This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Great thinkers through history have written for centuries there is nothing more wasteful of potential talent than war. Young men and women who might have gone on to do great things are mowed down senselessly in wartime, and what we may have gained is forever lost to speculation. Few embody this more than Henry Moseley, a physicist killed by a sniper at the age of 27 during World War I.


Born into a privileged family with both parents being highly educated scientists themselves, Moseley attended the standard progression of private schools, including Eton, as any English boy of social rank would be expected to. He demonstrated his brilliance from an early age, and eventually studied under the famed Sir Ernest Rutherford, considered by many scientists to be the father of modern nuclear physics.

At Oxford, Moseley personally built X-ray spectrometers to study atomic structures. During this process, he also invented the first atomic battery, which is used to this day to power pacemakers and other specialized devices that need compact, long-lasting power sources.

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Henry Moseley before enlisting in the British Army. (Photo: Oxford archives)

During his research, Moseley built on a number of theories proposed by other scientific giants like Dmitri Mendeleev, the creator of the periodic table of elements. The periodic table was riddled with inconsistencies, and it was Moseley who refined it using the number of protons to classify elements by atomic number rather than atomic mass, giving much more precise measurements. He even used this method to predict the existence of elements that had not been discovered yet. Moseley’s Law, concerning the X-rays emitted by atoms which could be used to quantify their structures, is one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of physics.

Moseley was considering where to move forward with his burgeoning career when World War I broke out in 1914. To the considerable dismay of his family, friends and colleagues who tried their best to convince him to stay, he decided to enlist in the British Army. He considered it his duty to go. He joined the Royal Engineers as a telecommunications specialist, which put his considerable skill with technical equipment to good use.

Moseley eventually deployed to the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in Turkey, where he served as a communications officer. Intended to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war, the campaign turned into a slaughterhouse for British and Commonwealth forces and is considered one of Winston Churchill’s greatest mistakes.

During the Battle of Suvla Bay, Moseley was transmitting orders over a radio telephone when a Turkish sniper shot him in the head on Aug. 10, 1915. The scientific community had lost one of its most promising members in a ditch at the Dardanelles. Moseley clearly felt that he was fulfilling an obligation to his country.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
British troops advancing at Gallipoli in August 1915. (Photo: British Ministry of Defence)

Following his death, the British government made it policy that distinguished scientists would not be allowed to sign on for combat duty. His loss was felt keenly by many of his colleagues. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Millikan said in 1923:

“In a research which is destined to rank as one of the dozen most brilliant in conception, skillful in execution, and illuminating in results in the history of science, a young man but twenty-six years old threw open the windows through which we can now glimpse the subatomic world with a definiteness and certainty never even dreamed of before. Had the European war had no other result than the snuffing out of this young life, that alone would make it one of the most hideous and most irreparable crimes in history.”

Henry Moseley is buried in a military cemetery in Turkey near where he died. He has a fellowship in his honor at the University of Oxford.

What he may have accomplished if the war had not come along, we will never know. But he died doing what he thought needed to be done. He is remembered as a man who expanded our understanding of the universe while showing great courage.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the deadliest insurgent sniper in Iraq

The name struck fear in the hearts of U.S. and coalition troops during the war in Iraq. A sharpshooter who could unleash his deadly round in an instant and melt away unscathed.


He was almost like a ghost — a hyper accurate sniper that built a legend around his stealth and lethality. Videos peppered YouTube and LiveLeak that reportedly chronicled his exploits, adding to the growing legend.

In fact, “Juba,” as he was known, became a media sensation in his own right, his lethal skills were condensed into the character “Mustafa” that fought a sniper duel with Chris Kyle in the popular “American Sniper” film. And he’s the central villain in the sniper thriller movie “The Wall.”

Insurgent propaganda credited Juba with 37 kills and he became well known among American troops in Iraq during the height of the insurgency in 2005 and 2007.

“He’s good. Every time we dismount I’m sure everyone has got him in the back of their minds,” Spc. Travis Burress, an sniper based in Camp Rustamiyah, told The Guardian newspaper in 2005. “He’s a serious threat to us.”

Videos purported to show several of Juba’s kills are a vivid reminder of why he was so feared by American troops. With pinpoint accuracy, the insurgent sharpshooter was able to target the gaps where heavily-armored U.S. service members remained vulnerable, dropping coalition forces with heartbreaking deftness.

And when he killed, he proved difficult to track.

“We have different techniques to try to lure him out, but he is very well trained and very patient,” a U.S. officer told The Guardian. “He doesn’t fire a second shot.”

Insurgent videos taunted U.S. troops — and even President Bush —that Juba was everywhere. (YouTube screen shot)

To hunt Juba, the U.S. dispatched the notorious Task Force Raptor, an elite unit of Iraqi special operators akin to Baghdad’s version of Delta Force. The Raptors harried Juba on his home turf of Ramadi, chasing him around the insurgent hotbed until the trail went cold. Most analysts at the time argued that Juba had fled Ramadi for another battlefield.

Though Juba became a well-known name among American troops on patrol in Iraq, there are some who argue the insurgent marksman was a myth — a composite of several enemy snipers that was built into a legend by the insurgency to frighten coalition troops. At Juba’s height, about 300 American troops had been killed by gunshots in Iraq, and one video of Juba’s exploits claimed he’d killed more than 140 soldiers and Marines.

“Speculation is [that] there was more than one Juba,” said former Special Forces and Iraq war vet Woody Baird. “My estimation is the bad guys were running a psychological operation attempting to terrorize the conventional forces by promoting a super sniper.”

It’s unclear what happened to Juba, though most agree that he was killed in action — either by American or Iraqi sharpshooters or even ISIS terrorists.

