'The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

“The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor.” This statement about the start and the end of the U.S. Civil War was spoken by Wilmer McLean and is surprisingly almost perfectly true.

Wilmer McLean was born on May 3, 1814, in Alexandria, Virginia, one of fourteen children. When his parents passed away at an early age, McLean was raised by various family members. At 39, McLean married a widow by the name of Virginia Mason, who had two daughters from a previous marriage. Mason also inherited her family’s 1,200 acre Yorkshire plantation located in Bull Run, Virginia.


Life was peaceful at the Yorkshire plantation with McLean working as a fairly successful wholesale grocer. As tensions mounted between the North and South, McLean, a retired military man (former member of the Virginia militia with the rank of Major) and current slave owner, offered to let his plantation be used by the Confederate army and it was soon put into service as the headquarters for General P.G.T. Beauregard of the Confederacy.

McLean welcomed General P.G.T. Beauregard to stay at his house on July 17, 1861. The next night, July 18, 1861, General Beauregard was sitting at McLean’s dining room table when a cannonball exploded through the fireplace and into the kitchen. General Beauregard wrote about the event in his diary, “A comical effect of this artillery fight (which added a few casualties to both lists) was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fireplace of my headquarters at the McLean House.”

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Cannons at Manassas National Battlefield Park.

What followed was the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as “The Battle of First Manassas”). Although the Civil War technically started at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, besides being the first major land battle of the war, the First Battle of Bull Run is generally marked as the point when the war began in earnest.

During the Battle of Bull Run, the Union soldiers were initially able to push back the Confederate troops, despite the impressive efforts of Confederate Colonel Thomas Jackson — Jackson earned his nickname “Stonewall”, for holding the high ground at Henry House Hill (shown in the background of the picture above). In the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements arrived and were able to break through the Union lines. The Union troops were forced to retreat all the way back to Washington D.C. Their retreat was a slow one, as it was delayed by onlookers from Washington who wanted to watch the battle unfold.

After the First Battle of Bull Run, the McLean household was used as a Confederate hospital and a place to hold captured Union soldiers. The Confederate army paid rent to the McLean family during their stay, a total of 5 (about ,000 today) over the course of the war. McLean also made a small fortune running sugar and other supplies through the Union blockade to the Confederacy.

McLean started to fear for the safety of his growing family when the Second Battle of Bull Run started in 1862. His house and land were in disarray from the war, so he decided to make a fresh start in southern Virginia. After scouring the area, McLean found a nice two story cottage in Appomattox, Virginia about 120 miles south of his home in Bull Run. Here he hoped to stay away from the war and all of the problems it had caused for his family.

The McLean family enjoyed a few years of peace and quiet in this way, but in 1865 McLean found the Civil War at his front steps once again with the Battle of Appomattox Court House started on the morning of April 9, 1865.

Prior to this battle, General Robert E. Lee was forced to abandon the Confederate state capital of Richmond, Virginia after the Siege of Petersburg. Heading west, Lee hoped he would be able to connect with Confederate troops in North Carolina. The Union troops pursued Lee and his forces until they were able to cut off the Confederate retreat. Lee then made his final stand at Appomattox Court House and was forced to surrender as his troops were overwhelmingly outnumbered, four to one.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

General Robert E. Lee.

A messenger sent to McLean informed him of the Confederates intentions to surrender and asked him to find a location where the surrender could take place. On the afternoon of April 9, Palm Sunday, General Robert E. Lee met with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in McLean’s parlor to officially surrender. The terms of the surrender were generous to Lee and his army: none of his soldiers were to be held for treason or imprisoned; his men could take their horses home for spring planting; and the starving Confederate troops received food rations.

While this time around McLean’s house didn’t get partially blown up, after the Confederates surrendered, Union soldiers started taking tables, chairs, and any other household items from McLean as souvenirs to remember this historic event. A few soldiers gave McLean money as he protested the theft of his household items. For instance, the table that General Lee signed the surrender document on was purchased by General Edward Ord for (about 00 today).

