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Yesteryear’s Memories: Whatever Happened to Flame Throwers and Hand Grenades?


Just this week, I saw a whole string of pieces of military equipment pass by on a train. There must have been twenty or thirty train car loads of apparatus. Many of these I could identify, such as tanks and Humvees. There were vehicles with rows of wheels that clearly were made for water also. I guess I’m a little behind times, especially in the weapons of war. When I was a kid, the neighborhood boys loved to spot trainloads of tanks and such. Many were bound for Vietnam, no doubt, and they seemed to have a pretty clear purpose. As young as we were, we knew a gun when we saw one. Especially big guns.

It’s apparent, though, that I’m way behind times on knowledge of the military. Today I have no idea what purpose many of the items on that train were for. There were strange boxlike attachments and what appeared to be electronic equipment. There were little buildings like the utility sheds in our backyard, but obviously built to withstand heavy pounding by who knows what, and strange electrical connections labelled with numbers and letters. They gave no hint of what was inside. I have to confess, it was kind of like viewing a scientist’s lab with no clue what anything was for. I was intrigued — and a little frightened. I had to look into this mystery.

After looking online at pages of the ‘old’ stuff, like hand grenades and mortars, I stumbled onto a whole world of newer technology. I had heard of heat-seeking missiles, and even ‘smart’ missiles that exploded backwards in microseconds if they decided that they just missed the mark. I knew about night-vision goggles and heat scans that can find people in the dark or under vegetation. But what I found freaked me out a little. There was an explanation of one weapon deployed in Ferguson, Missouri, during the riots of 2014. It was a “DEW” — or Directed Energy Weapon. In this case it was a square device on top of a police vehicle that could direct sound waves at a target. It was named an LRAD — or Long Range Acoustic Device. It was sent there for crowd control by super loud sound waves, capable of causing permanent hearing loss. But loud sound is only the beginning. Kindergarten stuff, really.

It seems that the advanced DEWs, the juicy stuff, use lasers, particle beams, and microwaves to attack a target. The scary part is that they can be silent, invisible, and undetectable by normal means. They can be used against missiles, drones, aircraft, and (of course) people. Lasers travel at 186,000 miles per second and can travel for many miles, even across outer space. Then there are microwaves. We’ve been using them for years to cook a potato. The Air Force developed an ADS — Active Denial System — that can heat the water in a human’s skin to cause excruciating pain. Sounds perfect for crowd control, unless you have some sort of conscience about how it may do permanent damage. Gulp. And all this without bullets or projectiles. No need to bring in ammunition trucks — as long as you have electricity, you can zap away. And they won’t even know what hit them. Some of these weapons are already mounted on tanks and Humvees. They can be mounted on aircraft, too, naturally. Then there are smaller “anti-drone rifles” that send out electromagnetic pulses. They can be hand carried by police and run on batteries. I guess they keep going, and going, and going…

In just a short time I was enlightened, and I’m not sure I’m happy about it. There’s one thing for sure — if the government admits to the capabilities of their weapons, it’s a pretty sure bet that they are way more powerful than they claim. I hope the neighborhood bully doesn’t get his hand on one of these scary devices. He could presumably make my skin boil or set my car and garage on fire from afar, and I wouldn’t even be able to see or prove it. No bullet to examine; no gasoline trail and burnt matches lying around. Yes, it’s a scary world. At least, a club is obviously made to hit things and a bayonet to cut or jab. The days of recognizing weapons are over. The days of recognizing your enemy are over. Worst thing is, I don’t even know what’s in those black boxes on the train, much less know how to defend against them.

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