It may be tough for civilians to feel the same nostalgia a veteran might feel to see the venerable UH-1 Huey helicopter go.
That is until they find out it’s been the helicopter on screens small and large for the better part of a century.
Non-vets watched the workhorse Huey pick up the dead and dying in news broadcasts and on the silver screen, dropping men and material into Vietnam (among other places).
Retiring the UH-1 Huey
If you haven’t heard, the U.S. military is set to retire the iconic UH-1 Huey Helicopter in 2017.
The aircraft was first developed in 1956 and was the first helicopter powered by a jet engine. Its distinctive chomping sound is caused by its powerful rotor blades approaching the speed of sound. It’s been used for search and rescue, rearmament, overwatch for moving nuclear missiles and more.
You name it. The Huey probably supported it. They didn’t name it “Utility Helicopter” for nothing.
But it has been in service since the 1970s and times have changed, but the U.S. military still needs its all-purpose workhorse to replace the UH-1 Huey’s multifaceted role.
Filling the gap
Early in 2016, lawmakers wanted to replace the Hueys with UH-60M Black Hawks — especially those congressional leaders representing states that house intercontinental ballistic missile systems, like Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and retired Navy SEAL.
“If there are helicopters that are readily available and will save the taxpayer money, we need to get them in the field now,” Zinke said in a statement. “I know the Black Hawk well from my time in the SEALs. It is fully capable and stands ready to fill the need before us. This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”
The Army replaced its Huey fleet with the UH-72A Lakota. The Lakota is quieter, smaller and more maneuverable than the Huey, and costs roughly $4.5 million. The Army currently has 200 of the European-made, U.S.-assembled Lakotas worldwide.
The Air Force is the only branch whose quest to replace the UH-1 Huey started a fight. The service originally planned to replace it with the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform, but that was axed in 2013 due to budget caps.
Next, the Air Force tried to give Sikorsky, the company that makes UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, a sole-source contract to produce a replacement. That idea was met with criticism because the Black Hawk is bigger and costs more. The National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste sent letters to the House and Senate Armed Services committees in opposition to the sole-source move. That’s when the HASC set aside the funds for a replacement.
“This is an urgent need,” HASC Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry told the Washington Post. “These helicopters are around 40 years old, and I’m not very pleased it has [been] allowed to get to this situation.”
Everyone knows being a Blue Falcon is bad, but no one believes that they’re the blue falcon. Here are 7 indicators that maybe you should start shopping for nests.
1. When someone asks for volunteers, you immediately start thinking of who isn’t doing anything.
Look, it’s the platoon sergeant’s or the chief’s job to figure out who is doing what. If they don’t have a grip on their troop-to-task, that doesn’t make it O.K. for you to start naming who’s free for a tasking.
2. You find yourself saying, “Well, so-and-so did it earlier, first sergeant.”
Keep your mouth shut, snitch. First sergeant doesn’t need to know who snuck to the barracks first during those engrossing Powerpoint presentations battalion put together. Let him yell at you until he runs out of steam, then go back to the stupid briefings and suck it up.
3. You make the kind of mistakes that trigger company recalls.
Everyone screws up a few times a year, which is normal. Not everyone screws up so badly that the entire rest of their unit has to come in Saturday morning. Maybe keep your infractions a little more discreet in the future.
Or, make your mistakes epic enough that the unit will enjoy the recall just because they get to hear the story. “Wait, we’re here because Schmuckatelli crashed the general’s car with the installation command sergeant major’s daughter in the front seat? Can I make popcorn before you start, first sergeant?”
4. You frequently hear bus sounds or the words, “Caw! Caw!”
Yeah, your friends are trying to give you a hint, dude. You’re throwing people under the bus and then buddy f-cking them as they crawl out.
5. You take too much credit — especially for stuff you didn’t do with your own hands.
Always share credit. When you’re praised for rifle marksmanship, mention who helped you train. If you perform superbly at the board, mention the guys in your squad who quizzed you.
