The revolutionary fuse that won World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Jet engines, air-to-air rockets, drones. World War II was filled with flashy technological breakthroughs that would change warfare, both during that conflict and in wars to follow. But it was one humble piece of equipment that got an early upgrade that may have actually tipped the war in America’s favor: the fuse.

Specifically, impact and timed fuses were switched out for a weapon that had been hypothetical until then: the proximity fuse.


The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Anti-aircraft guns fire during World War II. Air defenders using timed fuses had to fire a lot of rounds to bring anything down.

(U.S. Army)

Anti-aircraft and other artillery rounds typically consist of an outer shell packed with a large amount of high explosives. These explosives are relatively stable, and require the activation of a fuse to detonate. Before World War II, there were two broad categories of fuses: impact and timed.

Impact fuses, sometimes known as crush fuses, go off when they impact something. A split-second later, this sets off the main explosives in the shell and causes it to explode in a cloud of shrapnel. This is great for hitting armored targets where you need the explosion pressed as closely as possible against the hull.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A U.S. bomber flies through clouds of flak with an engine smoking. While flak and other timed-burst weapons could bring down planes, it typically took entire batteries firing at high rates to actually down anything.

(U.S. Air Force)

But for anti-personnel, anti-aircraft, or just wide-area coverage fire, artillerymen want the round to go off a couple feet or a couple yards above the ground. This allows for a much wider spread of lethal shrapnel. The best way of accomplishing this until 1940 was with a timed fuse. The force of the shell being propelled out of the tube starts a timer in the fuse, and the shell detonates after a set duration.

The fuses could be set to different times, and artillerymen in the fire direction center would do the math to see what time setting was needed for maximum shrapnel burst.

But timed fuses were less than perfect, and small math errors could lead to a round going off too early, allowing the shrapnel to disperse and slow before reaching personnel and planes, or too late, allowing the round to get stuck deep into the dirt before going off — the dirt then absorbs the round’s energy and stops much of the shrapnel.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University succeeded in creating a revolutionary fuse that would tip battles in America’s favor.

So, in 1940, the National Defense Research Committee asked the Carnegie Institution and Johns Hopkins University to complete research on a tricky project, proximity fuses that worked by sending out radio waves and then measuring the time it takes for those waves to bounce back, allowing it to detonate a set distance from an object. This required shrinking down a radio transmitter and receiver until it was small enough to fit in the space allotted for a fuse.

This, in turn, required all sorts of breakthroughs, like shrinking down vacuum tubes and finding ways to cradle all the sensitive electronics when a round is fired out of the tube.

The scientists accepted the challenge and began work in total secrecy. Top-tier talent, like Dr. James Van Allen, the one the “Van Allen radiation belt” is named after, managed to create a working fuse that detonated near its target approximately half the time.

That may not sound like a great rate, but it was actually a bit of a miracle. Air defenders had to fire thousands of rounds on average to bring down any of the fast, single-engine bombers that were becoming more and more popular — and deadly.

So, to suddenly have rounds that would explode near their target half the time, potentially bringing down an enemy plane in just a few dozen or few hundred shots, was a revelation.

This solved a few problems. Ships were now less likely to run out of anti-aircraft ammunition while on long cruises and could suddenly defend themselves much better from concerted bomber attacks.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Sailors man anti-aircraft guns during World War II on the USS Hornet.

(U.S. Navy)

In fact, for the first while after the rounds were deployed, gains were only made at sea because the technology was deemed too sensitive to employ on land where duds could be captured and then reverse-engineered.

The fuses’ combat debut came at Guadalcanal where the USS Helena, one of the first three ships to receive it, fired on a dive bomber heading for its task force. The Helena fired two rounds and the fuses’ first victim burst into flame before plunging to a watery grave.

Two rounds, at a time when thousands used to fail to bring down an enemy plane.

From then on, naval commanders steered ships loaded with the advanced shells into the hearts of oncoming enemy waves, and the fuse was credited with 50 percent of the enemy kills the fleet attained even though only 25 percent of the ammo issued to the fleet had proximity fuses.

That means the fuse was outperforming traditional rounds three to one in routine combat conditions.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A fireball from a kamikaze attack engulfs the USS Columbia during a battle near the Philippines in 1945. The Columbia survived, but 13 crew members were killed.

(U.S. Navy)

It even potentially saved the life of one of its creators, Dr. Van Allen. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where U.S. planes and gunners brought down over 500 Japanese planes, Dr. Van Allen was exposed on the USS Washington when it came under kamikaze attack. He later described what happened next:

“I saw at least two or three 5-inch shell bursts in the vicinity of the plane, and then the plane dove into the water several hundred yards short of the ship,” he said. “It was so close I could make out the pilot of the plane.”

The rounds were finally authorized for ground warfare in 1944, and their greatest moment came during the Battle of the Bulge when Gen. George S. Patton ordered them used against a concentration of tank crews and infantry.

The rounds were set to go off approximately 50 feet above the ground. Shrapnel tore through men and light equipment and took entire armored and infantry units out of play due to the sheer number of wounded and killed service members.

“The new shell with the funny fuse is devastating,” General Patton later wrote to the War Department. “I’m glad you all thought of it first.”
popular

Soldier wins Army Ten-Miler in his debut race

Competing in his first Army Ten-Miler against 35,000 registered runners didn’t faze Spc. Frankline Tonui. He and World Class Athlete Program teammate, Sgt. Evans Kirwa, led the pack for most of the race on a warm October 2018 Sunday morning.

Tonui actually trailed just behind Kirwa for much of the run, but as the pair reached the final stretch, he made a push and confidently raised his left hand in victory as he crossed the finish line. Tonui beat Kirwa by mere tenths of a second to finish at 50 minutes, 23 seconds.


“Always you have to run smart,” said Tonui, a 25-year-old 91D tactical power generation specialist from Fort Carson, Colorado, “because my teammates are all the best, so I was waiting for them to wear out. So the last 100 meters I kicked and was able to win.”

