This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF's deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero in World War II, downing 23 German aircraft, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order, and being named the 5th deadliest fighter ace in the RAF.


Making his feats even more impressive was the fact that he did these things without legs.

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Douglas Bader as photographed in 1940 with two prosthetic limbs but massive balls. Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A

 

Bader was known for being an athletic kid. His family faced money problems after his father died of injuries sustained in World War I. Bader had to earn athletic scholarships to attend school. His prowess on the field also helped him get a cadetship to the Cranwell Air Force Academy in 1928 where he earned a reputation for skill in the cockpit.

Two years later, Bader graduated and began flying in aerobatic displays for the RAF. In a 1931 show, he attempted a low-level display and crashed into the ground, sustaining severe injuries. Doctors decided they would have to amputate both of his legs beneath the knees to save him.

The charismatic pilot later wrote in his diary for that day, “Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.” He was a bit stoic.

Bader was forced out of the RAF by the injury but was promised that he could come back if war was declared. He spent the next few years learning to play sports with his tin prosthetics.

In 1939, he got his chance to re-enter the service and took it. He attended a pilot refresher course and was sent to Duxford, England in 1940. At Duxford, he was introduced to the Spitfire which he described as “the aeroplane of one’s dreams.”

Soon, he was flying combat missions. He participated in the evacuation at Dunkirk where he scored his first victory over a German aircraft.

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Douglas Bader’s logbook show his first kill at the Evacuation of Dunkirk. Photo: Royal Air Force online exhibitions

 

With the English kicked out of Europe, Hitler quickly began laying the groundwork for an invasion of the kingdom and Bader was called on to help keep the Germans out of England. In Jul. 1940, the Battle of Britain was on. Bader and his commander, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, pioneered the Big Wing strategy that summer which envisioned squadrons of fighters descending on German bombers and their fighter escorts.

It was credited at the time with forcing the Germans to cease daytime bombing missions and postponing the potential invasion of Britain from 1940 to 1941. RAF pilots were heralded as heroes, Bader especially. Bader had racked up a stunning 23 aircraft kills, counting the one at Dunkirk. This made him the 5th most lethal pilot in the RAF.

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Royal Air Force Spitfires, like the plane Douglas Bader piloted, fly in formation. Photo: Public Domain

 

Unfortunately for Bader, his luck ran out Aug. 9 when he was hit over northern France and forced to bail out. At the time, Bader thought it was due to a collision with a Messerschmitt 109, but historical research decades later pointed to the possibility that another British pilot may have shot him down on accident.

Regardless, Bader found himself in a plane going down but was stuck in the cockpit because a prosthetic had become trapped under the rudder pedal. Bader made it out of the plane, but his right prosthetic was torn off in the process.

When he hit the ground, he was quickly captured by a group of Germans. In the United Kingdom, the Battle of Britain pilots had become famous and the double amputee/wing commander/fighter ace was one of the best-known pilots on the Allied side. The Germans quickly realized who they had captured and attempted to give Bader a pretty easy run of it. They recovered his wrecked leg and repaired it as best as they could.

Bader immediately attempted to escape on the repaired leg, climbing down a rope made of blankets and running away. He was soon recaptured.

Despite Bader’s escape attempt, the Germans offered safe passage for a British bomber to drop a replacement prosthetic for the damaged leg, but the RAF knew that the Germans would use it for publicity. Instead, they sent the leg on a bombing mission and had a Blenheim bomber drop the leg onto the camp during an otherwise normal bombing mission.

Bader again attempted to escape once he got his new leg. The pilot was transferred from one camp to another, attempting to escape whenever he could until the Hitler finally sent him to Colditz Castle, a prison that was considered inescapable.

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Colditz Castle as seen in 1945. The castle was used as a POW camp by the Germans until it was liberated in 1945. Photo: US Army

 

There, Bader’s attempts to escape slowed but he found ways to make life miserable for the guards. One day, he refused to go to the formation to be counted. When the guards arrived at his room to order him out, he engaged in a shouting match with the guards and eventually told them, “My feet would get cold in the snow. If you want to count me, come to my room and do it.”

The guard then drew his pistol on Bader who immediately changed his tact and infuriated the guard further. “Well, of course I’ll go if you really want me to,” Bader said before picking up a stool, dragging it out to formation, and sitting on it to be counted.

Bader continued his hijinks for the rest of the war. The RAF promoted him to group captain and Bader led a 300-aircraft victory formation over London after the Axis forces surrendered.

In 1946 he turned to a civilian career. He was knighted in 1973 for his work to help other amputees before dying in 1982 of a heart attack. His story was featured in the 1956 movie, “Reach for the Sky.”

Articles

Army Legend Hal Moore Dies at 94

Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.


