Military-Grade Awesome

Wee Willy Welbike

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!

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Military-Grade Awesome

Expand Your Radar Horizons (Part 1)

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.

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Airborne Awesomosity

Swapping Spits

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


Happy 70th Birthday USS Iowa!

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 […]

Airborne Awesomosity

Turbosupercharger: Master of the Skies

What you are about to see is a US Army Air Forces film, the contents of which are RESTRICTED. This means it may contain information of a critical national security nature, and we don’t want anything to hurt what our boys are doing over there in Europe. Wait, what’s that? No more Nazi’s you say? Well, carry on then, everyone should be able to enjoy this great General Electric training film covering all the essentials of the then new “Turbosupercharger” systems being installed on airplanes to allow for faster, higher altitude flying and better performance!

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Airborne Awesomosity

Bell YP-59A Airacomet

The other day in my post about the Chino Planes of Fame Museum, I mentioned the Bell YP-59A Airacomet that they are restoring to flying condition. Some of you may already know about this plane, some of you may have gone to the Pedia Which Has A Wiki page about it, but it deserves to be immortalized on Atomic Toasters. It is, after all, America’s first jet airplane.
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Military-Grade Awesome, Moments in History



Are you bigoted?

A while back I blundered across images of some of the landing maps that were used for the D-day landings on the Normandy beaches during WWII, and I’ve been looking for an occasion to use them. Today seems to be appropriate since it is the 68th anniversary of D-day, and it’s a nice way to commemorate the event. Plus, the maps are quite interesting themselves.

The maps are reproductions of the landing maps for Omaha beach that were carried by Tech Sgt. Harry F. Green of the 110th Field Artillery, U.S. 29th Infantry Division on D-Day, and are now in the care of his nephew, Tim Roop of the website. The story of the preparation of the maps and the huge effort taken to keep them secret is fascinating, and appeared in the June 2002 issue of National Geographic,Untold Stories of D-Day” written by Thomas B. Allen.

An excerpt:

ONE SIMPLE WORD, BIGOT, is stamped in big letters across the Operation Neptune Initial Joint Plan of February 12,1944, and from then until June 6, that stamp appeared on all supremely secret pieces of paper handled by D-Day planners. If any of those papers or maps had fallen into enemy hands, the invasion would have failed or been scuttled—a distinct possibility in the anxious days after Exercise Tiger.”

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Airborne Awesomosity

Searchlights, A Douglas, and A Rock

A BOAC DC-3 sits on the runway at Gribralter, backlit by searchlights scanning the skies for German bombers.

[See more WW2 searchlight photos at Retronaut]


IT’S A GO!! USS Iowa to depart San Francisco today

It’s here! YEAY! The day has arrived!!

After a fortuitous week-long delay due to inclement weather off the California coast, the Last Battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) will (finally) be departing her berth in Richmond under tow and making her way out the golden gate around 2:30pm, enroute to her new home in Los […]

Military-Grade Awesome, Moments in History

Track and watch the USS Iowa on her final voyage!

The Iowa dwarfs the shipyard cranes that inspired the Starwars AT-AT transports on a last night of rest before her final journey

(UPDATE: The tow has been delayed on a day-by-day basis due to a storms system off the California coast that would make the tow dangerous)

This afternoon (20MAY2012) at 12Pm PST (DELAYED), the last Battleship USS Iowa BB-61 is scheduled to depart her temporary berth in the Richmond California shipyard and begin making her way south enroute to her new home at the Port of Los Angeles to become a floating museum.

This marks what may well become her last voyage at sea for the old warrior, and possibly the last “at-sea” for a battleship of any kind.

AND, thanks to the power of the intertubes and the kind people at you can track the Iowa in real time on her voyage! Continue reading Track and watch the USS Iowa on her final voyage!