4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.

The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.

1. People sniffers

The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.

So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.

However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Gross dog poop. …or is it?

2. Poop

It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.

What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

An X-ray view of that same “poop.”

The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes

Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.

A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.

Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.

Now Read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear bomb

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

4. Tactical Tree Crusher

Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.

A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to search for a missing nuclear cruise missile

Russia lost a nuclear-powered missile during a failed test in 2017, and now Moscow is gearing up to go find it, according to CNBC, citing people familiar with a relevant US intelligence report.

Proudly claiming that the world will “listen to us now,” Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted in early March 2018 that his country had developed a new nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range, but each of the four tests between November 2017 and February 2018 reportedly ended in failure, according to reports from May 2018.


“The low-flying, stealth cruise missile with a nuclear warhead with a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the ability to bypass interception lines is invulnerable to all existing and future missile defense and air defense systems,” Putin claimed.

“No one in the world has anything like it,” he added.

www.youtube.com

The reports from testing don’t support the Russian president’s claims.

The longest recorded flight, according to US assessments, lasted only a little over two minutes. Flying just 22 miles, the missile spun out of control and crashed. In each case, the nuclear-powered core of the experimental cruise missile failed, preventing the weapon from achieving the indefinite flight and unlimited range the Russian president bragged about.

The tests were apparently conducted at the request of senior Kremlin officials despite the protests of Russian engineers who argued that the platform was not ready for testing. Russian media reports claim the weapon will be ready to deploy in ten years.

During one weapons test in November 2017, the missile crashed into the Barents Sea. Three ships, one with the ability to handle radioactive material, will take part in the search operations, which have yet to be officially scheduled.

Experts are concerned about the possibility that the missile may be leaking radioactive nuclear material. The missile is suspected to rely on gasoline for takeoff but switch to nuclear power once in flight.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did TurboTax use ‘military discount’ to mislead troops into paying to file their taxes?

In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.

Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.

Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came to the site emblazoned with miniature American flags.


But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)

In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used a form to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.

Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.

In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”

To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.

An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.

That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.

In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.

“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.

Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.

The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.

Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.

TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.

It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.

Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.

We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.

The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.

And that “military discount”? All of .

In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.

Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.

Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.

“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.

TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.

When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.

On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.

TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.

It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”

“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.

Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @propublica on Twitter.

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The ‘Idiot’s Loop’ was a mid-air backflip done by nuclear bombers

The biggest problem facing bomber pilots during the Cold War was the fact that they were dropping massive nuclear bombs, bombs that could easily engulf their planes in a ball of fire, killing them and their crews. 

They eventually came to rely on a maneuver called an Immelman, or “idiot’s loop,” which would allow them to drop their nuclear payload over the target while giving them an excellent chance of survival. The biggest issue with the maneuver is that it could stress the plane enough to take it down. 

Despite the danger to the fuselage, anything would be preferred over getting killed by one’s own nuclear weapons. The problem was that aircraft technology had a hard time keeping up with nuclear payload technology.

When the Enola Gay and Bockscar, both B-29 Superfortresses, dropped their atomic bombs on Japan during World War II, the pilots probably worried about their chances of survival. The payloads of the bombs, 15 kilotons for Little Boy and 21 kilotons for Fat Man, were such that Enola Gay was 11 miles away before it felt the shock wave. The crewmen said the nuclear bomb drops were just like any other bombing run for them.

With the nuclear bombs that followed, the pilots’ concern grew more and more as payloads increased. The Boeing B-47 Stratojet could fly almost twice as fast as the B-29 Superfortress, but it was dropping megaton nukes that could have mushroom clouds of fire as high as 40,000 feet and a radius of hundreds of miles. This kind of nuclear device would have completely engulfed the B-29 bombers. 

So Air Force pilots developed a tactic called a “LABS Maneuver,” or Low-Altitude Bombing System. As the name implies, the aircraft would come into the target area at a low altitude, and then quickly pull up. Then it performed the Immelman, dropping its nuclear bombs so that the trajectory of the nuclear bomb took it on a parabolic arc toward the target. 

