The “Trapdoor” Springfield .45-70 used by the US Army in the aftermath of the Civil War had the main virtue of being cheap…the many existing examples of old muzzle-loading rifles could be converted inexpensively to breach-loading. So, when civilians were running around with 7-shot Spencers and 16-shot Henry repeaters. To add an extra headache for the soldier, early .45-70 cartridges were made of copper, which liked to expand in the chamber and not eject. The friggin’ MANUAL advised the soldier to buy a pocket knife to pry out jammed cases. One shudders to think what would have happened to the Brits at Rorke’s Drift if they had Springfields rather than Martini-Henrys.
If that weren’t bad enough, someone designed the “trowel bayonet”; you attached it to your rifle muzzle to use the gun as a shovel. Teddy Roosevelt took one look at it and said, “Get rid of that POS!” Our current Command-in-Chief would take one look at a bayonet and say, “What is it?”
WWI showed the vital necessity of the machine gun in a modern army. In 1911, an American Colonel by the name of Isaac Newton Lewis truly “built a better mousetrap” in the form of his Lewis light machine gun. The US Army wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, mainly because Chief of Ordnance General William Crozier didn’t like Lewis personally. Lewis resigned, took his machine gun design to Europe, and became a very wealthy man. First Belgium adopted his gun (the Belgian Rattlesnake) and then the United Kingdom. It proved to be an awesome, reliable, versatile and relatively compact (for the day) weapon that saw service as everything from a light infantry MG, to aircraft armament, to anti-aircraft armament, to tank armament and soldiered on through WWII.
Lacking automatic weapons and artillery when they arrived in France, the American Expeditionary Force chose to use…not the Lewis gun. No, the US Army opted for the French Chauchat, whose claim to fame is still “the worst machine gun ever.”
Flash forward to WWII. The fledgling Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex sent the US Navy to war with faulty torpedoes with an even faultier detonator made by (surprise!) GE. The Mark 14 torpedo NEVER HAD A LIVE-FIRE TEST. Rather like buying a plane without flying it.
No one knows how many American sailors and airmen died because of this wonder turd. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, submarine skippers found out the awful truth in wartime conditions. Sargo fired twelve torpedoes as four different Japanese ships on December 24, 1941, approaching to close range and setting up perfect tracks. None of the torpedoes hit anything. Soon after, Seadragon got one hit out of eight fish fired. Tunny had a chance to sink three Japanese aircraft carriers and fired all ten tubes at them; seven of the fish exploded prematurely and the carriers sailed away. Tinosa fired nine torpedoes from perfect position and a range of less than half a mile (rock-throwing distance in naval warfare) at a stationary Japanese vessel…all nine were duds. Tullabee fired a Mk 14 which circled back and sank the sub itself. Some theorize that at Midway, Torpedo Squadron 8, which bored in on the Japanese carriers at close range and lost all 15 Douglas Devastators (one man alone survived from the whole squadron), may have achieved some hits with their torpedoes but they failed to explode or didn’t run true.
The Big Whigs, of course, tried to blame the dumb-ass squids. The Mark 18 electric torpedo which replaced it wasn’t a helluva an improvement either. Of the Mk 18’s she fired, Spearfish reported that one sank, one broached and ran wild, three fishtailed at launch and hit the outer doors before disappearing, and seven missed astern.
Korean War-era: see Light Rifle Trials.
Pre-Vietnam: There's a reason they call the M-60 machine gun "The Pig".
Vietnam…don’t get me started on the M16 series.
In my day, it was the M247 Sergeant York self-propelled AA gun. God only knows how many billions were spent on this wonder turd before it was finally nixed in 1985. I’ve referenced this before HERE. Meanwhile, the 1962-vintage Soviet ZSU-23-4 Shilka and 1973-era German Flakpanzer Gepard, with upgrades, are still soldiering on.
Just recently, several firms submitted weapons for the Army’s new SASS Semi-Automatic Sniper System. After “exhaustive testing”, the Army picked the “winner”. Of course, they wouldn’t release anything about the testing,, methods, performance or criteria. Remington even filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the test records; it was denied. Shades of the Light Rifle Trials again. Things that make you go hmmmm.
Now, the United States Air Force is going to:
“Choose a winner in its troubled Light Air Support competition without actually flying the two contending planes, the Embraer Super Tucano and the Hawker-Beechcraft AT-6, and it will even disregard what it has data from the limited 'flight demonstration' it conducted last year.”
Yeah, who needs to actually fly a plane before purchasing it in large quantities.
“A chagrined Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has publicly pledged ‘we'll work our asses off’ to get it right."
By getting it right, I assume he means which company will offer him the highest three-figure salary as a “consultant” after he retires from the military. I’ve mentioned Pentagon Wars, with Kelsey Grammar and Cary Elwes, before. If you haven’t seen it you really owe it to yourself to put it on your Netflix list.
My ex brother-in-law is a now-retired senior NCO who had to pull a tour at the Pentagon (“The worst two years of my life!”) and he claimed it was the most accurate depiction he’d ever seen of how things really work behind the curtain of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.