A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

In 2003, the town of Erie, Pennsylvania made national news when an unassuming pizza delivery man walked into a local bank and demanded a quarter of a million dollars from the vault. What happened next would baffle authorities for years and see the crime become one of the most intriguing ever committed in the United States. So what happened?


At roughly 2:30 PM on August 28, 2003, a 46 year old man by the name of Brian Wells walked into the Erie branch of PNC Bank and handed the teller a note that read, “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000. You have only 15 minutes.”

As the teller read the note, Wells informed them that he had a live explosive around his neck that would detonate if the demand wasn’t met. He then pulled down his shirt to reveal a crude, but threatening-looking metal collar with two pipe bombs attached. Wells was also holding a custom made cane that doubled as a shotgun.

Showing a remarkable amount of professionalism, the bank workers informed Wells that it wouldn’t be possible to retrieve that sum of money in such a short amount of time due to the various safeguards to limit access to the vault.

Wells then simply asked for whatever they had available, taking time to grab a lollipop from the counter, which he began to idly suck on whilst waiting for his money.

All-in-all Wells would leave the bank about 12 minutes later with ,702 in cash. He then went to McDonald’s next door for a bit, as you do, after which he headed back to his car.

As you might imagine, hanging around in the parking lot next door to the bank you just robbed isn’t a great way to not get caught. And so it was that Wells found himself tackled by police as he was walking to his vehicle.

Whilst being cuffed, Wells helpfully informed the troopers of the bomb around his neck and that three black men had put it there. He further stated that, as far as he was aware, it would go off any minute.

Naturally, the officers all very abruptly backed away from Wells, no doubt mumbling to themselves that they were “too old for this shit”, if movies from that era have taught me anything. After getting a safe distance away, they called the bomb squad.

As for Wells, for 20 agonizing minutes he sat alone on the concrete, occasionally shouting to officers to check if they’d called his boss to inform him why Wells hadn’t come back to work after the delivery, and inquiring when the bomb squad was going to show up.

Unfortunately for Wells, just a few minutes before said explosives experts arrived, the collar around his neck began beeping- never a good sign. Wells’ calm demeanor disappeared completely at this point and he frantically wiggled backwards in a futile attempt to get away from the bomb. Approximately ten seconds after the beeping started, the collar exploded, killing him.

After the bomb squad checked the collar to ensure all explosives had detonated, the gathered law enforcement began slowly sifting through Wells’ belongings, beginning what would soon become one of the most unusual cases in the annals of law enforcement history.

Most pertinent to the topic at hand, while searching through Wells’ beat up old Geo Metro, they stumbled across several pages of handwritten instructions ominously addressed simply to the “Bomb Hostage”. These instructions, evidently meant for Wells, included several explicit warnings against deviating from them in anyway and were littered with threats of harsh and instantaneous reprisal should they be ignored, including remote detonation of the bomb. Further, on one page it stated, “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”

Later analysis would conclude that these threats were baseless as there was no way to detonate the collar remotely, despite a cell phone seeming to be connected to the bomb; in fact, it was just a realistic looking toy phone.

As for what the instructions were telling Wells to do, beyond of course instructing him to rob the bank, what followed was a twisted scavenger hunt to find several keys which the instructions claimed would delay the timer on the bomb and, eventually, disarm it completely. At that point, they stated he would be able to safely remove it without setting it off. However, it turns out, along with the cell phone being fake, the various key holes weren’t wired or linked to anything.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, experts analysing the collar would later conclude that although the device “looked” dangerous and sophisticated, including a lot of wires that seemed to be connected in significant ways, the guts of the bomb actually had the complexity of, to quote one of the investigators, a “child’s toy“- more or less just two pretty run of the mill pipe bombs connected to two electronic kitchen timers with nothing complicated about any of it. Cut the wires to the timers, no boom.

Further, it turns out even that wasn’t necessary to save Wells’ life, as had he simply reached up and tugged the mechanism to allow it to open and taken it off, this too wouldn’t have triggered the bomb. He could have even simply added time to the timers manually or turned them off if he wanted to leave the collar on without risk.

So what devil made this dastard device of destruction?

Investigators tried to follow the trail laid out in the instructions, traveling several miles to a nearby wood to find another note which in turn directed them to a seemingly random road sign miles in the other direction. The trail went cold at the road sign when a jar that was supposed to contain yet another clue turned up empty. Investigators would later surmise that the killer or killers had learned of Wells’ death and abandoned their plans to continue placing clues for him. Either that, or they’d simply assumed he’d not have had time to get to that point before the bomb would detonate so didn’t bother leaving another message.

With nothing else to go on, investigators turned to looking more into Wells. To begin with, upon initially being arrested, Wells, as noted, had alleged that the collar had been forcibly placed upon him by a group of large black men during a routine pizza delivery. Looking into it, indeed Wells had been working at the still existing and exceptionally well reviewed Mama Mia’s Pizzeria when a call came in from what turned out to be from a payphone at around 1:30p on that day of August 28, 2003. The original person who answered the pizzeria phone couldn’t understand the speaker, so passed it over to Wells, who then took the order and ultimately went out to deliver the pizzas.

Following the trail, investigators went to the site of that last delivery- a TV transmission tower at the end of a dirt road- and found nothing of significance other than a neighbor had stated he’d heard a gunshot at approximately the time Wells would have been there delivering the pizzas.

Local law enforcement and later the FBI further found nothing that would give Wells motive to commit such a bizarre crime had he been the one to instigate it. Wells had no apparent significant outstanding debts or commitments, and was noted as being a model employee and a man of good moral standing. People who knew him described him as a simple man, but also a very nice, and seemingly happy person.

In short, the authorities were at a complete loss. In fact, it’s possible this bizarre crime would have remained a mystery forever had the police not received a phone call a few weeks later from a man called Bill Rothstein.

You see, Rothstein lived near the TV transmission tower Wells had made his final delivery to and had even been interviewed by the FBI who combed his property for clues, finding nothing. This changed, however, when Rothstein inexplicably confessed to having a human body in his freezer.

After being arrested, Rothstein identified the body as being that of Jim Roden, the lover of one of his ex girlfriends, then 54 year old Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein insisted that he had nothing to do with Roden’s death and that his ex had shot and killed Roden during an argument. Not wanting to incur his ex’s vengeful wrath, Rothstein had hidden the body at her insistence and even helped dispose of the murder weapon. However, when Diehl-Armstrong told him to grind up the body and bury it, Rothstein decided enough was enough and confessed.

