4 unusual weapons from the Civil War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

In 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln escaped the Baltimore Plot with the help of his bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon and detective Allan Pinkerton, eluding assassins. Lincoln’s tough guy had an assortment of weapons, according to the June 1895 edition of McClure’s Magazine, including a pair of heavy revolvers, brass knuckles, a Bowie knife, and a slung-shot. The slung-shot was a crude weapon with a weight tied to a wrist strap, popular among street gangs of the era.

The man responsible for protecting the life of the president carried some peculiar weapons, and the American Civil War that followed featured some unusual weapons as well.

The Arkansas Toothpick

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Pvt. John L. Wood, Company D, 3rd North Carolina Volunteers Regiment, showing an “Arkansas Toothpick,” a weapon similar to the Bowie knife, and sheath with initials J.L.W. Photo by Charles Rees, 1861, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arkansas Toothpick, similar to the Bowie knife, was a heavy dagger with a pointed and straight blade ranging from 12 to 20 inches long. It was versatile, used in service for throwing, thrusting, and slashing. The large-bladed weapon was carried in a holster across the back. It was said to be heavy enough for chopping wood and sharp enough for shaving and combat.

Ketchum Grenade

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Though deadly in its time, the Ketchum hand grenade might remind kids today of a Nerf foam football. Photo courtesy of the civilwarvirtualmuseum.org.

The Ketchum grenade has a strong resemblance to the Nerf foam footballs that wail through the air when thrown. Only, when these hit the ground, they explode — or at least, that was the idea. Patented in 1861 by New York inventor William F. Ketchum, the grenade was used by the Union Army. These Ketchum grenades, however, were largely ineffective. If the nose of the grenade didn’t strike the ground, it didn’t detonate. Confederate soldiers even used blankets to catch them.  

Calcium Floodlights

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Equipped with calcium lights, the Union Navy was able to keep up the bombardment of Fort Sumter around the clock. Photo courtesy of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum.

First appearing in lighthouses and theaters in the 1830s, calcium floodlights were repurposed during the Civil War in 1863 in an operation to retake Charleston Harbor. Using the lights, Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore bombarded the Confederate stronghold at Fort Wagner around the clock. The calcium lights, or “limelights,” were chemical lamps that used superheated balls of lime, or calcium oxide, to create an incandescent glow and turn the night into day. The Union engineers not only illuminated their artillery targets but also blinded the Confederate gunners and riflemen. The limelights also spotted Confederate warships, blockade runners, and ironclad fleets.

Coal Torpedo

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Weapons of the Civil War included the coal torpedo. This example was prepared as a model, with a partial coal dust coating and the plug left out. It was found in Jefferson Davis’ office by Union Gen. Edward Ripley when Union forces captured Richmond in April 1865. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coal torpedo was an improvised explosive device (IED) developed by Confederate spy Thomas Edgeworth Courtenay to carry out acts of sabotage. These nasty little bombs appeared to be ordinary clumps of coal. The hollowed-out iron artillery shells were loaded with several ounces of gunpowder, sealed with beeswax, and covered in coal dust. Dozens of saboteurs were given orders to place them in Union coal stockpiles in hopes they would be brought aboard Union steam-powered warships. 

Rear Adm. David Dixon Porter, a commander of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, recalled the havoc a coal torpedo could create aboard a ship. “When the torpedo was thrown into the furnace with the coal, it soon burst, blowing the furnace-doors open and throwing the burning mass into the fire-room, where it [began to burn] the wood-work,” he wrote.

The concept for coal torpedos as weapons didn’t end with the Civil War. Eddie Chapman, a double agent working for the British during World War II, was provided an explosive device by his German handlers. It was, as the coal torpedoes were, disguised as coal. He was ordered to get it into the coal bunker of a ship. Instead, Chapman turned it over to authorities.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

10 odd jobs of World War II

Today’s military has some jobs that might surprise you — for example, did you know the Army and Marine Corps have instrument repair technicians? These troops repair musical instruments for the military bands.

But during World War II, there were a lot of jobs that would seem strange in today’s technologically focused military. Over the course of the war, technological advances reduced or eliminated the need for many manual occupations. This transition is captured in the War Department’s list of military jobs from 1944, where entries like ”horse artillery driver” appear just a page away from ”remote control turret repairman.”


4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

1. Blacksmith

During World War II, blacksmiths still made many of the items needed to repair equipment and machinery. They would make metal tools and parts, by hand, in coal or coke forges. They also made shoes for some of the tens of thousands of horses and mules that saw service during the war.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

2. Meat Cutter

Does what it says on the label: cuts meat. These troops were responsible for preparing whole carcassas, such as beef and lamb, for distribution to various units around the world.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

3. Horsebreaker

Horsebreakers would train horses and mules so they could be issued to mounted units. They also trained them to carry packs and to be hitched to wagons and carts.

Although they weren’t used in World War II to the extent they were used in the First World War, troops still relied on horses and mules to cross terrain impassable to mechanized units. For example, the 5332nd Brigade, a long range patrol group created for service in the mountains of Burma, was largely self-sufficient due to the 3,000 mules assigned to it — all shipped from the United States.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

4. Artist and Animation Artist

Today’s military has jobs for skilled multimedia illustrators, but in World War II, military artists and animation artists created paintings, illustrations, films, charts and maps by hand. A number of successful artists served in World War II, including Bill Maudlin, who drew Willie and Joe, archetypes for infantrymen on the front line; and Bill Keane, who went on to draw Family Circus after his military service ended.

The military’s animation artists were quite busy during World War II. The Army even stationed soldiers at Walt Disney’s studios for the duration of the war to make patriotic films for the public and instructional or training films for service members.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

5. Crystal Grinder

During World War II, many radios still required crystals to operate, usually galena. Crystal grinders would grind and calibrate these crystals to pick up specific frequencies.