This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in Vietnam. Plumley died in 2012.

Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.

Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.

According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (US Army photo)

While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.

Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.

Articles

8 US Navy ships named for women

The United States Navy has a history of honoring women – one that goes way back to 1776, when a row galley was named for Martha Washington (George’s wife).  Currently, seven Navy ships named for women are in active service with the United States Navy, and an eighth is on the way. Here’s a rundown on these ships:


1. USS Hopper (DDG 70)

This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named for Rear Adm. Grace M. Hopper according to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.” Admiral Hopper was a computer scientist who served from 1941 to 1986 in the Naval Reserve and active Navy. At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest commissioned officer in the Navy.

The destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System with a total of 90 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standard missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets. She also has eight RGM-84 Harpoons in two Mk 141 launchers, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, and two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes.

In January, 2008, the Hopper was one of several U.S. Navy warships that had close encounters with Iranian speedboats.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

2. USS Roosevelt (DDG 80)

This Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is named in honor of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady for 12 years, then served as a diplomat and spokesperson for the United Nations.

The destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) has a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total of 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters.

According to a 2006 US Navy release, the Roosevelt and the Dutch Frigate De Zeven Provincien took part in an attempted rescue of a South Korean fishing vessel captured by pirates. In 2014, the DOD reported the destroyer took part in delivering a rogue oil tanker to Libyan authorities.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
USS Roosevelt (DDG 😎 in the Suez Canal. (US Navy photo)

3. USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2)

This Lewis and Clark class replenishment ship was named for Sacagawea, the Native American woman who guided the expedition lead by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the Louisiana Purchase. A previous USS Sacagawea (YT 326) was a harbor tug that served from 1925 to 1945.

The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Sacagawea carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels.  She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.

In 2013, the Sacagawea took part in Freedom Banner 2013 as part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
USNS Sacagawea (T AKE 2) replenishes two amphibious vessels. (US Navy photo)

4. USNS Amelia Earhart (T AKE 6)

The first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart was one of the few women who earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 under unknown circumstances. DANFS notes that a Liberty Ship was previously named for the famous aviator.

The 41,000-ton replenishment ship USNS Amelia Earhart carries ammo, food, and other supplies to keep the United States Navy (and allies) fighting. The ship also can transfer some fuel to other vessels. She can carry two MH-60 helicopters to help transfer cargo and have as many as six .50-caliber machine guns.

DANFS notes that on Nov. 20, 2014, the Amelia Earhart collided with USNS Walter S. Diehl (T AO 193).

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (US Navy photo)

5. USNS Mary Sears (T AGS 65)

Mary Sears was the first Oceanographer of the Navy during World War II. According to the website for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, her research on thermoclines saved many American submariners’ lives by enabling our subs to hide from enemy forces.

Fittingly, the U.S. Navy named the Pathfinder-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Mary Sears in her honor. The 5,000-ton vessel has a top speed of 16 knots, and carries a number of sensors for her mission. In 2007, the Mary Sears helped locate the “black boxes” from a missing airliner.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Mary Sears supports worldwide oceanography programs, including performing acoustical, biological, physical, and geophysical surveys. (Unattributed or dated U.S. Navy photograph, Mary Sears (T-AGS-65), Ship Inventory, MSC)

6. USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10)

Former Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — whose husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly — served for five years before resigning her seat in the aftermath of an assassination attempt.

The Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords has a 57mm gun, four .50-caliber machine guns, and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. The vessel can carry two MH-60 helicopters and MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles.

The ship just entered service in December, 2016, and had a cameo in Larry Bond’s 2016 novel, Red Phoenix Burning, where it was rammed by a Chinese frigate, suffering moderate damage.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
An aerial view of the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) during its launch sequence at the Austal USA shipyard, Mobile, Alabama (USA). (US Navy photo)

7. USNS Sally Ride (T AGOR 28)

Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, flying on two Space Shuttle missions (missing a third after the Challenger exploded during launch), who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012.

The Navy named the Neil Armstrong-class oceanographic research vessel USNS Sally Ride in her honor. The vessel, which is operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, is equipped with acoustic systems for ocean mapping and modular laboratories, according to DANFS. In February,the Sally Ride helped map an underwater fault off the coast of California, providing information that helped to update Google Earth.

