This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

Snipers live by the mantra of “one shot, one kill.” Whenever they find themselves in combat, they must remain true to this law. They can take whatever time they need to calculate all the variables, but they have to make it count. That single shot must land exactly where it needs to be, and a sniper needs to get the heck out of dodge as soon as possible.

But in some cases, one shot means more than one kill. Such was the case with an unidentified Lance Corporal in the British Army who stopped a massive assault by Taliban insurgents all by himself, with one perfectly placed bullet.


This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
The Coldstream Guards also famously guard Buckingham Palace and rotate into combat zones like the rest of the British Army.
(UK Army photo by Capt. Roger Fenton)

 

Not much is known about the sniper, as the British military has kept his identity classified for safety concerns. What is known, however, is that he was a 20-year-old Lance Corporal with the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards.

This Lance Corporal must have made a name for himself within his unit because he was handed the bolt-action L115A3 AWM .338-caliber sniper rifle early on in his career. Another story about him says that his very first shot fired in combat went directly into the chest of a Taliban machine gunner from 1,465 yards away.

His skill with a sniper rifle is unquestionable — so don’t go calling his amazing shot a matter of luck.

On a cold December morning in 2013, somewhere in Helmund Province, Afghanistan, the Coldstream Guards were out on a routine patrol when this unknown sniper spotted a large group approaching their location, so he radioed in their suspicious activity. There was about to be a massive assault by the Taliban. It wasn’t long before the group pulled out their weapons and opened fire in the direction of the British forces.

The distant end on the radio gave him the all-clear to engage all hostile forces, and he quickly calculated his shot. The Taliban insurgents were peeking from outside of a rock, but he couldn’t get the right angle. Six of the insurgents made their way into a ditch, and everything was perfect for the Lance Corporal. From 930 yards away, he fired directly into the chest of the terrorist in the middle… And boom!

A massive explosion detonated inside the ditch. The round penetrated a suicide vest that was said to have 44 lbs of explosives, and the round prematurely detonated the vest, in what could have been a devastating attack on the Brits. It’s unknown what substance was in the vest, but for reference, this is what 42 lbs. of tannerite will do:

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
I like to imagine that he’s relaxing at some British pub, drinking a beer, and laughing to himself when someone can’t even throw a dart properly from 2.37 meters away.
(Photo by Jim Linwood)

 

The fighting ended immediately, and the remaining Taliban forces dispersed like cockroaches in the light. When everything went quiet, he was also said to have gotten on the radio and awkwardly said “I… I… think I’ve just shot a suicide bomber.

His single shot saved the lives of countless British soldiers that day. The identity of this heroic badass is still unknown and, frankly, may never be revealed. As he was a member of the Coldstream Guard, it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to have rotated back to England and pulling guard duty at Buckingham Palace. A skilled marksman like him is perfectly suited to protect Queen Elizabeth II.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was central to the honor code among Civil War soldiers

There were a number of unwritten rules among the men who fought the American Civil War. Confederate soldiers were known to execute white officers who led black men in combat. While that certainly is terrible, Confederate troops also refused to use landmines, believing them “ungentlemanly.” Meanwhile, the Union Army practiced “total war” against the South, destroying the property and livelihoods of soldier and civilian alike while at the same time adhering to the Lieber Code, an early law that governed warfare much the way the Geneva Convention later would.


There was one thing, however, the soldiers on either side of Civil War battlefields would not do – they would not shoot a man relieving himself. And for a good reason.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

There’s a good chance they’ve all had dysentery.

The biggest killer of Civil War soldiers was not the bullet, sword, or cannonball, it was disease. For every American troop who died at the hands of the enemy, two more would die of disease. The most likely culprits were typhoid and dysentery. The clear winner was dysentery, and it wasn’t even close. Dysentery and the diarrhea that came along with it ravaged both Armies for the entire war. It was this disease and its signature symptom that claimed more lives than all the battles of the war, combined.

It wasn’t the doctor’s fault, they actually had no idea what caused such diseases at this time in American history. The necessity of sanitation and hygiene among such large groups of people was not fully understood at the time. Doctors didn’t actually know about germ theory or how disease actually started. Camps were littered with refuse and whatnot in various states of decomposition. Soldiers lived close to their latrines, along with the manure from the army’s animals. An estimated 99.5 percent of all troops caught dysentery at some point.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

With how much the disease affected both sides of the war, another rule to the war’s unwritten code of conduct emerged. No soldier would ever take a shot at a man relieving himself of the primary burden of the disease – or in the words of one Civil War soldier’s letter home, “attending to the imperative calls of nature.” when they rejoined their unit, of course, they were fair game.

