Meals, Ready to Eat make field life significantly more comfortable for today’s troops than grandpa had it, but they’re still not exactly good. And, since there are only 24 recipes per year, even the good ones can get old fast. Luckily, Pvt. Snuffy has enough ingenuity to take MRE components and turn them into good food. Here are 9 of the best recipes we’ve found. (We’ve limited the recipes to those which can be made with only current MRE components.)
1. Tex-Mex stew
Jalapeño pepper jack beef patty (can substitute beef stew)
Toasted corn kernels or crackers (optional)
Cut patty into small squares and add cheese. Add 3-4 oz. of water (reduce water if using beef stew) and mix. Works best if heated in metal container (canteen cup) over an open flame. Adding ingredients to hot beverage bag and heating with chemical pad will work in a pinch. Serve with toasted corn kernels or crackers.
2. Pot luck pie
Mix all ingredients but crackers. Crumble crackers over top. Mixes and tastes best if warmed before mixing.
3. Asian Beef Bowl
Asian beef strips
Garlic mashed potatoes
Mix well. Mixes and tastes best if warmed before mixing.
4. Loaded Baked Potato
Garlic mashed potatoes
Bacon cheese spread
Crackers (or vegetable crackers)
Mix everything but the crackers. Crumble crackers and sprinkle over the top. Mixes more easily and tastes better if heated.
Combine creamer, cocoa powder, and your additional flavoring in a pouch. Add a small amount of water and mix. Continue adding small amounts of water until the mix takes on desired consistency. For more sustenance, add throughly crumbled crackers.
7. Momma’s pudding
Vanilla dairyshake powder
Beverage powder of desired flavor (coffee, orange, etc.)
Mix dairyshake, sugar, and beverage powder. Add water until mix achieves desired consistency.
8. General Patton’s Parfait
Momma’s pudding/Ranger pudding
Crackers/Patriotic sugar cookies
Spiced apples (or pears)
Make either pudding as described above. Layer pudding with crumbled crackers/cookies, nuts, and spiced fruit. To make other diners jealous, do so in a hot beverage bag so they can see how awesome your dinner is.
After over a decade as an enlisted infantry Marine, my husband jumped ship and crossed over to the dark side as an officer.
When he made the switch, two things happened: he found himself stressed studying more than ever before, and he found himself absolutely bored out of his ever-loving mind in between training classes to become a Marine pilot.
In a moment of serious desperation, he took to Facebook to plead with his veteran buddies to share their favorite hobbies for dealing with stress and boredom, and they did not disappoint.
In no particular order, here are 13 hobbies these veterans recommend for dealing with stress:
Here’s what Newt Anderson wrote: “I recommend woodworking. Start simple, carving. Otherwise you could go down the road of coloring books! You would be surprised how relaxing both can be. A good set of woodworking tools is a must though. Don’t skimp on those or the blisters you get will make you regret it.”
2. Beer Making
David Sap recommended beer making. Mr. Beer carries a pretty wide variety of starter kits for brewing your own beer, and they claim to be simple, clean, and time efficient. Which is great, because time efficient means more time to brew more beer. Where are my peanuts?
3. Quad Racing
“Quad racing. You should check out Tiny Whoop.” Lucy Goosy
Brad Etzweiler and Titus Vanguard both recommended running.
Nothing says “I’m stressed about flight school and the fact that I’m old and fat and can’t run as fast as these boots in my class anymore and I study too much and I also need a stress reliever,” like running a triathlon. Right? RIGHT??
Gilberto Burbante recommended kayaking. One summer I tried kayaking in white water. As it turns out, I cannot breathe under water and also I suck at kayaking.
6. Pole Dancing
Hales Fuller fully supports pole dancing as an extracurricular. I am immensely interested in seeing my husband do this. *runs away to install a pole*
7. RC Racing
“RC car racing. I enjoy it and still cheaper then the real thing. It gets addicting though and then you spend the money.” Jack Burton is right, though — it looks expensive.
My father-in-law, James Foley, (a retired Master Guns and Viet Nam vet) recommended my husband learn to play guitar. I have no objections.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Carrie Gatz, an instrumentalist with the 566th Air Force Band, Illinois Air National Guard, plays guitar for a hospice patient at her civilian job Sept. 11, 2013.
