Struggling to find the right battle cry for the occasion? A well-timed war whoop can really help you get your point across. We’ve selected 5 of the best battle cries in human history. Take your pick.
1. “There is no land beyond the Volga!”
When the Nazis surrounded Stalingrad in the summer of 1942, they expected to take the city in a matter of weeks. The Red Army fought them block by block. The Soviet soldiers announced their intention to fight to the last with the rallying cry, “There is no land beyond the Volga!” The Battle of Stalingrad was among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare.
Looking to channel your inner Roman warrior? You’ve got to go with “Barritus.” Tacitus described the guttural cry as a “harsh, intermittent roar” that built in volume, and noted that the troops would “hold their shield in front of their mouths, so that the sound is amplified into a deeper crescendo by the reverberation.” Please see the below example from the 1964 classic “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”
3. “Quick, while God isn’t watching!”
The legendary Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius was a stickler for timing. He reportedly delayed a battle for days before suddenly calling to his troops, “Quick, while God isn’t watching!”
4. “Everybody aim for that one guy on the left!”
In a Phalanx each man was responsible for covering the man on his left with his Shield Arm. Full disclosure: We’re not sure if the Spartans actually yelled, “Everybody aim for that guy on the left!” But it sounds awesome, so we’re going to go with it.
5. “Liberty or Death!”
“Liberty or Death!” was a popular a battle cry among colonial minutemen during the Revolutionary War. The phrase first appeared in a March 1775 address by Patrick Henry, which concluded with the famous line, “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Henry’s speech convinced the Second Virginia Convention to raise militias.
QUANTICO, Va., Dec. 11, 2014 – The Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course is a grueling training evolution that requires Marines to swim a total of 59 miles over three weeks.
Just six of nine course students were able to complete the challenge and graduate Nov. 25. One of those six course students had the deck stacked against him from the beginning, but he overcame adversity and graduated with his classmates.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks, company gunnery sergeant for Headquarters and Service Company at The Basic School here, is a motivated, extremely fit, Marine who said he quickly volunteered to attend the course when approached by the chief instructor trainer, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Marshall. The fact that Jacks’s right leg was amputated at the mid-thigh in 2011 did not faze either Marine.
Injured in Afghanistan
Jacks, a native of Newark, Ohio, was serving in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, when he stepped on a pressure plate April 3, 2011, and was hit by an improvised explosive device blast. Among other injuries, Jacks suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost two-thirds of his right leg.
Though he easily could have medically retired, Jacks said, he “fought pretty hard” to stay on active duty, believing he had much more to contribute to the Marine Corps.
“Why I wanted to stay in is pretty simple: I wasn’t ready to hang up the uniform and turn the page into a new chapter,” he said. “I felt that I had a lot of fight left in me, and that I could help shape the Marine Corps into this new-age style of fighting, even with half of a leg, and to show Marines of all ranks and ages that it still can be done.”
Jacks asked to be placed in an expanded permanent limited duty status, a request that only the commandant of the Marine Corps can grant. Jacks said he met the commandant — Gen. James F. Amos at the time — and that Amos said to him, “If you want to stay in, I won’t push you out.” After about nine months of evaluations and paperwork, Jacks was granted permission to continue serving on active duty.
Specific Prosthetics for Specific Activities
Jacks said he has about 20 different prosthetic legs, each with a unique purpose. He has one for everyday activities, one for patrolling and one for running, among others.
“If I don’t have one that works well for the situation, that will set me up for failure,” he explained. He also has one prosthetic decorated with a blood stripe and some Marine graphics that he said he doesn’t like to wear much, because he doesn’t want to damage it.
What he lacked before starting the course, however, was a leg that would help him swim. The asymmetry in his body caused him to roll in the water when swimming, Jacks said.
“The first week [of the MCIWS course] was pretty hellacious,” he said, “because I had to relearn how to swim properly and use my upper body.”
He recounted having to fight feelings of vertigo from the lack of balance. Marshall said he and Jacks worked together to improvise a buoyant prosthetic that would enable him to stay at a level position in the water. Even with the buoyant leg, Jacks had to put in dozens of extra training hours to become more proficient, frequently staying at the pool until 6:30 or 7 p.m., up to two hours after the other students had left for the day.
