This was the Union Army's air force during the Civil War - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

If you thought that air warfare was reserved for a time after airplanes were invented, you thought wrong. During the American Civil War, the Union troops used hot air balloons to spy on Confederate troops.

The idea to use balloons was the brainchild of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, and Joseph Henry, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. They suggested that the military should create the balloon corps under the command of Thaddeus Lowe to do some “aerial reconnaissance” for the Union.


On June 17, 1861, Lowe demonstrated his balloon in front of President Abraham Lincoln. He went up to the lofty height of 500 feet and flew the balloon the short distance between the Washington Mall to where the National Air and Space Museum now stands. Lincoln had doubtless seen hot air balloons do such things at fairs for years; what made this journey special was that the balloon was hooked up to a cable that linked an air bound Lowe to the War Department.

In the first air-to-ground communication in America, Lowe sent the following telegram to Lincoln from his balloon: “The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb scene…”

Soon after, Lincoln wrote to General Winfield Scott about Lowe’s abilities. However, when Lowe presented himself to the general, he found that Scott was less than impressed. Lincoln ultimately had to personally intervene to get the general to accept Lowe into the ranks.

In August 1861, the first army balloon was constructed and named The Union. The balloon depended on tapping into Washington D.C.’s natural gas lines, so it wasn’t able to go very far. However, the next month Lowe was able to take his balloon up to 1000 feet and spy on the Confederate troops residing at Fall’s Church, VA. With his direction, Union troops were able to accurately aim at enemy troops without actually seeing them. This was a military first, and the success resulted in the establishment of the Balloon Corps.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

The first order of business was to hire more aeronauts. Around October 1861, a number of balloons were tethered along the Potomac River. From their vantage point, the people manning the balloons were able to see any Confederate activity up to a day’s march away, giving the Union time to prepare a plan of defence.

After a short period of time, balloon technology advanced. Lowe himself invented a way to make gas portable: a wooden tank lined with copper, set up on a wagon that also carried water, iron, and sulfuric acid. Combined, these wagons produced hydrogen gas which lifted the balloons up. The army had twelve wagons built to aid the balloons in long-distance missions. Each of them weighed 1000 pounds.

Throughout 1862, Lowe continued to go on reconnaissance missions, noting on maps where Confederate troops were located. When he travelled at night, he would count campfires. It wasn’t all good news, though. The Confederate troops quickly caught on to what was happening and started shooting at the balloons with guns and cannons. Luckily for the people in the balloons, it was pretty difficult for soldiers on the ground to actually hit them—and it was easy for the soldiers in the balloon to gun down anyone who took a shot.

When shooting failed, the Confederates learned how to cloak their positions with camouflage and blackouts, making Lowe’s job more difficult. If Confederates made fewer fires, then Lowe’s estimates of their forces would be low, and the Union troops would underestimate the South’s strength. They would also paint fake cannons black and set them up around camp, so that if a balloon happened to fly over while it was still light, the North would think that they had too many resources to chance a fight. These fake cannons were called “Quaker guns” because they were, like the pacifist Quakers, completely harmless in war.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

Two of the hydrogen gas generators assigned to each balloon for inflating on the battlefield.

The South did set out to copy the balloons’ success at one point, but they lacked the technology and resources required to make their balloons practical. The first Confederate balloon was difficult to control, as it was made out of varnished cotton and kept aloft with hot air. The balloonist did manage to draw a map of Union positions around Yorktown despite the difficulties, however. A second attempt was less successful. A balloon made of silk (said to have been sewn from the gowns of Southern Belles) was tied to a tugboat and dragged along the James River before the tugboat crashed and Union troops took control of the balloon.

The Union Balloon Corps met its demise before the end of the Civil War. With a switch of command in 1863, funding was cut to the program which meant that the balloonist could no longer continue staying aloft. On top of that, Lowe himself was accused of “financial impropriety” and forced to resign. Lowe had become the driving force behind the entire campaign, and without him to advocate for the corps, it disbanded.

