Here's how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal

Revolutions are generally hard-fought, brutal affairs involving rebels taking on conventional military forces.


When Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a French businessman and engineer with commercial interests in Panama’s independence, went looking for rebels to fight for independence from Columbia, he decided to go with the 441-man strong municipal fire department for Panama City, the future capital of the fledgling republic.

That’s right, a fire department was the lead military force of an armed revolution.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
The French engineer Phillippe Bunau-Varilla built up his own revolutionary army to help Panama become independent and make himself rich. (Photo: US Library of Congress)

Of course, Bunau-Varilla didn’t rely solely on firefighters and their axes. He knew that the revolution would enjoy popular support in Panama since the region, which considered itself a sovereign country forced into an ongoing relationship with Columbia, had been agitating for independence for about 80 years. And to ensure success, he cut a couple of deals before sending his firemen into action.

First, he went to the commander of Columbian forces in the area and bribed him and his men to look the other way during the planned revolution and, if necessary, fight against other, more loyal Columbian forces.

Then Bunau-Varilla went to Washington, D.C. and asked the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt to back the revolution. The administration refused to say outright that they would do so but gave Bunau-Varilla the distinct impression that they would support Panamanian independence.

The White House’s response was a major double-cross of the Columbians. An 1846 treaty obligated America to help put down revolutions and revolts in the Panama region. But Roosevelt wanted a cross-isthmus canal to help the Navy get between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and Columbia had consistently demanded more money every time America offered a treaty to construct it.

Bunau-Varilla, who had been working towards a Panama canal for over 15 years, held significant stock in a French company that owned the rights to a failed, incomplete canal. He would recoup serious amounts of money if the canal was constructed and he knew how desperately Roosevelt wanted to build one.

So, with the firm belief that Washington would back Panama, Bunau-Varilla told his fireman and mercenary army that America was coming.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
The Nashville was a gunboat commissioned in 1897. (Photo: US Navy)

The Nashville (PG 7), a shallow-draft U.S. gunboat capable of sailing close to the coast and lobbing shells inland, was coincidentally dispatched to Panama and arrived on Nov. 2, 1903. The next day, the firemen began their revolution, backed by many of the Columbian troops who were supposed to prevent it.

On Nov. 4, American troops near the city of Colon, Panama, were approached by Columbian forces demanding the use of the railroad that the troops were guarding.

When the Americans refused them access, the Columbians threatened to kill them all. The Marines fell back into a fortified building in range of the Nashville’s guns.

The Columbians had a numbers advantage but would have had to fight under naval bombardment to kill the Marines. They wisely decided not to attack.

With Columbian reinforcements cut off, the firefighters and their mercenary allies were easily able to establish effective control of Panama City. Over the next two days, two American cruisers arrived, the Dixie (AD 1) and the Atlanta, with hundreds of Marines to reinforce the new republic.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Phillippe Bunau-Varilla, left, and President Theodore Roosevelt, right, were rightfully accused of shady dealings after the revolution made the Panama Canal possible. (Illustration: Public Domain)

The U.S. government officially recognized Panama’s independence on Nov. 6, and Columbia gave in. The revolution succeeded with very little blood spilled. Panama quickly signed a treaty granting the U.S. permission to build a canal across the country. Over the following months, America sent more troops, including Marines under then Maj. John A. Lejeune, to establish control of the Panama Canal Zone ahead of the construction effort.

Panama quickly signed a treaty granting the U.S. permission to build a canal across the country. Over the following months, America sent more troops, including Marines under then Maj. John A. Lejeune, to establish control of the Panama Canal Zone ahead of the construction effort.

Planning and construction of the canal continued until mid-1914 when it was finally completed. America controlled the Panama Canal until it was given to local authorities in 1999 (based on a deal signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977).

Articles

7 special operations forces the military really needs

America’s operators are the best in the world, but they’re focused on kicking down doors, killing terrorists, and training allies.


Special Operations Command could use more flexibility, especially when it comes to future fights. Here are 7 new special operations units America needs:

1. Chairborne Rangers

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sandra M. Palumbo

As drones become more advanced, infantry robots will eventually reach the battlefield. Chairborne Rangers are the best Call of Duty players, honed into living weapons. They controls those bots and exist off energy drinks, potato chips, and enabling parents.

2. Schmuckatelli Recovery Group

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Photo: US Army Spc. Justin Young

This one is pretty simple. When “Schmuckatelli,” “Joe Schmoe,” or other lackluster troops get themselves locked up in jail or a Tijuana dungeon, the SRG swoops in on black helicopters to rescue them, by force if necessary.

3. Nuptial Prevention Service

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Photo: US Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb

The NPS interrupts weddings between troops and anyone they’ve known for less than 72 hours. They’re focused on unions where the potential spouse is a stripper or the service member is deploying within two weeks.

