4 reasons why it's impossible to make movies about the military - We Are The Mighty
Lists

4 reasons why it’s impossible to make movies about the military

No Hollywood war movie is perfect. No matter how long the production studio takes to develop the project or how long the crew is on set filming the movie, there’re always going to be some avoidable mistakes.


However, we have seen war movies flourish in the eyes of veteran audiences on several occasions. Even within those epic films, there are still areas that aren’t perfect because of a few important reasons.

Some military movies are better off burning their production budget.

Related: 5 more military myths that Hollywood swears are true

4. Blocking for the camera

“Blocking for the camera” is a film term that means, basically, how the actors move within the scene in relation to the camera’s position.

So, do you remember what Sgt. Horvath said before spearheading forward onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in Saving Private Ryan?

“I want to see plenty of feet between men. Five men is a juicy opportunity. One man is a waste of ammo.”

One of the most significant issues veterans have with war movies is how bunched up characters get in firefights or while maneuvering in on the enemy. Having a handful of troops crammed within a few meters of one another is a bad thing, but it’s commonly done due to a movie’s shooting schedule.

What direct Steven Speilberg nailed during the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan was showcasing the importance of proper dispersion. Unfortunately, other war films have failed to follow Sgt. Horvath’s advice — which sucks.

Sgt. Horvath and Capt. Miller mentally prepare for the worst. (Image from Dreamworks’ Saving Private Ryan)

3. Overly verbose dialogue

Hollywood commonly hires screenwriters with proven, successful track records to give a voice to their films. Which, for the most part, is the right thing to do. You wouldn’t hire a dentist to fix your back pain.

But, here’s the issue: Unless you’ve actually lived the life or were immersed in military culture for some amount of time, you won’t truly understand how we talk to one another. Many films want to continually remind the audience that the character is either a veteran or on active duty by using dialogue as exposition.

Good dialogue in a war film wins veterans’ hearts and minds, but we rarely see anyone nail it.

2. Misinformed actors

Actors do the best job they can to bring their characters to life and we respect them for that.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen, time and time again, production companies hire veterans as “military consultants” to train the actors to get it right. It is their job to turn actors into operators. That’s great in theory, but the so-called veteran often isn’t an actual operator themselves. Some Navy sailors have never been on a ship and most Marines have never been in combat, but they’ll wear the title of ‘consultant’ all the same.

Some consultants, like Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye, are legit because they’ve seen the frontlines and survived it. Despite the expression, being a Marine doesn’t make you a rifleman. However, being a 0311 Marine does.

Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of Platoon, deep in the Philippines jungle (Image from BTS Orion Pictures’ Platoon)

Also Read: 5 epic military movie mistakes

1. Research

Here’s the kicker: Movies cost millions of dollars to produce, which most of it goes to the people who are the “above the line” talent. However, all of the standard military information producers need to satisfy veteran moviegoers is available on Google, because that information is public domain. It’s how we learn to don our uniforms if we forget something.

Screwing up the details of an on-screen uniform is the most prominent pet-peeve veterans have. It happens all the time.

What’s wrong with this photo?

Hint: What rank is he supposed to be? (Image from Universal’s Jarhead)

You can look up Marine Corps rank insignia on your phone. No excuses.

Articles

Pictures show USS McCain collision flooded crew berths, comm spaces

Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian waters for 10 missing U.S. sailors after an early morning collision Monday between the USS John S.  and an oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer’s hull.


The collision east of Singapore between the guided missile destroyer and the 183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC was the second involving a ship from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.

Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21. Significant damage to the hull resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding. The incident will be investigated. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)

Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are searching for the missing sailors. Four other sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth injured sailor did not require further medical attention.

The  had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said “significant damage” to the  hull resulted in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.

A photo of the freighter that allegedly hit the USS John McCain. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 a.m. collision about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia’s coast but sailed on to Singapore’s naval base under its own power. Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency said the area is at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the Singapore Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a large rupture in the side near the waterline. Janes, a defense industry publication, estimated the hull breach was 3 meters (10 feet) wide.

One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury.

Local authorities brief the media on the USS McCain collision. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn’t say what happened. “I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure.”

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 7 meters (23 feet) above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or oil spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the tanker at its last port inspection in July.

