In the opening days of the 2003 Iraq War, automated Patriot Missile batteries downed a British Tornado fighter, killing both pilots. A few days later, another Patriot shot down an American F/A-18 over Southern Iraq, killing that pilot. The people manning the automated missile launchers trusted that the system would work as advertised. Why didn’t it?
Benjamin Lambeth wrote in his exhaustive Iraq memoir The Unseen Warthat “many allied pilots believed that the Patriot posed a greater threat to them than did any [surface-to-air missile] in Iraq’s inventory.”
“The Patriots scared the hell out of us,” one F-16 pilot remarked. In one case an Air Force pilot actually fired a HARM anti-radar missile at a Patriot battery, destroying its radar dish. No one in the Patriot crew was hurt, and the airman said, “they’re now down one radar. That’s one radar they can’t target us with any more.”
When asked if the error was human or mechanical, Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, then-director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said “I think it may be both.”
A software malfunction in 2008 caused US. Army robots to aim at friendly targets. No one was killed because a human was at the trigger. Those robots were still in Iraq with troops as of 2009.
An analysis of the U.S. Navy’s own data on the development of automated weapons says “with hundreds of programmers working on millions of lines of code for a single war robot, no one has a clear understanding of what’s going on, at a small scale, across the entire code base.”
An Air Force unit called the Human Trust and Interaction Branch — that interaction being between humans an automated equipment — based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is looking to study this interaction to develop new types of recon and intelligence tools via a propose research contract called “Trust in Autonomy for Human Machine Teaming.”
On FedBizOpps (the official government contracting website with a domain name as trustworthy as any payday lender) the Air Force listed a contract for research in understanding “the most significant components driving trust and performance within human-robotic interaction. We need research on how to harness the socio-emotional elements of interpersonal team/trust dynamics and inject them into human-robot teams.”
The $7.5 million contract listing continues with this: “These human-machine teaming dynamics can involve research studying the interplay of individual differences, machine characteristics, robot design, robot interaction patterns, human-machine interaction, and contextual facets of human-machine teaming.”
In plain language, the research is focused on how humans use machines, when they trust the machines and when they don’t. In the cases of when Patriot missiles shot down friendly pilots, an automated system notified the human crews via a popup that warned the machine would fire if no one stopped it. When no one did, the Patriot intercepted the allied aircraft, just as programmed.
The Air Force contract is another example of the military “not knowing what’s going on.” As the Air Force explores our trust issues with robots, the Navy is warning us that “early generations of such [automated] systems and robots will be making mistakes that may cost human lives.”
Humans do come to trust their machines. Previous studies found that humans will bond with machines. U.S. Army Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians have been found to form emotional attachments to their bomb-disposal robots. They are awarded homemade medals and given names, ranks, and sometimes funerals. This level of trust could be misplaced as the bots are armed and the stakes of malfunctioning become higher.
Other current automated units in the U.S. military arsenal include Air Force Predator and Reaper drones, the Navy’s Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, the Army’s tracked, unmanned ground vehicle called TALON (or SWORDS) and the Marines’ unmanned ground vehicle called the Gladiator.
Recent news about the increased ability of machines to deceive their human masters and the warnings from the scientific and computing community about the overdevelopment of artificial intelligence (AI) as weapons don’t seem to be a concern, even though the Army is developing an automated RoboSniperCopter and is trying to remove humans from the battlefield altogether. This 2013 Gizmodo piece listed the robots debuted for the Army at a Fort Benning “Robotics Rodeo,” featuring an entry from the company who brought you the Roomba:
Major commercial and scientific computer experts believe AI weaponry would be the third revolution of warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. An open letter from this community expressed the concern that unchecked arms races of automated death robots would result in drones becoming the new AK-47 (presumably meaning cheap, deadly and ubiquitous).
The UN is urging the world’s nations to ban the development of automated weapons, citing the “legal and ethical questions” the use of such a weapon would raise.The aforementioned U.S. Navy report recommended building a “warrior’s code” into the weapons to keep them from killing us all once Skynet becomes self-aware.
The French military doesn’t get a lot of love these days; their crushing defeat and capitulation in 1940 still colors the way the world sees the armed forces of France. It’s a completely undeserved reputation, however. The French are much better at fighting wars than you might think.
One part of this is the French Foreign Legion and its cadre of criminals, strongmen, war junkies, and other badasses who decided to get a clean slate by joining the Legion. In World War II, the Legion was just a capable as it is today — and they capitulated to no one. In 1942, they were joined by a group of Jewish soldiers who decided they had enough of the anti-Semitism in Europe.