Now, initially the FBI wrote the whole location of the two crimes off as a bizarre coincidence. That is, until Rothstein told local police that he was so wracked with guilt about the whole ordeal that he’d contemplated killing himself.

Why is this important, you ask?

Well, to prove this, Rothstein directed police to a suicide note he’d stashed away in a drawer. Along with containing a confession about the murder of Roden and his remorse over his involvement, it also for some reason contained the sentence -“This has nothing to do with the Wells case.”

Naturally, this led to some follow up questions about why he’d written that. While Rothstein and Diehl-Armstrong initially flatly denied having anything to do with the collar bomb plot, once again leaving authorities with nothing solid, over the course of many years of investigation that followed, this trail did lead somewhere and things slowly became reasonably clear.

To begin with, it’s important to note that while in her younger years Diehl-Armstrong had been a straight-A student type and ultimately even earned a Master’s degree in college, she also had mental health problems that only got worse with age. On that note, previous to murdering Roden, it came to light that she had shot and killed one Robert Thomas in 1984. As to why she wasn’t in prison for it, she was acquitted as it was deemed self-defense, despite that he’d been apparently just sitting on their couch at the time and she shot him not once, not twice, not thrice, not what we’re going to call frice and, I don’t know, fwivce- but six times.

Further, eight years later in 1992, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. While we can only hope that was naturally induced, it is noteworthy that she managed to finagle a rather sizable legal settlement with the hospital involved over it. She also allegedly had a couple other men in her life who likewise met rather untimely deaths at ages where men not acquainted with Diehl-Armstrong didn’t normally find themselves failing to continue breathing.

Whatever the case with any of that, she was ultimately convicted of the murder of Roden. At the same time, police were still trying to figure out if they could connect her and Rothstein more concretely to the Wells case, but coming up empty…

That is, until Diehl-Armstrong herself became tired of the high security prison life at Muncy Correctional Institution about a year and a half after Wells’ death. She thus requested to be transferred to a minimum-security prison. In exchange for granting her request, she would tell the authorities anything and everything they wanted to know about the Wells’ case, which she subsequently did.

A further break was had getting another side of the story not long after when one Kenneth Barnes’ brother-in-law decided to call the police to let them know Mr. Barnes, a retired individual who’d taken up drug dealing for some extra money, had bragged to him about his own involvement in the pizza collar bomber case. As for Barnes, he was easy for police to find as he was sitting in a prison cell at the time after being arrested for his little side job as a crack dealer. Once confronted, Barnes too had a story of his own to tell the police.

Naturally, the confessions of those involved should be met with some degree of skepticism on the finer points, particularly as they all pointed the finger at someone else being the mastermind behind the whole thing. That caveat out of the way, combining all the evidence and the stories, the generally accepted tale the investigators cobbled together is as follows.

It would seem leading up to the bank robbery, Diehl-Armstrong approached Barnes to see if he wouldn’t mind killing her father. As to why, she believed, whether accurately or not isn’t clear, that his net worth was approximately million (about .7 million today). Notably, in his waning years, he’d begun donating this small fortune to various charities. To ensure she got the bulk sum, she apparently figured it would be best not to wait for him to die naturally, but just kill him immediately.

The problem was when she asked Barnes to take him out, Barnes asked for a sum of 0,000- not exactly something she had lying around, and he was unwilling to do the job with only the promise of money after the inheritance was acquired.

So how to come up with the 0,000 to get M? Well, robbing a bank apparently seemed like the easy solution if one could think of a way to ensure there was no chance of getting caught.

At some point in here, it’s not clear when, Rothstein became involved, with Diehl-Armstrong herself claiming he was the mastermind behind the whole thing in the first place, though most authorities think it likely that it was, in fact, her. And for whatever it’s worth, Barnes claims Diehl-Armstrong herself first asked him if he knew how to make a bomb for the plot, but he did not, and thus Rothstein, who was a bit of a closet genius and worked as a handy-man and shop teacher, did.

Whatever the case, plan developed, they now needed someone to actually go rob the bank and function as the fall-guy should things go wrong.

Enter prostitute Jessica Hoopsick, who was an acquaintance of Barnes through his drug dealing business, including using his house as a bit of a home base to entertain clients, as apparently several prostitutes in the area did.

While elements of Hoopsick’s story, as with all the others involved, are considered somewhat suspect, she claims she was asked by Barnes for someone who might be easily pressured into committing a crime, though she stated she had no knowledge at the time of what the crime would be. In exchange for drugs and money, she thus gave them the name of one of her frequent clients, Wells, as an ideal candidate given he was, to quote her, a “pushover”. Hoopsick also claims that, at least as far as she was aware, Wells had no prior knowledge of the plot before his fateful pizza delivery on the day of his death.

This brings us to Wells’ role in the plan. While there is still some debate on this point, it would actually seem that Wells had known the plan going into the delivery, though had been pressured into agreeing to it in the first place. Whether that is actually true or not, it would appear on the day of the event, he decided to back out.

You might now be thinking, “If he decided to back out, why did he go deliver the pizzas?” Well, it would appear his reticence to remain involved was squarely centered around the fact that in the planning stage, he had been told the bomb would be fake. But upon arriving on the day in question, he discovered they’d lied to him and Rothstein had, in fact, made a real bomb. Thus, when they tried to put the collar on him, he attempted to flee, resulting in a gun being fired as a warning shot, as heard by the neighbor. Further, according to Barnes, he had to punch Wells in the face to get him to allow the collar to be put on.

From there, it is speculated that Wells probably was under the impression he needed to follow the steps as laid out to get the collar off, which would go a long way in explaining why he chose to go get the paper with the next step at the McDonald’s next door, rather than, you know, fleeing the scene of the crime immediately after committing it. Unless of course he simply wanted to get caught, which would have been a massive risk, but perhaps one he felt was better than returning to his compatriots.

Of course, as the bomb put a hole in his chest, we’ll never know what he was thinking at the time. But given that there was no way for Wells to complete the steps the notes required of him in the time allotted, it’s thought by the authorities the conspirators had always planned for him to die. The steps were simply to lead him out of town where the bomb would detonate and they could go collect the cash. Making sure he felt he needed to follow them just ensured he wouldn’t lead police right back to them.

