July 16, 1945: Dawn of the Nuclear Age

The GadgetJuly 16, 1945. 5:29 AM Mountain Time, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. (Shamelessly stolen from myself, from last year.) Click the image for a larger view of the Gadget.

The Gadget was detonated – the 1st nuclear explosion – by the Manhattan Project. It was a plutonium implosion device.

At 05:29:21 (July 16, 1945) local time, the device exploded. It left a crater of radioactive glass in the desert 10 feet (3.0 m) deep and 1,100 feet (340 m) wide. At the time of detonation, the surrounding mountains were illuminated brighter than daytime for one to two seconds, and the heat was reported as being as hot as an oven at the base camp. The observed colors of the illumination ranged from purple to green and eventually to white. The roar of the shock wave took 40 seconds to reach the observers. The shock wave was felt over 100 miles (160 km) away, and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles (12.1 km) in height. After the initial euphoria of witnessing the explosion had passed, test director Kenneth Bainbridge commented to Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer, Now we are all sons of bitches. Oppenheimer later stated that, while watching the test, he was reminded of a line from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture: Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

(The Gadget was similar to Fat Man, which was dropped on Nagasaki on the 9th August that year. Little Boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, was a uranium gun-trigger.)

Video of the blast is all over YouTube. Here is a short one.

The best documentary I have seen on The Manhattan Project is The Day After Trinity. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere for streaming.

It was later determined to be an 18-to-20 kiloton explosion. (The equivalent of 18,000 tons of TNT or more) Relatively small by modern standards. Thermonuclear – or hydrogen – bombs are measured in megatons. (The largest – Tsar Bomba of the USSR – measured 50 megatons)

Canadian sniper makes record-breaking kill shot

This is quite a record. Canadian elite special forces sniper makes record-breaking kill shot in Iraq – The Globe and Mail

A sniper with Canada’s elite special forces in Iraq has shattered the world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in military history at a staggering distance of 3,540 metres.

That’s 2.2 miles, for you metrically challenged types.

I was in a “discussion” on social media with someone who couldn’t understand that a Canadian held this record, and not someone from the USA.

I tried to explain, that Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia actually give their snipers rifles designed for long distance work.

As best I can determine, the US Marines and the US Army use sniper rifles (that would be the M40A5 and M24 respectively) based on the 7.62X51 NATO cartridge. Both rifles have a barrel length of 24 inches. PALMA (long-distance competition) rifles in 7.62 NATO come off-the-shelf with 28 inch barrels, and custom rifles are often 30 inches or a bit longer, because that cartridge benefits tremendously from the extra barrel length. Even then, it isn’t 3000 meter capable. If I am wrong about what weapons the US military is using, please note it in the comments. I understand that the Marines have been looking for a replacement, but the .338 Lapua rifle I saw mentioned as under consideration had also been cut down to 24 inches. Someone with more experience in that caliber will have to say if that makes sense or not. I’m sure the 24 inch rule is out of deference to some US military doctrine, but not everyone agrees with it.

McMillan Tac-50The Canadian special forces soldier used a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle, that shoots the BMG .50 caliber round, with a barrel of 29 inches. That is another round, built around relatively slow-burning powder that benefits from increased barrel length. [Photo of Tac-50 via Wikimedia Commons and User MathKnight]

L115A3A recent record holder, Craig Harrison, formerly a Corporal of Horse in the Blues and Royals cavalry regiment of the British Army, used an Accuracy International L115A3 chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, which sported a 27 inch barrel. [Photo of L115A3 rifle via Wikimedia Commons and user Andrew Linnett]

Click either image for a larger view of the weapons used.

The Australians provide their snipers with Barrett 50 caliber rifles. I have no direct evidence, except the 2800+ meter shot they made a few years back, but I expect they are using the 29 inch barrels for that weapon.

All that said, the current record is quite a feat, with whatever weapon is used.

Tam Reminds Us it is The Anniversary of D-Day

View From The Porch: 6/6/44

The youngest guys wading through that bullet-stirred surf are ninety, now, and there are fewer every year who remember with advantages what feats they did that day…

Go watch The Longest Day. (It is on Netflix.) It isn’t a documentary, but it is pretty good, given the level of special effects available in 1962. And it really does have an “all star cast.” Everyone from John Wayne to Red Buttons.

As for the reference to “…what feats they did that day…” It is the St. Crispin’s Day Speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. (Also known as the “Band of Brothers Speech.”) This version is from the (somewhat) underrated Danny DeVito film about an out-of-work ad man who gets a job teaching some army recruits.

The Battle of Midway: June 4, 1942

Six months after Pearl Harbor, the US Navy was able to win a major victory at the Island of Midway. Battle of Midway – World War II – HISTORY.com

Thanks in part to major advances in code breaking, the United States was able to preempt and counter Japan’s planned ambush of its few remaining aircraft carriers, inflicting permanent damage on the Japanese Navy. An important turning point in the Pacific campaign, the victory allowed the United States and its allies to move into an offensive position.

