The United States of America is a world "super-power" (which more or less means that it possesses weapons capable of destroying everything on the planet). A relatively young civilization, the United States formed in the 18th century, nearly self-destructed in the 19th century, and became the most powerful and dominant military, technological, cultural and economical civilization in the 20th. One can hardly guess what will happen to it in the 21st.
Geography and Climate
The United States spans the continent of North America and includes Alaska in the far north and several islands in the Pacific Ocean. Conditions vary widely across the country, from near-Arctic in Alaska to near-tropic conditions in Florida, to arid desert in Arizona. The continent is bisected by two mountain ranges, the older and lower Appalachians in the east, and the much younger and bigger Rockies in the west. The central plains between the two ranges drain into the Gulf of Mexico via the Missouri/Mississippi River system. The country borders on the Great Lakes, some of the largest freshwater bodies of water on the planet.
Despite several centuries of enthusiastic harvesting, the United States still has plentiful forests, coal supplies and other natural resources.
The Native Americans
Some historians hypothesize that North America was originally settled by Eurasian people who migrated onto the continent via the "Beringia" land-bridge that once connected Alaska and Russia. This theory is under debate, and even more so is the question of how many waves of settlers there were and when the first settlers arrived. There appears to be some agreement that the natives migrated between 9,000 and 50,000 years ago (which is quite a spread). It's also quite possible that the natives arrived in a series of waves over many years, with some groups migrating south along the western coastline, while later groups moved inland, into the heart of Canada and the United States.
Over time these groups spread across the continents, developing language, hunting skills, arts and crafts, and so forth. They did not domesticate horses, however (having consumed all of the horse's ancestors before figuring out that they might be good for something else).
Estimates on how many natives lived in the portion of North America that would eventually become the United States also vary, ranging from five to twenty-five million. In any event, the first European visitors brought with them a number of extremely unpleasant diseases (like measles and smallpox) that the natives' immune systems were totally unaccustomed to, and 90 percent or even more of the North American native population died from disease within a century of the first white man's arrival.
Having lost 90% of their population, lacking guns or any significant industrial technology, the natives were relatively helpless in the face of massive European assault.
Enter the Europeans
Four European groups set up colonies in North America, beginning in the 16th century: the French in Canada, the British (with a small settlement of Dutch right in the center), and the Spanish in Florida and points south. Over time the English would conquer the French colonies to the north and the Dutch colony at Manhattan, and with the exception of Florida, the entire eastern seaboard would be English. As discussed above, the native population was ravaged by disease and badly outgunned, unable to resist the European incursion.
The American Revolution
As the 18th century progressed, the British colonies in North America grew and prospered. Immigrants from Great Britain and elsewhere arrived in the country in great numbers, drawn by the promise of land, wealth, and often to escape religious persecution in the mother country. The slave trade provided plenty of cheap labor, and British North America began to establish agriculture and light industry.
Tensions grew between the colonies and the British government as the century progressed. The colonies were controlled by Crown-appointed governors and they did not have direct representation in the British Parliament. Further, the colonials chafed under what they considered to be unfair trade restrictions from Great Britain. Meanwhile, the government thought that the colonials were in large ungrateful rabble who had no idea how much money the Crown was spending on their protection.
By the late 1770's the American colonies were in open revolt, and on July 4, 1776 the United States declared their independence. As the war opened the Colonists were grossly outgunned and outmanned by the highly-trained British Army, particularly since the British Navy had absolute control of the seas and thus could move large numbers of troops up and down the coast with impunity. The Continental Army, untrained and untested, was no match for the "Redcoats."
The commander of the Continental Army was George Washington, a wealthy Virginia landowner with some military experience (he was a colonel in the British army in the French and Indian War). His first major battles were nearly catastrophes - his overly-complex battle-plans collapsed in the face of enemy action and his troops' inexperience. Washington had several important qualities: his personal heroism and calm in the face of disaster allowed him to extract his army from almost certain destruction, and he also learned quickly from his mistakes (for more on George Washington, see his Civilopedia entry).
The Redcoats having failed to crush the Continental Army when it had the chance, the American Revolutionary War became a long, drawn-out, grinding war of wills. The British Army couldn't pin down the American forces long enough to defeat them, and as the years passed British war-weariness grew.
