What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

The Cold War was a terrifying time to be alive.

The war began in 1946 and ended in 1991 when the USSR collapsed. During this period, tensions between the United States and the USSR were extremely high. Proxy wars were fought around the world and there was a constant threat of nuclear warfare.

Reading about historical events and watching documentaries can tell us the facts, but it’s a different thing entirely to think about what it was like to experience it. Here are just a few things US citizens lived through during the cold war.


Children learned to do “duck and cover” school drills.

After the Soviet Union detonated its first known nuclear device somewhere in Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949, US anxieties about the threat of nuclear annihilation rose significantly.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Civil defense in the 1950s called for people to take what shelter they could.

(Wikimedia / Library of Congress)

President Harry S. Truman’s Federal Civil Defense Administration program began requiring schools to teach children how to dive under their desks in classrooms and take cover if bombs should drop, according to History. How protective such actions would be in an actual nuclear strike continues to be debated — and has thankfully never had any practical testing.

In any case, this led to the official commission of the 1951 educational film “Duck and Cover,” which you can stream online thanks to the Library of Congress.

There was a constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Cold War ebbed and flowed in terms of tension, but it lasted from the end of World War II until the early 1990s and the eventual fall of the Soviet Union. That’s a long time to brace for potential impact, both as individuals and as a society.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Many Americans thought nuclear war could break out at any moment.

(Public domain)

During this time, libraries helped to train and prepare people as best they could with available civil defense information. They showed educational films, offered first aid courses, and provided strategies to patrons on how best to survive in the event of nuclear war. These are valuable services in any time frame, but the tensions constantly playing in your mind as you participated must have been palpable.

As always, pop culture both reflected and refracted societal anxieties back at citizens as a way of processing them. This AV Club timeline offers several great examples, from “The Manchurian Candidate” to “Dr. Strangelove, Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb” and through the decades to the extremely on-the-nose ’80s film, “Red Dawn.”

Some families built fallout shelters in their backyards.

In the aftermath of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the entire world learned exactly how decimating nuclear warfare could be.

As Cold War tensions escalated between the US and the Soviet Union following World War II, it’s not terribly surprising that the Department of Defense began issuing pamphlets like this one instructing American families on how best to protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Bomb shelters were not uncommon.

(United States National Archives)

Converting basements or submerging concrete bunkers in backyards that were built to recommended specifications became a family bonding activity — although in urban areas, buildings that generally welcomed the public including church and school basements and libraries were also designated fallout shelter locations.

There was a strict curtailing of civil liberties during the Red Scare.

While the Cold War was intensifying, one nickname used for communists was “Reds” because that was the predominant color of the flag of the Soviet Union. The House Un-American Activities Committee and infamous Joseph McCarthy hearings happened during this time period, which attempted to root out subversion in the entertainment industry and the federal government.

President Truman’s Executive Order no. 9835 — also known as the Loyalty Order — was issued for federal employees, but smaller businesses soon followed in the federal government’s footsteps. The Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations — effectively a blacklist — was also issued.

Many of the people accused of being communists by McCarthy lost their jobs when in reality there was no proof they belonged to the communist party.

This search for potential communists did not end with the downfall of McCarthy. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, for instance, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover labeled Martin Luther King, Jr. a communist simply because he stood up against racism and oppression.

The US and USSR came close to all-out war because of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Two events during the 1960s almost brought the world to an all-out war.

The first was in 1961 when 1,400 Cuban exiles were trained to overthrow the Fidel Castro’s Cuban government, which had made diplomatic dealings with the USSR. The exiles were sent on their mission by President Kennedy, who had been assured by the CIA that the plan would make it seem like a Cuban uprising rather than American intervention.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

What became known as the Bay of Pigs had a disastrous outcome, with over a hundred Cuban exiles killed and the rest captured. Many Americans began bracing for war.

By 1962, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev bolstered Cuba’s defenses with nuclear missiles in case the US tried invading again. The arms race between the US and the Soviet Union was already in full swing, so tensions were steadily increasing.

When American spy planes gathered photographic evidence of these missiles, President Kennedy sent a naval blockade to “quarantine” Cuba, according to the JFK Presidential Library.

He also demanded removal of the missiles and total destruction of the sites that housed them. Khrushchev wasn’t anxious to go to war either, so he finally agreed after extracting a promise from Kennedy that the US wouldn’t invade Cuba.

People worried the space race could lead to nuclear war.

Through a modern lens, the space race led to scientific advancements across the world as countries rushed to be the first into outer space and to land on the moon.

But at the time, the prospect of the Soviet Union beating the US to the final frontier was more terrifying for Americans than we might realize today.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Dr. Wernher von Braun, the NASA Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, explains the Saturn rocket system to President John F. Kennedy at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Nov. 16, 1963.

