AD -1 - History

AD -1 - History

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Manufacturer: Douglas

Engines: Wright R-3550

Speed: 365 MPH

Range: 1,500 miles

Ceiling: 25,000ft

Wingspan: 50ft 9 inch

Length: 39ft

First Flight: 3/18/45

Total Produced:3160

The Spread of the Early Church

How did the early Christian church survive? Humanly speaking, the odds were all stacked against it.

It was unthinkable that a small, despised movement from a corner of Palestine could move out to become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire, an empire steeped in fiercely defended traditional pagan religions. The spread of the Christian church in its earliest centuries is one of the most amazing phenomena in all of human history. The church was considered a religio prava , an illegal and depraved religion. Wave after wave of persecution was unleashed to squash it. At least two of the persecutions were empire-wide and intended to destroy the church. So how did this young fledgling movement make it?

More than a building
The earliest Christians did not have church buildings. They typically met in homes. (The first actual church building to be found is at Dura Europos on the Euphrates, dating about 231.) They did not have public ceremonies that would introduce them to the public. They had no access to the mass media of their day. So how can we account for their steady and diverse expansion over the first three centuries?

After the Apostle Paul, we do not run across many "big names" as missionaries in the first few hundred years of Christian history. Instead the faith spread through a multitude of humble, ordinary believers whose names have been long forgotten.

To the cities!
Early Christianity was primarily an urban faith, establishing itself in the city centers of the Roman Empire. Most of the people lived close together in crowded tenements. There were few secrets in such a setting. The faith spread as neighbors saw the lives of the believers close-up, on a daily basis.

And what kind of lives did they lead? Justin Martyr, a noted early Christian theologian, wrote to Emperor Antoninus Pius and described the believers: "We formerly rejoiced in uncleanness of life, but now love only chastity before we used the magic arts, but now dedicate ourselves to the true and unbegotten God before we loved money and possessions more than anything, but now we share what we have and to everyone who is in need before we hated one another and killed one another and would not eat with those of another race, but now since the manifestation of Christ, we have come to a common life and pray for our enemies and try to win over those who hate us without just cause."

In another place Justin points out how those opposed to Christianity were sometimes won over as they saw the consistency in the lives of believers, noting their extraordinary forbearance when cheated and their honesty in business dealings.

Word games with "Our Father"
Perhaps we can better understand the remarkable spread of the faith by remembering what a jolt it must have been to the Roman world for the early Christians to come teaching about God as "Our Father." In that world, people felt, like so many do today, they were at the mercy of fate, victims of chance, dependent on luck, their destiny determined by blind astrological forces. By contrast, Christian believers witnessed to a personal God who could be approached as "our Father." This radical idea liberated those who were captive to fatalistic resignation.

An indirect testimony to the importance of this is perhaps found in this mysterious Latin word square that has been found in many places from England to Mesopotamia. Two were found at Pompeii which would have to date back to before 79 AD when the city was destroyed. See how the words can be spelled forwards and backwards in any column or line.

The letters can be rearranged in a cross to Paternoster ("Our Father" in Latin) twice with "A" and "O" left over. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet - Alpha and Omega, a New Testament designation of Christ

Care and Prayer
Christians became known as those who cared for the sick. Many were known for the healing that resulted from their prayers. Christians also started the first "Meals on Wheels." By the year 250, they were feeding more than 1500 of the hungry and destitute in Rome every day.

When Emperor Julian ("the Apostate") wanted to revive pagan religion in the mid-300s, he gave a most helpful insight into how the church spread. This opponent of the faith said that Christianity "has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the [Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them."

On the surface, the early Christians appeared powerless and weak, they were an easy target for scorn and ridicule. They had no great financial resources, no buildings, no social status, no government approval, no respect from the educators. And after they became separated from their first-century association with the Jewish synagogues, they lacked institutional backing and an ancient tradition to appeal to.

But what finally mattered is what they did have. They had a faith. They had a fellowship. They had a new way of life. They had a confidence that their Lord was alive in heaven and guiding their daily lives. These were the important things. And it made all the difference in laying a Christian foundation for all of Western civilization.

Our own amazing times
In many ways the spread of Christianity in our present generation is as amazing as in the first three centuries. For example, over the past 40 years the church under the communist regime in China has multiplied many times over. Despite official opposition, they have developed a rapidly spreading network of house churches that is reminiscent of the early church. This success is mirrored in many other places around the globe.

World map 1 AD

Primary Sources for East-Hem_001ad.jpg:

  1. The DK Atlas of World History, 2000 Edition. Map of “The World in 1 CE”. (Pgs 42-43)
  2. John Nelson. Interactive Historical Atlas of the World since 500BCE. Map of “Countries of the World 1/1/001 CE.”

World History Maps Inc., Alexandria, VA, 2008. Available at

  1. Euratlas. Periodical Historical Atlas of Europe. Map of “Europe in 001 AD”.
  2. User:Javierfv1212. Map of the “World_1_CE”. Available on Wikipedia.
  3. Bruce Gordon. Regnal Chronologies.

* North Africa borders and tribal locations are from:

* Sub-Saharan Africa tribal locations are from:

(Bantus, Berbers, Chadians, Cushites, Garamantes, Gur, Khoisans, Mandes, Nilotics, West Atlantic Peoples, etc.)

Note: Asian information is derived primarily from a combination of these sources:

  1. The DK Atlas of World History. Map of “The World in 1 CE”. Pgs 42-43.
  2. John Nelson. Interactive Historical Atlas of the World. Map of “Countries of the World 1/1/001 CE.”

* Caucasian borders ( Albania , Armenia , Colchis , Iberia , and Lazica)

* Central Asia peoples and borders are derived from:

  1. John Nelson. Interactive Historical Atlas of the World. Map of the “Countries of the World 1/1/001 CE.”
  2. Joseph Schwartzberg. The Historical Atlas of South Asia. Map of “The Satavahana-Saka-Kushana Age 1-300ad”.
  3. David Christian.A History of Russia, Central Asia, & Mongolia, Vol 1. Pgs 210-218.

