The Vietnam War’s icon was arguably the UH-1 helicopter. Officially designated the Iroquois (‘Huey’ is more of a term of endearment), this helicopter has been the most-produced in history, first flying in 1956 — that means it has just over six decades of service with the United States military!
Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.
According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the UH-1D had the ability to carry up to 16 passengers and crew.
The chopper could also carry just under 3,900 pounds of equipment in the cabin or 5,000 pounds in an external sling. It also could serve as a potent gunship, firing 70mm rockets, M60 machine guns in 7.62mm NATO, and M134 miniguns.
The secret to the Huey’s success was a gas turbine engine that not only was able to perform at higher temperatures and in less-dense air than previous helicopters, but it was also much lighter than previous helicopter engines.
This allowed the Huey to be smaller (48-foot rotor diameter, 57 foot length) and lighter — making it fast (a top speed of 135 miles per hour) and maneuverable. It had a range of 315 miles, giving American troops the ability to strike hard and fast at a distance.
The chopper’s mobility meant that in a one-year tour, the average infantry soldier saw 240 days of combat. For some perspective, in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the average grunt saw 40 days over the nearly four years that conflict lasted.
Today, versions of the UH-1 are still in service with the Marine Corps (the UH-1Y Venom), the Air Force (UH-1N), and Navy (UH-1N). The Army’s last Huey mission was flown on Dec. 15, 2016. According to an Army release, the helicopter was handed off to the Louisiana State Police a week later.
This is the second in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The military branches are like a family, but that doesn’t mean everyone always gets along. With different missions, uniforms, and mindsets, troops love to make fun of people in opposite branches. Of course when it counts in combat, the military usually works out its differences.
One of the quickest ways to make fun of Marines is to call them dumb. Plenty of acronyms and inside jokes have been invented to harp on this point, like “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential” or even referring to them as “jarheads.”
The interesting thing about calling Marines names however, is that somewhere along the line they just decide to own that sh-t. Many terms used in a derogatory fashion — jarhead, leatherneck, and devil dog — eventually morph into terms that Marines actually call themselves. It’s like a badge of honor.
The thinking that Marines are not intelligent often stems from it being the smaller service known more for fighting on the ground, and the thinking that shooting at the bad guys doesn’t take smarts. There is some truth to this — they don’t call them “dumb grunts” for nothing — but the Marine Corps infantry is actually a very small part of the overall Corps, which also has many more personnel serving in admin, logistics, supply, and air assets.
In a head-to-head battle of ASVAB scores (the test you take to get into the military), the Air Force or Navy would probably come out on top, due to these services having many more technical fields. But plenty of Marine infantrymen (this writer included) know that being in the Marine infantry — or at least being really good at it — takes plenty of brainpower paired with combat skills and physical fitness.
Other common ways to make fun of the Corps are to go after their gear or barracks, since they usually get the hand-me-downs from everyone else, or to focus on their insanely-short and weird-looking haircuts.
Then there are people who tell Marines they aren’t even a branch, they are just a part of the Navy. To which every Marine will inevitably reply, “Yeah, the men’s department.”
This brings us to an important point to remember that in every insult on the Marine Corps, there is at least some truth behind it. But Marines are masters at spinning an uncomfortable truth into something positive, a point not lost on a Navy sailor writing a poem in 1944 calling them “publicity fiends.” Here are some examples:
When a new Marine comes to the unit, he or she might be told, “Welcome to the Suck.” Basically, a new guy is told that his life is going to suck and that’s a good thing.
“Retreat hell! We just got here!” and “Retreat hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.” — Even when the Marines are pulling back from the front, they aren’t retreating. They are attacking in a different spot, or conducting a “tactical withdrawal.”
“If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, you’d be issued one.” — Forget about married life. Just focus on shooting and breaking things.
“Marines are about the most peculiar breed of human beings I have ever witnessed. They treat their service as if it was some kind of cult, plastering their emblem on almost everything they own, making themselves up to look like insane fanatics with haircuts to ungentlemanly lengths, worshiping their Commandant almost as if he was a god, and making weird noises like a band of savages. They’ll fight like rabid dogs at the drop of a hat just for the sake of a little action, and are the cockiest SOBs I have ever known. Most have the foulest mouths and drink well beyond man’s normal limits, but their high spirits and sense of brotherhood set them apart and, generally speaking, of the United States Marines I’ve come in contact with, are the most professional soldiers and the finest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”
Why to actually hate the Marine Corps
The Marine Corps is the smallest branch of the military, and it has a reputation for getting all the leftovers. This means everything: weapons, aircraft, and gear have traditionally been hand-me-downs from the Army.
