4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War - We Are The Mighty
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4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.

The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.

1. People sniffers

The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.

So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.

However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Gross dog poop. …or is it?

2. Poop

It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.

What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

An X-ray view of that same “poop.”

The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes

Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.

A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.

Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.

Now Read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear bomb

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

4. Tactical Tree Crusher

Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.

A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Recalled from the Mekong Delta to set a world record in the Olympics

Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.

(U.S. Air Force)

The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.

The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.

“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.

(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)

Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.

“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.

But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.

When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’

How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.

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While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.

He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.

“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.

The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).

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Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:

You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’

They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.

Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.

Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.

Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the U.S. military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

A common debate among veterans and gun enthusiasts revolves around why the United States chose to implement the 5.56mm N.A.T.O. round into service instead of the 7.62mm.


Size, versatility, lethality, and a plethora of other semantics are usually quoted in bars across the nation. The answer to this question does not lie in the science between these two instruments of warfare but in the politics of the world stage.

Behind closed doors, world leaders are not as concerned with the penetration of a round or the distance between troops and their targets, but whether they have enough weaponry in their depots, enough money in their treasuries, and the commitment of their allies to come to their aid.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

Immediately after World War II, tensions began to rise between the east and west over liberated territories and how they would be governed. An arms race of atomic proportions had begun. War-torn Europe faced the problem of depleted weapon stores and the financial inability to repulse the expansion of Soviet Communism.

Also read: Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

In the wake of World War II, the United States of America commanded over 30,000 overseas bases, marshaled over half of the world’s manufacturing capacity, and owned two thirds of the world’s gold stock. In 1949, the Greatest Generation proposed a strategic solution: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

N.A.T.O. was created in response to failing relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, especially in the case of the reconstruction of Germany. The countries of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal banded together with the United States as its chief architect.

Article 5 of the 14 Articles of the ‘N.A.T.O. Treaty of April 4th, 1949’ most clearly defines the intent of the Organization:

“…an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or shall be considered an attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each o them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” – Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

Under the persuasive guidance of the United States, N.A.T.O. slowly standardized armaments best suited for American designs than those resembling the Soviet 7.62mm. Who else could argue the case to finance, produce, and export on a scale to rival the Russians? By the 1980s, the 5.56x45mm was adopted as the standard.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

From the sands of the Middle East to the deep jungles of South America, the 5.56mm played an integral role in shaping modern warfare. Decades of proxy wars and economic down turn brought the Soviet Union to its knees. Mikhail Gorbachev, President and leader of the Soviet Union, resigned and declared his office extinct on Dec. 25, 1991.

America had triumphed.

Weapons & Gear: US paratroopers are testing this new tactical chest rig

The 5.56mm never got the chance to sing in the halls of the Kremlin, but it was the round that destroyed an empire.

Currently, the United States stands as one of the top weapons suppliers around the world. Its sales include, but are not limited to, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Iraq, and Egypt.

Our allies could always borrow our rounds in an emergency because they already own the same model guns. That is why the U.S. uses the 5.56mm: it’s a tool to be used to enforce our political intentions — one way or another.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to search for a missing nuclear cruise missile

Russia lost a nuclear-powered missile during a failed test in 2017, and now Moscow is gearing up to go find it, according to CNBC, citing people familiar with a relevant US intelligence report.

Proudly claiming that the world will “listen to us now,” Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted in early March 2018 that his country had developed a new nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range, but each of the four tests between November 2017 and February 2018 reportedly ended in failure, according to reports from May 2018.


“The low-flying, stealth cruise missile with a nuclear warhead with a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the ability to bypass interception lines is invulnerable to all existing and future missile defense and air defense systems,” Putin claimed.

“No one in the world has anything like it,” he added.

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The reports from testing don’t support the Russian president’s claims.

The longest recorded flight, according to US assessments, lasted only a little over two minutes. Flying just 22 miles, the missile spun out of control and crashed. In each case, the nuclear-powered core of the experimental cruise missile failed, preventing the weapon from achieving the indefinite flight and unlimited range the Russian president bragged about.