* Chinese Empire (Han Dynasty) borders:

* Greater India (Including modern Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan):

* Kashmir (Chach) is described in:

* Korean & Manchurian information is from:

* Pahlava (Indo-Parthian) Empire borders derive from:

  1. John Nelson. Interactive Historical Atlas of the World. Map of “Countries of the World 1/1/001 CE.” . Article about the Indo-Parthian Kingdom. . Article about the Parthians. (States King Artabanus of Parthia faced the “Pahlava dynasty”,

possibly the Surena family, along the empire’s eastern border).

* Parthian Empire borders derive from:

* Southeast Asian borders: (Funan, Sa Huynh Culture, Malay Kingdoms, Pyu Cities, etc.)

  1. Joseph Schwartzberg. The Historical Atlas of South Asia. Map of “Southeast Asia to AD 650”. Pg 30.
  2. The DK Atlas of World History, 2000 edition. Map of “Southeast Asia to 650 CE”. Pg 241.

* Southwest Asia (Parthian Empire, Indo-Scythians, Tocharians/Yuezhi, etc.)

  1. Wikipedia. Articles about the Indo-Scythians, the Kushan Empire, and Kushan King Heraios.
  2. The DK Atlas of World History, 2000 edition. Map of “Wars of Parthia & Rome, 53 BCE -217 CE”. Pg 224.

III – European Information

* European information is derived from:

Note: Much of the information in this map was cross-checked with Bruce Gordon’s Regnal Chronologies.

Roman Empire
Tiberius, under order of Emperor Augustus, quells revolts in Germania (AD 1–5).[1]
Quirinius becomes a chief advisor to Gaius in Armenia.
Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus serves in the Armenia campaigns.

Confucius is given his first royal title (posthumous name) of Lord Baochengxun Ni.
Sapadbizes, Yuezhi prince and king of Kush (Bactria), dies. Heraios succeeds him as king.

The Kingdom of Aksum, centered in modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, is founded (approximate date).
Amanishakheto, queen of Kush (Nubia), dies. Her son, Natakamani, becomes king of Kush.

Moxos ceases to be a significant religious area in South America (approximate date).[clarification needed]
The Teotihuacan culture in Mesoamerica begins (approximate date).
The Olmec 2 phase of the Olmec civilization begins San Lorenzo and La Venta grow in population.

Historical Snapshot

The Douglas Skyraider, with its straight, low-mounted, tapered wings, was the only aircraft of its time capable of delivering 8,000 pounds (3630 kilogram) of bombs with dive-bombing precision against such difficult targets as mountain bridges and hydroelectric dams. The AD-4B could deliver nuclear bombs using the &ldquotoss-bombing&rdquo or &ldquoover-the-shoulder&rdquo bombing technique.

The first AD-1 Skyraider was delivered in 1946 and named according to the Douglas tradition of starting the names of U.S. Navy aircraft with &ldquoSky.&rdquo When the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force numbering systems merged in 1951, the &ldquoAD&rdquo series Skyraiders were redesignated as &ldquoA&rdquo series aircraft.

Before production ceased in 1957, 12 years after the airplane was introduced, Douglas built 3,180 Skyraiders in 28 variations. These included carrier- or land-based airplanes, day or night attack bombers, and versions for photographic reconnaissance, electronic countermeasures, airborne early warning, utility and search missions.

Different configurations carried a pilot in an enclosed cockpit, a pilot and another person (either a radar operator or a co-pilot), and a pilot and two other crew. The AD/A-5 could carry a crew of four, plus four passengers or 12 troops, four stretchers, or 2,000 pounds of cargo.

During the Korean War, Skyraiders first saw action over the Korean Peninsula in July 1950, and by 1955, there were 29 Navy Skyraider squadrons on carriers.


I am a Christian and cannot sacrifice to the gods. I heartily thank Almighty God who is pleased to set me free from the chains of this body." With these bold words, spoken in front of hundreds of onlookers, Cyprian faced persecution under Emperor Valerian. Many of the pagans standing by were deeply moved.

Cyprian was well-known to them. As Bishop of Carthage, he was an eminent figure in North Africa. But even before becoming a church leader he had been notable man.

Born into wealth around 200, Cyprian inherited a large estate. Like Augustine, another North African of fame, he trained in rhetoric. Curiously it was this training which brought him to Christ. Genuinely gifted as a speaker, he opened his own school of rhetoric. As part of the course he debated philosophers and Christians. Convinced by the arguments of Coecilius, a Christian elder, he became a convert when he was about 45 years old. Immediately he applied for admission to the church, was baptized, and soon after ordained to ministry. "A second birth created me a new man by means of the Spirit breathed from heaven," he wrote. With zeal, he gave away his wealth and devoted himself to poverty, celibacy and Bible studies.

He didn't want the job
Upon the death of Bishop Donatus in 248, less than two years after his conversion, and over his protests, the people elected him Bishop of Carthage.

Pontius, one of his clergy, wrote an admiring biography telling how his countenance was joyous, and that he was a man to be both revered and loved.

But well might Cyprian protest his election! His task was never easy. Many older men felt slighted by his swift ascendancy and begrudged him his office. Among the clergy were others who neglected their duties. Cyprian disciplined them, and this increased resentment against him. In 250, the persecution by Emperor Decian broke out. Cyprian as a church leader became a marked man. The pagans shouted, "Cyprian to the lions!" But the bishop managed to escape into hiding. His presence in Carthage would intensify persecution, he explained. Writing letters, he tried to hold the church together in his absence. This was not easy, for the Christians who had stayed and endured suffering looked down on Cyprian. In 251 Gallus became emperor and Cyprian returned to his church.

