Below is a summary of all history posts from The Havoc on Facebook in CY20. Hover over each image to see the post description.
7 MAR 2020
The M115 Howitzer
Did you know that several different ordnance systems from World War II and the Cold War were redesigned to fire atomic artillery? The M115 was the largest retrofitted howitzer of these and could fire the W33 and later the bigger W79 warheads - the same ones used for Atomic Annie.
12 MAR 2020
The T145 Gun
The T145 175 mm Gun - the "Baby Atomic Annie" was the intermediate stage between the "Annie" family of heavy atomic guns and the widely used refitted conventional guns that fired atomic artillery in the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, at least one was repurposed for project HARP, while the rest were used in RDE. Reports for R&D continued through at least 1982.
13 MAR 2020
The 16-Inch HARP Gun
The High Altitude Research Project (HARP) was a product of the 1960s. The guns were radically modified naval guns for the most part. There were only three of the 16-inch installations that were known. The systems were used to study projectile ballistics and atmospheric study of impacts of objects at extreme altitudes - among other research.
20 MAR 2020
The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter to enter the U.S. military inventory in 1945. The P-80 was the only Allied jet to see service during World War II. It's hay day, however ran from just after the war to near the end of the Korean War. Advancements in jet technology coupled with a hefty amount of liability of the design led to rapid replacement by more capable F-86 Sabre's and the older P-51 (F-51) Mustang's.
21 MAR 2020
The Lockheed CL-400
Even before the loss of a U-2 spy plane in Soviet territory, the United States was looking at potential replacements for the "Dragon Lady." Lockheed was tasked to find a replacement for their air frame. The design they came up with was Concept Lockheed Model 400 (CL-400), codenamed "Suntan." It would not use regular jet fuel, instead using liquid hydrogen to power it's jet engines. However, budget problems led to it's cancellation. Despite that, the research derived from the CL-400 went on to be used for Apollo and the Space Shuttle, as well as the SR-71 Blackbird.
23 MAR 2020
The Death Ray
The turn of the century through World War II saw many advancements in technology. There were also many rumors of new and mysterious technology. The Death Ray is often associated with the Third Reich, but the mention of such a weapon actually appeared as early as 1917. In 1974, Martin Blumenson published "The Patton Papers", where one of his primary sources states: "There is talk of a ray of light which will kill at 30 yards and the Germans are not the ones who have it either."
24 MAR 2020
On this day in 1945, 10 days after the collapse of the bridge at Remagen, Allied forces deployed paratroopers in support of Operation Plunder in what was known as Operation Varsity. Plunder's main objective was to cross the Rhine River and into Germany. Varsity was executed with around 17,000 personnel. The results of the campaign amounted in about 17% of these forces in casualties and an Allied Victory.
26 MAR 2020
The Conclusion of the Battle of Iwo Jima
On this day 75 years ago, the Battle of Iwo Jima concluded after just over a month of intense fighting. One of the cornerstone battles of the Pacific Theater, Iwo Jima served as a critical victory for the Americans. Over 110,000 Americans took the small island from a well entrenched 21,000 Imperial Japanese fighters. Aside from the iconic flag raising on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima presented one of the largest quantities (27) of wartime medal decoration in World War II.
27 MAR 2020
The (Almost) Court-Martial of BG Rodman
BVT BG Thomas J. Rodman was an ordnance officer that served before, during, and after the American Civil War (Union). Immediately following the Civil War, he was brought up on several court-martial-able charges: he did not celebrate the end of the war enough, nor mourn the death of Lincoln enough, he overspent his budget on building a quarters at Watertown Arsenal, and he let his men drink whiskey at lunch. Rather than court-martial him, the Ordnance Department sent him to Rock Island Arsenal, where he would become known as the "father of Rock Island Arsenal." Whether or not he still let his men drink whiskey at lunch though...
29 MAR 2020
The Boeing X-36
In 1997, Boeing (then McDonnell Douglas) coordinated with NASA to produce a tailless aircraft that may have been used as a breadbox for a future fight aircraft design. The prototypes (2) were designed to be controlled from the ground and built at about a quarter of what their production size would be. The program continued beyond the Boeing buyout, but was eventually retired along with the "Bird of Prey." While no additional development is currently acknowledged, the design may serve as a testbed for future sixth generation designs, such as the F/A-XX program.
30 MAR 2020
The M198 Howitzer
The M198 howitzer was designed in 1969 to replace the aging World War II era howitzers. However, it had another mission and would be one of the last weapons systems to carry it. Up through 1992, W48 nuclear warheads were attached to the 6.1-inch shell for a yield of 72 tons. These tactical nuclear artillery rounds were one of the last of their kind, and the M198's nuclear mission concluded with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The W48's unsuccessful replacement would have been the only tactical neutron bomb, but it was abandoned in 1991.
31 MAR 2020
The M50 Ontos
We'll end March a little wild. The M50 Ontos was a self-propelled weapon system that touted six 106 mm recoilless guns. The system was used primarily by the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Literally meaning "the thing", Ontos sported a very intimidating appearance, but the jungles of Vietnam were not necessarily the most ideal deployment for the system. Not only that, but if an enemy position was not silenced, it was totally defenseless. This is because the six guns could only be reloaded from the outside. Thus, shortly after it was introduced, it was retired in 1969.
2 APR 2020
The A-12 Oxcart
On the road to the SR-71 Blackbird came a predecessor (plus a prototype). The A-12, literally meaning Archangel 12 was the aircraft initially selected to replace the U-2 in the Oxcart program. About a dozen of these aircraft were produced, but much like the meaning suggests, it was the twelfth Archangel design. Eleven predecessors to this final design were produced by Lockheed between 1958 and 1962. Just prior to the A-12's retirement in 1968, the YF-12, M-21, and SR-71 were at least already planned. Archangel-12 was not declassified until 1995.
6 APR 2020
The Rockwell X-30 NASP
In the 1980's, Rockwell International was tasked with creating a Single-Stage-to-Orbit (SSTO) platform that would be used for future development in the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) program. The X-30 was the demonstrator for this program. The goal of the program would allow passenger travel from Washington D.C. to Tokyo in about two hours. The hypersonic nature of the X-30 proved promising enough that it survived the project's cancellation in 1993, persisting in the form of the X-43. Subsequent developments on the project have furthered development of high-speed missiles in the form of the FALCON program and the X-51 Waverider - both currently in testing.