The tests were apparently conducted at the request of senior Kremlin officials despite the protests of Russian engineers who argued that the platform was not ready for testing. Russian media reports claim the weapon will be ready to deploy in ten years.

During one weapons test in November 2017, the missile crashed into the Barents Sea. Three ships, one with the ability to handle radioactive material, will take part in the search operations, which have yet to be officially scheduled.

Experts are concerned about the possibility that the missile may be leaking radioactive nuclear material. The missile is suspected to rely on gasoline for takeoff but switch to nuclear power once in flight.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran just fired new submarine-based cruise missiles

The biggest threat facing the United States in its unending showdown with the Islamic Republic of Iran are the naval forces in the Persian Gulf that could try to shut off access to the Strait of Hormuz. Ensuring worldwide freedom of navigation in the world’s sea lanes is just one of the missions of the U.S. Navy, but never before has America’s sea service encountered such a threat in this part of the world.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

HMS Sheffield burns from a direct hit by an Argentinian exocet anti-ship missile.

Anti-ship missiles are a very dangerous game changer in modern naval warfare. They can bring an inferior opposing force into parity with the world’s biggest naval powers. Exocet missiles were used to great effect against the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in the 1980s Falklands War, sinking the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor, a critical cargo ship carrying men and materiel. They also nearly sunk the destroyer HMS Glamorgan, killing 14 sailors.

Argentina had just eight Exocet anti-ship missiles for the entire war, and four of them were used efficiently. If the missiles had destroyed just one of Britain’s aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes or HMS Invincible, the entire war might have been lost for Britain and the Falklands would now be known as the Malvinas.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The Iranian missile test, conducted Feb. 24, 2019.

On Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, the Islamic Republic’s navy in the Persian Gulf successfully tested its first submarine-launched, short-range anti-ship cruise missile – near the Strait of Hormuz. If a showdown with the United States ever came to pass, the first move Iran’s navy would make is an attempt to block that strait. Iran says all of its subs, Ghadir, Tareq, and Fateh-class Iranian navy submarines now have the capability to fire these cruise missiles.

While Iran reportedly exaggerates its missile capabilities, there is real concern surrounding this latest development. More than 100 Iranian navy ships were performing military exercises from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean as the new missile was test fired. In 2017, the Office of Naval Intelligence issued a warning about Iran developing this capability, as the new subs allow Iranian ships to get dangerously close to American ships before firing at them.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

An Iranian Ghadir-class submarine.

Iran’s best chance at taking down the American naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to swarm the ships with small, fast attack craft, hitting them with every weapon they possibly can as early in the conflict as possible. The idea is to cause maximum damage and kill as many Americans as possible in order to break the will of the American people to fight.

“The doctrine manifests itself as hit-and-run style, surprise attacks, or the amassing of large numbers of unsophisticated weapons to overwhelm the enemies’ defenses,” Naval Analyst Chris Carlson told the U.S. Naval Institute. “The amassing of naval forces is often described as a swarm of small boats.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This portable robot can hunt IEDs for six hours

When dismounted troops need a robot to look over or handle a dangerous situation, that robot both needs to be able to be portable and capable. The FirstLook handles the portable side, and can be an excellent scout, but sometimes, it doesn’t have the “strength” to deal with improvised explosive devices.


Well, according to a handout from Endeavor Robotics that was available at the Association of the United States Army expo, there is a `bot for that job. The SUGV offers both man-portability, and the ability to do some lifting.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
SUGV hauls a suspicious package. (Youtube screenshot)

The SUGV comes in at just over 30 pounds, eight ounces – including manipulator arm and batteries. The arm can lift up to 22 pounds of weight. The robot comes with six hours of runtime, a top speed of just over six miles per hour, and the ability to literally turn on a dime.

