Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ceremonial Guards are Elite Troops

For some values of the word, “elite.” It’s true that they’re carefully selected and drilled hard. Not just in the industrial West; for many nations, having a drill team that can stomp and strut with the best of ’em is a vital part of the country’s patrimony. So watch this video and grit your teeth as the soldiers of many nationalities slip and fall, a Briton can’t resist a $#!-eating grin, a US Marine drill team member launches his rifle in an unexpected direction, a gang of Afghan pallbearers make the rookie facing-movement mistake that has caused many a private to spend a day or two of basic training with a rock in his left pocket, and that’s just the dismounted guards. Put them on a horse, with polished helms and gorgets or cuirasses, and further hilarity ensues.

While we’re marveling at ceremonies gone bad, the ultimate display of formal ceremony has to be the Wagah border crossing opening and closing ceremonies. Here a comedian of Indian extraction reviews it for the Beeb.  And yes, the imposing soldiers on both sides are selected, in part, for their luxuriant, 19th-Century facial hair.

Jean Lartéguy, call your office….

Deep off the Grid, Two Years Later

Two years and four months ago, Weaponsman featured a guy we called, “the rural Maine equivalent of the Japanese soldiers who stayed off the grid in the Philippines and Guam for ridiculous lengths of time.” He lived in a rude, camouflaged, and solitary camp and survived on what he could steal from others’ empty vacation homes. And then spirited his booty back to his rural G-Camp.

Chris Knight’s concealed hermitage near Rome, Maine. GQ Illustration.

Michael Finkel was fascinated by Christopher Knight. He visited, and befriended, him in prison (Knight served seven months in prison, and is still on seven years’ probation). While the story Finkel penned for GQ has some insights into Knight’s survival methods (so do the links in our original post. We just checked the Portland Press-Herald repop of the Kennebec Journal link by Craig Cros, and it’s still live). We could share some of the insights into Knight’s long survival off the grid, but as another PPH story points out that, “[he] didn’t hunt, fish or forage,” just stole what he needed, we reckon you can read our original post, Finkel’s GQ update, or the news stories to see how Knight managed it.

Instead, we’ll leave you with the incomplete philosophical end of the Chris Knight story, as told to Finkel:

Anyone who reveals what he’s learned, Chris told me, is not by his definition a true hermit. Chris had come around on the idea of himself as a hermit, and eventually embraced it. When I mentioned Thoreau, who spent two years at Walden, Chris dismissed him with a single word: “dilettante.”

True hermits, according to Chris, do not write books, do not have friends, and do not answer questions. I asked why he didn’t at least keep a journal in the woods. Chris scoffed. “I expected to die out there. Who would read my journal? You? I’d rather take it to my grave.” The only reason he was talking to me now, he said, is because he was locked in jail and needed practice interacting with others.

“But you must have thought about things,” I said. “About your life, about the human condition.”

Chris became surprisingly introspective. “I did examine myself,” he said. “Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”

That was nice. But still, I pressed on, there must have been some grand insight revealed to him in the wild.

He returned to silence. Whether he was thinking or fuming or both, I couldn’t tell. Though he did arrive at an answer. I felt like some great mystic was about to reveal the Meaning of Life.

“Get enough sleep.”

He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn’t be saying more. This is what he’d learned. I accepted it as truth.

“What I miss most,” he eventually continued, “is somewhere between quiet and solitude. What I miss most is stillness.” He said he’d watched for years as a shelf mushroom grew on the trunk of a Douglas fir in his camp. I’d noticed the mushroom when I visited—it was enormous—and he asked me with evident concern if anyone had knocked it down. I assured him it was still there. In the height of summer, he said, he’d sometimes sneak down to the lake at night. “I’d stretch out in the water, float on my back, and look at the stars.”

via The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit.

Knight demonstrated, like the Japanese soldiers did, that the key supply to have for long-term solitary survival is an active intellect. For instance, he never lit a fire, ever, fearing that the signature smoke would lead others to him (he used a propane stove to cook with, and fed it with stolen tanks. In the winter, he simply suffered). He had selected an alternate camp, and had supplies cached in case his first camp was compromised. He used to deliberately pack weight on with carbs — sugar and alcohol — before Maine’s tough winters set in on him. When he sallied on his burglar raids, he jumped from rock to rock, leaving no prints, leaving no trace. (In the end, he left over 1,000 unsolved burglaries behind). He was finally caught, first on camera by a surveillance booby-trap, then physically when a suspicious caretaker wired a camp storeroom with a motion detector and silent alarm.