But, when you weren’t there, you shouldn’t take any credit. Say who actually did the work. Do not take the recognition, do not take the coin, do not tell stories about it later.
6. You’re always the guy that the team or squad leader has to pull aside.
Look, sucking at your job is a version of being the blue falcon. It’s not as malicious or direct as being a credit hog or a snitch, but not learning how to fulfill your position in the squad screws everyone else over. Read the manuals, practice the drills, watch the other guys in the squad. Learn your role.
7. Someone sent you this list or tagged you on Facebook in the comments.
Yeah, there’s a reason someone thought you, specifically, should read this list. Go back through it with a comb. Read each entry and keep a tally of which apply to you. Then, stop being a blue falcon. Caw caw.
The “Star-Spangled Banner” is American lyrics laid on top of a British song to make one glorious national anthem. It details the endurance of American troops against a British naval bombardment at the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814.
But while Americans singing the song at baseball games know that the U.S. came out victorious, Francis Scott Key and other witnesses of the battle had little to be optimistic about. The British brought more ships to the fight than the Americans had cannons on the fort.
The British planned a two-pronged assault on the city. The army would march overland to attack the city on foot while the navy was to destroy Fort McHenry and follow the river to the city. There, it would bombard the city and assist in its capture.
The ground attack seemed doomed from the start. About 12,000 American troops, many more than the British had expected, were guarding the city. So the British troops sat back and waited as dozens of British ships, including five of Britain’s eight bomb ketches, moved forward to bombard the fort that only had 19 guns with which to defend itself.
Luckily for the Americans, shallow waters around the fort kept some of the ships away. Unluckily for them, 16 ships were able to get within range of the fort while staying outside the range of the American guns.
Starting early on Sep. 13, the British fired on McHenry with rocket ships and bomb ketches. Bomb ketches were ships with a mortar or howitzer built into the deck. The gun could not be turned, so the ships were pointed at the fort and kept in place with spring-loaded anchor lines. The “bombs bursting in air,” came from these devastating ships.
Meanwhile, ships firing Congreve rockets sailed into range as well. The rockets were made in a variety of sizes. The ones that lit the night at Fort McHenry were mostly 32-pound rockets that carried seven pounds of explosives. They could explode in the air but were designed to be incendiary weapons, setting fires within forts and enemy ships.
One moment was more dangerous than any other for the defenders; a bomb fired from one of the ketches landed in the fort’s gunpowder supply. It failed to go off and the troops were able to split the gunpowder into smaller stores around the tiny island.
At another point, British Rear Adm. George Cockburn thought the fort had been badly damaged and moved the ships closer for better accuracy. American artillerymen rushed through the incoming shells and began firing when the British came within range, driving them back.
In the morning, he looked to the flagpole at first light to see if the fort had survived. If British colors were flying, Baltimore would be destroyed and America would lose a second major city in less than a month.
The flag had changed overnight, but not to the Union Jack. A storm that raged throughout the battle had forced the fort to fly its smaller American flag. Since the morning dawned clear, the garrison changed to its normal flag, a 42-foot by 30-foot beast.
Meanwhile, the British troops ashore saw the American flag flying and knew that the naval assault had failed. They withdrew and left Baltimore in relative safety.
The “Star-Spangled Banner” would be published in newspapers up and down the coast over the following few days under a variety of names, usually “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” One publication called it, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the name stuck.
One of America’s longest Middle East deployments has been taking place since 1981. This is part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula, which helps implement the 1979 Camp David Accords – the peace treaty negotiated by then-President Jimmy Carter between Egypt and Israel.
According to the State Department, the U.S. brokered the historic accords in 1978, with the peace treaty taking effect the following year. While that treaty is best known for the billions of dollars in military aid it has provided Egypt and Israel over the years, what is not as well known is the fact that a peacekeeping force was also established to keep the two sides at bay.
