On War Stories, we often focus on what’s happening at the proverbial tip of the spear: the latest and greatest, at least for the time, weapons platforms, how militaries shifted their fighting styles to accommodate these technologies, and what it felt like to use these on the frontlines of the battlefield. After all, those weapons are what gets top billing when we talk about the most interesting parts of warfare. What we sometimes miss are all the bits and pieces that make those weapons effective: camouflage patterns in clothing that allow soldiers to hide in their environments, infrared glint tape that helps designate friend from foe to aircraft up above a battlefield, shipping containers that changed the way militaries could move, to only name a few.
War Stories: Loose Rounds, a mini-series produced by War Stories and Nammo, takes a look at the things that make the gears of a military turn smoothly. In each episode of the show, which comes out monthly in-between War Stories’ regular season episodes, Adin Dobkin and Angry Staff Officer look at an underexplored technology and trace its effect on the battlefield. They share stories of how it made a crucial difference at a key moment in history, what new and entirely unexpected uses might’ve been developed for it by an enterprising supply sergeant, and just generally nerd out about all the things they couldn’t quite fit into a normal War Stories season.
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Episode One: Mortars
In our first episode of Loose Rounds, a mini-series produced in partnership with Nammo, we discuss the humble mortar. You know, the tubes that fire grenade-looking munitions into the air? It turns out they have a far deeper and wider history than you might’ve expected. We trace that path and all the ingenious things people have done with them in the meantime.
Episode Two: Blood Transfusions
For something so central to our lives, the role of blood wasn’t something we could explain for much of our history. We knew it was important, and when someone was bleeding out on the battlefield, you needed to fix them, but just how you would go about doing that was a source of constant trial and error. In the second Loose Rounds discussion, Adin and Angry Staff Officer look at how blood transfusions came into being on the battlefield and how it changed how wars were fought.
Episode Three: Logistics
Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics. Right? In the third episode of the series, Adin and Staffer discuss the incorporation of logistics into professional militaries and how, in some ways, logistics helped bring about an international trading system.
Episode Four: Communications
Until someone invents a solution to time travel, distance on the battlefield will define how wars are fought. Communications have attempted to solve for this problem since wars first began: first with runners, up to the present day with radio communications. But how much have things really changed over those thousands of years? Angry Staff Officer and Adin take a look.
Episode Five: Field Rations
Members of the military oftentimes talk about how little they need to get by. Without the creature comforts the everyday person may come to expect. But there’s one thing they’ve needed from the first days we fought wars. Food. In this episode of Loose Rounds, Angry Staff Officer and Adin take a look at the history of eating in the field and whether there’s a higher purpose to field rations than jamming it full of calories, protein, and vitamins.
Episode Six: Cartography
Before compasses, sextants, and the telescope, there was the map. They were simple things to begin with. Then they became essential, allowing explorers and conquerors to leave their home lands for far off destinations. Then they became something even more.
Episode Seven: Ship Construction
For nearly as long as people have been fighting, they’ve had ships to take them to the fight, or to use as weapons of war themselves. From the coracle to the trireme to the battleship, has there been an overall arc toward the perfect naval vessel?
Episode Eight: The Wheel
What’s the simplest item that’s changed the shape of warfare? The bullet? The boot? How about the humble wheel? In this episode of Loose Rounds, Adin and Angry Staff Officer trace the development of the wheel throughout history, and how it’s shaped how wars are fought on and off the battlefield.