At a small oasis in Libya, guarding an old Turkish fort, the Free French Foreign Legion begin to reinforce their position. The fort, called Bir Hakeim, was a sort of last stand for the Allies. If Field Marshal Erwin Rommel could punch his army through the French position, he could take the vital port city of Tobruk. Near the end of the Legionnaires’ lines was a place called Bir-el Hamat.
This is where the Jewish fighters of WWII would make their presence felt.
They were a small group of 400 minelayers sent by the British and led by Maj. Félix Liebmann to reinforce the French position. They had no heavy weapons and were generally poorly armed and equipped. Rommel’s men targeted the Jewish position as the weakest point and sent a truce flag over to demand the Jewish surrender. When they refused, the Nazis hit the Jewish defenders with everything they had.
Unable to radio the French a few miles up the road, the Jewish fighters held their position using molotov cocktails on the tanks that didn’t get destroyed in the minefield. For eight days — low on water, ammunition, and supplies — the Jewish troops withstood relentless, constant bombardment and fought the Afrika Korps to a standstill.
On the last day, the French and Jewish forces got the word to retreat. They held off the Nazis long enough for the British 8th Army to retreat — and they did, in the middle of the night. Three-fourths of the unit were killed or wounded at Bir-el Hamat and they marched 60 some miles all the way to Gasr el-Abid.
When they arrived, they folded up their flag, a gold Star of David on a blue and white striped background — a precursor to the modern-day state of Israel’s flag. Observing the men folding their colors, French Foreign Legion commander General Marie-Pierre Koenig demanded why they stopped flying their flag. Under the British, Maj. Liebmann explained, they were not allowed to fly their own colors.
Koenig had the flag attached to his jeep, next to the Free French flag, at equal stature.
The British 8th Army was able to to defeat the Afrika Korps at el-Alamein the very next month, in a pivotal battle that kept the Axis from advancing into Egypt and capturing the Suez Canal. By 1944, the Jewish Brigade (as they came to be called) was formed to take the fight to the Nazis in Italy.
Germany dropped a lot of bombs on England (not to mention the rest of the United Kingdom) during World War II. Not all of them exploded – and unexploded ordnance, or UXO, has been an ongoing issue.
According to a report by NavalToday.com, war’s gift that keeps on giving turned up in Portsmouth, England. This is where the Royal Navy is planning to base the 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The report said that the German SC250 bomb, which weighed 500 pounds and had 290 pounds of high explosive, was discovered while dredging was underway as part of a program to improve the Royal Navy base’s infrastructure. The London Guardian reported on a past UXO find in Portsmouth in November that was rendered safe in a controlled detonation. The Guardian report also mentioned a bomb discovered in September.
UXO has been a long-running problem after wars. In fact, last October saw EOD personnel in the United States tasked to deal with Civil War cannonballs that were unearthed by Hurricane Matthew. UXO from World War I and World War II has been very common in Europe, including poison gas shells.
In 2009, a U.S. Navy release reported that a number of leftover mines and a British torpedo from World War II were discovered during a mine countermeasures exercise during that year’s BALTOPS. Three years later, during that same exercise, an unexploded aerial bomb was discovered according to another U.S. Navy release.
A 2011 Navy release estimates that in the Baltic Sea alone, there are over 200,000 pieces of UXO from not only conflicts, but training exercises dating back to the Russian Revolution.
But since 1945, submarines have had a mostly dry spell. In fact, most of the warshots fired by subs since then have been Tomahawk cruise missiles on land targets – something Charles Lockwood and Karl Donitz would have found useful.
There are only two submarines that have sunk enemy ships in the more than 70 years since World War II ended.
1. PNS Hangor
The sub that provides the first break in the post World War II dry spell is from Pakistan. The Pakistani submarine PNS Hangor — a French-built Daphne-class boat — was the vessel that pulled it off during operations in the Arabian Sea during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
According to Military-Today.com, a Daphne-class vessel displaced 1,043 tons, had a top speed of 16 knots, and had 12 22-inch torpedo tubes (eight forward, four aft), each pre-loaded.
On Dec. 9, 1971, the Hangor detected two Indian frigates near its position. The submarine’s captain dove deep and got ready to fight.
India had sent two Blackwood-class frigates, INS Khukri and INS Kirpan, out of three built for them by the United Kingdom to patrol in the area. These frigates were designed to hunt submarines. Only this time, the sub hunted them.