4. Expeditionary PT Belt Deployment Team

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Photo Illustration: Logan Nye, WATM

When troops are under fire, conducting an assault, or just running on a dark street and find themselves without a reflective or glow belt, the Expeditionary PT Belt Deployment Team is there to lend a hand and 6 feet of reflective plastic.

5. Space Team 6

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Screenshot: Youtube/Fi Skirata

Space warfare is coming, and Space Team 6 supports NASA from staging platforms in orbit. They’d train constantly to remove space pirates from interstellar vessels, board asteroid mining rigs, and destroy alien queens.

6. 1st Special POGs Detachment

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Dustin D. March

The most elite admin soldiers, waterdogs, and geospatial engineers are honed into a filing force that could clear the VA backlog in minutes or create tasty water from the Kandahar Air Field poo pond with just a mosquito net and iodine tablets.

7. Keyboard Rangers Division

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Exactly as bad-ss as most keyboard rangers. Image: memegenerator.net

Honestly, the Keyboard Rangers Division is just a way to corral all those Facebook and reddit commenters who keep talking smack about killing ISIS but can’t find a recruiter’s office to save their lives. Keyboard Rangers would be given access to computers that look completely normal, but don’t broadcast to the outside world.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 tactical blunders the British made in the Revolutionary War

The American War of Independence, as the British like to call it, was the the rebels’ war to lose.


With the superior military and economy of Britain, many expected the rebellion in the colonies to be over quickly. So, how did the world’s greatest superpower of the time fail to subdue an insurrection in the small colonies of America?

The truth is there are numerous reasons, but at least four of those happen to be costly mistakes on the part of the British.

1. The Battle of Bunker Hill

 

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Maybe if the Brits had issued sunglasses, things could have been different. (Painting: The Battle of Bunker’s Hill by E. Percy Morgan)

The British had a knack for defeating the Americans at such a high cost that they themselves often had to retreat after the battle.

This began very early in the war with the Battle of Bunker Hill. The British charged the American redoubts on Breed’s Hill repeatedly and although they eventually drove the Americans back, they lost so many experienced officers and men that General Clinton remarked, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.”

Due to the British military system, those loses were difficult to replace.

The British attack was a blunder for several reasons.

The preferred British tactics of the time favored bayonet skills over shooting skills. The Americans had defensive works and were crack shots. They were famously told, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

As the British advanced across open ground they were mowed down by American sharpshooters. Their return volleys were ineffectual because of the American defenses. Once the British successfully stormed the redoubt on their third attempt, the Americans simply retreated, as they lacked bayonets with which to fight the redcoats.

Worst of all for the British, they could have simply cut off the neck of the peninsula and left the Americans with nowhere to run.

2. Howe’s capture of Philadelphia

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
A color mezzotint of General Sir William Howe. (From the Anne S.K. Brown Military History Collection at Brown University | PD-US)

Gen. Howe’s capture of Philadelphia was rife with tactical and strategic blunders that likely spelled the beginning of the end of Britain’s hopes of quelling the American Revolution.

Howe’s first major blunder was wanting to take Philadelphia in the first place. Typical Continental strategy of the day said to drive the enemy from the field and take his capital, at which point he will capitulate. However, after taking several American cities and defeating the Americans in multiple battles, this outcome had failed to materialize.

Yet, Howe, the commander-in-chief of British forces in America, failed to realize this and strove to capture Philadelphia.

This action might not have gone down as such an incredible blunder if it hadn’t been for another issue — it left Gen. Burgoyne’s troops without support in the Hudson River Valley.

As most American high school students know, American forces under Gen. Horatio Gates were able to surround and capture the British force at the Battle of Saratoga. This victory brought the much needed support of France and ended British hopes of conquering New England.

Howe would successfully capture Philadelphia but the Continental Congress escaped into the Pennsylvania countryside. In order to secure New York, Howe would have to abandon Philadelphia the next year.

3. The Battle of Cowpens

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
The Battle of Cowpens, painted by William Ranney in 1845. The scene depicts an unnamed black soldier (left) firing his pistol and saving the life of Colonel William Washington (on white horse in center).

The Battle of Cowpens was a major turning point towards the end of the war, and another costly blunder for the British.

British forces, led by the young, brash, Col. Banastre Tarleton, were seeking to advance into North Carolina after successfully subduing much of Georgia and South Carolina.

Tarleton’s arrogance and overconfidence were playing right into a trap that the American commander, Daniel Morgan, had set for him. Morgan planned to use his militia as bait, to lure Tarleton into a false sense of victory and then hit him hard with his Continental Regulars.

Tarleton helped Morgan’s cause by driving his force relentlessly in pursuit of the Americans. His men had nearly run out of food and had been roused at two in the morning to continue their pursuit of Morgan. They arrived at the battlefield weak and exhausted.

Once engaged, Morgan’s ruse worked like a charm. The British force suffered over 100 men killed, 200 men wounded, and 500 men and two cannons captured. Combined with a defeat at King’s Mountain prior to the battle, the British position in the South was becoming more precarious.

4. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Painting of the Battle of Guilford Court House (March 15, 1781) from Soldiers of the American Revolution by H. Charles McBarron.

Exasperated by the losses at King’s Mountain and Cowpens, Lord Cornwallis sallied forth against Gen. Nathaniel Greene’s numerically superior force.

Determined to pin down Greene and decisively defeat his army in the south, Cornwallis sought battle at Guilford Courthouse where Greene’s army was camped. Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, Cornwallis’ troops engaged.

The battle was the largest of the southern theatre and despite his numerical advantage, Greene was unable to defeat Cornwallis’ veteran troops. After over two hours of intense combat, Greene withdrew his army from the field.

Though Cornwallis had defeated Greene, his victory was pyrrhic, and failed to decisively destroy the Patriot army. Cornwallis had lost nearly a quarter of his force killed or wounded in the battle. Losses that were increasingly difficult to absorb for the British army.

Cornwallis’ fateful decision forced him to withdraw to Yorktown to await reinforcements. At Yorktown, Cornwallis’ tactical blunders would cost the British the war. First, he failed to breakout when he had the chance, then he gave up his outer defenses, hastening his defeat.

With no reinforcements and under siege, Cornwallis surrendered his force to Gen. Washington, effectively ending hostilities in the American Revolution.

Articles

19 photos that beautifully illustrate the symmetry of the Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal


America’s military is known for its high standards — but of all the sister service branches, the Marine Corps take perfection to another level.

Also read: 21 photos showing the awesomeness of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

And maintaining that excellence has been no small feat, considering the Corps has served a role in every conflict in US history. That’s because the Marines operate on sea, air, and land, and can respond to a crisis in less than 24 hours with the full force of a modern military.

To celebrate the Corps, we’ve pulled some of their best shots ever.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Marine Corps Military Free Fall Instructors assigned to Marine Detachment — Fort Bragg, release the ashes of Sgt. Brett Jaffe (1971-2012), a Marine rigger, above Phillips Drop Zone at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., on July 26, 2012. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Sgt. Maj. Scott T. Pile speaks to 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines and sailors embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island parked pierside at Naval Base San Diego Aug. 9. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Lance Cpl. Kyle J. Palmer (left), holds a mortar tube steady as Lance Cpl. Samuel E. Robertson (right), mortarmen with the 81mm Mortars Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, grabs another mortar round during a joint live fire exercise, July 14. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
US Marines assigned to Georgian Liaison Team-9 and Georgian Army soldiers assigned to the 33rd Light Infantry Battalion make their way to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force depart the USS Essex (LHD 2) on a combat rubber raiding craft during Amphibious Squadron Three/Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training (PMINT) off the coast of San Diego March 4, 2015. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
U.S. Marines with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (BLT 2/1), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct a Table 3 combat marksmanship course of fire as a part of sustainment training on the flight deck of the USS San Diego (LPD 22), Oct. 1. | Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus, U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Drill Instructor Sgt. Daniel Anderson motivates recruits during physical training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on December 4, 2014. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa ascend ropes during an obstacle course on Rota Naval Base, Spain, Feb. 26, 2015. | Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza, U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
A Marine salutes the American flag during a wreath laying ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The ceremony commemorated the 70th anniversary of the battle for Iwo Jima. With most of the surviving veterans in their 80’s and 90’s, surviving Marines visited the memorial in remembrance of their brothers in arms. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
A Marine supervises from the center of The Basic School permanent personnel battalion during a 10-mile hike aboard the westside of Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 28, 2013. | Photo by Lance Cpl. Cuong Le, U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Marines From Recruiting Station Lansing, Recruiting Sub-Stations Grand Rapids North and South, participate in the opening ceremony for the Grand Rapids Pond Hockey Classic, Jan 25. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Drill Instructor Sgt. Jonathan B. Reeves inspects and disciplines recruits with Platoon 1085, Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Marines with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, hastily reload an M777 howitzer with a 155 mm artillery shell during a multiple-rounds fire mission as a part of a two-day dual-fire training exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Nov. 13, 2013. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare to conduct a high altitude high opening (HAHO) jump from a CH-53 Super Stallion during category 3 sustainment training in Louisburg, North Carolina. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Sgt. William Wickett, 2nd Radio Battalion, performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, N.C., March 5, 2013. | Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon marches in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on their way to perform for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington April 12, 2014. | U.S. Marine Corps

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28. During the event, drill instructors motivated each recruit to try their best while conducting each set of exercises. Annually, more than 17,000 males recruited from the Western Recruiting Region are trained at MCRD San Diego. | Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas, U.S. Marine Corps

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles

Is the new Iranian fighter a paper tiger?

Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.


But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Lineart of the Qaher-313 mockup based on estimations. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.

