In the 1940s, the U.S. Navy Launched Planes From Trapezes
Today’s small drones launch off catapults and land in big nets. Large drones require runways, whether on land or at sea. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, as a wacky—and successful—World War II technique proved. During the Pacific War, a U.S. Army Air Forces captain figured... Read more
How to Build a Flying Jeep
Far-off visions of the future don’t have as many airborne cars like they used to. But flying military jeeps were once very real—if impractical and dangerous to their pilots. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the British and American militaries experimented with such rotorcraft. The jeeps never left the... Read more
They Fought a War and Created the Grinch
During this holiday season, like so many before, millions of people will watch the Grinch vent his spleen on Whoville, descending like Krampus Claus with his poor dog in tow to loot the town of Christmas presents and cheer. The classic story sprang from the imagination of Theodore Geisel,... Read more
A Strange Braggart’s Incompetent Naval Career in the Heart of Africa
The self-proclaimed hero of a little-known episode of World War I was equal parts H. Rider Haggard, Fitzcarraldo and Monty Python. A superannuated Royal Navy commander who fought an absurd naval campaign on a lake in the middle of Africa. English author Giles Foden recounted the bizarre story of... Read more
Where to Find the Best Diving Gear? Not the U.S. Navy
Thousands of people around the world explore the underwater world every day using self-contained, underwater breathing apparatuses known as scuba gear. Invented during World War II by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan, this simple but effective system for breathing compressed gas from a cylinder revolutionized diving during the 20th... Read more
How to Nuke a Submarine
Can you kill a sub with a nuke? It seems pretty obvious that a nuclear explosion deep in the ocean should sink a submarine, but you need to be sure if you’re gearing up for World War III. During the heyday of nuclear testing in the 1950s, the U.S.... Read more
Verifying Nuclear Tests Helped to End the Cold War
It may seem hard to believe today, with tensions rising between Russia and the West. But late in the Cold War, both the U.S. and the USSR directly measured nuclear experiments at each others’ test sites. The unlikely but successful collaboration helped to end the five-decade conflict. For many... Read more
What These Ghostly Shipwrecks Tell Us About the Atlantic War
On Oct. 21, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the discovery of a remarkable pair of shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast. In an area long known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for the many vessels lost there, the crew of NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer located both the... Read more
The U.S. Military Is Working on Nuclear Batteries
For most of us, recharging a phone is simply a matter of finding a standard electrical outlet. But war zones aren’t so conveniently wired. As the military learned during more than a decade at war, supplying immense quantities of diesel fuel for generators at forward operating bases proved costly... Read more
The Concrete Battleship
Throughout history, coastal fortifications have guarded strategic seaports. And until recently, forts easily outgunned ships. Hence legendary British admiral Horatio Nelson’s quip—“A ship’s a fool to fight a fort.” But you don’t have to fight a fort when you can just cut it off. Arguably the greatest coastal fort... Read more
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