The WWII Epic 'Unbroken' Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year - We Are The Mighty
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The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Angelina Jolie presented the world premiere of her new film “Unbroken” in Australia last week, and it looks like it could be the must-see military movie of the year.


“Unbroken” follows the true story of Louis Zamperini, who along with two others in his crew, survived the crash of their B-24 bomber and lived through a harrowing 47 days in a life raft in the Pacific (one crewman, Francis McNamara, died on day 33) before they were captured by the Japanese and held for more than two years.

The film, which is based on the bestselling book by Lauren Hillenbrand and set for wide premiere on Dec. 25, drew audible gasps from the premiere audience, according to Variety. Meanwhile, over at movie aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 96 percent “want to see” score.

The book it’s based on drew reviews that used words like “inspiring,” “mesmerizing,” and a “one-in-a-billion story,” so we have high hopes for the film. The positive reaction from the crowd at the premiere is definitely a good sign.

Watch the trailer:

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Navy investigators say Pendleton housing accusations ‘unfounded’

Navy investigators say they found no evidence to support allegations that a management company running military housing on a major California base overcharged residents on their energy bills.


Several military families who lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton in California — which is managed by the private company Lincoln Military Housing — told We Are The Mighty they were threatened with eviction notices over energy bills they didn’t owe.

The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.

But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing “after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded.”

“No criminal misconduct was discovered,” Buice added in the email statement to WATM.

Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.

Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.

Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.

Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.

Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that “all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved,” adding that Lincoln Military Housing had “implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner.”

“We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base,” Peterson said.

Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn’t satisfied Pendleton’s response, arguing base residents aren’t simply misreading their bills.

“There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented,” Schellhaas told WATM. “The facts are that this program needs to get audited.”

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Why a zombie apocalypse will never happen on America’s watch

Let’s face it. The world likes — and America loves — zombie movies.


The idea of having to fight across the countryside and through clustered cities, cutting down hordes of the undead with a shotgun is enticing.

That’s why zombie movies and video games do so well. The “Resident Evil” franchise released its sixth film 20 years after its first video game hit the market. That’s a two-decade run for, “Zombies, but like, monsters, too.”

But, sorry, Milla Jovovich fans. There is no way that a zombie outbreak is taking over the U.S. or any allied country while the American military is around. Here’s how the U.S. would respond to a zombie outbreak, shutting it down quickly.

First, let’s assume that an entire country was ravaged before America geared up, just for funsies. (But, really, military human intelligence collectors and signal intelligence should have given us the heads up before a single town was wiped out). And let’s assume it’s a country that emphatically said the U.S. military wasn’t welcome, and that’s why the outbreak went on as long as it did.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Seriously, we’re always looking for somewhere cool to send these. We’d be happy to come hang out. (Photo: U.S. Army)

So, Russia is gone. (It’s the country that hates the U.S. the most, according to this recently Googled list). While the rest of the world is sad that they’ll never again see such awesome paratrooper music videos as Russia makes, it’s time for someone to put a stop to the epidemic.

Enter the U.S. military. If the Russian military managed to wipe out only 10 percent of their zombie population while trying to contain the outbreaks — a pretty low estimate for any modern military facing off against shambling, diseased civilians — that would leave approximately 130 million zombies for the U.S. to kill before they can cross any of the 12,421 miles of border.

In other words, varsity numbers.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Troops would probably pay for the chance to mow down zombies, even if it had to be done in the snow. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

But America has a varsity military. On active duty, the U.S. has over 450,000 soldiers; 182,000 Marines; 323,000 sailors who man and support 274 battle force ships; and 325,000 airmen supporting and flying 5,032 aircraft.

And, Russia has good topography for containing zombies. Because of the mountain ranges (in black, below) and the Arctic Circle (in red), there are only a few places where zombies could conceivably break out of Russia to threaten the rest of the world in large numbers.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Zombies can only get out of Russia through some limited breakout zones, and that one to the east is pretty useless because it runs straight into the Sea of Okhotsk. (Map: Public domain. Graphics: crudely drawn by Logan Nye)

So, small contingents of the Navy can patrol the Arctic and a few dozen companies of POGs can guard the mountain ranges, picking off the few zombies lucky enough to make it through the mountain passes.

