This proposed nuke would've destroyed a continent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Soon after America set off its largest-ever nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, one of the scientists behind the weapon’s design aimed for something even bigger: a 10,000-megaton blast that would’ve been 670,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so large it would’ve destroyed a continent and poisoned the earth.


The story of the unnamed weapon centers around one man. Edward Teller was born in Hungary and was one of the European-Jewish physicists who escaped to the U.S. as Nazi Germany began its rise. He was one of the authors of the letter signed by Albert Einstein and sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that spurred America’s nuclear program in World War II.

But even while working on the atomic bomb during World War II, Teller and a few others were urging for a much larger “super bomb” than the first atomic weapons. They believed that, while the atomic bombs were aiming for about 10-15 kilotons of power, weapons that would boom at 10-15 megatons were possible.

While Teller’s first proposal for the super bomb would later be proven impossible, a 1951 design he created with Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam was the basis of thermonuclear weapons. The Teller-Ulam design was first detonated at Enewetak Atoll in 1952, creating a 10.4-megaton blast that dug out a 6,240-foot-wide crater at the test site. Some of the military men at the test responded with dread, certain that such a weapon could never be used.

Teller, on the other hand, wanted to think bigger.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The Castle Bravo test was the largest nuclear blast ever created by the U.S.

(U.S. Federal Government)

He proposed linking together multiple thermonuclear devices to create larger blasts. Slight permutations on this idea led to the U.S. CASTLE Bravo test with a 15-megaton yield—the largest America ever set off, and the Tsar Bomba display by Russia—the largest nuclear blast ever created by man at 50-megatons.

But at the Castle test series in 1954, while Teller and Ulam’s overall concept of thermonuclear devices was being proven over and over, the only individual bomb actually designed by Teller himself was a dud. It went off at only 110-kilotons, a tiny fraction of power compared to every other weapon tested in the series.

And Teller had a lot riding on success. The U.S. had split its nuclear efforts into two labs, adding Livermore National Laboratory to Los Alamos where the original atomic bombs had been created. Teller was one of the founders of Livermore, and his friends were helping run it. There were rumors that the government might stop funding Livermore efforts, effectively killing it.

So Teller went to the next meeting with the General Advisory Committee, where the nuclear scientists proposed new lines of effort and weapon designs, with two proposed ways forward for Livermore. He wanted the laboratory to look into tactical nuclear weapon designs on one hand, and to create a 10,000-megaton nuclear weapon on the other hand.

That would be a 10-gigaton blast. Alex Wellerstein, the nuclear history professor behind the NUKEMAP application, calculated that kind of destruction.

A 10,000 megaton weapon, by my estimation, would be powerful enough to set all of New England on fire. Or most of California. Or all of the UK and Ireland. Or all of France. Or all of Germany. Or both North and South Korea. And so on.

But that only accounts for the immediate overpressure wave and fireball. The lethal nuclear fallout would have immediately lethal levels of radiation across multiple countries, and likely would have poisoned the earth. We would show you what this looks like on NUKEMAP, but Wellerstein programmed it to “only” work with blasts up to 100 megatons, the largest bomb ever constructed. Teller’s weapon would have been 100 times as powerful.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The NUKEMAP application shows the damage from a 100-megaton blast on Moscow. The orange and yellow ovals going northeast are the fallout from the blast. While this may look safe for America, Teller’s proposed design would’ve been 100 times larger.

(NUKEMAP screenshot. Application by Alex Wellerstein)

When Teller went to the GAC with this proposal, they quickly threw cold water on it. What would be the point of such a weapon? It would be impossible to use the weapon without killing millions of civilians. Even if the bomb were dropped in the heart of the Soviet Union, it would poison vast swaths of Western Europe and potentially the U.S.

The GAC did endorse Livermore’s work on tactical nuclear weapons, and Teller eventually moved on to other passions. But the weapon is theoretically possible. But hopefully, no one can assemble a team sufficiently smart enough to design and manufacture the weapon that’s also stupid enough to build it.

After all, we already have nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy the world a few times over. Do we really need a single bomb that can do it?

(H/T to The Pentagon’s Brain, a book by Annie Jacobson where the author first learned about Teller’s proposal.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the French are better at war than you think

The United States and France do not always see eye-to-eye on military matters. In 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle pulled France from NATO during the height of the Cold War to preserve French independence. (Nicolas Sarkozy rejoined the alliance in 2009.) France tested nuclear devices well into the 1990s, decades after most of the other nuclear powers signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Most recently, France begged off on joining the U.S.-U.K. “Coalition of the Willing” to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq.


And because of the world wars of the 20th Century, the French military tends to be seen with disdain. The French didn’t fare so well in World War I, as the Germans’ drive through Belgium resulted in much of the fighting being done on French soil. The inability to repel the German forces made the French seem weak. Truthfully, it was a multinational force who failed to expel the invaders, so it’s not entirely France’s fault. And then of course, the quick capitulation and subsequent collaboration of France to the Nazis in World War II gave them the reputation they have today.

The truth is the French armed forces are much more aggressive and capable than these few events would have you believe. Aside from the French Foreign Legion, who are noteworthy in their own right, France projects military power all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, and they’re really good at it. They just have a bad rep. It was the French, led by Charles Martel who kept the Muslims from conquering Western Europe at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Since then, the French have had their wins and losses, just like anyone else.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
You might have heard of some.