A sister ship, the USNS Neil Armstrong (T AGOR 27), named for the first person to walk on the moon, is operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Dr. Tamara E. O’Shaughnessy, Sally Ride’s sponsor, breaks a bottle across the ship’s bow during her christening at Dakota Creek’s shipyard in Anacortes, Wash., 4 August 2014. Joining O’Shaughnessy on the platform are Dick Nelson, president, Dakota Creek Industries, Inc., the reverend Dr. Bear Ride, matron of honor, Kathleen Ritzman, assistant director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research. (US NAvy photo)

8. USS Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG 123)

Lenah Higbee was the first woman to receive the Navy Cross – being recognized for her service as Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps in World War I. She was recognized with a Gearing-class destroyer in 1945, according to DANFS, that saw action in the last months of World War II.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee will have a 5-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) with a total on 96 cells for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66, RIM-161, and RIM-174 Standards, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, two Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), four .50 caliber machine guns, two triple mounts for Mk 32 torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry two MH-60R helicopters when she enters service. MarineLog.com reported in January that construction of the destroyer had started.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Lenah Higbee, Superintendant of the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps during World War I. (US Navy photo)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why grave-robbing Confederate generals is big business

In April, 2013, an iron casket was found pulled out of its grave and its contents were spilled all over the Old Church Cemetery near Waynesboro, Ga. A man, later found to be Ralph “Bubba” Hillis, and a partner had taken to digging up graves in the cemetery.

Why target this little cemetery? Because it was filled with the remains of Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers.


This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
(Sgt. Sean Cochran, Burke County Sheriff)

The issue of grave robbing by those searching unique, ancient artifacts is a huge problem the world over, especially in places like Egypt, Peru, and Cambodia. These are areas filled with archaeological treasures and a steady flow of individuals who are struggling economically and are willing to risk punishment to go dig up said artifacts for the right price.

And that price can always be found. Illegally-sold Egyptian antiquities are found all over the world as they make their way from the Valley of the Kings to Syria to Dubai to New York and, finally, to whatever buyer is waiting at their final destination. Eager collectors are just waiting to find the right artifact from the right seller at the right price. The same technology that brings the world closer together also brings looters and grave robbers closer to these buyers.

Online sales and auction sites like eBay make it possible for individuals to make these transactions in short order, while the popularity of television shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers show just how easy it is to profit from a few authentic pieces of history. The ease of selling ill-gotten items and the interest garnered by their value and origins are making grave robbing a profitable crime right here in the United States, too.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

A sword like this one, which belonged to Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, is worth tens of thousands of dollars. This example was never dug up from a grave, however.

The value of Civil War-era artifacts has lead to the growth of a booming black market. A single button from a Confederate uniform can net as much as 0. Full uniforms and medals can fetch anywhere from 0 to thousands of dollars for the right collector. According to Southern antiques brokers, an officer’s sword is worth anywhere from ,000 and ,000 — it doesn’t even matter if that officer was a general.

Two big things make dealing in black-market Confederate artifacts so profitable. The first is how rarely these sorts of things are available at auction. Electronic tracking, official dealers, and mandatory identification make it very difficult to illegally transport Civil War relics. The second is the inability to track the authenticity of the artifacts themselves. As you can imagine, Confederate records were kept only for as long as the Confederacy existed, which means there are plenty of legitimate artifacts that lack a kept record.

As a result, there is treasure literally buried all over the South.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Archaeologists carry out a dig at New Mexico’s Fort Craig cemetery, where the remains of dozens of soldiers and children were secretly exhumed after an informant tipped them off about widespread grave-looting.

(U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

And people are starting to go dig for it — risking stiff prison terms.

But don’t be concerned that your local Civil War museum or historical society is dealing in stolen goods or housing grave-robbed artifacts. You can be reasonably certain that anything accepted by a legitimate museum was purchased with a clear record of ownership and was probably tracked through INTERPOL.

Authorities are now taking to hiring archaeologists to exhume grave-robbed Civil War-era sites in order to preserve the history entombed there while keeping them from being looted again in the future.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What if a Soviet mechanized infantry battalion had tried to start World War III?

The Fulda Gap is not well known outside military planners and wargamers. But if World War III happened, that would be where one of the first battles would be fought between the United States Army and the Soviet Red Army.


Who would come out on top?

Let’s go away from the big picture – and instead take a more tactical look at this scenario.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
A Russian-made BMP with the Polish army.

 

We’ll put a troop from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (nine M1A2 SEP Abrams tanks, 13 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles, two M1064 120mm mortars, and a M577 command track) against a battalion of Soviet mechanized infantry (42 BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, plus 3 BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles and eight 120mm mortars).

The American cavalry troop’s nine M1A2 Abrams tanks feature the M256 120mm gun, and each tank carries 40 rounds for that weapon. While the M256 is able to fire a number of rounds, the primary two we will look at are the M830A1 High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) round and the M829A3 armor-piercing “sabot” round.

The HEAT round uses a shaped charge to create a jet of molten metal to penetrate armor. The latter is, essentially, a dart of depleted uranium weighing about 20 pounds.

