This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell - We Are The Mighty
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This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

MIGHTY HISTORY

How bombing the crap out of Iwo Jima hurt America’s assault

During the hell that was World War II, the U.S. conducted 72 straight days of vicious bombing raids on the island of Iwo Jima to gain access. America did everything within their power to weaken Japanese forces before sending ground troops in to secure the rest of island for allied use.


Although U.S. forces bombed the crap out of the island, one aspect of their strategy may have been overlooked in a big way.

Related: That time pancakes helped fight the Japanese in WWII

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
An aerial reconnaissance photograph of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima under intense bombardment. (Image from The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia)

Before the several weeks of the continued bombing, Japanese forces managed to construct well-fortified, underground structures that would withstand heavy American artillery.

Once the bombing ceased, Marines and Sailors were given the green light to board amphibious transport vessels and head toward the enemy’s shores.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Marines heading to battle. (Image from Marine Corps Association)

Navy ships, once again, pounded the shoreland, shooting over the Marines as they moved in to attack. Within minutes, thousands of ground troops hit the beachhead expecting the unexpected.

Once the Marines landed, their initial push was met with minimal pockets of small arms fire. The grunts believe the prior bombardment has killed off most of the Japanese.

But as they moved forward, the grunts would soon encounter the extreme consequences resulting from the weeks of intense bombardment.

Also Read: How a Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

Soon after the Marines moved further inland, the Japanese defenses came alive and launched a full counterattack. Ground troops fought hard, day after day.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
These Marines take a much-earned break during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

However, the intense allied bombings caused significant superficial damage to the island, littering the surface with debris. This clutter helped to naturally conceal the Japanese pillboxes — small, concrete guard posts with small slits for weapon fire — making it extremely difficult for ground troops to locate and destroy them before it was too late.

Despite this clear disadvantage to the Marines, their fighting spirit proved superior as the grunts managed to secure the island of Iwo Jima.

Articles

This is the cave art Native American soldiers left in France during WWI

For thousands of years, mankind has been telling stories using various forms of communication. Some passed verbal stories down from generation to generation, as others carved visual symbols deep into solid rock surfaces — cave art.


Fast forward to the battlegrounds of France during WWI where nine members of an Indian tribe from Point Pleasant, Maine, called the Passamaquoddy proudly served and carved images in the cave’s wall to represent their heritage during their trench warfare days.

Even though these carvings exist, the question remains:what stories were the Passamaquoddy Indians trying to tell us?

Related: This corpsman’s sea story starts with a ‘Hello Kitty’ tattoo

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Shown here are the 9 documented Passamaquoddy tribe members that served in Yankee Division I company during the Great War. (Source: Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

Although 25 Passamaquoddy men were sent to fight, 9 of them fought in the Yankee Division.

To gain more information about these findings, military historian 1st Lt. Jonathan Bratten, questioned the meaning behind these quarry cravings that only a Passamaquoddy Indian could translate.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A Passamaquoddy carving of a canoe. (Source: Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

The craving above appears to be a birch bark canoe, and the highlighted detail in the hull shows what looks like the swastika Germans would later use to represent the Nazi Reich.

For the Passamaquoddy, however, it’s a cultural symbol that dates back thousands and thousands of years meaning peace and friendship.

Also Read: These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to explore the caves and learn the stories behind stories.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)Fun Fact: Nearly 99 years later, the families of 6 men from the Passamaquoddy tribe who volunteered to fight during the WWI conflict finally received official recognition and honored for their heroic contributions.
Articles

This machine gun was big with Green Beret, CIA agents, and the cast of ‘Star Trek’

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell


It’s another weekly episode of Star Trek: The Original Series: The title – “Bread and Circuses.”

This time, Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy beam down to Planet 892-IV, a planet identical to Earth in almost every way – except Rome never fell.

Along with scantily clad space babes and gladiatorial games there are gun-toting Roman legionnaires. Not only did Rome never fall in this story, but apparently Denmark rises to become supplier of submachine guns to the empire, and a pretty badass submachine gun at that.

They are toting the Madsen M-50 9-millimeter submachine guns by Dansk Industri Syndikat. Its simplicity and ease of maintenance are stellar even if its popularity back on Earth was somewhat limited.

The M-50 is an open bolt, blowback submachine gun that fires only in full-auto at a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute. It has a 32-round box magazine and is slightly more than 30 inches long with the stock unfolded.

