Civilians have grandiose ideas about what happens in the military. Those fantasies drive eager, bright-eyed youngsters into recruiters’ offices who land in basic training thinking they’re going to be the most badass Green Beret sniper who’s ever lived.
Sadly, the actual number of badass Green Beret snipers out there is a tiny fraction of the people who think they can cut it. Keep that chin up, recruit. Ending up just another cog in the machine isn’t a bad thing.
An entire unit sweeping the sidewalk? It’s more common than you think.
(Photo by Glenn Sircy)
A solid 95% of military service is about cleaning and bureaucracy
So, you’ve learned that “Green Beret sniper” isn’t something you can enlist into right away and you’ve picked a far more boring job. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you likely won’t be doing that job, either.
You’ll actually end up somewhere between janitor and secretary. This isn’t even a grunt vs POG thing — if anything, grunts will be doing far more cleaning than anyone else. Everyone scrubs floors until they make rank enough to do paperwork on the guy who didn’t want to scrub floors.
Or you’ll be using gear your NCO just picked up at Walmart
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler)
You rarely do the things you learn in schools
Not only will you be spending god-knows-how-many weeks learning your less-fun profession, you can basically forget almost all of it because it’s either out of date, doesn’t apply to your unit, or your unit does things completely differently.
Take radios, for instance: New radios are fielded left and right. The last people to get the new stuff, however, are the schools. This means you’ll spend months trying to master a Vietnam-era radio system only to later be grilled at your unit for not knowing satellite communication.
There will also be so much commotion going on that you’ll forget how to PLF and probably eat sh*t upon landing.
(Photo by Spc. Henry Villarama)
You’ll find out that the things you learn at the “fun” schools still suck
Nearly every school that troops try to get into is fully booked. Most of the time, you’ll attend the ones that occasionally help make you more valuable to your unit. But every now and then, you’ll be thrown a bone and wiggle your way into something awesome, like Airborne or Air Assault school.
Just how “awesome” are these schools, really? First, you’ll be required to learn all the technical specs of every aircraft you may, possibly, one day (maybe) jump out of. Then, when it’s time to actually jump, well, the military has ways of making that less fun, too. Airborne jumps usually involve 14 hours of waiting for two minutes of action that you barely have control over.
Don’t worry, shared pain will get you there.
(Photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)
Camaraderie isn’t given to you — it’s earned
You’ll hear the phrase “one team, one fight” echoed by nearly every NCO to help motivate the formation. They’ll even assign you a battle buddy to help keep an eye on you. They’ll even toss you into the barracks where there’s basically a party every night.
But no one will automatically give a sh*t about you. You need to earn your right to make a brother for life.
Even grenades become boring once you learn they don’t explode like in the movies.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)
You won’t be having much fun at the range
The most satisfying moment of any military career is range day — but don’t get your hopes up. The range safety NCO will rarely call weapons free. And when they do, don’t worry — the big green weenie knows how to suck the fun out of that, too.
Nearly every time you go to the range, it’s to qualify or to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. There’s a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into setting up a range for a single unit.
On the bright side, you’ll laugh at people who think the wait at the DMV is bad…
(Photo by Jesse Weinstein)
Most of your career will be spent waiting.
The one skill learned by all troops of all ranks across all eras is how wait in one place for long periods of time, doing nothing but standing still in absolute silence. You’ll wait on formation. You’ll wait on Pvt. Snuffy to arrive with the arms room key. You’ll wait on mission SP, on guard duty, and on the tarmac to fly anywhere.
If you think the waiting ends when you get out of the service, think again. Let me welcome you to the biggest waiting room of them all: the VA healthcare system.
But cyber weapons reportedly give Britain the best chance of deterring Russia because the West no longer has small battlefield nuclear weapons.
The Sunday Times reported that the test to “turn out the lights” in Moscow – which will give Britain more time to act in the event of war – happened during the UK’s biggest military exercise for a decade.
5,500 British troops took part in the desert exercise in Oman, where troops also practiced other war games to combat Russia’s ground forces.
British troops practice section attack drills in Oman, 2001.
The £100m (0.5 million) exercise in the Omani desert reportedly involved 200 armoured vehicles, six naval ships, and eight Typhoon warplanes.
Sources told the Sunday Times that in a series of mock battles, the Household Cavalry played the role of an enemy using Russian T-72 tanks.
The king of battle, in all its thunderous glory, has struck fear into the hearts of enemies for centuries. Throughout the history of warfare, different varieties of artillery weapons have been used on battlefields to great effect and have ranged from ancient and medieval siege weapons to railway guns, naval artillery, and even atomic weapons.
But which artillery pieces stand out from their peers as the most ridiculous and the most awesome? We have a few suggestions.
A 36-inch mortar in use by the US during World War II for test-firing bombs was later converted to be used as a siege mortar, but it was never used in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Little David mortar has a name that can be deceiving because it is considered, along with the British Mallet’s Mortar, to be the largest-caliber gun ever made. As the United States prepared its battle plans to invade Japan during World War II, the US Army began a project to build a weapon capable of annihilating coastal and heavily fortified defenses. Little David had a 36-inch (914mm) caliber mortar and could fire 3,650 pound shells through a 22-foot muzzle at a distance of 6 miles.
Two artillery M26A1 tractors including the “Dragon Wagon” helped transport Little David to its required firing position. The behemoth mortar didn’t see combat action before Japan surrendered after two atomic bombs exploded over Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war and the Little David mortar.
Counterweight trebuchets at Château de Castelnaud. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
When one thinks of a medieval siege weapon, the trebuchet is at the top of the list. These compound machines use the mechanical leverage of a lever to launch 200-pound stones with a sling, which were capable of destroying the empire’s most prized fortifications. The ancient war machine was believed to be invented in China in 300 BC and was largely used by the French in Europe. These destructive weapons didn’t just hurl stones, darts, or wooden stakes through the air. Casks of burning tar, dead animals, pots of Greek Fire, and disease-infested corpses were some of the other forms of damaging projectiles seen throughout history that made both a psychological and biological impact on the enemy.
Reproductions of ancient Greek artillery, including catapults such as the polybolos (to the left in the foreground) and a large, early crossbow known as the gastraphetes (mounted on the wall in the background). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A ballista was an ancient missile (bolts) and stone throwing weapon system that was effective against guards defending their castles or fortifications during large-scale sieges. The ballista arrived on the battlefield with the Greeks in the 4th century BC, and the Roman Empire evolved the machines to be highly capable against both troops and walls.
