Archive for the ‘War’ Category
Well, Washington and Obama are making noise about attacking Syria. Quelle surprise. Kerry was saying today that the evidence of a Syrian chemical attack was “undeniable.” Please, spare me. Washington has been lying about this sort of stuff since the Mexican War in 1848, and it’s hard to find a 20th century war they didn’t lie through their teeth about. Our economy and political system is based on war forever, Syria is just more of the same. The main reason we know this is a lie is simple. Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons would trigger US intervention. Why in the name of God would Syria do the exact thing that would trigger US attacks? They wouldn’t of course, no one is that stupid, especially considering that chemical weapons are essentially useless on the battlefield unless your enemies are using World War One style human wave attacks. So Syria has no conceivable reason to use chemical weapons, and excellent reason not to use them. Kerry’s claim should be taken for what it most likely is, a lie.
So if the Syrian government didn’t launch an attack, who might have? Well, let’s see, who has to gain from US intervention? Bingo in the Elf Lounge. The rebels. Yes, a chemical weapons attack was launched by the Syrian government conveniently near a UN inspection team even! How lucky was that? And snipers even tried to slow the team down as it approached the stage of the purported chemical weapons attack. Stage as in staged. It’s more than likely the rebels faked an attack of some sort, it wouldn’t take much. For all practical purposes Obama asked them to stage an attack, who can blame them? Even the public evidence is suspect. There are photographed bodies of claimed sarin gas victims. Assuming these are real pics (yes, the rebels have tried crude fakes before) it’s been pointed out that if these people really did die from sarin gas, the people wandering around the bodies without protective gear would also quickly be succumbing to the intensely lethal substance on the bodies. They aren’t.
Sadly the truth doesn’t really matter. The USA attacks whomever it pleases whenever it pleases, and manufactures whatever justification is needed. Most Americans don’t want another war, but their opinion hardly counts anymore. Even Congress isn’t even trying these days, this time they might not even bother to pass a resolution supporting the attack. What will be the results of the attack, aside from more profits for the military industrial complex? Who knows, it often takes years for the blow-back from this sort of nonsense to fully realize itself. It stands a good chance of bringing down the Assad regime, one of the only remaining secular regimes in the region, and replacing it with a Islamic fundamentalist government aligned with Al-Qaeda. How would that help the USA or Syria? Damned if I know.
What I do know is that there is nothing “humanitarian” about an American attack on Syria. Yes, that’s part and parcel of the endless propaganda flowing from Washington and the mainstream media, we’re all concerned about the plight of woman and minorities and democracy. Yes, unlike every other empire in history, the USA’s motives are pure! Spare me. Anyone who believes that may have pure motives themselves, God bless em, but the facts on the ground consistently belie the idea that we are trying to make the world a better place. US intervention almost invariably makes things worse for the people in a region, especially the ones we kill and maim with our “well intentioned” bombs and missiles. It does however prevent the rise of modern secular nation states, which would be far less pliable to American influence and meddling. They might even have radically dangerous ideas like those pursued by Saddam for example … he thought that the profits from the sale of Middle Eastern oil should be invested in the Middle East! One can see why he had to go.
So many lies, when it’s all just about western militarism and colonialism. European armies have been marching through the Middle East since Alexander the Great. The excuses change but the end result is the same. Death and destruction for the locals. That’s what wars do on the receiving end. Our current Alexander in Chief hasn’t shown any qualms about that before. And of course wealth and profits for the west. Follow the money as they say.
Lastly, a point about chemical weapons. They are not WMDs. They in fact aren’t anything special, just another one of the myriad evil ways humans have devised to kill each other. Like nuclear weapons, they have few real military applications and are more a political and propaganda weapon than anything else. And to make the hypocrisy complete, not only does the US cheer on such weapons when they approve of the regime using them, the USA has utterly no qualms about using them itself. So the idea that Syria has crossed some sort of moral boundary by using (purportedly) chemical weapons doesn’t pass the laugh test.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Its a photograph entitled “Viktor Bulla’s Pioneers in Defense Drill, Leningrad (1937)” It appears on page 79 of a book of photographs called “Propaganda and Dreams” by Leah Bendavid-Val. While a lovely ghoulish photo by modern standards, it was very much meant as a propaganda picture showing how prepared the Soviet Union was for self defence.)