The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins Defense Ministry officials at the unveiling of the Bavar 373 SAM system. (Photo: Tasnim)

The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Public Domain

The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Iran has reportedly made a killer drone based on a secret U.S.-designed RQ-170 Sentinel.

This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.

Articles

This drill sergeant saved 8 soldiers in the most heroic way

Inspired by his favorite hero Audie Murphy, Pfc. John Baker, an assistant machine gunner, found himself getting ready to battle enemy forces in the Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, in the fall of 1966.


Assigned to Company A of the 27th Army infantry, Baker’s unit was sent out on a mission to help support a sister company trapped by an aggressive and well-supplied Viet Cong force.

Shortly after Baker and his unit arrived at the combat zone in the early morning, intel reports suggested that the enemy had grown to nearly 3,000.

Without regard for their own lives, 257 allied troops loaded their weapons and proceeded into the heart of the jungle.

“The jungle itself was so thick, it looked like going into a wooded area at night,” Baker recalls.

Related: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

As the sun began to rise, enemy gunfire rang out in multiple directions. Baker removed his gear and used his 5-foot 2-inch build to crawl approximately 20-yards undetected, where he discovered several enemy bunkers. Baker quickly returned to brief his CO.

Enemy gunfire was again broke out, temporarily trapping Baker and his squad.

“The only way we could get out was fight our way out,” Baker proudly states.

As the chaos mounted, Baker bravely took the left flank and blew up a few enemy bunkers. Then he spotted several wounded soldiers and carried him to the rear for medical treatment.

Also Read: This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns ‘Vietnam War’ documentary series

Baker replenished his ammo and ran back into the fight killing a few VC snipers along the way.

Then, it happened. Boom!

An enemy grenade detonated nearby causing Baker to sustain multiple fragmentation injuries. He dusted himself off and got right back into the fight. At the end of the intense firefight, Baker was credited for killing 10 enemy troops, destroying six enemy bunkers and saving eight allied troops.

After Baker returned from Vietnam, he worked as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson in South Carolina. During his time there, he was informed by his company commander that President Johnson was to award him with the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal
Medal of Honor Recipient John F. Baker, Jr. at his ceremony.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear Baker’s story firsthand for yourself.

MedalOfHonorBook, YouTube
Articles

How a simple metal tube setup can rain death on the bad guys

To an infantry squad leader, having the powerful tool of “mortars-on-station” gains allied forces a massive battlefield advantage. Setting up the weapon system can be fast and flawless with a well-trained crew.


A mortar tube is comprised of an elongated, closed metal tube mounted on a base plate.

On the bottom of the mortar tube is a fixed firing pin. Once a mortar shell is loaded and dropped into the tube, it slides down and strikes the firing pin which causes the mortar’s propellant to ignite creating gas pressure — launching that sucker at the bad guys.

Simple, right? (Images via Giphy)

Related: This is the dummy’s guide to the rail gun

The mortar round itself is made up of several vital but straightforward parts.

Its main components are made up of the impact fuse at the top – which triggers the exploder – followed by the high-explosive filler in the central portion of the body.

The anatomy of a mortar round. (Images via Giphy)The propellant charges are made up of two components: The primary charge and augmented charges — both located in the tail section.

The augmented charges can be added or removed based on the speed or range the mortarman wishes it to travel.

Also Read: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

Modern mortars are designed to provide short-range indirect fire at high angles, typically between 45 and 80 degrees. They are relatively light-weight in nature making them more accessible to carry while on a foot patrol. It’s much better than hauling a 155mm Howitzer artillery shell.

That sh*t is heavy.

In the event the bad guys do get “froggy,” the mortarmen on the ground can quickly and efficiently set up the mortar system while the infantrymen accurately get a fix on the enemy’s position and make it rain 81mm mortar — it’s a beautiful spectacle.

Check out Military History Visualized’s video below to get the complete visual mortar breakdown for yourself.

(Military History Visualized, YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The ridiculous way British sailors were ordered to stop U-boats in WW1

In the opening days of WW1, Unterseeboots, better known simply as U-boats, proved to be a potent and constant threat to Allied ships, with one U-boat identified as SM U-9 infamously killing nearly 1,500 British sailors in less than an hour by sinking three armoured British cruisers on Sept. 22, 1914. That same U-boat would go on to sink over a dozen British ships during its naval career, with targets ranging from small fishing boats caught in open water to the Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.


Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal

The Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.

The reason for the U-boat success in the early going of the war was, in part, due to the fact that when they were submerged they were undetectable by technology of the day.

Another factor that played into German hands is that the Allies, especially the British, consistently downplayed the danger posed by submarines and their value in combat. In fact, at first British Naval brass simply refused to acknowledge that U-boats were sinking ships. For example, the aforementioned actions of U-boat SM U-9 were initially attributed to mines.

In short, British Naval officers had little faith in the potential of submarines and wrote them off as a mere fascination that had no real potential in combat beyond novelty. Thus, they did little at first to try to come up with viable ways to combat them.

