Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Of all the things our 16th President is remembered for these days, his uncanny strength is often overlooked. During his days on the American frontier, he was known for his strength and wrestling prowess. The “Rail Splitter” (Lincoln’s nickname), was a volunteer soldier during the Black Hawk War and even manhandled a violent viewer during one of his political speeches, leaving the podium to toss a man 12 feet away from the crowd.

The Confederacy clearly didn’t know who they were dealing with.


Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Lincoln didn’t kill vampires with his ax, but he could have.

Life on the American frontier was harsh for a figure like Lincoln. He was raised in rural areas of what was then the very edge of a nascent, young country. In his early years, he could barely read or write, and as such he took work as a hired hand. When he was still very young, he experienced a growth spurt that saw him towering over others. His large frame and chosen profession saw the gaunt young boy turn into a man of uncommon strength.

Young Lincoln moved around the country on more than one occasion, and the first thing that needed to be done in his new home was to clear an area of trees and construct his new dwelling. For this, he needed a trusty ax – a tool with which he would become an expert user. His skills with an ax would come in handy later, as his reputation as a free laborer (as opposed to, say, a slave) catapulted him to the White House in 1860.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Just like how Lincoln catapulted bullies left and right.

While occupying the White House, Lincoln had very little use for his skills as a laborer, but the strength he acquired in his early years never left him. On the day before the end of the Civil War, the President was visiting a military hospital in Virginia and spent much of the day shaking hands with Union soldiers, both wounded and not wounded. Onlookers swore the 56-year-old must have shaken thousands of hands that day. But when one Union troop told the President that he must be tired from a day full of shaking hands, Lincoln took it as a challenge.

Spotting an ax, he opted to show a feat of strength he’d done many, many times before when wanting to bond with Union soldiers. He was known to even challenge them to the display of strength he was about to put on for the Petersburg, Va. hospital patients and their visitors.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

An Army of Abraham Lincolns would have been unstoppable.

Lincoln walked over to the ax, picked it up by the butt, and held it out at arms’ length, parallel to the ground for as long as he could.

“Strong men who looked on, men accustomed to manual labor, could not hold the same ax in that position for a moment,” wrote Francis Fisher Browne, a Union soldier who authored a biography called The Every-Day Life of Abraham Lincoln.

Such a feat of strength by the Commander-In-Chief was impressive to Union soldiers. Very often, they couldn’t manage such a stunt. During the hospital visit, after holding out the ax, he even began chopping a log nearby, showering onlookers with chips of wood – which they all kept.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Night Witches: The female pilots who struck fear into the Nazis

With what is arguably one of the most badass names in military history, the story of the female aviators nicknamed Nachthexen, or “Night Witches” by German soldiers, tends to fly under a lot of people’s radar (bad pun intended). Flying no-frills wooden planes with ill-fitting uniforms and no parachutes, these Soviet pilots not only faced off against Nazis, but also judgment, doubt, and mistreatment by many of their male counterparts. 

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
The women of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, with their aircraft in the background. (U.S. Air Force)

From the start of WWII, Russian women were looking for ways to contribute in both support roles at home and in hands-on roles near the front lines. These women had a seasoned advocate in their corner, in the form of Soviet pilot Colonel Marina Raskova. 

Raskova, known to many as the “Russian Amelia Earhart,” had already made a name for herself as the first female navigator in the Soviet Air Force, with an impressive number of long distance flights already recorded. Once Raskova began receiving letters from women asking how they could help, she used her position within the military to open up new opportunities for them. Her success was helped by the fact that Joseph Stalin personally knew and respected Raskova and her efforts, and in October of 1941, he ordered her to create three female-only air squads. While two of them inevitably became mixed-gendered, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment remained exclusively women for the entirety of its existence.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
A stamp portrait of Marina Raskova in uniform with the insignia of a major of the Soviet Air Force. (WikiMedia Commons)

Around 400 women, ranging in age from 17 to 25, were selected and moved to Engels, where they began training at the Engels School of Aviation. In addition to having to learn years worth of training and information in just a few short months, they also had to deal with misogyny from many of the male soldiers within the Soviet ranks.

