Best Defense

Things I didn’t know: The bow and arrow in WWII, Cessna’s military jet, and where will Iran’s militias operate after Iraq?

Things Tom Ricks didn't know, and a couple things he still doesn't know.

DAYTON, Ohio -- Cessna YA-37A Dragonfly at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio -- Cessna YA-37A Dragonfly at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally appeared on March 20, 2015.

Things I didn’t know:

–In 1940, a British officer killed a German soldier in France with a shot from a bow and arrow.

–I didn’t know that Cessna built a military jet.

–“An Air Force salute” is Marine slang for the shrug of “I don’t know.” (But I must say in 25 years of being around the U.S. military, I have never heard this term.)

–Supposedly, “at least 20 Americans were executed for desertion” from the Communist-run International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

–And something else that surprised me: An American pilot who joined the RAF in 1940 said that he was told he would be stripped of his citizenship for swearing allegiance to a foreign military and a foreign leader.

–The birth of airpower overpromising: In 1793, the Frenchman who invented the hot air balloon proposed building an enormous balloon to carry and drop a 30-ton explosive to destroy the royalist-held city of Toulon. (Instead, it was expelled by the artillery of a young captain named Napoleon Bonaparte.)

Finally, things I still don’t know: What will Iran’s militias do after they are finished in Iraq? I am guessing, first, move on to Syria. And then will they turn south, or west?

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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