7 APR 2020
The Sinking of the Yamato
On this day in 1945, the last remaining flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was sunk in the East China Sea. The Yamato had been dispatched to participate in Operation Ten-Go - a suicide assault on American forces operating on Okinawa. The American's had intercepted radio communication and were thus fully aware of the IJN's intent. The Japanese task force was caught by American torpedo bombers without any air cover. By the end of the day, only 3 Japanese destroyers remained and the last remaining breath of life in the IJN was extinguished, and was a decisive American victory.
9 APR 2020
The Northrop YA-9
The A-X program sought to introduce a jet powered, heavily armored replacement for the A-1 in the CAS role. The YA-9 was the prototype that failed to meet the requirement. First flying in 1972, the YA-9 was the entry submitted by the Northrop Corporation. However, in the face of the entry from Fairchild Aircraft, it was a pale comparison. The superior A-10A would go on to enter service in 1977, while the YA-9 would be permanently grounded at air museums.
10 APR 2020
The M31 Honest John Rocket
We've had plenty of aircraft, but lets look at some missile tech! The M31 Honest John was the first nuclear-ready rocket fielded by the United States. Model XM31, the prototype, was first tested in 1951, and the M31 production variant went into service three years later. The Honest John was a jack of all trades rocket system. It was capable of being armed with nuclear, high-explosive incendiaries, cluster bombs, and even Sarin nerve-gas bomblets. While the U.S. removed them from their arsenal by the mid-to-late 1960s, other nations kept these in their arsenals well into the 1990s.
13 APR 2020
The Fieseler Fi-103R Reichenber
Desperation. By late 1944, the Third Reich was faced with mounting losses against the Allies. Within the German arsenals were the Retaliation weapons (V-weapons), but facilities to launch them was rapidly dwindling due to the Combined Bomber Offensive. As a last ditch effort to maintain their ability to strike deep into Allied territory, the Germans began to launch manned versions of the V-1 called the Fi-103R. While it was possible for the pilot to bail out before impact, this generally was not the case. These weapons were the basis as well for the Japanese Ohka bombs in the Pacific Theater.
14 APR 2020
Atomic Annie & USAREUR
That's definitely some propaganda with firepower. USAREUR was the primary operator of the M65 Atomic Cannon from about 1953 through 1962. These guns were fielded across Germany as a means of deterrence against the Soviet bloc. A few guns were also deployed to Okinawa and South Korea. However, of the 20-some guns produced, most found themselves stationed facing the iron curtain. Only eight of these monsters remains today.
Photo credit to: usarmygermany.com
15 APR 2020
The YF-17 Cobra
The Lightweight Fighter Program (LWF) in the early 1970s is most notorious for giving us the F-16. However, if not for this program we may also not have the F/A-18 family of naval fighter jets either. Northrop submitted the YF-17, codenamed Cobra, to the LWF in 1974. The YF-17 was much smaller than the F/A-18 by comparison. The Navy was impressed enough with the design that it selected the YF-17 to replace it's A-7 Crusaders and F-111 Aardvarks. McDonnell Douglas provided RDE support to fulfill the requirements of the Navy, thus the Hornet was born.
17 APR 2020
The XM70E2 115 MM Rocket Launcher
The XM70E2 115 MM Rocket Launcher was produced in late 1950s through the early 1960s. Using that term "produced" lightly, only 7 known specimens were ever reportedly produced. Unlike other rocket launchers, the XM70 worked using a closed breach design with rounds being rotated out - similar to that of a revolver. It was developed for the USMC, who had eventual intentions of purchasing a self-propelled mount for it. The project was terminated in 1963, likely to funnel more resources into proven applications ahead of Vietnam. The only known remaining specimen is Serial #7 at Rock Island Arsenal.
18 APR 2020
The Rockwell-MBB X-31
The X-31 was a joint project between the Rockwell Corporation and the soon-defunct remnant of Messerschmitt. The project was designed to help further research in the study of thrust vectoring. The goal was to test the limits of control and stability in various situations, including the removal of it's vertical fin. Post-stall maneuvers, a common staple in the current generation of aircraft, were also researched using this aircraft. It's British relative, the EAP, went on to serve as the basis for the Eurofighter Typhoon. The X-31 was never intended for combat use, and both testbeds are now on display.
20 APR 2020
GAU-8 Avenger & The A-X Program
When the YA-9 and YA-10 were in competition within the AX program, they were not fitted with the 30 mm gun that we know of today. Instead, they were fitted with a 20 mm placeholder. The AX program had a requirement of being able to carry the cannon. Thus, both the GAU-8 Avenger and the AX Program were developed alongside each other. The first A-10's shipped without a gun as early as 1975, but had to await the delivery of the gun in 1977 before it entered service.
22 APR 2020
Project Babylon was Saddam Hussein's pet project to develop a super gun for the Iraqi military. Dr. Richard Bull, the man who had worked on Project HARP in the U.S., urged Hussein to develop a large-caliber long-range gun to establish Iraq's presence in space through high-altitude launches. Hussein obliged him, and Project Babylon was born. Both a 350 mm and a 1 m gun were planned. Bull began his work in 1988, but was assassinated in 1990 before it could be completed. With the only expert on the project gone, the project collapsed.
23 APR 2020
The Sinking of U-183
While less discussed, there were some skirmishes involving German U-Boats in the Pacific Theater during World War II. On this day in 1945, the USS Besugo was operating in the South China Sea, when she intercepted U-183. In one of the few instances of Axis submarine encounters in the Pacific, Besugo successfully sank the German sub, leaving only one of the crew of 48 alive. U-183 had sunk three British liners in the Pacific during it's tenure, and no U.S. losses to that specific U-Boat were ever reported from either the Atlantic AOR or the Pacific. (Pictured, USS Besugo ca. 1949)
24 APR 2020
The Convair NB-36 Nuclear Powered Bomber
As early as 1946, the U.S. military was examining new applications for nuclear power. Chief among those were submarines, warships, and even aircraft. Project NEPA was initiated by the USAAF in 1946 to research the feasibility of equipping a bomber aircraft with a nuclear powered powerplant. Convair offered up their B-36 Peacemaker to be modified to meet the need in 1951. The NB-36 demonstrator first flew in 1955 and was an all-nuclear powered aircraft. President Kennedy cancelled the project in 1961 indicating that the prospect was too far off. The one NB-36 remains the only aircraft to fly with a nuclear powered powerplant.
