The A-10 is justifiably celebrated for its tank-killing prowess.
After all, it destroyed 987 tanks and a metric buttload of other Iraqi stuff during Desert Storm, and its GAU-8 got a lot of use, including some Iraqi helicopters who felt the BRRRRT! But the Air Force once planned for a tank-buster with a gun that made the A-10’s GAU-8 look puny.
The Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly was intended to be a close-air support plane to bust up tanks and bunkers in front of the infantry. Beechcraft, ironically, is best known for civilian planes like the King Air.
To accomplish that mission, it was given a powerful armament. In the nose was a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a powerful T15E1 75mm automatic cannon. It had a pair of twin .50-caliber turrets as well (one on the top, one on the bottom), and the ability to carry up to 2,000 pounds of bombs, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
Yeah, you read that right. The Army Air Force in World War II was developing a specialized tank-buster that was two and a half times bigger than the GAU-8. Of course, a 75mm gun had been used on variants of the B-25, but the XA-38’s gun was essentially a semi-auto.
The plane had a top speed of 376 miles per hour, a range of 1,625 miles, and a crew of two. With all that performance, it had a lot of promise when it first flew in May of 1944. But that promise was never seen by the grunts on the ground.
The XA-38 project never got past the two prototypes, because a different aviation project took up all the engines that the Grizzly was designed to use. The Wright GR-3350-43 engines were needed by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which in 1944 was needed to bomb Japan.
One prototype was scrapped, while the other’s fate remains unknown.
Anastasia Lin may never see her family in China again.
Shortly after winning the Miss World Canada title in 2015, Beijing deemed China-born Lin “persona non grata” — a powerful diplomatic term that effectively banned her from the country — because she was speaking out on the country’s human-rights issues.
But more problematic than Lin’s ability to enter China, is the difficulty her family have had trying to leave, which is being used as leverage to pressure the Chinese-Canadian actress and activist.
While in Australia in early 2018, Lin told Business Insider how her uncles and even elderly grandparents had their visas to Hong Kong revoked in 2016 in an attempt by authorities to silence Lin and punish her Hunan-based family.
“The day before I left, my mother told me that the police went into my grandparents home and took away their visa, their Hong Kong visa. These are 70 year-olds, and they took it away. They intercepted my uncle in the airport on his way to Macau, to Hong Kong,” Lin said.
Anastasia Lin speaks at the National Press Club on Dec. 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C.
“My grandmother told me … they took away the Hong Kong visa and they said very explicitly that it was because of my activities overseas and influence,” she said. “Since then, my grandparents have been getting routine police visits.”
Lin’s great-grandfather was executed in public during the Cultural Revolution “to warn the rest,” according to Lin, and the fear from that time has returned for her grandparents who are now subject to regular house calls by authorities.
“Later on my grandmother told me that the visits sometimes are with fruit and flowers but it was for the purpose of persuading them to persuade me to do less, to not do anything, and to convince me to be on the opposite side,” she said.
These weren’t the first threats and police visits Lin’s family received. Within weeks of winning her crown, security agents started threatening her father telling him that his daughter “cannot talk” about Chinese human-rights issues.
“My father sent me text message saying that they have contacted him telling him that if I continue to speak up, my family would be persecuted like in the Cultural Revolution. My father’s generation grew up in the middle of Cultural Revolution, so for him it’s the biggest threat you can make. It means you die, you get publicly persecuted,” Lin said, adding that her father “begged” her for a way for the family to survive in China.
Lin said it’s been a long time since she spoke to her father because their calls are monitored, but she learned recently his passport was rejected for renewal.
Lin is just one of many Chinese expats and exiles whose mainland relatives are used as leverage to try and control China’s reputation abroad.
Chinese President Xi Jingping.
Business Insider has previously reported on how relatives are contacted to try and control what their adult children are posting on social media while they study at foreign universities. And ethnic minority Uighurs, Tibetans, and other human-rights activists who have faced persecution have frequently said their family members are used as leverage to try and control their actions and speech overseas, with some even being blackmailed into spying for the state.