In WWII, Free French forces had the élan to fight their own countrymen who had sided with the collaborationist Vichy government. Free French troops worked in concert with the British and Americans throughout the war. Those who could not escape the fall of France in 1940 fought on as partisans for four years under the Nazi occupation, assisting with U.S. and British intelligence operations, assassinations, sabotage, and were essential to planning the D-Day invasions. The operators of the French Résistance are symbolic of underground resistance movements to this day.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Vive la résistance!

After World War II, the French experienced a number of setbacks in its former colonies, most notably in French Indochina (aka Vietnam – and we in the U.S. know that war wasn’t as easily winnable as it might have seemed at the time), and in Algiers, where the independence movement led to a series of bloody, brutal attacks and counter attacks between French forces and the Algerian rebels. Since then, France has been resolute in its ideals and willing and able to back up those ideals with military force.

In response to the Nov. 2015 attacks on Paris from ISIS (Daesh), France immediately launched at least 30 air strikes against the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa alone. French audacity led the way for the U.S. to hit ISIS oil facilities in Iraq and Syria, a main source of the terror group’s operating funds. The nuclear-powered French carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently en route to the Mediterranean to support anti-ISIS operations.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The Charles de Gaulle led an expedition of the one-fourth of the French Navy that supported operations in Afghanistan. The French launched 140 air strikes to support operations on the ground during the 2001 invasion as well as lending its recon aircraft to support U.S. special operations forces and then conventional forces in Operation Anaconda. French ground forces have been in Afghanistan since 2010, and 88 troops died there.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
SAROBI, Afghanistan – French army soldiers prepare their vehicles for a convoy prior to departing camp for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, Operation Eagle. (ISAF photo by MC1 Michael E. Wagoner)

France is especially active in its former African colonies. During the 2004 Ivorian Civil War, the French sent 2,500 troops to keep the peace and prevent the sides from slaughtering each other. When French and Western civilians were rescued by French military helicopters as mobs of Ivorians raided Westerner’s homes. When Ivorian government forces, ostensibly under the guise of attacking rebel positions, hit a French base in Bouaké, killing nine and injuring 31, the French retaliated by an overland march on Yamoussoukro airport, taking out much of the Ivorian Air Force on the ground, and then capturing the country’s main airport in Abidjan.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

 

The French returned to Ivory Coast in 2011 to finish off president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede his election loss . The French ousted Gbagbo and arrested him, then subdued mercenaries hired by the former president.

That same year, French forces intervened in Libya to recon the country and take out artillery and armor bound for dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s effort to fill the streets of Benghazi with “rivers of blood.” France also assisted with the imposition of NATO “no-fly zones,” giving Libyan rebels the air support needed to even the odds of the war against Qaddafi’s regime.

 

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
Part of a group of six Palmaria heavy howitzers of the Gaddafi forces destroyed by French Rafale airplanes at the west-southern outskirts of Benghazi, Libya.

 

In 2012, an Islamist group in Mali called Ansar Dine backed Tuareg tribes and secular militia in declaring independence in the Northern area of the former colony of France. They quickly captured three of the country’s largest cities and imposed strict Sharia law. The power vacuum attracted insurgents and jihadists from other Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Malian government fell in a coup led by Malian troops unhappy with the government’s handling of the crisis.

Once a civilian interim government was re-established in the capital of Bamako, Islamist militants began to push toward the country’s center, and the French sent in the marines. French airstrikes stopped the Islamist advance and French troops helped the Malians recapture the vital city of Konna. By the time the French and Malians reached Timbuktu, Islamist resistance faded to nil. The entire operation took six months.

 

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
Islamist truck convoy hit by French airstrike near Gao in 2012. (Photo by Blake Stilwell)

 

Today, France leads a 3,000-strong counterterrorism force in Africa, spanning Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad. They are the sole Western, NATO country in Operation Barkhane, fighting Islamist presence in West Africa, fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked militants throughout the region.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 times US troops killed their way out of enemy ambushes

Ambushes are a great tool in a commander’s toolbox. The attacker gets the element of surprise, usually has numerical superiority, and almost always has the good ground. With all of those advantages on one side, the fight usually plays out about the way you’d expect.

Sometimes, however, U.S. troops can use a mixture of technology, skill, and straight guts to turn the tables. Here are six times that happened:


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

An Iraqi tank burns during Operation Desert Storm.

1. Battle of 73 Easting

During the invasion of Iraq during Desert Storm, the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was sent to cut off Iraqi lines of retreat before they could be used. But on February 26, 1991, Eagle Troop crested a rise during a sandstorm and found an entire Iraqi armored division laying in wait. The ground between the formations was seeded with mines and the terrain would force Eagle Troop to descend onto the battlefield with their vulnerable turrets exposed.

But, Eagle Troop was in Abrams tanks and their commander ordered an advance through the enemy fire. Most of the Iraqi rounds bounced off and drivers avoided the bulk of the mines. The Americans cut a “five kilometer wide swath of destruction” through the Iraqi tanks, according to the troop commander. They destroyed 30 tanks and 14 armored vehicles with no American losses.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

An F-15E Strike Eagle flies over Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

2. F-15s stumble into Iraqi ambush during Desert Storm

A flight of eight F-15s guarding a larger strike package during the start of Desert Storm got word from an E-3 Sentry that there were Iraqi MiGs in the target area, so the flight leader went with three more of his F-15s to root them out and kill them. But it was a trap, and the planes were suddenly painted by multiple surface-to-air missile sites on the ground.

