The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

“For years and years and years people just thought truck driving was driving a truck,” said Sammy Seay, a US Army veteran who helped build the Ace of Spades gun truck. “Well normally it is. Not in Vietnam.”

On Sept. 2, 1967, 37 cargo trucks from the 8th Transportation Group carried aviation fuel on a supply run from Pleiku through “Ambush Alley” to reach An Khe. While en route, the lead vehicle was disabled and the rest were trapped in the kill zone. The Viet Cong staged a coordinated ambush with land mines, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and AK-47 rifle fire. The unprepared and largely unarmed force was quickly overwhelmed. In a span of not more than 10 minutes, 31 vehicles were disabled or destroyed and seven American truck drivers were killed.


Truck drivers in Vietnam realized if they were going to return home alive, they needed to upgrade their firepower. The soldiers of the 8th Transport Group who drove in vehicle convoys took readily available deuce-and-a-half cargo trucks and added twin M60 machine guns to create makeshift gun trucks. The back where the troops were typically transported got a gun box, and others carried M79 grenade launchers and M16 rifles.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

The Red Baron gun truck seen equipped with an M134 minigun. Photo courtesy of the US Army Transportation Association.

“The transportation companies became rolling combat units because they ran through the combat zone every day,” Seay said.

Formerly green cargo trucks were painted black for intimidation and given names painted in big, bold letters on the side. The names were inspired by the pop culture of the time: Canned Heat. The Misfits. King Cobra. The Untouchables. Snoopy. Hallucination. The Piece Maker.

The dirt and paved roads they traveled on were filled with potholes and land mines. Early on, the two-and-a-half-ton cargo trucks had mechanical problems, and within a handful of months they switched to using five-ton trucks. The wooden two-by-fours and sandbags that had initially protected the gunners from incoming bullets and shrapnel were replaced with steel-plated armor.

“There wasn’t a gun truck in Vietnam that was authorized by the Army,” said Stephen M. Peters, who provided convoy and nighttime security on the gun truck called Brutus during a tour in 1969. “But all of the brass knew we had them.”

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Gun trucks in Vietnam had their own identities, colorfully painted on black. Pictured are Brutus and Lil’ Brutus. Photo courtesy of the 359th Transport Company Association.

The gun truckers were resourceful, scrounging for spare parts, materials, and weapons. The majority of their upgrades came from the Air Force and other service members in Vietnam, looking out for fellow Americans in need. “If a VC was hiding behind a tree and we had an M60, we could pepper the tree and hope he’d step out sooner or later and hit him,” Roger Blink, the driver of the gun truck Brutus, told the Smithsonian Channel. “With a M2 .50-caliber machine gun we simply cut the tree down.”

The M60s and the M2 Browning machine guns were certainly an asset, because without them, the convoys wouldn’t stand a chance. The real game changer came in form of their acquisition through back-end deals of the M134 minigun. The Piece Maker gun truck crew salvaged a minigun from aviation maintenance along with several boxes of ammo; Brutus’ crew stole a minigun off one of the Hueys on an airbase.

The dust, the monsoons, and the firefights were relentless. On Feb. 23, 1971, a convoy with three gun trucks was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) in An Khe. “On the way in, an NVA jumped up in a ditch and fired a B40 rocket right at me,” recalled Walter Deeks, who was driving the Playboys gun truck. “It looked about the size of a softball, and it was just a flame you could hear crackling, like a rocket.”

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

The Misfits gun truck in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the 359th Transport Company Association.

A tank, helicopters, and other gun trucks responded as quick-reaction forces in support.

Specialist 4th Class Larry Dahl, assigned to the 359th Transportation Company, was a gunner on Brutus. Dahl let loose his minigun on several NVA positions, then there was silence. Dahl and another member of the crew worked to get the minigun back into the action. The gunfight raged on until an enemy hand grenade was tossed in the back and plopped into the gun box where Dahl was standing. He made a split-second decision and hurled his body on top of the grenade before warning his teammates of the danger. He sacrificed his life for his fellow gun truckers and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

“Every crew was proud of their truck,” said Deeks. “And you loved those guys like brothers. It was a very close camaraderie.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

40 years later, a documentary tells the story of Desert One: Delta Force’s ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw

Forty years ago, a two-day, American rescue mission launched on April 24 to free the hostages held by Iran in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. For John Limbert, who was held hostage for more than a year during his role as a diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, it feels like yesterday.