Tonui, a former Division I Track and Field runner for the University of Arkansas, placed second nationally in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2016. He faced a different type of challenge though in the Army Ten-Miler, which features a winding course that begins at the Pentagon and moves along the streets of Washington, D.C.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Spc. Susan Tanui crosses the finish line to become the first-place female finisher for the second straight year in the Army Ten-Miler, Oct. 7, 2018. Tanui finished 56:33, 17 seconds better than her 2017 time.

(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

“I just thought he was ready to run a really good race,” said All-Army team coach Col. Liam Collins. “He’s just always been a tough competitor, good hard worker and he just knows how to put it up on race day.”

Kirwa humbly conceded victory to his WCAP teammate but feels confident he has made strides toward both runners’ ultimate goal: qualifying for the 2020 Olympics at next year’s World Trials. Kirwa made a significant leap from his 2017 finish of eighth place, when he admittedly struggled with the wet and muggy conditions in 2017.

In 2018 Kirwa was in front for the majority of the race before Tonui’s final kick.

“I had led probably 90 percent of the race,” Kirwa said. “I knew that somebody was going to kick cause I hadn’t seen him take the lead. We kicked with about 40 yards to go. He came ahead of me and I just had another gear and he had another gear.”

Kirwa finished nearly a minute better than his 2017’s 50 minutes 13 seconds. The native of Eldoret, Kenya, has his eye on larger goals though: returning to his peak running form in college. A 12-time NAIA All-American, Kirwa gave up running after enlisting in the Army in 2014. For four years, the sergeant focused on his military career as a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic. He stayed in shape by playing recreational soccer at Fort Carson, Colorado. Then he reconnected with old friends who happened to be WCAP athletes.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A wave of runners begins the annual Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

He got the itch to run again. And shortly after, he joined the WCAP program.

“These are the guys I ran against in college — day in, day out,” Kirwa said. “So when I came back, they motivated me.”

Kirwa next plans to compete at the USA Track and Field National Club Cross Country Championships Dec. 8, 2018, in Spokane, Washington.

Women

Spc. Susan Tanui ran so far ahead of the other female leaders on Oct. 7, 2018, that she found motivation by pacing herself with male runners. She finished with a personal-best 56:33 — 17 seconds, better than her 2017 finish and 44 seconds ahead of the second-place female finisher, Julia Roman-Duval, of Columbia, Maryland.

Tanui placed first among female runners for the second straight year.

“It’s like running on a treadmill — it hooks you in a starting pace,” said Tanui, a 31-year old 68E dental specialist. “And that helps keep you moving. Some males would pass me, but at least I would find a pace that I am consistent with.”

Tanui, competing in her fourth Army Ten-Miler, has consistently improved in each race after finishing second in 2016. But she said she did not see the biggest jump until she joined the WCAP program 18 months ago. The Kenyan native hopes to qualify for her first Olympic games in 2020.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Maj. Kelly Brown-Calway, a master’s candidate at the National Intelligence University, gets a hug from family members including her father, Gen. Robert Brown (right), U.S. Army Pacific commander. Brown-Calway competed in the Army Ten-Miler for the tenth time, finishing third among female runners.

(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

“She’s made miraculous progress in the program,” Collins said.

The race has served as a reunion of sorts for Maj. Kelly Brown-Calway, a master’s candidate at the National Intelligence University in Washington. She completed her 10th Army Ten-Miler, finishing third overall among female runners. She said the race has reunited her with former cadets she trained while serving as former coach of the West Point marathon team. One of her former students, Cadet Third Class Chase Hogeboom, managed to finish ahead of her.

“I’m really proud of him,” Brown-Calway said. “He wasn’t sure if he wanted to come to West Point and I showed him around. I got to coach him on the team and it’s been neat to see him grow.”

Brown-Calway estimates as many as 50 of her former cadets competed on Oct. 7, 2018.

In 2018, Brown-Calway’s husband, Maj. Chris Calway, also competed in the race, as well as her brother-in-law, Capt. Matthew Buchanan, a Downing scholar at Duke University. And her father, Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commander, cheered her on.

The Army Ten-Miler has grown into the third-largest 10-mile race in the world, featuring 650 running teams and both civilian and military competitors.

“I’ve gotten to see the evolution of the course,” Brown-Calway said. “The course has changed so much. I think this was the best year. The extra two long miles going over the Key Bridge instead of the Memorial Bridge was nice. I thought the whole route was fantastic this year.”

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A runner crosses the finish line during the 2018 Army Ten-Miler Oct. 7 in Washington, D.C.

(U.S. Army photo by Joe Lacdan)

As expected, the WCAP athletes and All-Army team dominated the field on Oct. 7, 2018.

The third-place overall finisher, Spc. Girma Mecheso, had just recently finished Initial Entry Training. The squad had to shuffle its lineup after three competitors were unable to compete in Washington due to injuries.

“What they wanted to do was come out here and run as a team, stay grouped together as long as possible,” said Collins, who also competed in the race. “And it really just came down to the end — who had the better kick and who had the guts to put it to the finish line first. We had a pack up front running together with a group of three for a while and there was a second pack running together, a group of four.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is working on camouflage to hide soldiers from thermal sensors

The US Army is working on new camouflage systems to protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields from one of the greatest threats to their survival, a top Army general told lawmakers on April 9, 2019.

“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Military.com first reported. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”

The general said that future battlefields are likely to be “highly lethal” environments where “units will be cut off and separated,” making soldier lethality and survivability key.


“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very, very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions … you can hit a target,” he said. “So camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team pull camouflaged netting over an artillery emplacement during platoon evaluations on Fort Bragg.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

In an era of renewed great-power competition, the Army is increasingly looking closely at protecting soldiers against advanced threats from countries such as China and Russia. Among the greatest threats soldiers face is advanced sensing technology, a top US Army sniper previously told Business Insider.

“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with the emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, said, explaining that while it is easy for snipers to hide in the visible spectrum, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to disappear as US rivals “creep into the thermal arena.”

