The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

When you think about turrets, you likely think about the big ones. Like those on Iowa-class battleships that hold three 16-inch guns, or even the twin five-inch mounts found on cruisers, destroyers, and carriers. Well, in this case, you’d be thinking too big.


Toward the end of World War II, the Navy was deploying a unique turret meant for the legendary PT boats. The purpose was to make them even more lethal than they proved to be in the Philippines and the Solomons.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II
This version of the Elco Thunderbolt had four 20mm Oerlikon cannon and two M2 heavy machine guns. (U.S. Navy photo)

PT boats had become more than just a means of torpedoing enemy ships. By the end of the Solomons campaign, they were being used to attack barges — not with torpedoes, but with a lot of gunfire. Field modifications soon gave PT boats more powerful weapons, but there was a problem: PT boats didn’t have a ton of space.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II
This early Thunderbolt had six M2 heavy machine guns and two 20mm Oerlikon cannon. (Photo from National Archives)

The solution to that problem was an electric turret called the Elco Thunderbolt. Elco was one of two companies that made the fast and lethal PT boats (the other was Higgins — yes, the makers of a crucial landing craft made PT boats as well). In addition to making PT boats even more lethal, this new turret would help a number of ships add firepower and reduce manpower.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II
A PT boat off New Guinea. Operations in the Solomons lead to a push for more firepower. (U.S. Navy photo)

One early version of this turret featured two Oerlikon 20mm cannon and six M2 heavy machine guns. Other mixes were tested, including four Oerlikon cannon and two M2s or just the four Oerlikons. No matter the loadout, though, these turrets only required one person to send a huge wall of lead at an incoming enemy.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Brian Norman defends the ship with a Mark 38 .25mm machine gun supported by the phone talker, Torpedoeman’s Mate 2nd Class Edwin Holland during a small boat training exercise aboard the guided missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jeremie Kerns.)

By the time the war ended, the turret found its onto PT boats and some of the older battleships. Afterwards, it faded into history. Today, the Navy uses somewhat similar mounts for the Mk 38 Bushmaster, a 25mm chain gun. Still, the Thunderbolt showed some very interesting possibilities during its brief, but potent lifespan.

MIGHTY SPORTS

7 fat-burning workouts that aren’t boring

For some guys, the structure and routine of hitting the gym is exactly what they need to keep their fitness on track. For others, it’s a slog. The space is dark, the treadmills relentless, and the music mind-numbing. You’d rather be outside, shooting hoops with your boys. Which, actually, you should be, since a pick-up game of basketball burns more calories and builds more muscles than any 30-minute session on the elliptical ever could.

If sports excite you more than spin class, and the idea of scoring points matters more than how much you can bench press, consider these activities that emphasize team spirit and gamesmanship while getting you, incidentally, super fit.


The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Christopher Burns)

1. Tennis

At 600 calories an hour, you’ll definitely be feeling the burn as you channel your inner Nadal. What’s more, the lateral movements — something your body is not used to — strengthens your glutes, quads, calves, and core, while mastering your stroke is excellent for developing ripped shoulder and arm muscles.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Edoardo Busti)

2. Soccer

A sneaky way to disguise a running workout, you’ll benefit from exercising with your buddies on soft turf. Few activities tax the lungs and heart the way running does, so you’ll reap the benefits of a monster aerobic workout while still honing your coordination and motor skills. The sport burns about 300 calories for every 30 minutes of field time.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown)

3. Basketball

The quintessential pickup basketball game is so popular because it is both exceptionally simple (you just need a ball and hoop), and also enticingly precise (the satisfaction of hitting a three-pointer is hard to beat). The calorie burn is on par with tennis (roughly 600 an hour), but the rhythmic agility and closer physical contact of b-ball means you work a little more on balance and flexibility.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Elizeu Dias)

4. Volleyball

There are indoor leagues where you can play in a gymnasium in the winter, but nothing beats beach volleyball for that emotional, summer-is-finally-here high. (You don’t have to live at the beach either, New York City has large courts in the middle of Central Park.) You’ll burn around 400 calories an hour in this spirited game, developing shoulder and arm muscles, eye-hand coordination, and explosive power from your jump shots, all the while protecting your bones by landing on soft sand.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Jose Francisco Morales)

5. Baseball and Softball

Team camaraderie rules this sport, so if socializing is an important carrot for getting you to exercise, consider spending an hour or two, a few nights a week, in the dugout with your buds, swapping jokes and de-stressing while building a solid fitness base. The on-off nature of the sport means you burn fewer calories (around 350 per hour), but you’ll get moderate cardio from running the bases, and reasonable upper-body strength from working on your swing.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Josh Rocklage)

6. Ultimate Frisbee

No longer the pastime of overgrown collegiates, ultimate frisbee is a legit sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee. More importantly, it is a game on nonstop running, leaping, reaching, and throwing. This full-body workout burns about 500 calories an hour, while developing reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and some serious tumbling skills.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Riley McCullough)

7. Football

Strength, explosiveness, mental toughness and a desire to be pummeled by large men are at the core of this sport. In rec leagues, the physical contact is often moderated (see: flag football), so if you’re looking for the adrenalin rush minus the bruising, know which rules you’re playing by before you sign up. While calorie burn varies significantly depending on the position your play, you’ll definitely benefit from an increase in strength, flexibility, and range of motion through warm-up drills and stretches.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a future president avoided being eaten by cannibals

A U.S. Navy pilot was shot down after making bombing runs over the tiny island of Chichijima during WWII. He and nine fellow naval aviators had to evade their Japanese enemy. Only one managed to successfully avoid capture — and even then, it was all by luck.


It was 20-year-old Lt. George H.W. Bush.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II
Lt. George Bush making notes before an air sortie in WWII.

For his book Flyboys, James Bradley tracked down and researched official files and records from war crimes tribunals after the war. The fate of the other eight pilots, as he discovered, was absolutely horrifying.

Bush and his wingmen encountered intense anti-aircraft fire over their targets. Bush’s airplane was hit by flak before catching fire. He dropped his bomb load over the target, but was forced to abandon his Avenger Torpedo Bomber.

Related: The Navy’s baddest pilot in World War II isn’t who you think

Like many prisoners of the Japanese, the captured men were tortured and killed using sharpened bamboo or bayonets. Many were beheaded. Unlike many prisoners of the Japanese, however, four of the Navy pilots were slaughtered by their captors, who then had surgeons cut out their livers and thigh muscles — and then prepare the meat for Japanese officers.

