The ultimate military history road trip - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The ultimate military history road trip

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

From America’s first struggles for survival to the Civil War and on through the World Wars, what stands out most about the rising power of the United States Military is the people who served in it. Many of their stories, interwoven into the wars they fought, have tragically evaporated into history — but they are not all lost. The United States’ dedication to preserving its history means there are hundreds of monuments, statues, and markers intended to keep the memories and stories of service members, past and present, alive for generations to come.

And nothing breathes life into these stories quite like visiting the places where they happened. If you want to better understand this great nation of ours, there’s no better way than to get to know its past. With one long road trip, you can get a great overview of American history — and the essential role the U.S. Military has played throughout.

And with a Super 8 by Wyndham near each of the following important places, you wouldn’t need to spend an arm and a leg to do so. Enjoy redesigned guest rooms — featuring signature black-and-white artwork, stylish bedding, and modern amenities — along with complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, and reserved Veteran parking. With Super 8 as your reliable road companion, you can hit the road and enjoy visiting these military destinations.


The ultimate military history road trip

1. Fort Ticonderoga, New York

It seems appropriate to start your journey at an important place in the history of two wars: Fort Ticonderoga, New York. First taken from the French by a joint British and Colonial force during the French and Indian War, the guns kept at the fort were captured by the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. They were moved via a “Noble Train of Artillery” to Boston, where General George Washington used them to surprise the British and force them to leave the city.

Reenactments of battles and other important scenes in Fort Ticonderoga history are held year-round. Check out the historic site’s website for more information.

The ultimate military history road trip

2. Saratoga, New York

The Battle of Saratoga was a pivotal moment in the Revolutionary War. Horatio Gates’ victory over Gen. John Burgoyne was so complete, it forced the evacuation of British Forces in New York and, for a time, made Congress consider naming Gates Commander-In-Chief over George Washington.

The ultimate military history road trip

3. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is at the heart of Revolutionary War history. It was the site of the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party (reenacted every year in December), the first skirmishes of the Revolution at Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and many, many other significant events. You can visit the Minuteman National Historic Park, Dorchester Heights, which was once occupied by the Continental Army, and a short drive south toward Philadelphia will bring you to the Valley Forge Historic site and the site of Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River.

And don’t forget about naval history — a visit to “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, is worth the trip.

The ultimate military history road trip

4. West Point, New York

The home of the United States Military Academy has been a part of history since its inception. It was never captured by the British and was the site at which Benedict Arnold’s treason was uncovered. Its fortifications were ordered by General Washington himself, the military academy was signed into law under the administration of President Thomas Jefferson, and the names of its graduates permeate not just American history, but world history.

Historic sites to visit at West Point include the first national Civil War memorial (The Battle Monument), Fort Putnam, the superintendent’s house, and of course, the West Point Museum.

The ultimate military history road trip

5. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

In just four hours, you can drive to the Civil War-era Gettysburg Battlefield, now preserved as a national park site. There, you can tour the battlefield, visit the national cemetery, watch reenactments of the fighting, and even visit the statue of John Burns, a War of 1812 veteran who joined in the fighting.

Also Read: This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch

One day at Gettysburg may not be enough for real military history buffs. You can ride the entire area on horseback and catch a live reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, among many other events.

6. Fort McHenry, Maryland

A short drive from Gettysburg sits the Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine in the Baltimore area. The War of 1812 is often overlooked by even the most dedicated military history buffs, but from Fort McHenry, you can watch War of 1812-era reenactments and even see where the Star-Spangled Banner itself was still famously waving after the British bombardment of the fort.

If you want to see the actual Star-Spangled Banner Francis Scott Key wrote about, catch it at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, just an hour or so south.

The ultimate military history road trip

7. The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis is the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. Though not as old at the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy has no shortage of history. The USNA Museum is a must-see for any military history buff.

The ultimate military history road trip

8. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C.

The Smithsonian is in the National Capital Area, filled with the stories and sites from American military history. It is here you can get a real sense of the foreign wars of the United States, including World War II, the Korean War, and (soon) World War I and the Global War on Terror.

But nowhere else is the lasting human toll of a foreign war more present than at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Even just an hour spent people watching at this hallowed memorial will give you a sense of what those who fight wars really sacrifice — and how that sacrifice can never be forgotten.

The ultimate military history road trip

9. Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

There may be no more hallowed ground in U.S. Military history than Arlington National Cemetery, where the United States keeps its greatest heroes, the ones who gave what Abraham Lincoln called, “the last true measure of devotion.”

While the entire cemetery is worth the walk, don’t forget to watch “The Old Guard” Tomb Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The ultimate military history road trip

10. Appomattox Court House, Virginia

When Wilmer McLean bought his new house to get away from the Civil War fighting that wrecked his former residence, he would never have dreamt the war would eventually end in his living room. Take a visit to his house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Generals Lee and Grant negotiated the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War. It’s just a four hour drive from the nation’s capital.

You can even watch a recreation of the event.