In fiction, people who live long in the wild become wild, and lose their ability to speak. Knight kept himself clean and clean-shaven (only growing a “wild hermit beard” when he went to prison). He was never ill, despite a dreadful diet of pilfered snacks. When caught, Knight had lost little of his command of English — one of the items he commonly stole was books — but was uncomfortable interacting with people, which is as likely to be due to a mild autism spectrum disorder as it is to being out of practice.

One key to Knight’s long survival was his solitary existence, although that also created risks for him that a group of two or more would not have had. As a rule of thumb, your signature in every detection domain, and therefore your risk of exposure, increases exponentially, to the power of your group size. The solitary man is the stealthiest, but the world’s militaries tend to deploy a team of no fewer than two men for any task, even the most surreptitious, clandestine recons.  (Even SF and SOF, which take great pains to select men who can operate solo, try not to send them out that way).

Knight’s general approach is a poor model for behavior in TEOTWAWKI. It’s true that he was in a survival milieu much more rural than most people imagine. He drove north until he parked his Subaru BRAT (remember those? It was new) and left the keys in it, and started walking. He was out there, off the grid. But he was dependent on, parasitic on, really, human civilization. Theft from remote camps as a lifestyle depends on campers and hunters restocking the camps, and not living there, planning to ambush you.

Chris Knight’s story is one worth reading. You might as well start with Finkel’s update; Read The Whole Thing™. You’ll know then if you want to read the other links in this post.

As Percussion Replaced Flintlock, C.F. Jones Hedged

This remarkable antique shotgun, for sale by a British dealer, recently was on GunBroker (without a bid). But it’s still for sale in England (as an antique, it’s not difficult to import). At a glance it looks like any early percussion English fowling-piece. Nice, and beautifully worked, but is it special?

Jones_Flint-Percussion_hybrid_left

 

Yeah. It is, actually. It’s such a special thing, it may be unique, at least as a survivor. It was a creature of its time, place and circumstances, soon obsolete, but still fascinating.

This is an extraordinary and rare shotgun that was made with a dual ignition system so can be regarded as the epitome of transitional shotguns. The lock features both percussion nipples and a flintlock these can be selected to fire flintlock, percussion or both by moving an interrupter switch which can isolate the platinum lined touch hole in the flash pan.

Jones_Flint-Percussion_hybrid_hi-angleWhy would a designer do this? It adds complexity and weight, violating one of the golden mantras of engineering: “Simplicate, and add lightness.” But these kinds of transitional weapons often appear at times of technological change, and usually they’re hedges against failure of the new tech.

Jones_Flint-Percussion_hybrid_top

There are good reasons a British gunmaker might hedge on the then-new percussion technology. In the early 19th Century, as percussion’s faster lock time and greater reliability caused it to quickly supplant flintlock ignition, Britain had a far-flung Empire, and caps were a new thing, and one that might be hard to come by in East Africa, Calcutta or Ceylon. Any gunsmith of the period could have converted a percussion gun back to flint as readily as most of them were converting flintlocks, but having the ability for zero-gunsmithing, near-instant flintlock reversion was a comfort for a traveling man.

It didn’t take long for percussion caps to become as common worldwide as black powder itself. They don’t require a lot of engineering expertise or complex machinery to manufacture, and the chemistry is simple. So transitional guns like this Jones shotgun became period curiosities, unable to compete with lighter all-percussion guns.

Overall length is 45″ with a barrel length of 29″ with a bore measuring .6″ so approximately 20 bore. Locks are marked “Jones” and the overall quality is excellent and the gun has not been messed around with. There is one small contemporary repair to the butt which was clearly made during its short working life but not a significant detraction to the overall appearance of the gun. The locks are fine and the bore is bright so it has been well looked after. I am tempted to shoot it myself but this is being sold as a non-firing antique. I assume that the gun was made for somebody who intended travelling overseas at the time it was made and who was concerned that he would not be able to purchase percussion caps overseas.

Jones_Flint-Percussion_hybrid

Before you read the following, note that the British are always making fun of the German propensity for record keeping. Then read this, and grin: even the casual and slapdash British archives give up a lot about Charles Jones and his life a couple centuries back.

