Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

It was a cool California November afternoon in 1947 when the HK-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, finally flew. It was supposed to be a simple taxi test, nothing more than motoring through the water of Long Beach Harbor to show off its speed and test out the plane in open water. But having endured years of people mocking the project and himself for trying to build a plane so massive it had no hope of flying, Howard Hughes decided to take the opportunity to extend his middle finger at them all in the most poignant way he could.

No doubt with a twinkle in his eye as the Hercules cruised through the water, Hughes turned to the 30 year old hydraulic engineer, David Grant, who he had chosen as his co-pilot that day despite him not actually being a pilot, and unexpectedly told him to “lower the flaps to 15 degrees” — the take off position.


Not long after, the massive, few hundred thousand pound (250K lb / 113K kg empty, 400K lb / 181K kg gross), 218 ft (67 m) long aircraft with a still record holding wingspan of just shy of 321 feet (98 m) was out of the water. It was airborne for under a minute, went less than a mile, and only about 70 feet in the air, but it had done the impossible — the Spruce Goose flew.

Given the rather innovative use of a hydraulic system, landing was a bit abnormal for planes of the age in that the plane had to be landed under power, as Grant would instruct Hughes to “fly it into the water.”

When it finally settled back down in the water, Grant stated, “It was ecstasy all the way. It was like walking on air. It wasn’t underpowered at all, and it performed exactly like it was designed to.”

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Internal view of the Hughes H-4 Hercules fuselage.

As to why Hughes didn’t fly it further, besides elements of the aircraft still needing tweaked and the potential danger of taking media aboard a test flight in which even the pilot wasn’t quite sure how the plane would handle, they’d been taxiing around for some time at this point and the plane hadn’t been fueled much to begin with. As such, Hughes didn’t want to risk running out of fuel in open ocean before he’d have a chance to circle back around and land.

Now, the original plan for this aircraft was a lot more grandiose than a brief publicity flight. In 1942, the United States — along with much of the rest of the world — was in the midst of WWII. Being across an ocean from where the fighting was taking place was a problem when transporting supplies, weapons, and soldiers en masse.

At the time, efforts on this front weren’t going well. German U-boats were patrolling Atlantic waters and torpedoing anything that was perceived to be helping the Allied war effort. According to one estimate, between January 1942 and August 1942 alone, German U-boats had sunk 233 ships and killed more than 5,000 Americans. It was clear that a better way was needed for transporting things safely across the Big Blue.

It was Henry J. Kaiser who first proposed an idea of an airboat. Running one of the most important construction companies in modern American history, Kaiser was responsible for building quite a lot of the infrastructure of the American west at the time (including the Hoover Dam). He also created a system for fast, high-quality shipbuilding during World War II that became world renownd.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Henry J. Kaiser

Kaiser thought that a massive airboat packed to the gills with supplies and troops that could fly over German U-boats was the answer to the problem. However, he was a shipbuilder and not an expert on airplanes… But he knew someone who was.

By 1942, Hughes was already a famed figure in America. Exceedingly wealthy, he first gained widespread fame as a Hollywood producer who was most prominently known for producing and directing Hell’s Angels, a World War I epic about aerial combat that was (at the time) the most expensive movie ever made.

In 1934, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company. A year later, he helped design and build the H-1, or as he liked to call it, the “Racer.” In September 1935, he broke the world land speed record in it with an average of 352.322 mph. In sort of a precursor of the future, during the flight the plane ran out of gas — something Hughes didn’t anticipate — forcing him to crash in a beet field, narrowly avoiding serious injury.

He broke another land speed record when he flew to New York from Los Angeles in a mere 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds (averaging 332 mph). In 1938, he shattered the world record for quickest time flying around the globe, needing just 3 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds, almost 4 days quicker than the previous world record set in 1933 by Wiley Post.

His prowess as an aviation engineer and pilot quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most innovative aviators in the world- someone that Kaiser thought would help the Allies win the war.

Together, Kaiser and Hughes convinced the War Production Board to finance the construction of 500 flying boats, a project that was deemed in the press as the “most ambitious flying aviation program in the history of the world.”

For months, the old-school industrialist and the new-age aviator worked together to put together plans that would wow.

In late August, they submitted to the government blueprints for a seaplane with eight engines, a wingspan longer than a football field, and a hull taller than a five-story building.

Beyond being the largest plane ever built by far at the time, it would be able to transport 750 troops or two M2 Sherman tanks. It had a gross weight of about two hundred tons, which was nearly three times heavier than any other airplane ever built. And, due to wartime metal restrictions, it was to be built nearly entirely of wood. Hughes and Kaiser called it the HK-1, naturally named after themselves.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

While hesitant at first, the federal government gave the pair $18 million (about $250 million today) to develop and build a prototype.