This means the bomb would be flipped over backward, landing behind the plane as the plane itself backflipped.

The B-47 Stratojet would continue pulling up until it was at a higher altitude before rolling over. It was only possible to perform this maneuver due to the B-47’s design but it would leave cracks in the airplane’s frame and they couldn’t bear the repeated strain on the fuselage. 

nuclear bombers
The Boeing B-47 Stratojet, Strategic Air Command’s primary medium bomber, is among the aircraft participating in the current nuclear test series at the Nevada Test Site.

Also called a “toss bombing,” the LABS maneuver allowed for bombing runs that didn’t fly directly over the target. It would also have allowed bombers to hit targets that were in heavily-defended areas. Planes came in at a low altitude to avoid being tracked by enemy radar systems. 

The Stratojet also came equipped with a toss bomb computer to assist the pilots in releasing the bombs at the right time and at the correct angle. All the pilot would have to do is allow the computer to release the bomb and then make the “idiot’s loop.” The computer would release the bomb at its predetermined ballistic path. 

Some modern aircraft still have similar computers developed for the purposes of “toss bomb” runs, even without nuclear payloads. The F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon both have Fire Control Computers that will do the complex calculations required for a dive-toss release.  

Articles

VIDEO: Pentagon Wants F-15 Jets Launching Satellites Into Orbit

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Photo: DARPA.mil


The Pentagon wants to launch satellites from a fighter jet as it seeks to lower the costs of sending Defense Department satellites into space.

Also Read: Can You Identify These Jets? Take The Quiz 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is leading the project called Airborne Launch Assist Space Access, or ALASA. Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said earlier this month the agency plans to  execute the program’s first flight demonstration by the end of the year and then 12 orbital tests in 2016.

Engineers have designed a launch vehicle that can be carried under an F-15. The F-15 would carry the launch vehicle to a high enough altitude before the launch vehicle would separate from the aircraft. The vehicle would then use its own rocket boosters to leave the Earth’s atmosphere before delivering the satellite into orbit.

DARPA officials hope the program can deliver satellites under 100 pounds within 24 hours notice and for a price tag under $1 million.

The Boeing Company, which builds the F-15, is the prime contractor for ALASA.

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

Articles

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.


One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, bounces against the skin of a C-17 over the skies of Fort Benning, Georgia. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)

For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Brian Hanson, a U.S. Army Ranger, tries to keep his gear together while flapping in the wind like a dog’s jowls. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.

This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

This is a perfect example of how ridiculous boot camp is

MIGHTY HISTORY

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

On Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters disguised in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion, a large Marine Corps and British forces base and Afghan National Army training complex. Camp Bastion could accommodate some 30,000 people, so when the Taliban split into three teams to wreak havoc on the base’s interior, things could have gone very badly for the Marines.

The infiltrators made it all the way to the flight line, where their coordinated, complex attack began by targeting the Marines’ Harrier aircraft. It would be the single biggest loss of American airpower since the Vietnam War. It would also be the first time that the maintainers and pilots of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) operated as riflemen since World War II.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

A video released later showed the attackers dressed for the assault.

The fighting began at 10pm local time with one Taliban team engaging the flight line personnel, another targeting the refueling area, and a third focusing on destroying aircraft using explosives and RPGs. It was an aircraft explosion that signaled the start of the attack.

Within minutes, six Harriers were burning on the tarmac, the Marine helicopter area was surrounded by fires, and the cryogenics and fuel pit areas were on fire as small arms crackled and tracers lit up the night sky. The Taliban brought everything from hand grenades to heavy machine guns and caught the Marines completely off guard.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s memorial.

