We’ve all played the “What If” game. In the military, this can lead to some rather interesting questions: What would happen if I was in charge of this op? What if I put my hands in my pockets? What if 1st Sergeant was nicer?
In his most recent novel Empire City, Iraq War veteran and author, Matt Gallagher, answers a question that has circulated in the barracks and across many a dinner table, “What if the U.S. won the Vietnam War full WWII unconditional surrender style?” Gallagher’s novel, set half a century in the future from a North Vietnam surrender and occupation, explores an American society transformed by the Vietnam experience into an empire that would rival Rome or the colonial British. However, buried deep inside the world of Empire City, Gallagher also answers a very poignant and pressing question, “What is the real cost of victory?”
Empire City follows the journey of Sebastian Rios, a mid-level bureaucrat, who owes his career and his life to the group of veterans that came to his rescue overseas. Known as the “Volunteers,” these special operators toe the line between national treasures and Soldiers of Fortune who when not deployed to the frontlines of conflicts across the Mediterranean are living the high life in Hollywood and the clubs of Empire City – and, SPOILER ALERT – they aren’t even Navy SEALS but they do have super powers. Along with Mia, a former helicopter pilot turned Wall Street banker, Sebastian finds himself caught in a constitutional debate after a terrorist attack on the city, could, or better, should the U.S. deploy their best soldiers onto home territory?
Like the story of Caesar and his legions crossing the Rubicon, Empire City recounts the multiple layers of tradition turned upside down when a series of battle-hardened veterans decide to act. Among the key players are a former general turned presidential candidate as well as an army of foreign legionnaires who earned their citizenship by fighting America’s wars past and present. If you’d like to know one possible answer to the questions, “What if the hippie movement had failed?” Or, “What if corporate American bought and sold stakes in military units like NASCAR sponsorships?” And, “What if American patriots became their own sheepdogs?” then you’ll enjoy Empire City.
Military veterans, especially combat veterans like Gallagher, who translated his experiences into his previous books, Youngblood and Kaboom, have been known to write some of the most fascinating alternative historical novels of our time. For example, Robert Heinlein, a WWII veteran of the Pacific, went on to write the classic Starship Troopers, a must read for both military and science fiction enthusiasts. I think it’s safe to say that Empire City is the newest addition to our must-read list and Gallagher has just joined a special unit of writers that include Heinlein, Orwell and Turtledove.
In 15 years in Afghanistan, no counternarcotics effort undertaken by the US, it partners, or the Afghan government has led to sustained reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.
That was one of a number of findings of a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Report issued in June 2018, underlining insufficient, uncoordinated, and at-times counterproductive initiatives in Afghanistan to reduce drug production there.
Between 2002 and 2017, the US government has allocated roughly $8.62 billion to fight narcotics in Afghanistan. But the drug trade remains entrenched. Opium is Afghanistan’s largest cash crop, reaching an export value of $1.5 billion to $3 billion in recent years. In 2017 alone, poppy cultivation was thought to support 590,000 full-time jobs — which is more people than are employed by Afghanistan’s military and security forces.
The primary markets are Europe, Asia, and Africa. Opiates from Afghanistan travel through other Central or South Asian states — drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption — to reach destinations in Europe and Asia. Drugs also travel maritime routes to Africa and Oceania.
Ninety percent of the heroin seized in Canada comes from Afghanistan, but scant amounts reach the US — 1% or less of the drug seized in the US can be traced back to the Central Asian country.
The amount of Southwest Asian heroin in the US peaked in the early 1980s, according to the DEA. It was replaced by Southeast Asian heroin — largely from Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand — in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The amount of South American heroin found the US started to increase in the mid-1990s, but by the late 2000s, Mexican heroin started to become predominant — in 2015 it was the more than 90% of the heroin seized in the US.
(2017 DEA NDTA)
Opium has been cultivated in Afghanistan for centuries. It was under royal control from 1933 to 1973, but the Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 to 1989 crippled the legitimate economy and allowed illegal enterprises and criminal networks to thrive.
Production soared after the Taliban took control of most of the country in 1996. But it banned the crop in 2000, leading to a 75% drop in the global supply of heroin but leaving farmers destitute, as no alternative to poppy cultivation was provided.
Cultivation was at a historic low in 2001, when the US and its coalition partners invaded. Counterdrug work was done in the period that followed, but the vacuum created by the lack of functioning Afghan institutions limited their effectiveness.
2004 saw an increase in cultivation, which was followed by more concerted US efforts to staunch it as well as increased counternarcotics efforts by coalition partners. Cultivation leveled off in 2009 and 2010 — around the time of the US-led surge that brought more attention to combating the drug trade.
A UN survey in 2017 found cultivation had hit a new high, covering more than 810,000 acres. (The Taliban has also expanded its involvement in the drug trade.)
2017 also saw a new Trump administration strategy that brought with it an “unprecedented” level of attention to Afghan drug production by US military commanders, according to the report — marked by a “sustained air interdiction campaign” that included advanced aircraft striking rudimentary drug labs.