Last fall, the documentary “Desert One” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, telling the story of Operation Eagle Claw, the secret mission to free the hostages.
The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

“For better or worse, the film does bring back memories,” Limbert told We Are The Mighty.

“Memories fade, you don’t remember all the details and particularly when you’re in the middle of it, but that was one of the powers of the film.”

Desert One is a 107-minute documentary directed by Barbara Kopple. The film gives viewers an intimate look into the military response led by then-President Jimmy Carter to rescue 52 hostages that were being detained in Tehran, Iran in the U.S. Embassy and Foreign Ministry buildings. Ultimately, the mission was aborted due to unoperational helicopters, with zero hostages rescued, eight servicemen dead and several others severely wounded. The crisis received near 24-hour news coverage and is widely considered a component of Carter’s eventual landslide loss to Ronald Reagan.

Through interviews with hostages, Delta Force soldiers, military personnel and President Carter, as well as animation done by an Iranian artist intimately familiar with the topography of the country, Kopple’s film chronicles the mission from every aspect, taking care to tell the story through people who lived it, a detail that was paramount for the two-time Academy Award winner.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

“You can’t tell a story unless you have a lot of different angles of people coming at it from different places,” Kopple said. “They’re all feeling something. Whether it’s the special operators, or the hostages, or the people in Carter’s administration – there are so many different elements to it, which is also why it drew us in. We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. Why should we tell everything about the Americans’ experience and not tell everyone about the Iranian’s experience? We’ve got to know these things exist to communicate. That’s so important. It’s a tough thing to do, but a very important thing to do.”

The ill-fated Operation marked the emergence of special operations in the American military. In 1986, Congress passed the Nunn-Cohen Amendment, citing this tragedy as part of their justification. The amendment mandated the President create a unified combatant command for Special Operations, and permitted the command to have control over its own resources.

“The film captures the best of our military colleagues,” Limbert explained. “This wasn’t a suicide mission, but that’s what it was. They didn’t have to go, but they did it. I have nothing but admiration for them. It was me and my colleagues that they were trying to rescue. They were willing to do this for people they didn’t know. It’s absolutely amazing. That’s the strength of the film. That willingness to self sacrifice so beautifully.”

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Desert One

Added Kopple, “What I felt is that these guys were all willing to give up their lives for the rescue. That was incredible that they wanted to get the American hostages out and they were a team. Even if one of them doubted it, they thought … well my buddies are going. They all had each other’s back — that thing inside of them not to leave anybody behind. That was their duty and that was their job.”

For Kopple, the hardest part of the filmmaking process was tracking down President Carter to speak on camera for his role in the mission and how it impacted his presidential legacy.

“I tried for three months [to get access] and there’s a guy named Phil who works for his administration who would never call me back,” she said. “So I started to have a relationship with his voicemail. I would tell them all about filming and every few days, I would call and beg him, ‘Please let us film President Carter.’ Three months had gone by and Phil called, and he introduced himself and I said, ‘I know, I’d know your voice anywhere.'”

Kopple was eventually granted just 20 minutes of access to the former president for the making of the film.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

“He gave us 19 minutes and 47 seconds and we used a lot of it in Desert One,” Kopple said.

Desert One is expected to be released in movie theaters in late 2020 or early 2021, with an eventual television debut on the HISTORY channel.

“When you’re [making a film], you don’t think – where will this show?” Kopple said. “Hopefully the film presents an opportunity for Iranian and American audiences to find healing and reconcile with this very complicated history, not to stereotype people, [and] to really see who people are as individuals.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

11 things you should know about the 25th James Bond film

More details about next year’s 25th installment in the James Bond 007 franchise were revealed on April 25, 2019, with one glaring omission: the movie’s title.

During an event at James Bond author Ian Fleming’s GoldenEye villa in Jamaica, the cast and filming locations for “Bond 25” were confirmed. The movie will take audiences to London, Italy, and more. Daniel Craig’s Bond will be joined by returning faces such as Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw’s Q, and a recent Oscar winner was revealed to be the movie’s villain.

