The Battle of the Atlantic lasted almost the entirety of the Second World War. It started when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939 and it didn’t end until Nazi Germany surrendered. Even then, some U-boats refused to give up the fight with their nation — a maritime version of Japanese holdouts.
The Nazi pocket battleship Graf Spee scuttled in Montevideo, Uruguay.
It’s hard to really comprehend this battle, both due to the length of the campaign (almost six years of fighting) and the massive scope. Forces clashed the world over, from the North Cape to Montevideo. But between these battles, it was sheer drudgery — long moments of boredom, punctuated by a submarine attack or air raid that would never make headlines.
A Vought SB2U flies over a convoy carrying troops and supplies to the front.
(US Navy photo)
Despite the languid pace, the Battle of the Atlantic was of paramount importance. Without winning the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies could never have pulled off the Normandy invasion, much less force the surrender of Nazi Germany. It was all about securing the lines of communication between the United States and the Allied forces in Europe and the Mediterranean.
A convoy heads towards Casablanca, one of the locations where troops hit the beach during Operation Torch.
(US Navy photo)
Merriam-Webster defines a line of communication as “the net of land, water, and air routes connecting a field of action (as a military front) with its bases of operations and supplies.” In the case of the Battle of the Atlantic, the major focus was on keeping waterways open. This was the only way to transport the many tanks and planes needed to win the war, not to mention the supplies for ground troops. In fact, sea transport still matters today because it’s the most convenient way to move a major force to the front.
For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.
In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.
With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.
Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.
“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”
Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.
Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.
The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.
“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.
Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.
American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?
The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.
Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.
Visitors to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., can see a collection of veteran portraits on display through Nov. 15, 2019.
The collection is Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, painted by another veteran, President George W. Bush.
The collection highlights 98 men and women out of the approximately five million post-9/11 veterans. The exhibit showcases 66 full-color oil portraits and a four-panel mural painted by the former president, himself an Air Force veteran.
Upon entering the display, visitors see a two-minute video by the 43rd president. Bush talks about the positive assets of veterans, why he continues to serve veterans, the courage involved in talking about post-traumatic stress and his painting history.
President Bush painting.
(Photo courtesy of the Bush Center)
Alongside the video is a quote from the president on why he painted these veterans.
“I painted these men and women as a way to honor their service to the country and to show my respect for their sacrifice and courage.”
Nearly all the warriors featured participated in one of the two wounded warrior sporting events hosted by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The W100K is a 100-kilometer mountain bike ride on the president’s ranch near Crawford, Texas. The Warrior Open is a competitive golf tournament in Dallas.
The portraits are on loan from the Ambassador and Mrs. George L. Argyros Collection of Presidential Art at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative is focused on helping post-9/11 veterans and their families.
Portraits of Courage at The Kennedy Center.
For more information
The paintings are on display until Nov. 15, 2019, at The Kennedy Center. More information is at https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/ZURRA. The exhibit then moves to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, Dec. 21 through Jan. 20, 2020.
The following video is pretty impressive. It shows an F/A-18C being hit by a lightning bolt. Along with the flash of light, you can clearly hear a loud bang inside the cockpit, taking the pilot by surprise. Shock aside, the aircraft was probably not really damaged by the bolt.
We have published several articles explaining that close encounters between jets and lightning occur every now and then around the globe, usually causing little to no damage at all to the planes. Usually. Because sometimes, lightning strikes cause significant damaged. As happened on Dec. 19, 2017, when B-52 Stratorfortress (60-0051), with the 93rd Bomb Squadron/307th BW AFRC. The heavy bomber was about to land at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, when the crew heard something that sounded like a thud coming from the outside of the aircraft. The B-52 landed safely, but once on the ground the crew discovered that the sound they heard was actually a lightning strike that tore a person-sized gash completely through the tail of the aircraft!
Here’s what this Author wrote in one of those stories:
In the 1980s, some F-16 Fighting Falcon jets were lost after being hit by a lightning strike. In one case, the lightning ignited the vapors in the empty centerline tank, which exploded causing extended damage to the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
Since lightning strikes are quite rare (1 event each year on average) these are seldom a real risk to military or civil aviation.