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

The ultimate military history road trip

11. Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

Right on the border between North and South Carolina near Route 221, you can get a glimpse of what the Revolutionary War looked like in the Southern Colonies at Cowpens National Battlefield. Though it may seem far from any area of strategic importance, the colonial victory at Cowpens forced British General Cornwallis to eventually meet the Americans at Yorktown, in Virginia.

Check out: This daring ruse turned the tide of the American Revolution

The ultimate military history road trip

12. National Infantry Museum – Fort Benning, Georgia

Get in the car and drive eight hours south to Columbus, Ga. — the home of Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. Nowhere else can you see history and legacy of the U.S. Army Infantry come alive like at this amazing museum. They have a giant screen theater and cater to those interested in learning about the story of the Army Infantryman.

The ultimate military history road trip

14. New Orleans, Louisiana

A trip through Alabama, Mississippi, and into Louisiana brings you to New Orleans, where the party isn’t the only thing larger than life. The World War II museum in New Orleans is second to none, anywhere else in America. It would take you at least two full days to do a brisk tour of the site.

But if World War II isn’t your thing, there’s no place south of the Mason-Dixon Line that revels in its War of 1812 history like the Crescent City. The unlikely team of Andrew Jackson’s ragtag army and the Pirate Jean Lafitte’s sailors fighting the British to a joint victory will never be forgotten.

The ultimate military history road trip

15. The Alamo – San Antonio, Texas

The fighting at the Alamo took place long before Texas entered the Union. In fact, it led indirectly to Texas winning its independence as a sovereign state. But the legendary heroes that fought to their deaths at the Alamo are now a part of American history, as the independence of Texas and its annexation by the U.S. led to the Mexican War and the acquisition of territory that extended the United States from sea to shining sea.

The ultimate military history road trip

16. Liberty Memorial – Kansas City, Missouri

The Liberty Memorial, the National World War I Museum, was established as a library dedicated to the memory or World War I on Armistice Day (when it was still Armistice Day), Nov. 11, 1926. In 2004, Congress rededicated the site to be the official museum dedicated to the memory of World War I.

The ultimate military history road trip

17. Wounded Knee Museum – Wall, South Dakota

There aren’t a lot of Plains Wars sites more poignant than the Wounded Knee Museum in Wall, South Dakota. Though heralded as a great victory for the United States at the time, the battle is now generally regarded as a massacre of native tribespeople, and a transformative event in their history. The 1890 event was the end of an era for Native Americans and for the United States itself.

The ultimate military history road trip

18. U.S. Air Force Academy – Colorado Springs, Colorado

The youngest service academy is a majestic site in and of itself, but nearby are also numerous air and space museums as well as a World War II aviation museum thorough enough to blow any amateur military historian’s socks right off their feet.

Going across this beautiful country, east to west, is a long journey — and if you want to truly soak in the abundant history of our nation, you’ll need to be rested. For a reliably great sleep at a great rate, seek out the comforts of the newly renovated rooms at Super 8 by Wyndham.

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

popular

The HMS Thunderbolt was lost with almost all hands. Twice.

The HMS Thunderbolt was lost in combat on March 14, 1943, after a short but successful World War II career that saw it sink multiple Italian vessels, which might have been surprising to some since the submarine had actually sank three years prior in 1940 with a loss of nearly all hands.


The ultimate military history road trip
The submarine scheduled to become HMS Thetis in 1939. It would later sink but was raised and served in World War II as the HMS Thunderbolt. (Royal Navy Lt. S.J. Beadell)

That’s because the HMS Thunderbolt was once the HMS Thetis, or, more properly, it was almost the HMS Thetis. It was a submarine launched in 1938 as part of the interwar buildup of arms. The submarine was scheduled to become the HMS Thetis when it was commissioned.

But the planned commissioning didn’t happen. As the submarine went through its sea trials, a tragic accident occurred. Most torpedo tubes, then and now, work using two doors. One door opens to the sea when a torpedo is launched, one door opens into the sub when the crew needs to load a new torpedo. The best subs have mechanisms that make it physically impossible to open one door if the other isn’t closed.

But the N25 had an indicator instead, that was supposed to tell the crew the outer door was open so they wouldn’t open the inner door. But the indicator was really just a small hole in the door that would spurt water if the tube was flooded, and a painter had accidentally filled the small hole in.

During a dive on June 1, 1939, this resulted in the inner door being opened while the outer door was also open. The crew was able to seal a bulkhead after significant flooding, but the boat was filled with 53 members of the defense industry and public, and air was already in short supply in the flooded sub.

The crew managed to raise themselves back to the surface for a short period, and four crewmembers escaped, but it crashed back to the seafloor, and 99 people were killed.

But the almost-HMS Thetis was in shallow water, and divers were able to salvage the ship which was drained, dried, and repaired. After passing new sea trials, it was commissioned as the HMS Thunderbolt in 1940 and sent to the Atlantic.