“Bond 25” has had a rough journey to this point, though. The movie was pushed back from its original release date this November to next spring after director Danny Boyle exited the project over creative differences. Now, “Killing Eve” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has joined to polish the script.

It’s unknown when the movie’s title will be revealed, but for now, here is everything we know about “Bond 25.”


The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

(MGM)

1. Bond 25 comes to theaters April 8, 2020.

It was originally scheduled for this November.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

(Flickr photo)

2. It’s directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Fukunaga is known for directing the first season of HBO’s “True Detective,” the Netflix original movie “Beasts of No Nation,” and the Netflix limited series “Maniac.”

He replaced “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle, who was originally attached to direct Bond 25, but exited last year over creative differences.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

3. The movie is written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Scott Z. Burns, and “Killing Eve” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

It was confirmed Thursday that Waller-Bridge had joined.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

4. Daniel Craig will return for his fifth, and final, movie as Bond.

Craig will return as Bond despite saying in 2015 that he’d rather “break glass and slit” his wrists than play Bond again.

Variety reported last year that he’d be paid million for Bond 25.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

(20th Century Fox)

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Fiennes in “Specre.”

(Columbia Pictures)

6. Ralph Fiennes is returning as M.

He took over the title from Judi Dench for 2015’s “Spectre.”

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Harris in “Spectre.”

(Columbia Pictures)

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Whishaw in “Skyfall.”

(Columbia Pictures)

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
RAMI MALEK

(Disney)

9. Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” actor Rami Malek has joined the cast, likely as the villain.

“I promise you all I will be making sure Mr. Bond does not have an easy ride of it in this, his 25th outing,” Malek said in a video message on Twitter on Thursday.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

De Armas in “Blade Runner 2049.”

(Columbia Pictures)

10. Other additions to the cast include Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik, Lashana Lynch, and Dali Benssalah.

Magnussen is known for his role as Ryan in “Game Night”; de Armas was the AI Joi in “Blade Runner 2049”; Dencik will appear in the upcoming HBO mini-series, “Chernobyl”; Lynch recently starred in “Captain Marvel” as Maria Rambeau; and Benssalah has starred in the French film, “A Faithful Man.”

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

(Twitter)

11. Filming locations for the movie include Jamaica, Norway, London, and Italy.

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

popular

What happens when you try Russian parenting on American kids

“Look, there’s the big dipper!” my oldest son said pointing to a constellation brightening a gathering dark over our campsite.

“You’re right!” I said, genuinely impressed. I didn’t know he could spot constellations. We don’t hang out much at night. I’m not a night owl and he’s seven years old.

Why were we outside at 10:30 p.m. on a weeknight, beside a crackling campfire, still talking long after our fellow campers had gone to bed? Because I’d made a decision and the only way to figure out whether it was going to prove disastrous was to watch. So, I watched my 7-year-old pull his knees up to his chest in a folding camp chair and stare, glassy-eyed at the flickering flames. I watched his 5-year-old brother sing softly to himself in the nearby tent. I watched fireflies and reflected on the fact that I could count on my fingers how many times I’d been outside with my boys in the dark of the night. I liked it a bit.


I got the idea to let bedtimes slide and embrace the dark from, well, Russia. Russian parents have a notoriously lax approach to bedtimes and, in very Russian style, embrace parenting in the dark. This intrigued me not only because I work when it’s light out but also because it feels weird to enforce a sort of separation between children and the night. There’s nothing, after all, wrong with the night. Perhaps, I thought, Russian parents knew something I did not.

Again, there was only one way to find out.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
(Photo by Csaba Berze)

My family had long adhered to strict and largely immoveable bedtimes. Our bedtime routine began at 7:30 p.m. and our children were under the covers by 8:00 p.m. every night without fail. Admittedly, the inflexibility injected a certain amount of stress into our evenings. That stress would inevitably lead to my wife and I getting loud and our children dragging their feet and doing everything in their power to avoid having to lay down. It was not ideal and, yes, the Russian experiment may have been at least in part an act of avoidance.