A Texas Guard soldier shoots during the Task Force Sinai quarterly competition. (National Guard photo)
According to the MFO’s web site, the peacekeeping force was supposed to come from the United Nations, but that organization couldn’t get a Security Council Resolution approved. Israel and Egypt had to get together in 1981 to work out an alternative arrangement. The MFO was born out of those negotiations.
The United States provides the largest contingent of troops to this 1,365-person force. The American contingent usually includes an infantry battalion (either National Guard or active component) that serves a 9-month tour. The United States also provides a support battalion to back up not only its infantry battalion, but the troops from 11 other countries as well, including Australia, Canada, and Uruguay.
Colombia and Fiji provide the second- and third-largest contingents, respectively.
There have been fatalities during this mission. In 2007, according to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, a DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed while trying to make an emergency landing. All eight personnel on board were killed.
In 1985, 250 personnel from the 101st Airborne Division were killed while returning from their tour, according to a Montreal Gazette report.
Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.
Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.
“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”
Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.
“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”
But Houghton takes his argument further.
“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”
Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.
“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”
The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.
“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”
In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.
He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.
On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.
He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.
Thrilling enough? Yes and no.
Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.
Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?
Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.
That’s Lobpries’ goal.
So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.
“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”
Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”
Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.
(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)
As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.
“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.
It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.
Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.
Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.
Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.
Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.
Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.
With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.
Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.
If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”
“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.
He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.
Every week, most of my emails are from young sailors and civilians who wish to become SEALs one day. Though I try to focus more on fitness, I thought it was time to answer the several emails with my top ten things you need to know before going to BUD/S – SEAL Training.
1. Arrive Fit!
Not just able to do the minimum scores but the above average recommended PFT scores:
– 500 yds swim – under 9:00
– Pushups – 100 in 2:00
– Situps – 100 in 2:00
– Pullups – 20
– 1.5 mile run – under 9:00 in boots and pants
If you need letters of recommendation from SEALs, most SEALs will not endorse you unless you can achieve the above numbers. Sometimes it takes a solid year of training before you are physically capable of reaching these scores. You WILL have to take this PFT before going to BUD/S and on the first day at BUD/S.
2. Run in Boots and Swim with Fins
At least 3-4 months prior to arriving at BUD/s get the legs used to swimming with fins and running in boots. They issue Bates 924s and UDT or Rocket Fins at BUD/S. The fins are difficult to find, so any stiff fin that requires you to wear booties will do.
3. Officers at BUD/S
Go there ready to lead and get to know your men. Start the team building necessary to complete BUD/S. You can’t do everything by yourself, so learn to delegate but do not be too good to scrub the floors either. Be motivated and push the guys to succeed. Always lead from the front.
4. Enlisted at BUD/S
Be motivated and ready to work as a team. Follow orders but provide feedback so your team can be better at overcoming obstacles that you will face. Never be late!
5. BUD/S is Six Months Long
Prepare for the long term, not the short term. Too many people lose focus early on their training and quit. It would be similar to training for a 10K race and running a Marathon by accident. You have to be mentally focused on running the Marathon – in this case a six month “marathon.”
The four mile timed runs are weekly and occur on the beach – hard packed sand next to the water line. They are tough, but not bad if you prepare properly. The 2 mile ocean swims are not bad either if you are used to swimming with fins when you arrive. The obstacle course will get you too if you are not used to climbing ropes and doing pullups. Upperbody strength is tested to the max with this test.
7. Eating at BUD/S
You get three great meals a day at BUD/S, usually more than you can eat. During Hellweek, you get four meals a day – every six hours! The trick to making it through Hellweek is just to make it to the next meal. Break up the week into several six-hour blocks of time. In a couple of days, you will be on “auto-pilot” and it will be all downhill from there. And if you need any help with dieting before you go to BUD/S, I developed a new dieting aid that may help you:
This seems to be a tough exercise for many. Practice 4 count flutterkicks with your abdominal workouts and shoot for sets of at least 100. There may be a day you have to do 1000 flutterkicks. By the way – that takes 45 minutes!