Family members of five Radio Free Asia journalists, including two US citizens , were recently detained in an attempt to stop their reporting on human-rights abuses against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. One of those journalists is Gulchehra Hoja, who had more than 20 relatives disappear all in one day, in early 2018.
“When I heard my brother was detained, I [initially] chose not to speak up because my mother asked me, ‘Please I already lost you, I don’t want to lose my son too,” Hoja told a congressional hearing in July 2018. “We don’t want to put them in further danger because of our acts or any word against China.”
“My family haven’t been able to be reunited in 17 years,” she added.
The fear of this happening is also an effective enough tool to self-censor criticism, even if family members aren’t being directly threatened.
Square engineer Jackie Luo explained on Twitter what happened when the Chinese government closed down one of her mother’s WeChat groups here people in China and abroad would send hundreds of messages a day talking about social issues.
“They asked the person who started the WeChat group to restart it. He lives in the US now. But he won’t; he’s afraid. He has relatives in China, and if the government is monitoring him, then it may well be unsafe. They understand. This social group of 136 people — it’s dead now,” Luo wrote.
But when people choose to speak out, it can be harder for those still in China to understand.
“My grandpa [is] like, ‘Well why don’t you just give up, then you can come back?'” Lin said. “They think it’s that easy because the Chinese Communist Party promised them that if I don’t speak up, I will get to go back, but I know that’s not the case. I know usually if you don’t speak up you don’t have any leverage. They will just kill your voice completely.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.
“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”
“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.
The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.
Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.
(Fars News Agency Photo)
President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.
In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.
The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.
Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.
Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.
And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.
James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Air Force F-35s accidentally left behind phallic contrails in the sky after air-to-air combat training this week.
Two of the fifth-generation stealth fighters went head-to-head with four additional F-35s during a simulated dogfight, Luke Air Force Base told Business Insider.
In the wake of the mock air battle, the contrails looked decidedly like a penis. Media observers out in Arizona said it “vaguely resembles the male anatomy.”
But unlike a rash of prior sky penis sightings, the base has concluded that this was not an intentional act. “We’ve seen the photos that have been circulating online from Tuesday afternoon,” Maj. Rebecca Heyse, chief of public affairs for the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, told Air Force Times in an emailed statement.
“56th Fighter Wing senior leadership reviewed the training tapes from the flight and confirmed that F-35s conducting standard fighter training maneuvers Tuesday afternoon in the Gladden and Bagdad military operating airspace resulted in the creation of the contrails.”
“There was no nefarious or inappropriate behavior during the training flight,” the base explained.
There have been numerous sky penis incidents in recent years, with the most famous involving a pair of Navy pilots created a phallic drawing in the air with an EA-18G Growler. The 2017 display was the work of two junior officers with Electronic Attack Squadron 130, according to Navy Times’ moment-by-moment account of the sky drawing.
Last year, an Air Force pilot with the 52nd Fighter Wing was suspected of getting creative with his aircraft, as some observers believed the contrails left behind were intentionally phallic. The flight patterns, according to Air Force Times, were standard though.
The latest incident is the first time a fighter as advanced as the F-35 has left behind this type of sky art.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army’s recent pursuit of a new light tank design to address a never-filled gap in capabilities caused by retiring the M551 Sheridan and the XM8 Buford Armored Gun System has made headlines lately. But, at one point, the U.S. Army had some good light tanks.
The M3/M5 Stuart and the M24 Chafee both served in World War II, with the latter also seeing action in Korea and Vietnam. The light tank’s job back in World War II and Korea was to carry out reconnaissance missions and to provide support for infantry units. The light tank wasn’t meant to fight other tanks.
America’s ultimate light tank came about during the Korean War, the M41. The M41’s biggest advantage over the M24 was a more powerful powerplant. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the M41 had one 500-horsepower engine as opposed to the two 110-horsepower engines of the M24. This enabled it to go 45 miles per hour — significantly faster than the M24’s 35 — even as it added six tons of weight. The M41 was named “Walker Bulldog,” after a general who died in a vehicle accident during the Korean War.
The Walker Bulldog’s crew of four had a 76mm main gun, an M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and a 7.62mm machine gun to deal with enemy threats. The tank didn’t have a long career in United States service, however, largely due to the fact it was too large for reconnaissance and lacked the firepower to fight tanks.
