It’s hard enough to get motivated to do PT a few times a week. Try doing it when you’re missing a limb . . . or three.
That’s how former NFL player David Vobora found the inspiration to shift away from his lucrative training business and lend a helping hand — and add a little bit of inspiration — to vets and others who face the challenges of life-changing injuries.
Marine veteran Brian Aft, left, assists fellow double-amputee Lawrence Green during a workout. (photo by Brandon Thibodeaux)
Vobora left the NFL after five seasons when a severe injury scuttled his short career. He then started a personal training business helping serious athletes in Dallas, Texas, dubbed The Performance Vault.
But his life changed when he met former Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, who was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five living quadruple amputee vets in the U.S.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘When is the last time you worked out?’ ” Vobora recalled. “He looked down at his prosthetics and said, ‘I don’t want to make you feel like an idiot, but I don’t have any arms and legs.’ ”
That got Vobora thinking.
Not long after his encounter with Mills, Vobora started the Adaptive Training Foundation, which aims to create custom workout programs for amputees that lies somewhere between basic rehabilitation and Paralympic training.
“I realized if Travis is in this position and can’t go to a typical gym … all of these veterans and civilians with physical disabilities — they’ve sort of been sidelined,” Vobora said. “Where do they go … that has this community to push each other?”
The Adaptive Training Foundation is a non-profit organization that’s featured in Starbucks Coffee’s “Upstanders” campaign, which aims to highlight inspiring stories of individuals who go above and beyond to inspire positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and author Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstart initiative uses video shorts, podcasts, and stories in hopes of raising awareness for causes like Vobora’s.
Summer blockbuster season is almost officially over (The Atlantic claims it stretches from March to Labor Day), and with that, we here at We Are the Mighty have been talking about our favorite movie soundtracks. Of particular interest are our favorite songs from war movies.
This list was nearly impossible to cull down, because many of the best soundtracks are instrumental compositions (which are great), but don’t exactly scream “turn me up!” So we collected a series of songs (many from Vietnam movies) that are sure to either make you sing along, dance, or cry.
10. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'” Nancy Sinatra – “Full Metal Jacket”
“These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” with the line “Me love you long time” from Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”, made RR in Vietnam seem way more entertaining than it probably was.
9. “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” Otis Redding – “Platoon”
There’s just something about this song that makes you wanna roll one and kick back on a dock somewhere.
8. “California Dreaming” The Mamas and Papas – “Forrest Gump”
Speaking about rolling one…
7. “Get Around” Beach Boys – “Good Morning Vietnam”
We couldn’t have a list of our favorite songs from war movies without a little Robin Williams. In “Good Morning Vietnam,” Robin Williams’ character boosts morale much like Robin Williams did on his many USO tours.
6. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Bobby McFerrin – “Jarhead”
“Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir!” Classic.
5. “Brown Eyed Girl” Van Morrison – “Born on the Fourth of July”
Though Van Morrison never intended to release this song on an album when he recorded it, we’re sure glad he did. The Grammy’s were, too, as the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.
4. “Miracles” Coldplay – “Unbroken”
You can’t possibly listen to this song and watch this video and NOT immediately want to watch this movie.
3. “There You’ll Be” Faith Hill – “Pearl Harbor”
I know battle hardened Marines who cry during this. It’s the military version of crying after Old Yeller.
Except for all the beer and BBQ, Vietnam isn’t anything like America for an FNG…and other lessons to be learned from Forrest Gump.
1. “Sgt. Mackenzie” Joseph Milna Mackenzie – We Were Soldiers
This haunting melody perfectly captures “We Were Soldiers” final battle in la Drang Valley.
As the story goes, the singer, Joseph Milna Mackenzie wrote the song just after his wife’s death. He stared at a picture of his grandfather above his fireplace and was overcome with wonder about his grandfather’s final moments before he died on the battle field in WWI. The song, according to Mackenzie, suddenly came to him.
“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”
“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.
After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.
Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
The Turkish military apparently staged a coup on Friday night,deploying military into the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s largest city and capital, respectively.
“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and the general security that was damaged,” a statement, published by a group calling itself the “Peace at Home Council” on TRT, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, read.
