This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

World War II has always been a popular subject for wargamers. On land, sea, or air, this conflict has an extensive library of options, whether it be a board game, a computer game, or miniatures rules. But all games are not equal. There are also tradeoffs – each type of game has its pros and cons.

One miniatures game for the World War II era (and about a decade beyond) is Command at Sea, part of the Admiralty Trilogy of wargames designed by Larry Bond. Bond’s most famous wargame, Harpoon, is notable for its use by author Tom Clancy in the development of Red Storm Rising.


Command at Sea is now in its fourth edition since 1994. This version has been harmonized so that its simulations are in the same format as the other games in the Admiralty Trilogy, Harpoon and Fear God and Dreadnought. This means that those who have these games could cover a war from 1989 to 2018 with very little difficulty.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Can you, as America, did, turn back the Japanese in the Pacific, despite having power ships like the heavy cruiser Takao and the battleship Kirishima?

(Imperial Japanese Navy photo)

A substantial number of additional modules, supporting every major combatant and theater of the war, are available. One that came with earlier versions of the game is The Rising Sun in the Pacific, which covers the first half of the Second World War in the Pacific Theater, where pivotal battles like the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal can be re-fought on one’s own tabletop, along with possible battles that could have taken place had history gone differently.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

USS Enterprise (CV 6) preparing to launch planes against the Japanese.

(US Navy photo)

Other modules include American Fleets, which covers just about every ship class and aircraft the United States used during the war, and a few, like the Montana-class battleships, which didn’t make it to the fleet. Another module is Steel Typhoon, which covers the second half of World War II in the Pacific with 36 scenarios of both historical and hypothetical battles. The system doesn’t just cover World War II. The Spanish Civil War, fought before World War II was seen as inevitable is covered in a module.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

With Command at Sea, USS Tuscaloosa (CA 37) could have a very different service career during World War II.

(US Navy photo)

Since this is a set of miniature rules, it has some advantages over computer simulations. The online store Wargamevault.com has this game and the modules in both downloadable PDF and hard-copy versions.

MIGHTY MOVIES

3 more things movies always get wrong about a fight

Despite how common it is to see movies marketed as being “based on a true story” or “inspired by real events,” there’s often very little realism to be found in the 90 minutes between credits. Hollywood’s depictions of violence are always muddled by a combination of plot convenience, budget constraints, and a genuine lack of understanding of how real violent encounters play out, but as an audience, we tend not to care all that much.


Realism isn’t really what we go to the movies for, of course, otherwise the new Rambo flick would be about his battle with arthritis, and “Top Gun: Maverick” would tragically be about how many of his fellow aging pilots are dying of prostate cancer due to the high levels of radiation they’re exposed to in the cockpit. For the most part, we’d prefer that our movies make sense, but they don’t necessarily need to be tied to the laws of reality as we know them.

But there’s a downside to our willingness to suspend disbelief at the cinema: it eventually colors the way we see real violence. Thanks to movies, there are a number of misconceptions many of us harbor about how a fight plays out. Like the idea that the police owe you one phone call after you get arrested (it’s much more complicated than that), we eventually accept movie shorthand as the gospel truth, and before you know it, we just assume these things we see time after time are basically realistic.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Martin Riggs was saved by this trope in the first Lethal Weapon

(Warner Bros)

Getting shot in a bulletproof vest would totally ruin your day

One of the most commonly unrealistic tropes in any movie or TV show that depicts a gunfight is how effective “bulletproof vests” are at stopping inbound rounds. The scenes even tend to play out in the same way: the bad guy gets the drop on our hero, shooting him or her center mass and sending them sprawling backward. For a brief moment, it seems all is lost… that is, until our hero stands back up, revealing their magical bulletproof vest and, occasionally, acting a bit dazed from the experience.

Of course, in real life, getting shot in most bullet-resistant vests will feel like getting hit in the ribs with a baseball bat… and that’s assuming it stops the bullet at all. In real life, ballistic protection is broken down into ratings, with lighter, more malleable Kevlar vests usually good for little more than pistol caliber attacks, and large, heavy ballistic plates required to stop more powerful platforms like rifles. There’s a solid chance the 7.62 round from an AK-47 would go tearing right through the sorts of vests often depicted in films as being “bulletproof,” and even if it didn’t, the recipient of that round would be in a world of hurt for days thereafter.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

The face you make when you realize you haven’t hit anything.

(Warner Bros)

Dual-wielding pistols helps make sure you don’t hit anything

There’s a long list of reasons you never see highly trained police officers or special operations warfighters engaging the bad guys with a pistol in each hand, but for some reason, movies keep coming back to the dual-wielding trope because somebody, somewhere just thinks it looks cool.

Some gunfighters will attest that in a close-quarters firefight, aiming can give way to something more akin to pointing, as you keep your field of view as open as possible to identify threats and move to engage them as quickly as you can. Even in those circumstances, however, managing the battlespace and the weapon requires your full attention, and splitting it between two pistols is a sure-fire way to lose the fight.

