Here's why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Zippos and American warfighters go hand-in-hand.

If you watch a movie and see troops lighting up a cigarette, you’ll probably notice that Zippo in their hand. Search-and-destroy missions in the Vietnam War were often referred to as “Zippo missions.” There’s simply no denying the fact that American troops have long had an intimate relationship with Zippos.

Here’s why:


Troops are always searching for reliable gear as, oftentimes, the stuff we’re issued is absolute trash. That’s where Zippos come in. They’re reliable and compact, two criteria that “military-grade” items tend not to satisfy. But it’s not just that they work well — they’ve had a long history with troops.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Zippos during WWII were primarily used to light cigarettes. Vietnam, however, was another story.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The American Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1930s, but when World War II started, the company ceased all production for consumer markets altogether and instead manufactured lighters exclusively for troops being sent to war. Millions of them were carried by troops and, no matter what, they knew they could rely on their trusty, metal lighter to spark their cigarette during a long day of ass-kicking.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Some units who performed these Zippo missions were referred to as “Zippo Squads.”

(U.S. Army)

Zippos took on a different function during the Vietnam War. Aside from reliably lighting cigarettes, they were used to light flamethrower tanks when the built-in, electrical igniter didn’t work. They were also used as mirrors to shave, to heat up popcorn, and the list goes on.

In fact, Zippos became synonymous with Vietnam War operations as troops would raze villages with lighters on seek-and-destroy missions. But Zippos weren’t just for burning things down — they actually became a kind of cultural timepiece.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Some of the best pieces of military history.

(Photo by Joe Haupt)

In Vietnam, troops began engraving designs onto the sides of the hardy, metal lighters as a way to pass the time. By looking at those engravings, we’ve been able to glean some insight into the mindset of troops from the era. It might have been just an idle habit at the time, but such historical artifacts are invaluable for future generations.

The practice of engraving Zippos is one that carries over to modern-day service members. It may not be as popular as it once was, but troops all over still use the iconic lighter to spark up cigarettes or even burn frayed paracord.

Regardless, one thing is for sure — Zippos remain one of the most iconic pieces of unofficial military gear.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The amazing thing the SR-71 did the day before its retirement

Usually, when someone or something retires, it’s because they’ve grown a little older — and maybe a little slower — over time. Maybe their skills aren’t as useful as they once were, so they opt to spend their sunset years peacefully watching others take over their old duties.

But not the SR-71 Blackbird. It went out with a sonic boom.


The SR-71 was in the prime of its amazing life. This was a titanium bird designed to outrun and spy on the Russians, a bird that was fooling Russians even before it was assembled.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

(Laughs in Blackbird)

When the Blackbird was retired in 1990, not everyone was thrilled with the idea. Much of the debate around the SR-71’s mission and usefulness was because of political infighting, not because of any actual military need the plane couldn’t fill. Still, the program was derided by Congressional military and budget hawks as being too costly for its designated mission. Some speculate the old guard of Air Force Cold Warriors had long since retired and newer generals couldn’t explain the plane’s mission in the post-Soviet order.

Whatever the reason for its retirement, the Air Force’s most glorious bird was headed for the sunset — but not before making history and setting a few more records.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

An SR-71 refuels in mid-air during sunset.

(U.S. Air Force)

When it was operationally retired in 1990, a Blackbird piloted by Lt. Col. Raymond E. Yeilding and Lt. Col. Joseph T. Vida was tasked to fly one last time from Palmdale, Calif. to its new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Apparently, they had somewhere to be in the D.C. area that day, too.

During that Blackbird’s final flight on Mar. 7, 1990, the plane and its pilots set four new speed records:

  • West Coast of the United States to the U.S. East Coast – 2,404 miles in 68:17.
  • Los Angeles, Calif., to Washington, D.C. – 2,299 miles in 64:20
  • Kansas City, Mo., to Washington, D.C. – 942 miles in 25:59
  • St. Louis, Mo., to Cincinnati, Ohio – 311 miles in 8:32
Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

(U.S. Air Force)

The SR-71 refueled in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean before beginning its transcontinental journey. It arrived at Dulles International Airport to a throng of onlookers and well-wishers who knew a good thing when they saw one.

Addressing the full Senate after the historic, record-setting 1990 flight, Senator John Glenn told the assembly that the flight would be remembered as “a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Condoms: Good for love, better for war

Rubber, sheep skin, love sock, penis sheath, raincoat, scum bag, prophylactic, the goalie, nodding sock, the Royal wanker, MOPP gear, or, if you’re feeling vanilla, just plain ol’ “condom.”

No matter what you call it, condoms are great for conducting amphibious landings when you don’t want to exchange fluids with the host country. But they’re also good for a host of other things, as numerous enterprising service members have discovered over the years.


Make love, make war, but, for god’s sake, make lots of condoms first. So, just what sorts of things did grandpa use his jimmies for besides the horizontal tango?

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

There are likely thousands of condoms in this photo even though almost no one in it would get laid for a week or more.