(US Air Force photo)
The increases in drug cultivation make clear the failure of counternarcotics efforts, the report says, but it stresses that those failures are not the only factors that have led to the increases.
“The exponential rise in opium poppy cultivation and drug production is rooted in far-reaching, persistent challenges in Afghanistan — namely, lack of security, a poor economy, weak governing institutions, and failures of the wider reconstruction effort,” the report states.
“Given these challenges, there are serious limitations to the US capacity to bring about large-scale, lasting reductions in poppy cultivation and drug production,” it adds, noting the opium economy will continue to undercut US efforts in Afghanistan.
“Therefore, ongoing US reconstruction efforts must effectively address, or at least attempt to mitigate, the drug-related threats to Afghan security and stability.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
So, the time for you to go to your first Marine Corps Birthday Ball came and went. Everyone got together to celebrate that time a bunch of drunks gathered at a bar in Philly and started a world-class war-fighting organization. And yet here you are, a couple hundred years later, so disillusioned by your command that you didn’t spend the $80ish on the ticket.
The Marine Corps has a long-standing history of warfare and professionalism. Our fighting spirit has been recognized by forces all over the world, both those we’ve fought against and those that’ve fought at our side. The Birthday Ball is a celebration of this history; that’s why we wear those sexy dress blues that the first Marines wore into battle.
Just because you don’t like your command or the politics of the military doesn’t mean you should skip out. Here’s why you should buy a ticket next year.
It’s an exclusive event
Sure, you have to buy your ticket, but those tickets aren’t for everyone. The event is only open to Marines and sailors attached to the unit. It doesn’t matter how rich or how famous you are, if you’re not in the Corps and you haven’t been invited by someone who is, you’re not getting in.
There’s tons of tradition
How much tradition? Precisely 243 years’ worth. And at the Ball, you genuinely feel it. From the cake cutting to the commandant’s birthday message, you truly feel like you’re a part of an organization that’s been kicking the asses of America’s enemies since before there was a USA.
Dress blues are sexy AF
Everyone and their grandmother knows that Marine dress blues are top-shelf sexy. They suck to wear and they’re hot as hell, yeah, but once you look in a mirror, you kind of stop caring about the details. Walking around in them makes you feel like a member of an elite organization. Plus, it feels great to take them off when it’s all over.
It’s not that time consuming
The ceremony typically only lasts a couple of hours and no one forces you to stay for the dancing after. If nothing else, show up out of respect for your uniform. After the ceremony is done, you’re usually allowed to go out and have a night on the town.
You’ll be on working party otherwise
Your command kind of tricks you into going by giving you a false choice: buy a ball ticket or be on the clean-up crew. Honestly, it’s much easier and way better to buy the ticket and be at the ball for a couple hours than to have to be there until the dancing is over.
The canvas on early planes was swapped out with this clear material. The engine, pilot, and frame were all still visible, but the target was nearly invisible when viewed from the ground given that the planes were flying at 900 feet or higher. Even at lower altitudes, they were difficult to see and target.
From the sky, however, pilots ran into a very real problem.
The material was highly reflective of direct sunlight. So, when an enemy was approaching from a variety of angles, the sunlight would reflect off the wings and light up the plane like a beacon for anyone paying even minor attention to their surroundings.
Without radar, planes were already essentially invisible at night. So, stealth was supposed to revolutionize the daytime environment — see the issue here? The stealth technology was all but useless if the sun caused it to backfire completely.
A Fokker 2 plane equipped with invisible skin.
For their part, the Germans knew that they had a problematic technology on their hands, and they largely shelved the invention, returning to a canvas body for most of their planes.
A bomber would likely be the most valuable plane to turn invisible, but cellon shrinks and expands based on humidity and temperature, things that often vary in flight. Because the bomber was massive, that shrinking and expanding greatly affected the way the bomber flew.
The problem was that the plane already ran hot; four large engines mounted on the fuselage filled it with heat. Add to this an intense amount of sunlight passing through the clear fuselage and the result was a plane that was nearly unpilotable.
Something worth mentioning, though it didn’t end up affecting the bomber, is that cellon is highly flammable. So, if anything had gone wrong, it would’ve been a Hindenburg-style conflagration.
A German Riesenflugzeug bomber with transparent panels. Pilots flew from the third deck at the front and had to deal with the horrendous heat and the shifting control surfaces.
The plane took two flights during the war. During the first, the shifting cellon made the plane controls impossible to work. The pilot tried to land the plane but couldn’t tell just how far the plane extended beneath him. He crashed and the plane was badly damaged.
The second flight went much worse — the plane’s wings just fell off. One crew member was killed.
Cellon stealth was not the wave of the future they wanted it to be — not that it would’ve helped Germany much. By World War II, radar was the new rage, and cellon wouldn’t have helped much, even given perfect conditions.
But that would’ve been great. Convincing the Nazis to fly planes made of highly flammable materials that changed size and shape during flight and sometimes just lost their wings would’ve been the a joy for the Allies.
“Hey, Luftwaffe, congrats on the invisible planes. Please, send as many pilots in as many planes as you can.”