Without a spare hand to reload, clear malfunctions, and stabilize your weapon, your best case scenario is burning through the magazine in each pistol before having to drop them both to reload, and because you’re splitting your attention between weapons, chances are really good that you won’t manage to hit anything before you have to reload either.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

This scene’s a lot darker when you realize Frank probably would have died in real life.

(Dreamworks Pictures)

Any tranquilizer dart that immediately puts you to sleep would probably just kill you

Tranquilizer darts are like quicksand traps: we all grew up worried about them, but they’re surprisingly absent from our actual adult lives. Of course, there’s good reason for that — neither are nearly as threatening as they’ve been made out to be.

The thing about tranquilizing someone with a dart is that the sort of drugs used to put a patient (or animal) to sleep are also very capable of simply killing them when administered in too high a dose. That means dosages of tranquilizers must be very carefully calculated based on the size, weight, and makeup of the target. A high enough dose to instantly put a subject to sleep (as is often shown in movies) would be far more likely to kill than subdue.

There’s a reason surgeons use anesthesiologists, or doctors that specialize in administering anesthesia, to “tranquilize” their patients… when it comes to the sort of drugs that can simply kill you, it pays to be careful.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens to cancel satellite internet project

It’s been a bright spot for Russia’s wobbly space industry:

A contract, estimated at $1 billion, to launch 21 Soyuz rockets over the next two years carrying “micro-satellites” — part of a U.S.-based company’s plans to offer broadband Internet access over remote territories of the globe, including parts of Siberia.

For the company, OneWeb, the effort was seen as a critical step in building out its “constellation of small satellites” and validation for investors who have put up nearly $2 billion. For Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos, the contract was both a crucial source of private revenue, and a foothold in the burgeoning global market for small-scale satellite launches.


Now, just months before the planned maiden launch, it appears that the Federal Security Service (FSB) may put a stop to it entirely.

The daily newspaper Kommersant reported on Nov. 13, 2018, that the FSB, Russia’s primary security and intelligence agency, has serious misgivings about the micro-satellite venture. Citing unnamed government officials, the paper said the FSB feared that having an Internet provider whose signals would be transmitted via satellite would keep the agency from being able to filter and monitor Internet traffic.

Spying concerns

Moreover, sources told the newspaper, security officials feared the satellites might be used to spy on sensitive Russian military sites.

The Kommersant report echoed a similar report by Reuters, on Oct. 24, 2018, that quoted an FSB official voicing precise concerns about satellite spying.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Russia’s workhorse rocket, the Soyuz, is launched primarily from Baikonur and Vostochny.

(NASA photo)

Adding further to the questions about whether the launch will go forward, the Interfax news agency reported that the chief executive of the Roskosmos division that handles foreign commercial contracts, including the agreement with OneWeb, had been forced to resign after Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin ordered an inspection of the division.

E-mails sent to both OneWeb, and its launch provider, the European aerospace giant Arianespace, were not immediately answered.

Founded by Greg Wyler, a former executive at Google, OneWeb aims to put hundreds of satellites in low orbit over the Earth to provide data communication in remote locations. The company is one of several making the effort, but it’s attracted the largest amount of private financing, had started building assembly factories, and was the closest to actually getting its satellites off the ground.

Key to the effort was contracting with Arianespace to arrange for the launches, using Russia’s workhorse rocket, the Soyuz, launched primarily from Russian facilities at Baikonur and Vostochny, and several from the European Space Agency-owned site at Kourou, in French Guiana.

At the time the contract was signed in 2015, the then-head of Roskosmos hailed it as “proof of Russia’s competitiveness.” The first launch, of a Soyuz rocket carrying 10 micro-satellites, was set for May 2018 from Kourou, but was then pushed back until year’s end. It’s now set for February 2019.

Two years later, OneWeb set up a 60-40 percent joint venture with a Russian subsidiary of Roskosmos called Gonets that would handle Internet service within Russia.

In 2018, Wyler told the industry publication Space News that the network of satellites would in fact have ground stations, through which Internet traffic would be channeled. But his comments suggested that there wouldn’t necessarily be ground stations in every country where the Internet service was offered.

“What we hear from regulators is they want to know the physical path of their traffic and they want to make sure it lands in a place where they have control and management of that data, just like every other Internet service provider in their country,” Wyler was quoted as saying. “This doesn’t mean the gateway needs to be in their country, but it means they need to know exactly which gateway their traffic will land at and they need the legal ability to control the router at the entry point into their national network. From a regulatory perspective inter-satellite links have been highlighted as a major concern.”

Stricter control

In recent years, Russia has steadily tightened control and surveillance of the country’s once wholly unfettered Internet. Part of that effort has involved policing editorial content and, for example, prosecuting people for sharing on social media material deemed to be extremist under the country’s broad anti-extremism laws.

But Russian regulators have also moved to tighten technical controls, requiring major technology and Internet companies like Google or Facebook to physically house servers within Russia, giving Russian law enforcement a way to access them. That also includes use of a system known as SORM, which is essentially a filter — a black box the size of an old video recorder — that allows Russian security agencies to intercept or eavesdrop on Internet traffic.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Roskosmos’s contract with OneWeb was believed to have given it a foothold in the burgeoning global market for small-scale satellite launches.

