Besides being amazed at stories of their prodigious speed, and his servicing the triple 12-cylinder, nearly 2,000 horsepower engines (the fastest Ferrari has 650hp, and your average car probably has 150hp or even less), my uncle was very fond of mystifying the "twin fifties." The twin fifties were the 50 caliber Browning M2 machine guns. The M2 is one of the world's most widely used American weapons. Developed during WW1, the Browning is a heavy machine gun that has to be mounted on some type of vehicle.
When I say "heavy" machine gun, I do mean heavy. First of all, it weighs an ungodly 130 pounds. Secondly, it can be used as an anti-aircraft weapon. Finally, it fires a .50 caliber round. Here's a comparison picture from another blog, showing the bullet:
It's on the far left. My Tavor, and the M16, shoots the one
second to the right.
OK, now that you have an idea of just how huge and powerful and scary and "heavy" the Browning Machine Gun is, let me tell you why I'm talking about it anyway. Earlier this month we were at a training base where you learn all about heavy weaponry. One of those heavy weapons was the Browning .50, which is a key tool in any modern army. I'm not giving away any secrets whatsoever when I say I was drooling over the .50s mounted on tops of Hummers and APCs and the like.
You see, all my life I always thought about the army, in some way or another. My great-uncle the PT sailor, and especially my grandfather, a POW lead B-24 bombardier in WW2, incessantly told me stories about their experiences. My childhood was shaped by the notion that the army is, in some way, what great men do. Grandpa Brothers was a hero to me, a man who owned life and did with it as he wanted, and his war stories are easily the thing I remember best of my childhood. My great-uncle and his stories of all-out combat on the high seas were right up there too.
So many of those stories were centered around heavy firepower, too. The twin fifties. And now all of a sudden I find myself in an army, beyond all expectations, and here I am, lugging around the very same machine gun that was the protagonist of some of my favorite childhood stories! I realize it may seem terrible to glorify a vicious tool of war, but one can't help the fantasies of youth creeping into the reality of adulthood.
So as I struggled to move this behemoth block of steel from one area of the base to another, I was magically transported to the Pacific Ocean, blowing diving kamikazes out of sky, shooting down German Messerschmitts, and strafing Nazi airfields. I guess it felt kind of good to feel like an "army man," as I envisioned those that dealt with tools like these. I think I felt a little bit like my heroes.
But then again, would I have the guts to do what they did? I really don't think so. They were a part of the greatest generation, and their use of such machinery was spurred by a true quest for freedom against tyranny.
But to feel like your heroes, even for a moment...
I will refrain from posting pictures that might exist of the author with said machine gun.