The F-15s immediately started conducting insane acrobatics to get out alive. After evading the missiles, though, they were still thirsty for blood, so they continued after the MiGs that had lured them in and slaughtered them both, protecting a lone F-14 that the MiGs were either hunting or preparing to lure into the trap.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

1st Infantry Division soldiers keep on eye on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan, April 21, 2011.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)

3. 1st ID troops come under well-planned ambush, get enemy to jump off cliff

On September 17, 2008, soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division caught wind on their signal intercept that revealed an ambush coming against them in Afghanistan. The patrol leader ordered his mounted element to proceed down the road to make sure his dismounts wouldn’t be caught in the fire and could provide support.

Just a few minutes down the road, the vehicles came under intense fire from “stacked” enemies. A lower element that had been concealed in a draw and opened up with RPGs, rifles, and machine guns, while another enemy element up a hill provided supporting fires. Two of the four vehicles were hit by RPGs, disabling one. That one took another three RPGs and the gunner was killed.

But the patrol leader killed one attacker trying to hit vehicle four and then charged the lower element with his weapon, driving some of them to jump down a nearby cliff in an attempt to escape. They died instead. American forces re-established comms and got 120mm and 60mm flying into the enemy’s faces as howitzers at the nearby combat outpost opened up. The gunner was the only American killed but the enemy lost about 20 personnel.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Troops fight their way through rivers in Vietnam.

(Naval War College Museum)

4. Coast Guard, Navy boats double back into ambush to rescue trapped UDT members

A Navy riverine force led by a Coast Guard officer came under a concentrated ambush in a Vietnamese river on April 12, 1969. The eight boats were hit with claymores detonated on the bank, machine gun fire, rockets, recoilless rifles, RPGs, and other weapons. The first two boats were engulfed in flames but were able to push out of the kill zone, but the trail boat was in need of maintenance and heavily loaded and got stuck after RPGs took out the pilot.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr Paul A. Yost, Jr. went back with his and another boat and the pair put down withering cover fire into the jungle. Yost split his boat off from the attack and began picking up survivors. One allied Vietnamese marine and two Americans were killed in the fight, but 15 American survivors were pulled out of harm’s way and an unknown number of enemy Vietnamese killed.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

U.S. Marines stand with weapons ready ready to advance if called, near Camp Al Qa’im, Iraq, Nov. 15, 2005.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

5. First Lt. Brian Chontosh and his Marines during the invasion of Iraq

Marine First Lt. Brian Chontosh was leading a convoy on March 25, 2003, when Iraqi insurgents suddenly hit it with a complex ambush. Mortars, automatic weapons, and RPGs all began firing onto the beleaguered Marines. Chontosh ordered his vehicle, and its .50-cal, forward. The machine gun cut a path into the enemy ranks, and Chontosh leapt from the vehicle to press the attack.

He emptied his M16 and M9 into the trenches and then picked up two enemy AK-47s and an enemy RPG to keep the kill train going. He was credited with clearing 200 meters of trench and killing 20 enemy soldiers in his Navy Cross citation.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

North Korean tanks destroyed by Air Force napalm sit in craters during the Korean War.

(Air and Space Museum)

6. An Army task force annihilates the armored ambush set against it

During a movement on July 5, 1951, Task Force 777 was ambushed by an armored force of ten tanks supported by infantry and artillery. The cavalry task force, which was the size of a regimental combat team, was likely outnumbered and definitely outgunned, but the commander, Lt. Col. William Harris, organized a counterattack.

The American cavalrymen slaughtered their way through the ambushing forces, knocking out all ten tanks and killing and dispersing the infantry. They destroyed five artillery pieces and twelve trucks before leaving the site.

Articles

5 wild conspiracy theories that turned out to be true

Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.


Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:

1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.

On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.

President Lyndon Johnson reported that at least two of the enemy boats were sunk, and American media outlets backed up that story in numerous articles. But conspiracy theorists thought it looked a lot like a “false flag” attack. They were right, according to the National Security Agency’s own declassified documents.

Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:

“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”

Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”

When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.

Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.

From the book “The United States of Paranoia” by Jesse Walker:

Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.

It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.

It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.

3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.

Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.

From ABC News:

The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.

What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:

“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”

The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
CIA headquarters

4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.

Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.

From journalist Carl Bernstein, writing in Rolling Stone in 1977:

Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.

Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):

  • which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
  • which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
  • which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
  • which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
  • [which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
  • which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.

During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.

Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.

NOW: Here’s a video of soldiers trying to march after getting stoned on LSD

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why writing members of Congress will definitely help troops

Troops are often told that there are a handful of people that they should always keep in their back pocket. The cooks, the medics, and the supply guys are the most obvious choices — but they shouldn’t count out support from the congressperson who serves their home of record.

That’s right, soldier. All of those people arguing in Washington are there to hear what you have to say. Holders of public office are obligated to answer letters sent by their constituents serving in the military. If you write them with a concern, best case scenario, they’ll come to the aid of the troops without having to navigate the necessary red tape.