In 1778 the French entered the war on the side of the United States, and in 1779 so did Spain. While unable to match the British Navy ship for ship the French were occasionally able to gain local superiority, and this proved decisive. In 1781 the Continental Army besieged the British Army at Yorktown, Virginia. With the French Navy off-shore the British were unable to escape, and British General Cornwallis surrendered to Washington on October 19, 1781.
In 1787 the states convened a Constitutional Convention, and the new Constitution was ratified the next year. In 1789 George Washington was elected president.
The Louisiana Purchase
In 1803 the United States purchased 828,800 square miles of North American territory from France. This territory included most of the terrain in the Mississippi Valley, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to Ohio in the east. This deal, which doubled the size of the United States, cost around $15,000,000, a shockingly good deal for the US. It was also a good deal for France: France was at war with Great Britain (see below), and as the British controlled the seas, the French had no way to profit from or to protect this territory from the British. The French also saw it as a poke in Britain's eye. French leader Napoleon Bonaparte said of the deal, "This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States. I have given England a maritime rival who will sooner or later humble her pride."
President Thomas Jefferson received a good deal of criticism for the purchase at the time, but historians tend to agree that he got one hell of a bargain.
The War of 1812
As the eighteenth century opened, France was convulsed in its own revolution. Many Americans believed that France would become a democracy, but instead Napoleon Bonaparte emerged as ruler and within a few years had himself declared emperor. As Napoleon extended his power across continental Europe, Great Britain countered with its unmatchable navy, imposing an embargo on trade with France and at times most of the rest of Europe. This hurt American commerce deeply. Further, British warships routinely stopped and searched American vessels looking for deserted British sailors. This was considered an intolerable breach of American sovereignty, and in 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain. (Some historians believe that the US declared war primarily to justify a land-grab of British possession Canada.)
The primary American weapon in this war was the commerce raiding vessel. Small to mid-sized American ships plied the oceans, snatching up British merchant ships, strangling British trade. On land the Americans launched an invasion of Canada, which the British and Canadian forces repelled without great difficulty. The British navy, stretched thin by the decade-old conflict with France, found it almost impossible to blockade the American coast or track down its commerce raiders. It was far more successful on land, and in fact a British army fought its way to Washington, DC, the American capital, and burned much of it to the ground.
Despite this stinging blow to American pride, the British and American governments both realized that neither had much of a chance of winning the war, and that further conflict would merely expend valuable treasure and lives to no purpose. In December of 1814 the two countries signed the "Treaty of Ghent," which simply called for the cessation of hostilities: neither side gained or lost territory, and none of the root causes of the war were addressed. The war was a tie.
The Mexican-American War
In 1835, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna abolished the Mexican constitution, replacing it with a new constitution that concentrated power in the Mexican central government. Several Mexican states revolted at that time, including the state of Coahuila y Tejas (which included the territory that would become Texas). Despite early successes (including the capture of the Alamo fort), eventually Santa Anna was defeated and captured. Bargaining from this position of extreme weakness, Santa Anna grudgingly agreed to Texan independence.
The Mexican government deposed Santa Anna while he was captive and disavowed the treaty. Low-level fighting continued between the new "Republic of Texas" and Mexico, while parties in Texas and the United States schemed for ways to get Texas into the Union. In 1845 the American Congress passed a bill that would allow the US to annex Texas, and then president John Tyler signed it into law. At the same time, Mexico saw an influx of other American citizens into its northern territories (including California), some of whom openly avowed that they were going to take those into the US as well. Late in 1845 Texas was made into a state, and in 1846 American troops were occupying the disputed territory. When Mexican cavalry clashed with an American patrol, killing 11 soldiers, the US government used that as an excuse to declare war.
The war was short and decisive. After a few opening skirmishes in Texas and northern Mexico, an American army of some 12,000 soldiers landed at Veracruz, Mexico, and marched west. The Mexican army was defeated at every turn, and in short order United States troops occupied Mexico City. Defeated, the Mexican government signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceding to the United States the land that would become the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming, Oklahoma and Colorado. In return the US paid Mexico $18,250,000, or roughly half a billion in today's dollars.
In addition to stealing large chunks of valuable land from Mexico, the war had one other benefit: it taught a number of American soldiers their craft. These men would use these skills to great effect fifteen years later in the American Civil War.
