General Motors Bison – a vision of trucks of the future from 1964. Why didn’t it stick?

General Motors Bison – a vision of trucks of the future from 1964. Why didn’t it stick?

It is always interesting to see how people from the past imagined the future. We are living in the future, but not all of these predictions came out to be accurate. For example, just look at the General Motors Bison semi-truck – it still looks like something from the future, despite being created back in 1964.

Of course, just by looking at the Bison you can tell that it simply could not drive on today‘s roads. Truck design is limited by a lot of rules and regulations, regarding safety, and industry has its own standards. However, Bison did feature some pretty cool design details.

General Motors created the Bison for the 1964 World Fair. Since it had to be representation of the future, GM took inspiration from planes and spaceships. Therefore, it featured a low and sleek profile.

To get into the Bison you had to open the canopy – there were no conventional doors. (

There were no doors. To get into the Bison you had to open the canopy, which included the entire windscreen. When seated, you would pull a futuristic steering wheel towards yourself. It is much like a yoke of an airplane. In between two vertical handles there was a number of switches. More various controls were located in the central console, where drivers would have found a phone. While General Motors said that the Bison is meant for long-distance hauling, it didn’t seem like it is the case, because the cabin had no sleeping room or compartments for personal belongings.

A phone in the central console was a nice touch, but the steering wheel was very cool too.

The entire cabin of the Bison was in front of the wheels. It was very low and, seemingly, very aerodynamic. Visibility must have been great too, because glass canopy was pretty big. GM Bison had a four-wheel steering system – wheels of both axis were turning the same or opposite directions, depending on the steering angle.

GM Bison had a four-wheel steering and the entire cabin was situated in front of the wheels.

Of course, when you make a truck looking like that you cannot fit a conventional engine. And so the GM Bison was powered by a couple of turbines, making 280 and 720 hp. General Motors have experimented with turbines since 1953. Although the Bison was just a design concept and could not be driven, GM did make a real driving prototype truck with turbine engines later. Bison’s turbines were mounted behind the cabin – over the wheels.

The trailer was also made specifically for the Bison.

The trailer hitch was also not a traditional design, like the trailer itself. General Motors at that time predicted that in the future loading and unloading of trailers will be automatic in the future – cargo modules will simply move in the docks by themselves. And so the trailer, which also had a low profile to match the truck, had hard shell and modular structure. The entire combination did look pretty impressive, but there were never plans for the Bison to reach production.

A pod above the axles was housing two turbine engines.

To work, Bison would need to change the entire trucking industry. Spare parts for the turbines, new loading docks, trailer parks and so on. General Motors created the Bison as a vision about what the future should look like. And although our current trucks are not like this, it is still a pretty cool design. We just wish we would see it on the road.

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5 mistakes that prevented Allied from winning WW2 sooner

5 mistakes that prevented Allied from winning WW2 sooner

Alternative history is a tricky business. We cannot objectively judge decisions from the past using categories of today. However, now after more than 70 years have passed we can look at WW2 from a different perspective. We can see mistakes opponents made in their efforts to reach the ultimate victory. In this article we are going to briefly look into 5 mistakes that did allow the Allies to reach ultimate victory sooner.

One has to keep in mind that this is not a serious scientific article and it does not pretend to be one. We have information about consequences that people making decisions during the Second World War did not. Therefore, we are breaching the principle of historism, which does not necessarily bring any value to the field. However, it is a fun thing to do, so let’s just jump into it.

Underrating military power of Japan

You all know how it went – Japan attacked Pearl Harbor without declaring war. This later was considered a war crime and the success of the operation was attributed to the surprise factor. But why was it such a surprise? Partly because US completely underestimated what Japanese military was capable of.

Japanese submarine B1-type I-15 (N. Polmar, D. Carpenter, Wikimedia)

Japan was consider severely underdeveloped and people were thought to be somewhat of savages. However, this view had to change quickly as Japan started occupying one island over the other. Japanese submarines proved to be quite advanced and soldiers – devoted and brave. History enthusiast Dougas Stychas says that there is nothing as vast as Japanese advance in the beginning of WW2 – it was the biggest offensive operation in history.

If US evaluated Japan better, maybe it was possible to prevent Pearl Harbor attack? Or maybe the entire war could’ve been prevented if US with allies closed Japan preventing it from expanding its territory and power?

Demanding “unconditional surrender”

So called “unconditional surrender” doctrine came out of Casablanca conference. It was somewhat of a surprise to Winston Churchill and it is not entirely clear if Franklin D. Roosevelt fully understood his demand. But after it was said, it was basically set in stone, meaning that the war had to end with Germany surrendering unconditionally.

