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Thread: Brilliantly simple military ideas

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    Default Brilliantly simple military ideas

    This is a thread for recording and discussing simple solutions to military and related problems, such as the Soviets supposedly using pencils in space while the Americans were suppoedly spending a small fortune on trying to get ballpoint pens to work in zero gravity.

    Maybe I'm confusing this with another war where the same solution was worked out to the same problem, but my recollection is that in Vietnam Australian troops initially sat on on the outer edges of trucks facing inwards. Experience with attacks resulted in a row of seats being placed in the centre of the truck so that each row faced outwards and could better see and respond to attacks.
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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Well, there are the "hedge-choppers" that were used to good effect by US tankers trying to break through Norman hedgerows where they were previously being murdered in ambushes on predictable entry points and trails they were funneled into --covered by Heer machine-guns, panzerfausts, anti-tank guns, and mortars. Nothing more than bits of welded steal prongs onto the front of tanks that resembled the forks on a bucket of an excavator/mechanical digger, they were sometimes fabricated from German beach obstacles. The tanks would be used to plow through the thickens of French-style agricultural hedges that were far thicker and taller than their Anglo-American ones. It should be mentioned however that the hedge-choppers are a bit overly lauded as they supplemented new US infantry tactics at breaking the German defenses in the Normandy hedgerows and were not necessarily the lynch-pin of them. Tactics that included the use of explosives to blast breaches into the German forts so they could be flanked and enfiladed...
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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    .

    Delayed fire rifles.






    Drip (or "pop off") rifles were self-firing rifles used at Gallipoli to deceive the Turks during the evacuation of December 1915.

    Fire was maintained from the trenches after the withdrawal of the last men, by rifles arranged to fire automatically. This was done by a weight being released which pulled the trigger. Two kerosene tins were placed one above the other, the top one full of water and the bottom one with the trigger string attached to it, empty. At the last minute, small holes would be punched in the upper tin; water would trickle into the lower one, and the rifle would fire as soon as the lower tin had become sufficiently heavy.

    Another device ran a string, holding back the trigger, through a candle, which slowly burnt down, severed the string, and released the trigger.

    Such devices provided sporadic firing which helped convince the Turks that the ANZAC front line was occupied long after thousands of men had crept down to the beaches and escaped. British generals estimated that half the force would be lost in any attempt to withdraw because the Turks could not fail to notice as the trenches were so close. In the event, the Turks were so deceived that 80,000 men were evacuated with only about half a dozen casualties.

    The drip rifle was invented by Lance Corporal W. C. Scurry of the 7th Battalion, AIF, with assistance from Private A. H. Lawrence. For the part he played in making the evacuation a success, Scurry was mentioned in dispatches, awarded the Distinguished Cconduct Medal, and promoted to sergeant.

    The wider background to the delayed firing rifle at Gallipoli.

    WHEN it was finally decided, early in December, 1915, to withdraw all the British, French, and Anzac troops from Gallipoli, the total of all soldiers at the three fronts, Helles, Anzac, and Suvla, was 134,000. Of these, 41,000 were at Anzac and 50,000 at Suvla.

    It sounds very simple to say the soldiers would be withdrawn but really it was a most difficult and dangerous job. The whole idea had to be a very great secret, so that there would be no possibility of the Turks hearing of it. Even the soldiers who were to be taken away must believe that they would be coming back. They were told that they were going away for a rest, as fewer soldiers would be required for fighting during the approaching winter.

    Not only did the soldiers have to be taken away, but there were guns and stores to be got off too, without the Turks noticing it. It was arranged that the troops at Anzac and Suvla would be taken away first and those at Helles later on.

    So that the Turks would not see them, troops, stores and guns could be taken away during the hours of darkness only. As soon as night fell, ships would come in close to the shore at Anzac and Suvla and the soldiers, who had come down from their trenches on to the beach, would be taken off to the ships in motor lighters. Ten thousand soldiers, some guns, and a few stores were the most that could be taken off in a night.