The ultimate military history road trip
​The HMS Thunderbolt in the Mediterranean in 1942. (Royal Navy)

The HMS Thunderbolt was successful, even though it seemed like it would be cursed. First, sailors don’t always like it when a vessel’s name is changed, an old superstition. And if any sub could be a ghost ship, the Thunderbolt was a top contender. Worse, Thunderbolt was, itself, an auspicious name for British vessels as two previous HMS Thunderbolts had been lost in crashes.

All of this likely weighed on the crew, especially when they saw the rust line on the walls of the sub from the original sinking. But it destroyed an Italian sub in the Atlantic on Dec. 15, 1940, and helped destroy an Italian light cruiser and a supply ship in early January 1943 in the Mediterranean.

But on March 14, 1943, the Thunderbolt attacked and doomed the transport Esterel, but caught the attention of the Italian cruiser Cicogna in the process. Cicogna was commanded by a former submarine officer, and he knew the adversary’s tactics and the local sea.

The ultimate military history road trip
The crew of the HMS Thunderbolt poses with a Jolly Roger flag in 1942. (Royal Navy J.A. Hampton)

The Cicogna forced the Thunderbolt under and, when the British crew tried to resurface for air, spotted the boat’s periscope and hit it with depth charges, ending the ill-fated sub’s career and killing its crew, the second time the submarine was lost with all hands.

Interestingly, the HMS Thetis and Thunderbolt was not the only ship to serve in World War II that had already sank. Just before the Thetis sank, the USS Squalus sank during a test dive just months after it was commissioned. It was later raised and served as the USS Sailfish. And there were seven combat ships sank at Pearl Harbor that later saw service in World War II after salvage and repairs.

Articles

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has a plan for all young Americans to serve their country

It all started with a question.

In the summer of 2012, Gen. Stanley McChrystal was wrapping up an onstage conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival conference.


He was asked if the US should reinstate the draft.

Yes, he replied, but not to grow the size of the armed forces.

He argued that since only 1% of Americans serve their country, America lacks in shared experience — there’s almost no common background between the upper class and the middle class, the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban.

The solution, then, wouldn’t be mandatory military service, but national service — programs like Teach for America and City Year, but made accessible to a full quarter of a yearly cohort rather than an elite few.

Since that conversation, McChrystal has campaigned for making a “service year” a part of young Americans’ trajectories. The goal is to “create 1 million civilian national service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 to get outside their comfort zones while serving side by side with people from different backgrounds.”

In an interview with Business Insider, McChrystal, who has held positions as head of US Joint Special Operations Command and as the top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, explained his plan for making that happen, and the effects national service could have on American society.

Business Insider: What does the word “citizenship” mean to you, and how does national service inform it?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: When I think of citizenship, I think of a nation as a covenant. It’s an agreement between a bunch of people to form a compact that does such things as common defense, common welfare, whatnot. The United States is not a place; it’s an idea, and it’s basically a contract between us.

BI: So if a nation is an agreement, then citizenship is putting that agreement into action?

SM: That’s exactly what it is.

BI: What does citizenship have to do with having a common experience?

SM: We’ve become a nation that’s split 50 ways.

There are fewer ties to the community today than when you lived in a small town, and everybody had to get together to raise a barn. You knew your neighbors because you had to. Grandparents tended to live in the same town as parents, and kids grew up there. Nowadays, we don’t live that way.

BI: But service programs today are unreachable for most people, so how can they serve as a common link? Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps — these programs have acceptance rates comparable to Ivy League schools. How do you make service more accessible?

SM: What has happened is that many of our service practices have become almost elitist programs. They do it because they can, and also it protects their brand and their reputation so they can survive in tough times. But it’s not solving the problem because most of people who go do those kinds of things, I think they come out better citizens, but it’s too small a number — it’s less than 200,000 kids a year.

BI: There are a ton of social structures at work here. How do you make a change?

SM: We’ve got 4 million young people in every year cohort in America, so we think that in the next 10 years we’ve got to get to about a million kids every year to do a year of national service. That would be 25% of the year group.

Now, I can’t prove this, but our sense is that if we get to 25%, you probably get the critical mass, because what we’re trying to do is get this into the culture of America so that service is voluntary but it’s expected. Meaning if you go to interview for a job, you go to apply to a school, you go to run for congress, people are going to naturally ask, Where did you serve?

The ultimate military history road trip

BI: OK, so how do you make that happen?

SM: Creating a big government agency isn’t the mechanism to do this.

We’re trying to take existing organizations like Teach for America and expand those. Then Cisco, the corporation, has donated money and helped to develop a digital platform that is going to give us a 21st-century ability to match opportunities and people looking for a service year opportunity.

I think we create a marketplace to do this that obviously starts slowly and then builds up momentum. And then once we get to the point where people really believe that service is not only a good thing to do — in an altruistic sense as citizen — but it also advantages them.

BI: There seems to be a lot of anxiety around doing “a gap year.” Are any programs already in place that take away that anxiety?

SM: There’s a program that Tufts University rolled out that’s called 1+4. And I was up there when they announced it. And what you do is, you apply for Tufts — I think there are 50 slots for the class that came in last September — but you do your first year doing national service, kind of like you’re red-shirted for football, and then you do your four years.