Furthermore, planes are shielded by a so-called Faraday Cage externally made by a conducting material, that blocks out external static electrical fields: charges redistribute on the conduting material and don’t affect the cage’s interior.
Wide bodies are huge flying Faraday Cages: if hit by a lightning they let the current pass through the fuselage until ground, preserving the systems’ integrity.
All commercial and mil planes have to meet several safety lightning-related requirements to get the airwothiness certifications required in the U.S. or Europe.
For instance, they must be able to withstand a lightning strike without suffering significant airframe damage, without any possibility of accidental fuel ignition in the tanks and preserving the avionics and systems failures induced by the electromagnetic field created by the electrical charges of the lightning.
On the Internet, you can find some videos showing civilian planes hit by lightning strikes and continue flying as nothing has happened.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
How I always got stuck right next to Barticus in every cramped-quarters situation I’ll never know… but I always did! Barticus was the biggest pipe-hitter in my squadron, therefore took up the most room and always left me squashed. But for the value of the man as a hard-fighting warrior, well… I just resigned to remaining squashed.
And squashed I was on an MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft climbing passed 20,000 feet toward… well, it really didn’t matter much past 18,000 feet because we all had to go to breathing pure oxygen though a supply mask. It was night and the stress was piled on. Oh, how I hated jumping, on oxygen, from that height, at night… and oh, how Barticus knew that.
As my stress mounted I began to tolerate less the cramped conditions and the mass of Barticus pressing against me. I started to squirm and fidget more and more. Finally Barticus called to me his baritone voice muffled by the mask:
“Yeah, what man?”
“Have I ever told you, that I find you very attractive?”
That’s all it took and I was laughing out loud and coughing into my mask, but I was also chilled out and doing much better. A really good friend knows how to push your buttons sure, but they also know how to hit your funny bone and calm you down.
Barticus made his way into an opportunity of a lifetime recently to jump near the town Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy, France on the 6th of June in honor of the men who jumped there 75 years ago. There but for the grace of God go I — oh, how I wish I could make that jump too; such an honor!
(Barticus W. Ricardo [left] and the author Geo kit up for an assault in South America)
I asked Barticus to please get me a photo of the famous Sainte-Mère-Église paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele’s effigy that the people of the town hung at the base of the bell tower of the church where he “landed”. John’s parachute snagged an outcrop of the church’s architecture and left John hanging for many hours with an injured foot until some German soldiers hiding inside the bell tower cut him loose.
(Two aspects of Private Steele’s effigy where it hangs still today from the base of the bell tower)
Traditionally, U.S. military organizations have taken veterans back to Sainte-Mère-Église for another jump back onto the Drop Zone (DZ) that they landed on so many years ago. These days it is highly unlikely that there are still veterans of the campaign who are in conducive physical condition to foot that bill.
Our young generations of fighting men, active duty and retired like Barticus and his crew, will continue to make that jump every year on the day of the anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, as long as there is still ground in Normandy to land on.
(The church at Sainte-Mère-Église feature an effigy of paratrooper Private John Marvin Steele who descended into the town and became suspended when his parachute snagged an outcropping of the church structure.)
According to popular legend, in 1859, “the quatrefoil” design was added and stitched onto the top of Marine officer’s cover to help identify them from the rest of the personnel.
The quatrefoil — adapted from the French — is a cross-shaped braid with many different symbolic interpretations. Some think of it as representing the four cardinal directions, while in architecture it is an icon of design (and it’s fancy).
When most people think of Iowa, they think about cornfields, hog farms, Field of Dreams, and politics. Generally overlooked is the Battle of Credit Island, an island in the Mississippi River, which would host one of the westernmost skirmishes of the war of 1812.
The Louisiana Purchase
After the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, the country faced the challenge of establishing control of the Mississippi River. At the time, St. Louis was the northernmost city on the river, and all the territory north of there, the upper Mississippi, was generally controlled by natives. The United States attempted to gain more control in 1808 by establishing Fort Madison (in present-day Fort Madison, IA).