“Buy you a smoker — time off, smoke ribs and stuff,” wrote Ryan Clay. Bob Waldren agreed, “I second this. Go hunting and get yourself a few Florida bucks.”
10. All the water sports in Florida
Phil John wrote, “Jet ski. [You pay the] initial cost for the ski but then you’re just paying gas. We love ours! Also, spear fishing is a blast. Paddle boarding/ kayaking is great.”
11. Do you even lift, Bro?
My brother-n-law Chuck, also a Marine, recommended lifting. Get thine arse to a gym, brah.
12. Learn a new language
In addition to lifting, Chuck recommended learning a new language. Homeboy already speaks some Spanish, Farsi, and something else — Arabic maybe?
Extra credit for swear words.
13. Get your sophistication on
Aside from running, Titus Vanguard also recommended, “Books. Read books and run… you are an officer now.” Adulting is hard.
Dr. Seuss is on the Commandant’s Reading List, right?
Screw it. Where’s that beer brewing thing at?
How do you relieve stress? Leave a comment and let us know!
Soldiers drink enough crappy water in the field when a lieutenant decides the platoon needs to practice using iodine tablets. While relaxing in the barracks, they need a decent filter. Pitcher filters allow the water to chill in the fridge, but faucet-mounted units provide water on demand.
No one wants to hear their roommates’ music, movie, or video game, so headphones should be on everyone’s list.
For a cup of coffee before PT, the DFAC is no help. Plus, coffee in the room is great for troops during lazy weekends when throwing on a hoodie and walking to chow is too much work. A cheap coffee maker allows a soldier to create their own brew on demand. For those under strict barracks policies against coffee makers, French presses aren’t forbidden and are nearly as easy to use.
4. Hot plate
The DFAC won’t serve grilled cheese at 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning when soldiers are craving it. Hot plates with a couple of pans allow for diner quality meals at home. For those who only grill, griddles allow for mass production or George Foreman grills are good for chicken and hot dogs. Keep an eye out for inspections however, since few commands allow hotplates. Some barracks now have stoves, so troops there can just buy pans.
5. Rugs (or a carpet for the swanky)
Rugs and carpets hide a lot of the stuff first sergeant looks for on the floor, and they grab up lots of the hair and debris that forms dust bunnies. Plus, carpet is more comfortable on sensitive toes after a long ruck march.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nohau
Of course, carpets and rugs necessitate vacuums. There’s only a few hundred square feet to cover though, so a cheap vacuum is generally fine. Roombas can wait until the soldier marries out of the barracks.
7. Family photos, whether of a real family or not
Units want to see that soldiers are settling into the barracks, and that means personal items should be up on the walls. If the family is normal, the trooper can put up actual photos. For those with hot sisters and creepy roommates, a trip to a stock image site could be helpful. Just print and frame.
8. Plunger/Toilet Brush
Troops go to the field, even the human administration folks. They are fed MREs. They need a plunger, and they need a toilet brush.
9. Tons of cleaning wipes and air fresheners
Surprise inspections center on a few things. 1. Dishes in the sink. 2. Dust accumulated on ledges. 3. Smells. The dishes are simple enough. The best way to deal with dust and any odd smells is to stock up on cleaning wipes and air freshener. The wipes make cleaning the lips of door frames and the fridge easy, dealing with the dust. Air freshener helps the room at least smell clean so first sergeant will move on to the next area.
Joining the military comes with all kinds of perks — you get to shoot guns, wear sexy uniforms, and take out car loans with ridiculous interest. But the best perk is the deployments.
It comes with its own set of bullsh*t, like your command putting on dog and pony shows everywhere you go to make you look good, but it also sends you to new, interesting places, even if your goal there is to forcibly remove select people from the population.
Joining the military gives you the opportunity to boldly go where most of your high school friends won’t. You get to go on trips to countries all around the globe and you get to work with their military. In your off time, your command affords you the opportunity to go and see the sights.
2. You learn their culture
Going on vacation to another country is one thing — you mostly choose where you want to go and who you want to interact with — but when you take a trip with Uncle Sam, you’re essentially forced into interactions with whoever is required.
Even if your command had someone give you a two-hour lecture on customs and courtesies, there’s no better teacher than experience.
