The 12 most essential Civil War books - We Are The Mighty
Lists

The 12 most essential Civil War books

The Civil War is cemented in history as the deadliest war fought on American soil. For four years, the Unioners of the North fought the Confederates of the South, hoping to dismantle the institution of slavery. This led to the loss of over 600,000 lives and, ultimately, the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865.

Thousands of Civil War books have been written since the first shot rang out in 1861. Though no single book can attempt to cover the endless tragedies or important events that occurred over those four years, the following works add valuable new perspectives to the narrative. Between fictionalized accounts and battle retellings to soldiers’ eye-opening diaries, this list will satisfy any Civil War history buff.


1. Dee Brown on the Civil War

Open Road Media

By Dee Brown

This trilogy focuses on the some of the Civil War’s most influential but lesser-known figures. In Grierson’s Raid, a former music teacher leads almost 2,000 Union troopers from Tennessee to Louisiana. Their attack diverts attention from General Grant’s crossing of the Mississippi—an instrumental distraction for the subsequent Siege of Vicksburg.

The Bold Cavaliers stars Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, whose cavalrymen wreak havoc on Alabama. Meanwhile, The Galvanized Yankees tells the widely unknown story of a group of captured Confederate soldiers. Faced with the prospect of serving time in a prison camp or in the Union Army, they choose the latter. When they’re tapped to guard outposts in the Western frontier, their experiences have profound effects on their own loyalties—and make for a fascinating Civil War story.

2. Battle Cry of Freedom

By James. M. McPherson

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book charts the period between the 1846 outbreak of the Mexican-American War to Robert E. Lee’s surrender in 1865. Author James McPherson examines the economic, political, and social factors that led to the Civil War, particularly how small, violent outbursts evolved into America’s deadliest war. Both sides believed they were fighting for freedom—though their definitions of this freedom differed greatly. With in-depth analyses of nearly every major event, Battle Cry of Freedom is an indispensable addition to any history buff’s collection.

3. The Civil War: A Narrative

By Shelby Foote

In the first book of Foote’s three-volume series, the author opens with Jefferson Davis’ resignation from the US Senate. The Democratic politician was destined for another, bigger role: the first presidency of the Confederate States. So begins an extensively researched account of the events—and war—that followed, which culminates in the Union’s victory four years later. Maps are a welcome addition to the narrative, providing useful visuals of important battle sites and travel routes.

4. Mary Chesnut’s Diary

Penguin Classics

By Mary Chesnut

A native of South Carolina, Mary Chesnut kept a detailed account of her life as an upper class woman during the Civil War. Though her husband was a senator and a Confederate officer, Mary secretly hated the institution of slavery. From her reflections on witnessing the first shots fired in Charleston to hearing parts of her husband’s meetings, Chesnut’s diary is one of the few complete firsthand accounts of the war written by a non-soldier.

5. For Cause and Comrades

By James M. McPherson

After countless bloody battles and widespread death, how did Civil War soldiers find the will to keep fighting? In For Case and Comrades, James McPherson explores what drove them—namely, their unshakeable belief in the necessity of their actions. For both sides, victory was worth everything.

McPherson analyzed over 250 diaries and 25,000 letters to truly understand the soldiers’ thought processes. He was shocked by their eloquence and honesty, and the frequency with which they wrote of their daily lives. Their writings reveal how they were not just hardened men of war—but brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands who simply wanted to go home with their dignity in tact. The result is a humanizing study of war, and of the men who fought unwaveringly for their ideals.

6. The Black Flower

By Howard Bahr

As a war veteran and novelist, Bahr was a master of well-paced, engaging Civil War fiction—and lucky for us, he wrote three books. The first installment in his Civil War trilogy is The Black Flower, a New York Times Notable Book. When a 26-year-old Confederate soldier is wounded, the bond he forms with a medic gives him hope for a brighter, post-war future.

The Year of Jubilo sees a similar hero: Gawain Harper, who only fights in the Confederate army to be with the woman he loves. His return home is not as charmed as he anticipated when he discovers the rebels’ plot to incite new warfare—which Gawain must stop.