A US Army soldier may be concealed and well hidden from the watchful eyes of the enemy but light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which can detect the temperature difference between a human body, typically 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and the environment they’re hiding in.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 3, 2012.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Cross)

Milley didn’t identify which systems the Army is working on, but the projects would likely include systems like the new Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS) and possibly the Improved Ghillie System (IGS) being developed for snipers.

ULCANS, developed by Fibrotex, is a kind of advanced camouflage designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more. The Army awarded Fibrotex a multi-million contract last year to supply US troops with this technology.

The IGS is in testing right now and is expected to eventually replace the older Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS) Army sharpshooters are wearing now. It is unclear if this new system is designed to counter thermal sensors, but it is being put through full-spectrum testing.

It’s not enough to just hide, Army soldiers are having to change the way they conceal themselves to disappear like they have never done before as adversaries step up their game.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Marine rocket artillery send Taliban dope up in smoke

While the fall of the “caliphate,” as proclaimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, marked one ending in the Middle East, the fight against the Taliban continues. Between President Trump’s recently announced strategy and the MOAB making its combat debut, it’s clear that the gloves are coming off. But now, the Taliban are taking hits to their wallet.


ISIS used oil to raise money — the places they’d based out of (Iraq and Syria) were rich in the black liquid. However, Afghanistan, the base of operations for the Taliban, doesn’t have a drop. So, the Taliban turned to another means to generate income. After all, radical Islamic groups who harbor terrorists still need to make payroll every month.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
A field filled with opium poppy plants can be seen April 11, 2012, in Marjah, Afghanistan. Heroin is derived from raw opium gum, which comes from opium poppies. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Michael P. Snody)

To pay their fighters, the Taliban have turned to drug production. Specifically, they’re making heroin. A September 2017 article from the Quad City Times notes that two kilograms of black tar heroin seized in a bust was worth $600,000. While the Taliban likely doesn’t pocket 300 grand per kilo, the lower amount they do receive likely goes a long way in funding their operations.

Part of the strategy to weaken the Taliban has been to cut off their income. With Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosening rules of engagement, American troops now have a much freer hand when it comes to using artillery and air strikes. As a result, the Taliban’s drug labs have become fair game.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
Crews from the 4th Battalion of the 133rd Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), attached to the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard hosted a Family Day on Saturday, June 25, at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

The video below shows how such strikes are being carried out in Afghanistan. A M142 HIMARS is used to send the Taliban’s drugs up in smoke. The HIMARS fired five of the six rockets it can carry. Based on the impacts, unitary warhead versions of the rockets were used in this particular strike. The Taliban will have to figure out if their fighters will accept smoke signals as payment.

Articles

The 4 best surrender decisions in military history

There’s nothing great about having to surrender. At best, the loser gets to keep most of his men alive. At worst, well… he doesn’t and the outcome is a room full slaughtered defenders. Brave defenders, sure. But they’re still outnumbered and slaughtered.


The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

So sometimes, surrender is the best option – but no one brags about it, and it sure as hell won’t win any drinks at the bar. But at least your unit will still be at the bar later. Here’s a few people who also chose wisely.

1. The French Foreign Legion in Mexico.

In the 1860s, the United States was too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which basically was meant to keep European powers from messing around with the Americas. Naturally, as soon as the U.S. turned its sights on the Civil War, France invaded Mexico.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

During the fighting, the Foreign Legion was tasked with resupplying the French at the Battle of Puebla. Since only 65 of them weren’t struggling with dysentery and the Foreign Legion isn’t exactly known for not getting the job done, that’s the number of troops who rolled out to Puebla with the supplies. Along the way, they stopped at a place called Palo Verde – where they were immediately met by Mexican cavalry.

The Legion fought their way back to an inn in the city of Camarón, where they decided to make a stand. They didn’t know that the cavalry was just the beginning – the Mexicans had three battalions of infantry too, totaling 1,200 men and 800 cavalry. Even when the Mexican commander informed the French about how they were outnumbered 33-to-1, the French accepted the challenge.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Over the next 11 hours, the legion killed or wounded 600 of the Mexican attackers. The Mexican commander returned under a flag of truce to find only two Legionnaires remaining. After the Mexican demanded their surrender, the half-dead Frenchmen still demanded terms: immediate safe passage home, their wounded, their fallen captain, their weapons and their regimental flag.

The Mexican accepted.

2. Hezbollah gives in to the KGB.

In 1985, four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in West Beirut – right in front of the Soviet embassy. They were held by one of the many extremist organizations in the decade-long Lebanese Civil War. The abductors called themselves “The Khaled Al-Walid Force” and were demanding the Soviet Union pressure its Syrian client to squeeze its factions to stop attacking Muslim-held positions in Tripoli. And they wanted the Soviets to evacuate their embassy in the city.

That was the plan, anyway.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
(Laughs in Communist)

When one of the abducted men was found dead in a field in Beirut, riddled with bullets, the KGB we have all come to know through ’80s movies and real goddamn life showed up. KGB station chief Col. Yuri Perfilev met with the Grand Ayatollah of Lebanon’s Shia muslims Muhammad Fadlallah and told him that “A great power cannot wait forever” and that waiting could lead to “serious action” and “unpredictable consequences.” The Russian then told him:

I’m talking about Tehran and Qom [Shiite holy city and the residence of Ayatollah Khomeini], which is not that far from Russia’s borders. Yes, Qom is very close to us and a mistake in the launch of a missile could always happen. A technical error, some kind of breakdown. They write about it all the time. And God or Allah forbid if this happens with a live, armed missile.

If that wasn’t enough, the KGB kidnapped a relative of a top Hezbollah leader, castrated the relative and sent his organs to Hezbollah – along with photos of his other relatives – and demanded the release of Soviet prisoners. The three hostages were released back at the embassy and no Soviet citizen was ever kidnapped in Lebanon again.

Good call.

3. Japan surrenders to the Atomic Bomb.

The end of WWII was pretty harsh to Japan. Its surrender to the Allies had to be unconditional, which must have been a huge bitter pill to swallow for a warrior culture like Japan’s.