Surgeons removed a four-inch by 12-inch piece of thigh, weighing six pounds. According to those Japanese survivors who were on the island, it was prepared with soy sauce and vegetables, then washed down with hot sake.

The future President Bush was further from the island when he bailed out of his aircraft. Floating in the water for four hours, he was protected from Japanese boats by American planes before being rescued by the USS Finback, a submarine that surfaced right in front of him.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II
Future President and then-Lt. George H. W. Bush is rescued by the USS Finback.

Bush didn’t know any of this until around 2003.

“There was a lot of head-shaking, a lot of silence,” author James Bradley told The Telegraph. “There was no disgust, shock, or horror. He’s a veteran of a different generation.”

While aboard the Finback, he assisted in the rescue of other downed pilots. He was aboard for a month before returning to his berthing on the USS San Jacinto. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation during his WWII service.

Bush, now 93, is the longest-living ex-President of the United States ever.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Army plans to ditch its transport fleet

The legend about the Army having more boats than the Navy hasn’t been true since World War II, but the Army’s fleet of about 130 ships support combat and logistical operations around the world, especially in inhospitable or underdeveloped environments.

According to several reports, the Army plans to scuttle much of its boat fleet and reassign the soldiers manning them.


At least 18 of the Army’s more than 30 landing craft utility — versatile, 174-foot-long workhorses capable of carrying 500 tons of cargo — will be sold or transferred, and eight Army Reserve watercraft units that train soldiers and maintain dozens of watercraft are to be closed, as first reported by maritime website gCaptain.

An Army memo obtained by gCaptain said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau [Army Watercraft Systems] capabilities and/or supporting structure.”

Plans to ditch the aging fleet come amid warnings about the US military’s lack of transport capacity and as the Pentagon’s focus shifts to a potential fight against a more sophisticated adversary, like Russia or China.

Below, you can see what the Army’s large but relatively unknown fleet does and why it may not be doing it much longer.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

US Army Logistics Support Vessel-5, Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross, capable of carrying up to 2,000 tons of cargo, arrives at a port in the Persian Gulf for the Iron Union 17-4 exercise in the United Arab Emirates, Sept. 10, 2017.

(US Army photo Staff Sgt. Jennifer Milnes)

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet includes eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.

Source: The War Zone

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for the construction of 36 modern landing craft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light).

Source: Defense News

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

US Army vessels participating in a Logistics-over-the Shore mission at Shuaiba port in Kuwait, June 24, 2018.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Charlotte Reavis)

Army watercraft “expand commanders’ movement and maneuver options in support of unified land operations,” the service says. Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or degraded ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.

Source: US Army

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

Waves crash over US Army Vessel Churubusco on the Persian Gulf, during training exercise Operation Spartan Mariner, Jan. 9, 2013.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Johnston)

“When higher echelons receive something like redeployment orders, they will not be restricted in their ability to just travel by land or air. They will also understand the Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.

Source: US Army

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) approaches a slip at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

Despite what the Army’s watercraft bring to the fight, the service thinks it can do without them. In June 2018, Army Secretary Mark Esper ordered the divestment of “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget. At that time, Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

“The Army is assessing its watercraft program to improve readiness, modernize the force and reallocate resources,” Army spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas told Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

A Humvee towing a M777A2 155 mm howitzer boards the USAV Lt. Gen. William B. Bunker (LSV-4) at Waipio Point, Hawaii, June 3, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon)

The Army would be ditching its boats at a record pace. Most units picked for deactivation are identified two to five years in advance.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

The Military Sealift Command Vessel Gem State transfers a container to the US Army watercraft Logistics Support Vessel 5 (LSV-5) Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross during an in-stream cargo transfer exercise in the Persian Gulf, June 13, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“What makes this situation different than other in-activations is the short notification, the number of units and positions identified, and the unique equipment and capability being in-activated,” according to notes accompanying a PowerPoint presentation dated January 8, obtained by Stars and Stripes.

Source: Stars and Stripes

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The deactivations and unit closures laid out in the slides would affect at least 746 positions. Recruitment and training of Army mariners would also be put on hold until a final decision is made about the service’s watercraft. Decisions about what, where, and how to cut are still being made.

Source: Stars and Stripes, Army Times

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The Army Reserve oversees much of the service’s marine force, managing about one-quarter of the fleet. The memo seen by gCaptain said soldiers now in the maritime field would be “assessed into units where they can best serve the needs of the Army Reserve while also being gainfully employed.”

Some of the boats currently managed by the Reserve component could be reassigned to the active-duty forces. Others could be decommissioned, stripped of military markings, and sold off.

Source: Stars and Stripes, gCaptain

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

More than 30 Army mariners embarked on a multi-day transport mission aboard the Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

Staff Sgt. Yohannes Page, a watercraft operator, makes an adjustment on a sensor on a component of the Harbormaster Command and Control Center at Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story, May 15, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by 1st Sgt. Angele Ringo)

At the end of 2018, the Army’s logistics staff told Congress that declining sealift capacity — exacerbated the aging of transport vessels — could create “unacceptable risk in force projection” within five years if the Navy doesn’t take action.

Source: Defense News

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

US Army Spc. Kayla Pfertsh fires an M2 machine gun at an inflatable target known as a killer tomato during a sea-based gunnery range aboard Logistics Support Vessel 5, Jan. 24, 2017

(US Army photo by Sgt. Jeremy Bratt)

“The Army’s ability to project military power influences adversaries’ risk calculations,” the Army G-4 document said, according to Defense News, which described it as “reflect[ing] the Army’s growing impatience with the Navy’s efforts to recapitalize its surge sealift ships.”

Source: Defense News

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

Watercraft operator Sgt. Rebecca Sheriff fires at a target in the Pacific Ocean during a waterborne range aboard Logistics Support Vehicle-2, about 40 miles south of Pearl Harbor, Oct. 4, 2017.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers)

But even if the sealift fleet were fully stocked and trained, many of its ships, which are tasked with transporting gear for the Army and Marine Corps, can’t unload in underdeveloped or contested ports and waterways, particularly areas where enemies could attack or project force.

Source: Army Times

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a Logistics Support Vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.

(US Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

“My fear is the Army doesn’t understand what we have or what we’re getting rid of,” Michael Carr, a retired Army Reserve mariner and author of the gCaptain report, told Stars and Stripes. “I am concerned the Army will have to respond to something in Southeast Asia or South America, somewhere with hostile shores or underdeveloped ports, and we will need this capability and we won’t have it.”

