The “Bermuda Triangle” is a geographical area between Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the tiny island nation of Bermuda. Nearly everyone who goes to the Bahamas can tell you that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll die a horrible death.
From 1946 to 1991, there have been over 100 disappearances. These are some of the military disappearances that have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
1. U.S.S. Cyclops – March 4th, 1918
One of the U.S. Navy’s largest fuel ships at the time made an unscheduled stop in Barbados on its voyage to Baltimore. The ship was carrying 100 tons of manganese ore above what it could typically handle. All reports before leaving port said that it was not a concern.
The new path took the Cyclops straight through the Bermuda Triangle. No distress signal was sent. Nobody aboard answered radio calls.
This is one of the most deadly incidents in U.S. Navy history outside of combat, as all 306 sailors aboard were declared deceased by then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.
2. and 3. USS Proteus and USS Nereus – November 23rd and December 10th 1941
Two of the three Sister ships to the U.S.S. Cyclops, The Proteus and Nereus, both carried a cargo of bauxite and both left St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands along the same exact path. Bauxite was used to create the aluminum for Allied aircraft.
Original theories focused on a surprise attack by German U-Boats, but the Germans never took credit for the sinking, nor were they in the area.
According to research by Rear Adm. George van Deurs, the acidic coal cargo would seriously erode the longitudinal support beams, thereby making them more likely to break under stress. The fourth sister ship to all three of the Cyclops, Proteus, and Nereus was the USS Jupiter. It was recommissioned as the USS Langley and became the Navy’s first aircraft carrier.
3. Flight 19 – December 5th, 1945
The most well known and documented disappearance was that of Flight 19. Five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers left Ft. Lauderdale on a routine training exercise. A distress call received from one of the pilots said: “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”
Later, pilot Charles Taylor sent another transmission: “We can’t make out anything. We think we may be 225 miles northwest of base. It looks like we are entering white water. We’re completely lost.”
After a PBM Mariner Flying Boat was lost on this rescue mission, the U.S. Navy’s official statement was “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”
4. MV Southern Districts – 5 December 1954
The former U.S. Navy Landing Ship was acquired by the Philadelphia and Norfolk Steamship Co. and converted into a cargo carrier. During its service, the LST took part in the invasion of Normandy.
Its final voyage was from Port Sulphur, Louisiana, to Bucksport, Maine, carrying a cargo of sulfur. It lost contact as it passed through the Bermuda Triangle. No one ever heard from the Southern Districts again until four years later, when a single life preserver washed on the Florida shores.
5. Flying Box Car out of Homestead AFB, FL – June 5th, 1965
The Fairchild C-119G and her original five crew left Homestead AFB at 7:49 PM with four more mechanics to aid another C-199G stranded on Grand Turk Island. The last radio transmission was received just off Crooked Island, 177 miles from it’s destination.
A month later on July 18, debris washed up on the beach of Gold Rock Cay just off the shore of Acklins Island (near where the crew gave its last transmission).
The most plausible theory of the mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle points to confirmation bias. If someone goes missing in the Bermuda Triangle, it’s immediately drawn into the same category as everything else lost in the area. The Coast Guard has stated that “there is no evidence that disappearances happen more frequently in the Bermuda Triangle than in any other part of the ocean.”
Of course, it’s more fun to speculate that one of the most traveled waterways near America may be haunted, may have alien abductions, or hold the Bimini’s secret Atlantean Empire.
The sea is a terrifying place. When sailors and airmen go missing, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Pointing to an easily debunkable theory cheapens the lose of good men and women.
In the early 1950s, the U.S. and Russia got into a race to develop the first aircraft-deliverable nuclear bomb. But the Americans accidentally created a much more powerful bomb than they anticipated.
What they thought would be a 5-megaton explosion generated a 14.8-megaton blast.
The Castle Bravo test at the Bikini Atoll in 1954 was the first dry hydrogen explosion that the U.S. attempted and it used lithium deuteride as the fusion fuel. But lithium deuteride is much stronger than the scientists thought.
So the Americans set up the islands and the safe zones for an explosion of 5-6 megatons. The immediate area was evacuated, they checked the wind speeds to limit the spread of contamination, and they positioned all of their facilities in safe areas.
But the 14.8-megaton explosion in Castle Bravo rendered many of these preparations moot. The small strip of land that the device was tested on was wiped out and became a crater 6,510 feet wide and 250 feet deep.
All the soil that had been an atoll flew into the atmosphere along with disintegrated coral reef. These later fell as a powdery ash on unsuspecting Japanese fishers and Pacific Islanders.
One of the Japanese fishermen soon died of acute radiation poisoning while the rest of the victims affected suffered dramatically increased rates of cancer and other diseases.
Despite the costs, the Castle Bravo test did lengthen America’s lead of the nuclear arms race, but it didn’t keep the top spot for nuclear explosions.
Douglas Carlton Denman was born in Tallapoosa, Georgia, in February 1922. At the age of 18, he decided to join the Coast Guard and travelled to Atlanta’s recruiting office where a Coast Guard chief boatswain filled out his paperwork. Early on, he must have shown promise as a boat driver. He was sent to New Orleans to train at Higgins Industries, builder of landing craft, and in less than a year of enlisting, he was advanced from seaman first class to coxswain.
In November 1941, less than a year after enlisting, Denman was assigned to the Number 4 landing craft aboard the fast attack transport USS Edmund Colhoun (APD-2) known as an APD or “Green Dragon” by the Marine Corps’ 1st Raider Battalion. The Colhoun was a World War I-era four-stack destroyer converted to carry a company of marines. The Navy designation of APD stood for transport (“AP”) destroyer (D”). These re-purposed warships retained their anti-submarine warfare capability, carried anti-aircraft and fore and aft deck guns, and could steam at an impressive 40 mph. Their primary mission was rapid insertion of frontline marine units in amphibious (often shallow-water) operations, so they were equipped with landing craft.
Each APD carried four landing craft designated LCPs (Landing Craft Personnel). Also known as “Higgins Boats,” the LCP was the U.S. military’s first operational landing craft. It had a snub nose bow supporting two side-by-side gun tubs with each position holding a .30 caliber machine gun. The helm and engine controls were located behind the tandem gun emplacements. Diesel-powered, the LCP measured 36 feet in length, could hold 36 men, and had a top speed of only nine miles per hour. This early landing craft carried no front ramp, so after it beached, troops debarked over the sides or jumped off the bow. The LCP required a crew of three, including a coxswain, an engineer and a third crew member that both doubled as gunners. The LCP exposed its crew to enemy fire, so its crew members braved serious upper body, head and neck wounds when landing troops.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
The Colhoun was one of four APDs that comprised Transport Division 12 (TransDiv 12). TransDiv 12 ships inserted the Marine Raiders on the beaches of Tulagi, on Aug. 7, 1942. The amphibious assault of Tulagi was the first U.S. offensive of World War II. It was also the first battle contested by entrenched enemy troops, giving the Americans a taste of the horrors to come in island battles like Tarawa, Saipan and Palau. Colhoun’s sisterships Francis Gregory (APD-3) and George Little (APD-4) took up station 3,000 yards offshore and served as guard ships marking a channel into the landing area. TransDiv 12’s slow-moving Higgins Boats plowed up the slot to land the Marine Raiders in the face of enemy fire. Within two days, the marines had taken the island eliminating nearly all its garrison of 800 Japanese troops.