Personal radios were forbidden on the front lines, but crystal radio sets lacked external power sources, so they couldn’t be detected by the enemy. For this reason, troops often improvised crystal radios from a variety of materials — including pencils and razor blades — in order to listen to music and news. These contraband radio sets were dubbed ”foxhole radios.”

6. Cooper

Troops who worked as coopers built and repaired the wooden buckets, barrels, casks and kegs used to pack, store and ship supplies and equipment. They used hand tools to plug holes with wood and salvage damaged barrels.

Wood was used to package a wide range of goods for transport all the way through World War II, but improvements in metal and cardboard packaging technology marked the beginning of the end for wooden barrels and crates.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

7. Model Maker

Military model makers were charged with creating scale models of military equipment, terrain and other objects to be used in movies, as training aids and for operational planning. The models built by these troops were used in what was perhaps one of the greatest examples of wartime deception, Operation Fortitude.

Operation Fortitude was aimed at convincing the Germans that Allied troops heading to France for the D-Day invasion would land in Pas de Calais in July, rather than Normandy in June. Dummy buildings, aircraft and landing craft were constructed by model makers and positioned near Dover, England, in a camp built for the fictitious First U.S. Army Group. The deception was so complete that Hitler held troops in reserve for two weeks after D-Day because he believed another invasion was coming via the Dover Strait.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

8. Pigeoneer

Pigeoneers were responsible for all aspects of their birds’ lives. They would breed, train and care for pigeons that were used to deliver messages. Some birds would be trained specifically for night flying, while others learned that food could be found at one location and water at another. According to the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Museum, more than 90% of the messages carried by pigeons were successfully delivered.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

9. Field Artillery Sound Recorder

These troops had the sickest beats. Until the development of radar, sound ranging was one of the most effective ways to locate enemy artillery, mortars and rockets. The process was first developed in World War I, and continued to be used in combat through the Korean War.

From a forward operating post, a field artillery sound recorder would monitor an oscillograph and recorder connected to several microphones. When the sound of an enemy gun reached a microphone, the information would be recorded on sound film and the data from several microphones could be analyzed to locate the enemy gun. The technology is still in use today by many countries, which often use sound ranging in concert with radar.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

10. Airplane Woodworker

Although wood was largely phased out in favor of tubular steel in aircraft construction by the time World War II started, there was still a need for airplane woodworkers to repair and maintain existing aircraft — especially gliders and some training aircraft.

Wooden gliders like the Waco CG-4A — the most widely used American troop/cargo military glider of World War II — played critical parts in the war. The CG-4A was first used in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. They most commonly flew airborne troops into battle, most famously for the D-Day assault on France on June 6, 1944, and Operation Market Garden in September 1944. They were also used in the China-Burma-India Theater.

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This may be the origin of the ‘Dear John’ letter

No two innocent-sounding words can crush a troop’s morale quite like “Dear John.” In the military lexicon, a “Dear John” letter is a cute letter sent by a troop’s lady back home that lets him know she’s gone. These letters typical start with incoherent ramblings about how they miss their “John” before ultimately saying they’re moving on.


4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Seriously, didn’t they read the poster? (Image via Smithsonian)

To the deployed John, time stands still, but the Earth still rotates. Even if a troop finds a good one that’s willing to wait, everyone knows someone who got a “Dear John.”

Despite the fact that these heartbreaking letters were undoubtedly sent with the near-12 million letters delivered per week during WWI, the phrase wasn’t popularized until WWII, when American GIs sent and received over one billion pieces of mail throughout the war.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
This is just one day’s worth of mail for reference. (Image via Australian War Memorial)

When, exactly, troops started using it to refer to an actual letter is lost to time, but it’s been used as a popular saying as far back as 1944 in the St. Petersburg Times. However, the phrase originated many years prior, and was used extensively in Anthony Trollope’s 1864 novel, Can You Forgive Her? The immensely popular Victorian English novel that, honestly, does not hold up to the modern standards of bearable.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
You can seriously skip this book. Even Stephen King mocked it in his memoir. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes is that the story centers around a woman named Alice who has two suitors. One is wild and exciting, but evil: George. The other is honest and a war hero, but boring: John. As it turns out, George is a psychopathic politician who tries to murder everyone and Alice’s cousin. Just throwing that out there. But, in the end, John finds out Alice is leaving him through a letter that starts with a phase repeated throughout the novel, “Dear John.”

Although we don’t know the exact origins of the phrase, as John was the most popular boys name of the time (see: John Doe), this our best guess. Either way, the phrase has had an undeniable impact — it’s since been referenced by Hank Williams Sr., Taylor Swift, a Nicholas Sparks novel that became a film, and television.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the worst military decisions of each US President in one sentence

No President is 100 percent flawless in any aspect of their presidency. Even former generals can make bad calls when it comes to being the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. And even though their military decisions may look good at the time, history could judge the president for not having the vision to nip potential trouble spots in the bud.


1 – George Washington

His attack on the British at Long Island came while they were at their strongest and most well-armed.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

2 – John Adams

With the Alien and Sedition Acts, Adams infringed on the very rights he and the other founding fathers just finished fighting for.

3 – Thomas Jefferson

His appointment of Commodore William Bainbridge to command the Philadelphia led to the capture and enslavement of the ship’s crew.

4 – James Madison

He vastly overestimated the United States’ ability to wage war, and when U.S. troops burned York (present day Toronto), he opened the door to the burning of Washington.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

5 – James Monroe

Monroe sent Andrew Jackson to invade Spanish Florida and attack the hostile natives there, despite not being at war with Spain.

6 – John Quincy Adams

Rather than build up the Navy to project U.S. power and protect American interests, he just did nothing.

7 – Andrew Jackson

Jackson began the systematic removal of natives from American territory, while neglecting the Navy.

8 – Martin Van Buren

Van Buren continued Jackson’s anti-Native policy while continuing to neglect the U.S. Navy

9 – William Henry Harrison

Harrison died thirty days into his presidency — before he could even make a military decision.