Doctors did what they could to treat the illness, but given that they didn’t know bacteria existed, let alone the dozens or more that could cause gastrointestinal distress, it hardly did the job. Usually, troops were treated with opium. Not a terrible way to get back to duty but also not quite a cure, either.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Marine Raiders saved the day at the Battle of Edson’s Ridge

By October 1942, American Marines and the Japanese were fighting a vicious battle around Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. Marines held a perimeter around Lunga Point while the Japanese controlled the remainder of the island.


The Marines guarding the perimeter mostly consisted of those from the 1st Marine Division. Holding a small ridge along the Lunga River, known as Lunga Ridge, were Marines from the 1st Raider Battalion and the 1st Parachute Battalion.

Those Marines were led by the indomitable Lt. Col Merritt “Red Mike” Edson, commanding officer of the 1st Raider Battalion. Edson was already on his way to becoming a legend having earned two Navy Crosses during his career. He would cement his status on Guadalcanal.

The fact that the Marines were even in place to meet the Japanese was due to Edson’s foresight. Edson, along with Col. Gerald Thomas – Vandegrift’s operations officer, believed that the Japanese were likely to attack at Lunga Ridge. However, Vandegrift believed the attack would come from another area and would not approve the placement of Marines along the ridge. Thomas finally convinced him it would be a good place for Edson’s Raiders to rest, thus plugging a significant gap in the line.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

On the night of September 12, 1942, after trudging through Guadalcanal’s thick jungles, Japanese troops, preceded by an artillery barrage, emerged from the jungle and engaged the Marines on the ridge. However, the Japanese attack was somewhat premature as many other units had failed to reach their jump-off points for the attack.

After some skirmishing and an attack that drove the Marines back, most of the Japanese withdrew to regroup for an attack the next night.

Edson’s men made what preparations they could to improve their defenses.

Unbeknownst to them, they were outnumbered by over three to one.

That afternoon, as darkness approached, Edson stepped up onto a grenade box to address his men:

You men have done a great job so far, but I have one more thing to ask of you. We have to hold out just one more night. I know we have been without sleep a long time, but I expect another attack and I believe they will come through here. If we hold, I have every reason to believe we will be relieved in the morning.

Just after dark on Sept. 13, the Japanese surged out of the jungle into the Marine positions on Lunga Ridge.

A Japanese attack on the right flank dislodged the Marine Raiders of Company B from their hilltop position.

Almost simultaneously, another Japanese assault drove back the Marines of Company B, 1st Parachute Battalion. In the face of the Japanese onslaught, Edson ordered the two companies to fall back towards his command post on Hill 123 in the center of the ridge.

A third Japanese assault slammed into the Marines of C Company, 1st Parachute Battalion, which sent them reeling. With three companies in the midst of falling back, confusion and fear began to take hold. The situation was heading towards a rout for the Marines when Edson appeared with several officers from his staff and, with forceful language and spirit, turned the Marines around to face the Japanese.

Meanwhile, the remaining Raider companies were desperately holding the line against the Japanese.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
Lieutenant Colonel Edson (front row, second from left) poses for a group photo with other Marine officers on Tulagi shortly after the battle in August, 1942.

Over 2,500 Japanese were facing just over 800 Marines. Wave after wave came on.

Edson sent the reinvigorated Paramarines against the exposed left flank with fixed bayonets. They caught the surging Japanese by surprise just as they were preparing to roll up the Marines’ flank and drove them off the hill.

Still, the Japanese attacks continued.

Marine artillery fire pummeled the area in front of the Marines’ positions, inflicting heavy casualties on the Japanese.

Those that survived were met with heavy fire from the Marine defenders on the ridge. When this was not enough, the Marines fought off their attackers in hand-to-hand combat in the pitch-black night.

As each successive wave was mowed down, another formed to take its place.

Eventually, the beleaguered Raiders and Paramarines were joined by the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment who helped to repulse the final two Japanese assaults before dawn.

The final Japanese positions on Lunga Ridge were destroyed by U.S. Army Air Corps AiraCobras early that morning. What remained of the Japanese assault force retreated into the jungle and away from Lunga Ridge.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

The terrific fighting on Lunga Ridge came to be known to many as the Battle of Bloody Ridge. But for the Raiders and Paramarines that fought there, it was known as Edson’s Ridge.

Throughout the battle, Edson was never more than a few meters from the front lines. And, according to the account of one Marine officer, he boldly stood in his position while most of them hugged the ground. Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership during the battle.

The tenacity of the Marines in holding their position saved Henderson Field and, with it, the American effort on Guadalcanal. Had the Japanese broken through, it is likely they could have driven the Marines from the island. The Japanese losses in the battle were difficult to replace.

The result of the battle likely had a large impact on the overall Japanese strategy in the Pacific, as resources were diverted to Guadalcanal that were needed elsewhere. And for the Americans, it was the closest they came to losing their toehold in the Pacific.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the first steps of the War in Afghanistan unfolded

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States led a coalition of forces to invade Afghanistan. The mission, known officially as Operation Enduring Freedom, was intended to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist organization that had masterminded the 9/11 attacks and to topple the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda within its fundamentalist stronghold. The Taliban had held most of Afghanistan in thrall since 1996, imposing its extreme version of Islam on the populace and perpetrating a well-documented list of human rights abuses.


