The maroon beret on your truck dash and the airborne wings tattooed to your chest are pretty good indicators that you’re a paratrooper. Still, if you want more proof, just check yourself for these common symptoms of airborne.
When you hide behind a keyboard and computer screen, it’s easy to lie about who you are or what you’ve done. Almost anyone can go on the internet and say they’ve done this, that, and the other thing — and the veteran community is just as guilty of this.
There are shameless veterans everywhere who will go on the comments section and start shooting off lies faster than a GAU-8 Avenger dispenses 30mm rounds.
But honest veterans everywhere know the truth because they’ve been there and they know which lies are the most common.
This one is just plain stupid. If you’re proud of your service, there’s absolutely no reason to lie about what you did while you were in. Everyone plays a part in the big picture, so nothing you did is better or worse than what someone else did. Maybe you didn’t go to combat — so what? Take pride in the fact that you helped others prepare for it.
2. What they did “in-country”
No matter when or where troops are deployed, there tons of POGs out there who never see direct combat. For whatever reason, these veterans will lie to make their deployment sound like a Call of Duty mission. Maybe they feel ashamed. Or maybe they want to seem cool because they have that Afghanistan Campaign Medal on their chest but not a Combat Action Ribbon.
3. How badass they are at shooting/fighting
If someone really is a great shooter, they’ll have proof. Someone who made rifle expert will have the badge to prove it and those who are just really good shots will have pictures of their targets.
But veterans who were always garbage on the rifle range will not only lie about their skill but, when cornered, they’ll throw out excuses for why they didn’t do well on the range.
4. That time they were with Special Forces
POGs will read this and go, “but I was with Special Forces,” conveniently leaving out the fact that they were administrative specialists who just made sure the operators got paid on time. Chances are, they didn’t spend much time — if any — sleeping outside or eating MREs.
Veterans who are insecure about their service will do everything mentioned above and then go on to say that they did a ton of other things. They’ll tell you about that one time they rescued a cat out of a tree or saved an Afghan child from a whole squad of Taliban while carrying their best friend on their back.
They’ll tell you Medal of Honor-worthy stories, but what they won’t tell you is that the cat was in the Patrol Base and their platoon commander ordered them to get it out — or that they couldn’t carry the wounded the whole way and the child was never there.
Some veterans will go on the internet and make it seem like it was an easy day after they got the infamous peanut butter shot. But every other veteran knows damn-well they couldn’t sit down or walk properly because they were in so much pain.
*Bonus* How much free time they had
Some veterans like to go online and claim that they were always “in the sh*t,” but everyone knows they had a ton of free time.
They probably spent an unholy amount of time watching adult films, playing video games, or playing cards with their buddies.
College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.
Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.
While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:
1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”
2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”
3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”
4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”
5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”
6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”
7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-15C Eagle from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland, Ore., lands at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands.
Members of the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., conduct a multi-ship C-17 Globemaster III formation during Crescent Reach 15.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG82), front, conducts a trilateral naval exercise with the Turkish frigate FTCD Gediz (F-495) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) destroyers Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (DDG 993) and Gang Gam-chan (DDH 979) in support of theater security operations.
NEW YORK (May 24, 2015) Sailors assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17) march in the Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade in the borough of Brooklyn as a part of Fleet Week New York (FWNY) event, May 24. FWNY, now in its 27th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, unload their Stryker vehicles during joint readiness exercise, Culebra Koa 15, May 21, 2015, at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii.
Paratroopers, assigned 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct airborne operations off the coast of Athens, Greece, with the 2nd Para Battalion of the Greek Army.
Protect the Bird. A Marine with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, establishes security aboard Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.
Night Flight. An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter taxies to be refueled on the flight deck of USS Wasp during night operations, a part of Operational Testing 1, May, 22, 2015.
Later this week we will take a look at what it’s like on an International Ice Patrol deployment! Here is a small sample of what is to come.
The United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard Silent Drill Team was caught performing at the Statue of Liberty this past Saturday.
Gen. George S. Patton was a complicated military figure, but there can be little debate over whether he was quotable.
Perhaps most famous for his commanding of the 7th Army during World War II, Old “Blood and Guts” often gave rousing speeches to motivate, inspire, and educate his soldiers. We collected up 11 of his most famous quotes (courtesy of his estate’s official website) that show how larger-than-life he really was.
1. “A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”
Soldiers are not good on the battlefield without training hard beforehand. Whether it’s a soldier, a civilian wanting to run a marathon, or a CEO running a company, being successful at what you do requires focus, effort, and learning.
For soldiers especially, working extra hard in training can save their lives later.
2. “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
Known for his brilliance on the battlefield, Patton often had to make decisions based on limited information and time. But he knew to avoid “paralysis by analysis” and make a decision and execute it the best he could. Otherwise, the enemy might be able to maneuver faster and beat him.
3. “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way. “
Perhaps one of the most famous quotes that people don’t realize originated with Patton, this mantra summed up his style.