(Roskosmos photo)

As recently as Oct. 26, 2018, Rogozin held discussions in Moscow with Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel about OneWeb, according to a statement on Roskosmos’s website.

The meeting came two days after the Reuters report on the Russian objections. The report said that OneWeb and Gonets has restructured their stakes in the joint venture to make Gonets the majority shareholder.

For observers of the global commercial-satellite industry, the uncertainty hanging over such a high-profile, well-funded project like OneWeb tarnishes Roskosmos’s ability to be a competitive player for space flight in general.

Recent mishap

One of Roskosmos’s other lucrative sources of revenue is its contract with the U.S. space agency NASA to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station. But the recent mishap involving a Soyuz rocket raised questions about the Russian technology, which has been around for decades and had been considered reliable.

Kazakhstan, where Russia’s storied Baikonur cosmodrome is located, recently said it had hired the private U.S. company SpaceX to launch several of its own science satellites.

The uncertainty with OneWeb, said Carissa Christensen, founder and CEO of Bryce Space and Technology, a Virginia-based research group focusing the commercial space industry, may push customers away from Roskosmos.

“This just disconnects Russia some of the most active commercial space activity going on today, and it hands over potentially very desirable launch customers to other small launch providers,” she said.

In an opinion column published on Nov. 15, 2018, for the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti, contributor Valery Kodachigov poked fun at the apparent FSB concerns that the OneWeb satellites could be used for spying within Russia. But he also pooh-poohed the idea that OneWeb would be singularly able to bring Internet service to the further reaches of Siberia or the Russian Arctic.

“The interference by Russian bureaucrats and security officials in the plans of eminent investors gives OneWeb’s history in Russia both scale and tragedy. But is it really all so scary for OneWeb and the Russian users who may be left without satellite Internet? For now, one thing is clear: the residents of Russia will not remain without mobile access to the Internet,” he wrote.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s new battle tank is getting…a toilet?

War is hell — but for Russian tank crews, it’s about to get a bit more comfortable.

The designer of a new battle tank that is under development says the latest plans for the armored vehicle include a built-in toilet for its three-person crew.

Ilya Baranov, an official at the Ural Design Bureau of Transport Machine-Building in Yekaterinburg, announced the unusual feature of the T-14 Armata tank on March 7, 2019, during an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency.


Baranov said the toilet system is meant to help Russian tank crews during long missions with few stops or none at all.

A prototype of the T-14 Armata tank was unveiled publicly at a military parade in Moscow in 2015, but development has continued since then.

During rehearsals for that parade, there were three malfunctions of the prototype — including one that occurred on Moscow’s Red Square:

Танк «Армата» заглох во время репетиции парада Победы в Москве

www.youtube.com

Russian officials said at the time of the presentation that 2,300 of the vehicles would be in use in Russia’s armed forces in 2020.

They said the first battle-ready units should be sent to the 1st Guards Tank Regiment, which is part of the 2nd Guards of the Motorized Taman Division based in the Moscow region.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines will get a psychological operations MOS

Just months after the Marine Corps announced the creation of a new cyberwarfare family of military occupational specialties, the service is once again giving another highly specialized community its own MOS.

Officials here at the Marine Corps Information Operations Center told Military.com they planned to announce the creation of a new primary MOS, 0521, for Military Information Support Operations. With a new career field that will allow MISO Marines to continue through the rank of E-9, officials said they also plan to grow the ranks of the community to more than 200 Marines in the near future.


MISO, known in the Army as psychological operations, or PsyOps, focuses on influencing the mindset and decision-making of a target audience that may consist of enemy militants or a local civilian population.

It’s a skill set the Marine Corps is leaning into in future planning and strategy documents. The Marine Corps Force 2025 strategy includes plans to grow MISO to 211 Marines by 2024, said Col. William McClane, the commanding officer at MCIOC.

The current effort to turn MISO into an MOS has been under discussion for several years; Military.com first reported that briefings were underway on the topic in 2016.

“[Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller] speaks a lot about adversary … perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and how that’s important,” McClane said. “The understanding of the cognitive dimension, how to affect and change behaviors and adversary target audience decision-making where you may not even have to fire a shot — you may be able to influence your adversary and reach that end state without doing that.”

While MISO or PsyOps capabilities are not new to the battlefield, McClane acknowledged that reviews of recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan may have caused military brass to realize more effective use of the skill set could have yielded different outcomes.

“I think that’s a good assumption, absolutely,” he said.

As the Marine Corps looks to the future, troops may also find themselves fighting in increasingly complex battlespaces and in a broad range of environments.

“It all depends on the target audience, how they receive communication,” McClane said of the methods that might be employed to influence mindsets and decision-making. “It might be different in parts of Africa versus eastern Europe.”

A new career path

For Marines, MISO is currently a free, or additional, MOS, meaning troops come from other specialties to spend time in the community. Typically, a Marine deployed with a MISO element and then returned to his or her original unit, with no option to continue in the field, McClane said.

“There was no real return on investment,” he said.