However, it’s most unusual feature is the way the operator field-strips the weapon. A barrel nut holds two halves of the hinged sheet metal receiver together – when the operator closes the stock and removes the barrel nut, he can open the receiver like it is clamshell housing, exposing the inner parts of the gun.

All the parts such as the bolt, operating spring and guide, and the barrel easily remove for cleaning. When finished, the person cleaning the weapon just reverses the process and snaps the sides of the receiver shut and replaces the barrel nut.

Besides, it looks exotic and foreign – probably one of the reasons movie and television armorers loved using it.

In the original Planet of the Apes films the M-50 was mocked-up in a futuristic shell to make the gun look even more alien – perfectly suited for a world where apes carried the guns and made the laws.

Also in 1968, the film Ice Station Zebra portrayed Soviet paratroopers carrying the gun, no doubt because of its foreign look.

Even legendary cinematic Italian crime families packed the gun. In The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Corleone “made men” are carrying M-50s as they provide security around the various family compounds depicted in the movie.

But “movie gun” was not what the Madsen’s manufacturer intended. In a world full of cheap, mass-produced World War II submachine guns like the M-3 “Grease Gun” or the Sten,  the Madsen put up with a lot abuse without jamming.

The Special Forces Foreign Weapons Handbook describes it as a “well-made weapon” that “incorporates low-cost production features, sturdiness and simplicity of disassembly seldom found in weapons of this type” and that it possessed a stock that was “one of the most rigid types available and the weapon can be fired as easily with the stock folded as it can with the stock unfolded.”

Latin American military and police units used it widely. During the 1950s, Dansk Industri Syndikat sold thousands of M-50s to Latin American countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

Brazil also purchased the gun, but then produced its own licensed version called the M-953 or the INA – for Industria Nacional de Armas of Sao Paulo.  The Brazilian makers of the INA originally chambered the weapon in .45 ACP, a caliber popular with most of their nation’s armed forces and police.

However, during the early 1970s Brazil’s defense ministers decided that 9-millimeter Parabellum would be a better choice in ammunition. They eventually ordered a massive conversion program to re-chamber the weapons in 9-millimeter as well as add a select-fire modification.

Special Forces and CIA operators during the Vietnam War frequently carried the M-50 or armed the “indigs” with the gun.

In South Vietnam, Green Berets frequently placed the weapon in the hands of the montagnards, the indigenous hill people who defended villages against the Viet Cong and served as rapid response forces alongside special operators.

Small enough to be secreted inside their woven pack baskets, M-50s gave the montagnards real firepower as they scouted hills and trails for Viet Cong activity.

Despite obvious interest in the M-50, sales of the weapon were good but not great. Its biggest competition was the veritable flood of surplus submachine guns from World War II that inundated the military market during the 1950s.

So, it became a movie gun – whether it was in “space, the final frontier” (at least as it was portrayed on television) or in dozens of movies on the big screen.

popular

9 reasons mortarmen are so deadly

Mortars used to be considered artillery weapons because they lob hot metal shells, sometimes filled with explosives, down on the enemy’s heads.


But the mortar migrated to the infantry branch, and the frontline soldiers who crew the weapon maneuver into close ranges with the enemy and then rain hell down upon them. Here’s what makes the mortarman so lethal:

1. Mortarmen can emplace their system and fire it quickly

 

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Mortars are basically a tube, a site, and a baseplate, so they can be assembled at the front and placed into operation quickly. In some situations, the tube can even be sighted by hand and fired without the baseplate, though both of these things reduce the accuracy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)

2. Mortars can maintain a relatively high rate of fire

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Because mortar rounds move at a lower rate than howitzer rounds, they require less propellant and generate less heat. This allows them to be fired more quickly. For instance, the M120 120mm mortar system can fire 16 rounds in its first minute and can sustain four rounds per minute. The M1911 howitzer can fire 12 rounds in two minutes and sustain three rounds per minute. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Kirby)

3. The mortar crew is located near the front, so it can observe and direct its own fire

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Mortars generally maneuver forward with the other infantrymen, meaning that they can see where their targets are and where they land. If necessary, the mortar can still fire from out of sight if a forward observer or other soldier provides targeting adjustments. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joshua Petke)

