I wonder how the CEO will feel when everybody refers to him as “bitch”? Will all manuals be written in ebonics? It would be very progressive.


P-61 as a taxi?

The P-61A used as the personal transport of Maj. Gen. Barnes of the 13th Fighter Command, Java, 1944


The ho is a different matter. She’s as dumb as a box of rocks. But according to Willie Brown she has talents that don’t require much intelligence.


Name the RAF Aircraft


Mortars  c.1450-1900

Cyrus Alger & Co. 10″ caliber US Model 1840 siege mortar

In broad terms, a mortar is a piece of artillery designed for indirect fire at very high angles to aim at targets protected by walls, trenches or rough terrain. That’s in contrast to regular cannons which are designed mostly for direct fire, with their projectile being propelled straight at their target rather than in a curve. Mortars are first recorded in military history in the early to mid-15th century in both Korea and the siege of Constantinople, and retained the same basic shape up until the Great War, similar to the apothecary’s thick-walled bowl from which they get their name.

Mortars of that time had a few main characteristics. The first one was its projectile, its shell or bomb, a very large projectile filled with blackpowder. It had a cast iron body with handles/ears for loading and thicker walls at the bottom to resist the initial propelling blast (Fig.4), said blast also being used to light the time fuse (C.) made up of a hollow wooden cone filled with either compressed blackpowder or slow-burning paper.

  French Gribeauval system mortars.

Although less propellant was used proportionally to the weight of the projectile compared to regular cannons -the latter needing large amounts to shoot with a flat trajectory- each shot still required several kilos of blackpowder to move these massive projectiles, resulting in incredible pressure building up inside the gun. To handle this, mortar barrels are built with extremely thick walls, especially around the propellant chamber atop which the bomb sits.

The final characteristic of a mortar is its very sturdy baseplate, made first from wood then from cast iron starting in the 19th century, made to absorb the recoil of the gun without being crushed against the ground. It also included a wedge and its resting block -the coin de mire and coussinet in French- which allowed the gunner to fine-tune the firing angle of the gun, which along with the amount of propellant was used to range it. Most mortars fired between a 45° and 60° angle.



These very large guns were almost exclusively used when attacking or defending fortifications to destroy targets beyond its walls, but starting in the 17th century lighter mortars started being used that worked equally well in the field.

The coehorn, named after Dutch military engineer Menno van Coehoorn, was a light artillery piece that could be carried by two soldiers and used to fire upon entrenched soldiers or large formations. Although the smaller projectiles did not fragment as well as our modern projectiles, and their trajectory could be avoided by any soldier with a keen eye and a bit of luck, it proved very effective at its main purposes of providing cover, suppressive fire and laying waste to enemy trenches. While siege mortars mostly evolved into even larger howitzers around the second half of the 19th century, it’s these smaller coehorns that evolved into modern mortars.


  Rail-mounted US Army 13″ caliber siege mortar “the Dictator” c. American Civil War.


Answer to: Name the RAF Aircraft

Grob Vigilant T.1



    • That’s a piece of history that I was not aware of. As an aside possibly of no interest at all, the Applegate Valley was #2 on the list if the White Wolf Mine hadn’t worked out. I love that country.

      The “mountain howitzers” or pack howitzers that the Army used in that era were a different sort of smoothbore, weapon and usually very little money, powder and shot went into training for the artillery troopers.

  1. Mortars! are fascinating things. Some were regulated by the number of charge bags placed in them. Very effective.

    They fell out of favor before WWI, but trench mortars and the beginnings of the modern mortar were rapidly invented to fill the niche that howitzers, even stubby really short-barreled ones, could not fill.

    What’s old is new again, again. Interesting. Especially when modern mortars evolved from grenade launchers, and now we have a whole class of actual grenade launchers to fill the void that moving away from light mortars opened up.

    As to Coca-Cola? What, are they trying to make PepsiCo #1 again? Idiots.

    And a Black Widow as an air-taxi. What, a B-25 wasn’t good enough for him? (Especially post-war, the mellow B-25 was converted into personnel transports. My mother flew one back and forth from Alabama to New Mexico and back once she married my dad, until pregnancy washed her out of the military.)

    • I always liked Boyd’s suggestion to the general about the ‘fighter’ version of the F-111 (paraphrased): “Remove the wings, paint it bright yellow, install seats in the bomb/missile bay, and turn into it into goddamned high-speed flight line taxi.”

    • Beans, I think that the general was making a statement. The B-25 was fast, comfortable, and when configured as executive transport was — nice. After WW2, my father went to work for the Air Force at the Pentagon, and at times was ferried here and there. He worked on the development of radar-aimed gunsights. I don’t know much more about it than that. It was before I was born.