With an effective range of 300 meters, the iron-clad darts or sharpened wooden projectiles easily pierced body armor and impaled determined defenders, both killing their fight and psychologically damaging their morale. Procopius, a Byzantine Greek scholar, described how during the 6th century ballistas were sometimes placed in siege towers, which increased their lethality against defenses.
Soldiers used the “Grasshopper Crossbow” while in the trenches during World War I before better advancements made them obsolete. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy
Before French and British forces employed the 2-inch Medium Trench Mortar or the Stokes Mortar upon German infantry during World War I, the allies used a grenade-throwing crossbow with an effective range of 125 meters. Elie André Broca was a French artillery officer, doctor, science professor, and inventor who manufactured his weapon system under the name L’Arbalète la Sauterelle Type A D’Imphy, more commonly known as Sauterelle, or “The Grasshopper Crossbow.”
Hand grenades exposed the thrower to sniper fire and pot-shots from infantrymen, while the Grasshopper Crossbow enabled allied soldiers to launch French F1 hand grenades and British Mills bombs from behind the cover of their trenches. The crossbow weighed 64 pounds and required one to two operators to use a hand crank similar to how bolts are loaded on modern crossbows. An experienced operator could hurl four bombs per minute.
The Davy Crockett required a three-man crew to operate and could be used in place of a turret on the back of a jeep. Photo courtesy of armyhistory.org.
M28/M29 Davy Crockett
Code named Little Feller I, presidential advisor and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sat surrounded by US Army generals and engineers while 396 spectators watched nearby as the smallest nuclear explosion ever recorded was detonated on July 17, 1962. Kennedy peered through his protective lenses as a dust cloud appeared after the nuclear detonation occurred 2.17 miles in the distance.
In the midst of the Cold War, the US military frequently tested new capabilities at the Nevada Test Site. One of these mechanisms was the M28/M39 Davy Crockett recoilless rifle weapon system. A three-man crew operated the weapon the same way a typical mortar crew would operate in the field, except instead of a mortar shell, the Davy Crockett fired a nuclear projectile carrying the W54 nuclear warhead, which had the explosive equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT. The nuclear capability was carried by small teams on the ground while deployed to Europe and provided a nuclear security blanket in case war with the Soviet Union ever broke out.
History’s first atomic artillery shell fired from the Army’s new 280mm artillery gun. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
M65 Atomic Cannon: “Atomic Annie”
The M65 Atomic Cannon, better known as “Atomic Annie,” was a towed artillery piece that fired the W-9 15-kiloton atomic 280mm Projectile T124. The 47-ton weapon system had a remarkably fast emplacement rate, taking only 12 minutes to ready and fire and 15 minutes to make ready for traveling to the next target. The maximum range of Atomic Annie was between 20 and 35 miles, and it was operational between 1953 and 1963. The only nuclear detonation occurred at the Nevada Proving Ground during Operation Upshot Knothole on May 25, 1953. The device traveled a distance of 7 miles and detonated 524 feet above the ground. The testing was captured on video for archival records. Atomic Annie was never used during combat operations.
The rear 18-inch turret of HMS Furious. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun
The largest and heaviest weapon ever used by the British was the BL 18-inch Mk I naval gun. The initial design was geared toward arming the HMS Furious to make it capable of providing naval support to smaller vessels in the Baltic Narrows during the invasion of Germany in World War I. However, the warship lacked defenses and was considered a liability rather than an asset. During test trials of the 18-inch/40 (45.7 cm) turret gun, the ship couldn’t handle the overpressure when the gun fired. In theory, having a large naval weapon was a necessity, but since it didn’t pass the required tests, the HMS Furious was converted into an aircraft carrier.
The Royal Navy recognized they had a capability but had no sure way to apply it. On Sept. 28, 1918, the HMS General Wolfe changed these perceptions when it fired on a railroad bridge at Snaaskerke at a distance of 36,000 yards — the longest range any Royal Navy vessel has ever engaged enemy personnel up to that point in history.
Giant artillery shell that hit the Adria building on Aug. 18, 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising. Heavy shells like this were fired by siege weapons. Photo courtesy of SPWW1944.
The Karl-Gerät was another siege weapon in the Nazi Germany inventory and was deemed the largest self-propelled gun in the history of warfare. The 273,374-pound super weapon could be moved across Europe during World War II through the use of European rail networks. When the weapon reached its destination, it was detached from its special transportation car and set up facing its target — usually a city or town. The Karl was used during the Battle of Sevastopol and along both the eastern and western fronts. It had its fair share of mechanical and technical problems but still crippled buildings in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Warsaw Uprising. The historic Battle of the Bulge might have turned out different if the Karl wasn’t strafed and damaged by allied aircraft orbiting above.
The Dictator was used during the American Civil War. Photo courtesy of ironbrigader.com.
During the American Civil War, the Union built a makeshift railroad battery of their own that tipped the scales at 17,120 pounds. They called it the “Dictator,” and it was used during the 1864 Siege of Petersburg. The Dictator was secured on a reinforced railway car and could fire 200-pound shells at a 45-degree angle up to 4,235 yards.
“This 13 inch mortar was used principally against what was known as the ‘Chesterfield Battery,’ which from the left bank of [the] river, completely enfiladed our batteries on the right; all our direct fire seemed to have no effect,” according to a 1st Connecticut historian. “From this mortar was the only fire that seemed to hold the battery in check.”
Adolf Hitler, second from right, and Albert Speer, far right, in front of the 800mm Gustav railway gun in 1943. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The Nazi regime had several advanced weapons within its arsenal, and Adolf Hitler’s own Schwerer Gustav, a super weapon and railway gun, was the largest weapon ever built. The Nazis first used the cannon during the Battle of Sevastopol in 1942. The Schwerer Gustav required a crew of 2,000 people to operate and took four days of maintenance before the enormous railway gun could be used. More than 300 800mm shells decimated the Crimean city and, although it was originally created to destroy the Maginot Line — a defensive fortification deemed impregnable — the Schwerer Gustav was ultimately never needed after a successful Blitzkrieg campaign.
U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command will begin a second round of testing in 2019 on a two-piece organizational clothing variant that offers flame resistance and moves the Navy one step closer to delivering sailors a safe, comfortable, no-cost alternative to the Improved Flame Resistant Variant (IFRV) coveralls, with the same travel flexibility as the Type III working uniform.