(U.S. Navy photo)
After landing the Marine Raiders at Tulagi, Colhoun continued patrol, transport and anti-submarine duties in the Guadalcanal area. On August 15, the TransDiv 12 APDs delivered provisions and war material to the Marine 1st Division on Guadalcanal Island. It was the first re-supply of the marines since their August 7 landing. On August 30, Colhoun made another supply run to Guadalcanal. After completing a delivery to shore, the Colhoun steamed away for patrol duty. As soon as the APD reached Iron Bottom Sound, the sound of aircraft roared from the low cloud cover overhead and Denman and his shipmates manned battle stations.
A formation of 16 Japanese bombers descended from the clouds and Colhoun’s gunners threw up as much anti-aircraft fire as they could. The first bombers scored two direct hits on the APD, destroying Denman’s Higgins Boat, blowing Denman against a bulkhead and starting diesel fires from the boat’s fuel tank. Denman suffered severe facial wounds, but he returned to what remained of his duty station. In spite of stubborn anti-aircraft fire, the next bombers scored more hits. Colhoun’s stern began filling with water and the order was passed to abandon ship. Denman remained aboard and, with the aid of a shipmate, he carried wounded comrades to the ship’s bow and floated them clear of the sinking ship. He and his shipmate also gathered dozens of life jackets and threw them to victims struggling to stay afloat on the oily water.
Colhoun’s bow knifed into the sky as it began a final plunge into the fathomless water of Iron Bottom Sound. Denman managed to jump off the vessel before the ship slid stern-first below the surface. The time between the bombing and the sinking had taken only minutes, but during that time, Denman saved numerous lives while risking his own. In spite of his severe wounds, Denman survived along with 100 of Colhoun’s original crew of 150 officers and men. Coast Guard-manned landing craft from USS Little and the Coast Guard boat pool on Guadalcanal raced to the scene to rescue the survivors.
After the battle, Denman could not recall the traumatic events surrounding the bombing. He was shipped to a military hospital in New Zealand and diagnosed with “war neurosis.” However, after a month, medical authorities reported, “This man has gone through a trying experience successfully and may be returned to duty . . . .” For the remainder of the war, Denman served stateside assignments and aboard ships, including an attack transport, LST and a U.S. Army fuel ship. In early September, APDs Little and Gregory were sunk in night action against a superior force of Japanese destroyers and the fourth TransDiv 12 APD, USS William McKean (APD-5) was lost in combat in 1943.
For his wounds and heroism in the face of great danger, Denman received the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. During his career, he completed training for port security, intelligence specialist, and criminal investigation specialist. He also qualified in handling all classes of small boats and buoy tenders and was recommended for master chief petty officer. However, he retired as a boatswain senior chief petty officer to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Georgia with a major in animal science. He was one of many combat heroes who have served in the long blue line and he will be honored as the namesake of a new fast response cutter.
The United States Air Force needs aggressor aircraft. There is no geopolitical adversary for the United States quite like Russia and its Soviet-built airplanes. American combat crews need to train against someone, and the best we can get comes in the form of MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi-27 aircraft.
It doesn’t matter that the aircraft are from the 1970s, so is the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet. American airmen need targets, and these are the most likely real-world ones.
In 2017, onlookers spotted an F-16 engaged in a life or death dogfight over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. with a Russian-built Su-27 Flanker aircraft. It’s highly unlikely an errant Russian fighter penetrated NORAD and began an attack on a specific base. The only logical explanation was that Nellis has a supply of Russian-built fighters for U.S. airmen to train against. It turns out, that is exactly what happened in the skies over Nevada that day. Make another notch in the win column for Occam’s Razor.
The United States Air Force has acquired and maintains a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft for airmen to fly against. Where they get the aircraft is anyone’s guess, but The National Interest reported it likely gets the most advanced fighters from Ukraine. Other fighters are on loan from private companies who acquired the Russian planes on their own. That’s another W for capitalism.
Anything is possible with enough money.
So even if the United States Air Force couldn’t afford to own and maintain its own supply of Russian aggressor aircraft, there are apparently a number of civilian contractors who have acquired them and are willing to loan those fighters out to the USAF. Among those come MiG-29s from a company called Air USA, MiG-21s and trainer aircraft from Draken International, and the two aforementioned Sukhoi-27 fighters from Pride International via Ukraine.
Let’s see the semi-Communist oligarchs in Moscow pull off acquiring an F-22 Raptor using their shady business dealings. But even if the United States couldn’t fight real Russian fighters, American pilots could still get excellent training.
The emperor has new clothes.
If you’re not sure what’s happening in the photo above, that’s an F-16 Fighting Falcon all dressed up as a Sukhoi-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter. While the F-16 may not have stealth and definitely isn’t a fifth-gen fighter, it still gives U.S. airmen training on what to look for while engaging a Russian in the skies. The paint job is used by the Russians to make the Su-57 look like a different, smaller aircraft from a distance. Acquiring real enemy aircraft and training under the conditions closest to combat will give American pilots the edge they need.
That is, if they ever need that edge against the Russians.
The most-produced tank in World War II was fast, powerful, and well protected by sloped armor, and it was made by a candy maker who got tired of confections and decided to make a revolutionary tank instead.
Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.
The Christie tank designs were ultimately a failure in the U.S., but elements of the company’s designs would become part of dozens of tank designs across Western and Russian militaries.
Mikhail Koshkin was working in a candy factory until he decided that he wanted to study engineering. Thanks to a series of Josef Stalin’s purges, Koshkin quickly found himself at the top of a program to improve the BT tank. The BT tank series was based on the U.S. Christie design and patents that were sold overseas after the Army turned the Christie down.
Stalin, wanting to see whether his armored forces were worth the price tag, wanted to test the new tanks in combat and got his chance in the Spanish Civil War. The BT tanks proved themselves useful but far, far from perfect. Despite thick armor, anti-tank infantry still often held an advantage against them, and the vehicle engines would burst into flame from light hits or, sometimes, simply from the strain of propelling the tank.
The BT tanks were sent back to Russia by rail for analysis and Koshkin and his team quickly found the flaws in design. The improvements program quickly became a replacement program, and Koshkin started working on a new design in 1934 which he would name for that year, the T-34.
It incorporated a number of design changes being flirted with around the world. It wasn’t the first tank with sloped armor or the first with a diesel engine or the first with a large cannon in a rotating turret, but it was a solid design that incorporated all of these evolutions in design. At the same time that he was working on the T-34, Koshkin had to work on a new BT tank design: the A20.
Mikhail Koshkin worked in a candy factory but then decided to become an engineer before World War II. His inspired T-34 tank design would become the most-produced tank of World War II.
(Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau)
The A20 would later become the BT-20. It, too, sported a number of improvements, including sloped armor and an improved engine, but it still had relatively little armor for the crew or engine — as little as 20mm in some places.
