This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers - We Are The Mighty
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This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers

John W. “Jack” Hinson was a man who found himself firmly on both sides at the outset of the Civil War. He claimed neutrality and achieved it by giving intelligence reports to both sides, including one report to then-Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.


This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Jack Hinson

Hinson was a farmer on the Tennessee-Kentucky border who seemed to be trying to just get through the war intact. He owned slaves but had opposed secession. One son joined the Confederate Army and another joined a militia, but the family hosted Grant after his victory at Fort Donelson.

But Hinson lived in a region that was fiercely contested by the North and South, and the Hinsons were caught in the crosshairs.

Two of Jack Hinson’s sons, George and Jack, went into the woods with rifles in late-1862. The boys claimed they were hunting deer, but Union soldiers suspected them of guerilla attacks that were claiming the lives of many Union soldiers.

An Army lieutenant ordered the boys tied to a tree and shot. After the execution, the officer cut off their heads and ordered them placed on gate posts at the Hinson plantation.

Jack Hinson did not respond well to this. He buried the bodies and then cleared the plantation, sending away his family and slaves.

He ordered a custom sniper rifle. Like the Whitworth Rifle that achieved the longest sniper shot in the Civil War, Hinson’s rifle fired hexagonal rounds through a rifled barrel. Unlike the Whitworth, the rifle weighed 17 pounds and fired .50-caliber rounds accurately to 880 yards.

At the age of 57, Hinson became a guerilla fighter against the Union. Army estimates at the time put the number of men he killed at 130, but modern historians have adjusted the number down to just over 100. Hinson only tracked the officers he killed, marking 36 circles on his barrel.

He reportedly began his campaign by killing the lieutenant who ordered the boys killed, decapitated them, and then ordered their heads onto the gate posts. His second kill was the sergeant who placed the heads on the posts.

After that he began searching out targets of opportunity, focusing his attacks on the vital river trade up and down the Tennessee River.

In one instance, a gunboat attacked by Hinson even surrendered under the belief that they were under fire by a large rebel force. Hinson couldn’t accept the surrender because, again, he was on his own in the woods of Tennessee with a single rifle.

Hinson is also believed to have killed a group of pro-Southern renegades who attacked a neighbor, so he carried some of his “neutrality” into his single-man campaign against the North.

By the time the war closed, Hinson had been hunted by four Union regiments but survived. He gifted his rifle to Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Forrest and returned to private life.

Most of what is known about John “Jack” Hinson was researched by Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney. His books on Hinson include “Battlefield Sniper: Over 100 Civil War Kills” and “Jack Hinson’s One-Man War, A Civil War Sniper.”

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This is what made the M1919 Browning machine gun so deadly

John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.


This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.

It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.

Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.

While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.

In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.

Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The M1919 Browning machine gun was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.

Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.

Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.

As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.

There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.

If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.

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Green Beret writes about secret Cold War mission

The 1968 World War II film “Where Eagles Dare” thrilled some viewers — and scared the bejesus out of others — with its tale of commandos storming a snow-covered mountain fortress and a scene of Richard Burton wrestling with Nazi thugs on the roof of a swaying cable car.


But for an Omaha teen named James Stejskal, seeing the movie inspired his life’s work as an Army Green Beret.

“I was always interested in that kind of life,” said Stejskal, 63, now retired from careers as a soldier and CIA agent and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “A small unit fighting against the bigger enemy (using) a combination of military and intelligence operations, not just brute force.”

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Green Berets standing proud.  (U.S. Army photo)

This spring, Stejskal published a book called “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90,” about the secret unit with which he spent nine of his 23 years in the Army. Its work was so sensitive that the Pentagon didn’t acknowledge its existence until 2014.

“That’s when we finally came in from the cold,” said Tom Merrill, 63, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who served with Stejskal in Berlin and remains a friend.

Stejskal enlisted in the Army in 1973, a year after graduating from Central High School. Soon he became a Green Beret, serving on small special ops teams. He was a weapons sergeant and a medic, known to his buddies as “Styk.”

“He was the consummate operator — natively smart, well-educated, thought well on his feet,” said Merrill, who lived in Council Bluffs as a boy.

The Berlin unit, created in 1956, was blandly named Detachment “A.” It disbanded in 1990, after the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Berlin Wall, 1989 (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

The soldiers of Detachment “A” didn’t look much like soldiers. They dressed in modish clothes, wore beards and long hair, made local friends, lived in off-base apartments. All spoke German, many of them fluently.

