Most Recent Update
Pick Your Favorite Topic
You can now vote for your favorite post from this month either on the site or on Facebook. You can comment the date on the Facebook summary post (which posts on the last day of the month), or by clicking over to the survey located here.
1 July, The XF-108 Rapier
Much like the Archangels, the Valkyrie Program was an anthology of aircraft that ultimately only had one successful production result (unlike its Lockheed counterpart). In 1955, during RDE phases with the Valkyrie, a requirement was presented for an accompanying escort that could also meet the needs of a high-speed interceptor. WS-202A, as it was originally designated, was supposed to be developed alongside the WS-110 prototype. In 1958, they were both redesignated to XF-108 and XB-70, respectively. The XF-108 was the interceptor project, which was given the unofficial name of Rapier. It was to use most of the same technology of the XB-70, including relatively the same design, same materials, same flight-control surfaces, same engines, and achieve similar specifications. The Valkyrie's first sign of trouble spelled the end of the Rapier in 1959, but not before the technology could be cannibalized in the much more successful A-5 Vigilante.
3 July, The Mark VIII Tank
On 1 July 1919, the Rock Island Arsenal began to process an order for 125 Mark VIII Tanks. These would be the first-ever American produced tanks. Based on the British design, the American Mark VIII was referred to as the Liberty Tank. In just under 300 days, Rock Island completed 100 of the 125 tanks, with the need having subsided with the end of World War I. The Mark VIII unfortunately was virtually obsolete as soon as it was completed due to the rapidly evolving nature of artillery. Boasting a max speed of around 5 mph, and able to be cut through with 37 mm rounds, the American Mark VIII's were never deployed. Instead they were generally used for limited training through the 1920s. Only three Mark VIII's remain today.
6 July, The STAAR Shock Absorber
It's something that's easy to not think much about. Have you ever wondered about what keeps a howitzer or field gun in place? It's all about the emplacements and the carriage. But even that has a science to it. In the 1950's, WECOM's Artillery Systems Laboratory was taking this science to another level - with starfish. Okay, so it was named STAAR. Using the anatomy of a starfish as a blueprint, ASL researchers designed idle suction mechanisms that would allow a sturdy emplacement of an artillery piece without the need to bury or redistribute weight. Using suction, the foot of the carriage would be held firmly in place while a modernized carriage and recoil mechanism would handle the weight distribution and aftershock.
7 July, The Black Dragon
Large ordnance systems were not necessarily products of the Cold War for the United States. After all, coastal artillery systems of up to 15" had been used for years. However, the largest mobile systems draw their roots from World War I. Despite that, where the majority of the larger artillery systems of the Cold War draw their heritage to is the M1 240 mm Howitzer, Black Dragon. Fielded in the European theater on the Italian front during World War II and isolated locations in the Pacific, the gun attached to the carriage would be used for the T1 240 mm Gun later in 1947. The M1 was largely outshined due to an unstable carriage, something that was improved upon in the T1 design after the capture of the Krupp K5 Leopold (Anzio Annie) at the end of the war.
8 July, The Krupp K5: Leopold
Since we talked about the Black Dragon yesterday, let's take a look at the other half of the T1. The Krupp K5 was a 240 mm gun that was deployed in the European Theater during World War II. Leopold (as shown) was known throughout the Italian Front as "Anzio Annie", and was notorious for causing significant damage to Allied forces. Krupp had previous research on large scale guns, such as the Lager Max, and Paris Gun during World War I. The K5 was deployed as the mobile shelling component of the stationary V-3 batteries that were used to shell Antwerp in 1944 and 45. After the war ended, it was captured by the Americans who reverse engineered the carriage. The American carriage was given the nomenclature of T76, and it's subsequent carriage T76E1 was more widely known as "the Triple Threat Carriage."
9 July, Air Force Global Strike Command
We often talk about the Nuclear Triad and the importance of nuclear deterrence when discussing Cold War diplomacy. The Triad originally consisted of a combination of ICBM's, Nuclear capable submarines, and B-52 and B-58 bombers. As time went on, the mission changed. In 2009, the USAF established Global Strike Command, a subordinate of STRATCOM, that unified all nuclear ordnance for the Air Force. Within AFGSC, another triad exists, completed in 2000 with the last delivery of B-2 bombers. The command comprises of the B-52, the B-1, and the B-2, all of which are in constant motion with it's most important mission: the support of combatant commanders in theater anywhere at anytime. AFGSC, for this reason, is the modern day descendant of the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command.
