Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts - We Are The Mighty
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Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts

The Okinawa government is building shelters to protect schoolchildren from falling aircraft parts near an American military base

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Here is why business is booming for private military companies

The services of private security companies have expanded so much over the last 20 years that they are now referred to as private military companies (PMCs) in some circles. PMCs have assumed all the different roles of war, from backend logistics, to training, to consulting, to battlefield operations, and more. The private military industry was a $218 billion industry in 2014 and business is growing, according to the Vice video below.


Related: 20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

There are many reasons why hiring a PMC is more attractive than maintaining a military, and companies like ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater), Aegis, and others are redefining what war might look like in the future.

This VICE video explores the origins of the PMC industry and how the war on terror has fueled its growth.

Watch:

VICE, YouTube

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Veterans and the substance abuse problem

Substance abuse among veterans is a growing problem in the United States. Many members of the military come home from deployment in war-torn areas with mental health and physical problems. The disabilities caused by their experiences in deployment makes substance abuse a more prevalent problem. Today, many women and men that have served or still serve in the US military struggle with drug addiction. Some of the veterans that have been involved or seen combat have co-occurring disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression and addiction.


Such veterans turn to drugs like alcohol as a way of coping with stress and war challenges. Easy availability of alcohol and other drugs makes engaging in dangerous activities like binge drinking easy for veterans. Eventually, many veterans end up battling an addiction to illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol.

If a serviceman or woman you love has a substance abuse problem, call AddictionResource drug addiction helpline. This will enable you to get the help that your loved one needs to beat the substance abuse problem. Hotline numbers for addiction are manned by trained professionals that understand the pain that callers and their loved ones go through. They provide useful information about the available treatment options and guidance for those ready to undergo addiction treatment. Many veterans have received treatment after making this call and are now recovering.

Substance abuse among active service men and women

Research indicates that alcohol, prescription drug, and tobacco abuse is steadily increasing and more prevalent among members of the armed forces as compared to civilians. However, the use of illicit drugs is lower in the military than in the civilian population in the U.S. So, what compels active military members to abuse prescription drugs and alcohol?

A major cause of substance abuse among military men and women is the stress that comes with deployment to war-torn areas. Spending months away from home in challenging environments, fatigue, and loneliness, expose these men and women to substance abuse vulnerability. The unique military culture and strict discipline can also lead to addictive behaviors among active servicemen and women.

Unfortunately, many active servicemen and women do not call drug addiction hotline seeking help due to the stigma that is associated with the problem. Others fear that their confidentiality will be compromised if they speak about their problem.

Substance abuse problem among veterans

For some veterans, the substance abuse problem starts when in active service. However, some develop the problem after retiring from active service. Many veterans face complex economic and health challenges. Combat experiences come with psychological stress that veterans have to deal with. The demanding military life environment can also lead to substance use disorders.

Frequent moves and long deployments can strain relationships with their loved ones. Many veterans face problems like homelessness and unemployment. These are some of the challenges that lead veterans to alcohol and drug use as a way of readjusting to civilian life or coping with hardships.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, an estimated 7% of veterans in the U.S struggle with a substance use disorder. About 20% of the ex-servicemen and women that have been to Iraq and Afghanistan have depression, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury. All these conditions predispose veterans to addiction. Substance abuse and mental health issues are the major causes of U.S troops’ hospitalizations.

Statistics that reveal the reality

The Department of Defense has a strict, zero-tolerance drug use policy among the active members of the military. This may explain why many active servicemen with substance abuse problems opt not to call a drug abuse hotline. Nevertheless, tobacco and prescription drug abuse, as well as, alcoholism remains high among the active members of the military than among the civilians. And, substance abuse by veterans is increasing steadily.

For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental health Service Administration reports that 7.1% of veterans were diagnosed with substance use disorder between 2004 and 2006.

Out of 10 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, 2 develop substance use disorder. And out of 6 veterans involved in Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns experience PTSD symptoms. 20% of the female veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD. Out of 4 veterans involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, 1 reports signs of the mental health disorder.