Marines scrambled to protective barriers as RPGs exploded around the flight line. They initially believed it was an attack of opportunity from outside the base — a random, lucky hit from rockets or mortars. But after ten explosions, one every ten seconds, it was clear that this was more than a few lucky shots. The Troops in Contact alarm began to sound. They called in the British quick reaction force, but they were on the other side of the base and the Marines would have to hold their own until they arrived.

The Marines quickly moved to don their flak jackets and retrieve their rifles. The Taliban weren’t going to stop at the aircraft. They fired RPGs at the building that housed Marine workstations while another hit a building that contained the medical section. An anti-personnel RPG killed the commander of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, before he could organize a defense. Shrapnel from one of the RPGs lodged in his neck as he was leading a crew full of mechanics and maintainers out into the night as a rifle unit.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

By this time, every Marine was operating as a rifleman. Weapons and ammo were doled out to anyone without one and Marines began taking up their fields of fire. The air wing was a total, confusing mess as the fuel bladders blew up, temporarily turning the night into day.

A Huey aircraft commander and two enlisted Marines were the ones who brought the weapons to the flight line area. They went to check on the entry control point and began to take fire from the cryogenics area. A Huey crew chief manned an M240 to suppress the enemy fire.

At the same time, Marines were struggling to get remaining aircraft in the air to provide close-air support. All they could muster was two Hueys and a Cobra, but the Marines managed to get them ready to fly in the midst of the confusing, intense attack. Thick smoke, burning ordnance, and enemy fire loomed as flight line Marines took up defensive positions to cover the helicopters’ takeoff.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

One of the Harrier jets destroyed in the raid.

When the helicopters were airborne, things changed quickly on the ground. They told the JTAC to concentrate fire toward the enemy position in the cryogenics facility. When the southern wall of that building lit up with tracers, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter peppered the building with 20mm rounds and UH-1V Venom Hueys tore through it with 300 .50-cal rounds while a gunner on the ground hit it with 600 rounds from a GAU-17.

After the aerial hit, the British quick reaction force arrived and cleared out the infiltrating Taliban in the cryogenics facility with 40mm grenade launchers. That left four Taliban hiding in the T-walls near the flight line. As Marines on the ground attempted to converge on the remaining Taliban attackers, guns from the helicopters eliminated the last of the threat.

When the smoke cleared, two Marines, Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, had been killed. Allied wounded numbered 17, six Harriers were completely destroyed, and another two were damaged, along with an Air Force C-130E. Three fuel bladders and a few sunshade hangars were also destroyed. All but one of the attacking Taliban fighters were killed in action. The attack caused some 0 million in damages.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, left, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant were forced to retire just one year after the raid.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The story doesn’t end there. The Marine Corps wanted to know how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters were able to get onto the base in the first place. It turned out the commander of Bastion, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, reduced the number of Marines patrolling the base of 30,000 from 325 to 100 just one month before the attack, leaving the base guarded by troops from Tonga. He and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant were forced to retire in the days following the incident. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said the two failed to accurately assess the strength and capabilities of the enemy in the area and failed to protect their troops.


Sturdevant was the Marine aviation commander of the base and was blamed for inadequate force protection measures on the flight line area that night. The two Marines who went to check the entry control point found it unmanned before they started taking fire from the cryogenics facility. Meanwhile, the British review of the attack found that only 11 of 24 guard towers were manned that night. Both generals retired with fully pay and benefits.

Later, it would be revealed that the attackers spent months posing as poppy farmers, probing the base defenses and testing reactions from perimeter guards. They were able to map out the base, its defenses, its fuel farms, and the airfield. They were even trying to target Prince Harry, who was stationed on the base at that time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happened to the USS Constitution’s original guns

If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.

In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.

(USS Constitution Museum Collection)

USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.

The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.

It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.

In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.

The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 amazing missions by Britain’s Royal Marines

Britain is one of America’s closest allies and its service members are pretty impressive. One of its greatest forces is the Royal Marines, now known as commandos, who have fought on behalf of the British Crown since their original formation as the “Duke of York and Albany’s maritime regiment of Foot” in 1664.