Let’s start with the barracks: Usually terrible, though for some it’s getting better. There’s a rather infamous (thanks mostly to Terminal Lance) barracks known as Mackie Hall in Hawaii, which most Marines refer to as “Crackie Hall,” since it’s in a dark, desolate part of the base that’s right near a river of waste everyone calls “sh-t creek.” While the Corps has been building better housing for Marines, it’s still nowhere close to what the other services can expect.
Then there are the weapons and gear. Go on deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan and you’ll see even the lowliest Army private with top-shelf uniforms, plenty of “tacticool” equipment, and the latest night vision. And on their brand new M4 rifle, they’ll have the best flashlight, laser sights, and whatever brand new scope or optic DARPA just came up with. But here’s the plot twist: That soldier never even leaves the FOB.
All of this “gee-whiz, that would be awesome if I had that” equipment will usually end up in the hands of Marines eventually. It’s just going to be a few years, and only after it’s been worn out by the Army.
That’s not to say the Marines don’t have their own gear specifically for them. The MV-22 Osprey aircraft was designed with the Corps in mind, along with amphibious tractors and others, like the Marine version of the F-35 fighter.
Despite their sometimes decrepit gear and weapons, Marines also spin this as a point of pride — they are so good at this — rationalizing the terrible by saying they can “do more with less.” But if an airman or sailor is thinking this one through, they are saying to themselves, “but I’d rather do more with more” from the comfort of their gorgeous barracks rooms that look like hotel suites.
There’s also the Marine language barrier. Especially in joint-command settings, service members from other branches might be scratching their heads when they hear stuff like “Errr,” “Yut,” or “Rah?” in question form.
And as for what Marines hate about the Marine Corps: Field Day. Everyone can all agree on field day being the worst thing in Marine Corps history. The top definition of what “field day” is in Urban Dictionary puts it this way:
“A Thursday night room cleaning to prep for a inspection Friday morning that is required to go way beyond the point of clean to ridiculous things like no ice in your freezer, no water in your sink, no hygiene products in your shower. Most of the time you truly believe that someone woke up one morning, sat down with a pen and paper and just came up with a bunch of ridiculous things to look for in these “inspections”. Basically Field day is just another tool used by Marine Corps leadership to piss off and demoralize Marines on a weekly basis.”
That’s basically all true. Which leads some to count down the days until they get out, the magical, mystical day of E.A.S. (End of Active Service):
Why to love the Marine Corps
There are many reasons to have pride in the Marine Corps, and it usually comes down to its history. Since 1775, the Marine Corps has had a storied history of fighting everyone, including pirates, standing armies, and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And knowing history and serving to the standard of those who came before is a big part of what it means to be a Marine. A Marine going to Afghanistan today was likely told at boot camp about the Marines who were fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — with the idea that you definitely don’t want to tarnish the reputation they forged many years ago.
While there were many negatives aspects highlighted about the service here, many Marines see these instead as ways the Marine Corps operates differently. Marines see the bad as a way of thinking that “we don’t need perks” to do our job, which comes down to locating, closing with, and killing the enemy. The Marines even have a longstanding mantra to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”
Other things to be proud of: Marines can get stationed in some pretty awesome spots like Hawaii and southern California for example, although some are sent to the dark desert hole that is 29 Palms. And besides the combat deployments, peacetime Marines enjoy awesome traveling and training in places the Army usually doesn’t go: Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, or the famous and beloved “med floats.”
And hands down, the Marine Corps has the absolute best dress uniforms and the best commercials.
For male Marines (as far as what your recruiter tells you), the dress blue uniform is like kryptonite to females in a bar. Interestingly enough, that same uniform is like kryptonite to young impressionable men who are interested in being among the “Few and the Proud.”
In the skies over Korea in the 1950s, both the Soviet Union and the U.S. debuted new jet fighters of very similar design. The Soviet MiG-15 and American F-86 were nearly evenly matched, but both sides wanted to capture and crack open the other’s jet to see what made it tick.