Bonus Facts:

  • In addition to the technology of balloons, the Civil War saw a significant use of telegraph machines on both sides. The Union sometimes handled upwards of 4500 telegrams a day reporting on Confederate movements. Both sides encrypted their messages with ciphers, and both sides learned how to tap telegraph machines. Sometimes, messages would become unreadable due to mistakes made on behalf of the people sending them. Robert E. Lee hated telegraphs and even ordered his officers not to send anything, lest the Union find out what the messages contained.
  • Before he was appointed Chief Aeronaut, Lowe was simply an aeronautic scientist. A week after the fall of Fort Sumter, which kicked off the Civil War, Lowe could be found on a nine hour balloon trip from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Union, South Carolina. When he landed, Confederate troops accused him of spying for the Union. They were eventually convinced of his innocence—something they regretted later—and Lowe returned to the North, where he learned that Mr. Henry wanted to talk to him.
  • Lowe continued to be passionate about flying. He also made the “railway into the clouds” in California, which took passengers to the summit of Echo Mountain. But one of his biggest legacies is that of his granddaughter, the remarkable Pancho Barnes, who also caught the flying bug.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This howitzer helps North Korea threaten Seoul

While North Korea’s efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental United States have generated headlines, a different home-brew weapons project is worth attention. That project developed a long-range self-propelled howitzer.


This deadly machine is called the Koksan, and according to MilitaryFactory.com, it can reach out and touch targets just over 37 miles away. The fact that this howitzer can move makes it even more lethal and hard to find.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A North-Korean-built M-1978 KOKSAN displayed at the Al Anbar University campus in Ramadi, Iraq is to be removed by U.S. Forces. (USMC photo)

The main cannon has a diameter of 170mm, or just under 6.7 inches. The barrel is long, appearing to be almost twice the length of the vehicle, a modified Chinese Type 59 main battle tank chassis. That vehicle can go up to 186 miles on a single tank of gas.

The Koksan looks a lot like the American-designed M107 175mm self-propelled howitzer, and in many ways, it fulfills the same function of providing long-range firepower. That said, the Koksan comes with a set of minuses.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
And like the Akutan Zero, North Korea’s Koksan howitzer is in American hands…and revealing its secrets. (USMC photo)

One of the biggest is that the howitzer is ungainly – largely due to the long barrel. It is also slow – with a top speed of just under 25 miles per hour. That’s a problem when a M1A2 Abrams arrives. The gun also fires slowly – with two and a half minutes between rounds. The first version, the M1978, didn’t even carry rounds with it.

A newer version, the M1989, which the North Koreans have paraded publicly, does have 12 rounds of ammo on the vehicle. This howitzer is probably more likely to be used in hardened defense positions. This has the benefit of protecting the crews better, but it does mean the howitzer’s position is fixed.

You can see a video about this North Korean big gun below.

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6 things veterans never want to hear while at the VA

Being a patient at the VA can be one hell of an emotional experience. Every time we set foot inside the facility, we arrive with low expectations but we still hope for the best possible outcome. Although some VA hospitals do provide some excellent service to our nation’s finest, more than one branch has created a negative impression upon the veteran community.

In fact, many veterans decide to prolong seeking treatment as long as possible due to the lack of quality service that has been marketed in the news and other media outlets.


Having witnessed undedicated Veterans Affairs workers for ourselves, adverse situations could be avoided if specific sentences were kept at a minimum.

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You cancelled what?

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“Sorry, but we had to cancel your appointment”

It can be difficult enough to get a VA appointment with all the long lines and lack of staff. We understand that sh*t happens and some schedules have to be rearranged. But one of the things that frustrates veterans the most is making their way to a location just to learn that their appointment has been canceled and “someone” tried contacting them.

“Your claim was unfortunately denied.”

Getting denied for compensation sucks! Especially when it’s for an ailment you proved you have time-and-time again. In our experience, vets usually get turned down by a panel of civilians that they’ve never met. They’re being judged solely on what is written on a piece of paper by a third-party who have very little actual knowledge about the condition.

Sometimes, it just isn’t fair.

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“We couldn’t find anything wrong with you, so you’re free to go.”

What the f*ck?

That’s usually the first thing that enters a veteran’s mind. It’s no secret that the VA tends to issue a long list of mental health medications the first few visits. Since veterans only get to see a VA doc every few weeks or months, in our perspective, they’re not exactly getting treatment that is in-depth enough for a proper diagnosis.