Since then, they’ve proven themselves in hundreds of battles and dozens of conflicts everywhere from Massachusetts to Korea to the Falklands. Here are some defining moments from Royal Marine Commando history:

1. The Royal Marines carved out their names during the battle to take and hold the island fortress of Gibraltar.

 

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
(Painting: The Siege and Relief of Gibraltar by John Copley)

 

In 1704, during the War of Spanish Succession, a combined force of 1,900 English Royal Marines and 400 Dutch marines hit the island fortress of Gibraltar in what was the largest English amphibious assault at that point in history. A large and unexplained explosion set the attackers back but the fortress was taken with relative ease.

Unfortunately, that triggered a nine-month siege, during which the marines fought valiantly. During one close call, French attackers had breached two defensive lines and had 500 men attacking 17 Royal Marines in the Round Tower. The marines held out even after 11 of them fell, leaving only six defenders.

2. Royal Marines slay bodies at Bunker Hill

 

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
The American dying in the center of this painting is American Maj. Gen. Joseph Warren. The stabber with the bayonet was a Royal Marine. Awkward. (Painting: John Trumbull, Public Domain)

 

One of the Royal Marines’ prouder moments actually came in 1775 while fighting against the U.S. when British army regulars twice attacked during the Battle of Bunker Hill and failed to capture it. As the army melted back, the marine commander yelled, “Make way for the marines, break and let the marines through!”

The third assault, conducted by columns of marines instead of lines of British regulars, was successful and resulted in the British capturing the fortifications. But the losses for the regulars and the marines were high: 1,054 versus American losses of 400.

3. They give up half their strength to take Graspan in the Boer War

 

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Illustration of the Battle of Graspan where royal Marines fought Boers. (Illustration: Public Domain)

 

Tensions between the English and the Boers in the late 1800s resulted in two Boer Wars. In 1899, Royal Marines and other troops were sent to attack Graspan in South Africa. Intelligence screw ups led the leadership to believe that the attack would be lightly opposed.

But it wasn’t. Boer riflemen and field artillery fiercely fought off the attackers. Despite heavy losses to include the commander and other officers, the marines and their compatriots rallied for a final attack and charged with their bayonets against the Boer positions, pushing the defenders off though failing to capture the enemy artillery.

4. Marines are instrumental in blocking Zeebrugge

 

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Royal Marines charge off the HMS Vindictive against the Mole at Zeebrugge, Belgium. (Painting: Imperial War Museums Art)

 

During World War I, the Royal Marines provided the landing parties and some of the gunners for a daring raid against the German U-Boats in Bruges. The plan called for ships to be sunk in the long canal from Bruges to the English Channel, but someone had to fight pitched battles against the German defenders on the coast to make it possible.

Yup, Royal Marines volunteered. They landed on the port’s mole with a specially modified ship, the HMS Vindictive. The marines and sailors landed on April 23, 1918, and wrought absolute havoc with machine guns and rifles, naval artillery, and flamethrowers.

Eight Victoria crosses were awarded to sailors and marines for their actions that night.

5. The commandos capture an entire port as well as bridges and towns on D-Day

 

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Royal Marine Commandos move inland from Sword Beach on the Normandy coast on June 6, 1944. (Photo: Capt. J.L. Evans, Imperial War Museums)

 

The Royal Marines, by this point known as (RM) Commandos, were obviously a big deal at one of history’s largest amphibious assaults. Five units landed on D-Day where their biggest job was capturing Port-en-Bessin between Gold and Sword beaches, an objective the 47 (RM) Commando completed on July 8.

The four other commando units hit targets at Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches. Two units were deployed against a gap between British and Canadian units, holding back German panzers that might have otherwise counterattacked and thrown off the invading forces.