Well, Syria is still in the news. Well, the colonial propaganda that passes for news in the west. Let’s see, Syria is another of the countries that was made up after World War One by the British and French as they carved up the Ottoman Empire for their own colonial exploitative purposes. Since Syria had no resources worth bothering with, it was ruled by a series of more-or-less independent dictators until the present day. With the arrival of the Arab Spring a few years back, serious opposition to the Assad dictatorship broke out, and the country is essentially in full blown insurrection. It’s not however a civil war, since the rebels are not united into a single faction by any stretch of the imagination. Since the Assad dictatorship posed a clear danger to colonial rule in the region, IE the possibility that Syria would evolve into a modern secular state, the west has been almost gleefully providing the rebels with support. And it’s certainly made a bloody mess of the country, if nothing else.
Where to start. Chemical weapons. This is a propaganda term used by the west to claim that someone is as bad as Hitler. Chemical weapons are just that, weapons. There’s nothing magically evil about them, and for most purposes have limited military applications. IE a nation with chemical weapons isn’t anymore threatening than a nation without them, they are weapons, that’s all. Sure, they can be used to commit atrocities, like any other weapon. So when Obama makes a big deal about Syria’s use of chemical weapons, it is just a propaganda device to justify further US meddling in Syria. Which leads us to a sad observation, the west isn’t even giving lip service to national sovereignty anymore. The fact that Syria is an independent country doesn’t even register in the western media.
And now Israel is getting its licks in. Israel respects no limits in its quest for control of all of Palestine. They routinely wage war in other countries when it suits their military. How this will help matters in Syria is difficult to grasp. How it will help Israel is also a mystery, but Israeli foreign policy long ago ceased to make sense. Apparently they plan to live behind a wall forever, periodically waging war on their neighbours and occupied territories. The claim is that it is trying to prevent arms from being transferred to Hezbollah. Since Hezbollah is both well armed, and strictly defensively oriented toward Israel, it’s hard to see why this would be necessary … especially since it risks widening and already ugly war. That’s how countries get when they are hyper-militarized though, like the USA and Israel, military action is not only the first option, it’s the only option.
And of course the UN is playing its now well established role as the enforcer of international rule, IE western rule. It’s a safe bet that the Arab League’s request that the UN stop Israel’s attacks on Syria won’t go anywhere. Granted its more a less a symbolic gesture by the Arab League, since most of their governments are western satraps. The UN is also questioning whether or not the rebels used chemical weapons. The west isn’t all too excited about the rebels either, they are hardly the secular (IE can be bribed) freedom fighters the west prefers to bankroll. I’m not even sure the west has much of a strategy at this point, other than the usual fall-back, let the locals kill enough of each other and maybe we will get back in somehow someday.
God only knows what is going to happen to Syria. We are seeing a weird combination of trends in the world now. The military might of the west continues to grow, though it is purely the ability to wage destruction from affair. At the same time the proliferation of weapons in the world and the rise of social media and modern communications networks is making revolt against dictatorships both more effective and more likely. We’re seeing the post World War One colonial edifice in the Middle East collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions. The old fashioned personal based dictatorships seeming to be the most vulnerable to this collapse. Even if a regional war doesn’t break out, I suspect in ten years the Middle East will look nothing like it does today. Good times.
At least this isn’t another Obama post.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s a Syrian tank destroyed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the last World War Two styled war in the region. With a dead Syrian soldier beside it. So so many people die in the endless madness in the Middle East, but it’s what the west wants. And what the west wants, it gets.)
A thing of beauty, eh what? Yes, yes it is. This concept roller coaster is the ultimate roller coaster. The top is 510m high, nearly 1/3rd of a mile, and it takes two minutes to haul the 24 passengers up there. Downwards the cars reach 360 kilometres per hour (220 mph), very close to terminal velocity, the fastest they can fall. Then into the loops, each designed to maintain 10g on the passengers as the cars slow down. This would be as if they weighed ten times their normal weight. At the end of this exhilarating ride the passengers are unloaded, and new ones board. Wait, what? Yes, unloaded. The passengers have to be unloaded at the end of the ride because they won’t be exiting under their own power. This is because they will be dead. Yes dear readers, this is the Euthanasia Coaster.
Dear God, why would anyone build such a thing? Fortunately they haven’t, but if people have devised plans to build doomsday devices, this shouldn’t be a surprise. The Euthanasia Coaster was actually designed in 20120 as an art project by one Julijonas Urbonas, the idea being to take lives “with elegance and euphoria.” I’m not sure it really hits either on the nose, but it would take lives. As for its practical use, euthanasia or execution pretty much covers it. It has been suggested that people with no legs or people wearing special high altitude legging might actually survive the ride, so I suppose there might be some who would risk it for the ultimate thrill. I’ll pass thank you.
Seriously though, the chances this would ever get built seem remote. That didn’t stop the anti-euthanasia group “Care not Killing” from being concerned. I’d never heard of “Care Not Killing” before, but as soon as I read the name I knew it was a religious group. Sigh. And it is. I’m getting good at spotting groups with hidden agendas. Hell, probably harder to spot the ones without, there don’t seem to be too many of those. As for executions, there’s probably cheaper ways to execute people.