Still, after the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union was forced to declare war on Imperial Japan in the weeks following the fall of the Third Reich. The Russians quickly moved into Manchuria as the Americans warned of “prompt and utter destruction” if they didn’t give up soon.

After mistranslating the Japanese for “no comment,” the Americans infamously rained nuclear death on Japan, first at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. The destruction itself wasn’t the biggest aspect of the choice to surrender – U.S. Army Air Forces General Curtis LeMay had been firebombing Japanese cities for much 0f 1945.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
And firebombed fitness regs for the rest of time.

Still, wonton destruction isn’t a good look for any culture and the horrifying reports and photos – not to mention radiation and fallout – in the days that followed sealed the deal. the Emperor took to the radio (through a recording) and announced Japan would submit to the Allied demands.

4. Anyone surrendering to the Mongols.

The great Khans had one rule: give in and be spared. Cause a Mongol casualty and your city will be laid to waste and everyone inside will be killed or worse.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
We’ll let you imagine all the things that could mean.

Even after many, many examples of the Mongols winning against great odds and destroying cities much greater than anything they’d build on their own, people still refused to submit to the Mongols. At Nishapur, an arrow killed Genghis Khan’s favorite son-in-law. In response, Khan killed every living thing in the city as he sacked it – an estimated 1.7 million people.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

The fun didn’t stop there. Legendary cities like Kiev, Samarkand, and Herat were all put to the Mongol sword. Whereas those who surrendered were let off comparatively easy – the Mongols may kill off the royal family and do some light looting, raping, and pillaging for a few days. A light sentence compared to the mass murder and destruction of Baghdad, where the center of learning was destroyed, its contents thrown into the Euphrates.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This museum houses the most macabre artifacts from American history

For America’s morbidly curious, there’s no more prominent mecca than the National Museum of Health and Medicine. There’s nowhere else can someone view everything from the bullet John Wilkes Booth used to kill Abraham Lincoln to a trauma bay used in the Iraq War.

For more than 150 years, the National Museum of Health and Medicine has been preserving the artifacts and displaying the impact military medicine has had on the men and women who fight America’s wars – increasing their chances of returning home.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
This is an anatomical model of the normal human brain manufactured by Anatomie Clastique Du Dr. Auzoux of Paris France in 1901.This one was used at the Army Medical School, a postgraduate medical school to train physicians their duties as medical Officers, and also at the Army Medical Museum and Library in Washington, D.C. (Image courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Facebook)

The museum was founded in the middle of the American Civil War in 1862 by U.S. Army Surgeon General William A. Hammond. The Army Medical Museum, as it was originally known, was intended to collect and preserve specimens and artifacts for trauma and pathology research – the two fields of medical science most applicable to the battlefield.

Over the next 150 years, the museum became a repository for everything related to medical research and the battlefields of every American war. These days, it’s also a member institution of the Defense Health Agency, a joint medical force that provides services to combat commands across military branches. 

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
Aren’t you glad dental kits like these aren’t used today? This dental emergency kit was designed by Lt. Col. Jack L. Hartley, USAF (DC) to be used for self or buddy care during prolonged space flights.  (Image courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Facebook)

It now holds more than 25 million artifacts, even if they aren’t always on display as an exhibit for public viewing. It’s just one more way for the Department of Defense to connect with the American public. Some of the artifacts and exhibits may not be suitable for all of the general public. 

Although it was closed to the public during the global COVID-19 Pandemic, the museum contains an expansive collection of artifacts surrounding the death of President Lincoln. Aside from the bullet that ended his life, viewers can also see the autopsy kit used on the president, as well as fragments of his skull and the surgeon’s blood-stained sleeves. 

Though never on display, the National Museum of Health and Medicine also holds items made from human skin that were confiscated from the concentration camp at Buchenwald and used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials. The items included a bisected human head and the three tattooed human skins. 

Inside the museum, viewers can see the first instance of the United States identifying the remains of the fallen through forensic dental work, a piece that dates back to one of the iconic figures of the American Revolution, Paul Revere. 

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
This is a resin model of the skull of a soldier who suffered a head injury in Iraq. Suspended next to the resin skull is a model of the cranial implant that was created for this soldier’s injury. (Image courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Facebook)

Revere was a dentist and silversmith, who created custom dental work for Maj. Gen. Joseph Warren. When Warren was killed in combat, the British buried him in a mass grave outside of Boston. Revere and others dug through the grave looking for Warren’s remains. They identified him through a gold and ivory dental work Revere created. Warren was then reinterred in his own grave. 

There are also less historic but no less morbid artifacts. The museum holds a preserved, blackened smoker’s lung, the swollen leg of someone who had elephantiasis, and hairballs that formed inside a human stomach that had to be surgically removed. 

The museum that was first established to preserve advances in battlefield medicine in the Civil War has come a long way since its inception so long ago. Now viewers can see for themselves how far medical technology has advances in terms of sanitation, human anatomy, virology and pathology.

Most importantly, we can all appreciate the large steps the medical community has taken in keeping wounded and sick soldiers alive throughout America’s modern military history. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous mobster’s son was a West Point grad

Meyer Lansky was the mind behind the mob. Active in the criminal underworld since the days before Prohibition, Lansky – the “Mob’s Accountant” – was able to figure out how to make mafia earnings and turn them into legitimate businesses. It was because of his acumen that the mob was able to form a kind of national crime syndicate with the likes of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. He would become the highest-ranking non-Italian in the Mafia.

His kids were going to do something very different.


To the Sicilians, being in the mafia was an honorable occupation. According to the onetime head of the Bonnano crime family, Joe Bonnano, one of the terms that designated a mafioso was loosely translated as “Man of Honor.” For Jewish men like Meyer Lanksy, however, it wasn’t so honorable. In fact, Lanksy found the business shameful, despite spending his life building it. Still, he wanted a different life for his children.

One of his children, Paul, would actually attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – on his own merit.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Meyer Lansky with his family: Sons (from left) Paul and Buddy, who had cerebral palsy, daughter Sandra, and first wife Ana.