6. Commandos capture an entire island to open a Belgian port

Walcharen was an island on the coast of Amsterdam in 1944, and Germans occupying it were making logistics challenging for Allies fighting their way to Berlin. So, the Royal Marines teamed up with Canada for Operation Infatuate, a week-long attack against the island.

The air forces breached the walls of Walcharen before the commandos landed, allowing sea water to rush in and flood most of the island. The English and Canadians fought viciously against the artillery and infantry that remained, inflicting heavy casualties while suffering their own losses until the German leadership surrendered on Nov. 8, 1944.

7. Commandos capture Port Said from Egypt

 

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
British helicopters deliver Royal Commandos to Egypt on Nov. 6, 1956, in history’s first heliborne assault. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

 

Operation Musketeer was an honest-to-God conspiracy between Israel, Britain, and France to ouster Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Britain’s main goal was to regain control of the Suez Canal, a strategic asset nationalized by Nasser. The plan was for Israel to initiate a conflict with Egypt. France and Britain would mediate unacceptable terms, and then they would invade.

The role of Royal Commandos was to seize Port Said through the first ship-to-shore heliborne assault in history. The two commando units involved were also backed up by a small number of tanks and armored vehicles. Their mission was successful and almost achieved its objective on the first day, but orders from Nasser kept, leading to the commandos capturing the local Egyptian commander and his staff.

Ultimately, the commandos did amazing work but political condemnation for the mission stripped France and England of most of their gains.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is starting its own community college

Education will be a key part of maintaining America’s might upon the sea, Navy officials said Feb. 12, 2019, as they unveiled their comprehensive look at education in the service.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer signed a memorandum that will lead to the establishment of a Naval University System that will help develop America’s ultimate competitive advantage: the minds of its service members.

The memo is an outgrowth of the Education for Seapower Study — the first comprehensive “top to bottom” look at Navy education in 100 years.


The effort looks to maintain America’s lead in military affairs.

Protecting competitive advantage

The impact of education can be huge. Education will lead to America’s competitive advantage, Navy officials said. Technology — as good as it is — can only go so far if the people operating it do not understand the implications.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Vice Adm. Timothy “T.J.” White, commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet, delivers a lecture to midshipmen in Alumni Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Souvannason)

“The last remaining advantage that we have will be our minds,” Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly said during an interview. “We have to make sure we are getting the best people and that we are training them and educating them to be agile and adaptable so they can deal with uncertainty in a better way.”

The effort will go from the deckplates to the flag and general officer ranks, with the service establishing a Naval Community College system and putting in requirements for masters degrees in strategic studies for all unrestricted line flag and general officers.

The memo calls for the service to have a chief learning officer — a senior executive service civilian — in place by June 2019. That person will develop the education strategy by December 2019. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, is reorganizing the Naval Staff to create the position of director of warfighting development.

Building an educational system

The creation of the Naval Community College is first on the agenda and there could be people in the program by 2020, officials said.

Spencer called for the review when he first came into office in 2018. He was concerned that the Navy, because of the operational requirements, was not getting the right people, the right education for their position.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Thomas B. Modly, undersecretary of the Navy, and Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, Naval War College president, listen to a presenter at the “Breaking the Mold; A Workshop on War and Strategy in the 21st Century,” held in Newport, R.I., March 7, 2018.

(Navy photo by Edwin L. Wriston)

Panel members looked at the Marine Corps University and the Army and Air Force equivalents in forming the recommendations.

Part of this effort is to consider the way delivery methods for education have changed over time. The service has to get the mix of distance education and in-residence time right. The Navy has people all over the world and it will be a huge advantage for them to be a part of this, officials said.

The Navy and Marine Corps have world-class faculty in their institutions and the rest of the fleet needs to be exposed to them, Navy officials said. Distance learning gives sailors and Marines the opportunity to learn from them.

Tailored education

The Navy wants the system to be tailored to the way the force fights, officials said. The U.S. military is a joint force and the Navy and Marine Corps cannot be separate from the Army and Air Force, officials said.

