When people think of the Vietnam War, they think of helicopter-borne Marines or soldiers taking on Viet Cong guerillas. They think of F-105s and F-4s going “downtown” to Hanoi, or ARC LIGHT B-52 missions. They don’t think about tanks slugging it out.
That’s the Arab Israeli-Wars, over on the other side of the continent of Asia.
Well, contrary to many people’s preconceptions, there was tank-versus-tank action in the Vietnam War. Not exactly on the scale of the Arab-Israeli wars, but when you’re the one being shot at, you’re dealing with a significant action.
Ben Het was a special forces camp overlooking one of the many infiltration points into South Vietnam from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Among the units there were Operational Detachment Alpha A-244, which consisted of 12 Green Berets. They were backed up by a number of Montagnard tribesmen, a battery of 175mm howitzers, and M48 Patton main battle tanks, and had the mission of tracking movements by North Vietnamese troops in the area. When they found the enemy, they particularly liked calling in air strikes by F-4 Phantoms and A-1 Skyraiders.
On March 3, 1969, the North Vietnamese attacked the camp with a force that included PT-76 amphibious tanks. These tanks had a 76mm gun, but were lightly armored. In that battle, the M48 tanks engaged the PT-76s. While one M48 was damaged, with two crewmen dead, at least two of the North Vietnamese tanks were also destroyed, along with a BTR-50 armored personnel carrier.
The North Vietnamese were beaten back, and the Green Berets proceeded to evacuate their dead and wounded. Below, listen as retired Maj. Mike Linnane discusses his perspective of the Battle of Ben Het.
What’s it like to take part in a modern air battle, flying some of the most sophisticated planes ever to take to the sky? We’re talking the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon here, during the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot.
The F-15 and F-16 have seen a lot of action, the vast majority of which has taken place in the Middle East. One of the most notable engagements these airframes saw was the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. During the 1982 Israeli-Lebanon War, the Israelis were dealing with terrorist attacks from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO had relocated to Lebanon shortly after wearing out its welcome in Jordan.
After a PLO assassination attempt that targetted the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, the Israelis went into Lebanon to deal with the terrorists. The thing was, the PLO was backed by Syria. So, when the Israelis went in, the Syrian Army went in to stop them. A crucial part of the Syrian strategy was to take control of the air.
This wouldn’t work out so well for the Syrians. Not only had Israelis just acquired the latest and greatest fighters from the United States, they had also acquired the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye. This radar plane was perhaps the biggest advantage for the Israelis. Ground-based radar stations have a lot of trouble seeing low-altitude planes and cruise missiles. Airborne radar, however, has much less difficulty.
Between June 9 and 10, nearly 200 fighters from both the Israeli Defense Force and the Syrian Air Force clashed over the Bekaa Valley. When the shooting had stopped, all the Israeli planes returned safely to their bases. Over 80 Syrian combat planes were not so lucky, destroyed in the ferocious air battle.
You can see what this battle was like from an Israeli pilot’s perspective in the video below. There probably aren’t very many Syrian perspectives available.
Author’s note: This is a very hypothetical look at how a fight between two of America’s greatest expeditionary units could play out. Obviously, this battle would never actually happen since paratroopers and Marines rarely fight outside of bars. Both sides can only use their indigenous assets and their rides to the fight, no requesting Patriot missile support or a carrier strike group.
During the short War of Alaskan Secession in 2017, one brutal battle pitted an Army Airborne Brigade Combat Team against a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
The fight centered on Fort Glenn, an abandoned World War II airfield on Umnak Island in the center of Alaska’s Aleutian Island Chain. The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division attempted to take the fort for the Alaskan Independence Forces while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit steamed north to capture it for the Federal Forces.
The Alaskans wanted the base to act as an early-warning installation and a platform for controlling Arctic traffic while the Federal Forces needed it as a marshaling and power projection platform for the invasion of Alaska.
The soldiers and Marines raced to the island, each unaware of the other’s plans. 4th Brigade caught a ride from Alaskan Air National Guard C-17s while the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rode in on their dedicated Navy ships, the USS Peleliu and the USS Germantown, from where they were already steaming in the northern Pacific.