Charles Frederick Jones was the son of John Jones of Manor Row, Tower Hill (an armourer in the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1785-1793). Charles was born in about 1800, and in 1814 was apprenticed to John Mason. He became a Freeman of the Gunmakers Company (by patrimony?) in 1822. He was recorded in business at “Near the Helmet”, St Katherine’s, as a gun and pistol maker in 1822, and it seems his brother, Frederick William, joined him soon after the business was established. He was not recorded again until 1829 when, probably in addition to the St Katherine’s premises, he had an address in Pennington Street, Ratcliff Highway. At this time his brother left to set up his own business. In 1831 he opened a factory in Birmingham at 16 Whittall Street. In 1832 he was recorded at 26 St James’s Street. On 7 March 1833 he patented a percussion lock with a cock, tumbler and trigger made in a single curved piece (concentric sears and triggers), and a waterproof sliding cover (No. 6394 in the UK but also patented France), and on 12 June 1833 an improvement with separate triggers and sears (No. 6436). The caps of these Jones patent guns fitted on to the hammer noses and had the fulminate on the outside. This system was called centre-fire, and they struck the nipple and ignited the powder in the chamber. In 1838 Charles Jones described himself as a “Patent and General Gunmaker”, and later as a gun manufacturer. At about this time the firm had a shop at 32 Cockspur Street. There is no record of the firm in London after 1845, and the Birmingham factory may have closed in 1843, but Charles Jones was a member of the Acadamie de L’Industrie de France and the firm may have traded after 1845. Jones had premises in London and Birmingham and was appointed as Gunmaker to HRH the Prince Albert husband of Queen Victoria.

That sounds like a rare honor, but Prince Albert was an avid sportsmen and commissioned many, many pieces from many designers.

Jones_Flint-Percussion_hybrid_left_breech

The flint/percussion duality of the piece is the first thing that strikes you, but it’s not the only unusual thing about the piece. Jones was an innovative and imaginative gunmaker and others of his patents, and some nonpatented cleverness, appear in this firearm:

Jones_Flint-Percussion_hybrid_internals

Amongst a number of patents, one of Jones’ patents was for an isolation switch to waterproof a flashpan and I dare see this stunning gun is a derivative of that work. Renowned British Gunsmith Peter Dyson believes the brass bolsters were fitted because the maker was worried about sideways expansion if both methods of ignition were used simultaneously. This has not been seen on the market for decades and as a rare and possibly unique item I doubt if it will appear again for many years. If you want something exquisite and unique, this is it! A rare and significant piece.

via UNIQUE FLINTCUSSION DUAL IGNITION JONES SHOTGUN : Antique Guns at GunBroker.com.

As we mentioned, transitional weapons are not unusual. US examples include the M14 rifle, which had a selector switch that could be optionally fitted or not fitted (and usually wasn’t, as the weapon was horribly inaccurate in full-auto), and the Krag Rifle (selected because of its magazine cutoff, which turned it into the firepower equivalent of the Springfield-Allin Trapdoor it replaced). Several early semi-auto rifles were designed to function optionally as bolt-actions, and some early cartridge revolvers had optional muzzle-loading cap-fired cylinders.

These transitions and hybrids provided, among other things, a fallback if the new technology failed. They were a practical solution to a real problem — in a brief window of time.

The GunBroker auction has ended, but Pembroke Fine Arms still has the flint-percussion hybrid for sale. (it’s on the third page of 25 in the shop, and all 25 pages have good stuff on ’em).

 

Hey, Dude, Where’s My Glock?

"The game is afoot, Watson!"

“The game is afoot, Watson!”

Court opened at 0900. At 1030, a veteran court officer noticed something was missing — his sidearm. With a sinking feeling, he realized he’d last been certain he it in the restroom — one used by various suspicious types such as suspects, other cops, and even the worst of the worst: attorneys.

Naturally, when he rushed to the restroom and re-examined his stall, it was gone. The court officers helped search. The town cops helped search. State troopers helped search. But no trace of the Glock was found. The ABA Journal (see, we told you it was the lawyers):

A pistol forgotten in the men’s room of a Derry, New Hampshire, circuit courthouse has gone missing.

Officials say an unidentified security officer put his Glock handgun down there Monday and didn’t remember to pick it up, reports WMUR. Soon it was gone.

State police searched the area with a K-9 unit, to no avail.

An investigation is ongoing, although the incident is considered to be an accident.

via Glock pistol forgotten by security officer in courthouse men’s room is missing.

