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6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

After spending two to three months in boot camp, young troops who are looking to serve in the infantry must move onto additional grunt training at other various grounds.


Once they graduate from that, some head off to their first units, where they’ll encounter some interesting personalities.

Some of these exciting personalities exist in the diverse troops who carry the “big guns” — aka, the machine-gunners.

Related: 6 types of enlisted ‘docs’ you’ll meet at sick call

1. The “Marksman”

An infantryman works and trains hard to one day deploy their weapon system and score an accurate kill shot. For machine-gunners, scoring a precise kill from a distance is highly unlikely.

This isn’t because the shooter is incapable; that weapon system wasn’t designed to nail an enemy combatant square between the eyes but, rather, to take their head clean off.

However, some gunners still strive to make that perfect shot with their heavy-ass weapon.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry
Lance Cpl. Eric Lewis (left) shouts out commands to machine gunners during a platoon-size live fire range as part of Exercise Desert Scimitar 2014 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Luis A. Vega)

2. The “Napoleon”

This one refers to the French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, because of his height. This gunner gets looked at differently because of the contrast between their smaller body and the massive size of the M240 they’re holding.

However, they always manage to carry it and fire the weapon like a seasoned pro.

3. The “Screamer”

Machine-gunners are trained to whisper the words “die motherf*cker, die” while firing their weapon. In the time it takes to finish saying the words to themselves, they’ve shot roughly between four to six rounds. The “screamer” chooses to shout that sh*t out loud.

This repeated mantra is designed to prevent the gunner from overheating their barrel and causes them regularly adjust their fire for more accuracy.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry
U.S. Marine machine gunners provide cover during a live-fire and maneuver exercise as part of sustainment training at D’Arta Plage, Djibouti. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus)

4. The “Barrel-burner”

As previously stated, machine-gunners are trained to only discharge four to six rounds at a time to avoid overheating their barrels. The “barrel-burner” tends to forget the shooting cycle and fires more than intended — which can cause the barrel to warp.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry
Army infantrymen change barrels on an M240 Bravo machine gun during a live-fire exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jordan Anderson)

5. The “Freeloader”

This gunner tends to ask other members of his squad to carry his extra ammo so that they can haul more Rip-Its. What’s hilarious about this type of gunner is the nice way they go about asking you.

It makes you feel good about yourself for helping out a brother.

Also Read: 5 of the sneakiest ways people try to fool the front gate MPs

6.  The “Animal Mother”

If you’ve ever served in the infantry, you probably had one or two “Animal Mothers” in your company. Just like in the movie, Full Metal Jacket, he’s the trigger-happy badass who is more than thrilled to shoot into an enemy compound and then ask questions later.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why artillerymen should bring back their distinctive ‘Redlegs’

Every combat arms branch within the United States Army comes with a long legacy. And with that legacy comes an accompanying piece of flair for their respective dress uniforms. Infantrymen rock a baby blue fourragere on their right shoulder, cavalrymen still wear their spurs and stetsons, and even Army aviators sport their very own badges in accordance with their position in the unit.

But long before the blue cords and spurs, another combat arms branch had their own unique uniform accouterment — one that has since been lost to time. Artillerymen once had scarlet red piping that ran down the side of their pant legs. In fact, these stripes were once so iconic that it gave rise to a nickname for artillerymen: “redlegs.

Due to wartime restrictions, artillerymen stopped wearing the red piping during WWI — and it never made a comeback.


6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

If you ask any young artilleryman at Fort Sill why they’re called “redlegs,” they’ll probably just look at you funny.

(Department of Defense photo by Margo Wright)

This fact is especially tragic because artillerymen wearing red stripes is one of the oldest military traditions of its kind. The blue cord of the infantry can only be traced as far back as the Korean War and cavalry’s stetson wasn’t invented until 1865. Meanwhile, artillerymen were rocking that red piping as far back as the 1830s.

During the 1800s, the role of the artilleryman was much more complex than most other roles in the Army at the time. Not just any bum off the street could walk into a job that required precise calculations to load the proper amount of gunpowder and fire the cannon at the perfect angle to hit the intended target.

While cannons were way too massive to carry into many fights, seeing the arrival of artillerymen meant that the U.S. Army meant business. Just seeing that red piping as artillerymen arrived on the scene during the Civil War was enough to inspire friendly troops and strike fear into enemies. The role of the artillerymen was crucial in the battles of Buena Vista, Bull Run, Palo Alto, and San Juan Hill.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

I guess the only real debate here is if you give it to ADA as well or exclusively to field artillery.

Today, the role of the artilleryman has been reduced greatly. It’s not uncommon for artillerymen who were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq to have more stories about their time on dismounted foot patrols with the infantrymen than ones about removing grid squares from the face of the Earth — after all, counter insurgency mostly forbids that level of wanton destruction.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still many artilleryman who’ve conducted fire missions into actual combat, but that number grows smaller and smaller with each passing year.

As field artillery units grow less common, their heritage is put at risk. At the same time, it seems as though the Army is increasingly leaning onto its historic roots for uniform ideas — as seen with the reintroduction of Army Greens.

Bringing back the distinctive red piping for artillerymen’s dress blues wouldn’t be that drastic of a change — or even that expensive — but it would be fitting. Dress blues are meant to honor the legacy of the soldiers of the American Revolution and Union Armies. What better way to do that than with an homage to the classic?

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s what happens to your body when you start to PT regularly

Many of us who join the military were once considered “couch potatoes” when compared to the amount of daily activity we do while in the service. We may be a little out of shape in the beginning, but once we start a new physical regimen, something incredible happens to our bodies biologically.

When we put our bodies through physical exertion, we start to feel pretty awesome due to an increased heart rate, which pushes extra blood and fresh oxygen into our brains. This floods our brains with those amazing endorphins — which everybody loves.


However, the next day, your body typically enters into a phase called “delayed-onset muscle soreness,” during which you’re probably not so happy anymore.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FBFEXKvGyBx43K.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=97&h=33eb88a3a25bca964ac5b667d181f95a5d99df081edae367c902def87450179d&size=980x&c=2417358301 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”It must have been leg day… yesterday.” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FBFEXKvGyBx43K.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D97%26h%3D33eb88a3a25bca964ac5b667d181f95a5d99df081edae367c902def87450179d%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2417358301%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]

This soreness typical lasts for around 72 hours as your body rebuilds itself. The good news is that, as you continue to regularly work out, you’re less likely to experience a severe rebuilding process. So, start getting your bodies used to the process sooner rather than later.