The paratroopers arrived first, jumping into the grass and wildflowers covering Fort Glenn. After Army pathfinders walked the runway and declared it safe for airland operations, C-17s began ferrying the unit’s heavy equipment onto the base.
It was at this critical moment that the Army colonel learned from one of his UAV operators that the 31st MEU was south of the island and steaming towards Deer Bay, a natural beach that sat at the foot of Fort Glenn.
This was a crisis for the airborne unit. A surprise winter storm approaching mainland Alaska had grounded the F-22s and other fighters captured as the war began, but the commander knew the MEU would still be able to launch its eight Harriers and four attack helicopters with the Navy’s ships safely out of the storm’s path.
The Army had limited options. They could attempt to defend Fort Glenn with what static defenses could be emplaced quickly, hide and set up an ambush at the beaches for when the Marines landed, or withdraw to the nearby high ground at Mount Okmok, a volcano that rarely erupts.
Javelin missile teams jumped out and positioned their launchers to screen for aircraft flying low and slow. Riflemen grabbed their assault packs and began setting up their own positions.
The soldiers waited and watched as the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicles crept into view. It wasn’t until the first of the Ospreys and SuperCobras neared the beach and spotted the humvees that the Javelin crews began firing.
The first missiles streaked toward the aircraft, but they had only limited anti-air capabilities. Two SuperCobras and two Ospreys came down, but the rest of the aircraft began evasive maneuvers.
The Humvees moved up from the dead space to give their gunners a shot at the Marines coming in. TOW missiles and 40mm grenades began striking the AAVs making their way to the beach while .50-cal gunners targeted the Marines Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts.
The Marines, though surprised to find the beach occupied, were masters of amphibious warfare. The command quickly ordered the landers to turn south where the terrain around Deer Bay would protect them from the missiles. The AAVs began suppressive fire to cover the movement.
The Marines knew that since the Army fired Javelins, an anti-tank missile that is a risky choice against helicopters, the Javelin was their only anti-air missile. So the Harriers were free to fly just a little too fast and a little too high for the Javelins, and therefore they were able to rain destruction.
Once the Harriers were airborne, it was over for the Army’s heavy weapons platforms. After destroying the Humvees, they went after the Army howitzers and the few M1135 Strykers on the island.
The Army attempted an organized withdrawal to the mountain as the two remaining SuperCobras returned with the Harriers. The LCACs and Landing Craft Units offloaded the Marines’ six Light-Armored Vehicles and 120 humvees. The surviving AAVs swam onto the shores.
Army mortar crews, riflemen, and the surviving Javelin firers fought a valiant delaying action, but the island provided little cover and concealment and they were destroyed.
By the time the storm had passed over the Alaskan mainland and the governor could send reinforcements, the resistance on Umnak Island had been essentially wiped out. There was simply too little cover and concealment for the paratroopers to defend themselves against the air and armored support of a MEU once the Marines knew that they were there.
“Consider that, first of all, you are a United States Marine. That is the beginning,” Joseph Owen said just days before his death in August 2015.
He said it as if he were addressing all Marines.
“You are something beyond ordinary people. Now you want to take a step up from there. If you’re not the best, you’re gonna be. If you’re not trying to be the best the Corps has, you’re not worth a sh*t. Why are you here?”
Owen commanded a mortar platoon as a 2nd lieutenant in Baker Company, 1-7 Marines during the Korean War. Owen enlisted during World War II but saw the bulk of his service in Korea. As an officer, he was charged with turning an undisciplined group of reservist mortarmen into a force to confront the enemy.
“You always have to perform to your limit,” he said. “Myself and a fellow officer, we used to sit around and talk about leadership all the time. Combat leadership doesn’t mean a goddamn thing unless you have Marines that will continue the fight no matter what.”
Becoming an officer changed his world.
“I’m not bragging, I’m just saying the facts: two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star – we know what the hell we’re talking about,” he said.
1. His most vivid memories:
“The North Koreans had much more initiative,” he said. “They would come on you tenaciously and keep on the attack until you killed them. And in defensive positions, they were aggressive and used offensive tactics. Even pinned down they would get out and come at you. I had great respect for them. They fought with their brains individually. The Chinese were only tenacious because there was no going back.”
