Shocking Civil War Photos?

In memory of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, The Atlantic is publishing an astounding collection of Civil War photos taken by war correspondents. They are, in a word, shocking.

Shocking Civil War Photos?

My third great grandfather fought for the Union during the Civil War. He was mustered in during 1862, was captured at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station in 1864, and died three years later, presumably from war-related injuries. Even when looking at these photos, it’s hard to fathom the horrors and destruction he must’ve seen during the Civil War years. For some terrific insights on the war and more Civil War photos, check out my friend Sean McLachlan’s blog at Civil War Horror. And here’s more Civil War photos from the Atlantic. Make sure to click on over to check out the rest of these startling photos:

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War…Although photography was still in its infancy, war correspondents produced thousands of images, bringing the harsh realities of the frontlines to those on the home front in a new and visceral way. As brother fought brother and the nation’s future grew uncertain, the public appetite for information was fed by these images from the trenches, rivers, farms, and cities that became fields of battle.

(See The Atlantic for more Civil War photos)

America’s Heat Gun?

The other day, the U.S. military unveiled the newest weapon in its arsenal…Active Denial System. The Active Denial System emits invisible electromagnetic beams of intense heat, intended to disperse unruly crowds. In other words, it’s a massive heat gun.

The Active Denial System: America’s Heat Gun?

The Active Denial System heat gun is a nonlethal weapon. It’s mounted onto vehicles and used for crowd control purposes.

“You’re not going to see it, you’re not going to hear it, you’re not going to smell it. You’re going to feel it.” ~ Marine Colonel Tracy Tafolla

Supposedly, the Active Denial System heat gun doesn’t cause “cancer, or fertility problems, or birth defects.” And it’s being touted as a safe alternative to traditional crowd dispersal tactics like rubber bullets and pepper spray. That might be the case…unless, of course, something goes wrong and the heat gun burns the crowd to a crisp.

The Pentagon hasn’t placed any orders yet for the Active Denial System heat gun but expect to see it on the battlefield sometime soon. After that, it’s only a matter of time before the heat gun gets rolled out to police forces across the nation…

America’s Mysterious Space Plane?

On March 5, 2011, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was launched into low Earth orbit. The purpose of this unmanned space plane remains a mystery. What is the X-37B?

The X-37B – America’s Mysterious Space Plane?

As mentioned earlier, the exact purpose of the X-37B space plane remains shrouded in mystery. However, plenty of possibilities exist. Although no one knows for certain, some have speculated it’s an attempt to weaponize space or a spy satellite. Here’s more on the mysterious X-37b space plane from The Daily Mail:

The U.S Air Force’s highly secret unmanned space plane was supposed to stay in space for nine months, but it’s now been there for a year and three days – and no one knows what it’s doing. The experimental craft has been circling Earth at 17,000 miles per hour and was due to land in California in December. However the mission of the X-37B orbital test vehicle was extended – for unknown reasons…

…The Air Force said the second mission was to further test the technology but the ultimate purpose has largely remained a mystery…

(See The Daily Mail for more on the mysterious X-37B space plane)

DARPA’s Real-Life Transformer?

DARPA-employed researchers are at it again. A few months back, they were trying to predict future crimes. Then they were building invisibility cloaks and creating battlefield illusions. Now, they’ve created a robotic Cheetah capable of running at 18mph, making it the “fastest legged robot” in history.

The DARPA Cheetah: A Real-Life Transformer?

Of course, Cheetah would get crushed in a race against a real cheetah, some of which can reach 70 mph over short distances. Still, 18 mph is more than enough to destroy the old robotic record of 13.1 mph, set by an MIT robot named Planar Biped back in 1989.

Eventually, researchers hope to get the prototype up to 20-30 mph. If it reaches the latter, it’ll pass another milestone, officially becoming faster than any living human (Usain Bolt reached 27.45 mph in a 100 meter race back in 2009). Science fiction has long predicted the rise of mecha warriors. It would appear we are drawing very close to the day when that fiction will become a reality.

Preserved Remains…from World War I?

On February 4, 2012, Florence Green passed away at the ripe old age of 110. She’d served as an officers’ mess steward with the Women’s Royal Air Force during World War I. It’s believed she was the last surviving veteran of that war and thus, her death marked the end of an era.

Preserved Remains…from World War I?