It takes a lot of work to get well-defined abs. We’re talking relentless hours of exercises devoted to burning belly fat and defining abdominals in order to achieve that fitness vanity project that is a spectacular set of six-pack abs. So when your efforts aren’t yielding noticeable results, it can be downright embarrassing.
There are several reasons you could be having trouble seeing those ripples across your midsection, from what you ate for dinner to which moves you’re doing at the gym. We’re not saying that addressing all items on this list will miraculously result in the six-pack you’ve been dreaming about, but it will be a step in the right direction.
A lot of guys confuse a strong core with a six-pack. They are not the same thing. You can have the leanest, toughest mother-of-a-mid-section in the world, but if you’re not working your vanity muscles, you won’t get that ripple effect. Crunches and sit-ups work the rectus abdominus — the muscles near the top of your midsection. But the obliques, the largest, outermost muscles that begin along your side and wrap towards the front, play an arguably bigger role in defining your six-pack. You can work this muscle group by doing side planks. And don’t forget to work your transverse abdominus, the deepest abdominal muscle that helps hold you erect: You can strengthen it by doing glute bridges.
2. You’re eating too many vegetables.
You have the right idea: Choose broccoli and kale in place of chips and cookies to lower your weight and reduce body fat. But cruciferous vegetables come with a small problem. They give you gas, which makes you bloated and disguises the six-pack. Your body will ultimately adjust to its new fiber-rich plan, but until then, mix up the broccoli with zucchini and asparagus, vegetables with a lower propensity to inflate the gut.
It’s tempting to make every day a core day when you’re in pursuit of such a lofty goal, but any fitness pro will tell you that gains in performance happen not when you’re working out, but when you’re at rest. That’s when all those microscopic muscle tears from the previous sweat session repair themselves, knitting fibers back together in a stronger pattern to strengthen the muscle. If you never allow for recovery, you never allow for the process of growth.
Not necessarily because of the extra calories (although that matters as well), but because an excess of carbonated liquid sloshing around your gut can make you look bloated. Flush the system with good old water, wait 24 hours, and take another look.
Fat in particular. True, calories are calories and consuming too many will pack on pounds, causing your body to lose lean muscle definition. But getting six-pack abs is not just a weight-loss game, it’s a body fat percentage game, meaning if you want to see true six-pack definition you need to get that body fat number down around 6 percent. If that sounds crazy, it kind of is.
You read that right: One reason those six-packs pop on the cover of bodybuilding magazines is that they’re lacquered up with oil, which catches the light and accentuates the body’s contours. If you want the look, squeeze a few drops of baby oil into your palm, rub your hands together, then work them over your abs like you’re applying suntan lotion. Hey, this is a vanity project — accept it.
Would you ever hit the gym with a goal of doing 100 biceps curls? Unlikely. But when it comes to abs, people tend to favor reps over resistance, which is a mistake when you’re trying to build muscle. The body will adapt to volume, so you need to periodically kickstart the growth process by adding extra weight or resistance for stimulation.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
After a disgruntled YouTube user shot three people at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley in April 2018, Facebook sprang into action.
The social networking firm’s offices are just a 30-minute drive away from YouTube, and it swiftly redoubled its own defenses — spooking some employees in the process.
Though most workers don’t realise it, Facebook quietly has off-duty police officers in civilian clothes covertly patrolling its headquarters with concealed firearms in case of emergencies. Following the YouTube shooting, Facebook upped their numbers, in doing so unsettling some employees who subsequently noticed them.
The incident highlights the challenges Facebook’s security team faces as it polices the Silicon Valley technology giant, and the extreme threats it needs to plan for while maintaining a comfortable atmosphere at Facebook’s famously luxurious Menlo Park, California headquarters.
Entrance to Facebook headquarters complex in Menlo Park, California.
In an interview, Facebook’s chief global security officer Nick Lovrien said that the company immediately increased its “security posture” following the YouTube shooting. “Not everybody was aware that we had those on campus, so there was a population that was concerned that we had armed off-duty officers,” he said.
“But I will say that the majority of people expressed they were much more comfortable having them, and in this role my job is really to weigh that risk versus anything else, and safety is the number one priority, and this was the right investment to be able to mitigate that.”
All told, there are now more than 6,000 people working in Facebook’s Global Security team — including legions of security officers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also has armed guards outside of his Bay Area residences, and executive protection officers in civilian clothes quietly keep watch over him while he works in the office and accompany him wherever he goes.
Forewarned is forearmed
Global Security has extensive plans and best practices for a broad array of security incidents, Business Insider learned as part of its investigation into Facebook’s security practices.
Executive kidnapped? Notify law enforcement, get proof of life, contact the kidnap-and-ransom-insurance company, and go from there. Active shooter? Gather critical information about the location and description of the shooter, call law enforcement, send out emergency notifications, lock down or evacuate the buildings as necessary, and so on.
Unexpected package sent to an executive’s home? Get information about who dropped it off, make an incident alert, and send the package to the GSII without opening it. Media turned up outside Zuckerberg’s residence? Figure out who they are, why they’re there, send a mobile unit to meet them, and notify police if requested by management or the executive protection team.
