Booby traps are terrifying weapons of choice for the troops who want to seriously wound their enemies without having to spend precious time waiting for them to show up.
Placed at specific areas on the battlefield where the opposition is most likely to travel, these easily assembled devices have the ability to take troops right out of the fight or cause a painful delayed death.
U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.
“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.
Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.
Norway has established the Jegertroppen, or the “Hunter Troop,” the world’s first all-female special operations unit with the goal of improving the country’s effectiveness in international operations.
“In Afghanistan, one of our big challenges was that we would enter houses and not be able to speak to the women” Capt. Ole Vidar Krogsaeter, an officer with the Norwegian Special Operations Forces, told Foreign Affairs. “In urban warfare, you have to be able to interact with women as well. Adding female soldiers was an operational need.”
The training program is extremely challenging. The Norwegian Special Operations Forces Command reported that only 88 of the 317 candidates passed the initial admissions test and only 13 trainees made it to the end of Jegertroppen‘s yearlong course. The high dropout rate is similar to male Special Operations Forces units.
Jegertroppen‘s soldiers displayed superior shooting and observational skills, Colonel Frode Kristoffersen, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces, told Foreign Affairs.
Hunter Troop soldiers do carry less weight than their male counterparts, a minimum of 60-pound rucks instead of the 88 pounds for male operators. But otherwise they complete the same training with long trips through the snow, days of limited food supplies, and operations on little or no sleep.
The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.
But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.
The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.
But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)
The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.
If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.
The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.
Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.
The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.
He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.
Before he received his code name of GARBO, Juan Pujol Garcia was a chicken farmer and hotel manager in Fascist Spain. He started his espionage career with no training, no contacts, and surrounded by intelligence agents from all sides. By the end of World War II, he would be awarded the Iron Cross Second Class from Hitler himself and made a member of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI. He was a bold double agent who greatly contributed to the success of the D-Day invasions, but the Nazis never realized they’d been had.
As Spain was torn apart by its civil war from 1936 until 1939, Pujol developed a distaste for both Fascists and Communists after being mistreated by both sides, though he had done his compulsory military service to Spain in 1931. When World War II broke out, he and his wife approached the British government to offer their services as informants. When they were rejected, Pujol created a fake identity for himself as a virulently pro-Nazi Spanish official and his spy career was born.
Instead of going to Britain to recruit more agents as his orders from Berlin would have had him do, he moved to Lisbon, where he started feeding his Nazi handlers terrible intelligence from open sources — all true, but useless —from tourism guides to England, encyclopedias and reference books, magazine ads, and even news reels. The Nazis accepted him and trained him based on how impressive-looking his reports were.
He soon had a fake network of his own agents and would blame them for faulty information. But it was when the Germans started hunting a fake convoy, created by Pujols, that British intelligence became interested in him. It was the British who dubbed him GARBO. He and his handler expanded their fake network, eventually having the Nazis pay for 27 spies that didn’t exist. His reports were so long and grandiose he soon had to start transmitting to Berlin via radio. This did nothing to shorten the British effort to flood German intelligence with information that they would stop trying to infiltrate the British government.
His primary goal was deception. When Operation Torch came about, Pujols sent his Nazi handlers a letter, backdated via airmail, a warning about the invasion of North Africa. It was designed to arrive just too late to be of use but convince the Wehrmacht of his credibility. They took the bait. His finest hour came as part of Operation Fortitude, the massive Allied deception operation aimed at fooling the Germans about the D-Day landings. The Germans told Pujols they were concerned about the buildup for an invasion of Europe. Between January and June 1944, Pujols transmitted 500 times (four times a day) with planned snippets of information that would lead Hitler to believe Pas de Calais was the main target for the Allied and that Normandy was a diversion.
His deception kept 19 Nazi infantry divisions and two armored divisions at Pas de Calais, allowing the Allies to establish a beachhead in Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Even after the landings, his broadcasts to Berlin managed to keep those units from moving for a full two months. British intelligence’s official history of D-Day maintains that had Rommel moved those units to Normandy, they would “have tipped the balance” and the Allies might have been pushed back into the English Channel. The way he managed the Germans even won him more credibility and he was rewarded by Hitler himself, via radio, with an Iron Cross.