Both designs, the T-34 and the BT-20, reached Soviet leaders in 1939. There, the officers sidelined the T-34 in favor of the BT-20, partially because the proposed T-34 design would’ve required much more steel for manufacture and much more fuel to run. A prototype BT-20 was created.
But instead of accepting the defeat of his design, Koshkin wrote a letter to Stalin and continued making tweaks before creating a full prototype. Stalin requested to see the tank, and Koshkin drove it 800 miles to Moscow to show it off. The tank proved itself fast, effective, and well-protected, and so Stalin sent it into production instead of the BT-20.
Koshkin died of pneumonia soon after, but his tank design would go on to become the most-produced tank of World War II. Russia took part in the invasion of Poland, but later found itself attacked by Nazi Germany in June, 1941.
As history shows, the Soviet Union soon found itself in a fight for its very survival during World War II. Tanks and other weapons would be imported from America, but the best homegrown option the Soviet Union had was still, easily, the T-34.
The final design pressed into production featured a 76mm gun capable of taking out anything Germany had to offer, its thick and sloped armor could survive hits from most German tanks at the time, and it was easy to maintain in the field, meaning the T-34s were nearly all available for the fight.
A T-34 tank during battle re-enactments.
(Cezary Piwowarski CC BY-SA 4.0)
When a clash first came between German tanks and the T-34, the Soviet crew surprised the Germans by piercing the German tank in a single shot. German tank crews had convinced themselves that they were nearly invincible until they faced the T-34.
But the Germans had prepared well for the invasion, and they charged east, deep into Russia, overrunning the original T-34 factory and nearly breaching Moscow’s defenses before they were stopped at the final defensive line as the true Russian winter set in.
The relocated T-34 production lines were able to crank out hundreds of copies before the spring thaw, and those tanks were key parts of battles for the coming years. But German tank designs were evolving as well, and the arms race necessitated upgrades to the T-34.
Over 35,000 T-34s were built during the war, with later models featuring upgraded 85mm guns as space for an additional crew member, allowing the tank commander to give up their gunner duties to keep a better eye on what was happening around the vehicle.
A German soldier inspects a Russian T-34 knocked out during combat. T-34s were super powerful upon their debut, but German bombers and artillery were always a threat to them, and later German tank designs like the Tiger could shred the T-34.
The Soviet Union was, eventually, successful in driving the Germans out of Russia and back into Berlin. This success was partially due to America sending so much equipment east as part of lend-lease, partially thanks to the U.S., Britain, and Canada opening a new front with the D-Day invasions, and partially thanks to a candy man who decided to make a world-class weapon of war instead of sweets.
Admit it: You’d watch a Willy Wonka sequel like that.
(Some of the information in this article came from the second episode of Age of Tanks on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can watch the episode here.)
Air Force leaders are leaving no stone unturned in their search for the best industry practices and innovations to consider in rebuilding Tyndall AFB, Florida, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
To that end, members of the Tyndall Program Management Office, along with Air Force experts, industry and community leaders participated in an AFWERX-sponsored workshop June 25-26, 2019, in Las Vegas to rebuild the installation as a “base of the future.”
“The purpose of involving AFWERX was to assist us in moving much more quickly and agilely when it comes to the rebuild,” said Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, Tyndall PMO executive director in charge of the rebuild effort. “The point was to connect innovators to get after infusing innovations. At AFWERX, we came together to brainstorm the art of the possible for the rebuild.”
Hurricane Michael damaged nearly 480 facilities and the Air Force estimates the cost to rebuild at about .25 billion, with approximately 0 million spent so far.
“Let’s face it, we are basically building an entire base,” Melancon added. “The entire military construction budget is about .8 billion, which traditionally is the military construction program for the entire Air Force. We are going to do this all at one base in basically two fiscal years in terms of (contract) awards.”
Col. Jefferson Hawkins, Tyndall Air Force Base 325th Fighter Wing vice commander, leads a discussion during a recent workshop at the AFWERX facility in Las Vegas, June 25-26, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Veronica Kemeny)
The workshop also featured TED talks, problem-solving and collaborative group sessions led by AFWERX facilitators. Attendees discussed bringing best practices from industry and streamlining acquisition processes.
Col. Jefferson Hawkins, vice commander of the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall AFB, was an attendee at the workshop and appreciated the ideas shared.
“What a great step forward for Tyndall’s rebuild,” Hawkins said. “AFWERX created both open thought and open dialogue. The ideas and conversations generated and relationships built will be pivotal to our future success.”
The time spent at AFWERX facilitated outside-the-box thinking.
“The work and innovation we are exploring to rebuild Tyndall can be used as an example of how we build the 21st century air base in the Air Force,” Melancon said.
“Technologies such as frictionless entry or a fast-pass lane at a gate where you swipe your ID card or possibly use your fingerprint to go through a secured gate is technology in the commercial space that we need to leverage for our benefit.”
Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, Tyndall Air Force Base Program Management Office executive director and Renee Richardson, director of Acquisition Operations for the Air Force Installation Contracting Center, work together during an innovation exercise during a recent visit to the AFWERX facility in Las Vegas.
(U.S. Air Force by Veronica Kemeny)
Tom Neubaurer, Bay Defense Alliance president, whose organization works with Tyndall leadership and Program Management Office to ensure the preservation of the mission at the base, also attended the AFWERX workshop and expressed his optimism about the rebuild.
“Clearly, we have an amazing opportunity to partner with our military neighbors and build a great American defense community around the base of the future,” Neubauer said. “By working together now, we will reflect proudly on all that is accomplished in the years ahead for a better Bay County and for national defense.”
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson reaffirmed the Air Force’s commitment to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base during a second industry day held this past May to inform industry about the work that lies ahead. A third industry day is tentatively scheduled for August that will provide further updates on the innovative ideas submitted through white papers and what has developed during the AFWERX visit.
The focus and commitment of the 325th FW and PMO is to assess facility damage, determine usability and preserve capability.
A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.
As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.
But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.
For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.
The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.
It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.
Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.
Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.
“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”
He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.
To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.
The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.
“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”
The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.
On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.
“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”
But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.
A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.
Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.
“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”
Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.
“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”
The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.
They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.
Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.
That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.
For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.
“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”
In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.
Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.
“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”
Luke T. asks: How many times can you shoot a bulletproof vest before it stops working?
To begin with, it should probably be noted that the name “bulletproof vest” is a misnomer with “bullet resistant vest” being more apt. Or to quote John Geshay, marketing director for body armor company Safariland, “…nothing can be bulletproof, not even a manhole cover. In an extremely small percentage of cases, a round can even go through a vest that it is rated to stop. The round itself could have an extra serration on it or something.”
Furthermore, body armor designed to protect the wearer from high caliber guns can still be penetrated or compromised by smaller caliber bullets. For example, armor designed to stop a round from a .44 Magnum (the kind of round Dirty Harry claims can blow a man’s head clean off) could theoretically be pierced by a 9mm round if the latter is fired with a high enough muzzle velocity, with distance to the target also playing a role. Or as Police Magazine notes, “There’s a tendency among gun enthusiasts to dismiss the lethal potential of certain calibers of handguns. Don’t believe it. A small round traveling at high speed can punch through body armor.”