The officer in question is suspended, with pay.

For years we thought the little drill Army MPs went through at guard mount, checking their nine sensitive items, was silly. But somebody who’d internalized that culture wouldn’t walk out of the crapper, leaving a present behind for any of the local gangbangers. Would he?

In related news, the ATF M4 that was stolen while two married (to other people) officers had a tryst is still missing. And they didn’t even get suspended!

Moral of story, if you think it’s too much effort to keep track of your firearms, get a job as a Fed. No one will expect it of you.

In all seriousness, this is one reason why belt loops beat a belt clip on your holster.

This explains a lot: Falling IQ. Or does it?

dunce_capThe human race never fails to astound us in its perpetuation, despite the existence of large numbers of people with the terminal dumbs. Life, after all, is an ongoing IQ test, and humans have come up with an incredible range of ways to fail at it. But one news story says that whole populations are getting dumber:

IQs have largely increased since the 1930s thanks to better living conditions and education – a trend known as the Flynn effect. But IQ test results suggest people in the UK, Denmark and Australia have become less intelligent in the past decade.

Opinion is divided as to whether the downwards trend is long-term. Some studies have shown the average IQ of Westerners has plunged 10 points or more since Victorian times and others claim it will keep decreasing. But other experts argue that even if we are becoming more stupid, better healthcare and technology means the ‘problem’ will regulate itself.

via Are we becoming more STUPID? IQ scores are decreasing | Mail Online.

Maybe it’s just the triumph of the Neanderthal genes in us. That’s been in the news, too, lately.

But maybe the original populations are still getting smarter — but smaller, relative to the whole. And a new generation of immigrants is responsible for this turn on Flynn. Maybe the three nations in question are undergoing a demographic shift that is depressing national IQs, given that different populations have different mean IQs and that each individual population appears to have an IQ distribution centered about the mean in a bell-shaped normal curve.

Data points: Most common boy’s name for newborns in the UK is Mohammed. Arab IQs are about 1 SD (10-15 points) below the Eurasian mean (~100). South Asian IQs are not as depressed, but they are still depressed relatively to European or East Asian IQs (most Moslems born in Britain are descended from South Asians).

A generation where many youths have no prospect beyond government or protected clerical and menial work, or the dole, and who lack the impulse control thad keeps higher-IQ people away from violence and crime. What could possibly go wrong? Will declining mean IQ be the cause of a coming dystopia, or merely a comorbid condition?

In Case You’re Looking For Someone to Blame for ISIL

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiRemember, we had the top ISIL leader under lock and key, until the seas stopped rising and the planet began to heal:

The leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS,) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was formerly held by the U.S. military at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq from 2005 to his release in 2009.

Hmmm. The US Department of Justice wanted page for Abu Bakr doesn’t mention that, to steal a construction from the Man Who Would Be King, but wound up as Secretary of State: we were for al-Baghdadi before we were against him. But now we’re definitely against him, to the tune of ten million smackers’ reward.

We have always been at war with Eastasia, brother.

Note that we’re all that against him, like we were in the bad old days of Cowboy Bush. We’re not offering the reward for the head of this clown, FOB Fallujah, in a cooler with some dry ice. Somewhere, old KGB officer Vladimir Vladimirovich is shaking his head at American amateurishness, remembering how his service solved the problem of jihadi kidnappings of a random Russian in Lebanon. (Messy KGB wet-work applied to random jihadi leaders. Message received, jihad out. The Russian captive was released with an apology). No, we’re looking for the guy so that Covington and Burling can pocket millions in Gulf Arab jihad money, to tie the US courts up with him wink-nod “pro bono”.

Yet we had the guy, perfectly neutralized in a small, uncomfortable cell. Hmmm. What happened in early 2009 that led to mass releases of terrorists? We seem to recall some calamity or other that gave rise to this.

Why such a dangerous man was slated for release in 2009, or who made the decision is not known. The Telegraph offers that “one possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq.”

In 2010, shortly after his release, al-Baghdadi was announced as a new al-Qaeda leader. When bin Laden was killed in 2011, Baghdadi pledged to revenge his death “with 100 terrorist attacks across Iraq” – but with al Qaeda leaders dropping like flies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, no one took him seriously.

via ISIS Leader in Iraq was Released from U.S. Detention Camp in 2009 | CNS News.