      • Was the P61A used for the general not painted black for some reason? Odd aircraft for personal use for a flag officer, unless he wanted to be different. What characteristic the General wanted that was supplied by the P61? High altitude, fast, rough landing strip capable? Did his craft have the usual armament? In the pic it doesn’t seem so.

        • I can’t answer the questions, but I can guess that the general saw to it that the P-61A that he set his sights on was “awaiting armament” while it flew him here and there. A paper chase works if you’re the commanding general.

          • It’s a big, powerful airplane, and I don’t think that it could begin to maneuver with a Zero/Zeke, etc. The German night fighters were primarily Me-110’s because they were going after bombers and they didn’t have to be nimble. I always wondered how effective the Black Widow was against Japanese aircraft, given that it arrived at the end of the war.

          • The P-61 was very maneuverable for such a large airplane and except for high-altitude speed, could take on just about anything they’d be likely to meet at night. But they really arrived too late. The lack of turbochargers hampered their performance. The lack of targets in the last months in the Pacific meant some units had no confirmed kills. One unit’s only kill was a B-29 on autopilot after it’s crew bailed out.

  2. Mortars were also used for coast defense forts. Even if the big cannons are dismounted, the mortars were useful against siege lines and their mortars, and incautious ships. There was a battery at Ft. Barrancas, Pensacola. Also pre-WWI battery outside Ft. Pickens. No mortars were left there, though. But one of the the disappearing rifles of that era was preserved. There was one at Corregidor, too. I presume it’s still thrre.

    • Yes, the mortars were used against sappers (and their saps), not against ships. It was difficult enough to hit a ship with a rifle or smoothbore cannon. Sieges were slow affairs until that final push, and exploding shells, especially if you cut the fuse short enough to get an air burst, were wicked against engineers in open trench works.

      • Actually, the US fielded a heavy mortar specifically to attack ships in it’s coastal fortifications. The idea was to hit the (then) weakly armored decks of battleships, instead of the heavy vertical armor.


        No idea how effective it would have been in action, but the battleships of the day weren’t particularly fast or maneuverable.


        • The idea of attacking a ship with a mortar is one thing. Doing it is another. The battleships of the day were slow, but mortars (particularly those with heavy shells) were VERY slow firing. In a siege, or defending against a siege, they didn’t have to be. Additionally, sighting a mortar in the 1700’s for example, was guess work, but if the position of the mortar didn’t change and the target didn’t change, you could adjust. Ships are present a different problem unless the mortar can be pre-ranged on a river or in a area where the ship couldn’t maneuver.

          • With a flat trajectory cannon, there was a wider margin of error in range in and bearing that would still allow a hit. With a mortar, your rangefinders need to be dead accurate, and so had your measurements of enemy course and speed. I think it’s like the USAAF using B-17s at 10-12,000′ feet and thinking they could score hits on enemy ships. If they did, it’d be as much blind luck as anything.

          • The Norden bombsight wasn’t much use against moving targets, particularly maneuvering moving targets.

            Flat trajectory cannons also could skip cannonballs across a flat ocean. They lost velocity, but one or two skips and a hit was still a hit. The larger caliber of land based guns meant that you’d take a heavier hit, than you would from the smaller long 9’s or 12’s carried by a lot of the fourth and fifth rated ships of the era.

        • IIRC, Fort MacArthur in San Pedro had some anti-ship mortars, along with the retracting guns.

          The only fired the BIG guns a few times in training and to qualify them, as replacing all the dozens of broken windows in San Pedro was considered an unneccessary expense.

    • There is disappearing rifle at Fort Casey in WA state- a display replacement IIRC, obtained from the Philippines. The originals were removed long ago.
      It shows heavy shrapnel damage to one side of the gun.
      Some of the cannon at Akershus in Oslo show similar damage, presumably from WW2.

    • They were visionary at one point in their development. Actually the concept behind Coke with the bottling company franchises is genius. Somebody threw bleach into the gene pool.

  3. Need a pair of those mortar launchers to flank the entryway, with a sign stating “they may be old but they are effective”. Maybe get some solar spots to illuminate at night, just in case someone wanders off the main road thinking no one lives back here and we’re easy targets. Might be the missing touch to dissuade.

    • I think that the blush is off the rose when it comes to Australia, Biden and China. They stand to become a vassal state – Aussies have a lot to lose.

  4. Once had a opportunity to examine in detail a B-26 that was converted to executive transport. Fuel consumption was high. $50 just to taxi two miles. Not a consideration when you are fighting a war.

  5. i wonder how the coke board will feel when the whole crew takes the nba finals week off. guess that means more spit and snot in my diet coke now too. lovely.

  6. Odd choice for the general, unless he was somewhat claustrophobic. Either the gunner’s seat or the radar seat both had panoramic views. Re mortars, nasty damn things to be on the wrong end of… and I can’t imagine a 13″ mortar! That had to have been both loud and very concussive on launch.

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