Think of them as having the ultimate “open door” policy for the troops.


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

While there are many veterans serving in politics, most civilians — including politicians — can be intimidated by abject outrage. Be polite.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. April Campbell)

In the military, every problem should be addressed at the lowest possible level. Is your immediate superior abusing their power? The first step should be their superior. But if the problem is systemic in nature and you feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn, don’t worry, you’ve still got options.

One of the most effective ways of getting a situation resolved is by writing simple letter to your congressperson. It might feel like using a sledgehammer to do a flyswatter’s job, but it’ll get things done.

The best way to get the attention of your congressperson is through a short, to the point, and professionally worded letter that offers possible solutions. That last bit in important; simply writing, “this is bullsh*t” on a piece of paper and sending it out will land your concerns in the trash.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Aiding the troops is, thankfully, a nonpartisan issue. It may not feel like it at times, but they, for the most part, have the well-being of troops in mind.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt)

Congressmen can help with a wide variety of topics, ranging from pay or tax issues, immigration concerns, social security problems, terrible accommodations, or trouble with a toxic chain of command. In the past, this has lead to many great outcomes, such as troops receiving better tents while deployed or having an unjust court-martial investigated.

When the 2013 federal government shutdown was looming overhead, an unprecedented amount of troops and veterans wrote their respective members of Congress with concerns about their military pay being affected. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, a retired Major of the Marine Corps who spent his enlisted years in the Army, sponsored the aptly-named “Pay Our Military Act,” which ensured that Congress’ fighting over federal spending will never affect the pay of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Following the suicides of Private Danny Chen and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, the “Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act” was put into place by Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. Both men were the subjects of extreme, racially-motivated hazing and mistreatment by their units and were pushed into suicide. The situation was awful; but the concerns of service members and veterans reached lawmakers directly and had an impact.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

If you can manage to bring them out to your installation, prepare for the impending dog and pony show.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

But if you write, know that it may not help immediately — a typical response takes around six weeks. Members of Congress receive hundreds of letters and emails every single day, but they’ll take special notice if you mention that you are serving (or have served) in the military.

Keep the letter polite — you don’t want any reason for their aides to avoid putting your letter on their desk. If you don’t feel like your voice is being heard, you can always write to one of your two senators, though their offices are considerably more busy.

Regardless of how you personally feel about their politics, they are still beheld to their constituents — troops included.

Military Life

Your AAFES coins from deployment may be worth more than you think

When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.


Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.

Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard)

The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.

The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
I get that it’s a typo on President Reagan’s name, but seriously… that was just worth five cents. (Screengrab via eBay)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Your computer’s keyboard is a disgusting petrie dish

Your computer keyboard is probably dirtier than a toilet seat.

In fact, an Australian study found that the typical desk has 400 times the amount of bacteria found on a toilet seat.

Toilet seats actually harbor around 50 bacteria per square inch, making that a relatively un-germy zone. Not so with the computer, especially those shared by multiple people. One Chicago hospital found that its computer keyboards held drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus like MRSA for up to 24 hours. Another hospital in the Netherlands studied 100 of its keyboards and found that 95 tested positive for Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and other pathogens, making them the dirtiest surfaces in the intensive care unit.


Considering how frequently we use computers, it’s understandable that dirt constantly gets lodged in between the keys. We’ve all rushed to type something quickly after being out and about, eaten meals at our computers, and typed while simultaneously dealing with sticky substances.

Those of us who use computers at work talk, sneeze, and cough on the keys all day long, too.

When to clean your keyboard

Most microbiologists agree that everyone should wipe down their desk and keyboard at least once a week.

Doctors and nurses at the National Center for Health Research (NCHR) suggest that hospital keyboards should be disinfected much more often, though: at least once per day. The NCHR also suggests washing hands before and after using any shared computers, especially during flu season.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
(Flickr photo by Pete)

If you’re the only one using your computer (and you’re not touching many people throughout the day), most of the bacteria on your keyboard comes from your own hands and fingertips, so it probably isn’t doing you any harm.

Still, wash your hands frequently to keep your desk space clean for longer.

How to clean your keyboard

Cleaning and disinfecting your keyboard is a simple process, and it works.

First, shut the computer down and unplug it before you start disinfecting. Then get rid of any crumbs or grit stuck on the keyboard with a can of compressed air before giving the keys a wipe.

Cleaning expert Melissa Maker recommends using a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol, and applying it using a microfiber cloth. You can also use a q-tip dipped in alcohol to get between the keys.

While you’re at it, consider giving your phone a cleansing swipe, too. Smartphones can easily pick up E. coli and Streptococcus bugs because we handle them so frequently and take them everywhere with us.

Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine suggests giving your phone a good wipe down at the end of each day.

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

Articles

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal

Revolutions are generally hard-fought, brutal affairs involving rebels taking on conventional military forces.


When Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a French businessman and engineer with commercial interests in Panama’s independence, went looking for rebels to fight for independence from Columbia, he decided to go with the 441-man strong municipal fire department for Panama City, the future capital of the fledgling republic.

That’s right, a fire department was the lead military force of an armed revolution.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
The French engineer Phillippe Bunau-Varilla built up his own revolutionary army to help Panama become independent and make himself rich. (Photo: US Library of Congress)

Of course, Bunau-Varilla didn’t rely solely on firefighters and their axes. He knew that the revolution would enjoy popular support in Panama since the region, which considered itself a sovereign country forced into an ongoing relationship with Columbia, had been agitating for independence for about 80 years. And to ensure success, he cut a couple of deals before sending his firemen into action.