What’s worse, McClane said, officials noticed that a number of MISO Marines would opt to leave the service soon after their tour, preferring to practice their MISO skills in the civilian sector rather than returning to their original military job.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va., Feb. 11, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred)

For the Marine Corps, this meant not only that MISO Marines couldn’t develop further in their skill sets, but also that the time and money invested in these troops — reportedly more than $600,000 per Marine including clearances and a specialized training course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — would not yield long-term gains.

Under the new plan, a company-sized MISO element will be set up under each of the three recently established Marine Information Groups on the East Coast and West Coast in the Pacific. A separate element will remain at MCIOC, focusing primarily on supporting special operations.

While the first additional MISO Marines will start arriving this summer, the plan is to have the elements established at each MIG by 2022, McClane said.

The roughly 60 Marines who already have MISO as a free MOS have the first opportunity to join the new full-time career field, officials said. And they estimate some 35 will make that decision.

Cpl. Anjelica Parra, 21, a Motor Transportation Marine who has the free MOS, said she knew right away she wanted to make the move once it became an option.

“I wasn’t really relied on heavily [in Motor T] as I am now coming to this MOS,” she told Military.com. “It’s a different playing field, because as a corporal I’m looked upon and relied on to act as a lot higher than what my rank is. I have to hold myself to a higher standard.”

Parra said she had to develop her communication skills in order to brief more senior Marines on the capabilities of MISO and enjoyed the other challenges that came with the job. She looks forward to deploying as part of a MISO element with a Marine expeditionary unit in the near future.

For those not in the community, a Marine administrative message will come out soon with details on how to apply, said Maj. Jonathan Weeks, commander of the MISO Company at MCIOC.

“Those that are successful in this type of a job are going to be your self-starters, the people who are able to think and act independently and have the ability to think outside the box and create solutions,” he said. “Those who have a sense of the Marine Corps planning process and how stuff works.”

Enlisted Marines in the rank of corporal and above are eligible to apply, officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

102-year-old WWII Navy WAVES vet would ‘do it again’

When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.

“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”

Simon was 25 years old in October 1942 and working as an office secretary at the former Hurst High School in Norvelt — a small Pennsylvania town named for Eleanor Roosevelt — when she joined the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES.


Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.

“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.

The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.

“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”

Simon attended WAVES Naval Station Training at Oklahoma AM College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Okla. Each class of 1,250 yeoman learned military discipline, march and drill, and naval history over a six to eight-week training period.

“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”

After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.

From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.

Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.

“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”

Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.

“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”

Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.

“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”

The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

WAVES standing in formation.

(DoD photo)

The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.

“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”

The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.

At the VA

Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.

Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.

“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”

Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.

“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”

As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.

“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What we can learn from a replica World War II midget submarine

Midget submarines have gotten a lot of press in recent years. The 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan by a North Korean Yono-class midget submarine showed that with today’s modern torpedoes, they can pack a punch.


Midget submarines have arguably had a longer combat career than their bigger cousins. The Turtle, a one-man midget sub, was used in an effort to attack British ships off New York during the Revolutionary War.

The hand-powered midget submarine CSS Hunley successfully sank the sloop USS Housatonic in 1864. Larger coastal and fleet submarines didn’t really achieve a lot of success until World War I.

But the midgets still stuck around.

Nearly all the major powers used them in World War II. The British, Germans, and Japanese all had varying degrees of success with them.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
Chief petty officers and chief petty officer selects from the submarine tender USS Frank Cable perform preservation maintenance on Japanese navy submarine HA-51, a World War II Type C three-man midget submarine, at the T. Snell Newman Visitor Center. Cable is undergoing upgrades at Guam Shipyard for a conversion to the Military Sealift Command. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Jennifer L. Walker)

The British X-boats managed to damage the German battleship Tirpitz. Japanese submarines had their high-water mark on May 29, 1942, when they damaged a British battleship and sank a merchant ship at Diego Suarez in Madagascar.

But Germany’s Seehund — or “Seal” — was probably the most successful. Built in 1944, the Seehund displaced 17 tons, carried two torpedoes, and had a crew of two. The vessel could go four knots underwater, and seven knots on the surface.

U-Boat.net notes that 137 of these midget subs were commissioned, which sank eight vessels and damaged three more in four months of operation.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
S 622, a German Seehund later taken into service by the French Navy. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Below is a video showing how a replica of one of these mini-submarines was made for a museum display. Take a look and see what went into making that replica — and what that display will teach future generations about what life on one of these vessels was like.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the largest battleship ever planned but never built

In the days before naval aviation and submarines, the battleship was the unchallenged king of the seas. Building a bigger and better ship with more and bigger guns was basically the order of the day, and it continued all the way up until the days before World War II, when the world reached peak battleship, and airplanes proved to be deadlier than the Navy ever imagined.

But America almost reached peak battleship before World War I was even a possibility, and it was possibly the biggest battleship ever conceived – it also might have been an ironic joke from someone who hated the Navy.


This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Benjamin Tillman, famous racist and Navy hater.

Benjamin Tillman was a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and a member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. He was annoyed at the Navy for coming to Congress every year to request money to build more and bigger battleships. Despite this pretty much being what the Navy is supposed to do, Tillman decided it would be best to just get the whole arms race out of the way and build the biggest possible battleship they could at the moment. This led to the creation of the Maximum Battleship design.