10 – John Tyler

Built the world’s largest naval cannon, which exploded during a demonstration.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
It’s not polite to stare!

11 – James K. Polk

Micromanaging the war with Mexico took its toll on his health and eventually killed him.

12 – Zachary Taylor

He ate cholera-ridden ice milk and cherries.

13 – Milliard Fillmore

Fillmore’s worst call was not invading Cuba, despite the constant headaches it posed then and in the future.

14 – Franklin Pierce

Pierce let Kansas decide if it would be a free or slave state, which led to Kansas being flooded with zealots from both sides, who promptly killed each other.

15 – James Buchanan

He left the secession crisis for Lincoln.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
James Buchanan: No f*cks given.

16 – Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln kept McClellan in command of the Union Army for way too long.

17 – Andrew Johnson

Instead of fulfilling the vision of Abraham Lincoln’s Reconstruction, Johnson used federal forces to punish the South.

18 – Ulysses S. Grant

The former Union general worried about being perceived as a dictator, but he still used the military to enforce laws in the South.

19 – Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes used the Army to break up workers strikes in nonessential industries, which was especially violent in Pittsburgh.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

20 – James. A. Garfield

James Garfield’s biggest mistake was foregoing a security detail (he was assassinated).

21 – Chester A. Arthur

Arthur hired political cronies to overhaul the Navy, which angered Congress, who withheld much of the funds.

22 – Grover Cleveland

Cleveland vetoed pensions for Civil War veterans.

23 – Benjamin Harrison

Harrison ordered the Massacre at Wounded Knee.

24 – Grover Cleveland

Cleveland broke up a rail workers strike with the Army because he wanted them to deliver the mail.

25 – William McKinley

Instead of giving the Philippines its independence, he subjugated the population.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
They’ll love being American!

26 – Theodore Roosevelt

The man’s been dead for almost a hundred years and I’m still afraid to criticize him (no comment).

27 – William Howard Taft

Taft kept U.S. troops as occupiers of Latin American countries, sowing mistrust and discord in the Western Hemisphere that continues to this day.

28 – Woodrow Wilson

Wilson was more concerned with his Fourteen Point peace plan than noticing Germany was being beaten up in the WWI armistice, one of the major causes of World War II.

29 – Warren G. Harding

Harding removed U.S. troops from Cuba instead of annexing it, which would give the U.S. a lot of trouble in the coming decades.

30 – Calvin Coolidge

Silent Cal neglected to maintain the Navy because World War I was over.

31 – Herbert Hoover

Hoover ordered a young General MacArthur to disperse the Bonus Army by force.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

32 – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt put a lot of misplaced trust in Stalin, who promptly used that trust against the U.S.

33 – Harry S. Truman

Truman thought the Chinese wouldn’t intervene in the Korean War even if MacArthur conquered the entire peninsula.

34 – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ordered the CIA to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran and put the Shah back in power.

35 – John F. Kennedy

Kennedy greenlit the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and then neglected to give them air support.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Well, we were done with it, no matter what happened.

36 – Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ escalated what was a civil war into a grand international conflict because he could only see Communists and didn’t understand Vietnam was fighting more for its independence from outside domination.

37 – Richard Nixon

Nixon’s scheme to get the country out of the Vietnam War started with bombing and then invading Cambodia.

38 – Gerald Ford

Ford ordered Marines back to Indochina to rescue hostages on a mission that ended with a 41 percent casualty rate, adding to the Vietnam War dead even though the war had been over for 2 years.

39 – Jimmy Carter

Carter ordered the all-too-complex Operation Eagle Claw to get hostages out of Iran, which ended disasterously.

40 – Ronald Reagan

Sent Marines to Beirut as peacekeepers, even though half the Lebanese factions fighting there were allied with Iran and lost 241 troops in a barracks bombing in 1983.

41 – George H.W. Bush

Bush’s invasion of Panama, while one of the most successful military operations in U.S. history, took a large toll on the civilian population and infrastructure.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

 

Related: 21 Facts about the First Gulf War

42 – Bill Clinton

Instead of bombing Osama bin Laden, he bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan.

43 – George W. Bush

“Mission Accomplished.”

44 – Barack Obama

Obama drew a “red line” for Bashar al-Asad of Syria to keep him from using chemical weapons, then didn’t do anything when Asad used the weapons.

45 – Donald Trump

We’ll let you decide this one…

46 – Joe Biden

And this one’s mistakes remain to be seen. 

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Pripyat is one of the creepiest military hardware graveyards in the world

Emptiness and gloom is pretty much the main theme at Pripyat, Ukraine, one of the largest ghost towns in the world.


Built as a small residential city for employees assigned to the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, it was suddenly abandoned en masse after Chernobyl’s Number 4 reactor experienced the worst nuclear meltdown in history in 1986, spreading deadly radiation across Ukraine and large chunks of Eastern Europe.

As a direct result of this accident, decrepit farmers fields and forest clearings are now home to some of the eeriest military hardware graveyards in the world, full of untouchable Soviet-era equipment.

 

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Irradiated Soviet military equipment lies dormant near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, the power plant spewed uncontrollable amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, fatally irradiating hundreds, if not thousands, of the Pripyat’s citizens. Over the course of a few days, the entire town was told to pack lightly and leave right away by military personnel deployed to the area to help with the response to the effects of the meltdown.

Within a week, Pripyat, a once-thriving planned city was deserted — save for scores of tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and heavy trucks brought in by the military to assist with the nuclear cleanup.

Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. State-of-the-art remote-controlled fire suppression units, radiation monitors, cherry-pickers and more, were also brought in to tackle the horrifying situation that lay before Chernobyl and its neighboring towns.