The invasion began on Oct. 7, 2001 with air strikes against Taliban defensive positions and al-Qaeda training grounds in Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. Most of the Taliban’s outdated surface-to-air missiles, radar, and command units were destroyed on the first pass, along with its modest fleet of MIG-21 and Su-22 fighters. Having crippled the Taliban defensive response, the Coalition Forces Command gave the Afghan Northern Alliance the go-ahead to begin a ground invasion, with U.S.-led coalition forces providing air and ground support.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
Members of 10th Mountain in Afghanistan during Operation Mountain Serpent on 12 September 2003. | US Army photo

The groundwork for large-scale military action in Afghanistan had been laid in secret in the weeks following 9/11 by a small CIA liaison team codenamed ‘Jawbreaker.’ The team had staged covertly in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, in order to coordinate with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. During the same period, President George W. Bush formally demanded that the Taliban relinquish bin Laden to the U.S. for prosecution and destroy al-Qaeda bases, brooking no discussion nor negotiation of terms.

They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.

The Taliban refused to comply and “The War on Terror” began in earnest.

By November 12th, the Taliban was routed in Kabul. Three weeks later, Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold, was captured, driving Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar into hiding and the remaining al-Qaeda forces into the mountains of the Tora Bora region. Skirmishes continued between al-Qaeda and anti-Taliban indigenous forces, as U.S. Special Forces teams worked to locate the mountain caves into which al-Qaeda leadership had retreated. However, by the time the caves were captured, Osama bin Laden had escaped into neighboring Pakistan. He would remain at large until 2011, when he was finally apprehended and killed by SEAL Team 6.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
A U.S. Navy Corpsman searches for Taliban fighters in the spring of 2005. | US Marine Corps photo

In the vacuum of governance left by the expelled Taliban, a grand council of Afghan tribal leaders was assembled under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the U.N. Security Council to handle security in the region. Karzai was elected President in 2004 in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic elections. But even as Afghanistan began to take its first wobbly steps as a young democratic nation, the Taliban was regrouping on the Pakistan border. Soon they launched a wide-ranging insurgency, conducting guerilla-style attacks on Afghan Security Forces and targeting members of the new administration. Despite the continued intervention of U.S. military might in the region, the insurgency continues.

MIGHTY HISTORY

D-Day by the numbers: Here’s what it took to pull off the largest amphibious invasion in history

The Allied invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, was the largest amphibious invasion in history. The scale of the assault was unlike anything the world had seen before or will most likely ever see again.

By that summer, the Allies had managed to slow the forward march of the powerful German war machine. The invasion was an opportunity to begin driving the Nazis back.

The invasion is unquestionably one of the greatest undertakings in military history. By the numbers, here’s what it took to pull this off.


• Around 7 million tons of supplies, including 450,000 tons of ammunition, were brought into Britain from the US in preparation for the invasion.

• War planners laying out the spearhead into continental Europe created around 17 million maps to support the operation.

• Training for D-Day was brutal and, in some cases, deadly. During a live-fire rehearsal exercise in late April 1944, German fast attack craft ambushed Allied forces, killing 749 American troops.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

American troops landing on beach in England during Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for the invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

(United States Library of Congress)

• D-Day began just after midnight with Allied air operations. 11,590 Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties during the invasion, delivering airborne troops to drop points and bombing enemy positions.

• 15,500 American and 7,900 British airborne troops jumped into France behind enemy lines before Allied forces stormed the beaches.

• 6,939 naval vessels, including 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels, manned by 195,700 sailors took part in the beach assault.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

Allied landing craft underway to the beaches of Normandy.

(Universal History Archive)

• 132,715 Allied troops, among which were 57,500 Americans and 75,215 British and Canadian forces, landed at five beaches in Normandy.

• 23,250 US troops fought their way ashore at Utah Beach as 34,250 additional American forces stormed Omaha Beach. 53,815 British troops battled their way onto Gold and Sword beaches while 21,400 Canadian troops took Juno Beach.

• The US casualties for D-Day were 2,499 dead, 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing, and 26 captured. British forces suffered about 2,700 casualties while the Canadian troops had 946.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

• Total casualties for both sides in the Battle of Normandy (June 6 – 25, 1944) were approximately 425,000.

• By the end of June 11 (D+5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been unloaded in France. By the end of the war, those figures would increase to 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of additional supplies.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Sabotage and subversion: How secret agents helped win WWII

In 1940, following the fall of France, Winston Churchill authorized the establishment of a volunteer fighting force to wage a secret war against Hitler’s armies. This unique force became known as the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and their main mission was sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines. Despite being shrouded in controversy, and being viewed with suspicion by other agencies — the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) didn’t want their information-gathering operations disrupted with blown up bridges and factories — the SOE survived World War II and actually played a big part in winning the war for the Allies.