The panel consulted with Army and Air Force in setting up the system, because “frankly the Army and the Air Force have been doing a much better job of putting a high value on education,” officials said. “We took a lot of lessons from the way they are structured and addressing it to inform this study.”

A large part of the effort is establishing a Navy community college system. The idea is to get sailors and Marines have educational programs delivered to them wherever they are. This will develop into a system that will be a mix of online learning and at schools to fulfill the needs of the individuals and the services.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s version of the GAU-8 Avenger’s BRRRRRT

When ground troops need a little extra firepower to get out of a jam, there’s no more comforting sound than the distinctive BRRRRRT that comes from the GAU-8 Avenger. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Avenger is the seven-barreled wonder carried by the U.S. Air Force’s much loved A-10 Thunderbolt II. 

gau-8

Firing a deadly barrage of 30mm rounds at high velocity was such a good idea, it’s no wonder other countries’ armed forces have an Avenger-like weapon of their own. But the cannon American ground troops should care most about is Russia’s BЯЯЯЯЯT: the Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-6-30. 

There are a handful of important differences between the two weapons platforms. If their rate of fire and muzzle velocity are what floats your boat (and maybe sinks the enemy’s boat), then the Avenger has the Gryazev-Shipunov beat, hands down. The Russian weapon system has only six barrels, where the American has seven, and the hydraulic-electric BRRRRRT is a hybrid that no one is going to make fun of. 

Russia’s big gun also comes with a few heavy drawbacks, the most important being that the aircraft firing the gun can actually be damaged while using it. With a weapon as powerful as the GAU-8, American defense contractor Fairchild Republic actually designed the A-10’s airframe around the gun. Taking out a friendly aircraft to provide close-air support to soldiers on the ground seems counterproductive, right?

Though firing the cannon can affect the Thunderbolt’s airspeed, it doesn’t cause any actual harm. It’s not expected to be a supersonic fighter jet, it needs to go slower to perform its CAS mission. There’s nothing wrong with how it operates now, except for maybe making the A-10 a slightly easier target for troops on the ground to take shots at, but that’s why they uparmored the slow beast, making it into a flying tank. There’s a reason it was nicknamed the “Warthog.”

This is not so for its Russian counterpart. Built by the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s, the Gryazev-Shipunov was not built to have an airplane designed around it. It was added as the primary gun for the MiG-27D “Flogger,” extending outward from the bottom of the fuselage. This positioning allowed the plane to absorb its recoil more efficiently but would vibrate the cockpit to an uncomfortable degree and create a lot of noise.

The vibrations would eventually cause cracks throughout the airframe, including important parts like the landing gear, avionics, and fuel tanks. Firing the gun would even destroy the lights MiG pilots used for landing at night. More serious vibrations caused by the Gryazev-Shipunov would damage gunsights, instrument panels, and could even cause the cockpit canopy to break. 

A weapon like this has probably damaged more Soviet MiGs than any American fighter aircraft ever did throughout the Cold War. 

MiG-27Ds with the Gryazev-Shipunov were used for the same missions as the A-10 Thunderbolt II, air-to-ground close-air-support missions. But where the nose-mounted GAU-8 Avenger can hit a target with relative precision, the Gryazev-Shipunov fires its bursts all over creation – the kill zone is a 200-meter radius around the actual target. 

The Russian BЯЯЯЯЯT isn’t used on any aircraft currently operated by the Russian Federation, but it was still used in the Kashtan close-in weapons systems used by the Russian Navy as recently as 2017. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines will soon get these new night-vision goggles

Marines will have better situational awareness on missions in dark areas thanks to new night-vision goggles.

The Binocular Night Vision Goggle II, or BNVG II, is a helmet-mounted binocular that gives operators improved depth perception at night, and uses white phosphor image intensification technology to amplify ambient light, with a modular thermal imaging overlay capability. BNVG II helps Marines identify potential buried explosive devices, find hidden objects in foliated areas and safely conduct tasks that require depth perception.