Since the women of the 588th were seen by many to be less than, or as “little girls,” they weren’t taken seriously or provided proper equipment. The female pilots were given ill-fitting male uniforms and oversized boots, which they would have to stuff with their own torn up bedding to ensure a better fit. With sexual harassment and ridicule a daily occurrence, these women had to learn quickly how to be stronger both in and outside of battle. 

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
Night Withes in 1943 (WikiMedia Commons)

They also weren’t able to equip their planes with things like parachutes due to a lack of funds and strict weight limits for the outdated aircraft they were provided. These planes were crop dusters from the 1920s and typically only used for training purposes. Made predominantly of canvas and plywood, the two-person Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes were considered by most to be a death wish if used in combat. 

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
(WikiMedia Commons)

Since the plane itself already posed so many of its own safety issues, flying at night was really their only way to ensure any sort of stealth and safety. Most runs would happen with three planes, the first two meant to draw attention and enemy fire, with the third being the one to drop the bomb. What made this so dangerous is the fact that the third plane, to avoid detection, would have to cut their engine and glide over their target as quietly as possible.

Getting the engine back up and running after the drop was always a “fingers crossed” kind of scenario, given the age and ability of the aircraft. One of the only things these planes offered in their favor was the fact that, due to their slower top speed, they were able to maneuver faster than the German planes, making it harder to get a target on them. In terms of defense munitions on board, there was little to none. Many pilots would have only a loaded pistol, typically leaving the last bullet for themselves, as suicide was preferrable to being captured.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
Irina Sebrova flew 1,008 sorties in the war, more than any other member of the regiment. (WikiMedia Commons)

The main goal of the 588th was to disorient and sleep deprive the enemy, and soon after beginning their runs, it became clear that they were successful. Not only were the Nazi’s thrown off by the near-nightly attacks, but they were also particularly incensed when they learned that an all-woman regiment was responsible. The name Night Witches was given by the Nazis — due to the noise the planes would make when they would glide, engines cut, overhead. They described it as the sound of “brooms sweeping.”

Despite their clear aptitude and success, the Night Witches, a name they wore with pride, continued to receive criticism and contempt from many of the males in the Soviet military throughout their time in the war. They were arguably never given the complete appreciation and recognition they deserved. That didn’t seem to bother them too much, however, and they went on to fly around 30,000 sorties and have 23 of their pilots awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
Group photograph of several members of the Night Witches, all of whom became heroes of the Soviet Union. Left to right: Tanya Makarova, Vera Belik, Polina Gelman, Yekaterina Ryabova, Yevdokiya Nikulina, and Nadezhda Popova. (WikiMedia Commons)

While the roles of women in the military have continued to grow and evolve across the globe, the Night Witches were instrumental in showing that women are just as capable, even with minimal support, respect, equipment, and with all the odds stacked against them. It’s stories like these, the lesser-known tales, that add so much to history. It’s these stories that set the stage for where we are today.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how some tanks, APCs, and IFVs get upgraded on the cheap

Imagine you’re in a country that tends to pinch pennies when it comes to the defense budget. Now imagine that you’re looking to upgrade your armored fighting vehicles (tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers), but you’ve just been told you can’t buy new ones — even second-hand vehicles aren’t an option. Sounds like you’re stuck with obsolete vehicles, right?

Not necessarily. Believe it or not, those old tanks can be given new life, and the process is actually very simple and relatively cheap. More often than not, your real problem isn’t the armored fighting vehicle itself, it’s what goes on top: the turret.


This is where the firepower of your typical armored fighting vehicle resides. Thankfully, the great thing about turrets is that they can be replaced quite easily if you have the proper facilities and trained maintenance personnel. If you have a perfectly good hull, swapping out the turret is a great way to buy time and extend the service life of an otherwise-outdated and outmatched system.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

The baseline BTR-80 has a KPV 14.5mm machine gun, but a new turret can make this a BTR-80A with a 30mm auto-cannon.

(DOD)

Russia is doing just this with their BTR-80 and BTR-82 armored personnel carriers. The baseline versions had a manned turret with a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun. However, the Russians replaced the initial turret with one that houses a 2A72 30mm auto-cannon — similar to the 2A42 auto-cannon used on the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and the Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter — thus creating the BTR-80A and the BTR-82A. According to some reports, Russia may make another turret switch for the latter vehicle, giving the BTR-82A a 57mm gun.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

During Reforger 82, when this photo was taken, the M60A1 tank was still in widespread service, even as the M1 Abrams was starting to replace it.

