Pres. and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt seated on lawn, surrounded by their family; 1903. From left to right: Quentin, Theodore Sr., Theodore Jr., Archie, Alice, Kermit, Edith, and Ethel.
Leave it to a man with the last name Roosevelt to lead the charge into two World Wars. Like his father, President Theodore Roosevelt, when it came time to defend the United States of America, Archibald Roosevelt couldn’t sign up fast enough.
Also just like his dad before him, he would lead American troops into combat, practically daring the enemy to hit him. In the case of Archibald Roosevelt, they did. Twice.
Archibald Roosevelt was everything one might expect the son of Teddy Roosevelt to be. He was intelligent, athletic, and rowdy with his brothers. Like his famous father, he also attended Harvard University, graduating in 1917.
That same year, the United States finally had enough of Germany’s transgressions and entered the great war raging across Europe for the previous four years. Like his three brothers, Archie entered the U.S. Army as an officer and was almost immediately sent overseas to fight in France.
There was no avoiding combat duty when you’re the son of the most “bully” former president of the day. Only one of his sons was given a job training other men for combat and though the former president lost his son Quentin and his other sons were wounded, he was contemptuous of rich men who let their sons avoid their duty.
While fighting with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, he earned two Silver Stars and the French Croix de Guerre. He was wounded while fighting in France, earning his second Silver Star citation in 1918. Roosevelt was hit in the trenches during an enemy artillery bombardment. The wound in his leg left him completely disabled in the eyes of the Army and he was discharged with the rank of captain.
In the interwar years, Theodore Roosevelt died and his son Archibald entered civilian life as an oil executive, but resigned following the Teapot Dome Scandal that rocked the government. He then went into the family’s investment business.
Then, the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor. Despite being considered disabled, he was still a Roosevelt, and petitioned then-President Franklin Roosevelt to let him and his skilled leadership rejoin the Army to fight America’s new enemy. The president approved.
Between 1943 and 1944, now Lt. Col. Roosevelt was leading a regimental combat team in New Guinea. His unit’s fight against the Japanese there was so consequential that a key ridge near his position was called “Roosevelt Ridge” unofficially by the soldiers there. When it came time to write Army history in New Guinea, the name was official. During this command, he earned two more Silver Star medals.
On August 12, 194 a Japanese grenade exploded near his position, wounding his already-disable leg in the same place he was injured in World War I. He recuperated from the wound and eventually returned to his unit, he would be medically retired from the military following the war’s end.
Archibald Roosevelt, who earned two Silver Star medals in two World Wars, was rated as 100% disabled for his latest injury. To this day, he’s still the only American to be disabled twice for the same wound incurred in two different wars.
After the war, Roosevelt went into business for himself, joined a number of political action groups, and became a staunch anti-communist, along with other public activities. He died in 1979 at age 85, due to a stroke.
The story of Robert Prongay gets more confusing the more anyone retells it, but it all begins with prolific serial killer and alleged mafia hitman, Richard Kuklinski. Known as “The Iceman” for masking his victims’ times of death by freezing their corpses, Kuklinski claimed to have killed more than 100 people for the five families of the New York City mafia — and he claimed to have learned his skills from a Special Forces veteran.
Kuklinski was only ever convicted of five murders, but it was enough to put him away for the rest of his days. These victims were small-time drug and porn dealers in the mid-1980s. In one of those murders, he used a hamburger laced with cyanide, a murder technique he picked up from a man he described as a Special Force veteran-turned-ice cream man, Robert Prongay.
“He taught me a lot,” Kuklinski once said. “But he was extremely crazy… he’d go into these neighborhoods and sell ice cream to the kids, then maybe kill one of their fathers.“
Kuklinski was known as “The Iceman” to law enforcement and Prongay was called “Mister Softee.” According to Kuklinski, the two men met at a New Jersey motel while stalking the same mark. They summed each other up and realized they were both contract killers. Prongay told Kuklinski he was an Army Special Forces veteran, trained in using explosives and poisons.
In Kuklinski’s words, Prongay used his ice cream truck as a surveillance van to follow around his potential victims, whom he would kill using aerosol cyanide and remotely-detonated grenades. It was from Prongay that Kuklinski said he learned to freeze bodies to mask time of death.