In the final book, The Judas Field, Civil War veteran Cass accompanies a friend to Tennessee, where they’ll retrieve the bodies of her brother and father. As they pass through devastated Southern towns, Cass cannot escape his haunting memories of the battlefield. All three novels explore the violence of warfare, the endurance of hope, and the lengths to which men and women fought to return to their loved ones.

7. The North and South Trilogy

Open Road Media

By John Jakes

In the trilogy that has sold millions of copies, John Jakes examines how war can disintegrate even the closest of bonds. While training at West Point, Southerner Orry Mains quickly befriends Northerner George Hazard. But when the Civil War places them on opposite sides of the battlefield, tensions reverberate through their relationship, their families, and the rest of Jakes’ bestselling trilogy. Part war story, part family drama, the books were adapted into a wildly popular miniseries starring Patrick Swayze and James Read.

8. Murder at Manassas

By Michael Kilian

With the Civil War still in its earliest days, Virginian Harrison Raines is torn between his abhorrence of slavery and his love for his home state. He is also in love with actress Caitlin Howard—though her affection for John Wilkes Booth (yes, that one) poses a serious threat. Raines’ personal dramas reach new heights when, after taking Caitlin to watch the Battle of Bull Run, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery involving a wrongly-disgraced major. What ensues is a fast-paced whodunit full of rich historical detail and real-life figures like Abe Lincoln.

9. Cold Mountain

By Charles Frazier

Nothing, not even war, can prevent Inman from reaching his true love, Ada, in North Carolina. After being gravely wounded in battle, Inman deserts the Confederate army, determined to return to the woman he left behind. As he journeys across the ravaged American landscape, Ada struggles to restore her late father’s farm back to its former glory. But with only a few moments shared between them, have Inman and Ada pinned their hopes on a foolish dream?

Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel is based on stories he heard from his great-great-grandfather as a child. Gorgeously written and unrelentingly heartbreaking, Cold Mountain is at once an unforgettable tale of war and a deeply moving love story.

10. The Killer Angels

Ballantine Books

By Michael Shaara

Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel recreates the bloodiest battle in American history: Gettysburg. Over the four days of fighting, countless men died—men with families, men with futures, men who might have done great things for the nation. Shaara imagines who these men, whether Northern or Southern, may have been.

Told through the perspectives of multiple historical figures, the story begins with a very confident Robert E. Lee as he and his troops travel to Pennsylvania. But instead of finding the victory they envisioned, Lee and his fellow Confederates are demoralized by the battle—and many know they’re unlikely to win the war, or even see its end.

11. Cain at Gettysburg

By Ralph Peters

Another Gettysburg-centered novel, Cain at Gettysburg is a fictional retelling of what is considered “the turning point of the Civil War.” It follows a misfit group of characters—including desperate generals, a German refugee, and an Irishman who fled the famine—as they fight for their cause, unsure of their futures. Compelling and jam-packed with action, Cain at Gettysburg is a fascinating tale of battle, bravery, and brotherhood that no lover of Civil War history should miss.

12. Gone with the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

If you ever had access to the Turner Classic Movie channel, then you’ve probably heard of the film version of Gone with the Wind. But before Vivien Leigh starred as Scarlett O’Hara, there was Margaret Mitchell’s epic book, which offers a more detailed look at Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. At the center, of course, is Scarlett—a Southern belle and the daughter of a wealthy planter—who is forced to change her spoiled ways once war divides the country. Though her enduring relationship with Rhett Butler is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time, the novel is also one of the best portraits of the effects of war on a place and its people.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

For around 30 years, the food court at the center of the Pentagon’s courtyard was an easy source of mid-afternoon calories for the hungry planners of a potential World War III with the Eastern Bloc. There was just one problem, and it wasn’t the food.

It was said the Soviet Union had at least two nuclear missiles pointed at it at all times.


Target Acquired.

