Jimmy Carter’s Options in Iran Were All Bad
The passing of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush in December 2018 left Jimmy Carter as the oldest living American president. The 39th commander-in-chief and former governor of Georgia was elected in 1976 and served one term, giving way to Ronald Reagan, whose vice-president was Bush, in January 1981.... Read more
This 1964 Swiss Army Propaganda Film Got an Oscar Nod
Dutch director John Fernhout’s short film Wehrhafte Schweiz — that’s Fortified Switzerland in English — is a magnificent depiction of the Swiss armed forces in action in the early 1960s. Filmed at a cost of between one and three million Swiss Francs, the 20-minute-long film features the combined arms... Read more
The Blacker Bombard Spigot Mortar Was ‘Fearsome’
In the early years of World War II with a German invasion seemingly imminent, the British army scrambled to equip Home Guard units with defensive weapons. Some of these weapons were … less than ideal. Case in point, the Blacker Bombard, a spigot-launched mortar. “A fearful homemade weapon,” is... Read more
In 1998, Turkey and Syria Narrowly Avoided War
Sick and tired of Syria sheltering its arch-enemy the Kurdistan Workers Party, more commonly known by its acronym PKK, in 1998 Turkey threatened to invade. In the end, diplomacy prevented a potentially bloody war. On Oct. 4, 1998, a top Turkish commander declared that the two countries were in... Read more
Why Eastern European Soldiers Wear Ski Masks
In April 2018 I interviewed five Ukrainian soldiers who were fighting against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. “Why do Russian and Ukrainian soldiers always wear balaclavas?” I jokingly asked one young soldier, who called himself Myhalych. “I mean no disrespect, Sergeant O’Donnell, but that is a... Read more
Iran Almost Invaded Afghanistan in 1998
In late 1998 Iran readied its armed forces for an invasion of Afghanistan. Last-ditch diplomacy defused tensions and prevented a potentially destructive conflict. On Aug. 8, 1998, the Taliban, which then ruled around 90 percent of Afghanistan, seized the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. During the invasion, Taliban forces murdered 10... Read more
In 1961, India Finally Kicked Portugal off the Subcontinent
At dawn on Dec. 18, 1961, squadrons of Indian Air Force bombers crossed a border, bombed an airfield and a communications site. Paratroopers, tanks and artillery crossed that same border on the ground, intent on seizing territory. But the ground they invaded wasn’t Pakistani or Chinese. Rather, it nominally... Read more
America Lost a Lot of Nukes During the Cold War
As the numbers of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal grew quickly during the early years of the Cold War, so did the number of accidents involving nukes. March 10, 1956 A B-47 carrying two nuclear capsules missed a rendezvous with a refueling tanker over the Mediterranean. The aircraft... Read more
Invading Iran
Nov. 4, 1979, marked a turning point in the relationship between the United States and Iran. Less than a year after the Iranian Revolution deposed the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, militant students — acting on their own — occupied the American embassy, taking 52 Americans hostages.... Read more
Fold Up Your Tiny Gun, Slip It In Your Pocket
Benjamin Loomis was a Civil War veteran and a successful inventor. One of his most interesting patents, from February 1866, is for a folding revolver. From the patent description, it’s obvious that safety was Loomis’s main priority. “The object of my invention is to secure greater compactness and safety... Read more
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