If so, it wasn’t the first. We’d recently decided to remove some of the stress by making a rule our kids could stay up as long as they wanted, provided they were in their bed. The rule allowed my wife and I to stop yelling “go to sleep,” but it did nothing to solve the stress of getting to the bedroom in the first place. I wanted to know how things would change if we simply let our children stay up, out of bed, like a Russian kid.

We decided to start our experiment on a camping trip. It made sense, in a way. After all, it was nearly the summer solstice and neither my wife nor I were particularly interested in forcing our children into a tent to sleep while the sky was still blue. Besides, it meant we could make s’mores and tell stories, which is exactly what we did.

But at some point, the situation felt increasingly ridiculous. I did have to tell my child to go to bed at some point, right? The only other option was they would eventually pass out where they stood. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. So, as it approached 11 p.m., my wife and I guided the 7-year-old to the tent. Very soon, they were both quiet.

The next morning the 7-year-old was up with the birds. A few hours later, though, he was a whiny mess. Clearly, he’d not had enough sleep. The 5-year-old, on the other hand, slept until nearly 10 in the morning and popped up refreshed and as rambunctious as ever. It was a disastrous combination. The 5-year-old could sense weakness in his brother and did just about all he could to piss him off. Soon the 7-year-old was in tears. Hikes planned for the day were canceled. We packed up camp and headed home.

But we weren’t giving up on the experiment. That night we watched a couple family movies, staying up until 9:30 p.m. When we noticed the boys were quiet, drowsy, and suggestible, we nudged them towards toothbrushing and bed. They complied easily and went to sleep quickly.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

The following night was much of the same. The boys appeared to be adjusting well to the new rhythm. And without the stress of hitting a precise mark, my wife and I were calmer. When reading the nightly bedtime stories, our voices now lacked that sharp tone of desperation and frustration, and that made Dr. Seuss sound far more friendly than he had in several months.

But by the middle of the week, it appeared our boys had habituated to the new routine. They were sleeping in more, which meant they had more energy late, which meant that as my wife and I watched TV in our room we could hear the boys down the hall giggling with each other well into the night.

Finally, one evening they continued to play after my wife and I had turned off our lights to sleep. This would not do. Worse, they were failing to sleep in past 8 a.m., which was making everyone tired and cranky. My family, craving structure as they do, blamed the problem on me. To be fair, it was entirely my fault — though my heart was in the right place.

“Can we stop being Russians, now?” my wife asked me with deep exasperation.

“Yes,” I said. And we did.

That’s not to say, however, that I willingly gave up on Russian thinking. I found a lot to like in the flexibility of the approach to bedtime and in exposing our kids to the night, which is a country unto itself. I think that in our zeal for a rigorous sleep schedule, my wife and I had forgotten how much magic the night could hold for a kid awake and ready to explore. Over the week, I’d watched my kid listen for the sounds of the night calling birds and catch fireflies in his hands. I’d watched them play flashlight games in the dark and wonder at the beauty of the stars.

Our bedtimes had also been much less stressful. There was a certain ease in knowing we weren’t racing the clock, which made the nightly routine far more pleasant for everyone. That, in itself, was revelatory.

I understand that when my boys were babies, a strict sleep routine was essential. But the experiment had shown me that everyone had grown up a lot. The ease of bedtime had become more important than the structure of it. While we won’t allow our boys to stay up until midnight anymore, I think we will keep a looser grip on the thing. It is easier, after all, to hit a bigger target.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This vet crash-landed a 767 on a race track on family day

Air Canada Flight 143 was supposed to be routine. The crew took possession of their airplane from the departing crew, reloaded on fuel, grabbed the passengers, and headed out of Montreal bound for Edmonton at 41,000 feet.

But then they got a fuel pressure warning. “No big deal,” they may have thought. Pumps fail all the time and gravity can feed these engines, “turn off the alarm.” But then a second one went off. What they would later learn was that the ground crew had entered their fuel measurement using formulas for pounds — but the systems had been converted to work with kilograms.

Shortly after dinner service, the plane ran out of gas.