Marine Corps Systems Command began fielding the BNVG II to force reconnaissance and explosive ordnance disposal Marines this spring, and full operational capability is planned for early 2019.


The BNVG II includes a binocular night-vision device and a clip-on thermal imager, or COTI. The BNVD amplifies the small amount of existing light emitted by stars, the moon’s glow or other ambient light sources and uses the light to clearly display objects in detail in very dark conditions. The COTI uses heat energy from the Marine’s surroundings to add a thermal overlay that allows the image to be viewed more clearly, helping Marines with situational awareness in conditions with little to no light.

Enhanced Vision

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Kishawn Tucker peers through night vision binoculars.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)

“The BNVG II helps Marines see enemies at a distance, and uses the COTI to detect ordnance or power sources for an explosive device that gives off heat,” said Nia Cherry, an infantry weapons program analyst. “The COTI intensifies Marines’ ability to see anything in dark conditions, rain, fog, dust, smoke and through bushes that the legacy binoculars couldn’t.”

The BNVG II is a follow-on to the legacy, battle-proven AN/PVS-15 binocular, but offers more features, such as the COTI, for increased survivability. The BNVD component is a compact, lightweight, third-generation, dual-tube night -vision goggle with an ergonomic, low-profile design. It offers superior situational awareness compared to the AN/PVS-15 used by reconnaissance Marines and the single-tube AN/PVS-14 monocular night-vision device used throughout the rest of the Marine Corps, officials said. It mounts to the enhanced combat helmet and may be used individually or in conjunction with the COTI.

“In March 2018, we held an exercise in San Diego where Marines provided positive feedback on their ability to easily maneuver with the goggles,” said Joe Blackstone, optics team lead in infantry weapons. “The depth perception provided by the BNVG II enhances precision and increases the operator’s survivability while on missions with limited lighting.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Kiss Army is now really helping defend America

The 2019 government shutdown is going on for so long, federal employees are about to miss their second paycheck. There are a group of crucial, dedicated employees who are showing up to work every day because their job is just that important – the Transportation Security Administration.


These people have to go to the airport every day and put up with thousands of people who hate them. Now they’re not even getting paid.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

I apologize for all the fitness standards jokes I made countless times, TSA.

While it’s true that a record number of TSA personnel are calling in sick, there are still enough of them showing up to work unpaid to keep America’s airport flowing throughout the shutdown. This, to me, is an amazing feat and one that should not go unrecognized. The good news is that someone is recognizing this dedication to service: KISS.

Yes, the 1970s arena rock legends KISS, the Demon, the Starchild, the Spaceman, and the Catman – also known as Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

You might have heard of them.

Whether you like their music or not, KISS is one of the best-selling bands of all time and they lead a rabid, dedicated nation of die-hard KISS fans, known as the KISS Army. KISS and its legions of fans are known to be able to accomplish almost anything through sheer force of will – the KISS Army was founded to ensure KISS songs were played on the radio during the band’s early years. The band itself has always supported the U.S. military and those who defend the United States.

Over the years, the band has been dedicated to hiring military veterans, supporting the effort known as Hiring our Heroes, offering military discounts for their shows and appearances, and even visiting veterans hospitals to buy vets lunches and cars. Now the commanders of the KISS Army are turning to help TSA members in their time of need.

Two members of KISS, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, helped found the Rock Brews restaurant chain back in 2012. The two rockers took to facebook to announce that their restaurants would be serving free meals to furlough TSA employees for as long as the government shutdown continues. All they have to do is find a standalone Rock Brews, and they can choose from one of two meals.

“They touch our lives daily, and as long as they are working without pay, the least we can do is provide them with a delicious meal to show our support,” says frontman Gene Simmons.

Choosing between one or two free meals may not seem like much, but going without pay for two cycles can really put a strain on a family’s food budget. If every restaurant could give a little, America’s first line of defense just might make it through this.

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