Meanwhile, in Syria, someone has actually built a euthanasia device:
OK, more of a suicide device I suppose. People are clever. That’s the Sham II, a homemade “tank” built by Syrian rebels. I has a remote control machine gun mounted on top, and is controlled inside by using video cameras and video game components. It’s built around a car chassis of some type. What ever possessed them to do this? Beats me, things are a might confused in Syria right now. I can’t imagine it would last long in battle, it might be impervious to small arms fire, but anything from an RPG up would do the trick, and the Syrian military has plenty of weapons. Hell, even homemade munitions like Molotov cocktails would work. I suspect it’s more for western attention and publicity than anything else. Still, last it was in the news it was on its way to battle in Aleppo. Improvised armoured fighting vehicles have a long history. If I hear how it fares I’ll post it.
I kept waiting for some news on who was behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, but alas nothing yet. Likely a nut or right wing terrorism would be my guess. Media coverage has been ridiculous, but that’s always the case. And as always some in all walks said stupid, hateful, inappropriate, or self-serving things. Modern America, fun place, like Disneyland with guns.
(The above images are claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. They are not being used for profit, in fact I lose money writing this blog. That means they should pay me for using them. Coming soon, a fund raising drive. You have been warned.)
Well, yesterday’s guest post got a few interesting comments. They mansplained everything to me quite nicely. I would have responded, but it didn’t seem like debate was indicated. Many westerners apparently do know what’s good for the world, no matter what the world’s people think of it. Of course European armies going out to “fix” the world is at least a two millennium list of ghastly failures; but that’s the beauty of colonialism, if it fails, why, it’s because they are ignorant savages. Of course colonialism, especially the modern version, hasn’t failed to make a tiny number of people richer than all the tyrants in history, but of course colonialism is about helping people, not loot. It’s just a coincidence. Snort. In any event I am going to keep re-blogging stuff one won’t see in the Washington Post. I am assuming anyone reading this blog is curious about what other people around the world think. If not, well, plenty of lighthearted posts like this one to read.
So, back to North Korea. I’m still hoping this is just a war scare, but still, really? Really? If it turns into a shooting war, I have no clue how it will turn out. I am still constantly amazed though by the people who believe that the USA would “win” in days. We bombed them flat in the 1950s war and they didn’t surrender, why would a few days bombing suddenly change their minds? Especially since they’ve had decades to prepare for more bombing? Hope springs eternal I guess. In the movies if you beat up the bad guys enough they always surrender, real life is a bit trickier. Movies are so much more fun too, as the above image illustrates. As long as North Korea doesn’t have any Chuck Norris’s of their own.
Which alas they do. This brings us to today’s fun topic, North Korea’s secret weapon:
Yes, that’s a biplane. And Antonov An-2 to be precise. An a amazing plane really, in production from 1947 until 2002. It was a light utility/transport aircraft and an all around useful aircraft. Crop dusters, fire fighting, whatever. Russian parachutists would practise jumps out of them into snowdrifts without parachutes! Russian are crazy. Wait, how was that even possible? It’s possible because the An-2 could fly as slow as thirty miles an hour. So in a thirty mile an hour headwind, the An-2 could fly in one place, in a stronger wind … it could fly backwards. It was easy to fly, cheap to produce, and just in general one of the good things that came out of communist Russia. Over 18,000 were built, thousands of which are still in use. Including several hundred in North Korea.
How is that a problem? Several things. Their version has canvas covered wings. This really lowers it’s radar profile. And the fact that it can fly at slow speeds at treetop level, it is very difficult to spot with radar or even visually from above. And it can take off or land on small dirt runways, so it isn’t going to be sitting at air bases waiting to be picked off by the USAF, they are likely squirrelled away all over North Korea. They have a range of over 400 miles, so they can reach all of South Korea and a large portion of Japan. The North Korean’s plan to load them with ten man suicide commando teams, and use them to attack American and Korean installations in the region. Yeah, it’s not a war winning weapon, but it could do terrible things. And there’s no way to really defend against it, any installation could be attacked at any time from any direction. Or a couple of these could sail in and land on a runway or a street inside a military complex like the Israeli’s at Entebbe. And North Korean commandos are good, some of the toughest and best trained in the world.
They also have midget submarines. Same problem, more range. I really don’t want North Korean commandos popping up while I am shopping on Telegraph or wandering through People’s Park. I like the variety we get in Berkeley, there’s a limit. Next post, spontaneous human combustion and Bigfoot, new source of forest fires explained?