“Some of the Chinese front line soldiers didn’t even have weapons, they had stakes. They would try to get in close and kill you with that. The ones who came after them would try to pick up the burp guns of the first wave. If they got killed the third wave would come and pick up the weapons.”
“The Chinese were wearing sneakers in 30-below-zero temperatures,” he remembered. “Sometimes we came up on them, and some of them would still be in position, frozen solid. They’d put their hands up to surrender. We would take them, pull them out, and find they were just stumbling around on frozen feet.”
2. On racial integration of the military:
“Two Southerners came to request to be in my platoon when they received a black squad leader, a Sgt. Long. When Sgt. Long was killed during a night fight with the Chinese, those two Marines requested to carry Long’s body, because they wanted to pay proper respect to ‘the best damn squad leader in the Corps.’ When the fighting started, everyone was a Marine.”
3. His take on modern American warfare:
“Today’s troops cannot fight the way I know how to fight. You have to take the battle to the enemy and kill them. These days you have to go through rules of engagement, which ties the hands of soldiers behind their back. You have to keep on going and do not stop. Keep going and kill those bastards. No pity, no mercy, just kill them. As many as you can.”
4. On North Korea today:
“We fought them to a defeat and now they have risen back and are – in effect – giving us the finger and getting away with it. What are we gonna do? We shouldn’t let that little son of a bitch play around with atomic weapons. That pisses me off.”
5. On harboring ill will toward an enemy:
“Hell no. They were fighting under the same orders I had. They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them. Hell no. I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”
6. Why he wrote a book:
“I had been thinking for a long time something should be done to honor the Marines I fought with,” Owen said. “I knew if I wrote about Baker Company it would also cover Able Company. We were all the same, formed up by the numbers, and we bonded very quickly. If I said Baker was the best, they’d say ‘F– you, we’re the best.’ We were the same. So I quit my business and wrote the book. This was a story that needed to be told.”
“What I wrote about getting to Fox Company after they were under fire for five nights… we came up to Fox Company’s positions. They had stacks of Chinese bodies set up as protective walls against enemy fire. They were using those walls to put down fire on the oncoming Chinese. When we came up on them, I was able to walk 50 yards on just Chinese bodies. There must have been hundreds of them thrown against Fox Company. This is the kind of thing I needed to write.”
7. On life after the Corps:
“Stay active, be proud of what you do. What I say about the pride of being a Marine. That’s all over the place — the rest of your life, make it a good one. Do good things for people to the best of your ability. I had a hell of a life, way beyond the Marine Corps. I look back at night before I go to sleep… I got millions of great, great memories. I remember everything. I think ‘son of a bitch… you were able to get away with that!’ ”
8. Advice for anyone, military or civilian:
“If you’ve never been scared sh*tless, what kind of life have you led?”
On June 6, 1944, hundreds of Army leaders waited tensely for a moment that they’d been preparing for four long years: their graduation ceremony. During that ceremony, an Army general took the podium and confirmed to them that another long-awaited moment had come that same morning: the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe.
The cadets, crammed into lines of chairs inside a large building, included Cadet John Eisenhower, the son of D-Day commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower is called to the stage to receive his diploma in the video above, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause.
West Point graduates, typically commissioned into the Army on the same day they graduate, in 1944 knew that they would be involved in the final long, slow push to Berlin. Indeed, Eisenhower would go on to serve in Europe in World War II and fight in Korea before going into the Army Reserve and eventually retiring.
By the time the sun rose over West Point, the news was well-known. But, the three-star confirming the invasion was probably still a welcome confirmation for many. After all, there were false reports of an invasion only three days earlier when a BBC teletype operator accidentally hit the wrong key.
As a tangible way to honor those who fought to defend their freedoms, Americans are being encouraged to perform their civic responsibility just days before Veterans Day in a new national PSA from Got Your 6 and issue-driven media company ATTN:
The PSA launched a nonpartisan campaign “Don’t Just Thank, Vote!” featuring actors and veterans Rob Riggle, David Eigenberg, and J.W. Cortes, actors Tom Arnold and Joe Manganiello, and supporters of the veteran empowerment organization Got Your 6.