(NASA)

CNN reports that regular Americans frequently worried that if the Soviet Union could get a human into space, it could also get nuclear warheads into space. The USSR became the first country to successfully launch a human being into space with Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961, and the US later landed on the moon in July of 1969 after heavily investing in its NASA program.

Proxy conflicts, including the Korean War and the Vietnam War, continue to affect the world today.

While the US and the USSR never engaged in armed conflict against each other, they did fight in and fund other conflicts, otherwise known as proxy wars.

The most famous proxy wars during this time are undoubtedly the Korean War and the Vietnam War, but there were numerous other proxy conflicts that happened during the Cold War. Many of these conflicts were extremely deadly for both soldiers and civilians, including the Angolan Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, and the Congo Crisis, just to name a few.

These proxy conflicts also continue to have consequences for citizens and veterans, and have shaped the modern world as we know it.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the Bolsheviks concealed the cowardly murder of the Czar royal family

Like many heads of state who reach power through blood rather than merit, Czar Nicholas II was utterly unprepared to rule Russia as it headed into the 20th century. He made one unpopular decision after the next. His loathed intimacy with the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin was another reason he was unpopular. The turmoil agitating the country and the world at the turn of the century proved too much for this monarch who did not want to be a Czar. In early 1917, Russia was swept over by the Revolution and the Czar deposed, signing the end of a 300 years old imperial dynasty. That was not enough for the Bolsheviks to take over Russia; they needed the royal family murdered and kept secret, but why?

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
Nicholas II in 1912 (Public Domain)

The House of Special Purpose

After Nicholas’s removal from power, he was taken into custody along with his family by the Provisional Government. They were stripped of any title and placed under house arrest, first at the Alexander Palace, then in Tobolsk, Siberia, in August 1917. After the Bolsheviks came into power in October 1917, the Romanov’s conditions of detention deteriorated significantly. Finally, they were moved to Yekaterinburg’ Ipatiev House in the first half of 1918. There, they were openly considered as hostages.

All those under arrest will be held as hostages, and the slightest attempt at counter-revolutionary action in the town will result in the summary execution of the hostages.

Announcement in the local newspaper by Bolshevik War Commissar Filipp Goloshchyokin, in charge of the family’s incarceration in Yekaterinburg

In July 1918, pro-royalist soldiers from Czechoslovakia, called “Whites”, had been advancing through the country and closing on Yekaterinburg. The Bolsheviks feared they would try to rescue the Romanov and support the renewal of monarchy in Russia. So, on the evening of the 16th July 1918, during dinner, the entire family and their servants were ordered to go down to the cellar. There, amid a chaos of screams, escape attempts and bullets, they were summarily executed. Those who survived the shooting were dispatched with bayonets or the butts of guns. Over the next couple of months, many relatives and allies were assassinated around the country. The swift eradication resulted in 27 deaths in 84 days.

Bolsheviks controlled the media circus

A few days later, the murder of the former czar was publicly announced by the Bolsheviks, calling him “the personification of the barbarian landowner, of this ignoramus, dimwit and bloodthirsty savage” in the official party newspaper. However, the assassination of his family was kept secret. Although rumors began to spread, the official version was that Alexandra and her children had been moved for their protection. To prevent any recognition, the bodies were mutilated, burned with acid, and buried in a secret place in the forest. So why were the Bolsheviks happy to endorse the murder of Nicholas, but not that of his family?

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
1920 Bolshevik Party meeting: sitting (from left) are EnukidzeKalininBukharinTomskyLashevichKamenevPreobrazhenskySerebryakovLenin and Rykov
(Public Domain)

It’s speculated that it was mostly an image issue. The Red Revolution already struggled with a brutal reputation outside of the country. The violent repression of any hint of opposition made the revolution quite unpopular with many governments. Socialist and communist ideas were thoroughly mistrusted by the ruling class. Moreover, king George V of England was Nicholas’s first cousin and enjoyed a friendly relationship with the former monarch. Nicholas’s murder was received with sorrow, but the massacre of the entire family might have prompted a political and military response that would have overthrown the still unstable Bolshevik government.

The cover up

The “whites” and other enemies of the communist revolution tried to use the rumors flying around on the disappearance of the family to defame the movement and its famous leader, Lenin. If speculations had turned to facts, proving the massacre beyond the shadow of a doubt, Lenin’s image as a wise and fair leader would have been severely damaged. There is no historical evidence that Lenin was the one who gave the order for the assassination. In fact, he seemed in favor of a trial, with Leo Trotsky as the main accuser.