In a speech after World War II was over, General Eisenhower even stated, “The disruption of enemy rail communications, the harassing of German road moves, and the continual and increasing strain placed on German security services throughout occupied Europe by the organized forces of Resistance, played a very considerable part in our complete and final victory.”


For the SOE, sabotage meant blowing up trains, bridges and factories. Subversion was about fostering revolt and/or guerilla warfare in all enemy and enemy-occupied countries. The most unique element of the SOE is the fact that while the senior staff were ex-public school and Oxbridge, the agents were people from all walks of life, for example, former chefs, electricians, and journalists.

The SOE’s first headquarters was set up in November 1940. At the same time, they established mansions from the Highlands to the New Forest for training. At these sprawling estates the potential members of the SOE were trained to kill with their bare hands, disguise themselves, derail trains, and get out of handcuffs with a thin piece of wire and a diary pencil. If they passed this intense training as well as a grueling parachute course, then they were considered fit to be a part of the SOE.

In order to give the agents more of an edge, the SOE also employed budding scientists to invent unique weapons of war. These weapons included single-shot cigarette pistols, the sleeping beauty – a submersible canoe – and carborundum – an abrasive grease when smeared on the right spot could bring a locomotive to an immediate standstill. They also established the Camouflage Section which created fake tree trunks to conceal radio equipment, and fake camel dung that hid a booby trap that could blow the tire off an enemy truck. To top it all off, the SOE, also had a False Documents section where agents collected bogus identities and fashion companies outfitted agents with suits and dresses.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

The SOE conducted many successful missions of sabotage and subversion throughout the War. Their first headline success was in June of 1941 when they blew up the Pessac power station in France. This precision mission halted all work at a vital U-boat base in Bordeaux and crippled the all-electric railways in the region. Then in Czechoslovakia in 1942, the SOE assassinated Himmler’s deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, with a grenade. Later that year in Greece they blew up the Gorgopotamos bridge, which carried vital supplies for Rommel’s army in the desert. And in Norway, in 1943, the SOE destroyed the heavy water plant in Vemork, effectively ending the Nazi atomic bomb program.

While other secret agencies shared a mutual dislike for the SOE, their successful missions played a large part in the Allies’ eventual victory. Without the sabotage and subversion of the Special Operations Executive the outcome of World War II could have been very different. The price was high, but the SOE performed their missions to the letter. Finally, with no war left to fight, the SOE was disbanded forever in 1946. The Agents of the SOE were sent back to their normal lives, and most of them carried the secrets of their wartime missions and victories to their graves, never even telling those closest to them what role they played in the Allied victories of World War II.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this: First nuclear reactor explosion took 4 milliseconds

The SL-1, short for Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One, was a nuclear power reactor located about 40 miles from Idaho Falls, Idaho. SL-1 was just one of many experimental nuclear power plants the Army built. Most of the reactors were off in the middle of nowhere, away from people. Not the SL-1. In fact, it was just forty miles from a major town, Idaho Falls. A steam explosion and meltdown of the SL-1 tragically killed three of the plant operations. It’s the only nuclear reactor accident in the US to cause immediate fatalities. It ended so badly but it started out with high hopes. The first fatal nuclear reactor accident in America took just four milliseconds to happen.

How the SL-1 began

Shortly after the end of WWII, we started looking for ways to make more weapons (of course). We also started looking at ways nuclear reactors could help fuel the country. Everyone was doing it and Russia and the UK were leading the way. So we needed to catch up – and fast. The Army quickly assemlbed teams and we constructing nuclear power plants all over the place.

At the time, Arctic nuclear reactors used diesel generators for power. But the Army thought they had a more effective and efficient alternative. So, the idea was to create a low-power reactor that was simple, reliable, easy to build. Oh, and it also needed to be functional in the harsh climate of the Arctic.

Enter the SL-1.

On December 2, 1958, the plant officially opened. A protective 15-meter-high quarter-inch steel cylinder housed the reactor. Just to be safe, it was embedded in gravel at the ground-level.

Inside of a nuclear reactor without fuel
The inside of a nuclear reactor just *looks* dangerous.

Not all things nuclear follow with disaster, but some do…

Here’s the thing to keep in mind. The SL-1 was built as an experiment. It was supposed to be a prototype for America’s introduction to nuclear power. And it was also supposed to serve remove military facilities in cold weather conditions.

For a few years, everything went great. SL-1 hummed along, worked well, and even powered the town.

That all changed when it was shut down for routine maintenance on December 21, 1960.