Protocols like these are by no means unique to Facebook; they provide a clear agreed-upon framework to follow in times of crisis. But they’re indicative of the disparate challenges Facebook now faces in protecting its global workforce, from civil disturbances to safely handling the firing of “high-risk employees.”
Facebook has to similarly prepare whenever it constructs a new facility: When it built its new Frank Gehry-designed headquarters in Menlo Park, the security threats it was forced to consider involved everything from the risk of earthquakes to the possibility of a plane from San Francisco International Airport falling out of the sky onto the campus, which would cause carnage.
The US Air Force’s $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit bombers, a key component of US nuclear deterrence, are protected from “catastrophic” accidents by a $1.25 part designed by a group of high-school students.
Switch covers designed by the Stealth Panthers robotics team at Knob Noster High School are installed in the cockpits of all operational B-2 bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Air Force officials told Stars and Stripes.
The B-2 is one of the most advanced bombers in the world, as its low-observable characteristics render the 172-foot-wide bomber almost invisible to radar, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.
A B-2 Spirit bomber taxis on a flightline.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)
Designed with Soviet air-defense systems in mind, the bomber has been serving since the late 1980s. Recently, a handful of B-2 bombers have been training alongside F-22 Raptors in the Pacific, where China has been expanding its military footprint.
But even the best technology can often be improved.
A B-2 stealth bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman made an emergency landing at an airport in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after an in-flight emergency last fall, Air Force Times reported, saying at the time that the incident was under investigation.
Apparently, the emergency was triggered by the accidental flip of a switch, among other unusual malfunctions.
“The B-2 Spirit cockpit is equipped with state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology, but is a very cramped space, so something was needed to keep the pilots or other items from bumping into the switches,” Capt. Keenan Kunst told Stars and Stripes.
A B-2 Spirit bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
There are a series of four switches that are of particular concern. “The consequences could be catastrophic — especially if all four were flipped, in which case, ejection would be the only option,” Kunst told Stars and Stripes. “We recognized the switch posed a certain risk of inadvertent actuation and that we should take action to minimize this risk — no matter how small.”
And that’s where a handful of Missouri high schoolers had the answer to this particular problem.
Base leaders already had an established relationship the school, and some of the pilots had been mentoring members of the robotics team. Base personnel presented the issue to the students, and they began developing a solution. Working with pilots in a B-2 simulator, they were able to design and test the suitable switch cover.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Anyone who’s ever served in uniform has probably heard someone say the immortal line: “I would have joined the military, but…”
Lots of civilians make a trip to the recruiter with an eye toward military service, full of patriotic zeal and martial courage. But many pull out at the last minute and give their friends and family some song and dance about why they couldn’t commit.
No matter what excuse they give you for not signing on the dotted line, here are six real reasons recruiters tell us people decide not to join.
6. They’re physically disqualified
A recruit who wants to join but is physically disqualified is disappointing for both the recruit and the recruiter. Applicants can be physically disqualified because of asthma, bad eyesight, scoliosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other causes. Sometimes people disqualify themselves with tattoos, ear gauges or other kinds of body art.
5. Friends and family talk them out of it
Some occupations in the military are the most dangerous jobs in the world, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily lead to death. The type of job and location of a recruit’s duty station will determine the risk that military personnel encounter. Approximately 80 percent of career fields in the military are non-combat related.
Still, some potential recruits are convinced their service will kill them.
4. They don’t want to leave a significant other
Being in a relationship while going through the process of enlisting is challenging. Getting married or having a child as a single parent may affect the process of enlistment and eligibility to serve. Some refuse to leave their partner behind and instead give up on a potential military career for love.
3. They enlist and sign a contract but don’t get their dream job
Open positions are based on the needs and manning of the particular service. In the Navy, (my expertise) most jobs do not have to be permanent. Changing jobs can be easy if there’s a new job open and you can meet the qualifications. The Army has a program where a service member can re-enlist and change his MOS. But for some people, not having the ideal job is non-negotiable, so they never enlist.
2. The recruiting experience went south
Recruiters have a duty and job to fill the needs of the military, but they are also responsible for building a connection with applicants. The relationship between a recruiter and a candidate is often seen as a reflection of what the service will be like, but that shouldn’t not be the only thing to consider. Still, a negative recruiting experience can discourage people from joining.
1. Some people just back out
The service is not for everyone and though the idea of joining seems attractive because of the honor, the uniform and the respect — it is a sacrifice. Some people may at some point feel they can make it but don’t. After weighing the pros and cons, people just change their mind.
Quality of gear aside, when the U.S. military is equipping its troops, it tries to ensure they have everything they need to defeat the enemy and – if funding permits – not be entirely miserable in the meantime. Given the Pentagon’s track record with winning battles, one would have to concede they’re doing a pretty good job. Operationally, however, the troops figure out very quickly what’s going to work and what they need to improvise.
1. Mosquito Nets – Vietnam
One private in the Army who was deployed to an aircraft maintenance detachment in Vietnam mentions using the mosquito net diligently, just as he was trained. Except, when the base was attacked, he stumbled in the dark looking for the zipper, nearly getting himself killed in the process.