But some believe Juba is a made up insurgent meant to strike fear in U.S. troops at checkpoints and in vehicle hatches.

“Juba the Sniper? He’s a product of the U.S. military,” Capt. Brendan Hobbs told Stars and Stripes in 2007. “We’ve built up this myth ourselves.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

In Ancient Rome, purple was worth more than gold

In the world of the ancient Mediterranean, there were plenty of ways for the upper class to flaunt their wealth. Just like today, the elites lived in massive houses, wore luxurious clothing, and dined on decadent delicacies. But for the 1 percent of the 1 percent, there was a status symbol shrouded in myth and worth more than gold: purple.

Dyes were difficult to produce in the ancient world. All dyes were made from a natural source like a plant, animal, or mineral, and some were rarer than others. One of the rarest, though, was Tyrian purple.


Tyrian purple was made from the secretions of a certain sea snail, called a Murex. It took thousands of these snails to produce even a small amount of usable dye, making Tyrian purple extremely expensive. It was worth the cost, however; Tyrian purple was famous because over time its color would not fade but actually become brighter and more beautiful.

Tyrian purple was named after the Phoenician city of Tyre, where the dye was first produced in the Bronze Age. The Phoenicians exported purple all around the Mediterranean, making their dye and themselves quite popular. Some historians even speculate that the word “Phoenician” is derived from the Greek word for “purple.”

The dye took the Mediterranean world by storm. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer reserves purple for the greatest warriors and kings. King Solomon supposedly decorated the Temple of Jerusalem with Tyrian purple. Alexander the Great and his successors wore purple as their symbol of royal authority. The Mediterranean was also awash with myths about how human beings first discovered purple.

Tyrian purple would earn its other name, imperial purple, from the Romans. In the Roman Republic, the high-ranking magistrates wore the toga praetexta, a white toga with a purple stripe. Generals celebrating a triumph, a festival that was the highest honor a general could receive, were allowed to wear the solid purple toga picta.

After the Republic became the Empire, purple was increasingly associated with the emperor and his subordinates. According to Roman historians, the emperor Caligula once sentenced a Roman client-king to death for the arrogance of wearing purple.

In the coming centuries, the Roman government would even nationalize the production of purple, and save the dye for the emperor. In the reign of Diocletian in the late third and early fourth centuries, one pound of purple wool was worth a pound of gold, and one pound of purple dye was worth three pounds of gold.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, purple was the property of the emperor. To become emperor was to be “raised to the purple” and to be the child of an emperor was to be “born in the purple.” Purple was used for the most important imperial documents, and a splash of purple on one’s clothes marked one as a bishop or imperial administrator.

Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, purple remained popular. The westerners could still purchase purple from the easterners, who produced it in Constantinople. Charlemagne was wearing purple when he was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 800, and was wearing purple when he was buried. The nobility and the clergy used purple to represent their secular and sacred power.

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the production of purple went into decline. Western Europe could no longer purchase purple, and the nobility and clergy were forced to start using scarlet instead.

However, purple’s association with might and majesty never quite disappeared. For centuries it remained the color of royalty, and many churches use purple vestments as symbols of authority. The ceremonial robes used in academia, modeled after clerical vestments, are often purple to represent intellectual excellence.

In America, the Purple Heart, along with its predecessor the Badge of Military Merit, uses purple to represent valor. Artificial dyes have made purple available to everyone nowadays, but it has never lost its association with greatness.

Articles

These are the events that led to the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’

The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.


In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.

1. The Brits arrive on the continent

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
British troops from the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, march through Cherbourg, France, in late 1939. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

The seeds of Dunkirk were laid on Sep. 3, 1939, when the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France following Germany’s invasion of Poland and amidst the obvious German military buildup of the late 1930s. Eight first and second-line infantry divisions as well as a number of support troops had arrived by May 1940, spending most of their time training and preparing defenses.

The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.

2. The Germans invade

On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.

3. Allied countries collapse

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium was thought to be one of the strongest forts in the world in 1940. German paratroopers exploited weaknesses to capture it in hours. (Photo: Public Domain)

The German blitzkrieg advanced faster and harder than most Allied leaders could believe, and countries quickly collapsed. One of the world’s greatest forts was captured in Belgium in only hours. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and others surrendered within weeks.

4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches

As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.

5. The Panzers stop

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
German panzers invade western Belgium in May 1940. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.

The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.

6. The evacuation begins

On May 26, Operation Dynamo was launched with the goal of evacuating 45,000 troops within 48 hours before the beaches fell. British defenders helping to hold Calais sent their own evacuation ships to Dover to help evacuate those troops at Dunkirk. Calais fell that evening; all British and French forces there were killed or captured.

7. The evacuation runs for 10 days

The pace of the evacuation started slow on May 26 with 8,000 men removed, but increased in efficiency quickly result in more men getting off.

Within the first few days, Royal Navy officers working the “Mole,” a pier-like breakwater that protected the harbor from ocean currents, turned it into an improvised dock that evacuated 1,000 troops an hour at its peak. Additional men embarked from improvised piers and the beaches themselves.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.

The crews of the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” grew on May 29 when the BBC broadcasted an appeal “for men with experience of motorboats and coastal navigation.”

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
The British Army evacuation from Dunkirk (Source: Public Domain)

The fleets of navy and civilian vessels crossed back and forth across the English Channel, rescuing about 338,000 troops, mostly British and French, by June 4 when Operation Dynamo ended.

Learn more about the events of May and June 1940 in the video below:

YouTube, World of Tanks North America

MIGHTY HISTORY

Unleash the hounds: Spartan warrior dogs

If you thought your K-9 was a badass, you’re probably right. But maybe not quite as badass as these 4 Spartan Warrior dogs.


