The 8 rules for rookie combat pilots in World War I

During World War I, a German pilot who led and mentored the legendary "Red" Baron Manfred von Richthofen also earned fame for his own skill in the air. And that pilot, Oswald Boelcke, wrote the "Dicta Boelcke," eight rules for new pilots that would help them survive combat to earn experience and become resilient aces.

Before the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen was Germany's air power hero, it was Oscar Boelcke, a German air ace and the mentor to von Richthofen and the "Flying Circus." Boelcke was one of Germany's first fighter aces and, when he took command of a group of fighters, he did all that he could to pass on the knowledge that would keep the men alive. He came up with eight rules that would stand for decades, and most still apply today.

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A fake smokestack made this German ship an unstoppable predator

During World War I, a new German warship slipped into the largely Allied-controlled Indian Ocean and captured or sunk 30 Allied ships and 25 civilian ships while attacking multiple shore installations in a short-lived, pirate-like rampage that lasted only about 90 days but terrorized British shippers.

The SMS Emden was supposed to be a nice ship, but not all that crazy important in war. It was a light cruiser, a utilitarian ship type that is quick, capable, but not all that robust or rugged. These ships are typically designed for low-level conflict or serve as a guard or screening force for larger ships like battleships or, later, carriers.

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It's official: F-35As in position to fight ISIS

The U.S. Air Force has released photos and video of an undisclosed number of F-35A Lightning IIs touching down at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, for the first time. This has been the starting point for many missions against ISIS, a fight the F-35A could be uniquely qualified for.

The Air Force's version of the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35A, has officially been deployed to the Middle East. In the air, the F-35A is supposed to be the most capable variant of the plane, and it has been sent to a base used to generate sorties against ISIS. The base is also well-positioned to support potential U.S. operations in Iran or across the Middle East.

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The Air Force's first chief of staff snuck to the front to kill 3 Germans

In World War I, long before he rose to command of air forces bombing Nazi Germany and then Imperial Japan, and long before he became the first Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Capt. Carl Spatz was ordered back to the U.S. in World War I without any combat time. So he snuck away to the front lines and killed three German planes before heading home.

He would later be the first top officer of the independent U.S. Air Force, a job he earned partially by leading the Allied air forces against Germany and Japan, but in World War I Carl Spatz was just a captain in charge of America's aerodrome in France. So, when his bosses tried to order him home near the end of the war, Spatz begged for a week at the front and used the time to shoot down three German planes.

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This common weapon was so 'pernicious' that Catholicism banned it

The precursors to modern riflemen were the Medieval crossbowman, but the powers that be at the time weren't comfortable with turning peasants into lethal warriors as quickly as crossbows could. So, the Catholic church banned the use of the weapon in Christian-against-Christian wars.

In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new "crossbow" thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.

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One of the closest brushes with nuclear war was Russia vs China

In 1969, amid rising border clashes and growing unrest on both sides of the Soviet-Sino border, Soviet officials began asking leaders of other countries whether they would really be all that bothered by Russia striking Chinese nuclear sites, probably with nuclear weapons.

As they're now America's two top rivals, it's easy to forget that China and Russia aren't allies and actually have decades of regional rivalry and have been at each other's throats more than once. In fact, in 1970, the Soviet Union started asking around about whether or not anyone would really care if they launched a preemptive nuclear strike against China.

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A hunt for a death ray gave us radar

One of Britain's best weapons in World War II was radar, a series of sensors that allowed British pilots to find and intercept German attackers with great precision and efficiency. But the technological marvel came out of a request for something more sinister: A British death ray that would shoot pilots out of the sky.

One of the most useful and game-changing weapons of World War II was radar, a technology that allowed Allied pilots to know when and where to fly in order to intercept incoming German bombers, but Britain was actually hunting for a super weapon: A death ray.

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The near-suicidal way American pilots played possum in WW1

In World War I, Allied pilots outgunned by German aviation advances needed a way to break out of a fight and survive when it was clear they had lost a dog fight. They came up with a brilliant way to seemingly lose control of their plane, except that it often resulted in them actually losing control of their plane.

In World War I, pilots on either side of the line enjoyed sudden lurches ahead in technology advances followed by steady declines into obsolescence. This created a seesaw effect in the air where Allied pilots would be able to blast their way through German lines for a few months, but then had to run scared if the enemy got the jump on them.

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That time an RAF pilot stole a plane in grand protest

British pilot Alan Pollock was supposed to fly his Hawker Hunter back to home base on April 5, 1968, after some squadron-level celebrations of the Royal Air Force's 50th anniversary. Instead, he took his plane on a run down the Thames River, flying over the British Parliament building three times while that legislative body debated noise abatement.

Flight Lieutenant Alan Pollock was an enthusiastic but mischievous member of the Royal Air Force in 1968 when he found out that the British Parliament, composed at the time of members who were cutting military spending, had slashed the plans for a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Royal Air Force. Among the list of events cut were flybys by RAF pilots. So, Pollock stole a plane and conducted his own flybys of Parliament and other locations on the day of celebrations anyway.

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