Even a biased trial could have been used as propaganda of justice of the new regime. However, the murders, if supported by evidence, could have been laid at the leader’s door — whether he was truly implicated or not, in an attempt to weaken his newly acquired position. In addition, the mysterious fate of the family led many European monarchs on a manhunt to rescue the last Romanov. Thus squandering resources and keeping their attention away from the fate of the Russian people under Bolshevik rule.

That is why the fate of the last heirs of the Russian imperial family was kept officially hidden for decades. The truth would lay hidden until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The bodies were eventually recovered and five of the family members have now been laid in state, resting together in the St. Petersburg Cathedral.

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What do snipers think when they miss’ & other dumb military questions

“Which U.S. military branch has the nicest looking uniforms?”

This is one where we actually all came together as one. Say it with me now: Navy Marines.

We are back in another installment of “Vets Answer Dumb Military Questions” where the premise is simple: people asked dumb military questions and, well, vets answer them. I guess I didn’t need to explain that.

But apparently there is much that does need to be explained. So let’s get to it:


Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

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Do soldiers ever name their weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 106

Our cast of veterans this week includes: August Dannehl (Navy), Jennifer Brofer (Marine Corps), Rosario Eléna (Army), Mark Harper (Air Force), Graham Pulliam (Marine Corps), Donna Callaway (Marine Corps), Jennifer Campbell (Army), Tara Batesole (Air Force), Chase Millsap (Green Beret — no branch required), and of course yours truly (Air Force).

Oh! And Megan Miller, our token civilian. And Ding Dong. Can’t forget about Ding Dong.

“Why do soldiers not use suitcases with wheels for loaded marches?”

Because wheels are for…

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Get it?

“Who would win if the United States Navy and Marines fought a war against the United States Army and Air Force?”

Millsap made a solid argument: “It happens every year. It’s called the Army Navy Game. Navy usually wins.”

But on the other hand, Campbell has a point: “Army and Air Force. Marines are dumb and then the navies transport them. So you have dumb people transporting dumb people.” ZING.

Harper argues that no one wins. “It’s just like Aliens vs. Predator.”

But if we’re all being really honest with ourselves, Pulliam has the correct answer:

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

“Coasties because everyone else would be f***ing dead.”

And let’s just face it: the Coast Guard really has won, right? They get to be by the water, saving lives every day, stopping drugs, hanging out with whales. My grandpa told me to join the Coast Guard and he was right.

You hear that, Gramps?? YOU WERE RIGHT.

“Are special forces-trained fighters more efficient at taking out attackers in unarmed combat than civilian martial artists?”

Guess what our answers were. Go on. Guess.

“What were the weird things you did when extremely bored while you were in the military?”

Hahaha, no one would make eye contact after reading this question.

“Do soldiers ever name their weapons and equipment? What’s the funniest or strangest you’ve heard?”

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

“Tits McGee” courtesy of Brofer’s battle buddies.

Voltrex. Pedro? Fart sack. Fluffy. Cher. Starfish Puckerbutt (and it has a story involved).

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

You didn’t forget about Ding Dong, did you?

“What do snipers think when they miss?”

The answers to this question are worth sticking around to the end of the video. Trust me.

Watch the video above then check out more funny videos from our military experts:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ other dumb questions



Lists

6 things you should know about Mountain Warfare Training

“Every clime and place” is what we say in the Marine Corps and we mean that sh*t. If anything, Marines are notorious for going to insane lengths to find the bad guys and punch them in the face, no matter where they’re hiding.


For this reason, the Marine Corps has devised training centers designed to prepare would-be war heroes to live out that line in our beloved hymn.

Here are things you should know about the most dreaded training of them all — mountain warfare and extreme cold-weather survival training.

Related: 7 things you didn’t know about the Marine Jungle Warfare Training Center

1. Pooping in bags

Most trainings in the Marine Corps will provide a place to make a sit-down restroom visit, but given the treacherous terrain and weather inherent to the Mountain Warfare Training Center, it’s difficult to provide such amenities.

Instead, they provide buckets and orange trash bags for you. If nothing else made you wonder why you joined before this, you’ll definitely ask yourself now.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
You might be familiar with this if you take your dog for a walk in the park. (Photo via Cleanwaste)

2. Cold-weather Meals, Ready to Eat

Normal MREs — the ones in the brown pouches — are, pretty much, hot piles of garbage wrapped in plastic. But when you go to cold-weather training, they provide you with freeze-dried MREs in a white pouch. These are easily the best field rations you will ever get because, not only is it hot chow, it actually tastes good.

While you may developed a few favorites among normal MREs, it’ll be hard to decide which of the cold-weather ones is your favorite because they’re great across the board. If you don’t agree, you’re wrong and everybody hates you.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
You’ll love these, don’t worry. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps)

3. The dangers of cotton-based clothing

Cotton-based clothing tends to hold liquids and dry slowly. This is exceptionally important in an environment where liquids will certainly turn to ice. You don’t want your sweat-covered undershirt to freeze to your body and give you hypothermia.