It didn’t go well from the very beginning. The Hughes Aircraft Company was not a big company in 1942 and struggled with staffing, expenses, and deadlines. Hughes himself was unfocused, taking on too many projects while underestimating how much attention was needed to build a plane that would eclipse anything anyone had ever attempted to make fly. Four months in and the best thing that could be said was that they built a 750-foot long hanger, also made out of wood.

By mid-1943, construction had begun on the plane itself, but it was incredibly slow-moving. Working with wood proved to be an enormous issue, presenting a variety of challenges that had to be overcome to make a reliable sea-plane. Beyond the aforementioned then innovative hydraulic system for manipulating the control surfaces, each piece of wood (which was mostly birch, not spruce, owing to birch being quite resistant to dry rot) had to be weighed and analyzed for quality assurance before being used.

In addition, each sheet had to be laminated with a waterproof glue in order to prevent it from being damaged by water, heat, and fungus. Along the way, besides needing to purchase the rights to the Duramold laminating process, which in a nutshell involved stacking shapable ultra-thin strips of wood and applying a glue, Hughes and his teem also had to develop a variation of the process for their particular application.

As late 1943 approached, the first prototype was due to the government but it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. What’s more, they had spent nearly half of the budget on “engineering re-tooling” and rumors were swirling that the first plane wasn’t going to be done until 1945. It turned out to be much worse than that.

At this point, Kaiser had had enough and bailed out of the project. Several times, the feds threatened to shut the whole thing down, willing to cut their losses. The contract that had originally been given to Hughes and Kaiser went from 500 planes to 3 planes to, finally, just one for the original $18 million.

By 1944, $13 million of that money was spent and, yet, the plane was less than half done. Then the war ended and any hope that the now-called H-4 Hercules (renamed after Kaiser left the project) was ever going to help the war effort was gone.

The contract with the federal government was swiftly canceled, but Hughes was determined to finish the plane. As he stated before the Senate War Investigating Committee in 1947 during an inquiry on whether he’d mismanaged tax payer dollars during the project,

The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

And so it was that he paid for the project’s completion himself. The H-4 Hercules was finally finished in June of 1946 with $22 million of the government’s money and, while figures vary from otherwise reputable sources, according to Boeing, $18 million of Hughes own personal wealth chipped in, for a grand total of $40 million (about $450 million today). It should also be noted here that, subtracting initial research and development costs, had they decided to build a second plane, it probably would have only cost about $2.5 million (about $28 million today).

It took a little over a year more for Hughes to it fly. At this point given the massive scale of the plane, the incredible weight, the fact that it was made of wood, and the perpetual delays, the media had taken to mocking the plane, calling it the Spruce Goose — a nickname that Hughes and his team hated owing to it demeaning what was otherwise a marvel of engineering.

But on that fateful November day, the Hercules finally did what it was intended, proving many a critic wrong.

In the aftermath, there was some wrangling over who actually owned the plane given how much money Hughes himself had sunk into the project. But the U.S. government eventually gave up its rights to it in exchange for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum getting the Hughes’ H-1 Racer plane and a portion of the Spruce Goose’s wing, as well as in exchange for a relatively small payment of $700,000 (about $3 million today).

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Howard Hughes

For years afterward, Hughes, now moving on to other projects, kept the plane in the hanger he built specifically for it, seemingly originally with the intent of eventually flying it again. In fact, he kept a full-time crew of, at its peak, hundreds of people on hand to make sure the plane was ready to fly at any given moment, costing him millions of dollars over the years to do that.

Howard Hughes died in 1976 and the Spruce Goose immediately was under threat of being dismantled owing to the cost of maintaining it in its massive hanger. But the Aero Club of Southern California acquired the legendary plane in 1980 and put it in their own hanger next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, right near where the plane did its maiden and final voyage.

The Walt Disney Company bought the property in 1988 and, after a few tense years, given Disney wanted the plane gone, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon won the right to acquire the Spruce Goose.

For the last 26 years, that’s where it has remained, meticulously maintained. In fact, it’s generally thought that the maintenance over the years has been so good that, with some upgrades, particularly to the wiring and electronic components as well as going through the engines, it could possibly fly just fine today. Of course, because of its historical significance, nobody has seriously suggested anyone make those upgrades and try.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Lists

The 6 types of lieutenants you just can’t avoid in the military

Lieutenants never get much respect. What do you expect, though? You send a 22-year-old new college grad to officer candidates school for a few weeks and expect him to be in charge of a platoon of grizzled combat veterans… What could possibly go wrong? It’s the brain-damaged leading the blind. Every rank has some major archetypes, and lieutenants are no different. Here are six types you’re probably already familiar with.


