The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.
Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.
The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.
Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.
The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.
The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.
There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.
Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.
Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.
What would have happened if a Marine Expeditionary Unit found themselves up against the combined strength of the Roman Empire? Encyclopedia writer and two-time “Jeopardy!” winner James Erwin, who writes on Reddit as Prufrock451, may have the answer.
Photos: US Marine Corps and Wikimedia Commons/Jan Jerszyński
Erwin wrote a series of short stories called “Rome Sweet Rome” back in 2011 that looked at the scenario day-by-day if an MEU were suddenly transported from fighting in Kabul, Afghanistan to ancient Rome.
At first the Marines, a small detachment of Air Force maintainers, some Afghan soldiers, and a few U.S. civilians are confused about what has happened to them and where they are.
As the story wears on, day-by-day, the Marines figure out what has happened. After an accidental clash between the Marines and the Roman soldiers triggers a war, the initial battle goes as most people would expect.
The Marines annihilate the first ranks of the Romans, killing 49 men and 50 horses in the first volley.
In an interview with Popular Mechanics, historian and novelist Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy said a lack of re-supply would make the tanks, helicopters, and modern weapons of the MEU useless within days. The unit simply doesn’t carry enough ammunition and fuel to fight to fight the 330,000 men of the Roman legions in 23 B.C. without strong supply lines.
Mel Gibson has returned to the director’s chair after a 10-year hiatus with the WWII epic “Hacksaw Ridge.”
The film tells the tale of real-life Army medic Desmond Doss. Torn between his conscientious objection to violence and his desire to serve his country in its time of greatest need, Doss joined the Army as a medic but refused to carry a weapon.
Despite suspicion and contempt from his fellow soldiers, Doss repeatedly braved danger and even disobeyed orders to make sure his countrymen made it home alive. Doss received the Medal of Honor for his actions, one of only three conscientious objectors to ever do so.
Gibson is no stranger to the classic American war film, having previously starred in “We Were Soldiers” and “The Patriot.” “Hacksaw Ridge” is the actor’s first directing outing since 2006’s “Apocalypto,” but that film and 1995’s “Braveheart” proved Gibson is right at home capturing epic battles on film.
“Hacksaw Ridge” is now playing in theaters nationwide. Watch the trailer below.
The M2 heavy machine gun is an iconic weapon. When it entered service over eight decades ago, the gun quickly made its mark – and a deadly reputation.
It still serves today, with some modifications to make it easier to change the barrel.
But sometimes, you need more than the 550 rounds per minute that a Ma Deuce can send downrange. The problem is, you can’t exactly put a meat chopper on a HMMWV. That said there is an option – and a cool one at that.
According to General Dynamics, the solution lies in a three-barreled Gatling gun that fires the .50 BMG cartridge — dubbed the GAU-19/B. Let’s take a look at this major piece of machinery that is just perfect for putting bad guys down for good.
GlobalSecurity.org notes that Ma Deuce plus a tripod comes to 128 pounds, 84 of which are the gun. The GAU-19 comes in at 106 pounds – so your vehicle’s adding 22 pounds. But here is what you get for those extra 22 pounds. Nearly 1,300 rounds per minute of hate, that’s what. We’re talking 236 percent more lead down range than the Ma Deuce.
Furthermore, the GAU-19 can be used on many different platforms. Need extra firepower on your Humvees? The GAU-19’s got that. Got a ship that needs a ballistic boost? This gun works on ships, too. Even aircraft can use the GAU-19 to send hundreds of rounds of death and destruction at the enemy in a matter of seconds.
What kind of rounds? Well, if the Ma Deuce can fire it, so can the GAU-19. We’re talking incendiary, armor-piercing, armor-piercing incendiary, full metal jacket, saboted light armor penetrator, and even tracer rounds.
In short, this gun can do everything Ma Deuce can, just at a higher rate of fire. And that will ruin the day of just about any bad guy.
In the 1970s, the United States Navy was looking to upgrade their amphibious warfare capabilities. The Iwo Jima-class landing platform, helicopter (LPH) vessels had proven capable, but the Navy is always on the hunt for the next step in ability.
The Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship displaced only 11,000 tons, which makes it about the size of Commencement Bay-class escort carriers that were commissioned late in World War II. It could operate helicopters, OV-10 Broncos, and even AV-8 Harriers.
But the Navy wanted something bigger and better — the answer was a new class of amphibious assault ships.