First, he went to the commander of Columbian forces in the area and bribed him and his men to look the other way during the planned revolution and, if necessary, fight against other, more loyal Columbian forces.

Then Bunau-Varilla went to Washington, D.C. and asked the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt to back the revolution. The administration refused to say outright that they would do so but gave Bunau-Varilla the distinct impression that they would support Panamanian independence.

The White House’s response was a major double-cross of the Columbians. An 1846 treaty obligated America to help put down revolutions and revolts in the Panama region. But Roosevelt wanted a cross-isthmus canal to help the Navy get between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and Columbia had consistently demanded more money every time America offered a treaty to construct it.

Bunau-Varilla, who had been working towards a Panama canal for over 15 years, held significant stock in a French company that owned the rights to a failed, incomplete canal. He would recoup serious amounts of money if the canal was constructed and he knew how desperately Roosevelt wanted to build one.

So, with the firm belief that Washington would back Panama, Bunau-Varilla told his fireman and mercenary army that America was coming.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
The Nashville was a gunboat commissioned in 1897. (Photo: US Navy)

The Nashville (PG 7), a shallow-draft U.S. gunboat capable of sailing close to the coast and lobbing shells inland, was coincidentally dispatched to Panama and arrived on Nov. 2, 1903. The next day, the firemen began their revolution, backed by many of the Columbian troops who were supposed to prevent it.

On Nov. 4, American troops near the city of Colon, Panama, were approached by Columbian forces demanding the use of the railroad that the troops were guarding.

When the Americans refused them access, the Columbians threatened to kill them all. The Marines fell back into a fortified building in range of the Nashville’s guns.

The Columbians had a numbers advantage but would have had to fight under naval bombardment to kill the Marines. They wisely decided not to attack.

With Columbian reinforcements cut off, the firefighters and their mercenary allies were easily able to establish effective control of Panama City. Over the next two days, two American cruisers arrived, the Dixie (AD 1) and the Atlanta, with hundreds of Marines to reinforce the new republic.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
Phillippe Bunau-Varilla, left, and President Theodore Roosevelt, right, were rightfully accused of shady dealings after the revolution made the Panama Canal possible. (Illustration: Public Domain)

The U.S. government officially recognized Panama’s independence on Nov. 6, and Columbia gave in. The revolution succeeded with very little blood spilled. Panama quickly signed a treaty granting the U.S. permission to build a canal across the country. Over the following months, America sent more troops, including Marines under then Maj. John A. Lejeune, to establish control of the Panama Canal Zone ahead of the construction effort.

Panama quickly signed a treaty granting the U.S. permission to build a canal across the country. Over the following months, America sent more troops, including Marines under then Maj. John A. Lejeune, to establish control of the Panama Canal Zone ahead of the construction effort.

Planning and construction of the canal continued until mid-1914 when it was finally completed. America controlled the Panama Canal until it was given to local authorities in 1999 (based on a deal signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977).

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first tank to break into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was almost lost to history

Although its opening has been delayed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, houses historic Army artifacts like an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, General Grant’s Forage Cap from the Civil War and an M4 Sherman tank from WWII. However, this Sherman is a rather special one. Its name is Cobra King and it holds the distinct honor of being the first tank to break through to the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

Cobra King served with the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division during WWII and fought through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and into Czechoslovakia. Unlike regular Sherman tanks, Cobra King is an M4A3E2 “Jumbo” experimental variant. Classified as Assault Tanks, Jumbos were equipped with thicker armor than standard Shermans and were often re-armed with high-velocity 76mm M1 main guns (although Cobra King retained its factory short-barrel 75mm M3 gun during the Battle of the Bulge). The extra armor slowed the tanks down by 3-4 mph. Jumbos also featured duckbill-style extended end connectors fitted to the outside edges of their tracks for added weight-bearing and stability.


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

An M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo on display in Belgium bearing 37th Tank Battalion markings (Photo Credit: Public Domain)

Cobra King’s name follows the tank corps tradition of naming vehicles by the company’s designation; Cobra King belonged to the 37th Tank Battalion’s C Company. According to Army historian Patrick Jennings, Cobra King had been knocked out of action in France in November 1944. The tank was repaired and returned to action in Luxembourg. There, tank commander Charles Trover was killed by a sniper on December 23 as he stood in Cobra King’s turret. Trover was replaced by Lt. Charles Boggess who commanded Cobra King during the Battle of the Bulge.

Along with Boggess, Cobra King was crewed by driver Pvt. Hubert Smith, assistant driver/bow gunner Pvt. Harold Hafner, loader Pvt. James Murphy and gunner Cpl. Milton Dickerman. The five men led General Patton’s 3rd Army’s relief of Bastogne on December 26. Driving at full speed and sweeping the road ahead with gunfire, Cobra King made a 5-mile push through intense German resistance toward Bastogne. “I used the 75 like it was a machine gun,” Dickerman recalled. “Murphy was plenty busy throwing in shells. We shot 21 rounds in a few minutes and I don’t know how much machine gun stuff.”

