Yesterday we looked at a less than successful weapon developed by the awesomely named Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Today, we look at one that was much more successful. Not to be confused with the Soviet Fire Hedgehog, the British Hedgehog was an anti-submarine weapon that actually proved more deadly than depth charges.
Continue reading Sub-Sonic: Britain’s Hedgehog
So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. “What! No soap?” So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.
That quote from Samuel Foote was a test of his rival Charles Macklin’s assertion that he could memorize any text after hearing it only once. It also was the inspiration for the naming of a two-ton spinning wheel of Nazi death during WWII.
Continue reading Panjandrums and Other Nonsense
The film about Mr. Preston Tucker always intrigued me as a kid. Perhaps it speaks to the quality raising that I got that it was a movie we owned and watched frequently, but even today when I think of Tuckers I think about that stylized version of his life, and how The Man kept trying to keep him down. One thing from the movie that I thought was awesome was the armored car he develops first, which really has only a bit part in the movie. I think, though, that I wanted one of those about as much as I wanted a Tucker car, because it was faster than anything else on the battlefield! Too fast for the government to buy! Nothing is cooler to a 10 year old, well, very little anyhow, than a fighting machine that doesn’t get built because it is too fast.
I recently came across the lead image you see on the Modern Mechanix website, and it jogged my memory on this machine, and I decided to find out more. Hit the jump, and let’s discover the other Tucker!
Continue reading The Other Tucker
This is the USS Shangri-La, an aircraft carrier whose naming marked a radical departure from convention, and which was the end result of a cheeky off-handed remark from US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Shangri-La was, of course, the fictional far-off paradise from James Hilton’s novel “Lost Horizon”. When Jimmy Doolittle — the same [...]
On my honeymoon, Mrs. engineerd™ and I had the fortune to visit two very historic cities — London and Paris. My wife, hardly a nostalgic person, noted that her favorite of the two was London. Part of this was a language thing, but the other part was, and I quote, “Paris is so old.” I pointed out to her that if Britain had capitulated, they would have kept most of their old buildings as well.
Continue reading Blitz Bombing
One issue with planning a paratrooper attack is figuring out how to give those troopers equipment and mobility when they jump in behind enemy lines. In World War II, the British Special Operations Executive developed the Welbike, a single seat folding motorcycle that could be dropped along with a paratroop invasion. While only built in small numbers, one has survived to find a home in the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia, where I snapped a few of these images. One of the images, cropped for mysterious effect, was yesterday’s mildly esoteric Q³. Even with such a unique specimen, Toasters commenters do not disappoint, and the answer was quickly submitted by EnsignSlow. As promised, now let’s learn a little more about this bodacious bantam bike!
Continue reading Wee Willy Welbike
Upon the conclusion of WWII, the US, and her allies that became NATO, quickly found themselves in an accelerating arms race with the evil superpower nemesis that was the USSR. In the beginning of what became the Cold War, much of the tactics and strategy revolved around expanding the lessons and technology that won the war for the forces of truth, justice, and the American way1. Ballistic missile technology was much in its infancy, as was the atomic bomb. In the interim as these new ideas were being developed, the long-range strategic bomber was the national defense asset of choice.
Building on the lessons learned conducting long range, high altitude campaigns against Japan and Germany, both the US and the Russians began investing heavily in bomber fleets that could reach the other superpower from bases at home. The problem then became knowing that the other guy was coming, so that opposing fleets could be quickly rallied and sent out in response, and so that defense fighters could be scrambled to try and stop the threat. Given the geography of the problem, and the nature of our spherical world, the likely shortest distance attacks would come from the north, and so much effort was made to create and early warning radar picket line, and then quickly expand that line farther and farther as the technologies became available. One such development the increase the capability of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line was the Texas Towers–large search and height finding radars mounted on oil drilling platforms out along the northeastern Atlantic seaboard.
Continue reading Expand Your Radar Horizons (Part 1)
Following up a legend with another great is virtually impossible, just check out The Godfather III, The Who’s replacement for Keith Moon, and the Jaguar XJ-S. There are exceptions to that rule, including Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather II, and the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. But can anyone name the Supermarine Spitfire’s successor? Continue reading Swapping Spits
27 August, 1942, New York Naval Yard
On this day, August 27, 1942 – the USS Iowa BB-61 was first launched at the New York Naval Yard and slipped into the water for the very first time.
Now a museum ship in San Pedro California on inactive reserve, the Iowa and her 3 [...]