(U.S. Army)

One of the best-known uses of condoms in combat came during D-Day where many infantrymen put them on their weapons’ barrels to keep the bore clear. While water is typically cited as the main intruder that soldiers wanted to deny, War on the Rocks has rightly pointed out that many weapons in World War II could actually fire just fine while wet.

But condoms, in addition to keeping out some of the moisture, also kept out most of the mud or wet sand that could get jammed in the barrel. And while water can cause a round to move to slowly through the barrel, causing the sustained pressure buildup to damage the barrel, wet sand or mud is nearly guaranteed to cause the barrel to burst.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Members of a naval combat demolition unit hit the beach during training.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

The Navy’s underwater demolition teams, meanwhile, reportedly used condoms to protect the fuses of their underwater explosives. Most of the fuses proved to be water resistant instead of waterproof, so they had to be kept dry until just before the big show. The commandos kept the sensitive little bombs in condoms until it was time to slide them into their holes. Then, remove the love glove and initiate the fireworks.

But, the condom’s debut as a tool for the D-Day landings actually came before the real operation. Gunners training for the big day are thought to have filled condoms with helium to make field-expedient targets for firing practice.

But it’s not all history — U.S. grunts and friendly forces have their own modern uses for condoms, too. For instance, a condom makes a great waterproof pouch, though you have to tie and untie it to retrieve items while maintaining a proper seal. Condoms are especially good in this role since they’re so elastic. They can expand to be large enough to cover nearly anything a soldier is carrying, though, again, you still have to be able to tie it for perfect effectiveness.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Stretch your condoms out first, ladies and gentleman. This is not enough water to keep you going.

(ClaudiaM1FLERéunion CC BY-SA 3.0)

In fact, if the condom is properly stretched and then placed into a fabric sleeve, like a sock, it can be used to hold additional water. Non-lubricated condoms are surprisingly strong and elastic, but they need a good fabric layer to protect against pinpricks which would cause them to burst. And, they need to be stretched first. Why? Because there’s no real water pressure in most survival situations, so the condom can only hold as much water as its current shape will allow.

So, yes. Bring condoms, whether you’re there to fight or fornicate. But, if you’re there to fight, opt for the non-lubricated, non-flavored ones.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bataan Death March survivor just died at 100

A San Francisco Bay Area man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolized the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during World War II has died. He was 100.


Ramon Regalado died Dec. 16 in El Cerrito, California, said Cecilia I. Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which has fought to honor Regalado and others. She did not have a cause of death.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
U.S. Army National Guard and Filipino soldiers shown at the outset of the Bataan Death March. (Image from The National Guard Flickr)

“He really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country,” she said.

Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines. He was a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under U.S. Army Forces when troops were forced to surrender in 1942 to the Japanese after a grueling three-month battle.

The prisoners were forced to march some 65 miles (105 kilometer) to a camp. Many died during the Bataan Death March, killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to make the trek. The majority of the troops were Filipino.

Also Read: This POW led over 3,000 guerrillas after escaping the Bataan Death March

Regalado survived and slipped away with two others — all of them sick with malaria. They encountered a farmer who cared for them, but only Regalado lived.

Afterward, he joined a guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a civilian for the U.S. military.

In his later years, he gave countless interviews to promote the wartime heroics of Filipinos, who were promised benefits and U.S. citizenship but saw those promises disappear after the war ended.

More than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served with U.S. troops in World War II, including more than 57,000 who died.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
POWs on the Bataan Death March. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The veterans have won back some concessions, including lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

In an October ceremony in Washington, D.C., remaining Filipino veterans of World War II were awarded the coveted Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Gaerlan said Regalado did not make the trip due to poor health, but he got his medal in December in an intensive care unit in Richmond, California.

He is survived by his wife, Marcelina, five children, and many grandchildren.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 6 edition)

Here are the headlines you need to make it through the rest of the day mission-ready:


Now: We’re freaked about Iran, but what other countries already have nukes?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The President intervened in the case of a Navy SEAL on trial for murder

The U.S. military alleges Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL from California-based SEAL Team 7, murdered a teenage ISIS detainee and then posed with the corpse during a re-enlistment ceremony. NCIS investigators are also looking into allegations the SEAL killed civilians with a sniper rifle and threatened to intimidate other SEALs who would testify against him.


Gallagher proclaimed his innocence immediately after his 2017 arrest, one made while he was receiving treatment for traumatic brain injury at Camp Pendleton. Ever since, it is alleged that the SEAL has been held in inhumane conditions at the Navy’s Consolidated Brig Miramar.

Not anymore, by order of the Commander-In-Chief.

Gallagher’s platoon leader, Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, is also being prosecuted for his role in trying to cover up the alleged incidents. Unlike Gallagher, Portier is not under arrest or otherwise confined. California and federal legislators want Gallagher to also be released while awaiting trial, not languishing in Miramar with “sex offenders, rapists, and pedophiles.” The Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar is located some 10 miles north of San Diego and houses the Navy’s Sex Offender Treatment Program.

“(Gallagher) risked his life serving abroad to protect the rights of all of us here at home,” North Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, said at a rally. “He had not one deployment, not two deployments, but eight deployments … We urge this be fixed In light of his bravery, his patriotism and his rights as an American citizen.”

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Chief Gallagher after his 2017 arrest.