But the western and southern breakout zones could be huge problems for American allies and the world as a whole.

The southern breakout zones would give the zombies access to Kazahkstan and maybe Mongolia. The western gives a large front that hits Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Finland. It also hits Belarus, but they hate America nearly as much as Russia does, so screw ’em.

And Russia’s population is centered near that breakout zone, meaning that most zombies will be in good shape when they try to pour into NATO.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
There’s nothing in so good a shape that it can resist an Apache, though. (Photo: Ministry of Defence)

So what could 632,000 ground combatants supported by the largest navy and the most advanced air force in the world possibly do against 130 million zombies?

Lol. They would kill an average of 205.7 zombies each, and it would be awesome.

The Navy would park multiple carriers in the Baltics and Barents seas. From there, they could fly strike aircraft and sensor platforms to find and target large clusters of zombies.

The Air Force would bring its own strike and ground attack planes as far east in Europe as they could hold the line. From there, A-10s and AC-130s would rain hot lead in support of ground pounders while B and F-series planes blanket the countryside with bombs.

Finally. Guilt-free carpet bombing is back.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
We’re going to need more zombies. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

And sure, none of these are the headshots needed to permanently put down a zombie. But a few hundred pounds of explosives will mess up a zombie’s legs pretty badly, as will 30 mike-mike through the chest. Pretty sure that will make the infantry and other ground maneuver forces’ jobs a little easier.

Speaking of which, the Marine Corps and Army are going to love the most entertaining range they’ve ever held. Think about it. What sucks most about range days? First, being put on target detail. And, second, having to shut down the range every time a turtle wanders by.

Guess what? No one is going to order a range halt because of a turtle when a bio menace is marching towards Paris. And there’s no need for a target detail when the targets can be lured with the sound of gunfire.

So, the Marines and soldiers basically get to call shots to each other as they gun down crippled zombies over a couple of thousand miles of the Russian border. If the engineers can wait to shoot zombies long enough to dig a couple of trenches and raise concertina obstacles, it’ll delay the already wounded zombies even further.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
The best is going to be when people start stealing AAVs, tanks, and Strykers and driving them over zombies. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Xzavior T. McNeal)

And don’t think the artillery and mortarmen are going to let a chance to practice against undead targets pass them by.

The biggest challenge is going to be making sure that all those cavalry, infantry, etc. have enough ammo. But remember, American logistics troops train to maintain operations in a contested environment. This time, they would have completely safe roads, railways, and rivers to use without fear of significant enemy resistance.

Hell, the operation could probably be catered.

So soldiers and Marines could simply mow down the oncoming hordes, talking the machine guns and interchanging barrels to prevent a meltdown. No Milla Jovovich needed (though she would probably be welcome on a USO tour or something).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Yeah. Probably welcome. (Photo: YouTube/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Of course, the Navy SEALs can be used to clean out river deltas where zombies were washed downstream attempting a crossing, and the Green Berets can jump into zombie-held territory to try and train up survivors for resistance operations if they like.

But zombie operations are basically just the world’s easiest siege. None of the enemies can tunnel, or use weapons, or conduct coordinated military operations. Easy, peasy.

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USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

It’s not like ISIS didn’t know the attack on Mosul was coming. After all, Mosul is one of the last major cities in Iraq that the group holds. So the radical Islamic fighters prepared for the battle that is now raging on the outskirts of Mosul by doing a few things, including destroying the runways at the vital Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq.


Qayyarah West sits within Iraq’s Ninawa Province to the south of Mosul and is an obvious logistics base for an attack on the city.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Timothy Williams, assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, operates a jackhammer on a runway during repair operations at Qayyarah, West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The same day that Iraqi forces captured the airfield in July, bloggers and journalists immediately predicted the role the base would play in the coming fight against ISIS.

There was just one major problem. According to a story by Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lemmons, ISIS had systematically destroyed the runways at Qayyarah West with explosives and heavy machinery for two years.

The C-130, one of the military’s most versatile cargo planes, needs at least 3,000 feet of safe runway to make an assault landing. Even then, the short runway lowers the available total weight with which aircraft can land or takeoff.