USFF conducted the initial wear test on two-piece variants from May through September of 2018 and collected feedback from nearly 200 wear-test participants across surface, aviation, and submarine communities about everything from colors and design, to comfort and options like buttons and hook-and-loop fasteners. The command also received feedback from more than 1,700 sailors in an online survey about colors and design.
An information graphic describing the modernized, two-piece, flame-resistant organizational clothing wear-test design components for sailors.
(U.S. photo illustration by Bobbie A. Camp)
Fleet survey responses indicated that sailors liked the functionality of the Type III but would like to see the design in traditional Navy uniform colors. More than 70 percent of E-6 and junior sailors surveyed liked the navy blue blouse and trouser while a khaki version was the preference for chiefs and officers.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), demonstrates the operational de-blousing capability of the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)
“Leaders are listening to the fleet when it comes to this design,” said USFF Fleet Master Chief Rick O’Rawe, a wear-test participant. “We have an obligation to keep our sailors safe in inherently dangerous environments, but we also want to be mindful of their time. This is going to be something that’s safe, easy to maintain, and doesn’t require half-masting of coveralls when it’s hot or having to change clothes every time you leave the ship. Never again should we have to pass the words ‘all hands shift into the uniform for entering port or getting underway.'”
Lt. Jamie Seibel, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command, demonstrates the operational wearability of the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype (khaki variant) aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG-72).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)
The updated design, which won’t require sailors to sew on components, will be tested by 100 officers and enlisted sailors to see how well it performs from wash-to-wear without ironing, and how it holds up to laundering. The two-piece variant will allow for de-blousing in extreme climates and challenging work environments. An undershirt will continue to be tested with a flame-resistant, moisture-wicking fabric in black.
A sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103) demonstrates the operational wearability of the black Gortex parka and the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype navy blue variant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)
I have received so much feedback just from wearing the two-piece around the command every day,” said Yeoman 1st Class Kelly Pyron, a wear-test participant assigned to USFF. “The best part is that we’ll be able to transit from the ship and run errands in the two-piece; having one standard underway and in-port across the board will be much more convenient. I am excited to see the wear test moving into the next phase of evaluation.”
Once approved, the new prototype will serve as an alternative to the IFRV coverall for operational commands. The coverall may continue to be the prescribed clothing item for some sailors in applicable work environments.
Pyron expressed, “If a clothing item, that I will not have to buy, can make my life easier while keeping me safe, I’m all for it.”
There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.
But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.
Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?
The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.
Hafer while deployed to Africa.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor
Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.
“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”
Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”
Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”
“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
Bob Baer, former CIA case officer
You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.
“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”
Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”
Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.
“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”
“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”
Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.
“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”
The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
Last week marked the anniversary of the birth of Mata Hari, and while she is undoubtedly one of the most famous female spies in history, there have been many, many more. These women worked tirelessly to help the French resistance and Allied forces. There’s no doubt that they played an integral part in the defeat of the Nazis in WWII. In honor of Mata Hari’s birthday, we decided to take a look at a few of the brave women who refused to stand idly by while the world was on fire.
Mata Hari (Wikimedia Commons)
After her mother’s death, Mata Hari, born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, married a military captain stationed in the Dutch East Indies. When their marriage fell apart in the early 1900s, Zelle moved to Paris.
Being familiar with Indian sensibilities, and capitalizing on Europe’s love for all things “oriental.” Margaretha Geertruida Zelle pegged herself as a Hindu dancer and artist, complete with veils and beaded brassieres. During this time, she also adopted her stage name “Mata Hari,” which translated from Indonesian means “eye of the day.”
At the dawn of WWI, Mata Hari became a spy for the Allies. Unfortunately, the Germans caught on quickly. They labeled her a German spy (although some claim that she may have been a double agent). Mata Hari was arrested by French authorities in Paris on February 13, 1917. Although Mata Hari maintained her innocence and loyalty to France, she was found guilty of espionage by a military tribunal and sentenced to death.
Mata Hari was executed (by firing squad) on October 15, 1917. Legend has it that she refused her blindfold and even blew a kiss to her executioners before she met her end. Mata Hari was 41.
Virginia Hall (Wikimedia Commons)
Virginia Hall was an American who dreamed of joining the United States Foreign Service. However, a freak hunting accident in which she shot her foot off, left her with a limp and a wooden leg (that she affectionately named Cuthbert) and barred her from being accepted.
Hall eventually found her way to being an ambulance driver in France but was forced to flee when France surrendered to Germany. When she arrived at the American embassy, Hall was asked to provide intelligence from her time in France. She was later recruited as the first operative for the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) and sent to Lyon, France.
During her time there, Hall helped smuggle information and people out of France, just as she helped and smuggle supplies and agents into France. Hall later joined the O.S.S. (the predecessor of the C.I.A), where her time was spent as a radio operator monitoring German communications and organizing drops of supplies for the war against the Germans.
In 1945, Virginia Hall was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for her efforts in France. It was the only one awarded to a civilian woman in WWII. Hall retired in 1966 at the age of 60. She and her husband moved to a farm in Maryland, where she lived until her death in 1982.
Christine Granville (Wikimedia Commons)
Krystyna Skarbek/Christine Granville
Born into Polish aristocracy, Krystyna Skarbek was determined to contribute to the war effort. However, her attempts to enlist were frequently stalled by the fact that she was a woman.
Skarbek made some headway when she devised a cunning plan to help sabotage Germany’s war efforts and their propaganda machine, a plan which she later presented to the British Secret Service. With the aid of her friends, Krystyna was to pose as a journalist based in Budapest and ski (yes, ski) over the Carpathian Mountains into Nazi-occupied Poland to deliver and spread anti-Nazi propaganda.
When Skarbek was finally recruited into the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), she was given a British passport and adopted her new alias as Christine Granville. As a key player in the resistance, Granville repeatedly evaded capture and smuggled information out of Poland to the Allies. Legend has it that she even bit her own tongue to a bloody mess to fake tuberculosis.
Married to a wealthy French industrialist, Nancy Wake witnessed the devastation caused by the Nazis first hand. Not one to sit idly by, Wake joined the French Resistance early in WWII.
Nancy Wake’s contributions include establishing communication between British intelligence and the French Resistance and ushering downed Allied servicemen (and potential POW’s) into England by way of Spain and the Pyrenees Mountains. Once the Gestapo caught on to Wake’s involvement, they dubbed her “The White Mouse.” Wake leapt to the top of their most-wanted list, and a price of 5 Million Francs was put on her head.