Things got real, however, when U-boats like SM U-9 began targeting British supply ships, almost bringing the country to its knees when it found itself unable to secure even basic provisions for its citizens and factories.

A solution was needed. But how to take out a target that is capable of disappearing at will?

It was quickly noted that one weakness of the U-boat was that it needed to use its periscope to mark its target before attacking. This presented a brief, but exploitable window of opportunity to attack the craft in some way. But how?

Up until the introduction of depth charges in 1916, while mines and large nets were utilized to protect certain areas with some minor effect, the conclusion of the Admiralty Submarine Attack Committee was that the best thing to do was simply for ships to either run away from or try to ram the U-boats when the periscope was spotted.

Naturally, beyond risking damage to your own vessel, getting closer to the thing that’s about to shoot you with an otherwise somewhat unreliably accurate torpedo isn’t ideal, nor is necessarily trying to run away when you’re already a marked target. However, it is at least noted that with the periscope up, U-boats couldn’t go faster than about 6 knots and, as stated, torpedoes of the age weren’t terribly accurate or reliable so the more distance you could get between you and the U-boat the better. In the end, these two methods weren’t totally ineffective, but a better solution was still needed.

Here’s how a fire department fought the revolution that created the Panama Canal

German submarine, U-9, on return Wilhelmshaven, Germany.

(Illustration by Willy Stöwer)

This all got the wheels turning among the military think tanks, with the result being some rather humorous proposals as to how to solve the U-boat problem, with particular emphasis put on somehow taking out the periscope. After all, without the periscope, the U-boat’s only way to target a foe would be to completely surface, making it a relatively easy target for more traditional and accurate weaponry. With proper escorts for the supply ships, this could easily solve the U-boat problem.

But how to take out the periscope?

A suggestion by the British Board of Invention and Research was to train seagulls to fly at the periscopes, which would both make the presence of the periscope more apparent and potentially obscure the vision of the person looking through the periscope long enough to take action… To do this, it was suggested that they feed seagulls in certain regions they wanted protected through periscope like devices.

Next up, there was a suggestion to simply put a type of paint in the water with the hopes that it would get on the periscope lens, blinding the operator.

Going back to animals, a sea lion trainer called Joseph Woodward was hired to look into the possibility of training sea lions to detect U-boats and then hopefully alert the British of their presence. Unfortunately it isn’t known whether this method was effective, though the Royal Society does note that the training of at least some sea lions was performed. We presume given that the program wasn’t expanded beyond trials that it wasn’t terribly effective or perhaps not practical.

As you might imagine, none of these methods went anywhere. But this brings us to the rather absurd method that does seem to have been put into practice.

In the early days of the war, sailors were put on small patrol boats, all equipped with the latest and greatest in anti-submarine technology — large hammers and bags.

They were thus instructed that if they saw a periscope popping up to the surface, they were to try to get close to it, then have one person place a bag over the periscope while another got their Whack-A-Mole on in an attempt to destroy it, hopefully all before any target could be identified and a torpedo launched.

Exactly how effective this tactic is isn’t clear but we do know that it was popular enough for at least one senior officer aboard the HMS Exmouth to enlist the help of burly blacksmiths with extra large hammers to patrol with sailors aboard the smaller boats. With their amazing hammering abilities, both in strength and blow accuracy, presumably it was hoped they’d do a better job than your average sailor at quickly taking out a periscope.

Of course, as more sophisticated technologies were developed, this tactic, sadly, became obsolete. But never forget for a brief, but glorious time in history, there was a guy who could claim his job was to hunt submarines with a giant hammer, no doubt giving a cry of “For Asgard!!!” before smiting his foe.

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

Articles

This is why the Air Force is replacing JSTARS

When the B-52 is over 60 years old, and a large number of F-15 Eagles are over 30, it seems surprising that the Air Force is looking to replace a plane that won’t even be in service for twenty years until later this year.


However, according to an Air Force News Service article, the Air Force is looking to replace the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, which didn’t achieve its initial operating capability until December 1997 according to an Air Force fact sheet. This plane is an all-seeing eye that looks for and tracks ground targets, using the AN/APY-7, a 24-foot long synthetic aperture radar, according to a Northrop Grumman data sheet.

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The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint Air Force – Army program. The Joint STARS uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines. The aircraft is the only airborne platform in operation that can maintain realtime surveillance over a corps-sized area of the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

So, why is this system, which isn’t even old enough to drink, suddenly planned for replacement? The answer is in the airframe.

The E-8, like the E-3 Sentry, is based on the Boeing 707, a jet that first flew just over 59 years ago. With the exception of Omega Aerial Refueling Services, nobody operates this aircraft commercially.

Furthermore, according to a 2015 FlightGlobal.com report, the E-8s were produced by acquiring second-hand 707s. A September 2016 Air Force report noted that those second-hand 707s had as many as 60,000 flight hours before they had been purchased for conversion.

