Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

When Jessica Pearce Rotondi lost her mother to breast cancer in 2009, she had no idea of what she would gain: the chance to become a part of her military family’s history. The unexpected journey took her from her childhood home in Massachusetts to the lush mountains of Laos, where her airman uncle was shot down in 1972.


“Sending a loved one away and not knowing if they’ll walk through the door again is an incredible sacrifice,” Rotondi said.

It’s a sacrifice her mother’s family made multiple times. For not only was her Uncle Jack shot down alongside his AC-130 crew during the “secret war” in the neutral nation of Laos, her grandfather — Jack’s father — fell from the sky too, spending two and a half years in a German POW camp during WWII.

As “What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers” so arrestingly confesses in its first sentence, Rotondi comes from “a family that loses children.”Rotondi spent a decade researching and writing her debut novel, a deeply personal family memoir and obscure history lesson released this April. Historical supporting evidence, it turns out, would be hard to come by.

Read more about Vietnam War vets traveling to find answers.

“Much about what happened in Laos has only recently been declassified. I embedded photographs of some of the reports and letters I found directly into the book, because I wanted to recreate that sense of expectation to show how the force of a single document can change a family’s hopes,” Rotondi, a Brooklyn resident, said. “Getting CIA officers, refugees and former soldiers on the record about their role in the war was a slow exercise in trust-building but led to some incredible conversations.”

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Before her mother’s death, conversation about Rotondi’s uncle and grandfather’s wartime experiences were few. A chance discovery of a hidden-in-the-closet file cabinet just hours after her mother’s passing launched Rotondi onto what would eventually become “What We Inherit.” It involved thousands of hours of research, sifting through redacted files, yellowed newspaper clippings and maps of questionable accuracy.

Rotondi, whose work has been published in the likes of The Huffington Post and The History Channel, traveled to Southeast Asia in 2013 to locate her uncle’s crash site. She was not the first family member to do so; she was simply retracing her grandpa’s steps through Laos as he obsessively searched for answers about his missing son years earlier.

The process of writing her family’s tragedies reminded Rotondi of the incredible strength of military families.

“I had the incredible privilege of speaking to other families of the missing for this book, and the biggest takeaway from them was the strength of the unspoken bond between military families,” she said. “I read somewhere that we never truly die until our name stops being spoken aloud. There is power in talking about our lost and missing veterans — especially with the next generation.”

What We Inherit,” a book worth reading, ensures that will never happen on Rotondi’s watch.

popular

Watch what happens when paratroopers jump with a GoPro

The GoPro Camera has provided us with a ton of awesome videos. But what do you think happens when paratroopers get a hold of one? Yeah, they take it on a jump.


Probably one of the best descriptors of the ethos of the paratroopers is the “Rule of the LGOPs.” The rule describes a fascinating effect that when, in battle, an Airbone plan dissolves, you’re left with something truly fearsome: Small groups of 19-year-olds who are willing to jump from a plane, armed to the teeth and lacking serious adult supervision and…well, you get the idea.

 

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. (Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore.)

But in peacetime, if these same paratroopers want to remain fearsome, they need to keep their training up. This means lots of practice jumps from aircraft. This not only helps the paratroopers, it helps the crews.

Luckily for us, the 173rd Airborne Brigade brought a GoPro on one of these practice jumps, joined by Serbian Army paratroopers from the 63rd Parachute Brigade.

These paratroopers used a pair of C-130 transport planes during an exercise code-named Double Eagle. A C-130 can carry as many as 64 paratroopers on board, according to an Air Force fact sheet. A version known as the C-130J-30 can carry as many as 92.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

The 173rd Airborne Brigade was part of the 87th Infantry Division in World War I, and saw some action in World War II when its headquarters company as designated the 87th Reconnaissance Troop. In 1963, it was activated, and eventually saw action in Vietnam before being inactivated. In 2000, it was reactivated, and has remained part of the active Army as a quick-reaction force based in Italy. The 173rd has generations of experience under its belt; let’s watch them put that experience to the test.

Take a look at the video below to see a first-person perspective of a parachute jump.

Articles

The founder of Delta Force was almost impossible to kill

In 1952, the Green Bay Packers drafted “Chargin’ Charlie” Beckwith from the University of Georgia. But seeing as how the Korean War was already in its second year, Chargin’ Charlie declined the offer for a different green uniform.


Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Charles Beckwith served a few years on the Korean Peninsula, in war and later peacetime. It was after Korea that he joined the 82d Airborne, and later, U.S. Army Special Forces.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
Col. Charles Beckwith toward the end of his career.

Beckwith’s first mission was to train the Royal Lao Army in 1960 but his mission to deploy with British SAS to Malaysia as they fought a Communist insurgency is one that forever changed military history.

It was there that Beckwith came down with a mean case of Leptospirosis — a bacterial infection that causes kidney failure and pulmonary hemorrhaging. Doctors did not expect Beckwith to survive.

In fact, they called it one of the three worst cases they’d ever seen. Beckwith was given three weeks to live — and he did.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
The British SAS patrol during Malayan insurgency.

He survived the infection and his time with the Special Air Service inspired him to develop the American Army’s version of such an elite unit. In 1963, he formed the specialty unit code-name Project Delta, personally selecting the men best suited to conduct long-range recon operations in Vietnam.

But his time in Delta — and on Earth — was nearly cut short in Vietnam in 1966. Beckwith was shot in his abdomen with a .50-caliber round. He was taped up, but essentially left for dead.

But death still didn’t come.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
A MACV Special Operation group in Vietnam circa 1969.

Beckwith not only recovered, he continued with his military career, fighting in a series of battles from the Tet Offensive in 1968 until the end of the war in 1973.

It was in the mid-70s that Beckwith’s elite unit idea finally became a full reality. He was given the authority and formed the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta in 1977. The new elite unit focused on anti-terror and hostage recovery ops, based on the model of the British SAS.

Unfortunately for Beckwith and Delta, their first mission was Operation Eagle Claw, the doomed hostage rescue of Americans held in Iran. After the catastrophic failure of Eagle Claw, Beckwith retired from the Army.

popular

French Marines ended a hostage crisis with a bayonet charge

French Marines were manning observation posts on either side of the Vrbanja Bridge. They were UN peacekeepers, the first to arrive in the decimated city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War in May 1995. But their day was to begin in humiliation and end in bloodshed as their mission to hold the observation posts quickly escalated into the first UN combat mission of the war.


When they first began their occupation of the bridge, one side was overtaken by Bosnian Serb commandos. Dressed in French uniforms and donning French weapons, the commandos took one side of the bridge without firing a shot. They even pulled up to the post in a stolen French armored personnel carrier. For many of the Serbs, it was the last thing they would ever do.

 

A lot of them, like Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, were busy committing war crimes.

 

At gunpoint, the 10 French marines were disarmed and taken captive, and driven to another location. The other two were to be used on the bridge as human shields. The other side of the bridge didn’t even know their comrades had been overrun and captured. When the other unit didn’t check in with headquarters, their platoon commander came to check in on the Marines – he then sounded the alarm. When their fellow marines discovered their friends had been taken captive, they decided to move quickly on the Serb commandos.

“When the Serbs took our soldiers under their control by threat, by dirty tricks, they began to act as terrorists, you cannot support this,” Said Col. Erik Sandahl, commander of the 4th French Battalion. “You must react. The moment comes when you have to stop it. Full stop. And we did.”

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
French APCs on the ground in Bosnia, 1995.

 

When French President Jacques Chirac found out about the captured French marines, he went around the UN and ordered his troops to retake the bridge and find the missing men. The French sent 30 more Marines, 13 APCs, and 70 French Army soldiers to the bridge. But they couldn’t just blow up the observation post or do a regular infantry assault on the position. There were still hostages inside. They were going to have to do it the old fashioned way.

The French marines mounted their first bayonet charge since the Korean War.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
François Lecointre, now a general and France’s Chief of the Defence Staff, led the bayonet charge. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

After the bayonet charge, a 32-minute firefight ensued that saw one of the French hostages shot by a Bosnian sniper, the other hostage escaped, three Frenchmen killed in action and another ten wounded, along with four Serbs killed, three wounded and another four taken prisoner. The 10 French hostages were later released. The Serbs soldiers captured were treated as prisoners of war and held by the UN peacekeeping force.

It was the last time the French Army ever launched a bayonet charge, but for the rest of the time the French were participating as UN Peacekeepers in Bosnia, the Serbian forces kept a clear, noticeable distance from them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out these amazing photos of F-22s and F-16s flying over Alaska

On July 18, 2019, F-22 Raptors assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base teamed up for a training flight over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, in anticipation for this week’s celebrations for the 100th anniversary of JBER’s 3rd Wing, which occurred on July 1, 2019.