(Let’s see, the Chuck Norris image was passed along by George Takei, so I refer any copyright issues to him. The An-2 photo came from Wikipedia, I think. In either case I think the images are public domain under US copyright law. I’d finish with a Chuck Norris joke, but I couldn’t find any funny ones.)
That was the plan at least. I was going to write this as an alternate history post, but remembered I’d written one like it before. So no messing around, just the facts ma’am. The beauty pictured above was one of Hitler’s secret weapons. That’s a Heinkel 162 Salamander. So what’s its story? I’ll start at the beginning …
In 1944 Germany was in big trouble.The Russians were advancing from the east. They were pissed. The Allies had landed in France, and also were heading for Berlin with malign intent. And over Germany itself, the Allies had seized control of the very skies. The Luftwaffe had plenty of planes, but very few experienced pilots anymore. Many had been lost trying to defend the skies of Germany, and Hitler hadn’t given pilot training any priority until 1944. Allied planes were pounding Germany’s factories, roads, and armies into ruin. Something had to be done. And thus a number of secret weapon’s projects were frantically launched in an effort to find some super-weapon that could allow Germany to drive the American Army Air Corps from Germany’s skies. I’ve written about at least one of these before. And while they failed in their goal, they did some amazing things.
One of them was the Heinkel 162 Volksjäge. That’s People’s Fighter. This little plane was supposed to be the Volkswagen of jet fighter aircraft. Cheap and easy to build, mostly made of wood, and could be assembled quickly and in large numbers by unskilled labour. Lastly, it had to be easy to fly, since Germany had no pilots. The plan was that scores of teenagers in the Hitler Youth program would fly the planes! It was hoped their bravery and youthful reaction times in combination with a jet aircraft would tip the balance in the skies over Germany. It was a great idea! Pause for thought. No, it was a crazy idea, and hopefully the discerning reader can come up with all sorts of reasons why planning to save the day with Boy Scouts flying disposable jet fighters wasn’t likely to end like a Hollywood movie. Boy though, what a fun movie that would make. Reader’s having trouble discerning the flaws in this plan should take a moment know to review the Evil Overlord List. You’ll thank me later.
Oddly enough, the German engineers working on this project gave it their best. The He-162 went from design to operational prototype in less than 90 days! That’s remarkable and likely almost unequalled in the creation of a new aircraft. There were some problems in development and several crashes, no surprise in a rush job, but in December 1944 production of the He-162 began in earnest. It was indeed an wonderful plane, in fact it was the fastest of the world’s first generation jet fighters, cruising around 800 km/h (500 mph) and capable of flying at nearly 900 km/h (560 mph) for short bursts. For comparison the US P-51 Mustang maxed out at about 700 km/h (425 mph.) It was nimble and climbed quickly, and mounted a pair of 20 or 30 mm auto cannons. The He-162 was also the world’s first aircraft to have an ejection seat. Pilots loved flying it, and it did very well in what little combat it saw, some few squadrons were equipped with it before the war ended.
So why didn’t fleets of wooden jet fighters manned by Boy Scouts save the day? Alas, the He-162 was not easy to fly. It was extremely tricky to fly, and required a skilled pilot to even take off and land, let alone fly in combat. I think we can all agree that this is a good thing. Only just over 300 were built. A few of them survived the war and were flown by other nations, a few still exist in museums. The Canadian Aviation Museum is looking into the feasibility of making one of their two He-162s airworthy again. There’s some truly boring footage of the He-162 flying in this Russian film, I was so numbed I had to stop before two minutes were up. Russians are a funny people. Here is footage of other captured German jet and rocket fighters being flown, much more interesting. There’s even a few views of the controls. They were … scary, and the He-162s would have been similar.
Lastly, I wonder about the mind set of the people working on these projects. Most of them must have known that their projects were not going to stave off the inevitable. Yet they laboured on, brilliantly even, and produced some amazing killing devices. That seems to be what humans do when they are under a lot of pressure. It’s a gift I guess. What, you were expecting another kitten post?
(The above image is almost certainly public domain, and I’m claiming it as such until informed otherwise. Not making any money off of it, etc. Tomorrow, a guest post.)
I’m back! I was going to post a picture of a zombie cat to announce my return, but I couldn’t find a suitable one. I stumbled upon this picture in the search and it seemed like it would do. Thanks for all the inquiries about my health and well being, this is the longest break I’ve ever taken from Doug’s Darkworld. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, it was a combination of things. Mid blog crisis I suppose. Part of it is that I have achieved new levels of cynicism and objectivity. So my world view has become much bleaker. Although in some ways less bleak. I’m not worried about North Korea for example. North Korea seems to be in the news, so that will be my first topic. OK, my only topic.
