp on August 26, 1940, in San Diego. After graduation, he headed to Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Cincinnati. Once they arrived at Pearl Harbor, the men were dispersed among the various units. Ray was assigned the USS Pruitt. In approximately October of 1941, the USS Pruitt went in for a general overhaul. The crew was removed to housing at the barracks at the receiving station near the main gate at Hickam Field.

On the morning of December 7, Ray had just put on his brand-new set of tailor-made whites he had picked up the day before. They had cost him $30 a month and a half wage. He had plans of heading ashore for the day. As he was putting on his neckerchief, he heard what sounded like explosions. He ran outside to see what the sound was; there were planes everywhere and black smoke rising in the area of Ford Island. Alarms were going off all over. A group of sailors stood there watching the horror of the attack for a few minutes. All of a sudden, a torpedo plane erupted into a ball of flames. They all hit the deck and then ran for cover. Within a few seconds, a yard workman in a truck drove up and told them to hop on. There was a need for personnel to man guns on other ships.

Ray was taken to the USS Pennsylvania with one other sailor from the USS Pruitt. The USS Pennsylvania was in dry dock. Once they gave their name, rank, serial number and the ship they were assigned, they were sent to a five-inch anti-aircraft gun on the starboard just aft of the superstructure. He recalled being at that assignment for only what seemed like five to six minutes. Then an officer who was quite disheveled – somehow he had eggs on his hat – ordered him to report to the five-inch gun on the port side. Shortly after moving to the port side, they shot down a Japanese plane. About the same time, an armor-piercing bomb took out the starboard side. The shipmate who came aboard the USS Pennsylvania with him was killed. He believes if he hadn’t been reassigned, he would have also been killed too. He regretted that he didn’t remember the man’s name. They didn’t know each other and didn’t talk as they were focused on the mission.

There were two other ships in dry dock with the USS Pennsylvania — the USS Downes and the USS Cassin. Both were completely destroyed. Ray remained aboard the USS Pennsylvania until five p.m. and then was instructed to return to his ship.

When he arrived at the quarterdeck of the USS Pruitt, Ray was informed by the Officer of the Day he had been reported as Killed in Action (KIA) onboard the USS Pennsylvania during the morning. The information had already been reported to the US Naval Command at Pearl Harbor and a notice of his death had been sent to his parents. He said he was not the only one who had this happen to him. Because of this, the Navy came up with a plan three to four days after the attack to inform loved ones of their condition. Unfortunately, the Navy’s solution required you to sign your full name and check a box on what most closely related to your condition.

This was a good solution for most, but because he had never gone by Raymond, but instead Sonny, his parents didn’t believe that he was still alive. They had never seen him sign his name as Raymond and didn’t want to believe he was still alive if it wasn’t true. Letters home were not allowed initially. His parents believed him to be dead with the only communication being signed letters of his physical condition.

Eventually, the Navy allowed members to send letters home. When his parents received his letter and saw it was signed as Sonny and not Raymond, they finally believed that their son had survived the Pearl Harbor attack.

I won’t ever forget the minutes I shared with my great uncle as he shared his story of surviving Pearl Harbor. He was so proud of his service. His eyes lit up in a way that made him look much younger than he was. I’m so thankful for his service. But I am even more grateful he took the time to write his story down so it could be shared with future generations.

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