Cobra King came across a team of U.S. combat engineers assaulting a pillbox. The tankers were wary of the engineers since German troops had been infiltrating U.S. lines dressed in American uniforms. Finally, one of the engineers approached Cobra King, stuck his hand out to Boggess and said, “Glad to see you.” The engineers were Americans and part of Able Company, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Together, Cobra King and the engineers destroyed the pillbox. The link-up marked the end of the German siege of Bastogne. For its relief of the city and the 101st, the 37th Tank Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

After six weeks in Bastogne waiting for a German counterattack, Cobra King and the 4th Armored Division rejoined the push into Germany. During this time, Cobra King became just another Sherman in the column of armor. Through February and March, the division broke through the Siegfried Line to the Kyll River and battled its way to the Rhine. On April 1, they crossed the Werra River and then crossed the Saale River 11 days later. The division continued to chase the Germans east and crossed into Pisek, Czechoslovakia in early May. After V-E Day on May 7, the division assumed occupation duties in Landshut, Germany until its inactivation the next year.

Cobra King remained in Germany while the 37th Tank Battalion was reactivated in 1951 and re-assigned to the 4th Armored Division in 1953 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 37th would later return to Europe; the division’s 1958 yearbook featured a picture of Cobra King (yet unidentified) on display at McKee Barracks in Crailsheim, Germany. In 1971, the 4th was inactivated and redesignated the 1st Armored Division. In 1994, Crailsheim was closed and all the units posted there, along with Cobra King, were relocated to Vilseck. The 1st was later relocated to Bad Kreuznach, but Cobra King stayed behind.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Cobra King had to be refitted with a 75mm gun during its restoration (Photo by Don Moriarty)

Cobra King stood in silent vigil at Vilseck as an anonymous display tank. Jennings credits Cobra King’s discovery to Army Chaplain Keith Goode, who suspected that the display tank might be the famous Cobra King. Army historians in Germany and the U.S. confirmed his suspicion after extensive research and the tank was shipped back to the states in 2009. Though the interior was damaged beyond repair by years of weather exposure, the exterior was given a full restoration at Fort Knox, Kentucky before Cobra King was put into storage at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 2017, the tank was trucked up to Fort Belvoir amidst the construction of the Army Museum. When the museum does open, Cobra King will proudly stand on display as “FIRST IN BASTOGNE”.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Cobra King is emplaced on its foundation (Credit National Museum of the U.S. Army)


MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy expects there will probably be ‘hundreds’ of coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt

The acting secretary of the Navy said Thursday that he suspects the number of coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt will eventually be “in the hundreds.”

The first coronavirus cases aboard the flattop were reported Tuesday of last week. At that time, there were only three cases. The number had climbed to 114 by Thursday.


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“I can tell you with great certainty there’s going to be more. It will probably be in the hundreds,” Thomas Modly, the acting Navy secretary, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday afternoon.

He said that none of the 114 that have tested positive had been hospitalized. “The ones that are sick are exhibiting mild or moderate flu symptoms. Some are exhibiting no symptoms. And, some have already recovered,” he said.

The ship is currently in Guam, where the Navy is in the process of removing thousands of sailors from the ship and testing the entire crew.

On Wednesday, Modly told reporters 1,273 sailors, roughly one-fourth of the crew, had been tested. At least 93 tests had come back positive.

The Navy is moving at least 2,700 sailors off the ship, and those who test negative will be put up in vacant hotels on Guam, where they will be quarantined for two weeks.

Before the outbreak, the massive flattop had been sailing the Pacific. In early March, the ship made a port call in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Modly’s prediction that the number of coronavirus cases aboard the carrier could eventually be in the hundreds came as he announced that he had relieved the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer of duty due to a loss of trust and confidence.

Capt. Brett Crozier, the ship’s CO, wrote a letter warning that “the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” He called for the removal of the majority of the crew from the ship as soon as possible. “Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The letter leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and then quickly made headlines everywhere.

The acting Navy secretary accused the CO of mishandling information by distributing the letter outside the chain of command in a way that made it susceptible to being leaked. He said that Crozier exercised “poor judgment” and that his letter caused unnecessary panic among sailors and military families.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Capt. Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest and well-being of his crew,” Modly said. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

It may sound crazy, but an organization suffered worse losses in World War II than the Army, the Marine Corps, or even the Navy that was in charge of guarding it: The Merchant Marine, the sailors who crewed ships carrying goods from U.S. factories to European battlefields, lost nearly 4 percent of its members in the war.


This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

Merchant Marine officers and crew members were in high demand in World War II, but it was a dangerous and largely thankless service.

(National Archives and Records Administration)

The Merchant Marine was never designed for front-line combat on the battlefield or on the ocean. It’s made up of mostly civilian members who conduct almost any type of maritime trade in peacetime, from fishing tours to oil shipping. During a war, the federal government can make these sailors into an auxiliary of the U.S. Navy.

And during World War II, these men went through light training before crewing ships that had to brave not only the seas and storms, but German U-boats that were organized into wolfpacks and ordered to hunt the Merchant Marine.

This forced these men into the worst of the fighting, despite their largely non-combat role. And it made sense for both sides. Logistics moves supplies and, along with the industry that creates those supplies, wins wars. Germany had a weak industrial base and needed to keep American industry out of the war as much as possible. But one of America’s greatest roles in the war was that of “Arsenal of Democracy,” and it couldn’t afford to keep the Merchant Marine at port.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

German U-boats sank ships flying under Allied colors and didn’t have the ability to recover and rescue the people imperiled by the sinking.