This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

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1. The spear assault dogs

While you might think of dogs in combat and warfare as a relatively new concept, their origin traces back to mid-seventh century B.C., when the Ephesians waged war on Magnesia. Sounds like something out of the Bible until you realize that instead of animals walking onto an ark two-by-two under a rainbow, every horseman was accompanied by a spearman and a war dog who broke enemy ranks in order to lead a bloodbath by spear assault.

Good times.


This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

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2. The PSYWARFARE dogs

Dogs were also instrumental in psychological warfare.

At the battle of Pelusium, Cambysesus II preyed on the Egyptians’ reverence of animals by putting dogs on his front line. Kill a bad guy, sure, but nobody wants to harm a puppy. The tactic worked. Dogs were frequently used as messengers and lookouts as they were less likely to be harmed. The Egyptians mummified dogs because of their respect for the creatures.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

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3. The Molossian

War dogs were both celebrated and feared. The Molossian was the desired breed, which is a relative of the modern day mastiff. Greek poet Oppian wrote, “Impetuous and of steadfast valour, who attack even bearded bulls and rush upon monstrous boars and destroy them….They are not swift, but they have abundant spirit and genuine strength unspeakable and dauntless courage.” Who can forget Hercules from Sandlot? The Beast was feared, and for good reason.

In his work, Cynegetica (“The Chase,”) Nemesiani, who was basically the Cesar Millan of his day, had this helpful hint for how to identify which of the pups would be the strongest:

“You should get a series of flames made in a wide circuit with the smoke of the fire to mark a convenient round space, so that you may stand unharmed in the middle of the circle: to this all the puppies, to this the whole crowd as yet unseparated must be brought: the mother will provide the test of her progeny, saving the valuable young ones by her selection and from their alarming peril. For when she sees her offspring shut in by flames, at once with a leap she clears the blazing boundaries of the fire-zone, snatches the first in her jaws and carries it to the kennel; next another, next another in turn: so does the intelligent mother distinguish her nobler progeny by her love of merit.”

That’s not intense at all. Totally how we pick out German Shepherds.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

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4. The Agassians

They may not have been much to look at, but plenty of scholars would pick the British Aggasians over the Molossians in a head to head battle.

Poet Oppian described them as: “There is a strong breed of hunting dog, small in size but no less worthy of great praise. These the wild tribes of Britons with their tattooed backs rear and call by the name of Agassian. Their size is like that of worthless and greedy domestic table dogs; squat, emaciated, shaggy, dull of eye, but endowed with feet armed with powerful claws and a mouth sharp with close-set venomous tearing teeth. It is by virtue of its nose, however, that the Agassian is most exalted, and for tracking it is the best there is; for it is very adept at discovering the tracks of things that walk upon the ground, and skilled too at marking the airborne scent.”

Sure, our K-9s might be able to detect bombs, drugs and humans and are probably smarter than the Greek war dogs, but nothing looks as badass as a dog with a wolf collar, something the war dogs used to wear to prevent fatal wolf bites. We think these should be standard issue for all 31Ks and their dogs, too.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This Army colonel was stupid brave

Meet Colonel McIntosh

One American officer made the bold proclamation that “a braver man than Colonel McIntosh never lived.” Few could argue with this assessment when evaluating the deeds of James Simmons McIntosh.


Born in Georgia in 1787, James Simmons McIntosh came from a long line of soldiers. His great-uncle, General Lachlan McIntosh, served with Washington at Valley Forge. His father, John McIntosh, was the American commander who taunted the British to “come and take it” when they demanded the surrender of Fort Morris in 1778. It was only appropriate that James enter the army when of age.

He received an appointment to the First United States Rifle Regiment as a lieutenant at the age of 25 in November 1812. Like his forefathers, he had a chance to fight the British, and fought at the Battle of Scajaquada Creek in August 1814. McIntosh received a serious wound and was left for dead on the field of battle. An American burial party discovered McIntosh still breathing and transferred him to New York to recover. The House of Representatives of Georgia later presented Lieutenant McIntosh with a dress sword for his “gallantry and intrepidity” in the war that he carried until his death.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Colonel McIntosh’s final battle at Molino del Rey during the Mexican-American War. (Lithograph by Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot after a drawing by Carlos Nebel.)

Left for Dead: The Battle of Palo Alto

At the conclusion of the war, he opted to stay in the army for the next 30 years. McIntosh rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the Fifth United States Infantry Regiment by 1839. In October 1845, he reported to General Zachary Taylor in Corpus Christi, Texas, when war clouds loomed over Mexico. He played a leading part in Taylor’s operations when war broke out in 1846. On May 8, 1846, at the Battle of Palo Alto, his regiment held the extreme right of Taylor’s line and beat back a fierce Mexican lancer charge to save the army’s baggage train.

The Mexican army fell back to a strong defensive position situated at Resaca del la Palma after their defeat at Palo Alto. McIntosh and his regiment were ordered to conduct a frontal assault on the left of the entrenched Mexican line the next day by General Taylor. McIntosh rode forward as Mexican bullets cut through the air. He was one of the first Americans to set foot inside the Mexican position, but had to dismount due to the uneven terrain.

In the chaos of the assault, McIntosh was waylaid by six Mexican infantrymen before he could unholster his pistol. One of the six assailants bayoneted McIntosh’s arm, breaking the bone. As he fell to the ground, two other soldiers attempted to skewer him with their bayonets. McIntosh grabbed the barrel of one of the Mexican muskets with his bare hand and stopped the infantryman’s bayonet within inches from his face. While preoccupied with warding off this attack, the other Mexican infantryman drove his bayonet into McIntosh’s mouth, forcing his front teeth inward, and piercing the back of his neck.

