This is what those 'metal things' were on Normandy beaches - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?

The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.


Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.

The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.

In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.

The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.

After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Czech hedgehogs.

Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.

As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.

Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.

It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.

So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.

On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.

Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.

Czech Hedgehog (World War II Tech)

www.youtube.com

However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.

Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.

That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.

Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.

The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.

While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.

In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.

Bonus Facts:

  • The beaches of Normandy were shelled so heavily and so thoroughly mined that to this day it’s estimated that 4% of the beach still consists of shrapnel.
  • Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

You need to Google ‘Thanos’ for a fun Avengers Easter Egg

The main bad guy in “Avengers: Endgame” — and across the last several movies — is a large alien named Thanos.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He’s kind of a big deal, both literally and figuratively.

More than just being a well-known antagonist, Thanos is notorious for a particularly heinous act in “Avengers: Infinity War.” And that act is now tied to a very silly Google Easter egg.

Spoilers ahead: If you’ve yet to see “Infinity War” and don’t want to have it massively spoiled, now is the time to turn away.


This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

(Marvel)

If you type “Thanos” into Google search, you might notice a particularly familiar golden, bejeweled glove appearing in the results.

It looks like this:

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Hey, why’s the Infinity Gauntlet here on Google?

Turns out it’s a clickable item — and it acts very much like Thanos’ version of the gauntlet, in that it starts vaporizing search results like so many superheroes at the end of “Infinity War.”

Check it out:

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Even more hilariously, one of the results it wipes out is “Marvel characters”:

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Go see for yourself by typing “Thanos” into Google search!

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers use video games to help develop new combat vehicle

Thirty soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division recently tested new technologies in a video-game environment to provide feedback for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

“This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, NGCV CFT director.

Coffman will be one of the speakers Oct. 14, 2019, at a NGCV Warriors Corner presentation at the Washington Convention Center where more about the experiments will be explained.


The soldiers from 4ID’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the NGCV CFT’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

The campaign of learning is part of GVSC’s virtual prototyping process that helps the Army test new technologies without soldiers needing to start up an engine or even set foot in the field — saving valuable resources.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division support the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

The soldiers provided feedback on vehicle crew configuration, formations, vehicle capabilities, enabling technologies — such as unmanned aerial vehicles and aided target recognition — and networked capabilities.

The experiment examined multiple questions including how soldiers dealt with constraints such as signal degradation, lack of mobility while using certain features, task organization, and which variants of the vehicles proved the most useful.

“One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package,” Coffman said.

For the five-day virtual experiment, soldiers employed RCVs in open and urban terrain against a simulated near-peer adversary. Observations and data were collected as to how soldiers use the RCVs and enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost in offensive and defensive roles and in both open and urban environments.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

“RCVs were able to effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs which executed the target using Hellfire missiles,” said an infantryman who participated in the experiment. [soldier names are withheld due to research protocol.]

These type of events will continue throughout the year with each virtual experiment increasing in capability and fidelity to support a live soldier experiment in March and April 2020. The next virtual experiment will be conducted with support from the 1st Cavalry Division Dec. 9-13, 2019, at the Detroit Arsenal.

“These soldier touch points are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the Army’s modernization priority,” Coffman said. “Soldiers are at the center of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.”

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

popular

Here’s how to survive a nuclear attack

The chances of a nuclear attack on the U.S. became less likely with the end of the Cold War, but with nuclear-armed hypersonic weapons in development and terrorist organizations eyeing dirty bombs, it still remains a possibility. Here are 6 steps to surviving a nuclear attack according to federal emergency planners and military guidance, assuming you aren’t caught in the initial blast.


1. Don’t look at the blast but do duck, cover, and keep your mouth open.

The initial blast will blind just about everyone looking at it, so don’t. Opening your mouth will lower the pressure difference between your sinuses and the atmosphere and save your ear drums from bursting. Finally, those close to the epicenter need to duck and cover to avoid some of the falling debris and the force of the initial explosion.