4. It started before the Korean War

When the United States was gearing up to send the best military in the world to the Korean peninsula, they needed to prepare for the cold.

So, the Marine Corps’ solution was to establish a training center where they send you to the top of a cold mountain for nearly two weeks to be absolutely miserable to the point where you seriously reconsider your life choices.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
Korea was considerably worse, though. (Photo by the National Museum of the Marine Corps)

5. Sleeping in snow trenches

Part of Extreme Cold Weather Survival Training is learning how to live like an Eskimo because, well, if it works for them, then why not? Don’t let this get you down, though. Despite their icy appearance, snow trenches offer some warmth and an escape from the bitter, cold wind.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
You can get pretty creative with these trenches and make tables, shelves, etc. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Ohira)

Also read: 5 reasons Deadpool would make an amazing platoon sergeant

6. You will never be warm

Even though you’ll be given an entire issue of cold-weather survival gear and you’ll have some shelter from the wind, the sad truth is that you’re still going to be cold. You’re going to be cold every second you’re on the mountain. You’ll never be warm, only slightly less cold.

You’ll sweat on the forced marches, but those marches will end eventually and you’ll still be covered in sweat. So, brace yourself for the most miserable time of your life (so far).

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America
Even fires won’t be enough. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Roberto Villa Jr)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 tips for making the most of a military ball

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned military spouse heading to their umpteenth ball, rest assured you can have an enjoyable, memorable event. Military balls are a time-honored tradition, and while they’re not in everyone’s immediate comfort zone, they can make for a fun experience you won’t soon forget.


In order to attend your best ball yet, take these tips to heart, and to your upcoming formal event.

Choose an outfit you love

First things first, it’s important to dress the part. Whether you’re decked out in a fancy gown, perfectly tailored tuxedo, or anything in between, find what suits you. Choose attire that makes you feel strong and confident. No one wants to be adjusting their undergarments every few minutes. Take some time to find an outfit that actually fits, and that flatters your personal tastes.

You’ll be far more relaxed when feeling attractive, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and find a getup you’re excited to show off!

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Be friendly

No one wants to sit next to strangers … but it’s even worse when sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t talk or engage in any type of conversation. (Yes, this happens.) Talk to folks at your table and make nice! It will make the evening far more enjoyable, even if you don’t walk away friends. If you’re introverted, break the ice with small talk over decor, seating arrangements, the weather, parking, anything!

Whether or not you end up sitting next to folks you know, engage with them, and remain friendly throughout the night to make for a better time.

media.defense.gov

Take part in the festivities

Each service branch and battalion will have its own traditions, so go ahead, jump on the bandwagon! We’re talking chants, specific handshakes, checking out displays, or voting for personalized awards. Jump into the fun!

Then again, be careful of TOO MUCH fun. Military balls are known for being heavy on the libations, and it’s a good idea to stay aware of how much you’re drinking, especially if sampling group punches.

Chances are, you won’t be associated with the unit for long, so you can make the most of each ball appearance by going all in and doing what it is they do best.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Don’t come starving

While it’s true you’re there to eat, that’s just part of the night. There are too many variables — maybe you won’t like the food, maybe someone took your fish and left you with steak (or vice versa, depending on your preferences). Or maybe you’re busy talking and don’t want to be shoving food in your face while doing so. In any case, eat a snack before you come and maybe plan a drive-thru trip on your way home. Whatever you can do to make sure you aren’t hangry!

Make a day of it

Relax. Take your time to get ready. Don’t rush it so you can enjoy the experience as a whole. This is a fun experience for all. Don’t consider the day just for your spouse or “mandatory fun,” but something you can celebrate together and with coworkers.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Show off your date!

As an extension of your military member, how you act, and what you do reflects on them. Remember to be on your best behavior (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!). Be polite, make small talk, and find a way to have fun. You should also take their lead. Let them introduce you to coworkers, get appetizers, order drinks, etc. While yes, you’re going to have a good time, technically, this is their work event, and you should follow their moves.

Attending a military ball should be a fun, memorable experience, no matter how many of them you attend. Look to the above to more easily plan your night toward having a great time!

What’s your best military ball tip?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The military is the reason behind the ‘Amish Beard’

There’s no doubt that Amish communities in America have a distinctive look. Amish men wear a long, flowing, ZZ-Top-level beard that can make other hirsute pursuits just look pitiful in comparison. While they may not be the only ones sporting long, long whiskers these days, they’re likely the only bearded men you’ll see whose mustache areas are clean shaven — and the U.S. military is the reason why.