After the war ended, Pujol feared reprisals from surviving Nazis. He faked his death from Malaria in Angola in 1949 and went underground, running a bookstore in Venezuela. He died in Caracas in 1988.
The story of Soyuz I does not have a happy ending. A flight launched by the space program of the Soviet Union, the craft carried Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in what was the first manned flight of the Soyuz line of spacecraft.
After a series of technical issues with the capsule, it came plummeting back to earth, killing Komarov, who used the time it took for his out of control capsule to make the long trip back to Earth to curse his malfunctioning space ship and the people who put him in it.
The Soviet Union wanted to launch Soyuz 1 as part of a more complex space mission. It would link up with another craft, Soyuz 2, exchange crew members, and then return to Earth. But the Soyuz system was full of problems.
“I’m not going to make it back from this flight,” Koramov told his friend, KGB agent Venyamin Russayev, but he would man the mission anyway because his backup was Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space. If Komarov refused to fly in the craft, Gagarin would be flying in the unsafe craft and would most certainly die.
Gagarin was a close friend of Komarov’s, so he agreed to the flight so Gagarin wouldn’t be put in that position.
The mission launched April 23, 1967. There were immediate issues. One of the solar panels did not deploy, so his craft only had half of its needed power supply. The panel in its stuck position disrupted the craft’s guidance system. It blocked a number of necessary instruments, including attitude control, spin stabilization, and engine firing. Frustrated, he even tried kicking it.
After 26 hours, the craft began to return to Earth. With only one panel, the capsule started spinning uncontrollably. Chairman of the Council of Ministers Alexei Kosygin spoke to Komarov and told him he was a hero. Komarov was also able to talk to his wife, say goodbye, and tell her what she should say to their children.
Soyuz I entered the atmosphere completely out of control, as the malfunctions included the parachutes, which would not deploy even though the parachutes tested perfectly. They didn’t deploy because the chutes were either packed improperly or accidentally glued in. Despite all the other malfunctions, functioning parachutes might have saved Koramov’s life.
The capsule landed with the force of a 2.8-ton meteorite and was immediately flattened. The largest, most recognizable piece of the Cosmonaut the Soviets could retrieve was his heel bone.
After the official investigation, Yuri Gagarin’s sadness turned to anger. Rumor has it that Gagarin threw a drink in Brezhnev’s face over the incident. When he died testing a MiG-15 in 1968, conspiracy theorists started a rumor that Brezhnev had ordered Gagarin killed in retaliation or jealousy. Only 40 years later, new evidence emerged indicating that the jet had, in fact, crashed.
Koramov was given a state funeral and his name is included on the Fallen Astronauts plaque commemorating the 14 U.S. and Soviet astronauts who died during the Space Race. The plaque was left on the moon by Apollo 15 crew members.
Many taxpayers plan their holiday shopping and other purchases around getting their tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service at the earliest possible date.
In 2017, that may no longer be the case.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds for people claiming Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 15, 2017.
Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.
Beginning in 2017, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. The IRS said the change helps ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.
“This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don’t want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years.”
As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do.
Although the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, it reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days after being accepted for processing by the IRS.
U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, today, in support of theater requirements and Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate Da’esh and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.
“The B-52 will provide the Coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the Coalition team.”
The 19-nation air coalition consists of numerous strike aircraft and the B-52s will bring their unique capability to the fight against Da’esh.
The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.
Crews will be available to carry out missions in both Iraq and Syria as needed to support Air Tasking Order requirements.
“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Da’esh and defend the region in any future contingency,”said Brown.
This deployment is the first basing of the B-52s in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in 26 years. The B-52s were based in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion – a USCENTCOM- led multilateral exercise in Jordan in May 2015.
The coalition conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR. Since the beginning of the operation, the Coalition struck about 459 VBIEDs, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches, and 1,341 staging areas.
Two months ago Rear Admiral Richard Williams was found guilty of violating orders and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman after evidence showed that he’d spent numerous hours viewing porn on a government computer during a training exercise aboard a Navy ship.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Williams implied during testimony that he didn’t start off with the intention of viewing porn but that he was drawn there by pop-up advertisements. “It started as pop-ups, but then I navigated,” Williams told investigators.
Data gathered during a routine computer sweep conducted by the Navy Information Operations Command showed that during the six days Williams was aboard the USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the summer of 2015 he watched four hours of porn. Later, in December, he was on the ship for five days and watched in five hours of porn.