9. Wet and Sandy
Jumping into the ocean then rolling around in the sand is a standard form of punishment / motivation for the class at BUD/S. It is cold and not comfortable, so you just have to prepare yourself for getting wet and sandy every day at BUD/S. On days that you do not get wet and sandy, it will be the same feeling as getting off early at work on a three day weekend!
10. Did I Mention Running?
You should be able to run at least 4 miles in 28 minutes in boots with ease. If not, you will so learn to hate the “goon-squad”. The goon squad is to motivate you never to be last again or fail a run again. You only get three chances to with most events. If you fail three of anything – you will be back in the Fleet.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org.
Army Capt. Rebecca Murga had the same goals as anyone else at gear turn-in after deployment: get rid of this sh*t and get back home. But she made a rookie mistake when she left Afghanistan without double-checking her gear against her clothing list.
That’s how she ended up at the Central Issue Facility with a desperate need to go home and no Gore-Tex. And since Army property values never match civilian price points, she’s left with the option of paying hundreds of dollars or weaving a Gore-Tex from cobwebs and unicorn dreams.
Anyone who has dealt with DoD civilians knows that it’s a recipe for frustration, but Murga manages to smooth talk her way through the facility only to find herself faced with something worse.
See how Murga’s conscience clouds her homecoming in the No Sh*t There I Was episode embedded at the top.
The United States Army recently demonstrated some new killer robots at Fort Benning, near the city of Columbus, Georgia. While these robots are new, some of the gear they used looks awfully familiar to grunts.
While it might seem odd to use the older vehicles as the basis for robots, keep this in mind: The military has thousands of M113s and thousands of HMMWVs on inventory. The vehicles have also been widely exported. In fact, the M113 is so widely used, it’s hard to imagine anyone would want the used M113s the United States Army has to offer. The same goes for the HMMWV.
Furthermore, while these vehicles may not be ones that you can keep troops in during combat, they can still drive. They can carry cargo. Or, they can carry some firepower. With today’s ability to either drive vehicles by remote control, or to program them to carry out missions, these vehicles could have a lot of useful service left to give.
An Army release had details about how the old platforms helped. One M113 was used to deploy other robots from its troop compartment – one that could hold 11 grunts. Another M113 was used to provide smoke – and conceal a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks. An unnamed HMMWV demonstrated its ability to use a remote weapon station and a target acquisition system.
That’s not all. The military also had a modified Polaris all-terrain vehicle show its stuff. The ATV also featured an unmanned aerial vehicle on a tether. Such an eye in the sky can have huge benefits. Furthermore, the ATV has a much lower profile.
If these experiments are any indication, American grunts will still be seeing the M113 and HMMWV on the battlefield. This time, though, they will be fighting alongside them, not riding in them.
Fortunately for the United States, the impact of World War II was almost solely felt through rationing and news from abroad and rarely were American civilians affected firsthand. As a result, the American home front became a strong source of resources and morale for the soldiers overseas – something that most countries involved in the war didn’t have. Realizing this, the Japanese looked for a relatively cheap and safe way to disrupt the American home front.
In 1944, the Japanese decided to tap into a jet stream that they had discovered a few years earlier, one that traveled from Asia to North America at about 30,000 feet. Their plan was to attach bombs to giant balloons and release them into the jet stream, where they’d be carried silently and dispersed across the US at random. Overall, the plan wasn’t to kill Americans, but rather to start forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and also instill panic in the population and, in turn, diminish morale on the home front.
The balloons were around 30 feet in diameter and from the top of the balloon to the payload underneath measured around 70 feet. Each balloon bomb consisted of sandbags for ballast that would be released as the balloon descended, allowing it to drop some weight, gain a little altitude, and carry on a bit further. Once the sandbags had all been dropped, four incendiary bombs would be released one at a time until none were left, then a single anti-personnel bomb would fall and the balloon would ignite itself and be destroyed.