4. “Do everything you ask of those you command.”
Patton led his soldiers by example. While he’s best known for commanding troops during World War II and perfecting the art of tank warfare, his troops knew he was more than willing to personally get into the fight. During World War I for example, Patton was shot in the leg while directing tanks, after he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire.
5. “Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Patton didn’t mince words. Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he began giving his now-famous “blood and guts” speeches at Fort Benning. They were often profane, but direct.
“This individual heroic stuff is pure horse shit,” he told troops on June 5, 1944, before D-Day. “The bilious bastards who write that kind of stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about f–king!”
6. “Many soldiers are led to faulty ideas of war by knowing too much about too little.”
The general didn’t sugarcoat what combat would be like for his soldiers. While movies and books tend to glorify war, Patton gave speeches to his men where he explained exactly what they faced:
“You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you right here today would die in a major battle. Death must not be feared. Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared.”
7. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
People hate to be micromanaged. A good leader, as Patton knew, tells his or her subordinates what is expected, or what the overall goal is. They don’t need to give a step-by-step explanation. It’s a waste of a leader’s time and worse, most people resent it.
8. “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
Good leaders don’t want to hear from “yes men.” They encourage healthy debate, talking over strategy, and planning out different options. Patton may have been a brilliant tactician on the battlefield, but he was also human. If one of his subordinates noticed something wasn’t working or had a better idea, according to this quote, he’d be interested to hear what it was.
9. “Do more than is required of you.”
The bare minimum amount of work didn’t cut it for Patton. “An Army is a team. It lives, sleeps, eats, and fights as a team. This individual heroic stuff is pure horse sh–,” he said.
He wanted his men to think about what more they could do for the greater good of the unit, instead of only thinking about themselves. This quote can certainly apply to organizations outside of the military.
10. “Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men.”
Good leaders encourage their subordinates to always act with integrity. Even when it’s not the most popular thing to do. Moral courage is all about doing the right thing, even if that decision may result in adverse consequences. Patton understood the value in this — along with the reason why most people didn’t have it.
11. “I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight.”
Having served the U.S. Army for 36 years, Patton was a career soldier who served as an example for his troops. He believed in his country, his mission, and winning the battles he was tasked with. He also knew very well how to motivate his troops to fight with him:
“We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.”
Congratulations, you’ve just become a parent. In order to survive basic training, you must now not only cover your own ass, but watch out for this guy’s as well. Because if you don’t, your platoon is going to get slapped with mass punishment, and no one wants that. Bryan somehow managed to make it through his young life without developing skills of any kind. He’s the kind of guy who hesitates when you ask him how to spell his own name.
You will watch him struggle to make his bed with his gangly 18-year-old arms and be torn between the desire to help him or to strangle him with his own sheets. But you will help Bryan, because he needs you. And because if you don’t, he will forget his kit, wear white socks to inspection, and make your life a living hell. And who knows, maybe after a few days he’ll start to pick up on things. Totally kidding — you’re probably stuck with this kid for the long haul.
Something Bryan might say: “Hey … hey guys? Can somebody show me how to shave?”
2. Renaissance Richard
The antithesis of Baby-Faced Bryan, Renaissance Richard is a super-smart, talented, and accomplished guy. Unfortunately for you, this also makes him a bit of an annoying a–hole. Richard is usually around 30, and he won’t let you forget how he managed to be the valedictorian at his private college, build his own house, and become a brain surgeon in the time between high school graduation and now.
Richard can do anything — except keep his mouth shut. He’s the guy who makes a big show of “helping” recruits, and letting everyone know how he would do something. No one asked you, Richard. He’s also notorious for crashing your conversations so he can chime in on things like his opinions on Syria, when all you were discussing is what’s for dinner. Rich is a fine recruit, but your drill sergeant will hate him. Why? The same reason you do: he’s a pretentious a–hole. Nobody wants to work with someone who can’t accept rank and needs his ego stroked.
Something Richard might say: “Sure it would be interesting to invade Easter Island, but you need to consider the political ramifications … ”
3. The Dreamer
The Dreamer has wanted to join the military since he first saw “Saving Private Ryan” at an elementary school sleepover. He dreams of not only becoming a great soldier, but the greatest soldier America — and the world — has ever seen. Just a teenager, he’s the guy who gets too distracted by his daydream of running through battle in slow-motion to shine his shoes, and can be heard quoting “Top Gun” and “Band of Brothers” in the DFAC.
The Dreamer’s all talk, and has no real-world experience when it comes to surviving anything more than a Hot Pocket shortage. Because of this, he will often take on tasks that are way too much for him to handle, bringing down your drill sergeant’s wrath on all of you when he fails. Think of him as Baby-Faced Bryan’s annoying half-brother. Eventually he should focus a little more on the task at hand instead of his “military destiny,” but until then you’ll just have to tune him out.