4. Mortars are often in direct communication with battlefield leaders, allowing them to quickly react to changes in the combat situation

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Since the mortars are moving with the maneuver element, they can see friendly forces and are often within yelling distance of the battlefield leadership. This allows them to shift fire as friendly troops advance and hit changing target priorities in real time. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

5. Mortars can be equipped with different fuzes, allowing the weapon’s effects to be tailored to different situations

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A 120mm mortar shell airbursts. Mortars can be set to detonate a certain distance from the ground, after a certain time of flight, upon hitting the surface, or a certain amount of time after hitting the surface. It all depends on what fuzes are equipped and how they are set. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Gustavo Olgiati)

6. Most mortars are relatively light, allowing them to be jumped, driven, or even rucked into combat

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
These paratroopers are carrying the M121 120mm mortar system. Mortars can be airdropped into combat and the mortar ammunition can be jumped to the battlefield in soldiers’ rucks, as bundles dropped from the plane doors, or as pallets from the rear. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Alejandro Pena)

7. This mobility allows them to “shoot and scoot” and to stay at the front as the battle lines shift

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Valero)

 

8. Mortarmen are still infantry, and they can put their rifles into operation at any point

 

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
If a mortar position comes under direct attack or if the battle shifts in a way that makes mortars less useful than rifles, the mortarmen can move into action as riflemen. After all, mortarmen are infantry. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tia Nagle)

9. Also, machineguns

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A U.S. Marine Corps mortarman pulls security during a modern operations in urban terrain exercise. Mortarmen can even be equipped with machineguns, though we don’t envy the guy rucking a mortar baseplate and a machinegun. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

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Here’s what’s wrong with the world’s most lethal combat plane

The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth and performance makes it arguably the most lethal combat plane in the world, but it’s not without its weaknesses.


As War Is Boring’s David Archibald notes, the F-22 sorely lacks infrared-search-and-track (IRST) sensors, as well as cheek-mounted, side-looking radars.

Related: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Archibald credits these shortcomings to the plane’s design period, when the US Air Force placed a budget cap on developing the avionics for the Raptor.

This means that the Raptor is blind to the infrared spectrum, which has extreme value to fighter jets as all planes and missiles emit heat. The lack of side-looking radars limits how the plane can guide missiles flying at more than 90 degrees away from the plane’s nose.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
An F-22 deploys flares. | US Air Force photo

Meanwhile, Russia’s best competition for the F-22, the  Su-35 Flanker, does have IRST and cheek-mounted radars.

For the Flanker, the IRST provides a vital but limited tool against the ultra-stealthy F-22. As the Flanker has almost no hope of detecting the F-22 by conventional radar, it must rely on finding the F-22’s heat signature; but, as combat aviation expert Justin Bronk previously told Business Insider, looking for fifth-generation aircraft in the open skies with IRST is like “looking through a drinking straw.”

The lack of side-looking radars may prove to be a more enduring difficulty for the Raptor, however. Former F-22 Raptor pilot Lt. Col. David Berke told Business Insider that he’d avoid a close-in, turning fight if possible.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Sukhoi Su-35S (Su-35BM) multirole fighter at MAKS-2011 airshow. | Wikimedia Commons photo

“Just because I knew I could outmaneuver an enemy, my objective wouldn’t be to get in a turning fight and kill him,” Berke said.

However, cheek-mounted radars have utility beyond dogfights, and by requiring the pilot to point his nose at a target to guide a missile, the plane has essentially handcuffed the pilot who could be doing other tasks.

Articles

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

The Army has started building an emerging technology connecting soldier night-vision goggles to thermal weapons sights, allowing soldiers in combat to more quickly identify and destroy enemy targets, service officials said.


Army officials told Scout Warrior that Low-Rate Initial Production of the technology, called Rapid Target Acquisition, began in recent months. The system is slated to be operational in combat by 2018.

Also read: You’d better get used to the M4 carbine because it’s here to stay

Rapid Target Acquisition merges two separate Army developmental efforts to engineer, deliver and combine new, upgraded night vision goggles, called Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, or ENVG III, with next-generation thermal weapons sights –called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, or FWS-I,  Army officials said.