3. You learn their language
In culture briefings, someone will usually give a basic rundown of the language. Typically, these cover the phrases for ‘hello,’ “thank you,” and “where the hell is the bathroom because your food is ripping apart my insides?”
Okay, maybe not that last one, but when you start to actually work with a foreign military, you’ll get the opportunity to expand your vocabulary to include insults and curse words.
4. You learn about their tactics
This is, by far, one of the coolest aspects of working with another country’s military. You get to see how they respond to certain threats and how they approach different situations, giving you the chance to understand their strengths and weaknesses.
This comes in handy in the event that you have to work with that country in a real war. You’ll know how they can help or hurt you.
5. You get to learn about their weapons
If you work with Southeast Asian countries, this point won’t always stand since the United States usually sells their old military weaponry to these countries. However, many countries use weapons that are foreign to Americans and it’s a cool opportunity to expand your knowledge, making you a more versatile warfighter.
6. You get to flex American tactics
Every country has a different approach (as mentioned above), but everyone knows Americans are the best at fighting wars. So, it’s always fun to learn about another country’s tactics and then immediately sh*t all over them. This gives you the opportunity to reinforce the idea that America is the best and you shouldn’t ever mess with us.
Marines provide cover fire during platoon-mechanized raid training at Su Seong-Ri Range in the Republic of Korea during exercise Ssang Yong 14. (Photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. Anthony J. Kirby)
When you go home and tell your friends about your experience overseas, this is the last thing you should mention. Your stories should always end with, “and, I got paid to do it!”
At the end of the day, this is the best part of the whole deal. No matter how much bullsh*t your command put you through on deployment, you got paid to go to another country and experience everything mentioned above.
The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”
Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.
Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.
Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.
1. This listening device.
Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.
2. Holy rolling.
German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.
3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.
This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.
4. Realities of war.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.
5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.
This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.
6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.
The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.
7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.
Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.
8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.
Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.
9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.
There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.
10. This incredibly brave little girl.
Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)
11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”
This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.
12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.
A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.
War movies wouldn’t be complete without some cinematic deaths. In some of these flicks, the troop is killed instantly by a barrage of incoming fire, but in others, the director decides to take his time with something dramatic and drawn out.
In some cases, there’s a hint of hope that the near-death character just might pull through — but that sh*t is freaking rare.
Check out these five on-screen wounds that the troop had no chance of surviving.
1. Cowboy (Full Metal Jacket)
In the film our favorite Texan takes a direct sniper round to his chest out of nowhere. F*ck! Cowboy’s Marines drag him to safety to render treatment, but there are two things working against him:
He got hit in the back and round went through his chest wall. That’s bad.
The squad’s Corpsman got killed in the previous scene. That’s double bad.
Cowboy made a boot mistake by standing in front of those two big-ass holes in the wall, giving that sniper a clear line of sight on him — just sayin’.
2. Nick (Deer Hunter)
While playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette — which we strongly recommend against — Nicky fires a round straight into his brain and falls to the floor. Michael rushes over and applies pressure to his massive, bleeding wound, but he doesn’t have a chance at saving his friend without an operating room and a skilled neurosurgeon on hand.
It’s a great movie, but why didn’t Micheal use Nicky’s red head wrap to help stop the bleeding? Just sayin’.
3. William Wallace (Braveheart)
William Wallace’s legacy is so impressive that we hate to rain on every Scotsman’s parade with this one. Toward the end of the film, Wallace is hung by the neck, his limbs are stretched apart by horses, and his entrails are pulled out his abdomen — brutal. Wallace is told throughout his execution that if he asks for mercy, they will grant it.
As they pull out his insides, he’s told one final time to ask for mercy — as if the medical technology of the time could help them properly restore those vital organs.
Plus, his diaphragm was probably ripped to hell, making it impossible for him to famously scream, “freedom!” — just sayin’.
4. Medic Wade (Saving Private Ryan)
Deep in the second act, Medic Wade takes a few rounds to his torso. Capt. Miller and the rest of the Rangers render the best treatment they can muster.
The soldiers use a lot of pressure dressings, iodized salt packets, and water to try and save their friend and only medic. Unfortunately, his wounds were far too severe. They never had a shot.
It’s a dramatic scene, but we also doubt Wade would’ve been able to speak as clearly as he was — just sayin’.
