War machines flying over civilian entertainment seems odd when you think about it

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A lineup of military planes, 1917 (Public domain)

Earlier this year, sports announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman seemingly mocking a military flyover of a football game that they were covering.

“That’s a lot of jet fuel just to do a little flyover,” Troy Aikman says.

“That’s your hard-earned money and your tax dollars at work,” Joe Buck quipped.

They were voicing feelings and raising questions that we have all probably felt at one point or another.

If you have ever attended a professional outdoor sporting event in the United States, you have probably witnessed a military flyover. Most professional sports venues will feature a close approach by various kinds of military aircraft before the start of the event, usually coinciding with the playing of the national anthem. …


The least known wonder of the ancient world explored

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A diagram depicting the mausoleum. ( / Public domain)

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was named the seventh wonder of the ancient world by its contemporaries. It was not as large as the Great Pyramids, nor was it as visible as the Colossus of Rhodes. Instead, ancient philosophers, priests and kings noted the structure for its intricate detail work.

Despite its grandeur and its pedigree, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is probably the least well known of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.

1. All mausoleums are named after this one

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The man from which all mausoleums are named. (/ Public domain)

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was the brainchild of a ruler by the name of Mausolus. By all accounts, Mausolus was a minor lord with great vision. He ruled over a small corner of the Achaemenid Empire from the city of Halicarnassus. …


A lesson on bias and embellishment

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Land based French troops capture a Dutch fleet (Charles Louis Mozin)

On the 23rd of January, 1795, a rare instance in military history occurred in the icy waters of the North Sea. A battalion of French cavalry troops managed to force the surrender and capture of a large contingent of Dutch military ships who were at anchor. This was a remarkable feat for a few reasons. First, the French used no naval assets of their own, they were completely land based. Second, it resulted in the capture of fourteen Dutch warships including five ships of the line, a pricey haul. Lastly, this was all done without a single casualty.

This was an important event in the War of the First Coalition which would set up future clashes between the upstart French and the Dutch in Northern Europe. …


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(Credit: Antonio Zucchi)

Admit it, you’ve been guilty of it too

There is a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where a man is collecting bodies from a plague-ridden town on a cart. The town is in complete squalor and in the background there inexplicably is a person swinging a cat into a wall. The scene is silly and bewildering but it illustrates the fact that people see their ancestors from the past, especially the distant past, as superstitious and stupid.

This trope is one that plays out in our media, our literature and our personal studies of the past far more often than anyone should be comfortable with. History Channel has a show titled Ancient Aliens in which the whole premise is that past people were too stupid to achieve the things they did. …


Mars’s tiny moon sure is a strange beast

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Phobos (Credit: NASA / Public domain)

Mars’s moon Phobos is odd. Measuring only 6.9 miles in diameter, it is closer to a large asteroid than a small moon. It orbits Mars at a paltry 5,738 miles at its closest point. In comparison, our moon orbits the Earth at around 238,900 miles.

It is so small and so close to Mars that it was only discovered in 1877 and even then, we could not get much meaningful data on it until we started conducting space flybys in the 1970s. Even now, we are still collecting data from the relatively new addition to the landscape of our solar system. …


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A tripod mounted Davy Crockett (Public domain)

It posed a severe danger to the user as well as enemy combatants

When people think of terrifying weapons from human history, they usually focus on the macro-scale “doomsday” weapons of the 20th century — especially Cold War weaponry. Things such as germ warfare bombs and thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles often make the cut. However, the most terrifying weapon ever designed comes to us from a smaller more tactical level.

The Davy Crockett Weapon System was a recoilless gun that was just as likely to kill the user as it was to kill the enemy. A single shot from the Davy Crockett Weapon System also known as the M-28/M-29 was almost guaranteed to lead to dozens of friendly fire casualties, hundreds of enemy casualties and the outbreak of a world ending thermonuclear war. …


How greed fueled a fever dream of corruption and independence

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19th-century painting of New York City (Public domain)

South Carolina officially seceded from the Union on December 20th, 1860, the first state to do so. Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama all seceded on January 9th, 10th, and 11th respectively in 1861. This is all well-trodden history. What most people do not know, is that sandwiched in those first chaotic weeks of January 1861 was a push for New York City to join the party and secede from the Union as well.

On January 6th, 1861, mere days before the rest of the south began formalizing their secession from the Union, Fernando Wood, the mayor of New York City at the time, put in an impassioned plea to the city council to follow suit and secede as well. …


The crime did not always fit the punishment

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A tapestry entitled “The Baker’s Punishment” (Public domain)

Punishment in the Middle Ages was much harsher than it is now and that stems from a distinct lack of law enforcement ability. People across Medieval Europe lived in small hamlets, on feudal farms, or in larger towns and cities. Out in the countryside, there was no rapid response to crime and wrongdoing which is why they compensated with heavy punishments which were meant to deter any poor behavior. …


A labor struggle that pitted miners against each other, the US Army, and private security forces

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Coal miners circa 1915 (Library of Congress)

Coal was a dirty business, in terms of the physical aspects of the mining itself as well as the way it was handled following the American Civil War. In the face of a growing economic revolution that was continuing to transform the United States from a rural society into a modern industrial nation, companies saw an opportunity to exploit immobile workers and poor communities for personal gain. …


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America’s first fighter jet, the Shooting Star (Public domain)

I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning

Beginning on September 15th, 1950, the United States began running air support missions over North Korea in support of United Nations forces at the outbreak of the Korean War. These carrier based bombing runs were focused on slowing and destroying North Korean positions in the north of the country in an attempt to hamper organizational efforts by the Koreans and Chinese who were planning on being deployed to the south.

This was the first large scale, live combat, operation in which United States jet planes were activated. …

About

Grant Piper

Political scientist. Hobbyist historian. Story teller.

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