Nancy Wake eventually joined the SOE as well, where she continued her military career. And she was not to be trifled with. As one story goes, when an SS guard spotted Wake and her team, she killed him instantly with a judo-chop to the throat.
Nancy Wake became one of the most decorated servicewomen in WWII. Her honors included her appointment as a Knight of The Legion of Honor by France and the Medal of Freedom from The United States. Nancy Wake lived out the rest of her days in England; she died in 2011 at the age of 98.
The Department of Defense is conducting trials for a new general-purpose 6.8mm round, something that I think is long overdue. Anytime a new caliber comes up, we see much gnashing of teeth from two separate camps. On the one side is the “good enough for grandpappy at Khe San” crew, who will deride the waste of tax money and preach shot placement.
And on the other will be the “I knew 5.56 was an underpowered poodle shooter round, we should all have 300 Winchester Magnum carbines.” Often accompanied by stories of shooting a bad guy 50 times, but he still ran off with the guidon. But just for a moment, let’s get our underwear out of a bunch, and take a critical look at 5.56 as a caliber.
The first thing we need to understand is how we got here. Most people already know the story of how the M-16, and its new 5.56 bullet, were first adopted by the Air Force for security forces at airfields. Painful as it is to admit, the Air Force is often smarter than the rest of us. The Army and Marine Corps were having none of it, sticking to the traditional obsession with a .30 caliber bullet. The M1 Garand, chambered in 30.06, won WW2.
New technology in the 1950’s allowed the development of .308 Winchester (aka 7.62×51), which in layman’s terms is ballistically identical to 30.06, in a shorter case. Add to that the idea of a detachable magazine, and you get the M-14.
The resemblance of an M-14 to an M1 Garand isn’t coincidental. John Garand designed the M1, and actually started working on its perceived shortcomings in 1944. Eventually, the M-14 would emerge, which is essentially a .308 caliber, magazine-fed, M1 Garand.
It was everything the Army and Marine Corps ever wanted, while notably, allies such as NATO did not. (The British were pushing hard for a .280, which we will address further in a bit.) In 1957 it was announced the M-14 would replace the M1. And this is what set the stage for the great 7.62 vs. 5.56 showdown.
Though it is not the iconic weapon of the war, the M-14 was the standard service rifle when Vietnam started. The Air Force was fielding the M-16 in 1962, but everyone else had some good old wood and steel. But the jungle is an entirely different environment. Special Forces, with those abnormal acquisition channels and mustaches, saw the M-16 as solving multiple problems and became early adopters.
The M-16, fully loaded, was two pounds lighter than a loaded M14. Per hundred rounds, 5.56 also weighs around half as much as .308. This matters for a couple of reasons. First, in Special Forces terms, it made sense for our allies. One of the principle jobs of Special Forces in Vietnam was training and fighting with South Vietnamese and Montagnard soldiers. Both of whom, on average, are far smaller in stature than the average American. The Montagnard’s, in particular, would be nicknamed “the little people.” The M-16 was much easier for them to handle, and became very popular with these brothers in arms.
Second, the same weight per bullet made sense for everyone. While Vietnam has a wide variety of geography, a lot of it is jungle. Fighting in dense jungle vegetation presents unique problems. While I am much too young to have been in Vietnam, I have spent some time in other jungles. And I distinctly remember how claustrophobic it feels when you are new to it. You often can’t see ten feet in front of you, which may be the case when a firefight breaks out. Jungle foliage is also notoriously thin, which means bullets zip right through it.
A lot of people are shocked to find out US troops fired around 50,000 bullets per enemy killed during Vietnam. That, in my opinion, is not a reflection on “poor marksmanship” of U.S. forces at the time. Far from it. But it is likely a reflection of how the terrain influences how you fight.
Imagine, for a moment, you are in the middle of a patrol in that same jungle. (Some of you reading this may actually have been. Give us young bucks a minute to catch up.)
You know where your guys are, because you know the direction of march. You can likely see the man in front of you, and the one behind, but that is all. All of a sudden, automatic weapons fire is shredding the jungle around you. Leaves and vines are falling like rain, dirt is kicking up all around you, and you spot the tell-tale muzzle flash of an AK-47 through the veil of green. It isn’t steady, but it gives you a vague idea of where the enemy is.
Are you going to carefully line up your irons sights, and wait for a distinct helmet (actually camouflaged perfectly with foliage, and quite possibly dug in) to appear while you slowly squeeze the trigger like you learned on the range? Or are you going to dump a magazine and hope for the best? Me too. I’ve been in a couple of gunfights where I am absolutely positive I shot at nothing, and I don’t regret it a bit.
So while early M-16’s had some teething problems with reliability, Vietnam showed the value of having lots of lightweight bullets. The lethality out of a 20-inch barrel was fantastic, and 5.56 would gain popularity around the world as a military caliber.
While some diehards would still never accept 5.56 because it isn’t .30 caliber, it did do pretty well in the original design. But when we started chopping the barrel down to 14.5 inches for the M-4, and 10.5 inches for some Special Operations variants, we started running into trouble.
As far back as the Battle of Mogadishu, if you look carefully enough, you can find reports of 5.56 being unreliable in lethality terms from the short barrels. (SFC Randy Shughart, one of the men posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor from that battle, was notably carrying an M-14.)
5.56 does most of its damage through spalling, kind of a happy accident of design. Above a certain velocity threshold, the bullet positively comes apart in tissue. Even the much maligned “green tip” M855 steel penetrator round shatters into three pieces. This is well known, and backed up by research from giants such as Dr. Martin Fackler, founder and head of the Wound Ballistics Laboratory. But, velocity threshold is the key point here. And 5.56 sheds velocity at every inch of barrel below 20.
Now, as a GWOT era soldier, don’t think I am completely negating the 5.56 round. In the last 20 years, ballistics have done a lot for improving the round. While it isn’t ideal out of something like a 10-inch barrel, it is still much improved over even the bullets used Oct 3, 1993. Since 9/11, it has put a lot of bad guys in the ground.
And even among troops that have options about what to carry, the debate still rages of 5.56 vs. 7.62. I’ve used both, and both have merits. But so do a monster truck and Prius. My point isn’t that one is better, or both aren’t good in certain roles. My point is that both are old, and maybe it is time to evolve.