However, news of that war continues to surface from time to time. Most recently, French archaeologists uncovered a World War I underground shelter. To their surprise, they discovered the preserved remains of twenty-one German soldiers. The incredible preservation of these World War I combatants was due to the lack of water, air, or light that could penetrate the area.

“It’s a bit like Pompeii. Everything collapsed in seconds and is just the way it was at the time. Here, as in Pompeii, we found the bodies as they were at the moment of their death.” ~ Michael Landolt, Archaeologist

Here’s more on these World War I remains from The Telegraph:

Nearly a century later French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front during excavation work for a road building project.

Many of the skeletal remains were found in the same positions the men had been in at the time of the collapse, prompting experts to liken the scene to Pompeii.

A number of the soldiers were discovered sitting upright on a bench, one was lying in his bed and another was in the foetal position having been thrown down a flight of stairs…

(See German soldiers preserved in World War I shelter discovered after nearly 100 years for the rest)

Mutiny during World War II?

In 1942, U.S. Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson conducted a secret visit of a U.S. military base in Australia. For seventy years, the reason for his visit has remained a mystery. But new evidence suggests a horrific event that led to the death of one soldier and serious injuries to many others. Did members of the 96th Battalion, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commit mutiny?

The Townsville Mutiny?

According to historian Ray Holyoak, the answer is yes. It turns out that African-American members of the unit were subjected to ongoing discrimination and violence from their white counterparts. In retaliation, some of them seized control of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns and proceeded to rake their aggressors with more than 700 rounds. Here’s more from the Australian Broadcasting Company on the Townsville Mutiny:

An Australian historian has uncovered hidden documents which reveal that African American troops used machine guns to attack their white officers in a siege on a US base in north Queensland in 1942…

“For 70 years there’s been a rumour in Townsville that there was a mutiny among African-American servicemen. In the last year and a half I’ve found the primary documentation evidence that that did occur in 1942,” Mr Holyoak told AM.

During World War II, Townsville was a crucial base for campaigns into the Pacific, including the Battle of the Coral Sea…About 600 African-American troops were brought to the city to help build airfields…This was the site for a large-scale siege lasting eight hours, which was sparked by racial taunts and violence…

(See Secret documents lift lid on WWII mutiny by US troops in north Queensland for more on the Townsville Mutiny)

A Bullet…that Steers Itself?

The world is full of strange “future weapons.” But is it ready for self-steering bullets, capable of hitting targets over a mile away?

Future Weapons: A Bullet that Steers Itself?

So, what kind of future weapons is the world ready for? Is it ready for self-steering bullets, capable of hitting targets over a mile away? The military and Lockheed Martin seem to think so. Apparently, this new “future weapon” could be used to “minimize civilian casualties.” Unless, of course, civilians happen to be the targets in the first place. Here’s more on this strange new “future weapon” from BBC News:

A self-guiding bullet that can steer itself towards its target is being developed for use by the US military. The bullet uses tiny fins to correct the course of its flight allowing it to hit laser-illuminated targets.

It is designed to be capable of hitting objects at distances of about 2km (1.24 miles). Work on a prototype suggests that accuracy is best at longer ranges. A think tank says the tech is well-suited to snipers, but worries about it being marketed to the public…

(See the rest on this “future weapon” at BBC News)

Bulletproof…skin?

Will soldiers of the future eschew bulletproof vests for bulletproof skin?

Will Soldiers of the Future have Bulletproof Skin?

By integrating spider silk into human skin cells, researchers have developed human tissue that can withstand a bullet (okay, a bullet fired at half-speed). Still, it’s a pretty impressive achievement. Here’s more on this new bulletproof skin from New Scientist:

What if your skin could resist a speeding bullet? Now a new futuristic tissue designed by artist Jalila Essaïdi, which reinforces human skin cells with spider silk, can stop a whizzing projectile without being pierced. Although its threads may look fragile, a spider-silk weave is four times stronger than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.

…But its resistance has its limits: when shot at a full speed of 329 m/s, the bullet pierces the material and travels through it.

(See more on bulletproof skin at New Scientist)

Eddie Slovik: Execution of an American Deserter

On January 31, 1945, twelve soldiers raised their rifles, pointed them, and fired. Fifteen minutes later, private Eddie Slovik was dead. He remains the only U.S. soldier executed solely for desertion since the Civil War, when it was a disturbingly common punishment. Why did Slovik suffer this fate?

Desertion during World War II?