According to Bharat-Rakshak.com, the Hangor fired a torpedo at the Kirpan, which dodged. Then the Khukri pressed in for an attack. The Hangor sent a torpedo at the Khukri, and this time scored a hit that left the Indian frigate sinking. The Kirpan tried to attack again, and was targeted with another torpedo for her trouble.
The Kirpan evaded a direct hit, and Indian and Pakistani versions dispute whether that frigate was damaged. The Hangor made her getaway.
It didn’t do India that much harm, though. India won that war, securing the independence of what is now Bangladesh. Pakistan, though, has preserved the Hangor as a museum.
2. HMS Conqueror
Just over 10 years after PNS Hangor ended the dry spell, HMS Conqueror got on the board – and made history herself. The Conqueror so far is the only nuclear submarine to sink an enemy warship in combat.
The Conqueror, a 5,400 ton Churchill-class submarine, was armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes. With a top speed of 28 knots, she also didn’t have to come up to recharge batteries. That enabled her to reach the South Atlantic after Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falklands, touching off the Falklands War.
In a sense, the Argentinean cruiser ARA Gen. Belgrano — formerly known as USS Phoenix (CL 46) — really didn’t stand a chance. GlobalSecurity.org notes that the 12,300 ton cruisers were armed with 15 six-inch guns, eight five-inch guns, and a host of lighter anti-aircraft guns.
As the Gen. Belgrano approached the exclusionary zone declared by the Brits, the Conqueror began to track the cruiser. Finally, on May 2, 1982, she got the orders to attack. The Conqueror fired three Mark 8 torpedoes and scored two hits on the cruiser. The General Belgrano went down with 323 souls.
The Conqueror’s attack sent the rest of the Argentinean fleet running back to port. The British eventually re-took the Falkland Islands. The Conqueror is presently awaiting scrapping after being retired in 1990.
In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.
The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).
The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.
Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.
The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.
Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.
About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.
However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.
In the 1982 film “First Blood,” a disaffected Special Forces veteran who served in Vietnam is harassed and detained by local authorities. After giving him flashbacks to his captivity by the Viet Cong, he fights his way out of the sheriff’s office and flees into the woods.
The cops give chase, and it doesn’t go well for them. John Rambo systematically takes them down, one by one. Now, there may be a real-world Rambo hiding in a European park in Belgium at this very moment.
This time, the enemy isn’t the treatment of Vietnam veterans, it’s COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on people to control the virus.
Jurgen Conings is a 46-year old Belgian air force special operations commando who served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He went missing in a national park near Belgium’s border with the Netherlands on May 18, 2021. He is alleged to have stolen a cache of weapons that he is presumed to still be carrying.
Before he went missing, Conings penned a letter that threatened a number of government officials, especially those associated with the state’s coronavirus response.The Belgian was already on a government watch list for his far-right political views.
Authorities were alerted to the disappearance and weapons theft after Conings girlfriend hounda letter that stated he “ could no longer live in a society where politicians and virologists have taken everything away from us.”
No matter what his political views or threats, there appears to be a large vocal voice of support for Conings on the internet, a voice that Belgian officials call “disturbing.”
Conings was still serving the Belgian military as a weapons instructor when he went missing in the national park. So far the only trace authorities have managed to find of the soldier is an abandoned campsite and his abandoned car, which carried four rocket launchers inside it – and was booby-trapped with a grenade.
Before becoming the target of the manhunt, Conings is believed to have reconnoitered the town and home of one of Belgium’s top virologists, a man Conings seems to hold responsible for the country’s continued coronavirus restrictions.
Special police search units from four countries have joined the hunt for Conings, using everything from helicopters to armored cars. The search team includes 400 soldiers along with German and Dutch Special Forces units with thermal cameras.
He is known to be armed with at least a FN P90 machine gun and a sidearm. Shots were heard ringing throughout the wooded park, but no one could confirm its source or what type of weapon was fired. It’s not known what other weapons he may have.
Conings also stated that he “would join the resistance and would not surrender.” He has two children from a previous relationship and his girlfriend has a daughter of her own. She said that she just wanted Conings to return, calling him a “loving father.” She also said she had no indication of his anti-lockdown beliefs or that he would take the beliefs this far.
If Conings is using John Rambo in “First Blood” as a model, it would do everyone involved some good to remember that Rambo didn’t directly kill anyone in the film and the only death came after an overzealous police officer fell from a helicopter.
Shortly after the end of World War II, the scientists who developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan tried to envision the kind of nuclear event that could lead to the destruction of not just cities, but the entire world.