You’re already accepted, so the family doesn’t worry, Is Johnny going to go to college? If you’re on financial aid, Tufts pays for it. They pay for the national service. Tufts believe they get a more mature freshman. We’re pushing this in a lot of universities now because it’s a win-win for a university.

They do get a more mature person, and parents don’t worry about the vagaries of the gap year. There could be a lot of different permutations of that kind of thing, but those are the kinds of things that we see as practical steps.

BI: How will you know when the plan has succeeded?

SM: The key part of the ecosystem is the culture that demands national service. At some point, my goal is to get it so that nobody would run for Congress who hadn’t served, because they think they’d get pummeled for not having done a service year.

Also from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2014. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Drink up with these 5 veteran-made spirits

There’s a culture in the military of service and honor, integrity and sacrifice; all those good things. There’s also plenty of tradition in sitting down with a glass of something and talking about the glory days, remembering the friends lost and cherishing times spent together, on and off the battlefield.


Here are 5 veteran-owned companies bettering lives around the world with their innovative spirits:

The ultimate military history road trip

Merica Bourbon

1. Merica Bourbon

If you like the “sweet taste of freedom,” then pour yourself a glass of this fan favorite. With a smooth mouth-feel and complex flavor, this is definitely a bourbon you can get behind.

According to their website, “Merica Bourbon was born from military veterans who wanted to share the great taste of bourbon and freedom. It’s all about the flavor. This bourbon is meant to be shared with friends, on the rocks or neat, reminiscing on the good moments in life. So pull up a chair and have a glass or three with us and let us celebrate freedom together.”

Merica Bourbon was founded by Marine veteran Derek Sisson who brought us Famous Brands, and Army veteran Daniel Alarik, the mastermind behind Grunt Style.

Cheers, brothers.

The ultimate military history road trip

Heroes Vodka

2. Heroes Vodka

Founded by Marine veteran Travis McVey to honor two of his friends he lost while serving, Heroes Vodka is the “Official Spirit of a Grateful Nation.”

Since launching on Veteran’s Day 2011, Heroes Vodka has given over 0,000 back to veteran-focused local and national nonprofits. If that isn’t enough to get you to indulge, it should help that this vodka is actually delicious. Four times distilled, it’s as easy to drink as this brand is easy to love. Their list of accolades and awards are impressive, including multiple gold medals in tasting competitions like the “Vodka of the Year” at the Melbourne International Spirits and New York City’s 50 Best Domestic Vodkas Competition.

The ultimate military history road trip

Desert Door

3. Desert Door Sotol

If you’ve never had Sotol, get ready to be hooked. Desert Door is made by hand in Driftwood, Texas from wild-harvested West Texas sotol plants by three military veterans who met at an Executive MBA program. Marine veteran Brent Looby, Navy veteran Judson Kauffman and Army veteran Ryan Campbell are the best example of how different branches can unite around alcohol and entrepreneurship.

According to their website, Desert Door Sotol tastes unquestionably of the land. The sweet citrusy and herbal flavor is reminiscent of a desert gin crossed with a smooth sipping tequila.

Tasting notes include herbaceous, creamy and vegetal. It leads with grass and earth on the nose with a touch of natural vanilla. Toffee, mint, cinnamon and clove combine with citrus in a distinct way on the palate. It finishes with minerality and a welcome vegetal quality that will make you wonder why you haven’t met before and have you dreaming of your next encounter.

Desert Door Sotol stands alone as a great sipping drink, but it will level up your cocktails like never before. Our favorite? Use it in a “Desert Paloma” with grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave nectar and get ready for it to change your life.

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Hotel Tango Distillery

4. Hotel Tango Gin

Travis Barnes, like so many other incredible Americans, felt the call to enlist in the Marines following the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He left school at Purdue to serve his country. Following three tours in Iraq where he received multiple combat medals and incurred a Traumatic Brain Injury following an IED attack, Barnes received an Honorable Discharge and after graduating law school, pursued a new passion: distilling. The spirits are “fit to serve and made to share.”

While Hotel Tango crafts bourbon, whiskey, voka, rum, cherry liqueur, orangecello and limoncello, their gin is our very favorite. With a new wave style that’s citrus forward, it’s pleasing to gin vets and newcomers alike. Serve with tonic or sip on its own.

You can’t go wrong with this gin.

The ultimate military history road trip

Willie’s Distillery

5. Willie’s Distillery

Willie, originally hailing from Appalachian moonshine country in western North Carolina, is a veteran of the Army and U.S. Forest Service, serving as an Army Ranger, Special Forces Medic, Hotshot Wildland Firefighter and Smokejumper. Clearly, he’s a badass, as is his product line.

Notably, according to their website, Willie’s Distillery mills, mashes, ferments and distills corn, barley and oats on site, as well as producing spirits from ingredients like molasses, cream and Canadian whisky. Their spirits are distilled in a custom Bavarian Holstein still, crafted by a family-owned company that has been building world-class spirits stills since 1958. If that isn’t already incredible, they employ veterans in positions ranging from production and sales to management.