Exercise for the reader: How many Italian POWs from the Desert Campaign were ordered released after Italy sued for peace in 1943? (Hint: it’s the number of White House officials who attended the state funeral of MG Greene. But they sent three to the funeral of the wannabe cop killer who started the Ferguson riots).

How many Japanese POWs from Guadalcanal were let go because the war had moved on to Iwo Jima?

But just about everybody we had in the bag on 20 Jan 09 is back in the jihad business today (if they weren’t so incredibly unlucky as to get whacked in the interim).

The country’s in the very best of hands.

Errors in Firearms Materials are Nothing New

Recently, the gang at Small Arms of the World posted a World War II vintage German language weapons manual (subscription required) that focused mostly on German service submachine guns.1 The manual was developed by a retired officer, Colonel Schmitt. Col. Schmitt was a prolific author of small arms and military manuals (of the sort that might be popular with earnest young soldiers, and youth looking forward to military service). He was also the editor of a range of war maps. His materials appeared though the publishing house of R. Eisenschmidt, located on Mittelstraße 18 in Berlin NW7.

At first we thought so the introductory material would be useful in an ongoing research project on early submachineguns. Even though this is not a primary source on early SMG’s, it’s an earlier secondary source than many of the documents we’ve been working with. So we thought it might be authoritative. Indeed, it starts off making sense, and it’s chock full of interesting material; but there are enough errors to give us considerable pause. Let’s start with the sensible bit (our translation):

General Information for all MPs Found in Units

The MP is a weapon that is particularly suited for close combat.

Due to the weapon’s stability in automatic fire, a tight grouping of bursts of fire is enabled. Small targets can be engaged with good success at distances to 100 meters, and larger targets up to 200 m. Beyond 200 m distance, ammunition expenditure is unlikely to meet with success.

The low number of cartridges that can be carried by troopers, and the heavy ammunition demand in the front line, constrain the employment of the MP to snap missions at short distance and to close combat.

This is good, interesting information. But can we trust it, about the MPs that were carried in the first world war? Certainly, we want to trust it; Colonel Schmitt must surely know what he’s talking about, mustn’t he?

Very soon, we come upon information that turns out to be less than trustworthy, on the same page of this same document:

The following models are currently employed:

  • MP 18I (System Bergmann)
  • MP 28II (System Schmeisser),
  • MP Erma (System Vollmer),
  • MP 38 (smooth receiver),
  • MP 40 (receiver with flutes), and
  • MP 34 (with mounted bayonet M.95).

The MPs only fire the pistol cartridge 08 (cal. 9 mm) except the MP 34 which to date only fires the Steyr cartridge (9mm). 2

(The unusual use of superscript Roman numerals in the MP 18 and MP 28 designators is like that in Schmitt’s original).

Now, the world of early German MPs is grey enough that we can let the distinction between “System Bergmann” and “System Schmeisser” slide. (As we understand it, Schmeisser was the primary designer of both, and the magazine housings were generally marked with “Schmeissers Patent” for the double-column, single-feed magazine, but the guns were made by Bergmann).

But notice, that the good Colonel has the MP.38 and MP.40 exactly backwards. While there were many other changes between the 38 and 40, and additional running changes in production (like the two-part “safety” bolt-handle, sometimes called an MP.40 feature but actually introduced as a running change in the MP.38), one of the key improvements in the MP.40 was the lack of fluting, which allowed more rapid, less costly manufacture.

It wasn’t just a single error, for if you skip ahead to where Schmitt treats the MP.38 and .40 (as a single section of his book, which makes perfect sense given the guns’ near-identical nature)3, he makes the same error:

mp38_mis-id_d_as_mp40

The footnote (with asterisk) refers to a reference to the receiver, higher on the page, and reads, “On the MP.38, the receiver is smooth; on the MP.40 it is provided with flutes.”

We assume that Colonel Schmitt was truly an expert, and that he took good care with his manuals, which he knew would be bought and read by Wehrmacht troopers and those soon to be Wehrmacht men. But here’s an example of a mistake he made on a simple thing. It reinforces the importance or critical reading of sources, even of period sources (and even primary sources).

It’s also important to weigh the expertise of a source with the left and right limits of his knowledge… his expertise’s “range fan,” if you will. Combat soldiers may have their heads full of mistaken ideas about the development and manufacture of their weapons, and design engineers, contract managers, and hands-on manufacturing workers may be in the dark about how their products are employed in the field.