25% of veterans between the age of 18 and 25 years reported symptoms of mental health disorders like SUD from 2004 to 2006. This is double the number of veterans that reported similar symptoms between the age of 26 and 54 years. It’s also 5 times the number of veterans that reported the same symptoms from the age of 55 years and above.

Major causes of substance abuse among veterans

Many soldiers face alcoholism and substance abuse problems after serving in wars. Both veterans and active military personnel can call rehab numbers seeking help with a substance abuse problem. However, the stigma associated with seeking help for addiction hinders them from getting assistance. Here are the major reasons why veterans and active members of the military can develop an addiction to prescription pills, illicit drugs, and alcohol.

  • Mental health problems
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Exposure to combat
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Substance misuse while in active service
  • Chronic pain caused by injuries and overuse
  • Challenges coping with stress
  • Challenges in adjusting to civilian life
  • Inability to acknowledge or recognize the problem
  • Stigma about seeking assistance
  • Stressors of serving in the military as a woman

Deployment to war-torn areas exposes members of the military to constant risks of permanent injury or death. As such, returning home to their loved ones should be a happy experience. However, getting back to civilian life after serving in the military is not easy for many veterans. Transitioning to a civilian life entails finding employment and housing. A veteran has to adjust to a life without the unit camaraderie and military benefits. Many veterans see unit members as their family because they share similar experiences. Therefore, civilian life feels alien to most of them. They feel disconnected and without a purpose. This prompts them to turn to addictive substances as a way of coping.

The bottom line

Substance abuse among veterans is a pressing issue. These people are susceptible to substance abuse and addiction because of the intense experience they get during combat and deployment. Reducing substance abuse among veterans has many challenges because the majority of them have co-occurring conditions like PTSD and depression. Nevertheless, veterans can call rehab numbers to seek help with their substance abuse problem.

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8 reasons why the Army should update its combatives manual

In January 2002, the Army revised their Combatives Field Manual (FM 3-25.150), which has been a fantastic training aid when it comes to teaching the Modern Army Combatives Program. It lays down the groundwork literally, but without an instructor, there’ll be many gaps in instruction to fill.


Unlike many of the other documented skills in the Army, combatives is not something you can just read in a book — the actual FM isn’t any help either.

The Stretches

Combatives is a very aerobic activity that requires nearly every muscle in the body. Stretching is important before and after any exercise, yet the manual only covers five stretches and only one is not buddy-assisted.

1. The backroll stretch:

The point of stretching is to loosen up your muscles, not immediately throw out your back. Any sudden movements out of this one and you’re done.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

2. The buddy-assisted hamstring stretch

A flaw in the “buddy-assisted” stretches is that the person assisting has no knowledge of what is helpful and what is hurting. They could push the stretcher to the point of injury or they could just do nothing at all. Not only is the risk of injury higher, it takes time away from what could be used stretching both combatants.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

3. The buddy-assisted groin stretch

The same goes for the buddy-assisted groin stretch… except there are countless other methods to stretch your own groin that don’t involve outside help.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Basic ground-fighting techniques

Combatives lessons are broken down into three levels: one, two, and three (and technically four, but that’s a Master trainer course). Combatives level-1 is meant to get a soldier’s toes wet, but troops often come out thinking that their shrimp drills and mounting drills make them the toughest SoB in the bar.

4. The front mount and the guard

Much of the training revolves around learning these two positions. To the untrained eye, the person on top is always the one in control. While this is true for the front mount, the soldier on their back in the guard position actually has control of the fight. It all comes down to who has positive control of the other person’s hips and their center of balance.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

5. Arm push and roll to the rear mount

The bread-and-butter of combatives level-1 is learning to switch between the various ground stances. However, much of this relies on your opponent giving you stiff arms (where the elbow is locked straight). In a controlled environment, it’s not a problem. In reality, fists fly too fast for you to grab them.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Advanced ground-fighting techniques

Stepping into level-2 doesn’t make you any more of a badass. You’ll still cover the same techniques, with maybe three or four new moves spliced in.