4. Shady Steve
Steve’s a little older than some of the guys in basic training, but you’re never positive what this dude’s age is — and that’s just the way Steve likes it. When pressed about his past, his stories never quite match up, leaving you wondering just what is true (hold up, did he say that he was a parole officer, or was he talking about his own parole?).
You don’t know him at all, but he just seems like the type of guy who decided to enlist because his meth ring went south. One thing you do know for sure is the fact that any outing with Steve quickly devolves into “Hangover”-level catastrophe, so you better steer clear of that. He’s not a bad trainee. And he’s probably not a bad guy — but he’s got your drill sergeant keeping an eye on him, so you probably should too.
5. The Old Dude
This salt and pepper recruit may not actually be that old by civilian standards, but 34 is pretty ancient in basic. And since it took a colonel to approve his age waiver, maybe he should have just stayed home and played Risk instead. Whether he enlisted because the Army’s his last chance to retire before 65 or because of a mid-life crisis is anyone’s guess, but don’t write this guy off right away.
The Old Dude is usually in surprisingly great shape, and that’s because he’s old school. While most of the recruits in their twenties have spent their pre-military lives playing Call of Duty and chowing down on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he’s been downing raw eggs for breakfast and running five miles a day. Also, The Old Dude has lived a lot longer than you — he’s seen things, and he’s wiser for it. When you need some advice or perspective on life, he’s the person you’ll want to turn to.
6. Gun-Happy Garret
Garret is a simple man. He joined the military because it allowed him to pursue his three passions: shooting, chewing dip, and spitting. Garret does not know that tobacco isn’t allowed in basic. He is furious when he finds out. Garret barely managed to complete his GED, and it shows. You are not confident that he can spell America, and are terrified of the day this neanderthal gets his hands on an automatic weapon.
To your surprise, however, Garret is actually kind of a genius when it comes to weapons. He can disassemble and reassemble his weapon with his eyes closed. He can tell you every part of his rifle and how it works, and help you with your own. Your rifle will never shine quite like his does. He is a weapons savant, and you start to wonder if there’s more to Garret than meets the eye. Trust us, there isn’t. He’s the best mark in the platoon because he spent his childhood shooting mice and raccoons behind a trailer park, not because he’s the chosen one.
7. The Blue Falcon
This guy. This guy is the absolute worst. If you could combine a weasel and that stoner kid from your Spanish class who would constantly beg you for test answers, you’d have something close to a Blue Falcon. The Blue Falcon of your platoon is lazy, disloyal, and just a textbook pain in the ass. Can’t find your extra pair of socks? Did part of someone’s kit go missing? Check the Blue Falcon’s nest. And God forbid you screw up in front of this guy — he’ll rat you out to your drill sergeant faster than you’ll know what’s happening.
The Blue Falcon’s sneaky, so it sometimes takes a while to know who yours will be. But every unit has one, and they will become the bane of your existence.
Something The Blue Falcon would say: “First sergeant, first sergeant! Private Snuffy is … ”
Associate Editor David Nye contributed to this article.
We’ve all heard about those legendary astronauts and fighter pilots who did those things that live in the annals of history, but here are five lesser-known and seldom-told tales about noteworthy Air Force legends who served around the Wild Blue Yonder:
1. The Tuskegee airman who almost shot Muammar Qaddafi
Wheelus Air Force Base was located right outside the city of Tripoli in Libya. In 1968, a coup brought then 27-year-old Muammar al-Qaddafi to power. The young dictator demanded the closing of the American bases in what he now considered his country.
Before the base could be formally closed and handed to the Libyans, Qaddafi ordered a column of half-tracks to drive at full speed right through the middle of the base’s housing area. Qaddafi himself waited outside of Wheelus’ main gate for the armored column to return.
Unfortunately for Qaddafi, the commander of Wheelus Air Force Base was already legendary – he was Colonel Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. “Chappie” was a veteran of World War II and had also flown missions in Korea and Vietnam. And he was not happy with the Libyans. When he found out what was happening, James strapped his .45 onto his belt and went right to the base’s main gate. He immediately shut down the barrier and walked to face off with Qaddafi. The Tuskegee Airman was not impressed with the dictator.
“He had a fancy gun and holster and he kept his hand on it,” James recalled. He ordered Qaddafi to move his hand away from the weapon. The dictator complied with Colonel James. “If he had pulled that gun, he never would have cleared the holster.”
Qaddafi never sent another column.
2. The Original Airman Snuffy
By the time airmen leave Joint Base San Antonio, they have come to know the stories of Airman Snuffy; he’s the Every-Airman, the average Airman, sometimes the slacker Airman. Airman Snuffy is the example Air Force instructors use to describe a situation. “Let’s say you’re charge of quarters duty one night and Airman Snuffy reports a fire…” or “Airman Snuffy applies a tourniquet to the injured area. What else should he do?”