But Turkish citizens began flooding the streets in support of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan after he called for citizens to gather and repel the coup.
The military in Turkey has forced out four civilian governments since 1960.
1971: The military stepped in amid economic and socio-political troubles. The chief of the general staff gave a memorandum to the prime minister, who resigned shortly thereafter. The military then had a “caretaker” government installed.
1980: The chief of the general staff announced the coup on the national channel during a time of economic stress. The years following this coup “did bring some stability,”according to Al Jazeera, but the “military also detained hundreds of thousands of people; dozens were executed, while many others were tortured or simply disappeared.” Notably, while this was “the bloodiest military takeover in Turkey’s history,” it was also “highly supported by the public, which viewed military intervention as necessary to restore stability,” according to Dr. Gonul Tol, writing in Foreign Affairs.
1997: The military issued “recommendations” during the National Security Council meeting. Al Jazeera writes that the prime minister agreed to some measures, such as compulsory eight-year education. He resigned soon after. This is often referred to as the “post-modern” coup.
“E-coupe” in 2007: The military posed an ultimatum on its website to warn the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against backing Abdullah Gul for president. He belonged to an Islamist government. “The public and the AKP were outraged, and Gul was elected,” noted Tol in Foreign Affairs. “The military’s attempt to intervene against a popular party dealt a serious blow to its standing in society, and in an early vote held right after the e-coup, the AKP increased its vote share by 13%.”
As for 2016 …
Even though Turkey has seen a few military coups in recent decades, there are some notable differences between the ones in the past and the current one.
“[T]he situation is still very fluid but this is a very atypical coup. In the past, the military acted on calls from the people and staged a coup against an unpopular government. That is not [the] case today. The AKP and Erdogan might be very polarizing and might have alienated an important segment of society, but they still have the backing of almost 50% of the population. And we also have not seen large-scale calls for a military intervention, security collapse, chaos, the factors that played an important role in past coups. Also missing in this coup is the chain of command. In the past, the top brass went on TV right after the coups and explained [to] the public the reasons for the intervention. That has not happened yet. So this coup might not have the backing of the top brass.”
As an endnote, Tol added that “if Erdogan survives this, his hand will be even more strengthened and he will be able to convince people more easily that a presidential system is necessary.”
A report released Aug. 19 from a Washington, D.C.-based think tank tracked how North Korea reacts to annual military exercises conducted by the U.S. and South Korea.
The result? Kim Jong Un is using the drills as an excuse to act out.
The study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies doesn’t say exactly that, but what it found was a pattern of behavior during the rule of Kim Jong-Il, and another quite different reaction after the younger Kim Jong Un took the reins of power.
“The study shows that annual joint exercises do not provoke North Korea despite such claims in the media and from North Korea,” Victor Cha, CSIS Korea Chair and former director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council, told the Wall Street Journal.
But the younger Kim says the annual war games are a provocation, and the cantankerous dictator routinely flies off the handle and issues wild threats and warnings in the days leading up to the exercises.
His father, on the other hand, did not respond to the drills the same way. Tensions surrounding joint exercises like Foal Eagle, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, and Key Resolve are significantly more potent since the elder Kim suffered a stroke in 2008.
On top of determining a pattern of behavior around U.S. military exercises, the study also uncovered other key findings.
The first is that the exercises have no lasting impact on relations between North Korea and the United States. When the six-party de-denuclearization talks were still held regularly, the games didn’t change the timing or agenda of the talks.
The report also says that the North “compartmentalizes” its response to the annual war games versus other ongoing issues with the U.S. or South Korea.
Cha also told the Wall Street Journal Kim Jong Un uses the games as a way to spin a yarn to his people that the U.S. military is the destabilizing force on the peninsula and the Korean regime under his leadership is the only bulwark against American aggression.
The report should be welcome news for the U.S. military, who maintain an extensive presence on the Korean Peninsula and have since the end of the Korean War.
“It’s not the exercises,” Cha said, “but the state of diplomacy in the weeks prior that will tell them whether North Korea will do something big in retaliation.”