The flying component of the Wing, the 3rd Operations Group, is a direct descendant of one of the 15 original combat groups created by the U.S. Army Air Service before World War II. The 3rd Wing is also known for giving birth to exercise Cope Thunder, which later evolved in today’s Red Flag-Alaska.


Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base maneuvers over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

The 3rd Wing’s lineage originated July 1, 1919, as an Army Surveillance Group out of Kelly Field (Texas) flying British-designed, American-made DeHavilland DH.4 aircraft to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border during the Mexican Revolution. After WWI the unit became the 3rd Attack Group, focusing on aerial experimentation and pioneering dive bombing, skip-bombing, and parafrag attacks that were later employed by U.S. Army Air Corps/Forces bomber squadrons during World War II.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base fly in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Following the infamous attacks on Pearl Harbor, the 3rd Attack Group started combat operations against Japan. In 1942, after changing name to 3rd Bombardment Group, the unit received new bombers and helped developing low-altitude strafing tactics, becoming famous for their combat proficiency.

In 1950 the group, after assuming the Wing designation, was tasked to provide the Korean War’s first bombing mission. Notably, a B-26 gunner from the 3rd Wing scored the first aerial victory of the war, shooting down a North Korean YAK-3.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from Eielson Air Force Base execute a formation break over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

After being re-designated as the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing in 1964, the unit moved to England Air Force Base, Louisiana, and started training in preparation for the Vietnam War. The 3rd Wing flew its B-57 Canberras and F-100 Super Sabres from different air bases all over South-East Asia, totaling more than 200’000 combat sorties.

During the war, the Air Force selected the 3rd TFW to evaluate the new F-5 Tiger in real operations, flying over 2,600 combat missions from October 1966 to March 1967 and resulting in several modifications that helped to improve the aircraft capabilities.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson fly in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

At the end of the Vietnam War, the 3rd TWF, equipped with F-4E Phantoms, relocated to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where it received also F-5E Tigers as aggressor aircrafts and started hosting exercise Cope Thunder since 1976. The exercise was initiated by Brigadier General Richard G. Head and was intended to give aircrews from across Asia their first taste of combat in a realistic simulated combat environment, improving U.S. and international forces joint combat readiness. Analysis at the time indicated most combat losses occurred during an aircrew’s first 8 to 10 missions, hence the goal of Cope Thunder was to provide each aircrew with these first missions, increasing their chances of survival in real combat environments. The exercise quickly grew into PACAF’s (PACific Air Forces) “premier simulated combat airpower employment exercise.”

Cope Thunder was moved to Eielson AFB, Alaska, in 1992, after a volcanic eruption heavily damaged Clark AFB. Eielson Air Force Base was considered the most logical choice because of the presence of three major military flight training ranges in nearby. The move helped the exercise’s evolution until, in 2006 Cope Thunder changed name to become Red Flag-Alaska, one of the most important exercises hosted by the U.S. Air Force and held four times a year.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base flies over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

The 3rd TFW, now designated 3rd Wing, instead relocated to the nearby Elmendorf AFB and acquired two squadrons of F-15 Eagles, one squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles, one squadron of C-130s and a squadron of E-3 AWACS.

In 2007 the Wing replaced its F-15s with F-22s, becoming the second USAF air base, and the first of PACAF command, to host operational F-22 Raptor squadrons. F-22s regularly launch from Quick Reaction Alert cells at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept Russian bombers flying close to Alaskan airspace.

Since the move to Alaska, the wing has successfully participated in all major U.S. operations from Desert Storm to the most recent Inherent Resolve.

Interestingly, one of the Aggressor F-16 was painted in a livery unveiled in 2017 and dubbed “BDU Splinter”, mimicking colors seen in both the Cold War era “European One” and the Vietnam era Southeast Asia camouflage schemes. The full album is available on the Flickr page of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How bringing Carrie Fisher back to the screen ‘was a gigantic puzzle’

Fans get to see Carrie Fisher one last time in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” and it was no easy feat to bring her to the screen one more time.

“It was a massive kind of problem, I mean, puzzle really. It was a gigantic puzzle,” visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett told Insider of the challenge the Industrial Lights & Magic team at Lucasfilm faced.

Fisher died in December 2016 after her filming for the last “Star Wars” movie, “The Last Jedi” wrapped. At first, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told “Good Morning America” the actress wouldn’t appear in “Episode IX.” But, in July 2018, Disney announced unused footage from “The Force Awakens” would be utilized to bring Fisher to life to close out the Skywalker saga.


