As a semi-supplement to the podcast we just released regarding the legacy of Japanese warfare during the second world war, a news story posted three days ago reports that another one of these historic bombs has been found by loggers in Eastern British Columbia. (Source)
These bombs were called “Fu-Go” – the Japanese for “Wind Weapon” and were planned as a weapon of opportunity against the Allied forces in North America by launching bombs held aloft by weather balloons and carried by the winds to the North American continent.
Japan launched 9,300 fire balloons during the war, with anywhere between 100 and 300 completing the aerial journey from the Japanese islands to their intended targets.
The program was extremely unsuccessful with the biggest loss of life being inflicted on an Oregon school teacher and five of her students who were on a trip to the woods one day in 1945.
The Japanese balloon bombs are just another example of the terrorist lengths that the Japanese were willing to adopt in pursuit of a military victory. Much like landmines, these weapons of fear will most likely continue to be found across North America for decades.
In today’s podcast, we get our hands a little dirty on World War 2 history. I know, I know. I used it as a point of pride to say that we tried to avoid covering too many topics in the WWII era, but I feel that this topic qualifies as quality content for Geeked on History ears.
Operation JEDBURGH was an old concept applied with new effectiveness. Gone were the days of security deep within the borders of a rapidly advancing front. When air troop transports can drop covert teams of saboteurs behind your lines, any illusions of safety evaporated like water on a hot summer day.
So nestle in with your choice of summer beverage (I’ll take a Bell’s Oberon, please!) and enjoy the podcast!
The spirit struck me tonight and I decided that I would put together a blogpost on some outstanding historic film that I found a while back by chance. If you’re a fan of aviation history, you’re in for a treat!
In the 1950s during the early days of the cold war, image-based intelligence was king. Getting high quality aerial reconnaissance photos was a major challenge especially in the days before the first successful recon satellite (called Corona which wouldn’t be successful until 1960).
So how did the US get photographs over communist territory before satellites? The short answer: a very high-flying single jet engine plane. The even shorter answer: the U-2.
Nicknamed the “Dragon Lady”, the U-2 is a light-weight recon jet whose soul payload was a massive camera built to take high-altitude photographs of sites on the ground.
The U-2 began operations in 1957 and believe it or not, is still in operation today for the United States Air Force.
The most amazing thing about this jet is the altitude at which it could fly – 70,000 ft was the operational ceiling for the U-2. That’s nearly a low-Earth orbit; which means that the first pilots of the U-2 were among the first humans to observe the curvature of the Earth with their own eyes.
The fine folks at the Lockheed Martin company have generously released the test footage for a few of their iconic aerial platforms. The following video is test film for the U-2 Dragon Lady. (None of these have sound, so no need to adjust your speakers)
Even though the U-2 is still kicking around, the U-2 program suffered a heavy blow with the infamous shoot-down of Frances Gary Powers in May, 1960.
The need for a new plane with even higher performance became clear to the US government, and so a replacement was commissioned.
The SR-71 has been the object of many a boyhood fascination since it was first publicly fielded. Its unique design was what always attracted me to it and when I was young, the story of its development was almost as notorious as the plane itself. Ironically, what many people don’t know is that the SR-71 was not an original airplane.
Developed by a crack team of Lockheed engineers known as the “skunkworks” and led by the legendary figure Clarence “Kelly” Johnson the A-12 Archangel was meant to blow the lid off of traditional aerial design.
The A-12 was also designed as an aerial reconnaisance platform which eventually made it into the arsenal of the United States Air Force when the name would change from A-12 to SR-71.
The following video is Lockheed footage of the first flight of the A-12 Archangel:
The A-12 incorporated new anti-radar features which revolutionized the way that military flight design was approached.
After the Gary Powers incident, the danger posed by surface to air missile systems was suddenly a major issue that had to be dealt with during the design of America’s newest generation of air-power.
Enter the F-117 Nighthawk A.K.A. the stealth fighter.
The Nighthawk was another plane that captivated me as a child. After all, there’s nothing cooler than a super fast, super cool looking black fighter streaking through the sky at your local air show when you’re a 10 year old boy.
The Nighthawk incorporated many of the same design principles as the A-12, and went on to a long service in the USAF just like the previous two jets.
The Nighthawk represents the jet model which jumped the gap between reconnaissance aircraft design and fighting aircraft design.
To round out the post, I’d like to thank the Lockheed Martin company for taking the time to post these videos and to share them with the world.
As a bonus, that there’s a common thread linking all 3 of these aircraft. If you can figure out exactly what it is, I’ll give you a thumbs up for your prowess in both observation and historic intellect!
Who doesn’t love submarines? The idea of being able to sink beneath the waves and explore the world below has a draw to it that calls back to our most basic instincts in the same way that flight does.
See, there are two questions that are asked of every new technology that has ever been created:
1) “How can I use this to make things go boom?”
2) “Can this be used for porn?” (although you can also extrapolate this question to be “How can I use this to find sexual satisfaction?”
The submarine was no different and so devoid of any practical applications for pornography or otherwise sexual satisfaction, the implications of using the submarine to make things go boom became a major draw for those with the dough to invest into the idea.
From this question sprung forth many concepts for a militarized submersible, one of them coming at a time when killing technologies were benefiting from the same mechanical precision as commodities like cotton – the industrial revolution.
This is where the C.S.S. Hunley comes in.
I have the Hunley on my list of topics to cover so I’m going to stay away from diving too deep (no pun intended) into this topic, but there has always been a bit of a mystery about what exactly caused the Hunley to sink.
There has been a flurry over the past 15-20 years over the discovery of a number of sunken vessels being found after generations have considered them lost to time including the C.S.S. Merrimac, and Blackbeard’s pirate ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. The C.S.S. Hunley was raised in 2000 and has been under intense scrutiny ever since coming to shore, but the reason for the sinking of the first effective naval submarine has been elusive.
As researchers investigate the remains of the crew, maybe soon there will finally be a definitive answer to the question: what happened to the Hunley?