“Working in civilian clothes, blending in with the locals, doing cool stuff in West Berlin and the middle of (Communist) East Germany,” recalled Stejskal, who served in the unit from 1977 to 1981, and from 1984 to 1989. “It was a very ambiguous kind of duty.”

They were expert at soldierly skills like marksmanship, wilderness navigation, rappelling from helicopters, urban combat. But they also learned the tradecraft of spies, including surveillance and secret messaging.

In the event of a Soviet-led invasion of Western Europe, the detachment’s job was to melt into the population of Berlin and engage in acts of sabotage behind enemy lines. In his book, Stejskal describes it as a “Hail Mary plan to slow the (Soviet) juggernaut they expected when and if a war began.”

Each of the detachment’s six teams was to be responsible for sabotaging bridges and railroads, harassing the enemy in designated slices of East Berlin and East Germany.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Berlin during the Cold War.

The work evolved as new threats emerged in Europe, and encompassed training in guerrilla warfare, direct-action precision strikes, and counterterrorism.

As radical groups spread terror across Europe with kidnappings, mass shootings and hijackings in the 1970s, Detachment “A” practiced rescuing hostages from trains and airplanes. Pan Am let them drill using airliners stored in its hangars at Berlin’s Tegel airport.

The detachment’s highest-profile mission had little to do with the Cold War and didn’t even take place in Europe. In 1980, the detachment was tapped to help rescue 52 U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students.

Soon after the embassy was captured Nov. 4, 1979, the U.S. military began developing a plan to seize the hostages. Most were held in the main embassy compound, but the job of Detachment “A” was to snatch three who were being held separately at the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The first rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, ended in disaster when a plane and a helicopter collided in the dark in the Iranian desert.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The military quietly began planning a second rescue attempt, again including members of Detachment “A.” Stejskal and Merrill, who hadn’t been part of Eagle Claw, were involved in the second, Operation Storm Cloud. It involved using Air Force transport planes to fly partly disassembled helicopters into an airfield commandeered in the desert. The helicopters would be quickly reassembled and used to assault the Foreign Ministry.

The team traveled to Florida to conduct live-fire drills and spent weeks rehearsing with helicopter crews. They honed their weapons skills with extra-long hours on the shooting range.

“We were blowing (our weapons) up, we were firing them so much,” Stejskal said.

They ran a dress rehearsal in late November 1980, but soon the word came down: The mission had been scrubbed.

“It was deflating, extremely,” Stejskal said. “It’s like preparing for a big game and then being told you can’t play.”

The hostages were released Jan. 20, 1981, the same day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
President Reagan’s inauguration, 1981. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Stejskal soon rotated out but returned to the unit in 1984. The 1980s are remembered now as the death throes of the Soviet empire. But at the time, it wasn’t clear whether popular movements like Poland’s Solidarity might provoke a Soviet crackdown.

“No one was really sure how it would all play out,” he said.

Stejskal left Berlin in the spring of 1989, but he flew back in November when he heard that the Wall had fallen. He wanted to see the end of the Cold War icon that had shaped his life.

“In one way, it was a relief: The mission as I knew it in Berlin was over, or soon would be,” Stejskal said. “On the other hand, there was a bit of nostalgia for the way things were.”

Not that his life on the razor’s edge ended when the Wall fell. In December 1992, Stejskal was badly wounded when his car drove over a land mine in Somalia.

Stejskal suffered a serious head injury and a shattered leg.

“I basically had 3½ inches of bone that was turned to confetti,” he said.

Stejskal returned to duty a year later. But he knew he would never regain his former strength. So he retired in 1996.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Green Berets. (U.S. Army photo)

That was the same year he married Wanda Nesbitt, a State Department foreign service officer he had met five years earlier during an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, in the country then known as Zaire.

At his first overseas posting with Nesbitt, Stejskal said, someone handed him a sticky note with a telephone number on it and said to call if he wanted a job. That led to a 13-year stint with the CIA.

In recent years, Stejskal has attended Detachment “A” reunions, where the stories flow along with the beer.

“Somebody said, ‘We need to get this down on paper. We’ve got a history. Who’s going to write it down?'” he said.

Stejskal volunteered. Merrill said the book, published in March by Casemate Publishers, has taught him a lot he didn’t know about the unit’s history.