But let’s not sell the weapons on the 13 M3A3 Bradleys short — the Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle has the M242 Bushmaster, a 25mm chain gun with 1,500 rounds of ammunition and a two-round launcher for the BGM-71 Tube-Launched Optically Tracked Wire-guided missile, with a dozen rounds.

The M3A3 has a crew of three and can carry two cavalry scouts.

The primary opponent that the Americans will face is the BMP-2. BMP is short for Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty, or “infantry combat vehicle.”

The BMP-2 has a 30mm 2A42 autocannon with 500 rounds, and a launcher for the AT-5 “Spandrel” anti-tank missile with five rounds. It has a crew of three and carries a squad of seven infantrymen.

The BRDM-2 is a four-wheeled armored car that has a 14.5mm KPV machine gun and carries a crew of four.

You may ask, why mechanized infantry and not tanks?

Believe it or not, it’s due to Soviet doctrine. As Viktor Suvarov pointed out in “Inside the Soviet Army,” the doctrine of the Red Army was “the maximum concentration of forces in the decisive sector.” The Soviets would not be sending their tanks first, but instead, mechanized infantry to probe and find a weak spot. Once found, then more and more reserves would be sent to punch through the hole.

So, these 42 BMP-2s and the three BRDM-2s make their way through their sector of the Fulda Gap, probing to find a weak point in American lines, they happen on the American cavalry troop.

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
(DoD photo by Eddie McCrossan)

So, how does this fight go down? The real answer depends on who sees whom first. Here, the Americans will have an advantage due to their thermal sights and their advanced fire-control systems. Furthermore, the BRDM-2 is not exactly what one would call “well-protected,” having less than half an inch of armor.

The Americans, on the other hand, would likely be fighting from positions that are somewhat prepared – providing both cover and concealment.

The BRDMs may find the Americans, but the announcement will likely be marked by the BRDMs turning into bonfires. That will give the Red Army battalion commander an idea of where the Americans are – but he won’t have much more information. He may send one of his companies (consisting of 12 of his BMP-2s) forward, at which point, the best he can hope for is to get some fragmentary information as that company is wiped out.

Meanwhile, the American cavalry troop is re-positioning itself for the next round. When the remainder of the Soviet battalion attacks, there will be a longer firefight.

This is where the Russian battalion finds itself in a world of hurt. The 30mm autocannons won’t be able to beat the armor on an Abrams tank, but in order to use the one weapon they have that can defeat an Abrams tank (the AT-5 missiles), they have to hold still – making them sitting ducks. The Soviet battalion will likely be quickly wiped out, even as it uses its mortars to try to suppress the American units.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

After that engagement, the American cavalry troop would probably pull back to another set of positions. It will have suffered some losses – probably among its Bradley Fighting Vehicles — but it will likely have most of its strength, ready for the next attack.

Even though they won the skirmish, it is very likely that they would have needed to pull back anyhow – the Soviets would have used their numerical superiority to find a gap, and NATO would have had to adjust their lines to avoid a decisive breakthrough. But the Americans could take some small comfort in knowing that they gave the Soviets a very bloody nose in the first round.

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
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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.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
“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.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
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.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
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.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
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.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time when British Commandos rode an AH-64 Apache helicopter to combat

“No one left behind” is an often-heard mantra in military units. Popularized by feats like the ‘Black Hawk Down’ operation, it enhances esprit de corps in a unit. It also emboldens warriors to perhaps go a step further during combat, assured that they wouldn’t be left alone in case things turn sour. But how far would a unit go to recover one of its own?

Helmand Province, Afghanistan, January 15, 2007.

Royal Marines Commandos from Z Company of 45 Commando launch an assault on a Taliban fort. The 200 Commandos enjoy armor and 155mm artillery support. Overhead, U.S. B-1 bombers and British Apache Longbow AH-64 helicopters provide a silent assurance with their potent arsenal and infrared cameras.


The Jugroom Fort, a strategically vital position in Garmsir, Southern Helmand, overlooks the Helmand River. Today, it’s packed with Taliban fighters.

The Marines ford the river in their Viking APCs and assault the fortified structure. Heavy combat ensues. Despite their overwhelming firepower, the Commandos are forced to withdraw. Once back in their launching position, a muster goes around, and a grim discovery is made: Lance Corporal Mathew Ford is missing.

Using its infrared camera, one of the AH-64 Apaches spots a lone figure pulsing with a weak heat-signature tucked away in a corner of the Fort. The Taliban all around seem impervious to its existence—but for how long?

A rescue operation must be shift before the insurgents realize what’s going on.