“We were not going to lower the standard,” Marshall said. “We were going to work with him to help him reach it.” And the standard was high. Marines had to complete conditioning swims up to 1,900 meters in length, including three that were timed. They also had to swim 25 meters underwater, complete four American Red Cross rescues with the aid of lifesaving equipment and four without, and pass all academic classroom evaluations.
“There were naysayers” who told him he wouldn’t be able to complete the course missing a limb, Jacks said, but he kept a positive outlook.
“You press on with it,” he said. “You use the adversities as fuel to get you through.”
Jacks and his fellow graduates are now certified as MCIWS instructors and American Red Cross lifeguards.
Despite most public assumptions, Los Angeles County leads the nation with the highest concentration of military veterans calling it home. The female veteran-led Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC), stands ready to serve them.
According to their website, LAVC is a structured network of public, private and government agencies working together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans, service members and military families in LA County. Along with the collaborative efforts of 300 organizations and resources housed under LAVC, the initiative is working towards policy changes that could further positively impact veterans.
The foundation or backbone for the LAVC is Southern California Grantmakers, which has programming led by two female veterans determined to change the landscape for veterans as they transition or find themselves in need of support.
Directing LAVC is Air Force Reserves Master Sgt. Aimee Pila-Bravo. But her passion for serving veterans goes beyond her connection as a military service member herself. It started after watching her brother, a Marine, struggle and not receive the help he needed. He eventually attempted to commit suicide while still on active duty.
“There were a lot of incarcerations and hospitalizations and he had a lot of problems that weren’t being addressed,” Bravo explained. Inspired by a social worker that was finally able to help her brother, she decided to become one herself.
After leaving active service for the reserves to earn her master’s degree in social work, she knew she wanted to impact the lives of those who serve and have served.
“If someone could help my brother through that process then I want to be able to do it for others,” Bravo said. “I just recognize that there is a lot of help that needs to be given. I would prefer that they get that help while they are still in, before they get to us.”
Life after leaving active duty service is a shock to many veterans, with the added confusion of where to go and what’s available, Bravo said. Although each branch offers a class before the member begins terminal leave, she said it leaves many more confused than when they started. LAVC aims to make it as seamless as possible to set them up for success.
Cristina Garcia is the Director for the Veteran Peer Access Network, which is part of Southern California Grantmakers, as well. The program connects county departments, non-profits, the VA and LA City programs, making navigation simpler for the veteran. It is led by veterans for veterans, giving them a battle buddy as they begin their journey after the military.
A 24-year veteran of the United States Army, Garcia ended her career in the California Army National Guard working in diversity and immigration, retiring as a 1st Sgt. Her role at the end of her career would create a drive and purpose to continue to find ways to ensure all veterans received the care and resources they needed.
“It really gave me a sense of worth and satisfaction to help those soldiers, families and the community,” Garcia explained.
That drive and passion for service led her new role and she hasn’t looked back since. “We, as veterans, we know what’s out there. We get it, but when you hit those bumps and there’s no one to help, you kind of go into a downward spiral from there. That’s why this program is so low barrier,” Garcia said.
Bravo echoed that sentiment but also knows that what they are doing is only the beginning of what’s needed to truly support veterans. “It’s a great start but it isn’t enough. It won’t be enough until we champion for change within the military itself,” she said. “It’s something that we need to work on and it’s a conversation that just can’t stop.”
Another unique point about LAVC is that the organization works with all veterans regardless of discharge and their families, making them standout as a valuable resource and initiative. “That’s why the program is so important and needed here in Los Angeles County,” Garcia said.
For an area like LA that has such a large concentration of veterans, Bravo and Garcia hope to set the standard for programming elsewhere in the country. With the Veterans Administration backlogged with needs and the recent uptick in service member and veteran suicides, initiatives like LAVC are an important piece of the solution.
Both women said they are proud of where the program is going and grateful to all of the organizations joining forces to serve and make a difference.
“We are here to inform, educate and make sure we give them that warm hug like – come here,” Bravo said. “It’s not ‘poor veteran’ either. Instead, it’s we know it’s going to be hard but that’s okay. We’re here.”
The Tuskegee Airmen, who were referred to as “Red Tails” due to their brightly painted aircraft tails, were an all-black fighter group during WWII and consisted of more than 900 pilots. Hardy, among 354 others, were sent overseas to conduct bomber escort missions.