Over the course of a few weeks, your body will produce mitochondria that convert carbs, fats, and proteins into fuel. Once you start getting into a regular workout routine, you can increase mitochondria production by nearly 50 percent.

That’s a sh*t ton!

With the increase in mitochondria production, your endurance increases and the exercises that you thought were tough three weeks ago may not feel so difficult anymore.

Exercising will also enhance your bone density, which directly lowers your risk of osteoporosis.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry
The disorder can be painful.
(ePainAssist.com)

Other physical health benefits include lowering your chances of developing arthritis, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and various types of cancer. Many exercise fans have also noticed a decrease in mental depression as workouts tend to reduce the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol.

A perfect way to boost morale.

On the flip side, starting a workout routine is just one piece of a larger battle. Service members and veterans need to focus on maintaining a healthy diet to supply proper nutrition to the body. Eating a whole chocolate cake after a workout might feel awesome as you take the first bite, but chow down for too long and you’ll start to feel sick.

Plus, you just wasted a solid workout.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry
Talk about a hardcore meal-prep session.
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes)

However, we understand the occasional cheat meal — we all do it.

Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to get the complete, animated breakdown of how awesome your body is at adapting once you start working out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why the military gives male recruits a buzz cut

In 1994, a judge ruled the first woman ever admitted to The Citadel, a Charleston, S.C.-based military academy, should not be exempt from getting the same “induction cut” given to all male recruits. For decades, U.S. military recruits have had their locks shorn in the first weeks of training, given what is otherwise known as “The Army’s Finest.”


While the Citadel’s first female cadet would not end up buzzed like her male classmates, male recruits and cadets have been going through the rite of passage since George Washington established the Continental Army. Even then, he required men serving in the American ranks wear short hair or braided up. He could also wear his hair powdered, which he would do with flour and animal fat. If he did, it would be tied in a pigtail.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

There are actually worse cuts out there, you know.

The cleanliness desired by General Washington endured through the early years of the United States. Shaving was enforced up until the Civil War, when men were allowed to sport neat, trim mustaches and beards. By then, it was apparent that the hair regs of yesteryear were gone.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Now that’s just absurd.

The shearing of young men began in earnest during the heavy recruitment of troops in World War II. The Army’s official reason was “field sanitation” – meaning it wanted to control the spread of hair and body lice. it had the double effect of standardizing new U.S. troops, creating a singular look to remind the men that they were in the Army now – and that the Army had standards. Like most everything else in a military training environment, the haircut was a boon to individual and unit discipline.

Ever since, the services have tried at various times to recognize the evolution of popular hairstyles for American troops while trying to maintain discipline and grooming standards among them. Women, while not forced to partake in the introductory military hairstyle, have maintained clean, often short hairstyles. Their hairstyles are always expected to be just as well-kept and disciplined as their male counterparts. They still get a visit to the basic training Supercuts – the result is just not as drastic.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

He’s ready.

It doesn’t matter if they’re coming into the military as an officer or as enlisted, if they’re Guard or Reserve, if they’re going to a service academy or ROTC, all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines get a solid shearing to christen their new way of life.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Hollywood star’s secret radio invention changed war forever

Glamour, grace, and poise was everything that Hedy Lamarr portrayed when she walked into a room and in film. However, it turns out, Lamarr was not just a pretty face.

She was an avid inventor who created one of the most groundbreaking patents dealing with high-frequency technology that changed the way we fight wars today.


6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Hedy Lamarr, above, was one of the most glamorous faces of MGM’s golden era.

(CBS News)

Everyone knows Hedy Lamarr as one of the most famous starlets of the 1930s who took Hollywood by storm when she appeared in numerous films. The public just couldn’t get enough of her beauty and ate up whatever she had to sell. Hedy was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1913, in Vienna, Austria. She immigrated to the U.S. during WWII after she was discovered by an Austrian film director.

A patriot to the core, she made it her duty to visit USOs and help in the war efforts as much as she could. Mostly, this consisted of using her status as a movie star to sell war bonds. She began to think beyond the scope of Hollywood and wanted to be more impactful with her actions.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

The original patent that Hedy Lamarr created with George Anheil in 1941.

Already an inventor at heart, with countless inventions set to the wayside, she started to think of how the military could communicate with one another without the enemy obstructing messages or intercepting intel. Lamarr wanted to bring her latest idea to fruition and shared them with a fellow patron of the arts.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Hedy Lamarr and George Anthiel came together to streamline the patenting of a secret communication messaging system.

She enlisted the help of George Anthiel, an Avante-Garde composer, and they constructed a patent for a secret communication system based on manipulating radio frequency intervals between transmission and reception. What was created was an unbreakable code that helped keep classified messages concealed. Ultimately, ‘spread spectrum’ technology was born of this patent and was first used during the Cuban Missile Crisis on Navy ships.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Hedy Lamarr finally gets her story told in the film Bombshell, where her passion for inventing is revealed.

(Vanity Fair)

Unfortunately, it took years for Lamarr to get recognition for her invention, and she is often just shrugged off as a pretty face of a bygone era. She was finally honored in 1997, along with Antheil, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. In the same year, she was the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, given to those that impact society through their inventions. Lamarr and Antheil were also inducted into the Inventors Hall of fame in 2014.

What’s even more impressive is that Lamar’s patent was the blueprint of all wireless communications we have today. Yes, that includes technology that is used in cell phones, GPS systems, Bluetooth, and WiFi. All of these technologies have especially benefited the military and our war-fighting capabilities. Lamarr’s ideas live on and continue to benefit not only the military, but society at large.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why classic planes stay around so long in Latin America

If you’ve been on the internet, you probably at some point have seen pitches for retirement in Latin America. Believe it or not, those advertisements probably would have been just as applicable to many classic war planes in addition to people.