Singapore sent tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels to search for the missing sailors and Indonesia said it sent two warships. Malaysia said three ships and five boats as well as aircraft from its navy and air force were helping with the search, and the USS America deployed Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision, and the Navy said an investigation would be conducted. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

The collision was the second involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of his command and other sailors were being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision, the Navy announced last week. An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.

The Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., replaced its website with a notice that says it is cooperating with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore’s investigation and with “other responding agencies.” It says “thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing U.S. Navy sailors.”

An official database for ports in Asia shows the Alnic was last inspected in the Chinese port of Dongying on July 29 and had one document deficiency, one fire safety deficiency and two safety of navigation problems.

The database doesn’t go into details and the problems were apparently not serious enough for the Liberian-flagged vessel to be detained by the port authority.

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concern for the  crew.

Trump returned to Washington on Sunday night from his New Jersey golf club. When reporters shouted questions to him about the , he responded, “That’s too bad.”

About two hours later, Trump tweeted that “thoughts and prayers” are with the  sailors as search and rescue efforts continue.

The 154-meter (505-foot) destroyer is named after U.S. Sen. John  father and grandfather, who were both U.S.admirals. It’s based at the 7th Fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy’s website.

 said on Twitter that he and his wife, Cindy, are “keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S  in our prayers tonight — appreciate the work of search rescue crews.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happened when Communist China gave steroids to a Russian transport

When it comes to aviation, original ideas are few and far between. Much of the progress that happens in the space can be considered more evolutionary than revolutionary. The F-15E Strike Eagle multirole fighter, for instance, was an evolution of the F-15 Eagle, an air-superiority fighter. This is often the case with transport planes, too.


For example, the general appearance of transport planes hasn’t changed much over the decades. There’s a huge, mostly hollow fuselage, high-mounted wings, and, at the very least, a rear ramp used to load vehicles or pallets of cargo. In developing cargo planes, the real issue isn’t figure out how to transport something, it’s figuring out how to transport that much.

A Y-20 in flight. This plane is based on the Russian Il-76 Candid transport.

(Photo by Alert5)

When the Chinese Communists were looking for a solution for massive-scale logistics, they decided to develop an aircraft based on the Il-76 “Candid” family of planes. They took this already-impressive aircraft and put it on a metaphorical steroid regimen, just like the ones former baseball sluggers Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez used to bulk up.

The Il-76 can haul 44 tons of cargo. Communist China’s Y-20, their ‘roided-out version of the Russian plane, hauls up to 66 tons. The Y-20 has a top speed of 572 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,796 miles. The Il-76 can go for 2,734 miles at a top speed of 559 miles per hour.

China has acquired 30 planes in the Il-76 Candid, 22 of which are transports similar to this Indian Air Force Il-76.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Now, that still doesn’t quite match up with the United States’ logistical powerhouse, the C-17, which can carry up to 85 tons of cargo up to 2,400 nautical miles. Additionally, the C-17 can be refueled in flight, so it can reach anywhere in the world. But compared to the baseline Il-76, the Y-20 is a substantial improvement, and gives Communist China a better plane — even if it’s still waiting on the WS-20 engines.

Watch the video below to see this plane go through some of its paces.

www.youtube.com

Articles

The Afghan air force is trading its Hips for Blackhawks

The Pentagon has announced plans to replace the Afghan air force’s inventory of Russian-built Mi-17 “Hip” utility helicopters with American ones, stating that the purchase has turned out to be a bad deal.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the Hips will be replaced by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Russian-built helicopters reportedly were maintenance nightmares, with the Afghan Air Force unable to keep up with the logistical supported needed to address constant breakdowns.

A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Hips were initially chosen because defense planners thought Afghan pilots would be more familiar with the Russian-built helicopters. The Obama Administration had praised the Mi-17 in its last report on operations in Afghanistan, calling it the “workhorse” of the Afghan air force. The report noted that 56 Hips were authorized, and 47 were available.

According to Militaryfactory.com, the Mi-17 “Hip” has a crew of three and can carry a wide variety of offensive loads, including rocket pods, 23mm gun pods, and even anti-tank missiles. Army-Technology.com notes that the Russian-built helicopter can carry up to 30 troops.