“The greatest thing about this is that there’s a Red Tail flying in England,” Hardy said. “It means so much to us that there’s a Red Tail still around.”
A bomber was never lost to enemy fire during their escort missions. However, the group lost 66 Tuskegee Airmen during the war.
Flying the restored P-51D Mustang, nicknamed “Tall in the Saddle”, was Peter Teichman, Hangar 11 Collection pilot. Teichman tracked down Hardy through history groups after acquiring the retiree’s original P-51.
“Colonel George Hardy is a real war hero, the real deal,” Teichman said. “I never thought I would get to meet the colonel or to take him flying. He’s a very remarkable man, and men like him need to be remembered.”
Hardy completed 21 sorties in his P-51 during WWII. He was only 19, and he didn’t even have a driver’s license.
“So many great pilots, and I was flying with them,” Hardy said. “You couldn’t beat that – I was on top of the world. We demonstrated that we could fly like anyone else. ”
Hardy, 71 years later, reunited with his plane, completed one last flight to RAF Lakenheath to share his story with the Liberty Airmen who awaited his arrival.
“This is a huge honor for us here at the 48th Fighter Wing,” said Col. Evan Pettus, 48th Fighter Wing commander. “The Tuskegee Airmen have a very rich history and an incredibly important place in the culture and heritage of the United States and the United States Air Force. To see him here on RAF Lakenheath in his aircraft is very, very special for us.”
Following the heroics of the famed Red Tails during WWII, the U.S. Air Force was established and became the first service to integrate racially. Many attribute this milestone in U.S. history to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen and those who served with them.
Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.
China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.
The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.
“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”
Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.
And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”
State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”
The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.
Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.
US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.
The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.
India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.
Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.
“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”
“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.
Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.
This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.
China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”
Between 2006 and 2010, some 30,000 single mothers had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror. Meanwhile, the number of homeless female veterans doubled in the same time period.
There are now an estimated 55,000 homeless women veterans in America, and they’re the fastest growing homeless population in America.
When Lysa Heslov first heard about how easily female veterans can fall into poverty and homelessness she had no idea just how widespread the problem was. She was at lunch with a friend who told her about the Ms. Veteran America Pageant, which provides housing for female veterans and their children – and why it’s so important.
“I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed as an American, I was embarrassed as a woman,” Heslov told We Are The Mighty. “I couldn’t believe that this was happening. I couldn’t believe that women were coming back and being treated this way. I’ve gone up to many service men in my life, and said, ‘Thank you for your service.’ I hadn’t gone up to one woman my entire life.”
There are many factors that go into a veteran falling into homelessness; a lack of affordable housing, sudden or insufficient income, PTSD, substance abuse, lack of familial and social support networks — the list goes on and on. Suffice to say, it could happen to anyone.
Heslov is a director, producer, philanthropist who founded a non-profit for disadvantaged youth with her husband. She helped a New Orleans family recover from Hurricane Katrina. She decided she would put her skills to work to raise awareness for female veterans at risk of homelessness. In 2015, she filmed the new documentary film “Served Like a Girl.”
“Served Like a Girl” follows five female veterans from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines from around the U.S. as they prepare to compete in the Ms. Veteran America competition.
The women face more than a transition from military to civilian life. As they ready themselves to earn the crown, they describe how they deal with divorce, PTSD, serious illnesses, and sexual trauma they experienced while in the military.
Heslov immediate set out to learn everything she could about the issue. She watched CNN’s “Heroes” documentary on Jas Boothe, the founder of Final Salute, Inc. — the main beneficiary of Ms. Veteran America. Booth is a 16-year Army veteran of both OIF and OEF, a cancer survivor, and author who was once fell into homelessness herself after a series of tragic events.
Her brush with the void inspired her to ensure every female veteran would never be left without somewhere to turn.
“We offer wrap-around services,” Boothe told CNN. “Anything they could possibly need to help get themselves back in a state of independence. We give all the tools that you need, but your success in this program is up to you.”
Final Salute, Inc. also offers interest-free loans, child care, job placement, and more.
“There’s nothing wrong with serving like a girl,” Boothe said, introducing the film at the 2016 Fort Meyer VETRACON event. “Men killed Bin Laden. A woman found him.”
