Friday, February 24, 2012

Just leaving, thank you

The Americans, leaving Afghanistan

Friday, September 2, 2011


Going home

The Russians, withdrawing from Afghanistan.

The real price of war

Children on a battlefield in Afghanistan.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


It's a night-time photo of anti-aircraft fire during our first bombing raid on Libya in 2011. More to follow, until Gaddafi gets hit...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Death from afar

60 Minutes had a declassified report on the Predator and Reaper (the Grim is silent, like the plane) unmanned aircraft on 10 May 2009. They can fly high enough to be unseen and unheard, but their camera and targeting systems can track a single person on the ground, day or night, from ten miles out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hopeless, if heroic

Wake Island: The Alamo of the Pacific was on the History Channel today. (You can get the DVD here.) A heroic if grim story; they beat back the first wave (including destroying two enemy ships and seven enemy aircraft) and thought they were going to be relieved by an incoming force. They were wrong. They did last, however, sixteen days, which was amazing:
The Marines lost 47 killed and two MIA during the entire fifteen-day siege, while three U.S. Navy personnel and at least 70 civilians were killed {besides the ten Chamorros}. Japanese losses were recorded at between 700 to 900 killed, with at least 1,000 more wounded, in addition to the two destroyers lost in the first invasion attempt and at least 28 land-based and carrier aircraft either shot down or damaged. The Japanese captured all men remaining on the island, the majority of whom were civilian contractors employed with Morrison-Knudsen Company.
On 5 October 1943, American naval aircraft from USS Yorktown raided Wake. Two days later, fearing an imminent invasion, Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara ordered the execution of the 98 captured American civilian workers remaining on the island. They were taken to the northern end of the island, blindfolded and machine-gunned. One of the prisoners (whose name has never been discovered) escaped the massacre, apparently returning to the site to carve the message 98 US PW 5-10-43 on a large coral rock near where the victims had been hastily buried in a mass grave. The unknown American was recaptured, and Sakaibara personally beheaded him with a katana. The inscription on the rock can still be seen and is a Wake Island landmark.
On 4 September 1945, the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered to a detachment of United States Marines. The handover of Wake was officially conducted in a brief ceremony aboard the USS Levy. After the war, Sakaibara and his subordinate, Lieutenant-Commander Tachibana, were sentenced to death for the massacre and other war crimes. Several Japanese officers in American custody had committed suicide over the incident, leaving written statements that incriminated Sakaibara. Tachibana’s sentence was later commuted to life in prison. The murdered civilian POWs were reburied after the war in the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Acres of aircraft

Rico and his father were lucky enough, during a recent tour of family in the Northeast, to have visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, located in Dayton, Ohio, which is the home of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It has, as you might imagine, lots of airplanes. You can visit their site, if you can't get to Dayton, but it's worth the trip if you like (even a little bit) historic airplanes:
The National Museum of the United States Air Force galleries present military aviation history, boasting more than 400 aerospace vehicles, many rare and one-of-a-kind, along with thousands of historical items and powerful sensory exhibits that bring history to life and connect the Wright brothers' legacy with today's stealth and precision technology. We invite you to take an online glimpse of our galleries. Click on a gallery name to see exhibits, including aircraft, engines, equipment, and weapons of the USAF. The section also highlights special exhibits, current exhibits, and restoration projects.
Rico says even he, who loves old airplanes, was on overload by the end of the day. Here are some of the wacky planes in the collection (Rico loves wacky):

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The battleship Missouri

A five inch gun mount on the USS Missouri (now permanently in Honolulu harbor), which was crewed by my father while he was in the Naval Academy in the late 1940s.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The flamethrower

Probably the single nastiest weapon in the arsenal, the flamethrower can kill directly (by heat) or indirectly (by exhausting all oxygen in an enclosed space like a bunker); either way, not a good way to go.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Sten

Homely as a mud fence, effective as a sledgehammer, the Sten (this is a Mark 2) killed more people in WW2 than any other pistol-caliber weapon.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The bomb

The one weapon we never want to see used; even tests, like this one in Nevada, are bad things for the planet. A real one, used in a more public place like a city, would be awful. (Just ask those people who lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Ontos

Named for the Greek word for 'thing', the Ontos was an eight-tubed recoilless rifle carrier used extensively in Vietnam.

The Jeep

The ubiquitous Jeep from World War Two.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The M-16

The M-16 rifle is the current US issue infantry rifle, manufactured in several variants (as shown). The M16 rifle family including the M16/A1/A2/A3/A4 has been the primary infantry rifle of the United States military since the 1960s, entering Army service in 1964.

The M-1 Garand

The Garand served the United States well throughout WW2 and on into early Vietnam. General George S. Patton called it "the greatest implement of battle ever devised."

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) vehicle, in use in Iraq and Afghanistan. (An acronym only the military could love.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The MG-42

In a case of equal-opportunity ugly, the Germans had a great light machine gun, the MG-42, which dominated many battlefields in World War Two.


The only weapon stump-uglier than the Thompson, and therefore dear to Rico's heart, the Browning Automatic Rifle was the light machine gun of the Second World War in the Allied arsenal.