A declassified document shared by nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein gives the verdict that scientists at the Los Alamos laboratory and test site reached in 1945. They found that “it would require only in the neighborhood of 10 to 100 Supers of this type” to put the human race in peril.
In 1945, the Los Alamos scientists concluded it would only take between 10 and 100 “Super” bombs to end the world. pic.twitter.com/01I8ypmIP0
They reached this conclusion at a very early point in the development of nuclear weapons, before highly destructive multi-stage or thermonuclear devices had been built. But the scientists had an idea of the technology’s grim potential. “The ‘Super’ they had in mind was what we would now call a hydrogen bomb,” Wellerstein wrote in an email to Business Insider.
At the time, the scientists speculated they could make a bomb with as much deuterium — a nuclear variant of hydrogen — as they liked to give the weapon an explosive yield between 10 and 100 megatons (or millions of tons’ worth of TNT).
For perspective, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a yield of around 15 kilotons, or 0.015 megatons. These theorized bombs were several orders of magnitude more powerful than those that wrought destruction on Japan earlier that year.
The apocalypse brought on by these 10-100 super bombs wouldn’t be all fire and brimstone. The scientists posited that “the most world-wide destruction could come from radioactive poisons” unleashed on the Earth’s atmosphere by the bombs’ weaponized uranium. Radiation exposure leads to skyrocketing rates of cancer, birth defects, and genetic anomalies.
The Los Alamos scientists understood the threat that airborne radiation would pose in the event of nuclear war. “Atmospheric poisoning is basically making it so that the background level of radioactivity would be greatly increased, to the point that it would interfere with human life (e.g. cancers and birth defects) and reproduction (e.g. genetic anomalies),” says Wellerstein. “So they are imagining a scenario in which radioactive byproducts have gotten into the atmosphere and are spreading everywhere.”
Wellerstein says that this fear of widespread nuclear fallout was hardly irrational and that concerns over the atmospheric effects of nuclear detonations were “one of the reasons that we stopped testing nuclear weapons aboveground in 1963, as part of the Limited Test Ban Treaty.”
Taking both of the estimated scales to the extreme — 100 superbombs yielding 100 megatons of fission each — would result in a total yield of 10,000 megatons. As Wellerstein notes, that’s the same amount of fission that Project SUNSHINE determined was enough to “raise the background radioactivity to highly dangerous levels” in a 1953 study.
That degree of nuclear power — though not necessarily accompanied by the radioactive component critical to meeting the fears documented here — rested in the hands of both the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War.
A deactivated Soviet-era SS-4 medium range nuclear capable ballistic missile displayed at La Cabana fortress in Havana, on Oct. 13, 2012. (Photo: Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
In recent decades the total yield of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons has fallen, such that “the threat of over-irradiating the planet is probably not a real one, even with a full nuclear exchange,” Wellerstein wrote. “A bigger concern is the amount of carbon that would be thrown up in even a limited nuclear exchange (say, between India and Pakistan), which could have detrimental global effects on the climate.”
Back in 1945 the Pentagon had speculated that it would take a few hundred atomic bombs to subdue Russia.
That thought experiment had a strategic bent. But the 1945 estimate seems to have advised caution in the new, uncertain nuclear age.
The scientific push to learn more about the destructive weapons that were so hastily researched and used in the 1940s resulted in important insights as to the consequence of their use. Nuclear weapons aren’t just horrific on the intended, local scale. They can carry consequences on the planet’s ability to foster human life, whether that’s by contributing to the greenhouse effect or irradiating it beyond habitability.
Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.
But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.
From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.
The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.
The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.
Military recruiters have to convince normal people that their best option for the future is signing a multi-year contract for a job with workplace hazards like bombs, bullets, and artillery. And since many people aren’t eligible to serve, the service branches need a lot of people coming into recruiting offices.
To make recruiters’ jobs a little easier, each branch has an advertising budget. Here are some of the most iconic commercials from that effort.
1. “The Climb” (2001)
With arguably the best uniforms, awesome traditions, and swords, it’s no surprise that some of the best commercials come out of the Marine Corps. “The Climb” reminded prospective recruits that yes, becoming a Marine will be hard, but it’s worth it.
2. “Rite of Passage” (1998)
Some commercials stop making sense after the era they were written in. The idea of climbing into a coliseum to fight a bad-CGI lava monster may seem like an odd advertising angle now, but it was rumored to be pretty effective at the time.