Had they left him alive, even if he wasn’t initially caught, there was little chance Wells wouldn’t be identified and arrested. And on the flip-side, should he be caught before the bomb went off, well, the limited time on the device gave good odds Wells wouldn’t have time to spill the beans. Thus, aside from the mistake of having Wells go to the McDonald’s next to the bank, this was a pretty ingenious plan overall. Had Wells made it out of town, it is likely they would have gotten the cash, with no further leads for the police other than Wells’ body.

This all brings us back to Roden’s death which foiled the whole plan. According to a fellow inmate of Diehl-Armstrong’s, she allegedly told said unnamed inmate that the argument the couple had was over the scheme. Allegedly, Roden told her if she didn’t call off the plot, he was going to tell the police. Rather than nix the plan, she simply decided to kill him and then handed the body over to Rothstein. From there, she allegedly threatened him to keep his mouth shut or he’d get the same.

Whatever the truth of that, in the end, Rothstein died of lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 60, years before any of this would become known, and thus the only one of the primary conspirators to avoid jail time; Diehl-Armstrong met her maker thanks to breast cancer, dying in prison on April 4, 2017. As for Barnes, he joined the pair in the afterlife in June of 2019 at the age of 65 from complications due to diabetes.

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

Military Life

Forget multitasking, this Navy squadron has only one mission — rescue people

The smell of crisp pine in the air and the peaceful quietness of nothing but the rushing of emerald green glacial rivers as they flow down the side of a mountain describes most of the state of Washington. However, this heart-stopping landscape has a potentially lethal side that can claim even the most experienced hikers. But, luckily for those in northern Washington, there’s a highly trained group of Sailors ready to answer the call.


Video produced by Jonathan Snyder, Defense Media Activity

From the frigid waters of the Puget Sound to the dense tree canopies of the Olympic forest to the towering rock facades of the Cascade Mountain Range, Sailors from the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue (NASWI SAR) team provide 24-hour SAR for the fixed winged assets in the area, as well as the civilian population. While most squadrons in the fleet have multi-mission platforms, Whidbey Island SAR’s one focus is rescue.

“Generally, helicopter squadrons around the fleet, whether they’re a Romeo or Sierra Squadron, they’re going to have a multi-mission platform. Those helicopters, pilots and flight crews need to be able to do a multitude set of missions, from the Romeo side, which is hunting subs and possible rescues, where the Sierra side could go from rescue, logistics and anti-mine warfare. Unfortunately, they don’t get to really ever focus on one,” said Lt. Chris Pitcher, NAWSI SAR operations officer. “Our job is to go out and save people, whether it’s pulling them out from the water or from the side of a mountain, and we train almost every day for those different scenarios. So when those scenarios do pop up, we’re not surprised, and we can get the job done and get that person to a higher level of care.”

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Francisco Toledo assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Search and Rescue shuts the door to an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter prior to take off during a high altitude training evolution at NAS Whidbey Island, Sept., 26, 2017. NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue’s primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, they work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Ignacio D. Perez)

Because of this, NAWSI SAR is the only squadron in the fleet that is outfitted with an advance life-support helicopter platform. It allows crews to not only save pilots in case of emergencies, but also work with local hospitals and emergency rooms to provide care for anyone in need of medical attention.

“We are a fully outfitted, advance life-support helicopter platform,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Wayne Papalski, NAWSI SAR’s flight paramedics lead chief petty officer. He explained that the team operates the same way as first responders who save lives after someone calls 911 for a family member. “We strive to mirror ourselves with the civilian community, so that way we can have that continuum of care that started in the civilian community and continue to a local hospital.”

With the millions of visitors the Pacific Northwest sees every year, NAWSI SAR has not only performed rescues in the Cascades and Olympic National Parks, but also in Idaho, Oregon and even Canada. This has made the Sailors learn to quickly adapt to changing environments.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Chief Hospital Corpsman Wayne Papalski assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island Search and Rescue gives the signal to Sailors to safely enter an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a high altitude training evolution in the North Cascades National Park. NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue’s primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, they work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Ignacio D. Perez)

“The terrain here is pretty diverse. You have the ocean that can range from mid 50s to high 40s. You have mountain ranges that can have some of the densest forest with 200-foot firs to some the rockiest sheer rock cliff faces that you can imagine. And once you get past the other side of the Cascades, it turns from this nice coastal 60 degrees here in Whidbey Island into this dry desert that reaches 110 to 112 degrees,” said Pitcher. “It just depends on what the mission calls for, and to be ready to be able to respond to any kind of situation, because, obviously, if the jets go that far, we need to be able to respond.”

The unpredictable landscape has made Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Francisco Toledo learn to be uncomfortable, he said. But he also said that the only way to become comfortable is by constant training.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, we kind of check your ego at the door. We have our own training syllabus, so when you check in, you start from scratch using what you learned previously in the fleet to come up here to make yourself a better aviator or crewman,” said Papalski. “We have a pretty robust training syllabus that takes you throughout the entire state to all of our local working areas. Pretty much any situation that you will probably face as a qualified crewman or pilot, we try to put you in.”

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
LT Chris Pitcher and Lt. Cmdr. Dillon Jackson assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Search and Rescue review mission operations in an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a high altitude training evolution in the North Cascades National Park, Sept., 26, 2017. NAS Whidbey Island Search and Rescue’s primary mission is to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Secondary to that, they work closely with local agencies in order to be a responder to anyone in legitimate danger. ( U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Ignacio D. Perez)

Because of the level of difficulty and danger of the job, Sailors said it leaves a lasting memory. Most believe that when they look back at their careers someday, they will consider their time at Whidbey to be some of the best years they have had.

“Looking back at my four years here, I’ll tell you this is the best command I’ve been at. It’s just been an amazing and humbling experience, getting to do what I got to do up here, and what some of my brothers and sisters in the other room got to do to help people,” said Papalski. “When you look back at your career 20 or 30 years from now and know that you actually did something that was giving more than you were taking, it means a lot.”

popular

How Vietnam-era commo guys talked through the jungles

Throughout history, communications troops have had one job: to make sure those on front lines are able to talk to headquarters. Today’s troops that operate satellite communications and line-of-sight radio waves through mostly barren terrain may not know just how difficult their same job was during the Vietnam War.