Similarly, in part because shot from shotgun shells have highly varying velocities, shotguns are deemed very dangerous even to otherwise extremely robust body armor. That’s not to mention, of course, that even should the vest do its job, the spread out nature of the shot gives a higher probability of unprotected areas being hit as well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)
With that preamble out of the way, let’s discuss the differing levels of protection offered by various types of body armor and how many times they can be shot before they stop offering an acceptable level of defense. In the United States most all body armor is ranked according to standards set by the National Institute of Justice, or the NIJ, with their ratings pretty much considered the gold standard the world over in regards to levels of ballistic protection offered by a given piece of armor.
As for those ratings, the NIJ assigns a generalised level rating between 1 and 4 to all kinds of armor. In the most basic sense, the higher the level of the armor, the more protection it provides. For example, a rating of anywhere from Level 1 through 3a will stop bullets fired from the majority of handguns. For comfort’s sake, body armor at these levels are usually made from some sort of soft fiber material, such as Kevlar, though at the higher levels may use additional materials. On the extreme end, level 4 armor is the only kind capable of potentially stopping armor piercing rounds, and is usually made of some hard material, sometimes with a soft material like Kevlar reinforcing it.
On that note, although all kinds of armor are held to the same standards by the NIJ, a distinction is drawn between “hard” and “soft” types. For anyone unfamiliar with the terms, “soft” body armor is usually created by weaving ultra-strong fibres together in a web-like pattern, with the armor stopping bullets much in the same way a net slows and stops some object like a baseball, distributing the force over a larger area in the process.
“Hard” body armor on the other hand is usually created by inserting solid plates of either ceramic or special plastic into a vest or other housing.
Although hard armor generally provides more protection than soft armor, it has its own shortcomings that need to be considered. For example, ceramic armor plates are often only designed to protect the area around the heart and lungs owing to the drawback of hindered maneuverability if covering over other areas, as well as the fact that they are relatively heavy, with a 10 by 12 inch plate typically weighing about 7 or 8 pounds. So a combined front and back plate weight of roughly 15 pounds or 7 kilograms even when just protecting the heart and lung area.
This all finally brings us around to how many bullets a piece of body armor can absorb before it is rendered useless. Well, as you might imagine given how many different types of body armor there are out there, this depends. For example, on the extreme end we found some manufacturers who claimed their Level III body armors were capable of taking literally hundreds of rounds before failing.
United States Navy sailors wearing Modular Tactical Vests.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth W. Robinson)
As for some general examples, we’ll start with soft armor. The moment these are hit by a bullet, the fibers around the area of impact are compromised and lose some of their ability to absorb and dissipate the energy of a bullet. Thus, if another shot were to hit reasonably close to where the first hit, the bullet has a good chance of penetrating, even if the vest would have normally been able to handle it fine. Thus, while it is possible they can take multiple hits in some cases, and even be rated for such, depending on the caliber of bullet, way the armor was made, etc. it’s generally deemed unsafe to rely on this.
Moving on to ceramic plate armor, in most cases these plates are designed to shatter when hit by a bullet, dissipating the force of the impact via breaking up the bullet so that the smaller pieces can be absorbed by some backing material like Kevlar or some form of polymer or sometimes both. However, a side effect of this is that a large portion of the plate is then completely useless against a second shot similar to our previous example with soft armor. That said, there are types of ceramic armor that are designed to take multiple rounds, just, again, relying on this is generally considered unwise in most cases. And certainly with armor piercing rounds and level IV ceramic armor, the NIJ only requires it to work for one shot to receive that rating, though manufacturers do their own testing and we did find examples of companies that claimed to exceed that with their level IV ceramic armor, even with armor piercing rounds.
This brings us to polyethylene armor plating. In this case the impact of the bullet actually melts the plate which then re-hardens, trapping the bullet within it. Due to this, polyethylene armor can survive being shot numerous times without losing its ballistic integrity and we found examples of manufacturers that claimed their polyethylene armor could take hundreds of rounds before failing. Polyethylene plates also have the advantage of being roughly half the weight of ceramic for the same level of protection.
Metropolitan Police officers supervising World Cup, 2006.
Hybrid body armor is also quite common at the higher levels, meaning your mileage may vary from a given piece of body armor to another, with the NIJ’s ratings giving a decent overview of what it’s capable of and often the manufacturer’s testing giving even more insight onto how many rounds of a given type of bullet the vest can take before failure.
All this said, again, while a given piece of body armor may pass the tests and even be claimed by the manufacturer to protect against much more, most manufacturers recommend replacing body armor even after a single shot. And, beyond that, even in some cases if you just drop your armor on the floor. This is because although body armor is designed to stop bullets, some types are surprisingly fragile. For example, ceramic plates can easily crack if dropped, sometimes in ways that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
Moving on to soft body armor, stretching or deforming the fibers in some way, again in ways that are sometimes not obvious to the naked eye, also can compromise their integrity. Some manufacturers even advise replacing Kevlar-based body armor if you just get it wet as this potentially weakens the fibers. On that note, because daily, otherwise innocuous, activities can sometimes compromise body armor, the standard in the body armor industry (set by the NIJ) is also to replace a given vest a maximum of every 5 years, even if it’s never been hit by a bullet.
For the fashionably minded individual who might need some protection from getting shot, it turns out bulletproof suits are not just a thing in the movies, but a real product that makes military and police body armor look like something made from an era when hitching up your covered wagon to go to the market was a thing. Perhaps the most famous manufacturer of these is the Colombian company Miguel Caballero, founded in 1992 by, you guessed it, a guy named Miguel Caballero. What exact materials he uses to make his line of bullet proof clothing isn’t clear, though he states it’s a “hybrid between nylon and polyester”. The advantage of his material is it is significantly lighter and thinner than Kevlar at equivalent protection levels. And, indeed, if you go check our their website, their undershirt body armor looks pretty much like any other undershirt unless you look really closely. As for price tag, this isn’t listed on the website, but it would appear a basic suit top made by the company will run you upwards of about ,000-,000, though you can get other product, such as an undershirt for less, apparently starting at around ,000. Funny enough, one of Caballero’s favorite ways to advertise is in fact to put the clothing on someone and then personally shoot them, leading to the company’s slogan, “I was shot by Miguel Caballero” with apparently a few hundred people shot by the man himself to date. They even have a youtube channel where you can go and see him shoot his wife in the stomach. Not just stopping bullets, some of Caballero’s product are also rated to stop knives, be fireproof, waterproof, etc. Essentially, think the type of snazzy and robust clothing seen in most spy movies and that’s pretty accurate in this case.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
On Tuesday, the first ever F-15EX took to the skies in a test flight that brought the U.S. Air Force that much closer to fielding what may be the most capable 4th generation fighter on the planet. The F-15 has been in service for more than 45 years to date, and is widely regarded as the most successful air superiority fighter in history.