Among devoutly Christian Amish men, sporting a beard is like living the Bible. In the days and locales where the stories in the Christian Bible take place, beards were commonplace. When a young Amish boy gets married, he stops shaving his beard area and grows a facial homage to his biblical forebears, letting everyone in the community know this boy is now a man.

But they never stop shaving the mustache area. The Amish, a form of Mennonite, have many traditions and beliefs that separate them, not just from society, but also from other Mennonite and Christian groups. One such core beliefs is the growing of a beard.

Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. – Leviticus 19:27

Another core tenet of Amish beliefs is pacifism and the rejection of military service – and the mustache is just one indicator of military service.

It used to be, anyway.

In the 1800s, British troops were actually required to wear some form of facial hair above the lip. This requirement lasted until warfare tech changed the game on the battlefields of World War I and a clean-shaven face was required to seal gas masks.

Related: How a change in warfare set men’s style for almost 100 years

In order to separate themselves physically from those who would engage in military service (while letting the world know they were married, because the Amish don’t exchange wedding rings), they decided to grow beards but shave their lips.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

British Army officers in the Crimean War.

It should be noted that the Amish prefer the term “nonresistance” as opposed to pacifism, because they are dedicated to avoiding confrontation in all areas of life, not just in military service.

Mustaches may not be as in vogue as they once were among military service members and regular troops are always clean shaven — almost everywhere in the western world — but still the old Amish tradition of keeping a clean upper lip lives on.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Army Special Forces veteran was nominated for the Medal of Honor three times

On Dec. 30, 1968, Robert Howard was the platoon sergeant for a joint unit of U.S. Army Special Forces and South Vietnamese forces. Their mission was to rescue soldiers who were missing in action behind enemy lines. As they moved out onto their objective, they were attacked by what had to be two companies of enemy troops. 1st. Lt. Howard was wounded by an enemy grenade almost immediately. He lost his weapon to the explosion, and his platoon leader was down.

His luck only got worse from there.


This is how Robert Howard earned his Medal of Honor. It was one of three for which he was nominated. The men who fought with him fervently believed he deserved all three. The battle for which he received the nation’s highest military honor was one hell of a slugfest.

At Kon Tum, South Vietnam, that day in 1968, things went awry from the get-go.

“We took casualties on the insert,” Howard said. “I finally got with the platoon leader and said we need to secure this LZ… I got three men behind me, I remember being fired at and I fell backward and they killed three men behind me.”

One of the helicopters had even been shot down with troops still aboard it. The platoon began taking fire from the flanks, and Howard knew he had to tell his lieutenant the landing zone was hotter than they thought. Just as he got close to his officer, however, the unit was ambushed.

“When I come to, I was blown up in a crump on the ground,” Howard recalled. “My weapon was blown out of may hand, I remember seeing red, and saying a prayer hoping I wasn’t blind. I couldn’t see and I was in a lot of pain.”

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

When he got his vision back, he realized he was seeing blood. All he could see was flames, and all he could hear was people screaming. He realized the enemy was burning his friends with a flamethrower. His lieutenant was down. For reasons unknown, the flamethrower didn’t burn Howard or his platoon leader, he just walked away.

His hands hurting and bleeding, Howard moved to help get his leader out of there. As he drug his platoon leader out, a round struck his ammo pouch, detonating it. He was hit 15-20 times as he worked to get his lieutenant out. He fought off charging Vietnamese soldiers, dodging bullets and bayonets while protecting his leader.

His platoon was in complete disarray, and he knew he had to get everyone back in order, lest they be overrun and killed.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

He dragged his officer out of the area, and once under cover, reorganized the whole unit. Once a firing line was set up, he bounded from position to position, aiding the wounded and directing their fire. For four hours, his effort kept them from being surrounded and killed.

Soon, friendly aircraft were able to join the fight and rescue the wounded. Then the Americans were hit with another wave of attackers. Robert Howard had to direct the U.S. Air Force to strike his own position. As the Air Force hit his position, Howard watched as the aircraft rounds hit the area around him. Thankfully, the attack craft eventually faded into rescue helicopters.

Lieutenant Howard personally kept overwatch until everyone else was aboard. Out of 37 friendly troops, only six survived unharmed.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

In all, Robert Howard fought in Vietnam for 54 months, where he was wounded 14 times. For eight of those wounds, he received a Purple Heart. He also earned the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars. When he retired, he was the most decorated soldier in the Army and was the most decorated of the entire Vietnam War. He remains the only soldier to be nominated for the Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions, all in a 13-month span.