Also read: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Regan said it was hard to believe

The Mexican infantrymen left the American colonel for dead. McIntosh found the strength to lift his mangled body from the ground and stagger in the direction of the American line. His shattered arm dangled at his side, and his face and neck were a bloody mess. Lieutenant James Duncan of the Second Artillery noticed McIntosh staggering across a small pool of water, and ordered his men to assist the colonel.

Duncan asked if he could do anything for McIntosh. The veteran colonel somehow managed to get off the words, “Yes! Give me some water, and show me to my regiment!”

He collapsed soon after and was transported back to Point Isabel, Texas, to recover. Most American newspapers reported he had died during the battle. In twelve months, the old Spartan recuperated from his ghastly wounds and headed back to join Winfield Scott’s army on its march against Mexico City. McIntosh again assumed command of his beloved Fifth United States Infantry Regiment. He distinguished himself in command of the regiment at the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco.

A Final Stand: The Battle of El Molino del Rey

On the night of Sept. 7, 1847, General William Worth called together the senior officers of his command and broke the news to them that General Scott had ordered a forlorn assault on the strongly fortified Mexican position at El Molino del Rey. That night these officers, including McIntosh, poured over a battle map under candlelight in preparation. Most of those present would be dead before noon the next day.

At dawn on Sept. 8, 1847, three American columns of 3,447 men were arrayed shoulder to shoulder for the assault on El Molino del Rey. With his superior ill, McIntosh took command of the Second Brigade. He was ordered to concentrate his brigade’s assault on the center of the Mexican defenses anchored by the strongly fortified Casa Mata. In his usual manner, he made his way out in front of his men conspicuously mounted on his horse and carried the sword presented to him by the citizens of Georgia.

The Mexican defenders sat motionless until the McIntosh’s men advanced to within 100 yards of the Mexican position. The American infantrymen were nearly swept to pieces over the open ground. They pushed through the storm of bullets and made it to within 25 yards of the Mexican position.

McIntosh remained mounted through the hail of bullets to inspire his men to continue forward. A musket ball suddenly hit him in the thigh, causing him to crash to the ground. While lying wounded, another ball tore through his knee and painfully lodged into his groin. Lieutenant Ralph W. Kirkham of his staff ordered two American infantrymen to carry the wounded colonel to the rear. They grabbed McIntosh by his coat and began to drag him to the rear.

More heroes: This one-armed Gurkha fought off 200 Japanese with a bolt-action rifle

McIntosh refused to be dragged any further until he received word that a second American assault broke through the Mexican position. He kept probing those nearby, “Is that fort taken yet?” The Americans suffered 20 percent casualties that day, making it the bloodiest day of the U.S-Mexican War for the United States.

McIntosh lingered in a makeshift hospital for over a month. His most recent wounds healed well, and it appeared for a time that the resilient colonel would recover. His health took a turn for the worse when his old War of 1812 wound broke open and became infected. He died on Sept. 26, 1847, and was buried in a nearby Mexican cemetery.

Members of his native Georgia raised enough money to cover the expenses of bringing his remains back home for reburial. His sword and uniform, pierced by eight bullet holes, were placed upon his coffin during his funeral. He was reburied in the Colonial Park Cemetery on March 18, 1848, resting in immortality alongside those members of his family that fought so valiantly in the service of their county.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘Jedburghs’ were the best anti-Nazi commandos of WWII

In World War II, months before D-Day, a loudspeaker on military bases played a short recruitment message. The few men who answered it would become heroes after tackling one of the deadliest and most complicated missions of D-Day.


This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Jedburghs train on an obstacle course in World War II.

(Office of Strategic Services)

The loudspeaker message went:

Wanted: Volunteers for immediate overseas assignment. Knowledge of French or another European language preferred; Willingness and ability to qualify as a parachutist necessary; Likelihood of a dangerous mission guaranteed.

Men who volunteered had a chance to be selected for a Jedburgh Team. The teams typically featured a mix of Canadian, British, French, and American troops, but they were tiny, typically with two to four members. So, obviously, there was just one man of each nationality in each team.

So, that was one reason that knowledge of European languages was preferred, the other was that these tiny teams would fight directly alongside resistance forces in Nazi-occupied Europe, mostly in France but also in the Netherlands and Belgium. Their motto summed up the mission well: “Surprise, kill, and vanish.”

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Jedburgh team members in World War II.

(via CIA.gov)

Very few people were selected. A post-war accounting put the number at 276 of which 83 were Americans. There were also 90 British and 103 French troops. The most typical team size was three, but all teams were required to have at least a commander and a radio operator.

The most common third member was an officer from the country in which the team was deployed. So, French members rounded out teams in France, Dutch in the Netherlands, and Belgian in Belgium.

The Jedburghs trained hard and wanted to go into Europe two to six weeks before the D-Day invasion, but Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower restricted the Jedburgh insertions until June 5, 1944—the night before D-Day—so the sudden presence of international troops wouldn’t clue in the Nazis to the coming invasion.

So, on June 5, the teams began their insertions, and these few hundred men brought lots of extra weapons with them and rallied the resistance fighters of Europe. The Jedburghs and their allies fought far ahead of the invasion forces, in some cases taking and holding key infrastructure that the rest of the Allied forces wouldn’t reach for weeks.

The Jedburghs severed Nazi supply and reinforcement lines, and they protected key infrastructure like bridges that would be needed by the tanks and trucks of the invasion force. As volume two of the OSS War Report says:

Will well-trained, capable radio operators, the Jedburghs represented, wherever they were, a strong radio link between FFI (French Forces of the Interior) leaders and other Allied groups in the field, such as the SAS (Special Air Services) and headquarters in London … Besides the all-important task of making available … arms and supplies to the resistance and preparing landing and dropping fields, they acted as translators and interpreters, assisting in surrender arrangements, helped lead sabotage and ambush operations, provided intelligence on resistance and enemy strength and other information as well, and worked to coordinate separate resistance forces under a unified command.
This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Members of the Jedburgh teams prepare to insert via parachute in World War II.