1. Lt. Clueless

 

Quote: “If that’s not how we’re supposed to use a compass, then why did they teach it at The Basic School?”

The conventional view is that ALL lieutenants are clueless, but that can’t really be the case, or else the service would be even more screwed than it already is. All LTs take a while to get up to speed, but Lt. Clueless seems to be coming more undone every day, not less.

He’s smart enough to graduate college in basketweaving, phys ed, criminal justice, or some similar bullsh*t degree, but not smart enough to keep track of his own rifle. The upside is that stealing his firing pin will be easier.

Everyone under Clueless is counting the hours until the company commander finally figures out that one of his platoon commanders spends his free time chewing crayons. They just hope it comes before deployment, when some of them might have to patrol with him.

Also read: 8 things a boot lieutenant should never say

2. Lt. Tacticool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5IWHxiwYMg

 

Quote: “I got this kickass rig online at Brigade Quartermaster. Yeah, it’s Kydex.”

One of the best things about the military is that it lets you play with cool toys. Don’t tell Lt. Tacticool that the gear he’s issued is really all he needs, because that’s not the point. The point is to be just a little better equipped than anyone else. He spends his entire paycheck shopping online for the same gear used by Delta Force. Lt. Tacticool works in admin or in logistics or as a pilot. That doesn’t stop him from needing dumbass items, like a drop holster that can’t be worn on a walk longer than 100 meters but looks absolutely badass.

If the gun doesn’t work, though, he’s got three concealed punch knives as backup. Don’t worry. He’ll make up for all the extra weight with $200 custom gel boot inserts.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t Tacticools in the infantry, but the laughter of their fellow lieutenants usually shames them into relative normalcy before too many enlisted grunts join in on the ribbing. These LTs live in closeted gear-queerness, wasting their paychecks in more subtle ways, like snatching up $1,000 GPS altimeter watches.

3. Lt. Beast

 

Quote: “I can’t believe they pay me to do this sh*t! Hells yeah!

The Beast, on the other hand, does reside disproportionately in the combat arms. It’s just as well because if he were in logistics, all his troops would be hiding under their desks by the end of the day. Everyone else groans when a unit hump is announced. The Beast adds extra weight to his pack. He says, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!” unironically.

The Beast honestly can’t figure why others don’t enjoy it when things suck. He thinks “embrace the suck” is a religion, not a sarcastic comment. He’s into Crossfit because of course he is. He’s also signed up for Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and some obscure event involving dragging one’s testicles through broken glass for 26.2 miles in the Sierra Nevadas.

The Beast is absolutely the perfect individual to have around in the middle of a close-quarters battle. Unfortunately, he’s also the last individual you want anywhere that isn’t in the middle of an active firefight.

Related: 4 epic reasons why Lieutenant Dan needs his own movie

4. Lt. Nerd

 

Quote: “My paper on military organization based on fractal principles is getting published in Joint Forces Quarterly next month!”

Lt. Nerd is, on paper, the perfect military officer. He went to a good school and was near the top of his class in all of his training. He’s read the Professional Military Education reading list through colonel. He’s working on his master’s degree. He’s even starting a new podcast next week, called Tactics Talk, so he can share his hard-earned wisdom with upwards of half a dozen people.

He is doing great, at least in his own mind. Unfortunately, the military is basically high school. The jocks run the school. Even though he has bars on his collar, the Nerd gets no respect.

5. Lt. Mustang

 

Quote: “Gunny, really? What. The. F*ck.”

The prior-enlisted officer, or “Mustang,” is definitely a little different than the typical lieutenant, not least because he’s nearly a decade years older than most of his peers. He has a few more tattoos than them, too.

Knowing the ropes is his superpower. PT, usually not so much. He’s gained a few pounds and lost a few steps compared to his new, young friends in the officer corps.

Most of the enlisted think it’s great that their lieutenant was once one of them. The platoon sergeant isn’t necessarily so thrilled. He’s pleased to get a lieutenant that he doesn’t need to hide sharp objects from. On the other hand, he can’t get rid of his lieutenant for a whole day by asking him to pick up a box of grid squares.

More: The basic civilian’s guide to NCOs vs. Officers

6. Lt. Niedermeyer

 

Quote: “Is that a wrinkle… on your uniform!”

Military life naturally attracts those with attention to detail and a desire for order. Unfortunately, there can always be too much of a good thing.

You can generally find Lt. Niedermeyer in the parking lot, trolling for salutes — or, rather, for those missing salutes — so he can joyfully berate them. Of course, a true Niedermeyer counsels like a drill instructor — loudly, yet sans profanity, because profanity would be contrary to regulations. Doggone it, Devil Dog!