“We know that veterans are more engaged in the democratic process, but even if all 21.8 million veterans were to cast a ballot in November, we still wouldn’t reverse the downward trend in voter participation,” said Iraq War veteran and Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch. “Got Your 6 believes that voting is the most basic civic responsibility, and that disengagement is a sign of faltering community health. As veterans, we feel it is our responsibility to lead from the front by challenging Americans to not just thank us for our service, but to honor every veteran by voting.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 70 percent of registered veterans voted in the 2012 presidential election, compared with 60.9 percent of registered non-veterans. A recent report by Got Your 6 demonstrates that that gap is even more profound in local elections, with 15 percent higher voting rates for veterans over their non-veteran counterparts.
Not only are veterans statistically more likely to vote this Election Day, they are also uniquely positioned to encourage non-veterans to do the same.
The “Don’t Just Thank, Vote!” PSA acknowledges that voter turnout in the United States is among the worst of all developed nations. To increase the voting rate on Nov. 8, the veteran-driven campaign challenges all citizens to show their support of the men and women who wore the uniform through actions, not just words.
But it wasn’t always this way. During the Cold War, Airborne forces relied on the M551 Sheridan, an Airborne-capable light tank first fielded in 1969.
The M551 Sheridan tank was a 16-ton tank made primarily of aluminum and employed by airborne forces. (Photo: U.S. Army)
The Sheridan was a replacement for the World War II-era Mk. VII Tetrarch tank and the M22 Locust Airborne tank. The Tetrarch was a British glider-capable light tank and the M22 was an American tank custom-built for glider insertion.
The M551, unlike its predecessors, was airdrop-capable, meaning it could be inserted using parachutes instead of gliders. The tank was also used with the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System, an airdrop system that allowed the U.S. to drop the tanks from a few feet to a few dozen feet off the ground.
An M551 Sheridan is pulled from the back of a C-130 by the Low-Altitude Parachute Extraction System. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)
The tank used an experimental 152mm gun that could fire missiles or tank rounds. Even its tank rounds were experimental, though — they used a combustible casing instead of the standard brass casings.
The M551 Sheridan tank firing a Shillelagh missile. (Photo: U.S. Army)
The Sheridan served well in Vietnam and Panama. During Operation Just Cause, it was even airdropped into combat, allowing paratroopers to bring their own fire support to the battlefield.
The tank’s main gun could inflict serious damage at distances of up to 2,000 feet, allowing it to punch out enemy bunkers from outside the range of many enemy guns.
Unfortunately, the light armor of the Sheridan posed serious issues. Some Sheridans were pierced by enemy infantry’s heavy machine guns, meaning crews had to be careful even when there was no enemy armor or anti-armor on the field. Worse, the main gun started to develop a reputation as being unreliable.
Firing the main gun knocked out the electronics for the longer-range missile, meaning that a tank firing on bunkers or enemy armor at close range would usually lose their ability to punch targets at long range. And there was no way to avoid this issue as the Shillelagh missile couldn’t hit targets at less than 2,400 feet.
The only way for an M551 to punch at close range was to give up its capability at long ranges.
By 1980, most cavalry units were moving to the M60 Patton Main Battle Tank, which was actually introduced before the Sheridan. The Patton featured heavier armor, more power, and a more reliable gun. It had also just been upgraded with new “Reliability Improved Selected Equipment,” or “RISE.”
The airborne forces would keep the Sheridan through 1996, partially because they had no other options. A number of potential replacements were canceled and modern airborne forces just make do without true armored support.
Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps with every intention of making a career out of it, but that plan was changed by an insurgent IED. Now he’s found a new life in the fast-paced world of male modeling.
Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps right after high school, intending to stay in for the long haul. He’d spent most of his life as the troublemaker, but when that stopped at seventeen, he was left with little direction and no idea where to go from there.
When he entered, he had an inkling that he would be good at it. As infantry, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the intention of fighting the Taliban, but on his first deployment, his truck ran over an IED.
