The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

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


The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

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

(National Archives and Records Administration)

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

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

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

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

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

(Willy Stower, public domain)

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

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

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

A ship sinks during World War II.

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

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

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

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

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

(War Shipping Administration)

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

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

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

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

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

(London Illustrated News)

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is straight up going to Skynet us all

Air Force leaders met with scientists and industry members May 17, 2018, at the Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science Summit to chart how the service will utilize emerging technologies in the future.

The summit, hosted by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Stephen Wilson, focused on how to operationalize AI and quantum information science with briefings from experts from headquarters Air Force Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance directorate, Air Force Research Labs, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and technology industry leaders.


“The world is changing,” Wilson said. “We will change at scale. As noted in the National Defense Strategy, we must continue to learn and adapt faster. We’re here to ensure we have that architecture and infrastructure to empower our Airmen.”

The implications of AI and quantum information science are wide-ranging. From harnessing, processing, protecting and using massive quantities of data to improve decision making, to changing business practices with predictive, conditions based aircraft maintenance, AI and quantum science can revolutionize how the Air Force flies, fights and wins.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
(Photo by Anders)

But widely utilizing these technologies requires more than building upon current Air Force science and technology investments, according to leaders. It will require embracing the technology as a culture.

As well, pursuing game changing capabilities with industry will drive further change, especially in how the service works with industry and academic partners according to Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“Acknowledging the paradigm shift that commercial industry now leads in many areas of technology development is important,” Roper said.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Talos, an ancient mythical automaton with artificial intelligence

Experts from multiple leading technology industries shared their own insights from the AI and quantum science realms at the summit.

Wilson said continued partnership with industry is essential to posture the service with capabilities for dominance in the digital age.

“Digital speed, not industrial speed, will win the next war. There are things we need to do now to be the Air Force of the future,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

popular

4 reasons why North Korea’s AK variant is just dumb

Plenty of care and thought must go into manufacturing a standard-issue rifle to field with the fourth-largest standing army in the world. To find success, you must be concerned with the ease of mass production, reliability in the field, mobility and ease of use, and the lethality it offers the troops.


With that in mind, there’s only one benefit to the Type 88-2 variant of the AK-74 used by the North Korean Army: It’s cheap.

The AK-74 is the go-to weapon among former Soviet states and Eastern European nations because it can be easily produced and performs well in the hands of troops. North Korea created the Type 88-2 entirely within their own country and made plenty of useless tweaks to a proven design.

1. Ease of mass production

The Type 88-2 is cheap and it makes sense that a warmongering nation stuck with tech from over 60 years ago needs to cut corners when creating new stuff. The collapsible buttstock on the Type 88-2 is designed to fold over the top of the upper receiver. Folding stocks are common among many smaller-caliber SMGs, but on a fully-automatic carbine, it’s kinda worthless in both positions.

The collapsible buttstock is said to be small enough that the iron sights aren’t obstructed when collapsed. That alone is a terrible idea for accurate use while going full-auto. It also means that if the stock is extended, it wouldn’t have any support to handle the weapon as it fires.

 

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
And that’s not even the dumbest part. (Photo by DEFCON Warning System)

2. Reliability in the field

At first glance of the Type 88-2, the most obvious “WTF?” is the helical magazine that is said to hold 150 5.45x39mm rounds*. Keep in mind, the PP-19 Bizon also uses as high-capacity, helical magazine and isn’t without its minor flaws, but it holds 64 9mm rounds.

At a slightly lower rate of fire and with much larger rounds, the Type 88-2 is likely much more prone to jamming and feed failures. The magazine extends almost to the muzzle and is also attached to the under-barrel rail. Magazine swaps would be a pain in the ass as you connect a heavy magazine at two spots.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Ounces make pounds… (KCNA)

3. Mobility and ease of use

Balance is important to maintaining accurate fire. The weight distribution must be even throughout a weapon to maintain tight shot grouping. The helical magazine of the Type 88-2 and the overall weight of 5.45x39mm rounds* will cause the center of balance shifts back slightly after each round is fired. Fully-automatic rifles naturally kick up during sustained fire. Improper weight distribution will send the kick higher.