“There are no appointments available for at least eight weeks.”

It’s common to be told that you can’t see a doctor for another few weeks. In the civil sector, seeing your family physician might only take a few hours to a few days for a time slot to open up. Many vets are already stressed out enough, and waiting weeks or months for treatment — while knowing what will happen or where we’re going to be in that time — troubles us.

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Oh, we know.

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“The current hold time is approximately 90 minutes… or more.”

No words can lower the frustration of hearing that time-and-time again. We’re accustomed to the “hurry up and wait” scenario, but when it comes to medical treatment, we expect to be seen relatively close to our appointment time.

Waiting for hours and hours to be seen even though we made an appointment just sucks.

“You just need to get 18 different signatures from 20 other departments — then we can sign you off.”

Yes, we know that “18 different signatures from 20 other departments” doesn’t make complete sense.

The point is, making something overly complicated feels like a tactical decision meant to discourage follow-up — and it works. Many vets just give up and don’t seek the treatment they need.

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Military scientists are looking to salamanders to help regrow limbs on wounded troops

One of the signature wounds of the War on Terror has been the traumatic amputation of limbs. Today, advanced prosthetics help wounded troops recover much of their independence and live their lives more fully than those who’ve lost limbs in the past. And while the science and engineering of prosthetics has markedly advanced, the military is working on ways to make those prosthetics flesh and blood– including innovative technology using salamanders. 

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, talks about extremity regeneration at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Kissimmee, Florida, Aug. 28, 2017. (DOD photo)

According to military doctors and scientists, Army medical researchers are trying to figure out how salamanders are able to re-grow their limbs, and apply that to wounded troops who have lost limbs.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities,” Lt. Col. David Saunders said during a recent Military Health System research symposium.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Sergeant First Class LEroy Petry, whose right han was amputated by a grenade. (US Army photo)

 

The symposium also featured technologies closer to current science. A number of projects involving synthetic grafts have shown amazing potential, including one involving bone fillers that are treated to reduce the possibility of infection. Other projects have focused on recovering or preserving nerves, or regrowing muscle.

One researcher is even looking at a mouse to help improve the treatment of burn victims. In this case, the African spiny mouse has been known to lose much of its skin to escape a predator, yet it can quickly recover the skin with a minimum amount of scarring.

 

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

“Warfighters and civilians alike suffer large surface [cuts] and burns, and these result in medically and cosmetically problematic scars,” said Dr. Jason Brant of the University of Florida. “The ability to develop effective therapies will have an enormous impact not only on the health care system but on the individuals as well.”

One Army officer, though, is developing biocompatible sponges that can also reduce scarring by promoting better skin healing. Major Samuel Tahk of Fort Detrick noted that in addition to the sponges being a step along the path towards furthering regenerative medicine, the devices could also cut costs by making treatment of patients simpler.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. from Joliet, Ill., listens to instructions for adjusting the sight on his compound bow during the archery competition at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Steve Grever/Released)

 

With this host of new technologies inspired by humble salamanders, it’s no wonder Saunders is excited, not only noting that wounds to limbs have become far more survivable, but also about the many advances “emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force unveils the X-60A, its hypersonic research vehicle

The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A. The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

It is an air-dropped liquid rocket, specifically designed for hypersonic flight research to mature technologies including scramjet propulsion, high temperature materials, and autonomous control.


“The X-60A is like a flying wind tunnel to capture data that complements our current ground test capability,” said Col. Colin Tucker, Military Deputy, office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering. “We’ve long needed this type of test vehicle to better understand how materials and other technologies behave while flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. It enables faster development of both our current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems.”

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

(Generation Orbit Launch Services)

AFRL’s motivation for the X-60A program is to increase the frequency of flight testing while lowering the cost of maturing hypersonic technologies in relevant flight conditions. While hypersonic ground test facilities are vital in technology development, those technologies must also be tested with actual hypersonic flight conditions.

Utilizing new space commercial development, licensing, and operations practices, X-60A is envisioned to provide the Air Force, other U.S. Government agencies, and industry with a platform to more rapidly mature technologies.

