Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blackbeard's sword?

In 1996, a team of archaeologists from Intersal, Inc found a ship that they believed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, off the coast of North Carolina. It was once the flagship of one of the most notorious pirates in history, the famed Blackbeard a.k.a. Edward Teach Recently, a sword was recovered from the site and made the news rounds as Blackbeard's sword. While the fact that it was found on the ship might make it possibly a possession of Blackbeard, it was almost certainly not his sword, at least in terms of a weapon that he carried and used.

We can see that it is of a type we can call a small sword, which were dueling weapons, mostly for the upper class. They tended to be very light and somewhat short,easy to wear all day. They are the basis for modern fencing weapons, epee and foil, (they were not based on the rapier as many people think. The rapier was a very long and heavy sword, which required extensive training and strength to use.) It is possible that it once had a bone hilt and it was obviously made with some care and style. I can't tell if the hilt is brass or if it is gilded, but this was obviously the sword of a man of standing, not the cutlass or hanger that were the most common sword types of the era. So it is most likely that this was part of the pirate treasure (I'd say its booty) rather than a weapon used by the pirates. Still, how cool is that?

Blackbeard was not really active as a pirate for a very long time, perhaps only from 1716 to his death in 1718. He was said to be a tall, spare man with a long black beard, often braided, wound with ribbon or in little ponytails.Period accounts also state that he wore a "a sling over his shoulders, with three brace of pistols, hanging in holsters like bandoliers; and stuck lighted matches under his hat" (Johnson, 1724)

The burning fuse in his beard or behind his ears was rumored to be a ploy to to frighten his enemies. Although considering that his game was combat and robbery on the high seas, he might have just used the fuse as an alternate way to fire his cannon and pistols flintlock weapons are seriously flawed under the best of conditions and fighting at sea was not the best of conditions.
However, it has also been noted that Blackbeard was a effective leader, realizing that the more his victims were afraid of him, the less likely that they would give him and serious resistance.
Blackbeard was killed in battle by a small force of sailors under Lieutenant Robert Maynard on November 22, 1718.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Soth Korea's SEALs kick ass

Earlier today, (Friday 1/21/11) The Republic of South Korea (ROK) completed a nearly flawless takeover of the ship Samho Jewelry off the coast of Oman. It had been hijacked by a group of 13 armed Somali pirates while en route from the UAE to Sri Lanka. The ship is a 11,500 ton chemical carrier, owned and operated by Samho Shipping out of South Korea. This is the second of the their ships to be hijacked in the last several months. The crew was a mix of Koreans, Indonesians, and Myanmar citizens. ( Myanmarese? Myanmarites? If you know tell me)

At first light the ROK SEALs approached the ship in a small craft while being covered by a ROKN destroyer and Lynx helicopter. The entire operation took about five hours and ended with all 21 hostages rescued. Five pirates were taken prisoner and eight of these stellar examples of humankind will trouble no one again. The captain of the ship was wounded by one of the pirates in the assault, but the wound was stated to be non-life threatening and he was flown to a nearby country for treatment by a US military helicopter. There were no other injuries.

During the assault, the Lynx helicopter broadcast a message in Korean for everyone to lay down and then began to fire at the ship with its 12.7mm machine gun to cover the SEALs climbing the side of the ship. You can see the impact marks on the pic below. This operation is significant not just for the crew and ship that were freed or the pirates killed or captured. This is one of the only anti-pirate assaults of its kind. In most other assaults of pirate-held ships the crew has been locked away in a safe room known as a citadel. That way the team has very little risk of accidentally shooting the crew whether through cross fire or misidentification.

As of today, it is estimated that there are at least 29 vessels and 703 hostages being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The shipping route that lies near Somalia is one of the most vital in the world and connects the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal and then to the Mediterranean Sea. It is extremely economically important not only to nearby nations, but to the entire world.
This was great work by the South Korean Navy and all involved should be proud.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Medal of Honor Corporal Tony Stein, USMC


Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Born: 30 September 1921, Dayton, Ohio.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. The first man of his unit to be on station after hitting the beach in the initial assault, Cpl. Stein, armed with a personally improvised aircraft-type weapon, provided rapid covering fire as the remainder of his platoon attempted to move into position. When his comrades were stalled by a concentrated machinegun and mortar barrage, he gallantly stood upright and exposed himself to the enemy's view, thereby drawing the hostile fire to his own person and enabling him to observe the location of the furiously blazing hostile guns. Determined to neutralize the strategically placed weapons, he boldly charged the enemy pillboxes 1 by 1 and succeeded in killing 20 of the enemy during the furious single-handed assault. Cool and courageous under the merciless hail of exploding shells and bullets which fell on all sides, he continued to deliver the fire of his skillfully improvised weapon at a tremendous rate of speed which rapidly exhausted his ammunition. Undaunted, he removed his helmet and shoes to expedite his movements and ran back to the beach for additional ammunition, making a total of 8 trips under intense fire and carrying or assisting a wounded man back each time. Despite the unrelenting savagery and confusion of battle, he rendered prompt assistance to his platoon whenever the unit was in position, directing the fire of a half-track against a stubborn pillbox until he had effected the ultimate destruction of the Japanese fortification. Later in the day, although his weapon was twice shot from his hands, he personally covered the withdrawal of his platoon to the company position. Stouthearted and indomitable, Cpl. Stein, by his aggressive initiative sound judgment, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of terrific odds, contributed materially to the fulfillment of his mission, and his outstanding valor throughout the bitter hours of conflict sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Maps of War

I friend of mine sent me this link and I liked it so much I though I should share it with all of you. I really like information to be presented in a visual format so this was really neat to me. It would be pretty difficult for those of us of the "intarwebnetz generation" to find the time or place to get this type of info from the sources, so I am always very pleased when someone does the work for me.

For me the most interesting one was the map of the Battle of Iwo Jima. It also lists the names of Medal of Honor recipients on Iwo Jima, with links to their citations. ( I also watched Letters from Iwo Jima this weekend. It is one of the greatest war movies ever made. You should check it out.)
The map of Coalition casualties in Iraq is quite powerful as well.


Hand Cannon

I'm sure most of you have heard this term before, usually referencing a large revolver of .44 caliber or bigger, or maybe a Desert Eagle. Those guns are for little girls or Jimmy Carter or something.

THIS is a hand cannon. I don't really have any information on this gun. Longtime readers will note that my research only lasts for a few short seconds and is lets say "shallow". I think it may be of French origin or from the French-speaking world, but that is only because the pic was titled "Canon Main" but it certainly could be it was just from a French person. It looks to be from the 1700's or earlier and it appears it was cast in one piece, although I am not sure about the metal.
Rather than a direct fire, large bore gun, it also could be a type of small mortar or grenade launcher since the bore is so wide. Another theory I came up with is that it is a flare gun or some other type of signaling device, due to the shooting star engraved on the barrel.

Whatever it is, I though it was cool and though you might think so too. If anyone out there has any more info or even guesses, let me know.

Chinese Laser weapons

The PLA (People's Liberation Army) has been feverishly modernizing its forces in the last few years, trying to bring a huge military force based in many ways on the Soviet forces of WWII into the modern era. They have done well on most areas, although to be fair, this has been greatly helped by espionage activities in the West. The PLA still faces an uphill battle against any country with a "21st century" force.

Here is one weapon they have developed to help even the odds. I don't have any real information from the Chinese on it, but it is of a class of weapons we could call dazzlers. The intended effect is to limit the enemies' sight and temporarily blind and disorient them. This could be very effective against landing planes, which is why the FAA and other bodies that ensure airline safety have been very worried even about relatively low powered green laser pointers.

It is similar to a US weapon I discussed earlier, the GLARE LA-9P. The Chinese weapons industry has also been paying attention to the design philosophies of the West and has designed the weapon to look and feel like their main assault rifle, the QBZ-95. This makes the soldiers immediately feel more familiar with it and can cut down on training time. It also would make it difficult for observers to tell that the soldier has a specialist weapon instead of a standard one.

As you can see, the beam looks very powerful and I would not doubt that it could have a blinding effect, especially in low light conditions. I do wonder how it would fare against soldiers wearing NV goggles. Keep in mind these types of weapons are not intended to cause permanent loss of vision, although I think it is very possible that they may have long term effects that are well, unintended. If a laser pointer from 1992 has a risk of giving you eye tumors, I for one wouldn't want to be anywhere near this thing. In fact, I am about as close as I wish to be right now.

Here is a smaller pistol sized variant. It is probably powered from a large battery worn on the belt or back like in the above pic. These weapons also can be used by law enforcement to gain compliance and prevent people from attacking the police. If you can't eve look in their direction, it would be pretty hard to fight them. And while I have my doubts on whether or not laser weapons are "safe" I know for sure they are safer than the methods that the Chinese authorities have used against protesters in the past.