I really only have a few observations. North Korea poses essentially zero threat to the USA in any objective measure. That alone highlights the egregious nonsense being spewed in Washington. Anyone who is actually worried about a North Korean attack on the US mainland is worried about something less likely than lightning strike or shark attack. It’s sad that some people are actually scared. On the other hand, I hear plenty of people saying the USA could defeat North Korea in days. There is a term for people like this. Idiots. North Korea isn’t Grenada, Panama, or even Iraq. It’s a country that has spent more than fifty years preparing for another attack by the USA, after a war where the USA bombed their entire nation flat without them surrendering. But now they would roll over in a few days? Like I said, idiots.
On the flip side, many people, possibly the same people, are convinced that North Korea could never strike the US mainland. Yes, it’s unlikely, but not impossible. They probably don’t have missiles that can reach us, but they do have nuclear weapons. Enormous amounts of contraband are smuggled into the USA every year, could North Korea sneak a nuclear bomb into San Francisco harbour? Sure, why not? This is why starting a wear with North Korea might be a bad idea, among many other reasons. Giving a nuclear armed country a reason to try and nuke the USA is a really dumb idea. The overall point of course is that no one knows how wars will turn out, although there is that word for people who think they know. Idiots. Lastly, it needs to be understood that the situation with North Korea is entirely the USA’s creation. The USA insists that its enemies surrender to it unconditionally, and oddly enough North Korea doesn’t want to do that. North Korea has offered perfectly reasonable terms for ending the war since the 1950s. The USA refuses to even consider that.
In any event I hope cooler heads prevail. Sadly any serious study of history shows that nations can and do start utterly senseless wars that spiral out of control as the politicians involve try to save their own bacon. There’s always a chance that war with Iran will break out somehow too, but that’s a whole other story that I’ve discussed many times. And in other world news, nothing much is happening. There was a plague of locusts somewhere. The NRA is going to start flying armed drones over schools. Joe Biden announced he will be changing his sex. The usual fluff.In Doug’s Darkworld a post on the best roller coaster ever proposed is coming up, plus a solution for spontaneous human combustion, and another reason why Bigfoot is a myth. The unusual fluff in other words. Oh, yeah, and how Boy Scouts almost saved Hitler’s Third Reich.
Welcome back, have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is blatantly ripped off and being posted without attribution or copyright notice. I will remove it or attribute if the copyright owner so requests. And no, there’s no such thing as zombie cats. In fact, there’s no such thing as zombies! Who knew?)
One of the hardest things about trying to keep up with what is going on in the world is that things change. Sometimes very quickly. Yet the model of the world we have in our heads changes a lot more slowly, or not at all in some people. Things that were stable for decades do eventually change, and if we don’t update our mental models to reflect this, our understanding of the world becomes flawed. Frankly most people’s understanding of the world is a more reflection of their prejudices than any true understanding, but still, some of us are trying to make sense out of it all. And in trying to make sense of it all, a huge shift has taken place over the past few years. Illustrated above. That’s the USA from space. See the big lighted splotch near the upper left middle of the image? That’s in North Dakota. How many huge urban areas are there in North Dakota? None. So what the hell is that huge lighted area? That, dear readers, is fracking. More specifically, that’s the Bakken Formation being exploited for oil. Even five years ago the expert opinion was that the Bakken Formation wouldn’t be producing oil any time in the near future, I even blogged about it. Then a breakthrough was made in oil extraction, fracking as it is known, and the Bakken Formation is now a major and expanding oil producer. The lights by the way are excess natural gas simply being burned off.
OK, so what does this mean? I think it means we’re screwed. We were already in trouble, but this is a huge change, and I think it’s going to have some disastrous consequences. First, the huge change part. Remember peak oil? Well, despite decades of expecting peak oil to hit around 2010, it hasn’t. And now, with fracking, peak oil has been put off for decades. And instead of being an oil importing country, the USA will soon be an oil exporting country once again. These are huge changes and futurists must be scrambling to adjust their models and forecasts. Oil is at the centre of modern civilization, so these changes will ripple outwards and affect everything. And yet this huge change in where our civilization is headed is taking place almost unnoticed. That’s a topic for another day, most people miss anything less than sudden catastrophic rates of change. And as a codicil to my following two points, I don’t think much could derail this. Keystone pipeline or no, the fracking accessible oil deposits in North America will get used, they are way too valuable and the oil industry is already the most powerful industry on the planet, weapons possibly excepted. Of course the weapons industry also wants these deposits exploited, since one can’t fight modern high tech wars without oil. And if one is at all familiar with American politics, big oil has huge influence. Not to mention more or less corporate control of the mainstream media, so opposition to massive fracking will be marginalized. Whether we like it or not, oil is going to be the prime mover in the USA for decades to come.