The size of the magazine also prohibits any sort of forward grip. The only way this weapon would accurately fire is if the troop was in the prone position and could rest the rifle on the ground.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Then again, the North Korean Ninja Turtles aren’t known for proper weapon discipline.  (KCNA)

4. Actual power

Type 88-2s are unique to North Korea and not much is truly known about the weapon since it hasn’t left the Hermit Kingdom. Nearly everything known is a mix of speculation, reverse engineering from photographs, and knowledge of the standard AK-74.

That being said, everything about the design of the Type 88-2 just seems to have been done to cut every possible corner.


Writer’s Note: The article originally described the Type 88-2 as being chambered in 7.62mm when in reality it uses 5.45mm.

Feature image: Korean soldiers parading carrying the Type 68 variant, rather than the Type 88 (Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Neglected maintenance and corrosion caused deadly KC-130 crash

A corroded blade that came loose on a Marine Corps KC-130T transport aircraft at 20,000 feet above Mississippi caused the deaths of 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman in 2017, according to a Marine Corps accident investigation released Dec. 6, 2018.

The propeller blade — improperly maintained by Air Force maintenance crews in 2011 and later overlooked by the Navy, according to officials — set off a series of cascading events that would cut the aircraft into three pieces before it fell to the ground on July 10, 2017, in a LeFlore County field, officials wrote in the investigation.

“Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex failed to remove existing and detectable corrosion pitting and [intergranular cracking] on [Propeller 2, Blade 4] in 2011, which ultimately resulted in its inflight liberation,” investigators wrote. “This blade liberation was the root cause of the mishap.”


The accident investigation was first reported in a joint Military Times and Defense News article Dec. 5, 2018.

The aircraft, which belonged to Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron 452, out of Newburgh, New York, had been tasked with transporting six Marines and a sailor belonging to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command from Cherry Point, North Carolina, to Yuma, Arizona, for team-level pre-deployment training.

Seven service members were from MARSOC’s 2nd Marine Raider Battalion; nine Marine aircrew belonged to the squadron, VMGR-452. All 16 troops aboard the aircraft perished in the crash.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Sgt. Maj. Randall Anderson, the sergeant major assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, calls roll during a memorial service at Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, New York, Aug. 27, 2017. Nine Marines assigned to VMGR-452 were among the 16 dead following a KC-130T Super Hercules crash.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julio A. Olivencia Jr.)

“I found that the deaths of Maj. Cain M. Goyette, Capt. Sean E. Elliott, Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins, Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox, Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat, Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden, Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan M. Lohrey, Sgt. Chad E. Jenson, Sgt. Talon R. Leach, Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, Sgt. Owen J. Lennon, Sgt. Joseph J. Murray, Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman, Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare and Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff occurred in the line of duty and not due to their misconduct,” an investigator said.

“Neither the aircrew nor anybody aboard the KC-130T could have prevented or altered the ultimate outcome after such a failure,” officials said.

The crew had come over in two KC-130Ts from Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York. The two planes swapped missions, investigators said, “due to difficulties with cargo and embarkation” with one of the aircraft.

The destination of the flight, call sign “Yanky 72,” was Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

The KC-130T carried thousands of pounds in cargo, including “two internal slingable unit 90-inch (ISU-90) containers, one Polaris Defense all-terrain utility vehicle (MRZR), and one 463L pallet of ammunition,” officials said. Also on board were 968 lithium-ion batteries, 22 cans of spray paint, one compressed oxygen cylinder, personal baggage and military kits, weighing about 2,800 pounds.

Propeller Two, including the corroded Blade Four, or P2B4, on the aircraft had flown 1,316.2 hours since its last major overhaul in September 2011, according to the documents. The aircraft had last flown missions May 24 through July 6, 2018, accumulating more than 73.3 hours within those two weeks.

The aircraft entered service in 1993. The propeller in question was made by UTC Aerospace Systems.

On the day of the accident, after it had detached from the rotating propeller, P2B4 sliced through the port side of the main fuselage, the 73-page investigation said.

The blade cut into the aircraft and then “passed unobstructed through the [mishap aircraft’s] interior, and did not exit the airframe but rather impacted the interior starboard side of the cargo compartment where it remained until cargo compartment separation,” it said. Its impact cut into the starboard interior support beam.