Launched in groups, the balloons were at the mercy of the jet stream and typically took a few days to cross the Pacific. Since they were unguided, the balloons had a wide distribution and have been discovered from Alaska to Mexico and from Hawaii to Michigan.
The bombs started arriving in Western US in late 1944 and at first no one really knew what they were. However, geologists sampled the sand and determined that it had come from a small section of beach east of Tokyo. Until the end of the war, the US Government asked media outlets not to report on the bombs in order to prevent the Japanese from tracking whether they were successful. This apparently worked because the Japanese pulled the funding for the bombs after only a few months of launches, assuming that the balloons weren’t hitting their targets.
Overall, the bombs were not successful; less than 300 out of an estimated 9,000 have ever been found – around 3%. However, one bomb detonated in rural Oregon in spring 1945 and killed a pregnant woman and five children, making them the only American civilians killed in the US as a result of enemy action.
After the war, talk of the bombs began to spread and it was found that seven landed in Nebraska including one in Omaha, one landed ten miles from Detroit and another landed near Grand Rapids. Balloon bombs, while largely unsuccessful, continued to be discovered throughout the US and Canada following the war and one was even discovered in British Columbia in October 2014.
The first time I watched Full Metal Jacket, I was in a tent in Kuwait on my computer, waiting for a plane to take me to Iraq for the next seven months. As a Marine, I felt like it was one of those movies I was supposed to have seen by this point, and the lull directly before going off to war seemed like a good time to do it. It left me very confused, in part, because the movie is famous for its actual depiction of war and warriors, but also because it was so very, very incorrect with my own experiences of being a Marine. It was only years later that I began to realize exactly why so much of the movie seemed off to me. It wasn’t a movie about warriors or even about a war; it was a movie trying to make a point, which stuck with the film’s target audience.
Full Metal Jacket was a movie for people who would never see war. It’s an anti-war movie about Vietnam where absolutely every element of war, warriors, the whole military experience, is shown as being something terrible, dehumanizing, and a pointless endeavor to the detriment of all mankind. In 1987 at the film’s debut, such a message was exactly what people wanted to see from a war movie, because that narrative held true for millions of people.
FMJ does many things differently than most other war movies, namely because of the time period it was filmed in. If we look at different eras of the genre we see very different themes. Look at the John Wayne “Sands of Iwo Jima” or anything staring Audie Murphy, especially the one where he played himself, and you will probably be left with a very different feeling than if you were to watch something like Platoon, or even American Sniper. The early era focused on the heroism and unfortunate necessity of war due to the incontrovertible existence of evil in this world. The Nazis’ and Japanese murderous attempts at world left much of the world knowing very well the existence of such evils. For that reason, their movies depicted warriors as heroes and the world as black and white where there were definite evils needing definite heroes to rid the world of them.
Following this, the second major era attempts to break that trend in a sort of genre revolt. War movies began showcases war as a pointless affair, having no meaning than to make people suffer, both the participants and the victims. They go further into personifying the warriors, namely our own, as being universally deeply flawed to the point of being the villains themselves. I’ve heard this was in efforts to make the genre more “realistic” and gritty. It’s noteworthy to also point out that this was the point when war movies were no longer being made by military veterans, and veterans were consulted less and less often in ensuring accurate tellings of their stories. They simply became a medium for artists to tell stories and share their views. Many stories from this period don’t even depict actual events, but only place them within actual time periods, such as the Battle of Hue City. Perhaps this was due to peace activists not involved in the war taking up degrees in liberal arts and film and entertainment. I can only really guess as to why the dramatic shift in war movies, around this time.