The Soviets got the chance first when they managed to capture a F-86 Sabre in Oct. 1951.
On Oct. 6, 1951, Air Force 2nd Lt. Bill N. Garrett was engaged by a Russian-piloted MiG-15 that got the better of him. Garrett made it out of the fight with his jet, but his engine and ejection seat were damaged.
As Garrett fled to the ocean, another MiG-15 caught sight of him and began chasing him. The American pilot began evasive maneuvers as Soviet rounds ripped past his aircraft. Losing altitude as he fled, Garrett barely made it to the coast before ditching.
But the jet didn’t end up in the deep seawater Garrett had originally aimed for. Because of the altitude he lost and the MiG’s aggressive attacks, Garrett was forced to ditch into mud flats that caught the jet.
The mission wasn’t over for the Russians. They were forced to disassemble the jet overnight as the tide receded. Working with hundreds of Chinese laborers while U.S. ships fired on them, a Soviet team disassembled the plane and packaged it for transport.
Then the Russians carefully moved it on large trucks north to the border, moving mostly at night. The one time they failed to reach cover before first light, an American plane spotted the convoy and attacked the lead truck with rockets. The truck just managed to get away.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”
The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.
“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”
Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”
Review Involves Many Countries
The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”
The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.
Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
Long gone are the wars studied in history class where one conspicuous force goes up against another, banners flying, in a flashy display of military might. To say that war’s changed is an obvious truth — I know it, you know it, and, more important, the Russians know it.
In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, published a paper that outlined a concept called, aptly, “New Generation Warfare.” This paper outlines what the Russians see as the key tenets of successful, modern war waging. These are the 8 phases of an invasion — the essential ingredients, from a Russian perspective, to war in this generation.
Phase One: Setting the Stage
This first phase is all about establishing a favorable political, economic, and military climate in the targeted area. This first phase is completely non-military. It involves gathering information, establishing economic ties between Russia and key industries in the area, understanding local ideology, and so on. It’s all about knowing your target.
Phase Two: Media Misdirection
Next, the Russians mislead political and military leaders with a coordinated, tactical “leaking” of false data, orders, and directives. The Russians target the biggest media channels and the most visible public figures, creating or further instigating political strife to rile up locals. To do this successfully, the Russians use information they’ve gathered in phase one and twist it to build pro-Russian sentiment.
The third phase is all about making use of Russian-cultivated relationships. In this phase, the Russians intimidate, deceive, and bribe key politicians to get them to abandon their post when “convenient.”
In this phase, the Russians pump propaganda en masse into the targeted region, fomenting further discontent among the population. At this precise moment, Russian troops start to arrive. It’s no coincidence that this happens when the population favors Russia most.
Phase Five: Lockdown
Russian military forces are still posturing in phase five — no overt triggers are pulled just yet. In this phase, Russians establish no-fly zones, put up blockades, and exert force through the use of private military companies and local armed resistance forces.
Phase Six: Military Action
In phase six, Russia finally starts to flex its military muscles. All wheels turn simultaneously — Russian forces make their move alongside an all-cylinder firing of special operations and subversive missions. Industrial espionage, satellite interference, and so on; whatever it takes to weaken the opponent.
In phase seven, Russia employs precise strikes to hit the exposed weaknesses of their enemy. Targeted information operations, electronic warfare, and precise, long-range artillery strikes hit key pressure points, paralyzing the opposition.
Phase Eight: Clean Up
Finally, the Russians identify and clean up and pockets of remaining resistance.
That, by the numbers, is how Russia invades foreign territory. Of course, no war is simple enough to fit within a playbook–these phases can happen in sequence or all at once, if necessary. Though execution may vary, the key principles outlined here can be used to devastating effect.
Just how effective is this new, hybrid warfare? Russia’s official involvement in the annexation of Crimea was just 24 days—but you can safely bet that covert operations were well underway in the months prior. Years later, NATO is still figuring out how to respond.
A military family had their U-Haul stolen in Georgia during their PCS to Louisiana. Inside the moving van was their infant son’s ashes.
Benjamin and Kassandra Benton were high school sweethearts. When Kassandra found out she was pregnant with baby Wyatt, she didn’t believe the doctor — she was a Neuroblastoma cancer survivor at just seven years old and her entire abdomen was “nuked,” as she called it. “Some people may remember me from Extreme Home Makeover; I’m the one who made necklaces to raise money for kids with cancer,” she shared.
