In ’Nam, the U.S. Army Turned Truck Drivers Into Maritime Cops
The 458th Transportation Company wasn’t supposed to be the U.S. Army’s river police force. The soldiers were truck drivers America, and didn’t know much about patrolling hostile waterways. But the Army thought better  —  and in a maddening and unusual story from the Vietnam War, transformed the truckers into... Read more
France’s FAMAS Rifle Is Simple and Compact
In 1967 the French army requested a new infantry weapon to replace both the MAS 49/56 rifle and MAT-49 submachine gun. Three years later, the French military standardized on the new 5.56-by-45-millimeter cartridge. With requirement and cartridge in hand, Paul Tellie, Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne — MAS — began... Read more
The Third Reich’s Giant Electric Submarine Fail
This story originally appeared on April 30, 2014. On May 4, 1945 one of the most advanced submarines in the world crept up to a British Royal Navy cruiser. U-2511 was one of Germany’s new Type XXI-class “wonder” submarines, and she was hunting for Allied ships. She also represented... Read more
The Concrete Battleship
This story originally appeared on Oct. 21, 2014. 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... Read more
The Soviet DP-28 Was a Brute-Simple Machine Gun
In the mid-1920s the Soviet military realized it needed a new, locally-produced light machine gun. Vasily Degtyaryov had anticipated the demand. He began developing the DP-27 light machine gun in the early 1920s. Following trials and some modifications, the Soviet army adopted Degtyaryov’s gun in 1928 as the DP-28.... Read more
In 1964, the MiG-21 Scored Its First Kill — Against an American Oil Company
The Soviet MiG-21 is one of the most widely-produced and -exported fighter jets of all time. In the United States, the MiG-21 is perhaps best known for hunting American warplanes over Vietnam. The single-engine fighter is equally famous for its participation in various wars in the Middle East over... Read more
The British Perfected the Art of Brewing Tea Inside an Armored Vehicle
This story originally appeared on April 27, 2014. There are few things more British than tea, even if it was originally a Portuguese tradition of brewing South Asian leaves. The culture of tea-drinking permeates British society—including the military. But tea-break culture posed a big problem for the generals in... Read more
World War II and the F-Word
According to John Babcock, a mortarman in the U.S. Army’s 78th Infantry Division, during World War II and every war before or after, the word “fuck” “was, and still is, the most frequently used crutch-word in the military.” J. Glenn Gray, another World War II soldier, agreed. “The most... Read more
Mud Wars: How the U.S. Air Force Tried to Muck Up Vietnam
This story originally appeared on Jan. 19, 2014. It’s a safe bet to say most people outgrew their fascination with playing in mud sometime in elementary school. Perhaps even fewer would consider it a likely weapon of war. But in the 1960s, the United States began to look seriously... Read more
Kongo Versus the Earthquake
This story originally appeared on Feb. 27, 2014. This month marks the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Much of the country, myself included, felt the shaking that day—but it was the subsequent tsunami that did the most damage. On March 11, 2011, the sea swept across... Read more
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