“Today’s successful flight proves the jet’s safety and readiness to join our nation’s fighter fleet,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager.
“Our workforce is excited to build a modern fighter aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Our customer can feel confident in its decision to invest in this platform that is capable of incorporating the latest advanced battle management systems, sensors and weapons due to the jet’s digital airframe design and open mission systems architecture.”
The last time the U.S. Air Force took delivery of an F-15 was in 2004, but the aircraft’s design has not stagnated in the 17 years since. Boeing, who absorbed the F-15 program when they merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, has been updating and improving the F-15 for foreign sales throughout. In fact, foreign purchasers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funneled more than $5 billion into improving the F-15 Eagle as America moved on to sourcing more advanced, stealth fighters. The result of all this time and money is an incredibly capable iteration of the F-15 that couples advanced avionics with the low maintenance cost of non-stealth fighter.
Most of the world still relies on 4th generation fighters for engagements in the sky, which means the F-15EX may have some stiff competition… but this new bird isn’t resting on the F-15’s historic laurels. Instead, it just may be the baddest fighter of its generation anywhere on the planet.
Why doesn’t the Air Force just buy more F-35s?
In this era of flying stealth supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor, many have questioned the wisdom of purchasing a slew of new old fighters. The F-15EX does not boast any stealth capabilities, nor does it have the same knack for sensor fusion that has earned the F-35 the unofficial nickname of “quarterback in the sky.” Despite this apparent lack of capability, the Air Force is procuring F-15EXs at a cost of around $87.7 million each, as compared to the now lower F-35 price of just $77.9 million per aircraft.
This price differential only emboldens the F-15EX’s critics, who point out that the F-35 offers a far wider variety of capabilities and is considered much more survivable in contested airspace (thanks to its stealth capabilities). When you only consider those figures, the F-15EX may seem like a pretty poor choice.
However, the reality of military acquisitions and combat capability are far more nuanced than a side-by-side tale of the tape might represent. While the F-15EX may indeed cost more per airframe than the latest batch of F-35s, it may actually be the savvier purchase. The F-35 is intended to have an operational lifespan of around 8,000 hours, whereas each F-15EX is expected to last 20,000. In other words, in order to fly the same number of hours as an F-15EX, the Air Force would need to purchase not one, but three F-35As.
That price reduction is further bolstered by operational costs. Keeping a high performance fighter in tip-top shape is expensive and time consuming, but in that portion of the ledger, the F-15EX once again shines. The Air Force expects to spend around $29,000 for every hour the F-15EX is in the air, far cheaper than the F-35’s figures recorded in 2018 of around $44,000 per hour. Now let’s do a bit of back-of-the-envelope math to assess how much these aircraft will actually cost in a fight.
The F-15EX costs $87.7 million per aircraft, and can fly for up to 20,000 hours at a cost of $29,000 per hour. So $29,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $87.7 million for the aircraft comes out to a pretty serious $667.7 million dollars.
In order to match that operational lifespan, it would take three F-35As. So the math would look like $44,000 per hour x 20,000 hours + $233.7 million for three F-35s… and it comes out to more than a jaw dropping $1.1 billion. The F-15EX, then, offers a saving of around $446 million per aircraft over the lifespan of the jet (if things were this simple, anyway).
To give the F-35 a slightly more realistic shake, let’s use larger volumes of aircraft, rather than 1:1 comparisons. The Air Force plans to purchase at least 144 F-15EXs, but for the sake of simple math, let’s call it 100. The above per-aircraft cost times a hundred comes out to $66,770,000,000 spent on aircraft and 2,000,000 flight hours. You would need 250 F-35s to match the same flight hour total, which combined with operating costs come to $109,925,000,000. In this more realistic comparison, the F-15EX offers a less pronounced advantage, but still comes to the tune of some $43,155,000,000 in savings over the span of the program. $43 billion is certainly nothing to scoff at.
Now, it’s important to note here that this math is egregiously simplified: Lockheed Martin and the Air Force are already working tirelessly to reduce the operating costs of the F-35 (because the Air Force says they can’t afford them if they don’t).
The cost per hour of the F-35 is sure to drop in the years to come — and just as importantly, the F-35 is a stealth platform built largely to engage ground targets. The F-15EX, on the other hand, is an air superiority fighter designed to duke it out in the skies. Both of these aircraft are capable of either role, but at a fundamental level, these jets simply aren’t built to do the same jobs. It might help to think of them as NASCAR and Formula 1 racers: Both are extremely capable platforms, but they’re each highly specialized for their specific use. The new F-15EXs the Air Force buys won’t fill F-35 spots, but will instead replace aging F-15s in America’s existing arsenal.
What makes this new F-15 better than our old ones?
The United States currently maintains a fleet of around 230 F-15s in various trims (C/D). These jets represent the crux of America’s fourth generation air intercept fighters. The F-22 Raptor was intended to serve as a replacement for the F-15, but the program was canceled after just 186 Raptors were delivered.
The new F-15EXs boast updated cockpit systems, an enhanced sensor suite and data fusion capabilities, and the ability to carry up to 29,500 pounds of ordnance split into 12 air-to-air hard points or 15 air-to-ground hard points. Its new twin engines aren’t just more efficient, they’re also more powerful, making the fastest fighter in America’s inventory even faster.
The F-15EX isn’t stealthy, but it does boast an electronic warfare suite that will help make it more survivable in contested airspace. Its streamlined pilot interface borrows from some 5th generation technology, integrating information into easier to manage displays that allow the pilot to focus more on the battle space than the gauge cluster. This not only improves pilot performance, it also reduces fatigue on long missions.
In order to keep pace with new weapons as they emerge, the F-15EX leverages what Boeing calls an Open Mission System architecture designed specifically to be able to absorb new tech as it reaches the field. Importantly, however, the new F-15s retain around 80% of the old F-15 design, making them easy for maintainers to adapt to. Instead of having to train for an entirely new platform, they need only to train for the more modern additions to a jet they’re already intimately familiar with.
How does the F-15EX stack up against the top fighters from other countries?
Despite its upgrades, the new F-15EX remains squarely within the 4th generation of fighters. There are currently four operational 5th generation fighters on the planet: America’s F-35 and F-22, Russia’s Su-57, and China’s J-20. If the F-15EX were to square off against these platforms, it would be at a huge disadvantage–and platforms like the F-35 or F-22 would likely be able to engage and destroy the F-15 before its pilot was even aware of their presence. Questions remain about the stealth and avionics found in the J-20 or Su-57, but even if their stealth isn’t quite as advanced, they’d still have a real leg up on the F-15EX.
But to be honest, the chances of such an engagement are incredibly small. Russia’s troubled Su-57 program has seen setback after setback, and to date, there are only around 13 of the fighters in existence. Production is expected to pick up, but Russia lacks the funds to really field a large scale fleet of these stealthy fighters. China’s J-20 has also faced woes in its engine compartment, though China has managed to field more than 50 of these jets already. The new J-20B will incorporate thrust vector control (like America’s F-22) and is expected to be an even more capable aircraft… but again, it exists in extremely limited numbers.