After time spent in a coma and losing his right leg, he woke up frustrated at the slowness of his recovery. He itched to get back into the fight, but doctors informed him that, due to severe brain trauma, that probably wasn’t an option. Without direction once again, he turned to alcohol.
After several DUIs, he was forced to get help. It was this period that showed him that when he was drinking, he was only running away—and he didn’t want to run away anymore.
He found that fitness was directly related to his sobriety, and his life only improved from there. He works as a fitness trainer and a male model, and since then he’s spent his career running toward things, instead of away.
Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr., was on an assault team conducting the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph. After a four-hour foot patrol to the target location, a group of special operations volunteers hit the suspected building.
Byers distinguished himself multiple times in the moments that followed, sprinting to the building after a guard spotted the team 25 yards out, fighting against multiple enemies while trying to fix a problem with his night vision and find the doctor, and protecting the doctor with his own body while engaging multiple hostile targets.
He was later honored with a well-earned Medal of Honor for his actions.
In this video from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Byers talks about a seldom explored part of becoming a Medal of Honor recipient, the actual process of learning you will receive the award. From scheduling and receiving the president’s phone call to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.
But since he’s a Fort Bragg soldier, there’s also a real chance he’ll spend his money this way:
1. Taxes will be taken out
30.75 percent, or $615,000 goes right back into government coffers. That leaves the enterprising soldier with $1,385,000.
2. Dip and jerky
The winner’s first stop will be base shoppette where he’ll pick up the proper amount of dip for millionaire soldiers, as well as a little jerky to much on.
3. New car
This is an obvious stop, but for some reason, the new millionaire will still take out loans of 20 percent or more. Over the next five years, that b-tchin’ Corvette will cost him as much as a Lambo would’ve if he’d paid cash.
4. Electronics store
Every new video game console, 10-20 games for each, a huge TV, and surround sound. A few movies will round out the purchase, about 500 of them. Most of the movies are about World War II paratroopers.
5. Adult “book” store
This is for other movies. We will not explain further.
Finally, the soldier will find a new place to live. Unfortunately, he’ll only realize after the fact that his surround system doesn’t properly fill the new entertainment room with sound. Since he threw away the receipts, he’ll buy a new one and give the old system to a groupie (he’ll have those now).
7. Energy drinks
This will take up more money than any non-soldiers would expect.
8. All the booze
There are roughly infinity liquor stores at the Fort Bragg perimeter, as well as a Class VI store on base. These will become empty.
9. Noise citations
Once the party starts, Fayettnam police officers will be visiting every 15 minutes or so and writing a ticket. By the end of the night, the lottery money will be almost played out.
By the second week, the former millionaire will be attending finance classes on base and applying for an Army Emergency Relief loan to make his payments for the Corvette.
President Donald Trump announced on August 18 that he would elevate US Cyber Command to its own unified combatant command.
“I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations,” Trump said in a White House press statement.
“This new Unified Combatant Command will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation’s defense,” the statement said. “The elevation of United States Cyber Command demonstrates our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries.”
This would be the US’ 10th unified combatant command, which are combat branches that operate regionally, such as Pacific Command, or world-wide, such as Special Operations Command, often in support of regional commands.
Cybercom will “help streamline command and control of time-sensitive cyberspace operations by consolidating them under a single commander with authorities commensurate with the importance of such operations,” the statement said.
Elevating Cyber Command will help secure funding for cyberspace operations, Trump said.
Trump also said that Defense Secretary James Mattis will study whether Cyber Command should split from the NSA altogether. But Mattis’ recommendations will be “announced at a later date.”
Two former senior US officials told Reuters on August 17 that it would be a 60-day study.
It’s been a long time since the Cubs won the World Series. 108 years, in fact; the last time the Cubs won was in 1908, when they captured two World Series titles in a row.
Last night they made history and broke the Curse of the Billy Goat by clinching Game 7 of the World Series in extra (rainy) innings with a final score of 8-7.
A lot has happened in the world since 1908. The internet, Communism, Justin Bieber. But what about warfare?