Not much is really known about the real Prongay. Kuklinski claimed to have a very firm moral code when it came to killing. He could kill anyone without feeling anything at all, but he wouldn’t kill innocent women and children. The Iceman claimed that Mister Softee asked Kuklinski to kill his wife and young son for him, which Kuklinski declined. When Prongay began to talk about poisoning an entire reservoir just to kill one family, Kuklinski shot him.
The only verification that Prongay existed and may have known Kuklinski is that an ice-cream man by the name of Robert Prongay was killed in his ice cream truck, shot twice in the chest. On Aug. 9, 1984, his body was found hanging out the side of his ice cream truck. The real Prongay, it turns out, was facing trial in New Jersey for bombing the front house ex-wife and making terrorist threats against his ex-wife and son.
Before murdering Prongay, the Iceman and Mister Softee teamed up on a few occasions. An HBO Documentary in 2001 found old film reels of Prongay and called him an “Army demolitions expert,” a claim verified by Paul Smith of the New Jersey Organize Crime Bureau.
“It is our opinion,” Smith told HBO, “that friendship led to Richard Kuklinski learning a lot about killing with different types of chemicals, including cyanide.”
In reality, Kuklinski made a lot of claims about himself and his famous hits. He was convicted of killing the members of a small-time burglary gang he led in New Jersey, along with one of his cyanide suppliers. The claims of the people he worked for and murdered makes his resume sound like one of the most prolific hitmen in the history of the American mafia. If you believe Kuklinski, he was recruited by Gambino capo Roy DeMeo, who gave Kuklinski his death orders.
Kuklinski claimed the murder of NYPD detective Peter Calabro, a murder in which Gambino underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was also charged. The Iceman also claimed the death of Roy DeMeo and claimed to be involved in John Gotti’s famous hit on Gambino boss Paul Castellano. The only mafia hit law enforcement really related to Kuklinski was that of Calabro.
Kuklinski claimed to have killed some 100-250 people between 1948 and 1986 but his claims varied wildly in later years, as some of them were unverifiable and others were found to be complete fabrications (he claimed to have killed famous disappearing act Jimmy Hoffa, for example). Renowned mafia writers and historians claim to never have heard of a hitman named Kuklinski.
If Kuklinski’s claims are true, he would be the most prolific serial killer/hitman in American history.
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
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.
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.
The Israeli media dubbed it the “Double Miracle In Gaza” — a Hamas fighter took shots at an IDF soldier, hitting him in his cache of grenades. If life were a movie, we know what would happen next.
Luckily life is most definitely not like the movies. The soldier in question (his name was not released by the media) was operating in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
After the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, the IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper. The goal was for the IDF to move in and arrest Hamas leadership and the militants responsible for the killings. In response, the terror group fired a number of rockets into Israel from Gaza.
That’s when the IDF moved in on the missile sites.
The soldier’s unit was in Shuja’iyya, in the north of Gaza, where many of Hamas rockets are fired into Israel. Shuja’iyya is a major urban center and is also densely populated. Hamas fired an estimated 140 rockets from the city during the conflict.
His unit was looking for the secret tunnels Hamas uses to sneak into Israel across a blockade. As they moved, an AK-47 round hit a grenade attached to his protective vest. The grenade stopped the bullet and –miraculously – didn’t explode.
The Israelis determined that the bullet was at the end of its effectiveness range, that it was fired from very far away, and didn’t have the energy required to penetrate the vest.
As for the grenade, it’s designed that way. A series of combat incidents involving grenades hitting grenades and exploding in the IDF caused the Israeli military to revamp their grenade design.
After the incident, the IDF cleared Shuja’iyya of Hamas fighters, then bulldozed a number of buildings to collapse the illegal tunnels — tunnels used to smuggle small arms, missiles, and other weapons into Gaza. The IDF then moved on to secure other areas near Gaza’s northern border with Israel.
Imagine having to conceal your identity in order to feel safe and protect the ones you love. Changing the route you take to work, wearing disguises so you won’t be recognized, or reducing the amount of vacation you take because you know it’s safer to be at work than not.
For many of us, this way of life would seem farfetched or unrealistic, but for one Airman, this was his reality. Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad, 60th Aerial Port Squadron, transportation Journeyman, used to be an Afghan national working as a head interpreter with U.S. forces at Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan. As the head interpreter, Javad was relied upon for his expertise, which meant he was on all the important missions.