3. “America’s Marines” (2008)
Some videos target adventure nuts, while some go after aspiring professionals. This one targeted people who wanted to be part of a long-standing tradition. It also reminded people that Marines get to wear some awesome uniforms.
4. “Army Strong” (2006)
“Army Strong” was an inspiring series of advertisements, though it opened the Army to a lot of jokes (“I wanted to be a Marine, but I was only Army Strong”).
5. “Army of One” (2001)
“Legions” was part of the “Army of One” campaign. Though “Army of One” brought recruits into the Army during the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, it never quite made sense to professional soldiers. In the Army, soldiers are schooled daily in the importance of teamwork and selfless service. During basic, they’re even required to be with another recruit at all times, so what is an “Army of One”?
6. “Be All That You Can Be” (1982)
The slogan “Be all that you can be,” sometimes written as, “Be all you can be,” was one of the Army’s longest-running slogans and most iconic campaigns. The jingle is as dated as the video technology in the video, but some soldiers went from their enlistment to their retirement in the Army under this slogan.
7. “Footprints” (2006)
One of the Navy’s best ads focused on some of the world’s best warriors. “Footprints” manages to highlight how awesome Navy SEALs are without showing a single person or piece of equipment.
8. “A Global Force for Good” (2009)
Though popular with recruits, the slogan for this recruiting drive ended up being unpopular with the Navy itself. Much like the Army with its “Army of One” slogan, the Navy dropped “Global Force for Good” after only a few years.
9. “Accelerate Your Life” (early 2000s)
“Accelerate Your Life” commercials were always full of sexy imagery. From fighter jets, helicopters, fast boats, automatic weapons, and camouflage, just about everything was tossed in. Like the commercial Air Force campaign “We have been waiting for you” below, dating the commercial to an exact year is tough, but the campaign began in 2001.
10. “Air Force: I Knew One Day” (2014)
“I Knew One Day” is an odd title for this commercial, but it’s not bad as a whole. It puts a face on the airmen who crew the AC-130, perform surgeries, or pilot Ospreys, and it tells recent high school and college graduates that they can become the next face of these jobs as well.
11. “We Have Been Waiting For You” (early 2000s)
With the tagline “We have been waiting for you,” the Air Force aimed to bring in recruits for all the jobs in the Air Force that weren’t about flying. Since two of the ads they released starred pilots, it seems like they weren’t trying that hard. While it’s hard to pin down the exact year this commercial was released, the “We’ve been waiting for you,” line began showing up in 2001.
12. “Science Fiction” (2011)
The Air Force is proud of its technological advantages on the battlefield, and it made a series of commercials comparing themselves to science fiction. The commercials were critiqued for including a lot of things Air Force technology couldn’t do, but they did highlight actual missions the Air Force does using technology similar to, though not as advanced as, what is featured in the commercial.
Ever since the devastation caused by World War I and World War II, people have hypothesized how another globe-encompassing war would play out. World War III in the public consciousness tends to envisage a nuclear exchange, this playing out from fears created during the Cold War. However, despite the fall of the Soviet Union, it is still a fear and image that resonates in the contemporary mind, one that has developed for over half a century.
The Origins of World War III
It was inevitable, considering the possible political fallout (pun intended) of the conclusion of World War II and the development of atomic weapons that had been concurrent with the war, that the idea of another world war immediately succeeding World War II was a possibility. “Operation Unthinkable” was a scenario put into development by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the waning months of the war against Nazi Germany. Its purpose would have been to: “impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire.”
Churchill saw Joseph Stain as untrustworthy and saw Soviet Russia as a threat to the west. World War III in this instance would have hypothetically started on July 1, 1945. It encompassed the idea of total war, with the aim being to occupy enough metropolitan areas to reduce Russia’s capacity “to a point at which further resistance becomes impossible” and the defeat of the Russian military forces to a point where they could no longer continue the war. The implementation of this plan to start World War III was partly held back due to the three-to-one sheer overwhelming numerical superiority of Soviet Forces in Europe and the Middle East when compared to the Allies.
Nevertheless, following the successful deployment of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945, a new element arose to a more prominent position in the conceptualization of World War III. After the success of these bombings, Churchill and right-wing policy-makers in the United States pushed forward the idea of a nuclear bombing of the USSR. An unclassified FBI note read:
‘”He [Churchill] pointed out that if an atomic bomb could be dropped on the Kremlin, wiping it out, it would be a very easy problem to handle the balance of Russia, which would be without direction.”
