During the Cold War, the U.S. faced the very real possibility they’d have to rush masses of troops to the front line but wasn’t sure where the front line would open up. While the more obvious places like the Fulda Gap or Checkpoint Charlie had troops, tanks, and helicopters nearby all the time, many other potential flashpoints were lightly defended.
The plan for a conflict in these areas was to rush airborne soldiers and Marines in to plug the gap while follow-on forces were deployed over the following days to reinforce them.
So how did airborne soldiers get badly needed tanks and heavy equipment? Well, the Air Force dropped them out out of C-130 Hercules cargo planes while flying 150 mph while only a few feet from the ground.
The Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System (LAPES) was rigged to drop heavy equipment needed by remote troops where a plane couldn’t land and takeoff safely. It was developed in 1964 and saw use at the Siege of Khe San and other battles in Vietnam.
America’s current tank, the M1 Abrams, weighs four times as much as the M551 Sheridan did and so isn’t typically dropped out of planes. It’s armored personnel carrier, the Stryker, is only a little heavier than the Sheridan was and is dropped from planes, typically in Alaska.
As the U.S. faces the prospect of another Cold War, the defense industry has pitched a new light tank that can be air dropped. So, tomorrow’s tankers may benefit from airborne qualifications again.
WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters, to annoying stereotypes.
In this episode, our group of veterans discusses the various military stereotypes they’ve encountered from civilians over the years.
Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.
China has long history of using light tanks – many of which have been discarded. Light tanks have become rarer as people have discovered that they need the same crew as a main battle tank, while offering said crew less protection.
China’s primary light tanks have been the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious light tank. Both feature 85mm main guns (the Soviet/Russian T-34 used a main gun of this caliber as well), and each hold 47 rounds for that gun. But like many light tanks today, they are light in the protection department.
The Type 62 has about two inches of armor at most.
China has now pushed the light tank to the VT-5. This is a much more powerful system. It is centered on a 105mm rifled gun with up to 38 rounds. This gun is pretty much what was used on the early models of the M1 Abrams, and prior to that, on the M60 Patton main battle tanks. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this tank will weigh between 33 and 36 tons. Secondary armament is a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The last light tank in United States service was the M551 Sheridan. This vehicle saw action in the Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm before being retired in the mid-1990s. Called the Buford by some sources, the Army had the XM8 Armored Gun System ready to roll out, but it was cancelled as well.
Today, the United States Army uses the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. It has the same 105mm rifled gun as the VT-5, but only holds 18 rounds.
Below, you can see video of the VT-5 as it is put through some live-fire paces in Inner Mongolia. A number of military attaches witnessed this performance. Did China build the light tank that units like the 82nd Airborne Division need?
On Aug. 1, 1944 — less than two months after the D-Day invasion — Marine Maj. Peter J. Ortiz, along five other Marines and an Army Air Corps officer, parachuted into France to assist a few hundred French resistance fighters known as the Maquis in their fight against the Nazis. Ortiz had already worked and trained with the Maquis in occupied France in the months leading up to the invasion of Europe.
Quickly the fighters linked up with their resistance allies and began conducting ambushes. The exact casualty counts are unknown, but the Maquis and their Marine handlers inflicted so much damage so quickly that German intelligence believed an allied battalion had jumped in to assist the resistance instead of only six Marines and a soldier.
Lewis Millett was a man who was in love with war. He fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
Millett started out in the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938 with the 101st Field Artillery. In 1940 he joined the Army Air Corps and went to gunnery school.
But when Roosevelt came out and said that Americans would not be fighting on foreign soil, Millett was more than a little disappointed. So he deserted in 1941.
Millett hitchhiked to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Army and was promptly sent to the UK, where he served as an anti-aircraft radar operator during the Blitz. Of course, after he got to London, America entered World War II — and Millett turned around and tried to transfer back into the US Army.
Thus began a long and storied career in the US military, including his fabled bayonet charges in the Korean War when he wanted to prove a point.
You can learn more about Lewis Millett on the We Are The Mighty podcast! Check it out here.
Let’s face it – some planes are tough to fly. The F4U Corsair that served in World War II and Korea was called the “Ensign Eliminator.” The F-104 Starfighter and AV-8B+ Harrier have both been called the “Widow Maker.”
So. too, was the Martin B-26 Marauder.
The B-26 Marauder was a medium bomber with two engines. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a crew of seven, a top speed of 282 miles per hour, a range of 675 miles, and the ability to carry up to 5,200 pounds of bombs.
It also had a bad reputation early in World War II for crashing and killing its crews. In fact, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-26 was nearly cancelled because of all the crashes. But experienced crews went to bat for it, convincing Sen. Harry Truman to relent.
The bomber ultimately flew over 110,000 sorties, and dropped over 150,000 tons of bombs on the Axis.
One of those who helped prove the B-26 wasn’t a killer was Jimmy Doolittle, fresh from leading the Tokyo raid. He soon realized that many of the instructors were almost as inexperienced as the pilots they were training. Worse, the mechanics were not experienced, and weren’t maintaining the engines properly.
To top it off, a switch in the type of gasoline used had been causing damaged to the carburetors.
Doolittle soon took the plane up – in the type of lead-from-the-front leadership that would later get him in hot water with Gen. Eisenhower on more than one occasion. He would fly the plane with one engine shut down on takeoff, then he would make inverted passes at low level. But the Army also began to work harder on training the crews properly, and the manufacturer sent crews out to train the mechanics.