The Thompson

As beautifully ugly as they come, the Thompson M1 was the 'trench broom' of the First World War, the 'tommygun' of the '30s, and the 'Thompson' of the Second World War. Still in use in many brushfire wars around the world, it remains one of Rico's favorites.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Colt .45

The Colt Model of 1911 is the definitive sidearm. This particular one was made in mid-1945 by Remington Rand, re-built by the Anniston Army Depot in October 1972, confiscated in early 2004 near Al-Qurna in Iraq, and destroyed shortly after. They get around, these warhorses.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The AK-47

This is the official site for Kalashnikov, the designer and manufacturer of the famed original assault rifle, along with its variants. Ugly and strong as a mud fence, it is the benchmark for all such weapons.

Monday, June 30, 2008


The classic PBY 'Catalina', here riding at sea anchor.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The B-17

The famed Memphis Belle, with her crew. Below, a B-17 over its results.

The invasion Sherman

Courtesy of the Peripatetic Engineer, a reminder of the modified Shermans used in the Normandy invasion by units like the 743rd Tank Battalion.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The ships we aren't using just now

A portion of the mothball fleet at Suisun Bay in Northern California, courtesy of Google Maps and some satellite photography.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The B-2

What's a billion dollars look like when it burns? There are two B-2 takeoffs in this clip; the second one is the one that doesn't make it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The best aircraft

Okay, the Spitfire's not here, nor the B-25, nor a bunch of other great aircraft. But it's a pretty nice selection, nonetheless, from last year's Jones Beach airshow, flying over New York City.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Webley-Fosbery

This gun was the answer to a question no one ever asked: did they make a semi-automatic revolver? Yes, they did, and the War Geek wants one.

The sword from Glory Road

Dum vivimus, vivamus. If you're a Heinlein fan like me, you understand. It's a recreation of the sword from Glory Road, it's only a couple of grand, and the War Geek wants one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The meteorite pistols

These intricately decorated guns were said to have been forged from the iron of a fallen meteorite. They were a gift from the commander of a South American region, which would later become Argentina, to the fourth president, James Madison. "Permit me therefore to present to your Excellency... a specimen of the first essays of the manufacture of arms established in the provinces of Buenos Ayres and Tucuman," wrote General Ignacio Alvarez in an accompanying 14-page letter. Over time, they passed into the hands of Madison's successor - James Monroe - and are now on display at a museum dedicated to him.
Scientists have recently subjected the pistols to a battery of tests to determine whether the story of their origin is correct - and found that they're not made of meteoritic metal after all. Moreover, the intricately decorated handles aren't made of silver, but of an alloy unique to that part of South America at the time. Also, the pistols proved to be fully functioning weapons, not the decorative imitations they'd been presumed to be for so long.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The S-tank

The S-tank, known in Swedish as the Stridsvagn 103. Low, fast, very cool looking, and deadly at its game. Stridsvagn 103C has recently been phased out and replaced by Stridsvagn 121 and 122 (Leopard 2).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Soviet, oops, German tank

From February to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50 km-wide, Narva front in the north-eastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men were killed and 300,000 men were wounded there. During battles in the summer of 1944, this tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army. (This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tank's exterior.) On 19th September 1944, German troops began an organized retreat along the Narva front. It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driven into the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.
At that time, a local boy walking by the lake, Kurtna Matasjarv, saw tank tracks leading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere. For two months he saw air bubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there must be an armored vehicle at the lake's bottom. A few years ago, he told the story to the leader of the local war-history club. Together with other club members, Mr. Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of the lake about a year ago. At the depth of seven metres they discovered the tank resting under a three metre layer of peat.
Enthusiasts from the club, under Mr Shedunov's leadership, decided to pull the tank out. In September of 2000 they turned to Mr Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of the Narva open pit of the stock company AS Eesti Polevkivi, to rent the company's Komatsu D375A-2 bulldozer.
The pulling operation began at 0900 and was concluded at 1500, with several technical breaks. The weight of the tank, combined with the travel incline, made a pulling operation that required significant muscle. The D375A-2 handled the operation with power and style. The weight of the fully armed tank was around 30 tons, so the active force required to retrieve it was similar. A main requirement for the 68-ton dozer was to have enough weight to prevent shoe-slip while moving up the hill.
After the tank surfaced, it turned out to be a trophy tank that had been captured by the German army in the course of the battle at Sinimaed (Blue Hills) about six weeks before it was sunk in the lake. Altogether, 116 shells were found on board. Remarkably, the tank was in good condition, with no rust, and all systems (except the engine) in working condition. This is a very rare machine, especially considering that it fought both on the Russian and the German sides, and pans are under way to fully restore the tank. It will be displayed at a war history museum that will be founded at the Gorodenko village on the left bank of the River Narv.

The Mustang

This is still the queen of aircraft, sixty years later.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The A-10

Lumpy and ugly as a Warthog (and aptly codenamed such until they wimped out and changed it to Thunderbolt, which at least was an equally stumpy aircraft), the A-10 provides close air support of ground forces by attacking tanks, armored vehicles, and other ground targets; it also provides a limited air interdiction role. It is the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed exclusively for close air support.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The V-22 Osprey

The V-22 Osprey is neither a helicopter nor an airplane, but a hybrid that does both. It's also the baddest looking aircraft since the A-10, and will, if used properly, transform assaults and invasions. (It's also made just down the road from the War Geek.)

The classic Colt .45

The War Geek had one just like this, made in 1918. It still shoots better than he does...

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Sheridan tank

Featured in one of my novels, At All Hazards, this has always been one of my favorite armored vehicles. Not tough enough for Central European armored warfare, it got replaced early except in low-threat wars like Vietnam and Iraq.