“Directing this was terrifying and exciting and became so much more than I ever thought it could be,” Heslov says. “The women featured in it became more than just subjects in my documentary, they have become my family. I can say I’ve never cried so many tears and I’ve never laughed as hard. My life will never be the same and my hope is, through sharing this film, theirs won’t have to be either.”
“Served Like a Girl” is a descriptive, informative film that thoroughly covers the possible pitfalls and unique challenges for women vets who transition from the military. The women featured in the film are real women veterans, facing real struggles that could undo not only their hopes of winning the competition, but affect the rest of their lives.
The film also features a new song “Dancing Through the Wreckage,” composed by Linda Perry, Grammy-nominated lead of the band 4 Non Blondes, and sung by the legendary Pat Benatar.
“Served Like a Girl” is in theaters in Los Angeles and New York. It will open in other areas soon.
To learn more about the Ms. Veteran America Competition or donate to fight female veteran homelessness, visit their website.
We know the key facts of what happened on April 18, 1943. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was killed when his Mitsubishi G4M Betty attack bomber was shot down by a Lockheed P-38 Lightning flown by Capt. Thomas G. Lanphier Jr., marking the “Zero Dark Thirty” moment of World War II.
But it took a bit more training to get the most out of the P-38.
Lockheed helped out in this regard by making a training film, using expertise from their production pilots. The takeoff procedure was different, mostly in not using flaps. The plane also was very hard to stall.
The plane did have limitations: A pilot needed to have a lot of air under him, due to both the compressibility that early models suffered, and the speed the P-38 could pick up in a dive. The pilot couldn’t stay inverted for more than 10 seconds, either.
The film also showed some P-38s modified as trainers. The film shows one trainee being shown how to deal with propellers running wild. The pilots were also trained to feather props.
The P-38 was surprising easy to fly as a single-engine plane. The film shows Tony LeVier, a noted test pilot, simulating an engine failure during takeoff.
The P-38 was a superb fighter, even if the Mustang, Hellfire, and Thunderbolt got most of the press. Put it this way, America’s top two aces of all time, Maj. Richard Bong and Maj. Thomas McGuire, flew the P-38 plane in World War II and combined for 78 confirmed kills.
The training film is below. Now you have a sense of what it was like to fly the plane that killed Yamamoto.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”
So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.” Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.
Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.
The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.
Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.
Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.
Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.
The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.
That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.
However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.
It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.
Marine corporal and well-known TV and film actor Tim Matheson spent a morning with We Are The Mighty. He discussed everything from growing up in Hollywood, to his service in the Corps in the late 1960s and 1970s, to his starring in many great, classic films.
Matheson is notable to audiences worldwide for his performances in John Landis’ Animal House, Steven Spielberg’s 1941, Mel Brooks’s To Be Or Not To Be, with Chevy Chase in Fletch, as Vice President John Hoynes in the award-winning show West Wing and more recently as President Ronald Reagan in the TV movie Killing Reagan. He got his start in TV back in the 1960s on such series as Leave It to Beaver with Jerry Mathers; being the voice of Jonny Quest in Jonny Quest and guest-starring on Bonanza, The Virginian and Adam-12. His early film roles offered him the chance to work with Dick Van Dyke, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Debbie Reynolds and Jane Wyman in such films as Divorce American Style; Yours, Mine, and Ours; and How to Commit Marriage. He starred with Clint Eastwood, David Soul, Hal Holbrook, Robert Urich and Kip Niven in the second installment of the Dirty Harry series Magnum Force.
Matheson described coming up in the industry as: “I learned on the job as an actor. I took classes when I was younger, but most of it was OJT. I’d get a day job here and a day job there. I sort of got the hang of it and it evolved into me learning my craft. The most interesting show I did was Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball. It was like my first big movie and it was a big part with Henry Fonda, and he played a Naval Officer. It was based on a real story about this family. My character had a draft physical and then enlisted in the Marines. I think I was 18 and the day I was to shoot that scene. It was the day I actually had a draft physical. Passed it of course and became 1A, which means I am available to be drafted. Then I am wearing a Marine uniform (for the scene), I remember walking and didn’t know any of the etiquette or anything, I just knew I felt really strange wearing a uniform. I was actually out on the street. I had to walk from where I had lunch over to the studio, where someone yelled, ‘Hey Marine!’ I didn’t know what to do.”