Their rarity notwithstanding, if American jets were to square off against Chinese or Russian ones, America would leverage its fleet of hundreds of F-35s and F-22s. There would be no reason to send the F-15 into such a fight. However, F-15EXs could see a great deal of use in the uncontested airspace of trouble spots like Syria and Iraq, where stealth is as unnecessary as it is expensive.
But what about the 4th generation fighters that make up the backbone of Chinese and Russian air forces? The Su-35, operated by both Russia and China, as well as the J-10 operated by China are both considered to be highly capable platforms, and the MiG-29 operated by a number of nations is also considered rather formidable (among others). However, the F-15 has already squared up against a number of capable fighters and emerged on top. In fact, of the 104 air-to-air duels the F-15 has entered, it has lost exactly zero of them. Not too shabby.
With the addition of 21st century avionics and more capable engines, it seems likely that the F-15 will maintain its advantage of the competition.
Karuika asks: Who was the first person to figure out what dinosaur bones were?
From around 250 to 66 million years ago various dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Today the only dinosaurs left are birds, which are coelurosauria theropods — funny enough the same sub-group Tyrannosauruses belong to. (Think about that the next time you’re enjoying a McDinosaur sandwich or scrambling up some dinosaur eggs for breakfast.)
Beyond their avian progeny, all that mostly remains of these once dominate creatures are fossilized bones, footprints, and poop. While many dinosaurs were actually quite small, some were comparatively massive, bringing us to the question of the hour — what did people first think when they pulled huge dinosaur bones out of the earth?
To begin with, it is generally thought humans have been discovering dinosaur bones about as long as we’ve been humaning. And it appears that at least some of the giant creatures of ancient legend likely stemmed from the discovery of dinosaur bones and fossils, and the subsequent attempts of ancient peoples to explain what they were.
For example, 4th century BC Chinese historian Chang Qu reported the discovery of massive “dragon bones” in the region of Wuchen. At the time and indeed for many centuries after (including some still today), the Chinese felt that these bones had potent healing powers, resulting in many of them being ground down to be drunk in a special elixirs.
As for the exact medicinal purposes, in the 2nd century AD Shennong Bencaojing, it states,
Dragon bone… mainly treats heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual miasma, and old ghosts; it also treats cough and counterflow of qi, diarrhea and dysentery with pus and blood, vaginal discharge, hardness and binding in the abdomen, and fright epilepsy in children. Dragon teeth mainly treats epilepsy, madness, manic running about, binding qi below the heart, inability to catch one’s breath, and various kinds of spasms. It kills spiritual disrupters. Protracted taking may make the body light, enable one to communicate with the spirit light, and lengthen one’s life span.
While fossilized bones may not actually make such an effective cure-all, all things considered, the classic depictions of dragons and our modern understanding of what certain dinosaurs looked like are actually in the ballpark of accurate.
Moving over to the ancient Greeks, they are also believed to have stumbled across massive dinosaur bones and similarly assumed they came from long-dead giant creatures, in some cases seeming to think they came from giant human-like creatures.
Moving up to that better documented history, in the 16th through 19th centuries, the idea that the Earth was only about six thousand years old was firmly entrenched in the Western world, leading to these fossils creating a major puzzle for the scientists studying them. Even Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition found a dinosaur bone in Billings Montana, but in his case, he decided it must have come from a massive fish, which was a common way they were explained away given that no creatures that then walked the earth seemed to match up.
The various ideas thrown around around during these centuries were described by Robert Plot in his 1677 Natural History of Oxfordshire:
[are] the Stones we find in the Forms of Shell-fish, be Lapides sui generis [fossils], naturally produced by some extraordinary plastic virtue, latent in the Earth or Quarries where they are found? Or, [do] they rather owe their Form and Figuration to the Shells of the Fishes they represent, brought to the places where they are now found by a Deluge, Earth-quake, or some other such means, and there being filled with Mud, Clay, and petrifying Juices, have in tract of time been turned into Stones, as we now find them, still retaining the same Shape in the whole, with the same Lineations, Sutures, Eminencies, Cavities, Orifices, Points, that they had whilst they were Shells?
Plot goes on to explain the idea behind the “plastic virtue” hypothesis was that the fossils were some form of salt crystals that had by some unknown process formed and grown in the ground and just happened to resemble bones.
Triceratops mounted skeleton at Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.
However, Plot argues against this then popular notion stating,
Come we next to such [stones] as concern the … Members of the Body: Amongst which, I have one… that has exactly the Figure of the lowermost part of the Thigh-Bone of a Man or at least of some other Animal…a little above the Sinus, where it seems to have been broken off, shewing the marrow within of a shining Spar-like Substance of its true Colour and Figure, in the hollow of the Bone…
After comparing the bone to an elephant’s, he decided it could not have come from one of them. He instead concluded,
It remains, that (notwithstanding their extravagant Magnitude) they must have been the bones of Men or Women: Nor doth any thing hinder but they may have been so, provided it be clearly made out, that there have been Men and Women of proportionable Stature in all Ages of the World, down even to our own Days
Thus, much like is thought to have happened with certain ancient peoples, he decided some of these bones must have come from giant humans of the past. During Plot’s era, the Bible’s mention of such giants was often put put forth as evidence, such as in Numbers where it states,
The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim… and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.
Though the bone Plot was describing has since been lost to history, he left detailed drawings, from which it’s thought to have come from the lower part of the femur of a Megalosaurus (literally, Great Lizard).
Modern restoration of Megalosaurus.
But before it was called the Megalosaurus, it had a rather more humorous name. You see, in 1763 a physician called Richard Brookes studying Plot’s drawings dubbed it “Scrotum Humanum” because he thought it looked like a set of petrified testicles. (To be clear, Brookes knew it wasn’t a fossil of a giant scrotum, but nevertheless decided to name it thus because apparently men of all eras of human history can’t help but make genital jokes at every opportunity.)
While hilarious, in the 20th century, this posed a problem for the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature when it eventually came time to formally classify the Megalosaurus as such. The problem was, of course, that Brookes had named it first.
Eventually the ICZN decided that since nobody after Brookes had called it Scrotum Humanum, even though he was the first to name it, that name could safely be deemed invalid. Thus Megalosaurus won out, which is unfortunate because discussion of the rather large Scrotum Humanum would have provided great companion jokes to ones about Uranus in science classes the world over.
Moving swiftly on, humanity continued to have little clear idea of what dinosaurs were until William Buckland’s work on the aforementioned Megalosaurus in 1824.
As for the word “dinosaur” itself, this wouldn’t be coined until 1842 when British scientist Sir Richard Owen noted that the few dinosaur fossils that had been scientifically studied at that point all shared several characteristics. For the curious, those species were the Megalosaurus, Hylaeosaurus and Iguanodon. He further concluded that the fossils could not have come from any creature that currently roamed the Earth and thus came up with a new name — dinosaur, meaning “terrible/powerful/wondrous lizards”.