Army Soldiers tracking and attacking enemies in fast-moving combat situations will soon be able to shoot targets without bringing their rifle and weapons sights up to their eyes, service officials told Scout Warrior.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
U.S. Army PFC Michael Freise fires an M4 carbine rifle during a firing exercise. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day

A wireless link will show the reticle from thermal weapons sights directly into the night vision goggle display, allowing soldiers to quickly track and destroy targets with great accuracy without needing to actually move the weapon to their shoulder and head to see the crosshairs through the thermal sights.

Enhanced targeting technology is of particular relevance in fast-developing battle circumstances such as Close Quarter Battle, or CQB, where targets can emerge and disappear in fractions of a second. Being able to strike quickly, therefore, can bring added lethality and make the difference between life and death for soldiers.

“This provides rapid target acquisition capability. The soldier no longer has to shoulder their weapon. If you can imagine looking through a goggle and some target or threat presents itself, a soldier no longer has to come all the way up. He or she can put the bubble on the image and engage the target in that manner,” Lt. Col. Timothy Fuller, former Product Manager, Soldier Maneuver Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year, before initial production began.

FWS-I is a thermal sight mounted on top of an M4 rifle. It can also be configured for crew-served weapons such as a .50-cal machine gun or sniper rifle, Army officials said.

“The thermal image you are seeing is wirelessly transmitted to the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III and is displayed in its display. What you ultimately have is the crosshairs and a portion of the thermal weapon sights image spatially aligned to the image that the soldier sees in the night vision goggles,” said former Maj. Nicholas Breen, Assistant Product Manager, Family of Weapon Sights-Individual.

The Army’s ENVG III, which will begin formal production next Summer, will provide soldiers with image-intensification, improved resolution and a wider thermal camera field-of-view compared to prior models.

“The night vision goggle takes two channels. This incorporates an image-intensification where you look through your goggle and are seeing a standard night vision goggle view and a thermal image all in one image.  The two channels are on top of one another and they are fused together so that you get all of the benefit of both channels,” Maj. Brandon Motte, former Assistant Product Manager, Enhanced Night Vision, said.

The improved, or higher-tech, ENGV IIIs will also help with maneuverability and command and control by enabling soldiers to see a wider field of view with better resolution and even see infrared lasers, Motte added. The technology is now going through production qualification testing and will be operational in 2017.

“This greatly improves the lethality and visibility in all weather conditions for the soldier – one very small, very lightweight night vision goggle,” Motte said.

Of greatest importance, however, is that the ENVG III will enable the wireless link with the weapon sights mounted on the gun.

“The reticle will show up in the night vision goggle when the weapon is pointed at a target,” Fuller explained. “As soon as you see a target, you can engage. You no longer have to bring it up to your face. The display is right in front of your eyes.”

The Army plans to acquire as many as 40,000 ENVG IIIs. ENVG III is being engineered to easily integrate FWS-I as soon as it is slated to be operational in 2018.

BAE Systems and DRS are the defense industry vendors involved in the developmental effort, Army officials said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

11 surprising words coined by US Presidents

For as long as the United States has existed, Americans have played close attention to what the president says.

So it’s no surprise that presidents have had a huge impact on the English language itself.

Presidents are responsible for introducing millions of Americans to words that we now consider ordinary. Thomas Jefferson, for example, is responsible for bringing the word “pedicure” over from France, while Abraham Lincoln gifted us with “sugarcoat.”

Meanwhile, the ubiquitous word “OK” has a lengthy history closely intertwined with our eighth president, Martin Van Buren.

Read on to discover the presidential origins of 11 common words we use today.

1. Iffy — Franklin D. Roosevelt

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Franklin Delano Roosevelt began using the word “iffy” early in his presidency, and by virtually all accounts, he was the first known person to have used it.

That’s according to Paul Dickson, the author of “Words from the White House,” which tracked the influence US presidents have had on the English language.

Defined as “having many uncertain or unknown qualities or conditions,” iffy was apparently a go-to word for Roosevelt when dismissing hypothetical questions from the press, like when he’d say, “that’s an iffy question.”

2. Mulligan — Dwight Eisenhower

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Before Dwight Eisenhower came around, the word “mulligan” was rarely heard outside the golf course.

But according to Dickson, Eisenhower — an avid golfer —introduced the word to the masses in 1947 when he requested a mulligan in a round of golf that was being covered by reporters.