(US Army Signal Corps via CIA.gov)

And yes, the rest of the Allied forces saw and appreciated these efforts. While the Jedburghs complained after the invasion that they wished they were allowed to insert earlier and do more, Allied commanders were just grateful that so many resistance members were well-armed and organized, breaking up Nazi forces and tying up German units, and that so much infrastructure survived the Wehrmacht’s destruction efforts.

The Jedburghs were broken up, but some special operation units are spiritual successors to the Jedburghs. For instance, the Army’s first operation Special Forces group, the 10th Special Forces Group, was commanded by Col. Aaron Bank, a former Jedburgh. And one of the Special Forces’ primary missions is to deploy overseas, train up and help arm indigenous forces, and then fight alongside them.

But at least ODAs typically have 12 members. Jedburghs were running around in a Three’s Company configuration, slaughtering Nazis with just their closest friends to rely on.

Fun side note: The name Jedburgh was selected because it was the name of a town near where the men trained and where Scots had conducted guerilla operations against England in the 1100s.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 battles that took place after the war ended

Wars are generally long, bloody, and horrible affairs that everyone is anxious to wrap up so that everyone can go back home.


But for some reason, there have been wars that don’t end on time. Here are four times that the U.S. found itself in a battle after the war it was fighting was technically already over:

1. The Battle of New Orleans propels Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson to nationwide fame after the War of 1812

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of New Orleans two weeks after the War of 1812 ended.

 

The War of 1812 officially ended with the Treaty of Ghent on Dec. 24, 1814, but Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson repelled an attack on Jan. 8, 1815, by approximately 8,000 British regulars who hadn’t yet heard about the treaty. Jackson’s defense of the city inflicted 2,000 casualties — including three generals and seven colonels — on the British and made Jackson an American hero.

Even that wasn’t the final battle of the supposedly terminated war. The British survivors of New Orleans launched another attack on nearby Fort St. Philip which failed and then a successful attack on Fort Bowyer in modern-day Alabama.

2. American Gen. Sterling Price fought an extra battle in Mexico because he didn’t believe the peace news

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
The city of Vera Cruz was captured as a legitimate military objective during the Mexican-American War. The city of Santa Cruz de Rosales was captured after the war because why not? (Painting: Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot)

 

American Gen. Sterling Price had orders to hold and defend southern New Mexico near the end of the Mexican-American War — orders that he ignored to attack the city of Chihuahua in early 1848. When he arrived at the city, a group of citizens told him that the garrison had withdrawn from the town to avoid bloodshed as the war had ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo the previous month.

Price basically wrote the treaty off as fake news and just assaulted south anyway, catching up to the Mexican forces at the city of Santa Cruz de Rosales. The Mexican commander attempted to defend the town, repelling attacks from the north and west but falling to a thrust from the south.

3. The Battle of Palmito Ranch may have been a colonel trying to pop his combat cherry before the war ended

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
A map of the Battle of Palmito Ranch captures the military movements but not the stupidity of the conflict. (Photo: Pi3.124 CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

While there was no official peace treaty ending the Civil War, everyone had pretty much agreed it was over by May 1865. Lincoln was dead, the Confederate cabinet was scattered, and the War Department was getting ready to release most of the Union Army from the service.

But Union Col. Theodore H. Barrett found himself occupying an island near Confederate forces who were slowly negotiating a surrender with a major general. Rather than let those negotiations play out, Barrett led his regiment against the Confederate forces despite the fact that he had no combat experience and no orders to do so.

The blow-by-blow of the battle is farcical where it isn’t boring, but it basically amounts to a useless Union defeat at the hands of barely interested rebels and some French soldiers who were stationed in Mexico just across the river. Barrett later claimed the defeat was the fault of another colonel, but a court martial supported no charges against the other officer.

4. The last troops to die in the Vietnam War fought weeks after the war ended and two years after America withdrew

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
U.S. Marines run from a heavily-damaged HH-53C helicopter during the SS Mayaguez operation. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

While the American involvement in the Vietnam War officially ended with the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the actual war drew on for another two years until South Vietnam surrendered to Communist North Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

But the final battle involving American troops took place from May 12 to 15. The Khmer Rouge, a communist military group that had recently seized Cambodia, captured the crew of the U.S. merchant ship SS Mayaguez and President Gerald Ford deployed sailors, Marines, and airmen to rescue them.

The operation suffered from a lack of intelligence and the Marines hit the wrong island, one that was being guarded by 150 to 200 dug-in fighters when the Marines expected light resistance. America lost 41 Marines and airmen killed and wounded, but recovered the ship and the crew.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This POW led over 3,000 guerrillas after escaping the Bataan Death March

Staff Sgt. Ray C. Hunt was a mechanic in the Army Air Corps when the Japanese surprise attack across the Pacific on Dec. 7, 1941, dragged him into World War II.


He was soon captured, escaped the Bataan Death March that killed thousands, and then led guerrilla forces against the Japanese for the rest of the war.

Hunt is one of history’s true reluctant heroes. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1939 partially to avoid duty in the infantry if the war in Europe eventually swept up the United States. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant as a mechanic and was an expert in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter.

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
In the first days of the war, Staff Sgt. Ray C. Hunt was a mechanic on Curtiss P-40 Warhawks like this one. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 

When the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, Hunt’s base in the Philippines was hit just a few hours later. Because Hunt was west of the International Date Line, his base experienced the attack in the early hours of December 8.