And everybody’s human, and makes mistakes. Nicht wahr, Oberst Schmitt?

This is one place where 21st Century scholarship has an edge. If poor old Schmitt made an error, by the time he heard about it R. Eisenschmidt could have printed 20,000 copies of the booklet with the error. If a blogger makes an error, he’s called out on it in the comments forthwith (don’t ask us how we know this).

Notes

1. Schmitt, Colonel. Maschinenpistolen 18I/28II/Erma/38/40/34; Leucht-Pistole, 2er Auflage: Beschreibung und Zusammenwirken der Teile, Beseitigung von hemmungine; Ausinandernehmen und Zusammensetzen; Schulschießübung. Leuchtpistole mit Munition.  (English: Submachine guns MP 18-I, MP28-II, Erma, MP 38, 40, and 34; Flare guns; 2nd Edition: Description ). Berlin, R. Eisenschmidt: 1940. Retrieved from Small Arms of the World archive (subscription required): https://www.smallarmsoftheworld.com/archive/September.2013/5dgdbf7fhpdf/R00221.pdf

2. Schmitt, op. cit., p. 5.

3. Schmitt, op. cit., p. 23. 

Bleg: OCR for German Fraktur script

Our favorite OCR programs, Adobe’s Acrobat and Nuance’s PDF Converter for Mac, choke on the “Fraktur” or Old German type script that was widely used pre-1945. (Indeed, even though early-20th-Century German typographers were among the pioneers of clean, highly readable sans serif Roman fonts, the Third Reich’s national nostalgia jag seemed to spawn a resurgence of this medieval-looking stuff).

fraktur_sample

If you don’t know what we’re talking about, we want a program that will convert documents written in Old German lettering into editable text. The kind of lettering we mean is the Germanic script used in newspaper mastheads, or on the signs at your local German restaurant, if you’re lucky enough to have one. We want to OCR that stuff, but, “Wait!” as Ron Popeil would say, that’s not all. We want to do it on a Mac. (We only use a PC when absolutely necessary, or when the application program is so cool that it makes the platform irrelevant: check out SpaceClaim).

You might wonder who was ever sadistic enough to typeset tons of documents in this stuff (documents meant for instruction of average-IQ people, no less). We are looking at a 1940-vintage document now, so that probably answers the question. (There are times when you can go there, Mike Godwin be damned).

That document sample looks like it was copied by hand by a gang of medieval monks, but it’s actually from a privately printed manual for German submachine guns.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have oranges.

Once the idea to commit homicide is formed in the ultimate weapon, the human mind, that practically anything that falls to hand becomes a weapon. Even things you’d never expect.

Two men in rural South Africa are suspected of killing a farmworker by throwing oranges at him.

Citing witness accounts, police lieutenant-colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said the suspects had allegedly argued with the man, then collected oranges and begun hurling them at him.

“They started pelting the deceased with all those loose oranges, killing him on the spot,” Ngoepe said. However, he cautioned that an investigation was still under way and aspects of a case he described as complicated still had to be verified.

The man was declared dead at the scene and had “no visible injury”, suggesting he might have suffered blunt trauma, according to Ngoepe. He did not comment on the cause of the argument that led to the assault. Police and prosecutors are awaiting the results of a postmortem examination.

via Two men arrested after South African worker is ‘pelted to death with oranges’ | World news | The Guardian.

So far, there have been no riots, no demands for a ban on deadly assault citrus, no police pursuing permission to provide pulp permits.

Yet.

But give the Regulatory State time. In time, they will realize these things must be done. For the Children™.

The First, Forgotten, Nuclear Cruise Missile: Regulus

USS Tunny, SSG-282, launches a Regulus in January, 1958.

USS Tunny, SSG-282, launches a Regulus in January, 1958.

It died too soon. That was the opinion of tag-end-of-Vietnam Chief of Naval Operations (i.e., top dog) Elmo Zumwalt. Zumwalt was noted not only for his unforgettable name, but also his “Z-Gram” messages to all hands, his many regulation changes (many of which would be reversed by successors), and, especially, blunt talk. Here’s what he said about the Navy’s 1964 cancellation of the Regulus missile, something that the Navy deployed on carriers, cruisers, and submarines, and that actually was the Navy’s first nuclear deterrent missile. It was the:

…single worst decision about weapons [the Navy] made during my years of service.