The only thing that could kill Robert Howard was pancreatic cancer, to which he succumbed in 2009, one of the lesser-known heroes of the war in Vietnam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s new carriers will be hamstrung by this disappointing jet

China is touting its improved aircraft carrier capabilities, but one of the biggest obstacles to having the world’s second-most powerful carrier fleet remains its troubled carrier-based fighter — the J-15 Flying Shark.

Striving to build a blue-water navy suitable for global operations, China expects to have four operational carrier battle groups within the next decade. China already has one active carrier, another undergoing sea trials, and another one in development. Experts speculate that while the first two appear to be limited in their combat capabilities, the third carrier could be a “huge step forward.”


In several state media publications, China cheered its carrier-based fighter jet force for achieving “breakthroughs” since its establishment a little over five years ago. Chinese media said Navy pilots have qualified to take off and land the J-15 fighter on the Liaoning, China’s first and only active aircraft carrier. “An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Wednesday.

The Global Times ran a video Thursday of Chinese J-15s conducting night operations from the deck of the Liaoning carrier.

The J-15 is far from the most suitable aircraft for carrier operations though. Not only is the plane considered too big and too heavy, with an unarmed take-off weight of 17.5 tonnes as compared to the US F/A-18 Super Hornet’s 14.6 tonnes, but it can be rather unreliable. Problems with the aircraft, especially the flight control systems, are believed to be behind several fatal training accidents, the Asia Times reported.

The weight issues really come into play on a ship like the Liaoning, which uses a ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch system. This system — as opposed to steam or electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch systems used on US carriers — strains the aircraft and tends to force reductions in operational range, payload size, and sortie frequency.

The J-15, a reverse engineered version of a Soviet-era prototype, is rumored to be getting a new engine, which could boost its capabilities, but a new carrier-based fighter will eventually be necessary. China is reportedly considering replacing the fourth-generation fighter jets with a lighter and more capable aircraft. Nonetheless, Chinese military experts expect the J-15 to “remain the backbone of China’s carrier battle groups in the future,” according to the South China Morning Post.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

The J-15 Flying Shark.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the J-15 is the lack of them. As production and deployment rates are low, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army reportedly has only 30-40 of these fighters. The Liaoning needs 24 to form a full combat-ready fighter squadron, and the soon-to-be-commissioned second carrier will need roughly the same amount to stand up a fighter wing.

“As a big power, China needs more carrier-based warplanes to support its naval ambitions, especially with its first home-grown aircraft carrier entering the final phase of sea trials and likely to go into service next year,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told SCMP.

As China works to build up its naval fleet and expand its capabilities, especially those of its carriers, China will need to overcome challenges, such as number of trained pilots, power and propulsion issues, launch system problems, and limited experience with carrier operations.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pics show what F-35 ‘Beast Mode’ looks like

F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), are currently in the Indo-Pacific region deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1).

Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the region “to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.”


What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

F-35B flying in “Third Day of War” configuration.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Images being released these days show the Marines STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft in VMFA-121 markings carrying external weapons during blue water ops, a configuration being tested for quite some time and known as CAS (Close Air Support) “Beast Mode” (or “Bomb Truck”).

In particular, the aircraft are loaded with 2x AIM-9X (on the outer pylons) and 4x GBU-12 500-lb LGB (Laser Guided Bombs).

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Marines load a Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 12 onto an F-35B Lightning II aircraft attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Galbreath)

This configuration involving external loads is also referred to as a “Third Day of War” configuration as opposed to a “First Day of War” one in which the F-35 would carry weapons internally to maintain low radar cross-section and observability from sensors.

As we explained in a previous story: “as a conflict evolves and enemy air defense assets including sensors, air defense missile and gun systems and enemy aircraft are degraded by airstrikes (conducted also by F-35s in “Stealth Mode”) the environment becomes more permissive: in such a scenario the F-35 no longer relies on low-observable capabilities for survivability so it can shift to carrying large external loads.”

LO (Low Observability) is required for penetrating defended airspaces and knocking out defenses at the beginning of a conflict, but after the careful work of surface-to-air missile hunting is done (two, three days, who really knows?), the F-35 is expected to “go beast”.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

In “Beast Mode“, exploiting the internal weapon bays, the F-35A can carry 2x AIM-9X (external pylons), 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM (internal bomb bay) and 4x GBU-31 2,000-lb (pylons) and 2x GBU-31 PGMs (internal bay). It’s not clear whether the F-35B can launch from a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship in this configuration.

On Sept. 27, 2018, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B jets made their combat debut. U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, the “Wake Island Avengers”, of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, used their F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters to hit insurgent targets in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province launching from U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on station in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft used in the strike were loaded with GBU-32 1000-lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) but were also equipped with the externally mounted GAU-22 25mm gun pod in addition to the weapons in the internal bays. And sported the radar reflectors too.