When confronted with those stats Williams replied, “I didn’t know it was this much.”
Williams was serving as the commander of Carrier Strike Group 15 at the time of his infractions. He earned his commission in 1984 after graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology and served as a surface warfare officer for much of his career.
Along with being removed from his post, Williams was also issued a punitive letter of reprimand, an extra level of discipline that indicates the Navy considers moral crimes more egregious than professional errors like running a ship aground or causing a collision at sea.
The Coast Guard is the smallest of America’s armed forces, with about 42,000 active-duty personnel. Their task is to secure America’s maritime borders, about 12,380 miles in length – about six times that of the U.S.-Mexico border that has become a hot issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Coast Guard doesn’t just provide border security, it also is the primary maritime search-and-rescue organization of the United States government.
It’s a huge task, and the Coast Guard can be stretched very thin while carrying it out. Matters aren’t helped when you have some joker making false alarms, and the Coasties have been dealing with a bad one in the vicinity of Annapolis, Maryland. Over the last two years, the Coast Guard has responded to 28 false alarms – costing the service over $500,000 – from the same person.
The money is not the big issue. $500,000 from July 2014 to the present is a drop in the bucket given the Coast Guard’s budgets from 2014-2016 were just over $30 billion. The real issue centers around that fact that every mission launched means that Coast Guardsmen are risking their lives. That includes rescues, medevac missions from ships at sea, drug interdiction, enforcing safety regulations, training to keep skills honed, and of course, responding to false alarms. In the last ten years, two HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a HH-60 helicopter, and a HC-130 Hercules have been lost during operations, with 18 of the 19 Coast Guardsmen on board being killed.
Lieutenant Commander Sara Wallace said in a Coast Guard release on this hoax caller, “Calls like these not only put our crews at risk, but they put the lives of the public at risk. Our efforts to respond to what may be a hoax can delay us from getting on scene to a real emergency.” There is a reason that the Coast Guard’s unofficial motto is “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”
Penalties for calling in a false alarm include up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for expenses incurred by the false alarm. Those penalties would apply for each count the hoaxer is convicted on.
Anyone with information on the hoaxer is asked to contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service via e-mail at CGIS-Baltimore@uscg.mil or the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-NCR Command Center via phone at (410) 576-2525.
In September 1944, one might think that the Germans would have had better priorities than setting up a weather monitoring station in some remote Norwegian island. They did have more important things to do, but they set up a meteorological station in the Svalbard area anyway.
As the Allies were fighting their way through the Hurtgen, German troops were setting up their weather stations in Norway. They would be the last Germans to surrender after the end of World War II.
World War II didn’t go well for Norway. The Germans invaded in 1940 and with the assistance of one of history’s most infamous collaborators, fell quickly. During the war, Norway was one of the most fortified countries in Europe.
Life in the Svalbard archipelago, though, remained largely unchanged at first. It was occupied and recaptured at times, just to be occupied again. But the Germans managed to create a number of weather stations and reporting stations on the islands. Most subsequently captured or chased away.
Occupation of the archipelago started almost immediately. The Free Norwegian government in cooperation with the Soviet Union willingly destroyed their coal mines to deny their use to the Axis. After British forces destroyed German weather stations in Greenland, the German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine set their sights on Svalbard to replace it.
Almost as fast as they could set up the station, Allied forces sailed from Scotland to dismantle it. That convoy was bombed by the Luftwaffe, but the invaders managed to eject the weather system anyway. Germany sent another weather monitoring party but the British reinforced its position and destroyed that one too.
More Norwegian troops soon landed, backed by an American cruiser. All Allied movements were monitored by the Luftwaffe, but there was little that could be done at times. The islands were occupied by both parties at times.
The final attempt at a weather station came with Operation Broadsword in 1944. The crew was landed by the submarine U-307 on Sept. 10, 1944. This time, the station was there to stay, largely because the war ended just a few months after it was established.
The German occupants of the islands knew they’d just lost the war. They were contacted by their leadership in Norway on May 8, 1945, the day Germany surrendered to the Allies. They had to stay on the island for nearly four months after the war ended. Getting a ship to the Arctic Circle to retrieve a handful of troops just wasn’t that high on the Allies end of war to-do list.