Some 40 members of Congress asked the Navy to “analyze whether a less severe form of restraint would be appropriate” for Gallagher instead of the usual pre-trial confinement. Those members of Congress included former Navy SEALs, Marine Corps veterans, and others from both sides of the political aisle. Representative Norman spoke to President Trump personally about the matter.

“To confine any service member for that duration of time, regardless of the authority to do so, sends a chilling message to those who fight for our freedoms,” the lawmakers said. Gallagher’s family has already publicly thanked President Trump for his intervention.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this Russian helicopter is often the top ranked in the world

Best attack helicopter in the world? America built the first dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-1, and variants of it are still flying. So maybe that one? Or perhaps the MH-47s from Vietnam, highly modified cargo helicopters loaded with guns? Or America’s premiere, the AH-64 Apache, which can be equipped with air-to-air missiles? They’re all great, but there’s a surprisingly strong case for Russia’s Ka-52.


Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

The navalized Ka-52K has folding rotor blades and can carry an anti-ship missile capable of taking out tanker ships.

(Anna Zvereva, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Ka-52, in a nutshell, is an attack helicopter with a top speed of 196 mph, an 18,000-foot ceiling, and a 683-mile range. It can carry a few kinds of anti-tank missiles, an anti-aircraft missile, 80mm unguided rockets, and a 30mm main gun. It can also carry a dedicated anti-ship missile, the Kh-35 in its Uran configuration.

And a few of those stats make the Ka-52 seem way better than the Apache or other attack helicopters on paper. For one, the Ka-52’s anti-tank missiles can penetrate slightly deeper than the Apache’s Hellfire missile. Missiles are generally measured these days by how much armor they can pierce after getting past the explosive armor on an enemy tank.

The Hellfire can pierce a reported 800mm of armor by that measurement. But the Ka-52’s ATAKA can tear through 950mm, and the Vikhr can pierce 1,000mm of armor. But the Ka-52’s engines and wing mounts are limited, and so it can carry only 12 missiles against the Apache’s 16.

But the Hellfire’s penetration is still enough to pierce most any tank the Army is going to fly against, and its almost 5-mile range is much better than the ATAKA can do, but admittedly a little shorter than Vikhr which can fly almost 7.5 miles, reportedly.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

An armament diagram shows the weapons the Ka-52 can carry. Those last two diagrams under the center hardpoints of each wing are the missile racks. The helicopter can carry up to six anti-tank missiles from each of the two center hardpoints for a total of 12.

(KPoJluK2008, CC BY-SA 3.0)

So the anti-tank situation is basically a wash. Ka-52 has the edge if you need to penetrate some seriously hardened structures like good bunkers or kill stuff from further away, but the Apache can kill 33 percent more stuff with its missile armament than the Ka-52 can.

The Ka-52 does have one clear missile advantage in that it can carry a dedicated anti-ship missile, the KH-35. The Hellfire and its 16-pound warhead can be pressed into anti-ship service, but the Kh-35 has a much larger warhead at 320 pounds and an obscenely longer range at 80 miles. Basically, the Hellfire can take out small craft at short ranges, but a Kh-35 launched from Richmond, Virginia, can take out a tanker floating in Norfolk’s harbor.

Another small point in the Ka-52’s favor is that its rockets are a bit larger at 80mm instead of 70mm.

So you can give an armament edge to the Ka-52, and it is slightly faster at 186 mph instead of 173. But the Apache can fly 1,180 miles in straight and level flight against a mere 683 for the Ka-52. And it can fly higher, reaching 21,000 feet while the Ka-52 runs out of air at just over 18,000 feet.

And that 3,000-foot change can make a big difference in places like Afghanistan, but it also means that Apaches could protect American soldiers on Russia’s Mount Elbrus while the Ka-52 flitted uselessly well below.

So, yeah, the Ka-52 is a great helicopter. It can carry a wide range of weapons, it’s fast, and it has a decent range and flight ceiling. And if you ever have to fly against it or fight under it, watch out. Especially if you’re on a boat within 80 miles. It’s easy to see why the Ka-52 takes the top spot in a lot of lists.

But in most missions most of the time, the Apache is better. Oh, and the newest Apaches can bring drone sidekicks to the fight, something Russia’s bird can’t do. So expect it to climb to most people’s top spots over the next few years.

And that’s without addressing the potential for an armed version of the SB-1 Defiant or V-280 Valor emerging from the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program. If either of those gets armed in the coming decades, expect them to carry more weight, fly at higher altitudes, and faster speeds than any other attack helicopter in the world, with a flight range that’s equal to or better than what’s out there now.

popular

3 life-saving skills still worth practicing as a civilian

All troops, regardless of branch or service length, will one day receive a DD-214 restoring the privileges of being a civilian. This newfound freedom will allow one the opportunity to succeed or fail based on individual effort. While troops train themselves in defense of the principles that keep our country free, naturally, some training fades away.

Life-saving skills are some of the most important skills we have developed, and they continue to pay dividends years after our service has ended. Muscle memory can only go so far when the practical application is no longer scheduled. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to remove the rust and be confidently prepared to act when our family or community needs us most.