Those who had stood firm under suffering called themselves "the confessors." They gained great prestige from this. Others had renounced their faith. These were called the "lapsed." The confessors opposed Cyprian over readmitting the lapsed to the church, saying that a claim of repentance should be the sole condition of restoration. Cyprian insisted on stricter terms. Eventually a council of bishops decided that the lapsed would be readmitted if they repented. Those who had obtained certificates saying they had sacrificed (without actually doing so) would also be accepted if certain conditions were met. All would have to appear in church in sackcloth and ashes. Lapsed clergy would be readmitted only on the point of death. The "confessors" broke away to form their own church. Cyprian's enemies elected a rival bishop, Cecilianus by name.

Controversy Continues in Church
Similar problems were encountered in Roman areas. There was a priest named Novitian, arguing that even the earthly church consisted only of God's elect. He was stricter than Cyprian and would readmit no lapsed person to fellowship. Bishop Cornelius of Rome excommunicated Novitian and his followers. For many years a Novitian church existed side by side with the Roman Catholic community.

Cyprian was willing to accept the relapsed but not those who had been baptized by one of the splinter groups (such as the Novitians) unless they were rebaptized. He argued that there was only one spirit and one church and "how can he who lacks the Spirit confer the Spirit's gifts?" The Roman bishop Stephen ordered him to accept the baptism of splinter groups so long as it was done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Cyprian protested but obeyed under threat of excommunication. A council at Arles and the famous Nicean Council later upheld Stephen's decision.

These controversies brought forth from Cyprian his most influential book, Unity of the Church. In it he argued that the church is not the community of those who are already saved. Instead, it is an ark of salvation for all men, a school for sinners. Today many Protestants accept this teaching but refuse to accept Cyprian's other claim that the bishops of the church, as the heirs of the apostles, are the agents through whom God dispenses grace.

Cyprian was concerned to know who can speak for the church. Without the bishops there is no church, he taught and outside the church there is no salvation. His cryptic and memorable assertion was, "He who has not the church for his mother, has not God for his Father." Protestants argue that where two or three are gathered in Christ's name, Christ is with them and they clinch their case with Peter's words which describe every Christian as a priest (1 Peter 2:9). Cyprian's book has long been used by the Roman Catholic church to buttress its position on the role of the clergy and apostolic succession.

Love Your Enemies
Controversy did not relax to the very end of Cyprian's life. When a fearsome plague erupted in 252-4, everyone was abandoning the sick in the streets. People rushed about in terror. Cyprian instructed the Christians to care for the sick, including dying pagans. The people obeyed, despite the fact the pagans blamed them for the disease and persecuted them. Soon after Bishop Cyprian was brought before the pro-consul Aspasius Paternus. Aspasius banished him to a town by the sea. When Aspasius died, Cyprian returned to Carthage. He was seized by the new governor and condemned to death. At the place of execution, he knelt in prayer and tied the bandage over his eyes with his own hand. To the executioner he gave a piece of gold. Thus he was beheaded on September 14, 258, retaining his bold confession to the end.

What Unity Meant to Cyprian

Did Cyprian Defer to Stephen I as Bishop of Rome?
The bishops of Rome were not yet called popes when Cyprian and Stephen I clashed. Stephen, a Roman, became bishop of Rome in 253 and died a martyr in 257. His short time as bishop is best remembered for its clash with Cyprian. What view did Cyprian take of the bishop of Rome? When Stephen commanded Cyprian to accept individuals baptized by splinter churches, saying, "Let there be no innovation beyond what was handed down," Cyprian immediately called another African council which reiterated the African stand on the issue in defiance of Stephen.

Cyprian's writings show that while he respected the special position of the bishop of Rome, he did not accept his primacy.

AD and BC

And 2000 AD almost means 2000 years after Jesus was born .

. except AD started at 1, not 0

So, 2 AD is actually 1 Year after Jesus was born
And 2000 AD is actually 1999 Years after Jesus was born.

But we don't really know WHEN Jesus was born!

Some historians put the actual birth of Jesus 4 years earlier (4 BC), but it WAS thought to be exactly at 1 AD.

A monk named Dionysius Exiguus calculated his own present year to be 525 AD

And if you continue counting years from then you get our current year number.

So, AD is now just a "Year Number" (every New Year we add 1), and it only roughly equals how many years ago that Jesus Christ was born.


* The Skyraider remained an important Navy / Marine asset following the Korean War, with colors changing in 1957 from the old overall blue to the new white belly / gull gray top standard Navy colors. The Skyraider began to be slowly replaced in service in 1956 by the A4D Skyhawk, but the Spad remained in service for over a decade more -- in fact, it put in considerable overtime during the Vietnam War.

US Navy Skyraiders were among the first aircraft to perform strikes on North Vietnam with the escalation of the conflict in 1964. For four years, the Spad would prove its value in close-support missions over South Vietnam and incursions into North Vietnam. Ground-pounders really liked the Skyraider, since it had a heavy bombload, was capable of very accurate strikes, and could remain over the battle area for far longer than a jet "fast mover".

The Spad proved particularly well suited to the helicopter escort mission, accompanying flights of troop helicopters to provide firepower against threats in the landing zone, and also providing security to help protect air rescue helicopters retrieving downed aircrews. Typical ordnance for such missions included cluster bombs, mine dispensers, unguided rocket pods -- sometimes with rockets fitted with smoke warheads to mark the ground -- and SUU-11 7.62-millimeter Gatling Minigun pods, better for antipersonnel work than the Spad's own powerful and relatively slow-firing 20-millimeter cannon.

