B.Z. Gas Rendered the Enemy Too Irritable to Fight
This story originally appeared on Oct. 27, 2014. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies could expect all sort of dangers if they ever got into a war with the United States—including nuclear weapons. The Pentagon was even prepared to deploy B.Z. gas. Sometimes... Read more
South Vietnamese Troops Almost Fought on Battle Bicycles
This story originally appeared on March 26, 2016. In early 1965, villagers across South Vietnam might have watched a curious military formation race through their hamlets. No, not heavily-armed troops shielded inside armored vehicles, but rural militiamen on bicycles. For nearly a year, authorities in Saigon and their American... 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
The U.S. Air Force Almost Sent ‘Starter’ Attack Planes to Europe
This story first appeared on Feb. 23, 2014. In September 2009, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe asked to host the first squadron of light attack planes that, at the time, were planned for purchase by a more ambitious and less cash-strapped Pentagon. The Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance warplanes—LAAR for... 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
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
There Was No Way a P-51 Could Replace the A-10
This story originally appeared on Dec. 17, 2014. The U.S. Air Force has a complicated relationship with its low- and slow-flying A-10 Warthog attack jet. And that’s putting it mildly. The flying branch has tried more than once to retire the ungainly A-10 in favor of speedier planes, only... Read more
American Hand Grenades Have Some Odd Connections to Sports
This story originally appeared on Dec. 29, 2014. Most people would probably agree that playing catch with a hand grenade is a bad idea. On one occasion in 2005, three young people died in Bosnia while horsing around with one of these small bombs, according to Reuters. But throwing... Read more
Spies Helped the USAF Shoot Down a Third of North Vietnam’s MiG-21s
This story originally appeared on Dec. 30, 2014. On Jan. 2, 1967, around 30 U.S. Air Force F-4 Phantom fighter jets flying from Ubon in Thailand shot down a full third of North Vietnam’s MiG-21s—for a loss of just one of their own. It was a strategic victory in... Read more
The U.S. Army Had a Whole Unit of Psychic Spies
This story originally appeared on Aug. 27, 2016. On Sept. 15, 1995, Army chief of staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan held a meeting with a colonel from the service’s top watchdog agency as well as with another colonel who had served as a psychologist at Army Intelligence and Security Command. The... Read more
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