Over 17,000 Mi-17s and the earlier version, the Mi-8, have been built since the Mi-8 first flew in 1961. The Hip has also been widely exported across the globe, being used by over 20 countries, including China, Argentina, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Iraq.

Egyptian Mi-17. (Wikimedia Commons)

By comparison, the UH-60 Blackhawk, which also has a crew of three, can only carry 11 troops, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. However, the 13th Edition of the Combat Leader’s Field Guide notes that with the seats removed, a Blackhawk can carry up to 22 troops.

The Blackhawk is limited to door guns as its armament. Militaryfactory.com notes that the Blackhawk is used by 26 countries, including Poland, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Argentina, Thailand, and Israel.

Some countries have both the UH-60 and Mi-17 in their inventories, notably Iraq, Argentina, China, Thailand, and Mexico.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let this Swedish metal band be your war history teacher

Even the band’s name is a reference to medieval knight’s armor – the Swedish metal band Sabaton makes music about war, history’s greatest battles, and daring feats of combat badassery. Their latest album, The Great War, features songs about just World War I. If you’ve never had an interest in military history, Sabaton might make the difference for you.

Also, their music videos are pretty great.


Their songs are poetic and thoughtful, about real historical events. From the Serbians fighting in World War I, to Poland’s legendary Winged Hussars, and even the Russians at Stalingrad – the heroes aren’t Swedish, they’re anyone who did something amazing for their comrades on the battlefield. Other songs are about the Night Witches (Russian female aviators who terrorized the Nazis), the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and Audie Murphy’s postwar struggle with PTSD.

I know the video below looks like a broken link, but it’s really a music video for a Sabaton’s heavy metal song about the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, called “Screaming Eagles.” The music video begins with Gen. Anthony MacAuliffe’s now-famous reply to the German surrender demand – “Nuts.”

The band’s entire fourth album was inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, another album is about World War II and the Finnish-Russian Winter War. They have released singles about the World War II-era battleship Bismarck and World War I’s Lost Battalion; nine companies of the United States 77th Infantry Division who lost more than half its manpower at the Argonne Forest in 1918.

Sabaton has won almost every metal award for which they were nominated, including Best Breakthrough Band, Best Live Band, and they were nominated for the 2012 “Metal as F*ck” Award for their album Carolus Rex, which actually was about the rise of the Swedish Empire under King Charles XII.

The song below is about 189 Swiss Guards who defended the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

www.youtube.com

SABATON – The Last Stand (Official Music Video)

Heavy metal bands re-enacting famous battles is all I’ve ever wanted in life. Thank you, Sabaton.

Articles

This unstoppable artillery bombardment doomed Nazi Berlin

In what is sometimes described as the largest artillery bombardment in history, the Soviets opened the road to Berlin in 1945 at the Battle of Seelow Heights with a massive barrage that saw over 9,000 Soviet guns and rockets firing along a front approximately 18.5 miles long. That’s one artillery piece every 11 feet.


Like this, but more cannons. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

The Seelow Heights defenses were a mere 35 miles from Berlin and were the last truly defendable position before Berlin.

Estimates vary about the exact number of shells and rockets fired in the wee hours of April 16, but some think that as many as 500,000 shells were fired in the first 30 minutes. The German defenders, counting reserves held near Berlin, totaled less than 150,000 men.

For comparison, the massive Allied assault on the Gustav line in Italy in 1944 featured “only” 2,000 guns firing 174,000 shells over 24 hours. The British bombardment at the Battle of the Somme in World War I boasted 1,537 guns which fired 1.5 million shells over 4 days. The Soviet crews at the Seelow Heights could have hit that total in about 90 minutes.

Russland, Angehörige der Waffen-SS-SS-troops-in-Russia German SS soldiers relax on their vehicle. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

Unfortunately for the Russian soldiers, their generals followed Soviet military doctrine nearly to the letter, and the Germans had grown used to their tactics. Anticipating a Soviet bombardment, the German generals had pulled most of their men back from the first defensive lines and reduced the number of men in the second lines.

“As usual, we stuck to the book and by now the Germans know our methods,” said Colonel General Vasili Kuznetsov, a Russian commander. “They pulled back their troops a good eight kilometers. Our artillery hit everything but the enemy.”

So a Soviet bombardment with three times as many shells as there were defending troops managed to obliterate one line of trenches, damage another, but kill very few of the defending troops. It also left German mortars, machine guns, tanks, and artillery emplacements.

