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November 16, 2018

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Short Rounds

The Great Iroquois-Huron War

The greatest war known among the aboriginal inhabitants of North American prior to the arrival of the European was that between the Iroquois and the Huron. The feud was old, having endured centuries, for the Huron, originally settled in Ontario, were desirous of moving into New York. This constant pressure had been a factor in the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy by the legendary Hiawatha and Dekanawidah in the late sixteenth century, which united the Seneca, Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga, and Oneida into a league that would ultimately come to dominate a major chunk of North America.

The final phase of struggle took place after Europeans had begun to settle North America. In 1609 the French intruded themselves into the quarrel when the explorer Samuel de Champlain used firearms to help the Huron defeat an Iroquois war party near the site where Fort Ticonderoga would later be built, in upper New York. By 1627, the Huron, with French support and guns, had effectively driven the Iroquois out of the Valley of the St. Lawrence. The French intrusion into the ancient Iroquois-Huron conflict touched off a struggle that ultimately had enormous strategic implications not only for the as yet unborn United States of America but for the entire world.

The Iroquois sought support from the Dutch, then just settling in the Hudson Valley, and later the English, who seized New York from the Dutch in 1664. Termed by one historian “the only people north of the Rio Grande who consistently practiced every principle of war at all times,” in 1648 the Iroquois, who could field some 16,000 warriors, began a devastating series of campaigns that in a generation saw them harry their foes relentlessly from New York across the Great Lakes and into Canada, until the Huron and anyone who offered them aid had been effectively exterminated. This established the Iroquois as the dominant military power in a broad swathe on both sides of the St. Lawrence River, a position which they would hold for over a century, despite the increasing encroachments of European settlers, and make a critical contribution to the expulsion of the French from North America by the British in the mid-eighteenth century.

 

The B-40 "Escort Bomber"

In late 1942, the lack of long range fighter aircraft capable of escorting bombers against targets in Germany led the Army Air Forces to proposal creation of an “escort bomber,” a “fleet defense” version of the standard B-17. In November 1942, a standard B-17F was modified with a chin turret, an additional dorsal turret, and twin machine guns in the waist, giving the aircraft seven gun positions, one chin turret, two dorsal turrets, a ball turret, two twin waist positions, and the tail, for a total of fourteen .50 machine guns. Designated the XB-40, this first flew on November 10, 1942.

The experiment seemed promising, so 20 prototypes were ordered, as the YB-40. In the spring of 1943, the 327th Bomb Squadron of the 92nd Bomb Group, at the RAF field at Alconbury, was assigned twelve of these. The YB-40s first mission was on 29 May 1943, and was not very successful. After a couple of more tries, the whole project was called off. The weight of the additional machine guns, plus the overly generous supply of ammunition, brought the aircraft up to about 63,000 pounds, which meant that the YB-40 could barely keep up with regular B-17s, which weighed 56,500 pounds with a normal bomb load.

The project was cancelled, and the aircraft involved converted back to standard B-17F configuration. There was one useful result from the experiment, the chin turret was later made standard on the B-17G.

 

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