2. If you were close to a nuclear blast, get away from the mushroom cloud as quickly as possible.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches
Photo: Wikipedia/The Israel Project David Katz

Within ten to 20 minutes, lethal amounts of radiation will begin falling to the earth from the mushroom cloud. Survivors should move as far from the epicenter as they can. If you can’t get away from the blast zone immediately, shelter in place under as much concrete and dirt as possible. Basements and underground parking structures are good.

3. Move perpendicular to the wind from the blast.

Once you’re away from the initial blast, you need to move perpendicular to the wind from the blast. Moving downwind would keep you in the path of falling radioactive dust, while moving upwind would put you back under the collapsing mushroom cloud.

4. Cover your skin and breathe through a filter.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches
Photo: Wikipedia/Diego Cupolo

Covering your skin reduces the amount of radiation that can reach your skin and breathing through a filter reduces how much can get into your lungs. You may have to improvise a filter from a shirt or other fabric. Cover your eyes to protect your sight if possible, but not if it stops or slows your evacuation.

5. Stick to shelter when you’re not moving, but get out of town.

The radiation cloud will continue to settle for the next few days, so getting out of the targeted city is best even if it takes a day or two. But you should always shelter when not in motion. Keep dirt and concrete between you and the atmosphere if at all possible.

6. Get to aid and immediately shower.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches
Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Eddie Siguenza

As soon as you’ve escaped the area — at least 8 miles for a 10-kiloton bomb — shed your clothes and shower. Your skin will have been covered in radioactive particles as you walked. Showering will remove some of them and reduce your exposure. If you are able to find an aid station, military specialists will generally begin your treatment by scrubbing you down.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, a disaster-preparedness activist and the author of “Americans at Risk: Why we are not prepared for megadisasters and what we can do,” gave a TED talk where he discussed these and other tips for surviving a nuclear attack, as well as the history of nuclear weapons. Skip to 17:20 for his plan to survive a nuclear terrorist attack.

NOW: The 7 weirdest nuclear weapons ever developed

Intel

Why the USGS says it’s stupid to roast marshmallows over a volcano

There’s nothing better to do while you’re out camping with the people you tolerate love than to crack open a beer and roast some marshmallows over a nice fire. I mean, who doesn’t love a little puffed sugar that’s slightly caramelized?

As everyone knows, the entire state of Hawaii has collectively forgotten the last time they gave a f*ck. Many people are taking the recent volcanic eruption with far less seriousness than natural disasters deserve — unlike here in Los Angeles, where a light drizzle brings the entire city to a terrified stand-still.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches
Still not as terrifying as reenlisting.

Many Hawaiians have reacted to the flow of lava by taking photos of the incoming molten rock and, generally, taking the whole thing in stride. Twitter user @JayFurr was trolling the official United States Geological Survey — Volcanoes twitter account and asked if it was okay to roast marshmallows in the heat given off by the lava.

@USGSVolcanoes responded with their own half-trolling response.


Which is all legitimate advice. Sulfur dioxide is, essentially, air pollution and hydrogen sulfide is what gives volcanoes that farty smell (hence the joke in Shrek). The sulfuric acid within the vog (or volcanic fog) actually has a really kick-ass reaction when met with sugar. Check the video below for example.

The USGS took the trolling in stride, even if nearly every news outlet insists they took it seriously. For obvious reasons, getting close to lava is a dumb idea and, from the get-go, it was obvious this Twitter user was kidding — Jay Furr’s account even says he’s from Vermont.

But this wasn’t the only time the idea of cooking marshmallows over a pool of magma has come up. Storytrender on YouTube did it a while back in New Zealand. There’s no audio, but you can kind-of see the guy wince while he eats the roasted marshmallow.

It’s safe to assume it tasted like farts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Strykers are getting hunter-killer attack drones

The US Army is massively revving up the offensive attack technology on its Stryker vehicles with vehicle-launched attack drones, laser weapons, bomb-deflecting structures, and a more powerful 30mm cannon, service and industry developers said.