From “Spider-man” through “Iron Man” and the Avengers series, Marvel Studios has created its own brand of action/adventure movies, bringing audiences a proprietary mix of world-on-the-brink plots, stunning visuals, likable heroes and hate-able villains with complex relationships between them, humor, and – perhaps most signature of all – seamless tie-ins to other parts of the Marvel franchise.
Marvel’s latest release, “Ant-Man,” is no exception. Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a white-collar criminal freshly released from San Quentin desperately trying to reconnect with his daughter (a first for a Marvel movie, hero motivation-wise, as director Peyton Reed emphasized at a pre-launch press conference) who lives with his ex and her pushy cop boyfriend. Lang tries to stay out of the burglary (not stealing) business – even taking a job at Baskin-Robbins – but ultimately he falls prey to the temptations of follow-on “jobs” offered by his former cellmates (one of whom is a guy named Luis played by the always-hilarious Michael Pena) who are now his roommates.
Meanwhile industrial technologist Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas, is trying to keep his former protégé, Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll of “House of Cards” doomed drug addict congressman fame, from selling his shrinking technology to the highest bidder to destroy the world. Pym shelved the technology after losing his wife to it, a move Stoll views as a slight to his career potential. Stoll has been developing his own suit in parallel but – as the grizzly molecular deconstruction of a couple of baby lambs shows – he hasn’t quite mastered the ability to shrink life forms.
But he’s close, and Pym knows this. Pym needs a guinea pig to wear his suit, somebody with nothing to lose and everything to gain by carrying out a mission to save the world, and he finds Lang by synthesizing a can’t-miss burglary. Lang breaks into Pym’s house, cracks the ancient safe in his basement where he finds – not money – the Ant-Man suit, which, of course, he puts on.
Lang has a wild first ride in the suit, and he’s freaked out by the technology so much that he tries to put it back. But as he does, he’s arrested and thrown in jail – by his ex’s boyfriend, no less. Pym shows up as his “lawyer” and challenges him to fix his life by being Ant-Man.
Ant-Man training is intense, even tougher than Ranger School or BUDS because it involves learning to shrink at the right time, coordinating ops with a variety of ant species that are really big once you’re shrunk, and getting your ass kicked by a beautiful woman who happens to be Pym’s daughter.
The first training mission unintentionally morphs into a raid on the Avengers’ headquarters – a neat connection to another part of the franchise – where Ant-Man tangles with Hawkman, who apparently was the Avengers’ duty officer that day. After a scrap, Ant-Man emerges with a piece of key tech the team needs to move forward.
Lang’s criminal buds are read-in for the final mission – an all-out assault on Cross’ complex – and at that point the Marvel formula is in full gear. Over-the-top action is punctuated by LOL-level humor – one scene involving Thomas the Tank Engine is especially side-splitting – and other tongue-in-cheek asides that show the brand knows exactly how not to take itself too seriously while dealing out the serious pyro-laced slugfests.
In typical Marvel fashion, the movie ends with a teaser – this one involving Hawkman, a nice tie-in to his previous cameo – that hints at a sequel.
“Ant-Man” is a great addition to the Marvel movie collection, at once unorthodox and in keeping with the studio’s formula. The choice of Rudd in the lead role is inspired and ultimately differentiates the movie from others in the genre, and Douglas is in top form. (At a Marvel junket in Burbank a few weeks before the release both actors quipped that they’d gone up a few notches on the “cool” scale with their kids as a result of taking these roles.) The supporting characters are pitch perfect.
From a military point of view, the ability to control the sub-atomic and gamma realm is certainly something DARPA has toyed with, but until they master it, let’s enjoy “Ant-Man” – the perfect summer flick, a blockbuster that both thrills and entertains.
Every year, thousands of Americans in the military spend their holidays serving their country abroad. This year is no exception. In 2020, there are service members on every continent, in over 170 countries. 14,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Kuwait, and thousands more in Iraq, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and countless other countries. Being away from home on Christmas can be lonely and painful, but it has a certain beauty of its own.
Tradition is a big part of the military community, and celebrating the holidays is no exception. While stationed abroad, service members do whatever they can to make the season bright. It’s never the same as being home for the holidays, but the special moments spent on base make future Christmases at home all the brighter.