(DOD)

Tanks also benefit from this upgrade treatment. For example, Turkey was able to extend the life of 170 M60 Patton tanks by going with the Israeli Sabra upgrade, which essentially puts a Merkava III turret on the Patton’s hull (a few other upgrades were made while they were at it). Egypt is also looking to do this with its fleet of M60 main battle tanks.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

The centerpiece of the M60T in Turkish Army service is a new turret like that on Israeli Merkava tanks.

(Photo by Natan Flayer)

The fact is, if you have an older armored vehicle, just junking it or passing it on may not be the best option. You might find that the better bargain is in getting a new turret instead.

MIGHTY SPORTS

7 reasons you can’t see your six-pack abs

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.


Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

1. You’re working the wrong muscles.

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.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

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.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

3. You’re working out too much.

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.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

(Photo by Paloma A.)

4. You drank too many beers.

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.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

(Photo by Shane Rounce)

5. You’re eating too much.

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.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

(Photo by bruce mars)

6. You’re not oiled up.

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.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

7. You need more resistance.

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.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.

WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.


WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?

We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.

My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..

We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615

As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.

We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.

They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.

WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?

I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov

WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?

I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.

WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?

I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?

There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.

Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.

Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.

Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”

When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.

When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.

I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?

“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.

I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.

“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.

Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.

“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.

Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.

My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?

I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.


MIGHTY GAMING

7 best video games to get into the Halloween spirit

Winter is coming… but first, there’s Halloween. It’s the season of costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and horror. So, while plenty of people are going to paste themselves in front of TVs to watch a few Halloween classics, the rest of us are grabbing controllers and keyboards to immerse ourselves in true, interactive Halloween magic.

Here are seven great games to get in the mood, from horror to action to virtual trick-or-treating:


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The Spirit killer in Dead by Daylight can phase walk to sprint through the map and track injured survivors by their blood. Best of all, she can create phantom versions of herself, decoys that can fool players into thinking they’re facing the real killer.

(Behaviour Interactive)

Dead by Daylight

Dead by Daylight racked up some awards and lots of positive reviews when it was released, and it’s obvious why. This horror game pits one monster against four survivors. The survivors have to try and make it out alive, usually by working together, but you can try to escape on your own.

Or, you can play as the monster, hunting the survivors down one by one and placing their bodies on meat hooks to save for later. The base game includes some cool, original monsters, but you can also download some of horror’s greatest movie slashers, like Freddy and Jason.

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The enemies in Killing Floor 2 are endless and murderous.

(Tripwire Interactive)

Killing Floor 2

Killing Floor 2 is an action-horror game filled with bloody “ZEDs,” murderous clones created by an evil corporation. The clones make up a motley and murderous group of enemies, encompassing everything from standard human-ish murderers to massively obese clowns to titans with blades strapped to their arms.

There’s no real story to speak of; it’s really just an arena horror game. But, it features great gunplay and an awesome soundtrack combined with waterfalls of gore. A nice touch is that increasing the difficulty doesn’t just make the ZEDs more powerful and robust, it also changes the ways they behave, making them better coordinated and more aggressive.

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Jason breaks into a cabin as a camp counselor makes her way to the car unseen.

(IllFonic)

Friday the 13th: The Game

Friday the 13th: The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, but it’s all about one of America’s most iconic movie killers. Players taking on the role of the killer can adopt one of Jason’s many looks, from the 1989 video game to the Jason impersonator from A New Beginning. Players trying to survive are known as “counselors” and can pick from over a dozen different Crystal Lake camp counselors.

Jasons work to kill all seven counselors before they escape or are able to defeat him. Counselors try to survive long enough for the police to arrive or go for an epic win by completing teamwork challenges and escaping or killing Jason (both of which are hard). Lots of movie characters make appearances, including Jason’s mom and Tommy Jarvis.

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The angel statue is ironic, in case you couldn’t guess that in a game about members of a cult committing murder.

(Cyanide)

Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulu is based on — what else? — the Lovecraft Universe. Specifically, it’s based on a tabletop game based on the Lovecraft story, “Call of Cthulhu.” You’re a World War I vet and private detective sent to investigate the murder of the Hawkins family at their burnt house where, as it turns out, some crazy occult stuff is going on. And, of course, there are lots of tentacles.