The debacle proved to be a global embarrassment for the Soviet Union, still in control over Ukraine, and something needed to be done to make it go away quickly before further details of the accident made their way into Western newspapers.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Thousands of tons worth of top-of-the-line military equipment were flown or driven into Pripyat, with hundreds of Ukrainian and Soviet troops to man the vehicles and gear. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
 

Cleanup and response crews were placed on rotating schedules to limit their exposure to radiation, though this proved in the long run to be poorly executed, leading to the deaths of many.

When removing helicopters and trucks from Pripyat and neighboring locales similarly affected by the meltdown, Geiger scans noted that every single truck brought into the disaster zone was severely radioactive. In effect, soldiers were operating inside cocoons of radioactivity, bombarding them with harmful cancer-causing radiation particles.

There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. Scores of tanks and trucks were left to rot in “mohyl’nyk” (Ukrainian burial grounds) after it was no longer feasible to safely operate them (the term “safely” being used very relatively and loosely here).

More equipment and military vehicles were brought in to assist with the post-meltdown cleanup, and more were similarly condemned and abandoned.

Helicopters, especially gargantuan Mil Mi-6 Hook transports, were listed among the worst cases of exposure, given that they were tasked with flying directly above the plant after the accident in order to release chemical solvents to eliminate fires burning beneath the plant’s blown-off roof. These helicopters were also abandoned at burial grounds, arranged among rows of dark green equipment.

Today, some of these armored trucks, tanks, helicopters, and even trains, still sit in the fields around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station near Pripyat, which has since been enveloped in a sarcophagus to prevent further radiation leakage. The largest of these fields is known as the Rassokha Equipment Cemetery.

 

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
There was no other solution than to simply abandon these costly vehicles around Chernobyl rather than attempt to decontaminate and scrub them clean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The general area, known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is mostly off-limits to the public, though occasional tour groups are permitted to briefly enter the Zone for a quick peek before being ushered out. Visiting the abandoned vehicle graveyards is prohibited, however.

The Ukrainian government has invested considerable amounts of time and money into securing the Chernobyl plant, still in a low state of operation, and with disposing of the vehicle mohyl’nyk, full of unsalvageable gear. Over the past decade, teams of specialists have entered these fields to dismantle large sections of the graveyards and bury them on the spot, ensuring that the radiation they emit is fully contained.

Even still, the burial of every single piece of hardware will take years, thanks to the sheer numbers used in the wake of the accident. The few remaining war machines left untouched serve as silent reminders of the worst nuclear disaster in history, never to be used again.

Articles

The origin of the famous ‘red phone’ in the Oval Office

In countless movies, in references across all mediums, the red phone exists. Brightly hued and highlighted through dramatic dialogue, we are shown this famous form of communication within the White House. But why is there a red phone in the first place? What does it do? And why it is so famous? After all, it’s just a phone. 

But, in actuality, it wasn’t a phone at all. Known as the Moscow-Washington Hotline, it was a direct line of communication between the White House and the Kremlin (where the Soviet Communist Headquarters resided). The line was established in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis so that President John F. Kennedy, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev and their advisors could connect directly and quickly. 

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
“Khrushchev… your signal sucks… damn it, I lost him. That’s not good.” (DoD photo)

The need for the line was put into place after the 1962 crisis, when it took the United States 12 hours to translate a message from Khrushchev. The 3,000-word message is stated as taking a “dangerous amount of time” in translation. This prompted both sides to streamline communication. Hence, the hotline. 

The communication first consisted of teletype machines. In the ’80s it was transitioned to a fax machine, and in 2008, it became an email line connected by a secure computer link with lightning-fast connection speeds. 

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Well, that’s not red… or a phone… (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library/ Wikimedia Commons)

Origins of the idea

There are several people who claim to have come up with the idea for direct communication, including a Harvard professor who had previously worked with the Department of Defense on nuclear war policies. The professor, Thomas Schelling, said the 1958 book Red Alert (which prompted the movie Dr. Strangelove) gave government officials the idea to connect directly– specifically, by showing the benefits of fast and direct conversations. 

After the agreement was signed, both sides began working on the logistics to lay this line, including ways to keep it secure such as encryption. The first message was sent on August 30th, 1963, including numbers and an apostrophe to ensure the connection worked properly.

The US sent: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890,” a common test message, as it includes all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The first official use was to announce the assassination of JFK to Russia.

Over the years, the line has been accidentally cut multiple times, including when it was unknowingly bulldozed in Denmark. Today, there are bright and clear markers in Finland, as well as other countries, to help keep the line free from damage. 

Why a red phone?

This scene seems to be where it all started

Because there was never an actual red phone — or a phone at all for that matter — it’s an interesting addition to pop culture. Countless movies, video games and even movies portray a fictional red phone as a quick way to reach Russia. 

So where did the idea come from? It likely came from the movie, Dr. Strangelove, itself. The idea was then used throughout the 80s in political commercials, where it took off. President Ronald Reagan used the phone to market himself, showing off his Strategic Defense Initiative. In the 80s, it made another appearance for the 1984 election. It was also used in 2008 throughout Hilary Clinton’s campaign. In years since, it’s simply become a pop culture icon that remains recognizable in movies, museums and beyond.

Feature image: Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

MIGHTY HISTORY

An ‘undead’ general thrashed the Spartans after his execution

Spartans have a weird reputation for being the undeniable kings of Classical warfare while in reality, they get a lot of really great press from the Battle of Thermopylae, but they weren’t really better or worse than any of the other Greek city-states. In fact, for 17 years, the Army of Messenia, led by King Aristomenes, handed the Spartans their asses for 17 years until he was captured and executed by Spartans.

And he soon appeared again at the head of the Messenians, ready to kick more Spartan ass.


4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

A lot of U.S. military veterans are gonna have a hard time hearing this, but there was very little that was special about Sparta. Contrary to popular belief, the upbringing of Spartan boys had nothing to do with military training and everything to do with being a good citizen and obeying the law. Between 550 BC and 371 BC, Sparta’s win rate in pitched battles was 1-1, and the loss to Thebes in 371 really did them in. For good. Even at Thermopylae, yes 300 Spartans made a brave last stand, but Herodotus (and later, Frank Miller) forgot to mention the 700 Thespians who were also there, along with the 900 other lightly-armed infantry who couldn’t afford the gear to be a hoplite.