Still, it was widely exported. South Vietnam purchased many, which fell into the hands of North Vietnam when Saigon fell. Taiwan has a few hundred in service, thanks to an extensive modernization effort that has included implementing reactive armor and better guns, like the 90mm Cockerill.
Learn more about this forgotten “bulldog” light tank in the video below.
In January, US Army uniform officials will begin an evaluation of the service’s new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform by issuing the lighter, more breathable uniform to thousands of soldiers in Hawaii.
The new IHWC is the result of a directed requirement to outfit soldier with a jungle uniform suitable for operations in the Pacific theater. This follows a similar effort that recently resulted in the Army fielding 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams in Hawaii between March and August.
Up until this point, 25th ID soldiers training to operate in hot, tropical environments have been wearing Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms and Hot Weather Combat Boots intended for desert environments.
“January 2018 is going to be huge,” said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear. “They are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”
The new uniform, made by Source America, is a 57 percent Nylon / 43 percent cotton blend to make it “faster-drying” and have “greater airflow” than the 50-50 Nylon cotton blend on the ACU, Ferenzcy said.
“It adds a little bit more strength, which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave … so it should dry a little quicker,” Ferenzcy said. “There are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”
The new uniform has better flexibility and less layers of fabric, Ferenczy said adding that “less layers of fabric means that it retains less moisture means it dries quicker.
There are no breast pockets since soldiers in the field are typically wearing gear that covers them, and “all they end up doing is retaining moisture and heat, so we removed that extra layer there,” Ferenzcy said.
“The back pockets in the trousers are gone as well for the same reason,” he said. Uniform officials have added an ID card pocket inside the waistband.
The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform blouse also features a button-down front instead of a zipper closure. Uniform officials also replaced the side zipper closure on the shoulder sleeve pockets with a button-down flap at the top of the pocket, Ferenzcy said.
The new uniform features reinforced elbows and reinforced and articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, said Ferenzcy, whose office worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop the IHWCU.
“Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” Ferenzcy said. “The folks that designed it worked hand-in-hand with the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii.”
The plan is to issue about 20,000 sets of the new uniforms to the 2nd and 3rd BCTs in Hawaii in January and then another 10,000 to 12,000 sets in March, Ferenzcy said, describing the $14 million effort.
“This is under a directed requirement, so right now they are just a one-time buy,” Ferenzcy said. “It was ‘hey, we need to get these guys ready for Pacific operations.’ We don’t know exactly yet how we are going to sustain it.”
After 25th ID soldiers have a chance to train in the new uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team plans to return in “April or May and get feedback on the uniform and then we will make adjustments as needed, Ferenzcy said.
“It they don’t like this material, the 57/43 NYCO blend, we may go with something else,” he said.
Phase two of the effort involves buying another 11 brigades worth of the IHWCU in its final form for contingency stocks “in case another brigade got turned on to deploy or do a training mission in a tropical environment, we would have uniforms ready for them,” Ferenzcy said.
“This uniform is about a pound lighter than the Army Combat Uniform; it’s very comfortable and not only does it make fighting and operating in a tropical hot wet environment easier, it’s also going to potentially mitigate heat injuries because it holds less heat and less moisture,” Ferenczy said.
“There no scientific studies to back this up, but heat casualties across the force are one of the biggest things that take soldiers out of the fight.”
The RCS, a predecessor to the Coast Guard, responded by forming a unit of volunteers who traveled 1,600 miles from Dec. 1897 to Mar. 1898, buying reindeer along the way and herding them to Alaska where the sailors were trapped. They arrived with 382 reindeer just in time for most of the survivors. Three people died of starvation, but the rest were rescued during the spring thaw.
2. Army PSYOPS troops pretended they were vampires
American psychological operations soldiers were sent to the Philippines in 1950 to help destroy a Communist rebellion in the country. When the commander learned that the local fighters were superstitious and believed in a shapeshifting vampire known as the “asuang,” he came up with a Scooby Doo-esque plan.