The X-60A rocket vehicle propulsion system is the Hadley liquid rocket engine, which utilizes liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.

This is the first Air Force Small Business Innovative Research program to receive an experimental “X” designation.

Featured image: An artist’s sketch of an X-60A launch.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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These are the Air Force’s 10 most expensive planes to operate

1. E-4 Nightwatch

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War


Who knew the President’s mobile command post was an E-4? With all the latest and greatest gear to keep flying in the midst of all-out nuclear war and all its top secret countermeasures, it should come as no surprise that each of the Air Force’s four converted 747s cost $159,529 per hour to fly.

2. B-2 Spirit

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A KC-135 Stratotanker from Altus Air Force Base, Okla., refuels a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber from Whiteman AFB, Mo., during a refueling training mission (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-2 literally costs more than its weight in gold. The Air Force’s 20 B-2 bombers run along a similar price tag: $130,159 per hour.

3. C-5 Galaxy

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Ground crews unload a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft at Bagram Airfield, in Parwan province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

The largest of the USAF cargo haulers, the C-5 can carry two Abrams tanks, ten armored fighting vehicles, a chinook helicopter, an F-16, or an A-10 and only costs $100,941 an hour to get the stuff to the fight.

4. OC-135 Open Skies

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Kindig, left, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Riley Neads, right, operate air cannons from deicing trucks to blow snow off of an OC-135 Open Skies (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)

This plane was designed to keep tabs on the armed forces belonging to the 2002 signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which was is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. At $99,722 an hour, it’s one expensive overwatch.

5. E-8C Joint STARS

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
An E-8C Joint STARS from the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., pulls away, May 1, 2012 after refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 459th Air Refueling Wing (U.S. Air Force photo)

The airborne battle platform costs $70,780 to keep flying. The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.

6. B-52 Stratofortress

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed to RAF Fairdford, England from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., prepares to air refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths)

Squeaking in just under the JSTARS cost, The B-52 BUFF (look it up) runs $70,388 per flying hour.

7. F-35A Lightning II

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A 33rd Fighter Wing F-35A Lightning II powers down on the Duke Field flightline for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

Despite its ballooning development costs, the F-35 isn’t as expensive to fly as one might think, at only $67,550 an hour. (And that fact is one of the airplane’s selling points.)

8. CV-22 Osprey

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A 71st Special Operations Squadron CV-22 Osprey receives fuel from a 522 SOS, MC-130J Combat Shadow II aircraft, over the skies of New Mexico.

The USAF’s special operations tiltrotor will run you $63,792 per hour.

9. B-1B Lancer

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer aircraft banks away after receiving fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, not shown, during a mission over Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/Released)

The B-1 makes up sixty percent of the Air Force’s bomber fleet and runs $61,027 per flying hour.

10. F-22 Raptor

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The “best combat plane in the world” only cost $58,059 an hour to fly. Small price to pay for the best.

Honorable Mention: A-10 Thunderbolt II (aka “Warthog”)

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo byAirman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

The BRRRRRT costs a measly (by comparison, anyway) $19,051.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 10 best military movies in the last 10 years

Each year, hundreds of movies are released for audiences to enjoy worldwide. A small fraction of those films fall under the “war movie” genre and, of those, an even smaller fraction are worth heading out to your local cineplex to watch.


Critics could debate for days on which movies are the best acted and directed of all time. However, the majority of them don’t have the military resumés to properly judge levels of authenticity.

So, we asked several veterans what war movies of the last decade they loved the most.

Related: 6 military movies you need to watch in 2018

10. Land of Mine (2015)

Written and directed by Martin Zandvliet, Land of Mine takes place in post-World War II Denmark as a group of hated, young German POWs are ordered to clear thousands of landmines under the watch of a Danish sergeant who slowly learns to appreciate their worth.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Nordisk Films)

9. War Horse (2011)

Brought to the big screen by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg, this film captures the story of a young man who enlists in the military after his horse is sold off to the cavalry. The story takes audiences through deadly World War 1 trenches and dazzles with stunning imagery and incredible performances.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via DreamWorks) 

8. 12 Strong (2018)

Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the film chronicles one of the first deployments of a Special Forces teams to Afghanistan after 9/11. The team joins forces with the Afghan resistance and rides into battle against the Taliban on horseback.