The P-51 Mustang, for instance, was in front-line service with the Dominican Republic almost four decades after it took control of the skies from Nazi Germany and Japan. The North American F-86F Saber was defending the skies over Bolivia until 1993 – 40 years after the end of the Korean War where it made a name for itself. The F-5A that first flew in 1959 stayed in service with Venezuela well after 2000.


6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Argentina called F-86 Sabers back into service during the Falklands War.

(Photo by Aeroprints.com)

In some ways, it shouldn’t be a surprise. But why did Latin America become a way for some classic planes to avoid the scrapyard or become a target drone?

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Five decades after it first flew, the F-5A was still serving with Venezuela.

(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

Well, drug cartel violence aside, there isn’t a lot of risk for a major conflict in Latin America. The last major war involving a Latin American country was the Falklands War in 1982. Before that, there was the Soccer War. The drug cartels and guerrilla movements haven’t been able to get their own air forces.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Mustangs had their best days in the 1940s, but they were all the Dominican Republic could afford to operate through the 1980s.

(Photo by Chipo)

In short, most of those countries have no need for the latest and greatest fighters, which are not only expensive to buy but also expensive to operate. Here’s the sad truth about those countries: Their economic situation doesn’t exactly allow for them to really buy the latest planes. Older, simpler classics have been the way to go, until they get replaced by other classics.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Today, four decades after blasting commies in Vietnam, the A-37 is still going strong in Latin America.

(Photo by Chris Lofting)

Today, Latin America is a place where the A-37 Dragonfly, best known for its service in Vietnam, is still going strong. Other classics, like the F-5 Tiger, are also sticking around in small numbers. In short, these planes will protect Central and South America for a long time — even after their glory days.

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 photos show why Coast Guard snipers are some of the best

Once the Coast Guard has a suspect vessel in its sights on the high seas, there’s usually nowhere for it to go, but getting it to stop isn’t always easy.

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter James returned to Florida in November 2018 with nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized by it and other Coast Guard ships in the Pacific. Stacked on some of the bales of cocaine were clear signs of the Coast Guard’s precision.

“So what you see here are some engine cowlings,” said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, referring to the half-dozen plastic covers perched on bales of seized drugs like trophies.

“We pair up the capabilities of the ship, the sensors of the ship, with our helicopter detachment that’s back there,” he said, referring to the helicopter parked behind the crew on the James‘ aft deck.

“That helicopter has what we call an aerial-use-of-force capability. So we can shoot from the aircraft with precision marksman fire, and we direct it at the engines of the vessel to stop the vessels when they fail to heave to.”


6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains over the St. Johns River on Sept. 22, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Paulo Cheng, a maritime enforcement specialist and student of the Precision Marksmanship School, shoots at known distance targets with an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during the Precision Marksmanship Course at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center in Maysville, July 26, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lubchenko)

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Pitrelli and Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Purcell at Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, February 16, 2016. Pitrelli and Purcell are the first active-duty Coast Guardsmen in history to graduate from Army Sniper school.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We conduct training on the flat range weekly, do various range and yard lines, concentrating mostly on snaps and movers,” a Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team member told Military.com, referring to targets that appear suddenly and change position. “Because that’s where your bread and butter is. I mean, shooting moving targets is it.”

“The relationship between the shooter and the spotter is extremely important. The spotter’s job is probably the hardest He’s evaluating the factors with the wind,” the MRST member said. “The spotters responsibility is to actually see what the wind is doing and give the shooter the correct information so that he can make that accurate shot.”

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Pitrelli and Purcell participate in training during Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(US Army photo)

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, Feb. 23, 2010.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash)

Coast Guard marksmen have also shown their prowess in head-to-head competition. In 2017 and 2018, Coast Guard teams finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the International Sniper Competition hosted by the US Army. In both those years, the Coast Guardsmen beat out the Marines, who finished 7th in 2017 and 10th in 2018.

The 2017 and 2018 results have brought derision for Marine snipers and praise for Coast Guard marksmen.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

A gunner in an MH-68 Stingray helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron from Jacksonville, Florida, patrols a drug transit zone alongside the Coast Guard cutter Gallatin from Charleston, S.C.

(Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

A Coast Guard aerial marksman from Air Station San Francisco sights in on a target during counter-terrorism training, in San Pablo Bay, California, June 11, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo)

On shared waterways of ports and rivers, the Coast Guard has to determine who is just a boater and who has malicious intent. “We have a continuum, what we call a use-of-force continuum,” Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard sector New York, told Business Insider in October 2018. “The last thing we want to do is, certainly, use deadly force, but we’re prepared to do that if we have to.”

Coast Guard marksmen are often armed with Robar RC-50 anti-material rifles, which are designed to take out machinery and are also used by US Special Operations Command.

Coast Guard helicopters and surface vessels, like the 45-foot small boats used in the use-of-force demonstration in New York Harbor in October 2018, can be armed with mounted M240 machine guns.

“Our first move, we’ll move out to intercept them, try to determine their intent and get the vessel to stop, using lights and sirens just like you would on any street in America,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during a use-of-force demonstration in October 2018. “If radio call-outs and communications doesn’t work, the next step will be to deploy the warning shots. … If they still don’t comply, then we escalate the steps to disable their engines.”

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams, or MSSTs, and Maritime Safety and Response Teams, or MSRTs, were set up after the September 11 to respond to terrorism and other threats to US ports and waterways.

There are now 11 MSST teams whose assignments include security for UN General Assemblies, national political conventions, hurricane-response efforts, and major sporting events.

MSRTs are a ready-alert force for the Coast Guard and Defense Department combatant commanders for both short-notice operations and planned security needs. MSRTs provide subject-matter expertise for security, training, and disaster-response events and recent operations include presidential inaugurations and NATO summits.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air on Feb. 25, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville demonstrates warning shots fired at a non-compliant boat off the coast of Jacksonville, Sept. 24, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The world’s longest flight is moving one step closer to reality

Australian airline Qantas is taking the next steps towards its goal of having nonstop 19-hour flights between Sydney and London and New York.

The airline has openly discussed the endevour — internally known as “Project Sunrise” — for several years, following the successful launch of a slightly shorter, but still lengthy, nonstop flight between Perth and London in March 2018.