An awesome, Lovecraftian twist in the detective genre comes as gathering occult clues slowly leads to insanity.

It looks like a promising psychological/survival horror game. Unfortunately, this title doesn’t actually release until October 30, just in time for Halloween, but way too late for us to gather nuggets to share with you ahead of time.

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The DOOM Marine isn’t know for playing nice with demons.

(id Software)

DOOM

Yup, the old DOOM series. In every game, you play the role of a guy sent to a place where portals to Hell are opening. While most DOOM games, including the 2016 iteration we’re recommending here, are more action than horror, they’re still a great way to get ready for Halloween as you fight your way through the hordes of demons.

The game provides a great atmosphere, soundtrack, and plenty of blood and gore without really trying to terrify you, so you can easily fall asleep. You know, unless the game’s awesome soundtrack pumps up your heart up too high. Bonus: Playing DOOM for Halloween will help you prep for the release of DOOM Eternal.

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Around Halloween time, World of Warcraft, a game already filled with the undead and monsters, gets more of both.

(Blizzard Entertainment)

World of Warcraft’s Hallow’s End

This isn’t a full game of Halloween or horror, but World of Warcraft has special events for most holidays, and Halloween happenings are especially fun. Starting on October 18, players will be able to trick-or-treat, kill the Headless Horseman, collect costumes, and hurl pumpkins onto each other’s heads.

It’s all lots of fun and very family-friendly. Even killing the Headless Horseman is accomplished with little blood and gore, especially compared to the other games on this list. But, seeing as this is only a two-week event, it’s more for people who already own the game. It’s not likely worth it for folks who have no interest in the rest of the game (which is full of more monsters, including zombies and witches and Lich Kings… so why aren’t you interested?).

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Sophie is the ghost of a dead teenager, and she is out to get you.

(TrerPlay)

Sophie’s Curse

Sophie’s Curse is a crazy simple game. You’re a nurse hired to take care of an old grandpa in a haunted house with faulty wires and four generator-powered lights. You have to keep the lights on and, spoiler, a ghost is there to attack you.

The monster is standard fare, but the limited controls and the focus needed to keep the lights on guarantees that most players will experience some serious jump scares. You have no way of fighting the monster, so the key to survival is making it to the safe points quickly whenever she shows up. TO top it off, the game is cheap. It’s currently on sale on Steam for id=”listicle-2611465480″.69 until October 15 — down from .

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China unleashes its ‘Reaper’ copy in exciting footage

The developers of one of China’s newest and most advanced combat drones have released a new video showcasing its destructive capabilities.

The video was released just one week prior to the start of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong, China, where this drone made its debut in 2016.


China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s CH-5 combat drone, nicknamed the “Air Bomb Truck” because it soars into battle with 16 missiles, is the successor to the CH-4, which many call the “AK-47 of drones.”

CH-5 UAV appears in recent video released

www.youtube.com

Resembling General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper drone, the developers claim the weapon is superior to its combat-tested American counterpart, which carries four Hellfire missiles and two 500-pound precision bombs. The Reaper is one of America’s top hunter-killer drones and a key weapon that can stalk and strike militants in the war on terror.

The CH-5 “can perform whatever operations the MQ-9 Reaper can and is even better than the US vehicle when it comes to flight duration and operational efficiency,” Shi Wen, a chief CH series drone designer at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, told the China Daily two years ago.

But, while the CH-5 and the MQ-9 may look a lot alike, it is technological similarity, not parity. The Reaper’s payload, for instance, is roughly double that of China’s CH-5. And, while China’s drone may excel in endurance, its American counterpart has a greater maximum take-off weight and a much higher service ceiling.

The sensors and communications equipment on the Chinese drone are also suspected to be inferior to those on the MQ-9, which in 2017 achieved the ability to not only wipe out ground targets but eliminate air assets as well.

Nonetheless, these systems can get the job done. The CH-4, the predecessor to the latest CH series drone, has been deployed in the fight against the Islamic State.

China has exported numerous drones to countries across the Middle East, presenting them as comparable to US products with less restrictions and for a lower price.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US admits to killing hundreds of Russian mercs in Syria

Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump’s CIA, and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February 2018.

Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already.


“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” said Pompeo. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”

The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.

Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.

The February 2018 battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test
A U.S. Army AH 64E Apache helicopter.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen)

The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.

Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. “We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up,” one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to Polygraph.info, the US-funded fact-checking website.

France 24 published an interview in February 2018, with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why apricots are the most despised fruit in the military

There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.

Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.

This fruit is, of course, the apricot.


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​Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.

(National Archives)

While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.

The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cot because they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)

It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.

Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans will get access to Commissary, Exchange, and MWR services

The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.

Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.


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This could be you.

(MWR Life)

To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.

What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.

These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.

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.00 haircuts for everyone!

The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.

With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.

Anthony’s Pizza, here we come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

So, we wrote about that “four-barrel” rifle last week and posed a few questions to the inventor, Martin Grier, in an email. He got back to us that day with our initial query and has now responded to some more of the questions we posited in the original article. His answers make us even more excited about the weapon’s promise, assuming that everything holds true through testing in Army labs and the field.


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The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

First, a bit of terminology. The weapon is a rifle. Most people have described it as having four barrels, but it’s really a barrel with four bores (the original prototype had five). The inventor prefers to call it a “ribbon gun,” which we’ll go ahead and use from here on out.

Just be aware that “ribbon gun” means a firearm with multiple bores that can fire multiple multiple rounds per trigger squeeze or one round at a time. The bullets are spinning as they exit the weapon, stabilizing them in flight like shots from a conventional rifle.

If you haven’t read our original article on the weapon, that might help you get caught up. It’s available at this link.

So, some of our major questions about the rifle were how the design, if adopted, would affect an infantryman’s combat load, their effective rate of fire, and how the rounds affect each other in flight when fired in bursts. We’re going to take on those topics one at a time, below.

Weight

How much weight would an infantryman be carrying if equipped with the new weapon? Grier says it should be very similar, as the charge blocks which hold the ammunition are actually very light

“In practice, Charge Block ammo, shot-for-shot, is roughly equivalent to conventional cartridge ammo,” he said, “depending on which caliber it’s compared to. It’s lighter than 7.62 and slightly heavier than 5.56. It outperforms both.”

Since the weapon fires 6mm rounds, that means the per-shot weight is right where you would expect with conventional rounds. The prototype weapon weighs 6.5 pounds. That’s less than an M16 and right on for the base M4.

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The L4m ammo blocks feature four firing chambers and their rounds, stacked vertically. The blocks can clip together in stacks and be loaded quickly. Excess blocks able to be snapped off and returned to the shooter’s pouch easily.

(Copyright FD Munitions, reprinted with permission)

And those blocks of ammo provide a lot of benefits since they can withstand 80,000 PSI. That lets designers opt for higher muzzle velocities if they wish, extending range and increasing lethality. For comparison, the M4 and M16 put out about 52,000 PSI of chamber pressure.

Even better, the blocks snap together and can be loaded as a partial stack. So, if you fire six blocks and want to reload, there’s no need to empty the rifle. Just pull the load knob and shove in your spare stack. The weapon will accept six blocks, and you can snap off the spares and put them back into your pouch.

Rate of fire

But what about effective rates of fire?

Well, the biggest hindrance on a rifle’s effective rate of fire is the heat buildup. Grier says that’s been taken care of, thanks to the materials used in the barrel as well as the fact that each chamber is only used once per block.

“In the L4, … the chamber is integral with the Charge Block,” he said. “Every four shots, the Block is ejected, along with its heat, and a new, cold one takes its place. The barrel is constructed with a thin, hard-alloy core, and a light-alloy outer casing that acts as a finned heat sink. In continuous operation, the barrel will reach an elevated temperature, then stabilize (like a piston engine). Each bore in the L4 carries only a 25 percent duty cycle, spreading the heat load and quadrupling barrel life.”

FD Munitions expects that the military version of the L4 would have a stabilized temperature during sustained fire somewhere around 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit, but they took pains to clarify that it’s a projected data point. They have not yet tested any version of the weapon at those fire rates.