Of course, it should be noted that despite being knighted for his life’s work in 1883, Owen was renowned for stealing other people’s ideas and calling them his own, in at least one case even after having previously ridiculed the person he stole the ideas from — paleontologist Gideon Mantell. In several instances, Owen would attempt to take credit for some of Mantell’s pioneering work on the Iguanodon, while downplaying Mantell’s contributions in the process.
paleontologist Gideon Mantell.
To add insult to injury, it is speculated that the much more distinguished Owen actively worked to stop some of Mantell’s work and papers from getting published.
To further illustrate Owen’s character and rivalry with Mantell, after near financial ruin in 1838, his wife leaving him in 1839, and his daughter dying in 1840, Mantell would become crippled after a fall from a carriage on October 11, 1841. Previous to the accident, he had frequently suffered from leg and back pain, but the source of it was dismissed as likely due to the long hours of work he put in and the like. Things got worse when a coach he was on crashed, shortly before which Mantell leapt from it. In the aftermath, his former pain became extreme and he ceased to be able to use his legs properly. As he writes, “I cannot stoop, or use any exertion without producing loss of sensation and power in the limbs… and could I choose my destiny, I would gladly leave this weary pilgrimage.” He later laments in his journal, “my long probation of suffering will be terminated by a painful and lingering death.”
What does any of that have to do with Owen? To add insult to injury, after Mantell died from an opium overdose taken to help relieve some of his constant and extreme pain, several obituaries were published of Mantell, all glowing — except one…
This one was anonymously written, though analyses of the writing style and general tone left few among the local scientific community with any doubt of who had written it.
In it, Owen starts off praising Mantell, stating, “On Wednesday evening last, at the age of about 63 or 64, died the renowned geologist, Gideon Algernon Mantell…” It goes on to note how Mantell’s memoir on the Iguanodon saw him the recipient of the prestigious Royal Medal. Of course, later in the article, Owen claims Mantell’s work for which he won that medal was actually stolen from others, including himself:
The history of the fossil reptile for the discovery of which Dr. Mantell’s name will be longest recollected in science, is a remarkable instance of this. Few who have become acquainted with the Iguanodon, by the perusal of the Medals of Creation would suspect that to Covier we owe the first recognition of its reptilian character, to Clift the first perception of the resemblance of its teeth to those of the Iguano, to Conybear its name, and to Owen its true affinities among reptiles, and the correction of the error respecting its build and alleged horn…
The article then goes on to outline Dr. Mantell’s supposed various failings as a scientist such as his “reluctance to the revelation of a truth when it dispossessed him of a pretty illustration”, as well as accusing him of once again stealing people’s work:
To touch lightly on other weaknesses of this enthusiastic diffuser of geological knowledge… we must also notice that a consciousness of the intrinsic want of exact scientific, and especially anatomical, knowledge, which compelled him privately to have recourse to those possessing it… produced extreme susceptibility of any doubt expressed of the accuracy or originality of that which he advanced; and in his popular summaries of geological facts, he was too apt to forget the sources of information which he had acknowledge in his original memoirs.
It finally concludes as it started — on a compliment, “Dr. Mantell has, however, done much after his kind for the advancement of geology, and certainly more than any man living to bring it into attractive popular notice.”
It’s commonly stated from here that, out of spite, Owen also had a piece of Mantell’s deformed spine pickled and put on a shelf in the Hunterian Museum in London where Owen was the curator. However, while this was done, the examination and study of his spine was done at the behest of Mantell himself.
British scientist Sir Richard Owen.
Thus, an autopsy was performed and an examination of Mantell’s spine showed he had a rather severe and, at least at the time, peculiar case of scoliosis. As to what was so interesting about this case, one of the physicians involved, Dr. William Adams, states, it was discovered “that the severest degree of deformity of the spine may exist internally, without the usual indications in respect of the deviation of the spinous processes externally.”
In other words, in other such cases, it was clear the spine was not straight from visual observation of the person’s back where a curve could be observed. Mantell’s spine, however, exhibited severe scoliosis, but in such a way that upon external examination methods of the day where the person was lying down or standing up, it otherwise appeared straight.
To Adam’s knowledge, such a thing had never been observed before, but if Mantell had this particular brand of scoliosis, surely many others did as well. But how to detect it. Mulling over the problem inspired Dr. Adams to come up with a method to make such a deformity visible with external examination, thus giving the world the Adam’s forward bend test which many a school student even today has no doubt recollections of being subjected to periodically.
Going back to Owen, as to why he seems to have hated Mantell so much, this isn’t fully clear, though it may have simply been Mantell’s work sometimes resulted in showing Owen’s to be incorrect in various assumptions, jealousy of a scientist he deemed inferior to himself, or it could just be that Owen was a bit of a dick. As noted by famed biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, “[I]t is astonishing with what an intense feeling of hatred Owen is regarded by the majority of his contemporaries, with Mantell as arch-hater. The truth is, [Owen] is the superior of most, and does not conceal that he knows it, and it must be confessed that he does some very ill-natured tricks now and then.”
Of course, if you steal other people’s work long enough, eventually you’ll get caught, especially when you’re one of the world’s leading scientists in your field. Owen’s misstep occurred when he was awarded the prestigious Royal Medal from the Royal Society for his supposedly pioneering discovery and analyses of belemnites, which he called the Belemnites owenii, after himself and gave no credit to anyone else for the ideas in the paper. It turns out, however, four years previous he’d attended a Geological Society get together in which an amateur scientist by the name of Chaning Pearce gave a lecture and published a paper on that very same creature…
While Owen was allowed to keep his medal even after it was revealed he’d stolen the work of Pearce, the rumors that he’d similarly “borrowed” other ideas without credit and this subsequent proof resulted in the loss of much of his former academic prestige. Things didn’t improve over the following years and Owen was eventually given the boot from the Royal Society in 1862 despite his long and rather distinguished career.
While he would never again do any scientific work of significance, his post plagiarist career did prove to be a huge boon for those who enjoy museums. You see, up until this point, museums were not places readily open to the public, and to get access, you usually needed to be an academic. They were places for research, not for random plebeians to gawk at things.
After losing any shred of respect from his peers, he eventually devoted his energies into his role as the superintendent of the natural history department of the British Museum. Among other things, as superintendent, he pushed for and helped develop London’s now famed Natural History Museum, London. He also instituted a number of changes such as encouraging the general public to come visit the museum at their leisure, devoted the majority of the displays for public use, had labels and descriptions added below each display explaining what each was of so anybody, not just the educated, could understand what they were looking at, etc. Many among the scientific community fought against these changes, but he did it anyway, giving us the modern idea of a museum in the process.
In any event, after Owen, Mantell’s, and their contemporaries’ work finally revealed these long extinct creatures for what they were, interest in dinosaurs exploded resulting in what has come to be known as the “Bone Wars” between rival paleontologists in the 1890s which got so heated, some paleontologists literally resorted to dynamiting mines to beat their rivals in discoveries.
The most famous such rivals were Othniel Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale and Edward Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
While the pair started out friendly, even choosing to name species after one another, they eventually became bitter enemies, and when they weren’t doing everything in their power to find dinosaur bones as fast as possible, they were writing and giving talks insulting one another’s work, attempting to get each other’s funding canceled, stealing discoveries from one another or, when not possible, trying to destroy the other’s work. In the end, the product of this rivalry was the discovery of a whopping 142 different species of dinosaurs. (For the record, Marsh discovered 86 and Cope 56.)