Airman Snuffy is not just an example… he’s a real person who did something legendary. During WWII, Sgt. Maynard “Snuffy” Smith was the 306th Bomber Group’s slacker in residence. Before joining the Army Air Corps, Smith was known as “spoiled,” living off an inheritance and was forced to join the Army by a judge as a sentence for failure to pay child support. No one wanted to fly with him. He didn’t like taking orders, especially from younger officers. He chose to be an aerial gunner because it was the fastest way to make rank and thus, pay.
His first mission took him over St. Nazaire, France – aka “Flak City.” On the way back from the mission, the pilot mistook what he thought was Southern England for the heavily fortified city of Brest, France. German fighters suddenly ripped his plane to shreds: the wing tank had been shot off and was pouring fuel into the plane. The fuel caught fire, and then everything else caught fire. The plane became a flying inferno. Soon, the fire on the plane started to burn so hot it set off ammunition and melted a gun mount, camera, and radio. Airman Snuffy started to throw whatever wasn’t bolted down out of the plane, lest it melt or explode.
When the German fighters returned, he manned the B-17’s machine guns to repel them. Then he had to start putting out the fire. When the extinguisher ran out, he dumped the plane’s water and urine buckets on the fire. He even peed on the fire in the middle of repelling another German fighter attack. When all else failed, he wrapped himself in available clothing and started to put out the fire with his body.
Airman Snuffy administered aid to the six wounded men on the plane. So, he spent 90 minutes alternatively shooting down German fighters, putting out fires, throwing hazardous material out of the plane, and giving first aid to his wingmen. The plane made it back to England and landed with 3,500 bullet and shrapnel holes in the fuselage and nothing but the four main beams holding it together. Ten minutes after landing, the whole thing collapsed. For his actions on board the plane, Airman Snuffy was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first enlisted Airman to receive the award.
When Secretary of War Henry Stimson arrived to give Airman Snuffy the Medal of Honor, he was noticeably absent from his own ceremony, having been put on KP duty for disciplinary reasons.
3. The Combat Cameraman Who Lived the Entire History of the US Air Force
Douglas W. Morrell was a US Army Air Corps (and later US Air Force) combat cameraman with a long service record. In World War II, he was assigned to bombers in Europe and North Africa. He flew 33 combat missions over German, Austria, Italy, Hungary, France, Yugoslavia, and Albania. In March 1944, his B-24 was shot down over the Iron Gates of Romania. Evading capture in Romania (an Axis country from the beginning of the war), he walked for 25 days across occupied Yugoslavia and Albania where he bribed fishermen his .45-caliber pistol and $100 in gold certificates for a lift to Italy across the Adriatic Sea.
Two months later, he was documenting bombing raids against the oil fields of Ploesti when his bomber was knocked out of formation. He bailed out right before it exploded, killing half the remaining crew. He was immediately captured by the Germans upon landing and was held as a POW in Bucharest. Morrell made an escape attempt from his POW camp via a trap door in the mess hall.
He walked halfway through Bucharest before a German army truck stopped him. Morrell told the Germans he was Italian pilot, trying to make it back to Bulgaria. He caught a ride with the Germans until he reached a post near the Danube, where he was outed by an Italian kid who spoke to Morrell in Italian.
“I couldn’t understand him, ” Morrell recalls. “He told the Germans I wasn’t Italian and they took me back.”
Morrell was held in the POW camp until Romania capitulated in August of 1944. He stayed in Bucharest for a few days until the Russians, who treated the American POWs as allies, liberated it.
“They found out I was an ‘Americanski’… they got me in there, said ‘we drink!’ and poured glasses of vodka. They’d toast: ‘ Stalin. Roosevelt. Churchill,'” he remembered. “I’ve never been that blasted in all my life.”
He left the US Air Force in 1947. This was not the end of his combat career, however. Morrell was soon right back in, re-enlisting in 1952. He saw service in the Sahara documenting missile tests, the Pacific islands documenting nuclear tests, Iceland documenting Russian movements, and even the Panama Canal Zone.
By the time the Vietnam War started to heat up for the US, Douglas Morrell had become Chief Master Sergeant Morrell. At age 50, he was documenting operations over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, when his O-2 Skymaster’s wing was shot halfway off by anti-aircraft fire. He and the pilot bailed out at 5,000 feet, taking fire the entire way down. He landed in the jungle, just yards from a truck depot on the Ho Chi Minh Trail itself, guarded by six anti-aircraft gun positions. For nine hours, he called in rescue teams and directed fire on the enemy positions, before finally allowing himself to be rescued.
4. The Racecar Driver Who Taught Himself to Fly, Then Broke all the Records
Teaching yourself to fly seems like a terrible idea, especially during World War I when most pilots were college-educated and you’re an enlisted aircraft mechanic. Not so for Eddie Rickenbacker, the racecar driver-turned Airman who learned to be an engineer through a correspondence course.
Rickenbacker enlisted immediately after the US entered The Great War and arrived in France in June of 1917. By May of the next year, he had taught himself to fly, earned an officer’s promotion, and had shot down his fifth enemy craft, earning the title of “Ace.”