But, if it holds up, that beats the M16 during 1975 Army tests by hundreds of degrees. The M16 barrels reached temperatures of over 600 degrees while firing 10 rounds per minute. At 60-120 rounds per minute, the barrels reached temperatures of over 1,000 degrees. That’s a big part of why the military tells troops to hold their fire to 15 rounds per minute or less, except in emergencies.

All of this combines to allow an effective rate of fire somewhere between 60 and 100 shots per minute. That’s about five times more rounds per minute than a M4 or M16 can sustain. And that’s important; paratroopers in a 2008 battle died as their weapons malfunctioned. One soldier had three M4s fail while he was firing at an average rate of 14 rounds per minute.

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The guts of the weapon feature very few moving parts, a trait that should reduce the likelihood of failures in the field.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

Do rounds affect one another mid-flight?

Sweet, so the combat load won’t be too heavy, and the weapon can spit rounds fast AF. But, if rounds are fired in volleys or bursts, will they affect each other in flight, widening the shot group?

Grier says the rounds fly close together, but have very little effect on each other in flight, remaining accurate even if you’re firing all four rounds at once.

And, four rounds at once has a special bonus when shot against ceramic armor, designed for a maximum of three hits.

“The projectiles do not affect each other in flight,” he said. “Even when fired simultaneously, tiny variations in timing because of chemical reaction rates, striker spring resonances, field decay rates, electric conductor lengths etc., ensure that the projectiles will be spaced out slightly in time along the line of sight. The side effect is that the impacts will be likewise consecutive, defeating even the best ceramic body armor.”

Meanwhile, for single shot mode, each bore can be independently zeroed when combined with an active-reticle scope. With standard mechanical sights, Grier recommends zeroing to one of the inside bores, ensuring rounds from any bore will land close to your zeroed point of impact.

Some other concerns that have arisen are things like battery life, which Grier thinks will be a non-issue in the military version. It’s expected to pack a gas-operated Faraday generator that not only can power the rifle indefinitely, but can provide juice for attachments like night vision scopes or range finders.

There’s also the question of malfunctions, which can happen in any weapon. Failure to fire will be of little consequence since you’re going to eject that chamber quickly anyway. If a barrel becomes inoperable due to some sort of fault, the fire control can simply skip that barrel, allowing the shooter to still fire 75, 50, or 25 percent of their rounds, depending on how many barrels are affected.

So, if everything goes well, this weapon could shift the balance of power when the U.S. goes squad vs. squad against other militaries. Here’s hoping the final product lives up to the hype and makes it into the hands of service members.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

14 nuclear weapons terms and what they mean

Nuclear weapons are humankind’s most fearsome creations.

In a matter of minutes, one nuclear-armed nation can level dozens of cities, spread radioactive fallout for hundreds or thousands of miles, and wreck Earth’s climate.

Most people are familiar with the basics: Slap together enough uranium or plutonium and — kaboom! — you have a nuclear blast. But the details of how these complex devices are made, delivered, and controlled can make the difference between keeping the peace and sparking a cataclysm.


It doesn’t help that there’s more than 60 years’ worth of convoluted terminology surrounding the complex policies and politics of nuclear weapons. There are words like isotopes, tritium, and yellowcake; abbreviations such as HEU, LEU, SSBN, and CVID; and the subtle yet striking difference between uranium-235 and uranium-238.

As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumes talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, we’ve defined some of the most important (and misunderstood) words, phrases, and acronyms here.

That effort could take years to pan out, and it’s guaranteed to get very, very complicated.

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A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.

(U.S. Department of Defense photo)

1. Nuclear weapon

A conventional explosive device rapidly burns up a chemical to cause a blast. A nuclear weapon, meanwhile — such as a bomb or warhead — splits atoms to release thousands of times more energy.

Yet the term “nuclear weapon” can also refer to a vehicle that’s able to deliver a nuclear attack, such as missiles, fighter jets, stealth bombers, and truck-like mobile launchers. (If flying dinosaurs were alive today and trained to drop nuclear bombs, the creatures may be considered nuclear weapons.)

During weapons inspections like the ones between the US and Russia, nuclear warheads are actually concealed with a piece of cloth; it’s the vehicles, missiles, and launch or bombing bays that are the focus. Without them, a warhead can’t get anywhere quickly.

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A Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, launching from North Korea.

(KCNA)

2. Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)

An ICBM is a space rocket that can launch a destructive device on top and carry it from one nation to another in a high arc.

