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
This Is How the World Could Have Ended
This story first appeared on Jan. 14, 2014. This is a plan for the end of the world, dated 1970. The arrows are armies and the red vertical symbols are nuclear bombs, all part of a part of Cold War contingency plan crafted by the Soviet Union and its... Read more
NSA Spies Helped Save Drones From a Fiery Death Over Vietnam
This story originally appeared on Feb. 24, 2015. The Air Force unleashed its first major drone program during the Vietnam War. In short order, the North Vietnamese compromised the aerial spies’ codes and began blowing them out of the sky. An angry general, a group of NSA spies and... Read more
Those Who Witnessed Castle Bravo Looked Into Armageddon
This story originally appeared on Feb. 28, 2015. More than 60 years ago on an island in the South Pacific, scientists and military officers, fishermen and Marshall Islands natives observed first-hand what Armageddon would be like. And it almost killed them all. The Atomic Energy Commission code-named the nuclear... Read more
War and Forgiveness
This story first appeared on Dec. 24, 2013. With war rumbling across the planet, it’s good to remember that even sworn enemies can, in time, find deep and lasting peace. Spring 1942. The Allies were reeling from the ferociously successful Japanese assault upon East Asia and the Western Pacific.... Read more
The Cartoonist, the Historian and Their War
This story first appeared on Dec. 29, 2013. While working on his classic World War I serial It Was the War of the Trenches, celebrated French cartoonist Jacques Tardi was approached by collector and historian Jean-Pierre Verney, who offered to correct some minor errors in War of the Trenches.... Read more
Germany’s Failed Attempts to Build a Cold War Jump Jet
This story originally appeared on March 30, 2014. During the gloomy years of the Cold War, no other country could expect to be as badly wrecked by a nuclear war than West Germany. It would have been the principal battlefield during a full-scale conflict, and would have been caught... Read more
Crimean Tom, Rocket Cats and the Felines of War
This story originally appeared on March 31, 2014. The dogs of war. We hear it all the time. But what about the cats of war? Who will account for the forgotten feline allies who’ve served so nobly over centuries of conflict? Cats have played important roles in wartime. A... Read more
This Rocket Launcher Was the U.S. Army’s Last Flamethrower
This story originally appeared on April 27, 2015. To be on the receiving end of a flamethrower is surely terrifying, but man-portable versions have their limitations. The big one is that they essentially turn their users into vulnerable, lumbering gas tanks. Besides, the fire-spitting weapons have very short ranges,... Read more
Harvey Gann Ran Through a Gauntlet in Germany
On Jan. 30, 1944, a German Me-109 shot down turret gunner Harvey Gann’s B-24 Liberator over northern Italy. Gann was the sole survivor. He spent much of the rest of the war in a series of prisoner-of-war camps, surviving to recount his experiences in the memoir Escape I Must!... Read more
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