5. Elias (Platoon)
This fictional sergeant is one of the film’s most influential characters, as he brings a glimmer of humanity to an inhumane world. Once we witness (spoiler alert) Sgt. Barnes shoot Elias a few times, we figure he’s was dead. Little do we know, he’s got a lot more fight in him.
Later, we spot Elias running away from the enemy toward the helicopter and, for a split second, we think he just might make it. We’re so wrong.
It’s amazing none of those AK-47 rounds rip through the front of his chest wall like they do Cowboy’s — just sayin’.
I challenge you to count the number of times Elias gets shot. If you think you’ve got it, comment below.
Every so often Hollywood makes a military movie that’s so compelling in the eyes of the audience that it helps shape how they view the world. War stories in general display how dangerous life can be for those serving on active duty — mostly in the infantry.
But from time-to-time, some minor aspect of these films call out to movie-goers and motivate them to serve.
So we asked several veterans what movies made them want to join the armed forces and here’s what they told us.
Since Nov. 10th, 1775, the Marine Corps’ rich history of kicking ass and taking names has charmed Americans and earned their respect all across the United States. Because of that, civilians see Marines in a different perspective than the Navy, Air Force, or even Army.
Since every branch of the military has a particular image that the general population associates them with, we asked several civilians, “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the Marines?”
Most of them are, but others just couldn’t see themselves serving in another branch.
Now I’m joining the Corps! (Images via Giphy)
2. All Marines have to go war and fight
Not true. The Marines Corps is made of several different elements other than the infantry, like aircraft maintenance, logistics, and duties that cause your Marine to sit in an office and analyze intel all day — so breathe easy, momma bear.
Dammit, Carl! (Images via Giphy)
3. They’re all excellent shots with a rifle
Most are, but a low number of recruits score just high enough to earn the “rifle marksman” medal, a.k.a. the “pizza box.” All Marines must rifle qual before they can graduate from basic training, but it takes extra training and skill to earn higher levels of marksmanship.
Ask a Marine to explain this joke. (Images via Giphy)
4. They’re buff and strong
Most are pretty jacked, but many are just normal size — they make it up by having tons of heart.
Oh, Master Sergeant! (Images via Giphy)
5. They are mean and scary as hell
Marines can get pretty intense, but that just shows their passion. While a Marine can get super scary (especially when they gain rank or come in contact with people they just don’t like), some get by with just a quiet intensity.
But most of the time they’re fun loving. (Images via Giphy)
6. They’re brainwashed in boot camp
Negative, Ghost Rider.
They are just influenced to love their country and branch of service at an exceptionally high level through various mental and physical activities.
They have to be, to carry out the missions they’re are asked to do.
Sometimes this involves screaming while brushing their teeth — which may happen. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.
We think of drone warfare as a post-9/11 phenomenon, but they’ve been around a lot longer than that. Here are a few high points in the history of pilotless aerial war machines:
1849 — Austrians launch nearly 200 pilotless balloons mounted with bombs against the city of Venice.
1862 – Both sides of the American Civil War use pilotless balloons for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.
1898 – The U.S. military fits a camera to a kite during the Spanish-American War, producing the first ever aerial reconnaissance photos.
1916 — The Royal Flying Corps took over 19,000 aerial photographs and collected a staggering 430,000 prints during the five months of the Battle of the Somme. (This visual analysis upturned the horse as the dominant technology of military reconnaissance.)
1943 — The GB-1 Glide Bomb was developed to bypass German air defenses. It was a workable glider fitted with a standard 1,000 or 2,000-pound bomb. Made with plywood wings, rudders, and controlled by radio, the GB-1s were dropped from B-17s and then guided by bombardiers to their target below. One hundred and eight GB-1s were dropped on Cologne, causing heavy damage.
1945 — Operation Aphrodite was one of the most ambitious drone projects in the Second World War. The plan was to strike concealed German laboratories with American B-17 “Flying Fortresses” and B-24 bombers that were stripped down and crammed with explosives. A manned crew would pilot these planes before parachuting out once they crossed the English Channel. At that moment, a nearby “mothership” would take control, receiving live feed from an on-board television camera. Despite the inventiveness of the U.S. Air Force and Navy, Aphrodite was a military failure. It even claimed the life of Joseph Kennedy Jr, after his B-17 exploded over the English countryside.