Then, on January 3, 1961, a group of three operators, two Army Specialists and a Navy CB, prepared the nuclear reactor for its return to operation.

Well, we all know that anything involving nuclear power has the potential for disaster, and unfortunately, disaster struck that day. One of the Army Specialists withdrew the central control rod of the nuclear reactor much too far, resulting in a steam explosion that caused the reactor to lift over two meters into the air. The explosion impaled the supervising Navy CB to the ceiling, and a high-pressure spray of radioactive stream water hit the other two men. The impaled Navy CB and one Army Specialist were killed instantly, while the other died not long after.

This all happened within a matter of seconds after the withdrawal of the central control rod. Thankfully, the remote location of the nuclear reactor in the high desert of Idaho saved the accident from having a lot more serious radioactive consequences on surrounding communities.

The true cause of the accident will forever remain a mystery

While some suspected suicide or even suicide-murder because of possible bad blood between two crew members, the most likely cause of the disaster was much less dramatic. The reactor was known to have sticky control rods, so it is reasonable to assume the Army Specialist accidentally pulled the rod out too far, immediately triggering the explosion. These are just theories, however. The true cause we’ll never know.

After analyzing the incident, the Army made two very wise decisions. One was to abandon the reactor’s design. The other was to ensure that one small error with a control rod would not leave a nuclear reactor in critical condition ever again.

Related: This is why there’s no Cold War Medal

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Navy’s most successful World War II sub also killed an enemy train

The Gato-class, diesel-powered US Navy submarine USS Barb is known for a lot of things. In 12 war patrols, she sank the third most tonnage in World War II, had eight battle stars, and fired the first submarine-based ballistic missiles on Japan. It earned her crew a Presidential Unit Citation, among numerous other awards and decorations.

But one of its proudest moments was also its most daring. Crewmembers aboard the Barb were also the first American combatants to set foot on Japanese home soil — in order to “sink” an enemy train.

They did all of this without losing a single man.


On Jul. 23, 1945, eight members of Barb‘s crew landed on mainland Japan under intense cloud cover and a dark moon. Their mission was to rig a Japanese train track to explode when a train crossed a switch between two railroad ties. Immediately, their best-laid plans went right out the window, forcing the crew to improvise.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

The USS Barb off the coast of Pearl Harbor, 1945.

The mission of the USS Barb was to cut the Japanese fleet’s supply lines by sinking enemy ships out of the island of Karafuto in the Sea of Okhotsk. This was the ship’s 12th war patrol, and the fifth for her skipper, then-Commander Eugene Fluckey. They could see as Japanese shipments moved from trains on the island to the ships. Once the ships were at sea, they were easy pickings for crews like the Barb’s.

But why, Fluckey thought, wait for the ships to get to sea? Why not just take them out before the trains ever reach the port? That’s exactly what Fluckey and his crew set out to do.

They couldn’t just place charges on the tracks, it would be too dangerous for the shore party once the Japanese were alerted. Instead, the U.S. Naval Institute tells us how Engineman 3rd Class Billy Hatfield devised a switch trigger for an explosive that, when set between the rails, would go off as the train passed over it.

That was the goal as the crew manned their boats and made it ashore that night, but they accidentally landed in the backyard of a Japanese civilian. So, they ended up having to struggle through thick bulrushes, cross a freeway, and even fall down drainage ditches on their way to the railway. Once there, a crewman climbed to the top of a water tower — only to discover it was a manned lookout post. Luckily, the guard was asleep and their work continued.

They dug holes for the 55-pound bomb as quickly and as quietly as possible, even having to stop as a freight train rumbled by. But they did it, put the pressure switch into place, and booked it back to the ship as fast as possible. At 1:47 am, a 16-car train hit their planted explosive and was shot into the sky. Five minutes after that, the crew was back aboard the Barb.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

The Battle Flag of USS Barb, the train is located bottom middle.

Barb’s battle flag could now boast one enemy train “sunk” in combat, along with six Navy Crosses, 23 Silver Stars, 23 Bronze Stars, and a Medal of Honor earned by members of its crew.


Articles

That time the Navy considered flying Harriers off Iowa-class battleships

When you look at the Iowa-class battleships, in a way, you are looking at the ultimate in a surface combat platform. They are huge – about 45,000 tons — they carry nine 16-inch guns and have an array of other weapons, too, from Tomahawk cruise missiles to Phalanx close-in weapon systems.


This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

Looking at them, could you imagine diluting that surface-combat firepower for some Harriers? Well, the U.S. Navy did.

According to the 13th Edition of “The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet,” the Navy kicked around the idea of turning the Iowa and her three sisters into a combination battleship-carrier. The after turret would be removed, and the space would be turned into a flight deck. WarisBoring.com noted that the plan called for as many as 20 AV-8B Harriers to be carried on the ship.