That route is measured as about 9,000 miles and takes around 17 hours, while the Sydney-New York route would be around 10,000 miles, and the Sydney-London flight is about 500 miles longer.


Qantas is scheduled to receive three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft this fall — one each in October, November, and December 2019. The planes are being built at Boeing’s Seattle plant, and would normally be flown by Qantas pilots straight to Australia from there.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(Photo by Suhyeon Choi)

Instead, the airline plans to fly the planes to New York and London first, and then fly nonstop to Sydney from there.

The planes won’t have paying customers — instead, they’ll each have about 40 people on board — including crew — most of whom will be Qantas employees. the airline says it plans to study how those on board react to the lengthy 19-hour flights.

According to the airline, “[s]cientists and medical experts from the Charles Perkins Centre will monitor sleep patterns, food and beverage consumption, lighting, physical movement, and inflight entertainment to assess impact on health, wellbeing and body clock.”

Commercial flights with full or mostly-full passenger loads are not currently possible due to the range of the airplanes available today. Keeping the planes mostly empty will increase their range, making the test flights possible. A normal Qantas 787-9 can seat up to 236 passengers, plus crew, and carry both luggage and cargo, while still achieving a range of about 9,000 miles — the length of the Perth-London flight.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(Photo by John Kappa)

The airline is considering new ultra-long-range aircraft from Boeing and Airbus for the eventual New York and London to Sydney flights — Airbus’ rumored A350-1000ULR airplane, and Boeing 777X project, both of which are still being tested. Qantas has previously said it would make a decision around the end of 2019.

The world’s current longest flight— from Singapore to New York’s Newark Airport — is operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR configured with only business class and premium economy seats— no regular economy cabin.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy battleships pulled off the biggest military deception of Desert Storm

The Desert Storm portion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War lasted only 100 hours, not only because the combined land forces of the Coalition gathered against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was overwhelming and talented – it was – but it was also the contribution of two of the U.S. Navy’s biggest floating guns that drew a significant portion of Saddam’s army off the battlefield.


Shelling from the 16-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin made it all possible, playing a crucial role in a conflict that would end up being their last hurrah.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Here comes the boom.

Everyone knew a ground assault on Iraqi-occupied Kuwait was coming and had been for months. The only question for the Iraqis was where it would come from. Iraqi forces had been on the receiving end of a Noah’s Ark-like deluge of bombs and missiles for the past 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq believed the Coalition would make an amphibious landing near Kuwait’s Faylaka Island, when in reality the invasion was actually going into both Iraq and Kuwait, coming from Saudi Arabia.

If the Coalition could make the Iraqis believe an amphibious invasion was coming, however, it would pull essential Iraqi fighting units away from the actual invasion and toward the Persian Gulf. It was the ultimate military rope-a-dope.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Here’s what really happened.

The best way to make Saddam believe the Marines were landing was to soften up the supposed landing zone with a naval barrage that would make D-Day look like the 4th of July. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin were called up to continuously bombard the alleged landing beaches – and they sure made a spectacle of it. The Iraqi troops were supposedly shocked and demoralized, surrendering to the battleships’ reconnaissance drones as they buzzed overhead, looking for more targets.

It was the first time anyone surrendered to a drone. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of another Iowa-class barrage. But the Marine landing never came. Instead, the Iraqis got a massive left hook that knocked them out of the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women in the military: Paving the way and shooting for the stars… literally

There are few things I love more than seeing badass women breaking barriers and proving to the world that powerful women are a force to be reckoned with. Women in the military have fought long and hard for equality, respect and recognition. While I feel like I could spend months researching and compiling lists of all of the amazing women who have served our country, I decided to start with these four, who proved that nothing is impossible.


6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Olivia G. Ortiz/Released)

Maj. Katie Higgins Cook

Like many service members, Maj. Cook’s calling to the military was a family affair. A third generation pilot, Cook has followed in the footsteps of both of her grandfathers, who served in both the U.S. Army Air Corps as well as the Air Force, and her father, who had a 26 year long career in the Navy. In an interview in Risen Magazine, she said of her paternal grandfather:

“He instilled in us this idea, because his parents were immigrants to this country from Sweden. The American dream in this country gave us all these opportunities and we needed to give back.”

Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2008, she made the choice to go into the Marine Corps, after spending time training with Marines in Quantico, Virginia.

During her time in the Marine Corps, she was one of the few female pilots to fly combat missions during her deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. After that, she spent time on assignment in Uganda, and had already accrued over 400 combat flight hours. It was during her time in Africa that she was approached by a Blue Angel pilot, who encouraged her to apply for the coveted flight demonstration team. Following an extensive interview process, Maj. Cook was officially the first female Blue Angel, and became the pilot of the Lockheed C–130 Hercules named “Fat Albert.”

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(US Navy photo)

While Maj. Cook takes pride in her contribution to history, she stands firm on the fact that she was chosen due to her ability to perform, not because of her gender. She is also quick to remind those who praise her of all of the women who came before her, who paved the way for her and fellow female service members. Becoming a role model for young girls is something she takes great pride in, and she highlights the importance of hard work and dedication. She has garnered a respectable social media following, and has coined the hashtag “#flylikeagirl” — in order to encourage young girls to dream big.

When asked about the phrase, Cook explained, “The hashtag ‘fly like a girl’ is empowering. It’s positive. And being able to fly to the caliber of a female pilot is something to strive for. To me, it shows that the cockpit is a great equalizer. Both men and women can do equally awesome jobs, and in the end, there is no distinction between genders when it comes to performance. All of us are pilots with the same goal: get as many landings as take-offs.”
6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released)

Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody

Gen. Dunwoody has had a career full of firsts. While the one that sticks out the most in recent memory is her becoming the first woman to reach the rank of four-star general in the history of the U.S. military, this wasn’t the first time Dunwoody had helped pave the way.

Another service member coming from military lineage, Dunwoody’s father was a decorated Army Veteran, and much of her life was spent moving from base to base. Her own career in the Army began in the mid-70’s, and after receiving a two-year commission as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill, she fell into the groove of military life and ultimately decided to dedicate the next few decades to serving. By 1992, she had become the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division, and in 2000, was named the first female general at Fort Bragg. Throughout her career she was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen)

After over 30 years of service, Dunwoody made history in 2008 with her promotion to four-star general.