“I would go out on missions and it was like I was actually in the Army,” said Javad. “I would go weeks without a shower, I would carry 100-150 pound bags of ammo, sleep on the ground, walk all day, climb mountains, and jump out of helicopters.”
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo, Feb. 28, 2018. Javad was a linguist for U.S. forces while living in Afghanistan and fled to the United States in 2014. (Photo by Louis Briscese)
Despite the constant diligence to remain obscured, in 2013, the locals somehow figured out Javad was working with U.S. forces.
“Once they knew who I was, my family and I were no longer safe,” said Javad. “My life was threatened by the insurgents, my wife was accused of helping infidels and was threatened with kidnapping. I knew after that, I couldn’t work here anymore.”
Thus began a courageous and remarkable journey that led Javad to America and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.
Javad was born in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. His family fled to Iran because the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan made it too dangerous to stay.
“We left in 1989 when I was two during the Soviet-Afghan War because it was too dangerous for my family to stay,” said Javad “We came to Iran under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so we were discriminated against.”
There were not many educational opportunities for Javad growing up in Iran because of his refugee status. His parents decided to return to Afghanistan in 2004 since it was safer.
“We came back to Afghanistan so I could seek higher education because neither of my parents had that opportunity,” said Javad. “They wanted that option for me. I got my education, my bachelors and a double major in chemistry and biology.”
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo with his wife Sara, and three children Sana, Yusef, and Benyamin, March 6, 2018. (Photo by Louis Briscese)
After completing his education, Javad still found it difficult to find meaningful work.
“Afghanistan had a new government and it was corrupted,” said Javad. “It was difficult to get jobs unless you knew the right people.”
Javad had taken classes on computers, language, and received a certification in accounting. This helped him find a job where he could now provide for his family.
“After graduating college, I worked for an accounting firm,” said Javad. “After a year and a half, I was promoted to general manager.”
Unfortunately, after a horrific motorcycle accident kept him in the hospital for six months, Javad lost his job as a general manager with the accounting firm.
“I knew that without knowing anyone in the government, I was going to have to start from the bottom again,” said Javad. “The only other option I had was to become a linguist with U.S. forces.”
The day Javad applied for the linguist position, over 200 others were attempting the same.
“There’s a written and verbal skills test, interview, and security background check,” said Javad. “Only 10 of us made it through those stages. Once you get through that, there’s another few months of security screening with the Central Intelligence Agency and medical exams.”
Javad’s first assignment was with the USAF at FOB Shindand.
“I was assigned to the Base Defense Operations Center for the Air Force,” said Javad. “I was translating all the daily, weekly, and monthly security reports.”
While assigned there Javad met Senior Master Sgt. Michael Simon II, who was serving on a 365-day deployment as a Mi-17 crew chief air advisor.
“Javad was assigned to the FOB as an interpreter, translating from Dari or Pashto to English,” said Simon. “We worked together on several occasions in support of the Afghan Air Force training and advising missions.”
What Javad didn’t know at the time was that Simon would play an instrumental role years later as he transitioned from Afghanistan to America. During his time at FOB Shindand, the USAF was replaced by the Army, and his duties and responsibilities changed significantly.
“We were given the option to resign or accept new roles,” said Javad. “Sure enough, within a month, I was riding in convoys outside the wire. Things were a lot different now.”
Javad spent three years at FOB Shindand and witnessed some horrific things.
“I saw Army soldiers get shot and killed. I saw Afghan civilians get shot and killed,” said Javad. “I was the head interpreter and was always going out with Battalion commanders and other high-ranking officials.”
Despite the difficulties of his job and awful experiences he witnessed, Javad felt something for the first time.
“I was a local,” said Javad. “I wasn’t a U.S. citizen, but they never treated me like a stranger. They trusted me, they worked with me. That was a feeling I’d never had in my life before until I worked there.”
After his identity was disclosed and Javad knew he was no longer safe in Afghanistan, he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa so he could come to America. This wasn’t an easy decision because Javad was living as an upper middle-class citizen in Afghanistan.
“I was a homeowner with lots of land,” said Javad. “I owned a car and motorcycle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell anything because no one would buy anything built with the money from America. I was choosing between my belongings or my life.”