The Commando officers argue for a ground rescue operation, but the higher-ups back in Camp Bastion waiver fearing more casualties. Meanwhile, LCpl. Ford’s brothers-in-arms fume. They decide to take the situation into their own hands. Alongside some of the Apache pilots, they devise a bold rescue plan. Four Commandos strap themselves to the wings of two of the Apaches. A third chopper will follow and try to suppress any Taliban.

The Army Air Corps’ pilots fly their Apaches just 20ft above the ground, at 60mph.

The British Commandos land within the Fort’s walls. The Commandos jump from the wings and begin searching for the missing comrade. A few of the pilots join them armed with their personal sidearms.

They find LCpl. Ford—he is unconscious.

Recovering their fallen comrade, they re-mount the choppers and safely fly back to their positions.

It was later discovered that the 30-year-old Ford was dead when the rescue force arrived. But the grimmest discovery came in the autopsy. Ford had been zipped by friendly-fire. It later became known that one of his buddies mistook a hand-grenade flash close to Ford’s position for gunfire and shot him.

Despite rumors of a court-martial for their actions, the whole rescue team was honored. Two of the Apache pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the highest military awards. The rest of the pilots alongside the four Commandos received the Military Cross.

So, if you find yourself alongside Royal Marines Commandos or any British Apache pilots, you can rest assured that they won’t leave you behind.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

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These 18 photos show the bravery of US troops during the Battle of the Bulge

On Dec. 16, 1944, Nazi Germany launched a counteroffensive against the Allied powers. The sneak attack began with a massive assault of over 200,000 troops and 1,000 tanks, aimed to divide and conquer the Allied forces. Some English-speaking Germans dressed in American uniforms to slip past the defenses.


After just one day of fighting, the Germans managed to isolate the American 101st Airborne Division and capture a series of key bridges and communication lines. Over the next two days, Patton’s Third Army would batter through miles of German tanks and infantry to reach the trapped paratroopers.

The fighting continued through the beginning of Jan. 1945 when Hitler finally agreed with his generals to pull back the German forces.

Here are 18 photos from the historic battle that show what life was like in the winter Hell.

1. American and German troops battled viciously for Belgian villages that were destroyed by artillery, tank fire, and bombs.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
3rd Armored Division infantrymen advance under artillery fire at Pont-Le-Ban, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945. Photo: US Army

2. The battle was fought across a massive front featuring forests, towns, and large plains.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

3. With deep snow covering much of the ground, medics relied on sleds to help evacuate the wounded.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Medics remove an American casualty from the wood near Berle, Lusxembourg on Jan. 12, 1945

4. Troops lucky enough to get winter camouflage blended in well with the snow.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Two elements of the 84th Division meet up at an abandoned mill near River L’Ourt, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945

5. Troops who weren’t so lucky stood out in stark contrast to the white ground during the Battle of the Bulge.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
American infantrymen of the 290th Regiment fight in fresh snowfall near Amonines, Belgium on Jan. 4, 1945.

6. Troops were often separated from their units due to the chaotic nature of the battle. They would usually find their way back on foot.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
101st Airborne Division paratroopers Pfc. M.L. Dickens of East Omaha, Nebraska, Pvt. Sunny Sundquist of Bremerton, Washington, and Sgt. Francis H. McCann of Middleton, Conn., set out to rejoin their unit near Bastogne on Jan. 11, 1945.

7. Each side lost about 1,000 tanks in the battle and the burned out wrecks littered the countryside.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Infantry supporting engineers pass a knocked out German tank on their way to the front at Compogne, Belgium on Jan. 15, 1945.

8. In towns, Luftwaffe bombing killed many soldiers and civilians while destroying the buildings and equipment everywhere.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

9. Medics would evacuate the wounded from these areas to safer hospitals when possible.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

10. In caves and bomb shelters, Allied doctors and medics treated the civilians wounded by battle or sick from exposure to the elements.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Captain Charles S. Quinn (right) of Louisville, Kentucky, bandages the gangrene-infected foot of Belgian refugee child in a cellar in Ottre, Belgium on Jan. 11, 1945. Captain Quinn was a battalion surgeon with the 83rd Division, First Army.

11. The soldiers could also fall prey to the elements. The extreme cold and sometimes rugged terrain posed challenges for the defenders.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Two paratroopers advance through a snow-covered, wooded section of the battlefield near Henumont, Belgium on Jan. 14, 1945.

12. Many of the forces holding the line were tank and airborne units.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: US Army

13. Camouflage was used to protect equipment when possible.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Soldiers use bedsheets donated by the locals to hide military equipment from Luftwaffe bombers and German army artillery.

14. Until the Third Army was able to open a land corridor through the siege of Bastogne, 101st Airborne Division paratroopers relied on air drops for resupply.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

15. The Luftwaffe and U.S. fighters fought overhead, each attempting to gain air dominance.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

16. Though the Allies would eventually win in the air and on the ground, a number of aircraft were lost.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
A crashed plane lies in the snow near Remagne, Belgium on Jan. 13, 1945.