The violent force shook through the plane, causing the third propeller engine to separate from the aircraft. It bounced back into the aircraft, striking the right side of the fuselage and forcing a portion of one of the fuselage’s longerons to buckle. Its impact also caused significant damage to the starboard horizontal stabilizer, causing “the stabilizer to separate from the aircraft,” the investigation said.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

A KC-130T Hercules in flight.

(Photo by James M. Cox)

Soon after, the aircraft’s cockpit, center fuselage and rear fuselage would all break apart mid-air during its rapid descent.

The pilots and crew involved in the cataclysmic event likely experienced immediate disorientation and shock, rendering them immobile, officials said.

Investigators said an average of 5 percent of blades processed in the past nine years by Warner Robins (WR-ALC) were Navy or Marine Corps blades. The maintenance paperwork for the 2011 work on P2B4 no longer exists because, per Air Force regulations, work control documents are destroyed after a period of two years, the investigation noted.

During the quality control and quality assurance process, where items are inspected and approved or rejected based on their conditions, investigators said Warner Robins used ineffective practices and bypassed critical maintenance procedures.

Some of the other blades and propellers also were considered unsatisfactory, investigators said.

According to the report, the aircraft also missed an inspection in the spring. A 56-day conditional inspection is required when, within 56 days, the engine has not been run or the propeller has not been manually rotated “at least three consecutive times” on the aircraft, or a propeller has not “been flowed on a test stand at an intermediate level maintenance activity.” Investigators said there was no supported evidence that a checkup was conducted.

The Navy also neglected to impose a check-and-balance system on the WR-ALC’s work, investigators stated.

“Negligent practices, poor procedural compliance, lack of adherence to publications, an ineffective QC/QA program at WR-ALC, and insufficient oversight by the [U.S. Navy], resulted in deficient blades being released to the fleet for use on Navy and Marine Corps aircraft from before 2011 up until the recent blade overhaul suspension at WR-ALC occurring on Sept. 2, 2017,” officials said.

A Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) liaison stationed at WR-ALC also did not check on the maintenance being done, according to Military Times and Defense News. Leaders at the base had “no record” of the liaison ever checking procedures, the report said.

Since the accident, multiple agencies — including the Navy; Air Force; respective commands; UTC Aerospace, maker of the propeller; and officials from Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer — have convened to streamline practices and procedures to prevent any more similar catastrophic events, the documents said.

Investigators recommended the joint team’s primary objective be to create a “uniform approach” to overhauling procedures for both Air Force and Navy C-130T blades.

“WR-ALC plans to upgrade and improve their … process[es],” which will include the use of additional robotics, automation, and a wider scope of what’s inspected, the investigation said.

That includes more refined paperwork filings into “one consolidated electronic document identifying all defects and corrective actions,” it said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This is why the F-4 Phantom II had so many fans

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II


As he slides his hands across the edges of the wings and walks from nose to tail, inspecting all aspects of the jet, a wave of emotion begins to hit Jim Harkins.

His weathered features appear calm and determined, but they hide the tears he is fighting back.

While he walks around the aircraft, he greets each maintainer and says, “Thank you.” Harkins rubs and taps the bulging nose of the QF-4 Phantom II, like an aged cowboy saying hello to a trusty steed, and then climbs into the cockpit.

“One last time,” Harkins says and the canopy closes around him.

For Harkins and the F-4, this is a day of lasts. For Harkins, it’s the last time he will fly for the Air Force and, for the Phantom, the last time it will take to the skies.

It’s their final flight.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Ground crew of 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 perform maintenance on a QF-4 Phantom, left, and its replacement, the QF-16, at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 20, 2016. The final variant of the Phantom II, the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s, was the QF-4 unmanned aerial target flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. Pilots of the 82nd flew the F-4 for the last time prior to a retirement ceremony for the storied aircraft on Dec. 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“It’s not really sad, because in the military you get used to a lot of lasts, but it’s humbling,” Harkins said.

Harkins isn’t the only one feeling nostalgic and emotional about the aircraft affectionately referred to as “Old Smokey.” Hundreds of “Phantom Phixers,” “Phantom Phliers” and “Phantom Phanatics” gathered on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to watch the final F-4 flight.

Some used to work on the aircraft, some are just fans and others, like retired Col. Chuck DeBellevue, had the privilege of actually flying the fighter.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

DeBellevue flew the F-4 in Vietnam, where he had six confirmed kills – two against the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-19 and four against the MiG-21, the most of any U.S. aviator during the war.