How exactly do you repurpose footage from a previous film to work for “Episode IX”? Very carefully.

Guyett and creature effects supervisor Neal Scanlan spoke with Insider Monday on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California, about the difficulty of bringing Fisher’s scenes to the screen and the importance of making sure her performance came across as authentic.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

General Leia Organa is seen in “The Last Jedi,” above.

(Lucasfilm)

‘TROS’ director J.J. Abrams originally thought they could do Leia digitally. They realized that wasn’t going to work.

Back in January 2017, Lucasfilm denied that Fisher would be recreated digitally in “The Last Jedi.” The topic was, at least, broached during a discussion for her appearance in “Episode IX.”

“The first conversation I had with [Abrams] about it was that he thought we could just do a digital version of Leia,” said Guyett.

That wasn’t going to work.

“So say you went along that path. The issue that he had with that was that the performances that she gave at any moment would just be authored by some other actress or actor,” he added. “[Abrams] didn’t want that. He wanted to be able to look at this movie and say, ‘That’s Carrie Fisher playing Leia.'”

The team accomplished that with a stand-in, a mix of Fisher’s past performances, and a digital character.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

That’s not all footage of Fisher moving around in “TROS,” but it’s very convincing.

(Lucasfilm)

What are we looking at when we see Leia in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’? Fisher’s face was put onto a digital character.

“When you see Leia in ‘Episode IX,’ basically it’s a live-action element of her face with a completely digital character,” explained Guyett of what the audience is seeing.

This was done because they wanted to make sure that Leia’s look in “The Rise of Skywalker” was distinct from her look in the previous two films.

“The reality of doing this is that you want her to have a new costume,” said Guyett. “It would be weird if she just looked like she did in ‘Episode VII’ or ‘Episode VIII.’ You want her to have a new hairstyle because she’s very specifically part of ‘IX.’ So we knew that we were going to have to do all of that.”

If you’re imagining that ILM simply cut and pasted Fisher’s face onto a body, it wasn’t that simple. ILM visual effects supervisor Patrick Tubach told Eric Eisenberg at Cinemablend the team tracked Fisher’s posture and body movements from “The Force Awakens” to apply to their new scenes in “TROS.”

One of the biggest challenges was matching Fisher’s voice to specific scenes in ‘Episode IX’

This is where the puzzle comes into play. Abrams and co-screenwriter Chris Terrio wrote scenes based off of the dialogue available to them from Fisher’s unused footage.

“The mechanics of that then became very much in J.J.’s court, initially, about writing scenes using lines that we knew we had access to so you can break it down in this massive pre-plan thing where you write the script, and you base it around deliveries,” explained Guyett of how Leia started to come together.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

There were times where they found the right dialogue, but it wasn’t the correct intonation. They had to just move on.

(Disney/Lucasfilm)

“We went back through all that footage and you can see, ‘Oh, how did she deliver this line?’ You know, ‘Never underestimate a droid.’ Once you’ve got whatever the line is, once you’ve got that kind of library, you can start feeling the emotional quality,” he continued.

Imagine sifting through footage to figure out the perfect place to utilize a line of dialogue or a particular delivery. It had to be just right. There were times where they found the right dialogue, but it wasn’t the correct intonation. They had to just move on.

“Some things just didn’t work,” said Guyett. “Even though [Fisher] might be saying the right thing, she’s saying it the wrong way. So sometimes we’d abandoned certain ideas within the script. But basically the premise is now you have to stage the scenes and integrate her into those scenes, which is a massive undertaking.”

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Daisy Ridley was looking at someone dressed up to look like Princess Leia while performing scenes with the character.

(Lucasfilm)

There was a stand-in for Fisher on set so the actors had someone to play against

When you see Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tran, or any other cast member acting next to Fisher in “TROS,” there was always someone acting opposite them.

“There was great effort made to represent Carrie in those moments as well,” Scanlan told Insider. “There was a huge respect. It’s not just a visual effect. It wasn’t, ‘Oh, she doesn’t exist.’ There was actually a person there and the hairstyle and straight makeup. [We] found a place for [the cast] to feel comfortable and to feel that there’s some way we were representing Carrie in some physical entity.”