The third (the modern era) which I will say started around Saving Private Ryan, is the war epic. Your Black Hawk Downs, American Snipers, even the detestable Hurt Lockers, fall into this category. During that era, all war movies center around 1) Paying at least token respect to the individual troops, while 2) ironically showcasing each as deeply flawed because of the war, be they physically or psychologically broken and 3) never giving credibility to how war may benefit anyone , for example the Jewish people in Germany, the liberated France, or the empowered Kurds of Iraq. Modern war movies are themselves inheriting a stance of only being allowed to say something along the lines of “war is bad” and never veering from that rhetoric, while not socially being allowed to showcase the warriors as the deranged, murderous, barbarians depicted in Kubrick’s film. I guess that’s an improvement. This may be because in the modern era people felt more vulnerable after 9/11 and no longer accepted this view of veterans. It may be that more veterans have more social power to influence the way they are viewed via Social Media, as I am doing now. All that I can say for sure, is that something happened that broke from the way that second era war movies showcased us, from the way modern era movies do, which I am honestly thankful for in spite of many failures still existing in modern movies where veterans issues are concerned.
Having said that, no era is perfectly honest in their depiction of the military or of war. Take for example Black Hawk Down. I liked the movie, but it is filled with much of the spectral of the era while itself being the cinematic telling of one of the greatest modern military research projects in history. To make my point, my favorite line was when one soldier is given an order by a commanding officer, and replies, “But Sir, I’m wounded.” and the Officer replies back nonchalantly, “Everybody’s wounded.” I loved that line, but nothing like it happened in the book, which like I said, is one of the most factual retellings of events in modern history there is, so much so that the Army and Marine Corps have adopted it as part of their reading programs for all non-commissioned and commissioned officers. All that to say, dramatic license for some is embellishment; for others, outright fiction and rarely is it priority to get the story right for history’s sake or to show respect towards the participants.
The honest truth is that all three, the military, war, and the individual warriors are extremely complex, but that complexity is too much for the average movie goer to be entertained in only a two hour sitting. It is far easier to think of the average warrior as either a faceless bad guy, or a broken human because war is so bad, or keep overall ideas simple “War=bad, peace=good” and all things relating to one or the other falling into only one of those two categories. We’ve been made to think that war is some unsurvivable event, either physically or psychologically and that no normal person would be able to endure it, much less that some may see war as necessary and gain satisfaction from being part of one because they know their efforts provided some measure of good to others. (This sentiment in films correlates with the start of the Vietnam War and the end of the first era of war movies). Now, it is very hard for moviegoers to accept a purely heroic, purely rational, purely normal war hero figure because to do that, they have to think of him as an average person, like us who goes for a little while to do something important, unpleasant or not, and then going home to be normal again. Movies like that first present a false view of war and warriors based on stereotypes and tropes, one filled only with suffering and atrocities and with no good reason motivating thousands of rational people at all, then disturbs viewers a second way by making them uncomfortable with the thought, “Could I do those terrible things?” People don’t like that. They don’t want to identify with the common warrior that most of these movies depict. Part of them feels like the bad guy. This was the era in which Full Metal Jacket made its debut.
Having said all this, we can start to get into our conversation on Full Metal Jacket itself.
Full Metal Jacket is the perfect film to showcase second era war movies and the values they were meant to communicate. I am not saying that Kubrick told the truth in the least with the film, nor am I saying his goal was to try to lie to viewers. I think he is just trying to sell movies. He has to make a movie that doesn’t lead viewers into his way of thinking, whatever that may have been, but plays into their already existing biases and beliefs. That is how they identify with characters they know so little about and how they become emotionally involved. Movies don’t make money by correcting people’s notion of how the world really is. They make money by amplifying their beliefs to the point that viewers will tell their friends, “This is the truest thing in history of things and if you don’t watch it, you’re an idiot.” In 1987, no one was viewed anything that happened in the Vietnam War as anything similar to WWII and the general consensus was that there was no point to it at all. With a legacy such as My Lai and the many thousands for a war more than 13 times more than were lost in Iraq, people wanted nothing to do with a “Sands of Iwo Jima” film depicting anything favorable about Vietnam, a heroic film depicting the period well wasn’t the type of movie that would have reached audiences. They were tired of the Cold War (which hadn’t yet ended) and had no sense that anything since 1945 having had any real value. Boil it all down, and FMJ depicts that belief. Note that it might not tell the truth that well, but it perfectly captures the mentality of the people of the time.