He’s not just saying farewell to an amazing machine, he’s saying goodbye to an old friend.

“A friend who got me home more times than I care to remember,” DeBellevue said. “Being back on the flightline today brought back a lot of memories, not all are good. I lost a lot of friends, but it was a great airplane. I loved to fly that airplane. It’s very honest and it got me out of a lot of tight spots during the war.”

DeBellevue recalls the Navy originally bought the F-4 to be a fleet interceptor and the Air Force bought it in 1963 to do everything – and it did do everything. It served as the primary air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, but it also served roles in ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance and, once taken out of active service, was designated the QF-4 where it flew as aerial targets.

The F-4 was a workhorse weapons system for the Air Force through the 1990s and it still hold the distinction of being the first multi-service aircraft. During it’s heyday, the F-4 set 16 speed and altitude records and demonstrated its effectiveness time and again throughout its lengthy career.

The Phantom looked cool doing it, too.

“You didn’t get into the F-4, you put it on, it became you,” DeBellevue said. “It was a manual airplane, not like an F-16 or F-15, they were aerodynamic and designed well. The F-4 was the last plane that looked like it was made to kill somebody. It was a beast. It could go through a flock of birds and kick out barbeque from the back.”

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

On the flightline at Holloman, the final flight of four F-4s prepare to take off for the last time. The engines rumble and smoke flies.

In his jet, Harkins looks over the crowd, dancing in the cockpit, revving up the on-lookers and saluting those in attendance. Everyone cheers as the final four F-4s begin their last taxi.

Harkins is first to pass the crowd, followed by pilots Eric “Rock” Vold, Jim “Boomer” Schreiner and finally Lt. Col. Ronald “Elvis” King, the last active duty F-4 pilot and commander of Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. Together these men will fly the Phinal Phlight demonstration before King officially retires the QF-4 program during a ceremony following the flight.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

“I don’t want to sound cheesy, but every time I get into the F-4 I can’t help but think of all the stories of all the pilots and all the maintainers who made this aircraft great,” King said. “The history and the heritage to me is the biggest satisfaction of flying the airplane.”

King had no concept when he became the squadron commander he would be the last active duty pilot. It didn’t really set in until he and Harkins began taking the F-4 on a farewell tour during to air shows and aviation expos last year. King felt obligated to take the F-4 on the road, to give admirers the chance to see it, touch it and share their stories one last time. It was then he realized this tour piloting the F-4 would be something special.

“It’s going to be sad to shut those engines down for the last time, but she’s served our country well,” King said of the F-4. “It’s exciting too, because our mission is to provide full scale aerial targets and we are going to be able to do that now with an airplane that’s better suited, provides higher performance and is more representative of the threats we face today in the QF-16.”

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Two McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steak over the flightline during the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

King said it was getting more and more difficult to keep the F-4’s in the air, and the only reason the QF-4 lasted as long as it did was because of the maintainers of the 82nd ATS.

Unfortunately, he says, there is no longer a need for the F-4. All remaining aircraft will be de-militarized at Holloman and used as ground targets at the White Sands bombing range.

King says most people don’t like to hear the fate of the last F-4s, and he understands, but it’s too costly to maintain as a heritage piece or to preserve them for museums.

“At the end of the day, the Air Force isn’t real sentimental,” King said. “It will have a warrior’s death.”

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Engines roar and a flume of dust and smoke signals to the crowd the final four F-4s are off. The first two jets, piloted by King and Schreiner take off in a two-ship formation. Harkins follows in the third position and Vold in fourth. The last two jets perform an unrestricted climb, staying low to the ground in afterburner before pulling into a vertical climb at the end of the runway. The crowd goes crazy.

The sound of the F-4 is distinct. As Harkins passes over the crowd in a low-altitude turn it sounds like the jet is ripping the sky.

Multiple passes are made in four-ship, two-ship and stacked formations over the crowd of hundreds in attendance. Camera shutters clicking at a furious pace can be heard down the tarmac.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
A McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II of the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron Detachment 1 steaks over the crowd gathered to witness the final military flight of the storied aircraft at Holloman AFB, N.M., Dec. 21, 2016. The F-4 Phantom II entered the U.S. Air Force inventory in 1963 and was the primary multi-role aircraft in the USAF throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The F-4 flew bombing, combat air patrol, fighter escort, reconnaissance and the famous Wild Weasel anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. The final variant of the Phantom II was the QF-4 unmanned aerial targets flown by the 82nd at Holloman AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Out of nowhere, the sky cracks open and multiple booms shake the ground, buildings and cars, setting off alarms across the base. The concussions signal the F-4s going supersonic high above.

