How artillery actually kills you - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How artillery actually kills you

Artillery fires are the kind of big, thundering fireworks shows that look awesome in movies. That being said, there’s always that crazy scene where Nicholas Cage (or some another action hero) runs through multiple explosions from mortars and artillery, remaining miraculously unscathed as every extra around them is cut down instantly.

So, which is real? Does artillery slaughter indiscriminately or can you get lucky and walk through a storm unscathed?


How artillery actually kills you

Marines carry rounds for an M777 howitzer during an exercise in Australia on August 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

Well, the actual story is much more complicated. It is possible, even on flat, featureless ground, to survive an artillery strike with little visible injury. But it’s nearly just as possible that you’ll be killed even with an inch of steel between you and the blast when one goes off.

It actually all comes down to fairly basic physics, and the British did extensive research during World War II to figure out how this plays out on the battlefield.

There are three ways that artillery most often claims its victims. The most common is through fragmentation of the shell, when the metal casing is split into many smaller bits and hurled at high speed in all directions. The next most common cause of death and injury is the blast wave; the sudden increase in pressure can damage soft tissue and shatter buildings and vehicles if the round is close enough.

How artillery actually kills you

A white phosphorous round busts far over the earth as artillerymen create a screen during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 22, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott Linblom)

The least common cause of death and injury is the heat wave, where the sudden increase in temperature causes burns on flesh or starts fires.

Whether a given soldier will survive or not is basically a question of whether they are seriously affected by one or more of these lethal effects. So, let’s look at them one by one.

First, the fragmentation, also commonly known as shrapnel. Most artillery rounds are designed to create some kind of shrapnel when they explode. Shrapnel works kind of like a bullet. It’s a piece of metal flying at high speed through the air, hopefully catching an enemy soldier along its path.

How artillery actually kills you

​An M109 Paladin fires a 155mm high-explosive round during a combined armslive fires exercise on September 9, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

When it hits flesh, the shrapnel shreds the tissue it passes through, just like a bullet. But, also like a bullet, the biggest factor in lethality is the amount of energy imparted by the munition into the flesh.

Basically, physics tells us that no energy or mass is created or destroyed except in nuclear reactions. So, a piece of metal flying at high speeds has a lot of energy that is imparted to the flesh it passes through, causing cell death and destroying tissue in a larger area than just what the piece of metal actually touches. According to the British estimates, approximately 43 percent of the front of a human (or 36 percent of a human’s surface area in total) accounts for areas in which shrapnel is likely to cause a lethal wound.

So, if a piece of shrapnel hits any of those spots, it will likely cause cell death and then human death. But, shrapnel dispersion is its own, odd beast. When an artillery shell goes off, it’s easy to imagine that the shrapnel explodes in 360 degrees, creating a sphere of destruction.

How artillery actually kills you

Lance Cpl. Miguel Rios, field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arms 155mm rounds for an M777 Howitzer in preparation to fire during training Aug. 9, 2018, at Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia.

(U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

But shrapnel still carries a lot of momentum from its flight. As the round explodes, the force of the explosion propels the shrapnel out, but the metal fragments still carry a lot of the momentum from when they were crashing down towards the earth.

So, if the artillery round was flying straight down, the shrapnel would hit in a near-perfect circle, as if a giant had fired directly downwards with a shotgun. But the rounds are always flying at some sort of angle, sometimes quite shallow, meaning they’re still flying across the ground as much as falling towards it.

In that case, the shrapnel takes on a “butterfly wing” pattern, where a little shrapnel lands behind the round and a little shrapnel lands ahead of the round, but the vast majority lands on the left and the right.

How artillery actually kills you

A howitzer crew with 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, Alpha Battery, 2nd Platoon fires artillery in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, July 23 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elliot Hughes)

The momentum of the round and the force of the explosion combine to form what’s referred to as a “butterfly wings” pattern where shrapnel is flying at high speed as it hits people and the ground. But, in a likely surprise to most people, even this most lethal area typically only injures or kills just over half the time..

That’s right, even if you’re standing under an artillery round as it goes off, you still have a chance of surviving (but we still don’t recommend it).

But what if you have a nice thick steel plate or concrete wall protecting you? Well, that’ll protect you from most of the effects of shrapnel, but an artillery round that detonates closely enough to your concrete or steel will kill you a different way: the blast wave.