25 APR 2020
West meets east. On this day in 1945, the Allied forces from the Western Front met with the Soviet forces approaching from the East. The meeting at the Elbe River meant that the Axis powers had been effectively split into two. Germany was already in her death throes and would continue into the final days of April. Unfortunately, due to tensions surrounding the subsequent Cold War, no formal holiday was ever assigned.
27 APR 2020
The Collapse of Yugoslavia
On this day in 1992, the former Yugoslavia had completed it's collapse in name after SFR Yugoslavia was effectively disbanded by a series of revolutionary conflicts in the Balkans. The series of events erupted following the death of Josip Tito in 1980. Tito's rule had effectively squashed most unrest in the nation and even kept Soviet influence out of the country. However, upon his death, various religious and ethnical sects began to seek power and claim independence. By 1992, war had begun to rip through modern day Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia. Aftershocks are still being observed today.
28 APR 2020
The Retirement of the A-6
On this day in 1993, after just over 30 years of service, the A-6 Intruder began its four-year path to retirement when the USMC initiated its deactivation. The Intruder platform was served multiple updates over the years, including the more recently retired EA-6 Prowler variant. The A-6, however, was a relic from the Vietnam era, and with the onset of more diverse and flexible aircraft (such as the F/A-18 Hornet), the A-6's were slated for retirement. The EA-6 was retired in 2019 in favor of the EA-18 Growler.
29 APR 2020
The Cambodian Campaign
On this day in 1970, U.S. Forces along with the South Vietnamese Army commenced operations in eastern Cambodia. Taking advantage of the ongoing civil war in Cambodia, the Allies were tasked with the objective of eliminating Viet Cong and VPA forces staged throughout the nation. In addition, strikes on supply lines associated with the Ho Chi Minh Trail were prioritized. The Cambodian Campaign arced into July, with generally favorable results for the Allies.
1 MAY 2020
The black and white stripes that decorated aircraft during D-Day were known as Invasion Stripes. The Allied Command implemented the six-stripe configuration ahead of the OVERLORD landings in 1944 to help assist forces on the ground with identification. The only aircraft that did not have Invasion Stripes were bomber aircraft, largely due to the gap of bombers in the Luftwaffe. Invasion stripes were phased out by the end of 1944, but were reintroduced in subsequent conflicts, primarily during the Korean War.
2 MAY 2020
Prototype Atomic Cannon, T1
Atomic Annie was a 280 MM heavy gun that was capable of firing an atomic artillery shell. However, the 280 MM design was not what was originally planned by the U.S. Army. The original concept took the gun barrel from the M1 240 MM Howitzer - Black Dragon and mated it to the T72 carriage. Only one 240 MM prototype was produced before the requirements were changed to increase the gun size to 280 MM. The T1 prototype remains preserved at the Virginia Military Museum.
4 MAY 2020
The End of the U-boat Menace
On this day in 1945, the U-boat War had technically come to an end when the Kriegsmarine ordered a cease of operations at sea. Dozens of German U-boats still at sea, however, continued their assaults, having been unable to confirm orders by one way or another, due to a collapse in rank structure and communications with Berlin. The Battle of the Atlantic would continue for a few more days before ending on 8 May after U-320 was sunk. The Steamer Ship Black Point was the last Allied vessel sunk by U-boats in the Atlantic on 6 May.
5 MAY 2020
The ASM-135 Anti-Satellite Missile
The ASM-135 ASAT is one of the only missiles in its class. Air-launched and tasked with the destruction of satellites in orbit, it was first tested on 13 September 1985. A modified F-15A, named the Celestial Eagle, piloted by Doug Pearson registered the kill of the P78-1 Solwind satellite. A total of 15 of the 112 proposed missiles were produced before the project was terminated in 1987. RDE and data collected from the ASM-135 went into the development of the currently used, ship-launched RIM-161 SM3 missile with a similar mission.
7 MAY 2020
The Big Crow Laser System
The KC-135 platform has fielded dozens upon dozens of missions since it was first flown in 1956. One of the more interesting missions belongs to the NKC-135A Big Crow variant. Big Crow was a designation provided to two aircraft that were equipped with an on-board laser system. The system was used in tests up through the 2000s, with successful interceptions of air-to-air missiles as early as 1975. It was also used as a target for the much later Boeing YAL-1 laser platform. Both Big Crow aircraft have been since removed from service, as well as their successor in the YAL-1 as of 2014.
9 MAY 2020
The B-1A Lancer
It came earlier than some think. While the introduction of the "Bone" occurred in 1986, its heritage begins much earlier than that. The B-1 Lancer can trace its beginnings to a 1955 USAF requirement that specified the need for a supersonic, strategic bomber. However, the Lancer was not the first choice. That honor went to the XB-70 Valkyrie. Riddled with a series of unfortunate problems, however, the Valkyrie was destined to fail and for several years after the program's cancellation, the requirement was not filled. When Richard Nixon assumed the presidency in 1969 however, the project was restored. The absorption of North American into Rockwell resulted in project research from the XB-70 being used in a new design - what would become known as "the Bone."
10 MAY 2020
A Tale of a Howitzer
Sometimes fact is crazier than fiction. This M115 8-IN Howitzer may seem ordinary, and to the unknowing passerby that'd be correct. However, this particular M115 in Memorial Park at Rock Island Arsenal has a unique history behind it. Refurbished by the Arsenal, it was sold to Iran in 1977. It was then used in the Iran-Iraq War, where it was captured by the Iraqi's. Later, during Operation Desert Storm, it was used again and recaptured by the Americans. It was sent back to be restored at Rock Island Arsenal and was put on permanent display thereafter - where it still resides today.
11 MAY 2020
35th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment
This flag, belonging to the 35th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, rests in the Museum Enterprise Center at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. The 35th CIR operated along the east coast during the American Civil War from 1864 through 1866. The focal point of engagements occurred in Florida, where no fewer than five battles took place. By around this time in May of 1864, the 35th CIR was preparing for operations on St. Johns River. Additional operations took place in the Carolinas.