Each base celebrates differently, but holiday celebrations are pretty universal.
Just after Thanksgiving, the preparations begin. Decorations vary, but soldiers do their best to deck the halls with makeshift trees, wreaths, and even lights. Some recreation programs host decorating contests with prizes to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
When the big day arrives, it’s often kicked off with a Christmas 5 or 10K. As the day goes on, you can expect to see service members going the extra mile to spread some smiles. Some might dress up as elves, Santa, or the Grinch, while others stroll about the base singing carols. It’s not all silliness, though. For those who want to, Christmas church services are usually offered all day long at the base chapel.
Christmas is one of the few days that just about everyone is invited to relax and enjoy themselves. Soldiers spend time calling family, playing games, or spending time outside if the weather allows. On some bases, it’s even warm enough to go for a celebratory snorkel!
Christmas dinner is typically a much-anticipated event. The meal is always next-level, with turkey or ham, all the fixings, and enough dessert to go around. In a touching twist, commanding officers often volunteer to serve their subordinates at dinner as a sign of appreciation and gratitude for their service. Often, the meal is accompanied by concerts or other live entertainment to raise morale. After dinner, soldiers gather for game nights or to watch classic Christmas films to bring the festivities to bring the evening to a peaceful close.
Every base is a little different, but at the end of the day, their individual traditions are part of what makes a Christmas deployment a special experience.
The people you share the season with might surprise you.
Many Americans are stationed in countries that don’t typically celebrate Christmas. One would expect to celebrate alone, but that’s not always the case. In some areas, like Bahrain, soldiers have been pleasantly surprised when the locals wished them a Happy Christmas. The culture on base often lightens up, too. Some soldiers have been surprised with pajama days, cocoa, and other luxuries that would normally be off-limits.
The holiday reminds you of your priorities.
More than anything, Christmas reminds soldiers of why they enlisted in the first place. When you sit down to Christmas dinner on deployment, you’re breaking bread with those who have vowed to protect their country, their families, and each other. You’re sacrificing your holiday to help protect your traditions back home. It’s not easy, but a Christmas spent serving your country is one you’ll never forget.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” — the sequel to the sequel to the second remake of the Charlton Heston sci-fi classic — picks up the saga of ape freedom fighter Caesar (Andy Serkis), as he and his army of super-smart, genetically-modified apes seek to turn what’s left of the United States into their own banana republic.
As in 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” humanity is on the retreat as the ape army gains ground, and the last armed resistance against the simian conquerors appears to be in the hands of a ruthless — and mostly shirtless — Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
While Caesar’s voiceover in the trailer makes it clear that the apes never wanted war, they’re determined to defend themselves at all cost. Even if it means armageddon.
‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ swings into theaters everywhere on July 14, 2017.
As the U.S. starts to forward-deploy more of its F-35 Lightning, China and Russia have been putting the finishing touches on their own batches of fifth-generation aircraft — and they all express vastly different ideas about what the future of air combat will look like.
For the U.S., stealth and sophisticated networks define its vision for the future of air combat with the F-22 and F-35.
For China, the plan is to use range to take out high-value targets with the J-20.
For Russia, the PAK-FA shows that it seems to think dogfighting isn’t dead.
Here’s how the F-35 stacks up to the competition.
The F-35 Lightning II
An F-35B begins its short takeoff from the USS America with an external weapons load. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The U.S.’s F-35 isn’t an airplane — it’s three airplanes.
And it isn’t a fighter — it’s “flying sensor-shooters that have the ability to act as information nodes in a combat cloud universe made up of platforms, not just airborne, but also operating at sea and on land that can be networked together,” retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Defense Aerospace Report in November.
In a discussion with four F-35 pilots that was also produced by Defense Aerospace Report, a clear consensus emerged: The difference between an F-35 and an F-15 is like the difference between an iPhone and a corded wall phone. Phones of the past might have had crystal-clear call quality and the ability to conference call, but the iPhone brought with it unprecedented networking and computing capability that has changed life as we know it.
That said, the F-35 doesn’t offer any significant upgrades in range, weapons payload, or dogfighting ability over legacy aircraft, while its competition does.