Shortly after that experience, Matheson enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and went to bootcamp at MCRD San Diego. He kept his identity incognito during his bootcamp experience so as not to stick out as the “Hollywood” type in his platoon. During boot camp, he was chosen to be a squad leader and he picked up PFC out of bootcamp.
Matheson told a story while marching on base by the base theater which was showing a film he had worked on. The base was showing Divorce American Style with Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds as they marched by. He thought, “Oh dear, I don’t want to blow my cover now!” He considers boot camp the toughest time of his life. He described it as, “One of those things that you hated every minute of it and yet when you look back at it you learn so much. I think mostly about yourself and what you can do and what you are capable of doing. I was a Hollywood actor. I had never really done anything physically, I could run … there were these kids in my squads who were from the south and played football; I remember one kid, in particular, that would just break down. He couldn’t run. He’d just say, ‘I can’t do it,’ and broke down in tears. I would tell him, ‘Listen, look at me, if I can do it you can do it. I’m telling you seriously, you are in better shape than me. It’s all here (points to mind)…Get your mind right,’ and we nursed him all through that. That is the training that everybody gets. You all have your breaking point and you all have to learn how to get beyond it.
“There is a reserve and a resource inside you can call upon when is necessary and you can go farther than you think you can.” The Marines offered him the opportunity to compete for a slot at OCS. He declined the offer and was happy with being enlisted. He was stationed at the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chavez Ravine, which is close to Dodger Stadium. It is now the Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center and run by the LAFD. He would go to 29 Palms with his reserve unit in the summers. He was part of his unit’s press department that would put out a paper even though he served in an artillery unit. Matheson made good friends in the Corps and enjoyed going through training with fellow Marines. He said, “There is a bond there you created that will never, ever go away. You have gone through something together. You’ve supported each other. You are there for each other….such a memorable time.”
One of Matheson’s funniest moments in boot camp was during pugil sticks training. His platoon fought against one of the platoons that was mostly made of up inner-city tough guys from Chicago. The tough guy platoon had a recruit named “Melson”, who looked, sounded and acted like Mike Tyson. Melson was considered the baddest guy in all of the platoons. While waiting for his pugil stick match, Matheson realized he was about ten recruits back from the start in which case Melson was about seven back, so he was in the “clear” or so he thought. He had not been paying attention when he realized he was six back and Melson was six back. His fellow recruits had been peeling off and going to the back, so they didn’t have to face Melson. Matheson was too close to the front of the line to get out of it. At the time he weighed about 160lbs and Melson was, “formidable.” His DI’s suited him and wished him luck in the pugil stick bout. Matheson said, “I’m just gonna go for it, I’m not going to just jab him. So, I go out there, KABAM! I hit him as hard as I could. He (Melson) looked at me, he throws down the pugil stick and dives on me. We have helmets on and he starts pounding my helmet. Everybody is laughing so hard.” The DIs separated the two of them.
Matheson found his way to the Corps through one of his industry friends, Mike Stokey Jr. Stokey’s family was in the Hollywood business as well. Matheson would take Stokey down to Camp Pendleton at times and his experiences of the Corps led him to pursue enlistment in the Marines. After boot camp, he did four weeks of ITR, which was that era’s infantry training. During ITR, the students of the school that ran the show were hardened street kids from Chicago. If other students didn’t go along with how things were being run, at night they would be chased through the billeting, likely en route to a beating of sorts. Matheson then went to radio school for his primary MOS of Field Radio Operator and was trained on the PRC-25.
While finishing up his time after radio school he was put on mess duty and then was sent to NYC to be on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. He shared, “…the Sergeant in charge of wherever I was….he said, ‘Matheson there is a car coming to pick you up tomorrow and you’re getting four days to go to NYC to do the Ed Sullivan Show for Yours, Mine, and Ours.'” Lucille Ball had called Bob Hope who then called HQMC to get Matheson permission to appear on the show. A car picked up Matheson and took him right to the airport. He had only one dollar in his pocket on the way to NYC; he didn’t have enough time to eat breakfast and couldn’t afford it arriving at The Plaza Hotel in the city. Until given some money, he was unable to eat. He said of being in NYC, “It was night and day different from being in training.” The Bee Gees were the guest of the week on the Ed Sullivan Show and he said, “It was a thrill to be on The Ed Sullivan Show (Matheson does his best Ed Sullivan impersonation).” Sullivan was filmed on Sunday and he was sent back to Camp Pendleton on Monday morning. By Tuesday he was back to swabbing the deck and he kept the visit to the show under wraps with Marines in his unit. He said of potential reactions, “Oh, here comes Hollywood, oh yeah, let’s get you down here. Scrub that toilet.” He made sure to fly below the radar most of the time, which made for a smooth enlistment.