While Willie’s has all sorts of spirits from vodka and bourbon to their legendary moonshine, our favorite has to be the coffee cream liqueur.

Nothing says White Russian like Willie’s.

The lawyers make us say this: If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly and make sure you have a sober driver. We’re going to add: there’s nothing more responsible than supporting these 5 veteran-owned companies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


The ultimate military history road trip

Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

The ultimate military history road trip

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

The ultimate military history road trip

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Air Force F-35As make first combat appearance

Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducted an airstrike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, April 30, 2019.

This strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.

The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces.


“We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR contingencies.”

The ultimate military history road trip

A KC-10 Extender refuels an F-35A Lightning II above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the U.S. Central Command area of operations on April 15. This marks the F-35A’s third deployment and first to the CENTCOM AOR. In preparation for deployment, crews prepared and trained on the aircraft for the AFCENT mission.

The ultimate military history road trip

A KC-10 Extender boom operator refuels an F-35A Lightning II above an undisclosed location, April 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

“We have been successful in two Red Flag exercises, and we’ve deployed to Europe and Asia,” said Morris. “Our airmen are ready and we’re excited to be here.” Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise which includes U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces.

There are many airmen ensuring the planes are ready for their combat missions.

The ultimate military history road trip

A F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis down the flightline before taking off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

“This jet is smarter, a lot smarter, and so it can do more, and it helps you out more when loading munitions,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Tesch, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons technician.

The ultimate military history road trip

A F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. takes off from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, April 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski)

A central tenant to the F-35A’s design is its ability to enhance other battlefield assets. In this case, the aircraft joins the combined joint airpower team already in place to maintain air superiority and deliver war-winning airpower.

“The F-35A has sensors everywhere, it has advanced radar and it is gathering and fusing all this information from the battlespace in real time,” said Morris. “Now it has the ability to take that information and share it with other F-35s or even other fourth generation aircraft in the same package that can also see the integrated picture.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why spears are the most common historical weapon ever

There’s a very good reason why you can find spears in the history of every civilization and tribe on Earth. It’s not just because they’re simple, be it a common pointy stick or an elaborately engineered and weighted one. And it’s not only because they were relatively cheap, compared to other weapons that could be mass-produced at the time.

No, spears were everywhere because spears work.


The men and women who practice HEMA, or Historical European Martial Arts, are extremely adept at swordplay, but Nikolas Lloyd (known online as Lindybeige) wanted to see if they could hold their own with history’s most ubiquitous weapon. He equipped sword experts with spears and some with swords, and pitted them against each other to determine which is better, once and for all.

None of the people fighting in the video above are experts with spears and shields, but all are familiar with swordplay. They would be fighting against their favorite weapons.

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For the swordsman to have a chance at the spearman, he must be extremely fast, but even speed may not be enough. As Lloyd points out, the head of the spear can move very, very fast itself. There is very little chance of a swordsman closing against an eight-foot spear from any kind of distance – and keep in mind; this is not an expert spearman. In the hands of an expert, there is even less likelihood that the sword will hit its target.

When up close, the spear’s length becomes a drawback, so using a shield to get closer might be the obvious solution. Shields did raise the effectiveness of the sword against the spear, but not by much. When adding to the length of swords, the spear still came out on top. Check out the video to see the which weapon ends up being the most effective in medieval combat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Kyiv photographer who captured the ‘gloomy dignity’ of Soviet life

Ukrainian photographer Oleksandr Ranchukov, who died last year, primarily made a name for himself shooting architecture, and his pictures of buildings and urban spaces have appeared in several academic publications. But he also liked to take his camera out onto the streets of his native Kyiv and other cities to pursue his own gritty brand of street photography.

As he took many of these photos in the 1980s, his bleak black-and-white images provide a record of life in the latter days of the Soviet Union that stands in stark contrast to that which was portrayed in the official propaganda of that era.


In a recent essay on his work, fellow photographer and art critic Oleksandr Lyapin said Ranchukov primarily saw himself as a chronicler of his times and hoped his images would “complement the story of the sad end of the U.S.S.R., the dull streets of the city showing its decay…”

The ultimate military history road trip
The ultimate military history road trip

According to photographer and critic Oleksandr Lyapin, Ranchukov wanted to capture for younger generations “the faces of Soviet people — in a way very different from how they are presented on posters.”

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People at a stall in Kyiv drink kvass, a fermented beverage made from bread, which is still a popular summer drink in many former Soviet republics.

“Ranchukov was a street photographer, but he had almost no interest in the aesthetics of street photography,” Lyapin said. Instead, he simply “painted the picture of Soviet everyday life — dull and inexpressive, even dead: identical gray streets, unsightly clothes, street vendors, puddles, and dirt.”

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The ultimate military history road trip

Many of Ranchukov’s photographs capture aspects of Kyiv life that have since disappeared forever, such as this cobbler’s kiosk in Zhytniy Market, which was once a familiar sight to generations.

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A woman in a Kyiv alleyway walks past a poster proclaiming, “Glory to the Communist Party!”