How artillery actually kills you

An artillery crewman from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan, uses a tool to secure the fuse to the 155mm round during a combined arms live fire exercise on September 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

See, the explosion at the heart of the an artillery round creates lots of shrapnel because of the sudden expansion of air as the explosive is consumed. But, the blast wave keeps going and can break apart other things, like the concrete or steel protecting you, or even your own body. After all, a blast wave that hits you hard enough will crush your skull much more easily than steel.

The blast wave is most effective at extremely close ranges, measured in feet or inches, not yards. This is what is likely to kill a tank or destroy a bunker, both of which typically require a direct hit or multiple direct hits.

The final lethal effect, the heat wave, is most effective at short ranges and against flammable materials. Think thin-skinned vehicles filled with gas or the flesh of your enemies.

So, if nearly all artillery shells kill you with the same three mechanics, why are there so many types and why are artillerymen so into things like fuses and powder?

Well, remember that quick note about “angles” when it came to shrapnel patterns? Different targets are susceptible to different artillery effects. And changing out fuses and changing the gun’s angle and number of powder bags allows an artilleryman to change how the round flies and where it explodes.

How artillery actually kills you

Troopers from the Field Artillery Support Squadron “Steel,” 3d Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” support Iraqi army operations with artillery fires from their M777A2 Howitzers, Aug. 12, 2018

(U.s. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)

For vehicles, especially armored ones, the best way to kill them is to get the explosive to happen as close to the vehicle as possible, preferably while the round is touching the target. That requires an impact fuse that cases a detonation when the round reaches the target or the ground.

But, if you want to cut down hordes of infantry or shred tents and wooden buildings, you want to maximize lethal shrapnel dispersion. The British studied the problem and recommended the rounds go off at 30 feet above the surface. This was traditionally accomplished with timed rounds; the fire direction center did all the math to figure out how long it would take the round to fly and then set the times for when the rounds was near 30 feet off the ground.

But the fuses were imperfect and the math was tricky, so the U.S. eventually figured out proximity fuses, which detonated a set distance from an object or surface.

So, how do poor Joe and Josephine Snuffy try to survive the steel rain? Well, by minimizing their susceptibility to the three effects.

Even just laying down in the dirt reduces the chances that you’ll catch lethal shrapnel — face down is best. That’ll cut your chances of death or major injury down by over 60 percent. Firing from trenches or fox holes can take your chances down to under 5 percent, and lying or crouching in those same trenches or foxholes can get you into the 2-percent range.

Dig some tunnels into the mountain, and you’ll be nearly impossible to kill. That’s why so many troops were able to survive on Japanese islands despite hours or days of bombardment.

If you’re stuck on the move, opt for cover and concealment. Walking or driving through the trees can drastically increase your chances of survival since most shrapnel can make it through one inch of wood or less — but watch out for falling limbs. The blast waves and shrapnel damage can knock massive branches off of trees and drop them onto troops.

If you’re in a vehicle, reduce the amount of flammables on the outside.

This is actually why artillerymen try to hit with as many rounds as possible in the first blast, using methods like “time on target” to get all of their first wave of rounds to land at the same moment. This maximizes the amount of destruction done before the targets can rush for cover or hop into trenches.

So, you know, heads on a swivel, and all that.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ is expected to flop at China box office

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is heading for the worst opening at the China box office of Disney’s new “Star Wars” movies.

The movie had earned $2.2 million in the region by 8 p.m. local time on Friday, according to Variety, and was trailing behind three Chinese movies. The Chinese ticket service Maoyan is projecting “The Rise of Skywalker” to earn just $18 million during its theatrical run in China.

The “Star Wars” franchise has struggled to build an audience in the country, where Hollywood is increasingly relying on its box office to boost its blockbusters. The Chinese theatrical market has been growing at a rapid pace and is even projected to dethrone the US as the world’s box-office leader within the next few years.


Each Disney-era “Star Wars” movie has made less in China than the previous one. Here’s how each of them performed there:

  • “The Force Awakens” — 4 million
  • “Rogue One” — million
  • “The Last Jedi” — million
  • “Solo” — million
How artillery actually kills you

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

Despite the lack of enthusiasm in China, all of those movies except “Solo” grossed over id=”listicle-2641661309″ billion worldwide. “The Force Awakens” earned over billion globally and 6 million domestically.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is expected to have a big opening domestically this weekend — despite negative reviews — but still less than the previous movies in the new trilogy. Boxoffice.com is projecting the movie to debut between 0 million and 0 million. “The Force Awakens” opened with 8 million domestically and “The Last Jedi” with 0 million.

“The Rise of Skywalker” so far has a 57% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst-reviewed “Star Wars” movie since “The Phantom Menace.”