“The Lansky boy has justified the confidence which was placed in him,” wrote Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver upon appointing Paul Lanksy to West Point. It was a far cry from the life his father lived, having created Las Vegas with his friends, other legendary members of America’s most notorious organized crime families. The younger Lansky would graduate from the Academy in 1954 and join the Air Force.

Lansky was in the Air Force until 1963, ultimately resigning his commission while at the rank of Captain so he could take a civilian engineering job in Tacoma, Wash. He stayed far from his famous father’s profession, going so far as to pretend that he and the elder Lansky had some sort of falling out and didn’t speak.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This Marine is on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients

From the Marine Corps to the medical field, Onur Yenigun has exemplified a commitment to service in remarkable ways. A first generation American, Yenigun was the child of a Turkish immigrant and though he always knew he wanted to be a doctor, first, he wanted to give back to his country.

He served in 1st Battalion 5th Marines after telling his recruiter he “wanted to get his butt kicked.” After his service, he used the G.I. Bill and graduated with highest honors from UC Davis, before attending medical school at UC San Francisco.

Now, he’s in his third year of residency in the ER of Stanford Hospital, fighting on the front lines of a new threat: COVID-19. I had the chance to talk with him about the virus, what it’s like for our medical professionals right now, and why it’s still important to “flatten the curve.”

Here’s what he had to say:


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Fr6D8hBjo/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I’ve seen those pictures – folks so beat by the daily grind that they’re passed out and photographed by a passer-by. Sure, it happened to…”

www.instagram.com

WATM: What is your job like right now?

Yenigun: It keeps changing because we’re learning new things all the time. Our overall volume is down. There are fewer patients — but the ones that do come in are sicker. People who are sick keep waiting it out at home because they’re afraid to go to the hospital so when they do come in, they’re really sick.

And then there’s more overall fear in the hospital. I used to greet my co-workers with a hug and now we can’t do that. We’re a close-knit family and that camaraderie means a lot to me, so it’s really hard to not be able to high five everyone. One of the interesting things about it, though, is that usually our [attending physicians] are the ones doing the teaching, but due to the nature of the virus, we’re all learning together. We’re growing together and I like that aspect.

WATM: What would you say to citizens who are putting off health treatments because of the virus? When should people go to the hospital?

Yenigun: People should call their doctor for advice. A lot of out-patient visits are shut down, but physicians are still pretty accessible and they can give medical advice.

Anyone with serious symptoms should come in, but if someone feels like their symptoms are manageable at home then they can safely do that. It is risky to come to a hospital if someone doesn’t need to be there — not just because of COVID-19.

People’s primary care doctors are still a really good resource.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DWDYhhRcy/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “Behind these doors lies a convention center turned medical facility with over 200 cots, neatly lined and ready to accept and care for the…”

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WATM: What treatments have been effective for patients with COVID-19?

Yenigun: Supportive therapy is still the most effective right now. There are a lot of drug and vaccine trials and antivirals being studied right now but if you were to come into the hospital today with COVID, the major things would be supportive treatments: administer oxygen, control fevers, monitor symptoms, and intubate when necessary.

WATM: Is your hospital doing proning?

Yenigun: Proning is something that has been around for so long. Proning has been an effective treatment for patients with bad lung diseases like ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome], which is what we call the syndrome these patients are getting with bad COVID. It’s not always effective, but in certain cases it can improve outcomes.

WATM: What kind of recovery rate are you seeing for COVID-positive patients?

Yenigun: The majority of patients I see are healthy enough to be discharged and they go home to get better. I don’t know the exact percentage, of course. I have seen some very sick people who end up in the ICU. Most of them have been elderly or they’ve had risk factors that we know lead to more serious infections. The big four that we know about are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and lung disease, so when we see COVID patients at higher risk then we monitor more closely.

WATM: What does the hospital do to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to patients/staff?

Yenigun: Even just to get into our hospital, staff members have to get their temperature checked. People with fevers have to go home. We also have very strict policies with regards to our PPE [personal protective equipment].

For patients, we can see many who are less critical in a drive-through outside and they will “iPad in” — we can tell a lot about a person from looking at them. Looking at you, I can tell that you’re breathing comfortably, that your color is good, that you can talk easily. I can tell that you don’t have a bad respiratory condition. We could swab you, you could go home, you could call in and get results.

For patients who are “persons under investigation” or that we think might have COVID in the hospital, we try to place them in negative pressure rooms. We also have HEPA filters in the rooms that are purifying the air. Anytime we go into those rooms, we wear full protective gear: gloves, N95 masks, goggles.

We’re fortunate now to have a rapid test so we can quickly determine who has COVID and who doesn’t so we’re able to separate COVID-positive patients from other patients.

WATM: Why is social distancing and “flattening the curve” important?

Yenigun: I don’t really like the term “social distancing” — I prefer “physical distancing” because I don’t think anyone should be forced into complete isolation, distancing themselves from the people they care about most in their social circles because that’s going to lead to a whole host of issues surrounding mental health.

It is important, however, to reduce the number of infections at any one time. The whole point of flattening the curve isn’t necessarily to reduce the number of infections — it’s to reduce the number of infections at once.

The worst thing we could do is have everyone go out and spread this thing like wildfire; suddenly everyone would present critically ill, flooding our emergency department. Many would need to get intubated, we would run out of ventilators, the ICU would fill, and then people would die in the waiting room. That’s our biggest nightmare — we don’t want people to die.

The whole point of distancing is to provide time for this virus to trickle through the population. The people who are going to get sick will get sick, but it will be manageable for hospitals. We’ll be able to take care of them and save as many lives as we can.

That time will also give us the opportunity to run these clinical trials and develop vaccines.

WATM: Have you seen any cases of reinfection?

Yenigun: I haven’t seen any reinfections. There has been talk about reinfections overseas, but we haven’t seen anyone personally who has gotten sick, gotten better, then gotten sick again here.

WATM: Are you worried about getting the virus?