“We had a fantastic stand-in for Princess Leia who looked at all the footage and tried to learn the lines and represent Carrie as best as possible so that if you’re acting against her you’re not just looking at an empty space, you’re looking at a human being who’s delivering the line,” added Guyett.

There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room to fix things after filming

“The thing that I reiterated to [Abrams] about a million times was we had to get it right on the day we shot it,” said Guyett.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Roger Guyett (left) is seen on the set of “The Rise of Skywalker.”

(Lucasfilm)

“When you do something, quite often, you might do something and go, ‘OK, well we can fix that.’ We can change the timing of that explosion of something or whatever later on in post [production] or maybe that creature’s moving too fast or whatever. This was something we couldn’t do that with. We had to get it right on a day.”

During production, when the team looked at a moment with Leia, they made sure it had elements that they were going to use. Test composites of scenes were done to make sure everything would fit right and then they would go back and re-edit the scene together to make sure it felt authentic and correct.

“Having been through this process, you can put your hand on your heart and you can say every one of those performances is delivered by Carrie Fisher,” said Guyett.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Adopted daughter of Army officer will likely be deported

The adopted daughter of a retired Army officer living in Kansas will be deported to South Korea after graduating college unless she gets a work visa, a judge ruled.

Hyebin Schreiber, 17, was brought to the United States by her uncle, Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber, and his wife, Soo Jin, in 2012 when she was 15 years old, according to KCTV.

But on Sept. 28, 2018, a federal judge in Kansas ruled in favor of US Citizenship and Immigration Services after Lt. Col. Schreiber sued the department over Hyebin’s visa and citizenship applications being rejected.


After Schreiber and his wife brought Hyebin to the United States, the Army officer was deployed to Afghanistan and bad legal advice led the couple to put off the teen’s legal adoption until she was 17.

In Kansas, the cutoff date to complete legal adoption is when the child turns 18.

Under federal immigration law, however, foreign born children must be adopted before they turn 16 to get citizenship from their American parents.

“I should have put my family ahead of the Army,” Schreiber told the Kansas City Star.

The only way Hyebin would be able to stay in the country is if a US company provides her with a work visa after graduating, USA Today reported.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

Hyebin Schreiber and Lt. Col. Patrick Schreiber.

(Screenshot / KSHB)

She is able to stay in the country through graduation from the University of Kansas because the school has provided her with an F-1 student visa.

Despite only being 17 years old, Hyebin is a senior at the university and is studying chemical engineering.

“After graduation, I should be looking for a job. Right now, I don’t know what’s going to be happening, so I’m trying to find job both in Korea and the United states, so it’s kind of a lot of work for me,” Hyebin told KSHB.

Hyebin reportedly moved in with her aunt and uncle because of a bad family situation in Korea.

Schreiber, who served in the US military for 27 years, said he and his wife will move to South Korea with Hyebin if she is forced to leave.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military formally linked to Malaysia Airlines crash

International investigators have said Russia’s military was involved in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

Flight MH17 crashed in a field in war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile on a flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the aircraft were killed.


The MH17 Joint Investigation Team issued an interim report Thursday. At a press conference, the team said the missile came from the Russian military’s 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, based in Kursk, near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The team cited distinctive identifying marks on recovered missile fragments that it says ties it directly to the 53rd brigade, which is based close to the Ukrainian border.

“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, a senior investigator with the Dutch National Police, told the conference.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
The Joint Investigation Team examined the markings on the on the recovered missile fragments.
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

The statement is the closest yet investigators have come to blaming Russia for the attack. The investigators also brought to the conference part of the Buk missile they say caused the crash:

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Of the passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 plane, 196 were Dutch and about 40 were Malaysian, with others from Australia, Indonesia, and the UK.

Investigators have not named any suspects and have called on people involved in the attack to come forward for questioning.

The Dutch government announced in 2017, that anyone believed to have brought down the jet would be tried in the Netherlands.

Open-source investigators at Bellingcat came to the same conclusion as the Joint Investigative Team three years ago, but the JIT had different legal requirements and thresholds for evidence and therefore needed more time.

Russia has continually denied involvement in the downing of the jet.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ‘re-education centers’ hold millions prisoner

In the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, many locals read endlessly, write often, and sing loudly.

But not by choice.

In extrajudicial indoctrination camps around Xinjiang, ethnic Uighur men and women are forced to study Chinese history, write personal reflections, and sing songs like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China.” Many are beaten, tortured, and are unable to go home.