This fort would be abandoned in 1813, however, as it was regularly attacked by Sauk tribes. This led to the U.S. establishing Fort Shelby (located in present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisc). Fort Shelby, however, was captured in 1814 by the British, just months after its establishment, during the Siege of Prairie du Chien.
Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States.
American troops would attempt to retake Fort Shelby, mounting an attack with armored keelboats. However, one would become grounded near East Moline Ill., where it was burned by Sauk Indians, forcing another retreat. One more effort would be made to reclaim the fort using armored keelboats, and this time, Major Zachary Taylor would lead the excursion.
Taylor led eight armored vessels up the Mississippi, but due to inclement weather stopped for the night in the vicinity of Pelican Island (a small island just to the north of Credit Island, near modern-day Davenport, Iowa.) Overnight, Sauk warriors waded to Pelican Island, and at daybreak attacked Taylor’s sentries, killing one. The Americans mounted their defense, repelling the natives, only to come under attack from accurate cannon fire, from a nearby British canon. The British and the native warriors would fire on Taylor’s flotilla for the next 45 minutes, with good effect, until Taylor ordered a retreat downriver.
30 to 40 British troops and approximately 800 Native Americans would repel Taylor’s 334 soldiers, and end their ambitions to recapture Fort Shelby. The Americans would not gain control of the upper Mississippi region until after the war in 1815.
The war would come to an end the following winter of 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which would normalize relations between Britain and the United States and restore borders to their pre-war status. As for Taylor, he continued to climb the military ranks, serving next in the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and later in the Mexican-American war. He would be elected 12th President of the United States in 1848, but died of illness in 1850.
Amid the chaos of the Syrian Civil War, it looks like armaments manufactured from around the globe and supplied to different factions eventually fell into the hand of Islamic State militants.
A new report from Conflict Armament Research (CAR) sheds light on the amount and type of weapons and ammunition ISIS forces obtained in Syria and Iraq. From 2014 to 2017, CAR has documented the origins and supply chain of over 40,000 items, including rifles, missiles, and improvised explosive devices.
Around 97% of weapons and 87% of ammunition used by ISIS is assumed to have originated primarily from China, Russia, and eastern European states, as evidenced by their 7.62mm caliber.
According to the report, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia purchased much of the arms from European Union countries in eastern Europe, which were distributed, without authorization, from the supplying country to Syrian rebel forces battling President Bashar al-Assad’s army.
“At the very least, the diversion of weapons documented in this report has eroded the trust that exporting authorities placed in the recipient governments,” the report said. “At worst, the diversions occurred in violation of signed agreements that commit recipient governments not to retransfer materiel without the exporter’s prior consent.”
In one such case, CAR found that an advanced anti-tank guided weapon that was manufactured in the European Union was sold to the U.S., only to be given to a party involved in the Syrian conflict, which then found its way to ISIS militants in Iraq — a process that took two months.
Judging by its serial number, the report stated, the anti-tank guided missile found in Iraq is believed to have been part of the same supply chain as the ones provided to a U.S.-supported rebel group in Syria. In the same year, sources with knowledge of the Syrian conflict reportedly said that the CIA was establishing small rebel units capable of taking down tanks and had received anti-tank missiles, a BuzzFeed News report said.
Although the exact process through which the militants obtained their arms from groups involved in the Syrian conflict remain unclear, it has been previously reported that members of rebel groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, were believed to have joined ISIS forces amid the sectarian violence in the country.
“These findings are a stark reminder of the contradictions inherent in supplying weapons into armed conflicts in which multiple competing and overlapping non-state armed groups operate,” the report said.
There are plenty of things in our everyday life that directly result from some bottom-basement strange experiments. Take, for example, the internet, GPS, and even robots who do mundane housework chores.
For every one of those successes, though, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded, there are so many more strange failures. From outer space to the human brain, DARPA funds research aimed at keeping our military on the cutting edge of technology. But that doesn’t mean that its experiments are always successful.