A North American Rockwell OV-10A Bronco of U.S. Marine Corps observation squadron VMO-1 takes off from the flight deck of the U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4) in 1983.
(U.S. Navy photo by PHAN Dougherty)
The lead ship of a planned nine-ship class was named in honor of the Battle of Tarawa. It was much larger than Iwo Jima-class ships, displacing nearly 40,000 tons. In addition, it was over 200 feet longer, could go two knots faster (reaching a top speed of 24 knots), and had a wider flight deck. This enabled it to operate far more helicopters, Broncos, and Harriers than its predecessors. It also had a well deck, which enabled it to operate landing craft or amphibious assault vehicles.
USS Tarawa was commissioned in 1976 and four more of the class were in service by end of 1980. Although the high inflation rates of the 1970s put a premature stop to the program, the five constructed vessels proved to be a massive leap in capability for the Marines and Navy.
The amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA 2) prepares to launch a CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Super Stallion from its flight deck during Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) integration training.
The Tarawa-class design was later used as the basis for Wasp-class amphibious assault ships, with some slight modifications, including a well deck for three LCACs, a more spacious flight deck, and less vulnerable command and control facilities.
The five Tarawa-class ships have since been retired. One is looking at a future in a museum, another was scrapped, a third was sunk as a target ship, and the remaining two are in reserves. Learn more about these ships in the video below.
On August 23, 1939, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov signed a non-aggression pact between their two countries. Contained within the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a secret protocol for the division of Poland and the Baltic states between German and Soviet “spheres of influence.”
Just eight days later, German operatives disguised as Polish saboteurs carried out a false flag operation against at German radio station at Gleiwitz. On September 1, without a formal declaration of war, German forces invaded Poland in an operation that many historians agree was the opening battle of World War II in Europe.
Polish planning did not anticipate an attack from Germany before 1942, so the Poles were still building up and modernizing their military. Without much of a defense, Warsaw relied on its British and French allies for protection in the event of an attack.
The audacity of the Nazi invasion caught everyone by surprise, and the Poles were left to fight the Germans with anything they had at hand – including World War I-era horse cavalry.
Despite the dawn of the mechanized era of warfare, the Polish army included horse-mounted cavalry based largely on its experience during the Polish-Soviet war, where it decimated Soviet lines at the Battle of Komarów. But as technology advanced, the Poles learned that cavalry could be used as mounted infantry armed with the latest weapons and able to quickly move within the battlespace. To this end, Polish cavalry carried machine guns and anti-tank rifles but still retained their sabers on the chance that they might be useful in a typical cavalry fight.
On the first day of the Nazi invasion — 77 years ago today — the Polish cavalry met the Germans at the battle of Tuchola Forest. The Germans caught the Polish army off guard and were advancing quickly through what defenses Poland could muster. In an effort to save the main Polish force, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans – a cavalry unit – were deployed to cover the retreat.
At the Tuchola Forest, the Polish cavalry spotted German infantry in a clearing. Polish commander Col. Mastalerz ordered a charge in hopes of taking the Nazis by surprise and dispersing the German unit. He ordered the 1st squadron commander, Eugeniusz Świeściak, to lead two squadrons in the charge.
Wielding modern weaponry along with their sabers, the cavalrymen surprised the Nazis and were soon in close combat. The Germans were quickly overwhelmed.
The Polish victory was short-lived. As the German infantry retreated, armored cars mounted with machine guns appeared from the woods and opened fire on the Uhlans. Caught in the open with no time to deploy their heavy weapons, the cavalrymen rushed for cover. Świeściak was killed and Mastalerz later fell to the German guns trying to rescue his comrade.
Despite suffering numerous casualties, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans completed their mission and stalled the German advance in their sector. This allowed other Polish units to fall back to a secondary defensive line. The Uhlans’ cavalry charge on horseback would be one of the last cavalry charges in history.
When reporters surveyed the battlefield the next day, they saw numerous dead horses and cavalrymen — with their sabers — and German armor still nearby. This led one Italian journalist to the incorrect conclusion that the Poles had charged German tanks with nothing but swords and lances. German propaganda quickly took this version of the story and used it as a means to convey the superiority of the German army and its technology.
The myth was then perpetuated further by the Soviets after the war to show the ineptitude of Polish commanders. The myth continued long after the war, with some Poles even retelling it as a story of the gallantry of the Polish military.