Before ending, any discussion of this wild west era of dinosaur bone hunting and scholarship would be remiss without noting the unsung hero of it all — Mary Anning, who is credited with finding many of the fossils used by other scientists for “their” discoveries like of the long-extinct Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaurus (in fact finding the first complete Plesiosaurus), and the flying Pterosaur.
Anning was also noted to be popularly consulted by scientists the world over for her expertise in identifying types of dinosaurs from their bones and various insights she had on them, with many world renowned scientists actually choosing to make the journey to her little shop in person where she sold these bones in Dorset England.
Almost completely uneducated formally and having grown up relatively poor, with her father dying when she was 11, Anning’s expertise came from literally a lifetime of practice, as her family lived near the cliffs near Lyme Regis and from a little girl she helped dig out bones and sell them in their shop.
Portrait of Mary Anning.
Without access to a formal scientific education, she eventually took to dissecting many modern animals to learn more about anatomy. She also was an insatiable reader of every scientific paper she could get her hands on related to geology, palaeontology and animals. In many cases, unable to afford to buy copies of the papers, she’d simply borrow them from others and then meticulously copy them herself, with reportedly astoundingly exact replication of technical illustrations.
On that note, Lady Harriet Silvester would describe Anning in 1824,
The extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved… It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour—that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.
Despite finding some of the best known specimens of these creatures and risking her life on a daily basis during her hunt for fossils around the dangerous cliffs, Anning got little public credit for her discoveries owing to a number of factors including that she was a woman, from a dissenting religious sect against the Church of England, and otherwise, as noted, had no real formal education. So it was quite easy for scientists to take any ideas she had and the bones she dug up and claim all of it as their own discovery. As Anning herself would lament, “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.”
A companion of hers, Anna Inney, would go on to state, “these men of learning have sucked her brains, and made a great deal of publishing works, of which she furnished the contents, while she derived none of the advantages.”
That said, given the esteem she was regarded among many scientists, some of them did desire she be given credit for her contributions, such as famed Swiss palaeontologist Louis Agassiz who was one of many to visit Anning’s shop and to pick her brain about various things, ultimately crediting her in his book Studies of Fossil Fish.
Further praising her work a few years later was an article in The Bristol Mirror, stating,
This persevering female has for years gone daily in search of fossil remains of importance at every tide, for many miles under the hanging cliffs at Lyme, whose fallen masses are her immediate object, as they alone contain these valuable relics of a former world, which must be snatched at the moment of their fall, at the continual risk of being crushed by the half suspended fragments they leave behind, or be left to be destroyed by the returning tide: – to her exertions we owe nearly all the fine specimens of Ichthyosauri of the great collections …
Of the dangers of her work, Anning once wrote to a friend, Charlotte Murchison, in 1833,
Perhaps you will laugh when I say that the death of my old faithful dog has quite upset me, the cliff that fell upon him and killed him in a moment before my eyes, and close to my feet … it was but a moment between me and the same fate.
Beyond academic credit, in one lean stretch where Anning’s family was unable to find any new fossils and they had to start selling off all their worldy possessions just to eat and keep a roof over their heads, one of their best customers, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James Birch, decided to auction off many of the bones he’d bought from them and instead of keeping the money, gave it to Anning’s family.
Of this, in a letter to the Gideon Mantell, Birch stated the auction was,
for the benefit of the poor woman… who… in truth found almost all the fine things which have been submitted to scientific investigation … I may never again possess what I am about to part with, yet in doing it I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that the money will be well applied.
Beyond the approximately £400 this brought in (about £48,000 today), this also significantly raised the awareness among the scientific community of the family’s contributions to this particular branch of science.
Further, when she lost her life savings apparently after being swindled by a conman in 1835, the aforementioned William Buckland managed to convince the British government and the British Association for the Advancement of Science to give her a pension of £25 per year (about £3,000 today) in recognition of her work’s importance to science.
On top of this, when she was dying of breast cancer in the 1840s and couldn’t continue on in her work as before, the Geological Society provided additional financial support to make sure she was taken care of.
After her death, they also commemorated a stained-glass window in 1850 in her memory with the inscription:
This window is sacred to the memory of Mary Anning of this parish, who died 9 March AD 1847 and is erected by the vicar and some members of the Geological Society of London in commemoration of her usefulness in furthering the science of geology, as also of her benevolence of heart and integrity of life.
The president of the Geological Society, Henry De la Beche, would also write a eulogy for her, which stated in part,
I cannot close this notice of our losses by death without adverting to that of one, who though not placed among even the easier classes of society, but one who had to earn her daily bread by her labour, yet contributed by her talents and untiring researches in no small degree to our knowledge…
This was the first eulogy for a woman the society had ever published, and the first time such a eulogy had been given for a non-fellow.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.
Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.
1. The Battle of Kiev, 1941
The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.
Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.
How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.
Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.
2. The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.
The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.
If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.
A German soldier writes to his parents:
An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…
In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.
3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944
The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.
While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.
While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.
Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.
4. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943
The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.
The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.
The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.
Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:
The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.
In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.
5. The Battle of Berlin, 1945
The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.
As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.
Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.
Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.
The M1 Abrams tank is arguably the best in the world — there are many reasons why it dominates the battlefield. But it’s not the only vehicle to have been called the “M1.” Prior to World War II, there were two other M1s in service, and neither were anything like the Abrams. In fact, these vehicles were downright puny. That being said, these little vehicles were important in their own way.
It might not seem like the greatest lot in life, but some people leave a legacy of being an example of what not to do. That also apply to tanks and other armored vehicles — see the Soviet-era T-72 for a prime example of this, both in terms of design and operational experience. This was also the case with America’s earliest M1s.
The M1 armored car was so bad, America only bought a dozen.
The first of these vehicles was the M1 armored car. Looking at it, this vehicle lacked intimidation factor. It was best described as a funky-looking 1930s car with a turret that housed an M2 .50 caliber machine gun with two additional .30 caliber machine guns. Only about a dozen of these were built.
The vehicle only powered the rear four wheels. Even though it packed two spares, the biggest problem with this armored car was its off-road performance. As it turns out, all-wheel drive is necessary when not exclusively travelling on paved roads.
Civil War veterans inspect a M1 “combat car” at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
The other M1 was the M1 “combat car.” This ‘car’ was, in reality, much closer to a light tank, but there was a specific reason for the semantics. In the years between World Wars, cavalry was prohibited from operating tanks. So, instead, they created an “armored car” with a tank’s armaments: one M2 .50-caliber machine gun and one .30-caliber machine gun. A grand total of 113 M1s were purchased, and it hung around until 1943.
Neither of these M1s saw any combat — which was a good thing for their four-man crews. Still, these vehicles, made major contributions to the war effort by teaching America what was needed to create a truly modern armored force.
Learn more about these vehicles — and see how far armored vehicles have come in terms of design — in the video below!