So the Air Force needed to take a base with no usable runways and get it ready to take in tons of cargo in a short period. A team of engineers from the Air Force flew to the base to attempt the task. They undid two years of ISIS destruction in only three weeks.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules waits to unload logistical supplies in support of the fight for Mosul at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. This is the second aircraft to land there following completion of repairs to the runway after Da’esh damaged it. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The Air Force deployed a small team to assess the damage, then sent the full team to begin repairs. Over the three-week period, the airmen judged which parts of the runway were unsafe for operations, cut out those sections of asphalt, and then fixed just those spots.

“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles told a military journalist. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”

Once the engineers found hard surface, they ensured everything was level and firm, then rebuilt the section of runway from the ground up. And the airmen completed their work just in time. The first C-130s arrived on Oct. 21, less than a week after the Iraqi Army began their offensive to retake Mosul.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The repaired runway provides a more robust logistical capability for the invasion, allowing more ammunition and other supplies to fly in. And Qayyarah West has served the coalition in other ways as well, such as housing the American Paladins providing artillery support to the Iraqi advance.

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These rare colorized photos show World War I like never before

At the time, World War I was the largest conflict ever fought by mankind. Over 8 million troops and nearly as many civilians died during the conflict. Because photography was in its infancy during the war, most of the images from that time are grainy black and white pictures.


To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, Open University created an album last year of colorized World War I archival photos with the help of In the Company of Huskies. Check out a few of them here:

1. Troops tend a mobile pigeon loft used to send messages to the headquarters. According to BBC reports, 100,000 carrier pigeons served in World War I with a 95 percent success rate.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright London Transport Museum.

2. Soldiers with the 1st Australian Imperial Force pose in their camp in Australia.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright State Library of South Australia.

3. Indian infantrymen hold their trenches in 1915 while under threat of a gas attack.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

4. German field artillerymen pose with their 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 field gun in 1914.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo: flickr/drakegoodman.

5. A group of soldiers go “over the top” during an advance.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

6. An Albanian soldier gets a haircut from an Alpine barber on the front lines in 1918.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright The British Library.

7. A young girl and boy ride in a decorated toy car during a fundraising event in Adelaide, Australia.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright State Library of South Australia.

8. A soldier and his horse wear their gas masks at the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps Headquarters.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright Library and Archives Canada.

9. Canadian infantrymen stand with the mascot of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Battalion in August 1916.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright Library and Archives Canada.

10. Cleveland Frank Snoswell returns home from the war to Australia.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright State Library of South Australia.

NOW: Crazy photos from the WWII battles in the Arctic that you’ve never heard of

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The 18 Military Facebook Pages You Should Be Following

Mat Best MBest11x

Why you should follow: Mat Best and the boys at Article 15 Clothing bring laughter in a way only veterans and active military personnel can relate to. They shoot anything that goes bang and make awesome videos.


The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Duffel Blog

Why you should follow: Stay up-to-date with the U.S. military’s most-trusted* news source (If you aren’t aware, Duffel Blog is a parody news organization offering pitch perfect satire on military and veterans issues).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Terminal Lance

Why you should follow: A weekly comic strip started by a Marine veteran, Terminal Lance offers not only hilarious comic strips, but plenty of memes and funny photos that are submitted.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Ranger Up Military and MMA Apparel

Why you should follow: These vets take funny jabs at all branches of the military. Meme War Fridays are the best!

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Veterans in Film Television

Why you should follow: This is a must-follow page for all you veterans in the film and television industry. Learn of the latest networking, audition, and job opportunities here.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Marines of Helmand and Al Anbar

Why you should follow: Connect with Marines who served in Helmand and Al Anbar and see what they’re up to.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Afghanistan Combat Footage – Funker530

Why you should follow: Get the latest combat footage on your Facebook timeline.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Arlington National Cemetary

Why you should follow: Get daily commemorative posts of troops who are buried at the cemetery.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Military Working Dogs

Why you should follow: Learn what our latest K-9 war buddies are up to via photos, videos, and stories.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

USO – United Service Organizations

Why you should follow: This is a great page to follow if you’re currently serving. Get the latest military entertainment, programs, and services here.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Awesome S- -t My Drill Sergeant Said