But she was pregnant and 14 weeks along. Kassandra was considered high risk and went into labor at home unexpectedly at just 24 weeks. Ben delivered baby Wyatt who wasn’t breathing while Kassandra continued to hemorrhage. EMS personnel rushed them to the hospital where they were both saved. But they’d spend five months watching Wyatt fight for his life.
Ben headed to Air Force basic training not long after Wyatt’s birth. Kassandra kept him up to date through letters. “Some of the bad things I’d leave out scared that Ben would get discouraged and drop out. It was hard,” she said.
Eventually, she had to call him to come home. Wyatt’s brain shunt was overrun with infection and there was nothing more they could do. “We decided instead of Wyatt living his whole life in the hospital, we’d take him into hospice where he could see the outside … where we could cuddle and enjoy his last days,” Kassandra explained.
On November 12, 2015 he took his last breath.
“We held him. We loved him and we made sure he felt that. He was our world and he still is. Because of Wyatt I have my two beautiful daughters,” Kassandra said. She went into labor early with both girls but because of her experience with Wyatt, she recognized the signs and got to the hospital early. Charlotte and Amelia are here because of him, Kassandra said.
The young family was on their way to Ben’s new duty station at Barksdale Air Force Base when they stopped at a motel in Georgia for the night. When they awoke, their U-Haul was gone. Although it was found days later, it was empty except for a few bags of clothes. Wyatt’s ashes, hand and footprints and hand mold were still gone. It was all they had left of him.
A local nonprofit near Barksdale Air Force Base has stepped forward to help. EveryWarrior is offering a $3,000 reward through the Covington, Georgia Police Department for the return of Wyatt’s remains. The military spouses at the base have also rallied behind the Benton family, establishing a GoFundMe page to support their needs.
In the end though, they just want Wyatt’s remains returned safely and don’t care about the rest of their stolen things. Kassandra has pleaded through every media interview for the person who took his ashes to please “have heart” and bring him home. For the Benton family, it feels like they are mourning his loss all over again.
In a Facebook post on March 6, 2021 she pleaded once again. “Keep sharing, keep looking, and keep the hope. I believe, I have to believe Wyatt will find his way back to me. It’s the only thing keeping me going. And a THANK YOU! To everyone who is helping us on this search, and who’s donated for my family, and who is praying for us. You are our village…”
If you have information about Wyatt’s stolen remains, please contact the Covington Police Department at 770-786-7605.
If you’re a veteran living in the Washington, DC area, the hit Netflix series House of Cards wants you. Filming on the fourth season starts this July and they’re looking for extras. The show wants to cast men and women who actually served.
There’s always a chance they’ll give someone a line which would get you into the actors union which could lead to a huge action movie career. Or you could at least be visible in a couple of shots, allowing you to show the episodes to your friends and family and talk about what it was like to work with Kevin Spacey.
Check out the details from Project Casting below. They’re very concerned that applicant follow instructions to the letter, but that should be easy for anyone who served and got an honorable discharge, right?
Also, when showbiz folks say “play either right before or right after the July 4th weekend,” they mean “film either right before or right after the July 4th weekend.”
How to apply:
MILITARY VETERAN (age 28–40, male AND female) – Preferably someone who actually toured overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. This will play either right before or right after the July 4th weekend. Please have a flexible schedule.
TO APPLY please email: firstname.lastname@example.org WITH
4. Waist and Jacket/dress sizes
5. Three (3) Selfies. Selfies, not headshots. Must be recent!
Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.
In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.
What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.
All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.
Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:
“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”
It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.
On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.
In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.
A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.
During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.
As Director Clapper said:
“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”
The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.
Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.
President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.
After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.
The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.
I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.
When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.
I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.
Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:
“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”
The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.
The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.
The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.
According to a report by the Daily Caller, the $8.5 billion deal saved taxpayers almost $740 million in costs — a cost of $94 million per aircraft.
The F-35A is arguably the simplest of the three variants, taking off and landing from conventional runways on land. The F-35B, being purchased by the Marine Corps, is a V/STOL (for Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft that required a lift fan and vectored nozzle. The F-35C is designed to handle catapult takeoffs and arrested landings on the aircraft carriers of the United States Navy.