The Chengdu J-20
China’s Chengdu J-20 has one thing in common with the F-35 — it’s not a fighter.
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider that the J-20 is “not a fighter, but an interceptor and a strike aircraft” that doesn’t seek to contend with U.S. jets in air-to-air battles.
Instead, “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS” — airborne early-warning and control systems — “and refueling planes so they can’t do their job,” Davis said. “If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
On the J-20’s stealth, a senior U.S. low-observable-aircraft design engineer working in the industry told Business Insider that “the J-20 has many features copied from U.S. fifth-gen aircraft; however, it’s apparent from looking at many pictures of the aircraft that the designers don’t fully understand all the concepts of LO” — low-observable, or stealth — “design.”
The real danger of China’s J-20 lies not with its ability to fight against U.S. fighters, but with its laserlike focus on destroying the slower, unarmed planes that support U.S. fighters with its long range and long-range missiles, thereby keeping them out of fighting range.
Shenyang J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
China’s J-31 looks a lot like the F-35, and one Chinese national has pleaded guilty to stealing confidential information about the F-35 program.
That said, the J-31 suffers from China’s inferior composite-materials technology and its inability to build planes in the precise way a stealth airplane needs to be built. Additionally, there’s reason to suspect the avionics in the Chinese programs significantly lag the F-35.
But the J-31, like the J-20, still poses a significant threat because China has developed long-range missiles, which combined with their ground-based radars and radar sites in the South China Sea could potentially pick off U.S. stealth aircraft before the F-35s and F-22s could fire back.
Davis told Business Insider that the J-31 doesn’t just seek to compete with the U.S. militarily, but that the J-31 “very clearly is an F-35 competitor in a commercial sense.” Nations that weren’t invited to participate in the F-35 program may seek to buy China’s cheaper and somewhat comparable J-31.
A fleet of J-31s in the hands of Iran, for example, could pose a serious threat to U.S. interests abroad.
The PAK-FA/T-50. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons)
Russia’s PAK-FA, also known as the T-50, has been criticized as being fifth-generation “in name only,” but as Russia proves time and time again, it doesn’t need the best and most expensive technology to pose a real threat to U.S. aircraft.
The PAK-FA’s greatest failure is in the stealth arena. While the PAK-FA has some stealth from the front angle, “it’s a dirty aircraft,” said a person who helps build stealth aircraft, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the work.
But stealth represents just one aspect of air combat, and the Russians have considerable counterstealth technologies. So while the PAK-FA fails to deliver the stealth or total networking capacity of the F-35, it is a fighter — and a damn good one.
The U.S.’s F-22 has 2D thrust-vectoring nozzles at the engines and is the most agile plane the U.S. has ever built. The PAK-FA has 3D thrust-vectoring nozzles and is even more agile.
Additionally, the PAK-FA can be armed to the teeth with infrared missiles that focus on heat and ignore the U.S.’s stealth. So while the U.S.’s fifth generation hinges on controlling the battle from range and at the jump-off point, Russia’s PAK-FA seems to focus on close-up fights, which the designers of the F-35 didn’t concentrate on.
The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (The first F-35 to arrive at the 33rd Fighter Wing was on display during the aircraft’s official rollout ceremony on August 26 at Eglin Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
China and Russia have both shown the world something new in their fifth-generation aircraft. No longer will these rising powers look to advance the capabilities they currently have — they will actively seek to enter new areas of aerial combat.
Both Russian and Chinese entries seem to focus on key weak points in the U.S.’s force structure by using specialized aircraft.
But the U.S. doesn’t specialize. The F-35 does everything well and seeks the informational high ground with massive computing power, all-aspect stealth, and the ability to network with almost every set of eyes and ears in the U.S. military.
The F-35 has limited range and ability for close combat, but unlike the Chinese and Russian fifth-gens that try to score kills on their own, the F-35 plays like a quarterback, sending targeting information to any platform available.
As the F-35 software develops, pilots will be free to take on more demanding missions, but China’s and Russia’s fifth-gens will still be confined to relatively narrow ones.
There’s aren’t many military-themed new releases for December, so take a dive deep into the Netflix catalog for some fascinating catalog titles.