Source: Army Times

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are some of the best drinks to make this Father’s Day

Despite the ongoing cocktail revolution taking place in bars across the country, most innovations in the world of mixed drinks took place before your grandfather was old enough to drink. For this reason, most of today’s cocktails are simply riffs or variations on the classics. Below are five such cocktails, as well as modern day updates presented by Sother Teague, New York City barman, recent Wine Enthusiast Magazine Mixologist of the Year and author of I’m Just Here for the Drinks. This Father’s Day, make one or three for the dad on your list — even if that dad is you.


The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Flickr / Sam Howzit)

1. The Old Fashioned and The Campfire Old Fashioned

A classic that’s name comes from the repeated request to have a cocktail made the way folks used to, the Old Fashioned is a pure presentation of the spirit/water/ sugar/bitters format that defined early cocktails. As such, it’s also easy to modify to your own tastes, as in this variation meant to evoke the experience of sipping whiskey by a campfire — something all dads deserve, but don’t all have time to enjoy.

Classic: The Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • Dash Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz rye
  • Spoon demerara or cane syrup
  • Lemon twist

Directions: Add first three ingredients to an Old Fashioned glass. Add a large lump of ice and gently stir to combine. Garnish with lemon twist.

New riff: The Campfire Old Fashioned

Ingredients:

  • Dash Angostura bitters
  • Dash Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub
  • 1.5 tsp of cane syrup
  • .25 oz peated scotch
  • .75 oz rye
  • .75 oz bourbon

Directions: Add ingredients to an Old-Fashioned glass. Add a large lump of ice and gently stir to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

2. The Negroni and The Secret Service

A classic with origins in Italy or Senegal depending on whom you ask, the Negroni is traditionally made with equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and London Dry gin. Sother prefers double dose of gin to keep it punchy as the ice starts to melt, and his riff on the cocktail, the Secret Service, packs a wallop as well. It has notes of cinnamon and cocoa and is suitable for presidents or dads who always told you you could be commander-in-chief someday.

Classic: The Negroni

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 oz London Dry gin

Directions: Build all ingredients in a rocks glass. Add one large format ice cube. Stir to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

New riff: The Secret Service

Ingredients:

  • 2 dashes mole bitters
  • 1.5oz Plymouth gin
  • .75 oz Maurin Quina
  • .75 oz Ancho Reyes

Directions: Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass and add plenty of ice. Stir to chill and dilute. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

(Photo by Brianna Santellan)

3. The Margarita and The Retox

Among the most popular cocktails ever created, it’s hard to screw up a margarita, though if that were your aim you could start by buying that cheap mix they sell at your local grocery store. If an exemplary version is what you’re after, always opt for fresh lime juice, a better than average triple sec, and the best tequila you can afford. Sother’s riff on the classic marg is the Retox, which, as it’s name suggests, takes inspiration from the Master Cleanse. What better way to toast the health of dear old dad?

Classic: The Margarita

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz Cointreau
  • 2 oz blanco tequila

Directions: Rim half a double rocks glass with kosher salt. Combine ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake to chill and dilute. Strain and serve over ice in salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

New riff: The Retox

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 slices of fresh jalapeno
  • .75 oz grade B maple syrup
  • .5 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz reposado tequila
  • Kosher salt for rim

Directions: Muddle jalapéno in base of tin, add syrup, lemon and tequila. Shake vigorously with ice. Double strain (to remove any pepper bits) into a half-salted rim glass of fresh ice. Garnish with lemon slice.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

4. The Suffering Bastard and The Suffering Fools

Concocted by a chemist in Cairo as a specific for British soldiers dealing with both Nazis and hangovers during World War II, the Suffering Bastard features both gin and bourbon for a crisp cocktail that’s as bracing as it is refreshing. Sother’s take on this classic from the era of the Greatest Generation relies on Cognac from our allies in France and adds a touch of pineapple shrub for a Pacific Theater feel. Drink one with your war buff father-in-law, or after an assault from your own growing army.

Classic: The Suffering Bastard

Ingredients:

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 oz Bourbon
  • 1 oz London Dry gin
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • Ginger ale

Directions: Combine first four ingredients in a Highball glass. Add ice and gently stir. Pour ginger ale down the spiral of a bar spoon to fill. Garnish with a lime twist.

New riff: The Suffering Fools

Ingredients:

  • 1 dashes Angostura bitters
  • .5 oz pineapple shrub
  • .5 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz London Dry gin
  • 1 oz Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
  • Ginger beer

Directions: Combine first five ingredients in a Highball glass. Add ice and gently stir. Pour ginger beer down the spiral of a bar spoon to fill. Garnish with candied ginger

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

5. The Vieux Carre and The Guatemalan Square

Created at the historic Hotel Monteleone in the late ’30s by New Orleans great Walter Bergeron, this split-spirit Manhattan by way of the Big Easy is slightly more complex than the other cocktails presented here but is absolutely worth the effort. Sother’s riff swaps out the Cognac for Guatemalan rum for a cocktail swirling with notes of fresh orange, vanilla and dark chocolate. Both drinks are aces, and as close to a vacation as you can get without hopping on a plane.

Classic: The Vieux Carre

Ingredients:

  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
  • .5 tsp Benedictine
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .75 oz rye
  • .75 oz Cognac

Directions: Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice and stir. Strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a cherry.

New riff: The Guatemalan Square

Ingredients:

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • .25 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
  • .5 oz Carpano Antica
  • .5 oz Rittenhouse rye
  • 1 oz Zacapa 23 Rum


Directions: Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass to chill and combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Hiroshima and Nagasaki are safe, but Chernobyl isn’t

On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, U.S. airmen dropped the nuclear bombs Little Boy and Fat Man on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On April 26, 1986, the number four reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine exploded.

Today, over 1.6 million people live and seem to be thriving in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, yet the Chernobyl exclusion zone, a 30 square kilometer area surrounding the plant, remains relatively uninhabited. Here’s why.


Fat Man and Little Boy

Dropped by the Enola Gay on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Little Boy was a uranium-fueled bomb about 10 feet long and just over two feet across, that held 140 pounds of uranium and weighed nearly 10,000 pounds.