1946 — “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the U.S. Air Force was established to develop three types of drones for use as training targets. Of the three, the airborne-launched Q-2 was the most important, becoming the “father” of a class of target drones.
1964 — The U.S. first began to consider sending drones to replace its U-2s in spying missions over Cuba. Lightning Bugs flown by U.S. Strategic Air Command were subsequently used for surveillance in so-called “denied areas” across an increasingly widening Cold War battlespace including Cuba, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China.
1968 – Drones used extensively over North Vietnam for surveillance, marking a shift from being “targets” to remote “sensor” platforms that could check out the landscape below.
1973 — The Philco-Ford Corporation developed a laser designator that could be attached to a Ryan BGM-34B Firebee drone, with the aim of creating a “strike drone.”
1989 – DARPA seed money funds development of the GNAT, which was equipped with GPS navigation that allowed for autonomous missions of up to 48 hours, and also housed infrared and low-light cameras in a moveable sensor turret under its nose.
1994 – CIA bypasses acquisition rules to rapidly field the GNAT-750 and begins flying top secret missions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the CIA director at the time, “I could sit in my office, call up a classified channel and in an early version of e-mail type messages to a guy in Albania asking him to zoom in on things.”
1995 — Predators – the follow-on version of the GNAT-750s — were shown in an aviation demonstration at Fort Bliss. Impressed by the drone’s capabilities, the U.S. Air Force soon established its very first UAV squadron, the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada, later named as Creech Air Force Base.
2000 — After the CIA’s Predator drone spotted who it believed was bin Laden at Tarnak Farm, Afghanistan, research went into shortening the kill-chain: getting Tomahawk missiles to fly from a submarine in the Arabian Sea to southern Afghanistan would take six hours to go through military protocols. The Predator’s Hellfire was the solution. At Indian Springs, Nevada, a program was born under the Air Force’s “Big Safari” office, a classified division in charge of developing secret intelligence programs for the military. In 2001 tests were made to turn the hunter into a killer.
2001 — The armed Predator program was activated days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, with Predators reaching Afghanistan by September 16th 2001, and armed Predators reaching the country on October 7th. About the same time President Bush signed a directive that created a secret list of High Value Targets that the CIA was authorized to kill without further Presidential approval.
2002 — The agency’s Predator unleashed a Hellfire missile at a “tall man” and his lieutenants in February near the city of Khost, believing the man to be none other than bin Laden. But the analysts had acquired the wrong target. This time, it was innocent civilians gathering up scrap metal. All were killed.
2003 — Drones’ cameras and sensors linked to the global telecommunications system. Now a drone can be piloted—and its live feed viewed and its missiles aimed—from anywhere in the world. The drone pilots are now insulated from the risks of combat.
2010 – The most prolific year of drone strikes on President Obama’s watch. CIA authorized to strike targets beyond approved kill list — individuals with a suspicious ‘pattern of life’ or daily behavior.
2011 –RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drones used to monitor Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, and that intel is used to plan and conduct the raid that results in his death.
The invention of moving pictures was roughly coincident with the invention of powered flight, and over the years as Hollywood searched for plot lines they found plenty of material around Air Force life.
On the surface the appeal is and always has been obvious: airplanes. Duh. But movie studios understand that machines alone won’t get audiences into theaters (or these days onto Netflix).
Those who’ve served in the Air Force know all too well that life around the Wild Blue Yonder is about more than the hardware. It’s about the people and the things they overcome – like soul-crushing bureaucracies – to get the job done.
But it’s also about the action.
Here’s WATM’s list of nine movies every airman should watch, which is to say movies that every airman should know well enough to riff on among the buds in the lounge in the barracks or at the bar just outside the main gate. (And can you say “fire rearward missiles” in Russian?):
Plot: Base commander loses it and decides to order the wing’s bombers to attack Russia with nuclear weapons. President of the United States gathers his cabinet and other advisers in the War Room to try and figure out how to avoid Armageddon.
Reason to watch: Stanley Kubrick’s biting satire is hilarious, but more than that it nails the personalities of those at the top of the food chain and the dynamic between them. This one was years ahead of its time. And it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.