When speaking on her promotion, Dunwoody said “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer, but it’s important that we remember the generations of women, whose dedication, commitment and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”

Following her retirement in 2012, she went on to co-write and publish a book on leadership, called A Higher Standard: Leadership Strategies from America’s First Female Four-Star General.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Pankau)

Admiral Michelle Howard

Prior to beginning her own career in the military, Michelle Howard already knew the road would not be easy. Joining the service was something Howard thought about often, even as a child. Her father, an Air Force master sergeant, was largely what influenced her to embark on her own journey in the service.

Luckily for Howard, just two years prior to her being old enough to enlist, President Ford signed the Military Procurement Bill which, beginning in 1976, allowed for the admission of women into military academies. Howard was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1978 and was one of only seven black women in her class of over 1,300. It was during her sophomore year that she first piloted a ship, and soon went on to distinguish herself as a bold and respected leader. After taking command of the USS Rushmore in 1999, Howard became the first Black woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Kristopher Wilson/Released)

Remember the 2013 movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks? Howard played a huge part in the real life story. She had taken the position of commander of an anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden just three days before Captain Richard Phillips was kidnapped by Somali pirates. The movie doesn’t do justice to the real world nuances and complexities of Howard’s involvement. In an interview she shared that:

“The pirates were using the fuel in the life raft to steer toward shore–and it was obvious that if they got to shore with Captain Phillips, we were probably not going to get him back.”

She was integral in the four days of hostage negotiations that led to the successful rescue.

It was in 2014 that Howard made history again, when she was promoted to the rank of four-star admiral, the first woman in the Navy to do so. That same day she was also appointed as the 38th vice-chief of naval operations, which made her the second highest ranking officer in the Navy. As if that wasn’t already impressive enough, two years later she went on to become commander of naval forces in both Europe and Africa. She concluded her career as the Commander of Allied Joint Force Naples. Following her retirement in late 2017, she went on to teach cybersecurity and international policy at George Washington University.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(USAF Photo)

Lieutenant General Nina Armagno

The end of 2019 brought the announcement of the inception of the United States Space Force. Aside from appealing to virtually every sci-fi fan in the country, the Space Force also started to assemble its ranks soon after it was officially unveiled. Among them was Major General Nina Armagno. Prior to her being promoted to Lieutenant General upon her transfer in the Space Force, Armagno had just over 30 years of experience in the Air Force as well as space systems operations, specifically.

Graduating from the USAF Academy in 1988, Armagno has gone on to have an impressively full military career, as well as picking up three degrees and numerous certifications along the way (including a Bachelors in Biology and two Masters degrees, in both Education Administration and National Securities Studies). She was also the only Air Force officer to command both East and West U.S. space launch facilities. Along with the completion of over 20 assignments and almost a dozen awards and decorations, she is also the recipient of the 2010 Women of Influence Award as well as the 2014 Gen. Jerome F. O’Malley Distinguished Space Leadership Award.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

Upon her commission in the Space Force, Armagno was promoted to three star general on August 17th, 2020. She will be serving as staff director, and overseeing Space Force headquarters daily operations. Not only does this make her the Space Forces first female general officer, she’ll also be playing an integral role during the earliest years of the history making organization. In a statement, Armagno remarked, “We’re going to be agile, we’re going to be nimble, and we’re going to bring the best of everything into the Space Force”.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MUSIC

5 facts about the iconic US Army song

The United States Army was founded on June 14, 1775, making it the oldest branch of the military. Our soldiers have a damn proud heritage of defending our right to freedom and we are lucky to have them. You might not be familiar with the lyrics of their official song, but you definitely know the tune.


Here are a few more things you might not know about it:

1. It was written by a West Point graduate in 1908

First Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Edmund Louis “Snitz” Gruber (that’s a mouthful) wrote what was originally called “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” during a particularly challenging march while stationed in the Philippines. A caisson was a wheeled cart used by the Army to carry ammunition and supplies.

Gruber overheard one of his section chiefs shout to the drivers, “Come on! Keep ’em rolling!” Inspiration struck.

2. That West Point grad had music in his blood

“Snitz” was the second Gruber in the family to compose a famous, belovéd, and enduring song; one of his ancestors was Franz Gruber, who gave us all “Silent Night.”

3. It became a popular march before it became the official U.S. Army song

In 1917, John Philip Sousa transformed the song into a march and renamed it “The Field Artillery Song”

Yep. I’d march to that.

4. It took a minute for the U.S. Army to adopt it as an official song

After nationwide contests in 1948 and 1952 failed to uncover an appropriate song, Army leadership was polled and the overwhelming majority voted for “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” — but only after new lyrics were written. About 140 sets of lyrics were submitted, and finally phrases by Dr. H. W. Arberg were selected by a committee.

In 1956, it was renamed “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and adopted as the official U.S. Army song.

5. It is played first when performed as part of a medley of service songs

Per Department of Defense guidance, the order of performance for service songs is:

Army: “The Army Goes Rolling Along”

Marine Corps: “The Marine’s Hymn”

Navy: “Anchors Aweigh”

Air Force: “U.S. Air Force Song”

Coast Guard: “Semper Paratus”

It is authorized to play the songs in reverse, featuring “The Army Goes Rolling Along” as the finale, but on the condition that the relative order of songs must be maintained.

(P.S. I dare you to tell me this medley doesn’t make your heart burst with patriotic pride. Watching veterans stand for their service kills me every time.)

Here are the official lyrics to the U.S. Army song:

“The Army Goes Rolling Along”

Intro: March along, sing our song, with the Army of the free

Count the brave, count the true, who have fought to victory

We’re the Army and proud of our name

We’re the Army and proudly proclaim

Verse: First to fight for the right,

And to build the Nation’s might,

And The Army Goes Rolling Along

Proud of all we have done,

Fighting till the battle’s won,

And the Army Goes Rolling Along.

Refrain: Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!

The Army’s on its way.

Count off the cadence loud and strong (TWO! THREE!)