6. North-South Position

In this position, the person on the ground is in complete control. The problem with the North-South Position is that this an extremely ineffective hold. Placing your hands in the person’s armpits restricts their arms, but it still gives them the freedom to knee your head and punch your sides.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

7. Captain Kirk

The objective of the Captain Kirk is to flip the opponent over you by hoping they bend down, give you stiff arms, and have moved their center of balance far enough forward for you to roll backwards.

The only applicable time for this is when a troop has watched too much WWE and is going for the Batista Bomb.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

Takedowns and throws

These are your finishing moves. During combatives level-1, almost no focus is put onto these… despite being the actual goal of the program.

8. Attack from the rear

One crucial step is missing from the illustration: Applying the force needed to the enemy’s fourth point of contact and lifting from their ankles. The illustration goes from “Get ready, get set…” directly to “finished.”

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
(Source: FM 3-25.150)

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The mystery behind potential sonic weapons in Cuba is getting weirder

There must be an answer.


Whatever is harming US diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists, and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon, or flawed spying device.

Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.

The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.

Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen US officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds, and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.

Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches, and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.

“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.

To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.

There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where, and how of the Havana whodunit.

While Cuba has been surprisingly cooperative, even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the US government in full control.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo courtesy of the FBI.

“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”

Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.

Sonic Device

The first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?

Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.

But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.

Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.

And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.

Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous, or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.

The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
The anatomy of the inner ear. The vestibular system helps regulate balance. Diagram from Wikimedia Commons.

But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.

And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.

“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.

If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?

At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.

But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.

None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts

“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.

Electromagnetic Weapon

It may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.

The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave, and light bulbs.

And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.

There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the US Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.

What about the sounds people heard?

Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old US Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.

But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.

Something Else

The stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.

After all, once symptoms emerged, the US Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
John Kerry delivers remarks at the flag-raising ceremony at the newly re-opened US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on August 14, 2015. Photo from US State Department.

At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .

Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.

The Cuba Theory

It was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.

The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.

Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
US Marines stand ready to raise the flag during ceremony at the Ambassador’s residence in Havana, Cuba. Photo from US State Department.

But what’s the motive?

When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the US to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.

Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.

Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But US officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.

Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?

The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.

The Rogues

If not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several US officials said.

It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.

“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the US mission in Havana until 2008.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo from Public Domain.

But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.

Cuba’s surveillance of US diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks US diplomats’ movements and conversations.

So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.

The Outsiders

Who else would dare?

US investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.

Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.

None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.

Spying Gone Awry?

Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.

Several US officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the US diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.

You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

During the Cold War, the US Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.

The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.

Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.

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Episode 204: Medal of Honor & Battlefield Recordings

Medal of Honor recipient Walter Ehlers tells his dramatic stories of combat in North Africa and Europe and details the events surrounding his heroic actions during the Normandy campaign.  He also offers his unique perspectives on the infantry, his fellow soldiers and the enemy.This episode also features rare recordings of live combat, direct from the battlefields of World War II.

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Three War Army Hero

This episode tells the dramatic story of an Army veteran who served in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Al Ungerleider’s first taste of combat came on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  He went on to march towards Germany, liberating a Nazi concentration camp along the way.  Brigadeer General Al Ungerleider retired from the Army after 36 years of service.  His final active-duty assignment was commanding the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.  Al Ungerleider is a true American hero.

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Beijing vows ‘stern measures’ after US ship sails near South China Sea islands

China on Oct. 11 protested the sailing of a US Navy ship near its territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying it would continue to take measures to protect Beijing’s interests in the vital waterway claimed by several nations.


A US official said the destroyer USS Chafee sailed near the Paracel Islands on Oct. 10, coming within 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) of land. The Navy does not announce such missions in advance and the official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denounced the mission as dangerous and a violation of China’s sovereignty. She said the military verified the presence of the US ship by sea and air and warned it off.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan.

“The Chinese government will continue to take firm measures to safeguard national territory, sovereignty, and maritime interests,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.