In training, it wasn’t uncommon to walk into the classroom and see the number “5” written on the board. When an unfortunate soul would ask about the number, the response was, “that number up on the board? That’s your life expectancy, in seconds, during a firefight.” This is because the PRC-77 radio system weighted 13.5 lbs without batteries. With batteries, spare batteries, and encryption, you’re looking at 54lbs total. The PRC-77 used either a 3-ft or 10-ft antenna but, since the 3-ft whip antenna rarely worked in the jungles, most commo troops were stuck using the 10-footer, which essentially put a big target on their back.

 

 

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

 

Just so we don’t have to get into detail on how FM radio waves work, trust me on this one: radio communication was laughably hard in the thick jungles of Vietnam. While the Army’s 1st Signal Brigade managed to set up a massive communications hubs in Saigon and Thailand, it was with the smaller signal sites scattered throughout the region that allowed troops to talk. Any hilltop would have to be stripped so giant antenna could be built to further amplify communications.

 

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

Commo guys always have — and always will — say “Yep, that antenna looks good enough!” (U.S. Army)

And finally, there’s the overly complicated radio encryption. The early forms of radio encryption, the NESTORs, functioned as the DoD planned, but they were bulky, prone to overheating, rarely worked, greatly decreased sound quality, lowered the range by 10 percent, and had easily-damaged, highly-valuable cables. While a very valuable tool, it was also determined that even if the enemy could decode the encryption, they still wouldn’t understand military jargon.

In short, it was hell for these commo guys. But these men stood among the greats, like Sgt. Allen Lynch and Pfc. Bruce W. Carter— radio operators who received the Medal of Honor for their actions during in Vietnam.

popular

The thing everyone gets wrong about post-apocalypse vehicles

Every generation has concerns about the apocalypse. From doomsday prophets to Y2K bugs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an era of humanity that didn’t include some portion of the population that sincerely believed they were living in the end times. My generation is different, however.


We may be the first generation that seems to be hoping for it.

Between popular blockbusters depicting the end of the world, popular TV shows dramatizing post-apocalyptic survival, and seemingly ever-rising tensions between very real global powers on the world’s stage, my generation didn’t grow up with the specter of nuclear war quite like our parents did. Instead, we grew up in the cynical aftermath: wedged somewhere between the Baby Boomers in power and the young millennials clamoring for it. Those of us in the middle have grown up with a romanticized idea of the end times, if only as a refuge from the problems of today.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Everybody seems to think they’d be the guy IN the car, rather than the one strapped to the front. (Warner Brothers Pictures)

 

There’s a big difference between fantasizing about the end of the world and surviving it

Many of us like to be “prepared” for a bad situation. Maybe that’s because people my age are all old enough to have already lived through one or two. But some take that drive to be prepared a few steps further, intent on not just being ready for the end of the world, but genuinely hoping to thrive once it comes about. Of course, some others settle for wistfully talking about what they’d do if the zombies descended on their house: head to Walmart to stock up, load up on firearms at the local gun store, and then swing by the National Guard armory for a Humvee, right?

No credit scores. No social obligations. No debts, bosses, or reason to get up early. Just you, your survival ride, and hordes of the undead to roll over. There’s just one problem with that idea: your dream survival rides would all get you killed.

Whether you hope to take to the streets in a muscle car like Mad Max or Will Smith in I am Legend, or you plan to drive over your problems in an armored military vehicle, you’re screwed either way.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
This thing would be awesome until anything broke. (U.S. Marines)

 

Armored and specialized survival rides aren’t maintainable

Sure, cruising through the apocalypse in an up-armored humvee or MRAP sounds like your best bet, but those planning on raiding the Motor T lot of their local National Guard center seem to forget that in order to operate all those armored vehicles, the United States employs a veritable army of maintainers, mechanics, and service technicians each with specialized skills and a fair amount of training.

You can’t service these massive vehicles with the floor jack out of your Honda Accord either, and that’s why those pesky diesel mechanics usually have their own building chock-full of heavy lifts and power tools. Ever changed the tire on a Humvee? Even with the right tools on hand, it can be a real pain in the ass. I’d imagine that only gets worse when the old Motor T guys are trying to eat your brains while you’re at it.

Big, specialized vehicles aren’t just hard to work on; they’re hard to find parts for. Specialty vehicles need specialty dealers, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find some other Mercedes 6×6 trucks to cannibalize parts from in a jam. You’re better off on a Vespa that runs than you are in a Mercedes that doesn’t.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
The least believable part of “I am Legend” was a Mustang Cobra driving on these streets. (Warner Brothers Pictures)

 

Sports cars and muscle cars won’t go anywhere

Maybe you’ve got a less pragmatic approach to survival and after a world-ending cataclysm your first priority would be getting your hands on the keys to a brand new mid-engine Corvette, or that ’68 Charger you’ve always dreamed of. After all, with all the current owners dead or zombified, what’s to stop you? Well, the roads for one thing.

Despite the number of potholes on my street, we do tend to enjoy fairly well maintained and clear roads here in the United States. That stops immediately when all the hard-working folks responsible for that start eating each other. That means your super-low sports car will have trouble making it anywhere at all, let alone at the speeds it was designed to achieve.

And then, of course, we get back to that first problem with finding parts and having the know-how required to repair or maintain your vehicle. In many newer performance cars, repairs are as much a digital effort as they are a physical one, and unless you have the specialized equipment you need to communicate with a car’s ECU (or other form of on-board computer), you’re going to be sh*t out of luck when it comes time to throw some wrenches at a problem.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 spies that creatively destroyed the enemy

Spies sacrifice a normal life to provide their country with actionable intelligence. Their patriotism comes at the cost of risking life and limb, imprisonment, and public damnation. Often, they have to think outside the box to accomplish the mission at all costs. The skills earned through the crucible of training combined with a mastery of language and culture make them an exceptional force on (and off) the battlefield.

Intelligence officers aren’t usually recognized (for obvious reasons) for their work in clandestine operations, but their technique, brilliance, and sex appeal has captured the imagination of the masses for generations. When the Government demands secrecy and surgical destruction, they send the best of the best.

Listed below, in no particular order, are five times that spies broke the mold to make the impossible possible.