The film stars our friend Rob Riggle, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Pena, and Michael Shannon.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Warner Brothers)

7. American Sniper (2015)

Directed by a filmmaker who needs no introduction, Clint Eastwood is one of the creative minds behind bringing the real-life story of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle to the big screen. The story chronicles Kyle’s multiple combat deployments and his tragic, untimely death.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Warner Brothers)  

Also Read: This Green Beret will change what you know about action movies

6. Unbroken (2014)

After crashing their plane in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends 47 days on a life raft with two fellow crewmen. Eventually, he’s caught by the Japanese and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp where he’s tortured and forced to endure hard labor — but he never gives up.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Universal Pictures)

5. Lone Survivor (2014)

Based on the heroic tale of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the film showcases the power of human will and man’s ability to push forward against incredible odds.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Universal Pictures)

4. Fury (2014)

When David Ayer’s World War II film debuted in theaters, the realistic and diverse cast of characters, including the likes of Gordo, Bible, and the seasoned Don “War Daddy” Collier, made the dangers of being a tanker feel real to enraptured audiences.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Sony Pictures)

3. Dunkirk (2017)

Directed by Christopher Nolan, this epic story covers the enormous evacuation of allied soldiers from Belgium as the German Army surrounded them during “Operation Dynamo.” The detailed account puts extreme human courage on display on multiple levels.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Warner Brothers)

Don’t Forget: 4 military movies whose hero should be dead

2. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Directed by Mel Gibson, the story follows an American Army Medic, Desmond T. Doss, as he serves in the Battle of Okinawa, becoming the first man in American history to earn the Medal of Honor without ever firing a shot.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Lions Gate Films)

1. 13 Hours (2016)

Directed by Hollywood powerhouse Michael Bay, this movie focuses on a security team who struggles to make sense out of chaos during an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya. Based on actual events, the team members do everything they can under strict, Libyan rule.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(Image via Paramount Pictures)

MIGHTY SPORTS

Packers’ Aaron Rodgers donates his golf tournament winnings to Wounded Warriors

As all you golf fans know, this weekend was the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It is one of golf’s more fun events (outside of the Happy Gilmore-like atmosphere at Waste Management Open).

The Pro-Am is a televised event that pairs world-class golfers with various celebrities who showcase their golf skills, ham it up for the crowds, or unintentionally give us the best laughs.


The Pro-Am, a highly sought after ticket, is a charity event. Golfers and celebrities use their talents (or try to attempt to) to raise money for various causes.

Cue Green Bay Packer All-Pro (and safe driver) Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers, a Super Bowl Champion and two time MVP, is known for his amazing throws, calm demeanor in the pocket, and endorsement commercials.

But he is also a strong supporter of the military, especially veterans.

At the Pro-Am, Rodgers participated in a Hole-in-One challenge where various celebrities tried to get a hole-in-one or as close to the pin as possible.

Rodgers finished second behind country star Jake Owen but ahead of the likes of Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Larry Fitzgerald. His performance earned him ,000, and Rodgers picked the Wounded Warrior Project as the charity for his donation.

Here you can see him in action—his qualifying shot.

Aaron’s support for the military extends beyond this single act.

Last year, he wrote an article for the Players Tribune in which he explained his devotion to our country’s service members and what they mean to him. He also does amazing things like this event with Gold Star children.

Rodgers’ military ties start with his family. His grandfather was a WWII pilot that was a POW. Rodgers recounts his college days playing for Cal and visiting a military hospital in San Diego in the lead up to the Holiday Bowl.

“I obviously admired them for their courage and sacrifice. But what really struck me was that despite their injuries, some of them couldn’t wait to get back to active duty. They were pleading with their doctors to help them so they could rejoin their units and continue fighting.”

Rodgers talks about his interactions with wounded vets, the effect their fighting spirit has on him, and how important it is to care for them.

To me, when it comes to taking care of our veterans and helping them not just assimilate back into society, but to actually thrive, I don’t think there’s any limit to what we can and should do.