Plot: Teenage kid’s Air Force pilot dad gets shot down and taken hostage in the Middle East, and the United States government won’t help get dad out because he had trolled into enemy airspace. Kid enlists the help of a retired Air Force pilot (and friend of his father), and the two of them grab some F-16s and proceed to raise hell.
Reason to watch: Any military movie with Lou Gossett, Jr. playing a determined S.O.B. is money. “Iron Eagle” has a lot of cool visuals (never mind technical accuracy) and good action. Plus the lesson it teaches is important: You can get away with anything if punishing you would embarrass those in charge.
Plot: Likable CO of a hard-luck B-17 squadron is relieved after a disastrous mission. New skipper’s hard-ass leadership style threatens to tear the ready room apart. Ultimately both sides chill out and get the job done.
Reason to watch: Great World War II bomber action, and the leadership lessons are definitive in that they show the net effect on a command of a leader being too nice or too much of an asshole. And while this may not be a ringing endorsement, it should be noted that “Twelve O’ clock High” is taught at commands throughout the Department of Defense.
Plot: Restless officer is tired of being in the rear with the gear and, through happenstance and a series of networking coincidences, finds himself in an F-86 squadron at the height of the air war over Korea.
Reason to watch: Based on James Salter’s beautiful novel, “The Hunters” was Hollywood first attempt to portray Air Force life in the jet age. “The Hunters” has it all: burned out CO, confused chain of command, cocky junior officers, and significant others complaining about being ignored for the glory of air combat.
Plot: Bogus threat triggers the launch of six Vindicator supersonic bombers (fictional aircraft portrayed in the movie by B-58 Hustlers). Launch codes are accidently transmitted to the aircraft, which sends them on an attack profile to Moscow. A series of missteps and bad logic prevents either side from calling the whole thing off.
Reason to watch: Plot resembles that of “Dr. Strangelove” but played straight. “Fail Safe” was the first major motion picture to tee up the idea that the system wasn’t perfect and things in the nuke weps world could go a smidge wrong from time to time. Also presents the cold reality that nuclear warfare has pretty serious consequences, something those who’ve signed up to participate in should have a sense of.
Plot: This nuclear-age version of “Twelve O’ clock High” deals with the goings-on around a SAC unit that has just had the CO fired because of a failed inspection. New CO is career-minded and a hard-ass and that rubs the men under his charge the wrong way. Another inspection crisis with huge career implications leads all parties to figure it out in a good way.
Reason to watch: “A Gathering of Eagles” was made with the assistance of General Curtis LeMay to counter the perception created by “Fail Safe” and “Dr. Stangelove” that SAC was hosed up to the degree they could accidentally start a nuclear war. The Air Force in this one has its shit together, for the most part. Plus if you believe the best leadership lessons are discussed among men in towels ( a la “Top Gun”) you’re in for a treat.
Plot: B-25 navigator stationed in North Africa during World War II wrestles with the tragedy, irony, and hypocrisy that surrounds him as the minimum mission requirement continues to rise.
Reason to watch: Early SNL alum Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s classic WW2 novel for an American public that was at odds over the Vietnam War, evidence that it took nearly a decade and a half for the themes to resonate. In spite of the fact that parts of the story are over-the-top, the movie (and even more so the book) are prescriptive. Anyone who’s ever spent any time around the Air Force will recognize the personalities: Careerist buffoons, obtuse general officers, opportunistic (albeit very entrepreneurial) junior officers as well as the folks who are just trying to get the job done without going crazy are all here.
Plot: A nation turns to its air force to hold back the Nazi hordes.
Reason to watch: Winston Churchill said it best when referring to the pilots and maintainers of the RAF: “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” “Battle of Britain” captures both the action of dogfights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts and the details of life in war-torn England. If you ever need to be reminded why an air force matters in modern times, watch this.
Got some movies you think should be on this list? Tell us on our Facebook page.
Shortly after Orville and Wilbur stopped making bicycles and started hanging out around Kitty Hawk, Hollywood took to making movies about those who venture into the wild blue yonder.
Here are the best Air Force characters they’ve created over the years. Remember: half of these guys are real people. That’s what makes being in the military so great – the chance to do something someone might make a movie about one day.