Nuclear bombing would prevent Allied casualties in a war against a heavily beleaguered Soviet Union coming out of the Second World War. By 1949, the Soviet Union had detonated its first nuclear weapon; World War III would now have a new deadly, nuclear element.
The Dynamic Nuclear Element
The Cold War is cited in general as a period of paranoia, an age where humanity seemed to be on the point of blundering into extinction. It was a human condition, that if man was in possession of weapons capable of causing worldwide destruction, then they would inevitably use them. The brinkmanship of some of the more famous crises of the Cold War, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, offer haunting glimpses into how close we could have come to a World War III, but more importantly how at these tipping points people genuinely believed in the real potential of an apocalyptic World War III. This is the popular view of World War III conjured in the modern mind, the apocalyptic vision that shows up in popular culture and real fears generated by current affairs.
However, to deny that World War III would be exempt of conventional warfare would be a misdemeanour. Nuclear responses were often incorporated together with conventional responses in plans. Able Archer 83, the background to German drama Deutschland 83, was part of series of military exercises that envisaged an escalation from conventional warfare into chemical and nuclear warfare. In this instance, 40,000 U.S. and NATO forces moved across western Europe. The life-like nature of the wargame and increasing tensions due to recent events such as the shooting down of Korean Airlines Boeing 747, which resulted in the death of all 269 people on board, and Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire,” all contributed to the Soviet Union believing a nuclear attack was imminent. Even with the increasing potency of nuclear weapons, Able Archer anticipated that World War III might involve traditional military maneuvers and actions, combined with nuclear warfare.
Likewise, the Warsaw Pact also accounted for a World War III that took conventional and nuclear war and made them into one. In 2005, the newly-elected conservative Polish government released a map from 1979, the simulation entitled “Seven Days to the River Rhine,”whichshows the possible response to a conventional NATO attack, involving overwhelming forces. It would have entailed nuclear bombardments on major German cities in Germany, such as Munich and Cologne, as well as the capital of the West German capital of Bonn. Further targets included the base of NATO headquarters, Brussels, and targets in Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The name of this proposed scenario is titled due to the conventional counter-attack that would have been carried out by military forces against NATO, that would try and reach the Franco-German border within seven days, and it would also involve a push to the North Sea.
Interestingly, nuclear attacks on France and the United Kingdom were not planned, perhaps more surprisingly in the case of the U.K., who unlike France was part of NATO’s military structure. Of course, the plan took into account the almost certain prospect of nuclear retaliation. Key eastern European cities, such as Prague and Warsaw, however, it also included bombing across the Vistula River to prevent Warsaw Pact reinforcements reaching the frontline. This also shows how an idea of a “nuclear-conventional” combined arms approach would have been used in World War III.
This combined approach has much older origins, as seen through Churchill’s “Operation Unthinkable.” However, the deployment of nuclear weapons also needs to be taken into account, as this would have been a large part in a hypothetical World War III. For example, the U.S advantage in weapons and bombers at the start of the Cold War faced the threat of new jet-powered interceptors. The introduction of B-47 and B-52 reduced this threat. Meanwhile, submarine-based deployment, such as the U.K.’s Trident, is yet another example of how physical assets have a large influence on nuclear warfare. If these assets can be potentially threatened by more conventional means, then it is certain they would form part of a nuclear war with more traditional elements.
World War III could have also amounted as an escalation of conventional proxy wars. In See Magazinein March 1951, CBS War Correspondent Bill Downs wrote, “To my mind, the answer is: Yes, Korea is the beginning of World War III.” A common fear was that the Korean War would escalate into a conflict between China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S. The Yom Kippur War of October 1973 is also an example of a possible escalation. Although neither the U.S. nor the USSR participated directly in it, the Soviet Mediterranean Squadron and U.S. Sixth Fleet came close to blows. Admiral Murphy of the United States believed there was a 40 percent chance that the Soviet squadron would lead a first strike against his fleet.
These cases show how World War III was not only a constant danger, but was also still seen in traditional and conventional military terms as a hybrid with the much more destructive capabilities of nuclear arsenals. Therefore, we can infer that World War III was not always seen as necessarily apocalyptic by governments and militaries, despite the existence of concepts such as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Finally, it is essential to admit the varying degrees of intensity in east-west relations, through the cooling effects of détente to the heightening of hostilities in the 1980s, when studying a hypothetical World War III.