17. As more Allied troops were sent to reclaim the lost territory in Jan. 1945, they were forced to pass the remains of those already killed.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

18. Troops held memorial services for their fallen comrades whenever possible.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Engineers fire in a memorial service during the Battle of the Bulge. Photo: US Army

MIGHTY HISTORY

The logistics behind cryptology in the U.S. Military

Since the dawn of communication, cryptology has been in place to help keep military secrets just that, secrets. But how it’s done ranges throughout history — from hieroglyphics to modern-day computer code. Based on the level of technology of the time, the country itself, and even various military branches have all used unique ways to keep their messages in code. 

The Roman Army used the Ceasar Shift Cipher as early as the 1st century, A.D., while ancient Greece hid messages “in plain sight” by a method called steganography. It was first seen around 440 B.C. by Herodotus. The Allies cracked the Enigma Code — Germany’s cryptology method at the time — to greatly shorten World War II. And in the 1970s, data encryption vastly advanced how communication was able to be hidden and protected. 

In the U.S., cryptology was heavily used in each battle or wartime event. As a way of keeping information from the enemy, notes were written in code or with secret messages. 

Revolutionary War

During the U.S. bout for freedom from the British, cryptology is said to have saved many lives, even having outed Benedict Arnold before he gave up West Point to the British. Through a secret group called the Culper Spy Ring, individuals passed along messages that were obtained by spies. Membership within the organization was secret, and even the members themselves didn’t know who was all involved. The messages were then passed after being coded into the Culper Code Book, which used 763 numbers to represent various words, names and places. The book was developed by George Washington’s spymaster, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, who spied under the name of John Bolton. 

Civil War

By the time the Civil War had begun, the telegraph had been invented and was widely used as a form of communication. This allowed messages to be passed quickly among military forces. It also called in the need for code to help encrypt messages. Both Union and Confederate forces disguided their telegraph messages. Hand-written notes and vocally passed messages were also coded in order to keep communication more private. 

William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone’s electric telegraph (“needle telegraph”) from 1837 now in the London Science Museum (Geni, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Most notably, cryptology is known to have failed when female spies would flirt information out of soldiers. At the time, it was widely believed that women did not have a role in the war, or weren’t a valuable intelligence asset, so secrets were spilled without fear of consequence. 

World War I

During World War I, yet another technological advancement was made with the teletype cipher, which could de-code messages as they were received. This allowed messages to be sent much faster, as they did not require a person to manually translate the message. Instead they were sent live, decoded. 

During the Great War, British Admiral Sir William Hall’s team famously decoded the Zimmerman Telegram. A message system between Germany and Mexico, the message stated a German plan for submarine warfare and attempting to ally with Mexico for a U.S. invasion. However, rather than spill the beans, Hall kept quiet. He knew if he outed them, they would realize the source of the information leak. 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Teletype teleprinters in use in England (Public Domain)

The Zimmerman was later used to decrypt more messages and eventually help win the war. 

World War II

In World War II, there were entire deparments dedicated to finding the meaning of hidden codes. Notably women were recruited and taught cryptology, and were sworn to secrecy about what they were doing. Their efforts, along with other countries’, soon paid off. Polish and British mathematicians decoded the Germans’ Enigma code, leading Allied forces privvy to much information. The Germans soon suspected that their messages were being read, and added another rotor — the Enigma worked by scrambling letters with these rotors — to make messages harder to decipher. 

In addition, Japanese codes were also cracked, helping bringing an end to the war. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. used a machine called the SIGABA. Working similar to the Enigma, the SIGABA had 15 rotors and no reflector device, which made it harder to crack. There were no known breaches of the SIGABA through its use, up until the 1950s. 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
SIGABA Machine (Public Domain)

Modern day wars

With the start of Vietnam, when data became digital and could therefore be encrypted, coding messages became more complicated. And more secret. To date, there are entire departments dedicated to creating programs that keep intelligence a secret. Using binary bit sequences, security clearance levels, and countless sophisticated computer programs, and it becomes a complicated event. One that we couldn’t even guess to begin how it works … and even if we could, it’s likely that folks in suits would show up at the door. So let’s just say it’s complicated, and perhaps in several decades, we can look back and see how it was all accomplished. 

Lists

9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s the story behind the WWII legends the Doolittle Raiders

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and 2403 people lost their lives. America mourned, but she also planned and united in her commitment to retaliate. The Japanese had attacked hoping to force her hand in lifting sanctions.

Instead, they got war.


