Al Nofi's CIC
|| Issue #25, March 7, 2001
- Infinite Wisdom
- la Triviata
- Short Rounds
- The Air Gun That Went to War
- "Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away"
- Testimony of the Witnesses:
"Thinking deeply about the future of war requires careful reflection on its past."
--Robert F. Baumann,
- During World War II the United States shipped 12 tons of arms, equipment, and supporting materiel with every soldier, sailor, or marine who went overseas, and followed that up with an additional ton of rations, clothing, medicines, ammunition, and miscellaneous supplies each month service member was abroad.
- In 1914 the daily bread ration of a French army corps filled eight boxcars.
- Incensed with the resistance offered by the town of Weinsburg in 1141, when finally it finally surrendered Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III ordered that only the women and children be permitted to leave the town, with whatever they could carry, whereupon these worthies carried out their husbands and fathers.
- In 207 B.C. the Romans notified Hannibal that an army marching to his relief had been defeated by catapulting his brother Hasdrubal's head into his camp.
- During the British retreat to Dunkirk in May of 1940, Capt. John Churchill, an officer with a sense of history and a devout toxophilite, had the distinction of doing in a member of a German patrol with a longbow.
- Among its other distinctions, the famed U.S.S. Monitor was the first warship to have flush toilets.
- Col. Pedro Tortolo, who commanded the Cuban forces in Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury in 1983, abandoned his troops for the security of the Soviet embassy so quickly that his men later joked that he should enter the Olympic Games as a sprinter or perhaps endorse a line of running shoes.
- Among the many forces from all over Europe who converged on Vienna to support the Austrians against the Turkish siege in 1683 was a battalion of mounted noblemen under Prince George of Hanover, later King George I of England.
The Air Gun That Went to War
Usually thought of as a relatively harmless device for diversion or vandalism, the air gun once had a shining moment of military glory.
In the 1780's, a Milanese gunsmith named Girondoni invented an air-powered musket with impressive characteristics. He then spent years convincing the skeptical and conservative Austrian military authorities to give the piece a trial. Eventually they reluctantly gave in and consented to a test of the weapon's qualities. They found, to their amazement, that the performance of the Girondoni air gun was fully equal to that of any conventional military musket and not particularly more expensive, whilst having the virtue of being almost totally silent. After a few more experiments, the army was won over.
In 1795, Austria began to equip some light infantry units with the Girondoni air gun. The weapon performed well against the French during the campaigns of 1795-1800, including the two conducted against Napoleon in Italy in 1796-1797 and 1800. Operationally, the Girondoni air gun could be quite devastating in combat. The lack noise was apparently made it particularly useful in ambushes, which tended to be even more effective than those executed with conventional muskets, since the absence of sound made it more difficult for the defenders to organize an effective response.
Despite its credible performance in the field, however, the air gun was not "soldier proof." Changing the air bottle required a steady hand, and its mechanisms could damaged easily if mistreated. Careful training was required to insure that the troops treated the weapon with respect. Under the exigencies of war, of course, training had to be somewhat slipshod. In 1801, the Girondoni was retired from service.