“We have now opened up the aperture for more potential applications on the Stryker,” Col. Glen Dean, Stryker Program Manager, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Stryker maker General Dynamics Land Systems has been testing an integrated sensor-shooter drone system mounted on the vehicle itself. A small, vertical take off surveillance drone, called the Shrike 2, launches from the turret of the vehicle to sense, find and track enemy targets. Then, using a standard video data link, it can work in tandem with an attack missile to destroy the targets it finds. The technology is intended to expedite the sensor-to-shooter loop and function as its own “hunter-killer” system.


“A missile warhead can be launched before you show up in town. It has a sensor and killer all in one platform. Let’s reach out and kill the enemy before we even show up,” Michael Peck, Enterprise Business Development, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Peck added that the Stryker-launched drone system could make a difference in a wide range of tactical circumstances to include attacking major power mechanized formations and finding terrorist enemies blended into civilian areas.

“It will go out in an urban environment and it will sense and find your shooter or incoming rpg,” Peck added.

Dean also referenced the Army’s evolving Mobile High-Energy Laser weapons system, which has been testing on Strykers in recent years. Firing a 5kw laser, a Stryker vehicle destroyed an enemy drone target in prior testing, raising confidence that combat vehicle-fired laser weapons could become operational in coming years.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

The laser weapon system uses its own Ku-band tracking radar to autonomously acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat. It also has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to take out the signal of enemy drones.

Lasers can also enable silent defense and attack, something which provides a substantial tactical advantage as it can afford Stryker vehicles the opportunity to conduct combat missions without giving away their position.

A Congressional Research Service report from 2018, called “U.S. Army Weapons-Related Directed Energy Programs,” details some of the key advantages and limitations of fast-evolving laser weapons.

“DE (directed energy) could be used as both a sensor and a weapon, thereby shortening the sensor-to-shooter timeline to seconds. This means that U.S. weapon systems could conduct multiple engagements against a target before an adversary could respond,” the Congressional report states.

Lasers also bring the substantial advantage of staying ahead of the “cost curve,” making them easier to use repeatedly. In many instances, low-cost lasers could destroy targets instead of expensive interceptor missiles. Furthermore, mobile-power technology, targeting algorithms, beam control, and thermal management technologies are all progressing quickly, a scenario which increases prospects for successful laser applications.

At the same time, the Congressional report also points out some basic constraints or challenges associated with laser weapons. Laser weapons can suffer from “beam attenuation, limited range and an ability to be employed against non-line-of-sight targets,” the report says.

Dean said the Army was “pure-fleeting” its inventory of Strykers to an A1 variant, enabling the vehicles to integrate a blast-deflecting double-V hull,450hp engine, 60,000 pound suspension and upgraded digital backbone.

“This provides a baseline for the fleet to allow us to grow for the future. We just completed an operational test. That vehicle has growth margin to include weight carrying capability and electrical power,” Dean said.

Peck said GDLS will be upgrading the existing arsenal of “flat-bottomed” Strykers to the A1 configuration at a pace of at least “one half of a brigade per year.”

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

General Dynamics Land Systems is also preparing a new, heavy strength 30mm cannon for the Stryker.

Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, GDLS developers told Warrior.

The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.

Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.

In previous interviews with Warrior, GDLS weapons developers explained that the 30mm uses a “link-less” feed system, making less prone to jamming.

The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.

The Army is also fast-tracking newly configured Stryker vehicles armed with drone and aircraft killing Stinger and Hellfire missiles to counter Russia in Europe and provide more support to maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams in combat.

The program, which plans to deploy its first vehicles to Europe by 2020, is part of an Army effort called short-range-air-defense – Initial Maneuver (SHORAD).

Senior leaders say the service plans to build its first Stryker SHORAD prototype by 2019 as an step toward producing 144 initial systems

“We atrophied air defense if you think about it. With more near-peer major combat operations threats on the horizon, the need for SHORAD and high-tier weapons like THAAD and PATRIOT comes back to the forefront. This is a key notion of maneuverable SHORAD — if you are going to maneuver you need an air defense capability able to stay up with a formation,” the senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.

As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed Stryker. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.

Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can.

The PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US Army has some of the best divers in the world

Believe it or not, America’s primary land combatant force has some of the best combat divers in the world. It may seem odd that the Army, tasked with “providing prompt, sustained, land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict” would have world-class divers. But the Army’s swimmers are kept plenty busy.


Mission of Army Divers

www.youtube.com

The Army has two major classifications of divers: engineering and special operations. The engineering dive detachments make up the bulk of Army dive formations. Their primary mission is to conduct underwater engineering and disaster response.

Basically, these soldiers are responsible for making bridges safe, ensuring ports and harbors are stable and clear of dangerous debris, and clearing waterways like rivers. But they can also be sent to disaster response areas where they could conduct all of the above missions as well as search and rescue to save people in distress. They also provide emergency treatment for civilian divers suffering from decompression treatment.

That may not sound all that grueling. After all, welders don’t have to be super buff, why would an underwater welder have to be some elite soldier?

Well, divers are doing construction tasks like welding, cutting, bolting, and more, but they’re doing it while water presses against their bodies, they’re carrying 30 pounds or more of tanks and compressed air, and they may have to constantly paddle to stay in position for their work.

And that’s ignoring the mental fortitude needed to conduct dangerous operations underwater as cloudy water obscures vision, rushing water pushes against you, and the shadows of animals like gators or sharks pass over your body.

It’s because of all that strain that Army divers have a reputation for being jacked (not that the other services’ divers are any less fit, we’re just talking about the soldiers right now).

Army dives are typically made with teams of at least four or five divers, depending on the equipment being used. But dive detachments have 25 personnel, allowing them to support operations at three locations at once if so ordered. Each of the three dive squads in a detachment has six people at full manning, and there are seven more people assigned to the headquarters.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Pfc. Stephen Olinger checks his oxygen levels prior to an exercise during Army Engineer Diver Phase II training at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018.

(U.S. Army Joe Lacdan)

A single squad can be deployed within 48 hours of a mission notice, or the entire detachment can move out within seven days if they receive logistics and security support from a larger unit. These short-notice missions can often be assessing damage to key infrastructure after a hurricane or earthquake or search and recovery after a disaster. But the detachment can be tasked with anti-terrorism swims, underwater demolition and construction, or salvage as well.

As we hinted above, though, the Army has Special Forces divers as well. But these divers have a more limited set of missions. They primarily are tasked with conducting reconnaissance on target areas or entering or exiting an area of operations via the water. They can conduct some demolition raids and security missions as well.

Their list of missions includes mobility and counter-mobility, physical security, and more. Each Special Forces battalion has three combat diving teams.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wanted to take on the F-22 with this unique-looking fighter

In the mid 1990s, Russia had a problem. It was a pretty important one, too, for both pilots and the grunts on the ground. It was a problem they needed to solve very quickly.


Earlier that decade, a United States F-15 Eagle had easily shot down the MiG-29 “Fulcrum,” supposedly the pinnacle of Soviet fighter technology, in combat over Iraq. Worse, the F-22 Raptor was headed into service, and as it did so, it dominated the once-dominant Eagle. Russia needed to play catch-up.

That was where Sukhoi came in. Sukhoi had designed the Su-27/30/33 Flanker family of aircraft, which did reasonably well over Eritrea, fighting the MiG-29 Fulcrum. As such, Sukhoi began to work on both an upgraded Flanker (later known as the Su-35) and on fifth-generation projects to counter the F-22 Raptor. According to MilitaryFactory.com, Sukhoi’s prototype was the S-32 Berkut. The plane first flew in 1997, and was later called the Su-37.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches
The X-29 technology demonstrator aircraft. (NASA Photo by Larry Sammons)

 

The Berkut looked like an ordinary Flanker, but the big difference was in the wings. The Russians went with forward-swept wings to improve the design’s agility at low speed, not to mention improved takeoff and landing performance. The big problem is that that the wings can snap if the force goes the wrong way. Russia got around that by using composites that were flexible enough to handle stresses.

