We Need to Talk About the Middle East
My father and I always had a tacit agreement. We would never speak of “that part of the world.” He’d grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Norfolk, Virginia. His own father, a refugee from early-20th-century pogroms in what is now Ukraine, had been the president of his... Read more
U.S. Commandos Were Fond of Captured AK-47s
This story originally appeared on May 26, 2015. While the Soviet Avtomat Kalashnikova has become the iconic weapon of bad guys in Hollywood blockbusters and big-budget video games, U.S. commandos made good use of the rugged rifles in Vietnam. By the end of the conflict, the American military had... Read more
To Understand Soviet Satellite Imagery, the CIA Once ‘Spied’ on America
In 1963, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency John McCone wrote a memo to Secretary of State Dean Rusk stating that the CIA had obtained “good reproductions” of Soviet satellite imagery. The memo, recently disclosed, is the subject of a brief article by Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News.... Read more
The Royal Air Force’s Bomber-Killing Bomber Was Just a Dream
In 1976, the British Royal Air Force had a problem. In the event of war, Soviet Backfire bombers flying from Europe could have devastated resupply convoys sailing from the United States to Europe. The RAF needed a warplane with enough range to patrol the vast Atlantic — and enough... Read more
Hitler Hated the Nazi Assault Rifle
This story first appeared on Nov. 26, 2015. By 1944, the Third Reich pulled out all the stops when it came to technological marvels. It was the year of the Wunderwaffe, the “wonder weapon” – devices born out of a combination of science and desperation that Nazi Germany hoped... Read more
Commandos Sans Frontières
In early June 2018, at a tiny military post near the tumbledown town of Jamaame in Somalia, small arms fire began to ring out as mortar shells crashed down. When the attack was over, one Somali soldier had been wounded — and had that been the extent of the... Read more
The U.S. Navy Is Struggling to Grow
In late 2016, the U.S. defense establishment arrived at a consensus: with just 275 frontline ships, the U.S. Navy was too small to maintain a forward presence across the world’s oceans, deter Russia and China and support combat operations in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. Both the Obama... Read more
America’s Abandoned $6-Billion Missile Pyramid
This story originally appeared on May 31, 2014. The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, nestled along North Dakota’s remote northern border, is one of America’s most fascinating examples of military waste. It’s a pyramid-shaped missile silo that was part of the Safeguard program, an elaborate missile-defense system meant to... Read more
Eating Too Much Rice Almost Sank the Japanese Navy
This story originally appeared on May 31, 2014. In August 1882 in Incheon Bay near Seoul, four Japanese warships were locked in a tense stand-off with two Chinese warships that had brought troops to quell a revolt on the Korean peninsula. On paper, the Japanese flotilla outnumbered the Chinese,... Read more
Croatia’s Entire Frontline Air Force Almost Got Stranded in Ukraine
This story first appeared on April 30, 2014. In early 2014, just a single pair of ancient MiG-21 fighters defended the skies over the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia. The rest of the fleet was stranded in Ukraine, a country that seemed to be teetering on the brink of... Read more
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