A Russian T-34 tank burns during World War II. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

The Soviets continued the battle with a rolling barrage that did begin softening the German army positions. But, by that point, Soviet tanks and infantry were struggling to get through the soft ground around the Ober River which had been flooded and turned to marshlands.

The German weapons which had survived the artillery bombardment were able to inflict heavy losses on the attacking Soviet columns.

Sowjetisches_Ehrenmal_Seelower_Höhen-Seelow-heights-soviet-memorial A memorial to the Soviet troops who fought at Seelow Heights now stands at the location of the battle. (Photo: H. der Löwe CC BY-SA 3.0)

But the Soviet numbers were simply too much for the German defenders. Over the next few days, the Russians lost approximately 33,000 men while inflicting 12,000 casualties on the Germans. But Russian planes took the skies from the Luftwaffe and the army brought up the artillery, allowing them to force their way forward with tanks and infantry.

Despite the heavy losses, the Red Army took the Seelow Heights on April 19, 1945, and launched its final drive to Berlin. Soviet troops surrounded the city and forced their way in. German leader Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30 and Germany surrendered on May 8.

Articles

China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

China dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti July 11 to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.


The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval peer in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

Chinese special operations forces raid a civilian ocean transport during a counter-piracy mission. (Photo from Chinese Ministry of Defense)

Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.

MIGHTY CULTURE

No, being a grunt won’t doom you after you get out

So, you’re nearing the end of your glorious time in the military, but you spent it all as a door-kicking, window-licking, crayon-eating grunt. Your command is breathing down your neck about your “plan” for when you get out. You realized two years ago that there aren’t any civilian jobs where you’re training to sling lead and reap souls all the while refining your elite janitorial skills. What are you going to do?

A lot of us grunts wondered this before getting out. But, the idea that you didn’t learn any real, valuable skills in the infantry is a huge misconception. You actually learned quite a bit that civilian employers might find extremely useful for their businesses. Aside from security, you can take a lot of what you learned as a grunt and use it to make yourself an asset in the civilian workforce.

Here is why you’re not doomed:


Put those leadership skills to good use.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Michelle C. Lawrence)

Your skill set is unique

If you’re getting out after just four years, you’re probably around the age of 22 or 23. At that age, you’ve already been in charge of at least four other people or even more in some cases. You have skills like leadership and communication that will place you above others in your age range.

Even if you’re not feeling like you have all the experience you need:

How it feels on that first day of using the G.I. Bill.

You can go back to school

That’s right. You earned your G.I. Bill with all those endless nights of sweat and CLP, cleaning your rifle at the armory because your company had nothing better to do. Why not use it? You don’t even need to use it on college necessarily, use it on trade school to get back out there faster.

The point is this: you have (mostly) free money that will allow you to earn a degree or certification to be able to add that extra line on your resume.

You’ve worked with people from all over the world in all sorts of scenarios. Use that experience.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

You have tons of experience

You do. You traveled the world in some capacity, right? Sure, Okinawa might not be a real deployment but what did you do? You were involved in foreign relations. You were an American ambassador. How many 22-year-olds can say that?

Aside from that, you learned how to plan, execute, and work with several different moving pieces of a unit to accomplish a single goal with success and you learned to lead other people. These are things that are extremely useful for the civilian workforce.

You have all the tools, maybe even more!

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour)

With all of these things in consideration, who says you can’t get a job when you get out? Well, there are plenty of people, but they’ll feel really dumb when they see you succeed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This heavy tank could be pierced with a pistol

French tank designers had an ambitious idea before World War I: What if they could create a vehicle with the protection of an armored car but the firepower of an artillery gun?


Saint Chamond tanks sit in a line in World War I.

(Public domain)

The design that eventually emerged packed a massive 75mm artillery gun into the nose of a tank named the Saint Chamond, but the offensive focus of the designers left glaring oversights in mobility and armor, allowing even pistol rounds through in some circumstances.

While French officers had considered designing an armored weapon platform before the war, the outbreak of hostilities put the effort on old. As Britain started building their first tanks, France got in on the action with two heavy tank designs of their own, the Schneider and the Saint Chamond.