When he exploded as planned nearly 2000 feet above Hiroshima, about two pounds of uranium underwent nuclear fission as it released nearly 16 kilotons of explosive force. Since Hiroshima was on a plain, Little Boy caused immense damage. Estimates vary but it is believed that approximately 70,000 people were killed and an equal number were injured on that day, and nearly 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed. Since then, approximately 1,900 people, or about 0.5% of the post-bombing population, are believed to have died from cancers attributable to Little Boy’s radiation release.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

A mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima.

Little Boy

Squat and round, Fat Man, so named for its resemblance to Kasper Gutman from The Maltese Falcon, was dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. About two pounds of Fat Man’s 14 pounds of plutonium fissioned when it detonated about 1,650 feet above Nagasaki, releasing 21 kilotons of explosive force. Because the bomb exploded in a valley, much of the city was protected from the blast. Nonetheless, it is estimated that between 45,000 and 70,000 died immediately, and another 75,000 were injured. No data on subsequent cancer deaths attributable to radiation exposure from the bomb is readily available.

Chernobyl

Sadly, Chernobyl was likely preventable and, like other nuclear plant accidents, the result of decision-makers’ hubris and bad policy that encouraged shoddy practice.

The design of the reactors at Chernobyl was significantly flawed. First, it had a “built-in instability.” When it came, this instability created a vicious cycle, where the coolant would decrease while the reactions (and heat) increased; with less and less coolant, it became increasingly difficult to control the reactions. Second, rather than having a top-notch containment structure consisting of a steel liner plate and post-tensioning and conventional steel reinforced concrete, at Chernobyl they only used heavy concrete.

On April 26, 1986, engineers wanted to run a test of how long electrical turbines powered by the reactor would continue operating when the reactor was no longer producing power. To get the experiment to work, they had to disable many of the reactor’s safety systems. This included turning off most automatic safety controls and removing ever more control rods (which absorb neutrons and limit the reaction). In fact by the end of the test, only 6 of the reactor’s 205 control rods remained in the fuel.

As they ran the experiment, less cooling water entered the reactor, and what was there began to turn to steam. As less coolant was available, the reaction increased to dangerous levels. To counteract this, the operators tried to reinsert the remaining control rods. Sadly, the rods also had a design flaw in the graphite tips. This resulted in the displacement of the coolant before the reaction could be brought under control. In a nutshell, as these tips displaced the coolant, within seconds the reaction actually increased drastically due to the heat, creating even more steam, and thus getting rid of more coolant.

This might have not been so bad had the control rods been able to be inserted fully to perform their function of absorbing neutrons and thus slowing the reaction, except the heat became so intense, that some of the graphite rods fractured, jamming the rods at about one third of the way in.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

A mockup of the Fat Man nuclear device.

Fat Man

So, in the end, when the nearly 200 graphite tips were inserted into the fuel, reactivity increased rapidly, rather than slowed as was supposed to happen, and the whole thing blew up. It is estimated that about seven to ten tons of nuclear fuel were released and at least 28 people died directly as a result of the explosion.

It is further estimated that over 90,000 square miles of land was seriously contaminated with the worst effects being felt in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. However, radiation quickly spread in the wind and affected wide swaths of the northern hemisphere and Europe, including England, Scotland and Wales.

Hard data on the number of people who died as a result of the radioactive release are difficult to find. It is known that of the 100 people exposed to super high radiation levels immediately after the accident, 47 are now deceased. Additionally, it has been reported that thyroid disease skyrocketed in those countries closest to Chernobyl; by 2005, 7,000 cases of thyroid cancer were recorded in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

Radiation contamination

Most experts agree that the areas in the 30 kilometer Chernobyl exclusion zone are terribly contaminated with radioactive isotopes like caesium-137, strontium-90 and iodine-131, and, therefore, are unsafe for human habitation. Yet neither Nagasaki nor Hiroshima suffer these conditions. This difference is attributable to three factors: (1) the Chernobyl reactor had a lot more nuclear fuel; (2) that was much more efficiently used in reactions; and (3) the whole mess exploded at ground level. Consider:

Amount

Little Boy had around 140 pounds of uranium, Fat Man contained about 14 pounds of plutonium and reactor number four had about 180 tons of nuclear fuel.

Reaction efficiency

Only about two pounds of Little Boy’s uranium actually reacted. Likewise only about two pounds Fat Man’s plutonium underwent nuclear fission. However, at Chernobyl, at least seven tons of nuclear fuel escaped into the atmosphere; in addition, because the nuclear fuel melted, volatile radioisotopes were released including 100% of its xenon and krypton, 50% of its radioactive iodine and between 20-40% of its cesium.

Location

Both Fat Man and Little Boy were detonated in mid-air, hundreds of feet above the Earth’s surface. As a result, the radioactive debris was taken aloft and dispersed by the mushroom cloud rather than being drilled into the earth. On the other hand, when reactor number four melted down at ground level, the soil underwent neutron activation, where the already active neutrons in the burning fuel reacted with the soil causing it to become radioactive.

Uncertain future

Lately, some weird reports have been coming from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – wild animals have returned, and, for the most part, they seem fine. Moose, deer, beaver, wild boar, otter, badger, horses, elk, ducks, swans, storks and more are now being hunted by bears, lynx and packs of wolves, all of which look physically normal (but test high for radioactive contamination). In fact, even early effects of mutations in plants, including malformations and even glowing are now mostly limited to the five most-contaminated places.

Although not everyone is ready to agree that Chernobyl is proof that nature can heal herself, scientists agree that studying the unique ecosystem, and how certain species appear to be thriving, has produced data that will ultimately help our understanding of long term radiation effects. For example, wheat seeds taken from the site shortly after the accident produced mutations that continue to this day, yet soybeans grown near the reactor in 2009 seem to have adapted to the higher radiation. Similarly, migrant birds, like barn swallows, seem to struggle more with the radiation in the zone than resident species. As one expert explained, they’re studying the zone’s flora and fauna to learn the answer to a simple question: “Are we more like barn swallows or soybeans?

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What it was like to be raided by the Vikings

They were some of the most feared and lethal warriors of their time, Scandinavian raiders who were experts in navigation and mobility, armed with iron weapons and advanced tactics, who would bear down on other European settlements for loot and pillage. Vikings were terrifying for all those not protected by high walls or standing armies.


For victims of these raids, death could come quickly and with little warning. The Vikings would raid deep inland by taking their longboats upriver, meaning that death could always be lurking just around the next bend. Towns on the coast were more likely to be raided, but they could at least see ships approaching on the horizon.

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Viking shield walls provided plenty of defense while allowing the raiders to use their swords, spears, and axes over the top.