No, that’s really what they called it.

Tillman hated the Navy’s battleships, and everyone knew it, but when he requested the Department of the Navy just submit the plans for the biggest battleship they could, the Navy obliged him anyway. There were, however, restrictions on U.S. ship designs at the time. Namely, they had to fit through the Panama Canal.

The first design submitted was a massive 70,000 tons – almost 50 percent heavier than the modern Navy’s USS Missouri – and this was in 1916. It carried 12 16-inch guns and had an armor thickness of 18 inches. In comparison, the Iowa-class battleships of World War II would carry just nine 16-inch guns and have a maximum armor thickness of 14.5 inches. The next iteration of Maximum Battleship designs would have 24 16-inch guns and an armor thickness of 13 inches. It was the third design that really took the cake, however.

Maximum Battleship III – also known as the Tillman III design – weighed 63,000 tons. It had the armor of the second design and the guns of the second design. It could even move at an absurd 30 knots, which is almost as fast as an Iowa-class ship and an insane speed for a ship of that size in 1916. This is a weight equal to the largest battleships ever actually built that moves even faster and was supposed to be built 20 years earlier. That wasn’t the end of the attempt, though. There would be another.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

The largest of the Tillman Designs.

The fourth design for Tillman featured the 24 guns and even thicker armor, coming in at 19 inches. It was clear by now the Navy wasn’t expecting to get funding for these. The fourth design would displace 80,000 tons and was practically impossible to build with the technology of the day. In all, six designs were made, each bigger and more ridiculous than the last. It would be as big as the modern American supercarriers and carry the most and biggest weapons of anything on earth, on land, or on the oceans. And it would have been sunk just as easily with the advent of naval aviation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 10 most popular cars among service members

America has a car culture. Our country is connected by highways and interstates. For a teenager, a driver’s license and a set of wheels is a passport to freedom on the open road. For service members, packing up the car and driving cross country is just a standard PCS move. As such, the cars we buy need to be dependable, practical and a bit of efficiency never hurts either. USAA put together a list of the top 10 vehicles purchased by service members for 2019. The list is based on internal data from active duty and former military members who purchased a car through the USAA car buying service, obtained an auto loan through USAA, or added a vehicle to their USAA insurance policy between January 1 and August 31, 2019. Note that the list does not cover vehicle specifics like model year or trim level.


This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Subaru)

Subaru Outback

Derived from the Subaru Legacy, the Outback is a safe, practical, and reliable mode of transportation which makes it an easy pick for the discerning servicemember. Originally classified as a station wagon, the Outback was reclassified as a crossover in the 2015 model year. It has received the Top Safety Pick Award from the IIHs and a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. With its large cargo space, the Outback is PCS-friendly and its torquay boxer engine mated to an all-wheel drive drivetrain means that you’ll be able to get around just fine when your assignment manager tricks you into moving to the frozen landscape of Fort Drum.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Toyota)

Toyota Corolla

In 2016, the Toyota Corolla overtook the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automobile in the world when it reached 44 million units sold. The name has been used across a range of vehicles over the years, but we know it best in the US as a reliable and affordable front-wheel drive compact car. While it’s not going to win any awards for styling or performance (although Toyota’s marketing would like you to think otherwise), no one can deny the Corolla’s legendary reliability. Even if you buy a used model with your enlistment bonus, a Corolla can last you through to retirement and onwards.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Toyota)

Toyota RAV4

Originally based on the underpinnings of the Corolla, the RAV4 was one of the first compact crossover SUVs in the US market. While not a serious off-roader by any means, its reliable 4-cylinder engine provides enough power to move you around town while hauling more of your stuff than you could fit in the aforementioned Corolla. Today, the RAV4 offers a hybrid trim and comes equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen, Entune 3.0, Apple Carplay, and Amazon Alexa as standard; plenty of bang for your government salary buck.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Honda)

Honda Accord

Yes, there’s been a million-mile Chevy. Of course there’s a million-mile model of the aforementioned Corolla. There’s even a million-mile Porsche out there. But, the Accord can claim two million-mile examples (one from 1990 and another from 2000). Its status as one of the world’s most reliable vehicles has led to the Accord’s inclusion on the Car and Driver 10Best list a record 30 times. In recent years, the rising popularity of crossover SUVs has led to a decline in 4-door sedan sales. Honda responded by refreshing the Accord for the 2018 model year and boy did it work. Beyond its sleek, almost European styling, the latest Accord offers a surprising amount of cargo space for a mid-size sedan and a suite of safety features which earned it an IIHS Top Safety Pick and 2018’s North American Car of the Year. For the service member that wants an affordable, practical, and sporty car, the Accord can be had with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine derived from the same block as the famous Honda Civic Type-R. The Accord is also one of the few vehicles you can buy today with the option of a manual transmission. Just keep your head on a swivel for MPs.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Toyota)