The Saint Chamond was basically built around the French 75mm cannon, and this was significant firepower in World War I. Most Brtitish tanks had 57mm cannons, and the rest of of the world simply didn’t have tanks.

A Saint Chamond tank sits in a museum in western France.

(Fat Yankey, CC BY-SA 2.5)

But the design compromises needed to make space for the massive cannon were significant. The vehicle drove on relatively thin and short treads, and the weight of the vehicle pushed it hard against the soil, making it questionable whether the tank would be able to navigate the muddy craters of No Man’s Land.

Worse, the cannon needed to be mounted at the front, and it couldn’t fit properly between the treads while leaving room for the cannon’s crew. So, instead, the entire length of the cannon had to sit forward of the treads, causing the tank’s center of balance to be far forwards of the center of the vehicle. As the French would later learn, this made it nearly impossible to cross trenches in the St. Chamond. Instead, crews would tip into the trench and get their gun stuck in the dirt.

Thanks to the limited traction from the treads, the tank couldn’t even back away from the trench and get back into the fight. Once tipped forward, they usually needed towed out.

But, worst of all, in an attempt to keep the already-heavy vehicle from getting too much heavier, they opted for light armor on the sides of the tank. While the front was only a little thicker, it was, at least, sloped. Col. Jean Baptiste Eugene Estienne, a French artillery officer who is now known as the Father of French Tanks, saw the Saint Chamond and tested its armor by firing his pistol at it.

The only surviving Saint Chamond heavy tank takes part in Tank Fest 2017, 100 years after the tank first entered service.

(Alan Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The pistol round passed through the quarter-inch armor.

In the designers’ defense, the St. Chamond’s armor was soon upgraded to 11mm at a minimum, a little under a half-inch. The front armor was up to 19mm, almost .75 inches.

But still, when the British and French tanks made their combat debuts, the shortcomings of early tank design were quickly made apparent. Crews from both countries complained of bullets punching through the sides or, nearly as bad, impacting the armor so hard that bits of metal exploded off from the hull and tore through the crew.

French tanks had even worse trouble crossing muddy sections than their British counterparts, getting bogged down quickly. And that was if the engines held up. Often, they would breakdown instead.

The French Saint Chamond tank had a powerful, impressive gun, but it had weak armor and was front-heavy.

(Public domain)

As the war continued, though, France did find a successful design: the Renault FT, a light tank with a rotating turret, 37mm gun, and decent speed. It did have even lighter armor than the St, Chamond, but its configuration allowed the road wheels to help protect the crew from the sides, and the speed let them overwhelm German defenses before too many rounds could hit them.

Best, the Renault FT could be produced in much higher numbers, meaning that German defenders couldn’t often concentrate fire on any single target.

The design was so successful that it was one of the designs America licensed for its tank corps as it joined the war and stood up its armored forces. America ordered over 4,000 of the tank, known in American inventories as M1917s, but none of them reached the actual forces in France until after the armistice.

Still, the design was liked by U.S. Army Capts. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, officers who would create America’s armored strength and later rise to even greater fame in World War II.

Today, the closest modern equivalent to the St. Chamond isn’t even a tank. After all, the vehicle was created to carry a large cannon into battle, and, by the end of the war, it was used more as mobile artillery than to directly attack enemy trenches. As such, it’s more like the M109 Paladin than the M1 Abrams.

And, as artillery, the St. Chamond wasn’t bad. Its weak armor wasn’t a big deal when far from the front lines, and it wasn’t important that an armored artillery platform couldn’t quickly cross a trench.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The long and difficult road to changing Feres Doctrine

In high school, Jordan Way played football and lacrosse, as well as participating in ballroom dancing. He worked with the school’s Best Buddies program, partnering with special needs students in a mentoring capacity. “One of our nicknames for him was ‘Adventure,'” said his father, Dana Way. “Hiking, fishing, shooting, bow and arrows — he did not turn down a challenge.” Jordan was devoted to his family and devoted to his role as a U.S. Navy corpsman.

Yet only four years into his time in the Navy, Jordan was dead from opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at the military hospital at Twentynine Palms Base. His parents were shocked to discover that a longstanding legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine prevented them from suing the government for medical malpractice.


“My son never left the United States,” said Suzi Way, Jordan’s mother. “He was not in a war situation. He was having routine surgery, and he died. And he has no voice because of the Feres Doctrine.”