Navy Skyraiders even scored a few air-to-air "kills" against incautious North Vietnamese pilots. On 20 June 1965, Lieutenants Charles Hartman and Clinton Johnson, each flying an A-1H, were credited with shooting down a MiG-17 with cannon fire their flight had been attacked by MiGs, with the Spads then dumping their stores and going into a circle, where each could protect the tail of the other. A MiG-17 tried to break into the circle, and was promptly blown out of the sky. On 9 October 1966 Lieutenant JG William T. Patton, also flying an A-1H, shot down a MiG-17, again with cannon fire. However, as the war dragged on adversary air defenses steadily improved, and the elderly Spad became increasingly vulnerable -- despite attempts to improve its survivability, for example by carriage of an AN/ALQ-81 jammer pod on the centerline pylon. The last Navy Spad missions were flown at the end of 1968, with most of the aircraft being placed in storage on retirement. The last Navy / Marine Skyraiders were out of service by 1972.

The US Air Force also operated the Skyraider over Vietnam. In 1962, a Special Warfare Center was established at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to evaluate various aircraft that might be useful in counter-insurgency role. Aircraft that were evaluated and went into combat include the Douglas B-26 Invader, the North American T-28, and the Spad. The evaluation of the Skyraider convinced the Air Force of the particular merit of the type, and so the USAF obtained 150 hand-me-down A-1E Skyraiders from the Navy. Air Force Skyraiders were in combat by 1964. They were modified for dual controls, and at least initially flow "cooperatively", with a South Vietnamese pilot in principle backed up by a USAF pilot -- though the South Vietnamese pilot was often just "along for the ride".

The USAF later obtained hand-me-down A-1H machines. Typical colors of these machines were light gray on the belly, with a disruptive pattern of light brown and green on top some photos show machines painted black on the belly, presumably for night action. Air Force Spads were heavily used in the "Sandy" role, named for the radio callsign, protecting rescue helicopters in fact, Air Force Spads remained in combat in Vietnam up to the final withdrawal of US forces in 1972.

Historical Maps

The Periodis-Web shows the historical evolution of Europe through a sequence of 21 historical maps, every map depicting the political situation at the end of each century.

Altorient, the Historical Atlas of the Ancient Orient offers 30 history maps of Southeastern Europe and Middle East in the Antiquity: 1 map per century from 300 B.C. until 3300 B.C.

Hisatlas illustrates the history of political boundaries with a comprehensive selection of political and historical maps from 1789 to the present days.

Various historical atlases available in the Euratlas Shop: Periodis Expert, Altorient, Hisatlas, Germany 1789.

Reconstructed maps of the seven original hills, the 14 Augustean districts of Rome and active map of Rome in year 100 AD.

Vector and historical geographical information system maps available in the Euratlas Shop.

A video animation showing the countries of Europe, at the exact end of each century, from year 1 to year 2000 AD.

Blank maps version of '2000 Names 2000 Colors'. The soundtrack is a Ranz des Vaches in Franco-Provençal dialect.

Watch a video showing how to create custom history maps with the software Euratlas Periodis Expert. Fast animation with a lively medieval music.

A brief history of Europe, from AD 1 to AD 1000 with maps, pictures and concise explanation.

Able Dog: Was the AD Skyraider the Best Attack Bomber Ever Built?

A perfect example of this air-to-ground workhorse, the Military Aviation Museum's impressive Douglas AD-4 Skyraider has gone from gate guard to airshow star.

The AD Skyraider may have appeared underpowered, but it proved to be a top-notch attack bomber.

“The first time I saw a Skyraider, I wasn’t very impressed,” said former U.S. Marine Corps Captain William C. Smith. “After flying Corsairs, I thought it looked like a great big airplane with a little bitty engine.”

At that particular moment—July 1, 1952—Smith was a reservist, recalled for the duration of the Korean War, who had just arrived at P’Yong Taek airfield (K-6) in Korea for combat duty with Marine Attack Squadron 121. VMA-121 was equipped with Douglas AD-2 and -3 Skyraiders, a type of aircraft the 29-year-old aviator until that day had never seen, let alone flown. But Smith’s introduction to the AD was swift: According to his logbook, he received 4.3 hours’ checkout and familiarization time, after which he immediately began flying combat sorties in interdiction of enemy supply lines and close air support of UN troops. “My original opinion of the plane did a complete 180,” Smith recalled. “When you fly combat, you need to have confidence in your airplane, and after that first week there was no question in my mind that our ADs were the best planes in the world for the job expected of us, whether we were told to take out targets like rail yards or bridges or to provide close air support right down on the deck in front of the battle lines.” Smith added, “Even after all these years of progress, I believe the AD is still the best airplane ever made for close-in attack option…better, in fact, than anything flying today.”

The origins of the legendary Douglas Skyraider can be traced to two closely related events. The first was an announced change of the U.S. Navy’s air combat doctrine during World War II: The carrier battles of 1942 had taught naval strategists that a higher ratio of fighter aircraft was needed in its carrier air groups to protect the aircraft of the carrier’s strike force and maintain air superiority around the carrier itself. As a consequence, a decision was reached in early 1943 to downsize the complement of strike aircraft (i.e., Douglas SBDs or SB2Cs and Grumman/GM TBFs/TBMs) and replace them over time with one type of single-seat, multirole airplane under the new designation “bomber-torpedo” (BT). With extra fighter protection, strike aircraft would no longer need to carry gunners, and the weight normally associated with aircrew, guns and ammunition could be exchanged for ordnance load and greater range. Equipped with the newest radial engines—the 2,500-hp Wright R-3350 or the 3,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-4360—the new generation of BT types could be expected to lift twice the payload of existing SB2Cs and TBFs/TBMs. To optimize mission flexibility, BuAer (the Naval Bureau of Aeronautics) specified that most or all of the aircraft’s weapons load (bombs, torpedoes, rockets and/or mines) be carried underneath on external racks.