(Willy Stower, public domain)

And so German U-boats patrolled the American coasts, sinking ships — sometimes within view of their ports. Whenever possible, German U-boats operated on the surface, drawing oxygen to run their diesel motors and attacking with deck guns that could punch holes in ships’ hulls and doom them. When that was too dangerous, they would hunt underwater and attack with torpedoes.

For the sailors of the Merchant Marine, this was terrifying. They were under threat of German attack from the moment they left the range of the shore guns until they reached European ports. American waters were actually some of the most dangerous as U-boats hunted the coast at night, looking for U.S. ship silhouettes blocking out lights from shore. Once they had the target, the subs could attack and disappear.

Counting the waters around the American Philippines, Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico, the Merchant Marine lost approximately 196 ships in U.S. waters. Meanwhile in the Caribbean, our backyard, we lost another 180 ships. Officially, the U.S. lost 1,554 ships in the war. Approximately 8,000 to 12,000 Merchant Marine sailors were killed.

A ship sinks during World War II.

And the situations during the sinkings were terrifying. When ships were struck, sailors would have only minutes or seconds to get off the boat and to safety. Fires and the twisted hull could block passageways and make escape impossible. Jump into the water too early from too high and you could die from striking the water. Wait too long and the suction of the ship would pull you under to drown. Sharks, oil fires, and starvation could kill even those who made it out safely.

And, oddly enough, since the crews were often still technically civilians even when under Navy control, their pay stopped whenever they weren’t actively serving on a ship. That included when the ships were sunk under them and they had to spend weeks trying to reach a safe port.

The worst year, by far, was 1942, when approximately 500 ships were lost or captured in a single year. When the U.S. and the Axis Powers exchanged declarations of war in December 1941, U.S. ships sunk or otherwise lost skyrocketed from an average of 1 per month from January to November to about 55 in December, not counting Navy warships destroyed at Pearl Harbor.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

“Victory” and “Liberty” ships under construction during World War II. These ships allowed American arms and supplies to be shipped en masse to Africa, Europe, and the Pacific.

(War Shipping Administration)

The U.S. rushed the convoy system from World War I back into service. Merchant ships were encouraged to sail in planned convoys with U.S. and British naval escort, and ships that took part were much safer than those who went it alone. Less than 30 percent of U.S. and allied ships lost to U-boat attacks were in a convoy while they were sunk.

This was due to a number of factors, the darkest of which was that, even when U-boats had the edge against Navy vessels, they needed to remain underwater. Since they couldn’t use their deck guns without surfacing, that meant they could only sink as many ships as they had torpedoes.

But British technological advances and the large American industrial base began giving potent sub-hunting weapons to the U.S. and Allied navies and, suddenly, the U-boats had a lot more to worry about when facing convoys than just their limited arsenals. By May, 1943, sonar, radar, improved depth charges, and other tools had tipped the battle in the Atlantic and across most of the oceans.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

An illustration of the sinking of the Lusitania commissioned by the London Illustrated News. The ship was sank by U-boats, leading to America’s direct involvement in World War I.

(London Illustrated News)

Subs were on the run, and the Merchant Marine could sail with less worry. Still, the Merchant Marine lost between 9,000 and 12,000 sailors during the war, depending on whose numbers you use. The National World War Two museum puts the number of dead and presumed dead at 11,324, a loss rate of almost 4 percent. Meanwhile, the Marines took losses of almost 3.7 percent with 24,500 killed out of 669,000 people who served throughout the war.

Yes, joining World War II as the crewman on a merchant ship was more dangerous than joining as a Marine, and the Marines had it the worst of all the Department of Defense branches in the war, suffering 10 percent of all U.S. casualties despite being only 5 percent of the total force.

Articles

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.


It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.

1. It was an easy target.

Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
IEDs collected by Coalition forces in Baghdad. (DoD photo)

Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”

2. The road was a bumpy ride.

All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.

3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.

“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
A Rhino after an ambush along Route Irish (Labock Technologies)

In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.

4. The road required constant patrols.

Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
While on patrol Soldiers of the 1st Patrol Team, Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division help push a stalled car off Route Irish. (Photo by Sgt. Dan Purcell)

At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.

5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.

Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent
A Humvee in Sadiyah. The other side of the wall is Route Irish. (Photo by Matthew Vea)

Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.

Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New threats may speed production of a new amphibious assault ship

Congressional decision-makers are working with the Navy to explore massively speeding up construction of its emerging fleet of new amphibious assault ships as part of an urgent push to expand the overall fleet faster and address an enormous deficit of available amphibs.

A July 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, titled ” Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX[R]) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” says the currently proposed Navy plan to buy the second LPD-17 Flight II Amphib in 2020 may need to be accelerated to fall within the services’ 2019 budget.

The Navy currently has slightly more than 30 amphibious assault ships the fleet, and plans to reach 38 in coming years; However, the current plan still falls short of meeting the global requirements of combatant commanders, Navy leaders say.


While Navy officials are clear to tell Warrior Maven that the service does not comment on pending legislation related to Congressionally-authorized funding, service leaders have been quite vocal about the Navy and Marine Corps need for more amphibs for many years now.