When asked about Vietnam, Matheson shared, “I had mixed feelings about it and mixed feelings about what I should do, yet I did feel an obligation and sense of devotion to my country that I needed to do something. The Marine Corps Reserve was the perfect solution for me. If I am activated, at least I will be a Marine. With all due respect to the US Army, I did not want to be one of a huge number of people that was not seriously training. I knew the training in the Marine Corps was going to serve me well, so that if I ultimately ended up in combat I would be better prepared to handle it than I would if I had just been drafted and rushed through with the herd….it made me proud to be a brother of theirs (Marines that served and went to Vietnam), to stand alongside them and to feel that I had done a little bit for my country. And then it made me realize the obligation a citizen really does have in terms of service. It is so different today.” He said of the Corps, “I was proud to be part of that organization…I totally respected the price that was paid by all my brothers and sisters who did what they did and paid the ultimate price.” He shared, “It grew me up from being some kid in the valley…to seeing really what it was like to be trained and then shipped right over. Getting to know them when they came back or didn’t come back….You really learn the mettle of the men and women that you train with.”
Matheson retains a strong sense of pride, maturity and appreciation from his service. He carries over many values from his service such as, “Your word is your bond. It takes a team and you need leaders. Leadership was the thing I learned. I was a squad leader and then a guide at ITR. I learned how to take control and command. You couldn’t just stand in the back.” He credits the Corps with helping him ultimately become a director in TV and movies because of his leadership and initiative training. He believes running a film set is similar to running a military unit, especially in getting people to do things they don’t want to do yet need to be done. He was taught during automatic weapons training at Camp Pendleton if caught out in the open with no possible cover, to turn and to run toward the guns. His unit crossed paths in the chow hall with Navy SEALs and he was impressed with their toughness. “I had never seen any group eat as much and as fast as those guys. I thought we Marines were tough, and then I saw those guys! That was the first time I’d ever heard of SEALS. I never forgot them!”
Matheson is proud of his work with Clint Eastwood on Magnum Force. He said of Eastwood, “He was quiet, but filled with authority. He was the real deal.” He trained and qualified with the pistol for his role in the film. Matheson also did ride alongs with the police. He shared, “Clint always had a crew that just stayed with him through the years and they were the best.” Prop master Eddie Aiona on the film gave Matheson a .357 magnum to practice speed loading with to take back to his hotel room. Eastwood told Matheson of running lines and rehearsing before their scene, “No, I think there is something very special the first time that you hear those words and it should be on camera.” Eastwood’s comments surprised Matheson. He said of Eastwood, “He was the best listener I had ever worked with….he is totally listening to what I say and then I say what I had to say, and then he responded and changed one word that affected my next line…it was totally natural and totally spontaneous. I walked away at the end of that day saying, ‘This guy is the real deal; I mean wow.’ He was gracious to everybody and in public, he was very personable. Generally speaking, he had a way of moving around the city that you didn’t notice him. He just cut through all the blather. But if anybody stopped him, he would say ‘Hi’ and he would sign his autographs. He was the real deal and I just loved working with him.”
When asked who some of his more memorable colleagues were, Matheson shared, “Certainly John Belushi on Animal House was one of my favorites. He was one of the greatest guys, tremendous actor, wonderful improv. I remember the scene in the cafeteria where he is eating his lunch and stealing the food — he did it in one take. ” Belushi invented a lot of his work on the spot. “He couldn’t have been more gracious and generous to me. It was my first comedy.” Matheson speaks of the rivalry between New York and Los Angeles actors with, “None of that with John. Belushi set the tone of the film. John was just generous and loving and supportive of everybody and just great. Heartbreaking that his multiple successes took his life…that was when drugs weren’t bad for you…he just couldn’t get away from it. It was just a tragedy that we lost him.”