Ultimately, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans would only hold out for three more days before ceasing to exist as a fighting unit. Poland would continue to resist, though once the USSR joined the Nazi operation on September 17 to claim their portion of the country, it was all but over. Most Polish resistance was finished by the end of the month, but a brave few held out until October 6 before finally surrendering.
Many other units, as well as the Polish government, managed to escape the Nazis and take up the fight from abroad in other Allied nations. Polish troops would later return to help liberate Europe, taking part in such famous battles as Operation Market-Garden. Unfortunately, Poland would never regain most of the territory seized by the Soviet Union during 1939, greatly reducing the land area of Poland to this day.
Harley-Davidson, long a big supporter of U.S. veterans, announced that it is extending free training at its riding academy through next year for members of the military.
The program is now available to active-duty, retired, reservists and veterans. The free training was first offered earlier this year prior to Armed Forces Day aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston, S.C.
“Thousands of members of the military have learned to ride through the program so far,” Christian Walters, Harley Davidson’s managing director and an Army Special Operations Aviation officer, said in a statement this month. “We’re proud to extend this opportunity in 2016 so even more military personnel can enjoy the very freedom they protect.”
Never ridden before? No problem. As the company says “Great riders aren’t born. They’re made.”
The New Rider Course is designed to get newbies comfortable on a bike and ensure they have got the skills to get the license and start riding. The course features Harley-Davidson certified coaches who will provide expert guidance.
If a riding academy is not available in your particular area, then you can attend another certified motorcycle safety program and Harley-Davidson will reimburse you.
Deployed outside the US? Not a problem. If you’re currently abroad, then submit the form by December 31, 2016. The company will send you a voucher for free motorcycle safety training that can be used when you return home. It will be good through 2017.
The free training is part of the company’s wide ranging support for veterans. To date, Harley-Davidson has donated more than $1 million to support those who serve through fundraising initiatives, the Harley-Davidson Foundation and the Operation Personal Freedom MotorClothes collection.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.
The United Kingdom’s Royal Marines are heirs to a warfighting legacy older than the entire U.S. military.
They fought in both Gulf Wars, both World Wars, and literally dozens of other conflicts around the world since the Royal Marines were established in 1664.
The Royal Marines were first organized as a group of 1,200 land soldiers assigned to sea service in the Royal Navy. They made a name for themselves 40 years later when they seized the Gibraltar fortress alongside Dutch allies and then held that fortress against sieges for nine months.
They were instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and conducted numerous amphibious assaults throughout World War I and World War II.
It was during World War II that the Royal Marines began organizing as commandos and adopted their distinct dark green berets. Since the end of World War II, these troops have been deployed to combat every year except 1968.
To learn even more about the Royal Marines and to see footage from their exploits since 1664, watch this video from the British Royal Navy:
He’s a war strategist and a business owner, a bestselling author and an expert on mercenaries and robots. And for much of the past week, he was a major defense-conference headliner invited to share ideas with the region’s top brass as well as grunts on the ground.
New America Foundation senior fellow Peter “PW” Singer is probably best known as the co-author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” a 2015 thriller that mixes fact and future to describe how the United States, Russia, and China might battle on the ground, at sea, in the air, and throughout cyberspace.
But he’s also an international thought leader sought out for his views on espionage, technology, and politics.
In his keynote speech at the AFCEA C4ISR Symposium in San Diego, Singer shared his thoughts on “Visualizing the Future of War Through Fiction.”
But it was his time away from the conference that telegraphed his importance to the military — five briefings at local Marine and Navy facilities, including a pow wow with Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and hours observing war games off of Camp Pendleton’s Red Beach.
Based in Washington, D.C., Singer, 42, was hosted throughout the week by consulting giant Deloitte.
“It’s been exciting to see the impact the book has had,” Singer said during an interview. “It’s doubly amazing to me because I’ve written nonfiction books that have had a pretty good range of readership in the military, but nothing that compares to this. And I think it shows the evidence of what storytelling can do by dropping people into a world, into future scenarios, where they see themselves.”
It’s not the first piece of fiction to find relevance in the military.
The Martians in H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” unleashed the Heat-Ray on humanity, what today would resemble the lasers or directed energy weapons joining America’s military tool kit. Wells also predicted atom bombs and nuclear proliferation, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, and a form of communication akin to email.
In 1992, Air Force officer Charles Dunlap Jr.’s provocative essay “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012,” told in the form of a letter from Prisoner 222305759, triggered debate throughout the services about the importance of preserving traditional military-civilian relations and protecting the Constitution.