Harkins swoops down out of the sky passing over the crowd multiple times, and makes his final approach. As his wheels touch back to Earth, Harkins enters the history books as the last pilot to fly 1,000 hours in the F-4.

“I can’t imagine a better way to go out than with the F-4, it’s a special moment and a special jet and then … done,” Harkins said. “Although I flew F-16s and I went down to the F-4, but I consider myself going out on top.”

As climbs down from his jet he’s doused with water from his comrades and sprayed with champagne. In the distance, King lands his F-4 and with the front landing gear touching the asphalt, the history books close on the aircraft’s legacy.

But while the Phantom’s time in the sky may be over, the tales of its exploits are far from done. For those who flew the F-4, there is always time to wax poetic about the good ‘ole days, tearing across the wild blue yonder on “Old Smokey.”

AirmanMagazineOnline, YouTube

Articles

Watch a 20mm Lahti anti-tank rifle rip through steel plates

The Lahti anti-tank rifle looks a little unusual, showing a pair of skis on the front. But then again, it does come from Finland.


According to Modernfirearms.net, the Lahti L-39, also known as the Norsupyssy — or “elephant gun” — fired a 20x138mm round and had a 10-shot clip. While not effective against the most modern tanks, like the Russian T-34, the rifle proved to be useful against bunkers and other material targets. One variant was a full-auto version used as an anti-aircraft gun.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t laugh. According to the 25th Infantry Division Association’s website, American personnel used the Browning Automatic Rifle — or BAR — against the Japanese planes during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This semi-auto rifle was kept in Finnish military stocks until the 1980s, when many were scrapped. This makes the M107 Barrett used by the United States military look like a mousegun.

A number of these rifles, though, were declared surplus and sold in the United States in the early 1960s. The Gun Control Act of 1968, though, placed these rifles under some very heavy controls — even though none were ever used in crimes.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
A Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle used during World War II. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In this video, the punch this rifle packed is very apparent. The people who set up the test put up 16 quarter-inch steel plates. You can see what that shell does to the plates in this GIF.

via GIPHY

For a real in-depth look at this awesome gun — and the way they set up this firepower demonstration — look at the whole video below:

FullMag, YouTube

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The XQ-58A Valkyrie completes second successful flight

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a low-cost unmanned air vehicle, successfully completed all test objectives during a 71-minute flight, June 11, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.

The test marked the second successful flight for the aircraft this year. The inaugural 72-minute flight was recorded in March 2019.

The Air Force Research Laboratory developed the low-cost unmanned air vehicle together with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. The joint effort falls within AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, which has the goal to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft.


“The XQ-58A is the first Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology flight demonstrator with (unmanned aircraft systems) technology to change the way we fly and fight, and build and buy,” said Doug Szczublewski, program manager.

US Air Force Releases Video of New Combat Drone: XQ-58A Valkyrie

www.youtube.com

There are a total of five planned test flights for the XQ-58A, with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

12 cringeworthy photos of celebrities wearing military uniforms

Stolen valor, Hollywood-style!


Blame the stylist, blame the director, but don’t hate the player, hate the game. Here are 12 cringeworthy photos that will make you want to knifehand these celebrities:

1. 50 Cent

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Attention on deck for General Admiral Gunnery Sergeant Cent.

2. Adrianne Curry

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

As much as we love the self-proclaimed “Mistress of the Dorks,” maybe she should stick to cosplaying as an Imperial Officer instead. She was much more squared away.

3. Jake Lacy

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

This is a Hollywood military fail. Jake Lacy and the costume designer from 2015’s “Love the Coopers” should put out a YouTube video where a drill instructor smokes both of them for the popped collar he wears the whole time.

4. The cast of Enlisted (minus Keith David)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Look at this. Look at this. Keith David is military movie royalty (“Platoon,” hello?), so it’s little surprise that he knows how to wear an Army uniform. But if he were really the sergeant major he was supposed to be, this photo would feature him tearing new a**holes into the other four for the thousands of problems here.