Chief engineer Ed Heinemann felt that Douglas could do better than its BTD-1 to meet the U.S. Navy’s need for a new bomber-torpedo aircraft. (NASA)

The second event occurred in June 1944, during an all-night work session in a Washington, D.C., hotel room. Just a few hours before dawn, Edward Heinemann, chief engineer of Douglas Aircraft Company’s El Segundo Division, and two members of his staff put the final touches on a set of aircraft drawings they intended to present to BuAer officials a few hours later. Most of the previous day, Heinemann had met with the same officials debating the pros and cons of his company entering in the Navy’s BT competition with its XBTD-1. The XBTD-1 was essentially a single-seat adaptation of Douglas’ short-lived XSB2D-1 Destroyer, which had flown a year before. Though the gunner’s position and related equipment had been removed, the design still retained the inverted gull wings, tricycle landing gear and internal bomb bay of its predecessor. In the fall of 1943, the Navy had gone so far as to give Douglas an order for 358 of the new type. Still, Heinemann was dubious about the BTD-1’s future, thinking it would probably be an interim stopgap until something better came along. Chief among his concerns was that, in the interval, three more bomber-torpedo designs had joined the competition: the Curtiss XBTC-1, the Kaiser-Fleetwings XBTK-1 and the Martin XBTM-1, all of which were being designed more closely to the new specification than the BTD. At the close of the previous day’s meeting, Heinemann had surprised BuAer officials by proposing that the BTD project be canceled altogether and the funds allocated instead to an entirely new BT design, the BT2D, which he would present to them in 30 days’ time. The Navy men liked everything about the idea except the extra 30 days: They informed Heinemann they wanted to see a presentation of his new design proposal at 9 the next morning!

Douglas’ prototype Skyraider, the XBT2D-1, was a far simpler design than the earlier BTD-1, with straight-tapered, low-mounted wings. (National Archives)

In truth, Heinemann wasn’t wholly unprepared. He and his top staff members, Leo Devlin and Gene Root, had for several weeks been sketching out ideas for a totally new design. Their latest conception had virtually nothing in common with the earlier BTD. Though using the same Wright R-3350 powerplant, it was a far simpler design, featuring a conventional tailwheel layout and straight-tapered, low-mounted wings beneath which all ordnance would be carried on external racks. For dive-bombing, rather than the common split-flap arrangement, the design called for three board-type speed brakes, which extended from the fuselage sides and belly. Gun armament consisted of two wing-mounted 20mm cannons.

After only a few hours’ sleep, Heinemann, Devlin and Root left the hotel early, giving themselves extra time to have blueprints made from the drawings. The presentation was over by late morning, and the three men were told to keep their seats and wait. By noon they got an answer: Douglas was authorized to cancel the BTD program and fund construction of 25 preproduction examples of the proposed model, the XBT2D-1. BuAer gave them exactly nine months to get the plane in the air. When Heinemann returned to the El Segundo plant, his instructions to his staff and employees were terse: “Nothing must interfere with the completion of this aircraft on schedule.”

Despite the successful conclusion of the BuAer meeting, Heinemann was conscious of the fact that he had committed his company to a risky game of catch-up. The Curtiss and Kaiser-Fleetwings prototypes were falling behind schedule, but Martin, with B-26 production winding down, was moving fast, and, indeed, got its R-4360-powered XBTM-1 flying by late August 1944. Martin’s plane, named the Mauler, had thus far achieved impressive performance—a maximum speed of 367 mph combined with the ability to lift a phenomenal payload of 8,500 pounds—but also exhibited unacceptable handling characteristics that would oblige the company to return it to the factory for time-consuming modifications. Even with its flaws, BuAer gave Martin a war­time order for 750 BTM-1s in hopes the major problems could be resolved before the plane was actually tooled for production.

An AD-2 carries 5-inch rockets, two 1,000-pound bombs and a Mk. 13 aerial torpedo during weapons trials, probably in 1948. (Courtesy of David W. Ostrowski)

The Mauler’s delays gave Douglas exactly what it needed most—a little more time. On March 19, 1945—almost nine months to the day from Heinemann’s meeting in Wash­ington—the first XBT2D-1 lifted off the runway at El Segundo. Such was the rush that the plane had flown with landing gear struts and wheels borrowed from a Vought Corsair and an older version of the R-3350 engine that didn’t produce the specified power. Even so, the XBT2D-1’s basic design proved to be excellent in every way: Empty weight was 10,093 pounds (4,200 pounds less than Martin’s XBTM-1), maximum payload was 7,400 pounds (73 percent of empty weight compared to the XBTM-1’s 59 percent) and flight trials indicated above-average handling qualities. Its 374 mph top speed was similar, but more notably, the XBT2D-1 was less complex overall, and thus cheaper to build and easier to maintain. Two months after the plane flew, BuAer was sufficiently impressed with Douglas’ efforts to award a wartime order for 548 BT2D-1s. The Curtiss XBTC-1 and the Kaiser-Fleetwings XBTK-1 both flew in the spring of 1945, but no orders were forthcoming. Heinemann’s gambit had so far paid off.

The huge government cutbacks that followed the end of World War II resulted in the Douglas contract being reduced to 277 BT2Ds and Martin’s to 149 BTMs. Further dampening their prospects was the latest notion that both designs were fast becoming obsolete. Influenced by recent technological advances, BuAer officials believed that the next generation of naval attack aircraft would be jet-propelled therefore, BT2Ds and BTMs would be limited to their initial production batches and serve only until replaced by jets.

Development of both types continued as planned, and in the spring of 1946 BT2D and BTM preproduction models were delivered to the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) for evaluation. Around the same time, the BT designation was dropped in favor of “A,” for attack, so that the BT2D-1 became the AD-1 and the BTM-1 the AM-1. Earlier, Heinemann and his staff had provisionally named their new plane the Dauntless II (after the SBD), but in line with the newer Douglas policy of giving planes names preceded by “sky,” the AD-1 was officially christened Skyraider.