China considers this process “re-education.” It runs outside the court system with people dragged away for infringements like talking to a loved one overseas or having a beard, and there is no course for appeal.

A recent estimate put the number of people who have been, or are currently, interned since April 2017, in the hundreds of thousands, or even just over one million.

Though the exact total is unknown, Adrian Zenz, a social researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, pored over local job ads and government bids to find new evidence of the system’s existence and scale.

Since 2016, there were government bids to construct or upgrade 73 facilities in Xinjiang that, despite various names, appeared as though they will operate, wholly or at least in part, as re-education centers.

Re-education centers are often disguised as vocational training hubs, as many were in these bids, but the details betray their hidden purpose.

Together, the facilities required guard rooms, video surveillance, security fences, police equipment, police living quarters, handheld security inspection devices, steel-reinforced concrete walls, and even iron chains.

“Many of these facilities are heavily secured, to an extent that they do not just aim to keep potential intruders out, but to keep those inside under tight surveillance.” Zenz told Business Insider.

Twenty bids listed new or upgraded monitoring or video surveillance. One bid from January 2018, wanted 122 cameras to cover the whole facility without leaving any “dead angles.”

One center required security nets, the renovation of a guard room, and “four watchtowers.” Another, submitted on April 25, 2018, requested an 86,000 square-foot “underground facility.”

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos

These security features, according to Zenz, confirm reports that vocation centers frequently function as internment camps, though many facilities likely sit on a continuum.

“All we know is that a substantial number of facilities, likely capable of holding at least several hundred thousand, are geared more towards the re-education side. Some are explicitly and directly marked as re-education facilities. More than likely, facilities with a stronger vocational training focus can likewise hold several hundred thousands,” said Zenz.

“Some even specifically state that they are designed to perform ‘re-education.’ An official government notice from April 2017, pertaining to these facilities in a particular prefecture mandated that training topics include military drill, Chinese language, legal knowledge, ethnic unity, religious knowledge and patriotic education.”

Job ads are also a huge giveaway

As easy as it may be to silently whisk away thousands of people to new re-education centers, skyrocketing prisoner would also require a huge recruitment drive.

According to Zenz, from May 2017, counties with large ethnic minority populations “initiated a wave of recruitments” for so-called education and training centers.

But ads for such staff were often listed in the same ads as open police positions, and some ads even preferred recruitees with a military or police background.

Other job ads conflated the two roles, hiring “training center policing assistants.” If the staff were being hired to work at a regular vocation center the high number of security personnel would be “difficult to explain,” said Zenz.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
Armed Police soldiers in the street of Urumqi.

Ads also frequently lacked required skills or qualifications that would normally be crucial to providing vocational training. Many required only a middle-school education whereas other provinces, where few Uighur would live, usually require at least a bachelor degree.

In one Xinjiang country, where Uighurs make up 95% of the population, 320 jobs available at a “training center” had three criteria: have a middle-school education, be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and be part of the ethnic majority Han.

Re-education isn’t the only problem Uighurs face

In an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, authorities in Xinjiang have targeted almost any form of religious expression by Uighur Muslims.

Women have been banned from wearing burqas and veils. Residents were barred from fasting during Ramadan with restaurants ordered to stay open despite religious obligations. And in 2016, millions of Xinjiang residents were ordered to surrender their passports and must seek permission to travel abroad.

Authorities have installed surveillance apps on residents’ phones and begun collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types from all Xinjiang residents aged between 12 and 65. They have also collected voice samples that may be used to identify who is speaking on tapped phone calls.

There’s also 40,000 facial-recognition cameras that are being used to track, and block, the movement of Uighurs in the region.

Xinjiang is considered by experts to be a testing ground for what the US State Department has described as “unprecedented levels of surveillance.”

The concern is Xinjiang could also be a testing ground for a nationwide re-education system.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of NATO’s most important Commanders was a Wehrmacht general who tried to kill Hitler

Hans Speidel had a long history of service to his country, no matter what that country was called or who happened to be its leader. Speidel was born in the German Empire and fought for the Kaiser in 1914, stayed in uniform during the tumultuous Weimar Republic and rose through the ranks of Nazi Germany. 

What Speidel did as a Nazi officer is nothing short of extraordinary – and brave. 

Hans Speidel
Hans Speidel

For four years, he served as an officer in the German Army, leading troops at the Battle of the Somme as a lieutenant. After World War I, as German politics, economics and government all seemed to spiral out of control, and the Nazis came to power, he stayed in the Army. In 1930 he was appointed to the General Staff.