Speaking of opposition to fracking, that’s where the first major problem rears its ugly head. A massive new wave of oil exploitation is going to be the death knell for any serious mitigation of global warming. Just the lights in the image above illustrates that. We’re talking a mind numbing amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere just from the production of oil in the first place, and then of course that oil will almost inevitably be used in such a way as to also add to the CO2 in the atmosphere. I don’t even blog about global warming any more. The people who are in denial about it are no more rational than people who deny evolution or the Big Bang. Eventually it will get bad enough that maybe something will be done, but by then it will be far too late. Fracking just means it will get worse sooner.
OK, so fracking means global warming is going to destroy civilization even sooner than was feared, there’s something worse than this? Yes, yes there is. War and oil. Or more specifically, it takes oil to build and run tanks. If one has lots of oil, one can build a lot of tanks. Yes, that’s the simple version. Let me try a different approach. The rich of a country come into a huge pile of money. They are urged to spend it on consumer goods or war to make even more money. They already have all the consumer goods they need. War it is! I posit that the USA will do what every imperialistic power in history has done when it came into some profound new source of wealth … go on an orgy or war and conquest. And since the USA has been on an orgy of war and conquest since 1900 at least, it’s just going to get much worse. I think in the 21st century the USA is going to try and reassert western colonial control over the entire world, at the point of a drone if need be. That’s certainly been the path we’ve gone down under Obama.
So, world war and world climate catastrophe all because of some lights in North Dakota? Yeah, that’s pretty much my theory for today. Earth is a strange planet.
PS: The day after I posted this, I got this link in email: Geologist’s provocative study challenges popular assumptions about ‘fracking’ Who knows?
(The above image is by NASA and is Public Domain under US copyright law. Yes, I’m blogging again after a hiatus due to odd events in my life. Future posts will get back to weird history and such, I’m getting all my negatively out on this post. For the moment.)
Ah, those wacky Victorians, what will they think of next? All sorts of stuff actually, the late nineteenth century saw an explosion in new military hardware as modern technology and the industrial revolution got into full swing. And in the days before air power, navies were the ultimate weapon, so they got a tremendous amount of innovative thinking as nations vied for a military advantage. And the Novgorod pictured above is one of the more creative ideas put into action in this flurry of creative ship building. It was a circular warship armed with two giant (for their time) cannons. The thinking behind it was twofold. By having a circular hull, the ship’s draft would be very shallow, allowing the ship to operate close to shore. Using ships to shell shore positions was very popular in the Victorian era, and not unknown today. Secondly, it was thought that the wide flat hull would provide a very stable gun platform, making the ships that much more useful for accurately shelling forts and such. Even Tsar Alexander II was persuaded this was a great idea by Vice Admiral Popov, one of Russia’s greatest ship designers, which was why such a radical departure from traditional ship design was built. Hell, the tsar was so impressed with the idea that he had a royal yacht, the Livadia, constructed on the same principles.
The warships, there were two of them, were built in St Petersburg on the Baltic Sea and then disassembled, shipped by railroad to the Black Sea, and reassembled in Sevastopol. The Novgorod was complete in 1874, the Vice Adm. Popov in 1879. They were in fact the first ironclads on the Black Sea, and on paper at least gave the Russians an advantage over their mortal enemies, the Ottoman Turks. And soon enough they got their chance to prove their worth in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, they were assigned to the Danube flotilla and sent into action. And due to their stunning success, dozens of navies also built circular warships, and today they still dominate the seas. In other words, no, they didn’t quite live up to their promise.
For one thing, it turns out that boats need a keel to stay stable in the water. These ships rocked all over the place and were almost impossible to steer. In fact if often proved easier to tow them than to have them travel under their own power. Even veteran sailors got seasick on them, that’s how bad they were. And as for their stability as a gun platform, well, it was better in theory than in practice. In fact if only one gun was fired, the recoil would send the ship spinning in circles. Which they had a tendency to do anyhow. As one might imagine, spinning in circles isn’t conducive to aiming and firing a cannon. Their war service a fiasco, the Novgorod and the Vice Adm. Popov spent the rest of their years tied up in harbor as coastal defense forts. Even worse, they proved popular with tourists for their novelty. Instead of being intrepid warriors of the sea, they ended their days as basically circus freaks.