For where e’er we go,

You will always know

That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Verse: Valley Forge, Custer’s ranks,

San Juan Hill and Patton’s tanks,

And the Army went rolling along

Minute men, from the start,

Always fighting from the heart,

And the Army keeps rolling along.

(refrain)

Verse: Men in rags, men who froze,

Still that Army met its foes,

And the Army went rolling along.

Faith in God, then we’re right,

And we’ll fight with all our might,

As the Army keeps rolling along.

(refrain)

MIGHTY HISTORY

11 facts you should have learned about World War I

On this day in history, WWI began. Here’s everything you were always supposed to know about the Great War but may have never learned.


1. The first World War was a global war centered in Europe that began on July 28, 1914, and ended on November 11, 1918. The war lasted four years, three months and 14 days.

2. Before WWII, WWI was called the Great War, the World War and the War to End All Wars. During the four years of conflict, 135 countries participated in the conflict. More than 15 million people died.

3. WWI involved some of the most significant powers of the world at that time. Two opposing alliances – the Allies and the Central Powers – were at odds with one another. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his pregnant wife Sophie triggered the start of the war. Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the throne of Austria and Hungary.

4. A Serbian terrorist group, the Black Hand, planned the assassination. The man who shot Ferdinand and his wife, Gavrilo Princip, was a Bosnian revolutionary.

5. Though the assassination triggered the start of WWI, several causes factored into the conflict.

Alliances between countries to maintain the power balance in Europe were tangled and not at all secure. All across Europe, countries were earnestly building up their military forces, battleships and arms stores to regain lost territories from previous conflicts. By the end of the war, the four major European empires – the Russians, the Ottomans, the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian had all collapsed.

Austria-Hungary took over Bosnia, a former Turkish province, in 1909, which angered Serbia. Two years later, Germans protested against the French possession of Morocco.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment man a trench in France during World War I. The Signal Corps photograph collection includes every major aspect of the U.S. Army involvement in World War I.

6. US forces joined WW1 when 128 Americans were killed by a German submarine while aboard the British passenger ship Lusitania. In total, 195 passengers were killed. This put pressure on the U.S. government to enter the war. President Woodrow Wilson wanted peace, but in 1917, Germany announced that their submarines were prepared to sink any ships that approach Britain. Wilson then declared America would enter the war, with the goal of restoring peace to the region. Officially, the war began for US forces on April 6, 1917.

7. U.S. forces spent less than eight months in combat. During that time, 116,000 US service members were killed in action, and 204,000 were wounded. Overall, 8 million service members died during the duration of the war, and 21 million were injured. A total of 65 million military members were mobilized during the war.

8. By 1918, German citizens were protesting against the war. Thousands of German citizens were starving because of British naval blockages. The economy in Germany was beginning to collapse. Then the German navy experienced a significant mutiny, which all but quashed the national resolve to continue with the conflict. German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on November 9, 1918, which helps to encourage all sides to lay down arms.

9. The peace armistice of WWI was signed on November 11, 1918, in Compiegne, France. One year later, the Treaty of Versailles officially ended the war. This treaty required that Germany accept full responsibility for causing the war. The country was required to make reparations to some of the Allied countries and surrender much of its territory to surrounding countries. Germany was also required to surrender its African colonies and limit the size of its standing military.

10. The Treaty of Versailles also established the League of Nations to help prevent future wars. By 1923, 53 European nations were active members of the League of Nations. However, the U.S. Senate refused to allow the US to participate in the League of Nations.

11. Germany joined the League of Nations in 1926, but much of the German population was resentful of the Treaty of Versailles. Just five years later, Germany (along with Japan) withdrew from the League. Italy followed three years later. Shortly after, German nationalism gave rise to the Nazi party. Some historians argue that WWI never actually ended, only that the conflict paused briefly and that WWII was, in fact, a continuation of the Great War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These insane defenses allow Switzerland to remain neutral

The tiny mountainous country of Switzerland has been in a state of “perpetual neutrality” since the major European powers of the time declared it as such during the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.

Why did they do this?

The French conquered Switzerland in 1798, establishing the Helvetic Republic in attempt to make Switzerland something of a strategically positioned French satellite state. Not long after, Austrian and Russian forces invaded the country in their war against France. The Swiss, rather than fighting alongside their French overlords, largely refused. This ultimately led to the Act of Mediation, giving the Swiss back much of their former independence. Twelve years later, they got the rest thanks to the aforementioned Congress of Vienna in which their neutrality in the wars of their neighbors was officially recognised.


Beyond the Swiss themselves having long tried to stay out of the conflicts of Europe (since the early 16th century after a devastating loss at the Battle of Marignano), part of the reason Switzerland was granted neutrality in perpetuity in 1815 is because the European powers of the time deemed that the country was ideally located to function as a “a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria.” Thus, granting their neutrality in wars, so long as they continued to stay out of them, would “contribute to stability in the region.”

Since that time, with a few minor exceptions, Switzerland has steadfastly refused to compromise its neutrality for any reason, though on the war-front they did suffer an exceptionally brief civil war in the mid-19th century resulting in only a handful of casualties. While minor in its scale, this civil war drastically changed the political landscape of the Swiss government, including the establishment of a constitution partially borrowing from the then less than a century old United States constitution.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Swiss officer barracks in the Umbrail Pass during World War I.

In any event, as for those aforementioned “minor exceptions”, Switzerland has occasionally taken part in some global peacekeeping missions and prior to 1860 Swiss troops did sometimes take part in various skirmishes, despite their neutrality.

In more modern times, Switzerland needed to defend its borders from both Allied and Axis (see: How Did the Axis and Allies Get Their Names) air incursions during WW2. For instance, they shot down nearly a dozen German planes in the spring of 1940 alone, as well as shot down some American bombers and forced down countless others on both sides. This included grounding and detaining the crews of over a hundred Allied bombers that tried to fly over the country. When Hitler tried to counter Swiss measures at keeping the Luftwaffe from their skies by sending a sabotage team to destroy Swiss airfields, the Swiss successfully captured the saboteurs before they could carry out any bombings.