The good thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The bad thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The worst thing is that if you want to know who your commanding general will be in 20 years or so, look no further because Niedermeyer is going places.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an entire battle stopped to watch two soldiers in a fistfight

There’s just something about two people in a fistfight that’s irresistible to watch. We can’t look away. There’s something about the sound of a sliding barstool, the rising tide of voices shouting, and the sudden rush of action in one spot that is just pure entertainment.


But there shouldn’t be any reason to stop and watch two soldiers fistfight in the middle of war.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Though it’s an interesting idea.

That’s why it’s surprising that it actually happened. And all the onlookers were Americans – it was during the Civil War.

In May 1864, Union and Confederate armies clashed in a dense wooded area known as “The Wilderness” over the course of three days. More than 120,000 Yankees fought some 65,000 Rebels to an ultimately inconclusive result. Both sides took tens of thousands of killed and wounded, and the Union Army of the Potomac pushed further into Virginia.

Before anyone knew the outcome of the battle, however, one small skirmish captured everyone’s attention, Union and Confederate.

In the middle of the Wilderness, between the two armies’ centers, was a clearing called Saunders Field. Being the only real clearing in the area between two opposing armies meant that it was full of artillery shells and the holes made by those shells, along with bullets. Just tons of and tons of bullets.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Why are Civil War bullets so large?? WHY

As the two sides clashed near a gully in the field, a Union soldier hid there to avoid being captured by the enemy. Then a Confederate soldier threw himself into the gully to avoid the hail of Union bullets coming toward him. They were the only two in the gully and didn’t even see one another.

Until they did see one another. And then they started “bantering” to one another.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

Eventually the two had enough of one another and decided to take it outside…of the gully. They stepped into the road for a good ol’ fashioned “fist and skull fight.” Whoever won would take the other as prisoner.

They were halfway between both sides of the battle, in full view of everyone in each opposing army. And the men in each of those armies stopped fighting the Civil War to watch a fistfight. All the other soldiers even ran up to get a better view of the fight.

Did I mention the Civil War stopped to watch this fight?

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Let’s see Floyd Mayweather do that.

The account, written by a cavalryman of the Virginia Infantry, doesn’t mention how long the fight lasted, only that “Johnny [Reb] soon had the Yank down.” The Union soldier, true to his word, surrendered. They both returned to the gully, fighting resumed, and the man was taken back to Confederate lines.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This moving company moved a captured U-boat across Lake Shore Drive

U-505 is a German Type IXC submarine that was built and served during WWII. On June 4, 1944, she was captured by U.S. Navy Task Group 22.3 in the Atlantic off the coast of the Western Sahara. She was towed to the U.S. Naval Operating Base in Bermuda where she was studied extensively. At the end of the war, U-505 went on a war bond tour of the east coast. After the war, the Navy had no use for a German submarine and planned to sink her as a practice target.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
U-505 flying an American flag shortly after she was captured (U.S. Navy)

At the time, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was looking for a display submarine and heard about U-505. In 1954, the Navy agreed to donate the submarine to the museum. However, there was still the matter of getting the warship to the museum. Chicago residents managed to raise $250,000, just under $2.5 million in 2021 adjusted for inflation, to cover the transportation and installation costs.

U-505 was towed from the Portsmouth Navy Yard to the Great Lakes and made a stop in Detroit in July 1954. The final leg of the 3,000-mile journey, and the most challenging, was still to come. U-505 had to moved up the beach from Lake Michigan and across Lake Shore Drive to reach the museum just 900 feet away.

One of the busiest streets in America, Lake Shore Drive carried Chicago’s lifeblood of commerce and traffic. The city agreed to shut the street down for 12 hours from 7PM on September 2nd to 7AM the next day. The company contracted to take on this enormous task was the LaPlant-Adair Company.

U-505 sits on the Lake Michigan beach (Public Domain)

Based in Indianapolis, the LaPlant-Adair Company specialized in moving the immovable. From entire homes to a 250,000 gallon Ford plant water tower (still full of water), the company had the moving experience to take on U-505.

At 7PM sharp on September 2, 1954, Chicago police shut Lake Shore Drive. Simultaneously, U-505 crept off the Lake Michigan beach. A series of screw jacks, hand-turned by men, lifted the 920-ton U-boat just four feet, level with the street. The LaPlant-Adair Company’s president, Kenneth Adair, was there to personally supervise the move. He was joined by 10,000 spectators who came to see the submarine cross the street.

The captured U-boat attracted quite a lot of attention (Public Domain)

A system of tracks and rollers were continuously built, dismantled, and rebuilt to move U-505 just a few feet of the 300-foot-wide street at a time. Despite the herculean effort on display, the enormous crowd dwindled as the night dragged on. By the time U-505 made it safely across Lake Shore Drive just before 4AM, only 500 spectators remained. Still, the LaPlant-Adair Company accomplished their goal with time to spare.