But that’s part of its charm and, some say, part of its success. DARPA can exist outside of bureaucratic red tape to explore, experiment, and innovate. It isn’t subject to the same rules as all the other federal agencies that you might think of in terms of innovation, which ultimately means that it has fewer restrictions in play. That allows its inventors, designers, engineers, and scientists to really push limits.
Adding to that, DARPA doesn’t really have a budget. Well, there’s a loose one that’s generally reviewed annually just like all other government agencies, but its overall financial limitations are very few. That allows the agency to pour lots of money into strange and unusual projects in the hopes they’ll pay off. When you’re not worried about funding getting cut off, it’s a lot easier to see promise in zany innovation. As the military’s venture capitalists, DARPA is all about finding the next best thing.
But in its 62 years, there have been plenty of times when the innovation just fell flat. Sure, high risk makes for high reward, but that doesn’t always mean these innovations have practical uses.
Houses that repair themselves
Something that sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, for sure. DARPA’s Engineering Living Materials program aims to create building materials that can be grown anywhere in the world and repair themselves when damaged. 3D tech helps make this research plan a reality, but DARPA still has a way to go.
This program could have a seriously beneficial impact on transfusable blood available for wounded service members, not to mention the rest of the world. It might also help reduce the risk of transmission during a transfusion. Blood pharming takes red cells from cell sources in a lab and then grows them. DARPA’s Blood Pharming program drastically reduces the cost associated with growing RBCs, but the project still needs more development.
Mechanical elephants + robotic infantry mules
Who needs a tank when you can have a lab-created elephant? At least, that’s what DARPA thought back in the 1960s when it began researching vehicles that would allow troops and equipment to move more freely in the dense jungles of Vietnam. Naturally, DARPA looked toward elephants since nothing says limber and agile like a thousand-pound animal. What started as a quest for a mechanical elephant led DARPA researchers down a strange path that ultimately ended in transporting heavy loads using servo-actuated legs. Fun fact: the director of DARPA didn’t even know about the project until it was in its final stages of research. He shut it down immediately, hoping that Congress wouldn’t hear of it and cut funding.
Fifty years later, DARPA was at it again – this time trying to create robotic infantry mules that would offset the heavy lifting challenges that can seriously affect troop health and morale. Currently, DARPA is working with a Boston-based robotics company to fine-tune its Legged Squad Support System, which is capable of carrying up to 400 pounds. The LSSS is designed to deploy with an infantry unit and be able to go on the same terrain as the squad without slowing down the mission.
Since its founding, DARPA continues to think outside the box. Of course, not every idea is golden, but that’s just part of innovation. If any of these ideas ever get out of the board room and really into the field, the next generation of soldiers will really have something to write home about.
It can be a bit disheartening to pop out your military ID and ask “you guys offer a military discount?” only to have the cashier shake their head no and then ask you a couple awkward questions about your service before giving you your Slim Jim and 6 pack. Thankfully, we’ve wrangled up 10 solid military discounts all in one place!
Avis better have a deep stock of blacked-out Dodge chargers and unnecessarily lifted Ford F150s on hand–because they offer up to 25% total discounts for all military members and their families. Boots can use that little bit of extra savings and get a model with heated seats for that Tinder date they’re going to propose to in 3 months. Toss in a sunroof too, so the Oakley sunglasses eternally perched on your baseball hat can finally block something from the sun.
Most military members don’t know this, but Jiffy Lube actually offers a 25% discount off most services. There are a couple of reasons why many troops don’t know this. For one thing, most folks in the military know how to change their own oil. For another—some might think that “Jiffy Lube” is just slang for finding 2 minutes of, ahem, private time in the barracks.
As of April 2019, Kohl’s recently instated a 15% military discount. There’s a catch with this one—you can’t use it in addition to a pre-existing discount, or with select brands such as Levi’s, Uggs, Columbia, or Timberland. But it works with gift cards, so you’ll really be able to stretch that unused birthday present your aunt gave you in 2014.