U.S. Navy sailor Jordan Way died following shoulder surgery and while under the care of military medical professionals.

(Photos courtesy of Suzi Way.)

Jordan was one of thousands affected by the Feres Doctrine in the 70 years it has been in effect. But as of Dec. 20, 2019, active duty military personnel will finally have legal recourse in cases of medical malpractice. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, which includes a new mechanism holding the Department of Defense accountable for medical malpractice in military medical facilities. It was a hard-fought battle, but one that has potentially far-reaching consequences for service members who suffer from negligent care.

In 1950, the case Feres v. United States was heard and decided by the Supreme Court. The court held that the United States cannot be sued by active duty personnel under the Federal Torts Claims Act for injuries sustained due to medical negligence. As clarified four years later in United States v. Brown, “The peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors, the effects of the maintenance of such suits on discipline, and the extreme results that might obtain if suits under the Tort Claims Act were allowed for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty, led the Court to read that Act as excluding claims of that character.”

Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing the Way family as well as other families that have been affected by Feres, saw this as a fundamental insult to the civil rights of active duty service members and has been fighting to change the precedent through an act of Congress. “We consider ourselves a superpower, but our military has less rights than our civilians, and less rights than other countries, our allies,” Khawam said. “Shame on us.”

Dana Way vociferously agreed. “Our active duty servicemen who volunteer by signing that line — where in that document does it say, ‘I give up my Constitutional rights’?”

In eighth-grade Pop Warner football, Jordan Way severely broke his wrist. “His hand was hanging almost 180 degrees off his arm,” said his mother Suzi. She added that he was a longtime “fitness nut” and injured his shoulder in 2017. His parents wanted him to return home to see the surgeon who had fixed his wrist years earlier. But as a corpsman, Jordan trusted in the team of military medical professionals who would be overseeing his care.

This proved to be a mistake. Following the shoulder surgery, Jordan was left in agony. Five hours after the surgery, he went to the emergency room and lost consciousness from the pain. ER doctors increased his oxycodone dosage and sent him home. The next day, when nothing had improved, his surgeon increased the dosage again. But the doctors had all failed to see what was happening.

“He was getting the physical effects of the opioids; he was not getting the analgesic pain relief,” explained Dana. As a result, the high dosage of oxycodone left his body unable to move food through his digestive tract — he was not processing any nutrients. He became hypoglycemic and his organs began to shut down. In the end, he fell asleep and never woke up.

Jordan Way, back row center, with his family.

(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)

“These doctors, they didn’t maliciously kill our son,” Suzi said. “I pray for them all the time because I know they have to go to bed at night with the woulda, coulda, shoulda. But they also didn’t help Jordan. They were negligent. They were complacent. They didn’t do their jobs.”

After a long and arduous process of trying to determine what exactly had happened to their son, Army Colonel Louis Finelli, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director, admitted to the Ways that Jordan’s case was a “preventable and avoidable death.”

Dana Way sees the Feres Doctrine as a roadblock to quality medical care within the military. “The people in power know ultimately nobody’s going to get held responsible for it,” he said. “If you’re active duty military, you’re essentially a piece of equipment. You are a typewriter, you’re a calculator. If you break, you get thrown into a pile and they move on to the next one. To me, that’s wrong.”

Although Feres has not been overturned, it will be substantially diminished in scope by the NDAA signed last week. Service members will still be unable to sue in federal court for damages caused by medical malpractice, as was originally proposed in the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. That act was part of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, named after another of Khawam’s clients who is battling terminal stage 4 lung cancer. Instead, active duty military personnel will be able to submit claims to the Department of Defense itself.

Rich Stayskal and lawyer Natalie Khawam in Washington.

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Khawam.)

Khawam sees this as an unmitigated victory. “I don’t think anybody will be upset that they can’t go to federal court if they have the remedy, the recourse, of federal court decisions,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.” As specified in the NDAA, the Department of Defense will be held to the same standards as those outlined in the Federal Torts Claims Act, and Khawam hopes that it will actually lead to much faster resolution of claims than if the cases were to be seen in federal court.