Stop the Bleed
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Use of tourniquets

Tourniquets are one of the few pieces of gear not required to turn into supply upon discharge and are worth keeping at home or in your glovebox when you enter the 1st Civilian Division. The importance of these devices cannot be understated and can be used in the event of a catastrophic car accident.

Personally, I have taught every member of my household to use a tourniquet. The youngest knows to use the sealed ones for real life and the opened ones for practice. Tourniquets lose their elasticity and may fail when you need them most if you don’t keep them fresh.

A belt or t-shirt can also be used a substitute if a proper tourniquet is not within a reasonable distance and the situation is dire. The video below comes straight from The National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health to raise awareness among the U.S. population.

You’re considered paranoid if nothing happens, but if something does and you’re prepared: you’re not paranoid, you’re smart.

Marines Run From Barracks To Carry Elderly From Burning Building, Then Featured on Fox and Friends
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Fireman’s carry

The fireman’s carry is one of the best exercises to maintain for civilian life. It’s simple and can be integrated into a workout every once in a while to refresh muscle memory. It will keep you toned and fit, but its true purpose is to remove someone from a dangerous area when they are unable to do so on their own. These emergencies can range from a friend who has had too many drinks to full-on evacuation scenarios.

How to do the Heimlich maneuver
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Heimlich maneuver

The Heimlich maneuver was developed by Dr. Henry J. Heimlich in 1974 and has saved countless lives since its inception. It is defined, by Merriam-Webster, as:

The manual application of sudden upward pressure on the upper abdomen of a choking victim to force a foreign object from the trachea.

Active duty personnel have been taught the Heimlich maneuver in numerous first aid classes, and have practiced on colleagues or state-of-the-art dummies. The procedure is simple to teach yet you do not want to leave this period of instruction for the moment when every second counts. A few moments of practice with family members can keep everyone sharp for when the unexpected happens at home or to a stranger out in town.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America almost conducted a doomed invasion of France in 1942

In the lead up to American involvement of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed his administration to a “Germany-First” policy if the U.S. entered the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it shook his commitment, but he stuck to it. Although, in his rush to take the pressure off the U.K. and the Soviet Union, he almost pressed American forces into a doomed invasion.


Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Workers assemble fighter aircraft at Wheatfield, New York.

(Public Domain)

The American war machine had to shake itself awake at the start of 1942. While the industrial base had achieved some militarization during Lend-Lease and other programs, it would need a lot more time to produce even the tools necessary to make all the vehicles, uniforms, and even food necessary to help the troops succeed in battle.

And those troops needed to be trained, but almost as importantly, many of the military leaders needed to get seasoned in combat. There were generals with limited experience from World War I and plenty of mid-career officers and NCOs who had never fought in actual battle.

But there was limited time to ramp up. England was barely staving off defeat, beating back German attack after attack in the air to keep them from crossing the English Channel. And the Soviet Union was facing 225 German divisions on the Eastern Front. According to Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn:

If Soviet resistance collapsed, Hitler would gain access to limitless oil reserves in the Caucasus and Middle East, and scores of Wehrmacht divisions now fighting in the east could be shifted to reinforce the west. The war could last a decade, War Department analysts believed, and the United States would have to field at least 200 divisions….
Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Russian anti-tank infantrymen in the important Battle of Kursk. Soviet troops were reliant on American arms for much of World War II, but there sacrifice in blood inflicted the lion share of casualties against Nazi Germany.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

To get the pressure off the Soviet Union and ensure it survived, thereby keeping hundreds of German divisions tied up, Roosevelt committed U.S. forces to a 1942 invasion. And his top officers, especially the new Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Adm. Ernest J. King, told Roosevelt that the American invasion had to be made at France.

And this made some sense. While Great Britain was lobbying for help in North Africa in order to keep Italy from taking the oil fields there, invading North Africa would pull few or no troops from the Eastern Front. And while the oil fields in North Africa were important, the Italian military hammering there was less of a threat than the German attacks on the Soviet Union.

And attacks into Europe could be driven home straight into Berlin. A landing in France or Denmark would be about 500 miles or less from Hitler’s capital as soon as it landed, a serious threat to Germany. But a landing in Africa would be 1,000 miles or more away and would require multiple amphibious landings to get into Africa and then on to Europe.

King and other senior leaders like Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall thought it would be a waste of time and resources.

And so planning went into effect for Operation Sledgehammer, the 1942 Allied invasion of France. But the British officers immediately started to campaign against the attack. They had already been pushed off the continent, and they knew they didn’t have the forces, and that America didn’t have the forces, to take and hold the ground.

Germany had over 24 divisions in France. For comparison, the actual D-Day landings and follow-on assault in 1944 were made with only nine divisions with additional smaller units. And that was after the military was able to procure thousands of landing craft and planes to deliver those troops. In 1942, many of those tools weren’t ready.

And, the timeline forced planners to look for a Fall landing. The Atlantic and the English Channel in the Fall are susceptible to some of the worst storms a landing could face. High winds and surging seas could swamp landing craft and destabilize the naval artillery needed to support landings.