He, like many in Vietnam, never used the mosquito net again.
2. Army Cold Weather Mask
3. Black Berets
Are you into bondage? Then this is the issued gear for you. If you hate how much it itches your face or if you wear glasses, it definitely is not.
Patrol caps and boonie hats serve the dual purpose of protecting your head from the sun while giving your kevlar a place to rest. They’re also both breathable and prevent the interior of the hat from becoming a swampy mess. The beret did none of these things, but the Army insisted every soldier wear one.
4. Sun-Wind-Dust Goggles – Iraq & Afghanistan
The only Sun-Dust-Wind goggles that couldn’t protect your eyes from sun, dust, or wind. All that and after a while, the padding slips out of place, the elastic wears out, and they become unwearable. Which isn’t a big deal because they get so scratched up you can’t see from them anyway.
5. NBC Gear – U.S. Navy
The U.S. military’s old MOPP system used what is essentially a charcoal suit to protect troops from chemical agents in the air. The only problem was they were useless when wet – which is exactly what happened to the sailors during nuclear, biological, chemical warfare drills when they had to start cleaning the ship.
6. Black Leather Gloves with Wool Inserts
The dual glove system pretty much meant any fine motor skills you needed weren’t going to happen while wearing these things. Many troops would take off the leather gloves to use their fingers, which promptly froze because the liners themselves were useless in the cold.
7. M65 Field Jacket
Speaking of things that are useless in the cold, there was a time when the only jacket issued for the battle dress uniform was this cruel joke.
8. Load-Bearing Equipment
Presenting the most miserable troop of the 1980s.
This is a great way to carry many different kinds of gear. Until someone starts shooting at you and you need to get down on the ground, stay low, and/or maneuver while you’re down there.
During the Cold War, the U.S. government was hell-bent on one upping the commies in any way possible. In the process, they came up with a number of outlandish plans, such as that time they proposed nuking the moon, interestingly enough a project a young Carl Sagan worked on. There were also many more down to Earth projects like the development of what would become the internet in order to ensure ease of sharing information among the nation’s scientists. This brings us to a project that unfortunately went into history’s dustbin — the U.S. Army’s plan to build a massive military installation on the moon.
Known as Project Horizon, the impetus for the plan came when the Soviets set their sites on the moon. As noted in the Project Horizon report, “The Soviet Union in propaganda broadcasts has announced the 50th anniversary of the present government (1967) will be celebrated by Soviet citizens on the moon.”
U.S. National Space policy intelligence thought this was a little optimistic, but still felt that the Soviets could probably do it by 1968. Military brass deemed this a potential disaster for the United States for several reasons.
Concept art from NASA showing astronauts entering a lunar outpost.
To begin with, if the Soviets got to the moon first, they could potentially build their own military base there which they could use for a variety of secret projects safely away from the United States’ prying eyes. In the extreme, they could potentially launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. with impunity from that base.
Naturally, a military installation completely out of reach of your enemies both terrified and tantalized military officials.
Next up, if the Soviets landed on the moon first, they could try to claim the entire moon for themselves. If they did that, any move by the U.S. to reach the moon could potentially be considered an aggressive act, effectively making the moon off limits to the United States unless willing to risk war back home.
This was deemed to be a potential disaster as the moon, with its low gravity, was seen as a needed hub for launching deep space missions, as well as a better position to map and observe space from than Earth.
Beyond the practical, this would also see the Soviets not just claiming the international prestige of an accomplishment like landing and building a facility on the moon, but also countless other discoveries and advancements after, as they used the moon for scientific discovery and to more easily launch missions beyond.
Of course, the Soviets might do none of these things and allow the U.S. to use the moon as they pleased. But this wasn’t a guarantee. As noted in the Project Horizon report, “Clearly the US would not be in a position to exercise an option between peaceful and military applications unless we are first. In short, the establishment of the initial lunar outpost is the first definitive step in exercising our options.”
The threat of having the moon be in Soviet hands simply would not stand. As Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson would famously state in 1964, “I do not believe that this generation of Americans is willing to resign itself to going to bed each night by the light of a Communist moon.”
Thus, long before Kennedy would make his famous May 25, 1961 declaration before Congress that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”, military brass in the U.S. were dead-set on not just man stepping foot on the moon, but building a military installation there and sticking around permanently.
And so it was that in March of 1959, Chief of Army Ordnance Major General John Hinrichs was tasked by Chief of Research and Development Lieutenant General Arthur G Trudeau with developing a detailed plan on what was needed to make such a moon base happen. A strict guideline of the plan was that it had to be realistic and, towards that end, the core elements of the plan had to use components and equipment either already developed or close to being completed.
To facilitate the outline for the project, Major General John B. Medaris stated, “We grabbed every specialist we could get our hands on in the Army.”
The resulting report published on June 9, 1959 went into an incredible amount of detail, right down to how the carbon dioxide would be scrubbed from the air at the base.
So what did they come up with?