Needless to say, conditions for street photography were not ideal in the somewhat paranoid milieu of the U.S.S.R., which is probably why Ranchukov relied mainly on the Soviet-era Kiev 4 camera for most of his city shots. According to Lyapin, this “quiet but very accurate” device meant that Ranchukov was often able to photograph people without being noticed, thus ensuring a natural, realistic depiction of Soviet streets.

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The ultimate military history road trip

In addition to capturing what one critic has called the “gloomy dignity” of Soviet life, Ranchukov was also on hand to record the dramatic changes that occurred on the streets of Kyiv as the Soviet system rapidly collapsed. Indeed, his shots showing the advent of capitalism in his native city rank among his most striking images.

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Curious residents inspect an American automobile on the streets of Kyiv.

The ultimate military history road trip
The ultimate military history road trip

A man in Kyiv reacts as people line up outside a shop selling American jeans.

Not surprisingly, for most of his career, there wasn’t much official appetite for Ranchukov’s warts-and-all approach to street photography and it wasn’t until the latter days of perestroika that he and other like-minded photographers were allowed to exhibit their depictions of city streets.

Nonetheless, even in such relatively relaxed times, these photographs’ unflinching look at Soviet life caused consternation among the authorities, and one of their first exhibitions in Kyiv was shut down after just one day by scandalized KGB and Communist Party apparatchiks.

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Oleksandr Ranchukov (1943-2019)

Although these images didn’t go down well with Soviet bureaucrats, they obviously struck a chord with ordinary Kyiv residents, and crowds of people lined up to see them when the exhibition reopened at another location sometime later.

One of those who visited the Ranchukov exhibition in 1989 was a Canadian exchange student named Chrystia Freeland, who later became a prominent journalist and politician and is now her country’s deputy prime minister.

Describing Ranchukov as a “brilliant and prolific documentary photographer,” Freeland was instrumental in getting his images and those of some of his peers to the editors of The Independent newspaper in London, who “were hugely impressed by his work, and promptly published it.”

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People form a line to buy herring in Kyiv.

“I was deeply moved by his ability to reveal the reality of life in Ukraine — the country’s people, places, and streets,” she told RFE/RL in an e-mail. “In capturing a key moment in Ukrainian history, often at personal risk, Oleksandr laid the groundwork for future Ukrainian photographers and artists to bring their work to the world stage. “

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Unlike his architecture photography, Oleksandr Ranchukov’s portraits of Soviet street life have never been published in book form. You can view other Ranchukov images and find out more about his life and work here.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You can make it through Navy SEAL training if you can do this

The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.

“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.


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Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)

Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.

Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.

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SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)

The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.

Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.

Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)

It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.

Good luck.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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This is what would happen if the Zumwalt fought a Russian battlecruiser

The United States Navy commissioned its newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), a few years ago. It’s had a hiccup or two, but make no mistake, this is a very modern naval warship. It has tons of firepower, including two 155mm guns, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and two 30mm guns. But how would it fare against the best surface combatant in the Russian Navy, the Pyotr Velikiy, the last of four Kirov-class battlecruisers?


 

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Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. (Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons)

This sort of ship-versus-ship combat looks one-sided in favor of the Russian ship. The Zumwalt is designed to hit and kill targets on land using BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and has some self-defense capability with the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. The Pyotr Velikiy, on the other hand, was primarily designed for naval anti-air combat, armed with SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles, SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missiles, and a twin 130mm turret.

The ultimate military history road trip
A solitary voyage of the Pyotr Velikiy. (Photo from RIA Novosti archive)

Looks can be deceiving. While firepower matters in any sort of combat, you need a target for that firepower. The Zumwalt, with its stealth technology, is a very elusive target. Yeah, one or two SS-N-19s could leave it a burning wreck, but they’d need to find it and hit it first. On the other hand, the Kirov’s not that stealthy. Its radars might as well be a big signpost saying, “I’m over here!”

The ultimate military history road trip
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (Photo from U.S. Navy)

 

Furthermore, the Zumwalt has a few more anti-ship weapons options. One of which is Vulcano technology, which transforms its 155mm guns into anti-ship missile launchers. This places the Kirov in a world of hurt. Seeing as the Zumwalt can carry 300 rounds for each of its two 155mm guns, that’s a lot of threatening firepower. Furthermore, some advanced versions of the Tomahawk missile can be used as anti-ship munitions. To make matters worse for the Pyotr Velikiy, the Zumwalt is likely able to be upgraded with systems like a ship-launched version of the LRASM.

 

The ultimate military history road trip
LRASM anti-ship missile. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

In short, the real winner of this fight will come down to who can see the enemy ship first and in that department, the Zumwalt has the edge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines just hit the beach in large war games

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an amphibious landing in Alvund, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The exercise allowed the MEU to rehearse their amphibious and expeditionary capabilities in a unique environment in support of partner nations.

Norway is a NATO Ally and hosted this year’s exercise which provided challenging terrain and weather for the participating Marines. Training in challenging conditions helps acclimate the forces to the elements and enhances their combat readiness.