The hot dog stand, replaced in the early 2000s with another, presumably less hot dog-oriented food stand, was the center of life for a lot of the Cold War lunches had by the staff at the nation’s most important military building. It was said that the Soviet Union watched the comings and goings of top U.S. military brass in and out of the tiny structure in the middle of the courtyard every day.

They surmised it must be an important planning center or command and control bunker. So, obviously, when the war broke out, it would have to be one of the first things to go. Two ICBMs should take care of it.

And most of the DMV area.

“Rumor has it that during the Cold War the Russians never had any less than two missiles aimed at this hot dog stand,” Brett Eaton, an information and communications officer for Washington Headquarters Services, told DoD News. “They thought this was the Pentagon’s most top-secret meeting room, and the entire Pentagon was a large fortress built around this hot dog stand.”

No one in Russia has ever confirmed this rumor, but the stand still earned the moniker “Cafe Ground Zero.” In reality, substantiated or not, the hot dog stand was smack dab in the middle of the United States’ most important military building. Since the blast radius of the Soviet Union’s best and biggest nuclear missile was big enough to wipe out New York City along with parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it stands to reason that destroying the hot dog stand at the center of the Pentagon would just be a win for clogged arteries.

A real victory.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

6 ships and planes the Navy could hand down to the Coast Guard

The Coast Guard has long been given huge tasks without getting a lot of the manpower, hulls, or aviation assets needed to complete them. Considering how much ground they need to cover with what little they have, it’s safe to they they’re the experts at working with what they have.


That said, it’s pretty obvious the Coast Guard could use a few more tools for the job. In the past, the Navy has been happy to pass pieces of gear along — here are a few ships and planes the Coast Guard could use today.

At least 20 Perry-class hulls are awaiting sale or the scrapyard. Perhaps the Coast Guard could claim a few…

(U.S. Navy)

Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates

In 2004, the Navy removed Mk 13 launchers from Perry-class frigates, greatly diminishing their firepower in the process. Even still, a 76mm gun and helicopter hangar makes them excellent complements to the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters. At least twenty of these ships are awaiting sale or scrapping, but they could see decades more of service with the Coast Guard.

A Cyclone-class patrol craft has a top speed of 35 knots, something very useful for chasing down drug smugglers.

(Customs and Border Patrol)

Cyclone-class patrol craft

Although they’re back with the Navy now, the Coast Guard once operated five of these vessels. Their high speed and respectable firepower give them excellent drug-interdiction capabilities. These 13 vessels would complement the planned 58 Sentinel-class patrol cutters extremely well.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships may be old, but they could help the Coast Guard around Alaska.

(U.S. Navy)

Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships

These 13 vessels may be slow, but they’re built tough. Some of the Coast Guard’s missions, especially around Alaska, place a premium on ships that can take some punishment. Ships intended to hunt mines can do just that. Adding these ships to the fleet frees up other cutters for missions elsewhere.

SPY-1 radars and Aegis make the early Ticonderoga-class cruisers, like USS Yorktown (CG 48), potential assets for the Coast Guard.

(US Navy)

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers

The former USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) and USS Yorktown (CG 48) are berthed in Philadelphia, awaiting the scrapyard. However, the SPY-1 radars and Aegis systems aboard these vessels would greatly aid the Coast Guard’s maritime security mission.

The E-2C Hawkeye could give the Coast Guard an eye in the sky.

(US Navy)

E-2C Hawkeyes

The Navy is getting newer E-2D Hawkeyes, but the older E-2Cs would still be very useful for the Coast Guard in helping maintain situational awareness. The Coast Guard once operated Hawkeyes — doing so again would take a burden off of the Navy.

P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft could help the Coast Guard track ships for long periods of time.

(U.S. Navy)

P-3 Orion

Often, cartels will use makeshift subs to try and get drugs into the United States. The P-3s that the Navy is planning on retiring could be extremely useful assets for the Coast Guard in finding these undersea mules. Additionally, these planes could supplement the HC-130 Hercules aircraft in service, often by handling surveillance missions. With loads of sensors aboard the P-3, there’s nowhere for the bad guys to hide.