The mechanic and other members of his unit were in the field sleeping in foxholes when the attack began, but still suffered losses as bombs and rounds from aircraft pelted their positions. For troops in the Philippines, that wasn’t the end of the attack. The Imperial Japanese followed up air attacks with amphibious landings and invasion.

America defaulted to its old War Plan Orange in the Philippines which called for a fierce defense of Bataan Peninsula. Hunt and others created a hidden airfield in the jungle and recovered their planes which flew missions against Japan. But the defense was doomed from the start by a lack of true combat troops and the decision not to reinforce the defenders.

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Prisoners on the march from Bataan to the prison camp. Very few who took part in the march survived the war. (U.S. National Archives)

The Japanese launched a Death March to move captured Americans to prison camps, and many U.S. service members died in the forced march so brutal that its organizer was executed for war crimes. Luckily, Hunt and a few others were able to escape the march alive.

In the jungle, Hunt recruited a small group of fighters and began operating under Lt. Robert Lapham, another American turned Filipino guerrilla leader. As the war ground on, the resistance in the Philippines spent most of its time gathering intelligence and moving constantly, though they did launch harassing attacks when possible.

Hunt was promoted to captain by the guerrillas and given command of a large group of fighters which eventually grew to 3,400. Their finest hour came in the five days before the American invasion of Luzon when they launched a massive campaign to prepare the island for American landings in what was called “Operations Plan 12.” The guerrillas received their orders on Jan. 4, 1945.

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
American military leaders who fought with Filipino guerrillas against Japan. Army Maj. Robert Lapham, third from left, was Capt. Ray C. Hunt’s superior during guerrilla operations. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The American relayed the order to begin operations to the other company commanders and then took his men on an assault against a Japanese encampment. While the overzealous guerrillas launched such a slapdash attack that Hunt called it a “Marx Brothers battle,” it managed to cause extensive damage and kill some of the Japanese defenders.

The best part for the guerrillas was that when the Japanese troops found their bullet casings dated 1942 and 1943, they assumed that they had been attacked by paratroopers and so began to focus on the possibility of constant attacks, degrading their morale and readiness.

Hunt and his men spent the following days collecting intelligence and harassing the Japanese as they withdrew to defensive positions. When the invasion came on Jan. 9, they were ordered to stay in their position. This put them in the perfect place to attack Japanese forces falling back east from the main American attackers in the west.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division move through Baleta Pass on Luzon Island in March 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army)

 

Hunt’s men would later be credited with 3,000 kills in those crucial five days preceding the invasion.

The American leadership accepted Hunt’s promotion to captain and ordered him to rejoin American forces. He went on horseback with 15 of his fighters to the headquarters and briefed other officers on the disposition of guerrilla and Japanese forces, often accidentally speaking in Filipino dialects because he was no longer used to speaking English.

Hunt voluntarily remained in the Philippines for a few more months to support the American invasion and was personally pinned with a Distinguished Service Cross by Gen. Douglas MacArthur who thanked Hunt and others for remaining in the Philippines and serving American interests for three years.

(Author’s note: A lot of the information for this article comes from Capt. Ray C. Hunt’s memoirs, “Behind Japanese Lines: An American Guerrilla in the Philippines,” a well-written and often funny account of his wartime exploits.)

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of Navy’s most stunning victories had a breakfast break

America’s first great military debut on the international stage took place in 1898 when it launched a war against Spain. No longer was the U.S. military limited largely to the American continent. The new Navy, pushed forward by its new Assistant Secretary Theodore Roosevelt, would not only fight in both oceans, it would win decisively.


This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Commodore George Dewey at Manila Bay, his stunning first blow against the Spanish fleet.

(U.S. Naval Historical Center)

And, at the point of its first and greatest victory in the Spanish-American War, a Navy commodore took a quick break for breakfast while slaughtering Spain. And we don’t mean a few sailors were sent belowdecks at a time for food. We mean the entire fleet disengaged, everyone had breakfast, and then came back to finish the shellacking.

The buildup to war centered around control of Cuba, a Spanish colony that desired independence. Americans, meanwhile, were split on the issue. Some wanted Cuban independence, some hoped for a Cuban state, but almost everyone agreed that Spain should screw off.

But there was tension between the hawks and the pacifists in the country. Not everyone thought it was a good idea to risk a war with Spain, a major European power. So, as a half measure, the USS Maine was sent to Havana Harbor to safeguard Americans and American interests during the struggles between rebels and Spain.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

The wreck of the USS Maine is towed out of Havana Harbor.

(R.W. Harrison, Library of Congress)

But on February 16, 1898, the Maine suddenly exploded in the harbor. Investigations in the 20th century would find that the explosion was most likely caused by a bad design. A coal bunker had exploded, an event which occurred spontaneously in other ships of similar design. But the conclusion of investigators at the time was that the explosion was caused by a mine, and the implication was that Spain planted it.

America, already primed for conflict, declared war. And Roosevelt got his man Dewey the orders to take two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and a gunboat to the Philippines to strike the first blow.

The Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo had a large fleet in the Philippines with 13 ships, but they were old and outdated. The armor was thin at key points, many of the guns were too small to do serious damage against newer battleships and cruisers like America’s, and they were tough to conduct damage control on, so fires could easily rage once started.

American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.

(Public domain)

Montojo knew that the Americans would likely come for him, and he also knew that his fleet would struggle against the newer U.S. ships, so he decided to place his own vessels under the protection of shore batteries.

He sailed to Subic Bay where modern shore batteries were supposed to have been recently completed. But when he arrived, he found that not a gun was erected. Because of the constant fighting with Filipino rebels, the engineers had been unable to build the important defenses.

Montojo sprinted to Manila Bay where his men could be more easily rescued and ships more easily salvaged if lost, but he deployed his ships far from the city and in a shallow part of the harbor where his men could easily swim to shore if sunk, but also putting most of his ships out of range of the shore guns’ protection.