Now, the SUGV robot is not as capable of lifting objects like the Kobra, nor can you toss it like the FirstLook, but it does fit into a nine-inch by 28-inch space – in other words, it fits in a grunt’s pack. That is very useful, even if the 30 pounds is a bit on the heavy side. Well, life’s about compromise sometimes.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
The SUGV is capable of scouting hostile terrain for dismounted troops. (Youtube screenshot)

The SUGV carries four cameras, and also features the ability to carry various disruptors for use in neutralizing IEDs. The robot can scale 12-inch obstacles and is also capable of climbing or descending a 40-degree slope. You can see more about this robot in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9g6vMRb-5I
Articles

This Marine sniper threw the enemy’s grenade back to save his brothers

His team spotted by insurgents and forced to take cover in an abandoned compound, Marine sniper Joshua Moore went against his instinct when two grenades landed next to him, throwing one of them back at the enemy and holding off insurgent fire until help could arrive.


Moore, at the time a Lance Corporal, was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

Moore was part of a scout sniper platoon during a mission in Marjah, Afghanistan, in March 2011, when insurgents targeted his team.

The Marines fell back to a nearby compound, but enemy machine gun rounds soon sliced through the air, wounding two of them. After taking cover, Moore felt two objects hit him in the back. When he turned he saw two grenades lying in the sand.

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He reached down, grabbed the first grenade, and threw it back out the window where it detonated just a moment later. He went for the second but noticed it was covered in rust and was likely a dud.

The young sniper would later say that he was, “scared out of my mind, but I knew we had to do everything possible to get everyone home.” Despite the brush with death and under the continuing threat of incoming fire, Moore crawled from the building and held off the enemy until a quick reaction force arrived.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

He went to the north where the enemy attack was heaviest and began aiding the wounded and returning fire. He used an M4 with an attached M203 grenade launcher to suppress fighters where he could find them.

The arrival of a quick reaction force and another sniper platoon allowed the Marines to finally gain fire superiority, evacuate the wounded and fall back to their patrol base.

Moore was meritoriously promoted to corporal less than two months after the battle and was awarded the Navy Cross in Nov. 2013.

“It’s an honor to receive an award like the Navy Cross. But to be honest, I was just doing my job,” Moore said after the ceremony.

Since then, Moore has been promoted to sergeant and assigned as an instructor at the scout sniper basic course. He told Stars and Stripes that he often shares the story of the engagement with his students, but that he avoids talking about his medal.

“That honestly not the important part,” he said.

Articles

Lithuania adds armored vehicles to inventory as Russian threat looms

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
(Photo: ARTEC)


Lithuania is boosting its military by purchasing 88 “Boxer” infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) from Germany. The purchase comes amid increasing concern about Russian intentions towards Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The Boxer is an eight-wheeled vehicle with a three-man crew that can hold eight infantrymen. The version procured by Lithuania will include Israeli gear, notably the Samson Mk II turret, which has a 30mm autocannon and Spike-LR anti-tank missiles. The Spike-LR is a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile that has a range of roughly 2.5 miles, and can defeat most main battle tanks. The Boxers will join about 200 M113 armored personnel carriers currently serving in the Lithuanian Land Forces.

The Boxer is in service with the Dutch and German armies, with the Dutch using it to replace M577 command vehicles and  YPR-765 infantry fighting vehicles in support roles. The  Germans are using the Boxer to replace the M113 and the Fuchs armored car. The two countries have purchased or plan to purchase over 700 Boxers, and the total may well increase.

The purchase of 88 vehicles seems small, but the Lithuanian Land Forces consist of a single full-strength mechanized infantry brigade with a “motorized infantry” brigade currently forming. This force does not have any heavy armor, and is also very short on artillery, featuring a grand total of 54 M101 105mm howitzers and 42 M113 120mm mortar carriers. Lithuania has purchased 21 PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers and a few dozen 120mm mortars that can be carried by infantry. Lithuania has a couple hundred FGM-148 Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles with a range of just over 1.5 miles, joining older 90mm towed recoilless rifles and Carl Gustav shoulder-fired recoilless rifles.