Casablanca Conference, where Roosevelt schocked the world with his ‘unconditional surrender’ statement.

This worked on the side of German propaganda. Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, used this as an opportunity to mobilize Germany, saying that the state is going to be drawn into slavery if it loses the war. This demand really prolonged the WW2 and made negotiations completely impossible.

Late introduction of convoy system

German U-Boats were notoriously attacking American merchant and supply ships sinking one after another. The reason why this hunt was so easy was lack of protection – convoy system was not in place at the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Once it was introduced and war ships started protecting ships carrying important supplies, German Navy has a much more difficult job attacking and sinking them.

Convoy system helps protecting important merchant shipt against German U-Boats. (U.S. Navy Naval History Center, Wikimedia)

However, some historians say that convoy system could not have been introduced earlier, because of lack of war ships. Unsuitable convoy is worse than merchant ships sailing alone. On the other hand, if convoy system was introduced, assuming it was possible, a lot of ship losses could have been avoided and supply chain to Europe would have been reliable from the beginning.

Defending Philippines in 1942

Philippines were essentially lost in 1942, but General Douglas MacArthur decided to defend these islands for as long as possible. This caused a major loss for US forces, 76 thousand American and Filipino soldiers being captured. Abandoning the plan to defend Philippines in such a difficult situation could have saved these people and a lot of resources.

American POW carrying their fallen comrades in Philippenes, in 1942. (Wikimedia)

Operation Torch

While we can’t say that the entire operation was a mistake, the beginning of it was marked with some questionable decisions. In 1942 Allies understood the strategic value of Tunisia. Occupying these lands could help secure Egypt and pressurize Germany from the South. British wanted to start the operation from Algeria – as close to Tunisia as possible. Meanwhile US feared that Gibraltar is going to be lost as Spain may enter the war on German side. This would mean isolation of forces in Northern Africa and supply ships could not enter Mediterranean. Compromised was reached and in November 8 of 1942 US forces landed in Casablanca, and British – in Orano and Algiers. Germany took over Tunisia and defended until May 1943. Spain, of course, never entered the war.

Scheme of the Operation Torch. (Wikimedia)

But who knew that Spain is not going to stand side by side with Germany? While operation Torch was successful, it did not ensure quick domination in Northern Africa.

That is all we have for this article. What other mistakes Allies made that you would include in this list?

We invite you to read other articles about alternative history of WW2:

5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

Who made the first airplane? The answer is not that easy to tell

Who made the first airplane? The answer is not that easy to tell

It should be relatively easy to recognize first inventions, especially if they were made already during the era of journalism. However, do you really know who made the first functional airplane? The default answer is Wright brothers from U.S. but many people from around the world disagree. Here are some competing versions about the first real airplane inventor.

First of all, we have to say that birthday of an airplane is not when it is completed, but when it takes off for the first time. And so, who was the one to take off with an airplane for the first time? Of course, if you look at the history books, it was Wright brothers.

Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright made an aircraft called Wright Flyer I. It was an elegant machine, which took off for the first time in December 17th, 1903. This is the official birthday of an airplane, although that day brothers could only fly for some seconds and not very far at all. However, this is not the reason why some claim that Gustave Whitehead, German engineer, was the actual inventor of an airplane.

Whitehead’s Condor No.21 (Valerian Gribayedoff, Wikimedia)

The story goes that Gustave Whitehead took off with his Condor airplane sometime in August 1901 – two years before the Wright brothers. Whitehead, whose original name was Weisskopf, wanted to make a flying car, which is essentially what he did in 1900. Condor No.21 had two engines – 20 hp for flying and 10 hp for driving on streets. Wings could be folded away like a traditional hand fan and were not in a way when Condor was driving as a normal car. But it wasn’t a normal car – some sources claim that it actually took off.

In August 1901 Whitehead took his Condor No.21 out on a field and took off in front of several witnesses. He completed several flights, the most successful of which lasted for about a mile (1.6 km). Whitehead managed to reach impressive altitude of 15 metres. Early next year Whitehead took off again with his airplane in front of 17 witnesses. However, today no one believes he was actually the first one to do it. Why? There is no evidence.

Alberto Santos-Dumont flying his 14-bis (Nerika, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

One journalist from Bridgeport Herald saw the first flight and was swearing that Whitehead really took off. However, there are no pictures. While some remember seeing them, you just cannot find any, except some sketch once printed in a newspaper. Furthermore, even Whitehead’s wife did not see the machine flying, although she remembered her husband telling her that he successfully took off with his Condor No.21. But it just doesn’t sound believable. Why no one took pictures of the event? Why he never completed another flying machine? Some experts looked at the pictures of the Condor No.21 (why are there pictures of it standing, but not flying) and determined that wings are not the right shape and construction to lift such machine.