The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

The “Gimli Glider” was crash-landed on a race track as families watched in horror and fascination after it ran out of gas thousands of feet in the air.

(Aero Icarus, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The crew heard a long warning noise that none of the members had ever heard before, even in the simulators. The warning signaled a total loss of both engines. The plane had ran out of gas. This is an even bigger problem than it would be in your Chevy since the plane needs engine power to run a host of systems, including the hydraulics

Suddenly, the crew was piloting a massive glider with nearly no power, no hydraulics, and limited instruments — and they were still over 1,000 miles from their destination. To make matters worse, air traffic control suddenly had their own issues guiding the flight since the plane’s radio transponders were powered by, you guessed it, the engines.

Luckily, the pilot often flew and towed gliders for fun, and the first officer, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, was intimately familiar with the airspace and landing strips nearby from his time in the service. The two men tapped into their respective skill banks to save the flight and get all 69 people on the plane down safely, eventually netting them awards for their flying in what would later be known as the “Gimli Glider” incident.

This video from Today I Found Out shows how it all went down:

www.youtube.com

An earlier version of this story referred to the race track as a “go-kart track.” The track was being used by small sports cars on the day of the landing, not go-karts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain, Japan team up in rare pairing to deter China

The UK and Japan are carrying out their first joint military exercise in the latter country, as both look for ways to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Soldiers from Britain’s Honourable Artillery Company are at a training camp near Mt. Fuji in Japan, where they are drilling with troops from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Vigilant Isles.

The exercise started with a joint rapid-reaction helicopter drill and will continue for two weeks in Ojijihara, north of Sendai on Honshu, which is Japan’s largest island.


Japanese and British soldiers will be deployed to a rural training area there for drills focused on sharing tactics and surveillance techniques, according to The Telegraph.

Japanese forces have carried out joint drills with the British navy and air force, “but this is the first time anyone in the regiment or indeed the British army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wood, the commander of the HAC.

“There’s always a commonality with soldiers — equipment, interest in each other’s weapons, each other’s rations — so I think that always gives any soldier a basis for a discussion, a common point,” Lance Sgt. Liam Magee told the British Forces Network.

‘Natural partners’

The exercise comes roughly a year after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Japan to discuss trade and defense issues. During that trip, May toured Japan’s largest warship and became the first European leader to sit in on a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council.

The two countries released a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, in which they pledged to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, including military exercises. May also said three times that the countries were “natural partners,” and “each other’s closest security partners in Asia and Europe.”

The UK has in recent months also taken a more active approach to countering China, whose growing influence and assertiveness in the region has put it at odds with many of its neighbors.

A British warship sailed through the South China Sea in March 2018, and British ships accompanied French vessels through the area in summer 2018. At the end of August 2018, a British ship had a close encounter with Chinese frigate as it sailed near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands.

In Japan, which is also watching China warily, Abe’s hawkish government has made a number of moves on sea and land to build military capacity.

The country’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever, and this year saw the Ground Self-Defense Force’s largest reorganization since 1954. Japan’s military has also said it would raise the maximum age for new recruits from 26 to 32 to ensure “a stable supply” of personnel. The force is also looking to bring in more women.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

1st. Lt. Misashi Matsushima, the first woman fighter pilot in Japan’s Air Self Defense Force.

(Japan Air Self Defense Force/Twitter)

Earlier in 2018, Tokyo activated an elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, and it has carried out several exercises already in 2018.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships joined a US carrier strike group for drills in the South China Sea at the end of August 2018, and September 2018 saw a Japanese submarine join surface ships for an exercise in the same area — Japan’s first sub deployment to the contested region.

Tokyo has made moves farther afield to counter China as well.

Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, sailed into Sri Lanka’s Colombo harbor at the end of September 2018. Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean region in general have been targets for Chinese outreach that many see as an effort to gain leverage over neighbors.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52s flew over disputed areas in a challenge to the Chinese military

The US has reportedly made a bold move in countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea by flying B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over disputed islands — and it shows how the US and China may rapidly be approaching a showdown.

The flight of the B-52s, reported by CNN but denied by the Pentagon, follows China landing nuclear-capable bombers of its own on the islands and years of Beijing ignoring international law to bully its neighbors and seize control of the waterway that sees trillions in annual shipping and holds untold billions in natural resources.