Worse for Britain: a failed landing across the channel in 1942 would result in bodies floating in that body of water by the thousands or tens of thousands. And if Germany successfully bottled the landing up and then slaughtered the Allied troops day by day, then those bodies could have been visible on the English coast for days and weeks.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Americans with the 45th Infantry Division prepare equipment in Sicily for movement to Salerno.

(U.S. National Archives)

So Britain renewed its lobbying for an invasion of Africa, instead. Churchill led the campaign, pointing out that German troops there could be bottled up and potentially even captured, the Suez Canal would be re-opened, and Americans could get combat experience in a theater where it would have a balance of forces in its favor rather than fighting where it could be overwhelmed before it could learn valuable lessons.

And so Operation Sledgehammer was shelved in favor of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion that landed on multiple beachheads across the northern coast of Africa. America would learn tough lessons there, but was ultimately successful.

Unfortunately, that hope of isolating and capturing the German force would be partially prevented by a German escape at Messina where many Nazi troops made it across to Sicily. But the Allies took the oil fields in Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, building the experience needed to land in France in 1944.

Meanwhile, America sent as much industrial support to the Soviet Union as it could to keep it from falling, and it was successful, largely thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Communist troops who turned back the Axis troops at Stalingrad, Kursk, and other battles.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Artillery would be critical in a war with Russia

Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.


The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.

“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also read: This tank is the backbone of the Russian Army

“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”

Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
An M109 Paladin gun crew with B Battery, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Division Artillery, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”

“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.

“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.

Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.

“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.

“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”

Related: That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.

In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.

ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”

The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.

“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.

Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”

In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.

The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.

More: This armored vehicle sports an anti-aircraft cannon

The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.

The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.

An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.

“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military released report on faster-than-light travel but don’t get your hopes up

Sometime after August 2008, the US Department of Defense contracted dozens of researchers to look into some very, very out-there aerospace technologies, including never-before-seen methods of propulsion, lift, and stealth.

Two researchers came back with a 34-page report for the “propulsion” category titled, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions”.


The document is dated April 2, 2010, though it was only recently released by the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Business Insider first learned about in a post by Paul Szoldra at Task & Purpose.) The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or “dark energy” — a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.

“Control of this higher dimensional space may bе а source of technological control оvеr the dark energy density and could ultimately play а role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, а warp drive,” the authors write. “[T]rips to the planets within our own solar system would take hours rather than years, and journeys to local star system would be measured in weeks rather than hundreds of thousands of years.”

However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report’s optimism.

“It’s bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn’t.” Carroll said. “This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we’re going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground — this is real physics. But this is not something that’s going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.”

James Т. Lacatski, a Defense Intelligence Agency official listed as a contact on the report, did not immediately to respond a query from Business Insider.

Where the warp-drive study came from

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
The Pentagon building

The nature of this study is still making its way to the public.

What is known is that it’s an “acquisition threat support” reference document, which helps the US military anticipate or describe new enemy technologies — apparently including (very, very) notional ones. It was also one work in “а series of advanced technology reports” for something called the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program, or AAWSAP.

This was a larger program that included Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program — an effort to investigate alleged UFO sightings by military personnel, according a recent story by KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.

The New York Times and Politico revealed AATIP’s existence in December 2017. The outlets said former Nevada senator Harry Reid helped organize it and secure millions in secret government funding (sometimes called “black money”) for the effort.

A large share of this money reportedly went to Robert Bigelow — a real-estate mogul who’s working to build private space stations through Bigelow Aerospace, is a friend of Reid’s, and someone who has funded his own UFO research for years. The billionaire reportedly formed a separate entity, called Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, to secure the government funding and use it to hire 46 researchers and “dozens of other support personnel,” KLAS-TV said.

An anonymous senior intelligence official told Politico that AATIP began mostly to root out the existence of unknown Chinese and Russian military technologies. But after a couple of years, “the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” the official said. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find.” AAWSAP and AATIP reportedly ran out of funding in 2011 or 2012.

Scientists are also skeptical of UFOs, even after viewing spooky videos obtained by AATIP, one of which shows an undated encounter with “an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves,” the Times wrote.

Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute previously told Business Insider that, after 50 years of reported alien visits, “the really good evidence that we’re being visited still has failed to surface.” He added: “It is a little odd that aliens would come hundreds and hundreds of light-years to do nothing.”

The larger program that looked into the feasibility of warp drives, wormholes, and stargates is meeting similar scrutiny from established experts.

The physics of warp drives

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
An illustration of a warp field generated by a theoretical device called an Alcubierre drive. A spaceship inside might be able to move faster than light by contracting the fabric of space ahead of it and expanding the fabric of space behind it with negative energy.

In the warp-drive study, the authors laid out several well-established ideas in physics.

Those concepts include dark energy; general relativity, which Albert Einstein pioneered and predicted some bizarre-yet-real phenomena in the universe (like the warping of spacetime and gravitational waves); the Casimir effect, which describes the existence of a quantum “vacuum energy”; and M-theory — the idea that perhaps seven extra dimensions (which a warp drive could exploit) may be wrapped up in the four we’re familiar with, including time.

It then mashes this work together to lay out a potential use of these properties that’d circumvent Einstein’s cardinal rule: Nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum.

