Space Marines With Jetpacks!
In the early Space Age, everything seemed possible — no matter how crazy. Which is why, in the 1960s, one American engineer seriously designed a space rocket to transport troops wearing jetpacks. This far-out concept aimed to lob Marine jet-battalions into space and land them on the other side... Read more
The Atomic Bazooka Was a Bad Idea
The U.S. Navy Tried to Create a Far-Out Seaplane Strike Force
After World War II, the U.S. Navy found itself in uncertain waters, despite its enormous successes in the Pacific and Atlantic theaters. Blame the atomic bomb. The 1946 Operation Crossroads nuclear tests demonstrated naval power’s vulnerability to atomic attack. And the newly-independent U.S. Air Force claimed a near-monopoly over... Read more
U.S. Marines’ Portable Helicopters Were Too Crazy to Survive
During the Korean War, quite a few American pilots went down behind enemy lines. Some got lucky and escaped with the help of daring airborne-search-and-rescue crews, while others never made it home alive. The U.S. Marine Corps looked to helicopters to help rescue downed pilots. After a modest debut... Read more
How to Get Into Space for Cheap—Use a Balloon
Hurling an object into space is certainly dramatic and risky. During its flight, a giant rocket burns hundreds of tons of fuel in a continuous explosion full of sound and fury, signifying human triumph over gravity. All that power is dangerous. If the controlled explosion gets out of hand,... Read more
The Bomber at the Bottom of Lake Mead
Lake Mead hides many sunken treasures in its cold, freshwater depths. Lost in the lake at the dawn of the Cold War, a crashed B-29 Superfortress bomber kept its secrets for nearly 60 years. Hoover Dam formed the giant, 248-square-mile reservoir in parts of Arizona and Nevada during the... Read more
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
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