This wasn’t the first time someone modified a design for forward-swept wings. Northrop used the F-5E Tiger II as the basis for the X-29, a forward-swept wing test-bed that flew in the 1980s. Nazi Germany had a forward-swept wing bomber, the Junkers Ju 287, but only one prototype was completed.

By the mid-2000s, it was obvious that the Su-37 would not be a combat airframe, and suffered the same fate as the X-29. The Russians re-designated it the Su-47, flew a number of test flights, then retired the four prototypes.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Seventy years ago, with Adolf Hitler’s crumbled Third Reich still fresh in their memories and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union having a choke hold on their future, Berlin’s children were starving.

With the Nazi surrender in 1945, the Allies divided the defeated Germany. The French, British, and Americans took the western half of the nation spreading the ideals of democracy, while the Communist Russians occupied the eastern half of Germany. Berlin itself was divided into sectors between the allies, but was completely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled sector of Germany.


More than three years after World War II ended, Russian forces blockaded the Allied-controlled areas of Berlin on June 24, 1948, shutting off access to food, coal, and medicine to two million German citizens.

Berlin became the first front line of The Cold War and the nine-month old U.S. Air Force was charged with keeping Berliners alive while keeping the Cold War from turning hot.

The Berlin Airlift began two days later, with U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrains and C-54 Skymasters delivering milk, flour, and medicine to West Berlin. Throughout the duration of the blockade, U.S. and British aircraft delivered more than 2.3 million tons of supplies. At the height of the Berlin Airlift, aircraft were landing every three minutes, supplying up to 13,000 tons of food, coal and medicine a day, according to the Air Force Historical Support Division.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

German children who live near the Tempelhof Air Base use model American planes which were sold in toy shops throughout the western sector of Berlin to play a game called “Luftbrucke” (air bridge) while pretending they are American pilots delivering food and supplies for “Operation Vittles” during the Berlin Airlift in West Berlin.

(National Archive photo)

Then-1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1974, was one of the American pilots flying around-the-clock missions from Rhein-Main Air Base in West Germany to Tempelhof Air Field in Berlin. He flew 126 missions delivering supplies and food from July 1948 to February 1949.

“We learned very clearly that the new enemy was Stalin. He was taking over where Hitler left off. We knew exactly what Stalin had in mind,” Halvorsen said.

However, some Airmen had mixed emotions about aiding the former enemy that had been shooting at American pilots just three years before. Halvorsen admitting that he had issues at first with the mission, but it quickly changed when he talked with a fellow crewmember.

“He told me that it is a hell of a lot better to feed them (rather) than kill them and that he was glad to be back. That is service before self. That is what causes your enemy to become your friend,” Halvorsen said.

On one of his first missions, the American pilot learned in a conversation with German youth through the perimeter fence at Templehof, that West Berliners may have needed food, but they were even more hungry for hope and freedom.

Between missions, Halvorsen was filming aircraft landings with his Revere movie camera when he encountered about 30 German children between the ages of 8 and 14, he said in his autobiography, “The Berlin Candy Bomber.”

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

He greeted them with practically all the German he knew, but surprisingly, one of the group spoke English. Halvorsen was soon answering questions about how many sacks of flour and loaves of bread the airplanes carried and what other types of cargo were being airlifted.

He talked with the children for an hour before he realized not one had asked him for anything. Instead, they gave him something he didn’t expect: the best lesson on freedom he’d ever heard.

“I got five steps away from them, and then it hit me,” said Halvorsen, commonly known as the Berlin Candy Bomber. “I’d been dead-stopped for an hour, and not one kid had put out their hand. Not one.”

The contrast was so stark because during World War II, and dating all the way back to George Washington, if you were in an American uniform walking down the street, kids would chase you and ask for chocolate and gum.

“The reason they didn’t was they were so grateful to our fliers to be free. They wouldn’t be a beggar for more than freedom,” said Halvorsen. “Hitler’s past and Stalin’s future was their nightmare. American-style freedom was their dream. They knew what freedom was about. They said, ‘Someday we’ll have enough to eat, but if we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.’ These were kids, and they were teaching me about freedom. That’s what just blew me away… That was the trigger. I reached into my pocket, but all I had were two sticks of gum. Right then, the smallest decision I made changed the rest of my life.”