And the Livadia, the Royal Yacht, how did it fare? Built in Scotland, lavishly appointed, it was supposed to transport the terribly seasick-prone tsarina in style and comfort. In sea trials at least it proved to be a decent ship, handling far better than its ill-fate predecessors. On its first voyage though it took almost two months to sail from Scotland to southern Spain, that’s longer than it took Columbus the cross the Atlantic in his primitive sailing ships centuries before. The grand duke Alexis and his entourage never made it to the Crimea, their ultimate holiday destination. They staggered ashore as soon as the ship made port in northern Spain, seasick to the bones. And shortly after the Livadia made it to the Black Sea, the tsar was killed and Russia was entering its long slide into anarchy and revolution. The Livadia was looted and stripped of its engines, and spent the rest of its career a coal barge. It sure was a beautiful thing to behold in its brief and ignominious heyday though:
And that was the brief unheralded circular ship era. All three ships worth. About as successful as the mid twentieth century’s experiments with flying saucer shaped aircraft. Maybe that will be the next post.
(The above images are all claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. They aren’t being used for profit, are central to illustrating the post, and are being used for educational purposes. The period photograph is public domain due to its age, the other images came from this fine site which has many more pictures and more details on the careers of these un-illustrious vessels. In any event this was just a fun post. PS: I noticed that sources differed on some of the history and details above, often a problem in doing historical research. C’est la vie.)
OK, it has wings, it must fly. There’s no propeller or air intakes, so it glides or has a rocket engine. Judging from the small wings it must have a rocket engine. It has a cockpit so it has a pilot. It does not appear to have landing gear, nor does it have any obvious weapons. One of the men has a gun, the men appear in uniform, and the vehicle has what looks like military markings on it. It’s a likely a military flying device of some sort, but what sort exactly? Stop reading here if the gentle reader wants to guess.
Yeah, I can never be bothered to guess on stuff like this either. If the gentle reader noticed it looks kind of like a cruise missile, they were onto something. That’s exactly what it is, a cruise missile. Typically launched from a Betty bomber, though submarine and cave launched versions were also planned. It only had enough fuel to fly for 20 miles or so, so it had to be launched pretty close to its target. And yes, it had a pilot. This was World War Two, electronically guided missiles were still a dream, if a cruise missile was going to hit any thing smaller than a city, it had to be piloted. Yes, this bad boy was the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (Cherry Blossom) purpose-built suicide plane. It had a 2,000 lb high explosive warhead, and could fly at over 400 mph (650 kph) in level flight or over 650 mph (1,000 kph) in a dive. This was considerably faster than the fighters of the day, and made them almost unstoppable if they got into a final approach. And yes, this was built by Japan in the last years of World War Two. It’s a kamikaze plane.
So, how did they do? Over 800 of them were built, and most of them saw action. Unfortunately, at least from the Japanese point of view, most of the action they saw was being shot down while attached to the Betty bomber long before they got close enough to be launched at a target ship. Still, a number of them did get close enough to US fleets to be launched. Very few though, most of the time the planes carrying them were intercepted long before they launched their Chery Blossoms. And what few Cherry Blossoms actually attacked only managed to sink or damage seven small allied ships, destroyers mostly. No American capital ships (carriers, cruisers, battleships) were hit by Cherry Blossoms. That’s around 1600 planes and their flight crews (very few of the launching bombers got back to Japan safely) for seven minor ships and a few hundred killed and injured Americans. Not a good trade at all. The Cherry Blossom was a military failure.
In point of fact, Japanese kamikaze attacks in general were a failure. Over 4,000 were used, they sank about 50 Allied ships and damaged about 300 others. 3 escort carriers were the largest ships sunk, the rest were small support ships like destroyers or troop transports. The losses the Allies suffered from kamikaze attacks at this late date in the war were insignificant. The Japanese had hoped the tactic would be so successful that it would blunt the US advance towards Japan, and make a negotiated settlement to the war possible. It was a clever idea, though only made possible by Japan’s traditional society and Bushido code, at least on such a large scale. Germany and Italy also had some efforts at suicide aircraft and such, but nothing like the scale of the Japanese kamikaze program.
Suicide attackers have been known since at least the 11th century. Occasionally soldiers of all stripes would themselves commit the ultimate sacrifice. A German officer tried to hug Hitler while he had two bombs set to go off in his pockets, the attack failed. When suicide attackers were organized, which was rare, it was usually in defense of the homeland in the face of an invader or occupier. Almost all modern suicide bomber fall in the later category. While popular belief in the west ascribes suicide attack to religious fanaticism, this is largely propaganda. Suicide attackers are certainly motivated by their faith, but almost all soldiers are motivated by their faith. Properly deployed, modern suicide attackers have achieved some stunning results, the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 being possibly their biggest success. Suicide attacks are a tactic, not an ideology, and as such fall into the broad spectrum of horrific behaviors that warfare encourages.