In the summer of 2014, Javad took his pregnant wife with only the belongings they could fit in a suitcase, the $800 they received for selling their wedding bands and traveled to the United States to begin a new life.
“When we arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we had nothing,” said Javad. “I needed a sponsor for my SIV and Simon agreed. With the help of Simon, we were able to sustain some sort of normalcy until we could get on our feet.”
Simon got donations from his church and the local refugee service in Colorado Springs. Lutheran Refugee Service lined up a starter apartment with basic furnishings.
“My sister had coordinated with a group of close friends and churches to get a lot of items needed outside of the basics already provided,” said Simon. “Then the rest was up to Javad and his determination to succeed.”
Despite having an education, Javad found it hard to find work.
“I had to find a job because I barely could afford a month’s rent,” said Javad. “Nobody would give me a job because I didn’t have a history of work in the U.S.”
After meeting a family who had a local business, Javad found some temporary work, but more importantly, a life-long friend.
“They ended up being like family to us,” said Javad. “They called me son and they were the only ones who came to my graduation at basic training.”
Working in a warehouse didn’t bring in a lot of money for Javad and he struggled to make ends meet.
“For the first four months, I didn’t have a car,” said Javad. “I had to walk four miles one way, work eight hours, and walk another four miles back, in the winter, in Colorado Springs.”
After a year in the U.S., Javad felt that serving in the armed forces may provide a better life for him and his family.
“I worked four years with the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and had a little sense of what life was like in the military,” said Javad. “I know there’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make when serving your country, but in the end, I wanted to give back to the country that helped me a lot.”
Javad decided to enlist in the USAF and entered basic training in February 2016.
“I wanted to be part of a really big picture,” said Javad. “I did it mainly because the U.S. military saved my life and I wanted to do my part.”
The decision to join the USAF did not surprise Simon because his commitment, dedication and hard work align with the USAF core values.
For Javad, to start from scratch with just a suitcase and dedicate his efforts to providing for his family is the true American dream,” said Simon. “Now he’s a member of the 1 percent club who voluntarily choose to serve this great nation. To say I’m proud of Javad would be an understatement.”
A week before graduating basic training, Javad received an unexpected gift.
“I was notified that I was officially a U.S. citizen,” said Javad. “I was overwhelmed with pride. When I saw the flag being raised at graduation and we saluted, I couldn’t stop myself from crying because I finally had a flag I could be proud of.”
After basic training and technical school, Javad arrived at his first duty station here at Travis Air Force Base, California. He’s enjoyed the people, mission, and the area.
“My unit treats me like any other Airman,” said Javad. “They don’t see me as a person from Afghanistan, they see me as an Airman.”
Javad has yet to deploy since joining the USAF but said he would like to return to Afghanistan as an Airman and citizen of the U.S.
“I would be happy to deploy to Afghanistan because I know the mission over there is important,” said Javad. “I would love a special duty assignment as a linguist and use my language skills to help my fellow Airmen.”
Javad’s short-term goal is to help his parents get to the U.S.
“My parents had to escape Afghanistan and flee to another country,” said Javad. “I feel responsible because I come from a culture where your kids are your retirement, so now they are struggling until I can find a way to bring them to America.”
Once Javad secures his family in the U.S., he plans on achieving his long-term goal which is to become an officer in the USAF.
“I couldn’t become an officer when I enlisted even though I had the education because I wasn’t a citizen,” said Javad. “Now that I have my citizenship, I will pursue officer training school and get my commission.”
In 1916, nine-year-old Paddy Ryan was caught in a shootout between the Irish Republican Army and British troops. One of the British men pushed Ryan to the ground, taking a bullet for the young boy. It inspired Ryan to join the Army.
Except Paddy Ryan wouldn’t join the British Army until 1930. But Alfonsus Gilligan, as Ryan was known at the time joined as soon as he could. And deserted shortly after.
Deserters in the era of the second world war left for many reasons; few of them were actually for cowardice. Most of them were actually because months and years of endless combat pushed many of the frontline British troops past their breaking point.
The British Empire abolished the death penalty for desertion after World War I. In World War II Europe, deserters ran the black markets of occupied countries like France and the Netherlands. In Africa, deserters were often recruited into special operations forces like the British SAS.