    While this was going on the front line trenches still had to have soldiers in them, firing their rifles and machine guns, and throwing bombs, so that the Turks would not notice any difference and would not guess what was happening on the beach. It was not possible to take all the troops away from parts of the front line as the Turks would then notice
    that there was no firing from these parts and would guess that there were no soldiers there and would break into the trenches.

    So the whole of the front line had to be gradually thinned out, still leaving enough men to do the firing and bombing. Each night those who were left had to keep walking along the trenches and firing from different places so that the Turks would not know how thin the line was. In the daytime soldiers were told to walk about behind the trenches where the Turks could see them from a long way off along the coast, and would still think that there were plenty of men there.

    Ships came in the daytime and landed a few soldiers and stores so that the Turks would not be suspicious. They would not realize that many more men and stores were being taken away each night. This gradual thinning out went on for a week or more. There was the danger that a heavy storm with rough seas might blow up, as was likely in December, and the loading of lighters at night might be held up, but fortunately the weather kept fine and the embarking of troops and stores went on satisfactorily.

    It was decided that the final night of the evacuation at Anzac and Suvla would be December 20th. By the night of December l8th the soldiers holding the front line at Anzac, which was six miles long, had been reduced to 20,000. It was necessary that these, and a similar number from Suvla, be taken off on the nights of December 19th and 20th. Half of these were taken off successfully on the night of the 19th leaving only 10,000 at each place for the final night.

    At Anzac it was arranged that 4000 of the final 10,000 would be withdrawn as soon as it was dark, another 4000 between nine o'clock and eleven, thus leaving only 2000 men to defend the Anzac area until the time came for the final men to leave. All went well, the 8000 men embarked and 500 of the 2000 were brought down to the beach leaving 1500 still in the front line.

    It must be remembered that these 1500 men were not all at one place in the front line but thinly scattered over the whole Anzac front of six miles. As this line was in the form of a semi-circle, or bow, some of these soldiers were much farther from the beach than others, so that those that were farthest from the beach had to leave the front line first to arrive at the embarking points on the beach at the time arranged.

    The posts on the two flanks were abandoned first, with the withdrawal becoming gradual toward the centre, where the line was closer to the pick-up places on the beach.

    The final evacuation of the left of the Anzac line was fixed for 1.30 a.m. and for the right for 2 a.m., while the soldiers in the trenches nearest to the beaches, such as Lone Pine and Quinn's, did not leave till 2.55 a.m. and the last, at Russell's Top, at 3.14 a.m.

    While all this was going on the few soldiers who were left in the trenches still had to be firing their rifles and throwing a few bombs, especially at places like Quinn's Post where the Turkish trenches were only 15 yards away.

    In order to trick the Turks, self-firing rifles were arranged, which would continue to shoot for some time after the last troops had left. The simplest was made by attaching a weight to the trigger of the rifle, which would be pulled by the overbalancing of a certain tin when it filled with water which dripped from another tin above it. When sufficient water bad dropped into the lower tin it overbalanced, released the weight, and fired the rifle. The time it took depended on the size of the hole through which the water dripped, so holes of different sizes were made for each rifle, the average time being about twenty minutes.

    Other gadgets were arranged with candles and string, and with fuses. Nearly all units arranged on the final night that a few rifles should be fixed in their trenches and be fired by these methods after the last man had left.

    Another successful trick used by our forces was the shovelling of dirt over the top of the trenches so that the Turks would think new trenches were being dug. Fires were kept burning in most cook-houses so that the Turks would see the smoke and think the cooks were still busy there. Periscopes were shown in many places in the trenches and men strolled about behind the lines.

    Everything went without a hitch. All men were clear of the trenches and on their way to the beaches at 3.25 a.m. At 4 a.m. the last lighter left the beach at Anzac. A few staff officers and Colonel Paton, who was in charge of the rear guard, remained on the beach for ten minutes in case there were any stragglers, then at 4.10 a.m. they embarked in a small steamboat; the last to leave being Colonel Paton. Two men who had been slightly wounded on the beach, and were the only casualties, were taken off in the last lighter. The evacuation of Suvla was completed with equally small loss at 5.10 a.m.