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

Read more:

Articles

The Pentagon wants to buy your homemade bomb

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants the bomb you’ve been tinkering with at home. DARPA’s latest initiative is identifying emerging threats by mining everyday technologies. According to the agency’s press release, this effort, called Improv, “asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.” So DARPA wants that homemade bomb you’ve been building in your garage.


How artillery actually kills you

This means they want to see what you can make out of everyday household items so they can prepare a countermeasure. This kind of thinking is meant to tap into the natural resourcefulness and creativity of humans.

“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies,” said program manager John Main, who will oversee the new effort. “Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”

How artillery actually kills you

The agency is looking to see how everyday household materials can be used to threaten U.S. national security. It may sound odd to think of American wreaking havoc with common materials, but it isn’t unheard of. In 1996, Timothy McVeigh purchased only enough ammonium nitrate to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre, a formula commonly used to grow corn. This did not raise any eyebrows in Kansas. McVeigh later used the fertilizer to blow up Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people.

“U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies,” DARPA said in a press release. “Increasingly, off-the-shelf equipment… features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats.”

To enter, interested parties must submit a plan for their prototype for the chance at a potential $40,000 in funding. Then, a smaller number of candidates will be chosen to build their device with $70,000 in potential funding. Finally, top candidates will enter the final phase, which includes a thorough analysis of the invention and a military demonstration.

How artillery actually kills you
The Department of Defense would like remind potential contributors that they should only build weapons within the bounds of their local, state, and federal laws.

Learn more about the DARPA project here.

Articles

The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.


Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.

Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.

How artillery actually kills you
An early aircrew patch from MAAG Vietnam.

After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.

Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.

Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.

How artillery actually kills you
Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., left, and Richard Fitzgibbon III. The father was killed in Vietnam in 1956, while the son died there in 1965. (Photo from Sen. Ed Markey)

Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.

The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.

How artillery actually kills you
Richard Fitzgibbon’s name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

The Fitzgibbons were one of three father-son pairs who died in the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything you need to know about the INF treaty in the news these days

In 1987, the Soviet Union had thousands of intermediate range nuclear missile pointed at Western Europe. On top of each of those thousands of missiles sat multiple nuclear warheads, ready to destroy the entire theater. The United States and its NATO allies had just as many — if not more — of the same kind. They were mobile and concealable, able to be fired from the Soviet Union or right on NATO’s doorstep.

By 1991, they were all gone.


The INF was the first agreement wherein the United States and USSR promised to actually reduce the overall number of weapons in their arsenals, eliminating an entire category of nuclear weapons altogether. Combined, the world’s two superpowers destroyed more than 2,600 nuclear missiles before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

How artillery actually kills you

Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and President Ronald Reagan sign the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House on Dec. 8, 1987.

The buildup to the INF Treaty

In the mid-to-late 1970s, the Soviet Union began a qualitative upgrade of its nuclear arsenal designed for the European Theater. At the time, the Cold War doctrine for NATO held that the Soviets could maintain a superiority in conventional weapons and troop strengths, but the Western allies were going to launch a nuclear attack in the event of an invasion.

So, when the Red Army began replacing its old, intermediate-range, single-warhead missiles to new, more advanced missiles with multiple warheads, European leaders flipped. Meanwhile, the only nuclear missiles the United States had were its own aging, intermediate-range nukes: the single-warhead Pershing 1a. After NATO pressured the United States to respond, the allies developed a “two-track” system to counter the Soviet threat: they would seek an agreement to limit their intermediate nuclear weapons arsenals while upgrading and replacing their own systems with multiple-warhead launchers.

How artillery actually kills you

A U.S. BGM-109 Gryphon intermediate-range nuclear weapon. The INF Treaty ended the service of these launchers.

Terms of the INF Treaty

The negotiations did not start off well. The Soviet delegation even walked out after the United States deployed its new Pershing II missiles in Europe in 1983. But, as talks continued, various ideas surfaced on how to best address the number of nuclear weapons. Ideas included limiting each country to 75 weapons each, a limit on the number of worldwide intermediate missiles (but none allowed in Europe), and, at one point, Mikhail Gorbachev even put forward the idea of eliminating all nuclear weapons by 2000.

In the end, formal talks lasted from 1981 until the signing of the INF treaty in 1987. The agreement eliminated missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles. This included three types of nuclear missile from the U.S. arsenal and six from the Soviet arsenal. Signatories were also compelled to destroy training material, rocket stages, launch canisters, and the launchers themselves. The treaty also covered all future successor states to the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and others.