Technically speaking, an ICBM is any missile capable of delivering a warhead from more than 3,415 miles away. The missile silos in the US in which they’re stored are sprinkled around the country, with most stationed in middle America.

As of 2018, the US has 800 ICBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 1,140 ICBMs.

3. Fallout

Fallout describes the dangerous leftovers of a nuclear weapon: a cloud of dust, dirt, sand, pebbles, and bits of debris that an explosion has irradiated.

Bombs or warheads detonated near the ground vastly increase the amount of fallout by sucking up soil and debris, irradiating it, and spreading it for dozens if not hundreds of miles. Very fine particles can circle the globe and be detected by special airplanes.

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Part of CNO cycle diagram, made just to be illustrative for nuclear reactions in general.

4. Isotopes

Each element on the Periodic Table has a unique chemical identity but can have different weights, or isotopes.

For example, hydrogen is the smallest atom and is usually made of just one positively-charged proton in its nucleus, or core. Its shorthand name, H-1, specifies its atomic weight. If a chargeless neutron gets added, you get the isotope deuterium, or H-2. Add two neutrons and you have the isotope tritium, or H-3.

All three forms of hydrogen have nearly identical chemistry and can, say, bond with oxygen to form water. But their nuclear properties differ significantly: deuterium and tritium can fuel thermonuclear explosions because their extra neutrons can encourage helium atoms (which have two protons) to fuse together far more easily than H-1 alone.

5. Uranium — including U-238, U-235, and U-233

Uranium is a dense element and a key ingredient in nuclear weapons production. It occurs naturally in ores and minerals and has a few important isotopes.

U-238 makes up about 99.27% of natural uranium and is inert. Less than 1% of the uranium in ore is U-235 — the “active ingredient” that can be used for nuclear reactor fuel or bombs.

U-235 is special because it becomes very unstable when it catches a flying neutron. This capture causes it to split (known as fission), release a huge amount of energy, and shoot out more neutrons. Those neutrons can then split other atoms of U-235 in a chain reaction.

Although plutonium (which we’ll describe in a moment) is now the favored bomb-making material, U-235 was used in the Little Boy bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

U-233 is another isotope that’s weapons-ready, but it’s only made inside special reactors that no longer exist (for now).

6. Plutonium, including Pu-238, Pu-239, and Pu-240

Plutonium is a metallic element that doesn’t occur in nature, and it most often refers to the isotope Pu-239: the go-to material for modern nuclear weapons.

Only nuclear reactors can make Pu-239. They do so by irradiating U-238 with neutrons. The plutonium can then be separated from the uranium, concentrated, and formed into weapons pits — the cores of nuclear weapons.

Pu-239 can more easily trigger a nuclear explosion than uranium, and with less material; as little as about 10 lbs can be enough.

Plutonium-240 is an unwanted and pretty radioactive byproduct of making Pu-239. It can make bombs prematurely explode and fizzle because it’s fairly radioactive. Pu-238 is a byproduct of Cold War weapons production that generates a lot of warmth and powers NASA’s most adventurous robots in the cold, dark depths of space.

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Yellowcake uranium

7. Yellowcake uranium

Yellowcake is a powder of uranium oxide that’s made by leaching uranium from natural ores and chemically treating it. Despite its name, it’s most often brown or black in color.

The powder is a concentrated form of natural uranium — about 99.72% U-238 and 0.72% U-235. It’s an important commodity because it can be stockpiled and later processed to extract and enrich U-235.

8. Centrifuge

The U-235 and U-238 isotopes are chemically identical and nearly the same weight — so they’re very hard to separate. However, one of the easiest ways to separate uranium is a centrifuge.

The process starts with converting yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF 6), then heating the compound into a gas. The gas then enters a centrifuge: a tall, hollow tube that spins faster than the speed of sound. The rotation pulls heavier U-238 toward the centrifuge’s outer wall while leaving more U-235 near the middle.

Cascades of centrifuges — one linked to another in long chains — further separate and concentrate each isotope. U-235-rich gas moves through an “upstream” line of centrifuges, growing until a desired level of concentration is reached. Meanwhile, U-238 moves “downstream” until it’s mostly depleted of U-235.