This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

U.S. Air Force

One month after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a secret joint Army-Navy bombing initiative was put together. The plan was to bomb the industrial areas of Japan with B-25 bombers, led by then United States Army Air Forces Colonel James Doolittle. The task force to get them there was commanded by Vice Admiral William Halsey. The bombers would then take off the aircraft carrier Hornet, commanded by Captain Marc Mitscher. The 80 men who would fly to complete this dangerous mission all willingly volunteered for it.

They were ready.

Under the hope of complete secrecy, the Hornet made its way to Tokyo. The plan was to launch the bombers once they were within 400 miles of their target. During their journey, they encountered a small Japanese fishing boat when they were around 650 miles from the coast. Fearing that the boat had alerted Tokyo to their location, they launched a day early, on April 18, 1942 — 78 years ago this week. Everything within the planes that wasn’t deemed essential had been stripped to allow for the vital fuel to make it to China after the attack. With their new launching location, their safe return was at risk.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

Crew #16.

U.S. Air Force

The men did it anyway, with Col. Doolittle leading their way in the first plane over the skies.

Although the Japanese were alerted to the presence of the Americans, they were still surprised by the long range execution of the bombers. Doolittle’s Raiders, as they would come to be known, hit targets in Tokyo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, Kobe and Nagoya. They even managed to damage an aircraft carrier during their attack. Most of the airmen made it safely to China, aided by locals. The Japanese would go on to slaughter 250,000 of them for this kindness.

Although they were unable to complete their original plan, the Doolittle Raiders’ mission changed the narrative for the United States. It forced Japan to move resources to defend its coasts and gave the American military the boost it desperately needed.

Two months later the Battle of Midway would signal to the world that American victory was within reach.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The time that the British conquered Manila

The Philippines is a diverse country that draws from an eclectic mix of cultures. Much of the Filipino culture and heritage was influenced by trade with China and other Southeast Asian countries, as well as occupation by foreign countries like Spain, America, and Japan. In the Philippines, you can eat Chinese rice noodles, hear Indonesian, Malay, and Spanish words in the same conversation, and ride a jeep that’s been converted into a public bus to visit WWII historical sites. However, most people would be surprised to learn that the Pearl of the Orient was once under the control of the British Empire.

The Seven Years’ War lasted from 1756-1763 (fighting in the Americas started in 1754 with the French and Indian War, but fighting didn’t begin in Europe until 1756). The conflict between the great European powers spanned the globe, making it the first true world war. During this time, the Philippines was a wealthy Spanish colony made famous by its grandeur and the Manila Galleon Trade. Eager to take a piece of this wealth, Britain planned an invasion of Manila with four store ships, three frigates, eight ships of the line, and 10,300 men.


The invasion force sailed from India and anchored in Manila Bay on September 23, 1762. Not expecting the European war to come to the Philippines, the 9,356 Spanish and Filipino defenders were caught off guard. Outnumbered and unprepared, the Spaniards enlisted the help of native Kapampangan warriors to resist the British invasion. The fighting was fierce, with the British firing more than 5,000 bombs and 20,000 cannonballs on the city. Spanish resistance did not last long and a formal surrender ended hostilities on October 6. The greatest Spanish fortress in the Western Pacific capitulated after just two weeks.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

A map depicting the British attack on Manila (Source: Library of Congress)

The Spanish defeat resulted in the sacking and pillaging of Manila. Houses and buildings were pillaged and burned, people were killed, tortured, and raped, and countless treasures were looted, lost, or destroyed. Not even the churches of the archbishopric in Manila were spared from the violence. To spare the city from further destruction, the British demanded a ransom of four million Mexican silver dollars which acting Governor-General Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra agreed to, preventing further loss of life.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

The British occupation of Manila (Source: The Filipinas Heritage Library)

With the help of the Kapampangan, Spanish forces retreated from Manila to the Bacolor, Pampanga where they established a new colonial capitol. There, the Spanish organized a resistance to contain the British invasion. An army of over 10,000, most of them natives, was raised for this cause. Although they lacked sufficient modern weapons, resistance forces managed to keep the British confined to Manila and Cavite.

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain

British troop movements during the Occupation of Manila (Source: Malacanang.gov.ph)

During its occupation of Manila, Britain took advantage of its location to increase trade with China. The British were unable to capitalize further on their conquest, since the Seven Years’ War ended with the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. That said, news of the peace agreement did not reach the Philippines until early 1764. The British ended their occupation, departing Manila and Cavite, in the first week of April 1764.

Over a century later, the Filipino nationalist and vocal opponent of Spanish occupation, Jose Rizal, lived in London from May 1888 to March 1889. He was astounded to find Filipino artifacts in the British Museum. Among the cultural treasures were the Boxer Codex (c. 1590) and a rare copy of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). According to Kirby Araullo, author and co-founder of the Busolan Center for Filipino Studies, the two artifacts are among the most important primary sources of early Philippine history.