Initial evaluations of AD-1s by NATC were generally good. Overall performance and handling characteristics were rated as “exceeding expectations.” The most serious deficiencies identified were weak landing gear and noticeable structural fatigue in the wing center sections and rear fuselage. In response, Heine­mann and his El Segundo staff moved at a breakneck pace to address each fault identified by NATC. Resulting modifications added 515 pounds to empty weight but were more than offset by the installation of a more powerful R-3350-24W (2,500-hp with water injection) engine.

NATC’s testing of Martin’s AM-1, in vivid contrast, revealed a host of new problems that would require a major rework of the airframe. Moreover, BuAer’s hoped-for transition to jets, if recent experience with fighter types (e.g., the McDonnell FD-1, North American FJ-1 and Vought F6U-1) was any indication, would be a longer process than initially believed.

When NATC resumed evaluations of newly modified AD-1s in the fall of 1946, test pilot reports were highly enthusiastic. General flying characteristics were once again rated very high, and on top of that the plane was graded as the best dive-bombing platform NATC had ever tested. Equally important, NATC regarded the AD-1 as above average in terms of maintainability and logistical support required. Service evaluation and actual carrier trials were carried out in late 1946 by NAS Alameda–based VA-19A, where the type demonstrated fully satisfactory characteristics in the takeoff, approach, wave-off and arrestment phases of carrier operations. By the end of the year—a little over 19 months after its first flight—BuAer declared the AD-1 ready to join the fleet. Heinemann had not only caught up with Martin, he was miles ahead.

Besides basic attack versions, BuAer wanted Skyraiders configured for specialized roles, and as a result the final 35 aircraft of the original AD-1 order were completed as AD-1Q two-seat countermeasures platforms. An electronic countermeasures operator was stationed in a compartment behind and below the cockpit that he entered through a small door on the left side of the fu­selage. AD-1Qs carried a radar pod beneath the right wing and a chaff dispenser beneath the left, and were also equipped with a radar search receiver and pulse analyzer. Their mission was to screen for the attacking force and jam signals emitted by enemy search and fire-control radars.

Production AD-1s began re­placing SB2Cs and TBMs in the fleet in April 1947, and by early 1948 had reached a strength of six squadrons. Within a similar timeframe, AD-1Qs started joining fleet composite units. At this point, the AD was subjected to the real test of any naval aircraft: Could it be routinely and safely operated from carriers by “nugget” aviators (i.e., inexperienced ensign and junior grade pilots on their first cruise)? The new ADs passed this test with flying colors, as every squadron, each with its fair share of nuggets, completed carrier qualifications without serious incident.

The airplane quickly became popular with pilots and maintenance crews, and they soon took to calling it the “Able Dog.” The repeated stresses of carrier landings, however, did reveal some new structural problems: The landing gear and inner wing sections still needed strengthening and the cockpit arrangement was not completely satisfactory, but none of this was sufficiently serious to impair the plane’s general operational effectiveness. By comparison, the introduction of Martin AM-1s to squadron service in 1948 was marked by frequent accidents and excessive maintenance, and by late 1949 the remaining examples of the 151 Maulers built were replaced by new ADs.

BuAer had even before that time placed an order for 152 new AD-2s, which not only incorporated structural improvements dictated by AD-1 service use, but also boasted a new canopy, full wheel fairings and an extra 300 hp from the R-3350-26W. The Navy contracted for an additional 21 two-seat AD-2Qs and one AD-2QU, fitted out as a target tug. Delivery of AD-2 variants began in mid-1948 and continued through the year. When AD-2s started reaching operational squadrons, some AD-1s were withdrawn and passed on to training duties in reserve units.

Another series of upgrades—longer stroke main gear, further structural strengthening and a new tail wheel configuration—yielded the AD-3, 194 of which were delivered in 1948-49. This batch included three subvariants: 15 three-seat night attack AD-3Ns, which added a radar operator/navigator 31 three-seat early-warning AD-3Ws, which featured a cockpit turtle-deck and a large belly radome and 21 two-seat ECM AD-3Qs.

The AD-4, introduced in 1949, featured increased takeoff weight, a stronger tailhook and a P-1 autopilot to relieve pilot fatigue on long missions. It likewise appeared in night attack, early-warning and ECM subvariants. At that time, due to budgetary restrictions placed on procurement of all new naval aircraft, BuAer assumed Skyraider production would cease once the initial AD-4 order was completed in 1950. A projected level of about 550 AD-2s, -3s and -4s, including subvariants, would enable the fleet to maintain 16 Navy and two Marine AD-equipped attack squadrons along with smaller detachments with the specialized versions. Conventional wisdom held that future attack aircraft, whenever money became available to develop them, would be jets. Then on June 25, 1950, everything changed: The 180,000-man-strong North Korean army, equipped with modern Soviet-made small arms, artillery, tanks and aircraft, marched across the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.

ADs typically carried an 8,000-pound mixed load of ordnance, which was four times greater than that carried by either the F4U-4 or the U.S. Air Force’s P/F-51D. (National Archives)

On July 3, 1950, AD-4s of VA-55 serving aboard USS Valley Forge became the first Skyraiders committed to combat, flying a strike against an airfield near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. As more AD units arrived on station to bolster the carrier task force, the type quickly began to earn a reputation as the best all-around attack aircraft in the combat zone. In daytime operations, ADs typically carried an 8,000-pound mixed load of ordnance, which was four times greater than that carried by either the F4U-4 or the U.S. Air Force’s P/F-51D. ADs were the only planes capable of delivering 2,000-pound bombs with dive-bomber precision against hard targets like mountain bridges and hydroelectric dams. Two AD-equipped Marine squad­rons, VMA-121 and VMA-251, joined the battle from land bases in Korea in 1951. Night attack sorties were flown by AD-3N and -4N aircraft carrying bombs and flares, while ECM and radar-equipped ADs carried out radar-jamming and early-warning missions from carriers and land bases.