Well, the military has changed quite a bit too, and some of the changes have completely revamped the way wars are fought today. Here are ten of the biggest military innovations and changes that occurred since the last time the Cubs won the World Series:
1. No more cavalry charges
Cavalry charges were still pretty common in the early 20th century, and in World War I all sides used horses to some extent. The Germans stopped utilizing armed cavalry on the battlefield shortly after the war’s outset, but the Ottoman Empire and the British used cavalry extensively in the Middle East theater.
During World War I, machine guns cut through horses in swaths, and the chemical weapons first used by the Germans killed many more. They were still used to drag equipment through the mud, however, and at one point German troops were told that the life of a horse has more tactical value than that of an infantryman.
Ultimately, though, machine guns and artillery rendered the horse-led cavalry charge obsolete. The horses were replaced by tanks, although these didn’t truly live up to expectations until World War II.
Although the Wright Brothers first flew a heavier-than-air manned airplane in 1903, planes in warfare didn’t come about until around 1911. During World War I airplanes became very important for reconnaissance missions, and as they became more maneuverable, some planes were designed to shoot down the recon planes. This led to fighters, bombers, and the jets that we know today.
Modern warfare generally favors the side that controls the skies, and for that reason, high-tech planes with sophisticated radar and other technologies are closely guarded secrets by states concerned about their leakage. The United States’ protracted counterinsurgency wars, however, have proven that even though you control the skies, it doesn’t always mean you win.
3. U.S. Army Special Forces started operating operationally
The first true Special Forces Group, the 10th, was formed in 1952 under Col. Aaron Bank. They evolved from Office of Strategic Services troops that had served behind enemy lines during World War II. Concurrent with this was the founding of the Psychological Warfare School, later known as the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare. The original goal of the Army’s Special Forces was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air, deep into enemy-occupied territory and organize the resistance/guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations, with emphasis on guerrilla warfare.”
Special Forces have fought in every conflict since Korea and evolved into a number of different roles. They have grown in number and size and now consist of some of the most elite soldiers in the United States Army, trained in multiple missions, including direct action and foreign internal defense.
4. Chemical weapons: a sick burn
The Cubs might have gone 108 years without winning a world series, but the world has only gone 101 years since the first chlorine gas attack.
On April 22, 1915, a man named Fritz Haber oversaw the world’s first successful chemical weapons use. The German scientist had been attempting to convince a German commander to use the gas on Allied troops but had thus far met with scorn and derision. One commander, however, let him try it, and when the wind finally turned toward the Allied troops, he unleashed the gas.
That single attack killed more than 1,100 Allied troops. By the end of World War I, more than 50 different poisons had been used on the battlefield, and gas masks had become a tactical necessity.
Today, the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, although that didn’t stop Saddam Hussein from gassing thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, or Bashar al-Assad using gas on his own people.
5. Meals, Ready to Eat began constipating troops everywhere
The Department of Defense decided to re-vamp their combat rations in 1975, when they declared the MRE would be the new way of feeding troops in combat. The first delivery of MRE’s occurred in 1981, and they were first field tested by the 25th Infantry Division in 1983.
MRE’s were a huge step forward for field rations because they could be kept almost indefinitely, and they did not require a flame to heat the entrees. MRE’s nowadays are much tastier than the maggot-filled tack that soldiers of the Continental Army used to eat, and troops can pick and choose menu items. Plus, Jalapeno cheese. Enough said.
6. Aircraft carriers became a thing
With the advent and importance of aircraft in modern warfare, it was only natural that nations sought to project that flight power to different parts of the world. After all, what good was a runway for planes if it wasn’t near the combat zone?
To that end, armies and navies first tried launching balloons off of wooden ships, but when the propeller plane came around, they started putting aircraft on ships. The Japanese ship Wakamiya lowered seaplanes onto the water using its crane in 1914 during the battle of Tsingtao, making this the first use of an “aircraft carrier” in warfare.
During the 1920’s, truly dedicated carriers with launch pads were commissioned and became an integral part of shaping the way the world fights wars. Nowadays, the US Navy’s powerful carriers carry lethal jets and ground forces to places all over the world in order to project United States military power.
