20 Fascinating Cold War Events and Vignettes

20 Fascinating Cold War Events and Vignettes

Khalid Elhassan - January 17, 2019

20 Fascinating Cold War Events and Vignettes
Original M16 rifle, top, without the forward assist which first appeared in the upgraded M16A1, bottom. Gun Digest

1. The Introduction of the M16 Rifle Was Disastrous

When the first version of the M16 rifle was introduced to the US military, it was billed as a self cleaning rifle. No such weapon has ever existed. The military also issued cartridges with propellant that was dirtier than what the M16 had been designed to use. Making it worse, the troops were neither issued cleaning kits, nor taught how to clean their new rifles. On top of that, the firing chamber lacked chrome plating, leading to increased corrosion. When the inevitable jamming resulted, the original M16s lacked a forward assist – a device to manually push the bolt fully forward if it failed to do so on its own.

The consequences were disastrous. Troops in Vietnam reported that the new rifle was prone to jamming, and before long, dramatic stories were making the rounds, of entire patrols wiped out. As tales told it, their bodies were discovered next to their jammed rifles, their dead hands clutching cleaning rods, testimony to their last harrowing moments on earth, spent in feverish attempts at clearing stuck cartridges. It took the introduction of an upgraded M16A1, and the issuance of cleaning kits and teaching the troops how to care for their rifle, to remedy the situation.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Air Force Special Operations Command – Historian Recounts Son Tay Raid Nearly Four Decades Later

Association For Diplomatic Studies and Training – The Assassination of Anwar Sadat

CNN, November 18th, 2013 – One JFK Conspiracy Theory That Could be True

Cracked – 4 Stories From the Cold War That’ll Keep You Up at Night

Encyclopedia Britannica – Pol Pot

Halberstam, David – The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War (2008)

NPR, January 2nd, 2012 – What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits

Ohio History Central – Kent State Shootings

Shabak – Yisrael Bar (1961)

Smithsonian Magazine, November 25th, 2015 – Reagan and Gorbachev Agreed to Pause the Cold War in Case of Alien Invasion

ThoughtCo – Ferdinand Marcos, Dictator of the Philippines

Vanity Fair, June 1st, 2008 – Lost in Enemy Airspace

Wikipedia – Guerrillero Heroico

Wikipedia – Operation Focus