The commandant’s reading list for enlisted and officer Marines includes a dozen works of fiction, including Jim Webb’s Vietnam War classic “Fields of Fire” and Phil Klay’s”Redeployment,” poignant writing about Iraq. A pair of Singer’s books share space on the commandant’s shelf: “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution” and “Ghost Fleet,” which was co-authored by August Cole.
“Ghost Fleet” doesn’t mirror other novels on the list.
Its mix of cutting-edge technology and fast-paced plot was inspired by Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” Clancy’s novel so excited strategists and policymakers in 1986 that many feared he had divulged too many secrets about America’s revolutionary weapon systems and how they might be employed in battle.
Clancy’s fiction franchise inspired video games. Singer also has worked as a consultant on the popular “Call of Duty” series.
“Tom Clancy was a big influence on us, but the obvious difference is that in the Clancy books the technology always works perfectly,” Singer said.
“In the real world, it doesn’t. And in a lot of the science fiction I love as well, like (William) Gibson’s ‘Blade Runner,’ it doesn’t either. And that’s both because technology never works perfectly in the real world and also because there’s this thing called ‘people.’ People are working against the technology.”
“I think what we’ve done in large part expresses what people in the Navy are actually saying. And that comes from the fact that the interviews for the book were with Navy ship captains, you know? Enlisted sailors. A Marine fighter pilot. Special operations. Whatever. So when someone in the book says, ‘The Littoral Combat Ship? More like ‘Little Crappy Ship,’ that’s not us making it up. That’s someone in the Navy, in the real world, who said that.”
Phil Carter, an Army combat veteran of Iraq who now directs the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., said Singer is an essential thinker because of his unique ability to comprehend the spirit of a new age of war, where battles take place on the Internet and in dusty villages. He described the novel as catnip to commanders.
“Science fiction really has a hold on military officers in particular,” Carter said. “And Peter Singer taps into that. His nonfiction and his fiction are like a smarter, hipper version of Tom Clancy, and that really appeals to guys like me who grew up reading Tom Clancy and are now in the military living it.”
Critics grouse that “Ghost Fleet” suffers from some of the same literary problems that plagued Clancy — thin characters, wooden dialogue, and a story that turns on an unlikely event, with the authors too often sacrificing cogent analysis for a quick turn of the page.
“Peter does a great job bringing attention to very complicated issues such as the future of war, but ‘Ghost Fleet’ should be used as a point of departure on the subjects and not the last word. It helps to stimulate a more robust debate inside the services and among policymakers,” said Erin Simpson, a top national security consultant who co-hosts “Bombshell,” a hit podcast that also has excited the Beltway’s defense community.
And then there’s China. A recent review in the People’s Liberation Army’s Daily newspaper complained that Singer and Cole were trying to paint Beijing as an enemy.
“But our agenda isn’t to say that there will be such a war,” Singer said. “If there’s a political lesson from it, for geopolitics, it’s the idea that the kind of conflict (of) states fighting states was thinkable for much of the 20th century. The two world wars that happened versus the third World War, the fear of it throughout the Cold War.
“But then for the last generation, it’s been unthinkable. And now it’s thinkable once more.”
Early in June 2016, a German court found former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning guilty of 170,000 counts of accessory to murder. He was sentenced to five years in prison for his time as a guard at Auschwitz, the notorious death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
“It is my dream to be in Germany, in a German court, with German judges acknowledging the Holocaust,” Hedy Bohm, an 88-year-old Auschwitz survivor, told the Associated Press. “I am grateful and pleased by this justice after 70 years.”
Bohm wasn’t the only death camp survivor present. There were three others and a total of twelve testified throughout Hanning’s trial. One 95-year-old survivor demanded Hanning tell more young people about what happened at Auschwitz, which Hanning did not do.
Hanning joined the Hitler Youth in 1935 and then volunteered for the Waffen SS at age 18. After suffering a grenade injury fighting the Red Army in Kiev, he was sent to Auschwitz.
Former SS sergeant Oskar Groening was convicted of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder while serving at Auschwitz. His job was particularly notorious: he was in charge of confiscating the personal property or arriving prisoners and quantifying it. Like Hanning, he may not have killed anyone, but he saw the mass killings and did nothing. Unlike Hanning, Groening has taken great pains to dispel any implications that the Holocaust did not happen, making public statements. It was his activism against Holocaust denial that led to his arrest and prosecution. Groening was 93 at the time of his 2015 trial.