It also follows Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calling out China at a conference in Singapore, according to CNN.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping swore at the White House with former President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the islands, and continues to claim the islands have not been militarized despite the obvious presence of military equipment.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
Chinese President Xi Jinping

China now calls claims that the islands are militarized “ridiculous,” but Mattis wasn’t having that.

“The placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” said Mattis.

The B-52s reportedly flew within 20 miles of the Spratly Islands, which China claims for itself and has built military facilities on. But Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan also claim the islands, and China has repeatedly made a show of refusing to let international courts settle the matter.

The US has a lot of experience taking down small islands

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
A WWII-era US battleship fires its deck guns.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Earlier in June 2018, a top US general asserted the US military’s power to act against threats to international order, saying “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

In another rhetorical shift, the US military renamed its Pacific command “Indo-Pacific command” to emphasize India and advance a vision of the Pacific not dominated by China.

But China shows no sign of stopping its march to domination of the valuable waterway, recently using its navy to block out the Philippine navy from feeding its own troops on one of its holdings in the South China Sea.

China’s dominance meets US resolve

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario.u00a0The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

In meetings with Vietnam and the Philippines, China has been understood to threaten force against the smaller countries if they undertake activity in their own, legally claimed waters.

When the US challenges Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, or any country’s excessive maritime claims (the US challenged 22 nations in 2016), it usually does so with a US Navy destroyer.

If the US flew nuclear bombers across the island, that would mark a clear escalation and perhaps the beginning of US military actions matching its rhetoric.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the invasion of France you didn’t hear about

The landings on D-Day have become iconic in the minds of many people who think about World War II in Europe. But the landings at Normandy were not the only invasion of France that the Allies carried out. There was a second invasion – and it is not as widely recognized. In fact, if Winston Churchill had his way, it wouldn’t have happened.


The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the planning for D-Day, one of the biggest concerns had been to keep the Germans unaware as to the actual location of the invasion for as long as possible. Much of the decoy efforts were focused on the Pas-de-Calais region of France, but other areas were targeted as well. According to Volume XI of Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” The Invasion of France and Germany, one of the decoy locations was the Mediterranean coast of France.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
Landing at Normandy, D Day, June, 1944, War Photo: pixabay.com

However, Eisenhower saw the proposed Operation Anvil as a way to supplement Overlord with a second amphibious operation within days of the Normandy landings. Winston Churchill, though, was opposed to that idea, and that opposition strengthened after the landings at Anzio bogged down. But the port of Marseilles was seen as a valuable logistics hub – and Southern France was closer to the German border than Normandy.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
Scene from HMS PURSUER of other assault carriers in the force which took part in the landings in the south of France on Aug. 15, 1944. Leading are HMS ATTACKER and HMS KHEDIVE. Three Grumman Wildcats can be seen parked on the edge of PURSUER’s flight deck. (Royal Navy photo)

Finally, to get the British to approve Operation Anvil, it was delayed for two months. By then, it wasn’t so much a second front as it was the second part of a one-two-punch, and the codename was changed to Operation Dragoon. On Aug. 15, 1944, over 880 ships arrived off the southern coast of France. Three divisions, the 3rd Infantry Division, the 36th Infantry Division, and the 45th Infantry Division, went ashore. The landings faced much less opposition than the Normandy landings, and these forces helped send the Germans into full retreat from France.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
The Allied advance through Southern France. The Dragoon landings helped force the Nazis to retreat towards Germany. (US government map)

While Winston Churchill paid a visit to the landing beaches, he was never thrilled with the operation. However, it was a smashing success, described by Morison as “the nearly lawless [amphibious landing] on a large scale.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 even more incredible facts about ‘Rambo’

When We Are The Mighty sat down with Sylvester Stallone, Sly revealed some truly astonishing things about one of action movie history’s most beloved characters: John Rambo. Most of us blacked out when Stallone revealed that Rambo didn’t originally join the Army but came to in time to learn a few great things that make the character much deeper than we ever imagined.

That was just info from Stallone. It turns out there’s much more, so we dove a little deeper.