The increased production of the F-35 has helped knock the production cost down. An October 2015 article by the Daily Caller noted that per-unit costs of the Zumwalt-class destroyers skyrocketed after the production run was cut from an initial buy of 32 to the eventual total of three.
Earlier this year, the F-35A took part in a Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nev., and posted a 15 to 1 kill ratio, according to reports by Aviation Week and Space Technology. BreakingDefense.com reported that the F-35A had a 90 percent mission capable rate, and that in every sortie, the key systems were up.
So, with these details in mind, take a look at this video Vox released on Jan. 26 of this year, before the announcement of the contract, and before the F-35s did some ass-kicking at Red Flag.
Filmmakers would love just to pick up a camera, press record, and film the most realistic performances from their hired actors. In many cases that is considered possible (after a few takes), but not when you’re dealing with military-based movies. Winning over the veteran audiences is a struggle; comments about how Hollywood “got it wrong” tend to start flying as the end credits roll.
Veterans critique the hell out of any movie that contains our troops — most of the time they have issues with uniforms and tactics. Face it — we have every right to.
However, there are a few films out there (like “Platoon,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Blackhawk Down”) that, for the most part, won over even those tough-to-reach veterans. That’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of issues, but they had well-written scripts supported by research and outstanding technical advisors.
Since replicating the real-life grittiness of war is next to impossible, it’s the technical advisor’s job to train the actors on how to make their combat maneuvering authentic and feel like they’re really in the thick of battle. That means putting the cast through some extreme training scenarios before heading to set.
So check out how these advisors turned their actors into military operators:
In 1986’s “Platoon” directed by Vietnam Veteran Oliver Stone, retired Marine Captain Dale Dye took his cast of actors into the jungle, 85 miles away from all communications with only an entrenching tool so they could acquire a thousand yard stare.
Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of “Platoon” deep in the Philippines jungle (Source: Orion Pictures | Screenshot)
2. “Saving Private Ryan”
Capt. Dye would repeat a similar practice for director Steven Spielberg in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” as he led the A-list cast on a six-day field training exercise, conducting land nav, physical training, and weapons training just to name a few.
Tom Hanks (left) stands with Capt. Dye (right) on the set of “Saving Private Ryan” (Source: Dream Works | Screenshot)
3. “Black Hawk Down”
Not all movies use this method to nail the combatant mind-set.
In 2001’s “Black Hawk Down,” producers chose a different approach by sending actors such as Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor, and Orlando Bloom on a civilian mission to Fort Benning to attend a crash course orientation class of intense physical training, intro to demolition, and ground fighting led by the elite Army Rangers.
The cast of Black Hawk Down receives a few some words of instruction before raiding an M.O.U.T. or Military Operations Urban Terrain. War Games! (Source: Sony | Screenshot)
The cast also got to listen to words from the veterans of the Mogadishu raid, including Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Durant, who is famously known for piloting one of the Black Hawks that was shot down during the raid and was taken prisoner but was released 11 days later.
Comment below on how you’d like to see Hollywood represent your branch of service.
Today I found out Jimmy Stewart was a two star general in the United States military.
In 1940, Jimmy Stewart was drafted into the United States Army, but ended up being rejected due to being five pounds under the required weight, given his height (at the time he weighed 143 pounds). Not to be dissuaded, Stewart then sought out the help of Don Loomis, who was known to be able to help people add or subtract pounds. Once he had gained a little weight, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps in March of 1941 and was eventually accepted, once he convinced the enlisting officer to re-run the tests.
Initially, Stewart was given the rank of private; by the time he had completed training, he had advanced to the rank of second lieutenant (January of 1942). Much to his chagrin, due to his celebrity status and extensive flight expertise (having tallied over 400 flight hours before even joining the military), Stewart was initially assigned to various “behind the lines” type duties such as training pilots and making promotional videos in the states. Eventually, when he realized they were not going to ever put him in the front line, he appealed to his commanding officer and managed to get himself assigned to a unit overseas.
In August of 1943, he found himself with the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, initially as a first officer, and shortly thereafter as a Captain. During combat operations over Germany, Stewart found himself promoted to the rank of Major. During this time, Stewart participated in several uncounted missions (on his orders) into Nazi occupied Europe, flying his B-24 in the lead position of his group in order to inspire his troops.