The Spanish defeat was also a turning point for the Spanish Empire; it showed that Spain was no longer the dominant world power that it once was. The Spanish vulnerability emboldened many uprisings against Spanish occupation, including an ill-fated revolt by the national hero couple, Diego and Gabriela Silang. The Sultan of Sulu, a former Islamic state that controlled islands in the present-day southern Philippine Islands and north-eastern Borneo, was also freed from Spanish imprisonment during British occupation. He aligned with the British against the Spanish and increased pirate raids by the Sultanate of Sulu against Spanish colonies.

The Battle of Manila was a major military, political, and financial blow to the Spanish Empire. Although the British were unable to carry out a full conquest of the islands, the Spanish defeat was the catalyst for continued Filipino uprisings and resistance to Spanish occupation.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 most awesome machine guns in U.S. history

The machine gun changed warfare, causing the marching formations of the Civil War to give way to the industrialized warfare of World War I. And the U.S. has fielded dozens of designs since Hiram Maxim first tried to interest the country in his 1884 design. Here are six of the best.


For this list, we’re using a definition of machine gun limited to fully automatic weapons, so the hand-cranked Gatling Gun of 1862 is out, but automatic weapons with a rifled barrel like the Browning Automatic Rifle are in.

1. Maxim Machine Gun

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Hiram Maxim sits with the machine gun he invented. (Photo: Public Domain)

 

The Maxim Machine Gun was invented in 1884 and was the first proper machine gun in the world. Hiram S. Maxim figured out how to use the recoil of one round firing to cycle a weapon and feed a new cartridge into the weapon’s chamber. For 30 years, the weapon was tested by world governments, though not many were purchased.

It was in World War I that the weapon became famous as governments bought the Maxim and its copies and derivatives like the Lewis and Vickers machine guns. The Germans and Russians ordered their own versions as well.

2. Browning M1917

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Another Browning invention, the M1917 was a rushed but solid design to give the U.S. military a homegrown machine gun after its late entry into World War I. It was heavy, requiring a four-man crew. But it could fire up to 600 rounds per minute and was extremely reliable. In one test, it fired 20,000 rounds without a single malfunction.

Approximately 40,000 M1917s, all chambered for a .30-06 round, were sold during the war, but not all of them reached France.

3. Browning Automatic Rifle

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

 

The Browning Automatic Rifle was so popular that, while it was designed for and fielded in World War I, American infantryman were loathe to give it up when it was replaced during Vietnam. It fired .30-06 rounds at nearly 2,700 ft. per second, enough force to pierce a light tank in World War I. And it could spit those rounds at up to 550 rounds per minute.

It’s rifled barrel also made it very accurate, allowing infantryman to use it in an anti-sniper role. The inventor, John Browning, even had a son who carried it into battle in World War I, Army 2nd Lt. Val Browning.

4. M2 Browning Machine Gun

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

 

Originally designed in 1918 and produced in 1921, the M2 Browning Machine Gun is one of the longest-serving and most-loved weapons in history. It’s reliable and fires .50-caliber rounds at over 2,700 ft. per second.

The weapons are so durable in fact, that in 2015 the Army found a 94-year-old M2 still in service. The weapon has undergone few upgrades and is still widely used. It’s been mounted on everything from small vehicles to bunkers to aircraft.

5. M1 Thompson Submachine Gun

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
Two Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during fighting at Wana Ridge during the Battle of Okinawa, May 1945. (Photo: Staff Sergent Walter F. Kleine)

 

The first machine gun built as a pistol, the M1921 Thompson Submachine Gun was designed for trench warfare in World War I, but the conflict ended without real interest from the military. The M1, a simplified version, was delivered in World War II.

It gave the average infantryman the chance to fire a slew of .45-cal. rounds at enemy forces — though it was only effective at relatively short ranges. The military turned to the M3 in 1944, but the quality of the M1 saw it continue to serve through Vietnam.

6. M134 Minigun

 

This double-leg amputee was one of the RAF’s deadliest aces during the Battle of Britain
(Photo: Department of Defense Shane T. McCoy)

 

The M134 Minigun is a massive weapon that fires relatively small rounds, 7.62mm cartridges. And it requires electrical power instead of relying solely on recoil or recycled gasses like the rest of the weapons on this list. But it fires its rounds faster than anything else on this list.

The minigun features a magazine of up to 4,000 rounds but can tear through those at 50 rounds per second, firing them from six barrels that rotate thanks to a 24-volt battery or vehicle power. These were the guns fitted to the AC-47, the first “Spooky” gunships, but the Air Force knew it as the GAU-2/A.

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