Keep up the good work A-A-Ron!

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7 hilarious but accurate descriptions of military hardware

When it comes time to write up the technical pamphlets for the next generation of military gear, the manufacturers … probably won’t call us.


Here are seven perfectly accurate descriptions of military hardware that no self-respecting manufacturer would ever publish:

1. The Apache is the world’s most advanced digital camera

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
It’s a lot of money for relatively poor image quality, but the zoom is fantastic.

The AH-64 just has so many features that Canon and Nikon would never dream of putting on a camera: multiple rotor blades, a hydraulics systems, missiles, rockets, and a cannon. It’s almost hard to spot the camera sensors in the ball at the front.

2. The M1A2 Abrams tank provides very effective body armor for troops

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Does your armor deploy its own smoke grenades? And depleted uranium shells?

Because the armor is on motorized tracks, you can barely even feel the 60 tons of protection. It even has seats, a feature most body armor lacks.

3. The A-10 is a great way to get a look at the battlefield

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

It gets you high enough to see over the terrain while keeping you low enough to see all your enemies. If only there was something we could do about them from up here?

4. Navy aircraft carriers are cruise ships with (slightly) less sex and much more (hidden) booze

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

You can move a LOT of people with one of these ships. Over 6,000 with the old Nimitz-class. The newer Ford ships hold less people, normally about 4,000, but have sweet magnets that could hold literally anything to a fridge. In a pinch, there’s even a way to move people from shore directly to the ship without it docking. But be warned that the cruise directors are pretty uptight and the upper decks are noisy.

5. TOW missiles are a much faster delivery method than carrier pigeons

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
But, you know, they’re still faster than pigeons.

While carrier pigeons top out at around 90 mph in a sprint, TOW missiles fly at an astounding 715 mph. There’s almost nothing that can get your message across a battlefield faster, and the control cables let the recipient know just where the message came from.

Just a quick note, when sending messages to friends you should be sure to remove the original payload.

6. Rifles can punch holes through hella paper at once

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
(via Military Memes)

Don’t use boring three-hole punches that can only handle a few sheets when these rifles can create either 5.56mm or 7.62mm openings in dozens of sheets of paper at once.

7. CS gas is a quick and effective decongestant

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

Neti pots are weird and pouring liquids through your sinus cavities can lead to brain parasites. 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile has neither drawback and is extremely effective at helping you breathe free clearing your sinuses.

Articles

The US just tested an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile

An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile has been launched from a U.S. Air Force Base in California on a flight to a target in the Pacific Ocean.


The missile lifted off at 12:03 a.m. April 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

An Air Force statement said the mission was part of a program to test the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Another unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013 and again on Sep. 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

The 30th Space Wing commander, Col. John Moss, said Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of the U.S. nuclear force and to demonstrate the national nuclear capabilities.

In a Minuteman test, a so-called re-entry vehicle travels more than 4,000 miles downrange to a target at Kwajalein Atoll near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“Team V is once again ready to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to successfully launch another Minuteman III missile,” Moss said. “These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities. We are proud of our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron to execute these missions for the nation.”

The 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile.

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Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons and Soldier lethality and weight reduction, point out features of the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun. | US Army photo


The Army is manufacturing a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-cal machine gun designed to better enable Soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20-to-30 percent lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable, but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50-cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. and then go to Anniston Army Depot, Ala., for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load. A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon,” Laura Battista, Product Management Engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview Battista, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
U.S. Army Pvt. Michael Dinius and Pfc. Andrew Mitcham, both assigned to 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indian Army National Guard prepare to fire an M2.50-caliber machine gun during mobilization training at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Edinburgh, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

“We will procure 30 and then go into full blown testing – air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability and government standard testing.  We’ll see how it did compared to the M2 and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record,” Battista added.  

An Intimidating and Combat-Tested Weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s’; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista explained.

The machine gun is currently used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters and destroy enemy targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Cpl. Kehinde Howard, 188th Brigade Support Battalion, 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), fires a vehicle mounted M2 .50-caliber machine gun at a range on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 10. The range helped the soldiers get a feel for firing from a vehicle gunner position and familiarized them with the weapon system. | US Army photo

The .50-cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500-rounds per minute.