Signatories are also prohibited from testing ground-launched missiles and other tech related to intermediate nuclear forces. After the ten years of monitoring, any signatory country can implement the terms of the agreement and call for a new inspection or general meeting.

How artillery actually kills you

A view of the Soviet Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) for the SSC-X-4 ground-launched cruise missile system with a close-up view of the SSC-X-4 missile in the insert.

Why President Trump is reconsidering the INF Treaty

The INF Treaty solved a very specific crisis at a very specific time. It limited ground-based weapons from the European theater of the Cold War, but it didn’t cover air- or sea-based cruise missiles. In the years since, Russia has tested a number of weapons the United States says violate the terms of the INF Treaty. Russia counters that the U.S. has broken it as well.

If Russia isn’t abiding by the terms of the agreement, then the U.S. is unnecessarily limiting its defense posture — but that’s not even what the Trump Administration and National Security Advisor John Bolton are worried about. They’re concerned with China, who isn’t a signatory to the INF Treaty.

Proponents of the agreement argue that leaving the INF Treaty won’t force the Russians to comply with the treaty any more than they are now, that it could lead to another global arms race, and that ground-based nuclear weapons in Europe (or East Asia) just aren’t necessary anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just found the building blocks of ancient life on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8, 2018 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.


“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

How artillery actually kills you
Artist’s impression of how Mars may have looked four billion years ago

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”

Seasonal Methane Releases

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.

Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.

“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”

Finding Organic Molecules

To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.

SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.

How artillery actually kills you

The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.

In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.

For video and images of the findings, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mediaresources

Information on NASA’s Mars activities is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

On June 6, 1944, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari stormed Omaha Beach in one of the deadliest battles of World War II: D-Day. The 21-year-old New York native survived the sniper fire and artillery bombardment, enduring what he would later remember as one of the most harrowing memories of his life. The experience was so traumatic, it would give him nightmares for the remainder of his life. But at the suggestion of his caretaker and with the support of charitable donations, the 96-year-old Las Vegas resident is making his first trip back to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

“Maybe this will bring me some closure,” Zicari said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe there is something there that will help me put this all behind me. I’m 96 years old, how much longer can it go, you know?” he laughed. “Maybe I’ll see the beach.”


Zicari was offered the opportunity by Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought. Before he would accept the invitation, which includes joining a group of surviving World War II veterans to travel to several sites in Normandy, Zicari had one stipulation — he needed his caretaker and family friend Diane Fazendin to accompany him. “If she wasn’t going, then I wasn’t going,” he said. A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised ,222, with nearly half of that coming from a donation from the Italian-American Club. With that amount, Fazendin can accompany Zicari throughout his journey, which begins June 3 and runs through June 10, 2019.

How artillery actually kills you

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (left) mans a machine gun position.

However, the logistics of travel hasn’t been the only thing keeping the D-Day veteran from returning to France. The trauma of that day left Zicari with PTSD that continues to this day. “I was having nightmares, in fact, I just had one the other night. This all brings back a lot of memories for me,” he said.

To face those beaches again, Zicari found encouragement through his PTSD support group at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The group of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans meets every Friday, and enjoys camaraderie in addition to the peer support. “They’ve really helped me,” he said. “It was a huge relief for me when I found this group. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada 30 years ago that I enrolled at this VA. Another Vet told me about the PTSD support groups at the VA. So I said, ‘alright, I’ll go.’ I was relieved when I was talking to the other veterans. They understood my feelings. And I’ve stayed right there with them for nearly 30 years.” When Zicari joined the group, there were six other World War II veterans who regularly attended the meetings. “Now it’s just me,” he said.

Zicari was drafted into the Army at the age of 19, where he trained to become a supply soldier. After training for months for desert warfare in preparation for deployment to Northern Africa, he soon found himself in Scotland and Wales, preparing for a completely different kind of warfare. His company began practicing for amphibious landings in preparation for the inevitable invasion of continental Europe in what would eventually come to be known as Operation Overlord. “We knew we would have to go, but we didn’t know when,” Zicari said. That day, June 6, 1944, would soon arrive. Despite months of preparation of training, nothing could prepare him for what would come. “The night before, we were joking around. We didn’t know what to expect. We were all gung ho. Until we landed, then it stopped.”