The fact is, the Coast Guard has always been able to give old gear new life. With a couple of hand-me-downs, the Coast Guard just might find itself with new ability — without busting the budget.

Lists

The 11 Best Military Movie Quotes

Hollywood has a tendency to mess up uniforms, customs, and tactical thinking when it comes to military movies, but they sure know how to give us quote-worthy characters. From the masterful intro speech of “Patton” to the character of Hoot in “Black Hawk Down,” these are the films that we remember for having characters with great dialogue.


We picked out some of our favorite quotes from classic military films. Here they are:

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.”  — Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Apocalypse Now - Robert Duvall as Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore

“You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about. A deer’s gotta be taken with one shot.” — Michael, “The Deer Hunter” (1978)

The Deer Hunter - Robert Dinero

“Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.” — Capt. John Miller, “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

Saving Private Ryan - Tom Hanks

“When I go home people will ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.”  — Norman “Hoot” Hooten, “Black Hawk Down” (2001)

Black Hawk Down - Eric Bana

“Are you smoking this sh-t so’s to escape from reality? Me, I don’t need this sh-t, I am reality. There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.” — Staff Sgt. Barnes, “Platoon” (1986)

Platoon – Tom Berenger as Sgt. Barnes

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” — Gen. George Patton, “Patton” (1970)

Patton – George C. Scott as General George Patton

“Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” — Gen. Jack D. Ripper, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)

Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper

“Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f–k off of my obstacle! Get the f–k down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-D–KS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!” — Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)

R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman

“Aim small, miss small.” — Capt. Benjamin Martin, “The Patriot” (2000)

The Patriot – Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin

“All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!” — Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” (1986)

Aliens Sgt. Apone

“Out here, due process is a bullet!” — Col. Mike Kirby, “The Green Berets” (1968)

Col Mike Kirby The Green Berets

What’s your favorite military quote? Did we miss any? Share yours in the comments.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we need you to rally around the military spouse community

News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.


The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.

Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.

So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it’s too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?

It’s time we put as much energy into someone’s life as we do in mourning their deaths.

Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn’t important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called “dependa” and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.

According to the Department of Defenses’ first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.

Our lives aren’t easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren’t completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.

New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.

Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let’s spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!

If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It’s time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia throws new fit over peace process with Japan

Russia has summoned the Japanese ambassador and accused Tokyo of deliberately ramping up tensions ahead of a planned visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for talks with President Vladimir Putin on formally ending World War II hostilities.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 9, 2019, said it “invited” Japanese Ambassador Toyohisa Kozuki to the ministry over comments made from Tokyo about the possible return to Japan of a disputed Pacific island chain.


The dispute over the chain — which Russia refers to as the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories — has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from a signing of a formal peace treaty to end World War II.

Soviet forces seized the islands at the end of the war, and Russia continues to occupy and administer the territory, although it has allowed visits by former Japanese residents and family members in recent years.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said recent Japanese government statements represented an apparent attempt to “artificially incite the atmosphere regarding the peace-treaty problem and try to enforce its own scenario of settling the issue.”

The ministry cited Tokyo’s remarks about the need to prepare island residents for a return of the chain to Japan and about dropping demands for Moscow to pay compensation to former Japanese residents of the islands. It also took issue with Abe’s comments that 2019 would see a breakthrough in the negotiations.

“Such statements flagrantly distort the essence of the agreements between Japanese and Russian leaders to accelerate the talks’ progress” and “disorientate” members of the public in both countries, the Russian ministry said.

It said Japan was attempting to “force its own scenario” on Russia over the talks.

Following Kozuki’s meetings at the Russian ministry, Japan’s Foreign Ministry was quoted by Russian state-run TASS news agency as saying Tokyo would continue negotiations with Russia on a peace treaty “in [a] calm atmosphere.”

The Japanese ministry said Kozuki explained Tokyo’s position on the matter to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, but it did not provide details.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.

“The Japanese government will continue the negotiations process in the framework of its main position — to resolve the territorial dispute and then signing a peace treaty,” the ministry added.