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

When he reached into his pocket for the two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum, Halvorsen debated the wisdom of giving it to them. Perhaps they’d fight over it. Yet, he broke each in half and passed four halves through the barbed wire, then braced for the rush of children to the fence.

It never came.

The children who didn’t get any of the gum only asked for a piece of the wrapper so they could smell the aroma. Their reaction, along with the surprise the pilot felt when they didn’t beg for anything, led to his decision to do more for them.

The man the German children would later call “Onkel Wackelflugel” or Uncle Wiggly Wings, came up with an idea that would not only change the lives of those children, but would also help the West win the ideological war with the Soviets for Germany’s future.

Halvorsen told the kids he would drop something to them on his next landing at Templehof if they promised to share. He would signal them on approach that it was his plane by wiggling the wings, something he’d done for his parents after he received his pilot’s license in 1941.

Back at Rhein-Main Air Base, just 280 miles away, he combined his candy rations with those of his co-pilot and engineer, made parachutes out of handkerchiefs and string and tied them to chocolate and gum for the first “Operation Little Vittles” drop from his C-54 Skymaster July 18, 1948.

“The only way I could get back to deliver it was to drop it from the airplane, 100 feet over their heads, on the approach between the barbed wire fence and bombed-out buildings,” Halvorsen said. “A red light came on that said you can’t drop it without permission. But I rationalized it by saying that starving 2 million people isn’t according to Hoyle, either, so what’s a few candy bars?”

The amount of candy steadily increased, along with the number of waiting children, for three weeks until a Berlin newspaper published a photo of the now famous “Candy Bomber.”

Soon, stacks of letters began arriving at Templehof base operations addressed to “Der Schokoladen Flieger” (the Chocolate Flyer), or “Onkel Wackelflugel.”

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gail Halvorsen, known as “The Candy Bomber”, reads letters from grateful West Berlin children to whom he dropped candy bars on tiny parachutes during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

One day, after he returned from Berlin, Halvorsen was summoned by Col. James R. Haun, the C-54 squadron commander. Haun had received a call from Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner, deputy commander of operations during the airlift, who wanted to know who was dropping parachutes over Berlin.

Halvorsen knew he was in trouble when Haun showed him the newspaper with the picture of little parachutes flying out of his C-54.

“You got me in a little trouble there, Halvorsen,” Haun told him.

“I’d had a long relationship with him, but he was put out because he was sandbagged,” Halvorsen said. “So when I talk to kids, especially high school kids, I say, ‘when you get a job, don’t sandbag your boss.’ He said to keep [dropping candy], but keep him informed. It just went crazy after that.”

Fellow pilots donated their candy rations. Eventually, they ran out of parachutes, so they made more from cloth and old shirt-sleeves until noncommissioned officers’ and officers’ wives at Rhein-Main AB began making them.

Later, the American Confectioners Association donated 18 tons of candy, mostly sent through a Chicopee, Massachusetts school where students attached it to parachutes before sending to Berlin through then-Westover Air Force Base.

By the end of the Berlin Airlift in September 1949, American pilots had dropped 250,000 parachutes and 23 tons of candy.

“Willie Williams took over after I left Berlin,” Halvorsen said. “And he ended up dropping even more candy than I did.”

Since the Berlin Airlift ended, Halvorsen has met countless Germans whose lives were changed because of “Operation Little Vittles.”

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

During the Berlin Airlift, then Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen dropped candy attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs to German children watching the airlift operations from outside the fence of the Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. One of those children was then seven-year-old Mercedes Simon whose father was killed during WWII. She and Halvorsen became pen pals and friends meeting many times later in life. The beginning of their friendship is recounted in the children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” by Margot Theis Raven held by Halvorsen.

(US Air Force photo)

One of them, a 7-year-old girl named Mercedes, wrote in a letter in 1948 that she loved “Der Schokoladen Flieger,” but was concerned for her chickens, who thought the airlift planes were chicken hawks. Mercedes asked him to drop candy near the white chickens because she didn’t care if he scared them.