The Spartans, while perhaps brave, weren’t the bearded Hellenic crack team of ancient special operators they somehow get credit for being today. What they were was aggressive and present. The Messenians, sick of being slaves to stupid Spartans, rose up against their overlords and fought them at the Battle of Deres. Though no one really won that battle, one man stood out above the rest – Aristomenes. He fought so well the Messenians declared him their leader.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

Aristomenes would be captured after a night of carnal delights with Spartan priestesses.

Aristomenes took the fight to Sparta and immediately took their temple to Athena. The Spartans returned and fought him again, only to lose once again. Aristomenes and the Messenians routed the Spartans over and over at Boar’s Grave and Great Trench. After these victories, it was said that Aristomenes was captured and taken to Sparta, where he was sentenced to die a warrior’s death. The Spartans led him to a cliff where he would be thrown off. But the sentence of a warrior’s death meant Aristomenes would be tossed over while still wearing his armor. He was tossed over, and the Spartans went home, certain that a Messenian army without Aristomenes was no match for them.

The Messenian King, however, was still very much alive. Using his shield, which the Spartans gave him to die with, he slowed his fall against the side of the cliff. The descent itself wasn’t even that far, considering he landed on the bodies of hundreds of his former fellow Messenian warriors who were sentenced to a similar fate. Using the bones of his comrades, Aristomenes climbed back up the cliff and walked back to his forces.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

Some sources say a fox led Aristomenes away from the cliff. Either way, he survived.

As the two forces met up the next day, the legend goes, Aristomenes strode to the front of his forces. The Spartan Army was so surprised at seeing the reanimated corpse of the king they killed the day before that they broke ranks and fled. The Messenians would next move on the fortress at Mount Eira, one they would hold for some 11 years, from which they would conduct guerrilla raids.

Of course, time was not on the side of the Messenians holed up in the fortress. The siege ended Aristomenes when he led a column of women, children, and refugees out of the fortification and to safety on the island of Arkadia while 500 of the remaining defenders launched a diversionary attack on the Spartans. The refugees escaped and the defenders were killed to a man. Aristomenes left the Army for Rhodes, where he later died.

But this time, he stayed dead.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

During one of the final and most important sieges of the Civil War, a combination of racism towards black troops, concern for appearances, and sheer blinding incompetence and cowardice led to the bloody disaster that was the Battle of the Crater.


The Confederate Army was engaged in a last ditch defense of Petersburg, Va., the logistics and rail hub that supplied the forces defending their capital at Richmond, against the Union Army under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Once Petersburg fell, the war was as good as over.

The siege had turned into trench warfare that presaged World War I. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mastery of field fortifications and defense in depth had made offensive operations by the Union against entrenched Confederate troops a terribly bloody endeavor. The siege was at a stalemate, and new tactics were called for.

The Union 48th Pennsylvania Regiment was largely drawn from coal country, and its commander, Col. Henry Pleasants, was convinced they could dig a long mine under the rebel lines and use blasting powder blow to a large hole in their fortifications. A four-division assault force would then seize the heights overlooking Petersburg, greatly shortening the siege. His corps commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, endorsed the plan.

The operation was conducted with a strange mix of brute force labor and a strategic lassitude from higher command, and suffered from a chronic lack of logistical support. Most of the Union leadership, from Grant on down, was skeptical of the plan, and saw it as a way to keep the soldiers busy at best.

The 4th United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Gen. Edward Ferraro was specially trained to lead the assault, specifically to flank the crater on both sides. But Gen. George Meade, commander of the Union Army at the battle of Gettysburg, thought little of the plan and the abilities of the black troops to carry it out.

He also voiced concerns to Grant that if the attack failed, it would look as if black soldiers had been thrown away as cannon fodder. Grant agreed, Burnside inexplicably had his division commanders draw lots, and Brigadier Gen. James Ledlie drew the short straw.

It was bad enough that the last minute change brought in badly unprepared troops for a tricky attack, but Ledlie had the distinction of being one of the most drunken cowards in the Union officer corps. This was to have terrible consequences.

Union troops operating north of Petersburg had drawn off most of the Southern troops, leaving the line weakened, and the time was ideal for the assault. After months of labor and the emplacement of more than four tons of blasting powder under the Confederate fortifications, the attack began with triggering the explosives at 4:45 a.m. on June 30, 1864.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Illustration of the explosion of the mine under the Confederate works at Petersburg—July 30th 1864. (Public Domain)

The resulting blast was the largest man-made explosion in history up to that point. A massive mushroom cloud, which sent men, horses, artillery, and huge amounts of earth flying into the air, left a crater 130-feet long, 75-feet wide, and 35-feet deep. The explosion killed a full third of the South Carolina unit defending the strongpoint, over 200 men, in an instant. The concussive force of the explosion left the rest of the brigade stunned for at least 15 minutes.

Despite the spectacular success of the mine blast, the assault started to go wrong from the beginning. Ledlie was drunk and hiding in a bunker in the rear, and his leaderless division ran into the crater instead of around it, milling about uncertainly. Other units pouring into the attack only added to the chaos.

The recovered Confederate troops laid a kill zone around the crater, keeping the Union troops pinned down, and fired everything from rifles to mortar shells into the packed troops stuck in the blast zone. The 4th USCT, despite being relegated to the second wave, penetrated farther than anyone, but suffered severely in the process.

After holding out for hours, a final counterattack by a Confederate brigade of Virginians routed the still numerically superior Union forces, which suffered appalling casualties, and many were taken prisoner.