The next morning, Zicari’s unit arrived in Normandy in preparation to land on Omaha Beach – the most heavily defended area of five sectors allied infantry and armored divisions would land on during the D-Day invasion. “We were the fifth or sixth wave to hit Omaha Beach,” he said. “Our landing craft was knocked out, it took a couple of direct hits and killed a couple of sailors that were on board. The boat got grounded on a reef. After it beached, we had to get off and landed in the water and almost drowned. I was the ammo man for a machine gun crew, and I carried two boxes of ammo, another guy carried two barrels, one carried a magazine, one carried the tri-pod, it was the five of us. Our gunner lost the barrels. He didn’t want to drown, so he just dropped them. I had the ammo, and I said, ‘what am I going to do with this ammo?’ So, I let go of the ammo.”

How artillery actually kills you

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (right) poses for a photo with Mickey Rooney (middle) and fellow soldiers.

Once Zicari finally got his head above water, he was struck by the chaos that laid in front of him. “We didn’t know where we were,” he said. “All we kept hearing was ‘gotta go inland, gotta go inland! Can’t go back!’ But we got pinned down there for quite a long time. We saw a lot of dead soldiers. It was havoc. I can’t explain what war is. We were all gung ho before we landed, but once we saw what was going on, I said ‘I want to go home.’ A lot of prayers were said on that day, believe me.”

Zicari was able to join up with the remainder of his outfit, but struggled to shake loose many of the horrors around him. “I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was lost. I got pinned down by a pillbox, and we had shells landing all over. I got up and went alongside a landing craft that was beached. I looked over and I see this redheaded soldier, and he was sitting on his helmet. He got hit bad. He looked at me and just started to laugh, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ Whether he made it home or not, I don’t know. But that stuck with me.”

After several hours of intense fighting, Zicari was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the knee. Although the wound was relatively light, medics recommended he seek immediate care. “They wanted to send me back to the hospital ship, but I told them no. I didn’t want to lose my outfit.” Zicari said. “They might send me to the infantry, and I didn’t want to go to the infantry, that’s for sure.”

When the intensity of the battle had died down, and the Germans were pushed back from their positions on the beachhead, Zicari and his unit had the task of bringing the ammunition and supplies onto the beaches. While the initial intensity of the fighting had decreased, they still faced occasional artillery and sniper fire. But the worst job was soon to come. “On the third day, we had to go back and pick up the bodies and equipment on the beaches,” he said. “After that, I never went back again. It was too sad.”

After Normandy, Zicari continued fighting across France, even making it to Belgium and relieving the 101st Airborne following the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and surrounding Ardennes Forest. But it was June 6 that would shape his memories of the war; memories that he hopes to put to rest 75 years later.

How artillery actually kills you

Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (middle) with his PTSD peer support group.

Following the war, Zicari moved to California with his wife, where they raised six children. His family became close friends with their neighbors, Fazendin and her husband. Even after the Zicaris moved to Nevada, they kept in touch. “We’ve been friends for many years,” said Fazendin, who currently lives in Florida and has acted as Zicari’s caretaker for a recent cruise and other short trips. This will be her first time traveling to Europe, and the furthest the two will travel together.

Zicari lives independently in his Las Vegas home, near much of his family. Even though he doesn’t own a cell phone or watch, he stays sharp by doing four crossword puzzles each day and completing woodworking projects. His garage is adorned with massive birdhouses and wooden trains that he has perfected over the years. He gets his socializing by meeting with his fellow veterans at the VA. His PTSD peer support group even meets up for a holiday meal at the Medical Center cafeteria. And it was with their encouragement, the help of his caretaker, and financial support of charitable donations that Zicari will finally be able to make his return to Omaha Beach in June 2019.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

popular

The US will build a version of this massive Russian sub

The Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, also known as an SSGN, is one of the most fearsome adversaries a carrier strike group could face. When one goes out to sea, NATO dedicates a lot of assets to finding it. Why? It may have something to do with the fact that an Oscar-class submarine packs 24 SS-N-19 Shipwreck cruise missiles, which can go Mach 2 and pack a 1,000-kilogram warhead (or a nuclear warhead), in addition to powerful 650mm torpedoes.


How artillery actually kills you

NATO spent a lot of time tracking Oscar-class submarines.

(DOD photo)

The United States has never had a true counterpart to the Oscar. Four Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (or SSBNs) were modified to pack 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, but the Tomahawks in question are land-attack missiles. Furthermore, these submarines, to some extent, still operate like the “boomers” they were, often finding a spot to park their very powerful arsenal.