Halvorsen tried, but never could find Mercedes’ white chickens, so he wrote her a letter and sent her candy through the Berlin mail.

The two would finally meet face-to-face 24 years later when Halvorsen returned to Berlin as Templehof commander in the early 1970s.

Mercedes’ husband, Peter Wild, convinced the Templehof commander to come to his home for dinner. Mercedes showed him the letter he’d written her in 1948, along with the chickens she’d written about in her own letter.

It was a friendship immortalized in Margot Theis Raven’s children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.”

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

Halvorsen has returned to Berlin nearly 40 times since the airlift. In 1974, he received one of Germany’s highest medals, the Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, and carried the German team’s national placard into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening march for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Halvorsen participated in a re-enactment of “Operation Little Vittles” during the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Berlin Airlift and also dropped candy from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Even at the age of 97, Halvorsen keeps a busy schedule as he and his wife, Lorraine, split their time between their homes in Arizona and Utah. Several times a year he would fly the C-54 “Spirit of Freedom,” with FAA certification to fly second-in-command.

He’s also visited many schools, both stateside and overseas, and visited Iraq to review Air Mobility Command transport operations and visit troops deployed in Southwest Asia.

Seventy years since the Berlin Airlift, the colonel remains universally beloved as the “Candy Bomber,” but enjoys one thing about his perpetual notoriety the most.

“The thing I enjoy the most about being the ‘Candy Bomber’ is seeing the children’s reaction even now to the idea of a chocolate bar coming out of the sky,” he said. “The most fun I have is doing air drops because even here in the states, there’s something magical about a parachute flying out of the sky with a candy bar on it.”

Halvorsen believes the praise he receives for bringing hope to a generation of Germans through his candy bombing deflects much of the credit to that first group of children at the barbed wire fence at Templehof.

Their gratitude and thankfulness for the pilots’ efforts to keep them free during the Berlin Airlift inspired him to reach into his pocket for those two sticks of gum.

That “smallest decision,” as Halvorsen calls it, led to 23 tons of candy dropped from the sky to the children of West Berlin and changed countless lives, not to mention the life of the Candy Bomber, himself.

Halvorsen’s dedication to helping those in need didn’t end after he retired with 31 years of service in the Air Force. In 1994, his request to assist in another humanitarian airlift was approved. He would fly with the Air Force again, this time delivering food to 70,000 refugees fleeing from the conflict in Bosnia.

“We have our freedom to choose, and when the freedom is taken away, air power is the only quick way to answer a crisis like that,” he recalled.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster like the one he flew during WWII at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona.

(US Air Force photo)

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban returns American and Australian hostages in prisoner swap

An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.

The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were “successfully recovered” in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.

The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.

Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.


In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.

In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was “gravely ill” and needed urgent care.

The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a “goodwill measure.” The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.

(National Directorate of Security)

The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement,” the State Department said.

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was “profoundly relieved” by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.

“We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan,” she said.

Payne added that Weeks’ family had “asked for privacy” but conveyed that they felt “relief that their long ordeal is over.”

According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.

The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.

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

Humor

6 of the top ways to spot a veteran wannabe

America is full of some amazing, patriotic people who have gone to great lengths to serve their country. That said, there’s a countless number of people who didn’t serve who enjoy dressing the part for their personal entertainment.


And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as they don’t claim to be a veteran.

Here’s how you can spot a veteran wannabe.

Related: 6 ways you can tell a troop isn’t an infantryman

1. They use military terminology because they think it’s cool

“Let’s go Oscar Mike back to the COP before 1300 to get some chow and hit the head.”

Translation: Let’s go home before 1 o’clock to get some food and use the restroom. Oscar Mike means, “leaving.” COP stands for “Combat Outpost.”

Why can’t these people just talk normally? We know, it’s a damn shame.

2. They wear military-print everything

It’s no secret that camo print is a go-to style for many civilians. Sure, we get that. But it’s another thing when people wear camo day-in and day-out. Even if they never served, they want to look like they have.