Russia’s position on the Kuriles remains unchanged, that Japan must accept the outcome of World War II, including Russia’s sovereignty over the disputed islands, the Russian ministry stressed.

Russia has military bases on the archipelago and has deployed missile systems on the islands.

Abe is tentatively scheduled to visit Russia on Jan. 21, 2019, for talks with Putin on the peace treaty, Russian news agencies have reported.

The two leaders met in November 2018 and agreed to accelerate talks to formally end World War II.

In an interview published on Dec. 17, 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda that Moscow could hand Japan the two smaller islands, Shikotan and a group of islets called Habomai, if Tokyo “recognizes the results” of World War II — something he said Tokyo was “not ready for yet.”

Recognition of the results, in Russia’s eyes, means that Japan would have to accept Russian possession of the disputed islands as legal, potentially ruling out any further dispute or claims by Tokyo on the two larger, more populated islands, Iturup and Kunashir.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force will open U-2 training to more pilots

For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.

Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”

The FACT pipeline

Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)

UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.

The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.

After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.

“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”

After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.

After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.

Broadening candidate diversity

Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.

A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.

Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.

As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

Developing the legacy for the future

FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)


“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.

The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.

“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA is gonna try to ‘land’ on the Sun

Hours before the rise of the very star it will study, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched from Florida on Aug. 12, 2018, to begin its journey to the Sun, where it will undertake a landmark mission. The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.

Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.


The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.

(NASA / Bill Ingalls)

During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September 2018 and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.

“Today’s launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”

Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October 2018 – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November 2018 to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?

Renowned physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – early in the morning on Aug. 12, 2018, from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

(NASA / Glenn Benson)

Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.

“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.

A plaque dedicating the mission to Parker was attached to the spacecraft in May 2018. It includes a quote from the renowned physicist – “Let’s see what lies ahead.” It also holds a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names submitted by the public to travel with the spacecraft to the Sun.

www.youtube.com

For more information on Parker Solar Probe, go to:

https://www.nasa.gov/solarprobe

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-1 Bombers train to launch long-range anti-ship missile over Black Sea

It wasn’t a typical flight.

Two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, marked their first-ever flight with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums last week over the Black Sea. At the same time, the long-range bombers also trained in launching the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, known as LRASM, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials said Monday.


“The rise of near-peer competitors and increased tensions between NATO and our adversaries has brought anti-ship capability back to the forefront of the anti-surface warfare mission for bomber crews,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht of USAFE’s 603rd Air Operations Center.

“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Albrecht, also the Bomber Task Force mission planner, said in a release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”

Officials recently told Military.com that practicing deploying LRASM is part of a broader Air Force Global Strike vision: As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the service is not only making its supersonic, heavy bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes — especially in the Pacific — signaling a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.

During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview earlier this month.

The flight over the Black Sea with Ukrainian counterparts incorporated Turkish KC-135s, in addition to aircraft from Poland, Romania, Greece and North Macedonia for a “long-range, long-duration strategic #BomberTaskForce mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region,” USAFE tweeted.

The latest integration exercises over Eastern Europe have not gone unnoticed.

On Monday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense noted an uptick in NATO and U.S. activity in the region, to include the B-1 transiting through the Sea of Okhotsk on May 22, and near the Kamchatka Peninsula last month.

Col.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate for the Russian General Staff, said U.S. bomber flights alongside NATO partners have “increased sharply” over the last several weeks.

“Strategic bombers flew in April #B1B along Kamchatka, and in May, five such flights were recorded,” the MoD said on Twitter. Rudskoy also noted the first-ever B-1 flight over Ukraine, which prompted a Russian Air Force Su-27 and Su-30SM to scramble and intercept the bombers.

Still considered a “strategic” bomber, the Lancer was originally designed as a nuclear bomber with a mission to fly at low altitude, sneaking into enemy territory in order to avoid Soviet early warning radars. However, in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the once-nuclear bomber has been disarmed of nukes.

Dawkins said countries should expect more Bomber Task Force missions.