The amphibious landing consisted of a surface assault and an air assault to display the MEU’s ability to rapidly project combat power ashore. Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division arrived ashore with roughly 700 Marines, 12 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, six Light Armored Vehicles, and 21 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, all designed to increase the lethality of the infantry Marines. Marines arrived at the beach landing site and transitioned to follow on operations at subsequent objectives around Alvund. All operations were conducted within the exercise scenario against mock enemy forces which required the Marines to make decisions in real time.

The ultimate military history road trip

Marines establish a bivouac location during Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Oct. 29, 2018 after being delivered ashore from USS Iwo Jima.

“We came to the North Atlantic looking for a challenge and Trident Juncture delivered; throughout the exercise the environment forced us to be flexible and adaptive,” said Maj. Anthony Bariletti, the 24th MEU operations officer.

“It is the adaptability that makes Marine Expeditionary Units such a lethal crisis response force. As Marines, we gain our lethality from the ability to operate as part of a naval integrated team. The ability to conduct amphibious operations in the premier core competency of our service and this exercise provided an outstanding opportunity for the 24th MEU to hone its skills and prepare for combat as a forward deployed, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”

The ultimate military history road trip

A landing craft air cushion lands on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 29, 2018.

Throughout the training exercise, the MEU was able to provide strategic speed and agility while operating in international waters and retaining flexibility in support of NATO Allies and partners. Trident Juncture allowed the Marines to operate from the sea with their Navy counterparts and increase interoperability. The success of Trident Juncture will lead to more combat-ready forces capable of proficiently supporting combat operations and humanitarian activities across the globe.

The ultimate military history road trip

A Marine guides vehicles off of a landing craft air cushion during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

“I’m extremely proud of how hard the Marines and sailors have been working throughout the exercise,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Garza, the 24th MEU sergeant major.

“They have endured the challenging cold weather conditions and long work days. It’s great to come together and display our capabilities as a MEU and the Marines and sailors are the ones who make it happen. All the training and preparation they put in has paid off and my hat’s off to them on a job well done up to this point.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The woman who helped hundreds of enslaved people find freedom

With the Cynthia Erivo led biographical film Harriet recently released in November, the inspiring legacy of Harriet Tubman is fresh in our minds. The fearless Underground Railroad “conductor” was responsible for (either personally or indirectly) the hard-won freedom of thousands of enslaved African Americans.


This clever, unflinching woman is to be honored by the redesign of the $20 bill—now said to be coming in 2028. She has had statues commissioned in her likeness across several American cities, had the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park commemorated in her honor, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

But what don’t we know about the woman behind the immeasurable legacy? Here are ten enlightening Harriet Tubman facts you’ll want to know.

Harriet Tubman was not the Underground Railroad conductor’s birth name.

When she was born in the early 19th century, Harriet was given the name Araminta Ross—her mother usually used an affectionate nickname, Minty. When Minty changed her name before her brave escape from slavery, it was her mother’s given name, Harriet, that she assumed. The ‘Tubman’ portion of her name came from the man she married in 1844, John Tubman, a free African American man who lived near Harriet’s owner’s plantation.

Even as Harriet carved an iconic path making her name a staple of history, she would earn several other nicknames along the way—abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called Tubman ‘Moses’, while John Brown would refer to her as ‘General Tubman’.

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A youthful head injury had an outsized impact on her life.

When she was a teenager, Tubman was struck on the head by a two-pound weight. The attack was meant for a nearby enslaved person attempting to make an escape—but the overseer missed their shot, instead hitting Tubman. The crack in Tubman’s skull caused her to have long-term sleeping complications. Throughout her life, Tubman would abruptly lose consciousness. It would be a struggle to rouse her from the spells.

Additionally, the injury caused Tubman to have vivid visions and dreams. She soon believed that her visions were coming directly from God. It was this deep religious faith that inspired her to put her own life on the line to aid slaves in their flight to freedom.

Her injury may have also compelled her own escape. Terrified that she would be seen as inadequate, Tubman attempted to work harder and harder to keep herself from being sold away from her family and loved ones. Eventually, she decided the risk of being caught on her way to freedom was a better one than remaining in place and being sold.

Later in life, her injury further complicated her life, making it difficult for her to fall asleep at night. She opted to have brain surgery and admitted herself to Boston’s Massachusetts General hospital. Though anesthesia was offered to her, Tubman refused. She was determined to bite a bullet as the soldiers did during amputations.

She utilized disguises and codes to allay suspicion along the Underground Railroad.

Once Tubman was known to slavers as a key participant in the Underground Railroad, additional precautions had to be taken. Tubman cleverly dressed herself as men, old women, and even free middle class African Americans to travel across the slave states undeterred. By walking around with chickens, Tubman would assume the identity of a field hand. In a stroke of true genius, she would pretend to read the newspaper, as it was widely known that Harriet Tubman was illiterate.

To send messages to her followers, Tubman implemented the use of spirituals and songs as a system of codes. Further utilizing her cunning mind, Tubman prioritized travel on Saturdays, as she knew that newspapers published their runaway notices on Monday mornings.