Despite the modernization program, when facing a formation like the newly-reformed 1st Guards Tank Army, the Lithuanian Land Forces will be facing some very long odds, particularly when they are dependent on a four-plane detachment in Lithuania proper for air cover (the Baltic Air Policing program also has a four-plane detachment in Estonia). The Lithuanian Air Force has one L-39 trainer/light attack plane in service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is why the Cheyenne failed to replace the Cobra

The AH-64 Apache has become a legendary helicopter — proving to be more than a capable replacement for the AH-1 Cobras in United States Army service, but this gunship almost didn’t see the light of day.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
The Apache racked up 240 hours of combat during Operation Just Cause. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Back in the late 1960s, the Cobra was seen as just a stopgap. The Army ran a competition for an Advanced Aerial Fire Support System and, ultimately, selected Lockheed’s entry, designating it the AH-56 Cheyenne and ordering ten prototypes.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Cobra AH-1 attack helicopters were often deployed with Loaches to provide greater firepower. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The Cheyenne was not a conventional helicopter. It had a top rotor and a tail rotor, but it also added a pusher propeller. This gave it a top speed of 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, the AH-64 has a top speed of just under 189 miles per hour. The Cheyenne had a single 30mm cannon and could carry BGM-71 TOW missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and external fuel tanks.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
AH-56 Cheyenne hovering over a helipad. (Photo from U.S. Army)

So, why didn’t the Cheyenne become a staple? First, a fatal crash and numerous delays marred the project. Additionally, the Army’s Cheyenne was seen as a violation of the Key West Agreement, causing further friction. Plans to buy 600 Cheyennes were quickly scaled down to 375 as costs climbed.

Ultimately, the Army scrapped the Cheyenne when the Air Force began the A-X project, which eventually lead to fielding the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane. The Cheyenne was officially cancelled on August 9th, 1972. Eight days later, the Army began the Advanced Attack Helicopter program, which eventually produced the AH-64 Apache.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
An A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron performs a low-angle strafe using its 30mm GAU-8 rotary cannon during the Hawgsmoke competition at Barry M. Goldwater Range, Ariz., June 2, 2016. The entire A-10 platform was designed around the tank-killing cannon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The Cheyenne hasn’t failed entirely, though. Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider prototype looks like a more advanced version of the Cheyenne. In a real sense, the Cheyenne was almost five decades ahead of its time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 10 most important tank battles in history

The tank is one of the most important weapon systems on the battlefield. Few weapons strike enemy soldiers with the fear that a fully loaded tank rolling towards them does.

After their trial by fire on the fields of Europe in World War I, tanks have become a necessity for any army that wants to be considered a serious foe.

In the one hundred years since its invention, tanks have been the winning factor in a number of battles. Entire wars have depended on their successful use.


Take a look at how 10 of the biggest tank battles in history went:

Battle of Cambrai: November 20 – December 8, 1917

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
A Mark IV (Male) tank of ‘H’ Battalion, ‘Hyacinth’, ditched in a German trench while supporting 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment near Ribecourt during the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

The Battle of Cambrai was the first time tanks were used on a large scale for a military offensive. The objective was to take the commune of Cambrai, an important supply point for the Germans at the heart of the Hindenburg Line, in order to reduce the pressure on the French.

Nineteen British divisions were assembled for the battle, including 476 tanks and five horsed cavalry divisions.

The initial attack on November 20th was met with huge success. The British had torn through four miles of German defenses and captured up to 7,500 prisoners with low casualties.

But by the end of the day, more than half of the tanks were out of action due to mechanical failure. The German Army launched a massive counterattack, and brutal trench warfare ensued.

By the end of the battle, almost all the British gains were lost, over 100 tanks were lost or destroyed, and both sides suffered around 40,000 casualties each.