To begin with, it was deemed the transport side could be accomplished using nothing more than Saturn 1 and Saturn 2 rockets. Specifically, 61 Saturn 1s and 88 Saturn 2s would transport around a total of 490,000 lbs of cargo to the moon. An alternative plan was to use these rockets to launch much of the cargo to a space station in high Earth orbit. These larger sections would then be ferried over to the moon using a dedicated ship that would go back and forth from the Earth to the moon.
The potential advantage here was that for the Saturn rockets to get equipment to the moon, they were limited to about 6000 pounds per trip on average. But if only transporting something to orbit, they could do much greater payloads, meaning fewer rockets needed. The problem, of course, was that this version of the plan required the development of a ferrying rocket and an orbiting space station, which made it the less desirable option. Again, a strict guideline for the project was that the core of the plan had to use existing or near existing equipment and technology in order to expedite the project and get to the moon before the Soviets.
Whichever method was used, once everything was on the moon, a pair of astronauts would be sent to inspect everything and figure out if anything needed replaced. The duration of this first moon landing by man was slated to be a 1-3 month stay.
Next up, whatever replacement items that needed to be sent would be delivered, and then once all that was set, a construction crew would be sent to complete the base. The general plan there was to use explosives and a specially designed space bulldozer/backhoe to create trenches to put the pre-built units into. Once in place, they would simply be attached together and buried in order to provide added protection from meteorites and potential attacks, among other benefits.
As for the features of this base, this included redundant nuclear reactors for power, as well as the potential to augment this with solar power for further redundancy. Various scientific laboratories would also be included, as well as a recreation room, hospital unit, housing quarters, and a section made for growing food in a sustainable way. This food would augment frozen and dehydrated foods supplied from Earth.
The base would also have extensive radio equipment to facilitate the moon functioning as a communications hub for the U.S. military back on Earth that could not be touched by any nation on Earth at the time. On a similar note, it would also function as a relay for deep space communications to and from Earth.
Beyond the core base itself, a moon truck capable of transporting the astronauts and equipment around was proposed, as well as placing bomb shelters all around the base for astronauts to hide in if needed. Water, oxygen, and hydrogen would ultimately be provided from the ice on the moon itself, not only sustaining the astronauts but potentially providing any needed fuel for rockets, again to help facilitate missions beyond the moon and transport back home to Earth.
Of course, being a military installation, it was deemed necessary for the 12 astronauts that were to be stationed at the base at all times to be able to defend themselves against attack. Thus, for their personal sidearms, a general design for a space-gun was presented, more or less being a sort of shotgun modified to work in space and be held and fired by someone in a bulky suit.
The astronauts would also be given many Claymore like devices to be stationed around the base’s perimeter or where deemed needed. These could be fired remotely and more or less just sent a hail of buckshot at high speed wherever they were pointed.
Thanks to the lesser gravity and lack of tangible atmosphere, both of these weapons would have incredible range, if perhaps not the most accurate things in the world.
Artist concept of a lunar colony.
But who needs accuracy when you have nuclear weapons? Yes, the astronauts would be equipped with those too, including the then under development Davey Crockett nuclear gun. Granted, thanks to the lack of atmosphere, the weapon wouldn’t be nearly as destructive as it would be on Earth, but the ionizing radiation kill zone was still around 300-500 meters.
Another huge advantage of the Davey Crockett on the moon was that the range was much greater, reducing the risk to the people firing it, and the whole contraption would only weigh a little over 30-40 pounds thanks to the moon’s lesser gravity, making it easier for the astronauts to cart around than on Earth.
Of course, being a space base, Project Horizon creators naturally included a death ray in its design. This was to be a weapon designed to focus a huge amount of sun rays and ionizing radiation onto approaching enemy targets. Alternatively, another death ray concept was to build a device that would shoot ionizing radiation at enemy soldiers or ships.
As for space suits, according to the Project Creators, despite being several years before the character would make his debut in the comics, they decided an Iron Man like suit was the way to go, rather than fabric based as NASA would choose. To quote the report,
For sustained operation on the lunar surface a body conformation suit having a substantial outer metal surface is considered a necessity for several reasons: (1) uncertainty that fabrics and elastomers can sustain sufficient pressure differential without unacceptable leakage; (2) meteoroid protection; (3) provides a highly reflective surface; (4) durability against abrasive lunar surface; (5) cleansing and sterilization… It should be borne in mind that while movement and dexterity are severe problems in suit design, the earth weight of the suit can be allowed to be relatively substantial. For example, if a man and his lunar suit weigh 300 pounds on earth, they will only weigh 50 pounds on the moon.
Along with death rays, nuclear guns, and badass space suits, no self respecting moon base could be governed by anything as quaint as a simply named committee or the like. No, Project Horizon also proposed creating a “Unified Space Command” to manage all facets of the base and its operation, along with further exploration in space, including potentially a fleet of space ships needed to achieve whatever objectives were deemed appropriate once the base was established.
As to the cost of this whole project, the report stated,
The total cost of the eight and one-half year program presented in this study is estimated to be six billion dollars (*about billion in 2019 dollars*). This is an average of approximately 0 million per year. These figured are a valid appraisal, and, while preliminary, they represent the best estimates of experienced, non-commercial, agencies of the government. Substantial funding is undeniably required for the establishment of a U. S. lunar outpost; however, the implications of the future importance of such an operation should be compared to the fact that the average annual funding required for Project HORIZON would be less than two percent of the current annual defense budget.