“If one is to realistically entertain the notion of interstellar exploration in timeframes of а human lifespan, а dramatic shift in the traditional approach to spacecraft propulsion is necessary,” said the report, which goes on to suggest that a warp drive might be feasible.

The study includes a table of various destinations and how quickly they might be reached by bending spacetime to travel 100 times faster than light.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

The way this might work, the report says, is by using a lot of dark (or negative) energy to expand an extra dimension into a “bubble.” Such a bubble would be made large enough to fit a spaceship of perhaps 100 cubic meters — roughly the size of a semi-trailer truck.

A contracting region of spacetime in front of the ship, plus an expanding region behind it, would then propel the bubble and ship down a sort of spacetime tube without technically exceeding the speed of light.

Carroll also said that the concept of a warp drive “is not crackpot” — Miguel Alcubierre, a Mexican theoretical physicist, invented the concept in 1994.

“You can’t go faster than the speed of light. But what you can can imagine doing is effectively twisting spacetime so that it looks like you’re moving faster than the speed of light,” Carroll said. “If you want to go to Alpha Centauri, for example, you can ask yourself, ‘Well, could I bend spacetime so that Alpha Centauri is next to me, so that it takes a day to go there, rather than tens of [thousands of] years? Can I make the warping of spacetime do that?’ And the answer is sure, you can do that.”

But Carroll said the DIA report goes too far in its analysis.

“There is something called a warp drive, there are extra dimensions, there is a Casimir effect, and there’s dark energy. All of these things are true,” he said. “But there’s zero chance that anyone within our lifetimes, or the next 1,000 years, are going to build anything that makes use of any of these ideas, for defense purposes or anything like that.”

The problems and perils of faster-than-light travel

Carrol said warp drives are so removed from plausible reality because no one knows what negative energy is, how to make it, or how to store it, let alone put it to use.

What’s more, the amount of negative energy you’d need to reach a place like Alpha Centauri — the nearest star system to Earth, at 4.367 light-years away — in a couple years with a 100-cubic-meter ship is truly astronomical.

“If you took the entire Earth and annihilated it into energy, that’s how much energy you’d need, except you’d need a negative amount of that, which no one has any clue how to make,” Carroll said. “We’re not taking the atoms of the Earth and dispersing them like the Death Star would do. We’re making them cease to exist.”

Then this energy has to be captured, stored, and used with 100% efficiency.

“It’s completely crazy talk,” Carroll said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh, we need better transistors.’ This is something that is not anywhere within the realm of feasibility.”

The study states that its conclusions are speculative, admits the negative-energy figure “is, indeed, an incredible number,” and adds that “a full understanding of the true nature of dark energy may be many years away.”

However, it suggests “that experimental breakthroughs at the Large Hadron Collider оr developments in the field of M-theory could lead to а quantum leap in our understanding of this unusual form of energy and perhaps help to direct technological innovations.”

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military
A section of theu00a0Large Hadron Collider.

Nearly a decade on, none of these developments have panned out. The LHC has yet to find any evidence of particles that’d crack the mysteries of dark energy, nor have experiments really advanced M-theory.

But assuming negative energy could somehow be extracted, a planet’s worth of exotic matter fed into a spaceship’s warp drive engines, and a suitable destination picked out, the crew might encounter a number of show-stopping problems.

Interstellar travelers may lose control of their ship the moment they start it due to the warping of space itself. Hawking radiation — which is theoretically found at the edges of black holes and other highly warped regions of space — might roast passengers while shutting down their warp field. And slowing down may be deadly: Several light-years’ worth of cosmic dust and gas between the origin and destination might turn into a dangerous shockwave of high-energy particles and radiation upon arrival.

“It’s possible in the sense that I can’t actually rule it out, but I don’t think it’s actually possible,” Carroll said of warp drives and faster-than-light travel. “I think if we knew physics better, we’d just say, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why troops are calling for Chick-fil-A to open on installations

Troops stationed around the world don’t have very many options when it comes time to grab a quick bite to eat. Either they’re entirely at the whim of the dining facility (if they live in the barracks), they’ll grab something from one of the handful of fast-food chains (which aren’t the healthiest options), or they’ll go off-post (which could take a while).

Since cooking from home is almost always out of the question during short lunch breaks, most troops opt for the less-than-healthy options to save on more-than-limited time.

This complex relationship between nutrition and scheduling is at the heart of troops’ latest Change.org petition. It’s time to bring Chick-fil-A to military installations.


Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Chick-fil-A already has a working relationship with the military community, so this petition could make it official.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)

The petition is geared towards convincing AAFES, which is privately-owned and operated, to include the chicken sandwich chain in their list of Name-Brand Fast Food (NBFF) Direct partners. Troops are drawn to the restaurant’s customer-first attitude, healthy food options, and generally positive reviews.

A Name-Brand Fast Food Direct partnership would allow Chick-fil-A to open franchises on military installations at no cost to the installation itself while allowing the franchise access to an entirely new demographic. Chick-fil-A’s just off-base tend to be packed during rush hour, so adding one on-base would mean wasting less time for troops. Additionally, the healthier options provided by Chick-fil-A would be an excellent alternative to fried foods. Gone would be the days of waiting thirty minutes for a greasy burger.