Tanks, along with airplanes and aircraft carriers, changed the way that wars are fought. Although the infantry was the major component of fighting in World War I, by World War II the way was being led by quick, lethal tanks that could maneuver and shoot accurately at the same time. The armor provided by the vehicle shielded its occupants from most small arms fire and allowed infantry to follow behind.
Modern land warfare owes its origins to the tank, which debuted at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to limited success. They simply could not operate in the artillery-churning mud of the front, and often became bogged down before even advancing.
During World War II, the Germans used their lightning-fast tanks in the Blitzkrieg doctrine in combination with airplanes and infantry. Later on, tanks became more and more technologically advanced, and in modern times a tank can make an enormous difference on the battlefield, although they are still vulnerable to ever-more-lethal anti-tank rockets and missiles.
8. Night vision let people see the night, visually
In the early days of World War II German scientists experimented with night vision devices with some limited success, even going so far as to equip their Panther tanks with night vision. But it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that the first practical, mass-produced night vision devices, the AN/PVS-1 and 2 starlight scopes, were introduced. Even though they were bulky and easily broken, these scopes gave U.S. troops an advantage on the battlefield. They used ambient light to amplify the picture around them, allowing troops to see enemies moving in the dark.
Today, the United States military has some of the best night vision around, giving it advantages in the wars that it fights worldwide. Each member of an infantry or special operations unit can have his or her own individual night vision device, which are now compact and project pictures in high definition. Some devices even incorporate thermal imaging along with amplified ambient light to produce a better picture. This gives US troops a massive advantage over enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, who have to use captured equipment and have little repair capability.
9. Widespread use of body armor
While the concept of protecting oneself from harm with armor has existed for millennia, the modern age of personally-issued body armor didn’t occur until around the time of the Korean War. Even then, the vests were issued mostly for protection from shrapnel, and were bulkier and heavier than modern vests.
It wasn’t until the 1971 discovery of Kevlar by scientist Stephanie Kwolek that body armor became ligher and able to stop real bullets, including most pistol rounds.
In 1975, American Body Armor introduced a vest that used 15 layers of Kevlar and a “shok plate,” which could protect against high-velocity rifle rounds. This set the standard for modern military body armor, which now often consists of so-called “soft” armor for pistol rounds and shrapnel, and hard ceramic plates for high-velocity bullets. Advances in technology have made it so that troops, particularly those in well-funded special operations units, can have the best of both worlds: lightweight protection for vital organs and ultimate maneuverability.
10. Missiles and precision-guided munitions
While airplanes changed the way wars were fought in the 20th century, the way airplanes were used was changed just as fundamentally with the advent of guided missiles. Although civilizations had been experimenting with rocketry for centuries, the V1 and V2 rockets of Germany in World War II were the first true guided missiles used in warfare. Following that, various countries began using missiles on their ships, jets and trucks, and creating massive, world-travelling Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. If it weren’t for our massive experimentation in missile technology, the world would not have known the war-shaping theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, or the standoff capabilities of a guided missile destroyer launching cruise missiles into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Modern missiles use Global Positioning Systems to find and destroy the enemy, and are becoming ubiquitous for the United States; today, more than 80 percent of bombs dropped by the United States military are precision-guided They are essential in preventing civilian casualties in a world where states fight terrorist groups rather than each other.
On July 1, 1863, the decisive Battle of Gettysburg began.
Possibly the most important engagement of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg marked the turn of the war against the South. It would also be the bloodiest single battle of the conflict.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee had recently won an overwhelming victory against the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville just weeks before and was preparing to invade the North with 75,000 men.
President Abraham Lincoln appointed General George G. Meade to meet Lee, who’d assembled his forces at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
The ensuing battle raged for three days with over 50,000 American casualties. It ended in a hard-won victory for the North — one that turned the tide of the war against the South, who would never advance as far North again for the rest of the Civil War.
The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the largest battles in North American history. A portion of the battlefield became a final resting place for Union soldiers as well as the site for President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, which reasserted the purpose of the Civil War:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Featured Image: L. Prang & Co. print of the painting “Hancock at Gettysburg” by Thure de Thulstrup, showing Pickett’s Charge. Restoration by Adam Cuerden. (Library of Congress image)