This OSS Agent Turned Dinner Rolls into Bombs
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Frank Gleason used dinner rolls to transport explosives

Frank Gleason was an officer in the Army’s Engineer Corps during World War II that commanded the most devastatingly brilliant sabotage missions against the Japanese occupation of China. Leveraging small unit leadership and training from Camp X, he lead attacks on bridges, rail lines, and communication systems.

He later served as a supply officer at Cam Ranh Bay in the South China Sea, sending supplies to troops in Vietnam. Gleason was presented the Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian award, on March 21, 2018.

Virginia Hall’s critical role as an American spy
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Virginia Hall smuggled documents inside her fake leg

Virginia Hall had a hunting accident early on in life that left her with an amputated leg. It was her prosthetic limb (which she named “Cuthbert”) that ended her career aspirations of becoming a diplomat. During World War II, she joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and spent 15 months supporting the French Underground.

She also worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) by relaying information of German activity and disrupting their logistics whenever possible. She smuggled documents in her prosthetic leg and evaded detection with forged French documents. The Germans called her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.”

The Grave of the Man Who Never Was: Operation Mincemeat
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Major William Martin was a corpse

Glyndwr Michael wasn’t a spy, and nor was Major William Martin, but the deception here was a monumental success of intelligence operations. Glyndwr Michael was a homeless man who died from eating rat poison. His corpse, however, was destined for greater things. The body was drafted and promoted into the Royal Marines. British Intelligence created a backstory for the corpse, complete with a picture of a fiancee, two love letters, a diamond ring with receipt, a furious letter from his disapproving father, and a notice of overdraft from the bank. The body was dressed according to its rank and sent to float off the coast of Spain, attached to a briefcase that contained a (phony) letter, outlining allied war plans. The Germans discovered these plans, adjusted their strategy accordingly, and, in turn, left a key landing spot without important defenses.

The story of love-struck, ID-losing, overdrafting Royal Marine who was marrying a girl his father didn’t approve of was convincing enough to the Germans. You know, as a veteran, I feel personally attacked by the fact that they believed this without question…

 Louis-Pierre Dillais disguised himself as a hippie

Operation Satanic (originally Operation Satanique) was an attack on the Rainbow Warrior on July 10, 1985, ship was owned and operated by GreenPeace and docked in Port Auckland, New Zealand. The crew was on a mission to protest a planned nuclear test in Moruroa by the French.

Louis-Pierre Dillais and Jean-Luc Kister joined the protesters under the ruse that they shared their ideologies. When they believed the crew had disembarked, they attached explosives to the hull of the ship. However, some of the crew returned earlier than anticipated, and the detonation that sunk the ship also killed a crew member.

Meet the KGB Spies Who Invented Fake News | NYT Opinion
youtu.be

Gorbachev ordered the KGB to lie about AIDS

In the 1980s, the former Soviet Union created a disinformation campaign to convince the world that the United States created the AIDS/HIV virus in Fort Detrick, Maryland, to kill off African-Americans and the LGBT community. The Soviets made their move, and with frightening efficiency, the world believed that the U.S. would do such a thing without evidence. Eventually, we forced the Soviet Union to its knees in 1991, but they fought dirty the whole way down.

Military Life

6 tips to get you ready for your next tattoo

Service members and veterans of all ages love to document their military experiences and life milestones through tattoos. It’s a solid way to remember all the cool things you did while wearing the uniform.

For many, the art of the tattoo is the perfect balance between self-expression and reflection, but some people don’t have the greatest experience when they sit in the artist’s chair for one reason or another. We’ve got a few tips to make sure you’re a happy camper as you walk out of that next long ink session.


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Hold off on the alcohol

It’s no secret that veterans and active duty personnel like to enjoy alcoholic beverages from time to time. But it’s simply not a good idea to hit the bars prior to getting a tattoo — and not just because it’ll cloud your judgement. Alcohol is an anti-coagulant. If you’ve had too much, the tattoo artist is going to have to contend with you bleeding everywhere as they try to precisely settle ink into the skin.

So, consider getting a drink to celebrate your new tattoo — after it’s done.

Get a good night’s rest

Depending on the size and complexity, tattoos can take hours to complete. Not only that, but you may be sitting or laying in an uncomfortable position as the artist does their work. This can cause certain body parts to fatigue quickly, which is only made worse if you’re not well rested — both mentally and physically.

Get a solid night of sleep. Your tattoo artist will thank you afterward for not continually flopping around trying to get comfy.

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Eat some carbs

Like we said earlier, the tattoo process can take some time to complete and it puts a level of stress on your body. The person getting tattooed will lose some blood and, if it’s your first time, there’s a small chance you might pass out during the session.

The majority of tattoo artists recommend that you scarf down a good amount of carbohydrates to help give your body the energy it needs to withstand the tattooing process.

Take a shower

Most people find it aggravating to stand next to a smelly person while in line at the grocery store. Now, imagine how a tattoo artist feels when they have spend hours inking a stinky someone. Do yourself a favor and clean up before getting tatted up.

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Stay away from putting on lotions

Some people like to rub lotion onto their skin after a shower to help moisturize. Usually, that’s a great idea. Moist, well-kept skin is easiest to work with, but you should avoid applying that lotion on the day you’re scheduled for new ink. The slick surface may interfere with the tattoo machine.

Wear loose clothing

If you don’t want to remove your shirt or pants in order to expose the body part you want to get tattooed, then consider wearing baggy clothing. You don’t want anything to interfere with the tattoo process — and you also don’t want to have to hold your sleeve or pant leg for hours on end.

popular

This pilot landed her shot-up A-10 by pulling cables

On April 7, 2003, three weeks into the Invasion of Iraq and day four of the nine-day Battle of Baghdad, twenty-eight year-old Captain Kim Campbell (callsign “Killer Chick”) of the 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was on her way in from Kuwait on a close air support mission when she got a call for immediate assistance from the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.


The 3rd Infantry was attempting to take the North Baghdad Bridge, which was an essential maneuver for capturing the city and cutting off reinforcements, when they found themselves in a desperate Rebel Guard situation.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Killer Chick and her hog. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Upon receiving the call, Campbell and her A-10 Warthog (no need for “Thunderbolt II” pleasantries here) re-routed and readied the BRRRRT.

“We were originally tasked to target some Iraqi tanks and vehicles in the city that were acting as a command post, but on the way to the target area we received a call from the ground forward air controller or FAC, saying they were taking fire and needed immediate assistance,” she told Women’s History Month Luncheon guests.