By September 1918, Rickenbacker was in command of his entire squadron, the 94th Aero Squadron. By the time of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, he had racked up 26 victories, a record he held until World War II, and had flown 300 combat hours, more than any other US pilot in the war. Captain Rickenbacker was known for flying right at formations of enemy aircraft, no matter how outnumbered he was, and winning every time. Through the course of the War, Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with six oak leaf clusters, the Croix de Guerre with two palms, the Legion d’Honneur, and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After the Great War, Rickenbacker went on to found his own car company, his own airline, and wrote a popular comic strip – which became a film and radio program.
5. Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler, Enemies Who Became Friends
In 1943, Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown was piloting his B-17 Flying Fortress, Ye Olde Pub, back to England after bombing industrial centers in Bremen. During its run, the nose was torn apart by flak fire, causing the plane to drop out of formation and come under attack from fifteen enemy fighter planes. The plane lost sixty percent of its electric capacity, lost its oxygen, and half its rudder. Of the ten crewmen on board, the tail gunner had been killed, the rest wounded. Brown himself was hit in his right shoulder. He then passed out from oxygen deprivation and woke up to find the bomber in a 4,000-foot dive. He pulled the plane up and headed home, having been left for dead by the pursuit fighters.
On the way back to England, Germans on the ground spotted the bomber. The Luftwaffe dispatched ace fighter pilot Oberleutnant Franz Stigler to finish it off. He had already shot down two B-17s that day and needed one more kill to earn the Knight’s Cross – the highest Iron Cross award for bravery and leadership. Stigler easily caught up to the Allied plane in his Messerschmitt 109, but wondered why the Flying Fortress hadn’t started shooting at him. From his cockpit, he could see how badly damaged the plane was, how the crew struggled to care for the wounded, and even Brown’s face as he struggled to bring Ye Olde Pub and its crew back home alive with one good engine. He’d never seen a plane so badly damaged and still flying.
“You are fighter pilots first, last, always,” A commander had told Stigler’s unit when he was stationed in North Africa. “If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.” He looked to the man struggling at the bomber controls. Brown looked back. To Stigler, these men were like men in parachutes. Even though getting caught letting the bomber go would mean execution, he just couldn’t shoot them down.
Stigler moved to fly in a formation on Brown’s left, a formation German ground spotters would recognize as friendly. He escorted Brown’s bomber halfway over the North Sea and departed with a salute.
After the war, Stigler moved to Canada. Brown returned to the US. Over forty years later, Stigler responded to an ad Brown placed as he searched newsletters of former Luftwaffe pilots for the German ace who spared his crew. One day, Stigler responded:
“Dear Charles, All these years I wondered what happened to the B-17; did she make it or not?”
The two became close friends after meeting (on the ground) in 1990. The story of Stigler and Brown is told in detail in the 2012 book A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II.
From realistic portrayals of combat to comedic satire of thermonuclear warfare, some military-themed movies are a cut above the rest.
Since WATM is headquartered in Hollywood, California and run by military veterans, it makes sense that we would put together a ranking of the best military movies of all time. Whether they include great stories, very quotable lines, intense combat (or all of the above), these 16 movies are what we’d pick as the best military movies.
16. Jarhead (2005)
Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.
Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.
15. Catch-22 (1970)
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.
14. Tigerland (2000)
Plot: A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.
Reason to watch: Colin Farrell gives a wonderful performance as Pvt. Roland Bozz, a misfit draftee soldier who spends most of his Army career getting into trouble. Set during the Vietnam war in 1971, the film is unique in that it never takes the viewer to Vietnam. Instead, the plot follows along with the training of young soldiers before they go overseas, and offers realistic portrayals of soldiers from Bozz, to the idealistic Pvt. Paxton (played by Matthew Davis), to the brutal instructor of Staff Sgt. Thomas (played by James McDonald).
13. Taking Chance (2009)
Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.
Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.
12. A Few Good Men (1992)
Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.
Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).
11. Patton (1970)
Plot: The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.
Reason to watch: George C. Scott gives a masterful portrayal of the controversial Army general during World War II. The opening speech alone is worth watching, with Patton giving a rousing speech to troops that opens with the line, “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
10. To Hell and Back (1955)
Plot: The true WWII story of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history. Based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy who stars as himself in the film.
Reason to watch: Instead of settling for actors trying to recreate battlefield heroics, why not watch the real-life soldier do it? That’s what you’ll see in “To Hell and Back,” the film that follows the life of Audie Murphy, the most-decorated soldier of World War II. Murphy stars as himself in this film, which kicked off a 21-year acting career after his Army service.
9. Das Boot (1981)
Plot: The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.
Reason to watch: Nominated for six Oscars, Wolfgang Petersen’s masterpiece film gives a rare look at the fight from the other side during World War II. Tasked with fighting the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the life of a German U-Boat crew is shown in depth here, with an especially brilliant portrayal of the ship’s captain by Jurgen Prochnow.
8. Platoon (1986)
Plot: A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.