The American Civil War
As the eighteenth century progressed, the United States was divided roughly in half between slave states in the south and free states in the north. The South, which had an agrarian economy, needed cheap labor to work the fields. Slaves were far less useful in the North, which had a growing industrial base and access to plenty of cheap labor from Europe. Further, slavery had woven itself into the fiber of Southern life to the extent that many found the concept of "abolition" abhorrent, inconceivable, and (by an extremely twisted interpretation of the Bible) a grave sin. By the same token, a lot of people in the North hated slavery, considering it totally evil - the country's original sin. (It should be noted that many in the South saw the issue in terms of "states' rights" - the Federal government had no constitutional right to meddle in internal conditions in states, but it was the slavery issue that made this question so explosive.)
By the 1850s the situation had become intolerable. Tensions between the North and South were at an extremely high point, and the 1860 election of the moderately anti-slavery candidate Abraham Lincoln started a sequence of events which led inexorably to Southern secession and civil war.
The war started very badly for the Union (the North). The Rebels (South) had a stronger military tradition than the North, and most of the country's best officers came from southern states and felt bound to protect their homes from Northern invasion, no matter how they felt personally about the cause of the war. Further, the South was entirely on the defensive, and it's far more difficult for an untrained army to attack than it is to defend - and both sides began the fight with untrained armies.
Many people believed that the war would be over after one big battle but they were shockingly wrong. The first big battle (Bull Run) was a Union defeat, but the Southern army was unable to follow up its victory. What ensued was four years of grinding warfare across the length and breadth of the country. Despite its victories the South was unable to break the North's morale (especially that of President Abraham Lincoln), and as the war continued the Northern generals became better at their craft, and the Northern advantage in numbers and industry began to dominate the battlefield. In 1865 the Southern capital fell, and shortly thereafter the remaining Southern armies laid down their arms. President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April of 1865, shortly after the capture of the Southern capital and the surrender of the South's main army.
The war had a number of major effects on the United States, the most important of which was the abolition of slavery across the country. Unfortunately, many of the gains made by blacks were steadily whittled away during the Reconstruction period following the war. As the 19th century progressed blacks could in no way be considered equal to whites anywhere in the country, but at least they were no longer subject to being bought and sold like cattle.
The rest of the 19th century saw a steady migration of American citizens west, filling in the vast plains of the mid-west and along the Pacific coast. American engineers built train tracks across the steppes and through the mountains, and cities and towns sprang up in their wake. The surviving Native American populations were forced into smaller and smaller pockets of the least desirable land, but showing a remarkably stubborn refusal to die under the most extraordinarily desperate circumstances. Immigrants continued to pour into the country from all corners of the world, all looking for their piece of the American dream (and many finding it).
In the late 19th century the United States fought another unfortunate war for territory, this time against the moribund Spanish "empire." Spurred on by the jingoistic cries of so-called "yellow journalists" like William Randolph Hearst, the US rapidly defeated the Spanish armed forces, gaining for its trouble the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Spain further lost the island of Cuba, which after a short period as a US protectorate, quickly gained its independence.
The Early 20th Century - The World Intrudes
While American industrial and economic power continued to grow, American military power did not. The United States possessed a large enough army and navy to beat up Spain (and to keep Canada and Mexico in line), but it was hardly a world military power in any sense of the word. Primarily it relied on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which were the domain of the incomparable British Navy, for protection.
As Europe stumbled its way into World War I, most Americans wanted nothing to do with the conflict. (In fact, many had immigrated to the United States to avoid Europe's endless wars.) Americans came from all parts of Europe, including Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Russia and the UK - so no matter which side the US came in on, they'd be fighting somebody's cousin. Whatever American politicians felt privately, the American government declared neutrality.
In actuality American neutrality greatly favored the British and French, since Britain's dominance of the sea meant that the US could only trade with the UK and her allies. This was bad for the Germans, since they needed to cut Great Britain's supply lines to achieve victory. In 1917 a German "U-boat" (submarine) sank the ocean liner Lusitania, then Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping. The American declaration of war against Germany and her allies followed shortly thereafter.