There are many Southern eyewitness accounts of black prisoners being summarily shot down by Confederate troops, and the particularly severe casualty rates suffered by the black units seem to bear this out. Even some Union soldiers were reportedly involved in the killings, driven by fear of the Confederate warnings of reprisals for fighting alongside black soldiers. The shouting of “No Quarter!” and “Remember Fort Pillow!” by the black troops during their charge was also later cited as a justification for the executions by the Confederacy.

Burnside and Ledie were both relieved of duty after the disaster, though Burnside was later cleared by Congress since it was Meade who decided to replace the USCT at the last moment. Burnside never held a significant command again.

The supreme irony of the battle was that despite the efforts to spare the lives of black troops from politically inconvenient slaughter, the utter failure of the lead wave to force the breach lead to terrible casualties for the black units they had replaced. Gen. Grant later said “it was the saddest affair I witnessed during the war.”

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
NPS marker depicting details of the mine. (Pi3.124, Wikipedia)

The siege would drag on for another eight months, and Petersburg’s fall led to the prompt surrender of Richmond, precipitating Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Crater remains a prime example of a brilliant plan spoiled by incompetent execution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Cornfield Bomber: The US Air Force jet that landed itself

The story of the “Cornfield Bomber,” an aircraft that landed without a pilot, might not sound very impressive in today’s age of drones and increased automation. The narrative changes drastically when one key piece of information is added: this happened in 1970, after the pilot was forced to eject from a jet he had last control of.

The bizarre event, on February 2nd, 1970, to be precise, took place during a training sortie for the 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadron out of Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Three pilots in F-106 Delta Darts took to the sky for a two-on-one combat training exercise. A fourth was a last-minute scratch from the flight schedule after an equipment issue on the runway, leaving instructor pilot Captain Tom Curtis flying solo against fellow instructor pilot, Major James Lowe, and 1st Lieutenant Gary Foust (at the sticks of the “Cornfield Bomber”). Regardless of the hierarchy, bragging rights were at stake.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
F-106As in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Of course, this was a big ego thing, who was the winner…” said Curtis, whose recollection of the day is available at f-106deltadart.com.

Curtis goes on to detail what led to Foust needing to eject from his aircraft:

“I figured I could handle Gary pretty easy, but I did not trust Jimmy. I figured he would probably break off and come after me. With this thought in mind, I came at them in full afterburner. I was doing 1.9 Mach when we passed.

I took them straight up at about 38,000 feet. We got into a vertical rolling scissors. I gave [Gary] a high-G rudder reversal. He tried to stay with me – that’s when he lost it. He got into a post-stall gyration… a very violent maneuver. His recovery attempt was unsuccessful and the aircraft stalled and went into a flat spin, which is usually unrecoverable.”

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
From “Flight Training Instruction, Basic Fighter Maneuvering” (Naval Air Training Command)

Lt. Foust started running through emergency recovery procedures by the book, but the jet did not respond and continued to spin and plummet to the Earth. Maj. Lowe instructed him to deploy his drag chute, but it only wrapped uselessly around the tail. Out of options, Foust was finally instructed to eject at 15,000 feet. No one could have predicted what happened next.

When Foust ejected, the Delta Dart first went nose down, but then recovered on its own and resumed the straight and level flight Foust had been trying to achieve for about 23,000 feet. Lowe watched Foust eject, and then witnessed the unmanned F-106 take things from there, improbably flying itself away. Unphased, Lowe still had time for humor, and quipped over the radio:

“Gary, you’d better get back in it!”

Of course, Foust had little choice but to watch, dumbfounded, as he floated safely to the ground in the mountains of Montana, to be later extracted by locals on snowmobiles.

“I had assumed it crashed,” he said years later in an interview at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (where the jet now sits). However, over fifty miles away as the crow (or Delta Dart) flies, the jet skidded on its belly to a safe landing in a field near a town called Big Sandy.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The high-performance interceptor hadn’t gone unnoticed on its approach through rural Montana. According to a 1978 article in the Mohawk Flyer (a local paper near Griffiss AFB in NY, where this particular jet had since been re-assigned), a local sheriff got in touch with the Air Force at Malmstrom and got instructions on how to throttle down the still-turning aircraft. The jet was melting the snow beneath it and still lurching slowly across the field. The understandably apprehensive sheriff decided to instead let the jet punch itself out and run out of fuel, which took another hour and 45 minutes.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Fortunately, bystanders had kept a safe distance from the unpredictable monstrosity that managed to crawl another 400 yards. The radar in its nosecone was still sweeping and would have been hazardous to anyone approaching the aircraft from the front, as well. When the dust (or snow) had settled, Foust’s wayward steed was no worse for the wear besides a gash in the belly. It was partially disassembled and transported by train to California, where it was repaired and eventually returned to service.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
The only significant damage from the belly landing. Not bad for having landed itself (U.S. Air Force photo)

With the rise of the F-15, and as the Soviets began to focus more on inter-continental ballistic missiles over long-range bombers for nuclear deterrence, the F-106 was slowly phased out. Ironically, many were converted to the QF-106, an unmanned drone used for target practice. This bird, however, was not one of them. Tail number 58-0787 ended up as one of the jets at the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, the Air Force’s last F-106 squadron, at Griffis AFB. As fate would have it, Foust would be stationed there, along with his wingman the day of the incident, James Lowe, who was now his squadron commander. Lowe, who apparently has a delightfully twisted sense of humor, saw to it that Foust was paired back up with his old aircraft.

How did the “Cornfield Bomber” land itself?

An unmanned jet flying itself to a safe landing, away from a populated area, and almost completely unharmed, is improbable, to be sure. It was more than just dumb luck, however. As theorized by Peter Grier in his Air Force Magazine article, the force of the rockets from Foust’s ejection seat, as well as the shift in the aircraft’s center of gravity from a now missing pilot, corrected the spin and set the aircraft back to what it was naturally shaped to do, take advantage of lift and fly.