It can take thousands of centrifuges spinning for an entire year to enrich enough U-235 for a weapon.

9. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU)

Highly enriched uranium is any amount of uranium with 20% or more U-235 — the kind that can spur a nuclear detonation.

HEU with a concentration of 85% or more U-235 is considered “weapons-grade,” since that is enough to cause a large and efficient nuclear explosion. But it’s rarely used anymore: It most often goes into special reactors that power naval ships and submarines, can make plutonium, or create medically important isotopes (such as molybdenum-99, which can help diagnose certain heart diseases and cancers).

Low-enriched uranium has less than 20% U-235, and is most often used for nuclear reactor fuel in commercial power plants.

10. Lithium deuteride (sometimes called lithium hydride)

Lithium deuteride is a whitish salt made of one lithium atom and one deuterium atom (hydrogen-2).

It’s a key ingredient in thermonuclear weapons, also called hydrogen bombs — the most powerful type of nuclear arms. (Russia’s Tzar Bomba thermonuclear weapon, detonated in 1961, was about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb in 1945.)

A thermonuclear weapon is actually two bombs in one. Energy from the first explosion is absorbed by and “ignites” the lithium deuteride, leading to fusion — where two atoms combine — and creating a plasma many times hotter than the sun.

The process also creates a lot of neutrons. These bullet-like particles can then ram into and split a lot of nearby U-238 in the bomb, vastly multiplying the weapon’s destructive energy.

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A UGM-96 Trident I clears the water after launch from a US Navy submarine in 1984

11. Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)


An SLBM is a nuclear-tipped rocket that shoots out of launch tubes in an underwater attack submarine.

As of 2018, the US has 1,920 SLBMs in its stockpile, and Russia has nearly 770 SLBMs.

Unlike most land-based missiles, SLBMs are mobile and very difficult to track. Some models can fly nearly 7,500 miles, which is about 30% of Earth’s circumference. That’s plenty of range to strike any inland target from a coast.

12. Ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN or SSB)

Attack submarines that can launch ballistic missiles are known as SSBs or SSBNs. The “SS” stands for “submersible ship,” the “B” for ballistic” (as in ballistic missile), and the “N,” if present, means “nuclear” (as in powered by a nuclear reactor).

These vessels can stay underwater for 90 days and carry more than a dozen nuclear-warhead-tipped SLBMs — each of which can strike targets thousands of miles inland.

Russia has about 11 nuclear-armed subs and the US has about 14.

13. Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)

CVID is the strategy that was pursued in disarming Libya of its nuclear weapons. The Trump administration pursued it in initial talks with Kim Jong Un and North Korea.

The approach allows inspectors into a country to count weapons, witness their destruction, disable nuclear reactors, prevent the development of missiles, and perform other watchdog work.

Weapons experts think North Korea will reject CVID, mostly because it’d bar the use of nuclear reactors to produce energy and rule out the development of rockets, which can launch satellites and people into space.

Experts also point out that the strategy has a nasty historical precedent: Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi followed through on a US-led CVID program but ultimately ended up dead in the streets.

The Trump administration is reportedly changing its mind about CVID, though, and may push a plan that’s more acceptable to North Korea.

14. Deterrence

Deterrence is the idea that if countries have nuclear weapons, the threat of an overwhelming retaliation in response to an attack will keep the peace.

In 1995, a few years after the Cold War ended, Reagan-era government officials wrote:

“Deterrence must create fear in the mind of the adversary — fear that he will not achieve his objectives, fear that his losses and pain will far outweigh any potential gains, fear that he will be punished. It should ultimately create the fear of extinction — extinction of either the adversary’s leaders themselves or their national independence, or both. Yet, there must always appear to be a ‘door to salvation’ open to them should they reverse course.”

Some nuclear weapons experts worry that deterrence will only keep the peace for so long. They also think belief in deterrence encourages the development and spread of nuclear weapons— so if and when nuclear conflict does break out, the catastrophe will be much worse.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain just buried 3 soldiers from World War I

The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.


Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.

(Crown Copyright Open Government Licence)

The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.

Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.

So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.

Abraham Lincoln challenged US troops to this strength test

Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.

(Crown Copyright Open Government Licence)

Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.

“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”

“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”

The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.

France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.

More photos from the ceremony can be found at the United Kingdom government website.

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