How artillery actually kills you

USS Georgia (SSGN 729) is one of four Ohio-class submarines converted to carry BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James Kimber)

This is because, when it comes down to it, the SSBN isn’t exactly intended to sink an enemy ship. Yes, they carry torpedoes, but those are only for self-defense. Their real purpose is to keep 24 UGM-133 Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, each loaded with as many as 14 375-kiloton W88 nuclear warheads, safe and ready for use.

Well, those Ohios are getting old and now, there’s a need to replace them. What this also means is that the U.S. Navy will soon have a true answer to the Oscar in the form of the Block V Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine. According to a handout obtained at the SeaAirSpace 2018 expo in National Harbor, Maryland, these subs will be somewhat longer than the earlier Virginia-class due to the addition of a plug that will hold 28 additional Tomahawks. Since some Tomahawk variants are capable of targeting ships, this makes the Block V Virginia-class sub a more versatile SSGN than the Oscar was.


A 2012 Congressional Budget Office report indicated the Navy planned to buy 20 of these submarines. With the increase in defense budgets in recent years, however, there’s no telling just how high that total can go.

Articles

This sniper rifle company is trying to lighten the M240 medium machine gun

Let’s face it, today’s soldiers and Marines have a lot weighing on them.


Between gear, ammo, and weapons, some are carrying over 100 pounds. But how do you reduce that burden?

Barrett Firearms, which created the mighty M82A1 and M107 .50-caliber sniper rifles, has managed to do just that by improving the M240 medium machine gun. Now, the M240 is based on the FN MAG, which is is a classic machine gun used by many NATO allies.

This gun even replaced the M-60, which was the backbone of squad firepower for the U.S. military through Vietnam and Desert Storm.

How artillery actually kills you
Lance Corporal Kendall S. Boyd (left) and PFC Ryan J. Jones (right), combat engineers, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, hone their machine gunnery skills by firing the M240G medium machine gun in 2004. Note the rivets on the receiver. (USMC photo)

The question comes: How do you improve a machine gun used by just about all of the Western world? The Army has developed the M240L, which uses titanium to lighten the gun, but they kept the riveted design, albeit with a 5-pound weight reduction.

However, Barrett managed make its 240LW medium machine gun five and half pounds lighter than the M240B without the use of exotic materials. The secret was in how they made the receiver. Barrett machined the receiver from forgings and welded them together, according to a brochure handed out at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2017 Armament Systems Forum.

How artillery actually kills you
This is the receiver of the Barrett 240LW – note that there are no rivets. (Photo from Barrett.net)

Not only did this reduce the number of components from 64 to two, it also helped take about five and half pounds off the machine gun. The change also has boosted the reliability of the gun – by removing the rivets – which can be shaken loose by firing thousands of rounds.

There’s also less metal, due to the fact that there is no need to overlap the metal components.

Will the 240LW make an impact with the United States military? That remains to be seen, but it does show how Barrett manages to be very innovative when it comes to designing – or improving – small arms.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A ‘Lone Sailor’ statue is now in place at Normandy

It’s a sight seen all over the United States; a bronze casting of a sailor waiting by the ocean, next to a single duffel bag. His hands are in his pockets, his eyes are out to sea. The statue is a replica of the original Lone Sailor created for the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. He stands watch over the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, Calif. in the West, the USS Wisconsin in the North, Charleston in the southeast, and West Haven Connecticut in the northeastern United States, and many more.

Now, for the first time, he has the watch outside the U.S., looking out to the English Channel over what was once called Utah Beach.


How artillery actually kills you

Long Beach, Calif. Lone Sailor memorial.

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, U.S. Navy Frogmen – combat demolition units, forerunners to the modern-day Navy SEALs – landed on the shores of Hitler’s vaunted Fortress Europe. It was the first mission of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious landing in history, and the most daring operation of World War II. Their mission was to destroy mines and clear obstacles and barriers, to clear the way for the D-Day landings.

They came ashore in the dark from the cold waters of the channel, outnumbered and outgunned to work through the night to give the U.S. 1st Army division the fighting chance they needed to capture those beaches. Their hard work and sacrifice is being honored with the first “Lone Sailor” outside the United States.

How artillery actually kills you

The original Lone Sailor at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Memorial.

The Lone Sailor Memorial is a way to honor such deserving sacrifices. Since its 1987 debut at the Washington Navy Memorial, the statue has been replicated 15 times throughout various areas of significance in the U.S., including the Great Lakes Naval Training Center – where all Navy recruits pass to begin their career.