As it turns out, the attempted recovery procedures carried out by Foust before he bailed out were significant in saving the aircraft. One of those measures was to “trim” the aircraft to take-off settings, which happen to be very similar to those for landing. Trim refers to automated settings that free the pilot from having to maintain constant pressure on the controls to keep flight surfaces (flaps, ailerons, etc.) in the correct position for a given phase of flight (ascent, descent, maintain altitude, etc.)

“When Gary ejected, the aircraft was trimmed wings-level for about 175 knots (200 mph), a very nice glide setting,” Curtis said in his account.

Another element of the jet’s salvation, as noted by Grier, may have been a concept in aeronautics known as “ground effect.” In short, ground effect is a change in aerodynamics as an aircraft gets closer to the ground. Because of the way air interacts with the aircraft’s wings as it nears landing, drag is decreased and lift is increased, causing an aircraft to “float,” which is a very plausible explanation for such little damage sustained in this case.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
A more thorough explanation is available here

Whether it was a pilot determined to save his plane, physics, some kind of divine intervention, or a combination of all three, the “Cornfield Bomber” remains one of the wildest stories in American aviation history that most people haven’t heard of. Foust remarked in his interview at the museum:

“I don’t know who named it that, or how it got that name. It should be the ‘Wheatfield Fighter.’ But it sounds a little catchier to be the ‘Cornfield Bomber…’”

“…I guess I’m part of a one-in-a-million occurrence. I don’t know that this has ever happened again, this whole scenario. But it is good to see the airplane again, and to know that it’s in the museum here and that this story will live on…”

This article by Tory Rich originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

This bridge is one of the most underrated engineering feats of WWII

Throughout history, bridges have been one of the most targeted structures on the battlefield, as opposing forces do everything in their power to blow them up and cut off incoming supply lines.


After a bridge is destroyed, a new one needs to be established, or occupying forces can risk losing their resupply sources permanently.

In World War II, Japanese, Italians, and German armies used explosive motorboats as a technique to take down allied bridges. Enemy troops in scuba gear would point these motorboats in the direction of the bridge’s supporting structures and bail out right before the vessel strikes and detonates.

The explosive motorboats in action. (Images via Giphy)Because of the effectiveness of the explosive motorboats, allied forces needed to create a portable bridge that could be quickly set up and could handle the massive stress of getting blown up.

The resolution came from an unlikely source — the mind of a British civil servant named Donald Bailey.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Donald Bailey carefully examines one of his bridge designs. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Related: Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

While returning home after working at an experimental bridge, an idea popped into Bailey’s mind. He began sketching out the new architectural idea on the back of an envelope — something that later became the “Bailey Bridge.”

This new creation could support large armored tanks across 200 feet of water and set up quickly just by using some wrenches and a few engineers.

“The Bailey bridge is a very fabricated bridge, and it can be broken down into parts, trucked to a site, and then reassembled in a big hurry,” military historian William Atwater explains.

Also Read: This forgotten soldier survived 4-months in Dunkirk by himself

After being successfully set up under fire during the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reportedly claimed the bridge was one of the pieces of equipment that most contributed to the victory in Europe.

Check out Lightning War 1941’s video below to see how this quickly fabricated bridge helped change the course of the war.

YouTube, LightningWar1941
Articles

This cannon has been in service since WWII

When it comes to weapons, some are just too good to retire. The Ka-Bar knife, Browning M2 .50-cal machine gun and Colt M1911 .45 ACP have all been in service since WWII and even WWI in the case of the 1911. When it comes to bigger weapons, one cannon in particular stands out.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
A technical manual illustration of a towed Bofors 40 mm gun (U.S. Army)

The Bofors 40 mm gun was designed in the 1930s by the Swedish company AB Bofors. The company specializes in artillery and traces its history back to 1646. Although the German company Krupp purchased a one-third share in Bofors prior to WWII, the Swedes kept the 40 mm project a secret from them. This kept the gun out of German hands and gave the Allies an edge in WWII.

The gun was designed as an anti-aircraft gun but proved effective against smaller ships as well. Although it initially saw limited use with the Swedish Navy, the Bofors 40 mm saw wider use with the Dutch Navy who placed it on their destroyers. Other navies saw the versatility of the gun and followed suit including Argentina, Poland and even the gun’s native Sweden. A towed land-based version was also adopted by Poland, Norway, Finland and again, Sweden.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
The Bofors 40 mm was one of the Navy’s main anti-aircraft guns during WWII (U.S. Navy)

Crucially, both the U.S. and U.K. adopted the Bofors 40 mm as one of their primary anti-aircraft guns leading up to WWII. The British placed it on ships, towed mounts, self-propelled systems, and even experimented putting it on the Crusader tank. In the U.S., Chrysler built 60,000 guns and 120,000 barrels under license during the war. Twelve Chrysler factories and 2,000 subcontractors in 330 cities were needed to meet the Army and Navy’s demands for Bofors 40 mm guns.

Like the Brits, America used the gun as its primary land and sea-based anti-aircraft gun. The Army mounted a twin mount version of the Bofors on the M24 Chaffee light tank to create the M19 Gun Motor Carriage. The Navy was so pleased with the gun they would telegraph Chrysler with the serial numbers of guns when they shot down enemy aircraft.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
The Army and Marines used the Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft gun on the M42 Duster as a direct fire gun with great effect in Vietnam (U.S. Army)

After WWII, the Navy continued to use the Bofors 40 mm into the Korean War. It stayed on Inactive Reserve fleet ships into the 1970s. In the 1950s, the Army took the twin mount Bofors from the M19 and placed it on the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank to create the M42 Duster self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. The Duster saw heavy use in Vietnam as a direct fire support weapon and remained in service with the National Guard until 1988. However, it’s the Air Force that continues to employ the Bofors 40 mm in the 21st century.