In 2009, 88-year-old former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk was extradited to Germany to stand trial for 27,900 counts of the same crime, for being a prison guard at the Sobibor Death Camp. Sentenced to five years, Demjanjuk died before his appeal could be heard. That wasn’t the extent of it. Demjanjuk is thought to be “Ivan the Terrible,” a former Red Army soldier and POW who worked at the Treblinka extermination camp. He was sentenced to death in Jerusalem in 1988 but that was overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court for a lack of positive identification.
In 1995, Canada pushed for the deportation of Helmut Oberlander, a 92-year-old former translator for a Nazi death squad. In 2014, 89-year-old Johann Breyer was arrested in Philadelphia, charged with being a member of the SS’ “Death’s Head” Battalion, who were tasked with gassing prisoners at Auschwitz. 94-year-old Michael Karkoc was arrested in Minneapolis for his time as an officer in the SS Galician Division, which allegedly massacred Poles and Ukrainians in 1944.
Germany has a special prosecutor’s office for Nazi war crimes. There are still many more cases the office wants to go to trial. The LA-based Wiesenthal Center, founded by Mauthausen Concentration Camp survivor and famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, is dedicated to the arrest and conviction of the following fugitive Nazi war criminals, where they are thought to be and where they committed their crimes (in parentheses):
1. Helma Kissner – Germany (Poland) – served as a radio operator in the Auschwitz death camp from April to July 1944 – charged with accessory to murder in 260,000 cases.
2. Reinhold Hanning – Germany (Poland) – served in the Auschwitz death camp from January 1943 until June 1944 – charged with accessory to murder in 170,000 cases.
3. Helmut Oberlander – Canada (Ukraine) – served in Einsatzkommando 10A (part of Einstazgruppe D, which murdered an estimated 23,000 mostly Jewish civilians.
4. HubertZafke – Germany (Poland) – served as a medic in the Auschwitz death camp during the years 1943 and 1944 – charged with accessory to murder in 3,681 cases.
5. Alfred Stark – Germany (Greece) – participated in the September 1943 mass murder of 120 Italian officers on the Greek island of Kefalonia.
6. Helmut Rasbol – Denmark (Belarus) – during the years 1942-1943 served as a guard in the Judenlager established by the Nazis in Bobruisk, Belarus, during which almost all the Jewish inmates of the camp were executed or died of the horrible physical conditions.
7. Aksel Andersen – Sweden (Belarus) – during the years 1942-1943 served as a guard in the Judenlager established by the Nazis in Bobruisk, Belarus, during which almost all the Jewish inmates of the camp were executed or died of the horrible physical conditions.
8. Johann Robert Riss – Germany (Italy) – participated in the murder of 184 civilians in Padule di Fucecchio, Italy on August 23, 1944.
9. Algimantas Dailide – Germany (Lithuania) – served in the Saugumas (Lithuanian Security Police) in Vilnius – arrested Jews and Poles who were subsequently executed by the Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators.
10. Jakob Palij – USA (Poland) – served as a guard in the Trawniki concentration camp.
The USS America was a Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier first built in the 1960s and served through the Vietnam War, Cold War clashes, and on into Desert Storm. Decommissioned in 1996, the Navy decided the ship’s best post-service use was as a target. America would help design the newest fleet of supercarriers to be even less vulnerable to enemy fire than she was.
The America did not go down easy. For four weeks the Navy hit the ship with everything they could muster, short of a nuclear weapon.
Even today, the wreck lies in one piece at the bottom of the ocean near Cape Hatteras. Despite the Navy’s best efforts, they just could not sink the indefatigable carrier. The last time any carrier was lost to battle damage in combat was in World War II, where 12 such ships were sent to the bottom after heavy fighting. The America didn’t engage in combat, but the attacking forces were out to hit her as if she had. The sinking of America was a test run for vulnerabilities in American aircraft carrier designs.
The good news is that China is going to have a really hard time doing it, even if they use an intercontinental ballistic missile. The bad news is that it’s somehow possible to sink these floating behemoths, and if done could kill up to 6,000 American sailors. Still, good luck getting close.
The wake left by America following her use as a live-fire target in 2005; the ship was used as a platform to test how the hull of large aircraft carriers would hold up against underwater attacks. Following the tests, America was scuttled, serving as a further test of the sinking of a large aircraft carrier.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Carriers traverse the waves with an entourage of submarines, cruisers, and other support craft, as well as potentially dozens of fighter and electronic warfare aircraft that would make even getting close to the carrier a nearly suicidal feat. Once in close, actually hitting the ship with any kind of accuracy is just as hard – and if you do, the chances of striking a death blow are virtually nil.