In the days that followed the surrender, the McLean house was used as the headquarters for Major General John Gibbon of the United States Army. It was also at this time that local civilians started visiting the house… and taking any part of the home that they could get their hands on. McLean did manage to continue to make some money off of this for a time, selling many items supposedly in the house during the signing; he reportedly sold enough items in this way “to furnish an entire apartment complex”.

Bonus Facts:

  • General Lee was offered the position of the head of the Union army by Abraham Lincoln, but decided to lead the Confederate army instead as he couldn’t bring himself to lead troops against his native Virginia. Despite the Confederates being vastly outnumbered and not as well equipped as the North, Lee and his right hand man, Stonewall Jackson, managed to post victory after victory against the North, primarily due to Lee’s brilliance, Jackson’s audacity, and the North’s moronic and sometimes timid Generals.
  • Albert Woolson was the last known person to die who fought in the Civil War, living all the way until August 2, 1956. He was a member of the Union Army.
  • Joshua L. Chamberlain was the last Civil War soldier to die of wounds incurred in the Civil War, managing to live until 1914 with lingering health problems from wounds inflicted during the war. He also has the distinction of being one of the few soldiers to be battlefield promoted to General.
  • It is estimated that during the First Battle of Bull Run, there were 4,700 total casualties during this battle, 2,950 for the Union and 1,750 for the Confederacy.
  • Even though McLean made some money during the war by renting out his house and much more running sugar for the Confederacy, he had little to show for it after the war. McLean was paid entirely in Confederate notes — a currency that no longer existed after the fall of the Confederacy. In 1865, his house was foreclosed on for ,060 (about ,000 today).
  • After losing the house and having very little money to his name, McLean moved his family back the Alexandria, Virginia. There McLean lived out the rest of his life as an IRS auditor. He retired at the age of 66 and passed away two years later.
  • The McLean cottage in Appomattox lay in ruins until Congress bought the house in 1930 and rebuilt it. The Appomattox house became a tourist site starting in 1949. Today, McLean’s Yorkshire plantation no longer remains but there is a historic marker where it once stood.
  • 1 in 13 veterans of the Civil war became amputees because of the war.
  • During the American Civil War, the Union soldiers blocked many supply lines to the Confederacy. Due to this, there were mass shortages of a variety of things. One such shortage that resulted was that newspaper offices ran out of paper. Instead, some took to using wallpaper to print their newspapers (this was not ripped from parlor walls as some books mistakenly state, but rather new rolls of wallpaper that were available). Some editions of the Confederate papers were even printed on other substitutes like brown wrapping paper, blue ledger paper, and even tissue paper.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Finance Friday: should you invest in a bear market?

As I sit in my concrete bunker surrounded by hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, a wall of toilet paper ready to thwart any potential Coronavirus threats, I feel the need to press pause on regularly scheduled mortgage education and address a topic that has flared up in newsfeeds over the past few days: investing when the market has “crashed”.


Although I joke about my bunker stash (I can’t even find hand sanitizer to stock), personal finance is a highly individualistic and serious subject full of licensing requirements and government regulations. I did what any person not wanting to bring the Financial Industry Regulation Authority fire down upon them and called in the experts. Long-time trusted advisors Nick Stone and Craig Harris were both able to offer some advice to my investment-curious audience who feel that they may be missing out on a Golden Goose Egg during this bear market.