Matheson as a young actor got to work with many Vaudeville performers turned actors; Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope. “I learned a sense of discipline and how professional they were. Lucy was like a DI. I remember one scene with Lucille Ball where there were 11 kids around and there is a prop guy hiding under the sink … he has got to pop toast up that she’s gotta catch on a certain line. And at one point she looked around at everybody and she said, ‘Always rehearse with your props.’ It was just like a DI…it was one of those moments where this is what you do.” He is grateful for his good fortune in working with such greats and in the wisdom they imparted to their cast-mates.
Additionally, Matheson is grateful for having been able to work with great voice actors such as Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny), Dawes Butler (voice of Yogi the Bear, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, etc.) and Don Messick (voice of Papa Smurf, Scooby-Doo, Bamm Bamm Rubble, etc.). He got to see Mel Blanc perform a scene as two different characters/voices talking to each other, which floored Matheson. He said, “One of the finest actors I have ever worked with was Mel Blanc. Because he created the third-dimension voice, and you could see the character.” Matheson was a series regular on The Virginian,Bonanza and his own western with Kurt Russell called The Quest for a year each. His career was part of the waning time of western TV shows in the 1970s. He decided to start doing improv comedy to change the kind of parts he got which opened the door for doing Animal House, which opened even more doors for him.
He plans to keep on working as an actor with his current characters being more doctor roles now. “I must say the one thing I also learned from the Marine Corps was, ‘Get your ass in shape.’ I ran and ran and ran for years and did marathons until my knees started acting up. Now I am into spinning bikes and stuff like that. That was the main thing it instilled in me a sort of discipline; get up, work out…I see actors come to the set at 6:30 or 7 o’clock in the morning. They just woke up. I have been up for two hours, worked out because I want the blood flowing in my brain before I get to the dialogue — film is forever and pain is temporary so you are not embarrassed when your kids look at it in 20 years.”
Regarding veteran stories in Hollywood, Matheson sings high praises of Rod Lurie’s work directing The Outpost. He said, “ I thought it was an exemplary piece of work.” Matheson has positive feelings for Eastwood’s film Letters from Iwo Jima, as well. He shared, “I thought that was a masterful film…that he just threw together….I actually liked it better than the other film (Flags of Our Fathers)…I just think that those personal stories like that show the valor, gumption, strength and what it takes to be a leader in the service.” He said of working with Steven Spielberg on 1941: “Steven was one of the most wonderful, giving….and was very collaborative and encouraged me and my directing life and was quite an inspiration. He is just one of those guys that thinks differently. He is a genius and I look at his films and just study them because I find I learn so much in simply watching how he does things.” Working with Lurie on Killing Reagan was a great experience for Matheson and he describes Lurie as, “What a gem…and a gift he gave to me and Cynthia Nixon who played Nancy…to create an environment for us to play in…it was a memorable experience….I hold him (Lurie) in the highest esteem.” He said of political candidates that have served in the military: “I want them in our government. I want them to run a lot of different things.” His faith in military service and the Corps is still intact.
The Corps provided him with the following leadership takeaways: “The buck stops with me and I should be there for people that need help….To create a team in whatever situation you are in to do it better.” He is most proud of his kids in life and making them into responsible adults. He is glad to be in a position to keep learning his craft and is grateful to share the screen with great artistic craftsmen.
“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”
The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.
Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.
The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.
The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.
The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.
Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.
Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
In the 180 days deployed, the soldiers have put in 153 days of training with allies and community engagements across a swath of the continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To supply the brigade’s more than 4,000 troops, the unit’s truckers have logged more than 100,000 highway miles.
After taking part in the biggest European training exercise for US troops since the Cold War, which wrapped up in Germany last week, the brigade’s troops had fired more than 1 million rounds from their pistols, rifles, machine guns, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and artillery pieces.
“It has been absolutely tremendous,” said the brigade’s boss, Col. Christopher Norrie.
The colonel spoke to The Gazette by phone last week as his soldiers packed up their gear for yet another mock war, this time in Hungary. His soldiers had just fought mock battles alongside a full team of American allies, including the usual suspects from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and newer partners including Ukrainian tankers and Albanian infantry.