Of course, the reality is that the entire Apollo program ended up costing a little over billion, so this billion estimate likely would have ballooned to much greater levels had the base actually been built. That said, even massively more expensive, given the number of years, this would have still represented a relatively small portion of the United States’ annual defense budget, as noted.
Sadly, considering the initial plan was explicitly to make this a peaceful installation unless war broke out, meant mostly for scientific discovery, and considering what such a moon base would have meant for the direction of future space exploration, neither President Dwight D. Eisenhower, nor the American public had much interest in even going to the moon at all, let alone building a base there.
NASA conceptual illustration of a lunar base.
Yes, contrary to popular belief, the Greatest Generation was pretty non-enthusiastic about the whole space thing. In fact, even after Kennedy would make his famous speech before Congress and then at Rice University, a Gallup poll showed almost two-thirds of Americans were against the plan to land a man on the moon, generally seeing it as a waste of taxpayer dollars. Sentiments did not greatly improve from there.
But Kennedy was having none of it, as outlined in his September 12, 1962 speech at Rice University:
We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of preeminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war… But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…
As for the U.S., as the initial glow of the accomplishment of putting a man on the moon rapidly wore off, and with public support almost nonexistent for further missions to the moon, it was deemed that taxpayer dollars would be much better spent for more down to Earth activities like spending approximately SEVEN TIMES the Apollo program’s entire cost sending older taxpayer’s children off to kill and be killed in Vietnam… a slightly less inspiring way to counter the communists. Thus, efforts towards the moon and beyond were mostly curtailed, with what limited funds were available for space activities largely shifted to the space shuttle program and more obviously practical missions closer to home, a move the Soviets quickly copied as well unfortunately.
A little talked about facet of Kennedy’s goal for landing on the moon was actually to have the Soviets and the U.S. join together in the effort. As Kennedy would state in the aforementioned Rice speech, “I… say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again.”
Unfortunately, each time Kennedy proposed for the U.S. and Soviets join efforts towards this unifying goal, which seemingly would have seen the Cold War become a lot less hot, the Soviets declined. That said, for whatever it’s worth, according to Sergei Khrushchev, the son of then Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev, while his father initial thought it unwise to allow the U.S. such intimate knowledge of their rocket technology, he supposedly eventually changed his mind and had decided to push for accepting Kennedy’s proposal. Said Sergei, “He thought that if the Americans wanted to get our technology and create defenses against it, they would do that anyway. Maybe we could get (technology) in the bargain that would be better for us…”
Sergei also claimed that his father also saw the benefit of better relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as a way to facilitate a massive cutback in military spending that was a huge drain on Soviet resources.
Sergei would further note that Kennedy’s assassination stopped plans to accept the offer, and the Johnson administration’s similar offer was rejected owing to Khrushchev not trusting or having the same respect for Johnson as he had developed for Kennedy.
Whatever the truth of that, thanks to declassified documents after the fall of the Soviet Union, we know that the Soviets were, in fact, originally not just planning to put a human on the moon, but also planning on building a base there as well. Called Zvezda, the planned Soviet moon installation was quite similar to the one outlined in Project Horizon, except instead of digging trenches, this base would simply be placed on the surface and then, if needs be, buried, but if not, the base was to be a large mobile platform to use to explore the moon.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Camp Bonifas in Panmunjom, South Korea is named for Captain Arthur Bonifas who was killed by North Korean soldiers in 1976 during the infamous Axe Murder Incident. Sitting next to the Demilitarized Zone, the buffer area between North and South Korea, the base serves as a frontline outpost against any possible North Korean incursion. In addition to the heavy security and first-response troops, Camp Bonifas also hosts what has been called the “World’s Most Dangerous Golf Course.”
The one-hole, 192-yard par-3 is made of artificial turf and sits less than 500 yards from the DMZ. Forget playing through roughs and trying to read greens. A duff here could send your ball into a literal minefield. There’s also an abandoned bunker and a ginseng field to make playing through that much more difficult. The tee box sits 50 yards above the fairway which was built on top of an old machine-gun position. Strong winds from the North Korean side of the DMZ also make shots here difficult.
ESPN reporter Shelley Smith visited Camp Bonifas during the 1988 Seoul Olympics and again in 2012. “It’s about the same,” she said of the golf course during her second visit. Although the idea of a golf course so close to the DMZ seems silly, it is a much-needed distraction for the American and Korean soldiers stationed there. Strategically, a base like Camp Bonifas is not expected to hold out against an all-out invasion by North Korea. Spending some time on the green is a welcome distraction from this grim reality.
Because of the nature of the base, soldiers are not allowed to bring family members when they are assigned to Camp Bonifas. However, the base is a popular tourist destination. As many as 1,000 visitors come through the base daily (pre-COVID). Troops posted at Bonifas have to memorize a 13-page history of the Korean War in order to give tours and answer questions. The base even has a gift shop stocked with DMZ-themed knick knacks.