The ultimate military history road trip

She was even tougher than you can imagine.

Harriet Tubman knew that traveling back and forth along the Underground Railroad meant that she and her followers were at risk of being attacked by the police, hunting dogs, mobs, bounty hunters, and notoriously cruel slave catchers. At one point, Tubman’s efforts freeing slaves led to a call for a ,000 bounty on her head. It’s unclear if this bounty was one single bounty, or the combination of a number of bounties offered around the slave-holding states and territories.

The fight for freedom was dangerous business, and Tubman was going to treat it as such—she threatened to kill anyone who was having second thoughts along the way, as anyone turning back during their escape was a liability to all of the others. Tubman also toted a handgun along with her on her travels for protection.

On her final trip on the Railroad, Tubman assisted the Ennals family. The Ennals had an infant child with them—a life-threatening risk with the unpredictable nature of a baby’s moods. However, Tubman was sharp and determined, and she carried on ahead after drugging the baby with paregoric, a tincture of opium.

She never lost a single follower on her journeys of escape.

The number of people Tubman personally guided along the Underground Railroad is widely disputed. Early accounts put that number around 300, while later biographies lowered the number to 70. At any rate, Tubman was proud to proclaim, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

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She was a vital part of the Union war efforts.

During the Civil War, Tubman did her part by acting as both a cook and a nurse for the Union Army. Thanks to her knowledge of plants and their properties, she was a great resource in aiding soldiers with dysentery. She was also used as a Union scout and spy—a role that was well-suited to her, judging by her Railroad tactics. In fact, she was the first woman to lead an assault during the war, arranging the Combahee River Raid. With the assistance of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Tubman brought roughly 750 slaves to freedom with this raid.

Unfortunately, Tubman long went uncompensated for her war efforts, and continued to be under-compensated once she secured a pension. She received only 0 for her three-year commitment—payment only for her nursing contributions. She argued with the government that they owed her an additional 6 for her espionage services, but it took 34 years for her to receive a veteran’s pension.

Her second husband was 22 years younger than Tubman when they wed in 1869.

Her second husband was Nelson Davis, a veteran of the Civil War. At the time of their marriage, Tubman was 59 years old, while Davis was just 37. In 1874, the pair adopted a baby girl named Gertie. For two decades before Davis’s early death, they had a happy life together growing vegetables and raising pigs in their back garden.

After her work on the Underground Railroad, Tubman championed for women’s right to vote.

Later in her life, Tubman stood among other prominent women in the suffrage movement. She attended the meetings of suffragist organizations, and it wasn’t long before she was working alongside the notable Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland to bring women the right to vote. Tubman traveled throughout the east coast to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to deliver speeches in favor of women’s suffrage, even at her own financial detriment.

Despite life-long financial struggles, she epitomized the generous spirit.

Tubman spent the last years of her life on the land that abolitionist Senator William H. Seward sold her in Auburn, New York. Though Tubman was well-known across the United States, her reputation did little to help her finances. However, her own poverty was not going to keep her from helping others, and so she gave what she had.

She used her plot of land as a place for family and friends to take refuge with her, embracing an open-door policy. In 1903, she donated a section of her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Five years later, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent Colored People opened up on that very location.

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She passed away on March 10th, 1913.

Harriet Tubman was an estimated 93 years old when she succumbed to pneumonia. The brave woman was surrounded by loved ones upon her death. She was buried with full military honors in the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. Though this incredible woman has been gone for more than a century, her legacy lives on in the pages of history books, across the schools and museums which proudly bear her name, reflected by towering movie screens, and most importantly, through the lives of all of those her selfless risks helped to improve for generations to come.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

It’s no secret that tensions between China and America are ramping up over the South China Sea and Taiwan as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have drawn a firm line against China. Tillerson even went so far as to suggest the possibility of a blockade against China — considered an act of war — during his Senate confirmation hearings.


So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.

The ultimate military history road trip
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.

Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning deployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.

The ultimate military history road trip
China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. | PLA

If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.

The Liaoning was last spotted flying with an air arm of 13 J-15 fighters. While the J-15 is capable of catapult takeoffs and arrested recoveries — at least in theory — the Liaoning can’t facilitate them. It utilizes a bow ramp to help its jets takeoff. So these 13 fighters can’t get airborne with their full weapons and fuel loads.

They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.

The ultimate military history road trip
The Vinson is packing some serious heat, is what we’re saying. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.

So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.

Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.

The ultimate military history road trip
Image: Joe Stephens/YouTube Screengrab

The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.

The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.

Most likely, the Hornets equipped solely for anti-air warfare would come back down and get a full load of Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Which Harpoons are available will be important to the pilots.

In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.

The ultimate military history road trip

But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.

Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.

But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.

The ultimate military history road trip
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.

Of special concern would be the anti-ship cruise missiles thought to be deployed to Woody Island, Scarborough Shoal, and potentially even Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef. If the weapons are deployed to all of them, there’s nowhere in the South China Sea the carrier can pass through without being forced to defend itself.

So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.

Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.

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