Thanks to the LaPlant-Adair Company’s efficiency, U-505 proudly sits on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry today. Although the Navy stripped her interior, the museum has restored her exterior extremely close to original condition. She stands as a testament to the Germans who crewed her, the Americans who captured her, and the movers who helped her cross the road.

Articles

This is why the Green Berets wear a green beret

It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.


In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.

But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.

The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Vietnam-era 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers participate in 5th SFG(A)’s flash changeover ceremony at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, March 23, 2016. During the ceremony, 5th SFG(A) reinstated the Vietnam-era beret flash, adding a diagonal yellow stripe with three red stripes to the existing black and white background. The stripes pay homage to the Group’s history in the Vietnam War and its crucible under fire.

So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.

The beret was later adopted by 1st Lt. Roger Pezelle and worn by his Operational Detachment Alpha team with the 10th Special Forces Group based in Germany.

The SF troopers were reportedly not authorized to wear the berets, but being unconventional warriors, they basically gave Big Army the middle finger and wore them anyway.

“The berets were only worn in the field during exercises,” according to retired SF Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Lupyak. “The Army would not allow the wearing of berets in garrison.”

But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.

In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.

Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”

Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”

The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.

Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Red Cross has only 2 days worth of Type-O blood left

Imagine going into the Emergency Room, bleeding from a car accident. The EMTs tell you it doesn’t have to be a serious injury as long as they can handle the blood loss. Imagine then being told they can’t actually handle the blood loss – even at the hospital.

That’s the reality the American Red Cross is facing today. It has only two days worth of Type-O blood left for the entire United States. Just six units for every 100,000 people.


An estimated seven percent of Americans have Type-O negative blood, but it can be transfused to any patient. So when the emergency department needs blood in a hurry and doesn’t have time to type a patient’s blood, a process that can take up to a half hour, they reach for the universal donor’s blood. But Type-O positive is also a critical blood type, being the most widely transfused type.

The Red Cross has tried a number of different gimmicks to try and get more people to donate, especially those with O-negative blood. The Red Cross in Arizona even offered a giveaway package to send a lucky donor to Los Angeles for the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.

And that was back in February 2019. Nearly four months later, the show has ended, and the blood supply situation is critical and will only get worse. As the year turns to Spring and Summer, blood drives and school collections wind down, further shortening the supply.

With such a severe shortage, conditions that would normally be survivable could soon become more and more lethal. Transfusions are needed for much more than trauma from car accidents and the like. Blood is necessary for things we may even consider routine in our day and age, from cancer treatments to childbirth.

popular

These crop dusters were converted into deadly attack aircraft

The Thrush 710P aircraft is a perfectly capable — and kind of hum drum — agriculture crop duster. It carries a large load of chemicals and is easy to maintain and fly in rural conditions.


Which makes it a great plane.

But some mad engineers looked at crop dusters and wondered what would happen if the payload was changed from pesticides and fertilizers to bombs and missiles.

That’s how the Iomax Archangel was made. It’s a lightweight, cheap to maintain, easy to fly, deadly strike aircraft currently in service with the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines.

Iomax buys the crop dusters from the Thrush aircraft factory in Albany, Georgia, and upgrades them to military specifications in a North Carolina facility.

Once fully upgraded to the Archangel configuration, the planes are pretty awesome. A two-person crew can keep the plane in the air for 10.5 hours and can carry intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance pods or weapons on each of seven external hardpoints.

The Archangel can carry 12 Hellfire missiles, 10 GBU-58 Mk-81 bombs, six GBU-12 Mk-82 bombs, 48 laser-guided rockets, 12 UMTAS laser-guided missiles, or a mix of the above.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

Basically, it can put a lot of hurt on a lot of people before the crew comes down for a quick lunch break.

And because of the Archangel’s crop duster roots, the plane can be landed and parked nearly anywhere, even grassy fields.

The company even offers upgraded armor for the cockpit and engine compartment, self-sealing fuel tanks, and an electronic warfare system for the plane.

Of course, the U.S. military isn’t looking for a low-end strike or close-air support platform, but some of its allies are. America has bought a few combat Cessnas to bolster allied air forces against ground threats, but the Cessnas can only carry two Hellfires, a far cry from the Archangel’s dozen.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
(Photo: Courtesy Iomax)

The UAE military has doubled down on the Archangel, purchasing a batch of them in 2014. The UAE had previously purchased 24 Archangels in 2009 that had been modified from Air Tractor 802 aircraft, but Air Tractor refused to make requested changes to the basic aircraft and Iomax started using the Thrush 710P instead of the AT-802.