Famous visitors to Camp Bonifas include professional athletes Andrew Luck, Randy Johnson, and Paula Creamer. “It’s so humbling because the way I look at them, I feel like I have the most respect,” Creamer said of the troops stationed at Bonifas when she visited and played a round. “I don’t know how they do it being so far away from their families and keeping your country safe and fighting for us. Their faces light up when you talk about sport in general but being a female golfer coming in there and being able to hit chip shots or balls on the range and play the toughest par-3 in the world, that’s pretty cool.”
The relaxation provided by a round of golf sits in stark contrast to the ever-present North Korean threat that sits across the DMZ. For the soldiers there, this is the reality of their duty. Shooting on the green with a club can quickly turn into shooting on the green with a rifle at Camp Bonifas.
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.
It must be so tempting, staring down an awesome piece of military hardware… just sitting there, waiting for someone to take it for a spin. The maintainers know everything about their plane, tank, or other vehicles, right down to the last detail.
Imagine anyone’s surprise when one of these vehicles just up and leaves when its not supposed to. Sounds unlikely, but it’s happened a lot more than one might think.
1. Sergeant Paul Meyer gets sick of his wife, steals a C-130
On May 23, 1969, Meyer, a U.S. Air Force crew chief stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England, took off in a C-130E, and very quickly crashed into the English Channel. His body was not found, but he was assumed to have died on impact.
The USAF investigation showed Sgt. Meyer was “under a considerable amount of stress” in the days leading up to the theft. He was married just eight weeks before his deployment to England and his wife constantly badgered him to come home – because she was being sued by her ex-husband.
On top of his marriage difficulties, he failed to pass for promotion despite allegedly being better qualified than his peers who did get promoted. Meyer was grounded and restricted to barracks for being arrested in an alcohol-related incident.
The same night he was arrested, he called the fuels unit on the base to fuel up his C-130. He then took an officer’s flight clothes and GOV, then drove to the flightline.
He did not crash on takeoff. He climbed, turned north, and made his way over the Channel. He called his wife over the radio until he lost control and crashed.
2. An Army PFC takes a Huey to the White House
Army Pfc. Robert K. Preston washed out of Army flight school in 1973. The 20-year-old was apparently determined to get under the rotors of an Army aircraft – by any means necessary. On Feb. 17, 1974, Preston stole a Bell UH-1 Huey Helicopter from Fort Meade, Maryland, and flew it down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, stopping at a trailer park along the way.
Preston, who held a civilian pilot’s license for fixed wing aircraft, completed 24 weeks of Army aviation training before washing out for “deficiency in the instrument phase.” Yet, Maryland State Police pilots who chased Preston called him “one hell of a pilot.”
The helicopter buzzed the Washington Monument and the White House itself before touching down amid a hail of Secret Service buckshot. Preston was injured in the gunfire, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined $2,400.
3. A USAF Mechanic steals an F-86 Sabre, regrets nothing
When the F-86 Sabre appeared in the Air Force fleet in the 1950s, pilots needed a year of training to fly it. Airman 1st Class George Johnson, however, took the initiative. On Sept. 20, 1956, he hopped in the cockpit of a Sabre and went for a ride.
Johnson was a mechanic with dreams of flying. Unfortunately, a burned retina from staring at an eclipse meant a plane like the F-86 was forever out of reach. As part of a routine functional check one day, he asked the tower to clear the runway for a high-speed taxi test, which was actually a thing.
Except when it reached the right speed, Johnson took off with the plane – literally. But he had no way down. No chute. No experience. The officers of the day had to talk Johnson down. Johnson was court-martialed and fined almost $200, sentenced to six months confinement and loss of rank to Airman Basic.
4. A Marine becomes a mechanic – then steals an A-4M Skyhawk
Lance Cpl. Howard Foote couldn’t become a Marine Corps pilot because he got the bends during a glider test. He had to settle for becoming a mechanic.
But the dream of flying a USMC fighter never left him. One day in 198 he gassed up a Skyhawk and took it for a joyride.
Foote landed his plane much easier than anyone else – he was an accomplished pilot already. But he still served time in the brig for his chicanery.
BONUS: U.S. Army soldier steals a tank, goes on a rampage
In 1990, a California veteran named Shawn Nelson lost a medical malpractice suit to a local hospital, who counter-sued for thousands. His wife filed for divorce in 1991. Both parents died of cancer in 1992. His brother became hooked on meth.
By 1995, his business went defunct and he lost everything and was facing homelessness. In April of that year, his live-in girlfriend died of a drug overdose.
On May 17, 1995, Nelson calmly drove to a California National Guard armory in San Diego and forced his way into a 57-ton M60A3 Patton tank. Though unarmed, Nelson still drove the tank off the base.
For 23 minutes, he led police on a slow-speed chase through local residential neighborhoods as he rampaged over utility poles, hydrants, and at least 25 cars. Eventually, the tank got caught on the median of State Route 163, where police ordered Nelson to leave the vehicle. When he instead tried to free the tank, the police shot him. Nelson died from his wounds, the only fatality.