“He gave it the respect it deserved,” Merrill said. “He was able to take his insider knowledge and transfer it to something an outsider can understand.”

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The US just obliterated this al Shabab base in Somalia

A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.


The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”

The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The US military confirmed an early June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.

“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”

Neither statement mentioned casualties.

There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.

In early May an American SEAL was killed in a nighttime raid in Somalia.

It appeared to be the first US military death in combat there since the infamous events of “Black Hawk Down” 24 years ago, when 18 American servicemen died in what is called the Battle of Mogadishu.

US special forces have been deployed in Somalia for years. Drone and missile strikes have also been used against al-Shabab commanders and foot soldiers.

The militant group has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia since 2007.

Meanwhile, in the north, al-Shabab militants stormed a military base in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday, leaving 70 dead and many more injured according to officials.

Civilians – including women – were beheaded during the rampage, which has been one of the deadliest extremist attacks in years.

Puntland also faces a growing threat from IS-linked fighters who have split from al-Shabab, which grew out of the Horn of Africa country’s quarter-century of chaos.

Last year, al-Shabab became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

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The weird arms race between Napoleon and England

Napoleon_England


If you were a higher-up in the British Empire in the late 1790s, you were probably a little freaked out, and understandably so. You’d just said goodbye to the American colonies and watched the French populace rise up in bloody revolution against their monarchic government—and now French general Napoleon Bonaparte was seizing territory all over Europe and even beyond. You wouldn’t be crazy to think that the general had his eye on the British Isles next. But exactly how you expected the French armies to land on British shores… let’s just say the Brits let their imaginations run away with them a little bit.

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve collected a series of slightly bonkers popular engravings of imaginary invasion methods dating between 1798 and 1805, when the Napoleon’s troops seemed to be looming on the horizon.

Napoleon’s moving castle

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers

This slightly histrionic plan from 1798 shows perhaps the most visually striking paranoid fantasy to come out of the period. In it, a massive windmill-propelled barge carries not only 60,000 men but also an entire castle across the English Channel.

This… thing

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Similarly relying on windmills for power, this illustration of an invasion raft described by a French prisoner of war (who we assume got a kick out of the credulous Brits) somehow makes even less sense than the barge above. It’s basically a fortress on a floating island. Not the most hydrodynamic contraption—and what happens if the water is choppy?

This… thing, part 2

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Also from 1798 is this intricate engraving of the imaginary “Raft St. Malo,” which was likely based on the same false information as the last raft. It allegedly “was 600 feet long by 300 broad, mounts 500 pieces of cannon, 36 and 48-pounders, and is to convey 15,000 troops for the invasion of England. In the midst is a bomb-proof, metal-sheathed citadel.”

Oh look, a real boat

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers

Dating to 1803, when hostilities broke out again after a hiatus, this print showing “A Correct VIEW of the FRENCH FLAT-BOTTOM BOATS intended to convey their TROOPS for the INVASION of ENGLAND” is a little more realistic. As the National Maritime Museum explains,

Unlike the earlier prints… with their monstrous and bizarre ‘rafts’ for transporting huge numbers of troops, this shows much more feasible vessels and appears to be based on much better founded information.

“My ass in a band box”

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Not all Brits bought into the technological hype, however. The cartoon above shows a small-statured Napoleon on a donkey, sailing over to the British Isles in a decidedly non-threatening box labeled “Invasion.”

Balloons, ships, and a tunnel

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Perhaps the craziest idea came from Napoleon himself, who imagined a three-pronged approach to invading Britain using hot air balloons, ships, and foot soldiers via a tunnel dug under the English Channel, as illustrated in this 1803 French engraving.

So what actually happened? None of the above. Urged on by fears of French innovation, the British government invested heavily in defense measures, including a number of forts and a massive naval blockade of the Channel. Napoleon’s attempt to piece together a big enough flotilla to break through the blockade ended up being a major flop.

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New declassified Russian documents change the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis

For 13 days in 1962, the world stood on the brink of nuclear destruction. How close humanity came to a nuclear holocaust has been well-documented in the past, but a new book from Serhii Plokhy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University, details a lot things the CIA missed about the Russian nuclear force on Cuba at the time.

In “Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Plokhy uses newly declassified documents from Russia and Ukraine (a member of the Soviet Union at the time), to show the world a list of things previously unknown about the crisis. 