For his bravery during these missions, he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross; three times received the Air Medal; and once received the Croix de Guerre from France. This latter medal was an award given by France and Belgium to individuals allied with themselves who distinguished themselves with acts of heroism.
By July of 1944, Stewart was promoted chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment wing of the Eighth Air Force. Shortly thereafter, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, becoming one of only a handful of American soldiers to ever rise from private to colonel within a four year span.
After the war, Stewart was an active part of the United States Air Force Reserve, serving as the Reserve commander of Dobbins Air Reserve Base. On July 24, 1959, he attained the rank of brigadier general (one star general).
During the Vietnam War, he flew (not the pilot) in a B-52 on a bombing mission and otherwise continued to fulfill his duty with the Air Force Reserve. He finally retired from the Air Force on May 31, 1968 after 27 years of service and was subsequently promoted to Major General (two star general).
Both Stewart’s grandfathers fought in the American Civil War. He also had ancestors on his mother’s side that served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. His father served in the Spanish-American War and World War I. His adopted son, Ronald, was killed at the age of 24 as a Marine in Vietnam.
The full list of military awards achieved by Stewart are: 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 4 Air Medals, 1 Army Commendation Medal, 1 Armed Forces Reserve Medal, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1 French Croix de Guerre with Palm.
As a child, Stewart was a Second Class Scout and eventually became an adult Scout leader. He was also the recipient of the prestigious Boy Scouts of America Silver Buffalo Award, of which only 674 to date have been given out since 1926. Of the other recipients besides Stewart, 14 have held the office of President of the United States.
A brigadier general is equivalent to a lower rear admiral in the navy. A major general is equivalent to a rear admiral and is typically given 10,000-20,000 troops to command and is authorized to command them independently.
U.S. law limits the number of general officers that may be on active duty at any time to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps.
Eligible officers to be considered to promotion for the rank of brigadier general (one star) are recommended to the President from a list compiled by current general officers. The President then selects officers from this list to be given the promotion. Occasionally, the President will also nominate officers not on this list, but this almost never happens. Once the President makes their selection, the Senate confirms or rejects the selected individuals by a majority vote.
The name “brigadier general” comes from the American Revolutionary War when the first brigadier generals were appointed. At that time, they were simply general officers put in charge of a brigade, hence “brigadier general”. For a time in the very early 19th century, this was the highest rank any officer in the military could achieve as the rank of major general (two star) had been abolished. The rank of major general was later re-established just before the war of 1812.
At Princeton, Stewart excelled at architecture and was eventually awarded a full scholarship for graduate work by his professors as a result of his thesis on airport design.
Stewart and Henry Fonda were roommates early in their careers. Later in life, they still shared a close friendship and, when they weren’t working, they often spent their time building and painting model airplanes with each other.
Jimmy Stewart also was an avid pilot before his military service. He received his private pilot certificate in 1935 and used to fly cross-country to visit his parents. Interestingly, when he did so, he stated that he used rail road tracks to navigate.
Stewart was also one of the investors and collaborators who helped build Thunderbird Field, which was a pilot training school built to help train pilots during WWII. During the WWII alone, over 10,000 pilots were trained there.
After WWII, he strongly considered abandoning acting and entering the aviation field, due to personal doubts that he could still act.
His first film after the war was Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life which, at the time, was considered somewhat of a flop with the public, though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Stewart. Partially due to this film’s poor showing at the box office, Capra’s production company went bankrupt and Stewart began to further doubt his ability to act following the war.
On January 5, 1992, It’s a Wonderful Life became the first American program ever to be broadcast on Russian television. A translated version, courtesy of Stewart and Lomonosov Moscow State University, was broadcast to over 200 million Russians on that day.
Stewart went on to act in several flops, as well as several critically acclaimed films, and by the 1950s was still considered a top tier actor over all. This was important because in 1950 he became one of the first top tier actors to work for no money up front, but rather a percentage of the gross of the film. Others had done this before, but it was rare and generally only lower end actors on the tail of their careers would agree to this. He did this on the movie Winchester ’73 where he had asked for $200,000 pay to appear in that movie and Harvey. The studio rejected, so he countered that he’d work for a percentage of the gross. He ended up taking home nearly $600,000 for Winchester ’73 alone. Hollywood’s other top-tier stars took noticed and this practiced began becoming the norm for top tier actors.