You might think it a bit silly for the Swiss to risk war with both sides by shooting or forcing down foreign aircraft from their skies, but on several occasions Allied bombers accidentally attacked Swiss cities, mistaking them for German ones. For instance, on April 1, 1944, American bombers, thinking they were bombing Ludwigshafen am Rhein, bombed Schaffhausen, killing 40 Swiss citizens and destroying over fifty buildings. This was not an isolated incident.

So how exactly did Switzerland, surrounded on all sides by Axis (or Central in WW1) and Allied powers during the wars to end all wars, manage to keep enemy troops at bay without much in the way of any fighting?

Officially Switzerland maintains a policy of “Aggressive Neutrality” meaning that although it actively avoids taking part in conflicts, as evidenced by their air-force activities during WW2, it will defend its own interests with vigour. How vigorous? To ensure other countries respect its neutral stance, Switzerland has long put itself into a terrifyingly over prepared position to fight, and made sure every country around them was, and is, well aware of this fact.

As for specifics, to begin with, a common misconception about Switzerland is that because it doesn’t actively take part in global military conflicts, that it doesn’t have a strong or well prepared military. In reality the Swiss military is a highly trained and competent fighting force, and due to the country’s policy of compulsory conscription of males (today women may volunteer for any position in the military, but are not required to serve) is surprisingly large for a country of only around eight million people.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Swiss border patrol in the Alps during World War II.

In fact, approximately two-thirds of all males are ultimately deemed mentally and physically fit enough to serve in the Swiss military, meaning a huge percentage of their population is ultimately military trained. (Those who are not, and aren’t exempt because of a disability, are required to pay additional taxes until they are 30 to make up for not serving.)

As for what fighting force is actively maintained, the Swiss military today is only around 140,000 men strong and just this year it has been voted to reduce that to 100,000. This is a major downsize from just two decades ago when it was estimated the Swiss military had some 750,000 soldiers. For reference, this latter total is about half the size of the United States military today, despite Switzerland having only about eight million people vs. the United States’ three hundred million.

In addition to this, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and many Swiss people are highly competent in handling said firearms due to both compulsory military service and a strong culture of recreational shooting (half a million Swiss children are said to be part of a gun club of some kind).

This said, in recent years the rate of gun ownership has declined somewhat after a series of gun related incidents, such as one where a man shot his estranged wife with his old military issued rifle. Prior to the shooting, military conscripts would take their rifle home with them after their service ended and were expected to keep it ready for use in defending the country should the need arise.

After these incidents, the military curbed this and implemented a new policy stating that any conscript wishing to keep their gun after service must buy it and apply for a permit. As part of this new policy, the Swiss military also no longer provides ammunition with the guns, instead keeping it in secure locations that citizens must get to in the event of an emergency.

Speaking of emergencies, generally speaking, Switzerland is prepared for near any global catastrophe from nuclear fallout to a surprise invasion from an enemy force thanks to a defensive plan it has been implementing since 1880, but which was doubled-down upon during WW2 and later during the Cold War.

Dubbed the Swiss National Redoubt, in a nutshell Switzerland has taken advantage of it unique natural geography, which includes mountains that surround it on nearly all sides, to build countless bunkers, fortifications and warehouses across the country that can be accessed at a moment’s notice. The full scale of the fortifications is a closely guarded secret, but some of them are kept in plain view as part of a comprehensive campaign of deterrence.

Initially the National Redoubt consisted of tunnels bored into the many mountains of Switzerland in key strategic positions for retreating troops and citizens to take shelter in, but over the years these have evolved to encompass a host of ingenious defensive and offensive structures. Along with tunnels and bunkers (which are fully stocked and contain everything from bakeries and hospitals to dormitories), the mountains of Switzerland also hide countless tanks, aircraft, and hidden artillery guns (some of which are pointed directly at Switzerland’s own roads to destroy them in the event of invasion).

Oddly for a landlocked country, Switzerland does maintain an active navy of sorts, though they don’t store any boats in its mountains as far as we could find. The naval branch of the Swiss forces’ primary role is in patrolling the country’s lakes on the border and providing aid in search and rescue operations.

As for more specifically how they kept themselves out of the world wars, during WW1, the Swiss military, under freshly appointed General Ulrich Wille, mobilised well over 200,000 Swiss soldiers and deployed them across its major entry points to deter any outside forces from considering waging war on the country. After it became apparent that Switzerland’s neutrality would be recognised by all powers in the first Great War, the vast majority of the Swiss troops were sent home. (In fact, in the final year of the war, the Swiss military had shrunk its numbers to just 12,000.) Nothing further was required to keep the Swiss out of WW1.

WW2 was a different beast altogether with Switzerland not banking on Hitler respecting their long-held neutral stance in European conflicts. Thus, newly appointed Swiss General Henri Guisan was given the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to defend the small country from their neighbors, Hitler and his allies, despite that said powers drastically outmatched the Swiss army in a variety of ways.

Towards this end, leading up to the war, the Swiss withdrew from the League of Nations to help ensure their neutrality, began to re-build their military (bringing the number up to 430,000 combat troops within three days of the start of the war), and strongly encouraged its citizens to keep at minimum two months’ worth of supplies on hand at any given time. On top of that, they also began secret negotiations with France to join forces against Germany, should Germany attack Switzerland (a risky move that was discovered by the Germans after France fell to them).

But even with all that, knowing the Swiss couldn’t win if Hitler really wanted to invade, Guisan and co. made the decision to drastically ramp up their WW1 era strategy of making invading Switzerland as unsavory an option as possible. Guisan noted that by utilizing Switzerland’s harsh terrain, a comparatively small amount of Swiss soldiers in a secure defensive position could fight off a massive fighting force if the need ever arose. So the plan was essentially to perpetually defend and retreat to some fortified position over and over again, ultimately conceding the less defensible populated areas of the country once the government and citizens had managed a retreat into secret fortified positions in the Alps. They’d then use the Alps as a base from which to both launch guerrilla attacks to make life miserable for any successful invasion force and to use highly defensible positions there to keep crucial supply lines from the invaders.

More controversially, Switzerland continued to trade with Nazi Germany during the war in order to further de-incentivise Hitler from invading. (There is some speculation that some of the Allies’ “accidental” attacks on Switzerland were really not accidents at all, given that some of the buildings that were blown up were factories supplying the Axis powers.)