The Philippines also bought Archangels modified from the 710P as replacements for its aging OV-10 Bronco fleet.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

The figures are frightening.

Across the globe, the number of reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus is always higher than the day before, topping 1 million as of April 2.

But what if the true numbers are actually even higher?

Experts say data — and how it is reported, or not reported — can give us an incomplete portrait of the problem.


Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Testing, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons the true scale of the pandemic is unknown. And that may not be the fault of governments. Many of those infected show no symptoms and thus are not candidates for testing.

But there may be other problems with the data — namely, that some governments may be distorting figures to understate the scale of the problem in their respective countries.

U.S. media reported on April 1 that U.S. officials believe China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, with officials calling China’s numbers “fake.”

Like China, Iran has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. And like Beijing, Tehran is also suspected of tampering with its numbers to distort the situation there.

Questions have also been raised by Russia’s relatively low numbers as well.

While some governments minimize the problem at home, they may be behind efforts to maximize the scale of the pandemic elsewhere.

An EU watchdog tracking fake news said on April 1 that pro-Kremlin sources on social media were promoting a narrative that the European Union is failing to deal with the pandemic and is on the verge of collapse.

The more testing, the more likely countries will be able to curb the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

Data from the United States shows the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rising sharply as testing has improved.

But does that mean infections are rising? Not necessarily. Experts say more testing could explain, at least in part, the higher number.

As The Atlantic magazine put it in an article published on March 26:

“Is the U.S. currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both? The answer should sound familiar: We don’t know yet, and it will be a while before we do.”

While the United States has ramped up testing, India has taken a different tack.

New Delhi has refused to expand coronavirus testing, despite criticism that limited testing could leave COVID-19 cases undetected in the world’s second-most populous country.

As Al-Jazeera reported on March 18, Indian officials have said the WHO guidance on more testing didn’t apply in India because the spread of the virus was less severe there than elsewhere.

Balaram Bharghava, who heads the Indian Council of Medical Research, said more testing would only create “more fear, more paranoia, and more hype.”

As of April 3, India — a country of nearly 1.4 billion people — had just over 2,500 reported confirmed coronavirus cases and 72 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

Silent Spreaders

But even if governments have the means and are eager to test, it may not always be clear whom should be tested.

That’s because not everyone reacts the same way to the coronavirus.

Jarmila Razova, the Czech Republic’s head hygienist, told Czech media on April 2 that up to 40 percent of people infected with the coronavirus may show no symptoms at all.

These so-called silent spreaders are feared to be fueling the coronavirus pandemic.

“Stealth transmission” is not only real but a “major driver” of the epidemic, said Columbia University infectious diseases researcher Jeffrey Shaman, who led a study published on March 16 in the journal Science. Its contribution to the virus’s spread “is substantially undetected, and it’s flying below the radar.”

But even when the data may be as close as possible to giving a true picture of the coronavirus problem, some governments may be opting to distort it.

China, where the outbreak began in late December, has reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

By comparison, the United States has reported more than 245,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths as of April 3.

Doubts that the Chinese numbers are accurate have been fueled in part by stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei Province, where the coronavirus was first detected.

U.S. intelligence concluded in a classified report that was handed over to the White house that China covered up the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on April 1.

U.S. officials refused to disclose details of the report, saying only, according to a Bloomberg report, that “China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.”

In the Middle East, no country has been harder hit than Iran. The Islamic republic has reported more than 50,000 cases and more than 3,100 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, many suspect the numbers being reported by Iran, notorious for its censorship and lack of transparency, are low.

Since the start of the crisis, members of parliament and local officials in some of the major centers of the coronavirus in the country have said the real number of dead and those infected is being grossly understated by the clerical regime that rules Iran.

Satellite images from mid-March appeared to show mass graves being dug in the area around the city of Qom, where the country’s outbreak is believed to have begun.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

Faulty Russian Testing Tool?

With a population of over 144 million, Russia has reported some 3,500 confirmed cases and just 30 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

While Russia has been lauded for carrying out testing early and on a relatively large scale, some experts say the low numbers may be explained in part by the testing tool developed by a state-funded laboratory in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, known by its shorthand name Vektor.

A Russian science blog called PCR News, which said it had reviewed the specific protocols of the lab’s test, said it only detects the virus if it is over a certain threshold in a sample. The test also appeared to give a higher than expected number of “false positives.”

On March 23, Moscow’s coronavirus task force said the testing protocol would be changed, but it is unclear if the move will win over skeptics.

Within Russia itself, the Kremlin has moved to shut down domestic naysayers, accusing them of spreading disinformation on social media.