The Army also made a training film for prospective pilots of the Marauder, which you can watch below.
WATM’s Ryan Curtis hits the streets with stunt driver Jim Wilkey, a Vietnam War vet whose Hollywood credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Rush Hour,” “Inception,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.’ Jim’s experience in the Navy working with a wide range of equipment gave him the knowledge to get started as a stuntman and stunt driver.
Now, watch as Jim takes our man Ryan for a ride through the obstacle course.
If you hear of something getting “slimed,” you might be thinking about the green slime that has been a standby of Nickeloeon for decades. Well, if you’re talking to grunts, the word “slimed” can be something much more sinister.
To wit, when military personnel talk about something being “slimed,” it means that somebody’s used chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and the vehicle or gear have been contaminated. Or, in the vernacular, the situation – or quite possibly, the entire world – has gone to hell in the proverbial handbasket.
Okay, state of the world aside, there is a more immediate problem. Now those vehicles and gear need to be decontaminated. The Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear, including that chemical suit, has saved your life – if you got it on in time. But you can’t stay in that hot, uncomfortable suit forever. But some chemical weapons can last a long time. Mustard gas is particularly persistent, and was used in an ISIS attack on American troops in September 2016.
When we left off, you were hanging from a pull-up bar trying to get your knees to your chest for the first time since Basic.
Max, in his wisdom, started you out in the gym, which is full of many helpful things, like dumbbells and molecules of air. He wanted you to develop a little stoutness at your center, because he knows what’s coming and you, silly wittle baby, do not. You’re wet behind the ears, is what he’s saying. And that’s not even 5% wet enough to pass the Max Your Body, Season 1 final exam.
Today, you’re either going to sink or survive.
Because it’s all well and good to be fit with both feet planted on firm ground, unbound and wearing comfy, civilian shoes. It’s been years since you were a fetus, so you’ve forgotten what it’s like when there’s water on all sides of you, it’s dark and murky, and it’s up to you to figure out where your next lungful of sweet, sweet air is coming from.
Today, Max would like to remind you of the primordial fluid from whence you swam. And to make it extra memorable, he’s going to bind your feet at the ankles and your hands behind your back.
If you haven’t tapped out at this point, it’s advisable that you tap a buddy to be in charge of Operation You Not Drowning. Everything all nice and secure? Excellent! In you go.
Your mission — and it’s too late to opt out — is to suppress your rational panic and concentrate on using all this handy fitness you’ve been developing to go Full Amphibian while the water rises around you. You. Can. Do. This. For nine months, this was your everything. You used to be the Chuck Norris of tadpoles. Time to make your mother proud.
And if you do start getting the urge to have a big baby meltdown, just remember, there’s a benefit to plunging in with Max.
The benefit is you’ve lost the illusion of control. There’s no turning back. And the alternative to rising to this most fetal of challenges is sinking to the most fatal of depths.
Death, at whatever depth, is dumb. So it’s your choice, baby.
Watch as Max takes your fear and drowns it in a municipal pool, in the video embedded at the top.
On the streets of Long Beach, California, a new restaurant has opened where a quadriplegic Navy veteran focuses on hiring other disabled people — especially veterans — to staff the business.
Daniel Tapia, the owner of the restaurant 4th and Olive, told Fox LA, “I’m referred to what’s known as a walking quad, a high functioning quadriplegic. So, I can walk and move but I have a limited strength and feeling in my hands and feet.”
Tapia was a sommelier at another southern California restaurant until he was fired in 2014. Short on employment opportunities and hopeful that he could fight disability discrimination, he decided to launch his own establishment that would provide job opportunities for other disabled veterans.
Some of the vets, like Air Force veteran and bartender John Putnam, are fighting physical battles, but the restaurant also hires people with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
Co-owner and chef Alex McGroarty told Fox that the veterans are great employees.
“They work really hard,” he said. “If they’ve had a little trouble in the past, they are going to be really loyal and work hard for you.”
Artillery is the king of the battlefield, but the big artillery pieces can’t be everywhere at once – and sometimes their response time is pretty long. Thankfully, for the grunts of today, the mortar is available. Think of this as portable artillery – capable of providing some very quick-response fire support for grunts.
The M252 Medium Weight Extended Range Mortar fits right into a vital niche, especially for lighter infantry units like the 10th Mountain Division, 82nd Airborne Division, and Marine units. According to a fact sheet from the Minnesota National Guard, this system weighs 91 pounds and is operated by a crew of three. That said, usually there will be other guys assigned to help carry additional rounds.
The system can fire up to 30 rounds a minute, but you’re more likely to sustain a rate of 16 rounds a minute. A wide variety of ammo is available as well – anything from high explosive rounds to illumination flares to smoke rounds to white phosphorous. In short, this mortar, usually held at the battalion level of the light units, can do anything from concealing friendly troops to marking targets to blowing bad guys to smithereens.
As is the case with Ma Deuce and machine guns, mortar crews need proper training and plenty of practice to make the most of these systems. The procedures can be rehearsed sometimes using the M880 short-range round, but other times, you need to go out to the range and do the live-fire “full Monty.”
You can see troops train on the M252 at the mortar range at the Grafenwoehr training area in the video below.
With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.
Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.