At least two aircraft, modex CF-00 and CF-01, made a stopover in Kandahar Air Field after the air strike, before returning to the aircraft carrier.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

An F-35B takes off with 2x AIM-9x and 2x GBU-12 LGBs.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sarah Myers)

Back to the “Beast Mode”, F-35B have launched from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the STOVL stealth aircraft conducted by Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) in 2016. Still, the ones just released are probably the very first images of the aircraft launching in “Beast Mode” operationally.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Flight deck crew members guide an F-35B Lightning II aircraft, attached to the F-35B detachment of the “Flying Tigers” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced), in preparation for flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp, flagship of Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is operating in the Indo-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

According to a Pentagon test office document recently obtained by Bloomberg, “Durability testing data indicates service-life of initial F-35B short-takeoff-vertical landing jets bought by Marine Corps “is well under” expected service life of 8,000 fleet hours; “may be as low as 2,100″ hours.”

This would mean that some of the early F-35B jets would start hitting service life limit in 2026.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

SciFi loves nuclear hand grenades, but you’ll never get one

Ever since America figured out nuclear bombs, science fiction writers have flirted with all the different ways that nuclear weapons could work. But while lots of SciFi weapons have come to fruition, like drones and pain rays, the nuclear hand grenade will always be a weapon of fiction.


Fallout 76 Nuka Grenade

www.youtube.com

The military worked hard to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, making both large, high-yield weapons, like thermonuclear bombs, as well as smaller weapons, like nuclear cannons and recoilless rifles.

Nuclear weapons, explained in fiction with a bunch of mumbo jumbo and explained in the real-world with language that feels the same, follow specific physical rules. To trigger a nuclear explosion, material that can undergo fission—meaning that its atoms can be split apart and release energy—have to be brought from below a critical mass to above a critical mass.

Basically, you have to have a bunch of material that you’ve kept separated, and then you have to collapse it quickly. Once enough fissionable material is in a tight enough space, it’ll explode. Going from subcritical to critical will cause a nuclear explosion, usually within a millionth of a second. Fusion weapons work by allowing a fission reaction to trigger a hydrogen fusion process.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

The Davy Crockett Bomb was a nuclear device delivered via recoilless rifle. While the warhead was about as small as it could be while reaching critical mass, the explosion was still large enough to give third-degree burns to everyone with 350 yards.

(U.S. Army)

And that brings us to why you’ll never see a nuclear hand grenade. You have to, have to, reach critical mass for the weapons to work. The minimum amount of nuclear material needed for a plutonium reaction is 11 pounds of weapons-grade material. That’s a heavy hand grenade. Even then, it requires a “neutron reflector,” a layer wrapped around the material that reflects any escaping neutrons back into the sphere. Graphite, steel, and other materials work for this purpose.

But that adds on more weight. A uranium weapon would be even worse, weighing in at 33 pounds plus its reflector. And that’s without accounting for the weight of the parts needed to keep the nuclear material compartmentalized until it’s time to set it off.

But even worse for the operator, these small amounts of nuclear material would have a devastating effect at much larger ranges than an operator could possible throw it. Take the W54 warhead placed on America’s lowest-yield nuclear missiles, the Davy Crockett bomb fired from a recoilless rifle and the AIM-26 air-to-air nuclear missile.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

A W54 warhead explodes after a Davy Crockett test shot. It’s the smallest warhead ever deployed and nearly the smallest warhead possible, and it still kills everything within a few hundred yards.

(YouTube/Jaglavaksoldier)

The W54 had approximately 50 pounds of uranium, about as small as you could get while still achieving critical mass. Even that small amount of material created an explosion with the same yield as 250 tons of TNT. Think you can throw a 33-pound grenade far enough to be safe from the 250-ton blast? Hint: You would need to throw it at least 350 yards just to avoid third-degree burns from radiation.

So, while the Fallout series lets you play with Nuka grenades and Star Wars features thermal detonators, real nuclear hand grenades will always be out of reach.

Sorry, everyone. But, the good news is that laser rifles have a real chance. Sweet.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army museum is shaping up to be an amazing tribute to all soldiers

Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.

This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.


What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)

The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.

The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.

Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.

This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.

It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”

The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This legendary infantryman just got his own graphic novel

Army Sgt. Alvin C. York was one of the early members of the 82nd Infantry Division and helped establish that unit’s legendary status when he captured 132 German soldiers almost single-handedly after his small detachment was drawn into a fight with a massive force.

Now, the Association of the United States Army has made a graphic novel celebrating his life and the stunning World War I action that earned him a Medal of Honor.