Battle of Hannut: May 12 – 14, 1940

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Two destroyed French SOMUA S35s and an artillery piece being inspected by German soldiers, May, 1940.

The Battle of Hannut was fought during the Battle of Belgium, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries. It was part of the Wehrmacht’s thrust into the Ardennes region, and was meant to tie down the French First Army.

It was both the largest tank battle of the campaign, and the largest battle in armored warfare history at the time. Over 600 German tanks and 25,000 soldiers squared off against 600 French and Dutch armored vehicles and around 20,000 soldiers.

The battle was technically inconclusive. Some of the French First Army was able to fight their way through the Germans to reunite with their British comrades at Dunkirk, but they had lost well over 100 of their tanks and armored vehicles.

German losses were much lighter, with only around 50 tanks lost. While the French SOMUA S35 tank was considered as one of the best at the time, German tactics and communication technology made the Wehrmacht better.

Battle of Raseiniai: June 23 – 27, 1941

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
An abandoned Soviet A KV-2 tank, June, 1941.

The Battle of Raseiniai was a large tank battle fought at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. The battle was fought in Lithuania, then part of the Soviet Union’s Northwestern Front.

Some 240 German tanks from the 4th Panzer Group were tasked with destroying almost 750 Soviet tanks of the 3rd and 12th Mechanized Corps.

Despite their numerical advantage over the Wehrmacht, the result of the battle was an utter catastrophe for the Soviets. Some 700 Soviet tanks and their crews — almost the entirety of the Soviet Union’s deployed mechanized units on the Northwestern Front — were destroyed, damaged, or captured.

A large part of the German victory was due to their use of airpower. The Luftwaffe was unchallenged during the battle, and the close tank formations of the Soviets were easy targets for Ju 88 aircraft.

Battle of Brody: June 23 – 30, 1941

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
A German infantryman near a burning Soviet BT-5 tank, June, 1941.

The Battle of Brody is the largest tank battle in history, according to some historians.

Also fought during the beginning stages of Operation Barbarossa, the battle saw some 1,000 German panzers of the 1st Panzer Group’s III Army Corps smash into 3,000 Soviet tanks from the six mechanized corps of the Soviet 5th and 6th Armies.

Again outnumbered, the Wehrmacht proved that superior training, tactics, communication technology, and air support make all the difference.

The exact number of casualties is not known, but estimates put Soviet tank losses at somewhere between 800 to over 1,000. The Wehrmacht also suffered heavy casualties, with anywhere between 200 to 350 tanks destroyed.

“This, in fact, is the biggest tank battle in World War II, and sparsely a word has been written on it,” according to David Glantz, a historian of the Eastern Front and Soviet military.

Second Battle of El Alamein: October 23 – November 11, 1942

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
A mine explodes close to a British artillery tractor as it advances through enemy minefields and wire to the new front line, October 1942.

The Second Battle of El Alamein saw two legendary generals, Britain’s Bernard Montgomery, and Germany’s Erwin Rommel — who was nicknamed the “Desert Fox” — fight for the fate of North Africa.

North Africa had been a battleground since Fascist Italy’s invasion of Egypt in 1940. Germany’s Afrikakorps had to step in to prevent their defeat in 1941, and were able to push the British all the way into Egypt.

They were stopped at the First Battle of El Alamein, which, though technically a stalemate, did prevent the Afrikakorps from rolling through the rest of Egypt, and by extension the Middle East.

Montgomery assembled a force for a counterattack, including around 190,000 men and over 1,000 tanks. Rommel commanded a force of 116,000 German and Italian soldiers, and 540 tanks.

After days of hard fighting in the Egyptian desert, Montgomery was victorious. Five hundred German and Italian tanks, almost all of Rommel’s force, were destroyed or captured.

With the Americans launching Operation Torch in November 1942, the tide against the Germans began to turn in North Africa.

Battle of Prokhorovka: July 12, 1943

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Panzer IIIs and IVs on the southern side of the Kursk salient at the start of Operation Citadel, July 1943.