6.8 as a caliber was first tried at the beginning of the GWOT. A special project between the Army and commercial manufactures yielded the 6.8 SPC round back in 2002. It wasn’t quite ready for prime time, but did catch on with the civilian market. Remember the British .280 caliber bullet from way back at the top of this article? 6.8 SPC is remarkably similar.
While we don’t know exactly the new bullet parameters the DOD has specified, we do know it has to be 6.8mm. And therefore, 6.8 SPC at least gives us a starting point for understanding. How would, in a hypothetical shoot off, commercial 6.8 SPC fair against 7.62×51 and 5.56×45?
Overall, it would seem to be a pretty good compromise. With barrel, bolt, and magazine changes, it fits in the standard M-4. While it does get crushed at long range compared to 7.62×51, it is also significantly lighter. While it does weigh slightly more than 5.56, it delivers more energy on target at 100-300 meters, and leaves a bigger hole, if we are counting on that.
While on paper, a specialized 5.56 round like Mk262 77 grain will outperform it at longer ranges, that 77 grain bullet is still behind in terms of energy. From shorter barrels designed for CQB, 6.8 SPC will absolutely stomp on 5.56, and at a minimally increased amount of recoil.
So will our troops soon be outfitted with some variant of 6.8 mm rifles? Only time will tell. We spent 12 years and three tests to decide on a new pistol. But at least we are looking. Currently, SIG SAUER, Textron Systems, and General Dynamics are still in the running. Little is known about how things are going, though clues do occasionally pop up.
And some of what we see is borderline science fiction. General Dynamics entry uses a proprietary polymer case design, that would be a huge weight savings. Textron Systems is said to be fielding a cased telescoped round, which wouldn’t look out of place in the HALO franchise. And SIG has won so many DOD contracts as of late that only a fool would count them out.
All in all, this is going to be exciting to watch. Weapons evolve, whether we like it or not. If we always settled for good enough, we would still be using musket balls and cannons. Our guys deserve the best option available, whatever the price. If we can afford F-22 Raptors, we can certainly afford new rifles for the ground pounders. Get out the popcorn; it is going to be an interesting year.
In the mid 1990s, Russia had a problem. It was a pretty important one, too, for both pilots and the grunts on the ground. It was a problem they needed to solve very quickly.
Earlier that decade, a United States F-15 Eagle had easily shot down the MiG-29 “Fulcrum,” supposedly the pinnacle of Soviet fighter technology, in combat over Iraq. Worse, the F-22 Raptor was headed into service, and as it did so, it dominated the once-dominant Eagle. Russia needed to play catch-up.
That was where Sukhoi came in. Sukhoi had designed the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of aircraft, which did reasonably well over Eritrea, fighting the MiG-29 Fulcrum. As such, Sukhoi began to work on both an upgraded Flanker (later known as the Su-35) and on fifth-generation projects to counter the F-22 Raptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, Sukhoi’s prototype was the S-32 Berkut. The plane first flew in 1997, and was later called the Su-37.
The Berkut looked like an ordinary Flanker, but the big difference was in the wings. The Russians went with forward-swept wings to improve the design’s agility at low speed, not to mention improved takeoff and landing performance. The big problem is that that the wings can snap if the force goes the wrong way. Russia got around that by using composites that were flexible enough to handle stresses.
This wasn’t the first time someone modified a design for forward-swept wings. Northrop used the F-5E Tiger II as the basis for the X-29, a forward-swept wing test-bed that flew in the 1980s. Nazi Germany had a forward-swept wing bomber, the Junkers Ju 287, but only one prototype was completed.
By the mid-2000s, it was obvious that the Su-37 would not be a combat airframe, and suffered the same fate as the X-29. The Russians re-designated it the Su-47, flew a number of test flights, then retired the four prototypes.
There are many things that troops do that keep mom and dad proud. The truth is, there is a lot more downtime during war than civilians expect. Part of this just feeds into the “disgruntled sheepdog” mentality that leaves us being the only ones not disgusted by our own jokes.
Deployment downtime is basically all of us getting together and doing dumb sh*t that would make our prim and proper grandmas question their “Support the Troops” bumper sticker.
7. Working out
There’s an interesting trend with deployment fitness: either troops give up two days in country or spend every waking second of downtime in the gym. There is no in between.
Although, by “gym” we mean minimal equipment usually left behind by someone. And for some reason, tire flips are the big thing.
Back in the heyday of pirating, everyone was doing it. Nowadays, more and more people stateside are willing to pay for a subscription based services like Netflix or Hulu. Not deployed troops.
Netflix doesn’t stream to Trashcanistan and troops still want to catch up on the shows they’re missing stateside. Meanwhile, the local who sells sh*tty rips doesn’t have the film they wanted. There’s really no other choice if you think about it…
Maybe they have their combat camera guy make an “overly-hooah” video of them remixed to Drowning Pool. Maybe it’s them lipsyncing along to some pop singer. Or maybe they make a video of them clearing a portajohn and they all stuff themselves in there for comedic effect.
We’ve seen them all. And yet they’re still funny.
Except the “overly-hooah” videos. Those can stop. (YouTube, Jessiannmc)
3. Insect fights
Give a bunch of troops too much free time, a good amount of money, and nothing to spend it on. They’ll start gambling it away.
A common form of gambling that is sure to piss off PETA is betting on which insect will win a battle to the death. So think of it less of us being cruel to animals and more of us being aspiring Pokemon trainers.
For those soldiers who probably don’t have that special someone to have that “video-chat” with, and even if they do, they’ll probably still grab their computer or smartphone with headphones and take a stroll to the latrine.
The dude spending more time than required in a 130-degree Portajohn is handling more than his normal business, if you catch my drift.
Especially if he comes out walking like this. via GIPHY
U.S. Army modernization officials defended the rapid prototyping strategy for the service’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system, even though infantry units won’t receive the new light tank until 2025.
The two companies will each build 12 prototypes so the Army can begin testing them in early 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022.
“We are excited about this opportunity,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, head of Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have an aggressive schedule to take a look at these two companies as they build the prototypes.”
BAE Systems displays an early prototype of its Mobile Protected Firepower at AUSA’s meeting and exposition in Washington. Events such as this provide industry with opportunities to showcase technologies and discuss requirements for new capabilities.
(BAE Systems photo)
GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner, ST Engineering Land Systems Ltd., but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.
Service officials lauded the contract awards as a major step forward in streamlining Army acquisition and said they plan to use the rapid prototyping approach as a model for future programs.