Reason to watch: Told from the perspective of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), “Platoon” gives an inside look at what it was like for a grunt on the ground in Vietnam. Besides showing infantry life and all its hardships, the film also boasts incredible performances from Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias, and Tom Berenger as Staff Sgt. Barnes. It’s also worth noting that this film had an extra level of realism to it, with its director (Oliver Stone) and military technical advisor (Dale Dye) both having served in Vietnam.
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Plot: A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.
Reason to watch: Based on the classic book by Erich Maria Remarque, this masterpiece explores the extreme stress, discomfort, and horrors of war that soldiers faced fighting in the trenches of World War I. The film is on many “best film” lists, especially considering its realistic portrayal of warfare. In perhaps the most chilling scene of the movie, the main character of Paul stabs a French soldier, only to find himself trapped in the same hole with him as he dies.
“Why do they never tell us that you are just poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying, and the same agony,” he says. “Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”
6. Flags of our Fathers (2006)
Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.
Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
5. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Plot: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.
Reason to watch: While Director Stanley Kubrick offers a hilarious and brutal satire of Cold War tensions, he also provides plenty of insight into political and military leaders and their thinking at the time. This one was years ahead of its time, and it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.
“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink water?”
4. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Plot: 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.
Reason to watch: Based on the book by journalist Mark Bowden (which is an absolute must-read), “Black Hawk Down” details the failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord — an operation that should have lasted 15 minutes — that unfortunately does not go according to plan. After two helicopters are shot down, soldiers are shown reacting and adapting to the changing events, often in heroic fashion. From depicting soldiers preparing for a mission, how they respond to irregular warfare, and the actions of Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, this film is a must-see.
3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.
Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.
2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Plot: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.
Reason to watch: Just the first ten minutes with the film’s incredible depiction of the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 make this a must-watch. After this sequence, however, there is plenty to stick around for: Tom Hanks wonderful portrayal of Capt. Miller, the banter of soldiers as they search the French countryside, and the heroic “last stand” at a bridge the troops need to keep the Germans away from.
1. We Were Soldiers (2002)
Plot: The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.
Reason to watch: Mel Gibson brilliantly portrays then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore as he leads his unit in the first major battle of the Vietnam war. But there are so many great performances in this film (based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young”) which opens by saying that “every damn Hollywood movie got it wrong.” From the portrayal of the gruff combat veteran Sgt. Maj. Plumley and pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall, to the hardship endured at home by the Army wives, this film gets it right.
A common misconception civilians have about the military is that we all have cool call signs, like Hawk-Eye, Maverick, or whatever. The truth is, if you’ve got a nickname, you’re either high enough rank to have earned one, you’re a pilot, you’re called by your unit’s name, or you did something so bad that it’s used to mock you.
If anyone calls you one of these in the military, look up the definition of sarcasm. You don’t want to earn any of these:
7. High Speed
This is the one dude who’s just trying way too hard. Maybe they got antsy when the Battalion Commander gave a speech on the range or they watched old Army recruitment commercials and decided to be “all that they can be.”
The military is based on “one team, one fight.” If you’re going WAAAAAAY above and beyond for extra brownie points, you’re ass-kissing.
This term is reserved for the kid who probably only got their name right on the ASVAB. It’s usually given out when someone does something monumentally stupid, like dry their boots in the communal dryer or actually bring an exhaust sample to the mechanics.
The nickname is more of a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Put down the crayons and read a book.
Slacking off is part of the military, but this person takes things to the next level. They just vanish like they’re freaking Casper.
Most times, there’s no issue if you’re swinging by the gas station for a drink or whatever. The moment you swing by your barracks room to play a few rounds of Call of Duty, well, you might be earning the next nickname, too…
4. Blue Falcon
Whenever anyone is willing to screw over their comrades for the sake of personal interests, they’re a Blue Falcon.
Spend five minutes in the military and you’ll know that this name isn’t a reference to the Hanna-Barbera superhero. It’s a more formal way of saying that this person is a Buddy F*cker.
Just because they sell something cool at the BX/PX/NEx/MCX/cheapo surplus store, doesn’t mean you need to buy it — but chances are this guy bought that crap.
Also called “geardo,” they stick out like a sore thumb because they’re rocking so much unauthorized gear because “it looked cool.” They look more like they’re on a civilian airsoft team than in the world’s most elite fighting force.
2. (whatever) Ranger
In the Army, Rangers are some of the biggest badasses. However, if they have a qualifier, such as “Sick Call” Ranger, then you know they ride the hell out of the ability to go to sick call. PX Ranger is the guy who buys everything they can from the PX (especially if it’s unauthorized). PowerPoint Ranger is that high-speed butter bar who spent hours on a slideshow that put everyone to sleep. The list goes on.
No one thinks they’re a fraction of the badassery of actual Rangers.
1. Desert Queen
This one, is uh — to put it politely — the woman who enjoys getting the most attention while deployed. Don’t. Just don’t.