The Battle of Prokhorovka took place during the larger Battle of Kursk. It was long thought to be the largest tank battle in history, but according to the book Demolishing the Myth: The Tank Battle at Prokhorovka, Kursk, July 1943 by Valeriy Zamulin, a Russian military historian, that is not the case.

But that is not to say it was small or insignificant. The battle saw over 600 Soviet tanks from the 5th Guards Tank Army smash head on into around 300 German tanks from the II SS-Panzer Corps.

The fighting was some of the most intense in the history of armored warfare. The Soviets lost around 400 tanks, more than half of their force. German tank losses were smaller by comparison, up to 80 tanks and assault guns destroyed.

The Germans were unable to take Prokhorovka, and although it was not destroyed (the original goal of the Soviets), the II SS-Panzer Corps was exhausted, and prevented from continuing their offensive.

Thus, the momentum swung to the side of the Soviets, who eventually won the Battle of Kursk

Operation Goodwood: July 18 – 20, 1944

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Sherman tanks carrying infantry wait for the order to advance at the start of Operation ‘Goodwood’, 18 July 1944.

Operation Goodwood was a British offensive that was part of the Battle for Caen, one of the main inland targets that was part of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. The goal was to break through to Caen so that it could be liberated.

The British had mustered as many as 1,100 tanks for the battle. The Wehrmacht had only around 370 tanks at their disposal, but they included the fearsome Tiger and Tiger II tanks.

The battle did not go the way the British intended. Their casualties were 5,000 men and 250 to 300 tanks destroyed. German losses were 75 tanks destroyed, mostly by airstrikes.

Operation Goodwood did cause some controversy. Montgomery claimed that all the objectives were achieved and that the mission was a success. But the British had only managed to penetrate roughly seven miles or so East of Caen.

But Goodwood did draw valuable German tanks away from the Western part of Caen, where the Americans were making their push to the city.

Battle of Chawinda: September 17 – 22, 1965

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Indian soldiers in front of a destroyed Pakistani Sherman tank during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.

The Battle of Chawinda was one of the largest tank battles fought since World War II. It was part of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, fought over control of Jammu and Kashmir.

After the Pakistani Army’s attempt to foment an insurgency (Operation Gibraltar) was discovered and subsequently foiled, India retaliated with an outright attack along the Pakistani border.

The Indian military had planned to take the city of Sialkot, an important railway hub and central part of the Grand Trunk Road, so that they could use it as a beachhead for further operations into Pakistan.

But the Indian force of 80,000 to 150,000 soldiers and 230 tanks was met outside of their objective at Chawinda by a Pakistani force of 30,000 to 50,000 men and 132 tanks.

After more than a day of intense fighting, a UNSC resolution was signed and an unconditional ceasefire was implemented. India lost anywhere between 29 to 129 tanks, whereas Pakistan lost up to 44 tanks.

Battle of the Valley of Tears: October 6 – 9, 1973

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Israeli troops fight off Syrian soldiers in the Golan Heights, the area was later named the Valley of Tears

The Battle of the Valley of Tears was fought between Israel and Syria during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The war had started on the holiest day in Judaism, when Syrian soldiers supported by 1,400 tanks crossed the border and invaded the Jewish state.

Just one Israeli armored brigade, roughly 100 or so tanks and armored vehicles stood in the way of the Syrian 7th Division, a force of 1,400 tanks, including 400 T-62s, at the time the most modern Soviet tank in the field.

The Israelis were manning British and American-made Centurion tanks, known for their good gunner sights. Unable to call in effective air support, the Israeli defenders dug in and fought off wave after wave of Syrian tank attacks.

Some Syrian tanks broke through, causing the Israeli tanks to turn their turrets backwards to destroy them. But one by one, the Israeli Centurions were knocked out.

But on the fourth day of the fighting, Israeli reinforcements arrived, and the Syrians were forced to withdraw. Almost all of Israel’s tanks were destroyed, but they gave far more than they got — Syrian armored vehicle losses were around 500, around 250 of which were tanks.