Toyota Camry

Compared to the Camry, the Accord is a sales disaster. In 2007, the Camry outsold the Accord by a margin of 392,231 units. In fact, the Camry has been the best-selling car (not vehicle; don’t worry truck fans, we’ll get there) in America from 1997 to 2019 with the exception of 2001 when it was edged out by the Accord with a margin of just over 24,000 units. Like the smaller Corolla, the Camry is famed for its reliability. Suffering from a loss of market share to crossover SUVs like the Accord, the Camry received a refresh in 2017, though the styling cues are not as much of a departure as the Accord’s. However, Toyota did introduce a TRD trim and a two-tone paint scheme for drivers who want to stand out a bit more. Yes, it’s a bit vanilla, but a Camry will ferry you between duty stations no problem and get great gas mileage doing it.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Toyota)

Toyota Tacoma

Yes, it’s another Japanese car, but at least this one’s a truck. Originally classified as a compact pickup, the Tacoma has dominated the midsize pickup market in the US…partly because it didn’t have much competition until Chevy and Ford revived their Colorado and Ranger pickups respectively. But that’s not to say that the Tacoma hasn’t earned its reputation. After all, its lineage can be traced back to the unkillable Toyota Hilux pickup. In 2005, the Tacoma was named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year. Overall, the Tacoma is a versatile pick for a service member’s vehicle. It’s capable enough to get you through a posting at Minot AFB or JBER, yet economical enough that filling the tank won’t break the bank if you get sent to somewhere to somewhere with a higher cost of living like San Diego or Hawaii.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Dodge)

Dodge Ram

The Ram marks the end of the Japanese brands on this list. And yes, the Ram Trucks brand has split off from the Dodge brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Whatever you call it, the Ram pickup is a common sight on military bases, often seen in a matte black trim. Ram trucks have been named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year a total of seven times, including 2019 and 2020. Ram trucks also offer plenty of torque if you decide to haul a boat or RV between duty stations.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Chevrolet)

Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevy Silverado is arguably the most popular truck in country music, both in lyrics (as Chevy or Silverado) and in music videos. Even if you’re not a fan of country, the Silverado is an extremely popular and capable truck, consistently ranking as one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States. It’s worth noting that the USAA list does differentiate between the Silverado and its upscale GMC counterpart, the Sierra. The Silverado delivers a very capable package of power and performance for your towing needs. It also serves as an excellent candidate for a lift kit so you can cruise around base in style while blasting Florida Georgia Line from your speakers.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Wrangler)

Jeep Wrangler

These things are everywhere. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a single military base in the United States that doesn’t have a Jeep Wrangler driving around it. I’ve even seen one in Japan. Servicemembers love their Jeeps and the Jeep community (see Jeep wave). Some might argue that the military’s love affair with the Jeep is only natural given the use of the Willys MB Jeep in WWII. However, without going into it, the Wrangler is a descendent of the famed military vehicle in name only. Regardless of this, the Jeep Wrangler has evolved into a cultural icon in its own right. Whether you want two doors, four doors, soft-top, hard-top, doors on, or doors off, Jeep Wranglers offer plenty of versatility and options to their drivers. You can even get a pickup in the form of the Jeep Gladiator. Servicemembers enjoy customizing their Jeeps with militaristic star roundels, reversed American flags, and even the occasional jerry can. Just don’t expect award-winning mpg from one of these.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

(Ford)

Ford F-150

I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. After all, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup truck in America since 1977 and the best-selling vehicle since 1981. If you lined up every F-Series truck variant sold bumper to bumper, they would circle the globe almost four times. In 2017, an F-Series truck was sold every 35 seconds. Ford has achieved such incredible sales figures by providing consumers with the best all-round truck. Fuel efficiency is good enough to drive it daily without bleeding yourmeg wallet dry. That said, the F-150 is still capable enough to haul around the family and your favorite weekend toys. Perhaps its greatest advantage is simply its brand image. Ketchup is Heinz. Tissues are Kleenex. Trucks are Fords. I know this will garner some hate from the Silverado and Ram fans out there, so I’d like to remind readers that this is simply an analysis of the numbers. I’m also not a truck owner, so I’ve got no skin in the game.

So there you have it. Those are the top 10 servicemember vehicles in 2019. It’s worth noting that the USAA list can also be filtered by branch. For example the Toyota Highlander didn’t make the overall military list, but it did take the #8 spots for the Air Force and Coast Guard. Similarly, the Chevy Equinox was ranked #10 amongst Army personnel and the F-250 ranked #10 for the Marine Corps. Only the Navy list featured all 10 vehicles from the overall military list, with the only difference being that the Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado switch spots between #3 and #4. Regardless of what you drive, just make sure it can get you through your next PCS without incident. And if you’re in the market for your first vehicle after joining the military, try to avoid used car lots just off base, loan sharks are not your friends, and a high interest rate is not a good thing.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the FBI busted the largest-ever espionage ring in the United States

While visiting his family in Germany before World War II, William Sebold was approached by an operative of the Abwehr, Hitler’s secret intelligence service. Sebold was an American immigrant from Germany and was living in the United States. The Abwehr wanted him to spy on American military operations for the Third Reich.