5. Amber Rose

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Shitty job rolling those BDU sleeves, but at least she tried to crease them. Nails probably not reg, but the only person who would really care is Kanye West.

6. Jeremy Renner

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Jeremy Renner has ruined everything from “The Avengers” to Jason Bourne, and here he is ruining the Army Combat Uniform. Forget for a moment that the ACU didn’t exist when “The Hurt Locker” was supposed to be taking place (realism!), ACU sleeves are rolled approximately never and if they were, they sure as hell wouldn’t have the sea service roll. Also, unless he runs into a fight backwards, pretty sure that U.S. flag is as ass backward as that movie.

7. Samuel L. Jackson

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

It’s easy to make fun of “Basic.” The most prominent reason is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s standard-issue cape. A goddam cape. There is no better example of what a civilian thinks the military would wear than giving someone a cape. The worst (best?) part of “Basic” is that it implies basic training, the one place where we all learned this.

8. Shia LeBeouf

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Ah yes, America’s most famous Valor Thief. The backpack is actually common among civilians, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone wearing it with ACU pants. And even harder pressed to find someone wearing that combo bloused with Desert Combat Boots.

9. Steven Seagal

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Watching this salute is almost as awkward as watching Seagal run.

10. Jessica Simpson

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

WATM’s Logan Nye says the collar is only authorized to be worn this way when a soldier is wearing body armor, but even then it makes you look like an a**hole. The fact that everyone in the unit is wearing it up makes the commander look like an a**hole.

Also, that hair is not authorized in uniform.

11. Channing Tatum

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

To the untrained (or Air Force) eye, Army uniforms always look like a random mishmash of metal and ribbon. Tatum is mostly okay but needs to decide if he’s infantry or special forces.

12. Bill Cosby

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

The only thing really wrong with this uniform is the guy wearing it. (And he’s not an honorary chief anymore.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 26th

Oh boy, picking just one military news story and riffing on it is going to be hard this week.

Let’s see… The Coasties beat the Marines in a sniper competition. The Marines drew another skydick over Miramar. Civilians learned that the Air Force has enough money to waste hundreds of thousands on easily broken coffee mugs. A soldier got arrested in South Korea for kicking a policeman in the nads. And the Commander-in-Chief said he’d, “send in the military — not the guard — but the military,” effectively discrediting the efforts of over half a million guardsmen.

Because I can’t come up with anything funnier than reality has been this week for the military, I’ll just remind you that your Cyber Security cert is almost expired. You should probably get on that.


The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Battle Bars)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Private News Network)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Ranger Up)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

13. The perfect Halloween costume doesn’t exi-

No, seriously. You should probably get your Cyber Security training done.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force reveals first base for stealth, thermonuclear B-21 Raider

The Air Force announced Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, has been selected as the preferred location for the first operational B-21 Raider bomber and the formal training unit, March 27, 2019.

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, will receive B-21s as they become available.

The Air Force used a deliberate process to minimize mission impact during the transition, maximize facility reuse, minimize cost and reduce overhead.

“These three bomber bases are well suited for the B-21,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson. “We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”


Ellsworth AFB was selected as the first location because it provides sufficient space and existing facilities necessary to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost and with minimal operational impact across all three bases. The Air Force will incrementally retire existing B-1 Lancers and B-2 Spirits when a sufficient number of B-21s are delivered.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

A B-1B Lancer flying over the Pacific Ocean.

(US Air Force photo)

“We are procuring the B-21 Raider as a long-range, highly-survivable aircraft capable of penetrating enemy airspace with a mix of weapons,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “It is a central part of a penetrating joint team.”

Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota, will continue to host the B-52 Stratofortress which is expected to continue conducting operations through 2050.

The Air Force will make its final B-21 basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes. That decision is expected in 2021 and is part of the overall Air Force Strategic Basing Process.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un said to be crying about North Korea’s economy

A video of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crying about his country’s terrible economy while surveying its coast is said to be making the rounds among the country’s leadership — and it could be a sign he’s ready to cave in to President Donald Trump in negotiations.

Japan’s Asahi Shinbun quoted a defector with contacts inside the country as describing a video in which a narrator explains Kim is crying that he can’t improve North Korea’s economy.