China claims the South China Sea and its islands virtually in their entirety, and its military expelled Vietnamese forces from the Paracels in 1974. The US does not take an official position on sovereignty claims, but the Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.

China usually claims to have “expelled” Navy ships on such missions and its relatively mild response this time suggested the Chafee had not entered what it claims are its territorial waters.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits. China has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations.

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D-Day Diary

1994 was the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Throughout that year, The Honor Project sat down with dozens of veterans off the Normandy Invasion to hear their stories and to put these Heroes of Our Nation On Record. O.B. Hill was a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, one of four regiments of the 82nd Airborne Division. In this Episode, he recounts dramatic stories of his training and combat experiences and he eloquently expresses his thoughts on the nature of war and and how it impacted him and his fellow paratroopers.

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Wild Weasels in Vietnam

The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface to air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.

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The B-17 Flying Fortress debuted exactly 80 years ago — here’s its legacy

On July 28, 1935, the plane that would become the B-17 “Flying Fortress” first took to the skies.


Immediately, the plane started breaking records.

An icon of World War II, the aircraft gained an ironclad reputation for both its staggering offensive output and its durability and resilience in the heat of battle.

“Without the B-17 we may have lost the war,” the World War II general Carl Spaatz said.

Relive the legacy of this iconic American warplane from a prototype to its eventual enshrinement in military museums in the slides below.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Boeing Model 299, later known as the B-17, was built as part of a United States Army Air Corps (precursor to the Air Force) competition to create a bomber that could fly faster than 200 mph with 2,000 pounds of bombs and a range of over 1,020 miles.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The development of the 299 was completely paid for by Boeing with no promise of reimbursement by the US government. The competition and the sunk costs represented a make-or-break trial for the young aircraft manufacturer.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Despite achieving a record-setting 2,100-mile flight from Seattle to Ohio, Boeing lost the competition after crashing the prototype because of a technical error.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

As war brewed in Europe, however, the need for a long-range strategic bomber like the B-17 became apparent. In 1940, 20 B-17s were delivered to Britain’s Royal Air Force. They were hastily deployed and performed poorly.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

The tail of the aircraft was reinforced to sturdy the ride at high altitudes, and additional .50-caliber machine guns were added to turrets behind and below the aircraft to defend against fighter planes during bombing missions. The result was the B-17E, or the “Big Ass.”

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

The B-17E was the first mass-produced model of the plane. It featured nine turret-mounted machine guns and could carry up to 4,000 pounds in bombs. Each newer version that came along would be more and more heavily armed.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

The various versions of the B-17 flew with crews of about 10 airmen, who praised the plane for its ability to withstand heavy fire, sometimes completing missions even after losing engines. The unsung heroes of this operation were the ground crews and mechanics, who routinely made tattered B-17s safe again.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

B-17s dropped 640,036 tons of bombs over Europe in daylight raids alone, mainly targeting Axis airfields and arms factories.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

The name “Flying Fortress” refers to the many machine-gun turrets located along the sides, top, front, tail, and bottom of the aircraft, which helped defend the plane against enemy fighter planes.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: US Air Force

Thanks to its many turrets, the B-17 was over twice as effective at downing enemy aircraft as similar bombers of the time. The famed 91st Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force alone shot down a confirmed 420 enemy planes, with another 238 probably destroyed and 127 damaged.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

After World War II, the B-17 saw action in wars in Korea, Israel, and Vietnam.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Today fewer than 100 B-17 airframes exist. Toward the end of World War II the B-29 Superfortress began to take over, and later the B-52 emerged, but the B-17 remains an indelible symbol of the US war effort.

Okinawa building shelters to protect children from falling military aircraft parts
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Boeing B-17 Super Fortress Museum of Flt Ken Fielding

More from Business Insider:

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

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SOG Covert Task Force in Vietnam

Studies and Observations Group (SOG) was a highly classified, special ops unit that conducted unconventional warfare during the Vietnam War.  SOG carried out the capture of enemy prisoners, rescued downed pilots, and conducted rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia. The Task Force also engaged in clandestine intelligence, propaganda and psychological operations.  J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy were members of this elite group.

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