12 MAY 2020
Restricted Area 4808 North. That's the official name given to a stretch of airspace that covers a region just to the north of Las Vegas, Nevada - more commonly known as Area 51. The airfield within it as served as a source of lore since its establishment during World War II. It has served as an operational area for RDE from the U-2 spy plane to the Have Blue project. The airfield also served as an auxiliary airfield for captured foreign aircraft to be examined and tested, especially during the Cold War era. Today it is attached to Nellis Air Force Base.
14 MAY 2020
Operation DESERT FOX
Tensions in the Persian Gulf are nothing new. Conflict has raged in the region for millennia. A lesser-known operation took place in December 1998 however, during a campaign known as Operation Desert Fox (ODF). Officially, ODF was a joint airstrike between the U.S. and the U.K. against Saddam Hussein's regime. The joint force was particularly interested in striking targets that were capable of building weapons of mass destruction. The campaign wrapped up in just three days with a coalition victory. However, the effectiveness of the campaign remains a matter of major scrutiny to this day.
15 MAY 2020
It's common today to think of artillery in terms of 75, 105, and 155 mm. 203 mm isn't even out of the question, but in the history of artillery, sizes up to 914 mm can be found. One example of this is as recent as World War II, where the U.S. created a mortar known as Little David. The 914 mm mortar was stationary and built in a pit. Little David was never used in combat, instead it was used to simulate bombing and aid in ballistic studies. While it was slated to enter combative service, World War II ended before such arrangements could be made. The sole Little David mortar can be seen today at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
18 MAY 2020
The 38th Parallel
The Korean Peninsula was divided at the end of World War II, separating the communist North from the westernized South. The Soviet Union backed the government in the North, while the United Nations backed the South. This was initially established by agreements outlined at the end of the war. By May of 1946, however, exchanges across the 38th parallel led to a need for a permit to cross the border. Militarization of this line and increasing pressure following government establishment by both powers set the stage for what would become the Korean War.
19 MAY 2020
The Bomarc Missile System
Early Cold War missile systems had some pretty amazing designs, or some pretty bland ones. In the case of airspace defense, the Nike missile system handled ICBM interception and bombers. However, by the 1960s the need for a more rapid response to inbound threats arose. Thus, the USAF implemented the ramjet powered Bomarc Missile. Bomarc had a unique capability due to its design. It was capable of flying over 400 miles in horizontal flight after being launched to its cruising altitude by its booster stage. Bomarc also had the honor of being the first radar guided surface-to-air missile, being introduced in 1959 and totally retired in 1972.
20 MAY 2020
The F-15 has seen some stuff. From dozens of variants, the F-15 has also been one of the most receptive to modifications for research purposes. The craziest of these modifications belongs to NASA. From various times from 1988 through 2008, NASA ran several programs on the F-15. The most well-known of these was ACTIVE (Advanced Control Technology for Integrated Vehicles). ACTIVE explored modifications to yaw-control and thrust-vectoring technology. It was preceded by the F-15S/MTD and succeeded by the F-15IFCS. All of these used the same F-15 and had the same characteristics with modified and upgraded engines, front canards, and vectoring nozzles. The front-canards were cannibalized from F/A-18 Hornets.
21 MAY 2020
The Boeing X-32
The X-32 was Boeing's submission to the JSF program and first flew in 2000. The X-32, originally known as "Monica", featured a pronounced chin-lip engine intake that distinguishes it in many depictions. This feature was not part of the original 1996 design. The original concept featured a much less pronounced intake more similar to that of the F-16. Ultimately it was dozens of design and functionality flaws that caused the DoD to select the X-35 over the X-32. Perhaps, thankfully, that was the case - maybe...
22 MAY 2020
The B-36 Peacemaker
It's time in the sun was short and riddled with controversy. The B-36 Peacemaker was the premier post-World War bomber. However, the B-36 suffered from a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The requirement was ordered by the U.S. Army in 1941, but the war ultimately drew-down resources for its development. By the time the aircraft first flew, it was 1946, and restructure was on the horizon for the U.S. military. It was introduced finally in 1948, but not before the smaller and faster B-47 was introduced the year before. The newly established USAF had decided to pursue Boeing's 460-series of designs as well, which would lead to the B-52 just four years after the B-36's introduction.
23 MAY 2020
The Northrop YF-23
The best of all worlds. In preparation for the upcoming feature article this month, let's get a little "spiritual." The YF-23 was Northrop's entry into the ATF program in the 1990s. Smaller, sleeker, faster, and stealthier, the YF-23 incorporated features from a large cross section of aircraft. This included both models of the F-15 (including the then-new Strike Eagle), the F/A-18, and even the then-still-classified B-2 Spirit bomber. The design was done for innovation, but the rest - not so much. Most of the repurposed fighter components were selected to reduce cost and rapidly present a flyable prototype ahead of FY1991. The first YF-23 hit the skies a month before the YF-22 in August of 1990.
26 MAY 2020
ARL's Flechette Shotgun
During the late 1950s and into the 1960s, the U.S. military was setting its sights a little bit higher. The Space Race was in full swing, and the eventuality of weapons in space was increasing. The problem that space presented was problems with firing projectiles if the need came to pass. The solution to the problem was air-compressed flechette rounds fired either singly or in a burst. This enabled sure-fire results in zero gravity. The designs were also presented for more conventional use, such as this concept by the Artillery Research Laboratory for U.S. Army Weapons Command. The flechette would also see presentation in the later Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) in the 1960s through the 1970s.
27 MAY 2020
The F-4 Phantom II
On this day in 1958, the XF4H-1 made its first flight. The initial test flight did not go smoothly due to a hydraulics failure. Subsequent flights went off without a hitch however, and the aircraft was selected by the Navy for its fighter-bomber requirement later in the year. Eventually in the 1960s, the USAF also purchased the aircraft from McDonnell Douglas. Prior to introduction, the aircraft was briefly designated the F-110, and had three names associated with it: Satan, Mithras and Spectre. However, by 1961 it was formally declared that it was to be known as the F-4 Phantom II.
28 MAY 2020
Target Selection for the Atomic Bomb
On this day in 1945, target selection was finalized in Washington for the use of the first Atomic Bombs. The target selection process was handled by a Target Committee which consisted of members from the Manhattan Project, the U.S. Army Air Force, and members of Project Alberta. Project Alberta was functioning as the top-secret wing of the USAAF that was tasked with bomb deployment - specifically by way of modifying B-29 Superfortresses. The targets selected were Kokura, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Niigata, and Kyoto. Nagasaki replaced Kyoto in the list on 25 July.