Plokhy’s book (Available on Amazon)

After U-2 spy planes uncovered the presence of nuclear-armed missile sites on the island of Cuba on Oct. 22 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a nearly two-week standoff. As diplomats and leaders wrangled to cut a deal that would end the crisis, the U.S. military went on high alert, reaching DEFCON 2 in some areas.

DEFCON 2 was the second highest state of readiness for the United States armed forces during the Cold War, one level below a full-scale nuclear exchange. The forces put on DEFCON 2 were ready to go to war with the Soviet Union within six hours. It was the highest level of readiness ever reached by the U.S. during the Cold War. 

When the CIA finally got wind of the nuclear missiles on Cuba, they were in place and ready to launch, capable of hitting targets deep inside the continental United States. They were also able to strike Washington – and the U.S. intelligence community had no idea. 

It was only through dumb luck they noticed at all. An analyst looking at the flyover photos saw soccer fields constructed on the island. Cubans didn’t play soccer, by and large, because they preferred baseball as a sporting pastime. Russians, however, loved soccer. And upon taking a closer look, they discovered the Soviet missile sites. 

What the intel agencies missed, according to the new book, was the presence of Luna short-range nuclear missiles on the island. Moreover, there weren’t just 4,000 troops from the USSR in Cuba, there were 40,000 – a much larger number than previously known. 

If the U.S. invaded Cuba, the Soviets and the Cubans were prepared to retaliate with everything available in the arsenal on the island and elsewhere. It was a strategy favored by many in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. Had Kennedy authorized the invasion, it’s estimated that 70 million Americans would have died during the exchange. 

The Soviet troops stationed on the island were living in fear of the same exchange, the new book reveals. They believed an invasion and nuclear war was imminent, especially after another U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba on Oct. 27, 1962. 

Technicians load a type A-2 camera set into a U-2’s equipment bay, or “Q-bay.” (U.S. Air Force)

There were numerous close calls during the crisis, but in every instance cooler heads prevailed. A Russian submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo at the blockading squadron. Two F-102 fighters armed with nuclear-tipped missiles avoided two Soviet MiG-17s in the search for the downed U-2, and another nuclear submarine nearly launched a nuclear torpedo when Americans fired off a flare into the night sky.

Kennedy himself wavered between pinpoint airstrikes and a carpet bombing campaign to neutralize the threat. In the end, at the behest of the former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Tommy Thompson, Kennedy opted to “quarantine” the island, instituting an effective blockade (without calling it a blockade, which would have been an act of war). 

While cutting off Cuba from receiving more men and material, he talked to Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev and brokered a deal that would remove the Soviet troops in exchange for a promise from the U.S. not to invade Cuba. It was later revealed that Kennedy removed nuclear weapons from Turkey in the deal. 

At the end of the 13 Days, everyone left the deal with something they wanted. Kennedy and Khruschev both removed existential threats to their countries and nuclear war was averted. For Kennedy, the deal boosted his popularity at home. For Khurschev, it was a political disaster. The removal of missiles from Turkey remained a secret, so to the public and the Soviet Communist Party, it looked like Khrushchev balked. He was out of power two years later. 

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This is what made ancient Roman gladiators so fierce

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  The sport of gladiator fighting in the arenas of ancient Rome was just as popular as boxing and MMA are today. Gladiator combat was slightly more gangsta, though, seeing as how those warriors fought to the death during brutal tournaments.

Some historians believe the gladiator games started as ceremonial offerings for the funerals of wealthy aristocrats. At the height of the sport, the fighters were mostly made up of prisoners of war, slaves, and sentenced criminals, but they could even be pitted against animals like tigers or crocodiles.

The Coliseum in Rome was even home to aquatic battles, when the arena was flooded and fighters attacked from boats.

They lived in privately-owned schools that doubled as their training and prison grounds. Reportedly, after Spartacus led an uprising in 73 B.C., the empire began to regulate the gladiator schools to prevent further rebellions.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Gladiators from the Zliten mosaic.

During the games, each gladiator fought with various weapons and levels of armor.

A “Secutor” was a heavily armored fighter who competed using a short sword. A “Retiarius” battled his foes wearing light armor, a trident, and occasionally a weighted net. The “Vremea” wore a helmet with a stylized fish on the crest.

The gladiators ate a high energy diet consisting of barley, beans, oatmeal, dry fruit, and ash, which was believed to fortify the body. Very few of them fought in more than 10 battles or made it past the age of 30 before getting killed.