Yenigun: I’m not too worried about my own personal well-being. I don’t think I would get critically ill. I’m more worried about the fact that I interact with multiple people and patients every day. I don’t want to pass it on to other people.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B-it1Q1Bc10/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I remember driving home from work last night wishing I had a way to spend my day off that would in someway contribute to the community. I…”

www.instagram.com

WATM: What is life like for doctors and nurses right now? What’s your work-tempo like and how is morale?

Yenigun: Work hasn’t necessarily increased because we’re able to manage the patients as they come in. I’ve personally been able to volunteer with Team Rubicon to staff a convention center here we’ve turned into a medical respite. I’ve had a lot of 24-hour days, but this is what I love and I’m happy to do it.

As far as morale, our community has really come together. We’ve been getting donations of food and snacks and letters from grateful locals. We had a great Black Rifle Coffee Company donation — shout out to those guys. Our staff has Zoom social hours. I put together a Zoom work-out for nurses and staff. We’ve found ways to come together.

WATM: What can people do to support hospitals and people in the medical field?

Yenigun: Everyone in health care would really appreciate it if everyone can just take measures to stay healthy. That’s what’s going to get us through this in the long run — that’s how we’re going to end these lockdowns. Wash your hands. Stay healthy. If you feel like you just have a cold, stay home. Unless you become afraid that you cannot manage the symptoms, you might be safer at home.

WATM: What are the benefits of taking an antibody test?

Yenigun: If you have been exposed, even if you were asymptomatic, you should have developed antibodies. In most cases, when you have antibodies for an illness you’re most likely protected from it. We can’t say that for sure about COVID-19. Antibody testing is interesting from an epidemiological perspective, but it might not necessarily mean anything conclusive for individuals yet.

WATM: Finally, and this is arguably the most important question, there’s an article about whether COVID-19 could be spread through farts…would you like to comment on that, Doctor?

Yenigun: Oh god…

WATM: I just want people to stay safe.

Yenigun: Do I think it could be…spread through a fart?

WATM: Right.

Yenigun: They have isolated the viral RNA in stool but that doesn’t necessarily mean it could be passed fecally…still, this is probably where common sense and courtesy come in.

WATM: Thank you for that and, sincerely, thank you for your continued service.

I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, too! Thank you.


Pin-Ups For Vets on Facebook Watch

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch: Famous graves at Arlington

Arlington National Cemetery holds over 300,000 United States veterans. Veterans from every US war or conflict since the Revolutionary War lie here. Founded in 1866, this cemetery is the largest and most prestigious in the nation. It is meant to honor all men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. 

The grounds are steeped in history 

The cemetery grounds, formerly Arlington House, used to be the property of George Washington’s adopted grandson and his wife. In 1831, their daughter married Robert E. Lee, and the couple lived there until Virginia ceded from the Union in 1861. A tax dispute led the federal government to reclaim the property in 1864. However, the land was later returned to Lee’s son after a lawsuit, though the government promptly repurchased it for about $150,000. This made little Lee a very rich man—the equivalent in today’s world would be roughly $4 million. 

Presidents, change-makers, and military leadership

One of the most prominent people buried there is 27th US President William Howard Taft, a man who never really wanted to be president at all. His real dream was to become a Supreme Court Justice, a goal he achieved later. No other man has ever served as President of the United States and Chief Justice on the Supreme Court. 

Change-makers

Another notable figure buried at Arlington is Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. He argued on the Brown v. Board of Education case, where the Supreme Court finally determined racial segregation to be unconstitutional once and for all. 

Presidents

JFK and Bobby Kennedy have a special, solemn place in Arlington. Above their graves, an eternal flame is lit. Jackie Kennedy was so moved when she saw the eternal flame over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that she wanted the same thing for her husband. When Jackie passed years later in 1994, her remains were placed next to her husband’s. 

Military Leaderships

David Hackworth, a colonel in the US Army who served in Korea and Vietnam, is also buried in Arlington. He was a highly decorated serviceman with tons of honors, including a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart with many oak leaf clusters attached to several. Hackworth also wrote a book that criticized how the Vietnam War was handled, for which he took some heat from the government—oops. 

Speaking of famous, one of the most famous women buried at Arlington is Admiral Grace Hopper. A leading programmer in the US Navy between 1943 and 1986, Hopper was a pioneer of computer programming and one of the first to use the Harvard Mark I. She was also the inventor of one of the first linkers. Today we think of linking as such a standard computer action, but we wouldn’t have it without Hopper. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Aussie Navy pilots targeted with laser beams in South China Sea

Australian navy helicopter pilots were hit with laser beams from fishing boats during military exercises in the South China Sea in May 2019, an analyst who was observing Australia’s operations said.

Euan Graham, an Asian security expert at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, was observing the Royal Australian Navy’s operation from on board the HMAS Canberra, a helicopter docking vessel, and said that Australia’s helicopters were being targeted with lasers from fishing boats.

He wrote for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank, that the lasers pointed at the helicopters led to “temporarily grounding them for precautionary medical reasons.”


Graham posited that the boats where the lasers originated could be Chinese: “Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia?”

Graham noted to CNN that: “It’s no secret that the broader thrust of China’s approach in the South China Sea is to try to make life difficult for foreign aircraft and warships there.”

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

China claims the South China Sea, despite competing claims and legal disputes from other countries in the region.

(Google Maps)

He said that it was unlikely to be fishermen using lasers to warn the helicopters away as there was little chance that a helicopter and a boat would be on course to collide.

“That makes sense for collision of vessels, but obviously there is no direct threat from aircraft to vessels in the South China Sea,” he said. “The maritime militia is, I think, not beyond argument as a tactic which is employed deliberately.”

Reports in 2018 said that more than 20 attacks with lasers were made against US military pilots in the East China Sea between September 2017 and June 2018.

Graham told CNN that he did not witness the lasers first hand, but pilots told him that they were repeatedly targeted.

He said in the post for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that the Australian navy was “followed at a discreet distance by a Chinese warship for most of the transit, both on the way up and back, despite the fact that our route didn’t take us near any feature occupied by Chinese forces, or any obviously sensitive areas.”

