In matters of life and death, common sense is not always the way to go. There is no doubt that battlefields make the military do crazy things and often without results. Yet, it has not stopped us from funding the most ridiculous battlefield ideas.
The Week and Vanity Fair magazines explicitly did a piece on the Pentagon’s most outlandish wartime ideas.
Now, we get what you might think: Super-sonic, lightning, and electromagnetic gadgets. But no, many of these weapons and equipment were surprisingly simple in construction and intent.
They incorporate materials and designs reminiscent of earlier periods of warfare. Hence, their superficial simplicity contrasts with their inherent modernity as these items are shaped by the unique conditions of twentieth-century warfare.
Despite going through various stages of development, testing, and approval, not all of these ideas proved successful on the battlefield. And you will see why. Some of them were quickly dismissed, while others resulted in catastrophic consequences for the soldiers who used them. Let’s begin!
1.Early Model of M16 Rifle
During the Vietnam War, soldiers and marines faced fatal injuries and even death due to flaws in the early model of the M16. In the military, there was a saying about these guns. It went something like this, “It was a great airplane, but the engine failed every 10th flight.” The M16 used ammo loaded with extruded powder – a propellant with cylindrical grains.
As an economical move, the Army Ordnance Corps decreed a change to ball powder. However, the military did not test the guns after the shift in gunpowder. Troops in the field became the unfortunate beta testers.
Moreover, the M16 was overzealously promoted as a “self-cleaning rifle.” Hence, troops were issued insufficient cleaning supplies. As a result, the cartridge case often remained jammed inside the chamber after firing.
Disassembling the gun was the only way to remove it without a cleaning rod. As a result, troops were found dead after firefights – with their M16s lying beside them in pieces.
2. The Krummlauf (STG-44) Assault Rifle
Krummlauf translates to ‘curved barrel.’ It refers to the barrel-and-periscopic-sight combination with a 30-degree bend that could fit a standard Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle. The engineering allows this bizarre gun to shoot around curved corners without exposing the shooter. The weapon was made with tank crews in mind.
As World War Two progressed, infantry soldiers resorted to desperate measures to take out enemy tanks, often at the cost of their own lives. In situations like this, soldiers inside the tanks were often left under-armed and at the mercy of their enemy. The military had to think fast.
This is where the idea of Krummlauf came into being. The Krummlauf allowed the commander to shoot his enemy from the safety of his tank without being exposed. Unfortunately, however, the Krummlauf never got all its bugs fixed. For example, the bullets shattered inside the barrel, and the barrels lasted only 300 rounds or so.
The Panjandrum is also known as the ultimate invasion weapon. The ungainly device was intended to be used against the beach defences of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. It consisted of two rocket-propelled wheels, ten feet in diameter, joined by a cylinder filled with explosives.
None other than the British Admiralty’s Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons designed the Panjandrum. The device worked so that it would be launched from a landing craft, accelerate up the beach and blow a hole in the sea wall or any other concrete obstacles.
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Tests in 1943 and 1944 were a military disaster. The rockets attached to the wheels often failed or detached themselves. The Panjandrum went everywhere except in a straight line. Needless to say, it was never used in action.
4. Bob Semple Tank
Named after the wartime Minister of Public Works of New Zealand, Bob Semple, this tank was more of an improvised fighting vehicle than a tank. The equipment was a reserve option in case Japan invaded New Zealand. At that time, Japan’s aggressive expansion had conquered China and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) by the early 1940s.
Due to a lack of resources and a tight supply of tankers, New Zealand gave Bob Semple the go-ahead to turn tractors into tanks. Unfortunately, Bob Semple worked without any actual blueprints. His only reference was an American postcard depicting the process of turning a tractor into a tank but without any substantial specifications.
Semple simply added a superstructure made from corrugated iron on tractor tracks and hoped it would work. It did not.
5. Screw Drive Tank
If anything, leave it to Russia to turn screw-driving technology into ZIL-2906 and 4904 tanks. The tank was built by Russian truck and presidential limo manufacturer ZIL. The idea behind the engineering was to cover the most challenging terrain imaginable. In simple words, to cover Russia. The smaller 2906 was built in the 1960s to recover cosmonauts who had landed in Siberia.
On the other hand, the two-and-a-half-ton 4904 was built in 1972. At this point, the Russians realised the screw drive technology was inefficient. As a result, the project halted after a few 4904s, the most oversized screw-drive vehicles ever.
6. The Ball Tank
Also known as the “Kugelpanzer,” the Ball tank is relatively famous. Yet, only limited information exists on the tank. The tank is a round, single-person armoured vehicle. It is on display at the Kubinka Tank Museum outside Moscow, Russia. Kugelpanzer translates to a ‘Ball Tank.’ Many historians described it as a rolling reconnaissance vehicle.
Russians captured the tank in 1945. It was sent to Japan as part of a technology transfer. Many believed it to be a dummy tank designed to confuse the enemy. Instead, the tank resembles the First World War’s Hansa-Lloyd Bremen Treffaswagen.
7. The U.S. Navy’s “digital blue camouflage” uniform
The Navy’s digital blue uniform only came about due to envy. In 2002, the U.S. Marines were the first to introduce the new “digital camouflage” uniform (in two different shades: desert and woodland). Following this, the U.S. Army has also introduced the digital uniform. Finally, in 2009, the U.S. Navy also adopted the new digital camo uniform in blue.
However, the uniform for the Navy completely missed the mark.
Many questioned how the Navy must camouflage in the face of threat in blue uniform on a 300+ foot long GREY warship. It even stands out inside the water as well. On top of everything, the uniform was not even equipped to help the Navy personnel in swimming.
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The older dungaree uniform had bell bottoms, making removing them easier to aid in swimming and staying afloat. The new uniform, however, was not fire-resistant, and the boots did not easily slip off. So, funnily enough, the uniform was dubbed “sailor killer.”
8. The Greek Presidential Guard
The Greek presidential guard is also known as the ‘Evzones.’ They still wear the uniform of the elite Greek soldiers from yesteryear. While the practice is excellent for others, like the U.S. Marines and the French Foreign Legion, it is not so much for the Greeks.
The outfit has a foustanella (the skirt-like garment) with 400 folds, one for each year of Turkish occupation. On top of that, they carry an M1 Garand rifle over a 100-year-old military uniform.
9. Uganda People’s Defense Forces Air Force
Uganda’s Air Force uniform is a camouflage print in light blue, brown, black, and green colours. However, it seemed the army could not decide if it wanted to blend in with the ground or water. Hence, they chose not to make a choice. The dress uniform looks like it hasn’t changed much since the days of ‘Idi Amin.’
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The uniform is not only confusing, it is also useless. It has no purpose considering it is not even doing its job. Overall, a strange choice for the Ugandan military.
10. The Spanish Legion
The history of the Spanish Legion is a vibrant one. However, their uniforms resemble that of a cheap male stripper.
The modern legion has the same camouflage dress for active service and ordinary duties as the rest of the Spanish Army. However, it still has a unique sage-green tropical uniform.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the modern legion uniform is the khaki “gorrillo” cap or “chapiri”. It even has a red hanging tassel and piping!
So there we are. Ten of our best and strangest military ideas. We shall endeavour to find more.