Stone provided examples over the history of time where markets have typical cycles of ebb and flow, and this was bound to come full circle even before the Coronavirus scare (which surely did compound the effect). Putting our economy into the analogy of a marathon, no one sprints 26.2 miles to a finish line. Instead, there are steady-set paces accompanied by throttles and breaks. We may not have seen the bottom of this yet since stocks are priced on what expected earnings are, and companies have yet to report on their current quarter. It could be speculated that markets will dip even a little more. Only time can tell. A piece of advice offered is to maximize on your current contributions such as 401K, IRA and other tax-friendly opportunities versus a narrow lump-sum investment to allow for dollar-cost averaging.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Harris emphasized a good time to invest when the market is in a down point. “Buy low and sell high” is not a catch-phrase but a pillar of investing. Regardless of market conditions, ANY time is a good time to start investing, but there is certainly an advantage when we are in a low market since you can get a little more with your cash. Even at the highest point, like where we just were, there is still a good strategy to be employed for investing your money. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but the market is designed in a way that, over a long enough period of time, your money should grow. He stressed that individual situations and goals are the primary driving factor in how the portfolio is built and how your money can be invested wisely.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Both discourage dumping money blindly into crashing stocks today in hopes of getting rich next week. The singular most important thing you can do with your money is to have a goal in mind versus chasing performance returns. It can be retirement, paying for a child’s college, purchasing a home, etc. but you HAVE to know what you’re working towards in order to get there. The last thing you want to do is be cash-poor and investment-rich without a plan if you need access to that money in the short term. This knowledge is especially important for my mortgage clients who may need to hang on to some cash to close on a new home.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

There’s a big myth out there that financial advisors are expensive, but they’re really not. There are traditional brokerage accounts where you pay a small commission on everything bought and put into your account and every transaction made on your behalf. There are also fee-based accounts where you forego commissions and pay an annual fee that varies between firms, typically averages out to be less than 1.5 percent of your invested assets. If you find yourself shopping around for a financial advisor, ask about their cost, make sure they are also a licensed stockbroker so you are diversified instead of pigeonholed into one certain commodity, and ask them if they would invest you like they would invest their own family. It’s a relationship of trust, and you have the ability to establish how you want that relationship to be shaped, whether it be by twice a year comprehensive reviews, weekly phone calls or somewhere in-between.

Important to remember when you see big movement in the economy is this: What do you want to invest FOR, not what do you want to invest IN. That mind shift will help you make smart financial decisions for your future.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These weapons could replace US Army’s M4 carbine and M249

Sig Sauer Inc. on Sep. 3, 2019, offered a first look at the automatic rifle and rifle prototypes for the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) effort, after the service selected the company to advance to the next phase of testing for the 6.8mm weapon system.

Sig Sauer, maker of the Army’s new Modular Handgun System, was selected recently along with General Dynamics-OTS Inc. and AAI Corporation Textron Systems to deliver prototypes of both the automatic rifle and rifle versions of the NGSW, as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds of special 6.8mm ammunition common to both weapons, to Army testers over the next 27 months.

The service plans to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin replacing M4A1 carbines and M249 squad automatic weapons in an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023, Army modernization officials have said.


As part of the NGSW effort, the Army tasked gunmakers to develop a common cartridge using the government-designed 6.8mm projectile.

Sig engineered a “completely new cartridge,” resulting in a “more compact round, with increased velocity and accuracy, while delivering a substantial reduction in the weight of the ammunition,” according to a Sept. 3, 2019 company news release.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Sig Sauer automatic rifle prototype (left) and rifle prototype (right) designed for the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon.

(Sig Sauer photo)

The high-pressure, 6.8mm hybrid ammunition is a “significant leap forward in ammunition innovation, design and manufacturing,” Ron Cohen, president and CEO of Sig, said in the release.

Sig’s automatic-rifle version of the NGSW features a side-opening feed tray, increased available rail space for night vision and other accessories, and a folding buttstock. The rifle prototype features a free-floating, reinforced M-LOK handguard, side-charging handle, and fully ambidextrous controls, as well as a folding buttstock, according to the release.

Both prototypes will also feature a newly designed suppressor that “reduces harmful backflow and signature” during firing, the release states.

“The Sig Sauer NGSW-AR is lighter in weight, with dramatically less recoil than that currently in service, while our carbine for the NGSW-Rifle submission is built on the foundation of Sig Sauer weapons in service with the premier fighting forces across the globe,” Cohen said in the release. “Both weapons are designed with features that will increase the capabilities of the soldier.”