(Wyrdlight.com, CC BY 3.0)

Since Vikings could barrel down at around 10-11 knots, though, that only gave them an hour of warning, Not long enough to marshal a defending force, but long enough to crap yourself once or twice and maybe say a few confessions.

Smart victims would then cower and hide, allowing the village to be plundered without resistance or they might even drag valuables out and buy off the Vikings. This might sound like cowardice, but the Vikings were professional raiders who worked hard to ensure that they had the upper hand, partially through reconnaissance.

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The Battle of Stiklestad was fought between Norse kingdoms.

(Peter Nicolai Arbo)

Yeah, by the time you saw the Vikings, they probably already had a whole dossier on you, complete with whatever it is you did with those kind ladies in the expensive inn.

The Vikings actually took plenty of time to conduct quiet observation when they could before a raid, making sure there weren’t a bunch of enemy warriors that happened to be in town. Once they were sure it was just you and a few farmers and craftsmen around, they would launch their attack, keeping their men in tight formation and eradicating serious resistance before it could prepare.

This was made all the easier for the Vikings by how they organized their forces, employing ranged and melee attacks. Yeah, the Vikings basically had a combined arms team. They rarely had cavalry, though.

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Re-enactors pour off of a longboat during a simulated raid.

(YouTube/Grimfrost)

Viking raiders carried personal weapons and weapons provided by their magnate, a sort of chieftain. Younger and poorer raiders would usually carry an ax from home or a hunting spear, weapons made with mostly wood and a little iron. Shields, made of wood, were easy to get as well. Bows were relatively rare, but available.

Richer or more established raiders were likely to carry a sword and might even have chain mail or other iron armor, making them extremely challenging to kill for startled farmers in England or France.

Archers and spear men would engage any brave defenders as soon as they got into range, and swordsmen and raiders equipped with axes would charge forward with shields for protection.

So, yeah, unless the Vikings stumbled into a fight with the king’s army because of some bad intel gathering, they were going to win. Every once in a while, they’d do something bold like besiege Paris, and even then they’d usually win, because, again, great intelligence and professional are raiders are typically victorious.

MIGHTY SPORTS

A college lacrosse team wants to raise money while helping troops

“Remember everyone deployed” isn’t just a catchphrase for the Maryville University Men’s Lacrosse Team. It might seem counterintuitive for a team that wants to raise money for its upcoming season to spend part of that money on another good cause, but that’s just one more reason Maryville University athletes are known as the Saints.


Maryville, a small, private university just 22 miles from St. Louis, Mo., is one of the best-run colleges financially, known for making their dollars go far. This frugality means the students in its athletic programs need to raise a little money on their own to make their seasons a reality.

This is no problem for the men’s lacrosse team. They started a crowdfunding project to get the money they need, but the reward for their hard work is more than just a third season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. With money raised, they intend to send care packages to US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every $100 raised, they will send out a gift to the men and women overseas.

As of this writing, the team has raised just shy of 20 percent of their ,000 goal. This means that, so far, they’re set t send out 19 care packages to U.S. troops with another just around the corner. And this isn’t the first year of their patriotic efforts. Last year’s crowdfunded lacrosse team-care package effort saw 52 care packages shipped overseas from the Maryville Saints.

The Saints are accepting donations in any amount – and look forward to doubling their output from last year. What’s really great about their efforts is that the Saints don’t just give when raising money, they can be found at the St. Louis VA year round, donating their time and effort to veterans.

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The Maryville University Saints Lacrosse team at the St. Louis, Mo. VA hospital on Veterans Day, 2018.

(Maryville University Lacrosse Twitter)

The NCAA Division II school crowdfunds many of its athletic programs. The Swimming and Diving team, the Women’s Bowling team, and even the Men’s Basketball team all crowdfund their programs through the Maryville University site — and the campaigns don’t require offering rewards to donors, like many crowdfunding websites.

Only the Men’s Lacrosse team gives something back in exchange for their good fortune — and it’s purely because they want to give to American troops. For some of these lacrosse players, playing university sports is akin to being part of a family, something to which deployed military members can certainly relate.

I enjoy being at Maryville University because it’s like my second home,” said lacrosse player Darrius Davenport. “We are brothers with an unbreakable bond.”

Donate to the Maryville Saints Men’s Lacrosse Team by clicking this link.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New restaurant options are coming to Army and Air Force Bases

Panda Express and Muscle Maker Grill are among the new restaurants coming to Air Force and Army bases in 2019, officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) told Military.com.

AAFES manages restaurant contracts on Army and Air Force bases, including deals with familiar brands such as Subway and Starbucks. Other restaurants, like P.F. Chang’s, currently at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and coming soon to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are contracted by base morale and welfare officials.


On-base food fans will get a break from Burger King and Taco Bell, as officials open a variety of new options and expand others.

Chinese fast-food restaurant Panda Express will open this year at Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Travis Air Force Base, California, AAFES officials said.

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Panda Express.

(Flickr photo by Rick Obst)

Healthy menu-focused Muscle Maker Grill will open additional locations at Benning; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; and, according to the company’s website, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Qdoba, which opened on several bases last year, including Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort Stewart, Georgia, will add more military locations.

While a Change.org petition to bring Chick-fil-A to bases continues to circulate and had collected nearly 88,000 signatures as of this writing, AAFES officials declined to comment on whether the restaurant will make an on-base appearance.

AAFES officials said they also will be bringing in a few less well known restaurant chains.

Chopz, a fast-food outlet that offers healthy options focused on salads, subs, burritos and wraps, will open at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, they said. And Slim Chickens, a fast-food chain primarily located in Texas and Oklahoma, will open locations at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Hood, Texas, later in 2019, they added.

Troops, military families and veterans can stay on top of military discounts, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Worst Roman emperors, from incompetent to insane

Ancient Rome is credited with major contributions to modern day language, religion, law, art, and government. Indeed, the Roman Empire was filled with breathtaking architecture and an intricate and fascinating socio-economic culture. But it was also full of drama.

Most people know at least a few key facts about Julius Caesar and his infamous assassination on the Ides of March. But as the Roman Republic crumbled with him and the Roman Empire rose in its place, the rulers that came after him were no less controversial. Extravagance, executions, and extreme religious persecution stand at the forefront of many Roman emperor’s legacies. And that’s not mentioning the sex scandals.

So here’s a list of the absolute worst Roman emperors, in order from the mildly incompetent to the devastatingly unstable.