29 MAY 2020
XM146 105-mm Rapid Fire Howitzer
Rapid-fire artillery was a subject of frequent research during the Cold War. The U.S. Army, having just completed work on a 115 MM rotary and closed-breech rocket launcher for the USMC, began studying the feasibility of a rotary field gun or howitzer. The howitzer was to be 105 mm and capable of firing six consecutive shells. No examples of this howitzer are known to be in existence, and the project seems to have been cancelled before much could have come from the project. The concept drawing from WECOM's ARL of the XM146 105 mm Rapid Fire Howitzer is dated from May 1963 and is seen to borrow many characteristics from the XM70.
30 MAY 2020
1LT Frank Luke
Born on 19 May 1897, 1LT Frank Luke was an ace pilot who flew for the U.S. Army Air Service during World War I. Luke was able to claim 18 victories through his death during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, ranking behind CPT Eddie Rickenbacker who had 26. After his death, the U.S. Army dedicated Luke Field in Hawaii in his honor. Transition of the installation to the Navy resulted in the field being renamed to NAS Ford Island. Subsequently, the name was given to a new field in Arizona. In 1947, that airfield was renamed to Luke Air Force Base after the passing of the National Security Act.
3 JUN 2020
Unexploded Ordnance in Europe
World Wars I and II ravished the European countryside. Millions of pounds of ordnance was detonated from 1914-1945, especially across the fields that comprised the Western Line. Northern France, Belgium, and Western Germany are most rife with unexploded ordnance. Large scale evacuations continue today periodically for the disposal of unexploded ordnance. This ranges from small charges and remote locations to large charges in large cities.
4 JUN 2020
The XB-70 Valkyrie
The 1950s ending with a roar in aviation between the century-series of aircraft and a demand for high-altitude, high-speed, strategic recon and bomber aircraft. Chief amongst these was a design from North American Aviation, who eventually produced a working prototype in 1964. The XB-70 was aptly named the Valkyrie, and rightfully so. This giant was painted white and was massive, capable of speeds in excess of Mach 3. Ship's 1 and 2 were flown until 1969 and both carried NASA and USAF markings through their entire careers.
5 JUN 2020
Battle of the Rock Island Rapids
The farthest west battle of the War of 1812 took place on two islands on the Mississippi River in what was known as the Battle of the Rock Island Rapids. There were two main engagements that took place in the area. The first of these took place in July of 1814 on what is now known as Campbell's Island where MAJ Campbell engaged members of the Sac and Meskwaki tribes who were aligned and supplied by the British. Campbell was defeated and forced to retreat due to the nature of the attacks. MAJ Zachary Taylor, who followed in September to reinforce Prairie Du Chien was also attacked at Willow Island, near modern day Credit Island. He was also forced to retreat.
6 JUN 2020
The Wild Weasel
The mission of the "Wild Weasel" was first described in 1965 as a means to strike and destroy anti-air defenses (particularly Surface-to-Air Missile sites) ahead of incoming strike packages. The first Wild Weasel aircraft were F-100's and A-4's, but the mission was more notoriously owned by the F-4G Phantom. During Operation Linebacker and Linebacker II, F-4G's launched hundreds of strikes against Vietnamese SAM sites ahead of numerous bombing missions. The current incarnation belongs to the F-16, and the future role is set to belong to the F-35.
8 JUN 2020
The Crash of the Valkyrie
On this day in 1966, tragedy struck over the skies of Southern California as a mid-air collision forced two aircraft to the ground in a fiery plume and caused the deaths of 3 pilots. At the request of General Electric, five aircraft flew in formation for what should have been a routine photoshoot. The lead aircraft was the XB-70 Valkyrie, ship 2. An F-104 flying on its right side cut close to the ship and collided with the wing causing debris to rip off the aircraft. The F-104 immediately was engulfed in flames, and the XB-70 began an uncontrolled spiral. Al White, the lead pilot of the XB-70 was the only pilot to escape but was seriously injured.
9 JUN 2020
The Doolittle Raid was just the first of a series of strikes against Tokyo. From 1942-1945, the U.S. carried out multiple bombing sorties against the Empire of Japan's capital city. The most significant of these took place on the night of 9 March 1945. Estimates from Operation Meetinghouse suggested that there were around 100,000 casualties and over one million homeless created from the strikes. The assaults on Tokyo left the city crippled until well into the 1950s.
10 JUN 2020
The Bockscar Nose Art
You may or may not find yourself familiar with the "Bockscar." This B-29 Bomber was the plane to drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Throughout the duration of its career in the Pacific Theater, however, it did not have nose art like its sisters. The nose art was added much later upon its acceptance to the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. When the plane arrived on Tinian ahead of the bombing in June of 1945, the only thing it sported was a Triangle-N on the tail.
11 JUN 2020
The T9E1 Locust Tank
The T9E1 Locust tank was constructed beginning in 1942 and continued production through 1945. It is one of the smallest tanks to ever be fielded. Despite its American development, it was most notoriously used by the Israelis during the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. The Locust wasn't used widely in World War II by the Allies, despite its use as an air-deployed tank, mainly due to its lack of armor. Instead, most Locust tanks were repurposed as prime movers. Some even were auctioned off and used as tractors and plows in the United States, while others were purchased by various organizations for other missions such as snow removal.
12 JUN 2020
Following to Tohoku earthquake in 2011 that included a tsunami and a nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Operation Tomodachi was launched to provide materiel support to Japan. Tomodachi was an emergency response operation that was headed by U.S. Forces Japan and included mobilization across the joint forces in Japan. Tomodachi - literally meaning Friends - included providing materiel to the Japanese, search and rescue, medical aid, shelter, and restoration of infrastructure. The last element of the venture concluded in September of 2012.
13 JUN 2020
The A-12 Oxcart
A-12 Oxcart's sitting on dry TARMAC. The Oxcart was the precursor to the more notorious SR-71 Blackbird and operated entirely in secrecy during its service career. It was retired just ahead of the SR-71's introduction. Larger, capable of faster speeds, and higher altitudes, the A-12 remained secret until well into the 1990s. The existence of the A-12 was obstructed by public acknowledgement of a similar program; the YF-12. The YF-12 was a fighter platform that utilized the same testbed as the A-12. The existence of the A-12 and the duration of its classification lead many to believe there was a second or third additional related project to the Blackbird family.