If you’re a woman who gets called this, knock a motherf*cker’s teeth out.
For decades, Hollywood has made military-based films that touch Americans’ hearts with epic characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a big budget, but it’s the attention to detail that the veteran community respects. When their branch is accurately represented on the big screen, Hollywood scores big points.
Still, even when some filmmakers think they’ve done a great job, veterans notice the smallest error of detail in movies.
Here’s a simple list of five movie mistakes we always seem to spot.
In Jarhead 2, a senior officer (Stephen Lang) would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves, and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus, he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.
You know you can Google our uniforms and learn how to set everything up, right?
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t part of the budget? (Image from Universal Pictures’ Jarhead 2: Field of Fire)
4. “Flagging” your boys
Any person on earth can tell you that pointing a weapon at one of your friends is a bad thing, and pulling the trigger in their direction is even worse. In the infantry, we’re always training to maneuver on the enemy without pointing our rifles at our own people.
1987’s Full Metal Jacket showcased a prime example of “flagging” as “Doc” runs in front of his squad and they shot around him. Every veteran watching this scene is shaking their head.
See anything wrong with the image below? Shy of the obviously awful salute, her beret shouldn’t be that low and the back of it is supposed to be flush with the skull. It makes the beret look better if you shave off the fluff.
Several films are guilty of this common mistake, but we like looking at Jessica Simpson.
Jessica Simpson does look good in the beret, though. (Image from Sony Pictures’ Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous)
2. One too many flags
In 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Col. Cambridge appears to have more patriotism than any other soldier in the Army.
There’s only supposed to be the one flag on his right shoulder — not two. The “field” is supposed to be facing forward. You know, like someone running into battle with the flag.
But this colonel decided to show up to work supporting America twice.
Col. Cambridge should have known better. (Image from Summit Entertainment’s The Hurt Locker)
Saluting officers stateside — or when you’re facing an epic ass-chewing — is an absolute must. But salute an officer in the middle of a war zone in real life, and you just might get him or her killed by an enemy sniper.
In war, saluted officers make great targets for the enemy. (Image via GIPHY)
The military has given the civilian world some great technology like satellites, GPS, and the internet. But, in other cases the services have adopted civilian tech and taken it to the next level of awesomeness in the process. Here are 7 examples:
1. Tow trucks
Military tow trucks need to do things like picking up M1 Abrams tanks that weigh 62 metric tons. Plus, they have to be able to defend themselves in hostile environments. Enter the M88A2. It can tow up to 70 tons, has a .50-cal. machine gun, and can survive direct hits from 30mm shells.
Like the M88 above, the WISENT 2 operates in combat zones while doing the hard job of digging and bulldozing. The WISENT is based on a Leopard 2 battle tank. It has different attachments including a bulldozer blade, a mine plough, and an excavator arm that can dig feet 14 ft. deep with a 42 cubic ft. bucket.
The first four-wheeler was the Royal Enfield quadricycle in 1898. Unsurprisingly, when World War I broke out, Royal Enfield sold dozens to the British government for war use. Today, paratroopers and special operators are using the Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle, basically a Polaris Razor with better tires and shocks as well as weapons, antennas, and litter mounts strapped to it.
Battlefield commanders need bridges that can go up quickly, survive direct attacks, and be moved rapidly. The military has multiple solutions to this problem, including the Armored, Vehicle-Launched Bridge. The launcher is mounted on an M60 tank platform, and engineers can launch the bridge without ever getting out of the vehicle.
The noise immune stethoscope is designed to help medics hear a patient’s heartbeat around machine gun fire or in a helicopter. It works by sending a signal into the patient’s body, reading the return signal, and playing the information into a headset.
Until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prosthetics had essentially remained the same since the first known artificial limb. The number of wounded warriors and the nature of their injuries has caused agencies like DARPA to change all of that, bringing prosthetics into the 21st Century in the process. The new devices allow for greater dexterity, greater range of motion, and even a sense of touch.
Every generation has a slightly different experience of military service. Here are 13 things that no longer exist but you’ll remember if you served in the US Navy in the 1980s.
1. You could have a beard
Remember when you just couldn’t wait to make E-4 so you could have one of those great big bushy Navy beards? Too bad you couldn’t wear an OBA to breathe in a fire with that big old beard…
2. Beer machines in the barracks
Nothing better than getting off work, coming back to an open barracks room with 75 other guys in it, going into the TV lounge to watch the same show everybody else wants to see and dropping $.75 into a cold drink machine to enjoy a nice lukewarm can of brew.
3. Snail mail that took months to reach you
Getting your Christmas cards for Easter is always fun.
4. Cinderella liberty
Get back to the ship by midnight or you will turn into a pumpkin (or at least pull some extra duty)!
5. Life before urinalysis
Gave new meaning to “The smoking lamp is lit.”
6. Watching the same movie 72 times on deployment because there was no satellite
Reciting the lines by memory added to the fun. For a treat they would show it topside on the side of the superstructure.
