Stinger: The Hacked Machine Gun Of Iwo Jima

During the Second World War, the United States was pumping out weapons, aircraft, and tanks at an absolutely astonishing rate. The production of military vehicles and equipment was industrialized like never before, and with luck, never will be again. But even still, soldiers overseas would occasionally find themselves in unique situations that required hardware that the factories back at home couldn’t provide them with.

A Stinger machine gun in WWII

Which is precisely how a few United States Marines designed and built the “Stinger” light machine gun (LMG) during the lead-up to the invasion of Iwo Jima in 1945. The Stinger was a Browning .30 caliber AN/M2, salvaged from a crashed or otherwise inoperable aircraft, that was modified for use by infantry. It was somewhat ungainly, and as it was designed to be cooled by the air flowing past it while in flight, had a tendency to overheat quickly. But even with those shortcomings it was an absolutely devastating weapon; with a rate of fire at least twice that of the standard Browning machine guns the Marines had access to at the time.

Six Stingers were produced, and at least on a Battalion level, were officially approved for use in combat. After seeing how successful the weapon was during the invasion of Iwo Jima, there was even some talk of putting the Stinger into larger scale production and distributing them. But the war ended before such a plan could be put into place.

As such, the Stinger is an exceedingly rare example of a field modified weapon that was not only produced in significant numbers, but officially recognized and even considered for adoption by the military. But the story of this hacked machine gun actually started years earlier and thousands of kilometers away, as Allied forces battled for control of the Solomon Islands.

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Abraham Wald’s Problem Solving Lesson Is To Seek What’s Not There

You may not know the name Abraham Wald, but he has a very valuable lesson you can apply to problem solving, engineering, and many other parts of life. Wald worked for the Statistical Research Group (SRG) during World War II. This was part of a top secret organization in the United States that applied elite mathematical talent to help the allies win the war. Near Columbia University, mathematicians and computers — the human kind — worked on problems ranging from how to keep an enemy plane under fire longer to optimal bombing patterns.

One of Wald’s ways to approach problem was to look beyond the data in front of him. He was looking for things that weren’t there, using their absence as an additional data point. It is easy to critique things that are present but incorrect. It is harder to see things that are missing. But the end results of this technique were profound and present an object lesson we can still draw from today.

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