15 JUN 2020
The Kosovo War
The result of an increasing severe humanitarian crisis, the Kosovo War was one of a series of wars to breakout from the collapse of Yugoslavia. From February of 1998 thru June of 1999, Coalition Peacekeeping Forces from NATO (KFOR) were engaged with forces from the fragmented Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - modern day Serbia and Montenegro - in a battle which resulted in a large influx of refugees and massive escalation in the destabilization of the Baltics. Due to the nature of support between the belligerents and Kosovo's attachment to Yugoslavia, the Kosovo War is often identified as a proxy-war of the "extended" Cold War era. Engagements began to die down on 11 June 1999.
16 JUN 2020
Atomic Artillery in the Cold War
As recently as 1992, atomic artillery has been a staple in deterrence enforced by the U.S. Army. The need was first described in 1947 and culminated itself in the form of the T1 240 mm Gun, Proto-Annie. It was reiterated several times over the duration of the Cold War, with 155, 175, 203, 280, 350, and 420 mm rounds. At the peak of Cold War tensions, the standard sizes ranged between 155 and 203 mm shells. Doctrine indicated that these shells were to be deployed strategically and used in tandem with additional support means such as air, mechanized, and infantry units. Tactical atomic strikes were rendered further useless with the refinement on high-explosive conventional weapon systems.
18 JUN 2020
WECOM's Multifunctional Airborne Platform
The precursor to the Osprey. There were numerous designs that pre-dated the rotary transport of the V-22. One of them was a multi-functional platform which served as an airborne artillery system and a highly-mobile ground artillery system. The proposed platform by U.S. Army Weapons Command would also allow for transport of materiel. The role of this concept was ultimately covered by three different platforms: the AH-64 Apache, the V-22 Osprey, and the A-10 Thunderbolt. The CH-47 Chinook also took the role for utility deployment of howitzers and field guns.
20 JUN 2020
The Paris Cannon
The Paris Kanonen was a World War I era artillery system developed by the Krupp firm for Germany. Based on naval artillery and large rail artillery already in service, such as the 38.5 cm LANGER MAX, the Paris Kanonen (or Cannon) was capable of firing a shell up to 150 kilometers away. The largest range observed was approximately around 130 kilometers and was fired on 30 January 1918 from a site just north of Altenwalde. The shell was fired out to sea, falling just short of Borkum and just past Juist. The cannon got its name from it's used to bombard the city of Paris at a range of 69-83 kilometers. It is cited as the genesis of long-range artillery weapon systems.
21 JUN 2020
The A-12 Mothership
The A-12 Oxcart was the origin point for the Archangel program. It had multiple incarnations and proposals as did its successor in the SR-71. One of the A-12 proposals was a bit more exotic and wilder. Coming at the height of the Space Race, the Archangel program was not numb to the thought of space travel. The proposal that never left paper was to use the A-12 as a launch platform for aircraft that may have been able to fight in the upper stratosphere, as well as much lower. At least by 1965, this proposal had been binned. However, the M-21 Blackbird did have a parasite drone in the D-21 which flew into the mid-late 1960s. The D-21 program was mostly unsuccessful, however.
22 JUN 2020
The Battle of Okinawa Ends
On this day in 1945, the Battle of Okinawa concluded with a decisive American victory. American forces had been active in the prefecture since 1 April fighting through harsh conditions and staunch resistance by the Imperial Japanese Forces and civilian populations. All forms of combat comprised the battle. Okinawa was deemed a preview of potential combat on the Japanese home islands if Downfall were to proceed. The aftermath of Okinawa resulted in almost total destruction of the Japanese Navy, the virtual depletion of most remaining seasoned Japanese pilots, and put the Americans in a strategic location to carry out possible landings in Kyushu. Today, Okinawa is home to Kadena AFB, which provides security guarantees for U.S. Forces Japan and the Japanese Self Defense Forces.
23 JUN 2020
The Neutron Bomb
The Neutron Bomb. It's the dirtiest of the dirty atomic payloads. Designed to maximize radiation fallout and minimize physical damage, these bombs were developed beginning from about 1964. Their initial purpose was on the Sprint Missile that was part of the Nike-X program as an anti-ballistic missile. The neutron bomb in this case would detonate near the incoming missile and cause the inbound missile's warhead to malfunction. Subsequent development saw it used for deterrence and offensive purposes. This included the Lance missile system and the M198 howitzer.
24 JUN 2020
The 509th Bomb Wing
The 509th Composite Group was assigned to Tinian in 1945. It was solely responsible for carrying out the atomic mission against Japan in August. After the war, it was redesignated as the 509th Bombardment Group, VH. It was active during the Korean War and was deactivated in 1952. In 1993, it was reactivated as the 509th Operations Group - a unit of the 509th Bomb Wing. The 509th OG is the operational and fighting arm of the 509th Bomb Wing - which also means they are the ones flying all 20 of the B-2 Spirit Bombers currently in the USAF's arsenal.
25 JUN 2020
Rockwell Aviation was one of the rock stars in unique and innovative designs in the late-Cold War period. Having absorbed what was left of North American Aviation, they proceeded to work on the newly revisited B-1 Lancer. However, in 1979, they were also examining highly maneuverable aircraft. The RPRV-870 HiMAT was the technology demonstrator for this project. The drone first flew in July and was purpose built for NASA to research potential design technology for future fighter aircraft. Much like other drones, it was launched from a carrier B-52. Research from the aircraft went on to be used in the X-29 program, but any additional trickle-down technology is unknown.
26 JUN 2020
USAREUR & Atomic Annie
The main unit associated with Atomic Annie was U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) specifically the forces that were occupying Germany and portions of the Fulda Gap. Units operating in this region were tasked primarily to launched pre-emptive strikes and establish a means for retreat should the Soviets break through the region. Using the atomic cannon was designed to halt Soviet advances in the best-case scenario. In this scenario, it was used to totally quarantine or delay a Soviet advance. By 1959, Annie had run her course and she had been replaced with more mobile ordnance systems.