The defector reportedly said the video surfaced in April 2018, and high-ranking members of North Korea’s ruling party viewed it, possibly in an official message from Kim to the party.

In April 2018, North Korea had already offered the US a meeting with Kim and was in the midst of a diplomatic charm offensive in which it offered up the prospect of denuclearization to China, South Korea, and the US.

The defector speculated that the video was meant to prepare the country for possible changes after the summit with Trump.

Really strange video

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
(KCNA photo)

In North Korea, Kim is essentially worshipped as a god-like figure with an impossible mythology surrounding his bloodline. Kim is meant to be all powerful, so footage showing him crying at his own inability to improve his country’s economics would be a shock.

Kim’s core policy as a leader had been to pursue both economic and nuclear development, but around the turn of 2018, he declared his country’s nuclear-weapon program completed.

Experts assess with near unanimity that Kim doesn’t really want to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, as he went to the trouble of writing the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution.

Instead, a new report from the CIA says Kim simply wants US businesses, perhaps a burger joint, to open within the country as a gesture of goodwill and an economic carrot, CNBC reports.

Big if true

Trump has made North Korea a top priority during his presidency and has spearheaded the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang. In particular, Trump has been credited with getting China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trading partner, to participate in the sanctions.

As a result, doing business with North Korea became nearly impossible, and its trade deficit with China ballooned.

For a leader who is meant to be seen as the all-powerful resistance to the West, crying about Trump-imposed sanctions would be a big story signaling an about-face.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Did friendly fire really kill Confederate Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, or is this just a myth of the Civil War?


We all know the story (or should).

On May 2, 1863, Jackson was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the last stages of the Battle of Chancellorsville when he was accidentally shot by Confederate troops. He would die eight days later, after an operation to amputate his left arm.

 

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Today, were someone to be wounded in the left arm and right hand, combat medics would rapidly be working on him to stabilize his condition. Once that was done, a MEDEVAC flight would get him to a combat hospital for further evaluation. Surgery on the arm might not even take place in a combat hospital – Jackson would likely have been transported to a place like Walter Reed for the actual surgery.

He might not lose the arm. He probably would not have died.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

But this was 1863, and Jackson died. Why? According to one coroner in a History Channel video, the wounds Jackson received when he was accidentally shot by Confederate sentries while on a reconnaissance mission during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, were not the direct cause of his death.

Instead, the blame may very well fall on the poor medical treatment he received after his wounds. The methods used to keep General Jackson under while his arm was amputated using the techniques of the time triggered the pneumonia that killed him, the coroner claims.

The Merchant Marine suffered the worst losses of World War II

Is he right? Watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think!

History, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

Take a closer look at Russia’s new ‘Star Wars’ combat suit

Russia’s new Star Wars-like combat suit is apparently getting a nuclear-resistant watch, according to Newsweek, citing Rostec, the Russian defense contractor building the suit.


The third-generation Ratnik-3 suit “comprises five integrated systems that include life support, command and communication, engaging, protection and energy saving subsystems,” according to Tass, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

In total, the suit comes with 59 items, Tass said, including a powered exoskeleton that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with cutting-edge body armor and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face.

The suit also has a “pop-up display that can be used for tasks like examining a plan of the battlefield,” Andy Lynch, who works for a military company called Odin Systems, previously told MailOnline.

Now it’s apparently being fitted with a watch that “retains its properties upon the impact of radiation and electromagnetic impulses, for example, upon a nuclear blast,” according to Rostec’s chief designer of the suit, Oleg Faustov.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea, according to The New York Times.

 

The third-generation Ratnik suit will supposedly be ready for service in 2022, according to Russian Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov.

Russia even unveiled a video of the suit in late June, but it only showed a static display of the suit, so it’s unknown if it actually has any of the capabilities that are claimed.

Russia is also not the only country developing such technology, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, previously told Business Insider.

The US hopes to unveil its own Tactical Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit, in 2018. France is working on one too, the Integrated Infantryman Equipment and Communications system, or FELIN.

Nevertheless, many problems still exist with these suits, such as bulky batteries that power the exoskeletons, Tack said.

And while Salyukov recently said that they’ve been able to reduce the Ratnik-3’s weight by 30%, Russia is known to make wild claims about its military equipment that it doesn’t back up.

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