For the America, teams of scientists and military engineers targeted the ship repeatedly for a full month, both above and below the waterline using anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, and almost anything else they could think to throw at the old girl and still, she persisted. It wasn’t until a team of dedicated explosives experts boarded the ship and purposefully destroyed it that it gave way and sank to the bottom.
But even the Vietcong tried that move – and the USS Card was back up and fighting in no time. So maybe it’s just best to avoid a fight with an American carrier.
Sitting in the driver’s seat with his foot on the gas, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson drove to the Alert Tent in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1943, as jeeps carrying other pilots from the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force trailed in a column behind. On his mind were the names of other pilots who were lost in a mission the night before, friends of his with whom he had shared pancakes in the mornings and gambled his valuables away in late-night poker games. They were briefed on the mission and sat around for hours in boredom at Horanda Air Field, a large stretch of land that was formerly just another patch in the New Guinea jungle.
When Johnson and his squadron of eight P-38 Lightnings were alerted, they took to the air to intercept a massive aerial convoy of 18 dive bombers supported by 20 agile fighters. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but Johnson wasn’t entirely concerned about that as all he could focus on was reaching the enemy before they dropped their payload over Oro Bay, an advanced military shipping installation.
9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Squadron posing in front of a P-38 Lightning commemorating the first USAAF pilots to land and operate in the Philippines after the landing on Leyte, October 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
As his plane climbed through the clouds, the bombers came closer into his sights. He maneuvered his aircraft and issued orders over the radio to communicate their approach. The Japanese were unaware that they were being trailed in the air when Johnson and his squadron ambushed the enemy, walking his rounds from the nose of the aircraft into one of the dive bombers, igniting the plane’s fuselage.
Black smoke and a flash of flames burst through the plane’s side as the bomber plummeted out of the sky. The Japanese zeros peeled off, and an all-out dogfight ensued. On numerous passes, Johnson evaded the tracers shot by Japanese fighters, diving and climbing, rolling and tilting before his rounds struck and downed a second enemy bomber. Their surprise attack netted him three aerial victories, two bombers and one enemy fighter, a solid day’s work that impeded the enemy formation from reaching its target.
A P-38 Lightning prepares to land after flying a heritage flight with the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter April 3, 2016, during the Luke Air Force Base air show, 75 Years of Airpower. Photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/U. S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.
The large enemy force diverted away from their intended target as Johnson’s small but ferocious display of aerial finesse surprised and overwhelmed the Japanese. For his actions on this day he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Service Crosses. In his following tours, Johnson was a nightmare for the Japanese in the Pacific, earning 22 aerial victories with 21 probables to secure his status as a quadruple ace (five aerial victories are required to achieve “ace” status).
Sadly, while on a courier mission after the war, the B-17 or B-25 he was in entered severe weather, and a violent mixture of rain, lightning, and turbulence knocked out all radio communications. One of the passengers neglected to bring along a parachute, and knowing the consequences of giving up his own, Johnson handed it to the passenger, who then bailed out of the plane. Everyone with a parachute was rescued and survived, while Johnson fought with the controls until he perished. Accounts vary as to whether he was the pilot or a passenger on the plane.
Johnson’s remains were lost with the rest of the aircraft. Since he wasn’t on a combat mission, his heroic last act on Oct. 7, 1945, did not warrant a posthumous Purple Heart; however, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism at the risk of life in a non-combat-related incident. A hero in the sky even on his final flight. Gerald R. Johnson is sometimes confused with Gerald W. Johnson, another ace pilot during World War II, but the latter’s aerial dominance was in the European Theater and not the Pacific.
Butch O’Hare: The Irish-American Who Became the US Navy’s First Combat Ace
Called the “TEC Torch,” the compact, handheld thermal breaching tool is made up of a handle and cartridge which weigh less than a pound each. The incredibly powerful flame produced by the torch reaches temperatures around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat which can rip through steel in less than a second.
The TEC Torch was developed after Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating in war-zone environments requested a compact, lightweight, and hand-held tool which would allow them to cut through locks, bars, and other barriers, according to Air Force.
Unlike the lightsabers used by Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, this blade flame burns out after two seconds.