With only seconds to identify the enemy location and — friendly troops — in a blazing war zone, she unleashed bullets on the enemy from the 19-foot long GAU-8 Avenger Gatling gun strapped to the nose of her A-10, followed by 2.75-inch high-explosive rockets.

She immediately became a target for Iraqi anti-aircraft weapons and she took heavy fire.

Also read: This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

The Warthog’s tail was struck by a missile, impairing both hydraulic systems and sending it spiraling towards the city of Baghdad. Campbell had to react quickly.

She switched the jet into manual reversion (which basically looks like one of those old “Flying Machine” Da Vinci sketches – just a bunch of hand-cranking cables and wires rigged to the flaps and rudders of the aircraft).

She manually wrangled her mighty steed and mechanically regained control like some sort of god d*mn puppet master.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Yeah. She flew this thing. (Staff Sgt. Jason Haag, United States Air Force)

Heading back to her base in Kuwait, Campbell had the option of ejecting from the aircraft but decided to manually land the A-10 instead, hoping to keep the rig in one piece.

Only twice before this had manual landings like this been attempted: the first time ended with the pilot crashing to his demise, and the second time the pilot had to be rescued by fire crews after the plane broke in half and caught fire…

Related: 6 awesome photos that show A-10 Warthogs landing in Putin’s backyard

Crash recovery teams surrounded the base as Campbell made her descent, but against all odds, she landed her battered up beast.

“I was impressed,” said Lt. Col. Mike Millen, chief of the 355th Fighter Wing Commander’s Action Group and a fellow A-10 pilot. “Kim landed that jet with no hydraulics better than I land the A-10 every day with all systems operational.”

Despite this near fatal mission, the very next day Campbell was up and running on another rescue mission over Baghdad, completely unfazed by the events that had only just transpired.

“I never really had time to think about the fact that I was going back to Baghdad where just the day before I had escaped a possible shoot down,” she shared. “In my mind, the only thing that I could think about was that I had a job to do. I knew that the search and rescue alert crews were there for me the day before and I was going to do the same for this pilot.”

In honor of her heroic feat, Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross — a medal awarded in support of operations by “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

46 years later: Reviewing the timeline of the Watergate Scandal

This week in 1974, the country saw both the Watergate scandal come to an end and Richard Nixon’s presidency come to a close. The scandal that began on June 17, 1972, took two long years to unfold. In the end, the sitting President was impeached and subsequently resigned the office of the presidency, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

It’s been 46 years, but to this day, Watergate remains one of the most infamous political scandals in American history, complete with intrigue, cover-ups, money trails, secret informants and proverbial smoking guns.

For today’s history lesson, here’s a quick refresher and a timeline of events in the Watergate Scandal leading up to the resignation of former President Richard M. Nixon.


June 17, 1972

Five men — James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker and two accomplices — were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Among their possessions were rolls of film, bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash.

Bob Woodward, a young Washington Post reporter, was sent to the arraignment of the Watergate burglars, and another young reporter, Carl Bernstein, starts to do some digging of his own.

June 20, 1972

Bob Woodward had his first contact with “Deep Throat,” his source and informant for the story. Deep Throat’s identity remained hidden for 30 years. In 2005, (at the age of 91) Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI (as the scandal played out), admitted that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.

June 22, 1972

At a press conference regarding the incident, President Nixon denied that the White House was involved in the incident, stating unequivocally, “The White House has no involvement in this particular incident.”

June 25, 1972

Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent involved with the scandal, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. Baldwin names E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as two of Nixon’s campaign aides who were involved in the burglary.

Aug. 1, 1972

The Washington Post reported that a ,000 check (funds intended for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign) was deposited in the bank account Bernard Barker — of one of the Watergate burglars.

August 29, 1972

Nixon continues to deny any involvement in the Watergate Burglary, telling reporters, “I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.”

In the same news conference, Nixon insists that there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor.

September 1972

Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that the money for the burglary was controlled by assistants to Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who incidentally was now serving as the chief of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In words that would become Rule #1 in any good investigation, Felt told Woodward to “follow the money.”

September 29, 1972

The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell did, in fact, have control over that secret fund, while he was serving as Attorney General. When they reached out to Mitchell for comment, instead of cooperating, an enraged Mitchell threatened the reporters and Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Woodward and Bernstein did not back down; instead, they printed Mitchell’s threat in the Post.

Oct. 10, 1972

Woodward and Bernstein report that the FBI made the connection between Nixon’s aides and the Watergate break-in.

November 7, 1972

Richard Nixon is elected to a second term in office; winning by a landslide against George McGovern.

Jan. 8, 1973

The Watergate break-in trials begin. Seven men go on trial, five of whom plead guilty.

Jan. 30, 1973

G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.

March 23, 1973

James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial. The letter points to a conspiracy and a cover-up in the White House. The letter is read in open court.

April 30, 1973 

President Richard Nixon accepted responsibility for the scandal but maintained that he had no prior knowledge of it.

May 17th, 1973

Senate Watergate Committee begins public hearings that were nationally televised. During these hearing, Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn., (Vice-Chairman of the committee) famously asked, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

May 18, 1973

Archibald Cox was appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into both Nixon’s re-election campaign and Watergate.

July 23, 1973

President Nixon was known to have recorded his calls in the Oval Office. It was believed he was in possession of dozens of tapes that proved his involvement in the cover-up; those tapes became known as the “Nixon Tapes.” The Senate Watergate Committee issues subpoenas for The Nixon Tapes after the President refused to turn them over.

July 27 -30, 1974

The articles of impeachment were approved by The House Judiciary Committee and proceedings begin. The articles of impeachment included obstruction of justice (impeding the Watergate investigation), abuse of power and violating public trust, and contempt of Congress by failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

August 5, 1974

Folding under intense pressure, President Nixon finally releases the transcript of his conversations with then chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman. These transcripts proved that the President ordered a cover-up of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel on June 23. 1972, six days after the burglary.

August 8, 1974

In a nationally televised speech, the 37th President of the United States formally resigned, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

August 9, 1974

Richard Nixon signed his letter of resignation, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Army is tripling the power on its combat laser cannon

The US Army is turning up the power on its plans for a high-energy laser to shoot down everything from rockets and mortars to even “more stressing threats,” the service recently revealed.