Read: Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Rambo is almost a god in Papua New Guinea

Somehow, the character of John Rambo has entered the folklore of the Kamula people on the island nation of Papua New Guinea, despite limited access to film and television. The Rambo of folklore is said to be a gunrunner who fought in the 10-year civil war in nearby Bougainville, and will come back to defend Papua New Guinea in case of World War III. In Kamula culture, along with other tribes, Rambo is said to symbolize peak masculinity.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Rambo’s trademark knife wasn’t supposed to exist

In the book First Blood, on which the movie and character John Rambo is based, Rambo never had a survival knife of any kind, let alone a giant one to use to bring down the entire police force of Hope, Wash. Stallone added the knife for effect, hoping to make the weapon a character all on its own.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Rambo wasn’t a killer – originally.

John Rambo never actually kills anyone in First Blood. There is only one death in the entire movie, and that happened as an accident when an overzealous cop falls from a helicopter while shooting at Rambo. In subsequent movies, that all changes of course. Rambo’s body count is 76 in First Blood: Part II, and 132 in Rambo III. In Rambo, he appears to kill the entire Burmese Army with one .50-cal.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Stallone hated the first cut of First Blood.

The first time Stallone saw the edit for First Blood, he hated it. It was three and a half hours long, and Rambo’s dialogue was terrible. At first, Stallone wanted to buy the film so he could burn it. Instead of that, he re-cut the film to 93 minutes with most of his dialogue removed, which is what you see when you watch it today.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Without ‘Rambo’ there would be no ‘Predator’

When Rocky Balboa took on Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, no one in Hollywood was quite sure who Rocky’s next opponent could possibly be. The joke was made that Rocky would have to fight some kind of Alien in Rocky V. After a while, Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas began to take the idea seriously and wrote a Rocky-Rambo Hybrid movie that we call Predator.

In Rocky V, Rocky fought a former student named Tommy Gunn. In the street. Outside a bar. In case you were wondering.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

John Rambo was almost played by John Travolta

Imagine how different action movie lore would be today if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t been in the writing and casting process. John Travolta was considered for the role of the former Green Beret and one-man wrecking crew before Stallone stepped in and nixed the idea.

Travolta also almost became Forrest Gump and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell of Top Gun fame.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Arthur John Rambo of Lincoln County, Mont. gave his life to save his fellow soldiers in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

There actually is a John Rambo on “The Wall.”

Arthur John Rambo was an artilleryman with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam. He was mortally wounded by multiple hits from rocket-propelled grenades on Nov. 26, 1969. As he and his fellow artillerymen came under heavy mortar fire, a nearby self-propelled howitzer took an RPG hit and caught fire. Rambo cleared his fellow soldiers out of the way and attempted to drive the vehicle, still burning, away from the area where it wouldn’t be a threat. He did so successfully, but the vehicle took two more RPGs. The last, killing Rambo in action. Arthur John Rambo was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

“Nothing is over!” Damn right.

Rambo commits suicide. In the book.

… and in the original cut of the movie. Remember when Sylvester Stallone re-edited the entire movie? Rambo killing himself didn’t make the final cut, even though that’s what happens in the book. Instead, Stallone asked a few Vietnam vets what troubles they face, and Stallone wrote a speech at the end of the movie to let the world know.

That original movie sounds awful. Thank god for Sylvester Stallone.

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Watch what happens when these guys fire this beast of a rifle

The SSK .950 JDJ is an absolute beast. Made by SSK Industries, each bullet is over four inches long, weighs over half a pound and costs about $40. There are only three rifles ever made that can fire the round. The weapons weigh between 85 and 120 pounds and produce a recoil capable of injuring its shooter.


Related: The Metal Storm gun can fire 1 million rounds per minute

“The JDJ is comparable to a World War I-era tank round or a 20mm cannon in terms of kinetic energy,” according to Weekly World News.

The weapon’s sheer size and power make it impractical for hunting, so don’t expect to see this monster anywhere besides the range.

Watch this rifle in action:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why ‘Crayon-Eater’ is actually just a bad joke

The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.

It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.

But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”

Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:


The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

Snipers know why there’s some truth there…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)

1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak

Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.