The shorter flights — with two to three bombers — are not the same as a deployment, and are also part of the Pentagon’s larger “dynamic force employment” strategy for military units to test how nimbly they can move from place to place, he said.

“There is just so much of a bigger signal sent with a bomber than with a couple of [F-16 Fighting Falcons],” Dawkins said. “It just is what it is.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Most stressful hand receipt ever: The ‘Little Boy’ nuke

Remember that first time you had to sign for more than $10,000 in gear? Or, hell, even that first real clothing hand receipt when you saw that the military was handing you what they saw as a couple thousand dollars worth of uniforms and equipment, and they could hold you accountable for every stitch of it?

Now imagine signing a hand receipt for a nuclear bomb, the only one of its type in existence in the world at the time.


The Little Boy bomb is prepped on Tinian island for insertion into the Enola Gay’s bomb bay.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

America had learned in 1939 of German efforts to weaponize the power of nuclear energy from just years before. Experiments in 1935 and 1938 had proven that uranium, when bombarded with neutrons, underwent the process of fission. Scientists had argued about whether a sustained nuclear reaction could be created and, if so, if it could be used for the industry or war.

It may sound odd today, but there was plenty of reason to suspect that nuclear fission was useless for military designs. No one had yet proven that fission could be sustained. But the Roosevelt Administration, understanding the existential threat that fascism and the Third Reich posed to the rest of the world, decided it couldn’t wait and see if German efforts came to fruition.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on uranium and quickly funded research into nuclear chain reactions.

The USS Shaw explodes in Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

The group would go through two name changes and multiple reorganizations as the scientific research progressed. While America was bombed at Pearl Harbor and entered the war, America’s scientists kept churning away at the problem of how to enrich uranium and create “the bomb.”

But in that same month, Germany shelved its own plans to create a nuclear bomb, opting instead to dedicate its best scientists and most of its research funds into rocket and jet research. Germany had been at the forefront of research, but would now essentially cease progress.

America, unaware that none of its rivals were still developing the bomb, pressed ahead, dedicating vast resources to gathering, enriching, and testing uranium and plutonium. This would eventually result in material dedicated to one uranium device and a number of plutonium ones.

The Trinity explosion was the first human-controlled nuclear explosion in history.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

The first nuclear explosion took place on July 16, 1945, in the deserts of New Mexico. The Trinity test used a plutonium implosion to trigger the blast. The Trinity “Gadget” was tested because America was having better luck gathering and preparing plutonium for use, but wasn’t sure the design would actually work.

It did, releasing as much energy as 21,000 tons of TNT from only 14 pounds of plutonium.

But at the same time, the nuclear elements of the Little Boy device were already headed across the Pacific on the USS Indianapolis. Of course, this being the military, there was a form for shipping dangerous materials, and the form specifically tells users to avoid remarks that would make the document classified.

An Army form shows the transfer of materials for components of the Little Boy bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This resulted in a “Receipt of Material” form describing “Projectile unit containing…kilograms of enriched tuballey at an average concentration of ….” Hopefully, if the form ever had fallen into Japanese hands, they would’ve been smart enough to suspect something was amiss when famous physicist and member of the Secretary of War’s staff Dr. Norman F. Ramsey was signing over a single bomb to Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell.

Not the way most bombs units are transferred to the Pacific, we’d wager.

The materials were transported to Tinian Island where they were used to assemble the “Little Boy” bomb which, at the time, was the only uranium bomb that had ever existed. Capt. William Parsons, the Enola Gay’s weaponeer and commander, signed for the bomb and was in charge of verifying that it was returned to the base or expended in combat.

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the Little Boy bomb was dropped.

(509th Operations Group)

On Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the bomb at approximately 8:15 on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Parsons, seemingly consulting his watch while it was still set to time on Tinian Island, wrote: “I certify that the above material was expended to the city of Hiroshima, Japan at 0915 6 Aug.”

It’s one of the most mundane ways possible of annotating the destruction of a city, but it satisfied the requirements of the form. Over the ensuing years, Farrell got notable members of the mission and the Manhattan project to sign the form, creating the most-stacked piece of nuclear memorabilia likely in existence.