One JSTARS that had to be written off was built in 1967, according to DefenseTech.org.

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Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

In other words, these are old airframes and they’ve had a lot of use – even before the Air Force gave the 16-plane fleet over 1 million flight hours collectively (as of this past September). That is an average of 62,500 flight hours per plane — meaning that some of the E-8 aircraft could have in excess of 120,000 total flight hours.

That’s the equivalent of 5,000 days in the air.

What is the Air Force looking towards in replacing the E-8C? The JSTARS recapitalization project is likely to involve a smaller jet. According to a 2014 report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, Northrop Grumman is testing a new JSTARS based off a Gulfstream V business jet.

Boeing’s web site is touting a version of the 737 jet as its entry, attempting to partially piggyback on experience with the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon.

Reports indicate the Air Force plans to start retiring the JSTARS in 2019.

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3 unsung World War II female spies who helped make D-Day a victory

It has been 75 years since upward of 150,000 Allied troops began storming the beaches of Normandy by air, land, and sea. As the June 6 anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in military history approaches, journalist Sarah Rose illuminated several less widely known combat heroes who fought for the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe in Operation Overlord: Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, and Odette Sansom. They are among the 39 female agents who served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secret World War II intelligence agency created in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze.”

“Women are the hidden figures of D-Day,” says Rose, who started researching the history of women in combat and was surprised to learn that their roles dated back to World War II. “People tend to think women were ‘just’ secretarial couriers and messengers. No, there were female special forces agents on the ground and working to keep the Allies from being blown back into the water. They did what men did. They led men.”


In her new book, D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II, Rose chronicles three of these agents’ contributions to the Allied victory in Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe.

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Aliases: Monique; Denise Urbain, Whitebeam. 1919-1944 (UK National Archives)

1. Andrée Borrel, the first female combat paratrooper, fought for the liberation of France until Nazis executed her a month after D-Day.

Born to a working-class family on the outskirts of Paris after World War I, Borrel left school at 14. She had a job at a Paris bakery counter when World War II broke out.

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The German military defeated France in June 1940, but many French citizens took up arms in a resistance to Adolf Hitler and his troops. (German Federal Archive)

Once the war began, Borrel left Paris and took a crash course in nursing with the Red Cross.

After a stint treating people wounded by the German Army, she joined a group of French Resistance operatives organizing and operating one of the country’s largest underground escape networks, the Pat O’Leary line. She aided at least 65 Allied evaders (mainly British Royal Air Force airmen shot down over enemy territory) on their journeys out of France to Spain through the Pyrenees.

When she herself got ratted out, she escaped to Lisbon, Portugal. She then moved to London, eager to continue fighting for the liberation of France. In the spring of 1942, the SOE recruited her. She was trained not only to jump behind enemy lines, but also to spy on, sabotage, and kill Axis troops occupying her home country.

Borrel parachuted into France in September of 1942, becoming the first female combat agent to do so. She worked as a courier for the SOE network Physician (nicknamed “Prosper”), which raised bands of Resistance members in the north to carry out guerilla attacks against Nazi troops. Moving between Paris and the countryside, she coordinated aerial supply drops and recruited, armed, and trained Resistance members.

She rose to second in command of the network’s Paris circuit, which was also funneling enemy intelligence back to the Allies in London. She was in the SOE’s first training class for female agents, where she learned skills from hand-to-hand combat to Morse code. When asked, “How might you kill a Nazi using what you have on you?” she is said to have responded: “I would jam a pencil through his brain. And he’d deserve it.”

Her commanding officer described her as “the best of us all.”

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Borrel was sent to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in July 1944, a month after D-Day. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Nazis arrested Borrel in 1943 and sent her to a concentration camp.

Nazis, allegedly leveraging intelligence from a double agent, arrested Borrel and fellow Physician leaders in June 1943. After being interrogated and imprisoned around Paris, she was transferred to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in July 1944 with three other female SOE agents and executed a month after D-Day.

Even from prison, she is said to have continued fighting by inserting coded messages about her captors in several letters to her sister. She was 24.

Honors: Croix de Guerre, Medal of the Resistance, the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct

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1905-2004 Aliases: Artist, Odile, Irène, Marguerite, Adèle. (Records of Special Operations Executive)

2. Lise de Baissac parachuted into France twice and became the No. 2 commander of a French Resistance group fighting Nazis during the Battle of Normandy.

Andrée Borrel was the first female SOE agent to parachute into France during World War II, but her jumping partner, 37-year-old Lise de Baissac, was right behind her. The daughter of a wealthy family in British-ruled Mauritius, de Baissac was in France when Hitler’s troops moved into Paris in 1940. She fled to the south and then to London. When the SOE started recruiting multilingual women as agents, she joined the fight.

After parachuting into Central France with Borrel, de Baissac set up an Allied safe house for agents in the town of Poitiers in western France, selecting an apartment near Gestapo headquarters — a hiding-in-plain-sight strategy she felt would arouse less suspicion.