Sebold agreed, but only because the spy agency threatened to harm his family still living in Germany. But the American wasn’t a pushover. Before leaving for the U.S., he visited the American Consulate in Cologne and told them of the German plot. 

The Americans signed Sebold on as a double agent, and he would bring down the largest foreign espionage operation to ever operate on American soil that ended with the convictions of the spies. 

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
Composite of five photographs of spy Fritz Duquesne, seated, talking to Harry Sawyer, FBI interviewer.

William Sebold was not born a spy. He fought in World War I in the German Army as an engineer and later emigrated to the United States. There, he became an aircraft engineer and an American citizen. He only returned to Germany to visit his mother. 

Upon his arrival, he was approached by a member of the Gestapo, who told him that an intelligence operative would soon contact him with a special mission for Germany. When that man finally contacted Sebold, he was introduced as “Dr. Ritter,” and told Sebold he worked for the Abwehr. 

Sebold would return to the United States as Harry Sawyer with the codename of “Tramp.” German intelligence sent him to a seven-week training course, where he learned to use a shortwave radio, German codes, and spycraft. He was then told who to connect with back in the U.S. and how to send messages between those operatives and German intelligence.

Almost as soon as he was free of his German handlers in Europe, he turned right around and told the American Consul General of the German plot and that he wanted to aid the FBI in bringing it down. The double cross began on February 8, 1940, long before America entered World War II. 

When Sebold returned he and the FBI set up shop for Harry Sawyer in a Time Square office in New York City. Sebold posed as a diesel engineer and the office became a safe house and meeting place for Germany’s stateside spies. His first contact, however, was with Fritz Duquesne, the ringleader of the spies. 

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
Capt. Fritz Duquesne

Duquesne was a former journalist and lecturer who obtained aircraft blueprints for the German Army and planned sabotage operations at U.S. factories. Eventually, dozens of German spies passed their information, photos and blueprints to the Gestapo through Sebold/Sawyer’s New York office. They even received payment for their services through him. 

What they didn’t know was they were being recorded on audio and film the entire time, through the use of FBI listening devices and a two-way mirror planted in the office’s main room. For 16 months, the FBI maintained and monitored the transmissions of the shortwave radio provided to Sebold by the Germans. While they fed useless information back to Germany, they received information on German operations and operatives in the Western Hemisphere. 

By June 1941, the FBI was ready to move in on the spy ring. They arrested 33 agents, including Duquesne. Nineteen of the accused spies pleaded guilty to the charges. The other 14 took their chances in court, but were all found guilty.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
Thirty-three mug shot portraits of the Dusquesne spy ringDuquesne is in the first row, far right.

Sebold disappeared after the trials ended, presumably a part of an early form of witness protection. When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the Germans had no reliable intelligence network inside the U.S. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future small-unit infantry forces using small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and/or small unmanned ground systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough swarm capabilities.


To continue the rapid pace and further advance the technology development of OFFSET, DARPA is soliciting proposals for the second “swarm sprint.” Each of the five core “sprints” focuses on one of the key thrust areas: Swarm Tactics, Swarm Autonomy, Human-Swarm Team, Virtual Environment, and Physical Testbed. This second group of “Swarm Sprinters” will have the opportunity to work with one or both of the OFFSET Swarm Systems Integrator teams to develop and assess tactics as well as algorithms to enhance autonomy.

The focus of the second sprint is enabling improved autonomy through enhancements of platforms and/or autonomy elements, with the operational backdrop of utilizing a diverse swarm of 50 air and ground robots to isolate an urban objective within an area of two city blocks over a mission duration of 15 to 30 minutes. Swarm Sprinters will leverage existing or develop new hardware components, algorithms, and/or primitives to enable novel capabilities that specifically demonstrate the advantages of a swarm when leveraging and operating in complex urban environments.

The conclusion of the second sprint is aligned with a physical and virtual experiment, where “sprinters” will be able to more deeply integrate and demonstrate their technology developments. The sprinters will have the opportunity to work with DARPA and the Swarm Systems Integrators to further expand the capabilities relevant to operational contexts.

“As operations in urban environments continue to evolve, our warfighters need advanced capabilities to keep up with the ever-changing complexity of the urban scenario,” said Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “The focus on enhancing autonomy in operational contexts will further advance future swarming capabilities allowing the warfighter to outmaneuver our adversaries in these complex urban environments.”

The announcement for this second swarm sprint follows the awarding of contracts to the first cohort of OFFSET Swarm Sprinters to:

  • Lockheed Martin, Advanced Technology Laboratories
  • SoarTech, Inc.
  • Charles River Analytics, Inc.
  • University of Maryland
  • Carnegie Mellon University

Each of these inaugural sprinters will focus on generating novel tactics for a multi-faceted swarm of air and ground robots in support of the mission to isolate an urban objective, such as conducting reconnaissance, generating a semantic map of the area of operations, and/or identifying and defending against possible security risks.

Instructions for submitting a proposal to participate in the second core swarm sprint (under Amendment 2), as well as full OFFSET program details, are available on the Federal Business Opportunities website: https://go.usa.gov/xRhPC. Proposals are due at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on April 30, 2018. Please email questions to OFFSET@darpa.mil.