The new prototyping agreements call for each vendor to deliver 43 6.8mm NGSW automatic rifles and 53 NGSW rifles, as well as 845,000 rounds of 6.8mm ammunition, according to the original solicitation.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

U.S. Army Pvt. David Bryant of the 3rd Squadron 71st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division mans his position behind his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.

(U.S. Army photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Javier Amador, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs )

Textron announced Aug. 30, 2019, that it will lead a team that includes Heckler Koch for its small-arms design, research and development, and manufacturing capabilities. It will work with Olin Winchester for its small-caliber ammunition production capabilities.

Textron Systems’ rifle and auto-rifle prototypes will feature its signature case-telescoped ammunition technology developed under the Army’s Light Weight Small Arms Technology effort over the last decade.

“The design features improved accuracy and greater muzzle velocity for increased performance, as well as weight savings of both weapon and ammunition over current Army systems,” according to a recent Textron news release. “It also incorporates advanced suppressor technology to reduce the firing signature and improve controllability.”

Textron is not releasing any images of its NGSW prototypes at this time but plans on showing off the weapon system at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in October, company spokeswoman Betania Magalhaes told Military.com.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Military Life

Why Royal Marines don’t wear undies to bed will make you think twice

In America, when you go without wearing any underwear, we jokingly call it “going commando.” If you’ve ever deployed to a joint military base and you’ve worked alongside Royal Marines, then you understand the term better than most — you’ve probably received an uncalled-for eyeful when these troops wake up for the work day. That’s because they tend to sleep in just their birthday suits.

But it’s not for comfort’s sake — it’s hygienically sound.

It’s no secret that, when the mission calls for it, military personnel sometimes have to live in tight berthing areas. Because of this close-quarter living, illnesses and bacteria can quickly spread from person to person.


Most service members are taught to shower before they go to bed. After all, you want to remain as clean as possible throughout the night. But when we sleep, we naturally sweat from our pores. Meanwhile, our microscopic skin cells die and flake off. You might not know it, but you leave behind an imprint of skin and sweat wherever you lay — it’s actually pretty nasty.

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Royal Marines tend to sleep naked so they don’t hold all the juices and skin flakes emitted from their bodies in the clothes they’ll later wear.

U.S. troops are taught to sleep in a t-shirt and undies or some type of pajamas. Sure, this might contribute to the ever-growing pile of dirty laundry, but at least it’s easier to go to the restroom at 0300 — which is located on the other side of the FOB.

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Sleeping naked may work for our Royal Marine allies, but U.S. military culture hasn’t accepted the idea — yet.

If you still don’t believe us, check out the very censored video below to see Royal Marines put the “commando” in “going commando.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jMYOzOQL1U

MIGHTY GAMING

This official USMC video evokes all that is awesome about ‘Super Smash Bros’

Every branch has their own social media team that serves as a front-facing brand to their troops, the military, and the civilian population at large. By in large, these efforts aid in recruitment and build branch pride — but keep in mind that these teams are just a handful of social media guys acting as the face of the entire branch.

Normally, the branches have fun with the users who play along. The Army and Navy’s social media accounts constantly throw shade at one another while the Go Coast Guard Facebook team pulls a few cues from Wendy’s Twitter tactics whenever someone tries to berate them.

And then there’s the Marine Corps social team who has way too much fun with their job…


The U.S. Marines Twitter is a goldmine of Marines-related humor. They proudly boosted the Recruit Mullet meme, which was centered around a recruit calling home while looking ‘Murica AF by sporting a mullet while wearing a Budweiser tank top. They’re also responsible for one of the greatest April Fool’s Day pranks — all they had to say was that “Drill Instructors” were going to be renamed “Drill Sergeants” and chaos ensued.