She bicycled around occupied territory as a liaison among different underground networks, often riding 60-70 kilometers a day and carrying contraband. On one occasion, a Nazi stopped her and her clandestine radio operator, patting them down. The officer searched them for guns, which they didn’t have, so he let them go. She’d later report that a radio crystal fell out of her skirt as she was leaving but that she leaned over, grabbed the crystal off the ground, and pedaled on.

In August of 1943, when her network in Poitiers was blown, the SOE airlifted her back to England by Lysander aircraft. She trained new female SOE recruits in Scotland. In April of 1944, after recovering from a broken leg, she jumped back into occupied France. She made her way to Normandy, joining her brother, fellow SOE agent Claude de Baissac, in leading a network of Resistance fighters in Normandy. They carried out attacks to weaken Nazi communication and transporation circuits, strategically cutting phone lines and blowing up roads, railways, and bridges to hinder the movement of German reinforcements Hitler was ordering to the beaches.

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Sherman tanks of British 30th Corps passing through Bayeux, France. (Imperial War Museum)

De Baissac raced out of Paris to assist the allies when she learned D-Day was imminent.

On June 5, 1944, de Baissac was in Paris recruiting when she learned D-Day was imminent. She biked for three days, speeding through Nazi formations, sleeping in ditches, and reaching her brother and their Resistance circuit headquarters in Normandy.

As the bloody Normandy campaign raged and the Allies struggled to penetrate the Axis front, the de Baissacs continued leading espionage and sabotage operations. They gathered intelligence on enemy positions and transmitted messages back to England, helping lay the groundwork for Operation Cobra, the Allied breakout in which U.S. Army forces came out of the peninsula and pierced Hitler’s front line seven weeks after D-Day.

After the war, she worked for the BBC.

Honors: MBE, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur Croix de Guerre avec Palme

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Aliases: Lise 1912-1995 (Imperial War Museum)

3. Odette Sansom blew up Nazi train lines and, upon being arrested and tortured, told Gestapo officers: “I have nothing to say.”

Odette Sansom was a 28-year-old homemaker in Somerset, England when she answered the British War Office’s call for images of the French coastline, offering photographs she had from her childhood. Born in France as “Odette Brailly” in 1912, she had lost her father in the final months of the World War I. With World War II raging and her English husband already away fighting in the British Army, she didn’t take lightly the decision to leave her three young daughters. But with Hitler already occupying her old home and threatening her new one, she felt compelled to join the fight.

She was tough, determined, and persistent. When a concussion during parachute training left her unable to jump into France, she docked in Gibraltar on a gunrunner disguised as a sardine fishing boat, only to arrive in France’s “free” zone the same week in November 1942 that Hitler’s forces began occupying the region. So began several months working as a courier in SOE agent Capt. Peter Churchill’s network, Spindle. Churchill relied heavily on her to set up clandestine radio networks, coordinate parachute drops, and arm Resistance fighters in the Rhône Alps in preparation for D-Day.

She and Churchill fell in love and continued working together mobilizing Resistance members in southeast France until April 1943, when the Gestapo arrested them. Knowing that they were at risk of being executed as spies, she convinced their captors that her commanding officer was a relative of UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill and that she was his wife and only in France at her urging. Peter Churchill was not, in fact, related to Britain’s prime minister, but Sansom figured that if she could trick the Germans into thinking they were VIPs, there would be incentive to keep them alive.

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Odette Sansom. (Imperial War Museum)

Sansom emerged from the largest, most lethal women’s concentration camp in history with evidence used to convict its leaders of war crimes.

While Sansom was imprisoned around France and then at Ravensbrück concentration camp, enduring solitary confinement and somewhere between 10-14 torture sessions – she survived.

By the time Ravensbrück was evacuated in the spring of 1945, Sansom’s back was broken, and she had been starved and beaten, with her toenails pulled out and her body burned in attempts to get her to reveal information about her fellow agents. She is said to have revealed nothing.

In the years after the war, Sansom’s testimony was later to convict Ravensbrück camp commandant Fritz Suhren, as well as other SS officers, of war crimes. Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945 came less than a year after the sweeping invasions that began the Battle of Normandy, now memorialized as “D-Day.”

Honors: George Cross, Member of the Order of the British Empire, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur


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

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This is what happened when Japan gave the F-16 steroids

When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.


According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.

However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.

This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.

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A Mitsubishi F-2A taxis during a 2009 exercise. Note the dumb bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.

In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.

AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.

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A comparison of the F-2 (in light blue) and the F-16 (in orange). (Wikimedia Commons)

For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.

By comparison, an Air Force fact sheet notes that the F-16 has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour, and MilitaryFactory.com credits it with the ability to carry up to 17,000 pounds of ordnance.