Take a look at the film’s hero/victim/protagonist, Pvt. J.T. ‘Joker’ Davis. He is symbolic on many levels which are meaningful to the time in which FMJ debuted. From before he is physically even seen on the screen, he is shown as a rebel, during the iconic introduction of the Drill Instructor played to near perfection by an actual Marine Corps Drill Instructor, R. Lee Ermey, where he outright mocks the Drill Instructor to devastating results. From that moment on, we sympathize with the character who obviously doesn’t belong here. Throughout the movie he is portrayed as not fitting in. He stands out from the brutish, womanizing, cruel or ignorant Marines, as most of them are depicted in the film. Davis instead is an intellectual, symbolized by the non-military regulation eyeglasses and the fact that his Military Occupational Specialty wasn’t infantry, but as a writer. He both stands for intelligence as well as truth, morally setting him above and opposed to the rest of the other “lower” infantrymen. Once he actually does deploy, he stands out as a continued rebel (remember he is morally and intellectually superior to all the other troops) by brandishing proudly the “Born to Kill” label sarcastically graffitied on his helmet and a peace sign on his flak jacket. Given that during the 70’s the symbol had more to do an anti-military sentiments than actual peace, Joker was Stanley Kubrick’s very deliberate attempt to make viewers see the character as being little more than the only rational, non-barbarian militant in the show, who is more a victim of circumstance than someone who wants to be a part of the war at all. All this combines to help viewers of a certain ilk, Kubrick’s target audience, identify with what the protagonist’s presumed views of what the war should be, when really, the truth is that the protagonist was written to personify the average viewer’s perception: “This is barbaric, this is senseless, this is wrong.”
Looking at the rest of the movie and you see a series of messages tailored for a moment in time, and that subgroup of Americans in 1987.
“War will utterly destroy the minds of good and innocent people.”Private Pyle was, to me, the worst part of the best part of the movie. He was over the top in personal treatment in how troops are treated in training, and major elements of his plot could not possibly have happened exactly because of the fate he met in the most acclaimed scene of the movie. Regardless, while the depiction of boot camp was novel for all war movies before or since, Pyle’s presence detracted from the film in a way that, for me, was little more than over the top sensationalism.
“War creates barbarism in American Warfighters where murdering innocent people is acceptable.” I’ve honestly never been able to deal with this scene, given what I have known and experienced in countless hours on the law of war, code of conduct, rules of engagement, and escalation of force training during my own time in the Marines. Honestly try to watch this scene and imagine your nephew or neighbor down the street being this evil, and also try to imagine everyone in the military just looking the other way as it happened.
Then there is the theme that “incoming warriors can only degrade the population of a region through their corruption and immorality.”
And finally, that the enemy that has been causing us so much harm is a much more impotent, underwhelming force than we had ever imagined, personified by nothing less than a little girl, making the American military machine appear, in retrospect to be the bullies and the aggressors.
Rob Ager, a Youtuber who has made a side profession of analyzing films, has even made a very potent argument for the numerous ways in Kubrick used metaphor to convey how military indoctrination forces young men into becoming rapists and killers through psychological rewiring of mind’s inner workings.
“Kubrick is acknowledging the universal truth about military brainwashing, soldiers who can’t be turned into brutal psychopaths by their Drill Instructors, can certainly be persuaded in the battlefields by the overbearing peer pressure of their lesser minded friends.”