27 JUN 2020
Materiel Logistics & the Gulf War
According to the Armament Munitions and Chemical Command (AMCCOM), over 500,000 pieces of PPE, ~55,000 rifles, ~11,000 pistols, ~1,200 grenade launchers, and ~1,800 machine guns were shipped between September 1990 and February 1991 in support of the Gulf War. There were also around thirty ordnance systems shipped and an additional 1,100 M60 machine guns shipped plus around 500,000 short tons of ammunition, munitions, and bombs shipped. In total there were just short of $900 million in procurements during that same time.
28 JUN 2020
North Field, Tinian
During World War II, the island of Tinian in the Marianas was extremely active. By mid-1944, the island had fallen out of Japanese hands and was to serve as the staging point for elevated strikes against the Japanese home islands, particularly Honshu and Kyushu. Two airfields were situated there. The still active West Field, and the more notorious North Field. North Field was a massive installation that was the home base of most B-29 operations in the Pacific Theater after its completion. Most significantly, it was the home operating base for the 509th Composite Group which dropped the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was abandoned in the 1950s in favor of Kadena AFB but most facilities associated with the atomic bombing are still preserved. The rest is overgrown as seen here.
29 JUN 2020
Just hours after the battle of Okinawa concluded, American engineers began excavating and building an air base on the island. The installation was to act as the staging point for another series of strikes across the entire Japanese home islands and into Manchuria. The surrender of Japan on 15 August resulted in the urgency for the base on Okinawa to be dialed back, but it's role in the Pacific Theater of Operations was not over. By 1946, American forces were well established on the island. In 1950, it acted as a routing point for U.S. Forces Korea and elements moving into the Korean War. Throughout the Cold War it served as an intermediate post for spy missions and early alert missions. Today it is home to the 18th Wing and provides security guarantees to the JSDF, INDOPACOM, USFK, and USFJ.
30 JUN 2020
The Dyatlov Pass Incident
It was a bitterly cold February in 1959 deep in the Ural Mountains in the Soviet Union. The world was at the peak of the Cold War, but for nine individuals, it was just another month, week, day. Still occasionally disputed today, the deaths of these nine hikers/skiers remains somewhat of a mystery. So much so that books and movies continue to be published about the mysterious Dyatlov Pass Incident. Labeled as death by an "unknown compelling force", the hikers were found dead in various states that were questionable. Most died from exposure or other traumas after contact was lost for a number of days. The nature of their deaths and how they died is what continues to confuse many. Most experts agree, however, that it was due to some form of natural phenomena. Others have speculated Soviet military exercises, tests, and even the paranormal. However, by and large the mystery of Dyatlov Pass remains relatively unsolved.
1 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 its subsequent carriage T76E1 was more widely known as "the Triple Threat Carriage."
9 JUL 2020
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 its most important mission: the support of combatant commanders in theater anywhere at any time. AFGSC, for this reason, is the modern-day descendant of the Cold War-era Strategic Air Command.
10 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 its 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 its 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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
The 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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 its 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 ~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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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, its 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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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 JUL 2020
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. She swapped personnel in Guam 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 JUL 2020
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 the surface fleet.
3 AUG 2020
The B-29 in the Pacific
The B-29 was a fixture that was exclusive to the Pacific Theater. Flying higher, farther, and heavier than any aircraft before it, this aircraft first flew in 1942 and remained in service until 1960. The B-29 saw server as a long-range strategic bomber, recon, and served as the first airborne tanker. While the B-29 is often associated with the atomic bombs, it's first priority was heavy bombing of Japan. Numerous sorties in 1944 and 1945 struck at the home islands, many of which produced farther reaching damage to cities than the atomic bombs did. Some cities were entirely levelled by B-29 firebombing strikes before the atomic bombs were dropped towards the end of the war.
4 AUG 2020
Tinian and the Atomic Bomb
Forward-Base Tinian, North Field in its hay-day was the main Pacific Theater operating base for the B-29. She could service as many as 230 B-29's at a time and could launch as many 4 individual aircraft at a time using it's 4 large runways. While this massive undertaking to build the installation saw immediate need in World War II, by Korea the need had dwindled with the establishment of bases on Okinawa. Had the decision for the atomic strikes come later, it is likely those would have been sortied out of Okinawa as well.
5 AUG 2020
Atomic Target Selection in World War II
Leading up to something big. The mood on 5 August 1945 was surely surreal. Here, crew members of the Enola Gay continued to practice run dropping pumpkin bombs on targets in Japan in preparation for her historic 6 August flight. All of this had been a culmination of a series of events that had begun back in 1939. Target selection had been approved by the end of July, and with the approval to proceed coming on 3 August, tensions were high. The stage was set for a simulated apocalypse.
6 AUG 2020
The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima
"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Robert Oppenheimer's words that he uttered on 16 July 1945 hit a bit different on the morning of 6 August. Shortly after 0815, the Earth trembled as the second nuclear device to ever have been detonated exploded over the skies of Hiroshima, Japan with the force of approximately 16 KT. The atomic blasts came as part of a plan to eliminate or, at the very least, soften the blow of a possible American landing on the Japanese home islands. COL Paul Tibbets and his crew entered history as the first crew to ever deploy a nuclear weapon from the skies and are one of only two to have ever dropped an atomic bomb on a live enemy target.
7 AUG 2020
A National Effort
It took a nation to build. The culmination of destruction that gripped Japan on the morning of 6 August came after years of research and dozens of hands in the mix. The Manhattan Project reached out and touched virtually all regions of the United States and even some parts of Canada. The function of all these facilities was varied from producing the bombers, producing the chassis, uranium enrichment, research, and metalworks. These numerous other facilities are often overlooked when reflecting on the atom bomb. All of these facilities were still in full operation for the production of the atomic bomb on the morning of 7 August and many years thereafter, some as late as 1949, others are still operating today.
10 AUG 2020
The Temple of the Feathered Serpent
Mesoamerican culture up to the point of contact contained a large number of deities. One of the most consistent amongst these was that of the Feathered Serpent known as Quetzalcoatl. There are numerous variations to his attribution, disposition, and depiction from culture to culture. Generally, he is associated with wind or motion and is aligned with the planet Venus. Temples to Quetzalcoatl appeared in numerous locations as well highlighting his rank among Mesoamerican gods and goddesses. These include the Temples of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan, Xochicalco, and potentially (previously) in Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City). Interestingly enough, some cite that the a few Mexica Aztecs, including Moctezuma believed that Cortes was the arrival of Quetzalcoatl. That connection, however, is not found in any post-Cortes writings of the Aztec, nor was it found in any contemporary accounts, thus relegating such beliefs as myth.