The only problem with ADs was that, due to combat losses and operational attrition, there were never enough of them. Production continued nonstop, with 1,051 AD-4s (all variants) completed by the end of 1952, including 165 AD-4Bs armed with four 20mm cannons and specially configured to carry a tactical nuclear weapon (the first single-seat naval aircraft to do so).

By the time Korean hostilities ended in July 1953, the AD had categorically established itself as naval aviation’s most versatile attack platform. Far from being discontinued, even newer Skyraider variants were being developed and placed in production. The wide-body AD-5, which flew in August 1951, was originally conceived to accommodate the additional crew, electronic equipment and weapons needed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The fuselage was lengthened two feet and widened to permit side-by-side seating for a pilot and up to three crew members under a longer canopy. To offset the increase in fuselage area, vertical fin area was increased, and the dive brakes on the fuselage sides were deleted. The AD-5 was ultimately ordered into production as a day attack aircraft, not ASW, and was too late to see action in Korea. The 212 standard attack versions produced came with conversion kits, which, in addition to its basic attack function, allowed the type to be used either as a transport (12 seats), cargo carrier, air ambulance or target tug. These were followed by a further 218 AD-5W early-warning versions and 239 AD-5N night/all-weather versions, 54 of which were later modified as AD-5Q ECM aircraft.

The refinements of the AD-4B—plus LABS (low-altitude bombing system), new bomb racks, a jettisonable canopy and a hydraulic tailhook—were standardized in the single-seat AD-6, which flew in 1953 and began replacing AD-4s. After delivery of 713 AD-6s, the final Able Dog model was the single-seat AD-7, which had a more powerful R-3350-26WB engine, stronger landing gear and stronger outer wing panels. Skyraider production finally ended on February 18, 1957, when the last of 72 AD-7s rolled off the El Segundo assembly line, by which time a total of 3,180 of all versions had been built.

ADs had actually reached their peak as the fleet’s premier attack aircraft in the mid-1950s, when they equipped 29 Navy and 13 Marine squadrons. Although some carrier-based attack squadrons began exchanging their ADs for jets such as the Douglas A4D-1 Skyhawk—another Heinemann product—as early as 1956 BuAer planned to retain its prop-driven workhorse in Navy squadrons until the early to mid-1960s. The Marine Corps, however, began a gradual phase-out of its Skyraiders in 1956 and retired the last examples by the end of 1960.

When the tri-service designation system was adopted in September 1962, Skyraiders remaining in Navy service became A-1s in the following variants: the AD-5 became the A-1E, AD-5W the EA-1E, AD-5Q the EA-1F, AD-5N the A-1G, AD-6 the A-1H and AD-7 the A-1J.

In the early 1960s, increasing numbers of Skyraiders were phased out of active service and placed in storage as more A-4 Skyhawks and even newer Grumman A-6 Intruders took their place in the fleet. But another war, this time over the triple-canopy jungles of Southeast Asia, intervened to give the Navy’s trusty old prop-job yet another lease on life.

Crewmen bomb up A-1H Skyraiders. In 1964 A-1Hs participated in the first naval airstrikes on enemy patrol boats in the Tonkin Gulf. (National Archives)

In August 1964, from carriers stationed near Vietnam, A-1Hs attached to VA-52 and VA-145 participated in the first naval airstrikes against North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Tonkin Gulf. In the new conflict, at a time when many regarded prop-driven aircraft as throwbacks to a bygone era, the A-1s became affectionately known as “Spads” and their pilots “Spad-drivers.” Over the next four years, Navy A-1s flew hundreds of combat sorties over Vietnam in close air support of American troops, rescue combat air patrol (RESCAP), bombing of Viet Cong and North Viet­namese army targets, and ECM as part of the ongoing naval task force stationed off the coast. Owing to their slower speed and excellent loiter time, A-1s were judged the best planes in Southeast Asia for escorting troop-laden helicopters or for groundfire suppression in RESCAP operations.

Though never intended for air-to-air confrontations, two A-1Hs flown by Navy Lieutenants Charles Hartman and Clinton Johnson of VA-25 off USS Midway did in fact share in the shoot-down of a North Vietnamese MiG-17 on June 20, 1965. Then on October 9, 1966, Lt. j.g. W. Thomas Patton of VA-176, flying an A-1H from USS Intrepid, sent another MiG-17 down in flames near Hanoi. The last Navy single-seat Sky­raider combat sortie was flown by VA-25 in February 20, 1968, from USS Coral Sea. Multiseat ECM missions were continued until late December 1968 by EA-1Fs attached to VAQ-33. The last Navy Skyraiders flying were reportedly stricken from the inventory sometime in 1972.

Back in October 1965, members of Navy Attack Squadron VA-25, based on USS Midway, found an ingenious means of marking the 6 millionth pound of ordnance dropped on North Viet­namese targets. At the time, carriers were reportedly so short of ordnance that some missions were launched with half a load, just to keep the sortie rate at prescribed levels—a strategy that was understandably unpopular with aircrews. VA-25’s response was to develop and drop its own extremely unconventional weapon: a toilet bomb.

Armed with a unique payload, Commander Clarence Stoddard prepares to launch. (HistoryNet Archives)

It all started when one of the plane captains rescued a damaged toilet that was just about to be heaved overboard. After the ordnance crew improvised a rack, tailfins and nose fuze for the john, it was “armed up” along with more conventional bombs on A-1H Skyraider NE/572, Paper Tiger II, flown by the squadron’s executive officer, Commander Clarence J. Stoddard. As Stoddard taxied onto the catapult, the flight deck checkers maneuvered to block the view of his specialized ordnance by the captain and air boss. But just as the Skyraider left the deck an irate transmission came from the bridge: “What the hell was on 572’s right wing?” By that time Paper Tiger II was on its way to a target somewhere on the Mekong Delta.