“This statue will serve as a reminder of the historic day the United States and Allies arrived from the sea to free the world from tyranny and repression, forging a lasting relationship with the people of Saint- Marie-Du-Mont, the first city to be liberated in France during WWII,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, at the statue’s dedication ceremony on June 6, 2019, 75 years after the landings took place.

How artillery actually kills you

Retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp IV holds a miniature version of the “Lone Sailor” statue during a United States Navy Memorial and Frogmen Association of Utah Beach dedication ceremony in Normandy, France, June 6, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Jonathan Nelson)

This latest iteration of the statue will stand on the plaza at the Utah Beach Museum, where the United States’ invasion first appeared the morning of June 6, 1944, looking out to sea as a sign of respect to all the sea service personnel who passed through here on D-Day as well as those who served in the decades after through today.

“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Civilian contractors receive top valor medal for Afghan gunfight

Three retired soldiers were honored at the Pentagon on Aug. 14, 2018, for exceptional gallantry in action against an armed enemy while serving in Afghanistan as civilian contractors.

Retired Army Master Sgt. William Timothy Nix, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anthony Dunne and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Ray Seabolt received the Medal of Valor, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award for valor.

Nix was working as a civilian contractor at a coalition base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2015, when he heard the massive boom of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.


“I just grabbed a weapon and ran out,” Nix said.

Insurgents had breached the entrance at Camp Integrity, launching the deadly attack with a vehicle-borne IED and then using direct fire, hand grenades and suicide vests.

Nix and Dunne, a fellow contractor, rushed to the fight, teaming up with military personnel to defend the camp, suppress the enemy and evacuate the wounded.

“[The insurgents] blew the whole front of the camp. The gate came off. It collapsed the guard tower out there,” Dunne said, recalling that a suicide vest exploded 30 feet away from him. He thought he would die, he said, but he kept fighting.

How artillery actually kills you

Mr. Ray Seabolt, Mr. Tony Dunne, and Mr. Tim Nix will be presented the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor.

(Screenshot from DoD video)

Nix was serving as an irregular warfare analyst for the NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan in support of the Resolute Support mission. Dunne was an operations intelligence integrator there.

Fighting was intense and the situation was chaotic, they recalled. Army 1st Sgt. Peter “Drew” McKenna Jr., who was leading the charge against the terrorists, was killed, as were eight Afghan contractors.

Their citations laud their heroism for exposing themselves to direct enemy fire, hand grenades, suicide vests, and other explosives to suppress insurgents who had breached the camp. Their actions undoubtedly saved countless lives at great risk to their own lives, their citations read.

Bravery During Attack in Helmand

Seabolt received the Medal of Valor for his actions in response to an attack near Helmand on Dec. 17, 2015. He had spent 22 years in the Army and was serving as a civilian contractor and counter-IED expert with the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency.

On a mission with U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, something didn’t add up for Seabolt, he recalled. He knew very well that could be an ominous sign. “We walked inside this compound,” he said. “There was an open door, and I said, ‘That’s not normal.'”

Then, the withering, close range, semi-automatic and automatic fire from the enemy began. “We entered the compound with about 10 people, and there were two of us left in the fight,” he recalled. Two Afghan commandos were killed; the others were wounded.

Seabolt’s citation lauds his exceptional actions in exposing himself to enemy fire and suppressing the insurgents so Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces could move forward. He single-handedly fended off the insurgent onslaught until the return of other team members, it reads.

“Mr. Seabolt’s bravery and confidence instilled courage among the entire force, resulting in effective fires on the target, softening the objective and allowing the recovery force to approach with little resistance,” according to the citation.

Honoring Citizen-Warriors

Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s deputy director for combat support, said he is honored and humbled to call the men Americans heroes and partners and colleagues in service to the nation.

“We honor these three men for the remarkable valor they exhibited on the battlefield, for reminding us of the awesome power of the human spirit and for symbolizing the fearless determination of great warfighters,” he said.

The men, who are all former special operators, exhibited the very best of what it means to be a servant and a citizen-warfighter, he said.

“Each of these award citations serves as a moving testament — and a fitting reminder — that the work being done by those who fight on the front lines and protect us all is exceptional, essential and extraordinary,” Rogers said.

Featured image: Left to right: Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, Defense Threat Reduction Agency deputy director for combat support, applauds after awarding the Medal of Valor to Michael Anthony Dunne, William Timothy Nix and Brandon Ray Seabolt at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2018. The men, retired military special operators, were recognized for their actions against an armed enemy while serving as civilian contractors in Afghanistan.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

popular

This is how American pilots used drop tanks as bombs during WWII

If you pay attention, you might sometimes see long, cigar-shaped pods firmly attached to the undersides of classic fighter and attack aircraft, sometimes with unit markings on them.