There was also a consideration for adding vertical launch systems for Tomahawks and Standard surface-to-air missiles.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
USS Wisconsin fires her main battery during Desert Storm. (US Navy photo)

It wasn’t as if the battleships hadn’t operated planes before, as in World War II the battleships operated floatplanes – usually for gunfire spotting. The Iowas kept their planes in an on-board hanger in the aft section of the ship.

That section was later used to land helicopters when they were in service during the 1980s. The New Jersey even operated a UCAV, the QH-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter, while blasting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese positions during her one deployment in the Vietnam War.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
Photo by Cpl. Garry J. Welch/U.S. Marine Corps

That said, the project never went forward. One big reason was at the end of the Cold War, the Iowa-class ships were quick to go on the chopping block — even as the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin provided outstanding fire support to the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.

Another can be ascribed to history. Late in World War II, Japan was desperate for carriers. And when they tried to convert the battleships Ise and Hyuga to carrier, the effort wasn’t successful.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot
HIJMS Ise – a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It is open to debate whether 20 Harriers would have been a fair trade for a third of an Iowa’s 16-inch firepower. What isn’t open for debate is that the Iowa-class fast battleship has never truly been replaced a quarter-century after their decommissioning.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How ‘Hail to the Chief’ became the Presidential anthem

The song that many of us identify uniquely with the President of the United States has a surprisingly controversial history. Chester Arthur hated it, Ronald Reagan thought it was a necessary tradition for the office, and President Trump enters a room to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA more often than not. But this essential piece of Presidential entrance music is almost as old as America itself.


During the President’s Inauguration, “The President’s Own” Marine Corps band plays Hail to the Chief after 45 seconds of four Ruffles and Flourishes. The song is also most traditionally played when the President of the United States enters an official event, but there are no real rules for the song outside of the inauguration. The Department of Defense only asks that the song isn’t played for anyone other than the sitting President.

You wouldn’t know it from the orchestral renditions, but the song actually has lyrics, written in 1900 by Albert Gamse:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

The song itself can be traced all the way back to our sixth president, John Quincy Adams. At the time, the song was pop music, much like Greenwood’s song is to President Trump today. The Marine Band played it at the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1828, an event attended by President Adams. The first time it was played in honor of the Commander-In-Chief was for Andrew Jackson, at a similar canal event the next year.

Martin Van Buren was the first President to hear the tune played for his inauguration in 1837. John Tyler, who ascended to the Presidency after the sudden death of William Henry Harrison, was much derided during his term for the unelected way he came into power. To remind people who was in charge, First Lady Julia Tyler ensured the song was played whenever he arrived at events. The same was done for James K. Polk, who was a short guy. His wife Sarah wanted to make sure everyone knew when he arrived so he wasn’t overlooked.

This is how a British sniper took out six terrorists with one shot

Hail to that mullet, President Polk.

By the time Chester Arthur came to office in 1881, he hated the song so much, he opted to replace it with another song. Luckily for him, the leader of the Marine Band just happened to be the “American March King” John Philip Sousa. He commissioned Sousa to write a replacement, which the band leader did.

How well did that replacement go over? If you’ve never heard of Presidential Polonaise, you’re in good company — because most of America hasn’t either. The Presidents quickly went back to using Hail to the Chief.

By 1954, the Department of Defense made the song the official music of the President. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have to use the music. The President is the boss, after all.

He isn’t really bound by law or tradition to have the song played for him on every occasion. President Gerald Ford asked the U.S. Marine Corps Band to play his alma mater’s — the University of Michigan — fight song, Hail to the Victors, instead. Jimmy Carter preferred the tune Jubilation by Sir Arthur Bliss. Ronald Reagan, however, felt the office required more tradition and reinvoked Hail to the Chief.

Articles

This is what made the F-4 Phantom II the deadliest fighter to fly over Vietnam

Imagine, as a fighter pilot, being able to see your enemy without them knowing you’re even in the area. Sounds like some newfangled stealth capability you’d expect to come stock on a fifth generation fighter, like the F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Lightning II, right?


But what if I were to tell you that the US Air Force possessed such a capability as far back as the early 1970s, far before the F-22 and concepts of its ilk were even on the minds of engineers who’d eventually design them? Heck, more than half of those engineers and designers were probably still finishing off college or hadn’t yet completed grade school.

Called the APX-80, but more popularly known by its codename, “Combat Tree”, this top secret technology was first equipped on McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom IIs, the US Air Force’s primary fighter-bomber aircraft. Today, we call the system involved “Non-Cooperative Target Recognition”, after having developed it for years. Back then, Combat Tree was a next-generation game-changer which would only be equipped on a select number of F-4Ds, which would fly in hunter/killer packs with other F-4Es (Phantoms built with internal rotary cannons). The precise details of how Combat Tree worked are still classified to this very day, but we do know, to an extent, how Phantom aircrews used it.