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Diocletian, 284-305 CE

Emperor Diocletian deserves some credit, as his rule marked the end of the Crisis of the Third Century. His governmental reforms are cited as being one of the main contributors to the Roman Empire’s longevity for the next millennium. Diocletian regained control over a wild military force, suppressed enemy threats along the Empire’s borders, and revised the tax system in a broken economy.

However, he’s also credited with one of the most brutal attempts to purge Christianity in history, which definitely resides in the “cons” column. Diocletian revoked the legal rights of Christians, trying to encourage his citizens back to a more traditional worship of the old Roman gods. He razed churches and destroyed religious scriptures, and went even further to prohibit Christian’s from even gathering to worship. After a suspicious fire within the imperial palace, Diocletian’s belief in a Christian conspiracy led to a spree of scourging, torture, and beheading.

In 305 CE, after becoming greatly weakened by a severe illness, Diocletian resigned from his rule, passing the torch to someone with the strength to bear the Empire’s burdens. The first person to willingly abdicate from the role, the former Emperor spent the rest of his days tending a vegetable garden—sounds like a pretty fulfilling retirement.

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Elagabalus, 218-222 CE

Elagabalus became Emperor at the tender age of 14, kicking off a reign that would be known for sex scandals and religious controversy—not exactly the sort of things you expect from someone fresh out of puberty.

Emperor Elagabalus started out in life as a high priest serving the Syrian sun god he shared a name with. When he came to rule over Rome, his devotion to the god drove him to try and elevate him to the same status as Jupiter, a move which greatly displeased the Empire. He even insisted upon marrying a Vestal Virgin, Aquilia Severa, which was in direct opposition to not only Roman tradition, but to the law.

On the more salacious side, it’s said that Elagabalus prostituted himself throughout the palace. He was married to five different women, and took on countless lovers of all sexes. He sent servants out into the city to procure lovers for him, and even opened the imperial baths up to the public to enjoy the spectacle of watching others bathe.

Some historians say that Elagabalus might have been one of the first transgender historical figures, offering large amounts of money to any physician who would be able to successfully administer gender reassignment surgery. This was regarded as wholly scandalous by the people of Rome, casting him in a negative light he couldn’t hope to overcome.

Elagabalus’s general incompetence on the throne led to the devaluation of the Roman currency. Showing his immaturity further, he began appointing lovers to crucial political positions. So while history tends to be unfavorable towards him for his personal choices, it does seem likely that he was unfit as an emperor mostly due to the fact that he was a literal child.

The Emperor’s youth did him no favors in the end, however. At 18 years old, Elagabalus and his eccentric behavior were brought to an end by the Praetorian Guard. After Elagabalus stripped his cousin’s titles and wealth, the Guard, who much preferred said cousin, rebelled against Elagabalus, killing both him and his mother in the violence.

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Tiberius, 13-37 CE

There were plenty of things that Emperor Tiberius did right. He avoided needless and financially draining military campaigns and instead relied heavily on diplomacy. He reinforced the borders of the Empire. He even kept the Empire’s treasury generously stocked.

However, Tiberius never really wanted to rule as emperor, and that was very apparent. He left many responsibilities to the Senate and was otherwise distant and reclusive. He left Rome in the middle of his reign—a decision widely regarded as the worst one he could possibly make—and opened himself up to a reputation fully up to interpretation.

Whether these claims are rooted in truth or based fully in fabrication is impossible to know at this point, but either way, Tiberius was hated enough to get tongues wagging with the most vicious of talk. During his stay on the island of Capri, Tiberius was accused of flinging people off of cliffs for minor slights and engaging in disturbing sexual acts with very young boys. While that doesn’t have very much to do with governing an empire, it’s pretty much the last thing you want out of a ruler.

Tiberius earned a reputation as a bloodthirsty emperor after a mess grew out of a man named Sejanus making a grab for power. Sejanus tried to set himself up as Tiberius’s next heir by assassinating Tiberius’s son. Tiberius, of course, called for the death of not only Sejanus, but of those who were associated with him—including his children.

It seems likely, too, that much of his bad reputation comes from his connection to Caligula, who you’ll hear much more of later.

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Caracalla, 211-217 CE

For the first 13 years of his reign, Caracalla ruled as a co-emperor alongside first his father, Septimius Severus, and then his brother, Geta. In 211 CE, he had his brother assassinated by the loyal members of his Praetorian Guard. Not satisfied, Caracalla went a step further to slaughter most of his brother’s supporters as well. In a further act of insult, Caracalla removed Geta’s image from paintings, coins, and statues, struck him from record, and made it an actual crime to utter his name.

On top of being generally regarded as a tyrannical and cruel emperor, Caracalla wasn’t all that effective in other aspects of his rule. He put into effect an edict which declared all free inhabitants of the Empire to be official citizens… so he could collect taxes from a wider base of people. He depleted much of the Empire’s funds trying to keep his army happy and often engaged in ruthless and unnecessary military campaigns.

Caracalla had an obsession with Alexander the Great, and in a fit of erratic behavior went on to persecute those philosophers of the Aristotelian school based solely off the legend that Aristotle poisoned Alexander. His behavior only got worse when, after discovering a play mocking him in the city of Alexandria, he dispatched his troops to massacre, loot, and plunder the city.

In 217 AD, Caracalla was stabbed to death by a defected soldier—an almost ironic end, considering his adoration for his own army.

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Maximinus Thrax, 235-238 CE

Emperor Maximinus Thrax was a very large man, and he was also largely hated. In direct contrast to Emperor Diocletian, he’s often considered to be the ruler who caused the Crisis of the Third Century. He brought Rome to near ruin with his exhaustive military campaigns, overextending his soldiers by dispatching them to multiple fronts at once.

His distrust and distaste for anyone apart from his army did him no favors and caused social instability. Maximinus even had members of his own family put to death. He was a man who preferred to rule by conquest rather than favor and became known for wrecking public property and setting fires to any village he passed through.

His short three-year rule ended in 238 CE, when members of the Imperial Roman army assassinated him alongside his son and advisors.

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Nero, 54-68 CE

Nero’s 14-year reign had some significant successes, including the negotiation of peace with the Parthian Empire and the quelling of Boudica’s revolt. While the upper class considered him overly extravagant and undignified, the lower classes of Rome actually had a strong positive opinion towards their ruler. This was true despite the fact that some of his methods leaned toward tyrannical madness. Seeing as he was only 16 years old when he took the throne, that’s not all that surprising—adolescence is hard.