At the start of the war the United States had just a small professional army, but by 1918 the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) had over 1,000,000 men in Europe. This huge influx of fresh soldiers made a substantial difference on the battlefield, and also on enemy morale. The war was over by year's end. During its brief stint in France the AEF saw significant combat, suffering some 50,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries.
After the war US President Woodrow Wilson attempted to mediate what he considered a "just peace" and create a League of Nations, but the victorious European nations were more interested in imposing heavy penalties on the losers, understandable given the amount of damage they had suffered, but not conducive to future comity between nations. As a result American public opinion turned against Europe and especially against any further military adventures there. This would have grave consequences some two decades later.
The Great Depression
The aptly-named "Great Depression" is indeed depressing, and so will be covered quickly. The Depression was triggered by the US stock market crash of 1929, and rapidly spread across the country and the world. Banks collapsed, American unemployment rose to 25%, crop prices fell by some 60%. There were bread lines in all major cities. The Depression dragged on for years. The US economy began to revive in the mid-thirties, but did not fully recover until World War II.
The Second World War
During the Great Depression the political doctrine of fascism gained popularity around the world, particularly in Europe. Mussolini came to power in Italy, Francisco Franco in Spain, and Adolf Hitler in Germany. Crippled and exhausted by the twin blows of World War I and the Depression and distracted by an excessive fear of Communism, the democracies watched as Germany rebuilt its army, navy and air force and gobbled up the smaller countries around it. It wasn't until Germany (and the Soviet Union) invaded Poland in 1939 that France and the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. Meanwhile, Japanese forces were carving up China and menacing European interests in the Pacific.
Isolationist sentiment kept the United States officially "neutral" through 1940 and 1941, as France was conquered and German troops ground through the Soviet Union. However, as in World War I, American neutrality heavily favored the British, whose navy still controlled the Atlantic. At home President Franklin Roosevelt built up the American armed forces as quickly as possible, while trying to turn public sentiment towards active military intervention and war with Germany. In the Pacific an American oil embargo on Japan was a crushing military and economic burden and a deep insult to Japanese pride. In response to the growing American pressure, the Empire of the Rising Sun made one of the most catastrophic military and political blunders in modern history.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the American Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor, in the American territory of Hawaii. While many of the nation's battleships were destroyed, its aircraft carriers were not in port at the time of the attack. This would prove to be of decisive importance in the war in the Pacific.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Germany also declared war on the United States. This too was a colossal error, as it allowed the United States to intervene heavily in Europe, which President Roosevelt might not have been able to do in the face of "Japan First" sentiment in the US.
The US at War
World War II was an astonishingly complex military, industrial and political challenge for the United States. Although the US had been building up its military forces for some years, it was still woefully underprepared in all areas: manpower, arms, ships, planes, tanks and so forth. The government had to balance the need for manpower with the need for workers to construct arms and vehicles for itself and its increasingly desperate allies.
Further, it had to maintain an extremely difficult alliance with the United Kingdom, its possessions and the Soviet Union, each of which had differing political and military objectives. This was especially tough because before the war the US and UK had been implacable enemies of Communism and the USSR.
And finally, its largely untested military had to face two superb opponents in battle: the triumphant Japanese Navy and the deadly German Army.
As the US entered the war it found itself on the defensive in all theatres. The Japanese Navy captured Allied bases across the Pacific, drawing ever closer to Australia and New Zealand.
The German U-boats destroyed hundreds of thousands of tons of Allied shipping in the Atlantic, nearly starving Great Britain right out of the war. But the incomparable American industrial base roared into action, building warships, planes, and tanks at an astonishing rate. As it fought the US military learned from its early mistakes and with its allies stopped the enemies' advances on all fronts. By 1942 the US was on the offensive in North Africa and the Pacific.
By 1944 American and British troops were in France, and, caught between this new peril and the Russian juggernaut grinding from the East, Germany collapsed in May of 1945. Japan held on for several months longer, fighting bitter rearguard actions on islands across the Pacific until the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
America in the Second Half of the 20th Century
The US had learned two important lessons from World Wars I and II: first, that it ignored the world at its peril. It was clear that while the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans provided enormous security for the American mainland, American security was inexorably bound up in events across the world, if for no other reason than that it needed foreign markets in which to sell its goods. The second lesson it learned was that it was a bad idea to harshly punish a defeated enemy. It was better to help rebuild the enemy so that it would become an ally and buy your industrial output. Thus at the end of the war the United States spent billions rebuilding Europe and Japan, former allies and enemies alike (with one important exception, the USSR).