But even if the Army in 2022 selects one of the companies to build production MPF systems, it likely will take another three years before the service will field the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks to infantry brigade combat teams.
Army officials said it would take longer to field the MPF if they hadn’t used what’s known as “Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping (Section 804)” contracts, an acquisition tool designed to streamline testing and development of prototypes.
The process is quicker than other acquisition procedures in that the MPF program will not use time-consuming preliminary and critical design reviews to ensure that platforms meet requirements, Army officials explained.
“For a new system, [going through that process] could add as much as a year-and-a-half to two years onto the whole cycle,” said David Dopp, Mobile Protected Firepower program manager, adding that the Army is pleased it will take just 14 months for GDLS and BAE to produce the 12 prototypes each.
“Fourteen months is very challenging. I don’t think you can find another program that ever got prototypes in 14 months,” he said. “When you build these vehicles and you put them together, [sometimes] they don’t work, or if they do work, we take them out and test them, and there are things that happen, and we need that time to prove it out.”
A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.
(General Dynamics photo)
Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said the Army will use the 14 months to get a headstart on figuring out how infantry units will utilize the MPF to destroy enemy bunkers and other hardened battlefield positions.
“Right now, we are doing experiments and tactical training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with vehicles that have a similar profile of the Mobile Protective Firepower to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for the light forces to work with mechanized vehicles in the close fight,” he said.
The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform for light infantry forces equipped with a cannon powerful enough to destroy hardened targets.
The Daytona 500 is known as the Great American Race.
Well, the Great American Race just had a driver make a Great American Entrance.
The United States Air Force has had a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports for several years now. As part of their partnership, they decided that they were going to make a mark this weekend in Daytona.
The other was one of the best paintjobs a racecar has ever had.
Bubba Wallace is a fan favorite among NASCAR fans. He finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and 3rd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019. While he has had ups and downs in his short career, he is talented and a lot of people are rooting for his success. He is young, personable, and just an overall nice guy. He also does some pretty cool things.
The Air Force Wings of Blue demonstration team decided to help him make a grand entrance at the legendary racetrack on the days before the race. Wallace did a tandem jump out of a C-17 Globemaster and landed about 50 yards from the start/finish line of the 2.5 mile track.
After his lap, Wallace said, “I guess I can now say that was the coolest thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to go with the United States Air Force a couple of times in a fighter jet, F-15 F-16, and I didn’t think that could be beat. I’m still trying to decide if skydiving beat that, but jumping with the Wings of Blue was incredible.”
He continued, “I wasn’t nervous at all, which was kind of surprising because I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good C-17 aircraft, and that was cool, by the way; that thing is awesome. I didn’t get nervous. I went straight to scared crapless when we just walked off the back of the airplane. I wanted to back out right then and not do it then. The adrenaline rush that I got at that moment. I don’t know another feeling, another moment in my life that can describe that. Incredible. I couldn’t really see coming down, I had to hold my goggles. Once I did that, it was incredible; pulled the chute, super quiet ride. (Instructor) Randy did awesome, gave me the ride of my life.”
Wallace then tweeted video of the jump.
Talk about an entrance! Just your typical Thursday leading into the #DAYTONA500. Grateful for @USAFRecruiting, @RPMotorsports and @USAFWingsofBlue for knocking this off my bucket list!pic.twitter.com/LYGcfmZNIC
Senior U.S. Navy officials in December 2018 sought to reassure lawmakers that the service’s staggering backlog for ship and submarine maintenance is improving despite having 17 warships out of service in 2018.
Seeking to dispel what GAO Defense Capabilities And Management Team Director John Pendleton called “a wicked problem for the Navy” at a joint hearing of the Senate Armed Service Committee subcommittees on Seapower and Readiness and Management Support, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer and Adm. William Moran, vice chief of naval operations, said ships are going into drydock and getting out of shipyards, but more-utilized vessels, like aircraft carriers, take priority over submarines.
“It is the age old problem of what we talked about the last two years,” Moran said.
Pendleton told lawmakers that 2018 was “particularly challenging” for the Navy, with the equivalent of 17 ships and submarines not available because they were waiting to get into or out of maintenance.
“Since 2012, the Navy has lost more than 27,000 days of ship and submarine availability due to delays getting in and out of maintenance,” Pendleton said. “”Looking forward, I do see some cause for concern, because the dry docks are short about a third of the capacity that will be needed to conduct the planned maintenance that the Navy already has on the books.”
Vice Adm. William F. Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell)
Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, was visibly shocked when Navy officials told him that the USS Boise, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, has been out of service for four years and is still waiting to go into dry dock for maintenance.
“It’s not there yet?” Rounds asked in disbelief.
Spencer said that the Boise is scheduled to go in for maintenance in January 2019.
“It’s been four years out of service for an attack submarine,” Rounds said. “Do we have any other attack submarines that are currently at dock not able to dive awaiting dry dock services?”
Moran said two more attack submarines “are not certified to dive today. Both of those go into dry dock after the new year, one in February and I think the next one May or June 2019.”
The service also has turned to using private shipyards to perform maintenance on submarines to take the strain off public shipyards.
Despite these steps, Seapower Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, asked “Why did that happen?” following up on the revelation of the Boise’s delay.
Moran explained that attack submarines have to wait behind warships that have “been ridden very hard” and have a higher priority for maintenance than submarines.
“We have begun to put them into private yards … and get submarines that need to be in dry dock into dry dock sooner.”
Rounds was not satisfied.
USS Boise enters Souda Bay, Greece, during a scheduled port visit Dec. 23, 2014.
“It appears to me that even with the resources we have allocated so far, we are going in the wrong direction, it would appear, with regard to the fleet that we’ve got,” Rounds said. “If it’s a matter of resources, and if you are not here in a public testimony to tell us what the impacts are of not having the additional resources that are necessary to keep these critical pieces in the defense of our country operational, how in the world can we ever go to what we know we need in a 355 ship Navy and support them?”
Spencer answered by saying “I couldn’t agree with you more senator, but as a fine example, so everyone truly does understand the ups and downs of this, the monies that you gave us to optimize the shipyards — that’s a two-year project at the least to get that up and running to the new flow rate.”
Spencer than offered a recent study of one of the shipyards to further illustrate the problem.