Why you should follow: Remember the crazy, off-the-wall, and hilarious stuff your drill sergeant said? Follow this page for comedy that only veterans and active troops would understand.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Stolen Valor

Why you should follow: The official Guardians of Valor Facebook page. Follow this page to learn and report those who falsely claim military service and/or claim unauthorized medals or tabs.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Operator as F- -k

Why you should follow: This is another great page for military humor. Get your funny military pictures and memes here.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Make The Connection

Why you should follow: This is the official Make the Connection Facebook page. It’s an active page that connects veterans and their loved ones to stories of strength and resources for living well.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

NavySEALs.com

Why you should follow: Follow this page to get daily inspirational messages and SEAL stories.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

National Naval Aviation Museum

Why you should follow: Learn something new about the Navy’s aviation history every day.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

Tactical S- -t

Why you should follow: Learn about the latest tactical gear through reviews, videos and stories.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

U.S. Military On Facebook

Why you should follow: This is a great resource for military personnel, veterans, and their families.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

NOW: 18 Terms Only Soldiers Will Understand

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Sep. 23

It’s finally Friday, everyone. It’s time for some memes, a few safety briefings, and the weekend. Here are 13 of the funniest military memes we could dig up:


1. It’s like being called out by a guy who looks like Mister Rogers but kills like Mr. T (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Dude’s got more badges than a Pokemon trainer.

2. I hate it when she cuts off mid-sentence like that (via The Funny Introvert).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

3. You could fit at least three infantrymen on that bed (via Military Memes).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
That’s pretty good looking dirt, though. A little loose, but good dirt regardless.

4. Yup, this brings back memories (via Military Memes).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Best part is, the armorer isn’t even there yet.

5. This is an NCO failure. LTs should never be left unattended near tumbleweed like that (via Military Memes).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
This is why you always need a battle buddy team.

6. Immediately shared this with my girlfriend (via Operation Encore).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

7. It could always use more glow belt. Always (via Pop Smoke).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Maybe if most of you wore three belts, and then one of you wore a full vest?

8. Why wait 1,500 years? Most Marines are salt-powered robots within three years (via The Chive).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
All service members are salt-powered within seven.

9. DD-214: The only known cure for saltiness (via The Salty Soldier).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Being out of the military is so refreshing.

10. Ha ha! Jokes on you, staff sergeant! (via The Salty Soldier)

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
I long ago turned into an empty husk fueled by energy drinks and spite.

11. “I need two for …” (via U.S Army W.T.F!  moments)

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year

12. Nothing to do but lift and work (via U.S Army W.T.F!  moments).

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Time to get swole.

13. “I’m just so glad we can be here and bond as a unit.” (via U.S Army W.T.F!  moments)

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
It really builds esprit de corps. I guess.

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Why we’re excited about the upcoming Battlefield V

The Battlefield series has always been known for its breathtaking graphics and in-depth storytelling about real-life conflicts involving troops. These popular features seem to be continuing with their latest installment, Battlefield V, coming Oct. 19.


The new game will be set in World War 2 and have several modes. The single-player “War Stories” will be brought back from Battlefield 1, which gave each chapter of the story to a different soldier fighting in the war. This opened up many storytelling possibilities that could give each region and troop the respect they deserve.

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
No matter how many times we play it in every WW2 game or movie, the Battle of Normandy is always one of the most hardcore scenes in every medium.
(EA Dice)

The multiplayer is also looking just as in-depth. The series is known for its massive 64 versus 64 player matches and it’s being teased that those matches may be even bigger. This even branches off into the “Last Stand” mode where a player is given only one life and that’s it.

Another much welcomed return to video gaming is an extremely interesting co-op mode called “Combined Arms.” In it, a squad of four players will be paratroopers given a mission to sneak behind enemy lines to complete their objective. The squad-based multiplayer is the game’s focus, just as it was in the phenomenal Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Everything in the game is destructible and players can interact with everything and even build their own fortifications. Not only is being able to clear out buildings standing between you and your opponent coming back, but there’s a return of minor details that make the game feel more realistic. A key example is grabbing a health pack; players have to actually apply it to heal (instead of the gaming norm of just walking over it and magically healing.)