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Instead of activating the powerful radar scanner in the nose of the Phantom, weapon systems officers (WSOs) in the rear cockpit of the fighter would use Combat Tree to look around the sky for specialized transponders built into enemy aircraft flown by the Vietnamese People’s Air Force (VPAF; North Vietnam’s military aerial element). These transponders were actually designed to prevent friendly-fire incidents, where North Vietnamese ground-controlled interception (GCI) stations and surface-to-air missile (SAM) emplacements would accidentally target and hit friendly fighters in a bid to shoot down enemy American aircraft. Referred to as “IFF” transponders or (Identification Friend or Foe), these beacons would relay a code to scanners built into SAM and GCI search radar computers, allowing their crews to distinguish between their own fighters and marauding jets of the USAF, US Navy and Marine Corps.

Combat Tree would “challenge” or “interrogate” each transponder it came across, asking in return whether or not the aircraft mated to the transponder was allied or otherwise. As soon as Combat Tree ascertained the allegiance of the aircraft after receiving the automatic response from the VPAF MiG-21’s transponder (completely unbeknownst to the MiG’s pilot, mind you), it would accurately plot its quarry’s location on a display in the rear cockpit of the F-4, and open up the hunt for the pilot flying in the front seat of the Phantom. Conversely, using the Phantom’s radar would have likely tipped off enemy fighters that they were being “painted” or tracked by other aircraft in the sky, thus losing any edge of surprise that the American fighters would have previously owned. Not only did this make MiG interceptions by Phantoms “stealthier”, it also allowed F-4 pilots to engage VPAF MiG-21s at greater distances, beyond visual range (BVR).

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A U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II aircraft (s/n 63-7474) of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 18th Tactical Fighter Wing over North Vietnam in December 1972. | U.S. Air Force photo

Prior to the existence and fielding of Combat Tree, all US military fighter pilots operating in Vietnamese skies were forced to get closer to VPAF MiG fighters to gain a positive identification on enemy aircraft before attacking them. Since radar only determines whether or not there are other aircraft in the sky ahead of your own, a visual identification is required to figure out whose aircraft those are. While American F-4 Phantom IIs were much more technologically advanced, they were still less maneuverable within the parameters of a close-in dogfight than a MiG-21 or the older MiG-19, also flown by the VPAF. This led to frustratingly high loss rates for American fighters. Combat Tree exponentially enhanced the margin of safety for American pilots by allowing them to gain positive identifications without pushing them into envelopes which greatly favored North Vietnamese MiG drivers.

The North Vietnamese eventually wised up to the presence of such a technology, though, they didn’t quite know what it was or how it functioned. The VPAF’s ranking officers began noticing a sharp increase in attrition rates with their fighter forces, especially those that found themselves tangling with US Air Force fighter jets. Cells of MiG-21s were reportedly being engaged at distances never before seen during the war, and with deadly accuracy. Radio transmissions between pilots, intercepted by picket stations, were able to pinpoint the reason for the suddenly high MiG-loss rate the North Vietnamese were sustaining – their aircraft’s IFF transponders. The VPAF’s pilots were instructed, there on out, to only turn them on when absolutely necessary, but to otherwise fly without any IFF protection, making them vulnerable to their own surface-to-air missiles in addition to the threat posed by American fighters in the area of operations.

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Combat Tree’s effectiveness as a device that allowed American pilots to own the first look/first shot/first kill advantage wasn’t completely diminished by this discovery, however. By the end of American involvement in Vietnam in 1975, Combat Tree had earned assists in a number of US Air Force kills against North Vietnamese aircraft. In fact, Combat Tree was was responsible for helping Air Force legends Richard “Steve” Ritchie and Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue reach ace status (achieving five confirmed kills) between May to September, 1972. Since the early 1970s, the APX-80, or at least the lessons learned from Combat tree, has likely been redeveloped and extensively modernized for use with America’s current fighter fleet. Combat Tree, in a way, can be considered the forerunner of the modern sensors you’d find today on an F-35 or the F-22, which allow the aircraft to “see” the enemy before they even enter the playing field.

Originally published on The Tactical Air Network in January 2017.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how Robert E. Lee’s house became Arlington National Cemetery

Before the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s mansion was part of a Virginia estate on the Potomac River, across from the nation’s capital. It was land his wife inherited from her father. At 1,100 acres, it was an idyllic area to raise George Washington’s adopted great-grandchildren (his father-in-law, was George Washington Park Custis, the adopted son of the first Commander-in-Chief and our nation’s first First Lady).


They must have been really upset when the Union Army came by in May of 1861 and seized it from them.

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Taking photos at the enemy commander’s house was all the rage. Probably.

Also Read: The Civil War started and ended at the same guy’s house 

The previous month, South Carolinian contingents of the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The Civil War had begun. President Lincoln called up the U.S. Army, who came to the capital and took control of the Arlington side of the Potomac. The area was a prime position for Union Artillery.