Their most recent addition to this collection of classics comes on the very same day that Nintendo Direct announced a host of new characters set to join the roster of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, which is slated for a December 7th release. They made a parody video that showcases Marines doing dope Marine sh*t in quick, little snippets to the tune of a Smash Bros song.

It parodies the exact style of the character-reveal trailers that the series is known for. Like this one:

Of course, because this was posted to Twitter, there were plenty of rustled jimmies in the replies. To you angry few: Relax. It’s just a joke.

No, it’s not a waste of government money when this could easily be made in an hour. No, it’s not making light of the seriousness of combat or military service. And no, it’s not directed at recruiting young kids who like Nintendo games.

But it is freaking hilarious and made even funnier by getting the Official Marine Corps stamp of approval.

Let’s do this. 1v1 me. No items, infantry only, Final Destination.

The upcoming game is slated to have 71 playable fighters duking it out across over 100 different maps. Nearly every character from every single Nintendo title is set to appear in some fashion and many characters from outside IP will appear, including Snake from Metal Gear, Ryu from Street Fighter, Cloud from Final Fantasy, and now, Simon Belmont from Castlevania.

Who’s to say that Nintendo won’t add actual Marines to the game? It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve added characters that make little sense given the game’s tone. Or, and this entirely wishful thinking from a fan, they could add Doomguy — why not? He’s a Marine that made an appearance on the Super Nintendo. That’s fair game, in my book.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best Civil War movies

It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.

From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.

These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.


www.youtube.com

1. Gone with the Wind

Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.

To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.

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2. Glory

Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.

The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.

Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.

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3. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals to dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.

By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.

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4. Gettysburg

Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angels stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.

The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.

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5. The Civil War

When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.

Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinx and OJ: Made in America.

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6. Cold Mountain

Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.

While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.

The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.

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7. Ride with the Devil

Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.

Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.

Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.

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8. The Horse Soldiers

This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.

With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.

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9. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.

As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This insane law would force everyone who wanted a war to go fight it

In 1916, the people of the United States were not feeling good about the rest of the world. President Woodrow Wilson easily won re-election on the slogan, “He kept us out of war” as World War I raged on in Europe and elsewhere. The Mexican Revolution threatened to pull the United States back into conflict in the American Southwest. On top of all that, the U.S. military was a conscripted, third-rate power; a far cry from the professional, all-volunteer force that we enjoy today.

But it was almost an Army comprised only of those who wanted to go to war in the first place.


‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Five months after his inauguration, we were at war. Just sayin’.

The Constitution of the United States says only that the U.S. Congress can declare a state of war. There are no formal rules for how and when the Congress can do so, only that they can. In one instance, the President signed the legislation for war, and in others, it simply passed as a resolution. In 1916, the Congress had only declared war three times: against Britain in 1812, Mexico in 1848, and against Spain in 1898. The American people were not looking forward to a potential war in Europe, no matter who was on the other side.

Especially a concerned group of citizens from Nebraska, who created legislation that would change how the United States declared war – and who would fight it.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

“Get in, loser. We’re going to liberate Belgium.”

This proposed amendment to the Constitution outlined the process of declaring war as a national referendum, a direct vote by American citizens, where the majority would decide if the country was going to war or not. If the war referendum passed, all those who voted in favor of the war would be enlisted to fight that war.

Folks in Nebraska were surprised by how much popular support their proposed amendment received. The petition to submit the amendment to Congress had so many signatures, scraps of paper had to be added after the fact to ensure they all ended up on the document. While deciding who fights a war is very important, declaring a state of war comes with many automatic legal triggers, many of which have likely kept Congress from declaring war in the past few decades. An official state of war has not been declared since World War II.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

That face you make when you can still use the Tonkin Gulf Resolution to bomb Southeast Asia.

While the rules for how the United States conducts itself in a declared war versus an undeclared use of military force vary greatly, the rules for who fights the wars do not. All American male citizens are required to register for Selective Service at age 18, but the draft has not been used as a means of military recruiting since 1973, and was finally ended by President Gerald Ford in 1975. Ever since, the U.S military has been an all-volunteer force.

