A suicide bombing in Manchester, England on Monday left UK citizens reeling, grasping for some sense they could make of the tragedy, and trying to heal the wound of yet another terrorist attack in the Western World. For the men, women, and children that live within Great Britain and its allied nations, the week that followed was full of remorse and uncertainty, but for the men and women engaged in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Monday’s tragic events offered all the more motivation to bring the fight to anyone willing to wave the black and white flag of terror above their disparate and divided forces.
In keeping with a tradition that dates back as long as explosives have been dropped from aircraft, a picture soon emerged of a Hellfire missile mounted on a combat drone that said simply, “love from Manchester,” accompanied by a hand-drawn heart. Soon, speculation that the image was fake began circulating around the web, that is, until a spokesman for England’s Royal Air Force confirmed its authenticity to reporters from The Sun.
“The RAF can confirm the photo was genuine,” the spokesman reportedly stated before explaining that the sentiment was understandable under the circumstances. Per the unnamed spokesman, it is “unlikely” that any investigation will be launched into the matter, nor will the culprit face any disciplinary action.
This isn’t the first time terrorists have been met with similar messages adorning airborne firepower. Pictures emerged in 2015 of American GBU-31 guided missiles with the words, “From Paris with love” written on them after a series of terror attacks ripped through France in November of that year. Many of those pictures were not formally confirmed to be authentic by defense officials, but the history of such messages lends to their credibility.
After the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, many images began floating around the internet of hand written messages adorning explosive ordnance, often citing Osama Bin Laden by name or making statements in support of the New York City fire and police departments. In 2013, a bomb with the popular meme “Grumpy Cat” drawn on it was photographed before being airdropped on terrorists in the Middle East. Below the stenciled image, the word “die” was prominently displayed.
Even the infamous atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the culmination of fighting in the Pacific Theater in World War II were not free of graffiti. Images of signatures and short messages inscribed on the outer shells of “Fat Boy” and “Little Boy” survive to this day.
It can be easy to understand a war-fighter’s desire to make his mark on bombs and missiles headed for the enemy. Many of the men and women tasked with arming and maintaining the aircraft that deliver these weapon systems rarely see direct contact with the terrorists they’re helping to fight. Instead of being able to deliver on their strong feelings of pain and contempt in the aftermath of tragedies like Monday’s concert attack with direct violence, adding a brief message to a bomb affords them the opportunity to personalize their vengeance on behalf of an entire nation.
Will the messages ever be read by their intended recipients? Of course not, but that’s not the point. The point is leaving your mark on the tool of evil’s undoing. The point is that we know the victims of Manchester’s attack were in the minds and hearts of the soldiers seeking to root out terror as they carried out their duty in the days that followed. The point is that the UK’s men and women in uniform are coming for ISIS with a renewed vigor.
After all, the terrorists don’t have to read the bombs in order to get that message.
Images courtesy of the National Archive, Business Insider, Twitter