The 17-year-old wore his Irish Guards uniform to a public event in County Cork, Ireland — in defiance of British Army rules. The Irish, who just fought a war of independence against Britain, started a riot. Gilligan escaped unharmed, but was brought up on charges. He never returned to his London-based unit.
He spent a few years as an itinerant farmer and day laborer before he rejoined the British Army with a new name: Frank “Paddy” Ryan.
He and his fellow Royal Warwickshires deployed to France in 1940. He was part of the rear guard that held back the Nazis at Dunkirk, delaying them long enough for most of the men to make it off the beaches.
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was overrun at Wormhoudt, in northern France, by the German army. They ran out of ammunition and surrendered with the expectation of proper treatment under the Geneva Convention.
Instead, a Nazi Waffen SS division called Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler took many of Ryan’s friends and brothers from the Royal Warwickshires, along with members of the Cheshire Regiment, Royal Artillery and a handful of French soldiers, to a barn near Wormhoudt, and then murdered them with grenades and rifle fire.
This became known as the Wormhoudt Massacre. Paddy Ryan was not among those killed. He fought on along the Ypres-Comines Canal as they made their way to the beach, being evacuated and returning to England on June 1, 1940.
His daughter didn’t discover her father’s first life until after his death in 2000. It inspired her and her husband to explore his life in more detail.
In the event World War III broke out between the Soviet Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Sweden intended to remain neutral.
After all, they’d managed to sit out World Wars I and II.
But there’s also a growing recognition that their neutrality would not be respected. A 2015 New York Times report noted that a Russian submarine sank in Swedish waters in 1916 after colliding with a Swedish vessel. In the 1980s, there were also a number of incidents, the most notorious being “Whiskey on the Rocks.” According to WarHistoryOnline.com, a Soviet Whiskey-class diesel-electric submarine ran aground off the Swedish coast in 1981, prompting a standoff between Swedish and Soviet forces that included scrambling fighters armed with anti-ship missiles.
The Soviets knew Sweden could threaten their northern flank, and the Swedes knew that they may well have to fight the Soviet Union, even though they were neutral. Should a NATO-Warsaw Pact war break out, the Swedes made contingency plans to be able to deploy their Air Force, and keep fighting in the event the Soviets attacked.
Atomic cloud over Nagasaki from Koyagi-jima by Hiromichi Matsuda. (Wikimedia Commons).
On September 2, 1945, World War II was officially over. Many celebrated August 15th as the end of the war when Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced Imperial Japan’s surrender, but it took two more weeks before the surrender was formally signed. This is long enough for younger generations to have no memory of the catastrophic war, but there are still people alive today who experienced it firsthand.
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Just three days later, a second detonated over Nagasaki. In total, more than 200,000 people were killed by the explosions, with thousands more experiencing long-term effects. Those who survived will never forget the experience. So what is it really like to be hit by a nuclear weapon and live? Let’s find out.
It starts out with a flash.
When an atomic bomb detonates, it goes through predictable stages. Nuclear bombs work by setting off a rapid chain reaction. Uranium undergoes the process of fission, which releases an almost incomprehensible amount of energy. About 35% of this energy is released as thermal radiation. Because thermal radiation travels at roughly the speed of light, a bright flash is the first thing one experiences after a nuclear bomb is dropped. We’re talking blinding. The initial flash is so bright, it can cause temporary blindness. Even closing your eyes isn’t complete protection. Larger nuclear weapons, which do exist in present-day, could cause flash blindness in people over 50 miles away.
The blinding light is accompanied by intense heat.
It’s not called thermal radiation for nothing. After the blinding flash, there’s a blast of intense heat. At the direct site of the explosion, the temperature can hit over 300K degrees C, visible as a massive fireball. At this temperature, which is about 300 times hotter than the temperature used for cremation, humans are instantaneously turned from people into basic elements. Just about everything within a 1-mile radius of the city of Hiroshima was completely flattened. The farther you are from the blast, the more likely you are to survive, but you’re unlikely to escape completely unscathed. First-degree burns can occur up to 6.8 miles away. Get just 2 miles closer and you’re at risk for life-threatening third-degree burns.
Wearing white might reduce effects.