In the beginning of his reign, Nero’s rule was closely guided by his mother, Agrippina the Younger, much as she had orchestrated Nero’s rise as emperor. Agrippina married his great-uncle and previous emperor, Claudius, and arranged for Nero to marry his new stepsister, Octavia. By 59 CE, an unexplained falling out caused Nero to order his troops to have her killed. This wouldn’t be the last time he organized a death.

In 62 CE, Nero divorced Octavia, citing that she was incapable of producing an heir. When his subjects looked negatively at this decision, he had Octavia exiled. Not long after that—either to further change public opinion or to solidify his claim to the throne—he accused her of adultery and had her put to death. His second wife, Poppaea Sabina, died in 65 CE. Some writers of ancient times say that Nero was responsible for this death, too, though others disagree.

Nero’s legacy as a madman is most closely tied to the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE, which completely destroyed three of Rome’s 14 districts, leaving another seven heavily damaged. Many myths surround the terrible tragedy which killed hundreds of citizens, including the dramatically evil story of Nero fiddling as Rome fell to ashes.

In actuality, the fiddle wasn’t even in existence at the time. While some classical sources cite that Nero was on the roof of his palace singing from “The Sack of Ilium,” others place him dozens of miles away from the flames.

While it’s impossible to know the truth of the fire’s origins, many people blamed Nero directly for the destruction. It was believed that he was intentionally making way for a new city aesthetic. Whether out of genuine belief or a desperate attempt at scapegoating, Nero blamed the fire on followers of the growing Christian religion.

Nero set out to cruelly persecute the Christians, implementing an array of creative tortures and deaths, including wrapping them in animal skins to be torn apart by dogs.

After that, Nero’s rule started to crumble. Reconstruction efforts had stretched the Roman currency thin, and Nero’s indecision in dealing with further revolts caused widespread instability. In 68, his Praetorian Guard renounced their loyalty and declared Nero an enemy of the people. In one last dramatic flair, Nero committed suicide before he could be executed.

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Caligula, 37-41 CE

There aren’t many reliable surviving accounts of Caligula’s reign. Even if the myriad stories surrounding him are fabrications, he’d have to be pretty unpopular to generate that kind of libel in the first place.

To be fair, Caligula had a bit of a rough start in life. He was the sole survivor after his entire family perished either in imprisonment or directly at the hands of Emperor Tiberius. He was then taken in by the emperor and indulged in all of his worst whims, until Tiberius passed and Caligula took to the throne at 25 years old.

In the first six months of his rule, things actually went pretty well. He cut unfair taxes, recalled those sentenced to exile, and granted military bonuses to soldiers. However, after a strange illness overtook him, his recovery was shrouded in a madness that gave way to sadistic and perverse tendencies. He became known for uttering the phrase, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.”

Any perceived mockery from his subjects was met with the punishment of death. In fact, in his infinite paranoia, Caligula began sending those closest to him off to exile or death—including his adopted son. His cruelty led to him gaining a sense of satisfaction out of making parents watch as their children were killed.

His arrogance rose to new heights as he declared that he was an actual living god. Caligula even had the heads of statues of gods and goddesses replaced with his own.

Further accounts of his insanity include throwing an entire section of a gladiatorial audience into the arena to be eaten by beasts for his own amusement, planning to appoint his horse as a consul, and turning the palace into a veritable brothel.

Caligula was assassinated by the Praetorian Guard after only four years as emperor. The man was so hated by the Senate that they even rallied to have him erased from the record of Roman history. Thanks to this campaign, it remains unclear to this day what is fact and what is fiction in the Caligulan reign.

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Commodus, 180-192 CE

Commodus was appointed as a co-ruler by his father, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, in 177 CE. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 CE, leaving his narcissistic and self-indulgent son as the sole Emperor of Rome.

Because Caligula couldn’t be the only one to have all the fun, Commodus also thought himself to be a god, referring to himself as Hercules reborn and forcing others to follow suit. He swanned around the city in lion skins and participated in gladiatorial events—an act in which was considered scandalous for a ruler to partake.

What’s worse: He often chose to compete against weak soldiers who were sickly or maimed from the war, sometimes tying two of them together to club them to death with a single strike. To add insult to the already grave injury, he also exorbitantly charged Rome for his arena appearances.

Commodus’s self-love knew no bounds. He changed the calendar months to reflect his own self-bestowed epithets. He shamelessly exiled and executed his wife and proudly kept a harem of hundreds. He forced his advisors to take the fall for political blunders and had entire families slaughtered on suspicion of conspiracy.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fun facts about countries with biggest US military bases

Not including the Middle East, there were more than 225,000 U.S. military personnel stationed abroad last year. A military career is a great way to learn about different cultures. You’ll also learn some pretty cool (and sometimes strange) things about life in other countries. Here are some interesting facts about some of the countries with large U.S. military populations:


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(Marine Corps Photo)

South Korea

Camp Humphreys is America’s largest overseas base, and it’s located in South Korea. But did you know that South Korea is also home to the world’s best airport? Incheon International Airport has consistently been ranked the best in the world. It has lush gardens, saunas, an ice skating rink, free showers and free massage chairs. It even has craft areas where you can create traditional bags and fans. It’s pretty much a tourist destination in and of itself.

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(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy)

Germany

It’s good to be a kid in Germany. In a tradition dating back to the 1800s, every first grader gets a giant cone filled with toys and candy. Today, some kids even get cell phones and video games. When you make it through school, you’ll also get an entirely free college education. But don’t count on standing out among your classmates for your unusual name; the government has a say over what parents name their children, and they reject strange names (including ones where the gender is not obvious).

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Japan

Japan is the vending machine capital of the world. In fact, every street in Japan has at least one vending machine (for a total of over 5 million in the country). Umbrella vending machines are helpful when it rains (versus in New York, where you’ll have to grab one from a street vendor). Forgot your tie for work? Buy one in a vending machine. You can buy every kind of food imaginable—including vegetables. There are even vending machines entirely for bananas. And here’s one Americans will love – there are toilet paper vending machines in Japan too.

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(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

Italy

The Italians take their ice cream (gelato) very seriously. In fact, there is an even an entire university dedicated to studying it and making it. It’s called Gelato University, near Bologna, and it attracts both Italians and non-Italians wanting to learn the secrets behind making this revered dessert.