First, he had friendly locals spread a rumor that an asuang was living in the hills. Then, the Americans and their allies set up an ambush in the hills, waited for the last man in a patrol to pass them, and abducted him. They poked two holes in his neck, drained him of his blood, and put his body back on the trail. The rebels bought the ruse and fled the area, allowing government forces to reclaim it.
3. Four Royal Marines rode Apaches into a Taliban fort
Long story short, a British attack on the Taliban base of Jugroom Fort went bad quickly, and British forces quickly withdrew. But, they accidentally left wounded Royal Marine Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford behind. With the Taliban in the fort already on high alert, a daring plan was needed to recover him.
4. The Air Force used actual bears to test ejection seats
The Air Force struggled in the late 50s and early 60s with a simple but challenging problem. Crew who had to eject from supersonic planes were subjected to extreme and sometimes lethal strain. So the Air Force began testing experimental ejection devices — on bears.
The pod was proven safe and nearly all of the test animals returned to the ground safely. Unfortunately, the Air Force needed to check for potentially hidden injuries and ordered autopsies on all animal subjects.
5. Union soldiers stole a train and wreaked havoc across Georgia and Tennessee
What’s the best way to cut off your enemy’s lines of communication? Apparently, in Apr. 1862 Georgia, the answer was to steal on train and go on a GTA: V-type crime spree with it. The operation was led by a civilian but was conducted with the help of 18 Union soldiers.
The men were eventually caught. Eight of them were executed and the rest lived out the war as POWs.
6. American troops used a payphone to call for air support in Grenada
During the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the American communication network was so bad that almost no one on the island could talk to any fighters from another branch. This led to the legend that U.S. troops called for fire support using a credit card and a payphone.
Vice President Dick Cheney heard the story while he was a Congressman and was told that an Army officer could see naval artillery out at sea but couldn’t get them on the radio. So he pulled out his credit card and used a payphone to call the Pentagon who relayed his request.
The Navy SEALs have their own version of the story that said the frogmen were holed up in the governor’s mansion and used a credit card to call the Pentagon and get help from an Air Force AC-130.
7. American and Nazi troops teamed up to defeat an SS attack during World War II
In the closing days of World War II, a group of American and German troops teamed up and fought side-by-side against a murderous SS battalion. The Americans had accepted the surrender of the Germans just before both sides saw the slightly drunk and very fanatical group of SS soldiers climbing the hill towards them.
CLEMSON, S.C. — Expect to be impressed when you meet a Marine, but when that Marine is a 96 year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who challenges you to a pull-up contest, prepare to be blown away.This is one of many things Clemson University student Will Hines of Spartanburg has learned in conducting the Veterans Project, an ongoing undergraduate research project to collect and preserve the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations can hear those stories directly from the men and women who lived them.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Robert A. Henderson’s story begins in Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, as a plane with a perplexing paint job thunders overhead “close enough that I could have thrown a rock and hit it” toward a row of U.S. Naval ships docked in the harbor, he said.
He thought it was part of a drill until the plane dipped and released a torpedo. The violent chaos in the two hours that followed would define much of the 20th century.
Henderson, relaxed in a comfortable chair in his Spartanburg living room, describes in gripping detail the 51 months of combat he experienced, culminating in the Battle of Okinawa.
“I was in the first and last battles of the war,” he said.
Hines videotapes every word. One copy will go to Henderson and his family, and one copy will go to the Library of Congress to be preserved forever.
When asked how he stays so healthy at 96. Henderson takes Hines out to his garage to show off his home gym, where he exercises three times a week. He demonstrates by doing 12 pull-ups without breaking a sweat, and dares Hines to match him.
Interactions with truly amazing veterans like this are just some of the fringe benefits students who participate in the project enjoy. The Veterans Project is an example of community-engaged learning at Clemson, which has a military history dating back to its founding in 1889.
Hines, a junior business management major from Spartanburg, became involved in the project because of his life-long fascination with history.