(More information about OFFSET and swarm sprint thrust areas is available here: https://youtu.be/c7KPBHPEMM0 and http://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/offensive-swarm-enabled-tactics.)

MIGHTY FIT

Former Marine smashes new USMC PFT Plank

MARADMIN 330/19 just blasted the Marine Corps in the face with a major change to the PFT. The crazy part is that it has nothing to do with pull-ups for once.

On Jan. 1, 2020 Marines will now have the option to do a plank instead of crunches for the “ab portion” of the PFT.

I already know what you’re wondering. How do you get 100 points?


This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

4:20

I guess SgtMaj Cheech came up with that.

I’ll be the first to tell you, that time is no joke. I decided to take a whack at the new test based on the parameters. Check out how it went below.

Michael Gregory on Instagram: “I attempted to get to the 4:20 max time for the new plank portion of the Marine Corps PFT. Watch how it went!”

www.instagram.com

The attempt

Is a 4:20 plank doable? Yes.

Is it preferable? Probably not.

The real question you need to ask yourself is, do you conduct the PFT to actually show how combat-ready you are or do you conduct the PFT to get a 300 and hopefully put yourself “in zone” for promotion?

I think we all know the answer to that.

I do foresee some commanders making this portion of the test “highly encouraged” if not blatantly recommended.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Peep that date. I’m like the Nostradamus of PT tests or something.

(Credit goes to me, for seeing the future.)

The actual test

At the beginning of this year I wrote Those ‘core’ exercises in military PT tests don’t actually prove anything about your fitness.

It seems like either my timing was perfect or someone was listening.

Apparently, all of the services are revamping their fitness standards. I’m a fan. I don’t even care about all the haters that think the Army is going to go bankrupt buying equipment for the new ACFT and treating low back injuries from sh*tty deadlift form.

Soldiers, just read 5 Steps to Deadlift Perfection and you’ll be fine. Also, don’t listen to any senior enlisted that all of the sudden became deadlift experts after a two-day course. There are thousands of people who have been teaching the deadlifts for decades. Talk to them please.
This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

Thanks Dwight.

(media.giphy.com)

Back to the plank!

If the actual purpose of the ab portion of the test is to test overall core strength, the plank does a much better job than the hip-flexor fatiguing crunch.

I like it. Of course, I’m wondering how Marines will figure out how to cheat this portion. But, that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?

The RKC Plank

youtu.be

How to train for it

Perform the plank by flexing and “holding your weight” in various muscle groups. I went calves, quads, abs, shoulders and seemed to hold form relatively well.

The best way to prep for this exercise is obviously to do it. Finish your workouts with a few submax planks.

Take it a step further by performing the RKC plank like shown in the above video. Suffice it to say that if the test was to perform the RKC plank for 4:20, no one would get 100 points. Check it out.

By the way, RKC stands for “Russian Kettlebell Club.” Obviously, that isn’t okay so if anyone asks it now stands for the “Roosevelt Kennedy Coolidge” plank. America!

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II
MIGHTY HISTORY

This small boat was crucial to D-Day’s success

June 6, 1944, will forever be remembered as D-Day. On this day, the Allies orchestrated a massive, complex assault on German fortifications, establishing a foothold on the Nazi-held European mainland. The invasion of Normandy required coordination between units in the air, on the land, and from the sea. Paratroopers dropped into place, troops stormed the beaches, and even George S. Patton was used as a decoy.

But one unassuming piece of technology was a crucial component to Allied victory: a small boat.

Officially, the Navy called it the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, but everyone knew it as the Higgins boat, named after its designer, Andrew Jackson Higgins. This small craft (it displaced just nine tons total) had a top speed of 12 knots in calm waters. That doesn’t sound like much when compared to today’s Landing Craft Air Cushion that carry 36 Marines at a blazing 40 knots, but it was was the Allies needed to fight and win this decisive battle.


This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

A Marine officer observed Japan using Daihatsu-class barges in China and wrote a report.

The Higgins boat wasn’t an American original. Believe it or not, the inspiration came from Japan’s Daihatsu-class barges, 21-ton vessels with bow ramps, which were used in the 1937 Sino-Japanese War. Marine lieutenant Victor Krulak had observed the vehicles in action, photographed them from afar, and sent his observation to his superiors.

After his report was dismissed and filed away by Navy bureaucrats, Krulak made a model of the boat and went to directly to Higgins, asking him if he could create a version for American use. Higgins proceeded to design what would become the LCVP using his own money — he even constructed three prototypes.

This miniatures game helps you re-fight World War II

German troops who saw hundreds of LCVPs closing in on the Normandy beaches or ferrying troops across the Rhine – as this LCVP is doing – had no idea the idea came from observing Japanese barges in China.

(US Army)

With the start of World War II, the Allies needed a landing craft. Higgins was ready to produce. The LCVP allowed the use of just about any open beach as a landing point. It was first used in Operation Torch, months after the failed raid on Dieppe.

If Nazi Germany ever wondered who was to blame for the Allies getting their hands on such a boat, perfect for amphibious assaults, they’d never think to look toward their own ally, Japan.

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