1. The Longest Day
Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was determined that his movie was going to be the definitive movie about D-Day and it probably was before the release of “Saving Private Ryan.” While “Ryan” focused on the personal stories of men on the ground, “The Longest Day” aims to tell the WHOLE story. There’s a massive cast that includes Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton, Peter Lawford, Gert Fröbe, Eddie Albert and Curd Jürgens. If you’re under 40, you might wonder how anyone could watch a 3-hour movie with so much talking, but “The Longest Day” is the greatest generation’s most ambitious tribute to itself. (1962)
“Kagemusha” (a/k/a “Shadow Lord”) was a worldwide success for Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in 1980. It won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Foreign film, but it’s of interest here for its epic battle scenes. The plot revolves around a street criminal hired to imitate a medieval war lord and fool enemies in battle. If you can deal with subtitles, this movie features staggering swordplay. (1980)
3. Von Ryan’s Express
Frank Sinatra (and his hairpiece) were almost 50 years old when he played a World War II Army Air Corps pilot shot down over Italy. He ends in a POW camp with a bunch of Brits and takes over as their commanding officer, because he’s a colonel. And American, full of American leadership. After the Italians surrender, the newly-freed POWs are chased by the Germans. The good guys highjack a train and try to escape to Switzerland. There are heroics and some heroic deaths. Are there better WWII movies? Sure, but the Chairman is determined to prove he can carry a war movie by himself and he’s always fun to watch when he’s angry. (1965)
4. The Enemy Below
Film noir star Dick Powell tried to make a move into the director’s chair in the late ’50s, but it was bad luck that his first gig was “The Conqueror” starring John Wayne. Early scenes from that (terrible) movie were shot in Utan downwind from nuclear bomb test sites and almost half of the cast developed cancer over the next twenty years and Powell was gone by 1963. The only other movie he directed was this WWII “KILLER-SUB versus SUB KILLER” movie starring Robert Mitchum as a Naval reserve captain hunting a German U-boat commanded by a Curd Jürgens. We’re supposed to feel sympathy for the German because he’s not enamored of his Nazi leaders, so this one’s about the mutual respect that warriors feel in battle. It’s surprising to see Hollywood moving on from Evil Nazis so soon after the conflict ended. (1957)
5. Last Days in Vietnam
This PBS documentary details the American withdrawal from Saigon in April 1975. As the North Vietnamese army closed in, the U.S. military had to evacuate 5,000 Americans and made efforts to rescue a large number of Vietnamese who had supported the U.S. during the war. (2014)
6. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s alternate history of World War II stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, who leads a squad of Nazi hunters who successfully carry out a plan to assassinate Hitler and his top brass in a movie theater. It’s profane and funny: Tarantino is more interested in paying tribute to the low-rent drive-in war movies he saw as a kid than exploring the history of WWII. (2009)
7. Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott’s drama is based on a real-life 1993 raid in Somalia to capture faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The 75th Rangers and Delta Force go in and things quickly go south, the troops face down enemy forces in a brutal battle and 19 men (and over 1,000 Somali citizens) are killed before the mission is complete. Scott brings a compelling visual style to the material and the cast features a host of young actors who went on to great success, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom and Eric Bana. Sam Shepherd and Tom Sizemore also play key old-guy roles. (2001)
8. Hell is for Heroes
Steve McQueen gets to work the moody anti-hero magic in a World War II flick directed by Don Siegel of “Dirty Harry” fame. Pop singer Bobby Darin and Bob Newhart round out a cast that also features tough guys Fess Parker and James Coburn. Sticklers for accuracy will be quick to notice where the production cut corners and McQueen’s struggles with a balky M3 in the final reel. Still, it’s all about his performance and he’s fantastic. The whole think clocks in at 90 minutes, so you’re not committing your entire night to the experience. (1962)
9. Bravo Two Zero
Former SAS commander Andy McNab is sort of the UK version Chris Kyle. He’s had a successful career writing military thrillers. Sean Bean plays McNab in this 2-hour BBC TV film detailing an SAS mission McNab led to capture Iraqi SCUD missile launchers aimed at Israel during the first Gulf War. There aren’t many movies about that conflict and this one serves as a reminder that we’ve been fighting alongside the Brits in almost every war for the last 100 years.(1999)
10. The Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story
This PBS documentary begins with Navy frogmen in World War II and does a fascinating job of detailing the evolving mission and eventual official creation of the SEAL units. There are extensive interviews with the men who served and a lot of filmed footage you haven’t seen endlessly recycled on those History and Military (sorry, “American Heroes”) channel programs. (2014)
It all started with what seemed like a routine mission. His squad loaded onto the vehicle, but when it was his turn to join them, he was asked to go on the next ride. The last thing he said to them was, “catch you guys on the flipside.”