    Before the troops left Anzac three large mines, filled with explosives, had been burrowed under the Turkish trenches at The Nek, a very narrow part of the front line. These mines blew up after the last soldiers had left Anzac, killing many Turks and destroying the trenches. Heavy fire at once broke out all along the Turkish trenches but they were still unaware that the Anzacs had gone. They did not really find out that the trenches were empty until three hours later, by which time the Anzacs were far away and nearing Lemnos.
    http://www.firstaif.info/anzac-story...evacuation.htm
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Viet Cong pits and punji stakes.

    Cost bugger all except unpaid or even forced labour to dig the pit, sharpen the stake, and wipe some shit on the point.

    In the total scheme of things they caused bugger all casualties but the inhibiting effect on patrolling enemy was, with other low-tech booby traps real and imagined, to slow the enemy down a lot in attempting to penetrate VC areas.
    ..
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    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Aiming sticks.

    VC / NVA scouts moved up during the day to assault positions on enemy bases and using various field signs as simple as twisted grass directed the night assault force to points where the scouts had constructed sticks aimed at enemy positions such as mortar and MG points which the attackers merely had to sight along to direct fire near or into those positions in the dark.
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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Viet Cong pits and punji stakes.

    Cost bugger all except unpaid or even forced labour to dig the pit, sharpen the stake, and wipe some shit on the point.

    In the total scheme of things they caused bugger all casualties but the inhibiting effect on patrolling enemy was, with other low-tech booby traps real and imagined, to slow the enemy down a lot in attempting to penetrate VC areas.

    Yup. Even the VC/NLF just urinating or defecating on them could cause unmentionable infection and severally debilitated morale...

    They also had booby trap triggered airborne punjis mounted on some sort of rope that could swing down on an unsuspecting patrol...

    In addition, the Vietnamese also used metal, often from shot down US aircraft, munitions, or abandoned equipment to make little jacks to pierce the boot soles of patrolling soldiers. Again, cheap area denial weapon that could incapacitate soldiers and make them a burden on the medical services....
    Last edited by Nickdfresh; 04-26-2009 at 02:33 PM. Reason: addition

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    How about German wooden shu or glass mines designed to defeat metal detection. Pretty ingenious and another real morale booster...

    I also though the Claymore mine was pretty fiendishly simple as evidenced by the directions on the thing, "front towards enemy." They were essentially designed to counter attacks by superior numbers of infantry during the Korean War and were used to good effect in Vietnam...

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    The Flechette/Fliegerpfeil. After all not the most effective weapon but still innovative for the WW1 era at least, somehow a mixture between mediaeval and modern weaponry.

    flfl.jpg
    Last edited by flamethrowerguy; 04-26-2009 at 08:09 PM.
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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Great idea for a thread! Also, thanks to Rising Sun for the details on the Gallipoli retreat...I'd wondered how the snuck away with so few casualties.

    First thing that springs to mind is hoses being used the 6 Day War to eroded the banks of the Arab defences. Basically, big fire hoses sprayed water (from a river) at the banks below the defenses on the opposite side until they collapsed...creating a gaping hole in the arab lines.

    Quote Originally Posted by flamethrowerguy View Post
    The Flechette/Fliegerpfeil. After all not the most effective weapon but still innovative for the WW1 era at least, somehow a mixture between mediaeval and modern weaponry.

    flfl.jpg

    Hmmmm...Flachettes? I had mostly associated these with claymores ...how did these work in WWI?

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh
    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun*
    Viet Cong pits and punji stakes.

    Cost bugger all except unpaid or even forced labour to dig the pit, sharpen the stake, and wipe some shit on the point.

    In the total scheme of things they caused bugger all casualties but the inhibiting effect on patrolling enemy was, with other low-tech booby traps real and imagined, to slow the enemy down a lot in attempting to penetrate VC areas.
    Yup. Even the VC/NLF just urinating or defecating on them could cause unmentionable infection and severally debilitated morale...
    While the addition of faeces will undoubtedly increase the chance of infection and certainly occurred, it very quickly gets eaten completely by insects and other small animals rendering the spikes no more 'poisoned' than if they were just left open to the elements.
    However, the VC/NVA were light years ahead of their opponents in terms of their various uses of propaganda, and it's another good way of weakening the enemy's morale. No-one wants a hole in their foot plus the thought that Nguyen had dumped on it !