Battle of 73 Easting: February 26 – 27, 1991

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
An Iraqi Type 69 main battle tank burns after an attack by the 1st United Kingdom Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm, February 28, 1991.

The Battle of 73 Easting saw American and British tanks go up against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard Tawakalna Division. Saddam had been warning his people that the “mother of all battles” was on the horizon, and the battle of 73 Easting was certainly part of it.

The main part of the battle was fought between the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and Iraq’s 18th Mechanized Brigade and 37th Armored Brigade.

The ensuing battle saw the Iraqi forces be completely decimated. Over 160 tanks and armored personnel carriers were destroyed, damaged, or captured by US forces. Up to 1,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded, and over 1,000 more were taken prisoner.

US losses were just six killed, 19 wounded, and one Bradley infantry fighting vehicle destroyed. Historian and author Rick Atkinson described the battle:

“Here could be seen, with almost flawless precision, the lethality of modern American weapons; the hegemony offered by AirLand Battle doctrine, with its brutal ballet of armor, artillery, and air power; and, not least, the élan of the American soldier, who fought with a competence worthy of his forefathers on more celebrated battlefields in more celebrated wars.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This astronaut says ‘The Right Stuff’ turned his life around

Scott Kelly didn’t always know that he was going to be an astronaut. In fact, he wasn’t even a particularly good student.

“As a student, it’s just really hard, especially at first, when you don’t have the habit-patterns to study and pay attention,” Kelly told Business Insider for the podcast “Success! How I Did It.” “But once I got over that, I was able to go from a kid at 18 years old that was always like a very average, underperforming student and then fast forward almost to the day 18 years later, I flew in space for the first time. It was a pretty remarkable comeback, I think.”


Kelly remained an average student until he went to college, where he stumbled across Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff.”

“I read this book, and I could relate to a lot of the characteristics these guys had, with regards to their personalities, their risk-taking, their leadership abilities, ability to work as a team. That made me think,” Kelly said.

“I related to a lot of those characteristics with one exception, and that is I wasn’t a good student, especially in science and math,” he continued. Kelly said he then thought, “Wow, you know, if I could fix just that thing, then I could maybe be like these guys.”

“At the time I was thinking you’ve got to be really smart to be an engineer or scientist. What I realized is really what it takes is just hard work, and it’s not any particular gift you might have.”

He continued: “It was the spark I needed to motivate me to do more with my life than I was currently doing.”

You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to the episode below:


“The Right Stuff” inspired Kelly, but it was a phone call from his brother that showed him what hard work really looks like.

According to Kelly, his twin brother Mark, who also became a NASA astronaut, was also a mediocre students — but Mark turned things around in high school, while Scott kept skating by. Mark pinpoints his turnaround to an event Scott doesn’t remember.

“I was this kid that could not pay attention. Was not a good student,” Kelly said. “Always wondering how in the ninth grade my brother went from being like me to getting straight A’s — I never knew how that happened.”

“But apparently, what [Mark] tells me, is that our dad sat us down in like the eighth grade, and said, ‘Hey, guys. You know, you’re not good students, not college material. We’re going to start thinking about a vocational education for you.'” Kelly said. “And my brother thought, ‘Whoa! I want to go to college and do something more.”I, on the other hand, had no recollection whatsoever of this conversation,” Kelly said. “Probably only because there was like a squirrel running outside the window and I was like, ‘Squirrel!’ Otherwise, I probably would have been a straight-A student, too.”

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War
Kelly, left, and his identical twin brother and fellow former astronaut Mark.
(Nasa photo)

In his memoir “Endurance,” Kelly wrote that his mind began to wander and he lost focus as a student at the State University of New York Maritime College.

His grades had risen above average and he was studying for his first calculus exam. Having decided to take a break, Kelly planned to attend a big party at Rutgers. When Mark found out about his brother’s attempt to forgo more studying for a party, he scolded Kelly over the phone.