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(US Army Photo by Sgt. M Benjamin Gable)

Kuwait

Kuwait isn’t a popular tourist destination, but if you do find yourself there, look for Sadu woven textiles. This craft goes back to the country’s nomadic peoples – even though most of the country’s population today are expatriates. Symbolism in the weaving shows the desert landscape and commemorates the nomadic lifestyle.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael Battles/Released)

Turkey

Turkey is the right place if you’ve come to shop. It has one of the world’s largest and biggest shopping centers, called the Grand Bazaar, which dates back to the 1400s. It includes over 3,000 shops taking up over 60 streets. Many of the shops sell traditional Turkish items like ceramics, lamps, spices, rugs, jewelry, and tea.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside one of Iran’s insane assassination plots

On June 30, 2018, Rudy Giuliani was set to speak at an annual conference in France, organized by Iranian expatriates, opposed to the regime in Tehran. Intelligence agents from the Islamic Republic were planning to blow up part of that conference.

European security agencies were tipped off on the June 30th plot by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. They managed to thwart the attack just in time.


France and other European countries are trying to salvage their parts of the U.S.-scrapped Iranian Nuclear Agreement. The discovery of an Iranian terror plot on French soil might upend the whole effort, according to the Wall Street Journal, in a week that saw another foiled Iranian plot against expatriate dissidents, this time in Denmark.

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The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Iran is targeting a group known as MEK, Mujahedin-e Khalq, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. The group’s stated goal is the overthrowing of the Islamic regime in Iran and the establishment of its own form of government. The MEK has been an active political player in Iran since 1965 but fled during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, like others who were vying for power after the abdication of the Shah.

The group has promoted the ouster of the Ayatollah and the regime in Iran ever since. This gets MEK a lot of attention from Iranian intelligence services.

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“Daniel” aka Assadollah Assadi.

(RFE/RL)

Amir Saadouni left Iran some ten years ago and was granted asylum in Belgium as a member of MEK. Shortly after arriving, he met Nasimeh Naami, the woman that would soon be his wife. It wasn’t long before Assdouni was approached by a man calling himself “Daniel,” who worked for Iranian intelligence.

“Daniel” was really Assadollah Assadi, Third Counselor at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. His agency took orders directly from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and he wanted Saadouni to spy on MEK for Iran. Assadi offered thousands of Euros for the information he wanted — he also promised to make life hard for Saadouni’s family in Iran if he didn’t help.

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Amir Saadouni, 38 years old, waving the Iranian flag of the MEK.

Saadouni agreed, of course. For years, he attended MEK meetings around Europe and reported his findings back to “Daniel.” Assadi would grill Saadouni about the meetings, even revealing information that he could only get from having other spies in the MEK. But the money was good and Saadouni’s family was safe. That’s when things took a turn.

The Iranian agent ordered Saadouni and his wife to become regular visitors at MEK meetings outside Paris, ones who regularly hosted anti-Iranian speakers. One day, “Daniel” wanted more than information. He wanted Saadouni’s wife to carry a makeup pouch containing explosives to one of the meetings and set it off there.

Investigators told the press the explosive was little more than a firecracker. It would make a loud noise but was unlikely to hurt anyone. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called it a false flag attack designed to end cooperation between Iran and Europe.

Saadouni and his wife were arrested in Brussels, along with Assadollah Assadi and one other, noted as an accomplice to Assadi. This is the first instance of an Iranian diplomat being directly linked to any kind of attack in Europe. Two Iranian dissidents were killed in 2015 in the Netherlands which resulted in the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats, but Dutch authorities have yet to charge anyone.

Assadi was recently extradited to Belgium to face potential charges related to the bombing plot.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52H is finally getting new radar-system upgrades

Top defense contractors are competing to give America’s longest-serving bomber a big-time upgrade to its onboard sensors to improve the aircraft’s lethality in combat.

The radars on US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are old and haven’t been updated since the 1980s.

To keep these decades-old aircraft fighting into the foreseeable future, the Air Force is pursuing new advanced radar systems that can unlock the full fighting capabilities of the older bombers, allowing them to eliminate ground targets, as well as take on non-traditional combat roles, such as taking out ships at sea and engaging in aerial combat.


Northrop Grumman, a major US defense contractor, is currently pushing to replace the B-52 bomber’s outdated AN/APQ-166 radars with its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, Inside Defense reported Feb. 26, 2019.

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A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

The SABR system pitched for the B-52 is the same as that being installed on Air Force F-16s. Northrop Grumman has an enhanced SABR variant for the B-1B Lancer as well.

Also in the running to provide improved radar systems for the B-52, Raytheon is pulling radar capabilities from the F-15’s APG-63(v)3 and APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars and the APG-79 on the Super Hornets and Growlers, according to an earlier statement from the company.

The US Air Force is determined to see the 60-year-old bombers wage war for at least a century, so the heavy, long-range bombers are receiving a variety of upgrades to extend their length of service. Improvements include an upgraded weapons rack for smart munitions, new engines, and a new radar system, among other things.

Northrop Grumman submitted a proposal this week to Boeing, which is handling source selection for the radar upgrades for the Air Force.

The company states its SABR system “leverages [the] proven, fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar capabilities of the AN/APG-77 on the F-22 Raptor and the AN/APG-81 on the F-35 Lightning II.”

Incorporating AESA radar capabilities into the B-52’s sensor suite would be a big deal, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway explains, noting that an advanced radar system like Northrop Grumman’s SABR could improve targeting, surveillance, and situational awareness.

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

A B-52 taking off from Tinker AFB.

The upgrade would allow the bomber’s six-man crew to simultaneously engage ground and naval targets in all weather conditions and at greater distances, target enemies using advanced electronic attack capabilities, and even engage in air-to-air combat if necessary.

With these enhanced capabilities and the B-52’s ability to carry a large arsenal of weaponry into battle, the aircraft will be better prepared to fight in contested anti-access zones and defend friendly forces.

China and Russia, both of which are locked in military competition with the US, have been pursuing standoff capabilities to create anti-access/area-denial environments, and the US military is working hard to counter emerging challenges to American operations by developing its own standoff capabilities.

For instance, during 2018’s Valiant Shield exercises, B-52 bombers practiced dropping new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) naval mine. The bombers can lay devastating mine fields from 50 miles away.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also competing to replace the AN/APG-73 radar systems on older-model F/A-18 Hornets, with Northrop offering the SABR system and Raytheon offering its APG-79, according to Inside Defense.

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

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