“I’ve been interested in veterans since I was little. I met my great uncle when I was about 7 years old. I found out he landed on five islands in the Pacific, and I asked him a ton of questions,” he explained. “I was able to interview him in high school — for fun, not for anything specific — which helped me become closer to him. He was wounded twice — once on Okinawa from a grenade rolled down a mountain. Meeting him really influenced how I became interested in studying the history of America’ s conflicts.”
The fate of two Turkish soldiers now hangs in the balance as they have become the unwilling guests of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS).
Supporters of the terrorist group have reportedly been debating what to do with the captured soldiers.
According to a report by al Jazeera, the two Turkish troops were captured during a battle near the Syrian village of Elbab. The announcement from the terrorist group about the captives caused a celebration on Facebook and other social media sites.
The celebration then turned to into a debate when one ISIS dirtbag solicited opinions on what to do with the prisoners.
“Expect a nifty video with the soldiers of the tyrant infidel Erdogan,” one ISIS supporter tweeted, adding two knife emojis. ISIS has routinely beheaded some of its captives, including American journalist James Foley. “Jihadi John,” the ISIS jihadist who was responsible for the terrorist group’s most notorious beheadings, became a good jihadist in Nov. 2015.
Others advocated not beheading them, but treating them humanely and educating them about Islam, with one saying, “it would only give the members a momentary boost of adrenaline but not much more.”
Most followers of jihadists, though, were calling for the summary execution of the Turkish troops, whom they deemed “nonbelievers.” One of the senior terrorists claimed, “All the options are on the table for the Islamic State organization to decide what to do with the two Turkish soldiers.”
The terrorist group burned a captured Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot alive in February 2015 after his F-16 crashed due to a mechanical failure.
The Taiho launched on April 7, 1943, and was commissioned on March 7, 1944. With the Japanese Navy in retreat across most of the Pacific, the admirals held the Taiho in reserve until it could be sent where it would make a significant difference.
The ship was committed to combat in June as part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest carrier battles in history. The goal of the Japanese forces was to force a confrontation with the U.S. and wipe out the greater American numbers.
But the Taiho only participated in part of the defeat. In the opening hours of the battle, the USS Albacore spotted the carrier and launched a spread of six torpedoes right as the second wave of planes was taking off.
The blast rocked through the ship, blowing out the sides and opening holes that stretched down below the waterline. So Komatsu’s actions were one of the more heroic moments in warfare history, but it wasn’t enough to save his friends or his ship.
Grand Forks Air Force Base near Grand Forks, North Dakota began operation in 1957. It was one of the bases that housed B-52s during the Cold War. The most central role of B-52s throughout military history has been as a strategic bomber. Since its creation, it’s been a part of our country’s nuclear arsenal. As the Cold War continued for decades, Grand Forks Air Force Base and its B-52 fleet remained active and alert, always at the ready to protect the US from a potential Soviet attack. Bombers were always kept fueled, armed, and ready to take off at a moment’s notice.
Fire on a B-52 atomic bomber plane? NBD!
On September 16, 1980, Grand Forks AFB made history when a B-52 bomber caught fire. Its crew was preparing for takeoff, and fortunately the crew managed to exit the plane unharmed. But the fire wasn’t so easy to put out, thanks to all that jet fuel in its wing tank. The blowtorch-like fire ended up taking almost three hours to put out.
In the meantime, North Dakota officials didn’t know what to do. Air Force policy did not allow the release of information about whether or not nuclear weapons were on board the aircraft. But they couldn’t just ignore the raging fire. They didn’t even know if they were supposed to evacuate, sound the emergency broadcast system, or pretend like nothing was happening. Mums the word when it comes to nukes, of course.
Mums the word
It’s no surprise that it took almost a decade for ND officials and the public to get the read story. Eight years after the fire, congressional testimony revealed that the plane did in fact have nukes onboard. Not just one either. Testimony showed that there were a dozen bombs on the plane. Each one of them was 10 times more powerful than the bomb dropped in Hiroshima. That same testimony also revealed even more horrific details. Before that, based on the information that had been released, everyone thought the risk of a nuclear accident had been low.
However, the truth eventually came out. While the fire wouldn’t have caused the bombs to detonate, it would have absolutely exploded the warheads had it reached the fuselage. That would have then caused the plutonium cores of those warheads to explode into microscopic bits and disperse downwind, contaminating around 60 square miles of North Dakota and Minnesota and impacted roughly 75,000 people.
