#3. Improvised Explosive Devices Defeated With RC Toys
You probably already know that the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing like the wars we've seen in Hollywood over the years. For example, most American deaths aren't a result of awesome firefights, but from homemade bombs detonated remotely. Road signs, cars, animal carcasses, people ... anything can carry a shrapnel bomb that can kill dozens. And the worst part is that there are few ways to detect an IED, because you can't tell you're in danger until you're about to meet Jesus.
There's one piece of good news in this awful story: The best defense against IEDs comes from an unlikely source, and it's not cute little dogs risking their lives. The best defense against improvised bombs is a child's toy.
The Cartoonish Plan:
When software engineer Ernie Fessenden heard about the IEDs killing American soldiers, he immediately worried about his brother stationed in Afghanistan, Staff Sargeant Chris Fessenden. But instead of posting a heartwarming meme and asking for "likes" on Facebook, he actually got out his tools and started on a project -- a remote control toy car that could trick bombs into detonating early.
Trucks To Troops
Making "vroom" noises isn't necessary for bomb sweeping, but it doesn't hurt.
The toy truck runs alongside real tanks like a faithful puppy, having a great time (as Toy Story has taught us that toy cars love to do). Only this toy car can be steered into threats and take the hit of improvised bombs before the sentient humans ever get hurt. And that was exactly what happened in 2011, when Fessenden's toy remote controlled truck detonated a bomb that was meant for six Humvee soldiers.
They affectionately named him "Fido."
The technique has been so effective that Fessenden developed a group called Trucks to Troops in order to fund even more RC cars to help protect U.S. soldiers. After spending millions of dollars upgrading vehicle armor and developing radio jammers to stop cell signals to no avail, the greatest threat to soldiers fighting in the Middle East today was defeated using something any kid could buy from his local toy store down the street.
#2. World War II Allies Treated Flying Bombs Like Harmless Turtles
Before there was such a thing as guided missiles, there was Germany's V-1 bomb, the world's first remotely launched flying bomb. So rather than simply dropping the bomb from a piloted plane, the weapons were launched from Axis-controlled pads in France. When the bastards strategically ran out of fuel, they fell to Earth at 350 mph and exploded, if everything went well.
Lysiak, Via Wikipedia
... or at least as well as any "flying Nazi rocket bomb" scenario can go.
So on top of dealing with food rations, dying husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons, and pasty complexions, the women left on the English homefront were also left with the prospect that these howling death rockets were on their way, and by 1944, the V-1 bombs were launched at a rate of a freaking hundred per day.
The Cartoonish Plan:
In a moment of complete desperation/genius, the Royal Air Force figured out something crazy about the V-1 bombs. If you flipped them over, they were completely useless, like an upside down ladybug or a baby.
Sadly, that's the only intersection between "infant" and "rocketry."
So how do you flip a bomb? Very carefully. The move was called the coup de wing, and pilots performed it by flying right under the bomb itself. When the little stubby wings of the bomb were tipped, it lost its stability and plopped to the ground then and there, undetonated. So ideally, the maneuver was carried out over fields and water, rather than school buildings.
"You've just been ... wingtipped."
It had to have made for some harrowing moments, what with having to fly a plane so close to a 2,000-pound bomb that you're freaking touching it. We suspect the reason you don't see more scenes of bomb-tipping in old World War II movies is that the whole thing is kind of sad.
Hey, speaking of pilots being crazy people with no regard for personal safety ...
#1. Robert Klingman Plays Bumper Cars With a Japanese Plane
Robert Klingman was an F4U Corsair pilot in World War II serving in the Pacific. One day his carrier spotted a Japanese recon aircraft, so Klingman and some other pilots were sent to shoot it down. Simple enough. Bing. Bang. Boom.
Except that when the Japanese pilot saw the Americans approaching, he decided to start flying higher and higher, because either he thought his plane could handle the altitude better or he was hoping to eventually reach an asteroid field he could dodge through. By 38,000 feet, only Klingman was left in the dogfight, as all his wingmen had to bug out because, sure enough, the height was killing their engines. The only reason Klingman was able to press on was because he had expended most of his ammunition on the way up to lighten his aircraft.
"Shoot motherfuckers" and "visit space" are on our to-do list as well.
Klingman maneuvered himself to within 50 feet of the enemy aircraft's tail and squeezed the trigger to send them tumbling toward death. One problem: At that altitude, the guns were frozen. Klingman assessed his options and came up with a solution.
The Cartoonish Plan:
Klingman decided the giant spinning propeller on the front of his aircraft was less a tool for keeping his fighter aloft and more a giant spinning death blade to use against his enemy. So, he decided to ram the aircraft and use his propeller to literally chop the enemy plane up, like something out of a Bugs Bunny World War II propaganda cartoon.
Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
It's basically the Benihana chef of the skies.
Now, the last we checked, two aircraft colliding in midair usually never ends well for either aircraft. But not only did Klingman not fall out of the sky in flames, he managed to get three chops into the enemy aircraft. Each time he shredded away more and more of the Japanese plane. On the third hit, Klingman managed to evaporate the rudder of the (probably confused) enemy, sending him into a spiral of death toward the beckoning ocean.
"Feed me your lesser men!"
You'd think that by this point, Klingman would be plummeting to Earth right behind him. In fact, you're probably thinking that he was actually suicidal all along. You're wrong. After using the one thing that was keeping his aircraft flying as a tail fin shredder, Klingman landed his plane safely ... leaving behind chunks of the propeller.
Related Reading: Badass battle plans are one thing- but how about improvised weapons? You'll never look at war the same way again once you've read about the Polish Home Army's tank-killing homemade flamethrowers. And if you think you know what a big cannon looks like, you should check out the $2.7 million pound Gustav gun. Hell, let's follow "Giant" as a theme. Read about the hugest things in the history of war.