14 AUG 2020
The Third Bomb
Despite the atomic bombings on 6 and 9 August, bombings of Japanese industry and cities continued into the evening of 14 August. The primary targets were located on Kyushu and Shikoku. The Americans were wanting to keep the pressure on the Japanese until a surrender was guaranteed. This included readying a third atomic bomb for use at the presidents direction. However, such an order never came, and attacks remained conventional throughout the last week of the war.
15 AUG 2020
The term "derecho" was first used in 1888 to describe a severe wind event that ripped across Iowa earlier in 1877. The first event that fits such a description that was described in writing comes from 1674 in the Netherlands. Despite all of this, the widespread use of the term didn't enter widespread use until the 1960s after the Chicago Derecho of 1965. Prior to the August 2020 derecho, the last one to impact the hard-hit areas of central and eastern Iowa was on 28 June 2018 with the "Midwest-Mississippi River" storm. Wind speeds of up 85 mph were recorded, juxtaposed to the 116 mph winds recorded on 10 August 2020.
16 AUG 2020
The A-5 Vigilante
First flying on 31 August 1958, the A-5 Vigilante was a unique beast to be sure. It used trickle down technology from the Valkyrie program and incorporated an odd internal storage bay. The aircraft was purchased by the Navy to replace its A-3 Skywarrior, with the primary mission being a nuclear strike attacker. There were also variants capable of carrying out standard reconnaissance missions while also executing and deploying a strike mission. The A-5's atomic payloads were stored centrally in the aircraft with two fuel tanks located behind them. On deployment, the pilot would breakaway the tail cone of the aircraft, dropping the disposable fuel tanks and the atomic payload through the rear of the aircraft. No live weapons were every deployed in this fashion.
17 AUG 2020
The Saga of the F-22
Budgeting constraints, political posturing, and lobbying are the biggest death call for weapon systems production. Most recently, such restrictions and setbacks were launched against the F-22 Raptor. Civilian officials posited that the F-22 was an irrelevant aircraft in a post-Cold War world, and that no modern adversaries exist that meet the need for such an aircraft. Thus, the number of aircraft that was intended to be delivered was reduced to 187 - with no additional means for production. The last F-22 was produced in 2011. The F-35 entered production shortly thereafter, sporting many of the features that existed on the F-22, but without the ability to perform anti-air roles in the same capacity.
21 AUG 2020
The Bofors Gun
Built to last. The M1 Bofors entered service just shy of 90 years ago. Bofors, a 40 mm gun, was developed in the 1920s in Sweden and was sold to numerous nations around the world. It remains one of the most widely distributed weapons systems in history. It is also one of the longest operating. The Bofors configurations (1, 2, and 4 guns) first served in World War II and were last used in the Global War on Terror. They are still used on certain AC-130 Spooky Gunships as well. Eventually, upon retirement of the AC-130's, they will be totally retired from U.S. service, but their reliability means that they will remain in other licensed and exported service for years to come.
24 AUG 2020
As early as the late 1970s, aviation buffs and conspiracy theorists have clamored about the supposed replacement (eventual or immediate) of the SR-71 Blackbird. Numerous theories surrounded what many dubbed the SR-72. The most interesting name that showed itself in the 1980s and 1990s was "Aurora", a project name associated with DoD RDE budgeting. Many speculated that Aurora was the codename for a next-generation, orbital, hypersonic, stealth recon plane to replace the SR-71. However, in reality, the Aurora program proved to be much more down to Earth. It was in fact the name that was given to the B-2 Spirit program. That being said, Lockheed has since announced the TR-X program to replace the U-2 spy plane.
26 AUG 2020
Rocket launchers were all the rage in World War II. There were various configurations, but most of them all functioned in a similar way. A wired remote control ran to a series of tubes connected to a priming and firing mechanism that launched rockets out of simple tubes. The more common designs were the Honeycomb designs that employed multiple rows of rockets. However, lesser-known examples of single-row rocket systems were used, such as the T27E1 "Xylophone" rocket system. The system was rapidly replaced with more efficient and more advanced rocket systems, and by the end of World War II - all of them were removed. They were instead replaced by armored units with rocket-fixtures replacing turrets.
1 SEP 2020
The Ram Fighter
The concept of single-use or single-purpose aircraft wasn't just abandoned after World War II. The Baka bombs, the CAM launched Spitfires, and the piloted V-1 rockets were certainly unique to the 1940s, but new problems in the 1950s, 60s, and even 70s, also presented their share of single-use systems. One proposed design was the Ram Fighter. Designed to blast through an incoming enemy bomber, Ram Fighters were theorized as a last-ditch effort to defend against a nuclear bombing run. The main issues that'd arise from such a design included the inability to effectively disable a bomber fast enough to prevent armament, the risk of premature detonation, and other factors. Ultimately this design was trashed and replaced with better designed anti-air defense networks.
3 SEP 2020
Telodynamics was a method that was widely popular in Germany in the nineteenth century. A similar system was deployed in limited locations in the United States where space and water were available. Telodynamics required water to move past a turbine which would in turn spin wheels, pullies, and wheels connected to belts that would provide energy to machinery. Most of these systems were subsequently replaced with hydroelectric or other forms by the late 1800s, but others, like those at Rock Island Arsenal continued into the early 1900s.
10 SEP 2020
Robert Oppenheimer & the Army-Navy E Flag
The Army-Navy-E-Award was awarded for outstanding achievement and performance in times of conflict. Dozens of these awards were given to facilities across the United States from 1941-1945. However, one of these was issued to an individual: Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb.
10 AUG 2020
Rock Island Arsenal's Quarters One
Quarters One at Rock Island Arsenal was built between 1869 and 1871. The 20,000+ square foot house is the second largest in the federal housing inventory - only behind the White House. From 1871 thru 2009, the house was home to thirty-eight commanding officers and hosted dozens of distinguished visitors. Such visitors included Charles Lindbergh, GEN John Pershing, CPT Dwight Eisenhower, and multiple foreign military and diplomatic attaches. In 2009, the house was turned over to FMWR, who still holds the house today.