7. Enlisted and officers partying together
Nothing better than drinking all night with your division officer and showing up for the next day’s morning muster while he is nowhere to be found.
8. Liberty cards, request chits, and green “memorandum” books
No liberty until the chief handed out the liberty cards; chits filled out in triplicate were required for everything; and you knew you made it when you carried a little green memo book in your pocket (to write stuff down with your Skilcraft pen).
9. Having a “discussion” with the chief in the fan room
A little attitude adjustment never hurt anybody. The next day you were best buds, and you never told a soul where you got that black eye.
10. Getting paid in cash
Nothing better than armed guards standing by for payday on the mess decks and having a pocket full of $20s every 2 weeks.
11. Our only enemy was the Reds
Ivans and Oscars and Bears, Oh My!
12. Communicating with flags
Just what are those guys waving around semaphore flags saying to each other?
13. Navigation before GPS
Quartermaster get a sextant and tell me where we are!
It is the year 69 BC. A Roman man stands before the state of an ancient conqueror. The Roman weeps, realizing that at his age this conqueror was master of the known world, while the Roman has accomplished nothing. The Roman’s name is Julius Caesar, and the statue is of Alexander III of Macedon, whose conquests changed the course of European and Middle Eastern history. Here are seven things to know about Alexander the Great.
1. His father conquered ancient Greece
In the middle of the fourth century BC, Macedon was a small kingdom north of classical Greece. City-states like Athens and Sparta looked down on their northern neighbors as barbarians. But for a hundred years the Greek cities had worn each other down through war, and King Philip II of Macedon knew the time was right to strike. He reformed his army and, through a series of diplomatic and military victories, came to dominate ancient Greece. The last resistance was crushed at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, uniting all of Greece under the king of Macedon.
2. He was tutored by Aristotle
In 343 BC, Philip hired the Greek philosopher Aristotle (who was Macedonian, but taught in Athens) to tutor then-thirteen Alexander. The prince studied everything from politics to philosophy to natural science, but he fell in love with Homer’s Iliad, the epic poem about the demigod Achilles and his struggle with pride. Aristotle even wrote an abridged version of the text for Alexander, who carried it with him during his campaigns. Alexander would also send rare plants and animals found on his campaigns to Greece for Aristotle to study. By all accounts, Alexander had an education fit for a king.
3. He fought to claim his father’s throne
Alexander’s mother Olympias, Philip’s fourth wife, was not Macedonian, but Alexander was still Philip’s heir. The prince even fought with Philip at the Battle of Chaeronea and proved himself a capable warrior. That same year, however, Philip married a Macedonian noblewoman named Cleopatra Eurydice, whose pure Macedonian offspring could challenge Alexander’s succession. When Philip was assassinated in 336 BC, Olympias had Cleopatra Eurydice and her daughter by Philip burned alive; Alexander was furious, but he also assassinated several of his relatives to prevent them from stealing his throne. There was a rebellion from several city-states, but Alexander suppressed it, proving himself the Macedonian king of Greece.
4. He conquered the Persian Empire
Alexander spent two years pacifying the Balkans and stabilizing his rule before turning eastward. In 334 he and his army crossed the Hellespont, the straits connecting Europe and Asia Minor (modern Turkey). He then conquered, in just four years, the Persian Empire which had controlled all the land between the Levant coast and the Iranian Plateau for centuries. Alexander chased the Persian king Darius III – one of the most powerful men in the world – through the empire until Darius was captured and executed by one of his own nobles. Throughout his conquests Alexander established many cities, all of them named Alexandria.
5. He pushed his troops to their limit
Alexander reached as far as the land the Greeks called India (modern Pakistan). In 327 BC Alexander left the Middle East for his Indian campaign, where he continued carving through kingdoms and founding cities named after himself – Alexander’s bread and butter. After defeating the Indian king Porus, Alexander’s Macedonian army mutinied and refused to march any further. The disappointed king was forced to turn back.
6. He died under mysterious circumstances
Alexander started marching his troops back to Persia. After dealing with unscrupulous governors and another rebellion from his troops, he arrived at the imperial capital of Susa, where he would spend the rest of his short life. The king contracted a fever in the city and died soon after. For thousands of years scholars have debated the cause of his death, from natural causes to poisonings. Alexander’s proclivity towards alcohol, many say, exacerbated whatever made him ill in the first place. In 323 BC, a mere thirteen years after his coronation, Alexander the Great was dead.
7. He changed the course of Western civilization
Alexander’s conquests established an empire from the Balkan Peninsula to the Indus River. Greek became the language of the upper class from Macedon to Persia, creating a new path for social advancement. After his death, Alexander’s empire was divided up between his generals, whose successor-states came to be known as the Hellenistic (or “Greek-ish”) kingdoms. In the coming centuries, those states would be swallowed up by the Romans and the Arabs, who were inspired by the greatness of Greek culture. It was Alexander whose conquests created the Greek-speaking world that would provide the foundation for the civilizations to come.