In early March, Russia’s Federal Security Service and Internet watchdog moved to take down a viral post claiming the real number of coronavirus cases had reached 20,000 and that the Russian government was covering it up.

Shortly after the move, Facebook and Instagram users in Russia started to see coronavirus awareness alerts linking to Rospotrebnadzor’s official website.

While the Kremlin has been quick to downplay crisis at home, it appears eager to promote it abroad.

According to an analysis released on April 1 by the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, “claims that the EU is disintegrating in the face of COVID-19 are trending on social media in all analyzed regions,” including EU states and Eastern Europe.

It also said RT and Sputnik — Kremlin-funded media — were peddling conspiracy theories that the virus was man-made or intentionally spread, while portraying Russia and China as “responsible powers.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

John McCain learned two big things when he was a prisoner of war

Before he was a U.S. senator, and later a presidential candidate, John McCain was a naval aviator over the skies of Vietnam. But the 1958 graduate of the Naval Academy is probably known less for his flying skills and more for what he did on the ground, as a prisoner of war for more than five years.


“I hated it, and yet I made some of the most important discoveries and relationships of my life in prison,” McCain wrote in a post on Quora, in response to the question of what it was like to be a P.O.W.

When he was shot down, McCain was on his 23rd mission: A bombing run over Hanoi. “A Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up — the sky was full of them — and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber,” he recalled in U.S. News World Report.

 

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
John McCain being captured in Vietnam. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

With his jet traveling at roughly 575 mph, he was able to eject. But when he landed in enemy territory, he had broken his left arm, his right arm in three places, and his right leg near the knee. He was captured soon after, and taken to the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison, better known by its prisoners as the “Hanoi Hilton.”

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

In his Quora post and in his book “Faith of my Fathers,” he recounted his poor treatment and very limited contact with the outside world. But there were two big things McCain learned:

“I learned I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, but I was strong enough,” he wrote. “And I learned there were things I couldn’t do on my own, but that nothing is as liberating as fighting for a cause that’s bigger than yourself.”

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That time when Americans and Germans fought together during World War II

Five days after Hitler ate a bullet in his bunker in Berlin and two days before Germany would ultimately surrender, American and German troops were fighting together side by side in what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”


It was the last days of the war on May 5, 1945 when French prisoners, Austrian resistance fighters, German soldiers, and American tankers all fought in defense of Itter Castle in Austria.

In 1943, the German military turned the small castle into a prison for “high value” prisoners, such as French prime ministers, generals, sports stars, and politicians. By May 4, 1945, with Germany and its military quickly collapsing, the commander of the prison and his guards abandoned their post.

The prisoners were now running the asylum, but they couldn’t just walk out the front door and enjoy their freedom. The Waffen SS, the fanatical paramilitary unit commanded by Heinrich Himmler, had plans to recapture the castle and execute all of the prisoners.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

That’s when the prisoners enlisted the help of nearby American troops led by Capt. John ‘Jack’ Lee, local resistance fighters, and yes, even soldiers of the Wehrmacht to defend the castle through the night and early morning of May 5. The book “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding tells the true tale of what happened next.

From The Daily Beast:

There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

As the New York Journal of Books notes in its review of Harding’s work, Army Capt. Lee immediately assumed command of the fight for the castle over its leaders — Capt. Schrader and Maj. Gangl — and they fought against a force of 100 to 150 SS troops in a confusing battle, to say the least.

Over the six-hour battle, the SS managed to destroy the sole American tank of the vastly outnumbered defenders, and Allied ammunition ran extremely low. Fortunately, the Americans were able to call for reinforcements, and once they showed up the SS backed off, according to Donald Lateiner in his review.

Approximately 100 SS troops were taken prisoner, according to the BBC. The only friendly casualty of the battle was Maj. Gangl, who was shot by a sniper. The nearby town of Wörgl later named a street after him in his honor, while Capt. Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the battle.

As for the book, apparently it’s been optioned to be made into a movie. With a crazy story like this, you’d think it would’ve already been made.

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How this patrolman engaged 50 enemy troops with a single M60 will make you proud

On Aug. 2, 1969, David Larson was serving as a gunner’s mate on a patrol boat as it steered up the Saigon River, transporting a seven-man ambush team.


The team was a part of the Army’s LRRP — or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. After cruising up river for a time, they set up an ambush position during the day near the riverbank.

As night fell, they silently settled into their discrete position. Little did they know, all hell was about to break loose.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
A river patrol boat similar to Larson’s as it maneuvers through the water’s narrow lanes in Vietnam.

Later that night, the spec ops team engaged four enemy troops who, unknown to them, happened to be a part of a massive force. Almost immediately after engaging, the unit began taking accurate rocket and small arms fire, which, sadly, killed half of the team outright.