Of course most people think that their side’s forces are fighting the good fight for God and country, while their enemies are Godless barbarians with no respect for human life. In most cases both sides are both wrong and right … neither of them is fighting for anything worthwhile. Wars are almost always senseless. But they’re so interesting! More weird weapons of war will be covered as the spirit takes me. Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I got it from Wikipedia so it’s more than likely public domain of one sort or another. Here’s a youtube video montage of Japanese kamikaze attacks during World War Two. It’s pretty horrible actually, lots of people are dying in these images.)
Well, that’s an interesting looking plane, nu? Anyone know what it is? Guesses? Note the small size and compactness of the aircraft. Note the complete lack of landing gear. Is it a plane at all, maybe it’s a carnival ride? Wait, look at the tail, it’s the batplane! No, actually, it’s a McDonnell XF-85 Goblin. OK, that’s not terribly helpful, what is a McDonnell XF-85 Goblin? Give up? The McDonnell XF-85 Goblin is what is called a parasite fighter. This is a fighter aircraft that is attached to a larger aircraft, or in this case, carried completely inside the bomb bay of a larger aircraft. In this case three or four of them would be carried inside a B-36 bomber, making the bomber a flying aircraft carrier. For that was the idea, the Goblins would ride in some of the bombers in a bomber formation, be dropped when needed to defend them, and then re-board the bombers when the fighting was done. This was because the fighters of the day didn’t have the range to escort long range bombers, especially jet fighters. It was an interesting idea, though the requirement that it fit inside a bomber severely limited its size and thus fuel load, a Goblin was only good for about 30 minutes of flight time.
So did it work? Well, sort of. In 1948 one was launched on a number of test flights and successfully deployed and flew around. However, re-attaching to the hook that would haul it back inside the bomber proved very tricky in action. Buffeting from the airflow around the bomber made it a very tricky procedure, and it was only successfully accomplished on three occasions. Many attempts to reconnect were failures, often damaging the plane or the hook in the process. On one try the Goblin hit the hook so hard that not only was the canopy knocked off, the pilot of the Goblin’s helmet was knocked off! He managed to safely belly land it on a dry lake bed anyhow. In fact he (only one test pilot ever flew the Goblin) had to belly land it a number of times because he was unable to reattach to the mother bomber. More disappointing, its flight characteristics weren’t as good as had been planned, and other jet fighters entering service at the time were clearly superior to it. Lastly, progress with figuring out how to refuel jet fighters in the air was rapidly increasing the range of conventional fighters. Poor performance, high skill requirements to fly, and better conventional fighters spelled doom for the Goblin, and the project was cancelled after only a handful of test flights.
The whole thing was a pretty wild idea though. Fleets of giant six engined intercontinental bombers, the likes of which Hitler dreamed of, would fly around the world. Three quarters of them would be carrying nuclear weapons, the others would carry three or four Goblins each. They would have been impervious to the anti-aircraft guns of their day, with a fighter escort as needed, and the nuclear firepower to exceed the destruction of all of World War Two in just a few dozen planes. A killing machine the likes of which the world had never seen, ready to rain down nuclear death anywhere on the planet. And the name of this giant bomber? The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker.” Yes, that’s right gentle reader, a bomber that could destroy entire cities was called the peacemaker. Wtf?
Yeah, the Cold War was nuts. World War Two was nuts, and it was catching, since the USA carried on as if the war never ended. From the Cold War till the War on Terror. The USA was always ahead of Russia in the so called arms race, and it got further ahead every year. Yet a huge percentage of Americans became persuaded that a communist conspiracy was going to take over the world if we didn’t continue to fund ever more destructive military toys. It made little more sense than Hitler’s theory about Jews being in a secret global plot to run the world. Now of course millions of Americans believe that Muslims or terrorists will take over the world if we don’t wage endless war. Right. Hitler is laughing in his grave, his armies lost the war but his ideas rule the west still. That’s what’s wrong with this picture.
I’m sure many will dissent. Moving right along, I’m going to be writing more posts about some of the weird and wacky and just plain fascinating war aircraft that were built and conceived during and since World War Two. Because, well, it’s fun. Suggestions welcome. Um, let me clarify, suggestions about what aircraft or secret weapons to write about. I will try to keep the political commentary to a minimum. Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image came from Wikipedia so it must be OK to use. Likely it was taken by a US government employee in the course of their duties and is thus Public Domain under US copyright law. And boy, they missed a great propaganda opportunity with this plane. With the right paint job, they could have made a flying football! Here is you tube footage of the Goblin in action: Goblin away!)