Ahh Home Depot—home to the mysteriously intoxicating scent of sawdust and mulch. Home Depot gives 10% discounts to all veterans and active duty servicemen. This applies to anything in store, so go ahead and load up on a whole bunch of parts for that project you are (never going to finish) working on.
Verify your military service through SheerID (which you should do anyway–tons of savings on there) and Foot Locker will give you 20% off all products in store. Walk around pensively holding a pair of Nike basketball kicks, knowing full well you’re just gonna buy another pair of grey Vans with those savings.
Sirius XM offers a very significant 25% off their subscription price for all military vets, reservists, and active duty servicemen. This gives you the opportunity to listen to Howard Stern on the 4-minute drive from the base to the bar.
Disneyland & Disney World
Disneyland offers a 3-day reservation for only 8 or 4 days for 8 for military members. That’s a pretty solid discount that gives you plenty of savings to spend on the sweetest treat west of the Mississippi— Disneyland churros.
Microsoft offers 30% off its office software for all military members and their families. Use the excel spreadsheets to track how much money you lost playing Spades on deployment this year. Or use the word processor to type up a couple college essays. Or use powerpoint to fall asleep.
This online sneaker juggernaut offers 20% off via SheerID. They’ve got a pretty slick selection of sneakers, and an even better selection of athletic gear and cleats. So you can finally look like a total badass while losing your co-ed intramural basketball game by 30 points.
NFL Shop offers a cool 15% discount to all military members, veterans, spouses, and immediate family members. The online store is very convenient, as it gives Bills fans a chance to google who their quarterback is on the day they purchase a jersey.
Comedian Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the coming Academy Awards Presentation, leaving the job empty for the time being. Enter Adam Keys: A veteran and triple amputee, Adam lost his limbs after suffering from an IED attack in Afghanistan that left him with a massive infection. 100 surgeries later, Keys has never lost his sense of humor.
Now, he wants to showcase that humor by stepping up to host this year’s Oscar ceremonies.
Keys isn’t aiming for the Oscar job just because he wants to further his comedy career. As the video says, he wants to show that veterans aren’t broken and people with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. He wants to showcase that on Hollywood’s biggest night, with the whole world watching.
There’s not much Adam Keys can’t do, despite his disabilities. As the video states, he climbed Kilimanjaro and performs stand-up comedy in the DC area. Considering how he came to his injuries, his spirit and good humor are the stuff of legend. The blast broke the combat engineer’s jaw, left shoulder, humerus, and ankles. It killed three of his friends and nearly killed him, too. He wasn’t even able to speak for two months.
When he came to, he thought he was still in Afghanistan and needed to know where his rifle was. He was in a hospital in Bethesda – and the nurse had no idea what he meant. He was a wounded warrior, but now he’s ready to move past that. He says terms like “disabled veteran”and “wounded warrior” don’t apply to him.
“Yes, I was wounded,” he says. “But now I’m not. I want to get rid of that title and move past it, move forward. Move us all forward.”
There’s literally nothing he can’t do.
The idea for hosting the Oscars in place of Hart came to him while watching TMZ, looking for material for his standup act. The thought occurred to him, why not? He’d be nervous, but he’s nervous before any show he does.
“It will be a challenge for me,” Keys says. “I love challenging myself. And I get to help people and try to move us [veterans] all forward. I don’t know where it’ll take me, but anything is a step forward. I will hope I’ve done the right thing and made people proud of me, of us. Helping people is the added benefit.“
One of the perks of having a career in Special Operations units was the chance to be trained up and get to fire all manner of foreign, rare, and sometimes very old weapons that you will find still in use.
Special Forces weapons sergeants will be trained in a multitude of U.S. and foreign weapons, and know how to effectively put them to use if they are come across during a foreign deployment.
There is no shortage of weapons that you will come across in many of the Third World countries and some are amazing that they are still in use. And many of them shouldn’t be.