York was born in rural Tennessee near the Kentucky border and was responsible for helping support his mother and ten siblings from a very early age. Most of his work was physical. It included going into the woods to hunt game to be cooked and served on the family table. This developed the young York into a crack shot, something that would come in handy during the World War in his future.

As a teen, York became a zealous, fundamental Christian. When war broke out and he was drafted, he applied for conscientious objector status on the basis of his religion. It was declined and York was sent to the 82nd.

But if Alvin C. York was going to be a soldier, he was going to be a good one.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Painting of then-Cpl. Alvin C. York depicting the World War I engagement that made him famous.

(Frank Schoonover)

On October 8, 1918, York went with 16 other men to scout and seize German positions in a valley ahead of a general advance. They spotted two German medics filling canteens and attempted to rush them. The medics managed to stay ahead of the Americans as they fled back to their own lines.

There, the Germans were preparing for an attack with over 100 soldiers — and the pursuing Americans stumbled right into them.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Sgt. Alvin C. York stands on the hill where he captured the bulk of 132 German soldiers in 1918.

(U.S. Army)

The Americans were in huge trouble. Nine of them were quickly killed. York, as a corporal, took command and begin sending deadly accurate fire into German machine gunners. As he later said,

“…those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful…. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn’t even have time to kneel or lie down…. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and every time I saw a head I just touched it off. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.”

In case you missed it in that quote, York was yelling for the Germans to surrender before he had to kill all of them.

York aimed to claim either the surrender or the lives of all the Germans attacking him and his men. York fired through all of his rifle ammo and was forced to rely on his pistol as the Germans mounted a rush against him.

The young hunter had learned on turkey shoots to kill from the back of a rush first, as killing the turkeys near the front would cause the flock to split off in all directions. He applied this technique with his pistol against the rush, killing the Germans at the back first so the rest would keep coming towards him.

Finally, a German officer, surrounded by at least 20 of his own dead troops, decided that his own men were too badly outnumbered and outgunned. Thinking he was highly outnumbered, the officer surrendered approximately 90 men to York, who, by this point, was fighting nearly alone.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York returns after the war to the Tennessee home where he grew up. The woman on the left is his mother, and the girl in the middle is one of his younger sisters.

(Underwood and Underwood)

York accepted the surrender, rounded up the last of his living men, and began escorting the prisoners back to American lines and taking on more Germans as they went. By the time the party reached York’s unit, the handful of Americans were escorting 132 German prisoners of war.

York was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his accomplishments and received it in April, 1919, after the war.

AUSA’s graphic novel celebrating his life is available here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch what happens when a missile misfires on a German frigate

A missile malfunction aboard German navy frigate FGS Sachsen on June 21, 2018 scorched the ship’s deck and injured two sailors.

The Sachsen, an air-defense frigate, was sailing with sub-hunting frigate Lubeck in a test and practice area near the Arctic Circle in Norwegian waters, according to the German navy.


The Sachsen attempted to fire a Standard Missile 2, or SM-2, from the vertical launch system located in front of the ship’s bridge. The missile did not make it out of the launcher, however, and its rocket burned down while still on board the ship, damaging the deck and injuring two crew members.

“We were standing in front of a glistening and glowing hot wall of fire,” the ship’s captain, Thomas Hacken, said in a German navy release.

Sachsen class frigates are outfitted with 32 Mark 41 vertical launch tubes built into the forward section of the ship. Each SM-2 is about 15 feet long and weighs over 1,500 pounds.

It was not immediately clear why the missile malfunctioned; it had been checked and appeared in “perfect condition,” the German navy said. Another of the same type of missile had been successfully launched beforehand.

While the ship’s deck and bridge were damaged, the effects were likely limited by the design of the Mark 41 launcher, which is armored, according to Popular Mechanics.

The two ships sailed into the Norwegian port of Harstad on June 22, 2018, before returning to their homeport in the German city of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea.

What it was really like to live through the Cold War in America

Damage on the vertical launch system aboard the German navy frigate Sachsen, June 2018.

(Photo by German Navy)

“We have to practice realistically, so that we are ready for action in case of emergency, also for the national and alliance defense,” Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, navy inspector, said in the release. Despite the risks, Krause said, “our crews are highly motivated and ready to do their best.”

Germany’s military has hit a number of setbacks in recent years, like equipment shortages and failures. Dwindling military expertise and a lack of strategic direction for the armed forces have contributed to these problems.

The navy has been no exception. The first Baden-Württemberg frigate, a program thought up in 2005, was delivered in 2016, but the navy has refused to commission it, largely because the centerpiece computer system didn’t pass necessary tests.

At the end of 2017, it was reported that all six of the German navy’s submarines were out of action— four because they were being serviced in shipyards with the other two waiting for berths.

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

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