“We fired 7,000 rounds of artillery,” Norrie said of the 10-day exercise. The unit also drilled with allied Air Forces and coordinated with a French command team.
“I think the dynamic here that was most interesting was the international environment.”
With tensions on the rise across Europe fueled by an increasingly aggressive Russia led by president Vladimir Putin, the training has sent a clear message: Don’t mess with the US or its friends.
The brigade headed to the continent from Colorado Springs in January, bringing more than 2,000 tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces across the Atlantic by ship. The goal was to demonstrate how quickly a US-based unit could be ready to fight overseas.
After gathering in Poland, the unit spread out from Estonia to Bulgaria.
Moving the unit across the vast expanse of Europe showed how quickly its soldiers could show up for battle. The training exercises that followed have shown how they can win the fight, Norrie said.
“We view deterrence as presence plus lethality,” Norrie said.
At a German training area, the brigade’s M-1 tanks proved dominant in a simulated war that included traditional combat and modern-day threats including a cyber attack.
“We seized seven objectives in 48 hours,” Norrie said.
Large-scale tank training has been a rarity for the Army and 3rd Brigade in recent years. Since 2001, the unit has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its tanks and other heavily-armored rigs were parked as its soldiers fought as infantry against insurgent groups.
Now, the Army is focused on its ability to take on “near-peer” enemies, like Russia and China.
That explains the abundance of training rounds fired by the brigade — numbers unheard of in recent years as the Pentagon tightened its belt to deal with budget cuts.
Having the unit overseas also allowed 3rd brigade to practice working with allies.
“There are things we need to improve, things our allies need to improve, and things we are very good at,” he said.
Norrie said his unit was successful in bridging language and cultural barriers thanks to liaison teams. The unit put its troops in the headquarters of allied forces and the other nations reciprocated, creating an instant solution for problems as they arose.
He said cooperation was also fueled by having a clear common goal.
“That shared interest of expressing the will of the alliance, it’s a very powerful motivator,” he said.
The training for the brigade is also proceeding at a pace unseen outside wartime.
After wrapping up the training in Germany, tank crews were busy washing mud off their tracks and heading out for training in Hungary.
The brigade, which will head back to Fort Carson in about three months, has become expert at shipping gear across the continent.
“We have done 180 different rail movements throughout Europe,” Norrie said.
The pounding pace of the unit’s work would be enough to grind down even the most veteran of soldiers.
But Norrie said it has actually had the opposite effect.
Instead of dragging, 3rd Brigade soldiers are walking taller, he said. The platoons, companies, and battalions have become close knit families during weeks of intense work.
Mechanics have set records for the number of vehicles available for war despite their heavy use. Gunnery scores have gone sky-high as soldiers hone their skills, he said.
Norrie said the brigade has the swagger of an undefeated team.
“If you see our soldiers they are so proud of what they have done,” he said.
Marines in Afghanistan who need critical supplies in remote areas won’t have to lug their gear in trucks anymore. Instead, Corps planners have developed a new airdrop system that literally flied the supplies to their exact location.
Take that Amazon.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command release, the last of 162 Joint Precision Air-drop Systems were delivered to the Marines in April. The system, based on the Firefly from Airborne Systems, is capable of delivering 2,200 pounds of supplies to within roughly 500 feet of an aim point when dropped from about 15.5 miles away.
“An average combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan that’s running behind a route clearance platoon may travel at only five to six miles an hour,” Capt. Keith Rudolf of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems said. “Depending on how much supply you have on there, you may have a mile worth of trucks that are slow-moving targets.”
The United States Army also operates the 2,200-pound version of the system and also operates a version of the system capable of delivering five tons of supplies. The Marines have also acquired a version known as JPADS ULW – which can deliver 250 to 700 pounds of supplies.
Both versions of the system enable a cargo plane like the C-130J Hercules or the MV-22 Osprey to drop the pallet from an altitude of 24,500 feet – far outside the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, heavy machine guns, and small arms.
Marine Corps Systems Command is now shifting from the acquisition of the JPADS to sustainment of the system. This includes planning for upgrades to the system to keep it relevant as the missions evolve.
The Marines are also considering a version that will allow reconnaissance Marines to be parachuted in with their gear.