Another candidate to claim position of the airplane inventor was Karl Jatho – yet another German engineer. He supposedly took off in August 18th 1903 – months before the Wright brothers. The first flight only lasted for 18 metre distance at 1 metre altitude, but first flight is the first flight. Furthermore, it is said that Jatho continued to conduct regular flights until November, flying further and further every time. And we know he was actually flying – this is not some potentially made up story like the one of Whitehead’s flight. So why no one considers Jatho the actual inventor of the airplane?

The problem here is that Jatho’s flights were not that impressive. In fact, common opinion is that they were not controlled and biplanes and triplanes that he tested were just gliding. It can be confirmed by Jatho’s own statement – he stopped flying because he could not improve his distance anymore because of weak engines. But even a short distance flight should be considered the first, shouldn’t it? Some experts say that despite the engine running, Jatho’s planes could not be considered examples of a powered flight.

Finally, Brazilians and many European people believe that some credit for invention of the plane should go to Alberto Santos-Dumont, who took off with his 14-Bis in November 1906. It is because this Brazilian inventor took off from the ground without assistance and flew for solid 220 metres in his demonstration in Paris. Wright brothers took off using some tracks and a catapult, wind was necessary for their success as well. However, when Santos-Dumont performed his graceful flight, Wright brothers could stay in the air for more than half an hour.

Regardless of these stories, it is still hard to believe how far we’ve came from those days. Flight is cheap and attainable for virtually everyone. And aviation moved on so quickly – Orville Wright lived to see the first supersonic flight.

How to talk to your children about nuclear war?

How to talk to your children about nuclear war?

Media is full of messages about a possibility of a nuclear war. We all hope it is not going to happen, but nothing is certain at this point. Instructions are also circling around various media outlets, but one really got our attention.  Sophie Yohani, a psychologist and professor from the University of Alberta, shared some ideas how to talk to your children about the threat of nuclear war.

You may think that’s unnecessary, but children are like sponges – they absorb everything from their surroundings. You would not be scaring them talking about a possibility of a war, because media already does that. Hey hear about pretty much every day and it is parents who have to deal with their anxiety and fear. This is how you should talk about this threat with your children.

First of all, you shouldn’t say that there will be no war, because you don’t know that. However, you should be hopeful and tell your children that it’s not the first time the world got so close to World War 3. In fact, several decades ago humanity managed to avoid breaking out into a conflict and it is likely we will avoid it now.

Secondly, you should involve grandparents, if possible. Grandparents have an image of experience and wisdom in children’s mind. And they really did live through a lot of historically significant events. And so their opinion would help very much to calm down children and tell them that there is nothing new that’s happening now.

Thirdly, adapt your speech to your child. Every child is different and you certainly know yours. You have to know his fears and thoughts and speak accordingly. While younger children may fear coming new semester, when they will have to leave the safety of their home, older ones may have some doubts about the future. You have to speak accordingly. And avoid confusion – children may not be interested in international relations, you have to speak in a way they understand what is happening.

Fourthly, don’t show too much that you’re worried as well. Children hear you having conversations and they may pick up that you’re afraid yourself. That is not good. They have to be able to draw some strength from you.

You also have to watch for signs of anxiety in your children, especially if they have some disorders. It could be some fidgeting, thumb sucking, insomnia and other symptoms. Just be calm – sometimes peacefulness is contagious.

Finally, seek for help when needed. If children are interested, allow them to read books about the Cold War. And, if you see a need for it, don’t hesitate to consult a child psychologist or paediatrician.

You may think that there will be no war – all of us are hopeful and it looks like we may be able to avoid it this time as well. However, for children this threat is real and you have to make sure they understand it and are not afraid to talk with you about it.

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

Alternative history is not the most productive hobby to have. It also sort of goes against main principles of historism. We stand on our pile of books and look down on historical decisions, judging them using information that people at that time simply didn‘t have. However, some pieces of alternative history are actually quite interesting. We introduce 5 mistakes Axis made that contributed to its ultimate loss in the war.

It is note the first time we indulge in alternative history – we already listed 5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War. However, this time we will look at the matter a little more serious and will include other Axis states as well. So what were those 5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning?

Invasion of Greece

Mussolini, a loyal Hitler’s companion, was feeling left out of the war in 1940. He wanted to contribute to the ultimate victory of Axis, so he devised an invasion to Greece. The problem was that he did so without consulting Hitler, being obsessed with an idea of having his on achievement. Mussolini said that Hitler will find out about the occupation of Greece from newspapers.