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?” Kelly remembered Mark telling him. “You’re in school. You need to absolutely ace this exam, and everything else, if you want to get caught up.”

Scott Kelly buckled down, became a NASA astronaut, and has been to space four times.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy can’t just get rid of this aircraft carrier

The Navy needs to start saving money, and one of the ways it wants to do that is by retiring one of its old Nimitz-class carriers, the USS Harry S. Truman, rather than just overhauling the ship. The Truman is barely halfway through its lifespan. It began its service in 1998, is scheduled for a nuclear refueling in 2024, and set to serve for at least 50 years.

But the plan to retire the carrier is already facing opposition from Congress, despite saving billions of dollars and ensuring the construction of two new Ford-class carriers.


4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The USS Gerald R. Ford.

Congressional leaders were “blindsided” by the Navy’s decision, especially considering a number of seapower doctrines the move will break, including the minimum force law (yes, it’s a law, 10 U.S. Code § 5062) of maintaining at least 11 aircraft carriers and a call for an increase to 12 carriers. Resistance to the Navy’s plan is already mounting among members of Congress, despite the backing of acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.

The arguments for the retirement of the Truman include a – billion savings over the next few decades, increased employment for the building of two new Ford-class carriers, and a 12-carrier Navy. Former seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman questioned the move as it relates to the Navy’s plan of providing two carriers constantly on station with three more able to surge forward.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

The USS John C. Stennis, the 7th Nimitz-class carrier in the Persian Gulf.

Retiring the Truman would keep the total force of carriers below the number required for several years, which is what lawmakers are currently concerned about most. The Navy would have a difficult time with its global power projection abilities. Still, Gen. Dunford argued about the wisdom of refueling a 25-year-old ship vs. investing in new technologies that would allow for greater projection of global power and the use of new technologies, such as unmanned vehicles.

But Congress has to deal with the monetary issues of having already purchased the Truman’s new reactor cores and the feasibility of new technologies to be integrated into the Navy’s maritime strike capabilities.

“I don’t think the president’s going to turn to the secretary of defense and say, ‘where are my unmanned surface vessels’ when a conflict breaks out in the world,” said Rep. Elaine Luria. “They’re going to turn and ask, ‘where are my aircraft carriers?'”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 reasons why 360-degree cameras should be on the battlefield

Within the last few years, 360-degree cameras have hit the market and they’re changing the way we record our favorite memories. They may also have implications for how our nation fights its enemies.

When it comes to fighting a ground war, having as many sets of surveilling eyes as possible is a good idea — an idea that could save lives.


Although the infantrymen that patrol hostile streets on a daily basis are highly-trained, it’s near impossible to recount every single detail exactly as it happened after the fact.

In the event that something abnormal happens on a trip outside the wire, having footage from a 360-degree camera can provide you with all the analysis you need.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

It could help with your disability claim

A lot of sh*t can happen while you’re outside the wire in a short amount of time.

In the event that something bad happens and the platoon doc wasn’t there to witness it, there’s a good chance that it was captured clearly with the 360-degree camera. That dramatic footage will come in handy when you’re battling the VA for compensation.

You could update your terrain maps

One of the most significant issues with serving in a war that takes place in a developing country is that enemies can quickly take down and rebuild their dried-mud structures.

With the help of a 360-degree camera, if a structure is, in fact, rebuilt after being wiped away via airstrike, the new footage will help you update terrain maps. By simply carrying one of these versatile tools, you’ll record new information without even trying.

It’s called surveillance, people.

4 strange weapons of the Vietnam War

We thought so.

The footage could be better than any war trophy

Who here wants to document an awesome firefight where you kick enemies’ asses from all angles?

It can help identify high-value individuals

This may come as a shocker, but when the bad guys interact with allied forces, they typically lie about their identities. Having a 360-degree camera on deck can help analysts identify potential threats, even if the allied troop isn’t looking.