“The person that is not willing to fight and die, if need be, for his country has no right to life.” ~ Colonel James E. Rudder

While armchair historians often tout World War II as “the Last Good War,” not every combatant agreed. Back in those days, service in the U.S. military wasn’t voluntary…it was mandatory. Even worse, those who went AWOL from a war they’d been forced into fighting risked the maximum punishment…death. Although exact AWOL numbers remain unknown, more than 21,000 people were sentenced for desertion during World War II. 49 of those individuals were given the death sentence. Out of those 49 people, a single person was executed…Eddie Slovik.

The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik?

Prior to the war, Slovik was “a small-time thief and ex-convict who was originally classified as unfit for military service.” But he was drafted anyway and in August 1944, found himself in France. During the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the U.S. Army suffered 33,000 casualties. Eddie Slovik barely managed to survive and afterward, decided he “wasn’t cut out for combat.” He requested a reassignment away from the front lines. His request was denied so he deserted, along with hundreds if not thousands of other Americans. After being caught, he refused to return to his unit. Summarily, he was convicted of desertion and sentenced to death. Shocked by the severity of the punishment, he appealed to General Eisenhower for clemency. But Eisenhower refused and on January 31, 1945, Eddie Slovik was executed via firing squad.

“They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for. They’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old.” ~ Eddie Slovik

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

35 American soldiers were executed during World War I, all for the crimes of rape and/or murder. 102 American soldiers were executed for the same reasons during World War II. But Eddie Slovik remains the only soldier in either war (or in any military engagement since the Civil War) to be executed for the sole crime of desertion. But why?

Clearly, General Eisenhower and other military leaders decided to make an example out of Slovik. American soldiers were dying in terrifying numbers in hotly-contested France. As such, mass desertions had become a major problem. Eisenhower apparently believed the execution of Eddie Slovik would be enough to make soldiers think twice before deserting their units. Of course, the execution had little to no impact and desertions continued for the duration of the war. Incidentally, desertions continue today as well with roughly 40,000 members of the U.S. military going AWOL between 2000 and 2006).

In the end, Slovik’s offer to serve in a noncombatant capacity was denied. Thus, he was murdered for refusing to fight in a war that he’d never wanted any part of in the first place. As Bernard Calka said in 1987 when bringing Slovik’s remains home from France, “The man didn’t refuse to serve, he refused to kill.”

Nazi Soldiers…in America?

On February 15, 1944, Private Dale H. Maple picked up two passengers in Colorado, and headed for Mexico. He was promptly arrested and charged with treason. Why? Because the two passengers weren’t Americans…they were Nazi prisoners of war.

The 620th Engineer General Service Company: Nazi Sympathizers…in the U.S. Military?

After enlisting in February 1942, Maple was deliberately assigned to the infamous 620th Engineer General Service Company. In a real-life example of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” the 620th was made up of suspected Nazi sympathizers. By keeping them in one location and denying them access to weapons, the military hoped to maintain control over the sympathizers and make it difficult for them to hamper the war effort.

But Maple had his own ideas. And when the 620th was assigned guard duty at Camp Hale, a prison for Nazi POWs, he decided to take action. After buying a car, he picked up two Afrika Korps Sergeants from work detail and drove toward the Mexican border. The car broke down 17 miles short of the goal so the three men hoofed it the rest of the way.

The Trial of Dale H. Maple?

But after arriving in Mexico, they were quickly arrested and sent back to America. Maple was originally charged with treason. Later this was changed to “relieving, corresponding with or aiding the enemy.” He was found guilty and given a sentence of death by hanging. However, the Army Judge Advocate General intervened and convinced President Roosevelt to imprison Maple instead. Maple was released in 1951 and apparently passed away in the early 2000s. Here’s more on Maple and the 620th from Foreign Policy:

Yep. Gather round, little grasshoppers, and I will tell the strange tale.

I know it sounds like the reverse of a Quentin Taratino movie, but it is true: During World War II, the Army intentionally formed a unit chockablock with fascisti and their suspected sympathizers. What a sensible idea — much better than kicking them out into society and losing track of them.

This is all discussed in the new issue of Army Lawyer , where Fred “Three Sticks” Borch has a fascinating article about PFC Dale Maple, a brilliant young man who was born in San Diego in 1920 and who graduated from Harvard with honors but then, because he was bad, was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead…

(See more on Maple, the 620th, and Nazis in America at Foreign Policy)