The question that has come out of the formation of an all-volunteer military in the past few years is one of disproportionate representation. If only certain segments of the American population have to fight the wars of the future, is it easier for a political class to launch unnecessary wars if they don’t have to be personally affected by its manpower needs? Those Nebraskans might have had a good point.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the real Iraq War battle behind ‘The Long Road Home’

In April 2004, a convoy from the US Army’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division was on a routine escort mission. The Baghdad neighborhood they were operating in – Sadr City – would become notorious among American and Coalition forces for at least the next four years. What happened to 1st Cav that day came to be known as “Black Sunday,” a battle then- Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey called “the biggest gunfight since the fall of Baghdad.”


 

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’
Soldiers from B Co., 3/15 Infantry hand out hard candy to kids in Sadr City, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2003. An ominous stencil of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr looms in the background.

The mission started like any other escort mission. Soldiers in a convoy escorted sewage trucks, known as “honey wagons,” to locations inside the Sadr City area of the Iraqi capital. Though times were tough for the Iraqi people, lawlessness was on the rise throughout Baghdad. Still, everything was for the most part peaceful…until Palm Sunday 2004.

The neighborhood now known as Sadr City housed three and a half million people in five square miles – roughly half of the city’s entire population. Built by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, it was full of mostly Shia muslims who were persecuted under Saddam’s rule. As a result, this densely populated area – smaller in size than most American cities, but with a population higher than Houston or Chicago – was deeply impoverished.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’
A U.S. Army soldier assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Calvary Regiment, armed with a 5.56mm Colt M4 carbine, provides security during a patrol near Forward Operating Base Camp Eagle, Sadr City, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The area came under control of the anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who took the citizens’ distrust of the occupying Americans and turned in into full-fledged anger. His militant followers formed the formidable Mahdi Army, which attracted fighters from other countries as well as Iraqis. By the time the U.S. was ready to take down al-Sadr, he had grown too powerful. When American shut down his newspaper for inciting violence, Sadr City residents were outraged.

They protested peacefully in the streets at first, but that outrage soon boiled over.

American troops raided al-Sadr’s house and arrested one of his senior aides on the order of Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.  That same day, unbeknownst to the Coalition, al-Sadr’s militia captured Iraqi Police stations across the city.

April 4, 2004 was the day 2-5 Cav was escorting honey wagons as they worked in Sadr City. They had just deployed to Camp War Eagle, on the edge of Sadr City, allegedly the “safest place in Iraq.” They were ambushed by the Mahdi Army as they made their way out of the city. Unable to move all their men out of the area, 19 soldiers holed up in a civilian house, awaiting rescue amid hundreds of enemy fighters.

They had only been in country for a few days.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Relief columns were mounted by 1st Cavalry but those were unable to use the heavy guns on their Bradley M-2A3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles due to the rules of engagement. The rescuers were themselves ambushed by the forces hidden in Iraqi Police stations and, unable to bring firepower to bear, were pushed back.

Eventually, the superior firepower was authorized against the Mahdi Army’s superior numbers. 1st Cav’s use of the Bradleys’ main turret was complimented by a force of 1st Armored Division M-1A2 Abrams tanks.

Eight soldiers were lost in the initial ambush and rescue of those trapped and surrounded in Sadr City that April Day. The fight to rescue the platoon from 2-5 Cav is dramatized in National Geographic Channel’s miniseries The Long Road Home, which begins Nov. 7, 2017.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’
U.S. troops patrol the deserted streets of the sprawling Shia slum of Sadr City at sunset, Apr. 4, 2004. (Wathiq Khuzaie)

But the fighting for Sadr City didn’t end in April 2004. The fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood would rage on in the streets between American forces and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army for another four years. It ended with a ceasefire agreement that allowed Iraqi government troops to enter the area.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 reasons why ‘Generation Kill’ feels so authentic

Any post-9/11 Marine could easily sit down and binge through all seven episodes of the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill. In fact, if you’ve sat in your squad bay at Camp Wilson while there for a training exercise, you’ve probably already watched it a few times. Why is it so popular with the Devil Dogs? Simple: it feels pinpoint accurate.