3. They wear overpriced Spec Ops gear

Airsoft and paintball are pretty fun. Sometimes, however, the players buy over-the-top, faux-spec ops gear to immerse themselves in the military mindset.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

4. They wear their “serious faces” in group photos at the range

It’s hard to fully understand the struggle of grabbing a sushi lunch just an hour before charging the tree house guarded by the blue team. Make sure to take a photo to show how tough you are.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches
The Most Expendables.

5. They bring up excuses as to why they didn’t serve — unprovoked

Not everyone was meant to join the military. Hell, even some people who join the military weren’t meant to be a part of the team. However, civilians frequently volunteer reasons as to why they didn’t join — often without prompt.

Just continue to be patriotic, that’s all we ask.

Also Read: 6 ways to avoid being ‘that guy’ in your unit

6. They think they’re an operator for conducting airsoft and paintball missions

Veterans across the globe reenact historic battles to preserve the memories of the men that served. However, if you civilians dressing up like a SEAL team and recreating the Osama bin Laden raid, that’s the ultimate red flag of the veteran wannabe.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

President Trump’s new nuclear weapon is now in production

The most powerful missile in the United States nuclear arsenal is about to get a new warhead. A $65 million low-yield nuclear weapon design touted by the Trump Administration since 2018 just went into production in the home of American weapons: Texas.


New designs were tasked by the administration after the 2018 nuclear posture review found that the National Nuclear Security Agency could not update or maintain its stock of nuclear weapons with the budget it had. The $65 million design was appropriated from the Department of Energy, the parent agency of the National Nuclear Security Agency. It will be based on the current design of the Navy’s W76-1 warhead, which is currently on the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and is intended to be fired via submarine.

“NNSA is on track to complete the W76-2 Initial Operational Capability warhead quantity and deliver the units to the Navy by the end of Fiscal Year 2019,” an agency spokesman said.

Two factors allow for the warhead’s quick production time: first, it’s based on the current warhead for the Trident II D5 and second, the nuclear weapon is smaller than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which would be today considered a yield nuclear weapon. The two had a yield of 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively. By today’s standard, a low-yield nuke could be upwards of 50-100 kilotons.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

The result of a “low-yield” nuclear weapon.

The U.S. military has roughly 1,000 low-yield nukes in its 4,400-plus nuclear arsenal. Activists worry that an increase in new, low-yield weapons will only increase the likelihood of one of them being used in a tactical move, as some consider the weapons a “less powerful nuclear option.”

A big issue with having two levels of nuclear force is that the target of the potentially low-yield nuclear strike doesn’t know if the attack is low-yield or high-yield until it’s too late – and will likely just respond in kind. Trident II D5 missiles are the most powerful in the nuclear triad and also the most reliable weapon system ever built. More than that, it can deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which means any Trident launch will likely be seen as an all-out attack on multiple targets, prompting an all-out nuclear response.

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Which your mom might be able to teach you to survive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out video of Russia’s famously bad aircraft carrier on fire

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, which has regularly been described as the worst in the world, burst into flames on Thursday while undergoing repairs.

10 people are injured, three are unaccounted for, and six were saved from the Admiral Kuznetsov, which was at port in Murmansk, according to reports from Russian state news agencies TASS and Interfax.

“Ten people were injured: they were mostly poisoned by combustion products,” a source told TASS. Six people are in intensive care.

TASS reported that the fire started in the engine room on the second deck, then has spread to the size of 120 square meters.


Firefighters are battling the blaze with limited success, according to the news agencies.

Aleksey Rakhmanov, head of the state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Interfax that “a human factor” may have caused the fire.

Russia’s Northern Fleet reported two firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze, TASS reported.

The aircraft carrier was undergoing major repairs at Russia’s Arctic port in Murmansk, also known as the Barents Sea port.

The ship was seriously damaged in October, when a crane toppled over and smashed a 214-square-foot hole in the hull.

The aircraft carrier is has long been beset with operational problems.

On a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.

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

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