10 July, Operation Downfall
DOWNFALL - the name of the operation that was to kick off on 1 November 1945, and the invasion of the Japanese home islands. The operation had been in planning phases for months and included numerous preparations. DOWNFALL required the capture of Okinawa as a staging point for larger air forces, additional support and development of atomic bombs, and the logistics to move millions of men onto the shores of Kyushu and Honshu. The capitulation of the Japanese following the bombing of Nagasaki resulted in the abandonment of DOWNFALL. However, estimations from both American and Japanese militaries estimate that casualties would have been staggering, with some figures approaching twenty million by the beginning of 1948. This includes IJF, British, Soviet, and American losses.
12 July, The B-52 Stratofortress
One day, they'll mostly all be here, but until then they're in the skies. The B-52 Bomber is one of only a few aircraft to have airframes that were reactivated out of aircraft boneyards. The B-52, by the time of it's retirement, will be the longest serving aircraft in history, having first flown in 1952. It's expected retirement date is sometime between 2035 and 2055, with airframes expected to maintain in the air well beyond much in a similar capacity to heritage flights. The "2037 Bomber" will be the eventual replacement for the B-52. The USAF cites the reason for the B-52's retention is largely attributed to it's ability to loiter in the airspace, something that is shared by the A-10 which interestingly does not have the same safety guards in retention.
13 July, Flying Saucers Comics
The Cold War era was an interesting time for imaginative writers and science fiction writers as well as the engineers. In a post-Roswell Incident World, the public had become enchanted with the idea of extraterrestrials. The rapid advancement of technology only contributed to fuel some of the minds of the people. After the reveal of the YF-12, some more creative individuals began to wonder what else the prototype aircraft could intercept. Sure, it's great for a MiG-25, but what about a threat that exists further up in the heavens? This issue of Flying Saucers, dated October 1967, featured such a concept. The publication put out by Dell Comics ran only in 1967, and one issue in 1969. It symbolized a more playful and imaginative disposition of the public also during the peak of the Vietnam War.
19 July, The Cherokee Thermonuclear Test
On 20 May 1956, the second shot of the Redwing Nuclear Testing was deployed at Bikini Atoll. The Cherokee shot was the first air deployable thermonuclear bomb. However, the shot quickly became the source of controversy. The shot successfully detonated at an elevation of about 4,000 feet and yielded 3.8 MT of power. However, it detonated approximately four miles away from it's target - thus being labeled a miss. The subsequent consequences of this miss included failed data gathering and a massive risk to unprotected military observers. The enlisted officer that made this miss public was subsequently reprimanded and caused international outrage.
20 July, Fall of Mazar-i-Sharif
Many believe that horseback cavalry charges ended with the Punic Expedition or World War I. However, as recently as the Global War on Terror, horseback cavalry charges have still been a thing. On 9 November 2001, Afghani GEN Abdul Dostum along with members of the U.S. Special Forces led a charge on Taliban forces at Mazar-i-Sharif. Combined Northern Alliance and U.S. Forces proceeded via charge and on foot. Isolated armored vehicles were used as well to provide additional cover. By the end of 10 November, the majority of the siege had ended with a Coalition victory. USCENTCOM had to readjust planning for combat in the Afghani theater due to Mazar-i-Sharif falling into Allied hands over one year prior to when intelligence had suggested it would. Around 300 were killed in the battle, mostly Taliban backed fighters. Another 1,000 or so defected or surrendered.
21 July, Apollo 11
It may have landed on the 20th, but the story didn't hit most newspapers until 21 July 1969. Apollo 11's crew touched down on the surface of the moon on 20 July at 1740 Zulu. The mission is one of the most iconic events in human history and perhaps the most memorable moment in modern history. At 0256 Zulu 21 July 1969 (~2300 20 JUL @ Mission Control), Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin officially became the first humans to walk on the moon.
22 July, Lockheed's Have Blue
First flying in 1977, Lockheed's Have Blue was a prototype aircraft that was designed to be a technology demonstrator for a proposed stealth bomber. The design shared much of the same characteristics with it's successor, Senior Trend (later known as the F-117 Nighthawk). However, Have Blue was much smaller. It was roughly half the size of the operational F-117's. The prototypes, HB1001 and HB1002 were unfortunately lost and totally destroyed, but not before Lockheed was able to salvage enough research data to proceed with Senior Trend. Both prototypes flew around 50 times before they were lost. Senior Trend had been approved prior to HB1001's loss, but due to problems it did not fly for the first time until 1981 - two years after the last flight of HB1002.