The Navy didn’t think it was that big a screwup, but Zumwalt was a big cruise missile fan, in many ways the father of the Tomahawk (which seems to be on its way out of submarine service, as the four remaining cruise missile SSGNs are all scheduled for scrapping. But that’s another post).

Regulus, though, was never anything but a stopgap. A conceptual child of the German Fieseler Fi103 V1 “buzz bomb,” it was an unmanned airplane that could be dismantled, stuffed into a cylindrical “hangar” atop a modified sub, and in the event of The Big One, the sub could surface, sailors could quickly assemble and arm the Regulus, and it would fire from a zero-length launcher and travel a preprogrammed course to a predetermined destination — over a Soviet target, where it would detonate its nuclear warhead.

A restored Regulus on its zero-length launcher.

A restored Regulus on its zero-length launcher.

Regulus was an aerodynamic oddity, with swept wings and vertical fin, but no horizontal tail at all, relying in part of the prewar and wartime work of Prof. Alexander Lippisch, who created the German Me163 rocket fighter. (The US was working its way through this “found technology” in the 1950s; Lippisch took American citizenship in this period). The robot jet had a single turbojet engine with its intake in the nose. The missile, which was first launched from a sub in 1953, resembled a period fighter aircraft, but the absence of any provision for a pilot or for landing gear made it lighter and more streamlined.  (Although some test missiles carried a parachute as a means of recovering the missile, and the data it carried, operational missiles dispensed with that).

The Regulus had huge conceptual problems. For one thing, the sub was exposed, wallowing on the surface as the crew assembled and prepared it. For another, subs had a total offensive punch of one or two missiles, that’s it. Here’s the description from a Navy historical report:

The hangar could accommodate two Regulus I missiles in a rotating ring arrangement. The weapons could be checked out while the submarine was still submerged by entering the hangar through an access trunk, but actual launching required the submarine to surface and manhandle the weapon onto the rails before it could be fired. Then, the boat would have to remain at least at periscope depth to guide the missile to the radar horizon.

In addition, the targeting of the missile was fairly inflexible, requiring at least a launch boat and later, also, a boat near the target to come up to periscope depth, extend a radar mast, and radiate. If that wasn’t all, Regulus was basically a subsonic jet plane, and if we knew one thing from the fate of the V1 offensive, it was that manned airplanes guided by radar — something the Soviets had in great quantity — could hunt down unmanned airplanes rather well. In addition to their manned interceptors, the Soviets also constructed an anti-aircraft defense in depth which threatened bombers and Regulus-like cruise missiles alike (the Air Force was working on parallel programs at the time) with anti-aircraft artillery guided by fire-control and height-finding radar, and several interlocking types of anti-aircraft guided missiles.

Zumwalt wouldn’t like to hear it, but by 1964 his beloved Regulus was a dead duck. A Regulus II was designed to be faster (both faster to launch, and faster in the air) but it didn’t address the core problems.

In time, technology would allow all these problems to be answered with the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and other cruise missiles. Subs could fire them from under the sea; their programming was rapidly changeable; they flew low, often below hostile radar, and many could be carried with much less hazard to the subs and surface combatants that launched them. It was still a subsonic jet plane, but the enemy would find it harder to find, hit and kill.

But in 1964, the weapon that had come on line and signed the decommissioning chit for Regulus was the Navy’s Polaris: the first submarine-launched ballistic missile. Polaris was a conceptual child of the V1’s Vergeltungswaffe stablemate, the V2 (Army A4) rocket. Unlike any subsonic airplane, in 1964 a re-entering ballistic missile was a target with no solution for enemy air defenses. But Polaris is another story.

And what happened to the subs that had huge hangars built on their decks for Regulus cruise missile? Well, they went to work for Navy Special Operations, and that, too, is another story.

Between 1953 and 1964, one cruiser and five converted fleet subs were equipped to launch Regulus. They were the nation’s only submarine nuclear deterrent until the George Washington class Polaris boats came on line. No Regulus was ever fired in anger, so you can argue they fulfilled their mission perfectly.

Within the last few years, the Navy has retroactively awarded the officers and sailors of the Regulus fleet the badge that recognizes today’s sailors for their patrols in missile boats. Nowadays, the Regulus I and its never-deployed descendant, the supersonic Regulus II, are only historical curiosities; transitional weapons studied by those interested in weapons technology, and in how weapons change history, and history changes them.