Had that happened, and it was dangerously close to happening, the end result would have been worse than Chernobyl. Aside from all the death and health issues, the soil would have remained radioactive for 24,000 years. The fact that this massive nuclear accident didn’t occur was thanks to only one thing: the wind.
When fate is up to the weather
The 26-mile-per-hour wind that was blowing at the time happened to be blowing away from the fuselage and therefore away from the missiles. Had that B-52 been in a different parking space where the wind would have blown the fire toward the missiles, a nuclear accident to the likes of Chernobyl would have definitely occurred. As a result, 1990 Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had that particular type of missile removed from US aircraft to prevent the deadly risks it posed in the case of an accident.
In July 1918, militaries were experimenting with aircraft carriers, especially the American and British navies. But, as far as any of the Central Powers knew, carrier operations were an experiment that had borne only limited fruit. No carrier raids had significantly damaged targets ashore. And that was true until July 19, when a flight of Sopwith Camels took off from the HMS Furious and attacked German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern, Denmark.
The British carrier HMS Furious with its split deck.
(Imperial War Museums)
America was the first country to experiment with aircraft carriers after civilian pilot Eugene Ely flew a plane off the USS Birmingham, a modified cruiser, in 1911. But as World War I broke out, the naval power of Britain decided that it wanted to build its own carrier operations, allowing it to float airfields along the coasts of wartime Europe and other continents.
This required a lot of experimentation, and British aviators died while establishing best practices for taking off, landing, and running the decks of carriers. One of the ship experiments was the HMS Furious, a ship originally laid down as a light battlecruiser. It was partially converted during construction into a semi-aircraft carrier that still had an 18-inch gun, then converted the rest of the way into a carrier.
After its full conversion, the Furious had a landing-on deck and a flying-off deck split by the ship’s superstructure. This, combined with the ship’s exhaust that flowed over the decks, made landing tricky.
The Furious and other carriers and sea-based planes had scored victories against enemies at sea. But in 1918, the Royal Navy decided it was time to try the Furious in a raid on land.
Sopwtih Camels prepare to take off from the HMS Furious to attack German Zeppelin sheds in July 1918.
(Imperial War Museums)
On July 19, 1918, two flights of Sopwith Camels launched from the decks with bombs. There were three aircraft in the first wave, and four in the second wave. Even these takeoffs were tricky in the early days, and the second wave of aircraft suffered three losses as it was just getting going. One plane’s engine failed at takeoff, one crashed, and one made a forced landing in Denmark.
But the first wave was still strong, and the fourth bomber in the second wave was still ready and willing to get the job done.
Building housing German Zeppelins burns at Tondern in July 1918.
Hitting Tondern was especially valuable as it was a convenient place from which to attack London. So the four remaining pilots flew over German defenses and attacked the Zeppelins there, successfully hitting two sheds which burst into flames.
Luckily, each of those housed an airship at the time, and the flames consumed them both. They were L.54 and L.60. The Zeppelin L.54 had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions and dropped over 12,000 pounds in two bombing missions over England. The Zeppelin L.60 had dropped almost 7,000 pounds of bombs on England in one mission.
While the destruction of two Zeppelins, especially ones that had already bombed England and so loomed in the British imagination, was valuable on its own, the real victory for England came in making exposed bases much less valuable.
The Western-most bases had been the best for bombing England, especially Tondern which was protected from land-based bombers by its position on the peninsula, but they were now highly vulnerable to more carrier raids. And the HMS Furious wasn’t Britain’s only carrier out there.
Germany was forced to pull its Zeppelins back to better protected bases, and it maintained Tondern as an emergency base, only there to recover Zeppelins that couldn’t make it all the way back home after a mission.
This wasn’t the first or only time a fighter had caught a Zeppelin in the air, but it was one of the highest fights that had succeeded against a Zeppelin, and it meant that sea-based fighters had taken out three Zeppelins in less than a month, and all three losses had taken place in facilities or at an altitude where Germany thought they were safe.