A Popular Culture Phenomenon
World War III is also an ever-growing concept in popular culture throughout multimedia. The theme is generally post-apocalyptic in its nature, though a World War III “in action” is still present. The earliest forms of the pop-culture World War III coincide with World War II, much like the political idea of World War III, but the idea of an actual nuclear war, regardless of its status as a “third global war,” precedes these. In his 1914 novel, The World Set Free, H.G. Wells developed the idea of a uranium-based hand grenade that would explode unlimitedly, with the novel following the traditional lines of mass destruction. This novel is the emergence of the apocalyptic, yet atomic, war in popular culture.
Stories appeared even before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in the World War II era, but the growing paranoia over a World War III following the end of the war led to a seemingly-anxious output. This is a Cold-War pattern in varying forms. In 1951, Collier, more known for investigative journalism, dedicated an entire 130 pages — all of the content — to a hypothetical World War III with the heading “Preview of the War We Do Not Want.” Although the U.S. and the Soviet Union exchange nuclear salvos, we do see conventional Soviet forces invading Germany, the Middle East, and Alaska, all starting from events in Yugoslavia.
We see growing self-doubt and anxiety in popular culture as the Cold War progresses. The war does not now emerge from the political establishment, but rather from technological blunders and the nature of humanity. The helpless sense of inevitability is building up in multimedia. In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove the mental health of a general is the new non-political factor. In Fail Safe, a film released the same year, a glitch causes U.S. bombers to launch a first strike against Moscow. The tragic element is that a bomb must also be dropped on New York City to appease the Soviets and to avoid an apocalyptic exchange. All of this is due to a technological fault, rather than any political or military hierarchy. The 1977 film Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a product of its age. This time, the renegade air force officers seize a nuclear missile silo because the U.S. government withheld information from its people. They knew there was no realistic chance of winning the war in Vietnam and only continued for the Soviet image of them; that they were unwavering in their fight against communism, weakness being revealed as a threat. In these instances, it is not simply the Soviet Union who causes World War III, but a tragic narrative develops, perhaps due to real efforts to smooth relations following the deadly Cuban Missile Crisis.
Popular culture also took aspects of World War III as seen by the militarists and politicians and added other elements to them. The Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks combines fantasy with the post-apocalyptic, as we see other creatures like elves and gnomes among humans as a result of mutation. The popularFallout series of video games, retro-futurist in its nature, not only has a range of mutants as a result of nuclear war, but also escapes standard time constraints. The nuclear war takes place in 2077 and involves the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China in an alternate history. In Tom Clancy’s 1986 Red Storm Rising, World War III is caused by Islamic extremists from Azerbaijan and the war is fought by conventional means, never escalating into nuclear war.
In post-apocalyptic popular culture we also see a new emerging narrative that is competing with the World War III image. This is the environmental disaster, not surprising considering the current political and social climate around global warming. The 1995 film Waterworld takes place on an earth where all the polar ice caps have melted and the planet is almost completely covered in water and the 2009 video game Fuel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where extreme weather is a potent danger caused by global warming. Therefore, we must admit that a hypothetical and nuclear World War III are not the only factors that play into the post-apocalyptic popular culture.
Regardless, World War III is still an image on the popular spectrum in various forms of multimedia. It provides a powerful insight in how the hypothetical war is seen outside of politics and it also provides an image of the doubts instilled in all of us regarding our future and relationship with the most destructive of weapons.
The Modern Spectre
World War III is still associated a lot with the Cold War and the potential conflict that could have emerged as a result of it. However, World War III remains a fear of many and it is often interpreted in a new light in the contemporary world. One of the first instances to show that there was room for an apocalyptic global war following the collapse of the Soviet Union was in 1995, during the Norwegian Rocket Scare. It was in this instance that the suitcases to enter the nuclear codes for a retaliatory strike against the United States were open, the cause being a research rocket that was mistaken for an EMP attack and, following that, a missile carrying multiple nuclear warheads. This incident, under Boris Yeltsin, proves that there was room for World War III in the post-Cold War era.
After 9/11, the “War on Terror” was declared. To many this was seen as a new World War. Even U.S. President George W. Bush likened it to World War III and many compared the 9/11 attacks to a Pearl Harbor-like event. The style of combat employed in the concept of “terrorism” is separate from the conventional notions of World War III. However, many groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda still have attacked military targets, as well as civilian targets and had large functioning armies which would fit into the standard concept of a world war. In 2015, the Taliban had an estimated 60,000 recruits in their core, fitting this idea. In recent history, the rise of Islamic State has also brought this question back to light, seemingly more vigorously.