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year
Even tiny things like each weapon having a certain unpredictability makes things so much more realistic.
(EA Dice)

This offers a much more difficult level of game play that is unparalleled — and very welcomed from gamers.

Another popular perk of the game is their discontinuation of a premium or season pass. Every bit of post-launch content will be free to all players. In similar fashion, EA Dice has filled previous content with enough things to do that nearly doubles the game-play content in a matter of months.

Check out the video below to watch the official trailer.

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The Battle of the Crater turned a brilliant plan into self-inflicted defeat

The WWII Epic ‘Unbroken’ Could Be The Must-See Military Film Of The Year


During one of the final and most important sieges of the Civil War, a combination of racism towards black troops, concern for appearances, and sheer blinding incompetence and cowardice led to the bloody disaster that was the Battle of the Crater.

The Confederate Army was engaged in a last ditch defense of Petersburg, Va., the logistics and rail hub that supplied the forces defending their capital at Richmond, against the Union Army under command of General Ulysses S. Grant. Once Petersburg fell, the war was as good as over.

The siege had turned into trench warfare that presaged World War I. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s mastery of field fortifications and defense in depth had made offensive operations by the Union against entrenched Confederate troops a terribly bloody endeavor. The siege was at a stalemate, and new tactics were called for.

The Union 48th Pennsylvania Regiment was largely drawn from coal country, and its commander, Col. Henry Pleasants, was convinced they could dig a long mine under the rebel lines and use blasting powder blow to a large hole in their fortifications. A four-division assault force would then seize the heights overlooking Petersburg, greatly shortening the siege. His corps commander, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, endorsed the plan.

The operation was conducted with a strange mix of brute force labor and a strategic lassitude from higher command, and suffered from a chronic lack of logistical support. Most of the Union leadership, from Grant on down, was skeptical of the plan, and saw it as a way to keep the soldiers busy at best.

The 4th United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Gen. Edward Ferraro was specially trained to lead the assault, specifically to flank the crater on both sides. But Gen. George Meade, commander of the Union Army at the battle of Gettysburg, thought little of the plan and the abilities of the black troops to carry it out.

He also voiced concerns to Grant that if the attack failed, it would look as if black soldiers had been thrown away as cannon fodder. Grant agreed, Burnside inexplicably had his division commanders draw lots, and Brigadier Gen. James Ledlie drew the short straw.

It was bad enough that the last minute change brought in badly unprepared troops for a tricky attack, but Ledlie had the distinction of being one of the most drunken cowards in the Union officer corps. This was to have terrible consequences.

Union troops operating north of Petersburg had drawn off most of the Southern troops, leaving the line weakened, and the time was ideal for the assault. After months of labor and the emplacement of more than four tons of blasting powder under the Confederate fortifications, the attack began with triggering the explosives at 4:45 a.m. on June 30, 1864.

The resulting blast was the largest man-made explosion in history up to that point. A massive mushroom cloud, which sent men, horses, artillery, and huge amounts of earth flying into the air, left a crater 130-feet long, 75-feet wide, and 35-feet deep. The explosion killed a full third of the the South Carolina unit defending the strongpoint, over 200 men, in an instant. The concussive force of the explosion left the rest of the brigade stunned for at least 15 minutes.

Despite the spectacular success of the mine blast, the assault started to go wrong from the beginning. Ledlie was drunk and hiding in a bunker in the rear, and his leaderless division ran into the crater instead of around it, milling about uncertainly.Other units pouring into the attack only added to the chaos.

The recovered Confederate troops laid a kill zone around the crater, keeping the Union troops pinned down, and fired everything from rifles to mortar shells into the packed troops stuck in the blast zone. The 4th USCT, despite being relegated to the second wave, penetrated farther than anyone, but suffered severely in the process.

After holding out for hours, a final counterattack by a Confederate brigade of Virginians routed the still numerically superior Union forces, which suffered appalling casualties, and many were taken prisoner.