In April 1861, Lee was appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces. Though the state had not yet seceded, it was widely expected to do so. When Virginia left the Union, Lee was appointed to a Brigadier General’s rank in the Confederate Army in May 1861. That’s when the U.S. government took his land and home. Lee was with his army in nearby Manassas when the U.S. Army came knocking on May 24th.

Though the war started well for Lee and Virginia, it didn’t end well. After his defeat at Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia would never recover and Lee would be forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865. In the meantime, the land was used by Lee’s (and other) former slaves to grow food to feed the Union Army.

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General Irvin McDowell and staff, Arlington House 1862. I told you it was all the rage.

Related: Robert E. Lee may have lost Gettysburg because of a heart attack 

After the war, the Lee family decided to try to get their land and home back through a series of legal battles. The main sticking point? Lee’s unpaid tax bill. The U.S. government charged the Lees $92.07 in taxes on their land ($2130.52 in today’s dollars). Mary, Lee’s wife sent her cousin to pay the bill, but the U.S. would only accept the payment from Lee herself. When she didn’t show, they put the property up for sale.

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Then they hoisted a giant American flag on it, just for funsies.

Now that the land was delinquent on its taxes the government could purchase it, which it did. For $26,800, the equivalent of just over $620,156 today. Except in 2017, 1100 acres of Arlington, Va. is worth millions. But in 2017, that specific 1100 acres is actually priceless, because it’s now called Arlington National Cemetery. It’s where the United States inters its honored war heroes.

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The first graves in Arlington National Cemetery were dug by James Parks, a former slave. Parks was freed in 1862 but still lived on Arlington Estate for the duration of the war.

The U.S. long ago turned it into a cemetery for those troops lost in the Civil War. Union troops were buried there beginning in 1864, partly to relieve the overflowing Union hospitals and partly to keep the Lee family from ever returning. As late as 1870, the year Gen. Lee died, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to get her home back and remove the dead. The petition failed and Mary Lee died in 1873.

Her son, however, sued the government, claiming its 1864 tax auction was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered the government to either remove the bodies from the cemetery or pay the Lee estate a fair market price for the land. The government paid $150,000 for the now-priceless land.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This secret Russian weapon turned out to be harmless bee poop

In 1981, the United States accused the Soviet Union of providing chemical weapons to Communist countries in Southeast Asia to test a new kind of toxin for use in the ongoing arms race. Hmong tribesmen who fought with the US and South Vietnamese before the end of the Vietnam War described a kind of “yellow rain” pouring down on them from the skies.

The truth was a relief to both the villagers and the bees – and was actually kind of worse, in some ways.


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Today is the day you readers learn that bees poop.

Refugees fleeing the reprisals from the Communist governments of Laos and North Vietnam reported to their American allies that low-flying helicopters had dumped an oily yellow liquid on them en masse. Those hit by the liquid claimed to have suffered from seizures, headaches, and blindness, as well as some internal bleeding. The United States didn’t know exactly what the substance was, but they believed it was a chemical agent the Soviets were testing on these unwitting refugees.

President Reagan’s Secretary of State Alexander Haig accused the Soviet Union of doing as much in 1981:

For some time now, the international community has been alarmed by continuing reports that the Soviet Union and its allies have been using lethal chemical weapons in Laos, Kampuchea, and Afghanistan. … We have now found physical evidence from Southeast Asia which has been analyzed and found to contain abnormally high levels of three potent mycotoxins—poisonous substances not indigenous to the region and which are highly toxic to man and animals.
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We’ll give him partial credit.

The Soviets, of course, denied every word of this. They would have denied it even if it was true. And you can’t blame Haig, this totally sounds like something the Soviet Union would do. But to get the international community behind the accusation, the United States needed to prove it – that would prove to be a huge problem.

The refugees were inconsistent with their stories, and the so-called samples of the agent proved inconclusive in laboratory testing. Furthermore, the sufferers of the effects of the “toxin” were actually suffering from fungal infections in their skin. No one knew exactly what was happening until a Harvard researcher decided to check it out once and for all. Biologist Matthew Meselson traveled to the affected areas to do his own legwork, separate from the official investigation. Traveling to Laos, he recreated the events surrounding the alleged attack and found that it wasn’t a strange chemical substance. It wasn’t even strange. In fact, it was fairly common.

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Because everybody poops.

Meselson’s team found the yellow raindrops clinging to leaves in northern Laos. Once they concluded that this is what the refugees were describing, they conducted a test on the matter and found many kinds of pollen grains in it, typical of those digested by bees. It was, in fact, bee poop. Huge clouds of bee poop fell on those people.

When his study went up for peer review, it was found that villages in China had the same experience, only instead of chemical weapons, the villagers thought the yellow rain foretold a dangerous earthquake.