A mulligan is an extra stroke awarded after a bad shot, and it wouldn’t be the last time Eisenhower was awarded one. In 1963, the former president was granted a mulligan as he was dedicating a golf course at the Air Force Academy, after his ceremonial first drive went straight up into the air.

3. Founding fathers — Warren G. Harding

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Warren G. Harding is usually ranked among the worst American presidents, but he succeeded in popularizing a phrase that has become a staple of our political discourse.

The most famous instance came in 1918 when Harding, then an Ohio senator, said in a speech that “It is good to meet and drink at the fountains of wisdom inherited from the founding fathers of the Republic.”

Before Harding, America’s pioneers were typically known as the “framers.” But Harding’s punchy alliteration soon became the standard for decades to come.

4. Pedicure — Thomas Jefferson

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Perhaps no president has contributed more words to the English language than Thomas Jefferson.

One of his most widely-used contributions is the word “pedicure,” which he picked upduring his years living in Paris. The earliest use of the word in English dates back to 1784, according to Merriam-Webster.

5. Sugarcoat — Abraham Lincoln

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Not only did Abraham Lincoln pioneer the use of “sugarcoat” in the sense of making something bad seem more attractive or pleasant, but he stirred up a minor controversy with the word, too.

In 1861, four months after he was inaugurated, Lincoln wrote a letter to Congress as Southern states were threatening to secede from the Union.

“With rebellion thus sugar-coated they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than 30 years, until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the government,” Lincoln wrote, according to Dickson.

John Defrees, in charge of government printing, was so incensed by Lincoln’s folksy verbiage that he admonished the president, telling him, “you have used an undignified expression in the message.”

But Lincoln insisted on using the word “sugarcoat,” and he got the last laugh: “That word expresses precisely my idea, and I am not going to change it,” he responded. “The time will never come in this country when the people won’t know exactly what ‘sugar-coated’ means.”


6. Administration — George Washington

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

George Washington set the standard for all US presidents to come, and one major impact he had was establishing the language of the presidency.

Although the word “administration” has been around since the 14th century, it was Washington who first used the word to refer to a leader’s time in office. According to History.com, Washington’s first use of the word came in his 1796 farewell address when he said, “In reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error.”

7. Normalcy — Warren G. Harding

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Warren G. Harding makes another appearance on this list for popularizing the word “normalcy,” the state of being normal.

Harding dropped the word in his famous “Return to Normalcy” speech, delivered as a candidate in the 1920 election in the wake of World War I.

Critics immediately pounced on the senator for using the word instead of the more popular “normality.” The Daily Chronicle of London even wrote that “Mr. Harding is accustomed to take desperate ventures in the coinage of new word,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Kory Stamper.

What the critics didn’t know is that “normalcy” was a perfectly valid English word dating back to 1857, less than a decade after the debut of “normality,” according to linguist Ben Zimmer. But ever since 1920, the word has been indelibly linked to Harding.

8. Belittle — Thomas Jefferson

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

We can thank America’s third president for introducing us to the word “belittle,” meaning to make someone or something seem unimportant.

The earliest use of the word researchers have found was a 1781 writing of Jefferson’s in which he said of his home state Virginia, “The Count de Buffon believes that nature belittles her productions on this side of the Atlantic.”

Americans picked up on Jefferson’s coinage in the coming years, and Noah Webstereventually included it in his first dictionary in 1806.

9. OK — Martin Van Buren

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

The word “OK” has a rich history, and eighth president Martin Van Buren played a major role in its lasting popularity.

There are a few explanations as to how “OK” came about, but the most popular one pegs it to an 1839 edition of the Boston Morning Post. That OK stood for “oll korrect,” as in, “all correct” — apparently, it was a popular fad among educated elites to deliberately misspell things. Other jokey abbreviations of the era included NC for “nuff ced” and KG for “know go.”

By the end of the year, OK was slowly making its way into the American vernacular, when Van Buren incorporated it into his 1840 election campaign. A native of Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren’s nickname was Old Kinderhook, and as History.com explained, “OK” became a rallying cry among his supporters.

That election gave OK all the exposure it needed, and the word was cemented into our speech ever since.

10. Bloviate — Warren G. Harding

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Somehow, one of America’s least-heralded presidents managed to popularize yet another word that is commonly used today: “bloviate.”

To bloviate is to speak pompously and long-windedly, something Harding readily acknowledged he did frequently. The president once described bloviation as “the art of speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing.”