In its original form as the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, all claims would have been seen in federal court, but that proposal faced a roadblock from Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham was a staunch opponent of any changes to the Feres Doctrine, stating that such changes would be like “opening Pandora’s Box.” Despite a concerted effort among Stayskal and his advocates, any attempt to contact Graham was met with “crickets,” according to Khawam.

In an innovative tactical maneuver, by taking the process out of federal courts and into the Department of Defense itself, the proposal was approved by the far-more-amenable Senate Armed Services Committee. By doing an end-run around Graham, the act, in its new form, made it into the final reconciled version of the NDAA and was signed into law by the President.

Jordan Way’s funeral.

(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)

Fittingly, Trump was revered by Jordan Way, who was buried with a Trump/Pence button on his dress uniform. Given their struggle to get answers about their son’s death from the military, Suzi Way is wary that claims will now be handled by the Department of Defense. “I know how exhausting it has been for my husband and I to find out how and why our son died. That took hundreds of phone calls, hundreds of emails to our elected officials, hundreds of emails to DOD from the very top of the food chain down. How can one ensure the standards are being upheld if they are standards that are privileged to the DOD’s eyes only?”

Khawam, however, is “on cloud nine,” she said. “I feel like it’s been Christmas every day. 70 years of this awful injustice — I felt like it was this locked-up vault that everybody kept saying, ‘It’s never going to change, it’s never going to change.’ And we finally unlocked that vault and cracked it open.”

Of course, “now the work starts from here,” Khawam added. The next step is actually pursuing the claims for Stayskal, Way, and others who have been denied legal recourse because of the Feres Doctrine.

Even Suzi Way, despite her hesitance about the final form of the bill, is glad that there has been momentum. “I went to bed last night,” she said, “and for the first time in almost two years, I didn’t hear Jordan in my mind saying, ‘Mom, I did nothing wrong. I did everything the doctors told me to do, let people know!’ My son’s voice is being heard that was once silenced due to Feres, and this is balm to my grieving soul.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 15th

There’s just something special about Duffle Blog articles. Most joke news sites make it completely obvious that they’re jokes and should never be taken seriously. Most rational people would read a headline like “Are Millenials killing the telegram industry?” and take the joke at face value. Then there’s satire – an art form truly mastered by the folks at DB.

Actual satire is a joke about something taken to the extreme so the audience can see the absurdity in whatever is being ridiculed. Think Stephen Colbert when he was on Comedy Central. Great satire blurs those lines so obscurely that no one can really tell the absurdity. Think Don Quixote and how people believed it was a story about how chivalrous knights were.

Their recent “VA tells vets to use self-aid, buddy-aid before asking for appointment with doctor” is perfect satire. Great article and when you read it, it’s obviously a joke. But that’s not how people reacted to the headline. Oh boy. It’s fake, but it feels like it’s something that could be implemented next Thursday…


On a much lighter note, half of all social media users were unable to connect Wednesday, and we got a new trailer for the upcoming Avengers film. I’m not saying it’s a coincidence, but it definitely smells like the greatest viral marketing strategy for a film to date.

If you survived the “Snappening,” enjoy some memes!

(Comic by The Claw of Knowledge)

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

(Meme by Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via American Trigger Pullers)

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

(Meme by Ranger Up)

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 of France’s greatest military victories that people seem to forget

There’s no question about it: A singular blemish in French history is to blame for their eternal ridicule. The moment Marshal Philippe Petain surrendered (kind of) to the Germans after being the main target of the blitzkrieg was the moment people started associating “s’il vous plaît” with “surrender.”

Ridicule against Vichy France, the German puppet state, isn’t without merit — we get it. But to overlook the storied nation’s thousands of years of badassery is laughably incorrect. Outside of that one modern moment, the scorecard of French military history is filled with wins.


Author’s Note: It’s a fool’s errand to try and rank these by historical significance or how they each demonstrate French military might, so they’re listed in chronological order:

Coincidentally, this would also be the last time England was taken over.

Battle of Hastings

If you want to get technical, this battle happened before the formation of France proper. Still, it’s generally agreed that France began with the Franks. Sorry, Gauls. Their legacy of military might includes (successfully) fighting off vikings, Iberians, and, occasionally, the Holy Roman Empire.