If you’re curious, I must add at this point before watching, that the training that the Ager’s analysis and Kubrick’s film depict taking place in the first half of the FMJ, which is necessary for the following analysis and FMJ’s second half narrative to make sense, was nothing like what I experienced in Marine Corps boot camp. We never named our rifles girl’s names, we never slept with our rifles, there were no sexual connotations with them and the “This is my rifle, this is my gun” thing was never uttered in my tenure either. As a Marine Corps rifle instructor, I never even met anyone could explain to me what that meant. One can’t know if boot camp has changed and my experience is just because of reforms, or simply that Kubrick took a great deal more dramatic license than seems in hindsight unjustifiable.
In the end, Kubrick’s film does one thing exceptionally well, it tells the story many people wanted to believe to be the way it was. Was Vietnam hard? Yes, it was. Was it traumatic for many? Yes, it was. Was boot camp filled with mind altering psychopath building brainwashing? Umm… No. What Kubrick’s piece on Vietnam was can simply be called propaganda. It wasn’t the type of propaganda that encourages youth to join up or to make people support a war of one kind or another. It was quite the opposite, but still propaganda. It was a war film that used just as many inaccuracies to promote all the values of the anti-war movement prominent in the late sixties and early seventies and into the eighties, as the Nazi half truth films depicting the virtues of the German Third Reich. That said, it was filled with all the spectacle that makes a war movie entertaining, right down to the incredibly odd and ill fitting Mickey Mouse Club ending to the film.
So, to answer the big question, why did so many people like it? If I really had to guess, I would say it is because the movie boils down into under two hours everything they already believed about war. It supports their stereotypes, reenforces their biases, and conveys a message they have already accepted in their hearts and which society has generally accepted to be true, whether it actually is or not. When you stumble on something that so many people agree with, though few have experienced first hand, and which you yourself find inline with your own beliefs, you tend to declare it as the greatest thing ever made. I don’t know a lot of veterans who think that the Full Metal Jacket is the greatest movie ever made. Everyone laughs at the first half because, frankly, we all had scary drill instructors. Beyond that, I don’t agree that this is a very good film. It’s great propaganda for a certain viewpoint, or at best, a very good story about one very fictitious man’s journey, which unfortunately ended up misrepresenting the factual experiences of a whole generation of war-fighters. That being the case, it really doesn’t surprise me that a democratic ranking forum would skew the results of an OK movie, when it has many moral and political undertones not obvious to many viewers.
“After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense-spending increases in history,” the President said.
Currently, the force is at 10 carriers, all of which are nuclear-powered. The Gerald R. Ford is slated to commission later this year, to replace USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in December 2012, being formally decommissioned last month. The new aircraft carrier has seen numerous delays due to problems with its advanced systems.
“In these troubled times, our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I. That’s a long time ago. In fact, I just spoke with Navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire Navy fleet, including having the 12-carrier Navy we need,” the President said.
“Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense. Right now, our aging frontline strike and strike-fighters — the whole aircraft; many, many aircraft — are often more likely to be downed for maintenance than they are to be up in the sky,” the President also said, noting the problems that have plagued Navy and Marine Corps aviation units.
Cruise missiles are a nightmare for combatants at land or on sea. They fly low enough that most ballistic missile protections can’t touch them, they often hit at nearly the speed of sound — meaning they strike with no warning — and they can take out ships, tanks, and other large vehicles in a single hit.
Just take this test of the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile striking a target at a range in California. Watch how the missile skims the waves and an island before spotting its target and slamming through it.
And while cruise missile development slowed after the end of the Cold War, China and Russia are pursuing new missiles with plenty of international partners.
So, the Navy has been working on expanding their defenses against anti-ship cruise missiles. In a 2015 test, they pitted the USS John Paul Jones, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer equipped with the Aegis combat system, against a mix of cruise and ballistic missiles.
In the video (available at the top of the page), the Jones engages and destroys a series of targets. The cruise missile engagement begins at approximately 5:20.