Articles

This is who would win a shoot off between a ‘Ma Deuce’ and a Minigun

The M2, known as “Ma Deuce,” is a classic machine gun that is coming close to a century of service with the United States military. This gun fires about 600 rounds per minute, and has been used on ground mounts, on boats, and even was the main armament of most of America’s World War II fighters. When it comes to suppressive fire, you just can’t get much better than the M2.


Or can you?

US Army Photo

The M134 Minigun is a classic machine gun in its own right, first entering service during the Vietnam War – and it soon shows it could deliver a lot of BRRRRRT! in a small package. In one sense, it is a retro design since it’s based on the Civil War-era Gatling gun. The original Civil War Gatling guns were hand-turned affairs.

The Minigun, however, uses electric power to spin the barrels. As a result, the Minigun can put a lot of rounds downrange – as many as 6,000 rounds a minute.

The AC-47D contained three miniguns mounted in the cargo hold. (Photo: Office of Air Force History)

In this video, the hosts of “Triggers” decide to find out which actually puts more on the target. A 55-gallon drum “volunteers” to be the test subject. Actually, as an inanimate object, it had no real choice in the matter. But hey, there’s plenty of 55-gallon drums where that came from, right?

The hosts then go a thousand yards away for the purposes of the test. The M2 takes the first five-second burst, then the Minigun takes its five-second burst.

Wait until you see the results from this little head-to-head competition between these two full-auto classics via the Military Heroes Channel.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the Goodyear blimb hunted Nazi subs

Ah, football. Nothing’s sweeter than getting everyone together to drink beer, eat hot dogs, watch sports, and look at corporate slogans painted on a 250-foot weapon of war that floats over them just like it floated over Nazi and Japanese submarines before bombing them into Davy Jones’ depths.

Yeah, that’s right — the Goodyear Blimp used to be a bona fide badass.


A K-class blimp flies during convoy escort duty.

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

See, during World War II, America actually still had a pretty robust blimp program. While the rest of the world pretty much abandoned airships after the Hindenburg disaster, the U.S. was able to press forward since it had the bulk of the world’s accessible helium.

And press forward it did. While the more ambitious projects, like experimental, flying aircraft carriers, were shelved in the 1930s, America had 10 operating blimps in the U.S. Navy when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and they were quickly sent to patrol the U.S. coasts, watching for submarines.

The K-class blimps were 250-foot long sacks of helium that carried a control car with the crew inside. A fully staffed crew was 10 men, which included a pilot, gunners, and anti-submarine warriors.

Crew members load one of the four depth charges onto a K-class blimp.

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

Yeah, blimps were there to kills subs. The K-class blimps, which accounted for 40 percent of the pre-war fleet and over 80 percent of airships built during the war, usually sported a .50-cal. or two for self-defense and four 350-pound depth charges. They could also be used to lay mines and carry cargo more quickly than their sea-bound brethren and could deploy paratroopers. In fact, the Marine Corps parachute schools in World War II included jumping out of blimps in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

The ability to spot and attack submarines while able to fly out of attack range made airships valuable on convoy duty, where they would hunt enemy subs and report the locations to escort ships. When appropriate, they’d drop their own depth charges against the subs, but re-arming required landing on a carrier, so it was best to not waste limited ammo.

A crew member checks his .50-cal. machine gun during operations.​

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

One of the airships’ most famous battles came on the coast of Florida when the K-74 spotted a German sub bearing down on two merchant ships during the night of July 18,1943. There were typically somewhere around 10 German subs off the coast of the U.S. at any time, but the War Department and Navy Department at the time tried to keep it quiet.

K-74 attempted a surprise attack, dropping depth charges right onto the sub from 250 feet in the air, interrupting its attack and saving the merchant ships. Unfortunately, the submarine crew spotted the attacking airship and lit the low-flying vessel up with the sub’s anti-aircraft guns while the airship dropped two depth charges.