But the single landmark victory for the Franks came when Duke William the Bastard of Normandy pressed his claim over the English crown in 1066. At the Battle of Hastings, outnumbered Normans fought English forces, led by King Herald Godwinson. The Normans, led by William, pushed through English shield walls to take out the crown. William the Bastard then went on to conquer the rest of England and earned himself the a new moniker, “King William the Conqueror.”

Surprisingly enough, feeding your troops makes them fight better.

(Jean-Jacques Scherrer, “Joan of Arc enters Orleans,” 1887)

Siege of Orleans

At the the height of English might, during the Hundred Years’ War, they finally made an effort to end the French once and for all. The city of Orleans was put under siege — and the throne was thrust into dire circumstances. All the English had to do was starve city. That was, until a young peasant girl arrived: Joan of Arc.

Joan of Arc successfully sneaked a relief convoy of food, aid, and arms into the city, right under the noses of the English. This bolstered the strength of the defenders. With food in bellies and morale on the rise, the besieged made a stand and finally pushed the English out of France.

Seriously. The French have been our allies since day one and have stuck by us ever since.

(John Trumbull, “Surrender of Lord Cornwallis,” 1820)

Battle of Yorktown

This is the battle that won the Americans the Revolutionary War, so it’s most often seen as a major victory for the Americans. But the victory would have never been if it weren’t for massive support from the French.

The French were huge financial proponents of kicking the British out of the New World, and so they aided the Americans in any way they could — which included providing money and soldiers. Everything came to a head at Yorktown, Virginia when Lord Cornwallis went up against General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau. It was an effort of equal parts — both Washington and Rochambeau flanked Cornwallis on each side, forcing his surrender and officially relinquishing British control over the Colonies.

If you gotta go out, go out in a blaze of glory… I guess.

(William Sadler, “The Battle of Waterloo,” 1815)

Most of the Napoleonic Wars

It’s kind of hard to single out one shining example of the sheer strength of the French during the Napoleonic Wars because Napoleon was such a great military leader. If you break down his win/loss ratio down into baseball statistics, like these guys have, he outshines every general in history —from Alexander the Great to modern generals.

Let’s look at the Battle of Ligny. Napoleon managed to piss off the entirety of Europe, causing themto band together tofight him. He was cornered in Prussia andhis enemies were closing in. In a last-ditch effort, he took a sizable chunk out of the Prussian military and forced them to retreat. This all happened while the English, the Russians, the Austrians, and the Germans were trying to intervene.

Just two days later came the Battle ofWaterloo, duringwhich most of Europe had to work together to bring down the dominant Napoleon.

This is why Petain remains such a polarizing figure. He may have given up France in the 40s, but he saved it thirty years earlier.

(National Archives)

The Battle of Verdun

Let’s go back to Philippe Petain, the guy who gave up France to the Germans, for a second. Today, many see him as a traitor, a coward, and a weakling — but these insults can’t be made with putting a huge asterisk next to them. In World War I, he was known as the “Lion of Verdun” after he oversaw and won what is known as the longest and single bloodiest battle in human history.

For almost the entirety of the year 1916, the Germans pushed everything they had into a single forest on the French/German border. It was clear within the first six days that after the Germans spent 2 million rounds, 2 million artillery shells, and deployed chemical warfare for the first time, that the French would not budge. 303 days later, the Germans finally realize that the French wouldn’t give in and gave up.

​So maybe lay off the “French WWII Rifle for sale” jokes. It mightbe funny if it weren’t completely inaccurate.

(National Archives)

Operation Dragoon

In the opening paragraph, there was a “(kind of)” next to mention of French surrender during WWII. Well, that’s because not all of France gave in — just parts of it. France was split into three: Vichy France (a powerless puppet state), the French Protectorates (which were mostly released back to their home rule), and the resistance fighters of Free France.

The Free French resistance fighters were widespread across the French territory, but were mostly centralized in the South. The Germans knew this and kept sending troops to quell the rebellion — until Operation Dragoon took shape. Aided by Allied air power, French resistance fighters were able to repel the Germans out of Free France in only four weeks and give the Allies the strong foothold they needed in the Mediterranean until the fall of fascist Italy.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mattis says US needs to up its game in the Arctic

The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.

The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.

Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.


Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.

“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.

Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.

U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutteru00a0POLAR STAR (WAGB-10)

Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.

But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.

“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.

The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.

Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.

President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.

China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.

Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.

“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.

Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.