There aren’t a whole lot of accurate depictions of Marines out there. At least, not many that really, 100% capture the true nature and mannerisms of Marines — the Infantry-type especially. That’s what sets Generation Kill apart from the rest. Based on the novel written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone, who was embedded with the 1st Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wright set out with the goal of showing Marines as they were, unfiltered.

And that he did — but the miniseries adaptation took it a few steps further. There were aspects in production that not only honored Mr. Wright’s material, but Marine culture as well:


‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

If he’s portraying himself, is this still considered his costume?

(HBO Films)

1. Military advisers

A lot of people give Hollywood sh*t when incorrectly depict aspects of military life — likely due to the lack of someone on set who knows (from experience) what they’re talking about. In this case, they had two guys on the job — Rudy Reyes, who plays himself in the series, and Eric Kocher, both Recon Marines. They went as far as having the actors go through a six-day mini-boot camp to learn all of the basics.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

A side-by-side comparison of the real-life Brad Colbert with Alexander Skarsgard, who played Colbert in the series.

(HBO Films)

And the actors took it seriously. They dedicated themselves to honoring the memory and the experiences of the real-life Marines they portray in the series. Rudy Reyes himself said,

“… These guys have shown incredible discipline and attention to detail as well as commitment and camaraderie.”

Which goes to show that they picked the right actors for the job. But, in many cases, an actor can only be as convincing as the material they’re given.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Lee Tergesen as Evan Wright.

(HBO Films)

2. Source material

As previously stated, Evan Wright set out to portray the Marines as they were. He’s gone on record as saying he didn’t aim to depict them as heroes or villains — but just as they were. If you were to go to Rolling Stone to read through his original series of articles, you’ll notice that they, too, are extremely accurate.

From reading his writing, you get a sense that he wanted to show the world that Marines are people, just like anyone else. Such authentic source material meant that the production team had some big shoes to fill — they needed performances that felt real. Really real.

Evan Wright on Generation Kill

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Thankfully, HBO at this point had already done Band of Brothers, which was another accurate depiction of troops in war. For Evan Wright, that kind of pedigree was comforting; he know that HBO would do their best to faithfully adapt his work.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Also, notice how the actors have learned to keep their booger hooks off the bang switch.

(HBO Films)

3. Cast and crew

And, of course, Generation Kill has a great cast of actors. As mentioned before, they were extremely dedicated to their roles and understood what it was that they were doing. Of course, that’s partially credited to the Reyes and Kocher, but the actors themselves played their roles brilliantly.

Beyond that, every department understood what they were making and made sure to get a lot of the details correct, including costumes.

Generation Kill: Becoming A Marine (HBO)

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When it comes to getting things accurate, Generation Kill does an outstanding job. It would be great to sit here and write all of the amazing things the actors and crew had to say about it, but to hear them say it is even better:

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

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Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War troops ate so much mutton it went out of style

Imagine trying to feed literally tens of thousands of men. You and a couple of dozen others are in charge of buying all the food necessary fill all those bellies as they march across continents or charge from trench to trench and burned 4,600 calories per day, almost 30 percent more than a farmer would need. You would likely take whatever food was available in large quantities, and you might feed the men so much of it that they never wanted to see it again.


‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

World War 2 propaganda poster shows soldier receiving a massive piece of freshly cooked meat under the slogan “After the fighters, you come first. SHARE THE MEAT.”

(National Archives and Records Administration)

That’s what, allegedly, happened with American troops and mutton in World War II. While troops got some meat from local farms and wild game when they were lucky or had particularly resourceful supply officers in the unit, most of their calories and most of their meat was shipped from the states.