However, the World War III of this millennium’s second decade has also seen the return of the nation state as a potential adversary. North Korea and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are headline hitters when it comes to a prospective World War III. For Russia, there is a new Cold War brewing between the east and west, primarily caused by his hard approach to handling political authority. The invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the conflict in Ukraine have shown that he is willing to assert territorial influence. In the case of North Korea in May 2016, during a rare party congress, leader Kim Jong-un praised his country’s nuclear achievements. Efforts to reduce Iran proliferating nuclear weapons seem to be working, as economic sanctions have recently been lifted against them after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report has shown it has taken steps to limit its nuclear-based plans. Therefore, it appears Iran is now less likely to develop nuclear weapons.
These examples show the ever-evolving scene of the hypothetical World War III in the modern world. Political tensions between major nations will always trigger fears of a larger scale war, whether it would be nuclear or more akin to the conventional global wars of the 20th century. Nevertheless, we have seen that new powers and new forms of combat are rising to add to and, in some respects, replace the traditional narrative of World War III. We must, however, realize that the prospect of World War III does not affect much of humanity’s approach to everyday life in the modern world and it still seems a far-fetched prospect, despite the continued political wrangling of modern nation states.
The Curtain Falls
As we have seen, the idea of World War III was an idea inevitable in its existence as soon as World War II started. It is impossible to stop humans speculating; they always have and always will. It is for reason that we have had military plans for a major global war and a reflection of the concept of World War III throughout popular culture. We live in a word where political tensions still play a significant role, yet perhaps not at the level of the Cold War, there is still considerable debate over the role the ever-dangerous nuclear weapon will play in the future.
World War III is also an evolving idea and it will always be based on the context of the form or time of the idea. The role of conventional warfare, the role of the nuclear bomb and the political/human nature of the cause are all factors that affect the view of a hypothetical World War III. We must, therefore, view the idea of World War III as not only an inevitability, but also one that is destined to change with the passage of time.
Twitter is one of those great places where you can blow off some steam with people who just get you. And in the military, blowing off some steam is necessary. What better way to do it than by cramming years of inside jokes and memories into a few short (and hilarious) sentences? Here are 15 of the funniest military tweets.
1. Puppy tags
If dog tags really looked like this, everyone would probably join.
2. Always trust the CW03
So motivational. Who’s inspired?
3. What’s the difference?
Privates all the way.
4. I wonder why?
Seems like they should’ve paid more attention in training.
5. It really shows
You really should think more outside of the box.
6. General orders
They take orders from no one. Maybe they take it a step too far?
7. It’s all about creating an atmosphere
Gunshots? More like ambient sound machine.
8. Shells out here spitting facts
Maybe if the MREs were better, this wouldn’t be a thing.
9. I’d say that’s good reasoning
It’s more “chemical weapons” than “chemical romance”, unfortunately.
There are many military specialties that translate into thriving careers in the civilian sector. These are usually POG jobs—personnel other than grunts in military speak—like engineering, communications, and any other skills outside of the trigger pulling.
While there’s a future in police work after the military, there is also an opportunity in private security contracting (PSC), usually a more lucrative one. The latest example of PSCs in action are the real heroes from Benghazi, who’s story is based on in “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” These military veterans turned private contractors were hired to protect CIA agents. Here’s how you too can join their ranks:
1. First, don’t let anyone tell you that being in the infantry doesn’t translate to a career in the civilian world.
2. If you like kicking down doors and blowing stuff up, private security contractors are looking for you!
These firms are also knowns as private military contractors (PMCs).
3. Some firms do not require that you have prior military service …
4. … but it definitely helps.
5. ACADEMI, one of the leading private military contractors, claims that more than eighty percent of all its employees are former military or law enforcement.
ACADEMI, formerly known as “Blackwater,” was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997. Prince is famous for explaining his firm’s purpose by stating: “We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service”.
6. The most lucrative contractor jobs typically go to those with former special operations backgrounds such as Special Forces and Navy SEAL troops.
7. Like in the military, these are tier 1 operators.
Jack Silva was a former Navy SEAL turned Global Response Service (GRS) operator in 13 Hours.
8. But good news, there’s a growing need for operators with infantry and combat arms experience.
9. Training companies also exist for those who want to be contractors but didn’t serve in the military.
C.R.I. is a VA-approved school that offers training in how to be a badass.
10. C.R.I. has courses in anti-terrorism …
11. Counter kidnapping …
12. Tactical driving …
13. … and being a bodyguard.
14. But many contractors are tasked with defending compounds or military installations.
. . . like the CIA outpost in Benghazi.
15. The job sometimes requires deployments that last for months in dangerous areas around the world …