Known as “drop tanks,” these simple devices extend the range of the aircraft they’re hooked up to by carrying extra usable fuel. Back during World War II, however, attack pilots found a secondary use for drop tanks as improvised bombs, used to bombard enemy ground positions.


Drop tanks became popular in the late 1930s as a means for fighters to carry more fuel for longer escort and patrol missions. Easily installed and removed, they were a quick solution for the burgeoning Luftwaffe’s fighter and dive bomber fleets, which would prove to be instrumental in the opening months of WWII.

By the onset of WWII, air forces with both the Axis and Allies were experimenting with the use of drop tanks in regular combat operations. In the European theater, British and German pilots stuck to using their drop tanks as range-extenders. American fighter pilots changed the game.

 

How artillery actually kills you
A P-47 Thunderbolt with a drop tank.

(US Air Force)

Though it wasn’t common practice, P-47 Thunderbolt pilots were noted for their creativity in combat, switching their fuel feed selector to their internal tanks while making a low pass over an enemy position. With relative precision, they would jettison their drop tanks, still filled with a decent amount of fuel, before climbing away.

After releasing their tanks, pilots would swoop back around and line up again with their target. If they timed it right and aimed well, a long burst from their cannons would ignite the fuel left inside the tanks, blowing them up like firebombs.

This didn’t always work, however, especially as paper tanks became popular during the war as a method of conserving metal. So, by the end of the war, American crews in both the European and Pacific theaters had to refine their drop-tank technique.

Instead of pilots peppering the tanks with shells from their cannons, they’d simply fill up the tanks with a volatile mixture of fuel and other ingredients to form rudimentary napalm bombs, which would detonate upon impact.

 

How artillery actually kills you
USAF F-51D Mustangs dropping tanks repurposed as napalm bombs during the Korean War

(US Air Force)

By the time the Korean War started, the newly-formed US Air Force had cemented the practice of filling drop tanks with napalm and using them as makeshift bombs for low-level close air support missions. According to Robert Neer in his book, Napalm: An American Biography, British statesman Winston Churchill notably decried the practice of using napalm during the Korean conflict, calling it cruel and noting the increased likelihood of collateral damage and casualties during napalm strikes.

In the Vietnam War, the use of napalm expanded greatly, though factories now began building bombs specifically designed to carry napalm internally. Today, the US military has virtually ceased using napalm as a weapon. Here’s what life is like for US Army Tankers, today. 

Articles

Merkava versus Abrams: Which tank wins?

The M1 Abrams was the best tank in the world for a long time – and its Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom combat record backed it up. But lately, Army officers are warning that other tanks are catching up, including Russia’s T-14 and T-90, the British Challenger 2, and the Israeli Merkava IV.


Yeah, the Israelis have designed their own tank. According to waronline.org, the Merkava came about after the Israelis were unable to buy the British Chieftain main battle tank due to concerns from diplomats. Lessons learned from the 1973 Yom Kippur War were also applied to the tank’s development. What emerged was something that protected its crew, had good firepower, and a lot of ammo storage. In fact, the crew protection aspect was heightened by a decision to put the engine at the front of the tank.

How artillery actually kills you
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division completes tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

The latest version of the Merkava is the Merkava 4, with a 120m main gun and capacity for up to 48 rounds, according to Army-Technology.com. It also has a 60mm mortar – a unique weapon among tanks – as well as three 7.62mm machine guns. The tank, though, is slow, with a top speed of 29 miles per hour according to militaryfactory.com.

We’re familiar with the M1 Abrams. It has a 120mm main gun with 40 rounds, a .50-caliber machine gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns. It is very tough (recall that in Desert Storm, this tank deflected T-72 main guns rounds fired from 400 meters away), but it is also fast – with a top speed of 42 miles per hour.

How artillery actually kills you

Crew training in both of these tanks is really a wash. The American Abrams crews are probably among the best in the world. So are the Israelis (in fact, during the Yom Kippur War, vastly outnumbered Israeli tanks held the line against a much larger Syrian force in the Battle of the Valley of Tears).

So, which tank wins? Much will depend on which tank’s “game” is being played. If the Merkava is defending, it has the edge. This will be particularly true if the terrain forces a unit with Abrams tanks to come right at the Merkavas.

But if the fight is a mobile fight, then the Abrams’ speed will give it the edge.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information