Donning a wedding dress won’t save you if you’re in the middle of the blast, but it might help if you’re a few miles away. White clothing reflects some of the thermal energy while dark clothes absorb it, so you may be a little better off if you’re wearing light-colored clothing than if charcoal is your favorite color.
If you’re further away, pressure waves can still get you.
When a nuclear bomb explodes, it releases light and heat energy, but it also pushes air away from the initial explosion site with a tremendous amount of force. This creates a change in air pressure so intense that the wind can collapse buildings and crush most objects in its path. Within a half-mile of the blast, wind speeds can get as high as 470 mph. While you could potentially survive the force itself, the buildings around you most likely would not.
The world around you will resemble a scene from a horror film.
Shockingly, survival close to ground zero is possible. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dropped, some people were sheltered by the sturdy walls of banks or basements. The reports of those who did survive paint a very dark picture. Your hair is likely to be literally fried, and your clothes charred to rags. The people who were outside at the time of the blast are either severely burned or dead- with some of the deceased catching fire in the streets. Farther from the explosion, more people will lie injured or dead from glass and other projectiles. Human shadows are marked permanently on the ground and any walls left standing.
If you survive, you may feel the side-effects for the rest of your life.
Radiation poisoning caused a significant number of deaths in the weeks following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects of radiation are varied, ranging from milder symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, fever, headaches, and hair loss to death. Because radiation can cause a drop in the number of blood cells produced, wounds heal more slowly than normal. Even after you recover, your risk of cancer and other illnesses usually associated with age will be heightened.
A terrifying image, but an important lesson.
While the end of a war is always a reason to rejoice, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost at the hands of fellow mankind was an atrocity. The survivors have memories darker than most of us can imagine. Disturbingly, we now have the power to create an explosion larger than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The largest bomb ever tested was the 50 megaton Tsar bomb, which released the equivalent energy of over 3,300 Hiroshima bombs.
Fortunately, our international agreements should prevent such catastrophic warfare from ever taking place. To learn more about what it was really like to experience a nuclear explosion, Time interviewed survivors who can tell you the real story.
The Global Positioning System is taken for granted these days. The military uses it for just about everything from guiding bombs to setting up rendezvous for resupplying. In the civilian world, systems powered by GPS can be found in just about every new phone or car. The system came online fully in 1995, but not before getting a brief workout during Desert Storm.
The idea for such a system stems back to 1973, when the United States was wrapping up in Vietnam and Israel was fighting for its very survival in the Yom Kippur War. The system was a fusion of technologies pushed by the various armed services — some of which dated back to before 1961’s first manned spaceflight.
One of the biggest reasons for GPS was for weapons accuracy. Back then, the goal wasn’t to create incredibly sophisticated systems, like the Joint Direct Attack Munition, but rather, according to the website for Trimble, a maker of GPS devices, it was to give nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines the means to know their position within a matter of feet. This would enable them to deliver nuclear warheads accurately. Similarly, GPS would be a key technology in turning proposals for mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles into viable weapons.
GPS was originally intended to provide accurate positioning data for ballistic missile submarines – making missiles like this UGM-133 Trident II far more accurate.
Like virtually everything about nuclear weapons and their support systems, this technology was intended to be kept within the military. The trajectory of GPS technology, though, was changed drastically during the Reagan administration. In the wake of the 1983 downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 by a Soviet Su-15 Flagon interceptor, President Reagan ordered that GPS be made available for civilian applications. Production satellites began launching in 1989 and, just six years later, we had complete global coverage.
Today, GPS is so widespread, we’re willing to drop receivers attached to conventional bombs.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Second Class Felix Garza Jr.)
Today, GPS has become almost a public utility, like electricity or water. According to the United States Coast Guard, 31 satellites are in orbit, giving troops — and civilians — a near-constant ability to know where they are.
Watch the video below to see the Air Force describe GPS over forty years ago.
In 1967, a 77-year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower ascended to the top of the famed St. Louis Arch, the gateway to the West. It wasn’t a planned trip, but the former President decided to go visit it anyway. And he wanted to go to the top, something the Secret Service forbids Presidents, past and present, to do. But Ike was the one who signed off on the construction of the Arch in 1954 and besides – who was going to tell the Supreme Allied Commander “no?”
In case you were wondering about the answer to that question, it’s “no one.”