A blimp crashes during a nuclear test. Four K-class blimps were destroyed this way in the late 1950s.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

The consequences were immediate and severe for the blimp. The air envelope was severely damaged and set on fire by the German guns. The crew was able to extinguish the fire, but they could not maintain altitude and slowly settled into the sea. The commander stayed behind to dump classified gear and documents while the rest of the crew escaped in lifejackets.

The commander was separated from his men and rescued the next morning when he was luckily spotted by the crew of another airship.

The crew, all nine of them, climbed onto the airship envelope which floated in the water, and they were spotted the next morning as well. Unfortunately, a shark found them between when they were spotted by a sea plane and when a ship was able to rescue them. The shark attacked and killed one crew member, but the other eight escaped and survived.

It marked the only time an airship was destroyed by enemy fire. As for the submarine, it had received damage from the depth charge attack and was damaged again by a U.S. plane while escaping the east coast. It was forced to stay on the surface of the water en route to Germany for repairs and was spotted by British planes. Bombing runs by the Brits sealed its fate.

Airships were rarely allowed to directly attack submarines, and the attack by K-74 is one of the only documented times an airship directly damaged an enemy sub. In April 1945, K-72 dropped the newest weapon in its arsenal, an acoustic torpedo, into the water against German sub U-879. A destroyer documents a clear underwater explosion but no debris or wreckage was recovered and, so, no kill was awarded.

An airship crew distributes life jackets while operating over the water.

(National Museum of Naval Aviation)

But the airships were valued anti-submarine tools, often called into hunts to maintain contact with enemy subs as surface vessels danced around to avoid torpedoes.

In fact, two blimps were involved in a disputed submarine battle claimed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology and a Navy veteran. Hubbard and his crew of PC-815 claimed the destruction of two submarines in a May 1942 engagement where PC-815 dropped its own depth charges while calling for reinforcement. Two Navy blimps, K-39 and K-33, responded and assisted in the search.

Hubbard would later claim one sub killed and the other too damaged to return to port, but the crews of the other vessels disputed the claim and Hubbard did not collect any physical evidence of his kill.

​Blimps served a number of functions off the coast of Europe, mostly convoy duty, mine sweeping, and cargo carrying.

The airships also engaged in less glamorous work, moving supplies and troops from position to position, out of range of enemy subs but vulnerable to air attack. They were sometimes used for fast trips across the ocean or for ferrying freight from England to other allied outposts like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Some arguments were made that the airships were one of the best options for minesweeping. They were used heavily for this activity off the coasts of Europe where the airships flew over the water, cataloging mine locations and reporting them to surface vessels which could avoid the fields until the Navy was ready to remove them.

Four K-Class blimps were tested near nuclear blasts to see how they stood up to the over pressurization from the atomic blast. They didn’t fare well.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

In one high-profile mission, airships were tasked with protecting President Franklin Roosevelt’s and Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s convoy to the Yalta Conference in 1945.

After the war, the over 150 airships in the fleet were slowly decommissioned and either retired or sent for other uses. Goodyear used one of the K-class in its commercial fleet, but it proved less than cost effective and was retired in just a year. Four airships were destroyed in nuclear tests and the last airship was retired in March 1959.

MIGHTY TRENDING

World War II Russian tank falls off trailer at parade

An old Russian tank that had just led a military parade in western Russia on Aug. 23, 2018, was being loaded onto a trailer when it embarrassingly barrel-rolled off the flatbed.

“At about 12:10 on Aug. 23, 2018, a T-34 tank rolled off the platform and capsized while being loaded on a trailer,” the Russian military told TASS, a state-owned media outlet.


The tank driver was uninjured, TASS reported.

Several videos of the tank fail have since been uploaded to social media.

And here’s another angle:

The military parade was celebrating the World War II Battle of Kursk, an important Soviet victory over Nazi Germany that ended 75 years ago on Aug. 23, 2018.

The parade appropriately included 75 military vehicles, including T-72B3 tanks and BMP-2 armored personnel carriers, TASS reported.

The incident comes less than a month after Russia’s navy had its own fail on Navy Day when a Serna-class landing craft crashed into a bridge.

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