“They tracked one of the maintenance people for his hands-on time; he drove a golf cart around the area for four miles one day in search of parts,” Spencer said. “We have to bring the parts down to the ship. This is what I am talking about — the science of industrial flow that needs to be put into these old ship yards. We are doing it. The monies that you have given us will get after that; it’s two years to affect that, but to kill it now … would be a crime.”
Moran added that the Navy has just “got back the shipyard workers in the public yards to the level we wanted after sequestration five years ago.”
“This is a unique, highly-skilled workforce in our nuclear yards, and if they don’t feel like they are supported, if we are not given them the adequate resources to do their job and have the manning levels where they need to be — they walk,” Moran said.
“They can go other places because they are highly skilled, and it takes a long time to recover that.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
HailCaesoo asks: What all happens when the queen of England dies?
Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over the UK and the Commonwealth for almost seven decades, but it turns out what happens when she sheds this mortal coil has been planned out in detail going all the way back to shortly after she ascended the throne in the 1950s, with the Queen herself planning some of the elements.
As you might imagine, the whole affair includes an amazing amount of pomp and circumstance, though this was not always the case, or at least not nearly to the extent we see today in various Royal ceremonies. For example, going back to the funeral of King George IV it is noted in the book Royalty Inc: Britain’s Best Known Brand,
Dozens of pickpockets arrived in Windsor and lifted watches and money from sightseers who had turned up to see if any celebrities were attending. The funeral itself, hurried through in St. George’s Chapel at nine o’clock in the evening, was largely undignified. The congregation crowded in, jostling for the best seats, and then chatted noisily among themselves. ‘We never saw so motley, so rude, so ill-managed a body of persons,’ The Time’s’ correspondent reported… At least the undertakers were not drunk, as they had been at the funeral of George’s daughter and heir, the Princess Charlotte who died in childbirth in 1817.
As for his successor, William IV’s, coronation,
William only reluctantly agreed to have a ceremonial coronation and the money spent on the occasion was less than a fifth of that expended on his brother’s behalf ten years earlier… Among the other changes to royal protocols, the new King opened the terraces at Windsor Castle and the nearby great park to the public access and reduced the fleet of royal yachts. All this, his lack of pomposity and his visceral dislike of foreigners, particularly the French, tended to endear him to the populace…. When William IV himself died in June 1837, there was also a private funeral at Windsor and, if not quite as undignified as George’s had been, it was a perfunctory affair.
The ultra elaborate more public ceremonies now associated with the monarchy wouldn’t begin in earnest until the late 19th century, in part because of public protest over not being included in many of these events. For example, there was significant backlash over the fact that the 1858 wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Friedrich Wilhelm had not been more public. As noted in a contemporary report by the Daily Telegraph at the time, the people lamented the “growing system of reserving the exclusive enjoyment of State ceremonials and spectacles for particular classes.”
In 1867, British journalist Walter Bagehot would postulate of all of this, “The more democratic we get, the more we shall get to like state and show, which have ever pleased the vulgar.”
That said, initial efforts to improve things were apparently somewhat lackluster. For example, the eventual Marquess of Salisbury, Lord Robert Cecil, after watching Queen Victoria open parliament in 1860, stated:
Some nations have a gift for ceremonial. No poverty of means of absence of splendour inhibits them from making any pageant in which they take part both real and impressive… In England the case is exactly the reverse. We can afford to be more splendid than most nations; but some malignant spell broods over all our most solemn ceremonials, and inserts into them some feature which makes them all ridiculous.
Nevertheless, by the time of Queen Victoria’s death things had started to improve somewhat, though this particular funeral ceremony too was almost made “ridiculous”. You see, while pulling the cart containing the queen’s coffin up a steep hill, a harness on one of the horses snapped, with the result being two of the other horses rearing back and bucking. The result of all of that, in turn, was the Queen’s coffin coming extremely close to being ejected from the carriage. Had it done so, it would have gone careening down the steep hill, possibly ejecting the Queen’s body at some point…
As for her successor, Edward VII, he would double down on improving public ceremonies, essentially turning every opportunity for pageantry into an elaborate affair and including the public as much as possible. Notably, upon his death in 1910, he had his body placed in a coffin at Westminster Hall with over 400,000 people reportedly coming to see it, helping to popularly bolster the old practice of certain members of the monarchy lying-in-state in the UK.
This all now brings us to the exact plan for what happens when Queen Elizabeth II dies. Code — named Operation London Bridge, meetings have been held a few times per year in the over six decades since the plan was originally created in order to tweak it as needed with the times, with the overarching plan going over every possible contingency the architects can think of.
Beyond logistical plans by the government, in more recent times, British news outlets have also had in place pre-planned obituaries, with some TV outlets rumored to occasionally rehearse the broadcasts they will give to announce the Queen’s death, right down to what they’ll wear.
If you’re wondering — a whole lot of black, including black ties for the men, extras of which are actually kept on hand at the BBC just in case needed on short notice. This reportedly became a thing after Peter Sissons of the BBC inadvisably wore a red tie when announcing the Queen Mother’s death. Certain members of the general public did not react kindly to this.
Moving back to the official side of things, to begin with, first, immediately upon her death the Queen’s private secretary, Edward Young, will send a coded message to the Prime Minister, with the message originally “London Bridge is down”. However, given the whole point here of using such a coded message is to help reduce the chance of premature leaks of the news of the Queen’s death, it’s possible the exact coded phrase has been changed since that one was discovered. (If you’re curious, when King George VI died, the code was “Hyde Park Corner” and for the death of the Queen Mother “Operation Tay Bridge” was used.)
George VI and British prime minister Clement Attlee (left), July 1945.
From there various entities, such as the media, will be officially notified and the Radio Alert Transmission System (RATS) will be activated announcing the death to the public. That said, it’s likely given social media is a thing that the news will leak much quicker that way to the wider public.
This all essentially kicks off a 12 day sequence of events, outlined in the plan as D-day (the day of the Queen’s death), D+1, D+2, etc. (Interestingly this is also exactly the reason the famed military operation now commonly known as D-Day is called such — just standing for “Designated day”, allowing for ease of coordinating a sequence of events when the actual start date is unknown, or in some cases where there is a desire for it to be kept as secret as possible.)
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing of all that will occur on D-day, beside the Queen’s death, is Prince Charles will assume the position of King, even though actually being sworn in as King will not take place until the following morning.
As for the coronation ceremony, this can potentially take many months to finally take place. For example, Queen Elizabeth II’s own coronation after the death of King George VI on February 6, 1952, did not take place until almost a year and a half later, on June 2, 1953. In this case, the decision to wait this lengthy period was made by Winston Churchill.