There are many Southern eyewitness accounts of black prisoners being summarily shot down by Confederate troops, and the particularly severe casualty rates suffered by the black units seem to bear this out. Even some Union soldiers were reportedly involved in the killings, driven by fear of the Confederate warnings of reprisals for fighting alongside black soldiers. The shouting of “No Quarter!” and “Remember Fort Pillow!” by the black troops during their charge was also later cited as a justification for the executions by the Confederacy.

Burnside and Ledie were both relieved of duty after the disaster, though Burnside was later cleared by Congress since it was Meade who decided to replace the USCT at the last moment. Burnside never held a significant command again.

The supreme irony of the battle was that despite the efforts to spare the lives of black troops from politically inconvenient slaughter, the utter failure of the lead wave to force the breach lead to terrible casualties for the black units they had replaced. Gen. Grant later said “it was the saddest affair I witnessed during the war.”

The siege would drag on for another eight months, and Petersburg’s fall led to the prompt surrender of Richmond, precipitating Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The Crater remains a prime example of a brilliant plan spoiled by incompetent execution.

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This slugfest was the longest battle America ever fought

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.

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Photo: US Army T/5 Edward Norbuth

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.

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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.

Despite the bravery of the American soldiers and the support from artillery and the air, most attacks across the front failed due to German artillery and minefields. Maj. George Mabry, a D-Day hero, personally dug mines out of a field with a trench knife to give his men a corridor to attack through. The men rewarded him by being on of the few units to capture their objective in the assault.

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American troops ride a captured German tank during Operation Queen in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. Photo: US Army

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.

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What is the big deal about Kwajalein?

According to a report by UPI, an LGM-30 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile was taken from Minot Air Force Base and launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base to test America’s land-based deterrence force.


The missile landed at the remote Pacific base of Kwajalein Atoll. Now, the United States has used these islands for atomic tests and as a place for missiles to land for years.

But Kwajalein has a bit more significance to the U.S. than most other atolls out there. You see, it was one of the many islands American forces had to take from Japan during World War II – and thus, it is consecrated ground.

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Diagram of the American plans to attack the Marshall Islands. (USMC graphic)

During World War I, Japan had taken the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, and Caroline Islands from Germany. According to an official Marine Corps history of the 4th Marine Division, the islands were soon fortified with bunkers, air strips, a lot of firepower, and very fierce troops.

In Nov., 1943, the United States had taken Tarawa in the Gilberts – and paid a heavy price. According to Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls, published by the Center for Military History, 3,301 Marines were killed, wounded, or missing after the effort to take Tarawa. Kwajalein was expected to be even tougher, prompting legendary commanders like Raymond Spruance, Richmond K. Turner, and Holland Smith to oppose hitting Kwajalein at all.

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Troops of the 24th Marines near the beach on Namur, thankful for having made it safely ashore, are now awaiting the inevitable word to resume the attack. (USMC photo)

Admiral Nimitz overruled their objections, and Kwajalein it was. Taking into account the lessons of Tarawa, this time, the United States brought overwhelming force. The major targets were Roi Island, Namur Island, and Kwajalein Island. For almost two months, air strikes were launched, including some with B-24 Liberators and others by carriers, on the Marshalls.

When the attack on Kwajalein came, it still took time, but only 142 American military personnel were killed in attacking Kwajalein Island proper.  Another 190 died while taking the islands of Roi and Namur. Total casualties in those assaults – dead, wounded, and missing – were 1,726.

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Map of the Reagan Test Site. (DOD graphic)

After World War II, most of the American forces left, but Kwajalein today serves as part of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.  332 Americans paid the ultimate price to take it 73 years ago. Today, it helps America develop systems that can save hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of lives.

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This D-Day vet played the role of his British commander in ‘The Longest Day’

On D-Day, Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers who took part in the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Todd had parachuted in after the original assault and helped reinforce the British Army’s Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Maj. John Howard.


Little did Todd know at the time that he would find himself portraying that same British commander when legendary director Daryl Zanuck was making Cornelius Ryan’s book “The Longest Day” into an epic movie.

Imdb.com reports that Todd was very nearly killed on D-Day. He had been assigned to a new plane. The switch was a fortunate one since his original transport was shot down by the Nazis, killing all aboard. A 2004 article by the London Guardian reported that Todd’s D-Day involved making his way to Pegasus Bridge, reinforcing Howard’s unit, and helping to fend off German attacks on the bridge while under Howard’s command until seaborne forces linked up with the paratroopers.