While bloviate sounds like it could come from Latin, it’s actually just a clever coinage playing on the “blow” in words like “blowhard.” And although Harding didn’t coin it himself, he likely picked it up as a boy growing up in Ohio, where the word was most frequently used in the late 1800s.

Just like in the case of “normalcy,” Harding came under plenty of fire from language purists when he made use of “bloviate,” but most people wouldn’t bat an eye at it today.

11. Fake news — Donald Trump

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Fake news has been around as long as the news itself. But ever since Donald Trump took office, the term has experienced a shift in meaning.

While fake news traditionally refers to disinformation or falsehoods presented as real news, Trump’s repeated use of the term has given way to a new definition: “actual news that is claimed to be untrue.”

Trump’s reimagining of fake news became so widespread in his first year as president that the American Dialect Society declared it the Word of the Year in 2017.

“When President Trump latched on to ‘fake news’ early in 2017, he often used it as a rhetorical bludgeon to disparage any news report that he happened to disagree with,” Ben Zimmer, chair of the group’s New Words Committee, said at the time.

“That obscured the earlier use of ‘fake news’ for misinformation or disinformation spread online, as was seen on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign,” he said. “Trump’s version of ‘fake news’ became a catchphrase among the president’s supporters, seeking to expose biases in mainstream media.”

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

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The 7 scariest weapons Russia is developing right now

While Russia’s military is struggling in many ways, the Kremlin is working hard to fix it. With a new ballistic missiles, new submarines launching from shipyards, and the world’s newest tank, Russia looks to be modernizing as fast as it can. If the modernization program survives Russia’s economic woes, here are seven new weapon systems that will likely be completed.


1. New nuclear submarines

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A current-generation Russian diesel submarine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

In addition to building more of their brand new, fourth-generation submarines, Russia is already planning a fifth-generation sub. Details on the fifth-generation are slowly being fleshed out, but Russia wants the subs to network with each other and underwater drones, use onboard robotics for certain tasks, and feature a new nuclear reactor.

2. Hypersonic missiles

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A model of the BrahMos II, Russian-Indian hypersonic missile under joint development. Photo: Youtube.com

Russia’s hypersonic missile program has been plagued by failed tests, but it still has potential. The Yu-71 would be able to fly unpredictable patterns to its targets at speeds of 7,000 miles per hour, piercing air defenses. While the U.S. also has a hypersonic program, the U.S. missiles are designed for conventional warheads while Russia’s call for nuclear capabilities.

Russia is also jointly-developing the BrahMos II hypersonic cruise missile with India.

3. A stealthy, heavy-lift strategic bomber

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Russia’s new bomber will borrow technology from its new fighter, the Sukhoi T-50. Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

The PAK-DA is expected to be subsonic with a range of 7,500 miles and capable of carrying a payload of about 30 tons. It’s a huge step down from Russia’s original plans for a hypersonic bomber, but it may be stealthy enough to get cruise missiles into range against carriers and other targets.

4. An “off switch” for enemy communications and weapons guidance

An electronic warfare system in development supposedly allows Russia to shut off any approaching threats, everything from NATO ships to missiles to future hypersonic weapons. If successfully launched on planes and ships, it could also be used to shut down enemy defenses during a Russian attack.

5. New air defense missiles

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn

While the S-300 is in the news right now, the S-500 would be two generations beyond it. The S-500 is expected to be capable of engaging five to ten ballistic missiles at once and even hitting low-orbit satellites. It will be able to move between engagements, avoiding counter attacks.

6. Lasers

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
The USS Ponce’s laser weapon. Photo: YouTube

Russia claims its laser program is on the same level as the U.S., but the system is fully classified. If accurate, it would mean that Russia’s lasers are capable or nearly capable of taking out enemy vehicles, drones, and boats, all weapons systems America relies on.

7. Aircraft carriers

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
The current Russian carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. Photo: Mil.ru

Russia’s carrier prospects are dicey, but if the ship makes it to the sea it will be much better than their current carrier. Roughly the same size as a U.S. Nimitz carrier, it would have 4 launching positions and an air wing of 80-90 aircraft.

NOW: A Russian company is selling shipping containers packed with cruise missiles

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China wants to build a US-style aircraft carrier

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA


China has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, that’s designated as a training vessel and has never been on a combat deployment, but new photos suggest that they want to build a true, US-style aircraft carrier.