In essence, the F-2 paid a visit to BALCO, and got some good steroids, going a little faster and carrying a bit more than your normal F-16. Japan has also improved the plane’s radar.

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Navy Secretary said the F-35 will likely be the last manned strike fighter

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Photo: Wikimedia


Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will likely be the last manned strike fighter ever bought or flown by the Navy.

“Unmanned systems, particularly autonomous ones, have to be the new normal in ever-increasing areas. For example, as good as it is, and as much as we need it and look forward to having it in the fleet for many years, the F-35 should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly,” said Mabus, speaking to the Navy League’s 2015 Sea Air Space symposium at National Harbor, Md.

Citing unmanned systems as a key element of needed innovation in a fast-changing global technological environment, Mabus said he plans to stand up a new Navy office for unmanned systems and appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems. The new office, called N-9, will seek to streamline various unmanned systems efforts and technology, Mabus told the crowd.

Mabus specified 3-D printing as an example of encouraging progress in innovation, holding up a small hand-held drone called the Close-In-Autonomous Disposable Aircraft, or CICADA.

“This Close-In Autonomous Disposable Aircraft can be made with a 3-D printer, and is a GPS-guided disposable unmanned aerial vehicle that can be deployed in large numbers to ‘seed’ an area with miniature electronic payloads, such as communication nodes or sensors,” he said.

“The potential for technology like this- and the fact that we can print them — make them – ourselves, almost anywhere, is incredible.  This is going to fundamentally change manufacturing and logistics, not just in the Department of the Navy, but also in the entire U.S.”

The creation of a new Navy UAS office could carry implications for a handful of high-profile developmental programs for the service. For instance, it could impact the ongoing debates about needed requirements for the Navy’s carrier-launched drone program, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program (UCLASS).

Some members of Congress are demanding the platform have maximum stealth and weapons capability so the drone can penetrate advanced enemy air defenses and deliver weapons as well as conduct long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, missions.

In addition, Mabus’ comments seem to indicate that the Navy’s conceptual developmental effort to envision a new carrier-launched fighter to replace the F/A-18 Super Hornet – called the F/A-XX program – may wind up engineering an unmanned platform for the mission.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, told Military.com he supported Mabus’ announcement to create a new UAS office and Deputy Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems.

“Creating a senior post focused on unmanned aviation is an important recognition by the Navy that this technology will do much to determine the service’s future and requires senior leadership within the Department to ensure its successful utilization. The future of the Carrier Air Wing is linked with the development of an unmanned system able to execute long-range, penetrating strike missions in anti-access environments. I am hopeful that whoever fills this new post will take a holistic, strategic look at the Navy’s unmanned portfolio and be a strong advocate for that vision moving forward,” Forbes said in a written statement.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The origins of the moon’s ‘sunburn’

Every object, planet or person traveling through space has to contend with the Sun’s damaging radiation — and the Moon has the scars to prove it.

Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun — suggests how the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.


The Sun releases a continuous outflow of particles and radiation called the solar wind. The solar wind washes over the planets, moons and other bodies in our solar system, filling a bubble of space — called the heliosphere — that extends far past the orbit of Pluto.

Magnetic Bubbles on the Moon Reveal Evidence of “Sunburn”

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Here on Earth, we’re largely protected from the damaging effects of the solar wind: Because the solar wind is magnetized, Earth’s natural magnetic field deflects the solar wind particles around our planet so that only a small fraction of them reach our planet’s atmosphere.

But unlike Earth, the Moon has no global magnetic field. However, magnetized rocks near the lunar surface do create small, localized spots of magnetic field that extend anywhere from hundreds of yards to hundreds of miles. This is the kind of information that needs to be well understood to better protect astronauts on the Moon from the effects of radiation. The magnetic field bubbles by themselves aren’t robust enough to protect humans from that harsh radiation environment, but studying their structure could help develop techniques to protect our future explorers.

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Research using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission suggests that lunar swirls, like the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl imaged here by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, could be the result of solar wind interactions with the Moon’s isolated pockets of magnetic field.

(NASA LRO WAC science team)

“The magnetic fields in some regions are locally acting as this magnetic sunscreen,” said Andrew Poppe, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who researches the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields using data from NASA’s ARTEMIS mission along with simulations of the Moon’s magnetic environment.

These small bubbles of magnetic “sunscreen” can also deflect solar wind particles — but on a much smaller scale than Earth’s magnetic field. While they aren’t enough to protect astronauts by themselves, they do have a fundamental effect on the Moon’s appearance. Under these miniature magnetic umbrellas, the material that makes up the Moon’s surface, called regolith, is shielded from the Sun’s particles. As those particles flow toward the Moon, they are deflected to the areas just around the magnetic bubbles, where chemical reactions with the regolith darken the surface. This creates the distinctive swirls of darker and lighter material that are so prominent they can be seen from Earth — one more piece of the puzzle to help us understand the neighbor NASA plans to re-visit within the next decade.

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