Speidel soon found himself invading France in 1940 with the German Army and he would become Chief of Staff to many notable Nazi Field Marshals, despite never joining the Nazi Party himself. It was as a Chief of Staff that Speidel was promoted to general, while serving on the Eastern Front. 

He was soon sent to the Atlantic Wall to serve as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Chief of Staff. After his time on the Eastern Front, he became convinced that Hitler’s military strategies were a series of blunders that would see his country fall to ruin. He even failed to pass on Hitler’s order to bomb Paris with V1 and V2 rockets as the Nazis were forced to withdraw from France.

With his increasing disappointment in the Nazis, Speidel joined what would become known as the 20 July Plot, an attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer and take control of the armed forces. 

Hans Speidel

The plotters needed someone close to Rommel to recruit the Field Marshal’s support. No one was closer to Rommel than Speidel, who admired Rommel for his years of service. Rommel never officially joined the plot because he was against Hitler’s assassination – he wanted Hitler arrested and put on trial. But when the Fuhrer survived, Rommel and Speidel were both rounded up by the Gestapo.

They, along with almost 7,000 others were arrested for their role in the attempt on Hitler. Rommel was forced to commit suicide. Speidel spent the rest of the war in prison.

After the war, Speidel was one of only two Nazi-era generals who would be allowed to create the new West German Army. His role in the plot to kill Hitler was critical in the newfound trust placed in the Bundeswehr, the new Army of the Federal Republic of German and its integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Speidel worked his way up to a four-star general’s rank in the Bundeswehr, and was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Ground Forces for all of NATO in 1957. He retired in 1963 and died in 1984. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

New executive order expands opportunities in government jobs for Milspouses

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump invited military mothers and spouses to the White House May 9, 2018, in honor of Mother’s Day, and the president signed an executive order to enable military spouses to find work more easily in the private and federal sectors.

“Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, is celebrated just one time per year,” the first lady said to the gathering in the White House East Room. “Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your … children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day,” she said.


The president said he was honored by the presence of military spouses. “We celebrate your heroic service — and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.

The president talked about spouses’ hardships during long deployments. “Some of them are much longer than you ever bargained for, and you routinely move your families around the country and all over the world,” the president said.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

“[My] administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “Earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise … and I am proud of it.”

Noting that the White House is taking action to expand employment opportunities for military spouses, the president said service members’ spouses would be given “treatment like never before,” noting that the unemployment rate among military spouses is more than 90 percent.

But that is going to change, he added.

“[For] a long time, military spouses have already shown the utmost devotion to our nation, and we want to show you our devotion in return,” the president said. “America owes a debt of gratitude to our military spouses — we can never repay you for all that you do.”

Following his remarks, Trump signed an executive order addressing military spouse unemployment by providing greater opportunities for military spouses to be considered for federal competitive service positions.

The order holds agencies accountable for increasing their use of the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses, and American businesses across the country are also encouraged to expand job opportunities for military spouses, the president said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A veteran just protested the VA by setting himself on fire

An unidentified veteran walked up to the Georgia State Capitol on the morning of June 26, 2018 and casually set himself on fire using a combination of gasoline and fireworks. He was protesting his treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

FOX’s Atlanta affiliate is reporting that the veteran was quickly extinguished by officers of the Georgia State Patrol and that no one else was injured in the protest or its aftermath. No, the man was not rushed to a VA medical center. Instead, an ambulance took the injured veteran to nearby Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Author traces family’s MIA journey through Laos
(Photo by FOX 5 Atlanta’s Aungelique Proctor via Twitter)

The explosion caused by the fireworks could be heard during press conferences happening elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, according to FOX 5 Atlanta, who was covering a discussion about Georgia’s new hands-free traffic safety law, taking effect on July 1st. State troopers at that conference made a beeline for the self-immolating veteran.

You can hear the explosions and the reactions of the Georgia Patrol starting around 4:10.

It’s a lucky thing a handful public safety officers from the Georgia State Patrol happened to be on hand for the hands-free law announcement.

Initially, the series of explosions was thought to be a series of actual bombs detonating around the Capitol area, and the Atlanta bomb squad was called on to the scene, according to FOX 5’s Aungelique Proctor.

Later, the bomb squad’s focus was on the white vehicle in which the still-unknown injured veteran arrived to the Georgia Capitol. The Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene as the story develops.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information