The Roman empire housed more than 400-arenas and displayed over 8,000 gladiator deaths per year. Learn more about their fighting in the video at the top.

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5 new technologies that could save your skin on future battlefields

It’s no surprise that the U.S. military is constantly trying to stay on the bleeding edge of technology to give its troops the upper hand. But what might raise eyebrows is how deep they’re thinking about every strategic and tactical advantage.


This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Still no Iron Man suits. (Marvel/Paramount)

What also might not be so obvious is the civilian tech out there that’ll help troops on the ground in the future.

1. DNA reconfiguration to resist radiation.

Researchers at the university of Tokyo isolated the cells of a microscopic organism called the tardigrade. It looks like a fat cross between a walrus and an anteater, but the little guy is resistant to boiling temperatures, extreme cold, crushing pressures, and intense radiation that would instantly kill any human.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The mighty tardigrade. (Eye of Science)

The December 2016 issue of Foreign Policy magazine reported the same researchers added the resistant DNA to human cells in a petri dish and bombarded the cells with X-ray radiation. They found that human cells configured with tardigrade DNA were 40 percent less damaged than regular human cells – resistant enough to withstand the radiation on the surface of Mars.

2. Bomb-detecting spinach.

It’s not just for Popeye anymore. A research team at MIT embedded nanoparticles onto spinach plants and when these particles come in contact with explosives, they bind together, causing a reaction that gives off an infrared signal and can be alerted to mobile phones via wifi.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The jury is out on eating nanomodified spinach. Probably.

Not only does the plant modification detect explosives in soil, but it can also detect them in groundwater. Moreover, the plant can be used to decontaminate soil and take reclaim environmentally damaged Earth.

3. Solar Cell Uniforms.

Not solar-powered uniforms, solar power uniforms – wearable solar cells. the University of Central Florida estimates a typical rucksack weighs 60-100 pounds and is full of devices that require batteries — NVGs, radios, and GPS devices, to name a few. Those same researchers estimate that U.S. troops in Afghanistan carry 16 pounds of batteries for every 72-hour mission. Wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t have to carry that extra weight?

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The supercapacitor ribbon can be reused more than 30,000 times and can fully charge an iPhone in minutes. (UCF photo)

That’s why they developed a supercapacitor, a strip of electronic ribbon they want to interweave with cotton for American uniforms. The new fatigues would come with clip-on adapters to use in charging their needed devices. The troops would be walking solar panels, never running out of juice while on the mission.

4. e-Tourniquets.

The tourniquet is a long-standing staple of the battlefield and has been since before recorded history. The standard tourniquet has come a long way in that time; strips of torn cloth are now specially designed for ease of use and maximum pressure. But now it’s about to make its biggest leap ever.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Vaguely-related stock photo.

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., is developing a “neural tourniquet” that is placed on a wound to electronically stimulate the spleen, ordering the red blood cells to clot wounds everywhere on a body. So far, researchers note that clotting with the e-tourniquet begins in as little as three minutes, cutting blood loss by 50 percent and bleeding time by 40 percent.

5. Electric training headphones.

The Halo Sport is currently in the realm of Olympic athletes. It’s a $700 headphone device containing electrodes that send an electrical current to the brain’s motor cortex. This strengthens the connection between the brain and muscles, improving muscle memory – giving athletes a bigger edge in competition.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
The Halo Sport in use. (Halo)

If training with the Halo Sport gives athletes a performance edge in training, it could probably do wonders for getting new recruits and foreign armies up to speed on the tactics of future battlefields.

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Collision at sea sidelines US Navy mine sweeper and nuclear submarine

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
USS Louisiana in happier times. (Photo: US Navy)


USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) is going to be spending some time in the yards after a collision with USNS Eagleview (T AGSE 3) off the coast of Washington state. The two ships returned to their respective bases under their own power.

According to a report by the USNI blog, the Navy is assessing the damage to the Louisiana at her home port of Naval Base Bangor-Kitsap, while the Eagleview is being assessed at Port Angeles, also in Washington state. No injuries were reported in the collision, which took place on the evening of 18 August.

USS Louisiana is the last of 18 Ohio-class submarines, having been commissioned in 1997. She displaces 18,450 tons when submerged. She carries 24 UGM-133A Trident II missiles, capable of delivering up to 14 W88 warheads with a 475-kiloton yield. The Trident II has a range of about 7,500 miles. The submarine also has four torpedo tubes capable of firing Mk 48 torpedoes.