If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

2. It’s ironic

The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)

3. Marines have better insults for each other

The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.

The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?

Didn’t think so.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

They’re laughing at you, not with you.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army researchers are experimenting with pearl-like armor

Researchers at the University of Buffalo, working on research grants from the Army Research Office, have discovered a way of layering plastics that results in a material 14 times stronger than steel and eight times lighter. The layering technique is inspired by the way clams make pearls, and the final result is strong, light, but still slightly flexible armor.


The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(Courtesy University of Buffalo)

The outer coatings of pearl are nacre, a structure of calcium carbonate that resembles interlocking bricks when viewed under a microscope. The researchers took ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, a souped-up plastic used in orthopedic devices, and layered it in a way similar to nacre.

The results are outstanding. Current body armor can contain up to 28 pounds of small arms protective inserts. The Kevlar plates used are about 80 percent of the weight of a steel plate of similar size. A UHMWPE plate of the same size would be about 12-13 percent the weight of a steel plate. That would put the plates needed for a large set of UHMWPE body armor at about 4 pounds instead of the 28 pounds for ceramic Kevlar armor.

Anyone who has worn 30 pounds of body armor and 50 pounds of additional gear while carrying an 8-pound weapon can tell you that shaving 24 pounds off the total load makes a huge difference. (Even though, in mortar sections, they’ll probably just make troops carry more ammo to make up the difference.)

And the inner layers of the armor deform to absorb the impact suffered by the outer layers, better protecting the target from the impact of the enemy’s shot.

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers work their way up a short slope while patrolling in Southern Afghanistan in 2012.

(U.S. Army)

The total protection provided by the UHMWPE is so great that the researchers are considering its use in applications beyond body armor.

“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters, and other vehicles.”

The wide range of potential applications is partially thanks to the strength to weight ratio. But it’s also more flexible than other materials. This makes it easier to form the material into a variety of shapes for different uses.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for Soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom of the ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for Soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

And, with the addition of boron nitride, the material becomes a little stronger and much better at shedding heat. This would allow it to more rapidly cool off after being hit by enemy fire, giving it better protection against a second or third hit.

So it’s much lighter, stronger, and more adaptable than any armor you’re currently wearing.

But before you throw your SAPI plates off the roof in celebration, be aware that it will take time to create suitable manufacturing methods and products. The researchers used a 10-step process to create the small samples for their experiments and testing. It will be years before you and your vehicle are rocking this super-light armor.

MIGHTY MONEY

4 insanely expensive versions of childhood games

If you ever passed the time in your childhood by desperately trying to get four plastic tokens to line up before your opponent did, you just might be thrilled by the new home décor collection by designer Edie Parker.

The collection, available on Moda Operandi, sells fancy, elevated versions of several classic, childhood games — perhaps the most noteworthy being Connect Four.

Officially called “Four in a Row,” the upscale version by Parker is handmade of acrylic and costs $1,495. You’re probably more familiar with the one that looks like this:



The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
The Connect Four you probably recognize is collapsible and made of plastic.
(Amazon photo)

The whimsical collection also features a colorful $2,495 Tic Tac Toe board with golden letters, a $2,295 domino set, a $1,295 box to hold playing cards, and a $1,395 glow-in-the-dark puzzle box decorated with obsidian sand.


The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
Designer Edie Parker made a $1,495 version of Connect Four.u200b
(Moda Operandi photo)

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
This fancy Tic Tac Toe board can be yours for just $2,495.
(Moda Operandi photo)

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
Who doesn’t need a bedazzled $1,295 card box?
(Moda Operandi photo)

The Gun Trucks of Vietnam: How US soldiers transformed cargo vehicles into fighting machines
u200b
(Moda Operandi photo)

In addition to the games, the home décor line offers several brightly-colored vanity trays ranging from $750 to $850 and coaster sets.

If you’re lucky enough to have a budget that allows you to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy board games, you’d better act quickly — the collection will only be available until June 29, 2018, according to the website.

But if you don’t have a spare $1,500 lying around, you can always indulge your nostalgia with the classic Hasbro version of Connect Four that sells on Amazon for $8.77.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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