Mike Yeo of the US Naval Institute News Service reports that China has set out to develop a Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant of the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark.

Also read: How Russia plans to imitate US naval power with its aircraft carrier deployment to Syria

Right now, China’s aircraft carrier uses a ski-jump design, where planes hit a ramp to launch of the ship. This greatly limits the maximum weight of the planes, meaning they can’t carry as much fuel or ordnance as land-launched variants can.

Only the US and France operate true flat tops, or aircraft carriers that use either catapults or steam powered launchers that grip and throw the planes off board with such force that no ramp is needed. Therefore, US and French planes launching from carriers can carry much more substantial loads of fuel and bombs for better range and efficacy on missions.

But now photos surfaced in Yeo’s piece suggest that China is trying to imitate these flat top carriers. Here’s a photo of a J-15 with additional nose landing gear (this is what the catapult couples with during launches).

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A photo from the Chinese language Internet showing the nose gear of a J-15 Shenyang thought to be designed for carrier operations. | USNI News

Below we see Huangdicun Airbase, where it looks like China has tried to emulate a steam catapult, which the US Nimitz class carriers have, and an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS), which the US plans to deploy on the coming Ford class carriers.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Huangdicun Airbase. | USNI News

Aircraft carriers provide several advantages over land bases, chief among them the fact that aircraft carries allow nations to project power around the globe.

Currently, China is building a second ski-jump style carrier, but it seems it may be planning a third flat top some time soon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why do Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo so much harder than Mexicans?

It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexican Independence day. The May 5th celebration is actually the marking of a win by a small faction of the Mexican Army over the French during the French-Mexican war.


This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

A Cinco de Mayo celebration in Washington, D.C.

In reality, Americans actually do have a cause to celebrate and commemorate the Texan-born Mexican general, his ragtag battalion of enlisted volunteer troops and their unlikely defeat over the French Army at the battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Despite being outnumbered 3-1, the Mexicans obliterated the French, forcing a retreat after the French sustained over 500 casualties, compared to the Mexican’s mere 100 deaths in the battle.

What many people might not know was that the French were planning a lot more than just a one-off takeover of the small Mexican city of Puebla. Along with this mounted offensive, Napoleon and his Army were planning to exchange their superior and advanced artillery with the American Confederate Army in exchange for southern cotton; a commodity that was growing quite sparse across the pond in Europe.

Had the French won the battle of Puebla and made that deal with the Confederates, our Civil War most-certainly would have turned out quite differently. At the time France was known to have some of the most technologically advanced and deadly firepower in the world. And if they had supplied their weapons to the Confederates, the Union Army’s fight would have become exponentially more difficult, causing more deaths and perhaps even resulting in a Union defeat; an outcome that would have changed the course of US history.

So be sure to have a celebratory margarita this Cinco de Mayo and when someone asks you why we Americans tend to celebrate this holiday in more numbers and with more gusto than our neighbors to the south, just smile and pour one out for the warriors that won the Battle of Puebla and saved us from a significantly bloodier and potentially-disastrous end to the American Civil War.

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Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
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Video shows just how operator AF Keanu Reeves can be

Seriously, as if the first viral video of actor Keanu Reeves slamming steel like a freaking Delta Force ninja wasn’t badass enough, now famed tactical firearms instructor and 3-Gun maestro Taran Butler has released more footage of the “John Wick” star getting his pew pew on.


Butler is a world champion 3-Gun competitor (a shooting sport that requires mastery of a shotgun, handgun and AR-style rifle) and frequently trains actors to properly handle weapons for Hollywood blockbusters.

An earlier video of Reeves slinging lead like a boss exploded online last year, with the actor demonstrating some serious skills in weapons handling and accuracy. In the newest video made up of more clips from the training last year — and includes some help from WATM friend Jaqueline Carrizosa — Reeves displays skills and speed that would make any top-tier competitor (and even some of America’s elite special operators) smile.

His transitions are lightning fast, his shot placement is about as “down zero” as it gets, and his trigger speeds are borderline full-auto, with minuscule splits and solidly low stage times. He even executes difficult “with-retention” handgun shots and moves from a close-in optic to a distance shot with his AR and drops steel every time.

You’ve just got to see it to believe it.

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