At the end of World War II the United States found itself the most powerful country in the world. The US mainland had not been invaded or bombed during the war, and its industrial base was bigger and better than ever. Its military was battle-tested and equipped with the best weapons in the world, and it had sole possession of the Atom bomb. On the other hand, the Soviet Union's army was the strongest military force in Europe. In the US there was little appetite for further conflict with the Soviet Union; people just wanted the troops to come home.
The Cold War
As World War II ended, the latent hostilities between the US and UK and the Soviet Union became a lot less latent. There were plenty of good reasons for this. The US feared that International Communism backed by the Soviet Union (and later, China) would if unchecked overrun Europe and the world. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, wanted to make it absolutely clear to everyone that it was sick and tired of being overrun by foreign troops every twenty years or so, and it would be as tough and ruthless as necessary to make sure it didn't happen again. (It also despised American-style capitalism and wanted to spread International Communism across the world as well.)
Over the next fifty years the US and the Soviet Union, and later China, spent huge amounts of energy and treasure building weapons, subverting foreign governments, and engaging in proxy wars around the world. The US fought International Communism in Korea (a tie), and later on in Vietnam (a loss). The Soviet Union took over much of Eastern Europe (a win), and later on invaded Afghanistan (a huge loss).
By the late 1980s its many internal flaws (corruption, greed, incompetence and so forth) and excessive military expenditures had virtually bankrupted the USSR. By the 1990s the Soviet Union was no more and the US was trading freely with China. The Cold War was ended.
By any reasonable measurement the Cold War was a colossal, expensive blunder for everyone concerned. If the US had convinced the USSR that it wasn't its implacable foe, the USSR might have been able to relax its massive overwhelming paranoia and perhaps stop oppressing and killing huge numbers of its own people. The US might have been able to devote its wealth to something other than building more and more dangerous and exotic weapons and supporting foreign despots around the world.
On the other hand, the Cold War drove both sides into outer space for both military reasons and for national prestige. This has led to many critical technological innovations such as communications satellites and Tang, as well as a moon landing, perhaps the most important and coolest accomplishment in all history.
The end of the Cold War brought a new era of peace and happiness to the United States. For maybe a couple of years.
The War Against Terrorism
On September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists hijacked four jet planes and flew them into the World Trade Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. A fourth attack was spoiled by the heroic actions of a group of passengers aboard another jet plane. The attacks were traced to an organization named "al-Qaeda," a Muslim extremist group based in Afghanistan dedicated to driving foreigners out of the Middle East and to destroying the United States, which they saw as the "Great Satan."
The United States responded by invading Afghanistan and driving its fundamentalist leaders who supported al-Qaeda out of power. Then, in an extremely controversial move, it invaded Iraq, home of its long-time enemy Saddam Hussein.
At present the US is attempting to repair its international image, recruit allies in its war against terrorism, and extricate itself from Iraq. Afghanistan remains an incredibly difficult challenge, and it is by no means certain that the US will emerge victorious in either of its current conflicts.
The US in the Future
The United States is no longer the sole superpower in the world. It shares that dubious title with China, at least. Internally it's struggling to recover from economic excesses of the late 20th century, as well as trying to finally banish the ghost of slavery and racism that still haunts it. The US is somewhat battered but is by no means broken. It still possesses the resources, drive and human capitol to be a vital and important civilization in the coming century.
United States Factoid
American astronauts land on the moon, July 1969, arguably the single greatest scientific event in the history of mankind.
George Washington was one of a group of remarkable men who lived in the American Colonies in the late eighteenth century. Although not as pugnacious as John Adams, as imaginative as Benjamin Franklin or as brilliant as Thomas Jefferson, Washington had the capacity to lead, in war and in peace. He led the Continental Army to victory against extraordinary odds, and by so doing he led his country to independence.
The descendent of English colonists who migrated to Virginia in 1657, George Washington was born into a family of wealth and privilege - or as much wealth and privilege as could be found in the Colonies in the early eighteenth century. As a young man Washington studied mathematics, writing, geography, and probably Latin, but he never attended college. Instead he concentrated upon learning how to raise stock, farm, and manage his family's growing estates. Washington was also trained as a surveyor and spent several years scouting and mapping the lands in and around the colony of Virginia.