American farmers generated as much food as they could, and it was canned, jarred, concentrated, preserved, and more and sent to the fronts. One of the meats that preserved and canned well and was widely available was mutton, and so it was shipped forward by the ton.

But while canned mutton was stable and safe to eat, it wasn’t exactly desirable. And that’s especially true since military buyers weren’t discerning customers, and so they were often delivered particularly gamy and poor meat. And so American troops ran into the MRE problem of today but on a much greater scale.

‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor’

Mutton looks so delicious in the wild.

(Pixabay, lfmatac)

Anyone who has had an MRE can tell you it’s not that bad for food that can be safe on a shelf for years. Most of the components taste fine, the nutrition is pretty balanced for someone who is expected to work and sweat all day, and it can be transported easily.

But while an MRE tastes OK the first couple of times or first dozen times you eat one, eating one every day gets repetitive. Eating two a day becomes onerous. It becomes a task that you force yourself through, not a meal, not a welcome morale boost or a respite from the fear and monotony.

Now imagine that, instead of 24 separate meals like the MRE program offers, you had only a few meals, all of them based around meat. And so you would be eating that canned mutton multiple times per week, potentially as much as a couple of days a week. Poor cuts of meat, canned for weeks or months or years, and then delivered to troops that had been eating it repetitively for years.

Oddly enough, when troops got home from war, some of them told their families that they never wanted to see the stuff again.

And some allege that it’s because of this that mutton fell out of favor in the U.S. and, to a lesser degree, in Britain, after the war. The British drop off was even more noticeable because the country had been so culturally tied to sheep and the wool industry for centuries before World War II.

But there are some historians who allege that the story is overblown, that the damage to the mutton industry was already in the cards. Wool clothing gave way, increasingly, to cotton and synthetic fibers after the war, and so no one was raising sheep to adulthood for wool. That reduced the sizes of the herds that mutton was harvested from. And lamb, harvested from younger sheep, became more popular.

Here’s hoping the MRE pizza is properly rotated with other meals. We’d hate to have that ruined for an entire generation.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy submarines now are deploying with new ‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons

US Navy ballistic missile submarines — boomers — are now sailing with ballistic missiles armed with new “low-yield” nuclear weapons, the Department of Defense announced Tuesday.


“The U.S. Navy has fielded the W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warhead,” John Rood, under secretary of defense for policy, said in a statement.

“This supplemental capability strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon,” he said.

Rood, who told the Associated Press that these new weapons lower the risk of nuclear war, added that it “demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment because the United States can credibly and decisively respond to any threat scenario.”

The fielding of the new low-yield nuclear warheads, which arm submarine-launched Trident II missiles, was first reported by the Federation of American Scientists, which explained that each W76-2 has an explosive yield of about five kilotons, significantly smaller than the 90-kiloton W76-1 or the larger, 455-kiloton W88.

For comparison, the W76-2 has a smaller explosive yield than either of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — which together killed hundreds of thousands of people.

It is unclear exactly when and on which vessels the new “low-yield” nuclear weapons were deployed, but FAS, citing unnamed sources, reports the new weapons may have been deployed aboard the US Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) USS Tennessee, which set out on an Atlantic deployment at the end of last year.

The W76-2 is a product of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

“DoD and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will develop for deployment a low-yield SLBM warhead to ensure a prompt response option that is able to penetrate adversary defenses,” the review explained.

“This is a comparatively low-cost and near term modification to an existing capability that will help counter any mistaken perception of an exploitable ‘gap’ in U.S. regional deterrence capabilities.”

Production of the new warheads began in January 2019 at the Pantax Plant in Texas.

While the Department of Defense argues in favor of the new weapons, many arms control experts argue that low-yield nuclear weapons lowers the barrier to entry into nuclear-armed conflict, thus increasing the risk of a conflict escalating to a full-scale nuclear war.

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