Once in South America, we came across an ancient Thompson submachine gun that looked straight out of Chicago in the times of Al Capone. The old M1928 Thompson with the vertical foregrip, the Cutts compensator, and the noisy 100-round drum magazine (the thing rattled loudly), no wonder the GIs of World War II hated it and opted for the 30-round stick mags.
But the Chicago piano was probably last cleaned by Capone’s cronies when we came across it. It was rusted and in crappy shape. However, some Break Free and WD-40 will cure most anything. That said, we all took great delight in cutting that bad boy loose. In close quarters or in clearing buildings, it is still a pretty fearsome weapon. The only thing missing was the violin case.
The Panamanian military under Manuel Noriega had a lot of mini-grenades made by Argentina. If memory serves me well, they were stamped with FMK2. Slightly smaller than a normal frag grenade, you could toss those suckers quite a distance. They even came with a different fuse that could be used to fire from a rifle. After “Just Because,” we disarmed the military, and took away nearly all of their cool weaponry, including the Argentinian frags, and gave them rusty ass .38s that some bean counter found in a warehouse in the U.S., as the SF guys transitioned them from military to National Police. But that is a story for another time
But those frags were popular with the SF guys and used for another purpose, they even caught some fish off the coast after Noriega was sent packing to Miami. We’d call it fishing with “Dupont lures.”
Another weapon that was a blast to shoot was one that is still being used today by the West German military. Back in World War II, the German MG-42 was feared by American GIs, who called it “Hitler’s bone saw” because of the incredible rate of fire the weapon had. The MG-42 had a cyclic rate of about 1550 rounds a minute, easily twice that of the Brownings that U.S. troops carried. The current M240B machine gun in use today has a cyclic rate of fire of about 600 rounds per minute.
Originally chambered in 7.92 x 57mm Mauser ammunition, the obvious drawback of the weapon was that, because of the rate of fire, it overheated quickly and needed frequent barrel changes. Now, rechambered for 7.62 mm NATO, the West Germans still use it today.
We came across one of the originals in the WWII caliber with boxes of ancient ammo, it still fired and after putting some serious lead downrange (and setting the range grass on fire, yes it was dry season), it was no wonder why GIs feared it.
The biggest weapon I ever personally fired with the M40 106mm recoilless rifle. Our partner nation Honduras had an anti-tank company in the 6th Infantry Battalion up in the mountains near the border with Nicaragua. They would frequently get alerted up on the border because the Sandinista army units would threaten the border with their armored vehicles.
I wrote about one such deployment there in an unintentionally comical piece for another publication. Prior to us being deployed there, our entire SF A-Team got some great training from the SWC Weapons committee on the 106 and then we took a few of them out to get some rounds downrange. The 106 will penetrate 12 inches of cold-rolled steel at about 300 meters.
So despite the guys from Range Control, telling us NOT to fire at an old bulldozer that was sitting there invitingly yellow with the blade dug into the ground…”Danger close” they said…we couldn’t resist. One of us, I will not divulge the name of the guilty party (on the grounds that it may incriminate me…er someone) put a 106 HEAT round right through that blade. Cut through it like a hot knife through butter.
But I think the most fun weapon I ever got to fire was the Russian made ZU-23-2.
Originally designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, the weapon was a towed 23mm dual weapon. It is towed on a small trailer that can be quickly transformed into a stationary mount. It was used to great effect by NVA and Viet Cong troops during the Vietnam war. Eventually, it was replaced by the ZSU-23-4, the tracked, light-skinned vehicle.
We were supposed to be firing both, however, the ZSU broke down with an electrical short so we just fired the ZU with the autocannons. It is simple and easy to operate and packs a tremendous punch. It is devastating to troops, buildings, and light-skinned vehicles.
While no longer used primarily as an anti-aircraft weapon, it is still in use today and can be found in many places mounted on pickup trucks as a technical. Large amounts of them can be found in Libya, Syria, Yemen as well as many other places.
Those are just a few of the weapons I came across and although I did get to drive an M-1 Abrams once, I didn’t get the opportunity to fire the main gun. Maybe another time…