During the early hours of May 1, Dewey sailed into the harbor with his six ships in a battle line. He initiated the attack, and American ship after American ship paraded past and launched shells into the ineffective Spanish ships. Dewey turned back for another pass, and the ships repeated their process.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.

(Public domain)

Dewey and the Asiatic fleet kept this up for hours. They were like a saw ripping into the Spanish fleet but with cruisers for teeth instead of shards of metal. But around 7:35, Dewey received a message that the 5″ guns had only 15 rounds remaining per gun.

Dewey knew that his gunners would need time to re-arm, and there was no point to doing it while under threat of the Spanish guns. So he took a look at the time, and ordered the fleet to withdraw. While this would later be reported as a withdrawal for breakfast, that wasn’t the initial intent. As Dewey would later write:

It was a most anxious moment for me. So far as I could see, the Spanish squadron was as intact as ours. I had reason to believe that their supply of ammunition was as ample as ours was limited.
Therefore, I decided to withdraw temporarily from action for a redistribution of ammunition if necessary. For I knew that fifteen rounds of 5-inch ammunition could be shot away in five minutes.

But during this withdrawal, Dewey learned two pieces of joyous news:

But even as we were steaming out of range the distress of the Spanish ships became evident. Some of them were perceived to be on fire and others were seeking protection behind Cavite Point…
It was clear that we did not need a very large supply of ammunition to finish our morning’s task; and happily it was found that the report about the Olympia’s 5-inch ammunition had been incorrectly transmitted. It was that fifteen rounds had been fired per gun, not that only fifteen rounds remained.

So Dewey suddenly realized that, first, he had the upper hand in the fight and, second, his men didn’t actually need to redistribute ammo. So, he ordered his men to take a break and get a bite to eat. Meanwhile, he called his captains together and learned that no ship had serious damage or fatalities to report. (One man would later die of either heatstroke or heart attack.)

So, after his men ate, Dewey returned to the attack and hit the city of Manila, quickly forcing its surrender. But he would have to wait for Army forces to arrive to actually hold it. It was the opening days of America’s first great overseas war, and the Spanish fleet was already in tatters, and the U.S. Navy was already a hero.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how air crews learned to navigate in World War II

These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.

But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.


This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.

Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I

This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.

(USAF)

During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.

Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQrGbz1dczY

www.youtube.com

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These are the 9 general officers who have earned 5 stars

Even though the five-star general rank essentially died in 1981 with Omar Bradley, the idea of a five-star general rising above all others to command so much of the American and allied militaries is remarkably heroic.


The five-star general officer was born in WWII because American generals and admirals were often placed above allied officers of a higher rank. Someone elevated to that position could never retire and was considered an active-duty officer for the rest of their life.

That’s a lot of trust. The list of the nine officers we deemed worthy of the honor rightly reads like a “who’s who” of U.S. military history.

1. Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
How many WWII-era Admirals were issued that hat? U.S. Navy photo

Leahy was the first officer to make the rank. He was the senior officer in the U.S. Navy and the senior-most officer in the U.S. military. He retired in 1939 but was recalled to active duty as the Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt and then Truman until 1949. During the latter years of his career, he reported only to the President.

2. General of the Army George Marshall

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Gen. Marshall looks like he’s already sick of your shit. National Archives

George Marshall was a major planner of the U.S. Army’s training for World War I and one of Gen. John J. Pershing’s aides-de-camp. He would need those planning skills when World War II broke out, as he oversaw the expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces and the coordination of U.S. efforts in the European Theater. After the war it was Marshall who helped rebuild Western Europe with an economic plan that came to be named after the man himself.

3. Fleet Admiral Ernest King

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
National Archives

King was the Commander in Chief of U.S. Naval Forces (the U.S. now only uses the term “Commander-In-Chief” to refer to the President) and the Chief of Naval Operations. Though he never commanded a ship or fleet during a war, as the Navy representative of the Joint Chiefs, he helped plan and coordinate Naval Operations during WWII.

4. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
National Archives

MacArthur graduated from West Point in 1903, fought in the occupation of Veracruz, World War I, and resisted the Japanese invasion of the Philippines for six months during WWII. MacArthur, despite having to retreat to Australia, oversaw the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific and accepted their surrender less than four years later.

He would also orchestrate the occupation and rehabilitation of Japan, and the American counterattack during the early months of the Korean War.

5. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Even though he looks sad, Chester Nimitz will f***ing kill you. Public Domain

Nimitz was the Navy’s leading authority on submarine warfare at the outbreak of World War II.  He would rise to be Commander-in-Chief of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and eventually take control of all U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater. He served the Navy on Active Duty in an unofficial capacity until his death in 1966.

6. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
“Hitler! Macho Man Dwight Eisenhower coming for youuuuuu OHHHHH YEAHHHHHHH.” Public Domain.

Ike never saw combat as a soldier, but his planning skills were essential as Supreme Allied Commander of all allied expeditionary forces in Europe during World War II. He planned and executed the invasion of North Africa in 1943, and of course the D-Day invasion of France in 1944. After the war, Eisenhower was the first Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and was elected President in 1952.

7. General of the Army and Air Force Henry H. Arnold

 

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
National Archives

“Hap” Arnold is the only officer ever to hold two five-star ranks in multiple branches and is the only person to ever to be General of the Air Force.

Before WWII, Arnold was the Chief of the Air Corps and became commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces when war broke out. He was one of the first military pilots ever, being trained by the freaking Wright Brothers themselves.

If Billy Mitchell is the Father of the Air Force, Hap Arnold helped raise it — he took a small organization and turned it into the world’s largest and most powerful air force during the WWII years.