The Army plans to field a 50-kilowatt laser on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years to defend troops against enemy unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and mortars. The Army has previously practiced shooting down drones with 5-kilowatt lasers.

The next step for the Army was to develop and deploy more powerful 100-kilowatt combat lasers on heavy trucks, but the Army has since changed its plans, deciding to instead pursue a 250-300 kilowatt laser, Breaking Defense reports.


Rather than develop the 100-kilowatt High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), the Army will instead work on developing the more powerful directed energy weapon to support the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) aimed at countering cruise missiles.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

United States Tomahawk cruise missile.

(U.S. Navy)

The Army declined to clarify whether or not “more stressing threats” included cruise missiles, a growing threat facing American warfighters, but experts told Breaking Defense that 300 kilowatts was the threshold for shooting down cruise missiles.

The Strykers armed with 50-kilowatt lasers are expected to be fielded in 2022, and the more powerful HEL-IFPC is likely to be in the hands of US soldiers by 2024.

Directed-energy weapons are cost-effective alternatives to traditional air-and-missile defense capabilities.

“The advantage of the laser is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, mortars,” Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in July 2019.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

A Stryker Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser.

(U.S. Army photo)

“Where before we were shooting 0,000 missiles at ,000 [Unmanned Aerial Systems]. This puts us in a position where we’re not spending that kind of money to do that. We’re taking those targets down in a much more rapid fashion and a much cheaper fashion.”

And, the Army isn’t the only service trying to develop combat lasers.

The Navy is planning to equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system designed to target small attack boats and drones, and the Air Force is working on the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop a weapon to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

The best and worst cities to be a football fan may not surprise you

Another football season is nearing its end and the excitement surrounding this season, the surprise Clemson win, the NFC Championship controversy, and the upcoming Super Bowl inspired the people over at WalletHub to do yet another study on the habits and happiness of your average Americans – this time, with a focus on the gridiron.


Keep in mind, this isn’t just about NFL football, but you will find familiar NFL franchise cities on the top of the list. It also includes NCAA football. Some 244 American cities were graded on 21 different metrics using a 100-point scale, with 100 being a perfectly favorable score. WalletHub included one professional team or one college team, and assigned weights to each category based on its popularity with fans. The weighted averages comprise the list and are grouped by city size.

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“Terrible.”

The top ten will likely not be a surprise to anyone. Pittsburgh, home of die-hard Steelers fans and the Panthers of the NCAA’s Atlantic Coast Conference, tops the list. That’s followed by the homes of the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, Giants, Dolphins, Saints, and so on. The first time the home of a nationally-ranked college football team comes is at the end of the 30 cities where NFL franchises are housed.

At the top of the college football list of best cities for football fans sits another unsurprising winner.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

Roll Tide.

Clemson, S.C., may have defeated the Crimson Tide for the BCS National Championship, but they’re in second place when it comes to fandom. As you scroll the list you’ll find the homes of the Florida State Seminoles, the LSU Tigers, and the Penn State Nittany Lions. What might surprise you is the high ranking for the North Dakota State Bison, Appalachian State Mountaineers, and the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights.

In case you were wondering, West Point, N.Y. sits at number 39 while Annapolis, Md. is all the way at number 123, sandwiched between the home of the Cal Poly Mustangs and the Eastern Michigan University Eagles. Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Air Force Academy, is number 115.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

There’s always next year, Navy.

As for the bottom of the list, the lowest ranked NFL city is Cleveland, which is unsurprising considering they once dubbed the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium the “Factory of Sadness.” In terms of the NCAA, the biggest surprise at the bottom of the college football list is the low, low ranking for the homes of the Oregon State Beavers and the Purdue Boilermakers, who scrape the bottom of a list of 244.

Check out the full list in the WalletHub Infographic.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
MIGHTY HISTORY

The WWII photographer who showed the world military women and Tuskegee Airmen

During World War II, Toni Frissell volunteered as a photographer for the American Red Cross, Women’s Army Corps and Eighth Army Air Force, capturing images that would introduce military women and Tuskegee Airmen to the world.

While she’s perhaps best remembered for her high-fashion photography for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Frissell produced thousands of images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, Black airmen, and orphaned children. She wanted to show the truth of the war, rather than concentrating only on fashion work. “I became so frustrated with fashions that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do a real reporting job,” she recalled. 

According to the Library of Congress, Frissell aggressively pursued wartime assignments at home and abroad, often over her family’s objections, using her connections with high-profile society matrons. Her photographs of Women’s Army Corps trainees were used to counter negative public perception of women serving in the military. Her images of the Black pilots in the 332nd Fighter Group also helped break down racist objections to people of color serving in the United States military.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
332nd Fighter Group Airmen at Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945. (Photo by Toni Frissell courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The Acting Assistant to Director for Army Air Forces (AAF) described her as “among the most valuable collaborators the AAF can number from all the ‘guests’ we have taken overseas to help us get our story not only told, but understood.” He urged her to make her prints available for publication in order to better tell the story of World War II military service and the war effort.

After the war, Frissell continued to work for Harper’s Bazaar, but she produced little fashion work after 1950. Her experience as a war observer encouraged her toward photojournalism; she did freelance work for Life, Look, Vogue, and Sports Illustrated until her retirement in 1967.

Frissell died on April 17, 1988, at the age of 81. Her collection of photos in the Library of Congress includes nearly 340,000 images as well as her archive of film negatives.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the French President praised a Nazi collaborator

With the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I just around the corner, world leaders of the war’s victorious Triple Entente powers are looking back at those who finally brought the grinding trench warfare to its bitter end. One of those was French Marshal Philippe Petain, who led France’s forces during the Great War, who halted the German advance into France at Verdun in 1916.

In fact, Petain’s role at Verdun, combined with his favor of firepower over manpower saved countless French lives throughout the war and his promotion to Commander-In-Chief may have saved France from falling out of the war entirely. It was what he did later in life that tainted his legacy.


On Wednesday, Nov. 8, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Marshal Petain for his leadership and vision during the Great War – and rightfully so. But in France, Petain will always be a controversial figure. He was the World War I hero that collaborated with the Nazis after the Fall of France. In doing so, he became the head of state of the infamous French regime based in Vichy.

His legacy is marred by his collaboration, but his memory is controversial. The once-hero is beloved by some, hated by others, but remembered by all for better or worse. President Macron touched on this when he said, “Marshal Petain was also a great soldier during World War I” despite “fatal choices during the Second World War… I pardon nothing, but I erase nothing of our history.”