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

The HMAS Canberra at sea in 2016.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea as its own despite protests and legal battles with other countries in the region. It is a key transportation route for nations in the region, and contains oil and gas reserves. China has staked its territorial claims in recent years by creating manmade islands in the area, some of which are home to airfields.

Graham said said that radio communications between the Chinese and Australian navys was “courteous” during his time with the operation.

Australia’s military was conducting its Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 exercise, which concluded this week. The 11-week operation brought the military to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia to share disaster relief expertise.

Officials from Australia’s military told CNN that they were looking into Graham’s claims.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the North Vietnamese feared South Korean Marines

There’s no army on earth more anti-Communist than that of South Korea. When your closest neighbor and mortal enemy is North Korea, there’s just no other way. South Korea, also known as the Republic of Korea, suffered heavily from the surprise invasion from the north that started the three year long Korean War. The south has been willing to fight communism anywhere in the world ever since. 

When the United States intervened in the war in Vietnam, one of the earliest allies to send combat troops was the Republic of Korea. When the ROK 2nd Marine Brigade arrived in October 1965, its commander made sure the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong knew who they were going up against.

“We have only one purpose here — combat,” he said. He went on to say that they would be ready to fight any communist “anywhere, anytime.” And they were. 

south korean marines

A total of 37,000 Korean Marines would find their way to the battlefields of Vietnam and they were able to accomplish what other allies could not. Korea’s 2nd Battalion took over the assault on Ca Tau Mountain in November 1965. It was a heavily fortified position that the North had held for more than 18 years. The French couldn’t take it. The South Vietnamese failed to take it. The South Koreans took it in just nine hours. 

Everywhere South Korean Marines went, they cleared entire areas of communist aggression, securing rice fields, ports and the flanks of U.S. and South Vietnamese allies. In February 1966, the NVA attacked the Korean 3rd Marine Division at Tra Binh Dong. The Koreans held off the advance, despite being outnumbered 5-to-1. 

What they did next would likely embed itself in the minds of communnist forces in Vietnam anytime they considered fighting South Korean Marines.

More than 2,400 North Vietnamese soldiers pressed their attack but were pushed back – until the Marines ran out of ammunition. Once the shooting from the Marines stopped, the communists charged the Korean lines. Where other armies might have broken off or retreated, the Marines stayed put.

When the NVA poured through the Korean defenses, they found a force armed with fixed bayonets, pickaxes, and entrenching tools, which the Koreans used to such devastating effect that that forced the advancing communists back out of their perimeter. 

Upon returning to their lines, the Koreans detonated charges they’d set up around their camp. If the NVA planned an orderly withdrawal, that plan was now out the window. The Marines decided they would box in their enemy with the controlled detonation.

The NVA also quickly found out that the Koreans weren’t completely out of ammunition. A detachment of Marines had left the perimeter and taken out the NVA’s mortar company. The communists tried one last time to charge the perimeter, but by then the detachment had returned and the NVA attacked a line that exploded with machine gun fire, cutting them down.

What should have been an easy victory for the North Vietnamese Army turned into a total disaster, killing a tenth of the attacking force. Half of the communist dead were actually killed in the hand to hand fighting inside the Marines perimeter. The South Koreans lost 15 of their own, but the NVA didn’t try another offensive in the area until after the Korean Marines departed. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

This crusader was packing four guns and sidewinder missiles

When you think of a crusader, you may think of the Christian warriors who tried to ‘free’ the Holy Land (but are now mostly known for their bad behavior). Or, you could conjure up images of a World War II tank used by the British. But there was one crusader, in particular, that packed four guns and could go very fast. We’re talking about the Vought F-8 Crusader, once called “The Last Gunfighter.”


In the wake of the Korean War, the United States Navy was trying to stabilize its carrier air wings. The shift from propeller-driven planes to jets was well underway and the Navy had to jettison a few duds as it tried to make that shift. The F6U Pirate, for example, just didn’t have the oomph in the engine and the F7U Cutlass was too dangerous… for its pilots.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Still, the Navy was looking for a fighter. Vought, despite the failures of the Pirate and the Cutlass, managed to win this contract. This time, however, the company came up with a classic in what was called the F8U Crusader at the time. The plane established a reputation for speed — Korean War MiG-killer John Glenn, a future astronaut, took a reconnaissance variant across the country in record time in 1957.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the centerpiece of the Crusader’s combat capabilities was a suite of four Mk 12 20mm cannon backed up by four AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Crusader served with the Navy and Marine Corps in Vietnam, scoring 18 kills for three air-to-air losses. While the fighter retired soon after the Vietnam War ended, the photo-reconnaissance version stuck around with the Navy Reserve until 1987.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II
Two RF-8G Crusaders in flight shortly before the 1987 retirement of the plane. (USAF photo)

Two countries received the F-8 Crusader on the export market. France operated the F-8E(FN), equipped with R.530 and R.550 Magic 2 air-to-air missiles instead of the American Sidewinder. Those served until December 1999. The Philippines flew the F-8H model, operating it until 1991.

Learn more about this four-gun Crusader in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSEUE5QC_HI
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

The six years of experience and hundreds of hours of flight time needed to become a pilot of the US Air Force’s oldest spy plane are no more, and now trainee pilots will be eligible to take the controls of the venerable Dragon Lady.

The new U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program will allow Air Force student pilots to jump directly into the U-2 pipeline and join the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” Air Force Col. Andy Clark, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a release.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Pilots from Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The new program is meant to create ” a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of [reconnaissance] warfighting capabilities,” Clark said. The first selection will be among fall 2018 undergraduate training pilots with the next round coming in about six months.

The change comes as the Air Force seeks to modernize the U-2 airframe and mission, as well as its pilot-acquisition and development process.

Once selected, pilots in the FACT program will go the T-38 pilot instructor training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas before a permanent change-of-station to Beale Air Force Base in California, where the U-2s are based.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Airmen refuel a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, California, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

The selectee will then be a T-38 instructor pilot for the next two years, and once they have the requisite experience, they will undergo the standard two-week U-2 pilot interview process.