While in route, he heard a loud explosion, which turned out to be the vehicle his squad was on. The vehicle was ripped in half, and there were no survivors.
Watch the cartoon narrated with Travis’ story and learn how he honors his friends.
In 2007, China fired a missile that flew 537 miles above the earth and smashed one of its weather satellites, causing thousands of pieces of debris to drift endlessly through Earth’s orbit.
Just a year later, the US Navy responded by shooting down a satellite in danger of falling out of earth’s orbit at 133 miles and traveling at 17,000 mph with an SM-3 missile, which the US military fields hundreds of.
Since then, Russia has completed at least five anti-satellite missile tests.
Though US astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 left behind a plaque on the moon in 1969 with the inscription “We came in peace for all mankind,” in the intervening decades, space has become militarized as major superpowers now rely on satellite communications.
“Space is not a sanctuary, it is a war fighting domain,” US Air Force Brigadier General Mark Baird said at the Defense One Tech Summit last week.
The US military relies on space-based operations for everything including communications, coordination, navigation, and surveillance, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” told Business Insider.
Even civilian systems like the stock market are reliant on satellites because GPS systems “time-stamp” stock trades, according to Singer.
“If you were an adversary attacking the US, you’d start by attacking satellites,” said Singer. “The first shots in a war between the US and China or Russia, no one would likely hear.”
China and Russia also rely on space systems for numerous functions, but the US is more heavily dependent. Chinese and Russian jets still use analogue systems in their older jets and tanks and boats, and could operate better without satellites.
In that way, the US’s strength in space assets has become a dragging liability.
New defenses emerging
Nimbus B1 Satellite. (Image from NASA.)
While the concept of a space-based conflict terrifies Baird, he said a range of growing technologies and possibilities also has him excited.
In response to the growing space threat, the House of Representatives passed a National Defense Authorization Act with money set aside for a proposed sixth military branch, the Space Corps. While the Space Corps seems unlikely to make it through the Senate, the Senate version of the NDAA does set aside extra money for increased space operations.
But even with a dedicated military branch, there is just no protecting satellites, which sit defenseless in geosynchronous or predictable orbits above earth.
Instead, companies and the military are leveraging shrinking processors and cameras to develop constellations of small satellites that can be easily launched, thus ending a reliance on large satellites that cost billions. The US would then be able to quickly replace downed satellites with smaller, cheaper ones that would simultaneously create more, lower-value targets for adversaries to find and destroy.
For example, the massive Stratolaunch airplane, founded by billionaire Paul Allen, could one day fly high in the atmosphere and launch three rockets, each carrying multiple small satellites into orbit.
Additionally, reusable rockets from companies like SpaceX could save the US time and money on launches, making it less damaging when a satellite is lost.
Stratolaunch Systems Corporation
The space debris problem
While replacing large satellites with smaller ones works as a quick fix, it comes with major environmental concerns.
Space debris from destroyed satellites clutters the domain and makes it harder for sensors and trackers to operate. In a worst-case scenario, the debris could potentially get into a very fast orbit around the earth and end up smashing holes into existing space systems.
“I worry about anti-satellite business from the orbital debris mitigation point of view,” Dr. Bhavya Lal, a research staff member at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, said at the Defense One Tech Summit.
According to Lal, the Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 added approximately 3,000 pieces of debris to the more than half a million pieces “bigger than a marble” in Earth’s orbit.