By 1954, Stewart was voted the most popular Hollywood actor in the world, displacing John Wayne. He also was the highest grossing actor that year.
Stewart was also known somewhat for his poetry. He frequently would appear on Johnny Carson’sThe Tonight Show and would read various poems he had written throughout his life. One of his poems, written about his dog, so moved Carson that, by the end, Carson was choking back tears. Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller, in 1980, parodied this on Saturday Night Live. These poems were later compiled into a book called Jimmy Stewart and His Poems.
Later in life, Stewart appeared in The Magic of Lassie (1978), much to the dismay of critics and the general public, as the film was a universal flop and seen to be beneath him. Stewart’s response to them was that it was the only script he was offered that didn’t have sex, profanity, or graphic violence.
Stewart’s final film role was as the voice of Wylie Burp, in the 1991 movie An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.
Stewart devoted much of the last years of his life to trying to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation of the U.S. constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as promote education. He died of a blood clot in his lung on July 2, 1997. Over his life, his professions included a hardware store shop-hand; a brick layer; a road worker; an assistant magician; an actor; an investor; a war hero; and a philanthropist. He also held a bachelors degree in architecture from Princeton.
Editor’s Note: An earlier story posted at WATM on this subject claimed that only seven women had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After readers notified us that our list was incomplete, we decided to post a new story with the additional information about women who received the Distinguished Flying Cross. A heartfelt thanks to all our readers for keeping us honest and accurate!
Women make up a smaller percentage of the military than men, but they have proven themselves throughout history to be brave, competent, and heroic. Take these sheroes for example:
1. Col. Andra V.P. Kniep
When then Capt. Andra Kniep took off for a mission in her A-10 over Afghanistan on March 5, 2002, she had no idea she was about to accomplish a most unlikely feat — receiving two Distinguished Flying Crosses in two days.
On that first day, Kniep coordinated and led deadly night attacks against Taliban vehicles and positions, destroying numerous enemies. Once the nearly eight hour mission was completed, she then led her element to a “remote, unfamiliar, classified location” for recovery, according to her Distinguished Flying Cross citation.
The next day Kniep once again led her element against the enemy, this time taking control of the Operation Anaconda airspace. Kniep successfully coordinated attack elements using multiple platforms totaling fourteen aircraft. Due to her exceptional ability all elements in the congested airspace were able to complete their missions and support coalition ground forces. For her actions on March 6 she was awarded a second Distinguished Flying Cross.
2. Lt. Col. Kim Campbell
On April 7, 2003, then-Capt. Kim Campbell, piloting an A-10, was part of a two plane sortie flying close air support over Baghdad. When a call came over the radio of troops in contact, Campbell and her wingman responded. After numerous gun and rocket runs supporting the troops on the ground, Campbell’s aircraft took heavy fire.
As she fought with her stricken aircraft, it hurtled towards Baghdad and she faced the possibility of ejecting into hostile territory. Luckily, the A-10 has triple redundancy in its controls, and though both the hydraulic systems were inoperable, the manual reversion system was still functioning. Using this system “of cranks and cables,” Campbell said she was able to “fly the aircraft under mechanical control.”
On the same day of Capt. Campbell’s heroics, Capt. Tricia Paulsen-Howe and the rest of the crew of a KC-135 aircraft flew their unarmed tanker into harm’s way. According to the Air Force, Paulsen-Howe and crew entered hostile airspace to assist in the combat search and rescue mission of a downed F-15 north of Baghdad. They provided critical refueling assets during the operation. For their bravery the entire crew were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
4. Col. Tracy Onufer
Col. Onufer had been an officer aboard Air Force Special Operations aircraft including the AC-130H and AC-130U flying combat missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She is currently serving as the Vice Commander of the 352nd Special Operations Wing and according to her Air Force biography is the recipient of a Distinguished Flying Cross for her actions overseas.
5. Capt. Lindsay Gordon
Capt. Lindsay Gordon was serving as an AH-64 Apache pilot with the 101st Airborne Division when she and Chief Warrant Officer David Woodward were called upon to support an exfiltration of a Ranger element in contact.
When 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment helicopters extracting the Rangers came under heavy fire, Gordon maneuvered her Apache into harm’s way to draw fire. Gordon and Woodward’s action were credited with saving numerous lives and aircraft. For their actions they were both awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.