French and Indian War
In 1754 war broke out between England (and her colonies) and the French and their allies the Indians. Washington fought in several engagements during this war, showing a great deal of courage and coolness under fire, but of no especial strategic or tactical brilliance. Eventually the war ended with the English victorious, and Washington resigned from the Colonial forces with the honorary rank of Brigadier General.
After the war Washington married and devoted himself to his growing estates. He apparently greatly enjoyed managing his farms and plantations and was not above shedding his coat and helping with manual labor. He also sat in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, the mostly-impotent local governing body of Virginia (real power definitely resided with the Royal Governor of the colony and with King and Parliament back in England).
Although a loyalist, Washington too chafed under the growing burden of taxation placed on the Colonies by Parliament (largely imposed to help pay off debts from the recent French and Indian War). As tensions grew and England ratcheted up the pressure on the Colonies, Washington's position grew more radical, and by 1768 he declared himself ready to take up arms against England whenever his country called him. By 1774 Washington was a member of the Continental Congress, the first truly national organization of the nascent country. When actual fighting broke out in and around Boston in 1775, Washington was named as commander of the military forces of all of the Colonies, a post he maintained once actual independence was declared in 1776.
Commander of the Continental Army
As military commander of the Revolutionary forces, Washington displayed the same strengths and weaknesses he had years before when fighting for England against France. He was personally courageous, almost to the point of foolhardiness. Early in the war he tended to favor overly-complex military actions beyond the capabilities of his volunteer soldiers, resulting in a series of near-catastrophic defeats at the hands of the professional British forces. But almost by force of will alone - through long, discouraging years of privation and defeat - he kept his army alive and in the field, and by so doing kept the revolution alive in the Colonies. Eventually, the sheer tenacity and growing skill of the Colonial Army and its general would win it the grudging admiration of even its fiercest enemies.
The entrance of France into the war on the side of the Colonies and increasing Colonial power and success on the battlefield led to growing anti-war sentiment of the British people. In 1781 Washington led his troops on a daring forced march into Virginia, where he (with the aid of a large contingent of French soldiers) besieged an entire British army on the peninsula of Yorktown. The French naval maneuvers having given them temporary command of the sea, the British general was unable to escape his predicament and surrendered his command. Although sporadic fighting continued for some months, the war was essentially over: America had won her independence.
President of the United States
After the war, Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which determined the form of the new nation's government, and later served as its first President. As President, Washington sought to keep the country free from foreign entanglements, resisting close alliances or wars with any. He attempted (with little success) to keep the country free from political party rivalry and strife. Washington served two four-year terms as President, and then retired back to his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, where he died in 1799.
Washington's Place in History
George Washington is known for good reason as the "Father of the United States of America." While not the greatest general in world history, nor the greatest statesman, Washington had a great steadiness and courage in the face of adversity, and he was able to get men to willingly die for him. Without Washington, it's unlikely that the United States would have been born.
Seeing service during the American Revolutionary War, the American minutemen were select members of the colonial militia. They were a "rapid response" force, trained to respond quickly to enemy attacks, giving the Regular Army (as well as the rest of the militia) time to react and prepare for battle. Minutemen actually predate the American Revolution: the Massachusetts Bay Colony had certain members of its militia designated as minutemen as early as 1645.
The Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" was a heavy bomber aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. Equipped with four engines, numerous gun emplacements and a superior "flight ceiling," the B-17 was the favorite bomber of the US Air Corps, despite its inferior range and bombload to the B24 Liberator, primarily because of its ability to sustain heavy damage and still bring its crew back home alive.
Initially used in risky daylight raids against targets in Germany, the B-17 sustained crippling casualties from the Luftwaffe fighters. As the war progressed and the Allies designed fighters capable of escorting the bombers into enemy territory, the B-17's raids became more successful, doing crippling damage to German industry and cities.
Over 12,000 B-17s were constructed during World War II and approximately a third of them were lost in combat.
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in Mexico, the western United States and Canada, though there are ranches in other areas. People who own or operate a ranch are called ranchers, or stockgrowers. Ranching is also a method used to raise less common livestock such as elk, American bison or even ostrich, emu, and alpacas.