“Navy and Marine Corps officials have testified that fully meeting U.S. regional combatant commander requests for day-to-day forward deployments of amphibious ships would require a force of 50 or more amphibious ships,” the Congressional report states.

The first LPD-17 Flight II ship, formerly called the LXR, is being acquired this year. Speeding up procurement of the second ship of this new class of amphibs helps address the Navy’s shortage of amphibious assault ships and further expedites the Navy’s planned fleet expansion to 355-ships.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

LX(R) concept based on the LPD-17 design

The Navy plans new LPD-17 Flight II amphibs to replace its current fleet of Dock Landing Ships, or LSD 41s, which have functioned for years as a support ship in an Amphibious Ready Group. This strategic move to replace Dock Landing Ships with an LPD 17-like hull seems to speak to a Navy effort to expand amphibious capability to adjust to a new, fast-changing threat environment.

The demand for amphibs is in part so great, because the versatile ships are needed for combat and a wide range of humanitarian and non-combat missions.

“Although amphibious ships are designed to support Marine landings against opposing military forces, they are also used for operations in permissive or benign situations where there are no opposing forces. Due to their large storage spaces and their ability to use helicopters and landing craft to transfer people, equipment, and supplies from ship to shore without need for port facilities,” the CRS report writes.

New Navy LPD-17 Flight II — future amphib strategy

The Navy hopes to add much greater numbers of amphibious assault ships to the fleet while simultaneously adjusting to a modern threat landscape which will require more dis-aggregated operations and require single Amphibious Ready Groups to perform a much wider range of missions. Modern near peer adversaries increasingly posses long range sensors and precision-guided munitions, a phenomenon which will require much more operational diversity from ARGs.

The Navy used to be able to deploy up to five ARGs at one time, however the fleet is no longer the size it used to be in the 1980s and the service is working on a strategy to get by with fewer ARGs and as fewer amphibs overall. As a result, the Navy needs more ships that have the technological ability to operate independently of an ARG if need be.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

LCAC-55, a Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sarah E. Ard)

The modern threat environment contains a wider range of contingencies to include counterterrorism operations, counter-piracy, humanitarian missions, disaster response, and full-scale amphibious combat operations against near-peer adversaries. This requires that the three ships in an ARG have an ability to disperse when necessary and operate independently. The Navy and Marine Corps increasingly explains that modern missions require more split or dis-aggregated operations.

A lead Amphibious Assault Ship, a Dock Landing Ship, or LSD, and the San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock are both integral to an Amphibious Ready Group, which typically draws upon a handful of platforms to ensure expeditionary warfighting technology. The ARG is tasked with transporting at least 2,200 Marines and their equipment, including what’s called a Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU.

The 684-foot long LPD 17s can hit speeds of 22 knots and carry four CH-46 Sea Knights or two MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The LSD, or Dock Landing Ship, also travels around 20 knots however it is only 609-feet long and not equipped to house aircraft.

Both the LPD 17 and the LSDs have well-decks for amphibious operations along with the ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs. However, the LPD17 weighs close to 25,000 tons and the LSD is only 16,000 tons.

The 1980’s-era LSD dock landing ships consist of eight Whidbey Island-class 609-foot long ships. The 15,000-ton ships, configured largely to house and transport four LCACs, are nearing the end of their service life, Navy developers say.

While the mission of the existing Dock Landing Ship (LSD) is primarily, among other things, to support an ability to launch Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, for amphibious operations, the new LPD-17 Flight II ship will have an expanded mission to include more independent missions. LCACs are ship to shore connector vehicles able to transport Marines and equipment from ship-to-shore beyond the horizon. LCACs can even carry M1 Abrams tanks over the ocean.

An Amphibious Transport Dock, or LPD, is designed to operate with greater autonomy from an ARG and potentially conduct independent operations as needed. An LSD is able to operate four LCACs and the more autonomous LPD 17 can launch two LCACs.

This proposed nuke would’ve destroyed a continent

USS Saipan LHA-2 amphibious assault ship

(U.S. Navy photo)

Developers explain that the LPD-17 ship will have a much wider mission set than the fleet of LSD ships it is replacing.

As a result of this wider mission requirement for the LX(R), the ship is being engineered with greater aviation and command and control technologies that the LSD 41 ships it is replacing.

Additional command and control capabilities, such as communications technologies, will allow the ship to reach back to the joint force headquarters they are working for, stay in with the parent ship and control the landing force, Navy and Marine Corps developers added.

Having more amphibs engineered and constructed for independent operations is seen as a strategic advantage in light of the Pacific rebalance and the geographical expanse of the region. The widely dispersed territories in the region may require a greater degree of independent amphibious operations where single amphibs operate separately from a larger ARG.

Corps officials explain that the greater use of amphibious assault ships is likely as the Marine Corps continues to shift toward more sea-based operations from its land-based focus during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the same time, Navy and Marine Corps leaders are quick to acknowledge that there is a massive shortfall of Amphibious Assault Ships across the two services. In recent years, senior service leaders have said that if each requirement or request for amphibs from Combatant Commanders worldwide were met, the Navy would need 50 amphibs.

The Navy currently operates only roughly 30 amphibs and plans to reach 38 by the late 2020s.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

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