Mussolini decided to start invasion of Greece without Hitler’s help – this decision eventually cost Germany several weeks and precious resources. (Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije, Wikimedia)

Italy invaded Greece in October 28, 1940. Italian forces were motivated to move forward, but were soon pushed back. Battles continued, but Italy could try again breaching forward only in March 1941 only to be pushed back again. Situation was not pleasant for anyone and did not help settling situation in Balkans. So Germany had to invade Greece in April and by June the country was occupied completely. This, of course, had impact on Hitler’s plans of invading Soviet Union. It is said that this unplanned operation postponed invasion for about 5 weeks.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

At the beginning of WW2 Japan’s situation was not good. It had several newly occupied territories, but pushing forward to obtain more was very difficult. Japanese ambitions were hindered by lack of resources, economic sanctions, U.S. supporting China and some other factors. It was decided that one blow could eliminate U.S. Navy from the Pacific theatre, which would allow Japan to concur more islands and to strengthen its dominance in the region.

Attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake in itself,
but a third wave could’ve prolonged the war for 1-2 years. (Wikimedia)

On 7th of December, 1941, such blow was delivered on Pearl Harbor, but, as you know, it wasn’t successful and U.S. Navy quickly regained its power to soon rule world’s oceans again. Japan created a wave that it could not withstand and was thus defeated. Furthermore, because attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out without officially declaring a war and with no warning, it was later considered a war crime.

Even if you don’t think attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake, there is another mistake that was done during this operation. Three waves were planned, but after the second wave Japanese aircraft carriers, submarines and battleships decided to withdraw from the scene. American anti-aircraft defence was getting stronger – two thirds of Japanese losses happened during the second wave. Also, location of U.S. aircraft carriers was unknown and they could’ve came back unexpectedly.

Third wave was planned to demolish ground targets – dry dock, torpedo warehouse and so on. Now historians agree that if third wave was carried out, war would’ve been longer at least by 1-2 years. 14 out of 16 ships damaged during the attack came back to service.

Failure to involve Turkey and Spain

Turkey was fighting side by side with Germany during WW1 and Hitler aided Francisco Franco during Spanish Civil War. However, neither of these two states got involved in the Second World War. It is difficult to say it was Axis mistake, since they could not control everyone, but the war could have developed much differently, if Spain and Turkey got involved.

Searchlights in Gibraltar in 1942 (Dallison G W (Lieut), Wikimedia)

Spain could’ve helped Germany to deal with Gibraltar – a territory of Great Britain, which controlled the passage between Atlantic and Mediterranean. As it was, Spain remained neutral and didn’t even allow German troops to cross its territory (for example, Sweden did). Meanwhile Turkey could’ve helped establishing dominance in Caucasus, which was rich in resources. But instead Turkey declared war on Germany when WW2 was already almost over.

If these two states got involved, German dominance in southern Europe would’ve been immense and operations in Northern Africa would’ve been easier.

Treating people like slaves in Japan’s occupied territories

When Japan occupied islands in Philippines and Indonesia, locals considered Japanese liberators. They were sick of European rule and thought that Japan is going to be a much better ally. However, Japan blew this image to pieces when it introduced forced labour, regular physical abuse and capital punishment for small crimes. People were treated like slaves and so could not possibly be loyal to Japanese rule.

American POW carrying their fallen comrades in Philippenes, in 1942. (Wikimedia)

And so, as war progressed, some people from Philippines and Indonesia started guerrilla operations against Japanese forces. Others were informing Allied about Japanese positions and plans. If Japan was treating people properly, we could imagine that it would’ve had stronger support, which would result in a strong resistance to coming U.S. forces.

Hitler’s decision to start a war in first place

This one is kind of weird – how one of the biggest mistakes in a war can be starting it? But the truth of the matter is that Germany was expanding its influence without any military action already. It was growing and its influence was getting stronger. History professor Robert Citino thinks that Hitler wanted a war from the very beginning, but did not realise his goals can be achieved without an active conflict. Sometimes a bluff is strong enough.

It is known that Hitler did not always use information provided by his generals if he didn’t like it. Opposing Hitler’s view was never a good option. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L18678, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

However, Hitler wanted a war as a tool, regardless of what a goal was. Victory without a massive war was not satisfactory for him. If he settled with smart, aggressive diplomacy, who knows where he would stop. Citino thinks that using diplomatic measures alone would’ve helped Hitler achieve everything Wehrmacht did in the first three years. Now we can only imagine what could’ve been, but we will never know for certain.

What other mistakes of the Axis would you include?

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