8. Fleet Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
That is one salty sailor. US Navy photo.

“Bull” Halsey started World War II harassing Japanese fleet movements in the Pacific in his flagship, the Enterprise. He was later made commander of all U.S. forces in the South Pacific and commander of the Navy’s third fleet. Halsey earned his status after the war ended but took the Navy on a goodwill cruise of friendly countries

9. General of the Army Omar Bradley

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
National Archives

As mentioned, Omar Bradley was the last surviving five-star general, dying in 1981. He fought alongside the U.S. Army’s greatest all under the command of Dwight Eisenhower. He excelled during the D-Day landings and subsequent European campaigns. He eventually commanded 1.3 million fighting men as they invaded fortress Europe — the largest assembly of U.S. troops under a single commander.

* General of the Armies of the United States John J. Pershing

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Public Domain

Pershing was promoted to this rank and title in 1919, though no official rank insignia existed at the time. It was made by Congress to recognize his role in the American entry into World War I in Europe.

* Admiral of the Navy George Dewey

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Wikimedia Commons

Dewey received the title “Admiral of the Navy” by act of Congress in 1903. Admiral Dewey’s service during the Spanish-American War made him a national hero and celebrity.

* General of the Armies of the United States George Washington

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Wikimedia Commons

President Gerald Ford promoted Washington to this rank and title — essentially a six-star general — in 1976 to always ensure Washington would be the senior-most officer of any group.

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America wanted to stop Earth’s rotation during Cold War

A book from a nuclear whistleblower has a stunning claim that the U.S. Air Force once had a plan to throw off Soviet missiles by stopping the rotation of the earth with a thousand rockets.

Yup, the Wile E. Coyote missile defense plan which, theoretically, could have worked.


This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
Like this, but with fewer spectators and tires. And more rockets. (NASA)

 

First, the qualifications: The allegation comes from Daniel Ellsberg who worked for RAND from 1960 to 1970 and says he saw the plans before he left the corporation. Basically, it called for 1,000 rocket engines laid horizontally on the Earth’s surface that would fire when missiles were in flight towards America. His claim is the only evidence that remains. He said he stole documents, but they were lost years later.

The plan was in early stages when Ellsberg saw it, and it seems to have gone nowhere. But, in the most limited sense, the science does kind of work. Before cruise missiles became all the rage, nearly all nuclear threats were limited to ballistic missiles and bombers. When it comes to ballistic missiles, they have no guidance after a certain point in the flight; some can’t be redirected after takeoff because they used solely inertial guidance.

So imagine if you shot an arrow at a moving target and then someone stopped the target from moving while the arrow was already in flight. You would likely miss since, you know, target moved. So far, so good.

But the rest of the science isn’t so great.

 

Can you change earth’s rotation with rockets – Project Retro

First of all, rockets laid against the ground would be pushing against the atmosphere, and the earth is much, much denser than the atmosphere. So most of the energy would accelerate the atmosphere rather than slow the rotation of the earth.

Even with a thousand of America’s most powerful rockets pushing at once, it’s likely that U.S. cities would be in basically the exact same spot. A YouTuber who plugged the numbers into some simulations found that the rotation would only slow enough to shift the target’s position so minutely that you couldn’t even measure it with conventional tools. Like, the missiles would only miss by the width of a couple of atoms. Not enough to save a single human life.

And then there’s the fact that, even if the rockets offset the cities’ positions by hundreds of yards or even a few miles, that would only shift the pain. The missiles would still impact on the east side of the city or just east of the city. For New York, the missile would explode over the ocean instead of the city. But east of Philadelphia is still New Jersey. East of Atlanta is still Georgia, east of Dallas is still Texas.

But the more success the rockets have in shifting the city’s position, the worse another problem is. Everything on earth experiences the earth’s inertia, we just can’t feel it because it’s always there. But if the earth’s inertia suddenly slowed or even stopped, we would experience it like the earth was suddenly moving.

Ballistic missiles coming from Russia would take something like 30 minutes from launch to impact, but the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily know the missile was in flight for the first few minutes. So, if we give the rockets 20 minutes of time to shift the planet’s rotation 11 miles, the distance needed to keep a missile aimed at western Washington D.C. from hitting the city, the rockets would have to slow the planet’s rotation by 33 mph for that entire 20 minutes. (But the nukes would still hit the suburbs.)

Imagine a model of a city sitting on top of a car, then imagine accelerating the car to 33 mph as fast as you could, driving it for 20 minutes, and then coasting to a stop. And the city isn’t built to withstand earthquakes.

And every human and structure and animal and droplet of water in the world would experience this slowdown at once, not just the ones targeted by the missiles. But not all tectonic plates would experience it exactly the same. Assuming the rockets would all have been placed in the U.S., the North American Plate would take all the stress.

This physicist changed the face of science before he was killed by a sniper during World War I
​Pictured: Still not as bad as worldwide earthquakes and tsunamis. (U.S. Department of Defense)

 

Where the plate borders other tectonic plates, this would certainly create earthquakes, potentially triggering tsunamis off the West Coast as well as deep within the Atlantic. Another fault line passes through the Caribbean south of Florida and it, too, would likely quake.

So, actual earthquakes and tsunamis would be triggered at the same time that every city in the world experiences a weird pseudo-quake as the rockets fire, and the oceans would slosh over continents, all so the missiles would land on the outskirts of a few dozen cities instead of the hearts of the cities.

The missiles are starting to not look so bad, huh? It seems likely that, if the Air Force ever did seriously consider this, it was like the nuclear moon bases. They wrote some papers, decided it was nonsense, and moved on. But then, they did make prototype nuclear-powered planes and rockets, so maybe not.

(Featured image by Kevin Gill CC BY 2.0)

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