The multi-pronged plan worked and, while Hitler did have a detailed plan in place to invade Switzerland eventually, the cost of doing so was always too high given the Axis power’s troubles both on the Eastern and Western fronts. Thus, Switzerland was largely ignored by both Allies and the Axis throughout WW2, despite its amazingly well placed location right next to Germany, Italy, France, and Austria.

Switzerland stepped up their level of defence during the Cold War, again mostly out of a desire to deter any potential invaders. This time, however, the focus was on “aggressively” defending Switzerland’s borders instead of defending them only long enough to cover a retreat into the well fortified mountains.

Towards this end, Switzerland’s roads, bridges and train lines were rigged with explosives that could be detonated at any time. In many cases, the engineers who designed the bridges were required to come up with the most efficient way, using explosives, to ensure the complete destruction of those same bridges. Once the destruction plan was developed, hidden explosives were installed at the appropriate locations in the bridges. On top of that, the military also lined hundreds of mountains flanking major roads with explosives to create artificial rockslides. All total, over three thousand points of demolition are publicly known to have been implemented throughout the small country.

6 different types of machine-gunners you’ll meet in the infantry

Large-scale construction of hangers were conducted by the Swiss military in the 1950s.

With ground attacks covered, the Swiss looked to the skies. Unfortunately for them, attack by air is much harder to defend against for a country so small that enemy air forces could penetrate anywhere within its borders before an adequate defence could be mustered to defend its cities. To protect against this, the Swiss government constructed thousands of bomb shelters in homes, towns and cities to such a degree that it’s estimated that anywhere between 80 to 120 percent of the country’s population could hide in them for extended periods. Many of these shelters also included small hospitals and the necessary equipment to set up independent command centers. In fact, homes built after WW2 were often made with over 40 cm (16 in.) thick concrete ceilings to help them survive aerial bombings. If your home didn’t accommodate such a shelter, you had to pay a tax to support places that did.

It’s also rumoured that much of Switzerland’s gold supply as well as vast supplies of food stores have been similarly squirreled away somewhere in the Alps, which comprise just over half of the country’s total land area.

As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.

Since the end of the Cold War (see How Did the Cold War Start and End), similar to how the Swiss government has been slowly disarming its population and reducing its standing army, decommissioning some of these fortifications has begun in order to reduce government spending. The Swiss government is somewhat coy about the extent of this disarming, but it has been reported that many of the more extreme defenses, such as the explosives that used to be hidden inside the country’s bridges and along its road and railways, have been removed. As for the bunkers, unfortunately, simply abandoning many of these facilities is not an option, and it’s fairly expensive to decommission them.

As such, as the head of security policy for the federal Department of Defense, Christian Catrina, said “…in most cases we’d be glad if someone would take them off our hands for no price”.

In some cases, this has resulted in companies using the ridiculously well protected and secure mountain facilities as data repositories and server farms. In one such converted bunker, the servers inside are even completely protected from outside electromagnetic impulses that result from nuclear explosions.

In another, detailed instructions on how to build devices for reading all known data storage formats, even older formats like floppy disks, are kept, so that if that knowledge is otherwise lost, future generations can still decode our data storage devices to access the data within correctly. Essentially, the researchers involved in this particular project have attempted to create a “Rosetta Stone” of data formats and are using a ridiculously secure Swiss bunker as the storage point for that knowledge.

As a result of military downsizing, the fate of the rest of the fortifications is unclear and there are calls to decommission all of them, despite the estimated billion dollar price tag to do so. There is even a growing minority of the Swiss population who would like to see the entire military disbanded, including ceasing mandatory conscription.

But for now, at least, any country that wishes to ignore Switzerland’s long-held neutrality in military conflicts will find the tiny country an exceptionally difficult one to conquer and occupy. And presumably if war ever again threatens Swiss’ borders, regardless of how small they make their military today, they’ll likely keep themselves in a position to rapidly ramp back up their defences as they did for WW1 and WW2.

Bonus Facts:

  • Shortly before WW2, Switzerland passed the Swiss Banking Act, which allowed bank accounts to be created anonymously, in no small part to allow German Jews to squirrel their liquid assets away into accounts that the Third Reich would have difficulty finding out about or getting access to.
  • The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by United States soldiers after WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”. The company that makes Swiss Army Knives is Victorinox, named after the founder, Karl Elsener’s, deceased mother, Victoria. The “nox” part comes from the fact that stainless steel is also known as “inox”, which is short for the French term “inoxydable”.
  • Karl Elsener himself was originally the owner of a surgical equipment company. He later took over production of the original Modell 1890 knives, which were previously made in Germany. He moved the production to Switzerland and greatly improved the design of the original multi-tool. His big breakthrough came when he figured out a way to put blades on both sides of the handle using the same spring to hold both sides in place. This allowed him to put twice as many features into the multi-tool as was previously possible.
  • There has been a “fact” floating around that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per citizen and the lowest rate of people killed by firearms per year, but this isn’t correct. Switzerland is actually 4th in number of guns per 100 people (at 45.7 guns per 100), though does maintain a relatively low number of deaths per year due to firearms at just 3.84 per 100,000, which is good enough for 19th place overall. However, it should also be noted that 3.15 of those deaths per 100,000 are suicide. Their homicide rate (.52 per 100,000) is good enough for 31st place, with the rest of deaths from firearms (.17 per 100,000) being either accidental or undetermined.
  • While the United States has by far the most guns per capita at 94.3 guns per 100 residents, it is only 12th in firearm related deaths per capita at 10.3 per 100,000 people. 6.3 of those 10.3 firearm related deaths are suicides. This equates to the U.S. being in 14th place on the number of firearm related homicides per 100,000 and overall 103rd as far as total murders per 100,000 at 4.8. For reference, that’s four times the murders per 100,000 than the United Kingdom, which sits in 169th place in murders per 100,000.
  • Number 1 by far in firearm related deaths per 100,000 is Honduras with 64.8 deaths per 100,000 from firearms. Surprisingly, Honduras only has 6.2 guns for every 100 people in the country. Honduras also has the highest rate of murders per 100,000 overall at 91.6.
  • On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants specifically from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.