The AC-130 gunship is one of the deadliest weapons in the U.S. military. Developed from the AC-47 Dragon, the AC-130 is a C-130 cargo plane equipped with side-firing guns. The first AC-130A Project Gunship II was equipped only with 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns and 20 mm M61 Vulcan rotary cannons. However, its successors, including the widely used AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky II have adopted the L/60 variant of the Bofors 40 mm cannon.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
An airman loads the Bofors 40 mm gun on an AC-130 Spectre gunship (U.S. Air Force)

The AC-130 has seen extensive combat use in Afghanistan where its airborne firepower is a welcome sight to US ground troops. Although it’s also equipped with a much larger 105 mm howitzer, the accuracy of the Bofors 40 mm makes it a favorite of AC-130 operators. “This is our most accurate weapon,” said Air Force Maj. Smith on the Bofors 40 mm. “Because of its low collateral damage, it’s the one we get to fire the most in combat.”

In the late 2000s, the Air Force considered replacing the Bofors 40 mm and 20 mm M61 Vulcans on its AC-130 fleet with 30 mm autocannons. However, both guns remain in service to this day. Although the latest AC-130W Stinger II and AC-130J Ghostrider gunships omit the Bofors and Vulcan for a 30 mm autocannon, the AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky II gunships continue to fly with their Bofors 40 mm guns ready to deliver precise and deadly fire from the sky.

Feature Image: U.S. Air Force photo

MIGHTY HISTORY

The United States tried to make a flying Jeep

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Army was testing out a number of ideas to help support troops. Some of these ideas, like the XV-5 Vertifan, were decades ahead of their time. Others, though, fell by the wayside as alternate technologies emerged and proved better able to do the job. One of these forgotten experiments was something called the XV-8 Fleep.

At the time, the Army looking for a new way to resupply troops. The Army was also in the middle of restructuring their forces, further dispersing units to better mitigate the effects of a potential nuclear attack. They needed a new, fast way to get materiel from one unit to the next. Something small, nimble, and durable — like a Jeep, which was already a military icon.

“Fleep,” as you’ve probably noticed by now, is a portmanteau of ‘flying’ and ‘Jeep.’ That’s right. The idea sounds silly to us now, but at the time, it made complete sense to the Ryan Aeronautic Company.


The XV-8 performed well enough in testing that the United States Army considered a production run, according to a 1965 report. The Fleep could be flown easily by an average pilot with either fixed-wing or rotary-wing experience. According to AeroFiles.com, it had a top speed of 67 miles per hour and a range of 120 miles. The Army concluded it could haul roughly 1,000 pounds of cargo.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

The XV-8 was to be a versatile platform, fulfilling a number of missions for the Army.

(Jeff Quitney)

By comparison, the top speed of the UH-1D Huey, which was quickly becoming a workhorse in the Vietnam War in 1965, was 137 miles per hour and it had a range of 317 miles. The UH-1D could carry up to 3,116 pounds of cargo.

The numbers here tell a grim tale for the Fleep — the Huey significantly outperformed the Fleep in every comparable metric.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War

The Fleep wasn’t a bad plane, but the UH-1 simply blew it away in terms of performance.

(Jeff Quitney)

That’s, ultimately, was why the XV-8 failed to make the cut. Helicopter technology had improved so much in such a short time that, by the time the Fleep saw the light of day, it didn’t stand a chance.

Thankfully, there’s some footage left behind as a relic of this aeronautical oddity. Watch the Fleep take to the skies in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQjbrd1suvY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it was like being in the military on 9/10

Picture this: You wake up and the first thing you see is the beautiful sunshine of the Aloha State. The smell of the seawater mixed with the joy of being on your own makes serving your country feel like freshman year at college. This was reality for me, an 18-year-old airman living the dream in Hawaii on September 10, 2001. As we all know, the very next morning, at approximately 0845 Eastern Time, things would change for the military, the country, and the world at large.


Also read: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

Here’s what people in the military experienced immediately.

4. Getting on military bases got harder.

During my first few weeks as a Security Forces airman, I was planted at the gate.

I stood in the center of a three-lane highway, decked out in short-sleeved blues complete with a crisp white ascot, perched in my small, brick pulpit waving traffic in and rendering salutes according to base vehicle decals. It was fun for a while, and all that saluting actually gave me quite the jailhouse pump.

But I digress.

After 9/11, there were entire teams assigned to the gate. Vehicle searches became an absolute necessity and people started to have a bit more empathy for the gate guard.

 

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
What all gate guards used to look like. (Photo from Joint Base Andrews).

 

3. Separating pretty much stopped.

Two words. Just two words could ruin your day and change your life after 9/11.

“Stop-loss.”

It’s well known that the U.S. Army was heavily affected by stop-loss. What’s lesser known is just how much stop-loss affected the entire military. Suddenly, we found ourselves looking at involuntary active service extensions — we were all stuck in the suck together.

Also, leave was an absolute no-go.

2. Military deployments got longer (a lot longer).

Before 9/11, U.S. Air Force deployments were typically around three months — or less.

In the immediate aftermath following 9/11, it wasn’t uncommon for airmen to be gone for 8-12 months at a time. This pales in comparison to our older brothers in green, but it was quite the change of culture for airmen.

 

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
A long way from home? Check. Isolation? Check. Fatigue? Triple check. (Image by Paul Davis)

Related: 7 reasons the Air Force hates on the Army

1. Life got real.

Obviously, life was completely different after the events of 9/11. For airmen, it meant a lot of changes happening really fast.

Before 9/11, the amount of “in-service” friends deploying was minimal, especially if you weren’t SOF, Security Forces, or Civil Engineering. The tempo was such that we could all properly maintain our duties without augmentation.

Suddenly, family members expressed much more concern than they had prior. This isn’t to say that they didn’t care before 9/11, but when a newfound element of danger cropped up and put everyone at risk, you started to hear from loved ones more often.

Since then, every service member (yes, even in the “Chair Force”) has had to face threats and fight for our country, in some way, day in and day out. There was conflict to be had by all.

4 unusual weapons from the Civil War
Some gave all. (USAF photo by A1C Christopher Quail)

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