There’s no doubt that the demand is there. In just 5 days, the petition has reached 19,885 supporters, the poll on Military Times is at a whopping 98%, and comment sections throughout the veteran sphere have been overflowing with support.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Petitions are nice, but it’s all up to the all-mighty dollar to really make things like this move.

(Photo by Mike Mozart)

In all reality, there are countless other things that could (and probably should) be addressed before adding another fast-food restaurant to a military installation, as Military Times half-sarcastically pointed out. Any new restaurant on an installation would be swarmed by chicken-hungry troops, leaving everyone unwilling to wait to go to other on-base fast-food chains, like Subway, Burger King, or Popeyes (direct competitors of Chick-fil-A).

Also, as awesome as it is that almost 20,000 people have signed an online petition for something that they’re passionate about, that’s just not how government contracts work. Change.org is nice for getting a rough headcount, but the website’s track record for enacting actual change has been iffy.

It would be phenomenal if, by some miracle, Chick-fil-A does start opening up shops on military installations — just don’t get your hopes up too high.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this heroic sailor earned 12 medals for valor

When Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Williams finally allowed the Navy to retire him after nearly twenty years of service, he was the proud holder of the Navy’s top seven awards for valor as well as three Purple Hearts and a number of other accolades.

Nearly all of those awards, which ranged from multiple Bronze Stars with “V” devices to the Medal of Honor, were earned in a less than seven-month period.


Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Williams, the Navy’s most decorated enlisted sailor.

(U.S. Navy)

So, how did a young Cherokee boy grow to become one of the U.S. military’s greatest heroes? Well, first, in 1947, he convinced a county clerk to falsify a birth certificate so he could join at the age of 16. His first tour was uneventful, an experience he hated at the time, but learned from, according to a 1998 interview in All Hands Magazine.

“I’d joined the Navy to see the world — and doggonit, I wasn’t moving. I’d got orders to an [landing ship, tank] that just sat around a buoy in the San Diego harbor.”
Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Landing Ship, Tanks were large supply vessels that could deposit most cargo directly onto the shore when necessary.

(U.S. Navy)

But a senior sailor gave him some perspective.

“An old chief told me, ‘Son, you got to learn to take orders, even if you disagree with them. That’s the first step to being a good Sailor and a good leader. If you can’t take orders now, you certainly won’t be respected when you give them later.’ Well, I got the message,” said Williams. “Learning discipline was the springboard that helped my Navy career. From then on, I had the sharpest damn knife and the shiniest shoes in the Navy. That’s what I was taught.”

And that sharp knife would come in handy.

Williams got his first taste of small craft and riverine warfare in Korea, where he was sent on raiding parties against small crafts near the shore.

It was this experience and his years of shining shoes and sharpening knives that led to Williams’ proudest day.

“The proudest day of my life had nothing to do with medals, ribbons, citations,” he told All Hands Magazine. “It was when they made me a patrol officer. That position was held only by chiefs and officers. It showed the trust the Navy had placed in me. I always wanted the opportunity to show what I could do. This Vietnam thing was it for me. The Navy gave me the chance to do my job.”

His job would be to take Patrol Boat, River-105 into the small, Viet-Cong-filled rivers of Vietnam.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

A Patrol Boat River in the waters of Vietnam.

(U.S. Navy)

The crew went out with Williams starting in May, 1966, and the fighting started early. While many of the patrols were quick forays into the river traffic to look for contraband, Williams and his crew saw major combat multiple times before the end of July.

On July 1, Williams and PBR 105 spotted an enemy sampan in the early morning darkness and gave chase. The sampan made for a friendly landing and Williams and his crew quickly came under fire from both the ship and shore. Maneuvering deftly, the men killed five enemies on the boat, captured the vessel and a few ship’s occupants, which were of “significant intelligence value.” He was later awarded the Bronze Star for his actions.

Just 22 days later, PBR-105 once again chased down an enemy sampan, this time at night. Again, they came under fire from enemies on shore but continued to fight. The crew killed six occupants of the boat, one enemy who had made it ashore, and captured the enemy sampan with its cargo and documents intact — again, these were of significant intelligence value. He would later be awarded a Bronze Star for his actions.

Less than a month later, Williams was leading PBR-105 and PBR-101 through the Mekong River in the early evening when they came under fire multiple times from a suspected 100-enemy-gun emplacements on both shores. They stayed in the kill zone, maneuvering and destroying multiple emplacements.

The men intercepted a sampan with two high-ranking Viet-Cong, but Williams was wounded in the face while salvaging documents from it. He kept up his men’s fire and captured 71 classified and sensitive documents before withdrawing. He would later be awarded the Silver Star.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

A machine gunner on a Patrol Boat River with his two machine guns.

(U.S. Navy)

His greatest heroism under fire came two months later in October, 1966, when PBR-105 and another boat went on what Williams thought would be a routine patrol.