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Petain in World War I.

World War I on the Western Front was not going well for the Entente Powers. The Germans made great gains at the beginning of the war. Petain, newly promoted to a general’s rank, was one of few French commanders who saw real success. It was at Verdun where his true genius came in to play. He kept rotating his frontline troops every two weeks instead of keeping them on the battlefield.

This gave him a reputation of being more of a soldier’s soldier than just a general commanding faceless masses of troops. That it was a more effective tactic was a great bonus.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

In the interwar years, Petain went to work for the French government and became ambassador to Fascist Spain. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, he returned to France and became a member of the government yet again. After the fall of Paris, he escaped to Bordeaux with the rest of the government. In deciding how to proceed after the fall of the French capital, the government was reshuffled and Petain became Prime Minister.

The majority opinion of the new French government called for an armistice with Nazi Germany, which was accepted. The new puppet government of France would convene at Vichy, the name that would become synonymous with collaboration in the coming years.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

Henri Petain was the the leader of the new Vichy France while Paris became just another city in Hitler’s “Greater Germanic Reich.” Vichy France produced volunteers to fight alongside the Nazis, produced war materials, and even ordered overseas possessions to fight Allied forces.

France was, of course, eventually liberated and, after the war’s end, General Charles DeGaulle became head of the new French provisional government. Petain was put on trial for treason, convicted, and stripped of all military rank and title, save for one – Marshal of France. Imprisoned in the Pyrenees Mountains, Petain’s health began to steadily decline until he died in 1951.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Civil War infantrymen slaughtered one another

If you think that troops marched at each other with muskets and rifles in the Civil War because they were too dumb to maneuver, you’re dead wrong. Civil War formations were the pinnacle of strategy at the time, allowing commanders to bring maximum force to bear at a crucial moment as long as they could think far ahead of their enemy.


Infantry Tactics: The Civil War in Four Minutes
www.youtube.com

Infantry in the Civil War typically marched in lines or columns, quite similar to their forebears in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. This technique is sometimes ridiculed since it gives the enemy a long warning that attackers are headed for them. But these massed formations usually worked better for attackers than small groups, like those we use today.

Typically, unless there was particularly valuable terrain or cover nearby, troops that marched in small groups against an enemy were destroyed by the enemy’s concentrated fire.

So, instead, troops marched in large blocks that would be recognizable to George Washington or Andrew Jackson. But warfare and the necessary tactics had changed a lot in the decades between those men leading armies and the Civil War.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
“Let’s get into a straight line and walk slowly forward to attack.” A good idea, surprisingly.
(Thure de Thulstrup, Library of Congress)

The biggest surprise for Washington or Jackson would come when an attacking force drew within 400 yards of their target. That was when defenders would raise their rifles and deliver their first volley at the attacking force, 300 yards further than was typical for earlier soldiers.

Remember the old saying from the Battle of Bunker Hill, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes”? That’s a bad adage for the Civil War thanks to the increase in rifled weapons.

Rifling dated back to before 1500, but rifled weapons feature a spiraling groove down the barrel that increases accuracy but greatly increased load time. Most commanders and procurement officers went with cheaper, smoothbore muskets that could be fired much more quickly.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Minie balls feature a small cavity on the bottom that would fill with hot gasses and expand when fired. This allowed the rounds to be small enough to be quickly loaded but then become large enough to grip the barrels of rifles.
(Mike Cumpston, public domain)

But improvements in manufacturing and metallurgy had made it much easier and cheaper to produce quality rifles and, probably even more important, French inventor Claude-Étienne Minié figured out how to create quality ammunition for rifled weapons that could be quickly loaded.

The Minié ball was slightly smaller than the barrel it would be loaded into, allowing it to easily slide down the barrel without getting caught on the grooves. But it had a small opening in its base, not unlike the small opening on the bottoms of most cans and bottles you see today. When the weapon was fired, the hot gasses would push into that little cavity and expand the bottom of the round, making it grip the grooves and spin as it left the barrel.

So, suddenly, infantrymen could fire rifled weapons just as fast as smoothbores while still enjoying the massive improvements in accuracy and range. For troops in defensive positions, this meant that they could launch multiple volleys while attackers were marching up. If there were walls, fences, or ditches in the way, like during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, each obstacle gave a chance for defenders to launch an additional volley.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
Reenactors during a rifle firing demonstration.
(National Parks Service)

The only way an attacker could survive these volleys is if they arrived with a large enough force to absorb multiple volleys until they closed the gap, then attacked with the survivors of the charge. When possible, there was a way for attackers to turn the power balance back in their favor: flanking.

Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson made his career partially thanks to his ability to drive his men to conduct quick and sometimes covert marches during battles, like those at Chancellorsville and Second Manassas. These marching skills allowed his men to flank the enemy, attacking them from the sides.

Formations in combat were typically quite wide and could not change their overall direction of fire quickly or easily. If a formation was able to hit its enemy from the side, the flanking force could bring all of its guns to bear while the soldiers who had been flanked could respond with just a few shooters on the edge of the formation.

The best way out of this was a well-organized retreat or, rarely, an advance past the flanking force. Attempting to stand and fight was nearly always a recipe for disaster.

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber
You don’t want to end up in bayonet range, but you want to be ready if you do.
(Kurz and Allison, Library of Congress)

But of course, with skilled infantrymen firing about 2-4 shots per minute, it was still quite common for competing forces to fire their weapons while in short ranges and then have to defend or attack with no time to load another round. Then, it was time for rifle and bayonet combatives.

The butt of the rifle was a great club, and the bayonet at the front was a slashing and stabbing weapon. If attackers and defenders closed into bayonet range, men would swarm one another and attempt to fight in small teams that would slash their way through enemies.

But there was one technology, deployed in limited numbers during the Civil War, that changed all of this. Repeating rifles could fire anywhere from six to 15 rounds without reloading, allowing them to hit rates of fire of 15 or more per minute. Like rifled muskets, they were typically accurate to 400 yards or more.

When employed, this allowed the men with repeating rifles to inflict severe losses on their enemy even when outnumbered. In some cases, a force with repeating rifles could even ward off a flanking attack since each rifleman at the edge of the formation could fire as fast as 10 musket-wielders.

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