23 July, CAM Ships in the Atlantic
During the Battle of the Atlantic, the Allies early on established convoys to transport men and materiel overseas. However, defense of the ships proved to be difficult. The problem of protecting ships beyond just be sheer quantity led to a number of anti-submarine tactics. These ranged from including warships with convoys, including disguised ships equipped with SONAR, and even CAM ships, such as this one shown here. CAM Ships had one to three aircraft on board that were strapped to a catapult. The wheels were replaced with rockets. If the convoy suspected a U-boat attack, a CAM ship could launch the aircraft to torpedo the attacker. However, the problem was that aircraft loss would be 100% due to the lack of landing gear, most pilots had to bail out and be recovered. Ultimately, the convoys best defense was early warning guaranteed by the breaking of German communication codes.
24 July, The OD B-29's
The prototype B-29's (the YB-29) first flew in 1942 and sported classic olive-drab Army paint schemes. However, most production models were silver. There were a number of reasons for this change, but the biggest reason was the normal bombing altitude. The silver allowed light to reflect off of the aircraft, enabling it to blend in with it's surroundings in the skies better. Fighters generally were not an issue for the plane due to it flying above the altitude of most patrol craft. Thus it's greatest threat came from anti-aircraft fire which relied on a trained eye. It's reproduction model, the B-50, also flew in silver colors. Only by the second iteration of the B-52, did the colors change again.
27 July, Piecemeal Carriage for the M1 Howitzer
It is far too common for us to think of larger howitzers or field guns to be transported in a mostly assembled state. Whether it's airlifted into place or towed into place, most of us are familiar with this. However, larger artillery has frequently been described as being towed in pieces. The T1 240 mm Gun implemented the concept of both front and rear prime movers, but before it, the M1 240 mm Howitzer required a bit more care. The carriage was first emplaced, then the gun would be hoisted by three other mechanized units: a crane, transport, and winch. The creating of the Triple Threat Carriage (the T76) eliminated the need for this process.
28 July, The Silverplates
In 1945, COL Paul Tibbets was tasked with selecting the B-29's off the assembly line that were to be modified to Block 36. Tibbets had been involved in the B-29 project for a number of years, and traveled to the Omaha plant to select the aircraft - which at the time were then dubbed "Silverplates." He had picked fifteen B-29's, all of which were subsequently assigned to the 509th Composite Group which was stationed intermediately at Wendover, UT. All fifteen were involved in the Manhattan Project to test chassis deployments of atomic bombs. In June, the 509th moved operations to Tinian. Among the fifteen aircraft were victor's 77 and 82, more commonly referred to as the Bockscar and the Enola Gay, respectively. Test bombing runs using Pumpkin Bombs (conventional Fat Man bombs) continued up through the day before each atomic bomb was dropped.
29 July, The Indianapolis
Having completed her mission of delivering the last components of the atomic bombs to Tinian on 26 July 1945, the U.S.S. Indianapolis made her way to the island of Guam. On Guam she swapped personnel before moving on to Leyte. Her mission was to meet up with Task Force 95. Indianapolis would not make her rendezvous. Prior to her sinking, she had been overhauled several times, with the most recent being in February of 1945. Indianapolis had also been the test subject of a number of various experimental modifications from paint to Sonar technology. Her sinking on 30 July 1945 is still regarded as one of the most tragic moments in U.S. Naval history. Of the over 1,000 crew, only 316 survived with only twenty remaining as of 2017.
30 July, The Bismarck Battleships
One of the biggest flaws in the Axis ranks during World War II was the inability to project force at sea. Whereas Japan's sizable naval force was unable to recoup losses, Germany simply didn't have much of a naval force to begin with. The majority of naval operations from the Kriegsmarine came from U-boat operations from 1939 through 1944. The surface fleet was concentrated around two Bismarck class battleships, the Tirpitz and the Bismarck. Bismarck was sunk in 1941, with Tirpitz following in 1944. The Kriegsmarine never deployed a task force nor any aircraft carriers. Instead, all task force duties were carried out by wolf packs. While the U-boat war continued in 1945, German high-seas operations had fallen silent in comparison to earlier years due to the total loss of any security guarantees that could be provided by a surface fleet.