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Pegasus Bridge, June 9, 1944. Richard Todd helped defend this bridge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Todd never discussed his actions on D-Day. However, in his memoirs, “Caught in the Act,” he would write, “There was no cessation in the Germans’ probing with patrols and counter-attacks, some led by tanks, and the regimental aid post was overrun in the early hours. The wounded being tended there were all killed where they lay. There was sporadic enemy mortar and artillery fire we could do nothing about. One shell landed in a hedge near me, killing a couple of our men.”

By 1962, Richard Todd had become a well-known actor, with his most notable role having been Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1954 movie, “The Dam Busters.” Todd had also starred in “D-Day, the Sixth of June” three years later as the leader of a commando group sent to take out German guns.

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When he was asked to play himself in “The Longest Day,” he demurred, admitting his own role in the invasion had been a small part. The London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I did not do anything special that would make a good sequence.” Zanuck, determined to have Todd in the film, cast him as Howard instead.

“The Longest Day” was one of Todd’s last big roles, as British cinema moved in a very different direction in the 1960s. He still found work acting, narrating the series “Wings over the World” for AE Television and appearing in several “Doctor Who” episodes, among other roles.

Todd would die on Dec. 3, 2009, after having been named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Below is the trailer for “The Longest Day.”

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Former US military intelligence chief: We knew something like ISIS was coming — and screwed it up

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The former head of one of the US government’s leading intelligence divisions says that the US believed that religious extremists could carve out a sizable safe-haven in Syria as early as 2012 — but that the US did little to stop this from happening.

In an interview with Mehdi Hasan for Al Jazeera, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who lead the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, called out the administration on its alleged inaction during the first year of the Syrian civil war.

Hasan quotes what he describes as a “secret” DIA analysis from August 2012 warning that the chaos in Syria could allow for the creation of a Salafist enclave in the country’s desert east. Hasan asked Flynn whether this meant the US actually predicted the rise of the ISIS caliphate and did nothing to stop it.

Flynn agrees, arguing that it shows the US should have had a smarter policy of cooperation with Syria’s secular rebels.

“I think where we missed the point, where we totally blew it was in the very beginning, I mean we’re talking four years now into this effort in Syria … the Free Syrian Army, that movement, I mean where are they today? Al Nusra, where are they today? How much have they changed?” Flynn asked. “When you don’t get in and help somebody they’re going to find other means to achieve their goals.”

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Photo: Youtube.com

Flynn suggests that the US’s failure to assist the rebels earlier in the conflict created an opening for extremist groups. Mehdi pushed back, quoting the 2012 DIA assessment as saying that “The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda in Iraq are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” before accusing the US of “coordinating arms transfer to those same groups.”

Flynn says he paid “very close attention” to reports like the DIA assessment and implies that he actually opposed forms of assistance that could benefit extremist groups. But Flynn disputed Mehdi’s characterization of the administration turning a “blind eye” to the DIA’s analysis and explained that US policymaking on Syria has always been convoluted.

“You have to really ask the President, what is it that he actually is doing with the policy that is in place, because it is very very confusing.” Flynn said. 

The jihadist group began as Al Qaeda in Iraq, which fought the US military and the Iraqi state during last decade’s US campaign in the country. ISIS was expelled from Al Qaeda in February 2014 because of the group’s overly-brutal sectarian violence and refusal to listen to the group’s Afghanistan and Pakistan-based global leadership.

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Although Al Qaeda in Iraq was hobbled when the US military pulled out of Iraq in 2011, the collapse of Syria provided AQI with a safe-haven.

The rule of a sectarian Shi’ite government in Baghdad, and the Baghdad government’s failure to integrate anti-Al Qaeda Sunni militants into the security forces, provided further impetus for the group’s growth.

During the Al Jazeera interview, Flynn also conceded that the US’s military policies in the Middle East were at least partly to blame for the crisis in Syria and that the US had made a number of strategic errors that made the conflict more likely.

He also conceded that US prisons in Iraq were responsible for the radicalization of thousands of young Iraqis, many of whom are now fighting with ISIS.

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