But he was the only one and even Eisenhower, a former President by the time he ascended to the highest peak of the 630-foot archway, had to do some sneaky work to be able to get to the top over the objections of his contingent of bodyguards. Eisenhower’s visit to the Gateway Arch came after hours, so there were no other tourists around, and it wasn’t a scheduled part of his itinerary, so potential assassins wouldn’t ever have known he would be there. He took the famed tramway up the arch over the objections of the Secret Service.
While Ike isn’t the only President to overrule the objections of the those who protect him, he’s the only one who forced his way up the St. Louis Arch. By the time he came to visit the city on the Mississippi River, two more Presidents had occupied the Oval Office after his tenure. It was a pretty safe bet.
The view inside the top of the arch.
Getting to the top is actually a pretty cleverly designed tram that is part elevator and part Ferris wheel. But the top of the arch is a very small, cramped space that doesn’t make for a lot of room to maneuver or for a lot of people to spend any significant amount of time. It also keeps people relatively close together, which is a problem for a protective unit trying to keep people out of arms reach of the world’s most powerful person.
Despite the cramped space, some 160 people can fit in the top of the arch, and a complete trip to the top takes about 45 minutes on average. That’s a lot of time, space, and opportunity to give a would-be threat.
But in reality, the Leader of the Free World is actually the one in charge, and they can do whatever they want, but the USSS really doesn’t want the President up in the Arch.
Appearances, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving.
This happened to be the exact concept behind Q-ships, heavily armed decoy vessels used by Allied navies during the First World War to harass and destroy German submarines, also known as U-boats.
The Germany Navy’s U-boat fleet quickly proved to be a scourge in the Atlantic, hunting down and sinking Allied merchant and combat ships with impunity. Able to sneak up to convoys and warships virtually undetected, U-boats began racking up kills in incredible numbers, quickly becoming a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.
Allied ships, often loaded with troops, supplies, and materiel to aid the war effort in Europe were being lost at astonishing rates. As sonar was still an emerging technology, submarine detection was often difficult if not downright impossible. However, a solution began to form in the minds of Allied naval commanders.
U-boats could only remain submerged for short periods of time, and they were often deployed to sea with a limited supply of torpedoes. As such, most U-boat commanders preferred to run their vessels on the surface, utilizing deck guns for the majority of their attacks on enemy vessels.
The British Navy came up with a solution in the form of a thoroughly disguised merchant vessel carrying a crew of sailors dressed like fishers or merchant mariners. With fake boxes of cargo on the decks of the ship, German U-boats would likely assume that what they see in their periscope’s crosshairs was really just a supply ship, transporting munitions and weaponry for Allied soldiers on the front lines.
A juicy and defenseless target, ripe for the taking.
However, these ships were anything but defenseless. Armed with a variety of deck guns in different calibers, and even depth charges in some cases, the crew could open fire after luring the German submarines close enough, sinking, or at least thoroughly disabling, their enemy’s watercraft.
One less U-boat in the fight.
The British Admiralty decided that these decoy ships would be homeported at Queenstown, Ireland, where they would have easy access to the North Atlantic, and a safe harbor to return to. They would soon be nicknamed Q-ships, thanks to their port of origin.
Deployed in growing numbers, Q-ships began hunting down and attacking German submarines using deception and surprise to their advantage. As soon as U-boats closed in, panels were dropped, the Royal Navy’s ensign was raised and deck guns boomed while sending German sailors scrambling for cover.
However, the plan turned out to be a major dud.
By the war’s end, it was found that throughout 150 reported engagements between Q-ships and U-boats, only 14 submarines were destroyed, while the rest were either damaged or had escaped. The Q-ship program had an even lower success rate than mines, which, given the associated numbers and statistics, was highly embarrassing.
The program, once a closely-kept secret, was shuttered and remained fairly dormant in the years between World Wars, though other navies began exploring similar vessels of their own.
Q-ships would make a reappearance during the Second World War, serving with the German, British, American, and Japanese navies. Oddly enough, German Q-ships wound up racking up higher kill numbers than their Allied counterparts.
In the years since, anti-submarine warfare (ASW for short) has advanced considerably, making sub-hunting something of an art form. Thankfully, the Q-ship concept has been relegated to the history books once and for all, having experienced its trial by fire during the two World Wars, and coming up short.