1. Captain Virgil “The Cooler King” Hilts — “The Great Escape”
The Great Escape is one of the best heist-style films of all time. It’s also one of the best military films of all time, based on the true story of a group of Allied POWs put together in a Nazi “escape-proof” camp because of their ability to escape from POW camps.
Captain Hilts of the Army Air Corps constantly frustrates guards with escape attempts, landing him in solitary confinement, or the “cooler.” Hilts is easily #1 on this list, not only because he’s depicted on screen by Steve “The King of Cool” McQueen, but also because the real guy this character is based on David M. Jones.
Jones was an Air Corps pilot who started World War II as a Doolittle Raider (the character can also be seen in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo”), and flew sorties over North Africa before being captured and held by the Germans for nearly three years. Jones survived the war and went on to a 37-year career in the Air Force.
2 . Lt. Col. James Rhodes aka War Machine — “Iron Man”
James Rupert “Rhodey” Rhodes is not based on a real character, though having the War Machine around IRL would make life a lot easier for much of the Air Force (and the lawless areas of Pakistan too… probably).
Rhodes is the stable, dependable version of Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (In the Marvel Comic, Rhodey is a Marine). Colonel Rhodes is also Stark’s best friend and the DoD liaison to Stark Industries, which means he gets to pal around on private jets and hang with the Avengers while taking down terrorists and robot drones (that aren’t American).
3. Lt. Colonel Iceal Hambleton — “BAT 21”
BAT 21 is a the dramatized story of the rescue of Lt Col. Hambleton (whose call sign was BAT 21 Bravo), the largest, longest and most complex search and rescue operation of the Vietnam War. He was the navigator on a USAF EB-66 aircraft and an expert in signals intelligence whose aircraft was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Hambleton was the only survivor, but his parachute took him well behind the North Vietnamese lines.
With the amount of classified information in Hambleton’s head, capture by the communists would have been extremely detrimental to U.S. security. Hambleton (played by Gene Hackman, who is awesome in every movie) makes radio contact with Birddog and makes his way South to be picked up.
To communicate his intended path, Hambleton, in true Air Force fashion, uses a code comprised of various golf courses he knows. The actual rescue of Hambleton took 11 days, six American troops’ lives, a lot more ARVN lives, and another plane being shot down.
In real life Hambleton was rescued by Navy SEAL Thomas R. Norris (who was awarded the Medal of Honor for the rescue) and a South Vietnamese Navy Petty Officer.
4. Capt. John Yossarian — “Catch-22”
Alan Arkin headlines the legendary cast of Catch-22 as Yossarian, a US Army Air Forces B-25 Bombardier, stationed in the Mediterranean during WWII. He’s committed to flying the dangerous missions as quickly as possible so he can go home, but his squadron commander keeps raising the required number of missions.
Yossarian can’t even claim a mental breakdown to go home because famously, Airmen “would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he’d have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t, he was sane and had to.”
5. Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer — “Good Morning, Vietnam”
Another real Airman, A2C Cronauer is an Armed Forces Radio Service DJ stationed in Vietnam whose DJ style is less than appreciated by his superiors but beloved by the men in the field.
When Cronauer is suspended for his style and his determination to read the news, the command is flooded with letters demanding his reinstatement. Few things in life are more satisfying than someone thumbing their nose at a stodgy old command.
Cronauer’s real-life show was called “Dawn Buster” and its opening was immortalized forever by Robin Williams’ GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM.
6. Hannibal Lee — “The Tuskegee Airmen”
Some points have to be added when the whole world is against you, even your own government. Lee was loosely based on Robert W. Williams, an actual Tuskegee Airman who helped co-author the screenplay.
In the film (and IRL), the famous group of African American pilots struggling to join the US war effort as capable fighter pilots finally get their chance when Hannibal Lee (Fishburne) and his wingman get the chance to protect B-17s over Italy and sink a destroyer for good measure.
7. Robert “Dutch” Holland — “Strategic Air Command”
Jimmy Stewart plays Holland, a St. Louis Cardinals baseball player who is on inactive reserve in the Air Force who gets recalled to active duty for 21 months, which would be unbelievable for anyone else but Jimmy Stewart. Stewart, whose family military tradition dated back to the Civil War, enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private, was an officer pilot within a year, and so enjoyed bombing Germans in his spare time he would eventually retire from the Air Force Reserve after 27 years. Holland’s life is on constant hold as he is on alert status to deter the Soviets from starting WWIII. He forces a landing of a damaged aircraft in Greenland after his crew bailed out then flies new jets to Japan with a broken arm from that landing, an injury which ends both his military career and his baseball career, and he seems mildly okay with it.