If hired, they’ll then start Basic Qualification Training.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, said in a release.

“However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A U-2 prepares to land at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘An art, not a science’

The U-2 entered service during the Eisenhower administration, carrying out covert missions high above enemy territory during the height of the Cold War. The aircraft have been overhauled and the missions have changed in the decades since, but the Dragon Lady remains one of the most unique and challenging aircraft US pilots can fly.

Today’s U-2s are larger than the original versions and are made of slightly lighter material, as less weight translates into more altitude — about one extra foot for each pound shed, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who ventured up in a U-2 in 2018, accompanied by Jethro, one of the few pilots who’ve qualified to fly it.

Every six years, each U-2 is totally overhauled by Lockheed Martin, which takes the plane completely apart and goes through “every wire, every connector, every panel,” Jethro told Phillips.

“They’ll X-ray it … make sure there’s no cracks, replace anything that’s broken, put it back together, new coat of paint, and it looks like a brand-new airplane again, and it flies like a brand-new airplane again,” Jethro added.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A U-2 is prepped for takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

The long, narrow wings allow the U-2 to quickly lift heavy payloads of cameras and sensors to high altitudes and stay there for extended periods. It’s capable of gathering an array of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products that can be stored aboard or transmitted to the ground.

Some parts of the preparation process are still low-tech, however.

The U-2 has a central fuel tank fed by tanks in each wing. Crews will fill up the wing tanks and then look to see which way the aircraft leans. They they transfer fuel from one side to the other until it balances out.

“So it’s really kind of an art, not a science,” Jethro said.

U-2 pilots work in two-man crews, but the pilots go up in the aircraft alone. Their pre-flight preparations begin with donning a full-pressure suit, like those worn by astronauts, that regulates the pilot’s pressure and temperature.

“If the cockpit lost pressure at 70,000 feet” — the usual cruising altitude — “and I weren’t wearing a space suit, my blood would boil,” Phillips said.

Once suited, pilots head to the aircraft, accompanied by a crew member carrying their oxygen supply.

Pilots give the U-2 a traditional pat on the nose, shake hands with each flight crew member, and clamber into the cockpit, where a team of technicians hooks them up to an array of regulators and sensors.

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A U-2 pilot prepares to board his aircraft at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

“I’ve got crew chiefs. I’ve got electricians. I’ve got different civilians for each of the sensors … so there may be 40 people around the aircraft, who are all there just to get you in the air,” Jethro said. “We don’t call it a takeoff. We call it a launch.”

The U-2’s 103-foot wingspan and broad turning radius make it hard to maneuver, and the wings, laden with fuel, are supported by bicycle-like wheels that break away during takeoff.

To help deal with those hazards, the other member of the two-man pilot team trails behind the U-2 at the wheel of a muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Tesla Model S — that can keep up with the U-2.

Other U-2 pilots who aren’t flying may be in Beale’s control tower, overseeing their fellow pilots’ missions.

During takeoff, the pilot wrestles with the plane as it gets off the ground.

“As soon as you throw the power up, you’re pushing 18,000 pounds of thrust out of the backend. You have those big, long wings, and it just wants to accelerate so fast,” said one U-2 pilot, identified only as Nova. “You gotta pull it up to about 40 degrees nose high just to keep the airplane within limits, and that is just one of the coolest feelings ever.”

“When you get a chance to look and just see the earth just falling away behind you so quickly, it’s awesome,” he added.

Temporary wheels, called “pogos,” that hold up the wings during takeoff drop away as the plane leaves the ground.

The U-2 ascends to about 70,000 feet for a typical mission. Up there, the curvature of the earth allows pilots to see 270 nautical miles in each direction — a field of vision of about 500 miles. It can map all of Iraq in a single mission.

On the edge of space, the cockpit is silent except for the raspy hiss of the breathing system, which sucks pure oxygen into the pilot’s helmet.

“The air pressure inside the cockpit is the equivalent to standing on top of Mount Everest,” Phillips said.

“Without the oxygen I’d be gasping for breath, and I’d be in danger of getting the bends,” he added, referring to an illness that occurs when dissolved gases enter the bloodstream as the body experiences changes in pressure.

“A lot of times when we get up to altitude, you’ll be able to look down and see the airliners,” Jethro, the pilot, said during the flight.

“And you can see that very gentle curve of the earth from here,” Phillips added, “It’s an extraordinary view.”

“When you get up there and you think, like, ‘What makes these people different from these people?’ And you just don’t see it from up there,” Nova, the other pilot, said. “It’s one world. There’s one planet.”

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘You’re in a small club’

The features that make the U-2 an exceptional high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft make it extremely difficult to land. Pilots have to perform a kind of controlled crash to bring the plane back to earth.

The two sets of wheels built into the plane are set up like bicycle wheels, with one set under the nose and the other under the tail. The massive wings, now relieved of their fuel, make the aircraft hard to control as it comes in.

The cars that saw the plane off zip in as it lands, their drivers giving the pilots a foot-by-foot countdown and alerting them to any problems. The cars can hit 140 mph while chasing an incoming U-2.

Once the plane has slowed down enough, one of the wings droops to the ground. Titanium skid plates on the bottoms of both wings help bring the plane to a full stop, at which point the temporary wheels are reattached. The plane then taxis off the runway.

Back on earth, technicians begin developing the imagery.

A flight can produce 10,500 feet of film, stored on a 250-pound spool, according to Phillips.

The U-2’s wet-film camera produces images that are clearer than digital images, which are analyzed with loupes or microscope-like optics that zoom in on the features captured on the film.

It’s an old-fashioned approach to aerial reconnaissance, Phillips noted. “But it works, and that’s why it’s still around,” one of the airmen overseeing the film-development process added.

After the first two undergraduate pilot training students are picked and enter the FACT program, the assignment process “will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline,” the Air Force said in its announcement.

For the time being, the Dragon Lady’s pilot corps will be a rare breed.

“A thousand pilots, [there are] way more Super Bowl rings out there. You’re in a small club,” Lt. Col. Matt Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, told Phillips.

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

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