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh
    They also had booby trap triggered airborne punjis mounted on some sort of rope that could swing down on an unsuspecting patrol...
    Some of the instructors we had in Kenya were either 'ex'-poachers and/or ex- or turned Mau Mau. They gave many lessons in the use of animal traps using the four recognised methods - Tangle, Strangle, Mangle and Dangle. These guys proved conclusively that the traps are all simple and they all work.
    The size of the trap depends on what you are trying to catch...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh
    In addition, the Vietnamese also used metal, often from shot down US aircraft, munitions, or abandoned equipment to make little jacks to pierce the boot soles of patrolling soldiers. Again, cheap area denial weapon that could incapacitate soldiers and make them a burden on the medical services....
    Caltrops - used since man has gone to war on horseback. Great toys if you or your horse doesn't step on one !
    The earliest written accounts are from pre-Christian Roman reports and their use continues, albeit in a modified form, with the Stingers and other devices police use to deflate the tyres of vehicles.

    Roman caltrop. Police Stinger.






    Edited to correctly capitalise Mau Mau.
    I will take a week of extras.
    Last edited by Cuts; 04-27-2009 at 01:58 PM.
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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    Yup. Even the VC/NLF just urinating or defecating on them could cause unmentionable infection and severally debilitated morale...

    They also had booby trap triggered airborne punjis mounted on some sort of rope that could swing down on an unsuspecting patrol...

    In addition, the Vietnamese also used metal, often from shot down US aircraft, munitions, or abandoned equipment to make little jacks to pierce the boot soles of patrolling soldiers. Again, cheap area denial weapon that could incapacitate soldiers and make them a burden on the medical services....
    Details of some of those weapons here.
    http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-weapons/mines06.htm
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmBl3RGItAE

    Australia modified its standard infantry boot during the Vietnam war by inserting a steel plate in the sole to reduce injuries from punji stakes etc, and no doubt to give the troops a bit of confidence. I sold my pair on eBay a few years ago after they'd been under the house for about 35 years apart from a while when my son clambered around in them. I can't recall the price but it didn't make me wealthy.
    ..
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    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Cuts View Post
    While the addition of faeces will undoubtedly increase the chance of infection and certainly occurred, it very quickly gets eaten completely by insects and other small animals rendering the spikes no more 'poisoned' than if they were just left open to the elements.
    I didn't know that. And neither did my instructors during the Vietnam era, or if they did they didn't tell us.

    I infer that they didn't know as there was no advantage to them in losing an opportunity to decrease our fear of such weapons. On the other hand our relevant training was all directed towards bushcraft, observation, and caution in moving through jungle so maybe it would have made good training sense to give us something to worry about if we were careless. Although any decision to conceal your information from us would have been made at a senior staff level rather than instructor level, so even if it was known to anyone in our army at the time it almost certainly wasn't known at instructor level.

    Even if the spike is rendered neutral by insects etc, the jungle floor debris picked up off the bottom of the victim's boot and from the mixture inside the boot as the spike penetrates would probably carry enough bacteria into the wound to cause a nasty infection in many cases.

    When I was about 13 or 14 I stood on a large nail on a board. It came out the top of my foot. I am able to report that it hurts like buggery, not so much going in but dragging it out. I am also able to report that there is no truth in the commonly held belief that standing on a rusty nail will cause all kinds of trouble, although it would have if my old man had found out about it.
    ..
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    Montesquieu

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    We have to get the aircraft carrier ski jump on this list. Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Douglas Taylor came up with this brilliantly simple idea in the 1970s.

    The RNs Harriers could not take off with a full load of fuel and full armament, with such a short deck runway, so the idea was to build a ski jump at the end of the carrier deck.

    At first, some in the RN were adamently opposed to the idea, with proponents calling them 'the flat deck preservation society', but it's effectiveness - first tested on dry land - was quickly proven and won over its critics.