The video at History.com is good, but the audio isn’t balanced correctly. Still the article is good.

Although initial strikes by Midway-based planes were not successful, American carrier-based planes turned the tide. Torpedo bombers became separated from the American dive-bombers and were slaughtered (36 of 42 shot down), but they diverted Japanese defenses just in time for the dive-bombers to arrive; some of them had become lost, and now by luck they found the Japanese. The Japanese carriers were caught while refueling and rearming their planes, making them especially vulnerable. The Americans sank four fleet carriers–the entire strength of the task force–Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu, with 322 aircraft and over five thousand sailors. The Japanese also lost the heavy cruiser Mikuma. American losses included 147 aircraft and more than three hundred seamen.

I always enjoyed the 1970s Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston movie, but it probably doesn’t hold up for folks used to 21st century special effects.

How to Survive a Russian Invasion, and other tips from Lithuania

Sometimes when you go looking for one thing, you find something completely unexpected.

So the National Review has a reaction to Merkel reacting to Trump, on the subject of defense spending. NATO Allies Must Boost Defense Spending or Risk Losing U.S. Protection | National Review

The basic question is:

Why should Americans care about protecting our European allies if European citizenries themselves do not support the military defense of member states against Russia in the event that Article V is invoked? There are vast tidal forces of history at work in the world today, some that can be controlled and some that cannot. Continuing to shirk commitments to one’s own defense with the expectation that the U.S. will foot the bill instead is the wrong way to engender continued transatlantic respect and friendship.

It is a fairly good article, that covers what Article V means to the people involved, and it is generally worth a read.

If you follow a bunch of links, you eventually find this 2015 article from the Atlantic, about a manual published by the government of Lithuania.

How to Survive a Russian Invasion – The Atlantic

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are known collectively as the Baltic states. All three of them were part of the old Soviet Union, and they believe that Putin’s Russia would like to re-occupy them. They have been independent since the 1990s, and they joined NATO as soon as they were able.

After the way Russia retook Crimea and what they have been reported to be doing in the rest of Ukraine, Lithuania thought they should prepare their citizens for more of the same.

The 98-page guide, which this week goes out to libraries and army personnel in the 3-million-strong Baltic nation, is meant to gird citizens for the possibility of invasion, occupation, and armed conflict. The manual, entitled “How to Act in Extreme Situations or Instances of War,” may seem an overly anxious measure in a country like Lithuania, which lived under Soviet control from 1940 to 1991 but has enjoyed the security of European Union and NATO membership since 2004.

You know it seems like just yesterday that Obama (rumored to be the smartest President we’ve ever had) was laughing at someone and making snide comments like, “How could anyone be worried about Russia?” This is the 21st Century after all.

Fake News, Tab Clearing, Etc

The LA Times got it wrong from the start, and all the rest of the Fake News Outlets media piled on. What You’ve Heard About The ‘MOAB’ AKA ‘Mother Of All Bombs Is Wrong!

The giant bomb U.S. forces dropped Thursday on an ISIS training camp in Afghanistan did not cost $314 million to develop, or $16 million per unit as reported by multiple news outlets.

Since the Air Force built it themselves out of stuff they had on hand from other projects, there is no independent accounting. (It isn’t built by an outside contractor.)

The sudden reaction of the Left to a President carrying out bombing missions is fascinating. You could almost think it didn’t happen last year. Map shows where President Barack Obama dropped his 20,000 bombs | The Independent

Outgoing US leader carries out 3,000 more strikes in 2016 than year before

Will have to do a Google search to see who was completely outraged by that campaign.

Too little too late? Merkel Admits ‘There Is No Doubt’ Some Migrants Are A Threat | The Daily Caller

The original is in German, but the translation is quite good (via Chrome anyway)

Sherman Sacks Columbia

William Tecumseh ShermanSherman captured Savannah, Georgia shortly before Christmas of 1864, after cutting a swath of destruction across that state. After spending some time Savannah, Sherman moved his army into South Carolina. Sherman began his Carolina campaign on February 1st. By the 17th, he had captured Columbia. Sherman sacks Columbia, South Carolina – Feb 17, 1865 – HISTORY.com

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and Confederate batteries opened fire on the Federal garrison of Fort Sumter in April of 1861 to get the festivities started. So the Union soldiers were particularly delighted in bringing war to South Carolina.

The troops under Confederate General Wade Hampton abandoned the city leaving it open to Sherman’s troops. The Union soldiers set fire to city – many after getting drunk.

Sherman wrote:

“Though I never ordered it and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over the event, because I believe that it hastened what we all fought for, the end of the War.”

About 2/3 of the town burned before the flames were extinguished, but Sherman set more fires – to all the government buildings – three days later before they marched out of Columbia.