That said, there is some speculation that Charles’ coronation will be relatively swift in comparison in order to forestall any momentum building in public sentiment that may push for an abolishment of the monarchy, especially given the relatively lesser popularity of Prince Charles compared to the almost universally loved Queen he is replacing. To help further forestall such from happening, steps have been actively taken in recent years to try to bolster Charles’ profile among his subjects.
It should also be noted here that Prince Charles may choose to not become known as “King Charles III”, as he is free to choose any of the names from his full name of Charles Philip Arthur George. From this, there is some speculation that he may wish to honor his grandfather King George by taking the name King George VII or he may go with King Philip after his own father.
In any event, after Charles takes the oath the day after the Queen’s death, Parliament will be called to session that same day (the evening following King Charles’ oath) to swear allegiance to him. Likewise, police and military forces under his rule will also be called wherever they are to swear their allegiance to their new King.
Also on that evening, the new King will address the nation for the first time in that role. In her own such broadcast, Queen Elizabeth, among other things, swore “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
This is a good thing as we’ve previously noted the monarch of the UK is for all intents and purposes above the law in virtually every nation in the world, not just their own. On top of that, from a legal standpoint, their power in their own little empire is almost absolute for a variety of reasons, though of course, Queen Elizabeth II at least has very rarely used any of this authority.
Queen Elizabeth II waving to crowds.
But given this, as you might expect it’s quite important that the person made monarch in Britain is mentally stable and trustworthy as it would take a literal revolution or rebellion to take such powers away from that person from a legal standpoint, assuming said British monarch did not wish to have those powers taken. This would also place the military, police, Parliament and others in the awkward position of having to very publicly break their sworn oaths to said monarch to take their powers away against their will.
Going back to the Queen, what exactly happens to her body directly after her death will depend on where she is at the time, with Operation London Bridge attempting to plan for any contingencies. For example, should she die in her frequent summer home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland a special Scottish ceremony is planned before her body will be sent back to London. In this case, along with appropriate preservation being done, her body will be placed in Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh for a short time, and then her coffin carried to St. Giles’s Cathedral where a service will be held.
After this, the coffin will be put aboard the Royal Train at Edinburgh Waverley railway station and then will make its way down to London where it will be ultimately placed in Buckingham Palace. Given mourners will likely throw flowers and other things at the train as it passes, plans are in place to have another train follow behind shortly thereafter to clear the tracks as needed before the tracks are put back in general use.
On the other hand, should she die abroad, a jet from the No. 32 Royal Squadron will be dispatched with the Queen’s coffin to collect her body. (And if you’re wondering, yes, such a coffin is already made and waiting in case of a Royal’s death — called the “first call coffin”, kept by the Leverton Sons royal undertakers for when it’s needed.)
Wherever it’s coming from, the Queen’s body will, as alluded to, make its way to the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace and be held there for at time. Four days after her death, her coffin will be placed in Westminster Hall, available for public viewing almost 24 hours a day for four days.
Given approximately 200,000 people went to view the Queen Mother’s coffin in 2002, it’s expected the number going to view Queen Elizabeth’s coffin will be vastly more than this.
The Queen Mother’s funeral carriage.
Finally, the night before the funeral takes place, special church services will be held across the UK to commemorate the death of the head of the Church of England. The funeral will then take place the following day, with said day being deemed a national holiday.
On that day, the coffin will be carried from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey where approximately 2,000 guests will be invited into the Abbey to witness the funeral directly, with the service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. After that ceremony is over, the the Queen will likely be laid to rest in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Finally, at some yet undetermined point after the mourning period, the coronation of the new King will take place, which will also be a national holiday.
As for other logistics, with the change to the new King, various official things like certain physical money, stamps, etc. will switch from Queen Elizabeth’s visage to the King’s, and an awful lot of official documents and the like that formerly said “her” and “Queen” will be switched to “him” and “King”, such as the national anthem having the words slightly altered to “God Save the King”.
Along with being the only person in the UK to not need a passport when traveling abroad, the Queen similarly doesn’t need a driver’s license to drive either. This is because, like passports, driver’s licenses are issued in her name. So she’s allowed to simply vouch for her own driving ability in person should she ever be pulled over.
Now, you’d think given her status and wealth, the Queen would never drive anyway, but you’d be wrong, though she did a few months back voluntarily cease driving on public roads at the urging of her security team who worried about the elderly Queen’s safety in driving on public roads at her age. But before that, it turns out the Queen loved driving and cars. In fact, during WW2 the Queen (then a princess) badgered her father to let her do her part for her country and subsequently ended up serving as a mechanic and driver with the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service at the tender age of 18. (She’d actually registered to serve at age 16 but King George wouldn’t allow it).
The Queen took her position incredibly seriously, becoming, by all accounts, a competent mechanic and driver, trained to fix and drive a host of military and suburban vehicles.
Fast-forwarding a bit through history, a humourous story about the Queen’s driving prowess comes from 1998 when she was visited at her estate in Balmoral, Scotland by the then Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The story was later revealed to the world by one-time Saudi ambassador Sherard Cowper-Cole.
Knowing Abdullah’s stance on the rights of women and the fact that women are essentially banned from driving in Saudi Arabia (there’s technically no law that says women can’t drive, but licenses are only issued to men), the Queen, demonstrating quintessential British passive aggressiveness, offered the Prince a tour of her palace grounds.
Dutifully, the Prince agreed and the pair headed outside where a large Land Rover bearing the Royal insignia was parked. After waiting for the Prince to climb into the passenger seat where he no doubt assumed a chauffeur would drive the pair around, the Queen then nonchalantly climbed into the driver’s seat and proceeded to drive the car, much to the Prince’s astonishment. According to ambassador Sherard, the Prince was extremely nervous about this arrangement from the start.
Things didn’t get better for him.
The then 72 year old Queen, knowing that Abdullah had never been driven by a woman before and no doubt observing his anxiety, decided to mess with him by purposely driving as fast as possible on “the narrow Scottish estate roads”.
As she sped along at break-neck speeds, the Crown Prince screamed at the Queen through his interpreter to slow down and pay closer attention to her driving. The Queen, ignoring his admonishments completely, continued pleasantly chatting away as if she wasn’t doing her best Fast and the Furious impression. We can only imagine Abdullah’s reaction if the Queen had mentioned to him that she never got her driver’s license…
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.