In the end, the Germans manning the weather station had to surrender to a Norwegian seal hunting ship and its crew, which arrived on Sept. 6, 1945. They were the last Germans to surrender to Allied forces after the war ended.
They weren’t the only Axis holdouts at the end of the war. Although Japan surrendered in August 1945, some Japanese troops fought on for months or even years after the war had officially ended, believing they should fight on in the absence of orders from the Imperial Japanese military.
One Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda, fought on until 1974. He hid out in the jungles of the Philippines for some 29 years after the surrender was signed because he couldn’t believe Japan actually surrendered. It’s unlikely the Germans on Svalbard felt the same way, knowing how the war had progressed since 1944.
Featured photo: A member of the weather station with a slain polar bear. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege.
The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.
Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.
Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.
The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.
About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.
The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.
A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.
Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.
Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.
He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.
Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.
Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.
Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.
The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.
The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.
Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.
The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.
Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.
“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.
Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.
Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.
Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.
A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.
The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.
The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.
Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
When the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi dropped, netizens were quick to dub it “Bayghazi,” a portmanteau of the location of the now-infamous embassy attack and the name of director Michael Bay. But the film deserves more credit than that for a number of reasons, but mostly because it manages to celebrate the human elements of an otherwise overly-politicized event.
“We all think we know Benghazi,” Bay says. “But we all only really know so much. There was a great human story in Benghazi that was never told. It’s an inspirational movie, even though it’s tragic.”
The movie is a faithful retelling of the events on the ground during that day in the Libyan port city, as written in journalist Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which he co-authored with the surviving security contractors who were on the ground. The way Zuckoff writes the story in the book lends itself to Michael Bay’s directing style.
“The book, when I read it, it was an amazing human experience,” Michael Bay says. “It’s my most realistic movie. I think it opens eyes to what they really go through. It’s a collection of 36 Americans coming together, figuring out how the hell to survive. It starts at 9:42 and we follow the waves and the adrenaline and the ebbs and flows for 13 hours.”
The movie is rife with commentary, damning of the military’s failure to act in support of the CIA annex in any way. Fighter planes remain motionless on flightlines while bureaucrats make late night phones calls to plan meetings, but the movie is inspirational, thanks to its exceptional cast. With the help of the real military veterans-turned CIA security contractors who were on the ground in Benghazi that night, they all deliver exceptional performances.
“There’s such a responsibility in this particular story,” says John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva, one of the CIA contractors and former Navy SEAL. “Not only because it’s so highly politicized, but also because it’s so intense and is a story not really being told. For me, there was a great responsibility to make sure we told it right, especially since it’s about these six guys who are the definition of heroes.”
The real-life defenders of the Americans in Benghazi, the members of the annex security team who were on the ground, are unanimous in what they hope audiences will take away from the film: The truth.
“They got it right,” says Marc “Oz” Geist, one of the contractors at Benghazi. “When you watch the movie, you’re seeing the guys, you’re seeing the team,” Kris “Tanto” Peronto adds. “They did an excellent job. That shows a lot of work.”
“You have a group of people who overcome what most would consider insurmountable odds,” Geist continues. “There are positives that comes from that. It’s not a negative thing. You’re gonna have troubles, you’re gonna have things go bad. We lost four people and that’s tragic, but that’s not the defining moment. The defining moment is that we never lost because we never quit.”
The film has all the hallmarks of its director’s signature style: slow shots of dialogue between characters contrast fast-paced action with explosions; a weak leader gets usurped when the “right thing to do” becomes apparent, even though it isn’t “by the book;” and what starts as a rescue turns out to be an epic battle for survival. Yet all of it is a faithful retelling of the Benghazi story, seconded by the guys who were there that night, right down to the funny one-liners of comic relief (called “Tantoisms” by the Benghazi team).
The portrayals of the team are realistic and intense. Anyone who’s ever met Navy SEALs, Marine Scout Snipers, Army Rangers, or any other special forces operators will recognize the personalities portrayed on screen by Krasinski, James Badge Dale (“Rone”), Pablo Schreiber (“Tanto”), David Denman (“Boon”), Max Martini (“Oz”), and Dominic Fumusa (“Tig”).
“It’s about the human spirit and the will to win,” the directors said. “No one ordered them to go. They volunteered and they volunteered at the drop of a hat. At a time when there’s so much crap going on in the world, you are appreciative that people like this exist.”