With enough high-velocity debris flying around, the entire upper atmosphere of Earth could become unsuitable for satellites, possibly resetting technology back decades before the proliferation of space systems.
1986 DIA illustration of the IS system attacking a target. (Ronald C. Wittmann via Wikimedia Commons)
Like all conflicts between major powers, space combat doesn’t happen because it is deterred.
The US’s anti-satellite tests have demonstrated that it too can down another nation’s satellites, to say nothing of the US’s ability to counter any serious attack with its formidable nuclear forces.
However, new technologies like Stratolaunch and others show that the US can can survive an initial space attack and get a new cluster of critical satellites up within a matter of hours if needed.
For the US, the world’s most powerful country, commanding forces is mainly about deterring aggression rather than fighting wars.
The Hürtgen Forest is a massive German timberland where 33,000 Americans were killed and wounded in five months of fighting from Sep. 12, 1944 to Feb. 1945 as artillery batteries dueled, tanks clashed, and infantrymen battled each other nonstop.
The initial American movement into the Hürtgen Forest was a side objective for First Army’s Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges. He was taking a route above Hürtgen Forest to attack Koln, Germany, during the early days of Operation Market Garden.
If he took the forest himself, the woods would become an impossible obstacle for Germans attempting to counterattack on his southern flank. If he did not, he feared the trees would provide concealment to an enemy that could then threaten his belly at any time.
Hodges sent the 9th Infantry Division into the southern part of the forest on Sep. 12. The understrength division initially made good progress into the forest and encountered little resistance. Once they neared the villages and hamlets though, German soldiers began picking apart the attackers.
Bad fog and icy weather prevented American bombing runs most days. The few American tanks available for the battle were forced to fight their way through narrow passes and across tank obstacles, preventing them from reaching much of the fighting. So, the battle quickly became a mostly infantry fight with rifle and mortarmen maneuvering on top of each other, and the Germans had a very real advantage. They had concrete bunkers built under the earth where mortars and artillery pieces were largely incapable of rooting them out.
Those concrete bunkers protected the Germans from one of the biggest dangers in Hürtgen, tree bursts. Artillery and mortar rounds that struck trees would turn the whole things into an explosion of wood shrapnel that could kill or maim anyone exposed to it. This was predominantly the American forces.
The 9th Infantry Division’s last big fight in Hürtgen Forest was from Oct. 6-16, 1944 when they painstakingly made their way through the trees towards Schmidt, Germany with tanks from the 3rd Armored Division. Even with the armor support they only moved the front 3,000 yards while taking 4,500 casualties.
The 9th was finally relieved by the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Division and the 707th Tank Battalion. The 28th’s first attack was characterized by massive artillery barrages and tanks firing shells straight into buildings as the Allies took small towns on the way to Schmidt.
On Nov. 3 the Allies took Schmidt itself, but it was recaptured by the Germans the next morning. The Americans had been unable to get their own tanks up to the town due to impassable terrain. But the Germans came from the opposite side and were been able to bring Panther heavy tanks to bear.
The Americans again struggled to take any important ground until the senior commanders were forced back to the drawing board. This time they relieved the 28th Division with the 4th Division and called the 1st Infantry Division to attack from the north. The weather had finally cleared enough for the planes to bomb en masse and artillery units opened a massive barrage to help destroy German positions.
The slow progress continued as First Army kept sending new units into the grinder. Three more infantry divisions, an armored division, a Ranger battalion, and elements of the 82nd Airborne Division all marched into the trees. While they killed, wounded, and captured heaps of Germans, all of them took heavy casualties themselves.
The ferocity of the fighting dropped but did not end in mid-December. The Germans had launched the famous Battle of the Bulge to the south and both sides had to send supplies and other assets to support their forces there.
The dwindling German forces in Hürtgen were finally cleared in early Feb. 1945 and America became the owner of a couple of dams and countless trees. The Army took 33,000 casualties to occupy the forest. The battle is described as either a pyrrhic victory or a defeat by most historians. The Army simply lost too many men and got too little in return.
The thrust toward Koln, the offensive that Hodges had been worried would be stopped by a counterattack from Hürtgen, was ultimately successful. First Army took the city on Mar. 6, 1945.