Also Read: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

One of the LRRP members called to the boat for support. This caught Larson’s attention, getting him fully engaged in the firefight.

The motivated gunner’s mate leaped out of the patrol boat with his M60 in hand and blasted the weapon system on full auto — holding off a force of nearly 50 enemy combatants.

Nothing used to clear the way like an M60. (Image via Giphy)Standing in the direct line of fire, Larson provided enough covering fire for the wounded to clear from the area. When asked, “what goes through your mind during something like that?” David Larson stoically offered a hero’s response:
“At the time, it just comes to you that you need to do it to get the job done.”

For his brave actions, Larson received the coveted Navy Cross.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to hear this heroic tale straight from Vietnam veteran David Larson himself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
Articles

The US Navy might pull these old combat ships out of mothballs

In order to meet the goal of a Navy numbering 355 ships, Naval Sea Systems Command will consider resurrecting a number of retired combat vessels from the dead and refitting them for active service.


Though nothing has been set in stone just yet, some of the “younger” ships parked at the various Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilities around the country could get a new lease on life, thanks to dialed-down purchases of Littoral Combat Ships and the next-generation Zumwalt class destroyer.

Upon decommissioning, warships are often stripped for reusable parts, and sensitive equipment and gear are removed, along with the ship’s weapon systems. Frigates, destroyers and cruisers could lose their deck guns, their radars, and electronics suites — some of which will be used as spare parts for active ships, and the rest of which will be stored until the Navy determines that it has absolutely no use for these retired vessels anymore, heralding the start of the process of their dismantling.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
The inactive USS Kitty Hawk berthed near Bremerton, WA (Wikimedia Commons)

A number of ships will also be sold to allied nations for parts or for active use.

Currently, the Navy retains less than 50 ships within its inactive “ghost” fleet, among them Oliver Hazard-Perry frigates, Ticonderoga guided missile cruisers, Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, and a variety of other types, including fleet replenishment ships and amphibious assault ships.

Among the ships to be evaluated for a potential return to service are a handful of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates and the USS Kitty Hawk, a conventionally-powered super carrier mothballed in Bremerton, Washington.

The Kitty Hawk, now over 57 years old, is apparently the only carrier in the Navy’s inactive fleet worthy of consideration for a return to duty. Having been retired in 2009, the Kitty Hawk was modernized enough to support and field all Navy carrier-borne aircraft currently active today.

However, the ship has since been heavily stripped down; many of her combat systems destroyed or sent around the Navy for use with other vessels. The extensive refurbishment this 63,000 ton behemoth would have to undergo would likely prove to be the limiting factor in bringing it back to duty.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Navy has explored the possibility of returning mothballed ships to active duty. In fact, in the 1980s as part of then-President Reagan’s 600 Ship initiative, the Navy recommissioned the legendary WWII-era Iowa class battleships, three of which had been inactive since the late ’50s and one of which had been retired in the late ’60s. All four vessels underwent a costly multi-million dollar overhaul and were ushered back into service.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering
An aerial view of the Bremerton Ghost Fleet, circa 2012 (Wikimedia Commons)

Two of these battleships — the Wisconsin and the Missouri — would go on to see action during the Persian Gulf War before being quickly retired in 1990 along with their sister ships, the Iowa and the New Jersey.

Bringing back the Hazard-Perry frigates could be far more of a distinct possibility than any of the other ships in the inactive fleet. With the Navy reducing its planned buy of LCS vessels, originally designed to be the successor to the Hazard-Perry boats, and constant engineering issues plaguing the active LCS fleet, a gap has gradually emerged with many clamoring for a more effective frigate-type vessel… or a return to the ships which were previously to be replaced.

A number of Hazard-Perry ships have indeed been sold for scrap, or have been earmarked for a transfer to allied nations, though a few still remain in the inactive reserve, ready to be revamped and returned to service should the need arise.

Ultimately, it will be the bean counters who determine the final fate of the ships in the ghost fleet, and whether or not un-retiring them is a viable option. The cost of refitting and overhauling these vessels to be able to stay relevant against more modern threats, including boat swarms, could prove to be too much for the Navy to foot, especially for a short term investment.

Further options could include hastening the construction of current combat vessels on-order, while retaining more of the older ships in the fleet for an extended service term. However, given the Navy’s needs at the moment, it’s safe to say that NAVSEA will give returning some of these old veterans back to duty serious consideration.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Army jobs that civilians get all wrong

Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.

Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:


Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)

Infantry

It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.

Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.

Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)

Chaplain’s assistant

People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”

See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.

Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)

Watercraft operator

Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.

Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

These are military police. That is not a radar gun.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)

Military police

Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.

They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)

Truck driver

Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.

There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

Fuelers

Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.

Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.

It’s more intense than you think.

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