The Eagleview is one of a class of four offshore support vessels purchased by the Military Sealift Command in 2015 from Hornbeck Offshore Services. Eagleview weighs about 2400 tons, is almost 250 feet long, and 52 feet six inches wide.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
USNS Eagleview . . . also in happier times. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Louisiana’s incident is not the first time this has happened. In 2013, USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) lost a periscope in a collision with an unidentified vessel. USS Montpelier (SSN 765) collided with USS San Jacinto (CG 56) in 2012, wrecking the cruiser’s sonar dome. USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) had a fender-bender in the Strait of Hormuz in 2009. Senior officers on the submarines received varying punishments, most involving relief from command and letters of reprimand.

 

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Navy grounds T-45 Goshawk fleet after pilot protests

The navy has instituted an “operational pause” for the entire fleet of one of it’s most important training jets due to problems with its environmental control systems feeding air to pilots.


The Navy announced the grounding April 5, saying it was “in response to concerns raised by T-45C pilots over the potential for physiological episodes.”

Multiple sources tell We Are The Mighty that the grounding was prompted by protests by Navy instructor pilots who were concerned over the effects of the malfunctioning oxygen system in the Goshawk. One source tells WATM that more than 100 instructors “I am safed” themselves — essentially telling the Navy they felt unsafe to fly — en masse at three air bases to force the service into coming up with a solution.

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Student pilots prepare to exit a T-45C Goshawk assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 2 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zach Sleeper)

According to the Navy statement, on March 31, 94 flights were cancelled between Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola due to operational risk management concerns raised by T-45C instructor pilots. Their concerns are over recent physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit that were caused by contamination of the aircraft’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System. Chief of Naval Air Training immediately requested the engineering experts at NAVAIR conduct in-person briefs with the pilots.

The briefs were conducted in Kingsville Monday, then Meridian and Pensacola April 4, the Navy said.

The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 is a derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk and has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 T-45s in its inventory.

“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes of [physiological episodes] along multiple lines of effort,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces.

The Navy says it expects to resume flight operations for the Goshawks April 10.

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LIVE: WATM coverage of IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum

On Sept. 7, the two leading American presidential candidates will square off in a town hall-style forum before a live audience aboard the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that’s now a museum docked at Pier 86 in midtown Manhattan.


Sponsored by the non-profit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and broadcast live by NBC and MSNBC, the first-ever Commander-in-Chief Forum will be an opportunity for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to speak about veterans issues, national security and military policy. The candidates will address the audience separately and will have the opportunity to answer questions from moderator Matt Lauer.

We Are The Mighty will live blog the event, providing commentary and insight from our team of editors, writers, contributors and friends throughout the primetime event. So stay tuned here for up-to-the-minute coverage as the groundbreaking forum unfolds.

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This is al Qaeda’s job application (seriously)

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: Youtube.com


Al Qaeda asked its aspiring recruits to fill out an application in order to join, according to documents the US government seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and released on May 20th.

The application asks for basic information (name, age, education level, criminal history), but includes more terrorism-specific queries, like “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?” and “Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?”

The form was released as part of the declassification of a trove of documents seized during the May 1st, 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed.

Here’s the form:

Al Qaeda Application

This is one letter a recruit sent to Al Qaeda, saying he “admired the activities, beliefs and bravery of the mujahidin”:

Al Qaeda Letter

Bin Laden, the terrorist responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks on the US, was killed by a team of Navy SEALs in 2011.

Al Qaeda was known for vetting recruits who wanted to join. Those who wanted to get into the core organization often needed a recommendation from someone already inside.

When Al Qaeda was first created, the group noted in a memo that there were four requirements for membership — swearing allegiance to the emir and being obedient, obtaining a personal referral from a member of Al Qaeda’s inner circle, and displaying “good manners,” according to the recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” which also discusses Al Qaeda’s origins.

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

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The inside joke names that soldiers have for different unit patches

For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.


The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.

Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.

1. “Leaning Sh-thouse” — 1st Theater Sustainment Command

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.

2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.

3. “Four Lieutenants Pointing North” — 4th Infantry Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.

4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.

5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

You see it. You know you do.

6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.

7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”

8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.

9. “Alcoholics Anonymous” — 82nd Airborne Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: US Army D. Myles Cullen

The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.

10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division

This Civil War guerilla sought revenge by sniping over 100 Union soldiers
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.

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