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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh
    How about German wooden shu or glass mines designed to defeat metal detection. Pretty ingenious and another real morale booster...
    I think the wooden and glass mines were primarily of those materials to save more vaulable metal for other uses, though being minimum metal they were as you correctly point out difficult to detect using EM detectors.
    A German mine designed to be undetectable by the goodies was the Topfmine.
    Made of sealed compressed cardboard, the only metal components it contained were those that it was (then) impossible to make of another substance, eg springs and striker, nonetheless these devices were detectable by other German troops.
    The little Teutonic Teufels had given the mines a radioactive coating and ensured all their detectors also had a Geiger-Müller counter !
    But putting the explosive in a solid box is a bit of a luxury in most cases, indeed in the Rhodesian war anti-pursuit mines were often merely a polythene bag containing plastic explosive and an initiation device.

    Where hard cases are necessary is when shaped charges are employed, eg. the Yugoslav TMRP-6 and -7, the Canadian/British Elsie and it's Yugo equivalent, the PMA-1A.
    The TMRP-6 uses the Misznay-Chradin or platter effect of sheet explosive, turning the liner into an Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP) which has a horizontal range of about one thousand metres !
    Interestingly the Elsie is probably the most 'humanitarian' of AP-mines available - if one can use the word about a mine.
    It uses a very small conical shaped charge to cut a neat round hole throug the victim's foot. While this rightly sounds nasty, the injury is far more easy to treat at a field hospital than those usually encountered with conventional blast AP-mines.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh
    I also though the Claymore mine was pretty fiendishly simple as evidenced by the directions on the thing, "front towards enemy." They were essentially designed to counter attacks by superior numbers of infantry during the Korean War and were used to good effect in Vietnam...
    "The best thing since canned beer !" to quote a certain Digger.
    It was the A1's that had the famous moulded instructions, a strange idea I thought as they'll only be issued to someone trained in their use. Like all directional weapons they still have to be set up and aimed before they're effective.
    By the same reasoning 'front toward enemy' should be on the muzzles of all small arms too.

    The Claymore also works using the Misznay-Chardin effect. It differs from the M-C effect used in the EFPs we are encountering so regularly in the current theatres in that the liner is just a heavy matrix held in place by an easily frangible light resin.



    Sorry about the anorak style of this post Nick, but mines and grens are one of my specialist areas and I sometimes start to rivet-count.






    Edited to refine the minimum metal AT bit.
    Last edited by Cuts; 04-27-2009 at 02:23 PM.
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    Default Re: Brilliantly simple military ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun*
    I didn't know that. And neither did my instructors during the Vietnam era, or if they did they didn't tell us.

    I infer that they didn't know as there was no advantage to them in losing an opportunity to decrease our fear of such weapons. On the other hand our relevant training was all directed towards bushcraft, observation, and caution in moving through jungle so maybe it would have made good training sense to give us something to worry about if we were careless. Although any decision to conceal your information from us would have been made at a senior staff level rather than instructor level, so even if it was known to anyone in our army at the time it almost certainly wasn't known at instructor level.

    Even if the spike is rendered neutral by insects etc, the jungle floor debris picked up off the bottom of the victim's boot and from the mixture inside the boot as the spike penetrates would probably carry enough bacteria into the wound to cause a nasty infection in many cases.
    Yes, this is precisely the point I was trying to make, as you know any cut will often turn septic in the heat and humidity of the jungle.
    Were you over in Canungra ?


    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun*
    When I was about 13 or 14 I stood on a large nail on a board. It came out the top of my foot. I am able to report that it hurts like buggery, not so much going in but dragging it out. I am also able to report that there is no truth in the commonly held belief that standing on a rusty nail will cause all kinds of trouble, although it would have if my old man had found out about it.
    I did the same when I was about ten.
    I was climbing over an enormous pile of old pallets and beer crates, (a sign of things to come ? ) when I slipped and impaled my foot, through the boot, to a plank of wood.
    I had to climb back down before I could get the damn thing out. I looked like a novice coming off the piste looking for the other ski.

    Contrary to popular perception I did have a father, and am therefore in total agreement with your closing comment.
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