Stoddard’s wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Robin Bacon, was flying 577, which was equipped with a wing-mounted movie camera. When they arrived on target and Stoddard read the ordnance list to the forward air controller, he ended by saying, “…and one code-name Sani-Flush.” The FAC couldn’t resist getting close enough for a good look. Stoddard dropped the toilet during a dive, with Bacon flying in a tight wing position to film the drop. As it turned out, the toilet nearly struck Bacon’s Skyraider as it tumbled in the air—then whistled all the way down.

All hands agreed it made for a great ready room movie.

For further reading, U.S. Navy veteran and frequent contributor E.R. Johnson suggests: Skyraider: The Douglas A-1 “Flying Dump Truck,” by Rosario Rausa and The A-1 Skyraider in Vietnam: The Spad’s Last War, by Wayne Mutza.

Build your own replica of the legendary “Able Dog.” Click here!

This feature originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Aviation History. Subscribe here!

What Rome Learned From the Deadly Antonine Plague of 165 A.D.

Around 165 A.D., the Anatolian town of Hierapolis erected a statue to the god Apollo Alexikakos, the Averter of Evil, so that the people might be spared from a terrible new infectious disease with utterly gruesome symptoms. Victims were known to endure fever, chills, upset stomach and diarrhea that turned from red to black over the course of a week. They also developed horrible black pocks over their bodies, both inside and out, that scabbed over and left disfiguring scars.

For the worst afflicted, it was not uncommon that they would cough up or excrete scabs that had formed inside their body. Victims suffered in this way for two or even three weeks before the illness finally abated. Perhaps 10 percent of 75 million people living in the Roman Empire never recovered. “Like some beast,” a contemporary wrote, the sickness “destroyed not just a few people but rampaged across whole cities and destroyed them.”

Infectious disease was long part of Roman life. Even the richest Romans could not escape the terrors of a world without germ theory, refrigeration, or clean water. Malaria and intestinal diseases were, of course, rampant. But some of the ailments Romans suffered boggle the mind—vicious fevers, wasting diseases and worms living in putrefying wounds that refused to heal. The physician Galen would recall a member of the Roman gentry who accidentally drank a leech when his servant drew water from a public fountain. The 4th-century emperor Julian found it a particular point of pride that he had only vomited once in his entire life. By the standards of antiquity, this was a bona fide miracle.

But smallpox was different. Rome’s first smallpox epidemic began as a terrifying rumor from the east, spreading through conversations that often simultaneously transmitted both news of the disease and the virus itself. The pathogen moved stealthily at first, with people first showing symptoms two weeks or so after contracting it.

The plague waxed and waned for a generation, peaking in the year 189 when a witness recalled that 2,000 people died per day in the crowded city of Rome. Smallpox devastated much of Roman society. The plague so ravaged the empire’s professional armies that offensives were called off. It decimated the aristocracy to such a degree that town councils struggled to meet, local magistracies went unfilled and community organizations failed for lack of members. It cut such deep swaths through the peasantry that abandoned farms and depopulated towns dotted the countryside from Egypt to Germany.

The psychological effects were, if anything, even more profound. The teacher Aelius Aristides survived a nearly lethal case of the plague during its first pass through the empire in the 160s. Aristides would become convinced that he had lived only because the gods chose to take a young boy instead he could even identify the young victim. Needless to say, survivor’s guilt is not a modern phenomenon—and the late 2nd century Roman Empire must have been filled with it.

Most of all, though, the disease spread fear. Smallpox killed massively, gruesomely, and in waves. The fear among Romans was so pronounced back then that, today, archaeologists working all over the old imperial territory still find amulets and little stones carved by people desperately trying to ward off the pestilence.

In the face of smallpox’s sustained assault, the resilience of the empire amazes. Romans first responded to plagues by calling on the gods. Like Hierapolis, many cities across the Roman world sent delegations to Apollo, asking for the god’s advice about how to survive. Towns dispatched the delegates collectively, an affirmation of the power of community to stand together amidst personal horror.

And when communities began to buckle, Romans reinforced them. Emperor Marcus Aurelius responded to the deaths of so many soldiers by recruiting slaves and gladiators to the legions. He filled the abandoned farmsteads and depopulated cities by inviting migrants from outside the empire to settle within its boundaries. Cities that lost large numbers of aristocrats replaced them by various means, even filling vacancies in their councils with the sons of freed slaves. The empire kept going, despite death and terror on a scale no one had ever seen.

Roman society rebounded so well from smallpox that, more than 1,600 years later, the historian Edward Gibbon began his monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire not with the plague under Marcus Aurelius but with the events after that emperor’s death. The reign of Marcus was, to Gibbon, “the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous.” This historical verdict would have astounded Romans if they’d heard it back when they suffered through what came to be called the Antonine Plague. But Gibbon did not invent these sentiments. Writing after the turn of the 3rd century, the Roman senator and historian Cassius Dio called the empire under Marcus “a kingdom of Gold” that persevered admirably “amidst extraordinary difficulties.”

Cassius Dio witnessed smallpox’s effect in Rome when it killed most spectacularly. Dio knew its horrors and the devastation it produced. He also believed that the trauma of living through plague can be overcome if a well-governed society works together to recover and rebuild. And the society that emerges from those efforts can become stronger than what came before.

COVID-19 has brought about the first time that much of our world has faced the sudden, unseen, and unremitting fear of an easily spread and deadly infectious disease. Such a crisis can spur terrified citizens to blame each other for the suffering. It can exacerbate existing social and economic divisions. It can even destroy societies. But that need not be so.

The Antonine Plague was far deadlier than COVID-19, and the society it hit was far less capable of saving the sick than we are now. But Rome survived. Its communities rebuilt. And the survivors even came to look back on the time of plague with an odd nostalgia for what it showed about the strength of their society and its government.

Edward Watts holds the Alkiviadis Vassiliadis endowed chair and is professor of history at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author most recently of Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny.

Watch the video: The History of Ancient Greece: Every Year 2540.