“It can be used for anti-personnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles. Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor,” Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, Product Manager Crew Served Weapons Alessio, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Army owns what’s called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50-cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista explained.

The Army currently operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-cal weapons designed with a number of improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring or causing Soldier injury, officials explained. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio explained.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50-cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

“We are looking to test this summer,” he said.

The lighter weight weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for Soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around – it is on a pedestal tripod. If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself that is an added benefit,” Alessio said.

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.”  The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are space to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, he said.

Future .50-cal Innovations

The Army’s .50-cal program is also looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter weight caseless ammunition which will reduce the amount of brass needed, he added.

Further into the future, the service will also create requirements for a new externally-mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the Mk19 grenade launcher.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Alessio explained.

Aside from improving the weapon itself, the Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time. We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16-pounds off of a 26-pound barrel,” Alessio said.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics and fire control technology for the .50-cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic will likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target — by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

The new addition to the weapon is called a Mounted Gun Optic, or MMO.

“It is basically an optic or direct view optic which will have some type of laser crosshair. This will improve lethality and an ability to put first round on target,” he added.

Finally, within five to ten years, the Army plans to have some kind of fire control technology added to the .50-cal; this will improve the accuracy of the weapon an increase its effective range by incorporating ballistic calculations such as the round’s trajectory through the air to target, Alessio explained.

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Why the Soviet Union wanted to nuke this hot dog stand

For around 30 years, the food court at the center of the Pentagon’s courtyard was an easy source of mid-afternoon calories for the hungry planners of a potential World War III with the Eastern Bloc. There was just one problem, and it wasn’t the food.

It was said the Soviet Union had at least two nuclear missiles pointed at it at all times.


This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
Target Acquired (Planet.com/ Fair use)

 

The hot dog stand, replaced in the early 2000s with another, presumably less hot dog-oriented food stand, was the center of life for a lot of the Cold War lunches had by the staff at the nation’s most important military building. It was said that the Soviet Union watched the comings and goings of top U.S. military brass in and out of the tiny structure in the middle of the courtyard every day.

They surmised it must be an important planning center or command and control bunker. So, obviously, when the war broke out, it would have to be one of the first things to go. Two ICBMs should take care of it.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
And most of the DMV area.

“Rumor has it that during the Cold War the Russians never had any less than two missiles aimed at this hot dog stand,” Brett Eaton, an information and communications officer for Washington Headquarters Services, told DoD News. “They thought this was the Pentagon’s most top-secret meeting room, and the entire Pentagon was a large fortress built around this hot dog stand.”

No one in Russia has ever confirmed this rumor, but the stand still earned the moniker “Cafe Ground Zero.” In reality, substantiated or not, the hot dog stand was smack dab in the middle of the United States’ most important military building. Since the blast radius of the Soviet Union’s best and biggest nuclear missile was big enough to wipe out New York City along with parts of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it stands to reason that destroying the hot dog stand at the center of the Pentagon would just be a win for clogged arteries.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War
A real victory (Image by jamstraightuk from Pixabay)

Feature image: DoD photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. strikes Taliban after Afghan security personnel killed in attacks

The United States has conducted a “defensive” air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province after a checkpoint manned by Afghan forces was attacked.


“The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett said in a tweet.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

The strike came just hours after Taliban militants killed at least 20 Afghan security officers in a string of attacks and on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “very good” chat with the Taliban’s political chief.

The wave of violence is threatening to unravel a February 29 agreement signed in Doha between the United States and the Taliban that would allow allied forces to leave Afghanistan within 14 months in return for various security commitments from the extremist group and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government — which the Taliban has so far refused to do.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned he was not committed to a key clause in the deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

The Taliban said it would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met.

And on March 2, the militant group ordered its fighters to resume operations against Afghan forces, saying that a weeklong partial truce between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan forces that preceded the Doha agreement was “over.”

“Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police,” said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.

This was the Union Army’s air force during the Civil War

upload.wikimedia.org

Another attack killed six soldiers in the same northern region, Amiri added.

Washington has said it would defend Afghan forces if they came under Taliban attack.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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