Holland’s life is on constant hold as he is on alert status to deter the Soviets from starting WWIII. He forces a landing of a damaged aircraft in Greenland after his crew bailed out then flies new jets to Japan with a broken arm from that landing, an injury which ends both his military career and his baseball career, and he seems mildly okay with it.
8. Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper — “Dr. Strangelove”
A commie-obsessed Air Force General, he starts World War III after describing a Communist plot to pollute the bodily fluids of Americans. He launches an all-out attack on the USSR and refuses to give the codes that will belay the launch orders.
While the Kubrick’s masterpiece obviously isn’t based on a real war, the crazed General is based on Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who once threatened to bomb the Soviet Union back into the Stone Age.
9. Colonel Jack O’Neil — “Stargate”
Who better to lead a team through an alien-created wormhole navigated by hieroglyphs uncovered in Giza than a career Air Force Special Operations officer? No one, obviously, as Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell, with a severe flat top) takes a day off of contemplating suicide to lead one last mission to destroy the Stargate and ends up saving humanity by beaming a nuclear weapon onto an alien ship.
It’s not (just) science fiction. It’s what we do every day.
10. American Astronaut George Taylor — “Planet of the Apes (1968)”
George Taylor’s background doesn’t specifically mention his Air Force affiliation, but does mention he was a West Point grad in 1941 and flew missions in World War II and Korea, and his then becoming an astronaut is clearly indicative of a U.S. Army Air Corps to Air Force transition.
So the Air Force gets Charlton Heston (also Marky Mark Wahlberg‘s Capt. Leo Davidson from the 2001 remake, clearly identified his tribe as United States Air Force). Taylor earns a spot on this list because of Charlton Heston’s iconic performance.
Edit 5/28 2:07 pm:
Twitterati and US Air Force Pararescue Jumper @PJMatt reminded me about the 1983 epic The Right Stuff and Sam Shepard’s badass take on the legendary USAF test pilot Chuck Yeager.
@PaulSzoldra@blakestilwell So The Right Stuff never happened? You could put Chuck Yeager, correctly, at 1 (Sam Neil) and 2 (drunk in bar)
The author hangs his head in shame as both a film student and Air Force veteran. Few scenes in cinema rival the scene where Yeager is walking away from a smoldering heap, badly burned, holding his parachute because anyone who’s ever met Yeager in real life knows that’s the kind of badass sh*t he did every day of his career.
Rifles, grenades, and heavy machinery are the weapons of war, but there’s another, subtle and powerful form of warfare. Images, words, films, and even songs engage the hearts and minds of citizens to support wars.
The following posters are examples of persuasion used in the past to sway public opinion and sustain war efforts.
1. Fear is a powerful motivator. After all, it’s either them or us.
2. Nothing like a woman and child in imminent danger to jump-start our natural protective instincts.
3. This poster draws on the similarity of a child’s college fund.
4. Events like the massacre at Lidice gave Nazis a reputation for their brutality. This poster is a reminder of the atrocities that await should they invade American cities.
5. Posters like the one below alerted citizens to the presence of enemy spies lurking in everyday society. These posters reminded well-meaning citizens of the consequences careless talk may cause, such as compromising national security and troop safety.
6. “Uncle Sam” was extensively used during World War II. He was a fighter, a laborer, a recruiter and more.
7. “Avenge Pearl Harbor” was a popular cry after the surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
8. Posters like the one below encouraged continued support for the war.
9. Humor was also used in propaganda posters.
10. But direct and emotional messages were more effective.
11. World War II took place during the golden era of comic books, which lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. This poster made in the popular comic book style was a sure fire way to promote a message.
It’s always a bad idea for payday to come on a Friday. Here’s hoping that everyone makes it to Monday without any recall formations because some lance corporal stole a car and crashed it into the general’s house.
In the meantime, here are 13 funny military memes:
1. You can just hear that lead fellow yelling, “To the strip clubs!”