“October 31, 1966, was supposed to be a restful day in the steamy heartland of the Viet Cong,” he said. “But it’s one of those times I won’t never forget, no matter how hard I try. We were on a day patrol, kind of like the ‘relax and recreation’ patrol — nothin’ too heavy.”

But, early in the patrol, the forward machine gunner yelled that he saw two motorized sampans. The motorized boats nearly always carried high-ranking Viet Cong. The Americans gave chase.

The boats attempted to scatter, forcing Williams to choose which to follow, but the Americans quickly killed one and began tracking down the other. The second sampan used the little time it had gained to turn down a shallow canal where the patrol boats couldn’t go.

Williams checked his map. The enemy’s most likely course of action was to follow the canal to its other end, a third of a mile away. He ordered his boats to intercept. Things immediately went sideways.

“We wanted to get them real bad,” he said. “I went around that corner at max sped to cut him off — and, lo and behold, I looked up and didn’t see nothing but boats and people and more boats and more people.”

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

Not a lot of armor or firepower when you’re dealing with thousands of enemy troops in the water and on shore.

(U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Williams and his boats had run straight into a massive enemy staging area. Suddenly, they found themselves surrounded by multiple companies of Viet Cong fighters. Williams, at the helm, immediately maxed out his engines and used his wake to disrupt the first sampan’s aim, then took off through the gauntlet.

Surprisingly, they made it. Williams later said that it seemed like the sampans were hitting each other more than him as the patrol boats made their mad dash through. Unfortunately for the Americans, they turned with the river only to have their luck worsen.

Their attempted escape landed them in another enemy staging area. Williams decided that the only way to save his shipmates was to fight it out with the Viet Cong, and they did. For over three hours, the patrol boats maneuvered at high speeds and provided fire for one another, cutting down enemy boats and shore positions as fast as they could in a desperate attempt to keep each other alive.

And it worked. The two boats and 10 Americans who went into the river all came back after inflicting a suspected 1,200 enemy casualties and destroying 65 boats. Williams would later be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, but he still wasn’t done in Vietnam.

Less than three months later, Williams was on a patrol when he saw a dredge strike a mine on Jan. 9, 1967. PBR-105 immediately gave aid and was picking up survivors when the crew heard a tapping coming from inside the hull. Williams jumped into the water.

During repeated dives, he directed the elderly man trapped inside to a nearby hatch, loosened two heavy pipes blocking the hatch, and then ran a line from a nearby tug around the pipes so they could be pulled free. Once the obstruction was removed, Williams and a crew member swam into the still-sinking dredge and pulled the man free, saving his life. He would later receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Here’s why Zippos are the unofficial lighter of the military

A Patrol Boat River and a sampan in Vietnam.

(U.S. Navy)

On January 15, less than a week later, Williams was leading a patrol on the Mekong when the crew spotted a large enemy supply movement across one of the river branches. The boat moved to intercept but quickly came under heavy fire from fortified positions on the river banks.

The boat dropped back and called in Vietnamese artillery and U.S. air strikes to reduce the enemy positions, and then forayed back into the river branch. Once again, heavy fire came at them from the shore.

This time, the Americans stayed in the thick of it and took aim at enemy sampans the Vietnamese seemed eager to protect. The PBRs destroyed them before withdrawing. Williams was injured during the withdrawal, but continued to direct the movement and the PBRs’ fire.

The enemy force that the patrol had encountered was later assessed as three heavy weapons companies with 400 men. The patrol was credited with killing sixteen enemies and wounding 20 while destroying nine enemy watercraft, seven structures, and 2,400 pounds of rice. Williams would later receive the Navy Cross for his actions.

Finally, Williams let the Navy send him home to a very well-earned retirement at just under the standard 20 years. He received his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson and entered a quiet nursing home to raise petun….

No. Of course not. He took his retirement and his Medal of Honor and became a U.S. Marshal, serving his country once again. This time, in South Carolina, Georgia, and Washington D.C.

He died on October 13, 1999, the Navy’s 224th birthday. According to The United States Navy Memorial, an unidentified, retired admiral spoke at Williams’ funeral and said,

“Willie did not seek awards. He did not covet getting them. We did not seek to make him a hero. The circumstances of time and place and the enemy’s presence did that. I know through personal investigation of each incident that he never placed his crew nor his patrol boats in danger without first ensuring the risk was calculated and that surprise was on his side. He always had the presence of mind not to endanger friendly villages. He inspired us all, junior and senior alike. It was my greatest honor to have served with the man who truly led us all with his example of unselfish devotion to duty.”

The Aegis destroyer DDG 95, christened in 2003, was named in his honor. Over the course of his career, he received the following awards for his service:

  • The Navy Cross Silver Star (with one gold award star)
  • The Legion of Merit (with valor device)
  • The Navy and Marine Corps Medal with gold star Bronze Star Medal with two gold stars
  • Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star and Palm
  • Navy Commendation Medal
  • Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation with one service star
  • Purple Heart with two gold stars
  • Vietnam Service Medal with bronze service star
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
  • United Nations Service Medal
  • Korean Service Medal with two bronze service stars
  • Korean Presidential Unit Citation
  • Korean War Service Medal
  • The Navy Good Conduct Medal with four bronze service stars
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